American Shot

Evelyne de la Chenelière and Daniel Brière

Artwork by Robert Zhao Renhui

The plan 1

Blue screen. They're on a motorbike, riding through the city.

HE:  . . . The symbolism, that's what counts.

SHE:  But after, we're going to have to get out of here.

HE:  Yes.

SHE:  Because no one's going to understand what we've produced here.

HE:  Exactly.

SHE:  Maybe they'll want to kill us because we're the messengers . . .

HE:  Maybe. But we'll already be miles away.

SHE:  We'll survive.

HE:  Yes, we'll survive.

SHE:  We'll survive this test because we're together.

HE:  And, since malaise is everywhere . . .

SHE:  Since there's nowhere you can feel at ease . . .

HE:  And since you still have to be somewhere . . .

SHE:  We'll be divinely hospitable to each other.

HE:  My addiction to you is total and eternal.

SHE:  My passion for you is fanatical.

HE:  Your beauty is a sunstroke that leads the senses astray.

SHE:  You're a miracle of style.

HE:  I love only you.

SHE:  I love only you.

Police sirens.

HE:  Shit! What the fuck's that?

SHE:  What's going on?

Dad's departure

All four are together in a very large bed.

SHE:  Bye Daddy.

FATHER:  Bye my princess. But where's your brother got to, that rascal?

SHE:  He's sleeping.

FATHER:  Again? But he's always sleeping!

SHE:  It's because he uses up lots of energy when he's not asleep.

FATHER (laughing):  Always coming to his defense, huh? My little munchkin. Come here a minute. And ... up! (SHE jumps into his arms.) Well, well, you just keep getting bigger, don't you?

SHE (demanding like a child):  Tell me I'm growing like a weed!

FATHER (changing his voice):  You're growing like a weed!

SHE (bursts out laughing, delighted):  Daddy . . .

FATHER:  Yes, my precious.

SHE:  I don't want you to go.

FATHER:  Neither do I. But it's my work, you understand?

SHE:  I'm always scared when you leave.

FATHER:  What are you scared of, sweetheart?

SHE:  I'm scared you'll be taken hostage, or that you'll get blown up by a homemade mine.

FATHER:  I'll never let myself get taken hostage.

SHE:  I know Daddy . . .

FATHER (making her jump by lifting her up in the air):  . . . And I'll jump over the mines!

SHE (laughing):  Daddy!

FATHER:  I want you not to worry. You promise?

SHE:  I promise.

Enter MOTHER, smiling, with a brown paper bag, which she hands to FATHER.

MOTHER:  I made you a lunch for the trip.

The parents give each other a chaste kiss.

FATHER:  Thanks darling.

MOTHER:  You're welcome.

FATHER:  You're wonderful.

MOTHER:  Oh, it's nothing.

FATHER:  I like that you're modern, and that you can nevertheless attend to your husband's needs without feeling humiliated.

MOTHER:  On the contrary, I take great pride in it.

FATHER (to SHE):  You'll be really nice to Mom, right, sweetheart?

SHE:  Yes Daddy.

MOTHER:  She's always nice.

FATHER:  Mom works hard, you know. And her career's just as important as Daddy's.

SHE:  I know. I'm going to be just like her when I grow up.

MOTHER:  Really? You want to be like me?

SHE:  Yes Mommy, just like you!

MOTHER:  It's great if that's what you want. But I didn't bring you into this world so that you could be in my image.

FATHER:  And we love you for what you are.

MOTHER:  Whatever you do.

SHE:  I know.

Enter HE, out of breath.

HE:  Daddy!

FATHER:  Ah! My little soldier's woken up! That's great! "The future belongs . . . ?

HE:  . . . to those who get up early."

FATHER:  "Ask me no questions . . .

HE:  . . . and I'll tell you no lies."

FATHER:  "Democracy is a bad system . . .

HE:  . . . but it's the least bad of all the systems." Churchill.

FATHER:  Bravo! What culture!

HE (with tears in his eyes):  Daddy . . .

FATHER (taking him in his arms, moved):  My big boy . . . You know, you and me, we're men, but we have the right to have emotions too.

HE:  I love you, Daddy.

FATHER:  I love you too, son, and I'm able to say it to you.

HE (taking a piece of paper out of his pocket):  I did a drawing for you.

FATHER (exaggeratedly):  But that's a Picasso!!! . . . You know what? I'm going to keep it with me always.

HE:  Really? Always?

FATHER:  Always.

FATHER and HE exchange a series of strange handshakes which it seems will go on forever. Then FATHER picks up his suitcase.

FATHER:  I'll be back real soon.

MOTHER (putting her arms around the shoulders of her children):  . . . And as for us, we won't have time to get bored, right?

HE:  You smell nice, Mom.

MOTHER:  Thanks sweetheart.

FATHER (laughing, as if too complicit with MOTHER):  Don't do too much crazy stuff, the three of you! (Moves off.) See you soon! . . .

He leaves.

MOTHER, HE, AND SHE (exaggeratedly waving him goodbye):  See you soon! Have fun!

FATHER (from a distance):  . . . And thanks for the snack!

MOTHER, HE and SHE laugh as if FATHER had just told a good joke.

The bed slowly moves upstage.

FATHER:  Together we formed a smoothly functioning family unit in which each of us continuously flourished alongside all the others.

MOTHER:  We were united in the harmonious solidarity of a warm home life which aroused the envy and admiration of everyone.

FATHER:  We served as an example, without being vain about it.

MOTHER:  And also, we were all good-looking.

The plan 2

Blue screen.
Sound of police sirens.

HE:  Shit! What the fuck's that?

SHE:  What's going on?

HE:  There are people coming!

SHE:  What do we do?

HE (shouting towards the heavens):  Ça y est! Tuez le messager, espèce de . . . !

SHE:  Why are you speaking French?

HE:  J'sais pas, chéri, mais ces cons-là sont sur le point de tirer, je te jure.

SHE:  What?

They slow down, abandon the motorbike, and carry on running away on foot, then they find themselves trapped by a chainlink fence.

SHE:  This way!

HE:  No!

SHE:  We've got to get out of here!

HE (holding on to the fence):  I'm not going any further!

SHE:  What? Come on!

HE:  No!

SHE:  We've still got a chance! There's a way out over there! Quick!

HE:  No, it's too risky! I'm giving up!

SHE pulls him by the hand, HE resists.

HE:  I won't go! I won't go!

SHE:  We'll hide! I'll hide you, OK?

HE (up against the fence):  Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!

The fence moves off to the side, they walk in profile, behind them the set changes.



MOTHER (through the fence):  Have a good day, be good. See you later . . . love you.

HE:  Love you, Mom.

HE gets in line.
MOTHER leaves again.
Several times, MOTHER and HE turn back to each other to wave "Bye-Bye."

The scene repeats.

MOTHER and HE make exactly the same gestures and movements as before.

HE (thinking as he walks):  I hate school and my mother makes me go. I'm sure she knows it's dangerous, school, except she doesn't want to tell me so as not to scare me. She acts as if she's bringing me to school in a normal way, but in reality she hugs me much too hard, she sticks her nails in my skin, and her hands are moist, she's sweating. She's afraid I'll die at school, that's clear. She knows it's an institution full of dangers. That's why her body stays leaning over after she's kissed me goodbye, her body remains bent over as if to take hold of me again, but in fact I've already gone, it's too late. It's like I'm sliding through her fingers without her being able to do anything at all. What in the world would it matter if I didn't go to school today? It wouldn't be a big deal, what difference would it make?

MOTHER:  Have a good day, be good. See you later . . . love you.

HE:  Love you, Mom.

He gets in line.

HE (waving "Bye-Bye" to his mother):  I'm not crying, Mommy!

HE (waving "Bye-Bye" to his mother):  Look, Mommy, I'm not crying!

HE (waving "Bye-Bye" to his mother):  I'm going to try not to die, Mommy!

The scene repeats.

MOTHER (thinking as she walks):  I try to be like all the other mothers. To speak nice and clearly, look people in the eye, do my hair properly, wear boots that make that noise boots make on asphalt, and have with me a purse containing various useful objects and tissues, but it's hard for me. The other mothers seem to me to be efficient, busy, tender, and relaxed. I do my best to imitate them, especially that quick smile and those conniving looks among them to make clear to each other that they have something in common, like a secret, and also those phrases you mustn't forget: have a good day and be good, see you later, love you. (Addressing him.) Have a good day, be good. See you later . . . love you.

HE:  Love you, Mom.

He gets in line.

HE:  Have a good day, Mom!

MOTHER:  What?

HE:  Have a good day!

MOTHER:  I can't hear you, what are you saying?

HE:  I'm saying, have a good day!

MOTHER:  I still can't hear you! But I'll come and pick you up! Hang in there! Hang in there! Mom will come and pick you up at three-thirty, that's a promise!

Our parents

SHE:  In reality, our mother belongs to that generation of liberated women, mostly adulterous, who smoke, drink to excess, and never pick their children up from school at three-thirty.

HE:  Women who have no manners at all, and have no sense of maternal duty.

SHE:  Women who have cell phones. 

HE:  And alluring lingerie.

SHE:  And creativity. They burst out laughing.

HE:  And a lot going on between five and seven.

SHE:  A lot.

HE:  In galleries, museums . . .

SHE:  She's in charge of an art journal.

HE:  The kind of journal that explains how to force yourself to like works of art and emerging artists.

SHE:  She organizes exhibitions.

HE:  Happenings.

SHE:  Performances.

HE:  Sometimes she models for artists.

SHE:  She's very involved.

Music: Prokofiev, Romeo and Juliet, opus 64, Dance of the Knights.
Contemporary art installation. MOTHER makes a handprint.

HE:  As for our father, he goes to look at all wars from really close up so he can show us who is dying and how and to what extent.

SHE:  He takes photographs of other people's distress.

HE:  A kind of exotic distress.

SHE:  People swoon in front of his photos.

HE:  Sometimes he feels guilt.

SHE:  He almost never comes back here, and leaves again right away, because the suffering here is relative.

HE:  And because, obviously, there are always new wars starting up somewhere else, they answer each other, echo each other, like bells.

SHE:  Because our father spends his time taking pictures of these really disgusting things that get stuck to his brain, our mother claims he's going to go blind.

HE:  Our mother wants to protect us from the violence our father brings home from his travels.

SHE:  In his reports and his photos.

HE:  But also on his clothes.

SHE:  And in his hair.

HE:  And for him, on the contrary, it's a good thing to show violence.

SHE:  That's the crux of the thing.

translated from the French by Neil Blackadder