MONOLOGUE: On Calton Hill

by John McCann
On Calton Hill

Setting:       on top of Calton Hill, overlooking the city
                    of Edinburgh

Time:           Dusk.  A Saturday evening in the late autumn
                    of 2001.

Character:   JAMESY, 34, Scottish

A Hibernian F.C. scarf and a denim jacket lie on the ground beside him.  Three or four cans of lighter fluid lie scattered across the stage.  His hair and clothes are wet.  He has been drinking.

The only illumination is the reflected orange of the city below.  The sound of distant traffic, sporadic sirens and the regular drone of over-flying aircraft on approach.



And I’m standing there, at the door.  Her screaming at me from the other side and the planes are smashing into the towers in my head, and my spine, it pulses.  Ma feet are wet but it’s not rainin’.  It’s beatin’ down my back like the wash of jet fuel down a lift shaft.

(He thrusts a foot into the air as if kicking an imaginary door.)

Let me see her!

(He smells his clothes, inhaling as deeply as he can.)

I can smell the fumes.  Fillin’ my lungs like a God.  Ma sinuses on fire.  Ragin’.

(He thrusts a foot into the air once more.)

Can’t fuckin’ stop me!  Bitch.  Why doesn’t she get it?  And then her wee face.  Ma wee star.  I can just see her through the letterbox.  Not fair.  She knows it’s me but she’s starin’ at me like I’m a stranger.  Not fair.

(He stares into the streets below.)

Wear proper shoes!  Tramps.

(A mobile phone rings in Jamesy’s coat pocket.  The ringtone is ‘Flower of Scotland’.  Jamesy fetches the phone.  He stares at the screen and eventually accepts the call.)

Hullo? Wee love! Is it you? No. It was coming up withheld before and I didn’t, I didn’t think… Why…? Was it you, love? 

And did you watch your Pop Idol?  I know how you love your Pop Idol.  What, love?  No.  No.  That’s not true, wee honey.  No.  She has no call to say that.  She can’t say stuff like that about your Daddy, can she, eh?

(A flash of anger)  Well, why did she go and do that for?!

No.  It’s ok.  I’m sorry darlin’.  I’m sorry.  No.  Daddy’s not angry with you.  It’s ok, love.  I swear.  Wouldn’t I tell you?  Coz I’d tell you, wouldn’t I?  That’s better.  Can I hear a wee smile there?  No?  Not yet?  That’s ok.  Soon love, eh?

No.  I’m not far away.  You at home?  No, you can tell me.  I’ll not be round again.  I swear.  It’s only… I can see the flat from here.  From where I am.  I can.  Swear.  Remember the burning hill?  Remember that’s what you called it?  Where all the people came wi’ the flaming torches when the winter ends.  I know winter’s only startin’, love, but…  Remember?  We saw it on telly and then you looked out the kitchen window and thought the city was on fire?  You weren’t being silly.  Well, that’s where I am.

You’re trying to see me, are you?  But I am waving.

(He does not.)

No. I am. I’m waving hard. Any harder and I’ll be flying in circles.

(He does not.)

Nevermind, love.  Maybe in a bit, eh?  Here, you do something for your Daddy, will you?  Flash the kitchen light on and off for me, will you?  Coz then I’ll see you from where I am and it’ll be like a secret signal.  Only me and you will ever know about it.  Like you’re sending a message into space for me alone to catch.

Will you do that for me?  Will you, honey?

(He stares into the distance. Pause.)

Brilliant, wee love.  I can see you!  Right across the universe!  All the way!  I can see you!  I’ve got you, wee love. I’ve got you, eh?  No.  No.  You can’t see me.  Not right now.  Cause I’m outside.  No, love.  I’m outside.  There’s no switch to…  You can stop flashing now.  No, I’m not pretending.  Swear.  Wee love…?  You can…  Wee love?  Can you hear me?  Honey?

Is someone…?  Is there…?  Love…?

(Pause. Then flat and quiet.)  Me.

(He fights to remain calm.)

I’m not…  She called me.  I know, but…  Listen…  I’m fuckin’…  SHE CALLED ME!  SHE CALLED…!

(The line is dead.)


(He throws the phone into the distance.)


(From his jacket Jamesy produces and holds aloft a Zippo lighter.  He smiles.)

She’ll see me now, eh?


copyright © 2010 John McCann. All rights reserved.

John McCann is an emerging Northern Irish playwright who lives in Scotland.  His play The Next Of It was read at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh in April 2010.  On Calton Hill is an extract from his new play Dark Sky.

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