C H R I S T M A S
the Cake of the Desert
Read by Shaheen Charmabagwala on PseudoRadio's "Art Dirt," Aug. 15, 1996.
Directed by Robert Allen.
Adapted by Antoinette LaFarge
copyright 1996 The Plaintext Players
The curtain begins to rise slowly, revealing wide expanses of sand. Like a dream the mist rolls across the desert. A large cloud moves slowly across the moon and a shadow falls on BigMan's face. He seems despondent . . . and Littleman is itching to tell a tale.
He says: "BigMan?"
BigMan watches his feet sink in the hot sand. He says: "Yeah?"
Littleman says: "Remember the New Year's Eve of 1975 when we decided to work at that Night Club?"
BigMan: "Uh, what did you say?"
Littleman: "Do you?"
They walk towards the tent up a steep sand dune. BigMan says: "Uhh, well not exactly. When was that?" Littleman: "Well, maybe it wasn't 1975, maybe it was 1985 or 1995, or actually, could it have been 2005?" BigMan: "Gosh, I just don't recall. And don't talk to me about 2005...I don't even want to consider remembering that year." Littleman squints at the sand and the moonlight and tries to walk in BigMan's shadow. "How could you forget?" he says. "Remember, you were a doorman and I was a hat-check girl! Or was it the other way around -- which way was it?" BigMan: "Wait, what?" and Littleman: "Don't you remember, you kept suggesting people put their coats in the "croakroom" and the manager kept correcting you to "cloakroom" and he was really getting pissed at you?" The wind is swirling round them both now like a tempest. BigMan giggles nervously: "No, can't say I do." Littleman: "You were magnificent in your black tie and tails! And your shiny red nails. And your whiny wails." and BigMan: "No, and no, and no."
Littleman stamps his foot. "Of course you remember." BigMan: "Well, actually those shiny red nails ring a bell. Those long dark red nails....The ring finger and the pinkie were connected with a small gold-braided chain?" Littleman: "That's right!... But wait a minute, you don't have pinkies -- remember? BloodyZelda ate them one Thanksgiving night in Capri!" and BigMan: "And her hand kept getting caught on her nose-hair...yeah I remember that." Littleman: "Who is 'her,' may I ask?... I mean, who the FUCK is 'her', and what were you doing with her nose hair?" BigMan: "Look, what are you getting so angry about?"
They reach the crest of the sand dune, and there before them lies the oasis of their dreams, the dreams of their day. Littleman: "Wait, I have the tape from that night. We'll settle this once and for all time, forever and ever and ever and ever." BigMan: "You keep insisting I remember this ridiculous turn of events."
Littleman plugs the tape deck into an outdoor socket. At the crackle of electricity, BigMan jumps back! On the tape they hear "...and the shrieks and bellowing...but your dress was yellowing, and I thought we could go for a walk... Two vultures swoop low at the deadly sound.
BigMan: "All I'm telling you is that the only thing that makes any sense at all is the red nail polish...ok?" and Littleman: "Who said anything about red nail polish?" and BigMan: "You did!...for chrissakes!" and on the tape: "...darling, come walk with me across the Pont des Arts...we'll meet the others there after the show..." The voice on the tape is familiar...could it be....? It is indeed BloodyZelda's voice, taunting as ever.
BigMan's face begins to flush bright red and he says: "I don't know what game you're playing, but I can't stand it anymore!" He grabs Littleman by the arm screaming: "Stop the insanity!" The vultures inch closer. "What insanity?" says Littleman. "All I want is a little human kindness, a slight nostalgia, a bit of warmth, a memory of a New Year's Eve." On the tape is heard screaming feedback and then a faint voice: "Zelda... lovely Zelda..."
Littleman asks: "Don't you remember what happened at midnight?" BigMan: "I do not remember any of this...I told you that several times now... If you have something to prove... some point to make... make it now, but DO NOT INSIST I REMEMBER ANY MORE LIES!" He shakes Littleman furiously. Zelda's voice frightens Littleman more than the vultures. On the tape is heard faint whispers and gentle cooing.
Littleman: "At midnight you took a red hot rod and crammed it up the manager's right nostril. Smoke came out of his ears! The funny thing was, he tipped you grandly after that and treated you with more respect, remember? You were pissed, though, because he gave us his pumpkin to go home in, and it was infested with mice. Very talkative mice!" and on the tape: "...push gently, servant...come...take this flower--No... NO!" Littleman: "Remember?" and on the tape: "...and your desires will be ... Yes... yes... BigMan, look at me..." Littleman: "They were having a political rally in the back seat!" and on the tape: "...but if we walk...don't you think...maybe it will inspire you.. take my hand..."
BigMan is getting irritated by BloodyZelda's relentless voice. On the tape: "...I'm sorry I didn't bring the kids...I want to get to know small kids...This is the society of kids... BigMan 's skin blisters from the intense heat erupting inside his damaged psyche. He yells: "Stop, stop it, NOW!" Littleman: "Hey, there's no need to get so excited." BigMan: "I WILL NOT LISTEN TO ANOTHER MINUTE OF THIS!"
He pushes Littleman to the ground and on the tape they hear: "....like BloodyZelda...now, she was one to...We made vast sums...It was like the old days..." BigMan grabs the tape machine and he raises it above his head and smashes it down to the ground INCHES from Littleman's head. With a rumbling roar, there is an explosion to end all explosions. On the tape: ...rrrrKKKKRPPPPPKKKKKREEEEWWW!!!!......
and Littleman says: "Goodness gracious, having a bad day?" BigMan kicks the tape furiously and repeatedly. Littleman: "Is this the worst day you remember?" The vcr is slowly being eaten by the desert sand -- swallowed piece by piece. Littleman: "Tsk tsk. You know, the tape is recording your tantrum! We can play it back tomorrow, so it'll refresh your memory of today, isn't that nice?"
The tape is spewed everywhere but mysteriously turns itself back on for a split second: "Come, get packed, the bus will be here soon...we have to hurry if you want to make it before dark... The echoes of Zelda's voice die away and return as vultures, hungry and hungrier. BigMan grabs the remnants of the tape and broken plastic and: "Here, you like these stories so much....eat them...eat your fucking words." He shoves the debris into Littleman's mouth. Littleman vamooses.
All alone for a change, BigMan tries to remember where he is or what it is all about. Distant, birdlike voices begin to haunt him...
. . I am the hair of the dogs of war.
. . . I am the spirit of the tape incarnate, no longer subject to magnetic gravity.
. . I am the last horseman but one.
. . I am his best and worst friend.
. . . . I am poised for greatness.
. . . I am grateful for poison.
. . . . I am confused.
. . . I am bemused.
. . . . and I am notorious for a happy libido.
. . . I am verbatim.
. . . . . I am verboten.
. . I am the Littleman who laughs.
. . I am the BigMan who falls.
. . . . I am virtuous.
. . . . I am virulent.
. . . I am academic.
. . . I am epidemic.
. . I am the curtain that falls.
The curtain drops slowly down, spangled with stars, a setting moon, and the rising of the sun in technicolor...
NOTE: This radio play of The Cake of the Desert is an edited version of a longer Plaintext Players online performance of Oct. 21, 1994, originally done with a cast of four. In this radio version it is intended as a monologue for male or female voice.
In the original performance, the cast was as follows:
Joe Ferrari . . . . . as BigMan