Lost Clause II

Losing the house didn’t bother Caldwell. It had been chopped and changed so much since the divorce that it no longer resembled the house he had grown up in. What did bother Caldwell was what exactly his mother was selling. Was it the ornaments? The wood panelled flooring? The whole thing? The very land his summerhouse stood on?

Caldwell’s mistake, of course, was thinking that the summerhouse was his at all. In truth the glorified shed had not been gifted to him, or even loaned to him as a kindness. His mother was almost permanently abroad, and when she did vacation home, she spent most of her time staking out his father’s new bachelor pad. She had not noticed he was still there until he sat down at the dining table to confront her.

Mother, He began, quite ceremoniously.

Oh. Yes. She replied, taken aback.

Caldwell, isn’t it?

I’ve seen the sign in the driveway.

Oh, good. I was worried no one could.

What does it mean?

What do you mean what does it mean?

What does it mean for me?

Well…nothing, I imagine. You’ve got your own place now.

I’ve got-

It was at this point that Caldwell realised his mother had not gifted him the summerhouse, or loaned it to him as a kindness. He also assumed that the binoculars on the table were not a gift for him either, but for something much more sinister.

I see. So you’re selling the house?

Yes.

And the furniture?

Yes.

And the land?

Yes. If someone can afford it.

And how much would it cost?

His mother then suggested a price that does not bear thinking about and honestly made Caldwell break out in a cold sweat.

Why? Are you thinking of buying it?

He had been.

No. I was just…curious.

Well. This was nice. Shall I show you out?

She then, in a almost farcical manner, proceeded to escort him through a house he knew inside out, and out into the driveway where he pretended to walk along the country lane for five minutes before crawling back into the property through a makeshift entrance he had built eleven years prior.

Taking Liberties: Julius Caesar

So recently I watched a production of  Julius Caesar and it struck me that Shakespeare, who I thoroughly enjoy, can be a bit, well, verbose. I think it’s something I struggle with too, but it’s much more noticeable when peppered with doths and thous.

I usually have an unfair advantage with theatre, in that I’ve read a lot of plays. But I have not read Julius Caesar, and for the first time in a long time, I found myself noticing the play and not following it. So it got me thinking:

Why is it when theatremakers want to ‘modernise’ Shakespeare they always just end up changing the setting, or the  costume, or the genders of the characters?

Is there a way to keep the imagery and metaphors while at the same time, making the play a little easier to follow?

As a generally muted person, how can I relate to the overwrought emotions of a Shakespeare performance?

So I decided to have a go at tackling those questions by rewriting the scene where Cassius visits Brutus after the death of Caesar. Read on.


 

I want to leave, Brutus.

(Approaching him) Now, Cassius. This is the time for us to stand together, brother.

I’m not your brother! Okay? I’m just a member of a conspiracy you happened to get involved in! One that should have ended a long time ago, but, for some reason, some oversight, has twisted into this- abomination that I don’t recognise. I don’t want any of this! I did what I set out to do and the results are what they are. There is nothing I can do about it now, so let me go home. I need you to let me go.

This feeling will pass.

You don’t understand! If I stay here any longer, I’ll lose my mind.

You’re exaggerating.

And you’re not listening!  I shouldn’t have come this far in the first place! Let me go. Please. I’m not doing you any favours by being here.

You’re doing me many favours, actually, without even realising.

Then, let me rephrase: You’re not doing me any favours by keeping me here. We will lose-

(Turning away from him) Stop it, Cassius-

We will, though, unless you send me away! I am not a warrior, Brutus. I’m not a commander. I’m a man. A man who spoke too rashly and acted too quickly. You will lose if you continue to take my advice.

Then don’t consult me about the war! We can talk about something else.

What else is there? The games? The Lupercalia? Should we sit and discuss the murder we committed? Run through it scene by scene, like a play? (Forcing his knife into Brutus’ hand) You take this knife, and I’ll pretend to be Caesar! (Kneeling) Put me out of my misery, Brutus.

(Throwing the knife aside) This isn’t a game, Cassius.

(Jumping up) Yes! Exactly! It was never a game. What we did with our two hands was snatch a life. We took control of something that was never ours to control.  We were stupid- I was stupid to think that killing Caesar would be a quick fix, an reversal, a slight shift. What we have created- What I led us to create, and I can take full responsibility, is worse than what came before. (Turning away) We thought we were liberating Rome by killing one of her fathers but what have we given her instead? Freedom or Chaos?

Chaos is not something to fear. In the beginning, there was chaos.

Yes and nothing else. For centuries. Is that what you want? Is that why you plunged that knife into his heart, so we could be ravaged by war for centuries? In the beginning there was chaos, yes. But this is not the beginning. Life has already started. We have this great land, this spirit, this history. To return to chaos would be backwards, would be wrong. A sin against the very state that we made Caesar bleed for. What we created, what I missed in my patriotic mania, my jealousy even, was that we are a civilisation now. And we damage our own foundations when we behave in uncivilised manners.

What should we have done then, Cassius? Do you think democracy would have saved us? Do you think we could have talked Caesar down?

Down from what exactly? From ambition? From pride? From our pride? Our ambition? No, Brutus. It has never been the task of men to judge their peers and cut down those whose senses are heightened. That belongs to the gods. That is why we have the Fates. Caesar’s crime was being beloved, and being beloved is not so great a height, when you remember how fickle the rabble is. I was beloved once. You were beloved once. And now we are here. Called traitors and conspirators. (He paces the room, distracted)  Nothing is permanent, Brutus, and if we had practiced patience- (He changes direction) Who would have thought that such a quick act would have led to these long and tumultuous years? If I’d known- (He turns to Brutus) But isn’t that always the way?

So impatience and jealousy led us here?

That is what I have finally understood. At my very core, I am impatient, I am jealous and you must not let me lead you again. Send me home, Brutus. Or better still, don’t send me home. Don’t let me face my mother, my children, my countrymen while I  wear this shame. Exile me. Exile yourself! It’s what we deserve for robbing Rome of a father, and robbing ourselves of Rome as we knew it. For after this nightmare will come another and I would sooner gouge my eyes out than witness my city burn.

Lost Clause I

In moments of high drama, some things will inevitably fall by the wayside. One might forget to wash their hair, for instance, or to iron their clothes. One might forget their wallet at home, or put on two different socks. Sometimes, one might forget a child they had brought into the world. Such is life.

We find Caldwell, our hapless protagonist, in that very situation. After 12 years of uncomfortable family holidays, and gatherings and photos, his parents decided to loudly and publicly uncouple. Many depositions were recorded, many articles were written and many gold bars were hidden in almost cartoonish fashion. Yet, somehow, when the final list of assets had been drawn up, Caldwell had not been included.

It wasn’t the first time that someone had forgotten about Caldwell. For the first three years of his life, he did not have a name because his parents ‘never got round to it’. The name Caldwell had been made up on the spot, on his first day of school and since no one could be bothered to protest it, it had stuck.

But having a name did not improve Caldwell’s luck. He just had, it seemed, nothing much about him. His eyes were very eye like and his nose could only be described as ‘on his face’. In fact, Caldwell’s invisibility had become lore. Locals would swap stories of how, one minute, he had been in the sweet shop and the next, right before there eyes, he’d still been there but it was ‘kind of like he wasn’t.’

The divorce only served to strengthen the myth of Caldwell. His two filthy rich and petty parents squabbled over door frames and window panes, while their son, if he indeed existed, continued with his day with only a set of earplugs to keep him company. That’s why he wasn’t at all surprised by being left out of the settlement. What did surprise him, though, was how reluctant his parents had been, once the mistake had been noticed, to  to fix it.

Well, they each said.

Well.

Seeing as you’ve already packed up-

Perhaps it’s time you stood on your own two feet.

But I am standing on my own two feet, he reminded them. And also, I’m twelve.

If this was the Sudan, and you were a girl, you would be married by now.

Caldwell could only agree.

So you see, this is entirely possible.

You’ve got to start out sometime. Why not start immediately?

Then they both got into their respective sport cars and drove away.

Surprisingly, Caldwell did not make it very far. Twelve year olds do not possess things like money or life skills. At least, this one didn’t.  He could just about drag his Goyard trunk to the summerhouse at the end of his parents’, now mother’s, home before he collapsed in a  pile of gilets on the floor out of boredom and frustration.

There he remained. For 12 years. Scavenging for whatever food his mother left in the fridge while she was abroad. He foraged for whatever he needed: water, warmth, all the episodes of Game of Thrones available on Sky Catch Up. He was a warrior, a survivor. A ghost even, depending on what the locals continued to say.

Until of course, our inciting incident takes place: Caldwell’s Mother decides to sell the house.

Come Home, Aiden

The past seems like a dream now. I know everyone says that, but it’s true. Before, my memories were so vivid that I could touch them. Now, everything seems out of focus and no matter how hard I try, I can’t get close enough. I can’t go back.

I try every night. I lie there and start from the beginning. Meeting you. Marrying you. I watch the brick fall away, hear the babble of the brook and the bending of the trees. I can see her approaching the alter. But I’m not her.

I can see her touching you. She’s scared, her lip quivers. You take her hand firmly. You look into her eyes and put her at ease.

I’m jealous, if I’m being honest. I know she’s me, but I really am jealous of her. She gets to touch you the way I can’t anymore. She has a future with you, the way I don’t anymore. I watch her getting to know you, exploring the world with you. Holding your hand, seeing your face in the morning.  It’s like a film or something. Someone else’s memories.

When morning comes, I have more questions. Was that really us? Were we really that happy? Did we become two halves of a whole?

Because I can’t see it anymore. I can’t feel it. I haven’t felt anything in…centuries. Except this growing…displacement? I’m not sure if that’s the right word, but here in our business and our home, I feel false. Like this isn’t really my body. Like I stole someone else’s life and now I’m just wandering around doing nothing with it.

How did I get here? How did we, despite how we started, how we suffered, still manage to love each other so deeply, to trust each other completely, to build something so miraculous that noone else could rival us?  And then, after all of that, how have we ended up here, now, arguing over a dinner invitation? It’s not right. It can’t be how our story ends. We should be somewhere else. We should be doing something else.

We should be together.