Act II, Section 7 of Louis Slotin Sonata:

Side notes: This is the final iteration of the sonata's accident theme as well as the last scene of the play. And as such, it's where I usually either lose or win an audience member for good. One colleague, an ardent Jew, refused to accept the notion that Einstein would ever associate-- let alone shoot dice-- with Mengele, but he didn't seem to have any problem at all with Harry S. Truman and Yahweh being one in the same entity. I've been asked many times by actors, spectators and even one director, what the it means; but of course, if I could state expositionally and unequivocally the meaning of any scene, there’d be no need to write or stage it. Right?... Right?

I can talk a little bit about how I'd like someone to feel as they walk out of this play: to reel at the beauty and horror of the natural world that envelopes-- indeed, is-- us; to puzzle at how we, as conscious human beings, perceive this like no other beings we know. When I win, this scene serves as the springboard for such a leap.


Israel Slotin's prayer repeats in the darkness. . . .

Lights up on a space bizarrely reminiscent of the Crit Lab. Harry Daghlian stands guard next to the main door. Albert Einstein and Josef Mengele play craps at the experimental bench upstage left. Downstage center sits something resembling the critical assembly apparatus. Working in and around this area is Robert Oppenheimer. Israel Slotin stands in a nearby corner continuing to recite the Kaddish.

Enter Slotin followed by Annamae, dressed in a brightly colored party dress, circa mid-1940's.)

SLOTIN: And last but not least... home sweet home.

'Lo Harry.

DAGHLIAN: Good Man Slotin.

SLOTIN: Now we're all bastards.

(He extends his hand to Harry, which Harry heartily shakes.)

DAGLIAN: They're just hands.

SLOTIN: Nothing to be afraid of.

DICKIE: This is your lab?

SLOTIN: Yes. Yes, it is. Where the real magic happens. Over there in the corner appear to be Professor Einstein and Dr. Mengele shooting craps. They look pretty busy so we won't bother them. We all share this out-of-time/space. And over here, is my father, Israel. Oh... and he's praying the Kaddish. Traditionally a son should say it for his departed father, but since I have no children, he says it for me. And this is Robert Oppenheimer, or "Death" as he likes to be called since he got his degree.

Hi'ya Oppie, I mean uh "Death". Destroying worlds, I see.

OPPENHEIMER: Constantly. Professor Einstein noted that the Newtonian matrix of absolute time and space had gone all fritzy, so I swapped it out. The new one seems to be working... all fritzy.


OPPENHEIMER: So I destroyed it.


OPPENHEIMER: The new one seems to be working... all fritzy.


OPPENHEIMER: So I destroy it.



(pointing to the apparatus downstage)

Is this where you tickle the dragon's tongue?

SLOTIN: His tongue, his tail and all points in between.

DICKIE: It's so simple, so exposed.

SLOTIN: I'll say.

Would you care to see?

DICKIE: Oh... I don't know. It seems like there could be trouble.

OPPENHEIMER: Double, double. Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

SLOTIN (to Oppenheimer): Thank you for your poetic insight, Professor Death.

All the same, it's awfully fun, Annamae, and I think you should see it. We should all see it.

Hey Death, where's the Lord? He wanted to see this, too.

OPPENHEIMER: Playing dice with Einstein and Mengele maybe?

SLOTIN: Hmmm. Not likely.

(to Annamae by way of explanation)

Einstein just hates to let him play.

OPPENHEIMER: Oh... well then maybe he's in the kitchen making coffee.

SLOTIN: Call him in here, will ya?

(Oppenheimer goes to a door upstage left.)

OPPENHEIMER: Hey, Yahweh, Louie wants to show you something.

(The Lord {as played by Harry Truman} enters from upstage and crosses down to Slotin.)

THE LORD: Yes, sir.

SLOTIN: Ah, Lord. Meet your greatest creation.

(The Lord takes Annamae's hand.)

THE LORD: Why I'm charmed, young lady. Just charmed.

DICKIE: Oh, likewise, I'm sure, Mr. Lord.

(Louis opens a case and removes two halves of a shiny metal sphere.)

SLOTIN: Everything imaginable has a name: every universe, every neutron.

Lord, what do you call this one?

THE LORD: "Sufur" .

DICKIE: Suffer?

THE LORD: Something like that.

SLOTIN: I suppose it's all in the inflection.

DICKIE: Is this the same core that killed--


DAGHLIAN: And Daghlian?

THE LORD: And Jesus?

OPPENHEIMER: And Benjamin Franklin?

DICKIE: And the countless wives of countless Chinese tenant farmers?

SLOTIN: It's hard to say.

DAGHLIAN: It's all very hard to say.

SLOTIN: But I have a feeling final revenge will be ours. Here.

(Louis hands one half to Annamae, the other to the Lord.)

DICKIE: It's amazing, hunh?

THE LORD: It's warm. Like uh... like a live rabbit or something.

SLOTIN: Yup. Kinda spooky, hunh? It's just prayers and supplications, though. Nothing to worry about. They can't make it past the thickness of your first layer of dead skin. It's the little Nietzschies that'll kill ya, Lord.

(Slotin takes back the hemispheres and places them in the bottom shell. He then grabs the top shell in his left hand and almost, but not quite, completely covers the core.)

As you know, contained now within this shell is a plutonium bomb core or possibly an entire universe or possibly the contents of a single living human skull.

Mr. Yahweh, tell us why we can never know for sure just what's inside once we've closed the lid.

THE LORD: Uh... for I... the Lord thy God... am... a jealous god?

SLOTIN: Fair enough.

(Slotin grabs a screwdriver.)

And now... in my right hand I hold the flathead screwdriver of perfect knowledge.

(Slotin looks up at the audience.)

I know. It's silly... But for all you know, it could easily be true. Just as for all I know, you could've easily blown yourselves to sub-atomic smithereens so many days, decades, centuries ago. The universe is a strange place, and that which is outside of it is even stranger.

My name was is will be Louis Slotin. And I am dead alive and all points in between. Time was when I was just a dancing ghostful of neutrons. Now I'm someone else's words and someone else's voice and someone else's intellectual musings. I had only hoped to be forgotten. Apparently such is not my fate... time being.

But fate's a funny thing, and that which is outside of it is even funnier.

(Slotin carefully twists the screwdriver back and forth, until there comes a CLICK!


End of play.)

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