Act II, Section 6 of Louis Slotin Sonata:

Side notes: In the hard copy of the script the coroner's report (lifted directly from the actual document, BTW) and the Mourner's Kaddish ran side by side in columns to emphasize that they are meant to be read simultaneously. When this is done in performance, with the right actors, it really does make for a chilling effect, even if I do say so myself. I welcome suggestions on how to make these two sections appear as side-by-side columns.


. . . . Cross-fade to Dr. Hempelmann and Nurse Dickie.)

HEMPELMANN: On the sixth day, Case 2 complained of abdominal distention which was unrelieved by rectal tubes.

DICKIE: It caused the patient so much discomfort that gastric suction through a nasal tube was instituted and kept up almost continuously until death.

HEMPELMANN: Ten thousand cubic centimeters of green fluid with a fecal odor and appearance were aspirated during the first 24-hour period with considerable relief of abdominal distress.

DICKIE: From this day on, the patient failed rapidly. On the seventh day, the patient had periods of mental confusion.

(Cross-fade to Louie in his bed.)

SLOTIN: I know where neutrons go. I know where neutrons go. Annamae! Annamae, where are you?

(Nurse Dickie crosses into the light.)

DICKIE: I'm right here, Louie.

SLOTIN: Annamae, you gotta tell, Phil, okay?

DICKIE: What shall I tell him, Louie?

DICKIE: Neutrons. Tell him I figured it out. Tell him I've discovered a fundamental... um... something... of the universe.


SLOTIN: Okay.... Where... do neutrons go?... Hmmm? Come on... everything's more or less a ghostful of neutrons, right?... Where do they go?

DICKIE: I don't know.

SLOTIN: Come on, Phil, you know this. They don't go anywhere. You can't destroy 'em. Best you can do is dance 'em around a bit. We all share this space/time. 'Lo, Harry... Been here all the time, haven't you? And Benjamin Franklin, and Jesus, and only jesus knows how many countless generations of countless Chinese tenant farmers.


DICKIE: I'm right here, Louie.

SLOTIN: Tell Phil. Tell him death's an asymptote.

DICKIE: A what?

SLOTIN: An asymptote... he'll know what it means. Basic algebraic expression, really.... a line... stretching into infinity... approached by a curve... also stretching into infinity, coming closer and closer... without ever touching. Death's an asymptote. You, me: we're the curves. Tell Phil.

Or maybe... maybe here's another way of putting it... Annamae!?!

DICKIE: I'm right here, Louie.

SLOTIN: Maybe here's another way of putting it... I'm out of time, right?

DICKIE: Louie, you shouldn't try to talk.

SLOTIN: No, listen. To run out of time... what does that mean? Does that mean an end? Or does it mean... to come out of time. To leave it behind.

Tell this to Einstein. Tell him he's right that you can't separate time from space: you can't run from time... but you can run out of it. I'm doing it. I'm living... dying proof. I'm running out of time. Just watch.

DICKIE: Shhh. Louie. Shhh.

SLOTIN: I'm running out of time. I'm running... I am...

(The light fades on Louie and focuses on Annamae.)

DICKIE: The patient gradually sank into a coma and died quietly on the ninth day.


Lights up Israel Slotin sitting alone at a small table with a bottle of whiskey and a half full glass. There is a knock at the door.

Mr. Slotin pushes up from his chair and goes to the door. He opens it.)

ISRAEL SLOTIN: Ah, Phil, Dr. Hempelmann. Come in, come in.

(Dr. Hempelmann and Phil Morrison enter.)

Have a seat.

(They sit.)

Would either of you gentleman care for a drink?

HEMPELMANN: Oh... yeah. Thank you.

MORRISON: Yes, please.

ISRAEL SLOTIN: I don't have any ice. Sorry.

(Mr. Slotin fetches two more glasses.)

HEMPELMANN: Oh, don't worry. Neat for me is fine.

MORRISON: Me, too.

ISRAEL SLOTIN: Neat. All right then, neat it is.

(Awkward silence as Mr. Slotin pours the drinks.)

So... what news do you bring me?

HEMPELMANN: Well, Louie's slipped into a coma, Mr. Slotin.

ISRAEL SLOTIN: I see. That's not good.

HEMPELMANN: No.... We believe he only has a day or so left.

ISRAEL SLOTIN: Ah.... Ahh...

HEMPELMANN: We understand that your religion has fairly strict protocols about burial.

ISRAEL SLOTIN: Yes. That's right. The dead must be buried by sundown of the next day.

HEMPELMANN: I'm pleased to tell you that Major General Leslie Groves, the leader of this entire project, has arranged for a military transport plane to fly you, Mrs. Slotin and... Louis to Winnipeg so that his final resting-place can be his hometown.

ISRAEL SLOTIN: That's very, very kind of Major General Leslie Groves. Please tell him my appreciation.

MORRISON: Mr. Slotin...


MORRISON: There is... um... an additional matter.

ISRAEL SLOTIN: There is?... What?

(Lights up on Dr. Lisco.)

LISCO: Case Two.

MORRISON: Well... Mr. Slotin, Louie asked me to talk to you about--

LISCO: Pathology.

MORRISON: The possibility of an examination of his body after death.

ISRAEL SLOTIN: An examination?

MORRISON: His... illness was unique and circumstances are such that mankind could learn a great deal about radiation sickness from--

LISCO: External appearance.

MORRISON: A post-mortem pathological analysis of Louie's body.

LISCO: The body is that of a slender, athletically built, well developed young man whose age is given as 35 years.

ISRAEL SLOTIN: A post-mortem pathological whatsis? Phil, speak English, will ya? What are you talking about?

LISCO: The body is in good nutritional state; it measures 168 centimeters in length and the weight--

MORRISON (turning to Lisco): Please!

(Lisco exits. Morrison turns back to Mr. Slotin.)

I'm talking about an autopsy.

ISRAEL SLOTIN: An autopsy?... This is forbidden.

MORRISON: I understand. Louie... knew you would feel this way.

ISRAEL SLOTIN: You understand? ..What do you understand, Phil? "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him." The Bible says it twice right there. "Male and female he created them.... And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good." That was the sixth day.

I know some times we Jews seem crazy to you: refusing foods you consider delicacies, putting forks in flowerpots, wearing hats indoors. But we have our reasons. We believe simply that a man is God's image, and that image should not be... disfigured or disturbed in life or in death. We do not embalm. We do not cremate. We do not delay proper burial. Simple. It's really not so crazy.

MORRISON: No. No, it's not.


ISRAEL SLOTIN: So... My son spoke to you?


ISRAEL SLOTIN: Ah, he knew better than to ask such a thing himself.

HEMPELMANN: Mr. Slotin, we don't want--

ISRAEL SLOTIN: Dr. Hempelmann... shhh.... Have some whiskey.


My son, such a brilliant boy. Always working. Always studying, thinking, tinkering, figuring. Did you know that when Louie's high school pals would come over, he'd have his little brother Sammy play bridge with them while he went and studied. He liked to sit and read in the gazebo I built in the backyard.

When he got his Ph.D. degree in London, of course I told everyone I knew. "My son's a doctor!" I said. And they'd say, "Oh, a doctor?! So what kind of doctor is he?" And I would reach out for a light switch on the wall and turn it on and off. And I would say, "Do you know where the light went?... No?... You don't know. I don't know. But my son Louis, he knows. That's the kind of doctor he is." A scientist. So smart. So much smarter than any of us. Too smart maybe. Ah, who knows?

But he wants this thing... so you say.

MORRISON: Mr. Slotin... He--

ISRAEL SLOTIN: You said he wants it. Right?


ISRAEL SLOTIN: But it's my decision.



ISRAEL SLOTIN: Good thing you're a scientist, Phil. You'd make a lousy businessman. One thing I'll say for us Jews. We know how to prevaricate. You know what this means? Prevaricate? What am I saying? Of course you know what it means: you're a learned man.

Now Jesus, there was a Jew. Needless to say, and I mean no offense, but I don't think he was the son of God any more than I am, but... he was a Jew for sure. He talked like a Jew... lotsa times. I know. Believe it or not, I've read the stories. Like when somebody tried to trick him up about paying taxes to the Romans he took a look at the coin with Caesar's face on it and said, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and render unto God that which is God's." It's a very Jewish solution.

You say my son would want this, because he was a scientist, I imagine, and what is this but more science? Right? I say... true enough. My son gave himself to this world... this world of science and bombs and accidents and autopsies. I say render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's.

So do your autopsy. Do it quickly. But I don't want you to touch the face or any part of the head. Is this understood?



HEMPELMANN: All right. Thank you, Mr. Slotin.

ISRAEL SLOTIN: Don't thank me.

Drink your whiskey. I'm going to bed.

(Lights fade to half on Hempelmann and Morrison.

Lights boost on Dr. Lisco.)

LISCO: On opening the thorax, many small hemorrhages are seen in the mediastinal fat tissue. The surfaces are glistening and moist. The surfaces of the pericardium are shiny; the cavity contains about 50 c.c.'s of clear yellow fluid. Blood pours from the pulmonary artery on opening it in situ.

(Lights out on Hempelmann and Morrison. Half lights up on Israel Slotin, wearing a hat and a prayer shawl. He softly recites the Mourner's Kaddish underneath Lisco's continuing dictation.)

LISCO: On opening the abdomen, distended and gas-filled loops
of small intestine protrude from the incision. The
peritoneal surfaces are smooth and glistening... The intestines are
uniformly distended with gas; they are flabby
and mottled gray-red.... Bloody fluid exudes freely from all cut surfaces.

Microscopic examination of the small intestine reveals that everywhere
the surfaces of the intestines are covered by a
layer of exudate in which masses of bacteria are seen.

The cranial cavity is not examined.

ISRAEL SLOTIN: Yitgadal v'yitkadash sh'mei rabah b'alma
div' ra chirutei v'yamlich mal'chutei b'chayeichon
uv'yomeichon uv'chayei d'chol beit yisrael
ba'agalah uvizman kariv v'imru amein.

Y'hei sh'meih rabah m'vorach l'alam u'lalmei almaya.

Yitbarach v' yishtabach v'yitpa'ar v'yit'romam v'yitna'asei
v'yithadar v'yit'aleh v'yithalal sh'meih d'kud'sha
b'rich hu l'eila min kol birchata v'shirata
tushb'chata v'nechemata da'amiran b'alma
v'imru amen.

Y'hei sh'lama rabah min sh'maya v'chayim aleinu v'al
kol yisrael vi'mru amein.

Oseh shalom bim'romav hu ya'aseh shalom
aleinu v'al kol yisrael v'imru amein....

(Fade to black.

Israel Slotin's prayer repeats in the darkness. . . .


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