Monday, February 16, 2015
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Excerpt from "The Butterfly Within":
Act One, Scene Three
(Sunday about 6:00pm. Fyvush opens the door to the roof. He has learned to pace himself climbing of the stairs. But a little winded. He is carrying a container of tea, a white paper bag containing a bagel with cream cheese. Under his arm he clutches an old album of photographs. Within the photograph album is a letter from the Austrian government. He sets his tea and bagel on the brick wall. Stops to catch his breath.)
Fyvush: You’re right, Zelda. Too many cigars. (He looks over the wall to the street. He then straddles the wall, one leg hanging over the street, as if seventy-five years has not passed. He places the album on the wall in front of him, takes a sip of his coffee and nibbles at the cream cheese and bagel.)
Not as good as Ghephart’s. (He wraps the bagel and returns it to the bag. Sips his tea. Opens the album. Flips through the first two or three pages.) Ah. Tevi. Here you are with your slingshot. We had some good times up here. Remember? (He scans the rooftop.) The girls used to play below. Your sister was there, too. In street. (He looks into the street.) We threw water on them.
(Lights down as Fyvush at the age of 10 -12 years, runs along the top of the building’s walls. He is joined by a young Tevi. They cavort playfully, throwing water balloons over the side and creating mischief. As the lights come up they disappear behind the set and Fyvush continues.)
Oy! Your sister, Hannah. Such a Machshaifeh! A real witch. She’d run up here and beat the crap outta’ you. Never caught me. No. (Beat.) She did not like me. No. She hated me. In synagogue, she gave me einhoreh, the evil eye. Poo, poo, poo. (Simulate spitting three times to avoid the evil eye.) Tried to stare me down. Like knife through me. She was witch! She couldn’t catch me. (Beat.) No. You were just to slow. (Beat.) I remember black eye she gave you. Your papa gave you another. He thought Irish kids beat you up. You should’a told him. (Beat.) I know. If you tell, she’d catch you and break your leg. Ha, ha. Yes, she would do that. Never caught me. No. (Beat.) She never married, did she? A spinster.
Old maid. (Aside he grimaces.) Alteh machashaifeh. Old witch. (He turns the page.) Here is Greta Silverberg. She was a looker. Yefayfiyeh! A woman of great beauty. (Demonstrates big breasts. Beat.) Of course, you know that. You and her. In park. We were in bushes watching. (ImitatesTevi.) “Oh, Greta, oh, Greta, GRETA!” Ha, ha, ha. Oh, Greta. She was good wife for you for forty-four years. (He turns the page.) Here you are, Tevi, at my bar mitzvah. You were a skinny little runt. There is Herman Schull. Remember Herman? His father. Rabbi Schull. Herman ran away to Hollywood. He had chutzpah. Changed his name to ‘James Collins’. An Irish Jew. Ha. Ha. As handsome as he was, he sure couldn’t get into movies with name like Herman Schull. (As he turns the page.) Got into some kind of trouble. The judge gave him choice. “Go to prison or join Marine Corps.” Died near Chosan Reservoir when Chinese surrounded his Marines. (Beat.) Choices. (Pause as he closes the book on his hand.) You had choices, Tevi. You should‘a had operation. Cor-nary bi-pass not critical now. Sure,... is big operation, but you could’a done it. Instead you take easy way out. How was waiting to die? (Quietly.) Was it easy? Did you just give up? (Pause.) Bad choice, Tevi! (Pause as he opens the book slightly, then closes it on his hand again.) You didn’t want to end up like your father, eh? Lying in street. (Beat.) Yeah, but what does an Irish cop know from Jews… Throwing him in body bag… like that... (Beat.) ... no respect. Cops don’t know any better, Tevi! (Beat.) You should’a had by-pass, Tevi. (He opens the book and turns the page.) Here’s Gus Ghephart. He could’a been a great baseball player. Made High School All American. Brooklyn was lookin’ at him. Could’a played in Yankee Stadium, too. His Papa died two weeks after graduation. Did you believe what people said about his papa? That he was a Nazi in hiding? How could a man who loved to bake such beautiful things be as cruel as a Nazi? (Beat.) How long ago Gus close bakery? Ten? Twelve years? You could never get along. Why was that, Tevi? Greta? I knew he had his eyes on Greta. Greta! That’s it. That night in park! He was with us. You old…. Let’s see August, Sept…. Little Tevi. (He counts the months.) You old devil you! Didn’t know you had it in you, as skinny as you were. One hunert-thirty-five pounds. "Twisted steel," you bragged." (He turns the page.) High school graduation. Miss Pridley. English teacher. She was sweet lady. She even looked like English teacher. Miss Pridley. Here’s Mr. Roach. Taught History. Math. Shaved his head every summer to coach football. Mr. Schwartz, the music teacher and principal. Ah, here… our entire music class. Reminds me of joke. As violinist, Tevi, you appreciate. Man walks into a bar with a dog. His dog. The bartender says, “You can’t bring that dog into my bar.” “Wait,” says the man, “this is very special dog.” “Special?” the bartender asks, “what makes this dog so special? You’re not blind are you?” “No. This dog can talk,” the man says. “Prove it,” says the bartender. “Ask him a question,” says the man. “What’s on that tree outside?” asks the bartender. “Bark,” the dog replies.
“Now I know you’re full of it,” says the bartender, “Out!” “No, no, ask him more, harder,” says the man. “What’s that on the top’a that building over there?” asks the bartender. “Roof,” replies the dog. “Okay, out of here, I’ve had enough,” says the bartender. “No. Ask him difficult question. Those questions too easy,” says the man. “Okay, okay,” says the bartender. He thinks. “Okay. Who’s the greatest composer in the vorld?” asks the bartender. The dog thinks for a few seconds and replies, “Arf!” “Okay, that’s it. Take your dog out,” the bartender demands. The man picks up the dog. The dog turns to the bartender and says, “Did you think it was Beethoven? Bach, maybe?” Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Okay, okay, man was ventriloquist. (He turns the page.) Here’s Papa dancing with Zelda at our wedding. She was beautiful bride. It took Mama and sister three days to make chuppah. “Should be good strong chuppah,” she said. “I have piece of glass from your mama and papa’s wedding, Fyvush. You should not crush my good wine glasses.” Papa was making good money at Macy's department store. He sold men’s suits forty-seven years. Macy's. Still there. On 34th Street. Between 6th and 7th Avenues. I was there yesterday. (Beat.) Oy. The Manishewitz flowed. I danced with my Zelda all night. I never drink Manishewitz again. (Beat. Studies the photos.) You should remember, Tevi, you played violin. (Beat. Looks away from the album.)
(Lights down as Tevi, at the age of 17 years, plays the violin on the edge of building’s walls. He plays Violin Concerto in C by Haydn. Upon finish, the special goes out and he disappears behind the set. The lights come up and Fyvush continues.)
Fyvush: (Continues. You could’a gone to Carnegie Hall. You were so good. (He turns the page.) There’s my Zelda. Eating latkes mama made for us. She said we not eating right. “She too skinny.” Zelda was good cook. “What’s to worry, Mama,” I said. “She’s so skinny, she needs to eat. Here. Some knishes, latkes and borscht.” After Aaron, she had nice body. Mama didn’t complain after that. I never complain. Except when Zelda had episodes. (Pause. Studies the photos.) Nazis Paskudnik Mamzer (Ugly, revolting, evil bastard) (He turns the page.)
End of Act I