Bombardment, Episode 12: Worst Hangover of Your Life

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 12]

ARETHA: You struck me!
CARMELITA grabs her hair and twists.

CARMELITA: Kneel! You want to stop the planes?
ARETHA: Yes!

CARMELITA: You really want to stop the planes? Or just want to save your ass?
ARETHA: You’re hurting me!

CARMELITA drops to her knees in front of ARETHA. She grabs both sides of her head.

CARMELITA: Shut up.
ARETHA: I can’t with–
CARMELITA: Shut or die.

ARETHA gasps.

CARMELITA: Empty your head.
ARETHA: How?
CARMELITA: It’s been empty all your life. The only thing in there has been shoved inside, and you don’t need it.

CARMELITA clamps her hand over ARETHA’s mouth. She moves her face close. During her monologue, the noise of the planes slowly fades as bits of paper, glitter, and rose petals descend, or lights simulate a similar effect.

CARMELITA: Empty it. Close it down. Let the power ebb, the wheels slow. Gears grind. Stop. Ringing fades. Heat goes from metal. Ice blooms on factory windows. Snow falls. White flakes. Huge flakes. Circle in the wind. Flakes upon your face, eyes. Watch flakes descend. Are they falling? Maybe you’re rising. Blown here, blown there. Blown across the sky. You’re falling and falling, one of millions, and you can’t touch down.

ARETHA grows calm. CARMELITA takes her hand from ARETHA’s mouth. The lights have become more naturalistic. All is silent.

ARETHA: Where are we?
CARMELITA: The real world.

CORNO moans, doubles over, and coughs. ARETHA goes to him. He’s alive, but cannot speak. ARETHA helps him up, begins walking him around. PLACID stirs, groans, pulls himself up on all fours. CARMELITA helps him into an armchair.

CARMELITA: How you feel?
PLACID: Worst hangover of my life.

ARETHA and CORNO face one another. They caress one another, movements mirrored. They embrace. PLACID puts his hand on CARMELITA’s. She picks up her apron and slips it around ARETHA. Puts PLACID’s hat on CORNO. No response from ARETHA or CORNO. CARMELITA draws a pistol from her coat pocket. She shoots ARETHA and CORNO, killing them. PLACID crosses to CORNO. He takes a roll of bills from CORNO’s pocket and begins counting them as CARMELITA watches. The sound of planes returns, rising and cresting. Lights/sound abruptly.

End of Act I.

[To be continued]

Bombardment, Episode 11: Mirrors with Beveled Edges

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 11]

CARMELITA: No, ma’am.
ARETHA: Yes, you did! Don’t argue with me! You killed him!

ARETHA begins striking CARMELITA.

ARETHA: Unfaithful bitch! I let you in, but you’re treacherous! All of you! Let you into my home, my life! Rescued you from dirt, disease, rivers rotting with corpses! Gave you a room! Gave you pink wallpaper with curlicues, white enamel vanity, mirrors with beveled edges! Perfumes, powders, oils! What do you give me? How do you pay me back?

ARETHA grabs CARMELITA’s coat.

ARETHA: Give me this! My coat! From my animals! My skins! Without me, you wouldn’t know which arm goes where!

In trying to escape the blows, CARMELITA lets ARETHA have the coat. ARETHA catches her by the throat. Forces her to her knees.

ARETHA: This is ours! We give you a little! Pacify you! Your peace, our profit! But don’t think we can’t take it away! If we don’t get back what we put in! We’ll just give it to another! Fresh meat! A body that hasn’t learned to think!

ARETHA throws her on stage. Grabs the tire iron.

ARETHA: Spoiled trifle. Put your eye to the keyhole. Seen what you couldn’t imagine, but now you want. Once that germ takes hold, you can’t be trusted, you or your whole fucking people, and you ought to be wiped from the planet!

ARETHA raises tire iron to strike. Deafening sound of planes, screaming in.

The sound paralyzes ARETHA. CARMELITA crawls away, grabbing her coat and wrapping herself.

ARETHA: They’re coming! God, they’re coming back! What are we going to do? Don’t you hear them? Once they let the bombs loose, they fall everywhere. They don’t just fall on me. They fall on everyone. They fall on everything.
CARMELITA: There’s nothing you can do.
ARETHA: No! Before I took you in, you survived!
CARMELITA: Lie down. The shrapnel might go over your head. Everything else has.
ARETHA: I rescued you. From dirt, disease. Rotting bodies floating in the river. Pink wallpaper with curlicue patterns. Table. Desk. Perfumes. Powders. I rescued you? Or did someone rescue me? Someone took my hand. But what happened–

CARMELITA backhands ARETHA.

CARMELITA: Kneel.

[To be continued]

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]

Bombardment, Episode 9: Oozing and Open

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 9]

ARETHA: You what?
CARMELITA: You were so unhappy! So weary! To help, to ease your suffering, I…put them in your brandy, Aretha.
ARETHA: Do not speak my name!

Slaps CARMELITA hard.

CARMELITA: As you wish. Ma’am.
ARETHA: My question. You are here. In my bed. Now. Barely dressed. Explain this.
CARMELITA: Yes. After the…in the. . .night. You try to sleep, your eyes closed. Your head side-to-side. Your breath fitful. All you can do is call Corno. Mr. Corno. Come home. Finally, sleep descends, easing round the castle. Servants sigh. Dab their eyes. Prepare their own beds. Then the cook says, the phone! If the phone rings! So we run to your room, and your head is thrown back, your mouth is open, your skin is blue! Behind your eyelids, your eyes flicked back and forth! Panicked. Searching. Dreaming. She’s dreaming, says the cook! She’s dreaming of Mr. Corno! She’s chasing him in her dreams! Chasing after love! Quiet her, Carmelita. Quiet her before her heart bursts. How do I do this? What do I do? The servants, they grab me. They pull from me my uniform. Force me into bed. Beside you. I say this is wrong! I am soiled! But you are cold! Frozen cold! The touch–my touch–does something. Warms you. Calms you. Quiets you. Your breath turns to fuchsia. Your spirit to green. Stars return. Here. At this intersection of dream and desire. Your sweat blending with mine. Our tears. Our breath. For a moment…peace.
ARETHA: I see. How very creative of you. But I know. Why you’re here. Who you wait for. You exploit my confidence, poison me with your drink and medicines, and your perfect tales of selflessness. Then have the gall to wait, an orchid, oozing and open, for him. Blooming beside my rapidly cooling corpse.
CARMELITA: No, ma’am. I would never–
ARETHA: You already have. Remove your oily stench from my bed. And conceal your hideousness. At once.

CARMELITA rises.

CARMELITA: As you command, ma’am.

[To be continued]

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]

Bombardment, Episode 2

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 2]

ARETHA: Is this is how you want me to be? Or is this how you want to be? I can be anything required. Rich. Beautiful. Bathed in seals’ milk. Sipping the blood of a freshly slain virgin from a Midori martini glass. My breath scented with opium. Underarms of honeysuckle. A kiss that can lift you to Valhalla, a whimper that can drop you to Siberia. Able to have anyone and anything. . .but you. (ARETHA sits.) My God. What I wouldn’t do for a knife to carve the features from my face. I won’t lecture you on the burdens of nobility. Any disadvantages we experience are more than compensated. Despite our pretensions, we understand this, particularly those who have experienced vicissitudes in attaining one’s position. In exchange, all I relinquish is control of my appearance, speech, public behavior. Otherwise, I am free. Further, in compensation I am granted control of all behavioral codes within these walls, this world. Not just for the footmen, serving maids, culinary technicians, but for all whose adherence to the rules insures the seamless, untroubled continuation of our. . .. Ones’ servants do not lay hands upon ones’ person! Not without invitation! And, in exchange, one lays ones’ hands upon ones’ servants with utmost discretion. One does not whisper in thy servants ear at table! One does not surreptitiously tease thy servant’s thigh with spouse so close as to hear thy servant’s breath quicken! One does not corrupt thy servant in the boudoir of thy wife! He had to be disciplined! Do not think I do not suffer for this decision! His very absence emphasizes the nature of his violation! The thought of his hands upon her skin cooks the very eyes within my skull! He betrays his place! My station! The very boundaries of reality have been violated! My double, carved of the same hard fruit. We cannot fit swelling to hollow with others. Not with the same exquisite perfection, flesh to flesh, soul to soul. But if he cannot be brought to rein, and all cannot be set as it was, I will sacrifice him! Not in vengeance, o sweet, sweet drug. For order. Stability. Such as he taught me.

PLACID enters. Carries a bag. Sets down the bag and opens it.
PLACID: But I do the sacrificing? Right?
ARETHA: On my order.
PLACID: Yeah, but chopping him, opening him up. I get to do that?
ARETHA: If I didn’t want him dead, I wouldn’t pay you. If I didn’t pay, you wouldn’t do it.
PLACID: Babe, I do it for you. For your love. Your love is my money. Your lips my municipal bonds.
ARETHA: Body. It’s either cost or commodity. Do your job. You’ll be compensated. Understand the nature of the transaction. What matters is Corno’s fate. Not yours. Death matters. When he’s dead, he’ll know what love means.
PLACID: It’ll look like love backed right over him. Repeatedly.

[To be continued]

Closing in on the Target


As I announced a couple days ago, Splattworks, over the next few weeks, will be serializing my drama Bombardment in bite-sized installments. It’s not an entirely new idea: Dickens serialized many of his novels before publishing them as the books we know today. Technology now allows me to do the same—amazingly—all around the world. Because I know you’re out there, in L.A. and Savannah and Hong Kong and Jordan and Brisbane and Berlin and….

Why this play now? The last decade has been so turbulent, terrible, and sometimes downright bizarre, that it’s come to feel like one, long, unbroken disaster, where one never knows when or where the next airstrike’s coming in. Every day makes history; some days are just bigger and more unsettling than others. Lately, they all have been.

It also feels like we’re coming up on one of those decisive moments, where we can pull up at the last minute or disappear into darkness, where the disparity between rich and poor has grown so great that society’s seams are splintering. Not just in the United States, where I live, but everywhere. The planet itself seems to be shaking and baking itself to pieces. The future, to me, has never felt so unknowable. The times, it seems, have caught up with Bombardment. So I hope readers find something in the piece that they can keep for themselves, even if it’s just an image or a line here and there.

To me, the play still seems a wild child. With time and experience, I can see a younger writer trying to find his way. Like a musician coming to competence, he has to try a little bit of everything and work through his influences. So there’s some Beckett here, along with some Ionesco and Albee, a touch of Brecht, and whole hell of a lot of Shepard, particularly in those epic monologues. I was still learning to let characters talk to each other.

If nothing else, I hope Bombardment’s a diverting read. I’m just happy to take a breath and let it off the reins. Maybe something interesting will happen. Or maybe it’ll just run over the top of the hill, and never be seen again. Putting it out there feels a little…edgy. Exciting. Kind of like an opening night. And that’s what theatre…and all art…should be about.

One more bit of business, and then the play should begin on Saturday. Thanks.

[To be continued]

Blame it on Radiohead


Kris Kristofferson used to do a song called “Blame it on the Stones,” back when moms and dads worried about the Rolling Stones destroying Western Civilization™ and running off with their daughters. All that trouble and mess and uncomfortable dinner conversation, it was all because of some damned artists.

That was some time ago; so, to stay a little more current, we’ll go with Radiohead to blame pointlessly, even though they’re more likely to discuss Western Civilization™ in depth over a nice cup of Earl Grey.

They have been a bit…subversive, however, in launching their last couple albums. The gorgeous In Rainbows was offered on a pay-what-you-will basis through their Website www.radiohead.com. The recent lush, wonderfully strange King of Limbs sells similarly through the Web, for a straight-up $6.00 U.S., and, shortly after release, the band threw in a couple extra songs (which, refreshingly, are very good).

So. In the spirit of skipping the middleman and gatekeepers, and going straight to the people who matter–the audience, I’m serializing one of my plays, a full-length drama in its entirety, right here on Splattworks. For free.

I’ll be presenting further details over the next few days, but here’s the news:

Splattworks will publish sequential excepts from my somewhat experimental, very dark, and brutally surreal drama BOMBARDMENT, an Oregon Book Award Finalist. (Above is a production still from the 1991 world premiere.)

Why that play released at this time will be explained. Paraphrasing a better-known playwright, also writing about one of his plays, there actually is a method to the madness…if a little madness to the method.

But, for now…blame it on Radiohead. Or, as Radiohead might say, blame it on the Black Star…which is where this play definitely lives. On that, more tomorrow.

[To be continued]

Good Way to Start a Morning


So I sit down with my coffee, and the paper’s already been opened to the Performance section of the Portland Oregonian’s Arts & Entertainment section, and there’s “Next of Kin” with a #1 pick on the Performance “High Five” list for shows to pick out.

Now that’s a way to start the day.

Given that they gave Chris’s show “Fishing for My Father” a pick last week, my batting average has been running pretty good.

Another show tonight and tomorrow night. I’m digging this.