AS ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE
examples of monologues
A Cream Cracker Under The Settee - Alan Bennett
Invisible Friends - Alan Ayckbourn
When the war was over - Cara Byrd
CREAM CRACKER UNDER THE SETTEE
Doris is in her seventies and the play is set in the living-room and hallways of her semi-detached house. She is sitting slightly awkwardly on a low chair and rubbing her leg. Morning.
It’s such a silly thing to have done.
should never have tried to dust. Zulema says to me every time she comes, ‘Doris.
Do not attempt to dust. The dusting is my department. That’s what the
council pay me for. You are now a lady of leisure. Your dusting days are over.’
Which would be all right provided she did dust. But Zulema doesn’t dust.
She half-dusts. I know when a place isn’t clean.
When she’s going she says, ‘Doris. I don’t want to hear that you’ve been touching the Ewbank. The Ewbank is out of bounds.’ I said, ‘I could just run round with it now and again.’ She said, ‘You can’t run anywhere. You’re on trial here.’ I said, ‘What for?” She said, ‘For being on your own. For not behaving sensibly. For not acting like a woman of seventy-five who has a pacemaker and dizzy spells and doesn’t have the sense she was born with.’ I said, ‘Yes, Zulema.’
She says, ‘What you don’t understand, Doris, is that I am the only person that stands between you and Stafford House. I have to report on you. The Welfare say to me every time, “Well, Zulema, how is she coping? Wouldn’t she be better off in Stafford House?”’ I said, ‘They don’t put people in Stafford House just running round with the Ewbank.’ ‘No,’ she says. ‘They bend over backwards to keep you in your own home. But, Doris, you’ve got to meet them half-way. You’re seventy-five. Pull your horns in. You don’t have to swill the flags. You don’t have to clean the bath. Let the dirt wait. It won’t kill you. I’m here every week.’
I was glad when she’d gone, dictating. I sat for a bit looking up at me and Wilfred on the wedding photo. And I thought, ‘Well, Zulema, I bet you haven’t dusted the top of that.’ I used to be able to reach only I can’t now. So I got the buffet and climbed up. And she hadn’t. Thick with dust. Home help. Home hindrance. You’re better off doing it yourself. And I was just wiping it over when, oh hell, the flaming buffet went over.
You feel such a fool. I can just hear Zulema. ‘Well, Doris, I did tell you.’ Only I think I’m all right. My leg’s a bit numb but I’ve managed to get back on the chair. I’m just to sit and come round a bit. Shakes you up, a fall.
Shan’t let on I was dusting.
shoves the duster down the side of the chair.
looks down at the wedding photo on the floor.
the photo. We’re cracked, Wilfred.
The gate’s open again. I thought it had blown shut, only now it’s blown open. Bang bang bang all morning, it’ll be bang bang bang all afternoon. Dogs coming in, all sorts. You see Zulema should have closed that, only she didn’t.
The sneck’s loose, that’s the root cause of it. It’s wanted doing for years. I kept saying to Wilfred, ‘When are you going to get round to that gate?’ But oh no. It was always the same refrain. ‘Don’t worry, Mother. I’ve got it on my list.’ He’d no system at all, Wilfred. ‘When I get a minute, Doris.’ Well, he’s got a minute now, bless him.
Feels funny this leg. Not there.
Some leaves coming down now. I could do with trees if they didn’t have leaves, going up and down the path. Zulema won’t touch them. Says if i was leaves swept I’ve to contact the Parks Department.
I wouldn’t care if they were my leaves. They’re not my leaves. They’re next-door’s leaves. We don’t have any leaves. I know that for a fact. We’ve only got the one little bush and it’s an evergreen, so I’m certain they’re not my leaves. Only other folks won’t know that. They see the bush and they see the path and they think, ‘Them’s her leaves.’ Well, they’re not.
I ought to put a note on the gate. ‘Not my leaves.’ Not my leg either, the way it feels. Gone to sleep.
I didn’t even want the bush, to be quite honest. We debated it for long enough. I said, ‘Dad. Is it a bush that will make a mess?’ He said, ‘Doris. Rest assured. This type of bush is very easy to follow, ‘ and fetches out the catalogue. ‘”This labour-saving variety is much favoured by retired people.” Anyway,’ he says, ‘the garden is my department.’ Garden! It’s only a size of a tablecloth. I said, ‘Given a choice, Wilfred, I’d have preferred concrete.’ He said, ‘Doris. Concrete has no character.’ I said, ‘Never mind character, Wilfred, where does hygiene come on to the agenda? With concrete you can feel easy in your mind. But no. He had to have his little garden even it was only a bush. Well, he’s got his little garden now. Only I bet that’s covered in leaves. Graves, gardens, everything’s to follow.
I’ll make a move in a minute. She if I can’t put the kettle on. Come on leg. Wake up.
Go to black.
Come up on Doris sitting on the floor with her back to the wall. The edge of a tiled fireplace also in shot.
Fancy, there’s a cream cracker under the settee. How long has that been there? I can’t think when I last had cream crackers. She’s not half done this place, Zulema.
I’m going to save that cream cracker and show it her next times she starts going on about Stafford House. I’ll say, ‘Don’t Stafford House me, lady. This cream cracker was under the settee. I’ve only got to send this cream cracker to the Director of Social Services and you’ll be on the carpet. Same as the cream cracker. I’ll be in Stafford House, Zulema, but you’ll be in the Unemployment Exchange.’
I’m en route for the window only I’m not make much headway. I’ll bang on it. Alert somebody. Don’t know who. Don’t know anybody round her now. Folks opposite, I don’t know them. Used to be the Marsdens. Mr and Mrs Marsden and Yvonne, the funny daughter. There for years. Here before we were, the Marsdens. Then he died, and she died, and Yvonne went away somewhere. A home, I expect.
Smartish woman after them. Worked at Wheatley and Whitely, had a three-quarter length coat. Used to fetch the envelopes round for the blind. Then she went and folks started to come and go. You lose track. I don’t think they’re married, half of them. You see all sorts. They come in the garden and behave like animals. I find the evidence in the morning.
She picks up the photograph that has fallen from the wall.
I can nip this leg and nothing.
Ought to have had a dog. Then it could have been barking of someone. Wilfred was always hankering after a dog. I wasn’t keen. Hairs all up and down, then having to take it outside every five minutes. Wilfred said he would be prepared to undertake that responsibility. The dog would be his province. I said, ‘Yes, and whose province would all the little hairs be?’ I gave in in the finish, only I said it had to be on the small side. I didn’t want one of them great lolloping, lamp post-smelling articles. And we never got one either. It was the growing mushrooms in the cellar saga all over again. He never got round to it. A kiddy’d’ve solved all that. Getting mad ideas. Like the fretwork, making toys and forts and whatnot. No end of money he was going to make. Then there was his phantom allotment. Oh, he was going to be coming home with leeks and spring cabbage and I don’t know what. ‘We can be self-sufficient in the vegetable department, Doris.’ Never materialised. I was glad. It’d’ve meant muck somehow.
Hello. Somebody coming. Salvation.
She cranes up towards the window.
Young lad. Hello. Hello.
She begins to wave.
The cheeky monkey. He’s spending a penny. Hey.
Hey. Get out. Go on. Clear off. You little demon. Would you credit it? Inside our gate. Broad daylight. The place’ll stink.
A pause as she realises what she has done.
He wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. Only a kiddy. The policeman comes past now and again. If I can catch him. Maybe the door’s a better bet. If I can get there I can open it and wait while somebody comes past.
She starts to heave herself up.
This must be what they give them them frame things for.
Come up on Doris sitting on the floor in the hall, her back against the front door, the letter-box above her head.
This is where we had the pram. You couldn’t get past for it. Proper prams then, springs and hoods. Big wheels. More like cars than prams. Not these fold-up jobs. You were proud of your pram. Wilfred spotted it in the Evening Post. I said, ‘Don’t let’s jump the gun, Wilfred.’ He said, ‘At that price, Doris? This is the chance of a lifetime.’
Comes under this door like a knife. I can’t reach the lock. That’s part of the Zulema regime. ‘Lock it and put it on the chain, Doris. You never know who comes. It may not be a bona fide caller.’ It never is a bona fide caller. I never get a bona fide caller.
Couple came round last week. Braying on the door. They weren’t bona fide callers, they had a Bible. I didn’t go. Only they opened the letter-box and starting shouting about Jesus. ‘Good news,’ they keep shouting. ‘Good news.’ They left the gate open, never mind good news. They ought to get their priorities right. They want learning that on their instruction course. Shouting about Jesus and leaving gates open. It’s hypocrisy is that. It is in my book anyway. ‘Love God and close all gates.’
She closes her eyes. We hear some swift steps up the path and the letter-box opens as a leaflet comes through. Swift steps away again and she opens her eyes.
She bangs on the door behind her.
Help. Oh stink.
tries to reach the leaflet.
is it? Minicabs? ‘Your roof repaired’?
She gets the leaflet.
carpet sale.’ Carpet sales in chapels now. Else sikhs.
She looks at the place where the pram was.
I wanted him called John. The midwife said he wasn’t fit to be called anything and had we any newspaper? Wilfred said, ‘Oh yes. She saves newspaper. She saves shoeboxes as well.’ I must have fallen asleep because when I woke up she’d gone. I wanted to see to him. Wrapping him in newspaper as if he was dirty. He wasn’t dirty, little thing. I don’t think Wilfred minded. A kiddy. It was the same as the allotment and the fretwork. Just a craze. He said, ‘We’re better off, Doris. Just the two of us.’ It was then he started talking about getting a dog.
If it had lived I might have had grandchildren now. Wouldn’t have been in this fix. Daughters are best. They don’t migrate.
I’m going to have to migrate or I’ll catch my death.
She nips her other leg.
This one’s going numb now.
She picks up the photo.
Come on, Dad. Come on, numby leg.
Come up on Doris sitting with her back against the settee under which she spotted the cream cracker. It is getting dark.
I’ve had this frock for years. A lame woman ran it up for me that lived down Tong road. She made me a little jersey costume I used to wear with my tan court shoes. I think I’ve still got it somewhere. Upstairs. Put away. I’ve got umpteen pillowcases, some we got given when we were first married. Never used. And the blanket I knitted for the cot. All its little coats and hats.
She puts her hand down.
Here’s this cream cracker.
She rubs it.
Naught wrong with it.
She eats it.
Making a lot of crumbs. Have to have a surreptitious go with the Ewbank. ‘Doris. The Ewbank is out of bounds.’ Out of bounds to her too, by the looks of it. A cream cracker under the settee. She wants reporting. Can’t report her now. I’ve destroyed the evidence.
could put another one under, they’d never know. Except they might say
it was me. ‘Squatting biscuits under the settee, Doris. You’re not
fit to be on your own. You’d be better off in Stafford House.’
were always on our own, me and Wilfred. We weren’t gregarious. We just
weren’t the gregarious type. He thought he was, but he wasn’t.
I don’t want to mix. Comes to the finish and they suddenly think you want
to mix. I don’t want to be stuck with a lot of old lasses. And they all
smell of pee. And daft half of them, banging tambourines. You go daft there,
there’s nowhere else for you to go but daft. Wearing somebody else’s
frock. They even mix up your teeth. I am H.A.P.P.Y. I am not H.A.P.P.Y. I am
un-H.A.P.P.Y. Or I would be.
And Zulema says, ‘You don’t understand, Doris. You’re not up to date. They have lockers, now. Flowerbeds. They have their hair done. they go on trips to Wharfedale.’ I said, ‘Yes. Smelling of pee.’ She said, ‘You’re prejudiced, you.’ I said, ‘I am, where hygiene’s concerned.’
When people were clean and the streets were clean and it was all clean and you could walk down the street and folks smiled and passed the time of day, I’d leave the door on the latch and go on to the end for some toffee, and when I came back Dad was home and the cloth was on and the plates out and we’d have our tea. Then we’d side the pots and I’d wash up while he read the paper and we’d eat the toffees and listen to the wireless all them years ago when we were first married and I was having the baby.
Doris and Wilfred. They don’t get called Doris now. They don’t get called Wilfred. Museum, names like that. That’ws what they’re all called in Stafford House. Alice and Doris. Mabel and Gladys. Antiques. Keep them under lock and key. ‘What’s your name? Doris? Right. Pack your case. You belong in Stafford House.’
home. Not me. No fear.
closes her eyes. A pause.
VOICE: Hello. Hello.
Doris opens her eyes but doesn’t speak.
Are you all right?
DORIS: No. I’m all right.
POLICEMAN: Are you sure?
POLICEMAN: Your light was off.
DORIS: I was having a nap.
POLICEMAN: Sorry. Take care.
DORIS: Thank you.
She calls again.
You’ve done it now, Doris. Done it now, Wilfred.
I wish I was ready for bed. All washed and in a clean nightie and the bottle in, all sweet and crisp and clean like when I was little on Baking Night, sat in front of the fire with my long hair still.
Her eyes close and she sings a little to herself. The song, which she only half remembers, is My Alice Blue Gown.
Never mind. It’s done with now, anyway.
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Lucy: (As she goes upstairs, to audience)
Come with me if you will. Upstairs. If you listen very carefully you can just hear the distant sound of the greater spotted Grisly Gary, my unbelievably talkative brother. (She reaches the door of Gary's room.) Here we go, I'll just have a quite word with him, you might want to cover your ears. (Talking loudly, and quickly) Hello, Grisly. It's your loving sister, Lucy. Just wanted to tell you that I have been picked for the school swimming team. Thought you'd like to know. Bye, Grisly. (Lucy closes the door again quickly) I enjoyed that chat. He didn't hear a thing. (She opens the door of her own room and goes inside.) This is my room. No one is allowed in here except for me. I'm a very tidy sort of person. Which is a bit extraordinary in this house. I think I must be a freak. I actually like to know where I have put my things. (Pointing) This is my bed. And this is my desk. And up there on the shelf are my special, most favourite books. Actually one of the reasons that I keep it tidy is because my very, very special friend, Zara, also likes things tidy. Oh yeah, I ought to explain to you about Zara shouldn't I? You may have heard my mum talking about my invisible friend? Do you remember? Well, that's my invisible friend, Zara. (Introducing her) this is Zara. I want you to say hello to her. Zara, say hello to my friends. (Pause) and won't you say hello to Zara, she did say hello to you. (Pause, smiling) I invented Zara, oh years ago, when I was seven or eight. Just for fun. I think I was ill at the time and wasn't allowed to play with any of my real friends, so I made up Zara. She's my special friend that no one else can see, except me. (Pause) of course, I can't really see her either. Not really. Although sometimes can I? It's almost as if I could see her, sometimes. If I concentrate vary hard it's like I can just glimpse her out of the corner of my eye. (Pauses, concentrating) Still. Anyway. I've kept Zara for years and years, its been almost 10 years now actually. Until they all started saying I was much too old for that sort of thing and got worried and started talking about sending for a doctor. So then I didn't take her round with me quite so much after that. But she's still here. And when I feel really sad and depressed, I sit and talk to Zara. Zara always understands. Zara always listens. She's special. Aren't you, Zara? (She listens to Zara) What? Yes, I wish he'd turn his music down, too. I've asked him, haven't I? (mimicking) But he just says, 'how can I hear the music then if I turn it down. I can't hear the bass then!' I used to have pictures up on the walls of this room, but every time he put a CD on, they would all fall down off the walls. I wish he would listen to quiet music, just once, like some Bach or Mozart. Of course, if he did that he wouldn't be Grisly Gary now would he? Oh Zara, I almost forgot to tell you. I got picked for the school swimming team today. I know, I'm really excited too. I did the breast stroke and freestyle just like you told me to do and I got in. No.. no they didn't come..I mean its not like I... why should they have? (Pause, looks around, yelling) If anyone cares at all, I was picked for the school swimming team today. How about that folks? Mum? Dad? Anybody that cares? (Pause) Great, thanks everyone. (Pause) God dammit, they could have?. They could? But no, no of course not, they don't? Of course not, what was I expecting, some one to actually...? (Seemingly interupted) Yeah, yeah Zara. I know you're always here. It's just that sometimes I get so lonely.
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the war was over
By Cara Byrd
I remember it well, it was the summer of 1945, in Lynn, Massachusetts. I was in a polish dance troupe of about eight; I am not quite sure why I was in it. The dancing was like square dancing. We had the polish costumes, and everything. That day we were performing at the Armoury hall for a banquet for polish World War II veterans. The troupe and I were about to perform when over the radio it was announced that the war was over. Everybody rushed out of the hall into the streets.
I left to go to the restaurant that my aunt and uncle owned. Lynn was close to Revere Naval base, and sailors were kissing girls in the streets, nothing to be scared of, not like now. I was wearing a garland on my head, and people kept tugging on the ribbons hanging off. Celebration was everywhere. I tried to stop by the church for a quick prayer, but the church had shut their doors, so it would not be looted. I finally got to the restaurant where the family worked. I twas a fine restaurant with linen, silverware, salt and pepper shakers, and a sugar bowl on every table. The restaurant was packed, it kept me busy, and we had to close by two in the morning because we rant out of bread.
During the war we had rationing, but we were never deprived, well except for nylon hose. I think rationing was a good idea, though there were people who hoarded supplies and sold them on the black market. We had to save stamps for everything, even the restaurant had to. In fact one day we rant out of sugar, you see in New England everybody has coffee with half and half and sugar. The restaurant ran out after one morning and we had to use the confectionary sugar which does not taste the same.
Many people died during the war, my own father was killed. I remember one of my Aunt’s friends; he was named Pappas and was from Greece. He was ready to come back to the States and was killed right before. My cousin was in the Army Air Core and was stationed in Britain. He was on his last mission when he was killed. Everybody was celebrating that day for the killing was over. The death never really stopped, it was still with us, well inside us. For the ones we loved never came home.
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