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  • Time Bomb
  • N. Riantiarno (bio)
    Translated by Barbara Hatley (bio)

For my sonBangkit Sentosawho came, then leftas a ray of lightshunning the worldto choose eternity, instead

Cast of Characters

Jumini, woman who has lost her husband and child

Roima, good-looking young tough

Julini, transvestite, Roima’s “girlfriend”

Kumis, civil defense guard

Bleki, civil defense guard

Abung, mad philosopher who lives in a tree

Tarsih, pretty and popular prostitute

Kasijah, prostitute

Turkana, Jumini’s companion and admirer

Tibal, young villager newly arrived in the city

Tuminah, Tibal’s sister

Sawil and Bilun, pair of dreamers and schemers

Subdistrict Head, government bureaucrat

Secretary, subdistrict head’s secretary


Prostitute 1

Prostitute 2

Other Prostitutes




Opening Scene

Night. A bright moon shines. Beneath a well-lit bridge, a row of huts stretches along a river and into the background. The slum’s inhabitants dream of a better life. [End Page 51] Jumini stares at the moon. Abung is perched on a chair and appears to be deep in thought. At the window of a cheap hotel, a would-be Singer practices. On a higher level, above this panorama, is a fancy restaurant. Five Diners, people of apparent wealth, are seated at a table. Statue-like, they eat their dinners without speaking.


You smile down every night. Why don’t you come here? Come to me. I know you miss me. I miss you, too, constantly. On a bright moonlit night like tonight, I know you must be out, playing. And your father, lying on the bench in front of the house, is singing Javanese songs and thinking of me. [Pauses, while Turkana enters without a word.] Smiling down every night … What news would you bring if you came down to meet me? No, please don’t bring me bad news. I don’t want bad news. Who would?

Abung looks up at the sky. The Diners greedily eat their dinner. The Singer prepares to sing.

But you never come. Never. I wish I could cut you down from your hanger in the sky, if only for a moment, to hold you in my lap and ask you about my little boy. Would you tell me that he’s fine? I don’t want a sad answer. Who would? But all you do is smile. Every night, just smile …


[Suddenly emerges from the hut he shares with Julini. Angrily.] You’re ugly, Julini, and mean! You don’t care about me anymore. You’re used up, worn out!


[Comes out of the hut in pursuit of Roima.] As if I care! Take my bra, my hairpiece, my ass …


And I’ll throw them in the river!


You wouldn’t dare! Thief!


Putting me off like that … why shouldn’t I be angry?


Well, what with you trying to force me like that when I’m tired. Who’d put up with that? My bra, my hairpiece, my ass…


I swear I’ll burn them.


You’re a sadist. I’m clearing out.


I’ll take a razor to them!


I’m going, I tell you, I’m going.


Big deal. You think I can’t find me another slut? Hell, there’s a warehouse full of sluts like you in the world.


Is there really? [End Page 52]


So go if you want.




It’s up to you.


Is that it?


[Even angrier.] Every night, it eats me up: my heart, my soul, holding in my feelings, pacing up and down like I’ve nothing to do, swallowing my spit … When can I spit it out? Every night, I feel my blood rising. My muscles tense—medicine don’t help—my hands begin to itch and tingle, just waiting for someone to punch. Shit! [Julini goes back into the hut.] They say that the more tired you are, the hornier you get. That the harder you work, the more you think of a nice bed with a mattress and pillows. But washing the sheets every morning and night—it wears them out. And soap’s expensive...