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Scene 8


Some kind of performance space. Harry is standing at the bar with a friend drinking a beer. The space is not crowded with viewers. As the scene opens, there is a kind of barbershop quartet in the performance space of the venue. One of them starts humming the tune from “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” Meanwhile, around them stand others in construction outfits, mixing cement, arranging wooden road blockades and traffic cones, pushing shopping carts around to collect scrap metal, as all sorts of tools stand idling beside them: hammers, axes, chainsaws, and shovels. Shortly after, a person rides into the space on a rented scooter.


Harry: [to his friend at the bar] I can drink one more beer after this one but then I have to go because I teach in the morning.


The other members of the quartet join in the humming of the tune and suddenly more people start riding in on rental scooters, bikes, and segues. The more the room fills up, the more sound is produced by the quartet and the workers with their tools, always timed along to the tune of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” being hummed by the quartet. Some workers hammer at scrap metal in order to bend it, others continue to mix cement, others hack apart the wooden blockades, pylons, and street signs lying around, at first with axes and then with chain saws, always working to the tune. As the signs and other materials break in pieces, they are given to the cement mixers, who arrange them in the cement. Finally, the room is full of rental scooters, bikes, and segues, so that they have no space to move. Their operators hand them over to the workers, who smash, hack, bend, or break them into pieces and then hand them over in turn to the cement mixers, who continue to construct the sculptural assemblage, which becomes discernible as a very scrappy pissing angel fountain. As more of the scooters, bikes, and segues are busted up and jammed into the cement, the noise subsides just as it built up earlier. Finally, only one quartet member can still be heard humming the tune. By now, Harry and his friend have ordered and finished another beer.


Friend: Hey, Harry—do you want to go to the bathroom and do some cocaine?


Harry: Yeah, why the hell not!? [They walk off to the bathroom.]




Scene 9


Cindy is in the kitchen filling up a bucket with water from the sink, clearly irritated, audibly cursing at Harry. Roger rushes in wearing a cream-coloured cable knit sweater and tea shade sunglasses, his hair unkempt, and slips on the floor, falling down hard on his back as his feet slide out from under him. Cindy tries to warn him as he comes in, but Roger’s entrance is too quick—it’s already too late.


Roger: Ahhhw! Come on, man. I’m soaking wet! What the hell is this?


Cindy: Did you run into Harry last night?


Roger: Yeah, at the performance. You missed it! Where were you?


Cindy: I have to teach today. Plus, I’m pregnant, remember? [Roger, who was just about to light up a cigarette, lets the flame on his lighter go out and puts it back in his pocket, along with the cigarette he was about to light, which was broken anyway.] It hasn’t been easy to bear with the smell of those places recently . . . had to give myself a break. Pickle? [She extends a jar to Roger, who takes one and says, “Oh, thanks”]. Anyway, Harry came home drunk and pissed on the kitchen floor while sleep walking.


Roger: [wildly gesticulating his discomfort and disgust, losing grip of the pickle and hurling it at the wall] What!!? You mean . . . ? [Cindy nods] Fuuuuuuuuck. Why didn’t you warn me?


Cindy: I didn’t exactly expect you to come barrel rolling in here at 7:30 in the morning on a Wednesday.


Roger: Well, I’ve been up all night. And now here I am, covered in piss at 7 in the morning! And I have to go meet my dealer in half an hour!


Cindy: [she’s started mopping up the floor] You’re going to meet your drug dealer now?


Roger: No no, my art dealer.


Cindy: Another Picasso?


Roger: Koons, actually.


Cindy: [ironically] How expensive!


Roger: Well, I know a guy who knows a guy who . . . knows another guy. Listen, can I borrow some of Harry’s clothes?


Cindy: Yeah yeah, check in the bedroom. [As Roger goes into the other room] That bastard, leaving me to clean up his piss because he’s too drunk to clean up after himself before work. [While pulling the chairs out to clean under the table, she realizes that some piss has sprayed onto the leg of the fat chair.] Fuck! He got piss on the fat chair . . . !?


Roger: [in the other room] You know, you could do a better job of storing that thing anyway. My buddy Mort Stevens had a fat chair in his kitchen, came home one day and all the fat had been eaten away!


Cindy: Mice?


Roger: No, his cats.


Cindy: His cats ate the fat off of his Joseph Beuys fat chair?


Roger: Apparently it was pork belly. Now they can’t get enough. He can’t leave out the butter . . . when he takes a chicken out of the oven, they immediately start clawing at him for the drippings . . . [Without turning his back to the audience, he returns to the room wearing all denim and sits down on one of the chairs after taking a pickle from the jar.]


Cindy: Nice Canadian tuxedo.


Roger: Only the best from the best.


Cindy: [recollecting] You know—could you get up and turn around for a second, Roger?


Roger: What?


Cindy: I’m pretty sure—[Roger turns] yeah, those are assless chaps you’re wearing.


Roger: [jerking his body to look at his own ass, the pickle again flying from his hand] Maaan . . . I thought it was just a little cold in here. [He goes back into the other room.]


Cindy: [yelling to the other room] You know, you can borrow some underwear if you need it.


Roger: I’m already wearing underwear. Yeah, I always wear T-backs.


Cindy: T-backs? So that’s why I couldn’t see . . .


Roger: [coming back in wearing another pair of jeans, turning and posing jocularly] You think I’d want to hide these glutes behind an extra layer of cotton? No way. [He sits down again.]


Cindy: Mhh—That’s enough about your ass for the time being. To what do I owe the pleasure this morning, anyway?


Roger: Oh, I just came to drop off the Adderall. [He plunks a bottle of pills down onto the table.]


Cindy: [sitting down across from Roger at the table] Oh, right. How could I forget that little conversation!?


Roger: We must have our top entertainers fresh, attentive, and energized.


Cindy: Roger, don’t you think this is all getting a little perverse? I mean—a LOT perverse.


Roger: Well, every medium brings its own demands. They’re bound to seem a little perverse at first. But would you rather fall behind the times?


Cindy: I’d rather piss into the wind!


Roger: A lady like yourself? Well, I’d like to see that.


Cindy: Cut the shit Roger. What kind of a quack did you get this stuff from, anyway?


Roger: There’s nothing to worry about Cindy! Our doctors are accredited, vetted, and up to speed.


Cindy: He’s up to speed alright.


Roger: Come on Cindy, there’s nothing to worry about. Your well-being, your freedom, and your desire are paramount with us—with me. You may look at me sitting here and see simply a faceless company—your boss, your doctor, your legal advisor, your director and manager rolled into one. But can’t you start seeing me as I stand here—a friend and benefactor? Consider our history, that’s all I ask.


Cindy: Roger, we’ve known each other for, like, 6 months.


Roger: Well, Ms. Woods Runner, in this city, that’s as good as a couple country years.


Cindy: What? I don’t . . .


Roger: Harry told me you’ve got coureur de bois ancestry. One of my own.


Cindy: What does that have to do with anything?


Roger: Well, I think it has something to do with something. [Looking at the time on his phone and then getting up] Ah shit, I have to go. Listen, Cindy. Just give this to Harry when you see him tonight and we’ll have another chat real soon, okay? [He makes to leave.]


Cindy: [weary with exasperation] Yeah . . . we’ll see. [Roger exits]






Scene 10


[The following scenes depicting Harry’s morning should be shown in quick succession.]


Auditorily, the tenth scene consists of two distinct tracks: Harry’s muttering and mumbling to himself, and the noises occurring around him. Harry’s noises are amplified above the rest, as if the audience is hearing from beside him, or from inside his head, while the rest is heard as a kind of accompaniment.


The scene is the inside of a subway train rocking back and forth as it speeds down the line, shunted from one track to another. It is one of the older cars: drab shades of orange, brown, and cream; sharp, uncomfortably white lighting which only manages to further accentuate the general dinginess; the advertisements are missing or peeling away, thick spills and stains and graffiti spread with a kind of wild vegetal excess over the floors, walls, windows, and seats. A couple of vagrants are asleep in the corners at the ends of the car. There is a woman with a stroller, a couple of construction workers on their way to a job. Harry is there, writing furiously on a notepad. Loose sheets of paper are heaped on the subway seat beside him. Harry mumbles as he writes: words discernible but clipped, discernible mostly by a sort of inner light, passing without substantial echo or reverberation. The words sound hurried and yet they are fragmented, scattered, compressed, skewed, and slowed in overall frequency by the process of writing itself.


When the scene opens, there are two young men amplifying their rather shabby musical improvisations over a loudspeaker. One of them plays a drum machine, the other blows into a jug hooked up to a synthesizer. The woman is visibly annoyed, trying to calm the baby crying in the stroller. The train soon comes to a stop as the two young men walk around seeking donations for their entertainment from the passengers. After the woman shoos them away and Erwin ignores them, they get off. Meanwhile, Harry is absorbed in writing. His gestures are erratic and seem to be a stylized exaggeration of the act of writing. Occasionally he stops and looks around into the surrounding space for a moment, looking for the next word, the word which will send a fresh stream of words flowering across the page. He mumbles the words aloud as he writes, not detached from the space but rather unconfined by it, feeling uninhibited and jogged into being by the train’s movement itself. He is writing as if in fact he were in some sort of off-kilter race with the speeding train. At some point, a pool of urine starts collecting on the seat around one of the vagrants before dripping onto the floor and down the isle of the train past all the other passengers. Harry looks down but is unconcerned, casually backing his feet away from the stream. The mother backs the stroller into the corner by a door.


A drunkard sidles up to Harry, curious as to what the hell he’s up to making these odd gestures and noises.


Drunk: Slow down, speedy Gonzalez! [Harry quickly looks up but more or less ignores him] Yo man, you’re fucking crazy. You need to slow down or I swear your arm’s going to fall off. What are you doing to your fucking neck? [He bends down close to his face] Ya goddamn fool! [Laughing as he moves away] Damn pencil-head can’t even smell the piss at his own fucking feet.


The train pulls up to a station where two Mexican men in sombreros play an upbeat mariachi song. The one plays a guitar, the other plays a drum box on which he sits. They are also accompanied by a recording of some horns played on a boom box. The woman with the stroller claps along, engaging the attention of the baby.


Timed to the above scene, Harry’s mutters the following text, which is not necessarily identical to the one he is writing:


Harry: Does . . . the . . . development of . . . an increasingly . . . efficient . . . method . . . equate to . . . honesty? “Order . . . out of . . . chaos”—the formulation . . . of this perennial . . . ambition . . . doesn’t make . . . things any . . . clearer. I, at least, . . . won’t . . . let . . . the order . . . mute the . . . chaos. And, . . . of course, . . . I won’t . . . or can’t . . . give . . . free reign to the . . . chaos . . . either. As if that . . . were . . . so simple. None of . . . these . . . exhausts . . . the whole . . . performance. They . . . simply . . . give . . . perspective . . . on what’s already in . . . motion—already before the womb! . . . Converging on the . . . round . . . womb . . . from . . . all . . . directions. T’s like . . . withdancing . . . good . . . orbad . . . doesn’t matter really . . . the questionisn’trelevent . . . atall . . . the important thingishe . . . movesall’s joints . . . at once . . . as . . . many’spossible . . . [he stops for a moment to look out the darkened window at nothing then continues writing and mumbling to himself, the words continuing to wash through the audience by a kind of inner light] . . . exactinglight . . . exacting . . . sound . . . it’sgottabeideal . . . irresistible megalomanias of contemporary life . . . suchabsolutelynecessary . . . resistance . . . to inevitablyunideal . . . circumstancesimpossible . . . idealsunrealistic . . . the point being . . . they’re nonetheless effective . . . theperfectcalls . . . never happen . . . strategize . . . againstoneself . . . edge . . . over oneself . . . firstofall . . .






Scene 11


In the classroom. There are perhaps fifteen students in attendance and as many empty chairs and desks. The students are talking among themselves rather loudly, apparently not anticipating the classroom experience. Meanwhile, Harry is seated at a desk in front of them, still writing his notes and muttering, but inaudibly under the raucous voices of the students. After a minute or two of this, in which the only clearly discernible words are various slang terms for penis and vagina, the classroom quietens down of its own accord and looks at Harry, still absorbed in writing. Harry slowly notices the change, stops writing, stands up in front of the class, and begins speaking in a quite professorial manner:


Harry: The world moves through me since before I was born. I can feel it in my limbs whether I am on the go or trying to come back toward the stillness and rest that persistently elude me, still in a restless state. My organs are at work both day and night with a monotony that I would find insufferable if I had to take a hand in it. I don’t envy the doctors for the subject matters of their knowledge and the psychological consequences I imagine such subject-matters to have on their unwitting patient-victims. Of course, my mind can conjure cartoonish moving images of the cells in my body, the organelles inside the cells, the electrochemical activities of the membranes of the organelles. These images have their origin in the printed matter of science textbooks and educational videos from my youth. I always liked those images, but they were part of the world that was not of my making, with a presence that was not left up to me to decide. I can now imagine the possibility of rebelling against those images, but I felt myself to be a part of that world, then. And I still do, now, although I’m old and experienced enough now that it’s hard to imagine that everything in the textbooks hasn’t changed since then. To tell the truth, I was always a little underwhelmed by the fixity of the cells of rats and plants we viewed under the microscope, sensing that they had been robbed of that essential spiritual element, time, which once moved through them. I knew it once moved through them as much as it moved through me, curiously turning to offer itself to be inspected, dissected, and counteracted, afterwards softly forgotten in the due order of nebulous day. Since then I have always detested the very word “formaldehyde”—a poisonous preservative bringing duration to death—conjuring a look and a smell I equate with urine and therefore with the beyond-unholy act of pissing on dead things. To preserve a thing in its dead state is only to thwart the life impulses it continues to exert on our minds even when there’s no matter left. As for the actual movements permeating those trillions of busy vessels composing the elemental principles of my own existence . . . well, haven’t I said enough to express how my mind moves by quite independent means and ways, and knows them only by the most unnatural turning about? For, earlier than those relatively more sophisticated images of which I have been speaking are the sounds to which the impressionable circuitry of my own capacities was exposed from the womb on. Relatively more sophisticated: that is only to say that the images were worked over and delimited through processes of more specific intent than the muffled sounds and streaks of light tickling the enwombed. Yes, already in the womb we learn to hearken, although perhaps these words “learn” and “hearken” are too presumptuously imposed on the embryonic unwitting: thankfully, the baggage of poets and pupils is not yet theirs. All of this runs through them with a rather organic incontinence. And I can’t believe that such organic incontinence is only a readiness to be sculpted after the fashion of the time that’s already in motion, lapping over itself. It is the physical manifestation of an early leaning toward the dynamic and fluid elements of existence, to which we certainly must add the dimensions afforded by light and air. Like fine linens, humans, too, could be analyzed in terms of their thread-counts, only, on a purely intuitive level, there are far better things to do with the threads than count them, whether the long-ingrained or those just now being woven in. So often, in our futility, we would rather try to wake the dead than live . . . [For a while, now, a student in the front has had her hand up.]


Harry: Yes, Robin?


Student: Didn’t you give us that speech yesterday?


Harry: Monday, you mean. Good! I was testing to see if you’d been paying attention. Now, would anybody like to share their response to the day’s reading with the rest of the class? [A student puts up his hand.] Thanks, Edwin. You can come to the front or just read it from your desk, if you like.


Student: [stands up from his chair but remains at his desk, clears his throat, then begins reading] “According to Aristotle, the hero in a tragedy should be as good or better of a person than the audience. This is because when the characters are better than the viewers or readers, they feel that the misfortune could happen to them. The purpose of authors using this is to induce catharsis, or purgation of emotions. A modern-day example of a movie in which good characters experience undeserved misfortunes is in the 2009 movie The Hangover. Three regular and likeable best friends planned an innocent bachelor party and were kind enough to invite Doug’s soon to be brother in law, Alan, who is troubled. What the boys thought was a kind act turned out to be a terrible idea when Alan eventually drugged them and ruined the whole bachelor party and wedding day, which led to viewers feeling pity for the characters.”


Harry: Okay, great. Are there any questions for Edwin? [All those in attendance raise their hands.]



Scene 12


Back on the train. Harry is again writing. A haggard woman in a dirty dress is standing leaned back against one of the train doors, expelling a torrent of urine onto the floor. Meanwhile, she sing’s the Lady of the Night’s aria from Die Zauberflöte. Harry pays little to no attention. He writes and mumbles to himself, although this time his mumbling can just barely be made out under the sound of the splashing torrent of piss. When Harry fills a sheet of paper, he places it on top of a pile held in place under a book on the seat beside him. When the curtain opens, he is finishing off a beer while writing. He briefly stops writing to open another bottle and takes a drink, then looks at what he’s written.


Henry: Will I ever use that? I feel like my head is in a very specific kind of space right now, a certain kind of state. Everything I say, think, and write strikes me precisely as a fair generalization, maybe just a little too obvious. I write it, it sounds true enough. But was it ever in question? And is what wasn’t in question worthy of the name, truth, and of being written down? But maybe we need this occasional question-answer lightning round of obvious truths. For punctuation. Sounds like some Buddhist shit, maybe? No idea. Can the universal be obvious, the obvious universal? I prefer the perennial—what seems to live and hence also to die but never finally goes away, never stops living and dying again, error upon error, and me. Error upon error, me upon me. We can’t always just be assuming the obvious. Merely assuming the obvious has always been dangerous. Maybe we need a poetic body for the obvious, then, a body willing to turn on its head, body swap, head swap, contract, explode? Self-lacerate? Append? A tinfoil, tape, and cardboard body for our intuitions! People have to build things and people have to produce garbage. People have to trash the things they have built. They have to build things out of the garbage they produce. Yet they don’t. They have to but they still don’t. They should! They must!


He crumples the sheet into a ball, stops, uncrumples it, puts it on top of the pile under the book.


Harry: Perhaps a bit of provocation, then. [Drinks, still thoughtfully vexed.] That is, amid my commitment to perennial themes—or . . . my being committed, like in a soft prison. [Drinks. Takes the topmost paper again and recrumples it before lighting it on fire and throwing it onto the floor of the train.] A hard prisoner in a soft sickwomb. [Pause.] Melodrama . . . we mustn’t leave melodrama to the hacks—to those who take it as a matter of dramatization, over-dramatization, as if they have to squeeze the juice out of it, rather than the neutralization of the cosmic dramas that humans are already in the middle of: mellow-drama haha. I’m getting closer . . . it’s coming closer.


A pigeon flies down the length of the train as Harry gets back to writing. Harry barely notices. The pissing soprano stops singing as the bird passes. Then she starts up again.






Scene 13


The lights remain out for this very brief scene. Harry and Cindy are having sex in bed. The erotic noises they make intermix with those of their own voices, the pissing angel fountain, and the pigeons.


Harry: Come on. I always thought the pills would help me in some way. Even when I was a kid, I wanted to take those pills. I’ll be careful. We’ll monitor the results closely. You let me know if you notice any changes, too. Oh fuck.


Cindy: Whatever. I don’t even care anymore, you little son of a bitch.


End of scene




Scenes 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18


These scenes should be played in even quicker succession than the previous four, separated only by blackouts. Before each blackout, a pigeon flies down the length of the train. Harry is on the train, but in different positions each time. He is writing. His writing speeds up from scene to scene. When he fills a page, he crumples the sheet and throws it onto a pile on the floor of the train, the position of the pile shifting each time the scene changes. The piles of crumpled note paper also grow each time. They are set on fire. In addition, it should be suggested by various means that the speed of the train increases in step with the speed of Harry’s writing until, by scene 18, it reaches a kind of critical threshold, ultimately about to run off the rails. Harry mumbles, but he cannot be heard. The sound in each scene should consist of a different genre of computer music, arranged according to their increasing tempos. The text of Harry’s writing should be projected somewhere on the inside of the train, scrolling faster and faster with the acceleration of Harry’s writing, the music, and the speeding train. In scene 18, Harry is pissing on the flaming pile, but his piss only feeds the fire, making it flare up rather than extinguishing it. However, as the flame is threatening to engulf the whole train in scene 18, the pigeon which before the blackout would normally fly freely straight down the length of the train hits Harry in the head and knocks him unconscious. The bird’s beak is lodged in Harry’s skull, the bird desperately flapping its wings without success in dislodging itself. The flames subside and the train stabilizes and slows to a normal pace, Harry’s piss simultaneously slowing to a trickle so that the pool of urine growing around him stills as well, so that only the bird flapping its wings continues the frantic pace from the previous scenes.




Harry’s text

End of Act 2

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