Professor Theodore Goetz
Small Korean Woman
Young Theodore Goetz
Young Theodore’s Papa
Professor Goetz’s office – Dawn.
Goetz is still slumped in his seat. The Korean woman is still sitting like a statue. The conductor comes onto the stage and conducts the invisible orchestra. Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony, 4th movement begins. It is loud and bombastic – contradicting the image of our two players sitting still and unmoving. After 3-4 minutes, the music abruptly stops and the conductor walks off.
Just then there is a projection of a young boy eating food at a small table. It slowly fades in as Goetz sits motionless in his chair. The boy is eating rather quickly, and after some furious chewing, he pushes the plate away.
BOY: I’m done!
Just then the man from earlier comes into view. Although now he wearing a face mask and a fedora hat.
MAN: Good boy. You ate it all up. Poppa is so proud of you.
MAN: Yes, son?
BOY: I know I’m not supposed to ask, but when are you going to take your mask off?
The man’s body language changes slightly.
MAN: I’ve told you. Papa can’t take his mask off. The sight of my face would disturb you.
BOY: I’m older now, papa. I’m not scared.
MAN: It doesn’t matter how old you are. The fear will always be with you. You are a fearful child.
BOY: Papa. Show me.
The man actually contemplates this.
MAN: Son. If I take it off, will you promise not to be afraid?
BOY: I promise.
The man takes off his hat. He is missing clumps of hair from his head. Then he slowly removes his mask. His face looks grotesque – like a skull covered in melting wax. The boy is frozen, and is trying not to show fear.
MAN: You are afraid. I can smell you.
BOY: No I am not Papa!
MAN: Yes you are. Give me your arm.
BOY: Why papa?
MAN: Give me your arm, boy.
The boy tentatively extends his arm toward the man. The man lowers his head down and without warning bites a huge chunk of skin off the boy’s arm. The man chews on the skin and the boy screams, running away. The projection fades out.
Goetz rises from his seat and walks towards the Korean woman.
GOETZ: Excuse me.
He moves behind her and tears the garbage bag off the window, exposing the window and allowing the early morning light to enter the room.
GOETZ: (to the woman – snickering to himself) Sleep well?
Just then there’s a knock on the door. It is Matthew again.
GOETZ: Come in, Matthew.
Matthew enters and closes the door behind him. He stands at the door though, as if he does not want to cross a threshold.
MATTHEW: Professor. I wanted to apologize for the things I said last night.
Goetz hands him a cup of coffee.
MATTHEW: So I’m here. And I apologize.
GOETZ: Matthew, come closer. I promise I won’t hurt you.
MATTHEW: I’d prefer to stay over here if you don’t mind.
GOETZ: Matthew. Please. You know me. I-I may not always act like myself these days, but I’m still me. I’m not a violent person, you know that.
MATTHEW: You never were.
GOETZ: And I’m still not. Come on.
Matthew takes a few steps into the room. He suddenly notices the Korean woman.
MATTHEW: Um, Professor?
GOETZ: Yes, Matthew.
MATTHEW: Who’s that?
GOETZ: (snickering) Huh? Oh her! That’s my Korean woman.
MATTHEW: Your Korean woman?
GOETZ: Yes! Isn’t she wonderful?
MATTHEW: (to the woman) Pardon me, ma’am.
GOETZ: Oh don’t do that.
MATTHEW: Don’t do what?
GOETZ: She can’t hear you. Or, she can hear you and chooses not to. She’s a miserable cunt. Starting to remind me of Elizabeth.
MATTHEW: (not taking eyes of the woman) Why won’t she respond?
GOETZ: (laughing maniacally) Fuck if I know! Women, right?!
MATTHEW: Would you like me to leave you two alone?
GOETZ: Matthew. She’s a fucking statue.
MATTHEW: Wait, she is? She looks so real.
GOETZ: No no no, she is real. But…she’s frozen. Or something. I don’t know.
MATTHEW: This is very odd.
GOETZ: Fuck yes, it is.
Matthew walks over to the woman tentatively.
MATTHEW: Ma’am? Can you hear me?
GOETZ: That doesn’t work, Matthew.
MATTHEW: Sir I think she may have had a stroke.
MATTHEW: I’ve heard about this. They’re rare cases but I’ve heard of people stroking out and going into a kind of locked position. Almost like a statue.
GOETZ: Should I – Should we call a doctor?
MATTHEW: I think we should.
Goetz reaches for his phone.
MATTHEW: No need to call anyone. The police are right outside.
Matthew starts towards the door, and opens it. Goetz races over the door himself and slams it shut, standing in Matthew’s path.
GOETZ: (maniacal grin) You almost got me there Matthew. That was pretty fucking smart.
MATTHEW: Almost got what? This woman needs medical attention. Stand aside, Professor.
GOETZ: You had me all the way up to that last moment. I almost forgot about this whole thing. I even went to pick up my phone.
MATTHEW: Professor this is no trick, please get out of the way.
GOETZ: I will do no such thing, Matthew. You think you can just nonchalantly call the police in here? They’re not coming in here, and I am not going out there.
MATTHEW: But, Professor…
GOETZ: The note, Matthew.
MATTHEW: Excuse me?
GOETZ: Where is the note. I would like you to give me back the note.
MATTHEW: I don’t have the note anymore. The police have it.
GOETZ: Fuck right, they do. I don’t believe you.
Goetz begins to pace slowly, but confidently. He keeps his eye on Matthew.
GOETZ: Matthew you said last night…that you are not a liar.
MATTHEW: Yes. I did say that.
GOETZ: And that is true.
GOETZ: You are not a liar.
GOETZ: Because, when you DO lie, I can spot it ten thousand miles away.
Matthew starts to look nervous.
GOETZ: The police don’t have my note. You have my note. I can see it spray painted and neon-signed all over your fucking face.
GOETZ: The fucking note, Matthew.
Matthew looks defeated. He takes a small slip of yellow paper out of his jacket pocket and hands it back to the Professor. Goetz rips it up into many pieces, and throws them up into the air like confetti.
GOETZ: (to no one in particular) Mardi Gras!
MATTHEW: I made a copy of it.
GOETZ: I don’t care, Matthew.
MATTHEW: I want to go there. I want to see if the answer is there.
Goetz begins to laugh. Then he cuts his laughter abruptly short.
GOETZ: It’s not.
MATTHEW: So why did you write about it in the first place?
GOETZ: Why did I write about it in the first place? You’re asking why I wrote that Taco Bueno holds the secret to the universe?
MATTHEW: Not the universe. The resurrections.
GOETZ: You’re asking me why I wrote that the mexican fast food chain Taco Bueno holds the secret to the resurrections?
Goetz approaches Matthew.
GOETZ: You wanna know why I wrote you that note?! Because I’m a fucking looney tune, Matthew!
Goetz briskly walks over to the object in the corner of the room. He tears away the towel to reveal a plastic cactus wearing sunglasses and holding a guitar.
GOETZ: Because I’ve spent the last three months of my life communicating with a plastic fucking cactus!
GOETZ: You know they always say you’re only crazy if you don’t realize you’re the craziest one in the room?!
GOETZ: Well I’m so crazy, I KNOW I’m the craziest one in the room! I wake up every day and say to myself ‘hmm, what fucked up, batshit thing am I gonna do today?’ It’s like being trapped in a fucking cage! It’s a nightmare!
Goetz is half laughing at this.
GOETZ: So pardon me, Matthew, if I find the notion that you’re taking me just the least bit seriously…a fucking riot.
Matthew turns and exits the room, slamming the door behind him.
Goetz turns back to the cactus.
GOETZ: There. You happy now?!
Just then the Korean woman rises and exits the room as well. Goetz is left speechless for a moment because he was not expecting this. He is alone in the room once again. He meanders over to the coffeemaker and pours himself a cup. He sips it slowly.
The conductor enters and begins to conduct the invisible orchestra again. Tchaikovsky’s 4th symphony is coming to a close. We hear the remaining two-three minutes of bombastic music. When the final note is played, the conductor walks off stage. Goetz is left alone.
Professor Theodore Goetz
Small Korean Woman
Young Theodore Goetz
Young Theodore’s Papa
Dr. Goetz’s office. Night.
Goetz is slumped in his chair, still in his bathrobe. He is fast asleep. The room is exactly the same except there is a small Korean woman sitting by the window. She is in her mid-70s, and sits sternly staring at nothing.
The conductor walks out onto the center of the stage and once again uses his baton to conduct an invisible orchestra. Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony, 2nd movement begins to play. It is a pastoral and contemplative piece, and it matches the lull of the evening.
Goetz is startled awake. He takes a moment to get his bearings and slowly rises. He makes his way to the coffeemaker and pours himself a cup of coffee. He sips it and begins to pick objects and books up from the floor, cleaning up a bit. He turns to pick up something by the woman and sees her for the first time.
He backs away, startled.
GOETZ: Who the FUCK are you?!
She does not acknowledge him.
GOETZ: Hello? Hello? Can I help you?? How did you get in here??
Goetz looks towards the door, as if expecting to see it open. But it is closed. The window is still covered by the garbage bag. Goetz is flustered by this new turn of events. He takes a moment to get his bearings.
GOETZ: Listen. If you’re here as some weirdo sympathy bait to get me out of here, they got a lot of nerve!
He says the last part of this statement louder and staring out towards the door, as if someone outside could hear him.
GOETZ: And it’s NOT gonna work. I feel no sympathy for you, or your people, or for anyone right now in particular!
She continues to sit like a statue.
Goetz approaches her tentatively.
He waves his hand in front of her face. Snaps his fingers in her eyes. She doesn’t blink or move.
GOETZ: Ok this is weird.
He backs away and begins to pace, trying to figure out what is going on. He’s talking to people he believes are right outside the door.
GOETZ: Ok so you might…you might not have gotten my sympathy but you sure as hell are giving me the willies!
Goetz stops and stares at the woman. He gathers inner strength and approaches her more assuredly now.
GOETZ: Madame, can you please wake up?!
He shakes her. First gently, then getting more violent.
GOETZ: Madame! Madame! COCK-a-doodle-doo madame!!!
Goetz gives up and paces some more.
GOETZ: What the hell IS this? Are you playing mind games with me??
Goetz stops and looks over at the object in the corner, covered with a towel.
GOETZ: Oh. It’s you. It’s you, isn’t it.
Goetz approaches the object.
GOETZ: Isn’t it?!
GOETZ: You’re behind this. Of course it’s you. You miserable fuck. You’re trying to drive me insane. You’re trying to mindfuck me, aren’t you!!
GOETZ: She’s an hallucination, isn’t she!! She’s not really here.
He runs over to the lady and gets right in her face.
GOETZ: You’re not reaalllly heeeeeeere…. Oh shit yes you are!
He backs away. Something on the woman smells. He turns back to the object under the towel.
GOETZ: Get her out of here! I mean it! Tell her to leave!
GOETZ: Fuck you!
Giving up, Goetz wanders back to his chair and slumps down in it.
GOETZ: (to woman) So. What brings you here?
Goetz chuckles to himself. The chuckle turns to full on laughter. Pretty soon he is having a laughing fit. His laughing fit dies slowly and he puts his head back, staring up at the ceiling.
GOETZ: I wasn’t always like this, you know.
GOETZ: I used to…be preeminent in my field. You know what preeminent means?
GOETZ: I was fucking famous.
GOETZ: I won an award.
He points over at a shelf with cobwebs on it.
GOETZ: The Manfred Lautenshluggen – Lautenschlaggen – shit. Hahah. Fuck it. It’s got a facacta name. It’s an award that has a name that takes too long to say.
GOETZ: It’s an award for Theological Promise. Theological Promise. Apparently I showed promise. Who knew!
GOETZ: You want to know the truth?
GOETZ: That award was like a fucking noose. Tightening. Every year. Every year I didn’t live up to that promise. I’d come in here and look at it and want to throw it across the fucking room.
GOETZ: There was a boy in here before. His name was Matthew Raford. This boy idolized me. I was like…like a fucking rock star to him.
GOETZ: And I blew it. I blew it right in front of his eyes.
GOETZ: But…even before I blew it…before my life went to shit…I never felt…like I deserved any of it. That award. I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t show promise. I – I was just an asshole kid trying to get his doctorate.
GOETZ: But Matthew.
GOETZ: Matthew is the true golden boy. He’s like if Robert Redford and Matt Damon shitted out a perfect baby.
GOETZ: He’s genuine. And he’s kind. He’s decent. He’s honest. He has faith. He believes in people and he believes in the goodness of a higher power. He’s everything you want in a student.
GOETZ: I fucking love him. He’s amazing.
GOETZ: And I’ve let him down.
GOETZ: I blew it.
Goetz slumps further in his chair.
The conductor comes out and stands at center stage. He conducts the last two-three minutes of Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony, 3rd Movement. The pastoral music comes to a slow end, and the conductor walks off.
Professor Theodore Goetz
Small Korean Woman
Young Theodore Goetz
Young Theodore’s Papa
Professor Goetz’s office. Evening.
Professor Goetz is sitting quietly in his bathrobe. He is at his desk. He slowly sips a cup of coffee and looks almost absent-mindedly at some papers on his desk. His desk and his whole office are a complete mess. There are stacks of papers everywhere. The windows are covered with black garbage bags. There’s a fine layer of dust on everything. There is an object in the corner of the room, sitting on a shelf. It is covered with a towel.
A man in a tuxedo enters from stage right, and walks to the middle of the stage. He takes out a baton, and begins to conduct an invisible orchestra.
Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony, First Movement begins to play. It’s first few minutes are loud and brash. There is almost a crack of thunder in the music. It contrasts oddly with Professor Goetz, who sits still as a statue in his chair, slumped. The light changes in the office according to the change in the music. Different colored lights illuminate various sections of the office.
As the music is blasting, Goetz rises from his chair and moves over slowly to the other side of the office and pours coffee from a coffeemaker sitting on a cluttered countertop. He sips it slowly.
He makes his way back to his desk chair and sits down, picking up a newspaper and leafing through it methodically. The music comes to an abrupt stop, almost midway through a note, and the conductor walks off stage, leaving Goetz alone.
Suddenly his cell phone rings. He ignores it for two rings. Then he lowers the paper and picks up the phone, swiping to answer.
GOETZ: (impatiently) Yes. I’m fine. I’m on campus.
GOETZ: Is that all?
GOETZ: You can’t be…
GOETZ: Tell that miserable cunt I am in my bathrobe because I cannot get inside my own house. Can you tell her that please?
GOETZ: I just told you. Please stop asking me that.
GOETZ: Thank you.
He hangs up, tossing the phone angrily on top of his desk.
GOETZ: (under his breath) Fucking cunt.
He sits back in his chair, staring up at the ceiling. Just then a projection appears behind him by the coffeemaker. It is a scene in daylight, that appears to have taken place in the same office. Goetz the projection is dressed in a full suit and tie, pouring himself a cup of coffee, reading a paper. This Goetz looks almost like a different person. He seems well groomed and well rested. Suddenly the Goetz projection looks up, over at the real Goetz in the chair. A sadness overcomes the Goetz projection. He folds the paper up and walks over to the real Goetz, sitting down on top of him. The Goetz projection slowly disappears and we are left with the real Goetz, alone again.
Suddenly there is a faint and weak knock on the door. Goetz doesn’t respond. The knock is a little stronger the second time.
GOETZ: Away with you!
The voice from the other side is a college student named Matthew Raford.
GOETZ: Matthew. Begone!
GOETZ: Oh for god’s sake.
Goetz rises and angrily stomps over to the door. He opens it quickly. Matthew is soaking wet. He is a clean-cut, attractive boy. A young Robert Redford-type.
GOETZ: Matthew. I am very tired. I would like to be left alone.
MATTHEW: Um, I’m afraid I can’t do that professor. I’ve got orders.
Goetz takes this in for a moment.
GOETZ: You’ve got orders.
MATTHEW: Yes sir. I-I’ve been told to speak with you. To make you come out.
Goetz allows him to enter.
GOETZ: You are wet, Matthew.
MATTHEW: Yes, sir. That is correct.
GOETZ: I didn’t know it was raining.
MATTHEW: Yes, sir. It is. Raining, I mean.
Goetz slumps back in his chair.
GOETZ: Ok what’s wrong.
GOETZ: With you. What’s wrong. You’re acting fucking tweaky. Th-This is not you. What is up?
MATTHEW: Sir, I don’t know if I’m supposed to tell you.
GOETZ: Matthew I will find out one way or the other, whatever it is you’re hiding. Please spill it now.
MATTHEW: It’s about the note.
GOETZ: Oh jesus.
MATTHEW: It’s been seen.
Goetz rises, begins to pace around the room.
MATTHEW: It’s been read.
GOETZ: (muffled) That was for you.
GOETZ: (yelling) That was for you! That was only for you! Not for anyone else!
MATTHEW: I know you’re upset.
GOETZ: (increasingly anxious) Ohhhhh…Fuck me!
MATTHEW: It’s been in front of quite a few eyes now sir, I’m afraid.
GOETZ: How many.
GOETZ: How many eyes? How many eyes has it been in front of?
MATTHEW: Oh, uh –
Matthew pauses to count, using his fingers.
MATTHEW: Uh, about eight I would say. Including your own. And mine own. MY own, I mean.
GOETZ: That was meant for one person only.
MATTHEW: Yes sir, I am aware of that. Um.
Matthew looks back awkwardly at the door. Once, then a second time. Goetz stops pacing and observes this.
MATTHEW: Yes sir.
GOETZ: What the fuck are you doing.
MATTHEW: I think there’s something else you need to know as well, sir.
Goetz moves around the room again anxiously.
MATTHEW: There are two policemen stationed down the hall, and there’s a squad waiting out in the parking lot.
Goetz suddenly stops. He keeps himself very still.
GOETZ: Matthew. Listen to me very carefully. I need you to go out into the hallway, and politely ask for the officers’ names.
MATTHEW: The officers’ names? Their names?
GOETZ: Their names. Out in the hallway. Politely.
MATTHEW: How shall I – ? What should I do? How can I ask them?
GOETZ: You approach them gently and politely ask to see their identifications. They cannot refuse that request.
MATTHEW: That’s actually not true, sir.
GOETZ: Excuse me.
MATTHEW: I believe it varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but I can recall reading that a police officer is not required to present ID if there is a concern for safety.
GOETZ: Matthew. Do you believe I am a concern for safety?
MATTHEW: I’m just telling you what I’ve read sir.
GOETZ: I need to know their names.
Goetz approaches Matthew and gets very close to him.
GOETZ: Matthew. What did I tell you last night?
GOETZ: Everything is connected. Say it, Matthew.
MATTHEW: Everything is connected.
GOETZ: Exactly. Everything means everything. If their names are Fagbutt and Silverstein, it will mean something different than if their names are Sheppard and Schmidhole!
MATTHEW: What exactly…would it mean?
GOETZ: (emotional) I don’t know! Nobody knows! Nobody knows anything!
Goetz wanders off, pacing for a moment and then slumps down in his chair. Matthew exits the room. The conductor re-enters from stage right and stands at center stage. He begins to conduct the invisible orchestra as they continue playing Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony. After a minute or two, Matthew reenters and walks over to the slumped Goetz, placing a jacket over him. He then walks over to the coffeemaker and pours himself a cup. The music once again stops mid-note, and the Conductor walks off stage right. Matthew is staring at the object covered by the towel in the far corner of the room.
MATTHEW: It’s still here.
GOETZ: Don’t talk about it please.
Goetz blows his nose.
GOETZ: (drained of energy) So. What did you find on your research expedition. Were you correct about me. Am I a concern for safety.
MATTHEW: Their names were Sheppard and Schmidhole.
Goetz lowers his head again, but this time he is laughing. Uncontrollably.
MATTHEW: (irritated) You’ll forgive me if I don’t join you.
GOETZ: This miserable existence.
Matthew turns away, in frustration.
GOETZ: Excuse me?
GOETZ: (smug) Do I detect a hint of irritation in my young protege?
MATTHEW: Why won’t you go home, sir.
GOETZ: I can go home whenever I want, Matthew.
MATTHEW: (sheepishly, looking down) Um. I don’t think that’s true.
GOETZ: (exploding) Fuck that cunt!
MATTHEW: Hey! Wha- What’s wrong with you? What happened? This – this is not you. You don’t say things like that.
GOETZ: You’ve asked me that already. You’ve been asking me that.
MATTHEW: And I’ll keep asking it until I get an answer.
Goetz folds into himself, staring at his coffee.
GOETZ: Matthew did I ever tell you about Anton Rubinstein?
MATTHEW: (impatient) No.
GOETZ: Rubinstein was a Russian composer, in the late 19th century. He wrote one of my all time favorite operas, The Demon. He was a man between two worlds. He was born a Jew, later was forced by his father to convert to Russian Orthodoxy.
Goetz waits for a reaction.
MATTHEW: (impatient) Yes?
GOETZ: What does that remind you of?
MATTHEW: I don’t know.
GOETZ: It’s me. It should remind you of me.
MATTHEW: You weren’t forced to convert to anything, sir.
GOETZ: No. But I was born between faiths, Matthew. Rubinstein used to say… “The Russians call me German, the Germans call me Russian. The Jews call me a Christian, and the Christians call me a Jew. Pianists call me a composer, and the composers call me a pianist. My conclusion is that I am neither fish nor fowl – a pitiful individual.”
MATTHEW: That’s a rather negative view of things.
GOETZ: It is how I feel, Matthew. I read about this man and I say…my god that’s me! I even look like him! Look!
Goetz picks up a book that has been left opened on the floor. He shoves it in Matthew’s face.
MATTHEW: Looks more like Jack White.
GOETZ: Excuse me?
MATTHEW: The guy from the White Stripes.
GOETZ: This man lived a pitiful existence. He was caught between worlds.
MATTHEW: But that’s just not you, sir. You- You have a home here, at the university. People respect and admire you. You’ve carved an existence here, and that should stand for something.
GOETZ: (almost jubilant) But it’s allll gone now, isn’t it.
Matthew looks away.
GOETZ: I have nothing.
MATTHEW: I don’t believe that. People are trying to help you. I’m here. The Dean is outside with the squad.
GOETZ: Fuckin pig.
MATTHEW: That’s – That’s just it. You’ve changed. You never used to talk like that. It’s almost-it’s almost like you’re possessed or something. Like the fucking Exorcist.
Goetz begins to laugh.
GOETZ: I wonder if that’s on Netflix.
Matthew slams the coffee cup down in exasperation.
MATTHEW: You know how many people you’ve hurt in the last three months? You know how many people whose lives have been ruined? That c-word: your wife. She loved you.
GOETZ: (laughing) She’s locked me out, good sir.
MATTHEW: Because you tried to kill her. Jesus Christ, Professor, you do remember you tried to kill her, right?
GOETZ: She’s a fucking liar.
MATTHEW: Am I a liar Professor? Would I lie? You know I’m not a liar. And I’ve seen some pretty fucked up shit happen in this office lately. I saw you carve up that poor dog last week.
GOETZ: Oh you don’t know what you saw. It was a fucking deer, a tiny deer. I brought it into my office to show it off and it was still alive. So I had to stab it. I told you all of this.
MATTHEW: I don’t know what it was. But it was fucking weird. You’re not supposed to bring dead animals into the building.
GOETZ: Are you listening? I said it wasn’t dead! It got up and ran around the room! I had to stab it with my bowie knife. Look, you can still see the dried blood on the floor.
Goetz points to a spot behind Matthew, who backs away in disgust.
MATTHEW: (backing away) But your wife, Professor. Why did you try to stab your wife?
GOETZ: She didn’t understand me. You’re the only person that has understood anything I’ve said over the last few months. That is why I wrote that note for you! For you only!
MATTHEW: (fighting back tears) I understood you Professor because I loved you. And I accepted you. I didn’t know what was happening with you but I knew that you were a strong and sane man, and whatever this was wouldn’t get the best of you. But now- now-
GOETZ: (getting up, moving towards Matthew) Now – what, Matthew? Now – what?
MATTHEW: (backing away nervously) Now – now –
GOETZ: Say it Matthew! Say it!
MATTHEW: I think whatever this was… has now become you! I can’t tell you apart anymore!
GOETZ: You miserable little fuck!
Matthew screams and runs out, slamming the door behind him.
Goetz wanders for a minute, getting his bearings in the room. He moves over to the window and tears back some of the garbage bag over the window, looking out. As he stands there, a projection of a young boy rides past on a tricycle. An older man runs after him. The boy comes back the other direction and the tricycle flips over, causing the boy to fall face first. The boy begins to cry.
BOY: Papa! Papa!
The man runs over and helps him up. He sits him down on the ground.
MAN: There there. Papa’s here. You had an accident. Let me see it. Oh, it will get black and blue. But that’s alright.
MAN: Yes, boy?
BOY: What does it mean black and blue?
MAN: (chuckling) That’s just when your skin reacts to the injury. It turns a different color. But soon, it turns normal. And you’ll be good as new.
BOY: How come your skin doesn’t turn normal?
MAN: What’s that?
BOY: Your skin. It’s all melting and oozing. It’s been like that for days. How come it’s not back to normal?
MAN: Theo. Don’t ask papa about that again. You understand?
BOY: Why not?
MAN: Because, Papa does not want to talk about it. Little boys will get into trouble if they keep discussing things that they’ve been told not to discuss.
MAN: Good. Now run along. I’ll bring your bike back.
The boy runs off stage. The man picks up the bike. He rubs his face and pieces of his face begin to fall off. He is disgusted with this, and throws the bike down in anger. The projection fades away.
Goetz walks away from the window and picks up the book he had shown Matthew, leafing through it. Just then he looks up at the object covered by the towel.
GOETZ: Absolutely not.
GOETZ: Because it will destroy me! That’s why not!
GOETZ: Don’t say those things to me. You hurt me!
GOETZ: He’s not buried! He’s alive! Please!
Goetz walks over to the object and lifts his hand to the towel. But stops himself.
GOETZ: No! I can’t! You fucking asshole! You’re killing me!
Goetz turns and retreats to center stage.
GOETZ: Just leave me alone! Please! I beg you!
GOETZ: No. You wouldn’t. He’ll die! It will kill him!
GOETZ: You asshole!
Goetz picks up his coffee mug and hurls it at the object, the mug shatters but the object stays still.
GOETZ: That’s right! I did that! I did that! And I’ll do it again!
He picks up a glass bowl from the counter and hurls it at the object, shattering the bowl. He picks up two more objects and throws them, breaking them. After the last one he falls to his knees weeping.
A spotlight remains on him. The conductor walks out to the center of the stage and begins conducting the invisible orchestra once more. The last three minutes of Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony, 1st Movement are heard. When the last note is played, the conductor walks off, leaving Goetz alone on the floor.
One afternoon a gaggle of kids gathered after school near the church on the corner. Their squeaky voices thundered. There was always a leader.
The church on the corner, though solid, was angular. It gave many locals a fiery feeling. The exterior was made of wood boards painted over. The newest color was peach. The landscape consisted of beds of tiny hydrangeas. The flowers looked too pristine like they were hand painted. The foundation arched and stretched and wooden dowels and post columns were jutted and warped. The design was minimal. Two trees stood side by side on either side of the door. Each was shaved and stripped of branches equal in height from base to middle. They were some kind of pine branch like a salad garnish. There were Asian imitation panels installed by the windows slathered with afterthought tree bark paint.
Neighborhood kids got drawn to the house’s daring mystery. The geometric forms were masterly and forthright and bold compared to most homes. Rumors existed the house was only a figment of imagination. Prim and proper pines always lost needles yet somehow retained them.
The church on the corner looked restless in pale pink light stretching miraculously. The activities inside bustled. The rooster red front door was always partially hidden from the sun. Its top portion had windows that were burning and churning. The bottom became vertical rectangles in direct light.
Albany was used to guarded entrances and white mailboxes. The church had a letterbox nailed crudely beside the front door slathered in tree bark paint. The box up close was horridly jagged riddled in splinters. The door itself looked like dried blood mixed with wet clay. A Chinese paper lamp swayed above with no wind.
On bright days local folks stood on the porch to experience a square block of light running through the pores. They treasured the solitude standing on the safe grid smelling heavy pine—hearing the Chinese lamp creak.
The heavens highlighted the church on the corner. Every street, concrete, home, hill, limb and detail seemed alike. The house was aloof: a hub of magic unknown to many. Its abnormal structure, design and landscape appeared reaching for the sky. It was the great scream house supernatural and wondrous. Laborers got a lift on the peaceful porch and their cramped muscles settled. Some people gossiped about an affable widow ghost.
Mrs. Hiney chuckled at ghost stories. She could be spotted standing before the stoop intersecting the fencelike door. She hated direct sun and preferred admiring the neighborhood half hidden. She beamed like a human healer searching for the mood in a day. She was appropriately pipsqueak hungering to heal. She wanted kids but couldn’t venture further than the porch. She could point out the exact light source. The heart was most likely oblong as the home. She didn’t care for strangers.
Hiney’s church congregation was small and solid like a landmark. The members had quirks for days and Hiney cherished them. She was devoted to strengthening faith and preferred to pray alone. She couldn’t have peace until all members were praying in the living room.
Sunday evenings for Hiney were chain-smoking rituals. Meals were eaten in bed for max comfort.
The colorful churchgoers shared worldly or imagined adventures. Hiney saw photos and etchings from tropical islands. One man boasted seeing Gauguin the painter having drinks. The man wreaked of alcohol and his forehead gleamed sweat pearls. The mustache was overgrown and wizard-like and he boasted Gauguin approved its texture.
Hiney enjoyed greeting her guests but was more interested in stories. She didn’t care to reveal secrets. She felt emptiness in her soul and she prayed that God remold her heart. She made casual conversations with head bobs and chuckles. Hiney seldom spoke. People in church labeled her queen of questions.
Hiney always handed out Chinese church fans. She saw their satin pink wings like miracles. They were peeking out of a throwaway bin in San Francisco. She had seen an Asian grandmother smile and wink later. This woman must have been a spirit.
Hiney looked for God signals. Every soul crossing the house was symbolic. She was a doer and an overachiever and adored watching children behind her half hidden shadow. She could be critical at times, analyzing personal defects. She regarded the musicians in her church as toads and rats. She retreated from her guilt by gazing at single objects. She enjoyed fanning the porch lantern.
Hiney mercilessly hunted insects since church people always left the door open. For comfort she looked at the cuckoo clock in the living room. She felt numb and soft noticing its curves and edges. The clock had a peaceful soul. Hiney was critical of the carved hair on the Bavarian boy. As the figure popped to signal the hour she figured the lad must be gay. She second-guessed her clock. The movements weren’t so peaceful.
Occasionally Hiney extended invitations for tea and treats. She took in groups of schoolchildren. They sat in the living room while she went to swat a fly.
Sunday mornings came quickly. Hiney felt dew and the subtle wet hum of automobiles. A wave of anxiety kept her locked to her bed. She couldn’t budge thinking about possible morning mishaps. A spirit told her rise for the sake of duty. She went through her normal routine: the painful underwear straps snapping, the uncertain lipstick. She was glad the kitchen’s lights were warm.
The prepping started with boiling water. She felt a spirit watching. On the outside the house shifted a bit more vertically. It was screaming but Hiney didn’t notice even though sawdust poured out of warped ceiling planks. She couldn’t blink or breathe thinking of the morning.
Hiney’s God took pity on her determined eyes that were doughy as a cow. Guests would start arriving within the hour. She had the spark of faith moving frantically about.
Mrs. Hiney stood in the small hallway fixing her eyes on a cobweb tucked in the door crack. She felt peace. The web never altered its shape like a crystal. Her underarms were sweating but she didn’t worry. The climate would change soon.
Hiney envisioned the front door bursting with locals like a parade. They smelled of the world. There was a Chinese fellow holding a jade box carved in strange characters.
The cobweb twitched. Hiney thought how her sanctuary should touch the world. The arms caressed the thighs; hands clasped the belly, feet shifted. A strand of hair pinned up like a shell lost its hold falling across the forehead. In a moment a jolly man could appear at the door expecting a greeting.
Supernatural dreams were necessary before a church service. Outside, the world squealed horrendous noises. Hiney couldn’t break the stillness whispering gasps of prayer. She thought the house could shatter and turned for the kitchen. It must have been ninety degrees.
Hiney’s mind was spinning and her hands were frantic: teakettle whistling.
“Where are my cups?” she yelled.
She was dancing around the room like a squirrel. The wind whipped outside and the branches propelled urgency.
Hiney thought she saw a large Chinese man step inside the house. He was grinning in a triple piece. Surely his presence would impress Vasvallo the shrink. Vasvallo had a quality of cool drawing large crowds. Hiney saw him grow his office from living room to guesthouse office with a hydrangea pond. He was in the know on the newest head shrinking techniques. Hiney approached him to hear the latest happenings in town. She remembered him saying a patient mistook her husband for an elephant and fed him peanuts at meals.
Vasvallo shrunk heads by snapping fingers. Well-to-do gentlemen adored him. Hiney prayed heavily to release jealousy and hatred. She could be swept up in Vasvallo’s colorful chaos. He was ungodly strutting about sweet-talking. He always stood at the sofa head extending arms. During sleepless nights Hiney whispered God save his soul. Most of the locals were humble, well off and gossipy but sympathetic. They all flocked whining like sheep to peachy Vasvallo. Hiney prayed to get some time to talk. Her gift was mild prophecy. She figured Vasvallo would shrivel and wrap his arms like a pretzel in intimacy.
The chaotic kitchen tumult needed attending. Hiney refocused desiring a grace filled service. She easily got swept in panic and anxiety. God told her overachieving wasn’t Godly. Yet Hiney created idols. Now her mind was on tea.
Her enormous tea set was handed down.
The church on the corner was a generational place with abundant amenities. Hiney whined there wasn’t enough variation in the parlor. She instructed guests to not bring refreshments, content on letting God and sheer fortitude provide atmosphere. She was convinced burning tea leaves added fragrance. Locals commented on the pleasant charm. Curtains were drawn revealing natural light. They were intoxicating velvet.
The businessman Brodsky draped curtains over his shoulders. Hiney knew he was a drunk. Strange behavior never affected worship. It invited supernatural spirits relieving exhaustion.
During the service Hiney retreated to the kitchen to stare at a painted farmhouse. The prep and business was over. Hiney was detached staring at swells of paint. Her mania subdued. Her limbs and body were feather light. The worship staff was busy. Hiney scarcely remembered names. She was always putting herself through agony.
The same glow in the kitchen was in the living room.
Hiney’s chair was a crucifix. Wooden dowels pierced her back and she didn’t care. She was strong enough to mingle with pain. The kitchen was graced. Hiney toiled to make things perfect.
The refreshments never got finished and the excess tea and crumpets went to the cat.
Hiney favored the saddest strays in the neighborhood. Every day Irma the one legged tabby would skulk by the trash and pace. She had her fill of leftovers.
Hiney’s manic tendencies suited her. A widow’s threshold was boundless entertainment. She had a system for catching mice with peanut butter. She dished them out to Irma.
The church on the corner was like a palace for stray cats.
Hiney froze during the forty-five minute worship service staring at the farmhouse in the kitchen. She worshipped silently meditating in California rays by the window with her messy locks wrapping around the light.
The parlor door contained coffee, tea and wafers in a picnic basket.
High faith prodded and jabbed that house.
During kitchen meditations Hiney daydreamed about street performers from Coney Island and Santa Monica musicians tan as raisins—the gold man in Times Square, carnival underwater boxers. She welcomed all types of people to church with her loving delusions. She wanted her home to be a worship sanctuary with all the comforts of a southern bed and breakfast. Her guests worshipped with merry singing, mingling and reading bible verses. She was the nucleus servant hostess content on sitting in her kitchen.
As a widow she scrutinized the smallest problems. She despised unruly pieces of hair sticking out on the sofa. Maybe it was all drunken Brodsky’s fault. He sometimes would strip all his clothes off standing on the sofa with arms raised.
He adored pestering Prince the parrot.
Prince’s cage was crafted from a custom Brazilian coat hanger. He was an exotic creature ruffling, huddling and scrunching. He looked like Hiney bent over in the kitchen.
Local catholic and Lutheran congregations criticized Hiney. Critics said quit singing secular songs. On a particular Sunday the Hot Cakes Baptist service got interrupted as Hiney’s congregation sang too loudly drowning the choir.
Hot Cakes Baptist was only a few blocks from Hiney’s house. Reverend Creo had a few words to say but left Hiney’s home nourished and hydrated.
Hiney thought enough satisfaction came from celebrating God’s word. Worship was meant to be loud and boisterous. A few toad-like locals tapped keys on the Steinway and bearded bumpkins strummed guitars. Drunk Brodsky insisted on singing She’ll be Coming’ ‘Round the Mountain.
Beyond praising God Hiney’s church searched for joy’s essence. Hiney’s version of joy came from dashing around the kitchen. She would say, “You gotta give ‘em a foundation. Everyone meets each others’ needs.”
God’s words broke down overachieving jealous traits. As chords collided in worship with throats wailing everyone hungered like baby chicks. Hiney was obsessed with baby chicks. She needed a spirit fed atmosphere to enjoy all her kitchen utensils while meditating. Her manic preparations, old soul’s hands and astute posture could be restful when service wasn’t required. Her diligence to guests kept them busy. The wailing voices were spirit fed before eating cakes, scones and other crumbly delicacies. Now peaceful, Hiney would giggle imagining the bearded guitarist with crumbs caught. Potential messes were troubling.
Hiney thought of a scenario involving brash Vasvallo seducing a guest in the living room. Something about the shrink seemed dishonest.
Hiney barely left her house. She would spend the entire week prepping for worship. Vasvallo’s arrogance haunted her even as she contemplated a hairstyle. He always prowled for attention and he was successful. With Vasvallo the circular living room burst with colorful conversations about ancient Greek healing. He would shut up as the word of God got read. Perhaps he figured the human brain doesn’t need spiritual authority. Hiney observed young girls getting drawn to his brash outbursts on healing.
Vasvallo’s style was a combination of flirting and fast speech. Now Hiney in her apron with hands resting on the table felt the finger of judgment. Now Empty-headed, numb from the neck down, a spiritual presence warned she could never be married if the heart pursued hatred.
She scorned Vasvallo thinking he resembled a dopey goose curious for rotten garbage.
China drummed the parlor table clicking and clacking. Hiney heaved every plate, dish and platter. She lit several candles. They were blackberry and absinthe and sweet peaches. She collected these ingredients under candle wax. The olfactive mixture complimented the strong coffee aroma.
There was a rectangular space in the corner of the living room where guests mingled and mussed up cleavage and beards with crumbs.
Hiney anticipated footsteps. Her palms were sweaty. With high faith there would be new visitors. She prayed on the spot with her mouth gaping like a baby chick. She ran to the living room for a few extra seconds. She noticed torn seems and dust clusters and clenched her teeth. The room was abominable. This Sunday there were more mishaps than ever before. Voices chattered by the door. Hiney recognized a few of them. A holy spirit grabbed her soul and released. She was thinking beyond the moment. A local house church expected fine worship today. Communication had to be merry even with the imperfect upholstery, parrot pellets and dust.
The parlor was set up like always. There were picnic baskets filled with King James Bibles. Scriptures got chosen randomly. Boney figures started rhythmically tapping.
Hiney looked forward to her empty kitchen. The only peace she knew was disassociation. The space was empty now stripped of dishes. The painting of the thatched farm cottage glowed differently. The surface was thick enough to trace every stroke with eyeballs.
Hiney’s fragile mind always prevented her from worshipping with her guests. Her anxiety became total isolation. Today her prayers focused on expanding the church’s small living room.
She looked out beyond the Japanese gardens at the field across the street. School kids romped. Another dismal Sunday bid goodbye. Hiney stared until trees blurted out completely and burned away in darkness.
Hiney hummed swaying side to side. She had a vision for owning a proper church house. Of course there were taunting voices. She couldn’t raise the subject with the congregation. She knew they were already merry and content.
Hiney was content to be a hostess. The fragility in her soul made her keep icy distance. She never addressed money matters.
She thought, a bar wench might charm drunken Brodsky into donating. He could whip out checks over shots.
Hiney was knowledgeable about Albany’s hard won boom.
The will burned and churned in her soul. She remained squeamish.
Hiney never addressed tithing. She always surrendered saying the rift was God’s doing.
Tonight the arms were restlessly drumming on the windowsill. The hips swayed.
The dance of spiritual rebirth was part anxious and part soothing. She muttered nonsense prayers. Vasvallo could surely have her committed in this state.
Swaying hips in the dark like a ghost was ideally comforting. Hiney could remain this way from Sunday evening into Monday morning. She couldn’t blink waiting for Herbert’s little joyful self to walk down.
Tonight she heard an unusual buzz. She thought about the insects and how they couldn’t resist a tiny crack in the front door. She battled in prayer regarding them God’s children.
The forehead itched.
If the buzzing caused a bite she’d shatter all compassion.
Standing and humming in the dark made the itching worse. Hiney’s meditation was over. An insect indeed bit her forehead. There was a great white lump with tinier red lumps.
Hiney was aware she took God gifts for granted. She reminded herself that a lumpy head was praiseworthy.
The hour was 2am.