Bill Drennan

from Flotation Settlement, a play-in-progress

Chorus:(Chanting reverberatively, voices staggered by seconds. Possibility for Vocoder-like effects. Randomly spaced – As many as can fit on stage.) We’re late again ... Shipped slow & cutting a late wake. Now we – for many we are – are late developments, developed on currents, and can bring a well-tested position to port: that what we do what we do and cannot see ourselves in madness. Killing the curses, we tended not towards pointing fingers in order to glorify our own fingernails. We used them to pluck. That’s right: we – for we are many and we are one, and you are one etcetera. Anyway, down there the concerted assault came after point zero, as it usually does, past the nadir, and so we pulled ourselves together, to what we are. And what we are is just that. And just that is a wave of gladness. We might even blow kisses, for kisses blown should not be winded but the wind blow more blowing the organs’ return the corresponding joy of passionate signatures. So we all got them at different times, and made of the time what we could in bits n pieces, surrendering fantasies to the earth, falsities too. The sea, of course, is hard to please. And sea-sickness: it is unpleasant until the yawning finally departs. This we assent to wholeheartedly, and relate the relative nature of the departure.

Curtain raised, Analyst and a tank are on stage. Analyst taps away at laptop with professional aloofness, then gets up and approaches the tank in the manner of a lawyer. Lifts sheet from tank to reveal Body, a crash-test dummy soaking in a magician’s water-filled tank – clearly labelled IN EMERGENCY BREAK GLASS. Wears headpiece. ‘Speaks’ in a tinny tannoy voice over PA system. Electrodes emanate upwards from the body like puppet strings. A puppetmaster above in the scaffolding manipulates Body.

Analyst: (Operates a laptop computer. Looks professional.) You sleep accused of having done nothing useful and having said nothing worth saying; that your tank is riddled with angst. What do you have to say to that?

Body: (Tossing to left and right and ranting softly in sleep-shifting muttering sotto vocce which doesn’t sound angry, but numbly or narcotically projected, trance-like; even the expletives are soft.) Ah! Mother of Joseph fucking K! I’ll never read Das Schloss at bedtime again. I’ll give you angst instead, I’ll give you … Ah! What’s the use talking to a factualist, a gadget-hugger! You want more torture, hmmmm? Aw. More usefulness! Try. Try this. (Mimicking.) I’m an analytical riddle fucking with your head! I nearly laughed, but can’t. OK! So I’ll tell you again then, instead of laughing bubbles into the water, just one more time … Once more … More time … A last chance for you to prove yourself as an expert in dullness – though you won’t like the content coz it doesn’t fit in your tidy box of goodies. Goodness is not ‘nice’ people like yourself, your self as rotten as the rest of us. I’m sick. I’m sick too, I’ve joined the club … I’ve told you all this already, what’s wrong with you? … How I feel … Angst … Can’t see the blue sky for clouds … I’ve got a mixture going on in here … An uneasy thundery mixture … As if the hot and cold taps are running, filling my head with irregular temperatures, the gush of metallic-looking waterfalls.

A loud wet fart lets rip … Bubbles appear in tank and Body wiggles …

Analyst: (Pinching nose.) Ugh! It’s obvious you’re troubled and maybe a bit mixed up inside. Oh! The flatulence. The spleen. What a nice analyst would expect from a saucy client – or an anthropomorphic test device, a self-tortured mannequin banging its head off the telescopic windscreen. But I can put up with your bad habits; you know I need this experience with you to develop a career in psychiatric counselling and financially support you and your useless ways. Now. Listen through that uncomfortable headpiece of yours: you need my transferrable skills and you know it. So then. To business: last time we came to an agreement. Yes, an agreement … can you remember it? Didn’t I email he minutes to you? No. Well, never mind, there’s no point in stressing ourselves out over it. This is what we agreed: we agreed, didn’t we, Body, that isolation self-imposed leads to fearful conjecture and nightmarish projections into the ether. We also agreed – that’s right, correct me if I’m not beyond correction – that it’s time for you to shake yourself out of these illusions and wake up. You’re not really in there, are you? We’ve got our projections all confused, haven’t we, and the fluctuating temperature of your psychus imperitus is a symptom of this. Your metabolism might be in need of a hard reset to default settings. Now tell me about your latest adventures.

Alarm clock rings …

Body: (Still speaking softly.) Aaaaaahwww bullshit and more shit! Turn that bastard fucking thing off. Shit! Shut up! (The complaint quickly tapers into a big yawn.) Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaw! (Normal voice.) Oh it’s only you. Ah! But I won’t wake up till you dirty sexy to me … How about a morning quickie, a short intense burst. I’m horny as hell. I’m hot right now. Go on! It’ll help. I’m ready to come out for love. Forget all this nonsense, I can just bury it all, keep it for later … You know very well we’re more than just an analyst and crackpot cracked team. Go on, don’t tease me any longer. I want you to talk dirty to me face to face, with a sparkle in the eye … And look at me: I can’t even see you or touch you. What the hell happened to us anyway?

Analyst: (Sits down and taps commands on keyboard.) What happened to you is the subject of the current project. And, yes, we all know what you need – that much is self-evident. I know you well enough to know your frustrated curses and their sources. Maybe you should bury those particular demons under your tongue – even if they are related facts – and talk a bit more first, so we can get to know each other all over again. I want to help. It won’t take long and it’ll prepare you for a new life. But before that, I’d like that update please. Now let’s see … It was under the heading of Any Other Business …

Body: (Still yawning.) AAAAAAAWW A.O.B. Sure. I can feel a hormonal rant coming on … I don’t pretend not to feel and don’t fake feelings for advantage. So I’ll shower you with tactics that swam right out of the fucking sewage system … Have some raw sewage then … You and your cronies deserve to be smug and play it nice, fucking cowards, thieves, shit-stirring in each others’ arseholes … because you all go for it big time and take yourselves way too serious, unwinding whatever merdish fabric is at hand and tying it up in knots of newish shite. Liars. Thieves. Articulators. Manipulators. Sociopathic cunts pretending to be nice. Neo-shitters and phoney scum. The scum always rises, isn’t it so? Always pushing the right buttons! Always knowing what’s best for classes or groups or individuals you’ll never really know …

Analyst: Not another paranoid Bodyrant! When will you learn to switch off and chill. You’re a real barrel of laughs riding high on ill-conceived concerns, fears, disappointments. Let me help. I’ll reel you in to safe ground, because you’re like a fish swollen to the point of bursting …

Body: Are you trying to say that I’ve put the weight on? Or that I’m some kind of cake-eating dummy sweating like a big fatty oily fish that’s devoured just about all the shit in sight? Or are you trying to talk dirty: “like a fish swollen to the point of bursting.” You know the last time I had any fucking cake? I suppose you do coz you’re just another voice bursting with answers … Aren’t you? … Playing the game, teasing with soothing platitudes and flat similes … You know nothing! And I know how you slept your way to your last job, like a good team player! Ah! Unmeritable phoney … And you saved your body, your love, for the machine … Deprived me … Made a fool out of me … Disappeared … Kept me waiting … And now look at the pickle I’m in … Yes you! You belong to the machine; remember, its number-crunching you too! Don’t forget that, Analyst!

Enter Flotation Consultant from above, fumbling with harness … Suspended above the stage, sitting in a cuckoo-landish cloud. Gowned and vatic, wearing long beard and Space Age toga; fumbling and twitching.

Analyst: Yes, yes! It’s always someone else’s fault. Don’t you trust me? I have to support you somehow – now that you’re in no fit state to work. I’m nearly certified at Level 3. I’m a hard-working achiever, I’ve adopted various co-ordination roles, and, what’s more, I’m approachable, available as a download and dirty in bed. So, if things are as you say they are, come out and get some. It’s steamy out here …

Body: Ah! No. Don’t think you can tease me out like a desperate prick. It’s your own sad mixture of empathy and bitchiness that gives me the boke. I’m not a professional like you – all image, no substance … And with a freeze-dried brain like yours, the steam’s no option. You’re too cold, too obvious … Set in stone … You should know that obviousness is depraved … But is it obvious that I need you in the flesh? That I need your flesh like I need my own? I miss it … What the fuck happened? Help me cry if you want to be useful. I don’t want sympathy. I could do with a good cry and a powerful ejector seat, the great ejaculator in the sky! So that like an out-of-body trip I get a bird’s-eye view of my situation.

Flotation Consultant: Steam! Steamy situation! You two copy and paste water … That’s no way to conduct an enquiry … For the enquiring mind there must surely be flexibility, wariness of investing in that which is coordinated through bad ritual. Nasty is nasty. Only cowards and phoneys need an agenda to strike ugly chords. You’re playing dirty games with each other for bitch-kicks and it’s not the right way to go. You can’t love that Body while it’s in with the dirty bathwater looking at the dirt. You both need to be less emotional and more physical, less smutty and more erotic. Clean and cleansing, being you’re your own pornography, making of it what you will as you will. Will? Whatever it is … The game’s more of a rational settlement within the physical world and with others within it … Be free to cooperate as best you can … using passion as it was intended, for pleasure, for contact … contact … con … co … (Slips into a trance … Gently tugging his beard) … tactical coco … mutual imposition of cooperative and opposing energies … in packets of equilibrium, nervous impulses modulating in minute currents of inexhaustable electric shivers … (Looking at the beard in his hand then shaking his head out of the trance) … But I digress. You’re jerking each other off, so to speak … the early exploratory stages of Love dissolved into a familiarity approaching hatred. Now, if I can just get another word or two in to expound on the Flotation Method, a speculative notion which proposes that the whole trouble with advantage is the greed for it and therefore agreeably represents the opposite of this. In practical terms I’m sure this greed stuff is a basic brute force really, and difficult to manage unless you’re certain it’s for the best – I mean, we can’t really change without spasm and voltage … Everybody understands this … Sometimes equilibrium is drawn into to abstraction, warped into a false dispute so that the subject of the said operation channels raw conditioning and merges with its agents and operatives – that is: with contrived commitments. A swift slide, on the scale, on a steep gradient, into the water and, za-splosh, down it goes. Certainly, a helping hand can’t be such a bad thing … If offered peacefully with no guile. But not to worry: the good-tempered Flotation Method is basic and common and does not promote the ancient trepanning method any more than it supports the Freudian obsession with penetrating repressed currents; or the cult of E-Meter technique which is too heavy on the grid … And others, other experiments too. Inherently good and left to themselves co-operative, self-representing, confident individuals, rational and sane and dignified. Why force sameness when it’s always there, self-evident? A body that can’t stand its own ground will slip by one degree or another … Look there at that withdrawn ego in the tank … it needs to be elevated and evaporated out of the tank by the basics of the Flotation Method; which are love, understanding, unity, honesty … Simple rhythms, most natural, more difficult to realise, to make real … These naïve fictions don’t need a closed system, because Nature is not closed. Anyway I hope you don’t mind me dropping in unannounced. Here’s my card (Drops calling card onto stage with a soft smile and a gentle shudder) … My services are free … Funded by the Open Society for the Freedom of Agitated Energy … pronounced OSFA, bedded in soft sibilance, a possible word for a possible world, an alternative self-recognising insanity of the progressive type …

Bill Drennan is author of the space fiction project at http://hypoetics.blogspot.com, a book of poetry, Flightpath Resistor (print version, Prosthetic Books, 2007; blog version, http://flightpathresistor.blogspot.com, & a book of short stories and sketches, Stories Short and Strange (Argotist Ebooks, 2010). He is a regular contributor to Otoliths, has other bits and pieces scattered here and there, and is the proud subject of various caricatures penned and performed by a ganging clique which does not openly source its inspiration.
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