Orpheus and Narcissus

By Bob Litton

SCENE: Small stage in a large auditorium with many wooden seats, all but about twenty of them empty. The stage’s maroon curtains are closed; half a dozen footlights (large candles in rusty metal holders) cast an orangey-yellow light on the curtains. In a few minutes, a slender male hand grips the right side curtain and pulls it slowly back a few feet. A mid-sized man dressed in a black tux, moving backwards and then sideways, comes from behind the curtain, then turns to face the audience. He pauses a few seconds as though trying to remember what he needed to say. Finally,…

ORPHEUS: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I regret to inform you that the scheduled host of this program, Bob Litton — a mild-mannered reporter and suave man-about-town with other, odder characteristics — cannot be here this evening because…because…he has split! I don’t mean he has left the building or the city; I mean that he has split in two. As a matter of fact, I am one half of him. My alter-ego name is Orpheus — the most adept and creative composer of poems in the history of Western Civilization…if I do say so myself–with all due modesty, of course.

The other half of Bob’s personality I expect to be here any second now. He’s a rather brash, boastful, and…I’ll go ahead and say it…boorish fellow. He continually seeks the limelight for every one of Bob’s achievements–achieved mostly through my influence, if you want to know the truth of the matter. Anyway, this overweight, self-glorifying alter-ego’s name is Nar…

A large man with long, blond, flowing hair and dressed in a royal blue, velvet smoking jacket with golden cravat, suddenly appears from the stage’s left wing.

NARCISSUS: Narrrcisssusss! I am perfectly capable of introducing myself, you little twit. I didn’t catch all that this early bird had to chirp, my friends….And you are my friends; of course, you are. Why, everybody is my friend…except those characters I don’t like. Those latter are the ones who aggrieve me by disagreeing with me. I raise my nose as I pass by their tables in the coffee shops, restaurants and bars. I would prefer to include this wimp to my left, but I can’t; he’s connected to me like a Siamese twin. We always confront each other every time Bob cracks up and splits. How we manage to keep it together when Bob is whole (so to speak) I haven’t figured out yet. But, I will; there ain’t nothing I can’t do.

ORPHEUS:Well, you can’t speak correct English! You’ve just used Non-Standard diction with your “ain’t” and you’ve crammed a triple negative into that last sentence.

NARCISSUS: I’ll leave the minor details to you, Glossary-Head. I aim for the big picture, the vast canvas. Anyway, getting down to business, what shall we talk about today? I know what: football. Yeah, that’s what I’ll talk about. After all, this is the apex of the football season.

ORPHEUS: What if I don’t want to talk about football? Which I don’t. I’m half of this act, you know.

NARCISSUS: Well, you didn’t speak up soon enough, so the majority vote is against you.

ORPHEUS: “Majority vote”?

NARCISSUS: That’s what I said. So…”And away we go!” Did you hear that commercial the other day by the coaches and athletic directors associations about how football isn’t just about competition; it’s about teamwork, integrity and skills development, about how many top football players also excel in academics?

ORPHEUS: I have heard of one who was a Rhodes scholar, Myron Rolle, a former Florida State University safety, who went on to play for the Tennessee Titans; but I think he’s the only one. For the most part, college athletes are allowed to enroll because their athletic abilities will help their colleges’ teams win games, championships and money. As one famous coach put it, “Winning isn’t just everything; it’s the only thing.”

Recently, we’ve learned through news reports that the New Orleans Saints were penalized by the NFL because their coaches…or a coach…had urged their players — through bounties — to purposely injure players on the opposing teams. Even here in little ol’ Alpine, the same sort of nonsense is…or at least has been…prevalent. I was talking to two native locals the other day at a restaurant. Now in their fifties, one, a rancher, and the other, a medical professional, had both played hard-nosed football here in their high school days. While their attention was being distracted by the football games then being played on two of the restaurant’s TVs, I mentioned the Saints news item. The rancher looked across our table at his friend and said, “He tried to injure the other teams’ players.” The medic acknowledged the truth of his friend’s remark without any expression of regret.

Then, even more recently, we’ve heard that some high school and college coaches do not follow medical advice to keep concussion victims off the field for longer periods of recovery. And the coaches are also feeding concussion victims extremely strong pills to relieve post-incident headaches…again despite doctors’ warnings. You tell me those actions are not dictated by the over-riding will to win?

NARCISSUS: Well, shit happens…but not all that much, I believe. Still, you have to recognize that the boys are learning teamwork, integrity and skills development.

ORPHEUS: Har, de, har, har, har!…to follow up on your Jackie Gleason allusion a while ago. A couple of decades back, several high school football players in the North Central Texas area were tried for armed robbery of some fast food places. Their coaches appeared at the trial and urged the judge to place the boys on probation so they could continue playing football where they would learn moral values and responsibility. The judge gazed up at a corner of the courtroom’s ceiling in wonderment. Those high school players — juniors and seniors by trial time — had presumably been playing football at least since the eighth grade. If they hadn’t learned anything about moral values and responsibility by the present moment, the outlook for any future improvement through contact sports was dim. All they could learn from leniency would be that athletes can expect special treatment. I don’t recall what their final sentence was and I can’t find it now on the Internet; it happened during the 1980s or early ’90s, when Internet archiving was not as thorough as it is now.

NARCISSUS: I don’t know how you do it, Four-Eyes. You always do your homework, and you never seem to give a damn about America’s revered objects, persons or institutions. You’ve called the pledge of allegiance idolatry, John Wayne a hypocritical non-actor, and now football the vice of our country. It’s no wonder you have few friends, and if I don’t get Bob to have you excised out of his brain pretty soon, I won’t have any friends either.

I have to go now. I’ve got an appointment at the barber shop. By the way, have you seen my mirror around here anywhere? I’ve misplaced it again.

The two elements of Bob leave the stage in different directions toward the wings.


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