MONOLOGUE: Modigliani’s Muse

A fantasy on poems by Jacqueline Kolosov

by Norman A. Bert

Outside an apartment, on a little balcony, 12 stories up.

Late at night.

PETE, 50s

PETE is in his pajamas, sitting in a plastic chair, smoking.


I get back from lunch, drowsy. Wander through those three rooms. My world. Mine? That’s a good one. Pictures of strange, long-necked women. Watch for the hidden camera, the reaching hand—what makes people think they can touch the paintings? Gotta remember to pick up the eggs, the tortillas—means taking the slow way home. Jesse. Who did he think he was, saying that to our mother? Then I notice her. Where did she come from?

Blue scarf. Foreign. Maybe European.

And then he expects you to fix his car. After a comment like that. Must be the water pump.

She’s slow, this one. Gonna be here a while. Methodical. One picture at a time.

Then the kids come in with their teacher. Third graders? Giggles. Pointing. More giggles. What was that teacher thinking? Didn’t she know about the nudes? She’s gonna catch hell from the parents. Serves her right.

Still the blue scarf lingers. Seated now, eyes fixed on that skinny armed woman in the white nightgown. I walked between her and the painting. Just as I thought. She’s not there. Where does the soul fly when it leaves the body, eyes gazing into space?

A cough. Tentative. Like someone trying it out. Was that her?

Finally Vira comes so I can take my break. Late as usual.

Beyond my cigarette smoke, there in the garden, grackles fuss up into the live oak. Never noticed before the blue black of their flight.

Vira doesn’t even look at me as she leaves. Blue scarf’s still there, stuck in front of that one with the face like a loaf of bread, hands spread over his crotch.

Later, she hovers in front of the fat girl holding her bare boob in her hand. Then back to Bread Face. Then back again.

Her mouth’s too small for her face.

She tilts her head, the angle a match for the painting. What if I asked Angie to tilt her head like that? Just try it. She’ll do that thing with her eyes, that thing that says I’m a fool, a disappointment, probably screwing around again.

I’m in the other room when I hear her moan. Looking through the door, I see her sitting there. Flushed. Eyes closed.

Next time I look, she’s gone. But she left her blue scarf hanging in the closet of my mind.

“Anything new at work today?” Angie. Always a barrel of laughs.

“In a museum?” I say.

“Never hurts to ask.”

So what wakes me up in the middle of the night? Clock says it’s after two. Unfolding there from the hallway of dreams, what? Tomorrow maybe I check out that picture of the goose-necked, red-headed woman. Something about it. Wouldn’t hurt to take a look.

(Silent, he stares off into the dark.)

copyright © 2011 Norman A. Bert. All rights reserved.

Norman A. Bert teaches playwriting and script analysis at Texas Tech University. He has written over 30 scripts for the stage. His books include Theatre Alive, One-Act Plays for Acting Students, More One-Act Plays for Acting Students, and The Scenebook for Actors. He assisted Sam Smiley in the revision and reissue of Smiley’s classic text, Playwriting: The Structure of Action.

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