The Chip Van Plays Dixie by Robert Iles


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This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author’s PRIOR consent


  SCENE 1

      THE STAGING CONSISTS OF A PARK-STYLE
      BENCH WITH A BRASS PLAQUE, IT IS
      SITUATED OUTSIDE A COUNCIL CEMETERY
      BUT THERE IS NO NEED TO INDICATE THIS
      WITH RAILINGS OR SIGNS OR ANYTHING.
      THERE IS A COUNCIL WASTE BIN SLIGHTLY
      UPSTAGE BEHIND THE BENCH. THEY ARE
      WEARING COATS BECAUSE IT IS EVENING,
      RATHER THAN BECAUSE ITS COLD, A
      WARMISH EARLY AUTUMN.

      GARY ENTERS STAGE LEFT, HE HAS A COAT
      ON AND IS CARRYING A REASONABLE SIZED
      RED, WHITE AND BLUE STRIPED PLASTIC
      BAG OF THE TYPE SOLD ON MARKET
      STALLS. HE TAKES IN THE VIEW, HEAVES
      A BIT OF A SIGH THEN GOES AND SITS ON
      ONE END OF THE BENCH. HE OPENS A PACK
      OF TWO SCOTCH EGGS, TAKES ONE OUT AND
      TAKES A BITE.

      BABS ENTERS STAGE RIGHT, A BIT
      DISTRACTED, SHE IS WEARING A COAT AND
      CARRYING A LARGE BUNCH OF SUPERMARKET
      FLOWERS SHE WALKS ACROSS TO STAGE
      LEFT, PAUSES, THINKS, WALKS BACK AND
      LOOKS AROUND

      GARY: You going in?

      BABS: Mmm

      GARY: Only it closes soon.

      BABS: Does it? I didn’t know they closed

      GARY: Well, not as in “barred and shuttered”, more
      like they close the gate and put up a sign.

      BABS: So you can’t get in

      GARY: Unless you go through a hole in the fence, but
      it gets pretty dark

      BABS: Right

      GARY: And spooky

      BABS: I’m not easily spooked

      GARY: And you’ll get your shoes wet in the grass and
      probably trip over something and get lost

      BABS: But its still open at the moment

      PAUSE - BABS DOESN’T MOVE

      GARY: Want some scotch egg?

      BABS: Sorry?

      GARY: Scotch egg, want some?

      SHE LOOKS AT THE HALF EATEN ONE HE IS
      HOLDING WITH SOME DISGUST TILL HE
      HOLDS OUT THE PACKET WITH OTHER ONE
      IN - SHE SHAKES HER HEAD. SHE SITS,
      OBVIOUSLY DISTRACTED AND TRYING TO
      COME TO A DECISION ABOUT WHETHER TO
      LEAVE OR GO IN, SHE PUTS HER HANDBAG
      DOWN BESIDE HER ON THE FLOOR.

      Come a long way?

      BABS: Not really, quarter of an hour, took almost as
      long to find somewhere to park. That’s why I’m
      late.

      GARY: Quite appropriate really

      BABS: Sorry?

      GARY: Everyone’s late where you’re going

      BABS: Oh. I see. Yes.

      GARY: First visit?

      BABS: What? Err Yes. Sorry, do you mind if we don’t,
      I mean, I’m not really in the mood.

      PAUSE

      GARY: Peaceful isn’t it

      BABS LOOKS AT HIM, ANNOYED BY THE
      INTERRUPTION AND GETS UP TO GO,
      TAKING HER BAG

      GARY: Sorry. Didn’t meant to .... I’ll shut up.

      BABS: It’s ok, I need to [SHE INDICATES SHE HAS TO
      GO] ... I’ll ...

      GARY: They’re too long

      SHE STARTS TO GO, LEAVING THE FLOWERS

      BABS: (A little annoyed) What? What are too long? Too
      long for what?

      GARY: The flower stems, way too long. Waitrose are
      they?

      REALISING SHE’S LEFT THEM, BABS
      STARTS TO COME BACK

      BABS: Tesco. Finest if you must know. What do you
      mean they’re too long?

      GARY: Long stem flowers are no good. Firstly, they
      wont stand up in the vases, especially if
      there’s some wind which there usually is up
      here and secondly they often get nicked by
      drunks on their way home from the pub who want
      to make a good impression as they crash through
      the door and throw up on the Welcome mat.
      [BEAT] There is a vase on the grave I suppose?

      BABS: No idea, my first visit

      GARY: Recent was it?

      BABS: Two years.

      GARY: Someone close?

      BABS: Not really. My husband.

      GARY: (slightly mocking) A good man, taken too soon

      BABS: Did you know him? What am I saying, you don’t
      even know who he was.

      GARY: Its what people say, dying somehow seems to
      make everyone into a “good person”, especially
      if they died before their time. I often wonder
      whether you’d live longer by being a really bad
      person

      BABS: No, you wouldn’t, we just never speak ill of
      the dead. [BEAT] He was an absolute shit and I
      would happily have killed him

      GARY: But

      BABS: But what?

      GARY: I was hoping there was a “but” as in “I would
      happily have killed him, but”

      BABS: But he died anyway. [BEAT] He was a shit.
      [BEAT] “But nothing” I guess, it’s also just
      something people say, we don’t do it. Normal
      people don’t kill people.

      GARY: And we’re normal.

      BABS: The jury’s out

      PAUSE - BABS GOES TO LEAVE

      GARY: How do you know I don’t know you?

      BABS: Do you?

      GARY: I don’t know, I might, I know a lot of people,
      who are you?

      BABS: Goodbye
      GARY: Here ...

      BABS GOES TO LEAVE AGAIN
      GARY TAKES A VASE AND A PAIR OF
      SCISSORS FROM HIS BAG AND PUTS THEM
      ON THE BENCH BETWEEN THEM. BABS LOOKS
      AT THEM FOR A SHORT WHILE, APPARENTLY
      CONFUSED.

      BABS: You just happen to have a spare?

      GARY: Always. They get stolen, or broken, or moved to
      another grave by someone too lazy, mean or
      forgetful to get their own. Just a hint for
      next time, simpler flowers last longer.

      BABS: Thanks but there wont be a next time.

      SHE STARTS HALF HEARTEDLY CUTTING AND
      PLONKING THE FLOWERS IN THE VASE,
      AFTER A WHILE, HE TAKES OVER

      Have you been visiting someone?

      GARY: My wife, every Friday

      BABS: That’s nice ... I mean that you visit, not that
      she’s um…

      GARY: Part habit, part tradition if I’m honest.
      [BEAT] A bit of quiet time, spend a couple of
      hours with her. [BEAT] I come up here on a
      Friday afternoon, tidy the grave, fresh flowers
      from our garden, sit on this bench till they
      close, enjoy the view a bit, pick up some chips
      and home.

      BABS: Chips. Proper chips. I shall miss them.

      GARY: No need, I get them from a travelling chip van,
      he’ll be here soon, struggling up the hill,
      horn blaring Dixie to announce his arrival, a
      bit unnecessary given the waft of fried fish
      smells that precede him everywhere ...

      BABS: Still, she is ... she was a lucky woman

      GARY: Not Lucky, not really, cancer, rather
      unpleasant but swift

      BABS: I mean to have you, still spending time like
      this every week for her

      GARY: For me. I do it for me.

      BABS: Of course ...

      GARY: Too little and definitely too late for her

      BABS: (Beat - Looks at her watch) Damn, when does it
      close?

      GARY: (Looking at his watch, counting the seconds
      with nods of his head) N…..ow!

      BABS: Shit.

      GARY: Missed it I’m afraid

      BABS: Yes, thank you, I realise that. Its your fault

      BABS STARTS GATHERING HER THINGS TO
      LEAVE

      GARY: You can come back tomorrow

      BABS: I can’t actually.

      GARY: The day after.

      BABS: No.

      GARY: (BEAT) Same time next Friday?

      BABS: I’m leaving

      GARY: I can see

      BABS: No, I mean, tomorrow, I’m leaving

      GARY: Going away?

      BABS: Precisely

      GARY: Anywhere nice

      BABS: Australia. New start.

      GARY: Off to find your own little Ramsey Street.

      BABS: (Getting up to go) Listen, its been, well, I’m
      not sure, ‘something’ talking with you, I must
      go.

      GARY: Goodbye

      BABS: Yes

      GARY: Don’t forget your flowers

      BABS: I’ve no where to put them, the house is all
      closed up, sold and shipped out. You have them,
      put them on your wife’s grave, I’m sure she
      deserved them more than he did, I was stupid to
      bring them, some dumb idea about laying the
      ghost and leaving the past behind. I’d have
      felt guilty if I hadn’t, like he won, now I
      just feel guilty that I tried and couldn’t even
      get that right

      GARY: You a catholic by any chance?

      BABS: No. Why?

      GARY: You seem to do a good line in guilt that’s all

      BABS: Guilty as charged

      GARY: (Smiles) I’ll put them there for you. Tomorrow.

      BABS: Why?

      GARY: Why not ... a gesture ... where is he?

      BABS: (Sitting again, a bit unsure, getting a scrap
      of paper from her pocket) That’s good of you,
      not sure its the same, still, for the look of
      the thing. It’s ... Jones, Peter Jones, NW146,
      wherever that is

      GARY: It’s his new post code, each plot is marked
      with a post with a code on it ... he’s near the
      back on the right. It slopes down towards the
      farm. Nice spot.

      BABS: (She hands him the paper) You seem very
      familiar with the place?

      GARY: When I was still at school my first job was
      here, summer holiday work to earn some money
      and buy some hi-fi, I’d have preferred an
      indoor job actually but the crem turned me down
      so I applied here - I lied about my age and
      cried at the interview when I was found out ...
      I got the job.

      BABS: Grave digger?

      GARY: No. Grass cutter, we cut between the graves
      with shears then, down on our knees. When it
      rained we washed pots in the greenhouse,
      sometimes we’d help out with a particularly
      awkward dig. A whole summer, turned out it was
      really rather pleasant, plenty of breaks as we
      weren’t allowed to work during an actual
      funeral. The diggers were all wiry old men,
      hard muscled, soft in heart and head, good
      people, curiously kind to an out of his depth
      school boy sampling the working world

      BABS: My first job was in Higgs Bakers, down in the
      town, Saturday girl working the counter. God I
      was naive, had an affair with the boss, bloody
      stupid, he was old enough to be my father

      GARY: He was my father

      BABS: (shocked) Sorry?

      GARY: (Holding out his hand) Gary Higgs

      BABS: (Getting up to go, deeply embarrassed) Babs
      Jones. Barbara Wallis as was then. Listen,
      I’m ...

      GARY: Sit, Stay. I thought you seemed familiar

      BABS: I don’t know what to say

      GARY: You weren’t the only one. He was a randy baker,
      very kneady, always up for a roll

      BABS: Do you make a joke about everything?

      GARY: No, just the more awkward stuff, lightens the
      moment don’t you think


[end of extract]


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