Nguyen Quang Thieu: Chapter 16 (from Slaughterhouse)

Judge (a one-act drama)

The drum sounds three times.
The curtain on stage slowly opens.

A white bed is in the middle of stage. The slaughterhouse owner lies on the bed. One red chair sits by the white bed. He sits on the chair. One blue shirt is hanging in the air above the stage.
The flies circle the bed,
Sometimes looking closely at his face.

Slaughterhouse owner: I have killed cows since I was fifteen. The roar of the first cow still runs through my blood.
He: I will change a blue shirt for you, so the evening will be as gentle as clean water.
Slaughterhouse owner: The village girl was raped in the corn field, her belly exploded. A poor child who was me, ran from that explosion.
He: I am cutting the dried blood from your dirty and rotten nails.
The flies (shaking their heads): You don’t understand, you don’t understand.
Slaughterhouse owner: Who is taunting me, or praying for me?
He: Those are flies.
The files: Flies know how to be ashamed. You must say so for the sake of justice.
Slaughterhouse owner: My head is going to be broken. Do you know my head is breaking because of the flies’ screams? The flies demand to eat me. Please go away, go away.
The flies (laugh out loud): Oh, this big insect is frightening us. His dirty body
                 not the best place for a party.
He: Let that man leave. Look at his eyes, terrified and repentant.
The flies: He doesn’t dare leave, we assure you of that, because he is a butcher. He killed people.
He: He only ordered to kill the cows.
The flies (howling): He killed a person.
Slaughterhouse owner: No, no…, I didn’t kill anyone….
He: He didn’t kill anyone.
The flies: You raped a girl who was an employee at your slaughterhouse. You covered her body with recently peeled cowhide, then dumped her in the water. Your sins cannot be forgiven.
Slaughterhouse owner: It’s not right… It’s not right…
The flies (with the man): If he doesn’t confess his sins, our guilty female flies will lay their eggs in his dirty soul, and his soul will be full of maggots.
Slaughterhouse owner: (screaming madly).
He: Please let him leave.
Slaughterhouse owner: I will pay you, he says to the flies. I have a lot of money. Do you know how rich I am?
The flies: We wouldn’t accept anything from you that was filthier than us.
Slaughterhouse owner: I will pay you a lot of money, more money. I will satisfy you.
The flies: If you say anything more, you will not be allowed to die. You will have to live to watch your body slowly rot.
Slaughterhouse owner (laughing wildly): My body rot? That means that I died. Fly, you are stupid and dirty.
The files: You yourself are stupid and dirty. You die but do not die. Why? Do you understand? Let us tell you. Your laughing body dies but your pupils are not allowed to die, or to rot. Your pupils have to live to witness your body rot, and the maggots eat your body and your soul.
Slaughterhouse owner: You are only dirty flies. You don’t have the right to torture me; you don’t have the right to judge me.
The flies: You are filthier than us because you have a soul given by God, but you turned your soul into a vulgar mouth. We are flies but we have aspirations to lay our eggs in the dreams of the women who know suffering and fear. We know how to live for beauty.
Slaughterhouse owner: So what do you want from me?
The flies: You have to be punished.
Slaughterhouse owner: Kill me please.
The flies (laugh crazily)
Slaughterhouse owner: Why do you laugh?
The flies: We laugh because you don’t know how humiliating this is. Only your dirty body dies, and your eyes have to live to see your sins.
Slaughterhouse owner: I will give you a gift, so you won’t force me die.
The flies (laugh): You don’t have anything valuable in your life.
Slaughterhouse owner: I have a soul. I will donate my soul to you. Please accept it, accept it.
The flies (very angry): How stupid you are. Your soul is filthier than all dirty things.
Slaughterhouse owner (screams painfully): Why am in this pain?
The flies: Because our guilty maggots laid their eggs in your body. The maggots were born, and now dance in each of your veins, in each of your bones.
Slaughterhouse owner (screams): Yes, yes, I agree that the most respected female flies should lay their eggs in my body. Please, call them to come. I crave that they lay their eggs in me.
The flies (scream angrily): You don’t deserve to make love with our most respected female flies. Even the guilty female flies are not allowed to lay their eggs in your soul. We don’t want our baby flies to be born from your cruelty and corruption.

The slaughterhouse owner’s body is full of maggots. Only his two pupils are in the air to watch the maggots move, following the contours of his body.

He: Please God, bless this guilty man.
The flies: You must not pray for him.
He: Please open your kindness,
The flies: That is illusory kindness that has only hindered your fellows.
He: Oh, the flies often speak philosophically.
The flies: We will suck all of your tears, so you will be strong, not weak any more.
He: You are an abuser of corpses.
The flies: You are wrong. We judge all corpses fairly.
He: When I die, how will you judge my cold body?
The flies: We will choose the most respected female flies to lay their eggs in you. We have to send our eggs, our future generations, into your dreams. If we can, we will become the phoenix. We have everything, don’t you know? But we don’t have a dream, and that is the most painful for us.

The flies cry and fly out through the windows. He stands in silence in the room. His head bent.

The curtain closes gradually. The sound of the drum fades.

Bruce Weigl

Bruce Weigl

Bruce Weigl's most recent poetry collection is On the Shores of Welcome Home which won the Isabella Gardner Award for Poetry and was published by BOA Editions, Ltd. in the fall of 2019.BOA also recently published Weigl’s innovative short prose book called Among Elms in Ambush.Previously he published The Abundance of Nothing (TriQuarterly Books), one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 2013, a memoir – The Circle of Hanh (Grove Press, 2000) -- as well as more than twenty-five other works of poetry, essays, and translations from the Vietnamese and the Romanian.He lives in Oberlin, Ohio, and in Ha Noi Viet Nam.
Bruce Weigl

Author: Bruce Weigl

Bruce Weigl's most recent poetry collection is On the Shores of Welcome Home which won the Isabella Gardner Award for Poetry and was published by BOA Editions, Ltd. in the fall of 2019. BOA also recently published Weigl’s innovative short prose book called Among Elms in Ambush. Previously he published The Abundance of Nothing (TriQuarterly Books), one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 2013, a memoir – The Circle of Hanh (Grove Press, 2000) -- as well as more than twenty-five other works of poetry, essays, and translations from the Vietnamese and the Romanian. He lives in Oberlin, Ohio, and in Ha Noi Viet Nam.