Tag Archives: grief

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]


ghosts

You can’t shake ’em. Sometimes, it seems like everything belongs to the past. Recedes into sepia. And you begin to count how many people who shaped you have disappeared. How do you go forward? What should you do with the time ahead? Should you move on or cling and cherish? Can you do both? Living in the present with a head full of shadows, as though cast by drifting smoke.

I think of my parents’ generation who lived through that godawful war, so much…unbelievable…loss, yet they carried on. That sadness though, it clung to the plastic and pastel and finned cars and sweet music. Like the black line thrown by a flashbulb, just a fraction behind, and somewhere in the eyes of old photographs lies a hidden darkness.

It takes a lifetime to recognize it. And then–ha! surprise!–it’s too late to say: I understand. I get it.

And you wouldn’t anyway. You’d just know. Because that’s the way they got through it. You’d just sit quietly, joke, talk about the weather.

There’ll be blue birds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Tomorrow, just you wait and see


The Things We Do

I did a strange thing this weekend.

As a preface, back around 2000, I wrote a play called “Altered States of America,” which was both a comic and serious look at America’s love/hate relationship with drugs, and, I suppose, with my own inclination for getting out this crowded, cluttered head once in awhile (a passion in my younger years that caused me a little trouble and provided a ton of pleassure).

I dedicated the play to Hunter S. Thompson, Warren Zevon, and Ken Kesey, and, within two years of its 2003 production, they were all dead. I sent a copy to Warren when he was literally on his deathbed. I sent copies to Thompson and to Kesey’s widow. I never expected replies, never sought them. I just did what I thought was right, to pay a debt for inspiration and for bad advice that often turned out well. It was a damned good show, great cast, some moments of beauty, others of (I think) sharp satire–at least some laughs. The production got decent reviews, but it was scheduled at the wrong time of year, the ticket prices were too high, and audiences were low. I’d go home each night after every show, sit on the back porch, and play “Wild Horses” over and over until I could go to sleep.

There’s been a lot of talk about Hunter lately. A couple books have come out, and factions are lining up between them, literary battles breaking out. In other words: he’s still riling people up. But I had these unsettled, deeply personal, and unresolved feelings regarding the guy; so, as I think a kind of exorcism, I made a movie.

It’s very simple, just some photos of Hunter off the net that warp and change in time to Pearl Jam’s “Man of the Hour.” It ends with “In Memoriam” then fades to black. It’s clunky and crudely done. I can’t do anything with it: I don’t own any of the rights to the photographs or the music. I wouldn’t want to do anything with it. It’s something for me. I made it, and I watched it, and I let loose a little bit of what had been floating in my head.

It was, in short, a personal endeavor, and this is as public as it will ever be.

S