Tatterhood (A Norwegian Fairytale)/ Original Drama

Tatterhood (A Norwegian Fairytale) / Original Drama by Debra Moolenaar


Players:

Daisy (D)– the beautiful daughter

Bella Dona (BD)– the ugly daughter with her goat and wooden spoon

Queen Jessamine (QJ)– the Queen

Pansy (P) – the maid

Christmas Eve witch (CEW)


ACT ONE / SCENE ONE

QJ:       Where is my maid? Why is it so dark in here?

P:         (enters) Good morning, your Highness.  Here’s your pot of pure white tea with two slices of Sicilian lemon each as thin as a dove’s tail, as per your order last night.   Shall I throw open these thick velvet curtains to allow the first rays of the winter solstice sun to warm your royal cheeks?

QJ:       Solstice?   I’d quite forgotten.  Light is returning.   This is the finest hour.  But despite that, last night I had a horrible dream.   I was taking tea and biscuits in the crimson throne room with the King, something I would never do for everyone knows the crimson throne room….

P:         ….is for special occasions.

QJ:       Just so.   I was biting into a marshmallow macaroon, my favourite except for chocolate covered cherries, when I was set upon by a drunken old woman, who stunk like a pickled herring…

QJ:       … and who despite her appalling language slipped you a secret cure?

QJ:       How amazing we both had the same dream.

P:         Your Highness, it was no dream.

QJ:       That’s why it seemed so real?

P:         Exactly.

QJ:       But next, I had to do something unthinkable.

P:         We did it together.

QJ:       I remember now.  I washed myself in two pails of water scented with fresh daisies, which we were lucky to find this time of the year, and then we tossed the dirty water under the bed where two flowers would grow.   Let’s see if they did.

P:         First slip into your blue Highland cashmere robe with the silver tassels and don’t forget your soft as silk kidskin slippers.  We wouldn’t want your Highness to catch cold.

QJ:       They are there.  Just like the old woman said.  That one is so delicate and fair.  But the other one, well, it’s just downright ugly.   What are we supposed to do next?

P:         Your Highness must eat them.

QJ:       I couldn’t possibly eat flowers.  It’s out of the question.   If our neighbour, Queen Thistle, didn’t have to eat flowers to give birth to her bonny bright babe, then I ought not either.

P:         Milady, may I remind you, that your husband, the King, has commanded that if you’re not with child before the New Year, he’ll cut off your head.

QJ:       I’d almost forgotten that dreary business.

P:         It’s not really so dreary.  When your daughter marries Queen Thistle’s son, it will be the wedding of the century and you’re certain to get that new dress you want with the crimson ruffles.

QJ:       And a new hat and shoes to match?  I have my eye on a pair of death-defying stilettos from Naughty Monkey.   I do hope they come in crimson.

P:         I’m sure of it.  Now take the flowers and bon appetite.

QJ:       But to eat flowers?  It’s simply not done.  They aren’t even served with a sauce.  That’s barbaric.

P:         Having one’s head chopped off is more so.

QJ:       You have a point.   But the old woman said I should only eat the pretty flower.  She was quite clear about that.

P:         But your Highness two is better than one.

QJ:       But to eat both flowers would be greedy.  Greed is the ultimate sin, Pansy.  I can’t take that risk.  What’s going on in the hallway?

P:         The King is coming, your Highness.  You must eat both flowers right away.

QJ:       But greed is bad.   I want to be good.

P:         He’s coming closer.

QJ:       Dear me.   I’ll start with the pretty one.   Yum, that’s tasty even without a sauce.  Rather like fresh asparagus steamed with…

P:         Your Highness, the King is at the door, which, naturally I took the precaution of locking.  But there’s not much time.  You must eat both flowers.

QJ:       Might we order a light cream sauce with capers and shallots to take the edge off this?

P:         The King’s hand is on the door handle.

QJ:       Oh, well, down the hatch.  Yum.  The ugly one is tastier than the pretty one.  Rather like blood orange marmalade, thickly cut, complex, and bittersweet.  Greed isn’t bad, but good, Pansy.   I’d never have imagined it, but it’s true.

P:         I can see that, your Highness.  Your belly is positively bursting.   The King will be pleased.

QJ:       What I have to go through for that man.  Ouch, eek.  Queen Thistle did not tell me baby-making hurt so much and she says she’s my best friend.    Yikes… what’s this dribbling down my leg?

P:         Your water has broken.   Off with your robe and slippers, your Highness, and then jump onto the bed.   Legs wide.  I can see the head.

QJ:       I don’t suppose…. Ouch…. there’s time for my breakfast?  YEOW… I was so looking forward to crispy bacon….

P:         Here we go.  One more push.   Well done.

QJ:       Let me see.

P:         I’m not so sure you want to do that.

QJ:       Oh, stop worrying, Pansy.  A baby is a baby, that’s what Queen Thistle says.

P:         Not this time, I’m afraid.

QJ:       Let me see.

P:         All right.   May I present you with your twin daughters, your Highness?

BD/D:  (enter)  Mama, our own dearest Mama.  Let us shower you with kisses to give thanks for our birth.

QJ:       Something went wrong.

P:         Magic, milady, sometimes does go awry.

QJ:       Big time.    Send them off to the royal nursery and keep them from my sight.

P:         Off you go girls.  When you get to the top of the stairs turn left and Nanny Nonesuch Daffodil will handle it from there.

BD/D: Yes, Ma’am. (exit)

QJ:       Is this my fault, Pansy?

P:         Perhaps, after all, greed is bad.   More tea?

QJ:       Yes, please, with double sugar.   Regardless if greed is good or bad, we have a problem to solve.  We’ll keep the pretty twin with the long golden locks and send the ugly one back.   She looks like an undercooked cheddar cheese soufflé and I don’t even like cheddar.

P:         I don’t think you can do that.

QJ:       Perhaps not but surely she cannot remain here especially with that nasty old goat.  Queen Thistle will say I flummoxed her plans for the great new society, which has been prophesised to come about when her son and my daughter drink from the bridal cup.

P:         You mean when they have sex?

QJ:       I wish you wouldn’t use that word, Pansy.

P:         Yes, milady.   But surely you’re not flummoxing Queen Thistle by giving birth to twins.

QJ:       I am an empty woman, Pansy, an unfilled vessel.  Why else would I have eaten two flowers instead of one?  Queen Thistle, on the other hand is positively overflowing, in every sense of the word.  At some unconscious level, flummoxing her plan was my way of getting even with her and believe, me, I will pay for it until the end of time.

P:         We’re responsible for our unconscious milady?

QJ:       Oh good heavens yes.  I’ve been reading the Works of CG Jung, Pansy, and so should you.

P:         Your Highness, I can’t read.

OJ:       Lucky you.

P:         I don’t quite see it that way.

QJ:       Let me think.  How many days left until Christmas?

P:         Four, milady.

OJ:       Excellent.  That’s just enough time to put together a Christmas Eve soiree.

P:         No.  That’s too dangerous.  Everyone knows the old nursery rhyme – “On Christmas Eve, heads will roll of those foolish enough to make merry with witches and trolls”.

QJ:       That’s exactly what I had in mind.   On Christmas Eve, the cheese soufflé will fall.

P:         But isn’t that murder, milady?

QJ:       Let’s just say that it’s plan A.

P:         Is there a plan B?

QJ:       No.

P:         As you will, milady.   Shall I order marshmallow macaroons or chocolate covered cherries for the festive occasion?

QJ:       Both.

______________________________

(to be continued)

One Enchanted Evening/original short fiction

 

One Enchanted Evening

by Debra Moolenaar

On such an enchanted evening, nothing could go wrong. A soft summer breeze before Easter was a good omen and just look at those candy cane clouds. After battling her way off the number 7 tram at Leidseplein, Astrid hurried to the agreed-upon meeting spot. Stationing herself between a  trendy fish restaurant with mosaic walls and a cosy Thai café with thick Persian carpets for tablecloths, she shivered and drew closer, her new cashmere shawl. Which restaurant would he choose?

“Pieter, over here!” She waved. “How lovely of you to invite me out this evening. It must be almost a year since I left Deering International.  Any office gossip?”

“Not much.” He shied away from her ritual bear hug.

She smiled and shoved her nibbled fingertips through her close bottle-blonde crop. He’d not changed much. Perhaps his sandy hair was a bit sparser and he had gained a solid middle-aged paunch. But where’s the harm in that? Heavens, no one was getting any younger, she least of all. But after seven years of having been just friends, he’d finally give a sign that they might be more than that.  That would make up for any sin.

“Tell me about your new job,” he said, wagging his head as if it were a tail. “You must love the free parking.”

“It’s great.” She winked. “Except that I don’t drive.”

“Sorry.” He turned to watch a cyclist whiz past. “I forgot.”

“Never mind.” She patted his arm. It was just past seven and the scent of grilled coriander chicken made her tummy rumble. “How about dinner? Why don’t we try the Thai?”

He buttoned his pea-green duffle coat. “For old times sake, let’s go to the Roxy for a couple of nice cold beerjes.”

“Um…sure.” With a sideways glance back at the restaurants she scrambled after him down a grimy alley carpeted with cigarette butts and soggy moss.

“Are you still living in Amstelveen?” she shouted. “Near the Amsterdamse Bos?”

He turned and glassy-eyed, stared.

“You had a bungalow with a garden that backed straight into the park,” she prompted. “Such a nice open feel to it. A great place to raise a family.”

“That’s my parent’s house,” he mumbled into his coat collar. “I live in Amsterdam just off the Overtoom.”

“I didn’t realise that.” She tried to smile. Perhaps her own memory wasn’t as reliable as she’d believed or perhaps – no – Pieter would never tell a lie. “The Overtoom is…so central…I mean so convenient for your commute.”

“Yeah, well.” Like a squirrel in the park, he scurried left on the Marnixstraat then right on the Liedeskade.  Dead end.  With his back against a boarded up shop window, he waited. “Sorry, got lost. But I was meaning to ask if there were any vacancies in your company. Deering is doing some downsizing and our department is on the hit list. You never know.”

“Yes, you never know.”  She nodded without conviction.  “Which way now.”

“Back.” As he turned to retreat, a lanky lad in tatty jeans and a crumpled Manchester United football shirt nearly mowed them down. “Hey, mate, watch where you’re going,” said Pieter.

“Hey, mate, watch where you’re going,” mimicked the thick tourist tongue.  “You got a problem?”

“No.” Pieter straightened his spine.  “Though you might take more care especially since you’ve been drinking.”

“Me drinking?” The man flashed a row of perfect teeth. “So I have.” His well-executed left hook caught everyone by surprise.

Grunting, Pieter unbuttoned his coat and raised his fists.

“Don’t,” whispered Astrid, her body humming on emergency alert. Pieter was twice the size of the lad and twice as strong too. He wouldn’t hurt anyone, of course not. But this time he’d been provoked. She grabbed his hand and held on tight. “Don’t,” she repeated. “It’s not worth it.”

“Listen to your girlfriend, mate.”

“She’s not my girlfriend,” he hissed lunging forward. Tripping over Astrid’s shawl, he fell flat on his face.

The lad chuckled and sprinted into the gathering dusk.

“What an asshole.” Pieter brushed dirt from his khaki trousers.

She kneeled to retrieve her new shawl from the ground.  She ought to be full of pride with Pieter’s  bravery.  So why was it all she felt was the emptiness of defeat?

“Hey, what’s this?”  Pieter kicked at a black lump and heaved a belly laugh. “Looks like our tourist has lost his wallet. Now isn’t that just too bad.”

“He’ll come back for it.”  She grabbed a lamp post to help her to stand.  Why on earth was she was so weak at the knees? It wasn’t as if she were a stranger to petty violence. Even though born and raised in the pastoral fields of Nord Holland, she’d lived in the city for years.

“What if he doesn’t?”

“Then… someone will find it and turn it in.”

“And what if they don’t?” He snickered. “What if they steal all the money and our visitor can’t pay for his hotel? There must be a couple of thousand in there at the very least.”

“There’s a politie station back at the Leidseplein,” she offered, refusing to cry.

“No.” He deposited it in his pocket. “Later. The politie never close.”

The sixties Beatles music in the Roxy was loud and the multitude of unknown faces, thick.  Fogs of blue cigarette smoke stung her eyes and there was no place to sit down.  As Pieter forged his way to the bar,  she hung back and caressed her stained shaw.  The price of a week’s groceries trampled in the mud.  The buttery fabric lavished with hand-embrodered dragonflies with seed pearl eyes that had been love at first sight, was ruined.  But that wasn’t the worst of it.  Never before had Pieter spoken as he had tonight – so thoughtless – so rude. Of course she wasn’t his girlfriend.  She knew that.  But why did he have tell it to a drunken tourist?  She’d like to think that when she’d first met him he’d never have behaved like that.  But she’d only be kidding herself.  That was the way he’d always been and always would be.

“There we go.” Pieter plunked down two foaming mugs on a dusty window ledge. “Hey Astrid, I’m sorry about tonight. This isn’t what I had planned.”

“What did you have planned?”

“I don’t know…something…but not this.”

“Do you really mean to turn that wallet over to the police?”

“Sure.”

She stared into her beer and watched yeasty bubbles burst, one after another.

“You don’t believe me?

She refused to look up.

“OK, it that’s you think then take it to the politie yourself.”  He yanked the wallet from his pocket and shoved it into her hand. “Deal?”

“Deal?”

“You give my CV to your boss and your conscience remains unstained.”

“Sure.”  She wrapped her new shawl around the wallet then shoved them both in her handbag. “I’ve got to go.  Send me an email.”

_________________

The Prodigal Son (act one of a new play)

THE PRODIGAL SON

By Debra Moolenaar

( a short play inspired by Camus’ “The Outsider”)

Act One

NARRATOR: (to us.)  Listen up.  Your life may depend on it.   Think you can play around and not get burned?  Think again.

MRS NOVAK:    Let me get this straight, Mr Kermak.  You want me to believe you once lived here in this stinking hole of a town?

KERMAK: That’s right, ma’am.  Indeed I did.  Must have been, oh, twenty years ago, now, since I left Ustecky Kraj.  Doubtless, I look quite different, especially in this fine hand-made cashmere suit from Savile Row.  When I went away, I was wearing nothing but denim rags.  I’ve done quite well for myself in London.   But surely you must remember me?

MRS NOVAK: I’ve got a photogenic memory, Sir, and you’re not in it.

ANICKA NOVAK: What my ma is a saying, mister, is that this here village is so small there’s no way we wouldn’t know ya if you’d have lived here like you say.

MRS NOVAK:  That’s right precious child.  You know, Mr What’s-Your-Name, I had another child once, a son, whom I loved more than anything.  I worked three jobs to put him through school and how did he reward me?  He ran off.  One snowy night, just like tonight, he disappeared without a word and I ain’t heard heads nor tails of him for nigh on twenty years.

KERMAK:   There might have been a good reason for that.

MRS NOVAK: Ain’t no reason good enough for breaking a poor old woman’s heart.

KERMAK: Are you religious ma’am?

ANICKA NOVAK: What kind of question is that to put to a complete stranger?

MRS NOVAK: Why do you ask?

KERMAK: If you were religious, then you’d know the biblical story of the prodigal son.

MRS NOVAK: Never heard of it.

ANICKA NOVAK: You mean the one where the fool of a father welcomes his even more foolish son home after having disappeared for years?  Best I recall, the stupid old geezer even killed a fattened calf for a celebration and didn’t that piss off the older brother, who’d stayed at home and worked his tail off for the old man.  Bet he got his revenge.

KERMAK: Perhaps like the father in the story, Mrs Novak, you might forgive your own son should he show up here some snowy night to surprise you.

ANICKA NOVAK: What a stupid suggestion.  Just goes to show, mister, that you ain’t from these parts after all, else you’d know that’s not our way.

KERMAK: What is your way then, if I might ask.

MRS NOVAK: You may not ask, Mr Busy Body.  Didn’t your ma teach you to mind your own business?

KERMAK: My mother didn’t have much time to teach me anything when I was growing up, although I daresay she thinks otherwise.

MRS NOVAK: Probably working her fingers to the bone to take care of you.

KERMAK: Perhaps.  At any rate, I’d like to stay the night here in your hotel.  I’ll pay cash for the room.  As you can see here, I’ve plenty of that.

ANICKA NOVAK:  Wooo, baby.  I ain’t seen so much money in all my life.

KERMAK:   As I mentioned I’ve been quite successful in business.

ANICKA NOVAK:  Ain’t you scared carrying around a wad like that? I would be especially in a place like Ustecky Kraj.

KERMAK: Of course not.  Nothing untoward will happen to me.

MRS NOVAK: Why do you want to stay here, Mr Show-off?   With money like that to burn, I’d think the newly tarted up Hotel Royale across the street would be more to your taste.   They’ve got a ballroom and a grand piano.

KERMAK: I like it here and, besides, I’d like to share my good fortune with you.

ANICKA NOVAK: You playing around with us?  Cause if you are….

KERMAK: I…I’d never do a thing like that Miss Novak.

MRS NOVAK: I don’t want your good fortune, Mr Nobody, but I do want your cash.  Christmas is in less than a week and I haven’t a single booking.   Anicka, take this key and show the gentleman upstairs to the presidential suite.  A man of such quality must sleep like a king.

ANICKA and KERMAK exit.

MRS NOVAK: I’m going to kitchen to sharpen my butcher’s knife on account of I think, thanks to God, we’ve just been delivered our own fatted calf. (exits).

NARRATOR: (to us.)  Prodigal son indeed.

(to be continued)

The Secret Book of John

Anger and The Secret Book of John

Short fiction by Debra Moolenaar

© 2010

“Tomorrow I shall have to tell them.”    Glancing down at my hands, I wince and stuff my wedding ring in my jean’s pocket.  After shuffling across the room, I practice silent arpeggios before the well-stoked fire.  A week before Christmas and even Marseilles is cold and damp as a grave.   With increased circulation comes unexpected hope.  “What shall I tell them in London, Mother?   What shall I tell them when I go home?”

“The truth, child.”   Mother Superior hands me a cup of strong china tea.  “Understand that your anger is that of all the wronged women since the beginning of time.   There’s no disgrace in that.”

“I am not angry.”

“I’ve something that may help.”  With polished confidence, the nun glides across the crimson carpet to her ebony bookcase.  She selects a thin volume.  “This is one of my alternative Christian texts, some of which have come down from ancient Mesopotamia.”

The Secret Book of John?”  I flip  gold embossed, parchment pages and wonder what in hell kind of sacred treasure I’m holding in my unclean hands.

“The bishop believes it heresy.”  She flashes a seductive wink.  “I prefer to think of it as wisdom from the time when man had direct discourse with his gods.”

I nod.   Best I understood, heresy was wisdom, just in disguise.

“I prefer a humanist god to one who dishes out hell and damnation for every mistake,” continues the mother with the hint of a smile.

The Mother is progressive.  That’s why I chose The Sisters of Saint Joseph for my little er, um, retreat.   But as I prepare to leave France, I’m now thinking she’s too progressive, too focused on sweetness and light.  Maybe her sheltered life is like that.  Mine isn’t.

“Like me, Hannah, you search for truth.”  The mother bows her head.   “Yet when you fail to find it, like most of us you will accept the lies.  In this case anger is justified.  It signals something deep within you is wrong.   This Gnostic text explains much about what I believe it means to be a woman and why we all share the same anger.  What would you say if I told you that it was man, and not woman, who was responsible for original sin?”

“I’d be extremely pleased.”  I sip hot tea and find it satisfying as my favourite Belgian crème chocolate.  Finally, this nun is saying something that makes sense.

“According to the story, original sin resulted not from Eve’s encounter with the snake, but from God’s arrogance.  The Old Testament god was very selfish.  He didn’t hesitate to steal light from the Mother Sophia to give life to his human creations, Adam and Eve.   Understandably, Eve thought this unjust and it was while trying to return the light to the Mother, that she first tasted the fruit of knowledge in the Garden of Eden.”

I flip pages again.

“Let’s suppose it were true,” she continues.  “Can you imagine how Eve must have felt to be eternally damned for doing something so noble?”

“She’d be angry.”

“Yes.”  Although near my own mother’s age, Mother Superior suppresses a girlish giggle.  “Might it be possible that if, as the Church teaches women are burdened with Eve’s original sin, we might also be burdened with her anger?”

“I’m confused.”  Sometimes the mother talks in circles like my psychoanalyst in Golders Green.

“Confusion comes when you’re unable to see things for what they are. “  The mother glances at my blossoming belly.  Her mood slips.  “But anger, Hannah, anger comes when you refuse to accept things as you know they are.  Eve couldn’t change her situation but imagine how miserable she’d have been if she’d not accepted it.  Each of us must embrace her reality.”

“Not everyone…”  I stop horrified at my accusatory tone.  “I didn’t mean to say that.”

“But you did say it, Hannah.”  She watches a pair of jet-black starlings scrounge for berries, their yellow beaks bobbing against an abundance of pine green.   “And you had every right to do so.  If I’m not honest with you, how can you be so with me?”

“That’s not all that happened to Eve, is it?”  The softness in my voice frightens me. Without anger, I feel naked.  Without pain, I’m alone.

“Eve was raped.”  Her blue eyes go rheumy.

Mine glued to the floor I nod my understanding.   The mother’s life hasn’t been sweetness and light.  She’s just like me.

“John reminds us wrong lurks around every corner, even when we think ourselves safe.”  She squeezes my hand.  “But while John believed deliverance comes from outside, Eve demonstrated it comes from within.”

“Tomorrow I shall tell them the truth,” say I.  Rubbing my tummy, I shrug away tears.  “Although I was betrayed by a man I trusted, me and his child will be OK.”