(The main room in the Andrejevic’s house with three other rooms and a kitchen leading off it. DIMITRIJA is sitting in a wheelchair, reading the newspaper. MARIJA is sitting on the bed, staring into space. Silence. Pause.)
DIMITRIJA: There’s going to be a war. (pause) There’s a war on the way. (pause)
MARIJA: We’ve had enough of this so-called peace, anyway.
DIMITRIJA: What’re you doing? Staring into space again? Do something.
MARIJA: Like what?
DIMITRIJA: Make something for tonight. We’ve got people coming.
MARIJA: It’s all ready.
DIMITRIJA: Make the lunch, then.
MARIJA: It’s all ready.
DIMITRIJA: Then let’s eat.
MARIJA: Stop shouting at me! (pause) It’s our saint’s day tomorrow. (Pause. Enter VERA, carrying an empty washing basket.)
VERA: It’s going to rain. Waste of time hanging the sheets out.
MARIJA: Everything’s a waste of time. (pause)I had a dream I was cut in half. And there was a big worm where my backbone was supposed to be. And the worm had been cut in half, too, and it was writhing around. And then someone came and pulled it out. And it was agony, like having a tooth out.
VERA: You’re always having dreams like that.
MARIJA: They just come.
DIMITRIJA: Are we ever going to eat in this house?
VERA: The others aren’t back yet.
DIMITRIJA: They needn’t bother to come back, as far as I’m concerned.
VERA: Let’s wait a bit longer.
DIMITRIJA: You can wait as long as you like. I want my lunch.
VERA: God, you make my life a misery! I hope you rot in hell for it! (Setting the table and serving DIMITRIJA.) I don’t know which way to turn. Do the cleaning, do the washing, do the cooking…
DIMITRIJA: Teach your mother-in-law how to do the housework.
VERA: You leave her out of this.
DIMITRIJA: Have a daughter, then. She can help you. (VERA swallows hard. DIMITRIJA eats. Silence. Pause. Enter SIMON, drunk.)
SIMON: You don’t even wait for us to eat together any more.
DIMITRIJA: Whenever we wait, there’s no sign of you.
SIMON: You can’t say a thing in this house. I’m going to throw a couple of cans of petrol over the place and watch it make a fine blaze.
MARIJA: Don’t tempt Providence.
SIMON: I don’t have to. Providencewas tempted a long time ago around here.
VERA: Where have you been drinking?
SIMON: Wherever I could manage it, to tell you the truth.
VERA: You’re making a wreck of yourself.
SIMON: Something or other was bound to make a wreck of me sooner or later. Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today. It’s all right for you.
VERA: (ironically): It’s all right for me. Oh yes, really wonderful for me.
SIMON: You afraid of the dark? No. I am. Afraid of the light? No. I am. I’m slowly suffocating, here in my throat, there’s a lump.
MARIJA: You’ve got a hair caught in it.
VERA: You’re on your feet all day.
SIMON: If I could be a waiter sitting down, I’d sit down, believe me! I didn’t say I’d got varicose veins from being on my feet all day. I’m suffocating, here. There’s something gnawing at me. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep.
DIMITRIJA: But you can drink. Let your old Dad tell you a thing or two. Don’t keep telling the whole world your problems. They don’t want to know. They’ve got their own problems. If you’re going to say something, say something nice, or don’t say anything at all. So you’re afraid of the dark. Who cares?
SIMON: It makes me feel better if I talk about it.
DIMITRIJA: But you’re a pain to listen to. A real pain! You can’t sleep. (ironically) Dear oh dear. Your mother can sleep, but she has bad dreams. We could go on forever like that. Why doesn’t anybody ask what it’s like for me?
VERA: Want your lunch?
SIMON: Give me a drink.
VERA: You’ve had enough.
SIMON: How do you know when I’ve had enough?
VERA: I just do.
SIMON: Everybody knows better than me. I spend my whole day serving people who know better than me. “Simon! A brandy!” Simon brings the brandy. “Simon! A glass of water!” Simon brings a glass of water. “Simon! Not this kind of brandy, that kind of brandy!” “Simon, get a move on!” “Simon, keep your hair on!” “Attaboy, Simon!” Simon everywhere. Simon for everything. Well, I’ve had enough. Simon isn’t a machine, you know. Simon has a soul, too, you know. You sit here and won’t even give me a drink. And you find me a pain to listen to. Well, to hell with the lot of you. Just let me get my hat and I’ll be off. Won’t trouble you any longer. (He starts crying. Pause. VERA strokes his head. She pours him a drink.)That’s right, give me a cuddle now and make it all right!
DIMITRIJA: At least you’ve got your wife to make it all right. Who’s going to make it all right for me, knowing I fathered you lot?!
MARIJA: This is no way to go on. It’s our saint’s day.
DIMITRIJA: To hell with your bloody saint’s day! Look who you’ve got to celebrate it with! (He goes back to his newspaper. Pause.)Forgive me, Saint John. But you can see for yourself what a rabble I have to live with. (Pause. Enter ANDREJA.)
MARIJA: Hello, my boy.
ANDREJA (sitting down at the table): Rabotnitchki won. Two nil. (Pause. VERA gives him his lunch. Silence.) Somebody die around here? (Silence. Pause. He eats.) When’s the priest coming?
ANDREJA: How’s it going?
MARIJA: Just the pastries to finish off now.
ANDREJA: I’ve brought you some icing sugar.
MARIJA: Bless you.
ANDREJA: I was run off my feet today. The whole town was out shopping. And the boss was away. Just me and the boy. Had a hard time keeping up. It’s not a small shop. (Pause. To DIMITRIJA) What’s in the papers today?
DIMITRIJA: Don’t know.
ANDREJA: How come?
DIMITRIJA: What’s there for me isn’t there for the likes of you.
ANDREJA: So what’s there for you?
DIMITRIJA: My business.
ANDREJA: Oh, come on now, Dimitri, cheer up a bit!
DIMITRIJA: Dimitri’ll cheer up when he’s in his grave.
ANDREJA: Time enough for that.
DIMITRIJA: I don’t know. We seem to be asking for it. (pause)
ANDREJA: And how’s my Vera today?
VERA: Oh, it’s all right for me. I have a wonderful time.
ANDREJA (to SIMON):What about you?
SIMON: Just stop playing the fool, will you?
ANDREJA: What’s wrong with asking how you are?
SIMON: You know.
ANDREJA: No, I don’t.
SIMON: Don’t tempt me.
ANDREJA: What’s the matter?
SIMON: Stop it!!
ANDREJA: What’s wrong?
SIMON: Stop it!! I’m older than you and I said stop it! And if I punch you in the teeth, even your precious Russians won’t be able to save you!
ANDREJA: Leave the Russians out of this.
SIMON: You’re going to rot in jail, but I won’t come and see you. Let your precious Communists bring you something to eat. If any of them are still at large. You just go on meeting after dark and writing up your diaries.
ANDREJA: We’re organising a strike.
SIMON (ironically): My, my! You’ll really put the wind up them!
ANDREJA: It won’t be just any old strike. We’re going to bite right down to the bone. Till the gangrene starts. The brewery, cigarette factory and the railwaymen.
SIMON: You’re just dribbling the ball all the time. What about a goal or two?
ANDREJA: We’re doing the training we need to last those 90 minutes on the pitch. The goals’ll take care of themselves.
ANDREJA: When you join us! That’s the sticking point, isn’t it?! There’re plenty like you sitting on the sidelines, munching their crisps and just waiting to see a goal. But there’s all that running to do. You’ve got to do some running!
SIMON: The doctor says running’s bad for me. (pause) I could be a linesman, if you like.
DIMITRIJA: Politics is a card game. Strictly for whores and swindlers. It’s all a big see-saw. First one of them’s up, then the other one, but it’s all much of a muchness. I dipped my finger in that pie once upon a time. I won’t have any more talk of politics in this house.
ANDREJA: What d’you mean, politics?! This is a load of hot air! You’re a lot of amateurs. What you call politics is what you overhear somewhere, or what you read in the evening paper.
SIMON: While you, of course, get it straight from the balls of the Almighty! Come on, Andrei, don’t get carried away. We’ve all been young once.
ANDREJA: And you’ve grown up without ever managing to get any sense into your heads!
(STEVO simply nods his head in greeting.)
SIMON: It’s too much of an effort for him to say hello.
DIMITRIJA: He’s got other things on his mind. He’s a philosopher. His head hardly fits on his shoulders after those two years of business school. If we’d let him go on to University, he’d probably’ve murdered us all in our sleep.
MARIJA: Want your lunch now?
STEVO: I’ve already eaten.
MARIJA: Anybody’d think you had no home to come back to!
STEVO: I like eating in restaurants better. (pause) And I won’t be here this evening, by the way. I know it’s our saint’s day, I know all our relatives, neighbours and friends are coming. I know they’ll wonder where I am. I’ll be busy.
MARIJA: You know this’ll be the first time somebody won’t be here for our saint’s day?
STEVO: I’m going to a reception. (pause) A reception. I was invited this morning. I could hardly say no. I knew it was our saint’s day. I just couldn’t say no. It’s important. It means a lot to me.
MARIJA: You’re not going.
DIMITRIJA: How come they invite you at the last minute and you’re all set to go, when you know you have to be here at home?
STEVO: That’s just how it turned out.
STEVO: How should I know? The boss called me in. Mr Herzog. There’s some important man coming from Germany. Everybody’s going to be there. Everybody who’s anybody. Businessmen, bankers, the cream of the town.
SIMON: How come they made the mistake of inviting you?
STEVO: You wait. You’ll soon see who I am.
SIMON: Why? You going to sprout horns or something?
STEVO: No. Wings. You’ll need a pair of binoculars to see me up there.
SIMON: Where are you going to fly away to?
STEVO: I’ve got a career ahead of me. Prospects.
ANDREJA: Who’s this German who’s coming?
STEVO: Some big wig from Head Office in Berlin. Mother, press my black trousers, will you?
MARIJA: I’m not letting you go and see any Germans. It’s Saint John’s Eve.
STEVO: Vera, will you do it, please?
SIMON: First you ask me whether she can press your trousers.
STEVO: Can your wife press my black trousers, please?
SIMON: No, she can’t. (to VERA) Don’t you dare touch that iron. (to STEVO) Getyour precious Lili to come and press them for you.
ANDREJA: Has this German been here before?
STEVO: Dunno. No.
ANDREJA: Why’s he coming now?
STEVO: Dunno. On business.
ANDREJA: What’s his name?
STEVO: Hermann Klaus. What else would you like to know? What size underpants he wears? I don’t know.
DIMITRIJA: And why the devil should you go to this reception?
STEVO: If you just happen to be in the right place at the right time, you can be sitting pretty for the rest of your life.
MARIJA: I’m cross with you, Stevo. I really am.
STEVO: Well, you’ll just have to be cross, Mother. There’re some things I just can’t seem to be able to explain to you.
MARIJA: There’s nothing you could ever explain to me, even if you wanted to. (A knock at the door. MARIJA opens it. It’s the PRIEST.)
PRIEST: Good afternoon to you, Maria.
MARIJA: Good afternoon, Father. You’re early.
PRIEST: Plenty of houses mean plenty of work. I can manage to fit you in now, so now is when I’ve come.
MARIJA: But we’re not ready yet!
PRIEST: What’s not ready? Have you got the bread?
MARIJA: We’re not washed and changed yet.
DIMITRIJA: We said seven o’clock.
PRIEST: We did indeed.
DIMITRIJA: Now it’s three.
PRIEST (looking at his watch): Quarter-past, actually. I know, Dimitri. Things don’t always turn out as we’d like.
DIMITRIJA: I’m paying, and I want my priest here at seven.
PRIEST: Think of your soul, my son. We can praise God at any time and in any place. Time and place have no meaning for Him. Anyway, I don’t think I can make it at seven.
DIMITRIJA: You’ll make it all right.
PRIEST: Come now, Dimitri. Put yourself in my shoes.
DIMITRIJA: I am, Father, I am. But you put yourself in mine. You always do this to us. You go to the rich houses in the evening and come to us in the morning.
PRIEST: What d’you mean, in the morning? Twenty-past three in the afternoon!
DIMITRIJA: What about last year? Eight o’clock in the morning! You must have slept on the front steps all night. We don’t forget these things.
PRIEST: I swear, my son, if I don’t do it now, the Lord only knows when I’ll be able to.
MARIJA: Now, Father. Please. We don’t want to go without a blessing.
PRIEST: That’s the way, my daughter. Give me the bread now. (They bring him the special round loaf used in the saint’s day blessing ceremony.) Render unto God the things that are God’s. Praise and honour be to Him on this day. May you live to celebrate it another hundred years. All come round the table now. (They all gather around the table.) Oh blessed Saint John, we pray you to guide and protect us with your strength. Blessed Lord, pray never abandon us, that he who is the enemy of our salvation may not come and cause our damnation. Say the names of the dear departed. Oh God our Father, we pray you to have mercy on the souls of our dear departed…
MARIJA: Lena, Anastas, Spasija…
PRIEST: Lena, Anastas, Spasija…
MARIJA: Gjorgji, Marko, Trajan…
PRIEST: Gjorgji, Marko, Trajan…
MARIJA: Petre and Evda.
PRIEST: Petre and Evda.
SIMON: And Simon.
PRIEST: And Simon.
MARIJA: Which Simon? Not Simon.
PRIEST: Not Simon. (He takes the loaf and gives it to DIMITRIJA. He takes ANDREJA’s hand and places it on one side of the loaf. ANDREJA takes SIMON’s hand and transfers the loaf to him instead. The PRIEST makes the sign of the cross over the loaf.) In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
PRIEST (Making them all join hands. They go round the table like this three times.): Free us, oh Lord, from vexations to the spirit and make our joy blessed in Thee. Give us strength in our weakness and grief. Be with us in our hours of need and sorrow, uncertainty and trepidation, and relieve our tears and suffering. Heal our secret pain and the wounds to our spirit, for only Thou seest them. All-loving God, we pray Thee, abandon us not. (The PRIEST leads them too fast and DIMITRIJA has difficulty in keeping up in his wheelchair. He wobbles and the loaf falls, breaking into pieces.)
MARIJA: Oh no!!
DIMITRIJA: Can’t you hold on properly, Simon? You drunk or something?
SIMON: I’m drunk all right, but I was holding on properly. You let it go.
PRIEST: Never mind, never mind. Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Amen. Bless you all. (Pause. Silence.) Come on, then. Pick up the bread. What’re you waiting for?
MARIJA: How could it break like that?
PRIEST: It fell and broke, that’s all.
MARIJA: How could it fall like that?
PRIEST: Don’t worry, Maria. The only thing that matters is to have God’s blessing on you. (MARIJA picks up the pieces of bread.)
DIMITRIJA: Is that it, then, Father?
PRIEST: That’s it.
DIMITRIJA: Drop of brandy?
PRIEST: Don’t mind if I do. (DIMITRIJA pours him a drink.)
SIMON: A glass here, a glass there – don’t do too badly, do you, Father? You must be able to see God all the time. (The PRIEST drains his glass in one go.) Down the hatch! You think nobody’ll notice if you knock it back in one go, is that it?! DIMITRIJA (giving the PRIEST his money): Next year at seven o’clock in the evening.
PRIEST: Say no more.
DIMITRIJA: Don’t you “say no more” me! There will be more said, don’t you worry!
PRIEST: What matters is to live in good health and happiness till then, my son. God be with you.
MARIJA: And with you, Father. (She sees the PRIEST out.)
ANDREJA (to SIMON):Why did you say your name with the dear departed?
SIMON: Just in case. (MARIJA comes back. ACO is with her.)
MARIJA: Come in, Atso, come in.
ACO: I just wanted to have a word with Andrei. I’m not staying. (ANDREJA comes up to him and they talk in hushed tones. Pause.)
ANDREJA: Mother, I’m going out.
MARIJA: What, you too?
ANDREJA: I’ve got to. It’s just the way things’ve turned out.
MARIJA: What d’you mean, the way things’ve turned out? Things are always turning out like this. Come in, Atso, don’t stand in the doorway. It’s our saint’s day. Have some of the bread. Have a drink.
ACO: I’m afraid we’re in a hurry, Mrs Andrejevic.
MARIJA: I know you’re in a hurry. You always are. Nobody ever seems to manage to get things done any other way around here. Where are you going?
ACO: It can’t wait, I’m afraid.
MARIJA: You’ll be back for this evening, won’t you?
ACO: I think so. I don’t know. I don’t expect we’ll be long.
MARIJA: You think. You don’t know. You expect. ACO (to STEVO): The lorry I drive is in for repairs at your place. Do it up well, won’t you?
STEVO: Don’t give it a second thought. We’re the best.
SIMON: You’ll never recognise it when they’ve finished with it.
ACO: That lorry’s my bread and butter.
DIMITRIJA: You’re off to start a strike, are you?
ANDREJA: That’s right. Want to come? (pause) O.K. Bye. (ANDREJA and ACO go out.)
MARIJA: Goodbye. (pause) Looks like you’re the only one staying at home tonight, Simon. Why don’t you give your wife a treat? Take her out dancing?
SIMON: I’m so drunk it doesn’t make much difference what I do.
MARIJA (to STEVO):Lile came round.
STEVO: I’m not interested.
MARIJA: She said to give you her love. (STEVO pointedly leaves the room. Pause.) When you were little, I used to give you all a bath before Saint John’s Eve, change your underwear and put you to bed. You could never get to sleep and would laugh away together till all hours. You’d always be dipping into the food for the guests. It used to simmer away in the pots all night. But now you don’t laugh any more. And you eat in restaurants. (Pause. DIMITRIJA is carving a piece of wood with a penknife. VERA is sweeping up. MARIJA sits and stares into space. Pause.)
Six for the months in half a year
Five for the fingers on a hand
Four for the teats on a cow
Three for the legs on a stool
Two for the eyes in a head
One for the nightingale that sings early in the spring.