The Kittens

The Kittens

By Críspulo Torres

Translated by John Thomas Howard

Volume 6, Issue 2 (Fall 2016)

On August 24, 2016, news outlets around the globe reported on what some are calling a new chapter in Colombian history: a joint communiqué issued by the Colombian government and the FARC announced a final and lasting accord that would end Latin America’s longest running war, an internal struggle between leftist guerillas and the Colombian republic that has lasted over five decades.  But peace is not guaranteed. The Colombian Peace Plan must be ratified through a plebiscite to be held in October; and already, there are detractors who argue that guerillas should not receive pardons for the atrocities committed throughout the many years of war.

For those who support the plan, the opportunity to secure lasting peace is a much-welcomed change. The Colombian people have lived through countless periods of bloodshed, for generations now, and heinous acts of violence have been committed by numerous groups over the years. This includes the FARC and other left-wing guerilla groups, as well as rival drug cartels and their warrens of street-level gangs, right-wing paramilitary squads, not to mention the Colombian military, police forces, and political groups of various shades and sizes.

In 1991, the FARC entered into an earlier unsuccessful round of peace talks with the government. That same year, the Medellín Cartel, led by the all too infamous Pablo Escobar, was also very much at war with the Colombian republic. Escobar’s biggest grievance was the government’s extradition of drug traffickers to the United States. To force an end to this practice, Escobar ordered scores of assassinations, as well as any number of bombings.

The bloodiest year of Escobar’s war may have been 1989, when close to fifteen bombs were detonated throughout different cities across the country. Of these fifteen terrorist acts, at least nine are known to have been perpetrated by the Medellín Cartel, including the downing of Avianca Flight 203 in November. With a total of 110 fatalities, this one act is considered to be the deadliest single crime to be orchestrated by Pablo Escobar–deadlier even than the 1985 Palace of Justice siege, if allegations of Escobar’s connection to the M-19 guerilla group-led siege are true. Between September and December of 1989, five of these bombs exploded in the capital of Bogotá, killing upwards of sixty people. The following year another bomb rattled the capital, killing seven. All of this to illustrate how bombings in particular–especially car bombs– and violence in general were a way of life for Colombians in the years leading up to 1991, when Críspulo Torres B. completed work on and directed his one-act, “Los Gaticos.”

Torres’ play is an adaptation of “Vamos a matar los gaticos,” a short story by Álvaro Cepeda Samudio, a respected Colombian writer and journalist best known outside Colombia for his connection to Gabriel García Márquez. In 1950, when Cepeda Samudio’s story was first published in a journal called Cronicá, it was accompanied by one of García Márquez’ illustrations. The story, told mostly in direct dialogue, follows three children who must decide when and how to kill a litter of stray kittens they have found while playing. Just two years prior to the story’s publication, the Liberal leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán was assassinated, setting off El Bogotazo, a series of bloody riots that marked the beginning of a ten-year-long wave of violence referred to simply as La Violencia. Reading Cepeda Samudio’s story, one can see the effects that intensified levels of bloodshed and violence can have on the games of schoolchildren, not to mention the effects such violence had on artwork being produced within the country at the time.

Fast-forward to 1991, to two years after the downing of Avianca Flight 203, to Torres’ reimagined and reshaped version of Cepeda Samudio’s short story: like its antecedent, the one-act follows in the wake of another wave of bloodshed that inundated the Colombian people. In the play, Torres swaps out children for a pair of elderly siblings, a brother and sister named Vetustio and Artaita. The pair ends up trapped in an elevator after having received an inheritance from a third sibling, another sister recently killed in a gang-related shootout. The inheritance the siblings receive is a basket filled with kittens; and because the dead sister’s last will and testament requires the killing of all the kittens, Vetustio and Artaita have no choice but to return to the same horrid conversation haunting the dialogue in Cepeda Samudio’s story. Like those children scarred by the early years of La Violencia, the elderly siblings must decide when and how to kill the litter of kittens their sister has left behind for them.

Add to this macabre situation the spectral appearance of the sister’s ghost, the occasional mentioning of a dead mother’s presence, and the unnatural (dare it be called magical?) appearance of any number of outlandish props the elderly brother and sister use to kill time and to kill kittens during their confinement in the broken-down elevator, and what you have is a work that ventures into Theater of the Absurd territory. Similar to the post-war French tradition, Torres and Cepeda Samudio both wrote in the wake of great suffering and unrest, during moments of Colombian history when any and all understanding of the ongoing Colombian conflict was muddied by the trauma suffered when having to live through an endless barrage of bullets and the continual detonation of bombs, not to mention the egregious loss of life to be mourned. But unlike the end of the Second World War, the conflict in Colombia seems to be a conflict without end, especially in 1950 and again in 1991. Instead of progress, there is a hornets’ nest that is time and time again unsettled by stones thrown by different hands. Instead of any resolutions, there is a kind of frenzy in which it becomes difficult to distinguish one culprit from another when faced with so many stone-wielding instigators. Instead of peace, there is a cyclic nature to the violence, a horrid pattern that can easily make it seem as if the conflict is a never-ending curse cast against the Colombian nation and its people.

Torres’ adaptation and evolution of the Cepeda Samudio story is also an adaptation and evolution of the ideas put forward by French dramatists and writers of the Absurd. Forget existentialism, forget all loss of meaning, forget the irrational and illogical leading down a rabbit’s whole to absolute silence. Instead, follow the irrational and illogical roadmap Torres supplies, to a place you have no ability to escape from. Follow along that path and you will find those places where the Colombian people live, in Bogotá, in Medellín, in Cali, in Cartagena, in the mountainous country sides between these and other cities, and they will tell you there is never any silence, no matter how irrational and illogical the violence becomes, or continues to be. For them, for all Colombians who have lived through the conflict, there is no silence whatsoever; there is only the endless report of bullets, the continued sound of explosions going off in the distance, and the sirens and the screams that accompany these things. For those close enough to have survived the fire-blast and the shrapnel-spread of any bomb planted by any instigator, there is also the endless ringing and droning hum that fills the ears and refuses to leave. And there are painful memories to tend to, ones that are difficult to leave behind, to forget, to bury. Violence reverberates this way, endlessly, absurdly so–an absurdity which can sound like the preposterous and senseless things people say when trying to decide how and when to kill a litter of unwanted kittens.

Addendum: Sadly, the conflict without end seems to continue. On Sunday, October 2, 2016, in a nation-wide referendum plagued by poor voter turnout (only 37% of Colombians went to the polls), Colombians voting against the plan defeated efforts towards peace by a slim margin. 50.2% voted no and 49.8% voted yes, with a difference of little more than 50K votes, leading to a rejection that baffled many Colombians and spectators watching results from outside the long-embattled nation.  Detractors of the plan were led by former president Álvaro Uribe. Criticism against peace efforts brokered by the current president, Juan Manuel Santos, included rebuke of the following: amnesty for FARC leaders and rank and file combatants; the disregard of victims’ rights; provisions to provide financial support for former guerillas reintegrating into society; as well as the proposal to include FARC in the governing process, permitting the former guerilla group to function as a political party, and provided them with a small number of guaranteed seats in both the Colombian House and Senate. Many of the critics felt the plan was too lenient on guerillas, while President Santos, throughout the long negotiation process, made it clear that the guerillas would not come to the negotiating table if they were asked to do so with their backs against a wall. On Monday immediately following the difficult vote, both Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri (better known by the alias Timochenko) vowed to continue efforts towards peace. And on Friday, October 7, 2016, news from Sweden underscored that vow: just five days after the no vote had left efforts for a Colombian Peace Plan up in the air, the Nobel Committee announced that they had awarded the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize to Juan Manuel Santos. The award was conferred on Santos to recognize the difficult work that had gone into the process of brokering peace with the FARC, and hopefully, to spur continued work so that peace in Colombia might soon be agreed upon by all parties, including the Colombian people themselves.

Críspulo Torres B. is a Colombian playwright and director. His career spans nearly four decades, and his work has received numerous awards, including the recognition that his first play, Domitilio, el rey de la rumba, is considered one of Colombia’s most important dramatic works of the 20th century. He is founder and director of Teatro Tecal, one of the nation’s leading theatre troupes, a group known for street theatre productions since its 1980 inception, when Tecal first performed Domitilio on the streets of Bogotá. A decade later, Tecal and its founding director added indoor efforts to work accomplished outdoors, opening a small theatre in the historic district of La Candelaria. Since that time, Torres and Tecal’s work has shifted between indoor and outdoor spaces, using both the stage and the street to explore and expand aesthetic and thematic possibilities for their continued creative output.

John Thomas Howard is a writer, translator, and educator who holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Indiana University, and currently lives in Indianapolis, where he is working on a first novel and a collection of short stories. His birthplace is in New York State, but he has spent time in Medellín, Colombia, the South American city where his mother was born. His writing and translation projects are informed by an ongoing and evolving relationship to his mother’s birthplace; in addition to writing fictional works that explore such geographical, cultural, and personal displacements, he specializes in the translation of Colombian literary texts.

 

The Kittens

Translated from “Los Gaticos,” a one-act by Críspulo Torres

Two aging siblings, ARTAITA and VETUSTIO, are in an elevator. They are quite upset and refuse to speak with one another. They scowl and make childish faces.

ARTAITA pushes the button for the first floor. VETUSTIO changes it by pressing the button for a different floor. ARTAITA presses the button for the first floor again. VETUSTIO persists, and this back and forth continues until ARTAITA pulls out a knife. She tries to stab him but he jumps out of the way, and the blade pierces the control panel, damaging the elevator and plunging them into darkness.

A long, uncomfortable silence follows.

VETUSTIO:  (Groping in the dark) Now look what you’ve done!

ARTAITA:     It jammed.

VETUSTIO:  You broke it.

ARTAITA:     It got jammed!

VETUSTIO:  Vandal!

ARTAITA:     (Addressing an imaginary person) Teddy, can you find Mama, wherever she is in heaven, to let her know that the elevator isn’t working, and ask if she can fix the lights at the very least… (The elevator lights turn on) Thank you Teddy!

VETUSTIO:  (Persistently) Look at what you’ve done!

ARTAITA:     It got jammed.

VETUSTIO:  You’re such a troublemaker! (Pause)

ARTAITA:     Why did you have to go tell the judge that Teddy was insane?

VETUSTIO:  All I said was that she had dementia. There is a difference.

ARTAITA:     Still, you didn’t have to mention it right there in the judge’s office.

VETUSTIO:  Who in their right mind goes outside during a shootout? What was she thinking? She was off her rocker!

ARTAITA:    It was called for…

VETUSTIO:  What was? The shootout?

ARTAITA:     No, she suffered from symptoms of claustrophobia.

VETUSTIO:  Anyone would suffer from “symptoms of claustrophobia” if they hadn’t stepped outside in twenty years.

ARTAITA:     She locked herself away voluntarily.

VETUSTIO:  Still, she could have picked a better moment to step outside.

ARTAITA:     You’re no different. Neither am I. It’s been over twenty years since either one of us set foot outside.

VETUSTIO:  With so many shootouts?

ARTAITA:     Why would you take the psychiatrist’s side? Insinuating that Teddy might have had sexual problems like that!

VETUSTIO:  Who doesn’t have sexual problems when they’re ninety years old?

ARTAITA:     It was a stray bullet that killed her.

VETUSTIO:  Yes, but it was penetration, and the psychiatrist insists that that’s a sexual matter.

ARTAITA:     She left you the inheritance.

VETUSTIO:  The kittens.

ARTAITA:     The judge handed it all over to you.

VETUSTIO:  That’s why we’re here…but…now we’re stuck, trapped on account of your criminal tendencies!

ARTAITA:     It jammed, period. You’re the one that jumped out of the way. Besides, she left you everything. Why go and badmouth her in front of the judge like that?

VETUSTIO:  Wasn’t me. It was the judge. And that psychiatrist. Put a sock in it!

ARTAITA:     Those good-for-nothing psychiatrists!

VETUSTIO:  (Furiously) No need to go and get all anti-psychiatrist…you’re always speaking poorly of others.

The elderly brother and sister exchange silent blows. Their movements are absurdly slow, but they’re able to engage in a substantially physical brawl: a jab is thrown, whining is heard, there is a masterful headlock reversal, the twisting of an arm, sneers, a bear hug, some biting, and a bit of hair pulling. Their scuffling is interrupted when someone asks if they need help; the voice is heard coming from somewhere outside the elevator, muffled and unintelligible.

ARTAITA:     (Speaking to the voice) No sir, we haven’t the faintest idea what went wrong. (The voice responds)

VETUSTIO:  (To the voice) Looks like it could be faulty wiring. (To ARTAITA) You vandal! (The voice asks a question)

ARTAITA:     No, no sir, we can’t fix it…maybe if we had some tools. (The voice suggests something)

VETUSTIO:  No, unfortunately we don’t even have a screwdriver, let alone a screw…yes sir, we’ll wait right here…we’re not worried…thank you.

ARTAITA:     (Mischievously) Why don’t we kill the kittens while they’re fixing the elevator… We are going to kill them, and I know how to do it, so let’s just finish them off.

VETUSTIO:  No, not yet.

ARTAITA:     But Teddy left you the kittens on one condition: that we would kill them before they had a chance to grow any bigger. She spelled that out in her will.

VETUSTIO:  Absolutely, I want to make sure they’re dead too, just not here!

ARTAITA:     How many kittens are there?

VETUSTIO:  I don’t know, looks like there’s four to me.

ARTAITA:     (Singing) Two plus two makes four, and four plus two’s six more, six plus two makes eight, and eight plus two’s ten straight.

VETUSTIO:  (Singing) I’ve gone and dressed my kittens, dressed them all in blue, they’re wearing lil’ white booties, and aprons made of tulle.

ARTAITA:     (Abruptly) Are they cute?

VETUSTIO:  I don’t know, I haven’t seen them yet. The judge handed me the inheritance all bundled up like that, just the way it is. (Searching his pockets) Hey, give me a smoke, will you?

ARTAITA:     Don’t be a pain, you know we don’t have any cigarettes here.

VETUSTIO:  (Addressing an imaginary person) Teddy, can you find Mama, wherever she is in heaven, to ask her for a cigarette. (A cigarette appears out of thin air) Thanks Teddy.

ARTAITA:     (Swiping the cigarette away from him) You can’t smoke in here.

VETUSTIO:  Why not?

ARTAITA:     Because smoking in elevators is prohibited.

VETUSTIO:  Yeah, well this elevator’s out of order.

ARTAITA:     Nevertheless, smoking’s not allowed.

VETUSTIO:  If an elevator’s out of order that means any of its rules and regulations are also out of order, which means that smoking is permitted.

He lights his cigarette, inhaling and exhaling often, filling the elevator with smoke. ARTAITA pulls out an oxygen mask and puts it on. Outraged by her actions, VETUSTIO stamps the cigarette out.

ARTAITA:     (Threateningly) Now that you’ve finished smoking that cigarette…well then I’ll just go ahead and listen to the ocean. (She pulls out a large conch shell)

VETUSTIO:  (Frightened) Will you keep your voice down! And don’t do that! It isn’t safe. They’ll hear you. It is illegal.

ARTAITA:     Who cares, I’m going to listen to the waves anyway.

VETUSTIO:  Please don’t. They’ll hear you, and they could lock us up. It’s prohibited.

ARTAITA:     Why am I not allowed to listen to the ocean?

VETUSTIO:  Well, because it’s…unconstitutional!

ARTAITA:     What’s so unconstitutional about it?

VETUSTIO:  I don’t know…but doing it in an elevator’s even worse.

ARTAITA:     But the elevator’s out of order.

VETUSTIO:  Nevertheless, listening to the ocean in an elevator is prohibited.

ARTAITA:     If an elevator’s out of order that means any of its rules and regulations are also out of order, thus I can and will listen to the ocean’s waves. Besides, I won’t just be listening; I’ll be savoring my time at the beach.

She puts on sunglasses, lays out a towel, and opens a parasol, then settles down contentedly, preparing to listen to the ocean as if she really were at the beach.

VETUSTIO:  (Addressing an imaginary person) That’s how vices get started, Teddy, how people turn into junkies. They start off listening to the ocean casually, but after a while, they need to hear it three times a     day. Eventually, just hearing it doesn’t do the trick. By then they’ve gotten the giggles and they go bonkers painting pictures of little fish on walls. After that, they’re no longer content with just listening to the ocean. They start smelling it too, until finally, they’re shooting sea water right into their own veins; that’s how they all end up, wanting to carry an ocean inside of themselves. Teddy, can you find Mama, wherever she is in heaven, to let her know that Artaita doesn’t want to stop listening to the ocean! (To ARTAITA) Junkie!

ARTAITA:     Fine, I’ll stop, but only if you let me see the kittens. (Excitably) Come on, let’s have a look…

VETUSTIO:  No, not yet. Help me open the elevator hatch first. (He kneels down so she can climb onto his shoulders to reach the hatch)

ARTAITA:     No way, I’m not going up there.

VETUSTIO:  Why not? Why won’t you climb up onto the roof?

ARTAITA:     I don’t want to. Not if it means I have to climb up the shaft.

VETUSTIO:  Why aren’t you able to go up there?

ARTAITA:     You know why…

VETUSTIO:  You’re scared, aren’t you?

ARTAITA:     I’m not scared, it’s just, it makes me feel self-conscious.

VETUSTIO:  Why would it make you feel self-conscious?

ARTAITA:     (Mortified) Because I’m not wearing any underwear!

VETUSTIO:  (Trying to hit her with a cane) Again! You were strutting around like that just yesterday. Who wouldn’t notice? I’m going to have Teddy find Mama, wherever she is in heaven, to let her know how much of a slut you’ve turned into.

ARTAITA:     You knew I wasn’t wearing any underwear, and here you are asking me to climb up on top of you?

VETUSTIO:  It’s really very dangerous for women to walk around here like you do, always hung up on your sexual fantasies like that. This isn’t a nudist colony; it’s not like we live in Europe. We are an undeveloped nation! Tease! Whore!

ARTAITA:     (Seductively) Jealous? Better to be the focus of another person’s jealousy than to find that you’re the one going green with envy.

VETUSTIO:  Tease! Tease! Strutting around stirring up jealousy with that figure of yours…

ARTAITA:     What figure?

VETUSTIO:  Yours of course! Just look! What a disaster!

ARTAITA:     What’s wrong with my body?

VETUSTIO:  Nothing, there’s just always a slight difference between Greek figures and the bodies of farm girls from Cundinamarca.

ARTAITA:     My body is a work of art, my curves are baroque…

VETUSTIO:  Broke for sure! Your curves are falling into decline! (Laughing wildly)

ARTAITA:     (Arches her back and gets down on all fours) That’s enough! That is   enough! I’m not falling into decline like some kind of old-fashioned art form. Besides, you’re older than I am and that means you’ll be the first to go. Teddy, can you find Mama, wherever she is in heaven, to tell her that I’m going to change! I will be an independent woman! The men of this world can all burn in hell. (Singing)

Long live the women of the world

Rise to your feet, slaves, rise up.

Die! Die! (She climbs on top of him) I will be remembered throughout history as the liberator of all women! Long live Policarpa Salavarrieta! Long live Joan of Arc! Long live Mama! Long live Teddy! Death to all fathers! Death to all brothers! Long live feminism! (He falls over as if dead).

A long silence follows.

ARTAITA:     I dreamt that I killed you.

VETUSTIO:  (Startled) That’s funny, I’m having pretty much the same dream. Better yet, come help me climb up there instead.

ARTAITA kneels down and gives him a hand; he starts to rise, but is gripped by fear, screaming as if he’s standing at the edge of some dizzying height; in reality, though, he has barely lifted one foot an inch from the floor.

VETUSTIO:  (Giving up) The thing is I’m terrified of heights, climbing up that high scares me to death.

ARTAITA:     They’re still taking forever to get us out of here; we’re going to kill the kittens.

VETUSTIO:  No, not yet.

ARTAITA:     We are going to kill them.

VETUSTIO:  No, not yet.

ARTAITA:     I’m going to tell Teddy wherever she is in heaven.

VETUSTIO:  Go ahead, tell her; how are you planning on getting in touch with her?

ARTAITA:     (Using a telephone) Hello, is Teddy there? (To VETUSTIO) Teddy’s on the line asking for you.

VETUSTIO:  That’s bullshit, where’s she calling from?

ARTAITA:     From heaven, of course!

VETUSTIO:  Bullshit, they don’t need phones in heaven, everyone up there uses divine powers to keep in touch.

ARTAITA:     Fine, then it’s hell she’s calling from.

VETUSTIO:  That’s impossible, everybody knows telephones melt in hell.

ARTAITA:     Then it’s purgatory she’s calling from…

VETUSTIO:  That can’t be true either. They keep everyone there sequestered, and they’re certainly not allowed to use telephones.

ARTAITA:     Fine…from the moon then.

VETUSTIO:  That’s even less likely. Everyone knows telephones get unhinged when the full moon’s out.

ARTAITA:     Fine…from any country anywhere in the world whatsoever then…I don’t know…I don’t know… (Begging) Let’s just kill the kittens…

VETUSTIO:  Okay, let’s do it, let’s go ahead and kill them. Hold the basket steady while I take them out.

ARTAITA:     No, they’ll bite me.

VETUSTIO:  They don’t bite, just hold on to it. (Rifling through the basket) Hey look, Teddy’s tarot cards, they’re another part of the inheritance.

ARTAITA:     Here, let me read your cards… (Towards heaven) Help me to concentrate Teddy. (To VETUSTIO) I’m going to read you your past, your present, and your future…hold the cards up. (Magically, the tarot cards move in the directions she mentions) In the past you used to sway towards the “left.” In the present, you’ve shifted earnestly towards the “right,” (The third card falls) and in the future you’ll plunge violently towards the floor!

VETUSTIO:  Teddy never read anyone’s cards like that. (He puts the tarot cards away, and plays with the kittens).

ARTAITA:     I can’t see them that well, are they cute?

VETUSTIO:  Yeah, they’re cute. Two of them are black, and the other two are gray.

ARTAITA:     (Mischievously) You promised the judge you’d carry out Teddy’s last wish.

VETUSTIO:  I know, they all have to die.  I swore an oath before the law, and laws are ironclad, unless of course modifications are made–and yet, I promised to kill them all, and that’s what I intend to do. Watch and learn: (He takes one out) you can strangle them by the throat just like this…see? Choke them firmly for just a moment. It’s easy…you see? This one’s already dead; you can try by killing that one.

ARTAITA:     Kill it yourself…I’ll finish off this gray one instead…no, I don’t want to kill any!

VETUSTIO:  Don’t freak out, they’re not going to bite you, haven’t you noticed they don’t even have any teeth?

ARTAITA:     No, I don’t want to kill any of them; on second thought, let’s take a picture instead, as a memento of what you’ve inherited from Teddy.

VETUSTIO:  Sure, let’s get them smiling.

ARTAITA:     Animals are never that happy.

VETUSTIO:  None of them?

ARTAITA:     Well, can you name any animals that can smile or laugh?

VETUSTIO:  No…maybe…no…not really.

ARTAITA:     (Gravely) “Laughter is the one and only thing there is to distinguish men from beasts.”  That’s Aristotle! Say cheese, and help it to smile, will you!

VETUSTIO:  It kind of looks like it’s laughing when it meows like that.

ARTAITA:     Not at all, it still looks pretty miserable.  Make it smile.

VETUSTIO:  (Putting his fingers into the kitten’s mouth) Like this? Or like this? How about like this?

ARTAITA:     Yank on its tail to see if that gets it to smile.

VETUSTIO:  Like this? That whimpering sure does make it look real happy.

ARTAITA:     Something’s missing…something’s a little off…the paws, cut off its  paws.

VETUSTIO:  (To the kitten) Smile…it’s a keepsake, smile.

They kill the kitten trying to take the photograph.

ARTAITA:     Perfect, now it really does look happy.

VETUSTIO:  It’s dead already. What a pretty picture!

ARTAITA:     Fortunately, it kept smiling. (Astonished) See! We’ve proven Aristotle wrong. (Happily) I think that’s that for scholasticism.

VETUSTIO places the dead kitten next to the other dead kitten.

ARTAITA:     (Calming herself down) I’d like to take one of the little black ones home with me. (She grabs one).

VETUSTIO:  You can’t, we’ve got to carry out Teddy’s last request.

ARTAITA:     (Placing it on the floor) This kitten’s adorable.

VETUSTIO:  It deserves to die a poet’s death!

ARTAITA:     What? You don’t even know what poetry is?

VETUSTIO:  That’s a cinch, poetry is…poetry is…

ARTAITA:     How could you think of trying to kill the black kitten poetically when you don’t even know the first thing about poetry? Empiricist!

VETUSTIO:  Poetry is a logical vehicle, and like logic itself, it demands a certain synthesis, tending to be conclusive, therefore structured with the formal logic of sweeping action, as well as being exclusive in a genetic, biological, and substantial sense.

ARTAITA:     (She applauds without understanding a word he’s said) You always were the smartest one.

VETUSTIO:  (Pleased with himself) Poetry is a logical vehicle… (He takes out a remote control toy truck, and steers it towards the kitten).

ARTAITA:     No, I don’t want to kill any of them…Hey! It’s going to get away! (She pins the kitten’s tail down as the toy truck runs it over).

ARTAITA:     (Crying) I didn’t want to kill the kittens.

VETUSTIO:  Shut up, shut up, shut up, put that one next to the others.

ARTAITA:     No, don’t kill them, I don’t want to kill them. (Pointing one out) Look, there’s another, you haven’t managed to kill that one.

VETUSTIO grabs it and ARTAITA hands him a meat grinder. VETUSTIO grinds the kitten up. After he’s done, VETUSTIO starts to organize the dead kittens in the basket.

ARTAITA:     What are you doing?

VETUSTIO:  (Unhappily) Putting them back inside the little basket…

ARTAITA:     Why don’t we bury them out on the patio? We can have a funeral march or a big public ceremony? Those are fashionable these days. (Searching around) Want me to give you four small cardboard boxes? I have a bunch of boxes like that in my bag.

VETUSTIO:  (Distraught) No, we’re putting them back in the little basket. It’s an inheritance! And we’re leaving it just the way it was when they first gave it to us.

ARTAITA:     (As if nothing had happened) It’s hot in here.

VETUSTIO is inconsolable and doesn’t respond

ARTAITA:     I’m hungry, I’ve got some cookies and a little bit of coffee with me, want some?… Teddy, can you find Mama wherever she is in heaven, tell her that he won’t drink his coffee…go right ahead Teddy, you drink it. (Magically, the coffee begins to disappear from the cup). See? She drank it already. She’s always so well-behaved…why are you crying?

VETUSTIO:  I’m not crying.

ARTAITA:     (Eating cookies) Yes, you are crying.

VETUSTIO:  Leave me alone!

ARTAITA:     (Mischievously) You didn’t want to kill the kittens.

VETUSTIO:  Yes I did!

ARTAITA:     Don’t be afraid, wherever Teddy is up there in heaven, she’s not going to mention anything about it to Mama.

VETUSTIO:  I am not afraid.

ARTAITA:     So then why are you crying?

VETUSTIO:  No reason…no reason…

Long silence

ARTAITA:     (Taking a tool out of her bag) Look, I had the right tool all along…I tend to be a little forgetful…fixing the elevator will be a cinch, the only problem is that disconnected wire…all set. (She fixes it instantly). Relax, don’t be scared. Wherever Teddy is up there in heaven, she isn’t going to mention anything to Mama.

VETUSTIO:  I’m not scared…

ARTAITA:     So then why are you crying?

VETUSTIO:  No reason, no reason, no reason at all.

Embracing, ARTAITA and VETUSTIO walk out slowly. The basket is left behind in the elevator. The lights turn off, and the only thing that’s visible are the shadows the elderly pair cast. These shadows change into the shape of red paw prints, and hover in the air before being swallowed up by the rest of the darkness. 

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