The Merits Of Deliberate Combustion: A Play


Somewhere rural. Somewhen pre vacuum cleaner.

IAN: She’s a witch! Burn her!

FLEMING: I don’t follow.

IAN: What’s not to follow?

FLEMING: Your line of reasoning.

IAN: She’s a witch! A crone! She’s had congress with the Beast!

FLEMING: So you want to burn her?

IAN: Of course!

FLEMING: You want to burn Satan’s girlfriend?

IAN: Well, I mean…

FLEMING: A woman who, in her own right, has the power to curse stuff and turn people into things that aren’t people.

IAN: And what exactly do you suggest we do?

FLEMING: I would begin with quite a spirited apology and then continue to do any odd jobs she might need done around her cottage. Under the circumstances, I don’t think a gift would be out of order, either.

IAN: But she’s a witch.

FLEMING: That is the very crux of my point.

IAN: ‘She’s a witch, be helpful to her.’ It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it?

FLEMING: So long as I have a tongue, and it’s not designed to catch flies, I’m not overly concerned with what rolls off it.

IAN: What about God?

FLEMING: What about God?

IAN: Well, He’ll be a bit miffed won’t He? If we don’t burn her.

FLEMING: If He doesn’t like witches, He shouldn’t have invented them in the first place.

IAN: I always assumed He invented them as a sort of test.

WOMAN: Excuse me.

FLEMING: Well how do we know it’s not a test of kindness? Maybe the correct answer is forgiveness and a foot rub so long as she doesn’t mind us touching her feet.

WITCH: Excuse me!

IAN: Can’t you see we’re in the middle of a conversation? What is it?

WOMAN: I’m not actually a witch. I’m just a woman who knows how to read.

IAN and FLEMING share a look.

FLEMING: You can’t curse us?


IAN: Or turn us into things?


IAN and FLEMING share a second look.

FLEMING: She’s a woman! Burn her!


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