The Poison Tree by Anna Cates


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THE POISON TREE

Characters

The Moth Queen: a mysterious agent of divine retribution
Singing Flower 1: a blue-petaled anthropomorphic aster
Singing Flower 2: a yellow-petaled anthropomorphic aster
Singing Flower 3: a rose-petaled anthropomorphic aster
Singing Flower 4: a white-petaled anthropomorphic aster
Hans: a 15-year-old Hitler Youth member
Fritz: a 15-year-old Hitler Youth member
Herr Wolf: a Hitler Youth leader, 30's
Diogenes of Sinope: the classical seeker in toga and garland
Magic Mushroom 1: an anthropomorphic magic mushroom
Magic Mushroom 2: an anthropomorphic magic mushroom
King Elwin: the Elf King
Elder Glorimer: the Elf King's mage-like senior adviser
Darla: the Elf King's daughter
King Twinklebee: the Fairy King
Buttercup: a consort of the Fairy King
Bluebell: a consort of the Fairy King
Fawn: a consort of the Fairy King
Trixie: a runaway consort of the Fairy King
Babik: a dancing bear from Punjab, Trixie's new companion
Pastor Braun: an overburdened pastor, 50's
Dieter: a jewelry thief
Sven: a jewelry thief
Lust: a shadow in the woods
Fear: a shadow in the woods
Despair: a shadow in the woods
Greed: a shadow in the woods
Malice: a shadow in the woods
Pride: a shadow in the woods

Setting

Nazi Germany, the Black Forest, and a parallel fantasy land.

*

Act I, Scene 1

A Hitler Youth camp near the Black Forest. Hans and Fritz, in Hitler
Youth uniforms with swastika armbands, sneak to the forest's edge.
Hans peers behind him then furtively removes a pack of cigarettes from
his pocket. He lights one, takes a puff, then hands it to Fritz, who
also takes a puff then coughs uncontrollably. Hans laughs.

HANS: Try not to die, Fritz. It's only a cigarette.

Fritz hands the cigarette back to Hans.

FRITZ: You can have the rest. I don't care much for tobacco.

HANS: Suite yourself.

FRITZ: (peering into the forest) Gee, it's dark in the woods.

HANS: Perhaps that's why they call it the Black Forest.

Hans takes another puff of the cigarette.

FRITZ: Why do you suppose they don't want us going in there?

HANS: Who knows? Could be erlkings, bad fairies.

FRITZ: (mildly alarmed) Bad fairies?

HANS: That was a joke, dummy.

FRITZ: Well, my grandmother really believes in fairies. Her
grandfather used to hang a star on the barn to ward them away.

HERR WOLF: (approaching from behind) Hans! Fritz!

HANS: (looks back, alarmed) It's Herr Wolf!

Hans throws his cigarette pack into the bushes then crushes the lit
cigarette beneath his shoe. He swats the air to dissipate the smoke
then moves to another spot.

HERR WOLF: What are you two doing down here? You were told not to
enter the woods.

FRITZ: We were just looking around to see-

HANS: (cutting off Fritz) We came down here to "answer the call of
nature." The latrines are so crowded near suppertime.

FRITZ: (laughing nervously) Yes, that was why.

HERR WOLF: Well hurry up then, if you haven't already. But stay
near the field, just inside the trees. Then hasten back to camp.
Some British boys on vacation disappeared near here a few years ago
and were never heard from again. (Herr Wolf thrusts out his hand.)
Heil Hitler!

HANS: (returning the salute) Sieg Heil!

FRITZ: (returning the salute) Sieg Heil!

Fritz watches Herr Wolf walk back to camp, while Hans retrieves his
cigarette pack from the bushes and pockets it.

FRITZ: He's gone!

Diogenes, dressed in a white toga and green garland, and carrying a
lamp, walks through the trees then disappears from sight.

HANS: I see someone in the woods! A man in a white robe, carrying a
lantern!

FRITZ: (turning) Where? I don't see a thing.

HANS: I'm sure I saw somebody. Let's find out who!

Hans starts to move forward but Fritz grabs him.

FRITZ: Are you crazy? Didn't you hear Herr Wolf? We can't
wander into the forest. Camp rules!

Hans jerks himself free.

HANS: So what? My grandfather used to say, "Who you are depends on
whether you break the rules like matchsticks or wild horses!"

FRITZ: What's that supposed to mean?

HANS: I've no idea, but it has a nice ring. (laughs) Let's go!

Hans heads into the woods. Fritz, huffing and puffing and flailing
his arms in protest, reluctantly follows.

FRITZ: I can't believe I'm letting you talk me into this. You
always get me into trouble. They'll skin us alive! Or worse!

HANS: Quit bellyaching, you dumb sissy! We need to find this
trespasser out. Could be somebody we'll need report.

FRITZ: (horrified) A bolshevist?

HANS: Who knows? That's what we're going to find it.

FRITZ: Maybe you just imagined it.

HANS: I know what I saw: a man in a white robe.

FRITZ: It was probably just some old farmer.

HANS: In a white robe? Farmers don't wear white robes, Fritz.
They work with the soil, with manure. They get dirty. Can you
imagine slopping hogs in a white robe? Just think for a change!

FRITZ: Maybe it was a ghost of the Great War.

HANS: I don't believe in ghosts.

The light dims them resumes. Deeper in the woods, the boys pass
cautiously from tree to tree, looking about. They stop at a clearing
with two giant mushrooms, grinning playfully.

MAGIC MUSHROOM 1: Eat me!

HANS: Who said that?

MAGIC MUSHROOM 2: Eat me!

FRITZ: Mushrooms!

The boys draw closer to inspect their find.

MAGIC MUSHROOM 1: Eat me!

HANS: (to Magic Mushroom 1) I'm not taking a single bite of you!
You're probably poisonous.

MAGIC MUSHROOM 2: Eat me!

MAGIC MUSHROOM 1: I know I'm a pretty big mushroom, and you'd
probably have trouble even fitting me in your mouth. But don't let
that discourage you.

MAGIC MUSHROOM 2: Eat me!

MAGIC MUSHROOM 1: Eat me!

HANS: Not a chance. You'd probably kill me. My dad warned me
about poison mushrooms.

MAGIC MUSHROOM 1: I'm not poison. I'm magic! Eat me!

MAGIC MUSHROOM 2: Eat me!

Fritz approaches Magic Mushroom 2 and eats a piece of him.

HANS: What are you doing, idiot? We don't know these mushrooms!

FRITZ: Too late. I already popped one into my mouth a few trees
back, and it was pretty good too. You should try one.

MAGIC MUSHROOM 1: Eat me!

MAGIC MUSHROOM 2: Eat me!

Fritz pieces off another bite of Magic Mushroom 2. Hans approaches
Magic Mushroom 1, picks off a piece of mushroom top, sniffs it,
wrinkles his nose, then, warily, tastes it.

HANS: You're right, Fritz. These are pretty good.

Magic Mushrooms 1 and 2 giggle as Hans and Fritz stumble forward,
intoxicated from the hallucinogenic shrooms. Hans' eyes swim over
the constellations.

HANS: (stupefied) Oh, mein Gott! Such stars in the heavens! The hazy
moon aglow!

FRITZ: (amazed) Fairy dust sifting down through the trees!

The mushrooms giggle as the boys fall to the ground in an aura of
pixie dust.

(Blackout)

*

Act I, Scene 2

The Elf King's palace in the woods: King Elwin sits on his throne
beside a table, staring into a wine goblet he is stirring into a
swirling motion with one hand. He appears troubled, confused over the
cup's boding.

Elder Glorimer, his senior adviser, enters the room.

ELDER GLORIMER: Hail, King Elwin, sovereign of the elves! Might I
have a word with you?

KING ELWIN: Elder Glorimer? What brings my senior adviser and most
trusted confidant into my presence at this hour?

ELDER GLORIMER: Portentous dreams. Peculiar visions. I bring you
news, Your Grace, unfortunately, of an unpleasant variety.

King Elwin, attentive, leans forward and places his goblet on the
table beside his throne.

KING ELWIN: Bad news? I should have known. The wine has turned
murky and deep, troubling yet indecipherable. Speak on, Wise One.

ELDER GLORIMER: Strangers from the mortal world have trespassed our
borders. Two older boys in military uniforms. I'm afraid they
might step on the flowers.

Upset, King Elwin rises and begins pacing the floor.

KING ELWIN: This isn't good. This isn't good at all! And I know
who's to blame.

ELDER GLORIMER: Your Majesty?

KING ELWIN: The Fairy King! King Twinklebee! His kingdom borders
the mortal world, not mine. It's his responsibility to curtail
invasions.

ELDER GLORIMER: I grieve to see you so upset, Your Grace. How might
I council you?

KING ELWIN: This news disappoints but doesn't surprise me. I've
grown to expect this from Twinklebee. When a fairy man can't manage
his own family, how can he manage the affairs of state?

ELDER GLORIMER: He hails from a long line of wayward sprites, nearly
as incompetent as our throttlebottoms, posing as emissaries.

KING ELWIN: Twinklebee has yet to properly wed any of those fag hags
he calls wives. And now, the eldest has forsaken him for a dancing
bear from Punjab, escaped from a traveling circus!

ELDER GLORIMER: Aha! The wine.

KING ELWIN: I should have seen disaster looming.

ELDER GLORIMER: The boys have eaten magic mushrooms, and God only
knows where that might lead them.

KING ELWIN: I am not responsible for the wellbeing of those boys. If
they venture into the swamps, if they provoke the Moth Queen . . . I
am not accountable for their fate.

Darla, the Elf King's daughter, peers into the room.

ELDER GLORIMER: The boys wear a strange insignia on their arm, a
broken cross. When I saw it in my dream, I felt a negative tingle.

KING ELWIN: I want those miscreants out of our woods. If Twinklebee
wishes to tolerate such misguided souls, he may do so. As for me, I
won't see the adulteration of my people or the downfall of our
civilization.

ELDER GLORIMER: What is your bidding?

KING ELWIN: Send out scouts. Monitor their steps. If those boys
cross the line, arrest them and bring them to me at once.

ELDER GLORIMER: Certainly, Your Majesty.

Elder Glorimer bows then leaves.

Darla approaches her father.

KING ELWIN: (surprised) Darla, why aren't you attending to your
studies? I hear you're struggling with astrology.

DARLA: Father, why can't mortals ever enter our lands? King
Twinklebee allows his kindred on occasion, under certain
circumstances, to consort with them. I've seen them together in the
fields, dancing around bonfires under the moonlight.

KING ELWIN: They turn men into ass-heads for their own merriment! We
elves have at least some scruples.

DARLA: Do you mean that, but for a few toys for children at
Christmas, we largely ignore them? We could do more to influence
mortals.

KING ELWIN: Sway them from their wicked ways? Don't be naïve,
Darla. If they won't listen to God, why would they listen to an
elf?

DARLA: And yet, King Twinklebee-

KING ELWIN: (cutting Darla off) Enough with King Twinklebee! You'd
compare me to that disgraced liege?

DARLA: (amused) Oh, mercy me! Trixie, the naughty pixie, caught in
quite a bear trap, a snare of forbidden love!

Darla laughs, shaking her head.

KING ELWIN: You shouldn't laugh, Darla. Some mortals are so
ignorant, they can't tell a fairy from an elf. These scandals ruin
both our reputations.

DARLA: You're so cynical, Father. Some mortals do gain
understanding and come to the light.

KING ELWIN: Very few, my peach. Very few.

DARLA: (with a huff) Why must you always patronize me?

Darla stomps away.

KING ELWIN: Darla!

(Blackout)

*

Act I, Scene 3

The Fairy King's palace: King Twinklebee, sitting on his bed in
stockings, rings a bell then sets it back on the nightstand.

KING TWINKLEBEE: (impatiently) Wives! Wives! Where are my wives?

Buttercup enters the room.

KING TWINKLEBEE: Buttercup.

Bluebell enters the room.

KING TWINKLEBEE: Bluebell.

Fawn enters the room.

KING TWINKLEBEE: Fawn.

BUTTERCUP/BLUEBELL/FAWN: Here we are, my Twinklebee.

KING TWINKLEBEE: (standing) We're missing somebody. Trixie hasn't
returned?

BUTTERCUP: (flirtatiously) No, My Love. I fear Trixie may be gone for
good, but I'm here.

BLUEBELL: Trixie may yet return. What life can she find with that
circus beast?

FAWN: I agree with Buttercup. I don't expect we'll ever see
Trixie again. She always had a soft spot in her heart for animals.

KING TWINKLEBEE: Then that will be her undoing, though I blame him
mostly, and I will be avenged for this humiliation.

BUTTERCUP: What are you going to do, My Love?

BLUEBELL: (to King Twinklebee) Let the vagrancies of the woods have
their way with them. Surrender them to fate.

KING TWINKLEBEE: I never surrender!

FAWN: (to King Twinklebee) Let Trixie go. Forgive.

KING TWINKLEBEE: Never!

BUTTERCUP: I see blood in your eyes, My Love. What are you going to
do?

KING TWINKLEBEE: Track them down. I'll place a bear trap beneath
every tree in the forest if I have to. When I get my hands on that
flea-bitten rag of fur from Punjab, I'll . . . I'll . . . (He
begins struggling for words.)

BLUEBELL: (to King Twinklebee) He'll make a lovely flokati rug.

KING TWINKLEBEE: (to Bluebell) He'll make an ugly one, but he'll
make one nonetheless. (looking around) Boots! Boots! Where are my
boots?

FAWN: Perhaps you left them in the mudroom.

KING TWINKLEBEE: You all are taking this rather well.

BUTTERCUP: And will you summon your huntsmen to help you track them
down?

KING TWINKLEBEE: Not at all. This is a private matter and must be
resolved privately, within the family. None should know of Trixie's
wanton flight but us. Think how the elves would talk! No, my dears,
I'll bring you with me instead.

BLUEBELL: Us? Must you involve us in your violent retribution?

FAWN: I've got it! Why not banish them to the mortal world?
That's where that bear came from anyway. If Trixie loves him that
much, let her go there with him.

BUTTERCUP: Wonderful idea! Why suffer their blood on our hands? The
mortal world is punishment enough. There wars rage.

BLUEBELL: People get sick, grow old, and die.

FAWN: An aura of insanity pervades the mortal world, unlike here.

KING TWINKLEBEE: (reflecting) You persuade me. Still, we bring our
bows and arrows, and plenty of pixie dust for the spell.

BUTTERCUP: Then it is decided.

KING TWINKLEBEE: (spotting his boots under the bed) Aha, my boots!

He sits on the mattress to shoe himself then peers up.

KING TWINKLEBEE: Go! Get ready for the hunt! Why do you just stand
there? What are you waiting for? A total eclipse of sun? Go!

Buttercup, Bluebell, and Fawn hurry off.

(Blackout)


[end of extract]




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