Short Dramas and Plays
THE MADNESS OF PHINEAS GALEN (Act I Scene 1a)
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The Madness Of Phineas Galen (Galileo Revisited)
© 2004 David Ian
(Figure is huddled asleep in the corner of what appears to be an open cell. This is PHINEAS GALEN. Some SED lights flash here and there in the panel next to the cell opening, otherwise it is dimly lit. WALTER DARBY enters, stands outside the cell for a moment, looks back and forth, steels himself up.)
Walter: (hoarse whisper) Phineas? Finny? Are you awake? Finny! Itís me, Walter. Finny! (shouting) FINNY!
Phineas: ďó I shall not deny nor confirm!
Walter: Finny! Itís me. Finny?
Phineas: What? What? What?
Walter: Itís me, Walter.
Phineas: Walter? (Sigh) To think I had forgotten what a sympathetic face looked like. Youíre a welcome sight, Walt. Come into my world. Come in, itís safe. Only for those with the leg bracket is there hazard. (Indicates metallic circlet around leg)
Walter: Are they treating you all right here?
Phineas: If you mean are they beating me at night and putting on make-up in the morning for the trials, no. If you mean are they treating me civilly as is due to me as a citizen of this fine Scientocracy, well, thatís debatable. Law offers me all sorts of protections, but only if I play by the rules. If Iím deemed heretical, well, then, all bets are off.
Phineas: My name for it. I believe the official docket terms it, ďTeaching those things in disharmony with the accepted models of prevailing thought.Ē Itís heresy, nonetheless.
Walter: I should think itís that kind of talk that got you in trouble in the first place.
Phineas: Itís only words.
Walters: Words are powerful things. They can disenfranchise a man, alienate himself from his friends, and isolate him from the rest of the community.
Phineas: Itís as bad as all that?
Walters: (pause) I think youíll have a hard time getting your position reinstated.
Phineas: Walt! You and youíre gift for understatement. Weíre talking survival here. If I donít watch my step from here on out Ė
Phineas: Why are you here?
Walter: IÖcame to check on you. To see if you were all right.
Phineas: Did you draw the short straw from the teaching Cadre?
Walter: None of the Cadre were interested in coming. Their reputations at stake, you know. Academics live or die by the mystique they generate around themselves.
Phineas: Youíre not afraid Iíll sully youíre reputation? Being associated with me is like being a carrier of the plague, donít you know that?
Walter: I think I can weather any fallout.
Phineas: Or did you just come here to see if it was true?
Walter: You know me better than that, Finny.
Phineas: I donít know anything, anymore.
Walter: (pause) Theyíve really been putting you onto the grill, havenít they?
Phineas: Out of the frying pan, into the fire, back in the frying pan, back in the fire, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, ad exhausticum.
Walter: Any sign of a resolution?
Phineas: Not with the dance weíre doing. Iím doing my best just to keep my wits about me. One slip-up while under The Directive of Truth and I hang myself.
Walter: Sounds like youíre walking a thin tightrope.
Phineas: On one side, Iíll get jailed. On the other side, Iíll be institutionalized. Thereís no middle ground and Iím running out of fence to straddle.
Walter: Finny, this sounds like a web of your own making. It sounds like to me all you need to do is to deny your claim, say it never happened, and just ride the rest of it out.
Phineas: Itís more complicated than that, Walt.
Walter: Not from where Iím standing. Youíre the only one who is making it complicated.
Phineas: Thatís because Iím the only one who had the experience. Thatís because Iím the only one that feels the responsibility to myself. Iím the only one who has to act.
Walter: And where have those actions landed you? Discredited in your field. Youíve got no teaching future anymore. Disgraced to the community. Whoís going to hire you for anything now? Disaster for your family. They canít show themselves in public anywhere, for fear of their life. Is this worth it to you?
Phineas: If you were in my shoes, youíd understand.
Walter: Then make me understand, Finny. Did you hear it or not?
Phineas: Iíve already said what I said, and itís gotten me this far.
Walter: Not good enough for me. I need to hear it from you. What is it that you thought you heard, Finny?
Phineas: Thought I heard? Thought? That doesnít sound like a friend whoíd give me the benefit of doubt. That sounds like the Prosecutorís words. "What did you think you heard, Mr. Galen? Tell the court in your own words, please.Ē The answer to which Iím damned either way I answer it. Tell me, Walter, when did you suddenly pick up this neutral language? Was it when you signed papers agreeing to be a special envoy to the Court of Trials? They coached you well in how to bring up the subject, to act as my friend, to neutrally introduce the subject so Iíd spill my guts out to a sympathetic face. Donít you think I know The Directive of Truth is not only active in the Court of Trials, but anywhere and anytime where agents of the Court are acting on behalf of the Prosecution? But they didnít coach you in the one thing that they couldnít Walt, and that is that you are a terrible liar. Always was, always will be. Now leave me.
Walt: (pause) Itís for your own good, Finny.
Phineas: Donít you dare call me that while youíre acting as The Courtís weasel. Iím "Mr. Galen" to you. Or "Subject". What did they do, Walter? Did they leverage you because you havenít published in two years? Or did they offer you a higher position in the academia food chain? Either way, Iíve got nothing more to say to you or the electronics youíre bristling with. Now go.
Walter: (Turns to go, stops, turns back) When did you know?
Phineas: Walt, youíre face is an open book. You werenít concerned about the security wall of the cell when you first came in. You were so self-conscious you almost couldnít go through with it. Iíll give you that much. Now go, youíve done what they asked.
Walter: Finny, for what itís worth, I really did want to see you.
Phineas: I know. I could see that, too. It was Ė it was welcome. Goodbye Walter.
Walter: Good luck, Finny.
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