Towpath by Robert Iles


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ANNE IS SITTING ON A BENCH BY A CANAL TOWPATH

CHRIS ENTERS RUNNING

AS SHE RUNS PAST ANNE:

      CHRIS: Morning
     
      THERE IS NO RESPONSE, CHRIS STOPS RUNNING AND TRIES AGAIN.     
     
      CHRIS: Good Morning    
     
      NO RESPONSE    
     
      CHRIS: I said, “Good Morning”
     
      ANNE: Indeed you did
     
      CHRIS: So?
     
      ANNE: So?
     
      CHRIS: Well, would it hurt you to reply
     
      ANNE: Would it hurt you to shut up
     
      CHRIS: Just trying to be polite, I was brought up to be polite
     
      ANNE: Shame you weren’t brought up not to talk to strangers
     
      CHRIS: I was. Oh, right. Sorry. (pause) What are you doing?
     
      ANNE: Fishing
     
      CHRIS: Except you’re not are you
     
      ANNE: Aren’t I?
     
      CHRIS: No, well, it doesn’t look like it to me
     
      ANNE: Doesn’t it? I haven’t done it before so I wouldn’t know
     
      CHRIS: Not that I’m an expert but it looks like you’re just sitting
      by the canal
     
      ANNE: I thought that was fishing
     
      CHRIS: There’s more to it than that, I think. I’m pretty sure there’s
      much more to it than that
     
      ANNE: Maggots
     
      CHRIS: Who?
     
      ANNE: Maggots, aren’t they part of fishing?
     
      CHRIS: Yuk
     
      ANNE: Fish love them. Apparently. Can’t see the attraction myself.
     
      CHRIS: Disgusting
     
      ANNE: Not if you are a fish. Maggots are to cod what cod is to us ...
      or something
     
      CHRIS: You wont catch cod here. Not in the canal. That much I do
      know.     
     
      THERE’S NO RESPONSE    
     
      CHRIS: Looks like you’ve only just got all this, didn’t it come with
      a book of instructions or anything
     
      SHE OPENS THE BOX, PICKS UP SOME BITS AND LOOKS AT THEM
     
      ANNE: Fishing for Dummies
     
      CHRIS: Did you read it?
     
      ANNE: I was joking. Anyway, it’s years old
     
      CHRIS: Old?
     
      ANNE: My husband’s, he had it for years, was always out here
     
      CHRIS: (SHE PUTS EVERYTHING DOWN) If you say so
     
      ANNE: I do. Or rather, he did. He did say he was always out here.
      Fishing
     
      CHRIS: (AFTER A PAUSE) I’ll leave you to it shall I?   
     
      SHE WAITS FOR A RESPONSE, AFTER A PAUSE, SHE LEAVES. ANNE POURS
      HERSELF ANOTHER DRINK .... A FEW MOMENTS LATER CHRIS RE-APPEARS
     
      CHRIS: (SHE STARTS ASSEMBLING THE ROD, SOMEWHAT INEXPERTLY) I’m sure
      we can get you set up
     
      ANNE: For what?
     
      CHRIS: Fishing of course
     
      ANNE: Why?
     
      CHRIS: Why?
     
      ANNE: Yes why? Why would I want to be set up? Why would ‘we’ want to
      get me set up?
     
      CHRIS: (A BIT DEJECTED) Well, you look a bit odd sat here with all
      your fishing stuff but not fishing ...
     
      ANNE: I thought you said you were no expert
     
      CHRIS: Not on fishing, no
     
      ANNE: On looking odd then?
     
      CHRIS: Just trying to make conversation
     
      ANNE: There you go again, positively flouting your mother’s advice.
      What’s the matter, don’t you like her?
     
      CHRIS: Her only advice recently seems to be “find a man and get
      married” ideally as soon as possible
     
      ANNE: A little old fashioned I’ll grant you
     
      CHRIS: She doesn’t think I’d amount to anything by myself
     
      ANNE: Very supportive
     
      CHRIS: She says that my only hope is to latch onto what she describes
      as a “good man”
     
      ANNE: Whatever that is
     
      CHRIS: One with a job but no previous wife, children or convictions
     
      ANNE: Criminal or personal?
     
      CHRIS: Not sure ...
     
      ANNE: Jane Austen would be impressed
     
      CHRIS: That sort of thing, find yourself a Mr Right, preferably a Mr Right Now
     
      ANNE: Double barrelled, classy
     
      CHRIS: What?
     
      ANNE: And your mother presumably led by example?
     
      CHRIS: She’s found Mr couldn’t be wronger if he won the wrongest
      thing in the universe prize on planet wrong
     
      ANNE: Your father
     
      CHRIS: No, Dad was ok, apparently, he ran off when I was young
     
      ANNE: They can do that alright - and you think he’s the ok one?
     
      CHRIS: Mum was alone a while then found herself a lazy, jobless slob
     
      ANNE: And this is the woman whose advice on men you listen to?     
     
      PAUSE    
     
      CHRIS: Can I ask you something?
     
      ANNE: Why not, I’m also quite good at bad advice on men or advice on
      bad men
     
      CHRIS: Where’s your husband
     
      ANNE: Not very dearly departed
     
      CHRIS: And you miss him?
     
      ANNE: I did, for a while, I got over it
     
      CHRIS: Are you here to feel close to him
     
      ANNE: No, actually I’m here to try to discover what he found so
      fascinating about fishing ...
     
      CHRIS: Oh
     
      CHRIS: (INDICATING A PLACE TO SIT) May I?
     
      ANNE: (NODDING) You said this stuff looks new
     
      CHRIS: Some of it is still in its packaging
     
      ANNE: So it wasn’t the fishing he found interesting after all
     
      CHRIS: I don’t understand
     
      ANNE: He claimed to be down several times a week so either he wore
      out his old equipment and had to buy new or he was lying
     
      CHRIS: And you never noticed
     
      ANNE: That he was a liar? Yes, I’d noticed that
     
      CHRIS: No, that his equipment wasn’t being used
     
      ANNE: His equipment long since failed to interest me
     
      CHRIS: (PAUSE) You probably want to be alone, I better go
     
      ANNE: (OFFERING HER THE WHISKY BOTTLE, CHRIS SHAKES HER HEAD) Stay,
      don’t mind me, I’m not some kind of nutter, well, no more than anyone else anyway. Do
      you run here often?
     
      CHRIS: If the weather’s nice
     
      ANNE: Nice
     
      CHRIS: Otherwise I run in the park
     
      ANNE: Right
     
      CHRIS: Round the park really ... round and round the park or up and
      down the towpath
     
      ANNE: A bit like fishing then
     
      CHRIS: How do you mean?
     
      ANNE: (TAKING ANOTHER DRINK) Boring
     
      CHRIS: Not really, but then I’ve only been doing it a week. (pause) I
      really had better get going. Nice to have met you.   
     
      ANNE WAVES DISMISSIVELY. CHRIS SETS OFF BUT BEFORE LEAVING THE STAGE
      SHE STEPS IN SOME DOG MESS    
     
      CHRIS: Oh damn, damn damn damn damn, disgusting, I absolutely hate
      that, vile, disgusting. Damn
     
      ANNE: What?
     
      CHRIS: (TRYING TO WIPE HER FOOT ON THE GRASS) Dog mess, dog mess on
      the towpath, I hate it, really hate it, now I’ve stepped in it, why can’t they clean up after
      themselves
     
      ANNE: The dogs?
     
      CHRIS: The owners
     
      ANNE: They can, they just choose not to, same as the dogs
     
      CHRIS: You know what I mean. These are new trainers too, ruined. Damn
      it
     
      ANNE: Shit
     
      CHRIS: (SHE IS GETTING MORE WOUND UP) I’ll never get this clean, I
      hate it    
     
      IN AN UPSET PADDY SHE RIPS OFF THE SHOE USING JUST HER FINGERS AND
      HURLS IT OVER THE FENCE ...

      THEY BOTH WATCH IT GO, CHRIS IS NOW STANDING ON ONE LEG NEAR TO TEARS    
     
      ANNE: (TAKING OUT THE WHISKEY) Fancy that drink now?
     
      BEFORE CHRIS CAN REPLY THE SHOE COMES SAILING BACK OVER THE FENCE AND
      LANDS OUT OF SIGHT (OR IN CANAL)     
     
      ANNE: Not something you see every day ...
     
      PAMELA: (FROM OFF STAGE) Kindly keep your crappy shoes to yourself
     
      CHRIS: (SOMEWHAT SHOCKED) You threw my shoe into the canal
     
      PAMELA: You threw your shoe into my bed! Thank you so much    
     
      PAMELA APPEARS, SHE’S A TRAMP CLEARLY LIVING ROUGH UNDER SOME PLASTIC
      SHEETING NEXT TO THE CANAL    
     
      CHRIS: Bed?
     
      PAMELA: Yes bed, chez moi if you don’t mind and I don’t see what I’ve
      done to deserve a rain of shitty shoes. If I’d wanted an early call I’d have
      booked one with the concierge.
     
      CHRIS: I didn’t know you were there
     
      PAMELA: And that, somehow, makes you throwing your unwanted shoes
      over the fence ok?
     
      CHRIS: Sorry
     
      PAMELA: Are you going to stand like that all day? Hang on, right
      foot, size 5?
     
      CHRIS: No
     
      PAMELA: You are now (from off) strange how its only sizes 5 and 8
      that get thrown away around here, and you’re certainly not an 8
     
      PAMELA GOES OFF AND COMES BACK WITH A WELLINGTON WHICH SHE HANDS TO
      CHRIS, WHO LOOKS INSIDE, CLEARLY SEES SOMETHING UNPLEASANT AND HANDS IT BACK.

      PAMELA GOES TO GET ANOTHER AND RETURNS WITH A LARGE ARMY BOOT, WHICH CHRIS PUTS
      ON
     
      ANNE: So much more normal, you’d hardly notice (smiles) quite a
      little shoe shop you’ve got back there
     
      PAMELA: Not bad, if you don’t mind non-matching pairs of 5 and 8s.
      Caught anything? I mean anything I might be interested in?
     
      CHRIS HAS PUT ON THE BOOT, SHE LOOKS A BIT NON-PLUSSED
     
      ANNE: Like some matching footwear?
     
      PAMELA: I was thinking something a bit fishier, you know, like a
      fish. I like a nice piece of fish.
     
      ANNE: I haven’t caught any
     
      PAMELA: Didn’t think so, I mean, you’ve not even put your rod
      together, here let me, we’ll soon have you straight
     
      ANNE: Why is everyone so interested in my equipment?
     
      PAMELA: Its called ‘tackle’ and you’d look daft sitting here ...
     
      ANNE: And not fishing
     
      CHRIS: I told her that
     
      PAMELA: If you’ve got it you might as well use it.
     
      ANNE: Tell you what, its yours
     
      PAMELA: Do you mean it
     
      ANNE: Sure, lock, stock and barrel
     
      CHRIS: Hook, line and sinker (she laughs to herself, no one notices)
     
    PAMELA: Well thank you kindly

[end of extract]
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