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The Big Break by Darby McDevitt

05/10/2006

Paralyses (Seven Dubliners Extraction Mixes)
  Words by James Joyce
  Remixed by Darby McDevitt
  The Big Break
  from A Little Cloud
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Eight years before he had wished God could remain unspoiled by success, Ger's art was in place and served to win. It was something like that. A meeting with Ger in the great city London was called because the idea of fame was silken and perfumed. When he smiled you caught a glimpse of a king's guise. He turned his tiresome gaze on the cast: kindly untidy nurses and decrepit old men, children who ran screaming. Everyone passed through the ‘garden’ scene. A gentle melancholy took possession of his struggle against the burden of wisdom which age had bequeathed to him.
  —Remember poetry? said Ger.
  Tempted to read out something wise he repeated lies to console his fellows. Punctiliously, he emerged from under the larch on set and walked swiftly on. The old sunset was wan and the air had grown grimy.
  —Chad... he said.
  From the threshold, Chad picked his way deftly through vermin and shadows to nobility, touched, his mind full of present joy. He had never been a name at the theatre and he had heard that this Ger was rich, cavalier, and quite wrapped up in talent. It was his habit whenever he found himself pensive and excited to court the causes of his desire. His footsteps bled wandering. A low fugitive laughter made him turn to the right, towards Ger:
  —…the London press reviewed the play. Signs of future greatness, friend! People used to say that I freely borrowed on all sides—from men at least; that was one version—but there’s always some lie… in spite of the money.
  Chad brought a sigh of pride to air, saying when he was half-hearted Ger made him feel superior to the people he passed.
  —The revolt against the dull is about success! Ger lowed. The poor stunted band of tramps waiting for the poem to express ideas… for something original… ha! What a thought! That a poetic moment had life like an infant!
  He stepped nearer.
  —A sober artistic life is immature; so many different moods and impressions—melancholy, resignation, simple joy—would never be popular… could not sway crowds. The English critics recognise this.
  —Cool, Chad versed, his revery ardently overmastering him for a few moments, shining red and green, full of curiosity.
  —All my old heroes are across the water.
  —I'm the same!
  —The flavour of the U.S.A… dear God, do you see any signs of it thinning? All her rivals are shapeless and in denial….
  Ger put on his hat.
  —Life; always hurry and scurry, looking for time, not finding it. I say, for a few days I'm back to the old country… a bit of a holiday. I feel you, Chad, know what's good for my boys and-
  —Neat, said Chad modestly.
  —So meet the crowd: that's all, said Ger cheerfully. The old gang. Today, this play is yours….

* * *

That Sunday morning after Ger had gone to see Paris, Chad spit his drink boldly at the floor.
  —It's not beautiful, you nobs! There's no gaiety… movement… excitement!
  Chad finished his whisky and, after some seething, ordered the men to remove their glasses.
  —No Bohemians!
  He was beginning to feel Ger's way of expressing himself. There was something vital amid the bustle and competition of the play; after all, Ger had lived it. Chad envied this.
  —Tell me, he said, is this immoral?
  All made catholic gestures. Eve said,
  —You do find spicy bits in it. That's lively, you know, I suppose.
  —I heart ‘em, said L’il Handler.
  Gnat Gall shook his head:
  —Say what you like, there's no style… immoral or no.
  —No, said Tull. It's half-a-dozen whisky gags, a cigar puff, and tits tits tits! A rum world. Talk of immorality? What I say is: immorality is a historian's preserve. My inclination is to personal experience. Spare neither rank nor caste, nor religion, fashion, high society…. Tell, with details, a story about true things!
  —How? said Chad. All the other plays relax the old feeling for human nature... the joys of connubial bliss are all ya need.
  —To offer my best, said Tull, I'd have to enjoy life, a Tony, and never die 'til I shot a film.
  Chad smiled confusedly at this childish fop.
  —Before you go, delight me. A little music and awful poems?
  —Perhaps....
  —I'm awful, man! I'm not clever, young, or considerate… now that I've broken the ice, it's defer time; you must agree!
  —Agreed, said Tull, if I can clinch the bargain with a large gold watch and a sup of whisky.
  —Drinks!

* * *

His face was establishing itself a trifle and now he felt warm and excited. Ger's song had confused his mind, for he was a delicate and abstinent person. Meeting Ger after eight years surrounded by lights and noise had felt triumphant, lively; now it seemed to him inferior, tawdry, and timid. He wished to vindicate himself in some way… to assert his mind. Ger's invitation was only patronising him by his friendliness just as he was patronizing theatre. Chad pushed towards bold new pleasure and happiness in the act of expressing fear of life and the world before him. He calmly turned his orange tie and blue eyes full upon his cast:
  —Out everyone!
  He was aware that he had betrayed his friends; alas, he said:
  —No mooning and spooning about it! I mean to have a go at this alone tomorrow! I have dash! You don't believe it? Well, I know it! This is a rotten, lyin' play! I mean business, I tell you. You just wait!
  He tossed his glass to his mouth, finished his drink and laughed loudly. Then he looked thoughtfully before him and said in a calmer tone:
  —I fancy tying myself up… to imitate the act of war! Holding a child to mean our sins, of course. Humour is out. Any time a sleeping child is awakened a light shines!
  Chad paused.
  —Oh, what an agony of nerves! I suffered until empty, trying to appease him for the odd penny of his change, being called a lush as he was securely tanked; it was very petty! A regular swindle.
  At first he wanted to take it back but he was delighted with his cold, irritated passion. He thought of what Ger had said about art… how full, voluptuous longing was the acme of the system. It reminded him of a petty, dull life within him. Could he not escape from Ger? Could he go to London alone? That might open the poet in him:
  —Hush all! The evening gloom wanders and scatters the dust of verse!
  About him the room awoke and began to cry; it would not be hushed. He began to rock to and fro in its wailing keen. He rocked faster while his eyes began to scan-
  —This is useless! Ger shouted. Stop!
  Chad began to scream. He jumped up from his chair and began to sob piteously, losing breath, and then bursting out more convulsively. Ger mounted the stage.
  —What have you done here?
  Chad sustained for one moment the gaze of his hatred. He began to stammer:
  —It's not art... I didn't do any….
  Ger, clasping him, murmured:
  —There now, little lamb. There now….
  Chad felt his cheeks suffuse with light. He listened while a song grew. Tears of remorse started to his eyes.
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Darby McDevitt was born in Spokane, educated in Dublin, and sharpened in Seattle. He is an occasional filmmaker, decent musician, former game-designer, and present author of the rather fine book, Volume Void: A Perpetual Novelty.
     [Note: The Extraction Mixes were torn from Joyce's original Dubliners stories under the following conditions: 1) Text subtraction was the only viable tool; no text (apart from punctuation) was added to any piece; 2) Text could not be moved from its original location in any piece; i.e. "it lies where it falls." 3) The general "theme" or "essence" of Joyce's original stories had to remain intact; characters, plot, and setting could not.]

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