Saturday, 7 November 2009

Crows - part 2

I am not a man particularly interested in identifying the shortest possible distance between two points, but even I recognised that the route Mr. Twender had insisted I take to his factory was not conventional. Like all drones however, I knew my place and decided it would be impolite to rock the boat at this juncture. It could be a test, though the fact that my future employer had conducted the previous day’s job interview with his flies open made me think he was not one for tests. I followed Twender’s crudely rendered map as closely as his scrawl would allow. The route began quite naturally, following the road from my squalid but adequate dwellings towards my destination. It then steered me pointlessly through an expanse of green I’d previously failed to notice. It sat at the end of a forgotten street, silent and remote.
Due its importance in this tale, I feel it would be relevant to describe this park in more detail. It was ringed by houses and a fence on all sides, producing quite a claustrophobic and suspicious feel. There was a large flat area of turf at its heart, which seemed to serve no purpose besides the collection and retention of mud. There were no people present, all life seemed to have ended. No children, no vagrants, none of those you’d expect in a park. In one corner sat a set of playground apparatus that, in its condition, looked more like a collection of ineffective contemporary art, dried blood on the concrete beneath. On the monkey bars sat the crows. Many of them. They appeared as a mass of black, wet tar, a shifting, dangerous shadow in the corner of the park. And they had noticed me, turning as one to watch, passing the occasional cackle to one another. They seemed particularly interested, almost amused, by the map I was following. I thought I heard one of them laugh.
I passed them by, tried not to, but couldn’t help foolishly looking back. They were still watching and positively identifying my fear. Though they failed to move or present any threat, I quickened my pace. There was a short, shielded path and then the factory, my new place of employment, loomed over the privet. It was silent as usual. In the office Mr Twender waited in the same spot. His jaw was half-hinged, as if he were still completing the final word from the day before.
“You’ve arrived,” he said with a mixture of excitement and awe.
“Yes,” I offered.
“Oh,” he seemed a little thrown by this. “Yes.”
He turned his body to the desk and began to violently rifle through a stack of documents, most of which were plainly menus from the same Somali restaurant.
“Well today I have a series of important functions to perform,” he announced. “They occur in various other rooms and their purpose would be exhausting to explain. So I’ll have to leave you to fend for yourself somewhat.”
I nodded.
“Unfortunately, the telephone you require has not been delivered. This is an error formed by a company I no longer speak with. So spend the day acquainting yourself with the office. The drawers of course and…the window.”
He pointed to the window.
“Miss Home is on hand to proffer any direction you need.”
He moved his tugboat bulk to one side and revealed a bird-like woman sitting at a child’s desk. My first impression was that she was bald, but on reflection I realised her head was swaddled in a number of headscarves. Her desk was piled high with paper and her gaze followed a fly on its journey around the light fitting.
“She’s a quiet sort,” Mr Twender felt an explanation was needed. “Think she’s from The Balkans. Somewhere with a climate. You know the kind of place I mean.”
I wondered if she’d been there on my previous visit, completely blocked by my employer’s mass.
“Then I shall leave you to commence,” he said, grandly, considering, I think, a little bow before thinking better of it.
“Yes,” I said, looking at my functionless desk and considering how exactly I could commence.
“Oh,” he theatrically interrupted his step to the door, “did you come by the recommended route?”
“Yes,” I replied. He licked his lips.
“Anything unusual occur?” He tried to appear casual, but sweat suddenly appeared on various parts of his body and his hands began to wring the neck of the baguette he was holding.
“No,” I said.
“In the park?” He sounded like a cheap game show host, coaxing the answer from a particularly dim contestant and desperate for someone to win that bloody speedboat.
“Not really,” I allowed. “Some crows.”
“Crows,” he shouted. Miss Home blinked. “Did they see you?”
I considered this. It was an odd question in an odd environment and I felt my answer might be judged. Twender released a little squeak, possibly down to anticipation, covered by a cough.
“They looked at me,” I finally fixed upon.
He put his hand to his chin and his eyes to the ceiling. He began to make an unpleasant clucking sound. Then returned.
“But no movement?” He asked. “No…flying?”
“Interesting…” he drifted away in thought.
“Is this significant to the role?” I asked.
Twender looked terrified and then prised a fake smile between his lips.
“No, no,” he giggled. “Just passing time. Conversation.”
He half fell, half ran towards the door, adding on departure,
“Please follow the same route this evening and keep me abreast of any developments. I am reachable by shouting.”
Any further questions were abated as he fled from the room. I looked at Miss Home. She still followed the fly’s circuit. I sat at my desk and considered its contents. Some of it appeared to be a child’s homework from several decades ago. It was quite dusty. I began to pile the papers neatly. This appeared to rouse Miss Home who started to scream in some language I didn’t understand and then threw something towards me. It appeared to be an atlas. It missed me by a considerable distance, but to be on the safe side I moved away from the desk and looked out of the window. In the far distance I could just identify a chef who left a large white building and sat down on some steps, commencing to smoke a cigarette. He immediately burst into tears.

To be continued…

Monday, 5 October 2009

Crows - part 1

“Welcome aboard!”
There was something quite wrong with Mr. Twender. And in that way he was the perfect representation the Handicourt Blacking Company, which I had now formally joined. As a man, he was the size and consistency of a reasonably priced Christmas tree and as a potential employer, he was baffling. He draped a meaty paw before me and I felt obliged to shake it. Rather how a child approaches a snake, I expected his hand to be slimy to the touch, but, in fact, it was hard and cold.
“Glad to have someone of your calibre joining us. With a degree.”
He’d mentioned the degree a number of times during this less than conventional interview, and on each occasion spoke of it as I expect the Magi spoke about our Lord Jesus Christ. Which was unfortunate, as it was entirely fictional.
“You will be joining the sales force. This will be a demanding position and, as such, you will have access to a telephone,” Twender said.
I think he expected me to be impressed by this and so I released a little, ‘oh’.
“Your desk will be here.”
He offered me the desk we were currently sitting around. It was stifled with a great deal of paraphernalia; mainly take-away menus and empty graphs waiting to be filled, plus a child’s colouring book, seemingly from the 1950s. It didn’t appear to carry a phone.
“The telephone will be attached in due course,” he said, reading my mind.
“I assume you can make your own lunch arrangements?”
I assumed that I could.
A silence grew between us. Twender was staring at me as a imperceptible smile drifted across his face like the long shadows of the afternoon.
“Erm…” I began
“Yes?” He looked a little nervous.
“What will the role involve?” I asked.
The gentleman appeared crestfallen.
“That element can be discussed once you’ve settled. No point muddying the waters at this point.”
“But the premises are active?” I asked, noticing the belligerent lack of sound. “For a factory,” I continued, “it’s rather quiet.”
“Hmmmm,” he said and left the room. In due course the distant sound of manufacturing began. He breathlessly returned to the room.
“There,” he said with joy. “You see?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Now,” Twender vigorously began to rub his palm against the thigh area of his trousers, which perhaps explained their sheen. “One important thing. Vital, in fact. How will you be approaching the establishment?”
I think this was one of the interview questions they primed us for in Job Club. The answer involved the words, ‘prioritisation’, ‘commitment’ or ‘work flow’. But before I could answer, Mr. Twender elucidated.
“I mean literally. How will you get here each day? From what direction?”
The final part of the question was shouted at quite a clip. I must have appeared slightly stunned.
“Sorry,” he said. “I have an inner ear problem. It affects my balance. And volume. You’ll soon acclimatise.”
I tried to picture any evidence of this impaired balance, but nothing sprang to mind. He was tilted slightly, but that may have been the floor.
“Now, travel arrangements.”
I considered this.
“I expect I’ll take the bus,” I offered. His face fell.
“Oh dear,” he gulped and I instantly felt shamed. “I’m afraid we have something we do insist on here at Handimans.”
“Handicourts,” I corrected.
“Yes, here at Handicourts,” he continued, unconcerned by the feeble grasp of his own company. “We do like our employees to walk to work.”
“Yes, walk. There are many reasons for this. Many, many reasons,” he stopped. It appeared these many, many reasons would remain anonymous.
“And here’s our preferred route.”
A well-thumbed square of paper appeared before me. A cube represented the factory, a smiley face within it and the initials HBC hovered above. A line snaked from the factory, through a shaded area and then petered out.
“Obviously you can fill the latter half in yourself. I don’t believe I know your exact address. I trust you have one?”
“Very good. But if you can follow this particular arrival method and pitch up at around 9.30, everyone here at Handicourts will be delighted.”
Again his hand was offered. This time it was damp.
“That will be acceptable? You won’t deviate from the route?” He asked while continuing to damage my hand.
“Yes. No,” I answered.
“Then we’ll begin when you arrive,” he said and lightly pushed me towards the exit.
I left the office and walked past a concrete structure that I assumed housed the factory. As I drew level, all sounds of industry ceased. There followed a series of hurried footsteps, a slew of muttered curses, then the obvious sound of a phonograph needle hitting a record. Then the sounds of machinery began again.
I walked home.

To Be Continued.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Quite Poor Advice with Professor Simon Poor

Dear Professor Poor: small woody shoots have suddenly begun to appear on my lawn – any idea what could be causing this? Glen, Whitby.

My mother swore by a sprig of parsley held in the cleft of the mouth for everything from Nervous Stomach to Climbing Fever and she lived to the ripe old age of 56 before fever claimed her.

Dear Professor Poor: I’ve been feeling lacklustre lately, should I consult a physician? Phil, Dartford.

They say dolphins can sniff out cancer. It seems unlikely, but why not give it a go? Or if there are no dolphins are available, why not consult your local fishmonger. He may have some pointers. Or flounders. I knew a man, let’s call him Duncan. He was afflicted in manhood with cancer of the lap. It then moved up his whole left side. He was the size of a pitta bread when it was over.

Dear Professor Poor: I’m eco-conscious and wonder about the environmental damage that dry-cleaning causes – do you have any thoughts on the subject? Helen, Whitstable.

I was cursed myself by a local dry cleaner after disagreements over the most apt method of removing hummus from a lapel. She was of Eastern European extraction and in the same week my mother died and Stevenage were knocked out of the Sherpa Van trophy tournament, so I know she was up to something Wiccan. It was only after a boxed-set of Birds of a Feather, some Terry’s All Gold and an apologetic dance that the whole sorry saga ceased. Now we are the best of friends and have even considered entering a corn maze together.

Dear Professor Poor: I fear my husband may be the Medway strangler. His dungarees are frequently flecked with blood and I’m not allowed in the attic. Am I being paranoid? Kathy, Medway.

Wasn’t it Aeschylus who said, “Who is the King Shag Corpse? / Have you been to the English Deer Park?” Run to him.

Dear Professor Poor: I currently have a bit of an old gas guzzler, but I’m thinking of switching to an electric vehicle. Thoughts? Barry, Tenby.

Cars can be a slippery mistress. I had a companion – let’s call him Duncan. Cars were his be all and everything. He died. Rectal cancer. There was talk in the family of a car shaped plot, but in the end they felt being driven in a hearse would be enough to satisfy him in death.

Dear Professor Poor. I have one testicle that is larger than the other. Should I worry? Jasper, Fleet.

Christ, there are some things you should keep to yourself. There’s that clinic in Switzerland where they gas you humanely, though I doubt that even they would touch you with a barged pole. During my first marriage, I often planned out my own life-taking. My favoured choice would have been to march, nobly and humbly, into an English winter sea, perhaps Broadstairs or her nautical sister Ramsgate, with some kind of children’s choir trilling through that song from Cats, until the pain stopped forever. Feel free to steal my idea.

Dear Professor Poor, I’m having trouble stripping some woodchip. Tips? Biff, Grinstead.

My marriage to the first Mrs Professor Poor was punctuated by meals and hot beverages being flung about with vigour. I noticed that part of the lounge wall, which became known unaffectionately as ‘the stain’, behaved differently when various substances were applied. Bovril, though ghastly, seemed to take the flock off a treat, as did the wife’s risotto, though I have no idea which active ingredient caused the dissolvement. Her risotto recipe was a closely guarded secret which she will take to her (expected) grave – though there was biscuits in it, I am quite sure of that.

Dear Professor Poor: I will be in Stevenage at the weekend, could you recommend a good vegetarian restaurant? Pauline, Leicester.

One good way to irritate wait staff is to hurl your cutlery onto the floor with a modicum of violence. The women who work there (and they increasingly are women these days) will be forced to replace the items without judgement. After the sixth or seventh time, their faces are a picture. Priceless.

Dear Professor Poor: I find that I cannot make an emotional connection with my newborn daughter, what can I do? Elaine, Poole.

I’ve also found that wait staff are quite troubled by anything vomit connected. If you can prepare some fake vomit (I vacuum pack my own using Irish Stew – Kibblemanns is a fine brand) or can induce yourself to vomit at will, either before, during or after the meal, the wait staff will be forced to respond, usually with firm frowns intact. I whiled a happy afternoon in Chester this way – I believe that particular waitress is still on sick leave compo.

Dear Professor Poor: I’m getting married in October but just want a small wedding. Is there a tactful way to announce this and avoid annoyance by those not invited? Fiona, Dundee.

I’m sorry, but only trash are wed in the autumn months. I apologise for the language but there it is – trash. The men have work enough to do at harvest time with ploughing and the attention to crops. Weddings and so forth just add an unwarranted distraction and also alienate those workers who have failed to mate – leading to disaster amongst the furrows. Crows and vermin will soon litter the fields and the Harvest Festival will be less than festive indeed. Why not wait until the winter when spirits need reviving or in the spring when Christ was risen? No, your pointless and gormless behaviour has all the hallmarks of a harlot. Be gone.

Dear Professor Poor: I’ve noticed my memory is failing me more and more these days – I’m clumsier and often forget the most obvious things, even the names of my children. Should I worry? Henry, Bloxwich.

Do you have any pets or other animals that you could pass the blame onto? It sounds cruel, but they probably wouldn’t be aware that they’re being punished for your indiscretions. I used a parrot belonging to the first Mrs Professor Poor as a plausible alibi in a frivolous fraud and hotwiring case brought against me by a major county council and would have had a successful acquittal if the damn thing hadn’t started talking.

Dear Professor Poor: my boyfriend wants to take our relationship to the next level, but I’m not sure I’m ready – any advice? Trudi, Harlow.

The first Mrs Professor Poor favoured a technique known as ‘The Gondolier’, I won’t trouble you with a description but rest assured the results were harrowing.

[Professor Poor is the currently visiting professor of architecture (coving, pelmets and cornices) at the University of Trent.]

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Katy Perry

I just don't understand why my Katy Perry answer record didn't do better. I think the plugger guy really dropped the ball with 'I Kissed a Bloke'. And the production was muddy.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Paul Simon Denier

For too long now that seething balloon of pomposity known as Paul Simon (not real name) has survived unchallenged. For what seems like decades Mr Simon has flounced around the air-waves and pop charts as if he owned the place. With his 'gee shucks' smile and off-putting comb-over, this hanging basket of smugness has clogged up popular culture for far too long.

Take his song America, and in particular the line: "I said be careful his bow tie is really a camera...". Now this seems incredibly far fetched. How likely is that to happen? But there are other examples. The song America features the line: "...laughing on the bus" Again, how about some consideration for those around you Paul. While Simon and his goofball riddled harridan girlfriend are guffawing violently, a young mother might be attempting to rock a hungry child to sleep. The elderly often use this form of transport - they could be resting. The driver may become distracted by a near-naked love child rolling on the floor and cackling their angel-dust laugh of doom.

But there are further examples. Take the song America that features the line: "Pass me a cigarette, I think there's one in my raincoat..." How about a 'please' Paul? Would that be too troubling? Dictating his orders like some half-pint Stalin, screaming his orders in the face of his poor confused companion and keeping others awake. Manners cost nothing - even to you Mr Rock Star. Besides, smoking on a bus contravenes the ordinances of practically every haulier including National Express, First Direct and Megabus.

You'll find a similar tale in the song America. "Let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together..." The calling card of the con man. Some poor unfortunate child, won over by his golden records and celebrity address book - promises of parties and access to discotheques. No wonder her head was turned, only to have her pocketbook emptied as a consequence no doubt. Further indignity is represented in the song America and particularly the line: "...and the moon rose over an open field" I think we can all read between the lines with that one. We are all adults. You should be ashamed Mr Simon - besides I believe that in some of the states you are passing through those sort of antics are illegal.

There you have it - a conclusive trawl through Paul Simon's back catalogue proves that this so called 'songsmith' is nothing but charlatan. In conclusion I will leave you with a line from another song of his, America. "Michigan seems like a dream to me now..." I think that says it all.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Buckles Act 3


There is a long fade up from black. Midge and Dennis are back in their living room at home, but sitting in similar positions as when we left them in the prison. Dennis is back in his chair – his leg appears to be slightly smaller but still grossly inflated. He seems to be struggling with something, a look of pain or frustration on his face. Midge is bored, sitting at the table, with a pad of paper in front of her. They both sit silently for a long time.

MIDGE: I think I might take up smoking.


MIDGE: [Shocked] Oh, did I say that out loud? I was trying to think it.

DENNIS: I don’t think I want you to think it. And I don’t enjoy saying such a sentence, as complicated as it seems. Why would you do such a thing?

MIDGE: It might give me something to do with my hands. I never know what to do with them.

DENNIS: I think you’ve had ample practice with what to do with your hands.

MIDGE: Not again Dennis.

DENNIS: It needs to be said.

MIDGE: Dusty is incarcerated. The man upstairs is otherwise engaged. The man from the council turned out to be very homosexual. And Basil has gone. I don’t know who I’m supposed to be having an affair with.

DENNIS: There’s thousands of viable options.

MIDGE: But since your release I haven’t left this room.

DENNIS: That wouldn’t hinder you. How do you know?

MIDGE: Know what?

DENNIS: About the man from the council.

MIDGE: There was a pamphlet run up and passed around. Exposing him.

DENNIS: Why did he need to be exposed?

MIDGE: I’m really not sure. He seemed quite happy about it. It was that Mrs Palver at the shop.

DENNIS: Oh she’s always exposing people. She should be locked up. She exposed the gas man for being black.

MIDGE: I don’t know how she can afford it. The photocopying costs must be quite prohibitive.

DENNIS: The price she charges for a white sliced? Money is no object.

MIDGE: She likes you.

DENNIS: What do you mean?

MIDGE: Always asking after you. With a twinkle in her eye.

DENNIS: Good God. I don’t want to hear about her twinkle. She’s grotesque. What’s that thing on her face?

MIDGE: She calls it a beauty mark.

DENNIS: More like a question mark. It seems to have a mind of its own.

MIDGE: It does make it difficult to make a selection. Your eyes are drawn to it.

DENNIS: Where has Basil gone?

MIDGE: What?

DENNIS: Basil. When you were running down your recent conquests, you said that Basil had gone.

MIDGE: He detonated himself on the steps of parliament.

DENNIS: I didn’t know parliament had any steps.

MIDGE: It doesn’t. He was actually on the steps of the gas showroom. It’s quite ornate.

DENNIS: Did he cause much damage?

MIDGE: Not a dent. I think one Aga got scolded. Basil was completely obliterated.

DENNIS: That’s it. That’s the one.

MIDGE: What?

DENNIS: The word. The word I was after.

MIDGE: Word?

DENNIS: We were dictating. My life story. I couldn’t think of a word. But that was the one I was groping for. Obliterate.

MIDGE: That was days ago.

DENNIS: It will be worth the wait. Continue the dictation.

Midge wearily picks up a pen and addresses her pad.

DENNIS: [Dictating] And so I took it upon myself to obliterate the vestiges of…er…damn. What’s the word I want?

MIDGE: We’re never going to get to the end of this sentence.

DENNIS: I want it to be precise.

MIDGE: Shall I leave a blank?

DENNIS: No, I’d rather fill it in as we go along. You remember the problem we had with that children’s book I wrote.

MIDGE: Oh yes. That was nearly all blanks.

DENNIS: That publisher had a filthy mind. He paid no heed to the illustrations at all.

MIDGE: I think that’s where the problem lay.

DENNIS: What do you mean?

MIDGE: Well that train you drew. It was quite…phallic.

DENNIS: [Aghast] Midge!

MIDGE: I’m sorry, but you could see his point. If you have a page full of blanks accompanied by a drawing of a slightly phallic shaped train then certain conclusion would be drawn.

DENNIS: You’ve kept this quiet. Why didn’t you proffer these opinions at the time?

MIDGE: I did. Many times. Every time I mentioned it you put your hands over your ears and sang Danny Boy.

DENNIS: I can’t have you scuppering my creative flow with infantile suggestions. You’ve scuppered me again with this one. I was just reaching the finale of a lovely sentence and you’ve tipped me into some pointless off shoot.

MIDGE: Right, then what are you trying to say?

DENNIS: About what?

MIDGE: In the sentence you’re trying to complete. The word you’re after. Give me a hint of it.

DENNIS: Read it back to me.

MIDGE: [Reading] And so I took it upon myself…

DENNIS: [Interrupting] Add a bit of spice to it Midge. Speaking in that tone is hardly going to inspire me.

MIDGE: [Reading, louder] And so I took it upon myself…

DENNIS: [Interrupting] That’s just louder. Why don’t you try and add something of my personality.

Midge stares at Dennis with a certain amount of incredulity.

MIDGE: I don’t think I’m prepared to do that. Why don’t we have a break?

DENNIS: Very well.

Dennis tampers with is trouser leg.

MIDGE: Did they continue with your leg treatments in prison?

DENNIS: They used it as the hoist for my own particular petard if that’s what you mean.

MIDGE: I don’t think it was.

DENNIS: After poking it with his pipe for a number of weeks, the doctor finally decided to drain it. Or attempt to drain it I should say. But once they had inserted the device they found that whatever was inside had set.


DENNIS: Yes, hardened. It was once a liquid in there but it had congealed to the texture of wallpaper paste. The doctor was baffled. So their facilities were useless. My estimate was it was just another elaborate torture. They shipped some additional equipment over from Belmarsh, but I was released before it could be applied.

MIDGE: Quite a shame really.

DENNIS: How so?

MIDGE: You could have had it seen to. Was there no chance of having your release changed to undergo treatment?

DENNIS: How would I have masterminded that?

MIDGE: Perhaps you could have engineered a fight, or thrown some excrement at a screw. Then be sent to the hole for a period, thus extending your stay and allowing treatment to begin.

DENNIS: Your vision of prison life is very naïve Midge.

MIDGE: Just weighing up the pros and cons. Might have relieved it a bit.

DENNIS: It might have killed me. However it does seem to have gone down a bit. Something seeped out in the night.

MIDGE: Yes, I can see some creasing in that trouser.

DENNIS: Well you would be expert in that department.

MIDGE: I’m trying to offer sympathy Dennis. Don’t shun it.

DENNIS: [Shouting] Submersible.

MIDGE: I’m sorry?

DENNIS: The word I was striving for. It just reached me in a blinding moment of clarity. Submersible.

MIDGE: I don’t think it could be Dennis.

DENNIS: Who is the author here?

MIDGE: But it won’t fit.

DENNIS: I will be the judge of that. Apply it to the sentence and read it back to me.

MIDGE: And so I took it upon myself to obliterate the vestiges of… submersible.

DENNIS: Yes, the scanning is quite unusual. Let’s put that word aside for a moment. I think I was thinking of a much later sentence and how that word would be critical for that one. I do work on a variety of levels.

MIDGE: Perhaps you were thinking of Dusty.

DENNIS: Why would I be thinking of him?

MIDGE: Submersible. That’s something of a Dusty word. If you’d have said that in front of him you know what that would have started.

DENNIS: Yes, yes. He would have gone on about the salvaging man with the midget submarine featuring the crane type attachment. But Dusty isn’t here and I don’t care to be reminded.

MIDGE: I’m sure you don’t.

DENNIS: And what is that supposed to mean?

MIDGE: I just wonder if the word submersible hasn’t entered your consciousness due to the qualification of guilt.

DENNIS: Guilt? What’s that got to do with the price of peas?

MIDGE: Because you’re here at home and Dusty is still in prison.

DENNIS: He confessed to all crimes, allowing me to be freed.

MIDGE: Was he not coerced?

DENNIS: By who? Not me. I served most of my sentence in a wheelchair.

MIDGE: Most?

DENNIS: I was moved to a bed at night.

MIDGE: It sounded like you?

DENNIS: What did?

MIDGE: The confession. It certainly had a taste of you about it.

DENNIS: In what respect?

MIDGE: The personal attacks upon the Judge. The assault on the teaching of punctuation in comprehensives. The constant use of the word ‘ignoramus’. Didn’t sound very Dusty like. It didn’t mention coving once.

DENNIS: I helped him with the basic outline. It was my duty, I was in the cell with him and he was struggling.

MIDGE: I’d like to know who gave the idea initially.

DENNIS: I’m sure it all came from the man himself. He was quite conscious driven once you got passed the bald wife stories. Anyway it’s only Dusty. He’s better off being a martyr for the cause.

MIDGE: Is he?

DENNIS: Yes, I spent several long months being trapped in a cell with him. I surmised him to be perfect martyr material. As well as remarkably irritating.

MIDGE: That’s no reason to falsely imprison him.

DENNIS: He didn’t mind. I explained to him how it would be better for the cause if I were to be on the outside, free to pursue my various interests, while he served out the remainder of the sentence on my behalf.

MIDGE: For 118 years.

DENNIS: Yes, if you wish, for 118 years.

MIDGE: Rather than the six months.

DENNIS: Once the actions of the campaign are in full effect and complete we will secure his release.

MIDGE: What are the future actions of the campaign?

DENNIS: Well, once I’ve completed my life story, I feel the power of it will stir the masses into spontaneous civil disobedience.

MIDGE: But we’re only on the second sentence.

DENNIS: He’s in there for 118 years so there’s no need to rush. Besides, if we are deliberate then the energy of that sentence will bring the populous surging to our cause and secure the release of your beloved Dusty.

MIDGE: He was not my beloved Dennis. As you know, you were trapped in a cell with him. You know how he acts. You don’t know why you think I’d be philandering with him.

DENNIS: That’s another factor in why I’m hardly jettisoning fear at Dusty’s incarceration. It’s something of a public service. The man’s a menace.

MIDGE: Yet you’d have me frolicking with him at every turn.

DENNIS: I can’t speak for women and their qualms. [Archly] You were menopausal remember?

MIDGE: That wasn’t my idea Dennis as you’ve been told. It was contrived by my counsel.

DENNIS: I’m bound to think you had some hand in it Midge. He seemed to have a substantial grasp on womanly…matters. I doubt he came to that by his own accord.

MIDGE: He had many strings to his bow. I contributed nothing.

DENNIS: He was certainly a slippery one. What was his name again? It was some funny thing?

MIDGE: Yes, like Happer…Happer Hopper. Or Happer…naps.

DENNIS: I thought it was something closer to Tapper whatsit. Tapperparts?

MIDGE: Or Happertapper?

Both of them laugh at this.

DENNIS: Or Tapper-Hopper?

They both giggle some more.

MIDGE: Oh dear. He was a one.

DENNIS: Why did he carry that stuffed owl around with him?

MIDGE: I’ve no idea. I think it was some kind of mascot.

DENNIS: Well it worked. He was better than my one. Mr Wise. Now there was a misleading misnomer. He claimed to have some kind of military background. But when I tested him on the assembly of a Bren gun, he completely fell apart.

MIDGE: At least he could speak. Unlike Dusty’s.

They both begin to laugh again.

DENNIS: [Giggling] Oh my God. Was he there on some kind of initiative scheme or something? I’m quite happy for those with speech impediments to be given employment in the wider community. But he failed to complete a successful sentence during the entire trial. I’ve never known an occasion for a summing up to be abandoned on account of time. It was painful as well as amusing.

MIDGE: It certainly provided some comic relief.

DENNIS: Yes, but there’s a time and a place for levity.

MIDGE: Dusty appeared to enjoy it.

DENNIS: He’d enjoy anything.

There is a long pause.

MIDGE: The vicar came around earlier.

DENNIS: What vicar?

MIDGE: The local vicar.

DENNIS: I didn’t realise we had a local vicar.

MIDGE: He’s a new one.

DENNIS: Where was I?

MIDGE: You had dropped off. It was after you’d eaten that paella.

DENNIS: Oh is that what it was? I had been wondering.

MIDGE: It’s a new range. ‘The taste of Central Europe’.

DENNIS: Spain isn’t Central Europe.

MIDGE: I didn’t say it was.

DENNIS: But paella. That’s a Spanish dish. So why does it fall within that range?

MIDGE: Is paella Spanish?

DENNIS: It’s their signature cuisine. They’re really pushing the boundaries with that one.

MIDGE: That’s probably why it was so cheap.

DENNIS: What did he want?


DENNIS: The vicar.

MIDGE: Just a general introduction. Since the Close was opened out the diocese catchment area has shifted. Now we’re part of his flock apparently.

DENNIS: I thought they’d re-sealed the Close.

MIDGE: It’s been re-opened since interest in you died away.

DENNIS: Charming. Our rates are going to skyrocket, all this opening and closing of the Close.

MIDGE: Apparently they’re funded by private sponsorship. A secret, generous benefactor.

DENNIS: So this religious type. Why did he single us out?

MIDGE: He’d been following the case in the local paper. He thought you might be willing for some spiritual buoyancy.

DENNIS: Cheeky young scamp. The second they think you’re life’s in the toilet, the come sniffing around after your immortal soul. Where was he when I needed that wardrobe shifted? Hiding in the vestry I presume.

MIDGE: I told him to pop back when you were awake.

DENNIS: How’s he going to know if I’m awake?

MIDGE: Perhaps he can use his religious intuition.

There is a sudden thunderous pounding on the door.

DENNIS: That’s probably him. I refuse to answer.

MIDGE: No, he said he wouldn’t be back today. He had a coffee morning to assemble.

DENNIS: Then who could it possibly be?

There’s more pounding on the door.

MIDGE: I’m not expecting anyone.

DENNIS: Well I don’t know the sort of person who would mal-treat a door like that. Listen to the way he’s dealing with it.

They pound again.

MIDGE: How do you know it’s a he?

DENNIS: I’m assuming there was some fornicational timetable constructed while I was away and this is one of your regular philanderers making his specified appointment.

MIDGE: No such thing occurred Dennis.

DENNIS: I wouldn’t expect you to admit it.

MIDGE: It could be a salesman.

The pounding happens again.

DENNIS: Who, or whatever, is getting quite emotive. I’m not tackling that level of hysteria on the doorstep. Go and handle it Midge.

Midge sighs and stands up. She exits.

DENNIS: Wasn’t there a bell on that door? I’m sure there was a bell affixed when we moved in. Had a pleasant tone, sort of a tinkling declension. Made a visiting stranger a charming distraction. Probably been had away by one of those crime tourists. Wanted a souvenir for his sinister collection.

Midge returns, looking shocked and horrified.

DENNIS: Was it a salesman?

Midge shakes her head.

DENNIS: Oh no, is it the police?

She shakes her head again.

DENNIS: God, it’s not Jehovah’s is it?

MIDGE: It’s worse.

DENNIS: Worse? How could it possibly be?

MIDGE: Dennis.


MIDGE: Its Dusty.

Dusty bustles in. He looks like his old self but is covered in grime. He takes a seat at the table and immediately looks up at the ceiling.

DUSTY: Ah, now that’s what I call a bit of coving. Lovely to see it. I’ve missed that I really have.

Both Dennis and Midge are silent in slack-jawed shock.

DENNIS: How can it possibly be?

MIDGE: I can’t conceive. Perhaps he’s a ghost.

DENNIS: He doesn’t smell like a ghost.

MIDGE: Are you aware of how a ghost smells?

DENNIS: Not like toilets Midge. Unless he’s a dirty ghost.

MIDGE: Dusty may well be a dirty ghost.

DENNIS: I’ll grant you that.

DUSTY: Having a chat are you? A lovely wee chat? A had a pal who enjoyed something of a chat. They called him Chatty due to his condition. Lived up Bury way…

DENNIS: I can’t believe he’d be doing that in the after-life.

MIDGE: Really?

DENNIS: You’d think that affliction would be lifted from him in death.

MIDGE: Unless he’s here to torment us. And teach us a lesson. Like in that musical.

DENNIS: What musical? How am I supposed to understand you if you use musicals as a reference point?

MIDGE: The musical about the mean man who is plagued by ghosts and then he buys a goose at the end.

DENNIS: I think you’ll find that’s A Christmas Story by William Shakespeare and not a musical at all.

MIDGE: Either way, he could be here to aggravate us.

DENNIS: That goes without saying. It is Dusty after all.

DUSTY: Could chat for England he could. He did chat for England in fact. There was some kind of championship which Chatty competed. But there was a poor turnout and it didn’t really catch the public’s imagination.

DENNIS: One would hope there’d be a certain amount of grace in our passings. He appears to be exactly the same.

MIDGE: Is there some kind of test that can be made? To ascertain if he is of the spirit world?

DENNIS: Kick him in the shins.

Midge kicks Dusty swiftly in the shins.

DUSTY: Ow. Jesus.

DENNIS: He appears to be one of us.

MIDGE: What’s he doing here?

DENNIS: I think I know. He’s been down that hole.

Dusty looks a bit guilty.

MIDGE: Hole? What hole?

DENNIS: Did you go down that hole Dusty? Even though I expressly forbid it?

DUSTY: Holes are they? I was a married man once. The wife had a great fascination with holes…

DENNIS: No, no, no. Don’t try to disguise you guilt within one of impenetrable riddles. I can tell from your mottled clothing you’ve been down some kind of hole.

MIDGE: [Exasperated] What hole?

DENNIS: Our cell contained a hole, which Dusty has obviously been abusing for his own ends.

DUSTY: I was just having a lovely run round. I couldn’t help it. The urge took hold of me.

DENNIS: Are you claiming that you fell into the hole innocently?

DUSTY: That was something of it.

DENNIS: I told you not to run round and not to enter that hole.

DUSTY: I thought perhaps there was a time limit on your instruction.

DENNIS: As if I’d apply such a thing. If there were to be a time limit I would have specified it. It was a blanket ban.

MIDGE: Why did you come here?

DUSTY: I always did like to look at your ceiling.

DENNIS: They’ll be after him. They’re sure to come here.

MIDGE: What should we do Dennis?

DENNIS: We must obscure him in some way.

DUSTY: Would you have a hanky or some such? I’ve swallowed quite a lot of soil.

DENNIS: Did you eat your way out?

DUSTY: Partly.

DENNIS: How did you get from the prison to here? It’s over three hundred miles?

DUSTY: I rambled. I was something of a rambler in my youth. It was how I met the woman I subsequently married. We both rambled and then one day we rambled into one another and wed soon after. She had her hair then of course.

MIDGE: How did you eat?

DUSTY: I gathered berries and edible mosses. An old rambling trick.

DENNIS: Are you sure they didn’t let you escape? [To Midge] It is quite possible they simply let him escape.

MIDGE: How do you mean?

DENNIS: He hardly endeared himself to the authorities as you can imagine. The guards were often discussing how to remove him in some way. Having him transferred or possibly paroled. Once the extension to his sentence was announced I can imagine they turned a blind eye to his obsession with the hole. They could have even aided his departure.

MIDGE: So perhaps they aren’t pursuing him?

DENNIS: I would imagine they would have to apply a façade of pursuit. Even if they don’t try too hard.

MIDGE: I suppose it doesn’t reflect well on them if they allow a prisoner to flee and then take no action.

DENNIS: It could certainly be considered a little negligent.

MIDGE: [Under her breath] Do you think there could be a reward if we alerted someone to his whereabouts?

DENNIS: It’s a thought. But it might look a bit fishy Midge. His former cell-mate and his former lover betraying him.

MIDGE: Please don’t refer to me as his former lover.

DENNIS: Either way it would be easy to assume that we aided and abetted the miscreant.

MIDGE: [Resigned] Oh dear. Its been like this since Christmas.

DENNIS: What’s Christmas go to do with anything?

MIDGE: I smashed that box of baubles.


MIDGE: It just seemed to have turned my luck.

DENNIS: What hocus-pocus Midge. I don’t like dallying with superstition. It’s akin to fraud.

MIDGE: It’s just coincidental.

DENNIS: And since when have baubles been a totem of luck. Surely you’re thinking of mirrors?

MIDGE: They have reflective surfaces. It could be far worse in way of misfortune.

DENNIS: I don’t like this line of reasoning Midge. And its derailing us about the situation with Dusty.

DUSTY: [Snapping to] What?

MIDGE: I’m not quite sure of the protocol.

DENNIS: How do you mean?

MIDGE: Should I offer him a cup of tea? Under the circumstances?

DUSTY: Oh yes, a cup of tea would set me up a treat.

DENNIS: I think there are very few circumstances where a cup of tea, in an English household, would be beyond the pale. That would be a very cruel state of affairs. Perhaps if an assault was being undertaken or if you were dealing with the Dutch.

MIDGE: Right, then I’ll put the kettle on.

Midge exits.

DUSTY: [Shouting after her] Oh and a biscuit if you could stretch so far. I have been in a position where such privileges were denied to me.

DENNIS: That’s a damn lie Dusty and you know it. We had biscuits regularly in prison. Very poor biscuits I grant you. Dry and institutional. But recognisable as biscuits all the same.

DUSTY: Oh yes. Forgive me sir. I had forgotten.

DENNIS: I hope you’re not going to use your recent incarceration to agitate sympathy form the uninitiated.

DUSTY: Oh no sir. I’d never be the sort of person to do that.

DENNIS: It would be a lowly soul to stoop to such tactics.

DUSTY: It never crossed my mind. I promise.

DENNIS: I think we need to address your plans Dusty. You can’t stay here, it isn’t safe for any of us. What do you propose to do next?

DUSTY: In regards to what sir?

DENNIS: Well, not to be blunt, but you are an escaped convict and are, in common parlance, on the run.

DUSTY: That may be so.

DENNIS: So you should probably be considering what steps to take next.

DUSTY: I was hoping for some tea and biscuits.

DENNIS: Beyond the tea and biscuits Dusty. What then?

DUSTY: I may need to go to the toilet.

DENNIS: Dusty, I do not care to hear that. I’m only glad Midge is out of the room.

MIDGE: [Off-stage] Oh no I heard him quite clearly.

DENNIS: Now see what you’ve done. In avoiding the wider picture you’ve mentioned toilets in earshot of my wife.

DUSTY: Wife you say…

DENNIS: Oh dear.

DUSTY: I was once wed to a woman on a nameless Channel Island. Things were fine until one day she appeared completely shorn of hair. Something to do with the conflict in Korea she claimed. Many considered it a cry for help.

DENNIS: And would she be happy hearing about toilets in such a flagrant manner?

DUSTY: Oh yes, she was quite open-minded. She was a sandal wearer.

DENNIS: I can just picture it.

DUSTY: Very fond of the land.

DENNIS: Perhaps it would be preferable for you to stay with her.


DENNIS: Your bald, Guernsey-bound ex-wife. She could conceal you amongst her bountiful collection of sandals.

DUSTY: Oh dear no. She died many years ago.

DENNIS: She did? How did that occur?

DUSTY: It was a crime of passion. I discovered her lying down in congress with a man of questionable heritage.

DENNIS: Good Lord. You killed her?

DUSTY: I’m afraid so. With a shovel.

DENNIS: Him too?

DUSTY: Yes indeed. With a hoe.

DENNIS: You changed implements between victims?

DUSTY: That’s what I was told. It’s all a bit of a blur.

DENNIS: Were you punished for this crime?

DUSTY: I took a fine. They are more understanding of these matters on the Channel Islands. It’s their Gallic slant.

DENNIS: I see.

DUSTY: Plus the man involved was considered some kind of evil troll or warlock.

DENNIS: Really?

DUSTY: That again is a symptom of the Islands.

DENNIS: Let’s move on shall we. If you’re wife has been despatched, what about your friend Chatty?

DUSTY: Oh, I had a friend called Chatty. He lived in the Bury area…

DENNIS: I know. That’s who I am talking about.


DENNIS: Chatty.

DUSTY: Oh that brings to mind a friend of mine by the name of Chatty. Down Bury way…

DENNIS: [Angry] I know, I know. That’s who I am referring to. Can’t you go and stay with him down Bury way?

DUSTY: Bury you say?


DUSTY: Bury is the hometown of a decent pal of mine who goes by the moniker of Chatty. It is applied to him due to his comprehensive chatting abilities….

DENNIS: [Exasperated] Dusty, please, try to hold on to this thought for longer than an eighth of a second. Right?

DUSTY: I will try.

DENNIS: Are you ready?


DENNIS: You have a friend in Bury called Chatty, agreed?

DUSTY: I have a friend in Bury called Chatty, yes.

DENNIS: Can you travel to Bury and stay with your friend Chatty their immediately after your imminent tea and biscuits?

DUSTY [After a pause] That’s the exact same thing my old wife used to say to me….

DENNIS: [Defeated] Good Christ…

DUSTY: Can’t you piss off up to Bury and stay with your pal Chatty that you’re constantly going on about, she used to say.

Dennis sits silently with his head in his hands. Midge returns with a tray of tea cups and places them on the table in front of Dusty.

MIDGE: Perhaps you could stay with your friend Chatty Dusty?

DUSTY: Oh, I had a friend called Chatty myself….

DENNIS: We’ve been over this quite thoroughly Midge.

MIDGE: How about his bald wife in the Channel Islands?

DENNIS: No good. He killed her.

MIDGE: Really?

DENNIS: Apparently.

MIDGE: You wouldn’t think he had it in him would you.

Suddenly an announcement, the same as the ones made in the prison, booms out into the living room.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Ladies and gentleman. The first floor bathroom is now free. You are advised to leave it vacant for a short period of time before it will return to optimum sanitary condition. That is all.

Dennis gives Midge a dirty look.

DENNIS: Of all the lodgers to pick Midge.

MIDGE: He’s paid his deposit. There’s nothing we can do.

DUSTY: I was once married to a woman who took to taking in lodgers. She ran a small hotel on a coastal town in the Channel Islands. It was these lodgers, plus the loss of her hair, which first created friction in the relationship…

DENNIS: Do we have a sheet handy?

MIDGE: There’s one just been washed over there. Why?

DENNIS: Just toss it over him. It will keep him quiet.

MIDGE: Really?

DENNIS: It was something I resorted to in prison. He’s a little like a budgie. The darkness will keep him still.

MIDGE: But he’s got his tea and he looks so happy.

DENNIS: He’ll continue to enjoy it under the sheet, I can promise you.

MIDGE: If you’re sure.

Midge crosses the room and takes a sheet.

DUSTY: I had a friend who worked in the salvaging business…

Midge tosses the sheet over him and Dusty suddenly falls silent.

MIDGE: Oh yes. That’s quite an effective method.

DENNIS: You’ll have to wash the sheet again obviously.

MIDGE: Yes of course.

DENNIS: I wonder what we should do next?

MIDGE: Lets weigh up our options.

DENNIS: That’s very good Midge. Very practical. It seems you are learning.

MIDGE: Thank you.

DENNIS: Well, the main problem is Dusty here, who is a known convict and probably being pursued by various authorities.

MIDGE: Agreed.

DENNIS: So we need to get rid of him as covertly as possible.

MIDGE: Oh yes, I like that, covertly.

DENNIS: Thank you. I think everything else will have to wait until he’s dealt with. We should probably move quickly as the net will be closing in.

MIDGE: Is this a metaphorical net, or a real one?

DENNIS: It could be both Midge. That’s why we need to get our skates on.

MIDGE: So what shall we do?

DENNIS: Well, I would have thought about bumping him off, until I heard about him murdering two people with garden tools.

MIDGE: And there’s your leg…

DENNIS: I was assuming you would do the brunt of the work. As I’m incapacitated.

MIDGE: I couldn’t do that sort of thing.

DENNIS: You’ve killed hundreds of people.

MIDGE: Yes, but at a distance. Not face to face like that. In cold blood.

DENNIS: The point is moot at any rate as we shall not investigate that particular avenue.

MIDGE: Should we sleep on it?

DENNIS: I’m not sure we can? The sharks could be circling as we speak.

MIDGE: Sharks?

There’s a sudden, loud noise off-stage.

MIDGE: [Scared] What was that?

DENNIS: [Scared] Oh God could that be them?

MIDGE: Should we surrender?

DENNIS: You surrender. I’ll wait here.

There is a banging of a door and then the heavy footsteps of the man upstairs as he stomps towards his own flat.

MIDGE: Oh goodness. Its just him upstairs.

DENNIS: That’s the first time I’ve been pleased to hear him.

The rhythmic grunts of his sexual congress starts almost immediately.

DENNIS: Yes, there he goes. What a relief.

DUSTY: [Under sheet] What?

DENNIS: What’s set him off?

MIDGE: I’ve no clue?

DUSTY: [Under sheet] What?

DENNIS: Do we have another sheet?

MIDGE: In the airing cupboard.

DENNIS: Might be worth the trip.

There is a sudden rhythmic pounding on the front door.

MIDGE: Dennis!

DUSTY: What?

DENNIS: Oh no!

The pounding happens again.

MIDGE: Dennis!

DUSTY: What?

There is more pounding.

MIDGE: Dennis!

DUSTY: What?

The sexual grunts of the man upstairs mingle with the rhythmic pounding at the front door and the cries of Midge and Dusty to form a weird, hypnotic backbeat.

MIDGE: Dennis!

DUSTY: What?

As the noise increases and a sensation of hysteria grips the character, Dennis, wild-eyed, slowly begins to rise from his chair.

MIDGE: Dennis!

DUSTY: What?

Dennis, with difficulty, stands upright as the rhythm continues, producing a weird sort of music. Dennis staggers over to the corner of the room and picks up and acoustic guitar. He then walks to the centre of the stage.

DENNIS: Let’s sing another song boys. This one has grown old and bitter.

He starts to play the guitar, along with the rhythm of everything around him. He then begins to sing the song ‘Let’s Sing Another Song Boys’ by Leonard Cohen, which is quite a roaring, rip-roaring number with a building, quite stirring conclusion. Dennis sings the verses of the song, while Dusty frees himself from the sheet and Midge also stands and joins in the chorus and the finale. The Guard, the Announcer and a chorus of unknown people dressed as policemen also walk out onto the stage and join in. The conclusion of the song is also the conclusion of the play.


Tuesday, 28 April 2009




Dennis and Dusty are in almost identical positions, but are now held in a prison cell. Dennis still sits with his swollen leg, but he is now in a wheelchair. He is wearing all denim overalls similar to Dusty’s usual outfit. Dusty is staring vaguely upward as usual. There are the usual prison accruements around them, bunk bed, metal table etc. Dennis looks thoroughly depressed. Dusty suddenly snaps into life and continues a conversation seemingly started previously.

DUSTY: …so I said, you don’t get many of them to the pound.

DENNIS: [Surprised] What?

DUSTY: I said to man in the station, you don’t get many of them to the pound.

DENNIS: What are you talking about?

DUSTY: [Thinking] Oh? It was the… Oh. I think I’ve lost my thread.

DENNIS: You’re going to have to go into the corner Dusty.


DENNIS: I’m afraid so. Please, go into the corner.

DUSTY: And be silent?

DENNIS: Correct. You are learning.

Dusty rises and sits in the corner facing the wall.

DUSTY: [Happily] Is this to your satisfaction?

DENNIS: Yes indeed it is. Silence now.

The two men sit in silence for a period.

DENNIS: Dusty?


DENNIS: Could you do something about your breathing?

DUSTY: Breathing?

DENNIS: Yes, your breathing is quite irregular. And has a rasped quality. Could it be avoided?

DUSTY: I’m not certain.

DENNIS: Perhaps try another route. Do you favour your mouth? Or your nose?

DUSTY: I’ve never given it much thought.

DENNIS: Well, how can you possibly be expected to answer this line of enquiry if you’ve never had it under consideration? You must be prepared for any eventuality.

DUSTY: Are you sir?

DENNIS: Not half. Ask me anything.

Dusty quickly returns to the table then sits silently thinking for a long time. An announcement over an unknown loud speaker suddenly erupts. The ANNOUNCER has a man’s voice, similar to the one often used on the London Underground.

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen. Your attention please. There is a window cleaner currently scaling B Block. Repeat. This is a window cleaner. Not an escapee. Do not encourage him or erroneously egg him on. He is merely cleaning windows.

DUSTY: Have you ever killed yourself?

DENNIS: No, but I was once accused of considering suicide. I was waiting for an Underground train. This was before the leg. The thing of it was, I was carrying a pasty, which I’d recently purchased. On street level of course, not underground. Sadly the tube system is not that advanced. And I was standing near to the edge of the platform when a woman accused me of contemplating suicide. I mean, why would a man bearing a pasty suddenly decide to end his life? Surely he would eat it first? Or forego the purchase altogether. It would be uneconomic and slightly mercenary.

DUSTY: Very good.

DENNIS: You see how I was prepared for that? Didn’t take the obvious route you notice. A slightly different slant was engineered. Preparation. It’s the watchword of the beneficial man.

DUSTY: [Looking around] Did you redecorate?

DENNIS: What? No. We’re in prison.

DUSTY: Really?

DENNIS: We’ve been here three months.

DUSTY: Are you sure?

DENNIS: Yes, of course. Don’t you remember the trial?

DUSTY: No, no, no. Could you recount it for me?

DENNIS: Recount the trial? Here in the cell? I don’t think so.


DENNIS: No. I mean, it’s such a cliché isn’t it? The two of us, tried and convicted and then discussing the judicial proceedings here in our cell. All a bit obvious isn’t it?

DUSTY: So I was guilty then?

DENNIS: Yes, though led astray apparently. By me, as if that were possible. I tried to explain, I was just a bystander in all of this. There’s that word again. Bystander. I tell you being a bystander, nothing good ever comes of it.


DENNIS: No, its to be strictly avoided if possible. Though I think there’s a certain amount of eventuality about it. I tell you something else you don’t want to be.

DUSTY: What?

DENNIS: A gentle giant. Always getting into terrible trouble gentle giants. Bound by tragedy and misadventure. If there’s been a positive story revolving around a gentle giant then I’ve yet to hear it.

DUSTY: You know, I knew a gentle giant once.

DENNIS: You do surprise me. Let me guess, it was your bald wife in Guernsey. She was both bald and enormous?


DENNIS: Then the fellow with the salvaging device similar, but not exactly the same, as a midget submarine?


DENNIS: Oh good, that means it was your pal Chatty.

DUSTY: Yes, that’s right. He was a gentle giant. A great hulk of a man. People always willing to fight him, due to his tremendous size. He ended up in prison once. Due to the fighting.

DENNIS: [Depressed] I know.

DUSTY: Fought himself right into a cell.

DENNIS: You tell me every day.

DUSTY: Quite popular in jail though. Due to his chatting capabilities.

DENNIS: Sometimes several times a day.

DUSTY: They eventually released him. Again it was down to his chatting.

DENNIS: I wish he was in here. Instead of you.

DUSTY: I didn’t know I was here.

DENNIS: [Exasperated] God, look, fate has thrown us together for whatever reasons of cruelty and, while the situation persists, I demand you at least attempt to be a better cellmate.

DUSTY: What do you mean? How can I improve?

DENNIS: You could pick up a bit more of the slack.


DENNIS: Your topics. They are very distinct.

DUSTY: I don’t know what you mean.

DENNIS: You have five streams of conversation that appears to be provoked by any utterance.

DUSTY: I think I might dispute that.

DENNIS: You bald wife…

DUSTY: I had a bald wife once…

DENNIS: [Interrupting] You pal chatty…

DUSTY: I had this chatty friend…

DENNIS: [Interrupting] Shouting…

DUSTY: Used to do a bit of shouting myself. Uniformed types mostly….

DENNIS: [Interrupting] And, for some bizarre reason, an alternative word for coving…

DUSTY: Funny you should say that, I’ve been wondering that myself. I’m sure there is another word. But it just evades me…

DENNIS: I could supply any random series of syllables and it would provoke one of your prescribes tales.

DUSTY: I just can’t see it.

DENNIS: [Disbelieving] Can’t see it? Fine, pass me that newspaper.

Dusty tosses a newspaper to him. Dennis opens it, closes his eye, and sticks his finger onto a word at random.

DENNIS: Chestnuts.

DUSTY: I had this wife once, she was moored somewhere on the Channel Islands. She had this beautiful chestnut hair, came down to the small of her back. But one day she chopped it all off on a whim. Never the same after that.

Dennis picks another word from the newspaper.

DENNIS: [Reading] Pedigree.

DUSTY: Oh I had a pal, old Chatty, lived up Bury way. He had this lovely dog, a Spaniel, pure bred, took it everywhere with him. Good conversation starter.

DENNIS: [Annoyed, shouting] Tractor.

DUSTY: Having a shout are you? I used to like a bit of a shout myself. Tended to be anyone uniformed…


DUSTY: Firemen, security guards, parkies…

DENNIS: [Reading, defeated] Hollyhocks…

DUSTY: That was the name of my friend’s submarine, it was a midget one, used it for salvage…

DENNIS: Oh yeah, I forgot about that one….

DUSTY: He had a taste for Hollyhocks, all flora really, which he missed while at sea.

DENNIS: Right, one more. [Reads] Oh [Surprised] …coving…

DUSTY: Now there’s an interesting thing. I must say I miss that being in this room. No ceiling decoration at all. The wall just rises and then meets those tiles up there. No interest in that at all. There are some interesting stains though. If a stain could be thought of as interesting which I certainly believe it can be. That one there looks like a bishop. Not a tall bishop. But a definite bishop. With the hat and everything.

DENNIS: Could we not start the afternoon off by being irreligious.

There is a sudden booming ANNOUNCEMENT from an unseen speaker.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Ladies and gentlemen. Residents in C Wing are advised that the burning of the following items is forbidden. Mattresses, pillowcases, window-boxes, shoes, socks, sheetings, wallpaper, toiletries, bread. Residents are asked only to burn the items set aside for burning.

DENNIS: Why does he say ‘ladies’? There’s no ladies here. Nor are there likely to be any.

An unseen GUARD, begins to shout into the cell.

GUARD: You all right in there?

DENNIS: Not particularly.

GUARD: Is it the ventilation? We often get complaints about the ventilation.

DENNIS: Why does he say ladies? In his announcements? There’s no ladies here.

GUARD: Yes. There’s one. In the physiotherapy pool.

DENNIS: Physiotherapy pool? I’ve never heard of such a thing. Surely if anyone needs physiotherapy it’s me. Look at this leg.

GUARD: No you can’t. It’s out of bounds.

DENNIS: Then what is it’s purpose?

GUARD: Physiotherapy.

DENNIS: For who?

GUARD: Those who earn the privilege. Who, to date, has been no one.

DENNIS: Well, either way, it should be ‘lady and gentlemen’ in any future announcements.

GUARD: That’s not common parlance.

DENNIS: It’s accurate.

GUARD: Accuracy is another privilege. You are here to be punished.

DENNIS: I’m certainly being punished.

GUARD: Good. In what regard particularly. I should report it.

DENNIS: The company.

GUARD: Company?

DENNIS: Why did you place us in a cell together? That seems odd.

GUARD: Well, we knew you’d committed the crime together, so we thought we’d incarcerate you together. Give you something to talk about. Keep you company.

DENNIS: I believe in the court case I was referred to as the mastermind of the whole scheme, whereas Dusty here was portrayed by his particularly corrupt representative as some kind of naïve simpleton.

GUARD: I didn’t attend.

DENNIS: Well he did, indicating that I was in some way superior to my companion here and possibly responsible for his downfall, so surely it is the height of the irregularity to encase us together.

GUARD: Out of my jurisdiction I’m afraid. I’m just here to stop you killing yourself and damaging the furniture.

DENNIS: In America this would be described as cruel and unusual punishment.

DUSTY: I had a wife once. She tended to be quite cruel and her appearance was quite unusual.

DENNIS: [Groans] Oh God.

GUARD: See, I’ve leave you know to happily chat together.

He leaves.

DENNIS: I don’t understand why I’m being punished. Prison time is surely women’s work. Certainly I committed the crime, that was established during the trial. But a quick examination would tell you that I’m hardly a danger to others. Sitting here idle, I’m offering no constructive assistance to anyone. At least have me outside, being useful. I should be allowed to nominate an alternate to be punished in my stead. Midge would happily oblige. She’ll just be out there. Fornicating.

DUSTY: Midge, now who would that be?

DENNIS: I’m not telling you.

DUSTY: Why not?

DENNIS: I’m not telling you that either. I’m onto you Dusty. I was onto you when you were gallivanting with my wife…[Realising] Oh damn it…

DUSTY: Wife you say. I was once in possession of a wife…

DENNIS: I must have died. I must be in hell. It’s the only logical explanation. God has forsaken me.

DUSTY: …she had this thing about crickets.

DENNIS: Really? You haven’t mentioned that before.

DUSTY: Have I not?

DENNIS: No. Did you say crickets or cricket?

DUSTY: I’d rather not say. Come to think of it forget it was ever mentioned.

DENNIS: No really, is it cricket or crickets? The sport or the insect?

DUSTY: I Mustn’t say.

DENNIS: What, I’ve demanded some attempts at conversation from you. You include the first piece of even vaguely interesting information in one of your ghastly tales for the first time in an age and then you take the decision to clam up.

DUSTY: Ah, shouting is it. I was once a shouter…

DENNIS: No, no, no. You won’t pass the sticky baton like that. I want to know about these crickets or this cricket. Was it the size of the thing or the speed of the ball or the sound they make or the bales? What elements of these two disparate things were so unsettling to your wife?

DUSTY: Wife?

DENNIS: The wife with no hair in Guernsey. What was it with cricket singular or crickets plural or both which troubled her?

DUSTY: Would you have a run round with me?

DENNIS: [After a stunned pause] What?

DUSTY: A run round. A lovely run round. Round the room.

DENNIS: You’re trying to derail me again Dusty.

DUSTY: No, no. I just be wanting a run round. A real hankering for a lovely run round.

DENNIS: This is ridiculous.

Dusty begins to move the beds with enthusiasm.

DENNIS: Are you mad? What are you doing?

DUSTY: Preparing the track. We’ll put all the furniture at the centre of the room and then have a lovely run round the outside. Some laps. Help me with the bed.

DENNIS: No I can’t. Look at me. Look at my leg. I’m housed in a wheelchair. I am in no position to move furniture or begin laps.

DUSTY: Have a heart to an old soldier. A quick run round would set me up lovely. Oblige me please.

DENNIS: Stop it at once, you’ll implicate us.

Dusty shifts a unit which houses the sink and reveals a large hole in the floor, large enough for a man to get into. It seems to lead to a tunnel.

DENNIS: What is that?

DUSTY: A hole.

DENNIS: Quick, put the back. It will cause all sorts of trouble.

DUSTY: There seems to be a tunnel leading from it. [Dusty leans in] Hello?

DENNIS: Stop it at once? You’ll attract attention. Who do you expect to be down there?

DUSTY: But I can’t leave it uncovered. Once I start my run round I’m liable to fall into it.

DENNIS: Then cover it. Put that sink back.

DUSTY: But the sink will encumber me during my run round.

DENNIS: As I’ve told you many times Dusty, prioritisation is a sign of a fruitful mind. What is more important? Not having a run round and leaving the sink there nor not falling into a large hole and potentially injuring myself?

DUSTY: Are they my only options?

DENNIS: I’m afraid so.

DUSTY: I could skip over the hole.

DENNIS: I’m tempted to say that you couldn’t.

DUSTY: But surely if I leave the hole uncovered and then don’t run round then that will be the ideal situation that will encourage all parties to be satisfied.

DENNIS: Don’t seduce me with your crypto-logic. [Getting aggressive] Just return that sink at once.

DUSTY: Shouting are they? That takes me back…

DENNIS: Stop that at once and move that item.

Dusty reluctantly begins to move the sink back. He takes a crafty peek down the hole.

DENNIS: Don’t look down that hole. Forget about the hole. That’s it. [Dusty slowly complies] There you go. Very good.

DUSTY: But the hole…

Dusty begins to stare longingly toward the hole.

DENNIS: Forget all about that hole. [To himself] How can I distract him? I must distract him? How can this be achieved? Oh yes, by mentioning anything at all.

DUSTY: You see that hole there…

DENNIS: Dusty. Tent pegs.

DUSTY: Oh tent pegs is it? My pal was involved with the salvage industry. He had a device much like a midget submarine but fitted with a mobile arm or crane to assist with the salvaging. He once told me he’d discovered a tent peg eleven miles out and two miles down, deep on the ocean bed. I mean, how could that have possibly got there?

DENNIS: Fell off a ferry?

DUSTY: My first suggestion, but there wasn’t a particular route. In fact shipping steered clear of the area as it was claimed a mythical beast, similar to a Kraken but with the head of a maggot, patrolled those waters.

DENNIS: Your friend wasn’t troubled by this?

DUSTY: Oh no, he held no sway with things spiritual. He once published a pamphlet called ‘Jesus – Was It Suicide?’ He was never again allowed onto sanctified ground in the Banbury area.

DENNIS: Mythical sea beasts are hardly spiritual.

DUSTY: I take the point but what I’m trying to get across is the vision of him as an arch-realist. Not interested in the frippery of life. Just the here and now. That’s why we had no funeral for him.

DENNIS: He was killed?

DUSTY: Oh yes, in that very region I was mentioning. His submarine device was torn apart like a paper bag. His body was never discovered, just some torn flesh, though to be from the thigh region, with teeth marks in it. The coroner ruled it misadventure.

DENNIS: But the tent pegs?

DUSTY: What?

DENNIS: How could he tell you of the existence of tent pegs in these waters if he was killed?

DUSTY: He transferred the message by morse code only moments before his suspected demise.

DENNIS: Suspected?

DUSTY: His body was never discovered.

DENNIS: Oh yes.

DUSTY: Now what about this hole?


The Guard returns. He is still unseen.

GUARD: Who is moving things in there?

DUSTY: I am sir. I was readying for a run round.

GUARD: You should have thought of that before committing your heinous acts.

DENNIS: Sir, may I please request a transfer?

GUARD: These are antics. I don’t like antics. I need you both to sit still and consider the meaning of your punishments. Not gad about.

DENNIS: I’m not gadding sir. I’m an invalid.

DUSTY: I was just needing a run round.

GUARD: You can run round when your sentence is complete. In the meantime sit perfectly still.

DUSTY: Well could you advise on this other matter, you see we’ve just come across…

DENNIS: [Interrupting, shouting] Dusty…

Dennis begins to distract Dusty by grabbing his newspaper and wafting it in the air. Dusty’s eyes follow the newspaper, transfixed. He continues to wave it though the following exchange.

DENNIS: [To Guard] We’ve…erm… just come across this Bible passage that’s been troubling us.

GUARD: Oh, I’m quite a whiz with things Biblical, let me hear it I’m sure I can put your minds at rest.

DENNIS: [Struggling] Oh right…yes…its that part about…erm…the bread…

GUARD: And fishes?

DENNIS: Yes that’s the one. What’s that all about?

GUARD: Well, that’s quite self-explanatory. He needed to feed a lot of people so he divided but the bread and fishes in a miraculous way and every one had a bit.

DENNIS: But bread and fish. Seems a strange combo?

GUARD: I suppose its what was around at the time.

DENNIS: So you’re saying this miracle could have been achieved no matter what the foodstuff?

GUARD: Indeed. In fact I believe that if our Lord had no food at all he could have miracled something up from somewhere.

DENNIS: Really? Even meat?

GUARD: I’m quite sure of it.

DENNIS: But would he have cooked the meat first then divided it? Or divided it raw? Or cooked it while conducting the miracle, by the power of His holy actions?

GUARD: Hmmm, yes I see. Well, I suppose he would have crossed that bridge when he came to it. He was quite handy in that respect. Always a very practical person. That’s one of the main traits I admire in him. That and the Godhead.

DENNIS: Well, that’s given us plenty to consider, many thanks.

GUARD: No problem. Like I say, it’s quite my forte.

Dennis stops waving thinking the Guard has left.

DENNIS: [Rubbing his arm] Christ my arm.

GUARD: What’s that about Christ’s arms?

DENNIS: [Waving the paper suddenly again] They were great weren’t they?

GUARD: They did the job.

DENNIS: In those paintings, they always look quite…muscular.

GUARD: I hadn’t considered it, but I suppose He did perform a certain amount of manual labour in his early days.

DENNIS: That’ll be it then.

GUARD: You have a visitor.

DENNIS: [Taken aback, he stops waving] What? Me?

GUARD: Yes. That’s why I popped over. You have a visitor.

DUSTY: Visitor is it? My pal…

DENNIS: [Interrupting] Shut up Dusty. A visitor? Today?

GUARD: Why not today?

DENNIS: Aren’t they usually sanctioned on specific days? Of which this is not one?

GUARD: Well, you know Thursday?


GUARD: Well, three days after Thursday it’s the Bank Holiday isn’t it? Bank Holiday Monday.


GUARD: And today’s Tuesday, which is practically Thursday in my book, so we thought we’d make an exception, considering it’s more or less the Bank Holiday.

DENNIS: Right. Do I have to do anything?

GUARD: I’ll get some assistance. So you can be wheeled to the necessary wing.

DENNIS: Can’t you do it?

GUARD: I don’t like to enter the cells. I’ve had all sorts on things hurled at me. I seem prone to it. They’ve got my picture on the wall down at that dry cleaners.


Dennis painfully wheels himself across the stage towards Midge who is sitting behind a glass partition popular in prison visiting rooms. Dennis is struggling valiantly, while Midge looks on, slightly bored and unconcerned.

DENNIS: [Angry] You could help.

MIDGE: How can I help?

DENNIS: That’s always your stance. Push me.

MIDGE: I can’t. I’m contained behind glass. I can’t get anywhere near you.

DENNIS: You could ask for dispensation. On compassionate grounds. We are husband and wife.

MIDGE: I don’t think that sort of thing goes on.

Dennis is about eight feet away from the partition.

DENNIS: Well this will have to do. We’ll have to converse from here and if the conversation is particularly illuminating I’ll attempt to get closer.

MIDGE: Can’t you ask one of your jailers for assistance?

DENNIS: It doesn’t work like that. They’re not here to help. Only to puncture our hope.

MIDGE: Puncture your loaf?

DENNIS: [Shouting] Hope. Hope.

MIDGE: Sorry, you’re quite far away and I’m behind glass.

DENNIS: I suppose I’m at fault for that?

MIDGE: The far away part certainly.

DENNIS: Don’t get bolshy Midge, just because you’re behind glass. You’ve got previous with this before.

MIDGE: Previous?

DENNIS: It’s a lags word Midge, I’ve been corrupted, It was unavoidable. I’m housed in a penitentiary with cutthroats and vagabonds of the highest order. But we’ll come to that. I’m now concerned with your behaviour behind glass. I’ll refer to your time as an usherette.

MIDGE: I wasn’t an usherette, I was a box office operative.

DENNIS: Just verbal bunting Midge. Don’t try to sweep the jousting under the carpet. I’m not concerned about your title but rather your activities, because I recall vividly that when you were housed behind the glass of the box office of which you were an operative you took on airs.

MIDGE: I refute that.

DENNIS: Only because you were clouded behind a veil of power fuelled insanity, precipitated by your relative encasement behind glass. Behind that meagre panel of cracked Perspex, you acted like the leader of any reputable junta.

MIDGE: I told you at the time Dennis, I couldn’t just give you free sweets. Mr Mancini counted them up at the end of the night. He would have noticed any shortcomings.

DENNIS: Poppycock.

MIDGE: [Appalled] Dennis!

DENNIS: Well, as I told you, I’m caged next to the rougher type of society and their vernacular is bound to rub off. I’m being polluted at every turn.

MIDGE: Oh dear.

DENNIS: Oh dear? Is that the best you can come up with?

MIDGE: I’m not attuned to this situation Dennis. It’s hard to know how to react.

DENNIS: Sobbing and renting would be apt.

MIDGE: Renting? Should I take a lodger?

DENNIS: The renting of clothes. Renting them asunder, tearing at them in a hysterical manner.

MIDGE: [Unenthusiastically] Should I? Aren’t there people watching?

DENNIS: Oh don’t mind it Midge. And I forbid you to take a lodger.

MIDGE: Yes, funny you should mention it, as I’ve been considering taking a lodger.

DENNIS: I forbid you from taking a lodger.

MIDGE: But he could take the damp room. It’s not used.

DENNIS: I have plans for that damp room. And why is he a he?

MIDGE: He? Who?

DENNIS: This lodger I’m forbidding. He has to be a male lodger does he?

MIDGE: Aren’t they always male? By design?

DENNIS: By your designs perhaps. Your demented designs.

MIDGE: I thought lodger was a male term. Like dentist.

DENNIS: Dentist isn’t gender specific.

MIDGE: It isn’t? I’ve only ever had a male one.

DENNIS: So have I, but I’m sure female ones exist and if they did they would also be dentists. Not dentistettes or dentesses.

MIDGE: It doesn’t have to be a man lodger. I’d be happy with a lady lodger. Anything to get the rent paid.

DENNIS: I find the thought of a female lodger slightly more grubby than the male one proposed.

MIDGE: Then I’ll switch back to man lodger.

DENNIS: All are forbidden.

MIDGE: How about animals? Could I take in animals?

DENNIS: What variety of animals?

MIDGE: Sick ones I suppose.

DENNIS: What would you do with a sick animal?

MIDGE: I could offer them succour.

DENNIS: I beg your pardon?

MIDGE: Or sympathy. A shoulder to cry on.

DENNIS: If I were to be in possession of a wounded animal, say a hare. I hardly think I’d pop round to the close and hand it over for you for a bit of sympathy. I’d take it someone registered. With medical training.

MIDGE: I wouldn’t have thought you’d be allowed animals in here.

DENNIS: We are not. These animals are hypothetical.

MIDGE: Perhaps I could get some animal training.

DENNIS: This is what I feared.

MIDGE: What?

DENNIS: Without my pervasive influence, you would become rudderless. Now there’s no masculine line to tow, you would succumb to any number of vague platitudes.

MIDGE: What do you want me to do?

DENNIS: Sit at home, perfectly motionless, until I return and direct you.

MIDGE: For seventy-seven years?

DENNIS: If necessary. But I won’t be in here seventy-seven years will I? Those sentences are completely arbitrary. Any newspaper reader knows that. Besides I can appeal.

MIDGE: Can you?

DENNIS: Yes and I shall.

MIDGE: The Judge seemed quite certain.

DENNIS: He had a grudge against me. I can’t believe he allowed he’s personal feelings to influence his judicial duty. It was disgraceful.

MIDGE: He called you Hitler 2.

DENNIS: I’m aware of that Midge. It was a sound bite to ensure he got his name in the papers. Just inflammation, nothing more.

MIDGE: He seemed regularly inflamed.

DENNIS: No thanks to you. Why weren’t you leaping to my defence?

MIDGE: My lawyer claimed it wouldn’t help my cause.

DENNIS: I bet he didn’t. After all this is the man who had you pleading the menopause as your defence. I mean Midge, the menopause? I didn’t know where to look.

MIDGE: It wasn’t my idea.

DENINIS: I’m sure many a Borgia claimed the same thing. But here we are. You hot on the lodger trail and me getting seventy-seven years.

MIDGE: I suppose.

DENNIS: And that’s another thing. How on earth did that Judge learn of my distaste for that particular number? Was that you?

MIDGE: Of course not, I had no contact with him.

DENNIS: Could have given me eighty years, or seventy-five even. That would have been preferable. But seventy-seven. Of any double-digit number, that is my least favourite. He knew he couldn’t get away with seven hundred and seventy-seven so he zoned in on that one. He should be struck off.

Another Announcement suddenly bellows out.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Ladies and gentlemen. The library buggy is making its way along the fourth floor gantry. If you have a fine to pay, cheques are no longer acceptable. Please ensure all items of your body are kept away from the moving parts, as the librarian on duty has no medical training whatsoever.

MIDGE: What was that?

DENNIS: Another torture. This place is full of them. Why are you here anyway?

MIDGE: Do you remember that fungal thing your cousin had?


MIDGE: Your cousin Ray, remember he had that fungal thing on his feet?

DENNIS: On his feet?

MIDGE: Yes, he was showing us at the wedding.

DENNIS: Which wedding?

MDIGE: Our wedding.

DENNIS: He was showing us his fungal feet at the wedding?

MIDGE: At the reception. He had them out on the table. Right before the speeches,

DENNIS: Ray the policeman?

MIDGE: No, Ray the attendant.

DENNIS: Oh him. I’ve never seen that block and tackle again. Feet or no feet.

MIDGE: Well, do you remember his fungal thing?

DENNIS: It’s hazy, but I suppose. Why?

MIDGE: The lady at the bank has something similar. I was trying to remember if he was on some kind of cure. She was interested.

DENNIS: No, he said he was letting nature take its course. Why were you in the bank?

MIDGE: I had some pennies to exchange for larger currency.

DENNIS: And that provoked some conversation about Ray’s feet?

MIDGE: In a roundabout way.

DENNIS: And that’s why you came all the way down here?

MIDGE: Well…yes.
DENNIS: Three months I’ve been in here. No letters, no visits. And the you suddenly arrive under the auspices of chiropoditary information for some anonymous bank teller.

MIDGE: She’s not anonymous. She’s called Mrs Chang.

DENNIS: Hardly elevates my spirits Midge.

MIDGE: I was letting you settle. The last exchange we had involved you hurling a loafer at me. In the court.

DENNIS: If that’s how you want to remember it.

MIDGE: I’ve still got the scar where the eyelet scratched me.

DENNIS: How could a loafer have an eyelet?

MIDGE: Well something scratched me. That was attached to the shoe you hurled.

DENNIS: Hurled? Hurling? Very violent imagery portrayed Midge.

MIDGE: It was a violent incident.

DENNIS: That’s a matter of opinion.

MIDGE: The Judge thought so – he gave you an extra four years.

DENNIS: We’ve surmised that the Judge had a personal vendetta against me so his attitude can be ignored for a start.

MIDGE: Well how can throwing a shoe at my head from across a crowded courtroom be considered non-violent?

DENNIS: If it was brought about by some involuntary spasm or twitch.

MIDGE: It would be a hell of a twitch it if got your shoe off.

DENNIS: I was under a lot of stress.

MIDGE: So you’re saying that it was caused by a bodily tremor?

DENNIS: I refuse to be drawn on it. Last time it was brought out in public it lengthened my sentence considerably, so I think I’ll avoid the subject altogether.

MIDGE: If you wish.

DENNIS: I’ve never worn a loafer in my life. They’re the footwear of the spiv.

MIDGE: I bought you those!

DENNIS: I think they pass off a bad impression.

MIDGE: I thought it might help with your leg. Add a bit of comfort.

DENNIS: But at what expense?

MIDGE: And I was sick of seeing those slippers. No wonder the Judge threw the book at you.

DENNIS: If he basis his judgements on the accused footwear then he has no right to be wearing the wig at all.

MIDGE: You seem happy to.


MIDGE: Base your judgements on footwear. You said spivs wear loafers.

DENNIS: But I’m not in a position of authority. Lives don’t hang in the balance based on my decisions. Any reputable Judge should look upon me as a blank canvas. He shouldn’t form opinions on dress. I could be standing in the dick wearing a Gestapo officer’s uniform and he should still eye me with a calm reticence.

MIDGE: What footwear do they give you in here?

DENNIS: The tortuous, institutional kind. To sap our hopes further.

MIDGE: Does it help your leg?

DENNIS: Oh now my leg comes about. We’ve dealt with the affairs of Arthur and Martha so finally we’ve sunk so low as to mention my leg. I’m in this wheeled contraption as you can see.

MIDGE: Does it help?

DENNIS: In my humiliation certainly.

MIDGE: Have you had it seen to?

DENNIS: Oh they love looking at it. It’s practically a prison past-time, fiddling with my leg. They spend most afternoons poking at it with their pipes.

MIDGE: Pipes?

DENNIS: The doctor has a pipe. A smoking pipe. He stands over it in a superior way and then gives it a few light prods with the stem of his pipe and I’m returned to my cell. It’s almost biblical in its cruelty.

MIDGE: Maybe that’s what I can smell.

DENNIS: I’m sorry?

MIDGE: [Sniffing] I can smell something. Can’t you smell it?

DENNIS: I don’t want you sniffing at things in here. Its an all-male environment, you don’t know what you’re smelling.

MIDGE: [Sniffing] It could be pipe tobacco. No, it’s a sweet smell.

DENNIS: It’s not the place for sweet smells my dear.

MIDGE: [Sniffing] It’s very familiar.

DENNIS: it could be all manner of things in here. Anything goes.

MIDGE: It smells like…Turkish Delight.

DENNIS: That would be unlikely.

MIDGE: No, I’m sure it’s that.

DENNIS: Perhaps they waft it in here to agonise us. To remind us of all that we’ve lost.

MIDGE: [Sniffing] Or it could be petrol.

DENNIS: Smell was never your fiercest sense Midge. I remember that aftershave you bought for me during the Falklands conflict.

MIDGE: What was wrong with that?

DENNIS: It had an eggy odour.

MIDGE: It was supposed to. That was the base component.

DENNIS: Egg aftershave? That chemist preys on you Midge. He sees you coming from a mile off.

MIDGE: It was a move in a new direction for male grooming. Experimental.

DENNIS: So why was I the guinea pig?

MIDGE: You don’t normally go for fine smelling things so I thought I’d try something a bit different and see if it suited.

DENNIS: It provoked hunger in those passing me in the street. People suddenly had the urge for an omelette.

MIDGE: First my shoes, then the aftershave. I shall stop buying you anything in future Dennis, if that’s your attitude.

DENNIS: Have you bought me anything today?

MIDGE: No, not really.

DENNIS: Why not?

MIDGE: I didn’t know what would be appropriate.

DENNIS: Appropriate? Any thing would be appropriate. I’ve been shorn of any creature comforts or home luxuries. We have nothing here.

MIDGE: Somebody’s got some Turkish Delight from the smell of it.

DENNIS: That’s in your mind.

MIDGE: I don’t have the relevant realms of understanding.

DENNIS: What do you mean?

MIDGE: I know what to take when you visit someone in hospital. That’s not a problem. And I’ve made regular house visits before, to relatives or what have you. But this is my first time entering this kind of establishment and I was unaware how to be equipped.

DENNIS: It’s common knowledge.

MIDGE: Not to me. If I pitched up here with a pound of grapes or magazines or an Easter egg or a puzzle or a ham radio and then they told me such things were contraband and I had the choice of returning all the way home with them or disposing of them there at the facility, you wouldn’t be too happy would you?

DENNIS: I certainly shouldn’t.

MIDGE: Well them This was a dry run.

DENNIS: Dry run?

MIDGE: Is that the term? I thought it was and then it didn’t sound right coming out.

DENNIS: It’s a term. I grasped your meaning.

MIDGE: You’re always stretching practicality Dennis. You’ve pounded it into me often over the years. I was merely acting upon it.

DENNIS: I’ve also stressed the importance of initiative. Both go hand in hand like… [Thinking] …cheese and biscuits.

Midge pulls a face.

DENNIS: I know I know, my powers of description have been sapped by my time in here. It’s one of the many detriments.

MIDGE: What would you like me to bring?

DENNIS: Oh, are you coming again then?

MIDGE: I have to don’t I? It’s my wifely duty.

DENNIS: I would have hoped we’ve alleviated some of that convention during our marriage Midge.

MIDGE: I wasn’t aware of it.

DENNIS: I always pictured us s quite a dynamic, trend-bucking young couple. The envy of the Close.

MIDGE: Really?

DENNIS: Or rather whatever it is now it’s not a Close anymore. Or just a close in name only.

MIDGE: No, it’s a Close again. They changed it back.

DENNIS: They did? Why?

MIDGE: All the foot traffic. Crime tourists.

DENNIS: Crime tourists?

MIDGE: They visit the residences of the notorious. You’re a new addition.


MIDGE: The area couldn’t cope with the increased numbers. The residents association asked the council to close it up again to stem the tide.

DENNIS: And did it?

MIDGE: Yes, but we’d been taken off the tour anyway.

DENNIS: How dare they. Why would they do such a thing?

MIDGE: We were too far away from any other notorious abodes. They couldn’t stretch that far. There was a strangler in Babsford Avenue, but his crimes weren’t considered sufficient enough to include. So they’ve re-routed and missed us out.

DENNIS: I am solidly persecuted at every turn.

MIDGE: I don’t know why you’re complaining, I was the one having to make tea and sandwiches.

DENNIS: You were providing refreshments for them?

MIDGE: I had to. Court order. Part of our recompense to society.

DENNIS: I’ve had you sandwiches they’ll recompense no one.

MIDGE: And I had to make conversation.

DENNIS: I hope you weren’t revealing intimate details of our lives.

MIDGE: Nothing salty. But I was polite.

DENNIS: What sort of things did they ask?

MIDGE: Mainly how tall you were. They were quite obsessive about statistics.

DENNIS: Really? Nothing about my motivations?

MIDGE: Oh no. It was all, ‘how tall was he’ ‘what was his shoe size’ ‘how many teeth did he have’. That sort of thing.

DENNIS: How repellent.

MIDGE: They were quite sweet. Many of them were Scandinavians.

The two of them fall silent. There is a long pause.

DENNIS: How’s my mother?

MIDGE: Killed herself.

There is a very long fade to black.


Wednesday, 22 April 2009



In an ordinary looking suburban living room, perhaps with a slight 50s/60s look and feel, we see DENNIS, a man in his early forties sitting in a comfortable chair. His left leg is grotesquely and ludicrously swollen and looks quite painful. He is looking at a nearby clock and growing increasingly agitated. He mutters to himself with growing aggression.

DENNIS: It’ll be seven past, you see. Every time. How does she manage it? Here we go. It’s six past now. Six past and counting. She’ll be gearing up, ready to burst in at the stroke of seven. She knows how I feel about that particular number. It has to be deliberate. Right, here we go. Final stages now. [Getting very agitated] On the launch pad. Getting closer. [Almost screaming] Up the garden path. Up the garden path. Approaching the door, here it comes. Here it comes…

There’s a pause then MIDGE enters in a particularly unspectacular way, given the build-up. She’s a woman of a similar age to Dennis. She carries some bags of shopping and seems a bit sweaty and flustered. On her entrance Dennis erupts into frustrated fury.

DENNIS: [Shouting] A ha! I knew it. Seven past. Every time. You always do it. How do you manage it Midge? How can you enter this house at seven past the hour, or derivative of seven past such as 17 and 27 past the hour on every single occasion.

MIDGE: [Calmly] I’m not aware of it Dennis.

She drops the shopping on the table and begins to wearily unload items as they speak.

DENNIS: You must be. It happens every time. I even change the clocks. I fiddle with the hands at random so they make no sense and you still manage it.

MIDGE: I don’t. I don’t pay attention to it.

DENNIS: You must. You knew perfectly well my aversion to that particular number. Yet you’re in here at seven past like clockwork. [Amused] Like clockwork! You see Midge, humour in the face of adversity. You couldn’t manage a thing like that. Despite your persistent torture.

MIDGE: Please Dennis.

DENNIS: You do it deliberately to derail me. It’s like an addiction.

MIDGE: Don’t start. You can see I’m carrying things.

DENNIS: I have an utter disdain for the number seven that has plagued me since adolescence. My daily commute was hindered by my refusal to board a bus bearing that number. Added several hours to my journey. And I spend most Julys in bed.

MIDGE: I am aware of that Dennis.

DENNIS: I expected you hours ago. What could you have possibly been doing to bring about this delay?

MIDGE: You know very well what I’ve been doing. You set me to it. Look at the state of me. [She indicates her sweaty state] A woman of my age - toiling.

DENNIS: [Shocked] Toiling? I hardly think what you do could be considered toiling.

MIDGE: What would you know about it?

DENNIS: Toiling. The act of toil. It brings miners to mind. Or those who construct our railways. That’s toiling. That’s the essence of toil. Sweat, dirt and the like. You’re as clean as a flu. There’s barely a streak on you. And what’s age got to do with it?

MIDGE: I’m tired Dennis.

DENNIS: All mental. If you believe you’ve been toiling then your body is bound to react to it. But toiling is nowhere near what you’ve been up to.

MIDGE: Fine. How would you describe my recent activities?

DENNIS: [Thinks] Pandering.

MIDGE: What?

DENNIS: No…not pandering. What’s the word I’m after?

MIDGE: I’m sure I don’t know.

DENNIS: [Thinking] Pandering? It’s got a ring like that. Well, pandering will have to do. I don’t have the time to get hung up on this.

MIDGE: Thank Christ for that.

DENNIS: Don’t vain the Lord’s name Midge. Now I believe I was asking you where you had been.

MIDGE: No, you asked me what I had been doing. Can I put this cod away? [Indicates shopping] It’s beginning to spoil.

DENNIS: Not cod again Midge. What’s this fascination with cod? I’ll begin to resemble a cod at this rate.

MIDGE: There are those who would say that transformation has already begun.

DENNIS: Don’t attempt humour Midge. It doesn’t sit well with you.

MIDGE: Then let me get on.

DENNIS: Fine, then jam the kitchen door ajar so the flow of conversation can be kept constant.

She exits.

DENNIS: [Shouting through door] Well, what or where are irrelevant. They are both contributing to my demise.

MIDGE: [Off stage] I thought they were irrelevant.

DENNIS: Don’t dangle the logic Midge.

MIDGE: [Off stage] Demise is a bit dramatic isn’t it Denis?

DENNIS: I’m wild with hunger. Can you deny me a bit of drama?

MIDGE: [Off stage] If you insist

DENNIS: Either way I have been sitting here alone. Starving. Waiting.

MIDGE: [Off stage] Why didn’t you get up?

DENNIS: With my leg? You know that can’t be achieved. It hurts just to look at it.

MIDGE: [Off stage] I’m not asking you to look at it.

DENNIS: Well someone needs to look at it. [Looks at leg, pulls at trousers] It’s blown up considerably. The pressure on these seams is unbelievable.

MIDGE: [Off screen] Why didn’t you put the television on?

DENNIS: How will that help my leg?

MIDGE: [Off stage] It would have been a bit of company for you.

DENNIS: I tried. Nothing on. Just extreme close-ups of penetrative sex set to a soft-rock soundtrack with the occasional saxophone solo.

MIDGE: [Off stage] Not one of your videos. Watch something else.

DENNIS: What do you expect me to watch? Television? A channel? Like the common herd? You know me better than that Midge.

MIDGE: [Off stage] There’s the news, you might have seen me on the news.

DENNIS: Don’t tell me your developing a notoriety for yourself Midge. That would be very dangerous, I don’t want you getting ahead of yourself.

MIDGE: [Off stage] I didn’t say I’d enjoy it or even consider it particularly. I’m merely suggesting it could act as a distraction for you.

DENNIS: Oh I’ve had plenty of distraction thank you very much. Sizing up what you’ve been up to while out on the streets.

MIDGE: [Offstage] What do you mean?

DENNIS: You’re head.

MIDGE: [Offstage] How about my head?

DENNIS: So easily turned.

Midge returns.

MIDGE: Do you want me to try rubbing it again?

DENNIS: Rubbing what?

MIDGE: The leg.

DENNIS: No chance. You nearly dislocated it last time. Dug your claws right in.

MIDGE: It’s you. You keep twitching.

DENNIS: That would elicit sympathy in most wives. Not induce the urge to cripple your partner.

MIDGE: I don’t know my own strength. Here, I bought something for it.

She walks over to the table and rustles around in a bag.

DENNIS: What? What is it? Where did it come from? Is it from a reputable source?

MIDGE: I asked the lady in the chemist.

DENINS: Which lady? The short one or the one with the extra finger?

MIDGE: Extra finger.

DENNIS: And you’re asking her for advice? The woman has an extra finger. If she can’t deal with a blindingly obvious situation like that, how is she supposed to deal with a complicated case like mine?

MIDGE: Her extra finger isn’t medical. She was born with it.

DENNIS: Born or not you’d think she’d tackle it. Especially working with the needy as she does.

MIDGE: She said give this a go.

Midge hands Dennis a bottle.

DENNIS: [Reading] Polge-Tex? What’s this when it’s at home?

MIDGE: She said it would help with the swelling.

DENNIS: How will it help?

MIDGE: She wasn’t clear.

DENNIS: Side effects?

MIDGE: She didn’t mention any.

DENNIS: But you asked of course?

MIDGE: I thought if it was important she would have pointed it out.

DENNIS: No Midge, you have to ask. They can’t tell you things, otherwise they’re liable. You have to winkle out any salient information. Who knows what havoc this concoction could wreak on my leg. It might muddy the waters considerably.

MIDGE: Well it’s up to you. I thought it might help. You can sample it if you wish to.

DENNIS: If you pain becomes so severe that my treatment enters an experimental stage I might consider it.

Midge takes a seat at the table. There is a long pause.

DENNIS: How was the bombing?

MIDGE: Fair to middling.

DENNIS: Victims?

MIDGE: Only bystanders.

DENNIS: Bystanders. Funny word that. Bystanders. I mean they’re just people who are standing by when something happens. Right? But I mean no one else gets that kind of attention. People standing far away aren’t called farstanders are they? Somebody staring from a passing bus aren’t bus-starers. If a soul is not involved in any way they are not dubbed involve-nons. Why do bystanders get the privilege?

MIDGE: I can’t tell you.

DENNIS: Don’t use contractions Midge. They’re vulgar and they can’t compete with the real thing.

MIDGE: You just used three in that sentence.

DENNIS: [A bit caught out] Erm…I’m a professional around language. I’m fully trained.

MIDGE: What danger can come of it? I’m just trying to save a little time.

DENNIS: If you’re unconcerned about your standing and how you’re considered by the wider world then please, contract away.

MIDGE: I’ve used them enough in the past amongst all sorts of people and it’s never been to my detriment.

DENNIS: What sorts of people?

MIDGE: Doctors, accountants. People who might pull me up on that sort of thing.

DENNIS: They’re not going to say it to your face woman. They’ve got their finances to think about. They can’t alienate every passing vessel that uses contractions. Wait a minute, what did you say?

MIDGE: I didn’t say anything.

DENNIS: A minute ago.

MIDGE: What?

DENNIS: Detriment. You said the word detriment.

MIDGE: And what of it?

DENNIS: It’s not a word commonly in your cadence. And that blazer? Where did that blazer come from?

MIDGE: Where or why?

DENNIS: I’m not likely to say why did that blazer come from are I?

MIDGE: You’re liable to say anything when you’re in one of these moods.

DENNIS: You’re skirting Midge. There’s a story behind that blazer.

MIDGE: Don’t be silly.

DENNIS: I’m far from silly Midge, I’m considering that blazer.

MIDGE: [Angrily] It’s not a blazer. It’s a smart jacket.

DENNIS: Ah ha! So you reveal yourself.

MIDGE: What do you mean?

DENNIS: Smart. Smart jacket. And words like detriment. A pattern is beginning to decipher.

MIDGE: Oh Dennis. You’re seeing things that aren’t really there.

DENNIS: This is Dusty. This has the touch of Dusty all over it. Did Dusty give you the blazer?

MIDGE: Dusty? Are you serious?

DENNIS: Deadly Midge, deadly.

MIDGE: Where would Dusty get his hands on a blazer? He can barely stand upright.

DENNIS: So now it is a blazer? It’s magically transformed from a smart jacket?

MIDGE: I’m using your terms so this ridiculous conversation doesn’t become any more convoluted.

DENNIS: Convoluted. My, you’re like a walking dictionary today. All these roads lead to suspicion.

MIDGE: That’s not my intention.

DENNIS: But you saw him today didn’t you?


DENNIS: Dusty.

MIDGE: You know I did. He was my accomplice.

DENNIS: You needn’t say it with such affection.

MIDGE: I was applying my regular tone. I wasn’t aware of any particular emphasis.

DENNIS: Emphasis? Where did you pluck a word like that from? They’re Dusty words. Very Dusty words.

MIDGE: He was your choice of accomplice. I wanted Basil.

DENNIS: I bet you did Midge, but we broke up that little sorcery didn’t we? So now you’ve turned your talons on Dusty.

MIDGE: No ones turned anything on Dusty. If you feel so strongly about this let’s abandon the whole campaign. I’ll never see him again.

DENNIS: You know that’s impossible Midge. There’s no escaping the campaign. Even if it does force you into the arms of Dusty.

MIDGE: I’ve never been anywhere near Dusty’s arms. And I resent the suggestion.

DENNIS: That’s what I’d expect you to say if you were kicking up dust.

MIDGE: Kicking up dust?

DENNIS: Covering your tracks.

MIDGE: There’s no tracks to cover Dennis. It’s a ridiculous suggestion.

DENNIS: That’s another dust kicking expression.

MIDGE: There’s nothing for you to be suspicious of.

DENNIS: Yes, I fully expected you to say that also.

MIDGE: We are simply colleagues.

DENNIS: Yes, yes, all forming a pattern of what I completely expect you to say.

MIDGE: The Burmese may have a reputation for speed but their close work in crafts is precise and complementary.

DENNIS: [After a pause] All right, I wasn’t expecting you to say that.

MIDGE: I don’t know how you think I have the time and energy to engage in anything nefarious with Dusty when I’m so busy with the campaign.

DENNIS: Nefarious. Another Dusty word. You’re practically painting me a picture.

MIDGE: Have you actually met Dusty? He’s not known for his verbal fireworks Dennis. He tells the same story. Over and over. As you well know.

DENNIS: I have not spent as much quality time with the gentleman as you.

MIDGE: All you are doing is creating a poisonous atmosphere. You know he’ll be arriving any minute.

DENNIS: What? The scoundrel’s coming here?

MIDGE: Of course he is. He requires debriefing.

DENNIS: I’ll refrain from the obvious comment.

MIDGE: He requires debriefing as per your orders.

DENNIS: Your ability to wrangle this situation so I’m made out to be some kind of facilitator while you are an innocent party is quite remarkable Midge and I feel this also has the hand of Dusty in it.

MIDGE: You will accuse me of changing the subject if I brought up the cod at this point, so by acknowledging this I hope you realise that I am not attempting to change the subject, though it will be an added bonus, but rather I would like to get an answer about this cod.

DENNIS: I didn’t know cod was on the agenda.

MIDGE: Cod is firmly on the agenda.

DENNIS: You say this as if we were bantering merrily about cod since your arrival at the despised seven past the hour, when you have seized it out of thin air.

MIDGE: We were discussing the cod earlier.

DENNIS: Only in terms of it’s constant appearance in our dietary lives. There was nothing specific attached to it.

MIDGE: Well I’m attaching it know. The cod. What is it going to be?

DENNIS: It’s a bit late for philosophy Midge. I imagine it will always be a cod. Unless you have plans for it.

MIDGE: That’s what I’m try to ascertain…

DENNIS: Dusty word.

MIDGE: …what do you want to do about this cod? How do you want it prepared?

DENNIS: What are my choices?

MIDGE: Poached in a sauce with new potatoes or fried in batter.

DENNIS: With chips?

MIDGE: We’re not allowed chips. You said they were the prison bars of the establishment used to hold the proletariat in stasis.

DENNIS: Just checking.

MIDGE: Or it could be bread-crumbed I suppose.

DENNIS: What did we have yesterday?

MIDGE: Poached in sauce.

DENNIS: Best to avoid that then. Is there anything else? Other than cod?

MIDGE: You could have the new potatoes in sauce without the cod.

DENNIS: I fancy some chops.

MIDGE: We can’t stretch to chops. All the budget’s gone on the campaign.

DENNIS: Again, I’m swivelled into the villain position. Due to my beliefs we’re forced to live on cod. Old devil Dennis makes Midge the martyr eat cod at gunpoint. Is that what you want to hear?

MIDGE: Or there’s eggs.

DENNIS: Oh right, now you remember eggs. Once the damage is done. I’m out on a ledge here, and suddenly there’s eggs on the menu. Since when have we been an egg household?

MIDGE: I always have some eggs in. Just in case I need to do some baking. Or it’s Pancake Day.

DENNIS: Another holiday we don’t celebrate and so another needless expense. And so how I’m branded as Jack the Ripper over here. You’re splashing out on eggs and I’m the baddie for forcing cod.

MIDGE: I’m flustered when the campaign is underway. I’ve told you before, I don’t like to combine domestic tasks with the specifics of the campaign. But since your leg, I haven’t had any choice. I can’t really take shopping along to the atrocity and after the atrocity, my concentration has wandered to the point where I hone in on the familiar. So cod it is.

DENNIS: As Jesus said, thy complains too much, Midge. There’s still an element of dust kicking, I can taste it. Most functioning adults could perform a simple bombing and then visit a grocer’s and not necessarily fall back on the staples.

MIDGE: Well perhaps I’m not cut out for it. Perhaps we should suspend things until your leg is cured and then you can act how you wish.

DENNIS: Sometimes I think your commitment must come under scrutiny. You seem all too willing to throw the hat of shirk into the ring.

MIDGE: I’m sorry?

DENNIS: The hat if shirk. You’re always throwing it into the ring.

MIDGE: What ring?

DENNIS: The ring of…you know what ring I mean. The metaphorical ring that’s always connected to hats. The ring that hats are thrown into when hats are thrown as a symbol of…you know…appeasement.

MIDGE: You’ve lost me Dennis.

DENNIS: It’s your mind tricks. They’re all pervading.

MIDGE: A bit of cod might set your thinking straight. I just need direction on its preparation.

DENNIS: That’s another hat you insist on throwing…

Off stage we hear a door opening and closing sharply and heavy footsteps.

DENNIS: Oh, here we go…

Both characters follow the sound of the footsteps as they walk across the floor, then climb some stairs.

DENNIS: Another punctual article…

The footsteps stop, a door opens and then closes with a slam. Midge and Dennis look at each other then back at the ceiling. The sounds of sexual congress begin: the squeaking of a bed, a headboard hitting a wall and the rhythmic grunts of a man. These sounds continue throughout the next passage of dialogue.

DENNIS: It’s the inevitability that I find so depressing. Every evening the same functions in the same order.

MIDGE: He certainly seems to have a lot of stamina.

DENNIS: Please try and keep it on a suitable level Midge. I don’t think I want you delving into his stamina levels. He’s a beast.

MIDGE: Be charitable Dennis. He lost his job.

DENNIS: He didn’t lose his job, he just stopped going. And we know what he’s doing instead. [Nods towards the ceiling]

MIDGE: You don’t know the full circumstances. You’ve never even seen him. I often cross him on the stair.

DENNIS: Oh, another convert to your harem. It’s all coming out tonight. First you had Dusty, then the man upstairs and…wait…wasn’t there another one?

MIDGE: Basil.

DENNIS: Thank you, Basil. It must be an animal instinct. When the alpha male is injured and encumbered, his mate slopes off to liaise with the Basil’s of this world. I don’t blame you Midge, you might not even know your doing it. It’s your instincts in overdrive.

MIDGE: Alpha male?

DENNIS: Why the mocking tone?

MIDGE: No, nothing. I’d never heard you referred to in those terms, that’s all.

DENNIS: Not everyone has such a abstract opinion of me. You once held me in high esteem. Don’t you recall your vows?

MIDGE: Wedding?

DENNIS: What other vows have you taken with me? Unless you’ve uttered a few while I slept.

MIDGE: I think it might do you good to get out and about. Why don’t you go and visit your mother?

DENNIS: How can you possibly mention my mother in the same environment as that?

He points towards the ceiling.

MIDGE: Should I wait until he’s finished and then bring your mother up?

DENNIS: If a suitable distance has elapsed. However, I can’t visit my mother while the campaign is in full flow.


DENNIS: Why? She might be implicated.

MIDGE: What about me? You don’t mind implicating me.

DENNIS: Blood is thicker than water Midge.

MIDGE: But you hate your mother.

DENNIS: Like I say, I don’t think a discussion of her is appropriate at this time.

MIDGE: You’re the one talking about her.

DENNIS: Well, obviously I can talk about her. My close relationship with her supersedes the filthy goings-on above. It is my mother after all.

MIDGE: So I’m to be mute?

DENNIS: When it concerns my mother during the sexual congress of the man upstairs and just before the congress begins and for a decent period after he’s finished, then yes.

MIDGE: How will I know it’s before he begins?

DENNIS: Because he’s always at it. If there’s a lull up there you know he’s just finished or about to start. If he’s at it at all. I’m wondering if he’s at it at all.

MIDGE: Isn’t it obvious?

DENNIS: We live in compounded times. It could be a ruse?

MIDGE: A ruse?

DENNIS: Considering our current activities. The love-making could be a cover. A mask of sound to cover their surveillance.

MIDGE: Who is their?

DENNIS: Ugh, what an ugly sentence . Couldn’t you couch it in more attractive terms?

MIDGE: [Thinking] When you say their surveillance, the people conducting the surveillance could be considered as what?

DENNIS: Marginally better Midge, but still fairly painful. The there is the authorities. They could be on to you.

MIDGE: [Alarmed] To me?

DENNIS: Well you are the one conducting the atrocities.

MIDGE: But you’re the one behind the whole thing.

DENNIS: They can hardly perform surveillance on that can they? Don’t be so far-fetched. Unless the dark agencies can suddenly hear my thoughts and make a recording.

MIDGE: I hope you’ll stand up and be implicated if that’s the case.

DENNIS: We will assess situations as they arise. His humping could be an innocent activity. Truth is stranger than fiction. But in my position I have to consider all possibilities.

MIDGE: Do you have a contingency? If these situations do arise.

DENNIS: Contingency? We’re back to Dusty are we? Can’t keep him away from your thoughts for any length of time can you? Perhaps it’s this aural stimulation that brings him to mind.

MIDGE: Don’t be dirty Dennis.

DENNIS: You’re the man consistently dragging your paramours before my poor, disabled eyes.

MIDGE: I’m not doing that at all. Now what about this cod?

DENNIS: Every time your obvious dalliances are brought out into the open, your cod fascination lurks from the shadows. A psychiatrist could base a whole conference around you.

MIDGE: That’s not a very nice thing to say.

DENNIS: The truth is a painful mistress.

MIDGE: You’re cooped up Dennis. You need to get some fresh air. Perhaps I could look into getting a wheelchair.

DENNIS: I don’t think it’s necessary to bring attention to myself in such away. Why don’t I limp out into the street bearing a loud hailer and announcing ‘I am conducting a campaign’ up and down the Close?

MIDGE: It’s not a Close.


MIDGE: It isn’t a Close. Not any more.

DENNIS: I should know what variety of street I live upon. Chillingford Close. Would you like to see the mortgage agreement?

MIDGE: They’ve opened it out at one end.

DENNIS: Who has?

MIDGE: Whoever’s responsible for that sort of thing. The council I suppose.

DENNIS: They don’t have the authority. Surely I have some say if my street is being altered. Particularly from a Close to a common road or thoroughfare.

MIDGE: Something to do with the drains. There was a sign attached to a lamp-post.

DENNIS: You decide to bring this to my attention now?

MIDGE: Well it doesn’t really affect you. Being stuck in that chair.

DENNIS: You can be a cruel woman sometimes. As if the indecencies of being in my current climate isn’t intolerable enough. I have to be chafed further by having seismic alterations in my environment kept from me, as if I’m a pot-plant.

MIDGE: That wasn’t my intention. I thought you would have heard the work.

DENNIS: I could certainly make out certain sounds of industry in-between his efforts [Points to ceiling] and any other distractions I can provide, but I never dreamed it was my whole world crashing earthwards.

MIDGE: I didn’t think you felt so strongly.

DENNIS: I opted for a Close, rather than an avenue, a Cul-De-Sac, which I’ve never trusted, a crescent, a terrace or a lane. There’s a certain distinction to a Close. Plus, in times of revolution, there’s only one entrance. Makes defensive measures far more palatable.

MIDGE: We’re still a Close.

DENNIS: You said they’d opened up one end.

MIDGE: They have. They put through that section of hedge near to the sub-station and linked us to Pansard Street.

DENNIS: That’s hardly a Close then.

MIDGE: But we’re still called Chillingham Close. They didn’t change the name.

DENNIS: Why ever not?

MIDGE: It would have confused the postal workers. It’s quite a complicated process to change the name. All sorts of departments have to get involved.

DENNIS: How are you so knowledgeable about the process?

MIDGE: I talked to the lead man. When the work began.

DENNIS: My God Midge. Now there’s another one? Have you been taking lessons from our friend upstairs?

MIDGE: It was a passing conversation in the street. I saw a digger and grew curious. I think I’m obliged if such a thing is happening on my road.

DENNIS: Close.

MIDGE: Close.

DENNIS: Then why keep it from me? Why make a secret of it? If it existed in all innocence?

MIDGE: Nothings being kept. It’s the complications of the campaign. Juggling the bombings and the shopping and trying to maintain my disguise, it slipped my mind.

DENNIS: That’s one explanation. One of many possibles.

MIDGE: That’s my stomach growling. I’ll need to eat something soon.

DENNIS: There you have it again. Your peccadillo with the councilman is over-turned and suddenly you’re back onto the cod again. Do these men pay you in cod? Is that why you constantly make the connection?

MIDGE: Don’t be foul. I’m prepared to allow you certain realms of fantasy but I refuse to be labelled a cod whore.

DENNIS: Don’t be excitable Midge. I’m merely trying to establish certain facts. If you crumble this easily under my pressure, how will you cope with a thorough police interrogation?

MIDGE: I have no intention of allowing myself to be in that position.

DENNIS: All possibilities have to be considered. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? More cod obviously, but beyond that.

MIDGE: I’m happy to forego cod tomorrow if we can decide what form today’s cod will hold.

DENNIS: Can it be baked?

MIDGE: Baked cod? I’m sure it’s not impossible, but I can’t confirm its quality.

DENNIS: I’m just trying to think laterally Midge. I’m reading a book on that very matter. Adapting situations and taking a more considered approach. It appears this cod is the perfect subject to attempt this new technique. We may be used to taking cod in certain forms but sometimes it is valuable to go against the grain. So, I say, why not a baked cod?

MIDGE: Fine, one baked cod coming up.

Midge exits. The sexual grunts from upstairs continue, accompanied by the clanging of pots and pans as the meal is prepared.

DENNIS: [Looking skyward] I was a young man once. Even so, I was able to control my urges. My spread my seed certainly, occasionally on barren ground. I was even known to onanise. That’s how it all began. All those lonely summers in the cabin. That’s all I had for entertainment. That and a tennis ball. Not even a deck of cards. That’s a point, I’ve never seen a trace of a woman. Maybe he’s on his own up there. [Shouting off-stage to Midge] Does he even have a woman up there?

MIDGE: [Off stage] What?

DENNIS: Him upstairs. Have you ever witnessed a woman on her way up there? Perhaps he’s on his own?

MIDGE: [Off stage] Don’t shout he’ll hear you.

DENNIS: He’s too involved with his own actions. I could start playing the French Horn and I doubt his stroke would alter.

Midge returns

MIDGE: Cod’s in.

DENNIS: Fabulous.

His grunts suddenly cease.

DENNIS: Thank goodness for that.

Almost immediately there’s a knock on the door.

DENNIS: If it’s him from upstairs wanting my stepladder again, do not give him access under any circumstances. He gave them back all bent last time. God knows what use he’s putting them too.

MIDGE: [Getting up] He’s never done anything against you Dennis. He just enjoys himself, that’s way your offended.

DENNIS: [Shouting as she exits] Enjoying yourself is not reason enough to act in a disgraceful manner. That excuse is levelled at any degenerate behaviour these days. As if enjoyment is a fundamental right, rather then a privilege reserved for those of us who have some grasp on propriety.

DUSTY enters. He is every inch the old-fashioned washed-out hippy. He wears blue denim from head to toe, a scruffy beard and large frizzy hair. He moves in a jerky uncoordinated manner and talks in a gibbering, uncontrolled way. Midge walks in behind him, looking a bit sheepish.

MIDGE: It’s Dusty.

DENNIS: So I see.

DUSTY: Your shouting there I hear. Having a good old shout. Reminds me of my shouting days. Always one for a good shout I was. Particularly at policemen. See a copper, always had a good shout at them. About their obvious defects. Or postmen. Anything in a uniform.

DENNIS: I was not shouting. Not in the provincial, uncontrolled manner which you just alluded to. I was merely completing a conversation with my wife and raising my level so she could hear while leaving the room.

DUSTY: Oh right. I had a wife once. In Jersey. Or Guernsey. She was a blond. Or a red head. She never really had much hair, as I remember. Kept it cropped close to the skull as a symbol of sympathy. I think it had something to do with French lorry drivers. Being in the Channel Islands changes the strength of sympathy with our French cousins.

DENNIS: I think the subject of wives, close cropped or not, is a sensitive one we probably shouldn’t dabble into at this time. Not if we want to keep blood of the walls.

MIDGE: [Trying to defuse] I’m just baking some cod Dusty. Would you care for a portion?

DUSTY: No thank you. That sounds disgusting.


DENNIS: I think that was unnecessary Dusty.

DUSTY: You can’t bake a cod. I see as I find.

MIDGE: I’ll just see how it’s doing.

Midge exits.

DENNIS: Now we are men alone Dusty, I think we may have to have a chat.

DUSTY: Used to know a man down Bury way. Loved to chat. I think they called him chatty. Not his birth name obviously. As a moniker, you know. Chatty. Could hold sway on any number of topics and age wasn’t a restriction. Nor race. He’d chat away to all and sundry. He wasn’t married, but had any number of admirers. He was useful in social situations, like the start of a party where disparate groups were in attendance. Old Chatty could build bridges like that.

DENNIS: I’m not sure this is the sort of chat your pal Chatty would excel at. I said chat to keep you at ease and not sully the atmosphere. But really chat is hardly the term. What I really wish to have with you is quite a serious talk, perhaps leading into an argument.

DUSTY: [Chuckling] Oh no sir. Couldn’t argue. Not me and you. Never could argue. Shouting, I used to be a bit of a shouter. Uniformed types mainly, happy to shout away at them. But it never escalated into an argument. I remember coming close to an argument once. I used to be married to this woman. It was on one of the Channel Islands. She’d decided to chop off her hair in solidarity with the Irish Nationalists. Wasn’t happy about that, and we had crossed words…

DENNIS: Dusty please. This doesn’t concern your bald wife, your shouting or your friend Chatty…

DUSTY: [With joy] Old Chatty? Did you know him? From Bury way? Lovely chap old Chatty. Never a dull word from him. He could hold firth like nobody’s business…

DENNIS: Please attempt to concentrate Dusty. I need to address you on a serious issue.

DUSTY: Oh right, yes. Ok, yes, alright. Got me now sir, I’m very much listening.

DENNIS: Good because I have concerns that your loyalties within the mission are beginning to alter…

Dusty is staring at the corner of the room in a distracted way and not paying attention at all.

DENNIS: Dusty? Dusty?

DUSTY: Now. Is that coving?


DUSTY: Coving. That up there. Is that coving?

DENNIS: I don’t think I follow.

DUSTY: Because I know there’s coving and there’s some other stuff, it’s a bit like coving but it goes by another name and often someone who is not in the know can make themselves appear quite uncultured by their mention of coving when in fact what they are looking at is the other thing. Only I can’t quite remember what that other thing is. Does it come to you Dennis?

DENNIS: I don’t think it does. I’d say that was coving.

DUSTY: But are you aware of the other term? If you’re not then your hardy qualified to identify it are you.

DENNIS: [Confused, flustered] What? Dusty, you keep throwing me off course. I anted t have a serious talk to you. Then you start on coving.

Midge returns. Dusty returns to staring at the ceiling.

MIDGE: [Under breath to Dennis] You see? You think I’m picking up syntax and possibly much more from this?

DENNIS: It could be a cover. He might be playing the giddy goat to throw me off the scent.

MIDGE: No Dennis. This the crux of your campaign. This is what I have to put up with on a day-to-day basis. Which is why questions about my fidelity, especially connected to him, is all the more galling.

DENNIS: No, no. He’s a sly one. I’ve come across his types before. He hides his bushel under a veil of befuddlement. Then he fiddles while all our backs are turned.

DUSTY: [Suddenly, with animation] No it is coving. That’s it. Coving. Don’t know what I was thinking of. What was I thinking of? Coving. Is it coving? Now, there’s another word for it isn’t it. Ballistrade. A word like that. Something that looks decorative and also sounds decorative. Because coving doesn’t sound decorative does it? Not a pleasing sound at all. You see, I think the sort of people who deal with coving on a professional level wouldn’t be happy with the word coving and would rather have a far more fanciful name for it. Something like ballistrade, or braiding or something akin to that. Do you know what I mean? That sort of people?

DENNIS: What the hell is he talking about?

MIDGE: That is the phrase that I find myself coming back to continually in my interactions with him.

DUSTY: How’s that cod coming along?

MIDGE: I didn’t think you were interested?

DUSTY: I’m not planning on eating it, but I’m curious about its condition.

MIDGE: It’s gone a bit hard.

DENNIS: That doesn’t sound appetising.

MIDGE: You should see it.

DENNIS: Is it salvageable?

MIDGE: Don’t say salvage.

DENNIS: Why ever not?

DUSTY: I had a friend in salvage.

MIDGE: Because you learn in your dealings with Dusty.

DUSTY: Had himself a midget submarine.

MIDGE: There’s certain words its best to avoid.

DUSTY: Moored that’s what he called it.

MIDGE: Because certain words have a tendency to provoke.

DUSTY: Had it in a bay.

MIDGE: These particular stories.

DUSTY: Used to go scouring the ocean bed when the weather was clement.

MIDGE: That go on and on.

DUSTY: Had this mobile, mechanical crane or arm.

MIDGE: And on and on.

DUSTY: Used to gather items of scrap metal or booty.

MIDGE: And on and on.

DUSTY: Then he used the submarine as his abode.

MIDGE: And on and on.

DUSTY: A houseboat sort of a set up.

MIDGE: And on and on.

DUSTY: There was some seepage in the autumn and winter.

MIDGE: And on and on.

DUSTY: And during high tides.

MIDGE: And on and on.

DENNIS: [Shouting] Perhaps a small sherry is in order.

There is a moment of stunned silence.

DUSTY: Having a bit of a shout are you? I used to be quite the shouter. Often found myself shouting at those bearing a uniform for some reason.

MIDGE: You see?

DENNIS: He’s a genius or a simpleton. The two are often confused when dealing with visionaries.

DUSTY: There was a St. John’s Ambulance man once. He got a hell of a bawling off me. It was the hats or the collars. Something set me off.

DENNIS: Is there any way to stop it?

MIDGE: None that I’ve learned.

DUSTY: Landed me in quite a few scrapes.

DENNIS: [Sternly] Dusty, we must speak of today’s actions. How was the mission?

DUSTY: What?

Dusty’s eyes begin to widen as he looks on at Dennis with open-mouthed disbelief. He slowly begins to snigger, which then develops into full scale hysterical laughter, he starts to scream with laughter, and roll around on the floor in unstoppable hilarity. He continues to laugh throughout the following conversation.

DENNIS: [Alarmed] Have you witnessed this behaviour before?

MIDGE: Only once. It was outside a shoe shop.

DENNIS: What triggered it on that occasion?

MIDGE: I’m not sure. I don’t think it’s important.

DENNIS: Not important? How can you say that?

MIDGE: It’s not important to know what causes this behaviour. The important part is knowing this behaviour exists and so to avoid it as much as possible.

DENNIS: That’s quite profound Midge.

MIDGE: He brings that out in me.

There’s a banging from the ceiling as the man upstairs begins to thump the floor violently and shout incoherently. Dusty continues to laugh.

DENNIS: What’s that now?

MIDGE: The man upstairs. I presume he’s upset about the noise.

DENNIS: How can he be? Isn’t he aware of his own noise?

MIDGE: It’s a different noise. Certain sounds cut through people.

He bangs the floor again and shouts more angrily. Dusty continues.

DENNIS: This evening is descending into chaos. How did this happen?

MIDGE: It’s an unfortunate side-effect of life with Dusty.

DENNIS: I’m going to try something.

MIDGE: Be my guest.

DENNIS: Here we go.

MIDGE: Go on then.

DENNIS: [Shouts] Coving!

Dusty stops immediately into a stunned stupor and stares up at the ceiling. The man upstairs offers one final burst of abuse then falls silent. Dusty struggles to his feet and seems to be dealing with something incredible that’s troubling him.

DENNIS: Are you alright?

DUSTY: The coving?


DUSTY: Was the coving…shouting?


DUSTY: The coving? It was shouting?

DENNIS: Take a seat Dusty. You’ve had a busy day. Midge, do we have any brandy?

MIDGE: There think there’s some stout.

DENNIS: That’s hardly a suitable replacement.

She goes over to a sideboard and begins to root through it. Dusty wearily takes a seat.

DUSTY: The coving was shouting.

DENNIS: No, it was the man upstairs. He’s a hypocrite.

MIDGE: Here’s something.

Midge pulls out a bottle from the sideboard.

MIDGE: [Reading] Greetings from Hartlepool. That doesn’t tell me anything.

DENNIS: Give him a bolt of it anyway. It can’t make him any worse.

DUSTY: It was wasn’t it? It was shouting at me.

Midge takes a glass and pours some contents of the bottle into it.

MIDGE: Here you are. Try this Dusty.

Confused, Dusty takes the glass and has a sip. His face contorts into an expression of surprise and disgust.

DUSTY: Urrgggh.

DENNIS: That should have an effect.

MIDGE: I’ll see how dinner is coming along.

Midge exits. Dusty falls silent.

DENNIS: How is it old man?

DUSTY: [Distracted] Sorry?

DENNIS: The drink. How is it?

Dusty looks dumbly at his glass.

DUSTY: Vile.

DENNIS: Can you identify the taste? We’re at a bit of a loss.

DUSTY: Tastes like…road.


DUSTY: The marks on road.

DENNIS: Marks?

DUSTY: Where the tyres have been.

DENNIS: Oh. Sort of a rubbery thing.

DUSTY: Precisely. I feel quite worn out.

DENNIS: Yes, you’ve been through quite a lot.

DUSTY: My heart’s beating ten to a penny.

DENNIS: Just have a little rest.

DUSTY: I need to tell you about the mission.

DENNIS: Plenty of time for all that. You just calm yourself.

DUSTY: No, I had something important to report.

DENNIS: Well, if you think you’re ready fire away.

DUSTY: The coving…

DENNIS: No, no, no. Put that from your mind for now. You were about to tell me about the mission. What did you have to report?

Midge enters.

MIDGE: Right. It’s inedible. You need to make a decision Dennis.

DENNIS: Not now Midge. He’s about to tell us something.

MIDGE: What? Him?

DENNIS: He says he’s got something important to report.

MIDGE: I doubt it. I’m going to the chip shop.

DENNIS: [Outraged] The chip shop?

MIDGE: Well you’re incapable of making a decision and I’m growing faint.

DENNIS: I made a decision about the cod.

MIDGE: And now it’s inedible. So we’re back on the starting blocks. Last time it took you an age to decide to bake the cod. I’m not prepared to go through that again. I’m going to the chip shop.

DENNIS: I didn’t know there was a chip shop.

MIDGE: It’s far closer since they opened up the Close.

DENNIS: My world is crumbling around me.

MIDGE: Possibly. What do you want to order.

DENNIS: From a chip shop? I wouldn’t know where to start.

MIDGE: It’s a fairly limited menu. There’s a selection of battered fish, or pies and there’s chips of course.

DENNIS: It all sounds foul.

MIDGE: I’m having haddock. Would you also like haddock.

DENNIS: Will it be wrapped in paper? Like in the films?

MIDGE: I expect so.

DENNIS: I can’t rightly fathom it.

MIDGE: I’ll take that as a yes. Dusty?

DUSTY: Hmmm?

MIDGE: Do you want anything from the chip shop?

DUSTY: Battered sausage.

MIDGE: Very well. I won’t be long.

Midge exits. Dennis looks stunned. Dusty still seems rather distracted.

DENNIS: I never would have expected, when I rose this morning, that the day would grow so complicated. Eating out of paper. My father would have beaten me for such an action.

DUSTY: I had a father once…

DENNIS: [Interrupting] No, no, no. We’re not taking that route again. Now, Dusty, no more nonsense. You had something to tell me.

DUSTY: About the running?

DENNIS: Running?

DUSTY: When I was running?

DENNIS: When were you running?

DUSTY: Isn’t that what I said?

DENNIS: [Frustrated] No, you were going to tell me something about running.

DUSTY: When I was running?

DENNIS: [Angry] I don’t know. You haven’t told me. Were you running?

DUSTY: Today?

DENNIS: Yes. Ok. Today. Were you running today?

DUSTY: I had to run.

DENNIS: Why did you have to run?

DUSTY: They were running too.

DENNIS: Who was running?

DUSTY: The ones I used to shout at.

DENNIS: [Exasperated] Good God, Right. So. You were running. From the ones you used to shout at. Now, you told me, frequently during the length of out brief relationship that you used to shout at people in uniforms. [Scared, realising] Wait. Uniforms? You were running from people in uniforms?

DUSTY: So was I.


DUSTY: That was me. A minute ago. Running away from the uniforms.

DENNIS: [Panicking] Before you came here? They were chasing you?

DUSTY: I should coco.

DENNIS: Did they follow you?

DUSTY: I don’t know. I’m indoors.

DENNIS: [Panicked] Midge! Midge! Oh no, she’s gone to the chip shop. I knew no good would come of that.

DUSTY: Having a shout are we. I used to dabble in that myself…

There’s a sudden violent banging on the door.

DENNIS: Christ Dusty. What have you done?

They bang on the door again.

DUSTY: Once at a Park Keeper. He wasn’t happy.

DENNIS: No, no, no.

We hear the sound of wood splintering as a door is demolished.

DENNIS: What will become of me?