Chorus I (female)
Chorus II (male)
The Four S’s: Spite
Scene: Someplace, perhaps Limbo. The above group is standing in various positions and attitudes on a bare stage. They are all more or less grouped together excepting the Voice, which is invisible. The Priest is apparaently trying to conduct a service, but no one is paying much attention to him. The two choruses are assembled to either side of the stage.
Priest: Hail Mary...,
Chorus I: Our Father...,
Priest: Mother of God —
Chorus II: Which art in Heaven?
Demon (aside): For the nonce they’ve struck
a most unfortunately unhappy medium.
Hula (gyrating): Larrup, larrup —
thus it goes, thus and so:
and in between....
Priest: Blessed art thou among women!
Sprite (coming to attention): Right you are, Padre-o!
Spite: Yes, he’s hit it.
Splice: He’s struck it, all right.
Spice: Hit it again, Padre-O —
put a little more JIVE into it
this time, though.
Priest (flustered): Blessed is the fruit
of thy womb....
Spite: Fruit of her womb?
Splice: Fruit of whose womb?
Spice: Womb, womb,
rhymes with doom.
Sprite: Whom shall I say has called
whose womb home?
Bright Coin (screaming): Well, I’ll tell the world
whose doom was sealed in the womb!
Four S’s: Well?
Demon & Priest: WELL?
Bright coin (spinning on its edge): Yours.
Voice (echo chamber): There is sooth
in the tale
this coin spins. (The voice burps.)
Hula: That wasn’t nice. (Flutters her grass skirt playfully.)
Bright coin: Well, I’ve been around, you know.
Priest (addresses Demon): If I may be so bold?
Demon: You are.
Priest: So bold as to ask, what do you mean
by standing beside me?
Demon (yawning): It is the natural order of things.
Chorus I: Natural things.
Chorus II: Things.
Demon: No, but, you know (nods politely toward the choruses),
you’re quite right.
The Priest rifles through his breviary hurriedly. The Four S’s join hands and dance around the Hula Dancer who also shimmies, rotating in the opposite direction.
Four S’s (sing, with banjo accompaniment) All is gall
And gall is all
we have to show
for breath and death.
Heap my bones upon the heath.
Wealth is stealth
and stealth means men.
Mankind is poor.
All (but Priest): Heap our bones upon the moor.
Mankind is poor
and gall is all
that’s left of breath
and stealth and wealth.
Hula (sensuously): ...is all, is all —
all palls but gall.
Voice: Bravo! Bravo!
An inspired performance.
I say, have any of you ever
All (excepting Priest). No.
Priest: Except me. I studied under....
Spite: A rock?
Spice: A cock?
Sprite: A lock?
Splice: A crock?
Priest (haughtily): Certainly not.
I studied under....
Demon: The cover of darkness.
Priest: How dare you?
Demon: How dare I?
I am immune to intensive
cleansing of grey matter.
Voice: Oh, but of curse,
you must understand, he believes
he studied under
me. in absentia, of course.
Can’t learn much from correspondence
Bright Coin: Naturally! (giggles) And he studies
under me, too.
A flame enters from offstage. No one seems to notice it except the Demon who smiles slightly. Everyone is chattering at once. The flame approaches the Hula Dancer and burns her, then flickers out.
Hula: Ouch! (slaps nearby Priest) Fresh!
Spite (cackling): I smell smoke.
Demon: Where there’s smoke....
Priest (throws breviary at Hula Dancer): Woman of Evil!
Spice: Ha, ha! “Out, damned spot!”
(turns to other S’s) did you see that?
Sprite: Threw The Book at her, he did.
Voice: I say, Padre, did you know
that Evil spelled backwards
is pronounced Live?
Of course, you weren’t supposed
to learn that until you’d passed away
and begun to attend classes regularly.
You’re nearly dead now, though,
so there’s no harm done, I suppose.
Chorus I: Live and let live, and let
each man go to hell in his own
fashion, as the saying runs.
Chorus II: Yes, but where does it run?
Voice: Blast if I know!
Bright Coin: I know.
I have all the answers
to mortal questions.
Chorus II: Where, then?
Bright Coin: Why, it goes
the way of all flesh,
Priest: And which direction is that,
Voice: There is no “down” here.
Splice: Then where does it go?
Hula: Hear this! This is a catchy tune.
I’ve heard it before somewhere,
but it just popped into my head:
(sings) Heap my bones upon the heath,
Pile my bones upon the moor.
Choruses: Oh, yes — it runs
nowhere, it seems.
Demon: Well, now, look. We’ll have to
break this up, I’m afraid.
Chorus I: Why?
Demon: It’s getting late,
and we’re getting nowhere fast.
The flame approaches across the stage once more, heading for the Priest.
Chorus II: How can it grow late? Late is
impregnable, immovable, impenetrable,
Bright Coin: Impossible.
Voice (sleepily) Quite right.
Priest (flame burns him): Ouch!
(swings at nearby Spite)
Damn your impertinence, sir!
Voice: Case dismissed.
All others: Case dismissed.
Demon: Yours. why do you think
Priest: Oh. Well, in that case (turns towards Hula Dancer)....
Hula (smiling): It’s a science. Watch
Spite: Heh, heh, yes. Your fingers.
Priest (addressing Hula Dancer): Ach! Don’t be foolish.
You have no lasting value. (He turns to Bright Coin and puts an arm around him) Come, we have charity to perform.
Bright Coin: Yes. Do you know where charity begins?
Priest: Don’t worry, we’ll
Figure it out (goes off with Bright Coin).
Chorus I. Case dismissed,
Chorus II (joining in): Grab a wrist,
Four S’s: and they’ll none of ‘em be missed,
Demon: They’ll none of ‘em be missed!
There is a pause and a momentary silence. Everyone on stage is frozen in his tracks momentarily.
Hula (very sensuously): Case dismissed.
Sound of a gavel in the echo chamber.
Originally published in the samisdat volume titled Day After History, Arlington VA: Privately circulated, all rights reserved 1956, and copyright © 2007 by Lewis Turco.