Power or weakness?

Issue 3/1986 | Archives online, Drama, Fiction

An extract from the play Hypnoosi (‘Hypnosis’, 1986). Introduction by Soila Lehtonen

As you all know, this company has been my life’s work and it stands for everything I’ve had to renounce. You know that for years I have not received a penny for my personal expenses, that I am on the firm’s lowest wage level, zero.

I haven’t even had a free cup of coffee; if, because I have been working hard or I wanted to improve my concentration, I have felt like a cup of coffee, I have always gone to the canteen during my coffee break and challenged one of the boys to a bout of arm wrestling under the agreement that the loser buys the coffees, and the bloke has paid. The money never came out of the firm’s running expenses, investments, trusts or funds.

If I have needed travelling expenses for study or industrial espionage (you know I am a doctor of technology and of psychology), I have requested or forced the head bookkeeper to embezzle the sum I have required. Thus the company has not had to pay tax on it. If anyone supposes that my morals are loose, however, let me assure you that I have always exposed the crime to the auditors, if the cashier hasn’t made up the sum out of her own pocket. You ask how a cashier can lay her hands on millions; I answer, she hasn’t any choice but to pay up. Some of them have tried to rob a bank, others have worked at nights as whores at the Hesperia Hotel, but only three have committed suicide.

This leads me to men. Those girls in accounts knew that if they did not give in to my requests or threats I would send the boys in. Usually one of the summer cats, I call them summer cats because they’re like the cats city people take for the summer and then, when autumn comes, throw into the lake or abandon at the summer cottage. In my younger days particularly I used to keep summer men just like some people keep summer cats, it’s no more immoral than that. I have always made sure that it was someone foolish and harmless, someone with no family, the firm’s lawyers always found them in prison or somewhere else. I have always been careful to choose someone so stupid and helpless that no one would believe what he said. That’s what my summer men were like! [Laughs long and heartily.] Let’s start at the beginning. Let’s take that iron curtain down, so we can have the warehouse wall here. [Takes out a white clockwork mouse.] It was a September evening. My youngest daughter, like the rest of them, had committed suicide that summer and I had just come out of mourning. I was playing with this white mouse. I pulled the cord and watched where it went. I followed it out into the dim courtyard. Over to the factory side it went. It was almost dark and I knew I was on the right track. It moved, flashing white, ahead of me. The tarmac was a bit wet, it had been raining, the whole world had stopped to be serious and pensive, both nature and humanity are wide open and mourn the fact that summer is gone again and ahead is autumn, death.

I follow the mouse as it goes up to the armour-plated door, opens it and scampers inside. I sense that I will be shown something and follow on. I’m in the darkened warehouse. [On stage are tarpaulins and packing cases.] I couldn’t see a thing! Well, I thought to myself, I wasn’t born yesterday! I disconnected my heart pacemaker battery and connected it to the illuminated phosphorous figures on my watch, having first unscrewed it with a hairpin. Then I opened my hearing aid and shortcircuited it permanently in such a way that I could see pretty well. [On the floor is a pine branch with a hangman’s noose made from a washing line.] The mouse had gone under the branch, and I realised it wanted something: you can imagine, pacemaker battery disconnected, hearing aid in hand, there stood a woman on an early autumn evening in a huge warehouse, with a hangman’s noose and a broken branch and the clockwork mouse that had led her there. Should I kill myself? Do I have to do it now? And then the terrible remorse. Can’t I wait until the morning, just one day more? No, you’re going now, it’s all over, it’s time to go, you’ve had it. [Loses her voice.]

Well, after a while I began to look around me and saw the big warehouse, dark, machines dumb, black and threatening. And this is all you did with your life? This is it? How strange and dark and comfortless the warehouse was! I touched the washing line, the plastic washing line I was supposed to hang myself with, plastic, supplied by our own sister company. I had managed the merger and sweated the factory to produce such a hell of a lot of plastic line that now there’s enough for my own neck too. Just then the mouse started moving again and slipped under a huge packing case. [Lifts up cover to reveal the relevant contents.] What on earth is inside there, I wondered, I don’t even know what there is in my own warehouse! [Shades her eyes.] I looked carefully [crouches down to look under the cover]. My heart nearly stopped, there was a church! Just think, a gallows and a church! And the organ started to play! [Sound effect.] I connected the battery to my heart and put my hearing aid back in and saw and heard clearly: the church and organ were already playing for me!

Then I noticed the bill of consignment there and remembered that this had to be the church for Konala*, which we had made and are going to give the church societies just like that as sponsors, because it doesn’t seem right, somehow, just to hand over cash. The mouse, of course, had slipped into the organ or somehow switched on the electricity. [Laughs.] Well, it was ghastly, all the same. A church in a packing case in your warehouse, and you don’t even remember where it came from! [Laughs.]

My eyes began to adjust and I looked around me. But I couldn’t work out what was making me tremble and threatening me. The mouse made another dash and, for God’s sake, the floor began to turn and come alive. [A huge leg appears, hanging from the ceiling with the heel touching the ground.] Suddenly above me there was a huge shoe and a trouser leg. It’s God, I thought, or the Soviet Union or I’ve become a mouse, or this is a space adventure. The mouse had of course gone into the hydraulics [gestures downwards] and caused a short circuit, which started up the loading machines, its tail was a bit scorched and it was hot when next I came to wind it up.

That shoe was somehow so frightening that it positively drew me to it. It looked like my father’s shoe, my teachers’, judges’, somehow there was God almighty, power itself there. Poor little thing, I trembled like a slip of a girl and was humble before it [laughs]. Well, to be accurate, I prayed and stroked that shoe. I, monster, more than human, honorary doctor of many different universities, defamer of man, I, who am not afraid or ashamed of anything, I who touch parliament for cash while the MPs strut and preen and make decisions about what to do with money they could never earn themselves. I revelled in my weakness, my exhaustion, my pleas for mercy.

Yes, I can hear the more stupid of you over there beginning to shout about masochism and something about sex. I’ve never had any problems. In my marriage I was my husband’s equal, and happy, but it was better for him that he died when he did. That’s enough about that. And since I have been a widow I’ve been capable of having a perfectly satisfactory orgasm at a couple of yards’ distance from a man, by sheer willpower, concentrating on eye contact, so it was not that kind of thing at all. This was communion of souls. Sheer soul.

[Peers upwards.] Then I saw the firm’s trade mark, on the sole of the shoe and I realised that this was some exhibition advertisement in which we were shown taking a step forward into the future [kicks the heel] or something like that. I looked upwards to try to see where the trouser leg ended, but I couldn’t. It was just as if the foot had trodden through the roof of the hall.

I held on to the trouser leg [takes hold], burst into tears and shouted, Daddy! Dadd-ee! What shall I do now? I already knew, of course, that it was the window dressing department’s ‘Finland’s biggest’, but I felt emotion all the same. I shouted, why can’t I start my life all over again? Let me live my life again! Just one day!

The floor started to spin. Our company products began to appear: my whole life was there; swindling and crime. Our sister company makes beer and our textile factory straitjackets for alcoholic lunatics. Our tobacco factory cigarettes and our instruments works instruments for the treatment of lung cancer, our shoe factory back problems and our daughter firm analgesics. Our precast panel factory dry apartments and our sister firm humidifiers, we make condoms and coffins, we make knives for muggers and handcuffs for the police. We make this dreadful world and we make it possible to enjoy life here. We make so much stuff that no one is ever alone. We give people their beginning and their end. And for everything we make an advertisement! I have understood it all, I want to start again!

* a suburb of Helsinki

Translated by Hildi Hawkins