Bombardment, Episode 10: Orange Dust Obscures the Sun

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 10]

ARETHA: Well! I must look a horror, playing tag with death, and then tangled up with the like of you. Draw my bath. And not so hot this time! Nearly scorched my skin loose last time. Can’t have loose…. It isn’t is it? Do you see loose skin, Carmelita? Can you see my skin’s on tight?
CARMELITA: I can’t see, ma’am, that a thing has changed.
ARETHA: Relief! Change is so disquieting. Must gather oneself. So much to do, you couldn’t possibly imagine.

ARETHA tries to rise, but she’s too weak.

ARETHA: Carmelita. My legs. There’s something wrong with them. Are they supposed to bend this way? I can’t stand. Carmelita, I can’t stand! Help! Help me! I’m so. . .alone! Mr. Corno–
CARMELITA: Corno sleeps.
ARETHA: You. Of all people. Could be cruel to me.
CARMELITA: I have been taught so well.
ARETHA: You don’t under…. I can’t…trust. Everything’s a cross, double, triple-cross. Was it always thus? Why? What happened? This can’t be what we…. I don’t understand. I’m so small.

CARMELITA hesitates, helps her to her feet. ARETHA clings to her. CARMELITA brushes her hair back.

CARMELITA: Once, this face was kind.
ARETHA: Was it? I can’t…. It seems like a nice thing. To be way. But, too, it feel dangerous.
CARMELITA: Right now, face to face? This seems like danger?
ARETHA: Well, no. Of course. Yes. A little. Perhaps much. I’m getting littler, Carmelita.
CARMELITA: It’s as safe–or dangerous–as you choose to make it.

Pause, and then ARETHA melts into her. They hug, rocking back and forth, and, in a burst of exuberance, genuine joy, spin around until they trip over CORNO.

ARETHA: Corno!

ARETHA drops to her knees. As CARMELITA narrates, ARETHA reacts to her words.

CARMELITA: First is disbelief. Refusal to accept. As if doing so prohibits tragedy. “I can’t believe it.” “You must be joking.” “Tell me you’re joking.” This stage can last the rest of your life. Second is numbness. Stupefaction. Your arms are stupid. Your legs are stupid. Your toes and fingers forget how to work in concert. Your skin dries, cracks like burnt paper. Your chest shrinks, a buckskin drum rattling rice. Scent of oysters in the wind. On the horizon, orange dust obscures the sun. Third, there is anger.

ARETHA rises.

ARETHA: You did this!

[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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