Mary Bloom

Issue 4/1983 | Archives online, Drama, Fiction

Introduction by Väinö Vainio

‘Is Mary Bloom about a revivalist religious meeting, a party political conference at which a new leader is born, or a rock concert? These are among the things that have been suggested. I don’t know. I don’t hope for restraint in the imaginations of those who choose.to interpret my work, although I observe it myself. The work of a writer is a part of life, it is an individual and collective experience that seeks, finds, takes and uses its materials like a motor machine. For those who create it the drama is real, as in the theatre, for the duration of the performance.’ Jussi Kylätasku

Characters

Mary Bloom
Martha, a doctor
Otto, a preacher
Disabled veteran
Serenity, his wife
Alcoholic
Cold Cal, a prisoner
Blind man, Deaf Wife

ACT 1

1.

Dark of night. A chill wind moans. Otto on edge of roof.

OTTO

God! Answer! I can’t get any closer than this!

God! Answer! I can’t get any closer than this!

God! Answer …

MARY

(Climbing ladder) Hello?

OTTO

Occupied. Can you wait a moment?

MARY

(Stepping to roof) It’s crazy howling into the night from the rooftops unless you’re drunk. – A pastor. (Sits to rest) The poor and miserable are forbidden to beg and peddle, and can’t come in to warm up to the landing when they’re numbed to the heart. But just watch out when it’s you rigid with a terror of death …

Goddamn Blacky, didn’t even give me time to get my long underwear.

OTTO

God I’ve come this far on my own power. This step leads two ways. Into your hands. – Or into the jaws of Hell. (Prepares to jump)

MARY

If you’ve got any money, leave it to me.

OTTO

(Who has already forgotten Mary’s presence)

What have we here?

MARY

A human being.

OTTO

That’s enough for you?

MARY

Quite enough.

OTTO

What will remain of you?

MARY

What should?

OTTO

A social security number. And even that will get forgotten in the files. What miraculous resources have kept you hanging on so long?

MARY

Nothing comes to mind.

OTTO

How rich I am in my poverty beside you.

MARY

What have you got?

OTTO

How powerful in my weakness.

MARY

So jump already.

OTTO

In faith do I take this step. (Prepares to jump)

MARY

(Coming to his side) That power you don’t possess.

OTTO

God.

MARY

There is no such thing.

OTTO

God. Answer.

MARY

(Stepping to edge of roof) There is nothing more to your God than to that world down there. I will take that step. (Mary steps from edge of roof into nothingness) Come on, come on. You won’t fall. It’s strange hanging here with nothing to stand on but your own resources. You’re free to rise. What’s holding you? Up, man, up.

OTTO

I cannot – believe …

MARY

And for the rest of your life you’ll swear this was only dream and delusion.

OTTO

Who are you?

MARY

Mary Bloom.

OTTO

Where does your power come from?

MARY

It is within me.

OTTO

Who am I?

MARY

(Returning to roof) The pastor has no faith in God. The man has no faith in mankind. I have come to you in your great need.

OTTO

I will follow you.

MARY

Buy me a cup of coffee?

2.

Tent meeting. Otto on platform before audience. The handicapped, the afflicted: a disabled veteran, an alcoholic, a blind man and his deaf wife. Mary in wheeled bed upstage.

OTTO

In that instant the pulpiteering prophet left his pastures of plenty and turned to the materially insecure but far more spiritually sustaining path of a disciple of Mary Bloom. – The papers claim we earn a fortune by exploiting the anguish of society’s victims, but this is no big business. It all evens out, more or less. And is this entirely a swindle, for which we would be answerable in a court of law? Witness the testimony of those countless individuals whom Mary’s power has freed from physical and mental pain and suffering. And you too are to render judgment, dear guests, gathering together in this meeting with us. Listen! – Silence … as profound as eternity. Into the distance have faded the city’s nerve-rending grind, shriek, insecurity, depravity and violence. Relax and receive the sweet peace which is offered … Well then! Whence comes this state of peace? (Turning to audience) Can you explain it?

An engineer, if I am not mistaken? – You there, madam, haggard with cares? Can this tattered old threadbare tent, which a mystic clue landed me for two grand when the Circus Mundi went bankrupt, seal us off so thoroughly from the oppressive outside world?

I say unto you, the Spirit. It is generated by the Spirit which descends upon us even now like a loving father bending to his child …

“Sleep, my child … ”

We do not sleep! Awake! Arise! – Just sit down now and listen carefully: I do not intend to rouse you a second time. Will the world be saved, or will mankind, which a thousand times over has earned its doom, be destroyed this very night? That depends on us here this evening … on you! So do not sleep, friends, but now if ever remain vigilant as Mary Bloom, with all the power of spirit granted her, performs that miracle on which the hope of the World and man depends. My wife there, Serenity, undefiled virgin … By the power of the Spirit through Mary’s sacred vow … Don’t falter now! Oh, endure!

My virgin wife shall bear a child …

See it with your own eyes! Witness the miracle and proclaim it to the world …

ALCOHOLIC

(To disabled veteran) Have you participated previously? How long is it before the healing … What sort of confession is expected? Does one speak into the microphone? (Clears throat) I don’t mean to step out of line, but I could conk out any second now.

DISABLED VETERAN

You’ve only yourself to blame. Ten times I’ve stood in line on these crutches and nothing has happened to me. – For the tenth and last time, Mary! – I’m no hypochondriac. A direct hit on the Golan Heights, preventing global war, on behalf of human rights. – The entire lower half of my body is paralyzed. No feeling at all. And where there is feeling, it’s constant pain. – Am I too tough for you, Mary! Ten long trips on these humiliating crutches – on a pensioner’s fare in a man’s prime – and am I to go back again on these same crutches to be the neighborhood laughing stock?

ALCOHOLIC

Isn’t it about time something started happening? Just look at these wrists, just look at these ankles … I’ve always backed you up, Mary! Even when my word still meant something … Mary! Mary!

DEAF WIFE

(To blind husband) Stand up for yourself. You’re going to get overlooked!

BLIND MAN

Mary! My wife is deaf. Nothing between her ears, but faith like a rock! – Nobody ever listens to me.

DEAF WIFE

My husband has been blind from birth! Nothing but hide-covered holes! Mary, deliver me from this dog’s life!

OTTO

(To afflicted) Stay where you are! Calm yourselves, dear friends (To audience) The crippled and sick have been brought forward for healing. Understand that their anxiety produces selfishness. (To afflicted) What Mary has promised, I guarantee; none of you shall go uncured. The blind shall receive sight, the ears of the deaf shall be opened, the alcoholic shall be freed of the bottle, and the disabled veteran shall cast away his crutch. (To disabled veteran) No, you haven’t been forgotten, dauntless Finnish warrior! Ten times – to be precise, only eight times – have you pressed forward to the front. Have patience and remember; the first shall be last and time is the great teacher. (To audience) The program will begin shortly. Here, behind this curtain, my wife Serenity is in spiritual training for a powerful exertion: here before you this evening she is to give virgin birth to the child whom the Spirit, through Mary, promised to the world.

And on that wheeled bed Mary Bloom is concentrating on the performance of her life. – Mary! – Does she wake or sleep? The answer remains beyond us. What she strives within her soul to achieve is a Spiritual State. Support her, all of you. Banish doubt! Faithless, be gone! – Now, with all your soul, summon Mary … Mary! – Mary … Mary … (Audience calls rhythmically to Mary. Otto approaches bed)

3.

OTTO

Listen to that, Mary. The time is ripe.

MARY

I’m feeling like the devil.

OTTO

Our only defence against our persecutors is this tiny band of the faithful. If you betray them. Mary! On your account many have come hundreds of miles, many have blown the last of their savings … (Along with audience) Mary … Mary … How many servants of the system have given up good jobs because of you? How many have separated from faithful spouses? How many fathers have left their families in the lurch for their souls’ sakes? How many mothers have spurned their children and in your name demanded freedom?

MARY

You can see for yourself that doesn’t apply to me.

OTTO

I begin to apprehend. As a woman you envy Serenity. You would like to have the child yourself.

MARY

Who’d keep this racket going if I ran off to the baby ward?

OTTO

My God was a bubble you burst. But even though I did discard the collar, I haven’t shed my skin. All the wonders I have seen you work with my own eyes, your incredible career, the thousands upon thousands who have come under your powerful sway … none of that has crushed my doubts. I have waited for this day as for the dawning of Armageddon. Doubt’s triumph over faith, despair’s triumph over hope, hate’s triumph over love.

MARY

I’ll go on.

OTTO

You’ll do it! I knew you’d do it! You put me to the test and I didn’t endure … Without faith … You won’t endure … Without faith … You won’t… (Babbling fades to silence)

4.

Music – on Otto’s signal to musicians. Song.

Sweeter than a cherry, that was little Mary.
Evenings at the harbor she’d hustle up some trade,
Stashing in her garter all the sailors’ jack she’d made.
A jaunty cap upon her head, a rosebud in her tresses;
Rosy too the coat she wore with black and silky dresses.
The sailors flocked around her singing Glory and Amen,
Come here, Mary sweetheart, and let’s you and me be friends.

Daddy’s little girl, that was little Mary.
She gave her folks the earnings from her amorous soirées,
Just as other little girls take home their factory pay.
They weathered the recession with the money they were given
Even though it later proved to stink to highest heaven.

And the neighbors offered prayers, saying Glory and Amen,
Someone ought to set her on the narrow path again.

Not at all contrary, that was little Mary.
So she fell for Captain Blacky, a dark and bearded chap,
Who left her, when he left her, with a parting dose of clap.
Life is but illusion and all tenderness betrayal;
The flesh is sure to flower, it’s the spirit that is frail.
Mary then concluded, with a Glory and Amen,
Fighting fire with fire is what this old world demands.

(Music continues under)

MARY

(Having come before audience) Everybody knew what those southern banjo-boys are like. Nothing to it but so long, little Mary got dumped ashore and the tub set sail. There I was, down with the shakes, wandering the completely unfamiliar streets … (Becomes caught up in memories. Chill wind moans maliciously. Music out)

“Goddamn Blacky, didn’t even give me time to get my long underwear … ” But just you watch out when it’s you gone rigid with a terror of death knocking at mercy’s door, and guarding it in white robes and with a flaming sword stands Mary Bloom!

OTTO

(Shaking Mary awake) Wake up, Mary, to reality …

MARY

I am your reality.

OTTO

(Quietly to Mary) Mary, are you possessed of the power or not? (To audience) We regret this interruption. From time to time the power that possesses her produces unexpected outbursts. (Lowering limp Mary to bed) A moment’s rest will so recharge her that, transformed into thermal energy, her power would suffice to solve the western world’s entire fuel problem … She s sleeping now. And when she wakes it will mean your awakening as well. If you faltered in your faith just now, you have time to collect yourself. There’s been rough going before. I remember as if it were yesterday the beginning of the little lady’s career. She was like a natural force seeking an outlet. We toured the country, from town to town and from one cheap hotel to an even cheaper one … Because of a bill we wound up stuck in the most miserable of parishes, in a boarding house, the Patria … My nerves were frayed and … doubt began to assail me.

5.

Boarding house . Mary sleeps.

OTTO

(Entering) Verily, verily! (Shaking Mary awake) She who would awaken all sleeps most soundly.

MARY

(Waking, grabs New Testament) Blessed are the … blessed are the …

OTTO

(Softening) Ponder as you read. I’ll fix some fish soup. There was enough left over from the price of the coat after I’d bought the train tickets.

MARY

(Eating chocolate) So we’re travelling?

OTTO

We’ll have to sneak out so the old bitch doesn’t notice. (Begins cleaning fish) This won’t be bad in soup. I’ll fix it in the coffee pot. I’d be begging for a good chewing out if I stopped by the old bag’s to borrow a pan.

MARY

I’m not eating any of that fish.

OTTO

So fast. – With a bellyful of chocolate. – Who brought you that? Confess!

MARY

I stole it.

OTTO

You, who should exemplify absolute morality.

MARY

When have I ever said don’t steal? (Reads) “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” – That doesn’t hold true. – Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst …” What’s righteousness?

OTTO

And you are to save a world that until recently you believed was flat as a pancake. (Cuts his finger) Stop the bleeding. (Mary stops it) Put the book away and get dressed. The train leaves at five-thirty.

MARY

I threw all my clothes in the trash. – You said yourself they stank.

OTTO

Don’t you ever do any laundry?

MARY

I’ll go naked under the fur coat.

OTTO

This is where your story ends, Holy Mary. I’ve been involved in every possible sort of sect and movement. Each has its own leaders and outsiders are not accepted. And the young have their black magic …

I’ve organized a tour with prison officials under the guise of entertainment – I told you sing. It begins tomorrow at the federal penitentiary. The last possible train leaves at five-twenty-five from platform two. Goodbye, Mary. I shared a bit of the journey you and for that I will curse you and thank until you the end of my days.

MARY

There’s a diamond ring in the fish’s belly. Open it and take out the ring.

OTTO

Open it yourself.

MARY

I’m not touching that revolting mess.

OTTO

(Embracing Mary) Poor child, whom the Spirit embraced for a moment and then abandoned to the mercy of the world … (A knock at the door) We’ll pay up tomorrow!

SERENITY

(Entering) “I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth.” Don’t be afraid, Otto. I won’t make a scene.

OTTO

Serenity, my wedded wife. On our wedding night it was revealed – in present company suffice it to say it became clear – that even then I had no faith in love. Serenity remained a virgin. A rosy country girl born to the village parsonage to provide the world with lots of little middle-class minister’s tots.

SERENITY

I have come to inform you that under no circumstances will I ever again allow you to return to me.

OTTO

Say it in scripture, beloved Serenity.

SERENITY

You could have phoned so I needn’t have kept food in the oven for months on end. (Opens suitcase) I won’t be your dog any longer, Otto. I’ve never even been your kitten …– I brought your best suit and some shirts … (Shirt tears)

OTTO

This girl, whose bloom of youth you view with such bitterness, was a way station on my desperate quest. Mary Bloom, child of the Spirit. (Serenity begins to cry) You two may have something to share with one another, but nothing for me.

MARY

Don’t cry, Serenity. I was just crying myself, but I won’t cry any more. Blessed are they whose hearts are laden with grief, for their … (Shouting at Otto)… for their tormentors shall know a greater torment! Blessed are the oppressed, for they shall see through their master!

OTTO

But, Mary –

MARY

Blessed are the crushed and scourged, for their turn shall come to answer blow with blow!

OTTO

Open up … Open … Let it resound! It’s on its way, Mary!

MARY

Blessed are they that try their best to no avail, for they have something of which their instructors haven’t the slightest notion! Blessed are those at the mercy of their superiors, for they shall come out on top. Blessed are they that are kicked while they’re down, for it is fortune everlasting kicking at their gate.

OTTO

That one was a bit … Let it come, just let it all come! Rage!

MARY

Blessed are they whose mouths are stopped, for their vote shall decide the world’s destiny.
Blessed are they that must humbly accept their lot, for they shall have dominion.
Blessed are the weak and feeble, for from their bitterness shall spring an invincible power.
Blessed are those considered subhuman and driven like beasts, for they shall not be deceived by the mask of piety.
Blessed are they who pay with labor and toil that the lords may glut themselves around their buffet tables, for bread shall not satisfy their hunger.
Blessed are the ruled, for they shall revolt.
Blessed are the unemployed, for they shall be given their due.
Blessed are those who have lost their land, for to them belongs the world.
Blessed are they can’t cut the competition, for they shall declare war.
Blessed are they that fit in nowhere, for they shall have their choosing.
Blessed are the broken, for they shall not leave one stone upon another.
Blessed are the deceived, for they shall not believe in lies.
Blessed are they that do not receive their share of love, for they shall not let the sun go down on their wrath.
Blessed are the hopeless and exhausted, for their patience shall cease.
Blessed are they that can no longer stand their pain, for they shall not wait their turn.
Blessed are they that can’t go on living, for tomorrow is theirs.
Blessed are you that have no one, for you have me

OTTO

(Rummaging through Serenity’s luggage) Any money?

SERENITY

(Taking out chequebook) How much should I put down?

OTTO

Four, five hundred. Go pay the bill. And call a cab.

Translated by Tim Steffa