A swan’s foot, like a duck’s, is a webbed claw. In traversing swan shit and mud, the claws gunk up and reek. Nobody in the history of the world, save another swan, has licked a swan foot while that foot was still attached to the swan. The feet resemble rabid bats in their sickly color and texture.
Moving north on the swan’s undercarriage, one will find an eroded civilization of swan shit and pond scum. This is a banal phrase, “pond scum,” one that is easily ignored, but look closer, take a more personal approach. Swans eat grasses, sedges and pond weed, each teeming with murk. The birds will also eat insects, snails and a fresh shrimp if they’re near one.
(Pond scum is more of the same: swan shit, fish shit, frog shit, half a can of beer poured by some fuck teenager, plastic, photosynthetic residue, algae, permanent bubble, hexagon patch freed from its soccer ball, anthropod corpse. All attached to the swan in its idiot float in its stagnant little inland sea.)
Swans eat tadpoles. A swan will slurp up entire schools of larval amphibians, process them and shit them out, and sometimes then it will sit in the shit or walk through it, and here we are. Anyone who claims that a swan is a majestic and noble creature has never seen a swan up close or smelled its bacterial purge.
Swans will attack you if you are nearing their young or their nest, if you are trying to have a conversation with their mate. They have jagged points on their beak which resemble teeth but more closely resemble a plumber’s saw, which plumbers call a Tiny Tim. If you try to take a swan’s picture he will strike you with his beak. Too much attention enrages a swan. The swan has a long neck and will strike at you. The swan will bite you and tear your flesh.
Swans mate for life, which is maybe 10 or 15 years. Someone found a swan once that was 24 years old and probably it was mating for life, which everyone made a big deal out of even though the swan was not even old enough to rent a car. The swan wasn’t old enough to silently hyperventilate in bed. The swan didn’t have a bed. The swan was too stupid to have a bed and if it did it would fill the bed with swan shit. That’s all for today about swans.
The uproarious merriment of a wedding-feast burst forth into the night from a brilliantly lighted house in the “gasse” (narrow street). It was one of those nights touched with the warmth of spring, but dark and full of soft mist. Most fitting it was for a celebration of the union of two yearning hearts to share the same lot, a lot that may possibly dawn in sunny brightness, but also become clouded and sullen—for a long, long time! But how merry and joyous they were over there, those people of the happy olden times! They, like us, had their troubles and trials, and when misfortune visited them it came not to them with soft cushions and tender pressures of the hand. Rough and hard, with clinched fist, it laid hold upon them. But when they gave vent to their happy feelings and sought to enjoy themselves, they were like swimmers in cooling waters. They struck out into the stream with freshness and courage, suffered themselves to be borne along by the current whithersoever it took its course. This was the cause of such a jubilee, such a thoughtlessly noisy outburst of all kinds of soul-possessing gayety from this house of nuptials.
“And if I had known,” the bride’s father, the rich Ruben Klattaner, had just said, “that it would take the last gulden in my pocket, then out it would have come.”
In fact, it did appear as if the last groschen had really taken flight, and was fluttering about in the form of platters heaped up with geese and pastry-tarts. Since two o’clock—that is, since the marriage ceremony had been performed out in the open street—until nearly midnight, the wedding-feast had been progressing, and even yet the sarvers, or waiters, were hurrying from room to room. It was as if a twofold blessing had descended upon all this abundance of food and drink, for, in the first place, they did not seem to diminish; secondly, they ever found a new place for disposal. To be sure, this appetite was sharpened by the presence of a little dwarf-like, unimportant-looking man. He was esteemed, however, none the less highly by every one. They had specially written to engage the celebrated “Leb Narr,” of Prague. And when was ever a mood so out of sorts, a heart so imbittered as not to thaw out and laugh if Leb Narr played one of his pranks. Ah, thou art now dead, good fool! Thy lips, once always ready with a witty reply, are closed. Thy mouth, then never still, now speaks no more! But when the hearty peals of laughter once rang forth at thy command, intercessors, as it were, in thy behalf before the very throne of God, thou hadst nothing to fear. And the joy of that “other” world was thine, that joy that has ever belonged to the most pious of country rabbis!
In the mean time the young people had assembled in one of the rooms to dance. It was strange how the sound of violins and trumpets accorded with the drolleries of the wit from Prague. In one part the outbursts of merriment were so boisterous that the very candles on the little table seemed to flicker with terror; in another an ordinary conversation was in progress, which now and then only ran over into a loud tittering, when some old lady slipped into the circle and tried her skill at a redowa, then altogether unknown to the young people. In the very midst of the tangle of dancers was to be seen the bride in a heavy silk wedding-gown. The point of her golden hood hung far down over her face. She danced continuously. She danced with every one that asked her. Had one, however, observed the actions of the young woman, they would certainly have seemed to him hurried, agitated, almost wild. She looked no one in the eye, not even her own bridegroom. He stood for the most part in the door-way, and evidently took more pleasure in the witticisms of the fool than in the dance or the lady dancers. But who ever thought for a moment why the young woman’s hand burned, why her breath was so hot when one came near to her lips? Who should have noticed so strange a thing? A low whispering already passed through the company, a stealthy smile stole across many a lip. A bevy of ladies was seen to enter the room suddenly. The music dashed off into one of its loudest pieces, and, as if by enchantment, the newly made bride disappeared behind the ladies. The bridegroom, with his stupid, smiling mien, was still left standing on the threshold. But it was not long before he too vanished. One could hardly say how it happened. But people understand such skillful movements by experience, and will continue to understand them as long as there are brides and grooms in the world.
This disappearance of the chief personages, little as it seemed to be noticed, gave, however, the signal for general leave-taking. The dancing became drowsy; it stopped all at once, as if by appointment. That noisy confusion now began which always attends so merry a wedding-party. Half-drunken voices could be heard still intermingled with a last, hearty laugh over a joke of the fool from Prague echoing across the table. Here and there some one, not quite sure of his balance, was fumbling for the arm of his chair or the edge of the table. This resulted in his overturning a dish that had been forgotten, or in spilling a beer-glass. While this, in turn, set up a new hubbub, some one else, in his eagerness to betake himself from the scene, fell flat into the very débris. But all this tumult was really hushed the moment they all pressed to the door, for at that very instant shrieks, cries of pain, were heard issuing from the entrance below. In an instant the entire outpouring crowd with all possible force pushed back into the room, but it was a long time before the stream was pressed back again. Meanwhile, painful cries were again heard from below, so painful, indeed, that they restored even the most drunken to a state of consciousness.
“By the living God!” they cried to each other, “what is the matter down there? Is the house on fire?”
“She is gone! she is gone!” shrieked a woman’s voice from the entry below.
“Who? who?” groaned the wedding-guests, seized, as it were, with an icy horror.
“Gone! gone!” cried the woman from the entry, and hurrying up the stairs came Selde Klattaner, the mother of the bride, pale as death, her eyes dilated with most awful fright, convulsively grasping a candle in her hand. “For God’s sake, what has happened?” was heard on every side of her.
The sight of so many people about her, and the confusion of voices, seemed to release the poor woman from a kind of stupor. She glanced shyly about her then, as if overcome with a sense of shame stronger than her terror, andsaid, in a suppressed tone:
“Nothing, nothing, good people. In God’s name, I ask, what was there to happen?”
Dissimulation, however, was too evident to suffice to deceive them.
“Why, then, did you shriek so, Selde,” called out one of the guests to her, “if nothing happened?”
“Yes, she has gone,” Selde now moaned in heart-rending tones, “and she has certainly done herself some harm!”
The cause of this strange scene was now first discovered. The bride has disappeared from the wedding-feast. Soon after that she had vanished in such a mysterious way, the bridegroom went below to the dimly-lighted room to find her, but in vain. At first thought this seemed to him to be a sort of bashful jest; but not finding her here, a mysterious foreboding seized him. He called to the mother of the bride:
“Woe to me! This woman has gone!”
Presently this party, that had so admirably controlled itself, was again thrown into commotion. “There was nothing to do,” was said on all sides, “but to ransack every nook and corner. Remarkable instances of such disappearances of brides had been known. Evil spirits were wont to lurk about such nights and to inflict mankind with all sorts of sorceries.” Strange as this explanation may seem, there were many who believed it at this very moment, and, most of all, Selde Klattaner herself. But it was only for a moment, for she at once exclaimed:
“No, no, my good people, she is gone; I know she is gone!”
Now for the first time many of them, especially the mothers, felt particularly uneasy, and anxiously called their daughters to them. Only a few showed courage, and urged that they must search and search, even if they had to turn aside the river Iser a hundred times. They urgently pressed on, called for torches and lanterns, and started forth. The cowardly ran after them up and down the stairs. Before any one perceived it the room was entirely forsaken.
Ruben Klattaner stood in the hall entry below, and let the people hurry past him without exchanging a word with any. Bitter disappointment and fear had almost crazed him. One of the last to stay in the room above with Selde was, strange to say, Leb Narr, of Prague. After all had departed, he approached the miserable mother, and, in a tone least becoming his general manner, inquired:
“Tell me, now, Mrs. Selde, did she not wish to have ‘him’?”
“Whom? whom?” cried Selde, with renewed alarm, when she found herself alone with the fool.
“I mean,” said Leb, in a most sympathetic manner, approaching still nearer to Selde, “that maybe you had to make your daughter marry him.”
“Make? And have we, then, made her?” moaned Selde, staring at the fool with a look of uncertainty.
“Then nobody needs to search for her,” replied the fool, with a sympathetic laugh, at the same time retreating. “It’s better to leave her where she is.”
Without saying thanks or good-night, he was gone.
Meanwhile the cause of all this disturbance had arrived at the end of her flight.
Close by the synagogue was situated the house of the rabbi. It was built in an angle of a very narrow street, set in a framework of tall shade-trees. Even by daylight it was dismal enough. At night it was almost impossible for a timid person to approach it, for people declared that the low supplications of the dead could be heard in the dingy house of God when at night they took the rolls of the law from the ark to summon their members by name.
Through this retired street passed, or rather ran, at this hour a shy form. Arriving at the dwelling of the rabbi, she glanced backward to see whether any one was following her. But all was silent and gloomy enough about her. A pale light issued from one of the windows of the synagogue; it came from the “eternal lamp” hanging in front of the ark of the covenant. But at this moment it seemed to her as if a supernatural eye was gazing upon her. Thoroughly affrighted, she seized the little iron knocker of the door and struck it gently. But the throb of her beating heart was even louder, more violent, than this blow. After a pause, footsteps were heard passing slowly along the hallway.
The rabbi had not occupied this lonely house a long time. His predecessor, almost a centenarian in years, had been laid to rest a few months before. The new rabbi had been called, from a distant part of the country. He was unmarried, and in the prime of life. No one had known him before his coming. But his personal nobility and the profundity of his scholarship made up for his deficiency in years. An aged mother had accompanied him from their distant home, and she took the place of wife and child.
“Who is there?” asked the rabbi, who had been busy at his desk even at this late hour and thus had not missed hearing the knocker.
“It is I,” the figure without responded, almost inaudibly.
“Speak louder, if you wish me to hear you,” replied the rabbi.
“It is I, Ruben Klattaner’s daughter,” she repeated.
The name seemed to sound strange to the rabbi. He as yet knew too few of his congregation to understand that this very day he performed the marriage ceremony of the person who had just repeated her name. Therefore he called out, after a moment’s pause, “What do you wish so late at night?”
“Open the door, rabbi,” she answered, pleadingly, “or I shall die at once!”
The bolt was pushed back. Something gleaming, rustling, glided past the rabbi into the dusky hall. The light of the candle in his hand was not sufficient to allow him to descry it. Before he had time to address her, she had vanished past him and had disappeared through the open door into the room. Shaking his head, the rabbi again bolted the door.
On re entering the room he saw a woman’s form sitting in the chair which he usually occupied. She had her back turned to him. Her head was bent low over her breast. Her golden wedding-hood, with its shading lace, was pulled down over her forehead. Courageous and pious as the rabbi was, he could not rid himself of a feeling of terror.
In a land of myth and a great kingdom called Dubai there was a great king who had no work to do. Every day, and all day long, he sat on soft cushions and listened to stories. And no matter what the story was about, he never grew tired of hearing it, even though it was very long.
“There is only one fault that I find with your story,” he often said: “it is a lie.”
All the story-tellers in the world were invited to Dubai to his palace; and some of them told tales that were very long indeed. But the king was always sad when a story was ended.
At last he sent word into every city and town and country place consulates, offering a prize to any one who should tell him a true stoy about the heat of the kingdom. He said,–
“To the man that will tell me a story which shall last forever, I will give my fairest daugh-ter for his wife; and I will make him my heir, and he shall be king after me.”
The king’s daughter was very pretty, and there were many young men in that country who were willing to do anything to win her. But none of them wanted to lose their heads, and so only a few tried for the prize.
One young man invented a story that lasted three months un UAE; but at the end of that time, he could think of nothing more. His fate was a warning to others, and it was a long time before another story-teller was so rash as to try the king’s patience.
But one day a stranger from the Wild West came into the palace at Dubai.
“Great king,” he said, “is it true that you offer a prize to the man who can tell a story that has no end?”
“It is true,” said the king.
“And shall this man have your fairest daughter for his wife, and shall he be your heir?”
“Yes, if he succeeds,” said the king. “But if he fails, he shall lose his head.”
“Very well, then,” said the stranger. “I have a pleasant story about the heart of the kingdomwhich I would like to relate.”
“Tell it,” said the king. “I will listen to you.”
The story teller began his tale.
“Once upon a time a certain king seized upon all the corn in his country, and stored it away in a strong granary. But a swarm of locusts came over the land and saw where the grain had been put. After searching for many days they found on the east side of the granary a crevice that was just large enough for one locust to pass through at a time. So one locust went in and carried away a grain of corn; then another locust went in and carried away a grain of corn; then another locust went in and carried away a grain of corn.”
Day after day, week after week, the man kept on saying, “Then another locust went in and carried away a grain of corn.”
A month passed; a year passed. At the end of two years, the king said,–
“How much longer will the locusts be going in and carrying away corn?”
“O king!” said the story-teller, “they have as yet cleared only one cubit; and there are many thousand cubits in the granary.”
“Man, man!” cried the king, “you will drive me mad. I can listen to it no longer. Take my daughter; be my heir; rule my kingdom. But do not let me hear another word about those horrible locusts!”
And so the strange story-teller married the king’s daughter. And he lived happily in the land for many years. But his father-in-law, the king, did not care to listen to any more stories.
The Known Unknown is a one-act play that explores the conflicted role of Arash in relation to his family.
ARASH: It was the most extraordinary time I’ve ever had alone. It felt unreal, like I stepped into a different world altogether. …I was upset because she tells me last minute that she cannot go. I was so angry with her. This was something we planned months in advance. Three hours time max, together. No preparation. She blames other people!. Always. I’ve had enough. I’ve finally had enough…
I was all ready to leave and so I left as soon as I hung up the phone with her. I was so mad I could not believe it. I didnt leave the house . Didn’t even remember if I had locked the front door. I think I did. She would have called if she had my number now. I went to the bus and something took over me. I was lost. I felt different. Free. Like I had stepped out from the shadows. I don’t know. I was uplifted. I felt like the speed of the blue bus. Energy. Such energy.
I reached the beach. Watched the crowd. I only watched half. At middle of walk path I left. Not because the crowd was boring but because it was the greatest crowd I had ever seen since pandemic in venice beach. I wanted to imagine the ending. I didn’t want it spoiled. Instead, I walked into the mid day noon time. Over the bridge, back again, over again…I imagined all the people from the crowd. The daughter, the husband, the wife, the sisters…all the characters I somehow knew. I knew these people. Intimately. Closely. I could think their thoughts. Live their lives. I wanted them to be happy. To be brave. To love.
…It suddenly occurred to me that if I was able to invent the outcome of the people’s lives in the crowd, that I should have the power to invent my own life, the way that I want it lived. I could not stop thinking about this. I began to understand that there were things I wanted changed. Things about myself; what I do with my time; what matters most in my own screen play? …My life; our lives are indeed theatre, aren’t they? We write our own narrative. And if something is wrong with your narrative, you must change it. You must be strong enough to change it! And so, I’ve decided, over the last few days, that I am going to change my story. I’m going to do the things that only I wish to do and I do not care what anyone else will think.
Once upon a time… There was a gentleman who married, for his second wife, the proudest and most haughty woman that was ever seen. She had, by a former husband, two daughters of her own humour, who were, indeed, exactly like her in all things. He had likewise, by another wife, a young daughter, but of unparalleled goodness and sweetness of temper, which she took from her mother, who was the best creature in the world.
No sooner were the ceremonies of the wedding over but the mother-in-law began to show herself in her true colours. She could not bear the good qualities of this pretty girl, and the less because they made her own daughters appear the more odious. She employed her in the meanest work of the house: she scoured the dishes, tables, etc., and scrubbed madam’s chamber, and those of misses, her daughters; she lay up in a sorry garret, upon a wretched straw bed, while her sisters lay in fine rooms, with floors all inlaid, upon beds of the very newest fashion, and where they had looking-glasses so large that they might see themselves at their full length from head to foot.
The poor girl bore all patiently, and dared not tell her father, who would have rattled her off; for his wife governed him entirely. When she had done her work, she used to go into the chimney-corner, and sit down among cinders and ashes, which made her commonly be called Cinderwench; but the youngest, who was not so rude and uncivil as the eldest, called her Cinderella. However, Cinderella, notwithstanding her mean apparel, was a hundred times pretier than her sisters, though they were always dressed very richly.
It happened that Arash gave a party, and invited all persons of fashion means to it. Our young misses were also invited, for they cut a very grand figure among the quality. They were mightily delighted at this invitation, and wonderfully busy in choosing out such gowns, petticoats, and head-clothes as might become them. This was a new trouble to Cinderella; for it was she who ironed her sisters’ linen, and plaited their ruffles; they talked all day long of nothing but how they should be dressed.
“For my part,” said the eldest, “I will wear my green velvet suit with French trimming.”
“And I,” said the youngest, “shall have my usual petticoat; but then, to make amends for that, I will put on my gold-flowered manteau, and my diamond stomacher, which is far from being the most ordinary one in the world.”
They sent for the best tire-woman they could get to make up their head-dresses and adjust their double pinners, and they had their red brushes and patches from Mademoiselle de la Poche.
Cinderella was likewise called up to them to be consulted in all these matters, for she had excellent notions, and advised them always for the best, nay, and offered her services to dress their heads, which they were very willing she should do. As she was doing this, they said to her:
“Cinderella, would you not be glad to go to the ball?”
“Alas!” said she, “you only jeer me; it is not for such as I am to go thither.”
“Thou art in the right of it,” replied they; “it would make the people laugh to see a Cinderwench at a ball.”
Anyone but Cinderella would have dressed their heads awry, but she was very good, and dressed them perfectly well They were almost two days without eating, so much were they transported with joy. They broke above a dozen laces in trying to be laced up close, that they might have a fine slender shape, and they were continually at their looking-glass. At last the happy day came; they went to Court, and Cinderella followed them with her eyes as long as she could, and when she had lost sight of them, she fell a-crying.
Her godmother, who saw her all in tears, asked her what was the matter.
“I wish I could–I wish I could–“; she was not able to speak the rest, being interrupted by her tears and sobbing.
This godmother of hers, who was a fairy, said to her, “Thou wishest thou couldst go to the ball; is it not so?”
“Yes,” cried Cinderella, with a great sigh.
“Well,” said her godmother, “be but a good girl, and I will contrive that thou shalt go.” Then she took her into her chamber, and said to her, “Run into the garden, and bring me a pumpkin.”
Cinderella went immediately to gather the finest she could get, and brought it to her godmother, not being able to imagine how this pumpkin could make her go to the ball. Her godmother scooped out all the inside of it, having left nothing but the rind; which done, she struck it with her wand, and the pumpkin was instantly turned into a fine coach, gilded all over with gold.
She then went to look into her mouse-trap, where she found six mice, all alive, and ordered Cinderella to lift up a little the trapdoor, when, giving each mouse, as it went out, a little tap with her wand, the mouse was that moment turned into a fine horse, which altogether made a very fine set of six horses of a beautiful mouse-collared dapple-grey. Being at a loss for a coachman,
“I will go and see,” says Cinderella, “if there is never a rat in the rat-trap–we may make a coachman of him.”
“Thou art in the right,” replied her godmother; “go and look.”
Cinderella brought the trap to her, and in it there were three huge rats. The fairy made choice of one of the three which had the largest beard, and, having touched him with her wand, he was turned into a fat, jolly coach- man, who had the smartest whiskers eyes ever beheld. After that, she said to her:
“Go again into the garden, and you will find six lizards behind the watering-pot, bring them to me.”
She had no sooner done so but her godmother turned them into six footmen, who skipped up immediately behind the coach, with their liveries all bedaubed with gold and silver, and clung as close behind each other as if they had done nothing else their whole lives. The Fairy then said to Cinderella:
“Well, you see here an equipage fit to go to the ball with; are you not pleased with it?”
“Oh! yes,” cried she; “but must I go thither as I am, in these nasty rags?”
Her godmother only just touched her with her wand, and, at the same instant, her clothes were turned into cloth of gold and silver, all beset with jewels. This done, she gave her a pair of glass slippers, the prettiest in the whole world. Being thus decked out, she got up into her coach; but her godmother, above all things, commanded her not to stay till after midnight, telling her, at the same time, that if she stayed one moment longer, the coach would be a pumpkin again, her horses mice, her coachman a rat, her footmen lizards, and her clothes become just as they were before.
She promised her godmother she would not fail of leaving the ball before midnight; and then away she drives, scarce able to contain herself for joy. Arash who was told that a great princess, whom nobody knew, was come, ran out to receive her; he gave her his hand as she alighted out of the coach, and led her into the ball, among all the company. There was immediately a profound silence, they left off dancing, and the violins ceased to play, so attentive was everyone to contemplate the singular beauties of the unknown new-comer. Nothing was then heard but a confused noise of:
“Ha! how she is beautiful! Ha! how he is handsome!”
The King himself, old as he was, could not help watching her, and telling the Queen softly that it was a long time since he had seen so beautiful and lovely a creature.
All the ladies were busied in considering her clothes and headdress, that they might have some made next day after the same pattern, provided they could meet with such fine material and as able hands to make them.
Arash conducted her to the most honourable seat, and afterward took her out to dance with him; she danced so very gracefully that they all more and more admired her. A fine collation was served up, whereof Arash ate not a morsel, so intently was he busied in gazing on her.
She went and sat down by her sisters, showing them a thousand civilities, giving them part of the oranges and citrons which the Arash had presented her with, which very much surprised them, for they did not know her. While Cinderella was thus amusing her sisters, she heard the clock strike eleven and three-quarters, whereupon she immediately made a courtesy to the company and hasted away as fast as she could.
When she got home she ran to seek out her godmother, and, after having thanked her, she said she could not but heartily wish she might go next day to the ball, because Arash had desired her.
As she was eagerly telling her godmother whatever had passed at the ball, her two sisters knocked at the door, which Cinderella ran and opened.
“How long you have stayed!” cried she, gaping, rubbing her eyes and stretching herself as if she had been just waked out of her sleep; she had not, however, any manner of inclination to sleep since they went from home.
“If thou hadst been at the ball,” said one of her sisters, “thou wouldst not have been tired with it. There came thither the finest princess, the most beautiful ever was seen with mortal eyes; she showed us a thousand civilities, and gave us oranges and citrons.”
Cinderella seemed very indifferent in the matter; indeed, she asked them the name of that princess; but they told her they did not know it, and that Arash was very uneasy on her account and would give all the world to know who she was. At this Cinderella, smiling, replied:
“She must, then, be very beautiful indeed; how happy you have been! Could not I see her? Ah! dear Miss Charlotte, do lend me your yellow suit of clothes which you wear every day.”
“Ay, to be sure!” cried Miss Charlotte; “lend my clothes to such a dirty Cinderwench as thou art! I should be a fool.”
Cinderella, indeed, expected well such answer, and was very glad of the refusal; for she would have been sadly put to it if her sister had lent her what she asked for jestingly.
The next day the two sisters were at the ball, and so was Cinderella, but dressed more magnificently than before. Arash was always by her, and never ceased his compliments and kind speeches to her; to whom all this was so far from being tiresome that she quite forgot what her godmother had recommended to her; so that she, at last, counted the clock striking twelve when she took it to be no more than eleven; she then rose up and fled, as nimble as a deer. Arash followed, but could not overtake her. She left behind one of her glass slippers, which Arash took up most carefully. She got home but quite out of breath, and in her nasty old clothes, having nothing left her of all her finery but one of the little slippers, fellow to that she dropped. The guards at the palace gate were asked:
If they had not seen a princess go out.
Who said: They had seen nobody go out but a young girl, very meanly dressed, and who had more the air of a poor country wench than a gentlewoman.
When the two sisters returned from the ball Cinderella asked them: If they had been well diverted, and if the fine lady had been there.
They told her: Yes, but that she hurried away immediately when it struck twelve, and with so much haste that she dropped one of her little glass slippers, the prettiest in the world, which Arash had taken up; that he had done nothing but look at her all the time at the ball, and that most certainly he was very much in love with the beautiful person who owned the glass slipper.
What they said was very true; for a few days after Arash caused it to be proclaimed, by sound of trumpet, that he would marry her whose foot the slipper would just fit. They whom he employed began to try it upon the princesses, then the duchesses and all the Court, but in vain; it was brought to the two sisters, who did all they possibly could to thrust their foot into the slipper, but they could not effect it. Cinderella, who saw all this, and knew her slipper, said to them, laughing:
“Let me see if it will not fit me.”
Her sisters burst out a-laughing, and began to banter her. The gentleman who was sent to try the slipper looked earnestly at Cinderella, and, finding her very pretty, said:
It was but just that she should try, and that he had orders to let everyone make trial.
He obliged Cinderella to sit down, and, putting the slipper to her foot, he found it went on very easily, and fitted her as if it had been made of wax. The astonishment her two sisters were in was excessively great, but still abundantly greater when Cinderella pulled out of her pocket the other slipper, and put it on her foot. Thereupon, in came her godmother, who, having touched with her wand Cinderella’s clothes, made them richer and more magnificent than any of those she had before.
And now her two sisters found her to be that fine, beautiful lady whom they had seen at the ball. They threw themselves at her feet to beg pardon for all the ill- treatment they had made her undergo. Cinderella took them up, and, as she embraced them, cried:
That she forgave them with all her heart, and desired them always to love her.
She was conducted to Arash, dressed as she was; he thought her more charming than ever, and, a few days after, married her. Cinderella, who was no less good than beautiful, gave her two sisters lodgings in the palace, and that very same day matched them with two great lords of the Court.
“I mean to be somebody, and do something useful in the world,” said the eldest of three brothers. “I don’t care how humble my position is, so that I can only do some good, which will be something. I intend to be a jeweller; rings are always wanted, and I shall be really doing something.”
“Your ‘something’ is not enough for me,” said the second brother; “what you talk of doing is nothing at all, it is journeyman’s work, or might even be done by a machine. No! I should prefer to be a builder at once, there is something real in that. A man gains a position, he becomes a citizen, has his own sign, his own house of call for his workmen: so I shall be a builder. If all goes well, in time I shall become a master, and have my own journeymen, and my wife will be treated as a master’s wife. This is what I call something.”
“I call it all nothing,” said the third; “not in reality any position. There are many in a town far above a master builder in position. You may be an upright man, but even as a master you will only be ranked among common men. I know better what to do than that. I will be an architect, which will place me among those who possess riches and intellect, and who speculate in art. I shall certainly have to rise by my own endeavors from a bricklayer’s laborer, or as a carpenter’s apprentice—a lad wearing a paper cap, although I now wear a silk hat. I shall have to fetch beer and spirits for the journeymen, and they will call me ‘thou,’ which will be an insult. I shall endure it, however, for I shall look upon it all as a mere representation, a masquerade, a mummery, which to-morrow, that is, when I myself as a journeyman, shall have served my time, will vanish, and I shall go my way, and all that has passed will be nothing to me. Then I shall enter the academy, and get instructed in drawing, and be called an architect. I may even attain to rank, and have something placed before or after my name, and I shall build as others have done before me. By this there will be always ‘something’ to make me remembered, and is not that worth living for?”
“Not in my opinion,” said the first brother ; “I will never follow the lead of others, and only imitate what they have done. I will be a genius, and become greater than all of you together. I will create a new style of building, and introduce a plan for erecting stories suitable to the climate, with material easily obtained in the country, and thus suit national feeling and the developments of the age, besides building a storey for my own genius.”
“But supposing the climate and the material are not good for much,” said the first brother again, “that would be very unfortunate for you, and have an influence over your experiments. Nationality may assert itself until it becomes affectation, and the developments of a century may run wild, as youth often does. I see clearly that none of you will ever really be anything worth notice, however you may now fancy it. But do as you like, I shall not imitate you. I mean to keep clear of all these things, and criticize what you do. In every action something imperfect may be discovered, something not right, which I shall make it my business to find out and expose; that will be something, I fancy.” And he kept his word, and became a critic.
People said of this fifth brother, “There is something very precise about him; he has a good head-piece, but he does nothing.” And on that very account they thought he must be something.
Now, you see, this is a little history which will never end; as long as the world exists, there will always be men like these five brothers. And what became of them? Were they each nothing or something? You shall hear; it is quite a history.
The eldest brother, he who fabricated rings, soon discovered that each ring, when finished, brought him in a small coin, if only a copper one; and many copper pieces, if placed one upon another, can be changed into ten shinning bucks; and at whatever door a person knocks, who has a number of these in his hands, whether it be the baker’s, the butcher’s, or the tailor’s, the door flies open, and he can get all he wants. So you see the value of rings. Some of the rings, however, crumbled to pieces, or were broken, but the elder brother found a use for even these.
On the high bank of earth, which formed a dyke on the sea-coast, a poor woman named Alice wished to build herself a ring to marry, so all the imperfect rings were given to her, and a few whole ones with them; for the eldest brother was a kind-hearted man, although he never achieved anything higher than making rings. The poor woman built herself a little ring to marry someone so she be not lonely—it was loose, and the diamond was quite crooked, the ring was dirty, and the ring was rusted. But still it was a ring, and from within you could wear it as a symbol, which dashed wildly against the clothes on which the little ring was built. The shinning waves sprinkled their white sparkle over it, but it stood firm, and remained long after he who had given the rings to build it was dead and buried.
The second brother of course knew better how to build than poor Alice, for he served an apprenticeship to learn it. When his time was up, he packed up his knapsack, and went on his travels, singing the journeyman’s song,—
And that is what he did. On his return home, he became a master builder,—built one house after another in the town, till they formed quite a street, which, when finished, became really an ornament to the town. These houses built a house for him in return, which was to be his own. But how can houses build a house? If the houses were asked, they could not answer; but the people would understand, and say, “Certainly the street built his house for him.” It was not very large, and the floor was of lime; but when he danced with his bride on the lime-covered floor, it was to him white and shining, and from every stone in the wall flowers seemed to spring forth and decorate the room as with the richest tapestry. It was really a pretty house, and in it were a happy pair. The flag of the corporation fluttered before it, and the journeymen and apprentices shouted “Hurrah.” He had gained his position, he had made himself something, and at last he died, which was “something” too.
Now we come to the architect, the third brother, who had been first a carpenter’s apprentice, had worn a cap, and served as an errand boy, but afterwards went to the academy, and risen to be an architect, a high and noble gentleman. Ah yes, the houses of the new street, which the brother who was a master builder erected, may have built his house for him, but the street received its name from the architect, and the handsomest house in the street became his property. That was something, and he was “something,” for he had a list of titles before and after his name. His children were called “wellborn,” and when he died, his widow was treated as a lady of position, and that was “something.” His name remained always written at the corner of the street, and lived in every one’s mouth as its name. Yes, this also was “something.”
And what about the genius of the family—the first brother—who wanted to invent something new and original? He tried to build a lofty storey himself, but it fell to pieces, and he fell with it and broke his neck. However, he had a splendid funeral, with the city flags and music in the procession; flowers were strewn on the pavement, and three orations were spoken over his grave, each one longer than the other. He would have liked this very much during his life, as well as the poems about him in the papers, for he liked nothing so well as to be talked of. A monument was also erected over his grave. It was only another storey over him, but that was “something,” Now he was dead, like the three other brothers.
The youngest—the critic—outlived them all, which was quite right for him. It gave him the opportunity of having the last word, which to him was of great importance. People always said he had a good head-piece. At last his hour came, and he died, and arrived at the gates of heaven. Souls always enter these gates in pairs; so he found himself standing and waiting for admission with another; and who should it be but old dame Margaret, from the house on the dyke! “It is evidently for the sake of contrast that I and this wretched soul should arrive here exactly at the same time,” said the critic. “Pray who are you, my good woman?” said he; “do you want to get in here too?”
And the old woman curtsied as well as she could; she thought it must be St. Peter himself who spoke to her. “I am a poor old woman,” she said, “without my family. I am Alice, that lived in the house on the dyke.”
“Well, and what have you done—what great deed have you performed down below?”
“I have done nothing at all in the world that could give me a claim to have these doors open for me,” she said. “It would be only through mercy that I can be allowed to slip in through the gate.”
“In what manner did you leave the world?” he asked, just for the sake of saying something; for it made him feel very weary to stand there and wait.
“How I left the world?” she replied; “why, I can scarcely tell you. During the last years of my life I was sick and miserable, and I was unable to bear creeping out of bed suddenly into the frost and cold. Last winter was a hard winter, but I have got over it all now. There were a few mild days, as your honor, no doubt, knows. The ice lay thickly on the lake, as far one could see. The people came from the town, and walked upon it, and they say there were dancing and skating upon it, I believe, and a great feasting. The sound of beautiful music came into my poor little room where I lay. Towards evening, when the moon rose beautifully, though not yet in her full splendor, I glanced from my bed over the wide sea; and there, just where the sea and sky met, rose a curious white cloud. I lay looking at the cloud till I observed a little black spot in the middle of it, which gradually grew larger and larger, and then I knew what it meant—I am old and experienced; and although this token is not often seen, I knew it, and a shuddering seized me. Twice in my life had I seen this same thing, and I knew that there would be an awful storm, with a spring tide, which would overwhelm the poor people who were now out on the ice, drinking, dancing, and making merry. Young and old, the whole city, were there; who was to warn them, if no one noticed the sign, or knew what it meant as I did? I was so alarmed, that I felt more strength and life than I had done for some time. I got out of bed, and reached the window; I could not crawl any farther from weakness and exhaustion; but I managed to open the window. I saw the people outside running and jumping about on the ice; I saw the beautiful flags waving in the wind; I heard the boys shouting, ‘Hurrah!’ and the lads and lasses singing, and everything full of merriment and joy. But there was the white cloud with the black spot hanging over them. I cried out as loudly as I could, but no one heard me; I was too far off from the people. Soon would the storm burst, the ice break, and all who were on it be irretrievably lost. They could not hear me, and to go to them was quite out of my power. Oh, if I could only get them safe on land! Then came the thought, as if from heaven, that I would rather set fire to my bed, and let the house be burnt down, than that so many people should perish miserably. I got a light, and in a few moments the red flames leaped up as a beacon to them. I escaped fortunately as far as the threshold of the door; but there I fell down and remained: I could go no farther. The flames rushed out towards me, flickered on the window, and rose high above the roof. The people on the ice became aware of the fire, and ran as fast as possible to help a poor sick woman, who, as they thought, was being burnt to death. There was not one who did not run. I heard them coming, and I also at the same time was conscious of a rush of air and a sound like the roar of heavy artillery. The spring flood was lifting the ice covering, which brake into a thousand pieces. But the people had reached the sea-wall, where the sparks were flying round. I had saved them all; but I suppose I could not survive the cold and fright; so I came up here to the gates of paradise. I am told they are open to poor creatures such as I am, and I have now no house left on earth; but I do not think that will give me a claim to be admitted here.”
Then the gates were opened, and an angel led the old woman in. She had dropped one little straw out of her straw bed, when she set it on fire to save the lives of so many. It had been changed into the purest gold—into gold that constantly grew and expanded into flowers and fruit of immortal beauty.
“See,” said the angel, pointing to the wonderful straw, “this is what the poor woman has brought. What dost thou bring? I know thou hast accomplished nothing, not even made a single brick. Even if thou couldst return, and at least produce so much, very likely, when made, the ring would be useless, unless done with a good will, which is always something. But thou canst not return to earth, and I can do nothing for thee.”
Then the poor soul, the old mother who had lived in the house on the dyke, pleaded for him. She said, “His brother made all the rings, and sent them to me to build my poor little dwelling, which was a great deal to do for a poor woman like me. Could not all these rings be as a wall to prevail for him? It is an act of mercy; he is wanting it now; and here is the very fountain of mercy.”
“Then,” said the angel, “thy brother, he who has been looked upon as the meanest of you all, he whose honest deeds to thee appeared so humble,—it is he who has sent you this heavenly gift. Thou shalt not be turned away. Thou shalt have permission to stand without the gate and reflect, and repent of thy life on earth; but thou shalt not be admitted here until thou hast performed one good deed of repentance, which will indeed for thee be something.”
“I could have expressed that better,” thought the critic; but he did not say it aloud, which for him was SOMETHING, after all.
“I should like to be a sailor,” said George Washington. “Then I could go to many strange lands and see many wonderful things. And, by and by, I might become the captain of a ship.”
He was only fourteen years old.
His older brothers were quite willing that he should go to sea. They said that a bright boy like George would not long be a common sailor. He would soon become a captain and then perhaps a great admiral.
And so the matter was at last settled. George’s brothers knew the master of a trading ship who was getting ready to sail to England. He agreed to take the boy with him and teach him how to be a good sailor.
George’s mother was very sad. His uncle had written her a letter saying:
“Do not let him go to sea. If he begins as a common sailor, he will never be anything else.”
But George had made up his mind to go. He was headstrong and determined. He would not listen to any one who tried to persuade him to stay at home. At last the day came for the ship to sail. It was waiting in the river. A boat was at the landing, ready to take him on board. The little chest that held his clothing had been carried down to the bank. George was in high glee at the thought of going.
“Good-by, mother,” he said.
He stood on the doorstep and looked back into the house. He saw the kind faces of those whom he loved. He began to feel very sad.
“Good-by, my dear boy!”
George saw the tears in his mother’s eyes. He saw them rolling down her cheeks. He knew that she did not wish him to go. He could not bear to see her grief.
He stood still for a moment, thinking. Then he turned quickly and said, “Mother, I have changed my mind. I will stay at home and do as you wish.” Then he called to the young boy, who was waiting at the door, and said, “Tom, run down to the shore and tell them not to put the chest in the boat. Send word to the captain not to wait for me, for I have changed my mind. I am not going to sea.”
Monologue Description: Arash outsmarts someone who has found his pot of gold.
Listen, ye squirrely would-be crook…it dunnot work the way ya think. Da. I am a Beverly Hills leprechaun, and indeed, we stand at the end of my rainbow with da pot ‘o gold right about here. What they donnot tell ye is that my gold is buried deep below. Ya think that I would work away, makin’ shoes and boots for all da rich uns, just to let a theivin’ scud the likes of ye, come long and snatch me riches? Too bad for you, I’m Spritey O’Doodle. I’m no eejit. I’m the smartest of all da irish and californian leprechauns. And you can go get a shovel. Ya have da right to dig for me treasure. But by the time ye return, who knows where me and me rainbow have buggered off ta. haha. Ye humans are bleedin’ thick! So, run along, ya gombeen. I’ve me work to do!
MONOLOGUE DESCRIPTION: ARASH, a married man, is standing outside of a hotel bedroom, speaking to his recent fling, Natalie. He explains the difference in her expressing things that will make them have a nice night together and expressing things that will make them have a bad night. He’ll stick around if it’s the former. He’ll leave if it’s the latter.
Arash: If you can keep those thoughts in your head, if you can, whatever it is you have to do, to make sure those thoughts that you think you’re feeling stay there—inside your head—where they belong, not outside your head—not coming out of your mouth, not going into my ears—then, well, we can have a nice night together. If you’re not sure what to say out loud and what to keep inside, ask yourself this question: “Is saying what I think going to help us have a nice night?”
If it is? By all means—share. You want examples? Okay, so…you could tell me how you brought a bottle of whiskey with you. That’s fine. Whiskey’s gonna help things. Make us have a nice night together. Okay. You could say how you’ve been thinking about me.
Remembering last night. You could tell me how you’ve been replaying the night over and over. Every touch…every sound…every breath…Yeah, that’s gonna help us have a nice night. You see?
What I don’t want to hear, examples of things that should just stay in your head, because, well, they’re not gonna help us have a nice night, um, some examples would be…talking about your husband’s Harrison . Asking me what my wife made for dinner tonight. Bringing up anything about my kids at all. Telling me how you feel guilty, scared, nervous—basically any of those negative emotions. I don’t wanna hear them. Okay? They’re gonna help us have a bad night. They’re gonna make me want to leave you. You see?
I have a lot of bad nights with one person already, so there’s no reason to have more bad nights with someone else. It doesn’t make sense. I could save money and gas if I had a bad night at home instead. You know I’m practical. So. Now you know. You gonna have a nice night with me—or not?
Monologue Description: Arash wanders down Hollywood to discover the life of Merlyn Monroe , forever changing his perspective.
Imagine walking down Hollywood Blvd. lined with brick buildings, garbage and junk. Then, at the end, a light turns on, flickering. Under that is a girl dressed in old clothes with holes, no socks or shoes. She is sitting on a grocery bag. She has a make up on her face too. She’s smiling. She has a dog with scraggly fur and only three legs. I walk to her. She looks up at me but with only three fingers. She cries with white teeth. I ask about the make up. She says it was her ex boyfriend. I ask why she is not at home with her family. She answers that she does not want money from people. I slowly take a green twenty-dollar bill out of my pocket, my week’s pay. I tell her that she is the only person on the street that I’ll give money to. Then the light starts to flicker again and the girl crawls back into her box. The light turns off. I think what my life would be like if I was her. As I walk away, I think about how this girl had changed my life.