GERRY MC DONNELL was born and lives in Dublin. He was educated in Trinity College, Dublin where he edited ICARUS, the college literary magazine; and at Dublin City University. He has had four collections of poetry published by Lapwing Publications, Belfast. He has also written for stage, radio and television. His play Making It Home, a two-hander father and son relationship, was first performed at the Crypt Theatre at Dublin Castle in 2001. A radio adaptation of this play was broadcast on RTE Radio 1 in 2008 starring the acclaimed Irish actor David Kelly as the father and Mark Lambert as the son. It has been translated into Breton. His play Whose Veins Ran Lightning, based on the life and work of the Irish poet James Clarence Mangan (1803-1849), was performed at The New Theatre in Dublin in 2003. His libretto for a chamber opera, The Poet and the Muse, (music by composer John Byrne) also deals with Mangan. He has written for the Irish television series Fair City. His interest in Irish Jewry has resulted in the chapbook; Jewish Influences in Ulysses and a collection of monologues, Mud Island Elegy, in which Jews of 19th century Ireland speak about their lives from beyond the grave. Lost and Found concerns a homeless Jewish man living in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. His stage play Song of Solomon, set on the Royal canal in Dublin, has a Jewish theme. Mud Island Anthology, concerning ‘ordinary’ Dublin gentiles who lived in the latter half of the 20th century was published in 2009 and is a companion collection to the ‘Elegy’ poems. His latest collection of poetry, Ragged Star, was published in 2011 by Lapwing. In 2013 his Novella Martin Incidentally was published. He is a member of the Irish Playwrights’ and Screenwriters’ Guild and the Irish Writers’ Union.
Song of Solomon
A STAGE PLAY
BY GERRY MC DONNELL
JOE REILLY Sixty year old Dubliner- retired soldier
SAM SOLOMON Seventy year old Irish/Israeli Jew
SEPHIE/PERSEPHONE DUNNE* Ghost of young woman in her 20s
JOHNER Drug Addict in his 20’s
SHARON Drug Addict in her 20’s
ROBBIE Drug Addict in his 20’s
* Persephone, in Greek mythology, was queen of the underworld. She represents growth in the spring and harvest in the autumn. Sam is the only one who calls her Persephone.
SCENE. CANAL BANK, DUBLIN, NEAR A LOCK, OCTOBER EVENING, IN THE YEAR 2000.
JOE, DRESSED IN FRAYED TWEED JACKET, ARMY SURPLUS TROUSERS AND BOOTS, IS SITTING ON A CANAL BENCH BY HIMSELF. HE HAS HIS SHIRT OPEN, BEARING HIS CHEST TO THE ELEMENTS. HE IS MARKING OUT HORSES IN A NEWSPAPER. HE SITS IN THE CENTRE OF THE BENCH, ELBOWS ON HIS KNEES, HIS LEGS SPREAD WIDE. HE SUDDENLY WINCES WITH PAIN IN HIS LEG AND WALKS AROUND THE BENCH TO EASE THE PAIN. HE SITS DOWN AGAIN AND GOES BACK TO THE HORSES. THERE IS A WHISKEY BOTTLE FILLED WITH LIQUID UNDER THE BENCH.
ENTER SAM, WELL DRESSED IN HAT, OVERCOAT, SCARF AND GLOVES. HE MOVES TOWARDS JOE, SIZING HIM UP. SINCE SAM IS SUFFERING FROM AN ATTACK OF VERTIGO, HE HAS LITTLE CHOICE BUT TO REST ON THE BENCH. JOE BECOMES AWARE OF SAM COMING TOWARDS HIM.
JOE (TO HIMSELF) Ah, fuck!
JOE FOLDS THE NEWSPAPER AND THROWS IT UNDER THE BENCH COVERING THE BOTTLE.
SAM Do you mind?
JOE No. Rest yourself.
JOE RETAINS HIS POSITION ON THE BENCH.
SAM I suffer from vertigo. I just need to sit down for a while.
JOE Vertigo. What’s that exactly?
SAM Dizziness. Loss of balance.
JOE I thought it was a fear of heights.
SAM (SNAPPING) People always assume that! Very irritating!
JOE Sorry I asked.
See the water there? You wouldn’t think it’s movin’ until you hear it fallin’ at the lock.
SAM (WEARILY) Hypnotic!
JOE That’s it! Gets me dwellin’ on things, sad things!
SAM You should go out to the sea. Feel the spray! Fresh air!
JOE I’ve no choice! I’m tied to the canal.
JOE Do you believe in the supernatural?
JOE There’s no point in tellin’ you so!
JOE What would you say if I said I have a rendezvous with a spirit from the other world?
SAM I’d say you should see a psychiatrist.
JOE GIVES SAM A DIRTY LOOK
I don’t mean to offend!
JOE So you think I’m mad?
SAM No, but you could be, how could I put it, deluded, temporarily; to do with alcohol, maybe?
JOE Are you saying I’m an alcoholic, seein’ things?
SAM Well, sitting on a canal bench, a whiskey bottle peeping out of your pocket.
JOE TAKES OUT A SMALL BOTTLE FROM HIS POCKET
JOE Sure that’s only a Baby Power, only a mouthfull, for the chill in the evenin’!
SAM I’ll take your word for it.
JOE What if you saw her?
JOE The spirit, the ghost!
SAM I’ve nothing to say on the matter.
JOE It’s the wife!
SAM (TAKEN ABACK) This is a bit distasteful!
JOE It’s the truth! She comes to ask me if he showed up.
JOE The love of her life. He left her in the lurch. She had a baby for him that died. I was prepared to rear another man’s child! But that finished her. She threw herself in the lock there. I’m coming here thirty years or more!
SAM (UNCOMFORTABLY) I’ll move on, I think.
SAM STANDS UP, TRIES TO WALK AROUND THE BENCH, SWAYS AND SITS BACK DOWN.
JOE You’re not over the vertigo yet! Relax for another while. She wasn’t in her right mind. Nobody is who commits suicide!
SAM It can be a decision, a choice!
SAM TAKES OFF HIS GLOVES AND PRODUCES A SMALL BOTTLE FROM HIS POCKET AND SWALLOWS A TABLET.
JOE (NEEDLING) Addicted are you?
JOE Your pills.
SAM (IRRITATED) It’s prescription medication, for my vertigo.
JOE I’ll take your word for it.
SAM PUTS HIS GLOVES BACK ON, PULLS UP HIS COLLAR AND SETTLES HIS HAT.
JOE Nice bit of weather we’re havin’ for October.
SAM I find it cold.
JOE Would you call it a ‘pet day’?
JOE I hope we’re not going to get the weather you’re dressed for!
SAM I feel the cold, the damp.
JOE In the winter, the wind here would cut you in halves.
SAM Half, you mean? Cut you in half!
JOE No, halves, two halves! It wouldn’t cut you in one half, would it? Look at that sunset! It’d warm ye up.
SAM SITS MOTIONLESS
On an evenin’ like this I do muse, listen to the sound of the water
JOE fallin’. I think it’s like that in life – all of us dreamin’ towards the sudden lock.
SAM Very poetic. We awake when we’re dead?
JOE Somethin’ like that!
SAM That’s quite a tome in your pocket!
JOE Yes, the Bible. The wife gave it to me; thought it might straighten me out. Are you familiar with it?
JOE You don’t give anything away do you? PAUSE Have you a favourite part?
SAM Vanity of vanities; all is vanity!
JOE Is that it?
SAM Yes, I am reduced to that.
JOE I like the psalms. The Lord is my shepherd…
SAM Very common! Sorry, I’m not myself.
JOE Who are you then?
SAM GIVES JOE A WITHERING LOOK.
JOE Ah, you have to have a laugh!
JOE TAKES THE BABY POWER FROM HIS RIGHT JACKET POCKET.
I hope you don’t mind me havin’ a drink. It’s a little concession I allow myself at this time of year. Same in the spring! In summer I don’t bother, don’t need it.
SAM What about winter?
JOE She doesn’t appear in the winter.
SAM How convenient!
JOE Will you have a drop?
SAM No. I tend not to drink before the nine o’clock news.
JOE That’s a good one! Are you sure you won’t have a slug?
SAM (PUZZLED) Slug?
JOE A drink, a nip?
SAM No thanks.
JOE LIFTS THE BOTTLE TO HIS MOUTH AT THE SAME TIME AS THE ANGELUS BELLS RING SIX O’ CLOCK. HE CONFUSES HIS MOVEMENT TO HIS MOUTH WITH BLESSING HIMSELF AND SPILLS THE DRINK OVER HIS FACE.
JOE Ah, fuck!
SAM Here, use my handkerchief, it’s clean.
JOE TAKES HANDKERCHIEF AND WIPES HIS FACE.
JOE Thanks! I went to bless myself there. Old habits!
JOE HANDS HANDKERCHIEF BACK TO SAM
SAM No keep it!
JOE It feels like silk. Are you sure?
SAM Yes, I’ve plenty of them.
JOE There’s a thing though, the words of the Angelus – The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary and she conceived of the Holy Ghost. Deluded am I? I’m backed up by the Catholic Church!
SAM I thought you weren’t going to mention ghosts or spirits!
JOE It’s curious all the same isn’t it.
SAM I suppose the idea of an adjacent world is comforting.
JOE An adjacent world? I like that!
JOE Are you a lapsed Catholic like myself?
SAM No, I’m a Jew.
JOE Really? I never met a Jew, I mean a Jewish person before. My mother always found the Jewman, sorry, the Jewish man in the pawn in Capel Street to be fair.
SAM I’m glad to hear it. (IRRITABLY) We’re not all pawn brokers you know!
JOE Jaysus, you’re very touchy, aren’t you?
SAM Yes, I’m blessed with an abundance of irritability.
JOE (LAUGHS) That’s a good one! What are you doin’ on the canal anyway? You’re a bit overdressed for it, aren’t you?
SAM I’ve just come…
JOE Are you over for the millennium?
JOE Of course you’re still waitin’ for the Messiah. Two thousand years! It flew by, didn’t it? (LAUGHS)
SAM JUST STARES AHEAD
Ah, you have to have a laugh, don’t you?
SAM Do you? As I was trying to say, I thought I’d walk along the canal, look at the swans. Then I got this attack of vertigo. And here I am!
JOE The swans, they always remind me of the story, the children of Lir; JOE three boys and a girl, were turned into four white swans for nine hundred years. Used to frighten the life out of me as a kid! Nine hundred years!
SAM I noticed you threw your newspaper away.
JOE Nothin’ in it! Nothin’ but murder and mayhem! Do you want it?
SAM No, I was thinking it will cause litter.
JOE What? I’ll pick it up on my way home.
SAM I have a thing about litter. Earlier I chased a crisp bag, almost under a bus.
JOE I threw it away after lookin’ at the racin’ pages. Bloody horses!
SAM Did you lose a bet?
JOE No, I won! A yankee! A good few bob! But the bloody bookie couldn’t cover the bet.
SAM You could sue him!
JOE With what? I don’t have the money to pay a solicitor! Years ago you’d sort out your differences man to man. I still think that way.
SAM At our age, I presume we’re of a similar vintage; we wouldn’t have the staying power. Fighting is a young man’s game.
JOE You’re right, I suppose! There are these junkies hangin’ around the canal bridge up there. My first thought is, could I take them on? The Guards are only my second thought, if at all!
SAM How many of them?
SAM But a man of your years…
JOE Jaysus, what age do you think, I am!
SAM Late sixties?
JOE (MIFFED) Sixty!
SAM … or a man of my years wouldn’t have a chance against three of them.
JOE One of these days someone ‘ill be found floatin’, face down, in the lock there!
SAM Perhaps! You know you could always report that bookie to the racing board, or whatever it might be called. Get his license taken away!
JOE Bejaysus, I might do that. At least I’d get some satisfaction!
SAM Do you think you could spread your legs less widely?
SAM I’m a little squashed here.
JOE Sorry, I’ll move over in the bed.
SAM I’m just admiring your boots. You can tell a lot by the condition of a person’s boots or shoes.
JOE Yeah? I do give them a good polishin’. Army discipline! I try to look after my appearance but I’m always only half right.
SAM How do you mean?
JOE My boots and trousers are ready to go at a moment’s notice but my jacket is holdin’ me back. (SHOWING JACKET) You see it’s frayed at the cuffs and the elbows are nearly gone. By the time I get around to buyin’ a new one the trousers’ll be stained or somethin’.
SAM (SMILING) You have a way of putting things. You served in the army?
JOE Yes. My first tour of duty was in the Congo. We were on a UN peace keepin’ mission.
JOE WINCES WITH A PAIN IN HIS LEG. HE STANDS UP AND WALKS AROUND THE BENCH TO EASE THE PAIN
SAM (TONGUE IN CHEEK) An old war wound?
JOE (ANGRILY) Yes, as a matter of fact!
SAM Sorry I didn’t mean to be so flippant. So you were in the Congo?
JOE GIVES SAM A LOOK AND SITS BACK DOWN
JOE We were in a place called Jadotville. 1961 it was.
SAM I’ve read about it.
JOE We were left to die out there! And when we came home we were branded as cowards because we surrendered only after fierce fighting, to the last bullet.
SAM You don’t have to convince me.
JOE Our CO sensed there was something wrong. He ordered us to dig in immediately.
SAM 156 Irish soldiers of A Company against 3,000 Katangans!
JOE That’s right. It was a slaughter. When we came back to insults it hurt bad. I get flashbacks, terrible nightmares.
SAM I understand.
JOE Do you?
SAM Post-traumatic stress.
JOE There’s a name for it?
SAM Yes, my grandfather suffered from it. We could find him anywhere, under the stairs, in the garden shed, in the attic, shaking, staring madly, hands over his ears.
JOE That happens to me. I often come-to, sometimes in a doorway, tremblin’.
JOE LOOKS AHEAD BLANKLY.
SAM He frightened me as a child.
SAM (IRRITATED) My grandfather! Are you listening to me?
JOE Sorry, I drifted off there for a second.
SAM It’s unusual for me to talk so openly, about family.
JOE The canal here can have a peculiar effect on you, in the evenin’ with the sound of the water and the sun goin’ down.
SAM I feel as though I’m betraying them.
JOE Sure you only mentioned your grandfather. You’re not exactly spillin’ the beans!
SAM I feel guilty!
JOE About what? You’ve nothin’ to be guilty about!
SAM (ANGRILY) How would you know? You assume too much!
JOE Ah here, if we can’t have a civil conversation…
SAM Sorry, I’m confused. The vertigo makes me irritable.
SAM WALKS AROUND THE BENCH SWAYING.
JOE You’re not ready to go yet! Nine of our lads were killed in another ambush, by Baluba tribesmen.
SAM In Niemba.
SAM Were you pensioned off after the Congo?
JOE Are you jokin’? Though I wasn’t sent on another peace keepin’ mission until the ’80s in the Lebanon. We were there to prevent the Israelis moving into north Lebanon. Tough fuckers, the Israelis!
SAM Enough of war!
JOE One of our lads was taken hostage by some faction or other. His body was never found. I often think of him here, sittin’ on the canal.
ENTER JOHNER, SHARON AND ROBBIE. JOHNER AND SHARON ARE CARRYING BLANKETS AND A SLEEPING BAG WHICH THEY PLACE ON THE GROUND. LED BY JOHNER THEY CREEP UP ON JOE AND SAM.
JOHNER (SHOUTING IN JOE’S EAR) Bang! Bang! You’re dead!
JOE JUMPS FROM THE BENCH AND STUMBLES ONTO THE GROUND. JOHNER AND SHARON FALL ABOUT LAUGHING.
SHARON Look at him!
JOHNER Some fuckin’ soldier!
JOE SCRAMBLES BACK TO THE BENCH STILL DAZED
JOHNER What’re doin’ here anyway? Do you want another beatin’?
LOOKING AT SAM
JOHNER Did ye bring back-up? (SNEERING AT SAM) He’d frightin’ ye! Wouldn’t he?
SHARON LAUGHS. JOHNER GRABS SAM’S HAT AND WEARS IT. HE STRUTS AROUND THE BENCH.
JOHNER What do yis think?
SHARON Ye look like that fellah in that film. What’s it?
JOHNER Who? Jaysus, you’re goin’ brain dead!
ROBBIE (DISMISSIVELY) Charley fuckin’ Chaplin! Who gives a fuck! Come on! I need a fix, bad!
JOHNER Hold on a minute. I just want to make it clear that nobody is to sit on that bench.
ROBBIE Fuck the bench!
JOHNER (TO SAM) What are ye doin’ with this bollix?
SAM I have vertigo. I had to….
JOHNER Vertigo? Fear of flying is it?
JOHNER (MENACINGLY) Don’t be callin’ me an eejit.
JOHNER THROWS SAM’S HAT INTO THE CANAL. SAM STANDS UP LOOKING AFTER IT.
JOHNER There it goes, weee, into the lock!
JOE That was an expensive hat!
JOHNER You keep your mouth shut!
JOHNER PUSHES SAM BACK ONTO BENCH
ROBBIE I’m not waitin’ for you two!
JOHNER (TO JOE) This is serious! I want this bench empty! I don’t want some geezer looking at me when I’m walkin’ up and down the canal.
SAM Paranoid are you?
JOHNER (MENACINGLY) What?
JOHNER TAKES OUT A FLICK KNIFE AND MOVES UP CLOSE TO SAM
JOHNER Do ye think I’m paranoid?
SHARON Don’t mind him! We’ll catch up on Robbie.
JOHNER AND SHARON PICK UP THEIR BLANKETS AND SLEEPING BAG.
JOHNER Fuck him, he thinks he’s better than us, ‘cause he went to college.
SHARON He went to Trinity College!
JOHNER So he says! I wouldn’t believe that!
SHARON There’s two coppers lookin’ over. Let’s leg it out of here.
JOHNER (SHOUTING TO JOE AND SAM) Don’t be here when I come back! Either of yis!
EXIT JOHNER AND SHARON.
JOE Are you alright?
SAM Yes, I’ve had fiercer men than him, screaming in my face. That hat was a present from my daughter.
JOE You’re lucky you didn’t follow it into the lock!
SAM I think he’s all talk. It’s the ones who say nothing you have to fear.
JOE, SHAKEN, GOES TO LIGHT A CIGARETTE.
SAM What way is the wind blowing?
JOE Why? Are we downwind on a rhino?
SAM I have asthma. I think we should change places. The wind is blowing towards me.
JOE Right you be!
JOE AND SAM SWOP PLACES.
SAM I have to be vigilant, standing in a bus queue or walking in the wake of a smoker. A gust of smoke can send me into paroxysms of coughing.
JOE You must have it bad!
SAM It’s this damp climate.
JOE Can be treacherous alright.
SAM Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness; you can have it!
JOES GOES TO LIGHT CIGARETTE AGAIN
SAM (SHIVERING) It’s not so warm at this end. You must have been sheltering me from a breeze. Sorry, but could we change back?
JOE You’re having me on. No, you’re not are ye? Ah, come on then!
JOE AND SAM CHANGE PLACES AGAIN.
I’ll tell you what, I won’t light my cigarette. I’ll keep it ‘til after. I’m not a huge smoker anyway.
SAM That’s kind of you. PAUSE I’m not a talker; but I feel a strange compulsion.
JOE The canal has that effect on you…
SAM (TETCHY) Yes, the sound of the water and the sunset etc. Sorry.
JOE What are you going to talk about? I await with bated breath.
SAM One night, in my early twenties, I walked out of our house on the South Circular Road and didn’t come back until now.
JOE Where did you go?
SAM To Israel. To fight for the survival of Israel!
JOE (INCREDULOUS) To fight for Israel? In the Israeli army? Why didn’t you tell me that when I was talkin’ about the Lebanon?
SAM I don’t usually speak about it.
JOE Were you in the Lebanon when I was?
SAM Could have been.
JOE Sure we might’ve stared each other in the eye across a check point or something!
JOE (MIFFED) That’s a kind of betrayal of trust! Where do we take the conversation to now?
SAM As a self-punishment I’ll divulge more. There was the Six Days War. I’m sure you’ll restrain yourself from saying, at least it was short!
JOE I was tempted alright!
SAM There were more wars after that.
JOE Sure the Israelis are fighting since Israel was founded!
SAM I’ve said enough! Have I? Sometimes I can’t judge.
JOE You haven’t said much at all!
SAM I was a zealot, infused with the idea of a homeland for the Jews! No more pogroms, persecution!
JOE Were you an infantry man?
SAM I was in the Medical Corps.
JOE Are you a doctor?
SAM Yes. One day an Israeli officer came into the make-shift hospital. My patient had an Arab name. He shot the man in the head, all the time looking at me.
SAM You see? Now I regret telling you that!
SAM STARTS TO TREMBLE. HE STANDS UP AND FALLS BACK DOWN ON THE BENCH.
JOE Are you alright?
SAM TAKES A HIP FLASK FROM HIS JACKET POCKET. HE TAKES A DRINK AND SITS QUIETLY UNTIL HE STOPS TREMBLING.
JOE It’s better to share it. Let it out! You‘ll feel better.
SAM (ANGRILY) No, I won’t! This is why I don’t talk about it!
JOE Calm down, calm down! You’ll be alright. You saw some bad things, I’d say?
SAM I did some bad things! I fought for a homeland for the Jews, a flag to fight under.
SAM STARES AHEAD IN A REVERIE. SOUND OF WATERFALL
(PAINFULLY) I owed them that.
SAM My uncle, my aunt and my four young cousins, three boys and a girl!
JOE Like the children of Lir.
SAM GIVES JOE A SHARP LOOK.
JOE Sorry, I’m not making light of it. Were they living in Israel?
SAM No, they were dead!
JOE Oh, they were killed and you went to honour their memory?
SAM Yes, but not in the way you think. I won’t talk about it!
JOE Are you sure!
SAM Yes! Last week I left Israel in the same way as I left Ireland all those years ago, at night, telling nobody.
JOE Have you family?
SAM My wife and I are separated and my daughter lives in London. She is guilty of the Silent Holocaust!
JOE What’s that?
SAM She married a gentile, so my wife, her mother, disowned her. She says she has diminished the Jewish people!
SAM STANDS UP, PUTS AWAY HIS HIP FLASK, SHIVERS.
SAM It’s cold.
JOE It is a bit, alright!
SAM I’m missing my hat.
SAM WALKS AROUND THE BENCH.
SAM I think the vertigo has abated. I’ll be on my way.
JOE It’s a pity we don’t have another cup or a glass or something. Two old soldiers. We could drink a toast to…
SAM Precisely, to what? There’s nothing to celebrate is there, if you’re honest? Your flashbacks! My peculiarities!
JOE I suppose so. We could drink to survival?
SAM (IRRITABLY) Let’s just drop it!
JOE Jaysus, you’re narky!
SAM I’m a realist! It makes you narky!
SAM SITS BACK DOWN ON BENCH.
JOE What do you mean by your peculiarities?
SAM I don’t use names.
JOE At all?
SAM If I can avoid it!
JOE How do you manage…
SAM Also, I sometimes have the sensation that I’m walking on marble. I can’t feel the pavement, the ground, the floor!
JOE They’re peculiar wounds alright. Anyway, will we meet up tomorrow? Continue the chat?
SAM Yes, I….but is it not a bit sudden? Two total strangers! This is not at all like me!
JOE But we have a special bond don’t we?
JOE Two old soldiers!
JOE I’ll tell you what we’ll do. I’ll bring a naggin’ of whiskey and you bring a flask of coffee and some cream from the guest house, and I’ll make Irish coffees to keep us warm while we talk about combat.
SAM I told you I don’t drink before the nine o’ clock news!
JOE Sure that’s shot to pieces now with your hip-flask!
SAM Isn’t it a bit intimate?
JOE Intimate? Sure we’re only havin’ a chat on the canal.
SAM Alright, but I’d rather we didn’t know each other by name.
JOE No names!
FX: JEWISH MUSIC BRIDGE (‘KADDISH’) BY MAURICE RAVEL. LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK OUT.
SCENE TWO. THE SAME, THE FOLLOWING AFTERNOON.
SAM I’m going to do something tomorrow, something very foolish I think. You see I really came back to Dublin to meet an old friend, a woman I knew, a very long time ago.
JOE You must have been great pals!
SAM We were very much in love.
JOE And now you’re goin’ to look her up?
SAM I’ve decided to call to the family home, if it’s still there.
JOE Where was that?
SAM A small street off the South Circular Road.
JOE There’s a warren of streets around there!
SAM Ridiculous is it?
JOE Well you can’t just go waltzing back into her life after all these years.
SAM I’ll go to the family home in the afternoon to find out what I can.
JOE You might be opening a can of worms!
SAM I have to know what happened to her!
JOE Let sleeping dogs lie, I say.
JOE Look at that sunset! Streaks of red an’ purple an’ yellow like a child’s crayons. Look!
SAM STARES AHEAD.
Would you look!
SAM LOOKS BRIEFLY.
SAM Like a wound!
JOE Jaysus, I never thought of it like that!
SAM STANDS UP TO GO.
SAM Are you finished with your newspaper? I could put it in a litter bin on my way.
JOE Yes, if you want to. You’re a stickler for tidiness, aren’t you?
SAM (TETCHY) It’s better than being a stickler for chaos!
JOE LAUGHS. JOE HANDS SAM THE NEWSPAPER. SAM SEES THE BOTTLE UNDER THE BENCH AND POINTS TO IT.
SAM What’s that?
JOE LOOKS UNDER BENCH
JOE Oh that! I’m sure you can hazard a guess.
JOE I was caught short. Do you want to take it with you as well?
SAM No, there are limits…
JOE I’ll drop it in the bin, if it makes you feel any better!
SAM I’ll go then!
JOE Good luck tomorrow.
EXIT SAM. SAM SINGS TO HIMSELF FROM ‘THE WAXIE’S DARGLE’.
(SINGS) Says my auld wan to your auld wan/ will we go to the Galway races?/ Says your auld wan to my auld wan/ with the price of me auld lad’s braces./ I went down to Capel Street, to the Jewman money lender/ but he wouldn’t give me a couple of bob/ on my auld lad’s suspenders.
JOE DRINKS THE LAST DROPS OF WHISKEY.
(IRONICALLY) My cup runneth over!
JOE DOZES OFF ON THE BENCH. ENTER THE GHOST OF SEPHIE ACROSS THE CANAL LOCK TO JEWISH SONG ‘KADDISH’ (PRAYER FOR THE DEAD – HEBREW AND ARAMAIC) BY MAURICE RAVEL (1875-1937). SHE IS WEARING A LONG WHITE DRESS AND IS BY TIMES CRAZED AND DREAMY. SHE CIRCLES THE BENCH.
SEPHIE (TO JOE) Look at him dozing on a canal bench. (SHOUTS) Wake up you spunker!
JOE (JUMPS UP) What?
JOE SEES THE GHOST OF SEPHIE AND SITS BACK DOWN AGAIN
SEPHIE (NEEDLING) When I first met you, you were growing on a canal bench, sprouting idleness! I nudged you into marriage, remember?
JOE (INDIGNANT) Captured me would be more like it. You were pregnant. Not many men’d rear another man’s child!
SEPHIE It was akin to unlayering Johnny-Forty-Coats and prodding him nude across the rocks into the icy water of the forty-foot. And why? I didn’t love you.
JOE You didn’t love me? That’s nice!
SEPHIE I knew what love could do and I settled for you, (SARCASTICALLY) a nice man!
SEPHIE And a hopeless case as it turned out.
JOE A hopeless case? Didn’t my army pay go into the house, with your family still livin’ there!
SEPHIE You got a roof over your head for nothing.
JOE (ANNOYED) I paid dearly for it. Your sister givin’ me the evil eye and your brother touchin’ me for money!
SEPHIE I had the baby for you.
JOE Not for me! (REMEMBERING) But wasn’t Roisin beautiful. Everyone said she had her own little face, her own features. Not pudgy like other babies.
SEPHIE Of course you reverted to type after…
JOE Yes, after… Say it!
SEPHIE You sat back into the lap of the canal bench. What is it with us women going for men like you?
JOE You’d want to take a good look at yourself! I didn’t bargain for your ravin’s, starin’ out the window for hours, lookin’ for the love of your life.
SEPHIE And your nightmares, waking the house with your roaring, “Hit the trenches, men”! There’s thousands of them…”!
JOE Outnumbered, pinned down under heavy fire, we were!
JOE SITS SILENTLY, STARING AHEAD.
SEPHIE He’s a nice man we say, though maybe a bit hurtful with drink taken.
JOE I’m hurt by you callin’ me a spunker!
SEPHIE But then there’s harm. You left me for the canal bench, adding to the harm that was in me already; the kind that seeps up into you like a dark flood rising to drown out your prayers, drown you!
JOE There you have it! It wasn’t all my bloody fault!
SEPHIE (DREAMILY) Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth; for his love is better than wine…
JOE It wasn’t my kisses! Some fellah who was there before me! The fellah you were staring out the window for!
SEPHIE (HUSHED That summer’s day, four in the afternoon…
JOE Now you’re gettin’ to it!
SEPHIE I held Roisin, such a small, still, cold body. I sat on a chair holding her until you came home.
JOE (CRUSHED) A terrible thing to come home to!
SEPHIE (DREAMILY) You lifted her from me and brought her upstairs. I never thanked you for that Joe. That was kind of you. What did we do then?
JOE We called the Guards and the priest.
SEPHIE Yes, they were all so nice. And where did they take her body Joe?
JOE Do we have to go through this every time?
SEPHIE (DEMENTED) They threw her in the lock didn’t they?
JOE No, they took her to the hospital!
SEPHIE They drowned her didn’t they?
SEPHIE (ANGRILY) And you left me!
JOE I said “good luck” to the world, after that. Can you blame me? I suppose you can!
SEPHIE The loss sent me searching for my real parents. My real mother and father, Jews from Germany.
JOE You weren’t adopted! You were losin’ it then!
SEPHIE (INSISTING) The search brought me to Paris, to a room at the top of a house owned by a Madam Fournier.
JOE It was all in your head!
SEPHIE Madam Fournier let me into the locked room where we had lived, SEPHIE my parents and me.
JOE How do you make that out?
SEPHIE Photographs, papers. Letters! I found out I was Jewish.
JOE (DISMISSIVELY) Madam Fournier in Paris? Sure you weren’t able to cross the road, never mind go to France!
SEPHIE (DREAMILY) She told me I was brought to Ireland as an infant and placed in an orphanage in Dublin.
JOE I’ve had enough of this, listenin’ to your demented talk for more than thirty years.
SEPHIE (SCREAMING) You’re a fool, a spunker!
JOE (ANGRILY) You’re not German and you’re not Jewish!
SEPHIE I was adopted…
JOE You weren’t adopted! Get it into your head! You’re probably the result of a drunken ride. Ah, I’m sorry Seph. I shouldn’t have said that! Your mother was a lady, but your auld fellah…
SEPHIE (DREAMILY) I always felt different. I didn’t fit in. Then I met him.
JOE Here we go!
SEPHIE We were in love.
JOE He left you in the lurch. Can you not see that?
SEPHIE It wasn’t like that! We were planning to go away together, to live together.
JOE Instead he left you holdin’ the baby.
SEPHIE He was having trouble with his family!
JOE He got cold feet!
SEPHIE How would you know, you spunker?
JOE (HURT) Stop usin’ that word. I hardly drink anymore.
SEPHIE You know how hurt I was Joe!
JOE Yeah, I know Seph, but you have to move on! I have to move on. I’ve a bit of life in me yet!
SEPHIE Joe, this place I’m in, it’s terrible! Everyone is lost, looking for something they have lost; they don’t talk, all lost in their own minds.
JOE Sounds like the lost and found department.
SEPHIE (HURT) Don’t make fun of me Joe.
JOE Sorry Seph, but you have to laugh or life is too much!
SEPHIE You’ve been loyal to me Joe, I’ll give you that, coming here all
SEPHIE these years! Did anybody come today?
JOE Just a well-dressed gent, I suppose you’d call him.
SEPHIE Could it be him?
JOE He didn’t tell me his name. He doesn’t use names, if he can help it. Jaysus, the more I think of it, how could you get around without usin’ names?
SEPHIE Is he handsome?
JOE Distinguished I’d say. Time has moved on for us on this side of the lock, Sephie. A kick in the arse and he’d be seventy.
SEPHIE Tell me something else about him.
JOE Eh, he’s a bit stiff, formal I suppose.
JOE Yes, a bit of a worrier, oh, and he suffers from vertigo. You’d think he was delicate, but I’d say there’s a bit of steel in him. He was in the army in Israel, a doctor in the Medical Corps. Oh, and he’s a Jew. Jaysus, I forgot that! Me head is gone!
SEPHIE It’s him! It’s Sam.
JOE It could be!
SEPHIE He’s come back for me. We used to sit at this lock. Let him kiss me
SEPHIE with the kisses of his mouth; for his love is better than wine…
JOE (MIFFED) Kisses! If it is him, he’s goin’ to look for you tomorrow at your house. I should give him a good bollicking!
SEPHIE No, you don’t know him. After you’ve talked to him Joe for a little while, make an excuse to go.
JOE He won’t stay on the canal on his own. It’s getting too dangerous with these junkies around.
SEPHIE I’ll come quickly.
JOE (HURT) Am I to be cut out again?
SEPHIE Please Joe. I just want to meet him as we were: when we were in love: to go back to that time.
JOE Sure he’ll look like your grandfather!
SEPHIE It won’t matter. Will you help me?
JOE Ok, ok! But if it is him, he might leave you again. He’s a fly-by- night!
SEPHIE I don’t want him to stay. I just want to talk to him once more.
JOE Maybe it’s not him after all. What’ll happen then?
SEPHIE I won’t come again.
JOE What about me?
SEPHIE You’ll be freed from your promise to stay with me.
JOE And what if it is him?
SEPHIE You’ll be freed one way or another.
JOE (SADLY) Do ye think I’d have come here for thirty years to see you, if I didn’t love ye?
SEPHIE Sometimes like is better than love. And you know I liked you Joe, don’t you?
JOE (DEFLATED) It’s hard not to be loved back! To be a stand in!
SEPHIE Help me Joe!
EXIT SEPHIE BACK ACROSS THE LOCK TO THE SOUND OF A JEWISH SONG ‘KADDISH’ (PRAYER FOR THE DEAD – HEBREW AND ARAMAIC) BY MAURICE RAVEL (1875-1937).
ENTER JOHNER, SHARON AND ROBBIE. JOHNER AND SHARON ARE CARRYING BLANKETS AND A SLEEPING BAG. THEY APPROACH JOE ON THE BENCH.
JOHNER I thought we told you to stay off the canal!
JOE I can’t do that! I’ve a promise to keep, someone to meet, a ghost! She crosses the lock from the land of the dead.
SHARON What’s he talkin’ about?
JOE HUNCHES FORWARD
JOHNER Don’t mind him, he’s a header! (MENACINGLY) I know who you are. My auld fellah told me. You’re Baluba Joe aren’t ye? Ye got a belt of a Baluba’s club on the head didn’t ye?
SHARON Who’s the Balubas?
ROBBIE A tribe in the Congo.
JOHNER That’s right Eisenstein. Me auld fellah told me about it.
JOHNER AND SHARON HOP AROUND THE BENCH WITH BLANKETS OVER THEIR HEADS, MAKING TRIBAL NOISES TO MOCK JOE. THEY STOP, SHARON BEHIND AND JOHNER IN FRONT OF JOE.
JOHNER I told ye, we’re taking over the canal!
JOE Is that right? You’re welcome to it! Dog shit and dandelions!
JOHNER (MENACINGLY) Funny man are ye? Have ye any drink on ye?
JOE TAKES SMALL EMPTY WHISKEY BOTTLE FROM HIS POCKET.
JOE There might be a drop in it.
JOE THROWS THE BOTTLE AT JOHNER. JOHNER FLINGS THE BOTTLE BACK AT JOE AND POINTS TO THE BOTTLE UNDER THE BENCH.
JOHNER What’s in that bottle there?
JOE No idea! It was here before I came.
JOHNER Don’t fuck with me. Check it Sharon!
SHARON LIFTS UP THE BOTTLE.
SHARON It says Powers Whiskey on it.
SHARON OPENS THE BOTTLE.
It smells like piss.
ROBBIE Taste it.
SHARON Fuck off! It’s his piss!
JOHNER (TO JOE) Empty your pockets!
JOE Go and fuck yourself!
JOHNER What? (TO ROBBIE) Do you hear this?
ROBBIE We could make him drink his own piss. I’ve read it’s therapeutic.
JOHNER (TO ROBBIE) Nice one!
JOHNER TAKES A FLICK KNIFE FROM HIS POCKET. HE WALKS UP TO JOE AND STARTS TAPPING HIM ON THE HEAD WITH IT, REPEATING THE RHYME.
Baluba Joe got a blow in the Congo!
JOE LOOKS UP AT JOHNER WHO PUTS THE KNIFE TO JOE’S THROAT. JOE SITS BACK.
JOHNER Sharon, grab him.
SHARON GRABS JOE AROUND THE NECK FROM BEHIND.
JOHNER Robbie, get the bottle! Here, you hold him down. I want to do this meself.
ROBBIE It’s my punishment remember?
JOHNER Ok, pour it down his throat! (TO JOE) Don’t move or I’ll stab ye through the heart!
ROBBIE PICKS UP BOTTLE AND POURS SLOWLY.
JOHNER More! Stick it in his mouth!
JOE SPLUTTERS AND TRIES TO SPIT THE LIQUID OUT.
ROBBIE I know what I’m doin’. He’ll taste it this way.
SHARON (LAUGHS) Yeah, he’ll taste it.
JOHNER Go on, more. Pour more down and then we’ll kick the bollix out of him.
SOUND OF GUNFIRE. SHOUTING OF SOLDIERS. JOE IS HAVING A FLASHBACK. HE HEADS SHARON IN THE FACE, PUSHES ROBBIE BACK WITH HIS BOOT AND GRABS JOHNER BY THE WINDPIPE CHOKING HIM. HE STANDS UP HOLDING JOHNER.
JOE (IN FLASHBACK) They’re comin’. Fire on them lads!
ROBBIE AND SHARON KICKS AND PUNCH JOE. JOE COMES TO, CHOKING JOHNER BY THE WINDPIPE. JOHNER DROPS HIS KNIFE.
SHARON Let him go! You’ll kill him!
JOE Easy isn’t it, to kill someone?
JOE DROPS JOHNER. ROBBIE AND SHARON HELP JOHNER TO HIS FEET.
SHARON You’re dead now mister! His brothers an’ all will come after ye!
JOE Let them come! Get the fuck out of here!
EXIT ROBBIE, JOHNER AND SHARON. JOE COLLAPSES BACK ONTO BENCH. LIGHTS DIM.
FX: MUSIC BRIDGE
THE FOLLOWING DAY ON THE CANAL BANK, DUBLIN, NEAR A LOCK, AUTUMN EVENING, IN THE YEAR 2000.
SAM IS SITTING ON THE CANAL BENCH. JOE APPROACHES THE BENCH AND SITS DOWN.
JOE You’re here before me.
JOE Did you find the house where your old flame lived?
SAM Yes, it’s a shop now, at least the front room is a shop.
JOE So what happened?
SAM (WEARILY) My friend’s sister was behind the counter. She was icy towards me. She told me she committed suicide, that it was my fault. I tried to explain to her that it was circumstances. I did love her, all through the years!
SAM STARES AHEAD.
SAM STARTS TO SHAKE.
JOE Are you alright?
SAM Just feeling a bit of a chill!
JOE With all those clothes on you? So what are you going to do now?
JOE (CYNICALLY) Scoot off back to Israel?
SAM I don’t know.
JOE You’re a fly-by-night. Off to Israel at night! Back here at night!
SAM (HURT) What are you saying?
JOE Oh, nothing.
SAM I came straight here. I wanted to tell you what happened. Not like me is it? I thought you’d understand.
JOE Did ye bring the coffee?
SAM PRODUCES HIS HIP FLASK.
SAM No, but this might suffice. Brandy!
JOE Very nice!
SAM Sadly, we don’t have anything to celebrate, do we!
JOE True! But we can have a sup to keep the cold out. Chilly enough today. You can feel the winter comin’. I brought two glasses an’ all.
SAM POURS BRANDY INTO GLASSES AND THEY TAKE A SUP.
SAM Remember I told you I went to fight in Israel to honour the memory of my cousins?
JOE Yes. What was that about?
SAM TAKES ANOTHER DRINK
SAM I don’t know why I’m telling you this.
JOE The water, the evenin’ light! We’re mates in a way.
SAM MOVES AWAY A LITTLE, UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THIS REMARK
SAM Things started to look bad for them in Nazi Germany. My father offered to take them in as refugees, “at no extra cost to the State”, he stressed. But with all the paper shuffling, it was too late. They died in a concentration camp.
JOE Jaysus, that’s desperate!
SAM The official line was, Ireland was a poor country and could not encourage an influx of refugees. My father tried to console himself with that.
JOE But what has all that to do with you, an Irish man, going to fight in Israel, over twenty years later!
SAM If the State of Israel had existed back then, they wouldn’t have died in a concentration camp. They would have found refuge under their own flag. So I went to fight for Israel. All my rage at the Irish government’s treatment of them surfaced. I left one night like a man possessed!
JOE You left your friend without saying anything?
SAM (DEFLATED) Yes.
JOE LOOKS AT HIS WATCH.
JOE Listen I’ve to collect my pension.
THERE’S NO RESPONSE FROM SAM, RUMINATING.
Do you hear me?
JOE I’ve to collect my pension.
SAM Of course! I’ll stay here for a while.
JOE SHAKES SAM.
JOE Here, take this knife. The Johner fellah dropped it.
JOE HOLDS OUT KNIFE TO SAM. SAM RECOILS.
JOE In case you run into trouble with the junkies.
SAM I don’t need a knife!
JOE Humour me. Just take it! If they come let them see it. I’ve a feeling you’re not the delicate article you make yourself out to be.
SAM (IRRITABLY) So give it to me!
SAM TAKES KNIFE FROM JOE.
JOE I’ll see you tomorrow. No, I can’t, I’ve a date.
SAM A date?
JOE Yes. Would you believe that? On my days off I sometimes go over to Stephen’s Green. I got talkin’ to a nice woman there.
SAM Days off? I didn’t know you worked!
JOE Days off the canal I mean! Maybe we could meet the day after?
SAM I suppose, all things being equal!
JOE I’ll be off then. Don’t forget the knife!
SAM I won’t.
SAM OPENS FLICK-KNIFE. HE FEELS THE SHARP EDGE. HE HIDES IT UNDER THE BENCH. HE SITS WITH HIS HEAD IN HIS HANDS. ENTER THE GHOST OF SEPHIE ACROSS THE CANAL LOCKTO THE SOUND OF A JEWISH SONG ‘KADDISH’ (PRAYER FOR THE DEAD – HEBREW AND ARAMAIC) BY MAURICE RAVEL (1875-1937).
SEPHIE What drove me down to the canal lock was loss, each memory of loss prodding me on, the call of the waterfall growing louder.
SAM LIFTS HIS HEAD
SEPHIE (ANGRILY) I’m not some Greek goddess! I’m in a kind of Purgatory. Why did you leave me?
SAM I was a man possessed! I went to fight a war, to defend Israel!
SEPHIE I would have gone with you.
SAM To a war?
SAM It wasn’t as simple as that. Remember I told you about my cousins, in Germany? Just children they were…
SAM …and an infant girl.
SEPHIE (EXCITEDLY) Listen Sam! Listen! I was the infant. I was smuggled into Ireland. When I lost you and then our child died…
SAM Our child?
SEPHIE A little girl. I knew I was pregnant on the day you left me.
SAM Why didn’t you tell me? I would have stayed with you!
SEPHIE (ANGRILY) You never came to the lock did you! (DREAMILY) She had big eyes, almost black. I called her my Roisin dubh.
SAM How did she die?
SEPHIE In her sleep, in the afternoon! I should’ve looked in on her. (ANGRILY) But I was sitting staring out the window, waiting for you.
SAM Oh my God!
SEPHIE After that I went looking for my real parents.
SAM Real parents?
SEPHIE Yes Sam, I found out that I am Jewish.
SAM You can’t have. You know you were born in Dublin, into a Catholic family.
SEPHIE I went scurrying to Registry Offices, Government Departments, and to Paris, to Madam Fournier’s house in the Marais district.
SAM (GENTLY) Sephie, this is the story I told you about my relatives.
SEPHIE I found letters there. One was from my father’s brother, my uncle, promising assistance, holding out hope that we would soon join him in Ireland.
SAM I showed you those letters!
SEPHIE Madam Fournier told me I was smuggled out of France.
SAM (FORCEFULLY) Listen to me!
SEPHIE (CRAZED) I stayed at the window waiting for you. I groaned around the house in the day. I howled when nobody was there.
SAM Can I make it up to you? Is it too late?
SEPHIE I found peace in reading the benedictions – Blessed art Thou O
SEPHIE Lord our God, King of the universe, who reviveth the dead. Who reviveth the dead – those words gave me comfort.
SAM I should never have left you! Can you forgive me?
SEPHIE Will you stay with me now?
SAM Yes, but…
SEPHIE Do you see how it should have turned out Sam? I was complete with you. Your love is better than wine, you whispered at the lock to the sound of water falling. We kissed. Our hearts met in earnest.
SAM I thought that maybe if we were both free, even after all these years…
SEPHIE Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth… You wooed me with your Song of Solomon, as you called it.
SAM I was foolish then, selfish!
SEPHIE I kissed you, giving my heart to you. Your cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, your neck with chains of gold.
SAM I never once said those words to anybody else.
SEPHIE When you left me, and when Roisin, our baby died, I was lost. I came here to where we used to meet. The water was welcoming.
SAM You drowned here?
SEPHIE Yes, I killed myself Sam. A dark tide entered me, rising.
SAM (DISPAIRINGLY) What have I done?
SEPHIE Did you really love me?
SAM Of course!
SEPHIE You should go. It’s getting dark. It’s not safe here.
SAM Can we meet again?
SEPHIE We can, but winter is coming. I won’t come in winter. Will you come back in the spring?
SAM Will I go with you now?
SEPHIE No, I’ll come one more time before winter.
EXIT SEPHIE ACROSS THE CANAL LOCK TO THE SOUND OF A JEWISH SONG ‘KADDISH’ (PRAYER FOR THE DEAD – HEBREW AND ARAMAIC) BY MAURICE RAVEL (1875-1937).
SAM (CALLING) Sephie!
ENTER ROBBIE , JOHNER AND SHARON LAUGHING RAUCOUSLY. JOHNER AND SHARON ARE CARRYING BLANKETS AND A SLEEPING BAG. THEY THROW THEM ON THE GROUND.
JOHNER (TO SAM) You’re sitting on our bench again. What did I tell ye? (TO SHARON) See if he has any money.
SHARON Give us your wallet!
SAM HANDS SHARON HIS WALLET
SHARON (COUNTING MONEY) Nice one, four fifties!
JOHNER What’s this? A passport! We can sell that! (TO ROBBIE) Here Eisenstein, what does that say?
ROBBIE It says he’s from Israel.
JOHNER Israel? That’s where those Jewish fucks are from, isn’t it?
SHARON They crucified Jesus Christ!
ROBBIE It was the Romans. Christ was a Jew. They never told us that in school!
JOHNER How the fuck do you know then?
ROBBIE I read.
SHARON Robbie’d know.
JOHNER GIVES SHARON A DIRTY LOOK.
JOHNER Anyway these Jewish bastards robbed the people of Dublin!
SHARON Yeah, my ma pawned her weddin’ ring and never got it back! They ripped her off, every time!
ROBBIE But we don’t know anything about him!
JOHNER He’s a Jew isn’t he?
SAM I’m an Irish Israeli Jew!
SHARON What’s that?
JOHNER Who gives a fuck? I know what we’ll do. We’ll pawn him!
ROBBIE What do ye mean?
JOHNER We’ll strip him and pawn his clothes.
SHARON (LAUGHING) We’ll leave him in the nude.
JOHNER Ah no, we’ll leave him with his jocks on. (TO SAM) Get your clothes off!
ROBBIE Leave him! Come on! The gear’ll be gone by the time we get up to the bridge.
JOHNER We can buy more. Isn’t he very generous Sharon, givin’ us money for gear?
SHARON (LAUGHS) Yeah!
ROBBIE Come on for fuck’s sake!
JOHNER What’s wrong with you? Are you with us or not?
ROBBIE Yeah, but…
JOHNER No buts! (TO SAM) Take your clothes off, I said!
SAM STARTS TO TAKE HIS CLOTHES OFF. JOHNER TAKES SAM’S SHOES AND TRIES THEM ON.
JOHNER They’ll do me! Pure leather! (TO SAM) Go on, take your trousers off. They might fit me.
ROBBIE What’re we goin’ to do with him now? He’ll freeze to death!
JOHNER So what? Fuck him! Are you forgettin’ that the Jews bled the poor people of Dublin dry?
ROBBIE How do you know what they did?
SAM My grandfather, a peddler of silks and tablecloths used to say, it is better to carry a burden on the shoulder than a worry in the heart!
JOHNER What are we listenin’ to this auld fuck for?
JOHNER SLAPS SAM ACROSS THE FACE.
Shut up! Look Robbie, if you don’t have the bottle for this we’ll understand, won’t we Sharon?
SHARON JUST LAUGHS, NERVOUS OF ROBBIE.
ROBBIE I have the bottle! I just don’t like this. And I don’t want to be had up for murder!
SHARON Murder? Sure we’re only havin’ a bit of crack!
SAM STANDS SHIVERING IN HIS UNDERWEAR.
ROBBIE What? If he dies out here, it’ll be murder, you fuckin’ eejit!
SHARON Is that right Johner?
JOHNER Who’ll know it was us?
ROBBIE We’ll be suspects straight away! The Guards know we hang out on the canal!
JOHNER I wonder can he swim? Ask him Sharon.
ROBBIE Are you fuckin’ mad?
SHARON We’ll, can ye swim?
SAM SHAKES HIS HEAD, SHIVERING
JOHNER He can always bleedin’ learn!
JOHNER AND SHARON LAUGH. THEY DRAG SAM TOWARDS THE LOCK. ROBBIE BLOCKS THEIR PATH
ROBBIE I’m not goin’ to be done for murder!
JOHNER Get out of the way, Eisenstein!
ROBBIE JUMPS ON JOHNER KNOCKING HIM TO THE GROUND. HE HOLDS A KNIFE CLOSE TO JOHNER’S FACE. SHARON STANDS BACK IN FEAR OF ROBBIE’S FEROCITY. SAM PICKS UP HIS OVERCOAT, PULLS IT OVER HIS SHOULDERS AND SITS BACK ONTO THE BENCH.
ROBBIE Don’t call me that, right? It’s Einstein ye thick!
JOHNER Sharon, jump him!
SHARON GRABS ROBBIE AROUND THE NECK.
ROBBIE Get off me ye bitch!
ROBBIE THROWS SHARON TO THE GROUND.
JOHNER (DEFEATED) Come on, let me up!
ROBBIE I’ll let you up but I’m finished with ye! Right?
JOHNER Alright! Alright!
ROBBIE And if you or any of your brothers come after my family I’ll find ye and cut ye open. Do you understand that?
JOHNER Yeah, ok!
SHARON Let him up Robbie!
ROBBIE STANDS BACK AND JOHNER GETS UP. SHARON PICKS UP BLANKETS AND SLEEPING BAG.
Come on Johner!
JOHNER I’ll get ye Robbie!
EXIT JOHNER AND SHARON. ROBBIE HELPS SAM WITH HIS CLOTHES.
ROBBIE Come on! Get your clothes on and get out of here. They might come back with reinforcements!
SAM Thank you. You’re very kind.
ROBBIE Don’t be thinkin’ I’m the good Samaritan. I’ve done things, bad things, that Johner wouldn’t even dream of.
SAM I understand. So have I!
SAM You have a fine mind. You could escape from the canal! Have a better life!
ROBBIE You can’t escape your own people.
SAM I could help you. You could go to college.
ROBBIE I could yeah, on heroin an’ anything else I can get me hands on! I’d like to get off it though!
SAM I’ll give you my card. I could get you help.
SAM FEELS FOR HIS WALLET
SAM Oh, of course, they have my wallet!
ROBBIE I have a mate who got off it. I talk to him. Here’s a tenner for a taxi. Don’t be hangin’ around here at night. Come on, I’ll walk ye down to the street.
SAM What about my shoes? I can’t walk in my socks.
ROBBIE You’ll have to wear Johner’s boots. Let’s go! I need to get some gear!
EXIT SAM AND ROBBIE.
THE FOLLOWING DAY, OCTOBER EVENING ON THE CANAL BANK, DUBLIN, NEAR A LOCK IN THE YEAR 2000.
JOE IS SITTING QUIETLY, NATTILY DRESSED. SAM APPROACHES BENCH LOOKING DISHEVELLED. HE SITS DOWN GROANING.
JOE Jaysus, what happened to you?
SAM I was attacked by those addicts.
JOE I warned you! Did you show them the knife?
SAM No, I thought it better not to.
JOE It might’ve frightened them off!
SAM I don’t think so. One of them saved me from being thrown into the lock, naked!
JOE Jaysus! Did you get back to the guest house?
JOE It was minus somethin’ last night. I could hear the ice splinterin’ under my shoes. I’m enjoyin’ myself here flickin’ butts at the water rats. I hate the little fuckers. D.T.’s!
SAM It’s unseasonably cold. Where do you stay at night?
JOE Hostels. You could say I’m a wandering Catholic. (LAUGHS)
SAM (DREAMILY) Earlier I heard music.
SAM Then I saw her.
SAM My love!
JOE She appeared as a ghost? I told you about this place! What did she say?
SAM It’s rather private. She said she would come again, but not in winter.
JOE Will you come back in the spring?
SAM I’ll stay here!
JOE Through the winter? With your asthma?
SAM I’ve made a choice, a decision. I feel free, unencumbered!
JOE Whatever that means! What happened to your shoes, your hand made brogues?
SAM The junkies took them. I’m wearing the nasty one’s boots.
JOE They don’t go with the rest of your clothes.
SAM Yes, I’m only half right as you might say! (LOOKING AT JOE) You’re nattily dressed today!
JOE You like the tin of fruit? I got it in a charity shop. Looks alright though doesn’t it?
SAM Very nice!
JOE I’ve another date with the same woman. We’re goin’ to a movie.
SAM TAKES OUT HIS HIP FLASK AND TWO PLASTIC CUPS.
SAM Will you have a drink?
JOE No, I’m layin’ off it for now.
SAM TAKES A DRINK.
SAM I don’t suppose we’ll see each other again. Do you think we could have a parting glass?
JOE Alright then. One drink won’t kill me.
SAM POURS JOE A DRINK.
JOE What’ll we drink to?
SAM That’s a problem!
JOE We could drink to the sunset on the canal.
SAM The sunset? We’re not pagans!
JOE To peace in the world?
SAM Too lame!
JOE (FRUSTRATED) You think of somethin’ then!
SAM To love?
JOE I haven’t had much luck there! It would have to be requited!
SAM And eternal!
JOE No, that’s too long! Requited will do!
SAM AND JOE RAISE THEIR CUPS
SAM To love!
ANGELUS BELLS RING SIX O CLOCK.
JOE See that? I didn’t spill the drink all over me!
SAM (DISTANT) Almost a thousand Jews took the Masada fortress but were overcome by Roman soldiers. They made a suicide pact.
JOE Like the Jonestown massacre?
SAM (SHARPLY) No, that was just a communist cult. This is different!
JOE Ok! Ok!
SAM They took their own lives rather than be slaves to the Roman thugs. The men killed their wives and children and then themselves.
JOE I wouldn’t go along with that! Anyway it’s not healthy dwellin’ on those things.
SAM We musn’t forget!
SAM LOOKS AT JOE’S NEW CLOTHES AND SHOES.
You’re all of a piece in your suit and polished shoes.
JOE I’ve a bit of life in me yet!
SAM There’s a time and a place for everything. That’s all we have, a time and a place!
JOE LOOKS AT HIS WATCH.
JOE It’s time for me to go! I don’t want to be late!
SAM I’ll stay here to see if my love will come again.
JOE We’ll hardly meet again. I’m going to ‘The Green’ these days. But I’m glad we met.
JOE All the best now.
EXIT JOE. SAM TAKES THE KNIFE FROM HIS POCKET AND FEELS THE SHARPNESS OF IT.
SAM (TO HIMSELF) This is my time! This is my place!
LIGHTS DIM. LIGHTS UP AT THE SOUND OF JOHNER OFF STAGE.
JOHNER If that Jew bastard is on the bench he’s goin’ into the lock!
ENTER JOHNER AND SHARON CARRYING BLANKETS AND A SLEEPING BAG. THEY SEE SAM IS ON THE BENCH.
JOHNER I don’t believe it, the bollix is there! I’m goin’ to enjoy this.
SHARON LAUGHS NERVOUSLY. THEY APPROACH THE BENCH. JOHNER KICKS SAM ON THE LEG.
JOHNER Wake up you auld bollocks! It’s time for your bath!
JOHNER KICKS SAM AGAIN.
SHARON Look, there’s blood on his hands.
JONHER There’s a load of blood on the ground!
SHARON PEERS UNDER SAM’S HEAD WHICH IS SLUMPED FORWARD.
SHARON He’s dead. He cut his wrists. Look!
JOHNER Maybe we frightened him enough yesterday! Look at him. I’d have lovin’ to do that! Check his pockets!
SHARON I’m not goin’ near a corpse.
POINTING TO THE GROUND BESIDE SAM
Look, that’s your knife there! It’s covered in blood!
JOHNER PICKS UP KNIFE.
JOHNER How the fuck!
SHARON You must’ve dropped it when Baluba Joe was trottlin’ ye!
JOHNER He wasn’t trottlin’ me.
SHARON Robbie said that he had you by the windpipe and could’ve killed ye. He’s a trained soldier.
JOHNER (ANGRILY) Sure what does he know? He was too chicken to throw this geezer in the lock. And don’t be tellin’ anyone about what happened. Ye have it all arseways!
JOHNER THROWS THE KNIFE INTO THE CANAL.
Come on, I’m not goin’ to be charged for somethin’ I would’ve only liken to do!
SOUND OF SINGING
JOHNER What’s that?
SHARON It sounds like someone singin’.
JOHNER I know that! It’s comin’ from over the lock!
SHARON Is someone havin’ a party.
JOHNER Don’t be thick! Come on, let’s leg it out of here!
EXIT SHARON AND JOHNER.
ENTER THE GHOST OF SEPHIE ACROSS THE CANAL LOCKTO THE SOUND OF A JEWISH SONG ‘KADDISH’.
SEPHIE You waited Sam? What will they call it? Murder? BODY OF MAN FOUND ON CANAL BENCH. POLICE ARE FOLLOWING DEFINITE LEADS. Or will they call it suicide? BODY OF MAN FOUND ON CANAL BENCH. POLICE HAVE RULED OUT FOUL PLAY. Only we know it’s love Sam! Your cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, your neck with chains of gold. Not just words anymore, Sam! Your Song of Solomon! Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth, for your love is better than wine. Come with me Sam, winter is almost here!
EXIT THE GHOST OF SEPHIE WITH SAM TO THE SOUND OF JEWISH SONG ‘KADDISH.’ LIGHTS FADE TO BLACKOUT