from Little Stain

In memory of Robert Mac Leod, Koné Ibrahima, Jean-Claude Grenier

One must lose one's self to find one's self. --Ralph Ellison

In the human world, time is three The time to speak The time to do The time to see So, when the day comes for your word to be spoken Speak up! When the day comes for the deal to be done, Act! And when the day comes to review all of this, Then take it all into account! In the human world, time is three. --Baba Sissoko (griot)

There is nothing hidden That will not be exposed Nothing concealed That will not be known and brought to light. Luke 8:17 (Translation from New American Bible)

Night. A bourgeois home. The Mother, the Father, and the Daughter. A screen, a large television screen perhaps; the Father tries vainly to settle an image taken from Gone with the Wind (or a clone of that film.) We believe we can make out, amongst the jumping images, a kiss between Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. During this time, in the opening of the back wall (the size of a garage door), a masked figure dances, without music, a dance that is airy, light, floating, as if in slow motion. The Mother alone sees the dancing mask, without giving it any real attention, like it's a familiar image.

FATHER (all the while trying to settle the image, talking almost unconsciously, like humming a song in the shower, just at the limit of being audible) In that time . . . in that time . . . Babylon . . . Baby . . . lon . . . Baby . . . Babylon buried Nebu . . . Nebucha . . . Nebucha . . . Nebucha . . . Nebuchadnezzar . . . buried Nebuchadnezzar. By the Banks . . . the banks of the Eu . . . phra . . . tes . . . the banks of the Euphrates, from the left bank to the . . . in all of Mesopotamia . . . Me . . . so . . . po . . . ta . . . mia . . . (stops on an image) Look, darling, it's us.

The masked dancer has disappeared. Someone rings the doorbell/knocks at the door. The Father extinguishes the image immediately, as if caught in the middle of a compromising act.

Silence.

MOTHER Who is it? (Another ring/knock) Go see who it is!

DAUGHTER Let me, Daddy, I'll go.

The ringing/knocking is insistent.

FATHER Ask who it is before you open the door.

DAUGHTER Who is it?

A VOICE BEHIND THE DOOR It's me.

DAUGHTER He says it's him.

MOTHER That's ridiculous! Who's "him"?

The Daughter opens the door; a young man appears.

THE INTRUDER Who does the red car out front belong to?

DAUGHTER Ikédia!

IKÉDIA I am the son of lightning, I've come to burn down this house.

Stupefied silence then Ikédia breaks out laughing.

DAUGHTER He's laughing, Mother. Ikédia! Daddy, it's Ikédia!

MOTHER Ikédia?

FATHER Ikédia . . . Ikédia . . . Ikédia . . .

DAUGHTER Yes, it's Ikédia. Come with me, Ikédia.

MOTHER AND FATHER Delighted to meet you.

DAUGHTER Daddy . . .

IKÉDIA Delighted to meet you.

DAUGHTER Mother . . .

IKÉDIA Delighted to meet you.

FATHER Oh, it's you?

IKÉDIA Pretty much.

DAUGHTER Yes, it's my Ikédia.

IKÉDIA It's beautiful weather, the sky is clear and the moon is bright.(Silence) Beautiful night, don't you think?

FATHER Yes, yes . . . It is . . . certainly . . . obviously . . . beautiful, beautiful . . . So, we finally meet.

DAUGHTER This is totally my Ikédia. Showing up without warning. Isn't he handsome, Daddy?

FATHER This is perfect timing. I hope you're staying for the party?

IKÉDIA I came for the party.

FATHER So much the better, that's great. Can I get you something?

IKÉDIA A glass of Condrieu.

MOTHER Ah?

FATHER Darling?

MOTHER (to her daughter) We have to talk about this . . . I'm fine . . .

The Mother seems to be searching for something.

IKÉDIA Here. Here, they're over here. (Mother seizes a box of pills. ) Is this what you were looking for?

She feverishly swallows some pills. Silence.

FATHER So this is really you, Ikédia?

IKÉDIA Pretty much, yes.

MOTHER We have to talk . . .

FATHER Pretty much, yes--isn't that charming.

IKÉDIA Nice garden

MOTHER Huh?

IKÉDIA The garden, magnificent--like Eden.

MOTHER I have a green thumb, you see. I designed everything, planted everything.

IKÉDIA A true feast for the senses.

MOTHER At least someone has some taste.

DAUGHTER You'll see tomorrow--it's even more beautiful in the daytime.

FATHER Oh, because you're . . . (Hands him a glass) Take it.

DAUGHTER Oh and I stink from bad breath?

FATHER What?

DAUGHTER Like Ikédia.

MOTHER Please tell me, you're not . . .

DAUGHTER Yes, he's staying. He's sleeping in my room tonight.

MOTHER Ah! (to her daughter) We have to talk . . .

IKÉDIA I know how to behave, Madame.

DAUGHTER You see, Mother, you see very well, that I didn't tell you stories when I told you about Ikédia.

FATHER Our daughter is right; it appears that you are well brought-up, well educated . . . and plus what a sense of humor! That one about being the son of lightning: "I've come to burn down the house." I found that deliciously incongruous.

MOTHER This is ridiculous! As far as I can remember, you told us that Ikédia had a slight squint--as far as I can remember.

DAUGHTER Well, yeah, have you seen his eyes, Mother?...

FATHER "I've come . . . " no really, charming.

MOTHER Yes . . . but . . .

FATHER Nevertheless I hope you won't hold me accountable . . .

DAUGHTER Yes, yes, very light . . .

FATHER You only just got here . . .

DAUGHTER I bet you haven't even looked at them, his eyes . . .

FATHER . . . and I'm all over you with . . .

MOTHER I looked at them.

FATHER No, because one thing intrigues me . . .

MOTHER I looked at them well.

FATHER You see, our daughter has told us so much about you . . . about Ikédia, that I am certain that . . .

DAUGHTER Ikédia, show your eyes to my mother.

FATHER Do you like the Caravage?

IKÉDIA The . . .

FATHER Il Caravaggio? The Caravage?

DAUGHTER Go look at them up close, if you want.

IKÉDIA The . . .

MOTHER I saw them very well.

IKÉDIA . . . Oh, yes, the . . . yes, yes . . . it depends.

DAUGHTER Don't be jealous of my happiness again.

FATHER Unless you prefer Bacon?

IKÉDIA Bacon?

MOTHER He doesn't have a squint. He doesn't have a squint.

FATHER Francis? Francis Bacon?

DAUGHTER But yes, look harder.

FATHER Good old Francis . . .

DAUGHTER And those eyes! Like a rainbow!

IKÉDIA Oh, that one? As my mother would say, "It's got its good points and its bad points."

MOTHER That's ridiculous! You can very well see he can't have rainbow eyes.

FATHER On second thought, he's also baroque . . .

DAUGHTER He has a rainbow in his eyes.

FATHER Of a certain kind . . .

MOTHER I saw no rainbow in his eyes.

IKÉDIA Of a certain kind, yes.

MOTHER And no squint. Whatsoever.

FATHER You've seen, since his death, his prices keep going up.

DAUGHTER But look at them at least!

FATHER Though when he was alive he was hot already.

DAUGHTER Ikédia, show your eyes.

FATHER But now he's out of control . . . Actually, like Basquiat!

DAUGHTER You saw--the color of a rainbow.

MOTHER Absolutely not.

FATHER Do you like him? Basquiat?

IKÉDIA Okay, why do you want me to like all these people?

FATHER Darling, here's another one who hates Basquiat.

MOTHER Ah! You don't like him either? I find him superficial, but good . . . My husband sees in him a certain sense of movement . . .

FATHER But on the whole it's a little rough, adolescent, childish, I concede . . .

MOTHER Because my husband is a painter, you see . . .

FATHER Oh, not exactly, it's no more than a hobby. And even then . . .

MOTHER Now, now, now, now, now . . . One day he'll be strangled by his own modesty.

DAUGHTER (showing paintings on the wall) That stuff, there, on the wall, those are his.

MOTHER What do you think? I find it very instinctive . . . very like it is. But, he's an artist! That constant obscuring of meaning. And so visionary!

FATHER Oh, well, I've painted some canvases. These flops, there, on the wall . . . Obviously they're not Basquiat, even less Caravaggio, but well . . . In fact, I'm a doctor.

IKÉDIA I know.

FATHER Obviously, my daughter must have spoken to you about it . . .

IKÉDIA I know, that's all.

MOTHER Ah!

DAUGHTER Ikédia knows everything. Are you coming Ikédia?

FATHER So our daughter has spoken to us so much of . . . of Ikédia that I can paint his portrait from memory.

IKÉDIA That much?

FATHER That much. Yet, you see, sir . . . I know it's inconvenient and brutal on my part . . .

DAUGHTER Ikédia, I'm going to get annoyed!

FATHER . . . but ever since I heard our daughter talk about you, the characteristics of Ikédia have gotten blurred in my memory. As a result I didn't even notice that you weren't . . .

MOTHER Let me handle it! Clear this up for me, young man . . . I'll bet you never once had rainbow eyes?

IKÉDIA See for yourself.

MOTHER You're not Ikédia.

DAUGHTER He is Ikédia!

IKÉDIA Who cares who I am? My name is Ikedia and I've come to burn down this house. Isn't that enough?

He explodes laughing again.

DAUGHTER He's laughing, Mother, he's laughing. Look, just look how he's laughing!

FATHER I wasn't wrong, you're well brought-up and you have lots of humor. I know I don't have the right to ask you this, but would it bother you to continue, only for tonight, to play the role of Ikédia for our daughter?

DAUGHTER Who's telling you he's playing? Let's go, Ikédia, and I'll show you my room.

MOTHER Your backpack . . . Shall I take your backpack for you?

IKÉDIA No, no . . . I'll deal with it later . . . when it's time.

Ikédia and the Daughter exit.

MOTHER In fact the red car outside is mine. It was my car; it's been years since it moved at all, except in my nightmares.

***