From Richard Schuberth’s JUST WAIT TILL CAPTAIN FLINT SHOWS UP translated by Joe Weinkirn

“JUST WAIT TILL CAPTAIN FLINT SHOWS UP”

A Play by Richard Schuberth

Translated by Joe Weinkirn

 

AN EXTRACT

 

“Oscar’s Downfall”

 

Act Two, Scene Six

 

Dorothée, Axel, Carl, and Lucy sit down forming a half circle around the sofa on which a reclining Oscar is posing on his side and is leafing through one of Dorothée’s fashion journals.

 

LUCY

Mister Wilde?

 

OSCAR

Oh, kids, how often have I told you that you may call me Oscar? Mr. Wilde was my eponymous father, the old drunkard, and if I remember correctly, so was his father.

 

LUCY

Well, Oscar. I believe I speak for everybody here when I tell you that we are ashamed of how prejudiced we were towards you.

 

OSCAR

No, my dear, be proud of your prejudices, they are flowers aglitter with imagination’s golden pollen. Only under the weight of beastly facts do they shrivel to ordinary opinions.

 

DOROTHÉE

Mister Wilde…..pardon me, Oscar, your are most expertly cravatted today.

 

OSCAR beaming

Miss Feichtlbauer, dear Dorothy, if it weren’t so dreadfully unromantic, I would propose to you on the spot. Which, if nothing else, would solve the problem with your surname. Dorothy’s taste is improving with every nautical mile. Showing once again what civilizing effect it has to leave the tomb of one’s habits.

 

AXEL

Oscar, you have wit, and you have style. You are the iridescent patron of the Decadents. This confuses me in every way, however. Why are you of all people throwing in with the uncultured hoi polloi?

 

OSCAR draws on his cigarette and blows out the smoke in an affected manner.

The answer is simple: for the life of me I won’t accept that only supercilious upper class oafs, and not all ambitious people, should be entitled to be outdone by me in style and wit.

 

CARL

That leads me right to my next question, Oscar-

 

 

OSCAR, bored, continues leafing through the fashion journal

For middlebrow hinterland scribes: Mr. Wilde, if you please!

 

Annoyed, CARL gets up and prepares to leave

I don’t have to put up with this.

 

DOROTHÉE

Oh, come on, Carl. Sit down again. Oscar only said that for effect. Don’t take it personally.

 

OSCAR

Exactly. I didn’t want to go after you as a person. Not even as a personality.

 

CARL

Well then, Mr. Wilde. My whole life long, I have been a political literatus. A free thinker, a rebel, an atheist. By design and in demeanor. So forgive me if I am rather surprised that you, of all people, whom literary criticism clearly categorizes as belonging to a movement called L’art pour l’art…. makes “air” quotation marks towards the audience… art for art’s sake, a radical aestheticism, therefore, only concerned with the sublime and the beautiful, would subordinate your muse to a political adventure — and to a doubtful one at that!

 

 

 

 

OSCAR

Now, my good fellow, It’s not my muse but my energy which I subordinate to politics. And for entirely personal reasons. I want to make an example, raise my walking stick against the SouthSouthWesterly Trading Corporation to spare the world another uplifting poem against it. And to humbly contribute to the effort of creating socioeconomic conditions which would release the artist from the burden of creating politically engaged art. I can’t take it any longer, how many mediocre backwater litterateurs are hiding their dearth of esprit behind an abundance of sentiment. My foremost aim is to drain the swamps of social injustice to deprive those who thrive in them, the mosquitoes aka engaged artists, of their breeding grounds once and for all. Yes, I do want to extol the beauty of the loving kiss uniting dragonfly and lily, but if there is a bitter lesson I had to learn from the wrong turns of my life, it is that I mustn’t extol the lily which grows out of the pain of degraded people who could have joined me in enjoyment of its beauty. But to extol under the pretext of uplifting the pain of degraded man is simply disgusting. Who will feel the sting of that but people with refined taste? On the contrary, the institutions of society decorate the rebels of the word with medals to protect themselves from the rebels of the deed.

Your atheism, however, dear Carl, take it from me, is the most ridiculous kind of believing. You are more in need of the church than any believer. And she needs renegade altar boys like you. Your defiant screams only have an echo within the walls of the church. In the airy expanse of the real world they’d fade away like the flatulence of a mockingbird.

 

DOROTHÉE

Your are against atheism. Then you believe in God?

 

OSCAR

No, but he in me!

 

LUCY

Do you believe in miracles?

 

OSCAR

No, I have seen too many for that!

 

AXEL

And what’s your stance regarding love?

 

OSCAR

Love is a paradoxical sacrament and for no other reason than that, beautiful like the kiss of a female vampire. She thrusts all who are worthy of her into despair and brings happiness to those who don’t deserve her. One might call her a mental disorder of evolutionary-hygienic functionality. She keeps the healthy majority of insensitive, brutish people from committing suicide. The useless minority of the delicate and refined on the other hand she pushes to it.

 

LUCY

And the steady relationship?

 

OSCAR

Oh, that! The coexistence of two human beings who can’t find delight in affairs without having somebody waiting at home to betray. According to an iron law, the steady relationship, from its glorious beginning to its sad end, always passes through three stages. Takes a meaningful puff from his cigarette.

 

LUCY

…Yes?

 

OSCAR

The first and most gratifying stage, in which two people steal fire from the gods to warm each other, is the result of severe endorphin poisoning. Stage two is animated by the wish the loved one would counterbalance all of childhood’s frustrations and humiliations.

 

DOROTHÉE

Is that so bad?

 

OSCAR

No, not at all.

 

LUCY to Dorothée

Pssst! To Oscar And what happens in stage three?

 

OSCAR

Phase three finally leads to the terrible realization that the loved one isn’t the solution to but the cause of all of childhood’s frustrations and humiliations.

 

LUCY

And what about love relations between women?

 

OSCAR

The courageous attempt of two women to prove that not just man and woman are incompatible.

 

DOROTHÉE

I am sorry Oscar, but I can’t profit in the least from your cynical world view. I consider myself lucky that I retained some old-fashioned sentimentality in matters of the heart.

 

OSCAR

Dear Dorothy, sentimentality and cynicism belong together like Gilbert and Sullivan. And both I find insipid. A sentimentalist is simply one who wants to have the luxury of an emotion without paying for it. We think we can have our emotions for nothing. We cannot. Even the finest and most self-sacrificing emotions have to be paid for. Strangely enough, that is what makes them fine. The intellectual and emotional life of ordinary people is a very contemptible affair. Just as they borrow their ideas from a sort of circulating library of thought—the Zeitgeist of an age that has no soul—and send them back soiled at the end of each week, so they always try to get their emotions on credit, and refuse to pay the bill when it comes in. You should pass out of that conception of life. As soon as you have to pay for an emotion you will know its quality, and be the better for such knowledge. And remember that the sentimentalist is always a cynic at heart. Indeed, sentimentality is merely the bank holiday of cynicism. My sarcasm on the other hand is the antidote to both, a poison I humbly received from the gods.

 

 

DOROTHÉE

You are a self-pleasing he-hen!

OSCAR

That’s true. But you, too, are not unpleasing.

 

DOROTHÉE

Really? Then I take it back.

 

CARL

Dorothée, you quisling!

 

DOROTHÉE

I haven’t abandoned the cause, I am still with you, guys. But I am so infrequently complimented.

LUCY

I don’t buy your supposedly selfless activism. Yourself, that’s whom you really love!

 

OSCAR

One of the most romantic love stories of the waning nineteenth century. At least I trade on those feelings with myself and consequently do not shortchange anybody.

 

AXEL

At each of your words you look appreciatively into the mirror.

 

OSCAR

Believe me, Sir, the world would be a more livable place would it be reflected in me.

 

LUCY

Hubris before the fall!

 

OSCAR

Fall I must, in any case. But you don’t have to trip me up, Mistress Lucy, just because you yourself haven’t learned to rise up.

CARL

Baah, you dazzling narcissist queen! The banal insights you’re lecturing us on, are not exactly new. But your words are just like yourself: vain, packaged air. Your obsession for literary refinement is nothing short of pure vanity.

 

OSCAR

I have proof to the contrary. My words would please me no less if they were by someone else. Even though I’d hate that talented devil quite a bit. Oh come on, Carl, dear colleague! Never would you charge a carpenter with selfishness who instead of unhewn lumber delivers a finely worked cabinet without bends and flaws.

CARL

Darn!

DOROTHÉE

It is no the time to falter, Carl! To Oscar You think everything phrased as a paradox automatically qualifies as a truth.

 

OSCAR

Let’s say it this way: the paradox is the high wire which we force truth to walk. Only this way can we test its mettle.

 

CARL

You preach water but drink wine.

 

OSCAR pathetically blustering

Five gallons of the best porto, our Flint would say, for whosoever preaches water convincingly!

 

CARL

With you everything is superficial and shallow. True profundity doesn’t wisecrack!

 

OSCAR

But that exactly is the trick here. True wit also enjoys the jolly splash of shallow waters, whereas false profoundness manages to drown in it.

 

LUCY

For you it’s all about form and never about content. I am convinced that I think much more than you do, I just can’t express it as well.

 

OSCAR

No, Lucy, that’s phantom thinking. Only form breathes life into thought. And that goes for everything. Form is the secret of life. Give expression to mourning and your grief will become precious to you. Give expression to joy and your delight increases. You want to love? Speak the litany of love and her words will create that desire from which the world thinks they spring.

 

LUCY at a loss to Dorothée

Gosh, that was beautiful!

 

DOROTHÉE snappily

That was kitschy!

 

LUCY

But I love kitsch.

 

DOROTHÉE

Even kidnapper-kitsch? Mister Wilde, in my opinion you are a pitiable pathological case. Certainly gender — as well as biological sex — she draws quotation marks in the air — are socially constructed…….

 

OSCAR

Oh, I find it terribly outmoded to have a sex and then not use it….

 

DOROTHÉE to her friends

He is becoming insecure. To Oscar Nevertheless, you are totally unable to have sex with a woman because you can only love yourself in the other.

 

OSCAR

Bah, sex used to be such a fascinating adventure. Nowadays it has come down to wellness, whereby two people rub their genitals against each others’ while thinking of Robbie Williams.

 

LUCY

And oral sex? Pardon me.

 

OSCAR

Well, sure. That’s when only one thinks of Robbie Williams and the other about when it will finally be over.

 

DOROTHÉE to her friends

I consulted an encyclopedia. To Oscar Why did Lord Alfred Douglas leave you? Huh?

 

OSCAR frightened, frantically puts a cigarette into his mouth

Oh, abandonment, that’s terribly outmoded. Nowadays —

 

DOROTHÉE tears the cigarette from his mouth

We’ve got him, kids!

 

OSCAR, weakened, confused

Oh, Bosie! It’s so terribly outmoded —

 

CARL triumphant

Bingo! The aphorism machine is rattling in neutral, the battery will die at once. To Oscar What were you thinking when you exposed your kids to such disgrace?

 

DOROTHÉE

Cyril and Vyvyan !

 

OSCAR

Cyril? Vyvyan? O god! It…is…. terribl….

CARL aping Oscar

Outmoded?

 

OSCAR

….to desert one’s children to preempt them from doing the same..

 

CARL

And your mother? A well respected institution in Dublin society…

 

DOROTHÉE

Speranza

 

CARL

Spit at, her heart broken. Sonny boy a decadent pansy! How does one feel as murderer of one’s mother?

 

LUCY

Carl! That’s homophobic! And anti-mothering!

 

DOROTHÉE

Shut up! It serves the cause.

 

OSCAR

Oh mother. Starts to cry

 

DOROTHÉE

Go! Let’s overpower him!

 

Dorothée, Axel, Lucy and Carl are about to rush Oscar when a loud shot rings out. The friends retreat like frightened vampires who catch sight of a crucifix.

 

FLINT

Oscar, I implore you. Don’t answer them!

JIMMY FISH

We’ll-we’ll-we’ll get you out of there, man.

 

Jimmy Fish, his cutlass between his teeth, swings on a rope to the middle of the room. Flint follows him, brandishing his saber and a smoking pistol. They place themselves protectively in front of Oscar who, weakened and delirious, is lying on the sofa.

 

FLINT

Back, you goddamn mutineers! Quick, Mister Fish! We have to extract him from the danger zone.

 

Jimmy Fish cracks the whip menacingly, frightening back the “mutineers”. Flint and he wrap Oscar’s arms around their shoulders and transport him to the other sofa, depositing him softly on it. Jimmy Fish keeps the hostages in check.

 

OSCAR

Bosie! Vyvvan! Mother!

 

FLINT lovingly stroking Oscar’s cheek.

Good lord, what have they done to you, Oscar, my lad?

 

JIMMY FISH

They mu-mu-must have embroiled him in a discourse he couldn’t ha-ha-handle.

 

FLINT grabs Fish roughly at the collar

Thanks for the diagnosis, First Mate. Pushes him away: Jimmy Fish sulks. By klaboterman, there is no discourse an Oscar Wilde couldn’t handle. Shakes Oscar violently at the shoulders. Isn’t that true, my lad. You are our star. These cowardly sting rays must have hit him below the belt.

 

JIMMY FISH

With my o-o-own hands I’ll tie them unto the yardarm.

 

FLINT

A corsair’s flying fart, you will. We still need them. Oscar, do you hear me?

OSCAR screams

Jenkins. My lungs. I want to talk to the prison warden. I am putting in for two days of prison leave. My mother will be buried tomorrow. You can’t keep a man from his mother’s funeral. Jenkins. Don’t leave now! Don’t slam the door shut! Don’t slam it!

 

FLINT

We are losing him, dammit. Takes his flask out of the velvet coat and brings it to Oscar’s lips. Here, drink, and don’t you dare leave us, you Irish powder puff! Oscar coughs up the brandy and has epileptic seizures Hey, you…what’s up with you? Huh? We’ve got so used to your perfumed sailor’s yarn. Close to tears Oscar, no! Go on, tell us of your damned Greeks! I still have so much to learn from you! Come on, old chap, don’t forsake me! Why did that Plato gouge out his first officer Aristotle’s, only eye? Because of that Trojan hoochie, wasn’t it? That Helen! As I have been saying: women on board…..beautiful people, these Greeks, aren’t they? Look as if hewn from stone, but underneath the marble, that’s where the action is! What? I’ll buy you as many godforsaken Greeks as you’d like. Females, boys, centaurs…Tell me the story Oscar, you know, the one that makes you laugh so hard? laughs …..Jimmy Fish ditto...This skipper, Ulysses, right? The story, you know, when he fucks the mother superior of Cyprus, after she’d transformed his crew into pigs. Hahaha! Why are you so still? In sheer desperation he slaps the face of the nearly unconscious Oscar.

 

DOROTHÉE

Sir, you are hurting him.

 

FLINT

Just as I will you, you strumpet. So say something, Ossy. Only one more of your sweet words….

 

OSCAR opens one eye

Do you love me?

FLINT

That’s blackmail, you scoundrel!

 

LUCY

So tell him already!

 

AXEL, DOROTHÉE

So find it in your heart!

 

FLINT spits onto the floor with disdain.

Very well. To Oscar Yes, dammit. Would you now kindly come back to life?.

 

OSCAR

My mother……

 

FLINT with feeling

Upon my name, Horatio MacDonald Flint, as soon as we’ve erected the finest mausoleum the world has ever seen for the SouthSouthWesterly Trading Corporation, we’ll exhume your mother’s bones and lay waste to them. What the hell am I saying?

Flint punishes himself by knocking his head. Oscar smiles in amusement. The pirates glow expectantly. The hostages ditto.

 

OSCAR

It’s all right, Horace, you salty sea cucumber.

 

Oscar rights himself and brushes some specks of dust from his dandy’s jacket. Thinking on his feet, Jimmy Fish beheads another lily with his cutlass and slips the flower with a grin into Oscar’s buttonhole.

OSCAR

Thanks, Jimmy Boy. All women turn into their mothers. Which is their good fortune. No man does. Which is his tragedy.

 

Flint slaps his upper thigh and lets loose with a loud guffaw, commanding his hostages by a quick, imperious gesture to join in.

 

FLINT

That’s it, Oscar. He is his old self again. Thank the Lord. Shall I have the mutineers’ skin peeled?

Oscar looks questioningly at the hostages who are trying to influence his decision by shaking their heads and looking as innocent as possible.

 

OSCAR, pointedly queeny

Not so, Horace. We are a pirate ship and not a beauty farm.

 

Everybody laughs. The hostages also breathe a sigh of relief. Only Carl, who feels superfluous, separates from the group. Flint shakes Oscar’s head chummily by firmly gripping his elegantly layered hair.

FLINT

That was a good one! I am damned if one wouldn’t sooner wet shave a sea urchin than make an Oscar Wilde knuckle under.

 

CARL screams

I can’t stand this any longer, damn it!

 

DOROTHÉE

Run, Carl, run!

 

Carl runs to the window, yanks it open and jumps out.

 

DOROTHÉE euphorically

Kids, he has done it! He’s made it! Carl will save us. He got out.

 

Flint runs to the window, Dorothée after him. He draws one of his two pistols and takes aim. Dorothée yanks his arm upward. A shot goes off. Flint seizes the opportunity and Dorothée’s hips. She fends him off with her fists.

 

FLINT smiling demonically

I love it when you get angry, you Cis-leithan cuttlefish. I just wanted to give your friend a quick ending. Drowning or ripped apart by sharks — not so good. Now I see how little you care for him.

 

DOROTHÉE furious

He is going to get help, and then you’ll end up where you belong!

 

FLINT

We belong whither your friend led the way.

 

Flint pushes Dorothée away in a rough manner and, in a good mood, begins to sing a sea shanty. Oscar and Jimmy, initially with hesitation but then martially, join in the song.

 

FLINT, OSCAR, JIMMY FISH

Lift him up and carry him along

Fire Marengo, fire away

Lay him down where he belongs

Fire Marengo, fire away.

 

Stow him down in the hold below

Fire Marengo, fire away

One more turn and then we’ll go

Fire Marengo, fire away.

 

Ease him down and let him lay

Fire Marengo, fire away

One more turn and then we’re away

Fire Marengo, fire away.

 

When I gets back to Liverpool town

Fire Marengo, fire away

I’ll pass a line to little Sally Brown

Fire Marengo, fire away.

 

 

 

Sally, she’s a pretty little craft

Fire Marengo, fire away

Cut sharp to the fore with a rounded aft

Fire Marengo, fire away.

 

I’ll haul her high, I’ll haul her low

Fire Marengo, fire away

I’ll bust her blocks and make her go

Fire Marengo, fire away.

 

 

Screw the cotton, screw it down

Fire Marengo, fire away

Let’s get the hell from Hilo town

Fire Marengo, fire away.

By Richard Schuberth

Translated by Joe Weinkirn

More about Richard Schuberth here.

Johannes “Joe” Weinkirn was born half a century ago in the middle of Austria, halfway between Linz and Vienna. He made his way down to Vienna to study Cultural Anthropology. A few years on he decided to cross the prime meridian into the Western Hemisphere, setting up his homestead in New York City where he has spent half his life now. For work he splits his days between tour guiding and gardening; for pleasure he translates great literature.

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