KASMA MAGAZINE

Three Roads to Jerusalem

By Anatoly Belilovsky

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Artwork by Jose Baetas.


Prologue

A gunshot is heard.

Stage: a square in Jerusalem. Crusader walls, a sign in Arabic. A frozen tableau.

Stage right: a man with a goatee. He is wearing a white suit, a white shirt, a fedora, and spectacles. He is clutching his throat. There is a red stain on the front of his shirt.

Stage left: a cowled monk holding a smoking gun. The gun is pointing just to the right of the wounded man.

Stage center, deep: a stereotypical American, cowboy boots, cowboy hat, an ivory-handled revolver in a holster, sword in hand.

Stage center, upstage: A man in a Djellaba cloak and kuffiye kerchief and cord. He turns, takes off the kuffiye. He is blond.

Lawrence:

I hold a moment in my hand, brilliant as a star, fragile as a flower.

I'm loath to waste it on a parting speech.

Would that my body had the speed of thought, and power!

The bullet falls, once more, into the breech.

 

I've brought the actors here, to Jerusalem's walls.

They fret and strut their hour upon the stage.

You ask the playwright: at the end, who lives, who falls?

In'sha'allah,iis written on the page.

Blackout.

Another shot is heard.

 

Act 1

A room with a map. Enter Trotsky and three henchmen.

Trotsky:

Time of hunger, time of trouble,

Falling bombs and flying rubble,

Stirring strife both here and hence,

Tanks to Poland, guns to France.

Iagoda:

Our Leader's mad.

Edmundovich:

Tis true.

Polonsky:

Tis pity.

Iagoda:

And pity tis tis true.

Trotsky:

In Madrid, No Pasaran!

Falangistas on the run,

Workers struggling to be free

Of exploitative bourgeoisie.

Edmundovich:

Stalin would have been better.

Polonsky:

No he wouldn't. He'd be worse.

Iagoda:

Shut up, you fools! Don't you know? Stalin never existed! The Leader said so, himself. And, in any case, no one knows where he is. Isn't.

Edmundovich:

I know. Trotsky sent me to find Stalin. He's nowhere. He's disappeared without a trace. I had people scouring Georgia for months. Nothing.

Polonsky:

Failure like that, I'm surprised you ever existed.

Iagoda:

What to do?

Henchmen, together:

What to do? What to do? What to do?

Trotsky:

Germans marching, one and all,

Singing Internationale,

But in Britain there's a tin-

-plated bloody despot, Win--

Henchmen, together:

Winston Churchill!

Iagoda:

There's a fearful point!

Edmundovich:

Let's away! And hurry! For England!

Polonsky:

And St George!

Edmundovich and Iagoda, together:

St George?

Polonsky:

It...fell. Trippingly. Off the tongue.

Exeunt

 

Act 2

Enter Lawrence

Lawrence:

This I remember well: that in Jerusalem once,

where a malignant wind blows from the East,

I saw a monastery wall with writing on it,

And, comprehending none, inquired a passer-by.

 

Twas Georgian, he replied, or Gruzin,as they style themselves.

And, many years hence, a threatened Georgian man

from Soviet Moscow did mysteriously disappear:

AA criminal, a knave, a failed novice priest.

 

A thought had enter'd my mind: what better place to hide

TThan here, with other Georgians at his side?

 

What of the victor? Hands untied become hands bloody by-and-by.

What need he fear who knows it, when none can call his power to account?

Come you, sir: if justice cannot tame you,

Then shall you be journey-bated and brought low

by vaulting ambition, that o'erleaps itself,

AAnd greedily devours the treacherous bait.

 

The game's afoot! The die is cast! The beastly Trotsky

hath devoured many a gentleman of my house:

yet of his blood, none shall be spilled by English hands.

Bring thou this fiend of Georgia and himself

And, if they meet, they shall not scape a brawl.

There shall we meet, beneath Jerusalem's sky:

I, to sell England; you, to buy.

 

Act 3

Lawrence:

Well, God-a-mercy.

Stalin:

Do you know me, my lord?

Lawrence:

Excellent well; you are a fishmonger.

Stalin:

Not I, my lord.

Lawrence:

Then I would you were so honest a man.

Stalin:

Honest, my lord!

Lawrence:

Ay, sir; to be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.

Stalin:

That's very true, my lord. Why wouldst thou pick this humble servant of divinity?

Lawrence:

There's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will--one might seek a needle in a haystack and never think to look at a pincushion, is that not so, Iosif Vissarionovich?

Stalin:

The sentiment is so, the name is not.

Lawrence:

If not, I will gain nothing but my shame--

Mark me: thou hath been wronged.

I cannot blame thee now to weep,

For such an injury would vex a very saint.

Thou shalt have vengeance for it, fear thou not:

Then weep no more.

Lawrence hands a gun to Stalin

Stalin:

Art thou a friend? for when did friendship take

A breed for barren metal of his friend?

Lawrence:

Then lend it rather to thine enemy,

Who, if he break, thou mayst with better face exact the penalty,

If it be for some purpose of import. The Soviet crown rests

Upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor to those of thine!

Stalin:

'Tis e'en so.

Lawrence:

To speak of horrors--he shall soon to Jerusalem come, to vex the British.

Stalin:

And if, instead of Trotsky, I silence thee instead? I've reason to hate thee now.

Lawrence:

Far longer thou didst hold him in thy hate.

Make thy vaunting true,

TheThe treacherous instrument is in thy hand,

Unabated and envenom'd:

Lose not thy nature.

exeunt

 

Act 4

Trotsky:

In troth? The selfsame Lawrence,

Who once turned the Arabian against the Turk,

delivered the Hijaz unto Imperial hands,

and brought Levant beneath the shadow of the Lion?

The service and the loyalty he owes his King -

Wouldst he withdraw it? for what purpose?

Iagoda:

Ay, to the proof; as mountains are for winds,

so are kings for betrayal. Unlike the Soviet state

that hath no king, and therefore no injustice.

Is that not so, Great Leader?

Trotsky:

Yet could the Empire's men throw such changes of vexation on't

and make defeat of our fell purpose--

Edmundovich:

The Briton holds a weak supposal of his worth;

He'll not mar his hands and chance

that we should make us medicines of our great revenge.

Trotsky:

Still, for such a man to commit treason...

Polonsky:

There's nothing to it. Anyone can commit treason, anyone at all. Why, some of my best friends...

Iagoda:

Be silent, fool!

Polonsky:

...Some of my best friends, have, ahem, read all sorts of books about evil bourgeois lickspittle lackeys who commit all sorts of, ahem, bourgeois treason.

Trotsky:

Direct my sail! On, lusty gentlemen! To Jerusalem! Let us away!

Henchmen:

Let us away!

exeunt henchmen

Trotsky:

Aye, treason most foul: thus must I slay

Each man who could me possibly betray.

exit Trotsky

 

Act 5

Stage center, deep: a stereotypical American, cowboy boots, cowboy hat, an ivory-handled revolver in a holster, sword in hand.

Patton: [swinging a sword]

I have known the call to battle

In each changeless changing shape

From the high souled voice of conscience

To the beastly lust for rape.

I have sinned and I have suffered,

Played the hero and the knave;

Fought for belly, shame, or country,

And for each have found a grave.

I cannot name my battles

For the visions are not clear,

Yet, I see the twisted faces

And I feel the rending spear.

Enter Lawrence.

Enter Stalin

Enter Trotsky.

Blackout.

Two shots are heard.

Lights come on.

Stalin has a gun in hand.

Trotsky falls

Lawrence sinks to his knees.

The monk aims at the American; the American beats him to the draw and shoots first. The monk falls.

The American runs to Lawrence, cradles his head.

Patton:

What the hell was that?

Lawrence:

I'm hoist by my own petard. No matter; we can die but once; we owe God a death.

Patton:

A warrior! You'll come back, like I did. Brave men always come back. I was here before, you know. As a crusader, a Roman centurion, a Carthaginian soldier--

Lawrence:

What is your name, kind sir?

Patton:

Georgie. Georgie Patton. Lieutenant Colonel, US Army.

Lawrence:

Colonel--

Patton:

Call me Georgie. All my friends call me Georgie.

Lawrence:

Please, shut up, dear Georgie. The thought of dying more than once is -- disconcerting. I wonder...

Patton:

Yes?

Lawrence:

Would you kiss me, Georgie?

Patton:

No! What do you take me for?

Lawrence:

Alas; I took thee for thy better. [dies]

Patton:

Rest, rest, perverted spirit. Dead for a ducate, between two thieves, at that. He'll return, for sure.

The henchmen emerge from behind a wall

Edmundovich:

Dead! Both dead! For their several countries!

Polonsky:

Whom shall we serve? [to Patton] You, sir - we would serve you, but, if it please you, not unto death. That's a vile phrase, unto death is a vile phrase.

Patton:

Winning isn't dying for your country. Winning is watching some other poor bastard die for his country.

Iagoda:

I can live with that.

Curtain.


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