[CONSUELO (an acrobat) and HE (a clown)backstage at the circus. For a moment, they stand in silence.]
CONSUELO: It’s so sad.
HE: Why did she do it?
CONSUELO: Because she isn’t happy.
HE: But to take such a chance
CONSUELO: If one isn’t happy … maybe it’s the best thing.
HE: Do you really believe that?
CONSUELO: I don’t know. Maybe.
HE: She’s in love with Bezano?
CONSUELO: Bezano? My Bezano?
CONSUELO: But she’s so old. [HE Laughs.] I like your costume, HE. Did you come up with it yourself?
is nice. All clowns are nice.
HE: I am wicked.
CONSUELO: [Laughs.] You? You’re the nicest of them all!
HE: On the outside. But on the inside …
[HE makes a scary face. She laughs.]
CONSUELO: Are you going to watch me perform tonight?
HE: I always do.
CONSUELO: I can see you. In the wings.
HE: You’re so beautiful.
CONSUELO: [Smiles.] Little Eve?
HE: Yes. But is Little Eve happy?
HE: What if the Baron asks you to marry himwill you?
CONSUELO: Of course. I don’t love him. But I’ll be his honest, faithful wife. What else am I going to dowork in the circus all my life?
HE: Are those your words“his honest, faithful wife”?
CONSUELO: Who painted the laughter on your face?
HE: This? I did it myself.
CONSUELO: How do you do itall of you? I tried once, but it was awful.
HE: I could teach you.
CONSUELO: That would be nice. Why are there no women clowns? Why is that?
HE: I don’t know. [Pause.] Give me your handI want to see what it says.
CONSUELO: A palm reading? Do you know how?
HE: Of course.
CONSUELO: You’re a man of many talents, HE. [HE studies her hand.] Will I be rich?
CONSUELO: No? [Laughs.] I’m not sure I like your palm reading!
CONSUELO: What’s wrong?
HE: The stars are talking.
CONSUELO: Oh. You’re taking this very seriously.
HE: It’s a serious matter. When the stars talk, you must listen. Their voices are distant and terrible. [HE studies her hand.] You stand at the door of Eternity, Consuelo.
CONSUELO: What does that mean? Will I live a long time?
HE: Yes. This linesee how far it goes? You will live forever.
HE: For all eternity!
CONSUELO: [Smiles.] Now I think you’re only telling me what I want to hear.
HE: No, it’s written here. And here. See. You have eternal life, love, and glorybut listen closely … you must not belong to anyone born of earth. If you marry the Baron, Consuelo, you’ll die.
CONSUELO: [Laughs.] Will he eat me?
HE: Don’t laugh at the stars, Consuelo. They’re far away, their rays are pale, we can barely see their sleeping shadows, but their sorcery is stern and dark. You stand at the gates of eternity. Your die is cast. You are doomed. And Bezano, who you love in your heart even though you don’t know it, he can’t save you. He’s doomed too. He, too, is a stranger on this earth, submerged in a deep sleepa little god who has lost himself. Forget Bezano
CONSUELO: You’re scaring me, HE. Why are you saying this?
HE: I’m trying to save you! I’m the only one who can!
CONSUELO: [Laughs.] You?
HE: Yes! Don’t laugh! Look. Here is the letter H. And the E. HE.
CONSUELO: He Who Gets Slapped? Is the whole thing written there on my palm?
HE: Yes! The stars know everything! Like the strings of a divine harp, spreading their golden rays! Like the hand of God, giving harmony, light, and love to the world! Forget the boy! I love you, Consuelo!
CONSUELO: Let go of my hand.
HE: I speak the language of your awakening! Accept your god, who was thrown down from the summit like a stone! Accept your god who fell to the earth in order to live with you in the drunkenness of joy! Of ecstasy! I love you! I
[CONSUELO slaps HE hard across the face. He steps back.]
HE: What was that?
CONSUELO: A slap! You forget who you are. You are He Who Gets Slapped! Some god!
HE: Slap me again.
HE: I need it for my play. Slap!
CONSUELO: For your play?
CONSUELO: Then … you were only playing? HE … I’m so sorry. Why did you play so seriously that I believed you? Here, then.
[She touches his cheek with her fingertips.]
HE: You are a queen, and I am the fool who is in love with you. Didn’t you know, Consuelo, that every queen has a fool, and he is always in love with her, and they always beat him for it. He Who Gets Slapped.
CONSUELO: No. I didn’t know.
HE: Yes. Every queen. Beauty has her fool. Oh, how many fools she has! Her court is crowded with them, and the sound of slaps never ends, even through the night! But I never received such a sweet slap as the one given just now by my little queen.
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Copyright © 2007 by Walter Wykes
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