Lessons for Jessica
A private room in what might be a hospital.
Far right is a bed with a patient: the patient’s face is obscured.
Next to the bed is a window, slightly open.
There is a table, centre, with chairs.
Far left is the door into the room. The corridor behind the door is lit in pale-pink.
MIKEY is sat at one of the chairs, tapping and swiping his mobile phone screen.
The FEMALE NURSE fusses about the bed.
Then she turns to leave.
MIKEY: All okay?
The nurse ignores him and walks out.
Moments later, PENNY enters carrying a shopping bag and hand bag.
PENNY: (surprised) How did you get here?
MIKEY: Alright. Got here quite early.
She sits down. Pulls out apples and bananas and magazines from the shopping bag.
PENNY: How’s everything?
MIKEY: The nurse wouldn’t speak to me.
PENNY: (amused) Really? Why’s that?
MIKEY: (puts phone away) No idea.
PENNY: He’s not the best talker. You’ve probably upset him somehow.
MIKEY: I was just sat here, minding my own business. I never said a word.
PENNY: Well…you probably said something to annoy him.
She takes the fruit and magazines and places them on the bed at the patient’s feet.
I’ll sort these in a bit.
She leans in to look at the patient, putting her hand on the forehead.
MIKEY: There’s no change. There never is.
PENNY: You never know. I’ll ask the nurse when he comes back.
MIKEY: Good luck with that.
PENNY: He’ll talk to me.
She sits back down.
MIKEY: She. The nurse is a woman.
She glares at him.
PENNY: You know what I meant. You seen the doctor?
MIKEY: No. Not a peep.
PENNY: You’re not much use. You’ve got to communicate. Ask questions. That’s your problem.
MIKEY: He hasn’t been in yet. Not since I’ve been up. When he comes in, I’ll communicate.
Smiles at her.
PENNY: (smiles back) Have you been out in the corridor and asked?
MIKEY: I told you, I haven’t seen him.
PENNY: So you’ve failed to find him?
MIKEY: No. I haven’t failed to find him because I haven’t tried to find him. He’ll be here when he’s here. What’s the hurry?
PENNY: I’m not in a hurry. Did I say that? Why do you do that? I didn’t say that. It might have been an idea for you to ask a few questions while you were here, that’s all.
Mikey rubs his face, scratches his head, and gets up and wanders over to the bed. Looks at the patient.
MIKEY: (turns to Penny) I told you there’s no change. There never is. Nothing’s happening. If there’s some change we’ll see the doctor. I’m sure he’ll get to one of us.
Penny takes her phone from her bag and starts swiping / tapping the screen.
You got his mobile number?
MIKEY: The doctor’s
PENNY: No I haven’t.
MIKEY: Oh. I thought you were going to ring him.
PENNY: How could I do that when I don’t have his number?
And why would I ring him anyway? We’re where we are. I could just go and ask him.
MIKEY: I don’t know. I just assumed you had his number. It’d make sense. Easy contact.
PENNY: Easy contact?
MIKEY: (innocently) What?
There’s SILENCE as Mikey looks again at the patient and Penny taps away at her phone. Mikey sits back down.
PENNY: Is your mother coming?
MIKEY: Is what?
PENNY: Is your mother coming?
MIKEY: I’ve no idea. Why?
PENNY: No reason. I assumed she’d be coming by now.
MIKEY: She’s come plenty of times.
PENNY: She’s come? I’ve not seen her.
MIKEY: Plenty of times. I’ve seen her.
PENNY: I’m just saying I haven’t seen her. You think she’s coming?
MIKEY: I don’t know. Maybe. Why?
PENNY: I told you. No reason.
MIKEY: She has been in plenty of times. I told you I’ve seen her.
Mikey shakes his head and smirks – annoyed.
Okay, what? I’ll play along.
Penny: (shrugs) What? What? I haven’t seen her for a while, that’s all.
MIKEY: She’ll text me if she’s coming.
PENNY: If she’s coming?
MIKEY: When she’s coming in.
PENNY: It’s been a while, that’s all. I’ve missed Joan. The nights out and all that. You seen her lately?
MIKEY: I told you I’ve seen her here.
PENNY: No, I mean have you seen her properly? Has she got a new bloke on the go?
MIKEY: Not that I know of, no.
PENNY: She probably has, you just haven’t met him.
I’m not being funny, but come on. You have to admit it: since they got divorced she doesn’t let the grass grow. Keeps everything nice and trim. I thought she’d still be with that Gerald.
MIKEY: Gerald’s been off the scene for a few weeks. I’m sure she meant to tell you. Her letter probably got lost in the post.
Penny closes her phone, takes a huge breath – sighs heavily.
PENNY: I saw your mate the other day, the driving instructor. I was trying to sort out some lessons for Jessica. He’s left his wife, he said. Said she found text messages from a girl he’s been teaching and confronted him. He admitted it. Right there and then. Right out in the open. Told her straight to her face what he’d been up to. Couldn’t believe it. Men must have got away with murder years ago. No there’s so many ways to get caught out.
MIKEY: Listen to yourself. Sorting out lessons for Jessica? You don’t even know the girl. It’s not even five weeks. A perfect little family already? Don’t tell me you tried to get a discount? You must have done. Why go there otherwise.
PENNY: He said he was all booked up and couldn’t accommodate. He gave me the number of a mate of his, some bloke.
PENNY: That’s the one. I’ll ring him later. He’ll be easy to contact.
MIKEY: Why doesn’t he ring him, it’s his daughter. And why are you asking favours from my friends? We have to respect boundries, apparently. That speech about having to knock now? It’s different now and all that?
PENNY: You’re still a child, then?
MIKEY: There you go. You’re so interested in having a dig you don’t even know how insulting what you just said is. That takes some doing. I’m not having a go. No, no, I’m not having a pop. All you wanted to do with that comment was have a dig. What was the insulting word?
PENNY: (irritated) What?
MIKEY: Which bit was the insult?
PENNY: None of it. It’s a fact. You are a bloody child.
MIKEY: See? Child. You think that was the dig. That might be how you meant it but that’s not the insulting bit.
PENNY: Go on then. I’ll play along.
PENNY: Still. Still a child?
MIKEY: Yeah, still. Still a child.
Where have I been? Have I just spent two years on Jupiter? Now I’m back and you realise I’m still a child?
PENNY: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
MIKEY: I’m still a child? Still. Still? Christ, it’s talking to a stillborn child. You really don’t get it. You actually don’t understand. You’re still a…whatever? You’re still a…whatever it happens to be? The word still implies time, dear. Time. So tell me, how much time has there actually been?
PENNY: Right, and?
MIKEY: Good. See, that’s how I know you, because you tell me things by accident. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but in your head it was knocked down and rebuilt in one bloody afternoon. In comes the new, and it’s perfectly formed already. All that time’s past, and you’ve realised I’m still a child. How romantic. No, no, don’t look like that, I’m serious. Think about it from his point of view. What is he, deaf? Lessons for Jessica. You should listen to yourself.
PENNY: More romantic than you.
MIKEY: You know what the opposite to a romantic is?
PENNY: I’m sure you’re going to tell me.
MIKEY: A realist.
PENNY: Really? What’s the opposite to romantic?
MIKEY: The word you’re looking for is romanticism. Versus realism.
Penny gets up and walks toward the door.
MIKEY: Where you going?
PENNY: Getting a coffee.
MIKEY: Oh, right. Would you –
Penny slams the door behind her.
Get me one, too?
Mikey deflates, sags.
A MALE NURSE enters and goes to the patient and starts fussing about, taking temperature, fluffing pillows.
NURSE: Everything’s stable. That’s always the main thing. I’m sure things’ll be looking up soon.
MIKEY: That’s the main thing.
NURSE: Has the doctor been in?
MIKEY: Not seen him.
NURSE: I’ll ask the doctor to pop in and have a word.
NURSE: The doctor’ll need to have a quick word anyway. About blood.
MIKEY: The blood?
NURSE: The blood.
MIKEY: The blood. Okay.
NURSE: The blood. I’ll let the doctor talk to you. There’s a blood question.
MIKEY: Right. There’s a blood question.
NURSE: There is a blood question. I’ll let the doctor talk to you.
The nurse turns back to the bed and picks up the fruit Penny put there.
I’ll get rid of these for you. Everything’s almost rotten.
The nurse exits, closing the door quietly behind him.
Lights fade slowly to black.
SCENE 2. MINUTES LATER.
Mikey sits flicking through a magazine.
Penny enters carrying coffee.
MIKEY: Nurse came in while you were out.
Penny ignores him.
We had a quick chat.
Penny walks over to the bed, looks at the patient, then moves to the window.
So now you’re not interested. I’m trying to communicate.
PENNY: And she said what?
MIKEY: Seemed quite pleased. All’s fine, no problems. Everything’s as it should be.
Penny motions to the bed.
PENNY: How can everything be as it should? Where are we?
MIKEY: Under the circumstances everything’s fine.
PENNY: (smiles) It’s the circumstances which suggest things are not fine. The circumstances are how we know things are far from fine.
She takes a sip of her coffee and grimaces.
She spits the coffee out and wipes her mouth with her hand, then taps the corners of her mouth with a finger tip.
Penny turns to him quickly, catching him chuckling.
Mikey: (shrugs) What?
She leaves the coffee on the window sill and sits down near Mikey.
Penny: How did you get here?
PENNY: How did you get here? I asked you earlier but you didn’t say. How did you get here?
MIKEY (uncomfortable) Well we both know I didn’t drive here, so what’s the point in asking?
PENNY: No reason. I’m just asking.
Did you get the bus?
MIKEY: (shifts in his seat) Yeah, everything’s a joke to you.
PENNY: (shrugs) What? I’m just asking. Did you get the bus?
MIKEY: I walked.
PENNY: Okay, you walked. I was only asking.
So you didn’t get the bus?
MIKEY: You know what, you’re an idiot.
PENNY: (laughing) What? I was only asking.
PENNY: Let me get this straight..
MIKEY: For god’s sake!
PENNY: (amused) No, listen, I just want to get it right. You tell me if I get anything wrong, right?
Mikey shifts in his seat.
Okay. So it’s early and you’re going to work. It’s early because you’re on an early, and you get to the bus stop and that bitch with the fat arse isn’t there. Can’t get her fat fucking arse out of bed. So you get there and the bus comes, and everything’s normal. Okay, fine. So you get on the bus and go to the rear. You always go straight for the rear, and you never mess about upstairs, you always stay downstairs. You’ve got a thing for the exhaust fumes or something. So you’re in your little hole and the heat from the engine makes you feel sleepy after a while. To be fair you are tired because you got up early because you’re on an early, so as you go, you start to feel tired. So you carry on along for a bit and other people get on, but you’re not really paying attention. It’s the rhythm of the whole – sorry, it’s the whole rhythm, that’s it – which puts you out and at some point you fall asleep. Fine. So you’re asleep. Then something happens. What was it? Oh, that’s it. You hit a bump in the road, or there’s a rough patch or something, and it wakes you up. You open your eyes and see all the passengers on the bus are all old people, or most of them are. Skin like wet tissue paper, you said. They can’t drive anymore. Too frail or whatever. But the thing is every passenger on the bus has turned and is staring at you. All of them, they’re staring at you. Expressionless. Just staring. But as soon as you open your eyes, they all quickly turn away and go back to normal, like they weren’t doing it. Is that right? Is that still the size of it? No, hang on – I’ve forgot something. The hand holds hanging from the ceiling were made of rope. You’d never noticed before. They were made of rope and they looked like mini nooses. Little ropey nooses. And it’s all too much so you have to get off in the middle of nowhere. Something like that?
MIKEY: You’re still a bitch then?
PENNY: (huge smile) Still?
MIKEY: Drink your coffee.
PENNY: I don’t like the taste.
MIKEY: Oh I know you don’t. And I didn’t get off in the middle of nowhere, I knew where I was.
PENNY: So that’s not exactly what you said?
MIKEY: That’s pretty much what I told you.
PENNY: Right then. There you go.
MIKEY: That’s what I’ve told you. Where’s I gone? And why she a bitch anyway? Suddenly you’ve got a problem.
PENNY: No, no; not at all. Absolutely not. No problem whatsoever.
MIKEY: It’s nice she’s still on your mind.
PENNY: Your mother text you yet?
PENNY: I always thought your mother should have been in the police as well. She would have made a good inspector.
MIKEY: What are you going on about?
PENNY: What was he? He was an inspector. You said. How much of him rubbed off on you?
Mikey ignores her.
You know, I think you were asleep that day. You stayed asleep, I mean. I think you had what they call a false awakening. There’s those dreams when you think they’re real for a few moments, which is why people get scared, then there’s the ones where you dream you’ve woken up, but you haven’t. You actually dream you’re awake. It’s supposed to be quite rare. That’s what they say.
MIKEY: I wasn’t dreaming.
PENNY: Come on, you must have been. Think about it. No, listen, I’m being serious. Why would everyone be staring at you? I mean, why would they?
MIKEY: How should I know?
PENNY: And then turn back when you open your eyes and see them? It’s too weird.
MIKEY: Why don’t you think about it for a second? I didn’t wake up again, did I? I didn’t have two awakenings, one fake.
MIKEY: Fake, false, either way, once I opened my eyes, they stayed open. And anyway, I didn’t sleep-walk to the bus stop. There’s a whole whatever it’s called…a whole unbroken memory.
PENNY: I think there’s a hole in your memory. Some rhythm got lost in this hole…this whole thing. What explanation do you have for all these old farts staring at you while you were asleep? If it actually happened, that is.
Imagine waking up and seeing their faces just inches from yours…
MIKEY: I have no idea at all, I’m just saying what I saw.
PENNY: (stern) Don’t tell lies, Mikey. You know it’s wrong. Don’t make me shout. Now, come along and let’s have the truth. Like I do, I want you to spit it out..
MIKEY: I’ve told you the –
PENNY: Why were the old people staring at you? What did you do? Were they smiling at you, all knowingly? Were they laughing?
MIKEY: Didn’t do anything, I promise I didn’t do anything.
The MALE NURSE enters. Mikey and Penny both look his way.
NURSE: (to Mikey) The doctor’s in his office if you want a quick word.
MIKEY: (relieved) Yes, I will. I mean I do. I do.
PENNY: I’ve got a few questions of my own.
Mikey and the nurse enter the pink corridor, closing the door behind them.
Moments later the FEMALE NURSE enters and goes to the bed, to check the patient and fuss about with pillows etc.
Penny watches her for a moment.
NURSE: (without turning round) Everything’s fine.
PENNY: What are you doing exactly?
NURSE: Just making them comfortable. The easy part of the job.
The nurse turns to face Penny.
He’s in with the doctor, I take it?
PENNY: Yeah, just now.
NURSE: Thought so. I saw him coming in. He’ll be getting to everyone.
PENNY: Where’s the fruit? I brought some fruit when I came.
NURSE: I removed the fruit earlier. It was rotten.
PENNY: Rotten? How can it be…
NURSE: It’s nil by mouth, anyway.
PENNY: Nil by mouth?
NURSE: Nil by mouth.
PENNY: So you’re doing an operation?
NURSE: That’s up to the doctor.
PENNY: But we still can’t have anything?
NURSE: Well…nil by mouth.
The nurse exits.
Lights fade slowly to black.
Scene 3. Minutes later.
Mikey enters carrying two take-away cups.
Penny is reading a magazine. She looks up when Mikey enters.
Mikey looks all about the room, at the ceiling, the walls. He’s confused, vacant.
MIKEY: Got you a…decent one.
PENNY: Can’t stand that coffee. It almost made me sick.
MIKEY: Yeah. I saw.
PENNY: So you thought I’d like another one?
Mikey is still looking about the room.
MIKEY: What? No, that’s tea.
She takes a sip.
So what did the doctor say? Did you ask questions?
MIKEY: I communicated, yes.
PENNY: So you didn’t ask anything. Brilliant.
MIKEY: I saw him. I even spoke to him.
PENNY: And what did he say?
MIKEY: (vague) He wanted to know…
PENNY: Out with it, boy.
MIKEY: He wanted to know why you said my mother should have been in the police. How did you recognise this?
PENNY: I’m sorry?
MIKEY: Why was that?
PENNY: What did he say?
MIKEY: He wasn’t that type of doctor.
PENNY: (scared) What are you going on about?
MIKEY: (looking around the room) Have you any idea where we…
PENNY: What did the bloody doctor say!
MIKE: He said there’s to be nil by mouth and there’s some transfusions problem. It’s a blood question.
PENNY: Transfusion confusion – right. What did he actually say?
MIKEY: I told you.
PENNY: No, what did he actually say? What actual words did he actually speak?
MIKEY: I think it’ll be a while, he said.
Penny stands up, collects her bag, ready to leave.
PENNY: (nervous) You’re infuriating. I didn’t get my arse out of bed for this rubbish. I’m getting a lift. If they want me they can ring me.
Penny takes her phone and starts texting.
MIKEY: Has the doctor got your number? He just took mine.
PENNY: Yes, he took my number ages…
Stops texting, closes phone.
Penny sits back down.
MIKEY: Drink your tea. We might be here some time.