Lia Karavia, GreciaEmil
A play in eighteen scenes
Emil (60 years old)
Sarah (his wife, 55 years old)
Peter (their son, 34 years old)
Annie (their daughter, 32 years old)
George (their son, 30 years old)
Vassa (their maid, 19 years old)
The kitchen of a well-to-do household. On the back wall, a dresser with a large shelf above the drawers. Some plates and glasses on the dresser. On the right of the dresser, a sink. On the wall on the right, far from the fore scene, the back door of the house, giving off to the street. A pair of man’s shoes by it. On the right of the door, a stove with an oven, and a refrigerator. On the wall on the left, far from the fore scene, a door giving off to the dining-room, the sitting-room and the upper floor. A small table with a telephone stands between that door and the front of the stage. Under the table, a stool.
Scene One (Sarah, Emil)
Sarah takes glasses from the shelf and places them on a tray. She is well-dressed and combed, but is wearing a kitchen apron. Emil pokes his head in, from the door on the left.
Emil – A white tablecloth, you said.
Sarah – (Without turning.) White.
Emil – Right. (He disappears. She continues her work. He pokes his head in again.) There are two white tablecloths.
Sarah – The embroidered one.
Emil – Right. (He goes. Having filled the tray, she starts counting the glasses.)
Emil – (Poking his head in once more.) Both are embroidered.
Sarah – (Sternly.) Emil!
Emil – (He walks in, well-dressed, but in slippers.) Explain yourself, but do it fast!
Sarah – What is there to explain? Lay the tablecloth and come back to get the glasses. We have a lot more to do and you are stuck on the tablecloth.
Emil – If you were clearer, I would have finished.
Sarah – I am very clear. But you cannot distinguish between embroidery and a hemline.
Emil – Is the red edge called a hemline?
Sarah – Exactly.
Emil – Then you could have told me to use the one that is all white.
Sarah – Use the one that is all white and come for the glasses. (He exits.)
Emil – (Off stage, loud.) Ouch!
Sarah – (Shouting.) What’s the matter, Emil?
Emil – (Off stage.) I stumbled and nearly fell.
Sarah – It’s good you were not carrying the glasses!
Emil – (Poking his head in.) What was that?
Sarah – There you are again!
Emil – Should I pay no attention when you are speaking to me?
Sarah – I am not speaking to you.
Emil – Why not? You are not angry with me, are you?
Sarah – You are not dumb. You are cunning. You think, “If I ask ten questions, Sarah will get bored and she will do everything herself.”
Emil – Do you really think I am cunning?
Sarah – I have lived with you thirty-five years. Don’t I know how foxy you are?
Emil – And you have waited for our wedding anniversary to tell me that?
Sarah – I tell you on weekdays, too. But on special occasions, you find special ways to avoid chores, so I am stressing it. Go lay the damned tablecloth before one of our guests arrives and we are caught unprepared.
Emil – What guests? You make it sound so official! We have only invited our children. Caught unprepared? Let them come lend a hand.
Sarah – It is not just our children. It is also sons and daughters-in-law.
Emil – Singular; one son-in law and one daughter-in-law.
Sarah – So two. Have we invited them to ask them to lend us a hand?
Emil – When we invited them, we hoped that “lady” Vassa would have returned to help with the preparations. Nice maid! Three months’ leave? Do you or I have three months’ leave from work?
Sarah – She fell ill. You know that she needs her pay and that she loves to work for us.
Emil – Good for her. (Silence.) So, when is she coming back?
Sarah – As soon as she feels strong enough again. But surely she has not forgotten our anniversary. I hope she will pass by, tonight.
Emil – After we have struggled with preparing everything!
Sarah – Even so, it will be of great help if she cleans up the dining-room and the kitchen afterwards. I’ll get lumbago if I do that, too, alone.
Emil – (Hurt.) Why alone? Don’t I help you?
Sarah – You tell me.
Emil – No, you tell me!
Sarah – I’ll say yes if you lay the tablecloth by the time I count to five, and then come to get the glasses.
Emil – By the time you count to five again. (He blows her a kiss.) Hi aye, my General!
Sarah – I don’t know how I managed to cope with you for thirty-five whole years!
(Loud doorbell ringing on the left. They freeze.)
Sarah – (Touching her cheeks with her palms.) Could it be?
Emil – What? What?
Sarah – Could it be that they have arrived and caught us red-handed?
Emil – Red-handed because I blew you an innocent kiss? Mind you, we are a married couple. Even if they came while we were otherwise… You understand what I mean. No problem.
Sarah – Is it the right time to joke about things, Emil? (Another ringing.)
Sarah – Rush and answer the door!
Emil – Rush at my age? No way. I am sixty! (He moves to exit.)
Sarah – No! Stop! (Emil turns round.) You are still wearing your slippers!
Emil – Leave us alone, Sarah dear! Our children have seen me before in slippers! (He exits to the left.)
Sarah – (Taking off her apron.) We said about seven, or half past. What time is it now? (She waits, with her apron in her hand. Emil enters.) So, who was it?
Emil – The Prince of Monaco.
Sarah – Emil!
Emil – What can I say if I see you standing on edge?
Sarah – Say who it was.
Emil – The boy with the bottles of beer.
Sarah – Don’t be funny.
Emil – Haven’t we ordered a case of beer?
Sarah – Yes, but…
Emil – Well, the boy has brought it.
Sarah – (Horrified.) At the front door?
Emil – He is new. He did not know we have a back door.
Sarah – You allowed him to come in through the front door and soil the floor, after I had polished it?
Emil – Stop grumbling. I told him to come to the back door.
Sarah – Well done, my love.
Emil – Only now have I become “your love”!
Sarah – You have always been my love. But if I don’t shout at you, once in a while…
Emil – Once, did you say, milady? Once, or countless times?
Sarah – I may have overdone it today; due to stress. I am sorry.
(Loud knocking at the back door.)
Sarah – (Putting on her apron again.) Answer the door.
Emil – Hi aye, my General!
Sarah – The beer has been paid for.
Emil – (His hand on the knob.) When?
Sarah – On the day I placed the order.
Emil – All right then. (He opens. There is nobody. He looks down. He lifts a small case with bottles of beer.) He left them and took off.
Sarah – Is it just beer?
Emil – Just beer. (He closes the door with his foot.)
Sarah – He will return. I have also ordered coca-cola and orange juice.
Emil – You have paid for those, too?
Sarah – For everything.
Emil – (Placing the case on the shelf.) Have you got a receipt?
Sarah – (Impatiently.) I did. Will you set the table, or shall I?
Emil – (Moving left.) The shrew that was never tamed! (He exits.)
Sarah – (She lifts the lid of the boiling pot. She stirs the food and puts the lid back. She opens the oven door. She looks inside and then closes it.) So far, so good!
Emil – (Entering.) The tablecloth is on the table, perfectly laid. I am taking the glasses. (He picks up the tray.)
Sarah – Cloth! (She opens a drawer, takes a white piece of cloth and puts it on the tray.)
Emil – What shall I do with it?
Sarah – Wipe each glass before you set it on the table.
Emil – Had you put them away dirty?
Sarah – Clean, but dust gathers on them with time. If I must analyse why everything must be done, we’ll never finish.
Emil – (Shrugging his shoulders.) Orders are not to be discussed! (He exits.)
Sarah – Cut-le-ry! (She takes them out of a drawer.) What a word! No, silly! It is “cut-ler-y”. Cutler, like… cutler, then “y”. Not cut-le-ry!
Emil – (Entering with an empty tray.) What was that?
Sarah – Oh! You startled me!
Emil – Sorry! I’ll knock at the door before I enter the kitchen.
Sarah – I was absorbed in thoughts about… never mind. I was talking to myself.
Emil – I heard you. Ce-le-ry.
Sarah – Misunderstanding! (She places the cutlery on the tray.)
Emil – Something like that; if not celery, perhaps celerity? Asking me to move swiftly?
Sarah – Move as you like, and take the cutlery to the dining-room.
Emil – Oh! Cutlery! Cut-le-ry; or rather cut-ler-y.
Sarah – Couples should not live together for decades on end. They should separate in time, before their heads become communicating vessels.
Emil – Too late for us. (He picks up the tray and exits.)
Sarah – Dishes, plates, and ready! (She takes them from the cupboard.)
(Knocking at the door on the left.)
Sarah – (Startled.) Who is it?
Emil – It’s me.
Sarah – So, why did you knock? You scared me!
Emil – Again? I enter without knocking, I scare you. I knock, I scare you. What am I supposed to do then? I came to ask…
Sarah – Well, ask.
Emil – Should I also wipe the cut-ler-y with that cloth?
Sarah – If you please. (Emil goes. She looks into the oven.)
(Loud knocking at the back door.)
Sarah – (Towards the door.) Leave them. Thanks! (She shouts.) Emil! The rest of the drinks!
Emil – (Off stage.) Coming! (He enters.) Cast a look at the table to see if I have placed everything correctly. (Sarah exits left. Emil opens the back door. There is nobody. He looks down. He picks up a basket. He comes back with a strange look on his face.) Sarah! (He looks into the basket.) Sarah!
Sarah – (She enters joyfully.) You have arranged everything perfectly, dearest.
Emil – (Urgently.) Sarah!
Sarah – Has he brought the coca-cola and orange-juice in a basket? (Emil opens and closes his mouth noiselessly.) Emil! Is anything wrong? (Emil nods.) What has happened? Speak up, then!
Emil – (As if thunderstruck.) Boy.
Sarah – The boy with the drinks? What has he done?
Emil – (Stammering.) Bbb… Ba –by.
Sarah – (Surprised.) He has a baby? (Emil shakes his head.) He does not have a baby? (Emil shakes his head.) It’s all right. He is too young to have a baby. (Emil beckons in despair.) What is it to you, anyway?
Emil – A baby at our door. In the basket.
Sarah – (Her palm on her mouth to muffle a scream.) Dear god!
Emil – (Holding out the basket.) Take it!
Sarah – A baby? What shall I do with it?
Emil – What shall I do with it?
Sarah – I don’t know. Why did you take it inside?
Emil – What was I supposed to do? Put it in the garbage?
Sarah – Of course not. But our children will arrive any minute now.
Emil – Take it! What shall I do? Open the door for them with a baby in my arms?
Sarah – No. Give it to me! Or rather, don’t. (Silence.) Is it a boy or a girl?
Emil – How should I know?
Sarah – You had three children and you cannot tell the difference?
Emil – Do you want me to look?
Sarah – Yes. Hurry! (Emil puts the basket on the shelf.)
Emil – (Turning round.) What does its sex have to do with anything? Why should I look, then?
Sarah – So that we’ll know what kind of baby we have in our hands. Boy or girl?
Emil – (He fumbles in the basket. He leans further down. He observes something. Petrified.) Sarah!
Sarah – Speak! Boy or…?
Emil – Boy. But… (Movement of despair.)
Sarah – Does he have some defect?
Emil – No. (Upset.) That is to say… well, there is a problem.
Sarah – Some monstrosity?
Emil – Certainly not!
Sarah – Isn’t he normal?
Emil – He looks all right. But… there is a note.
Sarah – So what?
Emil – The baby has a name. (He takes a piece of paper out of the basket.)
Sarah – (Exasperated.) What name?
Emil – Emil. (Silence. Both of them are petrified.)
Sarah – You don’t think that…
Emil – What?
Sarah – Peter, who still will not marry his girl-friend after all this time…
Emil – What of it?
Sarah – Do you think the young lady finally lost her patience and left the baby to us?
Emil – Was she pregnant?
Sarah – I have no idea. Who can make Peter talk about personal matters?
Emil – So, if you are right, the baby is my grandson?
Sarah – Your grandson? Not mine, too?
Emil – Absolutely. Well, what do we do now?
Sarah – I’ll take him upstairs to our bedroom.
Emil – Right. Let’s keep the thing hushed tonight, and we’ll see what to do about it tomorrow.
Sarah – (She picks up the basket and looks inside.) Sweetie! Who could ever abandon such an angel? (She observes the baby.) Newly born! Oh Lord! I have no baby bottle! How shall I feed him? Do me a favour, rush to the pharmacy next door and buy me one.
Emil – (Indignant.) Me? Buy a baby bottle?
Sarah – Why not? We can’t allow him to starve to death, can we?
Emil – No. (Silence.) But the pharmacist knows us.
Sarah – Well? Will he cross-examine you? We need a bottle for a friend’s baby, supposedly. You don’t need to offer explanations.
Emil – If he asks, I may say we were given a puppy dog.
Sarah – Say what you wish. But don’t take long. I am taking him upstairs, and if our children arrive… (Emil takes off his slippers and puts on his shoes, which are by the back door.) I’ll let them in as if nothing were the problem. Later, we may somehow try to drag some information out of Peter as to his girl friend.
Emil – What if the baby is not Peter’s?
Sarah – We’ll try to fish for information from the others, too. Since his name is Emil, he is sure to belong to the family.
Emil – The others are married.
Sarah – (Meaningfully.) That’s what I mean.
Emil – (Puzzled.) What?
Sarah – Go now! We’ll talk later. We’ll find some solution.
Emil – What if we don’t?
Sarah – Go! And come back quickly. (She picks up the basket, goes to the left and turns round.) Tell him we need a small rubber nipple.
Emil – (Moving to the right.) I’ll leave the door ajar to come in without knocking, so I won’t be seen entering with a bottle.
Sarah – Fine. (They move to exit in opposite directions.)
Emil – (He stops and turns round.) What if he cries?
Sarah – I’ll close the bedroom door upstairs. And… I’ll have music playing all the time.
Emil – Play it loud.
Sarah – Don’t worry. Newborn babies can’t cry too loud. Ah! Stop! (Emil stops.) Buy some powdered milk for infants, as well.
Emil – What brand?
Sarah – I don’t know, Emil. I have not fed a baby in over thirty years.
Emil – All right. I’ll ask what is in fashion.
Sarah – Is that what you’ll say? What milk is in fashion for infants?
Emil – What should I say?
Sarah – Ask the pharmacist what powdered milk he considers best for infants.
Emil – What age?
Sarah – (To herself.) The man is driving me crazy! (To Emil.) Twenty days old.
Emil – How do you know?
Sarah – I don’t. Can you finish the job in five minutes?
Emil – Done! (He moves to exit right.)
Sarah – (Urgently.) Emil! Stop!
Emil – (Indignant.) You said in five minutes. I am timing delays.
Sarah – We need diapers, too. Diapers for tiny infants, say.
Emil – All right. But if you stop me again, I’ll not go at all.
Sarah – (Irritated.) Would you rather take the baby upstairs and let me go to the pharmacy?
Emil – No. I am going. (He exits leaving the door ajar.)
Sarah – (She looks into the basket tenderly.) Let’s go, too, and see how we can make you comfortable, my little one. (She exits left.)
Scene Two (Sarah, Peter)
The stage is empty. Ringing on the left. Silence. Louder ringing. Hasty footsteps. The opening of a door. Off stage, Sarah’s voice welcomes someone, and a man’s voice answers. Sarah exclaims.
Sarah – (Off stage.) Very beautiful! (She enters the kitchen holding a bunch of flowers, followed by Peter.) Sorry, honey. With this and that coming up all the time, I’ve not managed to be ready quite yet.
Peter – It is good I have come a bit early to help out.
Sarah – Get me a vase. (Peter opens one of the lower cupboards and gives her a vase. Obviously he knows where things are.) Thank you. (She fills it with water and puts the flowers in.) They are exquisite!
Peter – What do you need me to do?
Sarah – Nothing. I’ll turn off the oven… (She looks into the oven and turns it off.) and I am almost through. We’ll only have to set the dishes…
Peter – I’ll take them to the table, mum.
Sarah – Leave them. Don’t take your fathers job.
Peter – Where is he?
Sarah – He went over to the pharm… (She hesitates.) to do something.
Peter – What farm? (Sarah makes a vague gesture.) Well, let me do something while he is away. (He picks up the dishes and moves left.)
Sarah – There is a white cloth on the table. Wipe them a little bit, before setting them.
Peter – Agreed. (He exits.)
Sarah – (She lifts the lid of the cooking-pot and looks inside.) I’ll leave it on for two more minutes. Or should I not risk burning my precious fresh peas? Don’t allow your mind to roam, woman!
Peter – (Entering with the white cloth in his hand.) Have you been talking to me?
Sarah – I have been talking to myself, as usual. You know me.
Peter – I do. However…
Sarah – (Turning round.) What?
Peter – Even the people closest to us have unknown shady corners.
Sarah – Right. (Silence.) Do you mean something by that?
Peter – You don’t think I speak without meaning anything!
Sarah – Who were you referring to?
Peter – I was referring to our nearest and dearest. Parents, children, loves…
Sarah – (Suspiciously.) Hmm! I see. (Silence.) What news?
Peter – Professional? All right.
Sarah – And personal?
Peter – (He laughs.) Less all right. So-so, I’d say.
Sarah – How is your Catherine?
Peter – Not “my” Catherine; just Catherine; without any possessives. (Silence.)
Sarah – Well?
Peter – Well what?
Sarah – How is just Catherine?
Peter – (He laughs.) So-so, I imagine.
Sarah – (Suspiciously.) You imagine?
Peter – That’s right.
Sarah – Is she in good health?
Peter – What kind of a question is that? I suppose she is fine.
Sarah – Don’t you know for sure?
Peter – She has gone to her island to see her family for some time.
Sarah – Since when?
Peter – Since a couple of months. What has come over you? You are usually quite tactful.
Sarah – Have I become nosy now?
Peter – Instead of asking about your son’s health, you inquire about a stranger!
Sarah – Is Catherine a stranger?
Peter – Is she family?
Sarah – We had hoped so.
Peter – If you intend to start preaching again, let me remind you I have already had my thirty-fourth birthday.
Sarah – That is exactly what I wanted to remind you.
Peter – Meaning? That I have become an old bachelor?
Sarah – Annie is two years younger than you and already she has a family.
Peter – A real family! She, absorbed in her University and postgraduate degrees; Andrew, swamped in work, dashing to visit one patient after another, day and night. I doubt whether they have lived together for two months during the two years of their wedded life.
Sarah – Keep your comments to yourself!
Peter – (Ironically.) They are together for better or worse…
Sarah – Exactly.
Peter – Till death does them part.
Sarah – See how well you know it?
Peter – It is just because I know it that I am in no hurry to get locked in wedlock. For heaven’s sake, mum! Just because you and dad, and also my siblings, were so quick in entering holy matrimony, even our youngest, your best beloved George, am I supposed to imitate you? You remind me of the fox whose tail was cut off and who advised all foxes to cut off their tails, too.
Scene Three (Emil, Peter, Sarah)
Emil – (Enters through the back door holding a small bag and a big one. On both, one can read in bold letters PHARMACY. He is startled.) Oh! It’s Peter!
Peter – (Laughing.) Why are you surprised? Have I not been invited?
Emil – Surely!
Peter – Well, many happy returns. May you celebrate your golden wedding anniversary, too.
Emil – Thank you. (Guiltily, he hides behind his back the small bag and kicks the big one at the corner next to the sink.)
Sarah – Look at the beautiful flowers your son has brought us!
Emil – (Ill-at-ease.) Yes. Very beautiful! Thank you.
Peter – What are you hiding behind your back?
Emil and Sarah – Nothing!
Peter – Pharmacy? Well, my love birds! He rushed to buy something at the pharmacy, in great secrecy and haste! We get the picture! But tell me, do you really still need that stuff, at your age?
Emil – (Rather relieved.) Show some respect to your parents, Peter!
Peter – Have I said anything disrespectful? (He laughs.) Quite the opposite!
Sarah – (To Emil.) Give me what I asked you to buy for me. (She takes the small bag and stuffs it in a drawer. To Peter.) I have a headache, you know.
Peter – (Ironically.) And… you ran out of aspirin.
Sarah – (Embarrassed.) Well, yes. It happens. (Silence.)
Peter – (Ironically.) Why don’t you have one now?
Sarah – One what?
Peter – Aspirin.
Sarah – In a while.
Peter – (Smiling.) We get the picture! (Silence.)
Emil – (To Peter.) What news?
Peter – Professional? All right.
Emil – Personal? (Silence.)
Peter – Have you two come to an agreement as to how to question me?
Sarah – (Shyly to Emil.) I have asked him, too.
Emil – And what did he answer?
Sarah – He said so-so. And… he has not seen Catherine for some months, because she has gone to her island.
Emil – For how many months?
Sarah – Two or three, I think.
Peter – What is wrong with you? You discuss me as though I were absent! Ask me what you need to ask, dad! I have not got married. If I had, I would have invited you to the wedding. And I do not intend to marry soon. Now are we through with the cross-examination?
Emil – Not quite.
Peter – All right. I can continue. And if I ever marry, her name may not be Catherine. It may be a different one.
Emil – (To Sarah.) There we are! See? That’s it!
Peter – What? That is what?
Emil – (To Peter.) Has she left on her own or did you by any chance tell her to go? (Silence.)
Peter – Do you want me to stay at your wedding anniversary, or should I get going?
Sarah – What kind of language is that? Just because we were interested…
Emil – (Aggressive.) We were not interested in you alone, but also in her. Yes, sir! All this time you have been going out with Catherine…
Peter – You decided she would be your daughter-in-law.
Emil – You are our eldest.
Peter – So? Have I asked for my birthrights?
Emil – We are not discussing birthrights. We are discussing… (He stops short.)
Peter – You are discussing about a grandchild.
Sarah – Should we not?
Peter – I am the first-born, therefore I am obliged to offer you a small Emil. Is that so?
Sarah – (Terrified.) Emil?
Peter – Or Emily; or Sarah. (Silence.) Will you get off my back, please?
Sarah – Why do you get so angry, my child?
Peter – There you go! Your child! Neither “your”, nor “child”. I have some gray hair on my temples, see?
Emil – It is you who should see your graying temples.
Peter – I do. I have grown older, but not to the point of having a cataract in my eye. (Silence.) Now may I go in and finish the job I have undertaken?
Emil – (To Sarah.) What job has he undertaken?
Sarah – I gave him a cloth and asked him to wipe the plates a little, before placing them on the table.
Emil – Had you put away the plates also dirty?
Sarah – I have explained to you – have I not? – about the dust that gathers with time, Emil!
Peter – May I go in? Or do you intend to go on with your interrogation?
Sarah – (Innocently.) What interrogation?
Emil – No, don’t go. The plates are my job.
Peter – Now it has become mine. You stay here and help your wife. (He exits left waving the cloth and whistling low.)
Scene Four (Emil, Sarah)
Emil – (In a low voice.) He has driven her away for some other woman. And now we are paying for his infidelity! Parents pay for their children’s sins.
Sarah – We cannot be sure. He has absolutely no idea about the baby.
Emil – The girl has dignity. What would she tell him? Keep me because I am pregnant? She went to her island to give birth to her child.
Sarah – (She takes the roast beef out of the oven and places it on a coaster.) Wouldn’t she have started showing a while ago? Unless…
Emil – Unless what?
Sarah – Unless she was wearing baggy clothes. I don’t know. Anyway, Peter suspects nothing. (Silence.) But… we may be wrong.
Emil – Perhaps. (Sarah takes out a carving knife.) Shall I slice the meat?
Sarah – That would be wonderful. But wear the apron, so you won’t soil your best suit. (She gives him the apron; he puts it on.)
Emil – Why haven’t the others come yet? It is past half past seven.
Sarah – Should they arrive by Greenwich Mean Time? Annie has just returned from abroad. She has the right to be late. The Bible says that those who cross deserts are not to be considered sinners.
Emil – Did your daughter cross some desert?
Sarah – I put it in Biblical words. But do you think it is less tiresome to cross a desert than to prepare a Thesis in another continent?
Emil – It took her ages. I think she liked staying in the USA.
Sarah – Others take five years not months, like Annie. No comments on the subject, please! Just congratulate her. (She gives him the knife.)
Emil – Those others you mention do not have a husband to take care of. Andrew should be proclaimed a saint. Cooking for himself all that time! I would have lost patience.
Sarah – You are a husband of the previous generation. Andrew had half his meals outside.
Emil – And the other half? (He starts carving the roast beef.)
Sarah – Well he did not marry a cook. He married an astrophysicist.
Emil – He would have been better off if he had married a cook. He is not going to enjoy a real family. Your astrophysicist daughter will always be living with her stars.
Sarah – I thought you were proud of her.
Emil – No doubt! But I am her father. I am not her husband. I am thinking of poor Andrew.
Sarah – Keep your thoughts to yourself and stick to praises.
Emil – You don’t believe I’ll reprimand her as soon as I see her, do you? (Silence.) The truth, however, is that she has neglected her husband.
Sarah – There you go again! Stop it, Emil!
Emil – No more on this. No comments. You know me.
Sarah – It is because I know you that I am warning you emphatically.
Emil – Understood. (He looks at the roast beef.) Is it well sliced?
Sarah – Perfect. (She takes the apron off him.) It is good that you are not an astrophysicist.
Emil – Leave me alone in my misery, woman!
Sarah – Why misery, Emil?
Emil – To the second power!
Sarah – Misery to the second power?
Emil – Emil to the second power; one here and one upstairs.
Sarah – You will cover for me when I go upstairs to feed him, right?
Emil – What if Annie wants to go upstairs with you?
Sarah – That is where you will have to prove how inventive you can be. You will find ways to keep her busy. (Ringing on the left.) Hurry! Answer the door. (Emil exits left.)
Scene Five (Annie, Sarah)
Off stage, welcoming, congratulations, thanks. Three voices of men, one of a woman. The door on the left opens and Annie comes in.
Annie – Flowers for your anniversary. (She holds out a bunch of flowers.) Give me a vase for them, will you?
Sarah – Let me look at you first. (She observes her.) It is ages since I last saw you. Lord, how I missed you! (They kiss. She takes the flowers.) Thanks, Annie, dear! (She brings out a second vase.) Our home has started to look like a flower shop! If George brings another bunch of flowers…
Annie – He is sure to. How can your best-beloved not offer you flowers?
Sarah – My best beloved? Didn’t I love all three of you equally?
Annie – (She laughs.) I think you loved George somehow more... equally. Rightfully so. He was our youngest.
Sarah – (Scrutinising her.) Have you put on some weight?
Annie – Some? Lots of weight. About twenty pounds, mother dear.
Sarah – (Worried.) Is that so?
Annie – I am afraid it is. But it could not be helped. In my condition…
Sarah – (Suspiciously.) What condition?
Annie – Forget it. I can’t start talking about it.
Sarah – Why not? I am interested. Well? Why have you put on weight?
Annie – I went through difficult times. If I tell you, the others will hear about it, too. Secrecy is not your strong point, as we all know. And the worst part is that Andrew will also hear about it.
Sarah – (Horrified.) Is it something that Andrew does not know, either?
Annie – Especially Andrew.
Sarah – Meaning?
Annie – Meaning, why should I upset him? I am telling you, drop the subject, mum. I don’t feel like remembering my condition. (Sarah is on tenterhooks.) Weary beyond my limits. Worried to death.
Sarah – (Doubtful.) That kind of condition!
Annie – You cannot imagine the stress.
Sarah – Well, I can, but… (Changing tone.) We congratulated you from far away, now let me congratulate you from nearby. Professor! Now it is time for you to attend to your husband. He was really heroic.
Annie – (Meaningfully.) I don’t think he spent those months unpleasantly.
Sarah – (Suspicious.) What do you mean?
Annie – I mean the past six months were not unpleasant for him. Number one, he avoided my grumbling when he was called to visit patients in the night. And also, being by himself all that time, well… (Silence.)
Sarah – (Worried.) What did he do?
Annie – He did whatever pleased him. And so did I, of course.
Sarah – (She was filling the vase with water. She stops short.) Meaning?
Annie – Meaning, I did whatever pleased me, as well. (She laughs.) Therefore we are quits.
Sarah – (Sulkily.) Well done! (Silence.) It is high time you cajole him a bit and consider other things besides your career. You have reached thirty!
Annie – I reached thirty, oh, two years ago. Now I am thirty two.
Sarah – Time flies! (She puts the flowers in the vase.)
Annie – Let it fly, if we progress and create as we live.
Sarah – Yes, but a moment comes… (She hesitates.) when it is too late.
Annie – Too late for what?
Sarah – What do you think?
Annie – For a baby? Babies are all right, if I do not raise them myself. If you are willing to raise them for me…
Sarah – If you ask us to. But… Andrew should know about it, as well.
Annie – Let’s keep Andrew out of it.
Sarah – (Crossing herself.) Keep Andrew out of the matter of the baby?
Annie – Do you suppose he would allow it be raised by you?
Sarah – So, you are saying… we should not tell him we are raising it?
Annie – (She laughs.) You guessed right!
Sarah – (She turns off the stove, considers the matter and reaches a decision.) Agreed!
Annie – (Perplexed.) Agreed on what?
Sarah – We’ll raise it for you. (Silence.) Who would choose the name?
Annie – Keep Andrew out of that, too. You know my love for you. If it were a girl, she would be named Sarah. Beautiful name!
Sarah – It would be a boy. (Annie looks at her in surprise.)
Annie – If it were a boy he would be Emil. A beautiful and rare name!
Sarah – (Suspiciously.) Emil, you say?
Annie – Do you find it strange?
Sarah – I find many things strange. Half a year in the States…
Annie – It was necessary on that specific moment, mum. I had started having problems with Andrew. If I did not leave to do what I had to do, we might not be together at this moment. While now we are fine again.
Sarah – (Extremely suspicious.) And… what did you have to do?
Annie – Why are you asking, since you know?
Sarah – (Suspiciously.) Do I know? (Silence. They look at each other.)
Annie – Don’t you? (Long silence.) My Thesis.
Sarah – (Ironical.) Right! Will you take the vases inside, please?
Annie – Won’t you come, too? Andrew wants to greet you.
Sarah – I will; as soon as I place the meat in a dish. (Annie exits left, with the two vases.)
Scene Six (Sarah, Emil)
Sarah – (Placing the roast beef in a big dish.) I was ready for everything except this! If it were an illegitimate child, I would have understood. But a secret baby from a married couple, that is much too much! Should Andrew be deprived of the joys of fatherhood so that our precious daughter may give herself unhindered to her astrophysics?
Emil – (Entering.) What are you still doing in here, my girl?
Sarah – I am getting more and more indignant. That’s what I am doing in here, Emil!
Emil – Have I not sliced the roast beef well, then?
Sarah – Forget the roast beef. It is Annie’s.
Emil – The roast beef?
Sarah – The baby.
Emil – That’s a joke!
Sarah – A joke. Exactly what I was thinking.
Emil – Weren’t we saying a moment ago it was Peter’s?
Sarah – Not Peter’s. We were saying his girl-friend’s. And we were not sure about it. We just presumed.
Emil – So now we presume it is Annie’s? Is she a miracle-worker? How did she find the time to have a baby and get her Doctor’s Degree?
Sarah – If she was two or three months pregnant when she left, she might not know it herself. And we had no idea, of course.
Emil – But is it possible that Andrew…
Sarah – That part is the most exasperating. She kept it a secret from him so that he might not oblige her to raise it herself; so that she might consecrate herself to her great career!
Emil – Has she told you all this herself?
Sarah – More or less. Indirectly and obliquely. If it were a girl, she would name her Sarah, she said. And if it was a boy, Emil. A beautiful and rare name, she said! Can you believe it?
Emil – It is, isn’t it?
Sarah – What?
Emil – A beautiful and rare name.
Sarah – Leave me alone, silly!
Emil – But wait a minute, Sarah. “If”, isn’t that what Annie said? “If”!
Sarah – If. What should she have said?
Emil – In other words, she was only talking theoretically. Not in a straightforward way.
Sarah – Well, we did understand each other very well. And tell me, why that entire machination? For the sake of her precious astrophysics! We have come to that point of absurdity.
Emil – Is it possible that you have misunderstood?
Sarah – Would you like to take her aside and ask her directly? Do it. Anyway, you should know that I have already agreed to have us raise her child for her. I think she was happy about it.
Emil – We’ll have a child in our home, and how shall we explain it? What shall we tell Andrew?
Sarah – The truth: that we found it in a basket at the back door. Is that a lie?
Emil – No, but… how long will the poor guy remain… that way?
Sarah – What way?
Emil – Childless.
Sarah – Talk to Annie about it. And don’t stress me any more, because… (She bursts into tears.)
Emil – Stop it! I am not stressing you. I am simply asking how long we’ll have to cover for her. (She has stopped crying.)
Sarah – I don’t know. Perhaps up to when he goes to school. But perhaps up to… (She bursts out crying again.)
Emil – Sarah, pull yourself together. Up to what, did you mean?
Sarah – Up to the time Annie gets her pension. How should I know?
Emil – (Horrified.) In thirty years? Shall we present to Andrew his son at the age of thirty and say… (Indignant.) But shall we be alive in thirty years? And even if we are, you aged eighty-five, I aged ninety, a doting old man, what shall we tell our son-in law? “Hello! This is your son”? And if Emil Jr. already has a child at that time, we may present his grandchild to Andrew, too. Poor man! “Allow us to introduce your grandchild to you”, we shall then have to tell him!
Sarah – (She wipes her eyes and smoothes her hair nervously.) You fix it. I have other things to see to, right now. (She opens the drawer, takes out the small pharmacy bag and the big bag with the diapers from the corner.) I am going upstairs to see to the baby and you can face the situation as you judge best.
Emil – You are not going upstairs without greeting…
Sarah – Poor Andrew? I’ll say hello as I pass. Then, do as agreed: cover for me. (She exits left. Voices are heard outside.)
Emil – If the evening goes by without my having a heart-attack, I may live to be a hundred. (Ringing on the left. He moves to exit left. Knocking at the back door. He stops, turns round and goes to the right.) I hope it is not another baby! (He opens. He picks up a basket and looks inside it, fearfully. He relaxes.) It’s the remaining drinks. Thank God! (He puts the basket on the shelf, next to the case of beer. Welcoming, laughter and conversation can be heard from off stage left. He moves to go into the sitting room but is interrupted by the opening of the door and his other son’s entrance.)
Scene Seven (George, Emil)
George – (He enters from the left with a parcel in his hand.) Many happy returns, dad! May you celebrate your golden wedding anniversary in fifteen years. And then the… I don’t know what anniversary follows the golden one.
Emil – The next one will be celebrated at the graveyard.
George – No sir! You will just be starting your second adolescence then.
Emil – The third one. I will not even have completed one century of life.
George – You two are beyond natural laws. Eternal adolescents. (He gives him the parcel.) I have brought you a present.
Emil – It’s good you have not brought flowers, like the others. We may not have another vase.
George – (He laughs.) Pity I did not think of bringing you a vase as a gift.
Emil – (He shakes the parcel.) Is it a pair of slippers for an old man?
George – It is an album for photos. A present only for the very young.
Emil – Many thanks. (He leaves the parcel.) Have you seen your sister?
George – Only for a moment. We’ll talk later; with her Andrew, as well.
Emil – Is Lisa inside?
George – (Ill-at-ease.) Lisa? (Silence.) Not! (Silence.)
Emil – Not what?
George – Not inside. We have not come together.
Emil – Will she come later?
George – Much later. She may be in time for your golden wedding anniversary.
Emil – Is anything wrong? (George nods.) But when I last saw you…
George – There was no problem. But unexpected things do happen.
Emil – A third person? (George nods.) Don’t tell me! But, George, Lisa seemed to be so mature and dedicated.
George – Yes, poor girl. (He lowers his head.) While I, on the contrary…
Emil – (Horrified.) You? Did you have an affair with another woman? Have you gone mad?
George – That is the question I have been asking myself of late.
Emil – Have you been brought up to act that way?
George – Absolutely not. (He laughs sadly.) But such things may happen to the best of families, as they say.
Emil – They shouldn’t. (Silence.) When did the unexpected thing happen?
George – Not too recently. Nine months ago.
Emil – (Flabbergasted.) Nine months? (Silence. Sharply.) Exactly?
George – (Surprised.) Or a bit more. Why are exact dates of interest? Is infidelity measured by months? But…what can I say, dad? Northern.
Emil – Northern? (Angrily.) What has infidelity to do with the points of the horizon?
George – The woman, I mean. A northern beauty. I came to my senses at some point, but it was too late. The damage had been done.
Emil – Damage? (Very worried.) What damage?
George – We had been seen together. We circulated. Things were evident.
Emil – (Suspiciously.) They were evident, you say?
George – From a distance.
Emil – From how far exactly?
George – Don’t ask silly questions. And when I said I could not go on, and I stopped it, Lisa learned about it. The other day. She exploded and left me. Tragic irony! The breach came after the affair.
Emil – The fair? Not too joyful, was it? (Silence.) Didn’t you explain?
George – I tried. She seemed to relax a bit and then another informer whispered more details to her. Retrospectively!
Emil – What details?
George – I’ve told you. We were circulating. (Silence.) Where’s mum?
Emil – (Aggressive.) Why should you involve your mother in your mess?
George – (Very surprised.) Have I blamed her for anything?
Emil – (Aggressive.) And where is the Northerner now?
George – Somewhere around. She works at their Embassy.
Emil – Is she all right health-wise?
George – I suppose so. But I have not seen her for quite a while. I stopped the thing to avoid creating problems…
Emil – (Irritated.) But you did not manage to avoid them either for yourself or for us!
George – Why for you? Was your love for Lisa so great that you cannot live without her? I am here with you, am I not?
Emil – (Meaningfully.) Sure. And not just you.
George – (Naively.) Not just me, of course. I saw the others outside. (Confidentially.) Has Annie gained weight, dad, or do I think so?
Emil – She has, but… (Angrily.) she may not be the only one who has.
George – All right, sir! I will not make comments about your beloved daughter. You have not answered me yet, however. Where is mum?
Emil – Upstairs. She has some work to do in our bedroom. (Aggressive.) Would you like me to tell you what kind of work?
George – (Surprised.) It’s not necessary. (Silence.) Are you all right, dad?
Emil – (Angrily.) What do you think? Am I all right?
George – But… I have asked you.
Emil – (Angrily.) And I am asking you. Am I all right?
George – I see you have taken my problem to heart. I should not have told you.
Emil – What could you have told us? That Lisa did not come because she was not feeling well? And tomorrow? Supposedly she would not be feeling well tomorrow either? And next month?
George – We may get over our bad times and be together again.
Emil – Let’s hope so.
George – If that happens, the first thing we shall do is give mum and you a grandchild.
Emil – (Coldly.) I see.
George – (He looks at him in surprise.) What do you see?
Emil – That you intend to give us a grandson, thank you very much.
George – Why grandson? I said grandchild. Who knows – boy or girl.
Emil – Boy. And would you honour me by giving him my name?
George – No doubt about it. I had told Lisa clearly, whenever we discussed a child. If it is a boy, his name will be Emil, I had told her. I was adamant about it.
Emil – Was it only to Lisa you had said that?
George – Who else?
Emil – The Northerner, perhaps.
George – Will you keep on with the Northerner to the end of my days, dad? I had not thought you were such a puritan!
Emil – You had thought I had quite progressive ideas.
George – Yes. I have always considered you my buddy. That’s what I tell people wherever I am.
Emil – (Ironically.) That’s what you told your northern girlfriend.
George – Sure. I had to stop her from coming to see you as she wanted to.
Emil – Don’t tell me! (Silence.) Well, she may have come. Who knows?
George – Come on! Shall we spend the whole evening in the kitchen? Why don’t we go into the sitting-room?
Emil – Do me a favour. Tell them a white lie tonight.
George – That Lisa stayed at home because she was sick.
Emil – Exactly.
George – Granted. But just for tonight. (They exit left.)
Scene Eight (Annie)
Annie – (She comes into the kitchen hastily. Every time the door opens and until it closes, voices and laughter are heard distinctly.) Where have they put the beer? (She looks around.) There it is! Two bottles of beer. (She picks them up.) What else? One coca-cola, one orangeade. There they are! (She picks them up.) Wine is on the table. What on earth is mum doing upstairs? Is she making herself beautiful? (She exits left. Besides voices, a kind of weak meowing is heard. Annie comes in again.) The roast beef. Ready, served, and uncovered! I don’t believe it! They have got a cat and still they leave the food uncovered! (She stoops and looks around.) But where can the cat be? I heard it meowing. (She shrugs her shoulders.) And what will she serve it with? (She looks around, opens the lid of the cooking-pot.) Fresh peas! Nice! (She places the peas in the dish, all around the roast beef.) I’ll take it to the table. Has mum prepared some salad? (She looks around.) Nothing! I’ll ask her and prepare some myself. (She picks up the big dish with the roast beef and exits left. Time enough to place it on the table and start going upstairs. Shriek: “DON’T!” Silence. Annie comes in holding her heart tight.) Lord! My poor heart is pounding! Why should I not go upstairs? What is Mrs. Sarah up to? Does she have a beauty mask on her face and does not want to be seen? Many mysteries tonight! And why has my younger brother come alone? He murmured something about Lisa being sick. And he kept looking away. Not at all persuasive! Something smells foul in the kingdom of Denmark! Oh well! Let me start with the salad! (She takes a couple of tomatoes from the refrigerator, brings a salad bowl out of the lower cupboard and starts slicing the tomatoes.)
Scene Nine (George, Annie)
George – (Entering with a smile.) Well? What news, darling sister?
Annie – (She stops and scrutinises him.) What’s your news?
George – I asked first.
Annie – I am older than you.
George – That was when we were kids and you used to slap me. Since I grew taller than you, I have become your elder.
Annie – Is height taken into consideration as to birthrights?
George – Birthrights belong to Peter. You have to make do with second place. So, what is your news?
Annie – I’m fine.
George – You have gained weight.
Annie – We’ve passed from height to weight, have we?
George – Are you up to something?
Annie – I was, but it is already done.
George – Don’t tell me! Where? In the States?
Annie – Where do you think? Isn’t it there that I was?
George – But we’ve heard nothing!
Annie – Really? Haven’t you heard I got my Ph.D.? Magna cum laude.
George – Is that the reason you have gained weight?
Annie – I became slightly bulimic from the stress and the anxiety.
George – I had other thoughts. I hoped I would get a baby niece or nephew.
Annie – That’s what I keep hoping to get from Lisa and you. But I see no light there.
George –Complete darkness.
Lisa – Meaning?
George – You were busy and I interrupted you. (Sarah comes in.)
Scene Ten (Sarah, Annie)
Sarah – (Hiding the bottle guiltily behind her.) I see you’re having a chat.
Annie – Not really. (George slips out left.)
Sarah – Are you preparing the salad? You shouldn’t go into the trouble, my Annie!
Annie – Let me give you a hand to feel like old times; at home.
Sarah – You are always at home, sweetie. I would have been ready before you came, but something unexpected happened, and I didn’t make it.
Annie – I’m never on time with chores even without anything unexpected happening. (She puts down the knife.) Have you got a cat?
Sarah – A cat? (She sticks the bottle inside a drawer.)
Annie – I thought I heard meowing.
Sarah – (Guiltily.) It must have been from outside. We are not soundproof in here.
Annie – Is that so? What took you so long upstairs, mum? Coquetry?
Sarah – (Forced laughter.) Didn’t you tell me to look after myself?
Annie – Not when your guests are arriving.
Sarah – I had no free time earlier. Go now; I’ll see to everything.
Annie – Right. Call me if you need anything. (She exits left.)
Sarah – Lord! She thought his sweet crying was meowing! (She works on the salad.) He was so hungry, darling boy! He could have swallowed more milk if I gave him. But I dare not before a pediatrician sees him… Ouch! What shall we tell him? Unless the thing is untangled, we’ll be in serious trouble. Does a baby fall from the sky? And can we take it in without any procedures? Either someone confesses the truth and proves we are relatives, or we must turn it over to the Authorities. I can’t do it! A newborn angel, with eyes as blue as the sky, named Emil! How can I turn him over to the Authorities? (The salad is ready.) I’ll take the salad in, and may God help us.
Scene Eleven (Emil, Sarah)
Emil – (He enters very upset.) Sit down!
Sarah – I am in a hurry.
Emil – Sit and listen.
Sarah – Where shall I sit?
Emil – Wherever you can. (He gives her the stool. Sarah puts down the salad and sits reluctantly.) Have you fed the baby?
Sarah –Do I have to be seated for you to ask me that? I’ve fed it and now I must go in quickly, before my long absence causes more questions.
Emil – What colour are his eyes?
Sarah – Should I answer that question seated?
Emil – You should answer fast.
Sarah – Blue.
Emil – Who had blue eyes in our family?
Sarah – Nobody. But heredity…
Emil – Forget theories!
Sarah – All right. May I get up now?
Emil – Stay seated and hold on well, so that you may not fall down.
Sarah – (Sternly.) Emil! Let me go into the sitting-room, before they all start coming into the kitchen one by one.
Emil – The baby was brought to us by a Northerner.
Sarah – What Northe…?
Emil – Blue-eyed and fair-haired. And who is the father? Guess! (Sarah stares.) Or rather don’t, for if you do, you will freak out.
Sarah – (Puzzled.) Do you mean Peter’s Catherine?
Emil – Is Peter’s Catherine a Northerner? Is she blue-eyed and fair-haired?
Sarah – She is a Southerner; black-eyed and brown-haired.
Emil – She does not come from a foreign country, does she?
Sarah – Good Lord!
Emil – She does not. Therefore, I am not speaking about Peter’s Catherine.
Sarah – But we had already discarded that possibility. I have told you that Annie…
Emil – Forget Annie and concentrate. We are not talking about Annie. As we said, she is absorbed in her stars.
Sarah – The one does not exclude the other.
Emil – It does exclude it. Trust me. Count Peter and Annie out! So, who remains?
Sarah – If you mean George, forget it. Lisa is as thin as a stick. She could not hide a kitten in her tummy, let alone a whole baby. Ah, by the way! (She smiles.) Annie thinks we have got a cat. She thought she heard meowing, and…
Emil – Stop babbling.
Sarah – (She gets up.) I am not babbling. I am telling you what we can say if he is heard crying again. We can say we have got a cat.
Emil – (Curtly.) Sit down!
Sarah – You are becoming obsessive, dear! (She sits down again.)
Emil – Are you safely seated?
Sarah – Leave us alone, Emil!
Emil – It is George’s baby. Has Lisa come with him? No. She left him when she heard about his affair, though he had already abandoned his girlfriend. That’s why he has come by himself. The baby is his illegitimate child with a Northerner. Do you get the picture?
Sarah – (She remains speechless for a moment.) But… What…? Who…?
Emil – George with his foreign girlfriend.
Sarah – Has he himself told you about the baby?
Emil – He knows nothing about it. They split months ago. But he had sung our praises to her. What a progressive person his father is and we are real buddies and what have you. The girl was filled with enthusiasm. He had a hard time to stop her from coming to make our acquaintance.
Sarah – That would be the last straw! You would be covering for your son’s betrayals!
Emil – Concentrate, Sarah! He called it off to save his marriage. But he was beating the air, because people told Lisa about it.
Sarah – Oh, darling Lisa!
Emil – We are not discussing Lisa now. We’ll see to her some other time. We are discussing the foreigner. Who could she turn to, poor deserted girl, all alone while expecting a baby?
Sarah – Expecting it still?
Emil – First expecting it, than having it in her arms.
Sarah – (Thoughtful.) That is, not in her arms; in a basket.
Emil – Who could she turn to, in her despair?
Sarah – To us, of course! (Compassionately.) Poor girl! (Silence.) Is she unemployed?
Emil – Not at all! She is educated. She works in her Embassy.
Sarah – Which Embassy?
Emil – Of a Northern country. Nordic.
Sarah – Nordic? I have never heard of that country. Where is it exactly?
Emil – Concentrate, Sarah!
Sarah – I am concentrating.
Emil – It is not a specific country. One of the Northern ones.
Sarah – So how can we look for the poor girl?
Emil – Why should we be looking for her, Sarah?
Sarah – You are right. We shouldn’t, I suppose. (Desperate silence.)
Scene Twelve (Peter, Sarah, Emil)
Peter – (He enters left.) Hey! We’re hungry! Thirty-five years of chatting between yourselves have not been enough, so you have locked yourselves in the kitchen to chat some more tonight?
Sarah – (She gets up.) That is what I have been telling him all this time. Come, Peter dear! Take your father into the sitting-room, and take the salad. I will bring the cheese out of the fridge and we can start dining. (She gives Emil the salad bowl.) Though… you’d better start right away, and I’ll come in three minutes. Tell them to excuse me. Today… as soon as I handled one thing, another came up. Go, my boys. (She pushes them to the left.)
Emil – Don’t push! (He looks at her angrily.) Why are you pushing?
Sarah – What can I do? Call the other three and have our party in the kitchen?
Peter – She is right, father. Let’s go and she will follow soon.
Emil – How soon?
Peter – In three minutes, she said.
Emil – Time her! (They exit left.)
Sarah – God, help us tonight! (She puts the cheese on a tray.)
Emil – (He pokes his head in.) Are you all right, Sarah?
Sarah – No! (She gives him the tray.) Take the cheese and let me calm down.
Emil – Why don’t you sit for a while?
Sarah – Emil! Don’t tell me to sit down again or I’ll throw the stool at you. Get out!
Emil – Wonderful wedding anniversary! First you push me, then you threaten me…
Sarah – Get out, Emil! (Emil disappears.)
Scene Thirteen (Sarah)
Sarah – There is no icon here for me to pray to. (She joins her palms under her chin.) Help us, Mother of Christ! Work your miracle! (The telephone rings. She lifts the receiver.) Hello? (She listens.) Yes. (Her face lights up.) Is that you, Vassa? (She listens.) We are fine. How are you, dear? (Silence.) What? Aren’t you well? (She listens.) You are. That is good! Come back to us whenever you can. (She listens.) You came by? When was that? (She listens.) It is because we have a party that you should have come in so we could see you. (She listens.) Thanks; our wishes too. May you get all you wish for. But why on earth didn’t you knock? (She listens.) By intercity bus? From your home to ours, half a kilometer, by intercity bus? (Outside the receiver.) This girl will drive me crazy! (She listens.) Where did you come from? (She listens.) Why did you go to your village since you were ill? (She listens and becomes indignant.) No matter what necessity! Your father should have gone; not you! (She listens.) Well, of course I don’t get it, the way you are telling me! You’ll tell me from near by and I’ll understand. (Silence.) Why are you crying? (Silence.) Why are you crying, dear? (She listens and becomes indignant.) Your father would kill you because you fell ill? I don’t believe it! (She listens.) Who cares if he was born in Mani? I’d feel the same if he were born in Sfakia, Crete. Fearing to be murdered by your father because you happened to fall ill? You should have told us earlier. We would have given him a piece of our mind. You have worked as a maid since you were sixteen; you helped them financially, so they were happy. But when you were unwell and could not work for a while, he threatened to slaughter you! (She listens.) I don’t care, either! Whatever ailment that might be! (She listens.) Have we found what? (She listens.) What? I can’t hear you! Speak clearly, child! (She listens.) You had to. I got that. (She listens.) I am not blaming you, Vassa! Have I blamed you? But what was it you had to do? (She listens.) Unwillingly, yes. (She listens.) What basket? (She listens.) With the… (Shriek.) Ah! (Her palm on her mouth to muffle the scream.) Vassa! Come here right away! We can’t discuss such matters on the phone. (She listens.) Yes, right now! And stop crying! (She listens.) The master? What did the master do? (She listens.) I know he is very kind. I am asking you what he did. (She listens.) Because the master is so kind, you want the baby to have his name? (She listens.) And you love him very much. That’s nice, but… (An idea strikes her. She screams and places her palm on her mouth to muffle the scream. Menacing tone.) Tell me, Vassa, how good was the master to you? (She listens.) Very-very good. Right! And how much do you love him? (She listens.) Very-very much. Right! Can you tell me why? (She listens.) Because he is your benefactor. Right! (Outside the receiver.) Oh, the rascal! Is “benefactor” the word for that, now? (In the receiver.) Vassa, come by right away to explain beneficence and all the rest! (She listens.) We are not barbarians. We have not dumped him in the garbage! I have fed him, changed his diapers, put him to sleep. Enough! We’ll talk about the rest face to face. (She listens.) For the moment he is fine. But come before I go through the roof! (She listens.) Never mind it is getting late. Come now! Move it, Vassa, can you? (She puts down the receiver.) After all that has happened, I am asking her if she can move it! (Angrily.) Of course she can! (Silence.) Where is the aspirin we were telling Peter? (She opens drawers.) He bought a bottle, powdered milk, diapers; couldn’t he have bought a box of aspirin? Not just one. I need ten, right now.
Scene Fourteen (Emil, Sarah)
Emil – (He pokes his head in.) Come on! Three minutes have gone by.
Sarah – (Ironically.) Have they? (Silence.) Come in, please!
Emil – Why?
Sarah – Come in, I say! (Emil enters.)
Emil – Here am I.
Sarah – Sit down.
Emil – But… we have already started eating.
Sarah – Time out! Sit on the stool and see that you don’t fall off.
Emil – Are you taking vengeance as I made you sit down a minute ago? Do you think because I had my turn, so now you should have yours?
Sarah – Whatever. Sit down! (Emil sits.) Vassa called.
Emil – (Happily.) Good! Is she coming?
Sarah – (In a menacing tone.) Right away!
Emil – (Happily.) So, she is all right.
Sarah – (In a menacing tone.) For the moment.
Emil – (Relieved.) Therefore she will lend us a hand.
Sarah – (Curtly.) Where?
Emil – In helping arrange things after dinner. (Silence.) Isn’t that why she is coming?
Sarah – She is coming to see if we have taken good care of Emil.
Emil – What does she have to do with…
Sarah – With the baby? Well, that is what I meant to ask you. Have you any idea?
Emil – (Perplexed.) As to what?
Sarah – As to why she left him here.
Emil – (Agape.) Is he her baby?
Sarah – Do you think she would leave somebody else’s baby at out door?
Emil – (Shocked.) Is he her illegitimate child?
Sarah – Completely illegitimate.
Emil – Well, then she is sure to be having problems with her folks.
Sarah – Exactly.
Emil – They come from a village in Mani, Peloponnesus, isn’t it? Mani is known for its fierce vendettas! Would you expect any better?
Sarah – Yes, but have you any idea why she chose our door?
Emil – (Proudly.) That, I can guess.
Sarah – Good! I see you have a shrewd mind! Let’s hear your guessing.
Emil – We have always behaved kindly towards her…
Sarah – (Ironically.) Extremely kindly.
Emil – So she thought, “They are well-off, they are kind-hearted…”
Sarah – (Ironically.) With hearts of gold. No doubt about it.
Emil – She thought, “Where would he be better placed? My master and his wife will treat him as their own baby.”
Sarah – You have guessed right. Any idea why the baby’s name is Emil?
Emil – (Proudly.) I can guess that, too.
Sarah – Let’s see if your guessing as to that will be right, too.
Emil – She thought, “Let me flatter them with that name, so they’ll protect him.” (Silence.) And we had all those weird ideas as to our children! (Getting up.) What a relief it is not what we had suspected!
Sarah – (Curtly.) Sit down. (He obeys.) Is that all you had to tell me?
Emil – Well, it is not a small thing to stop suspecting our own children.
Sarah – Not small at all. But there are worse things than those suspicions.
Emil – No, Sarah! It is another thing to take care of a baby because of kindness, and quite another to do it as family obligation. If there was some relationship…
Sarah – Isn’t there? A direct blood relationship?
Emil – Meaning?
Sarah – Be patient. Vassa will soon come and explain it all to you.
Emil – (Indignant.) Shall we have our children dining by themselves and wait for Vassa to explain…
Sarah – The inexplicable!
Emil – But Sarah my dear…
Sarah – No possessives, please! I have a question to ask you.
Emil – Fine.
Sarah – (In a menacing tone.) One and only.
Emil – Well, ask then, quickly.
Sarah – Have you been a benefactor to Vassa?
Emil – (Guiltily.) How was that? I beg your pardon.
Sarah – Have you suddenly become hard of hearing?
Emil – (Embarrassed.) No, but… what was it you asked me?
Sarah – (Sharply.) Have you been a benefactor to Vassa?
Emil – Has she told you herself?
Sarah – (Pretending to be patient.) You have guessed right once again.
Emil – (Embarrassed.) But she had promised not to tell!
Sarah – In other words, you admit it!
Emil – (Shyly.) Well, must you fuss about it? (A moment of petrified silence for Sarah.)
Sarah – (She explodes.) Oh, the rascal! What nerve! What audacity!
Emil – (Angrily.) Is this a way of speaking? You should be ashamed of yourself, especially on this festive day!
Sarah – Should I? And shouldn’t you be ashamed of yourself, a man of sixty, with a young girl hardly of age?
Emil – (Puzzled.) Hardly of age?
Sarah – Do you think it is all right because she is nineteen? It’s good she is not a couple of years younger; otherwise you would go to prison.
Emil – Have you gone mad, Sarah?
Sarah – That’s exactly what I was to ask you. Have you gone mad, Emil?
Emil – (Suspiciously.) Are you insinuating anything… tricky?
Sarah – There could be nothing trickier. In olden days, such things did happen, of course; the boss with the young maid. But nowadays…
Emil – What perverse things are these?
Sarah – The exact words I meant to use! What perverse things are these?
Emil – I do not recognize you!
Sarah – What a coincidence! I do not recognize you, either.
Emil – Come to your senses! Our children are almost middle-aged…
Sarah – You are exaggerating. They are simply adults.
Emil – Between thirty and forty.
Sarah – You are exaggerating. They are between thirty and thirty five. Τhe word middle-aged goes for over fifty. But even if they were middle-aged, shouldn’t you be feeling more ashamed of yourself?
Emil – What are you insinuating?
Sarah – I am not insinuating. I am clearly saying that the baby is Vassa’s and that its name is Emil. Perhaps you were not aware of the issue, but you could not have been so naïve as to ignore that there might be such an issue. (A moment’s menacing silence from both.)
Emil – (Angrily.) I feel extremely hurt, Sarah. You are going to pay dearly for all this.
Sarah – That’s exactly what I meant to tell you. Have no doubt that you are going to pay dearly for all this.
Emil – On the very day of out wedding anniversary!
Sarah – Our last one. Thirty-five years’ marriage, and enough is enough.
Emil – (Very angry.) The exact words I meant to use, Sarah! This is a point where, at long last, we are in total agreement. Enough is more than enough!
(Knocking at the back door. Sarah stalks to the door and opens it.)
Scene Fifteen (Vassa, Sarah, Emil)
Vassa – (Entering.) My dear missus! My lady! (She cries.)
Sarah – You are full of surprises, Vassa, aren’t you?
Vassa – I can’t live without my baby, Mrs. Sarah! Help me! Here I’ll be able to see it, at least. (She falls into Sarah’s arms.)
Sarah – (She pushes her back.) Stop whimpering and repeat what you told me on the phone, so that the master may hear it.
Vassa – Please have pity on me! If only you knew what I’ve been through! I went to a poor old woman at the edge of our village, supposedly to help her for a month or two. She lives all alone. I gave birth to my son unassisted, my lady.
Sarah – Tell your master why you have brought your son to us.
Vassa – If I took him to the public nursery, I’d never see him again! Where could I take him? Not home! I brought him here right after the intercity bus arrived. Since the master was so very good to me…
Sarah – Explain in what way!
Vassa – When I said I’d fallen ill, he gave me a biggish sum of money without whispering a word to anyone. He said he wouldn’t even tell you, my lady. I can’t say how grateful I was. (To Emil.) God bless you, sir! If it were not for that money, I wouldn’t have been able to even reach my village and keep myself going all the while.
Sarah – (Ironically.) What a generous gesture! (Silence.) Emil?
Emil – (Guiltily.) I did not tell you, for fear you might object.
Vassa – I’ll work for you till I repay every penny! I’ll work for as long as you wish without pay! I’ll do anything so that I may be near my son.
Sarah – (Ironically.) So that his father may be near him, too?
Vassa – (Hesitant.) His father… well, not really. That is… he is sure to acknowledge the child, but there are problems.
Sarah – Will he acknowledge the child? (She looks at Emil.)
Vassa – You bet so! I am telling you he loves me, lady!
Sarah – Is that so?
Vassa – Sure! You can ask. (She looks at Emil.) The master will tell you. Tell her, my good master!
Emil – (He gets up indignant.) What do you expect me to say, Vassa?
Vassa – Well, you did see us, sir, didn’t you? You saw us one day before my Johnnie sailed away with the other sailors. Didn’t you?
Emil – Where did I see you?
Vassa – Near the port, sir!
Emil – With your cousin?
Vassa – He wasn’t my cousin, master. I just said he was. What could I have told you? But you did see the way he was looking at me. Tell the lady! He couldn’t take his eyes off me, isn’t it true?
Emil – How could I have noticed the way he was looking at you, Vassa, as we were standing in the middle of the street?
Sarah – (Moved.) Is he the father of your baby, then?
Vassa – Who else? We have loved each other from the time we were children, but we were both penniless. So my Johnnie became a deck-hand, and who knows where he is sailing to now! (Very moved.) His son will be one year old when my Johnnie first sees him! (She takes a big handkerchief out of her pocket and blows her nose noisily.) And what if a high wave swallows him? (She cries.)
Sarah – You will bring bad luck, my girl, mourning for him while he is alive. Stop it!
Vassa – (She wipes tears.) As soon as Johnnie makes some money…
Emil – (In a low tone.) If the high wave does not swallow him. (Sarah casts an angry look at him.)
Vassa – And as soon as he sets foot ashore, he is sure to marry me.
Sarah – Amen!
Vassa – And then my father will have nothing to say. But if my son was to be taken away to the public nursery now… (She weeps.)
Sarah – Pull yourself together, Vassa!
Vassa – (Still sobbing.) So? Will you keep him for me?
Sarah – (To Emil.) Shall we keep him for her?
Emil – I’ll help the best I can. But I don’t know how to feed him, how to change his diapers. The whole weight will be on you, dear Sarah.
Vassa – No, my master! I swear it will be me to wash him and to feed him and…
Sarah – (Smiling.) In other words, we shall adopt you, as well!
Vassa – I’ll do everything. I’ll change his diapers, I’ll rock him, and while I do the housework, I’ll sing for him.
Emil – That part I can do, too.
Vassa – Our songs from Mani, I mean.
Emil – (Displeased.) Do they have to be from Mani, by all means?
Sarah – Mind you don’t start singing for the baby the famous mourning songs, the “mirologhia”, sung at funerals in Mani, Vassa!
Vassa – No, no! (She thinks about it.) Our mirologhia, however, are envied all over the country. We are the best in mourning songs.
Sarah – Concentrate on lullabies.
Vassa –Our lullabies are famous, too; the best in the country. Well? (Imploringly.) Will you keep him for me until my Johnnie comes back? Say yes, please! (To Sarah.) What about it, sweet lady? Say yes and I will cover you with gold!
Sarah – Where will you get the gold, my girl?
Vassa – Manner of speaking. Say yes, my good master and mistress!
Emil and Sarah – (They look at each other tenderly. They smile. Aloud.) Yes!
Scene Sixteen (Annie, Sarah, Emil, Vassa)
Annie – (She enters left, upset.) Can anyone tell me what is going on in this house?
Sarah – What is going on?
Annie – I go upstairs to drive the cat from your bedroom the cat, which has not stopped meowing, and what do you think I find there?
Emil – A baby.
Annie – You knew then?
Sarah – Did you suppose it went upstairs on its own?
Annie – (Austere.) And whose is the baby, may I ask?
Emil – We thought it might be yours.
Annie – You are joking!
Emil – We thought of other possibilities, too.
Annie – Like what?
Sarah – Whatever we tell you, you are sure to exclaim again, “You are joking!”
Annie – (Upset.) Will you answer my question or shall I go tell on you to your sons?
Sarah – (To Emil.) This girl has not changed in thirty years! Does a character change? She has told on people since she was a toddler, and she will go on telling on anybody, till the end.
Emil – (To Annie.) Go tell then on us. Let’s see what you’ll get out of it.
Vassa – No, don’t go, sweet lady! The baby is mine and my master and your mum will keep him for me for a while, out of their kindness.
Sarah – (To Annie.) You know our dearest Vassa, don’t you?
Annie – Congratulations, Vassa.
Vassa – That’s the right word for a baby: joy for everybody. May I please go upstairs and take him in my arms? (Sarah nods. Vassa exits left.)
Scene Seventeen (Annie, George, Peter, Sarah, Emil)
Annie – That was a wonderful dinner party! You locked yourselves in the kitchen for hours, while your guests…
George – (He enters left, followed by Peter. Ironically.) The food was very tasty and we really enjoyed your company! Andrew was called away by a patient, so he had to leave in all haste, after paying his respects. Pity he did not have the opportunity to lift his glass for you, he said.
Peter – (To his parents.) I am afraid there was too much nagging between you two, tonight. Am I right or wrong? So, what’s the news? Are you divorcing?
Sarah – We came very close to it.
George – Why not wait fifteen more years, to celebrate your golden anniversary with all of us, and divorce after that?
Emil – (Menacing.) Shall I open my mouth to discuss your case, my dear George?
George – Suit yourself. I have kept it closed because you asked me to.
Peter – May we poor ignorant guys know what you are talking about?
George – May the poor ignorant guys hear about it?
Emil – Lisa left him. He will explain why, himself.
Annie – I had smelled a rat! And there it is!
Peter – (To George.) Have you been tricky to her, boy? (George shrugs his shoulders.) That’s why I remain a bachelor. My adventures do not become tricky things. They become conquests.
George – Don’t tell us, Don Juan!
Sarah – Stop! There are more important matters than your love affairs!
George – What matters?
Emil – Forget it!
Annie – (Confidentially.) They have a baby.
George – (Totally astonished.) Bbb… Ba… Baby?
Annie – Carefully hidden upstairs.
Sarah – It had not been hidden it.
George – I don’t believe it! (Silence.) Artificial?
Emil – (Indignant.) An artificial baby?
George – Was it with artificial insemination?
Peter – By no means, George! (He laughs.) So, I was right about that pharmacy bag! (To his parents, severely.) Well, now careful you two! You should see to it that it does not happen again. All right? Safe sex from now on! Tut-tut! At your age!
George – Is that a joke? Do you mean our mother followed in childbirth the steps of her biblical ancestor Sarah, the wife of Abraham?
Peter – Come on! Our mum is not ninety years old!
Sarah – Enough! I don’t like this discussion. I find it disrespectful.
Emil – (To himself.) Listen to her! The world has turned upside down and she is thinking of disrespect!
Annie – (To her brothers.) Well, I went upstairs; I searched for the cat which was meowing non-stop, and what do you think I found instead of a cat? Not on the bed; on the carpet behind the bed. A basket with a baby inside!
George – It was Moses!
Sarah – Not Moses, love! Emil! That will be his name; though he has not been christened yet.
Emil – (Proudly.) Unofficially, however, his name is already Emil.
Peter – In other words, do we now have a baby brother?
Sarah – You came very close to having one.
George – That also! Everything was very close tonight! You came very close to divorcing. We came very close to having a baby brother…
Peter – So it is not a brother. What is it? A nephew?
Emil – Not exactly.
Sarah – Won’t anybody ask why the baby’s name is to be Emil?
Peter – Why?
Sarah – (To Emil.) You answer them!
Emil – (Solemnly.) Because, besides it being a beautiful and rare name… (Looking at Annie.), as Annie declared a while ago… (He waits.) Is that right?
Annie – Absolutely right. (To her brothers.) Isn’t it? (She waits for their answer. They just stand amazed.) Well? Is it or is it not a beautiful and rare name?
Peter – It is.
George – So what?
Emil – (Solemnly.) Besides the above reasons, I also happen to be his benefactor.
George – The baby’s?
Sarah – (Meaningfully.) Mainly… his mother’s.
Peter – (Shocked.) Is that so, father?
George – And he was giving me lessons about morality a while ago. But I, at least…
Emil – Don’t you dare say a word about the Northerner!
Annie – What Northerner?
Peter – (Indignant.) May we poor ignorant guys know what you are talking about? (Knocking at the door, left. They all turn towards it.) Are there other people in your house?
Sarah – Well, we have told you.
George – The baby?
Peter – The baby is knocking at the door? Please, don’t drive me mad, people!
Scene Eighteen (Vassa, Sarah, Emil, Annie, George, Peter)
Vassa – (She enters, the basket in her arms.) May I come in?
Sarah – You are already in, aren’t you?
Vassa – He is sleeping like an angel.
Sarah – Why have you brought your baby downstairs, Vassa dear?
Peter – Is the baby hers?
Vassa – (She approaches him. Proudly.) All mine! Look at him. Do you know who he resembles?
Emil – I will disinherit anyone who says that he resembles me.
Vassa – He is the spitting image of my Johnnie. His dad will go crazy when his ship comes back and he sees his son. (She approaches George and shows him the baby.) Have you seen a prettier baby, sir?
George – (He looks into the basket.) All the best to your child, but…
Vassa – (Hurt.) What? You don’t like him, you mean?
George – I have not seen many babies to know if this one is prettier.
Annie – (She approaches them.) I have not seen many newborn babies, either, but I can say this one is as beautiful as a picture.
Vassa – Thank you, my lady! God bless you for your kind words.
George – (Still reserved. Hesitantly.) But… are all newborn babies that small? This one is really tiny.
Vassa – (Very hurt.) What is he talking about? My baby is quite, quite big! I suffered a lot to give birth to him.
Sarah – Don’t mind him, my girl. He has no idea about babies.
Emil – And the way things are, he is not likely to have any idea about babies for a very long time. Why don’t you follow her example, fellows? You are over thirty and still childless. While Vassa, before she even turned nineteen…
Sarah – (Softly.) Well, she is not an example for them to follow, is she?
Emil – She is a brave young mother. God protect her from the evil eye.
Sarah – (To Emil softly.) Aren’t you exaggerating?
Vassa – (She looks at her baby with pride.) Isn’t he like a prince?
Annie – Forget “like”. He is a real prince.
Vassa – (To Sarah.) How can I thank you, my lady, for having him look so princely?
Sarah – Your son is still wearing the clothes in which you brought him, Vassa dear. Tomorrow I’ll buy him new clothes and then he will look quite princely. I promise.
Vassa – (Enthusiastically.) Yes! That’s why I chose a princely name for him, like my master’s.
Emil – (To Annie, proudly.) There! Not only is it a beautiful and rare name, but it is also princely. Your heart swells when you hear it!
Everybody – Emil!
Emil – (Embracing the basket and Vassa.) Emil the second! (All clap.)
Vassa and Emil place the basket in the centre of the fore scene. All during the courtesies and greetings, the baby can be heard crying. When the actors exit backstage, they forget the basket on stage. The crying becomes louder. Vassa enters running; she picks up the basket, bows awkwardly, and waves her hand to the public hopping with enthusiasm. (Fainter crying.) All the actors return on stage, they bow and greet the public once more, in a friendly way. They exit. The crying is heard from backstage, fainter and fainter, while the public leaves the theatre hall.
A play in eighteen scenes
Scene One (Sarah, Emil) p. 2 – 12
Scene Two (Sarah, Peter) p. 13 – 15
Scene Three (Emil, Peter, Sarah) p. 16 – 18
Scene Four (Emil, Sarah) p. 19 – 20
Scene Five (Annie, Sarah) p. 21 – 23
Scene Six (Sarah, Emil) p. 24 – 26
Scene Seven (George, Emil) p. 27 – 30
Scene Eight (Annie) p. 31
Scene Nine (George, Annie) p. 32
Scene Ten (Sarah, Annie) p. 33
Scene Eleven (Emil, Sarah) p. 34 – 36
Scene Twelve (Peter, Sarah, Emil) p. 37
Scene Thirteen (Sarah) p. 38 – 39
Scene Fourteen (Emil, Sarah) p. 40 – 43
Scene Fifteen (Vassa, Sarah, Emil) p. 44 – 46
Scene Sixteen (Annie, Sarah, Emil, Vassa) p. 47
Scene Seventeen (Annie, George, Peter, Sarah, Emil) p. 48 – 50
Scene Eighteen (Vassa, Sarah, Emil, Annie, George, Peter) p. 51 – 52
On the cover: Margarete Kirchner (embroidery), ed. Buckmann München, 1973, “Naive Maler – Garten der Träume”
A play in eighteen scenes
Summary of “Emil”
My choice of the name is due to the fact that it is unusual and rather upper-class. The host of a 35 years’ wedding anniversary is called Emil. While helping his wife Sarah to lay the table for their two sons, the wife of one of them, their daughter and her husband, an unseen boy delivers a case of beer bottles at the back door. He is expected to deliver soft drinks, too. Instead, a basket with a newborn baby is left, with a note that his name is Emil. They believe he has come from the family, perhaps the ex-girl-friend of the bachelor son. There are many reversals to this scenario, including the possibility of it being the host’s baby with their young maid, who was on a sick leave for a while and only appears at the end. Emil Jr. is hidden upstairs. His occasional crying is mistaken for a cat’s meowing. Sarah rushes up and down to feed it with material hurriedly bought at the pharmacy next door, material mistaken by the bachelor son as “other things”, which normally a 55 year old woman and a 60 year old man should be needing no more. All through the party the two sons and the daughter enter the kitchen (the only setting of the play), disclosing “dirty linen”. Emil exhibits guilty behaviour, as he had secretly given money to the maid, supposedly ill. She had then promised to keep his kind gesture secret from his wife, who now becomes more and more suspicious, as the girl shows gratitude to her benefactor. Right at the end, Emil Jr. proves to be the baby of the young maid, whose father would react fiercely to her having a baby before wedlock. She will not abandon him *at a public nursery, thus losing him for ever. She is sure her sailor lover will marry her as soon as he returns and finds out he has a son. The hosts become provisional foster parents to Emil Jr., who will mainly be taken care of by his own mum. All is well that ends well, Shakespeare would say. And we have got an insight into the relations of modern married couples, their infidelities and “career above marriage” attitude.
Lia Karavia, Grecia, poeta, escritora, narradora, dramaturga. políglota. Su obra ha sido traducida a más de veinte idiomas, y publicado más de setenta libros. Leer más en Artepoética-Rostros
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