Luigi Lunari: Three on the Seesaw, Act one, Scene two
by Stefania Bufano
The same scene, an hour later. The Sergeant and Mr. A are present, or at least visible. Mr. A is holding a pair of trousers in front of an electric fire, which is switched on. They are obviously the Professor’s trousers drying after the downpour. The Sergeant is reading out the instructions for the emergency pollution practice exercise from a newspaper.
SGT. B – At sunset, or anyway not later than 18.35, switch off all household appliances: especially refrigerators…
(unplugs the minibar)
(walks to the bathroom door and knocks)
Is there an electric water-heater in there?
PROF.C’S VOICE – Yes.
SGT. B – Unplug it!
Wirelesses, record players, washing machines, dishwashers…
(He looks around: there aren’t any)
(He looks at Mr. A)
Aren’t they dry yet?
MR. A – They’re still dampish.
(The Prof. leans round of the bathroom door)
PROF. C – It’s OK, it’s OK! It doesn’t matter if they’re a bit damp!
(Mr. A immediately switches off the electric fire, stands up, takes the trousers to the Prof, who disappears again into the bathroom)
SGT. B – Lastly, unplug televisions, video OK-phones, tills, computers, video games etc., limiting consumption to strictly necessary lighting.
(The Prof. comes out of the toilet, doing his trousers up: he is in shirt-sleeves and he puts on his jacket, which is hanging to dry on the back of a chair)
PROF. C – At last… I’ve got my trousers back. Thank you! Ah, trousers are like health, like youth! Only when they are missing do we understand their real worth, their fundamental importance.
(To the Sergeant):
Did you say wirelesses?
SGT. B – Who, me?
PROF. C – Earlier, while reading. Strictly speaking, the plural of wireless is wireless, not wirelesses. There can’t really be more than one less, which anyway in this case serves as an adjective, and cannot therefore take on a plural form.
SGT. B – I’ve always said wirelesses.
PROF. C – You’ve always said it wrong, then. Let’s say it’s a little like a collective noun, in that it means all radio appliances without wires. It’s a bit like “sheep” never becomes “sheeps”, or “furniture” “furnitures”. Except that, strictly speaking, wireless is in fact a compound of noun and adjective which popular usage has turned into a noun.
SGT. B – It should be unplugged anyway.
PROF. C – Yes, of course. Another curious case: in all grammars of Indoeuropean origin, if you’re interested in these matters… You are, aren’t you?
SGT. B – No.
PROF. C – Oh, I thought…
SGT. B – No. As a matter of fact, I always hated grammar badly at school. Let’s say I’m a man of action. And especially grammar… I see, however, that they don’t teach it any more… My grandchildren, as a mater of fact, don’t know a thing about it.
PROF. C – And do you think that’s good?
SGT. B – Well… I don’t know… No, of course not!
PROF. C – Grammar forms the basis of linguistic precision in any spoken and written language. And lack of precision can lead to serious mishaps. Boccaccio has it, for example, that two foreigners, staying overnight at an inn in Tuscany, asked for two ‘white’ sheets. They later found themselves sleeping between sheets smeared with ‘white’ paint because, as the inn-keeper explained the following day, you shoudn’t say ‘white’, but ‘newly-laundered’. Do you understand?
SGT. B – It seems to me that the inn-keeper could well understand what the couple wanted to say… And even more considering they were foreigners…
PROF. C – Oh, but the inn-keeper had understood, but he wanted to teach them a lesson.
SGT. B – Why? What had they done?
PROF. C – Nothing, but…
MR. A (In a bad mood, butting in) – To me this story sounds like a load of bollocks!
PROF. C – But it’s Boccaccio!
MR. A – It’s a load of bollocks just the same! I cannot understand how, soaked as you are, you can be bothered to think about grammar… Aren’t you worried? Are you feeling calm? Do you think everything’s all right? Do you think this situation’s normal? Is this a place like any other? Don’t you sense something odd, mysterious, unclear? Tell me, answer, speak!
PROF. C – Well, let me speak, then!… Would you like a practical, operative answer, or more of a rational-philosophical one?
MR. A – What do you mean?
PROF. C – Do you want a yes or no, sort of informal and in the family, so to speak, or would you rather have a more detailed analysis?
MR. A – For Heaven’s sake! I want to know what you think of all this business! If you’re worried! If you think everything’s normal!
PROF. C – Well, what I think is…
SGT. B (clears his throat) – Erm… Excuse me. It’s almost seven o’clock, and at seven I like soakimg my feet briefly. Today I was thinking I’d have to skip my usual routine, since I was supposed to be meeting Mr. Hamilton… But since he hasn’t shown up, I’d quite like to soak them, if you’ve got nothing against it…
MR. A – Go ahead…
SGT. B – Thank you…
MR. A (to professor C.) – And so…?
SGT. B. – Ehm… The fact is I wouldn’t like to miss out on your discussion. Could I… Leave the bathroom door open… Or even soak my feet here?
PROF. C – Go ahead. Since we’re going to spend the night together, I don’t think we need to be too formal…
SGT. B – Thank you.
(He goes to the bathroom and returns a short while later with a basin full of hot water, which he puts on the floor in front of a chair. He then proceeds to indulge in a careful and relaxing footbath. He does up his trousers, takes off his shoes and socks, pours into the basin the contents of a sachet which he takes from his pocket and which stirs into a nice lather…)
MR. A – So?
PROF. C – So, would you tell me, to start the ball rolling, what’s wrong with this situation. A building with three different addresses? Unusual, but not impossible! Three different people who show up for an appointment at the same time? But five o’clock is a classic time for meetings, and my own wasn’t even specifically for that time.
MR. A – But why all here? In… These premises, with three different doors?
PROF. C – Aurora Guesthouse, Infomac Ltd., Olympus Press.
MR. A – Without nameplates, without names, without anything?
PROF. C – My dear Sir, it’s as simple as pie! Olympus Press has just moved: the new address is not even in the telephone directory… The Aurora Guesthouse… Well, from what I’ve understood, at the Aurora Guesthouse you had planned an amorous tryst, with a lady…
SGT. B – Ehm, ehm… Pardon pardon!
PROF. C – Some degree of discretion is more than natural. As regards Sgt. Springthorpe’s Infomac… The sergeant himself mentioned the Secret Service: I don’t want to pry, but Infomac… Could even be a cover, one of those companies used to hide…
MR. A – Come on! Machinery for recycling empty tooth-paste tubes! This is exactly what the Sergeant himsels said.
SGT. B – But it’s Army business! Toothpaste used by all three forces. Not only that, but we’re also dealing in tubes from NATO bases in Europe: a business – I don’t think I’m letting anything out of the bag – that’s worth millions. I’m not surprised Infomac prefers to keep a low profile!
PROF. C – Very likely… Their profits are probably shared by certain people…
MR. A – By who, for example?
SGT. B – Ehm, ehm.
PROF. C – Well, the odd politician, probably.
MR. A – Is that true?
SGT. B – Ehm, ehm.
(Sings, standing with his feet in the basin, turning a deaf ear)
“Blue moon… I see you standing alone…”
PROF. C – We’ve obviously got it right. So, as you can see, everything’s perfectly logical.
MR. A – Even so, why only one room?
PROF. C – Just an address. Have you ever been to Montecarlo, or Jersey, or even better, the Bahamas? There you find three room flats serving as the legal address for over one hundred and fifty commercial, industrial and financial companies. Nothing but a simple address. A company like Infomac, obviously, doesn’t need much space.
MR. A – What about your publishing company?
PROF. C – It’s a small publisher. It probably only needs a representative office in the centre, even a shared one is probably enough, and the actual work is done in the suburbs, where rents are lower.
MR. A – What about me, damn it? What about me? If I’m going to meet a lady, I’m going to need some space!
SGT. B – Ehm, ehm! Pardon pardon!
MR. A (bursting out, irritated) – And you, do please stop that pardon pardon!
SGT. B – Traditional Army discretion.
MR. A – Try to make better use of this discretion. I’ve already told you that there’s nothing strange about this meeting!
SGT. B – Nothing strange? And who ever said there was anything strange? It’s the most natural thing in the world: a man and a woman… You can’t get any more natural!
“When I was just… A little girl
I asked my mother… What will I be…”
MR. A – I can’t stand him!
PROF. C – You said, quite rightly, ‘I need space’. Obviously, the meeting place is one thing; an other thing is where the meeting – let say – is consummated. I have no doubt that, if the lady had turned up, a discreet coachman would have whisked you thither.
(Pause. Sergeant B goes on humming his song)
MR. A (turning round, miserable) – Hello?… Is anybody there?
SGT. B – Not again?
MR. A – Is somebody there?
(Suddenly, almost with a jolt, aggressively, he starts the argument again with the Professor)
And what about the minibar, eh? When I open it, there’s only beer! He opens it, and there’s orange juice! You open it… And there’s hot chocolate!
PROF. C (Laughs, shaking his head almost with compassion) – No, no! You don’t know your Schopenhauer!
SGT. B – Oh yes, that German racing driver!
(But he doesn’t look convinced)
PROF. C – The World as Will and Representation. You fancied a beer, and you only ‘saw’ beer. The Sergeant wanted orange juice, and only had eyes for orange juice. Each one of us sees what he wants to see; each one imagines what he wants. If I like blondes, I will notice blondes especially, and in the evening – going back over the day – I think I’ve only seen blondes.
SGT. B. (He’s got it, at last!) – Schumacher!
MR. A – And what about your hot chocolate?
SGT. B – Ah, that’s really unexplicable! In this case there is no doubt we’re up against a miracle! A real miracle!
MR. A – I would not say a miracle, but something mysterious, certainly!
PROF. C – Well, let’s call it a miracle then. There’s not much difference between miracles and mysteries, in the face of Logic and Reason.
MR. A – You feel like a hot chocolate, you open the fridge, and, lo and behold, what do you find? Excellent hot chocolate!
PROF. C – Well, it wasn’t excellent, it was just about drinkable!
MR. A – Do you find it reasonable?
PROF. C – No.
MR. A – Aha, you see? And why’s that?
PROF. C – Because normally you don’t put hot chocolate in the fridge!
MR. A – So, how do you explain it?
PROF. C – Somebody wanted to cool it down and wasn’t patient enough to wait.
MR. A – Is that all?
PROF. C – It’s sufficient.
MR. A – Somebody who?
PROF. C – I don’t know!
MR. A (as if he had caught him out) – Aha!
PROF. C – How am I supposed to know? It’s the first time I’ve been here. But somebody must have put it in there!
MR. A – And how can you know that?
PROF. C – Because it was in there. Don’t you find it sufficient proof?
SGT. B (in the meantime he has begun reading a paper, reacts to the level the voices have reached) – Shh, please!
PROF. C – The argument goes as follows: hot chocolate drinks are not born and bred in fridges. If one comes across a hot chocolate – or something similar – in a fridge, it’s a sign that there is, or there has been, someone who put it there. Cogito, ergo sum. Cioccolatam posuit, ergo est! Your old Descartes!
SGT. B (to Mr. A, as if warning him) – Hee hee, you had better watch out, the Professor writes thrillers!
PROF. C – But the actual story of that somebody and his hot chocolate can be told in a thousand ways. Here we leave the field of logical certainty, and enter the one of phenomenological feasibility. We can put forward any number of hypotheses. For example. Before going home, early, to avoid being caught out on the streets by the practice, somebody, from the Aurora Guesthouse, Infomac, or Olympus Press, ordered a drink from the bar opposite. The barman came up bringing ‘the usual’, as usually happens in offices. One of the ‘usual’ drinks is hot chocolate for Mrs. Major. Mrs. Major normally waits for the chocolate to cool a little, but this time she can’t, because of the practice she’s got to go home. So Mrs. Major puts the hot chocolate in the fridge. Someone tells her she shouldn’t put hot things in the fridge, but she doesn’t care: the fridge belongs to the company! And then… She forgets it.
MR. A – Do you find it credible?
PROF. C – Do you find a miracle more credible? What do you think more likely: a mystery, or the fact that someone, at about five o’clock, orders a hot chocolate? Shall we do a survey of bars, and see what they do more of: hot chocolate or miracles?
SGT. B – Hot chocolate.
I didn’t quite get who Mrs. Major is.
(A sudden doubt)
Ah… Pardon pardon!
MR. A (After a pause) – And what about the doors?
PROF. C – A small case of collective hallucination. Probably what you thought, and what for a moment I almost believed myself, wasn’t at all true. Were they really locked? Have we really tried to open them? A hypothesis: you turned the handle the wrong way, this way instead of that way, and we – influenced by you – did the same. But I’m sure that if I try now, the doors will easily open. Is this the Sergeant’s door?
(He goes up to door nº 2 and opens it the with the utmost ease)
MR. A – And the downpour, eh? A deluge in Oxford Street and not even a drop in Bloomsbury Square?
PROF. C – Why not? Listen: wherever there’s a downpour there must be a line dividing where it’s rain from where it isn’t. All right?
SGT. B – That’s true. The same thing happens with sun and shade.
PROF. C – This dividing line, in the case of today’s shower, cut exactly through this building; in fact, through this very room!
MR. A (with evident sarcasm) – Obviously; everything is crystal clear! An exceptional case, but easily explained! A lucky case!
PROF. C – Lucky! I wouldn’t put it that way!
MR. A – Why not! Here we are, terrified by these mysterious facts and strange coincidences, and we find out that everything is logical and perfectly explainable!
SGT. B – Let me just say that I’m not at all terrified!
PROF. C – Anyway, it wasn’t my intention to argue that the situation is particularly fortunate. In fact, it’s better never to say whether something is good or bad…
SGT. B – What, what?
PROF. C – That’s right. It may happen that an event we consider lucky turns out to be unlucky, and vice versa. An old saying goes that sometimes the gods, when they want to punish mortals, don’t do anything else but grant their wishes!
SGT. B – That’s the first time I’ve heard that.
PROF. C – The grandfather of a maid who worked for my family, lived in a real hovel in a village on the Tyne. Well, one day he was asked whether he wished to sell his house for a sum roughly four or five times its real value. Lucky or unlucky?
SGT. B – Lucky.
PROF. C – Obviously that’s what he thought too. He struck the deal straightaway, before the buyer could change his mind, and the very same evening he moved in with his sister, who lived close by. During the night… The house collapsed!
SGT. B – The jammy bastard! Pardòn!
MR. A (aggressive) – That’s o.k. for him! But what about the buyer?
SGT. B – Well, hard luck for him.
PROF. C – There you are wrong. Because he thought that below the house there was a seam of coal. And the house’s collapse would save demolition costs.
SGT. B – Well, he was a jammy bastard, too!
PROF. C – Not exactly: because it turned out there was no coal.
SGT. B – Doubly jammy the grandad!
PROF. C – I knew you’d say that! But the fact is that by moving house straightaway and in a great rush as he did, for fear that the buyer would change his mind, he caught pneumonia, and two weeks later he snuffed it! See? That’s life!
SGT. B – Ah, life! (pause) As my old vicar used to say… Nobody ever departs from life alive!
MR. A – I can’t stand him!
SGT. B – What can’t you stand?
MR. A – You! You! Can’t you shut up?
SGT. B (between surprise and irritation) – Who, me? But he talks far more than I do!
MR. A – I know! The Professor loves talking! But you… You come out with such things… They really get on my nerves! Just tell me what’s the good, on a day like this, when you can’t understand a thing, of coming out with witticisms like ‘nobody departs….’. What was it?
SGT. B (with conviction) – Nobody departs from life alive.
MR. A – There you are!
SGT. B – But it’s not a witticism: it’s true!
MR. A (Getting progressively more irritated until he explodes) – It’s not ‘true’! It’s obvious! It’s goddam ridiculous! How does one depart from life? By dying! So what’s the sense of saying that no-one departs from life alive? If somebody, after death, is still alive, it means that he hasn’t departed life: so he’s not dead! In other words, if you die, you die; if you are alive, you are alive!
PROF. C – The stoics used to say: “While you live, death is not there, so why be afraid of it? When death comes, you are no longer there: so how could you be afraid of it?
MR. A – Thus spoke Sheherazade!
SGT. B – Who?
PROF. C – Zarathustra.
MR. A – I meant to say Zarathustra. Don’t you correct me! I can correct myself! I know, who Zarathustra is!
SGT. B – I don’t know who Zarathustra is. The trouble with being in the Army is that you never meet anyone! You’re there, in the barracks, all day long, evening comes, a parade every now and then, an excercise every blue moon… When there’s a war on they give you a blue berrett and send you to change babies’ nappies. Then you retire, you go back to your village… And your old friends see you and say “Oh, here you are again!” or else you die… And when people read the obituary, they say “Oh yes, I’d forgotten about him!”. Or, even worse – “Isn’t he already dead?”.
MR. A – Not again! Always this talk about death! Can’t we find something less… Something less…
SGT. B – I’ll tell you a joke. To tell you the thruth, I’m not very good at telling jokes: I’m more a man of action. But this is a special joke, so even I can give it a shot.
MR. A – It’s always better than having to hear about…
SGT. B – There was this fellow called John. No: Peter. Or… What’s your name?
MR. A – Me? Ernest. Why?
SGT. B – It’s important… He was called Ernest! One day he emigrates to Australia, settles in Australia, gets married in Australia, works in Australia… But suddenly he’s left alone, don’t ask me why, I don’t know – let’s say… Wife and children are all dead.
MR. A – Not again!
SGT. B: Sorry! What matters is that one day he decides to come back to England – because he is English, I can’t remember if I’ve already told you – if nothing else… To die in his own village.
MR. A – There he goes!
SGT. B – Beg your pardon! He withdraws his savings, gets on a ship, which crosses the Indian Ocean, goes past The Cape, comes up the west african coast, sails past France, and the closer he gets to England the more his gets excited. Then he crosses the Channel, he sees Bristol harbour… Finally he goes ashore, and his excitement is so strong he feels so excited he could die…
MR. A – There he goes again!
SGT. B – But he steels himself, and catches the train to his home town, which is… Swindon! No, Birmingham! Or further still. Where are you from?
MR. A – Let’s say… Manchester.
SGT. B – No, it won’t do. If you come from Australia, you don’t disembark at Bristol to go to Manchester, you get off at Liverpool.
PROF. C – Well, I don’t think there’s much choice for anybody going from Australia to England! He’d have to disembark wherever they tell him!
SGT. B – Yes, but I don’t like longwinded jokes! I prefer to have him get off at the most logical place.
MR. A – Listen, why don’t you get on with the joke? I’ve already got wind that I’m not going to like it at all!
SGT. B – Let’s say, a distant city up on the hills.
MR. A – Okay: Birmingham!
SGT. B – Further still, further still.
MR. A – Leeds, Huddersfield.
SGT. B – Further, further… Perth!
MR. A (fuming, very nervous) – And he comes ashore at Bristol!
SGT. B – He catches the train, and his excitement is growing by the minute… Finally he gets to Perth, comes out of the station, goes to another smaller station – his excitement’s mounting by the second…
MR.A – Come on, get on with it!
SGT. B – I’m getting there, I’m getting there.
MR. A – Didn’t you say you don’t like longwinded jokes?
SGT. B – Yes, but one thing is futiles longwindedness, as an end in itself, and another thing are the details needed to prepare the punchline, to create suspence. For example, here I’m creating suspence. If I get to the end straightaway, the joke… Fall flat!
MR. A – Of course!
SGT. B – So, he gets to the smaller station, where you catch the train to go up the valley… He gets on, the train leaves, he begins to see his valley…
MR. A (pressing him on, irritated) – His excitment’s growing!
SGT. B – Didn’t I say that?
MR. A – Yes, yes!
SGT. B – His excitement’s growing continually as he sees the valley, recognises the mountains, the lakes, and the hamlet at the bottom of the valley where the train leaves him…. And where… At last… He catches the bus…
MR. A – Even a bus! But where the hell does he live?
PROF. C – Don’t interrupt him!
SGT. B – The bus begins to climb, and climbs, and climbs, and climbs… He’s more and more excited by the minute, he makes out the meadows, the woods where he played when he was small, the paths where he went courting his first girlfriend, the football pitch where he first played… He really feels like his heart is about to burst… Then he sees the church spire, the square, where the bus stops and lets him off…
MR. A – Has he arrived?
SGT. B – Almost.
MR. A – Doesn’t he have to go miles on foot?
SGT. B – Do you already know it?
MR. A – Nooo!
PROF. C – Don’t interrupt him.
SGT. B – So, Ernest gets off, with his two suitcases… Did I say he’d got two suitcases?
MR. A – No, but it doesn’t matter.
SGT. B – They’re important!
MR. A – All right, now you’ve told us!
PROF. C – Don’t interrupt him. And you, don’t let yourself be interrupted!
SGT. B – Well, strictly speaking I should start again: it’s much better if this fellow, with his two suitcases, leaving Australia, arriving in Bristol, catches the train…
MR. A – Okay, we can try imagining it. Go on. We’ve got to the village.
SGT. B – I warned you that I am not good at telling jokes! I know I’m not good!
MR. A – Get on with it!!!
SGT. B – So, he takes his suitcases and starts walking along the road from the bus stop to his old house, the house of his forbears, and of course you can imagine how his excitement piks as he sees the alleys, the houses, the backyards. Suddenly, coming from the other end of the street… He sees the postman! Think of his excitement…
MR. A – For the postman?!
SGT. B – The postman is an old childhood friend of his, they used to play together, he hasn’t seen him for twenty years! Twenty years!
MR. A – Okay.
SGT. B – Ernest puts his suitcases down, so moved inside he can hardly speak, and shouts – “Peter, Peter!”
(Speaking in a normal tone of voice, like a footnote)
Peter is the postman’s name
MR. A – Yes, yes, go on!
SGT. B – “Peter, Peter!” The postman stops, turns round, looks at him, and calmly asks: “Oh, Ernest: you aren’t going away, are you?”
MR. A – What?
SGT. B – “Oh, Ernest: you aren’t going away, are you?”
MR. A (indignant and quivering with rage) – That’s a barbarous and outrageous joke!
SGT. B – Do you see why the suitcases were important? Otherwise the postman…
MR. A – It’s a completely idiotic joke!
SGT. B – You wanted something amusing…
MR. A – And do you think that’s amusing? Can’t you see, it’s tragic! It means that we dont mean anything, we don’t exist! It isn’t at all important whether we are here or not.
SGT. B – Maybe; but doesn’t the postman make you laugh?
MR. A – The postman?!
SGT. B – Well, not very bright, is he?
MR. A – I can’t stand him!
SGT. B – Listen, since you’re so hard to please, why don’t you tell one?
MR. A – I don’t feel like it. I’ve got other things on my mind, you know!
SGT. B – Ehm, ehm. Pardon pardon!
PROF. C – Just the same, it would be the right thing to do, to help pass the time, if nothing else. I’ve told the story of the old man’s house, the Sergeant has related this apologue…
MR. A – Apologue?! You call it an apologue?! And why not a parable, if you really must!
SGT. B (modestly) – No, no…just a joke! I already tell them badly: if I go to the mess and say: ‘I’m going to tell you an apologue… Or a parable…’
MR. A (suddenly very heated) – But you’re both mad! Blind and mad! Don’t you understand where we are? Don’t you see what’s happened to us?
(Pause. The other two look at him rather surprised)
I saw a film once.
SGT. B – Is it a joke?
MR. A – No! No, it wasn’t a film: it was a play. It was set on board of a ship. The ship’s about to leave for some kind of cruise, a luxury one, you might say, very select… The first passenger arrives, a man of about fifty, well-dressed, distinguished. Then a young woman arrives… Then more people… The captain does the introductions, the passengers get to know each other, different groups begin to form, with the normal likes and dislikes, the petty antagonisms that always exist between people who live together or are going to be doing so for a time… And then certain odd… Oddities begin to come to light…
SGT. B – Like what?
MR. A – For example… Nobody seems to remember why they’re going on the cruise, and why they’re all there alone, without husbands or wives, without relations, without anyone. And they don’t even remember how they got there. For example, the last thing one man remembers before boarding the ship… was that he was at home, in bed, ill… Obviously I’m better, he says; and probably, no, certainly, he’s on this cruise to convalesce. Of course! Now he remembers: the doctor had told him: ‘The minute you’re better… what about a nice cruise to the Tropics!’. All very clear, but with some muddy bits, like gaps: the bed… Then the ship… What about the in between? Somebody else, on the other hand, remembers everything perfectly, or so he thinks. That morning he’d gone to the bank to draw some cash: obviously, it must have been for the cruise. And just as he was about to leve there was a robbery. He actually found himself face to face with one of the robbers, pointing a gun and shouting at him to shut up and don’t move. But at that instant all Hell broke loose: the police stormed the bank, the robbers opened fire, and he must have fainted, because suddenly he doesn’t remember anything. Apart from the fact that he’d gone aboard, naturally… But he couldn’t remember how he’d got there or who’d taken him.
PROF. C – I’ve got it.
SGT. B – Is it finished?
MR. A – Dead! Do you understand? They were dead! And that was death! People die like that! Suddenly… The void. One last clear recollection, then a strange void, and then the ship…
SGT. B – That’s a good one! And he’s always complaining it’s me who’s talking about death!
MR. A – That was the imagination of a writer, I know. But who knows how you die? And if it’s really like that? What if this, all this, was nothing but the moment that divides life from death? You find yourself in a strange place, you’ve come for a strange reason, you meet strange people, you wait for people who are late, that don’t turn up, that perhaps were never supposed to turn up… There’s nobody outside: the city is empty… More than empty: deserted! The atmosphere is tense, you squabble, you argue over nothing, you suffocate, you feel uneasy, you tell idiotic stories… And suddenly, some apparently unexplainable coincidence, something you remember, an intuition, an hypothesis…
PROF. C – I understand.
SGT. B – I’m sorry, what was that? I got a bit lost.
MR. A – Dead. What if we are like them? What if we are in that limbo between life and death, and all we’ve got to do is understand, resign ourselves, finish dying? Who says it’s not like that? And this incredible edginess that’s got into us…
SGT. B. – I’m not edgy in the least.
MR. A – Couldn’t this be life’s last attempt to resist, to rebel against death?
SGT. B – And what happens in the end?
MR. A – Who knows? Little by little we might be enveloped by darkness… Then we all fall asleep one after the other… And good-night!
(To the Prof)
Do you see? For me… It’s been enough to sense it… And I already feel much more calm. As if… I’d drunk a sedative. Or I’d got rid of some nightmare or other. As if this were a necessary step to take! To understand… To resign oneself… To finish… Now you will probably trot out your rational explanations, and knife me with your sarcasm…
PROF. C – Noo, good Heavens, no! Well, maybe a little: you say ‘darkness will envelop us… We’ll fall asleep one after the othe… ‘. Well, it’s seven thirty in the evening: normally darkness actually falls at this time; and if it’s true, as they claim, that the emergency pollution excercise is going to go on all night, it is not unlikely that I, for one, might fall asleep. As regards the rest, however, I’ve got no rational objection whatsoever. On the contrary, my rationality itself forbids me from pronouncing on these matters! What the Hell do I know about death? I’ve only ever seen it from the other side, from the side of the living! How do I know how you see it when you’re in the middle of it? How the Hell am I to prove what you say is untrue? I have no experience in the matter. Apart from anything else, it would be the first time I died. I don’t think we need come up with such drastic conclusions Frankly, I only came here to pick up some proofs. It so happens that it’s a book I care very much about: but I care about it while I’m alive. Posthumous glory, okay, is a wonderful thing, but let’s keep it for as late as possible! You are telling me we’re dead! I can’t prove otherwise, ergo, we shall see. But if tomorrow morning, once the all-clear has been sounded, the editor of Olympus Press comes here and says: ‘My dear Mr. Wittfield, with two tees, here’s your proofs!’, and I leave, and I correct them, and I bring them back, and the book comes out, and it sells two hundred thousand copies, and I go on a nice cruise to the Caribbean, on a nice ship with no mystery, and perhaps even with a nice blonde of the kind I like… Then, my dear Mister what’s-your-name, I’ll be only too pleased to send you a nice card signed “From the Caribbean, with best wishes, to the biggest harbinger of bad luck, the greatest jinx hoodoo sorcerer, the world record breaker pain in the arse, I ever met in my whole life!”
(Big sigh of relief)
MR. A – Are you feeling edgy?
PROF. C (with emphasis) – No, I’m not. I’m feeling very calm! But you should bear in mind that there’s a warning siren, an emergency pollution exercice, a warning call all the same: all right? My colesterol is a little high, in our family we suffer from high blood pressure, an aunt of mine’s got cancer, and as if that wasn’t enough, you can’t open the paper in the morning without reading about Aids all over the place! And it’s not even like at the beginning, when it affected guys of that sort! No! Aids for everyone! Aids galore! And for the last half hour, for God’s sake, you’ve been doing nothing but winding us up…
(But Mr. A interrupts him with a gesture of panic, pointing to the Sergeant on the couch, immobile, stiff, his eyes closed, his head thrown back, mouth half open…)
MR. A (almost voiceless and with eyes wide open) – There you go! He went first… Then, soon, it’ll be our turn…
(They cautiously, timorously draw closer to the Sergeant. Even the Prof. seems seriously worried now. But when they get closer to the arm-chair, the Sergeant begins to snore loudly. The snoring obvliously shatters the atmosphere)
PROF. C (bursts out, almost vindicative due to the fear he has been through) – A postcard from the Caribbean! A postcard this big!
End of act one
Copyright © Luigi Lunari – All rights worldwide reserved
Thanks. Make Yours Italy would like to thank Luigi Lunari for his kindness and availability. We are honored to have been allowed by him to publish on our website his play Three on the Seesaw, represented around the world and soon staged in Canada. If there is anyone among our readers in Calgary and surroundings, we suggest you to go and see it!
Three men walk into a room, each with a different destination, yet all three end up exactly where they are supposed to be. […].
Luigi Lunari Wikipedia (Italian)
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Learn Italian: Tre sull’altalena (Three on the Seesaw)