MAIN MENU

Starters

FISH IN ALTLER SALT

Characters

Sofia: Lady of the manor

The Soul: Young, pretty girl, Sofia’s guest

The Body: Petkutin in all his glory, Sofia’s guest


Sofia’s castle somewhere other than Earth. The laid table gleams. Stage right, the double doors open onto an apple orchard. The audience must realize immediately that The Body is Petkutin, the main character in the play, but The Soul is not be played by the same actress who plays Kalina.

(The Soul and The Body enter Sofia’s dining room. Sofia is already there waiting for them)

THE SOUL
Sublime wisdom has built itself a home! A fine home, Madam Sofia! SOFIA Let me introduce you. My dear Soul, this is your Body! His name is Petkutin. (Turns to Petkutin.) My dear young fellow, this is your Soul. You can get along or not, as you like. But remember, no one is either wise or beautiful all seven days of the week ... Sit down and make yourselves at home.

(They sit down at the dining table.)

THE BODY
Bon appétit.

THE SOUL
(Laughs) What’s this we’re eating?

SOFIA
I’m glad you asked. That’s a compliment to my cooking. This soup was made in an earthenware dish shaped like a lute so that the soup could be rocked over the fire and its ingredients wouldn’t settle in one place.

THE BODY
That’s what makes it so tasty.

SOFIA
(Starts a preconceived game: instead of talking, she reads what is written on the handles of her cutlery and bottom of her plate.) “Ah, my good angel, have you completely abandoned me?”

THE BODY
(Perplexed, does not understand the game. Nor does The Soul, who becomes jealous.) What kind of sauce is this?

SOFIA
I serve this sauce hot and almost completely dry. It’s seasoned with antler salt… But I must draw your attention to something else. Once the antler salt is tasted the conversation at this table has to be conducted in a special, predetermined way. If you decipher how one converses at my table, you shall repent. If you do not, again you shall repent. Now go ahead and try!

THE SOUL
(Jealous, wants to dominate the conversation, likes Petkutin’s Body and sees Sofia as a rival. Addresses The Body) Can’t you remember me at all? Didn’t you love me?

THE BODY
Yes. But I can’t remember you.

THE SOUL
I am your mother, but at the age of fifteen, five years before you were born. SOFIA The young lady is not joking. The soul is always the mother of its body. And like all mothers, it is actually jealous of you, my lad!

THE BODY
Fine. So much about my soul. But what about my father? Whenever I inhale a bit of darkness at night I turn into my father for ten seconds. I want to know who I am for those ten seconds every evening. I want to know who’s going to be my father.

SOFIA
You want to know whose turn it is now to be your father, my child? Well, first let me tell you who will not be your father. That officer fellow who pees from the saddle of a moving horse, the idol of so many women on Earth, will not be your father. But wouldn’t you be lucky if he were. You’ll see, this time your maker will have fine hair, but the whole story about him and his mistakes can fit into the crack of a whip. He will be lame; he will be called Avram; he will cross thousands of versts on a camel and a white horse; he will travel for years in order to arrive at one of his big mistakes. But fear not, you are not the mistake of your future father’s life. He won’t make that big an effort over you. You are merely a passing station on his way to that mistake ... (Reading from the spoon) “That is why I advise you to come and spend the night in my room for solace.”

THE BODY
(Comprehends the game now, turns over his fork and quickly reads the reply off the handle.) “What, on Holy Thursday!?” (Sofia and The Body burst into laughter. The Soul does not understand a thing and maintains an angry silence.)

SOFIA
The young gentleman has deciphered the enigma of how to converse at my table. And, as I said, he shall repent! Now what about you, young lady’?

THE BODY
(Reads off the spoon, speaking to The Soul in feigned reproach) “Are you going to leave me to my fate before white darkness falls’?”

THE SOUL
(To The Body, angrily) Whenever I talk to you, my child, I always want to have a good wash afterwards... The fish is superb, Madam.

SOFIA
An uncorked bottle of red wine was sewn into this fish and the wine evaporated into the meat on the fire... And YOU, my Soul, did not decipher the enigma. As we said, you shall repent. Here, read this! (Holds out her knife.)

THE SOUL
(Reads in astonishment the engraved reply on the knife) “I think, my love, that that was an underhanded, rotten way to behave!”

THE BODY
(In reply, reads from the cutting blade of his fish knife) “I waited for you because I knew that your consideration would not last long, and your remorse still less so!” (All three burst into laughter.)

SOFIA
(Gets up from the table.) At my table people do not converse, they read the inscriptions on their forks, knives and spoons, or the bottom of their plates. Now you can both leave and you shall both regret having been here. You’re for guarding apples, not for dining at my table. Get out of my house! You, Soul, I’m sending away because you failed to decipher the enigma. And you, handsome, I’m sending you away because you guessed my secret.

(Both leave perplexed. The lights dim. Day breaks. They are sitting almost naked in the orchard.)

THE BODY
We are standing between life and death, heaven and hell.

THE SOUL
This is now the second day we’ve been guarding this orchard, and we haven’t tasted a thing. Would you go and pick me some apples?

THE BODY
Don’t you notice anything about my eyes? I’m completely blind and can’t go and get you apples. That’s the repentance Madam Sofia was talking about.

THE SOUL
Now I know. I know why Madam Sofia hired us to guard the apples for her.

THE BODY
Can’t you go and pick them yourself?

THE SOUL Whenever I talk to you, my child, I always want to have a good wash afterwards. Do you really think I came here to guard apples with you because I like it? I have my own repenting to do. Just as you cannot see, so I cannot walk. So it is with body and soul.

THE BODY
Ah, my good angel, have you completely abandoned me…? You know what? I’m as hungry as a fish. You climb on top of me and look for both of us, I will walk for both of us and you do the picking! (The Soul mounts The Body, picks the apples and gives some to Petkutin, who eats them voraciously. Enter Sofia.)

SOFIA
“I waited for you because I knew that your consideration would not last long, and your remorse still less so!” (Addresses The Soul, embracing her.) You’re stealing what you should be guarding! I condemn you, Soul, to stone your body! May it forget what it once knew! What it heard unhear, what it saw unsee, what it knew unknow! Your body shall feel the pain of the stones not now, but in two hundred years’ time! (Suddenly pushes her away.) Get out of my garden! The Soul picks a stone up off the ground.)

THE BODY
I think, Soul, that that was an underhanded, rotten way to behave! (The Soul throws the stone on the ground.)

SOFIA
(Addresses The Body, embracing it.) And you, handsome, I condemn you to be banished from here and to leave your soul! You will regain your sight and search the world for another soul to carry, but be careful! God sees even through his brows! At the first ring of the bell you will be in India, at the second in Leipzig, and with the third ring your name will be restored to you but you will forget it upon leaving here. You will ask what your name is and will be told by the first person you meet. (Suddenly pushes him away.)

THE BODY
How long will it last?

SOFIA
Forever and a day. Now go! (The Soul and The Body leave the orchard.)

THE BODY
Now we really have reached the end.

THE SOUL
Didn’t you love me?

THE BODY
Yes. But I can’t remember you.

THE SOUL
If we really have reached the end, then let’s make love one last time. You carry me and be inside me, and I will look at the path we leave behind!

THE BODY
“What, on Holy Thursday?” (Both burst into laughter and she jumps on him, face to face, crossing her legs on his back as he carries her in their lovers’ embrace. By the end of their love making they are exhausted.)

THE BODY
We’re not for one another any more. Even when we are as close as can be, making love, you look in the direction that I can’t go in, short of walking backwards, and I go in the direction that you can’t see in, short of looking backwards. Oh, my soul, you who hold my body inside you, I am tired. Let it out of you so that it may rest in the open, and you go and look for another body to carry you! Let us part the way everyone does when the story of the soul and the body reaches its end.

THE SOUL
(Picking up another stone from the ground.) I waited for you until you came because I “knew that your consideration would not last long, and your remorse still less so.”

THE BODY
Are you really going to hit me with that?

THE SOUL
You heard what we were ordered to do. Anyway, I loved your body and now I will mark it. But don’t be afraid! You heard her; it won’t hurt until you find another soul. Then it will hurt and you will remember me!

THE BODY
I already remember you. Imagine a fox stealing up to a sheep’s watering hole. As it moves it collects the wool left on the thorns by the sheep when they cut through the brambles to reach the water. The fox now carries this wool in its mouth. Slowly, ever so slowly, it dips first one paw into the river, then the other, all the while holding the hank of wool in its teeth. It enters deeper and deeper into the water and finally starts to swim so that all its fleas move to the wool in its mouth. Then the fox hurls the flea infested wool as far away as it can and, now rid of its trouble and pain, returns to shore. That fox is you, the human soul, because you are the quarry of all quarries. Like the fox, you, my soul, fling away everything that perturbs and hurts you. You fling away all your sins; you fling away even me, your body, as though I were a lice ridden blanket.

(The Soul hits him in the temple with the stone, and at that instant the bell tolls three times. At the first ring of the bell Petkutin disappears in the blue flash of the flame.)