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T~OUG~T OF ~T ALL

PLAY IN ONE ACT

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Synopsis

Keriman and Able are the proprietors of Kerlman

and Able’s Book Exchange. They inhabit a three-story

building: the third floor houses the living quarters;


the second floor i.s used for storage and rare books

and collections; the ground floor is the shop where

customers are greeted. After 35 years of successful

business~ Keriman and Able are two widowers in their


early sixties, who have lived together for I0 years.

Able has chronic bursitis and the gout. Keriman has

contracted cancer. Keriman has decided to end his

life by taking a capsule of the alkoloid, coniine.

Coniine is the pbisonous principle in conium americana.

The symptoms that result are general and gradual

weakening of muscular power. The power of sight is

lost, but the mind remains clear until death ensues


from gradual paralysis of the lungs~ Keriman obtains

the coniine. He also buys some tannin -- just in

case. The tannin, when combined with the coniine,

forms an insoluble salt solution. Keriman isn’t sure

he won’t change his mind about living. The tannin

antidote along with a clearing out by an emetic will,

within a half hour, reverse the effects of the


poison.

Keriman tells Able of his plan, and Able decides

to join him. The play opens a half hour after Keriman

and Able take the alkaloid capsules.


The setting is the building housing Keriman and
Able’s Book Exchange. Upstage left is a corridor and

front door leading to the street. There is a large

bookshelf upstage center filled with first editions

and the more expensive texts. Upstage right is an

archway and stairs that lead to the rare books on the

second floor. At each pillar is a curved bookcase

filled with the least expensive books. Center stage

extreme left is.a bench (see diagram). There is also

a bench downstage center. A wooden partition with a

swinging door sections off the upstage right and

upstage center areas. There is a desk with a chair,

a bench, and a table with flowers in the partitioned

area. The time is 1978 in New York City at I0 a.m.

in the morning.
Cast of Characters

Jonathan Keriman

Matthew Able

Mrs. Kenneth Ma!lory

Max Rothens

Cynthia Martlon

~lise Laven
As the curtain rises, Keriman and Able enter U. R.
Keriman. (Crossing D. C. to the bookshelf looking at
books.) The Samoan Indians died with dignity. When the time to

hearts, and wonder drugs . . .


(Able wanders D. L. -- then U. L. to the door for the mail.)
Keriman. Matthew, you don’t have to read the mail today.
Able. (Thumbing through the mail,) There may be something
urgent.
Keriman. Matthew, in five hours there will be no urgent.
Able. Five? I thought you said five and one half hours.
Keriman. Yes, Matthew. It’s i0 a.m., we took the capsule
at 9:50 -- at 3 p.m. the chemical is dissolved completely and
circulating through the blood. Now sit down and relax. (Pause°)
Death was not considered an endj it was considered the beginning
Able. (Crossing D. R. dropping the mail on the desk.)
don’t know Jonathan. Where did you put that book of poisons and
antidotes? (He looks at the bookcase.)
Keriman. (Takes a book from the shelf.) Here. (Crosses
R. to th~ refreshment counter and makes a drink.)
Able. (Reading from the book.) It will take the antidote
a half hour to counteract the poison. It’s now 10:00 -- that
only gives us four and a half hours°
Keriman. Allright, four and a half hours. (He sips the

Able. Kind of early for brandy isn’t it? I can make some
coffee. (He goes to the counter and fills the coffee m~ker with
water.)
Keriman. Matthew, time is short, in four and a half hours,

Able. Jonathan, all this waiting around is making me edgy.


Can we open the shop, anyway?
Keriman. You would like to spend your last dour and~ a ]half
hours on earth selling books? Matthew, why not relmx an~ en~oy
ourselves.

I know that sounds metaphorical but . . .

when I die? This whole business is morbdd. It isn’t

predestined robot. You ha~e the powe~ to alter your life .... ~nd
your death.

Able. Why didn’t you bring it down ~ith you?


Keriman. I didn’t need it; and you didn’t want it~ when we
came down here 20 m~nutes ago.
3
Able. Well, I want it now, just in case. I’II go up and

get it. (C~ossi~g U. L.)


Keriman. Stay here and watch the shop. I’ll fetch it.

($xlts U. R.) Just in dase.


(Able looks around for something to do, sees a book on the

desk, picks it up and goes outside the corral to place it in the

bookshelf O. L.)

CThe doorbell rings. Able finishes placing the hook. The

bell rings again. He goes to answer it. Mrs. Kenneth Mallory


enters~ She is stylishly dressed in a long skirt and coat and

boots. She is in her early

Able. Good afternoon~ my name is Matthew Able.

Mrs. Mallory. I wasn’t sure if you were open. I’m looking

for a book. Something in leather, a first edition possibly, if

it’s not too expensive. (She looks at the bookcase U.

Able. Our books range from moderate to extravagant. Whdt

is the title you are looking for?


Mrs. Nalloryo No particular title. (Grossing D. L. looks

through D. L. bookshelf.) I want it as a birthday gift for my

husband. He never likes anything I buy -- and he practically


has everything. I thought a rare book would make a nice gift

and a nice investment.

" Able. The value of a book is not measured purely in

dollars. The knowledge gained from reading cannot be measured

in monetary terms; it’s measured in experience. (~ s~iles

politely.) Doesn’t your husband have a favorite author?


Mrs. Mallory. Frankly, I don’t know what he likes to read.

He never seems to have time for it. He reads the Wall Street

Journal and Forbes, but not much else. (Slightly p~t off.)
Couldn’t I just look around?

Able. Certainly, certainly. CRealizing the tension.)


Would you like some tea, or coffee?

Mrs. Mallory. Tea would be nice. Cgro~ses D. R. to

bookcase.) Are these books expensive?

Able. CAt counter preparing the tea pot.) Actually, they

are our least expensive. Come back here and look at this shelf.

(Mrs. Mallory enters the partitioned area and begins to browse

the collection.)
Mrs. ~lallory. I should like to spend no more than $SO0.

Can’t you suggest anthing?

Able. Yes, I suggest you have a cup of tea, forget about

the book, and buy him a tie.

Mrs. Mallory. I find your sales manner most unusual. Are

you serious?

Able. Only about the tea and the tie. CHe Brings tea over
to the table.) You can’t buy a book just because of its monetary

Mrs. Mallory. CLooking annoyed.) Couldn’t you just show

me some of your items in the $S00 price range?

CKeriman appears in the archway U. R.)

Able. Do you knew, Mrs., ah . . .

Mrs. Mallory. (Clipped.) Mrs. Kenneth Mallory.

Able. Oh yes, I have heard of your husband. Involved in

high finauce, isn’t he?

Mrs. Mallory. Yes.

Able. H’m, very impressive. Do you know, Mrs. Mallory,


what Aesop meant when he said "Beware lest you lose the substance

by grasping at the shadow."?


Mrs. Mallory. Everything has a moral I suppose if you
care to find it. I try not to look for morals. They’re often
misleading.
Keriman. (WaZking toward the sheZf.) How right you are.
Now, Matthew, stop bending the young lady’s ear. Here’s a fine
collection and a fine gift. A four volume journal written by
Thomas Jefferson between the period of 1775 and I~78. K fine
piece of Americana, in excellent condition, and nicely priced at

Able. (Sitting drinking tea.~ Not a bad choice. But will


your husband appreciate Jeffersonian Democracy? By the way,
this is my partner, Jonathan Kerlman. (Keriman smiles and
bows.) Mrs. Kenneth Mallory°
Mrs. Mallory. I’d like to see the journal. ~She crosses
~o Keriman.)
Keriman. (Crossin~ to her with a volume.) A fine piece of
early American printing. It was published in 1850, and only 200
copies were made. An excellent edition, in early American type
¯ with a fine leather binding, end gold leaf lettering.
Mrs. Mallory. (Impressed with the book.) It looks very
nice. May I see the other volumes?
Able. Mrs. Mallory, do you think your husband will enjoy
reading that journal? Will a man who lives for the abstractions
of financial theory be ~nterested in the philosophy of freedom
and human rights?
Mrs. Mallory. Mr. Able, you presume to know my husband
rather well.
Able. Only, what I read in the papers. Besides, Jefferson
was a hypocrite. He advocated the equality of all men yet he
owned’human slaves. Do you know . . .
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Keriman. Matthew, Mrs. Mallory is not here to be tutored

in American history! Isn’t there something you wanted to check


on upstairs o . . ?
Mrs. Mallory. Mro Able~ are you saying my husband is
unconcerned ~¢ith human rights?
Able. Mrs. Mallory, the whole country is concerned with
human rights. President Carter has seen to that. But~ unfortunately,
most people are concerned only about their own rights, not the
rights of the society as a whole. Your husband, for example,
he heads up the municipal bond corporation. Do you believe that
corporation is worried about the human rights of the people of
New York City?
Keriman. Matthew . o . !

Able.) I’m not sure what you’re getting at, Mr. Able, perhaps
you can clarify your point.
Keriman. (Astonished.) Matthew, Mrs. Mallory is not an
old classmate who came to debate philosophy and economics.
What’s come over you . . . (Able stare~ straight ~head. Pa~se.

Mrs° Mallory. (Relaxing and suprisingly sharp.) That’s


quite allright, Mr. Kerlman, I haven’t debated since Vassar, but
I can still think and speak for myself. Go ahead, Mr. Able,
state your proposition, but I assure you, if you base your
premise on personal ~rejudices~ I’ll walk out on you.

you. I apologize for my condescending manner and rude behavior.


I’m sure your husband will enjoy and appreciate the Jefferson
~ournal. It’ll make a fine gift. (Crosses to e~it U. R.)
Mrs. Mallory. ~Mr. Able, you didn’t clarify your point.
Able. ~Gla~clng at Keriman. Pause.) Mrs. Mallory~ when
the European explorers purchased the Island of Manhattan for $24
worth of beads and trinkets~ they were able to do so because the
Indians knew nothing about real estate or capitalism. The same
thing happened when New York City went bankrupt. Mrs. Mallory,
your husband and men like him have traded a transient, devalued
dollar for a city. The city officials have sold out the people
in favor of big business. Those city bonds allowed a select few
to buy a metropolis for what will be equal in 200 years to
something like $~4 in heads and trinkets.
Mrs. Mallory~ I see. And because of this you surmise that
my husband can’t appreciate a Jeffersonian journal. Mr. Able,
your argument is filled with subjective interpretations and
unsound cause and effect relationships. To say the least, your
presentation is verbose. However, I hope you are right. I own
a sizable share of those Municipal Bonds. I’ll be glad to see
my investment grow. (Standing.) Mr. Keriman, I think I’ll take
the Jefferson Journal. (She pulls out her checkbook.) Please
deliver it.to this address.. (Pulls off %h~
Able. (Stunned.) Touche, Mrs. Mallory. You must forgive
an old man’s eccentricities. As Santayana seys: "The m~ss of
mankind is divided into two classes; the Sancho Panzas~ ~o have
a sense of reality, but no ideals, and the Don Quixotes ~ w~th a
sense for ideals but mad."
Mrs. Mallory. Goodbye, Mr. Able, it was interesting talking
to you. I’d love to t~ik to you again, when I have m~’re time.
(Able rises and ~hakes her hand.) (S~e cgos~es U. L. to ~treet

door.)
Ableo (As she is Zeaein~.) Remember, "Money, you know~
will hide many faults." Keep your eyes open. As Deiderot
says . ,

know what is meant by "Solomon made a book of proverbs; but a


book of proverbs never made a Solomon."? (Pause. She
Good afternoon gentlemen. (Sh~ e~i~s U. L.)

Keriman. Now, w~at was that all about.

Keriman. Matthew, I want you to listen to me. Let’s


close the shop and . . o
Able. That’s w~y the world is in the shape it’s in today.

morals, a book of proverbs never made Solomon . . .


Keriman. Matthew~ this isn’t exactly what I had in mind as
a calm thoughtful death experience. Now listen. All this
business about dying from alkaloid poisoning is my affair, i
don’t know why I let you talk me into letting you die with me.

and Zooks fo~ a ~g~Z~.)


Kerimano I’m talking about the way you’ve been acting.
I’m not sure if your decision to take the alkaloid wasn’t pre-
mature. After all, you don’t have cancer, I do° You didn’t
decide to die; you just decided not to live alone. Here’s the

should take it. Are you listening to me?


Able. Yes, Jonathan, yes. You have the antidote, and ~
and . . . Well anyway I was listening, no sense in repeating it
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again. You know, Jonathan, that woman opened up my eyes. She


showed me the way; not through morals but through manner. It
wasn’t what she was doing, but how she was doing it that mattered.
That’s why she is successfu!, because she leaves history to the
historians. She doesn’t worry about the resulting value judgments;
she lives in the present. It’s a D2C~IN SH~L~E people like her are
the ones who rule the world. Well they don’t rule me. I’m not
a predestined robot. As Jean Paul Sarte says, (Holding up the
book.) in The Words, "We must act out passion before we can feel
it."
Keriman. Matthew, stop rambling and listen to me. I don’t
think you should make life and death decisions at the drop of a
hat. (Pause.) Matthew, I don’t like the way you are reacting
to this whole thing. Take the antidote, re-evaluate your decision,
and let me die in peace.
Able. I was going to take the antidote before as soon as
you brought it down from upstairs~ (?ause.) only because I
thought too much (He looks a~o~n~.) about everything I was
leaving behind. But that woman opened my eyes . . .
Keriman. Matthew; you’re not making sense. This is supposed
to be a very relaxed, controlled, and pleasurable time period.
Now is the time to reflect on your past and to find peace with
your inner being. Instead you open up the shop and antagonistically
debate with the customers. I don’t think you’ll find inner
peace that way. I t~ink . . .
Able. (Hu~#.) I think you should mind your own business.
You organize your death experience; I’ll organize mine. (P~us~.)
I made my decision to take the conline, it was rational and well
i0

thought out. I’m just as sure that I want to die as you are.

You were the one who insisted on having an antidote on hand.

Why? Are you sure you’re not conveying your fears to me. Do
you know, that modern psychology has a terminology for such a

behavior pattern. It’s called transference ¯ . .

Keriman. Matthew, you are impossible. Let’s not argue.

Time is short and there’s still alot I want to talk to you

about. Let’s go upstairs, listen to some Mozart, and sip brandy.

Able. That sounds splendid. (He crosses R.) You know, I

might have went a bit far with Mrs. Mallory. I don’t know the
thought of all those scoundrels sucking the life blood . .

Keriman. Matthew, please. Start going upstairs. I’ll

close up the shop and catch up to you.

Able. (Laughing.) Giving me a headstart, eh. You know

this damn gout is my true punishment for all my decadent appetites.

(Pause.) I think I’ll take the antidote with me -- just in case.


(Keriman crosses a~d hands him the vial and the syringe.)

(Keriman crosses R. to swinging door on corral. He sees

the check from ~rs. Mallory on the desk, looks at it, looks at

are~way R., rips the check up and throws it in the ~astebasket.

He moves to the door and as he reaches th~ deer, the bell rings.)
Rothens. (Off stage.) Good morning, Mr. Keriman.

Keriman. I’m sorry, we’re closed. Could you come back

tomorrow?
Rothens~ Keriman, it’s me Rothens. What do you mean you’re
closed. I have a manuscript here I know you’ll be interested in.
Le~ me in; it won’t take more than a few minutes.
Keriman. (Op~ning %he door.) Very well, come in.
(Rothens enters. He is ~ baldlng~ middle ~ge man i~ ~
polyester suit. He is holding a briefcase.) (Holding up the
II

brief case walking past Keriman and into the corral.)


Rothens. When you see what I have here you’ll be glad you
let me in. Why are you closed? Is something wrong? (He pZaces
the brief case on the desk.)
Keriman. (Stares wide eyed.) NO, nothing is wrong. Let’s
see what you have there.
Rothens. (Opening t~e brief cas~.) It’s a handwritten
manuscript. Look at that paper. (He ~oZds up ths se~ip~.)
Look.
Kerlman. Rothens, skip the sales pitch. Exactly what do
you have and how much is it going to cost me.
Rothens. What’s you rush. Eeel this paper; they don’t
make paper like this anymore. Look at this hand printing.
(Keriman crosses~ t~kes the manuscript~ ~nd looks at it.)
Keriman. Where did you get this~ It’s beautlfu].
Rothens. I knew you’d like it. If I told you how I got
it, you wouldn’t believe me.
Keriman. (Engrossed in the manuscript.) (Sitting at
t~ble C.) ~arvelous, simply exquisite. An original 15th century
theologica! dissertation. Definitely handwritten by a Medieval
monk. Rothens, where did you get this? And tell me the truth.
Rothens. Would you believe it was hidden in a vase.
Keriman. Rothens, tell me the trath.
Rothens, No kidding; it was hidden in a vase. A family
heir loom. Two yea~s ago the vase was broken and this (He
points to the manuscript.) was found embedded in the base. The
owner had the vase fixed, and he just throws the manuscript in
his attic.
IZ

Keriman. And how did you get your hand~ on it?


Rothens. Two months ago the owner of the vaae died. Last
week they auctioned off al! the junk his family didn’t want.
The manuscript was buried in a trunk of paperback books. Can
you imagine that. (He laughs.)
Keriman. How much do you want for it?
Rothens. You’d like to buy it?
Keriman. That’s why you’re here isn’t it?
Rothens. Well, (Sitting a% table C.) I really came for
your opinion on it’s value. But if your interested . .
Kerlman. Rothens, I don’t have time to play games. What’s

Rothens. I bring you a priceless masterpiece, and you give


me the bum’s rush. What’s the matter with you? Do you h~ve a
date with destiny or something? (Able app~ar~ =t the
U. R.)
Able. (Enters without h~s jacket.) Jonathan, ..... oh hello
Rothens.
13

and pulls out a ~agnifylng glass.)


Rotbens. (Sipping his drink.) Itts probably some
existential dribble about the divinity of God.
Able. (Trdnalating.) "In the year of his majesty, Lucifer,
6666 . . . In celebration of his omnipresence and with joy at
his coming, we humbly pray in preparation for this meeting . . .,,
(Able s~ares wide eyed at Keriman ~bo looks back ~lightly

Rothens. (Shocked.) It was hidden in a vase. Are you

Able. Jonathan, this is a Satanic invocation. From the lo~ks

years old.

Keriman. (Intrigued.) Well go ahead and read on.


Rothens. Listen, maybe we shouldn’t fool around with this.
We don’t know anything about the~e spells, and I personally do

who look upon these words be blessed with the presence of the
Lord Lucifer. ~lay they welcome his spirit in their hearts and
mind, and may their souls be filled with his power. He who .
(Rotbens d~opa his glass.)

You want to buy this manuscript; it yours for


14

Able. Calm down Max. You might be interested in this next


line. "He who possesses this script carries the essence of
Satan with him." (He smi~ea at Keriman.) You have one
hellava manuscript here Max. (He hoZds o~t th~ script to
Rothens. Rothens backs off unnerved.)
Rothens. Don’t play around with my nerves, Ableo How much
will you give me for it? It’s yours. Just make me an offer.
Able. Well, the author is unknown, and I can’t determine
its exact age without a carbon test. Why don’t you find out
more about its authenticity and come back when you set a price.
Rothens. No, I don’t want to carry that damned thing
around with me. Good God, if what you read is true, I’ve been
hanging around with the devil for the past week. No wonder I’ve
been having such rotten luck -- my stocks have been dropping,
one of my tenements burnt . . . No, you hold the manuscript:

you’ve fully translated it and determine its age and origin.


Keriman. Don’t you want a receipt?
Rothens. No, I just want to get out of here. This place
feels like death is hovering in the air. The thought of it a!l
give me the creeps. I’m in no mood to meet the devil -- call me

Keriman. Superstitious fool -- Mathew, finish the translation.


I’m curious to find out exactly what it says.

"Welcome his presence and understand his philosophy. The strong


need not fear hie presence; the weak should hide their faces. Let
15

those who seek immortality find solace in the power of the Lord . . ."
(Able set motionless with a blank expression on his face.) Jonathan,
what the hell is this?
Keriman. I seem to remember a book on witchcraft and socery
that described these ceremonies. Let me see if I can find it.
mo~es U. C. to bookshelf.) These spells and invocations were used
by certain Satanic sects to conjure up evil spirits. (At ~h~
eeleeting ~ book.) Ah~ here it is. (Thumbing through the texts.)
Able. (Dropping the manuscript.) Where’s the antidote!
Keriman. (Lau~hin~o) Matthew, you’re beautiful. You have the
antidote; I gave it to you before when you went upstairs.
Able. (His hand on his he~d.) Oh! Good God, I left it
upstairs.
Kerlman. Natthew, stop it! Listen to this. The Satanic
invocation was first used . ,
Able. Devils . o . Demons . . . Jonathan} What time is it?
How much time before the effects of the poison are irreversible?
Do you think . . . ?
Keriman. Matthew, please one question at a time. It’s 12:30.
We took the alkoloid 6apsule at 9:30; the poison causes death in
five hours; and the antidote requires a half hour to counteract the
alkoloid, We have two hours before our decision to die is irreversible.
What’s the matter? This manuscript isn’t scaring you is it? Do
you exactly think . . , ?
16

Able. Cslightly disoriented.) Which question should I answer

first?

Keriman. lhe second one.

Able. COffended. showing his bravado.) I’m not afraid of

spirits -- good or evil. Didn’t Christ descend into hell before

his resurrection. Besides, all this CHe indicates the manuscript.)


mumbo jumbo is only words; and words effect the living, not the

dead. As Aeschylus says, "Pain lays not it’s touch upon a corpse."
Keriman. Great rationalization. CPause.) According to this

text, when one wonted to invoke an evil spirit, a circle was made

to protect the devotee. CHe eircle~ the table.) Then the devil’s

disciple prepared himself by praying to the Satanic deity. Finally,

a Latin chant is recited.

Able. Like this. CNeadlng from the text.) Come oh Lord


Lucifer into our hearts. We have readied our souls for the power

of darkness.
Kerinan. ~’Unet does that mean?

Able. Come oh Lord Lucifer into our hearts. We have ready

o~r souls for your power of darkness.

Keriman. After the chant, the spirit would materialize --

usually in human form, but sometimes in the form of a grotesque

beast. This author warns that the uninitiated should not perform
this type of ceremony. He says it is dangerous. Does the manu-

script say anything else?

Able. Not much . ~Translatin~.) Lord of Darkness

dispel the Lord of Light, Lord of Darkness, true god, show us the

way, Lord of Darkness send us an antichrist . . Just these

beatitudes. Hey, wait a minute. What’s this?


17

Keriman. (Who is engrossed in the text.) What’s what?


Able. There’s a page here that seems to have been aided on.
It’s not on the same paper, and the style of Latin used is slightly
different, Latin scholars, you know, have very individualistic
and distinctive writing styles.
Keriman. Skip the semantic analysis and finish the translation.
Able. Okay! Okay! Hmm . o . It’s an apology.

nods hi~ head.) it seems the author was a French monk. (~


translates.) In dominum annum, 666, at Versailles . . . let God
the Father, the Lord Christ and the IIoly Spirit have mere}~ cn my
soul. May the Lord God forgive my sins and indiscretions~ 5:ay
the Almighty realize the possession of my soul by the forces of

read this script. May the Lord God in his compassion couz~:teract
the evil forces this invocation invokes. May ..... (f£~
Zgghts ~o out and thunder is heard as a flash of light fills
18

(Violin music is heard as a strobe light flickers at a high

frequency. A shaft of red light, projected from below illuminates

Cynthia Martlon’s face. Lights go back to normal as the mueic

stops°)
Martlon. (Big smile.) Hi!

(Able gasps in horror as he clutches his chest and breathes

heavily° Keriman drops the bottle and glass he has been holding

in his hands.)
Able. (Pause.) Who are you? And how did you do that?

Martlon. My name? (she laughs.) Oh, -- call me Cynthia.

Cynthia Martlon. And I didn’t do anything; you performed the

invocation.

Keriman. Invocation?

Martlon, Yes~ Brother Henri’s, It’s one of the finest ever


penned. In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret; I wrote most

of it myself. I tried to inspire the fool, but he had no talent

for metaphysics. So instead, I wrote up a classy spell and tried

to com~nunicate it to him through telepathy. You think he appreciates

ii, No, the gutless mortal goes crying to God that he’s been

possessed by the devil.


Able. Listen, young lady, I don’t know who you are or how

you got here but . .

Martlon. Open your eyes and your ears, old man. I just told

yOU.

Keriman. (Stun~.~d and ~nsteadg on his feet.) Only God knows


how you just did that. It must be an illusion . . a weird

practical joke. Who sent you here, miss? Rothens? Did ~lax

Rothens put you up to this?


19

Martlon. (Sitting to the ~eft of Able.) (Able jumps out of


his seat and stands next to Keriman.) (Amused.) Actually, I sent
Rothens to you. (She pull~ out a stash bag and readies a line of
cocaine.) One of the pleasures I always enjoy when I materialize
in human form. (she snorts the llne.) Good coke. (She offers a

but all there°

your joke a success and have the decency to leave. This shop is
closed.
Nartlon. (Walking outside the corral as she looks the place
over.) This shop is closed all right. You’re on your way to
eternity. In about two hours, there will be no closed, Matthew.
Keriman sad Able. (Simultaneously.) Who are you?

know you’ve never had a death experience before -- but I’m not
here to mother you.
Keriman. What is going on? (He wanders to D. C.) I took
the poison at 9:50; it’s (He looks at his watch.) one o’clock.
¯ (Long pause.) Maybe the poison has already taken e£fect . . .,
maybe I’m hallucinating all this . . The Tibetan Book of the
Dead mentions the wrathful visions that occur at death. That girl
2O

Martlon. (RolZing a joint.) He’s right, Keriman. You are

not hallucinating; yeu’re perceiving what is actually happening.

You just refuse to accept it.

Keriman. (He looks at Martlen then gestures to Matthew to

come to him.) It’s probably hypnosis. Rothens probably hired a

hypnotist to play this joke on us.

Able. Either that or we’re already dead and this is the last

judgment.

Martlnn. Gentlemen, you are not dead, and I am not an

illusion. Like I said before, that spell is an excellent one --

affords me a nice visit with you mortals. You know~ having a body

has its faults; but it has its good points. (She puffs the jdint.)

Keriman. Are you saying you are an evil spirit we’ve invoked

through this manuscript. (Martlon rises ~nd browse~ the bookshelf

U. C.)

Martlon. Well, there’s finally an echo in here. I’ve said

that twice in the pest 15 minutes. Wow, a first-folio edition of

Macbeth (She t~rn8 ~nd smile~.) -- great play.


21

Able. Jonathan, where is the antidote. The thought of all

this is maddening. I don’t want to die with the devil.


Martlon. You boys are beautiful. The antidote is upstairs.

Go and get it if you want. (Able moa~s toward U. R. arch.) Let

me warn you though; your heartbeat has accelerated to the danger


point, and the stress of your running up those steps will induce a

coronary. You’ll die before you reach the antidote. (Able freezes.)

(Martlon looking fondly at the te=t.) Ah, Shakespeare. "Pair is

foul, and foul is fair, hover through the fog and filthy air."

Able. (Looking at Martlon, then the arch. He is indecisive.)

Jonathan, what are we going to do?

Keriman. (Regaining hie oamp~re.) Matthew, don’t be

ridiculous. Your own superstitions are all you have to fear. If

you want the antidote, go up and get it. (Able do~e not moo~.)

(Pa~e.) Allright, I’ll go. (H~ h~ads for the arch.)

Able. Jonathan, no, don’t leave me here alone!


Keriman. (Perplexed.) Well, then you go.

Able. (Takes one step and ~tops.) No!

Kerlman. Well, that doesn’t leave us much choice. (He turns


t~ Martlon.) Listen, young lady, yeu’l~ have to leave.

Martlon. (Look~ at Keriman th~n Able.) (Pa~se.) (She sit~.)

No way. You invited me here; I’m staying.


Able. You get out of here . . . (Able g~Ss ~i~ c~et and

moans. Keriman grab8 him and dlree~ him to the chair C.)

~artlon. You mQrtals are so emotional° (She goes to counter

and fills a glas~ of water, handing th~ water to Keriman.) I’m

glad I didn’t materialize as a satyr; he p~obably would have died

on the spot.
Keriman. Listen, miss, this has gone far enough. If Matthew

dies because of your tomfoolery, you’ll be held responsible.


Martlon. Don’t make me laugh, Keriman. Your friend will be

dead in an hour and a half. You ingested poison this morning,

Keriman. Oh, my god, what’s happening. CH~ Zoosene Able’s

Martlon. He’ll be all right -- for now. His heartbeat is

s!owing. He’ll die from the poison, not from a heart attack.

Keriman. Matthew, are you okay?

Able. CCatching his breath.) I’m all right . . . ~here am

Keriman. You’re in the shop. Are you sure you’re all

right?

Able. Am I dead?
Keriman. Matthew, snap out of it. This whole thin~ is

roaring out of control.

Keriman. How do you knew?

Martlon. You presumptuous old man. This is what I ~et for

respect for your superiors~ old man.

came to escort our souls to hell.

Martlon. That’s almost accurate, Keriman. I*m he~ because

I know the future~ and I have a chance to affect its o~t:ome.


Able. Jonathan, what is she talking about?
23

Martlon. I’m talking about your suicide attempt, Mr. Able.

Able, Jonathan, d~d you . . . How do you know that?

Martlon. The next one of you that makes that inquiry is

going to be turned you into a toad.

Keriman. (MochingZy.) Excuse me, your majesty. Matthew, we

seem to have conjured up not just an evil spirit -- but the devil

himself. ~Po Martlon.) You are the devil.

Martlon. You’re threading on thin ice, Keriman. You are

correct; I’m the head honcho.

Able. What does she want?

Martlon. i want your soul, Matthew.


Able. Jonathan, this is too much. Do something; get her out

of here°

Keriman~ What do you suggest? I throw her out bodily?


(Martlon laughs.)

Able. (Bluffing) Call the police!


Martlon. Listen, old men, don’t make me put on a show of

force. (Keriman moves toward the pkon~.) All right. ~She points

~t t~e phone.)

(The lights flash off, then on. A busy signal is heard, then

the phone ringing, then assorted phone noises followed by all

the zounds together.)

(Keriman stares wide-eyed at the phone.)

Able. (Holding his hands to hiz ears.) Stop it! Please . .

stop it!

Martlon. S~re. (She points again.) Now do yo~ believe . .

"Oh ye of little faith." (She snickersl)

Able. Yes, yes, I believe. (He falls to his knees.) Please

leave us be. Please let me get the antidote.


24

Martlono Oh get the hell up, Able, and stop sniveling


like a baby. (Able looks up embarrassed.)
Able. Jonathan, I don’t want to die; I don’t want to die.
Keriman~ (H~lpin~ him to his feet.) Take it easy, Matthew.
I’ll go fetch the antidote. It’s only two o’clock; you have
plenty of time to counteract the poison. {H~ star~ ~t Ma~tlon
read~ to squ~re off if she attempts to ~top him.)
Martlon. Go ahead. No one’s stepping you. It’ll give me
a chance to talk to Matthew. (To Kerlman.) You are already mine.
I still have an hour to change his mind.
Able. (Backs aw~ D. L, out of the corral.) Hurry, Jonathan,
hurry.
Keriman. Hold on Matthew; I’ll be right back° ~verything is
going to be all right. (He Zooks ~t Martlon, pauses~ then ~xits
U. R.)
25

Able. Why don’t you leave and let us be?

Martlon. Matthew my boy, you are formulating some unsound

conclusions. Come, sit down and talk to me. I’m not going to

eat you.

Ableo Stay away from me!


Martlon. You silly old man. You’re afraid of dying~ aren’t

you?
Able. I’m not dying.
Martlon. You can’t keep that body forever. You’ll have to
let go of it sooner or later.
Able. (P~us~.) Well, it will have to be later. I’m taking
the antidote as soon as Jonathan brings it down.
Martlon. Well, of course it’s your decision; but as Delderot
says, "What has not been examined impartially, has not been well
examined." Don’t let your fears run your life.
Able. You mean my death, don’t you.
Martlon. Matthew, there’s no reason to fear me. After you
have an opportunity to learn more about me, I’m sure you’ll change
your mind.
Able. Change my mind about what?
Martlon. About spending eternity with me.
Able. I’m not going to hell.
Martlon. Who said you were.
Able. You are the devil, aren’t you?
Martlon. Well,~I’ve been called that, but it’s not an
accurate description.

Please stop talking in circles. Who are you?


26

Martlon. YOU think it’s easy trying to communicate with you

mortals. It’s like trying to explain a computer to an ant.


Able. (Looks up confused.) (Long Pause.) Ob, I wish

Jonathan would hurry up.

Martlon. He’ll be down in a minute; relax. Let’s finish

our little talk.

Able. Why, are you going to explain the nature of reality


to the ant?

Martlon. I like you, Matthew. Let me put it this way. As

one anonymous writer once said, "You cannot realize the depths of

the human heart, nor find out whet n man is thinking; how do you

expect to search out God, who made all these things; and find out

his mind or comprehend his thoughts?" (Pa~se.) Come die with


meg and you’ll possess all the knowledge man has accumulated;

after a while, you’ll be ready to become a god.

Able. You aren’t God.

Martlon. Matthew, as Samuel Butler said, "God without the


devil is dead, being alone."

Keriman. (E=*~i=g U. R.) Matthew, I can’t find the anti-

dote. Are you sure you left it upstairs.


Able. (Rising and crossing to U. R.) Oh God no, we have to

find it. (He s~arches in his pockets.)

Keriman. Matthew, calm down. Now think. Where did you

last place the antidote.


27

antidote before Rothens came in. I went upstairs, put on some

Mozart . . . Then I came down . . . (He ~e=rehes hi~ pocket

again.) Jonathan~ the antidote has to be upstairs. It has to

be!
Martlon. You don’t need any antidote, Able. There’s

nothing wrong.

Able. Leave me alone!!! (Martl~n 21=rzs.~ Please?

Keriman. Don’t mind her, Matthew. Try and think. Where


did you put the antidote when I gave it to you?

Able. (Pa~sz.) (Chgldlike.) In my jacket pocket. Then

Keriman. Matthew~ you’re not wearing your jacket, and I


don’t remember seeing it upstairs.

Able. That’s right; I took my jacke~ off~

Kerlman. Well that is where the antidote is -- in your

jacket. Where did you p.lace your coat?

Able. (P~ee.) I hung it up.


Keriman. What?

Able. I was going to try to convince you to ta~e the mntl-

dote.

Keriman. Matthew, you’re not making sense.


Martlon. Why don’t you two give up. ~ think you’re t~rning
senile. (She laughs.)
Able. I thought I would subtly ch£nge your m~nd abou~ the
suicide, and . .
28

Keriman. ~latthew, where is your jacket?


Able. (Sheepishly.) Upstairs in the closet.
Keriman. Well we’re back to square one.
Able. Jonathan, please let’s take the antidote.
Keriman. Matthew, this is ridiculous. All I wanted was
to die peacefully. Instead I feel as if I’m in the middle of a
three-ring circus. Leave me alone. If you want the antidote,
go and get it. (H~ alts.)
Able, Come with me~ Jonathan. You don’t want to die.
Keriman. (Angry.) Matthew~ go and get the antidote if you
need it and let me die in peace.
Able. Jonathan . ~ .
Keriman. Matthew, time is short. ~t’s already 1:30. In
an hour the antidote won’t do you any good. You’d better hurry.
Martlon. Go ahead, Able. Fetch your salvation.
Able. (Looks at Martlon.) Jonathan, I’m going for the
antidote.
Keriman." Then go.
Able. I’ll be right back; don’t leave.
Keriman. I’m not going anywhere. ~He walks ovsr to the
counter and pours ~ drink,)

Able. (Exiting U. R.) I’II be right back~ (Keriman waves


hi~ hand as = d~missal.)
Martlon. (As she descends the ladder.) Boy~ what a spine-
less mammal. How ~o you stand him?
Keriman. (Sitt~n~ lookin~ at the manuacript.) Why don’t you
go away.
29

Martlon. Now, now, Keriman don’t get uppity. You had


better keep a civil tongue in your head -- while you have one
that is.
Keriman. Excuse me, your highness.
Martlon. Don’t be facetious, old man.
Keriman. I can afford to be. In an hour, I’ll be dead;
and I don’t have to deal with a!l this.
Martloh. You think consciousness ends with death?
Keriman. (Sipping his drink.) Yes.
blartlon. You’re pretty confident for a mortal. Don’t you
have any superstitions about death.
Keriman. (Off handed.) As Tyndall says, "Superstition
may be defined as constructive religion which has grown
incongruous with intelligence." I’m not a religious person. (He

goes and closes the front door.)


Nartlon. "It’s easy to be brave from a safe distance."
Keriman. Aesop said that, didn’t he.
Martlon. I guess so. (Sh8 wand~ms to ~able C.) There
are no truly original thoughts you know. Why aren’t you afraid
to die.
Keriman. "Death holds no horrors. It is simply the ultimate
horror of life."
Martlono (Playfully.) Jean Giradorex in the Enchanted,
right?
Keriman. (Smiling.) Right.
Martlono I see. You don’t fear death; you fear life.
Keriman. I don’t fear life. My life has been fulfilling;
it’s just time for it to end°
5O

Martlon. And who told you it was time to die.


Keriman. No one had to tell me. I have a free will. I
make my own evaluations.
Martlon. You’re good god material, Keriman. I’m going to
enjoy your company.
Kerlman. You aren’t God.
Martlon. Another one. CShe shakes her head.) (Pa~se.)
Keriman, "God is but a word invented to explain the world."
Keriman. Kant.
Martlon. No, Nietzehe.
(Able enters U. R. holding out the vlal and
Able. Jonathan, here’s the antidote; let’s take it.
Keriman. Matthew~ I’m in no mood for a debate. For the
last time, I do not need or want the antidote.
Able. (Looks ~% Martlon.) What has she done to you?
Keriman. Oh, God, why do I feel I’m talking to myself.
(Able crosses to C. table, s~ts, and pgace~ t~e vi~g and
on the table.)
Able. (Rolling up his sleeve.) Jonathan, come to your
senses o
Keriman. Matthew, in less than an hour I’ll 5e leaving my
senses behind. (He sips the drink.)
Able. (Applying the aloohol.) Are you sure this will work?
(He injects the liquid.)
Keriman. Yes, ~atthew I’m sure it will work.
Martlon. I knew he would chicken out.
Keriman. Listen, why don’t both of you leave me to die
in peace.
(Elise Laven appears out of nowhere. Martlon sees her

Martlon. Well, hello. I’ve been waiting for you. (Able


turns, sees L~ven and jump~ out of the chair.)
Keriman. (Shaking his head.) Oh no . . . another one.
(To Nartlon.) Who is this, Beelzebub?
Laven. Not quite, Keriman. I’m from the other side of
the coin. For now, my name is Laven. B~ise Laven. (She picks

Martlon. You boys are quite fortunate. Today you are


blessed with the presence of the great preserver. Boys, meet
the Holy Spirit.
Able. The Holy Spirit. What is going on?
Martlon. Listen closely, Matthew, because I’ll say it only
once. Brother Henri’s invocation not only . . .
Keriman. (Standing.) Now I know I was right . . . None
Of this is happening; it’s all a figment of my imagination . . .
I’m going to die with the devil and the Holy Spirit . . . (He

Laven. Jonathan, stop this nonsense and take the antidote.


Martlon. Why don’t you leave him alone. He can make his
own decisions.
Laven. Listen, Lucifer, don’t pretend your concerned with
the souls of these men.
Martlon. Man, -- Able has already taken the antidote and
don’t get snotty you little brat. Where .did you get that body
anyway. A little pubescent girl, how corny.
Laven. You old witch. You’re were always jealous of

innocence.

Able. I think I’m going to get sick.

Keriman. Oh, I wish I would die.

Martlon. You will o . . in a~out 30 minutes.

Able. Jonathan . o . (He grab~ his ~tom~eh


33
~Keriman r~shes to Able a~d e~corts him to ~h~ bench.~

Martlon. That man is more trouble than he is worth.


Laven. (Going to Able.) Now you are showing your true

colors.

Martlon. Why don~t you go inseminate a virgin.

Keriman. Just relax, Matthew. The antidote has probably

taken affect; you’ll be alright in a few minutes.

Laven. He’s right~ Matthew, just lie still for a while.

Martlon. Oh don’~ bother with him. Keriman, be careful


Little Elise is here to save your soul.

Keriman. Why don’t you two leave. There’s nothing here


for you.

Laven. You’re here, Jonathan. Tell me, why do you want


to die?

Martlon. I told you, Keriman.

Keriman. ~7~ Martlon.~ My dying is no affair of

yours. ~Martlon

Laven. But it is, Jonathan. God is concerned about all

¯ of man.
Keriman. Nell if you are God, your are omniscient and
know why I choose to die now. If you are really concerned, you’ll

dematerialize and leave me in peace.

Laven. Jonathan, don’t you believe in me?

N~riman. I believe in what is real. You aren’t real;

you’re just an illusion of a little girl.

Martlon. I to~d you that body was unbelievable.

Keriman. Not that it matters, but I’m curious. Ho~ did


you get here? The door was locked.
Laven. I wish you would stop interfering. (Martian
I came throngh the walls. (To Martlono)
Keriman. That figures -- you came through tile walls.

Martlon. Why don’t you tell him the truth. Tell him why
you’re really here. That’s one of the commandments, isn’t it?
"Thou shall not bear false witness."
Keriman. (To Laven.) Yes, that wouZd nice. Tell me the
truth.
Laven. Jonathan, time is short. Why don’t you just trust
me. Take the antidote.

lt’s happening.
Martlon. Easy, Jonathan. Just relax and let the coniine
run its course. (To Laven,) Well, tell him why you’re here.
Laven. I’m here because it is God’s will.

Keriman. My vision is blurred. Everything is do dark . .


I feel so cold.
~artlon. That’s a symptom from the poison, Keriman. Just

/avon. (Going to Keriman’s side.) Jonathan, listen.


going to administer the antidote. There’s still time. You want
the antidote, don’t you?
~|artlon. (Grablng the vlal.) Oh no you’re not. That would
be cheating. (St~pping cn the vial.)
35

Keriman. (Faintly.) "0oe sbould die p~’oudly when it is

no longer possible . . . to live proudly." (He looks up and

smiles.) Nietzcke.
Martlon. That’s it, Kerlmaa, stick to your guns. Would

you like to know why we are here? Sure you would. (She glares

at Laven.) You and Able were a test case. The Almighty wanted
to see the effect of good and evll on 1978 man. That’s why we

are here. Not because of you personally, but because of what you

represent -- modern man.

~ntidote; redeem your soul.

Kerlman. No~ No! I did it. It was my &ecision. I need


no redemption . . . The~e is~ ~o sin , . . just fear Of living

your life the way you want to.

your own good.

do any good now. The only thing that will sav~ him is a

Laven. I have strict orders not to perform any miracles.

He was supposed to do it himself,

Martlon. Well, you still have Able. One out of two


isn’t bad.
Keriman. (Rambling,) I’m going . . I’m leaving my body
behind . . I’m not afraid . . . It’s the thought of it all
that causes fear . . . It’s the thought of it ai~ . . . (H~ ~£e~.)
Laven. Jonathan . . . Jonathan!!!
36

Laven. Why did you break the vial? He might have changed

knew he hates to lose.


Martlon. Oh, you’ll think of something. If I know you,

you’ll probably blame it on me.

Laven. (SmillnH.) That’s not a bad idea.

corral,) These bodies are something e~se. Legs, what a way to

travel. Are you coming?


Martlon. ~Smiles.) Might as well. (S~e ualks out of the

Martlon. Oh yeah, mind if I tag along?

Laven. If you promise to behave yourself.

(She laughs.)

Able. Jonathan . . (He feels his pulse.) Jonathan . .

Oh, Jonathan (He lifts Kerlman’s lids.) ~!ay God have mercy on

your soul. (He crosses himself then Goes to the phon~ ~nd dials,)
Hello, St. Elizabeth’s IIospital . . . could you send an

ambulance to 1710 East 78th -- Keriman and Able’s Book Exchange.

That’s right . . . there’s been a terrible accident . . . yes .

a man has been poisoned . o . yes, it was conilne. Yes (~’h¢

~gh~s fads ~o da~k.) about five hours ago.

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