I Begin to Rehearse My Death [1]

Atar Hadari

(Lights up. CHAIKIN and GRIM REAPER on bare stage. REAPER is in long black cowl which hides his face and is holding a large scythe.)

CHAIKIN
You call that an entrance?

(REAPER swishes his scythe at him.)

CHAIKIN
Well—that’s something. The prop is good. You do something else with it?

(REAPER raises scythe.)

CHAIKIN
That’s . . . that’s really something. But you don’t speak. That’s—
That’s what? A casting decision? You’re getting paid scale? What?

(REAPER licks the scythe.)

CHAIKIN
That’s disgusting.

(REAPER slurps. Takes out bloody handkerchief, wipes the scythe.)

CHAIKIN
That’s . . . that’s so . . .

(REAPER sticks the scythe point into the ground between CHAIKIN’S feet.)

(Pause)

CHAIKIN
Y’know . . . I always wondered, if my legs would go first. Wake up one morning, can’t get out of bed. Roll over to the old lady and say—(pause)—but I’ll probably be alone.

(REAPER raises scythe up to CHAIKIN’s groin.)

CHAIKIN
You’re right. You gotta start at the crotch. Everything starts at the crotch.
You die there and everything else falls in like dominoes.

(REAPER raises scythe to CHAIKIN’S throat.)

CHAIKIN
But then again—yeah—I think you got something there. Cut out the tongue.
Cut out the tongue, you got—much less than ninety percent of a man.
What you got left? Half? Maybe ten percent of a man.
What can I do to you without a tongue? Take that entrance again. From the top.

(Pause. REAPER lowers scythe, glides away. Exits.)

CHAIKIN
I wonder about the light in this room.
Is it sufficient? For the work we do. I mean—Is it the right kind of light?
Day light. Neither day nor night. Atmospheric light. You could be anywhere.
Certainly not a light you can rely on.

(Enter REAPER, scythe raised.)

CHAIKIN
Now that—that is really something. That’s better—that’s—is that scythe sharp?

(REAPER flashes scythe over CHAIKIN’S head. CHAIKIN looks at a sliced hair falling to the floor.)

CHAIKIN
Thanks. I’ve been trying to pull that one out all day.
Never had the nerve. Can’t stand the thought of pain.

(REAPER bows.)

CHAIKIN
I just thought—you need to feel the scythe is real, is sharp—

(REAPER raises it again.)

CHAIKIN
That’s OK—I like the rest of the hairs long. I leave them there.
I’d pull them if I didn’t want stray hairs.

(REAPER puts scythe down, stands leaning on the end.)

(Pause)

CHAIKIN
You hear the leaves falling?

(REAPER turns to listen.)

CHAIKIN
I hear them outside. All the time.

(REAPER taps the base of his scythe against the ground.)

CHAIKIN
Damn. That’s—(pause, listens)—not a sound. All the leaves fell down?

(REAPER takes a leaf from his cloak and hand it to him. It falls to the ground. REAPER steps over it toward CHAIKIN.)

CHAIKIN
What’s another leaf fallen down?

(REAPER raises his scythe over CHAIKIN, raises his cloak to engulf him.)

CHAIKIN
That’s—now I like that—that’s really something—that’s—do you hear that?

(Pause. REAPER turns to listen.)

CHAIKIN
That’s another bud. I swear. I heard another bud popping out of a shoot. I swear.
I wouldn’t lie to you. That’s another bud. I hear life. Every single minute.
I hear it. Don’t you?

(REAPER sweeps away.)

CHAIKIN
From the top. Again. Just come at me again.
When you find that bud. Just come in with that bud.
Is that too . . . predictable? He comes in with his hand . . . his hand filled with flowers.
I wonder about this light. Is it a good enough environment?

(REAPER enters with scythe at half mast. He stands by CHAIKIN.)

REAPER (sigh)

CHAIKIN
God you’re good.

REAPER (louder sigh)

CHAIKIN
You are something else.

REAPER (sigh)

CHAIKIN
I’ve died and gone to heaven.

(REAPER points up, at the light switch dangling down in the middle, on a cord.)

CHAIKIN
The light switch?

(REAPER draws his finger across his throat.)

CHAIKIN
Maybe this light is all that keeps us from learning how to act?

(REAPER reaches for the cord. CHAIKIN reaches for the cord.)

(Pause)

CHAIKIN
After you.

(Pause)

(They reach for the light switch together.)

CHAIKIN
Now—y’know—tonight—I think we’re really getting somewhere.
I think we really nearly got to—

(REAPER pulls cord. Blackout.)

CHAIKIN (sings)
Show me the way to go home.
I’m tired and I gotta go to bed.

(Lights up. REAPER is holding cord.)

CHAIKIN
You’re very good at this. (Pause) Do you hear the leaves? They’re falling again.

(REAPER hands CHAIKIN a bud. CHAIKIN drops it.)

(Pause.)

CHAIKIN
Do you like this light?

(Pause)

Me neither.

(CHAIKIN reaches for the cord.)

CHAIKIN
After you?

REAPER (sigh)

CHAIKIN
You bastard. You finally got it.

REAPER (sigh)

(CHAIKIN pulls the cord.)

(Blackout.)

REAPER (long sigh)

 

[1] Chaikin, Joseph. “I begin rehearsing my death,” Joseph Chaikin & Sam Shepard: Letters and Texts 1972-84. Ed. Barry Daniels. Theatre Communications Group, 1994.

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