← Return to Houdini

 

An Excerpt from Houdini

 

(The scene opens to a grove of evergreens. HOUDINI and BEATRICE walk over the maroon-colors of fallen pine needles. Slant shafts of light. Three gravestones: a tall Celtic cross and two small stones, one on each side.)

 

HOUDINI

A tank town in the sticks.

A walk in the country.

 

BEATRICE

Smell the clover. Harry, the fresh-cut grass.

 

HOUDINI

All right, Marco. Volonty’s gone to the beauty shop. Go find a massage parlor.

 

MARCO BONE

Two minutes, boss.

(Exits.)

 

BEATRICE

They’re good, working alone or together. They can find out enough in two or three hours so that we can run a flawless mind-reading act tonight.

 

HOUDINI

If you help me, too. Bess — you flashed out at me as I came out of the ice. Beyond belief, and I know. Terror and waiting, for you. But I know in myself I can get through. All the escapes!

 

BEATRICE

Terror of what I knew you were seeing.

 

HOUDINI

When I had almost forgotten how to breathe, memory,

like a diagram of ice and air. There, under any

ice, I remembered, a layer of air. I lay back

in the water, just under that hard ceiling,

letting my lungs fill. That small space, that

last-minute breath gave me a second chance.

I could come home to you.

 

BEATRICE

I thought you had gone.

When did you first know?

 

HOUDINI

On the beach, when you spoke about magic. It meant Bess and me, joined.

 

BEATRICE

In bed, on the stage?

 

HOUDINI

Yes. Help me with these stones.

 

BEATRICE

Volonty in the beauty parlor, collecting gossip; Marco in the whorehouse, collecting names and intimate details. And our afternoon in the green woods —

 

HOUDINI

(Bent over the base of the Celtic cross.)

What do you think this one is?

 

BEATRICE

A father and two children? No.

 

HOUDINI

Well, this is a woman with a very long life. Frances Strang. And the children?

 

BEATRICE

Not exactly children. “Mitchell Strang, beloved husband of — ” and his dates.

 

HOUDINI

(At the other small stone.)

This is beloved husband too. What have you got? Mine is ten years later.

 

BEATRICE

It’s their private plot, Harry. Ah, we’ll read their minds tonight. It’s surely the grand estate of the town. And these are the people behind it, information. Wife; they’re not children, they’re husbands.

 

HOUDINI

Bess — you think it’s all escapes for me. Something holds me to you, past — I can’t say past what. But you do more than hold me. You are far, and leading me. And Moses and Jesus do their transformations.

 

BEATRICE

It’s your eyes, Harry, your body, Harry, yourself, what you show me.

 

HOUDINI

Your moving — the actual magic. What I do can be reasoned out, I work with the sciences and the limits of the watcher, who thinks he sees. This spruce tree in summer, that lasts beyond summer.

 

BEATRICE

What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.

 

HOUDINI

It has. Now I’m going after it — all pieces.

 

[Act two, Scene one, pp. 86–89]