ME AND MY BOY
English translation Anna Yates
Morning. The scene is Stuart’s flat. It is obvious that someone is moving in: there are full and half-unpacked boxes all over the place, furniture and small objects scattered around.
The phone rings somewhere in the pile of things.
RICHARD enters. He has just woken up. He has slept in the inner area of the flat, and is not a particularly delightful sight. He finds the phone after a long search, and has trouble pulling it towards him. The cable is tangled in the muddle of the junk.
RICHARD: Yes. No. He’s not in. I’m just his father. (listens for a long time) Do you know, dear boy... David, yes, do you know, Dave, I don’t buy books any more. Or read them, either. No, not at all, I have plenty of time. No, dear boy, the fact is, I’m blind. Yes. I’m in day-care... after I was laid off by the co-op. But they got their just desserts. You know what happened to them, the whole movement fizzled out. No, no, no apology is called for. You weren’t to know. Him? No, you don’t want to talk to him. He’s deaf as a post. We’re in a poor state, here. All right. You’re welcome, dear boy. Yes, David, goodbye.
He goes off to the bathroom, returns, opens the fridge, drinks something, lights a cigarette, goes out again.
STUART comes in, clearly from outside, carrying a plastic bag and other things. He meets Maria, who is in the hall in a state of undress, fetching the newspaper. They say hello, then go into their separate flats.
He puts the things down, and searches in the muddle. Smells cigarette smoke.
RICHARD enters after a short time.
RICHARD: You here, then?
STUART: How did you sleep?
RICHARD: You know...
STUART: All right?
RICHARD: You know.
RICHARD: Feel a bit under the weather.
STUART: There’s something going around.
RICHARD: There you are.
STUART: I should think I’ll bring the last lot over tomorrow night, if we finish the painting tomorrow.
RICHARD: Don’t hurry on my account. I’m getting used to lying on that old couch all alone night after night. Like a night-watchman in a box factory. All alone.
STUART: I have to be out of my flat tomorrow. And it’s got to be cleaned and...
RICHARD: How can you call it a flat, that ... hole you’ve been living in for I don’t know how long.
STUART: Ten years.
RICHARD: Twelve, fourteen ... how many years were you there?
RICHARD: There you are.
STUART: (passes him a lunchbox) I made you sandwiches. Wasn’t there something to drink in the fridge?
RICHARD: It’s all right. I don’t need anything.
STUART: You have to eat, like other people.
RICHARD: It’s hardly worth it.
STUART: Come on, eat up. It may make you feel better. Fibre, calcium and vitamins.
RICHARD: That’s what we used to call a cheese sandwich.
STUART: Do you want milk or orange juice?
RICHARD: Aren’t you going to make coffee?
STUART: I can make coffee too. Do you want coffee?
RICHARD: I don’t care.
STUART: What do you want?
RICHARD: Juice? Coffee?
STUART: Nothing. Milk.
RICHARD: So you had the lunchbox all the time. I looked for it high and low. She made a good box lunch. I’ll say that for her.
STUART: But... her boxes haven’t been touched since Val and I cleared up... you might find something you need .. if you take a look.
RICHARD: I never want to see them again. I don’t want to see anything. You brought the lunchbox down to the shop one time, do you remember?
STUART: Mum sent me.
RICHARD: Didn’t work out too well, did it?
STUART: You hadn’t come home the night before.
RICHARD: Not too well.
STUART: When you didn’t come home at night, Mum would read stories to Val and me. So we could go to sleep, although you weren’t home.
RICHARD: You could hardly sleep the night before. You were so excited about taking Dad his lunchbox at work. Don’t you remember?
STUART: The Doctor’s Little Boy. I still remember how the story ends. The final sentence. I was supposed to say you’d forgotten your lunchbox. If anyone asked.
RICHARD: Coffee break started at 9.30, but you didn’t arrive till a quarter to ten, remember? With an empty lunchbox? My little man!
STUART: The boy from the next street, he was waiting outside when I came out with the lunchbox.
RICHARD: He said he’d lost the sandwiches. Ate them himself in the bus on the way! Greedy little bastard.
STUART: He said he’d seen the drunk again. Last night. I called him a liar. Said you’d forgotten your lunchbox. And we fought. And finished up in the dirt. And the sandwiches, too. The roads weren’t paved back then..
RICHARD: And you admitted it. Eating your Dad’s food. That was the only time...you were never sent again... we couldn’t have me starving to death at work, could we? We didn’t want that? Or did we? Hmm? All right?
RICHARD has finished eating and starts going through the boxes again.
STUART: Yes. if anyone asks. It’s all right.
STUART stacks boxes up, and removes things from some of them.
RICHARD: What a lot of junk you’ve got. She was a hoarder too. (holds up an angling waistcoat) Look at this! (takes a closer look) It’s never been used. Excellent jacket.
STUART: The rod and reel are in another box. They were from you. Val gave me the waistcoat. As a confirmation present.
RICHARD: Might as well use it. Weren’t there a rod and reel somewhere?
RICHARD: What? Good as new! We ought to go fishing together. When we can. Me and my boy, huh? Just you and me. Make a day of it, huh?
RICHARD: When did you say you got this... for your confirmation?
STUART: Yes. More or less.
RICHARD: But you... Oh yes. Quite, yes. It’s as good as new. You can collect the worms! I’ll book the river!
STUART: She had such a big reception. And all those quiches. How many quiches were there?
RICHARD: Go for a day or two, together, huh? What do you say?
STUART: There must have been ten of those quiches.
RICHARD clutches his heart
STUART: Are you all right?
RICHARD: Yes... just a bit of a warning... I don’t know what I’m thinking of... I can’t do anything any more... pass me the box... no, not that! The pillbox. Idiot!
He takes a nitro-glycerine tablet.
STUART: These brushes are junk. Look. It’s stiff as a board.
RICHARD: Some people don’t know how to handle them. Where did you get them?
STUART: From you.
RICHARD: Don’t talk nonsense.
STUART: Maybe Val will bring some stuff. She’s got painting stuff, I think.
RICHARD: She’s got first-class stuff. Or the company has. Excellent. I saw it when she called me in the other day. I took over the management for a few days. I suppose she told you?
RICHARD: It’s a flourishing business. And she’s doing it all on her own. As people do.
STUART: I’m sure it will work out for her, like it did for you.
RICHARD: And you’ve got a bit of a business yourself. A computer, and a chair. And, oh yes, a telephone... you’ve got a telephone. The phone never stopped ringing for the few days I was at Val’s office. People ring you, do they?
STUART: We’d better do something. There may be a fair amount of noise pollution if we haven’t made a start before she gets here.
RICHARD: Noise pollution, hmm? That was very nearly funny, dear boy. You’ve inherited something of my sense of humour, after all.
STUART: Then she’ll turn up when it suits her. Just look in. Do this! Do that! Bloody noise pollution.
RICHARD: Dear, oh dear, oh dear, Standup Stuart. Let me give you a tip. Don’t flog a joke to death. Even if you happen to say something that raises a smile, don’t overdo it by repeating it over and over again. OK? Standup Stuart. Standup Stuart. Standup Stuart. Hear that? That was repetition. Standup Stuart. Tired of the joke? Hmm? Is it tedious, hmm? Standup Stuart?
RICHARD: Good. Let’s get this place sorted before the marching band arrives.
STUART: She’ll probably want to start on that wall.
Richard makes as if to start moving the sofa.
STUART: Stop it, man! Don’t be so bloody stupid! Don’t you realise you’re not allowed to exert yourself? I’ll do it.
RICHARD: Of course, dear boy. You do it. You’ve always been so willing. You never needed coaxing, like Val. Always prepared to run errands for Dad. Talk. Have a chat. We’ve always been able to talk to each other man to man. On the same side. Me and my boy.
STUART: She often used to rest on that sofa, remember?
RICHARD: We got on. All lads together. All that.
STUART: She was always so tired. Although she didn’t go out to work.
RICHARD: Come on, show what you’re made off. Push, boy. Still as weak as a girl? What a sight. Is that milk pudding or muscles in your arms? Huh? I’ll be damned. I’ve fathered a jellyfish in human form.
STUART: Says who? A man who can hardly stand on his own legs any more.
RICHARD: Thank you for reminding me of that, Stuart,
Stuart continues to move furniture and boxes.
STUART: I’m sorry. But I’ll take care of this. It’s better that way. If anyone asks.
RICHARD: Pity you can’t shit for me, too.
STUART: For ten pee?
RICHARD: Ten pee? Might as well be gold-plated.
STUART: I remember.
RICHARD: You remember nothing.
Sound of a “fight” from Edward and Maria’s flat.
RICHARD: She went on like that. And it got worse and worse, the better off she was. I was working my fingers to the bone... she was one of the first housewives who got a dish-washing machine.... Electrolux. First-class machine.
STUART: That man from the co-op, Harry from the shop, came round, and you went straight out to the garage to check the temperature of the home-brew... You wouldn’t let me come with you, but I followed you anyway, and you told me to hurry in and take a shit for you. You said you’d pay me ten pee for each shit. So I should keep a close count.
RICHARD: I had to relax now and then, I didn’t hang around at home all day, did I? Pressing buttons in the kitchen, in between hanging on the phone listening to stupid... gossip. People can sink so low.
STUART: So I rushed to the bathroom as fast as I could. It wasn’t every day that I got a ten-pee piece, or two, three or four, if you see what I mean.
RICHARD: Someone told her lies. Some gossip. Or it would never had happened.
STUART: But the problem was...
More noise from Edward and Maria.
RICHARD: She had everything (points at the wall), and that was the thanks I got.
STUART: The problem was that I didn’t have to go. So I sat and strained and strained until my whole body ached.
RICHARD: Listening to some bloody bitch talking out of her arse. Runs away like the coward she was. Leaving me alone. All alone.
STUART: I didn’t give up until I’d forced a tiny lump of shit out. But when I went back to the garage for my ten pee, you were gone.
RICHARD: Val had a paper round. She always had money. What about you, Stuart?
Richard goes off.
STUART’s flat a moment later. Valerie enters.
VALERIE: I won’t stop now. What’s with the racket next door?
STUART: Have you got any brushes and rollers and stuff?
VALERIE: I won’t take my shoes off. This place is filthy. Do you know what you’ve got into? Do you realise? If they carry on like that in the morning, what do you think they’ll be like... in the afternoon?
STUART: Didn’t you bring anything?
VALERIE: Bring what? I really haven’t got time for this. Isn’t he up yet? I tried to call last night. There was no answer. Did he go... out?
STUART: How’s work going?
VALERIE: Fine, of course. What kind of a question is that? Really well. Is there anything to drink in the fridge?
STUART: Yes, help yourself. Heather’s all right, is she?
More noise from across the hall.
VALERIE: Listen! Did you hear that? Do you see what I mean? They can’t go on like that. What is wrong with some people?
STUART: Dad had a word with them.
VALERIE: He’d be familiar with it, of course. One shouting, the other crying.
STUART: How many quiches were there at your confirmation?
VALERIE: Did I tell you? The cafeteria at work is being moved. Up to the second floor. Bigger windows, better view.
STUART: I think there were at least ten at mine.
VALERIE: It will make all the difference.
STUART: All I know is, there were too many. Since there was no reception. There were so many leftovers.
VALERIE: Forget it. It makes no difference any more. Is Co-op Man really not up yet? I’ll have to hurry if I’m going to get the paint. Heather is...
RICHARD: (has been listening from a distance) Shipping news. The good ship Chatterbox takes on freight in Park Road. Unloads in an unpainted flat in the east of town.
STUART: Chatterbox... is a joke, get it?
VALERIE: And Heather... is my daughter, get it? It was her fifth birthday last week.
STUART: Give her my...
RICHARD: Nice to see you. Really.
VALERIE: It’s mutual. Really. Absolutely terrific.
RICHARD: Same here. I’m thrilled, too. When are you going back to work?
VALERIE: It’s a pity I can’t stop. It would be such fun for all of us. Especially you.
RICHARD: Do you want a sandwich?
STUART: Why are you doing this?
RICHARD: Doing what? We’re just saying hello. Nothing odd about it. And I offered her a sandwich. Just being polite, it seems to me. Since the lunchbox turned up.
STUART: I still remember how The Doctor’s Little Boy ends. Do you remember?
VALERIE: You said you’d be ready when I arrived.
STUART: We knew it would save time to wait for you, and do things in the right order, rather than starting off and doing something wrong, and wasting time, so we decided to wait. for you.
RICHARD: I couldn’t stop him. Waiting. Unstoppable immobility.
STUART: But I did move things.
RICHARD: We’re thinking of taking a fishing trip, me and my boy.
STUART: What was your favourite book? Of the ones she read for us.
RICHARD: Take a couple of days this summer. Just the two of us. Do you want to come along?
RICHARD: Of course not. I might have known.
STUART: I did move stuff.
VALERIE: Was the sofa here?
STUART: I told you...
VALERIE: You didn’t let Dad move the sofa?
STUART: I moved it myself.
VALERIE: You moved the sofa yourself.
STUART: I. Myself. Moved the Sofa. Yes. Don’t you believe me?
RICHARD: You haven’t asked how I am.
STUART: I told him not to carry the boxes. He wanted to. But I stopped him. When he was going to lift them, I stopped him.
VALERIE: Maybe you should have let him try.
RICHARD: It would be best for everyone if I dropped dead. That’s what you want.
VALERIE: Oh! We love you as much as you love us.
RICHARD: When it’s nitro-glycerine tablets that keep you going, you’re walking a thin line.
STUART: But I’m here. With you. I can keep an eye on you.
RICHARD: Nobody ever asks me anything.
Arguments across the hall.
VALERIE: What fun. They’re talking. Aren’t they, Dad?
RICHARD: Well... thank you... since you ask, I’ll admit I haven’t been too well lately. But why should you care?
VALERIE: Good question.
STUART: But. Look. We. Or I.
VALERIE: Don’t worry, Stuart... we’re just talking.
RICHARD: What about it? Have we got to wait all day for the paint?
VALERIE: I think they’re all rubbish. Since you ask. The books. But she was a good reader. She had a nice voice.
RICHARD: Get a move on. Let’s get to work.
VALERIE: And they probably weren’t that bad. It’s just... Had you chosen a colour from the samples? What colour shall I buy?
RICHARD: I thought you were in charge?
STUART: We would sit in the living room by candlelight. You sat on the sofa. I sat at the window.
VALERIE: This is your living room
STUART: Except in summer. Then it was light out of doors. You could see right down the street whether someone was coming.
VALERIE: I thought of the yellow I saw at Heather’s nursery school. I thought it would brighten the place up. Heather’s my daughter. Her fifth birthday was last week. You had the sample here somewhere.
STUART: (finds the sample card) I like the colour. What do you think?
RICHARD: It’s no worse than anything else. I had some other colour in mind. But it’s up to you.
VALERIE: What colour?
RICHARD: Just different. Nothing definite, exactly.
VALERIE: No. No reason to be definite, exactly.
STUART: I think this is fine.
RICHARD: Is everyone happy then? Exactly?
VALERIE: Not everyone, if you want a different colour. Although you see no reason to define what colour you mean, precisely, it’s obvious that you wanted another colour. And since I ’m going to buy the paint right now, being the only member of this family with a driving licence... it would be quite helpful to have a slightly more precise description of this colour you have in mind, so I can go and buy it, since you don’t want the yellow. Exactly.
RICHARD: Why do you have to make it so complicated? All I said was... I mean... what the hell, do what you want. I’m only a visitor here, anyway.
(he clutches at his heart and takes a tablet)
STUART: Is everything all right?
VALERIE: Fine. Who asked?
STUART: I don’t want you feel like a visitor here. I know it’s my flat, but you can stay here as long as you... need. Be at home here, I mean. That’s what we want, Valerie and I, although we know your things aren’t here, you know, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t live here together.. for a long time. As long as you... need, I mean.
VALERIE: Where did you learn public speaking?
STUART: I’m just trying... trying to be nice. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be? Nice?
RICHARD: Oh yes... if this is all about being nice, I’d rather know at once. Then I can move somewhere else. I can look after myself. What’s left of me.
VALERIE: The Doctor’s Little Boy?
STUART: It had a green cover.
Valerie’s cell phone rings... she checks who’s ringing, without answering.
VALERIE: OK. The colour. Now.
RICHARD: All right. Yellow. But not too yellow.
VALERIE: Not too yellow, he says. Sensible. Since any yellow is going to be too yellow. Get it? Have you got brushes? Rollers?
STUART: No. We thought you were bringing them. The stuff.
VALERIE: (shows them the stiff brushes) What about these?
STUART: They’re stiff.
RICHARD: (hands her money) Forget it. Buy some new stuff. I can afford it.
VALERIE: (doesn’t take the money) No.
RICHARD: You’d rather wait till I die.
VALERIE: All in good time.
STUART: I’ll get the place ready in the meantime.
VALERIE: Don’t overdo it. You’ve already moved the sofa, remember? (angry again) and you’ve got to do something about those people next door. Or I will! I mean it! (goes)
RICHARD: Well, since you ask, I’m feeling quite well, but tell me, Miss Valerie. How are you?
VALERIE: (comes back) What did you say?
RICHARD: I asked how...
VALERIE: I heard. I heard. Do you know, Dad... do you know... that’s the first time you’ve ever asked me how I am.
RICHARD: What does she mean... all in good time?
STUART: I’m going to get some boxes from the garage.
Edward’s flat. It is rather unappealing, with few attractive features. Computer in the living room, TV, audio equipment, videotapes and CDs in piles. Maria is always tidying up, all the same. Arranging things, stacking them. And they collapse.
MARIA: (ready with the newspaper, toast and a cup of coffee on a tray)
Edward. Edward sweetie! It’s here! Morning!
MARIA: Breakfast’s on the way! (sings) “Awake my soul, and with the sun the daily stage of duty run....”
EDWARD: Not that! For Christ’s sake.
MARIA: But haven’t you got to get up?
EDWARD: What for?
MARIA: Well... to do all sorts. Prepare your lessons and that. I mean... don’t teachers have to prepare their lessons and that? Before school starts in the autumn? That is, now. (sings) “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, to shine for him each day...”
EDWARD: Stop it.
MARIA: (sings) “In every way to please him, at home, at school, at play.”
EDWARD: Stop it!
MARIA: That’s what I thought. That teachers had to prepare. Do you want jam on your toast? Like in Milly Molly Mandy. That was actually blackberry, but we’ve only got blueberry. You don’t mind, do you?
MARIA: Did you dream last night?
EDWARD: Yes. I dreamed you’d moved out. So I could have everything the way I want it again. Not all this... this.
MARIA: And weren’t you sorry not to have all this... this?
EDWARD: Yes. Of course. While there’s nothing better on offer.
MARIA: How nice. I dreamed I was moving in. Into a gorgeous brick house, and I was married, you know, not to you... it was just a dream, but to a serious man who says what he means and means what he says, too, somehow... and comes home in the evening and says “Daddy’s home!” and puts his briefcase down in the same spot before he embraces his wife who comes running “doodleedoo”, and gives her a long kiss.. on the mouth... a refreshing kiss after a hard day at the office... and holds her close... and the children who have been playing in their bedrooms come happily out to cuddle up to Daddy... and Mummy, because they all love each other so very much.
EDWARD: You dreamed all that?
MARIA: Hold me, Edward. Just a bit. Hold me tight and look into my eyes and say something as if we’re in a house like that, and the children are about to come running out of their rooms... to welcome Daddy. Don’t you ever want to have a baby?
EDWARD: Maria. Wake up.
MARIA: Let’s do something. Together.
EDWARD: Like what?
MARIA: Do you want to take a shower? Or a walk? We can be the new doctor and his wife who’ve just moved to town. Or the headmaster and ... his wife.
EDWARD: I like the sound of the shower. I might get to touch you there.
MARIA: But I don’t need a shower. I’m not... dirty.
EDWARD: Says who? The dirtiest bitch in town, huh? Let’s see. You could do with being de-loused, Ha! (chases her around)
MARIA: Help! the bogeyman’s after me! Help! (looks under his dressing gown) Hey, let me see... are you carrying a weapon... what’s this? Nasty! What’s it for? (They struggle) No, no... just hold me. I don’t want to, Edward!
EDWARD: What the hell is wrong with you? Huh?
MARIA: Leave me alone. No! Don’t touch me!
EDWARD: What’s got into you?
MARIA: You hurt me! You know I don’t like rough stuff... Edward... don’t!!!
EDWARD: You need help. Fucking hell! Shit!
He starts watching TV... preferably some uplifting Christian programme. He turns the TV off again almost immediately.
MARIA: “Thy Rob and staff my comfort still” I always sang that in Sunday School back home. Have I told you that? It’s kind of funny. You were supposed to sing “Rod and Staff” but I thought it was Rob and I was always waiting to find out who this Rob was. I never dared ask. I just sang. “Rob and staff” Is the church service finished?
EDWARD: No. But I suddenly felt born again.
MARIA: Watches the screen for a little while. Something interesting on the teletext then?
EDWARD: About as much as in the ...“shower.”
MARIA: OK. Sorry. OK?
MARIA: It’s just that somehow now.. I can’t... can’t always...
MARIA: I feel... when I feel like that... as if I’m so empty afterwards, I’m so alone, somehow... I just want you with me... just with me...
EDWARD: OK! Bloody hell!
MARIA: Do you know who’s moving in next door? He’s been fiddling around there for days, and you get the feeling nothing’s being done.
EDWARD: (watching teletext) All flights to (Aberdeen) have been cancelled. And autumn has hardly begun.
EDWARD: Maybe I should have applied for a teaching job there. And live here.
MARIA: Doodlee... doo. The Sunday School teacher in Croydon. He had ... everything under control, you know. His wife played the organ. The children sung like angels. “thy Rod and Staff....”
EDWARD: We lost. 3-0! Damn! Just as well I
MARIA: They gave me a lift home because they lived in the next street. And there was a Sunday-cleaning-polish smell in the car, and a granny at the window and a smell of Sunday roast out into the street.
EDWARD: You’re lucky you’re not in Libya. They cut the throats of five prostitutes there last week.
MARIA: Why don’t you go out to play? Hanging around indoors all day.
EDWARD: Nobody wants to go out to play. And they’re all big boys. They won’t let me play.
MARIA: Why don’t you ask the boy next door? He looks about your age. Maybe he’d like to play.
MARIA: (imitates somebody) Why don’t you ask the girl next door? She looks about your age. Maybe she’d like to play.. come on... you’ll meet her again... and you’ll get to know someone else at the new place... no, look... there’s a girl about your age... go out and play with her...
EDWARD: Strange about the new bloke next door... He said he’d come to the wrong flat. He’d been doing something out in the garage, I think. He looked as if he’s had a few. Strange... you know, I thought...
MARIA: Was it that boy?
EDWARD: That boy? What boy?
MARIA: I saw him just now when I went to get the paper... pleasant boy.
EDWARD: Sorry, but I think the “boy” must be thirty years older than you. Not up to much.
MARIA: What do you mean... up to much? Is that all you think about?
EDWARD: He wouldn’t give you the time of day. He seemed to have a bit of taste. Doesn’t look as if he shares my weakness for lame dogs and cripples.
MARIA: I thought we weren’t suppose to say that word... cripple.
EDWARD: Not a word... about him. Not a word. Or I’ll kill you. All right?
MARIA: Wow! Take it easy. Do you want one or two?
EDWARD: Three. It’s kind of awkward... not being able to place him, I mean. It gives me a bad feeling.
MARIA: God, I know exactly what you mean, A bad feeling, isn’t it?
EDWARD: I thought you found it a good feeling? A bad feeling, I mean.
MARIA: I’ll stay here until I get a better offer. I always get better and better offers. That’s the way it is.
EDWARD: That’s the best news I’ve heard all day.
MARIA: But Edward... I was mostly kidding, really.
EDWARD: The flat next door is bigger. You ought to check out the old man. Maybe he’s got a briefcase always in the same place, like that doodleedoo you dreamed last night?
MARIA: Come here, Edward. Kiss me. Here.
EDWARD: You naughty thing. Where. Here?
MARIA: And here.
They disappear down onto the floor, or wherever.