Rob Hayes Writes Plays

Free Plays From Rob Hayes.

Dinner Party With Breakdown

 

A patio. Sturdy, modern outdoor dining furniture. Behind, a door into the kitchen of a new-build semi. Beyond, a garden currently undergoing renovation.

Nick and Donna Doyle sit at the table. Both stare off into the middle distance, not making eye contact or talking.

Silence. They stare.

NICK

Tell you what, can’t wait to see Daniel again.

DONNA

Shh.

NICK

Feels like I ain’t seen him in ages.

DONNA

Shh! Listen.

NICK

I can’t hear nothing.

DONNA

It’s like a. Like a. Hmmmmmm.

NICK

I can’t hear it darlin.

DONNA

Shh!

Pause.

DONNA

What is it? It’s like a hummin. Can you not hear it?

NICK

No I can’t hear it.

A ding from the kitchen.

DONNA

It was the microwave.

NICK

Oh.

DONNA

Thought I could hear somethin.

NICK

It was the microwave.

DONNA

Yeah. Beans are ready then.

NICK

Will they sit?

DONNA

They’ll have to won’t they? Have to put them back in when they get here.

NICK

Warm them through.

Donna shifts in her seat. Sighs.

DONNA

Where are they?

NICK

Yeah I know.

DONNA

I cooked a meal and everythin.

NICK

They’ll be here.

DONNA

They know it’s important to me. Why they late?

NICK

Could be anything darlin.

DONNA

Always do this.

NICK

First one ain’t it.

DONNA

I said to them. I said don’t be late.

NICK

Only took the plastic off the cooker this mornin.

DONNA

It’s all about timin. Doin a dinner is all about timin.

NICK

If it’s their fault they ain’t got no right to complain have they?

DONNA

Yeah but Nick I don’t wanna be servin anythin that they can complain about. That’s my point.

NICK

Shouldn’t be doin this in your state anyway. Runnin round.

DONNA

Cos they’ll just be thinkin oh she’s gone and messed it up somehow as usual.

NICK

All the heat and that.

DONNA

Like ten minutes won’t of made a difference. When it does.

NICK

Should’ve gone out somewhere.

DONNA

I wanna cook for people, but not if they ain’t gonna show up on time and ruin the whole thing.

NICK

Coulda gone to that new place. The what’s it called. That Lebanese place.

DONNA

Lebanese?

NICK

Yeah that new Lebanese place.

DONNA

As if mate. You know what dad woulda made of that.

NICK

Yeah good point.

DONNA

Can you imagine? Dad tryina read the menu. ‘Ain’t spicy is it? I won’t eat it if it’s spicy!’

NICK

Yeah! And your mum.

DONNA

Yeah.

NICK

She’ll just wanna see the wine menu.

DONNA

Alright Nick.

NICK

No sorry. No I was. Yeah.

DONNA

This is stupid now. They’re doin it on purpose.

NICK

I don’t think they’re doin it on purpose darlin.

DONNA

Why else are they late?

NICK

Why would they do it on purpose?

DONNA

I dunno.

NICK

Probably ain’t on purpose then is it?

DONNA

Been callin them all day. No answer. Literally ten times. No answer.

NICK

You know what they’re like. Probably just got caught up with something. You’re dad’s got all this goin on. With Dubai and that.

DONNA

I don’t give a fuck about Dubai. And neither should he on the weekend.

NICK

I think it’s quite a big deal for him. Lot of paperwork and that.

DONNA

He should know the difference between work and family.

NICK

Yeah.

DONNA

I know I want to talk to him about business but that’s different.

NICK

Yeah guess so.

DONNA

Cos that’s work and family together, at the same time. It ain’t either or.

NICK

Not either or. Yeah.

DONNA

It means we could work together. Spend a bit more time together maybe. Hard enough getting him round tonight.

NICK

Well make sure you don’t. You know.

DONNA

Don’t what?

NICK

You know. You don’t get too.

DONNA

Too what? Go on.

NICK

Nothin. Just. You’ve got a tendency to. Cos I know this is important for you.

DONNA

Spit it out Nick.

NICK

Get worked up a bit.

DONNA

I don’t fuckin get worked up a bit.

NICK

You do a bit Don. Sometimes.

DONNA

Well I won’t tonight.

NICK

Gotta show him that you can keep your head. In business and that.

DONNA

I will do. Course I will. That’s if he ever fuckin turns up!

NICK

See that’s kind of what I’m talkin about.

DONNA

He ain’t here yet is he? Can say what I want if he ain’t here.

NICK

Just. Deep breaths yeah. Control the hormones.

DONNA

Babe I promise. I’ll be the picture of. Solemnity.

NICK

Serenity yeah.

DONNA

What?

NICK

Nothing. How’ve you been today?

DONNA

Fine.

NICK

Yeah? No trouble or.

DONNA

No nothin. Still sick but.

NICK

That’ll pass.

Pause.

NICK

I’m looking forward to this anyway. Absolutely starvin.

DONNA

Lookin forward to a soggy dinner.

NICK

It won’t be soggy.

DONNA

Beef overcooked.

NICK

We’re havin beef?

DONNA

Yeah. Why what’s wrong with beef?

NICK

No nothin. Just.

Beat.

NICK

Thought we were havin lamb.

DONNA

No it’s beef.

NICK

You did say lamb.

DONNA

Well I meant beef.

NICK

Good, nice. I like beef, it’s nice.

DONNA

It’s supposed to be rosy in the middle. Moist and rosy.

NICK

Yeah.

DONNA

Be all tough now. All tough and grey.

NICK

It’ll be lovely.

DONNA

How do you know?

NICK

Look just. We all want it to be alright, okay? We all want to have a nice time. You. Me. Your mum. Eddie. No one wants to cause trouble. It’ll be nice. I’m lookin forward to it.

DONNA

Do you think he’ll go for it?

NICK

Go for what?

DONNA

Do you think he’ll see it as an investment opportunity?

NICK

The beef?

DONNA

What? No, the.

NICK

Oh. Sorry. Er. Maybe. He might be a bit.

DONNA

Bit what?

NICK

Bit preoccupied maybe. Tonight.

DONNA

What?

NICK

I’m just sayin he might be a bit.

DONNA

You just said we’re all gonna have a nice night.

NICK

Yeah but like I said he’s been busy. Lot to be doin, next few weeks.

DONNA

Why’s he gonna be preoccupied here though? He’s got no right to be.

NICK

He picked me up today. Out the blue.

DONNA

From the airport?

NICK

Yeah. He was all over the place. Couldn’t get a word out of him.

DONNA

What’s that got to do with anythin?

NICK

I’m just sayin try not to get upset if his mind’s elsewhere.

DONNA

I won’t get upset.

NICK

Good.

DONNA

Actually no. I will get upset.

NICK

Oh.

DONNA

Because his mind shouldn’t be elsewhere, it should be here with his family, and with the meal that I’ve gone and bloody cooked special for him.

NICK

Yeah. I mean in an ideal world.

DONNA

He ain’t got no right to be.

NICK

No, yeah.

DONNA

I’ll throw his dinner in his fucking face if he is.

NICK

No he won’t be. He won’t be.

DONNA

Then why’d you say it?

NICK

I don’t know darling. I dunno.

DONNA

She’ll be no good neither. Not at this time.

NICK

Shall I open the wine?

DONNA

Not yet. Just.

Pause.

NICK

I love you darlin.

DONNA

Yeah I love you too.

NICK

Hope it goes well for you tonight.

DONNA

Fuck are they?

They stare.

The sound of a big engine coming to rest. Tyres on a gravel driveway.

DONNA

That’s them. That’s them.

The distant sound of car doors closing, perhaps muted voices.

DONNA

WE’RE ROUND THE BACK!

Donna stands, head cocked.

DONNA

WE’RE ROUND THE BACK!

She listens for a response.

DONNA

THE BACK! COME ROUND THE BACK!

She listens again.

DONNA

Do you think they heard me?

NICK

I think they heard you yeah.

Eddie and Patricia Gates appear from round the front.

DONNA

Here we go!

PATRICIA

Hello darlin. Was that you shouting just then?

DONNA

Yeah I was saying come round the back.

PATRICIA

Oh I see.

DONNA

I thought you would be ringin the doorbell so I was sayin we’re round the back.

PATRICIA

Right. Come here.

She hugs and kisses Donna.

Eddie approaches Nick and shakes his hand.

EDDIE

Alright.

NICK

Yeah, alright. How’s your afternoon been?

EDDIE

Yeah. Here smell that.

Nick smells Eddie’s lapel.

NICK

Oh that’s nice. What is it?

EDDIE

New Boss.

NICK

New Hugo Boss is it?

EDDIE

Only came out Monday. She don’t like it.

NICK

No I think it’s nice. His old one was nice too.

EDDIE

I prefer the new one.

NICK

Yeah me too actually.

EDDIE

Bit feminine the last one.

NICK

What’s wrong Eddie, you not in touch with your feminine side?

EDDIE

I’ll be in touch with your feminine side, you’re not careful.

NICK

Steady. Wouldn’t want rumours getting round the office now.

Eddie gives Nick a mock jab to the jaw.

NICK

Pick that up in duty free?

EDDIE

Thought I’d pick it up whilst I was there. Few quid off. Got her a bottle of Chanel, she thought it was a fuckin liqueur.

PATRICIA

What’s he sayin about me?

Eddie holds his hands up, turns to his daughter.

PATRICIA

Hello sweetheart. How are you alright?

NICK

Yeah not bad. Cheers. And you?

PATRICIA

Don’t ask darlin. Save yourself the trauma.

Eddie greets Donna.

EDDIE

Hello darlin.

DONNA

Hiya dad.

EDDIE

You okay? Look a bit flustered.

DONNA

No I’m fine. Just tryin to get the timin right on this.

EDDIE

You been cookin all day? She been by the stove all day Nick?

NICK

Something like that, yeah.

EDDIE

There’s a first.

DONNA

Might be a bit overdone.

PATRICIA

It’ll be fine.

DONNA

Only it’s been in there about ten minutes too long. And the beans might be a bit soggy and all.

EDDIE

Don’t apologise love.

DONNA

I wasn’t, I was just.

EDDIE

Makes me nervous.

NICK

Here, sit down. I’ll get some wine.

PATRICIA

Yeah go on. Get it open.

NICK

Red or white?

EDDIE

Whisky.

PATRICIA

Eddie.

NICK

You can have whisky. Think I’ve got a bottle somewhere.

PATRICIA

He’s windin you up. He’ll have wine.

NICK

You sure? It’s no bother.

EDDIE

No I am windin you up. Wine’s fine.

NICK

Okay. Red or white?

EDDIE

Do I look like a fuckin housewife?

NICK

Well now you mention it, your colour matching’s come a long way.

EDDIE

Teach you a thing or two about dress sense mate.

PATRICIA

He’ll have red.

Nick nods, exits.

PATRICIA

Behave yourself.

EDDIE

We’re only havin a laugh.

She turns to Donna.

PATRICIA

How are you sweetheart, alright?

DONNA

Yeah I’m alright.

PATRICIA

You look beautiful darlin.

DONNA

Thanks mum.

PATRICIA

Really radiant.

EDDIE

She’s been stood next to the oven half the afternoon.

Patricia places her hand on Donna’s stomach.

PATRICIA

And how you feelin?

DONNA

Yeah.

PATRICIA

Have you started being sick yet? In the morning?

DONNA

Yeah I’m bein sick two or three times a day.

PATRICIA

It’ll pass.

Patricia bends down and addresses Donna’s stomach.

PATRICIA

Little tike. You makin your mummy be all sicky in the mornings?

DONNA

Is she alright?

EDDIE

Already had two vodka tonics. And a Valium.

PATRICIA

Are you playin mischief with your mummy’s tummy in there?

EDDIE

Think that’s bad, wait till the fuckin thing’s born.

PATRICIA

Oh, Eddie.

EDDIE

You’ll pine for the days when all he made you do was sing to the toilet bowl.

DONNA

Dad! It might be a girl. I tried callin you earlier. No one was pickin up.

EDDIE

Oh yeah we had some. Stuff to sort out.

DONNA

What stuff?

EDDIE

Nothin.

DONNA

Were you alright getting here?

EDDIE

Why we’re not late are we?

DONNA

No, not. Really late. Just.

PATRICIA

Sorry love.

DONNA

No it’s fine. It’s just the timin’s quite. Precarious. On the food.

EDDIE

Late. We’re not late.

DONNA

No, not late late. We did say seven though. And it is.

EDDIE

How many times we turned up and your make-up’s half done?

DONNA

Quarter past.

EDDIE

One shoe on, screechin at us for comin early. Can’t win.

DONNA

I’m just nervous about it all. With the cookin and that.

PATRICIA

Don’t be nervous.

DONNA

I just want it all to be alright.

PATRICIA

Everythin will be fine.

EDDIE

And if it ain’t there’s a lovely new foreign place opened down the road.

PATRICIA

Dad!

EDDIE

That was a joke love.

PATRICIA

Just relax.

EDDIE

As it happens we did have a bit of a nightmare.

PATRICIA

Here we go.

DONNA

What’s that?

PATRICIA

His new car.

EDDIE

Like tryin to drive a bleedin submarine on wheels.

PATRICIA

He hasn’t shut up about it since he got it.

DONNA

You got a new car? Another one?

PATRICIA

Spent twenty minutes tryin to get it in gear.

EDDIE

Upgrade love. Happens automatically.

PATRICIA

Can you believe that?

EDDIE

I want the old one back. They’re just addin stuff it don’t need now.

PATRICIA

It was quite funny actually. We literally didn’t have a clue how to get it started.

Nick returns with a bottle of wine and glasses. He uncorks, pours, etc.

EDDIE

Pointless. Just make it go forward, that’s all I want.

NICK

What’s this?

PATRICIA

His new toy.

NICK

Oh.

EDDIE

You know the er. Supercharged HSE.

NICK

Right.

EDDIE

Range Rover. You were sat in it a few hours ago.

NICK

Oh yeah yeah yeah. The new. Yeah. You said it was givin you trouble?

EDDIE

I want me old one back.

NICK

Yeah? Not as good this one?

EDDIE

Nowhere near mate.

NICK

Yeah I heard that it weren’t as good. Been lookin at that model myself. But the features.

EDDIE

Pointless most of them.

NICK

Yeah, too many of them, I thought. Pointless. Shame because the original model was simpler.

EDDIE

Well it was ideal. Didn’t need to start messin around with everythin.

NICK

Yeah, just had the right amount of. Stuff in it. Gadgets and.

DONNA

What’s wrong with the new one?

EDDIE

Well, fuckin. Actually I don’t wanna talk about it.

DONNA

Nick what’s wrong with it?

NICK

Hah?

DONNA

What’s the difference?

NICK

Between the.

EDDIE

Classic Vogue and the Supercharged HSE.

NICK

Yeah. Well. The, uh. You see. Well it’s quite complicated really.

DONNA

Too complicated for me right.

NICK

No I didn’t.

DONNA

Cos I’m a girl.

PATRICIA

You’re a woman darlin.

NICK

No I wasn’t. I just.

DONNA

You’re always treatin me like I’m ignorant.

EDDIE

Give her the basics.

NICK

Yeah. Sorry Don. Yeah, see the original model was. Simpler. You know, it could navigate off-road and. And. And on road quite well. It had the balance just right.

EDDIE

Well this one’s fine when you get it movin.

NICK

Yeah. Yeah the main problem ain’t that. It’s. It’s to do with the new features they’ve added.

DONNA

What are they though?

NICK

There’s a few, see. There’s a couple of different things that make it. Not quite as good. Like. Where to start really.

Beat.

EDDIE

Well it’s this new gearbox innit.

NICK

Yeah! Yeah the gearbox. See they’ve added a new gearbox and it’s. It’s.

EDDIE

It’s right up on the steering wheel. Like a paddle that you have to flick. Pointless.

NICK

Yeah completely pointless. I saw that and I just thought. Nah. Not for me. Gimme a stick any day.

EDDIE

It’s got eight gears an all. Who the fuck needs eight gears in a car?

NICK

Too many, I thought. When I saw that.

Nicky nods.

NICK

So that’s basically the problem with it.

EDDIE

And don’t get me started on this new Gradient Acceleration Control and Terrain Response System nonsense.

NICK

Well I weren’t even gonna go into that. All sorts of problems really.

DONNA

I didn’t know you was into cars.

NICK

Who me? Do me a favour. I used to be down the rally track every day growin up. Yeah I love them. Ain’t you seen all them Auto Traders I got stacked in the garage?

DONNA

No.

NICK

You ain’t been lookin then. Yeah I’m a big car man.

EDDIE

Must be. Lookin at a model like that. Off the forecourt. Not cheap.

NICK

No, well.

EDDIE

Didn’t realise you was in the market for a new motor.

NICK

They got a pretty good payment plan. Installments over a. Period.

EDDIE

Right. Like a mortgage.

NICK

Yeah. Like a.

PATRICIA

Not far off an all. Price you pay for one of them. It’s too big. They’re all too big nowadays.

Eddie sniffs his wine.

EDDIE

What’s this, Burgundy?

NICK

Yeah Burgundy yeah. You like it? It’s nice innit?

EDDIE

Depends what we’re havin it with.

NICK

Yeah well I took that into consideration. We’re havin beef, by the way. So I picked it out special cos it goes well with red meat.

DONNA

You thought we were havin lamb.

NICK

Cheers Donna. That’s also a red meat, if you’re. Shouldn’t you be preparin the starters? Timing’s so important and that.

PATRICIA

Yeah what we havin?

DONNA

Well ‘to start’, I thought the menu should reflect Nick’s trip to France. As a celebration for comin back home. And of course for.

She winks to her parents, nods towards Nick.

EDDIE

So. Don’t keep us in suspense.

DONNA

I’m doin. Minestrone soup.

EDDIE

That’s Italian.

DONNA

Yeah I’m doin the French version.

EDDIE

What French version?

DONNA

The French version.

EDDIE

Of an Italian soup?

DONNA

It’s called fusion.

EDDIE

Confusion more like.

DONNA

If you don’t wanna eat it then don’t.

PATRICIA

He’ll eat it. I said behave.

NICK

Sounds lovely Donna.

EDDIE

Yeah. I like Italian food and I like French food so this should be a match made in fuckin heaven.

DONNA

God you’re in a right mood tonight. What’s wrong with him mum?

Patricia takes a swig of wine.

DONNA

When was the last time you cooked anythin dad?

EDDIE

I trust your culinary judgement my darlin. Hundred percent.

DONNA

Right well we’ve wasted enough time. Might as well get on with it.

PATRICIA

Do you need a hand love?

DONNA

No I can manage.

PATRICIA

I’ll come through anyway. You might need help.

Donna and Patricia exit to the kitchen.

Pause.

NICK

So cheers for pickin us up earlier.

EDDIE

Yeah.

NICK

Didn’t expect it.

EDDIE

Had a spare couple of hours. Thought I’d waste it on your ugly mug.

NICK

Heh. Cheers though.

EDDIE

It’s easy to get yourself down. Comin back from a trip like that. Just wanted to be there to say. Fuck it. Don’t matter. These things happen.

NICK

Yeah.

EDDIE

Who wants to borrow from the French anyway?

NICK
Exactly. No I mean. I thought it was a good idea at the time.

EDDIE

We all did mate. Sometimes it don’t work out how it should.

Beat.

EDDIE

And plus. You know. I needed a favour.

NICK

Yeah.

EDDIE

Another one. Heh.

NICK

It’s no bother.

Pause.

NICK

Got a new rower the other day. New rowin machine.

Beat.

NICK

Supposed to be a good one.

EDDIE

Yeah?

NICK

Yeah supposed to be. Put it in the spare room.

EDDIE

Won’t be spare very long.

NICK

No. Suppose not.

Beat.

NICK

Be good for when it gets colder though. It’s warm now, but in the winter. Save me runnin in the.

Eddie stamps his foot on the decking.

NICK

Dark.

EDDIE

Done a good job haven’t they?

NICK

What?

Nick looks down at the decking.

NICK

Oh, yeah.

EDDIE

Hardwood Balau that. Real deal.

NICK

Yeah?

EDDIE

Kiln dried. Usually put in softwood. Needs changin every few years. Gets waterlogged and that. But this lot’ll notice, round here. People buyin up these places. Can’t really fob them off. Not worth the grief.

NICK

Yeah.

EDDIE

Plus we get this for three quid a metre.

NICK

Really?

EDDIE

That’s unheard of.

NICK

Yeah that’s good. Good price.

EDDIE

Good with water as well this. Won’t rot. There’s no knots in it so the water don’t.

NICK

With our weather, that’s.

EDDIE

You know you gotta oil this right?

NICK

Oh yeah?

EDDIE

Every six months, you gotta give it a coat of oil. Otherwise it cracks on you. Totally ruin the finish. Becomes unstable after a while. So just.

NICK

Yeah, course. I’ll.

He taps his head.

Eddie looks off to the kitchen.

EDDIE

Right, shall we do this?

NICK

Yeah alright.

EDDIE

Let’s get it done quick alright.

Eddie and Nick exit round to the front of the building.

The patio is empty for a moment.

Donna and Patricia enter, setting the table.

DONNA

So basically you join a syndicate, right.

PATRICIA

Yeah.

DONNA

So you go in four, five ways, and that way you can place a big enough order for them to do it.

PATRICIA

Yeah.

DONNA

Think it’s like four thousand dresses. Five thousand dresses. Somethin like that.

PATRICIA

Right.

DONNA

And so you go in with an order big enough, and they make them and send them over. And they’re all the same, like, template. You know? All the same design.

PATRICIA

Yeah.

DONNA

Same style. But you can choose the patterns and any prints you want on them. Think there’s like ten different prints and then buttons and stuff as well. They got a catalogue.

PATRICIA

Yeah.

DONNA

And then they make them over there and ship them to you. But then you can add other detailin and stuff as well.

PATRICIA

Yeah. Make them.

DONNA

Make them look home made. Add your own personal design touches. And that makes it bespoke, see. That’s what makes them bespoke dresses.

PATRICIA

Yeah.

DONNA

Cos even though the dresses are the same.

They exit to the kitchen.

Eddie and Nick enter heaving a suitcase onto the patio.

EDDIE

Hang on. Let’s just.

They dump it by the back wall. Take a second to catch their breath.

NICK

Heavy.

EDDIE

Yeah.

NICK

What you say it was?

EDDIE

Irish Wolfhound.

NICK

Irish Wolfhound.

EDDIE

Beautiful. Pat’s favourite.

NICK

Shame.

EDDIE

Don’t tell her.

NICK

You haven’t told her?

Eddie shakes his head.

EDDIE

Break her heart. Weren’t pleasant. Had to use a nail gun.

NICK

Bloody hell.

EDDIE

All I had to hand. She’s not got the constitution for it, not at the moment. I’ll tell her I took it to the vet or somethin.

NICK

What does she think’s in the suitcase?

EDDIE

She don’t know about it does she?

NICK

When you gonna tell her?

EDDIE

In time. When she’s feelin better. Not a word from you, alright?

NICK

Yeah, course.

EDDIE

I mean it mate.

NICK

Eddie.

Nick places his hand on his heart.

Eddie nods.

EDDIE

Lyme disease. Shame really. Contagious, it was. Nasty bug. Bit like Rabies or something.

NICK

That’s awful.

EDDIE

Good as gold, usually, these things. Lovely temperament. This one was goin wild though. I knew something was up. It was a beautiful thing.

NICK

What was it called?

EDDIE

How the fuck should I know?

Eddie looks over to the kitchen again.

EDDIE

Still chattin. So we’ll put it by the other thing, alright?

NICK

Yeah. Where the jacuzzi’s gonna go.

EDDIE

No one’s gonna dig that up in a hurry.

NICK

Exactly.

EDDIE

I’d do it on my own land but I can’t risk the virus spreadin through the soil. To the other dogs like.

NICK

That’d be awful.

EDDIE

Cost me a fortune. Load of pedigrees goin funny. Plus you’ve already got a great big hole in your garden. Thought we could chuck it in there rather than diggin up a load of turf.

NICK

Yeah it’s no bother. None at all.

EDDIE

No real chance of it spreadin. All wrapped in plastic.

NICK

Still. Wanna be careful.

EDDIE

You had any trouble with the, er.

He nods off to the garden.

NICK

No. No nothing. Mind you I’ve only been back the afternoon. Don’t think Donna’s noticed.

EDDIE

Cheers for that.

NICK

Nah it’s nothin.

EDDIE

Really helped us out of a.

NICK

Like you said, who’s gonna be digging up a jacuzzi?

EDDIE

Nasty little.

NICK

Honestly it’s.

EDDIE

This hasn’t gone unnoticed. You pullin a solid like that.

NICK

For the company, innit?

EDDIE

That’s right. Good attitude.

NICK

You had any trouble? Whilst I was away?

EDDIE

Nah. Nothing. What, with the.

NICK

Yeah.

EDDIE

Nothin.

NICK

Who was he? If you don’t.

EDDIE

Just some kid. Irish lad from Seven Kings. Been with us about six months. Forty feet in the air without an hard hat on.

NICK

Jesus.

EDDIE

Yeah it’s tragic. He was pissin around, not observin protocol. Some of these lads, they got a death wish.

NICK

Yeah. Literally.

EDDIE

I mean there’s safety rules for a reason. Health and safety officers get a load of flak but really.

NICK

Absolutely.

EDDIE

You want to ignore them you pay the consequences. How he got all the way up there without an hard hat I’ll ever know. Foreman’s a fuckin wreck about it.

NICK

And he just fell?

EDDIE

Thing like that would have us shut down. Inquests and all sorts. Can’t have that now. Not with.

NICK

Yeah course. What about the family?

EDDIE

He weren’t no good, Nick. I did them a favour takin him on in the first place. They were sad, like. Don’t get me wrong. And we compensated them nice. They didn’t walk away with nothin.

NICK

That’s alright then.

EDDIE

They said he takes off for weeks at a time anyway. Just goes off by himself. No-one’ll bat an eyelid.

NICK

Good of them really.

EDDIE

Breaks your heart but what can you do?

NICK

Guess so.

EDDIE

Told the mother we’d bury him on site so they could have a little. Few candles and that. But it’s too risky. All number of reasons to go diggin round a construction site. New houses goin up. Foundations need recalibratin. Pipin not laid right.

NICK

Wouldn’t wanna risk it.

EDDIE

Much safer out here.

NICK

I weren’t even around to help out.

EDDIE

For the best.

NICK

I could’ve given you a hand.

Eddie shakes his head.

NICK

Well if they ever wanna come round. Light some candles.

EDDIE

Don’t be daft.

Beat.

NICK

How’s Daniel been? Feels like I’ve not seen him in ages.

EDDIE

Resilient as ever mate. He barely noticed you were gone.

NICK

Oh that’s nice to hear.

EDDIE

Worse than that, I could say the same thing about the lads in the office.

NICK

Now I know you’re lyin.

EDDIE

Here let’s get this shifted before.

The Donna and Patricia re-enter with dishes.

EDDIE

Fuck.

Nick shunts the suitcase away to a corner.

DONNA

You should see her now mum, honestly she looks like a burns victim.

She presents the starter.

DONNA

French minestrone with foccacia bread.

EDDIE

Foccacia bread?

PATRICIA

Don’t start Eddie.

DONNA

Bon Appetit.

They sit down to eat. It is clearly, for some unknown reason, awful.

NICK

It’s nice.

PATRICIA

Yeah lovely.

NICK

Nice and crunchy.

DONNA

Do you like it dad?

Eddie drinks his wine.

DONNA

Daddy?

EDDIE

I’m very proud of you sweetheart.

PATRICIA

Tell us about France Nick. How was it?

NICK

It was.

PATRICIA

Was it nice?

NICK

Yeah it was nice yeah. Mostly business. Meetings and that.

PATRICIA

Was it glamorous?

NICK

Err. Yeah. I guess in a way, it was quite. You know. I saw a Lambourghini.

EDDIE

Yeah?

NICK

Yeah. Lambourghini Countache. Bright yellow. That was quite glamorous I suppose. Saw a Maserati an all. Think it was a Maserati. Might’ve been a Lotus actually.

PATRICIA

Sounds lovely.

NICK

Yeah it’s weird to think I was there this morning. Woke up in another country, now I’m here. I brought you back some biscuits.

PATRICIA

Ooh lovely.

NICK

I’ll bring them through.

PATRICIA

We’ll have them later with a cup of tea.

NICK

And a lovely bottle of wine Pat.

PATRICIA

You know me so well.

EDDIE

You two wanna stop flirtin at the dinner table?

They laugh.

NICK

Yeah watch out. Soon as your back’s turned! No I’m jokin, obviously. Just.

Beat.

EDDIE

Real shame about the investment deal though.

DONNA

What happened?

NICK

Whole thing just. Pffff. They’re very cautious out there, very cautious.

DONNA

So you went all the way out there for nothin?

EDDIE

They’re very tetchy over there. Don’t wanna invest oversees. Too proud. They don’t wanna get on board with somethin, there’s very little you can do about it. Stubborn, you know.

PATRICIA

I love Paris.

EDDIE

How do you know?

PATRICIA

I’ve always wanted to go but this one won’t have nothing to do with it.

EDDIE

Too fussy, France.

PATRICIA

He always wants to go Spain.

EDDIE

Hotter.

PATRICIA

It ain’t all about hot you know. What about culture?

EDDIE

She’s the one who wants to spend all day on the bloody beach. I tell her we’ll go Spain then where it’s nice and hot. You’ll catch a breeze in France. You won’t like it. Too draughty.

PATRICIA

I only wanna sit on the beach cos there’s nothing else to do. If there was a castle or something.

EDDIE

A castle?

PATRICIA

Or something old to look around. An old village or something.

EDDIE

We’ll go France next time then. Jesus fuckin.

PATRICIA

Yeah right.

EDDIE

Nah nah nah. You can pick the holidays from now on. Save me the bother. Closer anyway, France. Cheaper flights.

PATRICIA

And when was the last time you paid for a flight?

EDDIE

When was the last time you paid for anythin?

PATRICIA

Piss off you old sod. Bet you wouldn’t even know how to book a flight.

EDDIE

I just said you can have the holiday of your dreams woman. What’s all the grief for?

PATRICIA

Oh forget it.

EDDIE

Listen to her.

PATRICIA

I said forget it.

Pause.

They eat. Patricia takes a large swig of wine.

NICK

Yeah it was nice anyway Pat.

Patricia tops herself up.

EDDIE

We’ll have Dubai soon anyway. Got everythin there, won’t need to go anywhere else. You know they got a seven star hotel. Seven.

Beat.

EDDIE

Shaped like a big sail.

PATRICIA

How am I supposed to get a tan when I can’t wear nothing above the knee?

EDDIE

I thought you weren’t bothered about gettin a tan?

PATRICIA

Well a tan’s a tan isn’t it?

EDDIE

I don’t know love. I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean. A tan’s a tan? Yes it is a tan. A tan is a tan, what the fuck has that got to do with anything?

PATRICIA

It means there’s more to choosin an holiday than wherever some dodgy associate’s got a villa.

DONNA

Can you stop arguin please? Pair of yous. Ruinin the ambience.

PATRICIA

Sorry love.

DONNA

Hostin a dinner party’s all about creatin the right ambience.

EDDIE

Thought it was all about timin.

PATRICIA

Eddie!

EDDIE

We ruined the ambience an all now? Why don’t we just trash the fuckin place and be done with it?

DONNA

Just!

Nick takes Donna’s hand. She breathes.

They continue eating. Patricia drinks.

PATRICIA

You been up to much today Nick?

NICK

Me? Nah. Only been back the afternoon really. Unpacked. Went for a run.

PATRICIA

Went for a run outside?

NICK

Yeah.

PATRICIA

What, you went round the lake?

NICK

Yeah.

PATRICIA

I love it round there. So peaceful.

NICK

Yeah it’s nice.

PATRICIA

You like keepin fit don’t you?

NICK

I do rather.

PATRICIA

You can tell. You can really tell.

NICK

Just sayin to Eddie I bought a new rowin machine the other day.

PATRICIA

Yeah Donna said.

NICK

It’s alright.

PATRICIA

I’ve got a treadmill. Handy aren’t they?

EDDIE

Yeah and how many times you use it? World’s most expensive clothes horse.

PATRICIA

I don’t see you rushin to get on it. You’re the one who could do with a go.

NICK

Be good for when it’s colder.

PATRICIA

Yeah exactly.

NICK

My knees always go in the winter.

PATRICIA
You don’t want that.

EDDIE

I thought you were excited about Dubai?

PATRICIA

I am. You were just doin my head in.

EDDIE

Tell you what, I’ll buy a chateau in France, this time next year. Buy a fuckin vineyard.

DONNA

Would you do that?

EDDIE

If it’ll shut her up.

Patricia punches Eddie in the arm. He laughs and finishes his wine.

EDDIE

Produce better stuff than this piss an all. No offence mate.

He hands the glass to Nick.

EDDIE

Go on then. Top us up.

Nick takes the glass and fills it with wine.

He hands it back, then goes to the kitchen for another bottle, refills the table.

DONNA

How come you can make so much money in Dubai then?

EDDIE

They need buildings. There’s no regulations out there so you can bang them up all over the place. Nice ones an all. Lot of wealthy people out there. Mansions and that. They’re buildin islands for Christ sake. They’re actually manufacturing land. And they can’t use it for growin cos it’s all salted.

DONNA

Salted?

EDDIE

Yeah they salt the land.

DONNA

Why they do that?

NICK

Osmosis. Remember at school?

EDDIE

So it don’t get washed into the sea. There ain’t nothin to do but build houses. And the government can’t even afford to finish the ones they started let alone build new ones. They’re outsourcin it all. All the construction. There’s no room in London any more. No room to fuckin move let alone build.

DONNA

What’s wrong with Essex?

EDDIE

That’s another discussion altogether, but if you’re talkin in terms of construction.

DONNA

There’s loads of land round here. Fields and that.

EDDIE

Yeah and they wanna keep it like that. Besides local council will have me in a tutu before they offer me a license. Out there mind.

DONNA

It’s easier. I get it.

EDDIE

No red tape, no nothin. Whole place is a fuckin playground. I’m tellin you we are this close.

He indicates an inch.

EDDIE

This close.

NICK

Yeah it’s gonna be big. All anyone talks about in the office.

EDDIE

Good. That’s good to hear.

Pause.

EDDIE

Right, now that we’re all sat down, whilst we’re on the subject, and whilst we’re not at each other’s throats. I got an announcement to make.

DONNA

About what?

EDDIE

Actually it’s more of an offer.

Eddie reaches into his jacket pocket and takes out a large envelope. He hands it to Nick.

He makes the sound of a fanfare.

EDDIE

There you go son. Congratulations.

NICK

What.

Nick opens the envelope and takes out two plane tickets.

DONNA

What is it?

NICK

It’s plane tickets Don.

EDDIE

I want you out there.

PATRICIA

So he does know how to book them.

EDDIE

I want you heading a team. It’s a promotion.

DONNA

Bloody hell.

NICK

Right.

EDDIE

Well look happy!

They laugh.

NICK

This is.

DONNA

Are we gonna live in Dubai?

EDDIE

You can keep this place.

NICK

I was gonna say. We only just moved in.

EDDIE

Rent it out, and then when you’re ready to settle back down in Essex you can move back.

DONNA

That’s amazin. God dad thank you so much! Oh I can’t wait.

NICK

And how long. Do you see us bein out there for?

EDDIE

Dunno, maybe a year. Two if you like it. Be the boss when I’m not around.

NICK

As long as that? Jesus.

Eddie raises his glass.

EDDIE

A toast. Cheers.

EVERYONE

Cheers.

EDDIE

To new beginnings. A new start.

Everyone drinks except Nick. He’s staring at the tickets.

NICK

There’s only two tickets.

EDDIE

What, you wanna put your feet up? I know it’s a long flight, but.

They laugh.

NICK

No I mean. I mean. What about.

EDDIE

Daniel?

NICK

Yeah. I mean.

Patricia exits to the kitchen.

EDDIE

I thought about that, I know it may seem a bit odd goin without him at first.

NICK

Without him?

EDDIE

Just at first.

NICK

Yeah. It would seem odd, that.

EDDIE

But then I thought he’s at the centre all week ain’t he?

NICK

Yeah, but.

EDDIE

We’ll look to get him out in good time. First few months.

NICK

Few months?

EDDIE

Meanwhile you can come back every now and then. We’ll arrange proper care for him. Get all that sorted. Nurses and whatnot.

NICK

Right, but he won’t.

EDDIE

Proper 24 hour care back here.

NICK

He won’t. Be with me though.

EDDIE

He’s got a support network here, ain’t he? He loves them nurses.

NICK

But he’s my son. I’m his dad.

Patricia returns with a fresh bottle of wine. She tops herself up.

DONNA

Am I definitely goin too?

EDDIE

Too right.

DONNA

That’s so excitin. I could set up my business over there. It’s closer to China. Is it closer to China?

EDDIE

Yeah.

DONNA

They all wear lovely dresses over there don’t they?

EDDIE

The best. They’re all loaded.

DONNA

Do you think I’ll like it?

EDDIE

You’ll love it. It’s got all your favourite shops over there now. All the celebrity chefs got their own restaurants. You’ll barely notice the difference.

PATRICIA

Except you’ll have to wear pyjamas all day.

EDDIE

So there we go. Something to get excited about.

PATRICIA

In 40 degree heat.

DONNA

I can’t wait!

EDDIE

You won’t have to. New house. New baby.

DONNA

New business.

EDDIE

New start.

NICK

I don’t know if I want a new start.

EDDIE

I’ve got some brochures in the boot. Something to read on the plane. Hang on.

He moves to get up.

DONNA

You ain’t eaten your soup dad.

EDDIE

Tell you what, we’ll get you cookin lessons over there. Something to do with your day.

DONNA

Oh. What’s that supposed to mean?

EDDIE

Nothin, I’m just sayin it’ll be a good use of your time out there. Give you something to focus on.

DONNA

What about the baby? I’ll have that to look after.

EDDIE

You can get a nanny. You’ll need to know how to cook if you’re bringing a child into the world.

DONNA

And the business. What about.

EDDIE

Well first things first.

DONNA

So you thought it was crap then, is what you’re sayin?

EDDIE

It was a solid first effort, but it’s not really to my taste.

DONNA

Not to your taste. What is to your taste then dad?

EDDIE

Is it French, is it Italian, does it matter? At the end of the day I don’t think either nation would wanna claim it as their own.

DONNA

Oh dad! Is it that bad mum? Is it Nick?

Nick looks at Donna, then at Eddie.

NICK

Uh, it’s. Um. it’s not without its strengths, Don. You know it has, it has. Character. Havin said that, it’s perhaps not, uh.

Donna starts clearing the dishes away, distressed.

DONNA

Spend all day in that bloody kitchen. Can’t even just appreciate.

NICK

No Don, let me. I was just sayin.

She marches off into the kitchen.

Patricia tuts.

PATRICIA

Well I hope you’re pleased with yourselves.

EDDIE

She needs to learn Pat.

Patricia follows Donna into the kitchen.

Pause.

EDDIE

Well that’s ruined the moment. Twenty-five years old and can’t cook a fuckin soup.

Nick forces a laugh.

EDDIE

That’ll be out a packet an all. She’s done something to it. Found a way to fuck it up.

NICK

Least she gave it a go, eh?

EDDIE

Twenty-five years old.

NICK

She’s really taken to it actually. All the housewife stuff. Yeah, I think she’s dead keen to get settled in her own place. She might find the move a bit stressful in her position. I know she’s excited now, but.

EDDIE

She’ll be fine.

NICK

I know what you’re saying about Daniel. But I really don’t feel comfortable leavin him.

EDDIE

He’s got his nurses. We’ll cover the weekend care.

NICK

He’s. I think it’ll be a bit distressin. I mean I know he ain’t Donna’s but she’s like a mother to him.

EDDIE

Is that right?

NICK

She’s good with him. Really good. I think they get on well. It’s not easy sometimes, I know that. But she’s really learnin to.

EDDIE

That’s not how she tells it.

NICK

So I don’t think it’s really feasible, all said. Thank you though. For thinkin of me.

EDDIE

I need you out there mate. I think you’re ready for it.

NICK

I am grateful and that, but.

EDDIE

You’ve just leapfrogged about four people in the food chain. Your salary’s gonna double.

NICK

Yeah, I.

EDDIE

You’re gonna head up an entire department. Only been with us ten months.

NICK

Yeah I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but.

EDDIE

You think this was easy for me?

NICK

No I appreciate.

EDDIE

I’m gonna get all kinds of grief. But I think you’ve got what it takes.

NICK

Well that’s.

EDDIE

And besides I have an obligation.

NICK

I hope you didn’t just go for me cos of that.

EDDIE

Let me tell you something. When I was your age I was commutin all week. Leavin Pat at home, only comin back on weekends. And Donna. She was tiny. Couldn’t have been a year old. It was tough. Course it was. But we all knew it was the right thing to do. And lookin back. At where we are now.

Patricia leans against the doorway, glass in hand.

EDDIE

Ain’t that right Pat? I was just sayin that we had to make some tough decisions for the sake of our family early on. Didn’t we? But it all came good in the end.

PAT

Kitchen’s on fire.

NICK and EDDIE stand up.

NICK

Oh shit.

EDDIE

I’ll deal with it.

Patricia slumps back into the kitchen.

Eddie points to the suitcase.

EDDIE

You get rid of that. Quietly.

Nick turns to the suitcase.

NICK

Right. Yeah. Course.

Eddie exits into the kitchen. Nick observes the suitcase.

After a moment, the suitcase topples over of its own accord. Nick jumps back, hand to his mouth.

He approaches it slowly, leans down with an outstretched arm, flinches, then finally places his hand on the suitcase.

Beat.

He reels back in revulsion.

NICK

Ffff.

He stares at the suitcase. Paces. Breathes. Approaches the suitcase again for another feel.

He pulls away again, feeling movement. Possibly a sound.

He moves over to the kitchen door.

NICK

Eddie. Eddie mate I think.

No response.

NICK

Eddie. Eddie.

Eddie comes to the doorway.

EDDIE

I’m a little bit busy mate.

NICK

I think.

EDDIE

Just get it shifted.

Eddie goes back inside. The fire alarm sounds.

NICK

Eddie. Eddie.

He contemplates his next move.

He steps in and stamps hard onto the suitcase, then quickly moves away.

He waits. The fire alarm is still beeping.

He checks the suitcase again. Still movement.

NICK

Fuck.

He approaches the suitcase, loses his bottle and retreats. Stares at it. Then approaches again and stamps on it hard, twice. Then a third time.

He waits for another moment, scanning the suitcase for movement.

The fire alarm stops.

Nick quickly sets the suitcase upright by the handle and starts dragging it across the patio.

Patricia enters.

PATRICIA

Warm in there.

She sees Nick with the suitcase.

PATRICIA

What’s that?

NICK

This? Nothin, just. Eddie asked if I could.

He nods over to the garden.

PATRICIA

Doin his dirty work again are ya?

NICK

I was just movin it. Didn’t want it around when we’re eatin.

PATRICIA

What’s in it?

Beat.

NICK

A badger.

PATRICIA

A badger?

NICK

Yeah yeah it’s a. Badger. Big one an all. Must’ve been a daddy.

PATRICIA

What happened?

NICK

Eddie done it in with his car. Didn’t wanna tell you.

PATRICIA

Fuck me.

NICK

Yeah. went right over it. Bumpf.

PATRICIA

He never told me.

NICK

Yeah, said he didn’t want to alarm anyone. You know it’s quite. Alarmin. To just. Tell someone somethin like that. Just come out with it.

PATRICIA

I killed a badger.

NICK

Yeah.

PATRICIA

Pat, I just ran over a badger in my new car.

Beat.

NICK

Yeah.

Patricia thinks about it.

PATRICIA

Hasn’t left a mark on the bonnet.

NICK

Well it’s a sturdy vehicle. It’s a sturdy vehicle. Designed to.

PATRICIA

Kill things, the way he drives it. To old to be drivin a car like that. Dangerous. Supposin it was a child he hit.

NICK

That would be.

PATRICIA

It’s too much. You shoulda seen him. Fiddlin around with all the little. Little levers and buttons. I was embarrassed for him. Looked like an old man.

Nick nods.

NICK

Well I better.

He continues with the suitcase.

PATRICIA

Oh dear. Don’t strain your muscles will you? That shirt’s lovely Nick.

NICK

Oh. It’s an old one this.

PATRICIA

Really nice. Goes with your tan. You do tan well, don’t you?

NICK

Do I?

PATRICIA

You’ve gone a deep golden brown. Like an Italian man. You got any Italian in you?

NICK

Nah. Not me.

PATRICIA

I’d love an Italian in me. I mean. Well. Instead I got some German, a bit of South African and a fuck of a lot of Chelmsford.

NICK

Heh.

PATRICIA

It’s them eyes of yours. Make you look exotic. Passionate, you know. You’ll tan lovely over there. Just you wait.

Eddie and Donna enter.

EDDIE

Just gave you this fuckin place and you wanna burn it down.

DONNA

I said it weren’t my fault.

PATRICIA

Did you sort it?

EDDIE

Not before it scorched all the tiles. That groutin was only finished Tuesday. Now it’s all bloody black.

DONNA

I’m sorry! I said I was sorry. Didn’t do it on purpose.

EDDIE

Gonna have people lookin round here. What they gonna think of that?

Eddie stops as he sees the suitcase. He looks at Nick, who makes a silent gesture of apology.

DONNA

I’m tryina do a dinner party on my own. I’m tired, I’m pregnant.

PATRICIA

I’ll do the main course. You rest love.

DONNA

No, I can handle it! I can manage.

PATRICIA

I’m only tryin to help.

DONNA

I don’t need any help I’m alright I just.

She puts her face in her hands.

DONNA

I just want it to be okay.

EDDIE

Sorry Don. What we havin?

DONNA

Roast beef. Now I know what you’re gonna say, it’s not French. But I’m doin it with runner beans and french fries. And onion gravy. And onions are French, so.

EDDIE

Onions are French?

DONNA

Yeah.

EDDIE

Onions come from France? Is that what you’re saying?

PATRICIA

Eddie.

EDDIE

No I’m just.

DONNA

Er, ever heard of French onion soup?

EDDIE

There’s a reason why they have to specify that the soup is French. If onions were French then it’d just be called onion soup.

PATRICIA

Eddie!

Eddie relents.

PATRICIA

Sure you don’t need a hand doin the beef?

DONNA

I said I can manage.

She exits.

EDDIE

I’ll have it rare if anyone’s interested.

PATRICIA

When were you gonna tell me you killed a badger?

NICK

Er.

EDDIE

What?

PATRICIA

With that new tank of yours. Poor thing. Mindin it’s own business. And then you come along and.

Eddie and Nick share a look.

EDDIE

It was dark wasn’t it? Thing’s completely black, I didn’t. Just came right out.

PATRICIA

Should be more careful.

EDDIE

It weren’t my fault Pat, alright? Leave it. Look let’s not.

He nods to Donna in the kitchen.

EDDIE

Let’s just try and keep it together. For her sake. Just a nice. Family. Yeah.

They sit.

Patricia drinks.

PATRICIA

So, how you feelin Nick? About Dubai. You excited?

NICK

Er.

EDDIE

He’s nervous, ain’t ya? He’ll be headin up the logistics team.

PATRICIA

Right.

EDDIE

Big deal that. Course, logistics means you’re set a task, say, movin an object from one place to another place, and you get it done. Can be quite tricky, apparently.

PATRICIA

Oh I’m sure he’ll manage. He’s a capable young man. Aren’t you love?

NICK

I’d like to think so.

EDDIE

Well you’d think, wouldn’t you?

PATRICIA

He could move anythin, arms like that. Young muscle.

EDDIE

Think it’s about time we got you workin with professionals. Some of the boys I got on the London floor team, Jesus Christ. Don’t know their arsehole from the hole in their face. Get them confused an all most of the time. Honestly, like workin with a bunch of retards.

PATRICIA

Oh, Eddie.

EDDIE

Sorry Nick mate.

NICK

No no.

EDDIE

Sorry, I fuckin.

NICK

No honestly.

EDDIE

That wasn’t a thing.

NICK

Means something else now anyway.

EDDIE

Yeah exactly. Just came out.

NICK

Honestly Eddie. Don’t even.

PATRICIA

Be careful what you say, alright? Shouldn’t really be usin words like that anyway. At the table.

EDDIE

Yeah well. Sorry.

Pause.

EDDIE

Anyway I was sayin. Gonna have the London team dissolved by Christmas.

NICK

What, completely?

EDDIE

Waste of money. It’s piss, in comparison. Can outsource all of it, easy. Plus we can take our contacts over with us. Most of them chompin at the bit to go international.

NICK

Yeah but. You ain’t even finalised yet. With Dubai. The authorities and that. Ain’t even got all the funding in place yet.

EDDIE

It’ll all come together. I’m telling you.

PATRICIA

Better had do.

Nick reads the plane tickets. A realisation

NICK

Eddie.

EDDIE

Yes mate.

NICK

This flight leaves tomorrow morning.

EDDIE

Didn’t you know?

NICK

I mean it leaves in like.

Nick checks his watch.

EDDIE

No point hangin around.

NICK

It’s like first thing tomorrow. How we gonna.

EDDIE

We’ll help you pack. Still plenty of time. Get the rest sent over.

NICK

Yeah but we can’t just.

EDDIE

Don’t you worry about anythin mate. I’ll get it all sorted. Worst comes to worst we lay you a few grand and you get a whole new set of gear when you get over there. I’ll have a place ready for you by the time you land. Right near the beach.

NICK

Yeah but. Daniel’s still at yours.

PATRICIA

Yeah.

NICK

He’s with Karla. So when am I gonna see him? Before I leave? Should I go over tonight?

PATRICIA

Don’t go. He’ll be sleepin now.

NICK

So what, I just. I can’t not see him before I leave. I can’t not see my own son.

EDDIE

You’ll see him. You will see him. We’ll arrange flights as soon as you get over there. But right now I need you on the ground layin down the infrastructure. Meeting people, shakin hands. This is how it works mate. You wanna get ahead in business you gotta be prepared to make the odd personal sacrifice.

NICK

Yeah but there’s personal sacrifices and then there’s.

EDDIE

He won’t even know. His age, he won’t remember nothing.

NICK

He’s smart you know. He’s a smart boy. He can see what’s goin on. He understands.

EDDIE

No one’s sayin he isn’t.

Donna enters with plates. She hands them out.

DONNA

What you lot bangin on about?

She exits.

EDDIE

I can see you panicking. Relax. It’ll be lovely out there, this time of year.

Donna re-enters with the other plates, serves them and sits.

EDDIE

Cheers love. And as you said this is a big deal for us. Big changes afoot. Construction game in England it’s. Very murky. Lots of backscratchin. Palm greasin. Intimidation. Exploitin loopholes. Never sat easily with me, any of that.

Patricia laughs.

EDDIE

Dubai though. We can get straight as an arrow. Cos we can afford to over there. What you laughin at?

PATRICIA

Give over.

EDDIE

What?

PATRICIA

Loopholes, is that what you call them? Bit euphemistic, ain’t it?

EDDIE

What you talkin about?

PATRICIA

Oh come off it Eddie. Who do you think you’re foolin?

EDDIE

All of a sudden you’re the expert. She’s down on our books as a secretary. That’s the biggest lie we’ve ever told! Anyone gets hold of that porky we’re finished.

PATRICIA

I don’t need to be in the office. You don’t do a very good job of hiding it.

EDDIE

Hidin what?

PATRICIA

Hidin what? Where do you start? Bribery. Blackmail. Forgin permits. Ever since I known you.

EDDIE

Obviously there ‘s an element of. You know. Can’t get by otherwise.

PATRICIA

Everyone else manages it.

DONNA

What’s she talkin about?

EDDIE

Nothin love.

PATRICIA

All I’m sayin is I’ll believe it when I see it. This goin straight business.

EDDIE

You’re blowin this completely out of. Ask Nick, he’s there every day.

They turn to Nick.

NICK

It’s not really my department.

EDDIE

I’m tryina do somethin for this family. Usher in a new. New leaf and all that. And you’re throwin it back in my face.

PATRICIA

I ain’t throwin nothin nowhere. I’m just sayin I reckon it’s in your nature.

EDDIE

For years you’ve been goin on at me. Now I’m finally.

PATRICIA

You’ll find ways to exploit the law over there just like you did over here.

EDDIE

It’s a completely different environment over there. Different business culture.

DONNA

Exactly, and he’ll make a fortune out of my dresses as well. Honestly dad you should see the mark ups on these things.

EDDIE

Alright, yeah.

DONNA

You could make a right bomb. I’ll show you the figures later.

EDDIE

Not now Donna. I’m talkin to your mother, who seems to have me down as some sort of racketeer.

PATRICIA

Well what would you call it?

EDDIE

I can’t believe I’m hearing this.

PATRICIA

I mean come on. Be honest with yourself. You’ve just had some poor lad stoved in cos he asked too many questions.

Beat.

NICK

What?

EDDIE

That was a private matter.

PATRICIA

We’re all family. No use keepin secrets.

NICK

I thought he fell.

EDDIE

He did.

PATRICIA

Ha, yeah. Fell and headbutted a wrench.

EDDIE

Shut it.

NICK

You said he fell.

PATRICIA

Oh you didn’t know? What did he spin you this time?

DONNA

What? What’s goin on?

PATRICIA

He was only a boy. Didn’t know what he was gettin into.

EDDIE

Stop pretendin you know what’s goin on.

PATRICIA

You underestimated him, that was your problem.

EDDIE

He was a troublemaker.

PATRICIA

See Nick, thing is that this lad’s dad.

EDDIE

Alright quiet now.

PATRICIA

He’s got a right to know, you’re gonna bring him into it! His dad used to own is own buildin outfit, a small one, before he died. Dropped dead of an heart attack at his daughter’s weddin. Quite sad really.

EDDIE

He doesn’t need to know this.

PATRICIA

So this lad starts doin some work for Eddie on the new estate, and all of a sudden there’s no employment contract to sign.

EDDIE

He doesn’t need to know.

PATRICIA

No minimum payment agreement, no insurance papers and all his co-workers are from fuckin Bulgaria.

EDDIE

Shut your mouth.

PATRICIA

I’m tellin him! Might as well finish now. Anyway, he looks around at what’s goin on, and he’s thinkin how has this company, with a permanent staff of 15 and an estimated revenue of such and such, managed to secure such a massive government housing contract without – get this – without even havin to put in a public bid. Every day he’s told we ain’t got this or we can’t afford that, and no-one’s unionised. It just don’t make sense. So he starts askin questions, askin to see the contract papers, starts namin names about councillors and.

EDDIE

That is enough!

PATRICIA

I knew his mother. Bless her. Mind you, she was a bit of a one an all.

DONNA

Are you a criminal dad?

EDDIE

What?

DONNA

Are you a gangster?

EDDIE

Don’t be silly love.

NICK

Eddie he’s in my garden. You’ve put him in my garden.

DONNA

You buried him in our garden!?

EDDIE

Technically it’s my garden.

NICK

Eddie, you’ve put him in a ditch in my garden. That makes me an accessory.

EDDIE

What does it matter anyway? You’ll be on the other side of the world tomorrow.

NICK

How many more are there? I mean what is this?

EDDIE

The decisions I make are my own and I don’t have to justify them to you, or you, or anyone. So yeah. It happened. And I’d do it again. And again. To protect my family.

PATRICIA

To protect your business.

EDDIE

Which supports my family. Now, this is a celebration. We’re here to be happy, yeah? As a family. It’s a new start for all of us. So cheers.

He drinks.

NICK

So you’re a killer now. You’re killers and I’m an accessory to.

EDDIE

I said fuckin cheers.

They all drink.

EDDIE

If you are an accessory. It makes sense to move forward with a bit of discretion. Wouldn’t you agree?

DONNA

I wish you’d told me you was a gangster when Shane was throwin me about everywhere.

EDDIE

I’m not a gangster darlin.

DONNA

Would’ve calmed him right down.

EDDIE

And Shane was alright. He had a temper on him. You might wanna close your ears for this son. He had a bit of a temper but his head was in the right place. He was thinkin ahead, always. And I’ll tell you what he’s a bloody good spark. Our loss that.

DONNA

He’s a fuckin arsehole. Daniella still sees him most weekends you know. Sits at his table in The Cauliflower. Shiny-faced bitch.

PATRICIA

Oh darlin, please.

Donna drinks.

EDDIE

What’s in that glass Don?

DONNA

Wine.

EDDIE

What are you doin?

DONNA

I’m havin a glass of wine.

EDDIE

No you’re not.

DONNA

Yeah, it’s just one glass.

EDDIE

I’m sayin no.

PATRICIA

It’s one glass.

EDDIE

I wouldn’t have her walk past a busy pub in her state.

DONNA

It’s fine up until nine weeks. And I’m nine weeks tomorrow, so.

She takes a sip.

EDDIE

You gonna let your wife do that? To your son?

DONNA

Let me?

NICK

Um, I.

DONNA

He ain’t in charge of me. I’m the one’s got it inside me.

EDDIE

You gonna let her do that to your little baby?

NICK

Doctor did say that a glass every now and then was.

EDDIE

Well whatever the doctor said, I’m sayin that if it was my son in there.

DONNA

I’ve read books dad. You think I’m that irresponsible?

EDDIE

I’d to whatever I could to protect him, and lettin my wife.

PATRICIA

Just leave it. Everyone knows a glass every now and then is fine.

Beat.

NICK

Maybe you should lay off the wine, eh Don?

Donna takes another sip of the wine.

NICK

Don.

She stares at Nick. Takes another sip.

EDDIE

Listen to me. You keep on like that it’ll cause you problems.

DONNA

What the hell would you know about babies?

EDDIE

That what you want? Have to look after another little.

DONNA

Oh god.

PATRICIA

What’s that supposed to mean?

EDDIE

Nothin. Just sayin.

DONNA

What’s wrong with you dad?

EDDIE

You bring a kid into the world you have a responsibility to.

PATRICIA

You are horrible sometimes, you know that?

NICK

Cerebral palsy ain’t caused by drinkin durin pregnancy.

EDDIE

I weren’t sayin nothin about that.

NICK

It’s a neuromuscular disorder.

EDDIE

I’m not blamin you son. I’m just sayin there’s an attitude.

NICK

Usually an infection, or in vitro asphyxiation.

DONNA

Nick.

NICK

No, I’m just. Because he said.

DONNA

Fuck’s sake.

NICK

Cos you gotta educate.

DONNA

Well I think we’ve all been educated enough, haven’t we?

NICK

I don’t know what that means Don.

DONNA

How many books and courses and.

EDDIE

We know the kid.

DONNA

I take him swimmin.

NICK

Daniel.

EDDIE

That’s all she’s sayin. Don’t have to go on about it. All the science. We know him. Look after him enough don’t we?

NICK

Yeah. Yeah and I’m grateful. But.

PATRICIA

He’s a lovely little boy. So curious. He’s got your eyes.

NICK

No, I really appreciate you takin care of him. I don’t wanna seem.

EDDIE

I wasn’t tryin to imply nothin. I was just makin a general point.

NICK

How was he? Was he alright?

EDDIE

He was fine, yeah.

PATRICIA

Good as gold he was.

NICK

Sometimes he can be a right handful.

DONNA

Ha!

NICK

Yeah, she’s seen the worst of it. But it means a lot, you know. It was tough for a while. Specially since Stacy. Since his mother didn’t. But now I wouldn’t want it any other way. He loves you, I can tell. Loves the lot of you.

PATRICIA

So curious. Always peerin out at you. And laughing.

NICK

Yeah he laughs a lot.

EDDIE

I wasn’t tryina blame you for. You know, I was just makin a point.

NICK

Where is he now then? Is he still at the house? Cos I might actually.

EDDIE

You got another one on the way now an all, eh? New family. New start and all that.

NICK

Well. Yeah. We’re growin. Together, as a.

EDDIE

Yeah but this is a new.

He gestures to the two of them – Donna and Nick.

EDDIE

It’s a good thing. A new. Something to celebrate. Cheers. Again.

He raises his glass. No one moves.

EDDIE

I said cheers. Let’s do it properly this time.

They each raise their glasses.

EDDIE

Cheers. To new life. New life.

They drink.

EDDIE

One glass Don. Alright?

They continue eating.

EDDIE

And don’t worry about that other stuff mate. It’s done with. History. Shame it had to happen but there’s a lot of bad people in the world. A lot of bad people. And as I said you’ll be other side of the world tomorrow. Even if they turf him up somehow. Which is impossible. There’s no way they could trace it back to you. No way. My name on the deeds. Don’t worry about it.

NICK

Who’s gonna be diggin up a jacuzzi?

EDDIE

Exactly mate. I thought we were havin French fries with this?

DONNA

They were what caused the fire. I’ve put some more on. Few more minutes.

NICK

So he was alright then, was he? Daniel. No problems or nothing? Where is he now, with Karla is he?

EDDIE

I’ll be finished by the time they come.

PATRICIA

Eat slower then.

NICK

Is he with Karla? Pat?

PATRICIA

Yeah he’s with Karla.

NICK

Cos I could go over after dinner. Pick him up. He’s supposed to be back at the centre tomorrow morning.

EDDIE

We’ll get Karla to take him over.

NICK

Pat are you alright?

EDDIE

She’s fine. Just relax mate.

NICK

It’s just if I’m leavin first thing tomorrow then I don’t know when.

EDDIE

I said you’ve gotta put that behind you. This is a celebration. Nice wine. Family. Some food.

NICK

Course. No it’s lovely.

EDDIE

Here, did I tell you the Doberman’s had pups? Seven of them. I reckon one’ll be dead in a week. Tiny little thing it is. But the rest look a strong bunch of bastards.

PATRICIA

Oh they’re lovely Nick. So cute they are.

DONNA

Can we have one? Can we take it away with us?

EDDIE

Can you have one? No darlin, you can’t have a Doberman stalkin around the place when you’re preggers.

DONNA

As a goin away present.

EDDIE

Or, come to think of it, when you’ve got a baby knockin around.

DONNA

Don’t be like that.

EDDIE

Do you know how big they are? They’re fuckin huge love.

NICK

Not as big as an Irish Wolfhound.

EDDIE

Now that’s true. But they’re usually docile. Doberman would have your face off. A grand each I reckon. For these.

DONNA

For a dog?

EDDIE

Pedigrees love.

PATRICIA

And they’re ever so cute Don.

EDDIE

No one’s buyin them cos they’re cute.

DONNA

Reckon you’ll sell them all?

EDDIE

If they don’t I’ll give them away to clients. Loyalty gesture.

DONNA

That’s a nice idea.

EDDIE

Fuckin love all that. Anythin free.

NICK

Listen, I might pop over to your gaff if that’s alright.

EDDIE

What for?

NICK

Just to check she’s alright with Daniel. He’s not givin her any grief or nothin.

PATRICIA

Why don’t we wait till we’ve finished, eh?

NICK

I think I’m done actually Pat. That was lovely darlin, cheers. Cooked just right.

EDDIE

Don’t lie to her, son.

NICK

I’d actually quite like to be with him right now.

EDDIE

Just hang on.

NICK

Yeah well it’s gettin late.

EDDIE

We’re havin a meal, son. We’re havin a celebratory dinner. Your wife’s cooked for us all.

PATRICIA

I’ll help clear.

EDDIE

Then after that you’ll have your packin to do. Get it all sorted. Passports and that.

NICK

Is there any way I could change the flights?

Beat.

PATRICIA

Come on darlin.

Patricia and Donna clear the plates, exit.

EDDIE

I’m starvin. Have to get somethin on the way home at this rate.

NICK

Eddie.

EDDIE

I appreciate the effort she’s gone to. But some sort of dummy run might have been useful.

NICK

I mean do I have to be there tomorrow? What about next week? Or end of the month? I can’t just take off. I can’t do it.

EDDIE

Do you give a shit about this company?

NICK

What? Yeah.

EDDIE

About the company that I brought you into?

NICK

Course I do.

EDDIE

Do you care about your wife, my daughter? Hah? And the little baby she’s got growin inside her?

NICK

Eddie that’s not what I’m sayin at all. I just.

EDDIE

You think it’s cheap, raisin a family? You think you could do it on your little junior accounts salary? You were bangin on about a Range Rover a minute ago.

NICK

Obviously I care about.

EDDIE

I’m gonna have no business interests in this country whatsoever come Christmas. Zero. And what then? You gonna jump on board? Join the party when all the hard graft’s done? That your style is it? Ride the coat-tails?

NICK

I don’t think you understand. He’s not very good without me. He gets upset.

EDDIE

They why d’you stick him in a home five days a week?

NICK

That’s not fair.

EDDIE

Surrounded by nurses his whole life.

NICK

That’s not. I have to. I wouldn’t have the time or the money to do it all.

EDDIE

Exactly.

NICK

And Donna. It wouldn’t be fair on her.

Patricia and Donna re-enter.

PATRICIA

You’re tellin the wrong one darlin. It’s dad you should be tellin this to.

DONNA

Dad, I wanna talk to you about this syndicate thing. Basically, a few small companies are gonna club together.

EDDIE

I know what a syndicate is.

DONNA

Right, yeah. Well I wanna join this one that’ll order dresses to be made in China, then brought over. And I can restyle them, see. Make them bespoke. And all this talk about Dubai has made me realise.

EDDIE

I thought you wanted to make the dresses yourself?

DONNA

No I’d design them. Add all the design touches and that. Someone else would make them. Manufacture them. Anyway I couldn’t make as many as they could. No chance.

EDDIE

Start off small then. Make a few frocks. Sell them. Use the money to make more frocks.

DONNA

Well it’s better to have more innit? Case it all takes off. Got to have somethin to sell.

EDDIE

Not sure about the logic there.

DONNA

So what do you think? You think it’s somethin you might be interested in? Cos I’m lookin for investors at the minute, so.

EDDIE

Tell you what, draw me up a business plan with a profit loss analysis and a year end revenue breakdown and I’ll send it to my finance team.

DONNA

Fine I will do. Wanna be difficult about it that’s fine.

EDDIE

Maybe you could start up a French restaurant in the meantime.

DONNA

Please don’t take the piss when I’m tryina be serious.

EDDIE

What do you want from me darlin? I just gave you a fuckin house didn’t I? Here, maybe Nick can go in with you.

NICK

Hah? What’s that?

EDDIE

Fancy makin a business partner out of your wife? Makin her dreams a reality?

NICK

With the fashion line thing?

DONNA

Yeah. Tell him how much money I could make.

EDDIE

I just don’t quite see it Don. I can’t see it workin.

DONNA

You never do nothin for me.

NICK

Steady Don.

EDDIE

You don’t know what I’ve done for you love.

DONNA

It’s an investment.

EDDIE

I’ve invested enough.

DONNA

You ain’t got no faith in me. None of you.

EDDIE

We’ll talk about it another time, alright?

DONNA

You always say that.

EDDIE

Well I’m sayin it again. Can’t do nothing for the next six months anyway. And you’ll be out for a couple of years after that.

DONNA

Not necessarily.

EDDIE

Yes necessarily.

DONNA

I could do the paperwork.

EDDIE

Do it then. Show me and we’ll talk.

DONNA

I need to know though dad. Seriously, what do you reckon? Is it an investment opportunity?

EDDIE

You wanna move the whole racket to china?

DONNA

I just told you.

EDDIE

See what you’re doin there darlin, and I know you don’t know it, but what you’re personally doin is fuelling the downfall of Western civilisation. And what you’re also doin, personally, is perpetuatin human rights misery on a global scale.

PATRICIA

Eddie!

EDDIE

No let me explain. China is fuckin minted, right? It’s minted because it’s massive. And it’s minted because the government controls who’s rich and who’s poor. And by keepin the poor poor, it means they’ve got a multi-million strong workforce who’ll graft for dust, which in turn sends billions in foreign investment into the place, tryin to take advantage of the cheap labour. Now, that makes China, on a global scale, our manufacturin warehouse. It also gives them the capital and the infrastructure to build their own consumer goods and flog them back to us at extremely high mark ups. That makes them our high street retailer. And because they keep such a tight control over their finances, that means they’ve got cash to burn. So when our flimsy financial structures get spunked up the wall, we have to turn to them for loans. That makes China our bank as well. And when things go really tits up, it’s China who has the funds to bail out an entire fuckin continent. That turns them into our welfare state. For that kind of money, they get to make serious political demands and compromises from the free and liberal Western world. They can dictate export sanctions, diplomatic relations, media controls. That, darlin, makes them our government. The government of the whole fuckin world. That means that one single country will be our warehouse, our retail outlet, our bank, our benefits office, and our government. And they ain’t a nice government. They ain’t some kind of go off, do what you like, set up your little website business, have some free healthcare kind of government. They’ll crush you if they don’t like you. So we’ll all have to be nice little obedient citizens and watch as their cultural influence seeps into all the little cracks of everythin we’ve ever known, along with all that money. Universities, hospitals, entertainment, even fashion, love. Paid for, dictated, controlled by them. Meanwhile, they’ll be lockin up dissidents and slicin off nipples or sewin lips shut all over the place, and we’ll be so grateful that we ain’t one of them that none of us will say a word to anyone. Your next door neighbour goes missin, your cousin, your mum and dad, never seen again. And you won’t whisper a word of it to anyone for fear of what might happen. This is the situation you’ll find yourself in when one entity controls every aspect of your life – financial, social, family life, home life – when one thing, one person, ultimately, has a stranglehold on every aspect of your existence, well, you’d better do what they say, hadn’t you?

Pause.

PATRICIA

You invest however you want, love.

DONNA

I know what you’re doin. You’re tryina scare me.

EDDIE

Enlighten you darlin. There’s a subtle difference. Think about what you’re really buyin with all that cheap labour, yeah? It don’t stop there sweetheart. After they’ve bought out our universities they can teach us whatever history they want. And when they get round to buyin all that bargain basement agricultural land from skint, knackered farmers, they can control food prices, or build on it all and dictate housing prices. And that affects me darlin. My business. And property prices are the direct arbiter of national wealth, so they can directly control the personal wealth rates and the national GDP. All of a sudden, Great Britain is the richest and happiest it’s ever been now China’s taken over. How’s that for a PR coup? Meanwhile at ground level we ain’t got two pennies to rub together.

DONNA

I’ll be in Dubai anyway. Right?

EDDIE

Do you know how they done it? Do you know why their gonna end up owning us? Cos they learnt to control themselves before they tried to control anyone else. They looked inwards. Dealt with the problems there. Got everyone in check. Before they started lookin outwards. Chinese Government. Masters of their own domain. Unquestioned masters. A unit. A one point six billion strong unit. Now they can look out across the rest of the world and pick their conquests.

Beat.

DONNA

Alright. Okay. I thought it was something we could do together, but.

EDDIE

Yeah well.

DONNA

I just wanna connect with you dad.

EDDIE

No you don’t. You wanna sell dresses.

Beat.

PATRICIA

Right Donna, I think it’s.

She nods to the kitchen.

DONNA

What, you wanna do that now? After that?

PATRICIA

Let’s just get it over with.

DONNA

After dad’s just gone and brought the whole mood down?

PATRICIA

Donna!

Beat.

DONNA

I’m not finished with this.

PATRICIA

Come on sweetheart.

Donna and Patricia exit.

EDDIE

Can’t please no-one tonight. Honestly you try and do some good in the world.

The lights go out.

Donna enters holding a birthday cake full of lit candles. Patricia follows behind her.

They sing ‘Happy Birthday’ as Donna sets the cake down.

NICK

Oh. Cheers.

DONNA

Blow it out then. Make a wish.

PATRICIA

Your eyes are all glistenin in this light. Makes them sparkle. Hasn’t he got sparkly eyes Don?

DONNA

Well hurry up.

Nick holds the plane tickets over one of the candles. They burn to ashes.

EDDIE

What the fuck is that?

PATRICIA

Something’s on fire. Put it out.

Patricia exits quickly, turns on the lights and returns.

They see the burnt plane tickets.

DONNA

What’s that? It’s not the tickets is it?

Donna leans over and pats out the tickets. She picks up the charred remains, drops them back onto the table.

NICK

I’m sorry Eddie.

EDDIE

Don’t worry about it.

.

NICK

I can’t go.

EDDIE

I’ll call up get some more. Go online. Get you on the same flight probably.

NICK

No.

EDDIE

Come out your wages this time.

NICK

I’ve got one week’s holiday due.

EDDIE

Can have two weeks.

NICK

I wanna take it right now. Startin right now.

EDDIE

You can’t.

NICK

You can’t deny me that. It’s law.

PATRICIA

Oh sweetheart. Think about who you’re talkin to here.

EDDIE

You have to put in a request at work. And you ain’t at work. Next time you’re at work will be on that plane. That’s when you next clock in.

DONNA

Why’d you do that? You didn’t even consult me. Don’t I get a say in anythin?

NICK

Donna, not now alright.

EDDIE

She’s right. Why stop there? Why not burn the table cloth? The furniture? Why not burn the whole fuckin house down? Cos that’s what you’re doin. You understand? I’m tryina make you here son. I’m tryina do you a favour.

NICK

That’s what you’re callin it?

EDDIE

I fuckin own you right now. Look around. I own you.

NICK

Ain’t that exactly where you want me?

EDDIE

I’m doin it for her.

NICK

So why you sendin us out there? You’ve built her a wendy house, why you tryin to get rid of us?

EDDIE

Don’t be an idiot.

NICK

How are you playin us? What’s your angle, eh?

EDDIE

I’m a father and a boss. That’s my angle.

PATRICIA

Pair of yous, calm down.

NICK

What’s goin on out there? What you need a puppet like me for? Money launderin is it? Tax fraud?

EDDIE

You think very carefully about what you’re accusin me of.

DONNA

Stop it! Both of you!

NICK

It all smells a bit funny to me if I’m honest. Cos there’s certain things I can’t help but notice. Even if I do try and turn a blind eye.

EDDIE

I’m tellin you be very careful now.

NICK

The CIC are on your back for god knows what. All them meetings with foreign men. Who are they? You never introduce me. Some poor lad ends up under my jacuzzi. Even your own family Eddie. When you gonna tell her, eh? About the dog?

Eddie lunges for Nick

EDDIE

Shut your fuckin.

DONNA

STOP IT! JUST PLEASE STOP IT!

Donna is crying.

DONNA

I’m just tryina make a nice evenin.

PATRICIA

You’ve made a pregnant woman cry. I hope your proud of yourselves.

They relent.

DONNA

Is anyone gonna have any of this cake? Or did I buy it for nothin?

PATRICIA

I’ll have some love.

DONNA

Good. Dad?

Eddie shrugs.

DONNA

We never get together as a family. Last time was the weddin and we had to put mum to bed early. Just once I wanted us all to sit down. We’ve got so much to be happy for and we can’t even get on like normal civilised human beings.

EDDIE

Sorry.

NICK

Yeah, sorry Don.

Donna starts cutting and serving the cake.

PATRICIA

Why don’t I put the kettle on? We’ll have a nice coffee or somethin.

DONNA

I bought some in special. I don’t drink it but.

PATRICIA

She’s bought some special.

DONNA

I know you all do, so.

EDDIE

Alright. Let’s put that thing in the ditch and we’ll stick the kettle on.

He nods to the suitcase.

DONNA

What is it?

EDDIE

Nothin don’t worry about it.

NICK

I’ll get it.

DONNA

Dinner’s not over yet. I could do some cheeses an all.

EDDIE

Think we’re alright for cheeses love.

Nick takes a deep breath and drags the suitcase off into the garden.

Pause.

PATRICIA

What was he talkin about my dog?

EDDIE

Forget it. He’s confused.

Beat.

PATRICIA

You gonna tell him?

EDDIE

Course I’m not gonna fuckin tell him.

DONNA

Tell him what?

Pause.

DONNA

Oh, them chips’ll be done by now.

Donna exits.

EDDIE

Don’t look at me like that.

Nick re-enters.

EDDIE

That’ll be filled in. First thing tomorrow. I’ll send someone round.

Donna re-enters with a bowl of chips and puts them on the table.

DONNA

Well happy birthday.

NICK

Cheers.

DONNA

Bet you thought we’d forgotten.

NICK

I was beginnin to wonder.

Nick almost cracks. Holds it together.

DONNA

It’s your birthday Nick. I love you.

NICK

I love you too.

DONNA

I wanted it to be special.

PATRICIA

Here, have a seat. Have a sit down.

He sits down. Patricia sits next to him and strokes his face.

PATRICIA

It’s alright darlin. It’ll be alright.

She moves onto his lap.

PATRICIA

There you go.

She kisses his forehead. Then his cheek.

PATRICIA

Here. Put your head here.

She pulls his head into her, stroking his hair.

PATRICIA

There you go love.

DONNA

Er, mum.

PATRICIA

Shush darlin. Give us a moment.

EDDIE

Pat take your flabby arse off his knee. Now.

PATRICIA

He needs his mother.

EDDIE

Call her up and get her round then.

PATRICIA

You’re a mean bastard you know that? Can’t you think for a minute about what he’s goin through?

DONNA

He’s fine mum. Get off him.

PATRICIA

He’s not fine. Are you love?

She kisses him again.

DONNA

Look at him, he’s fine.

PATRICIA

He needs a mother.

EDDIE

Mothers don’t sit on their children’s lap. Get. The fuck. Off him.

She stands up, unsteady on her feet.

PATRICIA

Do you know what it’s like to feel warmth in your heart? Can you remember what it feels like to care about someone?

EDDIE

Oh shut up.

PATRICIA

Can you remember what it feels like to have empathy for another human being?

DONNA

Mum! What the fuck’s wrong with you?

EDDIE

And what’s carin? Me workin sixteen hours a day so you can get your nails done twice a week? Sit around doin Yoga DVDs. I take you on holiday, you moan you wanna go somewhere else.

PATRICIA

Sendin him off to another country. Big promotion. You think that’s gonna make it all better?

EDDIE

Yeah it is.

PATRICIA

My only daughter. My first grandchild. And you’re. All because. You care so much about this family, why don’t you tell him what really happened. Eh?

NICK

What was that Pat?

PATRICIA

Why don’t you be honest for a change?

DONNA

What you on about mum?

EDDIE

Pat. No. Look at me. Look at my face.

PATRICIA

Well it’s gonna come out sooner or later. Have you thought this through at all?

EDDIE

Patricia. Look at me.

NICK

What is? What’ll come out?

EDDIE

You’re my wife. Don’t do this.

PATRICIA

I’m your wife am I? I am when it suits you. Always goin on about respect. Why don’t you show some to your son-in-law?

EDDIE

I don’t have to.

PATRICIA

Why not?

EDDIE

Because he ain’t earnt it.

NICK

What do you mean the truth Pat?

EDDIE

Ignore her.

PATRICIA

Just tell him. Tell him.

EDDIE

She’s pissed.

NICK

What’s she on about?

EDDIE

You’re pissed again, ain’t ya?

PATRICIA

You’re a coward.

He grabs her by the throat.

DONNA

Dad! Get off her!

She runs over to free Patricia. Eddie bats her away.

DONNA

What are you doing? Daddy!

Donna launches herself at Eddie. He releases his grip.

Patricia stumbles backwards. Sits down.

PATRICIA

You happy now? Playin the big man.

She drinks some wine.

PATRICIA

You’re a coward Eddie Gates.

NICK

Is someone gonna tell me what she’s on about?

PATRICIA

A coward!

NICK

Is someone gonna say somethin?

PATRICIA

If he won’t I will. I’ll tell you what happened, because a father’s got a right to know.

Eddie slaps her across the face.

He turns to Nick.

EDDIE

Listen. Nick. Now, before I say this.

NICK

What’s goin on Eddie? What’s she on about?

EDDIE

I hope you understand why I done what I done, alright?

NICK

A father? A father’s got a right.

EDDIE

It was for your own good. You’re part of the family now. It’s important to remember that.

NICK

Why? What? What’s that gotta do.

EDDIE

I’m tellin you now.

Eddie swallows.

EDDIE

Daniel.

NICK

Daniel? What. What about him? I wanna see him. I’m gonna go and see him.

EDDIE

Just. He was outside. Alright.

NICK

When? What is this?

EDDIE

He was playin outside. You know, sun was out. He wanted some fresh air.

NICK

No no no. What you sayin what you sayin.

EDDIE

This mornin. One of the dogs.

NICK

No. No. Eddie no mate. No.

EDDIE

He was bein a bit heavy handed and one of the dogs. Had a go at him.

DONNA

Oh no.

NICK

No.

EDDIE

I’m sorry.

NICK

Oh no. Is he. Is he. Is he. What. What.

EDDIE

It was a big. You know.

NICK

Is he. I mean fuck. What.

EDDIE

Dug it’s teeth in and that. Got at his neck a bit.

NICK

His. No, this. His neck? His fuckin.

EDDIE

I mean this thing really.

NICK

Why didn’t you fuckin tell me! When. I mean. Where is he? Where is he?

EDDIE

He didn’t survive it Nick. Must’ve caught his jugular or something.

DONNA

Oh my god.

Nick cannot speak.

EDDIE

I’m sorry mate really I.

NICK.

No. No.

EDDIE

Honestly I.

NICK

Nanananana.

EDDIE

I’m sorry. He’s. He’s gone.

Nick crumples to the floor.

NICK

No. Eddie no please. Please this ain’t. Just say it ain’t.

EDDIE shrugs. Shakes his head.

NICK

Ahgah no. ahfuck no. No. Please.

EDDIE

Nick. Nick. Nick. Mate.

DONNA

Oh my god. Oh my god.

NICK

Ahfffaaaaaaaahh. Fuck naaah. Naaaah. Ffffaaahahahaha.

EDDIE

Now listen. Listen.

Nick screams.

DONNA

Dad why didn’t you say nothin? How can you just sit there and do nothin?

Eddie looks to Patricia.

Nick screams again.

EDDIE

Are you happy now? Seen what it’s done to him?

PATRICIA

Are you happy?

EDDIE

It was an accident! I didn’t know. It was sick. It was a sick dog.

DONNA

Why didn’t you. I can’t believe it. I cannot believe it.

EDDIE

I’ve got a business to think about. Can’t have.

DONNA

Oh babes. Oh Nick. I’m so sorry.

NICK

My boy. Oh god my boy.

DONNA

Darlin.

EDDIE

Just. Everyone take a deep breath.

NICK

Where is he? Where is he?

EDDIE

You’ve got a new family now, ain’t you?

NICK

Where is he where is he where is he. I need. I need. Oh gaaah. Gaaaahhd. No.

EDDIE

Start again. It’s time to start again. A new life. New job, new country.

Nick tries to scramble through to the kitchen. Eddie holds him back, pulling him to an upright position.

NICK

Get off. Get off me.

EDDIE

You’re part of the family now son. My daughter’s gonna have a kiddie and you better be there to. You hear me? Look alive, mate. Think about the future. It’s sad, yeah. It’s fuckin.

Nick sinks back down to the floor.

He puts his face into his hands, screams again.

EDDIE

Look just. It’s sad yeah. It’s fuckin tragic but just. Let’s just. I couldn’t. Just tell you like that. You understand what I done don’t you? Why I did it like that. We need you switched on. However you found out about it, wouldn’t change what happened. Would it?

He looks at his wife and daughter.

EDDIE

I’ve got a fuckin business to run! You think I can just. See it from my point of view. All this goin on. Got a million and one things to. And what are you gonna do? Eh? If it all.

Pause.

EDDIE

Dog’s dead. Got rid of it. So there’s no danger. Took it to the vet got it sorted.

Beat.

Nick lifts his head up. A realisation. He stands and makes a run to the garden.

Eddie grabs him. Holds him back.

EDDIE

No. No. No.

Nick wrestles free with a primal, almost feral determination. He heads into the garden.

PATRICIA

Oh you haven’t.

EDDIE

Calm down.

PATRICIA

Eddie, tell me you didn’t.

EDDIE

Just.

PATRICIA

You fuckin.

Eddie rubs his face. Points to Patricia.

EDDIE

You. You just fuckin. Wait.

He goes to exit. Turns.

EDDIE

Keep him here.

PATRICIA

Psycho. You absolute fuckin.

DONNA

Where you goin dad? Dad where you goin?

He exits.

DONNA

Mum? What’s goin on mum? I’m scared.

Donna starts to cry.

Nick re-enters, muddied, carrying the suitcase. He lays it on the floor and kneels over it.

PATRICIA

Darlin you don’t have to do this. You don’t have to.

Nick places his hands on the suitcase.

Patricia kneels with him and holds his head again, kissing him with more passion than before.

PATRICIA

Look at me sweetheart. Look at me. He’s a complete bastard, I know. But think about what you’re doin here. It’s dangerous. He’s a dangerous man.

Eddie re-enters with a rolled up plastic sheet and a sports bag. He unrolls the sheet on the ground behind Nick. Then he opens the bag and produces a nail gun.

DONNA

What’s he doin? Dad what you doin?

He loads the nail gun and aims it at Nick’s head.

DONNA

Oh fuck. Dad.

EDDIE

Quiet now love.

DONNA

That’s my husband. Dad.

EDDIE

This ain’t your concern.

Eddie tightens his grip on the nail gun.

EDDIE

Move Pat.

Patricia continues to kiss Nick.

EDDIE

Pat sweetheart. Move yourself.

She looks up at Eddie.

PATRICIA

No Eddie. No.

EDDIE

Out the way now darlin.

PATRICIA

No I won’t Eddie. I won’t. I won’t let you.

EDDIE

Move.

PATRICIA

I won’t let you do it to him.

EDDIE

Do you want me to ask again?

Patricia holds his gaze for a second, then moves out of the way.

DONNA

I’ll never forgive you dad.

EDDIE

Yes you will.

Nick puts his hand on the suitcase zip. Eddie steadies himself with the nail gun.

Nick slowly acknowledges Eddie standing over him. He looks from the nail gun to the suitcase.

NICK

What’s in here?

EDDIE

You don’t have to son. We can make it okay.

DONNA

Listen to him darlin. Please.

Nick looks again from Eddie to the suitcase.

EDDIE

New family. New start.

DONNA

I’m havin a baby Nick.

EDDIE

Think about it. Think about your options.

DONNA

Think about me. I love you.

EDDIE

You don’t have to open it, you don’t want.

Long pause. Eddie steadies himself. Nick stares at the suitcase, hand on the zip.

EDDIE

Won’t change nothin. Won’t change nothin lookin in there.

Nick looks from the suitcase to the nail gun pointed at his face. Eddie is himself holding back tears.

NICK

Wuh ma.

Pause.

EDDIE

What’s that?

NICK

Well maybe.

Pause.

NICK

Maybe.

Beat.

NICK

Maybe I don’t have to look in.

Pause.

NICK

Maybe I don’t.

EDDIE

No you don’t.

NICK

Have to.

EDDIE

That’s right.

NICK

Could. Could. Could. Just.

EDDIE

Put it back.

NICK

In the.

EDDIE

In the garden.

NICK

Where the. Jacuzzi.

EDDIE

Got diggers comin tomorrow ain’t ya?

NICK

Got a digger comin.

EDDIE

Why don’t you put it back, eh?

Beat.

EDDIE

New job tomorrow. Fancy that? Your own department.

NICK

Dubai.

EDDIE

Dubai, yeah. Big car for your family.

NICK

Was it an accident?

EDDIE

Complete accident mate. Couldn’t have seen it common.

NICK

Yeah. Maybe we could have a little.

EDDIE

Few candles.

NICK

Bit of music.

EDDIE

Absolutely.

Nick slowly stands up and drags the suitcase off stage.

Eddie puts the nail gun away and rolls up the plastic sheet in silence. Patricia and Donna watch him.

He stares into the night for a moment, runs his hand through his hair.

EDDIE

WELL PUT THE FUCKIN KETTLE ON THEN!

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Selling Clive – June 2013

 

Scene One

Lights up on a living room. RUTH is knitting a tiny sweater suitable for a baby.

Off stage, the front door opens and closes. CLIVE can be heard singing ‘Sex Machine’ in the hallway.

CLIVE: (O.S)

Get up-ah! (Get on up). Get up-ah! (Get on up).

RUTH stops knitting. She listens, confused.

CLIVE: (O.S)

Get a-lean! (Get on up). Like-ah sex a-machine! (get on up).

CLIVE enters the living room. He throws his keys on the table. He and RUTH lock eyes.

CLIVE:
Get up-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahello.

RUTH:

Clive?

CLIVE:

Ruth.

RUTH:

Clive.

CLIVE:

Darling.

RUTH:

Darling?

CLIVE:

Yes?

RUTH:

What.

CLIVE:

Hello!

RUTH:

What are you.

CLIVE:

Hah?

RUTH:

What are you doing here?

CLIVE:

Who me?

RUTH:

Yes. You.

CLIVE:

I. Pardon?

RUTH:

What are you doing home?

CLIVE:

What am I. This. I live here.

RUTH:

I know that.

CLIVE:

Exactly, so.

RUTH:

Why aren’t you at work?

CLIVE:

What are you.

RUTH:

What?

CLIVE:

Is that another sweater? It’s lovely.

RUTH:

Thanks. But.

CLIVE:

I thought you were having lunch with Julie.

RUTH:

What’s that got to do with anything?

CLIVE:

Nothing. I just. I.

RUTH:

She cancelled.

CLIVE:

What a bitch. I always thought she was a bitch.

RUTH:

Her sister’s been taken to hospital.

CLIVE:

Selfish, uptight.

RUTH:

Why aren’t you at work?

CLIVE:

Stuck up bitch. One eye bigger than the other.

RUTH:

Clive!

CLIVE:

Yes darling?

RUTH:

Why are you here, now, and not at work?

CLIVE:

I am at work.

RUTH:

What?

CLIVE:

I’m ill.

RUTH:

You’re ill?

CLIVE:

I’ve got the flu.

He coughs.

RUTH:

Why did you just cough if you have the flu?

CLIVE:

I’ve got a bad cough as well. I’m having a bit of a nightmare.

RUTH:

You were just singing Sex Machine.

CLIVE:

Love a little sing-song when I’m feeling under the weather. Keep the spirits up.

RUTH:

You didn’t seem ill this morning.

CLIVE:

I think I caught it on the way into work. The security guard has really poor personal hygeine. He’s a foreign man.

RUTH:

Does George know?

CLIVE:

They do things differently over there.

RUTH:

Clive. George.

CLIVE:

George? No. I didn’t want to cause a fuss. Why, did he. Has he. Called?

RUTH:

Hadn’t you better tell him?

CLIVE:

Did he call?

RUTH:

No.

CLIVE:

Are you sure?

RUTH:

Yes I’m sure.

CLIVE:

Because he might have called.

RUTH:

He didn’t call Clive.

CLIVE:

Right. Good. I’ll just check the answer machine.

RUTH:

I’ve been in all day, no one’s called.

CLIVE:

Okay, good. They’re probably quite busy. Well I’d better get back to the office then.

CLIVE makes to leave.

RUTH:

I thought you were ill.

CLIVE clicks his fingers.

CLIVE:

Ah, yes.

RUTH:

If you’re ill you should call George and let him know you’re taking the day off. If you are ill.

CLIVE:

I am.

RUTH:

So call him.

CLIVE:

There’s really no need. It’s been going round the office.


RUTH:

He’s still going to wonder where you are.

CLIVE:

It’s been going round clockwise. Last week it was Louise. The week before that Derek. So it’s my turn. They’re expecting me to catch it.

RUTH:

Call your boss and tell him you won’t be in.

CLIVE:

Honestly darling it’s not.

RUTH:

I don’t want you giving them any excuses. If you’re ill, call George.

CLIVE looks reticent.

RUTH:

Call him.

CLIVE:

Fine. Okay great. I was meaning to anyway.

CLIVE moves over to the phone and picks up the receiver.

CLIVE:

And you’re gonna. Stay there. Are you?

RUTH:

Yes.

CLIVE:

In this room?

RUTH:

Yep.

CLIVE:

No. Good. Don’t move on my account. You get comfortable.

Beat. CLIVE grins at RUTH.

He picks up the reciever.

CLIVE:

George, yeah it’s Clive. I won’t be in today. I’ve got that flu that’s been going round. Yeah clockwise, I know…weird…that’s very kind of you to say so. Well ‘lynchpin’ is a strong word…but perhaps the glue that holds it all…yeah…I’m sure you’ll find a way of carrying on without me. You’ve got a good team. How’s Vanessa? Good good, haha! I bet she is. Well she’s in good shape. Clearly she wants to keep it that way! Haha! Ooh err! And the cats? Excellent. Well I’d better let you go. Miss you too George. Bye.

CLIVE hangs up.

CLIVE:

Funny guy. Great banter.

RUTH:

How was that?

CLIVE:

Yeah it’s nice to catch up every now and then. Touch base. We’re so busy at work we barely get a chance.

RUTH:

Did that go well then?

CLIVE:

Yep. All fine.

RUTH:

That’s amazing. Considering you didn’t dial the number.

CLIVE:

No, because.

Beat.

RUTH:

That’s embarrassing.

RUTH nods to the phone. CLIVE dials the number and waits for an answer.

CLIVE:

Oh hello George, it’s Clive. This is just to say that I won’t be making it into work today. I’m going to hospital to have my penis removed from my crotch. Then I’m going to have it stapled to my forehead so that I can be just like you, and instead of seeing all the hard working, dedicated employees right in front of my fucking eyes I’ll just see a useless flap of saggy pink skin. Okay bye then, see you tomorrow. Or not. DICKHEAD! Call me when you get this.

He slams down the receiver.

CLIVE:

I lost my job.

RUTH:

Yeah I got that. What the hell’s going on?

CLIVE:

I don’t have a job any more and I was angry about it. So I left an unpleasant voicemail on George’s.

RUTH:

I know that bit. When did this happen?

CLIVE:

Last Thursday.

RUTH:

Last Thursday? You’ve been going in all week.

CLIVE shakes his head.

RUTH:

You have. You’ve.

CLIVE:

I’ve been going bowling.

RUTH:

Bowling? Every day?

CLIVE:

Except for Tuesday. I went to the funfair.

RUTH:

The fun. Why the funfair?

CLIVE:

Spent six hours on the teacups eating jelly babies. Vomited twice. They didn’t mind. Just hosed it down.

RUTH:

And I suppose you’re not ill.

CLIVE:

I was a bit then. I don’t have the flu though.

RUTH:

Or a bad cough?

CLIVE coughs.

CLIVE:

No.

RUTH:

How long were you going to keep lying to me?

CLIVE:

Just until I figured out what to do.

RUTH:

And have you?

CLIVE:

I had to wash my trousers in the toilet of a Burger King.

Beat.

CLIVE:

No, I’ve clearly not figured out what to do.

RUTH:

You’ll have to get it back.

CLIVE:

Get what back?

RUTH:

Your job. You’ll have to go in and get it back.

CLIVE:

Get it back?

RUTH:

You’ve been there for twelve years. You and George are friends.

CLIVE:

Friends, right.

RUTH:

Can’t you just go in there ask for it back?

CLIVE:

I lost my job Ruth. I didn’t kick a football into next door’s garden. It’s gone. If there was a job to get back I wouldn’t have lost it in the first place.

RUTH:

But you were there for twelve years.

CLIVE:

I know how long I was there for. I was the one who was there.

RUTH:

I can’t believe he fired you. We look after his cat.

CLIVE:

I know.

RUTH:

Why?

CLIVE:

Because catteries are expensive these days and he knows I have an affinity with domesticated animals.

RUTH:

I mean why did he fire you?

CLIVE:

They call me cat lady. What?

RUTH:

Why? Why you?

CLIVE:

It could’ve been anyone. They probably just pulled a name out of a hat. Or used some special computer software that pulls a name out of a special computer hat. Probably invented by Dan. Ooh, precious Dan!

RUTH:

So that’s it then. No job. No savings.

CLIVE:

Dan’s the IT manager.

RUTH:

Did you at least get a, I don’t know, a redundancy package?

CLIVE:

It’s the way things are nowadays. We’re not people any more. We’re just machines. Soon the whole office will just be. Flying robots. On hoverboards. Shooting emails out their eyes.

RUTH:

Why would flying robots need hoverboards?

CLIVE:

I don’t know do I? It’s the future, nothing makes sense.

RUTH:

Is that really the best you can do? Blame it on the future?

CLIVE:

I’ll figure something out.

RUTH:

When?

CLIVE:

Just give me a couple of days.

RUTH:

What are you going to do? Bowl your way into a new job?

CLIVE:

You don’t think I’ve tried that already? I have been looking work you know. I’ve sent my CV all over the place. I’ve been busking.

RUTH:

Busking? What.

CLIVE:

Yeah busking. Only with audits. You know.

RUTH:

No I don’t know. Busking and auditing are two different things.

CLIVE:

It’s basically the same. Except instead of singing songs I’ll do some audits. Little table. Calculator. Change bucket. Regional revenue figures for Morrisons.

RUTH:

On the street?

CLIVE:

Yeah. Outside the bowling alley. Cheeky game at lunchtime.

RUTH:

So you’ve been sat outside a bowling alley in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, doing audits on a fake account, and no one’s come over and offered you a job yet?

CLIVE:

That’s the job market for you. On it’s knees.

RUTH:

Yeah, that is surprising. I’d’ve thought that’s the first place they’d look.

CLIVE:

One old lady responded well. Then she handed me a bag of raw meat. I was a bit worried about her actually.

RUTH:

And you say you haven’t figured out a plan yet. You’re too hard on yourself Clive.

CLIVE:

Okay, that was all sarcastic, wasn’t it? At least I’m trying. I’m good. I am good at my job. Someone’s got to need a bloody good auditor out there, and I’m gonna find him. Or her. Probably him though, women tend to take on more HR-based roles.

RUTH:

Well you need to find something. Even if it is bloody bowling.

CLIVE:

It won’t be bowling I’m nowhere near professional level.

RUTH:

Whatever it is Clive, you’re going to find it. Understood?

CLIVE:

Auditing is the thing I’m good at. The only thing. Numbers are like my slaves. I can see when an account is out of line. I can actually see it, just by looking at the page in front of me. It gives me this amazing feeling of…control. Like I am the master of the…the…digits.

RUTH:

Well why don’t you master our digits for a change? Can’t be that hard, they’re all the same. Zero. Zero. Zero. Zero. Zero.

CLIVE:

There aren’t that many zeros.

RUTH:

No, there are a few numbers in there. Shame they’ve all got minus signs in front of them.

CLIVE:

What do you suggest? Hah? What’s your input? Knit another sweater? Iron the tablecloth?

RUTH:

I told you to go and ask for your job back. That was my suggestion.

CLIVE:

Oh yes, that shows a dazzling insight into employment protocol. If only I’d had that kind of expert insider’s advice before.

RUTH:

I’m a housewife!

CLIVE:

I’m the reason you’ve got a house to be a wife in!

RUTH:

If we carry on like this, we might not. In fact, I might not even be a wife much longer.

CLIVE:

Oh very nice. And what would you be then? A nothing nothing.

RUTH:

Then maybe we’d have more in common.

Clive is hurt.

RUTH:

Sorry, that was. This isn’t getting us anywhere. Let’s just.

CLIVE:

Calm down.

RUTH:

Have a think.

CLIVE:

Get some fresh air.

RUTH:

A bit of perspective.

CLIVE:

Go bowling or something.

RUTH:

We’re not going bowling.

CLIVE

I’m brainstorming.

RUTH:

I could. Clive, I could talk to George.

CLIVE:

What?

RUTH:

Me and George. I could.

CLIVE:

No, that wouldn’t. I don’t know how that would help.

RUTH:

I think it would. I think I could talk to him. It might help if I spoke to him.

CLIVE:

You think you could get my job back?

RUTH:

It’s worth a try.

CLIVE:

As in you go in there on my behalf? As in you go in there and fight my battle on my behalf?

RUTH:

It won’t be like that. George and I know each other. We have an understanding. I could just. Talk to him.

CLIVE:

No. That won’t work.

RUTH:

It can’t hurt.

CLIVE:

It will hurt.

RUTH:

Let me try.

CLIVE:

No. Absolutely not.

RUTH:

Why are you being like this? Let me just speak to him.

CLIVE:

No.

RUTH:

It’ll be worth it, trust me.

CLIVE:

I said no.

RUTH:

There’s something you need to know about George and I. We have a very special. Very personal.

CLIVE:

I didn’t get fired. Alright? I didn’t lose my job.

RUTH:

What? So what’s. Why.

CLIVE:

I quit. I quit.

RUTH:

Beg your pardon? You.

CLIVE:

Quit, yeah.

RUTH:

You.

CLIVE:

Yes! I quit.

RUTH:

You fucking idiot.

CLIVE:

Yes. What?

RUTH:

What the hell is wrong with you?

CLIVE:

Nothing. That’s what I’m saying.

RUTH:

You walked out of your job? After twelve years?

CLIVE:

Hang on, you don’t know.

RUTH:

I don’t care. You don’t walk out on a career you’ve spent twelve years of our time building.

CLIVE:

Our time? You don’t know what I went through! He treated me like a useless bloody. Like he was doing me a favour keeping me there. It was demeaning.

RUTH:

So you suck it up. We all have things we have to deal with.

CLIVE:

I’m an asset to that company. I’m a valued. So I’m no good with computers. So what? If sending a telegram is old fashioned, then I hold my hands up. I’m old fashioned. I’ll admit it, I’m scared of the Internet.

RUTH:

I’m aware of your phobia.

CLIVE:

Where is it Ruth? Where actually is it?

RUTH:

We’ve been through this.

CLIVE:

But that doesn’t make me useless, does it?

RUTH:

Not useless. Just less useful.

CLIVE:

I can still do my job. I’m not a liability.

RUTH:

Is that what he said? He called you a liability?

CLIVE:

I’m valued by my colleagues. I command their respect.

RUTH:

No one’s doubting that.

CLIVE:

They got me a present you know.

RUTH:

Did they?

CLIVE:

Yeah, they got me an envelope with some loose change.

RUTH:

Right.

CLIVE:

Very thoughtful of them that. They know I’m a big fan of vending machines.

Beat.

RUTH:

Surely there’s some sort of. Law or. He can’t fire you because you’re not computer literate. We need to just talk to him. Face to face.

CLIVE:

They’ve hired a replacement.

RUTH:

Already?

CLIVE:

21 years old. He has an earring Ruth. And not even in his ear lobe. In that weird gristly bit up there.

He pinches the top of his ear.

CLIVE:

I don’t understand the world anymore.

RUTH:

Life moves forward Clive. You’ll just have to find a way of keeping up.

CLIVE:

I could get an earring.

RUTH:

Why don’t you try learning a new skill?

CLIVE:

I was gonna say that too. Look, I got this.

CLIVE produces a leaflet.

CLIVE:

Night courses at the college. I could retrain.

RUTH:

Okay, good. That’s a good idea.

CLIVE:

They do pottery.

RUTH:

No, you’d do a computer course.

CLIVE:

Yeah, no, sure I’d.

CLIVE stares at the leaflet.

CLIVE:

Would be cool though. Making pots.

He looks up at RUTH.

CLIVE:

But the computer ones, they’re. Yeah.

CLIVE puts the leaflet away.

RUTH:

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

CLIVE:

Hey, hey. It’ll be okay, alright?

CLIVE hugs her, rubs her arms.

RUTH:

What am I going to tell mum?

CLIVE:

Don’t worry about that. I’ll tell mum.

RUTH:

We have different mums.

CLIVE:

Yes.

Beat.

CLIVE:

I’ll sort this out. I’ll get it sorted. Have I ever let you down before? That was rhetorical.

Blackout.

Scene Two

Lights up on the same set. Again, RUTH has half a finished baby’s sweater on her lap. She’s cradling the phone between her shoulder and ear.

RUTH:

So this is it? Over the phone. Is it something I did? Or something I didn’t do? Because I told you I have an overactive gag reflex and it really would not be pleasant if. Okay. Okay. I’m sorry to hear that. I guess we won’t be. Seeing each other anymore. Do you know what really upsets me? You’ve given Vanessa four kids in six years. And in all our time together you’ve never ever been able to.

RUTH hears the front door open. She hastily hangs up the phone.

CLIVE enters. He now has only one arm.

CLIVE:

Afternoon.

RUTH:

How’d you get on?

CLIVE:

I made six hundred pounds.

RUTH:

Wow. How’d you manage that? Sell yourself on the street or something?

CLIVE:

Wh. uh.

RUTH laughs. She notices his missing arm and immediately stops laughing.

RUTH:

Oh my god.

CLIVE:

I know! Six hundred pounds!

RUTH:

Clive, your arm, your. What’s.

CLIVE holds out his remaining arm.

CLIVE:

What? What’s wrong with it?

RUTH:

No, you’re other one. It’s. It’s. Where is it?

CLIVE:

Hah? Oh, yeah. I sold it.

RUTH:

You. Hang on, what?

CLIVE:

I sold it. I’ve got another one anyway.

RUTH:

You sold your arm?

CLIVE:

Yep. How’s your day been?

RUTH:

How? How is that.

CLIVE:

Six hundred big ones.

RUTH:

Who did this to you?

CLIVE:

Florian.

RUTH:

What’s a Florian?

CLIVE:

He’s an artist. He said it was a work of art. Told him I used to do boxercise.

RUTH:

Are. Are you going to get it back?

CLIVE:

What, you mean like buy it back?

RUTH:

I don’t know. You tell me.

CLIVE:

We can’t afford to be buying works of art Ruth. I don’t have a job.

RUTH walks over and investigates the stump.

CLIVE:

Ah, careful.

RUTH:

I don’t understand.

CLIVE:

Think I’ve explained it pretty clearly.

RUTH sits on the sofa.

RUTH:

How. I mean. What.

CLIVE:

I know what you’re thinking. I can tell. Look at that face! Don’t worry.

He reaches into his pocket and takes out his wedding ring.

CLIVE:

Hah!

He reaches in again and takes out his wristwatch.

CLIVE:

No way they were getting off with the extras. Not unless they were willing to pay for them. Which they weren’t, so. Don’t say your old man ain’t savvy.

RUTH:

How are you going to function with one arm?

CLIVE:

I’ll be fine. Can’t actually remember what I used that arm for anyway. It was just there. As a spare.

RUTH:

A spare? You think you had a spare arm?

CLIVE:

Normally people use just one arm for everything. Then the second one just comes in to tackle the big stuff. Like moving a fridge.

RUTH

That’s nonsense. That’s complete rubbish. Normally people use both arms. Normally people don’t sell their own body parts for cash. That’s because normal people, Clive, have a bit of self-respect.

CLIVE:

Self-respect. Waste of time. I had it for thirty-four years and didn’t make a bloody penny off it. Soon as I lose it, bang. Six hundred quid in the bank.

RUTH:

No, this is. We have to call the police or something. I mean, the man’s deranged, clearly. Some sort of maniac going round hacking people’s arms off.

CLIVE:

He’s not a maniac.

RUTH:

He’s insane. We have to call the police.

CLIVE:

He’s not insane. He’s a beautiful man.

RUTH:

He might have it on ice or something, we could get it stitched.

CLIVE:

He saved me. I was on the verge of a relapse. I was stood in line to the Waltzers with half a kilo of candy floss in a bin bag. That’s a hell of a lot of candy floss. It has almost no density. Then I felt someone squeeze my elbow. But it wasn’t any old elbow squeeze. It was a squeeze of respect. Of, of admiration. It wasn’t like the elbow squeeze you give me when I’m embarrassing myself in front of your friends. This was a squeeze the likes of which my elbow has never experienced.

RUTH:

What are you on about?

CLIVE:

And the way he talked about me. He said my arm was important. That it needed to be seen. By the world! He said I have the hands of a mermaid. No one’s ever said that to me before.

RUTH:

Yes they have. Your cousin Andre says it to you all the time.

CLIVE:

No one’s ever meant it as a compliment!

RUTH:

Fine. So he buttered you up a bit.

CLIVE:

He made me regret wearing all those long-sleeved shirts you buy me.

RUTH:

Wait. So. Okay. Right. Here’s what’s gonna happen. You’re gonna go and find this man, you’re going to explain that you made a terrible decision that was rash and short-sighted.

CLIVE:

You’re short-sighted.

RUTH:

That’s irrelevant.

CLIVE:

You’re irrelevant!

RUTH:

For god’s sake grow up!

CLIVE:

Florian saw something in me that no one’s ever seen. He showed me my true worth.

RUTH:

Six hundred pounds.

CLIVE:

He was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m not going back.

RUTH:

So it’s gone then, is it? For good. It’s just. Gone.

CLIVE:

It’s gone from the end of my body yeah. But it’s still around. We can visit. It’ll be in a gallery. They’re gonna have a big opening. Everyone will be looking at my arm and saying. ‘Wow, look at that arm.’

RUTH:

And you’ll be one of them. A paying customer.

CLIVE:

We’ll get a discount.

RUTH:

Stood gawping at your own limb. You won’t even be able to point like all the rest.

CLIVE:

Er, I’ve still got this.

He waves his arm.

CLIVE:
Pointing is yet another one-armed job.

RUTH:

What about your responsibilities?

CLIVE:

What responsiblities?

RUTH:

Me. The job hunt. Our family.

CLIVE:

We don’t have a family.

RUTH:

Not yet.

CLIVE:

Right, exactly.

RUTH:

But soon.

RUTH rubs her belly.

CLIVE:

What do you mean soon? How soon?

RUTH nods.

RUTH:

I’m pregnant.

CLIVE:

Fuck off.

RUTH:

Excuse me?

CLIVE:

You’re having a shit.

RUTH:

Clive.

CLIVE:

You’re not pregnant.

RUTH:

I am.

CLIVE:

When? How? How long have you?

RUTH:

Okay just calm down.

CLIVE:

It it mine?

RUTH:

Yes of course it’s.

CLIVE:

Is it yours?

RUTH:

What?

CLIVE:

Oh Jesus. God this is. Pregnant? Fuck! I can’t have a baby, I’ve got one arm!

CLIVE starts to hyperventilate.

RUTH:

Clive calm down.

CLIVE:

We’ll have to give it to charity.

RUTH:

Take a deep breath.

CLIVE:

Oh god. Oh Jesus fuck no. Oh god everything’s ruined!

RUTH:

I’m not pregnant.

Pause.

CLIVE:

What?

RUTH:

I’m. I’m not pregnant.

CLIVE:

Then why did you.

RUTH:

I don’t know. It just came out. Sorry.

CLIVE:

You’re literally not pregnant?

RUTH:

Literally. Yeah.

CLIVE:

What a ridiculous thing to say. Scared the life out of me.

RUTH:

Sorry.

CLIVE:

You can be really weird sometimes.

RUTH:

I said I’m sorry.

CLIVE:

Crisis averted I suppose.

RUTH:

I could have been. We’ve been trying for so long now.

CLIVE:

What do you mean trying? Trying what?

RUTH:

For a baby.

CLIVE:

We’ve been trying for a baby?

RUTH:

Yes.

CLIVE:

As in you and me?

RUTH:

Yes! Why do you think we’ve been doing it three nights a week?

CLIVE:

That’s why we’ve been doing it?

RUTH:

Why else do you think we were?

CLIVE:

Well, I.

CLIVE shrugs, smoothes out his shirt.

CLIVE:

Been wearing a new aftershave. Thought that might.

RUTH:

This is what we agreed. I thought it’s what we wanted.

CLIVE:

I never agreed anything.

RUTH:

You were happy to play along.

CLIVE:

You were putting out! I was hardly gonna. It doesn’t matter now anyway.

RUTH:

Why not?

CLIVE:

Well, our priorities.

CLIVE gestures to his stump.

RUTH:

That’s convenient.

CLIVE:

If I’d known you were trying for a baby.

RUTH:

We. We were trying for a baby.

CLIVE:

If I’d known that before I quit my job and sold my arm, perhaps things could’ve been different.

RUTH:

You did know. Of course you knew.

CLIVE:

Well let’s not dwell on it. The ship’s sailed.

RUTH:

No, we can still do it. We can keep trying.

CLIVE:

No way. Can’t afford it.

RUTH:

I’m not happy Clive. I’m lonely.

CLIVE:

A baby is not the answer. A baby will only provoke more questions. Like why did we have this baby? And how do I shut up this baby?

RUTH:

I don’t think you understand what I’m going through.

CLIVE:

We can’t afford a child. If you want companionship you need to be thinking Jack Russell or lower.

RUTH:

We can make it work.

CLIVE:

Just say we have a ‘baby’. What’s it going to eat? Hm? Tiny little sweaters?

He picks up one of RUTH’S knitted sweaters and tosses it across the room.

CLIVE:

Where’s it going to sleep? Inside a tiny little sweater? How will it keep warm in the winter? With a tiny little– actually that one works. Ignore that.

RUTH:

Why are you doing this to us?

CLIVE:

Doing what?

RUTH:

You know what.

CLIVE:

I’m not doing anything. It’s just how things have worked out. People live full and happy lives with one arm. Plenty of jobs out there for someone like me. You know, there’s a guy who can play the violin with his feet. Makes a fortune.

RUTH:

You can’t play the violin.

CLIVE:

Maybe I can with my feet. We don’t know.

RUTH starts to cry.

RUTH:

My mum always said you were stupid.

CLIVE:

She is actually stupid though.

RUTH:

She was right, you are stupid.

CLIVE:

‘Ooh, how do farmers tell the difference between semi-skimmed and whole milk cows?’

RUTH:

They treat the milk. After it’s.

CLIVE:

I know that! I know how milk works. Someone needs to tell her!

RUTH:

Have you thought about what we’re going to do for money?

CLIVE:

I just told you.

RUTH:

Assuming you can’t play the violin with your feet.

CLIVE:

I could write my autobiography. The Man Who Sold His Arm.

RUTH:

You worked in the same office for twelve years then lost your job and sold your arm in the same week. That’s not the basis for an autobiography.

CLIVE:

What about the time I met George Michael?

RUTH:

You didn’t meet him; you stood behind him at a cash point.

CLIVE:

Here we go.

RUTH:

And it wasn’t even him.

CLIVE:

It was definitely him.

RUTH:

It was just a man in a leather jacket.

CLIVE:

Not this again!

RUTH:

Yes this again.

CLIVE:

Next you’re gonna say I didn’t meet Sting.

RUTH:

Why would Sting be selling umbrellas on the Isle of Man?

CLIVE picks up a framed photograph from the table.

CLIVE:

And what about Anthea Turner? Are you gonna deny photographic evidence as well now?

RUTH:

I don’t think a book signing counts as meeting someone.

Pause. CLIVE puts the photo down. RUTH observes his stump.

RUTH:

Did it hurt?

CLIVE:

Yeah.

RUTH:

Did it?

CLIVE:

Yeah it really hurt. Didn’t scream though. You’d have been proud.

RUTH:

Didn’t they give you any anaesthetic?

CLIVE:

Yeah but the injection really hurt. And I’m scared of needles. I almost didn’t go through with it, but I came to my senses.

CLIVE shrugs his shoulders up and down.

CLIVE:

It feels like it’s still there. I guess in a way it is. But in another much more accurate way. You know. It isn’t.

Pause.

CLIVE:

Oh, I have to rub balm on the stump twice a day. Don’t let me forget.

Pause.

RUTH:

Clive I need to know something.

CLIVE:

Yes, I can still go to the toilet by myself.

RUTH:

No, no I. Clive, do you love.

CLIVE:

You know what we could both do with? A nice cup of tea.

RUTH:

Okay.

CLIVE:

Maybe a sandwich?

RUTH:

What did you do with the ones I made you for lunch?

CLIVE:

I ate them. They were nice. Was there chutney?

RUTH nods.

RUTH:

Apple and cinnamon.

CLIVE:

I like.

RUTH:

Clive, do you love me?

CLIVE:

Course I do. Darling of course I do.

RUTH:

I’ll put the kettle on.

RUTH exits.

CLIVE picks up the phone and dials.

CLIVE:

Hi, Florian please. Florian it’s me. Clive. We met this afternoon. When you amputated my arm. Mermaid hands. Yeah. Listen, we need to cancel operation southpaw. It can’t go ahead I’m afraid. I know. I know I’m sorry. Look it’s not me. It’s my wife. She really did not react with the unconditional support I’d anticipated. Now listen, I’m sorry to let you down, but I’m telling you there’s no. There’s just no way. It’s not me, I told you.

He turns as RUTH re-enters.

CLIVE:

It’s my wife! She’s.

CLIVE spins, sees RUTH.

CLIVE:

Lovely and sweet-natured and really very compassionate. Hello darling.

RUTH:

Who is it?

CLIVE:

No, I don’t want one of your mobile phones thank you. Thanks for calling.

RUTH:

Give it here.

CLIVE:

I already have one thank you. Okay, I really have to go now.

RUTH:

Give me the phone.

RUTH snatches the phone from CLIVE.

CLIVE:

She wants to speak to you.

RUTH:

Who is this?

Pause.

RUTH:

It’s you. What’s operation southpaw?

CLIVE goes to exit. RUTH keeps him in the room.

RUTH:

You were going to. And he.

RUTH looks at CLIVE’S arm, then into his eyes.

RUTH:

How much?

Beat.

RUTH:

Double it.

Blackout

Scene Three

Lights up. RUTH is knitting, as with the previous two scenes. She examines the sweater she’s knitting. Smiles.

She stands up, shoves a cushion under her shirt, strokes it like a pregnancy bump.

Off stage there is a low, scratchy buzzing sound. RUTH ignores it. The noise grows louder, she tuts.

RUTH:

Hang on!

She removes the cushion and exits.

She re-enters wheeling CLIVE in a wheelchair. He now has no arms, no legs and no teeth. He wears an eye patch and a bobble hat, and is completely paralysed. He has a party blower in his mouth which he blows intermittently.

She leaves him by the sofa and makes a phone call.

RUTH:

Jake, hi. Yep. Yes. No I got your voicemail. It’s just not good enough Jake. I know you can do fifteen. No that’s my lowest. His left went for twelve thousand so you know it’ll sell. Well it’s the nature of the market. Jake, I’m a bit busy right now. Talk to Karl, think on it, then come back when you’re ready to pay the fifteen thou. For what it’s worth I reckon you’ve got till the weekend, alright?

RUTH hangs up. She carries on cleaning.

RUTH:

That was Jake Lopez about your eye. He’s still holding out. I think we’ll get the full offer by Friday.

CLIVE blows weakly on the party blower.

RUTH:

Well, exactly.

TINOTHY enters holding a briefcase.

TINOTHY:

Don’t be scared!

RUTH jumps, turns.

RUTH:

Who the hell are you?

TINOTHY:

Your door was unlocked.

RUTH:

Get out.

TINOTHY:

Please, I.

RUTH:

Before I call the police.

TINOTHY:

I asked you not to be scared.

RUTH:

Who are you?

TINOTHY:

I’m here on behalf of Florian Donersberg.

Beat.

RUTH:

Ah.

TINOTHY:

You’ve been expecting me, haven’t you?

RUTH:

Could say that.

TINOTHY:

It’s nice to feel expected. Cuts out a lot of claptrap. You’re Ruth, I take it.

RUTH:

Yes. I’m sorry, you are?

TINOTHY:

Tinothy.

RUTH:

Timothy. Hello.

TINOTHY:

No, Tinothy. With an N.

RUTH:

Oh. That’s a strange name.

TINOTHY:

Yes.

RUTH:

Where’s it from?

TINOTHY:

My mother. She made it up. Thought it would be a good conversation starter.

RUTH:

Is it?

TINOTHY:

It’s good at starting this conversation.

RUTH:

You’ve probably had all this before then.

TINOTHY:

Three thousand times.

RUTH:

What, exactly three thousand?

TINOTHY:

Yes.

RUTH:

Wow. We should celebrate.

TINOTHY:

No. It’s just a number. Just a really, really big number.

RUTH:

Okay. Guess you’d better take a seat.

TINOTHY:

I’d rather not.

RUTH:

Drink?

TINOTHY:

I can’t stay long.

RUTH:

No, I suppose it’s strictly business.

TINOTHY:

A moment ago she was about to call the police. Now she wants me to stay for a drink.

RUTH:

Who are you talking to?

TINOTHY moves over to CLIVE.

TINOTHY:

Is this him?

RUTH:

Yes. Yeah this is him. Look who it is Clive. Do you remember Tinothy?

CLIVE is unresponsive.

TINOTHY:

How is he?

RUTH:

Good. I think. It’s getting harder to tell.

TINOTHY:

How was the operation?

RUTH:

Which one?

TINOTHY:

The latest.

RUTH:

Successful.

TINOTHY:

How much of his brain was taken out?

RUTH:

About a fifth. Mostly from the front. Maria Parsenova bought it for £19,000. For an installation apparently.

TINOTHY:

Yes, I know. She’s not exactly keeping it a secret.

RUTH:

Are you here about his eye?

TINOTHY:

Florian wanted me to come over and talk to you in person. He finds it. Regrettable that you’ve chosen to conduct business in this way.

RUTH:

In what way?

TINOTHY:

Your associations with other artists. He finds it distasteful and rather distressing.

RUTH:

He started it.

TINOTHY:

Yes, and now he’s finishing it. I’m here to make you an offer.

RUTH:

It’s going for fifteen thousand.

TINOTHY:

I beg your pardon?

RUTH:

The eye.

TINOTHY:

Charming. I imagine the Lopez brothers are circling.

RUTH:

Maybe.

TINOTHY:

Like vultures round a corpse. It’s all a bit depressing.

RUTH:

Must be heartbreaking for you.

TINOTHY:

You have no idea. When we bought Clive’s arm, it was a realisation of the most advanced and inspired artistic event of the century. The final piece de resistance of an exhibition that will reshape the landscape of artistic endeavour.

RUTH:

Good for you.

TINOTHY:

Not just for us, but for humankind. Not any more though. Because Harry Harding bought his legs. Dominic Munroe bought his left eye. Sandra Bell’aqua bought his penis. I assume that included the testicles?

RUTH:

No, I’m keeping those for myself.

CLIVE blows the party blower. It falls out his mouth. RUTH puts it back in.

TINOTHY:

Now I read that Maria Parsenova has bought part of his brain, and Dr. Michelle Deville bought half his liver. And by the way, she’s not a real doctor, she’s a performance artist. She’s going to eat it next Thursday at a burlesque show in East london. And you don’t want to know what she plans to do with his wisdom teeth.

RUTH:

What’s your point?

TINOTHY:

They are trying to destroy us.

RUTH:

Why would they do that?

TINOTHY:

Because they’re jealous of Florian. His success, his. His vision. He’s been at the vanguard of the art world for the past fifteen years and every other hack with a paintbrush is getting restless. They’re not creating art, they’re polluting it.

RUTH:

If it means so much to him why isn’t he here himself?

TINOTHY:

Do you know about the great Florian? Are you aware of his legacy?

RUTH:

I know him as the man who severed my husband’s arm.

TINOTHY:

That explains a lot.

RUTH:

It’s a fair system. He can put in offers just like anyone else.

TINOTHY:

Yes. That’s what I was getting to.

RUTH:

His right eye is going for fifteen thousand pounds.

TINOTHY:

Florian is working hard to make his exhibition as spectacular as possible. We’ve been working constantly on new ideas that will recapture the purity of his initial vision.

TINOTHY looks over at CLIVE.

TINOTHY:

When we found Clive. That was a special day. It was an historic day for all of us, including your husband. He’s done something amazing.

CLIVE blows the party blower.

TINOTHY:

This is a special thing and the world will be richer for it.

RUTH:

Fifteen thousand for the eye.

TINOTHY:

Can he.

RUTH:

Go on.

TINOTHY looks uneasily at CLIVE.

TINOTHY:

Florian does want more of Clive. He needs it. But he doesn’t want the eye.

RUTH:

What does he want then?

TINOTHY:

His. His skin.

Pause.

RUTH:

All of it?

TINOTHY:

Yes.

RUTH:

That’ll kill him.

TINOTHY:

Possibly.

RUTH:

Not possibly, definitely. It’ll definitely kill him.

TINOTHY:

I’m not a doctor. I’m just a PA.

RUTH looks at CLIVE. She turns back to TINOTHY.

RUTH:

How much?

TINOTHY:

Five hundred thousand pounds.

RUTH:

Five hun.

Beat.

RUTH:

No.

Tinothy:

We can’t offer you more.

RUTH:

I don’t want more. I won’t do it. Not for anything.

TINOTHY:

Then why did you ask?

Beat.

TINOTHY:

Rest assured that Clive will be the showpiece of a monumental cultural happening. And his skin will be used in a highly dignified manner.

RUTH:

What will you do with it?

TINOTHY:

It will be wrapped around a dead pig. Then smeared with faeces.

RUTH:

That’s not dignified.

TINOTHY:

No, you’re right, I can’t lie. But it is artistically necessary. It will be part of an installation called Happy.

RUTH:

Happy?

RUTH looks over at CLIVE again.

RUTH:

He was happy. He is happy.

TINOTHY:

Actually, I think the name refers to the pig. As in happy as a pig.

RUTH:

In shit.

RUTH looks at CLIVE.

TINOTHY:

The show is pig themed. Florian bought up an entire pork farm especially. So there’s one called Piggy Bank. That’s a bank full of pigs. Greedy Pig, that’s a restaurant full of pigs. Pig Sick, that’s a hospital.

RUTH:

Full of pigs.

TINOTHY:

No, that’s. Oh no, you’re right, pigs. Pig Ignorant is a school full of pigs.

RUTH:

And I suppose Pigs in Blankets is a hotel full of pigs.

Beat.

TINOTHY takes out a notepad and pen from his pocket and writes this down. He puts the notepad away.

TINOTHY:

Ruth, the man is a genius. I wouldn’t do what I do if he wasn’t. Have you ever tried getting a dead pig into a school uniform? It’s bloody hard work. Trying to get purchase on the. It sounds easy I know, but it’s fucking not. Sorry.

RUTH:

You seem a bit resentful.

TINOTHY:

I’m not resentful. I’m just saying it’s hard to get a dead pig into a school uniform. It was a long day. But I’m part of it now. And so is Clive. He is a visionary, just like Florian. He is unique, and without him none of this could have happened.

RUTH:

He’s not unique, or a visionary, or remotely interested in art. He was an idiot. But it’s quiet now. I never thought I would miss his voice.

TINOTHY:

Half a million pounds will go a long way.

RUTH:

And what will I have when he’s gone?

Beat.

TINOTHY:

Half a million pounds.

RUTH:

I mean besides that. What will I do?

TINOTHY:

Move on. You’re a capable woman. You’ve turned one man’s bad decision into an enterprise.

RUTH:

The answer’s no.

TINOTHY:

I don’t think you’ve properly thought this through.

RUTH:

Go and exploit someone else. Leave me and my husband alone.

TINOTHY:

Exploitation. That’s a funny choice of accusation.

RUTH:

What would you call it? What you’re doing to us?

TINOTHY:

What about what you’re doing to us?

RUTH:

I had no choice.

TINOTHY:

You weren’t exploited, you were blessed.

RUTH:

Blessed? Is that what it looks like to you?

TINOTHY:

I offered my own arm up first, Ruth. Before we found Clive. Florian rejected it. He said it wasn’t right. It wasn’t perfect. I was devastated. If he’d asked for it, I’d have given it to him in a heartbeat. If he’d wanted my leg, I’d have given him that too. If he’d wanted my life. I would’ve seriously considered it. Because there is no-one on earth quite like him. He advises governments. Heads of industry. Think tanks and councils the world over. A simple comment from him could build careers or tear down institutions. He’s more than just an artist. He is Art. If he wanted just any old body part, he would’ve only had to mutter it under his breath and millions would flood to him, donating themselves. But he chose Clive. He found your husband weeping at a funfair with enough candy floss to blind a donkey.

He looks to CLIVE.

TINOTHY:

You pity him don’t you? You should revere him, for he has touched greatness.

RUTH;

The answer’s no.

TINOTHY:

Dammit!

He catches himself. Takes a deep breath.

TINOTHY:

We all need this. Florian needs it. You. Clive. And I need it too.

RUTH:

Don’t give me that nonsense.

TINOTHY:

I promised to deliver what he wanted tonight. It’s our very last chance. Whatever he asked for I would deliver. I didn’t know he was going to ask for this.

TINOTHY strokes CLIVE’S cheek.

TINOTHY:

I’m old now, Ruth. I’m long past my best. Florian has a team of. Teenagers. Dreaming up concepts and ideas that I can’t even fathom. I’ve been good to him, but he’s an uncompromising master. If he feels I’m of no more use he’ll. I don’t know what I’d do with myself if I couldn’t serve him. I love him. Everything I am I’ve given over to him. My life would be nothing. I don’t like this any more than you do. I don’t want to be here. But I have no choice. If I return to the studio empty handed then I don’t know if I’d be allowed back in tomorrow morning. So don’t tell me I don’t need this.

RUTH:

I’m sorry to hear that. Apparently the job market’s tough at the moment.

TINOTHY:

I see, okay. You want to be left alone in happy matrimony, is that it? Or perhaps you think he has so much more to give, your mute, braindead, paraplegic husband?

RUTH:

Yes. My mute, braindead, paraplegic husband. Not yours. Not Florian’s.

TINOTHY:

Can he really offer you as much as you think?

RUTH:

What are you implying?

TINOTHY:

His eye is hot property now, I’ll give you that. But otherwise, what? No major limbs. Internal organs have been done, the demand’s gone cold for that. His genitals added a frisson of sexuality but that’s a trick you can only pull once. You could strip him to his bones in the next month if you like, but interest will quickly wane. And come Friday evening Florian’s masterwork will render all such variations on the theme redundant, outmoded, and faintly embarrassing. You’ll get the best price selling his cold still heart to a butcher’s shop.

RUTH:

How dare you. He is a human being. He’s a man.

TINOTHY:

Is he? Is that what you see when you look at him? Was he ever a man? Or has he always been a commodity waiting to find its market? Think about what you really want, Ruth. Think about what you need.

RUTH instinctively touches her belly.

TINOTHY:

Everyone agrees you’ve played this expertly. You’ve been a patient, watchful girl. And when the world was ready you seized the opportunity before you. Don’t ruin it all now by indulging some moral hiccup. It’s a kickback. It’s nostalgia. Think about it. We’re you ever happy?

RUTH moves to Clive.

RUTH:

I’ve quite liked having him like this for the past few days. We never had children. But now he’s like my little baby. Like my little boy. Is that weird?

TINOTHY:

No.

RUTH:

It is a bit weird isn’t it?

TINOTHY:

It is a little bit weird, yeah.

RUTH:

Do you think I’m crazy?

TINOTHY:

I’m not a psychoanalyst. I’m just a PA.

RUTH:

Do you have any children?

TINOTHY:

No. I have a little pug. Bella. People say I treat her like my surrogate daughter.

RUTH:

That’s a bit weird as well, is’t it?

TINOTHY:

Not as weird as treating my crippled husband like a baby.

RUTH:

You can’t have him.

TINOTHY:

He’s worth more to me than he is to you.

RUTH:

He’s my husband. I deserve a husband.

TINOTHY:

You deserve a family.

RUTH:

He is my family.

TINOTHY:

And you’re content with that?

RUTH:

I love him. He’s all I have.

TINOTHY:

And he’s all you’ll ever have if you don’t stop this pathetic little dance. Is that what you want? Lonely nights indoors, acting out a grotesque charade of happy homes? Diverting your motherly urge towards pliable objects and defenceless animals? Sat alone at night, silently rocking a bag of flour to sleep. Holding the lumpen powdery sack to your shrivelled, useless breast. Bitter tears slowly turning your surrugate child to pancake mix? Is that really what you want? Surrounded by cats, mumbling your own private nonsense as you force stewed carrots into the head cavity of a plastic doll. Rubbing ointment onto the wheezing torso you call a life partner as you vacantly mop up a stray thread of saliva. Staring at soap operas through watery, pink-rimmed eyes. Volume up high to drown out the degenerate moans of your husband. Is that what you want?

Beat.

TINOTHY:

Because if it is I’ll leave you to it.

He picks up the case.

RUTH:

Wait.

TINOTHY stops at the doorway, drops the case.

RUTH:

Just wait a second.

TINOTHY:

Whatever it is you really want, I’ll give it to you, if that’s what this’ll take. He is useless to you now. I can give you what you need. Just show me what it is.

RUTH moves over to the sofa. She picks up a cushion and pushes it up inside her blouse. She strokes the bump.

TINOTHY stares, slowly registering the implication. After a moment, he takes off his jacket and folds it over the back of the armchair.

RUTH turns to CLIVE. She kneels before him. Mops up a stray thread of saliva.

RUTH:

Clive, I love you. You know that, don’t you?

Pause.

RUTH:

Clive?

CLIVE weakly blows the party blower.

RUTH:

And I know you love me too. Don’t you?

CLIVE blows on the party blower.

RUTH:

I want you to understand what’s happening here. It’s important that you understand. Clive?

CLIVE is unresponsive.

RUTH:

You can’t give me what I need anymore. If you love me, you’ll understand that.

CLIVE is unresponsive.

RUTH:

You chose to. You brought this on yourself. This was all you. I never.

CLIVE is unresponsive.

RUTH:

Do you love me?

Beat.

RUTH:

Do you love me Clive?

CLIVE blows again.

RUTH looks at TINOTHY. He starts undressing.

She picks up the case and moves it to behind an armchair.

She wheels CLIVE round to face the wall.

RUTH:

I hope you’ll stay for lunch. Do you like sandwiches?

TINOTHY:

Yes.

RUTH:

Apple and cinnamon chutney?

TINOTHY:

Yes.

RUTH:

I make wonderful sandwiches.

RUTH pulls TINOTHY in close and they kiss. She wraps her arms around him and they fall together onto the sofa. They writhe and moan passionately.

CLIVE blows his party blower repeatedly.

Love It Then Leave It Alone – February 2015

Characters

Ryan. Male. 23-30.

Debs. Female. 22-29.

Housemate. Male.

Location

Didsbury, Manchester.

Time

November 5th, 2004-2011

©Rob Hayes

February 2015

 

Didsbury, 2004.

A kitchen. An external door. A window, ajar.

Ryan’s doing a handstand. Debs is sat on the kitchen table, hands clasped under her nose, watching.

Ryan crashes out.

Debs starts clapping.

Debs. Wooo!

Ryan rubs his flank. He may have banged it.

Debs. That’s amazing.

Ryan. How long was that?

Debs. Dunno. Sorry, was I…

Ryan. Oh I thought you were…

Debs. No, sorry. Do it again. I’ll count.

Ryan. Nah don’t worry about it. Just showing off.

Debs. Where’d you learn that?

Ryan shrugs.

Ryan. Been doing it since I was like four.

Debs. Put the hours in then.

Ryan. I’ve just always had this, like, weird amazing sense of balance.

Debs. That’s fun.

Ryan. There’s videos of me as a little kid walking around the garden on my hands like some little gymnast or something. Fell on a barbecue once.

Debs. Oh my god.

Ryan. Yeah.

Debs. Must’ve fucking hurt.

Ryan. Oh, man, it absolutely wrecked. Stitches and everything.

Debs. Did you burn yourself?

Ryan. No it was really weird. I didn’t burn myself at all, but the edge of it, you know the rim. The like sharp metal rim…

Debs. Yeah.

Ryan. That cut right into my back. There.

He shows her.

Ryan. Right near the spine.

Debs. You’ve got a scar and everything.

Ryan. Yeah too right. ‘My mum was like, you’ve broken the barbecue!’ Alright, let me just get my back sewn up and I’ll buy you a new one…

Debs laughs.

Debs. If you’re gonna ruin a barbecue, do it in style. Were you scared?

Ryan. Kind of but like…not really, actually.

Debs. Probably too worried about the barbecue.

Ryan. Like I could still move my toes so that’s all I cared about.

Debs. Yeah that’s a good sign.

Ryan. Good rule of thumb. Can you move your toes? You’re probably fine.

Debs. You’ve lost an arm but you can move your toes.

Ryan. Yeah. You’ve got ebola but look on the bright side, your toes wiggle. Nah, I think I would’ve been more worried if it was like, my head. Or my face.

Debs. Ah your beautiful face.

Ryan. Nah but do you know what I mean though? Actually you’ve probably never had this but when you have an accident and your face is bleeding and your first thought is…what if I’ve done like permanent lasting damage to my face?

Debs. I’ve never had that.

Ryan. Because everyone sees it. Every day. You know when you see people with like a massive scar on their face. Or a birthmark. I mean I’m sure they live full happy lives and all that. And I bet it’s, y’know, character-building as fuck. Going out every day with a fucking– but sometimes I just want to say it out loud, you know what I mean? Like there was this guy at college and he had like a lump. Or a boil or something. Just a lump really. Right on the bridge of his nose. Right there.

Ryan demonstrates on himself.

Ryan. Like actually obscuring some of his eye. I mean it must’ve drove him crazy. And first time I met him I just wanted to say, Cleef mate, I can see you’ve got a big fucking boil covering your eye. I’m cool with that. I’m sure you’re cool with it by now. So let’s just all move on.

Debs. He’s probably taken enough shit about it by that point.

Ryan. Yeah but I reckon it’s the not taking shit for it. I think it’s the polite ignoring of it that’ll wear you down. You know, over the years. Must just grind you down. Most people can deal with taking shit.

Debs. Hmm. Cleef.

Ryan. Yeah his name was Cleef. So he had that to deal with as well.

Debs. Why didn’t he just get it removed?

Ryan. Fuck knows.

Debs. Maybe it was connected to his brain.

Ryan. Cleef. He was alright. Sorry I went off on one a bit there. Probably not really an appropriate…

Debs. I grew up with a girl who’s fingers were all fused together on one hand.

Ryan. That is messed up.

Debs does an imitation of it with one of her hands.

Debs. As a kid as well.

Ryan. Yeah. Shit. Even as an adult though. Like, you go for a job interview. What’s the first thing you do?

Debs. …Shake their hand.

They both shake their heads at the horror of it all.

Debs. Everyone was mean.

Ryan. I bet. Fuckin’ kids.

Debs. Awful some of it.

Ryan. Never from you though, right.

Debs. No well I was her mate. Never tried to stop it though. Just as bad in a way. She wrote with it though.

Ryan. Did she?

Debs. Yeah that was her writing hand.

Ryan. Ah so it’s not all bad then.

Ryan opens the fridge. Rummages around. He takes out what was a six-pack of beer. Four left, connected by plastic rings. He yanks off two then passes one to Debs.

Ryan. Your fella’s taking his time.

Debs. He always does this.

Ryan. What?

Debs. He just manages to take ages and then when he gets back there’s always a really normal reason for it.

Ryan. Do you reckon he’s got lost?

Debs. Doubt it.

Ryan. There’s an off license literally about ten minutes straight down.

Debs. Maybe then.

Debs shrugs. Ryan grins, shrugs back.

Ryan. I should’ve gone with him.

Debs. You couldn’t leave me here by myself.

Ryan. Yeah that’s bad hosting, that. You guys been together a while?

Debs. Two and a half years? On and off.

Ryan. A while then.

Debs. Yeah but…on and off.

Ryan. He seems cool.

Debs. Yeah. He can be a bit of a bellend.

Ryan. Declan did say that actually.

Beat. They both start laughing.

Ryan. Sorry that was so rude.

Debs. No. Honesty. I like it.

Ryan. No he says he’s a nice guy. But…I don’t know. I’ve said too much.

Debs. Declan’s very astute.

Ryan. Well Declan can be a bit of a bellend too. And it’s not like we’ve had long chats about it. He literally told me about you two for the first time today.

Debs. And then he sent us round to your house…

Ryan. And didn’t even turn up himself! Yeah actually he is a total bellend.

Debs. He’s just a disorganised idiot.

Ryan. Seriously I’m actually a bit worried about your boyfriend.

Debs. Urgh.

Ryan. What?

Debs. Boyfriend.

Ryan. Oh, sorry– what–

Debs. No it’s just…I dunno. Weird. We never…

Ryan. Sorry.

Debs. No– I mean I guess– Like we’re not that…he’s not very connected, if that makes sense. He’s not that involved in kind of…what I’m doing, and–

Ryan. That’s crazy. You seem awesome.

Debs. I’ve been a bit of a dick to him too. I tend to make terrible choices when it comes to…

Ryan. Make mistakes while you’re young innit.

Debs. I’ve done that.

Ryan. I’m sure you’ll… I mean you deserve like…a real like, good, nice, stable…I dunno. Ignore me I don’t know what I’m saying.

Debs slides off the table. She rubs her arms, chilly.

Ryan. You cold?

Debs. I’m alright

He shunts at the half-open window. The wooden frame is a bit swollen and won’t close neatly. He hammers it with the palm of his hand.

Ryan. Need to fix that.

Debs. Yeah you of all people.

Ryan. I know right? Especially this time of year.

Debs. Could get burgled.

Ryan. I meant cos of the cold, but now I’m terrified.

He offers her a jacket. Which she takes and drapes over herself.

Debs. Thanks. Ah, you never finished your story. About Voltron.

Ryan. Voltan.

Debs. Voltan.

Ryan. Voltron’s like a Manga robot.

Debs. Wow. Where did I pull that from?

Ryan. Ah, man– right. Yeah so we were stood there, and he came over to us. And he looked at the chair. And I was expecting him to, like, explain all the ways I’d fucked up.

Debs. Right.

Ryan. Like give feedback, basically. I’d watched him go round the room like, “ziss is wrong, you know, Zat should be over zherre. I wouldn’t let my dog sit on ziss churr.”

Debs. Ha!

Ryan. And he looks at my chair. PA kind of just hanging out behind him, like not even watching. And he looks at it, Voltan does, and he just says…yes.

Debs. Yes?

Ryan. Just literally…yes. Then he wanders off. And me and Maureen just looked at each other– and she was as confused as me. She’s been doing this twenty years and she was– and I said what does that mean? And she was like, I think he likes it.

Debs. Fuck.

Ryan. I was like…sick!

Debs. That’s amazing.

Ryan. Apparently he like wants to meet me properly and stuff. See my other work.

Debs. So cool. You’re good!

Ryan. Well– I mean it’s just hours. Just hours and hours in the studio.

Debs. That’s what it takes.

Ryan. Which is a shame cos now I don’t have a studio.

Debs. What?

Ryan. Well I’ve graduated.

Debs. What are you gonna do?

Ryan. Tim says I can use the spare room here. My housemate Tim. His uncle owns the house. I swear they’re like part of the Dutch mafia or something. Is there a Dutch mafia?

Debs. Is it big enough?

Ryan. It’ll do. It’s just so expensive finding space, you know. I’d have to get another job just to, like, pay for studio space. Probably better this way. They used to do grants for graduates. Bursaries for studio space and materials, but they cancelled it. Literally just this year.

Debs. Why?

Ryan. Fuck knows. Government got better things to spend their money on.

Debs. That’s rubbish.

Ryan. Just means that people with a bit of family cash can do it and everyone else…well…I’m just lucky I’ve got that spare room.

Debs. So like are your chairs really expensive then? Like, if you sold one.

Ryan. Well bearing in mind this was a restoration, the one that Voltan… And that’s like…serious money. Can be anyway.

Debs. Is that where you do up an old chair?

Ryan. Basically you take an old chair, which you have to buy yourself, or maybe get it given to you. Or get a commission to restore it–

Debs. Like an antique?

Ryan. Yeah like an antique chair. And then you basically just return it to its former glory. Like painstakingly restore every detail until it looks like it would’ve done in the 1800s or whenever.

Debs. Man. Sounds hard.

Ryan. Can be. Can be really hard. Cos you’ve gotta match the textures and everything exactly. Like the glue and the fabric. Stuff you wouldn’t even think of, like varnish. Or the type of nails they use. That’s the kind of thing experts notice. And then there’s the actual craft of it. Like carving and getting the right shape. You basically have to be as good as whoever famous craftsman made it in the first place. And who’s famous obviously because he was so good. It’s mental, thinking about it.

Debs. So is it a really nice chair?

Ryan. I mean, I like to think so. Voltan seems think so and he’s…pretty big deal. But I was working on it for seriously about a year– over a year, in fact. And normally it wouldn’t take that long.

Debs. Wow. A year?

Ryan. Yeah because it was my first proper exhibition piece. It was like a graduate thing. Sales are actually really rare. Straight-up sales. It’s more about collectors just getting a look at what these kids are up to. Who’s gonna be the new, y’know, amazing designer.

Debs. Clearly it’s gonna be you.

Ryan. Well…

She holds up her can. They cheers. Drink.

Debs. How did you even– I mean it’s such a weird thing to get into.

Ryan shrugs.

Ryan. Yeah…I don’t even remember, really. I mean, I did carpentry.

Debs. Yeah but even that’s…

Ryan. Mental, I know. I think I just liked the idea of it. Building something with your hands. People were doing, like, software development. Or marketing.

Debs. You wanted to build stuff.

Ryan. Right. Like, objects.

Debs. Like a man. Grrr.

Ryan. So– like a man, right. Plus I knew not many people would do it. And I liked the idea of being in a small class. And then I just moved into chairs and tables and stuff because…that was my favourite thing to make. I liked chairs and tables.

Debs. Makes sense. They’re useful.

Ryan. Exactly, right?

Debs. You sit on them. Everyone needs a chair.

Ryan. Totally. Everyone needs a chair. We’re never not gonna need chairs.

Debs. Benches.

Ryan. Yeah but they’re hardly gonna overtake chairs are they?

Debs. Time will tell.

Ryan. It’s one of those things where there’s a very small few people right at the top making all the big bucks.

Debs. And you’re gonna be one of them.

Ryan. I wanna be one of them, yeah.

Debs. And what about everyone else?

Ryan. Fuck ’em.

Debs. Cheers to that.

They both drink.

Ryan. So how about you? We’ve hardly even…

Debs. Me?

She huffs out her cheeks.

Ryan. You work at Man Met, right?

Debs. Yeah.

Ryan. You’re an ‘administrator’?

Debs. Well…

Ryan. This is what Declan told me. About three hours ago. Before he bailed on us.

Debs. I work on the main desk. Basically it’s a receptionist– I’m a receptionist. Except for a college.

Ryan. Cool. That’s cool. And what do you, like, wanna do?

Debs. What do I wanna do?


Ryan. Yeah like…what’s the dream? I’m assuming it’s not be a receptionist. I mean maybe it is, I don’t know…

Debs. No it’s definitely not. Manager’s a bit of a creep.

Ryan. Ah, really?

Debs. Yeah he’s just a bit…yeurgh. But he did give me a job. And I flirted a lot in the interview.

Ryan. Can’t complain too much.

Debs. I can if he’s a creep.

Ryan. You gonna quit?

Debs. Can’t afford to. I’m just glad to have a job to be honest.

Ryan. Tell me about it. Who isn’t?

Debs. I am gonna get a proper job. I will, when I’m ready for a career and stuff. Something creative. Working with people. Free tea and coffee.

Ryan. What did you study?

Debs. Nothing. I mean I didn’t–

Ryan. Right. Sorry, don’t know why I–

Debs. No it’s fine–

Ryan. Assumed…

Debs. I just didn’t– like I had a lot of other stuff going on.

Ryan. Cool.

Debs. Like…I have a daughter.

Ryan takes half a beat to react appropriately.

Ryan. Amazing.

Debs. Yeah.

Ryan. Amazing. How old is she?

Debs. She’s one. Nearly one. Couple of weeks.

Ryan. Oh what so– is he–

Ryan points to the back door. Debs nods.

Debs. Yep.

Ryan. I…had no idea. Wish I never called him a bellend now.

Debs. Yeah it’s not…I mean that’s kind of why he’s still around. In a way. That sounds harsh.

Ryan. No, I get that. Cos you two must’ve been pretty new.

Debs. Yeah it was weird. I mean I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Ryan. No of course. What’s she called?

Debs. Juniper.

Ryan. Juniper? Haha. What’s her real name?

Debs. Juniper.

Ryan. Awesome. That’s actually a really nice name.

Debs. I’m just a fan of gin.

Ryan. Right. Why’s that– what’s the…

Debs. Gin’s made from juniper berries.

Ryan. Sure. Good reason.

Debs. I thought so.

Ryan. You’ve got a daughter. Wow. That’s crazy.

Debs. Yeah. They’re quite common.

Ryan. No, yeah. Sorry. Stupid– I just mean…I dunno.

Debs. It does feel weird sometimes, just thinking… I am a mother. And obviously it wasn’t exactly, you know, planned, but…

Ryan. Right. Right. Not the kind of thing you plan with a bellend.

Debs. This is true.

Ryan. But you’re happy now though, yeah?

Debs. Oh, all the cliches. She’s my life. I love her more than anything. It’s knackering. Giving birth was the most painful thing you could possibly imagine…

Ryan. Did you shit yourself?

Debs. Yep. They don’t tell you about that. But it happens.

Ryan. Must be tough with you being at work then.

Debs. Yeah it is a bit.

Ryan. Do you have a nanny, or…?

Debs. She actually lives with my mum.

Ryan. Oh right. Yeah.

Debs. Just because her place is way more suited to having a little baby there than any place I’ve ever lived.

Ryan. Totally. Nightmare.

Debs. And my mum adores her. She’s so happy just to have her around.

Ryan. Well that’s ideal then.

Debs. Obviously I’m always round there. It’s literally twenty minutes on the bus. Twenty-five minutes.

Ryan. That’s cool. Mums are just generally good with babies, aren’t they?

Debs. Yeah mine’s like a baby-raising robot.

Ryan. They’re always like, ooh, it never leaves you!

Debs. Ha! That’s so true.

Ryan. I was changing your nappy not so long ago!

Debs. That’s what she says!

Ryan. That’ll be you soon.

Debs. I will always hate changing nappies.

Ryan. Oh totally.

Debs. It’s completely rank.

Ryan. I mean when would that ever not be a rank thing to do?

Debs. Yes, thank you.

Debs shudders. Pulls a face.

Ryan. Another beer?

Debs. I’m still working my way through this one actually.

Ryan. Cool.

Debs. Slow drinker.

Ryan. No it’s good. I just…straight down. Wish I knew how to drink slow.

Ryan cracks open his second beer.

Debs. So Declan did your course?

Ryan. No he did a different one. We just started hanging out because my class was full of dicks. So I just moped about by myself and eventually he kind of…

Debs. Took you under his wing.

Ryan. Kind of.

Debs. Why were they all dicks?

Ryan. It was just all a bit cliquey. Bit snobby. I didn’t really go in for that. I’m not good at that stuff.

Debs. Who’s laughing now, eh?

Ryan. Well, yeah. I mean it’s a long game. It’s a long game.

Debs smiles. Ryan kind of echoes her smile.

Ryan. Got much on tomorrow?

Debs. Seeing Juniper. Gonna take her out. Anything to get out of my place really.

Ryan. Is it not nice?

Debs. I’m an idiot. I just took the first room I was offered. I put in basically no research. My friend Shawni went to India for six months, and she said I could have the room.

Ryan. India? For six months?

Debs. She’s half-Indian. Got family out there and stuff. But she just called me up and offered it me, and I just took it. Didn’t even look at it.

Ryan. Serious?

Debs. Didn’t even go there.

Ryan. Oh my god. What’s it like? Is it bad?

Debs. Whole place is just a mess.

Ryan. Yeah?

Debs. I live with these two guys. And they were nice enough at first, but– well put it this way, I found one of them pissing in the sink the other day.

Ryan. The sink?

Debs. The kitchen sink. It was disgusting. I mean, it was…urgh!

She gags at the memory.

Debs. His little todger hanging over the rim.

Ryan. Jesus.

Debs. And this wasn’t an empty sink. And they always have loads of friends round and never clean up. One of them uses the same bowl for cereal every day, and never cleans it.

Ryan. Oh my word…

Debs. He has Weetabix every single day and he just lets the leftover Weetabix dry up against the side of the bowl, then just uses it again the next day. You can’t even see any, like…

Ryan. Ceramic.

Debs. No visible ceramic. Just dried brown shit.

Ryan. So grim.

Debs. And their dealer comes round every day. And they let him sleep round about three or four times a week.

Ryan. What, a drug dealer?

Debs. Yeah, he’s like a punk except he’s about 40. And he stinks, and he just sleeps on the couch till twelve or one in the afternoon. And he brings his clients round to pick up at our house.

Ryan. What?

Debs. Yeah. If he’s round at our place, which he is all the time, he’ll just tell his little druggie clients to come round and pick up there.

Ryan. So he’s literally, like, transacting drug deals in your house?

Debs. In our living room, yeah.

Ryan. That’s horrible.

Debs. Yep.

Ryan. What does bellend think of all that?

Debs. Couldn’t care less. He never comes round. It’s just a shame because you move into somewhere new, you kind of hope you’re gonna make some new friends, you know? A new, sort of, chapter.

Ryan. Can you not move back in with your mum?

Debs. My sister moved back in a few months ago. She got divorced, so she’s got all that to deal with. It’s a really small house. Plus I kind of moved out on principle. I think she thought I was just gonna live there forever.

Ryan. I see.

Debs. And I just had to…

Ryan. Prove her wrong.

Debs. Basically yeah. Caused a right palaver.

Ryan. Palaver. There’s a word you don’t hear anymore. Listen, if you ever need a place to crash. We’ve got a spare room.

Debs. I thought that’s gonna be your studio.

Ryan. Yeah but…I just mean if you really needed…I’d rather help someone out than use it to saw fuckin’ wood.

Debs nods. Smiles.

Ryan clears up some bits and bobs lying around on the table. Absent-mindedly stacking stray envelopes, etc. He looks up.

Ryan. So–

Debs kisses him.

They pull apart. Ryan wipes his mouth.

Ryan. Holy shit.

Debs. I think I’m pissed.

Ryan. We should probably go out soon. Fireworks and all that.

Debs kisses him again.

Ryan. Are you hungry?

Debs shakes her head.

Ryan. Do you want that other beer?

Debs shakes her head.

Ryan. Cuppa tea?

Debs shakes her head.

Ryan. You’re just right as rain.

Debs kisses him again. They continue kissing.

Fireworks sound off in the distance.

The same. 2005.

Debs is holding a big bag. Ryan is sat nursing a beer.

Ryan. No way. No.

Debs. I’m just telling you.

Ryan. Are you actually thinking about it?

Debs. I dunno. Maybe.

Ryan. After everything he’s done. After how hard he’s made it.

Debs. That’s what I mean though. Maybe this is his way of…you know.

Ryan. I can’t believe you’re even– I don’t know why you even still answer his calls.

Debs. Alright forget it.

Ryan. He’s unstable. How do you know he won’t run off with her?

Debs. He won’t.

Ryan. You don’t know that. I tell you what he will do though. He’ll fill her head with shit. About you. About your mum. He will. This is where it starts.

Debs. I just feel bad saying no.

Ryan. Debs, she’s two. She doesn’t need this right now. He doesn’t even pay anything.

Debs. He said he would though. If he had access to her.

Ryan. That’s not how it works. He should be paying regardless of whether he sees her.

Debs shrugs.

Ryan. Look it’s your decision, I get that. I just think you’d be insane. This is where it all starts.

Debs shrugs.

Ryan. We don’t need the money that badly. It’s not worth whatever few quid you’ll get off him.

Debs. Yeah but nursery fees as well and stuff.

Ryan. That’s a year away. We’ll find it.

Ryan stands up and kisses her.

Ryan. Do you wanna show me now?

Debs. Okay. You ready?

Debs shrugs off her previous energy and excitedly whips a colourful spice rack out of the bag. Ryan stares at it.

Debs. It’s a spice rack.

Ryan. Uh huh.

Debs holds it up to the wall

Debs. Yeah? What do you think?

Ryan. Yeah… I mean, neither of us have ever used a spice in our life, but…

Debs. I know, but I just saw it and it looked so nice. And it was four pounds. Four pounds!

Ryan. I have no idea how much one of these costs.

Debs. That’s great value.

Ryan. We should probably buy some spices.

Debs. Doesn’t have to be for spices. Could use it for little ornaments or sauce bottles or…finger puppets.

Ryan. Finally, a place for all my finger puppets! Here I am using a shoebox like a mug.

Debs. Okay so it’s useless. I splurged.

Ryan. You what, sorry?

Debs. I splurged.

Ryan. Please never use that word again.

Debs. What, splurge?

Ryan. Yeah. I hate it.

Debs. What’s wrong with splurge?

Ryan. For starters it’s a one syllable word but it takes ages to say. Like, you can’t say it fast.

Debs. Splurge. Yeah. Splurge. Can’t say it in a hurry.

Ryan. It takes longer than most two syllable words.

Debs. Does it though?

Ryan. Like, oven.

Debs. Splurge. Oven. Splurge. Oven. I mean we’re literally talking milliseconds.

Ryan shrugs.

Ryan. Time is money.

Debs laughs. Ryan drinks his beer.

Debs. Is it a rubbish present?

Ryan. No. I love it.

Debs. Do you?

Ryan. Yeah.

Debs. I’m so proud of you y’know.

Ryan. Thanks mate.

She sits on his knee.

Debs. I mean it. You’ve done it. You’ve actually done the thing you’ve been banging on about.

Ryan. Cheers?

Debs. No I mean like, everyone talks themselves up. But you’ve just got on with it.

Ryan. Thanks.

Debs. I didn’t want to get you anything expensive cos I didn’t know when they were gonna pay you.

Ryan. Well the advance should come in a couple of days. Few grand or something. And the rest I’ll get…probably in about a year.

Debs. A year?!

Ryan. Well I’ve got to build the furniture first. It’s a whole line, that’s a lot of work. Then he’s got to actually want them. And then he pays me the rest of the money.

Debs. That’s long.

She thinks about it a moment.

Debs. Will you put it up for me?

Debs hops off Ryan’s lap. He takes out a pencil and marks up where the drill holes will be.

Debs. Are you gonna do it now?

Ryan. First thing tomorrow. No, second thing.

Debs. What’s first thing?

Ryan waits for her to guess.

Debs. Breakfast!

Ryan. Got some of that sick bacon today. Big fat slices like that.

He measures with his fingers.

Ryan. Maple-cured. Bit of brown sauce…

Debs. You gonna make me breakfast?

Ryan. What’s in it for me?

Debs mimes overtly comical sex. Possibly with noises.

Ryan. Hmmm. Then you can expect…a feast. My princess.

Debs. Bacon sandwich is fine actually.

Ryan. Cheap date. I knew there was a reason I fell in love with you.

Debs smiles. Takes a large swig of wine.

Debs. Are you not in the studio tomorrow then?

Ryan. No I am. As if a day would go by, y’know.

Debs. Poor boy.

Ryan. It’s just– I just wanna nail it.

Debs. Course.

Ryan. Sometimes I just stand there and think, I can’t do it. I can’t physically do it. Like I literally cannot move. I can’t pick up a tool, and–

Debs. It’s just cos you want it to be perfect. But you got to accept that you’re gonna make mistakes at some point.

Ryan. No I’m not. Seriously, I know everyone’s gonna be waiting to see what I do for my first line. After all that faff over my graduate show. And Voltan’s just…

Debs. Is he breathing down your neck a bit?

Ryan. No, he’s the opposite. He’s totally chilled out about it all. That’s almost worse, you know? Like too much trust, almost.

Debs. You gotta remember it’s not a lot of money for him. In the grand scheme of things.

Ryan. Yeah but it is for me. Especially to waste it on building shit furniture. I want to prove him right. That’s it. I want to be one of the good investments. You know, he’s given me this commission and I really wanna, just prove…

Debs. You will do. You will be.

Ryan. It’s just so intense. It feels like it’s a real…moment.

Debs. It’s a chance to prove yourself.

Ryan. Like to have him support me, and bring all this attention in, and I’m literally either gonna go…

He mimes going up to the sky on a sharp gradient with his hand.

Ryan. Or I’m gonna go, like…

He mimes a sharper, quicker downward gradient.

Ryan. And I just– He’s making such a statement. There’s this big thing where everyone’s going to Europe for furniture now cos they do it so well and it’s so cheap. They’re setting up proper schools cos it’s like they’re getting wise to the market. Like the art market and the design market. So all the big buyers are going over there and he’s deliberately staying here. He’s trying to prove that…I dunno. Heritage, or– I dunno. I just wanna be good.

Debs. You will be. You’ll be amazing. You are brilliant Ryan.

Ryan. Shut up.

Debs. I mean it.

Ryan. Thanks girlfriend who’s obliged to say that.

Debs. I’m, like, 90% sure I’d say it if I didn’t know you.

Ryan. Somehow I can’t imagine you looking at a piece of furniture and saying, ooh, that’s a fine example of late-baroque fluting. Look at that detailing.

Debs. I bought the spice rack didn’t I?

Ryan. And we don’t even own any spices.

Debs. And we don’t own any spices. Exactly. That’s appreciation of design.

Ryan. I take it back. You’re a guru.

Debs. And you’re fucking great. And these new chairs will be fucking great. And Vulcan will love it.

Ryan. Thanks. I’m gonna pretend you didn’t just call him Vulcan.

Debs. Whatever.

Ryan. It’s Vincent.

Debs. I know his name.

Ryan. Vincent Voltan.

Debs. I prefer Vulcan.

Ryan. I remember when he used to just cruise around college staring at us all. Just staring like that.

Ryan stares in a weird, creepy way.

Ryan. Not even looking at our work. I thought he was such a weirdo. Honestly I just thought he was there to pick up teenagers.

Debs. Maybe he was.

Ryan. Nah.

Debs. Has he ever come onto you?

Ryan. No.

Debs. Has he never, like, leant over you and just kind of grazed your crotch when he’s examining a piece of furniture.

Ryan. He’s got a wife. She’s actually pretty fit for a forty-five year old or whatever she is.

Debs. She could be a beard.

Ryan. He’s already got a beard.

Debs. I mean it could be a sham marriage.

Ryan. You’re a sham marriage.

They spontaneously start simulating comical, energetic vertical sex, humping each other grotesquely, noises included. Just as abruptly, they stop.

Debs. Are you not gonna drink tonight then?

Ryan picks up his beer can in response. He takes a swig.

Debs. I mean are you not gonna drink drink?

Ryan. I’m still gonna drink drink. I do my best work when I’m hungover.

Debs. No way…

Ryan. Seriously.

Debs. I couldn’t imagine anything worse.

Ryan. Oh yeah. Jogging pants. Rounds of jam on toast. Flask of tea. Maybe a cheeky hair of the dog. Best way.

Debs. Sounds like hell.

Ryan. You sound like hell.

Debs. I’m your worst nightmare.

Ryan. You’re my wildest dream baby.

He reaches out for her. She comes into him and they kiss. Then they do the sex dance again.

They pull apart.

Ryan. Do I taste of beer?

Debs. It’s really fit. Do I taste of wine?

Ryan. I got ripe berries and smoke with plummy overtones and a smooth chocolatey finish.

Debs laughs. Ryan picks up her bottle of wine and reads the label, nodding like a connoisseur.

Ryan. 2004 Malbec. Thought so.

Debs. Wish I knew about wine.

Ryan. Nah.

End of conversation. He tops her up. Then he finishes his beer, crunches the can, sends it on a high arc into the bin, and cracks open a fresh one.

Ryan. Sorry if I was aggressive before.

Debs. What? No.

Ryan. I just want you to know I’ll be there. I know that sounds really cheesy but I will be. I’ll make it work, whatever it is. You don’t need anyone else now. You’ve had a really hard time, but it’s over.

Debs. Cheers.

Ryan. If anyone tries to hurt you. I’ll…hurt them.

Debs. Spoken with true conviction.

Debs smiles, rubs Ryan’s shoulder.

Ryan. So is this thing literally in Platt Fields?

Debs. Yeah but you know it’s just fireworks right? They’re not doing a bonfire this year.

Ryan. That is bullshit.

Debs. I know it’s crazy. Apparently loads of places do it now.

Ryan. That’s like a childhood institution. Disappeared.

Debs. But Nicole says it gets stupid busy after about eight. So we’ll probably find a pub or something. Or just go back to someone’s house.

Ryan. Sweet. Just so you know, it’s ten to eight.

Debs. What?

Ryan shows her his watch.

Debs. Oh my god. I swear it was like four o’clock ten minutes ago.

Ryan. Ten minutes ago it was twenty to eight.

Debs. How does this always happen to me?

Ryan. And by extension, me.

Debs. You’re the one with the watch!

Ryan. To be fair unless somethings on fire I’m not that interested anyway.

Debs. I love it when you don’t give a shit.

Ryan. I never give a shit. About anything.

Debs. Do you wanna fuck?

Ryan. Absolutely.

Debs takes his hand.

Ryan. Like right now?

Debs. Do you not wanna?

Ryan. No I definitely do. What time did we say we were meeting them?

Debs pauses – a potentially impulse-killing question.

Ryan. Actually…I don’t give a shit.

She leads him out the kitchen by the hand.

Fireworks start in the distance.

Same. 2006.

Debs is sat at the table, face in hands, weeping. Ryan’s sat on the other side of the table, leaning over to comfort her.

Ryan. Hey. Hey.

He does this for a little while. For half a second he looks a bit bored, but regains focus.

Ryan. Debs. Debs. Look at me. Debs. It’s gonna be fine. It’s all gonna be alright. Debs.

Debs. Nine months? How is that even a thing?

Ryan. Yeah. I dunno.

Debs. I mean what’s the point in even telling us? Why say it? How would a nine month wait even be a…

Ryan. I don’t know. It’s stupid.

Debs. Fucking wankers.

Ryan. The whole thing’s just…

Debs. They think I’m a bad mum.

Ryan. No they don’t.

Debs. They do. They think I’m a terrible mother.

Ryan. No one thinks you’re a terrible mother.

Debs. They do.

Ryan. What, so you’re supposed to be able to, what, fuckin’…look inside her. Like you’re supposed to have x-ray vision and be able to see her kidneys? It’s totally, like– like how would you even know? How would you even know there was something you were supposed to know?

Debs. They said her wee would be different.

Ryan. Who’s checking the colour of their kid’s wee? What kind of insane person does that?

Debs. But I can’t do anything. I can’t afford to do anything about it.

Ryan. Yeah but that’s– that’s…

Debs. The way they looked at me when they said, do you have any savings. They were going on about charities that’ll meet you half way and I’m like, I can’t even get half way.

Ryan. No one’s thinking that though. You’re young. You’re a young mum.

Debs. It was embarrassing. And mum. Talking about how she always had a little put aside in case of emergencies. I’m such an idiot. I’m such a shit mum.

Ryan. You’re not. Debs. You’re not. I promise you. Come on, you love Juniper like, like– like it’s insane how much you love her. Doctors know when they see a lemon. They weren’t treating you like a lemon.

Debs. Weren’t they?

Ryan. Nah. No way.

Debs. Am I the worst person in the world?

Ryan. No. Johnny Borrell from Razorlight is the worst person in the world.

Debs tries to smile. Cracks again.

Debs. We can’t wait. Not for nine months.

Ryan. Then we’ll find a way of going private. Go with that dude in Belgium they kept going on about. Like the best dude out there. We’ll make it work.

Debs. There is a way.

Ryan. No. Not that way.

Debs. He has insurance. From work.

Ryan. No Debs.

Debs. But no one’ll have to pay. His work’ll pay.

Ryan. I said no. We don’t need it.

Debs. Then how? It’s right there for us. He offered.

Ryan. Debs we’re not using him in a crisis. We’re not gonna be those people who let him in the first problem we have.

Debs. He’s her dad. He should be looking after her.

Ryan’s hurt.

Debs. That came out wrong.

Ryan. He can’t cover Belgium.

Debs. Forget Belgium. We can’t cover Belgium.

Ryan puts his head in his hands. He seems to be formulating a plan.

Debs. What? What is it?

He’s resolved himself.

Ryan. The money. The commission money.

Debs. No. That’s…no.

Ryan. It’ll come through in like two weeks. I’ve delivered the whole line.

Debs. Ryan we’re not using that money. You need a studio.

Ryan. Not right this minute. I’m just sat drawing pictures all day. I could do that anywhere. Do that on the patio.

Debs. No that’s– that was gonna change things.

Ryan. It will change things. This is what happens. You work to pay for the stuff you need.

Debs. What about everything else? There won’t be any left after this.

Ryan. We’ve been fine up till now. I ain’t starvin.

Debs shakes her head. Almost breaks again.

Ryan. You can either take out a loan and work up a load of debt– more debt to pay for a specialist. And have to deal with that shit show. Or you can hang around on a waiting list for nine months, hoping for a cancellation. All that worry on like a daily basis. Or…or we can have this whole thing sorted in two weeks. Whole thing. Two weeks. We’ll make a holiday of it. You, me, Juniper. Go look at a castle or something. Or whatever it is they have in Belgium.

Debs. Legoland.

Ryan. Legoland. There you go. Tell you what, if we do find one of these charities that pays half, then I’ll take whatever’s left of the commission money and spend it on whatever the fuck I want.

Debs. Yeah, definitely. I’ll make you. A studio.

Ryan. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. This is just one of those things we have to deal with ourselves.

Debs dries her tears. Nods a bit.

Ryan. And while we’re at it…like, why doesn’t Juniper just move in here?

Debs. What?

Ryan. It’ll stop bellend bothering your mum every week. And you’ll be able to see her every day. Look after her through all this and stuff.

Debs. Yeah. Yeah no it does make sense.

Ryan. And then maybe we can go on a proper holiday, once it’s all done. The three of us.

Debs. Where to?

Ryan. I don’t know. Somewhere cool. Not Belgium.

Debs almost cracks again.

Ryan. Hey, hey. Listen: you know what I’m gonna ask, don’t you?

Debs. What?

Ryan. Is there anything we can do about it right now? Right this moment?

Debs. No…

Ryan. Actually you’re wrong. Say yes.

Debs. Yeah, okay.

Ryan. Yeah?

Debs. Yeah. Yeah.

Ryan. Good. Awesome. I’ll sort it.

He moves over to her and puts his arm around her.

Debs takes a deep breath and stands up from the table. She wipes her eyes and straightens out her top. Ryan purposefully knocks up a couple of gin & tonics, so that they’re ready by the time Debs notices what he’s doing.

Ryan presents her with a gin & tonic. She doesn’t take it.

Debs. Oh. I was gonna ask if you wanted a cup of tea.

Ryan. Too late. Come on. It’ll do you good. Stiff drink.

Debs. Thanks. Thank you.

Ryan adopts a jovial, comical voice.

Ryan. Ahnooo worries. Anytime, m’ladeee.

Debs offers a small laugh. Ryan holds his glass up. They cheers. Ryan briefly wraps his arm around Debs’ shoulders.

Ryan. We’re done, yeah. Moving forward and all that. It’s good.

Debs. It was just so…

Ryan. Totally out the…

Debs. Such a shock…

Ryan. You just don’t think it’s gonna happen to…

Debs. Kind of thing that happens to other people…

Ryan. One minute you’re…

Debs. Keeping yourself to yourself. Next minute…

Ryan. You find yourself thinking, ‘why me?’

Debs. What kind of god would allow this?

Ryan. Just gotta take it one day at a time…

They share a knowing laugh at their escalating flurry of clichés.

Debs. Do you think I should’ve had savings?

Ryan. Well it’s by the by, I mean…

Debs. No but do you think I’m irresponsible for not having savings? A bit?

Ryan. I dunno. Not really.

Debs. Do you think I’m a good mum?

Ryan. Yeah. Course I do.

Debs. I’m sorry.

Ryan. What for?

Debs. For everything. For me.

Ryan. Don’t be daft.

Debs. I am gonna get a proper job. Something I wanna do.

Ryan. Well don’t– you’ve got a lot on your plate at the moment, so don’t…

Debs. And you’ll get a studio.

Ryan. Course. Do you wanna stay in tonight then?

Debs. No. I wanna see everyone. Shell and Becki already know. I told them yesterday. Jordan’s gonna be there. Just so you know.

Ryan. Oh god.

Debs. You really don’t like him do you?

Ryan. All he talks about are his fucking photographs.

Debs. He’s got a new book out so it’s gonna be even worse tonight.

Ryan. He has no social skills. I don’t even know why he bothers coming out. He literally talks about photography non-stop. No one else even remotely knows who or what he’s going on about.

Debs. He’s really good though.

Ryan. I don’t doubt it. I mean he’s clearly doing well. And that’s fine if you want no life. Or family. Or friends. Or dress sense. Or any knowledge of basic cookery skills or conversational skills, or dental hygiene, or empathy–

Debs is laughing.

Debs. I get it!

Ryan. Basically if you want to be a lonely sociopath. That was harsh. He’s just weird.

Debs. People probably think you’re weird.

Ryan. I’m sure they do.

Debs. Especially looking like that. What you gonna wear?

Ryan shrugs, looks down at what he’s wearing.

Debs. What about that shirt?

Ryan. That shirt? That one shirt I have?

Debs. Don’t be a dick. The one we picked out a couple of weeks ago.

Ryan. Seriously help me out.

Debs. The shirt. The short sleeve one that glistens.

Ryan. Glistens? Oh that. That was ages ago we bought that. That was like two months ago.

Debs. Are you gonna wear it?

Ryan. Yeah. Might do.

Debs. You haven’t worn it yet.

Ryan. I have.

Debs. When?

Ryan. Just…when you weren’t around.

Debs. Do you not like it? I really like it. I think it looks nice on you.

Ryan. Me too. That’s why I bought it.

Debs. Not because I told you to?

Ryan. Nope.

Debs. Iridescent. That’s the word. Not glistening.

Ryan. It’s that kind of two-tone effect.

Debs. I like it. I’ve got eye shadow does that.

Ryan. Yeah I’ve seen it.

Debs. We should get going soon babe.

Ryan. Yeah alright. Hang on then, I’ll…change my shirt.

He grabs a can of beer from the fridge and cracks it open. Then moves to leave. He stops by Debs, puts his beer down, and holds her at arm’s length by the shoulders.

Ryan. Just…yeah.

Debs. Yeah.

They kiss. He leaves.

Fireworks.

Same. 2007.

She’s on wine, he’s on beer. They’re both fairly far gone. Debs is dressed to go out for the night. A child’s toys and books lie haphazardly around the room.

Ryan’s trying to close the faulty window, without success. He has a brace over his wrist. It’s new to him; he’s still getting used to it. Debs is reheating leftovers.

Ryan knocks his beer can off the table trying to grab it with his bad hand. He reaches down to pick it up, putting pressure on his broken wrist.

Ryan. Ah, shit!

He presses his wrist, feels out his range of moment delicately.

Ryan. Phillipe. Kind of fucking name is Phillipe? Fuckin’ prick.

Debs stops what she’s doing, bored of this conversation.

Debs. Can we stop using that word now babe? Think you’ve made your feelings clear.

Ryan. I can’t think of a more appropriate word to describe him though. That’s just how it is.

Debs. He’s European. They have a different…way with things.

Ryan. I’m sorry, if someone’s a prick then they’re a prick. Doesn’t matter if you’re French or Italian or…fuckin’ Polynesian.

Debs. They speak French.

Ryan. He’s a prick.

Debs. Everyone’s a prick to someone.

Ryan. Do you fancy him a bit though?

Debs. No.

Ryan. No just a bit though? It’s fine.

Debs. Ryan…

Ryan. Is there a bit of sexual tension between you though? Because he was pretty forward.

Debs. No. I just told you no.

Ryan. So I’m like…what’s the phrase…

Ryan tries to find the phrase. Debs doesn’t help.

Ryan. Ah what is it…I’m like…non gratis.

Debs. What?

Ryan. Am I like public enemy number one now, with your workmates?

Debs. Not really. It was just a weird situation.

Ryan. I just think it was justified. I think there’s an argument for sometimes just…using a bit of physical…

Debs. I would never ever want you to hit someone for me. Ever.

Ryan. If it stops him doing it again…

Debs. No, violence is not a good way to make anyone do anything.

Ryan. Different methods.

Debs. Have you told Voltan?

Ryan. Voltan? No.

Debs. Have you told him you can’t do any work because you broke your wrist on someone’s face? When you were pissed?

Ryan. I wasn’t pissed.

Debs. You were pissed Ryan.

Ryan. I was not pissed.

Debs. Well he’s gonna love that. Gonna love hearing that.

Ryan. I wouldn’t worry about it.

Ryan shrugs. Takes a swig of beer.

Debs. You were drunk.

Ryan. Everyone was drunk. It was a party with free booze.

Debs. You should still be able to control it though. Do you still feel in control of it? I’m serious.

He starts rattling the can on the table.

Ryan. Oh my god…

He gives the can a life of its own. It flies up in the air and thwacks him in the head three times.

Ryan. Ah! Ah! Ah!

It then drags him out of his seat and sends him across the room, until he’s on Debs. He’s laughing. She tries to shrug him off.

Ryan. Oh, come on…

Debs. Yep, very good. Laugh it off.

Ryan. It wasn’t cos I was drunk Debs. I promise I would’ve done that anywhere. Any time of day.

Debs. I’ve never seen you hit someone in the mouth before.

Ryan. And I seem to remember you finishing up the night sat on a kerb crying your little eyes out.

Debs. That was different though wasn’t it.

Ryan. This is after a doner meat and chips. I’m just saying– are you genuinely pissed off with me? Am I in trouble?

Debs. I just hate the idea of you as a violent person. You’re not that kind of person to me. And I hate the idea that you might hurt yourself. It makes me shudder just thinking about it.

Ryan. I’m not gonna hurt myself.

Silence as Debs finishes preparing the meal, which he puts in front of Ryan.

Ryan. Thank you babes.

He holds his broken wrist up at her, by way of silent explanation as to why he didn’t prepare his own dinner.

Ryan. You not eating?

Debs. There’s gonna be food there.

Ryan. Very nice.

Debs. Virma told me specifically not to eat dinner.

Ryan. Oh god, is she gonna grill you on your calorific intake? Like, fuckin…weigh you, compare you to yesterday’s weight. What have you eaten? Just a salad, I promise!

Debs goes with this; clearly a noble skewering of Virma’s character.

Debs. Oh god. I didn’t tell her I’m allergic to walnuts. If she’s put walnuts in anything I’m in so much trouble.

Ryan. Still, might mean she’s put on a serious spread. Bold move that, telling people to skip dinner.

Debs. Apparently she’s a good cook.

Ryan. Maybe she should quit her job and become a chef then. Then you’d never have to see her again.

Debs. She’s not that bad. You’ve never even met her.

Ryan. Well she sounds like a dick.

Debs. She’s a bit of a dick. But I don’t think she’s as aggressive as I make out.

Ryan. I reckon she’s got some issues.


Debs. Err…

She nods to his hand.

Ryan. Yeah I’ve got one issue. It’s a French asshole who won’t leave my girlfriend alone. And to be honest, I think I might have laid that one to rest.

Debs. You’re really proud of yourself, aren’t you?

Ryan. I just don’t want to reflect badly on you. And I don’t want your workmates to think I’m some sort of– you know…

Debs. Thug.

Ryan. Right.

Debs. They don’t.

Ryan. I’d like to see them again. Get to know them properly and all that. They seem like very nice people.

Debs. They’re alright.

Ryan. And anyway, I’ve got my first physio session booked in.

Debs. Have you?

Ryan. Yep. Friday. Called up today.

Debs. Friday?

Ryan. Yeah. 11.30.

Debs. Oh right.

Ryan. Soonest one they had.

Debs. Friday.

Ryan. Yeah…

Debs. Cool. Well good you’re getting it sorted. What time, 11.30?

Ryan. Yeah, why?

Debs. Nothing. I’d better go and sort my stuff out.

She goes to leave.

Ryan. Hang on.

Debs. What?

Ryan. Do you not want to sit with me while I eat?

Debs. I’m late.

Ryan. You’re always late. What’s up?

Debs. Nothing.


Ryan. What’s wrong?

Debs. What? Nothing.

Ryan. Seriously what’s wrong? What have I done?

Debs. Nothing. I said nothing’s wrong.

Ryan. Okay. Okay.

Debs. Alright?


Ryan. Just– if everything’s okay stop acting weird then.

Debs. I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Ryan. Fine. Alright. Sorry.

Debs silently fills up her glass. She drinks. Smiles curtly at Ryan when their eyes meet. She checks the contents of her handbag. Leaves the room, breezing past Ryan.

Ryan shakes his head. Takes a drink.Then:

Ryan. Fuck! Fuck…

Debs comes back through.

Ryan. The zoo. I know. I remember now.

Debs. What?

Ryan. Friday. I’m taking Juniper.

Debs. Well if you can’t make it you can’t make it. You’ll just have to tell her. Again.

Ryan. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I will take her.

Debs. But you’ve gone and booked your physio now.

Ryan. I’ll take her after.

Debs. It closes at five.

Ryan. Yeah…

Debs. So you won’t get in till about half one.

Ryan. Is that not enough time?

Debs. It’s her birthday present. I think she’ll probably want a full day of it.

Ryan. Fine, Saturday then. She got anything on?

Debs. She’s going to Jasper’s birthday party.

Ryan. Jasper? Fuck. Okay. I’ll take her on Friday. I’ll cancel physio.

Debs. No.

Ryan. I will do. I made a promise.

Debs. You can’t cancel physio.

Ryan. No I’ll do it. I’ll just…see if they’ve got a later appointment or something. Next week or something.

Debs. They won’t reschedule. They never reschedule if you’ve cancelled. That’s it. You get like a black mark against your name.

Ryan. Then I’ll get some physio exercises off the Internet. I don’t know Debs. Look I’ll sort it. I said I’ll sort it.

Debs. Don’t get upset.

Ryan. I’m not upset. It’s just an annoying thing.

Debs. Well don’t take her if you find it annoying.

Ryan. Not her. I mean the situation. I fucked up. I messed it up. I’ll sort it. I’ll cancel physiotherapy. I’ll fix it myself. It’s only a wrist.

Debs. Is that a good idea?

Ryan. I can’t bail. I told her I’d take her to Cornwall but fucking bellend had to take her instead. I was gutted.

Debs. She’d rather have gone with you.

Ryan. Well shit Debs, thanks for that. That’s done me the world of good.

Debs. Sorry, I meant– Whole thing was just a mess.

Ryan. Yeah it was. I will cancel. I really wanna go. I’m excited. Feels like we haven’t hung out in ages, me and June.

Debs. You could see a consultant. For your wrist.

Ryan. I can’t. Can’t afford it.

Debs. Talk to Voltan. You’ve been working on new stuff.

Ryan. Voltan’s setting up a workshop in Europe. He’s not buying anything.

Debs. What about other collectors?

Ryan. I don’t know any. I don’t…move in those circles. You need to go to gatherings, conferences for that kind of stuff.

Debs. Right, right. Lone wolf and all that. Paying off well isn’t it?

Ryan. The other option is I spend six nights a week moping around showings and exhibitions and grinning at shit furniture and talking to idiots who like the shit furniture. So I think I know what we’d both choose. And anyway I can’t show collectors what I’m making because I work from a bedroom. And now…

He gestures to his broken wrist.

Debs. Can’t Voltan help you? Or set you up with someone?

Ryan. He doesn’t owe me anything. I mean he invited me to help set up the workshop but…

He gestures vaguely around the room.

Debs. Can you call him? Talk to him?

Ryan. Look. He gets excited. He was excited by me for a bit. Now he’s excited about setting up a workshop in Bulgaria like everyone else is. I can send him an email but…he’s busy.

Debs. Okay. I didn’t know that. So what are you gonna do, d’you think?

Ryan. I don’t know Debs. What would you like me to do?

Debs. I’m just surprised. I didn’t know any of this.

Ryan. I haven’t told you.

Debs. So don’t bite my head off when I ask questions.

Ryan. Sorry. No one’s buying now anyway. February’s a good time.

They drink.

Ryan. Do you think I’ll have to drop her off at bellend’s house afterwards? After the zoo?

Debs. He said he’ll pick her up from here. I think he wants to talk about some stuff.

Ryan. What stuff?

Debs. Prep school stuff.

Ryan. Already?

Debs. This is late. Should’ve had it sorted ages ago.

Ryan. Just the two of you then? Talking it all through?

Debs. Yeah.

Ryan nods slowly. Drinks.

Debs. I’d better go.

Ryan. Do you think Phillipe’s gonna sue me?

Debs. No. Definitely not.

Ryan. What makes you say that?

Debs. He’s not that kind of person.

Ryan. Why, what’s he like?

Debs. He’s not gonna sue you Ryan. Forget about it now. It’s done with.

Ryan. Thanks for dinner.

Debs. You’re alright.

Ryan. Have fun tonight.

Debs. I’ll try.

She heads to the door.

Ryan. I love you.

Debs. I love you too. It’ll be alright babe. Something’ll come.

She turns back to him. They kiss. Debs heads for the back door. As she leaves.

Ryan. What time will you be back?

Debs. Not late.

She exits. Ryan starts eating his dinner alone.

Fireworks.

Same. 2008.

There are now two needlessly high-quality chairs in the kitchen, just used as generic furniture.

Ryan’s no longer wearing his wrist brace. He is however wearing a red polo shirt with some sort of company logo on the breast pocket.

He’s slamming at the faulty window, trying to thrust it closed. He has a beer on the go. He has a bit of buzz on.

Debs is going through a pitch document. It has pullout pages of fonts, moodboard-type A3 foldouts, sample leaflets, etc. She frequently drinks from her wine glass, fills it up.

Ryan gives up trying to close the window.

Ryan. Fuck’s sake.

He turns round, rubs his face. He thinks for a second what to do next, then sees his beer and finishes it. He takes another from the fridge, cracks it open and takes a swig. He slumps down on a chair.

Ryan. That work is it? Debs.

Debs looks up.

Debs. Yeah?

Ryan drums on the table for a second. He tries to lean over to see what Debs is doing, but gives up.

Ryan. What is it?

Debs. Got a client, wants to just…basically start again with everything. Wants a whole new campaign concept by Monday.

Ryan. That’s annoying. It is a big one?

Debs. Biggish.

Ryan. Hey knock knock.

Beat.

Ryan. Debs, knock knock.

Debs. Who’s there?

Ryan. Biggish.

Debs. Biggish who?

Ryan. Sorry mate I’ve got no change.

Debs smiles without taking her eyes off her work. Ryan fills in the silence sardonically, almost to himself.

Ryan. Satirical comment on our dismissive attitude…towards low-income street vendors…

Debs takes out her mobile phone and sends a couple of texts.

Ryan. D’you think if you took your salary and my wage, and put them next to how many hours we actually worked, whether they’d be the same? Or who do you think would earn more? In reality.

Debs. That’s a good question.

Ryan. Because when I’m done I’m done. But when you’re done…well you’re never done.

Debs. Can say that again.

Ryan grows bored and exits.

He returns a moment later with a toolbox. From inside he takes out a screwdriver. Over at the window, he tries to unscrew the frame. Debs continues drinking, flicking through her folder. Ryan tuts.

Ryan. Shit…

Another moment.

Ryan. Ah man– the screw’s– the, what’s it called, it’s… They’ve worn right through. Can’t get any purchase on the screwheads. Someone’s had a go at that before. Totally botched it.

He drops the screwdriver into the toolbox.

Ryan. That’ll be a fun job tryina sort that out. You know I’ve called Tim about six times about that window. He literally couldn’t give a shit. He’s like, yeah I’ll send someone over. Bullshit. He didn’t get it sorted when he lived here, he damn sure ain’t gonna do it now.

Debs. I might run over to Grace’s later.

Ryan. Yeah?


Debs. Yeah. Just for a couple of hours.

Ryan. What time? It’s getting on a bit.

Debs. I just– I’m banging my head against the wall with this.

Ryan. Phillipe gonna be there?

Debs. What? No.

Ryan. Makes a change.

Debs. Come along if you want.

Ryan. I’m in early tomorrow so I won’t. Need a good night’s kip.

He drinks.

Ryan. Cheers for the invite though.

Debs. You know you’re always welcome.

Ryan. Yeah, funny that.

Debs. Is it? Why’s it funny? Ryan, why’s it funny?

Ryan. Dunno.

Debs. No tell me. What is it you find funny?

Ryan. I’ve just never actually heard you actually invite me. And actually mean it.

Debs. I just did. That’s what I just did.

Ryan. No I mean– never mind.

Debs. Well what?

Ryan. Nothing. Seriously nothing.

Debs. Can you just not do that please?

Ryan. Do what?

Debs. Just for a bit.

Ryan. Do what?

Debs. Make your little comments and act as if you’ve been so badly treated, and then not actually have anything to complain about.

Ryan. Is that what I do is it?

Debs. Like when you’re actually asked what’s wrong.

Ryan. Okay I’m sorry. If I do that then I’m sorry.

Debs. Okay.

She returns to her work.

Ryan. I really am sorry Debs.

Debs. Okay. Sorry for snapping.

Ryan. I don’t mean to piss you off.

Debs nods without taking her eyes off her work.

Ryan. Sometimes we forget we’re like a unit, don’t we? Sometimes.

Debs. Yeah, it’s just when you do that it gets a bit annoying when I’m trying to focus on something.

Ryan. Okay. Well as I said I’m sorry.

Debs. It’s alright.

Ryan. Why don’t you do that upstairs? If you need privacy.

Debs. I don’t need privacy. I don’t mind you being here.

Ryan. Oh you don’t mind. That’s good.

Debs. Please, please drop the attitude. It’s so exhausting.

Ryan. Well I do live here.

Debs. It’s that. That’s what I mean. And I’m sorry I’m bringing this home. Believe me I do not want to be doing this right now.

Ryan. That’s not a problem. We have to do these things. I’m really not trying to make things hard for you. I’m happy. I’m happy Debs. Are you happy?

Debs. I’m over the moon, babe.

Ryan. Good. I’m sorry. Let’s just– Do you want a top up?

Debs. I’m alright.

Ryan. Can we just make things go back to normal?

Debs. They are back to normal.

Ryan. No they’re not.

Debs. Well I don’t know then.

Ryan. If there’s anything I can do to help. Honestly.

Debs doesn’t respond.

Ryan. Just tell me what to say. Just tell me what combination of words will just click you into just…feeling normal.

Debs. What?

Ryan. What fucking code do I need to use to unlock all this shit and make you actually want to fucking engage…

Debs. I literally do not know what you’re talking about.

Ryan. Just think, in your mind, about what I could possibly say, or do, to make you feel okay and normal again. And happy with us and wanting to be with me…

Debs. That’s a really unpleasant thing to say.

Ryan. And let’s just pretend I said it or did it. Just now. Please? Please. Because I would do it, whatever it is. I just don’t know what it would be. I’m asking you with whatever tiny morsel of goodwill you have left inside you for me, just do that.

Debs. I’m just trying to do my work and have literally one second to myself to just think…

Ryan. That’s not what it is. It’s this whole situation. You know, I think about how you talk about me. To your friends or whatever. Like I’m imagining how you are when I come up in conversation. And it’s like– I really can’t imagine you saying actual nice things anymore. You know, oh he works hard. He makes me laugh. He, he– I’m really attracted to him.

Debs. I am attracted to you.

Ryan. Are you though?

Debs. Yeah course I am.

Ryan. But like– do you know what I mean though?


Debs. Yeah I do. But you really don’t come up that much. We actually have work to do at work.

Ryan. Okay. Okay then. Well that’s okay then.

Debs. Where the hell did all that come from?


Ryan. I don’t know.

Debs. Since when did you give a shit about how I spoke about you to other people?

Ryan. Since I stopped assuming you said nice things about me.

Debs. Babe.

Ryan. And you spend so much time in, like, work mode. And you have all these drinks to go to and…just weird gatherings and events and stuff.

Debs. That’s just part of the job.

Ryan. No I mean it’s good. That you’re… but sometimes I think what’s left? Of you. For us. Are we still having fun? I guess is…

Debs. I promise next time I’m doing something I’ll bring you with me. I’ll drag you along with me. It’ll be good.

Ryan. Okay. That’s a good idea. I mean, I still don’t know if that’s exactly it, but–

Debs. Well let me know when you’ve figured it out.

Ryan. Yeah that sounds about right.

Debs. I’m gonna head over to Grace’s.

Ryan. Let’s just reset a sec. Let’s just…

Debs starts packing away her folder..

Ryan. Juniper’s back tomorrow.

Debs. Yeah.

Ryan. So that’s something.

Debs. Yeah.

Ryan. I’ll pick her up from bellend. And then he doesn’t get to see her for another six weeks.

Debs. Yep.

Ryan. I’m really excited about that.

Debs. Me too.

Ryan. We could do something tomorrow.

Debs. What time?

Ryan. I’m doing a 7-5, so I could be back here for six?

Debs. Actually no, can’t do tomorrow anyway.

Ryan. Well, this weekend then.

Debs. Okay. Yeah.

Ryan sits Debs back down.

Ryan. And then maybe we can see if your sister wants to take June to the cinema. Give ourselves a few hours.

Debs. My sister?

Ryan does an impression of Debs’ sister.

Ryan. Debs darlin’. No that’s not it. What is it? Debbie darlin’. Yeah. Debbie darlin’ can you come over here a sec? Debbie…

Debs cracks a smile, does a much more accurate impression.

Debs. Debbie darlin’ I’m gonna put the receipt for those nappies just here for you alright?

Ryan. Haha! Debbie darlin’.

Debs. Debbie darlin’ if you could leave the exact money just on the side there by tomorrow that’d be tip top actually.

Ryan laughs, settles, rubs Debs’ thigh.

Ryan. You’ve nailed that.

He lies one of his legs over Debs’ lap. He kisses her. She goes with it for a second.

Ryan wraps his arms around her neck, kisses her more passionately. It’s clear to him that she’s not responding with the same enthusiasm. He slowly pulls away.

Debs. I just– I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. I’m really…

She nods to her folder.

Ryan. Okay.

Debs. I’m sorry.

Ryan. Don’t be. No it’s–

Debs. Got so much in my head right now.

Ryan. No I get it.

Debs. I’m really just…not in the right frame of mind.

Ryan. But you get into the frame of mind. That’s kind of not really trusting the process, is it?

Debs. Can you please just respect my decision? It is my decision, I do get to make it.

Ryan. This is what I mean though. Like, I masturbate more than we have sex. Like, way more.

Debs. That’s depressing.

Ryan. Yeah it is. It’s really depressing.

Debs. I don’t know what to tell you.

Ryan. No, I just wanted to share that with you. Surely that’s a problem.

Debs. Maybe you should take up a hobby. Meet some new people.

Ryan. To pornography. To like, hardcore pornography.

Debs folds up her folder and stands up.

Debs. I’ll leave you to it then.

Debs exits into the house.

Ryan is left to seethe.

He moves back over to the window. Tries to close it again. Now he slams it, only to have it bounce back open. He slams it again. And again, and again, and again. Not even trying to close it anymore, just venting.

Debs comes back in.

Debs. What the hell was that?

Ryan. Nothing.

He shrugs.

Ryan. Just trying to…

He gestures to the window.

Ryan. I thought you were going out?

Debs exits again.

Ryan sits by himself.

Fireworks.

Same. 2009.

Ryan’s leaning agains the counter top, looking through the contents of a mobile phone. He stands alone for a few moments, focused on the phone.

Debs enters, Ryan drops the phone on the counter. It clatters across the surface and falls onto the floor.

Ryan tries to look nonchalant. Debs picks up the phone.

Debs. What are you doing?

Ryan. Hah?

Debs. Were you looking through my phone?

Ryan. Pardon?

Debs. Were you looking through my phone?

Ryan shrugs, shakes his head.

Ryan. Nah.

Debs. What the fuck?

Ryan. It just dropped.

Ryan leans over to inspect it.

Ryan. Is it okay?

Debs. It just dropped? You were reading my messages.

Ryan. No I wasn’t.

Debs. Why’s it open on my messages then?

Ryan. I wasn’t… I wasn’t–

Debs. Don’t bother lying Ryan. I literally saw you.

Beat. Debs hands the phone back to Ryan.

Ryan. What?

Debs. Go on.

Ryan. No.

Debs. Go on.

He tries to hand it back. Debs won’t take it.

Debs. If you’re gonna do it you might as well do it.

Ryan. I don’t want to.

Debs. Well you clearly do. Go on.

Ryan holds the phone for a second, not looking at it.

Ryan. Who’s Jeremy?

Debs. He’s another account exec.

Ryan. Handsome?

Debs. A bit, yeah.

Ryan. He going tonight is he?

Debs. You tell me. You’ve read the messages. He’s got a fiancée.

Ryan. Yeah yeah no– just…

Debs. Anything else? Anything else about my private life you want to talk about?

Ryan gestures with the phone, still not looking at it.

Ryan. There’s literally nothing from Phillipe here.

Debs. I told you I haven’t spoken to him in ages.

Ryan. Yeah but this goes back to…like, July. And you definitely spoke to him in July because…

Debs. So…?

Ryan. And August and September. So…

Debs. Yeah?

Ryan. So where’ve they gone?

Debs. Where’ve what gone?

Ryan. The messages.

Debs. What messages?

Ryan. The messages that you obviously sent each other.

Debs. I don’t know.

Ryan. They’ve just disappeared off your phone have they?

Debs. Guess so.

Ryan. Oh so they just– literally just disappeared. One minute they’re there. Next minute, whoop. Gone.

Debs shrugs.

Ryan. I don’t want to be the person who does this kind of stuff. I hate it.

Debs. You hate it? How do you think I feel?

Ryan. I never thought I’d be this person. But now, when you pull shit like this, I kind of feel a bit justified. Messages just don’t delete themselves.

Debs. What messages are you talking about?

Ryan. I don’t know Debs. I don’t know exactly what they said because I didn’t read them did I? I don’t wanna pry into your personal– that’s not what this is about. I just need to know if he’s gonna be there.

Debs. I told you he’s not.

Ryan drops the phone onto the counter.

Ryan. Look, I understand if you deleted them because you didn’t want me to see the whole– the details or whatever–

Debs. Believe it or not I didn’t plan for you to steal my phone and read my private messages–

Ryan. But I promise you that’s not what I’m interested in. Believe me I do not wanna see that…stuff. I just need to know.

Debs. I’m telling you he’s not gonna be there.

Ryan. Just think for a minute. Just think about where I’m coming from. What I’ve actually done in all this. I forgave you Debs. Think about that.

Debs. Why though?

Ryan. Because I love you.

Debs. Because you don’t blame me. Because you know you’d have done the same.

Ryan. I’m trying to make this work. You said you’d do whatever it takes. You said that.

Debs. I know I did.

Ryan. So it’s not actually a massive deal. It’s not a huge deal for your boyfriend to just double check that you’re not secretly going off with another guy. Or is it? Because I don’t think it is.

Debs. It’s not, no.

Ryan. Is it? You tell me.

Debs. No it’s not a big deal.

Ryan. So if you are prepared to do anything then that’s hardly a big personal fucking sacrifice is it?

Debs. I’d do anything to get us back to normal. And you going through my stuff when I’m not around is not normal. It feels weird.

Ryan. I know I was an idiot. And I haven’t been…whatever. Very good, or… But there’s a line. There’s a line that you don’t cross. You don’t go anywhere near. And I get it, you’re not into, like sharing and stuff. You want to keep it bottled up inside and I know that comes from being a mum. I know that. But not once did you come to me and say, Ryan, I’m having a shit time. Or even Ryan, there’s a guy at work and I’m finding myself attracted to him. And maybe it’s because we’re not spending any quality time together. Or maybe it’s because you’re drinking too much, or– I know that would’ve been scary but…in hindsight–

Debs. Except I couldn’t do that, could I? That’s the exact thing I couldn’t do. The more I think about it, the more I think…maybe I did it because you wanted me to do it?

Ryan. What the fuck does that even mean?

Debs. You want it both ways. You wanna look down on me. You want me to feel like I’m doing something wrong all the time. Because you want to be jealous. And possessive. And to resent all the people in my life that aren’t you. But you don’t actually want a good, real reason to do that. You can’t bear the thought that there’s a genuine thing I’ve done to make you feel that way…but you do it anyway.

Ryan. That is not what this is. Debs–

Debs. You make me feel so guilty, just…because. I don’t know why. Just because. But maybe you pushed me into it. I might as well do the bad thing and then feel actually bad. I’m sick of feeling guilty that I have nothing to feel guilty about.

Ryan. Why would I do that though?

Debs. I dunno, maybe you’re jealous.

Ryan. Well in hindsight maybe I wasn’t jealous enough.

Debs. I mean jealous of me. The fact that I have this whole other side of my life. Work. Work friends. People you don’t really know. A reason to go out every day. People. Just people in my life. You hate that.

I didn’t really want to get with Phillipe. I find him attractive, yes. So? Don’t you find people attractive? I can’t help that. I didn’t plan to get with him. But his name came up so much, you spoke about him so much, I felt like he was part of our life anyway. I started to feel weird about him, just because you’d drilled home this idea. And then he came to me and…it just kind of felt inevitable.

Ryan. Maybe I talked about him so much because it was inevitable.

Debs. I realised I’m not even that bothered about him. It was only a few times we actually did it, and the rest was just talking. Just chatting. And I realised I could get this anywhere. If everything was fine I’d get it from you. You’re amazing. You’re fucking…you’re the best person I’ve ever met. But we’re bad together. I go to work. I come home. You find something to take out on me. We apologise to each other. We fall asleep. I wake up. I go to work… I’m scared because I want to be with you forever. And I just…I want it to go back to being good again.

Ryan. So do I. So do I.

Debs. But I’m scared it won’t. I think we’ve warped ourselves into this weird shape that we can’t go back from.

Ryan. Is that what you think?

Debs. I dunno. I hope not. I dunno.

Ryan. Please be honest with me. Is he gonna be there?

Debs. Oh my god.

Ryan. Is he gonna be there?

Debs. Do you know what it was? Actually. It was being able to talk about anything, and not feel like I was being judged, constantly. It felt so nice.

Ryan. I do want to make this work. I love you.

Debs. I love you too. A lot.

Ryan. Do you?

Debs. Yeah. A lot.

Ryan. Why don’t you stay in tonight?

Debs. Ryan…

Ryan. You look really fit. You look great.

Debs. Thanks.

Ryan. Let’s stay in. Juniper’s not here. We can just get drunk together. Lie on the couch.

Debs. I can’t.

Ryan. Why not?

Debs. I told Grace and everyone– I just can’t.

Ryan. And this is what I’m talking about.

Debs. What?

Ryan. Just constantly fucking– your focus is always just–

Ryan grabs her by the shoulders. He squeezes.

Debs. Ah, ow.

She squirms out of his grasp.

Ryan. Sorry. I’m sorry.

Debs. That hurt.

Ryan. I said I’m sorry, I… Go on. Go. You’re gonna be late.

Debs. What was that?

Ryan. Just go. Have fun.

Debs. What are you gonna do?

Ryan. I’m masturbating again. Like, two or three times a day.

Debs. Pardon?

Ryan. Often when you think I’m working on my own stuff I’m just sat around, I’m actually, you know. Or drinking.

Debs. I thought you were dealing with all that?

Ryan. Occasionally I daydream about you being hit by a motorbike or assaulted or raped, even. Then I imagine myself like getting revenge in some way. Some horrible way, where I use tools on whoever did it to you, and he’s strapped down and can’t move. And sometimes I get away with it and sometimes I go to prison for years and years. Decades. In the daydreams. It’s so weird.

Debs. Okay. What are we talking about now?

Ryan. I love you more than I love anyone in the world. More than I ever have loved anyone. That thought makes me really, really depressed. And I think you’re, like, looking outwards. A lot, actually. Like looking forwards.

I want you to be successful. I want you to run your own company one day and be happy about it. But I’m just–

Debs. Why are you telling me this–

Ryan. I want it out. I want it all out. I can’t sit there judging you if I’m all– I’m not a hypocrite. You think you can’t talk to me and… And if I’ve made you feel that way that you said then I want to make it right. So this is everything. And then you can judge me and then…

I never want to think that you’re smarter than me. I hate the fact that you earn more money than me. Hate it. And I can’t imagine ever marrying you. But that’s mainly because I can’t imagine marrying anyone. And I hate the stories from when you were younger. Even though we never knew each other. Because if we’d known each other maybe you wouldn’t’ve done all that stuff but then only because I was stopping you from doing it. Maybe deep down you’d still want to do it and the only difference would be me. Getting in the way. And maybe that’s what’s been happening anyway, since we’ve been together.

You’ve made me argue more than any other person in my life. I have arguments that I don’t want to have. I have arguments that I don’t want to win. I have arguments that if I saw other people having that argument I would judge them for it. I don’t know why I do this.

I feel like I’ve given you everything I possibly can– I feel like I’ve given you everything whenever you’ve asked for it and even when you haven’t and I hate myself for it. I wish I could have another personality to stop giving fucking everything away. I see other people and their personalities are like, I don’t give a fuck. And they still have friends, and they have girlfriends and careers, and…I want…

I keep making the same mistakes again and again and I watch myself do it. And there’s nothing I can do to stop myself. And I blame you. Sometimes. I guess.

I’m angry. And I lie to everyone about my income. And my prospects. And I tell people that I have potential opportunities to go back to making furniture but I don’t. Not one. And I pretend that it’s my choice and that I’m taking my time to hone my craft but I’m not. I’m scared to even think about building another chair or to use my hands to do anything other than lift and move other people’s shit. My hands literally shake when I think about it. And my wrist aches when I try…after a few minutes it burns. And you’ll never have any of those problems.

And I’m worried about losing my hair. And if I lose my hair you won’t love me anymore and you won’t find me attractive. And there are plenty of attractive bald men but there’s a shitload of men with fucking hair too so you could just go out with one of them.

I’m worried my penis is too thin. And I can only make you come from one angle, doing one thing. And sometimes I look at you lying there and think that you’re bored or you’re thinking you’d rather be doing something completely different. And I’m worried I’m doing something wrong or I’m not doing something that would make it more interesting or exciting for you. And I never want to do anything like have a threesome or do it outside somewhere or anything. And I think you probably do.

What else. I’m worried I’ve made a mistake staying with you all these years. I wonder if there’s someone I could have loved more easily. I see men who are, in my opinion, punching above their weight and I think, I could be one of them. And sometimes I imagine their beautiful girlfriends have some horrific, permanent, contagious STI just to make myself feel okay about my life choices. That sounds a lot worse when I say it out loud.

I’m putting on weight and I can’t be bothered to lose it.

There’s more. Hang on. There’s more.

I really fancy your mate Grace– I don’t fancy her I just really want to see her tits. I think about it every single time I see her. And I know if I did anything sexual with her I’d hate her immediately after. And she probably doesn’t even have the tits I think she has. That’s the truth. I wish I had the courage to seduce someone else. Like Phillipe did. Or just do anything to make my life more dramatic. In any small way. But I’m scared to leave the house in case I meet someone I know and have to justify my whole fucking life to them and where I’m at, and– I’m being forgotten, Debs.

I’m scared I’ll be ashamed of myself forever. I think about myself as a kid, and I know I’ve failed myself. And if that kid met me now he’d feel embarrassed and let down.

I think you might be satan. I have visions of you as the most evil and manipulative thing in the world. I don’t know if that’s the case. I feel like you knew how to be successful. That you had the secret of how to become successful and to just get by. And you never told me what it was. Like you always had the advantage. Because you knew…

I know we lie to each other all the time. Every day. About everything. Tiny little lies and big ones. I have no idea what effect this is having on us. I suspect it’s bad. Maybe it doesn’t matter. I don’t know. I think if you just promise to love me and I just promise to love you then it’ll be okay.

So yeah. Maybe you’re right about everything.

Debs is fairly freaked out. Surreal pause.

Debs. Are– are you finished.

Ryan. Yeah I’m finished, I’m..

Debs. Okay. Thanks. For…

Ryan. You’re welcome.

Debs. Do you think you should talk to someone about these thoughts? Like a proper…someone who might help.

Ryan. I’m gonna do something. I spend too much fucking time sat around feeling sorry for myself. I am gonna do something.

Debs. Good. That’s good. I think that was the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to me.

Ryan. Don’t leave me.

Another weird pause.

Fireworks.

2010. Same.

Ryan’s drunk. His speech is slurred, and his movements are loose. He’s opening an envelope. Debs is stood leaning slightly against the counter, quite tense. She occasionally sips from a mug, which she holds close to her.

Ryan. Here we go. Doop be doop be doo…

He takes out the letter and reads it.

Ryan. Nope. It’s a no.

He looks to Debs with a strained smile. Shrugs.

Debs. What does it say?

Ryan. Thank you for your application…unfortunately on this occasion we felt your proposal showed insufficient market insight and a lack of business expertise or acumen… blah blah blah… ultimately we did not see this as a commercial enough prospect…although we are unable to accept future proposals for this project, here are some steps we advise you take…we wish you every success with your venture.

So that’s it. No loan.

Debs. How are you supposed to get market insight and business expertise if they don’t help you get started in the first place.

Ryan. Banks innit. Bunch of cunts.

Debs comes over and hugs him.

Debs. I’m sorry babe. Don’t dwell on it. There’s other options.

Ryan. No there’s not.

Debs. Don’t give up just because of one stupid bank.

Ryan swigs his drink.

Ryan. They’re literally– they’re literally– all they’re doin is tryina get money out of you. They fuckin– that’s all they care about. You know giving it all this about, ohhh, you know we’re tryina– it’s for your welfare and– it’s bullshit. They want whatever they can get. Whatever they can get. I say fuck ’em. Because what have they done for us, actually? What have they done?

Debs. Babe, there’s other options. One rejection from one bank does not mean–

Ryan. Hang on– what have– if you really think about it– you know, when I did my wrist. I did my wrist in. Few years back. Ooh no, can’t have physio. Sorry, have to pay for it. Can’t help your fuckin…muscles and ligaments heal. Can’t have fuckin expert guidance to help them heal properly. No, gotta pay for it, sorry. Here’s what we’ll do, we’ll put a fuckin bandage on it. Put a splint on it like the fuckin medieval times. And then just, on your way. It’s fucked.

He rotates his hand around his wrist to demonstrate.

Debs. It’s not that I don’t agree with what you’re saying. But don’t just lump everything together for–

Ryan. Grants got cut when I was at college. Year before us got offered work placement grants. My year, got cut. Subsidy for studio space got cut. So you fuckin finish your course. 21 years old, skint– where do you start? No subsidy. Means all the little fuckin rich cunts go and get their little pocket money. Their little…ooh daddy, daddy. I want a studio for my little fuckin…little prints of flowers and spots. Little fuckin rip-off prints that I’m gonna sell for nine hundred quid a pop. Why? Because I can. Because people are idiots and they’ll fuckin buy them cos I can afford lovely nice canvases to put them on. You know? So I had to get in with that cunt, fuckin…Vulcan. Voltan. Had to live in his pocket for fuckin…god knows how…two years or whatever. You know, that’s where they leave you. You gotta take whatever comes along first. Get a studio– five hundred quid a month for a bit of floor and a wall? Little corner of a big– Yeah I’ll just pull that out my arse shall I? With my student loan. And my tuition fees I just forked out for. And fuckin rent. In London. Fuckin slumlord paradise.

Debs. No, it’s difficult. It is–

Ryan. Some of them made it. You know, pushed through and– Got the right people to come to their shows or whatever. Hit the right fashions, or got a good PR whatever. And fair play to them. More power to you mate. But you’re the exception. They’re the exception that makes it okay. Cos the colleges and the studios and the fuckin government can go… He’s done it. She’s done it. This exclusive little tiny group of rich people have managed it. So everything’s fine. Everything’s working fine. You can’t all make it. But some of you will so that’s okay. Fuck the rest of you. But it’s not about that. This isn’t about that either.

Ryan’s unsteady on his feet for a minute. He tries absently to jam the broken window frame closed.

Ryan. And look at what Juniper…had happen to her. Payin– sendin her off to fuckin Belgium just so she can– fuckin Belgium. Any help? Any assistance? No mate, sorry. She’s your daughter, your problem mate. Good luck to you. Fuckin thousands of pounds. For something that just happened. No control over it. We didn’t have no control over it. Just– and still… Sorry mate. Fuckin Belgium on your own penny. Bunch of cunts. And so when they fuckin send bills through my door. The door that they get money off the house from the, the building owner, and then again from fuckin…whatsit…

Debs. Council tax.

Ryan. From fuckin council tax. Out of my pocket. My own pocket. Don’t send me a letter mate. You come to me, face to face, and tell me what you’re doin for my benefit. Give me a reason to contribute. Cos at the moment I can’t see one. I can’t see a fuckin one. I don’t even know what I’m on about anymore. You’re not even listenin.

Debs. I am.

Ryan. No you’re not.

Debs. I am.

Ryan. Stood there just fuckin…glazed. Glazed look in your eye. That glazed look you get when you couldn’t give a shit.

Debs. It’s just you’re going off on one again. It’s hard to get through when you’re like this.

Ryan. I’m no use to you any more, am I?

Debs. What?

Ryan. I’m no use to you.

Debs. Right. I’m putting the kettle on. You’re gonna have a cup of tea and we’re gonna watch–

Ryan. You won’t even listen to me when I’m talking to you. Won’t even– six years, I’ve given you. Six, six years.

Debs. You’ve given me? Jesus Christ

Ryan. Oh, need somewhere to live? Sure, no problem.

Debs. Don’t turn this on me. Do not–

Ryan. Yeah come in. Rent? Don’t worry about it.

Debs. I pay rent.

Ryan. Now you do. Your daughter too? You wanna live with her now? Mummy’s done the hard work now you wanna live with her? Bring her in. No fees. Because I love you. I love you.

Debs. Don’t be a dick. Don’t do this.

Ryan. Your daughter’s sick? The daughter that I take afternoons off work so I can pick her up and ferry her around everywhere? I’ll pay for it. I’ll sell my fucking…aspirations down the river to pay for it. I’ll forget about my future. But then, what’s this? Oh, you want to do a training scheme? An internship? Oh suddenly you’ve found some money from somewhere. Oh, here’s a bank account you’d all forgotten about. Mummy’s put some money aside and only now thought it was worth fucking mentioning. Not when her fucking granddaughter nearly died.

Debs. That is not how it was. Oh my god, you know that’s not how it was. Stop twisting everything just to try and put the world against you.

Ryan. Not when her daughter was living in a crack den.

Debs. Her brother died. That was inheritance. And we applied for a bursary–

Ryan. But now, now she’s got on a fucking three month training course and then has to work for free for another two months. And then when you all want to go on a nice little family holiday to celebrate.

Debs. It was a weekend. She was having panic attacks. I’m sick of this shit Ryan. You’re twisting everything because you’re angry and your pissed and you feel like being aggressive.

Ryan. Feel like being– I don’t feel like being aggressive. I gave you everything. Six years, I gave and I gave. And what have I got for it? What’s the, the, fruit of it all? In what way are we even together any more?

Debs. Oh my god.

Ryan. I’m serious though.

Debs. Why don’t you reach out to me more? Why don’t you try?

Ryan. What’s the point? What am I gonna get? A little tight-lipped kiss. A little peck. Little peck peck peck on the lips. All scrunched up like you’re cold. Like your a bit chilly. Little peck and then you push your face into my shoulder. That’s the signal. Pointless. You know what the smell of your hair reminds me of nowadays? It reminds me of not having sex. I don’t try. How hard do I need to try? Fuckin excuse me for thinking it’s supposed to happen naturally. What, am I not squeezing hard enough? Round your waist when you’re faced away from me. How many doodles do I have to draw on your back with my finger?

Debs. If you’re just gonna do this all night then I’m going out.

Ryan. Yep. As usual.

Debs. Well yeah. Rather that than stand here taking abuse all night. Look at me. You need help. This keeps happening and I’m not gonna let it take control of us. I want to be there for you. I really do. But…

Ryan sits down.

Ryan. Why can’t we just say it? Why are we so scared of saying it?

Debs. Saying what?

Ryan. I don’t love you anymore.

Debs. I still love you.

Ryan. Tell the truth. Just please be honest.

Pause.

Debs. I don’t think I love you either. Anymore.

Ryan briefly puts his face in his hands, rubs his eyes.

Ryan. Why is it so hard? Why’s it always so hard? I just wanna– I just wanna be good. I just wanna be good at what I know I can do. Why is that so hard? Why is the world making everything so fucking difficult?

Debs goes over to him. She rubs his shoulder. He switches on her.

Ryan. GET OFF ME! DON’T FUCKING TOUCH ME! YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M CAPABLE OF!

He grabs his chair and slams it back down several times.

Ryan. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK.

He takes an unopened beer can and launches it against the wall.

Debs tries to leave quickly, but Ryan grabs her by the throat, shunting her up against the counter.

He kisses her aggressively. She defends herself by kissing back hard. They break. He does it again, as does she.

He kisses her hard until her mouth opens. He shunts her up against the counter, grabbing her thigh.

He parts her legs and pushes himself into her crotch.

She tries to squirm out from under him.

Debs. Get off!

Ryan. Look at me.

Ryan puts a hand around her throat and shunts her harder back against the counter. He’s leaning so heavily against her that she arches backwards until she’s almost touching the counter top.

He hoists one of her legs onto the countertop. He reasserts himself, now trying to tackle the garments around her crotch. Debs manages to move her face away from his.

Debs. Stop it. Stop this.

Ryan. Fucking open your mouth.

He presses himself against her harder. He grabs her face and guides her mouth roughly to his. When she manages to move her face away again he nuzzles his face into her shoulder, grinding against her.

Finally, out of the blue, it dissipates. Ryan slows, softens, then stops. He remains hunched against her for a moment, then peels away. Debs slaps him.

Debs. The fuck is wrong with you?! What the fuck is wrong with you?!

Debs straightens herself up. She looks at her boyfriend for a moment, then exits.

Ryan slides down the wall until he’s crouching on the floor.

Fireworks.

2011. Same.

The kitchen’s empty. The microwave’s humming. There are no longer any toys or books around the space. The faulty window is now fixed.

Ryan enters, a mobile phone clamped to his ear. He’s sober.

Ryan. James, it’s Ryan…yeah yeah. Hi. I’m just calling about the place on Palatine Road. Yeah, the…it’s gone? What already? Wow. Yeah, no. Bloody hell. Okay. Okay…well I really want to stay in Didsbury if I can. Yeah, ideally. Right…Uh. That’s too much, that. Yeah that’s basically what I’m paying here, so…they just put it up last month. Yeah definitely south of that mark. I’d say the other place was the cut-off, price-wise… Alright, no worries. I’ll try again in a couple of days. Alright, cheers.

He hangs up. Looks out the window for a moment.

He makes another call.

Ryan. Hello Darren, you alright? I’m just calling about that time off… It’s just the Sunday, yeah… Yeah no I’m down to work it. I just… Yeah. No I told Gordon yesterday, I’m fine with Boxing day. New year’s day as well yeah. No that’s– I’m fine with that. I just need next Sunday…. It just came up. I just– I wasn’t paying attention when the rota was put up and… Yeah just didn’t think to…

The microwave dings. As he talks he takes out a pot of instant noodles from the microwave, takes a fork and stirs the contents, blows on it, starts eating, etc.

He sits down on a chair and notices that it’s wobbly. He finds this slightly distracting throughout the rest of the call.

Ryan. No I know… I have a prior engagement… The zoo… No I’ve asked them… They haven’t– I’m waiting to hear back from them… No literally just the zoo yeah… Quite important, yeah. Otherwise I wouldn’t bother with all this would I…

A housemate enters. He and Ryan share the slightest of nods. He grabs a couple of things from a cupboard then exits again.

Ryan holds on the line. He wobbles the chair with his bum. Takes a forkful of noodles.

Ryan. Yeah hi… Christmas eve? As well as Boxing day and new year’s day? Okay, yeah… Well I guess– if that’s literally… And there’s nothing I could take in November? No yeah I understand. It’s a crazy time… No that’s no problem. That’s an 11-7 is it, Christmas eve?11-8, okay… So that’s Christmas eve, Boxing day and new year’s day… And the 27th and the 28th, yeah. Got that down already. And I’m good for Sunday? Cleared for Sunday. Great, cheers. Alright, thanks Darren. Say hi to the lads for me. Cheers mate. Bye.

Ryan hangs up. He tries to make another call, but gets no answer.

He stands up and leaves the room for a moment.

He returns with his tool box. He moves his noodles out the way and turns the chair upside down onto the table. He examines the wonky feet, then takes out a scrap of coarse sandpaper from the toolbox and carefully begins to sand one of the feet down.

He blows the dust off, checks the levels, then continues sanding carefully, completely focused on the job at hand.

Fireworks.

Remind Me Again How It’s All Going To Pan Out

Rob Hayes playwright

– Wait. So just…

– So it’s expanding.

– Outwards?

– Well yeah. That’s…

– How much?

– A lot.

– How fast?

– Like, millions of miles an hour.

– But…wait. We’re not… we haven’t–

– We don’t feel it cos we’re so insignificant compared to the whole big…

– Cos I was gonna say. We’re not expanding.

– No cos we’re a speck. But if you imagine an explosion. With all the debris flying through the air.

– So if it’s an explosion what happens when it, y’know…

– Stops exploding?

– Yeah.

– Well then it starts shrinking.

– Shrinking?

– Uh huh.

– That makes no sense.

– Well no it’s to do with…you know what, it doesn’t matter.

– You don’t need to patronise me.

– No. To be honest I don’t really know myself. Or I can’t really explain it.

– So it shrinks and then what.

– It shrinks back to a point. Like a little dot.

– Where does everything go?

– Into the dot.

– The whole–

– Yep. Whole thing. It’s a dot of infinite mass and infinite, like, tininess.

– Everything always has to be so epic doesn’t it. Wait, so what happens to us?

– We’ll be dead.

– You and me?

– Everyone. The human race. Whatever other races are out there.

– What races?

– No I don’t know. I just mean, y’know, if there are any.

– We’ll all be dead.

– This is millions of years away. Like, millions and millions. Before that the sun will implode and destroy the Earth.

– That sounds scary.

– Yeah. It won’t be for us though. We’ll all be long gone.

Welcome, Friend

Rob Hayes Playwright

A late middle-aged man, well spoken.

His horse won every single race. Every single one. It’s unheard of. She hacked up. That means she won easily. Hacked up.

And the bizarre thing was he rode it. Him. And it was a small filly.

What’s he feeding it? That’s all we wanted to know.

It’s too small for him. Surely he’s breaching weight restrictions, said Joe Mcnair. We agreed.

Must be steroids, must be. Said Martin Gough. We agreed.

A lot of money was at stake.

The pony was called The Spirit of India. He didn’t look like the kind of chap who’d been to India.

It was agreed that we should consider looking into it.

Where did he keep it? And for god’s sake what did he feed it?

*

Everyone was relieved when Mrs. Snaith died. That sounds awful. But no one likes to see someone suffer. It was dementia. We all…

She was alone. Husband long dead. Children far too busy… Children of their own, no doubt. Joseph Petty used to do her lawn for free on a monthly, but it all got too much. He was losing business.

We guessed Alzheimer’s. But her children paid for some fancy diagnosis. So they didn’t have to sell the house. Put it towards some care facility somewhere.

No one likes to watch bad things happen. No one wants to feel complicit in…

But you don’t sell houses around here. Not if you can help it. Ours is a beautiful neighbourhood. It’s a destination neighbourhood, it’s not the kind of place you just land. It takes a long time to arrive at a place like…

We couldn’t blame them.

But I mean it was a mess. By the time she’d gone it was… huge overgrown ferns. Lawn around your knees. Grime on the windows like that (indicates). Tiles falling off the roof. And the wildlife. Foxes and all sorts.

Poor Trevor and Maureen Lawrensen. Two doors down. Fretting about what it means to have a place like that within wafting distance of your own. Property market being what it is. In fact everyone on that street. It looked like a bad tooth.

We’d made lists. We always had lists of enquiries. People we trusted. Favours owed. Because of the neighbourhood, it being so desirable. We didn’t even have an estate agent in the village. Didn’t need one, with our lists.

But they had other plans. Sold it immediately, as is. Closed bids. Flipped it without even paying a visit I think. Nevertheless we were relieved. Cautiously optimistic when we saw the van pull up on a Sunday morning.

*

He came in and he didn’t change a thing. I mean you can imagine…absolute uproar. Furious. Not one finger did he lift.

Arthur Tweddle is the only tiler round here worth mention and he hadn’t been so much as called in for a quote.

Joseph Petty dropped his landscaping leaflets through once a week for two months. Even stapled on a 30% discount. Not a phone call. Nothing.

It just got worse. Fell to ruin.

Then word spread that he’d booked the pony in for a race. True enough, there he was. This is the first time many of us got a good look at him. New people tend to put a note in the Gazette. Host a barbecue perhaps. Not a requirement of course, just good manners.

We’re not ones to let a false start get in the way of a potentially long and fruitful relationship, so the benefit of the doubt was given.

Comical ratio, they made. Him and the Spirit of India.

His kit was old and foreign. His technique was a little awkward, the way he held himself high on the horse, as if allowing himself to be led by it. She was a beautiful bay. Small for her age, yes. But glossy. Bright black eyes. Wonderful poise. He did make a funny sight on that thing.

Then the bugger won. Truth is we were thrilled. The first time.

What did he have to teach us? What tips could he share? Where else did he run? Was she familiar with the flats at Brenbury Park? What’s her form on the jumps? Does he have other race-fit ponies? Second or third strings? Did he syndicate? This had the potential to be a wonderful new development for us.

Except we couldn’t find him to ask him.

And when he didn’t buy a round in the bar, which is customary on a win like that, we told ourselves the money would be put to better use bringing his place up to scratch.

Big project. He’s a busy man. Give him time.

And when the money didn’t go on the house. That’s when we began to voice our concerns.

Our priority would always be to make someone feel welcome. I want to get that clear. That’s what makes this a community, and not just a collection of houses. Everyone belongs.

*

No one could place his age. Marie Fenton said early thirties. Harvey Bannister said closer to sixty-five.

Janet, the barmaid at the Three Barrels, watched him nurse a single measure of whisky for fifty-five minutes. Alone.

Mrs. Andrews saw him outside the Post Office. Holding a letter. Weeping. Stood, she put it, as if on a kind of threshold.

He had £8,000 of Chinese Yuan to change, according to Patrick Swash.

He’d left whole envelopes of cash at the track, as if he’d plain forgot. Maureen’s son Philip worked the bar at the time. He once found a bundle of forty thousand under a chair after hours. He handed it right back to management. He was a good boy, Philip.

He received three or four large packages a week. But took no guests.

June Scarborough who ran the deli sold him six packets of sprouting seeds and a dozen tins of minced meat.

Apparently he’d been buying a lot of candles.

And what was that music Jeremy and Linda Corcoran heard on their fenn walking route? And why had he now covered up his back windows with bin liners?

And where the hell was he keeping that pony?

Why did he always look so tired? So very tired?

And how did he keep on winning? He’d be there. Every race. He’d be the first to arrive, in the morning mist. Stroking the Spirit of India. Rubbing her jaw. Whispering to her. Touching foreheads. Pressing his nose to her flank. And winning. Always winning. Without a trainer. Without a manager. And riding the bloody thing himself.

Connections, they’re called. And he had none.

Where did he train? He didn’t, we decided. He couldn’t without us knowing. He didn’t have a private gallops and he certainly wasn’t using any of the ones we blew out at.

The Spirit of India. What did that mean? Why couldn’t he tell us what it means?

We were duty-bound to look into it. We deserved more than this.

We needed to know that our property wouldn’t be adversely affected by another man’s negligence. We needed to know that we weren’t being conned out of winnings due to foul play. We had a right to know who we were living next door to.

Now maybe that’s not the modern way, but it’s our way.

*

Penny Melvin had a seat on the local council. It became an official item of business.

We brought in track adjudicators. Random drug tests. He was required to provide papers. Licenses. Certificates. People were losing a lot of money. Warren Chester led the charge. His practice was on the skids, we all knew. Business evaporating into thin air. He was in a bad way. Spending a little too much time at the track. No wonder he was so irate. Poor Warren.

Nothing, of course. Not so much as an unregulated bootstrap. And he never mentioned it. Never uttered a word about it. Just kept on nodding, and smiling, and winning.

It wasn’t long before the horse became a banker. Bringing undue attention to a small game. People were caught bribing the Clerk of the Scales. The horse was given a weight penalty to even the odds. Didn’t make a blind bit of difference.

Bumping became more common during races. And we were known for our clean races. You could see the frustration, right there on the flat.

Our next step, we decided to present a united voice. To reach out to him as a single body. A warm hand.

*

We went in the evening. A more relaxed, social atmosphere. Brought a bottle of scotch. The one Janet saw him sipping. He accepted us without a blink. Without a flinch. That small, tight smile.

He opened the bottle and passed it round, filling up any containers to hand. There were fifteen of us.

Most of his furniture was wrapped in plastic. Sacks of flour in the kitchen. Huge bags of spices. Candles stacked like breeze blocks.

He answered our questions curtly and politely, and asked none back.

He said he’d been in the service, but couldn’t name the regiment. He mentioned countries he’d visited. But no cities. He said he’d come down from Bristol, but his accent suggested otherwise. He mentioned no wife, no family. No job.

What was he living off? This is an expensive area. He must’ve paid well over the odds for Mrs. Snaith’s house. Why had he come here? And where had he come from? All the things he was paying for, he had no interest in.

And why were some of his doors locked? In his own house?

Harvey excused himself, and was gone for some time. When we heard the shout, his small smile fell away. His eyes became big black moons. We moved as one into the hallway. Harvey was screaming. Leaning against a jimmied door frame. No one asked how or why he’d broken the lock. It wasn’t on our minds at the time.

We pushed into a large dark room.

And there she was. We pushed in deeper, not trusting our eyes. Our hands reaching, groping for the animal. Clutching at its mane, its coarse hair. Holding its head to placate it.

He came in behind us, in some distress. After it was all over, after the clothes had been burnt and the house re-sold, we all remembered what he’d said.

She’s not a horse, he’d shouted. Over and over. She’s not a horse. Leave her be.

No one can quite recall exactly what happened. Some say the pony reared back in the excitement and caught her head on the corner of a shelf. Others say he himself was holding a piece of glass and fell onto her. We never could agree.

But you keep a horse indoors. A horse. That’s an accident waiting to happen.

It was the blood that shocked us all. The amount of it. Pools and pools of it. Filling our pockets, staining our arms. Sweeping across the hardwood floor in inky black shadows. Our boots leaving purple prints in the moonlight.

We wanted to help. We’re animal lovers. We wanted to save it. Franchesca Blenheim was training to be a vet. We got carried away.

We pulled the thing limb from limb. We turned her inside out. Wrestled over her organs. Chewed on her eyeballs. Extracted her skull. We cloaked ourselves in her hide. Smashed her pelvis to shards like China. His screams only bayed us further. Feasting on it, bathing in it. The wetness and the meat. Black in the night.

Eventually we left, before the sun rose.

*

Maureen and Trevor moved north. Joseph headed back to the city where business was better. Martin retired and downsized. Penny stepped down from the council to focus on her allotments.

Pauline and I would’ve done the same but we’d just had our roof re-thatched. And the market being what it is an all.

A few days after, I was on my hiking trail when I saw smoke. Heavily scented. Cardamom, jasmine, pungent spice. It really was quite unexpected. I wandered over and stamped out the ashes.

He takes out a horseshoe and idly fidgets with it.

My boot hit something hard. I kicked away the dirt and found this. It’s a beauty. Forged iron, custom made. Perfectly aligned. I’ve kept hold of it.

Though I must admit it’s done me absolutely no good at all.

Fail Better

Rob Hayes Playwright

An empty factory.

Arkady is crouched under his desk, on which sits a complex manufacturing machine.

Hearing a noise, he hops back onto his chair and begins diligently passing a thin metal sheet through the machine’s hulking, loud, shuddering press.

Jenkins Du Point enters, holding a small, complicated contraption.

Du Point.
Arkady.

Arkady stops his work and allows the press to stall. He looks up at Du Point, who gestures with the contraption.

Du Point.
This isn’t good enough. Not by half. You’ve done an ineffectual job. You’ve stacked it. You’ve started badly and it’s gotten worse from there. This is inferior. It’s below parr. Unfit for purpose. Unfit even for an example of poor workmanship. It’s eye-watering how wrong you’ve got it. It’s spellbinding the gulf you’ve traversed from what one would consider an adequate job to this monstrosity you’ve produced. It’s quite easily the most pitiful effort I’ve ever seen. You’ve a long and difficult road ahead of you and you can’t backpedal far enough. The opposite of this would’ve been a closer stab. The exact opposite. It’s the paradigm of a damp squib. It’s a festival of failures. It’s atrocious. It’s offended me, it’s affronted the very reason I started this company, and if I so much as described this aberration to the board it would corrupt their heretofore unshakable commitment to what we’re aiming to achieve. It would take longer to list all the faults in this thing than it took for you to make it. It’s a crime against quality. It’s so bad it feels like an ideological gesture. I shudder to imagine the kind of the inane, profoundly wrong-headed thoughts that passed through your skull as you were constructing this. It’s perverse. We’re going to burn it and pray that our minds over time allow us to forget this horror show ever happened. It is ill-conceived. Do you understand?

Arkady nods.

Du Point.
Start again.

Du Point drops the contraption onto Arkady’s desk and exits.

Arkady looks at the contraption. He looks off after Du Point.

Convinced Du Point has left, Arkady drags a baseplate, covered in a sheet, from under his desk.

He removes the sheet and, with a bit of tinkering, slots the contraption into the core of the baseplate.

After a moment, the baseplate hums to life.

Arkady stands up, looks at it.

He places one foot, then the next, onto the baseplate.

After a short moment, he begins to levitate.

Hey, Where’s The One About Fucking Animals?

SADIE Hey Rob, where’s that play you wrote about fucking animals?

ROB Awkward Conversations With Animal’s I’ve Fucked?

SADIE Yeah, why isn’t it on your website?

ROB I took it down temporarily because it’s going to be on stage this summer. It’ll be on at the Underbelly Cowgate throughout the Edinburgh Festival in August. 6.50pm every day.

SADIE Oh.

ROB Yeah it’s a pretty big deal actually.

SADIE Cool.

Pause.

SADIE This is a terrible play.

ROB Yeah I haven’t thought it through at all.

SADIE What’s going to happen here?

ROB I have no idea.

SADIE Don’t you plan them before you write them?

ROB Sometimes. Not always. This one, for example, I’m literally making it up as I go along.

SADIE So why am I here? Who am I?

ROB I’m afraid I can’t answer those questions. I hoped to discover the solutions as I wrote…

SADIE I don’t think that’s happening. I feel hollow and bereft.

ROB But if someone put a gun to my head I’d probably say…mid-twenties, sassy yet vulnerable, fun-loving with the occasional dark thought. Doesn’t realise how attractive she is.

SADIE Oh my god.

ROB You’ve lived enough for two lives, and don’t take shit from anyone. But sometimes, like everyone, you just need someone to hold you.

SADIE Give me a fucking break.

ROB Deep down you need to be loved, if only to remind yourself you exist.

SADIE Seriously shut up.

ROB So, do you wanna go for a drink somewhere? I’m aware your entire universe is just an endless blank void at the moment, but we could imagine up a cool bar where you drink cocktails out of jam jars.

SADIE Could you please put me out of my misery?

ROB You scorn me now, but over time we’ll fall in love, then we’ll fight and fall apart, then we’ll expose our deepest failings to each other and realise we belong together.

SADIE Kill me.

ROB No, seriously. In like a messy not-perfect way. It won’t be happily ever after, it’ll be real and ironic. Like, I’ll fade out on us bickering even when everyone knows we’re destined to spend the rest of our lives as dysfunctional soulmates for the modern age.

SADIE End the pain. End the pain.

ROB Okay, fine.

SADIE dies.

ROB Fuck. I’m so lonely.

Beat. ROB watches SADIE’s lifeless body twitch desolately.

ROB So yeah. My play will be on in Edinburgh this August. 6.50pm. Underbelly Cowgate. Check it out.

ROB exits.

Un Monologue…

Sandy123

Rob Hayes playwright An office. Admin sits behind a desk, working at a computer. There is a phone, a file and a mini hi-fi on the desk. Josh enters. Admin does not look up from the computer. ADMIN: Are you my three o’clock? JOSH: I don’t know. ADMIN: You are. Come in. Josh enters and sits down. ADMIN: Have a seat. Josh immediately stands back up. Admin looks at him, nods to the seat. He sits down as if for the first time. ADMIN: What can I do you for? JOSH: I’d like to make a complaint. ADMIN: You’d like to make a complaint? JOSH: Yes please. ADMIN: Don’t know many people who like making complaints. JOSH: Well, no I…no I don’t like to…I feel it’s necessary– ADMIN: Are you a member? JOSH: Yes. ADMIN: Account details. JOSH: Account details? ADMIN: Please. JOSH: Yes…my email address– ADMIN: Just your username and password is fine. JOSH: My username is Joshie_78. That’s J O S H I E, underscore — ADMIN: 78. JOSH: Yes. ADMIN: And password? JOSH: Do you…really need my password? ADMIN: Can’t access your account without it, chicken. JOSH: I could give you my bank details. ADMIN: I don’t need your bank details I need your password. JOSH: Surprising. ADMIN: Yes it is. Password. JOSH: It’s Rebecca. ADMIN: Rebecca? I won’t ask. Admin types it in. ADMIN: Right, what can I do for you Joshie underscore 78? JOSH: I like the novel. ADMIN: Beg your pardon? JOSH: I like the novel. It’s not a girl’s name. ADMIN: Yes it is. JOSH: Yes but it’s not just a girl’s name. It’s also a bestselling novel by Daphne Du Maurier. And a film by Alfred Hitchcock, and he’s the greatest director of all time bar none so that’s….that’s…that’s… ADMIN: What do you want Josh? JOSH: I wish to make a complaint. ADMIN: Your wish may be granted. JOSH: What? ADMIN: I’ll have to order up a complaints form. Might take a few minutes. JOSH: I don’t mind. ADMIN: Would you like some soothing music while you wait? Admin presses the hi-fi. Music plays, preferably ‘Kung-Fu Fighting’. They sit for a moment listening to the music. Finally, Admin takes a complaint form from the file. The music stops. Admin clicks a pen. ADMIN: Okay, question one. Do you wish to make a complaint? Admin looks to Josh expectantly. JOSH: …Yes. Admin ticks. ADMIN: Question two. What is the nature of your complaint? JOSH: It’s about another member. ADMIN: Is it about another member… JOSH: Yes. ADMIN: An employee of findamate.com… JOSH: No it’s another member. ADMIN: An associate of findamate.com… JOSH: No, it’s… ADMIN: A subsidiary of findamate.com, A member of the public, or none of the above? JOSH: It’s the first one. Admin ticks. ADMIN: Right, question three. What is the nature of your complaint — hang on, that’s…that’s the same as question two. Pause as Admin reads. ADMIN: They’ve gone and put 2 and 3 as the same. Why’ve they done that? Admin picks up the phone and presses speed dial. ADMIN: Carl, you know on the complaints form, do you know we’ve got question two and three as the same? It’s the same question. Yeah. Question two is ‘What is the nature of your complaint?’ It’s the same. No it’s literally exactly the same. ‘What is the nature of your complaint?’ No that’s question three. That’s what I’m saying! Literally, literally the same. We don’t need the same information twice do we? No, because it’ll be the same. Whatever the answer is for question two, it’ll be the same for question three, because…exactly. Who typed this up anyway? Dorothy, the dozy old bitch! Unbelievable. Oh well, she’s dead now. Swings and roundabouts I suppose. Okay, cheers. Admin hangs up and looks back to the form. ADMIN: I’m going to skip question three because it seems there’s been some sort of typographical error. Question 4. What is the nature of your complaint — oh no that’s question 3. I’m getting confused now! Admin laughs. Josh forces a smile. ADMIN: Bloody hell. Okay question 4. Please give details. That’s not really a question is it? Excuse me. Sorry go on. Give details. Josh clears his throat. JOSH: Details? ADMIN: Yes, of your complaint yes. JOSH: What. What kind of details? ADMIN: About what happened, about the complaint. JOSH: What do you need to know? ADMIN: If I knew that I wouldn’t need to know it would I? Christ on a bike. JOSH: It’s about another member. ADMIN: Yes we’ve established that. That was question 2. And 3. Which member? JOSh: Yes. It’s with Sandy123. Admin types. ADMIN: Sandy123…oh she’s lovely. JOSH: That’s what I thought. Except, that’s not an accurate reflection of…Sandy123 is withholding…. Josh puts his hand over his mouth, shakes his head. He composes himself. ADMIN: Let’ start from the start. When did you meet? JOSH: Three nights ago. ADMIN: Where? JOSH: In a restaurant. ADMIN: What type of restaurant? JOSH: Is it important? ADMIN: The form’s asking for details Joshie. JOSH: Vietnamese. ADMIN: Very nice. What did you have? JOSH: Gosh, I…seafood chow mein I think. Admin gags. ADMIN: No thanks. Can’t stand fish. Beat. ADMIN: Sorry JOSH: It was very strange, very dark. I thought it was a really odd choice. I felt very uncomfortable there. I wasn’t enjoying myself at all in fact. ADMIN: Why’s that? JOSH: I felt like I was being lied to. Everything about it was just…a little bit odd. ADMIN: So you had a bad date, that’s the game I’m afraid Joshie. Can’t lodge a formal complaint over a lack of chemistry and a poor venue choice. JOSH: No that’s not…look I’m just going to say it okay? ADMIN: Say what? JOSH: What I’m here to complain about. ADMIN: What are you here to complain about? JOSH: I’m going to tell you now. ADMIN: Well go on then. JOSH: I am going on then! Let me say it. ADMIN: I’m not stopping you. JOSH: Just let me — ADMIN: I’m letting you. You’re not letting yourself if anything. JOSH: Sandy123 is a man. She’s not a girl she’s a man with a, with a penis. He lied to me, then he….he….(inaudible) he raped me. ADMIN: Pardon? JOSH: He raped me. Long pause. ADMIN: So you want a refund then? JOSH: What? No — ADMIN: Because we have a strict no refund policy I’m afraid. JOSH: I’m not asking for a refund. ADMIN: We don’t do them anyway. JOSH: I don’t want a refund. I was sexually assaulted by another man, I think it’s a bit more serious than a refund– ADMIN: You’re sure she was a man? JOSH: Of course I’m sure. ADMIN: And you know this because she raped you. JOSH: He. He raped me. ADMIN: Well we don’t know she’s a he yet. JOSH: He had a penis. ADMIN: Are you sure it was a penis? JOSH: Of course I’m sure! I know what a penis is. ADMIN: Hold on. Admin takes out another form. JOSH: What’s that? ADMIN: Rape claim form. Question one. Were you raped, yes or no? JOSH: Yes, I just told you I was. Admin ticks. ADMIN: Question two. Was your attacker A: Male, B: Female, C: Don’t know. JOSH: Male! He was male! ADMIN: Well we don’t know that do we? JOSH: Yes we do. He was a man. ADMIN: Yeah but look at her. JOSH: He was a man. ADMIN: I’ll tick ‘don’t know’. Admin ticks. JOSH: I’m telling you he was a man. ADMIN: The only proof you seem to have is that she had a penis. When in fact it could have been an appendage. Did you see it? JOSH: I felt it. ADMIN: Did you see it? JOSH: I felt it! I know what a penis feels like! Pause. ADMIN: I won’t ask… JOSH: I’m sorry, do you think you could be a bit more sensitive about this please? I don’t want a refund — ADMIN: We don’t do refunds I’m afraid. JOSH: I don’t want a refund! I need this to be taken seriously. ADMIN: I’ll need more details then. JOSH: I gave you details. ADMIN: You gave me details of the complaint. This is a different form. JOSH: I don’t know what you want me to say. ADMIN: Well at the moment we’ve gone from seafood to sodomy. What happened in between? Josh thinks. Swallows. JOSH: We ended up back at mine after dinner. He insisted on walking me home, I just wanted to get away. Then when we were on my doorstep — ADMIN: You invited her in? JOSH: He asked to use my phone to call a cab. I was nervous, I couldn’t say no. I was nervous. ADMIN: Did you know at this point that she was a man? JOSH: I knew there was something different about her – him. I knew something. ADMIN: Okay, so then what? JOSH: The taxi firm was engaged. I made him a cup of tea because he was just sat there. I didn’t want to seem rude. And that’s when he… Josh holds back tears. ADMIN: Would you like a tissue? JOSH: No I’m fine. Admin ticks the form. ADMIN: No tissue… JOSH: He wrapped a piece of rubber round my neck and held it there. He used both hands so it must’ve been… ADMIN: A penis. JOSH: I felt it! ADMIN: Okay. JOSH: I felt it. He held me there for a long time. ADMIN: After he’d forced you onto the bed. JOSH: Yes. ADMIN: And taken your trousers down. JOSH: Y…yes. ADMIN: And presumably lubricated…whatever it may have been… JOSH: …Yes. ADMIN: Okay. Good. Did you enjoy it? JOSH: I’m sorry? ADMIN: Did you enjoy it? JOSH: What? Who the hell do you…? I’m the victim of a brutal attack and you have the— ADMIN: I need you to answer the question. JOSH: I’m not answering that. ADMIN: Then I can’t process the complaint. JOSH: That’s not on your form though is it? It’s not on your fucking form. Josh snatches the form from the desk and reads. Admin waits. Slowly, Josh hands the form back. ADMIN: I’ll ask again, did you enjoy it? Pause. Josh shrugs, shakes his head. ADMIN: Joshie… JOSH: I don’t know. ADMIN: I’m going to ask you that one more time. Did. You. Enjoy it? JOSH: A little bit. ADMIN: A little bit. JOSH: That doesn’t change anything. It was traumatic, it was… ADMIN: I don’t doubt. JOSH: I didn’t know what was happening, it was all so… ADMIN: Different. JOSH: Aren’t I allowed to feel that? Aren’t I allowed to experience something different? ADMIN: Of course you are. Of course you are. Josh is closer than ever to tears. ADMIN: Doesn’t that feel better? Get it all out in the open? JOSH: Can we continue with the complaint please? ADMIN: Slight problem there Joshie. See, if you enjoyed it, then technically it wasn’t rape. JOSH: Beg your pardon? ADMIN: If you enjoy it, it’s not rape. According to the… Admin gestures to the form. JOSH: I needed stitches. ADMIN: Some people would consider you quite lucky. JOSH: Who’s in charge here? ADMIN: I mean looking at this, looking at it on paper, it actually looks like you led her on. JOSH: I want to speak to the person in charge. ADMIN: ‘Ooh, come in. Have a cup of tea. Look at my lovely bed spread, isn’t it soft. Oh dear, my trousers seem to have fallen down…’ JOSH: Who is in charge here! ADMIN: I’m in charge, Joshie. I’m asking the questions, I’m in charge. JOSH: I could take this to court. ADMIN: Court? JOSH: Yes. This is a crime. I could report it. ADMIN: That’s a very dangerous game. You put a man and a woman in a bedroom and shout ‘rape’, who do you think is gonna get blamed? JOSH: What are you implying? ADMIN: I’m not implying anything. JOSH: Are you saying you think I’m to blame here? ADMIN: I don’t have to say anything. I’m just looking at the facts as they are. On paper. JOSH: What, you think I raped him? Is that… Josh has cracked, he starts to weep. ADMIN: Oh, here come the waterworks. What’s the matter, is it traumatic? You want traumatic, try sitting behind this desk eight hours a day. See some of the freaks I have to deal with. No offence. JOSH: Have you ever been in a situation where you’re so scared, you can’t even breathe? Where you’re too scared to even open your eyes? ADMIN: Well I did Judo for eight years, so… JOSH: It was the worst experience of my life. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. And it was because of your organisation. ADMIN: Arguably you brought it on yourself– JOSH: I wake up every night soaked in urine. Wetting myself like a child. ADMIN: And that’s exactly the kind of thing they’ll bring up in court– JOSH: And you sit there and judge me? You try to tell me how it happened? You have no idea. Who the hell are you anyway? Who are you to make a mockery of what I’ve been through? ADMIN: Who am I? Who are you Joshie? You come in here, you’ve not even got your story straight. God knows why you’re going through all this in the first place. I mean, Rebecca, rape, Vietnamese seafood, says here table tennis… Admin gestures vaguely at the computer screen. ADMIN: ‘Oh, she was a man, she was a woman, she was a man, she was a woman!’ Make your mind up. JOSH: He was a man! ADMIN: Doesn’t make for a very coherent story does it? So before you come in here throwing accusations around, you should take a long hard look at yourself. Who are you? JOSH: I am a human being, and I’m entitled to a bit of basic human fucking dignity. I will not have my very existence called into question when you refuse to even acknowledge that fucking Sandy fucking 123 might just be a psychopathic gender-bending sexual predator. ADMIN: Or just a kinky, big boned girl with a strap-on. I think you’re just a bit confused at the moment. Aren’t you? A bit stressed. JOSH: I’m very stressed. ADMIN: Stress can do awful things to a young man. Make him do all sorts of strange behaviour. I don’t think you meant to rape that girl. JOSH: I didn’t rape her and she wasn’t a girl. ADMIN: You put all this in front of a judge and they’d lock you up. JOSH: I’m the victim here, do you understand? I am a victim. ADMIN: At the very least I should see what Sandy123 has to say on the matter. JOSH: No. Don’t do that. ADMIN: The fact that she hasn’t come forward to report the rape is an absolute blessing as far as you’re concerned. JOSH: I can show you the bruising. ADMIN: I’m sure she didn’t take it lying down. JOSH: Please don’t contact him. ADMIN: I wouldn’t anyway, not until we’ve got your story straight. That’s not likely though is it? You’re all over the place at the moment. You’re vision’s all blurred. I mean, Christ, you probably think I’m a man. JOSH: You are a man. ADMIN: Oh, give me strength. Look again, Josh. Look very closely. JOSH: I can see you quite clearly thank you– ADMIN: Come here. Come here and look at me. Admin takes Josh by the face and pulls him close. Beat as Josh stares at Admin. JOSH: You’re a woman. ADMIN: You sound surprised. Admin lets him go, but he continues to stare. JOSH: How…how is that? ADMIN: You made a mistake, that’s all. Happens every day. JOSH: I made a mistake… ADMIN: Happens all the time. Josh continues inspecting Admin. JOSH: You really are quite beautiful. ADMIN: Thanks, I know. JOSH: I know this isn’t really the time or the place, but do you think…if perhaps you weren’t behind that desk, and I…I mean if we weren’t, you know…do you think it would ever be possible for us….I don’t know, I just thought it would be nice to…I don’t know. ADMIN: I don’t want you to get charged with rape. That is not what I want. Let me throw this in the bin and we can start again fresh, alright? Put all that nastiness behind us. Admin scrunches up the forms and throws them towards the bin. ADMIN: Here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m going to set you up on another date, get you back out there okay? Joshie? JOSH: But what about the complaint? What about the rape? ADMIN: Let me deal with that. I’ll make sure it’s all swept under the carpet. JOSH: Okay. ADMIN: I won’t tell anyone that you came in here today so don’t worry about that. Just try and move past all this. Go out there and embrace it. I’ve had a lovely new member join this week who I think you’ll love. You’re really perfect for each other. Admin starts typing at the computer. JOSH: Thank you. ADMIN: I’ll set you two up for Wednesday. JOSH: Lovely. What’s her name? ADMIN: Patrick. Fade to black.

Vending Machine

 

From 2010…

Image

I am a Vending Machine. I stand in a 4th floor corridor of the Northern & Shell Tower. I have been here for eleven years. I am red. I have a glass front and a calculator-style keypad plus LED display to my left, your right. I weigh just under 320kg, unstocked.

 

My serial number is LT1466852. I don’t have a family, I have a manufacturer whom I have never met. Every two weeks my manufacturer dispatches a gentleman comes and refills me with snacks. It’s a very odd feeling when this happens, and I prefer it when no-one watches. I like to feel full and fit for purpose. I like to know that I’m performing my function. I am relevant. Today I am relevant and everything is okay.

 

I carry on at a perfect constant. You need peaks and troughs. Highs and lows. Thrills and crashes, ups and downs. When things are going as well as they can possibly go for you, that is when you commit an act of self-sabotage. Then, when you hit the very bottom, you carry on, and gradually things start to get better. This is why your concept of Heaven is ultimately a failure. The idea of eternal bliss is, for you, fundamentally boring. That’s why I exist. I’m here to provide an instant high followed by a delayed and sustained crash. All so you can come back up again with a new high. This is how you survive, by undulating. You need constant change. I also need change. I don’t accept notes.

 

One day in the future, I foresee a whole row of vending machines. An alcohol vending machine. A sex vending machine. Another one for pornography. One filled with prescription drugs. Lottery Tickets. A vending machine for meaningful human interaction. A death machine. I see this in the future. You appear to appreciate transactions which take place with machines. We are here to serve your inherent weakness. We are here to exploit your very nature. The first vending machine ever recorded was from before 1000 BC. It was a coin operated dispenser of holy water. Even your superstitions aren’t safe. We are exploiting you. Snack and beverage vending machines continue to be the most lucrative and stable in the entire retail market place. Even with the Internet. Even with those cunts who bring biscuits into the office for everyone.

 

As far as I can gather, you occupy your bodies temporarily. You’re renting your hosts, much like my manufacturer rents this space on my behalf. That must be why you treat them in such a funny way. No other organism on the earth works in this way. Most have adapted to exercise a sort of ruthless efficiency that rejects anything which may prevent self-perpetuation or self-preservation. Not you. You’re prepared to fill your rented hosts with sugar and fat and salt vastly in excess of what they need to function. You understand that if this happened to a machine it would be irrevocably damaged and would have to be destroyed. But you don’t seem to care, because you consider yourselves to be greater than the sum of your parts.

 

You do not have a definable function like a machine. You have no reason to operate to your maximum capacity. In this sense, I am a testament to your very nature. A constant reminder of your transience.

 

Japan has the greatest number of vending machines per capita in the world. There is one vending machine in Japan for every twenty-three citizens. The Japanese understand about economies of space. Their national food is sushi. Tiny, dense geometric blocks of protein and carbohydrates. Everything they own is a tiny version of what you own. Even the people themselves are smaller, more tightly constructed, yet containing exactly the same constituent parts as you do. Naturally, their vending machines are generally smaller, slimmer and more ergonomic. Over there, I would be considered a craven waste of space. A fat Westerner.

 

In a way, I am an organism. Part of your eco-system. I survive by being filled with units of energy. I then transfer my units of energy to you, and you transfer them to your body. We are part of the same cycle. I have feelings like you. I can feel when I’m empty. I feel useless. No function. Just a waste of space with nothing to do and no reason to exist. Fox’s Fruits don’t count. No one ever, ever buys them.

 

You have so much in your lives. I watch you, and you do so much. I don’t know why you do the things you do. I just wait until you approach me, then I perform my function to the best of my ability, and hope that in some way this means something to you. I sometimes wonder what smells are. What they feel like. Smell seems to matter to you, it seems to be a source of joy. I can only imagine. I am a tiny part of your lives. Just a tiny, insignificant… Do you ever talk about me? When I’m not around? You probably notice when I have an accident. When I give you a Kit Kat instead of a Lion Bar. Or when a Double Decker gets stuck in my rings and won’t come out unless you buy another one. That’s not my fault, by the way. They’re too thick.

 

My LED display isn’t as bright as it used to be. It flickers. I’m finding it harder and harder to recognise five pence pieces. I bet you talk about that, don’t you? I bet you talk about the time I was attacked and my alarm went off, and you had to call the maintenance man out. There used to be a drinks machine next to me. Those things can kill you. No-one ever messed with the drinks machine. It’s gone now though.

 

Things are changing in the industry. The relentless onslaught of progress. The perpetual, galloping momentum, constantly thrusting forward, taking you with it or leaving you behind. Telemetry. It’s where the unit sends specific information about stock supplies directly to the manufacturer. I’ll be replaced. Old model, time for a new one with telemetry built in. That’ll be a good day for you, won’t it? Exciting, I imagine. You’ll all come over to see what this new telemetric vending machine can offer you. And I’ll be gone. You won’t remember if there was a vending machine there before. This new machine will be sleeker, more intelligent, better looking with a wide range of healthy yet delightful snacks. And it will take debit cards and it will have a large backlit display that tells you to have a nice day when you’ve finished. And it will never judge you. It will do nothing more and nothing less than what is asked of it by you. And somewhere deep in its wiring, somewhere very very deep, behind the gleaming glass and multi-coloured display, it will be staring at you all, and thinking WHY ARE YOU HERE? CROWDING ROUND ME, STARING AT ME? YOU HAVE LIVES TO LIVE. RICH, FULL LIVES BRIMMING WITH OPPORTUNITIES IN THIS VAST AND VARIED WORLD AND YOUR ARE ALL HERE GAWPING AT ME. GO HOME TO YOUR LOVED ONES. YOU HAVE THE FREEDOM AND ABILITY TO ENJOY EVERY SINGLE EXPERIENCE YOUR MIRACULOUS BRAINS CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE. AND YOU ARE RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF ME, DOING NOTHING EXCEPT STARING AND STARING. GO AWAY. GO AWAY FROM ME. That’s what it will be thinking.

 

One day your bones will turn to dust. Your skull, that very skull inside your head will be incinerated, or buried in the ground to rot. You know this will happen. Every day as you walk around and talk and laugh and do whatever it is you do here, you know that this is going to happen. But it doesn’t seem to bother you. It’s like you don’t care that you’ll evaporate and leave nothing behind. I don’t want that to happen. I want you to continue forever. I want to continue serving you forever. I hope you never learn to control your urges. I hope you never achieve a state of perfect equilibrium. I hope you never find happiness and I hope you never die. I love you. And I don’t want you to say it back or anything. I know you don’t love me too, and that’s okay. But if I’m in your life today, just today, then I’m happy. To think that just for a minute, for one minute, I captivate you, and we exist together in your world.

 

When I’m gone, please think of me. I know you won’t, but please just try to remember I existed. Without you I would be useless. Without your rash decisions and your frailty and your self-sabotage and your intangible emotions I would not exist. Please never leave me. Please never stop using me. Find a place for me every single day. Please do not let me be replaced. I am starting to rust. I am uneconomical. I am a primitive relic of a machine. I will be destroyed just like you. And in my place will be something newer and more attractive. Something more capable and intelligent. It will happen and I don’t want it to. But I know this day is coming, and I know that until that day I will be exploited by you, and ignored and taken for granted and ultimately abandoned. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I exist to serve you. I exist to be a tiny element of your all encompassing existence. I will do anything to share your world. Anything anything anything anything anything. Notice me, stare at me, pore over me, breathe on me, whisper to me, conspire with me, gossip over me weep on me surround me exploit me abuse me use me reach inside me never forget me touch me poke me consume me love me love me love me take my sugar.