The set designed for this playlet was exceptional. It was dominated by a high window through which shone a blue light. The window ledge was covered in snow. Beneath the window was a white desk with a top that sloped down towards the onstage area. As the play progressed, blood started to trickle out of the window ledge, staining the snow, dripping onto the desk then trickling onto the floor, where it pooled. The rectangular performance space was delineated by carefully edged strips of salt. On upstage right was a black booth, slightly less capacious than a phone box. When the actors left the space, scuffing the salt as they crossed it, they would retire to the booth, which contained a bowl of thick stage blood and a sponge. Each time they returned their faces and hands would be bloodier.
The same, short passage of terribly sad music was played on every occasion that the actors exited or entered.
COSTUME NOTE: THE CHARACTERS DO NOT CHANGE COSTUME WHEN THEY CHANGE NAMES.
TRUDY Where’s Betty?
HECTOR Don’t know.
FRANK She was coming back by the top drive.
TRUDY Wet out there. Dark.
HECTOR It’s night.
HECTOR Top drive?
BETTY It’s quicker.
FRANK We thought it was slower.
BETTY Not at night.
TRUDY Did you do what you had to do?
BETTY I did.
HECTOR I have to go.
TRUDY Big one?
HECTOR No bigger than the last.
FRANK He’s a modest man.
BETTY He’s widely respected.
TRUDY He likes what he does.
FRANK Which helps.
TRUDY I like what I do.
BETTY People wouldn’t understand that.
FRANK Are there some biscuits?
BETTY People aren’t especially imaginative.
HECTOR Done and dusted.
FRANK Still raining.
TRUDY Is it getting harder?
BETTY I wouldn’t say so.
HECTOR (TO FRANK) You seem convinced.
FRANK You have to be.
HECTOR Just conviction?
FRANK Seems to do the trick.
TRUDY It is a trick.
FRANK Who cares?
BETTY If it works…
FRANK I’m going to be late.
HECTOR Is he fragile?
TRUDY He’s a bull.
BETTY Unstoppable. Really.
BETTY Likes his biscuits.
TRUDY People do.
HECTOR All people?
TRUDY Enough to sustain an industry.
FRANK I wavered.
HECTOR GLANCES AT TRUDY
TRUDY But you did it.
FRANK I always do it.
BETTY What was it?
FRANK The snow.
FRANK Shoes could have been more appropriate, certainly.
HECTOR No fuss?
FRANK Standard issue.
BETTY I hardly think about it now.
FRANK I evaluate it, you know, I don’t blank it out.
BETTY She’s another one.
BETTY Just gets on with it.
HECTOR You don’t think she pushes it down?
FRANK Is that bad?
HECTOR What do you think?
BETTY If it gets it done…
FRANK Which is the requirement.
BETTY No need for any bric a brac.
FRANK There really isn’t.
HECTOR I do know what you’re saying.
FRANK This guy, in the street, puts his hand on my arm. He thinks I’m his brother.
HECTOR It’s happened to us all.
FRANK He’d gone to buy some tobacco and his brother was waiting for him and when he came out he took my arm and said “Okay, Billy.”
FRANK His brother.
HECTOR How do you know?
FRANK We talked about it. He apologised.
HECTOR Was his brother near?
FRANK He was nearby. He heard the conversation.
BETTY Did he come over?
FRANK He was very good about it. Apparently he had moved from his earlier position. But he came back and validated his brother’s account.
HECTOR What was his brother’s name?
BETTY No hurt feelings.
FRANK It worked out very well.
SHE HAS A SMALL AMOUNT OF BLOOD ON HER CHEEK.
(TRUDY IS NOW LOUISE BUT WILL RETAIN HER FIRST NAME IN THIS
HECTOR On your cheek.
TRUDY IS ABOUT TO WIPE IT OFF WITH HER HAND.
HECTOR I’ll do it.
HE WIPES THE BLOOD OFF.
TRUDY Thank you.
TRUDY I should say! I’m Louise, by the way.
FRANK How do you do? Frank.
HECTOR Hector. You…erm…you know the situation?
TRUDY I’m afraid I’ve been in Peru.
BETTY Business or pleasure?
TRUDY My business is a great pleasure.
BETTY How pleasing. Betty.
TRUDY How do you do? There was a town I had to look at. When you go in you’re shocked because it doesn’t look at all like Latin America. It looks like Surrey. They all speak English. In the newsagent’s all the papers are British. It’s not a colony. It’s not an expatriate enclave. It’s not like Argentina where there there is a community of 20,000 Welsh speakers in Patagonia as a result of a wave of settlements that started in 1865. No. It’s like you park your car and walk down the road and you’re in Godalming. I mean, obviously, you’re not in it because you couldn’t be. You’re in Peru. I stayed the night in a pub called The Star Inn in Church Street. I had a terrific steak pie then a lovely pavlova. They do Hog’s Back Bitter, which is brewed in Tongham. It’s not too thick, which I hate. A decent double bed, with a bedside light. I was reading the paper, the Surrey Advertiser, and I realised what was strange. It was dated 11th December 1982. I popped down to the bar and asked the bloke if they had a copy of today’s one because the one in my room was somewhat out of date. He apologised and gave me one from a stand. It had the same date.
HECTOR But now you’re back in the future.
BETTY But you came here from there.
TRUDY Well, yes.
BETTY How do you know that routes out of there lead to the present moment?
TRUDY The present moment is the present moment.
FRANK Not if this – Peru, I mean – was the real past. Because in the real past nothing beyond that past moment had happened and would not necessarily happen again in the way that it did the first time round.
TRUDY You’re saying you aren’t here?
HECTOR No, he’s not. He’s saying – correct me if I’m wrong – that we may be people in a present moment that you have never inhabited.
TRUDY But I don’t know you anyway.
HECTOR No. What I mean is that in visiting and then leaving Godalming-Peru you cannot be sure that you have returned to the time and place of your initial departure.
BETTY It is conceivable, in other words, that the person you are here and now is not the person that would have been here had she not chanced upon Godalming-Peru.
TRUDY I have lost what I might have been!
FRANK You have lost what you were before you left.
TRUDY But I lived a life becoming what I was!
BETTY It is possible that you will never know the life lived by the person that you are now.
FRANK You are, to all intents and purposes, a creature that has only lived in any real sense since departing from Peru.
HECTOR It may be the case that you should have stayed in Godalming. Many people do. Life there has much to be said for it. There are cinemas – the Borough Hall, near Bridge Street, is one such – and several shops.
TRUDY But I do not speak Spanish!
HECTOR It would only be necessary were you to leave.
FRANK I must go.
BETTY Does he have two tonight?
HECTOR So it seems.
BETTY (TO TRUDY) I’ll find something tasty in a moment.
TRUDY On the other hand life doesn’t seem too bad here. If I can manage to cope with the emptiness.
HECTOR You might be able to find work, I suppose.
BETTY There may be a problem with references.
TRUDY I’m not sure how to proceed.
HECTOR You can crash here until you sort something out.
TRUDY Is English spoken in these parts?
HECTOR For miles around.
BETTY We leave the locality often. It is consistently in use, Louise.
HE HAS SOME BLOOD ON HIS FACE (RATHER MORE THAN TRUDY HAD).
(FRANK IS NOW TOMMY BUT WILL RETAIN HIS FIRST NAME IN THIS SCRIPT.)
FRANK Good evening.
BETTY (HOLDING A CLOTH IN HER HAND) I’ll get that off. I’ve got a cloth somewhere. (SHE NOTICES THE CLOTH IN HER HAND) Ah.
SHE WIPES THE BLOOD OFF FRANK’S FACE WITH THE (DAMP) CLOTH.
FRANK You’re very kind. I’m Tommy.
HECTOR Tommy – this is Louise.
TRUDY Have you come far?
FRANK My car has broken down on the highway due to the thick swirling snow blanketing the locality. I am a concert pianist on his way to the Wigmore Hall in Wigmore where he is due to perform a number of pieces before an eager audience. He is scheduled to check in to The White Boar in Wigmore where he will relax with his wife who is currently in the car nursing a sprained ankle sustained as she helped him push the car out of a deep ditch into which they had swerved due to the thick snow falling and rendering all that is generally manageable unmanageable and then at about six-thirty proceed to the concert hall for a finger by finger warmup prior to the performance itself before a capacity house.
BETTY I’ll see to your wife without further ado.
HECTOR You are some considerable way from Wigmore, I fear.
FRANK Oh dear.
HECTOR I would estimate, and this is an estimate, that it is about eight hundred miles from here.
FRANK A surprisingly large figure.
TRUDY It may be wiser to cancel, Tommy.
FRANK I hate to disappoint, Louise.
TRUDY Let us say that we attend to your wife, we straighten out your car and you go on your way. It is now just after four o’clock. Say that you go directly to the Wigmore Hall, having phoned the White Boar to tell them you will check in after the recital.
FRANK I’m starting to get the picture. Go on!
TRUDY You will have to travel at a mean speed of two hundred and fifty miles per hour in order to arrive by seven p.m.
FRANK My career is over.
HECTOR Think of yourself as an array of transferrable skills.
FRANK All I have ever done is play.
HECTOR Typing is very like piano playing. Some keys, some fingers.
A LOUD BANG (CRASHBOX)
SHE IS COVERED IN BLOOD: FACE, HANDS, BLOUSE.
HECTOR Go all right, Betty?
BETTY How did you know my name?
HECTOR I always have.
BETTY You may be confusing me with another.
HECTOR We have another Betty.
FRANK I’m Tommy.
BETTY I have just fallen from a Cessna.
TRUDY What is that?
BETTY A light aircraft.
FRANK Are you a flyer?
BETTY Heavens, no.
HECTOR Would you like a glass of water?
FRANK I expect you’d like to get your breath back.
BETTY (TO HECTOR) What is that you do?
HECTOR I am a contract worker.
BETTY Reliant on incoming.
HECTOR I am, in fact, needed presently.
TRUDY It’s a come and go world with Hector.
BETTY Are you familiar with him?
TRUDY Each of us is sheltering here thanks to his openness. We are strangers to each other.
BETTY How do you do?
BETTY We’ve met.
FRANK When was that?
BETTY A short while ago.
FRANK I’m sure you’re right.
A LOUD BANG (CRASHBOX)
ENTER HECTOR. HE IS BAREFOOT.
(HECTOR IS NOW ROY BUT WILL RETAIN HIS FIRST NAME IN THIS SCRIPT.)
HECTOR Hello. I’m Roy. It means King in French.
TRUDY Lee Roy.
BETTY Where are your shoes, Roy?
HECTOR They had good leather soles, which have style, but they were, as leather is, not durable. I had them resoled with durable rubber with a good contact adhesive.
FRANK Was this while you were out?
HECTOR No, Tommy. This was some time ago when the stylish leather began to appear scuffed and rough.
BETTY I’m Betty.
HECTOR It’s an unusual name.
TRUDY Was there an issue with the soles, Roy?
HECTOR Yes, Louise. While I was out, just now, in the snow, simply on a walk, having left my hotel, strolling at night, hatless, neither exultant nor especially low in spirits, content to see where I went, knowing that with my GPS device there was nowhere I might go that was not trackable, I started to slip and slide.
FRANK It was treacherous?
HECTOR That, Tommy, if you’ll forgive me, may be anthropomorphic. I do not subscribe to the notion that Nature has the least tendency to succour or sustain us.
FRANK I’m the same.
HECTOR I began to slip and slide. The soles had no traction. They did not grip. They skimmed, they skated, they aquaplaned. A leg would go one way. Its companion another. I had visions of being bisected at the groin. Even as I placed one foot before the other that foot would ski away and the other would slide back. Every muscle below my belt was taxed in a way that I had not experienced since my stint as wing 3Q for the Harlequins in the Guinness Premiership.
BETTY Were you handy?
HECTOR I was fucking handy. I tore mens’ ears and testicles off yet was never penalised. I made men into women on a regular basis.
BETTY Far out.
TRUDY I’d like to be a man. I think I was once.
FRANK In another life?
TRUDY We only have the one, Teddy.
BETTY Cocoa would be nice.
TRUDY TAKES A CHAIR DOWNSTAGE CENTRE AND SITS ON IT
TRUDY Somehow or other, and I don’t know why, or when, but I lost a lot of time. I say ‘lost’ – it could be round the corner, it could be just out of sight. Perhaps it’s right beside me. I don’t think so. It had a lot in it. It’s not like memory loss. It’s not Alzheimer’s. You could have that but it would be gradual. People would tell you. Think of all the stuff you do. It’s a big lot.
FRANK TAKES A CHAIR DOWNSTAGE CENTRE, BESIDE TRUDY, AND SITS ON IT
FRANK My life has been one of careful repetitition punctuated by brief reward. I would sit for days, month after month, year after year, practising do re mi fa lo sart / so me far lo day my start/ pay lee nah tee do/ fo sah no sa so fa da/ dum dum dee dee ta ta/ la na stah do for mi/ go for na da la/ go for nee no na/ dum dum dum dum dum dum dum dum dum dum da
BETTY TAKES A CHAIR DOWNSTAGE CENTRE, BESIDE TRUDY AND FRANK, AND SITS ON IT
BETTY You’re up looking down, it’s all in place, you need GPS, you can get it in a wrist-watch now, it’s like another layer, but woe betide, bad luck coming, look out below fellers, if it drops off, it falls into a field, someone finds it, they know where they are, that’s a good thing obviously but you’re looking down and it’s all largely green, some houses, a river and so forth etcetera that kind of type of thing, but where’s what you know gone? You could go down there, go up to a house and say ‘Hello, I’m from around these parts’ and they’d say ‘As a matter of fact you’re not now go away’ and you’re up in the air looking down, they see you gazing through a thick dark cloud and you’re trying to send messages to people on land but they’re long gone dead.
HECTOR TAKES A CHAIR DOWNSTAGE CENTRE, BESIDE TRUDY AND FRANK AND BETTY, AND SITS ON IT.
BETTY I can feel something coming. (THE OTHERS LOOK AT HER EXPECTANTLY) Yes. We should stay together.
TRUDY Using this house as a base.
FRANK Whose is it?
HECTOR Very good question.
BETTY It feels as if it is an abandoned place.
FRANK Abandoned but not lacking in charm.
HECTOR If this is to be the case then I will make a gesture.
HECTOR PRODUCES A HANDGUN (FROM A POCKET OR SHOULDER HOLSTER) AND PLACES IT ON A NEARBY SIDE TABLE.
TRUDY I second that.
TRUDY PRODUCES A HANDGUN (FROM A POCKET OR SHOULDER HOLSTER) AND PLACES IT ON A NEARBY SIDE TABLE.
FRANK Why not?
FRANK PRODUCES A HANDGUN (FROM A POCKET OR SHOULDER HOLSTER) AND PLACES IT ON A NEARBY SIDE TABLE.
BETTY Makes perfect sense.
BETTY PRODUCES A HANDGUN (FROM A POCKET OR SHOULDER HOLSTER) AND PLACES IT ON A NEARBY SIDE TABLE.
FRANK I hope this doesn’t sound indelicate but I think we should breed.
HECTOR I’m prepared to fuck Betty. Betty?
BETTY I certainly wouldn’t puke, Roy.
HECTOR You’ve got good tits.
TRUDY I would shag Teddy.
FRANK I’ve got a fat cock.
TRUDY I will make it feel at home.
BETTY Actually, I am happy to strap Tommy on as well.
FRANK Having first given birth to Roy’s child.
BETTY You can’t have two at a time by different persons, Teddy.
FRANK I wish that were not the case. It would speed things up so very much. (PAUSE) You know, since we are dwelling on the topic, I could easily slip one to Betty as well.
HECTOR And I, Louise, would be pleased to park the pork in your passageway of preference.
TRUDY I’d like to be a Cockney.
FRANK I’m Alec.
BETTY Hi, I’m Natasha. I suppose you could say I’m lively.
TRUDY You are, Tasha.
BETTY Thank you, Elsie. You are warm-hearted.
HECTOR Alec, you and I should get together.
FRANK Love to, Robert. I must say that since Tasha has been pregnant I’ve been staying at home rather too much.
HECTOR We’ll just go down the road so that you can dash back if Tasha goes into labour.
FRANK How will I know?
HECTOR A man knows, Alec.
TRUDY Oof! (REACTING AS IF HER UNBORN BABY WERE KICKING) Got a footballer in there! Not long now though!
BETTY I’m going to say just one thing, Elsie.
TRUDY What’s that, my duck?
(BETTY HAS NAMED TRUDY’S ‘PREGNANCY CRAVING’ FOOD)
TRUDY Oh! You little pup! You’re so mean!
BETTY No. We’ll go and get some.
TRUDY What – in the tin?
BETTY We could go for a pizza.
FRANK (TO HECTOR) Tell you what, I’ve got to drop by the shop so I’ll see you down there. Ten minutes.
HECTOR A pint of Landlord, please.
FRANK See you there.
FRANK DOES NOT LEAVE
TRUDY I’ll get my coat.
TRUDY DOES NOTHING
BETTY (AS IF TRUDY HAD GOT HER COAT) Okay?
BETTY I need my money.
TRUDY I’ve got some.
BETTY No. Won’t be a minute.
BETTY DOES NOTHING
TRUDY (AS IF BETTY HAD GOT HER MONEY) Good. We off?
BETTY Off we go.
TRUDY AND BETTY DO NOTHING
HECTOR I’m off to see Alec at The Cricketer. You be all right?
BETTY I’ll be fine.
HECTOR Bye then.
HECTOR DOES NOT LEAVE
FRANK Did you?
HECTOR I wouldn’t say that.
BETTY No, thank you.
ALL (SPEAKING IN UNISON) I know.
ALL What’s that?
ALL We should eat later.
ALL I don’t want to.
ALL I don’t know. I don’t feel like it.
ALL You always say that.
ALL No I don’t.
ALL You do. You always do. Just at the point when everyone wants to eat, you say you don’t.
ALL I didn’t realise I did that.
ALL Is it because you’re depressed?
ALL Not in the least. I’m very happy. All of the time.
ALL All of the time!?
ALL Much of the time.
TRUDY Well, will you? Yes, I probably will.
HECTOR I very likely will. You always say that.
FRANK Give him a chance. Why?
IN THE FOLLOWING SECTION THE CHARACTERS NOT ONLY SPEAK THEIR OWN LINES BUT THOSE OF OTHERS WHO WOULD OTHERWISE BE SPEAKING TO THEM.
BETTY COUGHS LOUDLY AND UNCOMFORTABLY
HECTOR It’s dust – I think I swallowed a tiny piece of dust.
FRANK COUGHS EXPERIMENTALLY
FRANK Yeah. Definitely. Happens a lot at the moment. Happened the other day. How?
TRUDY Don’t really know.
BETTY I just breathe in and it enters my throat. Well, that’s no different from anybody else, Tasha.
HECTOR I know everybody breathes in. What I’m saying is, Roy, I just get this thing at the moment.
FRANK Not all the time? No, just at the moment.
TRUDY Anyway, I’ve swallowed it now.
BETTY I’ll have a glass of water, though. Just in case.
IN THE FOLLOWING SECTION THE CHARACTERS SPEAK THEIR SEPARATE SPEECHES SIMULTANEOUSLY. THEY START AND FINISH AT THE SAME TIME.
BETTY This is very nice it’s not mucky it’s very pleasant I can feel myself in here something to do with the décor most probably I expect. You find a place like this you should cherish it you should tell your friends about it so that it does good business and doesn’t close down.
FRANK I’ve got a certain amount to do but when I’ve done it I certainly won’t get complacent there’s always more round the corner it would be good to see round the corner sometimes but I suppose that would spoil it half the fun is in not knowing that’s the fun of it.
HECTOR Now I’m just looking around taking it in and putting things behind me I’ll be buying some papers eventually that should help build up the picture it’s good to get a handle on things to commit with determination and pitch with the team it’s always best.
TRUDY There is the loneliness the wondering if you’re on the path or off the path at night sometimes at dawn there’s a low fog rising off the meadow but someone has taken the grass I expect they’ll bring it back by spring they usually do it’s something to rely on.
Link to Dash #5 in right hand column