Bombardment, Episode 8: Terms and Conditions

Splattworks continues its presentation of Bombardment, a two-act drama by Steve Patterson. The author will attempt to post an installment each day, but, if events intercede, installments may occur a day or so apart. So please be patient.

[EPISODE 8]

CARMELITA: Exposed to unrelenting cold, the body’s spring unwinds. Heat slips from the head and limbs to maintain the essential machinery of the torso. Fingers and toes freeze first, so solid they can be snapped like dry twigs. Hold them over an open fire, they cook. That’s why rescue teams work with the safest source of heat they carry: their own bodies.

ARETHA moans.

CARMELITA: They strip naked and lie with their stricken companions until the warmth passes from one body to the other, forming a reciprocal circuit. Life ensnaring life. Reeling it back. A wet kite, drawn home on a fraying thread.

ARETHA cries in pain and begins coughing. CARMELITA shifts so she cradles her. Above, a star field appears.

CARMELITA: Feel the air, sharp, filled with glass? I tried to warn you.

ARETHA coughs hard, coming to consciousness as CARMELITA rocks her.

ARETHA: It’s so cold.
CARMELITA: Not now.
ARETHA: I can’t feel my limbs.
CARMELITA: Then feel mine.
ARETHA: I’m floating.
CARMELITA: We call that life.
ARETHA: There are pinwheels. Sparklers.
CARMELITA: Good blood from our hearts.
ARETHA: Weight. Heaviness.
CARMELITA: Terms and conditions.
ARETHA: Who are you?

CARMELITA becomes subservient. She sits up, concealing herself with the coat. The stars fade.

CARMELITA: Just the maid, ma’am.
ARETHA: Speak up.
CARMELITA: The maid, ma’am. Your lady in waiting.
ARETHA: What are you doing in my bed?
CARMELITA: The phone ma’am–I shut the phone off. I didn’t want you disturbed.
ARETHA: I requested this?
CARMELITA: You asked for sleep.
ARETHA: So you took the initiative, on your own, to remove the phone from its cradle. Genius. Suppose the call came? Suppose Corno called, asking for…for…needing help. Needing coffee? Pipe tobacco? You know what it means, should he run out of pipe tobacco? What could happen? Driven from the castle. Lost in the storm. Tracked by assassins, some maniac with a tire iron. Enemies hide everywhere. In the faces of children. The whispers of innocents.
CARMELITA: Ma’am…you were so…tired.
ARETHA: You presume!
CARMELITA: Dead tired. You must remember.
ARETHA: Of course, I…. I need not remember every little thing. That’s we have staff. Report!
CARMELITA: Mr. Corno, gone, as you say. Gone in the cold. And you unable to sleep, unable to rest. All the household hears you pace. We try not to listen, but your heels ripple like drums.
ARETHA: You were…concerned? For me?
CARMELITA: All were! The butler chews his nails. The footman paces. The cook sniffles. Trying to hide it, he blames the onions. And me, most of all! That’s why. . ..
ARETHA: Why? (ARETHA touches CARMELITA’s lips.) You love me. Oh. Carmelita.
CARMELITA: The red capsules. I took them from the medicine cabinet.

[To be continued]

About Steve Patterson

Steve Patterson has written over 50 plays, with works staged in Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Austin, Tampa, and other U.S. cities as well as in Canada and New Zealand. His works include: Waiting on Sean Flynn, Next of Kin, Farmhouse, Malaria, Shelter, Altered States of America, The Continuing Adventures of Mr. Grandamnus, Bluer Than Midnight, Bombardment, Dead of Winter, and Delusion of Darkness. In 2006, his bittersweet Lost Wavelengths was a mainstage selection at Portland Center Stage's JAW/West festival, and, in 2008, won the Oregon Book Award (he also was an OBA finalist in 1992 and 2002). In 1997, he won the inaugural Portland Civic Theatre Guild Fellowship for his play Turquoise and Obsidian. View all posts by Steve Patterson

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