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2


It's Christmas Eve, though the next year. The table is set again, the tablecloth is as beautiful as before.

 

NAUM: Ne-da!

NEDA: Da!

NAUM: Ne-da!!

NEDA: Da-da...

NAUM: What's this nonsense?

NEDA: Da-da nonsense.

NAUM: I see... da-da, ga-ga...

Neda wraps herself up in a bed sheet.

NEDA: Please, tie this up at the back.

NAUM: Nonsense.

NEDA: I'll wrap you up too.

NAUM: No way.

NEDA: Let's scare them.

NAUM: But why?

NEDA: Just like that...

NAUM: In fact, what's this disguise supposed to be?

NEDA: Apparition.

NAUM: Of what?

NEDA: Oh!

NAUM: It's not like dressing your teddy bear in your own clothes, and then hanging it on the lampshade in the room.

NEDA: And... placing an overturned chair below.

NAUM: That's right.

NEDA: When they come in and ask, "Where's Neda?", you'll say I'm gone...and then, when least expected, I'll show up.

NAUM: What a surprise.

NEDA: Great, isn't it?

NAUM: No doubt about it. Why don't you disguise yourself as the little matchseller? Lighting a match after match, you can imagine all sorts of things. For example, one of the suitcases will be full of presents only for you and mom. You open it and the first thing you see - body stockings - half- red, half-black...

NEDA: Dark red.

NAUM: No, sorry! The pointed shoes should be at the top. Then come the tu-tus - black, red...

NEDA: Dark red!

NAUM: How many of them- five or ten?

Neda makes an attempt to wrap him up in a bed sheet.

NAUM: (quite rude) Stop it!

NEDA: Why should I?

NAUM: Do you really think daddy has found a shop for ballet accessories in New York City?

NEDA: Can you imagine there's no ballet accessories' shop in New York - as you elegantly put it?

NAUM: No, I can't. But I wonder if daddy has found it?...

NEDA: What about that hob you wanted for your bicycle? Do you think daddys bought it? I wonder, however... what poetry has to do with spare bicycle parts?

NAUM: What about you then? You've ordered him to buy you exactly the same clothes as mom has.

NEDA: Pardon?

NAUM: You don't have your own taste in clothes.

NEDA: You're such a fool.

NAUM: Certainly.

NEDA: In fact, it's mother who waits to see what I order, and then she comes up with the same things, and even if I'm wrong, you shouldn't talk to a lady like that! Do you understand!

Naum bursts into laughter, goes to her, grasps her by the waist and starts spinning her around. She screams, kicking and drawing away.

NAUM: With your turned-up nose, rosy cheeks, and such a funny name - how can

you be a lady, Ne-da? Da-da? Ga-ga?

Neda tries to break loose.

NAUM: What about the taps?

NEDA: What about them?

NAUM: Did you ask for taps too?

NEDA: Yes, I did...

NAUM: For me too?

NEDA: Certainly.

NAUM: Are you sure?

NEDA: In fact, I forgot initially, but then I cried out from the balcony: "Daddy, don't forget the taps!"... he couldn't hear me.. so I shouted again and again: "Taps... taps, please...." But I wonder if he got it...

Naum tap-dances for a while, singing "Ne-da, da-da, ga-ga".

NEDA: You seem to be making quite a progress...

NAUM: I'll catch up with you soon.

Neda breaks loose. She makes another attempt to wrap him up in the bed sheet.

NAUM: Stop it!...(going to the window) They're coming!

NEDA: Did you see them?

NAUM: I saw the car, they're parking.

NEDA: (sits Granny upright, puts on her head the hat, from which scarves in various colours are dangling) Quick, granny! Daddy's coming back!

Neda wraps up Granny in the bed sheet, puts her flowery hat on her head, plays music. They both start dancing all over the room. Neda dances, wailing - with her back to the door. Soon Zara appears at the door: watching fixedly, carrying a bouquet of flowers and an open envelope. She moves mechanically, sits on the sofa - still in her coat and hat. Naum stops the music. Neda turns around and sees her mother. Prolonged silence. Granny sits down in the armchair in her usual posture.

NEDA: Where's daddy?

Pause.

NAUM: What happened?

Pause.

NEDA: Has the plane landed?... (almost screaming) Mother!..Has the plane landed?

ZARA: Yes, it has.

NEDA: So where's daddy?

Pause.

ZARA: Are the dolmas ready?

NEDA: What dolmas?

ZARA: Our dolmas.

Pause.

NAUM: Dad...(stops abruptly)

ZARA: No.

NEDA: Say something!

ZARA: I wonder if the dolmas are cooked.

NAUM: Dad...(halts again)

ZARA: It smells of something burnt.

Naum takes the letter from Zara's hands. He reads it, remains speechless.

NEDA: What does it say!...

She pulls it out hysterically from his hands and begins reading. Silence.

ZARA: Anybody called?

NAUM: Nobody.

Pause.

ZARA: Before going out, I told you to take the dolmas off the stove! In five minutes!

Pause.

NAUM: What date?

NEDA: On the tenth of every month.

NAUM: So, on the tenth of every month he'll be sending money.

ZARA: That's right.

NEDA: Why?

ZARA: I have no idea.

NAUM: On the tenth of every month.

NEDA: Why will he be sending money?

NAUM: I don't understand.

ZARA: Has anybody called?

NEDA: Nobody.

ZARA goes to the telephone, picks up the receiver.

ZARA: It works.

NAUM: Does it?

ZARA: Sometimes it doesn't. (Pause) Why havent you taken the dolmas off the stove?

NEDA: They're ready.

ZARA: They're burnt.

NEDA: Only those at the bottom.

ZARA: (screaming) No, they all are!

NEDA: So, he knew when he left two weeks ago...

ZARA: Obviously, ...he knew...

NEDA: That's why he was so...

ZARA: Yes, that's why he was so...so what?

NEDA: Sad.

ZARA: Sad?...He was sad on leaving?...

Suddenly Zara stands up, moves towards a drawer, and begins rummaging. She pulls out notes, sheets of paper, business cards, and notepads... Then she begins rummaging another drawer, empties out its content on the floor...then she opens a big cupboard, pulling out from it tablecloths, bed sheets; then she opens the wardrobe, throws clothes into the air...she tosses all his suits on the floor, then takes one of his shirts and begins tearing it into pieces, in total rage....

ZARA: (shouting) Why don't you take the dolmas off the stove?

NEDA: What are you doing?

ZARA: (sits down on the floor) On leaving, he gave me a phone number.

NAUM: Who gave you the letter?

ZARA: In fact, he didn't...when seeing him off, I told him to give me some phone number, and he said OK, but didn't.

NAUM: Who gave you the letter?

ZARA: A man from the plane.

NEDA: What about the flowers?

ZARA: They came with the letter.

NEDA: Why two gerbera?

NAUM: The man gave you the letter and the bouquet, is that so?

ZARA: I don't know him at all.

NEDA: But why two gerbera only?

ZARA: I was waiting at the airport, the man approached me, and said: "Your husband won't come back on this flight, he asked me to give you this letter and the flowers". So he did, and then added: "He said, you should open the letter when you get back home".

NEDA: And when did you open it?

ZARA: Here, on the flight of stairs.

NEDA: So he told you that he won't come back on this flight.

ZARA: Thats right. He won't come back on THIS flight, and he gave me THIS letter and THESE two gerbera.

NEDA: Who was this man?

NAUM: It's daddy's handwriting.

 

Pause.

Zara plays some loud music. She pours herself a whisky and drains her glass.

 

ZARA: What do you expect me to do now? To ruin my holiday because of him? To wear sackcloth and ashes? To stop living? Rubbish! That's rubbish! Has the table been set? Let's invite guests, many guests. It's Christmas Eve! There's food and drinks for a whole regiment! Come on, start making phone calls! Call all you friends! Invite them! All of them!...Don't stare at me like that! Quickly! All right, I'll do the calling. We'll throw a party! (she picks up the telephone, startled). For Christ sake, what was their number!... Naum, bring me my handbag, please! What was Ivo's and Elena's number? And Boby's?... I don't remember anything. What was Yana's number! Naum, give me the telephone book... (she stays on phone, dialing) Hello? It's me! How are you doing? How are you? How's life...Thanks, we're fine too, yes, yes, fine, perfect...what about you? How do you mean...what's wrong with me?...Nothing's wrong with me... yes, he did come back, we've just come back from the airport...well,... he had great time...do you want to speak to him?...Ignat!...Ignat! Stefan wants to speak to you...I'm sorry,... he must be in the bathroom....I simply wanted to wish you happy holidays, we can get together these days... no, no, you'll come to our place....yes, certainly, he has a lot to tell...

Zara hangs up the phone, and collapses on a chair.

Pause.

 

NEDA: Oh, mom! (starts crying)

ZARA: Stop crying!

Neda starts weeping louder.

ZARA: (shouting) Stop it!

Both exchange looks.

ZARA: Is the loaf of bread ready?

NEDA: What bread?

ZARA: The one you promised to make!

NEDA: I've never said.... I can't make bread...

Zara slaps her.

ZARA: Sloppy!

Neda stands petrified.

GRANNY: Ignat will come back.

Pause.

Zara jumps up frantically. She starts searching for something in her handbag, shaking.

 

ZARA: The man gave me some parcel too...a tiny parcel. (She begins fumbling in her pockets, finally she finds the box and starts tearing the wrapping paper. In surpise) What's this?

NEDA: (with extreme enthusiasm) Taps! (grabs them from her mother's hands) These are taps!

ZARA: What?

NEDA: (to Naum) Here are some for you too...

Neda attaches the taps to her shoes, makes several tap-dance movements. Naum does the same.

NEDA: Let's do it twice.

They repeat the same steps again.

NEDA: And again, three times.

Naum repeats after her. Gradually both begin tap-dancing, watching each other fixedly - as if they converse in some mysterious language through the rhythm, as if they have forgotten their misery or it will never afflict them. Zara watches them, then goes to her mother.

ZARA: What did you say, Mom?...Mom!...What did you say?

GRANNY: Once your aunt and I went to the fair...she was dressed up,...the Ferris wheel - Ah-h-h-! I looked up - something was flying up in the sky...up...up...

She stands up and begins walking. She has been seized by another fit of madness - breathless and anxious, she can't stand still.

GRANNY: Somethings flying up there...I can see something flying...tri-tri -tri...

Granny keeps repeating these words obsessively; the meaning is obscured yet definitely hysterical.

ZARA: Please, Mom, not now...please! Why have you wrapped her up in this sheet? What's this hat! (She pulls away rudely the sheet and the hat off her mother) Why have you ransacked my wardrobe? These are my best scarves!

GRANNY: Mother has to take me away...

ZARA: Your mother's dead!

GRANNY: The carriage is waiting for us...

ZARA: There's no carriage!

GRANNY: We have to go home, mother and I... the carriage is waiting for us....

ZARA: You have no home any more...it's been pulled down...My goodness! Monsters!...At eighteen one should know how to make a loaf of bread!

Naum embraces his mother. Neda embraces Granny.

Blackout.

NEDA: (from darkness): And the letter said: "I don't want to live with you any more. I'm staying here for good. I don't want you to look for me. The greater part of the money I earn will be for you. I'll send it on the tenth of every month. Ignat."

Granny goes to her in the dark spot, kisses her on the forehead.

GRANNY: And then Veronika pushed herself out - she was as light as a feather and so transparent that she could see through herself. All around her, the tree juices went up and down along thousands of thin veins - from the roots to the top...and she felt a part of it, going up and down as if in a living cradle. Now that I'm inside the tree, I can understand everything much better than from the outside. I seem to have become wiser since I shedded my earthly body... The fairy smiled gently. The bigger your earthly body grows, the more foolish you become - smiled the fairy benevolently. Are you saying that we come into this world to become more foolish? - asked Veronika. Not exactly, answered the fairy. You become foolish, because it gets darker around you. And you have to search for the light within. This is the true task for humans. You have to search for the light not only for your own sake, but for the sake of every living creature...

NEDA: You know what happened... We seem to have forgotten Popo...the huge grey Popo - we left him in daddy's study with no food and water...and since daddy didn't come back, nobodys entered his study any more...the poor thing...he must have tossed around in the bird-cage, crying out...breaking his wings, or simply...he kept silent...overcome by grief.... Perhaps that's why nobody heard him...and it was only when the terrible stink.... don't be angry, granny, but at a certain point he stank more than you do...

 

Lights down on the "home". Zara, Neda and Naum sit at the table. There's a cup of milk in front of Zara. Neda prepares corn flakes. She places a bowl in front of her mother and Naum. Neda and Naum watch carefully Zara while she makes reluctant attempts to drink up her milk. After each sip she makes a grimace of disgust. Finally she pushes the cup aside.

Neda scoops up a spoonful of corn flakes and carries it to her mother's lips. Zara picks up the spoon, swallows down the corn flakes.

Neda offers a second spoonful of corn flakes to her mother. Zara takes the spoon and leaves it back in the bowl.

ZARA: Look, Neda, I'm not an idiot.

Pause.

Zara, demonstratively holding her nose, drinks up the glass of milk.

NEDA: Now the cornflakes.

ZARA: Now the cornflakes.

Zara pushes aside the bowl with cornflakes angrily.

ZARA: Last night I felt like going out for a walk, going to the woods...

NEDA: Cornflakes give you all the vital vitamins...

ZARA: (interrupts her) Last night I wanted to go deep into the woods, to lie down on the earth...

NEDA: You promised, mom...

ZARA: I wanted to lie down on the earth, with the rustling trees over me...

NEDA: Then take your medication...

ZARA: But it turned out that the door was locked, and my keys were gone...

Neda gives her a few pills and a glass of water. Zara pushes them aside in the same manner.

NEDA: Mother!

ZARA: You locked me in last night!

NAUM: You must take your medication!

ZARA: Me? Locked up by my own children!

NEDA: On a regular basis - that's what the doctor said! There can't be any improvement otherwise!

ZARA: The doctor said?! And what did he say about the children who lock up their mother?...Last time I visited him he told me how one Saturday, after they had spent the day on a trip out - in the fresh air, his wife pulled out a dark-red suitcase - he stressed the fact that the suitcase was dark- red, put her luggage inside, and left him. This was his major argument to convince me that I, in my turn, should feel free and happy, and should start taking the medication.

NAUM: But we have to talk you into taking your medication every day - in the morning, at noon, in the evening! And before that - we have to talk you into eating your food.

ZARA: And this is too much for you, isn't it?!...Do you get terribly bored - taking care of your mother?!

NEDA: We love you, Mom!

ZARA: Really?...(Pause)...You know what, Neda, sometimes you're so stupid, so stupid that you cannot even imagine it!

NAUM: Why do you offend her all the time...

ZARA: What about me? Who locked me in last night? Was it you... or her?

Pause.

Zara pulls the Cornflakes bowl closer to herself, eats a spoonful of it, and makes a grimace as if she's going to throw up.

ZARA: What's inside?

NEDA: Honey.

ZARA: (strikes the table with her palm) - I hate honey! I hate cornflakes with honey! Don't you realise? I hate to be locked in, to see you whisper, I hate to be spoonfed with this loathsome stuff, and I hate to be told how much you love me. Do you realise that?!

Pause.

NAUM: Will you pay the electricity bill today?

ZARA: I will.

NAUM: You've been saying this for a week now but you haven't paid it yet.

ZARA: Is that so?...The electricity bill!... And this is the perfect time to remind me!

NAUM: Last notice, tomorrow they'll cut it.

ZARA: Then we'll live in darkness.

NAUM: I don't want to live in darkness.

ZARA: Aha, you want light, don't you?! More light!

NAUM: Yes, I want more light.

ZARA: Thats why you keep nagging at me and offending me... You can't stand me. Give me the bill.

NAUM: No, I'll pay it.

ZARA: You don't trust me, do you?

NAUM: No, I do... but it's on my way. I'll pay it.

ZARA: Why did you ask me then - if you were going to pay it anyway...especially if it's on your way? Because you can't stop nagging that I haven't done anything for a week? You don't trust me, do you?...You think that I won't pay it today again...that today...today... just like any other day so far is a day... an endless day...without Ignat...as endless as the life before me...you think that today Ignat won't call...he won't come back...and you expect me to...

She takes out a bottle of vodka from the cupboard, pours some for herself, and drinks it. Then repeats the same procedure. Obviously she begins to feel a bit more relaxed. Naum watches her offended. Zara begins humming. Neda leaves the room. The noise of vacuum -cleaning is heard from the other room.

ZARA: (shouting) Neda!...Neda!...Neda!

Zara pours herself another drink. She gulps it down.

NAUM: She cant hear you.

ZARA: Tell her to turn off the vacuum cleaner.

NAUM: Why?

ZARA: My goodness!

She pours herself more vodka, drinks it. Then she puts her hands around her head.

NAUM: Neda!...Neda!...Neda!

ZARA: She won't hear you like that.

NAUM: Neda!

The vacuum-cleaning noise stops, Neda appears at the door.

NAUM: Turn off the vacuum cleaner!

NEDA: Why.

NAUM: Turn it off!

NEDA: But why?

ZARA: Because this noise gets into my brain, don't you see?! Because it's out of order, because it has to be fixed, and because... Or perhaps you want to torture me! That's why you deliberately turn it on - to drive me mad, isn't it so?!

She starts walking nervously, lighting a cigarette...Neda turns off the vacuum cleaner.

ZARA: I can't arrange to have it fixed! I have no idea where they fix such things! And I have noone to ask!

NEDA: It always made that noise.

ZARA: Always?

NEDA: Yes, always.

ZARA: You mean that I'm imagining things?

NEDA: No, I don't...

ZARA: Certainly...I'm imaging that since recently the vacuum-cleaner has started howling, coughing, choking, spitting....spitting blood, I would say!...Like someone dying!

NEDA: Mom...

ZARA: Am I imagining?...Or not?

NEDA: No, mom. Perhaps you're right. I'll have it fixed.

NAUM: No!... You won't go anywhere to have it fixed!

NEDA: Why?

NAUM: Because we can't go on like that any more!

NEDA: But the engines really howling!

ZARA: You see!

NAUM: No, the engine's not howling!...The vacuum cleaner has always made that noise!

NEDA: That's not true, it's much noisier now.

NAUM: It's not much noisier. It's not noisy at all. Mom's imagining. And you don't want to tell her the truth! She's imagining everything... how we lock her in, how the vacuum cleaner howls, how daddy will return...

ZARA: You see!?...Finally, you've blurted it out! Because of some vacuum cleaner (She pours herself another drink - more than before, and drains her glass.) Finally I know what you want - to send me to the loony bin! But, sweetie, you cant do this without my consent or the public prosecutor's order!

NAUM: Mother, come to your senses!

ZARA: (repeats) Come to your senses, mother! I know why you foist these damn pills on me all the time!... Because you hate me! Yes, you both hate me because your father, sorry - the so called father, has left us behind! Yes, that's it. You can't hate him because he's gone and that's why you start hating me! That's why the best solution for you is if I were gone or at least stuck in hospital so that I won't be in your way!

NAUM: Don't drink any more.

ZARA: This has nothing to do with my drinking.

NAUM: Let's not begin all over again!

ZARA: This is none of your business!

NAUM: Mom, why don't you go somewhere with friends...

Zara starts laughing hysterically.

ZARA: You've let the cat out of the bag! (abruptly stops laughing) With friends!...I have no friends, Naum. None. I never needed friends. Your father had friends. I didn't need anybody else because your father was the whole world to me. The whole space around. Everything. That's the truth. Now his friends treat me as a shadow. I don't mean anything to them. True. I don't mean anything to you either. That's it. And I don't mean anything to myself. That's how things are. But I'll go away from here. If you think that's the right thing to do, I'll go to a hospital or somewhere else. I'll do it.

She pours herself another drink. Naum embraces her, taking carefully the glass from her hand. The first symptoms of drunkenness are obvious by now: in her gestures, the gait, and the look of her eyes.

NAUM: Nobody wants you to go away from here, mom! Nobody wants you to go to a hospital!...But it can't go on like this any more... something has to change...

ZARA: Whats to change?... What can happen to a woman who's forty-something... a woman like me...

NAUM: Get a job, for example.

ZARA: A job!?

NAUM: To keep you busy during the day...

ZARA: What job can I get? What work do you think I can do? Perhaps you'd suggest begin playing the piano again, giving concerts... After twenty years.... (her voice trembles)...I haven't played the scales even in twenty years!

NEDA: And why haven't you played even the scales for twenty years?

ZARA: Because...because someone had to be there washing your diapers, cleaning your running noses, reading you fairy tales, taking you to the skating ring, listening to your everyday stories, celebrating your birthdays, making you pancakes, taking you to French lessons, sol-fa lessons, and dancing lessons, doing your shoe laces, going to parents' meetings... instead of simply practising the piano!...Instead of...living my own life!...Playing the piano!...I could have become famous by now! I could have given concerts! I could have travelled! You could have had no mother at all! You could have easily not been born even!

Pause.

NEDA: This isn't true.

ZARA: What's not true.

NEDA: Granny was there telling us fairy tales. Not you.

ZARA: Pardon?

NEDA: It was granny who made pancakes for us. She took us to the skating ring. She did our shoelaces. Not you. (Pause) You played poker games and sat in cafes while granny took care of us and daddy went to work. (Pause) You weren't at home.

ZARA: I wasn't home?!

NEDA: No, you weren't! You were always away when we were little...That's all I remember about you - that you were gone and I kept dreaming about you, about your face, your eyes, your perfume, your dress...but you were away, now daddy's away too. (Pause) You'd show us to your friends the way you showed off your new jewellery or fur coats. And all the time you would repeat how exhausted you were looking after us. Until finally everybody came to believe that you really took care of us.

Zara goes to her and slaps her violently. The two remain standing, exchanging looks, close to each other. Zara seems to hesitate whether to strike her again.

NEDA: You drove daddy away from here. (Pause) You didn't love him. You were always dissatisfied. He would do everything for you, but you never seemed satisfied. If I were daddy, I would have gone away from here too... (Pause) I would have taken Naum with me and disappear.

ZARA: Why don't you do it then?...Take him and get out of here!...Go to America!

NEDA: I want so badly to go to him.

Suddenly Neda starts weeping loudly. Zara starts laughing hysterically.

ZARA: Then go, though I wonder how you'll find him!...nobody knows his whereabouts or his phone number!...He's taken all the measures to prevent his own children from imposing upon him in America!... Ungrateful brats!... Bastards!...Oh God, I wish I could kill myself!

Neda jumps up all of a sudden.

NEDA: You' ll never do it! You simply can't!...He could, but not you - never!

Zara freezes. Then she makes a few steps to get her handbag; searching for something inside. She takes out a gun. Naum rushes to her, but she aims straight at him.

ZARA: If you make a single move, I'll shoot one of us.

Then she aims the gun point-blank at herself.

ZARA: Now the princess will have the pleasure of witnessing...

For a while nobody moves. In the end, Neda cannot stand it any more and falls on her knees...

NEDA: Please, mom...dear mom...

Zara pulls the trigger.

Of course, the gun hasn't been loaded.

Blackout.

Just for a few seconds - as if lit by a lightening, we can see Neda's

confused and tousled expression. Simultaneously we hear her trembling voice: "Dear God, please bring daddy back home."

>Neda is seated on the floor by her cassette recorder, listening to very loud music. She would repeat again and again the very same piece of music. Naum has dissembled his bike and is fixing it now. There are spare parts all over the place around him. Zara enters, carrying a bottle in her hand. She's already drunk, staggering. She is untidy, dishevelled, beyond recognition. She is showing the dead Popo in front of everybody's face.

ZARA: Obviously, hes been... sitting like that for days on end! Wasn't there at least one person in this house who would notice and do something about it? Nobody had the kindness to hear his cries? Or maybe neither of you had the kindness to hear that he wasn't crying? (She stands in front of Naum, holding the parrot in front of his face.) Can you use him for your bike? Perhaps you could squeeze him in between the spokes and turn him around? Or use him to polish your.. what were they called - fenders? Or you could simply throw him away? Somewhere? I don't know where exactly...Maybe in the garbage can...Where do they throw away dead parrots? Or the dead pets of...I won't call him by name...I won't stain my mouth by...you know what I mean! By naming him! By using his lousy name!...Neda!

NEDA: Yes, mom.

ZARA: Don't you feel sorry for the parrot?

NEDA: I do.

ZARA: Then why don't you bury him? Somewhere in the yard?

Neda keeps silent.

ZARA: Naum, would you bury him then?

Naum keeps silent.

ZARA: Do I have to bury him then?...(She dumps the bird on the table.) Or we could eat him....Neda!... Neda!

NEDA: What is it, mom?

ZARA: Can you pluck his feathers?...And cook him?

Neda plays really loud music.

ZARA: (shouting) Neda!

Neda turns off the music. Goes out of her room.

ZARA: (shouting) Neda!

Neda enters the room.

ZARA: When family problems are being solved or family decisions are being made we have to be here - all of us! In this room!...I won't allow anybody from my family to walk out on me - just like that...Did I make myself clear?

NEDA: Yes, mom.

Zara picks up the bird again. Takes it to Naum.

ZARA: Aren't you going out for a ride on your bike?...Don't you feel like going out?...I could join you. I will sit at the handlebars and you'll ride. Let's do it, Naum?...(Naum keeps silent.) As if I were your girlfriend!...(Naum keeps silent.) You don't want, do you? Have I really grown so old and rotten that you feel ashamed to give your mother a ride? (Naum keeps silent.)...(She screams) Naum, do you hear me!

NAUM: Yes, mom.

ZARA: When I speak to you, you ought to answer!

NAUM: Yes, mom.

ZARA: Do you want to go for a ride with me?

NAUM: No, mom.

ZARA: I asked you - have I grown so old and rotten that you're ashamed to take a ride with me!

NAUM: Mom, you're drunk again.

ZARA: What about a walk then? Forget about the bike...don't you want to go out for a walk, Naum?

Naum does not answer.

ZARA: Anywhere!...Even on our street!...We'll go to the end of the street - arm in arm. Let's do it!...We'll pass by Betty's grocery...then I'll look back at her - full of pride, with my two children at my side...yes, I'll look straight into Betty's eyes - proud because... because I am a proud woman. Naum, why are you so absorbed in thought? Because that jerk - that you still consider your father perhaps, has left you behind...not giving a shit about you... without even... (Naum is about to leave, she shouts at him.) When I speak to you, you ought to listen! (Naum halts, still with his back turned at her, she begins talking hysterically.)...It's been six months already, six...six months, and he hasn't even called to see if we're still alive... just to see if we're still alive and kicking, because if one of us dies...there's no way he'd know, he...he... he cant possibly know... just like we cant know whether hes died... if this scoundrel, if this petty...worthless insect, this stinking skunk has popped off in his lousy America... May he really pop off in his lousy America, in the Marlboro country, stifled by Marlboro, rolling in the Marlboro gutters, covered all over... glutted.. by Marlboro...Why are you staring at me like that?! Why are you staring as if he weren't a jerk, or a scoundrel or a stinking lousy skunk, who...

Naum leaves the room.

ZARA: (shouting) Naum!...I won't tolerate anybody from my family... while I'm speaking, anybody to...

NEDA: Mom, I'll bring him back...

Neda goes out.

Zara pours herself another drink. She plays some music. She faces her mother, unbuttons her dressing gown. Then she begins dancing, reeling and hitting herself against the furniture.

ZARA: Mother!...I have to find myself a lover...mom, do they sell them somewhere... do they display them... what am I supposed to say? Hey, guy, be my lover for a week! Or perhaps, first I have to fall in love in order to get a lover?... How was it, mom?...What's the rule?... In fact, why do I need a lover!... I don't want to find myself a lover...(Zara collapses in front of her mother.) Tell me something, mother,...has your carriage arrived?... Will your mother come to pick you up from school, mom?...

Zara covers her face with her hands. She starts weeping quietly.

Blackout.

Lights down on GRANNY.

GRANNY: Have you been enchanted?- Veronika asked the fairy. You look like a fairy from children's books. In the tales about fairies everything seems to be as real as on the Earth. Oh, if only you humans could realise that! And the fairy looked down with sadness. Then Veronika saw the dwarfs - down at the roots, close to the centre of the Earth. One was black, the other - white; they seemed as small as mice. The black dwarf was jumping over the white one, trying to get one of his stones. Meanwhile the white dwarf was cutting the stones into pieces, trying to put sparks into them, so that the light could pass through them. He wanted to have all the stones clean and bright, and the whole Earth lighted from within. And not only the stones, but everything - people, animals, plants. The black dwarfs, however, did not want this to happen. Nor to have others looking into them, because inside there were hidden some really ugly and terrifying things. They wanted everything on the Earth to be as black and dark as they were. At that moment a gentle knock was heard on the tree trunk. A Silf stood outside - the elf seemed to be woven out of bright coloured silk, with butterfly wings on the shoulders. Oh, isn't he beautiful! - cried out Veronika with great enthusiasm. I've been ordered to call for little Veronika and take her to the Silver Bridge - he said softly.

Blackout.

Again, only for a few seconds - as if lit by a lightening, we can see Neda's troubled face and hear her prayer "Oh God, please bring daddy back home!"

It's night. The telephone rings. Zara gets up from bed in her nightgown, hitting herself against various objects until she reaches the phone. Neda and Naum come out of their rooms sleepy.

ZARA: Hello?... Hello?...

Obviously at the other end of the line nobody says anything. They hang up. Silence. With an increasing feeling of hopelessness, hope and love, she begins to shout: "Hello?... Who is it?" etc. This lasts for a long time. She obviously thinks it is Ignat who is calling. Obviously, she has so much to tell him. Then is heard how they hang up the phone at the other end. Zara hangs up phone very slowly too. She startles on hearing Neda's voice.

NEDA: Who was it?

ZARA: Nobody.

NEDA: Was it disconnected?

ZARA: No, it wasn't.

Pause.

NEDA: Who was it then.

ZARA: They said nothing.

Neda and Naum keep standing still.

ZARA: The sound was strange.

NEDA: As if coming through satellite?

ZARA: What satellite?

NEDA: As if...coming from very far away?

ZARA: No. I'm not sure. It must have been wrong number.

NAUM: Wrong number? At 2 a.m.?

NEDA: It's morning there.

ZARA: Where.

NEDA: I hope granny hasn't woken up.

ZARA: She hasn't fallen asleep yet....In fact, what difference does it make if...

NEDA: Yes, it's morning...

NAUM: I had a dream...about a wall...

NEDA: What wall?

NAUM: Transparent, yet I couldnt get through it....

Blackout.

GRANNY and NEDA are in the dark spot.

NEDA: Daddy kept sending us money. He must have earned a lot, because he sent us a lot of money. Sometimes I would go to the airport and wait for the flight from America. I imagined him coming down the stairs of the plane... his raincoat over the arm, and a suitcase in the other hand...Then I would rush to him, throwing myself into his arms... but he wouldn't recognise me... and I would say: "Daddy, it's me, Neda...I've grown up"...and he'd embrace me, start kissing me... and everything would be again like what it used to be...In the evening, before going to sleep, I would tell him what had happened during the day...I was certain he could hear me...I would hide the truth even from myself, I would lie..even to myself...that daddy had come back for Christmas, that Naum and I would spend the summer in America,... that I had to hurry to get to the post-office because I had to send him a letter, urgent, that very day!...Today! Tomorrow would have been too late... So I would rush to the post-office, buy a stamp and put it on the envelope, writing at the top "America, Ohio, for daddy whom I haven't seen for two years now...Hey!...Where are you!...(Neda looks around anxiously.) Where!...

Lights down on the "home". Inside it Zara is tying with bandage her mother to an armchair. Granny wriggles wildly, tosses around, repeats incoherently " Tri- tri- tri...the marriage bed"..., she tries to break loose, calling out. Neda approaches them.

ZARA: That's it.... I'm tying you...I'm tying my mother... I'm tying my mother to the armchair. If God were watching me...Certainly, God's watching me...But I can't live like that any more, mom...I dress the shop windows of a grocery nearby - Betty's grocery, can you remember Betty, mom?...next week I'll start dressing the shop windows of another grocery, mom...I didn't believe that I would get ashore safely, mom... I have a boyfriend even...I go out with friends every evening...Can you imagine, I have friends too...I thought I would drown, mom...but why do you still torture me so much...teasing me...giving me no chance to sleep... You stink the place out.... the whole house is covered with filth because of you...you move around and carry the filth with you... making a mess all the time...Oh, that I could send you to a nursing home, mom...I wish you'd die...mom...

Suddenly a miracle happens... Granny stops tossing around and moaning, she becomes silent and stares fixedly at her daughter - one of those rare moments of revelation... Then she begins caressing Zara's hair...

GRANNY: Sweetie, you shouldn't... stop crying, sweetheart,...you're so good-hearted and beautiful, and you've suffered so much...stop crying, my dear...

Zara stands up. She withdraws a few steps.

ZARA: Me? Good hearted, mom?... Or beautiful...

Granny smiles mysteriously, she looks into the distance, the revelation's over.

ZARA: Oh, God!...Oh, God!...

And then again Granny starts chanting incoherently and anxiously about "the marriage bed".

Naum approaches her, he starts untying her silently, studying carefully her face and hands, he takes some handcream and begins smearing it over her skin.

NAUM: You should have closed the window at least...the mosquitoes have bitten her all over...

ZARA: She...she came into my bedroom...her arms reaching out...talking in her sleep...and then she collapsed on my bed...she constantly... there's no place to hide from her... she's so cruel to me... (She begins weeping, losing control over herself.)... No, Naum, no, she's not cruel, she's sick...and she's so good-hearted...she's the only person who still loves me... the only one...and indeed, she was the one who raised you...

NAUM: Stop crying, mom, please,... stop crying...because I can't stand it any more...

ZARA: I tied her...to this armchair...I tied my own mother, Naum...I'm a... I'm a real swine, Naum! I'm a monster! One day when I become like her, you'll also tie me to a chair, won't you! You will also be thinking how to get rid of me, wont you, Naum!

GRANNY: Come and take me away, mom...they'll throw me out...here,...they'll ask money for the rent...and I don't have a penny, mom...come on, let's go... the carriage's waiting for us...

The three of them speak simultaneously and can't hear each other...

The telephone rings several times before Naum picks up the receiver. They hang up on the other end of the line. Naum sits down on a chair, covers his head with his hands, and starts quietly weeping. Neda comes to him, sits down on his lap. She caresses him. Zara watches them both.

NAUM: Neda, you know what I dream about?

NEDA: I know...

NAUM: I dream to have a home where to live for good...a home that I would never leave...

Pause

NEDA: Naum has won first prize at the poetry competition in Bologna.

Pause.

ZARA: Bologna?...Where was Bologna?

NEDA: His poems will be published in France, England and Italy. They'll give him five thousand dollars.

ZARA: Does Naum write poetry?

Pause.

NEDA: Are you hungry?

Naum shakes his head in disagreement. Zara stands in front of them. She watches the two embracing each other as if she sees them for the first time after a long period. She can't believe what she sees. She starts circling around the two.

ZARA: Goodness, my children!!...Congratulations, Naum!...I do congratulate you!... I'm so happy!... My dear children!...

Zara touches them, timidly fondling one, then the other. Then she starts kissing their hair, the hands, and the faces...She goes to her mother, kisses her too.

ZARA: Mother!...Mother!...Naum has won first prize for poetry, can you imagine, mother!... We have to... we have to sit down at the table - all of us! You have to tell me everything, from the very beginning....Neda, do we have food for dinner...of course, you've been writing poems since you were little,... get some forks and knives for your granny too,...yes, the first one was about the sun, how you're reaching out for the sun or something like that... I want all of us to get together and sit at the table (Zara begins feverishly to lay the table.)...no, first we need a tablecloth! Which table cloth do you want, Naum? (She searches in the cupboard and pulls out a table cloth.) The blue one?...Come one, tell me everything, from the beginning to the end, what is this competition... no, your granny can have cornflakes only, with some yoghurt,... how did you hear about the competition, who told you about it, everything, I want to know all the details,...Neda, do we have any yoghurt?...I think I knew your first poem by heart (she recites a children's poem about the sun) ...later, you stopped writing... and now, all of a sudden - you've won first prize in Bologna, where was that place Bologna, oh, I forgot.....no, not this one, Neda, put the other one with the orange design! And bring the dinner set in yellow!... How long has it been since we last had a tablecloth on the table! Please, bring the candlestick too!...

NEDA: But mom, it's three o'clock p.m.!

Neda spreads open a newspaper and shows it to her. Zara reads.

ZARA: Nineteen-year old Naum... has won the most prestigious European award for poetry...and so on and so forth,... some of his poems were written initially in French which he knows as his native tongue... so, the French lessons weren't useless...(Takes another newspaper.)...The collection of poems by the totally unknown young poet...so on and so forth, entitled "Snow and Gin"... what a terrific title! - has won first prize at the international competition, organized by the most prestigious academy... there are four more poets from our country who took part in the competition, among whom....Its unbelievable!...My God!...Simply unbelievable!

ZARA: Why didn't you tell me right away?

NAUM: I had no opportunity.

ZARA: And why didn't you tell me earlier - when you sent your poems for the competition?

Naum does not answer. He stares straight into her eyes.

ZARA: And why you never showed me your poems? (Naum is still silent, looking her straight into the eyes.) It seems you didn't exist... God, as if I couldn't remember you...(Pause)...Its...a spectacular success, Naum. Oh, God! I feel like calling Betty right away to tell her...she would see, that stupid woman!...Nonsense! It doesn't matter what Betty thinks.

NEDA: Mom, I also have something to tell you.

ZARA: What.

NEDA: I'm going to get married.

ZARA: (quietly) What?

NEDA: I fell in love with someone and I'm going to marry him.

ZARA: When.

NEDA: As soon as possible.

ZARA: You must be pregnant.

NEDA: No, I'm not.

ZARA: Why then?

NEDA: Well, I just wanted you...to know.

ZARA: You...you really want to finish me tonight.

NEDA: Aren't you glad?

ZARA: Glad?...Of course, I'm glad!...But why so sudden... that's the first time I've heard about it, and...

NEDA: Because that's the first time I've told you...he's an extraordinary man.. indeed.

ZARA: And why it's the first time that...no, no, wait a minute, what makes him so extraordinary?

NEDA: I have so much to tell you about him.

ZARA: Has Naum met him?

NEDA: He has.

ZARA: Is he really extraordinary?

NAUM: Er... ye-e-s, he is.

ZARA: What makes him so extraordinary?

NEDA: He's great.

ZARA: Really?

NEDA: Really.

ZARA: And why haven't you introduced him to me?

NEDA: Because I don't dare bring anybody here, if you have noticed.

ZARA: Yes!...Yes, of course!...Because of your granny...I feel the same!...I made contacts with some of my old friends, but I also can't invite them over. So what's he like?

NEDA: He wants to become an actor, he has...

ZARA: (interrupts her) What does he do for a living?

NEDA: He runs some business... he has enough money, he reads awfully a lot, has no parents and is very talkative.

ZARA: Unbelievable!...How come he has no parents?

NEDA: They died.

ZARA: Both of them?

NEDA: Yes.

ZARA: Recently?

NEDA: No, long time ago.

ZARA: How come!

NEDA: A train accident. His aunt raised him, but she also died recently.

ZARA: Another accident?

NEDA: Mom!

ZARA: Doesn't he have any living relatives?

NEDA: How could I know? What's this interrogation for?

ZARA: What did his father and mother do?

NEDA: I haven't asked.

ZARA: How long have you known him?

NEDA: For two month.

Zara laughs.

NEDA: But we fell in love the very first moment we saw each other, it's such a weird thing, you know...

ZARA: It's called love at first sight.

NEDA: No, mom...I'm sure...I know it somehow...I feel it... he will be the only man in my life, no matter what happens... I feel as if I've always known him... do you see?

ZARA: I do.

NEDA: What's the matter now? Arent you happy?

ZARA: Of course,... I'm happy...I'm really happy about both of you...My goodness!... It seems that everything so far has been a dream.... I fell asleep when I was twenty...and now I wake up at forty-three... where have all these twenty years gone... how have they slipped by...I remember nothing of my life... nothing meaningful, nothing beautiful, nothing, simply nothing...I wonder how that's possible...

NAUM: Neda's coming with me.

ZARA: (overcoming her reverie) Where?

NAUM: To Bologna.

ZARA: What for?

NAUM: I've been invited to the awarding ceremony, and I'll take her with me.

ZARA: That's...wonderful!

Pause.

ZARA: How will you get there?

NAUM: I don't know yet.

ZARA: Wonderful!...It's really wonderful that both of you are going to Bologna!... I've never been to Bologna. For how long?

NAUM: One or two weeks at the most.

ZARA: Two weeks? But this is really great!...Great!...(She gets up, begins walking nervously.) Do you mean you'll leave me alone with your crazy granny?

NAUM: But mom!...Neda's done the translation of my poems...

ZARA: Neda's going to get married...while you've become a world famous poet...Neda has translated your poems...while I'm busy arranging goods in some grocery store...Me, who used to be the most beautiful girl, the most talented, the smartest,...I could have married anybody I wanted,...I used to play music on sight...whatever I liked!...So what if you have translated his poems? Wasn't I the one who gave birth to you?

NAUM: Do you want to come with us?

ZARA: No!...Of course, not! I can't get away from here! I have work to do! A lot of work! And then your granny... we can't...leave her behind...

NAUM: (interrupts her) We can hire a woman to look after her...

ZARA: We can't hire a woman to look after her...

NAUM: Why not?

ZARA: I would never leave my mother...to a stranger... some strange woman taking care of her...She's my mother after all. Don't you know that...

NAUM: Yes, we know, mom.

ZARA:...That... my own flesh and blood...

NAUM: Of course, we know...

Pause.

All, including Granny even, seem to be frozen in the same posture - equally sad, equally dissatisfied, deep in thought. Suddenly Zara grabs her hair and screams. Nobody responds. It seems that nobody hears her.

Blackout.

Neda - as if struck by a "lightening" again. This time she may not even be heard saying her prayer: " Dear God, please bring daddy back home!".

Blackout.

GRANNY: And then the fairy said: It seems the twilight will envelop you soon, little Veronika. Now climb to the top of the tree, the Silf will hold you by the hand and you'll fly together over to the Silver bridge. But how could I fly, asked Veronika anxiously. Don't you have wings? - asked the Silk elf. Don't you feel them grown on your shoulders? This happens quickly in our garden - the Garden of the Spirits. And indeed - Veronika felt her butterfly wings move gently, and with no effort, accompanied by the Silf, she flew from the top of the tree out into the spacious summer air, full of sunshine. The bridge stood on silver pillars, erected on top of the Garden of the Spirits. Like a rainbow, the bridge rose into the clear air and disappeared in the shimmering sun light of extraordinary brightness. What a feast for the eyes! Veronika had never seen something as beautiful as that. Up there she felt at home - as if she had often walked along the Silver bridge. But had she really been there before? When? She couldnt remember. At one end of the bridge the earth and the stones were as clean as glass, surrounded by blossoming lilies and roses - washed by light, together with thousands of other flowers that Veronika had never seen. Noiseless and weightless forms of human beings and animals crossed the bridge - they were also pierced by the light, illuminating the flowers and the stones. In the middle of the bridge, however, exactly at the point where it disappeared into brightness, there stood several silver-winged angels, dressed in white. Veronika was still - aware of nothing but the light within herself. Yet, she watched fixedly one of the angels - he also stared back straight into her eyes.

 


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