A Sardine on Vacation: I think he’s forgotten about me.
Pope Sixtus IV: How long has it been?
Sixtus: Hasn’t anyone asked where you were?
Sardine: No one reads the column, or so few read it. He put it on a site no one could find even if they looked.
Sixtus: Tell him.
Sardine: He knows but doesn’t do anything about it. Like he’s satisfied with getting five readers.
Sixtus: That’s admitting a defeat. (Pauses.) Wait. You said August. That’s when he started working on two new projects.
Sardine: He can’t get one done in less than ten years.
Sixtus: Working every day.
Sardine: He had tome for this blog. And the ones where you went on vacation.
Sixtus: He’s making a big change in the Sardine articles, Maybe, he’s unsure about the new approach.
Sardine: Don’t defend him. I’m a vital part of his identity.
Sixtus: He’s writing a novel and a play. Finished a draft of the play and typed 100 pages of the novel.
Sardine: Why are they suddenly so important? If he finishes enough Sardine articles, he could put together another book.
Sixtus: The novel is one he started ten years ago. Only wrote twenty pages. And the original idea for the book came from a long story he wrote for a college creative writing class.
Sardine: Like he can’t get over his first love!
Sixtus: That story was the turning point in his life. His teacher and, soon to be, mentor, Paul West, thought highly of the story. He used West’s recommendation and the story to get into Columbia University’s School of the Arts.
Sardine: What’s it about?
Sixtus: What? You’re expecting a plot?
Sardine: Give me something to hang onto.
Sixtus: The original story dealt with a man and his servant of twenty years. They had never seen each other the entire time. For some reason, the servant quits and the master, Tony, falls apart, his life becoming paralyzed.
Sardine: Why didn’t they see each other?
Sixtus: Tony had a complex. He thought he had a giant head. He was ashamed of himself.
Sardine: Was it a disease? Like the Elephant Man?
Sixtus: No. The reader’s led to believe it’s all in Tony’s mind.
Sardine: Well, after forty years, how did the story get updated?
Sixtus: The core of the thing is retained. A rich, reclusive man who avoids people. His servant. Now, the John DuPont story, the one who killed the wrestler. The subject of a recent movie. Foxcatcher. Tony kills his servant, a lifelong friend, and then goes back to his mansion, which the police surround. A 48-hour siege. This is the closest it gets to the DuPont affair. The novel’s present time takes place during the siege and a trial afterward.
Sardine: Is that it?
Sixtus: I’m lucky to know this much.
Sardine: What’s the other thing? A play?
Sixtus: A very long play. A sequel to his novel, Berthcut & Sons.
Sardine: Only he’d write a sequel to a novel nobody’s read.
Sixtus: Like continuing the Sardine articles!
Sardine: The Sardine articles were meant to go on. The premise is to have the Sardine commont on everything.
Sixtus: Except current events.
Sardine: There’s enough going on that’s interesting to speak about.
Sixtus: I can be his outlet for some current events.
Sardine: How much more can he write about the religious goods store experience?
Sixtus: He’s been writing about it since 1974.
Sardine: I wasn’t conceived until 1983. When did you materialize?
Sixtus: Around 1996. He wrote a play about me, a short one, fifteen minutes. Based it on my chapter in Pope Sixtus the Fourth.
Dexter: Aren’t you going to mention what the play’s about?
Sardine: Berthcut & Sons’s “ace” salesman.
Dexter: I manage the shop. In fact, I’m turning a religious goods shop into a sporting goods store.
Sixtus: Sounds interesting, if a bit secular.
Dexter: Selling religious goods is boring.
Sixtus: I’ve had a keen interest in the merchandise, obviously. But I would think religious people are easy to deal with.
Dexter: They’re as bad as everyone else. Trying to beat down prices. Looking at stuff for two hours and then not buying a thing. Worse than deadbeats.
Sardine: Does Gerard still work there?
Dexter: Yeah, but he fights me all the time. I’m glad he’s there, though, to take care of the customers. I don’t think I’ve waited on one in the past year and a half.
Sardine: So the play repeats the tension between you and Gerard.
Dexter: It’s much more that that – and why the first draft is nearly 150 pages.
Sixtus: Who’d produce something that long by an unknown author?
Sardine: He probably doesn’t care.
Dexter: The play has three settings, all on stage at the same time. There’s us, on the stage right side. On stage left is Dalmy Brothers Altar Goods, who runs Berthcut. Then in the center stage is the offices of Cerulean Enterprises, the conglomerate that bought out Dalmy Brothers. Hence, the title: Conglomeration.
Sardine: I don’t think you can do it in a black box theater. Not even the Susan Roberts or Wilma theaters in Philadelphia.
Sixtus: Just in case they took an unknown author, the staging logistics would kill any chance of it being produced.
Sardine: You might get a small circular theater with chairs that spin around to see the action when it occurs.
Dexter: I’m just a character. Don’t bust my chops.
Sixtus: You’re based on a younger version of the author.
Dexter: So? The Sardine’s based on his misanthropic views.
Sardine: We can’t all be based on a pope.
Sixtus: Wait. Look there!
Sixtus: In another file. He’s started the new Sardine column.
Dexter: Maybe he needed this one to get it going. Like it was a laxative.
Sardine: That sounds like a backhanded criticism.
Sixtus: Just be happy you’ll have a new column soon.