DOROTHY WICKOMDEN: An aristocratic Englishwoman of high social standing, with ties to the newspaper industry.
MONTY LAWRENCE: Her Husband.
HERMANN: Private butler to Dorothy Wickomden.
One week before their tenth wedding anniversary, Dorothy Wickomden and Monty Lawrence are alone in a country tea garden on the outskirts of Kyoto. there are two chairs and a table, bearing a tea set set out on the grassed area. To the right of the stage is a gate with a slight crack in it. as the curtain rises, Monty Lawrence sits with his head in his hands, Dorothy Wickomden stands with her back to him. They are clearly involved in an argument.
DOROTHY WICKOMDEN: I know, Monty. I’ve always known.
MONTY LAWRENCE: Dorothy, I’ve no idea—
DOROTHY WICKOMDEN: July 8th, 1917, six months before you returned to me in England, at the end of your service. You had been out with the girl from the paper store, dining around town and walking by the sea. You held hands, and spent a fateful night under the stars at the edge of a rice field, barely leaving her arms. It was no coincidence I wanted to come back here, Monty, all these years after you departed. I have loved you fully from the day of our wedding, and even long before— tell me, can you honestly say the same? Please Monty, with that stretch of damp countryside only a few kilometres away, do not lie to me.
MONTY LAWRENCE: Dorothy, I will confess. Each day since that summer episode almost eight years ago I have been awash in a sea of penitence and mortal agony. I won’t do you the disservice of invoking mid war lonesomeness. In fact, I succumbed to a weakness that a better husband would not have. Indeed, there was a brief affair with the girl from the paper shop, Tokuko. But please believe that the night we spent together was not sacred, borne out of my longing for you, and has faded into insignificance in my memory, as brilliantly undefined as the line of the seashore.
Monty puts down his tea glass in sudden realisation
MONTY LAWRENCE: But Dorothy, tell me— how could you have known about this night? Tokuko, tragically, did not see the end of the conflict, and I have never once in eight years spoken a word of my infidelity. The only witnesses were the warm air, the glittering stars, the soft rush of the leaves, and a lone black cow in the neighbouring field with moonlit amethyst eyes, who watched us as we lay together.
Dorothy Wickomden rings a small golden bell on the side of the tea set. Enter, from the side of the stage, that very same cow, led by Hermann who is now dressed in a silk kimono.
HERMANN: If it pleases you, Madame.
Turning to the audience
HERMANN: Eight Years Earlier…
Words by Harry Peter Sanderson, Art by Clare Moran
This article first appeared in print volume 88 edition 1 HEAT