The Queen Bee (A Playlet), by Jennifer Semple Siegel
Yet take not, oh! too deep a drink,
And in this ocean die;
Here bigger bees than you might sink,
Even bees full six feet high.
Like Pharaoh, then, you would be said
To perish in a sea of red.
–Philip Freneau, From “On a Honey Bee”
(Music. Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumble Bee.” Lights come up. Samantha, situated dead center on stage, is encased in a yellow and black metallic cocoon. Only her head is visible. A spider web backdrop suggests that Samantha and her cocoon are snared in a web. She is obviously trapped there. Music fades.)
Samantha: (Shouts:) Pox to you all! I may not be able to move, but I am the Queen Bee. I can still make a lot of noise:
Ring around the rosie
A pocket full of posies,
We all fall down.
Nicole: (From off stage:)
Ring-a-ring o’ roses
A pocket full of posies,
A-tishoo, a tishoo!
We all fall down.
(Nicole enters stage right. Begins dancing all around Samantha. Pauses.)
Samantha: You again.
Nicole: (Goes behind Samantha, and puts her hand over Samantha’s mouth.) You talk too much.
(As Samantha tries to talk, her voice is garbled and muffled.)
Nicole: For once, you’re going to listen to me.
Samantha: Riffle, rumble, piffle, purple, gargle, gurgle...
Nicole: You might as well settle back and relax. Listen to me.
(Samantha’s demeanor changes. Her body goes obviously slack. Nicole takes her hand away from Samantha’s mouth.)
Nicole: You waste a lot of energy running away from me...
Samantha: That’s not true!
Samantha: You be quiet! This is my psychodrama!
Nicole: Maybe so, but, at the moment, you seem to be all tied up.
Samantha: All these little traps...
Nicole: ...Of your own making.
Samantha: I just want to control my own psychodrama.
Nicole: This may be your psychodrama, but you can’t ignore MY free will. Just because I inhabit YOUR psychodrama, I am still free to act in sync with my desires and beliefs. You can’t make me do what you want, just because YOU want me to shrivel up and go away. I’m not going anywhere, Mother. What’s more, I’m going to stick to you like a cockleburr, and if you pull me out, I will find another tender part of your psyche.
Samantha: What do you want?
Nicole: You already know the answer to that.
Samantha: Then you know I can’t give you what you want.
Samantha: Can’t. It’s not up to me.
Nicole: You’re fooling yourself. This is about you, not Nana.
Samantha: Me? No way. Nana’s dying. If you show up...
Nicole: ...If I show up at the reunion, Nana will pat my belly and ask, “So who’s the father?”
Samantha: It will kill her.
Nicole: No, it will kill YOU!
Nicole: Yeah, you’ll die of embarrassment because you think Nana will judge you for being a lousy mother.
Samantha: I wasn’t a lousy mother.
Nicole: You weren’t good, either
Samantha: I tried my best...
Nicole: She already knows you abandoned me.
Samantha: She has never understood; I didn’t have a choice. I was shriveling up inside; your dad just didn’t understand how I felt.
Nicole: You left me to fend for myself.
Samantha: But you had your dad...
Nicole: Dad’s been cool; he’s been there for me. But I wanted YOU, too. And now I want my Nana. I want to bury my face into her breast; I want her to wrap her arms around me and tell me I’m not a bad person just because I’m pregnant.
Samantha: There’s pregnant, and then there’s PREGNANT.
Nicole: I don’t expect you to understand.
Samantha: I don’t understand how you can give yourself so totally to a man who isn’t worth the snot that runs from your nose.
Nicole: I have my beliefs, you have yours, but why should that stop me from seeing my dying Nana?
Samantha: How do you know your outrageous behavior won’t kill her?
Nicole: In your eyes, my behavior may have been outrageous, but I have never lied about it. I’ve always been honest about my actions, and honest knowledge has never killed anyone, Mother. It’s the hidden stuff that smothers people to death. You, of all people, should know that, you who sniff out other people’s secrets like a bloodhound.
Samantha: That’s not...
Nicole: Please, Mother. Don’t even go there...
(Ruby, outfitted in a spider costume, enters stage left. She doesn’t pay any attention to Samantha and Nicole.)
Nicole: What’s this?
Ruby: (Appears to go out of her way to ignore Nicole’s question.)
...thrilled to the depths of their being
possessed by the [essence] of Shiva’s bliss,
[Shiva’s ascetics] danced, reddening the forest
with the shakening of their matted locks.
Praising Him, the gods surrounded the great Lord,
heaping handfuls of beautiful flowers before Him,
crushing some with the tips of their crowns
as they bowed at His feet.
Samantha: What is this?
Ruby: (Now notices Samantha and Nicole.) “Dance of Shiva.” The Hindu version of “Ring Around the Rosie.” You might as well hear the whole story, Ms. Queen Bee.
Nicole: (Going to Ruby and tapping her finger on her chest.) You always show up when I’m trying to have a serious conversation with my mother.
Ruby: (Leaps away from Nicole.) Ow!
Nicole: It’s true. All my life (Points directly at Ruby), SHE has come between us with her pathos...
Samantha: She’s my lost baby sister.
Nicole: (To Samantha:) I’m your “here-and-now” daughter. (To Ruby:) I HATE YOU.
Ruby: You cannot hate that which you do not know.
Nicole: I hate what you represent. You are a wall...
Ruby: I have never asked for this role...
Nicole: ...Between my mother and I...
Ruby: ...It’s been foisted on me due to circumstances beyond my control.
Samantha: Ruby’s right. This isn’t her fault. Maybe if you two work together...
(Nicole and Ruby glare at each other. Simultaneously, both slap their arms akimbo–in an angry, threatening manner.)
Samantha: (Struggles within her cocoon, which rattles and grinds.) Please. Help me out of this body.
(The two soften their stance.)
Ruby: (Rattles the spider web backdrop. Sighs.) Well, there goes my dinner. (Shrugging.) But we’ll never get any peace if we don’t help her out of this...
Nicole: ...Enormous body. You’re right. I’ve always hated seeing her this way, huge and conspicuous. Mounds of blubber waddling down the hall. I always cringed when Mother showed up for parents’ night at school, huffing and puffing, bumping into desks, knocking things over with her butt, squeezing her rolls of flab into a child’s desk. I just wanted to die.
Samantha: (Sadly.) I’m a prisoner of my biology.
Nicole: You are a prisoner of gluttony.
Samantha: (To Ruby:) She doesn’t understand.
Ruby: I don’t want to get involved in this discussion. Let’s just solve the problem–so we can go our separate ways.
Nicole: We need the right tools. (Exits stage left.)
Samantha: (To Ruby:) Please finish the Hindu version.
Ruby: Yes. We have unfinished business. (Dances around the stage, paralleling Nicole’s opening movements.)
...Na’rada and other skilled musicians,
their hands adorned with [lutes],
stood stock-still, not singing,...
(Nicole enters stage left, carrying two huge chisels. Hands one to Ruby, who then stops dancing and takes the chisel. Both begin chipping away at the cocoon. Nicole joins in the song.)
...not knowing what to do.
Then all His [ghouls] there in front of Him
Performed a weird and wonderful dance at speed.
All the [devotees], overexcited,
Performed all sorts of dance routines...
(Before Ruby and Nicole can recite the last line, the cocoon splits down the middle, and the two halves fall away from Samantha. As the spider web backdrop raises, a poof of smoke obscures the scene, and when the smoke clears, two very sinewy women, both with Samantha’s long red hair, one dressed in a red body stocking, the other in white, burst from the rubble and dash to the edge of center stage. They look out at the Audience. Samantha is nowhere in sight.)
Two Sinewy Women: (To Audience:) “Falling down and getting up, over and over.”
(Ruby and Nicole look all around, obviously searching for Samantha.)
Ruby: (Scrutinizing the two women.) Who are you?
Nicole: (Looking all around.) Where’s my mother?
Two Sinewy Women: She is us.
Sinewy Woman in White: (Bowing politely.) I am Goodsam, all that is good and pure in your mother.
Sinewy Woman in Red: (A suggestive striptease dance movement.) I am Badsam, all that is fun and exciting and raucous...
Nicole: (Screaming.) I want my mother!
(Music.“Flight of the Bumble Bee.”Darkness. Music fades out. Curtain.)
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