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- A Dark Age Comedy -


Seamus O’Sullivan, lecturer
Rose Lewis,
Father Flinn,
Pat Crowley,
Ray McDonald,
John Carpenter,
Kid Cogan,
George V,
Members of the Stormont Parliament

Scene: Dublin and Belfast in 1921

Scene I

Seamus' front room: At the back of the stage the front and back door are visible. A fireplace, a table, a writing desk, some chairs and armchairs and a couch.
At the wall a showcase with a collection of daggers. On the table a bottle of wine and glasses. Throughout the play (apart from Scene VI, of course) the living ones drink wine and refill their glasses. Rose and Pat occasionally smoke a cigarette.
Seamus, Rose, John, Pat and Ray sitting. There’s a tense silence, and Seamus is looking at his pocket watch every now and then.
Outside it is stormy and raining heavily.

SEAMUS (after looking at his pocket watch again): The streets will be closed in a minute. I hope nothing happened to them.

Somebody knocks at the front door. Pat opens. Father Flinn comes in, and Pat hangs up his coat and umbrella.

FATHER FLINN: Thanks, Pat.

Father Flinn and Pat enter the living room.

FATHER FLINN: Sorry I’m late. I had to perform an extreme unction in Mountjoy.

He sits down and fills his glass.

ROSE: You haven't seen Kid on your way, have you?

FATHER FLINN: No, Rose. I presumed he'd be the first, as usual.

SEAMUS: I hope he won't be so stupid as to turn up during the curfew. (To Rose:) What do you think?

ROSE: I don't know, Seamus. He might have met somebody more interesting than we are.

FATHER FLINN: What do you mean?

ROSE: I mean that he's a fine-looking young lad, and, being given the opportunity, he certainly could have more fun than at a fireside chat about revolution.

JOHN: I hope nothing serious happened to him. Do you think he still might turn up, Ray?

RAY: I don’t know, John. But if he did turn up now, something serious would happen to us all.

FATHER FLINN: Now, seeing - or rather hoping - that no one else will show up tonight, I declare tonight's meeting open. Seamus, as Kid isn't here tonight, would you be so kind as to take the minutes?

SEAMUS: Sure, Father.

FATHER FLINN: It now looks like we're finally getting the Home Rule Bill, but this cannot be enough for the Irish people. We want to be free from any kind of oppression; we are not willing to bow before a Protestant King of a foreign nation, and we certainly will not accept an Irish Parliament that has to swear loyalty to him.

RAY: We’ve had Home Rule promised a thousand times before, and I will not believe in it until it is in force. Furthermore, it would only apply to twenty-six counties, and we won't be satisfied with freedom for a part of our people.

SEAMUS: Many a brave man has fought for the independence of our country, and if our struggle would end at the Home Rule Bill, they might as well have stayed home to look after their praties.

PAT: We will agree to nothing else than the Republic. The Republic for the whole of Erin!

RAY: But what kind of Republic? I wouldn't be satisfied if people had to leave their matters to a parliament; I expect a democracy where people are entitled to make decisions themselves.

ROSE: And the family has to be respected and protected, with or without marriage certificate.

FATHER FLINN: We'll see about that, love. Anyway, why aren't you married? Do you always want to live in sin?

ROSE: I don't. Sin is a Catholic term, and I am Celtic. Apart from that, I couldn't marry my husbands anyway, as polygamy is recognised neither by the Catholic nor by the Protestant authorities.

Father Flinn pales.

SEAMUS: We'll have to make sure that everybody has access to the best possible education. And we'll have to ensure freedom of speech without the slightest repression.

ROSE: Everybody must have the right to choose and dismiss his partners freely. There has to be a right to get a divorce.

FATHER FLINN: We'll see about that, love. You know that man shouldn't separate what God united.

ROSE: My god is Angus Og, and he allows me to love and to leave any man at any time.

PAT: Everybody has to be able to live on their wages. It is ridiculous that a hard-working mechanic like me has to moonlight to survive.

JOHN: And, to guarantee your country's security, you'll have to introduce a military service.

The others look at him in disbelief.

RAY (angrily): You mean conscription? We are a peaceful people as long as we are left in peace, and we won't force anybody to pick up a gun!

JOHN (enthusiastically): But one has to stand up for one's country!

RAY: Look, John, there are enough people who don't care which country they live in as long as they have their freedom, and we have no right to enslave them in an army!

JOHN: But they have to defend the freedom they have!

RAY: That's what they're told, but in fact they defend the interests of industrialists and the bourgeoisie. You didn't defend America's freedom in Germany, did you?

PAT: We know very well when to pick up a gun, and we don't need any government to tell us.

SEAMUS: We should introduce a labour service for employers instead. They should be forced to work in the very conditions they supply - at least for a year or two.

Father Finn: By the way, when will this mysterious machine gun delivery arrive?

JOHN: They told me it would leave Boston on the third, so it should arrive within the next few days.

RAY: Did you realise that this delivery has been announced just as often as Home Rule? I think asking Santa for the guns would be more efficient.

SEAMUS: What are those guys in Boston doing all day?

FATHER FLINN: Having tea parties, probably.

PAT: If we want to succeed, we'll have to take action soon, whether this long-awaited delivery arrives or not.

Father Flinn (raising his glass): We'll fight for freedom with every weapon available!

Pat (raising his glass): And for equality!

John (raising his glass): And against the British!

SEAMUS (raising his glass): And for education!

Ray (raising his glass): And for democracy!

Rose (raising her glass): And for contraception!

Everybody gapes at her and puts their glass down.

Father Flinn (taking her hand and fatherly bending down to her): Do you know, my dear child, what the most reliable form of contraception is?

ROSE: Sodomy.

Father Flinn pales and lets go of her hand.
In the armchair in the corner appears the ghost of Kid Cogan, covered in blood and smoking a cigarette. Everybody gawps at him.

SEAMUS: What in God's name happened to you?

KID: I paid a visit to Bulldog.

ALL (except Kid): To B u l l d o g?

PAT: You mean B u l l d o g?

KID: Yeah. I went up to his office in Sackville Street, told his secretary that I had an appointment for an interview, went through the door and shot him. Now they'll have to send somebody else to spy on us.

RAY: And you got away with that?

KID: Well, only as far as the landing. As I stood on top of the staircase, his secretary pulled the rug, and I tumbled all the way down.

RAY: And you survived that?

KID: I survived that all right. But unfortunately I came across His Majesty's Finest as I left the building.

SEAMUS: You’re not trying to tell us that you didn't survive that, do you?

KID: So how do you think I came in?

PAT: Well, he has a point there...

They get up, walk over to the armchair and try to touch Kid, but their hands go right through his body. Father Flinn whispers a Hail Mary.

JOHN: And how do you eat?

KID: That's a habit I've given up. I want to stay in shape.

RAY: What do you feel?

KID: Nothing at all, to be precise.

ROSE: Can you still get an erection?

KID: Unfortunately I didn't have one at the time of my death. You know, the Black and Tans don't do much for me in that respect. But I don't want to stop you, folks. Go on with whatever it is you have to do.

They sit down again.

JOHN: As you fight the United Kingdom, it might be the best to shoot the King himself.

RAY: Oh yes! Let's go to London, get a coach to the palace, take out our guns and say we have an audience!

JOHN: It might not be quite that easy, but you should keep that idea in mind.

SEAMUS: We should get rid of him on one of his official visits.

RAY: He'll open the parliament in Belfast soon. I think that would be an appropriate occasion.

FATHER FLINN: And how? They probably won't let us in with a rifle.

SEAMUS: We would have to get the gun in before.

PAT: Maybe the assassin as well.

ROSE: But how? If we could become invisible...

RAY: Or spiritual! One might see us, but there’d be no way to stop us!

All look at Kid.

Kid (shrugging his shoulders): I couldn't do it. I dropped my gun in Bulldog's office, and I'm not able to hold anything I didn't touch at the time of my death. You wouldn't know a way to kill him with my fag, would you?

FATHER FLINN: Too bad. But if one of us would...

SEAMUS: Would what?

FATHER FLINN: Would kill himself with a weapon in his hand...

SEAMUS (laughing): Of course! The British will have a ball when Irish rebels start to kill themselves.

PAT: But we have sworn to die for Ireland if necessary, and that doesn't exclude suicide.

SEAMUS: But it's unnecessary, and on top of that, it's stupid.

FATHER FLINN: I think it's a brilliant idea, provided it works. And as a sacrifice it would be exempt from the Church’s suicide rule.

JOHN (euphorically): I think this is the best assassination plan I've ever had!

ROSE: I don't know...but maybe it's worth a try.

SEAMUS (contemptuously): This plan is unheard of! (Thinking:) But then, if it works, this plot would still be remembered in thousands of years.

Kid disappears without anybody taking notice.

FATHER FLINN (excitedly): So don't let us lose any more time! Where's the volunteer who wants to engrave his name in the school books of all future generations?

JOHN: Well, I'm out of question. I have to supply you with the support of the Clann na nGael, and they would take a very dim view of one of their members being expected to take his own life. Apart from that, I think that the glory of this deed should rather immortalise an Irish name.

SEAMUS: I think the idea is ridiculous, anyway. Besides, I would leave a wife and two children.

RAY: I would leave a wife and a baby, not to mention a promising career after finishing Trinity.

PAT: I would leave a girlfriend - well, two, to be honest, the serious one being pregnant.

ROSE: And I would leave three widowers and two children.

Everybody looks at Father Flinn.

FATHER FLINN: I, erm..., I - I mean - I - I have to consider my parish.

ROSE: It won't perish. There'll be enough young priests queuing up for your position.

Father Flinn becomes very uncomfortable.

SEAMUS: You don't happen to have any children to the best of your knowledge, have you?

RAY: And job relations can't be taken into account. Seamus has his students, Rose the readers of her column, Pat his colleagues, and I have my fellow students.

FATHER FLINN: Maybe the idea wasn't that good at all...

SEAMUS: Ah, go on! You thought it was the best thing since walking on water!

ROSE: You're not turning into a chicken now, are you?

FATHER FLINN: Ah - erm, well, I reckon... what choice do I have? But then - how exactly am I supposed to do it?

They all look over to the armchair and realise Kid is gone.

SEAMUS: Well, we know what we have to consider. As you need to have the weapon in your hand, it might be the best to stab yourself.

ROSE (getting up): I'll get a bread knife.

SEAMUS: I don't think so. A British King, stabbed by an Irish ghost priest - that will definitely read well in history lessons; but not with a bread knife. You may have no respect for the monarchy and the clergy, but at least you should concede them some style.

Seamus goes up to the showcase, opens it and chooses a dagger.

SEAMUS (giving it to Father Flinn): This one has been used by the now-Windsors themselves, so we can add a little taste of irony to it.

FATHER FLINN (taking it with trembling hands): And where shall I do it?

SEAMUS: Good question. Maybe in the sandpit in the backyard. As soon as the rain stops, we'll go out and cover you, and tomorrow, when my wife and the kids are at Mass, we can dump you in the Liffey.

Seamus and Father Flinn walk to the back door, and Seamus opens it.

FATHER FLINN: Jesus, what a night! It's coming down like the Victoria Falls!

SEAMUS: Maybe you should get your sleeping bag, Father. When we bring you down to the river, a stuffed sleeping bag might not be as suspicious as a dead priest.

Ray gets the sleeping bag and gives it to Father Flinn.

SEAMUS: By the way, does anybody know that you're here?

FATHER FLINN: Of course not!

SEAMUS: And when will you be missed?

FATHER FLINN: Tomorrow morning, of course, when I'm supposed to read Mass. If you think it's safer to let somebody else...

ROSE (shouting from her seat): What you want to do, do quickly!

SEAMUS (closing the door behind Father Flinn): Goodnight, Father.

The others (waving from their seats): Goodnight, Father!

Scene II

Seamus' front room. Seamus, Ray, Rose, Pat and John.

PAT: Everything went as planned?

SEAMUS: Yes. We took him out of the sandpit and brought him to the Liffey. No complications - no raid, no patrol, nothing.

RAY: Seamus asked me if it would be all right to take back his dagger, but finally he agreed that we shouldn't take any risks.

Seamus looks at his pocket watch. Pat takes another cigarette out of the pack and, realising it was the last one, throws it (the pack, that is) into the fire.

ROSE: What's the matter with you, Pat? You look like death warmed up, and you haven't stopped smoking since you got up.

PAT: I suppose it's the strange situation. You know, I haven't had many experiences with ghosts and priest suicides.

ROSE: That's not all. I can see you're worried about something else.

Pat gulps and takes another puff.

PAT: Well, if you really want to know... My girlfriend refuses to marry me.

RAY: But you never wanted to marry anyway.

PAT: I told her we're too young, and that I wanted to wait until I could afford to offer her the lifestyle she deserves. But things are different now. She is pregnant, and we have to consider the child as well. And you know how they look down on unmarried mothers and their kids.

SEAMUS: Maybe she doesn't want to give up her freedom.

PAT: She wanted to marry me for years now, and she only changed her mind after she found out she’s pregnant.

ROSE: Probably she's just waiting for you to show how serious you are. She might want to see that you're persistent and didn't just make the offer out of a feeling of responsibility.

RAY: If a man can't understand a woman, how could a woman?

SEAMUS: She probably wants to tie you to her, and she's aware that a child is a stronger tie than a wedding ring.

PAT: But she could tie me both ways, and she wouldn't have to face the malice of society. Her behaviour just doesn't make sense.

RAY: As Oscar Wilde said, how can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly rational being?

ROSE (dreamily): Nobody knew women like Oscar Wilde.

RAY: That's why he was homosexual.

ROSE: Ray! I thought you were the perfect gentleman!

RAY: We're only gentlemen as long as we have hopes to nourish. You have three husbands already, so I felt I didn't have to be considerate.

ROSE: Having three husbands doesn't mean that I couldn't have four.

PAT (to Rose): Can you lend us a fag, please?

Rose gives him a cigarette.

PAT (lighting it): Thanks.

SEAMUS (looking at his pocket watch): Two minutes left till witching hour. Does anybody fancy some sausages?

RAY: No, thanks. I think it's a disgusting habit to eat in company. You have to see and hear the others crunching and grinding, watch them talking with the food between their teeth, and then you're expected to participate in the conversation while you have to make sure that your bite doesn’t drop from your tongue as you’re speaking. In the course of civilisation people learned to practise the physical necessities away from others: they sleep in privacy, they have sex in privacy, and they use the bathroom in privacy. I completely agree with this code of behaviour, but I still don't understand that they don't baulk at eating in public!

SEAMUS: Sorry, I was only trying to be hospitable.

The ghost of Kid Cogan appears in the armchair.

ROSE: Where's Father Flinn? It's the first time ever I'm looking forward to seeing him.

KID: Why? What happened?

SEAMUS: He died yesterday.

KID: So what?

SEAMUS: He didn't appear yet.

KID: Of course not. Dead men usually stay where you put them.

ROSE: We mean his ghost didn't appear.

KID: Why should it? He killed himself, so everybody knows the murderer. There's no mystery about it.

Pat has finished his cigarette.

PAT (looking enviously at Kid): For Christ's sake, this guy makes me sick with his everlasting bloody fag! He's been smoking the same damn cigarette since two days now, while I had to buy ten packs that are already finished.

Rose offers him another cigarette which he takes.

KID (smilingly): His murder is not unsolved, and therefore there's no need for him to appear as a ghost.

SEAMUS (while Kid disappears): That's unbelievable! You mean we have to do it all over again?

RAY: Looks like it.

Seamus goes to his writing desk and takes out five capsules, a box, a pebble, a sheet of paper and a pen.

SEAMUS (writing): I'll write our names down, put them into the capsules and mix them in the box. Then one of us has to draw the victim.

He tears the paper into five strips and gives them to Rose.

JOHN: You can't possibly put my name in there. The members of the Clann na nGael will take a very dim view...

SEAMUS (interrupting him): Shut up! This is serious business, and if you're in, you're in. If not, there's the door!

John looks around and, realising that the others agree with Seamus, gives in.

ROSE (aside, reading the strips): Seamus O'Sullivan... John Carpenter... Pat Crowley... Rose Lewis... Ray McDonald... (to the others:) All correct!

Seamus rolls up the strips and puts them into the capsules. Then he puts the capsules into the box and shakes it.

SEAMUS (to John): Pick one.

John picks a capsule. Seamus opens it and reads it.

SEAMUS: Pat Crowley.

Pat pales and gulps. Seamus empties the other capsules, puts the pebble in one of them and puts them back into the box.

SEAMUS: Now everyone takes a capsule, and whoever gets the pebble has to commit the murder.

All except Pat take a capsule.

SEAMUS: As the others must not know who it is, I suggest we open it when we're on our own.
Of course we have to sleep separately tonight. Pat can stay on the couch, and I'll leave the showcase open for the killer. Rose can sleep in my study, Ray in the kitchen, John in the garden shed, and I'll be upstairs in my own bedroom.

PAT: I probably won't sleep at all. Maybe I’ll read some Shakespeare.

SEAMUS: Excellent idea! We'll have to remove your body before my wife and the kids get up, so it might be the best to retire now. Ray and I will be back at four to hide the corpse.

The others leave the room as Pat takes a book from the shelf.

Scene III

Seamus' front room. Seamus, Rose, Ray and John.

ROSE: Any problems?

SEAMUS: No. Everything happened as it was planned. I only hope I won't have to sacrifice any more daggers.

RAY: Oh please, don't say things like that. Do you have any idea why the rules for ghosts are so complicated?

JOHN: I think that God, who is a God of justice, wants murderers to be prosecuted, and if there's no other way to find the guilty one, he encourages the victims to appear in spirit and accuse their murderers, just like Hamlet's father.

ROSE: Fact is that Ogma brings them back from the Otherworld, because Bilé refuses anybody whose murderer is unknown to his clann.

SEAMUS: As far as I know, Charon is not allowed to bring the shadows across the Styx as long as their death is unavenged.

RAY: Maybe the ghost is just an imaginary projection of our own minds. Kid might not be there at all, but we want him to be there and give us advice. Don't you think he could be just an appearance of our fantasy, a kind of collective hallucination?

JOHN: No, not at all.

SEAMUS: We didn't take anything, did we?

RAY: Well, we had a couple of glasses...

SEAMUS: Yeah, but not enough to have collective hallucinations.

ROSE: My grandmother had ghost experiences when she was a child, and she definitely didn't drink - at least not at that time. Her parents died during the famine when she was little, and they appeared every night to give her advice. Obviously they took their education task very seriously.

RAY: So they don't even leave you alone after they're dead? Parents are the main obstacle of human progress! They insist that they taught you the only right way, and whatever you do, you try to act within the limited parameters of their tolerance as long as they live, in order not to displease or disappoint them. And when finally they die, you're too old and stubborn yourself to change anything. Eliminate one generation of parents, and we'll have a new world!

The ghost of Kid Cogan appears.

SEAMUS: Where's Pat?

KID: Well, you should know that he's floating in the Liffey.

SEAMUS: But where is his ghost?

KID: There is none. He knew that he would be killed, and he agreed to it. Therefore there's no need for him to return to you.

ROSE: So what causes you to appear as a ghost?

KID: An unsolved mystery. You have to be killed by somebody - without your permission, of course - and the rest of the world must not know the murderer, so that you have to put them on the right track.

RAY: So how come you're a ghost yourself? We all know that you were shot by the Black and Tans.

KID: By the father of my girlfriend, to be precise. He was opposed to his daughter's relationship with a native, and as he saw me on the street, he told his mates that I looked suspicious, and so they opened fire.

He looks at his pocket watch.

KID: I have to go back to her now to convince her of her father's guilt. (getting up:) I only popped in for a smoke.

RAY: You’ve had two nights already and couldn't convince her?

KID: She was already asleep when I arrived, and for the life of me I couldn't wake her up. That's why I try to be early today.

Kid disappears.

SEAMUS (getting four capsules, the pebble, the paper and the box): Same again.

He puts the pebble into a capsule, puts the capsules into the box and shakes it. Then everybody picks a capsule.

SEAMUS: The one with the pebble will commit the next one. We'll check the contents in our sleeping rooms.

They leave the front room and return.

SEAMUS (writing their names on strips again): Now everybody will pick a capsule with a name again. The one drawn by the murderer will be the victim. Should the murderer pick his own name, we'll have to repeat the procedure.

He gives the strips to Rose to check them.

ROSE (aside, reading): Seamus O'Sullivan... Rose Lewis... John Carpenter... Ray McDonald... (to the others:) All correct!

Seamus puts the strips into the capsules, the capsules into the box and shakes it. Everybody picks a capsule.

SEAMUS: I suggest we go to sleep now.

JOHN: Would you mind if I took the minutes with me? I have to report to Boston tomorrow.

SEAMUS: No, of course not.

Seamus gives him the minutes, which John puts into his briefcase. Then all go to their rooms.

Scene IV

Seamus' front room. Seamus, Rose and John.

ROSE: Did you hear that bang tonight? Probably the Black and Tans shot somebody.

SEAMUS: No, that was Ray.

ROSE: Ray was shot?

SEAMUS: Yeah, but he had the gun in his hand, so there is a chance that our plan finally works.

ROSE: The King shot by a ghost! Everybody gets shot these days; probably not by ghosts, but still it sounds very plain... I’d still vote for the bread knife.

SEAMUS: Well, we're almost out of daggers now, so we might have to take that suggestion into consideration.

ROSE (to John): This mysterious delivery didn't arrive yet, did it?

JOHN: No, but I'll send the report to Boston tomorrow and inquire about it.

SEAMUS: We'll have the Republic before that delivery, anyway.

JOHN: I don't know what happened. Normally they're absolutely reliable. Maybe the ship was raided or something...

ROSE: They didn't pass the Flannan Isles, did they?

JOHN: Not as far as I know.

Seamus looks at his pocket watch. The ghost of Ray appears in the armchair with a gun in his hand , not noticed by the others.

SEAMUS: I hope we'll be successful this time. I can hardly wait until midnight.

RAY: It's midnight already. You should wind up your watch at times.

THE OTHERS (joyfully surprised): Ray! How are you?

RAY: Well, not too real, actually. It's a strange feeling to be a ghost.

ROSE: It's even stranger to see one.

SEAMUS: So in the end our plan did work out. (Raising his glass:) Here's to the ghost of Ray McDonald!

Rose and John lift their glasses and cheer.

RAY: Do you know the difference between the man and the ghost?

ROSE: What's that?

RAY: The ghost only comes once a night.

SEAMUS: Jesus, you re getting as bad as her (pointing at Rose).(To Rose): You have a very bad influence on that child.

JOHN (embarrassed): You’ve never talked like that before!

RAY: One gets very brave when there's nothing to lose.

SEAMUS: This is the first occasion ever that you have been on time. I hope you didn't lose your identity.

The others laugh.

RAY: I'd say there's very little that I haven't lost.

ROSE: Well, at least you haven't lost that gun.

SEAMUS: Yes, that's right. We'll have a rehearsal now. Fire a shot into that cushion for us, will you? I never liked it anyway.

Ray aims at the cushion and pulls the trigger. It clicks. Everybody looks puzzled. He pulls the trigger again, and it clicks again. John gets nervous and bites his nails. Ray pulls the trigger once more, and it clicks.

JOHN: Dammit, it was the last bullet.

Ray disappears.

SEAMUS (with forced calm, slowly repeating): It – was - the - last - bullet. (roaring at John:) Jesus Christ, did you queue for the Smith & Wessons when God handed out the brains? Why couldn't you use the dagger like anybody else?

JOHN: It's too - too close, I suppose, too personal... I mean, I couldn't stab a dagger into anybody. It's easier with a gun, I mean, - you have the distance, it's probably...

SEAMUS: Almighty, how would you have got rid of the Red Indians if the gun hadn't been invented? - So you shot Ray and put the gun in his hand.

JOHN: Yes...

SEAMUS: And if he had been dead at once, he wouldn't have a weapon at all! But you messed it up, anyway!

Seamus gets three capsules, a pebble, a sheet of paper and the box, puts the pebble into one capsule, the capsules into the box and shakes it. Everybody takes a capsule, leaves the room and returns. Seamus writes the names down and gives the strips to Rose to check them.

ROSE (aside, reading): John Carpenter... John Carpenter... John Carpenter... (to the others): All correct!

Seamus puts the names into the capsules and shuffles them. Everybody picks one.

SEAMUS: Same procedure again. The one with the pebble s t a b s his victim, and if he or she gets their own name, we'll have to repeat the draw. Goodnight otherwise.

ROSE and JOHN: Goodnight.

They leave the room.

Scene V

Seamus' front room. Seamus and Rose.

ROSE: Now John left us as well. Funny, he was the only one I wouldn't have liked to share my room with.

SEAMUS: Your language became very modest since Father Flinn passed away.

ROSE: There’s nobody left to get embarrassed; well, apart from John, of course, but he doesn't really count. You and the others were able to cope with it.

SEAMUS: I still am.

ROSE: The others as well, probably. I wouldn't think Dun Scaith changes people a lot.

SEAMUS: One fine day we'll find out.

Seamus looks at his pocket watch.

ROSE: You still believe in this plan, don't you?

SEAMUS: What choice do I have? To think that it all was in vain would drive me insane.

ROSE: And you seriously think it's going to work this time?

SEAMUS: Of course I do. It must work this time! This is our very last chance.

ROSE: I don't see any chance at all.

SEAMUS:(shocked): Why not?

ROSE: One of us committed the murder, and the other one didn't. So both of us know who it was.

SEAMUS: Well, theoretically it could have been my wife or one of the kids...

ROSE: ... or a burglar who broke into your house last night.

SEAMUS: Precisely. I won't allow you to extinguish our last ray of hope.

ROSE: A single ray doesn't give a lot of light anyway, does it?

SEAMUS: Oh please, don't get philosophical now. At least not in this negative way.

The ghost of John appears in the armchair.

ROSE: Miracles will never cease. There's John with the dagger.

SEAMUS: I thought Americans don't believe in ghosts.

JOHN: Not in the United States, because ghosts are not part of our culture.

ROSE: There's not much that is, is there?

SEAMUS: Now the Stormont Parliament is going to be opened next Wednesday. Rose and I will be there to assist you, and you will stab the King during his opening speech.

ROSE: Are you sure that John will be there?

SEAMUS: What???

ROSE: Ghosts appear during the witching hour which is between twelve and one.

SEAMUS: The Senate will meet at a quarter after twelve, which should give us enough time.

ROSE: But that's at noon, not at midnight.

SEAMUS: Twelve o'clock is twelve o'clock. You really should keep your pessimism to yourself.

John disappears.

Scene VI

An open side door of the Stormont Parliament through which the parliament can be seen. The Senate is seated, and George V just commences his speech.
Seamus, Rose and the ghost of John standing beside the door.

GEORGE V: Members of the Senate and of the House of Commons, for all who love Ireland, as I do with all my heart, this is a profoundly moving occasion in Irish history. My memories of the Irish people date back to the time when I spent many happy days in Ireland as a midshipman. My affection for the Irish people has been deepened by the successive visits since that time, and I have watched with constant sympathy the course of their affairs.

JOHN: He won't watch it for very much longer.

ROSE: Do you think John should walk up to him already?

SEAMUS: I think we should wait for an appropriate moment for him to appear in the parliament.

ROSE: But we shouldn't wait for too long. The speech could be over in two minutes, and we might miss the opportunity altogether.

GEORGE V: Few things are more earnestly desired throughout the English speaking world than a satisfactory solution of the age-long Irish problems, which for generations embarrassed our forefathers, as they now weigh heavily upon us.

ROSE: Is that an apology now?

SEAMUS: It's a bit late for that, isn't it?

JOHN: Do you think this would be the appropriate moment now?

SEAMUS: Not yet, but I think he'll come to the point soon.

ROSE: His point will be pointless, anyway.

SEAMUS: Still we should time it well to make the assassination most effective.

JOHN: But his speech seems too shallow to provide any effective occasion at all.

SEAMUS (listening to George V): Shh!

GEORGE V: I am emboldened by that thought to look beyond the sorrow and the anxiety which have clouded of late My vision of Irish affairs. I speak from a full heart when I pray that my coming to Ireland today may prove to be the first step towards an end of strife amongst her people, whatever their race or creed.

(Seamus gives John the sign to walk in, and John walks into the parliament)

In that hope, I appeal to all Irishmen to pause, to stretch out the hand

(John stands in front of George V and raises his arm)

of forbearance and conciliation, to forgive and to forget, and to join in making for the land which they love a new era of peace, contentment and goodwill.

(John stabs George V who doesn't pay any attention and continues his speech)

It is my earnest desire that in Southern Ireland, too, there may ere long take place a parallel to what is now passing in this Hall; that there a similar occasion may present itself and a similar ceremony be performed.

(John stabs George V etc.)

For this the Parliament of the United Kingdom has in the fullest measure provided the powers; for this the Parliament of Ulster is pointing the way. The future lies in the hands of My Irish people themselves.

(John stabs George V etc.)

May this historic gathering be the prelude of a day in which the Irish people, North and South, under one Parliament or two, as those Parliaments may themselves decide, shall work together in common love for Ireland upon the sure foundations of mutual justice and respect.

(John stabs George V etc.)

Scene VII

Seamus front room. Seamus and Rose coming in and hanging up their coats.

SEAMUS (falling back onto the couch): We're defeated. The whole damn thing didn't work at all.

ROSE: I know. I was there, too.

SEAMUS: But what happened? You were the one to tell everybody why it couldn't work. So what was it?

ROSE: I haven't a clue.

The ghost of Kid appears.

KID: Oh, sorry. Did I interrupt a quarrel?

SEAMUS: No, not at all. Pray tell, why is George V still alive?

KID: Why shouldn't he? He leads a protected life, keeps a healthy diet, and he's able to afford the best doctors in the world...

SEAMUS: But he was stabbed with a dagger today!

KID: No, he wasn't. He was in Belfast, and the dagger was in the Liffey.

SEAMUS: John walked up to him in the Parliament...

KID: The impression of John walked up to him with the impression of a dagger. Don't you know that ghosts don't have any effect on matter? I couldn't lift a fag if my life depended on it; I couldn't even burn your carpet with this one.

SEAMUS: Don't even dare to try!

ROSE: The King didn't even see him!

KID: Of course he didn't. He never met John before. Ghosts only appear to those who were related to them in life.

ROSE (angrily): And why didn't you tell us these things before?

KID: You didn't ask me.

SEAMUS: But you knew about our plan. Why didn't you tell us it wouldn't work?

KID: I'm not completely sure. I think it was your hypocrisy that caused me to refrain from interfering with your plot. While there were people fighting for Irish freedom, you met in secrecy and discussed the future of our country. You weren't willing to take any risks, and you didn't even support the Irish cause in public - as a lecturer you never said anything against the British, in Rose' columns there was not a single word against the occupation, Father Flinn never preached independence in the church, Ray and Pat didn't dare to mention the topic to their mates, and even John who enjoyed the safety of an American passport preferred to keep quiet. Instead of picking up a gun, you negotiated what one could or couldn't do, and finally you agreed to kill yourselves in order to free our country as ghosts. And not only that: as your target you chose the British King of all people, who is the very least of our worries. His office is the symbol of British oppression all right, but any sensible assassin would have killed one of those who oppose Irish freedom most strongly and effectively, like Edward Carson or Lloyd George. In the past centuries, many men and women gave their lives for the Irish cause, but you did it in the most ridiculous way; you're the most ludicrous bunch of chicken-hearted freedom fighters one could possibly imagine, and therefore I decided not to stop you but to watch you all going down Fiddler's Green.

SEAMUS: Not all of us, though. Rose and I are still alive.

KID: At the moment. But what do you think is going to happen after they found the minutes at John's place?

The ghost of Kid disappears. Suddenly the door is being kicked down.

© 6238-6239 RT (1997-1998 CE) by Frank L. Ludwig