a two-act tragicomedy in seven scenes, starring

Otto Gnomon, a cast of ten, and a voice.

compleated on the seventeenth day of February
in the year of Our Lord 1978 by
        Marta F. Nussbaum Steele

Copyright (C) Marta N. Steele 2010. All rights reserved. Performance or any other use must be by permission of author only.

(Parents, rated PG for implicit pornography and some obscene vocabulary.)




(Professor Otto Gnomon hangs up a telephone receiver, rolls over. It is past noon; the room is dark. His bedroom is high-ceilinged, wall to floor windows, 4-poster bed, huge mirrors.)

Gn: Maybe if I close my eyes and sleep again—
for all sensible creatures hibernate—I will wake up as someone;
trade in my beautiful eyes for a point of view.

(from beneath the feather quilt) She sings.
On the other end of the wire
I wonder what she wore. (pause)
Now it’s three minutes
since I heard her voice;

I wonder what she'll have for lunch.

(A hand reaches out from beneath the quilt, grasps a small spice bottle, brings it to his mouth. A muted munching sound is heard.)

It worked before,
coriander brought her to me.
Oh, how do I look?

(he emerges from under the quilt briefly, glances into a mirror)

—like an insect.
At least something shines back to me,
life’s minor miracles;
who are they trying to kid?
I walk around in blue
but no one wears blue pants
as honestly as I,
nor this black leather hat.
Mother, you died
before I saw her;
one day I looked for you
in my eyes
in a glass.
How can I see a blind girl there now?
How dare I see her,
with these eyes?

Oh, I look into the words
and read into the lines
and tear off paper stubs with numbers
that sing “classicist!”
to the right machines.
Oh, it is not bad; yes,
I stand in front of rooms
with chalk, a pointer,
slow words
that drift behind a window
and if they turned around
a Picasso face would cry to them:

  "You only think to hear
   an optical illusion;
  the glass melts into water,
   and water, into tears."

I mingle coriander
with these vial, matutinal vapors
I inhale from my quilt;
oh, rank air I breathe
in and out,
and smelly words
I sighed into the wire.

Number 6 Coriander Street,
I read you as my fate
as where we’d one day meet
-Paradise resought,
redundant Paradise.

I woke up one day
in this stinking town
to a truck rumbling past these lying mirrors that shook
and I reached out
to touch her beside me
--cold sheets, nothing.

Once I loved a young man with golden hair,
but in a dream
he swept it back behind his ears
and his face was suddenly middle-aged,
his ears too large;
and I was angry and hateful
and cursed him.

But how today
shall I contrive this nonentity
to act?
who will I be and how?
Prenatal Ulysses was never as invisible,
nor would mirrors trifle with his eyes.
(He grabs at a pillow and snatches it beneath the quilt, embracing it too tightly)

If I could cry
but it is only me;
who can cry over no man?
Not even this,
this . . .

(AN UNSEEN VOICE intrudes upon his melancholy trance)

Otto Gnomon, are you ready? (Gn. looks around room, sees nothing)
Voice: Gnomon, do you hear me?
Gn: (tense) Who's there?
Voice: It is I, you fool!
Gn: Could you be more specific?
Voice: Aristophanes thinks you have a dirty mind!
Gn: What’s going on here?
Voice: You're the only honest man who ever lived.
Gn: You must have the wrong apartment. There's an honest man two floors down. That’s 4-D, in the west wing.
Voice: This is 4-D, Gnomon. Your honesty is exceeded only by your desperation.
Gn: Would you like a glass of hot milk? It’s way past my bedtime.

(Chorus of 5 3-ft. tall, multicolored gnomes in academic gowns and mortarboards, day-glow colored in shades clashing with their skin tones)

Strophe: Behind the turn of the next cat's tail,
   in between squirts of sachet
   turn over a clover
   hold it up to the sun,
   read the word of God
   in between the veins
   the fourth leaf is your thumb!

Antistrophe: Take a wad of snuff
   One sneeze will be enough!
   The right concoction of potions
   conjures up any solution!

(one gnome after another jumps out of line per stanza to sing)

   Pepper and horsebane!
   We have not lost
   the lost works of Aeschylus.
   He wrote them under a pseudonym, Aristophanes!

   Cranberry, jasmine, and turpentine!
Homer was a psychotic with 24 different personalities;
   music therapy cured him,
27,000 lines!

  Coriander and mace!
   Judge not a snail unhappy
  until the end of its days.

  Potato flowers and dill weed!
   Sappho wrote in fragments,
   a fad that never spread.
  It started as a party game,
  "you add to what I’ve said”!

  Pickle juice and iodine!
   Catullus was a vestal virgin!
Gn: (interrupting) What’s all this posthumous gossip?!

Gnomes: Truth to the honest man!

Gn: Lied der wissentschaftlichen Weltanschauung:

   You’ll put a lot of hypocrites
  out of work this way!
  No one wants to hear a truth
  another has unearthed  . . .
  Who ever heard of a "Homeric answer?"
  Every brick of academe is a question.

   We’re the babies of the world
   who never learned the difference
   between an eye-hook
   and an eye-tooth;
   we are pacified by lies.

   The Truth,
   outside our windows
   is 5 o’clock traffic
   and papers sailing in the wind
  that know their place
   --in trash cans, not on book shelves.

  The cradle of civilization
   on paper, is our home;
   no sunlight here,
  only closed windows,
   steam heat that hisses "Shhh!"
  to the wrong questions
  and the right answers;

Life is a tale we tell.
(end of scene)


(SCENE 2)  

I’m running out of Jean Naté again.
I have plenty of time to buy more,
plenty of time
plenty of time
to analyze my dreams,
plenty of dreams
by day, by night;

When do I really sleep?
What is sleep?
1 have plenty of time
to think through that one, too.
I shall define and footnote it
and change my mind next year;

Lots of words about a word,
different words next year
and the year after that
and then,

I have plenty of time
and can discard these paper children for new ones if they displease me.

Now let’s see, I was born in Quebec.
What is there about me Canadian?
Who ever heard of a distinguished Canadian?
What do I look like,
a Canadian?

(he looks in the mirror)

Plenty of time,
and all my bills are paid.
What more could I want?

(he sits in Yoga position on his bed, gazing in the mirror for a long time)

What kind of music do I like?
I have all kinds to play
and a new needle on my stereo
and lots of time.

(he gets up, goes over to record cabinet, can’t decide on one, squatting on floor. He sits down, rests his head in lap, back to audience, covers face with hands, whispers between clenched teeth.)

Oh, God.

(the intercom buzzes; he jumps, runs to desk, opens a huge volume at random, then goes to speaker, answers as if disturbed from train of thought)

Who’s there?

Int: (affected voice, hesitant, self-deprecating) Aloysius Fagner, Professor Gnomon. Can you spare me a few moments of your valuable time?

Gn: Well, it depends; 1'm awfully busy.

Al.: Yes, I understand. It’s just that I’m floundering in a philosophical Charybdis,
out of which you might rescue me. There is no one else I can or would turn to at this crucial and devastating CRUX DESPERATIONIS in my intellectual pursuits.
Gn: (flattered) Oh well, perhaps a few moments . . . (he presses button to unlock bottom entrance. Moments later, a flaccid knock on door. Gnomon opens it. Fagner is in his late forties/early fifties, unkempt, grey, thinning, matted down hair, worn-out spectator shoes, baggy pants, limp flannel shirt; he is a lecturer on the Classical Civilization in the university adult education program. Carries mildewed briefcase about to fall apart.)

Gn: (sympathetic, guilty) Come in. You look tired.
F: I have not had an hour’s rest in the last fortnight, professor.
Gn: (interrupting) You may call me Otto. Please sit down. I'll take your things.
F: (remains standing, coat on; stimulated, with adulation) Otto, I am torn asunder by irresolvable conflicts as to, as to . . .  (embarrassed) oh, that a man my age must harbor such adolescent conflicts beneath a balding pate. . . . 
Gn: (sympathetic) Socrates once said that to stop questioning is to bury your mind alive.
F: Oh, Professor Gno-, I mean Otto, shall I continue?
Gn: (indulgent) I wish you would. I ask questions sometimes.
F: Oh, your noble, charitable, and comforting reassurance warms my whole being to such an acme of resilient defiance and, and, courage never to stop challenging and exploring the vast and horrifying edifice of the great unknown  . . .  yes, I shall continue and, as it were, lay bare to you, distilled, the substance of this quagmire, namely: if Pindar said "life is the shadow of a dream," Homer, "life is to see the shores of light," in possession if not incarceration of winged psuché, how are we to reconcile these, let alone that Odysseus, inches from the bosom of Niké, calls nothing on earth more wretched than man, and we find quite the opposite point of view as Antigone is well on her way to até in Sophocles' work.
Gn: (blast) You’ve been reading Von Krappenheimer, no doubt.
F: No, to tell you the truth, a student brought it up after one of my lectures, an M.T.A. mechanic, and I was at a loss as to how to respond, so I referred him to
Von Krappenheimer's 10-volume treatise in German. He can’t read German. He can hardly put together a sentence in English. I responded as if he had posed the question, "how do you spell "cat'?"
Gn: How do  you spell "cat," Aloysius?

(Aloysius does a double take. Afraid to answer.)

GN: C-A-T (nervous laugh from Aloysius.) Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must be getting back to work on Aristophanes. I must have an article signed, sealed, and delivered frightfully soon.
Al: Thank you so much for your time, Professor.
Gn: Otto.
AI: Otto.
Gn: that's O-T-T-O, a palindrome. Stop by any time, Aloysius. And by the way, you may tell your student, if he persists in his present inquiry, that life and the plight of man are issues of a different hue to every mind. In other words, no two poets are exactly alike, nor 2 M.T.A. mechanics, nor an M.T.A. mechanic and a professor.

(Before Al. can thank him profusely, as he is about to do, Gn. walks him to door, lets him out, closes door.)

Gn: Sit on it, Aloysius. I'll spell “cat” anytime;
underline your crises
in red ink
with a smile.

Oh Socrates, roll over;
Aristophanes, wink.
Academe, my next check has just been justified

8 days a week
the weary scholar never sleeps.
Dawn is the answer,
sunset, the only natural
light of his lonesome path;

and midway on the road,
regaled with honoraries
the procession halts;
off come the mortarboards
stripped by a grease monkey.

Out of his mouth,
child of the morning sun,
words that turn back crusty pages
to where it all began:

("Song of the Scholar"/ Altertumswissentschaft-Lied)
  Title pages are not dog-eared;
  they promise, entice
   prolegomena apologize
   and doubt.
   The text itself
   is a list of titles
   to be read or written.
   The index reminds us
   of what we should have learned;
  The end-sheet,
   empty, tells a truer tale.

(sing-songy, like a nursery rhyme)

  All I ever know
  through all these years of turning pages
  is three letters, Aloysius, c-a-t.

(he giggles)

  Can I it help it
   if you spell it
(end of scene)



Gn: Hark! Oh, what woke me up?
Uch, I’m awake. What’s today?
What does it symbolize?

Ummmm. Swallow me, sleep.
The sum of my life is now,
a rainy, dirty day;
trucks rumbling by
my inside-out subconscious
wrenched out of dreams, drowning . . .

Do re mi--
shall I call the time lady,
the weather man,
unroll this cocoon,
touch the floor?
my heart hurts . . 

These four walls are painting me in.
Each day my act improves
the closer they press,
the light always brightest before ...

(he rolls over, jumps out of bed, jumps into the shower, from where we hear his now shrill voice:)

My voice, my voice is awake today too; I can hear!
Soon it will be time
to coexist
walled in
as if
I don't remember,
                  never am other than . . .
(he emerges from bathroom clothed, smiling; pats his cheeks in the mirror, pulls down his jacket smartly, smoothes it, murmurs:)

Cruel soul
what will you feed on next?
Half the world is starving;
the other half,
the rest of us,
we are
what they eat?

what who does what to,
because . . . 
(he glides out, briskly, nearly slamming door)


The sun is out.
It shines on my cactus garden
but I am not deceived;
whom does it shine on?

what fools who roam through winter fields
while thin trickles of lemon solstice sun
stingy, diffuse,
sparkle on the snow
that will not melt.

They fill their lungs
with freezing wind, and sigh
as if it were always
as they are now,
but who smiles back;
who takes the time to meet their eyes?

Only those who remember
as they greet at sunset
their stalemates.

I am young
I am porous,
and their solstice light
goes to my head;

alone I walk to where they stand,
transluce my lonely light,
suspect, lent;

Gnomon the word man
breaks into print again,
the sum of suspect glances
brushed off onto pages,

My brow unclouds
and so, to the next eventful walk
distilled; my soul regresses
farther to before thought,
before I spoke my name;

ill from inception,
it never forgave the spasms of the womb;

its latest stream of words at rest
on lines, my spirit, nude of all but then,
the fall to interference,
faceless, waits
for its latest colors,
for how next to arrange its features
and floats,
a singing rock.
No Margarethe yet;
a crowd of Ganymedes
submerged in dark corners,
beg me to tiptoe back,
jealous of her,
my monogamy-this solstice light
I never abandon.

Each female eye, I snatch,
deprive of every ounce of her,
then dissolve to tears
I swim away in,

stitch from encounters
her tapestry.

Margarethe, I have bartered
my soul for you, and crawled.

You ask for words;
the earth rolls beneath us,
the stars fall,
the sky disintegrates,
you stand away
screaming “Speak to me!”
mutely just beyond your place,
just this side of my breath
while we stand
danced around by dreams,

but curtains fall too loud,
your mind is cluttered,
the moment spins away
and struck,
you are gone;

the spell is too thin always;
you take a step
and change.




(the elevator of his apt. building opens; he chants softly, walking down corridor to his apt., home from work)

Mirror, mirror,
who put the "me-" in mirror?

(he opens the door, shuts it, walks into living room, tosses his coat on a chair, looks into glass;)

You who witness this existence,
findst du mich schön,
find you me vain?

Who is the foulest of them all,
the phallus,
the rarest,
the fairest?

this part that implores "thou"
of me speaks with forked tongue
in four walls
to no less than this lessee
--lessee; let's see him,

Nay, nay, my love;
beshrew me but heaven help us all
were I an epitome.
Should this mightiest of egocentrics
decree such eccentricity?

I wish upon this wretched stretch of eyes
far finer sights;
far prettier,
far wittier!

Where would we be
(as if we were in this stretch somewhere)
were I the finest mind?

yet I swoon,
therefore I flow
through hazy here-and-nows
to bow at shrines of this and that
and dream that forms hide
humble, with no shoes,
weighed down by their superlatives.

These mirrors throw back
my form to remind
this chemical convention
of its unique assemblage.

L’éclat, c’est moi!

devant ces yeux-ci
mais si,
see me
--mother’s little bundle of epitomes!
(he about-faces abruptly)

I’ve a splendid repast for one on deck,
an evening planned away,
. . . from what?
My shadow,
I would light the hearth for you,
dine by candlelight,
have made our love
and slept.

I can dream without you,
fancy life ahead,
the here-and-now,
that day you cross the Holocaust;

wall between me
and my genteel soirées,
where and how this night
will I gather molecules of remembrance
through how many worlds,
how many?

Say only, light,
whisper through walls,
miles, the clamor of the universe
some finite prophesy
~-a bed of nails,

Say that I wait for you;
say that and burn away my past,
refurbish this insipid disguise,
my life,
with your touch!

(he stands still, closes eyes, intently listening)
I can’t hear my name;
when desire or its fancy
is so diluted by time,
so stretched over deserts, wandering,
dare we trespass
the shrine of its promise again?

(he walks slowly into his bedroom, turns on stereo; Debussy’s “Claire de la Lune" has just started playing. Falls onto bed fully clothed, lights a cigarette, shoulders on pillow so head falls back, eyes on ceiling; curls of smoke spiral up; soon a haze covers bedroom, whole theatre fills with sweet perfumy scent as a dream reoccupies the stage, the first epiphany of Margarethe. She is slender, pale, childlike, long dark hair flowing down her back. Dressed in a long, flowered organdy gown, wide straw hat with ribbons; a basket of flowers over one arm. She unlocks apt. door; with door still open she sees Gnomon in living room, dressed in a business suit looking over the day’s mail with a benign, intent preoccupation; they glance each other simultaneously)

She (shyly)! Hi!

He: Hi!
(they stand apart, startled, enraptured. She timidly and softly runs over to him, kisses his cheek girlishly. He flutters his eyelashes, blushes, then, in a muffled voice:)

The door's still open.

(he runs to close it, returns to her awkwardly)


(his eyes run up and down her body while she stands looking up at him with adoration. His voice is then perky, patronizing:)

How was your day?

She (modestly): Oh, I did my volunteering with the lepers. Its Wednesday, you know. They're so dear and sweet. Then I walked to the meadow and picked some flowers for you and, uh, wrote some verse . . .

(She gives him basket of pink carnations, he takes it gently, reverently)
Why, thank you! And what did you "verse" about today?
She: Oh, the plight of man. There’s so much suffering I pass by each day in the streets.

(She takes a small sheet of pink folded paper out of her bodice, reads in elevated diction:
   The plight of  man is sad, ‘tis true;
   ‘tis sad for me
   and sad for you

(she takes out lace handkerchief, dabs at tears in her eyes; he is touched. She sniffs delicately, then puts away her hanky, smiles brightly:}

What about you? How was your day?
He (modestly:) Oh, I published another paper. It’s about the significance of smegma in Aristophanes.
She: Oh, dear, what will you come up with next?
He: (changing the subject modestly) What shall we have to dine, Gretchen?
She: What a question!

(in unison, as the stage dims and the smoke spins, their words end in a whisper:)

A loaf of bread, A jug of wine,
a book of verse, and  . . .            

(the phone jangles loudly. The mist abruptly dissipates. He jumps, picks up receiver before first ring abates.)
He: Hello!
(a man’s voice, affectedly effeminate, sing-songish, flirtatious:)
Hi, Otto.
Gn: Oh, hi, Frankie.
F: Did I wake you up?
Gn: Oh, I guess so. Don’t worry about it. (mimicking Frankie’s gay intonations) How's tricks? (he yawns sensuously)
F: Well, there's this new movie in town at the Cheri you’ve just got to see!
Gn: Oh yeah?
F: Starring (ceremoniously) Mohammed Ali and Robert Redford!
Gn: Oh, that. (coquettishly) Oh, I’m not in the mood. I ’ve got some papers to grade.
F: And that blond chick there with you to discuss them with?
Gn: Oh, her. Uh uh. 1'm just tired. I think I'll stay here.
F: And watch Lolita again? It’s on tonight, sweety. Eight o’clock, channel 2. (Frankie hangs up angrily. Gnomon replaces receiver slowly, indifferently; he leans back, hand over brow. After about 5 minutes of still life, he goes to a window, opens it a crack. City noises rush in + Cat Stevens's "Miles from Nowhere" is heard from a neighboring apt. 2 stanzas of this play. He then shuts window, sits down on bed, "il penseroso" pose: )

Gn: Homer lives
laughing at this Odyssey;
I pray for no omens,
they dance around my life.
(he lights another cigarette)

Gn: Maybe I’ll run a classified "1 Faust in search of the Devil."

(out of the smoke, the second epiphany of Margarethe. Her countenance, hair identical as before, but clothed in a blue jean suit, bright green turtle neck body suit, black boots. She stands at other end of room)

M: Otto, I've got another poem. Listen:

It is written in the book
   but which comes first,
   life or the words?

   If it’s life,
   why do we read about it?
   If it's not, why not?

   Do visions come from words,
   do we read because we’re blind,
   see better in the mind than with our eyes,
   blind when we dream
    or dream because we're blind?

    Then poets must be blind
    since they see the most
    and dream the best
     and live so long
    without life.

    Must we be dead to love life?
    Do we love life or the words?

G: That's a nice little poem, Gretchen.
M: If I wrote "big" poems, would I be like you, Otto? Here's an even smaller one:

“Let us come from the same place.”

(He tries to get up from bed, but is paralyzed; her figure ripples sensuously before him; as it fades, her voice trails off.)

M: Sit on it. I've got more "little" poems to write.

(A buzzer sounds. He walks slowly to intercom next to door, pushes button.)
Whos’s there?

(casual, relaxed tone, a nicotine contralto, husky, dissipated voice:)
Rosie. I’ve brought over those exams I was supposed to grade.

Gn: Oh, o.k. (he pushes buzzer to unlock downstairs entrance. Then goes into bedroom, dons brown velour smoking jacket. Runs hands through hair to fluff it up, opens a book on his desk to give air of having been interrupted from studying. A knock is heard. Rosie, the woman at the door, is in her mid twenties, about 5’5", nineteen fifties looking; high heels, jaunty, pseudo-sophisticated, mole painted on her cheek with eyebrow pencil, tilted tam-o'shanter hat. He opens door.)

Gn: Hi. C'mon in.
R: I had to drive around the block for fifteen minutes waiting for a parking place.
(she unbuttons coat sensuously, throws it on chair, takes off hat, shakes her head to loosen her blond, curly hair.)

. . . and if I lived here, I’d be home now!
Gn: You’d better find a place with a parking garage.
R: Well, the meter‘s good for an hour anyway.
Gn: Don't worry about any violations tonight.

(they both chuckle obscenely)
R: Here are those blue books.
Gn: Oh, thank you so much! What would 1 do without my T.A.?

(they chuckle obscenely again)
I’ll have a look at them later. Now! (brightly) Can I get you something?
R: A beer and that Billie Holliday record.
Gn: Well, you're never hard to please, are you?

(he strides jauntily into kitchen. She goes tripping after him, swaying hips.)
R: I’ll help you pop the top!

(He closes half-opened refrigerator door; they embrace. Sounds of a sensuous Billie Holliday song fill apt. + the scent of sachet. Lights dim of own accord. Behind Rosie, the figure of Margarethe materializes, in blue jean outfit, standing
like a statue.

(end of scene)
ACT 2, Scene 2: Gnomon’s bedroom at 3 a.m. He is in bed with Rosie. It is snowing outside. Margarethe, statue-like, stands on other side of room. He wakes up, sees her, and roughly shakes Rosie.)

R: (rubs eyes) Umph. (she reaches to embrace him; he avoids her, moves to edge of bed, covers up to neck.)
Gn: I think your meter’s probably run out. It’s 3:00.
R: You know you don’t have to pay after six! Do you feel all right, Otto?
Gn: Well, I have some thoughts I want to jot down, and uh,
R: Aw, c’mon. (she tries again to pull him toward her. He gets quickly out of bed, puts on robe. She sits up, covers up to neck, angry, suspicious.)
Gn: Thoughts, about what? That hussy Margarethe with the horny eyes? Ten to one she likes girls, Otto. Take it from me. C’mon, you can write later. Now it’s time for all good little toys and girls to . . .

(Gn walks to other side of room, his back to Rosie, stands in front of Margarethe's phantom)
R: Otto, you’d send me outside on the streets by myself at 3 in the morning? (her voice is maudlin, cracks) It’s snowing!!
(No response. She bursts into tears, hands shaking, pulls on clothing clumsily, walks out, stumbling, pulls on coat, turns around, tearfully:)

R: Sorry I didn’t go to Bryn Mawr!

(she closes door, disappears. Gnomon is motionless; Margarethe’s apparition has disappeared.)

Gn: (in a whisper) Gretchen, where are you now, asleep alone?
What am I doing here? Dying;
that's all I ever do alive.

When I blow out the candle, Will you have let me say
"I’ve lived”?
(her phantom materializes)

Gn (desperately) Where have you been?
M: (casually) Oh, out for a stroll.
Gn: In this weather?
M: (with Yiddish intonations) Ghosts don't know from chill factors.
Gn: (passionate whisper) Have you brought me another poem, Gretchen?
M: (flatly) No metrics tonight, Otto.
(the words materialize her; she is no longer transparent)

Only phantoms write in verse.
Gn: Gretchen, my darling, you’ve come!
Let me touch you! Let me hold you! Come to me!
M: If you’ll pardon the cliché, Otto, only a mother could love you.
Gn (laughs, then reaches behind him to touch woodwork.):
She’s dead, Gretchen. You know that.

M: So is Rosie.

(formerly ACT 2, Scene 3)

[At this point occurred a lost scene, Gnomon teaching a class. First, though, he visits a hypnotist, who succeeds in hypnotizing him back to his point of conception. There is a tremendous “pow!!”
His class focuses in on the Homeric question. He is teaching his students about the “other” point of view. He says that one can’t vanquish one’s enemies without first understanding them inside-out. At this point, his best student and protégé, Boethius takes issue with his judgmental pronouncements, and there are several back-and-forths, as Gn. argues back, of “I disagree!! and “That’s your prerogative!!”
Gnomon has given as example the point that the analysts disagree with the Unitarians about the authenticity of the line about Sisyphus’s rock falling down the hill. Gn. becomes passionate, illustrates the onomatopoetic rhythm of the line: “Down again, down again rolls the curs-ed rock!! Down, down, down, Boethius!!!” By the end of the scene, Boethius has become an analyst and Gn. laments the long, perhaps, lifelong journey he has embarked upon, perhaps never to return.)



(Years later. Gnomon and Frankie live in Gn’s same old apt. in the Back Bay. They are both grey haired, sober, effeminate, sexless. As scene opens, Frankie is at kitchen table, mounting professional black-and-white photos on poster board. Gnomon is in bedroom, sitting at desk studying, surrounded by stacks of books and voluminous papers. It is dark in his room except for a small, high-intensity desk lamp. He looks up, calls out to Frankie in kitchen:)

Gn:When’s dinner?
F: (lisping) Oh, send out for a pizza, I'm busy. What do you think I am, room service?
Gn: (acid) No, I guess I mistook you for a short-order cook all these years.
F: Short order, long wait, baby. Eat your franchise pizza and bite into Gretch.
Gn: You can be sure I’d vomit if you . . .

(The buzzer sounds. Frankie goes to speak over intercom. Gaily:)
Who’s there?
Voice: Mephistopheles!
F: I give at the office, thanks. (releases button) Hey Otto, guess who’s at the door?
Gn: The  Good Humor man.
F: No, guess again!
Gn: A psychically delivered pizza.
F: Now you’re getting warm.
Gn: I give.
F: (grandly) Mephisto ipsissimus! (He watches Gn. bolt toward intercom.)
Otto, you’ve got to be kidding!!

(Gnomon, in cold sweat, shaking, presses button:) Who's there? Are you still there?
(Intercom voice, exaggeratedly gay, mocking:) You know damn well who's here, Otto. Sorry I’m a little late.
Gn: You're supposed to be able to materialize out of thin air.
F: Otto, I don't want any perverts . . . 
Gn: (to Frankie) Shut up!
Intercom: Oh, come off it. Get your shit together and give me a buzz. (Gn. presses buzzer, Frankie runs to bathroom and locks door, exhaust fan comes on instantly; he opens it an instant:)
F: This is your show, Heinrich!

(Enter Mephistopheles in jeans suit, black boots, bright green turtle neck body suit. He is slender, effeminate, classic devil face, brown hair thinning at temples, goatee. Opens door with skeleton key.)

Meph: I’m here!!
(Frankie opens bathroom door, exhaust fan shuts off:)

F: Want to buy a soul, cheap?
Gn: (clammy, shaking, hardly in control of voice, close to tears)
Beat it!!

(the bathroom door closes, fan comes back on.)
Meph: Cool it, Otto. What would 1 possibly want with your shit-rag of a soul? (Frankie emerges from bathroom, curious, eyes Meph. coyly, then heartily:)

Hear, hear!!
(Gn close to apoplexy, totally ignoring Frankie, teeth clenched:)
Where is she?
Meph: Remember how autumn followed winter the year Rosie died? 1 staged that scene.
Gn: (beside himself) Will you get to the point? Margarethe!!
Meph: (casually) Oh, her. She caught leprosy and, well, 1 couldn’t resist. Sorry it didn’t work out, but this is the twentieth century, Otto. I could book you on a cruise, all expenses paid, to Bengla Desh.
Gn: Why you sniveling, scum-faced, leper fucking . . .
Meph: (flattered) For that 1'11 even arrange a personal audience with Aristophanes for you!
Gn: Why me??? In the name of Christ, why me???!!
Meph: Want to see your mother? The Virgin Mary? Katherine the Great? Aulus Gellius, Alfred Hitchcock, Mahatma Gandhi? Alcibiades, Rerum Natura Universalium? Dinner for two at the No-Name?
Gn: (calmer, exasperated) Just tell me one thing, just one goddamn thing; what made you pick me, a groveling piece of shit, and turn my life into . . . (he looks around apt. madly, desperately; fixates on Frankies, then turns back to Meph.)

Meph: I think you’re cute.