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One for the Road

CHARACTERS

NICOLAS………mid-forties

VICTOR………thirty

GILA………thirty

NICKY………seven

A room.

NICOLAS at his desk. He sits still. He leans forward and speaks into a machine.

NICOLAS

Bring him in.

He sits back. The door opens. VICTOR walks in, slowly. His clothes are torn. He is bruised. The door closes behind him.

NICOLAS

Hello! Good morning. How are you? Let’s not beat about the bush. Anything but that. D’accord? You’re a civilized man. So am I. Sit down.

VICTOR slowly sits. NICOLAS stands. walks over to him.

What do you think this is? It’s my finger. And this is my little finger. This is my big finger and this is my little finger. I wave my big finger in front of your eyes. Like this. And now I do the same with my little finger. I can also use both…at the same time. Like this. I can do absolutely anything I like. Do you think I’m mad? My mother did.

He laughs.

Do you think waving fingers in front of people’s eyes is silly? I can see your point. You’re a man of the highest intelligence. But would you take the same view if it was my boot—or my penis? Why am I so obsessed with eyes? Am I obsessed with eyes? Possibly. Not my eyes. Other people’s eyes. The eyes of people who are brought to me here. They’re so vulnerable. The soul shines through them. Are you a religious man? I am. Which side do you think God is on? I’m going to have a drink.

He goes to sideboard, pours whiskey.

You’re probably wondering where your wife is. She’s in another room.

He drinks.

Good-looking woman.

He drinks.

God, that was good.

He pours another.

Don’t worry, I can hold my booze.

He drinks.

You may have noticed I’m the chatty type. You probably think I’m part of a predictable, formal, long-established pattern; i.e., I chat away, friendly, insouciant, I open the batting, as it were, in a lighthearted, even carefree manner, while another waits in the wings, silent, introspective, coiled like a puma. No, no. It’s not quite like that. I run the place. God speaks through me. I’m referring to the Old Testament God, by the way, although I’m a long way from being Jewish. Everyone respects me here. Including you, I take it? I think that is the correct stance.

Pause

Stand up.

VICTOR stands.

Sit down.

VICTOR sits.

Thank you so much.

Pause

Tell me something….

Silence

What a good-looking woman your wife is. You’re a very lucky man. Tell me… one for the road, I think….

He pours whiskey.

You do respect me, I take it?

He stands in front of VICTOR and looks down at him. VICTOR looks up.

I would be right in assuming that?

Silence

VICTOR

(Quietly) I don’t know you.

NICOLAS

But you respect me.

VICTOR

I don’t know you.

NICOLAS

Are you saying you don’t respect me?

Pause

Are you saying you would respect me if you knew me better? Would you like to know me better?

Pause

Would you like to know me better?

VICTOR

What I would like…has no bearing on the matter.

NICOLAS

Oh yes it has.

Pause

I’ve heard so much about you. I’m terribly pleased to meet you. Well, I’m not sure that pleased is the right word. One has to be so scrupulous about language. Intrigued. I’m intrigued. Firstly because I’ve heard so much about you. Secondly because if you don’t respect me you’re unique. Everyone else knows the voice of God speaks through me. You’re not a religious man, I take it?

Pause

You don’t believe in a guiding light?

Pause

What then?

Pause

So…morally…you flounder in wet shit. You know…like when you’ve eaten a rancid omelette.

Pause

I think I deserve one for the road.

He pours, drinks.

Do you drink whiskey?

Pause

I hear you have a lovely house. Lots of books. Someone told me some of my boys kicked it around a bit. Pissed on the rugs, that sort of thing. I wish they wouldn’t do that. I do really. But you know what it’s like—they have such responsibilities—and they feel them—they are constantly present—day and night—these responsibilities—and so, sometimes, they piss on a few rugs. You understand. You’re not a fool.

Pause

Is your son all right?

VICTOR

I don’t know.

NICOLAS

Oh, I’m sure he’s all right. What age is he…seven…or thereabouts? Big lad I’m told. Nevertheless, silly of him to behave as he did. But is he all right?

VICTOR

I don’t know.

NICOLAS

Oh, I’m sure he’s all right. Anyway, I’ll have a word with him later and find out. He’s somewhere on the second floor, I believe.

Pause

Well now….

Pause

What do you say? Are we friends?

Pause

I’m prepared to be frank, as a true friend should. I love death. What about you?

Pause

What about you? Do you love death? Not necessarily your own. Others. The death of others. Do you love the death of others, or, at any rate, do you love the death of others as much as I do?

Pause

Are you always so dull? I understood you enjoyed the cut and thrust of debate.

Pause

Death. Death. Death. Death. As has been noted by the most respected authorities, it is beautiful. The purest, most harmonious thing there is. Sexual intercourse is nothing compared to it.

He drinks.

Talking about sexual intercourse….

He laughs wildly, stops.

Does she…fuck? Or does she…? Or does she…like…you know…what? What does she like? I’m talking about your wife. Your wife.

Pause

You know the old joke? Does she fuck?

Heavily, in another voice:

Does she fuck!

He laughs.

It’s ambiguous, of course. It could mean she fucks like a rabbit or she fucks not at all.

Pause

Well, we’re all God’s creatures. Even your wife.

Pause

There is only one obligation. To be honest. You have no other obligation. Weigh that. In your mind. Do you know the man who runs this country? No? Well, he’s a very nice chap. He took me aside the other day, last Wednesday, I think it was, he took me aside, at a reception, visiting dignitaries, he took me aside, me, and he said to me, he said, in what I can only describe as a hoarse whisper, Nic, he said, Nic (that’s my name), Nic, if you ever come across anyone whom you have good reason to believe is getting on my tits, tell them one thing, tell them honesty is the best policy. The cheese was superb. Goat. One for the road.

He pours.

Your wife and I had a very nice chat but I couldn’t help noticing she didn’t look her best. She’s probably menstruating. Women do that.

Pause

You know, old chap, I do love other things, apart from death. So many things. Nature. Trees, things like that. A nice blue sky. Blossom.

Pause

Tell me…truly…are you beginning to love me?

Pause

I think your wife is. Beginning. She is beginning to fall in love with me. On the brink…of doing so. The trouble is, I have rivals. Because everyone here has fallen in love with your wife. It’s her eyes have beguiled them. Her soul, they say, shines through them. What’s her name? Gila…or something?

Pause

Who would you prefer to be? You or me?

Pause

I’d go for me if I were you. The trouble about you, although I grant your merits, is that you’re on a losing wicket, while I can’t put a foot wrong. Do you take my point? Ah God, let me confess, let me make a confession to you. I have never been more moved, in the whole of my life, as when—only the other day, last Friday, I believe—the man who runs this country announced to the country: We are all patriots, we are as one, we all share a common heritage. Except you, apparently.

Pause

I feel a link, you see, a bond. I share a commonwealth of interest. I am not alone. I am not alone!

Silence

VICTOR

Kill me.

NICOLAS

What?

VICTOR

Kill me.

NICOLAS goes to him, puts his arm around him.

NICOLAS

What’s the matter?

Pause

What in heaven’s name is the matter?

Pause

Mmmnnn?

Pause

You’re probably just hungry. Or thirsty. Let me tell you something. I hate despair. I find it intolerable. The stink of it gets up my nose. It’s a blemish. Despair, old fruit, is a cancer. It should be castrated. Indeed I’ve often found that that works. Chop the balls off and despair goes out the window. You’re left with a happy man. Or a happy woman. Look at me.

VICTOR does so.

Your soul shines out of your eyes.

BLACKOUT

Lights up. NICOLAS standing with a small boy.

NICOLAS

What is your name?

NICKY

Nicky.

NICOLAS

Really? How odd.

Pause

Do you like cowboys and Indians?

NICKY

Yes. A bit.

NICOLAS

What do you really like?

NICKY

I like aeroplanes.

NICOLAS

Real ones or toy ones?

NICKY

I like both kinds of ones.

NICOLAS

Do you?

Pause

Why do you like aeroplanes?

Pause

NICKY

Well…because they go so fast. Through the air. The real ones do.

NICOLAS

And the toy ones?

NICKY

I pretend they go as fast as the real ones do.

Pause

NICOLAS

Do you like your mummy and daddy?

Pause

Do you like your mummy and daddy?

NICKY

Yes.

NICOLAS

Why?

Pause

Why?

Pause

Do you find that a hard question to answer?

Pause

NICKY

Where’s mummy?

NICOLAS

You don’t like your mummy and daddy?

NICKY

Yes. I do.

NICOLAS

Why?

Pause

Would you like to be a soldier when you grow up?

NICKY

I don’t mind.

NICOLAS

You don’t? Good. You like soldiers. Good. But you spat at my soldiers and you kicked them. You attacked them.

NICKY

Were they your soldiers?

NICOLAS

They are your country’s soldiers.

NICKY

I didn’t like those soldiers.

NICOLAS

They don’t like you either, my darling.

BLACKOUT

Lights up. NICOLAS sitting. GILA standing. Her clothes are torn. She is bruised.

NICOLAS

When did you meet your husband?

GILA

When I was eighteen.

NICOLAS

Why?

GILA

Why?

NICOLAS

Why?

GILA

I just met him.

NICOLAS

Why?

GILA

I didn’t plan it.

NICOLAS

Why not?

GILA

I didn’t know him.

NICOLAS

Why not?

Pause

Why not?

GILA

I didn’t know him.

NICOLAS

Why not?

GILA

I met him.

NICOLAS

When?

GILA

When I was eighteen.

NICOLAS

Why?

GILA

He was in the room.

NICOLAS

Room?

Pause

Room?

GILA

The same room.

NICOLAS

As what?

GILA

As I was.

NICOLAS

As I was?

Pause

GILA

As I was.

NICOLAS

Room? What room?

GILA

A room.

NICOLAS

What room?

GILA

My father’s room.

NICOLAS

Your father? What’s your father got to do with it?

Pause

Your father? How dare you? Fuckpig.

Pause

Your father was a wonderful man. His country is proud of him. He’s dead. He was a man of honor. He’s dead. Are you prepared to insult the memory of your father?

Pause

Are you prepared to defame, to debase, the memory of your father? Your father fought for his country. I knew him. I revered him. Everyone did. He believed in God. He didn’t think, like you shitbags. He lived. He lived. He was iron and gold. He would die, he would die, he would die, for his country, for his God. And he did die, he died, he died, for his God. You turd. To spawn such a daughter. What a fate. Oh, poor, perturbed spirit, to be haunted forever by such scum and spittle. How do you dare speak of your father to me? I loved him, as if he were my own father.

Silence

NICOLAS

Where did you meet your husband?

GILA

In a street.

NICOLAS

What were you doing there?

GILA

Walking.

NICOLAS

What was he doing?

GILA

Walking.

Pause

I dropped something. He picked it up.

NICOLAS

What did you drop?

GILA

The evening paper.

NICOLAS

You were drunk.

Pause

You were drugged.

Pause

You had absconded from your hospital.

GILA

I was not in a hospital.

NICOLAS

Where are you now?

Pause

Where are you now? Do you think you are in a hospital?

Pause

Do you think we have nuns upstairs?

Pause

What do we have upstairs?

GILA

No nuns.

NICOLAS

What do we have?

GILA

Men.

NICOLAS

Have they been raping you?

She stares at him.

How many times?

Pause

How many times have you been raped?

Pause

How many times?

He stands, goes to her, lifts his finger.

This is my big finger. And this is my little finger. Look. I wave them in front of your eyes. Like this. How many times have you been raped?

GILA

I don’t know.

NICOLAS

And you consider yourself a reliable witness?

He goes to sideboard, pours drink, sits, drinks.

You’re a lovely woman. Well, you were.

He leans back, drinks, sighs.

Your son is…seven. He’s a little prick. You made him so. You have taught him to be so. You had a choice. You could have encouraged him to be a good person. Instead, you encouraged him to be a little prick. You encouraged him to spit, to strike at soldiers of honor, soldiers of God.

Pause

Oh well…in one way I suppose it’s academic.

Pause

You’re of no interest to me. I might even let you out of here, in due course. But I should think you might entertain us all a little more before you go.

BLACKOUT

Lights up. NICOLAS standing. VICTOR sitting. VICTOR is tidily dressed.

NICOLAS

How have you been? Surviving?

VICTOR

Yes.

NICOLAS

Yes?

VICTOR

Yes. Yes.

NICOLAS

Really? How?

VICTOR

Oh….

Pause

NICOLAS

I can’t hear you.

VICTOR

It’s my mouth.

NICOLAS

Mouth?

VICTOR

Tongue.

NICOLAS

What’s the matter with it?

Pause

What about a drink? One for the road. What do you say to a drink?

He goes to bottle, pours two glasses, gives a glass to VICTOR.

Drink up. It’ll put lead in your pencil. And then we’ll find someone to take it out.

He laughs.

We can do that, you know. We have a first-class brothel upstairs, on the sixth floor, chandeliers, the lot. They’ll suck you in and blow you out in little bubbles. All volunteers. Their daddies are in our business. Which is, I remind you, to keep the world clean for God. Get me? Drink up. Drink up. Are you refusing to drink with me?

VICTOR drinks. His head falls back.

Cheers.

NICOLAS drinks.

You can go.

Pause

You can leave. We’ll meet again, I hope. I trust we will always remain friends. Go out. Enjoy life. Be good. Love your wife. She’ll be joining you in about a week, by the way. If she feels up to it. Yes. I feel we’ve both benefited from our discussions.

VICTOR mutters.

What?

VICTOR mutters.

What?

VICTOR

My son.

NICOLAS

Your son? Oh, don’t worry about him. He was a little prick.

VICTOR straightens and stares at Nicolas.

Silence

BLACKOUT

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