SPOILER ALERT!

Completed August 1, 2014

The Dinner - Herman Koch, Sam Garrett

HEARTBURN

 

(A small, windowless room in a suburb of Amsterdam.  PAUL sits at a table.  There is a vacuous expression on his face, and he seems unaware of his surroundings.  A young man in uniform escorts a woman through the door, waits until she is seated, and goes to stand behind PAUL.  A dim light is switched on, and we see that the woman is BABETTE.  PAUL gazes at her for a few seconds.  His eyes flash in a mixture of anger and contempt.)

 

YOUNG MAN:  Twenty minutes, Mrs. Lohman.

 

(BABETTE waves her hand dismissively, and he is silent.)

 

BABETTE:  Oh, Paultje, het is fijn je te zien (Oh, Paulie, it's good to see you). It's been too long.  

 

(PAUL suddenly begins to struggle to his feet.  YOUNG MAN snaps to attention, placing a restraining hand on PAUL'S shoulder.  PAUL does nor resist.)

 

BABETTE (laughing):  Be careful, Paultje.  They know...your history...here.  They've been well-briefed.  You're too heavily medicated to scratch that itch.  And you know by now how I react to threats.

 

PAUL:  (unintelligible)

 

BABETTE:  You never understood, did you?  I had no interest in protecting "the children".  The kids did what they did.  It wasn't nice, it wasn't pretty, but we're not talking about babies.  They did the wrong thing, and they were going to pay dearly for their stupidity.  At least Beau had the common sense to avoid getting his hands dirty, and if he made a buck over the whole sordid mess?  He earned it.  He was never accepted here.  Never would have been.

 

(She pauses to re-apply her lipstick.)

 

BABETTE:  No, you don't get it at all.  I was trying to preserve a dream.  A dream Serge and I worked hard to achieve.  It was right in front of us, and you planted yourselves in our path.  You would have eventually cracked, or the boys would have, and we needed to manage the information that came out.  Produce our version of the truth.  You had to be neutralized.  We had found the perfect solution.  A few platitudes about the disadvantaged, the underprivileged, how SORRY we all were, and the people would have begged him to reconsider.  They would have said he wasn't to blame.  Lock the boys up, but we want this honourable man to be our next Prime Minister.  "Stront, at least he tells the truth!"  They would have elected anyone just to get rid of the idiot in office.  Voters always vote against someone, never explicitly for another candidate.  That's politics!

 

PAUL (slowly and deliberately);  The dream is...dead...we won.

 

BABETTE:  You've won NOTHING.  You're sitting here.  Claire's about to have another heart attack.  It's all right, love.  Serge and I still have money, charm, connections.  We can make the proper arrangements.

 

PAUL (moaning):  Claire!

 

BABETTE:  She no longer exists.  You and that shrew you call your wife always thought Valerie wasn't too bright.  She's the smartest of the three - of all of them, Michel included.  She came up with the idea of tampering with Claire's heart medication.  Her next dose will be her last.  In an hour, the final chapter will be written.

 

(PAUL begins to sob hysterically.  YOUNG MAN slaps PAUL, then gives him an injection.  BABETTE kisses YOUNG MAN passionately, then leaves the room, slamming the door behind her.  The curtain falls.)