by Hetty Kitson
This is the beginning of a script I am writing.
[Curtains open to reveal a family kitchen scene. Mum is at the piano trying to play a piece, but is not playing it at all legato. Danny is watching her. Dad (Henry) is stirring dinner. Little sister Anna is drawing at the table.]
Danny: You do know you’re not supposed to do it like that?
Mum: [Indignant] Like what?
D: You’re pressing all the notes with your pointing finger.
M: [Continuing to play] what’s wrong with that? It sounds just fine like this thank you.
D: Actually mum it sounds awful. Mr Schubert is turning in his grave as we speak. The ears of the God’s are bleeding; your playing is so terrible tha-
M: [Cutting him off] I’ll play it how I want, cheeky! Whoever taught you to be so horrible to me, hmm?
D: I’m just saying. If you use all your fingers, sort of ripple them, it sounds smoother. You’ve got to play it legato, like this. [Tries to take over]
M: [Slapping him away] Get off, you. Go and do your homework, you spend enough time on this old thing as it is and not enough time actually doing anything constructive.
D: What, so you’re allowed to play it badly and I’m not allowed to play it at all? I was trying to help.
M: Henry, tell him please, he won’t listen to me. [Not looking up]
Henry: Stop being so horrible Danny and do some homework. Or better still you can help me with this. It’s about time you learned not to burn everything.
D: Christ, what have I done? You’re all snapping at me all of a sudden. Why can’t mum do dinner?
H: That’s enough Danny. Get over here now and do as you’re told.
D: No dad, I can’t be arsed.
Henry: [Stopping, but not looking up] Run that by me again, son.
D: No dad. I don’t want to, I’m tired. And since when has piano been unconstructive? It’s better than spending all my time drawing stupid, meaningless pictures. [Gestures towards sister. Anna looks at her feet]
H: Right. [Slamming down spoon] You’re gonna stop that backchat right now, that’s what you’re gonna do. What has come over you today Danny? If you stop being silly now we’ll pretend it didn’t happen.
D: Maybe I’m sick of pretending dad! Maybe I am just going to snap and you’ll all just have to deal with it, ‘cos sometimes it feels like I’m the only one in this house who can’t pretend.
[D storms off stage. Family members all look at their laps and H sighs. Piano stops. Blackout.]
[Black stage. Piano notes begin to play in a minor key, the same piece that M was trying to play in scene 1. Several wrong notes, clashing.]
D: Anna, stop it.
D: I said, stop it! [Getting louder] Can’t you hear me? Stop it! I can’t think with all this fucking NOISE.
D: STOP IT!
[Sound of piano being thrown over. Anna crying. Fade out.]
[Family sitting at breakfast table, one fewer chair at the table. Silence, picking at food, clearing throats, shuffling.]
H: [Clears throat] D’you want s- [Gesturing towards table]
D: No. Thanks. I’m fine. I’ve got en-
H: Enough bacon? Yeah. Of course…yeah.
[Runs hands through hair]
Nice bacon though, hmm? Got it on offer at the market yesterday, half a pound for just under 25 pence. They’re giving it away.
How’re things at school, Anna? How’re you finding Science? You like Science, don’t you?
A: It’s okay. We’re learning about the water cycle. [Quietly, not looking up]
H: That’s good. Does that mean you know when it’s gonna rain, hmm? Know when to take an umbrella?
A: I don’t think so. I usually watch the weather forecast with mum.
[Silence. Blackout and spotlight on Danny.]
[Danny scrapes chair out and sits down at piano. Danny plays the “Danny Theme” for a while. Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag begins abruptly when the lights come on again to reveal a party scene where Henry and his wife first met. Several party guests are on stage; talking, laughing and drinking. H and M are standing together front stage right. Danny is entirely absorbed in playing piano.]
H: [Voice breaking through the hubbub] So…how do you know Vickie?
M: I used to go to first school with her. We stayed in touch. I’m always up for a party anyway.
H: Oh, you are, are you? Been to lots of parties like this have you?
M: This? This is nothing compared to the fun I’ve had. [Flirtatiously] What about you, birthday boy? Are you much of a party animal?
H: Oh…oh, yeah. Yeah, lots. I’ve been to loads of parties. You should see my dancing. It’s really…absolutely… really top notch.
M: Oh, I’d love to dance. Thanks for offering. Shall we? [Takes off shoes]
H: Oh…well, I…I hadn’t meant…
M: Of course, if you were lying about being able to dance, then I wouldn’t expec-
H: What? No, no. Certainly not.
[H Takes M’s hand and leads her to the dance floor, not breaking eye contact with her]
Maestro? Something a bit slower if you don’t mind.
[Danny, not taking his eyes off the piano, begins to play a slower piece.
H and M begin to dance. The guests all begin to leave the stage and the lights fade as they sway, until there is one spotlight on the couple and one on Danny. After 10-15 seconds of this, the music as they share a desperate embrace, with a single gasp and a blackout simultaneously.]
[Lights go up to reveal Danny’s room which is messy and strewn with clothes, vinyls, food plates and weights. Danny is cleaning his teeth. He is wearing grubby underwear. He is also lifting a shampoo bottle as though he were weightlifting.]
D: [Counting each lift] 1…2…3…4…[Danny gurgles toothpaste and frantically searches for somewhere to spit. After scanning the room and deciding against several places he shrugs and spits out of the window. Audience hear the sound of a splat and various shouts of disgust from offstage, consecutively. Danny makes a nervous face and continues lifting the shampoo bottle. After a while Anna comes on stage and stands on the other side of the door frame that is present on stage. She knocks.]
A: Can I borrow the- [Door opens. Anna and Danny observe each other for a split second before the door is slammed and Danny drops the shampoo bottle on his foot in the scuffle.]
D: Anna! [Clutching his foot in agony]
A: Sorry I…I didn’t realise you were-
D: [Talking over her] I told you to bloody knock you idiot, why don’t you listen?
A: [Talking over him] I did actually knock, if YOU listened you’d know that, and how was I supposed to know you were walking around naked?
D: [Talking over her] Just sod off will you? [Door slams]
A: Sorry… [Leaves stage]
D: [Sits down on bed, still clutching foot] Do any of you lot have little sisters? She’s literally the most annoying person on Earth sometimes. But if you said that to her, you’d get the cold shoulder for a week and those stupid wounded puppy dog eyes every time you walk into a room.
She doesn’t half remind me of mum when she’s like that; acting as though you’ve said the nastiest thing you possibly could’ve. It’s those guilt trip eyes though. They’d always make me feel bad – and she knew it – though I’d never have apologised: I’m too stubborn for that. [Pause. Hands in pockets]
Maybe I should’ve apologised more. I mean…maybe sometimes I was horrible. I don’t think I meant to be, I wouldn’t have wanted to upset her, but…well, I guess there’s no point thinking about it now. [Picks up guitar and begins to fingerpick absent-mindedly]
Mum used to always try and catch me playing guitar, so she could have a listen. As much as she moaned at me for losing concentration at school, she knew it’s because I’m always thinking about music, and she liked that really. She’d creep upstairs and open the door a jar, whilst my back was turned. Sometimes I pretended I hadn’t heard her come in. But after a while I’d turn round and she’d give herself up. [Sudden palm mute. Continues playing]
Sometimes she’d ask me to teach her stuff, sometimes stuff I’d written. She could never do it properly. Her hands were too small for the chords and she could never keep her fingers in one place for too long. But she still tried. She did it for years. But of course…she stopped coming upstairs so much. After. [Ringing high note plucked]
It’d been three months. It doesn’t get easier. It gets harder, because with each day that passes without her you know there’s still the rest of your life left to go. But I take comfort in the knowledge that yesterday; the rest of my life was one day longer than it is today. That’s one day closer to relief; maybe even seeing her again.
You get past the initial shock, where you feel nothing. And the weeks of crying ‘til your throat hurts. Then the anger about feeling so sorry for yourself and trying to act normal to compensate. The pain has now receded to a dull ache in my abdomen, like I’m carrying a dead weight all the time. An anvil that’s squeezing all my energy into a tiny space; burying it into the crevices of my body; under the rubble of hope and love and vitality; by the assumption that one day I’ll be able to muster the courage to quarry it all out again and rebuild myself from scratch.
It’s useless saying that she wouldn’t have wanted to see me this way; that I should move on. She’s gone and she’s not coming back. It’s as simple as that.
[Poignant chord. Blackout.]
[Lights go up to reveal Mum and Dad’s bedroom. The bed is unmade; dad is sitting on the edge of the bed and is holding a nightdress tightly. He is staring into space, out across at the audience. After several long moments of this blank expression, he snaps out of it and puts his head, shaking from side to side, in his hands. Running his hands through his hair, he stands up and paces, picking up his wife’s belongings occasionally and moving them to another place, or putting them in a cupboard/drawer, with an air of panic and haste. Soon he drops a bowl on the floor and frantically tries to pick up the pieces, at which point Anna knocks on the door.]
A: Dad? Can I talk to you…? [opens door]
D: Anna! Not now, please! I’m busy. What have I told you about knocking?
A: I did knock dad. What happened?
D: Just please go and do your hair, you’ll be late for school.