Xconnect




Immaculate Preconception

J. Ferron Hiatt


A woman paces back and forth in half light. She is overly dressed and overly made up and is obviously uncomfortable in the clothes she is wearing. Intermittently, she stops, looks toward the audience and straightens herself, then returns to pacing. Eve ntually, the lights come up. One very glaring light shines into her face.

[Add long, thoughtful pauses (blank expressions) where needed.]

WOMAN: I'll begin when I hear applause.

[repeat until audience applauds.]

Told years ago by the old lady. The old Prescript, old procreator, old precursor.
And that's what I do.
Curse her.
Oh, and I wait for applause.
"You'll always be waiting for something," she'd say, "so you may as well wait for applause."
"Better than a hollow silence."
Curse her.
Found her heaving her last. Found her.
When I say the old lady, I mean the late old lady.
Late, too late.
Now she lies waiting for her applause, but getting what?
Hollow silence. But smiling, just the same, as if about to be thrown to the awaiters.
Dog-hungry awaiters.
"You're always performing! My darling! My darling lovely!"
"Don't show them this! Don't show them this! Keep an appearance, keep a bit of mystery, a stirring emotion, and never get caught in a pregnant pause!"

[long pause]

"Nothing's more regretful than a pregnant pause."
"My darling, nothing can destroy you, wilt a beautiful profile, indicate a weakened soul...leave one questioning, like a pregnant pause."
A performer by nature.
Dragged from town to town by curtain cords.
More comfortable being blinded by stage lights than a clear view into a dirty home front.
Never took a sick day except to pause for a spread to birth an offspring.
Get that out from under her.
"Only one sick day, child, and that was a sick day. Nine months of recovery."
"Easter Sunday," she'd say, "I was supposed to marshall that year. Laying there thinking, "Damn, first Christ, now this! Ain't it always the dead coming out on my day, fighting for my spotlight!"
But that's not true. Everything I told you is a lie. Let's get that straight from the start.
The trail head.
The get go!
Oh, but what a carriage!
"Carriage!" she'd say, "One has only two ways to communicate: Carriage, one's first presentation, the dog-hungry awaiters...

[sings]

In her easter bonnet,
her future rides upon it.
she'll be the loosest trollop
in the easter charade!

...and one's story, to burden the presentee with, once cornered.
"The first should stun it long enough to begin the latter, no matter how tedious or false. One's story should always have poetic tragedy and, if possible, coerce tears."

[recites for the effect of poetic tragedy]

For instance, oh, how I find myself in these very words:

The cigarette smoke rose and burnt the eyes of Mary Goldfield.
And she shivered in the darkness of the chilly desert night.
And she did not need to be told
who it was that came so bold
and stopped just outside the ring of yellow doorway light.

"Communicate!" she said.
"Sit up!" she said.
"Communicate, darling!"
"Two ways, woefully inadequate! But try, the same."
"But surely," you demand, "surely some regret was felt at her death!"
Oh, some was.
Killed herself, in a way.
Here's how it happened, if one was to inquire, dragged the wrong stranger into the house. Only that. Always using the excuse, "Rent to pay," and all that. Wouldn't have been the first time. Started squawking about the proceeds, I imagine. Most probably her dingy monologue, crying about irremovable blood on her hands.

[does the famous young actor's scraping of palms]

That would spook anyone into letting her have it.
Daughter was out in the streets and found her rather late, so naturally suspicions followed.
"But out of sight, out of mind," they would say.
Out of mind.
Lost her mother early.
Thank god.
No one deserved neglect more. Well, maybe herself, but second to herself no one deserved abandonment more. Would have let her rot right there in the bed, had the authorities not stepped in, "Hell, who didn't want to club the the old lady at some time?" wrong time for plain talk.
It was then she knew firstly. Then she expected to cry.
And cry she did!
By god!
Cried, wailed, beat her chest, gnashed her teeth, regretted, repented, remorsed, vowed a change and all that.
Much easier done once the sin is unrepealable.
Daughter sated, neighbors impressed, everything allowed back to normal.
"And one can't be expected to find normality without the freaks to judge oneself against!"
"Ain't that true, plastic face? Ain't that the living truth?"
That's when the old man comes in saying, "The Barnamy boys is outside! They says you been lettin' 'em have their way! Is true?! Is true?! Well, suppose it is-- looking at yourself never did inspire a vision of blessed virginity."
Looking at you?
"Father," you're thinking. No, not father-- old man. When I say old man, I mean old man. Neighbor, relative, I imagine.
Don't worry, panel, it's a lie.
Every word out of my mouth is an untruth. A distortion only, sometimes, but more often, totally false.
Truth, fact or fiction.
Don't let them be confused.
One can tell the truth without it being fact.
Sometimes preconception.
Oh, the delirium of pre-conception!
But my truth, is, in fact, fiction.

[laughs]

"You an odd one doll face!"
Does it matter anyway? When the story's retold, fact is as true as fiction, as long as the scabs are the same.
"You and odd one doll head! But on the line of normality, somebody's got to be a freak to hold the ends down!"
Hold the ends down.
You know, make a bell curve?
I've been to school! A bell curve!
Don't look at me like I'm an idiot!
Just trying to make everything as clear as possible from up here, you know, let you decide if I'm worth paying for, and all that.
Trying to justify myself. On the defensive.
"Oh no!" you're saying! Don't be on the defensive!
Please, being here is on the defensive.
Defending what? A pregnant pause.
One learns to live with what one's left with.
Got to eat, ergo shit. Ergo, ergo.
Circular: bills to pay-pay to bills.
Plant two feet firmly on the ground! Defensive.
Plant two feet firmly on the wall! Offensive.
"Save your dollars, my dearest sweet. One must, if one wants to put clothes on one's back."

[sings, lying down]

She had an easter bonnet
some old fart sat upon it,
so now she walks bareheaded
in the easter charade!

Learned it as a kid.
Everybody's got to rise sometime, true? If it ain't a tomb, a twenty-dollar bed will work as well.

"You're a sick one, doll face!"
"But how would the world know what was good and normal if it weren't for the freaks on the fringes?"
...She said, "Daddy, she makes me nervous, must she stand there and observe us while I pose for pictures proving we are all equal at last?"
He said, "Just keep your dress up, don't let your blonde hair mess up, but somebody let the fat girl in and she's got an all day pass."
A little bit of history? Of course! Let's think where to start.
We'll start with a child, a good child of a good family. Smallish and smellish, spent too much time by herself but for the most part, a good child.
Good and quiet, though not quiet enough.
Had friends, the Belamy boys for a start.
Too much time in the devil's playground.
Who knows what evil...and all that.
"Communicate!" she said.
"Sit up!" she said.
"Put up," he said.
"Up on the table," they said.
"Ain't gonna catch no man, looking that way.
Not so much as a sidelong glance.
Fuck ya, but won't marry ya."

Communicate!
That's what they're waiting for sweetie,
just a little communication.
Communicate, let's see...
open
prattle
pause
finish
drone
shut.
Told, spilled all.

With a little doing up she didn't look half bad.
Almost virginal,
marginal virginal.
"Do her up a bit! Parade her around! She'll get something even if it just snags on her dress!"

[She puts on the hat.]

No matter
someone's got to hold the ends down.
"We've all our cross to bear, honey dumpling, and don't expect to be prancing across palm leaves either, one only knows where that road leads to."

Oh, but you must be feeling drained...
tedious...
critics call me tedious.

But I say, "Better to fight! React!"
No,
Better to lie flat, prone!
Fight action with inaction.
Am I acting?
Damn!
One loses both ways.
Better to pack oneself up with doctrine and sit smug!

Guilt is just a matter of circumstance!
Who wouldn't want to club the old thing on the back of the head at one time or another?
The headlines had already been written in two inch block and clever alliteration, no digging up mundane facts now!
Besides she never was a vision of blessed virginity! Doing things to take the strong of heart past the point of titillation. Ain't we all just still a gang of Victorian prudes anyway? Laying prone in tight fitting bed clothes dreaming of being kidnapped by the Masei and floated down the Volga in a wigwam, fingers clawing at the mosquito net while he has his way. Just to be taken by mistaken identity by the armies of Shakuntal a and harnessed, wind-whipped by the razor grasses of the bayou as she digs her lashes into the spine?

...no, this is wrong. Plain talk,
Plain talk.
Plain talk.

Okay, time, sit down and wait for an applause.
Or perhaps a summons.

[She dons a plain robe and wipes the makeup off her face.]

Hello,
thank you, the pleasure's mine...
the time you took to see me, and all that...

The beginning?
Oh, nothing really.
Simple childhood, simple girl.
Quite sweet, quiet and all that.
Mother an actor, good quality, quite respected.
Father a simple man, always looking after her, and all that.
A few friends, oh, the Belamy boys were always good for a
romp in the backyard.
She went to work early, you know. It's important to get on one's feet, independent and all that.
Mother passed Easter Sunday. Raise one, bury another. "She" was away, understand!
Any strong memories?
No, not many.
She used to hum a song picked up somewhere.
Been hooked on it for years.
Yes,
agree completely,
one cannot over emphasize the value of communication.

So in her easter bonnet,
through jeers and tears and vomit!
She raised her head and smiles
through the easter charade!

[Lights down]



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Published in association with the University of Pennsylvania Writers House
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