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Hell’s Holy Agenda


Salvador, lying flat on the stage, center, face down, arms and legs spread-eagled.  We hear her like she’s beside us, speaking intently, full of hope and aspiration.  When she moves it is clear she has many physical challenges.  When she speaks she has a strong foreign accent.

Donald, suspended above the stage, statuesque, up stage right.

George, suspended above the stage, statuesque, up stage left.

Salvador

To stand.  To have stood.  To say that I have stood.

To stand up for.  

To have stood by those beloved of me.

To under-stand.

To be in good standing.  (A little audible laugh.)

To stand.  To have stood.  To say that I have stood.

Donald

Speak.  Go ahead.  Say what you want.  Free to speak.  We’re not untutored.

George

There are listeners.  

Donald

So what.  Placid.  Well-behaved.  

George

They might encourage her.

Donald

What?  By listening?

George

Well, yes… that she has been heard… might… inflame her… she might in moving, move…

Donald

You exaggerate.

George

Not really… in unity, strength, as the scum often rave.

They pause.  Very still.  Silent.

Donald

But this is a land of individuals?

George

Yes.

Donald

Togetherness is for wimps.

George

Yes.

Donald

Would that she would leave us.

George

She is not going anywhere.

Again, a still, silent pause.  Salvador moves her right hand to the ground beside her right shoulder, elbow in the air.  

George

Fuck, fuck, she moved.  We can’t have this.  Fuck.

Donald

Relax.  Humor her.  We can’t lose.  We have nothing to lose.

George

Humor her?  Fuck off.  I don’t humor the game.

Donald

Like this.  (To Salvador)  Let’s not be rash.  All is well as it stands.  You are at ease and fed.  The supplies get through.  Your children go to school.

George

Of sorts.  

Donald

They read.  They write.  

George

Not exactly.  Product names, ingredients, road signs.  Not exactly.  Can you imagine them reading widely?  It would muck up everything.

Donald

They read, they write and have all the opportunities the nation has to offer.

George

(Laughing in complicity with the propaganda.)  You crack me up, man.

Salvador puts her left hand on the ground beside her left shoulder.

Donald

My, my, aren’t we the vigorous little lassie this fine morning.  What have we been giving you to eat?  You must be exercising in your isolation.  Look at that for a pose.

George

Downright rebarbative, if you ask me.

Donald

What?

George

Muscle.  Vim and vigor.  Very unbecoming in a lady.

Donald

She is no lady.

George

Whore, then.  Slut.  Who cares.  Rag doll in a cage.  

Donald

Arab?

George

Jew, actually.

Donald

Now.

George

And then… Christian, sometimes.

Donald

Who gives a fuck?  Zoroastrian, Hindu, Wasabi Chicketaw, some monkey waste of flesh from the bowels of Africa, some chop suey chick from the toenail of Ting Ling, who gives a fuck.  Lesser beings.  

Salvador pushes on her hands, trying a push-up, trying a back-bend.  Her head rises, neck stretching, chin reaching.  We hear her effort.  She is in pain.  Donald and George watch antagonistically.  Salvador finally desists, unable to lift herself.

George

No harm in trying.

Donald

(Very angry)  Yes, there is.

George

I’m just humoring her.  Jeez!

Donald

Best there be no hint of effort.  I don’t like the disturbance on the air.  Best, quiescence.

George

That’s what I said.  Jeez!

Salvador, displaying all the signs of bruised, cut, perhaps even broken limbs, her elbows still in the air, bends her right leg, bringing the right knee out to the side.  An awkward, twisted effort gets her right leg under her body.  She lies panting from the effort.

Salvador

It is not much to ask.  To lift one’s head.  To look into the distance.  It is a gentle wish.  

Donald and George laugh.  

George

She’s pulling our leg.

Donald

No, just thick as a brick, dim as a fire fly.

George

Really.

Donald

Doesn’t have the goods.  Public school, what can I say?

George

Best that way…

Donald

Damn right.  (Scornfully.)  A gentle wish.  How can seeing far be gentle?  (To Salvador)  Seeing into the distance is naked aggression, bitch.  Even I know that.  You threaten our way of life, our freedom, the very fabric of our days.  A gentle fucking wish.

George

Right!  Fabric of our days, gentleness shmentleness

Donald

I knew this guy once.

George

Arab?

Donald

Jew, actually.

George

Now.

Donald

And then.

George

Christian, sometimes.  (Afterthought)  Woman, I presume.

Donald

Yes, occasionally.  Who cares.  Lesser being.  This guy.  He was in the dirt too.  (They laugh)  Fucking hilarious.  Ate dirt morning and night, no dignity, no shame, his women watching him brown-nosing his way through his days, for what, just to be alive at the end of the week, get his paycheck, drink, drug himself into oblivion so as not to see far, so as not to see anything, trying to dampen the last memory of his embarrassment.  He used to make gentle requests too, say things like, maybe I could have some time with my family (they laugh hysterically).  We tried to explain, how could we be the most powerful nation on earth, how can we remain as productive as we are if you have time with your family.  But he couldn’t get it.  They don’t get it.  This guy, anyway, this guy…

They are interrupted by a further movement from Salvador.  She is moving her bottom into the air and trying to straighten her left leg, her right leg still under her, her right ear on the ground.  When she is still, the dialogue goes on.

Donald (Continuing)

This guy got so low his family had to dig him out of the dirt every morning, he loved it, couldn’t get enough of it, pig with slops, hippo in the mud, wonder he ever got to work he crawled so slow, like some slug on a hill, some sloth on a branch.  

They pause to look at Salvador.

Donald (Continuing)

This guy stood up once.  Actually did.  On his own two feet.  Saw the horizon.  Spoke of possibility, said, ‘This brightness and beauty can be shared by all.’

George

Shit, man, what did you do?  

Donald

Well, I won’t describe it.  You’d have to be damn insensitive to put such cruel horrors into words.  Such expression is not fitting among civilized men.  Suffice it to say that he is no longer with us, that his atomic structure has been irreversibly altered, that his children ache.

Salvador moves – almost falling, swaying from pain – into a table pose, on hands and knees, back flat.  Slight pause.  Donald lowers to the ground quickly; decisively strikes Salvador a single blow that puts her back where she started.  Donald returns to his position.  Pause.

Donald

Arduous business.

George

Why can’t we be rid of her?

Donald

There are some limits on what we do.

They both laugh.

Salvador

I really don’t want to be angry or vengeful.  I’d prefer to forgive.

Donald and George look at each other and snigger.

The odd thing is though that it’ll probably be more painful for you to be forgiven.

George

What’s she blathering about.

Donald

Forgiveness.  Put a sock in it, for the love of fornication.

George

(Tittering)  That’s a good one, where did you get that?

Donald

I don’t know.  Thought I’d give cursing God a rest, seen as I believe in him and all that, seen as He’s on our side.  And anyway, I like fornication.

George

Put a sock in it, for the love of malnutrition.  Hah, that’s a good one too.  Four syllables.

Pause.

Donald

No it’s not.  What’s lovable about malnutrition?  Ho ho ho, I’m starving to death.  Look, spare ribs.  I mean if you said something like… for the love of frilly knickers, then you might have something, but…

George

Put a sock in it, for the love of tight pyjamas.

Pause.

Donald

I dunno.  Suppose.

Salvador curls into a fetal position.  Donald and George stare antagonistically.

Salvador

What way of life is that – the one you are protecting – that you need such force?  

George

Don’t answer her.  It’s a trick question.

Salvador

I remember standing on a hill with my son watching the city shatter in the distance, rocket launchers and heavy artillery erasing the old ways.  You’re young, so you like to start from scratch, wherever you go.  You never build beside the old.  Where are your old people?  What do you do, shroud them in poverty and sickness, keep them out of sight.  There must have been old buildings around here at some point.  Where are the treasures around which you whisper in respect? How do you pay tribute to your gods?

George

Man, she has really slipped over the edge, too long on her knees.

Donald

You get that way after being isolated.  Looney tunes.  Loonley in loneness.  She’ll even start loving us after a while.  I knew her before, you see.  She wasn’t like this at all.  She was just an angry bitch with bad breath.  She needed to be tied down, liked it in fact, ugly frothing at the mouth, hoarse crying at the moon.

George

Who does she think she is?

Donald

That’s what we’d all say.  “Who are you?”  “Where are you from?”  “Where do you think you are going?”

Salvador

And I’d say, I am the memory of ancient peoples: the rising air, the ground on which you stand, the canopy of the sky.  It’s true.  You must make powder of my bones.  Just being here, lying here, is a threat to your way of life, like the rising water threatens the marsupial on a branch.

Salvador rolls into a child’s pose, again in much pain, sitting on her ankles, her forehead on the ground, her hands by her ears.  Donald and George stare intently.

George

Should we… ?  Will she…?  She’s up to something.

Salvador

Peace.  That is what I’m up to.  I want to negotiate.

Donald

Did I miss something?  Did something happen while I was having a leak?  A debate, is that it?  Is that what this is?  

No, no, no, no, no, this… is the endless dark, more or less, and the silence of the tomb, kinda sorta.  This is the dark and the silence with the odd complacent listener looking to be amused, here, by chance, or mistake, a way of getting out of the house, away from the TV, crying children.  But that’s it.  That’s the extent of it.  No debate.  No altercation.

Salvador rises into downward dog pose: hands flat on the ground, straight arms, straight back, bottom reaching into the air, legs straight, feet flat on the ground.

George

Don’t do that.  Tell her not to do that.  Why is she doing that?

Donald

Lost something down there?

George

She must have healed.  Look at those legs.

Donald

You had better be navel gazing, because I’m in no humor for black bitches talking shit about healing and potential.  Can you hear me?

George

She’s not black, she’s kind of dirt brown.

Donald

Who cares.  Bedouin mongrel from Los Angeles, Kabylie toilet cleaner from Cairo, knacker housewife from Westport.  Who gives a fuck.

George

Ask her what she is, go on, ask her.  Bet she says black.  Bet you ten, twenty, say, bet you twenty.

Salvador goes on her knees, panting and pained with the effort.  She returns to child’s pose.

George

Why can’t we rape her?

Donald

We’re not torturers.

George

(Loud whisper)  Yes, we are.

Donald

No, no, no, no, no, George. We’re Generals, aloof, above it all.

George

(Tantrum)  But I want to be able to do anything I want.

Salvador

He stood on his own two feet.

George

I could get information out of her.

Donald

We don’t need information.

Salvador

Even the hippo in the mud…

George

When’s the next war?

Salvador

…stands on his own two feet.  (She giggles to herself, thinking of the hippo’s four feet.)

Donald

What do you mean ‘the next war?’  There’s always war.

George

No, I mean the next big one.  The next really juicy one.

Donald

You mean the next Really Big One?

George

Yes, the next cataclysm.  

Donald

Soon, soon.

Salvador goes back to a table pose for a rest.

George

I don’t like all this movement.  It’s pissing me off.

Donald

I’ll put an end to it soon.

George

Soon.  I’m having anxiety attacks just looking at her do that shit.  It’s ugly.  It’s not right.  Who does she think she is?

Salvador

There are listeners.

George

I said that.  I said that. Fuck

Salvador

My son reads aloud to me.  I can hear him wherever I am.

Donald

I’ll bet she’s Arab.

George

No, no, black Ethiopian Jew.

Donald

Ask her.

George

What are you, woman?

Salvador

I am… the rising air.

George

Race, bitch, race!  What slimey race do you have the misfortune to belong to?

Salvador rises, with extreme difficulty and in extreme pain, into downward dog position.

George

What are you doing, what is that?

Salvador

Look, spare ribs.

Donald

Naked aggression, remember, we will interpret your stance as naked aggression.

George

She could be a pygmy, for all we know.

Salvador pushes into the pose, lengthening her arms and back, pushing heels to the ground, straightening legs.  She groans.

George

What is that?  It’s ridiculous.  What’s she doing?

Donald

Into your hands, Lord… Allah akbar… I commend my spirit … Baruch ha shem… Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of Hosts… Kadima…

Salvador

Whore, rag doll in a cage, your children go to school… (she giggles)

George

She’s fucking with us.  Laughing at us.

Donald

Shut up, shut up, it makes no difference.  She has chosen her path.

Salvador walks her hands back to her feet and hangs there.

George

This is awful.  Hasn’t she heard a word we’ve said?

Salvador

Let’s not be rash.  Lie low.  Stay still.  Keep the peace.

George

Ok, ok, that’s it.  She so much as moves another inch and I’ll…

Salvador suddenly stretches her arms straight out to either side, silencing George.

Salvador

Know this, that we are not unprepared to defend ourselves.  We have not confused a desire for peace with stupidity.

Salvador begins her slow rise into an open-armed stand.  It is a long, invigorating stretch that requires extreme effort.  There is a strained, breathless silence as she rises.

George

Come on, come on, let’s do this, what are you waiting for?

Donald

I want to see.

George

She’s going to stand, damn it.  If it gets known, and it will get known, it might as well be…

Donald

Yes, go on.  

George

It might as well be war.

Donald

It’s just flesh to be disposed of.  Just death.  What difference does it make… life only an instant anyway, death the passage, what difference, same thing, too much made of it.

George

Look, fuck, she’s rising, she’ll be a hero, an inspiration to others, and you want to allow… are you fucking soft in the head?  Give the order and let’s do this.

Donald

I want to see what she sees, I want to know before I go.

Salvador is at this moment bringing her head back level to face the audience, dropping her arms to her side, standing naturally.  She stares into the distance.

Salvador

Ah, I love standing at this window.  You can see the river, and the grass in the field there.  It’s like long, silky hair.  

George

God dang it, bitch, appreciating nature and domestic life, next step, government and learning.  I won’t have it, I’m telling you, I’ll take matters into my own hands.

Salvador

Morning light on my face after a long night.  The birds excited and squabbling and filling the air.

George

Oh, stop it, I can’t take it, what is all this domesticity, days-of-our-lives crap!

Salvador

The smell of rising bread from the oven.  Cool tiles under warm feet.  Then later in bed the sky streaked red and pink.  Storks clapping and settling, cool air drifting in from the sea.

George

Aaaaaaaaaaaaagh!!  Arab ho!  Hindu pygmy shrew!  Fat China girl with buck teeth and pigtails, stop it, stop it… give the order and let’s do this now, now, now…

Salvador

My son, Jason, you know, eight years old, arriving home from school with a story about a stag.  “It was huuuge, Mom, his horns, his antlers, they were this big, you could string the hammock up between them and he wouldn’t even notice you were there!”

Donald suddenly drops to the ground, followed by George.  The lights roll and switch, resembling, in shifting patterns, an air raid, a rock concert, a city in flames; the sound, in like manner echoing through history, a radio tuning in and out, Winston Churchill with his ‘never to go to war again’ speech, George Bush lying about weapons of mass destruction, Christopher Columbus talking about the gentleness of the Arawak peoples; more static, clipped comments about the weather, cooking, travel, philosophical insights – Bertrand Russell, the Dali Lama, a Carl Sagan comment about life on other worlds.  Fade to black followed by the real sounds of a barrage of rocket launchers and other heavy artillery.  More radio static.  Half finished sentences.  A comedian. Canned laughter.  Advertising.  A DJ.  Music.  Static.  As the sound fades, lights slowly come back up.  Donal, George and Salvador are suspended from the flies, suggesting an abattoir, a lynching, a Golgotha.  The three swing slightly.  Wind.  Vast emptiness.  Creaking.  Then Salvador speaks, her voice weakened and broken, but still achieving the same aspiring, hopeful tone as at opening.

Salvador

To fly.  To have flown.  To say that I have flown.

To fly in the face of.

To live on the wing.

On the wind.

To fly the coop. (A little audible laugh.)

To fly.  To have flown.  To say that I have flown.

Pause for good measure.  Lights down.                         

The end.

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