Waiting for Charlie – (part of the low expectation project)
This was written as part of the low expectation project, taking minor characters from Dickens and giving them a little bit more to do…
(Two soldiers are walking along a path through the marshes. Mist is reducing visibility considerably, their boots are covered in mud and neither looks too happy.)
Sidney Where the blazes have they got to?
Earnest(Shrugs and makes an unintelligible noise.)
Sidney We should be back at fire side, with a little brew….this tramping is no good for my legs.
Earnest You said go left, and that’s what we did sir…(mumbles) and if you kept up it’d do you no harm either.
Sidney What’s that boy?
Earnest Nothing sir…it is a fair long way and no denying.
Sidney You’re not wrong their lad…not wrong at all…but for this fog we’d be away in no time…
Earnest(mumbles) but for this fool, I’d be in bed by much sooner…
Sidney Are you cheeking me boy?
Earnest Wouldn’t dream of it sir…
Earnest These men…
Sidney The brigands?
Earnest That’s them…
Earnest Well…what have they done? I mean, I know they’re terrible bad men, but what is it they did to get in one them there hulks?
Sidney Ahh, it is a long sad story and that I’m sure…but don’t mistake they would not be there, excepting those terrible deeds.
Earnest …but sir
Earnest What was those terrible deeds what got them all locked up and all?
Sidney mmmmnn…I’m not sure how that’s the business of the likes of you and I, my boy…they did bad things, awful things…most terrible things…
Earnest yeah, but what things…
Sidney(getting flustered) Look here boy, I don’t care a king’s farthing what things it is they did, all I know is that those things, what that they did, are most terrible things to do and that it is them that did them. And that the likes of you and I have no business to be asking. We are for the finding and the taking and that is all.
Sidney Go on now…you’ve got me this far in your damn silly
questions I’ll have no peace inside me ’til you’ve gotten it out…you were the same about that cat…
Earnest Well, if we are sent to find and take, as you rightly say, then how do we know what it is we hope to find if we know nothing of the cause.
Sidney The cause….the cause? Have you not listened to me one bit? The terrible things is the cause, and no mistaking.
Earnest But what if those things, so terrible as to keep them locked on such hulks, were no more right or wrong than say…a trifle…
Sidney Oh, don’t speak me of trifle. You torture my belly so? How can it be a trifle?
Earnest I dunno, I once heard a man was hanged for bread.
Sidney Bread? Bread in your ears my boy…they hang ’til dead, you cloth eared fool.
Earnest I swear he stole some bread and was hanged for it.
Sidney Well there you go my boy, you say he stole, and rightly so, he likely got his just desserts….terrible things I say, terrible things…
Earnest It seems a bit…
Sidney If a man stole my bread, he’d soon know what terrible meant.
Earnest Suppose, but….hey look up ahead….is that?
Sidney That’s a gibbet and no mistaking…you’ve been training your eyes or maybe this talk of things has made your neck close to the rope.
Earnest How can talk of things make me bad?
Sidney It’s talk that sends you to him, no doubt.
Earnest But I ain’t done no wrong.
Sidney Sure, I would hope you’ve not, but that head of yours will end in trouble if you keep thinking sideways and the like.
Earnest Look, the path goes off in two ways again and right off there it is, the river.
Sidney And full of mud it’ll ever be.
Earnest So, which way then?
Sidney(He licks his finger and holds it in the air)
Earnest What you doing?
Sidney I’m getting the feel of it.
Earnest But how will the wind get us where we need to go?
Sidney The wind knows, boy. The wind knows.
Earnest What? How can the wind know?
Sidney Trust me son, the wind knows. It’s blown right along with us, from hill and down and now its saying that way’s right.
Earnest The left path?
Sidney Right, the left path.
Earnest But if the wind knows the way then how did we get lost in the first place?
Sidney There are mysteries my boy, mysteries not meant for you and me.
Earnest I don’t think the way we walk is any mystery, we go left or right and there’s the river. How can it be left, it we are at the river?
Sidney The wind says..
Earnest But Sir, we walked towards the river when we came, and come so far left we cannot go much more or will be where we started…
Sidney The wind never failed me yet.
Earnest Then the wind is as lost as us.
Sidney Then what say you…right, I suppose?
Earnest Why not, we keep going left, surely right would be the way to go?
Sidney My poor boy, the fog has got you simple. If left we have walked for such a time then once right will take us nowhere.
Earnest But this ain’t the same right as where we went left, it is another and maybe this right is where we’re wanting…
Sidney But the wind…
Earnest(Angry, then surprised at himself) Will you shut up about the damned wind!
Sidney(Hostile, but calm) ….How dare you talk to me in such a tone, I will not have such talk from a boy like you.
I said you were for the bad.
Earnest I can’t do it…I’ll walk in circles all night long if you have it your way.
Sidney Nonsense man, pull yourself together
Earnest No, I won’t do it. Not no more sir. It makes no sense.
Sidney Calm yourself
Earnest I’m going
Sidney(Chuckling) Where to, the right?
Earnest The left, the right be damned. The river can take me!
Sidney The river?
Earnest(In jest – mimicking Sidney) I see the river, hear it too, and that smells its making. So by that thinking it’s the only way.
Sidney Right you are boy…right you are..
Sidney You make an excellent case, can’t fault you there.
Earnest(Uncertain) Then, to the river?
Sidney The river, yes…you make some sense with what you say, by Jove I think you’re learning.
(They walk off into the river, Sidney grinning ear to ear and Earnest in petrified dismay.)