By Benjamin Smith and Jake Kinstler
Note: this is a performance piece that I co-wrote as part of a collaborative reading series. It is written so that it can be read backwards or forwards; i.e., starting with either prose section, rearranging the dialogue as appropriate.
Our Forefathers Are Dead
The snow fell on the living and the dead. Gabriel blinked: the mourners dressed in black, the lover going to the grave, the namesake in the novella. His words had been locked into place, black type on yellowing pages. His father had loved literature, he had died once too. At his funeral Gabriel had worn a blue tie. Today his tie was red, though it was hidden behind his black suit coat and overcoat. Father Flanagan addressed the mourners.
–As we now bury our dear departed, he said, we must remember that death is not an end, but a passageway into a new, more complete form of life. He was interrupted by a fit of coughing that doubled him over. He straightened his back and looked at the crowd as if nothing had happened. Where she is now, there is no suffering.
CALLIOPE. Abba, abba, praise Him, I will join them both on high. I will see them again and meet my maker. I will walk hand in hand with Him and know him. I will see His face and they will be there with me in spirit, as I will be with them. It won’t be very long til this short life shall end. I will never weep again. I will.
URANIA. You’re already dead. You’re dead and nothing happened. You’re a boxed up corpse with no one to hold your hand. Except me, I guess, but good luck with that.
CALLIOPE. Could it be true? Eloi Eloi, lama sabachthani? Yahweh has gone the way of the old gods. Unless it is you… you, the serpent, the deceiver, the Father of Lies. Get thee behind me! I could not be dead because this is not paradise; I must be alive because nothing has changed.
URANIA. Or your capacity to notice change died with you. Think about it: I’m certainly still alive, no serpent here. Process of elimination says…
BOTH. The end is the beginning is the end again. Speak what you think, but only as soon as you think it, before it becomes impure. When you die, lay quietly to rest. Do not go gentle into that good night. Do not be quick to anger. Fools rush in. Leningradulations! You have, at last, discovered the meaning of life and death. So they tell you, so you believe. This is nothing more than a living half-truth.
CALLIOPE. What is the other half of a half-life? What is the tail side of a heads up? What is the outside of an inside? These and all other questions.
URANIA. What do you remember about half-lives? And do we have to share this box forever?
CALLIOPE. Nothing lasts forever, as one person once said. Nothing is real, as another person once said. Nothing, as every person said once. Me, as every person always said. Us, as every person never said.
URANIA. No matter that I’m alive: what about next time? Or the time after that? This is no state to spend one’s time in.
Our Forefathers Are Alive
Assume quasi-static and slowly varying like those last few years together. Assume perfectly elastic bodies moving through a vacuum. Ignore the snow. Assume X is both positive and real. Assume a frictionless plane extending in every direction, though you stood beside each other and watched the sun set over a curved horizon. Assume there exists a solution. Assume your theories are correct even if you’d prefer the opposite, even when they mean you’ll never see her again, nor your father. Assume statistical significance only when X ≥ .05 regardless of how well you remember her, or how often you forget. Ignore Doctor Flanagan’s stare.
–We both know how long she was deprived of oxygen, Gabe, he said, but she could wake up fine next week. She could wake up impaired next year. Or. He coughed into his hand. What we do know is that she isn’t suffering