The Dictator
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The Dictator
Translated by Robert Myers and Nada Saab

The set: A room which is empty except for some broken pieces of furniture and utensils on a table in the corner, an old ladder, a mirror with a few pieces of glass at the edge of the frame, and a telephone with a cord that is cut.

ACT I

(the general is sitting in a chair alone with his eyes on the door.)

the general:

(Calling out in a voice that sounds tired, as if he has been calling for a long time.) Saadoun . . . Saadoun . . . Saadoun . . . When I get my hands on you, I’m going to hang you by your legs. (Silence.) How dare you run away from me? Aren’t you afraid? The whole world is afraid of me. If the world still exists, it exists because of me. It’s afraid because of me, Saadoun. Saadoun . . .

(The door opens suddenly and saadoun enters carrying a pair of boots.)

saadoun:

Yes, my General. (the general jumps out of his chair and advances toward saadoun.)

the general:

(Softly.) Where were you, Saadoun?

saadoun:

I bought you the boots.

the general:

What took you so long?

saadoun:

Look, boots fit for a king.

the general:

Fit for a king?

saadoun:

Sorry, for a general.

the general:

Good for you, Saadoun. You brought salvation to the world, you brought the boots.

saadoun:

Long live the General. (He kneels.) Give me your foot. (He takes the general’s right foot.)

the general:

(Shouts.) The right, Saadoun? (He pulls his right foot away and extends his left.) One should always start with the left. (saadoun puts the general’s left foot in the boot.)

saadoun:

Does it fit? [End Page 97]

the general:

It’s hard.

saadoun:

Of course it’s hard. You’re hard. Give me your other foot. (saadoun puts the other boot on the right foot.) How’s that?

the general:

Ouch! My toe hurts. (He kicks saadoun onto the ground. He looks at the boot.) Shine it, Saadoun. (saadoun gets up and kneels over the boots, shining them with his sleeve.) Can you see yourself in them?

saadoun:

Yes, my General. I see my face pale with hunger. We haven’t eaten for two days. Instead of buying bread we bought boots.

the general:

Freedom is more important than bread.

saadoun:

What freedom? If one of us leaves, the other one has to stay here as a hostage. We haven’t paid rent for two months. Instead of buying our freedom with the two piasters your mother sent, we bought boots.

the general:

One needs boots to knock on the doors of freedom.

saadoun:

I understand, my friend.

the general:

Your friend?

saadoun:

My master!

the general:

Your master?

saadoun:

My boss!

the general:

Your boss?

saadoun:

(Thinking.) My General.

the general:

Shine my boots. (saadoun kneels and shines the boots with his sleeve. The sound of a cannon can be heard. Rises suddenly.) Did you hear that?

saadoun:

I did.

the general:

A cannon.

saadoun:

A long way off.

the general:

That’s a cannon. A cannon. The whole world heard it.

saadoun:

The world’s hard of hearing, my General.

the general:

Especially your friends.

saadoun:

I have no friends. You’re my only friend.

the general:

Don’t get casual with me. Get up and hang the map on the wall. (saadoun hangs the map on the wall in a place he is apparently used to hanging it.) How far have they advanced?

saadoun:

The last we heard they were at the gates of Ashtar.

the general:

Mark it with a pin.

saadoun:

I have no pins. (the general takes a pin off the collar of his jacket just as a tailor would. saadoun takes the pin and sticks it somewhere on the map.) I’ve marked it.

the general:

Good for you. Mark all the states that have fallen. (He gives saadoun a few pins.)

saadoun:

The State of Murjani. (He sticks a pin in.) The State of Rihan. (He sticks a pin in and hesitates.)

the general:

You forgot the state of Ansar.

saadoun:

The state of Ansar. (He puts a pin...