Judit Lőrinczy’s play debuted in 2009 at HungaroCon and later in English as one of the winners of the five minute play contest of Eyebrow Productions in London at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
A five-minute play
First and Second passengers are sitting on chairs next to each other. They shake sometimes, and we can hear engine drone in the background. It seems they are sitting in some kind of a vehicle. We cannot see the Radio.
There is a digital watch on the stage, counting down from five minutes.
The two men are bored. Second passenger yawns.
Radio: …the weather is clean, we expect sunshine, later it’s going to cloud up. Four minutes forty-four seconds left.
First passenger: Sorry, I forgot what did you say, where do you come from?
Second passenger: Gring. We breed rabbits there, you know. Big farms. Special feed.
First passenger: Oh, I see. I’ve never heard about Gring before. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t remember it.
Second passenger: No problem. Nobody does.
First passenger takes out a cigarette.
Second passenger: Is it allowed here?
First passenger: No, actually not.
Second passenger: Because you know, anything happens, and…
First passenger: Because of this? No, I don’t think so. But it’s better not to smoke here. I don’t think they notice or something… I won’t have that cigarette. I don’t know why I wanted it anyway. I never smoke.
Second passenger: Is there a problem?
First passenger: No, nothing. Why?
Second passenger: I don’t know, you look nervous.
First passenger: I’m okay. And what do you do there?
Second passenger: Where?
First passenger: Well, there, what you said.
Second passenger: At Gring? I’m also breeding rabbits.
First passenger: I thought so.
Second passenger: And you?
First passenger: Fishing. I like fishing.
Second passenger: Really? When I was a child, I used to dream about going fishing. But we never went. There weren’t any lakes or rivers nearby, you know. Will you go after this?
First passenger: To fish? Of course. I can hardly wait.
Second passenger: I can imagine you sitting on the bank watching the cork and nothing happens. Isn’t it boring?
First passenger: No, not at all. That’s the point. That nothing happens. It’s the silence. Only me and the fish, no one else.
Radio: Four minutes.
Second passenger: And what do you catch?
First passenger: Trout. Then I cook it. It tastes…
Second passenger: Jesus, you eat it?
First passenger: Of course. Don’t you like fish?
Second passenger: I like it but I avoid it for a while. They’re not safe. You’d better not eat fish.
First passenger: Is rabbit better?
Second passenger: Sure. We give them this special feed.
First passenger: I believe you. Are you married?
Second passenger: For two days.
First passenger: Really? Well, congratulations!
Second passenger: Thank you. It was time I got married. You know she’s not a beauty, but she’s nice, a really nice girl. That kind of… wife material. We want three children! At least! Three boys, my God, that would be really good!
First passenger: And where is she now?
Second passenger: Who?
First passenger: Who, who, your wife.
Second passenger: Well. At Gring.
First passenger: Does she breed rabbits, too?
Second passenger: No, no, but her father does. You know, these huge, black and white rabbits. If I go home I’m going to work there. At her father’s farm. He’s a good guy. He promised me if I got married I could work at his farm. His rabbits are very good, you know. No heavy metals in them. Safe to eat. It’s very, very important, that’s why I don’t eat fish. And you? Do you have somebody? Family?
First passenger: I had a wife and two kids. But we haven’t talked for a while.
Second passenger: Oh, I’m so sorry. Many people divorce these days. Absence grinds people down. When did you see them last?
First passenger: Two years ago.
Second passenger: I haven’t seen my wife yet, we’ve only been corresponding. I miss her more for all that.
First passenger: You haven’t seen the girl?
Second passenger: No, not yet. I think she hardly can wait for me to… knock the dust off her!
First passenger: The dust?
Second passenger: She’s still a virgin, you know. At least that’s what she wrote. You miss your loved ones, don’t you?
First passenger: Actually, not any more. I started to forget them.
Second passenger: How?
First passenger: Well, time passes. They’re fading away.
Second passenger: I can’t imagine this.
First passenger: You will. After about ten or fifteen years of marriage, you can imagine anything.
Second passenger: What changed?
First passenger: My wife couldn’t accept my decision. She said I have to choose between her and my job. So we got divorced. When I started to work here, after my first journey, I wrote her a letter saying they should just consider me dead.
Radio: Three minutes.
Second passenger: But you’re alive!
First passenger: In their eyes I’m not. At least she doesn’t want me to pay child support.
Second passenger: I think it’s understandable she wanted more attention. Our job separates us from our family for too much time.
First passenger: No, actually it wasn’t a problem. She stands against all of this.
Second passenger: But she should know we solve all the problems. We don’t have to live in fear anymore. The future is ours. Our children can live in a better world! Do we want more? I think it worths everything. I’d do anything for it. Nobody will threaten my children!
First passenger: That’s why you signed up?
Second passenger: Sure. Like everybody else did.
First passenger: Yeah, like everybody else did.
Second passenger: Not your first time, is it?
First passenger: It’s my seventh.
Second passenger: That’s pretty good. This is my first.
First passenger: Are you kidding? I thought… I thought you were experienced.
Second passenger: Don’t worry, we had so much practice. It won’t be difficult for me, not at all.
First passenger: I’m not worrying. At least not about that.
Second passenger: Is there anything I should know?
First passenger: Small fry. When you pull the stick, do not twitch it. Pull it slowly, smoothly towards you.
Second passenger: Okay.
First passenger: And do not look down.
Radio: Two minutes. We are at ten tousand meters.
Second passenger: Why? We have goggles, don’t we?
First passenger: It doesn’t protect us from anything.
Second passenger: What do you mean?
First passenger: It doesn’t matter. First time everybody looks down. Everybody wants to know what it’s like. We’re all curious. Everybody looks down. Once. Only for the first time. And never forgets. The question is, can you come back and do it again? And only time will tell that.
Second passenger: It pays well. I’m sure I’m going to take the next one. It isn’t that difficult. I mean, our part, it’s not that difficult. You know, I only pull this stick, nothing more.
First passenger: If you say.
Second passenger: Does it always detonate forty-three seconds after releasing?
First passenger: Yeah. If we drop it at ten tousand meters. That’s the optimal height.
Second passenger: They explained this at the training.
First passenger: Then you know it already.
Second passenger: You just wanted to scare me, right?
First passenger: Scare you? I beg your pardon. Haven’t you noticed yet what we’re carrying? And I want to scare you?
Engine noise slowly fades.
Second passenger: Okay, okay. I just wanted to know.
First passenger: Are you scared?
Second passenger: I really don’t know. I think I’m scared.
First passenger: Of what?
Second passenger: Of doing something wrong.
First passenger: Believe me, you won’t. Just pull the stick. That’s why there are two of us, to help each other. It’ll be okay.
Second passenger: Okay, okay.
First passenger: Are you still scared of something?
Second passenger: Not so much now.
First passenger: Good. We just do get it done and we can head back.
Second passenger: And what’s going to happen after that?
First passenger: Down there?
Second passenger: No, up here, with us.
First passenger: Shock wave tumbles us a little. But it’s not much to look at.
Second passenger: And I’m not supposed to look down, right?
First passenger: You will. Everybody looks down.
Radio: Fifty seconds. Attention, prepare for release.
First and Second passenger grab invisible sticks.
Radio: Attention, release in five seconds, five, four, three, two, one.
The passengers pull the sticks with a huge effort. Forty-three seconds left according to the watch. The passengers lean sharply right, as the plane turns. The shaking and the whizzing sounds are stronger and louder. After the turn the two men automatically put on goggles. The goggles are huge, opaque and dark.
Second passenger: Can you see anything in this stuff?
First passenger: Not much.
Second passenger: You know, it’s healthier to eat rabbit than fish. Because of all the heavy metals. They’re everywhere in the seas and rivers and nobody will ever clear them up.
When time is up we can see a glare for a moment, then the light dims. Only Second passenger is on the stage, he looks up and takes down his goggles. He looks stunned.
About the author
Judit Lőrinczy works as a prosecutor but writing and painting have always been important to her. She mostly writes short stories and some of them have been published in Hungarian fiction magazines. Nowadays she is working on her novel and painting and drawing for exhibitions. Forty-Three Seconds is her first play.
Photo: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net, Tim Beach
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