A and B sit on chairs a good distance apart - on either side of the stage

    They face the audience


B.   Did you hear that?

A.   What?

B.   That noise


    Pause. They listen.


  1. A.There it is again

  2. B.A sort of banging

A.   No

B.   A sort of knocking

A.   No

B.   What? A beating?

A.   I thought more. . . a petting

B.   A petting?

A.   A stroking

B.   How can you hear a stroking?

A.   More the sound of a slightly calloused hand across a cotton bed sheet

The lightness of touch of a lover’s hand across smooth relenting skin

B.   Calloused? Did you say calloused?

  1. A.Yes, with the incessant stroking


    Pause.


B.   No it definitely sounded like banging to me

A.   It was a stroking

B.   It was a banging/. . .

A.   A stroking/. . .

B.   A long and tortured banging by a clubbed. . . and calloused fist on a poor delicate body


    Pause.


B.   And I could hear the blood beating in the temples and the scream caught in the throat

A.   How could you hear the scream if it was caught in the throat?


    Pause.


B.   I heard it rumbling in the belly

Like the great storms of ‘76

A.   No ’76 was the year of the great drought, I remember, the air was dry like paper. You could break it off and eat it like confessional wafer

B.   My mouth was full of water in ‘76

  1. A.  I think that was ’77

  2. B..   ’77 was the year of the grape. The streets ran with wine. The clouds were purple like berries


A.   I think that was definitely ‘78

  1. B.  ’78 was the year of the single malt that scorches


    They look at each other.

    Silence.


A.   And hailstones the size of ice cubes

B.   I think in ’78 I was too drunk to remember anything

  1. A.You were beaten by the drink

  2. B.The drink never beat me

A.   You were beaten by the drink to within an inch of your life

B.   It’s that last inch that’s the most important

A.   I think in your drunken stupor you fell that last inch and to this day you lie across that great thresh-hold. . . neither really in this world nor properly in the next

B (gets to her feet suddenly).   I may have fallen. . . but I fell the other way. . . and I embrace all the experiences that life has to offer me

A.   Ha!


    B sits.


B.   You live and learn

A.   And what do you feel you have learnt?

B.   I feel I have learnt nothing. Except to listen to what my heart is telling me

A.   And what is your heart telling you?

B.   My heart is telling me to listen to my head

A.   And what is your head telling you?

B.   To listen to my heart


    Pause.


A.   Listen, I’m going to write it down on this bit of paper

B.   What?

A.   I don’t know. The great compromise of ’79. I’m waiting for inspiration

B.   Why don’t you listen to your/. . .


    Blackout stops her short.


B.   What was that?

A.   What?

B.   Didn’t you see anything?

A.   What? A blinding light? A shining beacon? A brilliant radiant luminescence? A luminescent radiant brilliance? The world filled with a beautiful effulgent glow?


    Pause.


B.   No, the lights have gone out




© Glen Neath, 2000


The Last Inch


Performed by Hannah Ringham and Gemma Brockis at The Shunt Cabaret, Bethnal Green, London. Directed by Glen Neath



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