Digits (excerpt)

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Characters:

MICK (in his mid thirties)

JIMMY (in his early forties)

PAULA (35)

ANGELA (50)

YOUNG WOMAN

The three women are played by the same actress.

The action takes place in an interrogation room and in the memory of the main protagonist.

 

 Scene I

A cold light goes up on one side of the stage. The light harshly illuminates a tape recorder atop an institutional table at which a scruffy looking man, MICK is sitting. He stares into the audience, as if addressing someone (an interrogator) in it.

MICK: That thing running? (pause) Right then, I’ll start. He was so skint, he’d had to punch two new holes in his belt. Looking back, I think he started to loose it months ago. It’s like I say, idle hands are a man’s worst enemy. (pause) Yeah, too right it’s ironic. The night before it all started I took him down the pub – I’d won on the dogs, see – thought a couple of pints’d take his mind off his troubles. You do that for your mates, don’t you? We chatted to this bird. She was a looker an’ all. I think I could have pulled her if I’d been there on my own. But I always say ‘if you go to the pub with your mates, you should leave with them.’ Even if you don’t want to. It never pays to put a bird first.

Lights down on MICK and up on the other side of the stage, to a bar, where another man, JIMMY, gaunt and a bit bedraggled, is drinking. Next to him a woman is trying to engage him in conversation.

WOMAN: So what’s your line of work then?

JIMMY: Job centre.

WOMAN: You work at the job centre. I never think of anyone working there.

MICK: (enters and walks up to the WOMAN) He don’t work there, he just lines up with all the other sad bastards.

WOMAN: Oh well, I’m sure your luck will change soon enough. No one stays unemployed forever.

JIMMY: If you’ve had my run of bad luck-

MICK: (interrupting. To the WOMAN) I’m Mick.

WOMAN: You unemployed too?

JIMMY: Him?!

MICK: Not me, love. I’m in the car business. Got a nifty little racer outside if you fancy a spin.

WOMAN: Not now, I’ve just got myself a drink.

JIMMY: Wise move. You don’t want to get in a car with him.

WOMAN: (flirting slightly) I don’t know, I quite like a nifty spin, as you put it.

MICK: (moves closer to the WOMAN again) It’s red, and there’s plenty of room inside for moving about.

WOMAN: Alright mister, don’t push it.

JIMMY: I’m telling you. You’ll live to regret it…

MICK: Drop it Jimmy. (to woman) So what d’you do anyway?

WOMAN: That depends on who I’m with. I’m going out for a smoke. You coming?

JIMMY: Don’t smoke. Can’t afford it.

WOMAN: Suit yourselves. (exits)

MICK: (calling after her) I don’t mind a puff every now and then. (to JIMMY) I think I might be in with a chance there.

JIMMY: I don’t think so mate.

MICK: Didn’t you hear the way she talked to me. I’m not letting her slip though my fingers. I’m going to go out and join her. (exits)

JIMMY: (alone, to himself) Bloody hell Mick, you think you’re God’s gift.

Lights down on the bar, up on the interrogation room where MICK is at his table. 

MICK: To be honest I was glad to get out of there for a bit. I’ve seen Jimmy in that kind of mood before. You know, all doom and gloom and ‘I’ll-never-get-a-job’. Poor sod. The thing is, he could have had loads of jobs. Just now the ones he wants. A job’s a job. Beggars can’t be choosers. Anyway that night I told him to go and see my uncle. He cleans offices, see. You should see some of his kit. It’s state-of-the-art. Anyhow, it turned out my uncle had just taken on some bloke from Poland or Czechoslovakia, so he didn’t have any jobs going. (stops and looks at the audience/his interrogator in irritation) Czech pigging Republic then, same difference…  Anyway, Jimmy got the bus home, and make sure you record this right cause you could say it’s where the story starts properly…

Lights up on the bus. JIMMY is standing holding onto a rail. A nearby seat is occupied by a woman in her early thirties, PAULA. JIMMY is looking around at the other passengers. PAULA is not.

MICK: It was packed. And there was Jimmy just minding his own business when he heard God Save the Queen start playing, and I don’t mean that song by the Sex Pistols.

A tinny rendition of Land of Hope and Glory sounds from the bus.

MICK: Jimmy thought what the hell’s going on here, I thought this was the number 17, not part of the royal bloody fleet. (pauses) Of course it’s relevant… if the phone had just gone ‘ring-ring’ like phones are supposed to, he wouldn’t even have noticed it and I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you now. That’s what I call a chain of events, and I’d have thought you lot’d know all about that. It were a bird, of course. A right prima-donna. She had one of them poncey iPhones that everyone’s got these days. You’d have to kill me before I’d use one. Have you seen the way everyone huddles round them like cavemen round a fire. I don’t get it. I really don’t – (pause) Alright, alright, I’m getting there. It takes time to tell a story well.

PAULA takes the ringing phone from her bag. It’s more of a Blackberry than an I-phone. She holds it to her ear.

MICK: She started shouting into it. You know, just to be sure that everyone on the bus knew she was there.

PAULA: (not shouting) Hello… God, am I glad you called back. I am sooo nervous about tonight. I don’t know how I’m going to get ready in time. I already pulled a sicky so I could leave work early. Not that it was totally made up, I mean I do feel sick. Totally sick. He’s soooo gorgeous. I can’t believe it – me, Paula Jones – about to go out with him!

Lights down on the bus.

MICK: That’s how he knew her name. He didn’t want to know it. He’d just had it rammed down his ears like a cotton bud gone too far. I don’t know why people can’t have private conversations in private. Like us – (pause) …alright then, interrogation if you wanna split hairs. All I’m saying is there should be a law against loud phone calls. You lot should fine people, you’d make a fortune. It’s theft of privacy when you think about it- (pause) I’m just saying… 

JIMMY is swaying involuntarily with the movement of the bus. PAULA has her phone to her ear and is nodding as she listens to the caller.

MICK: So he’d just been to see my uncle and had the carpet pulled out from under him – by some eastern European. You wanna watch out or they’ll have the uniforms off your backs before you can say Warsaw bloody ghetto… so there he was on the bus being forced to listen to God Save Paula Jones whining on about how she couldn’t stand having tiny tits anymore and was going to get a boob job.

Lights up on bus.

PAULA: I’ve still got to do my roots and I wanted to go to the solarium, but I don’t think I’ve got time for that anymore. I’ve still got some fake tan at home so I’ll just have to use that. But I don’t want to go orange. No, no, I never buy the cheap stuff, not after my Malaga disaster. God, that was embarrassing. And I don’t know what I should wear. Should I be all sophisticated and smart or just casual? I really want to impress him. I bought a fantastic new dress online so I could wear that. But I also ordered tons of other stuff. I just hope its arrived by the time I get home, so I’ve got something to choose from. (pause) I know, I know, I’m terrible. I must have spent about 300 quid on clothes choices for this date – which just goes to show how important it is. (lowering her voice) The knickers alone cost forty-five.

JIMMY stares at PAULA who says ‘hmmm’ and ‘ahh’ and ‘really?’ into her phone while MICK speaks in the interrogation room…

MICK: And Jimmy was thinking, I don’t know how I’m going to buy a pint of milk so keep your forty-five quid panties to yourself.  But she didn’t, she kept going on and bloody on. Pretty soon whoever Paula was talking to must have said the name ‘Angela Aitkin’ – cause Paula suddenly shouts…

PAULA: (not shouting) Angela who?

MICK: And then the thick cow goes…

PAULA: …‘Is that Aitkin with a ‘Y’ or an ‘I’?’

MICK: And Jimmy’s gritting his teeth thinking to himself she’s thick and ugly it’s A-I-T-K-I-N, you stupid cow.

JIMMY: (under his breath to PAULA) With an ‘I’. Bet you anything.

MICK: And then she says (girly voice) ‘Can you get her to give me a job an’ all?

PAULA: Do you think she’d be able to take me on? Yeah, hang on though, I don’t know how to enter a new contact into this phone without cutting you off. Just hang on, yeah? If you get cut off, call me back. (starts fiddling with her phone)

MICK: And Jimmy’s thinking ‘why don’t you just use a piece of paper you stupid cow.’

JIMMY is staring at PAULA. He takes a pen out of his pocket. PAULA doesn’t notice.

PAULA:  (into the phone) You still there? Hello? You still there? Shit.

MICK: Jimmy was getting really wound up by now. He was thinking, ‘well that was bloody obvious. I told you to just use a pen.’

PAULA’s phone rings again. She picks up.

PAULA: Hello? God, sorry about that. I’m telling you this phone is a pile of shit. How hard can it be to invent something that multi-tasks?

JIMMY: (laughing to himself, he holds his pen out towards PAULA) Here…

PAULA: (gives him a strange look. Doesn’t take the pen) Oh it’s alright thanks. I’ll remember it 0183 621 474…

MICK: Well that was a bit of a slap in the face for him. You know, there he was trying to be helpful even though it wasn’t his duty. But the silly cow just told him where to stick it.

JIMMY offers aula his pen again

PAULA: (To Jimmy) Thanks. (Into phone) Got one. Okay, I’m ready. So what was her name again?

JIMMY: Angela Aitkin.

MICK: Then whoever she was yakking with must have given her the address and a phone number cause she started shouting it out so everyone on the bus can hear her.

PAULA: (not exactly shouting) 17 Viewford Terrace. Got that, and the number… 0183 621 474.

MICK: And she said it over and over again.

PAULA: I got it the first time. God, it’d be sooo cool if she could take me on. It’s just not working out where I am. (every now and then she looks at JIMMY. What she doesn’t see though is that as she repeats the phone number, he writes it down on the back of his hand.)

MICK: He just couldn’t stand the snotty way she thought she could waltz out of one job  into another one on Viewford Terrace, and shout about him being homeless just because he’d offered her the use of his pen. And besides it’s not as if it was exactly sensitive information…

The bus pulls over. JIMMY gets off. Lights down on the bus.

 

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