David Swartz "RELIGION WITH AN EDGE"
biblicalfictions.com
Poetry for the Curious across the Religious Spectrum
The Prodigal Son

 

for Allan Brick

 

 

 

 

 

ACT ONE SCENE ONE ((((( a foreign city, perhaps Antioch, 353 BC

 

 

An estate somewhat outside the city and near a village; the dining room, a low table, cushions, as Somnis serves, Rath and his two sons addressing their supper.

 

 

RATH OF ANTIOCH ((((( the father, 54, flushed, gray hair and beard

 

JARAS ((((( eldest son, 33, balding, fat, effeminate, red hair, beard, soiled clothing, a flatterer

 

GONT ((((( second son, 29, slender, nervous, carping, clean-shaven, longish hair, theatrical effeminate clothing

 

SOMNIS ((((( elderly serving woman, essentially a dull beast, but more observant than one would first surmise; she stands off to the side, hands folded, as the others eat

 

 

Indulge yourself with flesh,           (( RATH

    

(at the head of the table, a sword at his knees)

 

Grilled lamb and sheep?

Somewhere Ordar's eaten

By a sleep,

No sleep of mine,

For he burns in my memory.

 

And ours, my father.                      (( JARAS

    

(speaking with mouth full, gesturing with a bone)

 

Speak for yourself.  I miss him      (( GONT

Not.

    

(scarcely touching his food)

 

Sorry enough this dull time            (( RATH

To breed such rancor at the innocent.

 

Wisely said, my father.                  (( JARAS

I share your sorrow.

 

Flatterer.                                          (( GONT

You'd slash his belly for a smile.

And suck his blood

And fatten on the corpse.

 

What can it matter now?                 (( RATH

The lad is dead.

Quit of the earth like his mother all these years.

I simply know it.

 

As well as you know                       (( GONT

His innocence.  You know nothing.

 

I know he's dead.                            (( RATH       

 

You know nothing.                          (( GONT

 

No word for seven years?                (( RATH

 

Nothing.                                           (( GONT

 

To have vanished such . . .               (( RATH

Not the slightest trace.

At times I can't recall his voice, his stride, his

     Face.

 

Hardly a deficit.                               (( GONT

 

You hate him so?                             (( RATH

 

It's not becoming.                            (( JARAS

 

Don't sicken me, my brother.          (( GONT

You loathe him with the same rude passion.

A third of our accustomed comfort has him,

Serving the needs of whores

And gamesters here to Galilee,

And you would urge your love?

Had mother been alive she'd

Brought an old man to his senses

More than

Grant a third of his estate

To an adolescent

And grieve him in his absence, even now each

 Night

To ruin THIS son's supper

With his whining,

Seven loyal years after the fact.

Loyal, I remind you, Rath, my father,

Even that slug across the table, even Jaras,

    

(indicating his brother)

 

More to be minded than an apparition,

Than a boy's deceit.

This whole topic disgusts me.

    

(pushing aside his plate, standing)

 

You haven't touched your              (( RATH

Supper.

 

You'd have me fed, then take         (( GONT

And eat,

Not bray about

Your long lost son.

He's long left off where we've begun.

 

Come.  Sit.                                      (( RATH

We'll have no more of Ordar.

 

Yes.  Sit.                                         (( JARAS

A son obeys his father.

 

Ass.                                               (( GONT

    

(regaining his cushion)

 

I will sit out of respect,

But I will take no food.

My appetite is ruined.

 

Perhaps a bit of sweets?                (( RATH

Somnis, bring in

Something more to the boy's taste.

    

(Somnis stirs, half hearing; Gont shakes his head)

 

No candy?  Perhaps a girl from out the village?

Is that to suit?

Somnis, the boy would like a wench.

    

(she stirs again)

 

And Jaras—look, he licks lips

At the thought.

Something brazen,

A blaze of skin,

Bright belly, breasts.

Two bachelors are my sons.

I'd have it otherwise.

Imagine ankles, calves—ascending—thighs.

    

(lechery in his voice)

 

Some musk kinship of the flesh.

A darker secret.

Cleft fruit

Drips when the tongue addresses heat.

    

(Somnis exits through the curtain)

 

When fruit's addressed the flesh is sweet.

But listen . . .

What is that sound in the darkness?

    

(they look about in silence)

 

I hear nothing.                               (( GONT

 

If only he had                                (( RATH

Sent me his child . . . a son.

 

He's long left off, what you've     (( GONT

Begun.

 

All of you breaking my heart.       (( RATH

My name is lost . . .

    

(his voice shatters; Somnis enters with a bowl of fruit)

 

Such theater!                                 (( GONT

A third of your estate is ALL it cost.

You'd have a chaste son fornicate

To purchase some plump darling for your grip

Or marry prematurely, cup to lip.

Some food you've served us on this plate!

 

Brother, mind your father.            (( JARAS

 

And my father's business.            (( GONT

'Tis enough to turn the tale of some weak scribe

For bitch of sorts to swallow,

This tragedy of Rath

And Ordar, the long lost son.

Perhaps the plot is hard to follow.

A mother dead upon the ingrate's birth.

A mother dead and in the earth.

 

Such poison I've bred.                 (( RATH

To live to hear it?  Foul.

I bid you cease.

 

The man needs comfort, not           (( JARAS

Disease.

 

Then have him love                        (( GONT

His rightful sons, to please.

No more of cankers and despair.

A third of his estate and not a prayer.  And not

   A whimper.

Come, Gont, move your bones.

    

(standing, heading off past Somnis to the exit)

 

I'll eat the wind for what the wind atones.

And drown in some fair Greek like Sophocles.

And kept YOUR books and slaved

When I was destined for a scholar.

I'll eat the wind and night.

And blind myself on greatness by a taper.

Tomorrow's slavery for a fool

Who dotes on what he's lost.

A third of your estate is what it cost.

    

(exits)

 

Don't mind                                     (( JARAS

    

(in a wheedling voice)

 

Your second son.  He truly loves you.

 

I scarcely love myself.                   (( RATH

Too much of me is dead to even care.

 

A bit of lamb will sooth your         (( JARAS

Spirit.

    

(raises food to his own lips)

 

You've never had the problem.     (( RATH

Eating as such.

I've lost a son.  Lost three.  Lost much.

 

         

                                    CURTAIN

 

 

ACT ONE SCENE TWO ((((( further east, a brothel in Kayos

 

 

Here in the toilet of the city's brothel, Ordar, the lone attendant, addresses the needs of the local clientele.

 

 

ORDAR ((((( Rath's youngest son, the prodigal, 23, bloated, hair falling out in patches, rash over his exposed skin, gravely ill, having the appearance of a man of 50 in extreme dissipation; marked tremors, bitter sarcastic voice, dark hair, features

 

KOMOS ((((( approximately the same age as the prodigal, handsome, dark, virile, Ordar's double without the effects of dissolution and disease

 

TWO ANONYMOUS MALES

 

 

As the scene opens, Ordar is alone in this dismal setting, attending to his towels, his basins, the open stalls, a trough for urination.  Stage right, a curtained exit through which come laughter, music, muffled voices.

 

 

Reduced to this at 23                     (( ORDAR

    

(looking upward and outward toward the audience from a bench center stage)

 

With all my promise.

My body reeks with the same decay

As cloys these toilet stalls,

The trough where old men leak their juice,

Only to fall asleep drunkenly the coming eve

With lawful guts,

Their sanctioned whores, and—worse—far worse,

With tainted innocence, a girl, a wife,

No match for

Sucking lips that tease fierce appetite

Down to the throat

Of hell.

Such is the bargain

Of this street, this house,

Cheap labor in the flesh.

Jagged abscess awaits the spirit.

I am consumed,

Ordar in Kayos,

The youngest son of Rath,

A goodly man

Whose only harm was misplaced generosity

To vest a third of his estate

On callow youth

Who squandered all in seven years of riot,

Only to watch its progress

Here again,

Some young

And lately clean,

All eaten by an itch, sick as the mouth of Satan,

That grips all heart

And spews me here before you, stern Jehovah,

Begging no pity

But an easy end,

Cessation of his torment,

Feeding on despair,

Who slept a time ago on stark white linen

In a rich man's house,

And woke to servants

And a life of ease.

Commute my pain, Maker of all mankind.

My soul's far worse

Than my disease.

I'm crippled by the thought of my own tongue.

Here now I'm base.

To think a father gazed upon this face!

    

(a male enters, stands at the trough, accepts a basin, towel, drops change in a metal cup)

 

THANK YOU, SIR.

    

(another male enters, leaves, depositing a coin)

 

AND YOU.  ALL THANKS.

    

 

A loud burst of laughter from the other room, at last silence, complete silence;  Ordar, curious, crosses to the exit, parts the curtain, glances  outward; sinks suddenly to his knees, gathers up, returns to the bench.

 

 

Dear God, an apparition!

There among the crowd a boy to dazzle all their

Hearts

And sitting at the gaming table.

What fierceness grips me here

In this infected house?

'Tis much as if I eyed my own cleansed visage

In a mirror.

The image of my youth and yet . . .

But this is boundless mystery . . . some seven

     Winters older?

And they shouted his name.  Yes.

Shouted Komos.

I heard it in the din.

My soul has fled

To some clean wench that mothered

Such a lad, as if she were my own, fairest

Of Antioch, that struggled with my birth

Until they cut her I might live.

Here in this house my double.

Sans scabs and cankers.

Even the hair is right.

Even the hands, the eyes.

Verily my double.  If I looked 23, my ACTUAL age.

Is this a curse upon my lot, an anguish?

Must life engender,

Much as Greeks would urge,

Real as my hand,

Some endless duplication?

I burst with dizzy exultation,

As if the strangest fantasy

Were just beyond that curtain, smiling at a whore,

Some mother's innocent

About to be reversed.

Here, I'll look again.

 

 (crosses, parts the curtain)

 

There, he lifts a glass.

It is my very own gesture.

Some wayward thrust of destiny has brought

Him here,

Yoked to my own cruel fate.

Will it or not, he's poor enough

To cast his lot with me.

I frame a proposition.

Give the man health and hope,

A cleanly bed

And comfort.

And all I'll do is vanish.  Observe from the very

                                                                  Edge.

But fix,

He hastens to my thoughts and purpose,

Stands, begs leave,

And crosses toward this curtain.

Some mad and unknown pattern

Grips our lives.

It seems our seed was wasted,

Yet the seed survives.

Here, chance, you have made us both a winner.

Child at the edge of sin

Would couple with himself, the rankest sinner.

    

(Komos enters, stands at a mirror, adjusts his gown, and primps, guardedly)

 

Here, boy, a dracma.                       (( KOMOS

Give me some notion of this place.

Is there disease?

 

Sickness of flesh and spirit.            (( ORDAR

You'll find more than mischief in these halls.

There's better sport

In your small village

Than you'd find in Kayos.

Would you eye the danger, look

Upon my face.

Perhaps you see your self.

 

See myself in that rank mask?        (( KOMOS

You jest.

Even your lips are eaten.

 

Ah yes.  But look closely.              (( ORDAR

 

It seems                                         (( KOMOS

    

(brings his face closer, recoils, startled)

 

I eye some wreckage of myself.

Foul secret.

We seem to know each other by a strange mistake.

You are my double, doubly eaten.

I'll abandon this sick house upon the instant.

There is too much message

To ignore,

A young tradesman, in search of an old whore,

Who turns and remarks

His image in a glass.

Stricken to have it move and speak and vex

His very blood.

'Tis more than odd.

Add 30 years to this today, and I am doubled.

I'll quit this house

And not be troubled.

There is a stink about this man that mimics my

  Own heat.

It seems I smell myself

Even in your very gesture.

Rank soul, you speak my voice and eye my glance.

This is a shudder of a dance.

The dancers fester.

    

(makes to leave)

 

Wait.                                             (( ORDAR

There is profit to your recognition.

You eye your soul!

I'll speak to your condition.

There is a bond that buries your distaste.

 

Be to the point.                             (( KOMOS

 

I'll speak in haste.                        (( ORDAR

 

                 

                          CURTAIN

 

 

ACT ONE SCENE THREE ((((( the house of Rath

 

 

The dining room, Rath standing at the head of the table, which bears the remains of the morning meal.  He reads from a scroll while Somnis stands to his left and front by the table, facing out from center stage, hands folded, a countenance at once dull and long-suffering, the measureless patience and stupidity ascribed, perhaps unfairly, to a woman of her caste and age.

 

 

RATH

 

SOMNIS

 

 

Confusion reigns,                         (( RATH

     

(setting his sword on the table)

 

Not simply in my heart,

But, suddenly, here in my own house.

This day I have my son—ah yes, my body bursts

With fearsome joy,

Drenched with gratitude and tears that Ordar lives.

Somnis, old woman, I can't deny it.

And yet . . . and yet, here

In my very breast there is a serpent.

As if my heart were skewed

Toward vast extreme . . . Witness its open mouth!

He wills he might return

And begs forgiveness.

My cheeks are seared by broad unseemly bliss.

That such a son were dead

And now survives,

And, better, begs to hasten to my house and here

To stay forever!

Somnis, it is here in this brief letter.

But just as well, is something stranger

Than the fate which took him

From me . . . Oh, hideous!

This whelp would set conditions on his love—

Ah God, the very thought!

Speaks of his servant Komos,

A man infected by the venal curse,

The pus and suppuration

Of a life of plunder in a foreign city.

Some foulest whoreson dog

That has him in his debt by loyalty

Of service, so steadfast

Even my darling Ordar

Can't relent.

Can't cast him out to founder in the juices of his lot

But means that I might add him to our staff,

At least ensure his livelihood

With some small pension,

Or—here is his greatest hope—assign, his very words,

Some MODEST QUARTERS for this beast

In our own house

Until his sickness wanes

And he can manage on his own . . . or this . . .

Mark this . . .

Tend to our estate WITH ALL HIS WISDOM.  Earned,

                                                                   Yes,

EARNED through years of suffering

And guilt,

Granting to Rath, the father,

The same sound ministrations

That he rendered to his son

Just at the margin of a terrible misfortune,

Only to profit from a miscreant's advice

And very visage

And recoil to pen this scroll

In guilt and lamentation.

Ordar, my son, who squandered his estate

In breach of piety

And sense, in wasteful ventures, speculation,

Pleading to come on home

With one condition, simply one, a trifle of a kind.

That this same horror abide with us,

This touchstone, recollection,

A man, simply a man,

As Ordar puts it,

That means to have SOME LODGING IN THE HOUSE OF

 RATH.

    

(shouts the last, tosses the scroll away from him, across the table)

 

Master, you seem troubled.            (( SOMNIS

 

Troubled . . .                                   (( RATH

    

(incredulous laughter, punctuated by sobs)

 

My God, I cannot laugh or weep.

 

But the purpose is foreign to me.   (( SOMNIS

You seem all muddled.

This news . . . is it good or bad?

 

As bad as good can be.                  (( RATH

Make some sense of this in your dim psyche.

Should I honor this wretch with some

Response

Or drop him from the earth?

Better . . . What sort of fate is this

For some poor father

To retain his calm at this fierce bastardy?

This miscreance?

Better . . . Where does an idiot receive

His education?

Come now, Somnis, tend to this, you know me well.

 

I'd say the lad wants to come        (( SOMNIS

Home.

 

THAT simple . . .                          (( RATH

    

(in exasperation)

 

And wants to bring a friend.         (( SOMNIS

His closest advisor.

 

Advise me then.                            (( RATH

A wall confronts you, and you note a vista.

Advise me out of the very

Depths

Of your profundity.

Duty calls you, my Somnis.

 

I'd say                                           (( SOMNIS

    

(she says this ponderously, studying her broad gnarled hands)

 

Greet him at the door

With some compassion.

And give up the back bedroom for the friend,

For this . . . this . . .

 

Komos.                                         (( RATH

The back bedroom then . . . hah!

You astound me.

 

But bring it gently to your           (( SOMNIS

Other sons.

They just might be put a bit at sorts

With all their gratitude.

Broach it gentle.

You tend to strain

Their natural resources.

I've often seen you harsher than

Your feelings let.

They love you dearly,

And you're often rude.

 

What have I got here, wench?     (( RATH

   

 (holds up three fingers)

 

Why, three fingers.                      (( SOMNIS

'Tis plain enough.

 

And this?                                     (( RATH

    

(holds up four)

 

Why four fingers.                        (( SOMNIS

'Tis very plain.  No more.

 

Three sons and an old whore.     (( RATH

 

You profane yourself.  Don't      (( SOMNIS

Speak so.

 

Woman, you have no children.       (( RATH

 

I know an old man,                         (( SOMNIS

And I know his sons.

 

Jaras, who leeches my heart           (( RATH

With flattery

To lie about in sloth

With no addition?

Gont who tends my books and my estate

With zealotry

Bordering on sedition?

Ordar lately writing from a dark sojourn in Kayos,

Mute silence seven years

That wrenched my heart

With fierce contrition.

    

(gesturing toward the table)

 

And now . . . what make you truly

Of this strange request?

Come, lady, some sage advice for your poor master.

Open the gates

Of your weighty soul and flood your Rath with light.

If this is morning

I must dread the night.

    

(she makes to speak)

 

Wait!  Consider that I'm hungry for real thought.

 

If four is what you've got it           (( SOMNIS

Can't

Be right

To set some quibble

On a plain addition.

Fate offers extras often by tradition.

I know I'll need help

With the chores.

Just write your son and tell this Komos . . .

He needn't bring his whores.

 

Mercy.                                            (( RATH

You make more sense than purpose.

With wit like that

What might brain purchase?  Where's Jaras, Gont?

Come, send for two lads

About to be diseased.

If mine's an ache, then theirs's a squeeze.

 

 

                                              CURTAIN

 

 

ACT ONE SCENE FOUR ((((( the dining room, Rath's house

 

 

Here Jaras and Gont begin their argument stage right and move in the course of it to front and center and a resolution.  It is late evening.

 

 

JARAS

 

GONT

 

 

Here, fatty,                                     (( GONT

    

(waving the scroll at Jaras's face)

 

What do you make of this foul news?

 

It is                                                (( JARAS

    

(retreating)

 

My father's bent and not for us to choose.

 

YOUR father?  And where is       (( GONT

Mine?

 

The man contrived to sire us        (( JARAS

Us both.

 

And therein lies all honor.            (( GONT

Certainly not the message he penned this morning

Hot on the heels of this arrival.

    

(waving again the scroll; his voice is strident)

 

DEAR son, my long lost son,

I will embrace you.

And fetch your worthy friend to slumber

In the hinter room.

All is, of course, forgiven.

No further commerce on the subject.

Jaras, your eldest brother, weeps with boundless joy.

And Gont, poor boy, could scarcely be

Contained.

Come now, fat one with the greasy lips,

You stood to hear it read as well as me.

Never a murmur of protest phrase by phrase,

That quick infection in our hearts.

Where will you be

With all your flattery on the morrow?

Ordar eats our joy and just reward even at a distance.

EVEN with some suppurated whore.

You say you're pleased?

Come, tell me more.

 

The man did sire us both.             (( JARAS

Did nobly.

I hang upon his judgment.

 

Then hang upended like the         (( GONT

Bled pig

You are.

Such IS his judgment.

Come, more.

    

(backing Jaras off toward center stage)

 

This agitation stems                     (( JARAS

Simply from deception.

You'll speak no word at his reception,

Plant kisses on the bleeder's face,

Finger belly, neck, trace

Each utterance with a smile.

Gont, you'll leech at the fount like me.

Our father's harsh,

Affords in this no contradiction.

You'll bite your lip and bend and kneel

And dote on him and squeal.

The wheel has turned.

 

And turns again.                           (( GONT

 

I know you'll get the feel.            (( JARAS

Of all this turning.

Besides, where was your fierce disaffection

At this morning's dotage?

You stood there married to the selfsame art.

With all your carping

At an old man's folly, you know the man

And recognize resolve

And know his bent.

He loves the sender more than what was sent.

And even suckled on the proposition.

Come, be frank.

 

Ah well,                                          (( GONT

You have me fairly well in focus.

Sad . . . 'tis sad . . .

 

Gont, mark this coming time         (( JARAS

With equal caution.

A third of our estate

In some whore's belly,

And he writes

Such impudence as bring his pimp to eat our supper?

Two thirds remain

For Order to divest.

Come now, I think you see it plain enough.

Marshal what little love

You have for me if not yourself.

It's time we're married to our interests.

Time trickles from our fingers

Toward the very roar of retribution.

We've served him ill.

This dogged enmity is no solution.

Hear this, old scandal,

All that you hate in me could serve you well

And serve to thrust Rath's Ordar into hell.

 

What a hateful task to love            (( GONT

A brother!

 

Hate HIM in turn.                          (( JARAS

 

And this other thing                       (( GONT

That attends him, this . . .

 

Komos?                                          (( JARAS

I think there is education to be mastered there.

 

A weakness of a sort.                     (( GONT

 

In short . . .                                     (( JARAS

 

The impudence of this prodigal     (( GONT

To set conditions

On release from deepest

Estrangement,

A wayward past,

Such excess only hinted to his Rath,

Such cheek

To wring from that proud man a place

For abscess in his house,

And nearly equal footing, Komos

With his sons . . .

There is no

Short

To it.  And then it calls to mind interrogation,

An itch of curiosity

At such a man

And what would constitute his boundless

Grip on Ordar.

Komos, in fine, a paradox . . . but then . . .

Seven years of absence is a mighty void to fill

With explanation, rightly

In time forthcoming,

To fill the selfsame void in a father's heart.

And if the boy be mute

And stubborn,

Why then . . . why then . . .

 

We pump his Komos . . .               (( JARAS

 

For a father's benefit and ours.    (( GONT

 

Some rank edification                  (( JARAS

For an old man's brain

Teased by his homage to the purest memory,

His youngest son,

Defiled in truth,

As truth will out from one raw bag of guts,

This curious advisor

Who will settle in our midst

And forfeit at last all caution . . .

 

By our tender solicitude.              (( GONT

 

And Rath's rude manners            (( JARAS

Toward his foul intrusion.

 

And leave us again,                     (( GONT

Sitting atop the wheel.

 

Brother, a brother's kiss.             (( JARAS

    

(they embrace, join lips)

 

I guess I get the feel.                   (( GONT

 

 

                                             CURTAIN

 

 

ACT TWO SCENE ONE ((((( the brothel in Kayos, again, the toilet

 

 

As the scene opens, Ordar has just received his father's letter.  He paces back and forth before the bench and stalls, his face mirroring an extreme range of emotions.

 

 

ORDAR

 

KOMOS

 

TWO ANONYMOUS MALES

 

 

I am caught                                  (( ORDAR

    

(gesturing with the scroll, pausing now and again to reread)

 

Between the tines of my own fork.

Here, what I had greatly hoped—

Rath bends!

Accedes to a son's demands

And promises a quarters

For the servant, truest son, Ordar by proper name,

In his own house,

While Komos, the counterfeit,

Attains forgiveness.

'Tis a mix of vast proportions . . . Rath grudges

His truest son

Lodging and, caught by that son's deceit,

Bestows upon the double his embrace!

Come, make sense

Of this yourself, broad Fate.

Ordar is called on home with a double's pretty face,

The lure toward his father's arms,

KOMOS to be forgiven,

Ordar himself endured.

My heart would leap in some ungainly bliss,

Tears burn anguished cheeks

Transformed by altered circumstance toward broad

 Release

Had only I myself been granted

This very grace which Komos reaps

By my deception.

Yes, I will have a house . . . and yet . . .

Perhaps in time some truest honor, home,

When sickness relents

And I can make full known to Rath this strange

Duplicity.

Then, having regained to some degree

My former appearance,

Enough, by stealth and wit,

To make him oust the double from his heart

And reclaim his truest heir.

Till then I eat a bitter fruit

Each day I live to see Rath lavish all upon a prayer

That son himself exists.

In truth his Ordar's eaten.

Sharp irony that all must turn on Komos

     In the end.

I've cast a shadow of myself in that fair form.

The greatest danger in this life is to be born.

This man is cold, his shadow warm.

 

I see                                                (( KOMOS

 

   (entering from stage right curtain)

 

You bear a scroll, some recency of message.

Is it your father's?

 

I'll take                                           (( ORDAR

    

(aside)

 

This time to measure his resolve.

   

 (then to Komos)

 

Father's?

More yours than mine.  You see my agitation.

 

Come.  Be more direct.                  (( KOMOS

What course has taken us?

 

He'll have you back,                      (( ORDAR

Ordar, his rightful son.

 

And Komos?                                  (( KOMOS

    

(sitting down on the bench; a male enters, stands at the trough, leaves)

 

What says this Rath of Komos,

The trusted friend?

 

As our request.  I'm in.                  (( ORDAR

 

Why then he's bought it.                (( KOMOS

 

True.  That much.                           (( ORDAR

 

You act distressed.                         (( KOMOS

The path is clear.

 

Dear Ordar                                     (( ORDAR

Newly coined in this harsh world,

He'll have me servant, you his son.

These galaxies that whirled above our birth

Are now conjoined,

Each to each other's fate.  And yet our task

Has just begun.

You'd be my mask against a father's prying eyes,

You'd know my past, each tangle,

Convolution.

This scroll would frame an angle, no solution.

Short time remains for Ordar, newly bound,

That he might flourish in the house of Rath.

Two brothers eye us for the merest slip.

You have his grace, secure your grip.

 

Security                                         (( KOMOS

    

(another male enters, leaves)

 

You've promised to provide.

At every turn there by my side

To jog a lapse in memory or contrition.

Your father's faith prevails

Against two sons and their sedition.

Real anguish blinds the hungry

To defect

When blood's an appetite.

Then pain will promise, seldom slight.

You get my meaning?

We could strut in there with signs

About our necks

Proclaiming fraud,

And Rath would swoon and wash our feet

And scar his fingertips on God

And find it hardly odd

That up is down and hope despair,

And find you there

In Komos,

Find me, your double, simply Ordar,

A long lost son,

Even a whit more comely for the waiting,

And Komos, BY NAME, the truer son,

Obscene, a necessary evil,

And call me saint

And you the devil, and suffer

Your two brothers' contradictions no more

Than meets our own,

Such as we are,

Surcease of his afflictions,

My flesh, my comely visage,

And find me heir

No matter what their message.

'Tis not the truth but wishing that's on trial.

I'll blind him with a wink,

And simply smile

When sight's in focus.

No eyes see truly from the heart.

The brain is bent.  His FEELINGS chart.

 

Well spoken in the broadest         (( ORDAR

Intention.

Jaras I fear but IN his heart

And Gont in his invention.

Should their natural enmity hold

Against each other,

Brother to brother,

Invention, heart, will cancel in two siblings' strife.

Our bond can't shatter

When their own jealousy is rife and unforgiving.

 

And hate each other more            (( KOMOS

Than that you're living.

 

Time                                             (( ORDAR

    

(moving closer to embrace Komos, who backs off)

 

Changes little in our mortal bent.

If age brings us to wisdom

Then a hearse was sent.

The driver has uncertain teeth

And jagged smiles and no relief

For doddering stiffs who bribe him with the tip.

Time spares us little, man; secure your grip

On fortune's instant, this wriggle here today.

Youth hollers, drools, and then it learns to pray

For death

Sans wit, teeth, breath.

I've guaranteed you warmth, comfort, a bed,

Even honor, and when it's all said

And done, love, a place of substance in the house of Rath,

Bones of two brothers.  Navigate the path.

 

I won't bring myself to touch         (( KOMOS

You,

But we're in this together.

 

Embrace my ITCH.                        (( ORDAR

Let prophets live forever.

 

 

                                               CURTAIN

 

 

ACT TWO SCENE TWO ((((( a bedroom in Rath's house

 

 

Jaras reclines on a cot, half naked, in twilight, pulling shreds from the carcass of a lamb, as Pratel stands, hands astride his hips in girlish fashion, observing at a distance.

 

 

JARAS

 

PRATEL ((((( a young boy

 

 

Come, Pratel, join me on this         (( JARAS

Cot.

I'll make it worth your trouble.

 

You're doubly                                (( PRATEL

    

(his voice still a girl's)

 

Deceived by a pretty carcass.

And lick your fingers after every

Nibble.

Look at that hole, your mouth,

No comely picture,

More like a leper's scar.

You're an old woman, Jaras,

That you are.

 

Come now,                                     (( JARAS

   

 (waves him closer with a hand)

 

Small wench, I'll make you giggle.

What trinkets would you have from me today,

Perhaps a scarf for your gray mother,

Fresh blossoms for a

Father's grave,

Or sandals for your brother?

Come, you tempt me

With a twitch.

Come share this lamb and calm my itch.

Come closer.

    

(gesturing toward his lap)

 

I saw a bird this morning.              (( PRATEL

It was so bright of plumage!  I'd hoped

To catch it for my cage

And hear it sing

Each morning when the sun strikes,

And preen and sit upon my shoulder.

It's voice was most peculiar.

Jaras, I'd have a bird.

 

A bird?                                          (( JARAS

 

Oh . . . please.                               (( PRATEL

 

A bird then.                                   (( JARAS

What terrible extravagance!

    

(plucking again from the carcass, lifting shreds to his mouth)

 

I'd say that birds were meant to fly at large

And not be settled

In to chirp for small boys' pleasure.

The cage . . . is large or small?

And dear . . . or cheap?

Perhaps you'll need another.

 

Small and not dear,                       (( PRATEL

Perhaps like my own house.

He'd share his quarters with two sisters

Who are simple, unadorned.

Perhaps they'd fight.

 

Then have them warned.               (( JARAS

Come, sit here.  Come, sit down.  Such pretty lips

To complement your chatter.

Your mother's fairer than the man who had her.

    

(waving him closer)

 

What sort of bird would you enjoy?

 

Lovely of feathers                         (( PRATEL

With a pretty voice.

A preening thing

That startles when it sings even to such

That hates all joy and laughter.

 

But makes him pay                       (( JARAS

For what he's after.

 

I suppose you feed them . . .         (( PRATEL

 

There is nothing in this world       (( JARAS

That doesn't eat.

Here, lad, by my side.

    

(gesturing)

 

Come, have a seat.

    

(Pratel sits; Jaras takes his hand)

 

I swear your skin is browner every day.

Come, show me where it's whiter.

    

(Pratel extends his legs)

 

Ah yes, your ankles, thighs.

Even your wrists would torment some cold saint.

What then if MISCHIEF

Gazed upon your eyes?

 

Uncle, have you a pretty               (( PRATEL

Bracelet?

Your brother Gont has such

Fine things.

 

Bracelet?                                       (( JARAS

 

And four rings.                             (( PRATEL

 

Such appetite for a young lad.      (( JARAS

A bird and then a cage to suit.

Then in the next breath bracelets, rings.

The price of fruit has risen.

'Tis much the nature of the beast

To decorate his prison.

    

(the boy withdraws his hand)

 

And preen before the slaughter.

And bugger his own daughter.

And laugh, and play the wit, and dance

Before all hell erupts.

Nothing disrupts his pleasure, even death.

His last breath will stink

Of wine and garlic.

He'll take that shudder for a frolic

And thank his God for colic

When the judgment's cancer

And hire the digger for a dancer

And chuckle as he rots

And fondle even worms

With his foul greed

And never seem in need or lacking.

Follow him to dust,

I trust

We'd still endure his revel with the atoms,

Particles of pleasure,

Taking his lechery at leisure.

Beyond that is afterlife and further riot.

We're given few reports,

And yet we can't be sure it's quiet

Where he's gone

Until we track him.

 

Four rings.                                     (( PRATEL

    

(making to stand)

 

And a bracelet.  And a bird.

 

And a cage.                                    (( JARAS

    

(pulling him back, fondling his hair)

 

I'll gild it.

 

Is a duck a bird?                             (( PRATEL

 

A bird by all description.               (( JARAS

 

But it doesn't sing.                         (( PRATEL

Not with melody.

 

Pratel, there are birds that              (( JARAS

Scream.

 

You're teasing.                               (( PRATEL

 

Scream as if on fire.                       (( JARAS

Just listen to the crow.

 

All manner of birds then.               (( PRATEL

 

Here below.                                    (( JARAS

Like Pratel in his cage.

I sang my heart to death

At your young age, even for a kiss.

'Tis the same gesture—laughter, grief.

Life presses such with gaining years.

At first

We eye our laughter in a glass,

At last our tears.

A smile, a sob—the same spasm.

Between desire and its fulfillment, the natural state,

An empty chasm.

Fulfillment lasts an instant

Toward an itch.  Poor man-un-kind,

He rides an ache till aching has him,

All noble thoughts

Confined

To the same raw bitch, Pleasure—four rings,

A bracelet, bird, a cage.

Small wonder that the truest thought is rage.

Pratel, you're young, and I'm no sage.

    

(fondling the small boy's hair)

 

Here, just for now,                        (( PRATEL

I'll let you kiss my hand.

    

(and then withdraws it, bounces to his feet)

 

PERHAPS a sage would understand

Your awful speeches.

Time leaches past my bed,

And children need their sleep.

Fondle your own disease tonight.

Four rings, a bracelet, cage, THIS bird's in flight.

I'll have my sleep

And you your appetite.

    

(exits through the curtain)

 

A willful lad and such a pity.       (( JARAS

To think that Ordar left us for the city!

I'm hot for fever, cold for rage.

And gelded by a bird from my own cage.

Pratel will bleed me till I vanquish

Rath's estate.

The purpose wanders, but the path is straight.

    

(lifts lamb to eat)

 

 

                                            CURTAIN

 

 

ACT TWO SCENE THREE ((((( on the road

 

 

ORDAR

 

KOMOS

 

 

They are both on foot.

 

 

We'll rest for now.                       (( ORDAR

 

     (taking a seat on the earth)

 

We're nearing Antioch.

I won't complain but I am caught with mixed

     Emotions.

This road I traveled once to church

While visiting an aunt in yonder village.

The wench was sullen, hard to please,

And beat me twice

Into submission.  I was a proud lad

And prone to tease my elders.

My father WASN'T prone

To spare the rod,

As if the path were more direct to God

When spurred to the task by ripened pain.

I never thought I'd pass

This way again.

    

(Komos joins him)

 

Let's see,                                      (( KOMOS

Your oldest brother is Jaras, 33, born

In the early spring.

The youngest's Gont and 29,

Born in the summer.

There is a servant, Somnis, with a maidenhead,

Unless she's dead

Or long gone out to pasture.

And if she's present I should ask her

If her brother's still alive,

Older by a year

And generous to a fault,

Isaac his given name, a weighty Jew in virtue

And in patience,

Whose masonry repaired the great stone arbor

By your mother's grave.

And ask of her father, who was born a slave,

Not that he lives

But that he surely prospers in her heart.

I put the ass before the cart?

 

Quite straight                                  (( ORDAR

And to the purpose.

And purchase my brother's favor with some tidbits

From the past.

Don't wait for them to ask.

They'll frame some fugitive story,

Ungrounded,

To spell you out as truly Ordar

If the chance permits.

By taking the early lead you'll spurn such shifts

And earn their trust

If not their love.

The latter is said to dwell above us, Rath's estate,

Where sun bleeds rain and rain breeds crops,

Some 20,000 hectares tops,

And mind that figure well.

Minus the third my father had to sell.

 

You had such wealth?                    (( KOMOS

 

'Tis arid land in truth, young         (( ORDAR

Ordar.

 

But still . . .                                    (( KOMOS

 

In seven years                                (( ORDAR

It trickled through my fingers.

A thousand harlots stooped

To snare the dust.

Believe me,

I have had my share of rutting.

 

Much benefit it served you . . .      (( KOMOS

 

Enough to guide my double           (( ORDAR

To his fortune.

    

(stands, crosses to a wall, and urinates, back to the audience)

 

My manhood's still intact to serve this function.

Though should I shake it with some vigor

It could well drop off.

 

God man, you disgust me.             (( KOMOS

 

Rather than trust                            (( ORDAR

    

(turning back, adjusting his gown)

 

A whore, you'd better service yonder tree.

Water a wall

Or piddle in a brook.

'Tis more than manhood that these fingers shook.

I'm rife with every known companion

That the living taste.

My skin's a carpet where the living HIDE.

The hell that greets me better open wide for all

My train

Of servants and advisors.

They say that Satan is in truth a wench

God cast from grace,

Once upon a nasty disposition.

That sinners enter from her lower parts.

If hell's a cut, I'd like to size hers.

I hope you follow that.

 

Had I not tasted                             (( KOMOS

Seven months your bile

You'd shocked me yet.

What does it take a wronged man to forget?

 

Perhaps an hour if his heart          (( ORDAR

Be sound.

I've wronged myself,

Am bound eternal to the same great wheel.

It spins so slow I scarcely feel the shift.

You only catch the drift

Of my misfortune.

There is a darkness to my venture greater than all

Despair.

This face, it fouls the air.

I'd curse God truly,

And he'd take it for a prayer.

 

There,                                           (( KOMOS

Cease this cavil with an angry fate.

We'll shortly eat.

You'd tempt the plate.

Somewhere someone's praying for your soul,

Perhaps your father.

 

He prays for you.                          (( ORDAR

With me, why bother?

'Tis true enough he loves a long lost son.

You match the image

That his brain has spun

Upon a letter,

Guided by an aching heart.

Just mind his sword, the edge is sharp.

This fabric can be sliced

By chance misstep or slip of tongue.

You'd have his dotage

Take him young.

 

You've said the man is likely      (( KOMOS

53.

 

But stout enough to cut                (( ORDAR

Through perjury,

Some large uncouth mistake.  I cannot vouch

What path HIS wrath

Might take.

We've got a day, a half a  day, to bone up

On our lessons.

 

Then fill me in again                    (( KOMOS

On his obsessions.

 

There's simply one.                     (( ORDAR

He fears his name might vanish from the earth.

You prey on that, he'll trust your birth.

Stick to the meat that lurks

Between your thighs.

And tried by that, he'll try you on for size.

He'd have an heir.  He sired a navel.

Two sons can't get it up, and one was able,

But slain by Cain, his very double.

Rath's all for rutting,

Take the trouble.

In time you'll SIRE your way into his heart.

But mind his sword.  The edge is sharp.

 

'Tis then a swordsmanship             (( KOMOS

Of sorts.

He'd have his heir as quickly as a wriggle.

We're doubly BLESSED,

The case already settled in the courts.

 

Come.                                             (( ORDAR

Off to my father's house, his wrath, my order.

Your sentence is a lass.

Forget my past . . .

You'll simply court her.

    

(they stand and exit stage left; moments later, Ordar reappears)

 

And court my larger purpose in the end.

I'll have you ousted, friend.

But first all loyalty to cheats

And have Rath leap for joy at our deceits!

 

     (exits)

 

 

                                               CURTAIN

 

 

ACT TWO SCENE FOUR ((((( Rath's house, the dining room

 

 

Here, three are at the table, Rath at the head, Jaras to his left, Gont his right.  Somnis stands, hands folded as in Act One Scene One.  All enter and exit through the curtain, stage left.

 

 

RATH

 

JARAS

 

GONT

 

SOMNIS

 

PRATEL

 

ORDAR

 

KOMOS

 

 

Let Rath's house know                   (( RATH

    

(securing his sword to his waist)

 

That Ordar has its place.

Even now report would have it

They are closing on the village.

Heart leaps with joy, and bliss abounds

On either side,

Frail womanly emotion, tears, that I, as Rath,

Denied some three and twenty years

Since Ordar squalled his first

Upon the earth, since Mercy was cut

To give him birth.

And I, alone, straightforward vowed

Never again to marry.

And such it is with life—

We stride toward grace

And fortune,

Only to bruise our feet upon the path,

By grace itself, distortion.

A son, ah yes, a son!

And yet it seems MISFORTUNE'S just begun.

Heart leaps!

And yet my heart is still on fire.

Mercy, his mother, dead,

The very death of my desire.

Suckle your misbegotten whelps

On bile and circumstance.

This son was buried

By the same misbegotten dance.

But where is Pratel?

I feel his breath.

It seems my boy is closing in on death.

 

Such pretty speech,                       (( JARAS

My father, yet so sad.

But what is this?

Sweet flutter of a small boy's feet, a stir of lad

Upon the earth.

You've had his death.  It's Ordar's time for birth.

It seems the hour closes on our past.

We've bought it with our tears.  Amen,

At last.

 

They're visible                             (( PRATEL

    

(bounding in, short of breath)

 

Upon the road, Granduncle.

Two men on foot.

I'm sure it's them.

    

(the three at the table gather up; Rath adjusts his sword and scabbard)

 

Then, Jaras, out to greet them.     (( RATH

Come, boy, propel your lard.

This wait was hard.

No nourishment of thought

Prepares one's soul for the event.

Their path was straight,

Perhaps their courage bent.

Come, fatty, move!

   

 (Jaras exits)

 

A son arrives, a son is sent.  You, Gont,

Frame a truer smile

Upon your lips—I'll have your joy.

You never cared for Ordar.

THAT boy

Loathed him.

How fares he now?

    

(a shout)

 

Greets them with a yell.  This grips.

Somnis, you're TREMBLING like a maiden.  Gather

In food for some starved lad,

So close,

Too close to tell.

    

(aside)

 

Tomorrow a maid if maid can aid him!

    

(the curtain parts; Komos enters, strides straight to Rath and kneels to clasp his knees)

 

Ordar, my long lost son.              

Come, up.

    

(Komos is guided to his feet; they embrace)

 

Oh, pity on a heart that once was broken.

Grace of our Father mends it.

How long I prayed and gnashed my teeth

That he might send

Your cherished form—and now

He sends it.  My joy is fierce!  It seems you're

     Real, not token.

    

(they shudder; Komos again kneels)

 

Father, forgive a prodigal.              (( KOMOS

My heart is scarred.

    

(Rather gathers Komos again to his feet)

 

My son, you ARE my son,             (( RATH

FIERCE

Beauty, nothing marred.

     

(stares into his face)

 

Those eyes are newly minted coins,

Radiant as your smile.

Your limbs are sound,

Your gestures manly, pleasing.

I had not expected all as is, so much of you

Be found.

 

Father, I have sinned against          (( KOMOS

Heaven

And against you.

I no longer deserve to be called your son.

Forgive me!

    

(again, kneeling)

 

Come, Gont.                                   (( RATH

Bring him his favorite robe

And sandals.

Enough.  Come, stand.

    

(raises Komos up)

 

On the morrow we will have a proper feast.

    

(Gont exits, his carriage bent)

 

This son was dead,

But now my PAIN'S deceased.

Somnis, bring the lad a hearty

Stew of lamb

To set his appetite at rest.

    

(Somnis exits; Ordar enters, accompanied by Jaras)

 

Here, Father, is the man Komos.   (( JARAS

 

Foul Fate, you once again damn    (( RATH

Me.

What death has entered through the curtain?

The face is pain!

Foul Fate, you try me.

I cannot bear to look upon those eyes.

Some darkness sucks

Me toward abyss.

He tries my smile.  And tries it on for size.

 

Father,                                            (( KOMOS

Be not misplaced in your affection.

'Tis my trusted servant, Komos,

A man of parts

And small infection.

As your large heart would open for your son,

Embrace his friend.

'Tis my advisor.

 

Ordar                                              (( RATH

    

(to Jaras)

 

It seems is seven winters older but no wiser.

 

I love you beyond myself,             (( JARAS

    

(his voice sweet and ingratiating)

 

Dear father,

And know your wit

And know its substance . . . and yet . . . and yet

It seems to MY poor wit

You always set too much stock on one's

     Appearance.

I'm sure his heart is right,

Even if sequestered . . . in a bag of pus.

Come, make him one of us.

    

(Gont enters with a robe and sandals)

 

Here, brother,                               (( GONT

Clothe yourself in finer linen.

Your father's heart is large

Toward prodigals . . .

 

And sinning.                                 (( JARAS

 

Pratel, assist our Somnis              (( RATH

With your uncle's supper.

    

(Pratel exits, skipping)

 

When belly's full, then faith is upper.

But what do with this . . . this . . .

 

Komos, sir.  I am at your             (( ORDAR

Service.

    

(kneels)

 

Father,                                          (( KOMOS

    

(dressing himself in the new clothes)

 

He makes peace with you.

 

And                                              (( GONT

    

(aside to Jaras)

 

What a piece he is!

 

Hardly of a piece!  He's              (( JARAS

Teeming.

    

(pinches his own nose)

 

Jaras, this man loves me.            (( KOMOS

 

Why then kiss him.                     (( JARAS

He offered to kiss ME, by faith.

 

Kiss him goodbye.                      (( RATH

 

You promised that man shelter.  (( KOMOS

 

Then let him shelter with            (( RATH

The pigs

In yonder sty.

And don't ask why.

'Tis plain enough.

I'll have this whoreson dog consort with swine

To earn his keep.

Don't raise my anger, lad!

    

(indicating his sword)

 

I'll brook no argument in this accursed matter.

This stray you've settled

On our hearth

Has scarcely hair, less teeth,

A mean uncivil cur and foul,

Diseased.

Don't try my wrath, I'll not be squeezed.

    

(Komos wrings his hands)

 

Out.  Dog!  Join your scabrous cousins in the sty.

    

(Ordar raises up, smiles tightly, exits)

 

Father, I beg you,                        (( KOMOS

Treat that man with some compassion.

 

Enough.                                          (( RATH

Find it enough I didn't take this sword

To him and leak his pus.

I have three sons, two constant,

One lately arriving.

Would you earn our trust, make no mention

Of that carcass.

He'll root about with peers and earn a living

And the right to share their sty.

Again, don't ask me why

Or bargain with this Komos

And an altered circumstance.

WORMS plead his case.

I'd cut his skull to watch their wormy dance.

 

  (Somnis enters with a platter)

 

Come, sit yourself down to supper

And a benediction.

This day is stranger fact than seen in fiction.

    

(Komos sits; Rath strokes his hair)

 

A son has resurrection from the stink of death.

Your scent is clean.

Forget that other's breath.

 

Your youngest son                         (( GONT

    

(bending to kiss Komos's forehead, embrace Rath, and kneel at the latter's feet)

 

Is comely as a maiden.

If Ordar should broach

That whore again, we'll both dissuade him.

And only serve to serve his better ends

And guide him well to choose his debtors,

Friends.

 

Three loyal sons                             (( JARAS

    

(kissing Komos's forehead and kneeling by Gont at his father's feet)

 

Are settled in this house.

No jagged Fate may try our door.

We are a family, by ties of blood secure.

    

(they stand; Rath strokes their heads)

 

 

                                              CURTAIN

 

 

ACT THREE SCENE ONE ((((( Rath's house, the kitchen

 

 

Here, Ordar watches his own homecoming party by stealth from the kitchen.

 

 

ORDAR

 

GONT

 

PRATEL

 

 

What brutal irony,                          (( ORDAR

    

(staring stage right through a curtain)

 

To watch this revel!

There Komos reaps the fullest crop from seeds

I've sown.

They treat him like a prince,

This prodigal,

In truth a pimp

And I, Rath's rightful son, the whore.

I've sneaked in here to watch by stealth.

My rightful PLACE is in the sty

                                                            With swine,

Their boon companion, a hearty lot and yet . . .

This house of Rath breeds vermin worse than any

This man's caught,

Breeds Rath and Gont, breeds Jaras;

Lately a COMELY rat

With middle teat for them to suckle.

Good God man, listen to that laughter . . .

You'd think it's

Paradise they're after with this feting.

That slut they've settled Komos with . . . look

There's another . . . by God,

I make out three . . . 'tis ORDAR'S wrath

They're baiting.

I'd burn that scurvy crew

And gargle on the leavings.

That ONE lean wench is belly up on Satan.

The other looks

As if she ate him.

They can't be clean.

I've seen far better in my time.

Look, the third would sidle up to even Rath

With her infernal wiles.

I've earned the pigs, and that usurper's

Paid in smiles!

    

(pulls back suddenly, looks again)

 

But what is this?  My brother Gont

And that silly Pratel head this way.  I can't be seen.

I fear my father's sword far

Less than that stiff's tongue.

I'll stay to yank it out?

No, hide behind this cupboard . . .

    

(backs off stage left to conceal himself)

 

Here, just in time . . . and look at him . . .

    

(Gont enters, draws Pratel after him)

 

His very clothes a mockery of taste.

Such trinkets!

They both seem chased.

But listen . . .

Perhaps there's lesson to be mastered.

He knows his books.

What is he reading in that lad, sly bastard?

 

Here . . .                                        (( GONT

    

(pulling the young boy closer, offering him a coin)

 

Come . . . over to this bench.

I'll kneel to pray at Pratel's feet

And take a blessing.

    

(his voice strident)

 

Come, lad . . . here, have another.  Take three.

    

(offers him two more coins)

 

This wine I've drunk tonight

Has stiffened my resolve

And baked my cause.

I'm bound for some sweet lechery.

Come, son, what are you lately hiding

'Neath that gown?

Your face is pretty with a smile,

Your skin is brown.

Come now, you little whore, be open.

 

See these four rings?                    (( PRATEL

    

(his voice a small bird's)

 

My uncle Jaras pays for what he buys.

One ring my ankles,

Three my thighs.

This bracelet bought my maidenhead.

You'll buy small bliss

With those few coins . . .

Upon my pretty head.

    

(giggling, as Gont chases him round the table)

 

Here in their father's house,           (( ORDAR

Two punks!

I've found a wider explanation in this kitchen.

If Rath has sired no sire in turn,

Flesh burns in Gont and Jaras

Nonetheless . . . flesh aches.

They'd couple with a young lad's nether eye.

To think that Ordar's coupled

To a sty . . . and those two magpies

Fluttering

At a small boy's bird—

'Tis more than just a third THEY'VE taken.

Would Rath but know this folly,

Gont there, lisping about, quite jolly,

The very thought of it would break him.  Ah, what

Wrings these foulest rags,

My brothers,

To a juice of Pratel's thighs?

One moment I've lost all

And then . . .

Look there, the villain's raising that boy's skirt.

 

Come now,                                     (( GONT

    

(winded, wheedling)

 

You little flirt,

I'm out of breath.

This dizzy coyness . . . come now, to the larger

Purpose—

What must I offer Pratel, little wench,

For some hot moments on a bench . . .

    

(sits down, holding the boy's wrist)

 

His soul to purchase?

There, I'm exhausted.

Come, I'll bargain for a pearl of leisure.

What price has that small droplet

From the fountainhead?

My own's the very spurt, you'd have it limp,

Not dead.

Here now.  Be serious.

There COMES a time in each man's life for negotiations.

 

'Tis the very bitch of hell,              (( ORDAR

This Gont!

To think a stink

Would mock my odor.

He's death itself, the very order.

My wits are fled to chaos

And dissent

At this foul talk.

Look, the boy relents . . . I'll take a walk.

    

(exits stage left, knocks over a chair)

 

Quiet, boy.                                      (( GONT

What voice is that, what noise?

    

(crosses to stage left exit, looks out)

 

I THOUGHT I'd smelled a goat.

'Tis simply Komos, attendant to his cousins.

But what has that sty witnessed?

There's little

Pleasure here.

And heard?  There's little bliss.

Come, lad, they'll miss us at that party.

Before we're parted

A little kiss.

 

Go kiss your brother Jaras.           (( PRATEL

At least he offered me a bird.

You'd have MY

Little bird,

Why then a third of your estate.

 

It seems                                        (( GONT

    

(laughs bitterly)

 

I truly sired an heir.

You're sure your name's not Ordar?

 

At least he's comely                     (( PRATEL

And he doesn't stare.

 

That whoreson Komos.                (( GONT

Perhaps I'M better served by prayer.

    

(they exit)

 

 

                                              CURTAIN

 

 

ACT THREE SCENE TWO ((((( the great arbor

 

 

(Jaras, Gont, and Ordar meet by their mother's grave.  Jaras stands with Gont, who holds a letter.)

 

 

JARAS

 

GONT

 

ORDAR

 

 

This message that you hold.        (( JARAS

    

(his voice reveals strain)

 

It came this morning?

 

Someone dropped it by the          (( GONT

Door.

I think the thief was Pratel.

 

Is he party to its contents?           (( JARAS

 

Likely not.  The seal was fast.     (( GONT

 

But why here?  I hate the place.  (( JARAS

 

Perhaps just chance.                    (( GONT

I doubt he knows its fix upon our lives.

 

But here?  I shudder.                   (( JARAS

 

I wonder                                      (( GONT

That that cur was whelped by mother.

It seems he leaked upon the earth.

Some abortion drooled,

And he was there.

 

Yes.  Likely that.                         (( JARAS

But what is his intention?

 

Of that he makes no mention.     (( GONT

Simply that he shares our secret.

 

Mad skies,                                   (( JARAS

You're sure he saw you with the lad?

 

Quite sure.                                      (( GONT

 

And overheard?  Not everything.   (( JARAS

 

Jaras,                                               (( GONT

He was just a step beyond that fence

In distance,

And we were fairly shouting.

It is a foul necessity

That grips us.

 

An indiscretion, no more.               (( JARAS

 

You call buggery an                       (( GONT

Indiscretion?

 

No.  Hardly that.                             (( JARAS

 

I'm sure you wouldn't broach it     (( GONT

To our father.

 

No.  God no.                                   (( JARAS

Then what does the bastard want?

 

Advancement.  'Tis plain               (( GONT

Enough.

 

But why not cut his belly               (( JARAS

For him?

Bag him with some weights

And sink him in yonder pond?

 

It may just come to that.                (( GONT

But listen.  Someone approaches.

 

It seems like he is dragging           (( JARAS

My own corpse.

 

Quiet.  I'll do the talking.              (( GONT

    

(Ordar enters, almost regally)

 

Look at his strut.  Come, cut         (( JARAS

Him.

 

Quiet, I say.  We'll hear him         (( GONT

Out.

Good day,

Fair Komos.

 

Hardly fair.  But not UN-fair.       (( ORDAR

I've caught you in a fraud.

Come, no pleasantries.

We'll make it

Short and to the purpose.

 

Gont, brother,                                (( JARAS

There is a smell about him.

 

Silence!                                         (( GONT

Komos, don't mind my brother.

 

Brother, I mind him well.             (( ORDAR

 

Brother?                                        (( GONT

 

I AM your brother.  We make      (( ORDAR

Three brothers by your mother's grave.

She died at THIS son's birth.

They said the grief was harsher for our Rath

Than was the blessing.

Pay heed,

You need to know that I'm not guessing.

 

I'll hear more on that subject.       (( GONT

 

There in yonder pond                    (( ORDAR

I nearly drowned.

You pulled me out.

Regretted it ever since.

 

Brother, the man makes too          (( JARAS

Much sense.

 

And you, fat one,                          (( ORDAR

Regard the arbor—there if you dare look

Upon its face.

Nine months went into its making,

And a lamb was bled upon the crest.

 

By whom?                                     (( GONT

 

Rath.                                              (( ORDAR

 

At what time of day?                     (( GONT

 

The story goes 'twas early             (( ORDAR

Morning.

I'd say at somewhat 6

The first drops fell.

One son was taken ill.  You'll have me guess?

 

Enough for me.                              (( GONT

You've passed the test.

But to what purpose,

That we'd take some bag of guts into our arms?

You have a brother's knowledge,

Not his charms.

 

Precisely.  The counterfeit             (( ORDAR

Possessed the latter to extreme.

I found him in a brothel.

 

But this is awful.                            (( JARAS

You mean the lad's a fake?

 

Your wits were often slow             (( ORDAR

Upon the take.

Come now,

Must I wet a finger for your ear?

 

Gont, it's simply more than I         (( JARAS

Can bear.

He'd touch me there

Within the hollow . . .

 

And you'd scream and holler.       (( ORDAR

Now you're poking lads,

Old queer.

 

Careful.  Go slow with that.          (( GONT

There's two of us.

 

But I have knowledge in a bag     (( ORDAR

Of pus.

How can I make my purpose clear?

 

Test me for one.                            (( GONT

My wits are sharp enough.

 

Then simply                                      (( ORDAR

That I'd have my proper place.

'Tis a disgrace

To root with swine.

NO better place than thee.

This Komos he calls Ordar has you up a tree.

Look at my face and know

That knowledge

Pays the bills for simple beauty.

That counterfeit destroys his filial duty,

Which is, simply,

To be but one son among three.

He's bought the honored place with perjury.

 

And if we cut your carcass              (( GONT

Into slabs

And seed the pond?

 

He'll haunt you                                (( ORDAR

On this earth, what's more, beyond.

That lad's no fool.

He's seen far better scholars cough and drool.

No one can match his beauty

For an education.

Rath studies at that door,

And that's your ration.

Unless . . .

 

We cast him out.                             (( JARAS

 

And rest upon my illness                (( ORDAR

Your rightful portion

Of a father's love and warm regard.

He'll take me in, but find the going hard.

 

And what if we leave it as it           (( GONT

Stands?

 

Then Rath will hear of sons           (( ORDAR

That suckle

On a small boy's leg.

Rath's eaten pain in this brief life.

He'll eat it once again.

But cast you into hell with his own wrath

And your own order.

Act now before this counterfeit's entrenched

And order's lynched

By further counterfeits to share the wealth that's due

Three rightful sons.

I SAW the revel and the wenches.

He'll pick one out and court her till it wrenches.

 

How can                                         (( GONT

 

                                                                  (aside)

 

I bring myself to trust this proposition?

It seems there is no choice.

I've lost my voice.

He speaks to our condition.

    

(then to Ordar)

 

Don't make me shake that hand to prove my

                                                                   Soul

Be bartered by a simple fact.

When fact's approved, one acts.

Jaras, you mean the same?

 

I'm game.                                       (( JARAS

 

Why then we cast him out.            (( GONT

Just don't expect your Rath to shout with bliss.

 

And don't expect a brother's        (( JARAS

Kiss.

 

And gird yourself, in short.           (( GONT

This trial will BE a trial.

Once settled on this path we can't abort . . .

 

And court an ALTERED Fate.     (( JARAS

 

Then . . . on the morrow?             (( GONT

 

Yes, on the morrow.                     (( ORDAR

Time turns the wheel.

 

To joy, not sorrow.                       (( GONT

But OFTEN back to grief.

 

And fear for the man who            (( ORDAR

Shatters

Rath's belief.

 

 

Gont and Jaras bow, exit stage left; Ordar is left alone; he strides up and down in front of the arbor, then stabs a finger toward his groin.

 

 

How much account in this fierce life

     Is faith against a fact?

He'll act.

If God's the judge,

Then Rath's the court.

I have my birthmark AS A LAST RESORT.

    

(exits)

 

 

                                            CURTAIN

 

 

ACT THREE SCENE THREE ((((( Rath's house, the dining room

 

 

Here, Jaras and Gont argue the case for Ordar, the rightful son.

 

 

RATH

 

JARAS

 

GONT

 

ORDAR

 

 

As the scene opens, Ordar has not yet appeared.  Rath is still recovering from the previous night's festivities.

 

 

I hesitate                                       (( RATH

To bar my Ordar from this meeting,

Yet loyalty

To constant sons

Is written large in this man's heart.

Come, Gont, begin.

 

Where shall I start?                     (( GONT

'Tis no small task before us,

For I plead the case

Of a man more robbed by Fate

Than his own excess.

He is your son.

 

You speak of Ordar?                      (( RATH

Why then I'll call him.

    

(makes to leave, but Jaras takes his arm)

 

Please, sir.                                      (( JARAS

Upon my life, don't let the lad

Be summoned.

 

Is he ill?                                          (( RATH

 

The son we speak of has all           (( GONT

Manner

Of illness.

 

Then let me call a priest.                (( RATH

A doctor.

You say my Ordar's ill?

 

Most ill                                           (( GONT

But less of flesh than spirit.

 

But just an hour back I left             (( RATH

That young man's side.

He has said nothing.

Have I wronged him?

Come now, deal not in mystery.

Be to the point.

 

The point is this—he's dying.        (( GONT

    

(Rath recoils, startled, clutches his heart)

 

My God, don't mock me thus.        (( RATH

 

'Tis true.                                          (( GONT

 

Should that lad die on me we'd       (( RATH

Die together.

Foul stars attending on his birth,

I'd suck them from the sky

And bleed the planets.

Come now, you jest.

I am betrayed.

 

That too.                                          (( GONT

 

By Ordar?                                        (( RATH

The dear lad's heart is clean.

Out with this tale in full,

'Tis one mad dream!

 

As I have said, he is sick and          (( GONT

Dying.

And yet you minister

To a counterfeit.

The lesions on his body pale

Against the ache you've given to his soul.

He hides his face from you.

Alas, you've spurned him for a sham.

 

Sham?  What sham?                       (( RATH

 

You see ME here and yet I AM.    (( GONT

 

'Tis the natural course of things.    (( RATH

You'll make me mad with riddles.

                                                       Come, to the point

Or taste this sword.

    

(grasping the hilt)

 

I'll not be sport as such when you are bored.

Out with it.

What miscreance is plotted here?

Come, you wind a thread

Throughout my brain.

Foul constancy, you mean to tell me that he's dead?

 

You must admit                            (( GONT

You've killed him in your heart.

 

But he dined last night on            (( RATH

Suckling pig

And WENCHED his way to heaven.

 

'Tis Komos wenched                   (( GONT

And dined and sang your tune.

Your truest son was scratching at the moon.

 

You can't mean Ordar.                 (( RATH

 

Your OTHER boarder.  Komos,  (( GONT

By report.

In truth he is your son,

But roots in yonder sty.

 

Man,                                             (( RATH

    

(an explosion of sound)

 

You try my heart with this foul notion.

 

'Tis bitter news.                           (( GONT

I knew you'd take it hard.

But think of his devotion.

 

Devotion?                                    (( RATH

By faith, I'd skewer that raw dog

For pissing on a stone.

Summon him here.

We'll see if he'll atone for this crazed message.

Summon the beast

That forced you on this errand.

I'll strip him bare and flog his grisly hide.

Come, seek him out on either side.

    

(Ordar enters)

 

You summoned me, my              (( ORDAR

Father?

 

Blasphemy.                                 (( RATH

    

(reaching for his sword)

 

I'll cut the lips that offered that foul oath.

    

(Jaras steps between them)

 

Please, father, hear him out.       (( JARAS

 

Unseemly growth.                      (( RATH

 

In truth I am your son.               (( ORDAR

 

LATELY son.                            (( RATH

I'll cut him like a rat.

    

(struggling with Jaras)

 

Father, please, have mercy.        (( JARAS

 

The man's a curse.                      (( RATH

He takes it for a prayer.

 

But knows this house.                 (( ORDAR

 

You think I'd care?                         (( RATH

 

Father, he knew the very moment   (( JARAS

Blood was spattered

On our mother's rocks.  The arbor.

We met him there this morning.

And knew the very moment of his birth.

Knew Somnis virgin,

The urgent beauty of your sister, long deceased.

Knew Isaac that was mason

To our house, knew Garth, the village priest.

Knew each particular

Of all those mentioned

Through no stratagem or raw invention,

Knew scars

In every family tree

From here to cousins twice removed or three.

Knew Moladah.

Knew and saw.

If I could paint I'd draw such proof

From out his teeming brain

It'd startle you to think you took

His servant for your son,

For ORDAR is this KOMOS, and the two are one.

 

You make brain burn                       (( RATH

Toward madness and decay.

And why this ruse?  And if my son indeed,

Why call some double to assist him

Plant his seed?

 

By force of his situation.                 (( GONT

He knew you'd never call this other Ordar

Into question.

 

And then suddenly, why air             (( RATH

The dirty linen?

 

You cast me out to root with           (( ORDAR

Swine.

I'M not divine.

These parts have teased the very cut of hell

And smeared their juices

On your heart.

They've plowed the beast and Satan.

And yet I'd never thought you'd hate them.

I simply wanted PASSAGE to your heart.

 

You stabbed me with a knife           (( RATH

And bless the hole.

But no . . .

This is a fabrication wide as the slut

Whose cut has spewed

You from the earth.

Jaras, relent.

    

(pushing the fat son aside and lunging again at Ordar)

 

I'll cut this canker.  MIND the birth.

    

(Ordar steps back and then holds his ground as if to accept the blow)

 

Just as you wish.                             (( ORDAR

But I will leave you with a memory.

 

What stratagem is THIS?               (( RATH

 

Simply the mark of my own           (( ORDAR

Birth

Assures my name.

    

(raising the hem of his gown)

 

I'll have it bare.

    

(Rath lashes the flat of his sword against the offending legs)

 

As if I'd drop this sword and        (( RATH

Stare?

Take this.

    

(swings again, this time with the edge)

 

More of the same?

    

(swings)

 

With that you only have               (( ORDAR

                                                               Yourself

To blame.

 

     (Rath whirls wildly about with the sword, catching the three sons, who flee

toward the exit)

 

I'll have the birthmark                  (( RATH

As I've had the birth.

Ordar, I've sired the soil.  It's time you plowed    

The earth!

    

(brandishes the sword)

 

            

                               CURTAIN

 

 

ACT THREE SCENE FOUR ((((( Ordar's bedroom, Rath's house

 

 

As the scene opens, Komos is lying face down on Ordar's cot and Rath sitting at the edge, a sword across his lap.

 

 

KOMOS

 

RATH

 

PRATEL

 

 

Why stir you                                 (( KOMOS

    

(strain in his voice)

 

Abroad so late this night

My father with an angry sword?

Just yesterday it seems we reveled

In the early dawn.

Perhaps I've slept.

You carry on.

 

Carry on well.  I bear you a          (( RATH

Story.

 

Rather a story than a speech.        (( KOMOS

 

A man of your own age, a lass,    (( RATH

Flesh of each other's flesh,

Four lips, two tongues,

A cut, a PROPER sword . . .

 

With this I shan't be bored.          (( KOMOS

'Tis very buggery.

 

'Tis not the proper TERM.           (( RATH

For such as that men burn.

For this

They learn to weep

And gnash their teeth

Until they've had it to the hilt,

And then it lasts a moment,

But the second's fierce beyond relief.

 

I'd thought you'd speak of             (( KOMOS

Rutting,

But you talk of grief.

 

In truth they're much allied.           (( RATH

When woman spreads her parts

Few safely cross

That small divide.

 

Come now.                                      (( KOMOS

In time you'll call the priest.

Why just last night

You had ME

Feed the beast.

Come, father, when were you not for sluts?

That sword of yours must slide

Before it cuts.

I'll have a story,

Not a sermon.

 

They'd milk the stars.                     (( RATH

They're often vermin.

 

By faith, in time you'll perjure       (( KOMOS

My own mother.

Where's Jaras, Gont?

 

In truth you have no brother.          (( RATH

 

All manner of abuse on                  (( KOMOS

WENCHES.

And now two brothers dead?

You've had too much to drink.

The wine is settled in your head.

Come now,

A tale in earnest.

Some pretty narrative to put me back in slumber.

 

Or raise YOUR tail.                       (( RATH

Ordar, I have the number.

 

Here.                                               (( KOMOS

    

(turning face up; Rath grips the sword)

 

I'm ready for your attack.

All manner of TALE then.

Just as before, but now I'm on my back.

 

'Tis a fantasy of sorts to prime      (( RATH

A lad for proper recreation.

Should the heat be too extreme, dear lad,

We have the wenches of our revels

For alleviation.

Such paths can lead to many pretty treasures.

A RIPENED belly only adds to simple pleasures.

You liked the three?

 

One caught my eye.                       (( KOMOS

 

And which was that?                     (( RATH

 

The lean.                                        (( KOMOS

 

I thought you liked the fat.            (( GONT

 

Fat is for comfort, LEAN            (( KOMOS

For recreation.

 

And beauty for the soul.              (( RATH

 

AND plain, alleviation.                 (( KOMOS

But you promised me a tale.

Come, father,

The hour's late.  I'll have you speed me

Toward a sleep.

 

And proper dreams.                     (( RATH

 

Ah yes, begin.                              (( KOMOS

 

Let's FRAME the tale.                (( RATH

    

(resting a hand on Komos's thigh)

 

A touch of metaphysics.

Rude flesh indeed.

Geography of womb and seed.

A maid as lush as ripened fruit,

Her undergarments fragrant

With sweet juice.

Great breasts to comfort manly souls,

Hair blond

As a northern daughter, even to the roots.

A belly alabaster, taut,

And smooth as a wisp of satin lace.

NO man had ever

Looked upon the face.

Rumored to stir all hunger

Simply by the glance,

Lips moist AND fragrant

As their counterparts below,

Thighs

And buttocks round and white as snow.

Perhaps you've never seen

The latter.

Just that white, stark white melons

With a taste of motion.

Sweet cleft

A strange devotion, supple,

Graced by the same blond hair,

And soft as butter

In the sun, a liquid reach and grip . . .

But what is this . . . ?

My tale has just begun.

    

(both stand; Pratel bursts in, waving his arms)

 

Granduncle Rath,                         (( PRATEL

Your sons have slain that Komos.

Knifed him on the road

Toward Antioch

In broad daylight for the very earth

To see.

'Tis true.

They butchered the old man like a sacrificial lamb.

Worse—like a pig's carcass.

They say the foul blood

Drenched the very road.

Two soldiers happened on the slaughter.

They'll likely fall

Before the sword.

'Tis terror to behold their looks.

Gont sent me here

To beg you intercede,

Granduncle.

Perhaps your oath will stay the execution.

    

(he is bounding up and down and side to side)

 

Please, sir, they're hot to have

Their very blood.

Act now, for soon's too late.

 

Calm yourself, small boy.              (( RATH

They'll earn their just deserts.

 

But 'tis Jaras, Gont.                       (( PRATEL

They are your sons.

 

No sons of mine.  I cast them        (( RATH

Out.

 

Surely this whole event is some    (( KOMOS

Mistake.

A fantasy of this lad's brain or mine.

You cast them out?

 

In fine.                                            (( RATH

Pratel, tell the two to make their peace

With God.

Out now.  I am caught in business.

 

But Granduncle . . . have pity.        (( PRATEL

    

(begins to sob, sways back and forth; Rath brandishes his sword)

 

Out!  Vanish!                                  (( RATH

    

(Pratel shudders, stamps a foot, bolts for the exit)

 

And now to larger matters.

Here, Ordar, strip that gown

And bare your private parts.

My truest son

Was marked upon his birth.

    

(brandishing the sword)

 

Come, I say.  Strip!

A welt just at the juncture of his thighs.

Off with it.  Even the undergarment.

I'll have a look.

Regard those eyes!

    

(Komos is in tears, strips, trembling; Rath sits and pulls the young man's genitals

aside, raises to one knee.)

 

Mercy.                                            (( KOMOS

Ah God, mercy on Ordar's double.

There's nothing there.

I'm finished.

 

    

Rath takes the edge of the sword against the young man's flank and draws him to his face, kissing naked chest.

 

 

Think                                             (( RATH

   

 (his voice is muffled by the chest, but strange, and wheedling)

 

You thereby my love's diminished?

Those three are dead.

We've just begun.

How can a birthmark stand between a father and his Son?

 

 

                                               CURTAIN

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE EPILOGUE ((((( Somnis provides a chorus

 

 

SOMNIS

 

 

She stumbles out before the curtain from stage left, bewildered, rubbing her eyes.

 

 

This night makes little sense.       (( SOMNIS

Two sons are dead by morning, and the living dance.

Even the father reveled till he broke at last to bed.

Some sorrow of the soul with two sons dead!

Ordar remains, and that's a blessing.

He whores up there.  Perhaps I'm guessing.

To joy at what is grief in any natural state!

'Tis nearly dawn.  I dread its break.

Perhaps some awful passion has unhinged their minds.

I'll tend the clock.  PERHAPS it winds.

It seems our purpose is a wind, foul change.

Two sons are dead.  A callous son remains.

Perhaps the FATHER'S caught, and yet he sleeps.

There is some awful motion in the dreams he keeps.

But what is that?

It seems I heard my master call.

Rath, sleep.  For sleep heals all.

Bury your sword and grieve upon the arbor where their

     Mother's laid.

And sire yourself a son

   And find your son a maid.

    

(exits, a stumble, from the stage)

 

 

                                            FINIS

                                          

                                            

                                                                            1988