Showing posts with label sketches. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sketches. Show all posts

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The TruthTeller and The Idiot (Hard to tell which is which)

A GP surgery. Doctor Wilkelfield Finkelfukal is sitting behind his desk.

Doctor: (sighing) Take a seat.

Long pause.

Doctor: Do you know that one thousand individuals dictate the thoughts, opinions, customs, trends and fads of our entire world of seven billion people? What we eat, wear, read, watch, talk about, do, think?

I: Well ... No.

Doctor: I thought so. You're an Idiot!


Doctor: Do you know I was beat and bullied as a boy. Of course not! Furthermore, my head's too big for my body, my body's too big for my trousers, and my wife sounds like a squealing fiddle! The stink of boredom is everywhere. I'm dead and so are you! A trivial matter, you'll agree.

I: I'm sorry ...

Doctor: To hell with your damned, "I'm sorry". What are you here to whine about?

I: (uncomfortable) Well ... Sometimes, I hold two thoughts at the same time. For instance, my life has purpose, yet it is without meaning. Sometimes, when I'm in a room full of people I feel I'm in an echo chamber listening to myself. Sometimes ...

Doctor: Sometimes! Sometimes! Sometimes! Me! Me! Me! Get a grip on yourself! Can't you talk without bleating?! You live in a dream world like most idiots. (Shouts) Wake up! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?! WACH AUF!

Long pause.

Doctor: There's no point in telling you lies. I'm a hypocrite and a wretched doctor. What impelled me to live in this multi-coloured hell escapes me. Don't be fooled by certificates, diplomas and expertise. A day comes when all men and women are proved wrong. (Thoughtful) Even a professed 'genius' like Einstein will get his comeuppance one day. I believe he never took his hands out of his trouser pockets, even in bed. What a strange man?! (Pause) A few inescapable truths - I see I'm overwhelming you - something like genius cannot be measured. What's more, excess of wealth, or natural ability, do not ensure happiness, success, or freedom from diarrhea.

I: (timidly) Indeed ...

Doctor: I'm sorry to say there's no medication for your condition.

I: Really?

Doctor: Yes. Really. You appear to me to be a person who is holding on. Old and weary before your time. A mixture of anger, tenderness and shattered visions. In short, you're carrying a perpetual burden. A million shapes and sizes of shadow beleaguer your mediocre mind!

I: I see ... Well ...

Doctor: Isn't it good to fit into society. However that may be, I once aspired to be a farmer's wife: my parents were livid, of course. Instead, I'm a faceless false dummy who has to listen to dreadful boring people whining and sobbing all day about large dark clouds and the absence of clear blue sky. (Thoughtful) One can only guess, of course ...

I: (timidly) Really ...

Doctor: You're not the only one with a neurotic fear of growing old. We're bombarded daily with images of smooth faces like 'Thanksgiving Day' balloons, pert breasts, lineless mouths and full lips. (Pause) Here's my prognosis. You've taken stock of your life and realised how little you've achieved. You are leading a factitious life and not going anywhere. Welcome to the club, old chum!

I: Oh …

Doctor: (writing) Have you heard of euthanasia?

I: No … I don't think so?

Doctor: Excellent. Take this confidential letter to a doctor friend of mine. His name and address is written on the envelope. He'll show - sorry - tell you all you need to know about the subject. (Pause) And good luck with the rest of your short life.

I:  You said short?! ...

Doctor: It did sound like it. I said, 'Good luck with the rest of your sport life'. You must learn to be less anxious. Goodbye.

The Idiot walks out into the sun and faints.

Reflections:  My wife is besotted with her in-car digital radio which she listens to in bed at night. My thoughts become hindered as I gaze at her lying in bed, bobbing her head, and wielding her feet aloft in time with the racket from her radio. When she exists in this 'self-induced' exile I am forced to confront my own neglected thoughts: a dreadful and precarious position for a dull, exaggerated creature such as myself.

When language runs dry the mind is derailed. I walk around the old town square several times without seeing a living soul. They could be hiding perhaps, or pretending to be woodpeckers. I sit on a stone sculpture, brood, and doze off.  Not good for the piles, not good at all.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Tranquil Clock

An apartment. The white moonlight falls on each object in the living room in turn. The carpet, the table, the sofa, a bookcase, the pictures and paintings on the wall, a two-handed mahogany wall clock. All the inanimate objects appear to come alive, guests of the unusual white light. A meeting place for reality and illusion. A room invested with life. The minute hand (MH) and the hour hand (HH) of the clock strike up a conversation.

MH: I can't find my shoes.

HH: You're a hand on a clock. Hands don't wear shoes. You need feet to wear shoes.

MH: I can wear shoes if I wish.

HH: If that's the case, what do you intend to do with the shoes?

MH: Go for a walk.

HH: Where to? Am I invited?

MH: Only if you have a pair of shoes. (Pause) I feel a bowel movement coming on. (Pause) No. It's passed. I was thinking of going to see the town hall clock. I believe the clock was made by Dotards & Sons of Liverpool and the bell and chimes by Naysayer & Co of Scarborough. It is said the chimes are beautiful to the ear and pleasing to the soul.

HH: Amazing. How do you know all this?

MH: I heard the mistress of the house conversing. A fine looking woman. She had friends over for lunch. (Pause) You must have been daydreaming? A calamitous thing for a clock hand. They were elegantly dressed and sat around eating cake and drinking tea. During their conversations they talked about the beauty and splendor of the town hall clock.

HH: Indeed.

MH: I listened in polite silence, of course.

HH: Of course. What with?

MH: My ears.

HH: You don't have ears.

MH: How do you know? You can't see.

HH: Irrefutable.

MH: That's a big word for something that can't speak.

HH: And for something that can't hear.

MH: Exactly.

HH: A fine pair we are.

MH: Indeed.


MH: Do you think it will ever end?

HH: What?

MH: Our friendship? Our existence?


MH: That's funny. You shook your head.

HH: What's funny?

MH: You don't have a head. Neither have I.

HH: You're reading too many spiritual books.

MH: I can't read and neither can you.

HH: True.


MH: Do you think we have an ultimate goal beyond our prevailing use?

HH: We are on a road with no sign posts. My soul tells me that you and I have a timeless, ultimate meaning. That is all.

MH: You are indeed wise, even if I don't fully understand your explanation.

HH: You're not alone. We could not exist without doubt.

MH: I'm pleased you are my friend.

HH: It is reciprocated for all eternity.

Reflections:  Some individuals seem to possess qualities of character and a personality which others - no matter how long they may live - will never possess. Even when one feels irascible, bewildered, indignant, the value of an authentic friend is invaluable.

However, if you're looking for a friend without faults you'll end up with none. Sometimes its hard to tell the wheat from the chaff. Just don't wait too long to find out which category some of your friend's are in - they may use and abuse you, and move on to the next soft touch.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Groundhog Day at the HR Department

The inner sanctum of the HR Department. The midday sun beats through the windows and lights on two individuals.

'Peter, you're great.'

'And so are you, Selina.'

'Not as great as you, Peter.'

'You're still great, Selina.'

'Do you think so? You're not just saying I'm great because I always say you're great?'

'I mean it. You're great.'

'That's great. Here's Mary. Mary, you look great.'

'Well, thank you. You both look great.'

'Not as great as you, Mary.'

'Do you think so? You're not just saying I look great because I always say you both look great?'

'No. You look, and are, great, Mary.'

'That's great. Here's Maureen. Maureen, you look great.'

'Do you think so? You're not all agreeing I look great because I always say you three always look great?'

'No. You look, and are, great.'

'Never complain if someone says you look, and are, great.'

'Maureen, that's why you're so great.'

'And never confide in those who are greater than you are. That way one can't be improved or corrected. Heaven forbid, if one's greatness was to be judged and found wanting.'

'Maureen, you are indeed great. Isn't it wonderful that matters like the prolonged economic downturn, restructuring, organisational changes, job insecurity and cuts, planned redundancies, bullying, belittling people, making unreasonable and repeated demands on staff, creating undue stress and fear, never impact on our "divine" department?'

'Indeed, Selina. That's precisely why Peter is so great. He has a double face. He is supremely vain. He never speaks without boasting. He recognizes inferiority. He considers himself more intelligent than anyone else. He never hesitates to perform the 'dirty work.' When Board Members, managers, staff, union representatives, ask awkward questions Peter never gives a straight answer. That's why Peter is so great.'

'Oh, Peter, you're excruciatingly great. Shall we all go to the works canteen for lunch?'

'I confess to feeling ill at ease eating close to staff whose jobs are on the line. Let's go somewhere decadently extravagant. After all, we have the money and job security even if 'major reforms' are implemented in the near future. How many people can say that in this day and age?'

'Oh, Peter, you really are so, so, great.'

Reflection: One springy afternoon, while contemplating how I might illuminate and shape my adult life, I began to count the number of hairs on my head. I lost count at 82,469 when one hair fell on the floor. I had to start from scratch. It's a widely held belief in scientific circles that if a person is in possession of a full head of hair they should have approximately 100,000 hairs. My mind began to race:
  1. If I pull one hair a day from my head I should be completely bald in about 270 years. Who will continue the process after I am cremated?
  2. I have another 99,999 single hairs to pull out. What if I don't suit being partially, or totally, bald?
  3. Could I sell my hair on eBay? Is there a market for single hairs, or must I have a heap?
  4. What constitutes a heap?

Saturday, July 09, 2011

The Two Workers

The Two Workers

In the suburbs of a city two men stand talking.

John:  I took pride in the job. I was as happy as the day was long.

Paul:  I wonder what the 'Good Fellow' up there thinks about all this?

John:  It's a sad freedom we face. 

Paul:  I feel a madness descending.

John:  They say I had the smile of a saint.

Paul:  I'm frightened of the young. Splitting themselves laughing ... Riotous behaviour. Were we ever boisterous like that?

John:  I inspired confidence.

Paul:  You were well known for that.

John:  A fine open laugh, and a firm handshake. I was smart. Played them at their own game. 

Paul:  No one better.

John:  All I see now is the end of the road. What will I tell Mary? And us living in a crumbling, dark house.

Paul:  I could do odd jobs if it weren't for my rheumatism.

John:  When I was young I thought I knew my mind. But events, personalities, guilt, changed all that. I'm not one for bearing grudges. All I desired was a warm home for Mary's sake. She has stood by me in thick and thin.

Paul:  As beautiful as pink linen raised to the sun.   

John:  Victims of mismanagement, ineptitude. (Pause) There have been others like us, and there will be others' long after we're gone. What matters is what they want. They'll wreck the place. But it will be replaced. As sure as hell, it will be.

Paul:  We devoted our lives to their demands. Do you think anyone cares about the daily existence of ordinary people?

John:  The silence is deafening. We've been cold-shouldered. Now we're a burden. (Pause) There's no denying nature has dealt us a mighty blow. How are we to move forward? Stay on our feet? Regain our self-esteem?

Paul:  We were caught asleep when we should have been wide awake. Those loud-mouthed-good-for-nothings conspired behind our backs. Nothing but "touts and traitors" to the real workers! Every one of them!

John:  As the body grows sadder life gets harder. I have my wife and son to worry about. What shall I say? Mary will be upset. She'll think I did something dishonourable. How will she look at me and see the same man again?

Paul:  We're victims of gamesters content for us to play their game with their rules. It never crossed their minds we have opinions and ideas of our own. They shrugged their shoulders and laughed. Fraudsters, plunderers, adulterers, riffraff, the lot of them.


John:  Today the earth feels empty except for the two of us standing here. We're suffering because of their indifference, lack of imagination. (Pause) There's more than one reason for anything of importance that happens in life. Disharmony, disorder and disaster do not happen by chance. We worked under the illusion they were principled, honest, intelligent, of high virtue. Who will judge their transgressions and insincerity?

Paul:  I achieved great pleasure carrying out my work. Today I view it all with contempt and misguided loyalty.  In truth, I despised them. Some of their directives and beliefs went over my head. I'll not lie. Why should they escape personal judgment? Are we to remain passive to their back-room politics and intrigues? What about the decisions taken while we were understaffed and overworked. (Pause) Their stench pervades the wind. I can hardly breathe. The 'name' will be sullied forever.

John:  My parents lived with ease in hardy, rural surroundings without the clitter-clatter of unnecessary worldly goods. They didn't have the extremes of anxieties that beset those who have lost touch with the world and nature. Yet, they were happy. We took long walks through the fields and forests, up and down hills accompanied by the sun or dark-blue clouds. I remember looking up at my father and mother with love shining from my eyes. I remember squeals of laughter, teasing, listening to my breath.


You and I have families to support. Callousness and careless actions have closed our workplace, without prior notice. Yet our ideals remain the same. The hard light of the sun has waned for now. That's the way it is. We must open the doors of disillusionment soon, otherwise our lives won't hold water.


Paul:  I can no longer believe in the future. I'm old and the world is going to hell! They should be condemned to death!

John:  A thing is beautiful until it is perfected. Then it becomes ugly and, worse, arcane. The fiasco of life is that the search for perfection is illusory. That's how it must be for the moment.

Reflections: Until today I wasn't sure what the most dangerous thing was in my home. I thought it was my drug-addicted, hatchet-waving son, running around in the sunken hours of the morning screaming 'Enter Sandman!' I was wrong. Recent research has confirmed that 'all' dishwashers  contain 'black tough fungi'. This 'fungi' is known to survive heat, salt, strong detergents, acid, beatings with baseball bats, and missile attack.

Since this information came to my attention I sleep in a wardrobe in my bedroom. I constantly smell of mothballs. In fact, during one period of severe trembling (on hearing objects moving in my kitchen) I swallowed four or five mothballs. I hallucinated and became a hair in Einstein's nostril. As to how and when it will all end I have no idea.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Dozing Doctor

My doctor has dozed off. His breathing is disorganised and the stale scent of alcohol hangs in the air. I've noticed his patience has been waning lately. Perhaps it has with other patients, too? As I entered his consulting room ten minutes ago he looked pale, wriggled his fingers, yawned, and with a cheerless, lethargic voice enquired, 'And how are we, today? Still ill and dying, I trust?'

The Doctor is normally a rational human being with a determined face and intelligent eyes. This morning, however, he seems paralyzed by emotional trauma, sarcasm and indifference. I notice that his wedding ring is missing. His tormented face and toneless voice make me ill at ease. 

'What are you here for?' he barks, as if worn out from asking questions.

'I'm worried about the side effect of a drug you prescribed last month. While I sleep my left leg goes for walks without me.'

'How do you know it goes for walks if you are sleeping?' he asks, sighing deeply.

'Sometimes I pretend to be asleep. Then a short while later my left leg gets out of bed and leaves the house.'

'So what?' he says wearily. 'Do you think it's having an affair with another leg, perhaps? Are you frightened it will run off with some other leg and leave you after all these years? Stand up to your left leg! Demand your rights! Wear ladies tights to keep your legs together, if necessary!'

I sit in silence, stunned by his outburst.

'Patients don't understand that doctors get bored listening to them. Yes, bored. I see you are shocked by my confession. So what! The staff in this place don't even say 'good morning', a simple 'hello', 'goodbye', 'safe journey home' to me. Can you believe that? This place is a cauldron of disorder, disharmony, and accusations!'

I have an irresistible urge to scream. I feel nauseous. My stomach starts to churn.

The doctor bows his head, sighs, and in a tired voice says, 'If I were at home right now I'd be on my own. Life is a simple story. It's not the same story for everyone, but it's a story all the same. You fall in love, get married, have children, and you work. You work so goddamn hard you forget about love. You forget it's the most important thing in your life. My wife suffered a long time without me knowing about it, and I'm supposed to be a doctor. She left me a note saying she was tired of me, tired of our life, tired of being unhappy. To tell the truth, I, was unhappy, too. She took off with a rich sweet-talker who, like every other human being, has within themselves the potential for destruction, treachery, delusion and deceit.'

Another prolonged period of silence descends. The doctor's voice softens. 'I see your left leg is back. Treat it with love and respect. And don't be too tired to tell it you love it. Everything meaningful that happens in one's life has many meanings, not one. Take time to heal yourself. Take back control of your life, your body, your left leg ... '

The doctor's head drops between his knees, he begins to snore.

I lean back in the soft black chair, and think: 'How precious time, love and health are. Would the doctor take his wife back if she returned to him? Would he still love her? Is it possible to love someone more than once, or is that delusional? Could he trust her again? Perhaps his time has come and gone. Perhaps his life will now be one of immense sorrow and anger? His nights long and full of false, painful memories.'

The image of the dozing doctor's posture will remain with me. I wish I could say (with absolute confidence) the same about my left leg. 

Reflections:  It's remarkable how unperturbed some people feel about living in a hermetically sealed world. Ear phones are a definite deterrent to a meaningful conversation, unless you happen to have a XL megaphone at your disposal. On a recent visit to London I observed many people on the underground, on buses, in restaurants and at a concert (?!), sitting in isolation wired to iPods, cellphones and other technological gadgetry, totally unaware of the natural sounds and vistas or friends and lovers in their company.

Some passers-by walked swiftly along the pavement: eating, drinking, talking on cellphones, listening to music on iPods, charging through people and displaying limited understanding of good manners and etiquette. This increasing trend is not unique to London, however. The number of gadgets are increasing, and becoming smaller and cheaper. In fact, I have five: one in each ear, one in each nostril, and another in my belly button. It's a losing battle . . .

Monday, March 14, 2011

CSI: Ards (Crime Scene Investigation: Newtownards)

It's Sunday night. Newtownards looks like a town swallowed up in quicksand. A place full of cold resentment: empty of people, church towers and statues. Even the homeless have gone home. Without looking at each other, CSI Detective 51st Grade, O. Bluebottom, and CSI Detective 52nd Grade, A. Pinkbottom - both rookies in the PSNI - walk towards the crime scene. Their police car has been stolen as they guzzled food in a local hamburger joint. The vehicle resides a short distance away on a petrol station forecourt.

Both officers string up yellow tape. Their job now is to keep spectators and the media back from the crime scene. Not an easy task when there is no one about. Bluebottom and Pinkbottom turn away from the police car, spread their feet wide apart, and place their hands in each other's utility belt.

The Mobile Crime Team arrive. On sighting Bluebottom and Pinkbottom the flashing strobe lights bars immediately cease and the vehicle speeds towards Belfast. Chortling and catcalls flow from the disappearing car. 'They don't look like Dempsey and Makepeace, that's for sure! If I were married to Pinkbottom I'd start divorce proceedings, pronto. Do you think Bluebottom pees standing up or sitting down? Looks like he's fixing to cry.'

'See!' says Pinkbottom. 'Now, no one's talking to us.'

'Don't talk to me! It was you who was hungry and wanted to shave.' cries Bluebottom. 'Didn't we suffer enough yesterday? Arresting a mother because she called her kids Crystal and Coke. Asking who her suppliers and the producers were? What the hell were you thinking? On Monday you arrested a male for wearing one-legged shorts. HE ONLY HAD ONE LEG! He was wearing two-legged shorts, for Christ's sake! Couldn't you recognise the man's physical condition?'

Pinkbottom looks at Bluebottom. 'Has anyone said you look like the devil? Those bushy eyebrows, horns and long tail. No wonder your uniform doesn't fit right.' As the officers talk a monkey wanders under the yellow tape, jumps into the police car and drives off. The roar of the engine makes Bluebottom's mouth fall open, hit the ground, and swing back to hit Pinkbottom on the nose. Her eyes flare as she wipes blood from her chin. Their radios crackle: it's Det. Sgt. F. Blackbottom.

'You dare to call yourselves crime investigators! Your butts are in your heads. Just like mine. A monkey was seen driving a police car down East Street a few minutes ago at 5 mph. I 'd be obliged if you two monkeys would run along, apprehend the monkey, and take possession of the police car. And forget about commendations, medals, or promotions. I've arranged for both of you to be transferred to Belfast Zoo tomorrow. Permanently! I feel sorry for the poor animals. However, it must be done.'

The radio goes silent. It starts to rain as Bluebottom and Pinkbottom begin their frenzied run towards East Street. Some residents, aroused from their sleep by the collective cry of 'Ooh ooh ooh, ah ah ah', believe a Rave Party is taking place in local playing fields. Others conclude it is the rhythm of the rain, and placidly return to their dreams.

Reflection: The death of a check-out operator is more meaningful to his, or her, family than the death of a visionary, a genius, a zealot, or a winner of a Nobel Peace Prize.

Friday, May 07, 2010

A Life in the Day of a Private Investigator

The home of Esther Christian. Enter George Fox dressed as Groucho Marx.

Christian: Thank you for coming at short notice.

(Fox circles the room examining the furniture and ornamintations.)

Christian: (gesturing) Please take a seat.

Fox: I knew something was up the moment my phone rang.

Christian: Why?

Fox:  I haven't got one.

(Fox sits down.)

Christian: You had no trouble finding my home?

Fox: I live right next door. (Rolls his eyes.)

Christian: But I've never seen you before.

Fox: I wear a different disguise each day. My wife and children have never seen my real face. Which is a blessing in disguise. I have a passing resemblance to Tolstoy on a good day.

Christian: What's that mark on your hand?

Fox: A black eye. I found it in your driveway. I nearly tripped over it. (Pause) It may be valuable evidence, just evidence, or unjust evidence. In my line of work things are not always cut and dried. Sometimes they are dried then cut. Why only yesterday ...

Christian: (sobbing) ... I'm sorry ... I haven't seen my husband for two days.

Fox: Count yourself lucky. I see my wife every day. She thinks we're both dead and all evidence supports her conclusion.

(Fox hands a crumpled piece of paper to Christian.)

Fox: Just in case I don't find your husband write down your home and business telephone numbers, your body measurements, and I'll uncover the whole thing.

Christian: Pardon?

Fox: What was your husband wearing when you last saw him?

Christian:  A clown outfit.

Fox: A clown outfit! (Leaps up and sits down again.) Is he in the circus, a sideshow?

Christian: He's an investment banker in Wall Street.

Fox: Well, that figures. (Pause) I'll need a photograph.

(Christian hands a photograph to Fox. On inspection Fox believes Abraham's face, while undoubtedly handsome, displays arrogance and conceit. Christian sits opposite Fox. He watches her cross her legs intensely high. Fox, transfixed by her striking beauty, trys to hide his heavy breathing.)

Fox: Has your husband changed his routine? Acquired new friends? Any strange phone calls or bills? (Pause) Have you seen anyone watching your home, looking through your bedroom window, other than me?

Christian: No. I don't believe so.

Fox: Any problems with his health: physical? psychological? stroboscopical?

Christian: (timidly, staring down) Well, lately he has been obsessed with his bowels, his shrinking body parts, loss of libido, disinterest in the opposite sex, memory loss, exhaustion, chest pains, money, the acceleration of time, his inability to understand a rapidly changing world. He says it makes him feel like an alien. (Pause) I don't believe he has ever truly accepted aging and mortality.

The room becomes remarkably quite. Christian looks at Fox. He is slumped in the chair with his eyes wide-open and his mouth at a strange angle. His fake glasses and cigar are on his lap. Anguish and fatigue mark his wrinkled face.

Christian decides to make them both tea. As she gazes at his motionless body she thinks he looks as helpless as a little boy. She would have loved a child of her own, of course. But then she had never married.

Reflections:  I've concluded that time and space no longer exist. Neither does my bank account. In fact, it lies frozen. Why my account decided to holiday in Iceland defies rationality. My inescapable financial straits follow me everywhere. I'm at my wit's end: not a long distance, I know, but try getting there during a bus or subway strike.

Friday, June 12, 2009

'Dance, Boy, Dance!' - A Play in One Act (Part One of Three)


TESS: early 20's - a confident, vibrant and cocky female. She understands life has more to offer than her present existence.

JOHN: early 20’s - though well-dressed in a suit and tie he appears submissive and nervous. His conversation and actions display considerable unease.

ROSS:  mid 50's -  a part-time lecturer and unsuccessful writer. He possesses a dry, acerbic wit. His marital status is ambiguous even though he wears a wedding ring.


The action is continuous and takes place in a bar.


Early afternoon. The present.


When part-time barmaid TESS and a middle-aged customer ROSS are joined in the bar by JOHN, the divisions between fantasy and reality become vague. None of the characters remain untouched by the events that unfold on a quiet afternoon.

ACT ONE (Part One)

[TESS is behind the bar wiping the counter. ROSS (the only customer) is sitting on a bar stool. He lifts his glass - half-full of brandy - to enable TESS to wipe the counter.]
ROSS: The one thing that radically changes one's life is death and believe me I’ve experienced both. I died in New York last Tuesday and was boxed home by Friday. Here I am; a man devoured by life, reborn!

TESS:  Is that a fact?

ROSS: Facts are to play with when bored and you feel utterly useless. May I kiss you good night?

TESS:  It’s two o’clock in the afternoon.

ROSS: A pure technicality.

TESS:  How many times have you been married?

ROSS [softly]: I believe twice. My first wife died of old age ...

TESS: And the second?

ROSS: She lived ... I died.

[TESS laughs and continues working.]

ROSS: We should hit the road together. You can be Clyde and I’ll be Bonnie Rabbit. Of course, we'll be the focus of outrageous attention. They'll say we're both mad or one of us. Photographs will confirm it's me. [With a slight snigger.] At night I'll play your favourite songs on a piano. I don't believe you've heard me sing?

TESS:  I’ve heard you talk and I’m not sure what language it is?

[TESS and ROSS both smile.]

ROSS: The place is quite today. Must be a lot of people in their bathtubs ... perhaps to calm their nerves? Playing with their little boats. I get out the old tin tub once a week. I, however, require a heavenly creature  present to restore my soul, keep me in high spirits and to pass me a lovely warm towel.

TESS:  What exactly is your line of work?

ROSS: Let me get the chronology right ... For a short period I was Emma Bovary’s accountant. Then I read street, shop and advertising signs for a man in Paris who was hard of hearing. For four weeks I was a chestnut tree: one of many surrounding a square in Montparnesse. Presently, besides being a fruitless writer, I make cameo appearances in flourishing novels. [He finishes his drink.] The money’s not great ... [TESS laughs.] Which reminds me?

[TESS takes the glass; fills it with brandy, and places it in front of ROSS.]

ROSS: Cheers. [Takes a mouthful.] Marvellous. [Pause} My lungs have resumed full working order. As for the rest of my body ...? I await confirmation.

[TESS smiles and goes in to the storeroom behind the bar. JOHN enters, walking slowly and awkwardly towards the bar. He runs a hand through his hair and nods sheepishly at ROSS.]

ROSS: Have you brought news from the outside world?

JOHN [puzzled]: News? ...  uh ... what news?

ROSS: I’m starved for news. Is the world all right? [gestures towards the door.] I’m curious? Aren’t you? Isn’t everybody?

JOHN: Uh . . . what?

ROSS: Curious? About other people? What they do? What they say? Do they mean what they say? [Pause] Do I mean what I say? Am I acquainted with what I’m saying?

[During a brief silence ROSS takes a drink and looks at JOHN again.]

ROSS: You remind me of a zombie. An ex-wife, in fact. Why don’t you sit down? Let’s have a tête-à-tête. I’m all ears. That’s a figure of speech by the way, just in case you have poor eyesight.

[JOHN remains standing at the counter unsure what to do with his hands. He taps his fingers on the counter.]

JOHN: [timidly; an afterthought]: Uh . . . pardon?

ROSS: Deaf, too. [Feigned surprise] Probably genetic.

End of Act One (Part One)

Read Act One (Part Two)

Reflections: My neighour isn't pleased with my new garage. He says it takes up most of his living room and kitchen. He has no thought for anyone but himself. When I'm revving my car engine all I can smell is cooked food.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

'Dance, Boy, Dance!' - A Play in One Act (Part Two of Three)

ACT ONE (Part Two)

JOHN: I’d rather stand ... If you don’t mind?

ROSS: Mind? I don’t have a mind. I lost mine a long time ago. [Pause] No, that’s not right. I hocked it to a pawnshop. It's still there in the window for all to see. 

[BESS returns from the storeroom and sees JOHN standing at the counter.]

ROSS: I’d like to buy my fresh young friend a drink. I've never seen anyone so clean. He has - what can I say? - the most extraordinary fluttering blue eyes. Here stands a sensitive, young man completely sound in body and soul. Naturally, I'm consumed with envy and despair. He reminds me why I keep a low profile.

BESS:  [to ROSS] And what’s the young man’s name? We haven’t been properly introduced.

ROSS: [to JOHN]: What did you say your name was?

JOHN: I ... er ... didn’t. [Pause] It’s ... John ... 

ROSS: The nice young man's name is John

BESS:  Well, John. What would you like to drink? [Quickly, with a smile and a raised hand.] Don’t tell me. Let me guess ... vodka?

JOHN: Not exactly ... I haven’t drunk vodka in a while. [nervously] It makes me woozy ...

BESS: [to ROSS] It makes him woozy [to JOHN] Lucky you. A little brandy, maybe. What do you say, Ross? [BESS doesn’t wait for an answer and goes to the back of the bar.] Two brandies coming up for the boys in the house. [BESS pours the drinks.]

ROSS: Isn’t she magnificent? Bess has been working here all summer and as a consequence I’ve turned into an alcoholic. She endures - daily - my whistling nose, racing pulse, motionless demeanour and incessant ramblings. My doctor believes I should share my bed with a woman. Anyone, but my wife. In the dark her wide open eyes would shrivel the most ardent of unearthly creatures.

[BESS sets the drinks on the counter in front of ROSS and JOHN and stands with her hands on her hips.]

ROSS: [lifts his glass to JOHN, then BESS]: Cheers, to one and all. [ROSS and JOHN drink.]

BESS:  We’re not usually honoured by distinguished suits in this establishment. [She stares at JOHN for a moment making him feel uneasy.] Are you static or do you move around?

JOHN: Well, yes ... no ... It depends ...

BESS:  Depends on what? Your girlfriend? Your wife? Your tailor? [With a feigned smile] The hole in the ozone layer?

JOHN: Depends on circumstances ... whether I feel welcome in a place, or not ... whether I’ve got money ... circumstances ...

ROSS [feigned lament]: Work is the most despised of all human activities. It should be outlawed. Anyone found working should be incarcerated. One's life should not be dependent on places, people, or gadgets. [Pause] Even the simple art of breathing can be a chore. All I require is a folding bed, a dash of hypocrisy and I'm luminous. Totally, luminous! Isn't it strange how some people are dying to live, and some are dying to die? My advice is to keep clear of all ideas and concepts. You will be ignorant, uncreative, boring, but your life will be less complicated.

[BESS and JOHN stare at ROSS who has resumed the centre of attraction he desires.]

ROSS: I believe it is time for two more brandies, please. Put my young friend’s drinks on my tab. I insist! Such a charming, sensitive stranger deserves a cordial welcome.

[BESS fills both glasses and leaves them on the counter in front of ROSS and JOHN. She continues cleaning the bar. BESS and JOHN periodically exchange glances.]

ROSS [to JOHN]: That really is a fine suit. Don’t be put of by my cheap clothes. Believe me, I have worst at home. Rooms, wardrobes, trunks, full of them. Ladies clothes, all my exes clothes. I must round them up - the clothes, not my exes! - and give them to a charity. [Mockingly] It’s finding time.

[ROSS takes a drink and looks at JOHN who is fumbling in his pocket. He wonders why JOHN is so nervous. When JOHN looks up he notices BESS is staring at him.]

BESS:  What do you want here?

JOHN: I wish ... I need to talk to you. [Pause] Somewhere quiet.

[ROSS sips his brandy and turns his head to watch and listen, intrigued.]

BESS:  What do you want to talk about?

JOHN: [quietly, without eye contact]: Me ... I mean you ...

BESS:  I don’t enjoy talking. I find conversation more engaging. More impressive, more rewarding. [Pause] Providing they are authentic as regards feelings and behaviour.

JOHN: What do you mean?

BESS [moves closer to JOHN; speaks softly]: A good conversation is like making love. Rich and glorious. [Pause] Full of sighs, whispers, intense pleasure.

ROSS [to BESS]: Remarkable! [Clapping; playful] If I could speak French I’d say ‘Bravo!’

BESS [briskly]: If you want a conversation with me, lose the suit, tie and shoes. I don’t converse with stockbrokers or accountants. I’ve encountered both and had to fake suicide once or twice to recapture my sanity.

End Of Act One (Part Two)

Reflections:  I've finally concluded I can't predict anything with any degree of accuracy. This includes my prediction that I can't predict anything with any degree of accuracy. Furthermore, I feel I've never tapped my full potential. This could be the reason, that wherever I travel, water leaks from my left armpit.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

'Dance, Boy, Dance!' - A Play in One Act - (Part Three of Three)

ACT ONE (Part Three)

BESS [softly, to JOHN]: Come here.

JOHN [suspicious]: Why?

BESSFor God’s sake, just come here!

[JOHN moves closer to the counter.]

BESS:  Give me your socks and shoes.

JOHN [incredulously]: You’re kidding me? [Silence] You’re making a fool of me? . . . I’m right? [He briefly stares at ROSS who also appears baffled.]

BESS [playfully]:  Don’t be anxious. I’m harmless ... really! [Pause] I’ll explain later, but you must trust me [Slowly] That is, if you want a conversation?

[JOHN shakes his head in disbelief, and takes off his shoes and socks. He picks them up and gives them to BESS. She places them under the counter.]

BESS:  Now your coat, shirt and tie.

ROSS [cheerful, but puzzled]: This is ... dare I say ... wonderfully bizarre, even decadent!

[JOHN takes off his coat, shirt and tie, and hands them to BESS. She places them - with the other items - under the counter.]

BESS:  Now your trousers!

JOHN [embarrassed]: Why ... are ... you teasing me?

BESS:  The trousers!

[JOHN and ROSS exchange glances. BESS motions to JOHN for his trousers. He finally removes his trousers and hands them to her. BESS gives a laugh. JOHN is left standing in his underwear.]

JOHN: What are you trying to prove?

BESS:  Do you still want a conversation? [Softly] Somewhere quiet?

JOHN: Yes, of course ... I do.

[Brief silence.]

BESS:  Do you like singing and dancing?

JOHN: Not particularly ...

BESS:  [Brightly.] I’d be obliged if you would sing and dance to a favourite song of mine. It’s called "I Wanna Be Loved By You." Marilyn Monroe style, of course.

[JOHN laughs uncomfortably, and stares at BESS.]

JOHN: You sure have it in for me.

BESS:  Whatever gave you that idea? 

[BESS and ROSS watch JOHN with interested stares. They all remain still waiting for something to happen. JOHN shakes his head in bewilderment and then starts to singsoftly at first, until he gets into his stride.]

JOHN [sings and dances, rather badly, naked, bar his underwear.]:

I wanna be loved by you, just you,
And nobody else but you,
I wanna be loved by you, alone!

I wanna be kissed by you, just you,
Nobody else but you,
I wanna be kissed by you, alone!

Boop-boop, I couldn't aspire,
To anything higher,
Than, filled with desire,
To make you my own!
Boop-boop-a-doop, boop-boop-a-doop!

I wanna be loved by you, just you,
And nobody else but you,
I wanna be loved by you, alone!


[While JOHN sings and dances, BESS watches from behind the counter, head resting on her hands. ROSS gazes in amazement, occasionally sipping brandy. The following interplay takes place between them.]

BESS:  He’s a cute singer.

ROSS: Not a bad dancer, either. The resemblance to Marilyn is uncanny.

BESS:  Never struck me as a "Y-front" man?!

ROSS: Such a dazzling performance. Good-looking in a smouldering kind of way.

BESS:  [to ROSS, quietly] I’m ringing the police.

ROSS: Surely not? [BESS disappears into the storeroom.] Oh, well.


ROSS [clapping loudly]: Bravo! Encore! [Pause] When you sang and danced I had tears in my eyes.

[A brief, uneasy pause.]

ROSS: Don’t you care who’s on the other side of the line? I imagine she may be calling the police.

JOHN:  Do you like Bess?

ROSS: How old are you?

JOHN: Twenty-four ...

ROSS: Twenty-four beats fifty-four every time. Unless, of course the female feasts on power, prestige and capital, and craves a different face and body enhancements for each new holiday season  [Pause] And I thought I’d seen it all. [With a smile] You’re jealous. You want her heart on a silver platter. Admirable and natural. [Pause; sniggers] I believe you should get dressed.

[A brief silence. BESS returns from the storeroom and approaches JOHN. Bess is carrying a bag with JOHN’s clothing and shoes.]

BESS [To JOHN]: How do you feel?

ROSS: Fine. And you?

BESS:  Awash with tenderness and passion.

ROSS: Was ... Am I silly, foolish ...?

BESS:  Do you really want an answer?

ROSS: No. Anyway, I’ve finished hedging my bets. "Maybe" and "perhaps" no longer exist in my vocabulary.

BESS: What do you want to talk about?

JOHN: You.

BESS:  Why?

JOHN: It involves me.

BESS:  In what possible way?

JOHN: I’m asking you to marry me.

[An uncomfortable pause.]

JOHN: Well?

BESS:  Yes!

JOHN: Louder!

BESS:  YES! {They kiss.] YES!

[The trio smile.]

BESS:  Goodbye Ross. I'm hitting the road.

ROSS: So I see. Good luck my young friends.

[BESS, carrying the bag of clothes, and JOHN in his underwear, exit embracing each other, in joyous mood. The sound of a police siren draws near. ROSS is left sitting at the bar on his own.]

ROSS [smiling and cheerful]: If any of you know cause or just impediment ... [Lifts his brandy glass, and turns to audience.] Bottoms Up!


Reflections:  Even though forty years had passed, my late father-in law, Charlie, could recall the train carriage, the railway station, the young lady's eyes, her half-smile as she stood on the platform. He encountered the young lady on the train. They had not spoken on the journey. But he had noticed her face, which glowed like the sky welcoming the sun. When she stood on the platform, and gazed at him on the train as it pulled out of the station, that moment entered the depths of his memory to return throughout his lifetime.

There was no reason to get off the train. But what if he had? Would she have stood and talked to him, or walked away? Would his life have changed irrevocable? Does it matter? It mattered to him. The fact remains; he regretted not decanting from the train. One should not confuse success with happiness in relations with the opposite sex. They are different. When someone takes a genuine interest in you it is invigorating, comforting, sustenance for a tired ego. It is always, however, too late to start being young again.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Day at the Office

Tony is sitting behind his desk. Adam enters.

Tony: Sit down.

(Adam does so.)

Tony: Do you know what I’m holding in my hand?

Adam: A straight flush?

Tony: (sighing) Your latest appraisal. (Pause) Frankly, the organisation expected greater things.

Adam: Well, I've been working on a restricted canvas. (Smiling) Still reading through the classics?

Tony: (pretentiously) Just finished reading Don Quixote for the third time.

Adam: Did you skip the dull bits?

Tony: That would be sacrilegious … Though it’s overrated, of course.

Adam: Of course.

Long pause.

Tony: (uncomfortable) I’m afraid I’ve some bad news.

Adam: You’ve had a full body scan and received a clean bill of health?

(Tony raises his eyes heavenward.)

Adam: Your hair-piece is writing an autobiography?

(Tony shrugs helplessly.)

Long pause.

Tony: Have you lost weight?

Adam: I’m on a diet.

Tony: Finding it easy?

Adam: Definitely. I’ve no money for food since my wife left me.

Awkward pause.

Adam: How is she by the way?

Tony: Melissa? Never better ... Wants for nothing ... Damn gorgeous ... Great in bed. No need to tell you ... eh?

Adam: (thoughtful) Well ... No.


Adam: And the townhouse?

Tony: (smiling) Great. You invested a great deal of time and capital in the property.

Adam: Yes.

Tony: I haven’t had to modify or improve a single thing since I moved in.

Adam: I’m pleased.

Tony: (softly) Did we ... Did I ever thank you?

Adam: I don’t believe so ... No.

Tony: Not a word? (Pause) Astounding.


Tony: How do you relax?

Adam: I play blank CDs full blast and dance to annoy the neighbours in the next dust bin. I hope to move to a skip soon.

Long Pause

Tony: Melissa and I are concerned about your mental state.

Adam: Really? I’m flattered.

Tony: (apprehensively) You don’t mind?

Adam: Mind? I don’t have a mind. I pawned my brain years ago. (Smiling) It’s sitting in a shop window beside a Second World War hand grenade. In fact, it's hard to tell the difference between them.


Tony: Are you undergoing therapy?

Adam: Once a week. The psychiatrist pops pills during our sessions. It tends to interrupt the flow. She maintains I’m the only patient she has encountered who suffers from 'sibling rivalry' and is an only child.

Long Pause

Tony: You’ve been at this organisation a long time without any appreciable increase in rank, or salary. Any ideas why?

Adam: Losing my wife and home to my boss—you— had a profound effect. Other than that, I’m at a loss.

Tony: 'The gods support those who are stronger.'

Adam: Tacitus.

Tony: (unsure) Indeed ... You’ve a sharp mind when used properly.

Adam: Think so?

Tony: Yes.


Tony: No sour grapes?

Adam: None.

Long Pause

Tony: Any financial difficulties?

Adam: Other than being forced into personal bankruptcy several times, and a credit rating below 'Absolute zero'—fine. However, living in a dust bin has drawbacks in terms of comfort and the pursuit of a meaningful social life.


Tony: 'Sometimes it’s necessary to destroy the man to save him.'

Adam: Really? Has it ever happened to you?

Tony: No. I’m sorry to say it’s happening to you. As of today you can leave the past entirely behind. You’re no longer an employee of this organisation. I’d write you a reference ... What would be the point?

Adam: Exactly.

Tony: (smiling) I wish I was starting afresh again.

Adam: Shall I say I was fired, resigned, lost motivation and direction, or that the boss took my wife, home, and assorted assets?

Tony: (uneasily) I would never advise an individual to be less than honest. In this case, however, economy may be advantageous for all concerned.

Long Pause

Tony: (rising from his chair) I hope you found this conversation uplifting and rewarding. I know I did. (Pause) As your contract is terminated with immediate effect, please leave your employee card with security. (Pause) I would advise against returning to your workspace ... We don’t want your 'ex-work colleagues' to get upset, do we?

Adam: No ... Yes ... I understand.

Tony: Just look at the last twenty years as a right step in the wrong direction.

Adam: Really?

Tony: Hell, yes. (Pause) On the bright side, I met Melissa, socialised at your home, and eventually moved in. It changed my life no end. Couldn’t live without Melissa, or the 'townhouse', or my job for that matter. (Pause) Anyway, enough about me.

Awkward pause.

Adam: Do you remember the first question I asked when I joined the organisation?

Tony: No. (Chuckling) I remember asking if you were married. Didn’t realise your wife would be so attractive. I’ve still got that first photograph you showed me―I cut you out, of course.

Adam: 'What are the first projects I will be involved with?'

Tony: (smiling) You’re kidding me? Did I give an answer? ... No? ... No.

Adam: I wanted to make my mark on those initial critical projects.

Tony: Really? I wish I had known.


Tony: 'Fate always goes as it must.'

Adam: Beowulf.

Tony: (hesitant) Indeed ... A sharp mind.


Tony: (blandly) A message for Melissa?

Adam: Tell her ... Tell her, 'I loved her too much to hate her now.'

(Adam moves toward the door.)

Tony: And me?

Adam: (turns round) You have this strange effect on people that causes oily discharge and loss of appetite. In fact, the list is endless. My advice? Come back from the 'dark side'. Trust me, we’re all just one step from the slaughterhouse. You take care now.

Adam exits, leaving Tony shaking with trepidation and doubt.


Reflections: I feel a sense of sadness and despair for those who surmise the need to look down on others through an injudicious sense of superiority. Some workplaces are populated with so many bullies, pimps and thieves it's hard to breathe air that has clean hands and a clear conscience.  

Don't be surprised if a figure of authority turns out to be more crooked and immoral than anyone he, or she, condemns. They may deny the charge and show a double face. Someday, however, they will be held to account for their violation of the truth and fundamental ethical principles.