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.
DUSTY: Am I?
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: Could you do something about your 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.
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.
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.
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…
DENNIS: Oh God…
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?
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
END OF ACT TWO