A Play by Stanley H Cattermole
Act One, Scene One – INT. LONDON. A fairly small living room is made to seem smaller still as piles of half-emptied boxes and endless book cases vie for space. There are books and boxes of magazines and newspapers everywhere. Half-museum, half-warehouse, the lack of order is stifling and claustrophobic. A man and a woman stand in the middle of the mess.
MORGANA :: [raising her hands to her head, grabbing hold of her lavish hair] Aaaarrrggggghhhhh!
SLIM :: Is that absolutely necessary? Really. Is it?
MORGANA :: Yes! Evidently it is. I obviously can’t get through to you with common sense and logic. So what else am I supposed to do? I can’t…. I have no… Aaaarrrggggghhhhh!
SLIM :: Oh, please, come on. Stop that. Listen, just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t make me illogical.
MORGANA :: It’s nothing to do with you not agreeing with me. It’s to do with you being certifiably insane.
SLIM :: Right, yeah. I’m not the one standing in the middle of the room screaming like a retard.
MORGANA :: Slim, darling, please see sense. I’m not having a go at you, I’m just saying, you have too much stuff. You’ve got to get rid of some of it. It doesn’t make sense to live like this.
[MORGANA reaches into a nearby box and pulls out a smaller box, shoe box size.]
This for example. ‘Beermats, 1994-98.’
SLIM :: What?
MORGANA :: What do you mean, what? You have a collection of beermats. Why the fuck do you have a collection of beermats?
SLIM :: What kind of question is that? Why wouldn’t I have a collection of beermats? Probably a more pertinent question is, why don’t you have a collection of beermats?
MORGANA :: Slim, please, come on. You’re just being silly. Please. I beg you.
[SLIM rummages between boxes and picks up a laptop from the floor. He sits on an armchair and opens the lid.]
What are you doing?
SLIM :: I’m just going to have a look online. We’ll see who’s mad.
MORGANA :: We already know who’s mad. I don’t think the internet can help us at this stage.
SLIM :: Here we go. Beermats. 2,403 results on eBay.
MORGANA :: And what do you suppose that proves? All that proves is that there are thousands more lunatics out there just like you. But at least they’re doing the decent thing and trying to get rid of their idiotic collections.
SLIM :: No, what it proves is that to you that’s just a collection of beermats. To the collector, it’s gold dust. I could be sitting on a goldmine here. Look at this, pre-war South London Brewery beer mat, £25. That’s one single beermat, £25.
MORGANA :: So what? And pre-war, you said? Which war? How old is it exactly?
SLIM :: It’s from 1939.
MORGANA :: And your beermats, how old are they?
SLIM :: But this is exactly my point! This is why I refuse to throw them out. They’re an investment. In another 50 years, they’ll be worth an absolute fortune.
MORGANA :: You’ll be 80, Stan.
SLIM :: Slim.
MORGANA :: Sorry. Slim. You’ll be 80.
SLIM :: Yeah, I know. And I’ll either be struggling to get by on a state pension, and therefore, desperately in need of the cash, or I can give it to my grandchildren. It’s like a trust fund.
MORGANA :: Believe me, you won’t be having any grandchildren if you insist on hanging on to shit like this. It’s one or the other. A collection of beermats or a family. No one has both.
[MORGANA sits on the arm of the armchair and reads over SLIM’s shoulder. SLIM attempts to shield the screen.]
What? What are you trying to hide?
SLIM :: Nothing, I just don’t want you deriding my fellow….
MORGANA :: Your fellow freaks.
SLIM :: Collectors.
MORGANA :: Chinless freaks.
SLIM :: I’ve got chins.
MORGANA :: Chinless freaks with no girlfriends and fucked-up childhoods.
SLIM :: I’ve got a girlfriend.
MORGANA :: Yeah, well, don’t piss her off with a box of beermats, that’s my advice to you.
SLIM :: What, are you actually threatening to leave me just because I’ve got a hobby?
MORGANA :: Look at this, no bids, no bids, no bids, no bids. There might be two thousand chinless freaks trying to sell their beermat collections but no one wants to buy them, do they? Not even other chinless freaks.
SLIM :: What is this obsession with chins? I’ve got heaps of chins.
MORGANA :: Oh, hold on, there’s one. One bid. What’s that?
SLIM :: ‘One thousand plus beermat collection. 70s and 80s. Needs a good home.’ Only 1p!
[SLIM gasps and allows his mouth to fall open. He turns and stares at MORGANA.]
Only 1p. That is amazing value, Mo. This is quite possibly the bargain of the century and an opportunity far too good to miss.
MORGANA :: Don’t even think about it.
SLIM :: Oh, look, he’s got photos. There they are in a bin bag. There they are laid out on the living room floor.
MORGANA :: Look at the state of his fucking house. What a loser. Look at that. Shit everywhere.
SLIM :: Probably nearer 2000, he says.
MORGANA :: What kind of moron keeps 2000 beermats in a bin liner? Eh? Seriously though. What must have happened to him in his childhood? Write to him and ask him that. I bet you any money that he had a fucked-up childhood.
SLIM :: I will, I will, yeah, that’s a great idea. I’ll write: ‘Dear Sir, I was just perusing your impressive collection of beermats on eBay when my impertinent girlfriend encouraged me to write to you and enquire as to what manner of horrific abuse your parents visited upon you when you were a child that so twisted your mind and turned you into an adult who keeps beermats in a big bag.’ I’m sure he’ll appreciate that.
MORGANA :: Fucking freak.
SLIM :: Sweet-peach, please. Have a little compassion.
MORGANA :: I do. I mean, I’m sorry for him. I’m sorry for anyone who feels they need to cling to worthless items in order to compensate for the love they never received as children.
SLIM :: Oh, it’s as simple as that, is it?
MORGANA :: [standing, moving between the boxes] Why else do you suppose you’ve got an entire box of Big Issues here?
SLIM :: [shaking his head] Sorry, I’m a little confused. You see a box of magazines and you automatically think: abused childhood? Does that not strike you as a little odd?
MORGANA :: Nope. What strikes me as odd is that you have six boxes of Empire magazine that you never ever look at and will probably never look at again.
SLIM :: But we’re at complete odds here. I was eleven or twelve when that magazine came out and I just happened to see the first issue, so I bought it, and then I decided to collect them. So I collected them, and I went out and bought a copy of the magazine every month, and I read it from cover to cover because I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed seeing my collection grow. You know? It gave me pleasure.
MORGANA :: Yeah, I can understand that but Stan, that was 20 years ago….
SLIM :: Slim.
MORGANA :: I used to collect Just 17 magazines, but what happened then was this: I grew up and I threw them all away.
You have to learn to throw things away. All this shit, this clutter, it’s suffocating you. You need to get rid of it. I really believe it’s holding you back, keeping you tethered to the past. I really think it’s time for a spring clean.
SLIM :: But I don’t agree.
MORGANA :: Well, I don’t know. I’m not giving you ultimatums here….
SLIM :: Ultimata.
MORGANA :: …but this is a small house and I’m not sure there’s room for all of your stuff and all of my stuff. But to be honest, it’s not really about that. I really think it would be good for you to break free from this crap. I mean, how many books have you got?
SLIM :: Oh, you want to burn my books now?
MORGANA :: Oh, please. I don’t want to burn anything. Except maybe your beermats.
SLIM :: Nazi.
MORGANA :: Oh, touché. Anyway, you’ve just lost the argument, haven’t you, according to what’s it called – Godfrey’s Dilemma, is it?
SLIM :: Godwin’s Law.
MORGANA :: Whatever. Loser.
SLIM :: Nazi.
MORGANA :: I just think, there are six book cases in this room, that’s hundreds of books, most of them you’ll never look at again, most of which I bet you’ve never even read.
SLIM :: Balls.
MORGANA :: I’m sorry?
SLIM :: Try me.
MORGANA :: OK, then. What about… Ulysses.
SLIM :: Oh, that’s not fair. You pick the one book that no one alive has ever actually finished. I had a good crack at it though. There’s a bookmark. What page…? 89, that’s not bad. So anyway, yeah, I’m still reading that book. That’s a work in progress. Next!
MORGANA :: How to Be Born Again by Billy Graham.
SLIM :: I’m saving that.
MORGANA :: What, for your death bed?
SLIM :: Yeah, it’s last minute bet-hedging material.
[MORGANA shakes her head and sighs.]
No, but in all seriousness, that’s a great book and it’ll come in really handy when one day I’m writing something about religion, about being born again or about Billy Graham.
MORGANA :: And when will that be?
SLIM :: I don’t know. One day. It’s bound to happen.
MORGANA :: But it might not.
SLIM :: Well, no. But by that same token, we might both be hit by a truck tonight so there’s no point going to Sainsbury’s.
MORGANA :: I think the likelihood of us surviving the week is slightly more than the likelihood of you writing something about Billy Graham.
SLIM :: Shows what you know.
MORGANA :: [mocking SLIM’s petty intonation] Shows what you know.
SLIM :: Look, this is going nowhere. What….
MORGANA :: The Little Book of Calm.
SLIM :: [shouting violently] KEEP YOUR FILTHY HANDS OFF MY LITTLE BOOK OF CALM!!!
MORGANA :: OK, OK. Jesus.
[Hands SLIM The Little Book of Calm, which he proceeds to stroke whilst chanting.]
SLIM :: Calm, calm, calm….
MORGANA :: And this? How To Give Successful Dinner Parties. Have you found this particularly useful?
SLIM :: Indispensable, yes.
MORGANA :: Really?
SLIM :: Really.
MORGANA :: Fine. I won’t call you a liar.
SLIM :: Big of you.
MORGANA :: Thanks. What about this though? Stories For Girls. Isn’t that a little bit… gay?
SLIM :: Don’t be homophobic, Morag, please.
MORGANA :: Morgana.
SLIM :: Sorry.
MORGANA :: I mean, why have you even got this book?
SLIM :: Um… I found it, I think.
MORGANA :: Where did you find it?
SLIM :: Outside of a charity shop if I remember correctly.
MORGANA :: What do you mean?
SLIM :: There was a pile of books outside a charity shop one night. I was drunk.
MORGANA :: What, and you just took it?
SLIM :: Yeah.
MORGANA :: You stole from a charity shop?
SLIM :: I was drunk.
MORGANA :: Wow. That’s pretty low.
SLIM :: Oh, come on. We’ve all done it.
MORGANA :: Not me. That’s pretty fucked up if you ask me. Stealing from charity shops. That’s just wrong. That’s…
SLIM :: Don’t….
MORGANA :: …wrong on so many levels.
SLIM :: No! Please don’t say that
MORGANA :: Oh, now this is just totally random.
SLIM :: Oh, don’t say ‘random’, please. You’re just deliberately saying things that you know will annoy me now, aren’t you?
MORGANA :: Happy Days 4: Fonzie Goes To College? WTF, Slim?
SLIM :: Aaaarggh! I’m not listening.
[SLIM clamps his hands over his ears and makes loud nonsense noises. MORGANA glares at him. He stops.]
MORGANA :: FFS.
SLIM :: Oh, please. I beg you.
MORGANA :: Listen to me. Darling. Sweetheart. Do you think we have a future together?
SLIM :: I’m not… This is… You can’t…
MORGANA :: Yes or no, baby.
SLIM :: I hope so. I’d like that, yes. But you know, the future’s….
MORGANA :: OK, and you know we’ve talked about going to live in France maybe, in a year or two?
[SLIM folds his arms, stares. He knows where this is going.]
Darling? France. Me and you.
SLIM :: Yes, yes, yes.
MORGANA :: Well, you know, I’m just saying, all this stuff? You can’t take it with you. And storage costs a fortune. And really, I don’t think it’s good for you. It’s like an albatross around your neck. You know? The beermats, the badges, the coins and stamps. The magazines. You’re a grown man. You have to let go. Even the books.
SLIM :: Oh, not the books. I love the books. Each one is full of memories. Even the ones I haven’t read. I remember where I was when I bought them, what I was doing or feeling.
MORGANA :: The thing with books though, you can always get hold of them again. I mean, if ever you have the urge to read a certain book, then you can have the pleasure of going out and finding a copy again.
[SLIM takes a deep breath, rubs his eyes with the palms of his hands.]
It’s just not practical, Stan.
SLIM :: Slim.
MORGANA :: Stan. You’ve been here three weeks and you still haven’t unpacked everything. Maybe there’s a reason for that. Maybe deep down you know….
SLIM :: Alright, alright, alright. Jesus. I’ll think about it, alright?
MORGANA :: Thanks, baby.
SLIM :: Maybe there are some books I can get rid of. Maybe. But I’m going to count them all first, and catalogue them.
MORGANA :: OK, darling. That’s lovely. You do that.
[MORGANA turns to walk out of the room. As she goes, she sings the following word, stretching out the final syllable…]
[SLIM picks up his copy of Happy Days 4: Fonzie Goes To College, opens it up and starts to read. Lights fade. Scene One ends.]
Wednesday, 7 January 2009