Nadezhda Ptushkina is one of the most popular play-wrighters in contemporary Russia. Actually, she is the champion. Why? I think I know the answer. She is the most "English" among her colleagues. Unlike to most of them, she is aware that drama is a specific genre and that any play should be thought out, constructed, motivated. This "English" touch only boosts Russian features of her works such as emotionality, bitterness, sincerity.
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A tragifarce in two acts by© Nadezhda Ptushkina
Translated by James Donoher
HER: Tired, ordinary, fortyish, educated.
HIM: Young, handsome, thirtyish, well dressed.
On the right is the back facade of an outhouse. On it is an advertising hoarding:
An entrance yard or, rather, a small square.
ONLY IN ‘CAPRICORN’! THE HIGHEST QUALITY COFFEE! AT THE LOWEST PRICES! ONLY IN ‘CAPRICORN’!
On the left is a patch of grass fenced off by a barrier of iron spikes. On the patch of grass is an advertising hoarding with the same contents. Between the back facade and the patch of grass is a tarmac road. At the end of the road, at a wooden-paved corner, is a small commercial kiosk. Beyond this shines an underground metro sign ‘M’.
SHE is standing on the patch of grass, either hiding behind the hoarding or trying to be unseen.
HE is leaving the building and heading for the shop.
SHE watches him tensely, in a state of extreme nervousness.
HE (at the window of the kiosk) Marlboro! Lights! (Puts a packet of cigarettes in his pocket and heads back.)
SHE makes a decision. Suddenly and somehow desperately she bursts from her hiding place and throws herself into his path.
SHE Excuse me! Can I speak to you a minute?
HE (from unexpectedness he turns too sharply towards her, aggressively) What is it?
SHE(breathing heavily)I just wanted to ask you something.
HE (no longer aggressive, but energetically, with the tone of a very busy person)I’m listening!
SHE (the first thing that comes into her head) How do I get to the Youth Fashion House?
HE (now disinterestedly courteous) Let’s see... The Youth Fashion House? Let’s see... It’s in a detached house? Sort of yellow, with decorations?
SHE Yes, sort of.
HE The Youth Fashion House... Up to the third set of traffic lights and turn left. Then take a right at the second set of traffic lights. Go to the end of the street. At the crossroads take a left,and it’s the second or third building, I think on the right, a bit set back... Have you got that?
SHE Thank you.
HE So it’s the third on the left, second on the right, to the end, left and right. I think it’s the third... Or the fourth. You’ll work it out when you’re there. Can you remember?
SHE Thank you.
HE(very considerately) OK!
SHE What about public transport?
HE (waves his arms) I don’t know. (Smiles in great sympathy.) I‘m sorry, I don’t know. I never use it.
SHE And by foot?
HE By foot I suggest you go the same way, but stick to the pavement. OK? (Wants to go.)
SHE (decisively) Excuse me!
HE(dryly) Is there something else?
SHE I’m not going there now. Another time!
HE (waves his arms, already leaving) That’s your problem! Excuse me!
SHE (quickly) One minute! Just one minute! I wanted to say something to you, or rather - propose. No, rather - ask... Although, maybe - we can come to an agreement...I mean - we could... You might be interested...
HE (very dryly and making a show of being busy)Quickly, please! And be more specific!
SHE Could we not go to the side? People walk by this way...
HE (not moving) I have no secrets from my fellow citizens.
SHE Well, you see, I do.
HE That’s your problem! Excuse me, I’m in a hurry. I just came out for cigarettes. I’m expected.
SHE Please, one minute! You don’t know what I mean...But you’re already biased! You might find what I want of interest...
HE (interrupting) No, I’m not interested in what you want! (He makes off.)
SHE (catching him by the sleeve, desperately) But I want to offer you to make money!
HE I don’t buy goods from private individuals! (Frees his sleeve.) Excuse me!
SHE You’ve misunderstood me! I mean help me in a piece of business and make money out of it yourself!
HE How much?
SHE One hundred dollars.
HE (disparagingly) I see.
SHE grabs his sleeve.
HE Let go of my hand, please!
SHE I’m sorry, I did it automatically!
SHE No!(Again she grabs his sleeve.)
HE (annoyed)What’s the matter with you, are you a bit strange?
SHE You don’t even know what I’m offering you to make money! For you it’s such nonsense! Five minutes of absolutely easy, ordinary work!
HE Five minutes? One hundred bucks? Ordinary work? Tell me! But quickly! Let go of my sleeve, for the last time!
HE I’m listening! What kind of service do you require?
SHE It’s at my place... Five minutes from here by foot... And five minutes there... (Pause.) Well, maybe... seven... No more than ten... Yes! You’ll manage in ten minutes... And five minutes to come back.
HE Altogether - twenty minutes. So, what’s the job?
SHE It’s nonsense! It’s... the tap... I’ll explain there! Let’s not waste time!
HE A tap? Why have you decided that I’m used to that kind of work? What, do I look like a plumber?
SHE No, not at all!
HE Then talk to a plumber! And it would work out cheaper.In fact, I called one out not so long ago. Ten bucks!
SHE No, no! A plumber is out of the question! They’re all old or alcoholics... I beg you!
HE Alright! Here’s my office. Stand here and wait! I’ll send for my plumber.
SHE I would like it if you would do it personally.
HE You know, you really perplex me! Nobody has ever grabbed me on the street by the sleeve and demanded that I mend a tap as quickly as possible. I assure you there’s some kind of misunderstanding here.
SHE You inspire confidence in me.
HE Thank you very much! I’ve not been able to do that for ages. I pay for all that sort of thing myself. I’ve never occupied myself with this. And I’ve never felt the inclination to do it, either.
SHE I assure you - any normal man can do this!
HE I could do it before. But I’ve stopped doing it now. I’m obviously a bit strange. OK? So are you going to wait? Will I send for the plumber?
SHE No, I can’t. I can’t trust someone I don’t know.
HE What is there not to trust? A tap?! Then I won’t be able to help you with anything. Excuse me, I have negotiations. You’re keeping me back, and wasting your own time.
SHE You see, there isn’t just a tap... It’s not something you need a plumber for...You’re running away all the time! Is it really so hard to hear me out? In actual fact,to be absolutely blunt, the tap has nothing to do with it. And I don’t need a plumber. The problem is different. I only need you! And nobody else! I know what I’m talking about!
HE Whereas I don’t. What problem?
SHE You see, in the rich Russian language there is no appropriate word.Do you speak English?
HE Me? English? Are you really a bit strange?
SHE No. Quite the opposite. I’m a doctor.
HE What can’t you tell me in Russian? What do you want from me?
SHE To be honest... I would like... you to... go to bed with me.
HE Is that all?
SHE Yes. Once.
HE For one hundred bucks?
SHE Yes. I don’t think a second time would be necessary.
HE What if it were?
SHE Well, if that were the case... If it didn’t work out the first time... I’ll call you a second time!
HE And that will be another hundred bucks?
SHE Of course! I understand that this is an unusual proposal for you...
HE Unusual? For me? You insult me! One hundred bucks for five minutes! It’s damned tempting! Maybe I should retire and just occupy myself with that?! A hundred bucks!
SHE Why should you do it for free? You don’t know me at all... Why the hell should you do it for free? It’s me who needs it, not you. And I have a certificate stating that I’m healthy.
HE And why the hell should I do it for a hundred bucks?! Is that the first impression I give?
SHE Not at all!!! You give the impression of a decent person!
HE And that’s why you picked me?
SHE I just really need it.
HE Go to the Cosmos Hotel!
SHE Who do you take me for? Is that the kind of impression I’ve given you?
HE examines her.
SHE (Suddenly going on her knees before him) I beg you, think whatever you like about me, but do what I ask you!
HE Get up now!
HE Do what you ask me? Interesting, how do you imagine it? Alright. I understand. These things happen. The menopause as well. Wait here. I’ll suggest it to my mates. Don’t give more than fifty bucks!
SHE You don’t understand me! I only need you! Only you in the whole world! I’ll pay you two hundred dollars!
HE You’re haggling? I’ll give you a hundred bucks myself, just go away from me!You’d be better paying a good doctor. You need a doctor!
SHE What are you humiliating me for? You haven’t understood me! This is really vitally important for me! Right now! And it’s you I need! What’s so particularly special about what I’m proposing?(In tears.) What’s so special? Oh God!
HE I don’t sleep with just anyone! I’m married! I have a child.
SHE I know! I’ve seen them! You have a daughter. I like your daughter very much! She’s a splendid child! Her face is a lovely colour. Luxuriant hair, beautiful features. All of her is in you!
HE Thank you.
SHE But wilful! Although that’s upbringing. That doesn’t concern me. I will bring my child up properly. If it’s genes, then they’re from your wife, not from you.You are balanced. Very balanced! But your wife has a nervous look about her.Yes, everything good in your daughter is from you alone. All the failings are from your wife.
HE Thank you, thank you very much. And what else do you know about me?
SHE Only what concerns me. You’re in good health, you’re clean-living... You don’t drink.You’re a sportsman. And most importantly - you’re very handsome! It’s bad that you smoke. But you don’t smoke a lot! But then again, you are truly handsome! And charming. And you’re a suitable height.
HE You’re very demanding, considering the situation you’re in.
SHE I can’t be otherwise. I’m very serious about this. And I’ve prepared myself very thoroughly.
HE But you’ve asked the wrong person. I’m not looking for adventures.
SHE That’s not true! Just in the last two weeks you’ve had five adventures! One foreigner - you spoke to her in English, three absolutely young compatriots, and the fifth was my age!
HE It’s very interesting to talk with you! It looks like my time has come! Are you a blackmailer?
SHE I just want to sleep with you! I don’t want anything else from you! I’m offering you two hundred dollars!
HE I take two hundred dollars for putting my bulldog out to stud!
SHE But he probably has a good pedigree! Two hundred and fifty! That’s all I have!
HE You shouldn’t be stingy with these things. Here - take a hundred bucks from me and offer three hundred and fifty. You’ll have more of a chance! I’m not an expert, but for some reason that’s what I think.
SHE Thank you! I’ll take it! Give me it! Give me your one hundred dollars!
HE (giving her one hundred dollars)Don’t thank me!
SHE I’m offering you three hundred and fifty dollars! I don’t know the price either!
HE But you assured me that you’d prepared yourself thoroughly!
SHE I would agree, if I were in your place!
HE But I’m going to haggle! Fifteen minutes of my time, working time, costs a thousand bucks!
SHE I don’t have that kind of money!
HE I won’t make concessions!
SHE But it’s too much!
HE Meaning that you’re in the know as to what the present prices are for this?
SHE Alright! I give up. You win! I agree! I’ll find a thousand dollars!
At the end of the working day I’ll come to your office! Wait for me!(SHE makes to go.)
HE Stop!!!(HE grabs her by the arm.) Can you understand one simple thing? It’s high time you knew it at your age! I can’t do what you ask!
HE I don’t want you! I don’t like you as a woman. You don’t attract me. You don’t appeal to me sexually. And your little escapade won’t work with me.
SHE I don’t like you either! I don’t want you at all! I haven’t wanted anyone for a long time! But I can’t get by without you! If only I could! What will happen to you if you sleep with me? You sleep with anyone! Is there anyone you refuse? I’ve followed you for a month! Three weeks ago, on this very spot, you were joking with a young blonde... A sweet little girl with a ponytail... You chatted with her for five minutes... That same day she came to see you after work. She waited here. You came out and invited her into the office. You spent on chat and the seduction - on everything together - thirty-five minutes. And you didn’t even offer to escort her! I heard - you were standing by your car discussing with her where to drop her off on your way home. The next day she came again towards the end of the working day. With an enormous bouquet of roses. You greeted her warmly and cordially. You have understanding and loyal employees, they didn’t leave till late, they stayed playing cards. But she was waiting for everything. And everyone was kind to her. And everyone left the office at the same time... The same time as you... And you didn’t offer her a lift at all. And she came again and again. She became thin. She suffered for real. It was painful for me to see her. And you started to get irritated. In the end, you had to explain to her. And she didn’t come again! And a day later on this very spot you picked up a terribly vulgar-looking specimen! I felt sorry for you. She was waiting on the street until everyone had left. You let your employees off a little earlier than usual. And you whistled at her! You left the office with her in an excellent mood within seven minutes! You parted very amicably, and she didn’t appear again. And you spent more than three hours with the foreigner! In my opinion, that’s cringing servility!
HE Why are you following me?
SHE You have a beautiful young wife! And you sleep with anyone! For free! Why can’t you sleep with me as well?! Especially for three hundred and fifty dollars?!
HE I don’t take money from women!
SHE Why are you abusing me?
HE Me? I’m abusing you? It’s you who’s forcing yourself on me!
SHE But that redhead, the day before yesterday, she also forced herself on you! She simply threw herself at you! You didn’t even manage to close the window! And you didn’t resist at all! I saw it.
HE You’re a sex maniac! Here, behind the sign, you select your victim and throw yourself at them!
SHE I needed to study you!
HE What for?!
SHE (tired) I need to sleep with you!
HE What for? I’m not a sexual giant! I’m an ordinary partner. I can be replaced. It’s even necessary to replace me!
SHE Only you!
HE Why? Have you made a bet with someone?
SHE Who do you take me for all the time?
HE OK! I won’t say out loud who I take you for! Are you so seriously sexually stressed? Then I’m not for you. I know my capabilities.
SHE You’re always insulting me and being rude. Why?
HE Get lost!(Quickly walks away.)
SHE (following) Your home telephone is 200 2113! Your wife’s name is Lena! I’ll phone her now! I know she’s at home! She doesn’t work! My observations over a whole month won’t be lost on her!
HE You are a disgusting blackmailer! You make me sick!
SHE Say what you like!
HE How much do you need?
SHE One time! At the most, two! But the second time only a month from now! But that’s undesirable.
HE Perhaps with money?
HE Five hundred bucks! Including the hundred I already gave you.
HE Not including the hundred!
HE Five hundred and fifty!
HE Seven hundred!
HE A thousand bucks!
HE How old are you?
SHE Forty... one...
HE Take the money!
HE I don’t want you!
SHE One time! And I’ll for get you!
HE Forget me? I can’t take that risk!
SHE But why? Why are you ready to pay a thousand dollars not to sleep with me?! Why? What’s so horrific about me? Am I to totally lose faith in myself because of you?
HE Have you fallen from the moon? Is this really how it’s done?
SHE I’ve been observing you for a whole month precisely in order to understand how it’s done! I’ve even been rehearsing: “Excuse me, have you got a light?”
HE Of course! Ah, damn! The lighter’s in the office! Come along, it’s just a step from here. Perhaps you’d like some coffee? As it happens, I’m on a break just now.
SHE But it was risky! Anyway, your lighter is always in your pocket! I decided it would be better to ask directions. Then it’s possible to have a conversation somehow.
HE That was your mistake. You should have asked for a light!
SHE But I don’t smoke!
HE It doesn’t matter! I would have understood you! ou should never break the rules of the game! And now it’s to late! I ’m just afraid of you!
SHE What are you afraid of me for? I’m a doctor! An infectionist! I even work with cholera! I’m sorry about all the things I’ve been saying here! I don’t want to do you any harm. I don’t need anything from you! Only that you sleep with me one time! Or maybe two times!
HE Back to square one! Excuse me, but I don’t know anything about you!
SHE What do you want to know about me?
HE I don’t want to know anything!
SHE But we’re in a dead end again like that! I’ll tell you a little about myself anyway. You won’t hear anything particularly interesting.I have an amazingly monotonous life. I was born in nineteen fifty...
SHE What should I do?
HE You have to interest me sexually.
SHE Sexually? You? That’s not a problem! I’m no worse than your casual partners! I'm the same height as that foreigner. My hips are just like that vulgar bimbo’s! And my waist’s just ever-so-slightly bigger than the blonde’s! My hair, if you care to pay attention, is almost the same as your wife’s! I correspond to your taste. I think I’ve left something out... I can’t figure out what exactly... You can’t remember everything! Aha!!! My breasts!!! By the way, I’m not wearing a bra! There! Why am I telling you? Have a look! (SHE quickly unbuttons and opens her blouse.) Will that suit you one time?
HE You’re mad! Button up your blouse!(HE tries to button it up himself.)
SHE You undress other women, but you forcibly dress me! Stop pawing me! What are you grabbing me in the middle of the street for? Don’t force yourself on me! I’ll go about the way I like!
HE Don’t shout all over the street! Let’s go to the side!(He guides her to the patch of grass.)
SHE Are you hiding secrets from your fellow-countrymen?
HE What do I have to do to get rid of you?
SHE What an extremely strange fellow! He panics when he sees a woman’s bare breasts! He’s afraid! Ready to run away! How is it possible to tempt you?! It’s simply impossible! (She suddenly throws herself around his neck and kisses him on the lips.)
HE flings her away from him.
SHE falls to the ground and stays lying.
HE hesitates, and then, not coming closer to her,
HE peers at her from a distance.
HE (whistling) Pretend as much as you like! I’m sorry, of course, but it was self-defence! I’m going! And you’d better not come here again! I’m only going out with a guard from now on! And bodyguards don’t mince words.(HE leaves, but then returns unsurely.) I’m sorry... I didn’t want to. Let’s forget about it?! I’m going. Goodbye! It was a pleasure meeting you.(Very carefully, HE bends over her.) Listen! Are you alright? I’ve never hit a woman in my life. Honestly! But you can’t throw yourself like that at people! It’s an unfortunate way of interesting a man! And generally - if he doesn’t want to right away, then it’s practically useless to insist. It’s an empty waste of time. The more you try to catch him, the less he wants you. It’s our nature.(HE comes right up to her.) And then - there are so many men in the world, you can’t speak about some definitive choice. Better to send a man to hell. Then you have a chance that you might have dented his vanity... Well say something!(HE shakes her.) I can’t go, because I don’t understand - are you alive or not?
SHE Don’t move me! I’ve banged my head. I’m concussed.
HE Shall I call an ambulance?
SHE You could do.
HE OK! I’ll go call them!
SHE You’ll leave me lying here? In this state?
HE What, should I carry you in my arms?
SHE You could at least carry me to the office and lay me on the sofa!
HE I won’t even allow your corpse to be carried in to my office!
SHE I was wrong about you.
HE All because you didn’t listen to me right away!
SHE I thought you were - a sensitive person.
HE So you assumed that a sensitive person is someone who is always ready to get in to bed with someone they’ve just met, for a hundred bucks? The weather is fine! Lie here, cool off, and I’ll call an ambulance.
SHE It’ll be here in five hours.
HE You’re the doctor, you know best. By the way, you could give yourself first aid!
SHE Go to hell!
HE I wish I could! I wish you a successful recovery! I’ll call an ambulance,and until it comes one of my workers will look after you.
SHE According to your theory, you don’t have any vanity!
HE You didn’t send me to hell sincerely. You don’t have enough practice! And you’ll never get anything out of a man, because you’ve got very bad manners!
SHE (suddenly leaping up)Go to hell! To hell’s mother! To hell’s grandmother! To all the hells! To the devil!
HE Better already!
SHE I don’t need men at all! I don’t need them as a species! I would sleep one time with you and never again in my life approach another man!
HE So you chose me to say farewell to your sex life? I’m flattered! But I’m afraid I don’t suit your aim. There’s a risk that after being with me you’ll revise your views of men entirely, and on sex in part.
SHE What are you trying to make yourself out to be?! I don’t like you at all! You’re a common poser!
HE What are we wasting time for? You don’t like me! I don’t like you! Let’s run away from each other!!!
SHE Stop!!! I don’t like you, but you suit me! I can’t put it off.
HE If we start from the beginning again, I won’t be able to handle it. What is it about me that suits you so much?
SHE You have a lot of virtues. Your intellect is higher than average.
HE Thank you. I’d noticed myself.
SHE You have - good manners, a feeling of self-worth, you respect other people, you’re very gentlemanly towards women, you’re courteous, sensitive, tolerable and tolerant, you’re hardworking, you’re - a true leader, you’re cheerful and not aggressive.
HE You’re very demanding. So many virtues you need in a man with whom you intend to spend five minutes. And no compromises! You’re probably not married?
SHE Yes, I’m not married.
HE I won’t be surprised if you’ve never been married.
SHE Yes, I have never been married.
HE There’s just no one you could get married to in this world! Even to go to bed once you’ll only agree if it’s with perfection!
SHE I don’t want to get married. I did once, but I don’t now.
HE Anyway, can I go? I have negotiations. I don’t like being late. Add punctuality onto my list of virtues and let me go. Hm?
SHE Perhaps you’ll change your mind? Please! I really really beg you! You’re not still scared of me? I was stressed! Do you imagine it’s easy to go up to a strange man and ask him to sleep with you? It’s not easy at all! I’ve tormented myself over you!(SHE cries.) Do you have a handkerchief?
HE Take this!(HE wipes her face himself.) Come on... It’s not such a problem. If you knew my problems! Come on, don’t cry!
SHE Tears are my last weapon.
HE Disarm! We’ll think of something!
SHE Please, think quickly!
HE Quickly? Do you want me to introduce you to someone? But you have to behave differently. I’ll advise you. For free! I even know who to introduce you to. I can guarantee it’ll work. OK?
SHE Oh, God, I just need you!!!
HE Oh, God, again! No!.. Have you been secretly in love with me for a long time?
SHE What are you on about?
HE A pity!
SHE So many women love you!
HE I hadn’t noticed.
SHE Simply, if it will be you, I will love him. I will love him so tenderly... You understand?
HE Sort of. Is your head alright?
SHE Yes. Why?
HE You got quite a nasty knock. Maybe I should call an ambulance anyway?
SHE It must only be you and only today until midnight!
HE The main thing is - calm down.
SHE Is it really so difficult for you?
HE It varies...
SHE Am I really so unattractive?
HE No, you’re not that unattractive...
SHE (sincerely) Thank you!
HE When you cry you really are very charming! I even like you. I’ll remember you.
SHE But I can’t always be crying? I suppose I could try! When I was thirteen I cried a whole month! No one could do anything with me! Even I couldn’t stop myself. I almost died then. (SHE weeps.)
HE Calm down! It was a long time ago! And why have you got so hung up on me? I’m not superman. I won’t provide you with some kind of superpleasure. I can’t guarantee you that.
SHE Basically, I think about that with revulsion.
HE That’s amazing! You know, no one has snubbed me so hard for a long time! What do you want from me personally?
SHE What every woman wants!
HE Don’t refer to everyone! Personally, this is the first time I’ve come across your type! What do you specifically want from me? Give me one honest, straight answer and...
SHE And what?
HE I’m a soft person, it’s hard for me to keep on refusing such an attractive woman. No one ever in my life has asked me this so movingly. What do you want?
SHE A baby.
SHE I want to have a baby by you.
HE With me? To have what? Oh, God! What for?
SHE A son!
SHE In order for it to be a son, he has to be conceived today! I know how to calculate it.
If it’s not today, then in the coming two years I can only conceive a daughter. And I dream of a son! For girls and women, you see, it’s very hard to succeed.
HE OK! You’ve just been inviting me to earn some money as a donor! What an idiot!!! I almost got caught out!
SHE Naturally, it will only be my child! There will be no claims made on you!
HE Thanks! That’s reassuring.
SHE You’ll never even see him!
HE Listen, what do you take me for, eh? Why do you assume that I’m a complete animal? Why shouldn’t I give a damn about my own son?
SHE Alright, I’m prepared to compromise.
HE You’re prepared to? Lucky me!
SHE We’ll discuss it after.
HE I’d prefer to discuss it before. What is there to discuss anyway?
SHE Your participation in his upbringing. You can visit him. Once a year.
HE You yourself decided that it was necessary to sleep with me. You yourself decided to conceive a child with me. You yourself decided that it must be a son. Now you’ve decided how many times a year I’ll see him. Next to you, I don’t feel very much like a man!
SHE Alright. I’ll allow you to participate in his upbringing.
SHE I think you’ll have a good influence on him. It’s even better if a boy knows that he has a father. The boy won’t have any complexes.
HE I’ll be the one with the complexes! Excuse me, but your openness changes the matter.I could have even... But I’m categorically against having a child with you! Thank you for warning me! That’s all there is to say! The question is decisively closed! Don’t waste time! You still have until midnight. (HE looks at his watch.) That’s all! I’m running late! Or rather, I’m already late!
SHE I’ll go with you! I won’t give up! You have no right! HE turns sharply to her, takes a gun from under his jacket and aims it at her.
HE I’m not joking and I’m not afraid. I’ll shoot! Don’t come near me!
SHE (not moving)That’s so stupid! You’re behaving stupidly! A son is such a joy! Every normal man wants a son!
HE I’m married! And if I want a son... One, two, three, ten... My own wife will give birth to them!
SHE I’ve seen your wife! She’ll never give you ten children! Thank God if she can have one more! And if it’s a girl?
HE As opposed to you, I don’t have anything against girls! Thank you, thank you, but if you don’t mind, my wife and I will decide this ourselves, without consulting you! At the moment, I don’t need a son.
SHE But you can’t live only for today! You don’t know what else will happen to you in this life! Nobody can know that. What if you separate from your wife?
HE I’m not as opposed to marriage as you are! I’ll marry again!
SHE And what if you don’t have any more children? And your daughter takes after her mother? And grows up to be a stranger to you? And all she needs from you is money? God forbid, of course! Will you be in pain and lonely?
HE Don’t worry, I’ll cope.
SHE I will bring up my son so that he will always love you.
SHE And who knows - when we get old, you might one day go down on your knees before me and kiss my hands and thank me for your son. (SHE covers her face in her hands and weeps.)
HE puts the gun away, approaches her, takes her hand and kisses it.
HE Forgive me! You’re amazing. You have no cynicism. Some Dutch businessmen have been waiting in the office for twenty minutes now. A very important meeting. It’s not enough that I’m not ready for it, I’m even late. My chances weren’t very good in the first place, but now they’re completely zero. I’m touched. I’m sincerely sorry for you. I’m starting to like you. But I can’t help you. Let me go, please. I’m tired. (Pause.) You see, I’ve also got problems. Not as extensive as yours, but all the same. Let me go, please! I’m tired. And right now I desperately need to convince the Dutch to give me a shipment of coffee to sell.
At the moment I don’t have any money to pay up front. They don’t take risks with anything, and they know my reputation, and I have impeccable and reputable recommendations... But it’s practically impossible to reach a deal! Yet I can’t let such a profitable contract go. But I don’t have any money at the moment. Yet if I let the contract fall through, then other suppliers might start to doubt my solvency altogether. Doubts about the reliability of my company. There’s a lot riding on this. I have to take an entirely new tack with these Dutchmen. (Pause.) If only I had your ability! I think you could convince a dead person to do anything you wanted!
SHE A dead person. But not you!
HE You just didn’t have enough time.
SHE Have you already begun to give in?
HE Well, somehow - yes... But you made a blunder - letting it slip about the child...
SHE You’ve started to like me?
HE That’s not the point! It’s easier to give in to you than to refuse. You’re a born manager! Maybe I could entice you to work for me?
SHE Won’t your wife be jealous?
HE Of you? Never! I’m sorry! You know, I’m going to risk it. I’ve decided on a desperate measure. Have it your way! Come to my office!
HE I’ll take you to the bathroom...
HE You can get yourself ready!
HE I’ll be nearby all the time...
HE All this time I’ll explain to you about coffee,about the difference between up front payment and sales...
SHE That’s really not necessary!
HE And I’ll let you loose on the Dutch!
SHE Are you serious?
HE What can they do against you! They’ll cave in! OK?
HE Don’t worry! I’ll be nearby. I’ll make sure everything’s alright.
HE The fact is, I’m late because of you! This is very important for me. Just one time!
SHE I can’t! I’ve never taken part in negotiations like this! I’ll just make it worse for you!
HE I’m ready to take the risk, because I’m afraid it can’t get much worse.
SHE I won’t be able to understand it.
HE It’s easy!
SHE I haven’t the faintest idea what to say!
HE These Dutch don’t understand a word in Russian! I can feed you a script. If it doesn’t work out the first time, we can arrange a second meeting. It wouldn’t be ideal, but what can we do? For a separate fee! For half an hour’s work I’ll pay you two hundred dollars.
SHE Not counting the hundred bucks you already gave me?
HE Not counting them! That was for moral damage! And if you get a deal first time round, I’ll pay you four hundred dollars.
SHE You seriously think I can manage? I’ve never done this in my life!
HE I’ve already observed your debut on my own. It was splendid!
SHE But the result?..
HE You did everything you could!
SHE Alright, I agree. But I can count.
HE On four hundred dollars? You can! And I hope very much that we can be friends!I beg you! Do you agree?
SHE You really beg me?
SHE Then - onward.
END OF PART ONE