A king-sized bed with floral sheets sits just left of centre stage, atop a large piece of astroturf. Lighting bright & natural, and audio of a strong wind through tall trees plays throughout. Monty, a young officer dressed for parade complete with red beret and sword, sits cross-legged among the flowers, staring blankly and touching the back of his head. Tokuko – a diminutive and beautiful Japanese woman – is curled up asleep beside him on the divan. A record player sits silent on a wrought-iron bench at the margin of the turf. Enter Private Copfko.
PRIVATE: A letter has arrived for you, sir, without an envelope. The boy delivering said it was urgent.
MONTY: (protracted silence, continues staring blankly and touching the back of his head) Please private, do read it out to me.
PRIVATE: Are you sure sir? It would appear confidential, given the circumstances …
MONTY: Please, (he looks Copfko in the eyes) would you stay with me here? (pause) I’m feeling I need to hear another voice, Tokuko remains silent after so many days. Please, attend me, read the letter.
Copfko clears his voice, clearly uncomfortable with this indecorous request, the latest in a long series.
PRIVATE: “Dear Monty, I hope this letter finds you well. I made contact with the operative. He was working as a cobbler in Shikoku. It was a perilous journey across the inland sea for I had only a small canal-boat to ferry me across. I feared to have lost your intel, if God hadn’t blessed us with calm water, and a moon nearly full by which I walked at night. Nobody saw me enter or leave the town, but I visited a nearby temple at sunrise and there I met with a kannushi, an old friend. He is to be trusted.
“When I arrived at the cobblers, it was as you said: I had only to knock on the door in the manner you showed me, then ask for ‘Russian caravan’ tea when inside, rather than green tea. Attached are the complete data for the entire Trans-Baikal, including routes and projected station points. It is comprehensive, and many died, some terribly, for this information. Even though I explained your situation the operative would tell me little more than this.
“As well as the coordinates the operative had a single coded message: “Dismantle the Sun.” Unless my English is failing, this was his exact wording. Do not forget the promise you made to me and Tokuko at the beginning of spring, in our father’s workshop. Summer has now come. So that you might remember your promise, I have shaved the patch out of your hair,” –
MONTY: I should have known he’d snuck in, hellions! –
PRIVATE: “You will fill your end of this bargain, as I have filled mine. Take care of my sister, and of yourself.”, and then there’s a series of characters but I’m afraid my kanji is rather weak, sir. The remaining pages are coordinates and topographic figures.
MONTY: Pass it here, private. And call me Mr Lawrence, if you will.
He crosses stage and puts the letters into Monty’s outstretched hand, his other playing in Tokuko’s hair, her head in his lap. Monty then squints at the bottom of the page for a moment, then nods wearily.
MONTY: That’ll be all, private, thank you dearly for that. (Copfko bows quickly and turns on his heel to go, but Monty stops him) and would you please drop the needle on the record over there?
PRIVATE: Certainly, Mr Lawrence.
Copfko crosses the stage again and approaches the turntable, a portable brief-case style model with conspicuous band stickers, BAD BRAINS, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE et al., affixed to the exterior).
MONTY: And would you play it at 16 rpm? Tokuko’s always preferred to slow dance.
Copfko looks unnerved, but deftly drops the needle and exits quickly. “My Funny Valentine” by Chet Baker plays at an extremely slow speed. As he exits, Monty stands and picks up Tokuko, still comatose, and holds her aloft in rough approximation of a waltz – her feet barely pass his knees. After several minutes of dancing, the song ends and Monty drops Tokuko to the floor, as a rag doll, and exits. She remains on the floor, in a heap, as a rag doll. Lights down.
~ END SCENE ~
Words by Nick Morlet, Art by Clare Moran.
This article first appeared in print volume 88 edition 3 SOAP.