Pam Gems is hereby identified as author of this work in accordance with section 77 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. The author has asserted her moral rights. All rights whatsoever in this play are strictly reserved and application for performance etc. should be made before rehearsal to Rose Cobbe, United Agents, 12-26 Lexington Street, London W1F 0LE, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 20 3214 0800.
http://unitedagents.co.uk/agents/rose-cobbe/. Assistant: Dan Usztan. Email: email@example.com Tel: +44 (0) 20 3214 0873. No performance may be given unless a licence has been obtained.
An aging scientist A young girl
SCENE ONE. STUDY. A MAN, not young, is reading in an easy chair by a table laden with books and papers. On the floor, across the room, a YOUNG GIRL, lies on her stomach reading a magazine.
She turns a page.
He turns a page.
She reaches for a biscuit tin. GIRL
Rich Tea or Ginger? He holds out a hand without raising his eyes from the page. She swims across the carpet, puts a biscuit in his hand. He eats without looking up. She swivels back, finds her place and resumes reading on her stomach. He reaches for a pen, makes a brief note. GIRL
(Calls across, breaking the silence.) Sortable! (French pronunciation.) He lifts his head. She reaches for a dictionary on the floor. GIRL
(To herself) Sortable. MAN
(Calls) Presentable. She flips the pages, finds the word and nods. MAN
Pas sortable means you can’t be seen out with him. She laughs briefly. They work.
(Calls) Essayeur? (Looks in dictionary)... essayeur...essayeuse... MAN
(Looking up at her) Here it means a woman being tried out as a high-class escort. GIRL
(Leaning for a look) A whore you mean? MAN
That’s what the scandal’s about. He’s been rumbled, there’s the white flag (points at the page) - wife with the fixed smile clamped to his side. GIRL
Oh. (As he turns the pages to look at the pictures) Will he lose his job? MAN
No, no - whoever shopped him will be moved sideways. GIRL
For being a shit? MAN
For being bourgeois. Pas sortable. The GIRL laughs, jolts him on the shoulder as he turns a page. GIRL
Hold on - turn back. (Takes the magazine from him.) MAN
(Points) Agynesse Dehn - English model - (excited) Kate Moss! MAN
(Looking) Mmm? GIRL
Only the topmost top model in the world. Emblems of the era, that’s what Spike calls them. (He looks puzzled. To herself) Jesus. (Aloud) Spike says if you wanna know about history sus the visuals. MAN
Who’s Spike? GIRL
Art master. (Turns a page, stabs at a picture.) Tam Johnson, latest male model. There are some cool older guys modelling now, so long as they’re not bald - a shaved head’s OK. (Looks at him speculatively.) MAN
And older women? GIRL
God no. MAN
Who wants to go to bed with a hag? In France maybe - you’re allowed to have sex over thirty and not get arrested, look at Jeanne Moreau. MAN
I’ll ring the travel agent. She smiles at him briefly, bends her head to the magazine turning the pages. GIRL
(Without lifting her head) Did you go to the hospital? MAN
Next appointment six months. GIRL
You have to go back? MAN
With prostate once you’ve got it what’s relevant is the rate of advance. GIRL
What’s yours? MAN
Not galloping. She yocks with laughter. He looks up. GIRL
Sorry - a galloping prostate - Clint Eastwood...(to herself) oh stop it, he’s only a hundred and one. MAN
Good looking man. GIRL
Bone structure. (Slight pause.) What if it does decide to gallop? MAN
They give you drugs. GIRL
Any good? MAN
What does Ruby say? MAN
(Foreign accent) “Priéten, you are lost.” GIRL
Means friend in Rumanian. GIRL
In other words “You’ve had it, mate.”
She’s worried about her billet. MAN
You think so? GIRL
She’s an illegal! MAN
(Shakes his head.) I keep telling her - Rumanians are welcome now! As my wife - GIRL
She’ll still be anxious. If you fall under a bus she’ll have to find another idiot. (Settles down with her magazine. Calls across) Why did you give her bed and board?
I don’t know why you did that. MAN
She could have been deported. OK now. GIRL
And you’ve lumbered yourself. I don’t know. (She flicks him a look of admiration for his gallantry.) What you should do is demand your marital rights, that’d see her off. MAN
Oh, get away. GIRL
(Laughs) No - she’d be grateful with that moustache. MAN
Very highly prized in Rumania - sign of a fertile woman. GIRL
I think they may have got something wrong there. MAN
I bearded virgin’ll get a hubbie with no dowry. GIRL
Especially if she smells of latrines. (Jumps up) I know - Air Freshener! MAN
(Grabbing her bag) It’s OK, there’s one to mask dog’s pee when you’re walking a puppy. It’s called Fresh Air. MAN
What will they think of next? GIRL
(Pauses by the door.) D’you need anything? Pomegranate? Anti-oxidant, refines the complexion. No?
I’ll get a pineapple - longevity and genius guaranteed. MAN
(Calls as she goes) What are you cooking for your brothers tonight? GIRL
Leftovers and stewed apple.
(He fishes, hands her some money.) GIRL
They’re growing lads. She laughs, happy with gratitude, and dashes off. He bends to his work.
SCENE 2 THE MAN’S GARDEN. A paved area with seating and pots, hedging and trees beyond. It is stylish. The MAN and the GIRL are enjoying the sun. He has taken off his jacket, lies back, eyes closed. She throws crumbs to the birds. MAN
(Murmurs) You’ll encourage the pigeons. GIRL
Don’t be mean. Share the planet. MAN
Who says? GIRL
Guru Winston. Writes in the local paper. Got one leg. MAN
Oh well! She throws crumbs for the birds, nudges him gently as one approaches...they watch and lift their heads together to see the bird fly off.
Robin. Mr Solo...loner - well, except when mating - tough little bird.. I put up a rat once. I was marking papers in a Cambridge conservatory and it ran over my foot. Damnedest thing...it stood there savvying its options, which weren’t great - looked up at me, strolled back over my shoe and buggered off.
I should have clobbered it. GIRL
But you didn’t? MAN
Pure defiance. Always humbling, courage in adversity. GIRL
Depends whether you’re standing your ground for a good cause or some mindless lash-out. (She thinks.) It could have been a lady rat with babies to protect. (They settle back to relax in the sun) I wonder if it’s true for non-mammals. MAN
Mother-love. Do all species care for their young? MAN
Shouldn’t think so - most of them are more like components than the full monty, which doesn’t stop them stinging you. GIRL
Dear little aphids don’t bite. MAN
No, too busy guzzling - you should see my beans.
They’ve got to eat something. MAN
Why me? GIRL
Well, they don’t realise. Unlike Uncle Norman, my father’s brother. MAN
Sure it is in some people. Some people are naturally brave - or naturally timid - probably in their nature, runs in families. MAN
No. Take my word for it. Response to crisis - accident - never stable. Human beings have many qualities. Predictable, reliable response to stimuli - (shakes his head) - no. It’s why you have to hard-train soldiers. GIRL
To get them to fight. MAN
There again you never know, though it’s easier than you might suppose. GIRL
Well boys like fighting. Girls like dolls, boys like swords and guns. MAN
So if I fall in and Peter - you haven’t met him - jumps in after me I should tell him to fuck off, quit being a romantic prat, just let me get caught in the weed and drown. MAN
Now you’re being silly. GIRL
No, I’m not. MAN
Yes you are, you want a fight. GIRL
And you’re cruising for a bruising. A pause. He stirs at last. GIRL
What? He shakes his head, makes to subside, changes his mind. MAN
When you’re young you feel immortal and that can be exploited. It doesn’t last, gone by your twenties, sooner in battle - if you do dodge the Reaper it’s no more dreams of victory - it’s how do I survive?
If being brave looks like doing you in - The GIRL laughs. GIRL
Who wants to be a dead hero!
Glad you agree. A pause. He smiles to himself. GIRL
Oh nothing. GIRL
We had this little ginger, pink-eyed chap in the pay office - never opened his mouth except to say sorry. (He stops. She waits.) We were crossing this paddy field after a fairly rough morning - no cover, much too quiet - all of a sudden ginger streak takes off, sprints over the ground full-tossing hand grenades to extra cover, square leg like an England team fast bowler. Took out a whole bunker. Amazing. GIRL
Was he killed? MAN
No, probably because he was five foot nothing - dodgy target. When I asked him what the hell he thought he was doing, he apologised, said the flies had been driving him up the wall and would I overlook it? GIRL
Wow. Did you give him a medal? MAN
Would have if he hadn’t stepped on a mine. Pause. GIRL
Were you brave? In Korea?
Of course not. Wars of futility promote highly sophisticated modes of self-preservation. GIRL
So you didn’t go in for valour? MAN
Only occasionally. GIRL
(Eager) Where? MAN
In the boxing ring usually. GIRL
You were a boxer? MAN
Did you win? MAN
Yes...sometimes before the fights began. GIRL
You mean because they were fixed? MAN
No. You look in their eyes. GIRL
And that tells you?
(She nods, digesting this.)
Did you enjoy it?
Boxing? Yes. It made me happy. Didn’t realise it at the time, you don’t. GIRL
Happy? To punch people? Why? MAN
Insanity - you could have damaged your brain. Probably did. MAN
Oh well, worth it for the bliss. GIRL
Yes...a rare state. You see it in dogs sometimes - babies - young strikers after scoring before they’ve learned to cool it. GIRL
Strikers go berserk.
That’s triumphalism - not the same as joy. He picks up his jacket from the back of the bench. GIRL