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Arthur Streshly

Blurred-Wing Implausability

A Play (Monologue) in One Scene


Gabriel - An archangel
God - In absentia

As stage lights come up Archangel Gabriel is seen in robes.  He nervously circles a small table on which there is a candle, a hibiscus bloom perhaps, some papers, a yellow legal pad, and a quill pen.  Gabriel carries a Bird-of-Paradise flower stalk that he brandishes from time to time. 
Gabriel is trying to place a telepathic call to God.

(Gabriel circling and speaking rapidly—)  Pick up, pick up, pick up. (Gabriel looks skyward, then loudly—)  Pick up, Lord!  (In an aside to the audience—)  You can’t believe what I have to put up with.  (Gabriel begins circling again.)  Pick up, pick up, pick up!  (Suddenly Gabriel stops and looks heavenward.)  Is that You, Lord?  (He hesitates, hands over ears to block out room noise)  It’s Gabriel, Lord.  (Pause)  It’s Gabriel here.  (Pause)  Archangel Gabriel!  (Aside to audience—)  He’s always like this in the morning.  (Back to God—)  Yes, yes, Archangel Gabriel, first among Your helpmates.  Sorry to wake You, Lord, but I’ve got a few problems with Your birds.  (Gabriel listens for a moment.)  No Lord, on Earth. (Pause)  Earth!  That’s right, the new project.  (Listens)  Well, I just got Your specifications for the new bird.  (Listens)  Sure it’ll fly, but let's consider this proposal pragmatically just for a moment, Lord. What did you call it?  A humming bird?  Exactly what did you have in mind, show tunes? (Gabriel listens) But how can the bird hum without lips?  (He listens more)  I see. Not humming in that sense.  Good, that clears it up.  That’s good. (Listens)  No.  No, that’s not all.  There’s still the related matter of this unlikely Bird-of-Paradise bloom.  (Listens) Well the problem is that it combines half a dozen orange petals that spike straight up, (While talking, Gabriel crosses to the table, picks up a sheet of paper, and reads the specs) “spike straight up like a punk rocker's sticky hair plumes, or Woody Woodpecker's feathered topnotch, with one petal stained in a complementary blue, slanting forward to suggest an eye slit, and then the still-green pod from which all that color emerged, jutting sideways in a beakish horizontal which oddly simulates a flamingo's head.”  Have I got that right, Lord?  I’m reading straight from Your specs here.  (He sets the paper down and listens)  Sure we can do it, but such a needlessly complex blossom seems an extravagant exaggeration of Darwinian floral efficiency, it seems to me.  Not to be critical, but it’s so nutty that the Mortals will know it didn’t just accidentally happen. (Paces and listens, glancing upward from time to time)  No that’s not all.  Aside from the likelihood that such an unlikely design risks betraying Your existence, there’s a second problem. (Listens)  No, with the hummingbird.  In a nutshell the problem is that this tiny iridescent bird, unfeasibly treading air, knows exactly at what point to insert a syringe-ish beak into the blossom in order to extract some syrupy serum as precisely as a trained nurse at a blood bank? This isn't a joke is it, Lord?  Like last week's fire-breathing dragons that self-incinerated?  Surely You must have known they would.  (Listens)  No, it wasn’t funny, not funny at all.  (Listens at some length)  Well, I still don’t get it.  And as long as we’re on the subject, what’s funny about asking us to design three hundred thousand different specie of beetle?  (Listens) You were serious about that?  Really?  (Listens)  Three hundred thousand different beetles? (Listens with growing agitation)  Yes, Yes.  Yes, I suppose we could evolute them, given enough time, but what's the point?  (Listens)  No, I'm not changing the subject, Lord.  Actually, it's not just the Bird-of-Paradise that bothers me so much—we can always hide a weird plant in a new family with similar blooms.  It's after that—when this impractical humming bird flits off to a red hibiscus with its yellow stamen and a racially different topology that conceals the nectar she seeks.  Or off to probe the intricacies of a fuchsia's petticoats.  I just don't see how that's possible, Lord.  Likely this bird has an illustrated botany manual somewhere that she has painfully committed to a memory? —To a memory already overcrowded with a full set of nest-building blueprints, as well as a state-of-the-art navigation system?  Thank God, she doesn’t have to recall show tunes. (Gabriel suddenly kneels, while at the same time covering his ears as if to muffle shouting)  Sorry, Lord.  Sorry, sorry—I didn’t mean to be irreverent. (Looks up pleadingly)  It was a slip.  (Gets up slowly, looks Heavenward, and brushes off his robe)  No, I wasn’t being sarcastic.  It just can’t be done—not in a brain that small.  (Listens)  Genetically encode?  Genetically encode the botany text You mean?  (Listens)  Give me a break Lord, for God sake. (Cringes while holding hands overhead as if to deflect a blow that doesn’t come.  Realizing this, he straightens up and continues boldly).  However implausible, You expect all that floral expertise to be encoded and stored in a corner of a brain smaller than a peppercorn?  Yes? (Talks rapidly)  Stuffed into a brain that has optical and audio capabilities of inconceivably fidelity as well as improbable blurred-wing muscle coordination features?  Despite the flighty evidence, Lord, it just can't be done.  That dog won't hunt.  Now, if You're really set on the beetle project we need to talk about the cost overruns accruing from the development of the Griffin and Pegasus.  How about a nice horned horse instead?  Or a lion with tasteful stripes?  Last quarter, we squandered a fortune fabricating the tons of dinosaur fossils You insisted upon.  I mean, what damned fools these Mortals will be to bite long on that red herring.  Frankly, Lord, I just don’t think they’ll recognize when You’re kidding. (Lights dim to dark)  I’m telling You, they won’t get it.

Arthur Streshly

Arthur Streshly: My great grandfather left Virginia in 1849 and crossed the Isthmus, but he never made it to the gold fields. He settled in the Los Angles basin long before there was water enough for oranges. My grandfather was an electrical engineer who worked on hydroelectric projects along the West Coast. He oversaw the installation of the first traffic lights for the City of Beverly Hills. My father, when young, rescued dogs from sticky pools in fields where oil seemed to ooze from the ground, and later worked on nuclear submarines. I’ve taught in local schools and have recently retired.

Winter 2013

Peggy Townsend
Jill Wolfson

Arthur Streshly

Barbara Bloom
Lisa Ortiz
David Sullivan

Tribute to Don Rothman
read by Julie Minnis

FloodLight Feature
Stephen Kessler

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