Tenderfoot

Afternoon Tea

Author

Charlotte Guest is an undergraduate Arts student majoring in English Literature and History. She is currently working on a project of novel proportions, hoping someday to have it published. Charlotte intends to complete honours and a PhD in order to become a UWA lecturer in the English department.

Charlotte Guest

MARGARET'S actions tell the story and are to be mimed. MARTIN'S character can be performed by an actor or he can be imaginary.

A room with one wooden chair placed centre stage. MARGARET stands downstage right, bent over and hands in front of her as if she is holding the ankles of a dead man. She remains still for some moments, and then shudders as if someone has pressed the “play” button on an old VCR. MARGARET mimes dragging a heavy body across the floor and placing it stage left of the chair. She makes a small fuss of aligning the body, and when satisfied, sits on the chair.

MARGARET: Right. Now I’m sorry I had to hurt you, but it was necessary, very necessary indeed.

She glances at the body as if it has spoken.

MARGARET: No don’t worry, I will explain –

The sound of a doorbell is heard. MARGARET jolts in surprise, then frantically covers the body, and kicks it to make sure the man is dead. She then goes to answer the door, downstage right.

MARGARET: Martin. Hello. What a nice surprise.

Pause.

No response.

MARGARET: Of course, of course. Come in, come in.

MARGARET ushers MARTIN into the lounge room and takes a seat, indicating for MARTIN to sit.

MARGARET: Yes. I’m sorry I couldn’t come. Unfortunately I was busy... tea?

Mimes pouring tea.

MARGARET: Well, tell the girls that I would have come, certainly. For certain, but matters are a-calling and I cannot disconnect the phone.

The sound of a mobile phone is heard. MARGARET reaches into her pocket.

MARGARET: Speak of the devil, that’s probably them now.

She mimes answering the phone, moving away from MARTIN to downstage right, whispering loudly into the phone.

MARGARET: Sid? I mean, Sid? I sent you a letter, did you reply? (listens) Well she must have checked by now, the goddamn afternoon’s all over. (Listens) What? Now?

Turns and steps towards the front of the stage, mimes drawing back a curtain as if she is spying.

MARGARET: (frowning with suspicion) Yes. Thank you.

MARGARET hangs up the phone and turns back to address MARTIN.

MARGARET: That was about my neighbour, (sits) a most peculiar woman... strange... about as welcome as a skunk at a lawn party if you ask me. (Hushes voice, leans into Martin) You didn’t hear this from me, but ... she keeps checking the mail. As in “checking the mail”... No, not ‘male’ as in female/male, but as in the delivered mail... No! (Stands in frustration) Not as in hospital delivered male, but as in the post... Not ‘post’ as in ‘after’ as opposed to ‘before’, but as in the post mail box, mail post box! Yes! Every day!

MARGARET regains her composure, sits.

MARGARET: And that was Sid from the ‘Sickening Civilian Surveillance Secret Society, or just ‘sssss’ for short... tea?

Mimes pouring tea.

MARGARET: I can show you her file if you fancy? (Pauses for response) Alright.

MARGARET reaches into her shoe and pulls out some paper. She then shifts her chair slightly so MARTIN can see.

MARGARET: I’ve counted her lucky stars; she has four. (Flips the page) Criminal record: none so far, but it has been alleged that she – (adjusts the page for eyesight) “talked the hind legs off a donkey” – I mean, barbaric! I imagine that’s quite a serious offence. (Flips the page) Character references: unclear, but I did hear Mr Blank from Third say something like they (again adjusts the page) “they got along so well that his house caught on fire” ... I assume that means she has two faces.

MARGARET places the file on the table and takes a sip of tea in a shaky way. A lengthy pause ensues. She drinks and watches MARTIN, and assesses him.

MARGARET: I say, Martin, you’re a man of the world. How would you like to join the ‘sssss’? Yes! Join Us. We can show you heaven. (Stands with excitement, gazes around wide-eyed) Because, in the evening, Martin, we all dine with angels, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that we can all stay for desert. Do you see? It’s a plan; it’s a work in progress.

MARGARET sits uncomfortably close to MARTIN, infatuated.

MARGARET: Oh Martin, you’re a man after my own heart, you’re perfect! We, at the ‘sssss’ are dedicated to human improvement. We are ridding the garden of both snakes and apples, apples and snakes I suppose you could say. Tea?

Mimes pouring tea.

MARGARET: Well, yes, there’s a lot to be done, much to do, too much for one man and a backseat driver. We should have started millions of years ago, but so much the better, so much the better. (Pauses, as if MARTIN has spoken) Mmm? Oh no, it’s not too late, the last minute never seems to end.

Pause.

MARGARET: So, (stands) when are you free? (Pauses as if MARTIN speaks) For a meeting with the entourage, of course; Basil, Mary, Frank, Joe, Oedipus – they’ll all be there. (Considers) Mmm, well the working week begins on a Saturday and goes to the next Saturday afternoon, so how about a Wednesday, when things really start to get down to business.

MARGARET gazes, mesmerised with thoughts of her plans, and then turns as if MARTIN has said something to interrupt her thoughts.

MARGARET: That sound you hear, the kettle, you’ve caught me making tea I’m afraid, (nervous laugh) how embarrassing. I mention the sound because I’m struggling to hear what you say. What are you saying?

MARGARET’S expression noticeably turns from curiosity to concern, mood darkens, and she starts to seem on edge. She slowly sits down.

MARGARET: Martin? What’s the matter Martin? You look awful pale, dreadful in fact.

A short pause; MARGARET'S actions indicate that MARTIN has stood and is heading for the door.

MARGARET: Martin? Martin where are you going? No! No, you can’t leave, you know too much! (Looks to the dead body, then back at MARTIN) Oh pull yourself together! Don’t tell me you haven’t seen a dead man before. He was a nuisance Martin, he needed to be illuminated – I mean ‘eliminated’. He needed to be eliminated!

MARGARET is frantic. She walks back towards the “chair” MARTIN was sitting on and fluffs up a pillow.

MARGARET: Martin, here, come, calm yourself, have some tea, sit, breathe – Martin please! Martin no!

MARGARET lunges forward and tries to grab MARTIN, but he escapes. She rushes to the window to see where he is going, pulls out her mobile and dials.

MARGARET: Sid? Get him.

Blackout.

The End.