The Crumbling Castle, part 4
A capricious drama by Thorin N. Tatge


PHILIP: An idealistic lad with a quiet way of asking questions.
MELVIN: Irate Wishmaster of the Crumbling Castle.
ARRANGER: A somewhat boorish male servant with strange ideas.
CIUIN: Pronounced “Kyoo-in.”  A quiet female servant.
WASHER: An ordinary servant.  May be male or female.

PHILIP: Hello.  I’m Philip, if you don’t already know me by the sound of my voice.  My story is coming to sound ever stranger, and I’m rapidly approaching the point where I won’t believe it myself.  I’m trying my best not to let that happen, though, because I think that’s what they call insanity.  And this castle I’m trapped in—it isn’t exactly insane, for all its appearances.  It has a very calming sanity to it, in fact.  I’m trying to tune into it.
Enter WASHER, ARRANGER, and CIUIN.  They covertly go about tasks of upkeep around the stage.
PHILIP: After we managed to find a steady source of insulin for Anabelle, we didn’t have anything immediate to worry about…besides losing touch, that is.  But all we have to do to stay healthy, really, is just to stay active.  Now, for example, I’m tapping into the life of the servants around the castle.  It really is rather interesting.
ARRANGER: Speed up your lazy hands, Washer!  Rinse off that basalt and bring it over to the stack!  Wait any longer and you’ll forget you cleaned it, and then it’s like you never cleaned the flat-headed thing at all!  And tell me how much water you have left.  It’s time to irrigate!
WASHER: Yes, sir!  (Begins rinsing the floor.)
PHILIP (Turning to ARRANGER): Irrigate?  Irrigate what?  We’re in the middle of a castle!
ARRANGER: It’s irrigation season, sir, and I intend to irrigate the tubs with hot water and have a pleasant bath this year.  Furthermore, the red papaya trees are peeking over the inner bulwarks this year…with hard work, they’ll shed fruit for us by the fall!  It’s exciting, really, but it takes irrigation!
PHILIP: But where are you getting the water?  Surely there isn’t enough rainfall that gets inside…
ARRANGER: We do what we can, sir, when we can.  No creature ever accomplished more than that, or deserved more, or even really wanted it.  Some foolish people have thought they wanted it…
PHILIP: Wanted what?
ARRANGER: To open up new opportunities… instead of treasuring the ones that exist.  You see, in my opinion, the whole idea of doing so is nonsensical in the highest, the sort of thing people invent to talk about when they’re not satisfied.  Well, there are reasons for people not to be satisfied.  Too many sponge baths, for example, and not enough real ones.  Too much power to plan and make possible, but not enough power to carry out plans and exercise the possibilities.  The way I see it, the more possibilities there are, the more blame and the more work to go around.
PHILIP: Does that mean you prefer to have your life controlled by others?
ARRANGER: Not exactly.
WASHER: Hey, what do you mean, not exactly?  Don’t try to tell me you’re unhappy with Mrs. Scrub!  You keep blabbering on about her virtues and how austere she is…and she’s our boss!
ARRANGER: Yes, I do approve of Mrs. Scrub, Washer, but that’s not the whole point.  Bosses come and go, and the fact that she’s held onto her position for so long only means she’s more likely to lose it tomorrow.  And who knows what our next boss will be like?
WASHER: I know what you mean.  Our next boss could be Melvin.
ARRANGER: Or anyone else who doesn’t respect us.  And that’s why I’m not entirely happy as a servant.
PHILIP: Then why don’t you like opening up new possibilities?
ARRANGER: Because, boy, they’re a lot of work.  And they’re dizzying to think about.  Some people think they’ll be happy just pursuing avenues of exploration just because they think they’ll work out what the best choice is as they go.  But it never happens.  No one ever really figures out what’s the best thing to do with their life.  They just keep improving little, unimportant things, and think the ultimate good will become clear, as long as they stay busy.  Well, it won’t!
WASHER: That’s what he says.  But I don’t see how he claims to know all that.
PHILIP: Um… does that mean you don’t like hopes and dreams, either?
ARRANGER: I can dream of a simpler life.  A life with fewer choices, where I’m in control, but there’s not much to control.  I can dream of that.
WASHER: Mr. Arranger, I’m done with the basalt.  We should probably go ask Melvin if we can measure his room.
ARRANGER: Oh, yes.  (In a slightly louder voice): Melvin needs to be informed that we need him to talk with us.
CIUIN: Melvin will be informed.
WASHER: And I’ve got three and a quarter tubs of rainwater left.
CIUIN leaves.
ARRANGER: Good, that should cover our cleaning for the rest of the east side of the system.  We’ll need fresh water, though, for the planting…
PHILIP: Mr. Arranger…
ARRANGER: Hmm?  Yes?
PHILIP: You were talking about how you dream of fewer choices to make.  But you wanted to be in control.  Isn’t that a contradiction?
ARRANGER: Hm?  How so?
PHILIP: If you have fewer choices, isn’t that a loss of control?
ARRANGER: You don’t see what I mean.  I dream of a place where I could make choices, but would choose not to.  In short, a life devoid of what elitists call the higher pleasures.  Intellectual tripe.  Give me the baser pleasures any day.  Like hot baths.
PHILIP: But—but if that’s how you are, then why are you in charge of the irrigation?  Why are you the Arranger?
ARRANGER (In a lower voice): But you don’t see, sir.  That’s not how I am.  I wish it was.  In fact, I do appreciate the higher faculties and the pleasures associated with them… and I wish I didn’t.  I wish I was a buffoon.
PHILIP: Seriously!
ARRANGER: I was born competent and with all that potential they speak so highly of.  Just my bad luck, I call it.  Those who say that ignorance is bliss don’t know how right they are…and that’s the point.
PHILIP: It sounds like you don’t know how to count your blessings.
ARRANGER: And it sounds like you don’t know what blessings really are.  Listen, sir—there is no point in counting blessings.  Only in having them.  Counting is no fun, to put it simply.
PHILIP: So you wish you were a blissful fool, then.  That sounds right up the Wishmaster’s alley, if I may say so.
ARRANGER: Shhh!!  Don’t mention it to Melvin!  He takes your wishes and twists them around!  He’d do it all wrong, I promise you!  Don’t tell him?
MELVIN: Hello, everyone.
ARRANGER: Eeeple!  Ah, hello, Melvin!
MELVIN: Let me guess—you were just talking about me.
ARRANGER: We were only talking about your room, Melvin, sir.  And what your preferences would be… yes…
Enter CIUIN.
MELVIN: I see.  And that’s what you didn’t want to tell me, then?
ARRANGER: Oh!  Well… it was just… um…
PHILIP: I was asking questions about you, Wishmaster.  Probably they were inappropriate questions… in any case, Mr. Arranger was merely warning me not to tell you what I thought of you to your face.
ARRANGER: Er, yes, that’s right.
MELVIN: Oh, really?  What exactly do you think of me, Philip?
PHILIP: You don’t really think I would tell you?  Against Mr. Arranger’s advice?
MELVIN: You insult me!  Stop keeping secrets from me!  I own this castle, you know!
PHILIP: In name only, Melvin.
MELVIN: Oh yes?  You don’t seem to understand how much power I actually hold.  Sure, Mrs. Scrub may be the one really in charge… but with owning the castle comes certain formal powers.
PHILIP: Such as?
MELVIN: Such as declaring prisoners!  I could make every person in this castle a prisoner if I wanted to.
WASHER: He’s not lying, either.
PHILIP: What are you talking about?  We’re all prisoners here!
MELVIN: You only say that because you can’t leave.  But you’re not true prisoners.  Prisoners in identity, as well as in locale!  Prisoners in soul as well as body!  Prisoners in funny clothing instead of casual wear!  You don’t know what I could do to you!
PHILIP: Is it any worse than what’s been done to Piper?
MELVIN: Piper?  Oh yes, that one.  Well, it depends.  I suppose it would depend on everyone.  But trust me, Philip.  It would be bad for you.  After all, I know what your greatest wish is.
PHILIP: You do?
MELVIN: Of course I do, you inattentive nimrod!  You told me yourself!  It’s to learn—isn’t that right?
PHILIP: I don’t know.  I suppose that could be it.  And right now, I’m working on learning why I want to stay alive.
MELVIN (Getting more and more spiteful): Oh?  And I suppose these pitiful servants were helping you?
ARRANGER: We certainly were, sir.  We were telling him about our grandest hopes and dreams.
MELVIN (Leaning over ARRANGER): Yes?  And what are your hopes and dreams, Mr. Arranger?  You never seemed to have any before!
ARRANGER: I don’t have any—I mean, I don’t have to tell you!
MELVIN: Oh, I can find out!  I have my ways!
ARRANGER: I need help!  I need help from Mrs. Scrub!
CIUIN: You will receive help.
CIUIN runs offstage.
MELVIN: Oh, confound your childlike, shameless reliance on that scrubbery woman!!  If you were a real servant, with real dignity, you’d answer to your superiors and never go over their heads!
PHILIP: You know, Melvin, I have a notion.  I think you’re scared of him.  Just the same way that you’re scared of me.  You can’t twist my wishes to be a wish for death… and you can’t find his wishes at all!  You have no real power over us, and that puts you out, doesn’t it?
MELVIN: Never!!!  If you don’t understand my job, keep your foul mouth quiet!
PHILIP: It sounds like I’m right.
ARRANGER: Philip, please!
MELVIN: Transgress me once more, Philip, and I’ll make you a prisoner!  You won’t want to transgress me again!
PHILIP: I’m satisfied here, anyway.
ARRANGER: And I think you’d better leave before Mrs. Scrub gets here, Melvin.
MELVIN: Yes, that I had better.  I can’t stand the sight of her eyes.  But I won’t forget this!  You have both been warned!!
MELVIN stalks offstage.
WASHER: You shouldn’t have made him so angry, Philip.  He’s trouble, you know.
PHILIP: I think I understand him… and he won’t be trouble for me.
WASHER: You only say that because you’re an idealist.  And maybe you’re right…  But you can’t keep that up twenty-four hours a day, you know.  Even idealists have to have bad moods sometimes.  And that’s when he’ll hit.
PHILIP: I’ll watch out for that.
Enter CIUIN.
CIUIN: Mrs. Scrub is on her way.
ARRANGER: Ah, I guess we won’t be needing her after all.  Just the fear of seeing her angry made Melvin run.  But since we never got a chance to ask Melvin about running the irrigation channels through his room… we’ll just have to let Mrs. Scrub decide.  I’ll go talk to her in the planning room.
WASHER: Should I get started on the next slab?
ARRANGER: Yes, you do that.  Stay busy.
ARRANGER leaves, with CIUIN trailing after.
PHILIP sits down.  WASHER begins scrubbing the floor again, and continues to do so now and then for the rest of the scene.  There is a short pause.
PHILIP: Washer?  You know… Melvin was right when he said I like to learn.  I do… so would it be all right if I sat here and asked you questions while you work?
WASHER: Oh, I guess that’s okay, yeah.
PHILIP: So… where do you servants get all this water?  Mr. Arranger just avoided the question.
WASHER: Well, we get some of it from the rain that leaks through the ceiling cracks… that’s what I’m using to clean off these slabs.  But our good water comes from the dietician’s kitchen.
PHILIP: The Hypocrite?  Really?  And where does he get it?
WASHER: He doesn’t say.  I think it’s got something to do with the Closet, though.  On the third floor, you know.
PHILIP: The Closet?  I haven’t been there yet.
WASHER: Oh, you should!  It’s the best place in the whole castle.  Melvin doesn’t let people in easily, though.
PHILIP: Oh… it’s his closet, then?
WASHER: Afraid so.  And he’s the only one who knows how it works.
PHILIP: I guess I won’t be going there any time soon, then.
WASHER: Mmhmm.  Any more questions?
PHILIP: Uhhm.  Yes.  How many people live in this castle, anyway?
WASHER: Well, if you use the terms “people”, “live” and “castle” loosely, twenty-one.  Counting you and your sister.
PHILIP: Err… why do you have to use those terms loosely?
WASHER: Just trust me on this one, Philip.
PHILIP: All right, then.  I have another question.  Who is that other servant whom Mr. Arranger was giving orders to earlier?
WASHER: Huh?  I don’t know who you mean.
PHILIP: The little, quiet one… who doesn’t move around much except when she’s told.
WASHER: Oh!  I know who you’re talking about.  But Mr. Arranger wasn’t giving her orders.  Nobody gives her orders.  And she doesn’t have a name.
PHILIP: What?  Why not?
WASHER (shrugging): She wouldn’t know it was hers!
PHILIP: She wouldn’t?
WASHER: No, so what point would there be in giving her a name?  We don’t refer to her directly most of the time, anyway.  Throw me one of those scrubbers, would you?
PHILIP (throwing WASHER a scrubber): How creepy.  Is she weak in the head, somehow?
WASHER: Well, no, I wouldn’t say that.  It’s just that during her formative years, no one ever told her that she exists.  So she doesn’t know.
PHILIP: I…see.
(Washer scrubs the floor for a few moments.)
PHILIP: But, that’s impossible!  She went to get Melvin and Mrs. Scrub, after all.  How can she decide to do things if she doesn’t know she exists?
WASHER: I’m not sure.  I guess she must know that something exists… just not that it’s her.  Do you get what I’m saying?
PHILIP: It sounds like she’s not self-aware.
WASHER: Yeah, that sounds about right.  Could you fetch me that chisel over there?
(Philip does so.)
PHILIP: That’s amazing.  Did she grow up in the castle?
WASHER: Of course.  One of the previous Hypocrites raised her.  Seems to me he firmly professed that children were nothing but trouble, and sensible people did without them.  And so of course he had himself a little girl, and pretended she didn’t exist.  I guess she eventually learned how to get along, just a useful force in the background, if you know what I mean.
PHILIP: I think I’d like to get to know her… maybe talk alone with her for a while.
WASHER: You would?  You—you wouldn’t try to change her, would you?
PHILIP: Why shouldn’t I?
WASHER: Look, Philip…certain people around here like the girl the way she is.  And she seems to be happy enough too.  If you taught her that she’s a person…she might start worrying that she’s being mistreated.  She’s very conscientious of that sort of thing.  And then she’d be worrying about her own rights, her own life, her own future…
PHILIP: Let me guess.  It’s Mr. Arranger who feels that way about her.  He likes her because she’s the way he wants to be.  And you just don’t want him to be upset.
WASHER: Yes, yes, you’re right, Philip…but please, don’t change her!  I’ll let you talk with her if you want, as long as you promise not to change her.
PHILIP: I—all right.  I promise.
WASHER: Okay, then.  I’ll send her in.
PHILIP: Thank you, Washer.
Exit WASHER.  After a few moments, enter CIUIN.
PHILIP: Hello there.
PHILIP: My name is Philip.  I’m glad to meet you.
CIUIN: It would be a shame if Philip were crazy already.  Talking to thin air, and all.  But then, that sometimes happens in the castle.
PHILIP: So you do hear me!
PHILIP: Look—I want you to nod your head if you understand me.  Just nod your head once.  For me.
CIUIN (sincerely, sadly): Poor Philip.  He should really seek help if he thinks he’s really talking to someone.
PHILIP: I am talking to someone!  I’m talking to you!
PHILIP: Okay, fine.  I’ll talk in your language.  Ahem… it would be nice if I had one of those sponges over there.
CIUIN goes and gets a sponge, and gives it to PHILIP.
PHILIP: Thank you!  Or, I mean, the sponge is appreciated.  I appreciate the sponge.
PHILIP: I wish I knew… hmm, what do I wish I knew?  I wish I knew how many of the twenty-one people in this castle are servants.
CIUIN: Why, there are only twenty people in the castle, but eight of them are servants, counting Mrs. Scrub.
PHILIP: Wrong.  Wrong, there are twenty-one.  And one of them just told me the answer to my question.
CIUIN: Poor Philip, poor Philip.  He is mistaking the helpful nature of the castle for a person.
PHILIP: Is that how you think of yourself?  As the helpful nature of the castle?
PHILIP: Well, look.  I should like it if the helpful nature of the castle were to nod its head.  Is that understood?
CIUIN: It would be understood if anyone were around to hear it, but sadly, it is a very strange thing to ask.  Why should Philip care about such a thing?
PHILIP: Because I want you to see that you’re more than just—oh.  Oh, I promised the washer I wouldn’t change you, and look what I’m trying to do.  I should just stop.
CIUIN: It’s a pity for Philip to be sad for no reason.  He might cheer up with a fresh glass of water!
PHILIP: Ah… yes.  Yes, thank you, I would like a glass of water, please.
CIUIN gets up and gives PHILIP a glass of water, which he drinks.
PHILIP: I’m very grateful that this castle is so helpful, at heart.
MELVIN: What is this?  What are you doing with the castle’s steward, Philip?  Where are the servants?
PHILIP: They’re in a planning session with Mrs. Scrub.
MELVIN: And let me just guess what they’re planning!  To route the irrigation system through My Room!  My very own room!
PHILIP: They were going to ask your permission, but you were too busy blustering.
MELVIN: We’ll see about that!  You haven’t answered my question.  What is she doing here?
PHILIP: I’m enjoying her company, thank you.
MELVIN: What company?  She isn’t company.  She’s just the castle steward!
PHILIP: Perhaps that’s true, but she has the potential to be company.  And to be honest, Melvin…I think she would wish it.
MELVIN: Oh?  Did you use the W word?
PHILIP: Yes… but don’t you dare try and grant it.  Even if I trusted you…Mr. Arranger wouldn’t be happy if you did anything to her.
MELVIN: Ah yes, Mr. Arranger.  And I have every wish to please that boorish clod, don’t I, Philip?
PHILIP: Forget about it.  I’ll leave her alone if you do.
CIUIN: The worst part of the tragedy is that Philip’s madness seems to have spread to Wishmaster Melvin!  They both believe there is someone here.
MELVIN: The castle’s steward will now be quiet!!
PHILIP: That’s enough!  I’m getting out of here.
MELVIN: I should hope so!
PHILIP goes to the side of the stage, while MELVIN stomps out.  CIUIN follows behind him.
PHILIP: Oh…I honestly don’t know what to think about her.  She deserves better than this.  But there’s nothing I can do for her… not as long as the Arranger has power.  And he doesn’t deserve power…he’ll fight like a mad man to keep it, but wishes he were unaware of it.  What a sad state of things.
PHILIP: I guess the least I can do is give that poor girl a name, even if she never learns it.  I…I think I’ll call her Ciuin.  It means “quiet.”  Maybe she’ll appreciate it…someday.
The End.