From Six Scenes: A Barracks Brawl
Luria, a conscript
Georgia, a moll
Hundt, an officer
Adjutant, the Doctor's flunkey
Billy Joe, a foot soldier
Alfie, partisan of Luria
NUMBER OF SETS:
three: (1) latrines (scenes I and VI); (2) barracks (scenes II, III and V); and (3) battlefield (scene
A play in six scenes with three sets.
Scene I. Entrance to the latrines. Army camp.
Hundt sits at his desk, Georgia nearby.
Luria. I never thought it would matter but I need to get in--
Hundt. Easy to understand why.
Luria. I don't know if I like being understood. Once I let my
hunger show I'm framed, refutable.
Georgia. Why can't you work yourself up into some kind of
hunger for me.
Luria. What--and be like all the others who fell. Who cursed
and groaned as they fell.
Hundt. Fall for her in your own way then.
Luria. There wouldn't be anything unique about my fall. The
minute it's your own way it's everybody's.
Hundt. (shuffling through papers) There is a stall available now.
Luria. Yes. Yes--
Hundt. But the flush doesn't quite flush. When you're done
you'll have to go all the way down the hall for a plunger.
Luria. Out of my way.
Georgia. He doesn't care whom he steps on.
Luria. I never thought I'd end up this way. As somebody who
doesn't care what he steps on. It's just that I woke up one
morning--this morning--and realized there would be no repara tion if I stood back and let
things pass me by.
Georgia. I think I'm falling for you.
Luria. It doesn't help.
Georgia. He looks sick. Get the Doctor. (to Luria) How do
Luria. How do I feel. I leap toward that question as if it
means salvation. But it has nothing to do with me.
Hundt. Rather it has to do with the part you spit out every morning like so much fifth-rate
Luria. How can I not hate her as an obstacle after a question
Georgia. God forbid I should stand in your way.
The Doctor enters.
Hundt. He's being kept out of the latrines.
Doctor. Of course--infecting the officers.
Luria. The other officers. Forgive me but I can't sidestep a
Georgia. You forgot to refer to him as an officer.
Doctor. Where are his stripes. His pistol. His trumpet voluntary.
Luria. They mean nothing.
Doctor. Nothing! A pistol means nothing! How dare he! The
Luria. Are you an officer by any chance.
Doctor. In addition to ministering to the sick, the quick, the
dirty and the dead I have also served in the field.
Luria. I've done none of that. Yet I don't feel obliged to
Doctor. And why is that, my good man.
Luria. Whatever I happen to have done--or not done--is irrelevant
to what I am. Whatever points to me as something other than an
officer is so much obstacle--
Georgia. That word again. And the sickness of it is that it begins to sound like music to
Hundt. He's under your skin.
The Adjutant enters.
Adjutant. I heard--I heard my master speak. Do you need me to
sew a wound.
Doctor. He says that the facts as they lie before us do him a
Georgia. Let him alone. Can't you see he's bleeding to death.
Luria. Yes, yes, a disservice to things as they are.
Adjutant. As they ought to be.
Georgia. Come with me. It's a long time since I bought carrots,
Luria. Shut her up.
Hundt. She's always running after men who insist on shitting in
Georgia. There's need behind all that. I've become one with him
faster than I can feel the pain of being separate and shat upon.
Luria. I don't need anything or anybody. I amwhat I am. (to
the Doctor) Why it's an outrage to have to trot out signs and symptoms only a horse doctor
would take to be those of an officer.
Adjutant. But if I'm not mistaken he's an orderly.
Hundt. A bedpan Charlie. All right, Charles, my boy, down on all
fours. Lick. Not fast enough. If you intend to advance you'd
better learn to move faster than that.
Georgia. I can't bear to--
Luria. Go on.
Georgia. I think--
Luria. A solution is near.
Georgia. I can't bear--
Luria. Out with it. I know you're close to it. At last I've
found you. Solution for all my ills--for my very being.
Hundt. How unmanly, Luria.
Luria. Something in her tone--something lilting, latent--something suggestive of a shortcut
Georgia. I can't bear--to have you go without a nice bowl of leeks.
What is it. What have I done.
Luria. Slut--you've given me nothing.
Doctor. (taking out his notebook; jotting) Nothing but the certainty that life goes on. Yes,
and that your life must go on with it.
Luria. You bypassed me, you hideous creature.
Georgia. I think of you every waking minute.
Luria. You passed me by. When I heard you speak I thought: At last somebody is devoted
to the best part of me. The only part. The soldier. The officer. The officer who--greater than all
others--never stoops to unsheathe his sabre.
Hundt. (to the Adjutant) Take him back to barracks. To the other sweathogs.
Doctor. Imagine allowing such a specimen in. I won't ask what idiot is
Hundt. Slime! Learn to shit in your pants before you bare your ass to
the general public as a case worthy of treatment.
Luria. There's nothing to learn. Either you have it or you don't.
Rules won't help.
Hundt. This is exactly what I mean--it's this kind of arrogance that's
sending us down the river. We'll be eaten alive in no time, damn it.
Doctor. It's infecting all the foot soldiers.
Hundt. (to the Adjutant) You! Look alive! You're scum, nothing more.
Don't be imagining that one day you too will be giving yourself airs.
Georgia. There'll always be a pot of soup waiting.
Hundt. You should be pleased there is a woman willing to feed you.
Luria It's heavy to carry around, this feedbag. I'm always afraid her
loving will unseat the priority of every other need.
Adjutant. The straw that breaks--
Georgia. I think you're afraid of the pot of soup.
Georgia. Telling you where you come from.
Luria. I'm nowhere.
Doctor. (jotting) A bounded thing, a shadow. Localizable at any
Luria. Nobody locates me.
Hundt. I'm telling you nicely. Get back to barracks.
Luria. Don't give me orders. An order is a window on death. I
don't give orders. Why should I take them. It's suffocation.
Hundt. All along you've been acting as if you can't get enough.
Doctor. (Jotting) Enough is what he dreads with all his heart and
soul. Enough is to be limited, fixed. Beginning here and ending
Hundt. Knowable as a refrigerator. (pointing to the Adjutant)
Or a limp prick.
Scene II. The barracks.
Luria. I got as far as the door but nothing was working.
Billy Joe. Nothing working!
Luria. That's what they told me.
Billy Joe. Something had to be working.
Luria. No, nothing. That's why they sent me back.
Billy Joe. They sent him back because he's spineless--
Alfie. Are you going to take that.
Adjutant. I saw the whole nothing. I know what happened. It was
hell for him. I remember the day a little thug came up with a
knife and threatened to cut his balls off--
Adjutant. This was worse. The Doctor and Hundt touched a nerve.
Luria. You lie--that's why you'll always stay an Adjutant. And
your lie isn't even in the service of some foul truth fighting
to see the light of day.
Adjutant. And your lies are no better, thank you. You should
have seen him holding forth. Telling them--what did he tell them:
that he didn't need to show any of the signs of being an officer.
Billy Joe. When did you become one. If you're an officer how
come I always see you crawling through the trenches like the rest
Luria. Pointless. You refuse to see beyond measly little contingencies.
Adjutant. We refuse to see beyond the facts.
Alfie. Silence. Let him explain.
Luria. When did you become my defender. I don't want defenders.
I don't want explainers. The kind who'll make me comprehensible.
Something to bring home to mamma. An officer doesn't have to explain.
Billy Joe. Still harping on the officer business.
Luria. The officer business harps on me.
Billy Joe. You crawled!
Luria. If I crawl it's because I want to. Mimicking your passage
through mother slime is an exercise in self-enlargement. It
alerts me to the meaning of everything I'm not.
Hundt. Scheduled to decimate a village in five.
Alfie. Five minutes to curtain.
The men move about, get ready.
Alfie. Defend yourself. Speak.
Billy Joe. He has nothing to say. He's finally realized what we
knew the minute we saw him.
Adjutant. He's no better than we.
Billy Joe. In fact he's a lot worse. All this striving has sapped
Adjutant. Panting to be more than he is subtracts from his little,
little but sure, and leaves nothing.
Billy Joe. I like that. I'll have to remember that the next time
he makes one of his moves.
Alfie. (to Luria) You're worse than dead. What are you afraid of. Being
straitjacketed. Fixed and formulated by self-defense.
Luria. It doesn't matter. What with the rollcall, the fifes, the big
knives, the pogrom lasting a million years and the victims always more
than a little suspect.
Alfie. Speak out, God damn it. Make your murderers know your worth.
Luria. I have no worth.
Luria. I have no worth at this time. In ten minutes from now I may be
big with worth. But now--
Hundt runs in again.
Hundt. Five minutes to the raid. Look at the riffraff, not even half-
Alfie. Oh defend yourself for the love of God before it's too late.
Luria. At moments like this the earth gives way. I'm the product no longer
of the crucial choice--that chose--that makes me and breaks me. A minute
ago I was ready to take them all on. suddenly I'm weaponless. when I
heard Hundt yell I just leaked right out through a hole in that choice.
Alfie. He's an idiot.
Luria. The choice that's supposed to buoy me up whenever I have to take
the consequences of being Luria.
Alfie. If I had known I would have kept him out. Here--at this very moment
of playing back the exchange in my mind's eye--Luria, in contradistinction
to Hundt, emerges as nothing less than neutral, even virile. Supremely
tangent to the curve traced by all the other decent men out there. Try to
fall in love with your decency as if it's somebody else.
Luria. It had nothing to do with him specifically. The Adjutant
could have farted through his cheesy drawers--it would have come
to the same damn thing.
Adjutant. I never fart. Ask the Doctor.
Luria. I'll have no further truck with the bastard. When he
lances your boils he infects your blood for life.
The Adjutant and Billy Joe go toward the door of the barracks.
Luria. Don't leave. I have something to report.
Adjutant. We have to report to our company.
Luria. I know now that Hundt was trying to help--my revulsion not
just for the latrines but for everything connected with being
Billy Joe. The raid, putz, the raid.
Luria. Since when was the likes of you ever on time for a raid.
He was trying to spare me having to overcome that revulsion. He
barred my way so it would never become obvious that I simply
wasn't strong enough to march in and take over.
Alfie. Don't you get tired of your interpretations.
Luria. They're my only arm. I should have been able to love what
revolted me, I should have been able to gobble up what I spewed
out like shit.
Alfie. You're going against the most precious part of yourself--the web of hates specific to
you and you alone.
Luria. The all too targetable web of all too conceivable hates.
Each fixed on the grid of its precious little specificity. Why strap myself to that skin. I
piss on it, spew it out. Why straitjacket myself in one more version of humanness, maimed to the
same sameness of all the others.
The Adjutant, Billy Joe, and Alfie leave.
Why. Oh yes, of course. So as to be recruitable for obliteration
at a moment's notice. Instantly, conspicuously, on hand for the
tanks and the bombs.