ACT 1

Scene 1

 

We open on JOSEPH SNODGRASS, who sits alone in his private office. A dim gas lamp throws its feeble light onto a shelf of textbooks and framed medical certificates. The corners of the room are in deep shadow. 

 

Snodgrass is uneasy, and clearly exhausted. His sumptuous clothes appear to be in a bad state and there are hints of dirt and blood on his collar. He fights to stay awake and keeps glancing at his silver pocket watch. 

 

After a few minutes, Snodgrass starts to hear something odd coming from a darkened corner of the room. It sounds like the clicking of insect mandibles, or hushed voices whispering at top speed.

 

Snodgrass crosses to the lamp and turns up the gas. 

 

In the brief flare of the lamp, we see many pairs of blank eyes staring back at him from every corner of the room. 

 

Snodgrass shrieks, and in his fright he knocks over the gas lamp, which puts itself out.

 

In the dark, we hear Snodgrass panicking, trying to relight the lamp. The clicking and whispering get louder. 

 

The lamp is suddenly relit, and the room is flooded with light. The clicking and whispering have stopped. The eyes are gone. A man leans against against the wall, wreathed in shadow.

 

POE

So, what do you plan to tell them?

 

Snodgrass starts and whips to face the man, grabbing a quill pen from the desk and brandishing it like a knife.

 

POE

What are going to do with that, write me a letter? That would be lovely. It’s been such a long time since we’ve corresponded.

 

Poe crosses to the chair and reclines in it, throwing his boots up on the desk.

 

SNODGRASS

You’re not real.

 

POE

Reality is malleable, wouldn’t you say? But I’m not here to discuss the nature of reality with you. Let’s leave that to more tedious minds.

 

SNODGRASS

You are a figment of my imagination, and I refuse to be frightened by imagined spirits in my own office. Get your boots off my desk.

 

POE

Now, it stands to reason that if I am indeed a figment of your imagination, then I have no free will of my own. I can’t remove my boots from your desk, unless you will it. So, you get my boots off your desk.

 

SNODGRASS

You are insufferable.

 

POE

I’m not real. But I digress. What do you plan to tell them?

 

SNODGRASS

I plan to tell them the truth.

 

POE

Whose truth?

 

SNODGRASS

THE truth. I’m going to tell THE truth.

 

POE

There is no such thing as objective truth. Just a hundred million versions of he said and she said, colored by vanity and spin and moralizing and ineptitude. Objective truth is a wonderful philosophical idea, but it doesn’t exist. It’s always someone’s truth.

 

SNODGRASS

Well then, MY truth. I’m going to tell MY truth.

 

Poe gets up from the desk and moves closer to Snodgrass. Snodgrass backs away.

 

POE

And why should anyone care about your truth?

 

SNODGRASS

Because I knew you better than anyone. 

 

POE

And there’s the vanity. 

Poe exits, disappearing into the darkest corner of the room. Snodgrass calls after him.

 

SNODGRASS

What is that supposed to mean?...Eddie! What does that mean?

 

Poe does not reappear. Snodgrass inches closer to the dark corner, peering into the black.

 

SNODGRASS

Eddie?

 

The POLICE INSPECTOR enters suddenly and loudly, from the same dark corner. 

 

POLICE INSPECTOR

I’ve spoken to the Comissioner....

 

Snodgrass jumps a mile.

 

POLICE INSPECTOR

Mr. Snodgrass, are you quite all right? 

 

Snodgrass composes himself.

 

SNODGRASS

Yes, I’m fine. Sleep deprivation and......yes I’m fine.

 

POLICE INSPECTOR

If you need a moment....

 

Snodgrass returns to his desk chair.

 

SNODGRASS

No. I’m quite fine. Please, let’s continue.

 

POLICE INSPECTOR

I’ve spoken to the Comissioner and there are a few more questions we’d like to ask you. Is it true you knew him? Before I mean. You were friends?

 

JOSEPH SNODGRASS

I’m not sure the man had friends.  

 

POLICE INSPECTOR

Acquaintances, then?  

 

JOSEPH SNODGRASS

Contemporaries. 

 

POLICE INSPECTOR

Contemporaries. Could you give us  a short description of the man’s  personal qualities? 

 

JOSEPH SNODGRASS

A short description? The man was  an ass. 

 

POLICE INSPECTOR

Perhaps a slightly longer  description.  

 

JOSEPH SNODGRASS 

Are you asking what made the man  an ass? What makes any man an ass?  Pettiness. Meanness. Overconfidence where it isn’t  deserved. Disloyalty to one’s  friends... 

 

POLICE INSPECTOR

If the gentleman could please  speculate about what made this  particular man an ass, rather than what makes asses in general, it  would be most helpful. 

 

JOSEPH SNODGRASS

I got him an interview once, for a  government job. I shouldn’t have,  but he had been whining for months  about how his adopted father  refused him a livable allowance, how he only had one good coat, how he was so destitute that even  his family’s slaves did not  respect him. I was tired of hearing him talk so I arranged the interview. He went to meet the secretary to the President of the United States completely inebriated. He was sent home. As Eddie was often drunk, I was not entirely surprised, but he never apologized for his behavior. In fact, he resolutely acted as if it was my fault and blamed me for encouraging the interview in the  first place. Like I say, an ass. 

 

POLICE INSPECTOR

Eddie. Is that what most people called him? 

 

JOSEPH SNODGRASSS

Well, no. His wife called him Eddie, which is where I picked up  the habit.  

 

Lights slowly fade up on a lonely bachelor apartment. It is cluttered and dark, with a writing desk, a bed and a couch occupying the  space. We are in the “Past”.

JOSEPH SNODGRASSS

Some people called him “Edgar  Allan” as a sort of joke. He was  one of those people who seemed to need two names to get by, you  know? Edgar Allan. Edgar Allan.  But he hated the “Allan” bit. Most  people just called him Poe