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YEAR OF PRODUCTION: 2003.

SUBTITLE: (a monologue about soup-kitchen Julishka)

NUMBER OF FEMALE CHARACTERS: 1

COPYRIGHT:all rights reserved


 

original title:


Familija u prahu

(monodrama Juliške iz javne kuhinje)







translated by:


Tamara Budimir


 


(A soup kitchen. Julishka, an older woman in rags, enters the place through the window. As soon as she comes in, she starts pushing her way through)

Go on, bugger off, ya fucking tramps, I was 'ere first; go on, move...Oi, you; yeah you; what d'ya think yer lookin' at? Oi, monkey-face, get outta the way, let Julishka pass, would’ya!

(She staggers backwards as if someone has pushed her)

For fuck's sake; aren't ya ashamed of pushing a woman, what’s more, a lady around like that!

(She stops and stares straight ahead adopting the stance of someone who is about to attack, and replies)

Ya mother's an old hag, ya ugly bugger!

(She raises her hand, ready to strike the person closest to her)

What!? Running away, are ya? Bloody coward!

(She swings round to the other side suddenly)

What's with ya, ya one-armed twat? Eh? Only one arm, and still pushing and shoving! Fuck, I'd hate to see what ya'd do if ya had both!

(She jabs a finger at the person she is accosting)

I know you, boy, don't I? You're the one from that pig-slaughtering thing. I remember it all like it was yesterday. Right? Ya own brother cut off yer arm. Like it was an accident, yeah? Yeah, sorry; I know, he didn't mean to, but he still cut it off for ya and fucked ya up, didn't he? Ya slaughter a couple of pigs, ya brother gets drunk, and instead of whacking the pig with the axe, like he's supposed to, he whacks you instead. And so, my boy, ya end up missing an arm. Which one is ya missing anyway? Yeah, right, ya right arm. So, what did the people upstairs say? Ya don’t say? Like, ya left-handed, so ya don’t really need ya right arm. Hell, fuck it; they don’t want to pension ya off as an invalid. Quite honestly, neither would I, ya elbowing sod; if ya had another arm ya’d kill me will all ya pushing and shoving and elbowing.

(She pushes the young, one-armed man away)

Right, now that we’ve got ya out of the way.

(She turns around)

And look after that arm, if ya know what’s good fer ya.

(She turns to all sides, addressing all those present)

Right, now make room ‘cause Julishka wants to pass. That’s right.

(She sits down at a table)

‘Ere, waiter, I’d like to order, if ya don’t mind. How about ya take me order now?

(She looks around her)

What’s with ya, ya losers? What’s so funny? Ya don’t say!? Well, just so’s ya know, I’m not completely ga-ga; I know this is not a restaurant; I knows it’s a soup kitchen. I was just thinking,…I mean, what’s so wrong with this place? Why shouldn’t the odd waiter or two pay us a visit? I mean, it could be, like, a kind of hobby in their spare time, right? Serving us scumbags, I mean. Not possible, you say, eh?

Well, if it’s not possible, then it simply isn’t. So what!? I’ll just have to get up and serve meself, won’t I?

(She gets up, but sits down again quickly)

And how am I supposed to do that, I ask you!? Someone’ll nab me table. Bloody hell! What a crowd. Ya’d think they were handing out free samples or something. I can’t bloody believe it. What is the world coming to if ya’ve got to book a table!? A soup kitchen, and ya need to book in advance. Phew, what a crowd! I see, I’m going to have to put some things and people straight in this place. Like in those places where they’ve got smoking and non-smoking areas; only ya don’t need that here – ‘cause in ‘ere everyone and everything goes up or ends up in smoke anyway. What this place needs is a different kind of management. It needs to be organised into sections for invalids, for fat old pensioners, for young people who are out of work ‘cause nobody’ll employ them, for drug addicts… Christ, we’ve got more categories than an unemployment benefit form! We’re like a humble and honest rural peasant family. And if only we all loved each other like brothers and sisters, we’d rule the bloody world!

(She turns and notices someone)

Blimey! Is that my neighbour?

(She waves to her neighbour, a general)

Hello, neighbour! Just look at him, would ya, pretending he doesn’t know me. What’s up, neighbour? Embarrassed that ya know me? Oi, neighbour! Heellooo! Turn around, would ya! ‘Ere, boy; yeah you; tap the guy in front of you on the shoulder, would’ya? What d’ya mean “what with”? with yer hand, brother. There’s no two ways about it, yer know which one to use ‘cause ya’ve only got the one. Oh, I see, ya hand’s busy, is it. Ya using it to hold on to the pot. When did ya manage to grab it in the first place! Well, fer fuck’s sake, put it down then and get the man in front of ya to turn around. Yeah, it’s me neighbour. Well, thank you, young man, from the depths of me motherly heart.

(She waves to a neighbour who has just noticed her)

‘Ere, neighbour, what say you bring some of that mouth-watering food over ‘ere to where I’m at! Oh, ya want a seat in return. No problem, we’ll think of something. (To herself) The fuckers always want something in return; ya can’t even get someone to do ya a favour without them asking fer a favour in return. Great times we’re living in, I must say. Makes me feel sorry I wasn’t born later, so’s I could enjoy me predicament even longer. I mean, the living’s absolutely fantastic!! And the food – well, the food’s absolutely unbeatable!

(She talks into her coat pocket)

What d’ya say, ya old fart? D’ya think I should get me arse off the chair? Well, why don’t you get yerself off ya fat arse? Ah, ya can’t, can ya?

(She takes a largish urn containing the remains of her husband out of her pocket)

What about now? Want to take a stroll? Stretch those legs of yours? Not likely, right? All ya do is sit back and take it easy. Yer useless. You always were hopeless, even before yer took up residence in ‘ere. As long as I’ve known ya – and that would be from the day I met ya – ya’ve always been like this. Ya barely managed to walk up the aisle to the altar. Even then ya wanted to take a taxi. Yer lazy, yer old fart. Yer always were and yer always will be. Yer’ll never change. Yer wouldn’t raise a finger. Ya don’t say; I should get up, is that what yer saying?

(Her neighbour calls to her; she turns around)

What’s the matter, neighbour? Ah, ya can’t manage on your own? (To herself) Fuck it; I’ll have to help out. (To her neighbour) Coming! (To herself) Julishka to the rescue!

(She gets up, but as she does her coat catches on the edge of the table)

What? What now? Bloody hell, yer five and acting like a two-year-old! All ya do is tug at me sleeve.

(She starts again, but cannot move)

Fuck this, I mean, can’t I even do something without someone fucking me about!? Look; sorry, son, I didn’t mean it that way, OK?

(She takes a smaller urn from her other coat pocket)

Go on, forgive yer mother. Can ya do that, eh?

(She kisses the urn)

Kiss and make up?

(She turns to her husband’s urn)

And as for you, ya old fart, in your dreams! I wouldn’t kiss ya even if ya paid me. What’s that ya say? Just look at ya, would ya? Yer urn’s all dirty…Ya don’t say!? Ya want me to clean it for ya!? Why don’t ya clean it yerslef! Oh, ya can’t! Well, there’s fate for ya!

(Speaking to the smaller urn)

Don’t fret; yer loving mother keeps ya clean.

(She spits lightly on the small urn and wipes it with her sleeve. She shows the smaller urn to the larger one)

Look at him, would ya; all shiny and clean. Who’s a handsome boy then, eh?

(She turns to her neighbour)

Coming! The food’s not going anywhere, is it!?

(To the smaller urn)

What is it, son? Tell me. D’ya want yer mum to bring you something sweet to eat? Is that right? Oh, ya want a kiss from yer mum. My precious little one; yer afraid someone’ll grab my place. Yer right there. Don’t worry; Julishka’s got a cure fer that as well. Watch this. Watch me pull a fast one on the neighbour.

(She grabs her lower back and pretends she is in pain; she cries out)

‘Ere, neighbour; I’ve got this sudden twinge in me back! I can’t move. Be a good man, would’ya, and bring the food over ‘ere. I swear, on the lives of my family. (To herself) But then they’re dead already, aren’t they.

(She sits down and relaxes)

Didn’t I tell ya? Sucker. And I got meself a waiter. Bloody clever, or what? Now; while I wait I might as well have an apéritif.

(She takes a bottle of brandy out of a pocket and takes a large swig)

Just what I needed to open up me appetite. True, it’s been open fer these last ten years or so, but whose counting. Isn’t that so, yer old fart? ‘Ere’s to yer health then! Cheers!

(She clinks her bottle against her husband’s urn, takes another swig, then wipes her mouth)

Great stuff. Ya’d think it was made by God almighty himself.

(She puts the brandy bottle back into her pocket)

Where is that fuckwit?

(She raises her head suddenly and sees her neighbour standing in front of her)

No, not you; I wasn’t talking to you; I was whispering endearments to me old man. (To the larger urn) Isn’t that right, my darling fuckwit! Fuck off!

(To her neighbour)

No, not you! What?

(She contorts suddenly)

Yeah, it hurts! It hurts something awful! The thing is that the pain comes in waves. Yeah, I can feel it easing off now.

(She relaxes. She picks up a can of fish. She waves it around in front of her neighbour)

What’s this? Fish? It’s Friday; ya don’t say! Fasting? Bloody hell! I’ve been fasting fer as long as I can remember! All ya can do in this place is fast! When’re we finally going to see some meat in this place, eh!?

(She waves a hand at the neighbour)

No, ya don’t get a seat.

(She mimics her neighbour) What do you mean; what do you mean?

It’s like I said. I promised? So what! Ya know what they say – promises are made to be broken and there’s no fool like an old fool! There’s no room. Can’t ya see me husband and child sitting there? Go on, move it. What do I care if ya’ve got a pistol? Go on; use it then! What!? Yer planning to mow down me entire family? That might be a bit difficult. Somebody’s beaten yer to it! Fuck it!

But, hang on a minute; listen up. Don’t blame me ‘cause they fucked you over. I know, I remember, until recently you were top cat, dog and brass. A general. OK, so yer weren’t exactly a general, but yer wanted to be, right? You were a soldier? Or was it a major, or something, right? And now nobody gives a fuck! They took away all yer privileges. And divided them amongst themselves. Well, fuck it! That’s life for ya. Who forced ya into going off to fight? What? It was your decision? Yer volunteered, eh? And a right fuckwit ya are fer doing it. Did ya really believe it would pay off? Anyway, ya freed this land; what more d’ya want!?

A roof over yer head? What d’ya want that for? I’ve got one, and a fat lot of good it’s done me. It’s leaking. Yer better off like this. Without a thing to yer name. Yer free to be what yer want. Yer remember when yer did have a roof over yer head? We were next-door neighbours, remember? All we did was fight and quarrel and get in each other’s hair. Like this, yer free; yer don’t have any neighbours to fuck yer in the head whenever they feel like it. See, yer better off like this.

Oh, fuck off, would’ya!

(To herself)

He’s gone. And ya call that a general.

(To her husband)

OK, so he’s not a general. But he wanted to be. Who wouldn’t? Yer given a house, a car and a pension. And a very decent pension at that. I mean, yer filling a bank with it. Yeah, and they congratulate yer as well. On what? On the fact that yer brigade has been left with nothing? Like this neighbour of mine. So, tell me, what am I supposed to do about it?

Blimey! I really am hungry. I could eat a horse.

(She takes a swig from the brandy bottle)

It’s always fish on Fridays. Always has been. As far back as I can remember. My family always knew what was right and fitting. I knew what was right until I met you. (She pokes a finger at her husband’s urn) You changed me, for the worse.

Yeah, you. Well, who then? Yer not saying it was Him, up there?

What am I whingeing on about? You’d be whingeing if yer had a tongue. And you definitely had a wagging and spiteful tongue, yer fucker! Yeah, yer had one and what did yer do with it, I ask you!? Nothing. Abso-fucking-lutely nothing!

(She looks at the can of fish)

Christ, I’m hungry. Ya’d think I’d done an honest day’s work, the way I’ve worked up an appetite. I’ll have this fish and then burp all over these people hanging around the kitchen until I’ve scared them away with the stink. And then I’ll eat in peace. As is fitting and proper.

Me dad used to go fishing. He’d go off to the river Drava, sit down, fish and think. He always dreamt about travelling. He wanted to travel like the fish travelling through the river Drava. He wanted to go abroad somewhere. What was it he was always on about? Oh, yeah; he wanted to see Italy; to see a piece of Venice, to get into one of those filthy gondolas. He put money aside, did me dad. Put it into a shoebox. But in the end he didn’t go anywhere. He got run over by a train. And not just any train.

The Vienna-Osijek International train, if you please! It was delayed for an hour and a half ‘cause of me dad. And me dad arrived by express before God. Fuck it; that’s life for yer.

But when me dad went fishing he immediately caught a carp. This big. (She uses her hands to indicate 30 centimetres) Half a metre long.

It’s the truth! I swear! This big. (She indicates twice the length)

(To her husband) What? Ya don’t believe me?

Tell me, son, do you believe me?

Oi, ya old fart, let the boy answer on his own.

Come on, son, whose side are you on? (She pats the smaller urn) Well done! (To her husband) Did ya hear that? On his mother’s. Whose side d’ya think he should be on, anyway?

(To her husband) Who gives a fuck about ya, anyway! Me dad knew how to catch carp. A metre and a half in length.

What did ya say? Carp never grow to be half a metre in length! Three metres, then, minimum; I swear to ya on all me late departed dear ones.

And now there’s nothing left; me dad’s gone and so have the carp. It’s only me now, and these two sardines in this can.

(She opens the can, takes a sniff and backs away in revulsion)

Wow! What a stink! They smell like they’ve been soaking in a washbasin full of socks.

(She takes a swig of brandy)

Oh, well; beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose. And with the help of this brandy they’ll go down like they was caviar. It’s a good thing I drink. Otherwise, I don’t know what I’d do.

(She spits out the brandy, shocked by what her husband has said)

What!? Go fuck yourself! Why don’t you go to church! And what exactly is it I should go to church for? It’s not as if there’s a bar there. And, anyway, the waiter there only serves water.

So? This is holy water, too. I swear it is. Once ya’ve had half a bottle ya feel like yer on top of the world, like yer in seventh heaven.

Say that again? What the fuck is it I should be planting?

Carnations?

So, why didn’t ya plant them while yer were alive? Well? Yer a right one to talk!

Why do I drink? Out of habit.

That’s right, little one. Habits are a good thing. The best. While the bottle’s full.

(She picks up one of the canned sardines by its tail and waves it around)

Look at ya! My, are ya skinny! Ya look like you came straight out of a concentration camp. I should fatten ya up a bit.

(She puts the sardine back into the can)

Lets see what ya sister’s like.

(She takes the other fish out)

Unbelievable! The same shit! Yer like two fashion models. And, what? Yer supposed to fill the hunger in my stomach?

What d’ ya say to that, me son?

Fuck, yes! Good thinking! Thanks fer reminding me. A goldfish. And I nearly ate it.

(She shakes the fish and whispers to it) Come on, fishy, little goldfishy, make me dreams – how many is it? Oh, right, three little wishes – come true.

(She mimics the fish) I can’t.

What d’ya mean ya can’t? Go on, put a bit of effort into it.

(She mimics the fish) I can’t.

Listen up; it’s like this – first, I want this to be full of brandy. Second, I want…

(Pause)

Grandchildren. Grandchildren. I’d really like that.

(She leans her ear closer to the fish) What’s that yer say, fishy?

Oh, I see, it wasn’t you; it was this wanker over ‘ere. (She points at her husband and mimics him) Who’d give ya grandchildren?

Anybody and everybody! I’d be the best granny in the world! I’d make ‘em cakes…

Soaked in rum, right yer old fart? So what if they’re with rum? They can start drinking early in life; it’ll make things easier for ‘em. And not like me; I started off living proper, and then everything went to fucking hell! It’s better it’s all fucked up from the start, ‘cause then ya know where yer at. Yer fine, ‘cause yer used to it. Yer don’t even know better.

(To the fish) Yeah, anyway, me third wish. Give us another bottle. And make it plum brandy. Or maybe grape brandy? What d’ya think, yer old fart?

What d’ya say? Ya don’t say! So now you want to make a wish?

(She brings the fish closer to her husband’s urn)

Just don’t eat it, will ya.

(She moves in closer, as if to eavesdrop on what her husband has to say to the fish)

Alright; I won’t listen in.

(She moves her head away from the urn)

Are yer quite finished?

(She takes the fish back)

Time’s up, old man. Whatever ya had to say, ya’ve had plenty of time to say it.

(To the fish)

What’d he say? What’s he want?

Yer a right bitch. Why won’t ya tell me? I found ya. Yer mine. Go on; tell me what this heap of ashes wants. (To her husband) what is it me old heap of cigar ash? Ya want to light up, do ya? Don’t ya think there’s been enough fire and burning?

(To her son) Ya mum’s only kidding, son.

(To the fish) And you, yer really fucking me off now! (She swallows the fish in one go) Right. And now I need to wash ya down properly.

(She takes a swig from the bottle and then puts it down; a grimace spreads across her face)

Wow! Not good, not good at all. Wow!

(She makes to vomit, opens the urn, but vomits beside the table instead; she wipes her mouth with her sleeve. To her husband)

Had ya there, for a minute, didn’t I, old man? Ya thought the rain was about to come down on ya, didn’t ya? Shat yerself, didn’t ya? Julishka sure fucked ya over, didn’t she?

(Pause)

But not the way ya fucked me over. Nooo. Ya left me all alone. Ya even took me son. Don’t ya think it’s better fer a son to stay with his mother?

I’m a mother! A sonless mother! Fer crying out loud!

And then when I look at ya, like this, ya really make a beautiful pair. Yer just like yer father, son; same expression to yer the face. Yer even dressed the same. Did ya agree to dress the same?

(She suddenly turns to talk to the teacher sat at the next table)

What? What’re ya coughing for? Ya’ve spat all over half of me lunch!

Yeah, you; it certainly wasn’t me, was it?

So what if I’m puking; that’s my problem. Why don’t ya mind yer own business, OK? Look the other way. Go on; didn’t ya hear what I said?

So what’re ya coughing about now? What? Got something caught in yer throat, have ya? A bit of roast? Hey, teacher! Are ya eating a bit of juicy pork, is that it? My arse, pork; teach doesn’t have the money for it, does she? She’s in the same shit as me.

Look at her, would ya; coughing away. I think teach’s caught a cold.

What good are all those letters and titles yer plonked in front of and after ya name now? Ya know, the BA, MA, Dr, Sr…ya know it’s a complete heap of shit that is! All yer schooling’s gone to the wind, teach. In the end yer a has-been, same as me. And I didn’t even finish primary school; you, ya spent yer entire life in the classroom. How long was it? Two hundred years?

Well, that’s why yer all bent and crooked. Yer picked up all yer back problems ‘cause yer spent so much time sitting around in the classroom. Like the clap; and yer brought it home with yer. So, what happened then? They flung ya out into the street. They took yer flat ‘cause yer didn’t pay yer mortgage. What?

Yer husband left ya, ya say? What, for another teacher, eh?

Guessed right, didn’t I? Ten points fer me! Yer don’t say!? The PE teacher? Well, fuck it; I mean, she was probably more supple. Men like that. So, let it be a lesson to ya. A lesson in the school of life, as me old man would say. He knows. Come on; don’t cry.

What d’ya need a hanky fer? Use yer sleeve.

Ya really are lady-like. If I didn’t know ya, I’d think ya were a teacher, or something.

(To her husband) Shut up, would ya, yer old fart! I’ve had it up to ‘ere with yer.

Yeah, well, fuck you, too.

(She puts her husband’s urn back into one of her pockets)

Right. Maybe now we’ll have some peace.

(She turns to the teacher again)

‘Ere, teach; can I teach yer something?

What d’ya mean what? What d’ya know about what I know?

Well, I know languages, I do. Croatian, Hungarian; I know ‘em like the back of me hand.

Which one? Say that again, would ya?

Latin? So, where’s it used? Where’s that? What kind of a state is it? Latina?

What? It doesn’t exist? Well, why did’ya teach the language then? I mean, did it exist when yer enrolled at college, but, like, disappeared by the time yer left?

I see; it didn’t even exist when yer enrolled? Well, fuck me! It’s no wonder then that yer coming to this place fer food. Who’s supposed to teach what doesn’t exist?

What for? Culture, eh? Yeah, well, ya can shove culture somewhere where the sun don’t shine.

Fuck it, yer as dead as that language of yours; what was it called again; Latin.

What d’ya say? Is that something in that deceased language of yours?

Ya don’t say; yer swearing in it. Well, fine by me. Yer vicious, yer know. Look at teach, would ya; got ‘erself all worked up, she has. Swearing in Latin. Nobody understands what she’s saying, while she’s telling ‘em all to fuck ‘emsleves. That’s a total riot, that is!

Anyway, d’ya want a drink? Ya don’t? Well, ya don’t have to. We all know who does.

(She takes the urn from her pocket and takes a swig without looking)

What the fuck!? Whatever I do or say, he’s jumping down me throat. I don’t seem to be able to get rid of him. Come on; sit down, would ya, and give it a rest.

(She puts the urn on the table; she talks to the teacher)

What is it, teach? What’s so funny, then, eh?

So what if I nearly got a mouthful of me husband? He gave me a right mouthful while he was alive; why shouldn’t I take a mouthful back. And he knocked me about.

Shut the fuck up, old man! Yer knocked me about when I deserved it, and when I didn’t.

Yeah, I remember. What is it yer used to say? (She mimics her husband) Yer not to blame fer this; but yer to blame fer what came before it. And then ya’d thump me, smack in the middle of the head. Fuck it; at least yer were a proper burly man. I knew who’d hit me. Not like that sorry excuse of a husband that beat up on me sister. Who’d of thought he had it in him? That’s embarrassing, that is; getting a husband smaller than ya are, and him beating the shit out of ya. With my old man at least ya knew what’d hit ya. He’d thump ya so hard ya lights would go out. Look at teach, would ya! She’s shocked! Someone should’ve zonked ya a couple of times across the head; it would’ve beaten some sense into ya.

I ended up picking me teeth up off of the floor, I did.

(She bends over and picks a tooth up off the floor)

‘Ere, look; ‘ere’s one. Must’ve slipped out.

(She looks at the tooth)

I wonder if it fits?

(She tries to put the tooth back in her mouth but it does not fit)

Fuck it, old man; is this one of mine or one of yours?

I paid ya back all right, didn’t I. Ya remember the rolling pin? Worked like a charm; a regular alarm clock. You’d sprawl out and nod off snoring after lunch, and it’d wake ya up, it would.

(She looks at the tooth again)

It definitely isn’t one of mine.

(She turns to the teacher)

‘Ere, teach; are ya sure ya haven’t lost something?

You; yeah, you. Look at her, would ya; giggling away. And look at that hole, would ya. Bloody hell! It’s one of yours, innit? And yer keeping mum about it. What? It’s embarrassing, eh? Well, it’s not. Yer know how it is, when yer penniless; yer teeth are the first to go. Fuck it, they’re the first to start abandoning a sinking ship.

(She holds out the tooth to the teacher)

Well, what’ll it be? Ya want it back, or what? Yer can always glue it back in.

As yer like. I can look after it fer ya if ya want. But ya never know; maybe I’ll need it as a backup.

What is it son; what did ya say? Put it under me pillow? Yer very naïve. There is no Tooth Fairy. I invented it all.

‘Ere, what are you crying about now? You’re a big boy. Well, Father Christmas doesn’t exist either. All that’s left is Julishka.

(Pause)

What are ya crying about, son? Okay, okay, yer mother’ll put it under her pillow. (Talking to herself) If yer mother had a pillow.

(She turns to the teacher)

Look at teach, would ya; knife and fork. Ya don’t give up, do ya? There’s always got to be some order, right?

What did ya say? Things’ll get better? Yeah, you’ll get the gist of it sooner or later. Yer naïve, that’s what. Ya’d be better off if ya got rid of the knife and fork and grabbed a bottle of brandy.

(She takes a drink. Suddenly, something catches her eye. She puts the brandy down and stands on her chair.)

Blimey, but it’s grown. Until yesterday it was only so high. (She indicates knee-high) And look at it now, would ya. Bloody hell, it’s big, it’s as big as me dad’s village. What is it?

(To her husband) And you, what’re yer looking up me skirt for? (She gathers her skirt around her) Enjoying yerself, are yer?

What? Yer want me to get me act together? Okay.

(She looks out)

Cor Blimey, what a house! Is it some kind of hotel, or what?

(She goes up to the teacher; she taps her on the back)

What is it yer saying? What kind of centre? A shopping centre, eh? Teacher knows best. How’d you know? Yer read about it, or what? Well, yer certainly informed, I’ll give yer that! Ah, so it’s a department store. Well, it’s a fine building at that.

Bloody hell, up until yesterday there was nothing there; and look at it now, would ya; three floors they’ve built. And they’ve blocked our entrance. So we’ve got to come through the windows. Look at us; dry as twigs and still it’s no bother. What do we need a door for, anyway!? What do we need the soup kitchen, when ya think about it! Fuck it, I can hardly wait for them to chuck us out.

Oh yes, they will; they said so. They’re going to close down the kitchen. They’re going to build a parking lot here instead. Right here where we’re sitting there’ll be cars. And they can just glue us all down instead of those, whatdyacall’em, sleeping policemen. Yeah, well, we can be the first country to introduce sleeping beggars. And then they can all trample on us. As if they’re not doing it now, right? They’re only pretending they like us, and then they dump rotting leftovers on us. Just look at what they give us, would ya; a pig wouldn’t even look at this swill, let alone eat it.

(She goes up to the window and talks to somebody outside)

What? What d’ya think yer staring at? Never seen hungry, destitute people, have yer? Just look at the moneybag he’s got, will yer! Full, is it? Did ya enjoy yerself, eh? What I’d like to know is where yer got the money from.

(She sticks her tongue out at the passer-by)

‘Ere, look at those over there, would ya. Strutting her stuff, she is. Chic chick. That’s what we used to cell ‘em; those that could barely fit into their trousers. Bursting at the seams. Look at the size of her arse, would ya. She’d be better off eating in ‘ere with us; she wouldn’t be that size then, would she.

What? Talking to me was she?

Bloody bitches. But just you wait; they’ll end up in ‘ere, mark my words.

‘Ere, teach, where’d ya disappear? Look at her, would ya. She’s crawled under the table.

(Julishka goes up to the teacher’s table, squats down and crawls under it)

Anything happening down here? Eh?

Playing hide and seek, are ya? Ya don’t say? Ya know her, do ya? What? You were that cow’s teacher? And now yer ashamed. For her to see ya. Well, I’m not.

(She gets up, goes back to her own table, grabs a can and throws it, hitting the window)

Get the fuck away from here, ya cows! ‘Ere; ‘ere ya are; take that and ya can sell it in that centre of yours! What are these people about, anyway? They build flats for shampoos, soaps, TV sets, for all kinds of things, except for people. Where is the world coming to, I ask ya?

(She turns around, towards the interior of the soup kitchen)

And you, ya silly bugger; what’re ya yelling about! Shut it! Don’t make me come over there for ya. Or there’ll be what for to pay for. Ya rowdy sod. What’s there to be happy about? What, I ask ya. Go on; tell me so’s I can be happy as well.

Ya’d think every day was a holiday. All he does is celebrate. The singing general. Every fucking day. What’ve ya got left to celebrate about, ya silly fucker!

The last celebration I was at was some kind of wedding.

Yes, ya old fart, our wedding.

Nah, ya right; There was another celebration, a commemoration, later. A wake. Killed two birds with one stone, didn’t I. Saw ya both off.

(She turns to face the general again)

Oi, you! What the fuck are ya singing about? Look at him, would ya, hollering at the top of his voice. Put on all ya military badges, have ya, and now yer celebrating. (She walks around like the general) Yer celebrating and walking around like this. Yer all important like. Yer got all yer medals, almost without having to leave yer own house. Whereas my family left and never came back. Yeah, look at him parading. Parading around. (She almost falls) So where are the legs of my family for them to walk around on? Where, I ask ya? You came back in one piece; yer even got all those badges, whereas I, me, I got an instant powder-family back instead.

(Pause)

Only there’s no way ya can just add water and have them back right as rain. No, there isn’t, is there.

(Pause)

And he’s walking around, strutting.

(She looks as if she is on the verge of tears, but stops herself and takes a swig of brandy)

Cheers! Here’s to ya health, general! What is it? Why’re ya turning ya back on me for? Look at him, would ya, he’s turning his back on me! Oi! Neighbour! Go on, tell us, so’s I can celebrate as well? What’re ya celebrating for, anyway?

(To her husband) Well, what is it ya want? Fer me to pipe down? Ya don’t say? I’m disturbing the peace, am I? So, since when have ya become so polite all of a sudden, eh?

Me neighbour’s a good man, ya say? So, what makes him so good? The fact that he’s alive and you’re not, is that it? He came back, and you were carried back, is that why?

(She yells at the general) Celebrating are ya, neighbour, eh? For surviving, eh?

(She strokes her son)

No, Julishka’s not angry with him. Julishka knows. He wishes he could have stayed there. Like this, he sings and celebrates for three days and then on the fourth day he pulls out a gun. Then he comes to and puts it away. But there’ll come a time when he won’t. He’ll go to that place, over there, and all hell’ll break loose. After he’s mown down half of them, the rest’ll start stocking up on candles. Fuck it.

(She turns to the teacher and offers her some brandy)

Are ya sure ya won’t have some? Yeah, well, whatever. But Julishka’s got something else. Take a look at this, would ya.

(She takes a creased photograph out of her pocket)

Look at him; as pretty as a picture, right?

Nah, ‘course he’s not a hunchback; he’s only leaning over that way. That’s me old man. Our best man took the picture. Just after we got married. And me old man leant over like this (She leans on the wall), like an actor and stuck a cigar in his mouth like this (She mimics that she has a cigarette in the corner of her mouth) and put his arms around his Julishka. (She uses her arm to pretend she is hugging someone) He grabbed me tit. (She pushes away an imaginary arm that is grabbing her breast)

(To her husband) Ya really were a ruffian.

(To the teacher) Yes, that’s me. Difficult to believe, right? It’s amazing what hunger’ll do to a man. Not to mention a woman. Not even me mother would recognise me now. (She gazes at the picture) I really had a head of hair. Could’ve made a carpet out of it.

(She sits back down on her chair; she places the picture in front of her and reminisces)

I drink beer and brandy and I smoke, and I’ll slap you around, ‘cause I’m a stand-up bloke!

That’s how you sweet-talked me, old man. Remember, eh?

And Julishka, the naïve fool, married you without thinking twice. She took ya ring and thought she was on top of the world. And me old man wasn’t exactly ya run-of-the-mill glamorously handsome type, ya know. He was lacking in a number of ways. He didn’t have a beard, OK, but he was also completely bald. And he wasn’t much of a kisser.

No ya weren’t. Ya can say what ya like, but I taught ya how to kiss properly.

What? Now yer saying yer weren’t all that interested in me and I was after you? Ya always did like to lie. Ya kept running after me! Ya ran so hard, ya kept kicking yerself up the arse. And now yer saying it wasn’t like that. Yer lying to me face, ya are! Do ya feel no shame?

What, I should be ashamed? Why?

Ya don’t say? It bothers ya, does it? Me drinking, I mean? And what about yer drinking? Don’t ya think that bothered anyone, eh?

So what? Since when do men have the exclusive rights to drinking?

Yeah, well, watch me now. I wouldn’t, ya know, but I’m going to have another drink just to spite ya!

(She drinks)

Who d’ya think yer threatening? Me, eh? Ya don’t say? Ya’d beat up on me, would ya? Ya own wife? Shame on ya.

(She strokes the smaller urn)

What is it, son? Are ya hungry? Ya not. Well, how’re ya going to be hungry, when ya don’t exist anymore?

(Pause)

Ya really fucked me over good. Yeah, ya sure as hell did.

Who? Who? You two. Ya left me all alone. With nothing to me name. Every morning’s the same. I come here, I have a bite to eat, I drink too much and start swaying. Yeah, it’s the brandy does it. What else would it be? And I wait for God to call me and tell me me number’s up. If only I could totter my way into toppling over for some shit to run me over. That’s all I ask. Nothing more.

So what are ya crying for now, son? Yer mother’s not to blame fer not wanting to live anymore. Nah, I didn’t mean it like that; yer not to blame. (She points at the larger urn) He’s to blame fer dragging ya off…OK, so he didn’t drag ya off, but what forced ya to do it?

God, I miss having ya around.

(Pause)

What’s with ya now? What’re ya looking at me like that for? Not in front of the child.

OK, so ya not a child.

And you; stop looking at me like that. Look at ‘im, would ya, staring at me, are ya? What, ya’d like to have a feel, would ya?

Yeah, well, I admit I’ve had a few, but I’m not completely off me rocker. I can sense it. Ya want to touch me up, don’t ya? Go on, admit it.

A drunk, am I? Very nice of ya, I must say. I bear you a son, and ya treat me like that. The balls on ya. Is that how yer supposed to talk to yer wife? Just you carry on, go on, let yer son know what his father’s like.

He’s got a point? What, are ya defending him now? So much fer all the time I wasted raising ya and feeding ya. Very nice of ya, I must say. So yer taking sides with him, are ya?

It was always like that. The two of ya on the same side, and against me. Even when ya were leaving; ya slipped away on the sly even then. All ya did was whisper. Ya know how to whisper, don’t ya, but ya don’t know how to congratulate, do ya?

What d’ya mean, what? Well, old man, it’s our anniversary today.

Our wedding anniversary, of course, what else would it be? Our twenty-fifth.

It would be if they hadn’t packed you up in this…Yeah, I’m drinking toasts and celebrating. For the sake of it. But also because I simply feel like it. Who cares about memories!

Brandy washes them all away.

(Pause)

Betrayed. By my own kin. Who forced ya into going?

I don’t give a damn about the others! Ya should have stayed at home. Ya could have at least left the boy.

Ya didn’t force him? Yeah, well, OK, he went of his own accord; but ya should have brought him back home.

Listen, son, keep quiet, would ya; nobody was asking ya fer yer opinion. Yer still a boy. Look at how small he is, would ya?

(She comes up closer to the smaller urn and kisses it)

What’s the matter? Ya don’t like it when ya mother kisses ya? Not to worry, nobody’s watching. Can’t a mother kiss her own son, then?

And you, ya old fart, stop meddling. Ya’ve done enough meddling as it is by taking the boy with ya. And ya never did tell me what actually happened. Those that brought ya simply knocked on the door; I opened it; they said: ”Are these yours?”; I didn’t even manage to catch me breath they’d already handed over two flower pots and disappeared. Go on, old man, tell me; what happened over there?

Well, something must’ve happened or the two of ya wouldn’t be in this state, would ya?

Burned down? What? How?

Is that all ya can say? Burned down! I’m not a fool, ya know; I know something was burning, or ya wouldn’t be in this state, would ya? Only what? What is it nobody wants to tell me? (To herself) And the worst of it is how am I supposed to know whether it’s the two of ya or not? That they didn’t give me someone else?

I know, son; yes, I know it’s you, but I wish it wasn’t.

(She takes the bottle out. She is on the verge of taking a drink but stops)

What is it, now?

He should blame ya, and all. That’s right, son, I drink because of ya father. He’ll be the end of me, so he will.

What’s with ya now? Yer going to have a fight, are ya? Well, I’ve really had just about enough.

There’s just no way to please ya, is there! (She separates the urns) Right, now ya’ve got some breathing space between ya. Now, where was I? Oh, yeah, my glass was empty.

(She wants to fill up her glass with brandy, but realises her bottle is empty. She thumps it; nothing comes out, so she tosses it away.)

Sod off!

(She turns around suddenly)

Come on, neighbour; don’t get angry at me; I didn’t mean to, it slipped out of me hand, that’s the god’s-honest truth. (To herself) Fuck yerslef!

(She turns conspiratorially to her son and husband)

I have to tell yer, I wanted to go like the two of yer. So I stick me head into the oven, turn the little button, lean me cheek on the oven dish and wait. I wait and wait fer something to happen. Half an hour I wait. Nothing. No gas to speak of. When, all of a sudden, the doorbell goes. The postman brings me a notice. I hadn’t paid me gas bill. So I’m still alive, and it’s got nothing to do with miracles.

(Pause)

Ya don’t say? Now ya want me to shut up, do ya? Ya’ve had enough of me stories, have ya? Can’t even confide in yer, and tell yer what’s on me mind, is that it?

(She mimics her husband) It’s not the stories, it’s the drinking. (Angrily) Well, so’s ya know, I’ll drink until I drop dead!

Yeah, that I’d like to see; so, how do ya plan to come after me? Just take a look at yerself, would ya. Yer were once a fine man, sturdy as a rock; and look at yer now, as light as a feather. That’s life fer ya.

(She provokes the larger urn) Come on, then! Let’s see ya, then! What? Yer going to get me bottle? Come on, then; come and get it! If ya can.

Come and get it. Come on, old man, let’s see ya stop me drinking. Ya can’t, can ya? Ya can’t? No, ya can’t. I know ya can’t. What I wouldn’t give to have ya here and have ya slap me across the face; just to feel ya.

(She falls silent and starts to sob. She wipes her tears away with her sleeve. Cheerfully.)

But I can do whatever I want. Whatever I want. I can drink till the morning. And then again tomorrow, all over again.

(She rests her head on the table. She shakes herself suddenly, as if someone is shaking her)

What is it? What’re ya pushing me around fer? Where’s everybody? Who’re you?

Ya work here, eh? What’s that yer saying?

It’s over. Yer closing. So where am I supposed to go?

(As if someone is lifting her off the chair but she is resisting)

I’m not going anywhere! No, I’m not!

(She hits the soup kitchen worker)

Go on, call ‘em! Call the police!

(She sobers up and calms down)

Get yer hands off me! I’m going. I can manage on me own. No need to worry.

(She tries to take a step and falls; she takes the hand of the worker offered to her and manages to get up)

Well, thanks, anyway. Don’t know what’s wrong with me. I felt a bit faint there for a moment.

Yeah, yer right there; there’s a bug going around, or something. I’ll be off in a minute. Just let me get me things.

(To the urns)

Right, let’s go; the man’s closing shop. What’re ya waiting fer?

(She puts the urns away in her pocket)

Just so’s ya know, I had a right feast here today, but I won’t be in tomorrow. Me pension comes in tomorrow, so Julishka’s going to pop off over there. Buy herself…Tell me, young man, what should I buy meself?

Yer what? What do I need that fer? I’ll buy meself some brandy. And a packet of coffee for teacher. Since she doesn’t drink. That’s right. I’ll be over there tomorrow. Over at the shop across the way. I can hardly wait. And then I’ll come up to teach and say –Ave! Here’s some coffee fer ya, teach! Yeah, it’ll make her happy. She’ll be as happy as a small child. I can hardly wait. But I’ll have to buy something fer the child. A teddy bear, or something.

(She stops, as if to hear what the urn in her pocket is saying.)

What’s that, son? Ya don’t want a teddy bear? Well, what would ya like then? A ball. Alright, mum’ll buy ya a ball then.

(She waves her hand about, indicating towards the soup kitchen)

I’ll buy this place, and all. And I’ll turn it into a bar. And then we’ll celebrate every fucking day.

(She leaves slowly, and disappears out through the window)







THE END






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