Fair WarningbyCaptain Blood©
SCENE: An exclusive auction house.
SET: Auctioneer’s lectern, SR. Half a dozen padded wooden chairs SL, facing auctioneer. An enclosed case, like an armoire, is against the wall DL. Entrance UC for assistant to bring in sale items. The room is elegantly-appointed: carpets, drapes, etc.
The seats are full. The patrons—four women, two men—are in evening dress and hold catalogs for the sale. The auctioneer, MS. PURCHASE, stands at the lectern. She is in her 30’s, crisp, handsome, wears glasses.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Ricasso’s, the nation’s preeminent invitation-only fine arts auction house. My staff informs me that all of your admittedly unorthodox pre-sale paperwork has been completed, so we are nearly ready to begin. My name is Elaine Purchase. I will be your guide for tonight’s event, which we confidently declare to be the most comprehensive of its kind ever seen in this country. Even the famous auction of the LeQuillon daggers in 1926 pales in comparison to our exclusive offering here.
As you can see by the most cursory examination of your catalogs, we have had the immense good fortune to acquire the renowned DiGrassi Collection of medieval and Renaissance weaponry and associated articles. Consisting of one hundred thirty-seven pieces, the collection contains some of the finest examples of the swordcutler’s art to be seen outside of a handful of major museums. The notorious eccentric Lorenzo DiGrassi spent a lifetime using his family’s immense lima bean fortune to amass what is without a doubt the most wondrous private holding of this type imaginable. Following the tragic premature passing of this visionary last year to terminal flatulence, his grieving family decided to honor the unusual terms of his will, which was found behind a potted plant in a little-used room of his great mansion, Sans Sophia. The will mandated the sale of the collection to a most-exclusive group of bidders with whom DiGrassi had had dealings over the years. I would like to introduce those lucky few now.
In the front row, from the Parisian couture house of Du Foible, purveyors of elegance to the elite of three continents for nearly three centuries, we have Ms. DAPHNE DU FOIBLE. Her spring line of evening wear, based on a liberal use of yak hair and an even more liberal interpretation of “evening”, caused a sensation in Milan this year. She is a respected expert on 17th century ivory codpieces. We are delighted to have her with us tonight.
Sitting beside her is SCHLOMO BEN TANG, heir to the largest family of kosher vintners in Japan. Mr. Tang has authored a definitive eleven-volume series on the history of medieval Norwegian pomanders, as you are doubtless aware. Welcome, Mr. Tang.
To his right is Miss CARMEN ESCRIME, beloved international philanthropist, who has used the proceeds from the sale of her medicinal fiber company, Lax Factor, to do immeasurable good around the world. We are all, of course, familiar with her selfless crusade to provide clutch purses to Third World orphans. Less well-known, perhaps, is that she is a noted authority on Renaissance halberd tassels. Miss Escrime…an honor.
At the end of the second row is JUANITA MARIA CONCHITA ISABELLA PUNTO-REVERSO, famed explorer of the darkest reaches of the Amazon Basin whose exploits were chronicled in her unforgettable best-selling memoir Up the River of Death Without a Paddle. Ms. Punto-Reverso is, of course, also considered the greatest living expert on Siberian blowgun art. A pleasure, madame.
Escorting her is a man who scarcely needs an introduction, so widespread is his fame as international bon vivant. PEDRO ESPADA-ROPERA’s devastatingly handsome face and rugged physique have graced the cover of nearly every major periodical on earth, from People and Newsweek to Gentleman’s Quarterly and Vegetarian Times. He was voted one of the World’s Most Beautiful Cads by Ms. Magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, and Women’s Wear Daily. Owner of extensive real estate holdings in his native Uruguay, he represented his country in the most recent Olympic Games as captain of the sabre team. I am happy to report that the most serious charges resulting from that affair have been recently settled out of court. You have no idea what a dream come true it is to have you here, Senor.
And last but not least, rounding out our sextet of discriminating buyers, we have Ms. ROXANNE FLECHE, star of such memorable cinematic classics as The Mattress of Zorro, The Adventures of Disrobing Hood, The Corsucking Brothers, and The Man with the Iron Willie. I believe that I can state, without fear of contradiction, that her collection of Bulgarian shackles, riding crops, and ball gags has no peer in the industrialized world. Ms. Fleche, my feelings at having you at my sale are…indescribable.
Now that the introductions are complete, we will proceed with the auction, after a short break so that our capable staff may ensure that all items are properly prepared for your viewing. Please take this time to go over your planned bids in your mind and make any mental preparations which may be required for your participation in this unique once-in-a-lifetime event.
(She exits through the UC door. The patrons look through their catalogs, speaking in isolated conversations
Foible (French accent; 30’s; snooty, absurdly well-dressed)
She wears her clothes like stevedore.
Fleche (standing, stretching; Californian, mid-20’s; wearing as little as the occasion
permits; fanning herself with the catalog)
Oh, I don’t know. I like stevedores. Sounds like a great name for one of my co-stars. Steve Adore. Long blonde hair. Perfect tan. Icy blue eyes. Pecs out to here. Tattoo of a rearing cobra on his---
Escrime (40’s; Texas twang; prudish, conservative, dim)
Will he…be as accomplished a—um, performer as you?
Fleche (teasing her)
Honey, as long as his credentials are solid and he’s a hard worker, that’s all that matters.
Indeedy? I suppose you’re always open to new prospects?
Honey, you have no idea. I have exhausting auditions.
Reverso (to Ropera; she is in her early 30’s; exotic; Latin American accent)
So you think I should go after the bastard sword?
Ropera (30’s; classic Latin lover type; very smooth)
As one of my continent’s most revered bastards, I could hardly suggest a different course.
So it has been said.
So you think this one is worth having?
Ropera (stroking her neck)
I would never waste my time with something not worth…having.
You recommend I spend my money it then?
Those are two words I never hoped to hear from your lips.
You and a few dozen other beautiful women, cara mia.
Oh, now I’m beautiful? Last night I was merely “an exotic jungle cat”.
Ropera (kissing her hand)
You could never be “merely” anything, my tigress. I still ache from your caresses.
I think I will purchase the bastard sword. And tonight, I may also purchase a sore bastard.
Ropera (kissing her neck)
Does the velvet scabbard come with that?
So it has been said.
Tang (standing; 40’s; elegant)
I hope they speed things up. I have reservations at Capo Ferro’s.
I have reservations about Capo Ferro’s.
You do not respect their cuisine?
Do not misunderstand me. I find their sushi shish kebob fricassee flambe to be both picturesque and piquant. I also enjoy their signature dessert of pan-blackened earthworms smothered in a succulent caraway caramel sauce and topped with a circumcised radish. But they dress their staff like Ethiopian farmhands.
You are a slave to your unfailing fashion sense, Madame.
All too true. I make a tremendous effort to be forgiving to my benighted inferiors, but it is—how do you say?—a curse, and I must speak out.
Escrime (reading catalog)
Beg everyone’s pardon, but why do they call it a ballock dagger?
Come here, honey. I’ll explain it to you. I have a visual aid in my bag.
Ropera (sharing a smile with all the others)
If I may, good lady. The name comes from Sir Demetrius ballock, the great British cricketer of the 19th century. He once scored 225 not out, while taking six wickets as slow bowler, against a fearsome Lithuanian team. In recognition of this tremendous achievement his club gave him a specially-designed dagger, engraved with his achievement and the date in 24-carat gold. Ever since, this type of dagger has been called a ballock.
Why, thank you, sir.
Not at all (sits)
Reverso (repressing a laugh)
It took some impressive ballocks to tell that ridiculous story.
High praise, indeed, coming from you, Madame.
You were tres cruel.
I repeat my earlier response.
May I put in for an order of that cruelty myself, for late evening delivery?
I shall clear my calendar.
Tang (to Escrime)
Permit me…I understand that you are a philanthropist?
Why, yes. Only in a small way, though. No enormous foundation---
Foible (to herself)
Except on her face.
---But there was a tidy sum left when I sold Daddy’s business to that big conglomerate.
Oh, your laxative company. Ms. Purchase mentioned that? You were no longer interested in it?
Lordy, no. Never could stomach it. Take s a lot of guts to stick it out in the corporate world.
I would certainly concur.
Daddy always used to say, “Little Prune”—that was what he always used to call me, Little Prune—“my whole life has been bound up in this company. I can’t relax, not for a minute.”
He sounds like he was quite a man.
Oh, he was, he was. But in the end he was just a regular guy.
And what about you? I hear you make kosher wine?
We do. The largest winery in Asia. I am very proud of the fact that we were able to persuade the revered Rabbi Fujimoto to give us our slogan.
And what is it?
“Business is always bris-k!”
I’m sorry. I’m afraid I don’t grasp that.
I can well believe it (to Fleche) Oy!
I can grasp it.
I can well believe it. Business brisk, is it?
You have no idea. (whispers) That goes double for her.
(Purchase enters UC, proceeds to her lectern)
My apologies for the delay, ladies and gentlemen. We had some last-minute adjustments to make and we wanted to make sure your release forms were in order. Ricasso’s prides itself on the most exclusive, if not positively secretive, arrangements in the industry. Frequently that requires a little extra time to get it right. But the doors are bolted and guarded, the Emergency Medical Technicians are on stand-by, and the year’s most eagerly-awaited auction can now begin.
(Lighting change. MS. FORTE, the lovely young assistant, enters UC with an ornate Gothic mace. She holds it up for the patrons to inspect)
Purchase (as patrons gather around Forte at C)
Item one from the Ricasso Collection: the war mace of Bishop Bernard, Fighting Priest of Schleswig-Holstein. As you know, the clergy often used maces in battle to evade the metaphorical Biblical proscription against men of the cloth “shedding blood with the edge of the sword”. This particular specimen has an interesting history. Bishop Bernard was actually dispatched with it by a Mrs. Schiller when she caught the man of God administering decidedly unorthodox rites to her eleven year-old son in the vestry.
We will start the bidding at DiGrassi’s reserve price of $30,000. Please prepare your bids in accordance with the special instructions in your catalog, reprinted from the great man’s handwritten will. Those not taking part in this round are advised to watch for flying bids.
(Ropera and Reverso return to their seats. Escrime, Tang, Fleche, and Foible move to the SL cabinet, where they each procure a rapier. They arrange themselves into a semicircle at C, facing downstage)
Very good. Bidding will be in $500 increments only, starting at $30,000. First bid?
(Tang salutes with his sword)
Mr. Tang. Very good. Mr. Tang bids $30,000. Do we have 30,500?
(Fleche attacks, Tang parries)
Ms. Fleche at 30-and-5. 32?
(Foible attacks, Fleche parries)
Ah, Ms. Foible has her eyes on the prize. 32-5?
(Tang attacks Foible; Escrime jumps in, and the fight becomes a 4-way affair)
Purchase (throwing in bids as things get frisky)
This bodes well for our evening. Spirited bidding on the very first item.
(Fight concludes. Tang wins the mace as the others gradually salute and drop out)
Mr. Tang at $54,000. Anyone else? Fair warning. $54,000. And…sold to Mr. Schlomo Tang. Well done!
(Polite applause from the other patrons; Forte exits UC to bring out the next item)
I believe this is the weapon you lust after, my lady.
Reverso (eyeing him)
And will you give it to me?
I shall do my best to give satisfaction. (crosses to cabinet, selects a sword) $150,000 maximum, you said?
That is my limit today.
You may have to raise it later.
I was hoping you’d say that.
Purchase (as Forte brings out bastard sword)
Item 2: the incomparable hand-and-a-half of Prince Pedro the Cross-Eyed, found still clutched in his lifeless hand after the Battle of Reluctant Virgins in 1386. Witnesses were quoted as saying that Pedro, living up to his nickname to the very last, tragically stabbed right when he should have stabbed left.
Reserve price on this magnificent weapon is $110,000. Please prepare your bids carefully.
(Fleche and Ropera are the only bidders. They salute at C)
Opening bid at 110?
Purchase (watching him as a mouse watches a hawk)
The splendid senor Espada-Ropera opens the bidding.
(Fleche attacks. The two go at it in fine style, making full use of all of their erotic charms. As Purchase calls a bid on each attack she becomes visibly more excited. The fight reaches an ecstatic, panting pause at $150,500)
$150, 500, Ms. Fleche. Mr.Tang? Fair warning at $150,500…
(Ropera kisses Fleche in the frozen corps-a-corps. She responds as only she can. Purchase is about to wet herself. Reverso is decidedly not amused. Mid-kiss Ropera binds Fleche’s rapier down with his, gets behind her, blade to her throat)
Senor Ropera, a…breathtaking bid of 151. Ms. Fleche? Fair warning at 151.
(Fleche grimaces, shakes her head, relaxes)
That’s twice I’ve lost tonight.
Ropera (for her ears only)
The night is still young. Perhaps you will prevail later.
You have a mighty thrust, sir.
You have no idea.
Purchase (as they separate)
Sold to Senor Espada-Ropera, acting for Ms. Punto-Reverso, at $151,000. Congratulations!
(Applause as the fighters sit)
I presume you’re good for the extra $1,000?
I was thinking of payment in kind, actually?
Reverso (still sour, eyeing Fleche)
You think you’ll have the reserves for that?
Ropera (kissing her neck)
That’s why I make deposits, my lady.
Reverso (smiling, despite herself)
Purchase (drinking water and fanning herself)
I think we may all agree that that was a thrilling exchange. Worthy of the late Mr. DiGrassi. Now if Ms. Forte will bring out the next article…
(Forte exits UC)
Finally, something worth bidding on.
Purchase (as Forte returns with a pair of embroidered gloves)
Item three: a truly one-of-a-kind specimen. The dueling gloves of Lady Helena DuPrique, legendary London swordswoman who, custom states, was never bested in single combat. Finest white kid, with intricate green-and-gold embroidery on the cuffs that might have been done by elven magicians. Tradition has it that the red-brown stain on the middle finger there is the blood of her lover, the scandalous Viscount Vincent le Vayne. It was left there as his lifeblood poured out onto a Mayfair street in 1601 when the happy couple was ambushed by assassins sent by the anguished Lord DuPrique, who has stood all that a man could be reasonably expected to stand. Lady Helena could not save her beloved, despite sending three of his assailants to perdition. In mourning till the day she, too, passed over to the Elysian Fields, Lady Helena ended her days pining away for Lord Vayne at the Convent of the seven sanctified Sinners, now the Monte Carlo Casino.
Isn’t that romantic?
Honey, you need to learn how to read between the lines.
I will have those gloves at any price.
Fleche (moving toward her)
Over my dead bootie.
It will be as dead as your fashion sense.
Reverso (pushing him back down and standing)
I think not. No more sending a boy to do a woman’s job. (takes his rapier) May I borrow your weapon?
That would depend on where you plan to stick it.
In your Fleche.
We will start at $14,000.
(All women gather at C)
Ah! The ladies have an eye for the finery this evening. May I presume that Madame Foible will open the bidding?
Well, then…we are at $14,000.
(The fight is a catty frenzy. Purchase can barely keep up with her announcement of the bids. Escrime drops out, wounded in the hand. Tang tends to her UR with his handkerchief. Foible, Fleche, and Reverso continue apace. Foible is knocked semi-conscious DL. Forte tends to her with a suddenly-produced medical bag. The remaining pair are a tornado of blades at C. They end up climactically skewering each other stone-cold dead)
And that is the kind of bidding that separates the women from the boys. Gentlemen, you have much to learn about product acquisition. If we could have a moment of silence, please, for a pair of truly admirable shoppers. (pause) We are at $38,500. Ms. Foible, it appears that you are the winning bidder. Your competitors have…er, cancelled one another out. Lady Helena’s gory gauntlets are yours. Well-done!
(Foible stands and limps toward Purchase; as she steps over the intertwined bodies at C, she stops and looks down at Reverso)
Lovely scarf. (to Ropera) May I?
(Ropera shrugs. She stoops, removes Reverso’s red scarf, examines it)
It has little piranha fish embroidered on it. How sweet. (to Ropera) Her family crest, perhaps?
You have no idea.
(Foible sits. Tang moves to help Escrime to her seat. Ropera moves to the lectern)
I knew this crazy auction might get someone hurt, but I never thought anyone would get killed.
As the Revered Rabbi Fujimoto always says to us, “Life. Go figure.” How are you, madame?
Sliced my hand something awful. If I’d had a glove on, it wouldn’t have happened. Byronic, huh?
I think you mean ironic.
Do I? (winces) This really hurts.
Permit me. (hands her a pocket flask)
Why, thank you. The family label?
Of course. Chateau tang.
Oooh! Tastes orangey.
Senor, we have a situation here.
Who is paying for Pedro’s sword?
Precisely. I thought as her champion you could---
Alas, madam, you find me separated from my checkbook this evening.
Ah…what a pity. (removes her glasses) You know, as Ricasso’s official representative, I am authorized to approve all…alternative payment options.