Posted in poetry, WAKING JAY'S MUSE: (Poetry & Prose)

THE SINS OF THE GRANDFATHER (a play in free verse)

End of Scene 3

((  BETTY
You may look out at all that vastness, young man; you may marvel at it, but to the black-robed judge in me, yes, even then … balanced, logical, by all means literal that’s naught but ground fog out there, held aloft by a perfect barometric equilibrium between the downward pressures from above and the upward pressures from below. And even as Robert read, my thought interjected: “Fog … it may look for all intents like something smoldering, but indeed it’s fog! Indisputably, it’s fog.
 (Closing her eyes and speaking softly)
Young man …?

ROBBIE
Ma’am?

BETTY
Would it be too bizarre a notion in your mind to think for a moment of standing here beside me?

ROBBIE
Not at all. ))

Scene 4

                             BETTY
Thank you. You see, I knew I’d be leaving for law school in the fall and there beside me was this pink-cheeked tousled man-child transforming fog to smoke. And more … his mind created a magical land beneath the fog or smoke, then populated it with frightening phantasmagoria.
(And she adds with a finality that was as to latch and bolt the door or slam down the window against the weather of her mischievous memory:)
Some things there are that should be voiceless.
(As though to punctuate this, she clamps shut her lips. During the silence that ensues, ROBBIE glances down at her hand, brings his eyes up to her face, smiles self-consciously, then carries the smile back to her hand. He hears her in-breath, but not its release.)
BETTY [Continued]
Thank you for the loan of yourself.
 (Still holding ROBBIE’S hand, she remains silent a moment more.)
I was such a young thing then and so frightened by how enormous and untamed was his vision of life.

ROBBIE
Strange … I grew up seeing Grandpa behind his desk, the phone to his ear, a pen in his hand, but numbers, only numbers on the papers that cluttered his desk. There must have been words written there, but only numbers I remember.

BETTY
He was not happy with his numbers?

ROBBIE
He never said.

BETTY
See the yellow splotches at the tops of the peaks? Will you, before the greedy, plains-eating sun comes—remind me of the Unpopular miracles?

ROBBIE
(Looking down at their hands entwined.)
I’ll start, then, where he poetically imagined the young Betty questioning him—I think scoffingly—of the land below the smoldering plain.

BETTY
And he knew full-well what would be my derision, for they were captured there in the lines he read to me from a paper he held, I remember, with shaking hand.

ROBBIE
(Reciting)
Why not take it on faith
What my imagination knows first-hand?
How, hidden in this valley
Are the unpopular miracles:

Secret groves that dazzle the eyes
As would an emerald sun;
Magnificent trees (those needly towers)
That are loftier and more splendid
Than any child’s dream could make them.
And everywhere, everywhere,
Wildflowers waft a fragrance
Much too delicately perfumed
For anyone … save those witches who,
In veils of white gauze
Whirl among the trees
Beside the path that winds
Round and round beneath their dance.
  (feeling the tug of her hand as though it were in the prison of his. And she holds her now freed hand in her other and stares down at them.)
ROBBIE [Continued]
Then you do remember the next line, don’t you?

BETTY
If you did not have his same smile; if you were not the age he was then; if you were not holding my hand as he was—but yes … I remember it viscerally—though not its words.

ROBBIE
Then let me share them with you now, at your safer distance.
(Recites)
No! Don’t go! Not yet, my love;
Or rather we, hand-in-hand,
Step out upon that plain …. No?
Then, hush! And let my words paint
What below, together, we’d surely find;

Below, there are a thousand ponds,
And at each pond’s edge,
Water Sprites imitate the Universe
With their spritely feet
In water so frigidly azure
That on its surface snow and swans
Transform eternally as they drift.

BETTY
  (Turning to him)
I must go back now, Robert ….
  (Laughing)
Did I call you Robert? It’s because I was so much in that moment then that I was going to say to you: “I must go back, young man, before I test Robert’s premise.” It was to be a joke until Robert’s name popped out, instead of yours … and now … now I’m not so sure.
 (Taking a step away from him, then turning back.)
I’m an old woman, but I want you to know that spiritually I was an old woman even then. Not wise in the spirit. Just old in the spirit.

ROBBIE
But if you had been spiritually young back then—?

BETTY
But I wasn’t, so how can I answer now?

ROBERT
Still, you can answer what I need to know. Supposing you had not resisted his premise, holding your hand, would he have stepped off onto the plain?

BETTY
I do believe he would, young man. And he would have been faithful to his poetic imaginings right up ‘til we were dashed against the rocks or impaled on one of those needly towers of his. You smile again ….

ROBBIE
I can see now the girl that Grandpa loved.

BETTY
I was incapable of giving what his spirit needed. Don’t you see? I’d have been that all-devouring sun. I’d have destroyed him.

ROBBIE
Instead, life republicanized him. And his destruction took so much longer. He loved you. He always loved you. Tell me you didn’t love him ….

BETTY
It’s complicated.

ROBBIE
Did you ever marry?

BETTY
I didn’t—no.

ROBBIE
You didn’t want a family?

BETTY
It’s complicated … and you’re being nosey, young man. And there—there’s that infernal smile again.

ROBBIE
You did love him~ And is that a smile on your lips?

BETTY
(Turning)
I’ll be leaving now. I’m going, but you can stay. I’ll wait for you at the rock. It’s fog here; make no doubt about that, but if you wish, you can wait for it to burn off. It’s already beginning, see? When it does you’ll see your Grandpa’s world is truly populated with bushes and trees and rocks—very unpoetic fare that—right?

ROBBIE
Then why don’t you stay with me? Why don’t we—together—prove you right?

BETTY
I’m going now.

ROBBIE
Stay. Let us, in the full glare of the sun, peer down over the edge. Of course, it will be trees, bushes and rocks we’ll see, and we’ll laugh the laughter of the enlightened. Come back! I’ll hold your hand and we’ll look down at the gift of reality the sun has given us. And Bett, listen—

BETTY
Oh, don’t! That was what Robert called me, Bett!

ROBBIE
Listen, we’ll gaze down over the edge, and if—of course, it can’t happen—but if we see, not bushes but water sprites, not rocks, but witches … why then gloriously, hand-in-hand, we shall step off into the delicious ecstasy of their total embrace.

BETTY
Goodbye, young man.

ROBBIE
You won’t stay?

BETTY
Goodbye, Robert.

ROBBIE
Goodbye Bett.

FINAL CURTAIN

 

Author:

My Twitter account identifies me as “a writer, a salesman, an optimist, a dreamer,” and adds: “may the four always cohabit and produce wondrous progeny.” Each of the first two identifies a blood-and-bone human being, living in the real world who works very hard at being honest and caring—but, who is still evolving in these areas. The last two (“optimist” and “dreamer”) are foundational qualities in my life. They keep a fire crackling under me that hopefully fuels the writer … and also the salesman, whose hat each of us is hard-wired to wear. Sandwiched somewhere between writing and selling, I attended college and even tried my hand at selling high school kids on why they should love learning and reading and writing. That was a brief stint. Whether teaching failed me or I it, I don’t know. You’d have to ask the kids—though many might be doddering by now, and some dead. Still, experientially, it is a part of me. I am married, living with my dog, Sirius, in Bakersfield, California, and separately from my wife.

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