Irish Papist

Irish Papist
Statute of the Blessed Virgin in Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Church, UCD Belfield

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Elephant in the Room

A few years ago, I wrote a one-act play called The Elephant in the Room. (It's more like a one-scene play than a one-act play, actually.) I wrote it because I was living in Ballymun and every day I walked past the Axis Centre, Ballymun's state-of-the-art arts centre, which includes a state-of-the-art theatre. The Axis Centre nagged at me every time I passed it. It said, 'You should really try your hand at writing a play'.

So I wrote this, and submitted it. Months passed and I assumed it had been ignored. Then one of the directors of the Axis centre emailed me suggesting we meet up. Naturally, I was excited.

At the meeting, my excitement was quickly cooled. Two directors of the Centre were there and they were quick to tell me that my play was not of a standard to be produced. Or even near to it. Or even close enough to see production as a far-off blur on the horizon. But, said the nicer one of the two, it did make him laugh here and there and was not utterly devoid of any glimmering of potential talent. (Not his exact words. He was sweet about it.)

The other director was incredibly rude, possibly one of the rudest people I'v ever met. (This is not only my experience, but I've heard it from elsewhere, too.) He stared at me throughout the conversation as though I had been caught shop-lifting. He told me I needn't expect to be told my play was wonderful just because I was a local. (Not his exact words, but pretty close.) He also asked me what it was about, in the tone a headmaster might ask: "What were you doing in the assembly hall at that time, anyway?". I was flabbergasted at this man's attitude.

The other director (whose name is Mark) was quite the opposite, though. A few months later he invited me to a dinner for local artists. So I got a free dinner out of the play, such as it is. He also sent a chapter of one of my novels to a professional reader, who said some nice things about it.

His rude colleague was right about the play, though-- it's a mere trifle, and not even a good trifle. And it's not really about anything. I didn't put any great effort into it. But here it is, anyway, presented as a curio. (I'm too lazy to italicize the parts that should be italicized. All the italics disappear when I cut and paste from Word into Blogger. But if you can imagine the scene and the characters, you can imagine the italics, too, right?)

The Elephant in the Room

A one-act play


The curtain opens on the scene of a rather messy living room, evidently on the morning after a party. There is a board game on the coffee table, left as it was at the end of a game. There are glases and beer cans lying everywhere.

But the most conspicous item in the room is an enormous elephant. It can be made of any material and look as unrealistic and ridiculous as you like. It can be any colour, and it is not required to move or speak.

Off-stage, an alarm clock rings. And rings. And rings.

Eventually, it stops, and a few moments later, we hear RUSSELL singing in a groggy voice off-stage.

RUSSELL: Who ate all the pies?
Who ate all the pies?
You fat so-and-so, you fat so-and-so
You ate all the--

He walks into the room and stares at the elephant for a few moments, stunned. He is a middle-aged man wearing a bathrobe and slippers.

RUSSELL (weakly): --Pies.

Silence for a few moments, RUSSELL still staring at the elephant.

RUSSELL (shouting): Dean! Dean!

DEAN (off-stage, in a weary voice): What?

RUSSELL (still shouting): Just get in here now!

We hear the sound of bed-springs creaking offstage. All the while, RUSSELL is staring at the elephant.

Eventually, DEAN appears. He is a teenage boy, wearing an Italian club’s soccer jersey and pyjama bottoms.

RUSSELL: What is that?

DEAN, bleary-eyed, stares at the elephant in apparent bafflement.

RUSSELL: Look at the state of this place!

DEAN now looks all around him.

DEAN: It doesn’t look too bad to me.

RUSELL: Not too bad? Not too bad?

DEAN: I mean, it was a party. There’s always a mess after a party. That’s why they say “the morning after the night before”.

RUSSELL (sarcastically): Oh, it’s traditional, is it? Well, not to worry if it’s traditional. (Sternly, in a gruff patriarchal tone): Clean it up now or you’ll feel my boot—

He leaves the room. DEAN begins to pick up glasses and beer cans.

DEAN (muttering): You don’t even own any boots. Just seven pairs of trainers. And most of these are yours, anyway. Look, Heineken! I never drink Heineken. It’s unspeakable.

He continues to clean up, often having to squeeze past the elephant, but apparently not even seeing it. He starts to recite.

DEAN: Four hundred and thirty two, St. Patrick came to Ireland. Circle eight hundred, the first Viking raids. Thirteen fifty, the Bruce invades. Thirteen sixty-six, the statutes of Kilkenny. Fifteen-thirty-four, the rebellion of Silken Thomas. Fifteen-eighty…fifteen-eighty….

RUSSELL comes in as he is doing this, and gives him a baleful stare.

RUSSELL: What are you babbling on about?

DEAN (a little self-consciously): It’s the history of Ireland.

RUSSELL: You don’t do history. I told you. History is a waste of time.

DEAN: It’s not optional. It’s for transition year.

RUSSELL (making a face): Transition year! No wonder the country is in a mess!

DEAN: Overview of Irish History. That’s one of my modules. Business and Commerce is another. Also, German.

RUSSELL: Business studies? Well, that’s better. But history…!

DEAN: It’s not bad, actually.

RUSSELL: Look, Deano. There’s only one thing you need to know about Irish history. We got hockeyed.

DEAN: Maybe I should write that in my exam.

RUSSELL: There’s exams?

DEAN (cleaning up all the time) Well, they don’t really mean anything…

RUSSELL: I’ll tell you what I’d have instead of transition year. You get out and you get a bloody job for a year. And not just for a week.

DEAN: I do have a bloody job.

RUSSELL: Sitting in a box-office for a few hours isn’t a real job.

DEAN (a little irritably): It’s more than you have, anyway.

RUSSELL: I’d done more work by the time I was your age than you’ll do in a lifetime, buddy. I was operating a fork-lift when I was thirteen years old.

(He sits on the couch and starts to drink from one of the open cans):

DEAN: That’s left over from last night!

RUSSELL: It’s still good.

DEAN: Somebody might have been using it as an ash-tray.

RUSSELL: Gives it flavour.

DEAN: That’s disgusting.

RUSSELL: It’s because you’ve always had everything you’ve ever wanted that you’re willing to just throw things out.

DEAN (back to reciting): Sixteen-hundred and seven, Flight of the Earls. Sixteen-Eighty-One, Blessed Oliver Plunkett martyred—

RUSSELL: Blessed Oliver Plunkett! Don’t get me started on the Catholic Church.

DEAN: OK, I won’t.

RUSSELL: Now I find out they’re brainwashing my children with religion.

DEAN: What were you expecting when you sent me to a Catholic school?

RUSSELL: Don’t give me cheek. Here, I’ve got some dates for you. Nineteen sixty-one, Blessed Russell Coffey is born. Nineteen-seventy-four, Blessed Russell Coffey leaves school because he has to make a living. Nineteen-seventy-eight, Blessed Russell Coffey has a fit of insanity and marries your mother, God rest her soul. He’s no longer so blessed. Nineteen-seventy-nine, plain old Russell Coffey has a daughter to worry about.

DEAN: Nineteen-eighty. That was nineteen-eighty.

RUSSELL: Then a few years later, he has a boy to worry about too. Russell Coffey works night and day and performs miracles—maybe he is Blessed after all—in order to keep them fed and healthy, even though they insist on picking up every infection going and fracturing their bones at every opportunity.

He throws the beer can away. It bounces off the elephant. DEAN bends down and picks it up.

RUSSELL: At seven minutes past two in the morning of the twenty-third of August nineteen-eighty-five, your poor mother passes away. After that, Blessed Russell Coffey has to raise two screaming, sickly, constantly hungry children all by himself. Nineteen-ninety, Blessed Russell Coffey sprains his back while sweating his backside off in a warehouse and has to raise his kids on disability benefit.

DEAN: It’s a pity I don’t have to sit an exam in that. I’ve heard it so often I have it off by heart already.

RUSSELL: Well, it would be about as useful as the history of bloody Ireland. You’d think Ireland would want to hush up its history.

DEAN is finished cleaning.

DEAN: I think I’m going to have some breakfast. Do you want some?

RUSSELL: Please, thank you.

DEAN: Jam and toast. How about that?

RUSSELL (sarcastically): Oh, I was hoping for truffles and smoked salmon! I’ve had years when I would have killed for some jam on toast.

DEAN: Nineteen-forty-eight, rationing ends in Ireland.

DEAN walks out of the room. RUSSELL picks up a TV magazine and starts to read it. He reads aloud.

RUSSELL: “Half-eight. What Did You Do In the Boom, Daddy?”. Celebrity economist David McDavid examines the lives of ordinary and not-so-ordinary Irish people during the Celtic Tiger years. Nine o’clock. “Ceilidh Inferno”. Twelve celebrities try to master Irish traditional dancing. Who will come out on top? Half-nine. “Texts, Lies and Videoconferencing. A documentary that examines young Irish professionals trying to balance work and dating.”

A telephone rings. RUSSELL takes a mobile phone out of his bathrobe pocket. He looks at the screen before answering.

RUSSELL: What’s up, twinkle toes?

Listens to mobile phone..

Don’t you have work today?

Listens to mobile phone.

A bottle of aftershave and a pair of socks.

Listens to mobile phone.

To say the least.

Listens to mobile phone.

No, a slipped sick. Forget about him. Hey, could you get some milk on the way? And some of my cigarettes. (Pause.) Love you, baby. Tomato sauce, too, OK? Are you still there? Tomato sauce. And not the spicy stuff.

Puts down the mobile phone, wearing a rather grim look.

DEAN walks in, carrying a plate of bread and jam and a cup of tea.

DEAN: Golden brown, just the way you like it.

RUSSELL: Not burned, just the way I like it. Ta. I just had a call from Sam.

DEAN (looking worried): Oh.

RUSSELL: Oh. Yes. Oh.

DEAN: Did she have anything to say?

RUSSELL: Just that she was coming here. God knows what it’s about. Just don’t say anything to her, OK?

DEAN: I never say anything to her.

RUSSELL: Well, you should. She’s your sister.

DEAN: I mean I never say anything bad to her.

RUSSELL: Let me tell you this. I’m proud of Sam.

DEAN: OK.

RUSSELL (mimicking): OK? OK? What does that mean? Let me tell you a story about Sam.

DEAN: Let me get my toast first. I’ll need it.

RUSSELL (raising his voice as Dean walks away from him): I remember once, just before my accident. Actually, it was during the nineteen-ninety World Cup. I was coming home from the pub. It was in the small hours. I was walking to the house and I see this figure in the path—

DEAN (coming back in with his toast and tea): Blessed Oliver Plunkett.

RUSSELL: No, it wasn’t Blessed Oliver Plunkett. It was your sister Samantha, in her pyjamas.

DEAN: This jam is off.

RUSSELL (with a terrible English aristocratic accent): Oh, is the jem off, Jenkins? You’re lucky to have jam. Anyway, it was your sister, in her pyjams, and do you know what she had in her hand?

DEAN: Tell me.

RUSSELL (emotionally): My cigarettes! She was holding my cigarettes, and she said, Da, you forgot your fags. She’d been looking out the window for me to come back.

DEAN: I don’t remember that.

RUSSELL: And do you know what she had in her other hand?

DEAN lifts a slice of toast, bites it and chews.

RUSSELL: The remote control. She’d brought out the remote control because she knew I always watched television when I came home from the pub.

DEAN takes a gulp of tea.

RUSSELL: She was always such a sweet little girl. It was OK about the cigarettes, as it turned out. Terry Mooney was in the pub that night and I borrowed some off him.

DEAN: That’s OK, then.

RUSSELL: That was Samantha. That is Samantha, whatever else she…. Just remember that.

DEAN (staring into his tea) It’s just that..

RUSSELL: It’s just what? What?

DEAN: When she’s around, it’s so awkward….dodging around the subject.

RUSSELL: The elephant in the room.

DEAN: That was on my English teacher’s list of clichés.

RUSSELL: What?

DEAN: My English teacher. She wrote a big list of clichés up on the blackboard. That was one of them. She said clichés were like off-the-rack thoughts. She said our thoughts should be tailor-made instead.

RUSSELL: I don’t know why I send you to that school. You’d be a hell of a lot better off in the university of life.

DEAN: Or the school of hard knocks.

RUSSEL: Damn right.

DEAN: But then, youth is wasted on the young.

RUSSELL: I’ve always said that.

DEAN: I know. I’ve heard you.

RUSSELL (swallowing the last of his tea): Well, Sammy will be here any minute. Be nice to her.

DEAN: You make it sound like I’m—

(There’s a rapping on the door.)

RUSSELL: Let her in will you.

DEAN goes offstage to let Samantha in. RUSSELL picks up the remote control and points it in the direction of the elephant. He keeps pressing the button, as though wondering why the television won’t start. Eventually, he puts it back down.

RUSSELL: Never anything good on anyway.

SAMANTHA comes in, followed by DEAN, who’s lagging behind her somewhat. She’s an attractive young lady with neatly permed hair, wearing a professional-looking black skirt-suit. She has an alert, bright look.

She stops at the sight of the elephant, and stares at it for a few moments. RUSSELL picks up the TV guide and starts to examine it with apparent interest. DEAN goes back to finishing his breakfast, staring into his tea again.

SAMANTHA (cheerfully): It’s a bit dark in here, isn’t it?

RUSSELL: I’m sorry we don’t live in a penthouse apartment. It’s difficult to get one on disability benefit.

SAMANTHA: Don’t be silly. Hey, I got you guys some presents.

RUSSELL: “Guys”? You “guys?”

DEAN sniggers.

SAMANTHA: I got you fellahs some presents. (She reaches into her handbag, takes out a box, and hands it to RUSSELL): This is for you.

RUSSELL (looking at the box and reading from it): Paragon 500. Precision technology to give you the closest, easiest shave ever. As used by Jack Hoffmann in Five Hundred Ways to Die.

SAMANTHA: It has twelve hours battery life.

RUSSELL: Are you trying to tell me something?

SAMANTHA: Don’t be silly. (Turns to Dean.) Hey, bro, I got something very special for you.

DEAN looks up, smiling politely.

SAMANTHA: A handheld computer! (She takes out a small handheld computer game.) For a break from the study.

DEAN (takes computer): Thanks! That’s what I’ve.…that’s perfect.

RUSSELL (smiling grimly): I thought you said computers were for zombies.

Long silence. SAMANTHA takes her jacket off and drapes it on the back of an armchair.

RUSSELL: Still, it’s nice to have money.

SAMANTHA (perkily): Well, I do work hard for it.

RUSSELL: In your own way.

SAMANTHA: Work is work. (Pause.) So what are you boys going to do today?

RUSSELL: Well, I thought I’d toddle down to my club for an hour or two, sip a martini while reading the paper. Then a spot of yachting, then lunch with Rex Chisholm…..(thinks of suitable name)…Holmes. Then maybe a bit of skiing.

SAMANTHA: That’s nice.

DEAN: I’m just going to do my English essay.

They all fall silent.

RUSSELL: You have to work hard at school, don’t you? To become a productive member of society. And not a good-for-nothing sponger.

SAMANTHA: I hate that word, sponger.

RUSSELL: Do you prefer waster? What’s the official terminology?

SAMANTHA (turning to Russell again): What’s your essay about?

DEAN: Wasters.

SAMANTHA glares at him.

DEAN seems abashed, looks down for a moment, and then says: The Merchant of Venice.

SAMANTHA: I hated that bloody play.

DEAN: It’s not that bad.

SAMANTHA: Do you know why I hated it?

RUSSELL and DEAN look intrigued.

SAMANTHA: Because I didn’t know what the hell it was all about! Because I don’t have much going on up here! (She raps her knuckles against her skull.)

RUSSELL: Intelligence isn’t everything.

DEAN: Litearature isn’t for everybody.

SAMANTHA: It’s not for me, that’s for sure. Neither is French, or chemistry, or—

DEAN: It all comes down to genetics.

RUSSELL: Do you know what I was telling Dean just before you came in? About a time, during the 1990 World Cup, when I was coming home from the pub—

SAMANTHA: Yeah, you told me that one. I’m going to make a cup of tea.

RUSSELL: Make me one while you’re at it.

DEAN: Me, too.

(Pause. DEAN and RUSSELL look at each other. They look a little pleased.)

RUSSELL: Women think in a different way from men.

DEAN: They don’t think conceptually. It’s to do with evolution. They always had to be looking out for the babies. They couldn’t concentrate.

RUSSELL: That’s why they don’t make politicians. Except for Margaret Thatcher. And she was brutal. It’s just a different way of thinking. Not better or worse, just different. Giz a look at that thing.

DEAN hands RUSSELL the computer, and RUSSELL starts playing around with it. Soon he is absorbed.

SAMANTHA comes back with the tea. She hands a mug to DEAN and then another to RUSSELL.

RUSSELL (absorbed with the game): Just leave it down there. Ta.

DEAN: Ta.

SAMANTHA goes back out.

DEAN takes the box with the shaver from the table and starts to examine it. He runs his fingers experimentally over his chin.

SAMANTHA comes back in to the room, carrying her own town.

SAMANTHA: I have something I wanted to tell you guy—you two today.

RUSSELL (still absorbed in the game, speaking more playfully now): You got accepted to the golf club?

SAMANTHA: Ha ha.

RUSSELL (suddenly looking up and staring at her torso, not-so-furtively): You’re not….

SAMANTHA: Oh, shut up. No.

RUSSELL goes back to playing the computer game: What then?

DEAN (reading the shaver’s box): I can’t stand the suspense a second more.

SAMANTHA (looking irritated): If you don’t want to know, I’ll just go.

She makes a motion to move, but RUSSELL grabs her by the arm. He tries to keep playing the game, swears under his breath, and then puts it aside.

RUSSELL (making the most of it): Anything that’s important to you is important to me, twinkletoes.

SAMANTHA looks a little mollified, but doesn’t say anything.

RUSSELL (looking sternly at DEAN): Isn’t that right?

DEAN: I know what it is already.

SAMANTHA: No, you don’t.

RUSSELL: He thinks he knows it all. Just because he’s doing honours English.

DEAN: And honours French. And honours science.

SAMANTHA: Really? Honours French?

DEAN: Yeah.

SAMANTHA: That’s…amazing.

DEAN: I got a B plus in my test.

SAMANTHA shakes her head slowly, in wonder.

SAMANTHA (now seeming less sure of herself): So what is it that I’m going to tell you?

DEAN: You’re becoming a nun.

RUSSELL: What?

DEAN: I saw a St. Martin magazine in her bag.

SAMANTHA: Why were you looking in my bag?

DEAN: I just saw into it. And I saw you blessing yourself. A few times, when you thought nobody was looking.

RUSSELL (to Samantha): Is this true?

SAMANTHA: So what if this?

RUSSELL: So what? My own daughter becoming a nun? It’s bad enough you being—

SAMANTHA: I’m not becoming a bloody nun!

RUSSELL: Thank God for that! (Turning to DEAN.) What are you talking about? Is this what they teach you in honours French?

DEAN: No. They teach us honours French in honours French. (Sullenly) I did see her blessing herself, though.

RUSSELL: I never thought one of my own children would go in for all that nonsense. After I tried to give you an upbringing free of religious brainwashing.

SAMANTHA: Yeah, that and a few other things.

RUSSELL: What do you mean?

DEAN: Well, if it’s not becoming a nun, what is it?

RUSSELL: What do you mean by a few other things? An accusation has been made here. (Raises hand, as if demanding point of order in a debate.) An accusation has been made.

SAMANTHA: Oh, shut up. Do you want to hear or not?

RUSSELL: I want to hear what you mean by “a few other things”.

DEAN: I want to hear.

SAMANTHA reaches into her handbag and takes out a folded page.

RUSSELL: What’s that?

SAMANTHA: This is a letter. Actually, it’s a copy of a letter I’ve already sent.

RUSSELL (standing up): I didn’t think you were going to go this far.

SAMANTHA (looking at him, confused): What?

RUSSELL: I thought family counted for something, even in your job.

SAMANTHA: Shut up and listen. It’s a letter I sent to my boss.

RUSSELL (even more indignantly): Get out.

SAMANTHA: What?

RUSSELL: I can’t believe you came here to gloat---

SAMANTHA (shouts): SHUT UP AND LISTEN!

There is a long pause. DEAN and RUSSELL look at each other in surprise. Samantha has obviously not shouted very often in the past.

SAMANTHA:

Melissa Cummins
Executive Manager
Inspections Department
Department of Social Welfare

Dear Ms Cummins

I would like to thank you for three stimulating years I have spent working as a social welfare inspector. I took the job with some misgivings but tried to make the best of it.

I feel I am no longer able to continue with my duties as I don’t enjoy playing God and poking my nose into the lives of people who are down on their luck.

Also my friend Gillian is opening a beauty salon and says I can work for her.

May I thank this opportunity to thank you for all your help, apart from the bitching that you did behind my back. P.S. I would like to remind you that I have respected the departmental dress codes at all time, even when you considered my apparel “slutty”.

Thanks a lot

Samantha Belinda Coffey.

Long pause. RUSSELL and DEAN stare at SAMANTHA.

RUSSELL: You can’t send that!

SAMANTHA: I did send it.

DEAN: No, she didn’t. She’s pulling your leg.

SAMANTHA: Yeah, and I’m becoming a nun, too.

RUSSELL (putting his hands to his head): Why would you do something like that?

SAMANTHA: Are you joking?

RUSSELL: Are you joking?

DEAN: She is joking.

SAMANTHA: I’m not joking. You must be joking! You’ve treated me like a leper since I took that job!

RUSSELL: That’s not true.

SAMANTHA: Oh, please…

RUSSELL (raising one hand, his finger pointing upwards, as though making a crucial point): I never said anything! Not one word!

DEAN: She’s joking.

RUSSELL: Shut up, you. (Raises finger again.) I…never…said…one…word.

SAMANTHA: How can you say that? You were always making these snide little remarks…

RUSSELL: If you can’t take a joke…

DEAN: She’s joking, or she’s gone nuts.

RUSSELL: When did I ever actually say anything? I mean, apart from a joke here and there? Tell me one time.

SAMANTHA: Do you want the exact date and time?

RUSSELL: Don’t prevar….(pauses).

DEAN: Prevaricate.

RUSSELL: Prevaricate.

SAMANTHA: Even when you weren’t making jokes. You were always weird around me since I took that job. Like I blackened the family name or something. It was always the elephant in the room.

RUSSELL: That’s a cliché.

SAMANTHA: I don’t care.

DEAN: Clichés are the off-the-peg clothes of language.

SAMANTHA: I don’t care. I didn’t do honours English.

DEAN: You didn’t do honours anything.

SAMANTHA: But I passed the civil service exam. That’s the only reason I took that bloody job. I thought you’d both be pleased.

RUSSELL: But what are you going to do?

SAMANTHA: It’s in the letter. Caroline’s beauty salon.

RUSSELL: I thought you were making that up.

SAMANTHA: No. She’s starting a beauty salon. It’s opening in a few weeks. Miss Perfect.

RUSSELL: What if it falls through? What if it’s a flop?

SAMANTHA: What if a giant meteorite hits the Earth and wipes out all life?

DEAN: You can pray to God to save us.

SAMANTHA: I do pray to God to save you. Both of you. What else do you think has been happening? How did you think you were managing?

RUSSELL: I can’t believe this.

SAMANTHA: Believe it.

RUSSELL (shaking his head): I’m going to have a bath. I have to process this. (Walks off.)

DEAN (makes air quotes): “Process”? He sounds like you!

SAMANTHA: Why does he always have a bath when stuff like this happens?

DEAN: It’s probably psychological.

SAMANTHA (looks at him admiringly): It must be wonderful to be academic.

DEAN shrugs complacently.

DEAN: It’s just the way I am. I mean, you’re good at stuff too.

SAMANTHA: Like what?

DEAN (pause): I can’t think of anything right now.

SAMANTHA: That’s reassuring.

DEAN: Everybody doesn’t have to be good at one particular thing. Da was just talking about you before you came in.

SAMANTHA: Really?

DEAN: Yeah, he was telling a story. He’s told me it a million times. About the time he came back from the pub—

SAMANTHA: Oh, God.

DEAN: And you went out into the street in your pyamas—

SAMANTHA: With his bloody cigarettes and the remote control. Why does he go on and on about that?

DEAN: It’s something to remember you by.

SAMANTHA: I mean, the only reason I did it was because I’d opened his cigarettes. I was smoking one of them when he came home. I sat up watching wrestling and smoking a fag.

DEAN: You were only ten!

SAMANTHA: He thought I’d opened the packet for him. And I knew in the morning he wouldn’t remember how many he’d smoked. I don’t know why he’s always telling that story. He did other stuff with me. I always remember the time he brought me to see Grandma in hospital, when she was dying. He took me into a pub afterwards and we had smokey bacon crisps. They were so tangy. He told me all about his family, going back. He could remember everything that happened to everybody, and the year it happened. Even the day, sometimes.

DEAN: I remember when we used to watch the war films together, on Saturday mornings. We had a tradition of corned beef sandwiches. With loads of mustard.

SAMANTHA: He used to be more— (pauses.)

DEAN: I know. He used to get less--- (pauses.)

SAMANTHA (lowers voice): Before his accident. It didn’t happen straight away. It took a while.

DEAN (lowered voice): It wasn’t the accident so much. It was the way it happened. He knows that everybody knows—

SAMANTHA: I know.

Long pause.

DEAN (self-consciously): Hey, um….

SAMANTHA: What?

DEAN: Well, you know this beauty salon place you’re starting up?

SAMANTHA: What about it?

DEAN: Do you think….do you think I could do something in it?

SAMANTHA (looking bewildered): You?

DEAN: I mean, even if it was cleaning or something. Or security. Or something.

SAMANTHA: You’re already doing one job.

DEAN: Aw, I’m sick of that. They’re all so immature. They’re Neanderthals. They’re prejudiced against anybody with brains.

SAMANTHA: I don’t know….I’d have to ask…

DEAN: Well, will you?

SAMANTHA: It’s just Caroline….

DEAN: Well, whatever. Think about it. But Sam—

SAMANTHA: Yeah?

DEAN: Don’t tell Da. You can imagine what he’d say.

SAMANTHA laughs. After a moment, DEAN does too.

SAMANTHA (looking off, her voice lowered): Here he is now.

RUSSELL walks on. His hair is wet, but he’s still wearing the bathrobe. Suddenly, though, he looks cheerful.

RUSSELL (to Samantha): You know, I’ve been thinking about it, and I think you did the right thing. You’re my daughter after all. You’re not going to have any hand, act or part in oppressing the people. You’re not a tool of officialdom. I didn’t bring you up to be a tool. (Looks at Dean.) And you! With your honours English and honours Irish. I’m proud of both of you.

DEAN and SAMANTHA both looked bemused and a little embarrassed.

RUSSELL: I am! I’m proud. And we’re going out to celebrate. Now!

SAMANTHA: Now?

RUSSELL: Now! It’s a new beginning! The history of the Coffeys is starting over!

DEAN: Six thousand five hundred BC. The first evidence of settlement in Ireland.

RUSSELL (raising his hands in the air and speaking louder): Today is six thousand five hundred B.C.!

SAMANTHA laughs happily.

RUSSELL: We’ll go to the Finn McCool. And we’ll have corned beef sandwiches.

DEAN: And mustard?

RUSSELL: Of course! And—

His mobile phone rings. He takes it out of his bathrobe and answers it.

RUSSELL: Yeah?

(Pause.)

RUSSELL: Enter the Dragon! Save your blushes! What?

(Pause.)

That’s not the only thing she was holding! (Laughs uproariously.)

(Pause.)

RUSSELL: What channel? Cool….I’ll have a look right now. See ya. Enter the Dragon! (Laughs again, puts phone back in pocket.)

RUSSELL: Switch on RTE Two there. Gerard’s sister is going to be on talking about the fire. Where’s the remote?

SAMANTHA: Here. (Takes remote from the table and hands it to Russell.)

They all turn towards the TV—actually, where the TV should be, as the elephant in standing in the way. Russell prods the button on TV several times. Nothing happens.

RUSSELL: I’ve heard the story a hundred times now anyway.

SAMANTHA: It probably would have been twenty seconds or something.

DEAN: Gerard will tape it anyway.

SAMANTHA: Have you ever heard anyone going on about anything the way she goes on about the fire?

DEAN and RUSSELL: No!

RUSSELL: Come on, Dean, get dressed. There’s a table with our name on it in the Finn MacCool.

DEAN and RUSSELL leave the stage.

SAMANTHA stands in the room for a few moments, staring into vacancy. Then she turns to the elephant and gives it an almighty kick.

SAMANTHA: And that’s what I think about you!

(Curtain.)

3 comments:

  1. I think the guys from the Axis were a bit harsh - I thought it was quite interesting. Cork Arts Theatre does a '10 plays ten minutes €10' (ten ten minute plays for a tenner) every so often. Why not trim it down a bit and send it on to them and see what they think? http://www.corkartstheatre.com/ The last time I went they had several that were by no means as good as this.

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  2. Thanks, Father. I'll probably do that! Thanks for your kind words too.

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  3. Maolsheachlann,
    The only thing I gathered from your meeting is that there is a level of elitism and snobbery in Irish theatre, which doesn't surprise me. I've seen a few plays here and there - ones that were supposed to be good - and they were all awful, or at least dull at best. The short play you wrote above was more enjoyable to read than those other plays were to watch; and I'm the kind of person who finds it easier to watch than read something.

    I imagine the people you talked to are cut from the same cloth as the people at RTE who decide what "comedy" shows are going to be put on. It's just their opinions.

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