Act II, Section 4 of Louis Slotin Sonata:

Side note: When I interviewed Philip Morrison as part of the research for this play, he admitted that something like the following scene actually happened. In retrospect, he felt bad about reading the coroner the riot act, but he was working on little to no sleep and was obviously deeply anguished over his good friend’s predicament. Frankly, I'm surprised he didn't punch the guy, but that's just me.


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(. . . .Lights up on Dr. Hempelmann and Dr. Herman Lisco.)

LISCO: You say his hand slipped?

HEMPELMANN: That's what he says.

LISCO: And he was a senior scientist?

HEMPELMANN: Ran the lab.

(Enter Phil Morrison, carrying a packet of papers. He stands off to the side for a moment.)

LISCO: How does a man's hand just slip? An accomplished scientist? What if he were a surgeon?

HEMPELMANN: They say he was so steady he could've been one if he wanted.

LISCO: Strange.

MORRISON: Pardon me. Dr. Hempelmann, I was wondering if I might have a moment of your time.

HEMPELMANN: Ah Phil, I'm glad your here. I want you to meet Dr. Hermann Lisco.

Hermann, this is Philip Morrison, one of our leading scientists.

LISCO: Pleased to meet you.

MORRISON: Likewise.

HEMPELMANN: Dr. Lisco flew all the way in from Chicago to consult on Louie's case.

MORRISON: I see. Uh... what exactly is your field of specialty, Dr. Lisco?

LISCO: Pathology. Recently we've put together a research team on acute radiation effects. Been doing some work with dogs, I've been handling the necropsies. We've actually had some interesting success with the use of toluidine dyes in combating certain symptoms of exposure.

MORRISON: Is that right? Would that interesting success include any recoveries?

LISCO: Not as such.

MORRISON: I see.

You stay away from him. You understand me? You stay away from him with your blue dyes. He is a man, not some experiment.

HEMPELMANN: Now you just hold on a second there, Phil. Lisco's just trying to be helpful.

MORRISON: "Helpful"? In what way have any of us been helpful? As we collect our data and make our studied evaluations-- our approximations, extrapolations, and hypotheses; bobbing our heads in and out of Louie's room like so many greedy vultures. And now you bring in a pathologist? He's alive for god's sake! Don't we have anything better to do than wait for Louie to die?

HEMPELMANN: All right, Phil. That's enough. This is a process. This case will be textbook. Whether we like it or not. We all have jobs to do. Lisco has his.

MORRISON: Has anyone even asked permission to do this job?

HEMPELMANN: Look, Phil. Please don't forget where you are. This is a process. It's going to happen.

MORRISON: You just stay away from him, you understand? He's alive. I don't want him seeing your face, asking who you are, because I don't want him told any more lies.

Understand?

HEMPELMANN: That's enough, Phil.

MORRISON: Do you understand?

LISCO: Of course, Dr. Morrison.

MORRISON: Very well. Good day.

(Phil exits.)

HEMPELMANN (muttering): Jesus.

(Hempelmann and Lisco exit.

Lights up on Nurse Dickie.)

DICKIE: On the fifth day, there was a precipitous fall in the leukocyte count. From the fifth day until death, all leukocyte types, platelets and reticulocytes were extremely rare.

(Lights up on Slotin in his bed. He looks over at Nurse Dickie.)

SLOTIN: What is it?

(pause)

Annamae?...

Are you angry with me or something?

DICKIE: You know... Louie... the world doesn't revolve around--

SLOTIN: Me?

(pause)

You're right. Sorry... I just... whatever it is I just wish you'd share it with me. I know, I know, we barely know each other, but you know what? I'll keep a secret.

DICKIE: It's nothing, Louie. I just got finished some lab work, that's all.

SLOTIN: Oh... What kind of lab work?

DICKIE: Louis.

SLOTIN: What kind of lab work?

DICKIE: A leukocyte count, okay?

SLOTIN: Whose?

(pause)

Whose?

DICKIE: Who else's? The world revolves around you, doesn't it?

(pause)

SLOTIN: So?... What's my count?

DICKIE: Louis, it's just a bunch of clinical mumbo-jumbo, I'm sure you wouldn't be interested.

SLOTIN: Annamae, I took my doctorate in bio-chemistry. I'm sure I would be interested.

DICKIE: Oh God!

SLOTIN: What?

DICKIE: You make me so angry.

SLOTIN: I'm sorry.

(pause)

What's my count?

DICKIE: You don't have a count, Louis. For all intents and purposes, you have zero white blood cells. Your immune system has essentially given up the ghost. Satisfied?... SATISFIED?!?

Why do you have to know everything?

SLOTIN: I... I don't know. Huh! That's funny.

(pause)

Annamae... if I could erase this for you I would.

DICKIE: Yeah?

SLOTIN: Yes.

DICKIE: Well no thanks. Thanks anyway.

I uh... I have other patients I need to see.

(She goes to leave.)

SLOTIN: You're lying of course.

DICKIE: Of course.

(Lights fade and rise again on Louis in his hospital bed. Dr. Hempelmann enters.)

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