WAITING FOR COUSTEAU

A rural harbor. A pier

Evening

Estragon, sitting on the beach, is trying to take off his flippers and catch a fish with a spear. He pulls the flippers with both hands, panting. He gives up, exhausted, rests, tries again. As before. Enter Vladimir.

Estragon: (Giving up again) Nothing to be caught.

Vladimir: (advancing with short, stiff strides, legs wide apart)

I’m beginning to come round to that opinion. All my life I’ve tried to put it from me, saying, Vladimir, be reasonable, there are other fish to fry. And I resume the struggle. (He broods, musing on the struggle. Turns to Estragon.) So there you are again with a line in the water.

Estragon: Am I?

Vladamir: I’m glad to see you back. I thought you had gone fishing on that boat forever.

Estragon: Me too.

Vladimir: Together again at last. We’ll have to celebrate with a fish fry. I have French wine. But how will we catch such? (He reflects) Get up till I embrace you.

Estragon (irritably) Not now. Not now. I think I have a bite.

Vladimir: (hurt, coldly) May I inquire where His Highness spent the night?

Estragon: On the boat.

Vladimir: (admiringly) A boat! Where?

Estragon: (without gesture) Over there.

Vladimir: And they didn’t make you clean fish?

Estragon: Clean fish? Certainly I cleaned fish.

Vladimir: The same lot as usual?

Estragon: The same? I don’t know.

Vladimir: When I think of it…all these years…but for me…where would you be…(Decisively) You’d be nothing more than carp bait, a little heap of bones at the present minute, no doubt about it.

Estragon: And what of it?

Vladimir: (gloomily) It’s too much for one fisherman. (Pause. Cheerfully) On the other hand what’s the good of losing your catch now, that’s what I say. We should have thought of a net a million years ago, in the nineties when the whales still roamed.

Estragon: Ah stop blathering and help me pull this bloody one in. We’re going to be in an underwater film.

Vladimir: Hand in hand from the top of the Eiffel Tower, among the first. We were respectable anglers in those days. Now it’s too late. They wouldn’t even let us throw out a line. (Estragon tears at the flippers) What are you doing?

Estragon: Taking off my oxygen tank. Did that ever happen to you?

Vladimir: Diving equipment must be taken off each day, I’m tired telling you that. Why don’t you listen to me?

Estragon: (feebly) Help me!

Vladimir: It hurts?

Estragon: (angrily) Hurts! He wants to know if it hurts! A spear hurts!

Vladimir: (angrily) No one ever suffers but you. I don’t count. I’d like to hear what you’d say if you were bitten by a barracuda!

Estragon: It hurts?

Vladimir: (angrily) Hurts! He wants to know if it hurts!

Estragon: (pointing) You might button it all the same.

Vladimir: (stooping) True. (He buttons his fly.) Never neglect the little things of life.

Estragon: What do you expect, you always wait until the last moment to set the hook.

Vladimir: Well? Shall we go?

Estragon: Yes, let’s go

They do not move.

Continued next month

“Loosin’ up your breeches, grab a hunk of chew, turn your skis downhill. Now go for it.”

– advice from early ski instruction manual, Red Mountain, 1907

Filed Under: Lifestyles at Risk

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