Below is the full script from my stage play Perpetually.
It was inspired after I performed in Bishops Waltham Little Theatre's 1989 production of one of the J.B. Priestley's time plays, Dangerous Corner.
As a keen member of the theatre and budding writer I wanted to pen a story that was designed to give an opportunity to all the various aged members of the cast, particularly those who were involved in the annual pantomimes and summer shows but felt that there was no chance to feature in the more serious plays staged in spring and autumn each year.
When I had written this piece and offered it as a reading to the theatre committee it was declined, without consideration or even a reading.
The reasons given were that previous member written pieces had received poor public reception. Plus when the group performed the serious plays in the spring and autumn ticket sales were poor in comparison to the big winter pantomime and summer shows.
These mega shows pulled in paying public audiences of around a thousand people and the local halls charged the group accordingly. Unfortunately this encouraged the halls to effectively overcharge for other performances which would only attract less than a quarter of these sales. In fact it often cost the group money to stage the serious plays and without a publicly recognised author or known title ticket sales were considered too big a risk.
As a result the play has never been staged, or indeed read through in any formal or informal sense [to my knowledge].
Did the theatre group make the right call? What do you think?
Feedback would be much appreciated. Does it work as a piece? Do you understand what it is saying? Is the dialogue compelling? Is it interesting? Would you want to see it staged?
Remember it is a completed piece of work. It may take a little time to read through both acts.
A young boy
A young girl
A boy [teenager]
A girl [teenager]
An old man
An old woman
A Stage Play by Vince Poynter
Written around 1990
The curtains open on a bright country scene on a fine summer afternoon in England, present day. A large barn dominates the left of stage, its position preventing any stage access from up left. A small stone bridge is right of centre over a stream running downstage towards a tree, right downstage. A pile of rocks centre upstage, with the theme continued onto the backcloth imply restricted access, a dry-stone wall perhaps, along the back. The skyline is a clear blue over the hilly features. Some discarded farm waste (old barrels, straw bales, bags etc.) is piled up carelessly against the barn. The barn door hangs open on two of its four hinges. The access hatch at high level is also open in front of which precariously hangs a bag of grain from the jib above. Underfoot is grass. Note that unseen access can be made from within the barn to the loft.
Sounds of birds singing and insects chattering are heard throughout.
As soon as the curtains open an irritating whine is heard. The noise comes from a radio controlled car hurtling around centre stage. The model car runs into the barn door, reverses, drives forward and over the bridge off stage right. A moment's pause and the car returns, crosses the bridge, spins round and round and careers into the mud at the edge of the stream, to a sudden halt.
Little girl: (Off) "Oh no!"
Little boy: (Off) "Ha Ha! Serves you right, my turn."
Little girl: (Off) "No, mine ... mine."
Little boy: (Off) "Gimme that, it's my turn, my turn now."
The little girl and boy enter (upstage right) running. They are of a similar age, about six to eight years old. They are dressed in jeans and tee-shirts with soft shoes on their feet. Mud stains are on their knees and elbows, perhaps also on the face. They are happy, excitable.
The girl is first and she clutches the controller for the radio-controlled car. They cross the bridge, still arguing.
Little girl: (Entering) "You said that I could have a go."
Little boy: (Following) "Only 'til you crashed it though. Now it's my turn. You've smashed it up."
The little boy pushes past the girl as they cross the bridge causing her to miss her footing and stumble into the pile of debris by the barn.
Little girl: (Stumbling) "Hey, watch out."
The little boy laughs and gets to the model car first. He picks it up and turns to the little girl.
Little boy: "Come on then. Give it to me. Gimme the box."
Little girl: (Recovering) "No I wont. It's still my go. You've had your go. Give me the car."
Little boy: (Holding car) "Well you can't have it. It's my turn now. You crashed it."
Little girl: (Approaching boy) "It isn't fair. Just five minutes, then it's your go. Go on, just five ..."
Little boy: (Interrupts) "No, my go, you smashed it up. Now it's my ..."
The little girl has approached the little boy and she suddenly pushes him over onto the ground. He falls awkwardly and after a moment's pause starts to cry, deliberately audibly. The remote-controlled car has fallen to the ground and is picked up by the little girl. She takes it to centre stage, places it on the ground and starts to drive it around in circles. The little boy, noticing how she is playing with the car and ignoring his cries, stops crying, jumps to his feet and grabs the car as it passes him.
Little boy: (Defiantly) "I've got it now. So there." (He sticks out his tongue).
Little girl: "But I've got the control box though ..." (She runs toward the barn door then turns to face the little boy) "... and you can't have it." (She sticks out her tongue).
Little boy: "But it's mine. You've got to give it back to me." (Pause) "Now!"
Little girl: "Well I won't, I won't, I won't. You said I could have a go."
The little boy, sensing a stalemate, puts the car back down onto the ground. He starts to walk positively toward the little girl. She reacts by driving the car again. He turns back toward the car and stoops to pick it up. Before he gets to it she drives the car around him fast (well downstage). He grabs for the car but misses it. The car continues past the little boy, past the little girl and into the open door of the barn, fast. There is a crash. Silence. Brief pause. The little boy then runs toward and into the barn, pushing past the little girl. Pause. She looks anxious. The little boy returns holding the remains of the crashed and obviously broken car. He is sad.
Little boy: "Now look what you've done."
Little girl: "That was your fault. You made me do that."
Little boy: "My mum will kill me. I'm telling on you. It was you who did this." (He holds up the car) "You broke my car."
Little girl: "You broke my green tricycle the other day."
Little boy: "No I didn't. You were on it as well."
Little girl: "You shouldn't have been on it. It was your fault."
Little boy: (Hurries past the girl) "Well I'm going back to tell her. You're going to be in trouble now." (He is starting to cry).
Little girl: (Following him) "I'm going to tell her it was you. You dropped it. Yes you did, didn't you. I know. Nah, nah, na-na, nah."
Little boy: (Crying) "You better hope it can be mended."
Little girl: (Now also starting to cry) "I only played with it because you wanted me to."
They are crossing the bridge, stopping only to argue. Then leaving upstage right.
Little girl: "Could your dad fix it? He fixed the train set."
Little boy: "He's away. Mummy said he's in hospital."
Little girl: "Stupid car anyway." (They are leaving)
Little boy: (Now off) "You didn't have to play with it."
Little girl: (Also off) "You said you wanted someone to ..." (Trails off)
They have exited. Silence, except the continuing bird-song and other background noises. Pause.
Two adolescent teenagers stroll in, arm in arm, downstage right. They are both of a similar age, about 15 to 16 years old. Modern dress; jeans and tee-shirt on the boy, the girl with a simple green skirt and blouse, her shoes suitable for a relaxing walk in the country. He has a boy scout type knife in a leather sheath on his belt. They are intensely discussing a subject but are not arguing. They seem carefree.
Boy: (Entering) "... But that's not the point. I suppose I can see your side of the argument but that can't possibly happen can it? How can it? Surely as many girls have to as boys do."
Girl: "Yes. I can see that. But that doesn't change my point of view. And all my friends agree." (She stops and faces him direct) "Tell me, how many of your friends have?"
Boy: "They all have. All my mates have."
Girl: (Laughing) "Even Danny?"
Boy: "Yes ... Well everyone except Danny." (He laughs along too).
Girl: "They tell you that they have."
Boy: "I know they have."
Girl: (Passing the boy onto the bridge) "You think that they have because they say so. You can't really be sure. You don't really know do you?" (Teasingly) "Or have you seen?" (She giggles)
Boy: "Oh come on. Everyone has ..."
Girl: (Interrupting) "Except Danny."
Boy: "Except Danny ... yes. It's a fact. Oh come on ..."
He has grabbed her by arm. She turns away from him off the bridge.
Girl: "No. Not now. Not here ... Not yet ..." (She pulls away) (Teasingly) "Maybe never."
She escapes from his grip and runs toward the barn. He gives chase. They are laughing, happy.
Girl: "You won't catch me! ... You'll never get me!"
Boy: "Come here! ... Come back ... I'll get you!"
Girl: "Maybe never!"
The boy eventually traps the girl up against the barn.
They look at each other deeply. He kisses her hard on the lips. She resists after a brief moment then pushes him away.
She escapes under his arm and runs away, but only a few steps. They are both facing away from each other. He is left looking at the barn, she is centre stage looking right.
Boy: (Seriously) "But we've known each other since we were kids. We shared everything." (He turns toward the girl) "It's meant to be."
Girl: "Who says?"
Boy: "That's just the way it is. Can't you see that? You, me ... you know."
Girl: "You can't even say it. You can't even bring yourself to say it."
Boy: (He steps one pace forward) "Yes I can."
Boy: (Stepping forward again. He is now quite close behind her) "Yes. I can. You know that."
Girl: (Turning sharply to him) "Go on then."
Boy: "Well ..." (He looks around sheepishly, as if there are others around) "You know ..." (Positively) "It!" (He laughs).
Girl: (Annoyed) "No! Don't! Not it! You had better ask me nicely and then I might say yes."
Boy: (Eager) "Yes."
Boy: "Oh, alright. If you insist ..."
Girl: "Yes I insist. Or else is definitely 'No'."
Boy: "Alright ... Here goes ... Will you? ... Will you? ... You know ... with me?
Girl: "Properly. Or I definitely won't." (She turns away again).
Boy: (Lunging forward and grabbing her arm, he pulls her to face him) "Alright. Alright ... Will you sleep with me?"
A pause. They stare at each other. She is surprised, not at the suggestion, but his sudden confidence. He looks increasingly expectant, his eyes widening.
Girl: (Breaking the moment) "Sleep?"(She turns away, slightly embarrassed, slightly amused).
Boy: (Hands dropping to his side) "You know ... You know what I mean. Don't you."
Girl: "Is that what your mates do, sleep?” (She chuckles)
Boy: "No, no ... It's just a phrase." (She laughs at him) "Oh you're impossible."
The boy turns away. He gets his knife out and stoops to pick up a piece of wood on the ground nearby. He starts to whittle the wood. The girl notices that she has upset him.
Girl: "Hey, come on. Don't take it so bad."
Boy: "You're rotten to me. I don't know why I go out with you anyway."
Girl: "Oh don't be like that. Hey ..." (He stops whittling but still looks down) "... don't take it like that. It's not that I don't want to. I do. It's just not good now."
Boy: (Turning, knife in hand, almost menacingly) "Not good now?"
Girl: (Explaining) "No. It's my dad. He's ill. I don't feel like it at the moment."
Boy: "Oh, there's always an excuse. If it's not one thing it's another."
Girl: "You don't understand. Your dad was bad once. And he died."
Boy: "That was a long time ago now ... How is your dad?" (He puts his knife away).
Girl: "Oh, not too bad. He's just been off work today, that's all. A touch of flu perhaps?"
Boy: "Oh, I am sorry. I shouldn't have pushed you."
Girl: "No, no. That's alright. Quite alright. He's not too bad it's just ..."
Boy: (Interrupts) "Yes, I understand."
Girl: "It's not that I don't want you. I do. I love you."
Boy: "I love you too."
They are close. They look deep into each other's eyes. Their heads move together and are about to kiss.
Girl: (Suddenly putting her hand over his mouth) "What's that?"
Boy: (Muffled) "What?" (She removes her hand)
Girl: (Looking upstage right) "I think I heard a noise. Did you hear anything?"
Boy: (Looking) "No. What was it?"
Girl: "Over there, someone's coming. Let's go."
She runs past the boy and heads for an exit down left. He follows and grabs her arm just before she exits.
Boy: "Stop. Quick. In here." (He ushers her toward the barn).
Girl: "In there?"
Boy: (Deliberately) "Yes, come on. It'll be alright."
There are voices heard offstage right.
Girl: (After a moment's deliberation) "Oh go on. After you. Let's hide."
They run into the barn together.
Boy: (In barn, not seen) "Quick, up here."
Girl: (In barn, not seen) "You first."
Boy: "No you. Go on."
Girl: "Alright ..." (sounds of the two ascending a rickety wooden ladder) "It's not very safe."
Boy: (Laughing) "I can see right up your ..."
Girl: (Laughing) "Shhh!"
Boy: "Hurry up ... hey over there. Come back."
The girl appears at the high level access hatch in the barn. She is looking out for the others which she heard. The boy appears next to her and puts his arm around her waist.
Boy: "Come on. Come back in here. Come and make love"
Girl: (Warmly holds his hand on her waist) "O.K."
He walks back into the barn. She is led away. They are both out of sight.
Girl: (Off) "Over there. That's a good place."
Laughter is heard from within the barn. It tails off.
A woman enters (upstage right) walking quickly. She is about 30 to 35 years old. She wears a loose light jumper and skirt and is rowing with the man following her. He is about the same age, wearing a short sleeved shirt and casual trousers. Their argument is intense and passionate.
Woman: (Off) "Don't you go giving me that. That's got nothing to with freedom. I can see what your game is." (Entering) "You just want an excuse to go off with that tart you know."
The woman has entered briskly, her arms folded over her chest. The man follows her in, his arms gesticulating his pleas.
Man: (Entering) "Tart! Don't you call her a tart. She's got more class than you."
Woman: (Turning to face the man, stopping him in his tracks) "More class." (Astounded) "More arse more like."
Man: "Anyway, leave her out of this." He places his hands on her shoulders) "We're meant to be discussing us. Don't you realise our future's at stake here?"
Woman: "Future! Our future." (She throws his hands away) "You must be joking. Surely you can't expect me to sit back and accept all this?"(She turns and walks slowly away, across the bridge) "And don't you go thinking that I never knew what you were up to all those evenings you were supposed to be out ... out playing golf. Ha. You were playing around alright."
Man: "You never said anything before."
The woman stops across the bridge and turns to face the man. A confrontation now across the bridge.
Woman: "And that's meant to let you off the hook is it? Me not knowing. You think it's all so simple don't you. Didn't you think it through? I can't believe that you could think I was that naive. Playing golf in the afternoon and evening. Sometimes you'd never come home 'til after dark. Said you were drinking but your breath never smelt of beer. You just had a pale sickly smell about you. It was someone else, I could tell. A woman knows these things. Playing golf in the dark? Oh, I bet your balls glowed alright."
Man: "But you never said anything. You never let on."
Woman: (Turning away and walking to centre stage, her voice with a note of despair) "I thought I could handle it you see. I believed you. All your lies. You see I trusted you at first. Then I kept kidding myself, I kept hoping. I tried living in the past, remembering the good old days we used to spend around here." (She looks around) "Those endless summer afternoons, me laying in the sun and you ... you nearby. Always with that knife you used to carry, finding some piece of wood to carve up randomly ... Then after a while it all just seemed normal. That was us. Me and you."
Man: (Following slowly across the bridge) "But why now? Why bring it up now? Alright, so I had my fling. It happened, it wasn't planned. It felt so natural at the time when it started. All men do it. I had to. I needed to. I felt so stifled see. So many years we were together, just you and me. No variety. No-one else. You must have sensed that?"
Woman: (Almost to herself) "No."
Man: (Continuing. He has now crossed the bridge and is talking close to the woman who has her back to him) "Always you and me. Right from the start without exception. And I suppose yes, I saw the others playing the field. You know how it is. Jealousy I suppose."
Woman: (Turns to face him) "It was the same for me. But I didn't get tempted, not like you. Yes I felt trapped but in a way that was good. It was comfort. Couldn't you see the advantages, the good side of our situation?"
Man: "I can now yes. I hadn't realised it before. You never appreciate your own things, just spend time wanting others. But I know and I want to try again. We should try again. Let's just forget the past. Let's just say what's done is done. Nothing can be changed now." (She looks down) "We could end it all right now but where would that leave us?" (He holds her head up with his hand, a tear is in her eye?) "We wouldn't be any better off. We need each other. Let our future start now."
Woman: (Looking deep into his eyes) "Do you really mean that ... I mean really mean that?"
Man: "Yes, yes I do."
Woman: (Wanting to believe him but pulling away) "No. It can't last. I know you. I know everything about you. I know what moves you, what frightens you, what drives you. I know that you prefer spaghetti to coleslaw, that you prefer cats to dogs, Chopin to Strauss and Springsteen to both. I know that you cried when you were young and your toys broke and that you've got a mole on your backside. I know you inside out."
Man: "But I can change. I want to."
Woman: "No. No. You can't. No-one can. You're all the same."
Man: "I promise. Believe me, I'll do anything."
Woman: "A promise ..." (Mimicking his voice) "... 'Believe me'. That's rich coming from a fella." (Coldly) "I've never known any man who keeps his word."
Man: "I'm not like that."
Woman: "You're all like that."
Man: "What do you mean?"
Woman: "Men. You're all the same. Women only have to smile and men start unfastening their flies."
Man: (Feeling uncomfortable with her tone he steps back) "You speak from experience, do you?"
Woman: (Caught up in her own spirit of spite) "A man's idea of foreplay is the word 'yes'."
Man: "Oh, I see. It's pick on men time now, is it?"
Woman: "You've only got three things on your mind. The other two are sleep and food. And you always want them at the wrong time of day."
Man: (Storming over down right) "Oh, come on! Come on! Just 'cause women can't stand sex." (Turning) "Can you remember the first time?" (She looks away) "It was months that I had to wait." (She looks down) "Months. You kept turning me away as if it was some sort of game. You kept saying 'no' ..."
Woman: (Head rising, interrupting) "It was too soon. You pushed me too hard too soon. I wasn't ready."
Man: "You were never ready. Never. Even when we did it it was done so cold and unfeeling. I remember you used to lay there crying afterwards. It was the same again the second time. I had to virtually beg you."
Woman: "I had a cold. I wasn't feeling well."
Man: "You didn't always have a cold. That couldn't have been the reason. I felt so useless, as if I were torturing you and all I wanted to do was share something good. Don't you realise how hopeless that made me feel?"
Woman: (Wandering slowly toward the front edge of the barn) "You were always just interested in your own feelings. You never took the time to see things from my point of view. You never cared about my feelings."
Man: "You never seemed to have any. You just wanted to shut your eyes and pretend it wasn't happening." (He walks slowly toward her) "I thought at first that I might have been hurting you, but I couldn't have been more gentle. I gave up in the end. I had to resign myself to fulfilling only my desires when we were together ... It got better once ..." (He is now close to her. She is facing out into the audience, her eyes tearful with emotion. Her eyelids close tight whenever his words reflect any failure regarding her sexuality) "... You changed. You seemed to like it better. We became good at lovemaking, as well as being good friends. I felt you were participating." (He laughs, first at his humour, then embarrassedly, for temporarily lightening the situation) "But now ..." (She looks at him) "... Now it's all changed again." (He looks away) "It's the same as before, only worse in a way. There's even less feeling and your eyes are shut again. Perhaps, in some bizarre way, that can explain my infidelity. A sub-conscious desire to find that lost sense of joy, to seek perfect loving. Not for me you understand." (he looks at her directly) "But for us, so I can teach you. So we can bind together again as one. So I can pass on to you what I have learnt."
Woman: "But you never said anything. You never let on."
Man: "I thought I could handle it you see. I was giving you a chance. Then I just kept kidding myself, kept hoping. Then after a while it all seemed normal. That was us. Me and you."
Pause. Meaningful looks exchange between the two as they sense the déjà vu of the conversation. They turn away from each other, simultaneously. The mood changes to a resigned tone.
Woman: (Thinking aloud) "We've slipped apart haven't we. We don't seem to be the same people any more. We used to be so close. Places like this were places we used to want to be together. Now ... Now I feel so strange just being here with you." (She turns toward him, he is still facing away) "It can't go on."
Man: "But we must try. We shouldn't give up so easily. Not after what we've been through. What we had was too precious, too special." (He turns to face her) "I realise that I've let you down and I'm sorry, I'm truly sorry. But it won't happen again. Believe me."
Woman: "Things won't be the same again, you must see that. They can't be. We're different now. We've got too much to hide."
Man: "Forgive me, even if you aren't able to forget. Please. It's up to you. I do want you but I know I've spoilt all this. I've ruined everything and I feel ashamed. You've been the innocent party in all this. You've been so good up to now."
Woman: (Quietly) "Yes."
Man: "Yes. Yes, you have."
Woman: (Turning slightly away) "Have I?"
Pause. She looks again into his eyes. He is bewildered. She pushes past him whilst delivering the next line.
Woman: "You never did know did you."
Man: (His head following her movement) "Know ... Know what?"
Woman: (Stopping centre stage, facing away from him) "Oh poor innocent. Poor, poor innocent. You were so wrapped up with yourself weren't you? So busy with yourself to actually notice me, or see what I was doing."
Man: "Doing? What were you doing?" (He looks confused)
Woman: (Frustrated) "Oh please, please. Don't be so stupid. You weren't the only one with feelings you know."
Man: (A step forward) "What are you on about?"
Woman: "Men. They all think that they've got a monopoly on life, don't they? You didn't even see what was staring you in the face did you?" (Pause) "Did you?"
Man: "Are you suggesting ...?"
Woman: (Turning sharply and interrupting) "Suggesting! Suggesting! Do you want it spelt out in black and white?" (His mouth drops open) "Well? ... Oh, don't just stand there like a fish." (She turns and walks a few paces down right)
Man: (Astounded. Angry reaction) "You mean you've been at it? ... Who with? ... Where? ..."
Woman: "Oh it doesn't matter who with, where or when. Someone, somewhere, somewhen. You wouldn't remember. You can never remember people's faces anyway."
Man: "And you've kept this to yourself?” (She looks toward him, he approaches her quickly) "All this time? Why you ...!"
The man has raised his right arm and is about to hit the woman. She anticipates his action and grabs his arm with her left hand.
Woman: (Very angry) "You bastard! You hypocritical bastard." (She throws his arm down).
Man: "Don't you call me a bastard you cheap slut!"
Woman: "And I suppose you were Mr. Perfect were you? It was okay for you to go out slumming it with your fancy woman, but now it's my turn you can't handle it can you? You're pathetic."
He strikes her with the back of his hand, almost reactionary. This time she has not seen it coming and recoils. Pause
The woman's head lifts to look at the man's face, his eyes already indicating that he has already realised the mistake. The woman gives the man a disdainful look and hurries away, offstage up-right, crossing the bridge, crying.
The man is too shocked by his own foolishness to stop her. He drops to a squatting position, his head in one hand, the other hand is supporting his weight off the ground. Pause. He stands up, starts to make off after the woman but stops himself before moving too far. He angrily throws the stones he has picked up whilst squatting towards the stream and grimaces as if about to swear. He walks toward the back of the stage, almost aimlessly, head lowered.
An old man enters, down left. He is over 50 and the face shows signs of being out in the fresh air for over five decades. His attire is casual but sporting and he holds a selection of fishing equipment (Rod, net box etc.). He is in no hurry and whistles contentedly as he walks. He is heading toward centre stage right and reaches centre stage left before noticing the man on-stage, stood with his back to wards him, upstage.
Old man: "Oh. Hello ... Well, I thought that this place was deserted. Good afternoon." (He tilts his hat)
There is no answer.
The man is stood still with his back facing the old man, head lowered.
Old man: "Hello ... I say, are you alright?"
Man: (Lifting head and turning) "Oh ... Yes. 'afternoon."
Old man: "Yes. And such a pleasant one."
Man: "Yes. If you say so."
Old man: "Oh I am sorry. Er, am I disturbing you?"
Man: (With forced politeness) "No. No, it's me who should be sorry. I apologise, but you must excuse me please."
The man hurries off stage, over the bridge and off up-right.
Old man: "Strange fellow. Oh well ..."
The old man settles down to do some fishing. He sits on his portable chair and opens his box, placing it on the ground in front of him. He has chosen to sit well right downstage. He carefully selects a bait from the box and adjusts it. He hooks the bait onto his line. He is not hurried.
The boy re-appears at the loft hatch. He is fastening the last two buttons of his shirt. He carelessly shoves his shirt into his already fastened trousers. He seems a little tense and looks around nervously. He spots the old man, still fiddling with his fishing line.
Boy: (Almost to himself, but audibly) "Oh, shit."
The boy is startled and hurries back into the barn. The old man has noticed the commotion (The sound rather than the expression) and looks round. Urgent whispers are heard faintly in the barn.
Boy: (Inside barn) "Quick, get dressed. Someone's out there."
Girl: (Inside barn) "Who? Where?"
Boy: (Inside barn) "I don't know. Quick hand me my socks."
Girl: (Inside barn) "You get them. I'm doing this."
Boy: (Inside barn) "Over there, my shoe."
Girl: (Inside barn) "Here, do this up."
Boy: (Inside barn) "I can't. How does it go?"
Girl: (Inside barn) "Let me. Oh, for goodness sake, leave it. You undone it."
During the above the old man, disturbed by the commotion within the barn, stands up and walks over to the barn door and tentatively peers in. He still holds his fishing rod. He does not react to the actual words spoken as they are incomprehensible to him, demonstrated by the point at which he interrupts.
Boy: (Inside barn, continuing conversation from before) "Hurry up, I think he saw me."
Girl: (Inside barn) "How many were there? Quick, hand me that."
Boy: (Inside barn) "Just one I think. Here. An old man fishing."
Girl: (Inside barn) "Had he been? ..."
Old man: (With raised voice) "Excuse me. Is there anyone in there?"(No answer) "Hello ... Hello."
The boy is heard descending the ladder.
Old man: (now nearly in the barn) "Excuse me. Oh!"
Boy: (Inside barn) "Yes?"
Old man: (Stepping back) "Oh, good heavens. Hey you, come out of there."
The boy, no longer wearing his belt and knife, sheepishly slips past the old man, his intention to draw the old man's attention away from the barn.
Old man: (Turning to the boy) "You. Hey, you. Come here." (The boy stops) "What on earth do you think you are doing in there?"
The boy is silent, facing away from the man.
Old man: "Come on. Cat got your tongue sonny?"
The old man is about to approach the boy but the girl is heard coming down the ladder.
Old man: (Turning his head) "Is there someone else in there?"
Boy: (Quickly) "No, no. I mean yes." (He hurries back past the old man into the barn).
Old man: (Not quick enough) "Hey!"
The boy has rushed into the barn but almost collides with the girl coming out. He catches her in his arms but they end up with the boy just inside the barn and the girl outside. Suitable grunts / shocked expressions are made.
Old man: "Oh. Two of you eh? You shouldn't be playing in these barns you know. What if the farmer caught you?"
Boy: "Are you the farmer?"
Old man: "I beg your pardon."
Boy: "The farmer. You said the farmer. Are you the farmer?"
Old man: "Well, no. No, I'm not. But you still shouldn't be in here anyway."
Boy: "Who says."
Old man: (Indignant) "Well, I say for a start. What on earth have you been doing in there?"
The boy and girl look at each other meaningfully, embarrassed at first. The boy then chuckles. The girl cannot contain her embarrassment any longer and rushes away from the boy, past the old man and away upstage toward the bridge. She stops just before the bridge and looks back toward the other two who are both watching her, bemused by her sudden exit. A pause. She then breaks into tears (not too much at first) and turns, crosses the bridge and exits offstage, down right, crying.
Old man: (To boy) "What was that all about then?" (The boy shrugs his shoulders) "And anyway. You. Come on out."
The boy rushes back into the barn and is heard ascending the ladder.
Old man: "Hey. Where are you going? It's dark in there, you could be hurt. Come on out."
Boy: (Inside barn) "No. Shan't."
Old man: (Entering, less cautiously than before) "You'll do as you're told, young man."
The boy appears at the loft hatch and lowers his head over the threshold, looking back (upside down) into the main barn door.
Boy: "Hey mate! Over here!"
Old man: (Returning from within the barn) "Come down."
Boy: (Rolling his head up to avoid the old man) "No. I like it in here."
Old man: "Didn't your parents teach you to respect your elders?"
Boy: "Yes. But they never gave me an upper limit." (He chuckles at his own joke).
Old man: "Don't be so impertinent young man. Or I'll be in there to get you out my lad." (He waves his fishing rod angrily at the boy).
Boy: "You and who's army granddad?"
Old man: (Obviously has an idea) "Right. Here I come." (He makes for the barn door) "Just wait. I'll have you."
The boy looks worried as the old man enters the barn making a great commotion, waving his arms and fishing rod above his head. The old man has entered the barn and the boy looks nervously around. He stoops as if to jump down from the hatch, his hand trembling as it tries to push him over the edge. He looks back behind himself into the barn and then down to the ground again. He stands and considers grabbing the grain sack in front of him. The idea is discounted so he drops to his knees and begins to lower himself down from the access door threshold, finally holding by his arms only. The old man suddenly reappears at the barn door to grab hold of the boy's dangling legs. This isn't anticipated by the boy and he lets out a sharp shout. A struggle ensues and the boy manages to wriggle free. He collects himself and turns to run offstage, following the route that the girl took. The old man shouts after him.
Old man: "That'll teach you young man! And keep out of these barns in future! I know how dangerous they can be!"
The boy has gone. The old man picks up his fishing rod that was dropped in the struggle and brushes himself down. He smiles wryly and again looks content. He strolls over to his seat and again sits, his rod laid across his lap. He is thinking, facing the audience.
Old man: (Thinking aloud) "Brains always does beat bullshit. Humph."
The old man continues to fiddle with his bait at the end of his line, smiling happily. After a brief moment his serenity is disturbed by an old woman walking with her dog. She, like the old man, has entered down left. She is of a similar age as the old man but seems to have 'worn better'. Her clothes are quite smart, almost more suitable for town than country. She wears a hat over her greying hair. The dog is small and well behaved. She notices the old man but appears to ignore him, not deliberately but naturally. The old man notices her.
Old man: (Courteously) "Oh hello. Good afternoon." (He tips his hat).
Old woman: "Hello." (Stopping briefly to acknowledge) "Lovely day."
The old woman continues to walk around behind the old man, not awaiting a reply. She seems slightly preoccupied.
Old man: (Continuing) "Beautiful. I'm hoping for a good nibble today."
The old man hasn't realised the double-entendre of his last remark but it is picked up by the old woman who is drawn away from her isolation.
Old woman: "Pardon?"
Old man: "The fish. I'm hoping for a good bite. It would certainly top off such a pleasant afternoon." (He is still fiddling with his bait).
Old woman: (pausing before the bridge) "Yes. Particularly for the fish."
Old man: "Pardon?"
Old woman: "Oh, nothing."
The old woman continues on her way, the old man continues with his bait. She has crossed the bridge and pauses momentarily on the other side. She is very thoughtful and turns toward the old man.
Old woman: "Excuse me but ..." (He turns to face her) "... No ... No, it couldn't be ... Sorry."
Old man: (Not understanding) "No? ... Sorry." (He turns away again).
The old woman nearly leaves, then decides to again question the old man.
Old woman: "Look, I'm sorry but ... Excuse me, I couldn't help wondering."
Old man: (Turning toward her) "Yes?"
Old woman: "I may be wrong ..." (She stoops to pick up the dog) "... but do I know you?"
Old man: (Surprised) "Know me?"
Old woman: "Yes ... Yes, now I can see you better." (She is crossing back across the bridge toward him) "I feel sure that I know you from way back."
Old man: (Politely standing) "Perhaps ... but I can't recollect. I'm never any good at remembering people. Never have been."
Old woman: "Yes. It's the eyes that give you away. Yes. I don't believe it. No it couldn't be."
Old man: "Couldn't be what?"
Old woman: "I'm sure. It's difficult to remember all those years back but ..."
Old man: "Hold on a moment ... Yes ... You don't mean?"
Old woman: "Yes. Good heavens. It is."
Old man: "When we were younger ... No ...Surely."
Old woman: (Now close to centre stage) "Sinking in Lake Weston, not far from here as I recall."
Old man: (Remembering) "Yes. I remember." (He stands up) "The boat turned over."
They are both entering into the spirit of the conversation.
Old woman: "You were larking around." (She puts the dog down).
Old man: "No ... No ... If my memory serves me right it was you. You pushed me."
Old woman: "No. You fell out because you made a grab for the sandwiches I had made."
Old man: "But didn't you get wet as well?"
Old woman: "Yes. I fell in when the boat wobbled, all due to your sudden, unexpected exit." (She laughs)
Old man: "Yes. I remember now." (He is chuckling) "And you couldn't swim."
Old woman: "That's right. Still can't now. Never did learn."
Old man: "Luckily we were near the bank ... My word. After all these years."
Old woman: "Well, whoever would have thought?"
Pause. They embrace without forethought. Then reluctantly and slowly part. The man removes his hat. They look at each other, eyeing each other up and down in fascination. Each starts to say something but words do not seem to justify the moment.
Old man: (Finally breaking the moment) "Amazing ... After all this time."
Old woman: "Those were the days."
Old man: "Yes, I can't believe it. All those times we had. Many good years together. Since we were kids. Always you and me ... Arguing, playing, fighting and loving."
Old woman: "Yes." (She is uneasy) "... Fighting. That as well."
Old man: "Er. Yes ... But why? Why did you go?"
Old woman: "You knew the reason. It wasn't working. You, me. We had good times, yes. But bad days too. Then after that row we had. I couldn't stand it any longer. I had to go. I had to leave."
Old man: "But it was so sudden. When you went I mean ... And now. Now, after all these years. We meet up again. So much must have happened, tell me. Tell me what's happened to you."
The old man, preparing for a long chat sits back down on his seat. He immediately realises his rudeness and stands again, offering the old woman his seat. She accepts.
Old woman: "Thank you." (She settles the dog down by her side. She is sat centre stage and the old man sits to her right on the ground) "I went away you see. It took me years to accept it. When we were together the bond was so strong you see. It took a long time to break but after a while I managed. I got along. I was alright for a while then I met somebody. You know how these things happen. We settled down, got married, had children. Two, a boy and a girl. They're grown up now, they live their own lives. Then ... a few years back he died. He was much older than me you see."
Old man: "I'm sorry."
Old woman: "No need. I'm over it now. You learn to accept things after a while. You don't forget but you do learn." (Her attitude changes) "Anyway. That's why I'm back. To see these fields again." (She rises and looks around) "I missed the country. We lived in town you see and town life never really suited me. I missed the fresh smell of air, the golden brown and green trees, the sounds of the birds and insects."
Old man: "You make it sound so good, so romantic."
Old woman: "Oh, it is. It is." (She breathes in deep). "And you? You're still here."
Old man: "Still here yes. I feel like I have never been away. I too got married, not straight away mind. Local girl moved into one of the cottages by the church. Didn't work out though, she left me."
Old woman: "We make it all sound so simple don't we. Summarising our lives in a brief sentence, condensing our years to obscurity."
Old man: "But the times you and I had were the best. Times in places like this."
They both look around.
Old woman: "Yes, fighting over our toys. Playing so hard with them that they would break. Cuddling in the barns."
Old man: "Yes. Do you know, I just threw two kids out of this barn here." (He points) "I said they shouldn't be in there and that it was dangerous.”
Old woman: "Yet we used to play around in barns."
Old man: "And get kicked out."
They laugh together.
Old woman: "Those were the good times. We were carefree then. Kids today just can't seem to be pleased."
Old man: "Yeah. Our lives then are a world apart from children now."
Old woman: "What's happened, eh?"
The old man struggles to his feet and walks behind the old woman to down left.
Old man: (As he walks, his eyes facing away from the old woman) "It could have worked you know. We weren't that different from each other." (He turns toward her, down left) "You seemed to expect so much."
Old woman: (Stands up and walks toward the old man, slowly, explaining) "All I wanted was a simple life, no complications. It was you who wanted more and you couldn't help going for it."
Old man: "But it was you who left."
Old woman: "Yes. I suppose that's right. Ironic in a way."
The pause is disturbed by laughter heard from offstage in increasing volume. It is the man and woman previously seen. The old couple's attention is drawn.
Man: (Off, laughing) "No. It was you. You rocked it."
Woman: (Off) "Oh no. Don't you blame me. It was your fault."
Man: (Entering, up right) "Just look at you. You look a sight."
Woman: (Entering, following the man) "Don't you laugh. You could have killed me."
Man: "Was only shallow. You only went up to your knees."
Woman: "It was up to my chest."
Man: "No. Only up to your knees. You went in head first."
They have entered and it can be seen that they are obviously wet through. The older couple look on in bemusement.
Woman: (Continuing) "Why you ..." (The woman chases the man over the bridge to centre stage).
Man: "You won't catch me. Ha. Ha."
They suddenly catch sight of the older couple and stop in their tracks. A silence, broken by the old man.
Old man: "Hello again."
Man: "Oh. Hi. Hello."
The two women look perplexed. It is a moment before they realise that their respective partners know each other.
Old man: "You seem somewhat happier now. Eh?"
Man: (Not convinced) "Yes. Yes it would seem that way."
Woman: (To man) "You know each other?"
Man: "No. Well yes. We met. A few moments ago."
Old man: "You two look like you've had a spot of bother. Has it been raining?" (He looks about)
Woman: "No. No ... It was the lake. We borrowed a boat you see, not far from here."
Old woman: "Did it have a leak?"
Man: "No. We fell in when the boat turned over."
Woman: "He was larking around."
Man: "Nonsense. You pushed me."
Woman: "You made a grab for the sandwiches. I fell in when the boat became unbalanced."
Old woman: "I can't believe this."
Old man: "No. It's remarkable. Quite uncanny."
Old woman: "Your conversation. Just then. The very same thing happened to us. Many years ago now. We too had a boat over on the lake and we too fell in."
Old man: "We didn't always go in."
Old woman: "No, but we did once."
Man: "We don't always go in. Just this time."
Old man: "How extraordinary. And we were just discussing it. Our recollection a few moments ago. Nearly word for word."
Man: "How unusual."
Old woman: "And we must have been about your age too when it happened. It's as if history was repeating itself."
Woman: "Don't be silly, it's just coincidence surely."
Man: "But an interesting idea all the same. As if time repeats itself over and over again."
Old man: "Perpetually."
Man: "Yes ... Perpetually."
Freeze action ... Pause ... Blackout
End of Act One
Act Two continues directly on from Act One. The actors resume the same stance as when the action froze at the end of Act One. No time has passed at all. The background noise continues.
Old man: "Perpetually."
Man: "Yes ... Perpetually."
The four look at each other for a moment, almost in a trance. Suddenly the woman grabs the man's arm.
Woman: (With panic in her voice) " The boat."
Man: (Turning to her) "What?"
Woman: "Our boat. We left it by the bank."
Woman: "We had to return it. Back to the jetty. Remember."
Man: "Oh yes. Come on then." (To the old couple) "Hey, I'm sorry about this but ... Excuse us."
Old woman: "No, please. Please carry on. Goodbye."
Man: "See you around."
Old man: "Cheerio."
The man and woman hurry back across the stage and off up right, waving to the older couple. Goodbyes are exchanged. The old couple watch their exit.
Old man: "Nice couple."
Old woman: "Yes. They seem happy together."
Old man: "Could be. He didn't seem so happy earlier on. Seemed a bit down. They'd been arguing I guess. Still, they seem to have sorted themselves out. Bit like us in our heyday eh?"
Old woman: "Yes. They do appear to have a lot of similarities to us."
Old man: "The boat especially. Remarkable."
Old woman: "Quite."
Old man: "We must have been the same age you know. Nearly to the day."
Old woman: "Yes. Mind you we didn't have to return our boat did we."
Old man: "That's right. It had sunk by the time we got back to the lake after drying off."
Old woman: "Yes. And you had to pay that man. Nearly a weeks wages as I recall."
Old man: "Yes. Mind you, that wouldn't buy a toy boat now."
Old woman: "No. Kids seem to have everything they want now. Everything's so available, so comparatively cheap."
Old man: "Yes. Do you remember that old bicycle?"
Old woman: "Yes. You did it up. New chain and everything. Have you still got it?"
Old man: "No. Years ago it went. Mind you it had mudguards and a real leather saddle in the end."
Old woman: "Gosh. It was so tatty when we found it. All covered in dust and dirt. I thought it would never clean up. But we sorted it out."
Old man: "Yes. We were quite a team then."
Old woman: "Then."
A poignant look. Pause. A mood change in the old woman, more independent.
Old woman: "Anyway. I can't be with staying here forever. I have to get back to feed his Lordship." (She indicates toward the dog).
Old man: "Right. Yes. I'll see you back if you like."
Old woman: "Thank you. It's this way." (She gestures toward the bridge).
Old man: "Here, after you."
The old woman crosses in front of the old man. She notices his fishing gear.
Old woman: "Oh. Your rod and things."
Old man: "Dearie me. I nearly forgot. In all the excitement."
The old man crosses and collects up his rod, box and seat etc.
Old man: (While collecting his gear) "I didn't think you liked dogs anyway."
Old woman: (Waiting) "No. I never did. It's just that after a lifetime of cats it's nice to have a change."
Old man: "You were never one for changes."
Old woman: "No. Not like you. Impetuous. Never could stick at one thing for long. Always on the look out for something new."
Old man: "I'm slowing down now. Can't keep up with the pace of changes. Mind you I'm alright. I suppose you realise that you can't keep going on forever, that there are always some things you won't get. A fish today, for instance."
The old man has cleared up his belongings and gesticulates toward the bridge.
The old woman walks her dog towards the bridge and the old man follows.
Old woman: "Don't you go writing us off yet. Still plenty of go in these old limbs."
Old man: "In the limbs, yes, sometimes. But not always in the grey matter."
Old woman: "Don't tell me senility is creeping in. I always said you'd go first."
Old man: "You can't lose what you never had, eh?"
Old woman: "Hey, don't be so cheeky."
They are departing up right, chatting amicably.
Old woman: "Lovely day."
Old man: "Beautiful."
Old woman: "Tell me. Does your old friend still live round here?"
Old man: "Danny?"
Old woman: "Yes, that's the one. Is he still about?"
Old man: "No. Moved on a few years back. Got married again. To the Postmistress' daughter."
Old woman: "Really? ..."
Their conversation fades. A pause. The teenagers reappear down right. The boy first. They appear furtive.
Boy: "Quick now. They're gone. Over there."
Girl: "They may come back."
Boy: "I don't think so. He's got all his fishing stuff. Gone for good I reckon."
Girl: "Good riddance I say."
The boy crosses the bridge, followed by the girl.
Boy: "I'll go in and look for it. You keep guard."
Girl: "Alright. But be quick mind."
The boy enters the barn. The girl waits outside. She looks about nervously.
Girl: "Have you found it?"
Boy: (Inside barn) "Hang on I haven't got up there yet."
The boy is heard ascending the ladder. A pause.
Girl: "Is it there?"
Boy: (Appearing at the hatch holding belt and sheath) "I've got the belt. The knife seems to have disappeared. It might have dropped below. Come and help me find it."
The girl takes one last look behind her and enters the barn. The boy stays at the loft hatch.
Boy: (Looking down over the threshold into the barn) "Mind the rats though."
The girl exits the barn very quickly, very worried.
Boy: "Yeah. Big, black, hairy rats. With teeth like razors."
Girl: "Oh shut up."
Boy: "Have to set your cat on them eh?"
The boy returns into the barn, is heard descending the ladder and then searching about. Sounds of old rubbish being thrown about.
Girl: (Tentatively leaning forward, from her centre stage position, well clear of the barn) "Are you alright?"
Boy: (Inside barn) "Just a minute."
Girl: "Hurry up." (She looks around again).
Boy: (Inside barn) "Found it."
Girl: "Come out then. It's dark in there. You know what that old man said."
Suddenly the boy charges out of the barn sitting astride a very old tatty bicycle. The tyres are flat and the saddle is missing. There are no mudguards or a chain and the bike is covered in debris and rust. He is brandishing his knife about his head and careers into the girl.
They fall into a heap. He is laughing outrageously. The girl is initially shocked but after a moment sees the lighter side and joins in the laughter. The boy puts his knife away.
Boy: "Well. What do you think?"
Girl: "It must be a hundred years old."
Boy: "We'll have to do it up. Bit of paint, it will be as good as new."
Girl: (Picking herself up and brushing herself down) "Need quite a bit of paint."
Boy: (Standing up, proudly holding the bike) "New tyres, new saddle, new chain ..."
Girl: (Interrupts) "New bike!"
They laugh again.
Girl: (Suddenly) "Hang on I heard voices. Someone's coming. Put that back."
Boy: "No. We'll keep it. The last owner didn't seem to want it. Get on."
Boy: "Get on ... Get on and I'll give you a push."
Girl: "I can't, there's no saddle."
Boy: (Jumping astride bike) "Give me a push then. Back home for tea."
The girl pushes the boy offstage down left.
Boy: "Not too fast. Not too fast. Hooray! This way."
Girl: "Shut up and steer. No, to the left. Mind that rock."
They have exited down left. Voices from the man and woman are heard offstage right. They are arguing again.
Man: (Off) "Well you should pay your share. It wasn't just my fault."
Woman: (Off) "I don't see why. You were the one fooling around."
Man: "Anyway. We may not need to. It might be insured."
Woman: (Entering, up right) "I don't think so. Why else would we have to pay that deposit?"
Man: (Entering, following) "And I suppose we lose that too."
Woman: (Not looking back) "That'll be nothing compared to its replacement. Those boats cost a fortune."
Man: "Arm and a leg."
Woman: "We can't afford to pay that. Must be a week's wages."
The woman and man cross the bridge to centre stage. She stops and looks back. He is right behind.
Woman: (Continuing) "What are you going to do about it?"
Man: "What do you mean? What am I going to do about it?"
Woman: "You can't just leave it there at the bottom of the lake. You'll have to go back and tell that man."
Man: "If I don't go back he can't charge me. I only lose the deposit."
Woman: "Everyone knows us around here. I've seen him around in the village. You're bound to be caught. You'll have to own up. Tell him you sunk his boat and offer to pay for it. It might go down well."
Man: "Like the boat, eh?"
Woman: (Sarcastically) "Very funny. Anyway, I've given him your name."
Man: "What? When?"
Woman: "When you were fussing over which oar to have."
Man: "They were mostly pretty tatty. I had to get a decent one."
Woman: "Not much use now."
Man: "You shouldn't have given him my name. What about your name?"
Woman: "You paid the deposit."
Man: "You are always giving my stuff away. That old bike last week for instance."
Woman: "I thought it was rubbish. I didn't know you still wanted it. You had it for years, never did run properly. Used to get soaking on it when it rained. You should've put mudguards on it. I always said that."
Man: "I will do ... soon."
Woman: "It's always soon with you. Never now. Why don't you do something now for a change ... Like go and sort out this boat business for instance."
Man: "Why don't you go. You're so keen."
Woman: "I might as well. Never can rely on you lately."
Man: "Well. that's the trouble with you. Too reliable. Little Miss Reliable."
Woman: "Dependability is a compliment, not a disability."
Man: "To a point. But you go too far. Predictability becomes wearing after a while."
Woman: "Are you saying that I'm boring?"
Man: "Not always."
Man: "Sometimes ... Yes ... We all are I suppose ... It's just ... Well you know."
Woman: "Well why don't you leave me then?"
Man: "Don't think that I'm not considering it. I get really cheesed off with you sometimes."
Woman: "I'm not holding you back. Go if you like. Go off with your little tart for all I care." (She turns away).
Man: "I might. I just might."
Woman: "No-one would have you."
Man: "Rubbish. I'd have a choice. Probably have to turn them down. They'd queue at my door."
Woman: "To get out. You couldn't score with a blind, virgin nymphomaniac, except that little tart."
Man: "You're jealous."
Woman: (Turning back to face the man) "Of course I'm bloody jealous. I used to care. But no more. You can stick with your affair. I've had enough."
Man: "You won't do anything about it. You know that. Sometimes I wish you would. Save me the bother."
Woman: "That's typical. Even too lazy to leave me. Well I may just surprise you one day. I expect you'd end up on your feet though. Some fool would move into the area and feel sorry for you. There's a cottage up for sale by the church. I expect your next lover's signing her contract now."
Man: "Yes well. You would think that way wouldn't you. I'm surprised you didn't insist on a contract between us. Mind you it wasn't for the lack of trying come to think of it."
The woman is affected by this abstract mention of marriage. It strikes a painful chord in her mind.
Woman: (Tenderly, whilst wandering down left) "Why did you never ask me? Why? You had your chances." (She looks at him) "I would have said yes, so why didn't you ask."
Man: (Looking away) "I don't know. I don't know. It never felt quite right and yet it also felt too right. It just didn't seem important. We had everything we wanted. The thought of being married didn't seem to have any advantages, not that I could see. Except children I suppose and we never really got 'round to that."
Woman: "Would you want kids?"
Man: (Turning back) "Yes ... No... Eh, I dunno. Do you?"
Woman: "Yes. I think so now. Not before, but more and more. I'm not getting any younger and I won't be able to later."
Man: "That's no reason for having them. Anyway children aren't a magic seal on a relationship. Look at Danny and his wife. He tells me that their little brats are causing a hell of a rift. We're probably better off without."
Woman: "Without. Yes ..." (Poignantly) "Without ..."
Woman: "Without anything. Something's died. Look, I'll see you around."
The woman walks past the man and over to the bridge. She is on the bridge before he turns to her.
Man: "Where are you going?"
Woman: (Solemnly) "Back home."
Man: "What about the boat?"
Woman: "You see to it."
The woman walks off up right without saying anything else. The man is left to contemplate the situation. He walks toward the barn and sits on the ground, his head in his hands, his back to the barn. He sits up, takes a deep breath and sighs, then stares into the ground in front of his feet.
Little boy: (Off) "Pee-ow!"
The man is startled and looks around.
Little boy: (Off) "Pee-ow!"
Man: "Hello ... Is there anyone there?"
The little boy comes rushing in and 'hides' behind the tree. He is brandishing a stick as if it were a gun.
Little boy: "Pee-ow! You're hyper-spaced."
Man: (Rising) "Hyper-spaced?"
Little boy: "Yes. I got you with my mega-warp laser gun. Pee-ow!"
The man enters into the spirit and dashes to one side. He holds out his index finger.
Man: "Per-shoe! I got you with my Lasertron Missile Launcher with bolt-on anti-warp gun attachment."
The little boy comes out from behind the tree as far as the stream.
Little boy: "That's not fair. I got you first."
Man: "No you didn't."
Little boy: "I did. I did. I've got a computer and it can't miss."
Man: "But I'm a better shot. I used to have a rifle and practice shooting Indians."
Little boy: "There's an Indian in the Oranges shop."
Man: "Not that sort of Indian ... Never mind. What are you doing on your own here anyway?"
Little boy: "I wanted to make someone die to see what happens." (He again lifts his gun) "Pee-ow. You're going to die. My Daddy's going to die."
Man: "No he's not. Is he?"
Little boy: "I overheard Mummy on the telephone. She says Daddy's going to die. Can Daddies die?"
Man: "Oh dear. I am sorry. I mean ... What's up with him?"
Little boy: "Mummy says he's ill and might not come out of hospital. She says it has only got a way in. Could you get out of hospital?"
Man: "Hospitals make people better. I'm sure he'll get out."
Little boy: "I hope so. He will have to fix my car."
Man: "Look. don't you think that you ought to be going home. You'll miss your tea.
Little boy: "Only if you take your shots."
Man: (Standing up) "Alright. Let's draw."
Little boy: "Draw?"
Man: "Your gun ... Er, Laser-warp thing."
Little boy: (Correctively) "Mega-warp Laser Gun." (Loudly) "Pee-ow!"
The man grabs his chest as if shot and falls onto his knees.
Little boy: "That's not hyper-spaced."
Man: (Rising to his feet) "Hyper-spaced? What's that?"
Little boy: "You have to disappear."
Man: "How can I do that?"
Little boy: (Shouts) "Like this ..."
The little boy turns and runs offstage down right laughing and shouting 'Pee-ow!' The man watches for a moment and smiles. He walks around in a circle aimlessly for a moment then sits by the side of the stream down right. He sighs, looks around as if wondering what to do. He stares into the stream.
Man: (To himself) "Hello fishy. How's things with you? Looks peaceful to me. Perhaps I'll take up fishing and spoil all that for you. Humph!"
The old man returns from up right and crosses the bridge. He doesn't notice the man. At the same time the boy enters down left, still pushing the old bicycle. The old man and boy spot each other.
Old man: "Oh. It's you again young man."
The man's attention is drawn but he quickly realises that he is not being spoken to and watches from his sitting position down right.
Boy: "Hi granddad. Look what I found."
The boy has reached centre stage and is joined by the old man.
Old man: "Found?"
Boy: "Yes. In the barn. Isn't it great?"
Old man: "In the barn?"
Boy: "Yes. You said not to go in there, it might be dangerous. And look, I found an old bike. Nearly twisted my ankle trying to get it out. You were right, it is dangerous in there."
Old man: "Don't you think you ought to put it back? It doesn't belong to you, you know."
Boy: "Oh come on. No-one else wants it, that's obvious."
Old man: "But it isn't yours. Put it back."
Boy: (Protesting) "No."
Man: (Interrupting and standing) "Let him have it. No harm."
Old man: "Oh. Hello again."
Man: (Approaching the others) "Go on. I found a bike in a barn once. Do the lad good to muck about with it. The owner's not going to miss it is he?"
Old man: "Well, technically it's stealing."
Man: "Have you never found someone's discarded rubbish and made good use of it?"
Old man: "Well yes. As a matter of fact I too found a bike once."
Man: "There you go then."
Boy: "Cheers mate. I'll go and see what else I can find O.K."
The boy walks, with his bike, toward the barn and leans the bike against the door. The boy is below the jib.
Man: "Not quite so quick son. Enough is enough."
Old man: (To man) "Seems to be a day of coincidences, eh?"
Man: "Yes. What with the bikes and the boat episode earlier."
Old man: "Yes."
Man: "And not just the three of us either. I was talking to a kid just a moment ago. He can't have been more than nine and he was worried about his Dad. Apparently he's ill and the kid thought his Dad might die. It took me back a bit because my own Father died when I was nine."
Old man: "Good gracious me. My father died when I was nine as well."
The old man and man look at each other. A pause.
Boy: "Yeah. So did mine."
They look at the boy.
Boy: "When I was nine." (He grins)
Man: "What a coincidence. Whoever would have thought? Four generations with an almost identical history."
Old man: "Remarkable."
Man: "You know, I've always supported theories that time could repeat itself but this is uncanny."
Boy: "Hey, hold on. Just because we all got a bike and a Dad that died don't mean we're related or something. That's spooky."
Man: "Yes I suppose so. But just imagine if you could bump into yourself when you were younger?" (He looks at the youth) "Or older?” (He looks at the old man).
Old man: "Hold on a moment. Aren't you forgetting something pretty important in all this?"
Old man: "Passing of time. Progress ... Technology."
Man: "Oh yes. But just think. What if you met yourself in the future. Would you recognise yourself?"
Old man: "I expect so. I'd be dead."
Boy: "Yeah, and I'd be wearing a space-suit and be living on Jupiter or something."
Man: "Oh, of course history passes on and we all grow up in different ages but try to imagine a situation where those unimportant things don't matter, just consider the person."
Old man: "Do you think that's wise?"
Man: "It's only a theory. Let's say you met yourself and that time didn't exist and everything happens at once."
Boy: "Would be a bit confusing."
Man: "No, not everything at the same time but kind of cyclic. Returning again and again to the same point. Could you meet yourself?"
Old man: "But you would surely recognise yourself as a younger man from the past for instance. I mean, let's say that I were you and you were him, or rather I was him as well. I mean. I'd, that is me, would recognise you and you'd recognise him even if he doesn't recognise you or me. Am I making sense?"
Boy: "Not a word."
Man: "What he's saying is that because you were yourself before, you'd recognise yourself younger but as you haven't met yourself as an older person you wouldn't recognise yourself. Would you?"
Boy: "No." (He looks very confused) "This is weird. We can't all be the same person. I mean we aren't are we? Look at us. We look different."
Man: "Oh. ignore the façade. Look deeper into the person."
Boy: "But you are not me. I am. And he isn't either."
Old man: "Isn't what?"
Boy: "Me. You'd know if you were me. I'd know. Are you me?"
Old man: "No. I'm me."
Man: "So am I. Well, we are all me aren't we. To ourselves."
Old man: "And you are all you. I'm not any of you. In fact I'm so confused I'm not even sure if I am me now. Perhaps you are me after all."
Boy: "No. I don't agree. I am me, always have been and no one else is. We couldn't be like that. Things do change, you can't deny it."
Man: "Oh sure things change. But in a way they don't."
Old man: "I suppose you went on to prove that hot was cold and froze the Sunday lunch in the freezer eh?"
Man: "What I mean is let's take that little boy I just saw. He was playing with a stick, called it a laser gun. It's the same stick that I used to call a rifle."
Boy: "I bet it's not exactly the same stick."
Man: "No of course not, but the principle's the same. Clothes, styles, eras change and so on but if you look through all that we're just the same, all of us."
Old man: "All of us yes. The whole world. Not just three or four."
Boy: "just imagine knowing the future. Wow."
Old man: "You shouldn't entertain such thoughts young man. It may not be so good to know what's coming."
Boy: "I wish I knew the future. Space travel to other solar systems and all that."
Man: "There you go. Another example."
Man: "Space travel. You said space travel to other solar systems. As a lad I dreamt of travelling round the world and to the moon. And I bet you ..." (He signifies the old man) "...dreamt of travelling too. Across the country perhaps."
Old man: "I'm not that old, but yes. I did. But we all dream don't we, that's natural."
Man: "Perhaps there is something in déjà vu after all."
The three look at each other as if they had discovered something that word's couldn't describe. The silence is broken by the boy, who wanders downstage contemplating.
Boy: "Wow. Knowing the future. Knowing what's coming. I'd make a fortune on the lottery and buy a Ferrari. Then I could race around the towns."
Man: "And kill yourself in it, no doubt."
Old man: "Ah, but that's where those theories let themselves down isn't it."
Man: "What do you mean?"
Old man: "He wouldn't crash you see. He would know that he was going to crash and obviously avoid it. But, because of that he wouldn't crash in the first place so he wouldn't need to avoid it. Things could get a little complicated. It's probably best not knowing."
Man: "I expect things would become a little predictable not complicated. Probably dreary."
Boy: "A bit like this conversation I suppose."
The boy wanders back under the jib.
Man: (To old man) "I'd change things if I knew."
Boy: "Me too. What about you granddad?
Old man: "It's tempting I know, but I doubt it."
Man: "You wouldn't? There must be some things you would have changed surely?"
Old man: "Life is too precious to go messing around with. We shouldn't alter things. It could be tempting to change the bad things and keep the good but that would upset the balance and spoil life's rich tapestry."
Man: "You mean you wouldn't alter things? Surely there must be some things in your life you would change?"
Old man: "No. And if you ever get that chance of knowing leave well clear."
Boy: "You speak as if from experience."
Old man: "Older and perhaps wiser, let's say."
Boy: "Here we go again. Lecture time. Anyway I can't be standing here all day. I'm going out tonight. A couple of mates are going into town, there's a band playing. I've never been to a proper gig before."
Man: "Your first concert."
Boy: "Yeah. Should be dead good."
Man: "I was twenty before I went to my first big time do. Missed one when I was your age. I had an accident see, got knocked out riding my bike I think. I was in hospital for a couple of weeks, had a splitting headache, couldn't remember exactly."
Old man: (Suddenly) "Oh no! I've just realised."
Man / Boy: (Together) "What?"
Old man: "The time, quick. What's the time? Quick ..."
The man and boy look at their watches.
Man: "Just turning 5.45."
Old man: "5.45."
The old man suddenly looks up, lunges forward towards the boy and pushes him towards the barn door. They fall heavily, the old man on top of the boy. The boy remains still. The old man looks over his shoulder at the man. There is panic in his voice.
Old Man: "Stay there! Don't move!"
The man freezes. He is confused. The old man looks up at the bag of grain hanging by the jib. The man's attention is also drawn to the jib. Suddenly the bag of grain breaks free and lands heavily on the floor where the boy previously stood.
The man rushes over to the old man and boy. The old man staggers to his feet, brushing himself down.
Man: "Are you alright? ... And the boy?"
The boy lies still.
Old man: "Yes fine, fine. Look, he'll be alright. Don't you worry about that. Just pick him up and take him back to the road and leave him there. Don't be around when he wakes up for goodness sake. And never, ever look for him again. If he sees you ignore him. He won't remember. Promise me that please."
Man: (Confused) "Yes. Yeah, but..."
Old man: "No buts. Do it. Or suffer the consequence."
Man: "You mean...?"
Old man: "I'm afraid so ..."
Man: "But ..."
The old man is anxious to get away.
Old man: "No questions."
Man: "Will I see you again?"
Old man: "Who knows?"
Man: "You do."
Old man: "Do I?"
The old man starts to leave. The man grabs his arm.
Man: "Just one thing?"
Old man: (Shaking off the hold) "What?"
Man: "How will I know?"
Old man: "I met ... er, you'll meet an old friend."
Man: "I don't understand."
Old man: "You will. But don't think about it too much."
The old man is leaving, down left. He nearly makes it offstage when he stops and turns. The man is watching him.
Old man: "Oh. One more thing. I nearly forgot. Here."
The old man crosses back to the man, removes his wristwatch and hands it to the man. the man studies it.
Old man: "Always is."
The old man leaves down stage.
Old man: "Yes ... Perpetually."
The old man leaves hurriedly down left. The man is left centre stage looking at the watch. He removes his own watch and puts the old man's watch on. Blackout.
Author: Vince Poynter
Version m5.096 11 Apr 2018
First Published: Version 2.01 in Jul 2005
The photograph is a still image taken by the author's wife of a performance of J.B. Priestley's 1932 stage play Dangerous Corner. One of his trilogy of 'time plays', originally premiered in 1932. The photograph shows four of the characters dancing on the set of the stage as performed by the Bishops Waltham Little Theatre in their 1989 staging. The author is the gentleman dancing on the right.