Back to: [Neda and the dogs][Teodora Dimova][SLOVOTO]
The text refers to some excerpts from the novel "Little Veronika's Three Candles" by Manfred Kiber.
In the middle of the stage - a part of a cosy, well-furnished home. This is the only lighted part of the set.
Beyond the lighted circle there are ruins, rags, debris, huge white curtains or something that reminds of a madhouse, a cheap hotel, or the end of the world.
Or the Ireloh castle.
From the "dark" space Neda emerges and slowly approaches the "home space". Inside are Ignat, Zara, Naum and Granny - comfortably seated, frozen - as if in a photo frame.
On the border between the lighted circle and Darkness are seen the contours of a male silhouette (this is Jess). Jess moves slowly, going in and out of the lighted spot. He tries to block Neda's way, but she lighly pushes him away. She lights a match, brings it close to Ignat's face, kneels down next to him, and stares at him. He remains still.
NEDA: Daddy,...look at me...I've grown up!
The match burns out. Neda makes a move towards Zara. She lights another match.
NEDA: Mom,.. one morning after the bath I wrapped a towel round my head and stared at my face... it seemed to be the same face... rosy, young, without wrinkles... and then, behind it or somewhere above, I saw my soul... And I realised... I don't know what I realised, mom...
Neda goes to Naum. She lights a match, touches him on the shoulder. Slowly, as if in timelessness, he turns back to her and embraces her.
NEDA: What kids were we, Naum, you and me,...wild, mad, with rosy cheeks...and the funniest granny in the world - as mad as a hatter.
She goes to Granny, sits down at her feet. She lights another match and illuminates her face.
NEDA: She used to tell us fairy tales all the time - about ghosts, dragons, goblins, monsters...she would make up stories and then forget them,... she would promise to buy us wings and turn us into angels, she would go sledging with us or riding the Ferris wheel,... one evening, having put us to bed, granny came out in the dark from behind the curtains - wrapped up in a bed sheet, wearing Mom's wide-brimmed black hat - with all sorts of things dangling from it...We were frozen with awe...and then, when mom and dad came back home and heard about it...oh, how they scolded you: "Your granny is sick. Her veins are getting thinner and thinner. Her blood cannot run. Soon she will forget even your names". Then we cried all night, hugging each other, because they had scolded you, granny, and also because they said you would forget our names even...
GRANNY: (either speaks or her voice is heard - while she stays still as the rest) In the remote northern lands, enveloped all over by a thick fog where the sunrays rarely broke through the leaden clouds, there stood the lonely and ominous castle of Ireloh - listening to the eternal chanting of the ocean. Just a few miles away from Ireloh there was a small town with narrow winding streets and old houses. Little Veronika lived in one of those houses. All day long she would play in the garden, surrounded by the high, moss-covered stone wall. At that time Veronika was still little, darkness had not descended upon her yet, and her clear vision was still unblurred... therefore she could still hear the voices of all plants and animals in the garden...and she could see things that were invisible to adults, capable of seeing only this world...The whole world was her home, an ocean of life and light...
The last match burns out. Neda stands up. Jess comes right in front of her, with his back to her.
NEDA: No, Jess,... not now... not yet... I can't understand what you're saying, Jess.... I can't see you...no, no,... I can't even hear you.
Now another dimension is presented.
Ignat, Neda and Granny are in the living room. Zara will speak from the kitchen, simultaneously crossing in and out of kitchen. Granny, with an unfathomable expression, is sunk in an armchair. Neda makes unsuccessful attempts to fix the Christmas tree on the stand. Ignat reads a newspaper, drinking whisky and smoking.
ZARA: (To Ignat) Isn't it high time you brought the Christmas decorations from the basement?
NEDA: Mom, I can't fix the Christmas tree.
ZARA: Tell your father.
NEDA: Daddy's reading the paper.
ZARA: I'm busy cooking.
IGNAT: Put it into the huge flowerpot.
ZARA: I've planted aloe in there.
IGNAT: Then put it into the Chinese vase.
ZARA: A Christmas tree in a Chinese vase? Please, no such thing!
IGNAT: Then try the huge flowerpot full of earth.
ZARA: There's aloe in it.
IGNAT: Then plant it in me, Zara. Is this fine?
ZARA: Of course, it will be terrific on you!
Ignat gets up and starts fixing the Christmas tree on the stand. Neda is helping him out.
NEDA: Why don't we buy an artificial Christmas tree?
IGNAT: Do you know that every morning your mother chews aloe on an empty stomach?
ZARA: (from the kitchen) Do you mind?
IGNAT: On the contrary, I find you extremely attractive!
IGNAT: Zara, why aloe exactly?
He picks up a newspaper, twists it, and tries to fill up with it the hole in the Christmas - tree stand.
NEDA: They are so nice. You simply assemble it, decorate it, and then - when Christmas is over, dissemble it, and put it back into the box.
ZARA: (from the kitchen): Neda, please, ask gently your father to fill up the stand's hole with a newspaper.
IGNAT: She would pick up a stalk, and start grinding it on the grater.
The Christmas tree is still tilted.
ZARA: We won't have an artificial Christmas tree in this house - never.
IGNAT: SheÒd make some greenish-whitish mess to put on her face, and then would eat the leftovers.
ZARA: It's good for your skin.
IGNAT: That's right. The most important thing is to have good skin.
ZARA: If you care to know, I only do it for you.
IGNAT: So, you get up at six in the morning to stand over a steaming pot of camomile... and again - you do it for me, don't you?
ZARA: What are you driving at?
Neda has managed to fix the Christmas tree upright.
NEDA: On top of it, they are not really expensive. And, you know, weÒll use the same Christmas tree year after year.
ZARA: (from the kitchen) Ignat!... Isn't it time you brought the Christmas decorations from the basement?
IGNAT: I'll bring them.What else do you want me to do?
ZARA: Buy soft and hard drinks. Of course, if this doesn't lower your male self-esteem.
IGNAT: I already have.
ZARA: You bought them last week, there's nothing left by now.
NEDA: Naum said he would get some when he comes back.
ZARA: Indeed, Naum is a wonderful child! He simply does all the male work in the house!
IGNAT: The female too!
ZARA: What's the matter with you today? I can't figure it out!
IGNAT: IÒm fit for nothing! Nothing! Not only today but for a long time.
ZARA: We've already heard this.
IGNAT: Really?... The lady has noticed?...I'm wondering when Naum will show up to turn on the washing machine?
ZARA: Now the washing machineÒs the problem!
IGNAT: I don't have a single pair of fresh socks.
ZARA: What does Naum have to do with it?
IGNAT: He's the only one in this house who turns on the washing machine.
ZARA: It's such a time-consuming job, indeed.
IGNAT: The only person in this house who actually remembers to turn on the washing machine when it's full of dirty socks.
ZARA: No! I can't take this. I'm dead tired!
IGNAT: Then I'll be wearing my flip-flops.
ZARA: Wearing flip-flops and a bathrobe? Do you want to ruin me totally?
IGNAT: No, I'll be tied and jacketed, with my flip-flops on.
ZARA: You'll be irresistible, as always.
ZARA: No doubt.
IGNAT: Because unlike your son, I'm an awful man!
ZARA: Oh, God!
IGNAT: That's true.
ZARA: No, it isn't.
IGNAT: Yes, it is.
ZARA: All right then, if you say so. I've given up arguing long time ago.
IGNAT: Do you really think so?
ZARA: No, I don't think so.
IGNAT: Then why have you given up arguing if you don't think so? (He grasps her by the shoulders and shakes her.) Say it!...Why are you dead tired?... Because I'm a moron, isn't it?...I don't help you with the housework, we don't make love, we don't go out,...isn't it so?
ZARA: In fact, IÒm proud of you!
IGNAT: That's a lie!
ZARA: No, it isn't. I do not lie, as you might have noticed.
IGNAT: Yes, it's a lie. You've never been proud of me.
ZARA: Bullshit! On the contrary, I am proud of you because... because there are other men who go outside in their training suits to throw out the garbage or shake the carpet... or wash their cars in the street on Sunday morning - carrying a bucket of water, washing up liquid, and a sponge. Or they force their wives to attend all their business dinners, and then fuck them in the shrubs by the restaurant.
IGNAT: Really? Is that what they do? Do you want to go to a restaurant? Some tiny restaurant with many shrubs around?
Ignat embraces her, kissing her.
IGNAT: Are you really proud of me?
ZARA: Yes, I am.
IGNAT: You're proud because on Sunday morning I do not go outside to throw the garbage in my training suit?
ZARA: Have you lost your sense of humour?
IGNAT: Do you mean that I've lost it when I need it most?
ZARA: No, I don't mean anything.
IGNAT: You don't mean anything?
ZARA: What I mean is that right now you don't need your sense of humour more than any other time.
IGNAT: Now, when all of a sudden you start blurting out such rocks of solid truths...
ZARA: What rocks! What truths!
IGNAT: That I've lost my sense of humour exactly when...
She is about to leave the room, he descends upon her and starts caressing her wildly, kissing her. She steps back, trying to break loose.
ZARA: The riceÒs got burned, please, let me go,... the dolmas too!
IGNAT: I don't want any dolmas! I want you!
ZARA: The rice, please!
IGNAT: I want us to go to the country house, to light the fireplace and make love! No rice, no dolmas!
ZARA: That's nonsense! Stop it!....NedaÒs watching us!
IGNAT: Neda, don't watch us, please!
ZARA: Let me go!
IGNAT: Please, I need that!
ZARA: Stop chattering!... On top of it, it's Christmas Eve tonight... and nothing's ready... please, let me go, stop it....
She breaks loose abruptly, makes for the kitchen, but stops as if seized by a sudden revelation.
ZARA: So, you're ready to go that far to the country house only to avoid going to the basement to get the decorations?... Or fixing the Christmas tree, or going shopping?...But do you happen to know that there's no wood for the fireplace there? Because in the summer when I told you ten times to go there and arrange fire wood to be brought, you would always say... in fact, do you remember what you said? What is this wood for, we don't go to the country in winter any more... There were many other things that had to be brought there too, such as fertilizers, soil... But I can't do everything on my own...let alone fix the fence that... for twenty years now...
IGNAT: Have you seen how mussels are cooked?
IGNAT: You drop them into boiling water. The shells open slowly and the meat comes out.
ZARA: Why do you ask?
IGNAT: I don't know.
GRANNY: They were at the top of the Ferris wheel while antie and I were waiting for them down there... then, they shot an arrow and I saw it fly ...piercing her leg - straight into her vein, bleeding to death, while the carriage was waiting outside to take mama and me home...
Zara goes out. Pause.
Ignat watches carefully Neda as she puts the Christmas garlands on the walls.
IGNAT: IÒll get the decorations from the basement.
Ignat leaves. Neda starts circling round with her arms folded together.
ZARA: (from the kitchen) Ignat! Would you please bring the Christmas decorations! The Christmas tree has to be decorated at some point, don't you think so?
ZARA: Where's your father?
NEDA: He went to the basement to get the decorations.
ZARA: Unbelievable! (searching for something in the cupboard) Did you give her the medication?
NEDA: Not yet.
ZARA: Do it, please!
NEDA: Do you really love him?
GRANNY: She was in her straw hat... carrying a handbag made of straw...sunny, straw-like, sunny... laughters...and then - they shot an arrow from the top,... and I saw it fly...fly...(she heaves a deep sigh). It's time for us to leave...
ZARA: (simultaneously with Granny's last words) Do you know whereÒs the white tablecloth for the round table?
NEDA: In our wardrobe.
ZARA: It's neither in your wardrobe, nor in ours. It's nowhere to be found. Could you please look for it!...And would you give your grandmother the medication! And would you, please, ask her to shut up!
ZARA: Do I love whom?
NEDA: I'm just asking.
ZARA: Of course, I do!
NEDA: (sits by her granny) Granny!...Hey, granny!...What's happened to your ears?
ZARA: (from the kitchen) Please, give her the medication!
NEDA: Do you know they've grown so big?!
Granny looks at her, unabashed she crosses one leg on top of the other, and continues to sit like that, staring in the distance.
NEDA: We'll have to trim them a little, Granny, it's Christmas Eve!
All of a sudden Granny overcomes her stupour.
GRANNY: What do you want to trim?
NEDA: Your ears. They're too big.
GRANNY: What!...What do you say, sweetie?... How do you mean - trim them! (She is on the verge of tears)
NEDA: With the big scissors, granny, it won't hurt!
GRANNY: Tri!...Tri!...Tri!... Mum!...The marriage bed! (These are Granny's key words. She puts different meaning into them - admiration or anxiety, terror, panic - all associated with the marriage bed. Sometimes she chants the words, at other moments she pronounces them in broken syllables) Mum! Come and take me away, please! I want to go home, I want to come back, I want to go back home. Mum!
She starts shaking; until the end of this scene she keeps walking unrestrained, and repeats the above-mentioned words either too loud or too quiet. Neda hugs her, caressing and comforting her...
NEDA: I knew it!...No, granny, I won't trim your ears, I was only joking.
She tries to make her sit down, caressing her on the head. All of a sudden, Granny starts watching Neda fixedly as if in a moment of revelation.
GRANNY: Tell your mother to chop the raisins really fine before putting them into the filling, she shouldn't put them as they are - theyÒll lose their flavour!...
ZARA: (from the kitchen) Tell her I don't need her lessons how to cook dolmas! One day she would rise from the dead to give me orders!
Zara goes to the kitchen.
ZARA: No "mom"! Give her the medication!
NEDA: Mom hasn't started cooking the dolmas yet, we're waiting for Naum!
GRANNY: Is he the one to cook?...The marriage bed!... Tri!... Tri!... Tri!...
Ignat enters, carrying the boxes with the Christmas decorations. Leaves them by the Christmas tree.
IGNAT: So, sheÒs started cooking! The whole place smells of dolmas! You should close the kitchen door when you cook dolmas!
NEDA: Naum asked to wait for him before we start any preparations for tonight.
ZARA: Then he shouldnÒt be running after that little slut all day long.
IGNAT: Who's she?
ZARA: The one with the bird-like eyes and the short fingers.
ZARA: Miaowing when she speaks. Hellooww, Nauuum?...Hello, Naum?
NEDA: So what?
ZARA: She's like a snivel.
NEDA: What if he's in love with her?
ZARA: Can you imagine? He asked me if we could invite her over for Christmas Eve.
NEDA: And what did you say?
ZARA: He left before I told him anything.
NEDA: I can imagine the look you gave him.
ZARA: On top of everything, her legs are short.
NEDA: What if some day, I fall in love and want to invite someone to dinner?
NEDA: Yes, me. Is that impossible?
ZARA: Of course, not. But it depends.
NEDA: On what?
ZARA: On many things.
NEDA: Do you know what a person should be like in order to get invited here to dinner?
ZARA: No, I don't.
NEDA: Superintelligent, with a solid profession and good manners, having no communists among his relatives, elegant, well-bred, fluent in at least two languages...
ZARA: Your irony is irrelevant.
NEDA: That's my dream.
NEDA: What a smart kid I am!
ZARA: I beg your pardon?
NEDA: Why don't you go with daddy to the country to make love?
ZARA: How dare you speak like that!
IGNAT: You see, Neda, thatÒs why we never go to the country.
Ignat sits in the armchair. Neda sits in his lap, they embrace.
NEDA: I love you so much, daddy.
They remain seated like that, intertwined as Zara's voice is heard from the kitchen.
ZARA: One should have some respect for one's mother!...The more you give, the less gratitude you get! That's what has come out of his upbringing! Nothing else! If that could be called upbringing at all! Instead of having cleaned the dining room! Instead of helping out a bit! (She appears at the door, sees Neda and Ignat smiling and holding each other tightly, and gets really mad.) You could have at least given your granny the medication! You, impudent girl!...Sloppy!...
Neda goes out. Zara sits opposite Ignat, staring fixedly at him. A long pause.
ZARA: Now, what do you want?...Why are you staring at me like that?...Why do you stare and keep silence?
IGNAT: Why didn't you let Naum invite her?
ZARA: Because I don't like her.
IGNAT: You don't like anyone!
Zara is about to say something in return, but decides against it. She begins opening the boxes full of Christmas decorations, pulling out garlands and other things.
IGNAT: Naum asked not to do anything before he comes back.
ZARA: Then, he should have come back on time.
IGNAT: He wants all of us, together, to make the preparations for Christmas Eve. Like old days.
ZARA: He might be late another three hours!
IGNAT: Then we'll begin decorating the Christmas tree in three hours.
ZARA: And we'll have dinner at midnight, is that so?
IGNAT: What time do you think we should have dinner at?
ZARA: At eight.
IGNAT: All right, I'll decorate the tree.
Ignat puts decorations on the Christmas tree.
ZARA: You should put the electric candles first.
IGNAT: I'll put them later.
ZARA: You'll break the decorations.
IGNAT: I want to put the decorations first, and then the candles, may I?
ZARA: This is a very bad sign.
IGNAT: Doing what I want is a very bad sign, is that so?
ZARA: No, breaking the Christmas tree decorations is.
IGNAT: But I may not break them! And most probably - I won't!
ZARA: No! Most probably you will break them!
IGNAT: Is that so?
ZARA: Yes, it is.
IGNAT: Do you really think so?
ZARA: Yes, I do.
IGNAT: Because I'm good-for-nothing with my hands?...Just like in bed? And... in the country house! And at work! In society! During the intervals at the theatre! And... the house work too! Good-for-nothing in every respect! Absolutely good-for-nothing! Is this what you mean?
ZARA: Yes, that's precisely what I mean! Precisely!...You know what, I'm tired of telling you for twenty years how great you are! I'm tired of adoring you all the time! I'm tired of telling you how unique you are, how strong, and noble, and good you are, how you can't stand comparison with anyone, simply because you're no longer this man!... Do you understand?!
With all her force Zara smashes into the floor the ornament she holds in her hand. Then she freezes as she realises what she has done.Pause.
IGNAT: That's a very bad sign, Zara.
IGNAT: You said so a minute ago.
ZARA: Sheer nonsense.
IGNAT: No, it's not nonsense, it's the truth.
ZARA: How do you know?
IGNAT: I know it. IÒm dead certain.
ZARA: You haven't seen a fortuneteller, have you!
IGNAT: You don't have to see a fortuneteller to know what's in store for you.
ZARA: How do you mean?
IGNAT: That youÒre all mixed-up.
ZARA: So what if Im mixed-up? Why shouldnÒt I be mixed-up? Why?
IGNAT: Then you won't have to see a fortuneteller.
ZARA: I don't go to fortunetellers.
IGNAT: Neither do I.
Zara watches him for some time.
ZARA: Sometimes I have the feeling that you're deeply insane.
IGNAT: I have the same feeling too, though much more often.
Zara begins to pick up the ornament's broken pieces.
ZARA: I'm sorry.
Zara: Forgive me, please... It always happens like that... You provoke me... you drive me nuts, and then I start shouting... Do you want to...
IGNAT: (interrupts her) No, I don't.
ZARA: How do you know what I'll suggest?
IGNAT: I know what.
ZARA: Let's forget about everything and...
IGNAT: (interrupts her) No, I don't want it.
ZARA: Come on, let's light the fireplace, all we need is some cheese, bread and wine, and...
IGNAT: No, I don't want. Really.
IGNAT: Because it's Christmas Eve.
ZARA: Stop nagging at me, please.
IGNAT: I'm not nagging.
ZARA: Please, I really need to get out of here.
IGNAT: But tonight is Christmas Eve.
ZARA: That's the only thing I want to do!
IGNAT: Do you realise what you've just said! We haven't decorated the tree yet! We haven't set the table even!
ZARA: Monster!... You're such a tiny, revengeful monster!
Ignat starts laughing contentedly.
ZARA: Oh, God!...You've never understood me!...You've never helped me!... You've never spared me!... Neda!...Neda, come here! ( Neda appears at the door) Has your darling brother come back!
NEDA: No, he hasn't...
ZARA: My goodness, this house is full of monsters!
As Neda speaks lights go down, everything fades into darkness but her.
NEDA: Hey you, the servant!...Servant! I order you to come back immediately!...I order you to fix the Christmas tree bolt upright - no matter how and where!...I order you to calm down Granny!... to turn on the washing machine!... to make them love each other again!...I order you to bring the firecrackers from the basement!...There might be some mice there, but you'll put on your magic boots! Servant!...Servant!...
Suddenly the "home" is struck as if by a lightening - the Christmas tree is ablaze. The dinner table is spectacular. Naum, Granny, Ignat, Zara and Neda stand by the table. One of them is saying a prayer while the rest repeat the sentences softly after him/her. This lasts only a few seconds: too abrupt and brief - as in a flash of memory.
Lights fall again on the "home". Everybody is frozen as in the beginning. Neda begins circling again, stopping in front of everybody - illuminating their faces with a match.
NEDA: Did I tell you what I read in a paper,...there is a law of thinking - you can't think constantly of someone unless he also thinks of you... why do I recall Christmas so often...is it Christmas today... I've lost track of the days...only by the shop-windows' decorations... when Naum and I were little, Santa Claus never showed up, the old man would ring the bell and then immediately evaporate, we would open the door and find two huge sacks - one in pink, the other in light-blue, the one - wrapped up with a light-blue ribbon, while the other - with a pink ribbon... It never crossed our minds to run down after him, because the gifts seemed to fly around...ablaze...the firecrackers would explode, and everything would merge into one... the Christmas decorations, the candle light, the fire... It would smell of incense, warmth and snow, of dolmas and love...that were boundless...And of some invisible sacred baby who had just come into the world - around us and among us...
Neda approaches Granny, kneels down next to her, embracing her legs.
GRANNY: And though the garden, where she loved playing so much, was a simple garden, little Veronika would watch it with her internal eyes - the eyes she had brought from heaven, thatÒs why she could spot the fairy - in the tree branches under which she used to sit. The fairy was a gorgeous creature - looked like a little girl who had never grown up. "Come, little Veronika", the tiny elf would say and smile gently. "I can't come to you inside the tree," said the little girl. "Yes, you can....but not in your present state. You have to transform, to get out of your body so that you can enter me." I've never done such a thing," replied little Veronika. "Besides, my body is not simply a dress I can take off". "On the contrary," said the fairy, "it's nothing but a dress, and inside it there's yet another finer dress. You can easily shed the coarse dress. And then you'll become just like me and all the fairies and elves living in water, air or fire. All you have to do is nudge a little - like you do before falling asleep... - and then it would happen by itself...
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