Dear London

(A Play in Two Acts)

 

 

 

Act One

 

 

††† Scene One

(On the street at the front door of a second-handstamp shop, on the right is a lamp post. (Its top cannot be seen.)

 

[Henry Selmer emerges Ė in his thirties - then his secretary Mrs. Cope Ė in her forties.]

Mrs. Cope:Are you going to give me the keys so I can lock it up myself?

Henry:††† Iíll do it. Thank you Mrs. Cope. Goodbye.

Mrs. Cope: Donít forget to take two aspirins to get rid of your headache!

Henry:†††††††† I will. Goodbye Mrs. Cope. [She leaves.]

[Henry locks the door and turns to the right to head home. A voice calls from behind him.]

The voice:†† Mr. Selmer! One moment please.

[Henry waits as Randal arrives.]

Randal:†††††† I wonít keep you long. Iím Frank Randal.

Henry:††††††† Hello Mr. Randal. Itís closing time, and Iím afraid that I canít re-open for you.

Randal:††††† You donít have to.This wonít take long. I have three kinds of charity tickets [showing him the tickets.] Whether you buy or not, thatís not the issue. The point that I want to discuss pertains to my understanding of prices.How could one reduce costs as much as possible to maximise profits?

Henry:†††† ††† Mr. Randal, are you all right?

Randal:††††† When you hear the second part, my ideas will make sense.

Henry:††††††† I mean this deep wound on your front, are you OK? Would you like me to bring you some disinfectant from the shop to clean it?

Randal:††††† [Feels his front.] Itís nothing to worry about, just normal†††††††††††††††††††††† fighting for parking, it happens every day. Letís suppose you price a cube of butter at twenty pence, to make a fifty pence profit per kilo. Yet with a little technique, which nobody can object to, you can sell it to your customers for four quid!

Henry:†††††††† Iím sorry Mr. Randal; youíve come to the wrong person.

Randal:†††††† Who said that?

Henry:††††††† I donít sell butter. I run a shop that sells second-hand stamps, as you can see.

Randal:††††† Do you think that I came here with my eyes closed? I know that you sell this old stuff. Just think about my proposal.Four quid for each kilogram of butter that you can buy from the farmer for less than twenty pence. Four quid!

Henry:†††††††† Forgive me.I have to get back home.

Randal:††††† Youíll change your mind when you hear the second part of my plan.

Henry:†††††††† Please Ö

Randal:††††† Henry! You always miss rare opportunities because of your hastiness.

Henry:††††††† Iíll buy one of your charity tickets, just to make your coming here seem worthwhile.

Randal:††††† Who cares about these damn tickets! Iím offering you the magic key to getting rich. Your first billion within two years, then more billions will follow. A billion generates billions. Donít tell me that if I leave you now, these dusty old stamps will make you happy!

Henry:†††††††† Iím happy, really.

Randal:††††† Of course, because you only know one side of happiness, a naive side. This is a time of great wealth, the time of multibillionaires. It means flying with more than one wing. If one breaks, a thousand other wings will be there to soar with in this world of power, wealth and happiness.

Henry:††††††† I love my work. Itís the work of my father and his fathers.

Randal:††††† Leave your ancestors in their graves! If they were alive, they would kick your ass, because of this hesitation. What does one shop for old stamps mean!? You could buy all the stamp shops in the world and run them from London, from the heart of the city, and you could move to the countryside with your family to live in a great palace.

Henry:††††††† Mr. Randal, donít waste your time arguing. We are a family that hates greed.

Randal:††††† You use old words to describe modern motives. This is your weakness. You still have the image of a greedy businessman with a double chin, flabby belly and dirty nails in your mind. Henry, this image belongs to the past.Nowadays, the businessman is a handsome gentleman with nails that glow they are so clean!He is the head of a modern family and is a faithful husband.

Henry:††††††† Why did you come to me? Why donít you choose someone else?

Randal:††††† You have a small capital that you could start with. In addition to that, old stamp sellers descend from families who havenít starved or been overfed, and this is very important.

Henry:††††††† I donít like what youíre saying. None of it. I smell an evil spirit behind your temptations.

Randal:††††† [Waving the charity tickets.] Donít forget that I dedicate some of my time to good causes. But tell me, if you donít have any money, how can you work for a noble aim? I mean the important, good causes!

Henry:††††††† Who are you?

Randal:††††† You will know when we reach a deal.

Henry:††††††† [Thinking.] No thanks. Iím satisfied at this point, and one valuable virtue is enough for me: honour.

Randal:††††† Henry! Honour is an old thing. Itís a game of trickery that was played by kings and generals. Now is the time of wealth that brings glory. Any miserable wretch can make it and enjoy it until the end of his life. Honour? Which old-fashioned concept are you talking about? [Persistently.] This is a time of great chaos. It is the time of conmen. Youíre standing on your head and you donít understand whatís going on in this world. You donít even know whatís going on in the town you live in! London, my dear, is a huge cesspit of breeding. A crazy machine for making limbs, heads, eyes and bowels. Women giving birth in homes, hospitals and on the pavement and as soon as the child opens his eyes, he screams: itís me! Itís me who will be a millionaire! Can honour find a place in this jungle? Greed is the religious word for this era, the infernal door to happiness. Existence itself does not require a lot of effort or a miracle. But how can you protect yourself from indignity?How can you get out of your limousine at your office without fighting a rabble for parking? How can you avoid the sadness when one person pushes you on the pavement without an apology or any polite words?

Henry:†††††††† Mr. Randal!Please.

Randal:††††† Henry, you only have this life. It is your only chance! To be wealthy or to live like the other mice!

Henry:†††††††† [Insistently.] Please Ö [He turns to leave.]

Randal:†††††† OK. [Drawing a gun and putting it on Henryís temple.]

Henry:†††††††† What are you doing?

Randal:††††† I have revealed my plan to you. A plan that has consumed every moment of fear, hope, agony, and anxiety. Every moment of envy and jealousy, every moment of anger in my life.

Henry:†††††††† You wonít change my mind by threatening me.

Randal:††††† [The tickets fall and scatter on the ground.] Why not? If you prefer dust to gold! Henry! Food is the easy way to riches, because the stomach, this ugly hole, is the only voice that remains inside the human. Come. [GrabbingHenry by his arm and pushing him to the right, with the gun still on his head.] Look at that crowd. Itís a drugged and unconscious creature with one face, one shape and a blind brain apportioned to three daily meals. It is an enormous power that devours. All of the factories and farms are unable to keep up with the speed at which it chews. If you give it cheap and quickly digestible food, you can play with its destiny, just like a cat with a mouse.

Henry:†††††††† You canít force me to do something I donít want to do.

Randal:††††† Listen then. Listen to this noise, this clamor. The world is moving backwards. People have become horrible, and it isnít safe outside, ten million in one city.An odd mixture of two legged creatures!

Henry:†††††††† Leave me aloneÖ

Randal:††††† Ten million digesting stomachs!The only thing that can upset them is if they stop devouring.

Henry:†††††††† You canít do that Ö

Randal:††††† Ten million enemies competing with you for life, for a loaf of bread. Each one of them is greedy, envying his neighbour for his house, his new car, his job and even his accumulated debts. And as the number of people increases around them, the greediness grows inside them. So, donít tell me that youíre happy and safe with this miserable shop.

Henry:†††††††† [Still under Randallís control, looking and listening to the noise.]

Randal:††††† Henry! The butter. If you knew how to buy the butter for twenty pence and sell it for four quid, youíd earn the first billion within two years. The first billion that makes you taste real life, youíd enjoy the power around you; which would inspire you to keep doubling each new billion added to your name. Then, you can be whatever you like; to be the law, the state, the church or life itself and, you can even be GOD[RH1]  Ö if your soul sparkled in one of those serene moments.

Henry:†††††††† Thatís enough.

Randal:††††† No! Youíll hear what you have closed your ears to.

Henry:†††††††† PleaseÖthis is hurting me.

Randal:††††† Put yourself among this crowd. The herd of three meals a day. What would make you different from them? Nothing. Nothing at all, and one day when the tax officer discovers a small mistake in your books, or a smart dealer cheats you, [blowing] shooooh! Ö your shop will blow with the wind, and youíll be left standing alone and vulnerable. [He takes the gun away from Henryís head.]

Henry:††††††† [Thinking while heís listening to the noise on the street and looking to the left.] Randal!

Randal:†††††† What?

Henry:††††††† [Confused.] You are pushing me towards something inhuman.

Randal:††††† Inhuman? [Laughing.] Henry!Humanity nowadays, is just a job like any other job, a job that made the stars, celebrities and the wealthy. Their books that weep for humanity are earning thousands of pounds. Look at what their stupid tears did. They put the thief, the murderer and the fraud, in one boat with the innocent, the poor and the gentle.

Henry:†††††††† [Puzzled.] Randal?

Randal:††††† Iíve told you my opinion. Now you can keep being part of the rubbish, or progress to a better position. [Getting ready to leave.]

Henry:†††††††† [Shouting.] Randal! Let me think about it.

Randal:†††††† Youíre wasting my time. [He heads to the left to leave.]

Henry:†††††††† [Shouting.] RandalÖ!

Randal:†††††† What?

Henry:†††††††† What is the second part of your plan?

Randal:†††††† Why have you changed your mind?

Henry:†††††††† Youíll know soon enough.

Randal:†††††† I donít like this. [Moving towards the right to leave.]

Henry:††††††† [Grabs the gun and puts it on Randalís temple.] You wonít leave here before you tell me.

Randal:†††††† You wonít get anything before I know your reasons.

Henry:†††††††† The main reason is Chíien-Lung.

Randal:†††††† What is that?

Henry:††††††† [Takes a photograph from his pocket and shows it to him.] This is the rarest stamp in the world. It is a portrait of the Chinese Emperor Chíien-Lung. It was engraved on wood in the Eighteenth Century. It is unique and there is no other copy of it. I want to have it.

Randal:†††††† It is just a picture without a frame.

Henry:††††††† But the original is printed in stamp size. The experts value it as the most expensive stamp in the world. Now, tell me the second part of your plan.

Randal:††††† No.

Henry:††††††† Why not?

Randal:††††† Because youíll just want to bury your head in the sand.

Henry:††††††† It is just the beginning.

Randal:††††† You donít fool me! If you want to begin, you have to follow my rules. Good-bye. [Makes to leave.]††††††

Henry:††††††† [Calling upon him.] Randal!

Randal:††††† What?

Henry:††††††† Youíre damned.

Randal:††††† And youíre a coward, whoís tied himself to the old banalities. Donít shout after me if I turn to go!

Henry:††††††† Ok.

Randal:††††† So you completely agree?

Henry:††††††† Yes. Whatís the second part of the plan? How does it begin?

Randal:††††† Very easily. Even honour will not be strong enough to resist it.

 

 

††††††††††††††† Scene Two

The same place, at night.

Singing from above:

Hunter shelter from the rain,

A rabbit came once and again,

Away away, the hunter said,

A giant leopard will find you,

So my day will terribly endÖ

Another voice from faraway:

†††††††† Who is there?

[Diamond and Jewel enter, Africans, in their twenties.]

Diamond:††† Nobody here mates, I told you!

Jewel:†††††††† But I heard a white voice singing.

Diamond:††† Stop being scared mate.

Jewel: †††††† [Angrily] Donít call my carefulness fear. I donít like this. I heard a white man chattering.

Diamond:†† The whitesí ghosts are always raving at night, mate. I didnít say you were scared.

[Metal tools creaking. Both of them shrink down.]†††††††††

Jewel:†††††††† [Whispering.] See?

Diamond:††† ShhhÖ

Jewel:†††††††† I donít like their chattering.

Diamond:††† [Startled.] I said shut up.

Jewel:†††††††† You are also scared mate!

Diamond:††† Who? Me? Shit.

Jewel:†††††††† Letís go.

Diamond:††† Yes, letís go.

[Freezing at their place, as they hear something moving down the street. Khan and Zahid enter Ė they are also in their twenties.]

Khan ††††††††† Hi...

Diamond:†† They are just two Asian squirrels. [Then he and Jewel laugh.] Hi guys.Whatís your name, mate?

Khan: Nobody.

Diamond:†† [He offers his hand.] Nice to meet you. My name is also nobody. What do you think about a quick job for a pint of beer?

Khan: Whatís your plan?

Zahid:†††††††† [Whispering to Khan.] I donít trust blacks.

Khan: Letís listen first.

Diamond:†† The till of the snack shop down the street, or a passenger coming out of the tube station.

Jewel: †††††† [Whispering to Diamond.] Why did you tell them our plan, mate? Theyíll do it themselves.

Diamond: Shut up. I know these scary squirrels. They only steal from their own people; I just want to push them away.

Jewel:††††††† I hate the smell of Asians it stinks of dishonesty. You know it!

Diamond:††† One moment. [Then to Khan.] What did you say, mate?

Khan:†††††† †† Sorry, we donít rob.

Diamond: [Hits Jewel on his head.] I told you! [Then to Khan.] Come on mate, donít play with me, why are you here then?

Khan: We were just passing by.

Diamond:†† Oh mate, you didnít pass by this place for no reason. Did you?

Khan:†††††††† We have no reason, I said.

Diamond:†† Are you looking for a BMW to go back home with? [Gives him a set of keys.] Help yourself, and then give them back to me.

Khan: I donít need your help. I have my own car.

Diamond:††† Stolen or bought?

Khan:†††††††† I said my own car! I found a job two months ago, so I bought a Suzuki Jeep.

Diamond:†† Wow! If I worked one day, I wouldnít waste the money on buying a car. [Shaking the set of keys in front of Khanís face.] All right, donít tell me that youíre here at this time of night just looking for romantic sights Ö you two Asian squirrels!

Khan:††††††††† [Threateningly] Donít say that again! Or...

Jewel:††††††† Or what?? [The atmosphere gets tense; each one puts his hand on his hidden sidearm to get ready.]

††††††††† [The same creaks, frightening them all.]

Jewel:††††††† Something is worrying me mate! Donít tell me itís the whitesí ghosts hitting each other with hammers at night.

[Robin and his group are arriving Ė Robin and his girlfriend Jenny, then Tracky.]

Robin: †††††† The church is full with priests but no one is praying! Hi boys.

Diamond:††† Hi Robin.

Robin:†††††††† Do you know me?!

Diamond:††† Last weekend we were at the same pub, mate!

Jenny:†††††††† [Talking nicely to Jewel.] Do you have some of it, love?

Robin:†††††††† Shut up!

Jenny:†††††††† [Gets the change out of her bucket.] I donít have any more!

Jewel:†††††††† Sorry love, this is nothing.

Robin:†††††††† Jenny, you need a kick, do you know?

Khan: Oi girl, we have a bit of cannabis, do you want some?

Jenny:†††††††† Go on then, love.

Khan:††††††††† [Counts the change in her hand.] Itís not enough.

Jenny:†††††††† I asked for one puff, love, not half a kilo!

Khan:††††††††† I know. Five quid each.

Jenny:†††††††† What, are you crazy?

Khan:††††††††† This is the evening price, girl.

Jenny:††††††† Have you opened your corner shop now? Take this quid†† and give me one.

Khan:††††††††† Sorry. You canít get it easily at this time.

Robin:†††††††† [Shouting to her.] Jenny!

Jenny:†††††††† Go on, just a puff.

Robin:††††††† [Gives her his can of beer.] Take this for now.

[Zahid and khan withdraw backwards.]

Khan:††††††††† OK guys, weíre late, bye Ö

Diamond:†† Donít disturb the good vibes at the tube entrance, squirrel brothers. Remember, it is my portion for tonight.

[Khan and Zahid leave and head to the left.]

Robin:††††††† OK boys, whatís going on? Are you waiting for

something? The milk your mothers have made for you will be getting cold.

Diamond:†† Oh mate! Weíre not those kind of guys. If you have a target then, we can work together.

Jenny:††††††† Why not Robin! [Then to Jewel while she stretches out her hand with the change.] A small toke.... For good faith, love.

[Robin looks at her angrily.]

Jewel:†††††††† This is not enough, love. It doesnít cover the cost.

Tracky:†††††† Robin! Tell them about the Mireís house thatís surrounded by alarms, and letís see if their legs are as fast as they appear to be.

Diamond:†† Youíre dealing with hard men, mate. Tell us your plan and weíll go first/weíll take charge/we'll take control.

Tracky:††††††† Robin!

Robin:†††††††† I donít like working with these tossers.

Jenny:†††††††† Robin, give me some change.

Robin:†††††††† Finish your beer and weíll see.

Jenny:††††††† [Throwing the can at the wall and shouting.] I donít want this thing, it spins my head, I told you Robin. I canít walk without it, and youíre not doing anything, just rambling and rambling and rambling on these dirty roads.

Robin:†††††††† Calm down Bitch.

Jenny:†††††††† [Loudly.] I need it...!

[Robin beats her.]

Jewel:††††††† Honestly, I bought it from the dealer for ten quid!

[A womanís voice heard from faraway, worrying them all.]

The voice: Help, help Ö

Jenny:††††††† What is that voice? It reminds me of someone, a person Iíve talked to before. [Squeezes her head trying to remember, as she makes to leave to the left.]

Robin:†††††††† Where are you going?

Jenny:††††††† Oh damn! My head is full of straw, straw and nothing else.

[Silence in the street again.]

Robin:†††††††† OK boys; are you ready to work together?

Diamond:††† What do you have?

Robin:††††††† Look over there, the old Mireís house is on the corner, its ground windows are easily shattered. Two bops on the nose and the old biddy will tell us about her savings.

Diamond:†† Oh mate, what do you expect from those coffin dodgers, twenty quid or thirty? Oh mate. With one scam in the tube Iíd get triple, without the annoying screams. We want fast and safe burglaries[RH2] .

Robin:†††††††† You want something that you can run after, like a rabbit.

[Sound of a dragging bag. Jewel panicky pushes himself towards Diamond.]

Jewel:†††††††† Letís leave this place mate.

Isabelleís voice singing:

The right hand grips a bouquet,

The left handís full of scents,

From Londonís beautiful gardens,

Williamsí bright hands carry for me.

Flowers and fragrance.

Every morning and afternoonÖ

[Isabelle enters Ė in her fifties - pulling a big bag. Sheís mad about picking the rubbish up from the streets.]

Jenny:†††††††† Iíve remembered! Itís Isabelle!

Diamond:††† Whoís she?

Tracky:††††††† The crazy Isabelle.

Diamond:††† What is she doing?

Tracky:††††††† Cleaning the roads, donít you see?

Jenny:†††††††† Hi Isabelle!

Isabelle:†††† Hello good boys. Youíre not throwing trash on Londonís face are you?

Jenny:†††††††† Of course not. Were you crying?

Isabelle:††††† Two bad boys attacked me.

Jenny:†††††††† Who were they?

Isabelle:†††† I donít know. I told them, take this bread if youíre hungry, but they were after the change in my pockets.

Diamond:††† The squirrels, for sure.

Isabelle:†††† I told them that I donít care about money; there is enough bread for all of us. They didnít believe me, and then they began to search my pockets. I was afraid that they might go further, you know.

Jenny:†††††††† Iím sorry for you Isabelle Ö

Isabelle:†††† [Whispering to Jenny.] I called for Williams to protect me, but he went to hunt foxes in Richmond.

Jenny:†††††††† Iím sure of that.

Isabelle:†††† Youíre a good girl; donít throw rubbish on the ground. [Starts picking up the litter.]

Jewel:†††††††† [Teasing.] Is she one of the night cleaning crew, or what?

Diamond:††† Idiot! Donít you see that sheís self-employed?

[Laughing with Jewel.]

Jenny:†††††††† Isabelle, youíre really beautiful.

Isabelle:†††† Thank you. Williams used to say to me ďYouíre beautiful like LondonĒ. Thatís why I want London to stay clean and beautiful every day.

Diamond:†† This is the strangest kind of madness Iíve ever seen! Woman, whatís the difference if this damn city is clean or dirty? Who cares?

Isabelle:†††† Donít say that gentleman. I feel so sad when I see this filth on the streets and in front of houses.

Diamond:†† Ever since I opened my eyes, London has been sinking in rubbish.

Isabelle:†††† Please mister, London was so beautiful, like Stockholm, like Rome ... Iíve walked on their streets with these feet, Williams took me there.

Jewel:††††††† Sheís really funny. Hey Ö Woman, hereís something to mess with.

[He gets the dirty used tissues out from his pocket, spits on them and throws them on the ground. Isabelle picks them up mechanically.]

Isabelle:††††† Be good boys, and put rubbish in its place.

Jewel:†††††††† [Carrying on with his game.] Here, there, here, woman.

Tracky:†††††† [He also fancies playing the game, and starts to pick up rubbish from the ground and throws it in front of and behind her, while she spins around.] Here Ö hereÖwoman!

Jenny:†††††††† [Warning.] Stop it, you idiots.

Jewel:†††††††† She enjoys her work, donít you see?

Jenny:†††††††† Stop it you fools, donít you know who she is?

Jewel:†††††††† Who?

Jenny:††††††† Silly boy. She was the most beautiful woman in London. She descends from a wealthy family. A speeding car hit her fiancť and she became mad.

Jewel:††††††† So what? Sheís a crazy woman now.We can have fun with her for a while.

Jenny:†††††††† Youíre selfish and a savage. [She kicks him.]

Diamond:††† Stop doing that. Stop it.

Robin:††††††† [To his mates.] OK boys, Mire has switched off her lights, letís check out the area before we get started.

[Robin and his mates leaving.]

Diamond:††† Jewel, come on, letís go. [They leave.]

[Isabelle, alone. After she finishes cleaning the place, puts a weary old mat beside a wall and goes to sleep. The lamp switches on at the top of the post, the light spreads across the street.]

The same voice as at the beginning of the scene:

Away away, the hunter said,

A giant leopard chasing you,

So my day will terribly endÖ

 

[An electrician climbs down from the lamp post, after heís finished his work, and settles on the ground.]

The electrician: I didnít see anything. I didnít hear anything. It doesnít matter to me. Stretch your work hours during the day to get overtime hours at night. Thatís my principle. [As he makes to move, the light turns off again.] OK, tomorrow weíll see what the real problem is.

 

 

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