Cathode Cruel by Susan Landau

BOMB 5 Spring 1983
Issue 5 005  Spring 1983

A group of three actors who are standing stationary until the set pieces of the Rhone Rehabilitation Centre glide in from O.S. Left and Right. A folding chair is leaned against a ten foot by ten foot glass booth which glides in from O.S. Right. It is a three-walled booth which surrounds one of the actors—THE SUBJECT.

THE DOCTOR (Dr. Samantha Brink) is a woman, 45 and methodically dressed in grey hospital garb. Half-frame glasses are dangling from a chain around her neck. She is seated in one of the chairs.

DOCTOR: Subject’s name?

ASSISTANT: Cranston, Daniel—Stop. Usually referred to by staff and his peers as Danny or Dan’l.

DOCTOR: (Clicks on microphone.) Hi Danny … (DANNY doesn’t move.) This is Dr. Brink (soothingly) Samantha if you like … I am so very pleased that you could come today to help us out. You are a good boy … a good (pauses to look at cardiac monitor which is speeding up) man—a good one. A big help … Is there anything you would like to ask me before we begin?

(There is no response from DANNYThe ASSISTANT gets up and turns on electronic Muzak rendition of Yesterday by the Beatles with the flick of a switch on the control panelThe DOCTOR holds microphone during the introduction and at the beginning of each measure she utters the following in a raspy voice which is heard first in the isolation booth and then throughout the theatre with an echo effect.

DOCTOR: YESTERDAY … YESTERDAY … YESTERDAY … Danny, do you believe in yesterday? Danny, Danny, what did you do yesterday? Yesterday … Yesterday …

A flashing light on the control panel prompts the ASSISTANT to pick up a telephone receiver. The conversation is amplified without echo effect.

ASSISTANT: I’m sorry the Doctor is conducting a test right now. She is unable to come to the phone. (Louder) I’m sorry the Doctor is all tied up right now …

DOCTOR: (To the ASSISTANT) Oh, I’ll just take the phone … (into the microphone) Yesterday … (clicks off microphone) Hello—Yes, this is she. I am in session. Hold on. (Clicks on microphone) Danny, Danny, how do you feel about yesterday? (Clicks off microphone) Okay, what? I’m involved now with a session. I told you I didn’t get the tests back from the progeny rats yet—Hold on! (Clicks on microphone) Danny, do you remember … Danny, Danny, Danny Yesterday … Yesterday … Yesterday… (Leaves microphone on accidentally and talks into phone. Her voice echoes through the sound booth) Okay, Okay, please let’s not discuss it now. How about … uh … Well, what about … tomorrow?

(For the first time upon hearing the word “tomorrow” Danny stands up abruptly and says…)

DANNY: Tomorrow … Tomorrow … Yes … Yes … I think so … Yes Yes Yes Yes … I think so Yes Yes I think so … YES YES YES YES!!!!!!!!!

(The ASSISTANT begins to type furiously recording every word)

DOCTOR: … at lunch. Tomorrow. (The Muzak version of Yesterday finishes with its coda.)

DANNY: (Excitedly) Yes … YES YES YES!!!!!!!!

DOCTOR: Okay, I’ll see you there at … is 12:30 okay? I have a session in the morning …

DANNY: M-m-moming. In the … M-morning … S-so … So-S- do I … So I guess I’ll be seeing you there. Yippee! And I’ll see you at lunch. We’ll have a great lunch. We’ll discuss it then okay … ?

DOCTOR: (Still unaware that Danny can hear) Okay. Great … Great … Uh huh … Take care … Oh I will if I ever get this crazy up from catatonia … Okay … Okay. Good bye.

DANNY: BYE!!! Uh, Bye. Oh … kay … I w-will. I’ll take good care. See you. Bye. (Stands still staring without focus once again.)

DOCTOR: Fill me in. What happened? Did he say anything?

ASSISTANT: He stood up and said YES a lot and something about tomorrow and the morning and when you hung up he stopped. I could read it to you. I got it all here. It’s just a bunch of nonsense. Perhaps he’s not the subject for this study. Just the usual non sequitors.

DOCTOR: Is that all? (Goes to switch on the microphone, finds that it is already switched on, and oblivious, begins to speak) Danny, Danny, … How do you feel now? C’mon it’s okay to tell me … We care about you … Go ahead, give it a go … Relax … Tell me … How do you feel?

DANNY: Okay. Fine. Fine, thank you.

DOCTOR: Fine. Is that all you feeeeeeel, Danny? Huh? Please please speak to me … now. Let me know … now. Do you like the music? Did you like it?

DANNY: No. No. I never liked them much. T-too … too catchy … Yah Yah Yah … LOVE LOVE LOVE—(does a mimicking twist-like dance) DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DUM-DUM-DEE-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DUM DUM DAAA … GIRLS-GIRLS … YEAH-YEAH-YEAH … DA-DA-DA

(ASSISTANT begins typing quickly)

DOCTOR: GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! … Girls, GIRLS? Danny??? You say that as if you didn’t like girls.

(DANNY—no reply, stands still as if in shock) Danny … Danny you can trust me … Feel free … Confide—Confess to me. Allow me just for a while to take the place of … (DANNY gets nervous … begins to jump about aimlessly at first … then exploring the confines of the glass walls with open palms.) Ahhhhhhh … Let me back track a moment … to begin again … Ahhhhhhh … breathe in … Shhhhhhh … and breathe out. Let my words roll through your ears. Imagine that this glass booth is made of flesh—that you are swamped in the warmth of the womb’s blood…

(ASSISTANT takes time out from typing to flick a switch which points a warm red light at the booth.)

this infra-red intimacy is your uterine security. All yours … for you. Imagine me the supplier of this warmth. The inception of all difficulties arose after the cut. We’ll move along now by going back … prior to that moment when the umbilical bond was broken.

(DANNY quickens pacing around the booth)

The more you worry, the more difficult this will be for you. A journey back to the root of our ego. Recall … nine months of communion. Shhh … Sh … Shhhhh … GOOD. You have been conceived, Danny and there’s no turning back now. Accept this gift and … FEEL ME NOW. (SHE is handed a microphone by the ASSISTANT) Imagine me as your sole support. I alone am your life line. My heartbeat rhythmically resides in our veins …

(DANNY stops moving. He faces, D.S. with his legs in a military stance, and places his hand over his heart as if to quiet its beat.)

My lungs are the providers of your breath. What I eat—my food, becomes our mutual sustenance … What I say is said for both of us … My eyes form our perception of color, image and all sounds are filtered through my ears … The disposal of our mutual wastes is my obligation. I am conscious of your every move, if you kick it may make me queasy, if you rock, it may make me angry. But, without me you are unable to exist … YOU ARE NOT-NOTHING. And yet, were I to lose you, I would still live on as I did before without you …

(DANNY falls to his knees rocking forward and backwards.)

Delicate, delicate, DANNY. Are you ready?

(DOCTOR nods to ASSISTANT prompting him to insert a patch cord into a panel on the control wall … Lullaby and Good Night begins to tinkle away as background Muzak.) This is it, Danny … This is LOVE. It is all around you … Do you feel it? … I feel you Danny—Mmmmmmmmm, Yessss. Mmmmmmmmmm, Ahhhhhhhh, Ohhhhhhhhh … Ahhhhhhhh … (DANNY rolls off his knees onto the sides of his legs and still rocking grabs his head with his arms—FETALLY WITHDRAWN) Ah … Ah … Baby … Ah, Ah Baby … Ah … Ah … Baby … Ahhh … Ahhhhhhhh … Words of pleasure … Tell me a word, Danny? Just one.

(Lullaby Muzak trails off—ASSISTANT repatches panel this time producing squishy, aquatic sounds which ripple through the theatre.)

DANNY: (Stops rocking and effortlessly the sound pops out from between his lips.) Ma …

DOCTOR: What …?

DANNY: (With much effort to produce the sound a second time … his body contracts in preparation and then …) Ma … MA … MA-MA … Mom … Mom … MOMMY … M-m-o-mmy … Ma Ma Ma!!!!!

DANNY: (Crawls around on all fours and begins as if learning to speak …) Mmmmother … M-mother. (Tries to stand up.) I w-want … (Falling down.) I w-want … I want want … (Trying again.) I w-want … I w-want … (Teetering) you … suck … tongue … teeth … I want now … (Falls, rolls around.) One One One … (Words become more facile with excitement) One One One … eeeeeeee Tooooooooo … Meeeeeeeeeeee Toooooooo … Muh Huh … (Stands up giggling—gurgling) Mmm … nice … nice … warm … nice … love … in love … In-In-In … All in … NOTHING OUT … I’M IN!!!!! IN IN IN IN IN.

DOCTOR: Yes, we …

DANNY: (Extends arms an if trying to balance on a tightrope.) Wheeeeee!

DOCTOR: We two …

DANNY: (Teetering on imaginary tightrope.) One … Wheeeeee Won …!!!!!! (Loses balance and breaks into a boxer’s hold.)


DANNY: (Begins punching the air as if hitting punching bag …)
Woweee … Us!!!! … US against Them … Weeeee … won!

DOCTOR: We won … that’s great … WE WON!!

DANNY: (Arms up, cheering.) Yessireee … We won!!!! US AGAINST THEM.

DOCTOR: Who????????

DANNY: (Stands still, suddenly paranoic, his hands four inches from his face covering his eyes.) Not us … Everyone but us … T-them … The man … HIM DOCTOR: (With excitement-concentrated interest) Where?

DANNY: (Takes fingers from eyes and extends them pointing at a space about ten inches from his feet on the floor of the booth.) Gone … Daddy gone. D-d-d-…

DOCTOR: (Probingly.) Do you love…

DANNY: (Shaking head rapidly back and forth, his body still.) Not him … Nnnnnnnnnnnn …

DOCTOR: Then who?

DANNY: (Arms outstretched—walks toward red light.) You … Mmommmmmy …


DANNY: (Palms extending up to light.) Y-yes …


DANNY: (Rubbing fingers of outstretched palms together.)


DANNY: Now … yes, YES!!! … For EVER!!! Yes … Always … Ma Ma … Nice … nice and warm … in is good … in … forever. Okay? Us … always … never alone … together … always … always.

DOCTOR: No, Danny, together for now … LATER WE WILL LEARN TO BE ALONE …

DANNY: Never … Nnnnever … n-n-ever …

DOCTOR: Yes … on a street … ALONE.

DANNY: (Hyperventilating—he lifts elbows and crosses them in front of his face.) What???? Nnnnnnoooooo …

DOCTOR: In a car … ALONE.

DANNY: What? … Noooooooo …


DANNY: (Elbows stay raised, he points with upper arm to floor again.) N-nono … Nnnnooo … gone … Dd-ddady gone… (Head falls back … arms still extended.) Nnnnoooo … Nnnnnoooooo … Nnnnnnnn … Noooooooo … Nnnnnnnn … Nooooooo…

DOCTOR: eat … eat … all alone!!!!!

(ASSISTANT motions to DOCTOR and whispers something in her ear as DANNY continues.)

DANNY: Nooooo …

DOCTOR: But … Now.



DANNY: But … But …

DOCTOR: You will …

DANNY: WALK … Let’s go … Let’s go for walk … a walk … I like the way you walk … we walk in the woods …

DOCTOR: It’s pretty … I see birch trees all around us. Pale, pale blue sun and guess what …

DANNY: Yellow wind. We scare the wind because we are so strong.

(The ASSISTANT flicks two switches which (1) fills the theatre with a airy, wafting flute solo and (2) shines a yellow light at the glass booth.)

DANNY: (Closing eyes and facing head towards light source.) Light comes in … Pink like summer sun through sunbathing eyelids. Diffuse. It warms me.

DOCTOR: That it does Danny. I take a deep breath of the fresher than fresh … a deep, deep breath.

(SHE inhales deeply into the microphone and it is amplified throughout theatre.)

(DANNY inhales letting her breath instigate his action as he takes it into his body.) I slowly let my breath out … it becomes part of the yellow wind.

(SHE exhales into microphone.)

(DANNY exhales with whole body shoulders, etc. rolling down his spine. He repeats this several times).

I am a flower growing beneath our feet. Smell. A flower the colour of white wine … Oooooh … It tickles my nose … I may sneeze from the unpicked power. It’s too wild, pick it, Danny …

DANNY: Okay. Good. Good. Pick it. Pick it up already … it’s waiting.

DOCTOR: (Miming picking flower and then robbing it of its petals one by one …) Pretty pale petals. Pretty people play with pretty pale petals. Pretty people play with pretty pale petals. Can you try to say that.? It’s fun.

DANNY: Pretty pale petals. Pretty people play with pretty pale petals. Pale people play with pretty petals. People play with pretty people. PRETTY PEOPLE PLAY WITH PRETTY PEOPLE!

DOCTOR: Good, that’s pretty funny. You know you might also enjoy this one … He loves me … He loves me not. He loves me. DANNY: Not. He loves you not.

DOCTOR: No the last one ended on … loves me.

DANNY: No. You missed one. He loves you not … he never loved you. HE LOVED YOU NOT.

DOCTOR: Right and so we are here alone without him. But we are together so alone is not lonely. Let’s walk along. Warm brown earth under our feet leading to a winding path … a dusty little path which empties out where the water meets the dust and the dust becomes dampened and mud-like. It is squiggly between our toes. It sloshes. We walk through it squishing toward where all the water collects in a little pool where it is warmed by the sunlight. Natural heat. Bend down on the bank and feel the space in the water where the bubbles once were … let their warmth roll over your hands …

(Sound recording of bubbling tide-pool is switched on by ASSISTANT)

(DANNY kneels down and with cupped hands, begins to splash water on his face and then all over.)

DANNY: Mmmmmmmmm. Mmmmmmmm. More wet. I want to be more wet. Not enough. Not wet enough. (HE rips off his clothing, jumping up and tossing it toward the back of the booth. He kneels down with his back to the place where he had put his hands in the ‘water’ … he does a back hinge and shakes his head out in the ‘water.’)

DOCTOR: What’s it like, Danny? Feel good? (DANNY does not reply. He sways from left to right in this hinged position.) Like a bit of sherry … but all around you instead of in you … Your stomach is covered by the water and as the water withdraws, your skin collects little droplets and they wait there glistening.

DANNY: I wait here glistening … I wait. I am waiting … for what? What am I waiting for?

DOCTOR: Few more minutes and you’ll see. You’ll be Danny. Keep swaying … feel the motion. Good. I can feel your swaying … it’s nice. Peaceful swaying. This little pool is at the top of a large mountain. Now don’t be afraid … Soon …

(ASSISTANT patches another panel which brings a low-volume disco beat into the theatre.)

This mound of earth will spill forth from its volcanic mouth a thick liquid that will replace the tide water … LAVA … LAVA … VISCOUS LASCIVIOUS LAVA … The pool will become flooded … a stream will be carrier of this liquid earth … You must allow it to carry you, too…

(Music reaches a higher volume.)


DOCTOR: IT is not … IT IS COMING … It is bloody red and full bodied … it is full … IT IS COMING … COMING QUICKLY … IT MUST COME … HERE IT COMES… (Beat getting still louder)

DANNY: NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

DOCTOR: IT IS HERE, DANNY … BIG AND FLOWING … I HATE IT … I CAN FEEL IT … IT IS HOT AND IT BURNS ME … IT IS IN ME … (as if in extreme pain) IT IS TAKING ME … Danny, you can help me, Danny, you can help PUSH, DANNY … QUICK DANNY, START … DO YOU WANT US TO GET OUT OF THIS ALIVE ?? Don’t stop now. You must push. We must complete what we have started. Now push … Goddamn it!!!

ASSISTANT: Aren’t you being a bit harsh?

(DOCTOR nods her head NO. Danny tries, running. He tries everything including kicking the ceiling with his feet and falling over backwards practically knocking himself out.)

DOCTOR: Better. Much better. Ouch … Ooaagh … Now there is only one way to get out—just one place which will give enough. But to find it you might want to slow down a bit and push more steadily.

(ASSISTANT types. DANNY responds and begins searching for this place of least resistance. He extends his arms toward each corner of the booth and supports this upward thrusting movement with his entire body weight. Each time he makes contact with the wall, the DOCTOR reacts with a moan. After reaching all four corners, he begins to move down and across with each thrust causing the DOCTOR to react more strongly.)

DOCTOR: (Getting up from her chair and moving to the rhythm of the thrusts with a bellydance type movement.) Great. G-r-r-eat!!! Aagh … good. Aagh … Good!!! G-r-eat!

ASSISTANT: Doctor … Doctor Brink. (DANNY continues with fervor. DOCTOR spins herself around and losing control, flings herself onto the Assistant’s patch panel. The music and lights go off, leaving the room in cold, white flourescent lights. The ASSISTANT rushes over and tries to move her.)

(DANNY is frozen in a mid-thrust position with his arms extended as if about to sink a basketball into a net. He is stick still.)

DOCTOR: (Still leaning on panel.) Shit … What the fuck happened?

DANNY: Shit … Shhh … iii … ttt … WHaaat H-Happened? Whaaat H-happened? (In slow, sustained motion, he unfolds from the extended position. Arms, head, shoulders, rib cage, hips, legs … each part of his body giving into total release … knees, ankles, feet, he crumples to the floor and rolls through the glass shattering one side of the booth.)

DOCTOR: Test #226677613–Dr. Samantha Brink.

Please note that the above-mentioned case number is the first in a series of tests devised to measure the effect of Ecstasine-25 in pre-natal therapy. The patient made many unsuccessful attempts which eventuated in an approximate stasis-state. Anxiety is to be expected from the administration of this substance. These effects are typical. Aside from the effect on the individual, there are no known deleterious effects. Further testing required. Dr. Samantha Brink—#226677613—Stop. BLACK-OUT

Lenore Malen by Jonathan Ames
Malen 01 Body
A Familienaufstellung Performance by Chloe Piene
120341763 01032017 Chloe Piene Bomb 01

Often translated as “Family Constellation,” Familienaufstellung is a form of therapy developed in the 1990s by the German psychotherapist Bert Hellinger with roots in existential psychology, Gestalt psychology, and psychodynamic therapy.

Adventures in Sadness: Lucie Britsch Interviewed by Rebecca van Laer
Sad Janet

A novel that scrutinizes the commodification of emotions with humor and subversion.

André Breton and Philippe Soupault’s The Magnetic Fields by Marko Gluhaich
minimalist pen sketch of Andre Breton's profile

In 1919, André Breton and Philippe Soupault were coming of age in the wake of World War I and the Spanish influenza pandemic.

Originally published in

BOMB 5, Spring 1983

JoAnne Akalaitis, Gianfranco Gorgoni, H. M. Koutoukas, Rockets Redglare, Mary Mhoon, James McLure, Nightshift, Onue Kuroeman II, James Purdy, Maria Duval, and Joan Tewkesbury.

Read the issue
Issue 5 005  Spring 1983