Rob Hayes Writes Plays

Free Plays From Rob Hayes.

Tag: Writing

Zeno’s Paradox And Other Problems

A kitchen.

Kevin is sat rigid in a chair. He stares at a large glass of water on the table before him.

Seb enters and puts the kettle on. He fetches a mug.

SEB Want a drink?

KEVIN I’m so thirsty.

Seb turns.

SEB Hah?

KEVIN I am so thirsty.

Seb observes the scene.

SEB There’s a glass of water directly in front of you.

Kevin whimpers.

SEB Are you okay? Kev?

KEVIN I can’t move.

SEB Are you. What have you hurt yourself? What’s wrong?

KEVIN No.

SEB Did you pull a hernia?

KEVIN I didn’t pull a hernia.

SEB So what is it? What’s wrong?

KEVIN I can’t move.

SEB Do you need me to call someone, or.

KEVIN I’m fine. I’m not hurt.

SEB So. What’s up?

KEVIN I’m so thirsty and I can’t move.

SEB If you’re thirsty just drink the water. Are you sure you’re okay? Dude.

KEVIN If I drink the water I’ll have to reach out and take it.

SEB Yeah that’s usually. How it works.

KEVIN So I’ll have to move my arm over to the glass on the table.

SEB Are you high?

KEVIN To move it all the way over there I’ll first have to move it half way there.

Beat.

KEVIN Right?

SEB Well yeah. That’s.

KEVIN Okay. Now. To move it half way there I’ll have to first move it half way to half way there.

SEB I. I’m sorry. Kev I have no idea what.

KEVIN I’ll first have to arrive at a point that’s half way between where my hand rests now and where it’ll be half way towards the glass. Is there something that isn’t clear about that?

SEB No. I mean technically it all makes.

KEVIN Good. Thank you. But to move it a quarter of the way there, I’ll first have to move it half of that distance.

SEB Oh Jesus.

KEVIN An eighth of the way there.

SEB Is this some kind of joke? Are trying to waste my time for some reason?

KEVIN And before that I’ll have to move it a sixteenth of the way there and before that a thirty-second and before that a sixty-forth.

SEB Look at me. What the hell are you talking about?

KEVIN And on and on and on into infinity. There are infinity points in space I’ll have to hit in between here and that glass of water. And infinity movements I’ll have to make to hit those points.

SEB O. Kay.

KEVIN Don’t you see?

SEB See what?

KEVIN How the hell am I supposed to make infinity movements?! That’s impossible! It’ll take an infinite amount of time!

SEB No it takes like two seconds.

KEVIN YOU’RE NOT GETTING IT.

SEB Okay okay. Just. Chill out. Fuck.

KEVIN No human being can ever perform infinity movements no matter how small, or hit infinity points in space no matter how close together. Because it’s infinite. That’s the point. It’ll go on forever.

SEB I think there may be some holes in your logic.

KEVIN And I don’t want to spend eternity reaching for a glass of water.

SEB No one does. But that’s not what’ll happen.

KEVIN I’ve just proved that it will Seb. With science!

SEB Well how about I bring the water over to you.

Seb reaches for the glass of water.

KEVIN DON’T TOUCH IT! DO NOT TOUCH IT! This is my problem, understand? It’s my problem.

Seb backs away.

Pause.

SEB Just pick up the glass, man. It’s just a glass. 

Seb notices that Kevin is crying.

SEB Are you okay? Hey is everything. Are you.

Beat.

Seb sits down at the table. He looks at the glass of water.

SEB Do you want to tell me what’s up?

KEVIN I looked at the snowflakes today.

SEB The snowflakes?

KEVIN Uh huh.

SEB It’s not snowing.

KEVIN No the snowflakes. The big. The giant ones.

SEB The giant snowflakes.

KEVIN Some guy. Some scientist. Took pictures of these snowflakes. But they’re like really close up. Like 50 times. 100 times magnified or something. So they look.

SEB Giant. Right. Giant snowflakes. So, what. They look cool? I bet they look cool.

Kevin cries again.

KEVIN It’s scary Seb.

SEB Scary?

KEVIN It’s terrifying.

SEB Why. What’s. What’s so scary about the snowflakes?

KEVIN There’s. Temples.

SEB Temples? On snowflakes.

KEVIN Aquaducts. Gorges. Laylines. Frescoes. Arches. Ridges. Tessellation. Patterns. Beautiful intricate patterns. Pillars. Promontories. Fucking cities on these. Tiny cities on these miniscule little.

SEB Wow.

KEVIN And they say it’s nature? Fucking nature?!

SEB It is nature man. It’s a beautiful thing.

KEVIN Some of them have stars on them. Like the way people draw them. With the five.

SEB Five points yeah.

KEVIN Yeah with the five points all evenly spaced.

SEB That’s pretty cool.

KEVIN How the fuck would nature know how human beings draw stars Sebastian? How could nature possibly know that?

SEB Okay. I get it. And that’s made you scared of snowflakes.

KEVIN And the way they’re built. They’re structured so they can like. Take their own weight. And not collapse in on themselves. But then they just drop anyway. Just fall and.

Beat.

KEVIN I just wanna know. Who makes them? Who or what is engineering these snowflakes that are so specifically designed and so exquisitely executed. And every single one completely unique. And then letting them just fall to the ground and disappear. Completely unnoticed. By anyone.

SEB Yeah I don’t. I don’t know.

KEVIN Because there is a hand at work. And that hand is witty and intelligent. And has an eye for beauty. And is a master of every science and art. To be able to create these little. But it’s a hand that’s hell bent on futility. And destruction. Creating a perfect little system then. Throwing it down into chaos.

Beat.

SEB Well. Maybe it’s a message.

KEVIN What kind of message?

SEB Like one of those enjoy the ride kinds of message. Like you fall. And you die. And the whole time you’re not really in control of anything. But when you’re falling. It’s fun, and you get to see some awesome things along the way. And also you’re this crazily constructed perfect ecosystem with some incredible design touches. It won’t last forever, and maybe no one’ll notice. But that’s what you are whilst you exist. That’s a pretty fucking sweet thing to be.

KEVIN You think. You think that’s what the hand is saying?

SEB It’s like the glass of water. You spend your entire existence reaching for a single glass of water. That’s all you’ll ever do, because it takes infinity to do it. And maybe you won’t even make it. But if you can be cool with that. And just, you know, enjoy reaching for the water whilst it’s going on. Then it’s not all so bad.

KEVIN I. I never. No that’s a good. I suppose it kind of.

SEB Why don’t you go grab the water Kev? Then maybe we can go outside for a while. Get some fresh air. Here I’ll even help you.

Seb moves the glass to the edge of the table.

SEB There, I just saved you half an eternity.

Beat.

SEB Why don’t you grab the glass Kev? Have a drink. Then we’ll go outside.

Beat. Kevin his breathing heavily.

SEB Have a drink Kev.

KEVIN nods. He takes a deep breath.

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Mother (Third Variation)

She holds my face tight, pushing my cheeks in like this.

He pushes his cheeks in.

‘Look at that face’, she says. Obviously I can only see hers. She is pretty, if the light’s right. But this feels really quite weird. I don’t know if it’s because I’m leaving or because she’s a bit pissed, but she’s really making things quite uncomfortable.

Then she says ‘don’t waste it’.

He shrugs.

‘Waste what?’ She holds my face tighter, ‘what you’ve got, right here’. I’m lost. I just kind of raise one eyebrow and try to smile, but I can’t because of the.

He squeezes his cheeks.

Her eyes are glistening, just along the rim, and then she says, ‘if I had it back, I’d probably just waste it all over again.’

And I say.

I say.

Nothing. I don’t say anything. I want to, but I can’t. Then she lets me go.

But just because I never said it doesn’t mean she didn’t know. She knew I loved her. She must’ve known.

Because I did. I loved her.

And she knew that, even though. Even though I never said it. 

Power Lunch

A mid-range French restaurant.

Hannah (32) and Michael (44) are sat together at a table.

MICHAEL Been here before?

HANNAH couple of times. Yeah.

Michael scans the decor.

MICHAEL Nice, isn’t it?

Beat.

MICHAEL Can you recommend.

He nods to the menu.

HANNAH Oh. I’m vegetarian, so.

MICHAEL More of a meat man myself.

HANNAH The lamb’s supposed to be nice.

MICHAEL This is great, by the way. I’m really.

HANNAH I hope you didn’t mind me asking like that. In front of everyone.

MICHAEL Mind? Pfff! I was about to ask you actually, only I thought I’d give it. Couple of.

HANNAH Couldn’t seem to get you alone.

MICHAEL I mean you’ve been with us, what. Two weeks? Three weeks?

HANNAH Little longer.

MICHAEL And you seem to be a bit. You know, not quite fitting.

HANNAH Oh. Well I suppose.

MICHAEL No sorry. I didn’t mean to be.

HANNAH No it’s fine.

MICHAEL Only you notice things. Pretty new girl sat alone.

HANNAH I think people are wary of me.

MICHAEL Yeah. Newbie.

HANNAH To the branch. I’ve been with the company for ages.

MICHAEL Because I don’t know if you know, but they’re firing people all over the place right now. Workforce something-or-other.

HANNAH Oh. Yes, I’m.

MICHAEL And so bringing you in and then. You know, getting rid of. People who’ve been with us.

HANNAH Keep expecting someone to. I don’t know. Stab me in the neck or something.

MICHAEL Right. Really? Seems a bit extreme.

HANNAH No I’m being silly.

MICHAEL I mean it’s not your fault.

HANNAH Paranoid really.

MICHAEL I don’t think anyone’s going to stab you in the neck.

HANNAH Hope not.

MICHAEL It’s not really that sort of place.

HANNAH No.

MICHAEL Stab you in the back maybe!

He laughs. Hannah tries to laugh along.

MICHAEL That’s certainly a possibility. But in the neck. Less likely.

Beat.

HANNAH Everyone seems lovely.

MICHAEL I can give you the er. The lowdown. On everyone. If you.

HANNAH Right.

MICHAEL Eight years, I’ve been.

HANNAH Really? That’s.

MICHAEL Moved over from Sandhurst and Webb. Never looked back.

HANNAH Hmmn.

MICHAEL I know some of those guys better than they know themselves.

HANNAH What, your colleagues?

 MICHAEL Only a slight exaggeration, that. I mean it.

HANNAH Impressive.

MICHAEL I’ve got files on them all. Actual files. At home.

HANNAH Is that.

MICHAEL Because you can never know.

HANNAH Legal? I’m not sure if that’s.

MICHAEL I mean they’re my friends, but.

HANNAH Legal.

MICHAEL And they are my friends. I mean genuine like. You know because there’s colleagues and then theres. Real you know. Always come to me first. You ask anyone, they come to me first. Every day, Michael this, Michael that.

HANNAH They all seem very fond of you.

MICHAEL Michael, my computer’s crashed!

HANNAH I thought you were in accounts.

MICHAEL Michael, I don’t know my tax code!

HANNAH That’s an HR thing really.

MICHAEL But who do they come to? It’s not HR. Well it is eventually, but only because I point them there.

HANNAH When I worked in the Lichfield branch someone poured paint all over my laptop.

MICHAEL Oh, that is.

HANNAH It was covered by the insurance.

MICHAEL Still though.

HANNAH But I lost everything. Everything.

MICHAEL People get jealous. Beautiful young girl. Smart, go-getting.

HANNAH Well I think. Maybe there was a bit more to it.

MICHAEL Stick with me. You’ll be untouchable. And if there’s whisperings of any. Workplace recalibrating.

HANNAH Workforce restructuring.

MICHAEL Whatever they’re calling it, I’ll have words. I’m not saying you should be worried. But last in, first out and all that.

HANNAH Well no. I don’t think.

MICHAEL It happens. Beautiful girl. Jealous people. Stick with me, that’s my advice.

He leans over and touches her hand. She pulls away.

HANNAH I’m sure if I get on with the job at hand I can expect to stay fairly safe.

MICHAEL Eight years. You don’t do that kind of time without learning how the whole thing works.

HANNAH Oh god. Okay, there’s something we need to discuss.

MICHAEL I’ll let them know you’re my girl. Not to be messed with. He winks at her.

HANNAH It’s not that I don’t appreciate the gesture.

MICHAEL Don’t assume you’re safe. No one should assume they’re safe.

HANNAH I never think I’m safe. There are some angry, angry people out there.

MICHAEL But if you were seen to be. You know, connected. To me in some way.

HANNAH Very dangerous environment, the workplace.

MICHAEL My esteem is such that.

HANNAH I just want to make a good impression.

MICHAEL Well I have my files. You could come back. Tonight. We could go through them. Together, if.

HANNAH It’s so hard for me to make friends.

MICHAEL I’m your friend. I’ll be your friend. Why don’t you come back? Then we can.

HANNAH It’s so horrible.

MICHAEL Strategise.

HANNAH Even now, sat here. I know I have to do it but.

MICHAEL Do what?

HANNAH And it’s horrible, awful.

MICHAEL Do what, darling?

HANNAH You’re a lovely man.

MICHAEL Thank you. You’re a lovely woman.

HANNAH And you’ve been with us for eight years.

MICHAEL Yeah that’s what I’m saying.

HANNAH You’re a good person and a good worker.

MICHAEL I know that. I can help you.

HANNAH And whatever happens from here, whatever happens in the future.

MICHAEL We could skip dinner, if. Go straight to.

HANNAH I know you’ll thrive in a new environment.

MICHAEL I’ve got pizzas. Back at.

HANNAH You’ve done some great work with the company. Honestly, we’re really grateful for.

MICHAEL Yeah. What do you mean?

HANNAH You’re a valued member of the team.

MICHAEL What are you.

HANNAH This is horrible. Jeremy was right.

MICHAEL Jeremy? Who’s.

HANNAH He’s always right. I should’ve listened.

MICHAEL Who’s Jeremy?

 HANNAH My fiance.

MICHAEL Fiance?

HANNAH I should have just stood my ground.

MICHAEL Sorry have I. Fiance?

HANNAH I’m better than this. I deserve better.

MICHAEL Does he know about.

HANNAH Michael. I would like to thank you for the years of hard work and commitment you’ve given to the organisation.

MICHAEL Pardon? I don’t know what.

HANNAH But now we feel it’s time.

MICHAEL We feel? Who’s we?

HANNAH That you moved on to new experiences and explored other avenues.

MICHAEL Wait. Wait. I don’t really know what’s.

HANNAH You’re very capable and obviously we’ll support you in any way we can.

MICHAEL No. No hang on.

HANNAH As you know, we’re undergoing a restructuring of the workforce.

MICHAEL You’re. No. No.

HANNAH I’ve been brought in to assess the productivity of the team.

MICHAEL Brought in.

HANNAH And we feel there’s no longer a viable position for you at. At.

MICHAEL What? What are you saying?

HANNAH As you know we’ve had a very difficult year. And we’ve been forced to make some very difficult.

MICHAEL That’s why you’ve.

HANNAH Please don’t hurt me.

MICHAEL You asked me. In front of all my.

HANNAH Please don’t stab me.

MICHAEL You’ve been here two fucking weeks. And then.

HANNAH Please don’t stab me.

MICHAEL And all this.

He gestures at the restaurant.

MICHAEL This was all to.

HANNAH We felt we owed you a. Eight years is a long. Time.

Beat.

MICHAEL No. Don’t. Just don’t.

HANNAH Please I.

MICHAEL I’ll take a cut. I’ll take a pay cut. And my office. I’ll.

HANNAH It’s done. It wasn’t my decision. I’m sorry.

Beat.

MICHAEL This is what I’m worth is it? Skip the starter.

HANNAH I’ll have to tell them about the files. Sounds like it could be a breach of.

MICHAEL And just to clarify. There was never anything. More. Between. I mean the reason. When you spoke to me. Was always.

HANNAH I’m getting married.

MICHAEL Okay. I see.

HANNAH I understand if you don’t want to stay here.

MICHAEL I’ll sue. I will sue you. I just want you to know that.

HANNAH Okay. What for, exactly? Never mind. Don’t.

Beat.

HANNAH Listen I’m sorry. You must be. I do understand if you’d rather just go home. Perhaps that’s the best. Option. Considering.

Micheal stares at Hannah. He opens his menu and reads.

MICHAEL So you said the lamb’s good?

 

Christmas Day

Christmas Dinner. An emormous turkey takes pride of place in the centre of the table, attended by plates of trimmings and condiments.

The Father, the Mother, and four young women sit around the table, ready to eat.

Stood amongst them, clad in army fatigues and holding half a bottle of vodka, is Duncan.

Duncan breathes heavily. The diners watch him.

FATHER It’s great to see you again Duncan.

Beat.

FATHER We’ve missed you around the house. Haven’t we girls?

Beat.

FATHER Why don’t you take a seat?

DUNCAN Piss off.

FATHER Eat with us. You must’ve had a long journey. Girls, make space at the table for your brother.

DUNCAN I’m not their brother.

FATHER You seem upset.

DUNCAN I’m fine.

FATHER Whatever it is, we can help you.

DUNCAN I don’t need your help.

FATHER Duncan. Whatever your problems, no matter how big or small, your family will always be there to help you.

DUNCAN You’re not a family!

FATHER Aren’t we? We certainly look like a family. We feel like a family, don’t we girls?

Beat.

FATHER Why don’t you tell me what family means to you? Your colleagues in the army, are they your family? What about the men you were forced to kill?

Duncan kicks a chair away. It clatters against the wall.

FATHER We’re very proud of you. Serving your country like that. When we found out where you were we were all very proud. Weren’t we girls?

Beat.

FATHER I just wish you’d told us when you were leaving. We could’ve thrown you a little party.

DUNCAN That’s bollocks. That is complete.

FATHER I promise you Duncan.

DUNCAN And you know it.

FATHER You never gave us the chance to show you how much we loved you.

DUNCAN Your love is poison. It’s.

Duncan cries.

DUNCAN It’s poison!

FATHER Sit down, son. You must be exhausted.

Father goes to help him to a seat. Duncan swipes wildly with the vodka bottle.

DUNCAN I’m not your fucking son! You know why I left. Don’t pretend you don’t just cos your little. Congregation is watching. We both know why I left. The question you should be asking yourself. Daddy. Is why I came back.

CASSANDRA Why did you come back Dunc? Why did you just go away and then come back?

Duncan cries again. He strokes Cassandra’s face.

DUNCAN I came back for you girls. I came to save you.

CASSANDRA Why are you crying?

DUNCAN I’m ashamed Cass. I’m ashamed I wasn’t brave enough to come sooner.

FATHER Duncan you must sit down and eat. We can talk this all through after dinner. Right now we’re all very hungry, and you must be absolutely famished. Sit down. Eat with your family. Then afterwards we can have a drop of sherry in the study, eh? Just you and me. Talk things through.

Duncan breathes. Looks at the family. He looks at the food on the table.

DUNCAN You’ve done a beautiful spread Mother.

MOTHER Thank you.

DUNCAN Do you mind if I start?

FATHER Please, go ahead.

Duncan pours the vodka over the turkey from his standing height.

He takes a match from his pocket and strikes it.

DUNCAN Merry Fucking Christmas.

He drops the match onto the turkey. It goes up in a ball of flame.

You Wouldn’t Believe What Mother Said Today

A Patio.

An old lady is sat in an armchair crocheting a tablecloth. Her adult son sits reading the financial section of a newspaper. He has an empty espresso cup on the arm of his chair.

Pause.

MOTHER Did I say that out loud?

SON Say what out loud?

MOTHER That just then. About Georgia’s school uniform.

SON No. You didn’t say anything.

MOTHER Hnn.

Beat.

MOTHER Must’ve said it in my head.

SON I think you did.

She continues to crochet. Her son returns his attention to the newspaper.

MOTHER Did I say that out loud?

SON What?

MOTHER About asking you about the other thing?

SON We just had a brief conversation mother yes.

MOTHER So I did?

SON Yes you did.

MOTHER Hnn.

She returns to her crocheting. Her son observes her for a moment.

William And His Body

A doctor’s surgery.

Dr. Passwater sits on one side of the desk, a file full of notes in front of her.

William sits on the opposite side of the desk, nervous.

DR. PASSWATER It’s grown.

WILLIAM Grown?

DR. PASSWATER It’s now the size of a grape.

WILLIAM What was it last time?

DR. PASSWATER Cherry.

William takes this in.

WILLIAM Why does it always have to be fruit?

DR. PASSWATER Looks good on the charts. For the kids.

WILLIAM Can you operate?

DR. PASSWATER Me? No. I’m a consultant.

WILLIAM I mean. Can they operate?

Dr. Passwater grimaces.

DR. PASSWATER I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking ‘can they operate?’ As if it’s as easy as that. Easy peasy.

WILLIAM Well no. I just.

DR. PASSWATER I mean, it’s not rocket science! But it is brain surgery.

WILLIAM I wouldn’t. Suggest.

DR. PASSWATER Thing is, you cut out a chunk of someone’s brain and something tends to stop working.

WILLIAM How do you mean?

DR. PASSWATER We start digging around in your cerebral cortex and all of a sudden you’ve forgotten how to read. Hack off a frontal lobe and you can’t recognise your own wife. That kind of thing. It’ll be like us spilling coffee on your laptop.

WILLIAM Jesus.

DR. PASSWATER Truth is we won’t know until it gets to clementine. Whether it’s safe I mean. Chances are it’s not.

WILLIAM Clementine.

DR. PASSWATER It’s after lycee. On the chart.

William rubs his face.

WILLIAM God.

Dr. Passwater checks her watch.

WILLIAM So, what? Am I going to die?

DR. PASSWATER Absolutely.

WILLIAM From the tumour?

DR. PASSWATER Oh!

Dr. Passwater laughs at her mistake, shakes her head.

DR. PASSWATER Probably.

WILLIAM Is there anything we can do?

DR. PASSWATER At this stage? Absolutely nothing.

WILLIAM What about chemotherapy?

DR. PASSWATER Apart from chemotherapy.

WILLIAM So that’s a possibility?

DR. PASSWATER Yes and no. Mainly no. We have one machine, and there’s a priority list in place.

WILLIAM Priority list? What are you saving it for? Mangoes?

DR. PASSWATER No need to be facetious.

WILLIAM Bloody watermelons?

DR. PASSWATER Celebrities actually.

WILLIAM I’m sorry I don’t quite.

DR. PASSWATER People of fame or repute. Or particular wealth.

WILLIAM Famous people? You save the chemotherapy machine for famous people?

DR. PASSWATER It’s a PR thing. For the clinic. We’ve got that guy from Emmerdale in this afternoon. You know the one with cancer. He’s bringing a reality TV crew with him.

WILLIAM This is insane.

DR. PASSWATER We might’ve been able to squeeze you in tomorrow morning, but Dale Winton’s found a lump. Then Thursday we’ve got Gale Porter.

WILLIAM Gale Porter has alopecia.

Beat. Dr. Passwater consults her file.

DR. PASSWATER Hmmm.

WILLIAM Can I have her slot?

Dr. Passwater thinks for a second. She sighs and takes out a questionnaire.

She clicks her pen.

DR. PASSWATER Age?

WILLIAM 32.

DR. PASSWATER Sex?

WILLIAM Uh. Male.

DR. PASSWATER Life insurance?

WILLIAM Nope.

DR. PASSWATER Blood type?

WILLIAM O Negative.

DR. PASSWATER Nice. Ever suffered from arthritis?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Palsy?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Polio?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Gout?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Heart failure?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Angina, chronic, acute or otherwise?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Asthma?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Eczema?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Appendicitis?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Brittle bone disease grades 2-7?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Rickets?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Lazy eye?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Wandering eye?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Eye of the Tiger?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Parkinson’s disease?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Wogan’s syndrome?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Norton’s Infection.

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Tennis elbow?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Dancer’s ankle?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Rambler’s hip?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Fencer’s shoulder?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Jogger’s nipple?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Housewife’s jaw?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Plasterer’s radio?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Sub-cutaneal lipo-disfigurement?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Acute nervous retinal detachment?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Advanced seasonal cognitive misappropriation?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Extreme spontaneous dental hydroplosion?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Di-nitrotoxic plasmo-psychosis?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Cyrrosis of the liver?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Osmosis of the kidneys?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Inertia of the colon?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Protrusion of the rectum?

WILLIAM What?

DR. PASSWATER Answer the question.

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Gall stones?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Kidney stones?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Flint stones?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Overactive mucus gland?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Underactive prostate gland?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Hepatitis A-G?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Erectile dysfunction?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Projectile misfunction?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Premature emasculation?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Heart murmur?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Kidney whisper?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Stomach growl?

WILLIAM Occasionally.

She looks at him. Ticks the form.

DR. PASSWATER Syphilis?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Hysteria?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Phantom pregnancy?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER M.E.?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER M.S.?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER T.B.?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER Any S.T.I.s?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER P.M.T.?

WILLIAM No?

DR. PASSWATER S.A.D.?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER R.S.I.?

WILLIAM No.

DR.PASSWATER R.E.S.P.E.C.T.?

WILLIAM Pardon?

DR. PASSWATER It’s a very serious condition.

WILLIAM Oh. No.

DR. PASSWATER Cancer of the liver, lungs, colon, pancreas, bone, blood, heart, testes, prostate or throat?

WILLIAM No.

DR. PASSWATER And finally, any brain tumours?

Dr. Passwater ticks the form.

DR. PASSWATER Yes.

She writes.

DR. PASSWATER Brackets, grape.

She takes out a calculator.

DR. PASSWATER Bear with me a moment. She consults the questionnaire and starts making calculations.

WILLIAM How long can I expect the treatment period to last?

Beat. She calculates.

WILLIAM Just thinking whether I need to apply for sick leave. I hear the effects of chemo can be. Pretty.

Dr. Passwater finishes her calculations. She writes down two figures on a piece of paper and puts them in front of William.

WILLIAM What are these?

DR. PASSWATER The one on the left is how much you’re costing the state as a sick person. That’s tax losses when you leave work, incapacity benefits, the cost of consultations, cancer drugs, chemotherapy and, in later weeks, hospitality.

WILLIAM Oh my goodness. And what about the one on the right?

DR. PASSWATER Well, that figure is.

WILLIAM Yes?

DR. PASSWATER No don’t be alarmed, it’s not as macabre as it seems.

WILLIAM What isn’t? What does it mean?

DR. PASSWATER Just take a deep breath.

WILLIAM It’s bigger than the other one. What is it?

DR. PASSWATER Please try and see things from a.

WILLIAM For god’s sake just tell me what it is.

DR. PASSWATER The figure on the right is how much you’re worth. Dead.

WILLIAM Dead?

DR. PASSWATER As you can see, it’s nearly four times higher.

WILLIAM Dead? I don’t. I don’t.

DR. PASSWATER Organs can be sold to independent research clinics around the world. Hair can be sold to wig makers. Blood to the Red Cross. Eyeballs to specialist surgeons in China. Teeth to gypsies for jewellery. I could go on. Your testicles are a delicacy in.

WILLIAM I get it. Thank you.

DR. PASSWATER You have a young family, is that correct?

WILLIAM A. A little girl.

DR. PASSWATER That’s nearly half a million your next of kin stand to inherit. Minus our fee.

WILLIAM This is. Ridiculous. I mean.

DR. PASSWATER Give it some thought.

WILLIAM You’re saying I should. What, kill myself?

DR. PASSWATER Not kill yourself, no. We have a team of. It’s all on the leaflet.

She takes out a leaflet and puts it on the table.

WILLIAM This. This is. I’m sorry, is this a joke?

DR. PASSWATER No.

WILLIAM Because I find this in very bad taste. I don’t know who you’re trying to amuse here.

DR. PASSWATER I want you to think long and hard about what difference it would make if you were dead. Financial implications aside.

WILLIAM What difference? Well it would make a pretty bloody big difference to me!

DR. PASSWATER I had one of my assistants compile a report just in case. It makes for interesting reading.

WILLIAM What do you mean, report? What report?

She opens another file.

DR. PASSWATER Your supervisor rates your productivity at around 54% and your value to the company at 46%.

WILLIAM What is this?

DR. PASSWATER Your earning power is below average for your age group.

WILLIAM You have got to be kidding me.

DR. PASSWATER Your current contribution to charitable organisations is zero.

WILLIAM No. I’m sorry, no.

DR. PASSWATER It’ll take Victoria an estimated 38 weeks to find a new partner. And another 55 weeks to remarry. Furthermore, you’ll leave behind no direct descendents.

WILLIAM What? Direct. What about Isabelle?

DR. PASSWATER Isabelle.

WILLIAM Yes my daughter Isabelle.

DR. PASSWATER Your daughter?

Dr. Passwater consults the file.

DR. PASSWATER I have the DNA results in front of me right now and they don’t. You’re not.

WILLIAM No. No.

DR. PASSWATER Isabelle was conceived in the last week of May three years ago, whilst, according to this, you were on a business trip in.

WILLIAM Saddleworth.

DR. PASSWATER And your wife was staying with.

WILLIAM Steve. Oh my god.

Beat.

DR. PASSWATER Try not to think of it as losing a daughter, so much as gaining a niece.

Pause. Dr. Passwater nudges the leaflet closer.

DR. PASSWATER Have a long think about your next move. You have just over a month before it reaches lemon. By which I mean terminal.

Beat.

WILLIAM Thank you for your help, doctor.

DR. PASSWATER That’s what I’m here for.

WILLIAM Do you. Take care.

DR. PASSWATER Everything. We take care of everything.

WILLIAM I think I know what to do now.

DR. PASSWATER Good. Feel free to make an appointment at reception on your way out.

Beat. He doesn’t move.

DR. PASSWATER On your way out.

WILLIAM Am I really as useless as all that?

DR. PASSWATER You’re a very valuable human being.

William stands up, slowly moves to exit. Turns, picks up the leaflet, exits.

Dr. Passwater presses her intercom.

DR. PASSWATER  Sandra, can we confirm Dale for tomorrow morning please? Has he actually found a tumour this time, or is it another lump of Brylcreem?

A Wake

The smoking area outside a pub.

Pete, is stood by himself wearing black, sipping from a pint of beer and smoking a cigarette.

A shorter man, Trevor, also wearing black and holding a bottle, ambles near him. He puts a cigarette in his mouth, then pats himself down for a lighter.

Pete offers his. Trevor takes it with a nod. Lights his cigarette, hands it back.

TREVOR Very sad isn’t it?

PETE Hm? Oh, yes. Tragic.

TREVOR Tragic, that’s the word for it. Yeah. Tragic. All those sad faces in there. I really felt for them. They all looked so sad, didn’t they?

TREVOR pulls a sad face.

TREVOR Like that. God bless ’em.

Pete nods.

TREVOR I feel sorry for the children.

PETE hmmn.

TREVOR Grandkids growing up without a granddaddy. Having to make do with a grandmother who ain’t a barrel of laughs. Let’s face it. Even with all this going on. Give us a smile love, we’ve come all the way out here.

Pause. They smoke.

TREVOR And they said there’d be a buffet.

PETE Did they?

TREVOR Yeah. On the invitation. Said there’d be a buffet.

PETE Hm.

TREVOR Probably forgot, with everything else going on.

PETE Probably grieving.

TREVOR Yeah. Too busy weeping their little hearts out to get it sorted.

PETE It happens, time like this. People forget things.

TREVOR Still, doesn’t take much to chop up a few sarnies. Couple of scotch eggs.

PETE Well.

TREVOR: Know what I mean though? They’ve had the morning to get some cheese and pineapple chunks on the go. That’s all we’re asking for really.

PETE Usually be a caterer sorted all that out.

TREVOR Exactly, it’s only a phone call. I know a couple of lads would’ve done the job no problem. Appreciated a pay day and all.

PETE Probably the grief. Slipped through the net.

TREVOR Aye that’s one way of looking at it.

PETE How do you mean?

TREVOR All’s I’m saying is. He wasn’t exactly the Duke of Westminster was he? Judging by this place. Fucking hell. Reminds me of being back in borstal. Kind of suits the mood though, you know? Welcome to the most depressing pub in England. Most people would still be crying even if they weren’t at a fucking wake.

PETE Never liked funerals. They’re so morbid.

TREVOR Give them a break now. You just chucked your husband into a furnace, you don’t wanna go on to a cocktail party at bloody TGI Fridays.

PETE No. Just saying it always seems like a bit of a waste of money.

TREVOR I’d be inclined to agree with you. I just think a buffet is a minimum requirement. Bring people out here.

Pause. Pete finishes his cigarette.

TREVOR I’ll be alright. I found some dry roasted peanuts in the glove box. But people will be thinking about supper soon enough. She’s doing herself a disservice. You watch. ‘Oh, I’d love to stay, but I’d better get a casserole in the oven.’ This place will be completely dead by half seven.

PETE Sooner the better. I reckon.

TREVOR Ah, you really want these things to go on past ten. She’d have booked this room out for the night so it really is a false economy to deprive your guests.

PETE It’s a formality. You have to have one because everyone else does.

TREVOR And I suppose we’d all be slung in a ditch if it was up to you.

PETE By all means make a big song and dance about it. So long as you’ve done something worth celebrating. You heard the er. The guy.

TREVOR The priest.

PETE Thirty four years as a plumber, then he gets knocked off his bike. End of. Oh, and he enjoyed the odd round of golf. We’re not talking Nelson Mandela here are we?

TREVOR Yeah. He weren’t exactly Mother Theresa.

PETE He wasn’t. You know. Nelson Mandela.

Trevor shrugs.

TREVOR Excuse to have a few beers and share some memories. Get all your old pals together in one place.

PETE You know people here then do you?

TREVOR No. You?

PETE Nope.

TREVOR Not a soul. It’s all quite awkward really.

PETE Spent most of it out here.

TREVOR Ah now, I’ve done the rounds. Just wanted to find out what the bloody hell’s going on with this buffet. Given up now though. Whole thing’s a shambles.

Beat.

TREVOR And the bar’s out of pork scratchings. Absolutely no communication between the various parties.

PETE Look at the minibus debacle.

TREVOR Exactly. Half the guests stood out in the pissing rain, just to get carted off to some dreary little back room without so much as a disc of salami for sustenance. I mean come on. Bit of thought. We’re missing a meal being here. Twenty minutes around Iceland would’ve done it.

PETE If you’re going to Iceland you’ve got to factor in defrosting time. And that can vary. Particularly if things need heating up as well.

TREVOR I’m not asking for high tea at the Ritz you know. Just a few nibbles. Keep the wolves from the door.

PETE You can’t take a chicken tikka skewer straight from the fridge. Even mini sausage rolls have to be warmed through once. That’s a caterer’s job.

TREVOR I should give her my number. Could’ve sorted something no problem.

PETE Your area is it?

TREVOR I’ve got my fingers in a few different pies.

PETE Right. You a baker then?

TREVOR No. I mean the nature of my work is multi-faceted.

Trevor hands Pete his card from his back pocket.

TREVOR I oversee a variety of city-wide operations. Facilitating the transportation of commercial and industrial units from a geographical perspective.

PETE ‘Man with van’.

TREVOR That’s the industry term for it, yeah.

PETE ‘Trevor’.

TREVOR That’s my van right there.

Trevor points.

PETE What, the one that says Trevor’s Van on it?

TREVOR No the other one. The blue one. Not sure who’s that one is. Do you need anything moving?

PETE Not that I can think of, no.

TREVOR Oh. Can I have that back then? I’ve only got a few left.

Pete hands Trevor his card back.

TREVOR Business is a bit slow. Seems that everyone’s happy with where their stuff is at the moment. As soon as everyone wants their stuff put somewhere else, well that’s boom time as far as I’m concerned.

PETER I can imagine.

TREVOR Do you know anyone who might need something moving?

PETE Not of the top of my head

TREVOR Don’t be put off by the size of the van. I do small stuff as well. I once drove a teapot to Cardiff.

PETE Really can’t think of anything.

TREVOR Hm. You’re not alone there.

PETE We have our own vans for that stuff.

TREVOR I see. What’s your line of work then?

PETE I’m a utilities supply manager.

TREVOR Oh. Do you mind if we talk about something else?

PETE Fair enough. Boring, isn’t it?

TREVOR I wouldn’t know. Don’t really fancy finding out though.

PETE No point in pushing a conversation where it doesn’t want to go.

TREVOR You’re pissing into the wind if you do.

PETE People always try and force it, don’t they?

TREVOR Do you remember growing up. Anyone could approach you in the street and just start chatting away to you, even if you were a complete stranger?

PETE Yeah.

TREVOR Fucking glad those days are over.

PETE Waste of time if you ask me.

TREVOR All that effort just to end up dead in a box. Alone. Two dozen stragglers standing around a grim little boozer, talking about their holidays and moaning about the lack of canapes.

PETE Only thing worse than funerals. Weddings.

TREVOR You don’t like weddings?

PETE They’re arrogant. It’s an arrogant thing to do.

TREVOR I tell you one thing, you’re guaranteed a proper three course meal at a wedding. Free bar if there’s a bit of this going round.

Trevor rubs his fingers together.

TREVOR Nice piece of cake. I always feel guilty not knowing people at a wedding. Like I have to earn my place. A funeral’s different, it’s like a surprise party. You want it to be as busy as possible and don’t care who turns up. Sometimes I think I’m doing them a favour. Making up the numbers a bit, you know. That’s why I had no qualms about coming here, even though I never met the guy.

PETE How’s that then?

TREVOR Funny really. I got one of his kidneys.

PETE Piss off.

TREVOR Swear on my life mate.

PETE I got his other one.

TREVOR Shut up now.

Pete lifts up his shirt and shows his scar.

TREVOR Well fuck me sideways. Ha ha! So you’re AB negative as well?

PETE That I am. That I am.

TREVOR It’s been the bane of my life this blood type.

PETE Tell me about it.

TREVOR We’re resilient fuckers, aren’t we! There was this one lad. Stabbed outside his house. Fell into a coma and I got the phone call. Well, I was rubbing my hands. Bought a bottle of champagne and everything. Two weeks later, he wakes up. Two fucking weeks. I was livid. I said ‘I thought the cut off point was ten days’, they were like ‘oh, he was showing positive signs’. I just said ‘rules are rules’, and walked out. Bloody livid I was.

PETE I had to cancel a holiday to Corfu twice last year. So when I heard another fella had come off his bike.

TREVOR You were dubious.

PETE To say the least.

TREVOR But then they told you that his head was under the wheel of a bendy bus.

PETE But his organs were intact.

Trevor laughs.

TREVOR Well, cheers.

Trevor and Pete clink their beer bottles together.

TREVOR What did you do to your old ones then?

PETE “Chronic interstitial nephritis.”

Trevor pulls an involuntary grimace.

PETE Got it in my twenties. Been on the list for nine years. How about you?

TREVOR It’s the booze that done it to me. I should probably lay off this actually.

Trevor waves his beer bottle.

TREVOR But it’s the only thing they were giving away for free.

PETE There’s free beer?

TREVOR Few bottles near the front as you came in. Reckon they’ll be long gone now though.

Pete tuts and glances vainly into the doorway of the pub. 

TREVOR It’s only cheep German shit anyway. In keeping with the theme. No expense spent. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful, like. But come on. We drove past a Tesco Express to get here.

PETE Now you mention it I could eat.

Trevor checks his watch.

TREVOR Here, I know a pub round the corner. It’s got proper ales and it does fish and chips till 9 on weekdays. What do you reckon?

PETE I hate funerals anyway. Bloody depressing if you ask me.

TREVOR I’m with you there pal.

Pete looks around to check no one is looking. Trevor grins and leads the way.

Mother (Second Variation)

Jack. She holds my face. Holds it tight, pushing my cheeks in like this.

Jack pushes his cheeks in.

‘Look at that face’, she says. Obviously I can’t. My mother is a particularly stupid beast, right? She is not smart whichever way you look at it. She was attractive once, I’ve seen the pictures. But mostly she’s unintelligent. And this is a case in point because she’s stood holding my head like a. Like a clamp. And telling me to look at my own face. Behind me my driver’s side door’s open and all my worldy possessions are in the back seat, and round here’s the kind of place you lose a fight before you know you’re in one, if you get me. So she starts on about how young I am and I’m having to stare back at her because she’s not giving me any choice. And then she says ‘don’t waste it’.

And I say, waste what?

And she holds my face tighter, and says ‘What you’ve got’.

I’m just like, what the fuck? ‘I won’t’, I say.

‘Not like me’, she says. And then she starts to cry a bit, and says ‘if I had it all back, I’d probably just waste it again.’