(Excerpts From a Spoken Word Jazz Play In the Voice of Ruth, First Daughter of the Prince of Darkness Who’s Otherwise Known as Satan) ONE: Our Father Who Art In Heaven I do not believe in god. Belief is a word stricken from the family tongue. We do not believe in anything, My father commandeers from the head of the table, his snout pressing out odious, black vapor. I want more than anything to challenge him; I want to shout to believe in disbelief is believing! but voicing the obvious is useless. I know what kind of belief he’s referring and I could froth and spit, convulse or spin my head around like a top all for naught. For my father, god doesn’t exist, “belief” is a perverse word, and any mention of either results in typhoons, earthquakes or chronic stomach indigestion. He is an intellectual virtuosity, but a sore loser. He is selective about his truths, and he is recklessly proud, he is the devil after all. TWO: Ox-blood Martinis I was a divine accident, product of a few-too-many ox-blood martinis. Father sabotaged his plans for a boy by getting dreadfully ripped. Only male spawn makes a proper demon, he spit. His litany of excuses: an exhausting day appointing tyrannical third-world leaders; evangelist ministers to lead astray; bad monkey brains for dinner, and yes, he was drunk. So they got me, a girl. Mother was over the moon of course, but Father took months, years overcoming his regret. Being Satan naturally makes him the worst of misogynists. To his mind a girl-child is tantamount to impotence. He wanted to name me Bathsheba. But Mother insisted no could spell it, that such a name would only stigmatize me. I was nearly branded Marquis after the Marquis, you know de Sade? Who’s been Father’s bowling partner for years, my godfather to boot. But Mother put her foot down, a French name’s too pretentious. Why Ruth then? I can’t imagine. But Ruth is became. Perhaps because there was no looking back. Not ever. THREE: Hollywood Exploitation The year Roman Polanski made a movie based on our lives was the year my mother started seeing her analyst five times a week. She carried her outrage around like a travel pack of Kleenex in her purse— conveniently located and oft retrieved. Mia Farrow looks nothing like me. Mother liked to believe she resembled a better-looking Jacqueline Kennedy, in fact in her more despairing moments she lamented her misfortune in not being the First Lady herself: I could have had him. My cotillion was just as lavish. And she can’t decorate worth shit, she wouldn’t know a damask from a toile if they bit her on her bony ass. Mother also ranted about Hollywood being corrupted by crews of male, chauvinistic, capitalistic pigs. Can you believe the temerity of them of them to reinvent you as a boy? A boy? Is it so unimaginable Satan’s spawn is a girl? They’re all swine I tell you, legions of demon swine looking for warm bodies to occupy. Neither of us dared to speak the truth: Father was Hollywood’s mogul. FOUR: Broken Homes Mother’s been seeing a Jungian analyst on Park Avenue. Last week, breading bat wings for dinner, she announced to Father that Dr. Beetle suggested they divorce. She said she couldn’t take it anymore, that he was never home, and when he was all he did was watch television. She complained she was sick of his tantrums, she thought he was more interested in corrupting the universe than spending quality time with his family. And the last thing—he was a lousy lay. That did it. Father stormed from the apartment vowing never to return, while Mother took a bottle of Vodka to bed and stayed up all night weeping and phoning her old Vassar dorm sisters. Oh Buffy, whoever would want me now? If I left him what suitor in his right mind would ever come near me? I’m not exactly a debutante anymore. She persisted through the night, calling everyone in her alumni book, cataloguing every argument, every betrayal. That’s what I said, Binky. An orangutan. How could I invent something that profane, that lascivious? That bitch shed orange hair all over my duvet, I wasn’t imagining it. I’ll tell you Kitty, if I had to do it over again I would have married Skip Westhoff. I don’t imagine it would have occurred to him to barbeque poor uncle Tank. I mean what kind of barbarian assumes a family picnic means to eat actual members of the family? His saying that I am as sexy as the Goddess of Fertility is NOT a compliment, and I don’t care how many times he fucked her! I don’t care if leather is the appropriate token for a three-year anniversary, and NO it wasn’t a romantic gesture. The bastard exhumed my grandmother and made her into a riding crop. That’s what I said, Bunny, his death is an absolute impossibility, so forget your gardener’s cousin Vito, no hit man in the world could take him out. What part of immortal don’t you understand? Hello . . . may I speak to Senator Westhoff? By dawn, bottle empty, exhausted and spent, Mother passed out while the light of day crept behind the drapes. Soon after Father returned. He always did.
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