Post Road Magazine #25

The Winner

Don Cummings

Lydia: Jeffrey's wife Jeffrey: Lydia's husband Matilda: Their servant


A remote building on the edge of North America

The year 2309

(A regal woman, Lydia, is dressed in an evening gown. Not tacky, but not good taste. She is middle-aged, striking, and more to the point, has obviously been used to getting her way her whole life. To say she is a narcissist would be too weak. She wears a ridiculous diamond necklace. Perhaps a hand mirror lies nearby. Her husband, Jeffrey, in a fine suit, sits across from her. He has the mien of a king. His royal air chokes the room with currents of smugness. Together they drink wine, imperial as Americans can be. Near them is one silver canister—the type used by mountain climbers to breathe at very high altitudes. Empty canisters lie about. There is a hollowness of sound, an emptiness to the world.)

Lydia: Eighteen o'three was a very good year.

Jeffrey: The revolution did not alter the fermentation of a grape.

Lydia: Revolutions rarely do.

Jeffrey: Those silly French. What did they ever achieve?

Lydia: Nothing apparently. They're all dead. (Lydia laughs uproariously.)

Jeffrey: (Laughing) Smug frogs.

Lydia: So superior. (Gasping for a bit of air)

Jeffrey: With their socialism.

Lydia: And their long vacations.

Jeffrey: Well they were wrong, weren't they? (Gasping for a bit of air, too)

Lydia: Imbeciles. My happiest day was when we bought the whole damn country. Ooh.

Jeffrey: What is it?

Lydia: Just my lungs. I barely have the strength to tip my glass.

Jeffrey: You should never have acquired the lungs of a child. They were not developed enough for adult exertions.

Lydia: They were the last ones available.

Jeffrey: Not true.

Lydia: Sharon was a perfect match genetically.

Jeffrey: Lucky for you. Lydia: She owed it to me. Jeffrey: She was brave.

Lydia: She couldn't outrun me.

Jeffrey: She was a bowlegged baby. We neglected to reset her bones.

Lydia: She deserved what she got. I am stronger and far more clever. Jeffrey: Your most attractive qualities have served you well.

Lydia: Absolutely. Matilda!

(Matilda enters. She is shorter than Lydia, certainly less imperial. She is their servant. She is extremely sad, but sturdy.)

Matilda: What can I do for you? (Barely able to breathe)

Jeffrey: Pour us some more wine.

Matilda: Yes, Jeffrey.

Lydia: He's Jeffrey now?

Jeffrey: I thought I would give her a bonus.

Lydia: Haven't we given her enough? You can pour me some more wine, Matilda.

Jeffrey: Please pour Lydia more wine.

Matilda: I will happily pour the sweet mother more wine.

Lydia: You have been a very good help to us, Matilda. Don't push it. Matilda: It has always been my pleasure. There's nothing left to push. Lydia: Do you know what I miss most of all, Matilda?

Matilda: What's that, Lydia?

Lydia: When you would pack for me. I loved how you could pack my trunks.

Matilda: You were very particular. Lydia: But fair. Wasn't I always fair? Matilda: You never hit me with a hairbrush.

Jeffrey: And every gown Lydia wore, every jewel she placed on her neck, every crown she wore on her head, you got to touch them, Matilda. You must consider yourself a very lucky woman.

Matilda: Of the luckiest kind.

Lydia: Remember Christmas of three years ago when you drilled the last one hundred barrels?

Jeffrey: We practically got to the core of molten magma!

Lydia: Our picture was in all the papers all over the world with me wearing my Hope Diamond.

Jeffrey: You were a perfect decoration.

Lydia: I could have worn the jewels we acquired from The Vatican.

Jeffrey: That would have been de trop. Such good times.

Lydia: Your father was right.

Jeffrey: Yes he was. The future was in oil.

Lydia: Oh Jeffrey, so was the past. It was always oil. (Gasping for a breath)

The fields of oil are the greatest kingdom on earth. Jeffrey: And we ruled them with benevolence. Lydia: With grace.

Jeffrey: We were the wealthiest people to have ever lived. We owned it all.

Lydia: We were flesh Gods.

Matilda: You were despots.

Lydia: Despots? Matilda, you do not know what you are saying.

Jeffrey: She doesn't know the meaning of the word. She's just a parrot. Matilda: You were tyrants. You killed everyone who got in your way. Jeffrey: We were not killers.

Matilda: There's no one left on earth! What are you talking about?

Lydia: Oh Matilda. You must one day accept Darwinism.

Matilda: One day? This is the last one!

(Matilda grabs the canister and tries to open it.) Lydia: Jeffrey, stop her. I can barely move. Jeffrey: Matilda. Put it down.

Matilda: No. (Barely any strength)

Jeffrey: Matilda, I don't want to waste my last few breaths on having to kill you.

Matilda: I'm in your way just like everyone else then? Just like the last few Italians, and all those Chinese? Did you think you could turn all your enemies into cash? It took the Woolly Mammoth thousands of years to become fuel. And you thought you could do it in a few months?!! You were a tyrant. A killer.

Lydia: Jeffrey bought me Antarctica. Right after South America.

Matilda: You talk of Darwin? That was a natural thing. Not what you did—

Lydia: When we purchased Mars from the Russians, I wore the red silks of Catherine the Great at the acquisition ball.

Jeffrey: (To Matilda) You killed Sharon.

Matilda: That shit ain't true.

Jeffrey: You plunged a knife into my daughter's belly.

Matilda: Only because Lydia made me.

Jeffrey: You killed her.

Matilda: Lydia held her down. She needed her lungs.

Jeffrey: But you killed her.

Matilda: She was a brat. I was happy to do it.

Jeffrey: You must be executed.

(Jeffrey walks up to Matilda. She tries to open the canister.)

Lydia: You're so stupid, you can't even open it. Matilda: You put some sort of lock on it. (Jeffrey grabs her.)

Jeffrey: You have to be executed, Matilda. This is a day of reckoning.

Matilda: You're gonna kill me like everyone else?

Jeffrey: It is time to go outside, Matilda.

Lydia: Go outside and get some fresh air, you hard worker! You deserve it.

(Lydia thinks this is the funniest thing anyone has ever said.)

Jeffrey: It's time for your federally approved execution, mandated by me.

Lydia: By us.

Matilda: Spare me.

Jeffrey: You are to be executed right now. WALK OUT THAT DOOR.

Lydia: I love executions. I feel so vindicated when the less advantaged die.

Jeffrey: Lydia, go open that door.

Lydia: With pleasure.

(Lydia can barely move. She goes and opens the door.)

Lydia: Ooh, I'm dizzy.

Matilda: You don't rule the world, Jeffrey.

Jeffrey: Yes, I do.

(Jeffrey tosses Matilda out the door. Lydia secrets away the canister.) Matilda: (From outside) Fuck me and kill me like everyone else! (Matilda struggles and dies.)

Lydia: Such a shame the scientists couldn't figure out a way to make oxygen.

Jeffrey: They were morons.

Lydia: Remember in Geneva when we executed the last seven of them?

(Lydia crosses the room.)

Jeffrey: It was the best day of my life. Smug bastards.

(Jeffrey sits in his chair.)

Jeffrey: Let's open it. I can barely get a—

Lydia: You exerted yourself too much dear. She wasn't worth it.

Jeffrey: Open the canister.

Lydia: I—I don't know how to dear. It's so tricky.

Jeffrey: Give it to me. I can do it.

Lydia: I can't walk all the way over there. It would waste too much energy.

Jeffrey: Lydia, come here now!

Lydia: Oh Jeffrey, I cannot right now. . .I'm enjoying my long and graceful neck.

Jeffrey: Lydia, I command you to bring that canister to me right now.


Lydia: Have Matilda do it. She did so many other nice things for you—Oh, that's right. We just executed her. Goodbye Jeffrey. You were a great provider.

Jeffrey: Lydia, please. (Lightheaded) Lydia. Lydia, my prize. Sharon was such a nice little girl. She called me Daddy. She would have loved Antarctica. Remember the penguins?

Lydia: That was over three hundred years ago. Jeffrey . . . Jeffrey? . . . They say you never know what it's like to be a widow until it actually happens. It's not so bad.

(Lydia opens the canister with ease and takes a breath and gains strength.)

Oh Jeffrey—

(Lydia takes another breath.)

I won.

(Lydia takes another breath from the canister.) No one is better than me. I own everything. (Lydia takes one more breath.) I have such a pretty necklace.

Fade to Black

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