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Plays

The Fourth Sister | Antigone in New York

Hunting Crockroaches


 

 

 

THE FOURTH SISTER

TRANSLATED BY EVA NAGORSKI & JANUSZ GLOWACKI

 
SCENE II

The stage acts as a room but is not completely realistic. The only realistic part is a few pieces of furniture, such as a large wardrobe. In the back, a table stands surrounded by a few chairs, and a mirror, covered by a towel, hangs on the wall. Somewhere there’s a window, pretending to be a window. In the very back is the kitchen area, which consists only of a gas stove and sink. On the right, is a curtain the height of a person, which separates part of the stage from view. On the left, near the wardrobe are a few pairs of shoes, slippers and a woolen cloth to use under shoes.

To the left of the proscenium are some rather odd bits and ends of furniture, such as a bench. In the middle of the stage, facing the audience, is a wide bed and a suitcase peers out from underneath. The bed is covered unevenly with a bedspread.

BABUSHKA and GENERAL sit on the bed, facing the audience. BABUSHKA, wrapped in a scarf, is somewhere between 40 and 60 years old; it’s hard to say. On the floor in front of her is a bottle of Kremlovskaya vodka. She holds an empty mustard jar in one hand, and a jar of strawberry compote in the other. She curiously looks out and about the audience. Next to her sits the retired GENERAL, the father of the three sisters. He wears a gym tee shirt under his unbuttoned army jacket and civilian pants. His shoes are shined and his head is down.
BABUSHKA: So they said it’d be three hundred dollars?

GENERAL nods his head, keeping his head down.

BABUSHKA: For carrying down?

GENERAL nods his head.

BABUSHKA: From the second floor?

GENERAL nods his head.

BABUSHKA: (shakes her head in disgust) Will your brother fly in from America?

GENERAL shakes his head, no.

BABUSHKA: The living don’t appreciate the dead. It wouldn’t hurt for you to shave.

GENERAL: (keeps head down) I went to the barber’s. I walk in and he asks, “What?” So I say, “What do you mean, what? A shave.” So he says I have to lift my head. So I tell him to cut my hair instead. You’re very kind, Akulina Ivanovna, to come here. You can tell who your real friends are.

BABUSHKA: But you’re like family to me. I’ve lived above you for over twenty years. You and my dead, deceased husband, together in Berlin and Kabul, drank, smoked, infected the enemy with venereal diseases. And your dead, deceased wife was also like family to me. But three hundred dollars for carrying down from the second floor... (she shakes her head)

GENERAL: Akulino Ivanovna, may I ask you three questions?

BABUSHKA: Ask, son. Ask.

GENERAL: Who rules here? Where is money? How will it all end? And I’ll add a fourth:
How should we live?

BABUSHKA: I don’t know. But three hundred dollars for carrying down one flight of stairs is a sham.

GENERAL: Our country lies in pieces, as though it were torn to bits by dogs. Sound of a barking dog.

BABUSHKA: That’s my Fiedia. I should go walk him. But with that vampire running around the neighborhood, it’s scary to walk in the dark, even with a dog. There’s a fifteen
thousand dollar award for catching him. You remember Anna Pavlovna? Fifteen thousand dollars!

GENERAL shakes his head, no.

BABUSHKA: Bald, with a red wig?

GENERAL doesn’t know who she’s talking about.

BABUSHKA: So hunched over she looked like an umbrella handle?

GENERAL shakes his head, no.

BABUSHKA: You know her. Last night, the vampire jumped her and took advantage of her. And he ate her left arm, no, right arm, no, left arm...and banged her and gnawed on her leg. Well, in communist times, there was plenty of food. Now, people walk around hungry.

GENERAL: I would let them cut off my arm and leg to help Russia. But what can I do? My dead, deceased wife died. And you, Akulina Ivanovna, you didn’t put your slippers on again. And you got dirt everywhere.

BABUSHKA: I’ll put them on.

GENERAL: My daughters are not married. But only an idiot would marry them since they could bang them for free.

BABUSHKA: I wouldn’t say that. In my day, Russian women gave their asses away for free, just out of pity. But now, not necessarily. Don’t worry about your daughters. They’re good girls. And Tania is really special. When she walks, she doesn’t walk; she dances.

GENERAL: I’m spending my whole retirement on her dance lessons. I even quit smoking so that I wouldn’t throw out money on cigarettes. (takes out cigarettes and lights up, and offers one to BABUSHKA. BABUSHKA also lights up) Katia finished law and feeds wild animals.

BABUSHKA: Tania will become another Plisieckaja. You’re all going to live in a palace.

GENERAL: No, we won’t. And Wiera is getting pumped by a married man.

BABUSHKA: But he’s a politician. No, you will.

GENERAL: No, we won’t.

BABUSHKA: Why not?
GENERAL: I haven’t paid for dance classes in two months.

BABUSHKA: No?

GENERAL: No.

BABUSHKA: Why?

GENERAL: I got depressed. And when a person’s depressed, he drinks. And when he drinks, he smokes.

BABUSHKA: Obviously.

GENERAL: They kicked Tania out but she doesn’t know yet.

BABUSHKA: No?

GENERAL: No. I can’t get the words through my throat. I tried to make some money. I auditioned to be a model.

‘BABUSHKA: Model?

GENERAL: They asked where I did my last cat walk and I said in Kabul. But they didn’t take me.

BABUSHKA: (pours vodka into two empty mustard jars) To those who died in the war!

GENERAL: If it had been a few years ago, Washington would’ve talked to us differently. Our army would’ve marched right through the Balkans. (shakes his head sadly) And now...

GENERAL quickly drinks and BABUSHKA pours him another glass.

BABUSHKA: Between the first and second toasts, a bullet should not pass.

They drink.

GENERAL: We sold out on our Slavic brothers. Kolia!

KOLIA, a boy of twelve, enters from behind the curtain. He is poorly dressed and looks frightened. He crosses the stage and disappears.
GENERAL: But there’s one thing. There’s money in America. Right? Right.

BABUSHKA: (referring to the vodka) Let’s chase it with compote.
She opens the compote and pours it into the jars.

KOLIA returns. He drags a large basket filled with starched bed sheets. He leaves the basket and disappears behind the curtain.

GENERAL: But they change their sheets every two weeks. At my place, it’s everyday. The world holds itself together as long as somewhere, there’s a tiny bit of order. Kolia!

KOLIA peers out from behind the curtain.

GENERAL: Wash the floor. Akulina Ivanovna dirtied the whole place again. Maybe this is all a punishment?

KOLIA prepares to wash the floor by gathering a mop, bucket, and so on.

BABUSHKA: What punishment?

GENERAL: Who the hell knows? Sins or something?

BABUSHKA: What sins? You’re a good man. (points to KOLIA) You even took in an orphan.

GENERAL: This thing nearly croaked on the street. People differ from animals. They deserve some attention.

BABUSHKA: You know that gypsy with his horse? He taught the horse to hardly eat anything. And he says he was close to teaching it to eat nothing but it died. God is good. He won’t desert you. Look at my son, Kostia. What I went through... He was twenty six years old, never drank, never smoked, he didn’t even want to (makes a hand gesture backwards and forwards to suggest sex). He would only sit in the library and read, read, read. I almost cried my eyes out. And then a year ago, the Mafia took him in. Now, he wears a suit all day long. He bought an apartment on Kutuzowski street, a car, cellular phone. Now, he only drinks and drives. Drinks and calls. So much happiness!

BABUSHKA’s wipes her tears of joy. We hear a voice offstage. MALE VOICE: So what’s it gonna be, Ivan Piotrovicz?

GENERAL: (with hatred) Those scoundrels came especially an hour early, when my daughters aren’t here. What am I supposed to do? I can’t squeeze three hundred dollars out of my veins.

BABUSHKA: I’ll help you, Ivan Piotrovicz. I can still boast about my strength, thank God. Because for three hundred dollars... Help has become so expensive these days.
They pull back the sheets. Only now do we see that the GENERAL’s wife lays underneath. Except, she is not alive.

BABUSHKA: (makes the sign of the cross and turns to the GENERAL’s wife’s body) Are you ready, Natalia Pietrovna? All packed? (to GENERAL) I’ll take the legs. You take the arms.

They take the body by its legs and arms. One leg slips out of BABUSHKA’s hand.

BABUSHKA: (warning) Don’t fool around, Natalia Pietrovna. You already stirred up
enough trouble in your life.

(...)
 

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