The characters in the play
1) Thel, a young, diaphanous shade of a girl—not even far enough along to be a virgin.
2) A highly articulate river.
3) A cheerful, philosophically shallow cloud.
As the play opens, we see Thel standing on the bank of a river. A mindless cloud floats overhead.
CLOUD: Hi, Thel, still deciding whether or not to get real?
THEL: I am not like thee, little Cloud, because I can smell the sweetest flowers but still feed not these selfsame flowers.
CLOUD: Well, I don’t feed them either.
THEL: Yes you do, you rain upon them bright watery nourishment by which they flourish and multiply.
CLOUD (thinking about it): Oh, yeh, right. But then I’m gone. Used up.
THEL (rather impatiently): But then you reform and appear again as another shape! Don’t you remember?
CLOUD (happily): Yes, of course! I’d forgotten that’s how it works. But you see, I only hold memory enough for one shape at a time. When I’ve become a new cloud, then I have to start over with a brand new memory! The one I have now is only twenty-five minutes old!
THEL: But if I become a mortal woman, I will probably start alright…
CLOUD: Do it! You’ll be beautiful! You’ll be a beautiful baby! You’ll be a beautiful teenager! You’ll be a beautiful woman! You’ll be a beautiful…well…matron!
THEL (continuing): …But then I will also come to an end. I will not ever acquire another shape and another and another, the way you do.
She moves closer to the river and dips her right foot in the icy water.
RIVER: That tickles.
THEL (jumping back): It does?
RIVER (casually): Oh yes. A little. It was sort of nice.
THEL You never stand still.
RIVER: No. Rivers flow.
THEL: Through time?
RIVER: You can’t step into the same me twice!
THEL: But I want to remain exactly as I am—for always I want to be the same me for eternity!
RIVER: Don’t you think that’s a little selfish?
THEL (adamant): No!
RIVER: Come, Thel, have a little dip! See where it leads you.
THEL (terrified): I know where it will lead me!
RIVER (calmly): No, you don’t.