The Chip Van Plays Dixie by Robert Iles

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

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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