Act I, Section 10 of Louis Slotin Sonata:


(Lights up on Dr. Hempelmann leaning over Louis, asleep in his bed. Slotin's eyes blink open.)

HEMPELMANN: Louis... Louis...

SLOTIN (waking with a start): What!?... What trouble? What?

HEMPELMANN: Louis, it's Lou Hempelmann. . . .

SLOTIN: Yes... yes, of course. Good to see you.

HEMPELMANN: How are you feeling?

SLOTIN: Oh... um... not... not fabulous, but... uh cloudy.

HEMPELMANN: Well... I suppose there are worse things.

SLOTIN: I suppose there are. What is it, Doc?

HEMPELMANN: We need to talk, Louis.


HEMPELMANN: Louis, as you know many people of many varying fields of expertise have been working on estimating the dosage you and the others received on Tuesday.

SLOTIN: Yes, I know. Seems like a lot of trouble.

HEMPELMANN: No, no. Louis, don't worry about that. It's no trouble. In fact, it's extremely valuable... uh information of great importance. What I need to tell you is that our best, earliest conclusions about your dosage indicate that... it's serious enough to warrant... well... for you to consider calling whomever you wish to call regarding... well, if you have some next of kin: family or someone close... you may wish to see them.

SLOTIN: Ah, to see them, yes.


SLOTIN: Yes, soon. 'Cause that's that, hunh?

HEMPELMANN: Louis, no one's reached any definite conclusions. It's all still very up in the air.

SLOTIN: Up in the air.

HEMPELMANN: You could damn well pull through this, Louis.

SLOTIN: Or not.


SLOTIN: So I'd better call someone.

HEMPELMANN: Whomever you wish.

SLOTIN: Right. Well, I'll need someone to hold the phone for me.

HEMPELMANN: I'll send in a nurse.

SLOTIN: Nurse Dickey, please.

HEMPELMANN: I'll send in Nurse Dickey.

(Doctor Hempelmann exits.

Fade to blackout.

Lights up on Nurse Dickey holding a phone up to Louis' ear.

SLOTIN: It's ringing.... It could ring forever.... Mom never answers the phone when Pop's at home and Pop only answers after twenty or so rings. About this time he's usually down in his shop in the basement or out on the porch having a smoke.




Hi'ya, Pop.


I'm in New Mexico, Pop? Where'd you think I was?

(Lights up on a phone ringing. Israel Slotin enters and picks it up.)

ISRAEL SLOTIN: Yes, hello?


ISRAEL SLOTIN: Hello?... Louis?

SLOTIN: Hi'ya, Pop.

ISRAEL SLOTIN: Louis, where are you?

SLOTIN: I'm in New Mexico, Pop? Where'd you think I was?

ISRAEL SLOTIN: I don't know. You sound so far away.

SLOTIN: New Mexico is far away, Pop.

ISRAEL SLOTIN: I know that. Louis, how are you? We got a telegram from some fellah in the Army, said you'd been in an accident.

SLOTIN: Yeah, that's right.

ISRAEL SLOTIN: Yeah, so? No big deal? You're fine? You sound good.

SLOTIN: Yeah, well--

ISRAEL SLOTIN: 'Cause you're mother's been worried sick, I don't need to tell you. She's afraid for you working with all that atomic bomb stuff.


ISRAEL SLOTIN: What? Am I not supposed to say that? Is that restricted? Forget I said it. Whatever it is you do there, your mother worries. She worries. That's her nature, what are you gonna do?



SLOTIN: Listen for a second.

ISRAEL SLOTIN: I'm all ears.

SLOTIN: Pop, I want you and mom to come down here.


SLOTIN: I want you to come to Los Alamos... come visit me. The accident was... well, worse than... well, I got it pretty bad, Pop. I'm in the hospital down here and uh... I want to see you.

ISRAEL SLOTIN: Oh... Yes, well. Of course.

SLOTIN: Can you leave tomorrow?


SLOTIN: Pop...


Ich shtarb.

ISRAEL SLOTIN (Yiddish): Vass? Gott mayner, Leybl, !

SLOTIN: Pop, it's true. Come see me. Bring mom. Okay?

ISRAEL SLOTIN: All right, Leybl, all right.

SLOTIN: So I'll see ya in a little bit then.

ISRAEL SLOTIN: Of course, of course. We'll leave tomorrow.

SLOTIN: Bye, Pop.


(Louis nods at Nurse Dickie, who then takes the receiver from his ear and hangs it up.

Fade out on Louis.

Israel Slotin remains holding his phone.)

ISRAEL SLOTIN: Oh... Yes, well. Of course.




Vass? Gott mayner, Leybl, nein!


All right, Leybl, all right.


Of course, of course. We'll leave tomorrow.



(Mr. Slotin hangs up the phone. Blackout.

Lights up on Slotin sitting in bed, bobbing his head to a Mozart sonata playing on a nearby phonograph. Phil enters.)

MORRISON: You seem to be enjoying yourself.

SLOTIN: Actually, I'm wallowing in my most recent realization of my tragedy.


SLOTIN: I'll never be a conductor.


SLOTIN: Listen to that, Phil.


My god... My god... What are we?... That can create that... and listen to it: re-create that in our minds?... Something so complex, but also so simple... so simply blissful.

(pause while they listen)

And then there's Mengele.

MORRISON: Mengele?

SLOTIN: A doctor... at Auschwitz, the Nazis' biggest extermination camp. Fancied himself a scientist as well, perpetrating all kinds of atrocities that he called experiments, like injecting dye into the irises of brown-eyed prisoners to see if he could make them blue. Anyway, as camp doctor, Herr Mengele would stand at the ramp when the trains full of prisoners would arrive and make Der Selektion of who would live for use as slave labor, and who would die immediately. Rumor has it he did it sometimes with a conductor's baton. Right left left right you die you live you live you die. He must have thought he was God.

"I am become God, destroyer of dice."


I had to call my father this evening and tell him I was dying.

And for some reason... some doubtlessly meaningless quirk of human reason... that makes this Mozart sonata even more beautiful than it is. "Than it is"? How can that be? How can something be more beautiful than it is?

MORRISON: That's a tough one.

SLOTIN: Phil... I'm afraid....

I've been going round and round in my head over this, obviously, and I'm afraid, Phil, that what happened wasn't necessarily an accident.

MORRISON: What?... What are you talking about?

SLOTIN: The prompt burst.

MORRISON: Yes, of course the prompt burst, but what are you talking about?

SLOTIN: Freud says there are no accidents.

MORRISON: Oh, Freud was a fool, Louie. A myth-and-incest obsessed pseudo-scientist.

SLOTIN: Perhaps.

MORRISON: Perhaps what? You think you committed suicide?


MORRISON: Then what? What, Louie? I'm not gonna sit hear and listen to this nonsense. I know you, Louie. Right now, I think I know you even better than you know yourself. You may be many things: reckless, arrogant, a bit of a show-off, but you are not a suicide. And even if you were, you are not the kind of man who would endanger the lives of seven other men in order to do it.

SLOTIN: Nevertheless, I did in fact endanger those men's lives.

Phil, listen to me. I've got to understand. Don't you see? I've got to figure it out. That's my job. That's my job now. To piece it together. Don't tell me it doesn't make any sense. I am a scientist. Scientists are not supposed to die of their own stupidity.

MORRISON: Louis... your job now... is to forgive yourself.

SLOTIN: How can I if I don't understand?

MORRISON: Maybe you won't. Maybe you can't. Maybe that's all right.

SLOTIN: No.... I'm a scientist.

MORRISON: Of course you are, Louie. Of course you are. You’re right.


SLOTIN: Phil... listen.

MORRISON: Yeah, Louie.

SLOTIN: We got to make sure Mengele dies at Nagasaki, okay?

MORRISON: Okay, Louie.

(Nurse Dickey enters, with a vial and syringe.)

SLOTIN: Ah, Annamae, finally. Tell me it's time.

NURSE DICKEY: Yes, Louis. It's time for your shot.

(She bends over him and inserts the needle.)

SLOTIN: Mmmmmm. I am become sex, the enjoyer of girls.

NURSE DICKEY: Good night, Louie. Try to get some sleep.

SLOTIN: Good night, Annamae. God bless you. May the God, who does not play dice, forever bless your name.

NURSE DICKEY: Just try and sleep, ok?

(She exits.

Fade to black.

Special up on Slotin, wearing a mustache and a shabby suit.)

SLOTIN (as Mengele): My name is Doktor Joseph Mengele. I am physician and a scientist. I am wearing the skin of a foolish Canadian Jew who tried to kill me. With this clever disguise I am able to make my escape from Katzet Auschwitz. Outside the camp, I find my horse, pale and sickly. I mount her and we fly east like fire up a flue. Time is fleeting. I must make haste. East past the frozen bone heaps of Stalingrad, east past Moscow, that festering boil of Bolshevism, past the Urals, and into the wastes of Siberia. My mount shies as we come upon the unspeakable depths of Lake Baikal, but I push her on. We must go East. Time is fleeting. On through Manchuria and then down to the shores of the Sea of Japan. For I have an appointment to keep with the honorary Aryans that rule the Empire of the Rising Sun: an important symposium that my spies tell me will include a demonstration of a new experiment, beyond the wildest fantasias of the SS. What took us years to do in stinking, filth-filled camps, can now, they say, be done in milliseconds from the comfort of an aeroplane cockpit.

This I must see for myself.


End of Act I.)


Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.