This is Charlotte Bailey’s piece, in full. The zine only includes the first 500 words or so.
Summary: script for a Talking Heads-style monologue set in the 80s based loosely on The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter and Daddy by Sylvia Plath
THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS
VICTORIA, MID-THIRTIES, IS SAT AT THE BREAKFAST BAR IN A SMALL BUT EXPENSIVE-LOOKING KITCHEN.
One of my favourite things to do, to pass the time, is to imagine Ralph as a statue. Ghastly and grey but still beautiful- and so he will remain; “a thing of beauty is a joy forever”- Keats. He’s a favourite of mine. You might not think it, looking at me but I’m terribly well-read. It’s a shame I can’t say the same about Ralph, I suppose. My sister was lucky: she married down. Fat and balding, he worships her. They’ve just had their third child. Isabella. She’s an ugly little thing but all babies are, aren’t they? She’ll grow up and get a little bit cuter just like the other two did. I don’t think they like coming round and I can’t really say I like them being here but then, I didn’t choose all cream everything with babies in mind. But Stella is happy so that’s all that matters, isn’t it? She keeps asking “Victoria, when are you having one of your own to keep mine company?” but I’m not interested. I always see the girl who works in the corner shop flirting with the customers- she’s only fifteen. I’ve also heard the way she talks to her mother. Babies are all well and good but they grow up. I want to shake her and tell her not to bother with the good-looking ones she’s flicking her hair at. My advice to every woman would be marry an ugly man. He’ll treat you well. I married a mortal so beautiful even the goddesses would swoon and I will always regret it. I am Selene, wishing my Endymion would sleep forever but I have no Zeus to turn to for help.
She sighs. A terrier yaps a few times from behind her and then curls up near her feet.
Oh, of course I have the dog for company. One of my least favourite things is walking this stupid mutt though. He loves to dive straight into the stream round back and make all those disgusting black beetles disperse. Ugly black ovals- they remind me of my husband’s “good shoes”, the ones he reserves for special occasions- of course, my birthday wasn’t special enough but visits from his mother are. He polishes them with the gentle caress of a lover. I’ve been trapped inside those big black shoes since our wedding day. I made a similar remark to Mrs Haysfield from over the road the other day and she told me, “That’s marriage, dear.” My marriage is nothing like hers and never will be- if I live in polished, patent Oxfords then she lives in those woven old-man slippers that smell of sweat and the anticipation of death. Her husband died a few years back before Ralph and I moved here but I’m sure being diagnosed with whatever killed him was delightful news. I couldn’t bear to be trapped in her “sensible shoes” on two for one at C and A. But I mustn’t complain too much, being imprisoned behind magenta drapes is a profound kind of punishment. It doesn’t welcome sympathy and entangles itself with guilt. Plus, my mother would never forgive me if I left, Ralph is still paying off her mortgage so…
A pause while she thinks, twiddling a bit of hair.
You never know with Ralph. It’s always one extreme or the other. For our honeymoon, about a week after the wedding, I was expecting an all-inclusive resort in Cancun or Mauritius, to really enjoy our time together as newlyweds so I left booking the cruise to Ralph- let him feel like he was taking care of everything. I suppose you could say arriving in Abu Dhabi having packed nothing but skimpy bikinis, sarongs and cocktail dresses was a more than a little inappropriate. Ralph found it hilarious.
He did it on purpose- Saudi Arabia was in flames in 1980 and he expects me to waltz in less than a decade later trying to start riots by flaunting everything my mother gave me! He will be the death of me, I swear. Luckily, we’d met another couple on board and the woman, Lillian, had some spare kaftans and robes to lend me. That reminds me I must write and thank her for my birthday card. Anyway, it was all a shambles. We went scuba-diving as well, bear in mind that I don’t like the sea; dirty amniotic suspension of piss and shit. Oh well, it could’ve been worse, I suppose.
I’m never forgiving myself. Really I should’ve known better. I should’ve seen it all coming but I was young and naïve and flattered! Massively, massively flattered. I wasn’t pretty, I wasn’t even from the same background- he’s a Lockwood for God’s sake! I was offered a scholarship to the Slade, it’s not even like I didn’t have options-or talent! Even my mother had reservations. I don’t know.
She holds her head in her hands.
I don’t know.
GO TO BLACK.
IN THE LIBRARY, A ROOM THAT SEEMS ILL-SUITED FOR ITS PURPOSE- VERY CRAMPED AND CLAUSTROPHOBIC.
This used to be my pottery room. The jugs over in the corner, I made them. Lovely aren’t they? Notice how they’re shoved in that corner though: Ralph decided we needed a library because Bill from work has his own library. One jug is missing as well, my favourite one showing Sisyphus taking a break from rolling his rock up the hill. I painted his face just so; you can tell he’s about to break. It was my best. But somehow it got knocked over and went from being art to dirt on the carpet, just a mess to clean up. My feelings get messy. Like dirt. I like to clean things and Ralph likes things clean.
She pulls a duster out of the cupboard and flicks it in the direction of some leather-bound books.
I don’t quite see why we need a library but I just keep my mouth shut. The only books that Ralph actually has are a mail-order series of encyclopaedias on war criminals during WWII. Of course, I’ve read them all, the rest of the books in here are mine anyway. Personally, I think Ralph looks like a young Heinrich Himmler. He has those proud Aryan eyes that watch you like a wolf-man ready to pounce on its prey. Those brogues he adores so much, I imagine them treading all over my face. He’s a brute. With a brute heart, obsessed with Jackboots. It’s a sick kind of obsession, not even morbid curiosity, it’s like he admires these men. Like a vampire, he comes in here and feeds off his encyclopaedias…
Perhaps it’s because he’s part German. I remember when he ordered all those ‘Deutsch-Snell-Lernen!” tapes. That didn’t last long, did it? Walking around the house going “Ich, ich, ich, ich!” and I couldn’t stand it!
There’s an interesting thing about Ralph, though: he’s a distance relation of Karl Silberbauer, the one in the SS who arrested Anne Frank and the others hiding in the annex. I think he only died a decade or so ago. Strange isn’t it, how recent it all is. Ralph, a tall man in a suit enters the room noisily and talks over Victoria. His face is only partially visible. He holds up two ties, asking which one would be more suitable for a work function that evening. Victoria glances up and almost immediately says “Red.” Pleased with this response, Ralph leaves. It’s been said that every woman adores a fascist but Anne and I would disagree: surely killing him is better? Preserving the beauty of the promise of security in a long, silent sleep…But instead it’s me here, everyday like a prized stuffed deer’s head mounted on the wall, serving no real purpose but welcoming a few compliments from guests. I used to go to night classes to learn German but I much prefer French; it’s softer, more feminine. I’m particularly interested in the French Revolution. I just find it fascinating what masses of people are capable of. And the strange poetic justice in the beheadings, removing the vanity at its very source, knocking off the crown along with the head.
She looks over her shoulder towards the door then turns back, a smile flickers on her face ever so slightly.
I read somewhere that after all the executions that people had balls called Bals des Victimes where they tied red ribbon round their necks to mock the fact they’d avoided being beheaded. I hope some of them were executed after that. It’s silly to tempt fate like that, isn’t it?
I could be a Jew.
An exotic gypsy mistress, like Esmeralda.
We’re not even like la belle et la bête, instead simply l’humain and the la dieu. And that should be enough. But it isn’t and ever could be.
I could never be in love with you. If you’ve killed one woman you’ve killed two, take the mother with you- hell, you’ve killed them all and why stop there? Bastard. BASTARD.
GO TO BLACK.
COME UP IN A VERY CLEAN, CREAM LIVING ROOM. VICTORIA IS SAT VERY STILL ON AN EMBROIDERED SOFA.
I killed a man last night. I thought it was a dream. I really miss it now, it was really interesting. Honestly, I’m surprised it even happened but I’m glad it did. Sometimes I just let myself get all worked up and things just slip out. Like at our wedding when I told Elizabeth- Ralph’s mum, how much I hated her hideous pistachio green three-piece suit. Our theme was crimson. We even had the centre of the lilies sprinkled with red dye and she chose to wear green. I suppose we were doomed
from the start, with funeral flowers from the wedding filling the honeymoon suite because some idiot- Ralph’s brother- got too pissed to pick them up. The scent of one hundred lilies is so…all-consuming.
She holds her head at the temples for a second.
And then, with all the lights turned down and the lily-haze all around, the artificially red eyes just watch you do things you don’t wanna do.
GO TO BLACK.
A phone picked up and dialled. It rings for a long time. A sigh is heard.
FADE UP INTO THE SHOT. STILL IN THE LIVING ROOM.
Finally, someone picks up the other end.
Hello, Elizabeth? It’s Victoria. Ralph is dead.
Talking and gradually shouting can be heard from the receiver, which Victoria slowly and carefully replaces before looking into the camera with a sad smile.
It’s not tragic. I’m not a tragic person.
It’s just something I had to do.
“You sat upon your rock, Sisyphus.”
GO TO BLACK.