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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1098879-Not-the-best-place-to-catch-butterflies
by GG
Rated: E · Fiction · Drama · #1098879
The play fragment
Roger Destaur comes in. He’s young, thin, badly shaved, dressed only in a sheet wrapped around his body in a toga style.

ROGER.– Could you tell me where the toilet is?
PAUL.– Who are you? What are you doing in my house?
ROGER. – Are you monsieur Baillon?
PAUL.– A mistake, monsieur. I’m a Roman senator who’s been transferred in an inconceivable way through twenty-five centuries and dropped in Paris. I suppose same happened to you, monsieur.
ROGER.– If we go on this way a few more minutes, I’ll have to introduce myself in an inappropriate way which I wouldn’t like. Where’s the toilet?
PAUL.– First door on the right down the hallway.

Roger quickly dives into the open door leading to the hallway. Paul makes a few absent-minded steps around the room, comes up to the window and tries to see something out there.

PAUL. – Agnes!.. Francesca!.. Looks like I can’t count on any witnesses.

Paul sinks into an armchair, glimpsing nervously at the door the guest disappeared behind. The door throws open. In the doorway there’s beaming Roger.

ROGER. – I’m fine, monsieur Baillon. Thank you!
PAUL. – And I’m not! Perhaps, finally you’ll tell me who you are – even roman senators got names – or you prefer to report this information to the police?
PAUL. – Just as I’m looking at you now – with disgust! You’re abhorrent to me, monsieur. It’s been an ill beginning of the day. People contributed into it, they did almost everything instead of you, but you happened to become the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. I’m about to kill you and the only way to prevent it is to put us as far as possible from each other. As far as possible!
ROGER.– You’re leaving, monsieur Paul?
PAUL. – Me? Rascal! I’ll squash you like a fly! No, first I’ll choke you, and then I’ll throw you out of the window to the street right at the wheels of the biggest trailer!.. Calm down, Paul… Calm down! The concierge is on holiday. Agnes forgot to lock the door for the night – such things have happened to her lately. At that time there was a mental institution car passing by and, fancy that, just in front of our house door its engine died. A hospital attendant went to make a call and by accident – sheer accident! – he forgot to lock the car. The mad ran away. One of them, also by sheer accident, mistook our apartment for a public toilet. He isn’t violent, he’s quiet. He’s leaving now. Otherwise they’ll carry his body out!

Paul tries to leap at the guest. Roger evades. There’s some kind of a scuffle, one tries to run, the other chases.

ROGER.– I'm Roger.
PAUL. – If you suppose it opens any door, why then did you honor with your presence my humble residence and not the Elysian palace?
ROGER.– That’s for later, and now I‘ve decided to stay here.
PAUL.– No one has invited you.
ROGER. –As if I cared. Anyone would feel honored to receive an off-spring of the glorious de Staur family, the richest, the noblest, the worthiest, having been part of the French elite for centuries!
PAUL.– And in this part of the ground the accounts beat the logic: he has put wealth before worthiness.
ROGER.– Unfortunately, the fabled wealth of our family – manors, gold, jewelry – everything’s in the past. You can picture the size of this wealth judging by the fact that it’s been squandered for centuries. And, alas, there’s nothing left over for me.
PAUL.– You know, this is just striking my eye.
ROGER.– At the moment I’m on my way from poverty to wealth.
PAUL. – Come again when you’re better off. We’ll be glad.
ROGER. – I will become rich for sure!
PAUL. – Only not at our expense! Your famous name’s opened a wrong door for you – there’s nothing to get hold of. It will be wise for you to know, in case you’re a just an ordinary petty thief. It would be a pity to get disappointed, though. Judging by your skill in stating well any kind of rubbish, I’d say you smack of a senator.
ROGER – Everything I’ve said is the very truth, monsieur Paul. Take nobility, for instance. One of my ancestors was beside Henry IV when the latter was killed. The second, dressed as a commoner, stood in the crowd, watching the execution of Louis XVI. His Majesty recognized my ancestor and waved him goodbye. The third escorted the remains of Napoleon when he was carried from St. Helen Island to the continent.
PAUL.– The aforesaid, monsieur de Staur, suggests that you bear a relation to funeral business. However, judging from your apparent lack of prosperity…
ROGER. -– You’re right, monsieur. In both things. From our birth and up to our death music goes with us. Joy and sorrow, eternal and mundane… I hate to exalt my skill, but it’s not so easy to play at a funeral so that the melody sounds as if not yet in heaven, but at the same time as if not on the earth. Unfortunately, there are few able to appreciate this, and those who are can’t pay any longer, that’s why our fees are insignificant. And we have to work outside, in any weather, and no one will hold an umbrella for you. But in general, I play in a bar on Montmartre. It’s called “A party at Sofie’s” and in the evenings it can get really funny there. So, come round.
PAUL. – So, you’re a musician?
ROGER – I can’t see why I should conceal that.
PAUL.– And you have a red motorbike with those shiny things?
ROGER– It’s Francesca who told you?
PAUL. – Why her? There are plenty of women in the house.
ROGER. – Of course, the car isn’t superb, but the engine’s tiptop. If it comes to some serious speed, we’ll outstrip any policeman.
PAUL. If I ever conceive of robbing a bank, I’ll mind that. I suppose, such wonder of engineering doesn’t rust away being idle.
ROGER.– Oh no! We’re inseparable: the bike, Francesca, and I.
PAUL.– Now I can see more or less clearly which place we occupy in that traditional scheme – a lady, an aristocrat and a horse. We’re before the musician, but after the bike. From which instrument do you get those divine sounds, monsieur de Staur?
ROGER.– Why so formally, monsieur Paul? After we have, so to say, made friends… “Roger” is fine. It’s not for me to judge the degree of their divinity. Anyway, it’s too strongly put. Only one man could play this instrument as God himself, provided there’s such an instrument in the heaven’s orchestra, and it’s the great Armstrong! And the way he sang! Remember, how poetically one of his contemporaries characterized his singing: these are the sounds of a barrel with honey, rolling down the cobblestone pavement. Me too, I sing a bit. As for me, I like it.
PAUL./aside/ In this case one could speak of a beer barrel/ROGER/ So, Roger Staur, an aristocrat fallen into poverty, an off-spring of a once wealthy and noble family, a musician, well-known in such places where people gather on various occasions, be it a party or a funeral, I ask you once again – what are you doing in my house?
ROGER. – I’m not just an off-spring of the de Staur family. I am its last off-spring!
PAUL. – I don’t think anyone but you really regrets this.
ROGER. – But I want my kin to continue. To have children. So that they revere their ancestors and take pride in their glorious past.
PAUL.– Now that’s “glorious” past! To throw everything to the winds, the jeans you wore included. However, this is already from the modern history. Hey, you there, who claim that aristocrats don’t degenerate, look here. This scenery with the man wrapped in a sheet smashes your theory to pieces. That’s it, fellow, our informative conversation has come to an end. Either you clear out of here immediately, or I call the police.
ROGER.– You won’t do that… father.
PAUL. – Why on earth am I your father?.. You haven’t even got pants!.. You said – “father”?
ROGER. – Well, actually, you’re my father-in-law, but if you don’t mind I’ll call you father. It’s quite important to me to have family again, for my mother died giving birth to me, and my father, having learnt that, went to a motorway, stopped the first truck and left somewhere where I hope he still happily is.

FRANCESCA- Roger is a fine musician. Before falling in love with him I fell in love with his music. I’m sure the same will happen to you.
ROGER. – I was playing in the church. Francesca was walking by and heard the sounds of my trumpet. That’s how we met.
AGNES – It’s a sign from heaven, Paul!
PAUL. – I only wish it wasn’t the trumpet of Jericho.
FRANCESCA– It was a warm evening. I was going home following a different route, past a small church on the other bank of the Seine. In the church there was music playing. It was floating, there was some grace in it. It was both sad and joyful. But it wasn’t that which struck me most. The part was lead by the organ, and the solo was by the trumpet, which is completely unusual for such a place. I came inside. The music fell silent, but it was still heard up there, high under the vaults. I looked around. There was a man in the gallery. His face was turned skywards… Here he is, before you. This is my husband.

CARAVAGGIO. He’s from an aristocratic family.
PAUL. He’s from an aristocratic family.
CARAVAGGIO.– An aristocrat? A weakling, then. They’re all like that nowadays. When he goes out there are four others hanging on him, to prevent him from being blown by the wind.
PAUL.– That’s not for Roger. He’s a sturdy fellow. He’s got a motorbike.
CARAVAGGIO. – And his name is Roger? I can’t stand those bikers! They’re nothing but trouble.
PAUL. – It’s in the street only. My son-in-law doesn’t ride indoors.
CARAVAGGIO. – If I were you I wouldn’t hurry up with conclusions. I suppose, I’ll castle.
PAUL. – Go on, before it’s too late.
CARAVAGGIO. – So, you and Agnes have been crowded. I hope this won’t affect our Sunday gatherings?
PAUL. Why do you suppose? I’m the master here after all
CARAVAGGIO. – I see you’ve grown bolder in your wife’s absence. Write down his personal data before I leave: his surname, date of birth and things… I’ll look it up in the card index, just in case.
PAUL. – You will dig up nothing. He’s a worthy guy. Besides, his pedigree…
CARAVAGGIO. – If all aristocrats were worthy fellows, why would they have had a need of building the Bastille?
PAUL. – Roger’s great-great-grandfather escorted Napoleon from the St. Helen Island to France.
CARAVAGGIO.– Good thing you’ve taken care of everything in advance.
PAUL. – What do you mean?
CARAVAGGIO. – Only one thing – that when time comes your remains will be escorted to the place of burial by a man who’s an expert in it – your son-in-law. Is it their family tradition? Check!
PAUL. – And we’ll step back.
CARAVAGGIO. – One more check.
PAUL. – And we’ll protect us.
CARAVAGGIO. – The black play on the defensive.
PAUL. – I’m used to it. I’ve been on the defensive all my life. Defending myself from the present. From the fear of the future. From Agnes. From my very self. First it seemed to be a temporary state, and that I would come around and show them, but then I came around and another strike followed, and one more, and all I had to do was to play on the defensive, hoping for the gong, rushing around the ring, knowing there was nowhere to hide. Life is an eternal fight against it under the eyes of beholders. They are beside you, but they won’t help. You can’t beat life, you can only draw with it, and only those can do it who can bring themselves up to go on. Don’t let yourself fall, or you won’t get back to your feet again. If you miss a blow, cover yourself in order to catch your breath, and then start it again! You’re out of play, your opponent is sure you aren’t able to strike a blow – convince him of the contrary, astound him… and now it’s not you but him who’s bumping into the ropes, rushing around the ring, counting seconds… Life is a filthy thing, if you can’t beat it, but give it a try at least… give it a try…

Roger appears. He is in his usual attire – a shirt and jeans. He has got a trumpet in his hands.

ROGER. – Police? It’s after me.
CARAVAGGIO.– What is that rogue doing here?
AGNES – It’s our son-in-law.
CARAVAGGIO. – Why can’t your son-in-law be a rogue? You know how many times this fellow has got away from me when I tried to fine him for speeding? But today he’ll pay for everything!
PROFESSOR. – Be lenient, Caravaggio. You’re looking at a just married guy.
PAUL. – Besides, in the stage of divorce.
ROGER. – You already know, monsieur?.. Madam… Then I have only to say goodbye. During my stay under this roof all of you were very kind to me.
AGNES – We didn’t have enough time.
PAUL./to Roger/ - And what has become of your great love to Francesca? Has it changed size after the very first quarrel?
ROGER. /to Paul/ – It makes no sense talking about this, monsieur, if your love isn’t reciprocated.
PAUL.– Love is never senseless, even if it’s not reciprocated.
PROFESSOR. – Be more insistent, young man, women like it, and press for reciprocation. You’re French!
CARAVAGGIO. – Besides, you’re an aristocrat. Roger! Every time you ran away from me I thought – now that’s a daredevil! Now, prove it. Get onto your bike and race to Versailles.
AGNES– It’s lovely there now. The fountains are gushing…
ROGER. – I’m not going to Versailles. It’s over. If you think that you can make Francesca change her mind, then I’ll have to assume you don’t know her at all.
AGNES – But I thought my son-in-law is a despot. /to Paul/ He’s just like you!
PAUL./ROGER/- Don’t make things more hopeless than they are, Roger. My daughter is a fickle girl. But can they be different at the age of twenty?
ROGER. The world is full of sounds, beautiful sounds, but today only sadness and sorrow are heard. I’m sorry to not have lived up to your expectations. Goodbye, monsieur Paul, Madam Agnes and these young ladies who I haven’t got the chance to meet.
CARAVAGGIO. – You’ll have that chance yet.
ROGER. I haven’t moved my things, so I’m leaving with light luggage. My trumpet is with me. It’s all I’ve been left with since I lost Francesca.
AGNESYou have forgotten about your bike.
ROGER. – Unfortunately, even riding a bike you can’t run from yourself, which is what I’m going to try, though..

Roger slowly, kind of unwillingly goes towards the door. He doesn’t look back.

AGNES – What is he going to do?
CARAVAGGIO. We can’t know that.
PROFESSOR. – We can’t know anything at all.
AGNES – It’s only my husband, scientists and the police who don’t know anything. His last words made me suspicious. We must bring him back and keep him from thoughtless action.
PAUL. – The most thoughtless thing he has already done, having married my daughter.
AGNES – Go after him. He has no one in Paris except us. We can’t abandon him.
PAUL. I wonder how he lived without us.
CARAVAGGIO. – Stay where you are, Paul. I don’t think it’ll come to speeding today.
PAUL./to AgnesYou think only about the wedding, and not about whether they will stay together or not. Monsieur Armagnac… Italian relatives… We must save our face! And do we really have this “face”?

Somewhere in the street a trumpet starts playing. All the people present move closer to the windows.

AGNES It's Roger.
PROFESSOR. What is he doing
PAUL.– He’s standing in the middle of the street and playing..
CARAVAGGIO. – I’ll arrest him for breaching public order.
PAUL. – Is he really breaching it?
AGNES/to Professor/ - Do you see that red bike? It’s our son-in-law’s!
PROFESSOR. – Once the world was a huge blossoming garden and butterflies frisked there without anyone to disturb them. And now this huge garden has turned into a thousand of tiny islands in the middle of a desert, and the apples there are of that kind, that if Eve would get hold of them, the Fall wouldn’t have occurred. The butterflies now don’t fly in flocks, they slink alone, and some idiots try to catch them. Do they really bother anyone, those butterflies?
© Copyright 2006 GG (greggamilton at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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