Five Blind Mice by Robert Armstrong
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This Play is the copyright of the Author and may not be performed, copied or sold without the Author's prior consent
IN DARKNESS, WE HEAR SEVERAL BARS OF “YOU'RE MOVING OUT TODAY,”
FOLLOWED BY A MAN HUMMING “POP! GOES THE WEASEL.” AS THESE FADE, THE
LIGHTS COME UP TO HALF. WE SEE A RECTANGULAR ROOM WITHOUT WINDOWS.
THERE IS ONE DOOR, CENTRE, WHICH IS OPEN. BEYOND IS DARKNESS. IN
FRONT OF THE DOOR, A BODY LIES UNDER A SHEET, ITS FEET STICKING OUT.
IT IS BEING DRAGGED OUT BY SOMEONE UNSEEN. AS THE BODY DISAPPEARS
UPSTAGE THROUGH THE DOORWAY, A MAN WITH A SACK OVER HIS HEAD IS PUSHED
INTO THE ROOM AND THE LIGHTS BUMP UP AS THE DOOR CLOSES AND LOCKS.
THE MAN STANDS THERE, HIS BREATHING VISIBLE AS THE SACK MOVES IN AND
OUT. THEN HE RIPS IT OFF. HE THROWS THE SACK AWAY - THE LIGHT HURTS
HIS EYES, WHICH HE COVERS - BUT AS SOON AS HE CAN STAND IT, HE LOOKS
AROUND. THE ROOM IS PAINTED SOLID BLACK AND HAS NO FURNITURE. IT
APPEARS PURPOSE-BUILT, LIKE A CELL, AND HAS AN AIR OF MENACE.
SLOWLY, THE MAN STARTS TO WALK ABOUT, TOUCHING THE WALLS. THIS IS
CLAY. HE WEARS DARK CLOTHES, AND EXCEPT FOR THE GHOSTLY WHITENESS OF
HIS FACE AND HANDS, ALMOST BLENDS INTO HIS SURROUNDINGS. THERE IS AN
AIR OF RESTLESSNESS ABOUT HIM, AS IF IT'S HIS NATURE TO BE DOING
WHEN HE GETS TO THE DOOR, HE TRIES TO FORCE IT, GIVES UP, AND
CONTINUES HIS CIRCUIT OF THE ROOM, WHICH HE SEES IS EMPTY. HE LOOKS
UP, AS IF EXPECTING TO SEE A SKYLIGHT OR A CAMERA.
IMMEDIATELY, THE LIGHTS GO OUT. IN DARKNESS, WE HEAR SEVERAL BARS OF
JULIE ANDREWS SINGING “WHAT ARE YOU DOING THE REST OF YOUR LIFE?”
WHICH FADE AS THE LIGHTS COME BACK UP.
WE FIND CLAY SITTING DOWNSTAGE, ARMS CROSSED OVER KNEES, HEAD RESTING
ON FOREARMS. HE LOOKS UP. HIS STARE IS INTENSE. SUDDENLY, HE
CLAY (cont.) This old man, he played one; he played knick-knack on
CLAY (cont.) ... bum!
HE THROWS HIS HEAD BACK AND LAUGHS, JUMPING TO HIS FEET.
CLAY (cont.) This old man, he played three; he played knick-knack on
CLAY (cont.) ... wee!
HE STARTS TO BOUND ABOUT THE ROOM.
CLAY (cont.) Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was gold as hay -
along came a spider and sat down beside her and frightened her
baa-lamb away! Baa baa, black sheep, have you any ...
HE STOPS RUNNING.
CLAY (cont.) This old man, he played five, he played knick-knack on
a hive ...
HE STANDS THERE A MOMENT. THEN, IN A BURST OF ACTIVITY, WHICH WE
WILL COME TO KNOW IS TYPICAL OF HIM, HE STARTS TO SKIP ABOUT THE
CLAY (cont.) Round and round the cobbler's bench, the monkey chased
the weasel; the monkey thought 'twas all in fun - pop! goes the
weasel. A penny for a spool of thread, a penny for a needle; that's
the way the money goes - pop! goes the weasel!
HE DOES A HANDSPRING, LANDS ON HIS FEET, LIFTS HIS ARMS AND WAITS, AS
IF FOR APPLAUSE.
GREETED ONLY BY SILENCE, HE MOVES BACK TO THE MIDDLE OF THE ROOM,
STARES AT THE CEILING, AND ADDRESSES IT LIKE THERE'S SOMEBODY UP
CLAY (cont.) Happy? Enough? No? Have I passed my audition?
Should I do the dramatic monologue? “To be or not to be ...?"
What's next, the swimsuit competition? I hafta warn you - I went to
the trouble of getting a Brazilian - ouch!
CLAY (cont.) OK, you want a performance? Is that what this is
PLANTING HIS FEET FAR APART, HE TAKES A DEEP BREATH, HOLDS IT AS THE
LIGHTS COME DOWN TO JUST A SPOTLIGHT ON HIM, AND STARTS TO SING
“WALKING AFTER MIDNIGHT.” HE IS A FEW BARS INTO THE SONG WHEN THE
LIGHTS GO OUT.
CLAY (cont.) Everyone's a critic!
IN DARKNESS, WE HEAR THE DRIPPING OF WATER, A SOUND THAT WILL COME TO
BE ASSOCIATED WITH THE PASSING OF TIME IN AN ENVIRONMENT WITHOUT
WINDOWS, CLOCKS OR NATURAL LIGHT.
SLOWLY, SPECIAL LIGHTS FADE UP TO HALF ON CLAY, WHO IS ASLEEP ON THE
FLOOR. THE REST OF THE STAGE REMAINS IN DARKNESS. CLAYS TWITCHES IN
HIS SLEEP. HE SHUDDERS, WAKING WITH A START.
EASTON (in darkness) Bad dream?
CLAY SPINS AROUND AS THE LIGHTS COME UP TO FULL. HE IS STARTLED TO
SEE THAT THERE IS SOMEBODY ELSE IN THE ROOM. THIS IS EASTON. HE IS
PHYSICALLY THE OPPOSITE OF CLAY. HE SITS IN THE CORNER WITH HIS BACK
TO THE WALL. HE SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN WATCHING CLAY FOR SOME TIME. HE
CLAY Who the hell are you?
EASTON The name's Easton.
CLAY How did you get in?
EASTON The door.
CLAY What are you doing here?
EASTON Tell me that and we'll both know. They've had me here for a
week, and today they decided to move me. Maybe they thought I needed
CLAY A “roomie”?
EASTON That would be you.
MOVING CLOSER, CLAY OFFERS HIS HAND, WHICH EASTON SHAKES.
CLAY Hi, I'm Clay.
EASTON Good grip. Daddy always said, “Develop a firm handshake and
go where they pay you more money.”
CLAY (breaking the handshake) And your mother?
EASTON Mumsy was a cyclops. Dysfunctional variety. A bit of a
CLAY Sorry I spoke.
EASTON Don't be. That's all there is to do here. For the last seven
days, I've been talking to myself. And/or playing with myself.
EASTON GETS UP. NOT AS TALL AS CLAY, HE IS RAGGED AND UNKEMPT, YET
HE MAKES AN ODDLY THREATENING FIGURE. HE WEARS BIKER BOOTS AND LOOKS
LIKE HE COULD HANDLE HIMSELF IN A SCUFFLE.
EASTON (cont.) The good news is, I haven't started talking back. If
they want to drive me mad, like Ezra Pound, they haven't succeeded.
Mostly, I kept repeating the stories Daddy used to tell me as a kid.
Classical mythology. Daddy was a professor. I knew all those tales
of giants and prophets would come in handy one day. Thanks to my old
man, I'm as sound as a bell. Ding! They haven't broken me yet.
CLAY Yet? Is that what this is about? Breaking you down?
EASTON Probably. Into protons, neutrons, electrons ... who knows?
REACHING INTO HIS BOOT, HE TAKES OUT A PACK OF MARLBOROS WITH A SMALL
LIGHTER TUCKED INTO THE CELLOPHANE.
EASTON (cont.) What would you say to the man from Marlboro country?
CLAY Dug any good tunnels lately?
HE LIGHTS UP, TOSSES THE CIGARETTES AND LIGHTER ONTO THE FLOOR FOR
CLAY, WHO LOOKS AT THEM.
CLAY They let you have cigarettes?
CLAY PICKS US CIGARETTES, LIGHTS ONE.
CLAY You know.
EASTON "Let" me?
EASTON Our gatekeepers - like Cerberus at the portal of Hades - the
ones who keep us here.
CLAY Where exactly is “here”?
EASTON Underground - some military base - who knows? It's a riddle
inside a mystery wrapped up in an enema!
CLAY Why would we be in some underground cell?
EASTON Considering the kind of work I do, it's a wonder they didn't
get me sooner.
CLAY What sort of work is that?
EASTON If I told you, I'd have to kill you.
HE SMILES, A STREETSMART LOOK COMING INTO HIS EYES.
EASTON (cont.) Well, all right. But ... you first.
CLAY Me first what?
EASTON Your story - let's have it.
CLAY I have no “story.”
EASTON Everybody's got a story. How did you get here? Where did
they get you? Why? You tell me yours, I'll tell you mine.
CLAY Well, I went to see the dentist - I had an abscessed tooth. He
gave me gas, and when I woke up ... I was here.
EASTON They take you to Doc Schneider?
CLAY Who's that?
EASTON The resident quack. He interrogates people. If you chuck a
big enough hissy fit, he'll give you a needle - twelve hours' sleep;
CLAY I don't know if I'd like to be off my guard that long.
EASTON It's the only way I can get to sleep on the floor. It's
harder than my old lady's heart.
CLAY Your turn.
EASTON You're finished?
CLAY That's all I got. I went to the dentist and woke up here ... I
gather, a few hours later. At first, I tried to get out. Then I
thought it was a mistake and they'd finally figure that out. Like
they'd tried to kidnap someone important and gotten me instead. Then
I thought it was a practical joke, or even one of those limp-dick
reality-TV shows, and sooner or later people would pop out of
trapdoors, shouting “Surprise!” and that would be that. But ... here
we are ... still waiting.
EASTON In the belly of the beast. Hell of a way to start the
CLAY I've had worse.
EASTON You say you're no one important. What do you do?
CLAY Used to own a small business. Then me and my missus split.
Sold everything, she got half.
CLAY I had enough to live on, and I'd always wanted to see the
Pyramids, so I took a trip. Ended up getting a job taking
English-speaking tourists down the Nile. Did that for six months,
treated myself to a whirlwind tour of the Middle East, and came back
home - that was a month ago. Since then, I've been looking for work.
Had a couple of interviews, but nothing so far. One agency I
went to, Project Personnel, did all these tests, a whole personality
profile, even sent me for a medical - ears, nose, everything ... then
nothing. If I'm gonna piss
in a bottle, I expect at least a reference check.
EASTON Fuckin' A. But you're not hurting financially ...?
CLAY I'm not rich, if that's what you're fishing for. I don't have
a millionaire uncle or something that could pay a ransom. That's
what I don't get - why me?
EASTON So ... you live alone, you're unemployed, and no one's going
to miss you?
CLAY (not liking this) You could say that.
EASTON Ditto. I'm a workaholic, no close male friends, and the
nearest thing I have to a partner is my right hand - meet Miss Callus,
and I don't mean Maria!
HE WAITS FOR A LAUGH, DOESN'T GET IT.
EASTON (cont.) Suit yourself. Anyway, I work for one of the big
pharmaceutical companies and what I do is pretty secret - genetic
research, quantum physics, gene splicing, embryos in liquid nitrogen -
all that shit. I might as well be frank - human cloning. In spite of
the deluded ravings of Raleans, it really is happening - now. Do you
think there are people who wouldn't kill to have that power, the power
of life? Politicians, terrorists, assassins, whoever. Imagine if
they really could bring back Hitler - very “Boys from Brazil.”
Anyway, one night, I wake up - there are two guys in my room—three
guys, only one of them is dead. They tell me to get up, put the dead
guy in my bed, and start splashing gasoline around. The last thing I
see is my house going up like a bomb as they whisk me away in a car
EASTON It's more than shit, mister - we are in some pretty deep merde
here. So ... you got any political affiliations in the Middle East?
CLAY STARTS TO ANSWER, THEN LAUGHS.
CLAY You've got to be kidding.
EASTON Why? I don't know you. And these people, they must want you
CLAY SHAKES HIS HEAD, STARTS TO PACE.
CLAY It's got to be a mistake. Sure, I can see why what you know
would be valuable. That could alter the whole course of history
if it's true, even defeat death. But I don't have any
world-changing secrets locked in my skull, although sometimes I do ...
[more to himself than Easton] hear voices.
HE LAUGHS, EMBARRASSED - HE'S SAID TOO MUCH.
CLAY (cont.) But ... what would they want from me?
EASTON Depends who “they” are. That's what pisses me off - they're
hidden from us, we don't know what their agenda is.
CLAY It's got to be government. Who else?
EASTON I'd say it's top-secret intelligence. Some splinter group,
the kind that manages never to be answerable, no matter who gets
elected. They're always jerking around with something, finding new
ways to open Pandora's box. Lots of grey men in the shadows.
CLAY Like Deep Throat.
EASTON I don't know about their private lives.
CLAY Those kind of guys don't make mistakes.
EASTON GIVES HIM AN “OH REALLY?” LOOK.
CLAY (cont.) Well, you know what I mean. If they're capable of
faking your death, and they have an underground city or whatever this
is, surely they can figure out I'm not an asset to the abbey.
EASTON An “asset to the abbey”?
CLAY Sorry. My wife used to say that. Her name was Julie. Her
maiden name, believe it or not, was Andrews.
EASTON So you ... married Julie Andrews?
CLAY She von-trapped me.
EASTON Ever thought about a career in stand-up?
EASTON Good. Within minutes, you'd be drowning in rotten tomatoes!
CLAY (smiling but making a fist) You'll be choking on this in a
EASTON Choking or twisting?
CLAY Would that make you happy?
EASTON Lawdy, mama, ain't the little chilluns playin' nice!
CLAY No offence.
HE DROPS THE FIST.
EASTON A word to the wise - be careful who you threaten round here.
For all you know, I could be a knife-wielding psycho.
CLAY You may be a psycho, but I don't see a knife.
EASTON Maybe I have a razor in my shoe?
CLAY I'll take my chances.
[end of extract]
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