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I Am the Machine Gunner
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I Am the Machine Gunner
Translated by John Freedman

This translation of I Am The Machine Gunner was originally commissioned and produced by Generous Company and developed at WordBRIDGE Playwrights Laboratory in collaboration with the Center for International Theatre Development. The cast for the development and premiere of the US production was:

Young Man ..............................James Knight

The production was directed by David M. White.

Character: A Young Man about 20 to 30.

Young Man

If you didn't know any better it would seem like a snap—just up and go. All you have to do is cut half way across the city and then kick back. Easy as pie. There's a little resort place there. You rent a cottage, pull some beer out of the fridge—you get the drift. Pine trees, forest all around. I hadn't been out to the woods for two years. I mean, that's not counting the times I went out there to work over some retard. That's different. I'll tell you what: Life is hard. You gotta take time off, otherwise you get to feeling like a gnat trapped on a bus window. You ever seen that? Sure you have. Climbs half way up the window pane and slides back down. Starts climbing again and slips on down again. That goes on forever until it reaches the open crack in the window. Or until somebody squashes it.

Pause.

I'd never been to that little resort place before. But what's the difference? They're all the same except for how much the bar charges for tequila. All that really matters is that the sun shines (sneers) and no jackass starts a war. (Short pause. Slowly wipes his hand over his face as if he's extremely tired.) I got burned to a crisp and my head was exploding with an inferno of thoughts surging in from eternity even as they struggled wildly to keep pace with real time.

Pause. The roar of a forest fire.

Don't even think about death. There wasn't a single, untouched spot of earth where we were. Shrapnel, tracks, shells, empty cartridge cases smashed under foot. I dragged him off towards the sea and he was barfing all over my back because his lungs were all burned out and because he only had a couple of minutes left to live. But that's a lot when you're in pain. Who can say how long that is? Remember that.

Pause. Silence. [End Page 443]

That's how long it took him to die. How much can you do in that much time? For him it was enough to finish off a whole lifetime. True, he wasn't very old and he didn't know much about life. He didn't even have his own watch yet. He kept hanging onto his shoulder strap and he'd lost his helmet. A stray bullet ripped off his ear and his hair was soaked in blood and rifle grease. Shells and bombs are going off all over the place and airplanes are falling on us. There were bullets flying at us from the direction of the sea as if the sea itself were throwing death at us to make us keep our distance.

Yeah. My palms were all blistered from the burns and there was blood seeping out of them. The scorched blood flaked on my skin, cracked up and fell off. Meanwhile he keeps whispering in my ear with his corrosive breath as if he was exhaling ammonia. And he's groaning about something.

We got as far as the sea—dead and half-dead from fear. That evening we must have picked off enough men to fill a whole company. Just us two. On that part of the front for about five kilometers we were pretty much the only ones there. In fact, it felt to us like we were all alone on that whole goddamn Moonzund archipelago in the Baltic Sea.

Pause. The silence is suddenly broken by the horrific sounds of battle. Silence again.

I often think about my grandfather. He liked to sit on the balcony in...