Gasping for air (when the theatre of the absurd seems the only reality)

AlfedPalmersmokestacks (3)

By Warwick McFadyen

Scene: a park bench, early winter, mid-morning. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are both wearing gas masks. A bird is trying to chirrup in a nearby tree. It sounds gargled before, after one strangulated cough, it stops. The air is still, too heavy for the slight breeze to move it.

Rosencrantz: My mask doesn’t seem to be working properly.

(He fiddles with the strap under his chin and coughs, having pulled it too tight.)

How did you get yours to fit Guildenstern?

Guildenstern: I don’t know if I have. But if I sit very still, it sits very still with me. Try not to fidget.

Rosencrantz: But how else am I to adjust it so that it works if I don’t fidget. After all, fidgeting is just small movements and I need to make small movements. I fidget therefor I am.

(He fidgets too hard and the mask falls off into his hands.)

Ah, this is hopeless!

(He begins coughing and hurriedly puts it back to his face.)

Help me friend, I’m dying here.

Guildenstern: But if I move, the same thing might happen to me. And as much as you are my friend and ally in life, that won’t help either of us. Especially me.

Rosencrantz: Show some kindness, please, after all I’ve done for you!

(He holds the mask in one hand and pulls the strap up under his chin and tighten it. Slowly, he releases the strap and the mask stays in position.)

Guildenstern: See, I knew you could do it.

Rosencrantz: Fine. Now what do I do?

Guildenstern: You sit very still.

Rosencrantz: Right. (Long pause) How long do I sit very still?

Guildenstern: I don’t know. But at least the mask isn’t falling off.

Rosencrantz:  Just a thought my friend, but wouldn’t it be better for us if we didn’t have to wear masks?

Guildenstern:  Of course, but how do you propose that? We would have to change the environment where we reside and we can’t do that and we can’t move. This is our home forever. Our bench, our fate.

Rosencrantz: Well, we could ignore it. Just go about things as we always have. Like future like past. Or we could just master these masks.

Guildenstern: Be sensible Rosencrantz.

Rosencrantz: And sit very still for the rest of our shortening lives? No thanks.

Guildenstern: Well then, perhaps we need to get help from others. We’re not the only ones in this park, after all.

Rosencrantz: You have a short memory Guildenstern. Nobody likes us anymore. I’ve no idea why. Damn them all. We don’t need them.

Guildenstern: I have a short memory? Don’t you recall when you drank too much tequila one night and yelled at everyone to leave you the hell alone. You were going to put your park bench ahead of everyone else’s, you were going to put a wall up around it and hang a sign that said, ‘In God We Covfefe!’ Covfefe! No one knows what that means, not even you! You’re mad!

Rosencrantz: Yes, but that just increases my power. With great power comes great madness or vice versa, whichever suits the purpose.

Guildenstern:  It’s as well that it is getting harder to see you when you’re in this frame of mind.

Rosencrantz:  If I were a deck of cards I’d always be coming up trumps eh? But yes, this air seems to be getting murkier and murkier. And it’s warmer too. Why is that?

Guildenstern: Sit very still. Stop talking.

(No response)

Guildenstern: Rosencrantz?

(No response)

Fade to black. A bird faintly tweets in the distance.

Warwick McFadyen is a writer and editor






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