by Jenny Magnus
She was washing a reeking chicken. Taking a dinner party risk, putting the family in the pot along with the vegetables. Smelling wafters of putridity along with the spices. She had certainly cooked a million of them, baked, roasted, boiled. This one was most definitely over the line. Even the washing didn’t seem to remove the nagging smell. As she cooked, her long blue wrap of silky dusky blue was coming untied, like her plans. Falling apart, going down the drain with the watery blood, down.
She told herself that cooking it at the highest temperatures would help, believing that heat would heal and disarm the past expiration date. She supervised the table setting, the water glasses, the napkins folded in a funny way by the kid in the family. Tonight it was a diamond. She thought, that’s the hardest thing on earth, a diamond. Watching the outside of the chicken through the oven door as it cooked, as if that would reveal the rot; it looks fine, it looks good, it looks perfect, it looks fine…
The guest arrives, the chicken comes out. She sniffs it surreptitiously in the kitchen, carving it and sniffing it, serving it and sniffing it… Conversation, laughter, all couched, for her, by the waiting. Waiting after dinner for the first sign of gut wrench and roiling nauseal upheaval, waiting with a morbid assurance that vomit will be the end of the evening’s activity. She experiences a stretching out of time, her mind telling her that every moment is the last good one, now the storm starts, now, no, now…She watches each person, any sign of discomfort or a passing grimace is the beginning of it…she is sure… The heaving doesn’t happen. No one gets sick. Except she is sick with tension. So, after all was said and done, she had to reconsider what she thought she knew about rot.
She had only been wearing black. Maybe it was time for a change. If white clothes used to represent purity or some kind of simplicity or elegance, or lightness, or grace, now white clothes had the feeling of being in the service of something, like being a slave of a kind, or being employed by someone making her wear white clothes, or as if the clothes have to stay white, but of course they cant, and so she would be dooming herself to failure forever, and the person who was making her wear them was going to always look at her with a small private sneer because her shit stains or cum drip or coffee spill or sweat pit or drool line or snot wipe or blood smear was always going to be advertising her for the juice producer that she was. If it was very very hot, and the white clothes were like a kind of benevolent relief to bleached bones, shading out the sum of the beating down individual rays, one would have to think, by all means, wear white clothes. But if the reason for wearing them had to do with some kind of tremendous profound decision, a decision to change, where she was going to wear white clothes by god forever, then that was an obnoxious reason for wearing them. They made everyone else uncomfortable, and she knew it, everyone looks at white clothes and thinks they should be dressed more flowingly or ritualistically or simply or coolly or abstractly or less hotly or darkly or demandingly or frankly, and so feel indicted by her white clothes. She would have to take the white clothes away and turn them into rags. Once she’d have wiped up all kinds of things with the white clothes now turned into rags, if she had any energy for a project she might sew them back together into clothes again, careful to leave no stain under a seam, but parade the stains as a cool new pomo pattern. Once the coffee is cleaned off the counter and there isn’t any more mustard drip, and she’s found time in her busy schedules to sew up some clothes, not even with a machine but by hand because she never figured out the damned machine and spent more time on bobbin comprehension than it would have taken to make the damned clothes, so she does it all by hand anyway, and she does a bad job so that everything is haphazard a little, and she tries on the clothes that used to be white clothes and then were rags and now are stained up ripped apart and sewn back together clothes again, is she going to be grateful? Is she going to be grateful that she changed?
She sits and stares at the pundits. They seem to speak directly to her, prophesying Babylon and mortuary fanfares, candy apple sugar teeth and fancy hassle almost premiers. She hears really only one thing: its over its over its over. Wake up and get ready for it to be over, get dressed and get ready for it to be over, eat quick, its about to be over, stop whining, its already over. She wonders how they got to be pundits anyway, who licensed them for punditry, because she had a lot to say when it came down to it, she could lay it out on the self important egg waggers who represent what? Not her position, because if any of them were ever to find themselves in her position, she sure as shit would have no mercy, like none was done to her. She squints closer, her bad eye a melon splat in her vision, David Gergan already melon-headed to begin with and more so as she switches from Walgreens 4x magnifiers to dark glasses to nothing, restless to find her way back to real vision like it used to be. It usting to be something else is a dead trap of grey parachute folding freefall dinge, because even if they all act like they know, facebooking and texting, shoulder patting and bump hugging, sympathizing and empathizing all over her, they don’t know, they don’t know at all. They cant know, and thus, by virtue of her knowing, she is the true expert pundit of righteous anger analysis and detailed sufferance cataloguing. Get her on there with Wolf fucking Blitzer, she’ll destroy them with incisive dissolving laser rayed deaths head precipice wavering. They will hear and know, then, what real insight is.
Jenny Magnus is a writer, performer, musician, director, and teacher who is a founding co-Artistic Director of the Curious Theater Branch, an all-original theater company, now in its 22nd year, author/creator of plays that have been produced at Steppenwolf Theater, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, at the former Lunar Cabaret, the Prop Thtr and on tour throughout America and Germany. She has performed in many solo performances as well. She was a long-time member of the band Maestro Subgum and the Whole and made multiple records with them, as well as three solo recorded CDs, and is currently represented and distributed by UvuLittle Recordings. Her current band, The Crooked Mouth String Band, is also represented and distributed by UvuLittle. In addition to running the Curious Theater Branch and making her own work, Jenny Magnus is a long-time Adjunct Faculty member with Columbia College Chicago, in both the graduate Interdisciplinary Arts Department and the undergraduate Interactive Arts and Media Department. She has taught performance and writing at The School of The Art Institute, The University of Chicago, the Chicago Public Schools, the Metropolitan Correctional Center of Chicago, The University of Illinois, Free Street Theater School and her own Curious School. In 1998, Jenny Magnus was named among the Artists of the Year by the Chicago Tribune, and from 1998 to 2008, she was included among the 50 most influential people in Chicago Theater by NewCity Chicago. In 2010, Magnus and Curious entered into a year-long residency at The Museum of Contemporary Art, leading to the premiere of a play in the fall of 2011.