Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Winner


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 Post Road Magazine  Issue #25



The Winner

Don Cummings



Characters:


Lydia       Jeffrey's Wife

Jeffrey      Lydia's Husband

Matilda    Their Servant


Place: 


A remote building on the edge of North America


Time: 


The year 2309


 

(A regal woman, Lydia, is dressed in an evening gown. Not tacky, but not your taste.  She is middle aged, striking, and more to the point, has been used to getting her way her whole life. She wears a ridiculous diamond necklace. Perhaps a hand mirror lies nearby.  Her husband, Jeffrey, a bit older, in a fine suit, sits across from her. He has the mien of a king. His royal air chokes the room with currents of smugness. Together they drink wine, imperial as Americans can be.  Near them is one silver canister—the type used by mountain climbers to breathe at very high altitudes. Empty canisters lie about. There is a hollowness of sound, an emptiness to the world.)

 

LYDIA

Eighteen o’three was a very good year.

 

JEFFREY

The revolution did not alter the fermentation of a grape.

 

LYDIA

Revolutions rarely do. 

 

JEFFREY

Those silly French. What did they ever achieve?

 

LYDIA

Nothing apparently.  They’re all dead. 

 

(Lydia laughs uproariously.)

 

JEFFREY

(Laughing)

Smug frogs.

 

LYDIA

(Gasping for a bit of air)

So superior. 

 

JEFFREY

With their socialism.

 

LYDIA

And their long vacations.

 

JEFFREY

(Gasping for a bit of air, too)

Well they were wrong, weren’t they? 

 

 

LYDIA

Imbeciles. My happiest day was when we bought the whole damn country. Ooh.

 

JEFFREY

What is it?

 

LYDIA

(Alarmed)

My lungs. I barely have the strength to tip my glass. Jeffrey?

 

JEFFREY

(Resentful)

You should never have acquired the lungs of a child. They were not developed enough for adult exertions.

 

LYDIA

They were the last ones available.

 

JEFFREY

Not true.

 

LYDIA

Sharon was a perfect match genetically.

 

JEFFREY

Lucky for you.

 

LYDIA

She owed it to me.

 

JEFFREY

She was brave.

 

LYDIA

She couldn’t outrun me.

 

JEFFREY

She was a bowlegged baby. We neglected to reset her bones.

 

LYDIA

She deserved what she got. I am stronger and far more clever.

 

JEFFREY

Your most attractive qualities have served you well.

 

 

LYDIA

Absolutely. Matilda!

 

(Matilda enters. She is shorter than Lydia, certainly less imperial.  She is their servant. She is extremely sad, but sturdy.) 

 

MATILDA

(Barely able to breathe)

What can I do for you? 

 

JEFFREY

Pour us some more wine.

 

MATILDA

Yes, Jeffrey.

 

LYDIA

He’s Jeffrey now?

 

JEFFREY

I thought I would give her a bonus.

 

LYDIA

Haven’t we given her enough? You can pour me some more wine, Matilda.

 

JEFFREY

Please pour Lydia more wine.

 

MATILDA

I will happily pour the sweet mother more wine.

 

LYDIA

You have been a very good help to us, Matilda. Don’t push it.

 

MATILDA

It has always been my pleasure. There’s nothing left to push.

 

LYDIA

Do you know what I miss most of all, Matilda?

 

MATILDA

What’s that, Lydia?

 

LYDIA

When you would pack for me. I loved how you could pack my trunks.

 

MATILDA

You were very particular.

 

LYDIA

But fair. Wasn’t I always fair?

 

MATILDA

You never hit me with a hairbrush

 

JEFFREY

And every gown Lydia wore, every jewel she placed on her neck, every crown she wore on her head, you got to touch them, Matilda. You must consider yourself a very lucky woman.

 

MATILDA

Of the luckiest kind.

 

LYDIA

Remember Christmas of three years ago when you drilled the last one million barrels?

 

JEFFREY

We practically got to the core of molten magma!

 

LYDIA

Our picture was in all media all over the world with me wearing my Hope Diamond. 

 

JEFFREY

You were a perfect decoration.

 

LYDIA

I could have worn the jewels we acquired from The Vatican. 

 

JEFFREY

That would have been de trop. Such good times. 

 

LYDIA

Your father was right.

 

JEFFREY

Yes he was. The future was in oil.

 

LYDIA

Oh Jeffrey, so was the past. It was always oil.  

(Gasping for a breath)

The fields of oil are the greatest kingdom on earth. 

 

 

JEFFREY

And we ruled them with benevolence.

 

LYDIA

With grace.

 

JEFFREY

We were the wealthiest people to have ever lived. We owned it all.

 

LYDIA

We were flesh Gods.

 

MATILDA

You were despots.

 

LYDIA

Despots? Matilda, you do not know what you are saying,

 

JEFFREY

She doesn’t know the meaning of the word. She’s just a parrot.

 

MATILDA

You were tyrants. You killed everyone who got in your way.

 

JEFFREY

We were not killers.

 

MATILDA

There’s no one left on earth! What are you talking about?

 

LYDIA

Oh Matilda. You must one day accept Darwinism.

 

MATILDA

One day? This is the last one! 

 

(Matilda grabs the canister and tries to open it. It will not. She bangs it, throws it against the wall, recovers it and holds it close to her chest.)

 

LYDIA

Jeffrey, stop her. I can barely move.

 

JEFFREY

Matilda. Put it down.

 

 

MATILDA

(Barely any strength)

No. 

 

JEFFREY

Matilda, I don’t want to waste my last few breaths on having to kill you.

 

                        (Jeffrey gets up and moves slowly toward Matilda. Almost impossible.)

 

MATILDA

I’m in your way just like everyone else then? Just like the last few Italians, and all those Chinese? Did you think you could turn all your enemies into cash? It took the Woolly Mammoth thousands of years to become fuel. And you thought you could do it in a few months?!!  You were a tyrant. A killer.

 

LYDIA

Jeffrey bought me Antarctica. Right after South America.

 

MATILDA

You talk of Darwin?  That was a natural thing.  Not what you did—

 

LYDIA

When we purchased Mars from the Russians, I wore the red silks of Catherine the Great at the acquisition ball. 

 

JEFFREY

(To Matilda)

You killed Sharon.

 

MATILDA

That shit ain’t true.

 

JEFFREY

You plunged a knife into my daughter’s belly.

 

MATILDA

Only because Lydia made me.

 

JEFFREY

You killed her.

 

MATILDA

Lydia held her down. She needed her lungs.

 

JEFFREY

But you killed her. 

MATILDA

She was a brat. I was happy to do it.

 

JEFFREY

You must be executed. 

 

(Jeffrey gets to Matilda. She hides the canister inside her clothes. Jeffrey rips open her garment and grabs it. Matilda slaps it out of his hand. Jeffrey slaps Matilda so that she falls. She plunges herself onto the canister and rolls with it. Jeffrey gasps. He reaches out his hand to insist on a handover. Matilda stops all the fighting and looks at the canister, calmly, to see if she is missing some sort of trick.)

 

LYDIA

(To Matilda)

You’re so stupid, you can’t even open it.

 

MATILDA

(Hating Lydia for eternity)

You put some sort of lock on it.

 

(Jeffrey grabs Matilda so she drops the canister. He kicks it toward Lydia.)

 

JEFFREY

You have to be executed, Matilda. This is your day of reckoning. 

 

MATILDA

You’re gonna kill me like everyone else?

 

JEFFREY

It is time to go outside, Matilda.

 

LYDIA

Go outside and get some fresh air, you hard worker! You deserve it. 

 

(Lydia thinks this is the funniest thing anyone has ever said.)

 

JEFFREY

It’s time for your federally approved execution, mandated by me.

 

LYDIA

By us.

 

MATILDA

Spare me.

 

JEFFREY

You are to be executed right now. WALK OUT THAT DOOR, GRACIOUSLY.

 

LYDIA

(Smug joke to herself)

I love executions. I feel so vindicated when the less advantaged die.

 

JEFFREY

Lydia, go open that door.

 

LYDIA

With pleasure. 

 

(Lydia holds her breath, runs to the door and opens it and then sits back down, trying to pretend she didn’t just exert herself. She is exhausted.) 

 

LYDIA

Quick! Quick! Get her out of here and close it!

 

MATILDA

You don’t rule the world, Jeffrey.

 

JEFFREY

Yes I do. 

 

(There is a huge scuffle between Jeffrey and Matilda, Jeffrey trying to get Matilda out the door, Matilda hanging onto him for life. During the fight, there is one passionate embrace, to commemorate what was once between them. Matilda looks up at Jeffrey, asking for love and mercy.)

 

MATILDA

I want to live. The sunsets are even more beautiful now. Why can’t we figure out how to live?

 

 (Jeffrey is softened for a second and then--)

 

JEFFREY

Go.

 

(Jeffrey tosses Matilda out the door. Lydia secrets away the canister.)

 

MATILDA

(From outside)

Fuck me and kill me like everyone else!  

 

(Matilda struggles and dies.)

 

LYDIA

Such a shame the scientists couldn’t figure out a way to make oxygen.

 

JEFFREY

They were morons! Could you imagine the expense?

 

LYDIA

Remember in Geneva when we executed the last seven of them? 

 

JEFFREY

It was the best day of my life. Smug bastards. 

 

(Jeffrey sits in his chair.) 

 

JEFFREY

Open the canister. I can barely get a—

 

LYDIA

You exerted yourself too much dear. She wasn’t worth it. 

 

JEFFREY

Open it.

 

LYDIA

I—I don’t know how to dear. It’s so tricky.

 

JEFFREY

Give it to me. I can do it.

 

LYDIA

I can’t walk all the way over there. It would waste too much energy.

 

JEFFREY

Lydia, come here now!

 

LYDIA

Oh Jeffrey, I cannot right now…I’m enjoying my long and graceful neck. 

 

JEFFREY

(Gasping)

Lydia, I command you to bring that canister to me right now.

 

LYDIA

Have Matilda do it. She did so many other nice things for you—Oh that’s right. We just executed her. Goodbye Jeffrey. You were a great provider.

 

JEFFREY

(Lightheaded)  

Lydia, please. Lydia! Lydia, my prize.  Sharon was such a nice little girl. She called me Daddy. She would have loved Antarctica. Remember the penguins?

 

LYDIA

That was over three hundred years ago. You just remember the footage.  Jeffrey…

 

                        (Jeffrey is dead.)

 

LYDIA

Jeffrey?…They say you never know what it’s like to be a widow until it actually happens.  It’s not so bad. 

 

(Lydia opens the canister with ease and takes a breath and gains strength.) 

 

I had the most beautiful life ever lived. It was glorious.

 

(Lydia takes another breath.) 

 

I won. 

 

(Lydia takes another breath from the canister.) 

 

No one is better than me. I own everything. 

 

(Lydia thinks to stand up in triumph but realizes it is best to conserve her energy. One arm goes up, the champion. But there is no one to witness the glory. She knows she is on the brink of death. Lydia takes one more breath.) 

 

I have such a pretty necklace.

 

 

 

Fade to Black.

 

Fade up to Orange and the shadows of Roaches. 

 

Lydia is frozen stiff with her hand to her necklace.

 

To Black.




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Tufts Magazine





 


Saturday, August 29, 2020

PPE for Kentucky Women!

Hi Friends! Raising funds for PPE for the Kentucky Prison for Women in Shelby County along with a great group of writers and musicians. These human beings behind bars are getting ill due to lack-of-funds-and-political-will and it's time to give them a hand! Reading from BENT BUT NOT BROKEN, Sunday, August 30 at 8PM EDT. (5PM PDT). Join us and watch and donate, please.  

The article: 

https://www.kentucky.com/news/coronavirus/article244047592.html


The FB Live Event: 

https://www.facebook.com/events/748565225690979/


Watch it on Zoom:

https://www.diejimcrow.com/zoom


The GoFundMe site: 

https://www.gofundme.com/f/ppe-for-incarcerated-individuals


My Site:

https://www.doncummings.net/

I know we're all doing our best in these insane times. And here I am asking for more help. Do what you can! Hope Springs Eternal? Or is it Hope Lang's Eternal? Either way, LOVE YOU ALL! Stay Healthy! Vote like you mean it! And let's all celebrate the mystery of life--with all its troubles, there's always chocolate and the possibility of survival during a multi-crisis of health, economy, climate and centuries of baked-in racism!

Hugs, from me to you, with the crazy divine energy of whatever kinda damn Jesus you're hanging onto! 


--Nom Us Day, Don








Wednesday, August 26, 2020

And The Scenies Go To...

 


Congratulations to Hannah Prichard and Christopher Reiling for their work in The Water Tribe!


They each garnered a SCENIE for outstanding performances, the award given by Stage Scene LA under the intelligent and discerning eye of one of Los Angeles' great reviewers: Steven Stanley.

As soon as I worked with Hannah and Christopher in a workshop production of my play, I knew they were the ones who had to go all the way with it.

Just a few weeks shy of Covid-19 (heard of it?), we finished our extended run at VS. Theatre Company, coproduced by Ensemble Studio Theatre/Los Angeles. 

The rest of the cast was equally divine: Jayne Taini, Jon Joseph Gentry and Alexandra Daniels. 

Under the incredible guidance of Tricia Small, our director, with producers Adam James Glover (also wearing the hat of scenic designer), Liz Ross and Crystal Jackson, and lighting designer Shara Abvabi, costumes formed by the endlessly incredible Michael Mullen, tons of work forged into the late hours by man-of-many-abilities Tyler Burk, all stage managed by Maya Braunwarth, with Ken Werther as our PR king, well, I mean, it was such a great team.  We got it done! I am so grateful, proud, humble and glad. 

It would be so nice to be with our friends again, right? Making things? We shall do it!

Until then, here are the Scenies. There's a lovely full list below. I am so honored to have Hannah Prichard and Christopher Reiling on the list for their amazing work in The Water Tribe! Congratulations to the Tribe.






THE 2019 - 2020 Scenies List



Hannah Prichard and Christopher Reiling

The Water Tribe






Alexandra Daniels, Jayne Taini, Hannah Prichard, Christopher Reiling, Jon Joseph Gentry


Photos by Adam James Glover