Tag Archives: bombs

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]


Thinking About "Bombardment"

In 1991, at the start of the first Gulf war and in a terrible fury, I sat down and began work on “Bombardment.” I wanted to write something that would examine the divide-and-conquer “cultural war” politics going on at the time, where the powerful and wealthy played upon the predjudices of the poor to frighten them into acting against their own interests, as well as the real war in the Middle East, which I could barely beleive was truly happening. At the same time, I also wanted to capture the feeling of history rolling irresistably over all of us, no matter what our status was.

On the other hand, I didn’t want to write some beat-them-over-the-head message play; I was much more interested in how these things made me feel and, in turn, made the characters feel. So I ended up placing these half-archetypical/half-realistic, wounded, suffering people in this sort of dreamscape, where a battle ensued between masters and servants, played out both in terms of power through status and sexual domination.

In terms of action, the play goes like this….

Corno, a sort of wounded king/strongman, has been cast from his home by Arethea, his queen/wife, because he has been caught being sexually indiscreet with Arethea’s maidservant, Carmelita. As Corno plots to recover his position, Althea seduces Placid, Corno’s hit man/fixer, to plan to murder Corno. By the end of the first act, one learns that Carmelita and Placid have planned a double-cross all along and murder Corno and Althea, assuming their power.

In the second Act, Carmelita’s personality begins to disintigrate as power begins to paralyze her, and when she tries to break Placid from the cycle of power, betrayal, and fall, Placid’s paranoia takes over, and in fear, he implores the ghosts of Corno and Althea to return to resume their power and protect him. The play ends with Corno, Arethea, Carmelita, and Placid physically entangled in a web in which none of them can break free.

As The Clash wrote: anger can be power. Bombardment went on to be nominated as a Finalist for the Oregon Book Award.

So why does the play haunt me now? Are we back to where we were? Do we have to set the Middle East aflame every time a Bush gets in office? Santayana famously said those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it, but it seems all of us, in thrall to those who cannot remember the past or refuse to heed its lessons, are doomed to see these savage kabuki dramas endlessly repeated.

At the time, I wondered if the ending of Bombardment was too pessimistic. Now I’m afraid I got it exactly right.

Paul Tibbets died today. He was 92. He was the commander of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It was reported he had no regrets and slept well at night.