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Bridge at Novi SadHome To Roost
An impossible play cannibalized by events

By Christine Evans



TWINS who become:
A DIRT-DEVIL (small vacuum cleaner)
Note: This play is to be performed by reciting it, every word. Therefore some attention should be paid to the mode of narrating the Stage Directions. (I suggest a rise to power, from modest beginnings to tyranny, on the part of the narrator.)


[In a Belgrade park. CERISE and STEFAN sit like strangers on a new wooden park bench. He wears a brown polyester suit and a hat. She wears cheap casual summer clothes. Her nails (toes and fingers) are painted iridescent purple and are very long.
Her toenails curl over the ends of her sandals.

CERISE eats her lunch from a plastic lunchbox. STEFAN reads a newspaper. It's in Serbian--the Belgrade daily. CERISE tries unobtrusively to read the paper. STEFAN moves it a little so she can't.]

It's a bad business.

[muttering to himself] They had no right.

On our own soil.

What, you prefer the Hague?

[Pause, then rapidly:]

You hear the one about Nis?

--about Nis?--so the pilot says, forget Srebenitsa, forget Novi Sad, forget strategic targets, let's bomb something we can fucking pronounce.

My mother comes from Nis. It got bombed 47 times.

That's not possible.

Nothing's possible any more.

[Gloomy pause.]

[diffidently] Lick your lunchbox?

[refusing] It's all dried out.

[CERISE puts the lid back on her lunchbox. STEFAN stands, shakes out his paper. Blood runs out of its folds--about a pint--into the soil. The soil soaks it in completely. STEFAN is irritated by a little splash on his leg. He goes to brush it off but his trouser leg has dissolved around it. He shrugs. Romany [Gypsy] TWINS come up to the bench and silently beg. STEFAN brushes them away. One TWIN spits on the ground. The ground steams. The other TWIN turns into a black bird and flies away, cawing. The park bench groans, twists and dissolves. CERISE stands, a little annoyed. ]

And God knows where the bus is.

[She lifts her sandal and examines its sole. The earth stretches up, sticking to it, and peeling off with a groaning sound. She clicks her tongue at the mess on her sandal. STEFAN folds his newspaper again. They tidy themselves up, like people at a bus stop.]


[STEFAN and CERISE sit on the bench, which is now quite old and covered in graffiti and dirt. A huge black BIRD sits on the back of the bench and nibbles CERISE'S ear. She brushes it away. A shiny black DIRT DEVIL, the same size as the BIRD and clearly its twin, trundles in and starts vacuuming up leaves and litter round the bench, its hose inquisitive like an elephant's trunk.]

That was a bad business. A bad, bad business.

But it made me rich.

Everyone was late. And the rain steamed in the streets. You couldn't buy bread. A pedicure cost as much as a house. --When did it start, exactly?

It didn't start. It was just like that, without a beginning.

That's the problem with just living somewhere. No perspective.

[The BIRD pecks at STEFAN'S head; the VACUUM CLEANER sniffs at CERISE'S feet. She lets it suck her long toenails. STEFAN brushes the bird away. It eats his ears. Blood runs from the ear wounds into his newspaper. It leaves no trace. CERISE feeds the vacuum cleaner some crumbs. It purrs. Its hose explores her ankles. The BIRD continues pecking at STEFAN. It eats his head. It flies away. CERISE moves from the mess in distaste; the DIRT DEVIL starts to vacuum the headless body. It's like watching a python eat a horse. But it manages it. CERISE encourages it with little pats. The DIRT DEVIL swells up huge. CERISE lights a cigarette and smokes it during this. The DIRT DEVIL explodes. It has human entrails, much much bigger than its own insides. These decay very fast into dust, until there is just a small pile of reddish dust. The plastic outsides of the DIRT DEVIL's body lie moaning. They try to crawl together but they can't.

CERISE un-smokes her cigarette (i.e. smokes it in reverse, sucking in smoke, blowing out clean air over the dust). The cigarette gets longer as she does so. With each blow of air the dust begins to recombine and STEFAN reforms from the ashes, but not completely. He is an empty suit with a head suspended from the collar. CERISE'S now complete cigarette goes out.

Suddenly everything goes very fast. CERISE lights the cigarette. STEFAN decomposes as she smokes it (about 4 seconds). She picks up the stub and unsmokes it. STEFAN recomposes. CERISE is amused, and repeats this routine several times. During this the BIRD returns to the back of the bench and sings:]

Air-sole, full suspension
Grease and oil change
Full fat or skim--
Keep the wrappers.
Five gets you a holiday in Bali
Ten gets you a penthouse Wave ski
Twenty gets you a blowjob
By the white sands of Kuta Beach
And free admission to the Sari Club
Where the mirror ball breaks your face
Into slivers of light

[CERISE throws the empty cigarette pack at the bird. It flies off.]

Istanbul Fire Engine Museum

[Lurid tropical twilight. STEFAN and CERISE on the bench, now painted with a cheerful community project-type beach and sunset landscape. CERISE has a packet of cheap hair dye, the sort where you mix two bottles together. She and STEFAN put on latex gloves. As if performing a holy ritual, CERISE holds the large bottle and STEFAN pours the contents of the small one into it. They hold it together.]

Please, please, please.

[They shake the bottle. Nothing happens.]

[singing] Can't be done.
Gone AWOL.
Over the border.
Never coming back
Too much blood
Under Mostar's bridge
It burned to water
Red as the moon.

Be born, damn you.
Be born.

[singing] The Day burns black
Ash-soft wings
float over gas
The Night's a slow-falling bird
Bruised by sudden glass--

[CERISE pours the contents of the bottle out, disgusted. First purple, then white liquid, uncombined, falls.]

[singing] Wind rises
Night falls like a lost train of thought.
Next time
Try bread
Which will usually rise, too--
Though nothing's as unreliable
As a Belgrade oven
During the power-cuts.

But if the bread fails
You can still eat it
(It pays to be expedient
In times of lower hygiene)

[STEFAN cries and falls to the ground, trying to mix the fluids together with his body. The broken DIRT DEVIL parts cry.

It begins to rain in reverse, from the ground up. The DIRT DEVIL parts start laughing. So does STEFAN. The light is silvery and beautiful. CERISE opens an umbrella and stands in it like a boat, protecting herself from the upward falling rain. The rain gets heavier. The broken DIRT DEVIL parts crawl in around STEFAN, who embraces them. They lick him and slowly form a carapace around him. He/ it becomes a shiny beetle. The BEETLE hums with happiness.

The rain stops raining upwards. Then it starts raining downwards but this time it is red. (Perhaps the hair dye worked on the weather.) The redness dissolves the bench. It melts through CERISE'S hair. She holds out the two empty hair dye bottles, which fill up. CERISE dissolves and her bones lie on the ground. The BEETLE hums with happiness. The BIRD and the BEETLE drink all the red they can. The BOTTLES fill up. They grow. Inside the smaller we see the beginnings of cell division. Then a fetus forms. Its little arm comes out of the bottle and the BIRD picks it up in its beak.]

[singing through clenched beak]
Off to America
On gas-swollen wings
On fetid air
On an empty belly--

Off to America
Singing schrapnel songs
Over dead borders.
Across the ghost bridges
Still clinging to the Sava.

Off to America
Off to wash you squeaky white
For adoption by Visa Card
With a Christian name

[All sales are final
No returns]

[The BEETLE hums and gurgles happily in the reddened mud. It eats CERISE'S bones. The BIRD flies away to America like a Stork of ill-omen, the bottled fetus held in its beak. ]

The End, provisionally.

[Christine Evans is an Australian playwright now based in Providence, RI. She first visited Macedonia in the 1980s as a traveling musician and since 1999 has become involved with Dah Teatar in Belgrade.]

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