The Crumbling Castle, part 6
A Capricious Drama by Thorin N. Tatge


PHILIP: A sane young man trying to make the best out of imprisonment.
WASHER: A friendly servant with an obnoxious peeve.  Male or female.
PRISONER: A cheerful soul who’s stuck on love at the moment.  Male or female.
CIUIN: A female servant with no self-concept.  Pronounced “Q-in.”
MR. SCRUB: An ordinary benevolent man in his early forties.  Easily amused.
PHYSICIST: A dignified scientist stuck in a strange place.
HYPOCRITE: Not just a hypocrite, but the metaphorical King of All Hypocrites.
ARRANGER: A boorish male servant who hates his higher nature.

PHILIP (thoughtfully, slowly): Hello!  Hi there.  It feels different today, somehow.  I don’t know how… but I notice there are plenty of new faces in the audience today.  I guess some important division or other must have taken place in your world just recently.  Has it been a long time since I talked to you last?  About the storm from the Closet?  It has, hasn’t it?  That’s spooky.  Just when I get the notion that I understand how the speeds work in this crumbling castle I live in…it’s something like this.  It kind of knocks the mental wind out of me… makes me sit down and think.
PHILIP sits down, while PRISONER and WASHER enter.
PRISONER: Hey, Philip!  Excited about our game?
PHILIP: Huh?  Oh, yes, I remember.  We were going to play some sort of card game…
PRISONER: Hearts!  We’re going to play Hearts!  You’ll like it; it’s lots of fun.
PHILIP: Well, as long as nobody tries to pin some twisted value system onto it…I guess it should be all right.  Let’s just remember that cards are cards, hey Piper?
PRISONER: That’s Prisoner 000001 to you, Philip.  And of course we’ll remember.
WASHER: This is Mr. Scrub’s tower.  He should be along shortly.
PHILIP (to audience): I haven’t met Mr. Scrub yet.  All I know about him is that his wife is the mastermind who controls this castle.  If you haven’t met me before, I suppose I should mention that I haven’t lived here all my life.  My sister and I came here from the Upper Village on the outside only three weeks ago or so, though in some ways it seems like a lot longer.  We were looking for some sort of great glory for our family, but we became trapped here in the Crumbling Castle.  We used to live quiet, fairly normal lives, but…but they were normal in the most romantic possible sense of the term.
WASHER (sitting down): Hey, how can normality be even slightly romantic?
PHILIP: If you’d ever lived on the outside, Washer, you wouldn’t have to ask that.
WASHER: Pshuh… That’s your answer for too many things, Philip.  Don’t you realize that we have time to talk things out here?  You might say that’s what the Castle is all about, though Owner knows I’d get in trouble if I said that to the wrong people.
PHILIP: Well… it can be romantic to look out at the eastern sky just before dawn, sitting there with someone you love, and for both of you to know exactly what’s about to happen.
WASHER: Sunrises!  Very trite, Philip, I’d say.
PHILIP: It’s not just the beauty of the sunrise, Washer… it’s the fact that you can expect it, again and again, at just such an hour… and that you’re both expecting the same thing, the same anticipation is growing in both of your minds.  That’s what’s romantic about normal things—they set people’s expectations in tune with each other.
WASHER: Is that romance, then?  I wouldn’t know, I’ve never fallen in love.
PHILIP: That’s what romance means to me.
PRISONER (sitting down): Ooh, goody.  I like it when people talk about love and romance when they’re playing Hearts!  That way we get to tease each other whenever anyone takes a heart trick.  So-and-so’s full of love today!  Hooray!
PHILIP: How does the game work, Prisoner?
PRISONER: Well, the rules are pretty simple.  Come here and I’ll run through them.
PHILIP and PRISONER scoot to one side and talk in mumbled voices about the rules to Hearts until noted.  Meanwhile, enter ARRANGER, HYPOCRITE and PHYSICIST.
HYPOCRITE: Here we are, gentlemen!  Ah, I see Mr. Scrub has yet to take my advice to heart on the value of a well-organized dwelling…but it should do for a short game.
WASHER: What are you talking about, you puff-breasted hypocrite?  Your own tower is like a heap of rubble compared to this.
PHYSICIST: Do stop baiting the Hypocrite, Washer.  You know he’s just doing his job.
WASHER: Yes, and I’d like to hear him admit it, for once.
PHYSICIST: And you know just as well that for him to admit his job would be to forsake it.  No wise man ever wedded hypocrisy to honesty.
WASHER: That’s exactly my point.
ARRANGER: And a point you’ve made quite amply.  Now kindly leave the fellow alone and spread the cards.  I’d like to indulge in something mindless for a while.
In the background, enter CIUIN, who wanders downstage and listens innocently, keeping out of the way.
HYPOCRITE: On the contrary!  Always better to keep your mind about you, Mr…. err… Mr….
ARRANGER: Arranger!
HYPOCRITE: Quite.  Always better to… now what was I saying?
PHYSICIST: It was quite immaterial.  Now, I wonder what’s keeping Mr. Scrub!
WASHER: I think he’s helping out his wife in the scullery for a while.  He should be here any minute.
PHYSICIST: Fair enough.  She does keep him awfully busy at times, doesn’t she?
HYPOCRITE: Why, she needs him!  She needs him to maintain her balance of power over the dastardly forces of this castle.  He’s the very reason why every sane person should marry as soon as possible.
WASHER: Which is exactly why you’re not married, I suppose.
PHYSICIST: Washer, please!
WASHER: Heh.  I like to see the Hypocrite squirm.
ARRANGER: I’m bored with the way you’re playing against each other.  Let’s start a game.  (Loudly): I wish I had a cup of ale!
CIUIN: Mr. Arranger shall have his ale.
CIUIN exits.
PHYSICIST: But shouldn’t we wait for the Prisoner and the newcomer?
ARRANGER: Six player hearts is too novel and confused for me.  I like games of four.  With luck they’ll get another table together.
PHYSICIST: Well, all right then.  Kindly deal the cards, Washer.
Everyone sits down, and WASHER deals the cards.  Meanwhile, PHILIP and PRISONER return to front stage.
PRISONER: Do you think you have all that, Philip?
PHILIP: I should be able to manage.  It does sound like a very interesting game… elementary in a way, yet highly psychological.
PRISONER: That’s about right!  Ah, I think I hear Mr. Scrub coming.
Enter MR. SCRUB.
MR. SCRUB: Hello, everyone!  Is everybody doing well today?
ARRANGER: I will be now that you’re here, sir.
PHYSICIST: Quite well, thank you.
WASHER: Nice to see you, Mr. Scrub.  Did the wife give you a hard time?
MR. SCRUB: No, not at all, really.  I just lingered awhile to watch the Cook teaching Anabelle about soup stocks.  My apologies if I held up the game.
Enter CIUIN, carrying a cup of ale.
HYPOCRITE: Well, we’re just about to start.  You can play with young Philip and the Prisoner if you like.
MR. SCRUB: I suppose I’ll do that.  Enjoy the game, friends.
WASHER: Will do.
CIUIN gives the ale to ARRANGER, who takes it and drinks from it.
ARRANGER: Ah, excellent ale, this!  Shall we begin?  Three cards to the left?
WASHER, ARRANGER, HYPOCRITE and PHYSICIST pick up their cards and begin to pantomime play.  Meanwhile, MR. SCRUB goes over to PHILIP and PRISONER and sits down.
PHILIP: You must be the first gentleman of this castle.  I’m Philip, of the Upper Village.
MR. SCRUB: Mr. Scrub.  Pleased to meet you, Philip.
PHILIP: Tell me—are you actually a scrubber, or have you just taken your wife’s name?
MR. SCRUB: I confess I’ve taken it from her… I used to be an administrator from the Lower Village, myself.  Before that I was an assistant baker.
PHILIP: You remember the outside too, then!  How long has it been?
MR. SCRUB: I wouldn’t really know.  Well, that isn’t true.  I could count the years if I had to.  But I don’t know if putting a number on something like matrimony is a good idea.  It seems better just to act as if my marriage to Mrs. Scrub has always been eternal.
PHILIP: Well…all right, then.  I guess we’ll have time to talk more once we start playing.
PRISONER: Sure will!  But isn’t there someone else who could play?  It’s best with four.
MR. SCRUB: Too true.  Yet it looks like we’re out of luck….
PHILIP: What about Ciuin?
MR. SCRUB: Hm?  Who?
PRISONER: Who’s Ciuin?
PHILIP: Sorry, I just meant the castle’s steward, over there.  She could play.
MR. SCRUB: Ah… Philip, I don’t know how well you’ve gotten to know the serving body, but…
PHILIP: I’m serious.  She could play.  She’s smart enough.  Ciuin!
PRISONER: She’s not going to answer you.
PHILIP: I know, I know… she’s stubborn. But I’ll get her over here.  (Loudly): This seat next to me seems to be too cold.  It needs to be warmed up!
CIUIN walks over and sits down next to PHILIP.
MR. SCRUB: Philip.  I don’t mean to be harsh, but this is an abuse of the services the steward gives us.  She isn’t meant to partake in anything.  She has no self-concept.
PHILIP: I know that, Mr. Scrub… how she’s not self-aware or anything.  But that doesn’t mean she can’t play cards with us, does it?  Just because she doesn’t know she exists doesn’t mean she can’t enjoy life like the rest of us, does it?
PRISONER: I think you might have to admit it does, Philip.
PHILIP: No, not at all.  Look!  I wish this pack of cards weren’t so large.  If only it were in four evenly distributed piles… one in front of each seat.
CIUIN begins to deal cards around to the foursome.
MR. SCRUB: I don’t know, Philip… you’re basically getting her to participate by deceiving her.
PHILIP: I’m not deceiving her, Mr. Scrub.  I’m just talking to her in her own language.  It’s nothing, really.
The two tables of players continue to pantomime play, even when the “spotlight” is on the other table.
HYPOCRITE: Oh!  Oh, oh, oh.  That was hardly fair, Physicist.
PHYSICIST: Wasn’t it?  You did seem to be asking for me to dump the queen on you.
HYPOCRITE: I was doing nothing of the sort.  You held her up the first time—you had no reason to change your mind the second time.
PHYSICIST: I have my reasons for all things, Mr. Hypocrite.  Anyway, it’s your lead.  I believe Mr. Arranger is getting impatient.
ARRANGER: Don’t refer to me by name, please… I’m in the zone.
PHYSICIST: Pardon me.
HYPOCRITE (leading a card): Let’s see if you’ve done as I always do, and voided yourself in clubs.
WASHER: You’ll find that I have.  And only because you never do.
PHILIP: Now then… it would be nice if the two of clubs were to show itself.
CIUIN (playing a card): So it shall be!
PRISONER: Well… I’m impressed.
PHILIP: You just have to use the passive voice with her.  She can do just about anything that way.
PRISONER: But can she play a decent game of hearts, is the question.
PHILIP: I suppose she’ll just have to learn.
ARRANGER: Perfect!  No points for me.
PHYSICIST: I took three.  Washer?
WASHER: Seven.  Which leaves the Hypocrite with sixteen, correct?
HYPOCRITE: Unfortunately so.  Naturally, I suffered from the poor diamond break.  One should remain ever vigilant about those.
WASHER: Naturally.
PHILIP: We’ll play only to fifty points, to make it easier on her.  Hm… let me see.  It would be nice if the three of us were to take as many hearts as possible, and thirteen times nicer to take the queen of spades.
MR. SCRUB: What are you saying, Philip?  That’s not the object of the game.  We’re trying not to take those cards.
PHILIP: I’m trying to put it in terms she can work from!  Giving us the point cards is her objective.
MR. SCRUB: Ah, yes.  And… well, she seems to be giving us your wish fairly well.  I’m stuck with the lead again.
PRISONER: I’ve got more hearts where those came from, Mister Faithful Husband.  Hee hee!
WASHER: Let’s see… I suppose I should pass one of my middle hearts this hand, to prevent the Arranger from making a potential moonshot.  That’s what you always say it’s wise to do, don’t you, Hypocrite?
HYPOCRITE: I indubitably do.
WASHER: Just what I thought.  Here you go.
ARRANGER: Less talk please, and more play.
WASHER: Sorry, sorry.  Pass me some cards, Mr. Hypocrite.
HYPOCRITE: Err—here you go, Washer.
CIUIN: What merriment, that the Dark Queen should fall on the Prisoner’s pile!
PRISONER: Aw, shucks.
PHILIP: Well done, Ciuin!
CIUIN: And now, harmony would be served were the Prisoner to lead another card.
PRISONER (leading a card): Right, right.  Here you go.
MR. SCRUB: I’m afraid this one’s mine with the ace.
PRISONER: Ooh!  Yes, ace-two-three-four!  Kiss the dealer, Mr. Scrub!
PHILIP: No!  Ciuin’s the dealer!
PRISONER: So?  So much the better.
MR. SCRUB: I’d rather not, if it’s just the same.
PHILIP: Yes.  That wouldn’t be decent.  We can convince her to do things, but I don’t think we should touch her.  She wouldn’t know what was happening.
MR. SCRUB: It’s a silly superstition anyway.  Here, play a spade.
ARRANGER: You fools!  The Washer is close to shooting the moon!  And why did I have to take the effort to notice it?
WASHER: Maybe everyone else already noticed.  But I think it’s too late to stop me.
PHYSICIST: So it seems.  Although nothing is impossible…
WASHER: Oh no?  Well, if this round of diamonds splits evenly… and it did…it’s no longer possible for you to stop me from shooting the moon.
PHYSICIST: Anything is possible… although I’ll concede this one to you.  Well done, Washer.
ARRANGER: But I’ve still got the king of hearts!
WASHER: It doesn’t matter.  All I have left is diamonds and the ace of spades.
ARRANGER: No hearts?  You didn’t have any hearts?
ARRANGER: Hypocrite, why didn’t you pass any hearts to the Washer?
HYPOCRITE: Passing hearts just to prevent moonshooting is a wasteful luxury.  You get far more certain gains from improving your own hand.
ARRANGER: Evidently not that much more certain… besides, that contradicts what you said before the hand.
WASHER: And that’s why I knew it would be safe to try for it!  After I reminded him he liked to pass hearts, he immediately stopped doing it.  See what it got him!
PHYSICIST: Washer!  We are all quite aware that the Hypocrite contradicts himself.  But that is only the natural way he reflects the conflicting counsels a healthy person is subjected to in the course of life.  You are clearly abusing his place here by forcing him to operate in reverse.  Hypocrisy is when you do what you please and preach something else.  It’s not when you preach one thing and do something worse.  But by forcing the Hypocrite to preach before he acts, you’ve forced him into that more damaging role!  So kindly desist from your games with the man!
HYPOCRITE: The Physicist speaks well of my art.
WASHER: All right, all right.  I’ll stop fooling with him.  But it’s so much fun!
HYPOCRITE: Do not take my advice callously, young Washer.  It may seem trivial when it’s about a card game like this one, but it may prove important someday.
WASHER: Like you ever listen to anyone else’s advice…but whatever.  You all get twenty-six points.  My deal.
CIUIN: Something happened at the other table.  The Washer did something related to the “moon,” but it would be better for all if this rule were clarified.
PHILIP: Oh, right.  How do we tell her about shooting the moon?
MR. SCRUB: Like this: while it is excellent when the three of us take point cards, it is even more excellent when we take none at all during the course of a hand.  Just as excellent as if all three of us had taken all twenty-six points!
PHILIP: That should do it.
CIUIN: Yes, that is satisfactory.  Ooh, what an infuriating marvel that Philip has no more diamonds!  Perhaps he has a high heart?
PHILIP: Ouch.  Yes, I do.
PRISONER: You took a heart trick!  Hee hee!  So tell us a love story, Philip!  Who was that girl you liked watching the sunrise with?
PHILIP (quietly): She was a tax collector’s daughter.  She only stayed with our family for a week, once, while the collector went over things with my parents.  It was a very memorable week, although I never saw her again.
PRISONER: Oh, you poor guy.  So did you ever have a relationship that lasted longer than a week?
MR. SCRUB: Prisoner, what’s wrong with you today?  All you can talk about is love, in some form or another!
PRISONER: Is that a bad thing?
MR. SCRUB: I never knew you to be much of a love-bird.  Don’t tell me one of the servants has struck your fancy.
PRISONER: Not really, but I’m just curious about Philip.  He’s acting kind of like he’s in love all over again!  Or is it just some kind of nostalgia for the outside world?
PHILIP: I hope so…
MR. SCRUB: Oh, let it go, Prisoner.  It’s your play.
ARRANGER: I see the empty servant over there is doing pretty well.  I wonder if she understands what she’s doing?
WASHER: Beats me.  I wish they hadn’t brought her in.  She probably thinks she’s just making everyone else happy.  Not like a real game player, right guys?
HYPOCRITE: Real game players take pride in the fact that they allow their opponents to be graceful losers.
WASHER: Hah!  You’re in last place.  But maybe not for long… your queen, Arranger!
ARRANGER: Sakes!  And I was doing so well for a while!  If only I could concentrate enough to shut out the world… I’d have every blasted card memorized!
PHYSICIST: Not even I can manage that, Arranger.
ARRANGER: I bet she does!  I bet she memorizes every card in the deck just to satisfy Philip and his wishes.  Damn it how I envy her!
PHYSICIST: Listen to what you’re saying, Arranger.  You wouldn’t want to be like her.  That’s like not wanting to exist at all.
ARRANGER (angry): And is that so impossible, Physicist?
PHYSICIST (quietly): Anything is possible.
MR. SCRUB: This really is a good game.  I used to make up variants of it when I was in my twenties and working in a baker’s shop.  I had plenty of spare time then.
PHILIP: And now you don’t?
MR. SCRUB: Well, in a sense I do… I don’t really have any obligation to the castle, no more than my wife does.  If I did, it would weigh her down.  But I find myself all too busy most of the time…I forget to enjoy the good times.  Like this one.  I’ll probably go to do something else and forget half the reason I’m finding this game so much fun.
PRISONER: Aw, that’s a shame.  What you have to do is just find work that you love.
MR. SCRUB: There’s that word again.  So if you love your work, Prisoner, do you have any room left in your heart to love anything else?
PRISONER: Sure, why not?  After all, love gets bigger the more you give it.
MR. SCRUB: And yet, there are only thirteen hearts in the deck.
CIUIN: Five of them are unaccounted for.
PHILIP: Ah.  She means they’re in her own hand.  And I took two.
MR. SCRUB: And I took five as well, which leaves the Prisoner with one, plus the queen of spades.  I believe that ends the game.
HYPOCRITE: Did I go over on that one, Physicist?
PHYSICIST: Yes, I’m afraid you did.  For the rest of us it was a very close game.  The Washer takes first place, I have second, and the Arranger had third.
ARRANGER: Curse it!  Too many fool’s distractions.
HYPOCRITE: It’s only the fool who is so easily distracted.  Come now, Arranger.  At least I have the grace to admit to my loss with candor.  Of course, it was dashed lousy luck to take the queen on the four of hearts that time.
MR. SCRUB: Congratulations, Philip!  Whether it’s brilliance or beginner’s luck, you win by a healthy margin.  Then it’s Ciuin in second and myself in third.  The Prisoner, who went over fifty, might have been wiser to pay more attention to the game.
PRISONER: Aw, I had a great time.  Besides, I’ll find out all your deepest, mushiest secrets eventually, Philip.  You’re lots of fun to talk to.
PHILIP: Thanks, Piper.  Are we playing a final round with the winners from each side?
MR. SCRUB: That’s the idea.  It’s just as well, since I ought to check on the supper downstairs.
HYPOCRITE: Oh, I’ll join you then, Mr. Scrub.  I have some ideas for adding more fiber to the castle’s diet…
PHILIP: It was nice meeting you, Mr. Scrub!
MR. SCRUB: Same to you, Philip.  Fiber, you say?
HYPOCRITE: Yes, for strength.  I’ll tell you about it…
Exit HYPOCRITE, MR. SCRUB, PRISONER and ARRANGER.  WASHER and PHYSICIST scoot over to PHILIP and CIUIN.  WASHER starts dealing the cards.
PHYSICIST: You’re Philip, aren’t you?  One of the new residents?
PHILIP: Yes, my sister and I have only been here around three weeks.  And you are?
PHYSICIST: The Physicist.  Resident idealizer and quantifier, as well as chief scientist.
PHILIP: Really!  What call is there for science around here?  I’m curious.
PHYSICIST: At the moment, they need me to calculate water pressures and speeds in the new irrigation system.  Of course, hydraulics isn’t my specialty, but no one can afford to specialize too much here.
The players pantomime play.
PHILIP: How is the system coming?
PHYSICIST: Very well, I’m pleased to say.  It was a little bit overpressurized in the recent storm, but since the compression was uniform, it actually helped somewhat once we adapted to it.
WASHER: It means a lot less work for me, overall.
PHYSICIST: Yes, that’s true.  You may need to find something to do besides washing.
WASHER: I’ve been thinking about that, but I don’t know what I’d be good at.  Maybe I could take over from the Stainer.
PHYSICIST: The poor girl.  Don’t you think it might be too soon to replace her?
WASHER: Well… the furniture needs to be restained.  What can I do?
PHYSICIST: You don’t really need to—
CIUIN: Another heart trick in the odd pile!  It seems very…very odd indeed that three people so pleased by taking hearts should try so hard not to take them!
PHILIP: We’re not pleased by taking them… it’s just good when we take them.  It’s excellent.
CIUIN: If taking hearts and the spade queen does not please any of you, why and how can it be excellent?  Does it please Mrs. Scrub?
WASHER: Yes.  Yes it does.
PHILIP: No, it doesn’t!  It doesn’t please me, or the Washer or the Physicist, or the Scrubs, or the Arranger or the Hypocrite or anyone you know!  It doesn’t please any of the eighteen people you know to be living in this castle.  It pleases you.  You, Ciuin!  The servant, the person!
WASHER: Philip, you promised you wouldn’t change her!
CIUIN: But why would Philip want something to happen if it does not please him??
PHILIP: It’s not that I want it to happen, Ciuin—it’s that I want you to try and make it happen!  We’re playing a game—I’m working for one goal and you’re working for another!  I want our goals to be different, Ciuin!  Different!  If only for a while!
Everyone freezes.  After a pause, PHILIP stands up and addresses the audience.
PHILIP: There was a big mess after I tried to convince Ciuin to work at cross-purposes to everyone else, even if it was only for a game of Hearts.  The Washer, despite being my friend, got really angry at me.  And Ciuin was upset, too.  We finished the game, eventually… but it wasn’t any fun.  She just played all her high cards first and took all the points.  She doesn’t seem to be ready for something as complex as… as a simple card game.  No, it’s so tragic.  She’s smart enough to learn a card game in minutes and play it well enough to earn second place… but she can’t grasp the idea of being a separate person from the rest of us.  She thinks anything we want is what she wants… she can’t understand that we what I want is for her to…be herself.
PHILIP (sadly): And to think the Prisoner was making me so nervous, talking about hearts and love all the time, asking me all those questions… because I think I’m in love with Ciuin.
PHILIP: And it makes me feel really guilty—to be in love with something where it seems like there’s nothing there.
PHILIP shrugs helplessly and leaves stage.
The End.