The Cafe Irreal: International Imagination 

Issue Seventeen

Selections from The Coconut Ape by Tomáš Přidal
The First Day of School by Steven Schutzman
The Fever by Gleyvis Coro
Reflecting Dreams by Peter Roberts
A Meal by Anca Szilagyi
Minor Renovations by Sean Adams
The Clafouti Syndrome by Adam Benforado
The Train by Alta Ifland
Viewing by David Zerby


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The First Day of School
a play in nine scenes of ten lines
by Steven Schutzman


(These ninety lines, to be spoken with
rapid matter-of-factness and with emotion
rarely breaking through, have not been
assigned to any particular character. In
most cases, the assignation is obvious. In
others, the playwright encourages the
director and actors to experiment by
having the male and female characters
switch lines to see what works best. The
unmarried couple can also play the twins.
Put a baseball cap on 'em, backwards.
Scene changes can be created with
placards or voiceover and heightened by
upbeat music that contrasts with the flat
delivery of dialogue.)

Scene 1. (Two couples, one married, one not, seated at table.)

I can't stand him. His boyish charm smacks of flaccid self-indulgence.

I can't stand her. Her smart conversation reeks of borrowed opinions.

You two should go to bed immediately.

Use your antagonism as sexual kindling.

Married people like us take years to build such a ripe hatred.

So you two are off to a fine running start.

Fuck your brains out.

What bad can come of it?

Okay, let's go, you whimpering wuss.

Sure, en garde, you derivative dunce. (Unmarried couple goes out.)


Scene 2. (Married couple seated at table.)

Ah love. Remember?

Yes. Yes I do.

The streets of civilization had emptied of everyone but us.

The world was a garden where gods used our bodies to go for a stroll.

Our lovemaking aroused the constellations.

Languages were born in the storm of us.

My body gave up its secrets.

I scattered like dead leaves in the wind.

How could we have come to this?

The mystery is that no one did it.


Scene 3. (The unmarried couple comes back. Two couples seated at table.)

Well, how did it go?

His despicable selfishness fueled my enjoyment.

Her venomous glances turned me on.

My pleasure was intense like a fantasy of suicide.

I pounded her until she was blind as a vegetable.

These two are making me wish we had started at the end.

You get the hotel room. I'll call the babysitter.

(Married couple in unison) Let's fuck until lizards crawl out of us.

Should we elope now or plan a wedding?

We don't care what you do, just as long as you clean up afterwards.


Scene 4. (Married couple enter the hotel room.)

You are killing me.

I hate you because breathing has become impossible alone.

I am dead and composting inside my own flesh.

We have never said anything to each other.

I have not even served as a witness to my own life.

In your presence I feel lonelier than I ever thought possible.

From where in the reaches of dark blue space did our iciness come?

(In unison) Help.

Please rip me open.

Please take our history out on my body.


Scene 5. (Married couple in the hotel bed after lovemaking.)

Dignity has arrived like an animal in from the cold.

This life I am living is not the shadow of another life.

I loved how you arched for air as if I was water you were drowning in.

I loved your curses and how you bared your teeth like a cornered maniac.

How can I feel so many brutal things for someone I love so much?

How can I feel so much tenderness for someone I hate so much?

We stand before the gleaming eyes of our twins like a sea that will take us home.

Even death can't separate us now.

We better get going.

The twins need their lunches packed for the first day of school.


Scene 6. (Married couple and their twins at home.)

The babysitter taught us five different words for what you were doing at the hotel.

She watched TV in her underpants and let us eat as much candy as we wanted.

You couldn't see anything down there but you could feel it in the room with you.

Her boyfriend called and they talked about doing what you were doing at the hotel.

She told him she was watching TV in her underpants etc.

Why are adults so strange?

Why do they keep telling us things we don't want to hear?

Why can't we all sleep in the same bed?

Why do they call it 'the nasty'?

Did you have to do it twice to have us or only once?


Scene 7. (Married couple putting their twins to bed.)

We made love just once to have you, my darlings.

What a gyp. We want our money back.

(The twins in unison) We will toss you on the junk heap of history.

Kids say the darndest things.

I am having trouble dealing with my urge to strangle them.

They are destroying us, bursting from our bodies like wretched little worms.

Turning us into irrelevant dust.

You have ruined my life with your unexamined drive to procreate.

Stuck in traffic, I sing rock songs at the top of my lungs, that's how happy I am to spend less time with you and your clinging progeny.

(Married couple in unison) Help.


Scene 8. (Married couple in bed that night.)

I fantasized letting the new office intern blow me in the xerox room.

In my dream you were shaped like Babe Ruth but couldn't hit.

I'm anxious about the world and the slimy thugs in control of everything.

All my girlfriends find you repulsive.

You're gaining weight.

I sit inside my fat body like a larva ready to become beautiful in the right lover's hands.

A co-worker and I plan to use the next terrorist attack as a cover for disappearing together.

(In unison) Don't touch me.

What if the twins don't like their new teacher?

What if she never stops mixing up their names?


Scene 9. (Married couple in bed next morning.)

I want to shower at least four times before work in the morning.

I want us all to sleep in the same bed.

I want the electricity to blow and floods to put a stop to everything.

The president says unbelievable things but I believe him.

Haven't we gotten used to things we shouldn't get used to?

The moment I feel I can't cope anymore the yellow school bus pulls up.

Let's drive the kids to school today and hope they don't see us crying.

What will we say to them if they do?

We will say there is no harm in feeling a lot.

We will say there is no harm in feeling what you feel.

(End)




Steven Schutzman is a fiction writer and playwright, the author of six published books and of numerous stories and plays in literary journals and e-zines including The Pushcart Prize, TriQuarterly, Alaska Quarterly Review and Post Road. His story, "Sleeping Prescription: Directions and Cautions," appeared in Issue 15 of The Cafe Irreal.


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