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CANDIED FLOWERS

Characters

Shopkeeper

Petkutin

Boy

Hen

Kalina


(Takes place at the beginning of the 20th century. An idyllic street, its gas lamps glowing in the falling snow. The lights go on in the small shops. One window is hung with long lace bloomers instead of Curtains. In the corner of the stage we see the interior of a music shop. Seated at the table are the Shopkeeper and the Boy. The Boy is reciting from a tattered Bible which is lying on the table in front of him. In the corner, a hen is preparing to lay an egg in a cap. Everything is very sugar coated, almost kitschy. Petkutin appears in early 20th century dress, but with two berets, one blue on top of his head and the other yellow tucked under his belt.)

BOY
(Reciting from the Bible.) ŅTwenty. Tells me again what I shall compare the LordÕs Kingdom with. Twenty one. Is like the yeast a woman takes and kneads in flour for three hours. Twenty two...Ó

SHOPKEEPER
(With a Hungarian accent.) All right, thatÕs enough. Now take the Psalms to read. Do you know where you left off the last time? (BOY nods.)

BOY
(Turns the pages, finds the 40th Psalm and begins to read.) ŅI waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined unto me and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock and established my goings...Ó

(At that moment the church bell outside rings three times.)

PETKUTIN
(Knocks and enters.) ŅAt the first ring I was in India, at the second in Leipzig, and with the third ring I entered my own body...Ó (Turns to the Shopkeeper and the Boy.) Good evening!

BOY Good evening. (Stares at Petkutin.)

SHOPKEEPER
YouÕre in the wrong shop. The furrier is next door. People are always coming in here by mistake. Nobody has come into this shop in the past seven days except by mistake.

PETKUTIN
Have you got a little cello for a little young ladyÉ? If itÕs not too expensive?

SHOPKEEPER
(Walks the Boy to behind the partition, no longer paying attention to Petkutin. Just then the hen picks itself up from the cap, clucking at its freshly laid egg. The Shopkeeper carefully removes the egg from the cap, writes something on it and puts it away in a drawer.) What do you want with a celloÕ? YouÕve got records, the radio. A cello, you know what a cello isÕ? A small cello has to be plowed, sowed and reaped every year from here to the Danube, with this here, sir! (Shows the bow hanging from his belt like a sword.) Who needs it? Buy her something else; buy her a scooter or a dogÉ. Find something else, sir, to make your little girl happy. This happiness is too difficult for her. And itÕs belated happinessÉ. How old is she?

PETKUTIN
(Confused.) Fifteen.

SHOPKEEPER
(Jumps at the number. Goes out and chooses a cello.) Take this; the wood is older than you and me together. And the varnish is good ... Hear for yourself! (Draws his finger across the string.) You hear? Each string contains all the others, but to bear it you have to listen to four different things at once and we are too lazy to do that. Do you hear it or not? ... Four hundred and fifty thousand.

PETKUTIN
(Happily) IÕll take it!

SHOPKEEPER
Take it? Sir, is that how one buys an instrument? DonÕt you want to try it first? (Petkutin looks around the shop for something to sit on other than the cap.) Need a chair? A duck sits on water and you donÕt know what to do even on dry landÕ? You donÕt know? (Pulls out a drawer and sits on the corner edge.) Like this! (Gets up and hands Petkutin the instrument. Petkutin takes it, sits on the corner of the drawer and gives a splendid rendition of De Falla.) Shall I wrap it up for you?

PETKUTIN
Yes please. (Reaches for his wallet.)

SHOPKEEPER That will be five hundred thousand, please.

PETKUTIN
(Freezes) DidnÕt you say four hundred and fifty thousand?

SHOPKEEPER
Of course I did. But thatÕs for the cello. The rest is for the bow. Or donÕt you want the bow? And I thought a fiddle and a bow went together ... (Unwraps the bow and returns it to the shop window.)

PETKUTIN
(Finally snaps out of his dream like state.) Actually, I forgot about the bow. I donÕt have the money to buy it. And a cello without a bow... Well, judge for yourself...

SHOPKEEPER
(Slips on his coat.) I havenÕt got the time to wait around while you, sir, earn the money for the bow. Especially if you havenÕt earned it by now. Better you should wait than me. (Opens the front door, then stops.) Shall we make a deal? You take the bow on the installment plan.

PETKUTIN
YouÕre joking! (Wants to leave the shop.)

SHOPKEEPER
No, IÕm not joking. IÕm making a serious offer. You donÕt have to accept it, but at least hear me out!

PETKUTIN
Let me hear it then.

SHOPKEEPER
You will buy from me the egg along with the bow.

PETKUTIN
The egg?

SHOPKEEPER
Yes. A moment ago you saw the egg my hen laid. ThatÕs the egg. (Takes the egg out of the drawer.) YouÕll give me as much for the egg as for the bow, repayable in two years.

PETKUTIN
What did you say? Does your hen lay golden eggs?

SHOPKEEPER
My hen does not lay golden eggs, but it does carry something that you and I, my good sir, cannot lay. Every morning it lays a Friday or a Tuesday. TodayÕs egg has a Thursday instead of a yolk. TomorrowÕs will have a Wednesday. Instead of a chick it will hatch a day of life for its owner.

PETKUTIN
What a life!

SHOPKEEPER
So, these are not golden eggs, these are time eggs. And I am offering you one at a cheap price. This egg, sir, holds one day of your life. ItÕs in there like a chick and it is up to you whether it will hatch or not.

PETKUTIN
Even if I believed your story, why should I buy a day IÕve already gotÕ?

SHOPKEEPER
Use your head, sir. Use your head. Do you think with your ears? Why, all our problems in this world stern from the fact that we canÕt skip over the worst clays. ThatÕs the whole point! With my egg in your pocket you are safe from misfortune. When you notice that the coming day is too bleak, just break your egg and you will avoid all unpleasantness. In the end, of course, you will have one day less to live, but in return youÕll be able to fry yourself a fine plate of scrambled eggs Out of that ugly day.

PETKUTIN
If your egg is really so valuable, then why donÕt you keep it for yourselfÕ?

SHOPKEEPER
The gentleman canÕt be serious? I low many eggs do you think I already have from this hen? I low many days do you think a person can break in order to be happy? One thousand? Two thousand? Five thousand? IÕve got as many eggs as you want, but not that many days. Anyway, like all eggs, these are good for only so long. After a while they go bad and cannot be used any more. That, my good sir, is why I am selling them before they lose their effect. And you are not in a position to choose. You will give me a receipt for the loan, and thatÕs that! (Scribbles something on a scrap of paper.)

PETKUTIN
You know what? Personally I have no need for your egg. But tell me, can your egg spare a whole nation from a bleak day?

SHOPKEEPER
Of course it can, you just have to break the egg on the round end. But then you miss the chance of using the egg for yourself. (Hands the scrap of paper to Petkutin, who signs it on his knee. The Shopkeeper wraps the cello with the bow and then wraps up the egg, and they step out into the snowy street. As they leave, the Shopkeeper once more detains Petkutin, having him hold the door while he himself locks up the shop. Then, without a word, he proceeds along his side of the street and finally, at the corner, turns around and adds:) Remember the date penciled on the egg tells you when it expires

PETKUTIN
IÕm not interested in that. The day I want to wipe out isnÕt in the future at all. ItÕs in the past. The distant past. I hope this egg of yours that IÕve taken on loan can work in arrears, I hope it can work on the past as well.

SHOPKEEPER
(Intrigued, he returns.) No customer has ever asked me that before. You mean you want to wipe out and remove an unpleasant day from your past?

PETKUTIN
Yes, thatÕs exactly what I mean. I had such a day and IÕd like to get rid of it.

SHOPKEEPER
InterestingÉ Of course the egg can do that too, but people are usually more afraid of the future than of the past.

PETKUTIN
Well, thatÕs not my case, you see. By getting rid of that day from my past I might save the life of someone I greatly loved and still love. The person IÕm buying this cello for.

SHOPKEEPER
Since I see weÕre going in the same direction (takes a few steps with Petkutin), tell me about the interesting event you wish life hadnÕt inserted into your biography. Tell me, was it very long ago?

PETKUTIN
Yes it was. If you want to know exactly, it was on April 17, 1688, In the middle of an ancient theater on the Danube. (The Shopkeeper runs away in terror. Petkutin stands alone in the snowy street and breaks the egg against the street lamp.) Oh my God, my head! My head! Oh, how it hurts! ItÕs going to explode! (He collapses onto the snow. That same instant, out of the darkness appears KalinaÕs red cape, the very same one she wore in the 17th century in the ancient theater. The cape stands uncertainly in the dark in front of Petkutin. Petkutin slowly raises his head and recognizes Kalina.) Kalina, itÕs me, Petkutin, your husband! DonÕt you recognize me?

KALINA
ItÕs you, my love! Petkutin! (They fall into each otherÕs arms)

PETKUTIN
My soul, my soul! IÕve found you at last. We shall stay together forever and a day.

KALINA
What, on Holy Thursday! (They both burst into laughter. Kalina jumps on Petkutin face to face, her legs poking out on either side of his hips, and he carries her off in their game of love.)

AUTHORS NOTE