Thanksgiving Day

A simple tale in two acts

Nikolai Khalezin

Illustration by Michela Caputo

Thanksgiving Day. Let us all give humble,
hearty, and sincere thanks now, but the turkeys.
In the island of Fiji they do not use turkeys; they use plumbers.
It does not become you and me to sneer at Fiji.
Mark Twain


Cast

Andrei – 37
Joe – 79
Melissa – 27
Evan – 45

Act 1

The action takes place in a small town in one of the US' central states. The setting: a large studio-room on the ground floor of well-to-do American house. Stage left there is a hospital-style fold-up bed, which can be curtained off with Venetian blinds to shield the occupant of the bed from sunlight. There is a wheelchair not far away from the bed. There is a kitchen area stage right. In the centre of the room is a table, upon which lie the pieces of some kind of model building. There is a window high up by the ceiling; through it can be seen a little piece of sky and the legs of people passing by. Jo is lying on the bed. Andrei is cooking something in the kitchen.

Joe: Andrew! (Pause) It's all over!

Andrei:
What is it this time?

Joe:
(somberly) Elvis is dead.

Andrei:
Good for him!

Joe:
You insensitive pig. He died for all of us.

Andrei:
Are you sure you're not confusing him with Jesus?

Joe:
You have no idea how much I hate you, you disgusting little immigrant...

Andrei:
You can shut up now, it's food time.

Joe:
You people came out the back end of civilization.

Andrei:
Are you going to calm down?

Joe:
I can't eat something cooked by your dirty hands. You'll never...

Andrei:
(going over to the bed with a plate) Just be quiet!!!

Joe instantly stops talking, sits up in bed and opens his mouth. Andrei turns the handle on the bed, adjusting it so it supports Joe's back, then sits next to him and starts to feed him. Joe eats obediently.

Joe: Why did you move the wheelchair?

Andrei:
Because I don't want to have to keep picking you up off the floor. Be quiet and eat!

Joe:
You don't have the right to stop me saying what I think. Our Constitution guarantees every citizen freedom of speech.

Andrei:
Very funny.

Joe:
There's nothing funny about it. As a citizen of the United States of America, I am able to invoke any of the rights given to me by my Constitution. (Pause) You, unfortunately don't have the access to those rights.

Andrei:
I do have the right to seal your mouth with sellotape, though. That right was granted to me by your son.

Joe:
I have no son... I have six daughters: Vivian, Judy, Marlene, Greta, Marilyn and...

Andrei:
Whoopi.

Joe:
What do you mean Whoopi?

Andrei:
Goldberg... Whoopi Goldberg. And one son. Evan.

Joe:
Evan? Evan... maybe you mean Evander?

Andrei:
As in Evander Holyfield. Right! That's enough! (Wipes Joe's mouth with a napkin) Sleep time!

Andrei goes to the kitchen area and clears up: wipes the table, puts the dishes in the dishwasher etc.

Joe: I remember! Evan!! He's, what, the youngest?!! (Pause) Why did you move the wheelchair?

Andrei:
Please stop bothering me, I'm very tired. You get some sleep.

Joe:
Did Evan not come over? Andrew, did Evan not come over? He promised he'd bring me some plums.

Andrei: I've already asked you to stop calling me Andrew. My name's Andrei. You're not allowed plums, they give you diarrhea. (Pause) You'd be better off liking pears, at least that way I'd spend less time washing out your potty. (Pause) I wish you had some kind of light-up sign attached to your head that would come on when you start getting delirious...

Heavy breathing from the bed. Joe has fallen asleep. He says something in his sleep, snoring slightly. Andrei sits at the table and starts to stick some of the pieces of the model building together.

The doorbell. Andrei, surprised, stands, goes to the door and answers it. A lovely young woman stands in the doorway. She is holding five issues of USA Today.

Andrei: Hello.

Melissa:
Hello.

For a short while, they stand not knowing what to do. Then Melissa decides to cross the threshold.

Melissa: I'm Melissa. I'm your new neighbour. We moved into the house next door three days ago... The one on the left... If you stand facing...

Andrei:
Andrei... Erm, that's my name.

Melissa:
I saw these newspapers on your doorstep, there were five of them and I thought maybe something had happened, someone was ill... maybe. (Pause) That's a strange name: Andrei. I've never heard of anyone being called that before.

Andrei:
It's a Russian name... well, Belarusian. Well, it's actually a biblical name... It means "man" in Greek, "husband"... or it can also mean "manly", "brave"...

Melissa: Interesting.

Andrei:
I'm actually from Belarus. It's a country between Poland and Russia. Yes yes, come in.

Melissa enters the room. Andrei shows her to the sofa.

Melissa: Thanks. (sits down) You were saying something about Russia...

Andrei:
Oh, yes. Between Russia and Poland. Belarus. Do you know Russia?

Melissa: Yes, I know Russia. I study law at university and my legal history professor told us a bit about Russia. One of his relatives died there, in one of the camps... I went to a camp once, a scout camp, but no one died. It was in Arizona. It's very beautiful there. I've never really heard anything about Poland though. So you're from Poland?

Andrei:
No, I'm from Belarus, it's next to it... and Russia. Well, fair enough, what difference does it make? Let's just say I'm from Europe, that'll be easier. (Pause) It's the other side of the world from here...

Melissa:
Why didn't you collect your newspapers?

Andrei:
I don't get time to read them... Yes, well I actually haven't left the house in five days. Sometimes that happens round here... The thing is Joe...

Joe:
...Needs to pee.

Melissa jumps and, surprised, looks over to the corner of the room, where Joe is lying in his bed.

Andrei: Yes, there we are... That's Joe. He really...

Joe:
...Needs to pee.

Andrei:
Yes, he needs to pee. And, as always, at a fairly inconvenient time.

Andrei goes over to the bed, takes a bedpan out from underneath it, and puts it under Joe.

Melissa: Sorry, this is probably a bad time...

Joe:
Don't worry my lovely girl, I'm just going to take a little piss, you two continue your conversation. In fact, now I'm a part of it too.

Melissa:
(making for the door) I'm sorry I'll call around again some other time... later. Bye.

Melissa hurriedly leaves the room.

Andrei: You old fool! You're always choosing the worst possible time to evacuate your bladder. I'll have to start buying you Pampers... Not to mention covering your mouth with sellotape.

Joe:
You can't fall in love with an American, amigo. You're an immigrant, you've got to find yourself a nice little immigrant woman and live in a nice little immigrant part of town: Chinatown, Harlem, Macaroni Street...

Andrei:
You obnoxious racist. If you'd been in Germany seventy years ago you'd have supported Hitler. Pig!

Joe:
Seventy years ago I was in Oklahoma.

Andrei:
Almost as bad.

Joe:
You're not allowed to talk like that. Oklahoma is oil, and oil is the blood of America. We Americans are an intelligent people: when oil prices drop we stop using our own oil wells and import oil from one of your underdeveloped countries. And when oil prices go back up we start using our own oil wells again... (Pause) But it wasn't always like that. When we were fighting the North it wasn't so easy. Once I was on duty... General Lee was a great guy and, I'll only tell this to you, I would have lain down my life for him. My life or anyone else's.

Andrei:
For God's sake... here we go again. Joe!! If you'd fought for the South then today we'd be celebrating your two hundredth birthday! You're just... I don't even know why I'm talking to you! Ugh!

Andrei sits at the table and tries to occupy himself with the model. Joe mutters something under his breath. Evan enters the room.

Evan: Hi, Andrew!

Andrei:
Hi! And it's not Andrew, it's Andrei.

Evan:
Don't start getting upset, Andrew. How's the old man?

Andrei:
He's delirious.

Evan:
And shitting?

Andrei:
Well, yes... Everything's fine. You promised to bring him some plums.

Evan:
I forgot. I'll bring them tomorrow. How did he remember that?

Andrei:
He even remembers the Civil War...

Evan:
Really? And how was that? What year was that, by the way?

Andrei:
What do you mean, "What year was that"?

Evan: When the old man fought in the war?

Joe:
Forty-three to forty-five. Sicily, my boy. We got off the boat on that dirty little island and there wasn't a damned thing except wine and pasta. Europe had never seen such a disastrous landing operation...

Evan: Dad is this one of your fits or are you telling the truth?

Joe:
I'm telling the truth. Did you bring me my plums?

Evan:
What plums?

Joe:
Is it me who's losing his memory or you?

Evan:
Oh, yeah, sorry! I'll bring them tomorrow... I've been totally rushed off my feet and didn't have time to get to the store.

Joe:
Unless I've gone completely out of my mind, your office is right across the street from the grocery store, and right outside the grocery store are a load of fruit stands. And one of them is definitely full of plums. Isn't that right Evan?

Evan: Yes dad. I'm sorry. I'll definitely bring them tomorrow.

Andrei:
And don't forget about the computer. You promised three weeks ago.

Evan:
Yes, definitely. I called them up, I asked, they've already got it.

Andrei:
You told me that five days ago.

Evan:
Yes, yes, Andrew I'll definitely pick it up tomorrow... and the plums too. Right! I'll be back tomorrow.

Andrei:
And don't forget it's my day off on Sunday.

Evan:
What, have two weeks gone by already?

Andrei:
Three weeks have gone by already.

Evan is gradually making his way to the door, trying to do so quietly and unconcernedly. When he reaches the door itself, he turns to face Andrei and Joe.

Evan: I'll remember everything. The computer and the plums! And you have a day off on Sunday! Bye!

Evan quickly leaves the room. Pause

Joe: Do you want a make a little wager? I'll bet he won't show up at all tomorrow, then the day after he'll bring apples instead of plums, and you'll have to go and get the computer yourself on Tuesday when he suddenly remembers that you need a day off from me once every two weeks. What do you say amigo? I'll wager those apples he's gonna bring me.

Andrei:
Done. I'll go along with all that except the apples. He'll bring kiwis.

Joe:
Why kiwis?

Andrei:
They're his favourite fruit.

Pause

Joe: So I was telling you about the Civil War?

Andrei: Yeah.

Joe
: And how was it, interesting?

Andrei:
You didn't go into any detail... it was just words.

Joe:
Yeah well... (Pause) Isn't she something?

Andrei:
Yeah, she's something...

Joe:
Maybe I can loan you my bed for a couple of hours? Eh, amigo?

Andrei:
I can use Evan's. Though I didn't think a bed was usually necessary in this country...

Joe:
You know, you're almost right, Andrew... In the old days it was fairly necessary. We Americans used to be Puritans you know. But I still remember the time when you could take a girl to a party, and then... you wouldn't leave the car for a whole day.

Andrei:
And you have the nerve to insult my country. I don't know how much you'd have to pay me to get me to do that in a car! It's insane, Joe! We have beds for making love in... we even have the floor... or the countryside... But in a car... that's ridiculous!

Joe: Well people can't afford to buy cars in your country till they're at an age where they don't enjoy having sex. (Pause) When I was young the girls used to swarm around me like flies... like flies around honey. Once Judy Garland came to Louisville... Back then there wasn't a young boy around who didn't think about her whilst he was in the bath... She was walking through Louisville, from the church to city hall, and I went over to her... Our eyes met and from that moment forward nothing in the world could keep us apart. A year later and we already had two sons: Charlie and Parker.

Andrei:
Louisville's in Kentucky.

Joe:
Charlie became a famous musician, and Parker... him too, I think.

Andrei: Dammit Joe... I still can never tell when you're going to...

Joe's heavy breathing from the bed. He is sleeping, without a care in the world. Andrei goes to the table, sits in contemplation for a while, then starts to work on his model building.


Scene 2

Andrei is making something in the kitchen area. Joe is sitting in his wheelchair, looking out of the window. After a short while a woman's legs are seen passing by the window.

Joe: It's her! That's her all right!

Andrei quickly rushes over to the middle of the room and looks out the window.

Joe: Too late, she's gone.

Andrei returns to the kitchen area. Time passes. A woman's legs are seen passing by the window in the opposite direction.

Joe: Oh! She's back.

Andrei quickly runs over the middle of the room and looks out the window.

Andrei: Where?

Joe:
Too late again. She went the other way.

Andrei:
Are you messing around?

Joe:
No. She went somewhere, then she came back. Maybe she left something at home...

Andrei returns to the kitchen area. Time passes. A woman's legs are seen passing by the window in the opposite direction.

Joe: There! There she goes, amigo!!!

Andrei scrunches up the towel and throws it at Joe.

Andrei: Stop annoying me!

Joe:
She's gone into town. And before that she went back home. She almost certainly forgot something.

Pause

Andrei: You want some chips?

Joe:
I want a margarita.

Andrei:
What for?

Joe:
To drink.

Andrei:
You want to drink who?

Joe:
A margarita. It's a cocktail.

Andrei:
A-ah.

Joe:
There you go again with you're "a-ah". So what is it you drink back in your Russia then?

Andrei:
For the ten thousandth time, I'm not from Russia, I'm from Belarus.

Joe:
What's the difference?

Andrei:
America, Canada: what's the difference?

Joe:
There's a big difference, amigo. You're an illegal alien here in America, and you're trying to get yourself legal, so you can tuck into a nice, juicy steak, and a nice bowl of thick soup. That's the difference!

Andrei: What's that got to do with anything? Go to hell...

Joe:
Andrew, you come here from Russia, Belarus, China, Pakistan or Lord knows what other country. Here, to America! To my America, which you haven't done a damn thing for your entire life... So that gives me the right to call your country Russia, or whatever the Hell I please. I'll call it Stupidland if I like. And if, one day, I decide to emigrate to Stupidland, then I won't start getting all offended if you want to call my country Russia...

Andrei:
Why don't you ever start getting delirious when you want to insult my country?

Pause

Joe: What were we talking about, Andrew?

Andrei:
You asked what people drink in my country.

Joe:
And what do people drink in your country?

Andrei:
Tea, coffee... beer.

Joe:
People drink them everywhere. What do people drink that you can't get in America?

Andrei:
Well, I don't know...

Joe:
You see... What sort of a country is it where you don't even have your own drink?

Pause

Andrei: What do you have then?

Joe:
Whiskey.

Andrei:
They have better whiskey in Scotland.

Joe:
(Pause) Coca-cola.

Andrei:
Oh yes, certainly... Although, of course, Coca-cola tastes like shit... and it makes little kids ill.

Joe:
Whether it tastes like shit or not, the whole world drinks it. Coca-cola, American drinks manufacturers' greatest invention.

Andrei:
American chemists' greatest invention more like.

Joe:
I don't care if physicists invented it, the whole world drinks it. And year on year, more and more people do.

Pause

Andrei: Samogon.

Joe:
What?

Andrei:
Samogon – Belarusian drinks manufacturers' greatest invention.

Joe:
And what does it taste like?

Andrei:
(after a pause) Like fire.

Joe:
What's this Samogon of yours made from then?

Andrei:
You can make it from practically anything. The most popular kind is made from beetroot. Or wheat. Wheat's the tastiest.

Joe:
What's the alcohol volume?

Andrei:
Seventy percent.

Joe:
Seventy percent!??

Andrei:
Seventy percent... but it goes down like twenty.

Pause

Joe: Andrew...

Andrei:
What?

Joe:
I'd like to taste it. Before I die.

Pause

Andrei: I'll try Joe... I'll try. You want to sleep?

Joe:
No, no. (Pause) You know what I want Andrew?

Andrei:
What?

Joe:
I want to sit on a beach and watch the sunset... and I want to drink your Samogon, Andrew. And then...

A knock at the door.

Andrei: It's open!

Melissa enters the room. She is holding two issues of USA Today.

Melissa: Hello! I've brought you your newspapers. So you haven't been out in two days?

Andrei:
Yeah, in two days. How did you know that? (Pause) A-ah! I get it...

Joe:
We haven't been out in three months.

Melissa:
There were only two newspapers.

Andrei:
He's talking about himself. Joe, we'll go out tomorrow... I promise.

Joe:
If my memory serves me correctly, your name's Melissa?

Melissa:
Yes, and you're Joe?

Joe:
Yes, and he's Andrew.

Andrei:
Joe!

Joe:
Though back in Portugal they usually call him Andrei.

Melissa:
Aren't you from Russia?

Andrei:
I'm from Belarus. It's near Russia.

Joe:
It's somewhere between Cuba and Vietnam.

Andrei:
Take a seat. (puts a chair in front of Melissa)
Thanks. (she sits)

Pause

Joe: As you might have guessed, I'm not in the best of health.

Melissa:
Yes, I understand. But you look good.

Joe:
Thanks. I look peachy. Like a peach... which fell off the tree... Two weeks back.

Melissa:
No, you...

Joe:
And then a tornado came.

Melissa:
Where? In Florida?

Joe:
Wherever the peach was.

Andrei:
He's joking.

Melissa:
(smiling) That's funny.

Joe:
It's sad.

Melissa:
No, you really do look fine.

Andrei:
You all settled in to your new place?

Melissa:
Almost. I still haven't bought a bookcase and my mom...

Joe:
A bookcase?! You mean you read so many books you can't just put them on your bedside table?

Andrei:
Joe!

Melissa:
Yes, I'm at college, so I need to read several types of literature. I'm studying law...

Joe:
I've already heard about your studies. So are you gonna be a lawyer when you finish school?

Melissa:
I still haven't decided, but right now, yes, I think I'll become a lawyer. Though I could be a lawyer already if I wanted to. I'm at grad school...

Joe:
I can't stand lawyers. They eat little kids for breakfast.

Melissa:
No, no, lawyers help the citizens of this country assert their rights and help them solve their problems.

Joe:
They help the citizens of this country solve one set of problems and then create another set entirely. A set of bigger problems.

Melissa:
So you think that lawyers...

Joe:
...Are paid too much money.

Andrei: You weren't exactly paid badly.

Joe: I didn't really have a job. All my job was was the ability to find holes in the ground which have oil spurting out of them. (Pause) I helped Americans fill up their cars with gas, then lawyers helped take their cars away from them... lawyers are helping America to become a nation of pedestrians. (Pause) Andrew, how much are you paying your lawyer for your naturalisation case?

Andrei:
Stop it, Joe.

Melissa:
So you don't have a residency permit, Andrei?

Joe:
Yes, my lovely girl, Andrei is what the Mexicans would call a "Chicano". A wetback. He's the kind of guy you'd see cleaning up shit in Times Square just to get a bowl of soup in the evening and not have to sleep under a cardboard box on a bench in Central Park.

Melissa:
Andrei, why did you leave your homeland?

Joe:
He wanted to try a real Big Mac...

Andrei:
Stop it! (to Melissa) The circumstances... I needed to leave...

Joe:
And now my son Evan gives him his money.

Andrei:
Because I work out three times cheaper than putting this old madman in a nursing home.

Melissa:
Have you been in America long?

Andrei:
More than two years.

Melissa:
And do you like it here?

Andrei:
I haven't really seen anything, except Joe, Evan, my lawyer and now you. You don't really get a sense of the whole country from just this little town. (Pause) Once I'm naturalised I want to go to Canada.

Melissa:
Why Canada?

Joe:
Because that's where the lumberjacks are.

Andrei:
Because Canada looks more like Belarus.

Melissa:
And what's Belarus like?

Andrei:
Ten million people live there... the countryside is beautiful... the people are friendly... the girls are pretty...

Melissa:
And do you have "stars" in your country?

Andrei:
Of course we do, we have the same sky, it's just we're looking at it from a different hemisphere.

Melissa:
No, I mean famous people. "Stars".

Andrei:
A-ah! Of course, we have lots of famous people. (Pause) Yanka Kupala, for instance.

Melissa:
I don't know her, unfortunately.

Andrei:
Yakub Kolas... he's a writer.

Melissa:
I've not heard of him. What did he write?

Joe:
I've not heard of Pakistan producing any famous people either. Andrew, what's the name of your Justice Minister? Maybe Melissa knows him.

Andrei: Shut up!

Melissa:
I really don't like the fact that all famous people seem to be American.

Andrei:
Would you like something to drink: tea, coffee, lemonade?

Joe:
Get me a lemonade, amigo.

Melissa:
Yes, lemonade would be lovely.

Andrei goes to the kitchen area to make lemonade.

Melissa: So Joe, what illness is it you have?

Joe:
Old age.

Melissa:
That's not really a disease.

Joe:
Old age is a disease and youth is a vocation.

Melissa:
My grandfather died from cancer. He had pneumonia first, but then he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He smoked two packs of cigarettes a day and never went to the doctor.

Joe:
I don't really know what's wrong with me. The doctors just say I'm old. Though, if I'm honest, I never used to go to them either, and my son Evan, who's a real piece of shit, never wanted to take me. So now I talk shit and shit in my pants but at least that makes Andrew happy. He's been learning all about American history through my senile outbursts. I just taught him all about the Civil War.

Melissa:
Really?

Andrei: (giving them their lemonade) Yes, he told me how he fought for the south.

Melissa:
Joe, why is it you don't like immigrants when some of them are clearly lovely people?

Andrei:
Because he's a racist, a fascist and a chauvinist.

Joe:
Amigo, put me to bed, I need to take a piss, then I want to sleep.

Andrei:
Why don't you just do it in your pants? Melissa's probably never seen anything like that.

Melissa:
You know, I'm probably gonna take off... I still need to get the store and order a bookcase.

Melissa stands and goes to the door. In the doorway she stands and turns to face Andrei and Joe.

Melissa: Goodbye. I hope you start feeling better, Joe. Andrei, I hope everything goes along nicely with your naturalisation.

Andrei:
Goodbye, Melissa. Come back and see us.

Melissa:
Thanks for the invitation.

Melissa leaves.

Joe: She's a Democrat.

Andrei:
You old prick!

Joe:
All Democrats love immigrants. And all Republicans love America.

Andrei moves the wheelchair closer to the bed and abruptly tips Joe out of it. Joe moans and groans. Andrei shoves the bedpan underneath him.

Andrei: I hate you.

Joe: I don't believe it goes down like twenty percent.

Andrei: (takes the bedpan from under him) Shut up and sleep you old Nazi!

Andrei sits at the table. For a while he stares out into space. Joe's heavy breathing resounds from the bed. Andrei returns to his senses and takes up his model.


Scene Three

Andrei is sitting at the table. There is a laptop computer in front of him. There is a bowl of kiwis next to the laptop. Joe is in bed. For a short while Andrei watches the screen intently. Then he tears himself away.

Andrei: Joe!

Joe:
Are you talking to me?

Andrei:
No, I'm talking to Joe Louis. He's got a fight with Mike Tyson today.

Joe:
Are you delirious, Andrew? Joe Louis quit boxing before Mike Tyson was even born.

Andrei:
You seem in good shape today.

Joe:
I always seem in good shape, it's my pyjamas...

Andrei:
I've diagnosed you, Joe.

Joe:
I've diagnosed myself, Andrew. My diagnosis: time.

Andrei:
No, Joe, it's much more serious than that. You have... Alzheimer's disease.

Joe:
That doesn't change a thing. I'll still never be young again.

Andrei:
Listen! "The changes in the brain, which lead to what we call outbursts of senility, and what doctors call Alzheimer's disease, occur when the sufferer is still young, aged between 20 and 40, long before a person starts noticing that they have forgotten the word for spoon."

Joe:
I know what the word for spoon is. It's spoon.

Andrei:
Don't interrupt! "A gradual decaying of mental capabilities occurs, connected with memory loss and changes in personality. This arises from the destruction of neurons, which are cells in the brain. Full mental degradation manifests itself in old age."

Joe:
The only people who've talked about my delusions are you and Evan. Maybe you made them up to make me think I'm an idiot.

Andrei:
Do you want me to film one of your delusions, then we can watch it together?

Joe:
Probably best not to.

Andrei:
Well I wouldn't want to listen to your ravings twice anyway.

Pause

Joe: What else does it say?

Andrei:
Just a moment. Here we are. "The illness is most commonly encountered in people with low levels of education, who have held jobs requiring few qualifications". It's because you didn't train your brain, Joe.

Joe: You can't train your brain. It's not your legs.

Andrei:
You can, Joe. You just needed to do as much work on your mental faculties as you did on your bank account. Where was I? "A diet of vitamin A, E, C... wine..." Ah, here we are: "The routine monotony of everyday life, being deprived of spiritual experiences, being deprived of creativity and being reduced only to earning money and pointless means of entertainment forms the ideal breeding ground for Alzheimer's disease... Possible exercises for one's brain include reading, learning foreign languages, using computers, playing chess and even solving crossword puzzles. People who indulge in creative pursuits and learn to enjoy their lives often manage to avoid biological old age."

Pause

Joe: And I suppose you believe what that stupid box says?

Andrei:
It isn't just a box... I'm reading information from one of the Internet's largest psychiatry websites.

Joe:
So who wrote it?

Andrei:
What do you mean, "who wrote it?" Doctors!

Joe:
All they care about is money, they're just like your little girlfriend.

Andrei:
The information was free.

Joe:
The only thing you get for free is crabs from our new neighbour.

Andrei:
Listen, have you... ever... well, just don't get freaked out...

Joe:
Are you being delusional again?

Andrei:
No, I'm just going to ask you a strange question... Joe, do you like licking the foil from the top of yoghurt pots?

Joe:
What?!

Andrei:
Do you like licking the foil from the top of yoghurt pots?

Joe:
Andrew, I think you need to see a doctor... I can't stand yoghurt... And to lick... the foil...

Andrei:
Well it's here on one of the forums... Some woman's saying that the risk of contracting Alzheimer's increases if the person licks the foil from the top of yoghurt pots.

Joe:
Is she writing from a lunatic asylum?

Andrei:
I don't know... she says she's a doctor.

Joe:
Doctors are all scoundrels. They make up diseases with strange names, then use them to frighten people, then they say that some new kind of aspirin, which just happens to cost forty times the normal price, will help to cure the disease... They should hang doctors on trees next to all the lawyers... Once I was driving around Oklahoma in my Mustang... I was forty-three back then... I stopped in a little town. The town, it should be said, was a total hole... I went into a bar and saw the barman, he was a huge guy of about seven foot nine...

Andrei:
(looking away from the computer) You're lying again!

Joe:
I didn't much like him at first: huge fella, no front teeth. I ordered a double whiskey no soda and took it down in one slug... It was right then that I saw this dazzlingly beautiful girl coming down the stairs. Her golden curls fell about her shoulders...

Andrei:
What's this got to do with doctors?

Joe:
I asked her to dance, but the barman... he pulled a colt out of his holster, placed it against my temple and fired...

Andrei:
I'm so fed up of your stupid delusions! Joe, what low-budget fifties film did you steal that from? Are you listening to me you old buffoon?!!

Joe:
Bullet went straight through my soft tissues, it's a miracle it didn't hit any of my vital organs.

Andrei:
No, Joe! He shot you with a cannon that happened to be standing on the bar and the cannonball went straight through your head and didn't touch your brain! (Pause) Because your brain's in your ass, Joe!! Do you understand what I'm saying you old fuck?!!

Evan appears in the doorway.

Evan: Having fun? Hi! How's it going, Andrew? How's the old man?

Andrei:
He's being delusional again... I'm fed up. When are you gonna give me a raise, Evan?! You should increase my pay for each one of his negative qualities. He's a chauvinist, a fascist, a racist, a misogynist and a misanthrope. There you are, an extra fifty percent, please!

Evan:
What difference does it make to you if he's a misogynist?

Andrei:
Fine...

Evan:
I finished a big contract today so I'm gonna give you a little gift. A ten percent raise. You happy?

Andrei:
Thanks, that's something I really didn't expect. Though I had started wondering if I was too cheap for you.

Evan:
You're cheap enough, Andrew. Though it'd be more expensive at a nursing home.

Andrei:
Three times more expensive.

Evan:
Well fine, anyway what are you in such a bad mood about today? Is the computer not working?

Andrei:
It's working, thank you. (Pause) Oh, by the way today I used the Internet to diagnose your Nazi father.

Evan: Let me guess: Alzheimer's.

Andrei:
So you know?

Evan:
Not for sure. It's just my assistant was talking about it, her grandmother's just had Alzheimer's confirmed by the doctors.

Andrei:
So it's fully certified?

Evan:
Uh-huh. ...But Joe for now just has uncertified Alzheimer's.

Andrei:
So call a doctor, make your father a fully certified Alzheimer.

Evan:
Why?

Andrei:
So we can find out how to treat him.

Evan:
What's the use in that? To pay ten grand for a check-up and a hundred grand for some treatment? It's easier for me just to keep you on here and let the old man go meet my mother on the other side in peace.

Andrei: So you loved her just as much as you do your father?

Evan:
(after a pause) How's the new neighbour?

Andrei: Fine.

Evan:
You wanna marry her? You could work in her mom's store, walk around the house in Mickey Mouse slippers, have a couple of real American kids...

Andrei:
And move to Florida when I retire?

Evan:
Why not?

Andrei: And then my son can send me to a hospice, where I'll die out of my mind, drenched in my own piss and vomit.

Evan:
Well, that's a worst-case-scenario. But it's still better than dying back in your homeland, where you never had the chance to find out how pineapple juice tastes.

Andrei:
In my homeland you can buy pineapple juice in every supermarket.

Evan:
Great country. Why'd you leave?

Andrei: I had my reasons.

Evan:
That's fine, everybody in the world has the right to come to America...

Andrei:
But not everybody wants to stay here.

Evan:
I've not seen any Mexicans thinking about heading back home.

Andrei:
Well you wouldn't have seen them. They've already left.

Evan:
That's logical.

Pause. Joe's muttering and heavy breathing from the bed.

Andrei: So what you gonna do when I get my residency permit?

Evan:
Find me another immigrant... hopefully from your country... You behave yourselves pretty well... And when do you suppose that'll happen?

Andrei:
This month I hope. At least that's what my lawyer says.

Evan:
Well if your lawyer says one month that gives me at least three to find somebody else.

Andrei:
I just hope your aversion to lawyers won't have anything to do with me staying on in this house. (Pause) You want tea or coffee?

Evan:
I'll gladly take a coffee.

Andrei:
You want it in European style, in a cup, or American style, in a bucket?

Evan:
Find a happy medium. My ancestors were Anglo-Saxons.

Andrei goes to the kitchen and makes the coffee. Evan examines the pieces of the model.

Evan: This some sort of building?

Andrei:
My future house.

Evan:
Judging by its size, you're gonna have to jack in your career as a nurse and take up drug trafficking.

Andrei:
I'm going to go back to what I did at home.

Evan:
And what's that?

Andrei:
Business.

Evan:
What kind of business?

Andrei:
Well, we did everything back then. We just looked for gaps in the market and worked out ways to fill them.

Evan:
What do you mean, you worked in a store in the morning, sewed baseball caps in the evening and washed restaurant floors at night?

Andrei: No. In the morning I'd buy a carload of chewing gum, in the afternoon I'd sell a vanload of smuggled cigarettes, and in the evening I'd work out if the profit on the cigarettes covered the loss on the chewing gum. I'd repeat the procedure the following day, but I'd replace the chewing gum with base-metal scrap, and the cigarettes with bras.

Evan:
So, what, you don't have specialist companies to do that for you?

Andrei:
Did America have specialist companies two hundred years ago?

Evan:
Of course not. Back then we had the "wild market", everybody was trying to make money on anything they could to buy up some land...

Andrei:
Well it's the same thing with us, except no one needs any land. Well, at least outside the city.

Evan:
You're a strange country.

Andrei:
And I guess you're not.

Pause

Evan: Why have we never spoken about your country before? It's interesting. I'm thinking maybe I should go there, teach your businessmen about marketing.

Andrei:
Well first of all you'd need to learn how to survive the conditions they work under there, then you'd need to earn a hundred million, then maybe... Maybe!.. They'd start thinking about listening to you... If you learnt Belarusian... Or Russian. Or Ukrainian or Polish, they understand them too. (Pause) You don't speak any of those, so I doubt you'd be a suitable business coach for my country.

Evan:
So you're saying your businessmen don't speak English?

Andrei:
Why would they need to? I can. I need to. There are a few others too.

Evan:
And that's it?

Andrei:
That's enough for a country of ten million.

Pause

Evan: Are you joking?

Andrei:
I'm joking. Sort of.

Evan:
Well thank God, you had me thinking there really are some businessmen who don't know English.

A shout from Joe's bed. Evan jumps up, Andrei is unaffected.

Joe: Don't shoot! Don't shoot!!

He stops shouting. Pause

Andrei: What's really fucking annoying is that now he'll wake up and we won't know which war he's been fighting, the Second World War or the Boer War.

Evan:
I'm impressed you kept so calm. Is he often like this?

Andrei:
Well, some days he keeps quiet, but others he does this three or four times an hour.

Pause

Joe: Who's there? Evan?

Evan:
Yes, dad, it's me.

Joe:
Did you bring my plums?

Evan:
I completely forgot. Tomorrow, definitely.

Joe:
And are they gonna be all green and furry again? Remember in future, those are kiwis. Plums are dark purple and a little bit smaller.

Evan:
I know, dad.

Andrei: Maybe I could go out for plums whilst you sit with Joe?

Evan:
No thanks, Andrew, I'll go myself, don't worry.

Andrei:
Well, off you go then?

Evan:
Why did I come here in the first place?

Andrei:
Do you want me to answer that question?

Evan:
(after a pause) I remember! Dad, where's your driver's licence? I need to draw up some documents.

Joe:
My death certificate?

Evan:
What are you talking about? Where is it?

Joe:
Where it's supposed to be—under my pillow. (Joe takes out his driver's licence from under his pillow)

Evan:
Hand it over.

Joe:
What for?

Evan:
What do you need it for?

Joe:
I'm planning on going to Washington.

Evan:
Dad, don't be stupid. You can't even walk... Why Washington, what sort of stupid idea is that?

Joe:
I want to see Senator Helms, we need to discuss some problems I have with the influx of immigrants into this country.

Evan:
Senator Helms isn't a Senator anymore... I'm pretty sure he died forty years ago.

Joe:
That's what people think, but Senator Helms was alive, is alive and will be alive whilst America exists and whilst blood still flows in the veins of at least one American.

Evan:
I understand. You're delusional. Give me the licence.

Evan tries to take the licence, but Joe doesn't hand it over. Andrei goes over to Joe and takes the licence.

Andrei: No, he's fine. I just think he can't wait to get me deported and...

Joe:
You're wrong, amigo, I wanted to help your naturalisation into this country. And Jessie... He would have been glad to help me... I'm not some lousy Democrat who asks for help to get an illegal abortion for his girlfriend who he's having an affair with behind the back of his wife and kids.

Evan:
What are you to talking about? Andrew, give me the licence, I'm leaving...

Andrei:
(looking at Joe's driver's licence) What's the date today?

Evan:
The fourteenth, why?

Andrei:
(handing the licence to Evan) It's Joe's birthday in three days.

Evan:
He's already had way too many in his life.

Andrei:
Seventy-nine.

Evan:
Yes, seventy-nine.

Andrei:
So this'll be his eightieth.

Joe:
Hard to believe, amigo.

Evan:
I'm getting old too.

Andrei:
It's an important birthday, Evan.

Evan:
(making for the door) You could say that about any birthday ending in zero or five.

Andrei:
So you're not going to celebrate it?

Evan:
Of course I am. I'll go to the church and ask the priest to pray for him.

Andrei:
Seriously?

Evan:
Bye! I need to see my lawyer, then I've gotta drop in on Garry...

Evan quickly exits, shutting the door behind him.

Andrei: (to Evan as he goes) You've got to celebrate important birthdays!..

Pause

Andrei: Joe, did you really want to talk to Senator Helms about me?

Joe:
That's right, amigo, I wanted him to speed up your naturalisation.

Andrei:
But you don't like immigrants.

Joe:
That doesn't mean I'm a monster... Once upon a time my ancestors crossed the ocean to become Americans.

Pause

Andrei: It's strange, I always thought you couldn't stand me.

Joe:
If I couldn't stand you I'd never give you any time to build your little cardboard house... which you'll never fucking finish anyway. You'll be sending it to the grave with me still unfinished, won't you?

Andrei:
Stop it, I just don't want to rush it. I'll probably have time to make ten more of those things by the time my papers get sorted out.

Joe:
I don't care about the other ten, I want to see you finish that one.

Andrei sits on the floor by Joe's bed. For a short while he sits clearing his head and thinking about something.

Andrei: Joe!

Joe:
What?

Andrei:
Could you pretend I'm your grandson for a moment?

Joe:
All right.

Andrei:
If I was, what would you say about me?

Joe:
I'd say that my grandson's a normal guy... even if he is a Democrat. (Pause) Though my best friend was also a Democrat. His name was Evan Marshall. Do you know, after the War, we had something called the "Marshall Plan" (Andrei looks distrustfully at Joe) No, no, I'm not delirious. The Marshall that made the "Plan" was his uncle, or his half brother... I don't remember. That isn't the point... We were inseparable. I even named my son Evan after him. (Pause) Only thing was Evan Marshall was a great guy and my Evan is asshole and a traitor...

Andrei:
I never had a grandfather. Not one. My mom's dad was killed in the War when she was still a child. (Pause) I know nothing about him. (Pause) My dad's dad died when I was three... I only had grandmothers. And all my grandmothers ever said to me was "put your scarf on" or "finish your food". Did you have grandfathers, Joe?

Joe:
I had one... He lived till he was ninety-seven. Really pissed everybody off.

Andrei:
And did he tell you stories?

Joe:
He, as our redskin brothers would say, "left for the valley of happiness". He used to shit himself, throw dishes around and sing dirty songs...

Andrei:
And before that... when he was still in his right mind?

Joe:
We never saw him in his right mind. He was very rich and didn't like any of his relatives... Even the other ones who were rich. He loved his dog... It's probably him he used to tell stories to. (Pause) Though I guess we'll never find out, they put him down as soon as my grandfather passed away. The dog started shitting on the carpet and not responding when he was called... He probably got the same disease my grandfather had.

Andrei:
When I was a child I really wished my grandfather was there to tell me stories about the War... how he smashed the enemy...

Joe:
Do people not tell stories about anything except the War in your country?

Andrei:
Not really, no. Though they sometimes tell stories about their childhoods, when they were poor and hungry.

Joe:
It'd be interesting to hear some of their stories.

Andrei:
It probably wouldn't be.

Pause

Joe: What were you saying about my birthday?

Andrei:
Just that we usually celebrate birthdays, well the important ones at least.

Joe:
Well I can't really say that we do... Though I can't really say that we don't.

Andrei:
(after a pause) If you like, we'll celebrate your eighth decade.

Joe:
How?

Andrei:
I'll make dinner, we'll invite some guests...

Joe:
Is it you who has Alzheimer's or me? What guests?

Andrei:
Well, we'll be there...

Joe:
I suppose...

Andrei:
That ungrateful son of yours.

Joe:
Who else?

Andrei:
Well, you must have at least one friend.

Joe:
I have one.

Andrei:
Who?

Joe:
That girl, our new neighbour. I think you'd be pleased if I invited her.

Andrei:
You're way too sharp for a senile old man.

Joe:
You should put me to bed, before I start telling you about how I crushed the North in the civil war...

Andrei adjusts Joe's bed, shuts the blinds and sits at the table. He sits quietly for a while, looking ahead of him, then, once he has heard Joe's heavy breathing, begins working on his model.


Scene Four

Joe is sitting in the wheelchair and looking out of the window. Andrei is cooking something in the kitchen. There is a magazine and a ballpoint pen next to him. The magazine is open on the crossword page. Andrei cooks, and periodically glances at the magazine and fills in words on the crossword.

Andrei: Right! "Actor who played the lead role in the film "Gone with the wind"". Five letters, second one "e".

Joe:
Clark Gable. I never liked his self-satisfied mug.

Andrei:
Well done! Next one... (looks at the magazine) "American Senator, Native American".

Joe:
What, you don't know yourself?

Andrei:
How would I know the name of an American Senator, let alone one who's a Native American?

Joe:
Well that's just it! There are lots of senators, but only one who's a Native American. Senator Ben "Nighthorse" Campbell. If you decide to write a history of America one day, you only need to put one figure under the letter C: Senator Campbell.

Andrei:
I never knew you loved the government so much.

Joe:
Who told you I loved the government? Congressmen and Senators aren't the government, they're the best men in America, chosen by its most conscientious citizens. The government—that's a mob of corrupt morons chosen by the president. You understand the difference?

Andrei:
No. You choose the president yourselves—he's the best of the best, and then you hate everyone he chooses to work for him. There's a slight discrepancy there...

Joe:
There's no discrepancy! I'll answer for those whom I elected, but I won't answer for those who took power by themselves.

Andrei: And why is Senator Campbell so much better than Smith the stooge who works for the treasury department?

Joe:
Because for instance, when he needed to switch from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party for the sake of his voters, Ben did it.

Andrei:
I don't understand what's so heroic about that, Joe... Seems like opportunism to me...

Joe:
You're just too young to understand. (Pause) He switched parties so he could continue fighting for the good of his people... (Pause) I'd never even dream of doing a thing like that, but Ben "Nighthorse" Campbell did it without even thinking. And everybody voted for him, Republicans and Democrats. (Pause) And what's more he drives to the Senate on a motorcycle. On a big, beautiful motorcycle. And all the bikers who pass by take off their helmets as a mark of respect to Ben "Nighthorse" Campbell. Now do you understand?

Andrei:
Not completely, but I get your point. I get that Campbell's a good man and a skilled Senator and that's why you all vote for him. And he has a beautiful Native American name, "Night Horse". I like that. (Pause) Try this.

Andrei passes Joe a spoonful of pate he has just made.

Joe: Nice! Really nice! Do all men cook like that in your country?

Andrei:
You still haven't tasted our women's cooking... when my mum bakes pies on Saturday morning, all the neighbours stop in the hallway to breathe in the wonderful aroma for a moment.

Joe:
The only thing my wife knew how to cook was Turkey on Thanksgiving... And even then all she did was put it in the oven.

Andrei:
But we're going off topic... Next one. "Italian car manufacturer". Four letters.

Joe:
Well... (pause) "Hyundai". But that's seven.

Andrei:
Hyundai's Korean.

Joe:
I dunno. Next one!

Andrei:
You know it Joe. Think about it...

Joe:
I know American cars. I can name you American car manufacturers beginning with every letter of the alphabet. (Pause) How am I supposed to know what kind of cars those pasta-eaters on the other side of the planet make?

Andrei:
Do you know Mercedes and BMW?

Joe:
Of course, they're German.

Andrei:
And the Italians make...

Joe:
I don't know! Give me a clue.

Andrei:
Right. First letter, "f".

Joe:
Phantom.

Andrei:
Second, "i".

Joe:
Fint.

Andrei:
Almost. Fiat.

Joe:
Dumb name for a car.

Pause. Andrei keeps preparing the food.

Andrei: What kind of salad do you want to start?

Joe:
Well isn't that a question that you should be answering? How should I know what kinds of salad there are? (Pause) You
name a few, and I'll choose one based on whether I like the name.

Andrei:
Caesar, Olivier, Greek, Herring in a fur coat...

Joe:
What was that last one?

Andrei:
Herring in a fur coat.

Joe:
I want that one.

Andrei:
And why that one exactly?

Joe:
I remembered I've eaten Caesar before, several times, Olivier, that sounds French so probably has frog in it, and I don't much care for Greek people... Why in a fur coat?

Andrei:
Try it, you'll find out. Right, next one... So... Actress who played the lead role in the movie, "Some Like It Hot". Six letters, last one's "e".

Joe:
Even kids know that one.

Andrei:
So you think European adults should know everything American children know?

Joe:
What, you've never seen "Some Like It Hot"?

Andrei:
No, and what's the problem with that? You haven't watched a single film that was made in my country.

Joe:
I'll have to ask Evan to get you the videotape.

Andrei:
So what's the actress' name?

Joe:
Marilyn Monroe.

Andrei:
Strange I haven't seen it. I like her.

Joe:
It's one of the funniest American films there is. It's set during the prohibition. Two musicians dress up as women and join a women's band. One of them falls in love with Marilyn... Oh, and they're being chased by gangsters... Marilyn plays a ukulele and sings with this amazing voice... I really had the hots for her back then... Before she got involved with that low-life Kennedy...

Andrei:
Wait, I've seen it. There's a killer hiding in a cake and one of the double basses gets shot-through. But it's called "Girls only Jazz band".

Joe:
Are you crazy or something? It's called "Some Like It Hot", every American schoolkid knows that.

Andrei:
Well when they sell it back home it's called "Girls only Jazz band".

Joe:
(after a pause) How can they translate "Some Like It Hot" as "Girls only Jazz band"? Is there no one in your country except you who speaks English?

Andrei:
I don't even know myself anymore...

Pause. Andrei prepares the food.

Joe: Why didn't you order from a restaurant?

Andrei:
It's our custom to eat home cooking on special occasions.

Joe:
You've got some strange traditions in that country of yours.

Andrei:
I'd imagine you'd be pretty surprised if you saw the spread we lay out for special occasions.

Joe:
What's so surprising about it?

Andrei:
Five to seven kinds of salad.

Joe:
What are you guys, Rockerfellas?

Andrei:
No, it's just we spend all our money on food and clothing.

Joe:
Why?

Andrei:
I don't know. I think it's because we're not sure what'll happen tomorrow... we're waiting for the light to go out. And we're afraid to die on an empty stomach...

Joe: What about clothes? So you're buried looking pretty?

Andrei:
I don't know, you wouldn't believe it, but many of our old people buy clothes for their own funerals.

Joe:
Well that's a fine tradition. And does the hearse wait on the street outside for them in the meantime, too?

Andrei:
I think the hearse is the only thing that's sorted out once the client has died. (Pause) My grandmother bought everything to be buried in when she turned sixty, and she's still alive.

Joe:
And how old is she?

Andrei:
Ninety-two.

Joe:
And where does she keep her coffin?

Andrei:
Well people in the city, of course, don't usually buy coffins in advance, but in the country...

Joe:
Are you joking?

Andrei:
No, I'm serious. Sometimes they keep their coffin in their barn, sometimes they just make it out of dry planks.

Joe:
Well, if you're gonna go to your grave, you're gonna want to go dry...

Andrei:
My grandmother, when she was planning her burial, ordered a black velvet dress... she spent all the money she had on it. And she still hasn't managed to die... Five or six years later, and she started getting thin, people around that age generally lose weight... she started getting thin, and the dress got too big for her... Then she went to the tailor's and got the dress taken in... By the time five more years had passed she was even thinner... So they took it in again... Once they'd taken it in three or four times they all got fed up with it, so decided to bury grandma in the dress in the dress as it stood... or to take it in, once it was clear that she was on her last legs... (Pause) But she's still alive, God bless her. (Pause) Some of the relatives who were looking after her died in the meantime... but they didn't need any alterations made to their dresses...

Pause

Joe: Andrew, may I lie down please?

Andrei:
Of course Joe.

Joe:
I feel a bit tender... I don't want to start regaling you with American history.

Andrei rolls the wheelchair up to the bed and carefully lays Joe down on it. Joe makes himself comfortable and quickly starts to fall asleep. Andrei stands in the middle of the room and looks out of the window, then slumps down onto the floor and cries. After a short while there is a knock at the door. Andrei tries to wipe away his tears and quickly runs into the kitchen.

Andrei: Yes! It's open!

Melissa enters.

Melissa: Hello, Andrei.

Andrei:
Hello, Melissa.

Melissa:
There weren't any newspapers outside. I thought something might've happened.

Andrei:
No, everything's fine.

Melissa:
Why are your eyes... Have you been crying? Seriously, has something happened?

Andrei:
Of course not... I was just chopping some onions for the salad. Come in.

Melissa:
You cook. Impressive.

Andrei:
Everyone in my family cooks.

Melissa:
Why don't you order it from a restaurant or buy it pre-prepared? It's so much easier.

Andrei:
I don't know... My mother taught me to cook for myself... I don't really like restaurant food... I can't be sure that they've used quality ingredients.

Melissa:
But surely you can't cook better than they do in restaurants? They're professionals...

Andrei:
Probably not... It's just... Think of it as my hobby: cooking.

Melissa:
Aah, I get it. My cousin's taken up dancing. Have you ever tried dancing?

Andrei:
Well, I've been to nightclubs... sometimes I've danced there... But I can't say it's a hobby.

Melissa:
No, I'm not talking about nightclubs. I'm talking about Latin American dance: rumba, samba... They do competitions, festivals... it's quite an expensive hobby.

Andrei:
No, I don't dance. I like making models.

Melissa:
What sort of models?

Andrei:
Different sorts. Castles, coaches, parks...

Melissa:
(pointing at the table, on which the pieces of the model are lying) Oh, I wanted to ask about that the last time I was here. Is it a castle?

Andrei:
Indeed.

Melissa:
For a princess?

Andrei:
Not really.

Melissa:
For whom then?

Andrei:
For a prince.

Melissa:
And where's Joe?

Andrei:
He's asleep... (Pause) Melissa, could I ask you a question?

Melissa:
Of course.

Pause

Andrei: Do you... Are you... Do you have any plans for tomorrow evening?

Melissa:
Well, no, nothing major.

Andrei:
Come round tomorrow for a birthday party.

Melissa:
Yours?

Andrei:
Joe's.

Melissa:
It's his birthday?

Andrei:
Yes, an important one.

Melissa:
And how old will he be?

Andrei:
Eighty.

Melissa:
Great, I'll certainly be there. What should I bring him? As a gift.

Andrei:
I don't know, I think he has everything he needs... Maybe just something random...

Melissa:
Great, I'll think of something, though I've never bought a gift for an eighty-year-old man before.

Andrei:
There's a first time for everything. Melissa, can I ask you a quite an indiscreet question?

Melissa:
What do you mean, indiscreet?

Andrei:
Well, I mean... That's what we call questions... that... questions that women might end up taking men to court over.

Melissa:
I won't take you to court.

Andrei:
Do you have a boyfriend?

Melissa:
Well... just... I don't know how to respond... no.

Andrei:
Good.

Melissa:
I don't...

Andrei:
No, I meant that it's good... just... in general...

Melissa:
And do you?

Andrei:
And do I what?

Melissa:
Well... Do you have a girlfriend?

Andrei:
A-ah. No. Of course not... I don't have anyone in America except Joe. And maybe Evan... No, of course not... Do you want a beer?

Melissa:
Yes, please... I love beer.

Andrei goes to the refrigerator to get the beer and continues talking from the kitchen.

Andrei: Have you had a boyfriend before?

Melissa:
Yes. We went to high school together. He was on the baseball team...

Andrei:
And what happened?

Melissa:
Nothing... It's just he... well... he... I don't even know how to explain.

Andrei:
Cheated on you?

Melissa:
No, he...

Andrei:
Died?

Melissa:
No, what are you talking about... He just turned out to be... gay.

Andrei:
A faggot?

Melissa:
You can't say things like that.

Andrei:
(bringing the beer through and passing a can to Melissa) Maybe not here, but at home you can.

Melissa:
It's not politically correct.

Andrei:
Oh come on... Why did he date you in the first place then?

Melissa:
I don't know... He said that he wanted to be close to me... that he liked me.

Andrei:
And he turned out to be lying... Oh well...

Pause

Melissa: And you?

Andrei:
What?

Melissa:
Well, have you had a girlfriend before?

Andrei:
A girlfriend? Of course... Several, in fact...

Melissa:
How many?

Andrei:
I don't know... Several.

Melissa:
Well is that several as in three or several as in thirty?

Andrei:
(after a pause) Several as in as many as any normal thirty-seven-year-old guy would be expected to have had.

Melissa:
Well, I'm no expert on thirty-seven-year-old men.

Andrei:
Let's just say "a few".

Melissa:
Who was your last girlfriend?

Andrei:
She was a musician.

Melissa:
And what did she play?

Andrei:
The violin.

Melissa:
Why did you break up?

Andrei:
I don't know... Maybe it was me... Or her... (Pause) I don't know why people break up... it just happens.

Melissa:
Was she a heterosexual?

Andrei:
Excuse me, what?

Melissa:
Well... Was she of traditional sexual orientation?

Andrei:
Oh... Yes, of course. She was completely traditionally sexually orientated. Me too, by the way... Completely...

Pause

Melissa: And do you... Like American girls?

Andrei:
Honestly?

Melissa:
Of course, honestly... Don't worry, I won't take you to court...

Andrei:
Then, no! But I'm not talking about you...

Melissa:
Why not then?

Andrei:
Well, lots of reasons...

Melissa:
Explain them. What's the difference between your girls and American girls?

Andrei:
They're totally different... completely.

Melissa:
So what are they like?

Andrei:
Well, they're feminine... They like it when men court them: give them flowers, give them their jackets, carry their bags... especially if they're heavy.

Melissa:
Well, women can do all that for themselves: buy flowers, wear jackets, carry bags...

Andrei:
(after a pause) That's exactly my point.

Melissa:
It's strange, wouldn't it be easier for men not to do those things?

Andrei:
Easier maybe... But not kinder.

Melissa:
To carry someone's bag?

Andrei:
Well, yes... even carrying someone's bag. (Pause) Do you want more beer?

Melissa:
Yeah, all right.

Andrei goes to the refrigerator and takes out a bottle of wine and two glasses.

Andrei: Or maybe wine?

Melissa:
Wine. Why not?

Andrei pours wine into the glasses.

Andrei: (raising his glass) Let's drink to American girls letting men help them out of their cars.

Melissa:
Why?

Andrei:
Don't discuss the toast, just drink it down!

They down their wine. Andrei refills the glasses.

Melissa: I've never drunk wine like this before.

Andrei:
It's a Belarusian tradition—the first three toasts quickly all the way down. Toast number two: to American girls learning to cook, and never saying to their boyfriends: "I've got a headache today."

Melissa:
This is all so strange... Why headaches?

Andrei:
Quickly, drink it down.

The down their wine, and Andrei once again refills the glasses.

Melissa: This is all so interesting... this. Is this really what you do? We... you know... I somehow... think something...

Andrei:
And the third toast... to the feelings, that a simple Belarusian guy can have for a simple American girl.

Melissa:
The feelings... Yes... To the feelings...

Melissa downs her glass and falls into Andrei's arms.

Andrei: I told you... Belarusian traditions...

Melissa:
Yes... They're wonderful... these... traditions... amazing...

Melissa embraces Andrei and kisses him on the lips. Their kiss lasts for an eternity.

Joe: You brought the wind in with you.

Andrei holds Melissa in an embrace, and shuts Joe's blinds with his free hand, without breaking the kiss.

Blackout. End of Act One.

translated from the Belarusian by Yuri Kaliada and Rory Mullarkey



Nikolai Khalezin is the founding co-artistic director of the Belarus Free Theatre and one of the main initiators of Global Artistic Campaign Free Belarus. He is the author of Generation Jeans and Discover Love among 10 other plays and 200 over publications. Generation Jeans has been performed at the most prestigious stages of the world such as the Swedish Royal Theatre, the Norwegian National Theatre, and New York's Public Theatre, and, in August of 2008, in a house of President Vaclav Havel on his invitation. In May 2006 his play Here I am, together with five other works, was selected from 557 plays at Berlin Theatrical Festival. Khalezin also is the co-author of Eurepica, a play that aimed to create a new European Epic. In addition, a performance of Discover Love was recognized as an Outstanding Off-Off-Broadway performance by Independent Theatre Bloggers Association in New-York.

Yuri Kaliada is a major English-Russian translator, having translated numerous English plays, books, articles, essays, and other written works from around the world into Russian and vice versa. In October 1995, he received the Diploma of Honor and Jubilee Medal of Belarusian National Academy of Arts (BNAA) "For the Contribution to the Name of National Arts and Culture Revival."

Rory Mullarkey a playwright and translator. His plays include Single Sex (Manchester Royal Exchange), The Grandfathers (National Theatre Connections) and contributions to Decade (Headlong) and Come To Where I'm From (Paines Plough). Rory was writer-on-attachment at the Royal Court Theatre, London in 2010, is the current Pearson Playwright in Residence at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, and is under commission to Headlong, Hampstead Theatre and The National Youth Theatre.

His translations include Remembrance Day by Aleksey Scherbak (Royal Court) and Pagans by Anna Yablonskaya (Royal Court, reading). Rory has worked regularly as a translator from Russian for The Royal Court Theatre, Belarus Free Theatre and Radio Russia.