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Issue number nine




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Solitude by Shepard Smith

Dramatis Personae.

He, a faceless figure sitting quietly in a deep armchair.

She, the remains of a woman, slowly crumbling.

Synopsis. The play is one act and to be performed without intermission. At centre stage there is an armchair, turned slightly askew, presiding over the audience. ‘He’ sits in the chair, legs crossed, faceless head resting on the knuckles of an elbow which in turn rests on the arm of the chair. Next to this chair is another one exactly like the first only vacant and turned so that the angle intersects the vantage of the first, bringing them to a slight point. Both sit on top of a wide rug. Between them there is a narrow table upon which sits a plain black ashtray, a cigarette half extinguished on its lip. On the far end of the stage there stands a cabinet, doors ajar, single drawer open until it tilts downward. At the other end there is a gramophone on the floor.

‘She’ enters, nude, crawling on the floor, modesty kept by the shadows. A ribbon around her throat is the only reminder of a dress she has since discarded. She appears at the left end of the stage, progressing toward the right. The effort is trying, but she moves leisurely, dragging her torso behind her. She is yet mostly intact, but lacking legs. On the rug, she sits up on her hip and rests, breathing heavily. When she speaks she addresses only herself.

She: As the record ended I continued to sing along with the chorus. By the time I caught myself it was too late. Oh, well. He didn't even raise an eyebrow, nor did he make any effort to acknowledge my presence. But he…

She continues on in a backstroke on her palms to the cabinet. She opens it, and her legs come falling out, about three pairs, all nearly identical. She sings.

She: With reveries of days gone by... In my solitude... You taunt me...

Fastening her legs. She leaves those that clutter the floor to be. She pushes them to the side a bit, just enough to lay in languid repose, her ankles crossed.

She: The record still turned beneath the needle. All that was left of the music was a static that sounded like rain beating against the windows. Nothing else, nothing to…

On her knees she approaches the vacant armchair, standing once she can brace herself. Again, she sings.

She: With memories that never die...

The dimpled cushion is fluffed, softly punched once or twice in the centre. She sits and crosses her legs in the fashion of the faceless man. She begins to fumble with the ribbon around her throat.

She: He had taken my leg from me and hid it away somewhere so that I couldn't abandon him in his private darkness. I must admit…

Once the bow of the ribbon is undone her head falls loose into her lap. She goes limp, but not in a deceased manner. Her eyes persist in blinking and her tongue flashes briefly to wet her lips. The faceless man carefully retrieves her skull from her bare legs and places it also with great care on the table sitting between the chairs. He balances the cigarette upon her lips and she draws life into its grey end. She blinks once or twice from the smoke and finally closes her eyes.

The light falls. Curtain.

Shepard Smith's work has appeared in small Chicago literary journals (The Missing Link and Cicatrix) and most recently in a non-fiction e-zine, Ogrish. He’s a high school dropout and agoraphobic who has spent time in and out of mental institutions and has done his best to serve as a local advocate for people with mental disabilities. Not incidentally, most of his writing is influenced in one way or another by his experience.

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