BEE: A 40 year old housewife
BARRY: Her husband, a civil engineer
The family bathroom on a weekday morning. Bee is in bra and pants. She applies lotion to her arms. Barry wears a dressing gown and is vigorously brushing his teeth
BEE: (Aside; observing Barry) Habits. That’s what you marry. Regular as clockwork. Every morning - gargle and spit. Every night - nose whistling, chest pumping. And the snores, the snores! I could ram a pillow over his head and sit on it. Not to kill him, mind. Just to stop the breathing. (pause) He thinks he knows me. But does he? Does he know the half of it? (to Barry) Not so hard, they’ll bleed!
BARRY: (slows his brushing) Better?
BEE: They’re your teeth. (Aside; observing her arms) All this flab. I’ll have to keep my arms down. Or covered. Yes. Perhaps it’ll be one of those frenzied couplings where there’s no time to undress. (looks at Barry) Why does he have to brush so hard? It’s like a dog with a bone. (pause) He never looks at me. Not a real ‘feel you over’ look. Not anymore. Same as how you stop seeing the pattern on your curtains after a while, only the dirty finger marks. (pause) Whereas Laszlo . . . (smiling with pleasure) Laszlo sees everything. (singing an arpeggio) La, di da, Da, di, da, Da.
BARRY: (gargling mouth wash) Glllllll, gllllll, gllllll.
BEE: (singing an arpeggio) La, di da, Da, di, da, Da.
BARRY: You’re happy.
BEE: (Aside) It was an ordinary Wednesday, like any other. I’d got the dinner done, homework sorted, grabbed my score, no make-up, only just managed to scrape into choir practice on time. And suddenly, there he is, all long and lean, sat at the back of All Saints delicately peeling the foil off a Kit Kat. “He’d better be a tenor”, I’m thinking. “We’re low on tenors.” Then he throws me a look – fierce, like flinging down a gauntlet – and bites across all four fingers of the bar. I felt the snap. (she removes her shower cap and lets her hair fall loose)
BARRY: That should do it. I’ve been underbrushing for years.
BEE: (Aside; brushing her hair) Laszlo’s gold tooth deep at the back when he laughs and eyes like a leopard – patient, dangerous, watching. (Aside; she observes Barry, who lathers up his face ready to shave) Well, I’ve held out long enough – against his hands and the taste of his tongue, the way it licks the crease of his mouth, how he kissed my neck, fanged it with that sweet whiskey breath, like a feast, and yesterday . . . Yesterday? In another life, in another body, tasting tobacco on his fingers, sucking the warmth of them, one by one, while his other hand conducted me, made music in me. (joyful singing another arpeggio) La, di, da, Da, di, da, Da . . . .
BARRY: Steady on, Bee. I’ve got a migraine coming.
BEE: (One tone higher, but quietly) La, di, da, Da, di, da, Da.
BARRY: I might not go in today.
BEE: Not a good time for taking your eye off the ball, Barry.
BARRY: Things are fine. Everything’s absolutely bloody fine.
BEE: Ok. We won’t talk about it.
BARRY: The A.D. rates me. You saw my last appraisal. I’m indispensible. (he starts to shave)
BEE: How indispensible is traffic-calming, Barry?
BARRY: It’s what the public notices that counts – potholes, bollards. The borough would grind to a halt without its roads.
BEE: Would it?
BARRY: Yes. (pause) I’ll take a Migraleve. (hunts for his tablets)
BEE: (Aside) He hasn’t noticed. He can’t read the signs. He can spot the tiniest scratch on the car bonnet, but his wife of nineteen years – she’s just wallpaper, brightens the place up a bit, better than a blank wall. For Christ’s sake, Barry, look at me! Just look at me for once. There’s a woman in here. Someone with nipples. (to Barry) Nipples!
BARRY: Sorry? (they look at each other for a while, then he takes the tablet)
BEE: (Aside; she peers under her bra at her breasts) But are they normal? Do I have normal nipples? I haven’t seen enough breasts to tell.
BARRY: Even if . . . and it’s only an if . . . I lose my job, there’s the redundancy for starters, that’ll buy us 15 weeks. (he continues shaving)
BEE: (Aside) Tonight’s going to be a disaster.
BARRY: Milly can get a student loan. She can still go to Uni. Half of them don’t even pay it back.
BEE: Why does nobody ever remember to change the loo roll? (she sets about doing so) Bums and noses. How many have I wiped? (pause) Concentrate, for God’s sake, Barry. You’re going to cut yourself.
BARRY: People cope if they have to sell their home. It’s not the end of the world.
BEE: (Aside; she starts to dress) I’ve no idea where he’ll take me. Not to his own house, obviously. The park? No, too public, too cold. Please God not a hotel – strange linen, knowing looks, horrible little bars of soap. (pause) We’ll sit in his car. We’ll small talk. Both of us - washed, deodorised, ready. (hears noises on the stairs and shouts) Millie? Millie! Text me when you get there. I want to know you’ve arrived safely. (Aside) The kids’ll never find out. I’d die rather than ... No. It’s just an interlude. A one-off. An adventure. That’s what it is. Mum’s little adventure. A hike up a new peak. An emotional bungee jump. Why not? While there’s time. While there’s still life. Millie’s got her gap year. Well, I’ve got my gap lover. And it feels great.
BARRY: Shit! I’ve cut myself.
BEE: You never listen, do you?
BARRY: Why am I even bothering to shave?
BEE: Always squeezing the last ounce of life out of old blades. It’s penny-pinching, Barry. You’re obsessed with money. (searches the cupboard, DIRECT) What have you done with the TCP?
BARRY: We’ve run out.
BEE: No TCP, no time, no guilt. No guilt, no time, no TCP. (she takes a piece of toilet paper and holds his chin) Hold still.
BEE: (tending to his face) You never change.
BARRY: (Aside) Funny to think how nervous we were once. Her in her skinny sweater. Very tight. Me, oh, me trying to wow her with surveyor-speak. My God – theodolites and plummets and pipe-locators. I was full of myself then. A red-blooded twenty year old, full of shit. But somehow, miraculously, she said ‘yes’.
BEE: (Aside) Afterwards . . . when I come home? Will it show? Will I be different?
BARRY: (Aside) We used to share. Even the bad stuff.
BEE: (Aside) I’ll sit at the same table – with the same face, same eyes, same breakfast cereal . . .
BARRY: (Aside) Tell her! Go on! Just tell her!
BEE: (Aside; they look at each other) Surely it can’t be this for the rest of my life?
BARRY: (pause) Bee?
BARRY: (long pause) That film . . . what was it called – you know, set in Vienna, in the 1800s, about Colonel Redl?
BEE: I haven’t got time, Barry.
BARRY: When they give him the pistol, and he walks to his room, and they’re all waiting, everybody’s waiting for the pistol-shot and he runs from one end of the room to the other, up and down, up and down, trying to get up the courage to pull the trigger. What was it called?
BEE: I don’t know. Please, just get dressed and go to work. Seriously. Do you want to lose your job? I’m bored, Barry. Bored to the back of my teeth with your bloody gums and everything! (pause) Sorry. (pause) I’m just worried about your job.
BARRY: (Aside) The embarrasment . . . the humiliation. Being called up infront of everyone. Everyone seeing me go into the A.D’s office, heads down in their pens . . . after fifteen years of unimpeachable service – to be pitied like that.
BEE: Barry? (long pause) This time tomorrow, something will have changed forever.
BARRY: (Aside) I’ll sit in the canteen. That’ll do it. Drive in every day. As if nothing’s happened. She’ll never find out.
BEE: (Aside) I don’t want to lose you. Tell me to stop, Barry. Forbid me. Be a man, for once. Be a lion with a bloody great roar – “She’s my wife, I want her, I want, I want her.”
BARRY: Colonel Redl.
BEE: (pause) What?
BARRY: The name of the film about Colonel Redl. It was called ‘Colonel Redl’.
BEE: Oh good. Thank you for clearing that up.
BARRY: (pause) He shoots himself in the end.
BEE: (long pause) I’ll get some TCP from Boots on my way to Mum’s.
BARRY: Anything else?
BARRY: (pause) Plasters.
BEE: They’re on the list.
BEE: Oh, and I won’t need a lift back from choir practice tonight. We’re having a . . . get-together at Michelle’s. She’ll drop me home.
(Lights Fade to Final Blackout)
Claire Booker mud-wrestles words and sometimes comes out on top. Her poetry pamphlet Later There Will Be Postcards is out from Green Bottle Press. www.bookerplays.co.uk