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My play CIRCLING THE DRAIN, a black comedy/farce about the ‘right to die’ has been undergoing a major rewrite and temporarily put on hold for a variety of reasons but mainly as a result of the feedback I’ve had from public readings in different places. Also because my current play WHISTLEBLOWERS has been given fresh impetus by the plight of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Bradley/Chelsea Manning. So while I now am working on the 7th draft of WHISTLEBLOWERS and previewing it scene by scene on my blog to receive comments, critiques and feedback – my other play CIRCLING THE DRAIN is taking a back seat. 

However, when this pilot project with my current farce, WHISTLEBLOWERS is launched, I hope to use the same approach with CIRCLING THE DRAIN, to get it off the page and onto the stage – with all your help and support. 

To keep abreast of how this will all play out over the coming months, you can read my blog posts and add your feedback to any of the scenes as they are being posted.

Thanks for your interest,

Terry Oliver

 

 

By

 

Terry Oliver

 

CAST OF CHARACTERS

 

Residents of Nursing Home – all terminal patients:

Roger – retired actor in his 70s

Hettie – a life-size puppet – former exotic dancer – in her 70s

Hilda – a retired lawyer in her 70s

Charlene – a retired journalist in her late 60s

Anastasia/Nastie – a care assistant in her 30s

Iris – a retired artist in her 70s

Randolph – a retired engineer in his 70s

Lulu – a retired social worker in her 60s

Dr.Yves Sanglant –a fake doctor and deputy head of the nursing home – in his 50s

Kitty Hudson – Matron – head of the nursing home – in her 50s

Nursing Home staff – 2 men and 2 women (double as various other minor characters)

Hercule SansClue – a French-Canadian detective – in his 50s

Dilly – Roger’s daughter – doubles as a female staff member – in her 30s

Lucy – a life-size puppet/child – Iris’s grand-daughter – age 2

Cordelia – Iris’s daughter – in her 30’s – doubles as a female staff member

Lester – Hilda’s son –  doubles as a male staff member – in his 40s

Tattoo artist – doubled by a male staff member

Drug Dealer – doubled by one of the staff members

Gun shop Clerk – – doubled by one of the staff members

Judge Judge – doubled by one of male staff members

Court Clerk – doubled by staff member

Radio soap opera actors: – doubled by staff members

1)CBC Announcer       2)Nurse Nettie

3)Dr. Svenson              4)Dr. Duncan

 

 

OPENING SCENE – ACT ONE

 

Screen back projections of advertising clips showing nursing homes – over-idealised  with florid captions –

–         accompany with syrupy violins –  elevator music.

–         CAPTIONS:

–         LET US DO THE CARING

–         SENIORS DESERVE ONLY THE FINEST

–         COMPASSIONATE CARE IS OUR MOTTO

–         HAPPINESS IS OUR BUSINESS

–         QUALITY CARE MEANS CONTENTED SENIORS

–     THE REST ASSURED REST HOME

–         Fade out music and captions as lights fade up:

 

 

 

SCENE  TWO: Recreation Room of Rest Home

A wailing trumpet plays opening bars of St James Infirmary Blues by Louis Armstrong. The trumpet is first heard followed by Armstrong singing the first verse.

I went down to St. James Infirmary,

Saw my baby there,

Stretched out on a long white table,

So cold, so sweet, so fair.

Let her go, let her go, God bless her,

Wherever she may be,

She can look this wide world over,

But she’ll never find a sweet man like me.

 

Two male staff members in white coats enter upstage left during song, pushing a plain black closed coffin on a low undertaker’s gurney.The funereal music accompanies them from a small portable CD player sitting on top of the coffin. They position the coffin centre stage diagonally. One of them locks the wheels and the other turns off the music and removes the CD player, then both exit back upstage.

After a moment, we hear Roger’s voice from inside the coffin. It is muffled but clear enough to make out.

Roger: (talking to himself) I wonder if I’ll ever get used to this?… Just don’t panic – stay calm – deep breaths.  – It’s always the same – these first few moments when they leave me alone. Good practice for the main event when everyone’s gone… after I’m lowered down – down – six feet under and they’ve all thrown in a handful of earth and left for the wake.

(He sings to tune of Streets of Laredo:)

“Get six jolly cowboys to carry my coffin,

Get six pretty maidens to bear up my pall.

Put bunches of roses all over my coffin,

Roses to deaden the clods as they fall.”

Okay… Now comes the tricky bit… The grave diggers return and start shovelling the soil down on top of me… Piling it in – more and more – six feet deep. God – it must weigh a ton. What if this lid buckles under the weight? It won’t – stay calm – breathe deep – breathe! –BREATHE! I CAN’T!– I’m suffocating here in the dark. – Hang on… Now open your eyes… I can’t see – it’s pitch black… – Stay focused. Remember. I’ve been here before. – Right. Now start counting. See if I can beat my record…. Onetwothreefour – not so fast – no cheating – five – six – seven – that’s better – eightnineten! AAAGGHH!!

Scrabbling noises from inside the coffin and the lid is thrown open and Roger sits bolt upright in the coffin, sweating profusely. He mops his brow with his handkerchief, gasping.

This is gonna kill me, one of these days.(Consults his pocket watch.) Seven and a half minutes – damn! Worse than last time. (Takes a small hip flask from his jacket pocket and has a stiff drink.) Ahh…that’s better. I knew I should have had that before they closed the lid. (Calls) Joe! Lefty! Get me outta here!

The two male staff members come back in and help lift him out of the coffin. One of them has brought a bentwood chair for him to sit on. They lower him down onto it. He is still shaken and sweating.

Joe: You feelin’ okay, Roger?

Roger: I’ll be alright in a minute…..

Lefty: Didja break the record, Rodge?

Roger: (shakes his head) Seven and a half minutes.

Lefty: Bummer – maybe next time.

Joe: I’m not sure we should be lettin’ you do this, Roger. I doubt if Matron would approve.

Lefty: Yeah – if anythin’ went wrong, you might get us fired, Rodge – playin’ this game.

Roger: Who says it’s a game?

Joe: Well whatever it is, I think we should quit.

Lefty: Me, too. Too risky, Rodge.

Roger: You boys putting the squeeze on me, again? (Takes out his wallet and pulls out a tenner – gives it to Lefty – who takes it)

Lefty: It ain’t just the money, Rodge –

Joe: That’s right – we worry about ya.

Roger: About killing the golden goose, you mean?

Lefty: Aww, Rodge – don’t be like that.

Roger: Okay – our little secret – better put it away in the shed before Matron sees it, Joe.

Joe: Maybe you better stick to your knitting, Roger – it’s safer.

They wheel the coffin away upstage and Roger remains seated. He pulls out a pair of large wooden knitting needles and begins to knit a bright multi-coloured shapeless item, humming to himself a snatch from St James Infirmary Blues.

 

Anastasia, a nursing assistant, wheels Hettie, a life-size puppet more like a Raggedy Ann stuffed doll than a mannequin, in from upstage towards Roger, who rises, folds up his knitting and with a nod to Anastasia  takes over Hettie’s wheelchair. Anastasia fusses over Hettie until Roger waves her aside. She watches for a moment and then exits. He wheels Hettie around with a flourish, singing, in French.

Roger: ‘Il se balance dans l’aire,

Tout a fait a son aise,

Ce jeune homme hardi,

Sur le volant trapèze…’

Oh he flies through the air

With the greatest of ease,

The daring young man

On the flying trapeze….

He circles round and downstage centre. He stops and comes round to observe Hettie slumped in the wheelchair.She has long white hair which falls about her face.

Roger, in his seventies,  leans over Hettie’s wheelchair and speaks to her in a confidential, chatty manner. He is dressed in a slightly flamboyant, if faded, style reminiscent of his past life in the theatre. He takes out knitting again from behind her wheelchair and knits easily while he talks.

ROGER: Now Hettie, buck up – this is no way to be acting. (props her up straight in the wheelchair)Stay positive, stay focused. We old troupers have a saying don’t we, Hettie? Life is not a dress rehearsal. This is the main performance. So, seize the day! (Sings to audience)

‘Life is a cabaret, old thing,

Come to the cab – a – ray….’

You know, Hettie, if I had it to do all over again –(pause) ‘the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd….’

Roger steps forward to declaim:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
(pause, mouth open – tries to remember)

..Umm – uuhh…uuhhh…
Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans ears – no…no

(struggles to remember)…And…and…Damn!…Damn!…DAMN! (He turns back to her). Ah, they don’t write lines like that anymore, Hettie – and even if they did, I couldn’t remember them. Oh well, at least I haven’t forgotten how to knit. Best thing I ever learned in the theatre, waiting in the wings for my entrances. Story of my life, Hettie – knit one, purl two… Now let’s see –

He holds the knitting up to Hettie’s arm to check it for length, then rolls it up and tucks it in a bag on the back of her wheelchair. Roger pushes the chair around in a circle. The puppet, Hettie, flops forward as the chair comes to a stop and he comes round to prop her up but she only slumps further forward in the chair. He wrestles unsuccessfully with her during the following monologue.

Roger:– Oops, nearly ran over you, Hettie. You really must be more careful or they won’t let me bring you here for your dancing practice anymore. (He props her up in the chair and produces a pair of dance slippers from a bag behind the chair and begins putting them on her stockinged feet). You know how much you’d miss it if we didn’t have our little ballroom sessions, wouldn’t you? Hmmm? (He tips her chin up and down, nodding.) Exactly. And Matron is just looking for an excuse to put an end to them altogether… Oh,  I can talk till I’m blue in the face about how much you look forward to this time, but she always gives me the same answer, doesn’t she? Says you haven’t got a clue what’s going on and I shouldn’t be disturbing you unnecessarily. (He turns her head to face him). But we know better, don’t we, Hettie? (He nods her chin up and down in agreement). Right – let’s show her, shall we? What do you want to start with? (Her head flops forward again and he leans in towards her as if to catch what she said.) Tango! That’s my girl – teach Matron to mind her own business… Now, I’ll just make sure we’re ready –

(He leans down and sticks her padded feet on top of his on  velcro strips  then lifts her up in his arms, placing one of her padded arms on his shoulder, again sticking it on to a velcro strip. He grasps her other hand and they stand poised, listening for the music – which begins loudly on a nod from him to offstage.)

Okay, Hettie – and a one-two-three…

(They move off sedately in time to the tango music and dance around the perimeter of the stage, swooping and turning, looking first exaggeratedly to one side in unison and then to the other as Roger manipulates her head from behind her back). There we go, better than Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, aren’t we, Hettie?… Remember what Ginger said to that reporter? That she could do everything Fred could – and backwards.

(She nods her head and turns to look at the audience.)

Oh, you do love an audience, don’t you? Shall we show them a couple of your fancy turns?

(She nods again as he looks at the audience. She turns his head back to face her with her hand in his.)

Okay, now let’s pay attention and never mind them….

(The music swells and they spin off doing several swoops and dives, ending back at the wheelchair where she flops into it and he detaches himself from her. The music fades out). Phew! That was exhausting. You’re getting too much for me, Hettie. I don’t know how you can keep it up…

( He looks at her with her head flopped forward.)

You look a bit done in yourself. Don’t want Matron to see you like this, do we? Or that’ll be the end of our little impromptu performances… Now you just rest and catch your breath while I get us some tea. (He leans over her, adjusting her upright in the wheelchair and pushing her long white hair back off her white face. He exits upstage as two older women enter upstage opposite.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

SCENE THREE: Recreation Room of Rest Home

 

The women are in their 60s and 70s and wearing stained painting smocks over their dresses and old slippers on their feet. Hilda, the older one, carries a shopping bag holding their art supplies and they’re followed by two staff in institutional whites, Lefy and Joe, who bring on a card table and two folding chairs. The staff set up the table and chairs near the wheelchair and then exit.

Hilda: Thanks, Lefty. We’ll call you when we’re finished.

(She pulls some of her art materials out of her bag and spreads them on the table. The other younger woman, Charlene, is standing staring at Hettie in the wheelchair with her head flopped forward on her chest.)

Charlene: Is she awake or asleep, Hilda?

Hilda: You can never tell with Hettie.

( She comes over and gently tips her head back).

Oh, she’s awake… Just resting, were you, dear?

Charlene: She looks like hell.

Hilda: You don’t look so great yourself, Charlene – It’s probably those tango lessons she and Roger are always practising.

Charlene: (Points in disbelief). Tango!

Hilda: Sure. Hettie was a chorus girl before she retired. That’s where she and Roger met. But she still likes to dance. And so does Roger. So they try to get in some practice most days… Unless Matron decides to stop them.

Charlene: Why?

Hilda: Oh, Roger gets a bit carried away sometimes and Matron thinks Hettie might have another stroke.

Charlene: (a glance at Hettie) I think she’s already had it.

Hilda: No, she’s fine. She always looks like that. –  Don’t you, Hettie? Now, we’d better get started on these paintings, Charlene, before Matron suspects we’re up to something again.

The two women sit at the table and Hilda divides the materials between them. They begin work on their paintings.

Charlene:(staring offstage) I don’t like the look of her, Hilda. And I don’t think she likes me either.

Hilda: Hettie?

Charlene: No, Matron.

Hilda: It’s nothing personal. Matron doesn’t like anybody.

Charlene: Why not?

Hilda: Well, she thinks we’re always plotting to get out of here and she’ll lose her job. So she watches us like a hawk. If she had her way she’d keep us all locked in our rooms, 24/7.

Charlene: What’s stopping her?

Hilda: The children.

Charlene: Children?

Hilda: Our children. Yours, mine – Hettie’s – everybody’s.

Charlene: I haven’t got any children.

Hilda: Your relatives, then. Siblings, spouse, significant other – whoever put you in here.

Charlene: Oh.

Hilda: Matron never knows when some of them might show up. And they could make a complaint to the management. Relatives love complaining – it assuages their guilt feelings about stashing us in here.

Charlene: My husband wouldn’t complain. He’s too relieved he’s got me off his hands, ever since he learned I’m on the way out.

Hilda: We’re all on the way out in here, Charlene. One way or another. Sooner or later.

Charlene: Nelson – my husband, couldn’t wait to dump me in here when the doctors told me I only had six months to live.

Hilda: No round-the-world cruise for him, eh?

Charlene: Not with me, anyway.

Hilda: Well, don’t tell Matron that. We like to keep her anxious. Gives us a bit of leverage.

Charlene: I’m hopeless at painting, Hilda. Why do we have to do this anyway?

Hilda: It’s a useful cover while we’re making our plans. As long as we’re sitting here daubing our canvases, nobody bothers us.

Roger re-enters with two mugs of tea and goes over to Hettie slumped in the wheelchair.

Roger: Too late – she’s nodded off on me.

Charlene: How can you tell?

Roger: Oh, you’ll soon get to know after you’ve been here for awhile. Hettie’s really quite a live wire in her own way. Isn’t she, Hilda?

Hilda: Yeah, you bet. I’ll have her tea, Roger.

Roger: Sure.(handing it to her. Picks up Charlene’s painting and holds it at arm’s length and extends his arm, thumb up at Charlene. Recites:)

“While Titian was mixing rose madder,

His model was perched on a ladder.

Her position to Titian suggested coition –

So he nipped up the ladder and had ‘er.”

Hilda: (flat) Ho, ho… Charlene, this is Roger.

Charlene: We’ve met.

Roger: (Resumes his knitting) With a few well-chosen phrases, Charlene led me to understand she does not hold our establishment in high esteem, Hilda –  She said it stinks.

Hilda: It’s an old people’s home, they always stink.

Roger: So – is Charlene in or out, Hilda?

Hilda: I haven’t asked her yet.

Charlene: Asked me what?

Roger: If you want to join our club.

Hilda: I thought we should wait until everybody’s here first.

Roger: You’re a stickler for protocol, Hilda. Worse than you, isn’t she Hettie?

(He goes over to Hettie and tips her head back.)

What do you think – ask Charlene now or wait for the others?

(He shakes her head from side to side).

She’s not sure. I guess we’d better wait.

Charlene: Sounds like a very exclusive bunch– what is it anyway?

Roger: The Endgame Club.

Charlene: Endgame – is it a chess group?

Roger: Not exactly – but it’s where we got the idea. Hilda thought of it – she used to be a tournament player.

Charlene: I’m a terrible chess player – I don’t think you’d want me in your club.

Hilda: It’s nothing like that, Charlene. We only use the term to show them we mean to have the final say.

Charlene: Who?

Hilda: All the ones we were just talking about – relatives, family, matron – staff.

Roger: Not all the staff, Hilda. Nastie’s on our side.

Hilda: Maybe – but when it comes to the crunch, I’ll bet she’s too timid to help with our plans.

Charlene: This sounds like real cloak and dagger stuff – now you’ve got me intrigued.

Roger: We’re playing a long game here, Charlene – planning to try out lots of different schemes till we hit on something foolproof.

Charlene: Count me in – my ex always said I was a schemer.

Hilda: Wait for the others. They’ll be back soon.

Charlene: Where are they?

Roger: Bingo.

Charlene: Ugghh! I loathe Bingo. Even more than chess.

Roger: All part of the plan – you’ll soon be joining in the fun.

Charlene: Never.

Hilda: Don’t say that – if you want to join the club. Bingo is a very useful cover.

Roger: Sshhh! Here they come.

 

 

 

 

SCENE FOUR: Recreation Room

 

From upstage opposite, three residents and two staff enter. One of the women, Lulu, is brandishing a large flashlight. She wears a bright red turban to cover her bald head. She alternates between different coloured obvious fake wigs and turbans in other scenes. The other woman, Iris, and the  man, carrying a cane, Randolph, follow arm in arm – she is supporting him with the help of Dr.Yves Sanglant, the deputy head of the nursing home. They are followed by Nastie, the younger female staff attendant in whites and the Matron, wearing a blue uniform and white cap.

Lulu: Look, I won the prize! (She shines the light at everyone)

Hilda: That’ll be handy, Lulu.

Matron: (Coming forward to inspect Hettie). Handy for what, Hilda?

Hilda: Oh, getting up in the night.

Randolph: I should have won it. I need it more than Lulu does.

He is lowered into chair by Dr. Sanglant.

Iris: Where are you going in the middle of the night, Randolph?

Randolph:Oh, I  have to check on things for Dr. Sanglant occasionally. – Or I might use it to find your bedroom, Iris.

Hilda: You’ll be lucky to make it to the bathroom, Randolph. Never mind Iris’s bedroom.

Roger: Don’t be so sure. He’s not called Randy for nothing.

Lulu: The Prostate Kid, more like.

Hilda: I shouldn’t lose any sleep, Iris. Even if he did make it to your bedroom, he’d have forgotten why he came.

Lulu: What’s Yves got you doing, Randy?

Dr Sanglant: Randolph’s been very helpful with my medical marijuana project. It’s quite complicated and I consult him for his engineering skills from time to time.

Randolph: I used to be a project engineer to the Sultan of Dubai.

Lulu: Re-built his harem for him, did you, Randy?

Roger: Is that where you got your reputation, Randy – consulting on his harem?

Randolph: I could tell you a tale or two, Roger… but not with ladies present.

Lulu: Since when do you need an engineer to grow my five marijuana plants?

Dr S: You’re not the only patient I’m growing it for, Lulu.

Randolph: Yes, it’s quite a production line down there in the basement.

Lulu: Maybe I’ll come down with you and see for myself, some night, Randy.

Dr S: Strictly off-limits. The government regulations are very rigid – everything under lock and key.

Lulu: So how come Randy gets in?

Randolph: I was a consultant engineer.

Roger: The Consultant of Dubai.

Matron: There’ll be no roaming around here in the middle of the night with flashlights. I’m not going to be blamed for any of you lot falling over and breaking a hip. You put on the light and press the buzzer for the night staff. That’s why they’re here.

Lulu: I’ll just have to keep it in my bedside table in case there’s a blackout, then.

Matron: I think I’d better look after it for you, Lulu. Then you won’t be tempted to go stumbling around in the dark. (She attempts to take the flashlight from Lulu who resists).

Lulu: No thank you. I won it and I’m keeping it. Besides it might bring me luck. I’ve always been lucky.

Roger: You could use it to signal Randy if he goes by your bedroom some night – side track him from Iris.

Randolph: Good idea – two birds with one stone, eh Roger?

Lulu: Dream on.

Matron has been attending to Hettie in wheelchair and now turns to group.

Matron: Hettie. Hettie! Time for your physio… She looks exhausted – Roger, have you been overdoing it again?

Roger: Just a few turns around the room – she loves it, don’t you, pet?

Matron: I warned you. She might have another stroke at anytime.

Roger: But what a way to go, eh Hettie?

Matron: Come on, Anastasia. I think she’s too tired for physio. You’d better just give her a bath and put her to bed.

The two attendants push Hettie off in the direction she came, Dr.Sanglant pushing the chair and Nastie holding Hettie’s hand, followed by Matron.

If anything happens to her, Roger, I’m reporting you to her son. He should never have agreed to this foolishness in the first place.

Roger: Nonsense. He knows she loves dancing – it’s been her whole life.

Matron: Well, not anymore, if I have anything to say about it. (exits)

Hilda: And she will… Poor Hettie. She’ll be tied to that wheelchair from now on. Like the rest of us, one of these days.

Lulu: Not a chance.( She shines flashlight at them.) I’m out of here, one way or the other.

Hilda: Alright, now that we’re all here, let’s have a vote about Charlene joining the club.

Iris: Have you told her the rules, Hilda?

Hilda: No, I said we’d wait till you all came back to give her the details.

Charlene: What’s all the mystery about anyway? Is this some secret society?

Lulu: Only from Matron and the staff.

Randolph: And the Gaga Gang.

Lulu: They don’t count – too late for them. Be warned – don’t leave it too long, Charlene.

Charlene: I’ve already said I’m in – but I’d like to know a bit more about what I’m letting myself in for.

Iris: The Great Escape.

Hilda: (spreading hands like unfurling a banner, announces) EUTHANASIA!

Roger: (declaiming) “To die would be a wonderful adventure.”

BLACKOUT.

 

 

SCENE FIVE: Matron’s office.

Matron sits behind her desk. Dr.Yves Sanglant enters and crosses to her. He tries to embrace her but after a moment she holds him off.

Matron: No, Yves. That’s not why I called you in here.

Yves: ( sits on desk) What’s up, Kitty?

Matron: I’ve just had a visit from Iris.

Yves: What’s she want, then?

Matron: She said she wanted to register a complaint against you, on behalf of all the patients – the women patients.

Yves: I don’t believe it – who, exactly?

Matron: She wouldn’t say. But what she did say was that if I didn’t act immediately, she would ask her daughter to report you to the board of directors.

Yves: Why that old bitch. I’ll go and tell her to mind her own damn business –

Matron: You’re not going to tell her anything – unless you want to get us both fired. Do you realise how serious this is? She’s charging you with sexual harrassment – and extortion.

Yves: What! Come on, Kitty – you don’t believe her, do you?

Matron: I believe you’ve gone way beyond what we agreed, Yves.

Yves: Now look, don’t panic. It’s only her word against mine.

Matron: What about the others? How much does Randolph know?

Yves: Only about the marijuana. He thinks it’s all under license.

Matron:You haven’t been trying any funny business with Hilda, have you? Don’t forget she was a high court lawyer –

Yves: Hilda? I never went near her.

Matron: And Lulu? Charlene? Do you think they suspect what you’re up to?

Yves: (shrugs) Do you think Iris is on to you as well?

Matron: Impossible. I don’t take risks like you, Yves. You go too far….

Yves: Call them in now, Kitty. I promise you, they won’t be a problem.

Matron: I’ve already told Anastasia to ask them to come to my office. You’d better be right.(she goes upstage to call off): Anastasia! Bring them in, please. (Iris leads the way with Lulu, wearing a bold lime green wig this time, and Charlene following). Alright, Iris. I’ve asked the others to come along to corroborate your complaint. I hope you’re aware of how serious this charge is. It could lead to Dr.Sanglant’s dismissal.

Iris: I hope he’s aware of it, too.

Yves: You’ve got me all wrong, Iris. I never intended to upset you – I just thought you might enjoy some male company, is all.

Iris: If I wanted to buy any sexual companionship, you’d be the last one I’d ask –

Matron: Please, Iris. Let me just hear from the others. Lulu? Do you agree with her that Dr. Sanglant has been harrassing the women here?

Lulu: You might call it harrassing – I like to call it flattering. I’m not exactly inundated with men friends in my condition.

Iris: I suppose that depends how much you want to pay.

Lulu: That’s between Yves and me. It’s nobody else’s business how I choose to spend my money.

Matron: So you deny Yves – Dr Sanglant, was trying to extort money from you, Lulu?

Lulu: He didn’t threaten me if that’s what you mean.

Iris: But you told us you had paid him money.

Yves: Gifts, isn’t that right, Lulu?

Iris: Of money.

Lulu: So what? He liked me – and I – appreciated him.

Iris: I see. He paid you attentions and you paid him money.

Lulu: Like I said, that’s my business.

Matron: How about you, Charlene? Did Dr.Sanglant harrass you?

Charlene: He – approached me, yes.

Iris: You see? Go on, Charlene –

Charlene: Well, we talked awhile and – we came to an understanding.

Matron: What sort of an understanding?

Charlene: I said I wasn’t interested in sex but other favours might be welcome.

Iris: I don’t understand. I thought you all agreed with me that Dr. Sanglant was preying on the women in this place.

Lulu: More like the women were praying for him – to visit. I was, anyway.

Charlene: I’m sorry, Iris. But I don’t want Dr.Sanglant to lose his job.

Lulu: Neither do I – no way!

Iris: Have you spoken to Hilda as well?

Yves: I’ve never laid a finger on her, and she knows it.

Iris: She told me the only reason he doesn’t pester her is because her son has power of attorney over her money, after her stroke – and Dr. Sanglant knows it.

Matron: Do you still intend to pursue this, Iris? No one else seems willing to back up your complaint.

Yves: She can always leave if she doesn’t like it here.

Iris: I’ve got a better idea. You can leave, before you get sacked.

Matron: Please, Iris. If this gets back to the board and Dr.Sanglant is fired, The Rest Assured Rest Home could get a bad reputation.

Iris: It already has a bad reputation as far as I’m concerned.

Yves: Nobody’s going to fire me – where’s the evidence – the witnesses?

Matron: It would still be bad publicity – and affect all of us. We don’t want that, do we?

Iris: Speak for yourself. I don’t trust him and I don’t care about any cover-up. Is there some reason you’re defending his behaviour, Matron?

Matron: No, of course not. I just don’t want any bad publicity.

Iris: You mean never mind about us – you don’t want to lose your job either. (exits.

Lulu and Charlene follow her.)

Matron: Anastasia, you’d better go with them. Tell me if they talk about going any further with this. (Nastie nods and exits.)

Yves: Kitty – don’t worry about them – you saw what happened – they won’t back her up and I think I can get around Iris – leave it to me – in a couple of days….

Matron: You’re even dumber than I thought if you believe Iris is going to let this go. She told me she thinks you’ve been acting suspiciously for quite a while. Do you think she might have seen us that last time? I told you not to get too greedy.

Yves: I didn’t notice you refusing your share. Just remember we’re in this together – if I go, you go with me. Besides, Lulu needs me and you heard Charlene – we’ve got a nice little arrangement worked out.

Matron: What?

Yves: You’ll see.

Matron: Just because these women are old and infirm doesn’t mean they’re stupid. Don’t get too cocky, Yves.

Yves: (putting his arms around her from behind and leaning in to her ear) Cocky is how they like me, Kitty.

BLACKOUT – END OF SCENE.

 

 

 

SCENE SIX: CBC Radio Studio

 

Hettie is wheeled in upstage right by Nastie, under a pool of light by a small table holding a radio which she turns on and then squats on floor beside Hettie, holding her hand , to listen. Radio soap opera music plays as the actors, doubled by staff members, enter stage right carrying radio scripts and move downstage left to group themselves standing around a CBC radio studio mike. They stand in a spotlit pool of light. Soap opera music theme tune flares up briefly then down under, as female CBC announcer in actors’ group steps forward to speak into the mike.

CBC Announcer: You are listening to CBC FM 999point 9 – and now it’s time for our Afternoon Theatre production of: DOCTOR DUNCAN’S DIARY– Everyday dilemmas of a rural GP –  in rural B.C… Episode 67: DOLLY CAMERON’S DELUSION (Swell theme music up and out.

A phone rings and another female actor answers).

Nurse Nettie:(Scottish accent, reading) Good afternoon, Doctor Duncan’s Clinic, Nurse Nettie speaking… Och hello, Mr Cameron… I expect you’re calling about your mither. How is she today?… I see. No, I’m sorry, Doctor Duncan’s away up the fourth Concession to visit Old Daddy Jimson…(confidential, gossiping) He got into the cowshed again… Aye, that’s right – he’s 85 if he’s a day and can barely see with those cataracts…  Aye, Doctor Duncan suspects he’s probably got a broken hip when he was knocked doon….Well, I shouldna’ be telling you this, but apparently he was trying to milk the bull… Aye, well I say it would have been a blessing for Mrs Jimson if he’d been kicked in the heed instead…

Shall I ask the doctor to call you back, Mr Cameron?… Aye, I’ll tell him it’s urgent but he’s a verra busy man…. What? She never – oh dear God! Would you like me to fetch young Doctor Svensen? He’s only just joined us recently… Pardon? Of course he’s good. He comes very well recommended…what?… I believe he’s a Lutheran…. From the big city. Aye, Saskatoon… Hang on. (she steps back and calls off:) Doctor Svensen!

Next Actor: (steps up to mike, reads in Swedish accent): Ja, Dr. Svensen here. What is it, please? I beg your pardon?… Uppsala… Nay – Uppsala… Swséden… Nay, I’m not a GP. I’m a specialist in Geriatrics – that’s why Doctor Duncan hired me. He has too many elderly patients to handle. Now, what is the problem? … I see. And this is the third time this month it’s happened? This week!… Right into your neighbour’s house? And not a stitch on her? She certainly sounds a suitable case for treatment. I’ll speak to my colleague when he returns… Ja, good day to you, too, sir.

Nurse Nettie: It’s not right, Doctor. And her with three bairns.

Dr. Svensen: Bairns?

Nurse Nettie: Wains – youngsters.

Dr. Svensen: Old Mrs. Cameron?

Nurse Nettie: The neighbour, Doctor. Straight into her hoose, naked as a jaybird!

Doctor Svensen: The neighbour?

Nurse Nettie: Old Mrs. Cameron!

Doctor Svensen: Ja, of course. It’s uh… quite a common occurrence, Nurse Nettie.

Nurse Nettie: Well, it might be where you come from, Doctor. I’ve never been to Sweden – or Saskatoon, but it’s not acceptable behaviour here in Fort MacGregor, BC.

Dr Svensen: Nay, nay. you misunderstand me… I meant elderly people with dementia often have a compulsion to take their clothes off in public – and not yust in Swéden. Mind you, if you were to show up here stark naked, Nurse Nettie – (leering) I might have a compulsion to join you…

Nurse Nettie: (shivering deliciously) In the noddy! Oohh, Doctor Svensen…,

Dr Svensen: (clutching her hand) I’m not demented, Nettie – but I am crazy about you.

Nurse Nettie: Ohh – Doctor Svensen. I – I don’t know what to say.

Dr Svensen: Say you’ll come away with me –

Nurse Nettie: To Saskatoon?

Dr Svensen: Ja, (takes her in his arms) There’s a conference on ‘obsessive-compulsive behaviour in early onset Alzheimers’. We could go mad together, Nettie!

Nurse Nettie: You mean – in the nude? But that would be madness, Doctor –

(Theme music begins to swell as they clutch at each other)

Dr Svensen: Completely mad! (laughs maniacally)

(Sound effect of door opening – wind howling – music stops – door slams shut –wind stops. Amother actor approaches mike)

Nurse Nettie: Dr Duncan!

Dr Duncan: (reads in thick Scots accent) It’s a wild night –I’m soaked to my skin. Help me get my clothes off, Nettie.

Nurse Nettie: What? Oh, Dr Duncan – not you as well!

Dr Duncan: Hurry up, woman! I can barely wait to get out of these things.

Dr Svensen: It’s all right, I’ll help him… There we are – I was just explaining to Nurse Nettie about old Mrs Cameron’s behaviour as quite normal for dementia patients, Dr Duncan.

Dr Duncan: Ahh! – that’s better – now that I’m out of those clothes…(steps away from mike) I’ll just stand over here by the fire. Mmmm! I’m tempted to take them all off.– But I wouldn’t want Nettie to get the wrong idea about me.

Nurse Nettie:Dr Duncan!

Dr Duncan: So – old Dolly Cameron’s at it again, eh?

Dr Svensen:Third time this week, I understand.

Dr Duncan: Oh – so you’ve had a good look at her, then?

Dr Svensen: Nay, nay! – only spoke to her son on the telephone.

Dr Duncan: I see… Well, Dolly Cameron’s no more demented than I am. I’ve known her since high school when she would strip off behind the bicycle shed – none of us thought she was crazy then – far from it. Most popular girl in the school – at least with us boys – I can’t speak for the teachers….

Nurse Nettie:Ochh – that’s disgraceful, Dr Duncan.

Dr Duncan: Disgraceful maybe – but not dementia – not in Dolly’s case.

Dr Svensen:What will you do with her, Doctor?

Dr Duncan: Do? I’m a bit too old to do anything with her now – but if you mean will I have her committed to a mental home for the odd caper about the community in her birthday suit – no. I won’t. I have fond memories of Dolly. I couldn’t do that to her.

Dr Svensen: But you can’t have her roaming the streets at all hours, stark naked, Doctor.

Nurse Nettie: She’ll frighten the children –

Dr Duncan: Nonsense. She’s a harmless auld woman…

(A banging on the door and it opens partly – wind whistles –an old woman’s bare head and shoulders pops round the door – white hair dishevelled)

Dolly: Yoohoo! Doctor Dun – can!

Dr Duncan: Dolly!!

(Swell sprightly theme music and BLACKOUT on radio group downstage left. Upstage right, Nastie and Hettie sit staring at radio – fade to BLACKOUT on them.)

END OF SCENE

SCENE SEVEN: Recreation Room

 

Nastie (Anastasia) is a ‘special needs’ young woman with little education and has got this job as the only menial  work she can cope with. The residents are all fond of her and like to spoil her when the matron is not around. But Nastie is intimidated by Matron  and torn between her feelings for the inmates and wanting to help them and by fear of Matron finding her out and sacking her from the only job she’s ever had. She always looks after Hettie with special care.

The scene opens with everyone sitting round the table, busy writing in notebooks, working on memoirs, except Roger who is knitting as usual. Hilda enters and peers over their shoulders

Hilda: Ransacking your memories, I see. – Not joining the fun, Roger?

Roger: I prefer acting mine out, not writing them down.

Nastie: (enters, pushing Hettie in wheelchair up to table. She begins brushing Hettie’s long white hair and braiding it.) Are you writing your memoirs again? I love hearing all your stories –you’ve had such exciting lives. I can hardly believe some of the things you’ve done.

Hilda: I can’t believe them either, Nastie. I think they should be called fantasies, not memoirs.

Nastie: All the same, I still love hearing them – I’ve never done anything exciting. Will you read some of yours for me, Iris?

Iris: I’m just getting to the time I was an art student in Paris, Nastie.

Nastie: Paris! Were you really there, Iris? What’s it like? My mum always wanted to go. She said it was the most beautiful city in the world – is it, Iris?

Iris: Beautiful and magical – at least when you’re young.

Nastie: My mum has loads of pictures of Paris – she cuts them out of magazines and sticks them all over the walls in our flat. She has a big long one of the Eiffel Tower over her bed. She told me you can climb right up to the very top. Did you do that, Iris?

Iris: No, not to the top – it was too expensive. But I did get to the first level once. Shall I read that part to you, Nastie?

Nastie: (pushes wheelchair beside Iris) Yes, please! I think Hettie would like to hear it, too.

Iris: I expect she would. She went there to work as an exotic dancer once, didn’t she, Roger?

Roger: That’s what she told me when I first met her… At The Crazy Horse Saloon. Most of the dancers aren’t French at all, Nastie. English, mainly. And American. Russian, Dutch – even the odd Canadian, eh Hettie?

Hilda: Very odd.

Nastie: Wait till Mum hears I know two people who lived in Paris.

Iris: (thumbing through her notebook) Let’s see… I’ll start here. (reads) On Sunday afternoon, Aristide met me and said he would take me to the Tour Eiffel, as I told him I’d not been up close to it yet, although you could see it from many parts of Paris. We walked up through the long formal gardens of the Champ-de-Mars watching the tower become larger and larger as we got closer. It really is quite enormous with its four huge honeycomb iron legs.

Aristide told me he’d only been up it once, as a boy on a school trip. We went to the ticket booth but Aristide said we could either climb up the steps and drink a glass of wine, or ride up the elevator and drink the view – we couldn’t afford both. We were poor, young art students, then – he was named after the sculptor, Aristide Maillol, whom his mother adored.

On the first level, we drank our glass of vin rouge and watched the sunset. I later did a painting of him – from a sketch I made there.  Aristide whispered in my ear that we should go back to his room. I asked him if he wanted to show me his etchings. He laughed and said yes – among other things. I didn’t need persuading – he was very handsome.

Nastie: Oh god, that’s so romantic… Do you still have it, Iris – the painting?

Iris: (nods) It was only a miniature so they let me keep it in here. It’s over my bed, if you’d like to see it, Nastie.

Nastie: Oh yes, please! I’ll take Hettie too, shall I? (She pushes the wheelchair upstage)

Iris: You can take it home to show your mum as long as you bring it back.

Nastie: I will, I promise. (exits with Hettie).

Hilda: That’s one of the few stories I’ve heard here I actually believe. What happened to Aristide, Iris?

Iris: He went back home to Normandy. His mother was dying. We lost touch. She didn’t approve of me, as a foreigner…

Roger: Ahh, mothers – aren’t they wonderful?

Lulu: I’d have gone after him – I wouldn’t let him get away so easily.

Iris: We were both very young – you don’t have much self-confidence at that age.

Charlene: Do you ever regret not following him, Iris?

Iris: I regret lots of things….

Hilda: Cue Roger –

Roger: ( puts down his knitting, rising and standing spread-eagled in the Edith Piaf stance, parodies singing🙂

Je ne  regret rien,

je ne regret rien,

la da da da dee dah,

la da da da dee dah (resumes knitting, humming to himself.)

They each open notebooks again. Heads down as everyone writes. After a few moments Lulu looks over shoulder of her neighbour, Randolph, to see what he has written. Picks up his notebook.

Lulu: (reading) “ My Midnight Adventures – Last night when everyone else was asleep I got up and turned on Lulu’s flashlight and went into the hall…”. What? Did  you nick my flashlight, Randy?

Randolph: I just borrowed it the other day – you didn’t even miss it.

Roger: Off to visit Iris, were you?

Iris: He never came anywhere near me. Besides, I keep my door blocked with a chair, because of Dr.Sanglant.

Hilda: Probably forgot where he was going and went to the bathroom instead.

Randolph: As a matter of fact, I was thinking of visiting Charlene – but somebody beat me to it.

Roger: Don’t look at me. I was having a beautiful dream. I was playing Hamlet on tour – don’t remember where – Moosejaw, I think – and I was word perfect. Didn’t forget a single line – (puts down knitting & recites:)

What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,

That he should weep for her? What would he do

Had he the motive and the cue for passion

That I have?

Lulu: Passion! Randy? Don’t make me laugh – he’s all talk and no action.

Randolph: I couldn’t sleep and wanted to talk to Charlene about our plan – but she was already engaged….

Lulu: So you listened at the door instead –

Randolph: How do you know?

Lulu: (pointing at his notebook) “My Midnight Adventures”– sneaky old bugger.

Randolph: I heard Dr.Sanglant’s voice and thought something was wrong, but…

Iris: Dr.Sanglant! So, he has been harassing you, Charlene. I hope you sent him packing.

Hilda: I’m sure Charlene has a perfectly good explanation. We’ve all warned her about Dr.Sanglant’s nocturnal missions.

Lulu: Nocturnal emissions, more like. At least Yves delivers on his promises, Randy.

Iris: For a price. I don’t know how you can stand him around you, Lulu. He’s just a predator.I’ve seen him taking advantage in here. I still say we should report him and get him sacked.

Lulu: No, no – he’s not that bad. In some ways, he’s very good.

Hilda: Alright, Lulu. Spare us the lurid details.

Lulu: Money well spent, I say.

Charlene: Lulu’s right. I think he can be very useful to us. I was just sounding him out last night.

Randolph: Oh, is that what you were doing?

Charlene: Well, I was leading him on a bit at first – to see how far he’s prepared to go.

Lulu: All the way, honey.

Charlene: I meant what he would do, if we paid him enough.

Iris: Anything. I don’t trust him an inch.

Hilda: What did you have in mind, Charlene? Just how could he be useful?

Charlene: I told him a group of us wanted to go out one evening and would he take us in the minibus – for a price.

Hilda: And?

Charlene: And he agreed.

Roger: When?

Charlene: It would have to be on Matron’s night off. What do you think?

Hilda: We’ll need to plan what we want to do. But you think we can trust him?

Iris: No, absolutely not.

Lulu: Sure. He won’t risk losing his job – besides – he wants his reward from Charlene.

Charlene: I don’t delude myself – he’s only after my money. But I think he’ll keep quiet about it.

Roger: Only one way to find out….

BLACKOUT

SCENE EIGHT: Dormitory of Rest Home

 

Scene opens in darkness. Then a beam of light flashes around offstage and moves upstage to cross downstage as dim light reveals a bed – a high, stylised mock bed with head board and footboard only a foot or so apart with pillows attached to headboard and bedding spilling over footboard and with room enough for someone to stand in between leaning back against the pillows,as if asleep.

The flashlight beam shines on the sleeper’s face. It is Randolph, wearing pyjamas. The person holding the flashlight moves into the dim light and stares at him. It’s Lulu, also wearing pyjamas and a dressing gown and slippers. She leans over and tries to wake him.

Lulu: (Hisses) Sssstt! Randy – wake up! Randy! (Shakes his arm) It’s me!

Randolph: (Jerks awake) Wahh! Lulu?…What you doing here?

Lulu: I want to see downstairs. Come on, get up –

Randolph: It’s the middle of the night!

Lulu: I know. Perfect time to see the project – nobody to disturb us.

Randolph: But you can’t go down there. It’s not allowed – you heard Dr.Sanglant.

Lulu: (Pulling on his sleeve) He’ll never know – come on!

Randolph: No, it’s too risky. Go back to bed.

Lulu: How about if I get into your bed instead? (She starts to slide in beside him) Shall I?

Randolph: How come you changed your mind, all of a sudden?

Lulu: Just curious. (fumbling around under covers) Well – what have we here?

Randolph: Hey, don’t touch that!

Lulu: (pulling out a long flashlight from under the covers – holds it up) For a minute there, you had me fooled… (She turns it on and off)

Randolph: I keep it there in case I get a visitor.

Lulu: Like me.(getting out of bed and holding out the flashlight to him) Come on. Let’s go…

Randolph: But you just said –

Lulu: (coaxing) Later – when we get back – we’ll have all night then.

Randolph: – I’m not sure we should…(getting out of bed, pulling up pyjamas hastily)

Lulu: I am. Come on – here’s your flashlight. Now just lead and I’ll be right behind you. ( She gooses him from behind with her flashlight) Shhh! Get moving –

He jumps nervously and they beam their flashlights and weave their way upstage left to a faint light coming from behind a door. They open it and a greenish light from below glows briefly and they close it behind them.

The stage is dark again until another beam of a flashlight from the opposite side upstage swings a wide arc low down, then moves downstage right, to Matron’s office. The lights come up dimly and we see a wheelchair with one of the ancient dementia puppet/patients lolling in it. Matron comes out of the darkness from behind her desk.

Matron: Yves? (She snaps on her flashlight and a small LED blue-white light shines up on to his face) Have you got Mr. Orenson?

Sanglant: I think so – unless he was in the wrong bed. They all look alike at this stage…

Matron: (Shining her flashlight onto puppet/patient’s face) Yes, that’s him.

Sanglant: Okay –where’s my prescription pad? What’s he on? (sits down at desk to take out prescription pad.)

Matron: (shines her flashlight on file and reads notes) Pentothol and morphine.

She fills syringe while Sanglant writes out prescription. She takes it from him, puts it in file and injects the figure in the wheelchair while Sanglant holds his flashlight for her.

Matron: Hurry up! Let’s get him back on the ward. I better come with you and make sure he doesn’t go in the wrong bed.

Using both of their flashlights, they push the wheelchair back upstage just as Lulu and Randolph re-appear from basement beaming their flashlights around. Lulu holds a bunch of green plants in her hand. Her flashlight beam catches Yves’s face, then Randolph’s shines on Matron’s.

Lulu: Yves!

Randolph: Matron!

(Now Yves flashlight beam catches Lulu’s face and Matron’s picks out Randolph’s.)

Sanglant: Lulu!

Matron: Randolph!

Sanglant: What’s going on? What have you got there, Lulu? (He shines beam on bunch of marijuana plants in her hand.)

Lulu: (quickly stuffs them in her dressing gown bosom) What? Nothing – see?(Holds out her empty palm).

Yves: Give me that! (He tries to thrust his hand into her bosom)

Lulu:Stop it, Yves – let go! (she clutches her dressing gown closer)

Sanglant: Don’t play games with me, Lulu! (He struggles with her again)

Lulu: Get your hands off me! (She bites his hand)

Sanglant: (shouts and jumps back, holding his bitten hand) Ouch – goddamit!

Another flashlight beam now shines around and lights up the group. Hilda comes in nightgown to join them.

Hilda: What’s happening? Is somebody hurt?

Matron: It’s nothing, Hilda. We’ll sort it all out in the morning. I think everybody should get back to bed ….

A new light shines upstage right and a flickering candle held by Roger appears. He wears a faded Noel Coward style dressing gown over his silk pyjamas. All the flashlights turn on him as he stops upstage centre.

Roger: (Declaiming) ‘It is the cause!…It is the cause, my soul;

Let me not name it to you, you chaste stars!

It is the cause. Yet I’ll not shed her blood…

Yet she must die, else she’ll betray more men.

Put out the light – and then put out the light.’

(He exits across upstage left, calling:) ‘Desdemona…Desdemona’…

Yet another flashlight beam swings across the stage from downstage and lights each face in turn, then stops on face of puppet/patient in wheelchair. The person holding the flashlight has her back to audience as she speaks.)

Voice: I saw everything!. (Her flashlight snaps off and she runs into the wings)

Matron: Iris??

BLACKOUT as all flashlights snap off together.

 

 

SCENE NINE: – Next Day. Recreation Room

 

The residents are setting out folding chairs to one side of the stage as Hilda explains what they’re going to do. Nastie wheels in Hettie in her chair to be in the front row downstage. They all take seats and Hilda stands in front of them like a lecturer.

Hilda:  Okay everybody, time for a strategy meeting. It’s Matron’s day off today so Roger and I decided to have all of us Endgame members form a Ways and Means Committee.

Roger: Kind of an Assassins Club.

Randolph: So how do we join this Assassins Club, Roger?

Roger: You don’t. It doesn’t exist. Yet.

Lulu: We could start one.

Iris: Who’s going to be the first assassin?

Charlene: And who wants to be the first victim?

Roger: I’ll be the First Assassin. Any volunteers for victim?

Hilda: First things first. This is going to take a lot of planning. Are we sure we all want to go ahead with it?

Iris: Definitely.

Randolph: Maybe.

Roger: I know the perfect spot right here in Vancouver – the Capilano Suspension Bridge. (mimes shoving hard with both hands)

Charlene: I don’t fancy being pushed off a bridge.

Randolph: Me neither. I’d be frightened to death.

Hilda: That was only an example, Charlene. It could be anything.

Roger: Choose your poison.

Lulu: I could beat your head in with a baseball bat, Randy. You’d never know what hit you.

Iris: Or I might be stoned to death, like the Taliban do in Afghanistan.

Charlene: But that’s only for adulteresses.

Randolph: I’d be glad to volunteer as adulterer, Iris.

Lulu: This I would like to see.

Hilda: Personally, I favour an overdose – when the time comes.

Randolph: Yeah, but what if we can’t all agree when to go?

Hilda: We don’t have to. This isn’t Jonesville, Randy. We’re not planning a mass suicide. We each choose when we’re ready.

Roger: And how. – I favour something dramatic – like a firing squad.(points with his rolled up knitting needles)

Charlene: Drugs sound good to me, Hilda. I don’t think I could slit my wrists – the sight of all that blood…

Hilda: The point is, you don’t have to do it alone. We help each other – once you’ve decided. And only when you’ve decided.

Roger: That’s the tricky part – you have to decide for yourself. No one can do it for you.

Hilda: But if you leave it too long. – (she points to Hettie.) Indecision is one of the stages of  Alzheimers.

Roger: (stooping beside Hettie’s wheelchair, lifts one of her hands and lets it flop down on her lap) And … apathy.

Hilda: And then it’s too late – we can’t help you then.

Roger: The system’s got you – welcome to Cabbageland.

Lulu: So we need to prepare.

Charlene: And that’s where Dr. Sanglant comes in. I’ve bribed him to take us out in the mini-bus on Matron’s night off. That’s tonight.

Randolph: I don’t know if you could rely on me – when it came to the crunch.

Lulu: It’s simple – you don’t help us – we don’t help you.Your chance to prove you’re not just all talk, Randy.

Iris: I foresee a problem. What happens to the last one – after the rest of us are all gone?

Roger: As Chief Assassin, I will volunteer to be last.

Lulu: What happened to the firing squad?

Roger: (uses knitting needles to mime drawing a sword) I shall fall upon my sword instead. (stabs it under his arm.)

Hilda: There is no last one, Iris. We keep recruiting new members, as they arrive in the Last Gasp Rest Home. There’s an endless supply out there. Queuing up to come in here.

Charlene: The Endgame.

Hilda: Right. Now, can we have a show of hands. All in favour?

(Slowly, one after the other, everyone raises their hands.)

BLACKOUT

 

SCENE TEN: Outside the Rest Home

 

Evening – all the residents including Hettie and Nasty are standing waiting with coats on downstage. Lulu has her flashlight which she shines around. Dr Sanglant and Roger appear with minibus – a painted canvas strip on a long horizontal pole with Sanglant and Roger at either end. Noise of motor pulling up and stopping.

Roger: (in stage whisper) All aboard!

Everyone climbs in and ‘ sits’. Lulu sits behind Sanglant and her flashlight becomes bus headlight as they drive off.  They hold on to long pole to support bus and so that they all move in unison. Sound of motor starts up and it pulls away with inmates swaying as he goes round corner and heads diagonally upstage and exits upstage left. Sounds of bus reversing and it reappears moving across upstage rear to centre stage. Nastie and Hettie wave goodbye, then exit.

 

 

1)TATTOO PARLOUR SCENE

As bus reappears, an illuminated flashing TATTOOS sign on wheels appears from opposite downstage side, pushed by one of the staff doubling as tattooist. As both begin to pass each other, Lulu shouts ‘STOP’ and they all stop centre stage. Everyone climbs out and enters ‘tattoo parlour’, following Lulu. Yves ‘parks’ the bus and waits in it. Each of the inmates carries a folding stool to sit on to form the tattoo parlour.

Lulu: I’ve always wanted to have a tattoo(points to her buttock) Right here.

Randy: What’ll it be, Lulu – a naked sailor?

Lulu: You’ll never find out, Randy.

Roger: I fancy one of those Paris cancan dancers on my arm. (He ripples his forearm to demonstrate) She could perform for me any time I liked.

Hilda: Hettie will be jealous, if you did.

Charlene: What kind of tattoo do you think she’d like, Roger?

Roger: Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire, maybe.

Iris: How about ‘Do Not Resuscitate’? Right across her chest.

Hilda: That’s what we all should have – never mind all this teenage stuff.

Charlene: Not a bad idea, Hilda. If you think it would work.

Lulu: Yeah, I might get one of those as well – just to see the look on the doctors’ faces when they rip open my blouse. (She pretends to be holding a pair of shock paddles and mimes the procedure.) Stand clear! Zzzttt!

Randy: Not sure which would surprise them more – the tattoo or those baggy boobs –

Charlene: In any case, I don’t think you’d be in any state to see their reaction, Lulu.

Roger: I doubt if it would stop them, anyway.

Iris: Why not? You could sue them for deliberate malpractice or something.

Hilda: I’m not sure what the legal precedent is – I’d have to check it out.

Iris: (lying down on bench of three stools) Well I don’t intend to wait. (The tattooist poises over her with his raised needle and they all crowd round in a circle to watch. Dr Sanglant honks horn to call them back) You lot go ahead – you can come back for me later. I’m not leaving till it’s finished.

The others fold up their stools and troop out to the minibus and drive offstage in one direction as light fades out on TATTOO sign and they exit in opposite direction.

 

2)DRUG DEALER SCENE

 

The minibus reappears upstage and circles downstage on other side as 2nd staff member doubling as drug dealer, wearing a flat cap and dark glasses, appears pushing a lamppost from opposite side and crosses downstage of the minibus. He stops and sets lamppost down as it is lit from above in a tight pool of light. He stands pretending to look about, then leans against the post, waiting. Meantime the minibus has circled to a stop upstage of him. Yves brakes but leaves the motor running as Hilda gets out and crosses into the pool of light to speak to the drug dealer.

Hilda: So have you got the stuff?

Dealer: Depends. You Hilda? (She nods and he furtively reaches inside his jacket for small plastic packet)

Hilda: Is that all there is? You sure it’s enough?

Dealer: Plenty for what you want, lady.

Hilda: How do I know if it’s the real thing?

Dealer: It’s the real thing.

Hilda: Where do you get it from?

Dealer: A contact of mine is a vet..

Hilda: What kind of vet? A war vet or an animal vet?

Dealer: Racehorse vet.

Hilda: So what is it?

Dealer: It’s a cocktail of barbiturates – sodium pentathol, nembutol and morphine.

Hilda: And it’s from a real veterinary?

Dealer: Says it’s strong enough to kill a horse.

Hilda: That should do it then. Okay, I’ll take it. (reaches for the package but he holds her off)

Dealer: First things first. (Holds out his hand and she thrusts bundle of cash at him.)

Hilda: This better work or I’ll be back.

Dealer: (riffling through notes expertly) You won’t be back, lady.

(Hilda takes package and gets back onto waiting minibus as light fades on lampost and dealer exits pushing it with him and the minibus drives offstage in other direction.

 

 

 

 

 

3)GUNSHOP SCENE

 

We hear the engine noise as minibus stops, reverses and reappears upstage while another staff member doubling as clerk, pushes a store showcase counter onstage from opposite side. He stops downstage in spotlight and goes behind counter to put up sign above counter – ‘Guns’n Ammo’.

The minibus pulls up upstage of ‘store’ and Roger and Charlene get out and go up to counter.)

Clerk: (polishing cap guns and putting them in the showcase.) What can I get you folks?

Charlene: I don’t know anything about guns, Roger.

Clerk: I got just the thing. The ladies love these. (takes a small pistol from the case and holds it up.) Just pop it in your handbag and instant insurance. Isn’t she a beauty? A Derringer. Small but packs a lethal punch.

Roger: No, what we want is a revolver.

Clerk: They’re kinda heavy for a lady to carry around, pal.

Roger: We don’t plan on carrying it anywhere except home.

Clerk: I see. Put it in your bedside table to surprise those burglars.

Roger: Mmmn – never thought of that.

Charlene: How does it work?

Clerk: (demonstrating on larger pistol) Couldn’t be simpler, lady. Just break it open – load the empty chambers and snap it shut. (Gives the cylinder a professional spin) You’re all set. (Hands it to her).

Roger: Careful, Charlene! – don’t wave it about, it’s loaded.

Clerk: Don’t worry, lady. I put the safety catch on – see? (He takes it back and empties the chamber into his hand.) I oughtta warn you, though – it has quite a kick. You should  get some target practice so you get used to it.

Charlene: I don’t think I could ever get used to it.

Clerk: You’d be surprised how many women I sell guns to. They all tell me the same thing – they’d never go back to being without it.

Charlene: Why not?

Clerk: It makes them feel secure – in charge of their own lives.

Roger: That’s what we want. We’ll take it.

Clerk: ( taking the money from Charlene and handing over the gun.) You won’t regret it, lady. This can blow  anyone away.

Charlene: I hope so.

They exit back to the minibus and the storekeeper removes sign and pushes his counter offstage as light fades and minibus engine starts up and they move offstage in opposite direction. Fade to BLACKOUT. END OF SCENE.

 

 

 

SCENE ELEVEN: Recreation Room of Rest Home

 

Scene is stylised with small groups in different areas of the stage and the lights coming up over each group as they speak. Upstage, Nastie playing the keyboard piano and Matron and Dr Sanglant circulating with tea and cakes, pretending this is how it is most days.

The staff members come in, two acting  as visiting relatives, and carry puppet/patients with them to sit on chairs round the walls. The puppets are lolling heads only with dangling cloth arms. The rest of the bodies are long nightgowns only with dangling feet protruding. They are totally vacant, slumped and inert while the relatives talk to each other and drink tea.

 

Scene begins with everyone entering to their groups and Nastie playing a medley of old tunes. Roger enters upstage with Hettie attached to him and they dance ostentatiously around the room, visiting each group in turn and Hettie nudging Matron, who is pouring tea with her back to them, with a bump and grind routine. He ends up dropping Hettie into her wheelchair and detaches himself. He goes over to whisper in piano player’s ear. Nastie nods and  strikes up tune, while Roger sings:

‘How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm,

After they’ve seen Paree’.

How ya gonna keep ‘em away from Broadway,

After they’ve seen Paree’.

Roger, standing beside Hettie, now in her wheelchair, leads the singing, trying to get everyone to join in.

Roger joins his daughter Dilly, who is doubled by one of the staff members. He knits throughout scene with her.

Dilly: Please, Dad – sit down! Why do you always have to turn everything into an act? You just embarrass all these people who don’t even know each other.

Roger: It’s my only escape from this palace of boredom, Dilly. They’re not exactly stimulating company, are they? So I have to make up my own entertainment. It’s not as if you visited every week. Besides I thought you’d like to see me and Hettie perform.

Dilly: I don’t know what to think, Dad. I just find it upsetting – all your endless clowning around. Are you sure Hettie likes it?

Roger: She doesn’t complain.

Dilly: But Matron does. She complains to me all the time. She says you take advantage of Hettie – that you use her.

Roger: I amuse her – if it weren’t for me, Matron would have her staring at the wall all day.

Dilly: That’s not the only thing Matron complains about either. She says you’ve been  trying to hatch some scheme to get the patients to plan an escape from here.

Roger: Did she say where to exactly? I’d be interested to hear.

Dilly: Is it true, Dad?

Roger: You don’t want to pay much attention to Matron, Dilly. She’s paranoid we’ll all run away and she’ll be out of a job.

Dilly: These old people are vulnerable, Dad. It would be pretty irresponsible to lead them astray.

Roger: And what about me –  I suppose I’m vulnerable too?

Dilly: Yes, you are. If you weren’t always dreaming up crazy schemes and getting into trouble with the authorities or disappearing on me for days, you wouldn’t be in here.

Roger: You fuss too much, Dilly. I always came back.

Dilly: In a police cruiser. I could hear you coming three blocks away.

Roger: I used to tell the cops my grandchildren had been abandoned by their mother and were alone in the house, so they’d put on the siren.

Dilly: You haven’t got any grandchildren, Dad.

Roger: It’s not my fault if I have to pretend I have.

Dilly: Well, it’s not my fault, either.

Roger: Sometimes, I tell people I have seven grandsons but I can’t remember their names so I just call them all after me – Roger Trevelyan the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, eighth and 9th..

Dilly: And I suppose you tell people they’re all famous actors – like their grandfather?

Roger: The Seven Trevelyans – currently touring the continent, from London to Istanbul.

Dilly: It must be quite an act – wish I could be there to see it.

Roger: You wouldn’t be interested – you never liked the theatre. I guess that’s why you didn’t care if the Trevelyan name died out. Three generations and I’m the last – when I’m gone….

Dilly: Dad, please – can we talk about something else besides your imaginary theatrical dynasty?… Like me, for instance. Don’t you care about my life, at all?

Roger: Of course, but I can’t keep up with you, Dilly – you change careers so often. What is it you’re doing now – teaching Tai Chi?

Dilly: Feng Shui. I’ve told you that the last three visits, Dad.

Roger: Oh yes. Isn’t that the thing you do with Tarot cards?

Dilly: No, it’s not! (rises) I’m leaving now, Dad. I have an appointment. Now remember what I said – don’t upset Hettie. (exits).

 

Lights come up on Lester, doubled by a staff member and Hilda, as Roger and the relatives exit, leaving the puppet/patients propped up on the chairs against the walls.

Lester: Let’s sit in here, Mother and have some tea, shall we? Anastasia said she would make us some. (He crosses downstage to sit on one of pair of armchairs. Hilda sits in the other slightly facing him and the front.)

Hilda: I don’t want tea – I want a drink. Didn’t you at least remember to bring a bottle, Lester?

Lester: It’s a bit early to be getting into the hard stuff, isn’t it, Mother?

Hilda: So now you’re going to decide when I can have a drink as well, are you?

Lester: Now, Mother….

Hilda: Next thing you’ll be telling me when to have a pee.

Lester: Okay, okay. You can have a drink – only you know how it doesn’t agree with you if you have too much. (Pulls out a small bottle of gin and hands it to her)

Hilda: (looks at little bottle and makes a face.) No danger of that happening with this. Maybe you’d better have tea – there’s not enough here for both of us.

(Nastie enters with tea tray and two cups which she sets down on side table between them. She pours out a cup for Lester but Hilda grabs the empty cup before she can pour her any tea.)

Hilda: Thank you, Nastie. I’ll just have a little nip first.

Nastie: But Hilda – you know Matron doesn’t allow alcohol in here.

Hilda: That’s why I’m using my tea cup – she won’t even notice – unless – but you wouldn’t tell her, would you, Nastie?

Nastie: I guess not…

Hilda: You can just say you thought it was tea, okay?

Lester: Mother, you could get Anastasia in trouble – you don’t want her to lose her job…

Hilda: (Pours a half cup of tea) Alright. There. Now we’re both drinking tea – aren’t we, Nastie? So you can tell that to Matron if she asks. Now away you go. (Waits until Nastie leaves upstage and then pours tea back into pot and then pours a slug of gin into her cup.) Would you like a teaspoonful in your tea, Lester? I’m afraid that’s all I can spare you.

Lester: No thank you –  So, now can we talk about why you wanted me to come in today, Mother?

Hilda: Well it sure as hell wasn’t to drink tea. ( She takes a big swallow of gin and tops up her teacup) I want to know whether you’ve had the results of my medical report yet. As I haven’t heard from you, I figured you didn’t like what it said.

Lester: I don’t think you’ll like it either, Mother. Dr.Sanglant says your condition is steadily deteriorating and….

Hilda: And what?

Lester: And that there is no question of you going back home and being able to cope on your own.

Hilda: That quack. Bought his medical degree off the Internet. I refuse to listen to anything he has to say anymore.

Lester: You don’t know that, Mother.

Hilda: Ask him.

Lester: I’m sorry, Mother but I’m afraid it means you’ll have to remain in here. I can’t be responsible for you when I’m out at work everyday, if you lived with me.

Hilda: I wouldn’t live with you if you paid me. And as for that shrew you married…

Lester: Mother – do you have to drag Elouise into every single conversation we have, just so you can verbally abuse her in public?

Hilda: And I suppose it doesn’t count that you abuse me every single day I remain locked up in here against my will?

Lester: Don’t exaggerate, Mother. It’s not so bad in here.

Hilda: Compared to what? To my former life, perhaps? Before you had my driver’s licence revoked, grabbed my little hybrid car so I  couldn’t go anywhere, sold my house, stole all my money and dumped me in here –

Lester: I didn’t steal anything – you signed it over to me with a power of attorney. You’re a lawyer, Mother – don’t pretend you don’t understand.

Hilda: Oh I understand alright. I understand you took advantage of my stroke to snatch everything I had, including my freedom. (her voice rising) You’re a bastard, Lester – a ROTTEN LITTLE BASTARD! – and I don’t care who knows it either! I demand you get me out of here!! (She is over-excited now and is shouting at him)

Lester: Mother, please! Calm down – you know the doctor said you could have another attack at any time –

Hilda: (standing shakily now) Ha! You and that damned fool  – conniving to keep me a prisoner against my will – if I could ever get you in a court of law, I’d sue the pants off both of you. I will, too, one of these days. Don’t think you can keep me locked up for the rest of my life – there’s nothing wrong with me, anymore, you hear? – just the odd dizzy spell when I…(she staggers and slumps to the floor).

Lester: Matron! Doctor!

Matron and Sanglant rush in.BLACKOUT

 

END OF ACT ONE

 

 

INTERMISSION

——————————————————

 

 

ACT TWO

 

SCENE ONE: Open House at the Rest Home

The residents’ performance at The Rest Assured Rest Home.

A bedsheet type curtain is strung across in front of audience with hand lettered sign, OPEN HOUSE – LAST GASP REST HOME – amateur night style – sheet is thin enough for us to see through it and watch the preparations by inmates behind the curtain.

The tinny piano begins to play a Scott Joplin syncopated rag as the lights come up behind the curtain and we can see through them.

 

SCENE TWO: The Stage

Once again, lights change and we see only the white curtain. Roger checks the house by poking his head through and so does Nastie whose job is to open the curtains on musical cue from pianist – a music hall tinny piano flourish..

As curtain opens, Hilda appears, in whiteface commeddia del arte makeup with red circles on cheeks, dressed in MC top hat, tails, fishnet tights with gaping holes and white gloves. She teeters to centre stage on exaggerated high heels and addresses audience direct, as if they are the visitors and guests of the Open House.

Hilda: (in MC Music Hall barker’s voice)HELLOHELLOHELLO! Welcome to the First Annual Gala Performance of the inmates of the Home for Incurables, Wayward Willies and Awkward Audreys –  those Mirthful Makers of Merry Madcap, Death Defying Feats and Dastardly Deeds: The BEDLAM BEGGARS!!! – Only joking, folks – only joking….

We proudly present –  for your Edification and Delectation –  a brief glimpse into the Future – your future to be exact –  accompanied by those you know and love… AND have incarcerated here in the Last Gasp Rest Home.

And now to start the festivities, we bring you that Rollicking Rascal from Red Deer – Randolph Ramsbottom, performing his Signature Song –  Randy The Rover!

Randolph:  (in whiteface commeddia makeup as well, with bowler hat and gloves and cane, enters downstage in a follow-spot and strolls back and forth, singing to the tune of ‘Burlington Bertie From Bow’ – on honky-tonk piano):

I’m Randy the Rover,

I’m well-known all over,

By ladies from here to Victoria.

And if you’ve not met me,

I’m sure that you’ll bet me,

A dollar that I’ll never bore ya.

 

Oh, it’s great, great, staying out late

When everyone else is asleep.

I’d rather go swimmin’ with bare-naked women,

Who cares if you get in too deep – deep, deep, deep!

(He does a little soft shoe shuffle routine with hat and cane – pretends to stumble at the end, then sings):

 

Folks call me a lecher,

And I say you betcha

Coz I know they’re just jealous of me

They wish they could follow

My steps and then wallow

In transports of pure ecstasy.

But they’re timid and dumb, too frightened to come,

They’d rather watch telly instead,

It’s safer inside so they stay there and hide

Until they go soft in the head – head, head, head!.

(He performs another  little hat and cane soft shoe shuffle before again singing):

 

I’m known as a rascal

From here to Alaska,

So husbands watch out for your wives.

Coz they all love a rover

And before it’s all over

I’ll make them all run for their lives.

So come, come and join in the fun,

You’re never too old so it’s said,

With Randy the Rover, you’ll think you’re in clover

Or else perhaps you’ll wake up dead – dead,dead,dead.

(He exits on a top hat and cane routine – making a fake vaudeville exit at side of stage to musical flourish)

Hilda: (Stepping forward and applauding) Right folks, let’s give him a big round of clap for sharing his philosophy of life with us… AND NOW, here to bring you a Cautionary Tale on the dangers of  living too long –  omni-present here at The Last Gasp Rest Home – from our Resident Experts – Flora & Dora –  with a Wistful Warning to all you risk takers: Watch Where You Step Or You Might Kick The Bucket!.

 

Two old women in commeddia makeup, wearing flowered housedresses with aprons enter. Their hair is in curlers and tied up with a kerchief, their stockings are below the knee-length and sagging and they wear old slippers. One carries a string mop and empty pail and the other has a janitor’s pushbroom. They sweep and mop the floor as they talk.

Flora: (sweeping) Another one last night, Dora –

Dora: (mopping behind her) What – again?

Flora: Snuffed it.

Dora: Kicked it?

Flora: (nodding) Bucket.

Dora: Who?

Flora: Dick… uhh…(sweeps lazily)

Dora: Not old Dick?

Flora: Yeah, Dick uhh…

Dora: Little Dick?

Flora: No, big Dick.

Dora: I don’t know any big Dicks in here.(stops mopping to wring it out)

Flora: Sure you do – he had a big wart on the end of his…uhh..(holding up broom)

Dora: Dick?

Flora: Nose.

Dora: Ahh, that one – in the bed next to fat old Nellie uhh…(resumes mopping)

Flora: The elephant.

Dora: That’s her – Nellie the Elephant.

Flora: Is she still going strong, then?

Dora: Yeah, never forgets anyone’s name.

Flora: Is that why they call her Nellie the Elephant?

Dora: No. She used to be the fat lady in the …uhh…

Flora: Opera? (stops sweeping)

Dora: No, the uhh…

Flora: The big flowered hat?

Dora: No, no – the ..uhh..

Flora: The red bloomers?

Dora: The circus.

Flora: The circus! Well, I never knew that.(resumes sweeping)

Dora: Oh yes, she was quite a …uhh…

Flora: Size?

Dora: No…uhh…

Flora: Surprise?

Dora: No…uhh…quite a…uhh..

Flora: Handful?

Dora: Sensation.

Flora: Ahh – why was that, then?

Dora: Well, she had this striptease act that showed off her…uhh…(Holding up mop to demonstrate)

Flora: Biggest assets?

Dora: No, her…uhh…

Flora: Best side? Her backside?

Dora: Her tapdancing.

Flora: That must have been quite a sight.

Dora: Yes, she did a tapdance all the way through her striptease act – and ended with a giant flop on ….uhh..on uhh…

Flora: Opening night?

Dora: No, on uhh…

Flora: The audience?

Dora: No, a big flop on…uhh…

Flora: Her ass?

Dora:  A collapsible chair.

Flora:… So now she just lies on her bed next to big Dick… (leaning on broom) But not anymore. Because he snuffed it last night.

Dora: What happened?

Flora: He appears to have suffocated.

Dora: Ahh…Nellie the Elephant got into the wrong bed?

Flora: No – someone put a pillow over …uhh…

Dora: Big Dick?

Flora: No, no, his –uhh…

Dora: Little dick?

Flora: His face.

Dora: I wish someone would put a pillow over my Albert’s face.

Flora: Why? What’s he done?

Dora: Nothing – he’s a total waste of time…tries to get round me – calls me his blonde bombshell – his sweet little honeypot.

Flora: What do you call him?

Dora:(picking up her bucket and mop) Bone idle!

(Both women do clumsy curtsies and exit right as Hilda crosses from left to centre stage clapping.)

Hilda: (applauding) Put your hands together folks, for Flora & Dora! –  because there’s nothing like a happy ending – and that was nothing like a happy ending.

And now! –  moving swiftly on to our Musical Highlight of the evening –  with none other than that First Lady of Twinkle-Toed Terpsicore –  performing her Vivacious Version of  Little Miss Shirley Temple –  to show you how we spend our days here at The Last Gasp Rest Home, with that Incurable Malady commonly known as Old Age… we bring you – your own! – your very own!! – Hettie LaMarr!!!

(Hettie, also in commeddia makeup with red circles on her cheeks, dressed in a frilly tutu, enters strapped in front of Roger, facing the audience, with him behind her, attached at both feet and hands to him, to the music of ‘The Good Ship Lollipop’, doing a Shirley Temple skipping step and twirling her hands in circles and wagging her head from side to side as she/he sings in a child’s voice.

Roger: (tap-dancing with Hettie attached and singing to ukelele music):

On the good ship Lollipop
It’s a sweet trip with some pills to pop
Where uppers play
On the sandy beach in Downers Bay

Prozac stands everywhere
Crack coke bands fill the air
And there you are (whoosh!)
Happy landing on a marijuana bar

See the sugar lumps full of sweet morphine

With the big bad devil Benzadrine
If you eat too much, ooh!
You’ll awake with a tummyache!

On the good ship Lollipop
It’s a nightmare trip at every stop

And dream and scream, hmm!
On the good ship Lollipop

She does a short little dance between each verse and ends with a version of the ‘Sailor’s Hornpipe’ which gets more and more frenzied with each repetition until she collapses on the floor suddenly. The music stops and Matron rushes onstage to pick her up as Roger unhooks her from him.

Matron: (stooping over her) Hettie! Hettie! – Roger, what have you done? I think she’s had a stroke – quick, Nastie! – help me get her back in her wheelchair. (Nastie rushes in pushing the wheelchair and they lift Hettie into it where she sits, drooping forward, her head and arms dangling. They wheel her off upstage and everyone rushes out after her. Except Roger. He stands alone, facing the audience, a big smile breaks out on his face and then  BLACKOUT.)

 

 

 

 

SCENE FOUR: Recreation Room of Rest Home

 

The residents are all sitting round, waiting, Roger is knitting when Hilda comes in with a sheaf of papers. She begins to hand them out to everyone and stops.

Hilda: Where’s Lulu?

Roger: She’s in the kitchen with Nastie.

Randolph: What’s she doing? Not helping cook dinner again, I hope.

Roger: She’s baking.

Randolph: What?

Roger: A surprise, she said.

Hilda: I told her we had business to do this afternoon.

Lulu: (enters upstage in her lime-green turban, holding a plate of fudge high in the air.) Treat time everyone – Ta Daa!

Charlene: (taking one of the little brownies) Smells good, Lulu. What are they?

Lulu: A secret recipe I found in Iris’s old French cookbook. (She hands the plate around and everyone takes one.)

Iris: Which cookbook, Lulu?

Lulu: Alice B. Toklas.

Randolph: Just tastes like brownies to me.

Hilda: So what’s the secret  – a special ingredient?

Lulu: You’ll see – help yourselves. The second one tastes even better.

Iris: (tasting one) Are these what I think they are, Lulu?

Lulu: Maybe.

Everyone munches through the brownies as Hilda explains about the Living Wills to them.

Hilda: Okay everyone – these are  Living Will forms – we need to fill them in and get them witnessed or they don’t count.

Charlene: Don’t we need a lawyer, Hilda?

Hilda: I am a lawyer. Used to be a damn good one, too.

Roger: Not good enough to get yourself out of here, though…

Hilda: I’m working on it.

Randolph: It says here to state clearly what life support systems I want… I don’t want any, Hilda.

Lulu: Put me down for your proxy, Randy. I’ll pull your plug for you. ( She begins to giggle.)

Roger: You think doctors pay any attention to these things? I prefer the Endgame.

Charlene: Look down here – it says it’s not legally enforceable.

Lulu: Plan B, eh? (gives  a little snort)

Randolph: Or B&B – belt and braces. (sniggers)

Hilda: Hoo! I feel a bit strange – what’s in these brownies, Lulu?

Lulu: I told you – (giggling) secret ingredient.

Hilda: Iris – where’s your form?

Iris: I don’t need one. I’ve got mine tattoed right here (points to chest) DO NOT RESUSCITATE. That’s my living will.

Randolph: (sniggers) Let’s have a look, then, Iris.

Iris: No! (She crumples up form and chucks it at Randolph).

Roger: Go on, Iris, flash for us – (snickers)

Iris: Roger! (tries to frown but then grins and giggles too.)

Randolph: Just a quick peep –

Lulu: – for a pipsqueak – (chuckles at her joke)

A ripple of sniggering spreads round the group.

Charlene: (grinning) You’ll have to show the ambulance men, Iris –

Lulu: And all the hospital internes will want to see it, too –

Others: (hooting and laughing) Yeah, that’s right –

come on, Iris –

better get used to it –

don’t be shy –

Iris: (stands downstage of the smirking, giggling group and faces upstage) Okay, you asked for it!

(She stands, legs spread-eagled, arms akimbo – then peels off her cardigan and twirls it above her head – a wolf-whistle from Randolph as she throws cardigan at him. He throws crumpled form back at Iris. Laughter. She undoes her blouse and with both hands suddenly holds it wide open. Everyone stares. Silence.)

Hilda: (Breaking the silence)I doubt if that would stand up in court, Iris.

Everyone collapses, hooting, giggling, laughing hysterically. Iris joins in, doing up her clothes and trying to put on her cardigan upside down or inside out. During rest of scene  everyone gets progressively high on Lulu’s medical marijuana which she has stolen and baked in the hashish brownies…

 

Hilda: (holding up Living Will form and waving it at them – loud voice over din) Without this – you could end up in a permanent vegetababble – permable vegetan – veg – e – ta –

tive state.(wags her finger owlishly at them and sits.)

Charlene: (sober) A cabbage.

Randolph: I hate cabbage – why not a cauliflower?

Lulu: You’ll probably wind up a shrivelled little carrot, Randy.(Holds up her little finger, teasing, makes a suggestive gesture, crooking it and giggling)

Roger: (pompous) Nope. Always a cabbage – that’s the law.

Charlene: (Picks up her form) So – a Living Will or a living cabbage.

Lulu: Neither! (crumples up her form and throws it at Hilda, giggling, out of control) Stuff your Living Will!

Randolph: (balling his form up too and throws it at Hilda, laughing hysterically) Yeah – and stuff your cabbage!

Hilda: (stands, shrugs then grabs last hashish brownie from plate and shouts) Turning On! (Stuffs brownie in her mouth and joins the fray, crumpling Will forms and throwing them back)

The others start throwing forms at each other and hooting like school kids.  From upstage left Nastie appears wearing one of Lulu’s orange wigs over one eye and languidly pushing Hettie in her wheelchair who has Lulu’s purple turban askew on her head and lolling to one side. Nastie is totally stoned, singing to herself, and twirls a teatowel in the air with one hand and pushes wheelchair with the other,  weaving her way downstage amongst the others.

Nastie: Hettie wants a Living Will, too!

Roger: Can we do one for her, Hilda?

Hilda: (shaking her head slowly) Too late. She has to be able to sign it.

They all turn to look at Hettie, slumped in her wheelchair. They slowly congregate around her, touching her, as lights fade to BLACKOUT

 

 

SCENE FIVE: Next Day at Rest Assured Rest Home

 

A young woman, wearing a coat, Cordelia, doubled by one of staff members, enters upstage with a lifesize puppet-toddler holding her hand and Nastie’s, who leads them downstage to a settee where Iris is waiting. The puppet is dressed as a little girl and walks with a stiff-legged toddler’s lurching gait. Nastie picks her up and puts her on Iris’ lap.

Nastie: Here’s your grandma, Lucy. Would you like to sit on her lap? (The child/puppet looks at Iris, then her mother and then nods.) Good. You sit there and I’ll see if there’s some ice-cream left from lunch. It was chocolate. I love chocolate – is that your favourite, too? (puppetchild nods again) Good. I’ll be right back. (exits)

Iris: (kissing her and holding her on lap) Hello sweetheart, what a surprise! Did you and Mummy come all the way on the train? (puppet/child nods)  Oh, Cordelia, thank you for coming. I know it’s a long trip but I needed to speak to you in person.

Cordelia: (hugging her mother and sitting down on couch beside her. She helps remove puppet/child’s coat while Iris holds her.) I’m sorry it’s been so long, Mom, but you know how awkward it is to get time off. And I couldn’t find anyone to take Lucy at such short notice.

Iris: I’m glad you brought her, darling. I never see enough of her. (She lifts puppet/child up from her lap and hugs her, then sets her down on couch between them.)

Cordelia: Oh Mother, it doesn’t have to be like this if you’d only agree –

Iris: Please Cordelia, don’t start – you know you could never cope with all three of us on your own. I know what it’s like to be a single parent – don’t try to fool me.

Cordelia: We could manage somehow….

Iris: With me getting worse and worse? – not even being able to look after Lucy for you… That’s why I needed to see you.

Cordelia: What is it – has something happened?

Iris: No, not exactly –  Yes, it has. I’ve made a decision and I want you to help me.

Cordelia: What kind of decision, mother?

Iris: The doctors told me after the operation that I wouldn’t have much longer, even with the stoma bag – it’s spread all through me – so I’ve decided to go to Switzerland to that Thanatos Clinic and I need you to arrange it –

Cordelia: No, Mother, no! I couldn’t.

Iris: Yes, you could. It’s not that difficult. I’ve worked it all out – see? I’ve written everything down for you –  and the cheque is in the envelope (she takes envelope from her handbag and hands it to Cordelia.)

Cordelia: No, Mother, it’s impossible – I could never agree.

Iris: Please, Cordelia. It’s what I want. And you’re the only one who can help me –

Cordelia: Well, it’s not what I want, Mother… I want to look after you now – to pay you back for everything you did for me since I was Lucy’s age. (puppet/child looks at her when she hears her name)

Iris: You don’t owe me anything, Cordelia. I’m asking you this as one last favour you can do me, before it’s too late.

Cordelia: I’m sorry, Mother, I just can’t… please don’t ask – Look, why don’t we take this money (holds envelope) and use it to get someone to come in and care for you while I’m at work? I could take you back with us now, on the train… You’d like that, wouldn’t you, Lucy? (Once again the puppet/child looks from one to the other – then nods her head as they each hold her arms)

Iris: And when we run out of money – what then? I don’t have that much left and I’d rather it was spent on you and Lucy instead of wasted on a dying old woman.

Cordelia: Please don’t talk like that – I hate it when you get in these black moods. Let  me talk to the doctors again. See if we can work something out, Mom.

Iris: It’s no use. They’ll just tell you the same thing they told me… If you won’t do this for me, do it for Lucy. That’s who we should be thinking about. (She picks up puppet/child on to her lap again.)

Cordelia: I’m going to talk to that new doctor at work, anyway – see what she says.

Iris: So you refuse to help me?

Cordelia: I could never live with myself if I did. And what would I tell Lucy? That I helped kill her grandmother?

Iris: You’re being melodramatic, Cordelia. What I’m asking you is perfectly simple and easy – and you don’t have to tell Lucy anything…. Old people die – she’ll accept that. It’s natural.

Cordelia: It’s not natural to me, not this way – and it certainly isn’t easy or simple… I’m sorry, Mother, I don’t want to even discuss this anymore when you’re in this mood. (She picks up puppet/child in her arms) Lucy and I will come back next month, after I’ve seen the new doctor. I know we can work something out. (She puts coat back on Lucy) Goodbye, Mother…. Say bye-bye to Grandma, Lucy. (The puppet/child hesitantly waves her hand over her mother’s shoulder as they exit upstage.)

Iris: (remains seated – a small wave of her hand) Goodbye.

BLACKOUT

 

SCENE SIX:  Matron’s Office in Rest Home

 

A staff member, doubling as the Detective enters downstage to walk back and forth with Matron in her office in the Rest Assured Rest Home. He is a parody of a Hercule Poirot pompous type with slicked down hair and curled moustache.

He carries a large unlit cigar, which Matron strokes suggestively during their conversation as she tries to win him over to avoid any suspicion. He too, becomes enamoured of her and makes suggestive overtures to her in return and becomes distracted from his enquiries. The whole exchange between them becomes more exaggerated and outrageous as the scene progresses.

Detective: ( French-Canadian accent) You realise Ma’mselle ‘Udson, zat you or your staff are ze chief suspects if ze docteur is correct and your patient died of a drug ovairdose?

Matron: But anyone might have given it to her…. Her daughter, even.

Det: Possible, oui and I will be interviewing ze patients as well. But as you and your staff ‘ad daily access to all ze drug medications, I will start avec vous.

Matron: Iris was very popular with everyone, Detective SansClue. What possible reason would I have to give her an overdose?

Det: I can sink of ‘alf a dozen raisons, Mlle. ‘Udson but until I  ‘ave spoken to everybodee here, I do not wish to speculate… ‘owever – I ‘ave formulated a théory, concerning zese sudden unexplained deaths of so many old peoples… Per’aps you would like to hear it, ma’mselle?

Matron: Kitty.

Det: Pardon?

Matron: Please –  call me Kitty… I’m sorry, Detective SansClue, there’s no smoking permitted in the Rest Assured, but I could hold your cigar for you (strokes it) –

Det: I am Hervé – but my colleagues call me Hercule – like Poirot (twirls mustache in imitation of the famous French detective)

Matron: So – Hercule – (leans into him seductively) Tell me more about your – theory. (licks her finger, then strokes his mustache).

Det:Bon! (pulls out chair for her to sit) Zo, Mlle Kittee. According to my exhaustif research from ‘alifax to Vancouvair, all of zese cases are very similair. So similair, en effet, zat I am convinced zere is a –  conspiracee.

Matron: You think Iris – Mrs Corday’s death is linked to others? How?

Det: Very simple, Mlle Kittee. First of all, ze whole country is depressed –

Matron: Depressed? About what?

Det: L’argent – money, of course. It is in ze news every day.

Matron: That we’re depressed?

Det: Oui. It is ze1930’s all ovair again.

Matron: I see. The Depression.

Det: Exactement – ze Dépression.

Matron: And you think – the Depression killed Iris?

Det: Mais non! Ze gouvernement.

Matron: The government killed Iris? But why?

Det: (explaining) Ze Dépression is blamed on ze gouvernement. Nobodee ‘ave ze monnaie to pay for ze old peoples to stay in your Rest Assured Rest ‘Ome – so ze gouvernement – how do you say -‘turns ze blind eye’ to what ‘appens in ze old people’s ‘omes. Soon, ze relatifs réalise zat you can be –  encouragée to give ze ovairdose – et voila – un conspiracee!

Matron: (strokes his cigar suggestively) But Monsieur Sansclue – Hercule, you surely don’t think I could do such a thing?

Det: Zat is my théorie, Ma’mselle Kittee– but now zat I ‘ave met you, I find it difficulte to suspect someone so – (leers and gestures)charmante – maybe some othair staff…. ‘Oo else beside yourself, administered ze drugs to your patients?

Matron: We don’t refer to them as patients, Hercule.(Confidential – fingering his lapel) We prefer to call them clients. (takes his unlit cigar and pops it in his mouth)

Det: Call zem what you like, Mlle. Kittee, – please – just answer ze question.

Matron: I am the only one with a key to the drug cupboard but I delegate the actual dispensing to my staff. In this case, Dr.Sanglant and Anastasia.

Det: I will talk to zem next, zen and afterwards to your patientsclientes. ‘Ow many are zere living ‘ere?

Matron: Well, only six of them are ambulatory and able to look after themselves.

Det: What is zis ‘ambulatoire’?

Matron: Mobile. Walking. The rest are bed-ridden or wheelchair-bound. So that’s thirteen in all, if you count Iris.

Det: And ‘oo was it ‘oo found ze bodee, Mlle. Kittee?

Matron: Anastasia. She’s a nursing assistant. It was my day off, Hercule..

Det: I would like to speak to her next. She is ‘ere?

Matron: Yes. She was very distraught, so I gave her something to calm her down. Anastasia tends to become too attached to the clients and Iris – Mrs Corday, was her favourite – after Hettie. She’s probably with Hettie now. Shall I get her for you, Hercule?

Det: In a moment. Did Mme Corday ‘ave any family?

Matron: Iris had a daughter by a French student in Paris but he disappeared long ago. Her daughter lives in Yellowknife.

Det: Yellow Knife? What is  zat? An arrondissement of Vancouvair?

Matron: It’s in the arctic, Hercule.

Det: Ah oui – of course. Couteau Jaune – Yellow Knife…Yellowknife…. Did she visit her mother often, Ma’mselle Kittee?

Matron: Whenever she could afford it – several times a year. She was just here two days ago.

Det: Did she discuss ‘er mothair with you before she left?

Matron: I was in town when she came and didn’t see her. But Anastasia spoke to her and played with her child, she told me.

Det: Très convenient.

Matron: What does that mean?

Det: Only zat you seem to contrive to be absent at key moments in ze death of your patient, Mlle. Kittee. Almost as if you were constructing an alibi?

Matron: (Hurt and huffy)This is a very stressful job, Hercule. I am entitled to certain time off.

Det: Of course, bien sûr….And so, on zese certain times – certain convenient times, you delegate your authority to an inexperienced, emotional, nursing assistante.

Matron: That’s not true. I never leave Anastasia in charge – the clients run rings round her. Dr.Sanglant is responsible when I’m away.

Det: Ahh!Your deputee. I saw him as I arrived – very busy with one of the female clientes. Per’aps he was also busy when Mme Corday was found by your distressed nursing assistante ….

Matron: Are you accusing Dr.Sanglant of Iris’s suicide, Hercule?

Det: Assisted suicide, per’aps.

Matron: On what possible grounds?

Det: On ze grounds zat zere ‘ave been an unusual number of suicides at zis Rest Assured Rest ‘Ome recently. It would appear someone is assisting zem.If not you, Mlle Kittee, then per’aps Dr.Sanglant. Will you ask Anastasie to come in now – maybe she can add quelquechose.

Matron: You’re wasting your time, Hercule, if you think  Anastasia had anything to do with it. She is devoted to them all, especially Iris.

Det: (Stroking her nurse’s watch pinned to her bosom) Allow me to decide ‘ow to spend my time, Mlle. Kittee – just ask her to come in.

Matron: (Suggestively) Would you like me to stay, Hercule?

Det: Non, non – Later per’aps…? (They mime a seductive exit)

Matron exits. A moment later, Nastie enters, clutching her hanky.

Det: I understand you were fond of Mme Corday, Anastasie. Did her suicide surprise you?

Nastie: Not really. I heard her talking to her daughter about going to that place in Switzerland. Are you from Paris, Detective Sansclue?

Det: Mais non! Trois Rivières.

Nastie: Is that near Paris? Iris used to live in Paris.

Det: Mmm… So she was planning ‘er suicide for awhile zen?

Nastie: I don’t know how long. But her daughter refused to help her. She wanted Iris to come and live with her instead.

Det: So she didn’t get ze drug ovairdose from her daughter. Do you know ‘oo might ‘ave given it to her, Anastasie?

Nastie: No. Hilda was the only one who had a secret supply and she said she was saving it for herself.

Det: Ahh! I see. And where would ‘Ilda ‘ave got it from in ‘ere?

Nastie: She wouldn’t say – but only Matron and Dr.Sanglant ever give out the drug medication. I never touch it.

Det: I’m sure you don’t, Anastasie. I only wondered if she might ‘ave got it from somewhere else?

Nastie: Maybe. Dr.Sanglant took them all out in the minibus one night when Matron was off-duty.

Det: Did Mme Corday go too?

Nastie: Yes. She even got a tattoo that night – she showed me (demonstrates) ‘Do not resuscitate’. Right here.

Det: (peering into her blouse) Ahh! I see. Where she and Dr.Sanglant friendly?

Nastie: Oh no. Iris hated him – she tried to get him fired.

Det: Pourquoi?

Nastie: She said he was creepy and he tried to get her money.

Det: Creepee? ‘ow, exactement?

Nastie: Well, he’s always creeping around here at night. And he kept trying to sell her his medical marijuana.

Det. Marijuana! –  ‘ere?

Nastie: Oh yes. In the basement – he has lots of it.

Det:  Anastasie,  I must ask you not to mention any ‘ting we ‘ave talked about to anyone ‘ere. Just say I wanted to know ‘ow you found Mme Corday’s body, s’il vous plait?

(Nastie nods and he leads her out by the arm.) BLACKOUT.

 

SCENE SEVEN: – Midnight. In the Rest Home

 

The stage is dark. An LED blue-white light beams around upstage left. Someone wearing a headlamp is carrying a rectangular shape and adding it to a stack we can just make out from the dim greenish light from the basement. He goes back and another is handed up to him. He stacks it with the others then goes down into the basement. We see only shadows flickering on the walls from the movements of people in the basement.

 

Downstage left another flashlight beam plays around the downstage area and then moves slowly across to downstage right. A dim desk lamp comes on. Matron moves to her desk facing downstage. She begins to take out folders from her desk and sift out document files. She turns on a document shredder on the floor and begins to shred the files in it.

 

Upstage left, the figure with the LED headlamp appears with another rectangle. He is followed close behind by two more figures.

 

A switch clicks loudly  and suddenly the stage is brightly lit. Downstage left stand Detective SansClue and beside him Anastasia. They watch Matron stuffing sheets into the shredder. Anastasia points and they turn to look upstage to a stack of trays holding large green marijuana plants. Dr Sanglant is caught  in the bright lights carrying another tray of plants. Randolph bumps into him with another tray of plants and Lulu pushes them both ahead with another trayful. They all freeze in the lights. Matron looks up and freezes with her hand held over the shredder. Detective SansClue slowly turns to audience and spreads his arms.

Det: Voila! – Un Conspiracee!!

BLACKOUT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SCENE EIGHT: A Vancouver Court Room. Day.

 

A  portable high mock judge’s bench is wheeled in by a staff member dressed as court official, later followed by a staff member dressed as judge with token wig and gown and gavel. The official stands in front of bench and rattles off his stock speech.

Court Official: All rise. CourtroomnumberthreeoftheBCprovincialcourtofappealsinandofthesaidprovinceisnowin

sessionhonourableJudgeJudgepresiding! (Official moves to one side as judge in wig,  enters in a sweeping curve in a long cloak and sails up like a Russian cossack dancer to sit on high stool behind his bench.

 

Judge:(pounds on bench with gavel). Order! Order! This court is now in session. What are the charges?

Det. SansClue: Your honneur, I ‘ave uncovered a giant conspiracee at ze Rest Assured Rest ‘Ome.  First, it involves assisted suicide of a patient.

Judge: Who is the accused?

Det: Madame ‘ilda Smith (points at her)

Hilda: (rising) Smythe – and I protest –

Judge: What are the other charges?

Det: Second, Operating an illegal marijuana grow-op, your honneur.

Judge: Who is the accused?

Det: Dr Yves Sanglant (points)

Yves: This is ridiculous! – I have a permit –

Judge: Any further charges?

Det: Numbair Three: Conspiring with patients’ relatifs to administer illegal ovairdoses and accepting bribes.

Judge: Who is the accused?

Det: Ma’mselle Kittee ‘Udson – Matron of ze Rest Assured Rest ‘Ome. (points)

Matron: I can explain! It’s all a mistake –

Judge: Call your first witness!

Det: Ma’mselle Anastasie Livingston – nursing assistante at ze Rest ‘Ome.

A small low witness box is wheeled in close beside the high judge’s bench by the court official, followed by Nastie who steps up into box.

Judge: Are you a nurse at the home, Anastasia?

Nastie: Oh no – there’s no nurses – only Matron. I’m just a helper.

Det: And you ‘elp out in ze kitchen?

Nastie: I like to help the residents bake.

Det: Exhibit A, your honneur – Anastasie, will you show ze judge what you brought?

Nastie produces a small plate with two brownies and puts it up on the judge’s bench.

Judge: Brownies – is this evidence, Detective SansClue? (He picks one up and examines it, sniffing, then tasting it.) Chocolate – mmm! Did you help bake these, Anastasia?

Nastie: Yes, me and Lulu made a big batch of them for the residents. Those are all that’s left.

Judge: (taking another large bite) I can see why. Very tasty.

Det: Can you tell ze judge what makes zem so tastee?

Nastie: Lulu’s secret ingredient – she gets it from Dr. Sanglant.

Det: And where does he get it, Anastasie?

Nastie: From the basement – he’s got lots of it down there.

Judge: (finishing off the brownie and licking his fingers) And just what is this delicious secret ingredient, Anastasia?

Nastie: Lulu calls it ‘medical’ marijuana.

Det: (triumphant) From Dr.Sanglant’s illegal marijuana grow-op!

Yves: (jumping up) I can explain everything!

Judge: ( pounds with his gavel) Silence in court! Continue with the charges, Detective SansClue.

Det: I call Madame ‘Ilda Smith next.

Nastie steps down and sits as Hilda steps up into the witness box.

Judge: (nibbling at the 2nd brownie as he reads the charge sheet.) Mrs Hilda Smith you are –

Hilda: Smythe, your honour.

Judge:Mrs Smythe –  you are charged with the assisted suicide of a fellow resident. How do you plead, guilty or not guilty?

Hilda: Not guilty.

Judge:(Continuing to nibble remaining brownie surreptitiously) You are further charged with illegally procuring banned substances for the purpose of aiding and abetting in the aforesaid charge. How say you, guilty or not guilty?

Hilda: Not guilty.

Judge: (nibbling brownie)Where is your defence counsel?

Hilda: I shall conduct my own defence, your honour.

Judge: These are serious charges, incurring heavy penalties. If found guilty you could spend the rest of your life in prison. Do you still wish to defend yourself, Mrs. Smith?

Hilda: Smythe, your honour. I am a qualified lawyer and practised for many years until my illness caused me to retire prematurely.

Judge: (Licking his lips and brushing off crumbs) What exactly were these causes?

Hilda: Memory loss due to a major stroke.

Judge: And how did this affect your practice of the law, Mrs. Smith?

Hilda: Smythe –

Judge:  Smythe – yes – I myself, often forget things but it doesn’t affect my being a judge.(Scrutinizes the last piece of brownie for a moment as if it were evidence, before popping it in his mouth) And I certainly have no intention of resigning my position.

Hilda: Well, for example, I started saying, “Your honour, my client, Mister…ahhh, Mister umm…uhhh”… much to the amusement of the court.

Judge:(Stares at her for a moment, then snorts, snorts again more loudly, then a long snigger. Clears his throat and straightens up) Ahem …yes. Continue, Mrs Smith – Smythe  …where were we? Oh yes, you have the floor.

Hilda: In his haste to pin my friend’s suicide on me, Detective…um…uhh (points to SansClue) Him!…is using hearsay evidence only. No one saw me giving Iris – Mrs. Corday, any drugs and I was not with her when she died. Furthermore, I have witnesses –

fellow residents who have sworn that I was with them at the time. (She hands him several affadavits)

Judge: (Flips idly through them, sets them aside and picks last crumbs off the plate) Do you deny obtaining illegal drug substances with a view to assisting the suicide of Mrs. um…uhh…Mrs –  your friend –  What was her name?

Hilda: Who? Iris?

Judge: Iris who?

Hilda: I can’t remember.

Judge: (waving this aside) Anyway, do you deny it?

Hilda: Deny what?

Judge: The charge!

Hilda: Which charge?

Judge: (snickers) Detective SansClue?

Det: ‘Obtaining illegal drug substances wiz a view to assisting Madame Corday’s suicide’.

Judge and Hilda: (in unison, remembering, point to each other) Corday!

Hilda: I acquired those drugs for my own use, when the time comes.

Judge:So you have them still in your possession?

Hilda: No, I don’t. They have gone missing.

Judge: And you did not give them to Mrs…uhh…um… don’t tell me!…(snaps his fingers frantically)

Hilda and Judge: (in unison – teamwork) Corday!! (They high-five each other) Yess!!

Hilda: I may have mentioned to her that I had them, however.

Judge: So – she stole them.

Hilda: It’s possible. Our rooms are not locked. Anyone might have – including them! (points to Matron and Yves)

Judge: Yes, it’s possible. That’s all for now. You may step down, Mrs…uhh…um…

Hilda: Call me Hilda.

Judge: George. (They do the elaborate street handshake – Hand clasp, thumb lock, wrist clasp, touching bunched fists together) Thank you, Hilda.  – Over to you, SansClue!  (Chuckles and laughs to himself, shaking his head. Paws through papers on his bench – finds empty plate – picks it up and begins licking it.)

Det: I call Ma’mselle ‘Udson – Matron of ze Rest Assured Rest Home.

Matron swivels her hips up and into the witness box and crosses her legs provocatively for the judge. He stops licking the plate to watch her, then leans over the side of his bench  to look down into the witness box, leering at her.

Judge: (drawls) Well, Ma’mselle – and how are you today?

Matron: (Puts her hands over her face and begins to sob loudly.)

Judge: Now, now – (pulls out his big white handkerchief and hands it to her) You just dry those eyes and tell old Judge Georgie here, what the problem is.

Matron: (Dabbing at her eyes and pointing to Yves and SansClue) They are!

Judge: They are, are they?… SansClue! –  what have you been doing to upset this young lady?

Det: I ‘ave charged her with conspiring with patientsrelatifs, to administer illegal ovairdoses and accepting bribes.

Judge: (Snorts)Well, no wonder she’s upset! You expect me to believe that, SansClue?

Det: (Gallic shrug) Ask ‘er yourself, your honneur…

Judge: I will! – Now, Miss …uhh…umm…

Matron: Hudson –  but you can call me Kitty, Judge – (she adjusts her cleavage for him)

Judge: (leaning over the bench to ogle her) Kitty …(calls to her as if to a kitten) kittykittykitty…(strokes her hair as if a catconfidential) What he said – old SansClue there – it’s not true, is it, Kitty?

Matron: It’s not my fault…I was only carrying out orders.(starts to sob again)

Judge: I knew it! Orders from who, Kitty?

Matron: Yves – Dr Sanglant. He wrote the prescriptions. I just …administered them.

Yves: That’s a lie! It was her idea – hers and Lester’s –

Hilda: Lester! My son? I knew it! He’s been bribing them to keep me doped up in that bloody place! Miserable little bastard!

Det: I was right! – un Conspiracee!!

Judge: (pounds on his bench with gavel – shouts) Order! Order!! Anastasia! – (holds up empty plate) Is there any more ‘evidence’?

Nastie: No, your honour. You ate the last of it.

Judge: CASE DISMISSED FOR LACK OF EVIDENCE! (Bangs gavel) Kitty, join me in my chambers – (Doffing his wig to her, he swirls out in his long judge’s cloak,  spinning his wig on top of his gavel, with Kitty on his arm, she waves his big handkerchief at them all as they swan offstage.

BLACKOUT

 

SCENE NINE: In the Garden of the Rest Home

 

Nastie wheels Hettie in from upstage to downstage centre with Charlene following. Nastie carries a small folding stool which she puts in front of Hettie’s wheelchair.

Nastie: We’ll be fine here in the garden, Charlene, nobody will disturb us. Now, just watch and I’ll see if I can convince you. Matron and Dr.Sanglant both told me I’m being foolish –. They say Hettie never responds to anyone, there’s no one in there.

(While she talks, she is bending over Hettie, smoothing her hair, stroking her hands and trying to look into her face. But Hettie only sits slumped in the wheelchair, head lolling forward and to one side – no visible movement at all.)

Charlene: Are you sure this is a good idea, Nastie – you won’t upset her?

Nastie: My mom watches all these cable TV shows with those shouting preachers – always trying to get her to send them money. And on one show she saw this old lady come up from the audience, to speak to someone in a wheelchair they had onstage. It was an old man who hadn’t spoken to anyone for years. The preacher said he was possessed by the devil but my mom said it was more like neglect than the devil.

Charlene: I don’t know how you can bear watching those shows, Nastie. You can’t believe any of them.

Nastie: Oh, I don’t watch them. It’s my mom. She doesn’t believe them either. But she still watches them.They’re always shouting at the audience, she says. As if  they shout loud enough they can force you to believe. My mom shouts back at them.

Charlene: She actually goes to these shows, Nastie?

Nastie: No, she just shouts at the TV.

Charlene: Good for her.

Nastie: Anyway, she said this old lady, her hands all crippled up with arthritis, asked if she could talk to the old man, so they let her. She started to stroke his hands and then his hair (she demonstrates with Hettie while she tells her story,) and then started stroking his cheeks – right up by his temples – like this (demonstrates on Hettie again) But the old man never moved. She asked if he could hear her okay and then she said could he open his eyes and the old man did. She kept on smoothing his cheeks and asked him if he could see her face – she was up real close to him and looking right into his eyes. My mom said the old lady told the audience that was what mothers did with their babies – stroking their faces and looking right into their eyes – up real close. (She has tipped Hettie’s head up to look into her face – very close and continuing to stroke her cheeks. Charlene comes closer to watch and stands beside Hettie with one hand resting on her back and smoothing her.)

Charlene: Do you think she sees you, Nastie?

Nastie: (nods) Maybe. And hears me. And feels me, too.

Charlene: (strokes Hettie’s hair very lightly) Then what happened?

Nastie: The old lady started to sing to him – very slowly – like he was a baby.

Charlene: What did she sing – a lullabye?

Nastie: ‘Jesus Loves Me.’

Charlene: Oh god, I knew it.

Nastie: My mom said the old lady told everyone it had to be a song they remembered when they were young. That’s why she chose it, not because it was religious.

Charlene: I’ll bet.

Nastie: (Continues stroking Hettie) Anyway, she kept singing – real slow and keeping real close eye contact…. And that’s when it happened.

Charlene: He called her ‘Mommy’.

Nastie:… He started to sing with her – very high and shaky…. Right to the end.

Charlene: And then what? – Don’t tell me – he got out of the wheelchair and walked….

Nastie: No, silly. They just sat looking at each other – holding hands.

(Pause.)

Charlene: And you’ve tried this with Hettie?

Nastie: (nods)

Charlene: And it worked?

Nastie: (shakes her head) That’s why I wanted you to come. I would have asked Iris, only she’s – gone.

Charlene: (comes round to stroke Nastie’s back in turn) I know. It’s what Iris wanted.

Nastie: Did she? Maybe she was just all alone – like that old man. And Hettie.

Charlene: Maybe. I didn’t know Iris as well as you did.

Nastie: I loved her – like Hettie.

Charlene: I like Hettie, too. I didn’t at first – she frightened me. Just sitting there all day – motionless.

Nastie: I tried doing like the old lady did –  singing to her…

Charlene: ‘Jesus Loves Me’?

Nasty: (nods) Nothing happened.

Charlene: Maybe she didn’t like the song….

Nastie: That’s why I thought you might know a song that would work, Charlene.

Charlene: I see. (Comes round to stare into Hettie’s eyes) – She used to be a dancer, you know.

Nastie: Yes, in Paris. At the Crazy Horse Saloon –  Iris told me.

Charlene: Perhaps her mother was a dancer, too. She might have sung her show tunes instead of lullabyes.

Nastie: Like what, though? Do you know any we could try, Charlene?

Charlene: Dozens – hundreds, maybe. We could be here all night.

Nastie: Couldn’t we just try one?

Charlene: I think a nursery rhyme might be a better bet. Have you tried any, Nastie?

Nastie: No, I only did ‘Jesus Loves Me.’

Charlene: What did your mom used to sing to you – do you remember?

Nastie: (shakes her head) I don’t think she sang anything.

Charlene: Oh, I’ll bet she did. You could ask her…

Nastie: Do you remember what your mom sang to you?

Charlene: (pause, then sings quietly in a small voice, like a child)

‘Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do…’

Nastie: I know that! – my Grandma used to sing me that. Can we try it with Hettie, Charlene?

Charlene: Okay – it’s a long shot. But she might remember it, too.

(The two women go back to Hettie’s wheelchair but this time Nastie stands beside Hettie, stroking her back and Charlene sits in front, looking in Hettie’s face, stroking her hands and placing them on the arms of the wheelchair, then smoothing her cheeks and temples. They both begin humming softly and then sCharlene begins to sing very slowly.)

‘Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do,

I’m half crazy over the love of you,

It won’t be a stylish marriage,

I can’t afford a carriage,

But you’ll look sweet, upon the seat

Of a bicycle built for two.’

The lights fade out as the song comes to an end with only a single spot holding briefly on them in a pool of light. FADE TO BLACKOUT.

 

 

SCENE TEN: A Local Lake

Two staff members enter, dressed in black, carrying rolled up blue cloth which they unfurl across stage at waist height and undulate it slowly to represent the lake. Following them are Yves and Lulu paddling a canoe –not realistic but stylised- a simple painted two-dimensional canvas supported on a shoulder strap over each of their shoulders. Yves paddles while Lulu sits facing him, trailing her fingers in the water, holding a Japanese parasol over her head. She wears an orange turban. They are arguing as he paddles.

Lulu: Every time we do something together it costs twice as much as the last time, Yves. I didn’t ask you to buy a canoe – just rent one.

Yves: If you don’t like it, we can go back right now. I didn’t want to do it anyway – you know I can’t swim.

Lulu: I’m not stupid, Yves – I know what you’re doing. You think I’ll pay anything for your company.

Yves: You never complained before, Lulu. You always say I give good value for the money.

Lulu: Not anymore. Why are you ripping me off, lately?

Yves: It’s high risk, arranging these outings for you, Lulu. Ever since Iris blew the whistle on me, Matron watches me like a hawk.

Lulu: She’s not jealous of an old woman like me, surely?

Yves: Not jealous – frightened.

Lulu: Matron frightened of me? – that’s a laugh.

Yves: She thinks I’ll get fired and drag her down with me.

Lulu: And would you?

Yves: It’s what I threaten her with. Otherwise she’d have got rid of me when Iris complained.

Lulu: Goddam Iris!. Why’d she have to go and screw things up between us, anyway. I just want to be able to enjoy life while I still can.

Yves: Bit late to be blaming Iris, now she’s dead.

Lulu: That’s what I mean – she got everyone on edge and now the cops are sniffing around again.

The waves become a little rougher.

Yves: Look I don’t think we should go out any farther, Lulu. I think  a storm might be coming.

Lulu: See? You take my money and then can hardly wait to get rid of me.

Yves: I’ve told you – I have to watch my step.

Lulu: Is that your excuse for not coming to my room anymore? You know how much I love your visits, Yves.

Yves: No more. You won’t be seeing me in your bed any longer. It’s finished, Lulu. Too risky.

Lulu: (folds her parasol) I don’t believe you. You’ve found a new victim, haven’t you?

Yves: You knew our arrangement.

Lulu: It’s Charlene, isn’t it? She’s your new ‘arrangement.’

Yves: You don’t know what you’re talking about. Me and Charlene have an understanding.

Lulu: (poking him with furled parasol) I knew it was Charlene. She’s the reason I hardly see you now – not Matron…

Yves: Charlene doesn’t make ridiculous demands on me –

Lulu: Ridiculous! Is that what you think I am – ridiculous? (She begins to hit him with furled parasol) You bastard!

Yves: ( fending her off with his paddle) Stop it, Lulu.

Lulu: (standing up and beating him over the head with parasol) I’ll show you who’s ridiculous, goddam you!

Waves become more violent and a roll of thunder.

Yves: (tries to steady canoe and fend her off at same time) Lulu – sit down, you crazy bitch! You’ll upset the canoe – I can’t swim – sit down! (He reaches up to try to pull her back down)

Lulu:(rocking canoe side to side) Crazy, am I? Well, I can swim – I used to be a good swimmer. (She deliberately tips canoe over. A shout from Yves and a splash as they fall out of canoe and the water rises now up to their necks as their heads reappear above the blue cloth which is billowing wildly and a crack of lightning and more thunder. Their arms wave about and Yves grabs her around the neck shouting)

Yves: I can’t swim – I can’t swim! Lulu!

Lulu: Let go of me, Yves – let go!

More splashing, her turban falls off revealing her bald head –  billowing waves, thunder, lightning and they both sink beneath the waves, then BLACKOUT.

 

SCENE ELEVEN: In the Garden of the Rest Home

 

Charlene and Roger are seated either side of a table with revolver in middle.. They play Russian Roulette with revolver Charlene bought. Roger puts a single bullet in the chamber and spins it round, then sets it back down on the table.They both count aloud to three, then each makes a grab for the gun.

Roger/Charlene: One-two-three!

Charlene snatches it and spins the chamber as Roger has demonstrated. She holds the gun to her head, makes a grimace, closes her eyes and pulls the trigger. A click. Blank. She slumps back in her chair.

Roger takes the gun from her and sets the revolver back down on the middle of the table.

Roger: Ready? (Charlene nods and sits up to the table again.

Roger/Charlene: One-two- three! (They both lunge for the gun but this time Roger grabs it. He holds it up – spins the chamber – holds it to his head. Pauses. Then points it at the ceiling and pulls the trigger. Click. Blank. He grins at Charlene, spins the chamber and puts the revolver back on the centre of the table.

Roger:Ready?(Charlene nods again)

Roger/Charlene:One – two – three! (They both reach for the gun together and a struggle ensues.The table is upset. They stand up, wrestling each other up close for control of the gun. A loud bang as the gun goes off. Charlene slides slowly to the floor and Roger stands holding the revolver.. Freeze.  Matron and male staff member rush in.

Matron: Charlene!(She bends over the fallen body as other staff member takes the gun from Roger’s hand. He  and Matron lift the body of Charlene and carry her out between them. Matron glares at Roger, pointing her finger at him threateningly.

Roger:It was only a game –

Matron:I’ve warned you about your stupid games.

Roger: (following them as they carry Charlene offstage) I can explain…(He exits behind them)

Nastie enters pushing Hettie slumped in the wheelchair, staring straight out into the audience. She fusses over her for a minute until Roger re-enters to take over the wheelchair and then she exits back upstage.

Roger: (begins wheeling Hettie round the stage and stops downstage left.) The Endgame Gang’s all gone now, Hettie. Lulu in the lake, Iris with her overdose, Charlene shot, Hilda  and her hybrid flown the coop and Randy under arrest for drug dealing. Only you and me now. Just like old times, eh Hettie? You and me together, touring the country, European tours, me to The Old Vic in London and you hoofing at The Crazy Horse Saloon in Paris. Who’d have guessed we’d end up back where we began in Vancouver, playing at The Last Gasp Rest Home – Waiting for Godot, eh?….

Roger comes round to lift Hettie up and in a repeat of the opening scene begins to attach her to him with the velcro strips at feet and shoulder. Tango music begins to play quietly while he does this and when he lifts her up and takes her in his arms, music swells and they begin to move sedately round the stage as lights and music begin to fade. They freeze CENTRE STAGE as a spot holds on Hettie for a moment, then BLACKOUT.

 

 

 

THE END

21,000 words

47 pages.

 

 

 

To buy copies of IN HOT PURSUIT, THE BLUE-EYED BOY and A SINGLE STEP as e-books just click on the titles.

All of these novels in THE 3RD AGE TRILOGY are available at $8.95 each in PDF format which you can read on your computer or handheld devices such as Kindle e-bookreader, Ipad or the Sony e-book reader.

If you’d like to find out more about e-book readers, see my article from January 17th.

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