AVATARA PLAY IN TWO ACTS
THREE CHARACTERS: BELL and HUNCH, male;
and DIS, female. Age unimportant, as all are required to play many ages.
A room is minimally delimited on a mostly empty stage: a bed, a cupboard with drawers, a window.
Two imaging systems share the stage as well. These are design holes in the script, to be filled:
1) THE DOUBLING SYSTEM: This, when activated, provides separate images of BELL and HUNCH, capable of speech. It could be as simple as two mannequins, fitted with speakers and animated by microphones. On the other hand, it is limited in complexity only by the state of available technology.
2) THE ATOMIZER: This, when activated, takes the figure of DIS, and renders her in pieces across the stage: for instance, her arms can appear, multiplied, in various locations. This could be as simple as a video installation with multiple monitors, or as complex as current technology permits.
BELL sits on the bed, facing away from HUNCH, who stands at the window.
HUNCH: I have a confession to make.
HUNCH: I was born once.
BELL (without turning around): Now that's an original sin.
HUNCH: It's the source of all my problems.
BELL does not react.
HUNCH: You're not listening.
BELL: I'm listening.
HUNCH: You're not. You're... overhearing.
BELL turns, wearily.
BELL: You were saying.
BELL: You have problems.
HUNCH: I was born, you know, umbilically bereft. Severed from
birth, raised into Cain. My life is a bad pun. Take my life, please.
HUNCH: I was born, you know, umbilically bereft. Severed from birth, raised into Cain. My life is a bad pun. Take my life, please.
HUNCH giggles, then sobs. The sob is unconvincing.
HUNCH: I can't love! Never could. Well, maybe once, but I certainly can't now. I've been waning since the womb. One long sliding wane.
BELL: Yes, I can see that. That's obvious. You're a good sliver short of full.
HUNCH (beneath his breath): Gibbous.
BELL: What was that?
BELL: If you have nothing to say, say nothing at all.
HUNCH: These final, waning hours. Excruciating. What does it mean to me, the universe and its long death? I'll not be there. It will mean nothing to me..
BELL: Nothing means anything to you, Hunch. It's a consequence of your I.Q.
HUNCH: What does that have to do with any thing? My ability? My... comprehension? My brain is as good as any. For... for what cannot be comprehended.
BELL: You hope.
HUNCH: Yes. I am stupid enough.
HUNCH: To hope. It leads -- hope does, you know -- to despair.
BELL: I am hopeless.
HUNCH: We'll let that lie.
BELL: Anyway, time for lunch.
HUNCH: Lunch, and then...
HUNCH: Yes! Good!
They forage in the cupboards.
BELL: I found something.
HUNCH: Is it edible?
BELL: Could be. You try.
BELL: Yes you. Since you care.
HUNCH: What am I, your taster?
HUNCH: I've been thinking about Dis.
HUNCH: I've been thinking about her.
BELL: You have.
HUNCH: Have you?
Silence. HUNCH begins to gnaw on the food.
BELL: Why would I?
HUNCH: No reason.
HUNCH: So. Have you?
BELL: How is that lunch?
HUNCH: Edible. Try some.
BELL: Your stomach okay?
BELL: Brain? No fever, nothing... alien?
HUNCH: My thoughts are alien.
BELL: But not from food.
HUNCH: I have no thought for food. Food for thought.
BELL: A joke?
HUNCH: A small one.
BELL: At a time like this?
HUNCH: A time like what?
BELL: Like... this.
HUNCH: The waning hours.
BELL holds out his hand.
BELL: Give me that food.
HUNCH: I've eaten some.
BELL: Um, yes.
HUNCH: Are you sure you want it?
BELL: How's your stomach?
HUNCH: As good as can be expected.
BELL: Give me the food.
Silence. HUNCH passes the food, slowly.
HUNCH: I've been... pondering Dis.
BELL: So you said.
Silence. BELL eats.
BELL: Lunch is... satisfactory.
HUNCH: I'm glad you like it. Yes, Dis.
BELL: You do obsess.
HUNCH: I don't.
BELL: You do.
HUNCH: I don't!
BELL: It's unsavory. It's un... appetizing. I am trying to eat.
HUNCH: And I am reminiscing.
BELL: No you're not. It's much worse. What you're doing. Stop it.
Silence. HUNCH goes back to the cupboards, continues to forage.
BELL: What now.
HUNCH: I'm looking for dinner.
BELL: It's lunch time!
HUNCH: I intend to be... prepared.
HUNCH: I knew him.
BELL: Who, the messiah?
HUNCH: No, the carpenter. Jesus. Spanish guy. Dead now.
HUNCH: Do I look the type to be hanging with messiahs?
HUNCH: I do?
BELL: You do.
HUNCH: I look like an apostle?
BELL: You look like a thief.
Silence. HUNCH stops foraging, goes back to the window.
HUNCH: Do you think Dis, if I were... different... not severed, umbilically, you know... do you think Dis might have...
BELL: For you?
BELL: If you were different.
BELL: Maybe. It's... conceivable.
HUNCH: I cannot conceive of conception.
BELL: Another joke?
HUNCH: Very small.
BELL: Glad I caught it.
HUNCH: You have an eye.
BELL: An eagle eye.
HUNCH: And now:
BELL AND HUNCH (together): Predation!
As BELL speaks, HUNCH leaves the stage.
BELL: It colors things. Time, between now and... things. Colors them. What looked innocent... what *was* innocent... looks different, from here. You can say what you like, it can't be captured. That. You'll reminisce; you'll... obsess; but you'll never get your hands around it. It's different, and you're different, and things have been altered. Say what you like. I am not a bad person. I am a... changed person. Different. Different from bad. Say what you like.
HUNCH enters, wheeling a second bed onstage. DIS enters, unnoticed, smoking a cigarette and playing an accordian. She plays as HUNCH and BELL don children's pyjamas over their clothes. Each lies on a separate bed, and the lights go dim. DIS stops playing.
BELL: I stare at this ceiling a lot.
HUNCH: I'm sure.
BELL: I know this ceiling.
HUNCH: It's a... deep ceiling. Profound.
BELL: Do you think we will be friends...
HUNCH: We are.
BELL: But do you think we'll still be friends...
BELL: I don't know. Later.
HUNCH: In the waning hours?
BELL: Yes, then.
HUNCH: Oh, I think so. Yes.
BELL: Look at how the ceiling... hangs.
BELL: Hangs there. Between us and the sky.
HUNCH: Does plague come from the sky?
BELL: Depends on your source.
BELL: Bible seems to say...
HUNCH: But we don't believe that.
HUNCH: So does it?
BELL: No. Comes from rats. Rats and humans.
HUNCH: I'll never give you the plague, Bell.
BELL: And I'll never give it to you.
BELL: I promise.
HUNCH: Were ever two friends this...
BELL: Never. It is rare.
BELL: Good night, Hunch.
HUNCH: Good night, Bell.
As the lights come up, BELL and HUNCH emerge from their respective beds, and remove their pyjamas. DIS, who has been standing in silence, watching, leaves the stage. BELL and HUNCH place the pyjamas in the doubling system (eg. hang them on the mannequins), stand back, and judge the results.
HUNCH: Looks like us.
BELL: You can't know.
HUNCH: What do you mean?
BELL: You can't.
HUNCH: Of course I can.
BELL: You are comparing... colored things, with innocent things. Or something.
HUNCH: Are you a racist?
BELL: Don't be stupid.
HUNCH: But I am. Dim. We've established that.
BELL: These look like... fair copies.
BELL: They'll do.
BELL: But let's not get carried away.
BELL: It has nothing to do with what really was.
HUNCH: Uh uh. Because that is gone, severed, lost entirely, a fog upon it, cold and corpsed...
HUNCH laughs, falsely.
BELL: A joke?
BELL: You're not clever. Stop.
They stand behind the doubling system, and animate it. HUNCH has his image extend a hand towards BELL's. BELL returns the gesture. It is awkward. Snow begins to fall. The atomizer comes to life. On one section, gradually coming into light, is DIS. Her midriff. Appealing. We see her navel, and her stomach moves as she speaks. Meanwhile, the doubled images continue their sad approximation of gesture. Elements of the atomizer light up around the stage: on each is an arm, disembodied, wielding a tool -- carrot scraper, hammer, hairdryer etc.
DIS: I do not understand why I am angry. Do we ever? I don't think so. It's not understood. Anger. It's what we are when we don't understand. I spent all of last year in anger, and this year looks... even less promising. I don't like to think of myself as full of hatred. But I am not thinking.
HUNCH: Do you hear something?
HUNCH: Are you sure?
HUNCH: I think I do. I think...
BELL: You don't, really. Think.
HUNCH: It's just memory. It's not a voice. Clearly. I've been reminiscing. About Dis.
BELL: Well you shouldn't. It... won't help.
DIS: I can speak all day, and my words just accumulate, like snow. Increase the silence. Change the landscape. So nobody hears anything. That's what my words do. It's not right. Other people say things. Do you doubt that I am angry? Do you care? You should. It will soon matter.
DIS begins to hum, softly, to herself. Off key.
HUNCH: I do hear something.
BELL: Please stop. You're irritating me.
HUNCH: Oh, and is that so bad? That you might suffer... a moment's irritation, for the sake of my most sacred memories?
BELL: Please, Hunch.
HUNCH: For my feeble, my pathetic efforts to gather up a few... severed memories, pieces of thought, pertaining to a... connection, that I once had, with another human being, a connection I say...
HUNCH: That made sense of every other connection, that made the idea of forging some kind of...
HUNCH: Yes. Worthwhile.
BELL: Well, isn't that banal. You've gone all soft-boiled on me, Hunch. Where do you find these words?
HUNCH: It's not a word. It's a concept. It's important.
HUNCH: I knew him!
BELL: Who? The flayed man? Pierced by nails? Hanging?
HUNCH: No. Spanish guy. Teacher. Dead now.
The atomizer grows increasingly bright.
DIS: I am on edge. Agitated. It has to do with what I eat. That's what... Bell told me. He said: you don't eat like a human being. You eat like something ravenous. You frighten me. I frightened him. Bell. He saw me eat, and in that I think he saw my anger. He was afraid. Bell. Afraid that I might become drunk on food, delirious, and the world -- his world -- would suffer. The balance must be maintained. Or so he thinks.
Slowly, the atomizer fades. BELL and HUNCH approach.
HUNCH: This. This reminds me of something.
BELL: Everything reminds you of something. You're incorrigible.
HUNCH: I am sick with memory.
BELL: Spare me.
HUNCH: Why should you be spared? I'm not.
BELL: And do I have to share your every last agony?
Silence. HUNCH turns away, hurt. DIS enters the stage, in person. She is in a white dress, and her face, hair and hands have been powdered. She is white, and snow falls from her.
HUNCH: I hear something.
DIS: Bell? It's Dis.
BELL: You don't. It's your little agonies. Agonizing.
HUNCH: I do. Bell, I hear something.
BELL kicks an element of the atomizer (eg. a monitor) in disgust. DIS flinches, as if she has been personally struck.
BELL: You are getting... on... my... nerves.
HUNCH: Interesting expression. To get on one's nerves. As if they were... equine, the nerves. Or bus-like.
BELL: Hunch, I don't think you understand. You are ruining my digestion. Giving me gas.
HUNCH: Well you could always leave.
BELL: I could.
HUNCH: Yes, you could. Get on your nerves, and ride off.
BELL: Is that what you want?
HUNCH: No. But it's an option.
BELL: Then I'll consider it. I'll consider my options. You reminisce, and I'll consider my options. Together we'll constitute... a relationship.
HUNCH: I don't... I don't like your tone.
BELL: Then change the channel.
DIS steps up to the element that was kicked. She picks it up, tenderly. As she carries the piece offstage, it briefly lights up with her face.
DIS (on-screen): If I am angry, I advise you to listen. Not that you'll listen to my advice.
DIS, carrying the monitor, does not seem to notice her image on the screen. BELL picks up a broom, and begins to sweep the snow off the stage.
HUNCH: What are you doing?
BELL: Cleaning up.
HUNCH: It's not... dirty.
BELL: It's bad in here. It needs work. I'm working on it. You could help.
HUNCH: But I don't like what you're doing.
BELL: Do you intend to remain pathetic all day?
HUNCH: These are the days that... wane.
HUNCH: I'll help.
He too picks up a broom, and begins to sweep. DIS enters, carrying a snow globe. As they sweep, she shakes the globe and stares into it.
DIS: I saw myself at ninety. Seated in a room with the dead. I sat on one of the dead, without thinking. Imagined him a sofa. My words like snow, and the world gone cold. I was not warm. But I was still speaking.
HUNCH and BELL have finished sweeping. They prop their brooms up against their doubles. They stand back to view their creations: their images, apparently holding the brooms.)
HUNCH: They do look remarkably close.
BELL: To each other?
HUNCH: To us.
BELL: No they don't.
HUNCH: We were once close.
BELL: To us?
HUNCH: To each other.
BELL: Your memory is a cesspool, Hunch.
HUNCH: A cesspool.
BELL: And it's leaking.
HUNCH: A pool. Tainted. Cesspool.
HUNCH: I like that.
BELL: What now.
HUNCH: Why do you think my memories have gone bad?
BELL: Maybe it's something you ate.
HUNCH: No, I mean it. Why?
BELL: How should I know?
HUNCH: Yes. That's the question, isn't it. How should you know.
BELL: You're being unusually opaque, Hunch. Even for you.
HUNCH: A cesspool is opaque. Clouded.
BELL: And if I'd known you were going to dwell on that little image...
HUNCH: Why is it. Do you think.
Silence. BELL is disturbed by HUNCH's persistence.
HUNCH: Let's play a little memory game. Shall we? A... demonstration. Of memory. And how it goes bad.
HUNCH animates his double. BELL stands, watching. HUNCH animates BELL'S double. When HUNCH speaks, his voice can be heard, when specified, emanating from his image.
HUNCH: (as his own image) Hello. This is me. Hunch. Talking to you. Bell. Hi, Bell.
HUNCH gestures: come on. BELL resists. At last he relents. When he speaks, his voice can be heard, when specified, emanating from his image.
BELL: (as his own image) Yes. Hello. I guess.
HUNCH: Let's have an old conversation.
BELL: An... old conversation?
HUNCH: Yes. An old one. From years ago. Remember how we used to stare up at your ceiling at night, and talk? Let's have one of those conversations.
BELL: I don't know...
HUNCH: Humor me.
BELL: If we must.
BELL sighs. His image amplifies the sigh, loudly, and BELL jumps.
HUNCH: All right then. I remember the time I told you how I wasn't sure whether there was anyone else on the planet but me. Let's have that conversation.
BELL rolls his eyes, shrugs.
HUNCH: (as his own image) I have this strange feeling, Bell... I've never told this to anyone before.
BELL: (as his own image) I suppose you're about to tell it to me. This strange feeling.
HUNCH: (as his own image) I am. Yes, I am. This very strange notion -- I think it's very strange -- that I am alone.
BELL: (as his own image) Alone.
HUNCH: (as his own image) Yes. That I'm the only real human being. That everyone else on this planet is a robot. Put here to test me. To elicit... responses. I'm the only one who has real thoughts, real reactions. You know, emotions.
BELL: (as his own image) That's stupid.
HUNCH: Please Bell. That's not how the old conversation went.
BELL: Oh god. Right. Okay. (as his own image) Gee, Hunch, why would you think that?
HUNCH: (as his own image) Well, it's impossible to disprove. Isn't it. Once you have this thought, how are you ever going to prove it false? I mean, every thing offered up as proof is just part of the conspiracy, right?
BELL: (as his own image) Um, yes. Sure. I see your point.
HUNCH: Here is where you reassure me.
BELL: I reassure you?
HUNCH: Yes. In the old conversation. That's what you did. You stepped in and reassured me.
BELL: And you want me to do it again.
HUNCH: If you don't mind.
BELL: Christ. All right. (as his own image) Hunch, I just want to tell you...
BELL covers his eyes.
BELL: This is ridiculous.
HUNCH: Tell me what? You were getting there. Come on.
BELL: (as his own image) I just want to tell you, Hunch, that I'm real. I'm a real human being. I have emotions. If everyone else on the planet is a robot, well, I'm the one guy who isn't.
HUNCH: (as his own image) Thank you, Bell.
HUNCH's double stops speaking.
HUNCH: That conversation was so interesting, on so many levels. I believed you, when you said that. I really believed you. Which is interesting, of course, because if you were a robot, there's nothing to stop you from saying just that: "I am not a robot." But I sensed the... humanity in what you were saying. And I chose to believe you.
BELL: (still speaking as his own image) I don't see what this has to do with memory.
He realizes that his voice is being amplified, shakes his head, and his image stops speaking.
HUNCH: It's an experiment. We go through an old conversation once, when everything is still... innocent, and then we go through it again, after adding some relevant information. And we see memory itself change.
BELL: I don't understand.
HUNCH: I am demonstrating how a clear pool ceases. Becomes a ceased pool.
HUNCH: It has to do with the addition of something. The... superaddition of something. Makes the water go cloudy. We don't want to dwell on this image too carefully.
BELL: No. If you don't mind.
HUNCH: So what shall we add? To effect the alchemical transformation. What.
BELL: This is your experiment. How should I know.
HUNCH: Okay. Well, let's just pretend that I had some knowledge, just before that old conversation... say, just hours before that old conversation took place... that you had done something really terrible. To me. Behind my back.
BELL: (too quickly) Like what?
HUNCH: I don't know. Help me out here. It's a thought experiment. Think of something really terrible, that you might have done... to me... without my knowing it.
HUNCH: That I found out about, just before the old conversation.
BELL: I can't think of anything.
HUNCH: You can't. Okay. Well, never mind. The specific nature of the bad thing is not so important. What is important, in our experiment, is to posit that the bad thing was done.
Silence. BELL is looking increasingly uncomfortable.
HUNCH: Okay, so let's go back and have that old conversation one more time.
BELL: This is embarrassing, Hunch.
HUNCH: Is it?
BELL: I don't like to revisit juvenile conversations.
HUNCH: I suppose I do. It's part of my... cesspool tendency. I reminisce.
BELL: Look, I'm sorry about that image.
HUNCH: You're sorry.
BELL: I am.
HUNCH: About the image.
HUNCH: Shall we have that old conversation again?
HUNCH: (speaking as his own image) Bell, I have this very strange notion. I... I've never told this to anyone before. I have this feeling that I am alone. That everyone else on this planet is... an evil robot, placed here to test me.
Silence. BELL looks away.
HUNCH: This is where you reassure me.
HUNCH: It's your cue. To reassure me. To tell me that I'm not alone.
BELL (screaming): I hear you! (then, hissing) Just leave me alone, okay. Leave me out of your... baroque memories, okay? I don't want to play this game.
BELL storms off stage. HUNCH shrugs.
HUNCH: And thus concludes our experiment.
HUNCH walks slowly off stage. When he is gone, the doubled images speak to each other. Both now speak in DIS's amplified voice:
DIS: (as HUNCH's image) They're gone.
DIS: (as BELL's image) Yes. They are.
DIS: (as HUNCH's image) I miss them. Do you?
DIS: (as BELL's image) Yes...
DIS: (as HUNCH's image) Do you miss them... equally?
DIS: (as BELL's image) Equally?
DIS: (as HUNCH's image) Bell and... Hunch. Do you miss them the same amount?
DIS: (as BELL's image) That's a terrible question.
DIS: (as HUNCH's image) And that's not an answer.
Silence. Snow begins to fall. From the images, music begins to play. Mournful.
DIS enters the stage. The atomizer lights up: arms barely apparent behind snow. She crosses the stage, slowly, leaving a trail of footprints in the snow. She disappears. The sound of a hammer, hammering nails into wood.
BELL enters the stage. He looks lost. He sees the footprints, begins to follow them, decides not to. He erases them with his foot.
HUNCH enters the stage, looking about for someone. He approaches BELL.
HUNCH: You alone?
BELL: What does it look like.
HUNCH: I mean, has... have you seen anyone else. Here.
BELL: No. Have you?
HUNCH: I was hoping...
BELL: You do that a lot. I've noticed. It's a bad habit.
HUNCH: Well, she's not here.
BELL: Shall we get something to eat?
HUNCH: Good idea.
They walk over to the cupboard, begin to search for food. BELL finds a brown paper bag full of buns.
BELL: These will be stale.
HUNCH: Let me see.
He removes a bun, bites into it, grimaces.
BELL: I thought so.
HUNCH: Are you so certain that... stale... is undesirable?
BELL: It's generally considered that. Pejorative. Nobody goes to the baker and says: give me your most stale bread.
HUNCH: Fresh, then. Fresh is preferred.
HUNCH: You're sure now.
BELL: Any other questions?
HUNCH: Any different answers?
BELL: What are you getting at, Hunch?
HUNCH: Not much, clearly.
BELL: What are you trying to get at?
HUNCH: You'll know when I get at it.
Silence. They continue to forage.
HUNCH: I've found something!
BELL: What is it?
HUNCH: I'm sure it's... stale.
BELL: What is it?
HUNCH: Gone bad. Past its sell-by date.
BELL tries to examine what HUNCH is holding, but HUNCH turns away.
HUNCH: Oh no you don't. This is an important moment. Let's savor it. Let's... linger.
BELL: You're annoying me, Hunch.
HUNCH: This is that crucial moment, during which you don't know whether the... desired object... is good, or... not. You are innocent of its true nature. Don't rush things. You don't want to lose that precious innocence too soon.
BELL: Hunch, I'm just hungry.
HUNCH: That's a given.
BELL: Is this another one of your lessons? Are you trying to teach me something, here?
HUNCH: I beg your pardon?
BELL: What are you getting at!
HUNCH: I'll know when I get there.
BELL tries to force HUNCH to show him what he's holding.
BELL: Give me that...
HUNCH: Uh uh... I'm acting in your best interest, Bell.
BELL: My best interest.
HUNCH: Oh yes.
BELL: How would you know?
HUNCH: Because I know you. Intimately. We are... friends. I always have your best interest at heart.
BELL: Even when it conflicts with your best interest?
HUNCH: How could that possibly happen. We are friends.
BELL begins to walk away.
BELL: I am no longer interested in your food.
BELL: It has... strings attached. I don't like stringy food.
HUNCH turns away from the audience, seems to be eating.
HUNCH: It is very good. Yes. Mm. It is good. Not at all stale. You'd probably enjoy it.
BELL does not turn towards him.
BELL: You're lying.
HUNCH: I'm not.
BELL: You are. I can always tell when you're lying.
HUNCH: How's that.
BELL: I just can.
HUNCH: Well, that's a gift. Isn't it. If I told you, for instance -- reassured you -- that I was not a robot... that you were not alone... you would be uniquely qualified to judge that assertion. You would have unimpeachable knowledge. Wonderful thing. You're very lucky.
BELL turns around, furious. HUNCH turns to face him. HUNCH is eating a pear. He holds the half-eaten pear out in front of him, dangling it.
HUNCH: Of course, you could be mistaken.
BELL: Is it good?
HUNCH: Couldn't be fresher.
BELL: How's your stomach?
HUNCH: Clear as a...
Silence. BELL rolls his eyes.
BELL: Can I have a bite?
HUNCH: Of this?
HUNCH holds the half-eaten pear out by its stem.
BELL reaches out for the pear. Just before he can touch it, HUNCH lets it fall to the floor.
BELL: Now why did you do that?
HUNCH: That? Why not?
BELL: Because it's rude.
BELL: Yes, rude.
HUNCH: As in the sense of "rough-hewn"? Or did you mean something like "contrary to accepted social mores"?
BELL: The latter.
HUNCH: I see. And where do you come from, that this kind of gesture is considered... contrarian?
BELL: The same place you come from.
HUNCH: The womb?
HUNCH: Oh. Well, I never did really understand the concept of society. Something about subterfuge and hypocrisy, mutually celebrated?
BELL: Don't pretend that you're cynical. You know precisely what I mean.
HUNCH: And what is it about society that... rejects my gesture?
BELL: When you are offering food, you do not drop it on the floor. It's considered... unfriendly.
HUNCH: Really? And I thought I was being such a good friend.
HUNCH: By feeding you.
HUNCH: You could always pick it up.
BELL: The floor is dirty.
HUNCH: I thought you had just cleaned it.
HUNCH: With my help. Together we cleaned it. Remember?
Silence. BELL turns away.
BELL: You never quite say anything, do you, Hunch?
HUNCH: I don't.
HUNCH: And here I thought I was saying too much.
BELL: No. You speak too much. You have too many speeches. But you never quite say anything.
HUNCH: But I mean what I say.
BELL: No, you mean by what you don't say.
HUNCH: (affecting an English accent) I say!
BELL: Jesus, Hunch...
HUNCH: ... If you know what I mean.
BELL: (exploding) You want to have a conversation? You want to have the old conversation? How am I supposed to converse with you? You're a joke, Hunch.
HUNCH: I tell jokes...
BELL: You are a joke.
HUNCH: The medium is the message.
BELL: And the message isn't funny. It's not funny. You drop my food on the floor; you point to the floor; you say something oblique; you have me say something oblique; you make a little joke; and it's all just horribly depressing. You depress me. You are depressing.
HUNCH: Are you sure it's not just the season?
BELL: The season.
HUNCH: Perhaps you have seasonal affective disorder.
BELL: What season?
HUNCH: The waning days. The... gibbous days.
Both frown; they quickly look at each other, then turn away.
HUNCH: Mine is just a name. It is not a spinal condition.
BELL: No, I know. I... didn't mean to offend you.
HUNCH: It would have been me. Offending me. But we were discussing the season. The gibbous season.
BELL: How can a season be hunchbacked.
HUNCH: It's a lunar term. A term of lunacy. The moon, when it's a sliver short of full, is called "gibbous."
BELL: Why don't you just say "waning."
HUNCH: I have. I've said it many times.
BELL: I mean instead of "gibbous."
HUNCH: Ah, because they're not the same. A gibbous moon could be waxing. All it means is a sliver short of full.
BELL: You are a sliver short of full.
Silence. BELL looks at HUNCH, concerned.
BELL: I didn't mean hunchbacked.
HUNCH: It's just a name. It's not an attribute. It does not say anything essential. Or even interesting. It does not indicate that I am... deformed, or unpleasant. Less than attractive. That's not at all what it means. Nobody would have come to that conclusion except you.
BELL: I have not come to that conclusion!
HUNCH: Hence you apologize.
BELL: I only apologized because I didn't want you to feel bad.
HUNCH: About what?
BELL: About anything. I don't want you to feel bad about anything.
HUNCH: You'd hate to make waves. In the cesspool.
BELL: Hunch, I'm trying to apologize.
HUNCH: But that's just it, isn't it? Nobody else would think to apologize, because no one else would think to put the two things together. My name and my... essence.
DIS appears atomized. Her head: it appears in various places about the stage. She stares, impassive, cold.
HUNCH: Nobody except you.
BELL, in desperation, animates his double, and speaks through it.
BELL: (as his double) Hunch, it's me. It's Bell. Remember me? Remember? I'm the one who would never... Hunch, please -- don't look at me like that. I'm Bell. I'm the same person. Remember the old conversation? The old conversation, Hunch? You know me; you know what I am; I'm the... the only other person who's like you. Because you trust me. Hunch? You trust me...
BELL: (as himself again, defeated) No... nobody... You're right, Hunch... I can't think of anyone who...
HUNCH: Nobody would say such a thing. Apologize for having said such a thing. Would have to apologize for even thinking such a thing.
BELL: I... wasn't really apologizing...
HUNCH: Because nobody would think that thought.
BELL: No, they wouldn't. I can't imagine that they would.
HUNCH: About me. About what I am called, as distinct from who I am. It's certainly not a thought that anyone would think to think.
BELL: You're right there. Absolutely.
HUNCH: Because they wouldn't have that... conception of me.
BELL: No, they wouldn't.
HUNCH: They. Wouldn't. Conceive. Of me. In that way.
HUNCH: UNLESS YOU TOLD THEM!
Silence. The lights begin to go down, until all that can be seen is DIS's head, and a spotlight on the half-eaten pear. Slowly, with cold pleasure, DIS smiles.
YOU HAVE JUST READ THE FIRST HALF OF A FULL-LENGTH PLAY. SHOULD YOU WISH TO PRODUCE IT, YOU WILL HAVE TO PURCHASE THE SECOND HALF.
(c) Douglas Cooper 2001