(Arso and Tsveta’s living room. Arso reads a newspaper, Tsveta makes a bouquet.)
ARSO: Have you taken your medicine?
ARSO: Temo told me it won’t work if you miss it once.
ARSO: Did you turn off the stove?
(Arso puts the paper down, goes to the stove and puts on his thick glasses. He approaches the switch, leans forward, almost touching it with his nose.)
ARSO: It’s not right on zero.
(He moves the switch two or three millimeters to the right. Takes off his glasses and returns to the chair. Waits for Tsveta’s reaction. When he sees no reaction, he gets the newspaper, starts to read again and begins to nag.)
ARSO: It wasn’t right on zero.
(Tsveta tosses the bouquet onto the table and starts to cry. Her hands cover her eyes.)
ARSO: What’s the problem, Tsveta?
TSVETA: You’re asking me what the problem is? I can’t go on like this anymore. Get a gun and shoot me, just don’t treat me like an idiot. I always have strange dreams. Am I sick? I know how to turn off a stove. I know it isn’t exactly on zero. This isn’t the original switch. The zero is off to the right. On the original, it’s more to the left. Am I right, Arso?
ARSO: What is right, in the army, is what is 101 percent sure.
TSVETA: This is not the army. This is our house.
ARSO: If this were our house I wouldn’t be a zero. I’ve been treated as a freak since the damn thing happened. What devil forced me to give them the basement? The papers loved writing about it. “Sergeant-major gives son public property to set on fire!” “Cult in military basement!” “Scandal: sergeant-major uses son to set fire!” (Impersonates Tsveta.) “Let them use the basement, Arso. They’re just kids, playing with shadows is better than stealing or taking drugs. What harm are shadows, Arso?” Shadows, eh? But shadows don’t give birth to bastards.
TSVETA: (Points to the room where the child sleeps.) Do you want him to hear this?
ARSO: I feed him, I dress him. Isn’t that enough?
TSVETA: Even if you find a child in the street you feed it and dress it.
ARSO: This child needs a father.
TSVETA: He’ll find one.
ARSO: Yes, he can choose. He has a lot of choices. (Pause.) But our son is not among those choices.
TSVETA: When Bela and Tsetsa’s mother died, their grandfather from Belarus came to take care of them. But he turned out to be disabled.
ARSO: He wasn’t disabled. He was insane.
TSVETA: Bela took care of him. She didn’t have time to play like other kids. When she did play, she played with turtledoves. She once asked me: “Aunt Tsveta, why do turtledoves have a black ring around the neck?” I didn’t know what to say.
ARSO: I don’t know what to say either. The Army Day is coming soon. Everyone will get his parade uniform except me. I’ll march naked.
TSVETA: Didn’t they measure you for your uniform?
ARSO: That doesn’t mean anything. Those on top will decide whether I deserve one.
TSVETA: Those on what top?
ARSO: The top officials.
TSVETA: Have you ever seen them?
ARSO: Why would I have seen them?
TSVETA: Then how can you receive an honor from someone you’ve never seen? How do you know if you can trust him?
(Arso is silent. Confused, he looks at Tsveta.)
ARSO: I am a soldier. I must trust.
TSVETA: Temo isn’t getting a uniform either. And he worked in the military for many years.
ARSO: Temo won’t get one because he had no trust. He left the military to start a private business.
TSVETA: You hate him because he has money.
ARSO: I hate him because he hides my boots!
TSVETA: You can’t even tell a joke.
ARSO: Fuck the joke: it’s not funny to hide your neighbor’s boots when he’s in a hurry for work! And the thing with the buttons, is it also a joke?
(Temo enters. He wears golden rings, bracelets, a golden chain around his neck. He walks with a crutch: one of his legs missing past the knee. Arso stands in front of the mirror and puts on a shirt, as if no one has entered.)
TEMO: Good day, neighbors. How are you doing?
TSVETA: We’re doing fine but things don’t come out right.
TEMO: (To Tsveta.) Did you take your medicine, Tsveta?
TSVETA: I missed yesterday. And I had a dream that Puppet came back. He stood in front of the door, the sun on his right, the moon on his left shoulder. “Come in, son,” I said, “pass through our doors.” He said, I can’t, I’ve got too many roads to travel.” “What roads?” I asked. “Come in, the time is not right to wander the roads.” Suddenly, the sun disappeared, but the moon remained on his left shoulder. He went away barefoot.
TEMO: That’s not good. So you still dream?
TSVETA: Not when I take the medicine. Then I’m dead to the world. I tell myself in the dream: “Tsveta, you’re dead”.
TEMO: That’s not good either. You dream that you don’t dream. Double the dose in the evenings. Make it two spoons.
TSVETA: It’s so bitter, Temo. It looks like sugar, but it’s bitter.
(Temo stands in front of Arso. Grabs one of his buttons and twists it.)
TEMO: Have you heard the news, Arso? I hear rumors that the army is withdrawing.
ARSO: And what about the holiday?
TEMO: It’s a bad situation, Arso. Nobody thinks about the holiday. They withdrew from Slovenia, they’re withdrawing from Croatia, too.
(Arso becomes silent.)
TEMO: Who’s on duty at the hospital tonight?
ARSO: I am, why?
TEMO: Just asking.
(Temo gets up. Heads towards the door.)
TSVETA: Thanks for the advice, Temo.
TEMO: Oh, not at all. Arso and I have been in the same boots for years.
ARSO: We loved each other so much that we spat in each other’s mouths.