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Authors: Paul M. Levitt

Denouncer (19 page)

BOOK: Denouncer
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NICKY: Oh, I could tell you a thing or two.

MIRO: Didn’t you once work for the secret police?

NICKY: It was the worst experience of my life.

MIRO: Please explain.

NICKY: The former Cheka head was shot, also several of his aides. A member of the investigative office was caught bankrolling a drug operation. The new Cheka head is a rapist and, to boot, a dwarf.

normal voice again
): Forget it, Nicky. Court’s no place for you. The judge will order you put up against the wall.

NICKY: Is there no justice in this country?

MIRO: If I were you, I wouldn’t ask questions like that. What about seeing Teodor Tolstoi, your old army mate. Maybe he can help you.

NICKY: Of course, Teodor! I saved his life once.

The stage is quickly cleared. We are now in Teodor’s flat, where he is pedaling a stationary bicycle.

TEOD: Comrade Ostroff! How are you? It’s been too long since we last saw each other. Sit down. I have to do my forty miles a day on the exercycle. So don’t mind me, I’ll just pedal while we talk. What brings you here? Are you in a mood to crush some heads, like before?

NICKY: I’m in trouble, Teodoro, and I need some assistance.

TEOD: Whatever you need, just say it. You can always count on Teodoro. He’ll never let you down. After all, you did save my life when you dragged me to safety under fire.

NICKY: You’re a noble comrade, Teodoro. I knew that of all my friends, you’d be the most steadfast.

TEOD: What are comrades for? Old army men. I hate a man who’s all talk and no action. What’s your problem?

NICKY: You won’t believe it. After all my years of faithful service, instead of giving me a gold watch, they gave me a summons.

TEOD: Who delivered it?

NICKY: That apparatchik Ivan Goniff.

pedaling slower
): My old friend, Ivan . . . an apparatchik?

NICKY: A snake in the grass.

stops pedaling
): A snake!

NICKY: A viper. Now here’s what I’d like you to do for me.

pedaling again
): I’m listening.

NICKY: Hide me, let me sleep in the spare room, until I can get to the bottom of this business.

alarmed; stops pedaling
): The spare room?

NICKY: Why not?

TEOD: You’re asking a lot, Nicky.

NICKY: Just for a little while.

TEOD: You’d need sheets and pillowcases and blankets.

NICKY: A pillow and a blanket would do.

stops pedaling
): Like the time in the Crimea when we stayed at Irina’s place?

NICKY: Exactly.

TEOD: Remember the women at the beach? They knew what a good time was, right?

NICKY: If not the spare room, maybe the basement.

TEOD: I can still see those two dames from Minsk. They were great. Blonds! Bam! Bam! Two scores in one night. What dames!

NICKY: Maybe the toolshed.

TEOD: And afterward we got roaring drunk. And then we went to the other side of town and cracked a few heads until the military police came. What a night! (
pedals quickly

NICKY: Teodoro, I don’t think you’re listening to me.

pedals slower
): You were really something, Nicky. The women loved you, and the men feared you.

): Yes, that’s me, a man with a chest full of medals.

TEOD: As much as I’d like to help you, Nicky, my mother’s coming to stay with me. Tomorrow. So the spare room is out. Also the basement and toolshed. They’re already occupied with drifters from the countryside. If I could, I would but . . .

Nicky exits. The stage is quickly cleared. We are now in Sergei Tangenital’s flat. His secretary/girlfriend, Dina, sits on his lap.

TANG: Nicky, what a surprise. You know my secretary, Dina. What can I do for you?

NICKY: When a man’s in trouble, the first person he thinks of is relatives. Right? And I said to myself who better than Cousin Sergei Tangenital to come to for help.

TANG: Get that down, Dina. You don’t mind, Nicky, if Dina takes down our conversation? You know, just for the record.

NICKY: No . . . go right ahead.

TANG: So what is it you need? As you know, I . . . well, I’ve always been overly fond of you, Nicky. Your father and my mother . . . brother and sister. Blood is thicker than water. Relations, that’s what counts.

DINA: That’s . . . what . . . counts.

NICKY: Cousin Tangenital, I’ve been summoned.

TANG: Summoned? What in the world for? You have a chest full of medals.

NICKY: I have no idea. I’ve done nothing.

TANG: That’s the trouble with this modern generation. They always want something for nothing. (
to Dina
) Get that down.

DINA: Some . . . thing . . . for . . . nothing.

TANG: No regard for hard work and decency. They think they can just walk into your house and strip the medals from your chest.

NICKY: I need travel money to get out of Moscow. I’ll pay you back. You can trust me.

TANG: Trust. Now there’s a fine word.

stage whisper
): Ooh, Serge. Your hand!

TANG: Who can we trust? That’s the question. Your wife?

DINA: Or your secretary! (
stage whisper
) A little lower!

TANG: Which one matters most?

NICKY: You know very well I’ve been divorced for two years. I couldn’t stand Eva’s nattering.

TANG: That doesn’t for one minute lessen the need for someone who can give you good advice about trust.

DINA: Good advice. (
) That’s better.

TANG: Remember Socrates, henpecked of the historical Xanthippe. Remember Job, whose wife had nothing to offer for his carbuncles but violent doses of profanity.

DINA: Remember those two. (
moves Sergei’s hand to her derriere
) And remember

TANG: I can think of a thousand such men married to unworthy wives, termagants, who scold like a March wind. On this sea of matrimony, where so many have wrecked, am I not right, Nicky, in advising expert pilotage?

NICKY: Are you advising me, Cousin Tangenital, to take a wife? The last one laughed at any inanity.

TANG: Nicky, I think our choices are so many and so varied, it’s no wonder we are swindled. Consider Adam for a moment.

DINA: Consider Adam.

TANG: Adam, as you know, did not have a large group of women from whom to select a wife. It was Eve or nothing. And judging from the mistakes that Eve made afterward, I think nothing might have been the better choice. All sorts of mistakes occurred because Eve was made out of a rib from Adam’s side. Nobody knows which of his twenty-four ribs was taken for the nucleus. Which means, Nicky, that if you depend entirely upon yourself in this matter, the possibilities are twenty-three-to-one that you have selected the wrong rib.

DINA: The wrong rib.

NICKY: You know, Cousin, you’ve given me an insight. Perhaps I picked a bone with the wrong person.

TANG: Just wait here a few minutes, Nicky. Dina and I will be right back.

NICKY: Cousin, why are you and Dina going into the bedroom?

from afar
): Just a minute, Nicky, I’ve got my hands full.

Nicky exits. The stage is quickly cleared. We are now in Father Kadaver’s flat.

KADAV: Nicky, I’m surprised word hasn’t already gotten out. I denounced my calling as a priest, denounced the church, and took a job with the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

NICKY: I need some advice, Father Kadaver, but if I’m interrupting . . .

KADAV: Sit down, Nicky. I remember you as a child. Your mother used to bring you to church. Before you knocked, I was reading the story of the Good Samaritan—in a Soviet light.

NICKY: I’m only vaguely familiar with it.

KADAV: Although some old believers treat ignorance of the Bible as a grievous sin, I do not. My own opinion in the matter is that given the Soviet attitude toward religion, the less a person knows about the Bible, the less chance he has to be arrested. Don’t you agree?

NICKY: You’re looking at a man on the run, trying to avoid arrest. That’s why I need your advice.

KADAV: Of course, what’s the problem?

NICKY: I’ve been summoned, so I’m trying to get to the countryside. Can you let me stay a few nights?

KADAV: You want advice? Here, let me read to you from the Good Samaritan. “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.” Et cetera. “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion on him.” Do you see the point, Nicky?

NICKY: Not exactly. If you try to help the stricken man and you make things worse, he’s liable never to forgive you. But if you walk away, he’ll probably hate you. Either way you lose. So what are you supposed to do?

KADAV: It’s a difficult moral question, one not easily answered.

NICKY: Now, if you help me, Father, isn’t that like the Samaritan helping the man attacked by the robbers?

KADAV: Not at all, Nicky. Let’s look at the text again. It says: “Which . . . of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? And the lawyer said, ‘He that showed mercy on him.’ Then said Jesus unto him, ‘Go and do thou likewise.’” Although some Bibles use the word “pity,” and others “mercy,” the meaning of the story is clear. We must pity those less fortunate than we, and have mercy on those who would ignore us in our hour of need. Therefore: It is for
to show pity and for
to be merciful.

NICKY: It sounds to me as if you’ve already started working for the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

KADAV: I certainly have.

NICKY: Then tell your head commissar to pass the word along. If the summons I received is not withdrawn, I intend to tell what I know about everything. And as the official shredder for the Kremlin, I know a lot.

KADAV: Nicky, you wouldn’t!

NICKY: And why not?

KADAV: It would be uncharitable not to turn the other cheek.

Nicky exits. The stage is quickly cleared. We are now in Eva Giardina’s flat.

EVA: Hard feelings, Nicky? Not at all. Our getting divorced was the best thing that ever happened to me. I got a job in the Soviet housing ministry, a job that puts me in a good position to help others. So what brings you here? Tell me. Perhaps I can be of assistance.

NICKY: I’ve been summoned.

): What a sense of humor.

NICKY: My intention is to head east, but I’ll need a place to stay for a few days and some money.

): You always did have a good sense of humor. East! You’d die from the cold and the lack of culture.

NICKY: You don’t know what I’ve been going through, Eva. I’ve been breaking my neck trying to find someone to help.

EVA: Speaking of breaking your neck, Nicky, reminds me . . . (
laughs immoderately
) of that joke you told when our neighbor Isaak Steinberg was summoned. Remember?

NICKY: No, I must have forgotten.

EVA: The one about the man who hanged himself on an apple tree? And the woman from next door asked the widow for a graft from the tree because, she said, “You never can tell, but it may bear the same fruit for me.”

NICKY: Funny. (
doesn’t laugh

): It’s hysterical! (
) You don’t look good, Nicky.

NICKY: I’ll be all right . . . if I can stay with you and get some ready cash. My flat has some valuables worth selling. With your contacts . . .

The telephone rings; Eva answers it

EVA: Yes, Mrs. Tukhachevsky? (
) Yes, I promise. The flat will be available in two or three days. All we have to do is sell the furniture and knickknacks. Of course I’ll ring you. Good-bye. (
hangs up

NICKY: I’ll make you a deal. Walking the streets, as I’ve been doing, is no pleasure.

EVA: No pleasure! (
) That’s a good one. (
laughs immoderately
) It reminds me of the joke you told after Isaak Steinberg’s funeral . . . the one about the widow who was walking behind the bearers at her husband’s funeral and cried out to them: “Don’t go so fast; there’s no need to make a hurry of such pleasure.” (
) I never heard anything so funny before. (
laughs immoderately
) It’s hysterical.

NICKY: Hysterical is what I am at the moment. I’ve been denounced.

still laughing
): No need . . . to make a hurry . . . of such a pleasure. (
suddenly serious
) What’s the deal you want to make?

NICKY: Give me an advance against the sale of my belongings and you can send the rest to me later.

EVA: But that’s unethical.

NICKY: I need the money!

EVA: When you work for the Ministry of Housing, you can’t afford to let friendship get in the way. If I do this for you, I’d have to do it for everyone.

NICKY: Come now, Eva, all I’m asking for is a simple favor. You know the flat inside and out. You lived in it for three years. Whatever you think the furnishings are worth, I’ll take. No questions asked.

EVA: Nicky, I’m doing you a favor by not getting involved. If I sell your possessions
, and the ministry finds out, it will only be harder for you.

The telephone rings. Eva answers it.

Mrs. Tukhachevsky, I told you. I know every stick of furniture in the flat. You needn’t go out and buy a thing. It has everything you and your husband have been looking for: a leather sitting chair, an inlaid coffee table, a Victorian floor lamp, a Finnish couch. (
) Unusual? Not at all, Mrs. Tukhachevsky. Circumstances. Uh huh . . . called away. Summoned, you might say. (
) Dirt cheap. The owner’s in no position to bargain. (
) Don’t thank me, thank the denouncer. Right. (
) Well, you could do one thing. Contact the Ministry of Housing and tell them that the previous tenant and I are going over the details at this very moment. Not at all. Good-bye. (
hangs up the telephone

BOOK: Denouncer
10.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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