Dargon

/ a play /
written by jack richardson

In a small town at the edge of a wood, a young boy named Barrow, struggles with his difference. Shunned by the town and misunderstood by his parents, Barrow runs away. Taking shelter from a storm, he encounters a dragon in a cave. Like Barrow, the dragon is broken by the kindess of others. Like Barrow, the flame of vengeance glows bright within him.

 

Striking a bargain on the weight of a human heart, the boy and the dragon become fatefully linked: One to claim justice and live with its shame, the other to live in the shadow of grandeur. But what kind of a life can you live without a heart?

This play was completed with the kind support of the Chantilly Studio Residency program.

Illustrations by the amazing Rhett Bloom. Check out Rhett's other artwork here.

CAST OF CHARACTERS:

In Order Of Appearance

 

KIDD / MOTHER / FATHER / TEACHER / BAKER /

PASTOR / BARON / STY / BARROW / DARGON

Others: Guard, General, Queen, Woman, Man.

 

SCENES:

SCENE ONE: BARROW

SCENE TWO: DARGON

SCENE THREE: CHOOSING

SCENE FOUR: ASHES

SCENE FIVE: REVOLUTION

A NOTE ON STAGING

 

Minimal set, minimal costumes; unspecific time or place; evocative of the past but with deliberate anachronisms encouraged; distinction should be made between presentational and naturalistic scenes; key roles may be doubled with minor roles for thematic resonance; Dargon is rendered in pieces, and operated by the townsfolk; the dragon is never glimpsed as a whole, but is instead the sum of its component parts.

 

A key theme of Dargon is the perception of actions and words. Further blurring of the characters’ perceived reality through staging, beyond the moments mentioned in the text, is encouraged.

 

The play is non-naturalistic, and actors of all genders, ages, and ethnicities should be considered equally for all roles.

*  *  *  *  *

Something to think about:

“Truth and roses have thorns about them.”

Henry David Thoreau

 

Kidd

 

Mother

Father

Mother

Father

Mother

Father

Mother

Father

Mother

Father

Mother

Father

Mother

Father

Mother

Father

Mother

Father

Mother

Father

Mother

Father

Mother

Father

Mother

Father

Mother

Father

Mother

Father

Mother

Father

Mother

Father

Mother

Kidd

 

Teacher

Kidd

Teacher

 

Baker

Kidd

Baker

 

 

 

Kidd

 

Baron

Sty

Baron

Kidd

 

Teacher

Kidd

Pastor

 

 

 

 

Kidd

Teacher

Father

Baker

Pastor

Sty

Teacher

Father

Mother

Baker

Mother

Teacher

Pastor

Mother

Kidd

Baron

Sty

Baron

Sty

Baron

Sty

 

Baron

Sty

Baron

 

Sty

 

Baron

Kidd

 

 

 

I.

Once upon a time there was a boy named Barrow, who couldn’t read. And nobody liked him because he couldn’t read.

 

Or at least, that’s how it felt.

 

Every day he walked to school in the village, and every day he walked home again, carrying a little less pride on his sleeve. Pride is important when you’re sixteen years old.

 

Almost as important as learning to read.

 

It’s important, you know…

 

More than important, it’s vital, it’s imperative /

 

And I just /

 

We just /

 

We don’t know what to do.

 

There’s something wrong /

 

There’s nothing wrong, and your father /

 

Your mother and I both, we thought /

 

This… problem of yours. This…

 

Disability.

 

Problem, perhaps, if that’s what it is /

 

This… problem…

 

Why you are the way you are…

 

We…

 

Well…

 

We don’t know. God knows, really /

 

He might, most likely /

 

And it’s not for us to question /

 

No.

 

/ even if we had an answer…

 

Is it something, then, we’ve done? Have we /

 

Of course we haven’t /

 

Of course.

 

It’s much simpler than that, it’s a matter of… application. It’s applicable, son /

 

And it’s not for want of trying, we know, and it’s not to say that we don’t care /

 

We never said /

 

No we never said /

 

But the issue is for want of trying, that’s the issue here, you’re not trying, not that we can see /

 

And not because we don’t love you /

 

And although people talk, God knows they do /

 

We know, they do /

 

But couldn’t you try, if not for yourself, then for your mother /

 

For yourself, and for your father /

 

For all of us /

 

To just… try? Please?

 

He left the house then, he fled out into the field of barley that his family owned, where he found a stick, and beat the barley, until it was nothing but threshed husks. But the field was vast, almost a mile square or more, and his anger wasn’t so much like anger as it was like shame. The stick broke. And so the barley never really had much to fear, because boys and shame go hand in hand, and only a small patch of stalks died for his shame.

 

No one outside of stories ever really dies from shame.

 

I saw him that day, sitting against the fallen fence between his father’s field and mine, beating out his anger and crying out his shame. Which was nothing new for Barrow, the boy who couldn’t read.

 

And when I turned my bicycle back onto the path and left him alone, without a word to comfort or a gesture to ease his pain, that was nothing new for me, or his parents, or the town.

 

Barrow had his shame, and he was ours.

 

But as Barrow knew, and we were soon to learn, shame cannot be beaten, broke, or left alone. Shame is like a dragon, patient and full of flame, growing slowly inside us, until eventually… it escapes.

 

 

II.

 

Barrow really was the sweetest boy.

 

(Which is to say, he was incomplete.)

 

The first day of every autumn is my favourite day of schooling, being, as it is, the day of the harvest meet. My field, of course, is a field of the mind; my reap, so to speak, the heads of the village children.

 

And there’s a certain pride I take, as I’m sure you’ll agree, in the buds that blossom under my care and attention. We are entitled to the fruits of our labour, and these I share with the parents of my flower garden – every curl of petal that has unfurled from an awkward girl, or the strength of the bark that has wrapped a growing boy. And rarely, to a fault, do I find my bounteous basket wanting.

 

These thumbs, so to speak, are green.

 

But when in time it comes to Barrow, the parental procession having always found him last, I find my basket… empty. Facing his mother and father across a table laden with my achievements, the kind words at my disposal turn insincere, and not quite truth.

 

What to say of their son, who grows apart from my blooming lavender and virile orchids? How to fertilize this… weed? Not a weed, exactly – no, never that… but still without a ready bloom. Astute, he’s always that, and vital, in his way. Like spinifex, perhaps. Ecologically sound, but no vitality or lustre.

 

I refuse to tell a lie. Dishonesty I abhor. And so what comfort I can give them turns at once towards the saccharine…

 

“The sweetest boy, he really is, disposed to… qualities of kindness. Never a harsh word or a raised voice is he, and all the sweeter for it!”

 

And in that I tell no lie. For sweetness is still a virtue… if we lack in all the rest.

 

 

III.

 

I didn’t want him, to start with.

 

(The truth comes easy now, once started.)

 

Send the boy to field, I said. A boy should learn to field. But I’d been friends with his mother, since we were half his age and size, and though I could judge from his name she’d been aiming for purpose, well… I couldn’t blame her for trying.

 

And he did try, I’ll give him that. There was purpose in the way he applied himself – a sort of flintiness to his nature that some saw as shyness, or what others might read as sweet. The boy was disarmed, not disarming. He collided with the world, and struck sparks.

 

Still – he was seven shades of useless. Punctual, yes, for a chore that stoked its fire long before the sunrise, but that’s common enough in boys; their springs are tightly wound.

 

But I couldn’t have him, front or back.

 

“Baklava, Banbury cake, escargot, gateau – kringle, lattice, macaron, profiterole (assorted). Breads by shape, buns by size. Each on their shelf, with their own written card; left to right, front to back, priced by piece and pound.”

 

Simple, yes? A child’s task. And yet, rounding the counter to polish the window glass, to take pride the craft wrought by these two hands – what’s this?

 

“Nacarons. Escargoat. Blaklava (aborted).”

 

None two pounds for seven, but seven pounds for two – nine for every six piece sold, and six per baker’s dozen. My laboured sweat in sweets, selling me short for poor penmanship and… words!

 

It was out the back then, to the baking trays and oven, where a boy with less a mind might do no one else injustice. And in this, for a time, we find harmony. We are joined in the peace of form meeting function… or so it seems. For not a morning hence his inaugural bake bursts through the doors a woman of no unknown identity, screeching, a purchased loaf in one hand and her dentures, cracked, in the other! (Lustily and with abandon she’d bit into the still-steaming loaf, only to find roasted pumpkin seeds in place of pumpernickel!)

 

And doesn’t that surmise the boy? For every charm, a misconception, wrought by hands of good intention.

 

 

IV.

 

It’s thinking like that that hurts him the most. And by “hurt”, I mean both boy and pride, because the two can interchange.

 

Thinking hurts him more than the sting he feels from the stones hurled in his direction /

 

On one occasion, I do regret to say /

 

That was his own fault, all right, I didn’t know he was standing there /

 

Yes, thank-you son…

 

/ from those who see the root of his difference and shield themselves accordingly. It hurts more than the terror that grips his insides, twisting like a vicious fist when called upon to speak the rhetoric on the blackboard /

 

“The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy…” Anyone? Barrow?

 

… Never mind.

 

All of it hurts. Everyone hurts. And the circle goes round.

 

And yet the circle is really the strongest of shapes. While the more engineering of mind might espouse the structural virtues of the trinity-recalling triangle, I can assure you it is the circle, perfect in its union, its unbroken strength of form, that lies beyond reproach.

 

Consider: Unity. Symmetry. From the blessed rights of baptism to the last rites at the bedside. The circle goes around, and we are carried along its back, into passion, into knowledge, into illumination.

 

And so quite unlike those of my flock, it was Barrow who came to me. He waited, of course, as all good sinners must do, until the prying eyes of Sunday service had melted away back to fields and homes, before he came upon the vestry to unburden himself of shame.

 

“Ask for His forgiveness and ye shall receive,” I relayed, “for God forgives all trespass we might bring against his name,” (thinking, as I did, the boy guilty of boyish sins – stealing from a mother’s purse, perhaps, or vagrancy, or cow-tipping).

 

But thus the boy did confound me, for it were no mortal sin he asked forgiven. How might the boy forgive himself, he asked, for the shame his being brought on others? Wherein might find he strength?

 

I paused. I did reflect. How best might his soul be served? What words could relieve his mind? And where Leviticus once proudly sprung unthinking, where the Psalms did most often reside, there was nothing but… silence.

 

What asked this boy, truly? To relieve himself of judgement… or to question why it was placed?

 

And all at once I felt myself transported to the sandals of beloved Saint Peter; to feel how the queasy worms of doubt in his gut might betray the depth of his devotion; to know how much denial was like a pair of gloves we might slip on without thinking at the hint of a chill autumn breeze…

 

“Don’t be stupid, boy,” I said, one hand upon the vestry door, already halfway closed. “God abhors a coward.”

 

An honest silence, then, until I heard his footsteps at last recede away into the world, for I could offer no solution, nor the comfort of something sacred. I ask you now, how could I, when all the boy desired was honesty too cruel to speak?

 

 

V.

 

What does it say about us when we hate a child?

 

We don’t hate you, Barrow…

 

No, we don’t hate you. But /

 

Why don’t you leave?

 

Yes, why don’t you leave?

 

It wouldn’t be hard.

 

No, it wouldn’t be hard. You could just /

 

Go out into the field one day, just out into the barley, and just…

 

Not come back.

 

Yes, you could just not come back.

 

And who would that be hurting?

 

It would be a mercy, really.

 

Charity.

 

Kind.

 

That’s not what they say, but it’s what he hears. It’s hate, most definitely, spoken with their actions rather than their words.

 

If you may indulge me, perhaps I can divine a solution?

 

I always believed there was a lie we tell ourselves, when we are very young. It’s a small lie, not much taller than we ourselves are at the time, and it’s a lie we tell to hide a simple truth.

 

Children, you see, know a great many truths. They know the truth behind statements of “Next time” and “We’ll see.” They know the truth of a “Yes” is much like that of a “No”. They know the world is constructed of words that have worth – and the truth of them, sometimes, are not as they appear.

 

And so their hearts tell a lie, to protect them from harm: it whispers to them hopes and dreams, and says that they’ll come true.

 

This is the lie that we tell when we’re small – and we leave it behind so we’re able to grow.

 

Perhaps because Barrow had been a child for too long /

 

He cried like a child.

 

Thank you.

 

He cried all the time, like a baby.

 

Yes thank you, son /

 

All we did was tell him that, you know? We’d say, “Hey Barrow, are you a spy? This book report looks like it’s written in code.” And, “Hey Barrow, don’t dawdle, you’ll be late for morning nap.” And, “Hey Barrow, you hit a rock? I think you’ve lost your load.” (Because that’s what happens to a barrow when you hit a rock, it falls and spills its / )

 

Indeed.

 

And all we did was tell the truth. And doing that’s not wrong.

 

Of course.

 

Perhaps the boy had been a child for too long – treated with the distain of someone so small of mind they could hardly amount to the whole of a person. Even as Barrow grew beyond the limits of a simple child, and took on, from all outward appearances, the early aspects of a man, the voice in his heart seemed indistinct and undefined…

 

Where you going, Barrow? You’ll be late for class, Barrow. You listening, Barrow? You can listen, can’t you? That’s the least you can do, right? Hey, I said you listening to me, Barrow? Where d’you think you’re going, I said? You deaf as well as blind now, Barrow? I know what’s wrong with you, Barrow. Cos there’s something wrong with you, Barrow. You think you’re better than us, Barrow. You think we’re beneath you, right, Barrow? Think you’re top shit, don’t you, Barrow? Are you listening to me, Barrow? I said I’m talking to you, Barrow. Said you think you’re better than us, Barrow? Don’t think we don’t see you, hey, Barrow? Well we see you right, Barrow. We see you and we know.

 

Perhaps the boy had simply never heard a voice that was all his own.

 

Perhaps he lived the lie we tell ourselves and then forget: he saw the world as it really was, not as we wished to believe it… and failed to hide his disappointment?

 

 

VI.

 

And so one day, Barrow did as they never said, and ran away. He ran as far and as fast as his legs could carry him, and in this, for once in his life, he was successful. No one thought to look for him, but then again, why should they? It’s not like he was missed, or his presence much required.

 

People don’t miss what they don’t want to see.

 

He packed a bag of his things and left the house, fleeing, again, into his father’s field. The abundance of barley whispered sharp remarks against his shoulders, and sneered their hollow stalks to his retreating back; each rustle and snap like a harsh word in his head, landing like stones, one upon another on another.

 

He was a barrow in name and nature, now; that’s how he looked to me; dragging the rubble the village heaped upon him, menial, mechanical, unable to turn, unable to bend. And again he stood there, and again I stood there, at the edge of our fathers’ fields – the boy alone with his shame, unremarked and gone to seed.

 

I could have said – “I see you clearly, Barrow. I see you and I know.” Would that have set the dragon back to sleeping? The one we’d woken in his heart? Would that have saved our lives?

 

I couldn’t, and I knew: Barrow was too far out of our hands, gaining momentum like a stone falling from the sky, or a wagon, a barrow, let loose down a hill.

 

Unable to turn, unable to bend.

 

Bound to break.

 

There’s nothing heartless in his actions, nothing heartless in all of ours. Just so you know. This is less the story of how we set the dragon free than it is why it needed freeing.

 

This doesn’t end well. Just so you know.

 SCENE ONE: BARROW 

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