Sweeping Saga


Scene One

The Eighteenth Century. A grubby London street. A SWEEP enters, pushing a broom. DAWKINS, a ragamuffin beggar child watches.

Dawkins:                 Spare a copper for a poor beggar boy, sir!

Sweep:                    A copper? Me? You’ve got the wrong bloke, mate. You wants to try tapping a toff for a bob or two. They only give me tuppence for doing this!

Dawkins:                 A toff? What toff ever comes round ‘ere?

Sweep:                    Well, why don’t you push off somewhere more toff-frequented then?

Dawkins:                 I tried that, didn’t I?

Sweep:                    What happened?

Dawkins:                 They told me to push off back to the slums.

Sweep:                    Quite right. They don’t want your sort round there.

Dawkins:                 Well, what am I supposed to do then?

Sweep:                    Starve, mate. Or get a job.

Dawkins:                 A job? But I ain’t got no quarrifications.

Sweep:                    Don’t need no quarrifications to sweep the streets.

Dawkins:                 Yeah, but you’re doin’ it, aint yer? Ain’t no vagrancies for me, is there?

Sweep:                    Must be some uvver street what needs sweepin’.


Flower Girl:             Flahrs! Gecher luverly flahrs, here! Only tuppence a bunch!

Sweep:                    Naff off, darlin’. Ain’t got no use for flahrs!

Flower Girl:             Oh go on, Mister! I’ll do you one for a copper!

Sweep:                    Naff off!

She wanders off, disappointed

Dawkins:                 Wait!

Sweep:                    Not goin’ anywhere. Leastways till I finished sweepin’.

Dawkins:                 Well, do you like it? Sweepin?

Sweep:                    Nah, it’s bleeding back-breaking work, mate. I was better at it when I was younger. Now my poor bones ache like buggery.

Dawkins:                 Why don’t I do it for you then?

Sweep:                    Why would you do that?

Dawkins:                 Well, ‘f you paid me a farving, I could do it for you, and you could have the day off.

Sweep:                    A farving? You’d sweep the streets for a farving?

Dawkins:                 Like you said, it’s a young man’s job. ‘n you’d be getting seven farvings for doin’ nuffin’.

The Sweep considers this.

Sweep:                    I won’t pay you till it’s done.

Dawkins:                 I trust you, Mister. You got an honest face incher?

Sweep:                    All right then, young lad. You got yourself a deal.

They shake, and he hands the broom to Dawkins.

Now, where’s the nearest gin hole?

Dawkins:                 The Lamb, sir, it’s on the corner.

Sweep:                    Course it is. Dunno how I forgot.



Scene Two

Two weeks later. The Sweep is paying Dawkins.

Sweep:                    Right then. Same time tomorrow. I must say, you sweep a mean street.

Dawkins:                 Well, yes, sir, I was thinking that. I was thinking how maybe I deserve more than a farving.

Sweep:                    What? Why?

Dawkins:                 You’re getting good service from me, sir. Must raise your rankin with your hemployers.

Sweep:                    All the same, if I give you more than a farving, I have to give you a hapenny. That’s a fifty percent increase!

Dawkins:                 Hunderd, sir.

Sweep:                    What?

Dawkins:                 It’s a hunderd percent increase, but it’s wurf it!

Sweep:                    No, you bugger off. If you don’t want it, I’ll find some uvver ragamuffin to sweep the streets for me. Now you give me the idea, I can’t see why I never fort of it before.

Dawkins:                 Oh sir, why would you be so mean, after I’ve been so much help to you?

Sweep:                    I must admit, drinking gin all day is a lot better than workin’. But if I give you an extra farving a day, that’s a pint of gin less I gets to drink. So bugger off.

The Sweep sweeps out. Enter the Flower Girl.

Flower Girl:             Lovely bunch of flowers, sir? For your sweetheart?

Dawkins looks at her.

Dawkins:                 Yes, please. How much are they?

Flower Girl:             Tuppence, love, but for a pretty boy like you, I’ll do you one for a penny.

Dawkins:                 In that case, I’ll take two!

Flower Girl:             Two bunches, in one day! What a lucky girl I am.

He hands over the money, and she gives him two bunches of violets.

Dawkins:            (presenting them to her) Here!

Flower Girl:        What? What’s wrong with them?

Dawkins:            No, they’re for you. You said ‘for your sweetheart’.

She melts.

Flower Girl:             Oh sir! But I can’t be no one’s sweetheart. I can’t afford it!

Dawkins:                 You don’t need to afford nuffing, my angel, I will take care of all your needs.

Flower Girl:             (she accepts the flowersand puts them back with her stock) Have I really been born to see such happiness? Thank you, kind sir, thank you!

Enter two OFFICIALS.

Official 1:                (to Dawkins) Where is he, then?

Dawkins:                 It’s like I told you, sir, he’s in the Lamb. Never turns up for work. Expects me to do it for him.

Official 2:                Excellent. Well done, sonny.

Dawkins:                 Does that mean you’ll be needing a new sweep then, sir?

Official 1:                Are you good?

Dawkins:                 Look around you sir!

The Officials look around.

Official 2:                All right. You start today. A penny and three farthings.

Dawkins:                 Thank you sir, only you was paying him tuppence, and I do a lot better job than what he ever did.

Official 1:                What use have you got for tuppence? You’re only a young lad.

Dawkins:                 I think I should be paid more for better work, don’t you?

Official 2:                But we don’t need the streets to be this clean.

Dawkins:                 Think how good it is for business, sir! We might even get some toffs coming down ‘ere, spendin’ their money.

Official 1:                He’s got a point.

Official 2:                All right then, you young scallywag. Nine farthings. But only if you keep it this clean. And no getting someone else to do it for you!

Dawkins:                 Thank you kind sir!

The Flower Girl looks on in awe.

Flower Girl:             Oh young sir!

Dawkins:                 I’m rich.

Flower Girl:             A nine-hundred percent pay-rise!

Dawkins:                 Eight. But yes, pretty good. Will you marry me?

Flower Girl:             Oh sir! Yes, I will, yes, oh yes!

Dawkins:                 No more selling flowers for you!

Flower Girl:             (dismay)But I like selling flowers. They’re pretty and they ward off the smell of cholera.

Dawkins:                 But you’ve got a much more important job, now – I don’t even know your name. I’m Sammy, by the way. Samuel R Dawkins.

Flower Girl:             Fanny. Little Fanny Spencer.

They embrace and kiss.

Dawkins:                 Soon to be Mrs Frances Dawkins.

Fanny:                     (giggles) Oh, don’t that sound posh.

Dawkins:                 Might sound posh, but we aren’t posh. Nine farthings a day won’t get us posh, especially once you start filling the world with little Dawkinses. We’re going to have to work hard. Building our empire.

Fanny:                     Oh Sammy! Sammy! I can’t wait!



Scene Three

Twenty years later. The interior of a shop. On the window can be seen (in reverse) ‘S. Dawkins & Sons Sweeping Services to the Nobility’ and underneath, a small Royal crest saying ‘By Royal Appointment’, which is currently being painted in by an artisan outside. Dawkins, now a fine-looking adult, stands behind a desk.

Enter the adult Fanny, having lost her youthful blush, swollen with child, carrying another, and with two small children in her train.

Dawkins:                 Fanny, my darling! I have told you that it is quite unsuitable for you to be coming to the shop in your condition. You really should keep to our home.

Fanny:                     Oh, but Mr Dawkins, our rooms is so very damp and squalid. I’m really not sure it’s good for me. And the kids drive me bonkers with all their squabbling and their demands. I would really rather be here with you, helping to run the business we’ve both worked so hard to build.

Dawkins:                 Now, now, my darling, the shop is no place for young children, and it is certainly not somewhere for a woman so late in maternity.

Fanny:  Oh please let me stay, Mr Dawkins. I promise we’ll be no trouble.

Dawkins thinks for a moment.

Dawkins:                 Very well, but you can’t stay here. I have been saving a surprise for you, but now it seems, is as good a time as any.

Fanny:                     Oh Mr Dawkins, I do so love a surprise! Are we to have chocolate again? Twice in one year?

Dawkins:                 (laughs) Oh my dearest Fanny, you and your chocolate! No, the surprise is far more momentous. I have purchased, for the family, a small house.

Fanny:                     A house! Oh Mr Dawkins!

Dawkins:                 Yes, the contract to sweep all the rooms in Buckingham Palace has certainly increased our fortunes.

Fanny:  A house! Oh, I am so excited, I fear I may give premature birth!

Dawkins:                 Please do not do that, my love, at least, not in here, I have just had the floor swept.

Fanny:                     But, a house! Where?

Dawkins:                 Now do not get yourself too excited. It is a modest place, in a rather faraway village called Chelsea. It has pleasant views of the river, and a little land. We shall be able to afford a small staff. If you go along the road to Mr Higgins, he will be happy to show you over. And the children.

Fanny:                     Oh Mr Dawkins, you have made me the happiest woman in Christendom.

Dawkins:                 And you deserve no better, my angel.

They bustle out of the shop. Dawkins goes to the door at the back of the shop and opens it.

Dawkins:                 You can come out now, Charlotte.

Charlotte emerges, a very attractive and well dressed young woman. That is to say, she is well-dressed when she is fully dressed, but as she emerges she is buttoning her blouse.

Charlotte:               How did you know she was coming?

Dawkins:                 I have an intuition about these things.

Charlotte:               But if she had found us, the shame and ignominy that would have fallen upon me would have been unbearable.

Dawkins:                 Do not worry yourself, Charlotte. Once she is settled in our new house in Chelsea it will not be possible for us to be surprised, and we shall have plenty of time together.

Charlotte:               Oh sir, won’t that be loverly?

Dawkins:                 Come. You must get back to your shop. Lunch-time is nearly over, and your customers will be demanding your services.

Charlotte:               I have just taken in a wonderful consignment of tulips, thanks to your help.

Dawkins:                 I am always keen to give aid to the florist’s trade. It is a weakness. You ladies are always so fragrant!



Scene Four

Forty years later. A grand bedroom. Dawkins is on his deathbed, pale and wheezing. Fanny, now elderly, is at his side, trying not to weep too much.

Dawkins:                 God damn it, woman, calm yourself. I have made my peace with my Creator, made my confession, and you are blessed with eight wonderful sons and six charming daughters who will take care of you until your days, like mine, come to an end. There is no cause for weeping.

Fanny:                     I can’t understand it though, Samuel. How is it that your health, so good throughout your life, has deteriorated so rapidly in these last few years.

Dawkins:                 It is merely Anno Domini, madam. It is sent to tax us all.

Fanny:                     I fear that the fault is mine, dear Samuel. As if I were, after all of it, a jinx upon you.

Dawkins looks concerned.

Dawkins:                 Why on earth would you think – oh, now please. If you mean that my pollen allergy was caused…

Fanny:                     I am sure I sowed the seeds – erm, I mean – I am sure that it was I who caused it all to escalate so rapidly. If I had not been a flower girl…

Dawkins:                 If you had not been a flower girl, then I would not have loved you.

Fanny:                     But the doctors said, when you first started showing the symptoms, that all you had to do was to keep away from flowers, from anyone who had anything to do with flowers, and you would live a long and a happy life.

Dawkins:                 And so I have, haven’t I? Hasn’t my life been long and happy? Haven’t we been happy together?

A Chamber Maid enters and curtsies.

Chamber Maid       Beg pardon, sir, ma’am, but Mr Dawkins is here. And Mr Michael Dawkins. And Mr Sheldon Dawkins.

Dawkins:                 God damn it, Daisy, I have told you before, show them in. There is no need to stand on ceremony where my own sons are concerned.

Fanny:                     Samuel, please! I do wish you would moderate your language in the presence of the staff.

Dawkins:                 Oh, she has heard worse in our own scullery.

Enter Samuel’s sons, John, Michael and Sheldon.

Well, come in, come in. Let’s have a look at you.

John:                        Father. I am sorry to find you so ill.

Michael:                  As am I.

Sheldon:                 Me too. Your sorry state causes me much discomfiture. Our other five brothers also send their concern, but regret that the demands of either business or their locations cannot permit them to be present.

Dawkins:                 William is in Norwich, overseeing the cathedral contract?

John:                        Indeed sir, and Kelvin is in Edinburgh, ensuring the streets are clean for the tattoo. As you know, Sextus, Septimus and Oscar are all in the Indies, managing the plantations.

Dawkins:                 Enough of these pleasantries about what is. What of the future? Tell me, Michael. What news of the new contract?

John:                        The Naval College? It was signed this afternoon, sir.

Dawkins laughs with pleasure which turns into a coughing fit.

And sir, I am delighted to say, with an additional undertaking which more than doubles our profit.

Dawkins:                 (when he has recovered) What? What additional undertaking?

Michael:                  Windows, sir. We shall clean them all, monthly. The profit will enable us to purchase a very worthwhile plot in Kensington.

Dawkins:                 (with mounting fury) Windows? Windows? Have I taught you nothing? Good god, sir, were I not in this sorry state, I would whip you here and now. Have I not told you that no great fortune ever came from windows! There is no profit in it!

John:                        Sir, the world is changing. Now that so much of the world is so much cleaner, people care far more to be able to see some of it through their windows.

Dawkins:                 Poppycock! You young fools will ruin the whole family! And Kensington? That swamp?

Sheldon:                 Sir, the drainage is being daily improved, and property now acquired there will, I am convinced, sustain us most healthily, should it become necessary to free the slaves in our plantations in Antigua.

Dawkins:                 Ridiculous. How will that come to pass?

Fanny:                     Samuel, please, calm yourself. It seems to me at least that the negro is surely closer to being a fellow man than the ape we treat him for.

Dawkins:                 You? Have you been reading those ludicrous tracts? My own wife?

John:                        Father, I beg you not to treat us so harshly. By our careful husbandry, the family’s fortunes are secured long into the future.

The Chamber Maid returns.

Chamber Maid       Beg pardon sir, sir, sir, sir and ma’am. There’s a gen’leman wishes to see you.

Fanny:                     Tell him that Sir Samuel is in no position to greet uninvited callers, Daisy.

Chamber Maid       That is what I said, ma’am, but he was very insistent, and said that he had something to say which had to be heard.

Dawkins:                 Oh show the blackguard in. Blackguard he may be, but no worse a blackguard than my damned sons!

She leaves momentarily, and then ushers in Calvin Snow, a slightly shabbily dressed man in his forties.

Calvin Snow:          Sir, I am Calvin Snow. It is a matter of great sorrow to see you laid low and in such a state seemingly close to your end.

John:                        How dare you!

Dawkins:                 Silence. He is right. Sir, to what great boon do we owe the pleasure of your presence?

Calvin Snow:          The boon, sir, was one you have long ago had. Indeed it was a boon which has led to my presence. My presence here on Earth.

All the brothers look confusedly at each other. Samuel looks mystified.

Perhaps it might be best if Lady Dawkins were to retire. What I have to say may not be for her ears.

Michael:                  By God, let’s throw this scoundrel into the street. By the window if necessary.

Dawkins:                 You and your bloody windows! Stay, Fanny. (to Snow) We have no secrets from one another.

Calvin Snow:          You surprise me, sir. If Lady Dawkins be party to this, she is broad-minded indeed.

Fanny looks sad, as if she knows what is coming. Snow looks to the brothers.

Behold, sirs, your brother!

Outrage from the brothers.

At least, your half-brother. Unlike you, I cannot claim your illustrious mother as my own. But your father – is mine.

Sheldon:                 You vile puppy! You will pay for this insolence with your blood!

Dawkins:                 Nonsense.

John:                        But father, how can this slur be allowed to stand?

Dawkins:                 ‘Tis no slur. ‘Tis the truth!

Shock and more outrage from the brothers. A shaking of the head from Fanny.

Calvin Snow:          My mother, you see, was a fine upstanding young woman who owned a flower stall near your father’s office in his early days. Your father seduced her and got her with child.

Dawkins:                 In addition to establishing her in her own shop, and maintaining her lines of credit…

Calvin Snow:          Scarce comfort to her when she had an extra mouth to feed.

Dawkins:                 For which I paid her…really, there is no need to go on. It is true. I allowed my passions to get the better of me when I was a young man, and this – gentleman – is indeed who he says. I confessed this to your mother decades ago when it happened. But he and his mother have both been provided for. I even saw to it that she was able to marry with honour, and funded the wedding. My main wrong to him is that I was never able to be a father to him as I have to you.

Cries of ‘But father’ ‘How could you’ ‘Why have you not told us’ and so on.

Quiet. You must now listen to a dying man’s wish, and take it as having legal force. This young man is to be part of the business. Bastard he may be, but no offspring of mine shall be deprived of his birthright. Do you hear? No offspring of mine!

John:                        I’ll be damned if I shall!

Dawkins:                 (furious) Then you shall be damned! And maybe so shall I!

He collapses into fits of coughing. The brothers cease their outrage in their concern for him. Eventually, he regains his composure, much weakened.

Now, there is more. I must complete my confession to save my soul.

He twists his head painfully to try to look at Fanny.

I have not been honest or true. I swore that I would never transgress again, but I failed in that oath, and I must beg your forgiveness.

Fanny:                     Samuel! There were more?

Dawkins:                 I could not help myself.

Fanny:                     But you did!

Dawkins:                 There is nothing in the world like the fragrance of a young flower girl.

John:                        They were all flower girls?

Dawkins:                 All. ALL!

Fanny:                     This is why you have fallen so ill? And so recently? Oh Samuel, then you have indeed brought this upon us all yourself!

Dawkins:                 The doctor says avoid pollen! I could no more do that than I could avoid food. Forgive me, all, for if not, I shall perish in eternal fire….

He breathes his last. Fanny collapses in tears. The men kneel. The Chamber Maid appears.

Chamber Maid       Beg pardon, sir, sir, sir, sir, sir and ma’am. But there are five more gentlemen wanting to see you, and – oh.



Scene Five

  1. The Pacific. The helm of a medium sized warship. The Captain, Lemuel Dawkins, is with the First Mate.

First mate:              Captain Dawkins! There’s a heavy field up ahead.

Lemuel:                   Let me see.

He checks the screen.

Ah yes. Shouldn’t be too much trouble. Better clear that lot before the fleet comes through, eh? Five degrees to starboard, and steady as she goes.

First Mate:              Aye, sir.

A pause.

Lemuel:                   God, I’ll be glad when this is over, won’t you, Williams?

First Mate:              Reckon we all will be, sir. Civvy street is everyone’s favourite address at the moment.

Lemuel:                   Oh, I say, that’s rather good. Do you write, Williams?

First Mate:              Haha, only for pleasure sir.

Lemuel:                   Really, what kind of thing?

First Mate:              Oh, family sagas, sir. Quite enjoy it. Never had much of a family of my own, sir, so I like making stuff up. Bit childish really.

Lemuel:                   Oh, you should try making some money out of that when you get back to Blighty. I know a few chaps in the publishing game. I’d be glad to set you up with a meeting at the Garrick some time.

First Mate:              Oh sir, I really don’t think my old scribbles will be worth any money.

Lemuel:                   Well, you never know. Mind you, I’m not sure family’s such a great thing.

First Mate:              Oh sir, don’t say that. I bet someone of your standing had got quite a history.

Lemuel:                   You could say that. In fact, quite frankly, if you were to write down all the stuff that happened to my family over the last hundred years, I don’t think you’d find anyone to believe you, not even the most dedicated fan of sagas.

First Mate:              Oh, do tell sir. This lot’s going to take a while.

Lemuel:                   Well, I might as well pitch in with the most awkward bit, and the bit you’re going to love telling the men. I’m descended from a bastard.

First Mate:              Beg your pardon, sir?

Lemuel:                   No surprise there, eh? Heh-heh.

First Mate:              I’m not sure I follow you, sir.

Lemuel:                   My grandfather was born ‘out of wedlock’ so to speak. His mother was a bit on the side for the great Lord Dawkins, back in eighteen-hundred-and-frozen-to-death.

First Mate:              Froze to death, sir? Oh dear!

Lemuel:                   Bless you, no, it’s an expression. Everyone in my family uses it whenever they mean ‘a long time ago’.

First Mate:              Oh right, sir.

Lemuel:                   So my grandfather has the brass-neck to storm into the good Lord’s house while he was on his deathbed, so to speak, and to demand to be accepted as one of the family.

First Mate:              Well that shows spunk, sir!

Lemuel:                   Indeed it does, Williams, it seems my forebears certainly had plenty of that. Poor blasted brothers had to shuffle over and share the pie with him. Mind you, he proved himself to share some of his father’s flair for business.

First Mate:              I expect he did, sir.

Lemuel:                   The family business was cleaning – sweeping to be precise. Heh-heh, bit ironic that I’ve ended up in charge of a mine-sweeper, eh, Williams?

First Mate:              Yes sir. Very ironic indeed. You couldn’t make it up, could you?

Lemuel:                   Well, I certainly couldn’t, but maybe you could.

First Mate:              Doubt it, sir. Do go on, sir. Family business sweeping, you say?

Lemuel:                   Thing is, the older brothers wanted to go into window-cleaning, and it was a big mistake. There was a lot of competition in those days and margins were squeezed to nothing. Squeegeed you might say. Haha. No, it wasn’t the international conglomerate it now is.

First Mate:              Before the days of Winco, I expect sir.

Lemuel:                   Exactly. The days when anyone can just pick up their telephone set, and ask the operator to send a cleaner within the month were far off in the future.

First Mate:              Heh-heh. How did we live, sir?

Lemuel:                   Quite. Anyway, the brothers got their fingers burnt, and old Calvin showed them the way. Ditched the Antiguan plantations – lots of nastiness with the coloured fellows – and put the capital into a variety of carefully chosen estates in London. Old Calvin got himself elevated for that.

First Mate:              Elevated sir?

Lemuel:                   Raised to the nobility. The first Earl of Kensington, don’t you know, what?

First Mate:              Are you an Earl, then, sir?

Lemuel:                   Oh God, no. I’m just a Marquess. Mind you he came to a sticky end, if you’ll pardon the expression.

First Mate:              Really sir? I’m sorry to hear that.

Lemuel:                   He was found in bed with a chimney sweep. Ironic really.

First Mate:              Indeed, sir. Pansy, was he?

Lemuel:                   They both were, I’m afraid. They didn’t like that sort of thing in those days. Only just stopped it being a hanging offence. Did two years hard labour. Although, that didn’t stop him fathering two splendid boys.

First Mate:              Didn’t stop Oscar Wilde, either, did it, sir?

Lemuel:                   Indeed not. And one of those boys became my father. Er – not Oscar Wilde’s boys, but Calvin’s, you understand.

First Mate:              Of course, sir. That really would have made it quite an unlikely story.

Lemuel:                   Yes, my wonderful, late, lamented father.

First Mate:              Oh dear sir, more misfortune.

Lemuel:                   He had a fair crack of the whip. But that’s something perhaps I’ll save for another day. There now. Think you can make that into something that will sell?

First Mate:              Well sir, if you’ll permit me, I’ll certainly have a try – oh – watch out sir! Incoming!

The sound of Japanese warplane, and loud machine gun fire. Williams is hit. Dawkins attends him.

Lemuel:                   Williams! Stay with me! Williams!

First Mate:              Rotten bad luck, sir! It would have been a corker sir, really it would – (he dies).

Lemuel:                   Williams! Williams! No!

He lowers him to the ground.

Don’t you worry, Williams. I’ll make sure you’re remembered.




Scene Six

  1. London. Toby Dawkins is in a champagne bar with his friend Simon Wyatt. Both wear sharp suits, have tightly cropped gelled hair, expensive shoes. They are drinking champagne. Both talk with the drawl of the 80s yuppie.

Toby:                       Mate, I tell you, why people waste any time doing anything else is beyond me.

Simon:                     Tell me about it.

Toby:                       I’m telling you. My cousin right, he’s into, like computers and shit, and he thinks, right, he thinks that soon, pretty soon, like everyone is going to have a computer.

Simon:                     What?

Toby:                       He does, he does. He’s got one, and you can like, I don’t know, play chess on it, or something, and you can print out stuff on a crappy printer that costs about four thousand pounds, and that’s about it. Can you believe it?

Simon:                     Well, why are people going to need that?

Toby:                       God knows. He’s not good with business though, Stephen. Takes after his great-great-great-uncle John.

Simon:                     Really? Can you take after a great-great-great-uncle John?

Toby:                       Don’t be so sad, Simon. You know what I mean.

Simon:                     Not really. What was wrong with Uncle John, then?

Toby:                       Oh he thought the family business should go into cleaning windows.

Simon:                     What was this, before Winco?

Toby:                       Too right. Hey, by the way, have you seen? You can actually call them on your mobile telephone, and they come round within two days?

Simon:                     Really? That’s amazing!

Toby:                       Heheh – can’t do that with a computer, can you? Someone should tell Stephen. Anyway, Uncle John was on about cleaning windows, and they were losing money hand over fist until my grandfather suggested they, like, buy half of Kensington instead. Guess who was on the money! I mean – like – guess!

They both laugh.

So anyway, the point about computers is, Stephen reckons that  – get this, you’ll fucking well shit your pants laughing at this – Stephen reckons that computers, right, computers can get a virus.

Simon:                     What?

Toby:                       Seriously. He reckons that computers can actually catch the fucking cold or something.

Simon:                     What a load of absolute old tosh!

Toby:                       Mate, it’s just so ridiculous, I almost pissed myself when he was trying to tell me about it.

Simon:                     Why was he telling you?

Toby:                       Oh, didn’t I say that? He’s offering me equity. Equity in his company he’s setting up.

Simon:                     What does it do?

Toby:                       I (laughs uncontrollably) I don’t know if I can even get it out. He’s written some programme or something that – that – that fucking – stops the computer getting the cold.

They both collapse in hysterics.

Simon:                     Hasn’t he got any money then?

Toby:                       Oh he’s got plenty. Not as much as me, of course after this afternoon. Weyhey (they drink). No, he was just offering me a piece of the action. No thanks, I said, I’ll buy a bloody Betamax with the money instead!

More laughter.

But seriously why sweat your nads off for a hare-brained scheme like that, when you can trouser a hundred thou in one afternoon just shorting South African zinc.

They chink glasses and drink.

Simon:                     So how’s Jemima?

Toby’s mood sobers quickly.

Toby:                       Oh, she’s all right. Wants me to meet her parents next week.

Simon:                     Bloody hell, that’s a bit soon.

Toby:                       Tell me about it.

Simon:                     You tell me.

Toby:                       Six weeks, for Christ’s sake. Gotta go down to their place in Sunningdale.

Simon:                     Euw, ‘Stockbroker belt’?

Toby:                       Well, what the bloody hell do you think we are?

Simon:                     Oh yeah. But not that sort of stockbroker. Not Sunningdale stockbrokers.

Toby:                       No, it’s not like that. They’re old money. Got an enormous old pile.

Simon:                     Jemima Bach? She’s not that Bach?

Toby:                       No! The Flower people. Aroma therapy and all that.

Simon:                     That’s the one I meant. What did you think I meant?

Toby:                       The music chap.

Simon:                     Oh him. No, never heard of him. Anyway, he doesn’t live in Sunningdale.

Toby:                       Too right. (Pause) Tell you what, I’m fucking horny. Fancy going and doing a few prossies?

Simon:                     Bit squalid.

Toby:                       No, no, there’s this new number you can call. They send them round to your flat. There’s this girl I really like. She’s called Fleur.

Simon:                     Flo?

Toby:                       No, ‘Fleur’. She’s French.

Simon:                     And does she?

Toby:                       She does. And German. And Greek.

Simon:                     Turkish.

Toby:                       Dunno about that one.

Simon:                     No, I was just thinking, it was Turkish zinc you went short on.

Toby:                       Was it?

Simon:                     Yeah. Not South African.

Toby:                       Oh fuck.

Simon:                     Was up eight points last I looked.

Toby:                       Up? (crestfallen)

Simon:                     Bollocks. That’s gonna cost you.

Toby:                       Fuck. What are you doing drinking my fucking champagne? That’s expensive!

Simon:                     Might even cost you your job.

Toby:                       Listen you little shit, you keep quiet about this. I’ve got this mate who’s good at this kind of thing. We can hush it up. Leeson, his name is. Dab-hand at it.

Simon:                     Well, I don’t suppose you’re in the mood for prossies now, are you?

Toby:                       (thinks for a while) Oh, I don’t know. No use crying over spilt milk.

They leave the bar. A homeless teenager is sitting on the floor.

HT:                           You got any spare change, mate?

Toby kicks the teenager.

Toby:                       Fuck off, you sponging little shit. Why don’t you get a fucking job? Or go and ask some bloody rich people. I’m poorer than you’ll ever be.

Simon aims a few kicks too. The teenager flees.

Oh, I feel better now. It’s all right. The family will bail me out. Maybe Stephen will get rich with his cough medicine for computers.

Simon:                     (laughing) What’s he going to call it, this program-thingy?

Toby:                       It’s called ‘Sweeper’. Quite ironic really.

Simon:                     Why?





This was written as part of the ’28 Plays Later’ challenge, where participants have to write a play each day for the month of February.

For this one, we were asked to write a saga – something involving many characters, and many generations, of immense scope.

As you can imagine, these are written under quite a lot of pressure of time (most participants have full time jobs) and what can be defined as a ‘play’ is pretty broad.

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