• woolybully •

• woolybully •
a ten minute tragicomedy

In the home of Mr. and Mrs. Digvijay Gupta, the first rays of morning light filter through the curtained windows of their bedroom. An elderly Mr. Gupta is in bed, in fine silk pajamas, and is preparing for death, preoccupied with what he is certain to come. Perhaps, he seeks solace from his wife of many years. Perhaps, even, a little tenderness, though it is merely a thing to be wished. In his weakened state, he falters, under the load of a new and discomforting creeping self-doubt, he begins to fold into himself, heralding a change: a new, and an indeterminate state: an actual state of uncertainty, which he is determined, to hide, from even himself. This abdication of authority, though subtle, does not go unnoticed.
Smoldering in a low and uncomfortable wooden chair beside his bed is Mrs. Gupta, where she has been sitting with him through the long night — has not slept, and appears agitated, if not bereft, and is curiously ‘fed up’, not a new sensation, but appears for the first time to be bubbling to the surface: a rising Vishnu-Vesuvius.
Her husband calls out to her, as if from a place of deep darkness, as from the bottom of a dry well, into which he has suddenly fallen. His eyes are closed, and he appears to be making the most of it. He roundly expects from his wife the obvious inanities and, in all probability, his own typical disappointment with her, but, still, with his last strength of will, he musters a shred of hope in his last moments on this earth, that he may enjoy to have one final conquest: to hear her blubber over him, oh, how he will be missed!! He gropes with his hand for hers, feebly, with feeling. His hand finds only his blanket, and gestures to the empty air. She sits, unmoved.

Mr. Gupta:
“I’m dying, Mena.”

Mrs. Gupta: (flatly)
“Yes, husband, you are dying.”

Mr. Gupta:
“It’s getting dark, Mena. My time… in this world… is not long. Wife, is there… anything…you want to know, anything…you want to ask me? Ask me anything, and I will tell you the truth: I swear it. Anything. It’s alright…what is it, wife?”

Mrs. Gupta:
“Where… is this wool?”

Mr. Gupta:

Mrs. Gupta:
“This wool, I am always pulling.”

Mr. Gupta:

Mrs. Gupta:
“Pulling. Wool, pulling! This wool I am always pulling over!”

Mr. Gupta:
“Pulling over? Which wool…? What wool?”

Mrs. Gupta: (immediately)
“You tell me!”

Mr. Gupta:
“Wife, what are you telling me? What do you want to know? I’m rather busy with this dying.”

Mrs. Gupta: (distinctly)
“This wool, according to you, I am always pulling over the eyes. This wool, where is this wool? I’ve seen no wool!”

Mr. Gupta: (flummoxed)

Mrs. Gupta: (definitively)
“Wool!! Wool!! This wool!! Where… is this wool… of which I have, so often, heard you speak, and yelling, for all these many years?”

Mr. Gupta: (yelling)
“Yelling? I am not yelling!!”

Mrs. Gupta: (evenly, forcefully)
“To hear you tell it, I am, all the time, pulling the wool, pulling the wool, all the time! I want to know: this wool, where, where is this wool?!”

Mr. Gupta: (nonplussed)

Mrs. Gupta: (letting out all the stops)
“I have knitted you a thousand sweaters, and darned your stinking socks, but this wool I am pulling, I have not seen! So now you’re dying, so tell me now, tell me now, before you go. I should very much like to know.”

Mr. Gupta: (fully engaged, to sit up)
“To know…you are not making sense, do you know?!! Pulling, over the eyes?!! Wool pulling?”

Mrs. Gupta: (fully enraged, now, explosively)
“Eyes, yes!! Pulling!! Pulling wool!! Over the eyes!! Pulling!! Wool!! Over!!! Yes!! This wool, over which, the eyes, I am pulling always!!”

Mr. Gupta: (baffled)
“I am dying, this is what you want to know? This pulling of the wool?”

Mrs. Gupta: (cooly, peremptorily)
“Tell me, husband, are you dying, or going deaf?”

Mr. Gupta: (explosively)
“I am dying!”

Mrs. Gupta: (unrelenting, acquisitive)
“Good; before you go, I want to know. After that, you can go, but let me tell you. You are not dying until you tell me what I want to know! Until then, husband, you are going nowhere.”

Mr. Gupta: (relenting, somewhat)
“I’ll tell you! There is nothing to tell. It’s a saying, Mena, an expression! Pulling the wool over the eyes, it’s a saying!”

Mrs. Gupta: (flatly, incredulous)
“A saying.”

Mr. Gupta: (as if quoting himself, from the past, as if in fun, lightly)
“An expression. ‘You think you are pulling the wool, over the eyes, but you are not pulling the wool over my eyes, because I can see!'”

Mrs. Gupta: (changeable, expressively)
“Yes, I heard it many times…from you! Oh, I know, calling me a liar, always. But what I want to know… is…where is it?”

Mr. Gupta: (unprepared)

Mrs. Gupta: (maniacally, terrifyingly, brokenly, revengefully)
“Where!!? Where is it!!? I want to know!! For twenty years, I have nightmares had, of this wool, for years, terrible, ghastly dreams I have endured, of this wool! For years, it has invaded my dreams, a great, and terrible wooly bully, chasing me, and stuffing the wool, down my throat, in my ears, everywhere stuffing, until I cannot breathe, terrifying!! So, now, you tell me, before you go. Where is this wool? I want to kill it.”

Mr. Gupta: (as if to a child approaching him with sharp scissors)
“Mena! You can’t kill it, this wool! It can’t be killed. It doesn’t exist!”

Mrs. Gupta: (with a shrieking child’s intensity)
“Oh, it exists!! It exists!!! I know, it exists!!”

Mr. Gupta: (soothingly upbraiding her)
“No, Mena!!!”

Mrs. Gupta: (suddenly turning on him, for her, a first-time discovery)
“You!! You stuffed me with this wool! This terrible wooly bully…it is you!! You would leave this world, and leave me stuffed!! With all this wool!!! Like an animal, in the trophy room, stuffed!! What is the expression? Your trophy wife!”

Mr. Gupta: (despairing)
“Mena!! Can’t a man die in peace?!! With dignity!! Is this too much to ask?!!”

Mrs. Gupta: (pleading her case: a compelling closing statement, as if for a jury to decide, her very life hanging in the balance–and to try to reach into him, once and for all, to perhaps, touch the love they once had)
“Too much? Yes, it is too much! For too long, it has been too much! Too long, this wool has stuffed my ears. I cannot hear my own crying. Too long, too completely, my eyes have been covered; this wool, this darkness, it covers my face. For too long, I have not seen…the world of light, or joy, or simple pleasure; the woollies, they cover me. For too long, I have felt nothing!! Not love…not happiness. Not a kind word, have I heard, not a tender touch, nor caress. I am protected from the world…by the woolies, but they hold me, in their wooly, iron grip…a soft…silent…cell…of solitude…choking…choking.”

Mr. Gupta: (moved to empathy)

Mrs. Gupta: (despairing)
“I don’t want this world…this…lonely…wooly…life. So, tell me…husband, where…is this wool?”

Mr. Gupta: (he is deeply moved, finally defenseless)

Mrs. Gupta: (turning on him, a wrath he has never witnessed from her in all their long years of co-existence)
“You!! You…did this!! You…DID THIS!!!”

Mr. Gupta: (backpedalling)

Mrs. Gupta: (pursuing, nailing him down)
“You!! With your wool pulling! Pulling!! Pulling the wool! How many times, husband, how many?!!”

Mr. Gupta: (immediately)
“How many?!!”

Mrs. Gupta: (immediately)
“Times!!! Time after time! All the time, you are telling me, how I think I am pulling the wool, over the eyes, but not over yours! You are too smart, too great, too wise, to have the wool pulled over you…by a little…goat!”

Mr. Gupta: (flatly)

Mrs. Gupta: (remembering)
“You called me that. That is what you called me. Goat. Little goat. How could I have forgotten? I suppose, I supposed a goat would be wooly…happy to eat the garbage, the refuse of our impoverished lives…to live…in a velvet, wooly pen…as…an animal…feeling nothing, thinking nothing, doing nothing…except, the expected.”

Mr. Gupta: (flat denial, wavering)
“Mena, I never called you that.”

Mrs. Gupta: (on the verge of cursing him)
“Do…not…you dare… to deny it! If you do, you are the worst of liars!”

Mr. Gupta: (volcanically)

Mrs. Gupta: (a Shakespearian curse)
“Do not think, husband, you can pull this wool over me! I see all too well, due to your instruction, and constant tutelage, over a lifetime of misery! No. I have news for you, husband. You cannot die. I will not let you. Your karma is sullied, and needs to be cleaned. You cannot die now, unless you want to spend your next life as some vile creature in the intestines of a sewer rat! No! I will not let you dishonor me in this way. Those days are gone for good.”

Mr. Gupta: (denying the curse, feebly)
“I am dying, Mena.”

Mrs. Gupta: (a pronouncement)
“No!! Not until I say!”

Mr. Gupta: (trying to regain his old authoritative voice, unsuccessfully)
“Ridiculous! Preposterous!”

Mrs. Gupta: (authoritatively, matter-of-factly)
“Precisely!! I have a new expression, for you, husband. ‘The shoe is on the other foot.'”

Mr. Gupta: (gathering his wits)

Mrs. Gupta: (piling on the precise terminology, she wields an irresistible spiritual lever)
“Foot! This shoe! On! The other! Now get up, and make me breakfast. You are now too busy to die. Get up, I say! Off of your deathbed, and don’t leave it a mess, like you always do. Make it up, and do it right! The gravy train is over, dear husband. You’ve got some karma cleaning to get done. The wild and woolly days, for you, have just begun!”

Mr. Gupta: (feigning ultimate authority)
“Just who do you think you are, to tell me…?!!”

Mrs. Gupta: (cooly, definitively)
“I am the other foot…on which, it is to find, the shoe.”

Mr. Gupta: (a turnabout: now it is his turn to ask, ‘where?’)
“Shoe?!! Where is this shoe?!! I have seen no shoe!”

Mrs. Gupta: (a thinly veiled threat, lightly, with all the grace that highest rank affords)
“Don’t worry, husband, about finding the shoe. If you do not rise from that bed, this instant, I assure you, the shoe…will find you. Now get up and make my breakfast, you have a long day ahead of you, and I am going…to need…all of my strength.”


~ Tim Burchfield


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