Thursday, June 30, 2011

Much Ago About Never

(This one's a completely improvised piece I wrote sometime back. Actors and directors are welcome to stage it, creative commons and all, but a prior notice will be appreciated.)

Creative Commons License
Much Ago About Never by Anand Gandhi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 India License.

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Grandma: Who told you about the milkman?

Temptress: I eavesdropped on your quarrel with mother. She said you would get free milk in exchange of…

Grandma: That's preposterous! You must have been in your cradle! How can you claim to remember that?

Temptress: Is that uncommon?

Grandma: Well, of course! It's unheard of.

Temptress: I remember many things.

Grandma: Like what?

Temptress: You sound worried.

Grandma: I wouldn't worry even if I believed what you were saying was true.

Temptress: You think I am lying!

Grandma: Why should you?

Temptress: Why should I what?

Grandma: Lie.

Temptress: But I am not!

Grandma: You are not?

Temptress: Lying!

Grandma: Do you remember her face?

Temptress: Vaguely. I can put it together with a lot of effort, hold it for a fraction of a second, and then it disappears again.

(Grandma looks away in thought. Temptress notices something in grandma's teacup. She pulls it out. Grandma notices her dipping her fingers in her tea. She grows suspicious. Temptress freezes.)

Grandma: What is that?

Temptress: Seems like a fly.

(Grandma slaps the girl.)

Grandma: Why would you do that?

Temptress: (indignant) Do what?

Grandma: Why would you put a foresaken fly in my tea?

Temptress: (throws the fly back into the tea) I was throwing it out, you foolish hag!

(Grandma realizes that she hit the child in vain.)

Grandma: Aww, forgive me, please. Forgive me, my dear Temptress. Has it been your day yet?

Temptress: Why do you ask so often? I'll tell you when it is.

Grandma: Can I see your bloomers from last night?

(Temptress hands over her underwear. Grandma inspects it. It's almost ritualistic.)

Grandma: Not your day yet, huh?

Temptress: You are so easy to manipulate, aren't you? I was wearing knickers, too.

(Grandma throws the bloomers aside. Becomes highly anxious with speculation. Temptress hands her another underwear.)

Temptress: Here.

(Grandma inspects it. Temptress gives out a hearty laughter.)

Grandma: Why, you evil little whore! Where did you get these?

Temptress: In mother's closet.

Grandma: (surprised) You could open it again?

(Temptress nods.)

Grandma: Why didn't you call me?

Temptress: I was scared.

Grandma: Well, of what?

Temptress: Of ending the pact.

Grandma: The pact? There is no pact!

Temptress: There might be. An unsaid one. What if calling you would end it? What if it would never open again to me, like it never opens to you!

Grandma: That's mighty presumptuous! It opens to me just as often!

Temptress: Why would you be so desperate to see it open, otherwise?

Grandma: To make sure we see the same things.

Temptress: You can ask me.

Grandma: Alright, then.

(Grandma pulls out the fly from her teacup, sips on her tea, calculating.)

Temptress: Ask away!

Grandma: Is there a...

Temptress: No!

(Grandma realises the complicated method Temptress has chosen to save her the embarrassment of not having seen the contents of the closet. She plays along.)

Grandma: Is the... still there?

Temptress: Yes.

Grandma: You saw it?

Temptress: Yes.

(The game is making grandma happy, she has almost begun to believe that she is able to open the closet, as well.)

Grandma: Did you look inside the inner drawers?

Temptress: Yes, I did.

Grandma: Did you find an old...

(Temptress decides to sign out of the game, abruptly, leaving grandma hanging.)

Grandma: What-do-you-call-it...

Temptress: (crosses her arms and raises her brow in mock challenge) What?

Grandma: That thing...

Temptress: You should know when to stop, really. Now, think about this! If you had stopped after having your satisfaction at the second question, you would have saved us both this situation.

Grandma: (begs) Please...

Temptress: (takes a moment before agreeing to rescue her) Yes, the old aluminium canister with the embossed peacock was still there. Is that what you were asking about?

Grandma: Of course that! The old aluminium canister with the embossed blue peacock.

Temptress: Green!

Grandma: But, of course! The green peacock. Was it green, really? It seemed blue in the dark.

Temptress: It's green.

Grandma: Bluish green?

Temptress: Green!

Grandma: But, of course. Ahh, I had seen it the last time I opened it.

(Temptress changes her mind.)

Temptress: There is no such thing as the old aluminium canister with an embossed peacock, green or blue, in the drawer.

Grandma: There is. I saw it.

Temptress: You didn't, because I just made it up!

Grandma: Why are you doing this to me? What have I done to you?

Temptress: Why are you so suspicious?

Grandma: No missy! It is becoming rather evident that you are the one who's suspicious. What's your conspiracy theory? I am waiting for you to come of age so I can sell you to a high roller? Can it not be something purer? An old granny worrying about why her sixteen year old granddaughter has not yet been touched by the Goddess!

Temptress: You want me to bleed and ache. That's pure! Pure what? Primal desire? Basic instinct? Pure bull-dung!

(Grandma pushes a spittoon in Temptress's face)

Grandma: Spit!

(Temptress stiffens her lips and shakes her head)

Grandma: Spit it out, young lady!

(Temptress keeps her mouth tightly shut, gets up and starts walking away. Grandma puts her walking stick in her way.)

Grandma: If you think I am going to allow you to walk away with that foulness in your mouth, you are gravely mistaken.

(Temptress spits in the spittoon.)

Temptress: Might as well. Damn! (Spits. Grandmother's jaw drops). Hell! (Spits again.) Scallywag! (Spits) Mangy rascal! Gundygut! (Spits twice)

Grandma: That should be enough.

Temptress: Gadzooks! Cor Blimey! (Spits twice)

Grandma: Stop, I implore you!

(Grandma tries to shut Temptress' mouth. The young lady dodges. Grandma shuts her own ears.)

Temptress: Bloody! (Spits. Makes an accidental sound like "Fuck" while spitting)

Grandma: What was that?

Temptress: What?

Grandma: The last curse.

Temptress: Bloody (Spits again)

Grandma: After that. You said fink or fuck or something like that.

Temptress: (confused) Did I?

Grandma: Is that a new curse?

Temptress: It's the sound of me spitting when there's no spit left in my mouth. Fuck.

Grandma: Goodness, gracious!

Temptress: (changes her mind) As a matter of fact, it is a new curse.

Grandma: What does it mean?

Temptress: (Thinking fast) It means… (lost for an idea) a very mean thing.

Grandma: What?

Temptress: (goes for it) Fornication! (Spits. Grandma gasps, closes her ears again.)

Grandma: No!

Temptress: Jementous slubberdegullion! Gadzooks! Blood of Christ!

(Grandma lets out an even louder gasp. Temptress spits twice. Grandma snatches the spittoon away before she can spit the third time.)

Grandma: You can't spit blasphemy out. It gets stamped on your soul.

(Grandma exits. Temptress gets really worried and spits a few times and joins her hands in prayer. Grandma returns with a soap and a bucket of water. Temptress switches back to being casual.)

Grandma: Open your mouth!

Temptress: No! (Runs. Grandma chases her.)

Grandma: Can't you see child? I am trying to save you, here. Let me wash your soul.

Temptress: You can't wash souls!

Grandma: Do not argue with the written word.

Temptress: I want to see where it's written that you can wash souls with a soap and a bucket of water.

Grandma: But that will be a complete waste of very precious time. It would be too late then. The marks will become permanent like those of small pox!

Temptress: How do I believe it then?

Grandma: Multitudes of people do it everyday.

Temptress: I haven't seen any.

Grandma: They do it in India! (An after thought) Albeit, they do it without a soap. In the water of a river. Poor coolies!

Temptress: (getting aggravated) But I reckon you had mentioned that they have no souls.

Grandma: (Wisely) They do have souls, child. Only they are lesser ones. Greater than mice and monkeys. Lesser than men and lions.

(Temptress gets really agitated. Grandma gets more composed.)

Temptress: What about wild boars?

Grandma: What about them?

Temptress: Are the souls of these Indians you mention greater than those of wild boars?

Grandma: Yes, they are.

Temptress: Elephants?

Grandma: No, lesser than those of elephants.

Temptress: Camels?

Grandma: Greater than camels.

Temptress: Foxes?

Grandma: Them too, yes.

Temptress: Unicorns?

Grandma: Lesser than unicorns.

Temptress: Lizards?

Grandma: Greater.

Temptress: Greater, whose?

Grandma: Greater, the Indian's

Temptress: Fairies?

Grandma: (unquestionable certainty) Surely, lesser than fairies. What kind of a question is that?

Temptress: Gnomes?

Grandma: About the same.

Temptress: Snakes?

Grandma: Snakes have no souls, child.

Temptress: Dinosaurs?

Grandma: What are they?

Temptress: The giant lizards mentioned in Lord Richard Owen's manuscripts.

Grandma: Oh, they are mythical creatures. Surely you don't believe in such mumbo jumbo!

Temptress: Well, I thought…

Grandma: Dear Lord! How forgetful of me! Wash your mouth first and then we shall talk.

Temptress: Is there an alternative?

Grandma: You can whip yourself.

Temptress: How many times?

Grandma: Once shall suffice.

Temptress: Alright.

(Temptress exits.)

Grandma: (self) Fuck! (spits) Fuck! (spits) Fuck! (spits) That relieved the pain in my shoulder muscles. Fuck! (spits) There's something peace endowing about this curse. Fuck! (spits) Surely, if this is what it makes me feel, then it must be a… (it dawns upon her) Oh, forgive me Lord, for I have sinned!

(Grandma starts aggressively washing her mouth with the soap and the water. Foam spills out of her mouth. Temptress enters with a whip, is shocked to see grandma in this state, then understands, and carries on with her own business. She braces herself tightly in anticipation of the sting, and swings the whip around. Firecrackers burst. Blackout.)

Grandma: (with a mouthful) But the milkman and I never fucked! (a loud spit).

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