The Game of War
LUCA: an eight-year-old boy
EZIO: his grandfather
Ezio sits in a couch in his small living room by the stone cold fireplace, holding a book in his hands. The living room is lit. It is very simply furnished, and contains a large bay-window. The night is moonless and unusually dark.
The sky lights up and several far away explosions are heard. Luca enters the stage.
LUCA (screaming): Nonno! Nonno! What is it? What’s happening?
EZIO: Nothing happened dear.
LUCA (teeth chattering): It was … something … dreadful. Didn’t you hear? Didn’t you—
EZIO (cuddling him): Calm down. It was nothing. You’re with me. You’re safe.
LUCA (beginning to quiet down): But I want to know, what did this noise?
EZIO: It was a bomb.
LUCA: What is it nonno?
EZIO: It’s like a big big firework. Do you remember of the fireworks I used to get you?
LUCA: Yes… But what for?
EZIO: It’s a way of expressing themselves … The armies I mean. It’s like a game for them… They too have the right to play, don’t you agree? They play on a battlefield, trying to kill each other. Each side has a color and a banner. Don’t worry, you’re safe here. At the worst, we will … hear other bangs.
LUCA: You aren’t telling me everything nonno!
EZIO: There is nothing more to say. You’re a courageous boy, and you shouldn’t be afraid. Your parents are looking for you from above, and they would never let something happens to you. Now it’s time to go back to bed!
LUCA: I don’t want to sleep!
EZIO (soothingly): Then stay with me. I will prepare some tea. (The water in the boiler is already hot. He fetches two cups from the cupboard and pours the tea. He also adds a little of Amaretto in the tea.) Drink! The Amaretto will warm up your little heart.
LUCA (taking a sip): Thank you. (Taking another sip) I love you so much. Please, please nonno, will you stay with me all the night?
EZIO: Drink your tea before it gets cold!
LUCA: If I go back to my room, I’ll have nightmares. Please don’t send me away!
EZIO: Alright. This kid always finds a way to melt me.
Another series of explosions is heard, they’re getting closer and the bangs are stronger.
EZIO: Don’t worry… they’re still very far.
LUCA (panic-stricken): The explosions are stronger this time! We may die … hmm … like babbo and mamma?
EZIO: Do you have confidence in me?
LUCA: … Yes.
EZIO: Good. So believe me when I assure you they’re far, and that you have nothing to fear.
LUCA: I believe you. But… I’m a little afraid.
EZIO: We need to clear our heads. Tell me something fun! (No answer) What did you do yesterday?
LUCA: I played with my construction game; I built a tower and a bridge. Do you think that we will hear again these awful noises?
EZIO: I think it’s over for tonight. Let’s play a game: we pretend that nothing happened and talk of random things. Life is stronger than evil, always keep that in mind! The ability to laugh of bad circumstances is worth the entire gold in the world. So let’s play: the first one who says a word about the war loses. What do you want to bet?
LUCA: If I win, you’ll bring me to the sea tomorrow.
EZIO: And if you lose?
LUCA: But I won’t lose!
EZIO: If you lose, you’ll read a book out loud tomorrow! Today I mean. It’s past midnight. Deal?
LUCA: Deal! The game starts now. Nonno, please, please, please, tell me a story of when you were kid.
EZIO: I will. Time ago, J**** was still a village. Everything was green, covered by trees and flourishing grass. There were only a few houses in the village. I know that it is hard to believe. The inhabitant knew each others. (Pause)
EZIO: And people used to cultivate figs and vines. I used to wake up very early during summers and go to collect figs. We ate the ripen one, they had a delicious and unique savor; we kept the other to make jam or dry them. Other times Luca! Other times— (He is interrupted by a series of explosions and fusillades. The sky lights up intermittently.) What was I saying?
LUCA (triumphantly): That times were different! Nonno you’re trying to trick me. Haha. I will not fall into your trap.
EZIO: I underestimated you, boy. But never count your chickens before they’re hatched! We also used to prepare our own liquor with the grape. It was against the law, and we had to wait moonlit nights to produce it. I was the younger, and my role was to jump barefoot on the grape to macerate it. (The fusillade noises persist, in crescendo. Ezio peers anxiously at the window.) And then, we placed the grape mush into huge wooden barrels. Within a few weeks, we obtained excellent homemade liquor.
LUCA (yawning): Oh! I would love to do that! Life was more interesting…
EZIO: Indeed it was. You’re sleepy. Try to rest on the couch. We will have a lot to do after the sunrise.
LUCA: We stop playing?
EZIO: You won.
LUCA: Alright! Will you stay close to me while I sleep?
EZIO: I promise. (Apart) It’s worsening. We will have to get a shelter.
LUCA (stretching and yawning): Good night nonno. (He falls asleep. The intensity of the fights increases. A bomb falls at less than five hundred meters from their home. The lights of the living room turn off; presumably the grid has been damaged.)
EZIO: I knew that it would happen. For several years, I expected it happening. But a slim hope persisted. Now even that small hope has vanished. The devil is in human nature. We keep on repeating the same mistakes, over and over, never learning from History. Teachers should make students interested in History. What will happen tomorrow? Innocent will die. The children that will have the fortune not to die will see their childhood and their ingenuity scattered forever. The people that have the means will leave the city, and the others will stay trapped like rats. What will happen of my dear Luca? (Another bomb falls at thirty meters from the house, the glass shatters.) Human folly and degenerateness! They don’t even know what they are fighting for. Religious leaders continuously incite to hate and war instead of trying to temper human passions. I assured the poor thing that nothing would happen. What to tell him when he will wake up? What to tell him? You have to get used to live hiding and fasting. You have to abandon all your games and peers. You always have to be ready to die in the following minute. No, no, no. Nothing of all that! I will pretend that nothing has happened, that the game continues. At least, he won’t suffer. (A tear rolls on his old face). We shall go down to the basement. (He carries Luca whom is still sleeping, and exits the stage. Fadeout.)