A short play by Ian Winterton
Based on genuine slum landlord tactics, two low-level enforcers are sent by their slum landlord crime-boss to smash tenants’ toilets with sledgehammers. An oblique look at capitalism in credit crunch Britain and how trapped we can become by the simple phrase “I’ve got a family to feed”.
FULL TEXT – for permission to perform, please contact Ian Winterton via this website.
A short play by Ian Winterton
SETTING: A city street, morning.
CHARACTERS: Alan & Toby.
Alan stands, looking up at a tenement block, slowly counting the rows of windows under his breath, finger jabbing at the air. He is carrying a large hold-all.
Toby hurries on. He isn’t carrying a bag. He waits until Alan has finished counting.
TOBY: What are you doing, Al?
ALAN: Counting the windows. Where’d you park?
TOBY: Round the corner. Single yellows but an hour’s free parking. Which is nice of ‘em, ain’t it? I read about it. They’re encouraging the shoppers.
ALAN: An hour won’t be long enough. You’re an idiot.
TOBY: Why you counting the windows, Al?
ALAN: I’m calculating.
ALAN: How many flats we’re talking. And therefore how many toilets.
Alan notices something on the floor.
ALAN: Dandelion. Growing through a crack in the pavement.
TOBY: Lot of cracks round here.
ALAN: Twenty-four toilets. Never get ‘em all done in an hour. You’ll get a ticket.
TOBY: It’s done now. I’ll risk it. I don’t know what I was thinking. An hour’s not long enough. ‘Specially if there are residents in.
ALAN: What difference does that make, time-wise?
TOBY: Time-wise, well, nothing. But they kick off. They shout. They cry. They get aggro. Sometimes you have to give one of them a slap. It’s stressful.
TOBY: Don’t you find it stressful?
ALAN: I hate it when there are kiddies in. People get extra aggro then.
TOBY: Understandable, I suppose.
TOBY: Of course ‘understandable’. Al, we turn up out of the blue and smash up their toilet. How would you feel?
ALAN: I wouldn’t live in a rat-infested shit-hole like this. I’d’ve done better for my family. I have done better for my family.
He opens his bag and pulls out a sledgehammer.
Shall we get on with it?
Your bag in the car, then?
TOBY: No. My bag’s not in the car. I didn’t bring it.
ALAN: You didn’t bring it? What about your hammer? In the boot is it?
TOBY: I forgot it.
ALAN: You forgot it?
ALAN: That was a bit remiss of you, Toby.
Problem, this. One hammer. Two of us. Twenty-four lavs Mr. Neame wants (quotes) “rendered inoperable”. Gonna take more than an hour.
TOBY: I could go move the car off the single yellows.
ALAN: Not really the issue.
TOBY: The backstreets over the way. There’ll be gaps now people have gone off to work…
ALAN: (Underlining his point) Not really the issue, Toby.
How could you forget your hammer? It’s all you had to remember when you got up this morning.
TOBY: Yeah. (Beat) I keep it in the shed. It wasn’t there to remind me in the morning.
ALAN: Neither was mine. Mine lives in the garage.
TOBY: But next to your motor. It’ll have reminded you.
ALAN: I didn’t need reminding. I woke up knowing my job today was to come here and deliver a message to Mr. Neame’s tenants, a message delivered in the form of us – both of us – smashing the fuck out of their khazis.
TOBY: So they’ll vacate the flats and Mr. Neame can sell the land.
ALAN: It’s his to sell.
TOBY: It is.
ALAN: Flats’ll be… flattened. It’ll be a wasteground. More dandelions.
TOBY: And nettles. And pools of stagnant water with clouds of midges.
ALAN: Better than these flats. And, anyway, six months after there’ll be a lovely new Tesco Metro.
TOBY: I expect you’re right.
ALAN: You don’t sound like you’re in favour of a new Tesco Metro.
TOBY: Maybe I’m not.
ALAN: My lad, he loves the clock game. You know- (Holds up imaginary dandelion) You blow the seeds off a dandelion. Tell the time. (Blows) One o’clock. (Blows) Two o’clock.
TOBY: I know the game.
ALAN: You forgot your hammer. It’s your subconscious betraying you, innit?
TOBY: My subconscious betraying me.
ALAN: Because your heart ain’t in the job no more, is it?
TOBY: Is yours, Al?
ALAN: The money’s all right.
TOBY: It’s enough is it, the money? You think Mr. Neame pays us enough, considering what our job entails?
ALAN: Maybe you forgot your hammer on purpose.
TOBY: Why would I forget it on purpose?
ALAN: Because your heart’s not in the job.
TOBY: I’m still here, aren’t I? I’m still gonna do what Mr. Neame asked.
TOBY: Ordered. I’m still gonna do what Mr. Neame ordered.
ALAN: How? You ain’t got a hammer.
TOBY: We could take it in turns.
ALAN: I told you how many toilets there are in this block.
ALAN: Twenty-four. We go in, we have a hammer each, we smash the fuck out of…
Alan thinks a second too long.
ALAN: (Cutting in; irritated) Twelve. Yeah, all right. We smash the fuck out of twelve toilets apiece, we go home. Job done. We share the hammer – it’s like one of us doing it. Might as well be one of us doing it.
TOBY: OK, I’ll do it. I’ll do the lot. You wait in the car.
ALAN: I don’t wanna wait in the car. We do enough of that.
TOBY: Go to a caff then.
ALAN: I don’t wanna go to a caff.
TOBY: What I’m saying is, I’m the muppet who forgot his hammer. I’ll do it. I’ll do the lot.
The two men consider one another.
Alan hands over the hammer.
Toby feels the weight of it in his hands.
ALAN: I can’t believe you forgot your hammer.
TOBY: I know. What am I like?
Toby’s phone vibrates.
Hang on. (He answers) Hello. (Pause) Yeah, he’s here.
Toby stands before Alan.
It’s Mr. Neame. He says you’re to get on your knees.
TOBY: (Deadpan; pauses occasionally to listen to the phone) He says, and I’m paraphrasing here, get on your knees now, you piece of filth. Out here. Full view. Broad daylight. He wants everyone (looks up at the building) – especially this bunch with their long-term tenancy agreements and their legal aid – to know what kind of man they’re dealing with. And what happens to people who steal from him.
Colour drains from Alan’s face.
Make a run for it and he’ll kill your lad.
Toby offers him the phone. Alan takes it. Listens. Nods obediently.
ALAN: (Into phone) I’m sorry, boss.
Alan sinks to his knees. Toby takes the phone back. Talks briefly to Mr. Neame.
TOBY: (Looking up at the windows) Yeah, they’re all looking. Ooh – (to Alan) even some kiddies.
Toby waves up at them.
Awwww. Bless. (Into phone) ‘Bye, boss.
He puts the phone away.
Alan droops his head. Focuses on a spot on the ground. Toby follows his gaze.
TOBY: Dandelion. Growing through a crack in the pavement.
ALAN: Lot of those round here.
TOBY: Be wasteground soon. Thanks to you. And then a Tesco Metro. That must be a comfort.
Alan picks up an imaginary dandelion. Blows the seeds off.
ALAN: One o’clock. First few times we played the clock game, that’s as far as we got. I blow all the seeds off in one go. My lad, he gets bored of this pretty quick. So I play at it. I hardly blow at all. (Blows lightly) And he laughs cos he knows I’m just messing. He knows I can do it in one if I want to. One o’clock. Two o’clock. Three o’clock.
Single yellows. One hour parking. You didn’t forget your hammer.
TOBY: (Shakes his head) Precaution. In case you disobeyed the boss. Got aggro. I’ve seen what you can do with this baby.
Alan looks up at Toby.
ALAN: (Delivered like a curse)Heavy, isn’t it,?
Make it quick.
TOBY: You asked me, Al, if my heart was still in my job…
He places the hammer at the back of Alan’s head.
Yeah. It is.
Snap to black.