B oth candidates vie to steal an election in a modern-day Greek tragedy. In a troubled world, the citizens celebrate the unexpected election of Dylan as their new Leader. Hailed as a savior, he accepts their mandate, and at home receives his opponent, Bates, whom he assumes has come to congratulate him. Instead, Bates announces that he plans to challenge the election’s outcome.

Bates had attempted to rig the election by tampering with the software that counts the votes, but a glitch unintentionally gave half his votes to Dylan. Convincingly, Bates argues that he actually won; and he tries to persuade Helen, Dylan’s wife, with whom he is having an affair, to talk her husband into conceding. Helen had planned to leave Dylan after his anticipated loss, but now she wavers, seduced by power, and unsure where to cast her fate.

The law is on Dylan’s side: his ostensible margin of victory precludes a recount unless he agrees to it. Ready to move on his political agenda, he seeks the advice of Zeke, an old friend and mentor, who questions the moral legitimacy of Dylan’s assuming the Leadership if he didn’t actually win – no matter how odious Bates may be.

Bates takes his case to court, where Dylan learns that, despite the frenzied exuberance that greeted his victory, so few of his supporters had bothered to vote that, computer glitch or not, Bates likely won. By blocking a recount – and stealing the election himself – Dylan recognizes that he is as much a threat to democratic society as is the voters’ apathy. He agrees to concede, and goes to tell the crowds that they will have to live with their choice of Bates.

Helen, determined to be the Leader’s wife, throws her lot in with Bates, but he scorns her, and admits that his declarations of love were no more sincere than his campaign slogans. Too late, Helen rushes to stop Dylan’s concession speech. Bates goes out as well to claim his victory, but the people will have none of it. Dylan has smashed their hopes. In a frenzy, they kill him, and Helen, too, when she tries to protect him. Unable to endure more of Bates’s lies, they cut out his tongue.

"The sun rises and sets in a time-honored cycle, and so it will so long as man discerns no profit in making it do otherwise..."

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CRUITHNE

Scene: A group of CITIZENS has congregated in front of Dylan’s house. ZEKE, an old man, bearded and wise, addresses the audience.

ZEKE The sun rises and sets in a time-honored cycle, and so it will so long as man discerns no profit in making it do otherwise. For otherwise he will. He will harness it and reroute it, and make the sun set before it dawns. In our confounded world, it seems he already has. Our sun bleeds at daybreak instead of waiting for its dying hour. Babies to no woman are born. Crops to no species are grown. Artifice reigns in our world. Our truth has a darker side than the moon.

CITIZEN 1 He’s coming!

ZEKE The man they call savior.

CITIZEN 2 The crowd roars as he passes.

ZEKE Let them roar as loud as my stomach.

CITIZEN 3 Your stomach, Zeke, can be no emptier than my wife’s womb.

CITIZEN 4 Nor she more sterile than my fields.

CITIZEN 5 Dylan will change things.

CITIZENS Don’t be fooled by his beauty…

ZEKE …or persuaded by pretty words.

(Enter DYLAN and HELEN.)

DYLAN What a sorry-looking bunch, and camped on our doorstep!

HELEN Let’s go inside, Dylan, it’s an unruly crowd.

DYLAN If unruliness can be so docile.

HELEN They might be protestors. Not everyone is happy.

DYLAN Then you go in, and I’ll stay a minute to speak with them. I can usually cheer a crowd.

(Exit Helen.)

DYLAN Good men, good women, good citizens all! By your long faces I could mistake you for mourners when it’s a day to celebrate. It’s my victory to be sure, but we can all celebrate the election being over. At least the political ads will stop. (pause) Not a single laugh? You’re a sorrier crowd than I thought.

ZEKE We broke through the lines.

DYLAN Then you are protestors.

CITIZEN 3 He’s kidding.

DYLAN A jokester in every crowd, huh? By his frown I would guess him to be humorless.

ZEKE Few elections give reason to celebrate.

DYLAN Celebrate a new day, old man! It’s what I’ve promised.

CITIZEN 1 New days are old stories.

DYLAN Sad stories, too, if they lack promise, and you appear to have had few promising days.

ZEKE Or promises kept.

DYLAN I intend to keep mine. If you’re not here to congratulate me, you must have complaints. Let me hear them.

CITIZEN 4 The seeds I plant sprout nothing but hunger.

CITIZEN 3 My seed, too, sprouts nothing in my hungry wife.

CITIZEN 2 Our skies are on fire…

CITIZENS …and we don’t know why.

CITIZEN 2 We’re afraid and we don’t know why.

CITIZEN 5 You’ve made promises.

DYLAN They’re guaranteed.

ZEKE In our day we made promises too.

DYLAN In your day?

ZEKE We were senators in our day. Noble men and women, we pursued noble causes.

DYLAN Now that I look closer, I recognize some of you. (peering into Zeke’s face) Can it be you, Zeke?

ZEKE It can.

DYLAN I should have recognized you by your combative words. The years have turned your hair white.

ZEKE I’ve not mastered the art of coloring my hair nor my words.

DYLAN Still the riddle man.

ZEKE It’s my way.

DYLAN I’ve not forgotten. Friends forever, didn’t we vow?

ZEKE And I have not forgotten.

DYLAN Life has its ways, doesn’t it? Something that’s so important one day is no longer thought about the next. To think we were young enough once to swear to something forever, when it is immortality that we have learned to respect. But now I speak in your riddles.

ZEKE There’s not a day I’ve not thought of you, the newspapers don’t allow it. You’re today’s headline, that’s for sure. No poll favored you.

DYLAN The voters favored me.

CITIZENS Winner take everything.

ZEKE Elections aren’t left to chance.

CITIZENS Winner take all.

DYLAN More Zeke riddles?

ZEKE Riddles have answers. My questions may have none to be known.

DYLAN I swear I have missed you! I miss the days when you asked your endless questions. They seemed to have greater clarity.

ZEKE They had no more answers.

DYLAN But the questions were asked. We turned each word, squeezed and examined it, defined and redefined it, and stood our ground. We argued as easily as we loved each other, and that was easy enough.

ZEKE You loved words, I remember that.

DYLAN I had the better arguments, too! The facts were friendlier to me. I never doubted your answers were more just, we disagreed only on justice’s importance.

ZEKE It’s not a moving mark.

DYLAN There! That’s why I tally myself against you! I wonder what decision Zeke would make. How Zeke would act, what Zeke would say, what Zeke would think. And what Zeke was thinking when he disappeared.

ZEKE He was thinking of the Leadership.

DYLAN Still the riddle man! What separated us when we swore not to let it happen?

CITIZEN 1 Tides.

CITIZEN 5 Currents.

CITIZEN 2 A tsunami.

DYLAN Too many years. It’s by your words, Zeke, that I have remembered you. When my speeches start to sound foreign in my own mouth, I imagine what you would say instead.

ZEKE I’ve heard your speeches. You have a good memory for phrases.

DYLAN I confess that I have plagiarized you!

ZEKE You recite my words. A child can do as much.

CITIZEN 1 A.

CITIZEN 2 B.

CITIZEN 3 C.

CITIZEN 4 D.

DYLAN Your lessons were never so simple.

CITIZEN 5 E!

ZEKE (referring to Citizens) They expect much of you.

DYLAN I’ve promised a new day if not a new world. I owe them something.

CITIZENS Answers.

DYLAN My promises are more than slogans.

CITIZENS Answers!

DYLAN Are there so many questions?

ZEKE There’s that much uncertainty.

DYLAN I could use your answers now.

ZEKE Are you asking my permission to plagiarize?

DYLAN I’m asking for your advice. Now that you have found your way to my door again, come inside when you’re ready. We’ll toast my election. I warn you, I plan to pick your brain for ideas. I am fed mine with too much regularity.

(Dylan exits.)

ZEKE I wish I were fed something with regularity.

CITIZEN 2 What will you tell him?

ZEKE The truth if I know it. How we got here if I can explain it.

CITIZEN 4 I have a hungry wife.

CITIZEN 3 I have an empty one.

ZEKE There’s much to explain. Come, let’s strategize.

(Zeke and the Citizens exit.)

(Helen enters and crosses to a window.)

HELEN They are driving me mad! Herded in the streets like sheep bleating ‘Dylan Dylan Dylan Dylan’. I’d like to scratch out their votes and silence their damn voices. If ever I feared the outcome of an election, it was this one.

(Enter Dylan.)

DYLAN Do you hear them?

HELEN I would be deaf not to.

DYLAN They love me.

HELEN You promised them enough.

DYLAN They only want to congratulate me.

HELEN It was dangerous to walk through them.

DYLAN In person. They wanted to congratulate me in person. It used to be done.

HELEN Many things used to be done.

DYLAN You don’t seem cheerful, Helen. Isn’t it enough that I won?

HELEN It creates new worries.

DYLAN And takes away others.

HELEN A new day. I know your slogans.

DYLAN They believe me.

HELEN They’ll cling to any hope.

DYLAN Come here, I haven’t had a congratulatory kiss.

HELEN I’ve been kissing you all day.

DYLAN For the public’s consumption, not mine.

(They kiss.)

DYLAN That felt like a public kiss.

HELEN I’ll fix drinks.

DYLAN Men celebrate with sex.

HELEN A drink might put me in the mood.

DYLAN I would hope that my victory would put you in the mood. Sometimes I wonder if you voted for me.

HELEN I did, not thinking it would count.

DYLAN I never believed the polls.

(She hands Dylan a drink.)

DYLAN I ran into an old friend outside. Zeke.

HELEN He’s made himself scarce, that’s friendly enough.

DYLAN I hardly recognized him.

HELEN I imagine he’s grey, too, by now.

DYLAN White. Once I thought we would never be separated.

HELEN I had that worry too.

DYLAN You both speak in riddles. You should have loved each other.

(Helen peers out the window.)

HELEN They expect miracles.

DYLAN I’ve always wondered why you didn’t.

HELEN Didn’t what?

DYLAN Love him.

HELEN No imperfections. The people want no imperfections. Zeke was an imperfection.

DYLAN A friend.

HELEN He wanted too much.

DYLAN I’ve missed him.

HELEN I’ve not.

DYLAN I invited him for a drink.

HELEN Then I’m ready for another one.

(She knocks back her drink, and holds out glass for Dylan to refill.)

DYLAN I’m ready to celebrate.

HELEN Then let’s celebrate, Dylan, and worry later what it means.

(Helen and Dylan exit.)

(Enter Zeke and the Citizens.)

CITIZEN 4 There’s everything.

CITIZEN 1 And more.

ZEKE It’s a long list.

CITIZEN 5 Dylan will know. He has the answers.

CITIZEN 3 Why ‘security’ threatens us.

CITIZENS Ask him!

CITIZEN 1 How ‘war’ can mean peace.

CITIZENS Ask him!

CITIZEN 4 How we can be told so much and know so little.

CITIZEN 1 Why we aren’t thanked for our good deeds.

CITIZEN 2 Why the world doesn’t love us.

CITIZENS Ask him! Ask him! Ask him!

(BATES enters, unseen.)

CITIZEN 2 Ask him what we’re not being told.

CITIZEN 5 He’s the Leader. He’ll know.

ZEKE And if he doesn’t? Leaders are followers, too, of money trails and opinion polls. It’s a rare Leader who asks questions, and rarer still the one who wants the answers. Their silence is their price.

BATES Still giving speeches, Zeke?

ZEKE I’ve still a thought or two.

BATES And more than a few words.

ZEKE I’ve not been silenced yet.

BATES I’ll give you something to talk about. There are claims of irregularities with the vote count.

ZEKE That wouldn’t be your claim, would it?

BATES I have a good case and plan to make it better.

ZEKE It may be hard to convince the voters. Their enthusiasm is genuine, they believe the system worked.

BATES It worked until it broke and I’m here to fix it.

ZEKE Does Dylan know?

BATES He will when I tell him that his votes are mine.

ZEKE That might surprise the voters too.

BATES They’ll see straight away that he lost, no questions asked!

ZEKE I might have one or two.

BATES The fewer the better, don’t waste my time! I’ve a government to run and promises to keep.

ZEKE Dylan wanted my advice.

BATES I won’t be asking for it, and that’s a promise too.

ZEKE (to the Citizens) Let’s go, it appears we may need to rethink our strategy.

(Zeke and the Citizens exit.)

(Bates enters the house and crosses to the window.)

BATES They cry Dylan’s name when it’s me they want. Hypocrites all! He’s the winner today when tomorrow it will be my victory. It’s a stolen election, that’s for sure. I stole victory from myself, and now I will steal it back.

(Enter Helen.)

HELEN You play dangerously, coming to the house.

BATES It’s an honorable thing to congratulate the winner.

HELEN Then Dylan did win.

BATES You’re as easily fooled as the voters. It’s your congratulations that I am waiting for.

HELEN I’m as easily confused, too.

BATES I’ve lost by a software glitch. It’s a temporary loss until I can make my case. Where is Dylan?

HELEN Asleep.

BATES Then let me have you.

(He pulls her into a kiss.)

BATES I can smell him on you.

HELEN He has a husband’s rights.

BATES And I have a lover’s.

(She pulls away.)

BATES I’ll not lose you, even temporarily. I would rather lose the election.

HELEN What went wrong?

BATES I accidentally programmed the program to give Dylan half my votes, when half his votes were supposed to count as mine. The truth is, I won this election. I received more votes.

HELEN You believe your own lies?

BATES I can prove my case.

HELEN How, by confessing that you tried to steal the election?

BATES Not if Dylan concedes first.

HELEN Why would he?

BATES I was elected. Once I explain the sequence of events, it would be the honorable thing to do. Dylan has used my own honor against me. Let him prove his honor is less dishonorable than mine.

HELEN Even Dylan might swallow his honor in this case.

BATES He listens to you.

HELEN He won’t listen to his own concession speech coming from me.

BATES I can make you the Leader’s wife.

HELEN I am already the Leader’s wife. I was at his side for his victory speech.

BATES You can’t be wife to both of us.

HELEN (aside) Which should I pick, when I risk losing both?

BATES Yesterday you said you loved me.

HELEN Yesterday you had more promise.

BATES Then I have lost you.

HELEN I shall miss aspects of us.

BATES Aspects? Aspects of us? It’s not the Leadership that I’ve wanted, but you. If I lost, I knew I would lose you, too. I couldn’t stop the vote count any more than I could my heart, yet with each new tally I wanted to stop both. Perhaps I do play dangerously by coming here, but how else to convince you that it is your heart that I must win. Your heart, Helen. I planned to steal the Leadership to steal your heart. It’s an unfair outcome that I should win both, and lose both too.

HELEN It is a gamble that I am already a part of.

BATES Then I have a chance?

HELEN Make your case.

BATES With your help, I can.

(He pulls her into a kiss.)

(Dylan enters.)

DYLAN I expect, Bates, that your congratulations of me will be modestly less passionate.

BATES I’m often faulted for my enthusiasm.

DYLAN Your fault, Bates, is not to recognize that you have a single one of them. You will take a drink?

BATES I’m not here to congratulate you.

DYLAN I imagine not, or you might mistake yourself for a gentleman.

BATES I’ll not be accused of more mistakes than I’ve made.

DYLAN Then we’ll not worry about your misrepresenting yourself.

BATES I’ll not have my words twisted by your smooth talk.

DYLAN Is that why you refused to debate?

BATES My positions were known.

DYLAN Does that include positions with my wife? Oh, I forgot… that was only an enthusiastic moment. (to Helen) Do you want a drink, sweetheart? Maybe a drink will cheer us up. (pouring drinks) Helen is not been as cheerful today as you might expect. Perhaps she doesn’t think the better man won.

HELEN I’m not sure who won.

DYLAN Your husband won. I don’t know what you call him. Loser? Lover? Or just plain old Bates.

BATES There are reports of irregularities with the vote count.

DYLAN I’ve no doubt that you think it’s irregular that you lost.

BATES I’m challenging the election.

DYLAN You are what?

BATES I’m challenging-

DYLAN I heard you. (referring to crowds) Have they heard you?

BATES Only rumors.

DYLAN Your rumors, no doubt. On what grounds?

HELEN A software glitch.

DYLAN You know about this?

HELEN He told me.

BATES It’s easily proved. Besides, none of the polls favored you.

DYLAN Opinion polls are rigged by their winners.

BATES Then it was smart you didn’t waste your money on them.

DYLAN I didn’t have your sponsors.

BATES Your smooth talk won’t change the facts.

DYLAN I’ve always suspected you were delusional. How could that happen?

BATES I wrote the software, and sabotaged it too.

HELEN Half your votes were to go to him.

DYLAN I’m unclear, Bates, are you here to steal an election or steal my wife?

BATES I’m claiming both.

DYLAN Is that true?

HELEN Not as he claims.

DYLAN What manner of claim then?

HELEN It’s undecided.

DYLAN It looks, Bates, like you’ll have to press both claims. My wife is her own business. As to the election, you can press your claim in court.

BATES It’s an easy matter to prove.

DYLAN I can’t wait to hear your case.

BATES Where are your fine words about democracy?

DYLAN Challenge the election if you will, but I will not be challenged by you.

BATES ‘In a battle for the soul of our system, every vote is a vote that counts.’

DYLAN I’ll not hear my words come from your mouth!

BATES ‘Win gladly, and if we must lose, be equally glad that the system works.’

DYLAN This is blasphemy! Do you hear the crowds outside? They celebrate my victory while your name is already forgotten.

BATES It’s natural for the people to side with the winner.

DYLAN You underestimate them. They have questions and don’t understand why every answer seems ready-made.

BATES Proud words, Dylan, for someone installed by a computer glitch.

DYLAN And I ask that you uninstall yourself from here.

BATES Helen?

(She doesn’t budge.)

DYLAN Leave before I call security.

BATES (to Helen) I’ll win both my claims.

(Exit Bates.)

DYLAN By his eyes I can guess where his hands have lingered.

HELEN It happened. It’s over. Ask your questions if you have any so we can move on; because we have to, Dylan, move on.

DYLAN I don’t need to ask about your affair, the details are plain enough. Even the inconvenience that it was with my opponent doesn’t surprise me. But to betray me for a man like Bates? A man who falls through his own words, they are so full of holes? The notion is so foul, it could be incest.

HELEN He was certain to win.

DYLAN You were persuaded by opinion polls?

HELEN I was persuaded enough to worry.

DYLAN You always have a contingency plan. This time, I gather, it was exchanging husbands as readily as votes are miscounted.

HELEN I’ve been unfaithful. It doesn’t mean that I don’t love you.

DYLAN I still believe in the monogamy of commitment if not the monogamy of love. Betraying me with Bates is a desecration of both.

HELEN I never doubted that you are the better man.

DYLAN And lover?

HELEN You’re steadier.

DYLAN He’s younger. Much.

HELEN I can’t deny it.

DYLAN And handsome enough.

HELEN I can’t deny that either.

DYLAN What was it, Helen? Are you afraid your ship-launching days were over?

HELEN We’re a team, Dylan, and winning is part of it. One of us had to win.

DYLAN Then you did contemplate leaving me?

HELEN I’m not contemplating it now.

DYLAN Bates must have no case, or why would you stay with me?

HELEN A steadier love, I suppose.

DYLAN It didn’t look like you were trying to send him away.

HELEN Desire is another thing. Take me to bed, Dylan. I’m glad this is out and in the open, and finished. I feel like celebrating — again.

(Helen and Dylan exit.)

(Zeke and Bates enter.)

ZEKE That was quick business.

BATES Quick and to the point. He got my point all right.

(Citizens begin to filter onto stage.)

ZEKE It seemed clear enough before you went in.

BATES I made it clearer. I made everything clear to him. To the point.

ZEKE (referring to Citizens) You have to convince them.

BATES They’ll listen to the truth. They want it and I know it. I’ve got the evidence. You, you’ve heard my speeches, were they clear?

CITIZEN 1 Every word.

BATES I know how to make things clear.

CITIZEN 2 But we still have questions.

BATES And I’m the answer man.

ZEKE How do you plan to steal the election?

BATES That’s not public information.

ZEKE Then you are stealing it?

BATES You can’t trick me! I’m not stealing it. I know the truth and I know you want to know it.

CITIZENS Tell us!

BATES When I’m ready. Trust me. Next question.

CITIZEN 4 When will you be ready?

BATES You’ll know. Trust me. Next question.

ZEKE How do you explain that Dylan didn’t win?

BATES A glitch in the software.

CITIZEN 5 Dylan lost?

(The Citizens, mumbling in disbelief ‘Dylan lost?’, start to drift off.)

ZEKE How do you explain so many people in the streets?

BATES They’re curious. They hear noise and come outside. Odds are, they voted for me. I certainly made enough promises. But let’s ask them. Hold up there, will you? I’ve answered your questions, now I’ve one for you. Why did you vote for me? (silence)

Maybe that was too hard when I can make it simpler. Give me one reason why you voted for me. (silence)

It’s not a trick question though the answer might be tricky. I promised security. There, now you know to answer at least that much. So, give me one reason why you voted for me? (silence)

ZEKE Perhaps if you put it differently.

BATES Okay, you try.

ZEKE Did any of you vote for Bates?

(The Citizens shrug ‘no’.)

ZEKE It appears not.

BATES At least one of you had to vote for me. It’s the law of statistics.

ZEKE Even one vote for Bates?

(Again the Citizens indicate no.)

BATES Clearly I had better percentages among other groups! That’s a joke but it’s the truth. Now I’ve told you the truth too.

ZEKE We’re a hard group to please.

BATES Not very representative of the general public, is that right?

ZEKE We’re only citizens.

BATES That’s right, and it’s my job to represent all the public including citizens. It’s a big job but I’m going to do it, and I’m going to make sure you’re safe while I’m doing it.

CITIZEN 1 We heard the speeches. The election is over.

BATES You’re right, and you’re going to get the Leader you deserve. It was nice chatting with you. Remember, I have an open door policy.

(Exit Bates.)

CITIZEN 3 Steal the election?

CITIZEN 2 He could win it?

CITIZEN 1 Could he have a case?

ZEKE He has the right to make it.

CITIZEN 4 It’s not possible.

CITIZEN 2 Please, not Bates.

ZEKE He seems confident.

(The Citizens drift off.)

CITIZEN 3 Evidence.

CITIZEN 4 Confidence.

CITIZEN 5 Trust.

CITIZEN 2 Truth.

(The Citizens are gone.)

ZEKE The answer man.

(Dylan enters.)

DYLAN You look stranded out here between the columns.

ZEKE They appear larger from the street.

DYLAN You’ve never been up close?

ZEKE Never close enough to touch them.

DYLAN Give them a good whack if you want. They’re sturdy enough to hold up the house. ‘The Greeks gave us two things, columns and civil society.’ We were outside looking in through that gate when you said that.

ZEKE Both could use a fresh coat of paint.

DYLAN It’ll be easy enough to brighten these up again.

ZEKE We sooner renovate our houses than repair our souls.

DYLAN Stranded, perhaps, amongst these columns, but never at a loss for words. I remember you well.

ZEKE Words came easier when they still meant something. It’s not that I am speechless, but I can barely speak, the words have been so twisted.

DYLAN They stick in your throat, do they?

ZEKE I want to block my ears.

DYLAN I’m going to need a speech writer. Apply for the job.

ZEKE I’ve finished giving speeches. At one time the fine words seemed to matter, now there are times when I would trade all the words in the world for a single spoken truth.

DYLAN I have missed your fine words. How I wished we hadn’t drifted apart.

ZEKE There were times when it felt more precipitous than ‘drifting apart’.

DYLAN Life gets busy, doesn’t it?

ZEKE Especially when there are elections to win.

DYLAN A whole life to win!

ZEKE You’ve managed it well enough.

DYLAN I’ve filled in the spaces better than most. Kept it interesting. Kept myself entertained while trying not to think about the impossible questions.

ZEKE And you’ve won elections in the process.

DYLAN The wins are Helen’s. She orchestrated and delivered them.

ZEKE She’s worked hard.

DYLAN She has always known what she wants.

ZEKE She has. And you, Dylan, do you always know what you want?

DYLAN Usually.

ZEKE Not always?

DYLAN Always enough to know why you are asking; and no, Zeke, I did not want you to disappear. When I realized it had happened, it felt precipitous to me, too. With no more of your fine words, and no goodbye. Only a final silence. I wondered why so long between your calls, and I’d call and leave a message, but with so many distractions – appointments, strategy sessions, opinion polls, speeches – I would forget if you had called back; and so clearly could I still hear your words, sometimes I believed that you had. With all the ways communicate, it almost seemed natural not to, and naturally we lost contact. I never imagined the friend I loved the most would be the friend I’d lose.

ZEKE Some things are always too late.

DYLAN But not too late for friends again. It’s the old times I like to think about, not our years apart. Here I am remembering old times when it’s today’s news that’s important.

ZEKE I’ve yet to congratulate you.

DYLAN It’s your victory, too. I stole your ideas and called them mine.

ZEKE They weren’t copyrighted.

DYLAN ‘Selflessness is the foundation of democracy, and its Achilles heel.’ I used that in a speech last week.

ZEKE Fortunately the Greeks managed to rise to the occasion.

DYLAN And so shall I.

(referring to crowds) Listen to them. I owe them everything, nothing less than everything.

ZEKE Bates claims you won by a software glitch.

DYLAN So he’s already spreading rumors.

ZEKE Like they’re the news. He’s rallying his troops and declaring victory.

DYLAN Are there ballots? Fingerprints? What’s his proof?

ZEKE That’s one question.

DYLAN Is there another?

ZEKE Did he win?

DYLAN Bates as Leader? It’s ludicrous. Ruinous! He’s sold himself so many times, he has more price tags stuck to him than marked-down clothes at a secondhand shop.

ZEKE His election appeared certain yesterday.

DYLAN The opinion polls were wrong.

ZEKE Another software glitch?

DYLAN Ask the average man or woman on the street. They’re the opinion-makers, and by the sound of it they’re all going to wake up hoarse in the morning. It’s my name they are crying out, not Bates’s.

ZEKE They’re crying for help, it doesn’t matter in whose name.

DYLAN They’ll have it. I’m inside these columns now. They’ll have everything I’ve promised.

ZEKE They’re tired of promises. Tired of lies.

DYLAN They will have the truth.

ZEKE And if Bates’s claim is true?

DYLAN If Bate’s claim is true, he has stolen the election from himself.

ZEKE Then it’s possible he won?

DYLAN There’s no mandatory recount when the margin of victory is so wide. I’ve won regardless of the vote.

ZEKE That’s news even the networks might report honestly.

DYLAN Why are we debating an election that’s already history? I’ve got a government to put together. Questions to answer and promises to keep. Come in for that drink and be my first official advisor.

(They enter the house.)

DYLAN Helen has already started to redecorate.

ZEKE She’ll make it her home soon enough.

DYLAN She’ll be pleased to see you.

ZEKE I recall she preferred a bit of advance warning.

DYLAN Helen is always up for a party.

(He crosses to the bar.)

DYLAN Is it still scotch?

ZEKE It is.

DYLAN I’m glad to learn when something has not changed. Old habits are a day’s most satisfying transactions. (handing Zeke a drink) I never expected to be the Leader. Others coveted it more than I.

ZEKE None more than Helen.

DYLAN She’s never wanted anything else.

(They touch glasses.)

DYLAN To Helen’s victory.

ZEKE It’s your victory, Dylan, if a victory it is.

DYLAN It’s as much your victory as mine. I always expected that one day I would be congratulating you on your election, not borrowing your words for my own speeches.

ZEKE I’m glad my words have proven useful. The best we can hope for ourselves is that we inspire others.

DYLAN Inspiration has been in short supply lately. I am surrounded by advisors who feed me words that are stale before I speak them.

ZEKE I’m not sure that you’ll find inspiration in the grumblings of an old man fallen on hard times.

DYLAN Your spirit, too, seems to have fallen on hard times.

ZEKE It’s not hard times I worry about, but the times themselves. By nature I’m not cynical–

DYLAN By nature you are! Nothing is simple for you.

ZEKE A man grows up believing something to be true, something so fundamental that he constructs his entire life around it. What is it?

DYLAN Another of your riddles?

ZEKE Something he is willing to lose his life for.

DYLAN Love?

ZEKE Define it.

DYLAN Love conquers all.

ZEKE Nothing so ridiculous.

DYLAN Everlasting love.

ZEKE Nothing so fickle.

DYLAN Love of country?

ZEKE It’s our shared faith. When that foundation cracks, we risk falling into a yawning gap. Even those who believe themselves immune to vertigo slide toward the precipice.

DYLAN I’m not cheered by your words.

ZEKE I’m not cheerful.

DYLAN You’ll admit to being cynical?

ZEKE If pressed, I suppose it’s a fair accusation.

DYLAN Fair enough!

ZEKE Fair enough, too, that I still have love of country. A tarnished love to be sure, but a love nevertheless.

DYLAN What love isn’t tarnished? But I have faith in love, or at least in faithfulness, which reminds me that Helen wants to see you.

ZEKE I have come to congratulate her, too.

DYLAN Help yourself to another drink while I go find her.

(Exit Dylan.)

(Zeke splashes more scotch into his glass, then crosses to the window.)

ZEKE From these windows, the columns seem smaller and the world larger. The barbarians at our gates wouldn’t have to struggle very hard to tip them over. Whose hand carries the knife at our throat? Where are the safe harbors when we have mined our own waters?

(Enter Helen.)

HELEN Are you giving speeches to walls these days, Zeke?

ZEKE They are good listeners.

HELEN I recall you enjoyed an enthusiastic audience.

ZEKE I enjoyed good listeners more. Hello Helen.

HELEN Dylan said you were here.

ZEKE He invited me for a drink.

HELEN It’s been a day for surprises.

ZEKE It has indeed. I suppose congratulations are in order. So is a kiss.

(They buss cheeks.)

ZEKE You’re looking well, Helen. The campaigns haven’t taken a toll on you, nor have the years.

HELEN You flatter me.

ZEKE I always did. It’s your weakest point.

HELEN Did you come back because Dylan won?

ZEKE Haven’t they been your campaigns?

HELEN I’ve never been the candidate.

ZEKE Then I’ve forgotten why I left. Perhaps that’s why I’ve come back.

HELEN Still talking in riddles, like old times.

ZEKE The old times are over.

HELEN Spare me Dylan’s campaign slogans.

ZEKE He claims he plagiarizes me.

HELEN He credits you for too much.

ZEKE He does plagiarize me.

HELEN He still credits you for too much.

ZEKE He gives you credit for his wins. Would you have taken credit for his losses, too?

HELEN He had none.

ZEKE If he had?

HELEN You’re asking hypothetical questions when there would be facts to consider.

ZEKE I’ve a talent for asking questions.

HELEN It’s a talent best forgotten when too much is questionable.

ZEKE Like this election? Dylan appears to have lost and won.

HELEN He’s on the winning side.

ZEKE There is a certain nobility in gracefully losing, should that come to pass.

HELEN And then you are gracefully forgotten.

ZEKE Winners are soon forgotten, too, unless they start a war or have a seizure to stay on the front page. It’s the thrashing about that gets people to pay attention to you.

HELEN Dylan is hardly prone to thrashing about.

ZEKE I doubt if Bates will concede gracefully. If his claim is based on his own deceit, there’s no knowing how sordid his story may become before he admits defeat.

HELEN Or wins.

ZEKE Then you consider it possible?

HELEN Elections aren’t necessarily concluded when the votes are counted.

ZEKE The opinion polls must have been worrisome.

HELEN They are as reliable as this election.

ZEKE His point exactly. There are no ballots to count when only buttons are pushed. Bates only needs to prove how the glitch worked.

HELEN He can.

ZEKE The opinion polls would be supporting evidence.

HELEN Then the outcome truly is in doubt?

ZEKE You seem alarmed, Helen. You can always have your mail forwarded again, if it comes to that.

HELEN You’re such a bastard.

ZEKE Sometimes I wished for Dylan’s defeat just to see what you would do.

HELEN You forget that I love him.

ZEKE I do, too. Now I remember, that’s why I’ve come back. To help him.

HELEN You think so much of yourself.

ZEKE He’s asked for my advice.

HELEN You invited yourself back. I expected as much from others claiming their share of the spoils, but you surprise me Zeke. You’re the last face I expected to see first.

(Enter Dylan.)

DYLAN I am looking at the reincarnation of a memory! The two of you standing there together, my closest friend and wife. Where are the court photographers when you need them? Zeke, another splash? The usual double, Helen? Zeke reminded me of the value of old habits today.

HELEN He has a knack for stirring up memories.

DYLAN Old habits. Old friends. Old wives, here sweetheart.

(He hands her a drink.)

DYLAN A toast to reunions… (touching Zeke’s glass) …friends… (then Helen’s glass) …and lovers.

ZEKE To the new Leadership.

HELEN It already feels in jeopardy.

DYLAN Helen’s not as cheerful as you might expect.

HELEN The end is seeded in the beginning, and today it never felt truer. It could be a short-lived victory if Bates presses his case.

DYLAN Let him press it. Unless I am hallucinating, I hear crowds roaring my name. Even my shadow in the window sends them into a frenzy.

HELEN If Bates had won they would cheer his shadow too. No one celebrates a loser.

DYLAN By that logic, I’m the clear winner.

HELEN It’s the recount that will matter.

DYLAN You almost sound as if you hope Bates can make his case.

HELEN I’d prefer if the election were settled.

DYLAN It is settled. Bates hasn’t a case with my margin of victory.

ZEKE It depends on the provable margin of error.

DYLAN The law reads differently.

HELEN It depends on the judge.

DYLAN Bates will never convince a judge.

HELEN It could go either way.

DYLAN Not a chance. I’ve won. It’s the law.

ZEKE The winner is supposed to have the most votes.

DYLAN His argument will be his own confession. He can’t win the election by proving he tried to steal it.

HELEN Still, you could lose.

DYLAN Where’s your loyalty? I don’t hear it in your words.

ZEKE It’s not her loyalty I’d question, but her sources. She seems to know much about Bates’s case.

DYLAN She’s heard rumors, nothing more.

HELEN Can you ignore them?

DYLAN Once a man needed a ruinous scandal to ruin him – nothing less than being revealed as Oedipus. Now rumors bring kings to their knees. I’ll not be damned by rumors.

ZEKE We damn ourselves. Rumors only speed our fall.

DYLAN Is it your loyalty, too, that I should question?

ZEKE My loyalty is unchanged. It is first to the truth.

DYLAN You would rather see Bates as Leader?

ZEKE I’d rather not, and that’s the truth.

DYLAN And you?

HELEN You’re the better man.

DYLAN And better Leader?

ZEKE The argument is not who will make a better Leader but who won the election.

DYLAN I’ll not be accused of stealing my own election!

ZEKE Do we know if Bates’s evidence is irrefutable?

DYLAN I have the votes, the news reports, the people in the streets.

HELEN It may not be enough.

DYLAN Look out these windows. Has any Leader ever had a clearer mandate?

ZEKE A computer glitch isn’t a mandate.

DYLAN I’m not talking about the votes. I’m seeing the people, I’m hearing them, I spent the day listening to as many complaints as congratulations. They are a sorry lot, and they’ll be sorrier still if Bates becomes Leader.

HELEN He will demand a recount.

DYLAN Let him demand it. By law I have to request it too. I have a winning margin outside any statistical error.

ZEKE The law is not something to hide behind.

DYLAN It’s Bates who intended to hijack the election.

HELEN He’ll admit it to win.

ZEKE By failing, he’s broken no law.

DYLAN I’m doomed.

ZEKE If he has won. Though I can’t bear the man, I have to support Bates’s right to challenge your presumed victory.

DYLAN There’s nothing to do but let the court decide.

ZEKE A surer justice is to abide the will of the people. Let the count decide.

HELEN You need to make your case to the people.

DYLAN They want no more slogans. A sadness lingers in our land and they want to know why. Why they are afraid. Why they are endangered. Why they are not loved when they’ve embraced the world.

ZEKE I thought I had cornered the question market.

DYLAN Others have started asking questions, too.

HELEN Bates has answers.

DYLAN Ready-made answers from a ready-made man.

ZEKE Your answers, Dylan, aren’t they plagiarized?

DYLAN That knife cuts to my soul.

HELEN Most men live with a bled soul.

DYLAN And you’ve pierced my heart.

ZEKE All your fine words mean nothing if you’ve only dressed yourself in them.

DYLAN I never expected you to challenge my words.

HELEN It’s Bates who has brought the challenge.

DYLAN It’s my friend and my wife who have thrown it at my feet. To keep you both I must win my election twice. Bring in your jury, Zeke. I am going to prepare my case.

(Exit Dylan.)

HELEN Will he win?

ZEKE He has a strong case.

HELEN And Bates?

ZEKE He has a strong case too.

HELEN I’ll be loyal to the winner.

ZEKE Let me hope that I can find a jury as honest.

(Exit Zeke.)

(Enter SERVANT.)

SERVANT Ma’am, if your guest has left, I have a message for you.

(She hands a message to Helen, who reads it, then both exit.)

(Enter female Citizens.)

CITIZEN 1 I had a dream last night.

CITIZEN 2 You did?

CITIZEN 5 I’ve started dreaming again, too.

CITIZEN 2 I’ve made myself wait to be sure.

CITIZEN 5 Dylan has been elected, that’s for sure.

CITIZEN 1 So it is safe to dream again?

CITIZEN 5 It’s safe with Dylan.

CITIZEN 2 He’s not just words?

CITIZEN 5 He’ll get to the bottom of things. He’ll figure out what went wrong where.

CITIZEN 2 I’ve been afraid, afraid to go out, afraid to go on. Afraid to dream.

CITIZEN 5 You’ll dream again.

CITIZEN 2 I hope so.

(Enter Helen, disguised.)

CITIZEN 2 To dream again… I hope I’m not too out of practice!

CITIZEN 1 Practice with an old dream.

CITIZEN 5 Before the fires.

CITIZEN 1 Before the earth grew parched.

CITIZEN 2 Before all that, I dreamt of love. I dreamt of a love so passionate that it forever kept me young. I dreamt of a love so romantic that it forever made me laugh. I dreamt of a love so steady that I welcomed growing old together, though it meant growing old.

CITIZEN 1 Last night I dreamt of lustful love.

CITIZEN 5 My husband awoke that way.

CITIZEN 1 That’s a dream easily come true!

CITIZEN 2 (to Helen) Come join us. It’s girls talk, if you overlook the grey hairs.

HELEN I have some of my own.

CITIZEN 1 Then you have some wisdom, too.

HELEN I heard you talking about love.

CITIZEN 5 (referring to Citizen 2) She dreams of love.

CITIZEN 2 Do you know about love?

HELEN Love is full of questions, I know that much.

CITIZEN 2 What’s the most important kind of love?

HELEN Once passionate, once romantic, once steady.

CITIZENS When?

HELEN All the time.

CITIZEN 1 I prefer passionate.

CITIZEN 5 I vote steady.

CITIZEN 2 I want romantic.

HELEN I won’t be denied any of it.

CITIZEN 2 Is there such a man?

HELEN Not one.

CITIZENS We’re doomed!

HELEN Not one but as many as we are. What man is not passionate when first in love, and then romantic when those fires need stoking? Give any man enough time and he’s a steady love. Love ages even as it keeps you young.

CITIZEN 1 I awoke lustfully this morning.

CITIZEN 2 I awoke romantically.

CITIZEN 5 I woke my husband.

HELEN I awoke with a steady love.

CITIZEN 5 And tomorrow?

HELEN That’s still to be seen.

(Enter Bates, face shadowed by a big cowboy hat.)

(The Citizens start to drift off.)

CITIZEN 2 Which do you suppose he is?

HELEN He doesn’t know yet.

CITIZEN 5 Which is he to you?

HELEN I haven’t decided.

CITIZEN 1 He’s handsome enough.

HELEN That’s double-edged for a woman my age.

CITIZEN 5 He’s young enough.

HELEN That, too, can cut twice.

CITIZEN 2 He has a big hat.

(The Citizens are gone.)

HELEN He does. He’s young and handsome, too, which is why I started this affair. His love refreshes me even as it exhausts me, and makes the pains of growing old more endurable. I’ll miss his love if it comes to that. (to Bates) That’s a big hat.

BATES I’m traveling incognito.

HELEN It might draw attention.

(Bates removes the hat.)

BATES I borrowed it.

HELEN He must have been a big cowboy.

BATES Do you want to hold it?

HELEN It’s not mine.

BATES It’s not mine either.

HELEN Put it down, Bates, it’s in the way.

BATES You got my message?

HELEN You wrote it was urgent.

BATES Dylan is trying to steal the election, it’s obvious. He’s not asked about the actual vote count because he knows he didn’t win. If he steals the election, he also steals you, and that’s a double loss I’m not worthy of taking.

HELEN It’s not the loser’s side I want to be on.

BATES Dylan can’t win because he didn’t. It’s an easy case to prove. I have a transcript of my mistakes, and they can easily be reversed and reenacted to prove that his win is mine.

HELEN That’s evidence against you too.

BATES Evidence that I broke no law.

HELEN Except you tampered with the vote.

BATES But ultimately not in my favor!

HELEN Is failure a defense?

BATES Dylan isn’t the real Leader because I have the only rightful claim to it, and that’s enough to claim you.

HELEN It’s an uncertain certainty you propose. An uncertain love, too.

BATES It’s not uncertain for me. I melted when I first had you, and that’s how I have loved you ever since.

HELEN How does a melted man love?

BATES Like a man who wants you forever, and the only way to keep you is to make you the Leader’s wife. That’s why I have gambled everything, so that it’s me who makes your dream come true.

HELEN But I am already the Leader’s wife. Is your love for me great enough to leave things as they are?

BATES You have a choice, Dylan or me, and he’s a certain loser. I’m a less certain one.

HELEN You don’t leave me much choice.

BATES Then it’s me.

HELEN For nothing less than the Leadership.

BATES I feel like celebrating!

(He tries to embrace her. She resists.)

HELEN I’ve had my fill of celebrating today.

BATES Dylan will know he’s lost the Leadership when he learns he’s lost you.

HELEN He needn’t know until the matter is settled. You’ve said yourself, the evidence is irrefutable.

BATES I still need to make my case. You’re part of my evidence, you knew the plan.

HELEN Only that you might have one. Never the details. I’ll not be called as a witness.

BATES I must call you to testify, or Dylan will. You’re material to both our cases.

HELEN I’ll be an unfriendly witness.

BATES Unfriendlier to Dylan, I hope.

HELEN And when I am asked if you tried to steal the election?

BATES You could use other words.

HELEN I’d prefer to use no words at all.

BATES Then talk Dylan into conceding. A no-fuss transition would be better for everybody.

HELEN You could drop your challenge.

BATES I can’t, it’s a matter of principle. I owe the truth to the people.

HELEN Then you will have to convince them with your own evidence.

BATES I can’t lose if I’ve won you. I want to celebrate! Kiss me!

HELEN Somebody is bound to recognize us.

BATES Then we’ll use my hat.

HELEN It’s not your hat.

BATES These are my lips. Kiss them.

(They kiss behind his hat.)

(Enter Zeke.)

ZEKE There’s a rare sight, two lovers stealing kisses! Hope sooner gives rise to love than despair, and love is blossoming, the signs are evident everywhere. Dylan’s election has stirred the people in unaccountable ways. He’s given them hope when stolen kisses had become relics of happier times.

(Bates lowers his hat to reveal them.)

ZEKE Am I imagining this tragedy, or have I stumbled upon an unspeakable betrayal?

HELEN I can’t deny you when I’m in your arms.

BATES I’ll stake my claim later. I need to prepare my case.

(Exit Bates.)

(Helen notices Zeke and quickly repairs her disguise.)

ZEKE Don’t bother, Helen. My eyesight hasn’t failed me yet.

HELEN Showing up at the wrong time again, Zeke?

ZEKE Apparently we are both creatures of habit.

HELEN I’m waiting for the speech. I recall your speeches at the oddest moments.

ZEKE You always managed to keep your affairs well-hidden, or tried to. Who was the cowboy?

HELEN I’ll not answer your questions either.

ZEKE He looked a lot like Bates.

HELEN That would make the headlines.

ZEKE Will it tomorrow?

HELEN That’s another question I won’t answer.

ZEKE Self-incrimination?

HELEN Go to hell.

ZEKE How have you managed to keep Dylan so obedient when you stray so shamelessly?

HELEN He’s not entirely uninformed. There’s no blackmail in my affairs for you.

ZEKE Shame is not foolproof. Does he know about the Bates look-alike?

HELEN Our marriage isn’t a confessional.

ZEKE I remember now. It’s a game of hide-and-seek.

HELEN It’s a game Dylan plays well enough, too. Not much surprises him.

ZEKE Bates might.

HELEN You said yourself, a look-alike.

ZEKE A fool is easy to recognize.

HELEN Why have you come back, Zeke? We had almost forgotten you.

ZEKE I told you, I forgot why I left.

HELEN I’ll remind you.

ZEKE Leave me to my own journey of self-discovery.

HELEN You always had big words.

ZEKE I had Dylan’s mind.

HELEN Big thoughts.

ZEKE I had his imagination.

HELEN I had him.

ZEKE Did you?

HELEN Big questions. Always big Zeke questions.

ZEKE I was never jealous of you.

HELEN You had different words for it, that’s all.

ZEKE Mine included love.

HELEN Yours included Dylan. When you couldn’t have him the way you wanted, you tried to kidnap his mind instead.

ZEKE I succeeded.

HELEN For a time.

ZEKE He still uses my words.

HELEN They’re freely available and free to use.

ZEKE You’ve won your klieg lights, Helen. You have your headlines. Why risk it with an affair?

HELEN A kiss hardly makes an affair.

ZEKE A kiss that needs to be hidden does.

HELEN Sometimes it’s a kiss that is needed.

ZEKE Surely not kisses from two such different men. The men are unequal. They would be unequal Leaders.

HELEN I’m not responsible for the system.

ZEKE You’re responsible for your vote.

HELEN I shall let the new Leader redeem it.

ZEKE You are so willing to betray the Leadership?

HELEN My allegiance is to the winner.

(The Citizens begin to drift in.)

ZEKE My allegiance is to our system, and it has never been more threatened. Our liberties are protected by men who can afford not to have them.

HELEN You will terrify the people with the truth.

ZEKE Unexpected news is usually bad.

HELEN Ultimately I doubt it makes any difference. The news will be the news.

ZEKE It matters in the details.

HELEN The details?

CITIZEN 1 Body counts.

HELEN Body counts?

CITIZENS Wars!

CITIZEN 2 Who goes to war…

CITIZEN 1 …and who doesn’t.

HELEN Wars are inevitable.

CITIZEN 4 Hunger.

HELEN Hunger?

CITIZEN 4 Who owns the seeds that grow the crops?

HELEN Hunger is inevitable.

CITIZEN 2 Fear.

HELEN Fear?

CITIZEN 5 Of our neighbors.

CITIZEN 3 Of our government.

CITIZEN 2 Of the truth.

HELEN Fear is inevitable.

ZEKE Are the lies inevitable?

HELEN I’m not on trial here.

ZEKE Your vote is the decisive one.

HELEN If it were so simple my vote would be cast for Dylan, who wants to do much though will likely fail. Bates won’t try, but he’s prettier and more energetic, and that wins votes.

ZEKE Has his ‘energy’ won your vote?

HELEN He’s won the election and that’s enough.

ZEKE Can you be sure?

HELEN Can any vote be guaranteed?

ZEKE The better man can be.

ZEKE It’s your Leadership, too.

(The Citizens begin to drift off.) CITIZEN 1 War. HELEN I’ll not be responsible!

CITIZEN 3 Hunger.

HELEN I’ll not be blamed!

CITIZEN 2 Fear.

HELEN I’ll not be accused!

CITIZEN 5 Lies.

HELEN They aren’t mine!

(The Citizens are gone.)

ZEKE The stakes are high.

HELEN I know the stakes.

ZEKE Do you know the truth?

(Helen exits.)

(Dylan enters.)

DYLAN I hoped we would have a moment alone before the trial.

ZEKE Then it better be now. The jury has been selected.

DYLAN For so long I’ve practiced what I want to say to you. Where boyhood left off is where we began as friends. When love began, you disappeared. I had read your poems believing they were for me, only later – after you precipitously disappeared – I realized they were practice runs for the lovers you would have.

ZEKE They weren’t.

DYLAN I had to believe they were. After you left, I missed your poetry in my life.

ZEKE Love’s embers burn as hot as fire.

DYLAN Still the poet!

ZEKE Still a friend.

DYLAN I had prepared a speech before you disappeared.

ZEKE I would guess it was written by Helen and said goodbye.

DYLAN Is that what you thought?

ZEKE I could imagine the words. They weren’t all yours, that’s what hurt the most, and none mine.

DYLAN I couldn’t have said goodbye in your words, Zeke. I loved you too much.

ZEKE Did you have to use hers? I suppose it doesn’t matter. Goodbye is what it was.

DYLAN I was prepared to make sacrifices.

ZEKE I didn’t want them.

DYLAN I would have sacrificed myself.

ZEKE I couldn’t let you.

DYLAN You have the better mind.

ZEKE You have Helen, and even at her age she’s a pretty bauble for news-weary viewers, not to mention being a legal wife. You only need to profess a belief in God to be the perfect candidate.

DYLAN What an unholy profession! Sometimes I feel that I’m nothing more than a myna bird screeching memorized words.

ZEKE They have been enough to get you elected.

DYLAN If I have been. And now what?

ZEKE It’s simple enough to repeat yourself.

DYLAN You’ve become a cynic, Zeke.

ZEKE It’s the madness of old men.

DYLAN You’ve always suffered from a touch of it.

ZEKE Don’t confuse it for my questions.

DYLAN Your questions, Zeke, guided me to a wilderness where you abandoned me. I had to survive with skills I had hardly learned and ideas I hardly owned.

ZEKE Do you own them now?

DYLAN The liberty speech, the democracy speech, the justice speech – I’ve given them all.

ZEKE It’s not enough to lip-sync them.

DYLAN I own them well enough.

ZEKE They are not merely words that form pretty sentences. ‘Democracy’ is three syllables that mean nothing by themselves. ‘Liberty’ as well. It’s left to us to give them meaning. We are at a turning point for civilization, a turning point as rare as a sighting of the earth’s second moon. Cruithne’s orbit is every eight hundred years. Only three times has it appeared since the Greek word for ‘democracy’ was first chiseled into stone. Now another language is chiseling away the Greek.

DYLAN What language is that?

ZEKE The software language that counts our votes.

DYLAN Bates claims that he wrote the software that accidentally won the election for me.

ZEKE Bates is a fabrication, too.

DYLAN Then you doubt his claim?

ZEKE I doubt Bates but not his claim. The system is vulnerable enough and Bates was certainly willing to try.

DYLAN He’ll lie through his teeth to win.

ZEKE What will you lie through?

DYLAN I’m in trouble if I can’t count on your vote.

ZEKE You have my vote. It’s who won the Leadership that is in question.

DYLAN (at the window) If ever people have voted with their feet, this is the time. Their roar, my God it’s unnerving! They repeat my name like a battle cry. If any did vote for Bates, certainly they have changed their minds.

ZEKE Then you propose governing by opinion polls?

DYLAN I’ll not have my words twisted.

ZEKE Will you ask for a recount?

DYLAN I’ll not be cornered into agreeing to a recount even by you.

ZEKE Then don’t twist my words any more than you want yours twisted. I’ll reclaim my democracy speech before you subvert it.

DYLAN I’ll not relinquish it.

ZEKE My justice speech.

DYLAN I’ll give nothing back.

ZEKE Only a recount can determine the real winner.

DYLAN If I can deny Bates the Leadership I will. On principle I will. I agree the system is vulnerable. Half the people don’t have imagination and the other half can’t spell it. It’s perfect Bates country.

ZEKE You can’t win an election with only your vote.

DYLAN A man who stands alone stands for everyone.

ZEKE That’s nothing I’ve said.

DYLAN Occasionally I find my own words.

ZEKE Will you stand alone?

DYLAN I’ll consider the evidence.

ZEKE I’m reclaiming my speeches, all of them, before you use them to subvert a system that’s intended to favor no one.

DYLAN Take your speeches!

ZEKE Democracy!

DYLAN Take your words!

ZEKE Liberty!

DYLAN Only don’t take yourself away.

ZEKE Justice — (Bates and Citizens enter noisily.)

BATES — for all! I promise justice for all!

CITIZEN 2 Will there be more detentions?

BATES I’ll look into it. I promise!

CITIZEN 3 More incursions?

BATES I’ll look into it. I promise!

CITIZEN 4 More of the same?

BATES I’ll look into it. I promise! I promise!

DYLAN (aside) It’s the jury who is with Bates. They appear ready to leap into water for him.

BATES The failure is not the election, but the fact that I won and the system didn’t catch it. I’m challenging the outcome, not disputing the process.

(indicating Dylan) But here’s the man you should be asking. He’s told you his opinions enough times, let’s see if he has answers for your questions.

DYLAN I’ll not be drawn into a public debate.

BATES Now it’s the other foot that fits! (to the Citizens) Dylan never wanted to debate.

CITIZEN 2 He tried to.

CITIZEN 5 Not very hard.

CITIZEN 2 He said anytime, anywhere.

BATES Then why not here?

DYLAN We’re not at a whistle stop, Bates.

BATES What, do you need to be in a courtroom to tell the truth? These people have questions about your case.

DYLAN It’s your case they should be questioning. Mine can be reported as fact.

BATES Facts change and I’m counting on it.

DYLAN You lost, Bates, that’s not going to change.

CITIZEN 5 Though he is changing.

BATES And why not? It’s easy enough to be what they want.

CITIZEN 5 He’s asked for ideas.

DYLAN Because he hasn’t any.

CITIZEN 4 Some of his proposals make sense.

DYLAN Then he’s changed them.

CITIZEN 1 Maybe he has changed.

BATES I’m a remade man.

DYLAN That’s a quick metamorphosis from a cockroach, and a sly strategy to appear so little changed. It must comfort the people to see a lot of the old Bates still there.

BATES They’ve witnessed it.

CITIZEN 1 He has new ideas.

CITIZEN 2 They were Dylan’s ideas first.

BATES Did he copyright them?

DYLAN There’s a second metamorphosis for you, selling my ideas as yours.

BATES You can expect a convalescence of ideas to define my administration. I’m changing with changing times.

DYLAN It sounds like you’ve got a new campaign slogan. That’s fair enough, I suppose. You haven’t won, what’s to stop you from changing your campaign? It’s the lies you win with that you are expected to keep.

BATES You’re not the only one who lies to the people. Besides, I’m changing my message while keeping my promises, that’s the best way to put it. It’s me remade. I’m their man now.

ZEKE It’s not the man who changes.

BATES My point exactly, yet Dylan won’t answer their questions when it’s the man they want to know.

ZEKE (to Dylan, aside) This should work to your advantage.

DYLAN I’ll not be a character witness for myself.

BATES What’s that, Dylan? Do you have something to hide?

CITIZEN 5 Dylan has something to hide.

DYLAN I’ve not!

CITIZENS What is it?

DYLAN Only rumors! His rumors.

BATES I must have heard them someplace.

DYLAN You’re creating news where there is none.

BATES Then create your own and tell them the truth. I won, the odds were in my favor before you threw the vote.

DYLAN I’ll not be accused in public!

BATES You claim the public voted for you.

CITIZENS Winner take everything.

DYLAN The public did!

CITIZENS Winner take all.

DYLAN (referring to crowds) Are you so deaf? Their voices shake the walls.

BATES By tomorrow they will be crying my name.

CITIZENS Bates!

BATES I’ll own these columns.

CITIZENS Bates!

DYLAN You’ll not own the people. Not if the law determines the outcome of this election.

ZEKE The court will come to order.

(The Citizens move to one side of the stage.)

ZEKE All participants in this trial are sworn to tell the truth. The plaintiff and the defendant will each present his case with time for cross-examination. As jurors your job is to uphold the law. By doing your jobs well, you serve the principles upon which our society is founded: equal representation and justice. Elections are the soul of our system – what gives it life, and gives us reason to hope that it will endure. Election laws have precedents that date to the first election that took place in the first village that so respected itself that it granted democracy to its inhabitants. That tradition has passed to us through eons of conflicts and sacrifices to protect a single, unwavering principle: the majority rules by majority vote. No simpler law than majority-by-one has ever been written. No further interpretation is needed, no rules or systems other than a fair tally of votes. The jury is instructed to resolve this case by resolving one question: Who won the most votes? The prosecution will present its case first.

(Pause.)

DYLAN That’s you, Bates.

BATES You go first. It’s time we heard your case.

ZEKE It’s your challenge, Bates, you present your case first.

BATES You’ve heard my case and so have they. I’ve admitted my mistake and I’m trying to undo it. It’s nothing more than a programming error that one of the jurors helped me sort out.

DYLAN I object. Jury tampering.

BATES It’s the software not the jury with which I’ve tampered.

ZEKE Overruled. What’s your evidence, Bates?

BATES There’s a transcript of every stroke and click I made. When I reverse my strokes and unclick my clicks, the count changes and I win.

DYLAN That’s hardly proof.

BATES I’ll prove it later. It’s the evidence I’m presenting now.

ZEKE Continue.

BATES No opinion poll favored Dylan.

DYLAN That’s hardly evidence.

BATES It’s more than circumstantial and shows a pattern of behavior.

ZEKE I’ll allow it, while instructing the jury not to consider it.

DYLAN I object.

ZEKE They’ve already heard it, it makes no difference if I allow it or not.

DYLAN I’m not winning in this court.

ZEKE You’ll have a chance to present your case.

DYLAN My case? My case is that I won the most votes. It’s been reported on every news channel and in every newspaper. What more of a case can I make?

BATES Only last week you called the media liars.

DYLAN In a different context.

BATES That’s playing pretty fast with the truth, isn’t it?

DYLAN Will you instruct the jury not to consider that?

ZEKE How can I, when I’m considering it?

BATES What other evidence do you have?

DYLAN Am I being cross-examined?

ZEKE It’s allowed.

DYLAN What evidence could I have? The crowds in the street, or are they dismissed as another opinion poll?

BATES They’re not randomly selected.

DYLAN They show a pattern of behavior.

ZEKE I’ll allow it.

DYLAN Will you allow Bates to press his theft of the election by claiming he failed to steal it for himself? It’s preposterous that he can bring his claim at all.

ZEKE The law has no precedent on this.

DYLAN You cited over two thousand years of precedents!

ZEKE Not for stealing an election and ending up the loser.

DYLAN He’ll be stealing it twice if this court rules in his favor. His character should be enough to disqualify him.

ZEKE Not under the law. Do you have more evidence?

DYLAN Bates is my best evidence.

BATES I object!

ZEKE Sustained. The defendant can’t call the plaintiff as a witness.

DYLAN Who shall I call as a witness? (to the jury) Will any of you stand for me?

(Silence)

ZEKE Have you more evidence?

DYLAN I have only myself to offer the court.

ZEKE You’re not admissible.

DYLAN Then I have nothing else.

ZEKE The dispute is clear enough, even if the evidence is less than convincing. The court will entertain a motion to dispense with closing arguments before it polls the jury.

BATES The people don’t like uncertainty. Let’s settle this and move on.

DYLAN I’ll not give up a last chance to stop this mockery. My opponent has never been ashamed to twist the truth, but never has he twisted it so shamelessly. He claims he’s won on proof as insubstantial as confetti. It’s his word against common sense, his will against the will of the voters. He’s been defeated. It’s not a recount that he wants but a resurrection, and by the right of my margin of victory, I shall not agree to it.

ZEKE The court can order a recount.

DYLAN On what precedent?

ZEKE You can’t hide from democracy in the law. As a matter of principle, you shouldn’t need the law to tell you that a recount is required if the vote is in question. It’s the people’s will that’s important.

DYLAN It appears I have lost my case.

ZEKE The court is prepared to poll the jury and rule. In the absence of witnesses-

BATES I have a witness!

DYLAN (indicating crowds) And I have thousands.

ZEKE They can hardly testify to what happened in the voting booth. For all you know, they voted for Bates.

BATES My witness knows.

ZEKE Then I’ll delay my ruling. Call your witness.

(Helen enters.)

DYLAN Helen?

ZEKE You are a witness for the prosecution?

HELEN I’ve agreed to testify without much conviction.

ZEKE You are under oath. Proceed, Bates, with your questions.

DYLAN I’ll not allow her to testify.

ZEKE You’ll have your chance to question her at cross-examination.

DYLAN I’ll not endure the humiliation.

BATES She wants to testify.

HELEN I don’t.

DYLAN Then don’t.

HELEN Can I be a witness for both?

DYLAN I’ll not call you.

HELEN How shall I testify?

ZEKE Honestly.

BATES I’ve nearly won. It’s you they are waiting to hear from.

DYLAN I object! He’s leading the witness.

ZEKE Sustained. I’ll ask the witness to inform the court about anything she knows about this dispute.

HELEN I’ve a right to know what’s been said before me.

ZEKE It shouldn’t influence your testimony.

HELEN I might be more useful to the court.

BATES Your testimony will be helpful, Helen.

DYLAN I object!

ZEKE Sustained.

DYLAN I object!

ZEKE I’ve already sustained it.

DYLAN I object! I object! I object to this court which is ready to declare an innocent electorate guilty and penalize them with my opponent. I object to my wife’s willingness to testify against me. I’ll testify that she knows enough to damn me, if that will keep her off the witness stand and her shame private. I relent, Bates. You can have your recount.

BATES It’s too late, Dylan, I’ve changed my mind. I want your concession not a recount. I’ve got Helen and she’s better than evidence.

DYLAN Are you afraid of losing twice?

BATES I had the votes the first time!

DYLAN With tick marks after my name! If you want to poll this jury, poll them on their votes. Let’s see who they voted for.

BATES I object!

DYLAN It’s an opinion poll of randomly selected individuals that shows a pattern of behavior.

ZEKE I’ll allow it. Poll the jury.

DYLAN How many of you voted for Bates?

(None of the jurors admit to it.)

DYLAN Do you need more proof?

BATES I had better percentages among other groups, they’ll tell you.

ZEKE I’m ordering a new election. Both cases are tainted and the evidence unconvincing. The voters deserve a chance to clarify their choice.

BATES What’s that mean?

DYLAN You’ll lose twice. I expect a third loss will be Helen.

HELEN I’m not sure which side is favored.

ZEKE The jury is thanked for its service. You are dismissed.

DYLAN Thanks for your votes the last time. I hope I can count on them again. (silence) I can, can’t I? (silence) You’re not switching to Bates, are you? (silence)

ZEKE Perhaps if you put it differently.

DYLAN Help yourself.

ZEKE How many of you voted? (Silence.)

DYLAN None of you voted?

(As they answer, the jurors peel away and exit.)

CITIZEN 1 My daughter was in a tournament and I promised I would go. My polling station was on the other side of town.

CITIZEN 4 I had to get seedlings in the ground and there was no one to help me.

CITIZEN 3 It was my wife’s time of the month. Her good time, that is. We’ve been trying to get pregnant for years, and I stopped to pick flowers on the way home, thinking they might change our luck. I went to vote, but the line was so long I worried the flowers would wilt and went straight home.

CITIZEN 5 It never seems to matter who wins.

CITIZEN 2 (to Dylan) It matters a lot, I just didn’t vote. I confess I daydream, sometimes about you. I’m sure I’m the first.

HELEN You’re not.

CITIZEN 2 I daydreamed that I kissed you on election day!

(She runs off.)

DYLAN Can it be true? No one voted?

BATES The turnout was small but my voters were more reliable.

DYLAN Then you did win?

BATES By enough.

ZEKE (to Dylan) You’ll win a new election. The people on the streets are sure to vote the next time.

DYLAN That’s little consolation.

ZEKE They’ll realize what’s at stake.

DYLAN The stakes haven’t changed. I won’t steal an election on a second chance.

ZEKE You’ll not concede, Dylan.

DYLAN I shall.

ZEKE Bates can do too much damage!

DYLAN What more damage, when the people have already sold their rights in the system? Walked away from them, too busy to care. Let them live with Bates. There’s a lesson in it.

ZEKE It’s enough of a lesson that there needs to be a new election.

DYLAN You were ready to rule in his favor.

ZEKE I never believed you lost. You’d win on a recount and have your mandate.

DYLAN I won’t challenge Bates’s revised numbers.

ZEKE I’ll not have you lose, Dylan. This court will certify you the winner.

DYLAN The law isn’t something to hide behind.

ZEKE You would use my words against me?

DYLAN Every vote counts. Every vote counts once. Democracy counts above all else. I learned your lessons well.

ZEKE Too well.

DYLAN They are my lessons now. Mine to define. Mine to use. Mine to own.

ZEKE They were always meant for you. It’s your election I had in mind when I disappeared.

DYLAN Helen has always suspected you were a pretender to the throne. A candidate in the wings. The man in my shadows. Isn’t that right, sweetheart?

HELEN Is it only coincidence that he shows up after he thinks you’ve won?

ZEKE I’ve watched Dylan from a distance.

HELEN Your prodigy, growing up as if from your seed.

DYLAN I have grown from his seeds.

HELEN You couldn’t be Leader so you anointed Dylan.

ZEKE He took no anointing. Dylan was baptized Leader from the moment he was born.

HELEN He had help.

ZEKE He only needed himself.

HELEN He had me.

ZEKE To betray him. Why would you?

DYLAN One of us had to win, and Helen had the greater need. Congratulations, sweetheart, I’ll toast you later.

HELEN Dylan-

DYLAN You’ll not say my name! I’ll not hear it coming from the vulgar mouth that kisses him.

HELEN (to Zeke) You are responsible for his loss.

ZEKE I went away, remember?

HELEN Not soon enough. He lost this election on your ideas. People don’t want to be reminded of the old days, of all they’ve lost and all that’s changed. Your words let him down.

ZEKE My words, Helen, are in the mouths of every citizen in the streets. They’re crying out Dylan’s name because of what he stands for.

HELEN Are they? Or are they only crying in their misery?

BATES By tomorrow they’ll be crying my name.

ZEKE I’ve no doubt, if it’s misery for which they cry.

DYLAN ‘Dylan Dylan Dylan…’ Their cries mock me. Their congratulations are nothing more than their own confessions. Too busy, too much in a hurry, too much of too much to take the time to vote. They’re glad others did because it excuses them. They didn’t vote and it didn’t matter, their candidate won. They think.

ZEKE You don’t need to lose.

DYLAN I’ll not be anointed by a court when I can count the votes myself. You once said that we add and subtract from ourselves by everything we do. I will not subtract from myself by falsely subtracting from Bates. If he won the most votes, he won the election.

BATES I’m the winner.

DYLAN Helen’s a good campaign manager, I’m sure you enjoyed her advice.

HELEN I’m not to blame, Dylan.

DYLAN You’ll not say my name!

HELEN I’m not to blame.

DYLAN It’s not blame I’m trying to assign. I’m capable of losing my own election. It’s my wife I never thought I would lose. From campaign to campaign you steered me safely past deceit’s rocky shore, only to cast me upon it. Why Helen? (silence) Why Helen?

HELEN I can’t speak to you if I can’t say your name.

DYLAN When you could, what lies did you tell me? That you loved me?

HELEN I haven’t stopped.

DYLAN You’ve unpacked because you knew you were staying, whoever won.

HELEN I’ve reconsidered.

DYLAN I win another second chance! This time for my wife.

HELEN I’ll come back.

DYLAN I’ll not have you.

HELEN I love you Dylan. There, I’ve said your name.

DYLAN You loved me until you stopped.

HELEN I only paused.

DYLAN You paused? It appears both my career and my wife are having mid-life crises. If I never thought I’d lose you it’s because I’m not especially good at predictions. I never predicted that elections could be stolen as easily as wives, or bought like prostitutes. I’ve made promises thinking I could keep them. I’ve spoken platitudes like they were the laws of gods when I am not a god but a pawn. (He pauses and listens to the crowds.) It’s time that I told them.

ZEKE The people will hate you before they’ve had a chance to love you. Accept their mandate, Dylan. Save them by saving yourself.

DYLAN I am saving myself.

ZEKE They have many sins and little hope. You’ve given them hope, Dylan, at a time when they need a real leader.

DYLAN They’ll have a leader.

ZEKE Perhaps your sacrifice will awaken them.

DYLAN They sound awake to me.

BATES Tomorrow they wake up with me.

DYLAN And could respect you no less.

BATES I deserve it.

DYLAN You do Bates, and you deserve my wife as well. You’ve sailed to Troy, Helen. You’ll need to find your own way home.

(Dylan exits.)

BATES Where’s Troy?

HELEN Does it matter?

BATES I like things to be clear.

HELEN It’s clear that we’ve won.

ZEKE Listen to them roar when they see Dylan!

BATES Is he really conceding?

ZEKE He is.

BATES There’s no law to stop him?

ZEKE He has the right.

BATES He can’t take it back?

ZEKE He won’t.

BATES Then I have won!

ZEKE It couldn’t be clearer.

HELEN Come inside, Bates, the crowds might turn unruly.

BATES I can usually cheer a crowd. I’ll go speak to them while you pack.

HELEN It’s you who needs to unpack. Come inside, let’s celebrate.

BATES I’ll not start my administration with a scandal.

HELEN I’m not sure what you mean.

ZEKE I’d say he’s having second thoughts about you, if I thought him clever enough to have a first one.

BATES I lost and yet I won, is that clever enough for you?

ZEKE I’ll grant it’s a clever riddle. Do you have an answer?

BATES It’s simple enough. I made my case and it was bought, by Dylan and the court.

HELEN You didn’t win?

BATES But I have!

ZEKE But not by the votes?

BATES Dylan won before he conceded!

ZEKE The opinion polls?

BATES Nothing more than advertisements.

HELEN Was your love another lie?

BATES No more so than the campaign slogans I needed to win.

ZEKE It’s all been lies?

BATES I’m telling the truth now.

HELEN Oh my God, Dylan’s been deceived. I must stop him.

ZEKE It’s too late, Helen. The crowds have grown quiet, he must have started his speech.

HELEN But he won!

ZEKE There’s victory in his willingness to lose.

HELEN Is that your lesson for me? (silence) You have too many words not to have an answer.

ZEKE I’ll let Dylan answer you.

HELEN To be fooled by such foolish love! Your love, Zeke, never wavered, did it?

ZEKE I had fewer temptations.

HELEN Love is such temptation. To honor and disobey, to build and destroy, to vow forever and quit. It’s all of those things. It’s a maddening proposition until it’s lost, and then there’s nothing more to want.

ZEKE It’s not lost yet.

HELEN They’re still quiet. Maybe I’m not too late.

ZEKE Then save him Helen.

(She exits.)

BATES I’ll give Dylan time to finish, then go out myself. The people will expect it.

ZEKE They will.

BATES I’ll tell them no hard feelings. Forgive and forget. Heal our wounds and work together.

ZEKE They’ll want to hear it.

BATES I’ll be compassionate.

ZEKE They’ll like that.

BATES It’s a promise!

ZEKE It’s one you can keep.

BATES I’ve made a list of my promises.

ZEKE That should make them easier to remember.

BATES I could use an advisor.

ZEKE I’ll not be applying.

BATES You’re not on my list!

ZEKE At least you have a sense of humor.

BATES I’m laughable, it’s what the people enjoy.

ZEKE Then you’re perfect.

BATES I’m the perfect Leader.

ZEKE Go tell them. They’ll be surprised.

(Bates exits.)

ZEKE What can their silence mean? Dismay, certainly. Surprise? That Dylan thought he would be allowed to win is the biggest surprise. The moneylenders had bet on Bates before the starting bell. It’s not a purse you win but the purse that wins it for you. The only software glitch was that Dylan won by an accurate count. (hearing the crowds) There’s their cry! Bates! Bates! The people have their winner. Long live Bates. (pause) But what’s that? That’s the anguished cry of a wounded animal. The angry cry of a wounded people. It’s not a cry at all but a prayer!

(There is a ruckus offstage and a piercing scream.)

(Enter the female Citizens, frantic and upset.)

CITIZEN 5 Hope is dead!

CiTIZEN 2 Our dreams are dead!

ZEKE I know the news is bad.

CITIZEN 2 Could it be worse?

ZEKE Then Dylan did concede? Tell me what he said.

CITIZEN 1 The people had waited all day for Dylan’s victory speech, and when he appeared at the podium a great cheer went up.

CITIZEN 2 He stood there like a god.

CITIZEN 1 ‘Dy-lan! Dy-lan!’ they cried.

CITIZEN 5 They worshipped him.

CITIZEN 2 I loved him.

CITIZEN 1 A hush fell over the crowd. No one wanted to miss a word. So quiet it was, it felt like the end of the world.

CITIZEN 2 It was the end of the world.

CITIZEN 1 He asked us to imagine the flowers in our gardens, and then our favorite flower. Wasn’t that the one that needed the extra attention, the extra nurturing, the extra feeding and watering? The one that drooped if ignored and died the quickest if forgotten? But if properly cared for, it had the most beautiful blossom and the most beautiful scent, and gave us the greatest joy.

ZEKE The liberty speech.

CITIZEN 5 He asked us to remember the last game we had played and how much fun it had been. Perhaps we had won, perhaps lost, it didn’t matter so long as we had an equal chance. We had the satisfaction of knowing that everyone played by the same rules. It was our sportsmanship not victory, our fellowship not personal glory, that made our games such a pleasure.

ZEKE The justice speech.

CITIZEN 1 And then he asked, what made it possible to grow our gardens and play our games? What allowed us to plant our favorite flowers or not plant flowers at all? To rush the goal posts or cheer from the sidelines? To be free to make choices and not have them made for us?

ZEKE The democracy speech.

CITIZEN 1 Our oldest tradition he called it. All of our choices spring from that one, the choice to be a free people, to have a collective destiny in which every man and every woman is free to stand alone.

ZEKE Dylan did stand alone.

CITIZEN 2 He stood before us like a god!

CITIZEN 1 Every woman and every man must stand, he said, or we’ll play no more games and have no more gardens. That which permits us our pleasures can not be left unattended.

CITIZEN 5 Another cheer went up.

CITIZEN 2 Dylan!

CITIZEN 5 They had understood.

CITIZEN 1 Then Helen appeared, and they cheered her, too. She tried to speak but not even Dylan hear her. When he managed to silence them, he told the people that the turn-out had been small but the voters had made their choice. The system had worked.

CITIZEN 5 What an unhappy report.

CITIZEN 1 He called upon them to support the winner, and then he conceded to Bates, who appeared, grinning at his side.

CITIZEN 5 The crowd fell silent again, struck dumb by disbelief.

CITIZEN 2 Struck down by sorrow!

CITIZEN 1 And then they let forth a great roar, so loud that birds fell from the sky and the sun hid in shadows. The earth seemed ready to break open beneath their feet. Dylan had betrayed them! Dylan!

CITIZEN 5 They cried for answers!

CITIZEN 2 They cried no!

CITIZEN 5 Then they rushed the podium. So great was their distress that they threw themselves upon him. Helen tried to stop them but she couldn’t. She was the first to die. Torn and trampled and tossed aside.

CITIZEN 5 Dylan reached out to save her, but in their madness they tore his arm from his body, and with bare hands killed him.

CITIZEN 1 He had betrayed them.

ZEKE They had betrayed him.

CITIZEN 2 They killed god at the podium.

ZEKE I loved him as a son.

(Citizens 3 and 4 appear, slowly pulling a cart across the stage on which Bates stands silently mouthing words. Blood has poured from his mouth and down his chest. At his feet lie the bodies of Dylan and Helen.)

CITIZEN 1 Then Bates spoke. He called Dylan his fallen comrade. A noble man who pursued noble deeds. A man whose vision would guide him.

CITIZEN 5 He called for a new day.

CITIZEN 1 And the people, hearing Dylan’s words spill from Bates’s foul mouth, cried ‘No more lies!’

CITIZEN 2 No more lies…

CITIZEN 1 Again their anger flared.

CITIZENS No more lies…

CITIZEN 5 And they fell on Bates and cut out his tongue.

CITIZENS No more lies…

CITIZEN 5 The people wanted answers and they got lies. CITIZEN 1 Dylan is dead and we don’t know why.

CITIZEN 2 We’re afraid and we don’t know why.

CITIZENS Answers!

ZEKE (to the audience) If we no longer ask questions, what answers do we deserve? If the sun sets before it rises, and we don’t ask why because we are mesmerized by the colors, how soon before we start to believe that is how it always was? To pretend the system is working when it no longer belongs to the people, wouldn’t that be the perfect coup? Dylan knew. Dylan had learned his lessons. Dylan had his questions. Dylan is dead, long live Dylan! We shall all die. The question is, how do we get there? With silent voices, or silenced ones?

THE END

 

Staged reading, Innovative Stages, New York

Staged reading, Moving Parts, Paris

Semifinalist, Festival of New American Plays

Semifinalist, Last Frontier Edward Albee Playwriting Award