Act I, Section 5 of Louis Slotin Sonata:


. . . . (Slotin begins stripping down to his boxers. Lights up on a hospital bed upstage. In the bed lies Harry Daghlian. As if sensing something, Slotin turns to see.) . . .

SLOTIN (pause): Hello Harry.

DAGHLIAN: Hello, Louie. How ya doing?

SLOTIN (to the audience): Folks, allow me to introduce my assistant Harry Daghlian. Harry had an accident in my lab about nine months ago--

DAGHLIAN: --To the day actually.

SLOTIN: To the day actually... in which he sustained a prompt burst of neutrons not terribly unlike the one we witnessed earlier.... Harry died twenty-five days later.

DAGHLIAN: And Louie sat by my side practically the entire time.

SLOTIN: What are you doing in my bed, Harry?

DAGHLIAN: Just keeping it warm for you, Louie.

SLOTIN: Are you trying to scare me, Harry?

DAGHLIAN: Not at all, Louie. After all, what's there to be scared of? They're just hands.

(Daghlian lifts his hands from beneath the covers. They are grotesquely swollen and covered with large, tightly bloated water blisters. One on his right palm is the size of a tennis ball.)

SLOTIN: You don't think I remember your hands, Harry?

DAGHLIAN: Just don't get distracted, Louie. You don't have much time left. You don't have the luxury of dread. In a way you're lucky.

SLOTIN: How's that?

DAGHLIAN: You have a pre-existing experimental model.

SLOTIN: Yeah? Lucky me.

DAGHLIAN: You've got work to do.

SLOTIN: What kind of work?

DAGHLIAN: Figure it out.

SLOTIN: I don't understand.

DAGHLIAN: Piece it together.

(Lights out on Daghlian.

Scene bracket.

Lights up on the hospital bed, neatly made. Daghlian has vanished. Slotin crosses and climbs in.

Lights up on Nurse Dickie.)

DICKIE: Course of Illness. The left hand appeared normal at the time of admission. Within three hours there was a slight erythema and swelling of the thumb, with cyanosis of the nail bed. The patient complained of numbness and tingling of this finger.

(Slotin points with his left thumb to a dark area of the stage where a special lights Oppenheimer.)

OPPENHEIMER: I am become numb, the destroyer of thumbs.

(Lights out on Oppenheimer.)

SLOTIN: No, no, no. Say it right.

(Slotin points again, and again the special lights Oppenheimer.)

OPPENHEIMER: I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

SLOTIN: Did you really say that, Oppie? I mean, forgive me: I'm just a schmuck bomb putter-together and you're such a brilliant man, but it sounds so... rehearsed, like you poured over obscure Hindu texts in the days before the test shot so you could have something unique and heady to say to go down in history.

(Slotin cues Oppenheimer again with a flourish.)

OPPENHEIMER: I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

SLOTIN: I mean, there we were in the middle of the desert, Enrico Fermi's half-jokingly taking bets on whether the explosion won't ignite the atmosphere, and if it does, will the flames only consume New Mexico or the entire globe, and you're worried about what your line's gonna be in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations... I don't know. Who am I to judge? Right? But I have to admit: I liked what Ken Bainbridge said better...

(Slotin flings his right hand in the opposite direction. A special lights Kenneth Bainbridge, director of the Trinity shot.)

BAINBRIDGE: "Well that's that... Now we're all bastards."

(Lights out on Bainbridge.

Lights out on Oppenheimer.)

SLOTIN: Bastards.

(Philip Morrison enters. He walks with a cane, having suffered polio as a child.) . . . .


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