Act II, Section 5 of Louis Slotin
Side notes: The second time Israel Slotin appears in this section is actually the last scene written for the play . It didn't appear in the LA production, and I only wrote it after much healthy bullying and cajoling by Ensemble Studio Theatre's Founding Artistic Director, Curt Dempster, a man legend in the biz for lunacy tempered with an uncanny theatrical canniness. Now the scene is a personal favorite of mine. Thank god for second productions.
I got my Yiddish translations by, believe it or not, hitting a Yiddish Usenet and asking for help. I did my best to reconstruct the original English, and put that in the pipelinks.
(. . . . Lights fade and rise again on Louis in his hospital bed. Dr. Hempelmann enters.)
HEMPELMANN: Louis. I have someone here to see you.
SLOTIN: Oh. All right. Who is it?
(Enter Israel Slotin.)
ISRAEL SLOTIN: Leybl!
SLOTIN: Pop! You're really here.
ISRAEL SLOTIN: Of course I'm here. Where else would I be? I'm here as here can be.
SLOTIN: Where's mom?
ISRAEL SLOTIN: Your mother'll be along. She uh... well the doctors here sat us down for a discussion to, you know, fill us in on your condition and so forth and we decided that I'd come in alone at first... you know....
SLOTIN: Assess the damage.
ISRAEL SLOTIN: No no no no no. What are you talking?
SLOTIN: Pop. It's fine. It's a good idea. I would have advised the same thing.
It's so good to see you.
ISRAEL SLOTIN: And you, Leybl, and you.
SLOTIN: Please, Pop. Speak Yiddish. There's nothing to be ashamed of.
ISRAEL SLOTIN: Vaas vilst doo ahz ich zuhl zoogen?
SLOTIN: Zoog ehpess. Zoog meer vaygen die famila.
ISRAEL SLOTIN: De famila? Vaas iz dere tzoo zoogen? Alles is goot. Sam iz ah veechtehger lawyer yetzt, uber dus vaiyst doo shayn.
ISRAEL SLOTIN: Ehr arbit far a zehr graisa gesheft vos macht tchatchkas far kinder, und nor nicht tchatchkas alaiyn... Zai machen beecher aund alleh lay zachen far kinder. A zehr garaysa gesheft!
SLOTIN: Goot, Goot.
(Lights shift to Harry Daghlian.)
DAGHLIAN: Hello, Louie.
SLOTIN: Hello, Harry.
DAGHLIAN: You have less time than before, Louie.
SLOTIN: Time sure does seem to work that way, Harry.
DAGHLIAN: Yeah.... Ya think? Get up for a second, will ya?
(Slotin lifts his arms out of the ice troughs and gets out of bed. Daghlian then lays down in the bed and puts his own arms in the troughs.)
Ah, these ice troughs are a damned luxury. Wish they'd thought of this when I was dying. Your hands haven't swelled half as much as mine did, and you got a bigger dose.
SLOTIN: Scientific improvements, Harry. They're happening all the time.... What do you want?
DAGHLIAN: You haven't pieced it together yet, Louie.
SLOTIN: What do you want me to do, Harry?
DAGHLIAN: Be yourself, nine months ago. I'll be me. It's easy.
SLOTIN: Hello, Harry.
DAGHLIAN: Hi'ya, Louie. Hey, look you don't have to baby sit me day and night. I know you got work to do.
(Slotin pulls up a chair.)
SLOTIN: Ah, what can I tell ya, Harry? I like being with ya.
DAGHLIAN: You're a good man, Louis Slotin.
SLOTIN: Come on, Harry. Let's not start making speeches. I'm not going anywhere... and neither are you.
DAGHLIAN: You been working on the dosage estimate?
DAGHLIAN: How's it looking?
SLOTIN: Hard to say, Harry. At the moment... it's hard to say.
DAGHLIAN: Yeah, it's all pretty hard to say.
SLOTIN: Yeah, Harry.
DAGHLIAN: How come you think no one's asked me what I was doing in the lab so late the night of the accident?
SLOTIN: What do you mean, Harry? I mean, I guess we all assumed you were, you know, burning some midnight oil.
DAGHLIAN: You'd scheduled a demonstration crit test on the pile the next day.
SLOTIN: Yeah. Maybe you were making some last minute checks.
You want to hear the stupidest thing you'll ever hear?
I was trying to set up a gag: rig the pile so your demonstration would go all flooey. And I... that's when... I dropped the brick. Trying to figure out a way to pull a gaff on you. 'Cause you never screw up, you know?
SLOTIN: Aw, Harry.
DAGHLIAN: Ain't that just the stupidest thing you've ever heard?
SLOTIN: Come on, Harry. It's all right.
DAGHLIAN: It's not all right. I shouldn't have been fooling around. I wanted to embarrass you... just a little... just for a lark, but... I guess I got what I deserved.
SLOTIN: No, Harry, no. No, you did not. It was an accident, all right? "What you deserved?" Come on, Harry. Like there's some angry God out there looking for a chance to punish people who wanna play practical jokes?
DAGHLIAN: It was so stupid.
SLOTIN: Harry! You gotta stop this. You gotta let yourself off the hook here. It coulda happened to anybody.
DAGHLIAN: Not to you.
SLOTIN: Come on, Harry. Who're you kidding? Coulda happened to anybody.
Daghlian climbs out of the bed.)
DAGHLIAN: How 'bout that?
(Slotin climbs back into the bed placing his arms back in the troughs.)
SLOTIN: Nice try, Harry... but it's different with me and you know it. I was in charge.
SLOTIN: I had seven other men around whose lives I endangered.
DAGHLIAN: That's right.
SLOTIN: I had done it forty times before.
DAGHLIAN: You what?
SLOTIN: I... don't know.
DAGHLIAN: It's kind of funny when you think about it.
DAGHLIAN: If it had only been me, no one would remember, but you've changed everything. Now we're all bastards.
DAGHLIAN: Yeah, Louie.
LOUIS: Help me.
DAGHLIAN: I'd like to, Louie.
LOUIS: I need... to know... the answer.
DAGHLIAN: No. Louie, you need to know the question.
LOUIS: Give me a hint.
DAGHLIAN: Final revenge will be ours.
DAGHLIAN: Yeah, Louie.
LOUIS: I know you're just me. Why can't you tell me?
DAGHLIAN: And ruin the surprise?
DAGHLIAN: Piece it together.
LOUIS: I'm sorry. I'm so... so...
DAGHLIAN: Figure it out.
(Daghlian recedes into the shadows.
Lights shift back to Israel sitting next to Louis in bed.)
ISRAEL SLOTIN: Ya, Leybl.
ISRAEL SLOTIN: I'm here.
(He puts a hand on his son's forehead.)
SLOTIN: Mmmm. My stomach hurts.
ISRAEL SLOTIN: I'll tell the nurse.
SLOTIN: You know, Pop... it's times... like these... I wish I were a good Jew like yourself.
ISRAEL SLOTIN: And who says you're not?
SLOTIN: Please... are you kidding?
ISRAEL SLOTIN: Are you a Jew?
SLOTIN: I haven't acted like one in a long time.
ISRAEL SLOTIN: "Acted like one." What is that? Are you a Jew?
SLOTIN: Do I have a choice?
ISRAEL SLOTIN: Not really. So. You're a Jew.
Are you good?
SLOTIN: Pop, come on.
ISRAEL SLOTIN: Are you good?
SLOTIN: Pop, do you understand how... I caused all this?
ISRAEL SLOTIN: Do I need to?
SLOTIN: You don't even know what neutrons are, do you?...
In a nutshell, Pop, I killed myself with clumsy ghosts. Your so-so Jew of a son is just a clumsy ghost made up of clumsy ghosts crashed into by clumsy ghosts that he set free...
ISRAEL SLOTIN: Leybl.
SLOTIN: That's what the god of Israel hath wrought.
Pop, do you even understand what... I was working on all these years?
ISRAEL SLOTIN: Yes, Leybl, I believe I do.
ISRAEL SLOTIN: Ya, Leybl.
SLOTIN: You'll say Kaddish for me, won't you?
ISRAEL SLOTIN: Of course.
SLOTIN: I want you to.
Cross-fade to Dr. Hempelmann and Nurse Dickie. . . .)