by Celine Gibson

Setting:       Second-hand clothes shop

Time:           Present Day, morning

Character:   WOMAN, Pakeha*, early 70s, clothes a little shabby but have been good quality in their day
* Pākehā are New Zealanders who are not of Māori blood lines

WOMAN has brought unwanted clothes from her wardrobe to the shop; she walks with a limp.


(to shop assistant) I’ll put these down here shall I? There’s not as many as last time but enough to keep you going. (bends to glass showcase) Goodness have you started a jewelry line? Those are beautiful earrings. I had a similar pair years ago. They were ruby and pearl droplets, too, but of course these aren’t real rubies or there’d be four figures on that price tag wouldn’t there? Unfortunately mine were clip-ons and I lost one of them, probably at some dance, I imagine. I went to so many in those days…well everyone did. That’s something you young ones miss out on—you know good old fashioned dancing, we were that exhausted, we had no energy left for trouble.

And that’s a lovely necklace. (points into showcase) Jet—that’s the proper name for it, because it’s so black you see. Oh could I try it on? Thank-you…it’s absolutely beautiful. Of course I had a jet myself, we used to refer to them as a jet or jets, everyone knew what you were talking about. My jet was fabulous, it was a double strand with enormous beads in the centre decreasing in size all the way round to the nape…they say men find the nape of the neck the most sensual area on a woman, I know my husband thought so anyway, this necklace is really very sweet but…it would probably go the way of my last jet, into my daughters jewel box. I gave it to her for her 21st birthday, she was my only daughter and I wanted her to have something special.

Have I shown you my daughter? Here she is. (brings out mini-photo album from purse) Isn’t she pretty? She takes after me of course, ha ha, ‘cept she’s darker-haired like her father was. I’ve always been a strawberry blonde, all the Rileys are—”blonde haired, blonde minded Irish women,” Daddy used to say…whatever that meant. My mother always laughed no matter how often he said it…the jets came from my mother’s side. The Riley women were a very handsome lot and the black sat so well against their fair skin. Well I guess my daughter’s broken that tradition…I don’t think she wears the necklace much, perhaps her daughter may in time, though she’s a bit of a tomboy apparently, an only girl brought up with three brothers, they live in Australia now, the youngest boy is fourteen and already has a girlfriend! Can you imagine? Fourteen and going steady. Honestly they’re just babies pretending at grown ups…do you have a boyfriend?…Well don’t rush into it that’s my advice.

Here put these back before I change my mind. (gives necklace back to assistant)

There’s some darling tippers in the window…hats, dear, hats…that black and tan one, very smart. (picks up hat from display table) What my husband would have called a saucy little number—ahh…never hear those words anymore, widowhood’s no joke, I tell you.

I’ll try this on for size, I love hats, winter or summer I don’t care, they frame a face, give a girl a look of mystery. Oh hear me! A girl! Who am I kidding? I won’t be seeing seventy again, that’s for certain…

Oh really? Do you think so? What a lovely compliment for an old lady like me…although I must admit in my day I was considered a bit of a beauty queen. Daddy always said that me and Cathy were the lookers of the family, but then Daddy was a shrewdie, buttering us up for something or other. Cathy was a great baker and I was the outdoor worker—lawns, garden, chief rubbish burner, ha ha…oh and polishing the car, Daddy loved to see his car “looking back at him”…you know like a mirror. Ahh the funny things he’d say.

Now this is a hat! (preens in front of mirror) Mummy used to say you could tell the cut of a woman by the angle she wore her hat. She loathed the way Mary Pickford always wore her hats on the back of her head—ridiculous! “It’s no use trying to pass yourself off as some giggly schoolgirl when you ain’t.” Mummy was right, of course. Now I’ll tell you the gal that knew how to wear her tipper…Marlene Dietrich. That woman wore hats like you would not believe, the brim tilted…so, just like this. Now my eyes are in shadow, very ooh la la! Do you see now? Voila!, the Marlene look (sings with mock German accent) “Men cluster to me like moths around a flame, and if their wings burn I know I’m not to blame, falling in love again, never wanted to, what am I to do? I can’t help it.”…..ha ha, mmm? Oh Marlene…Marlene Dietrich was an actress and singer in the…well, she had a long career—pput it like that. Oh no dear, she’s been dead for yonks…and Mary Pickford? Ask your grandmother she’ll know.

My daughter’s getting married again. I liked her first husband—a gentle quiet fellow…but anyway, it’s going to be in some flash hotel in Melbourne. She’s got herself a wealthy man now, cosmetic surgeon I believe, come in handy for the old mother-in-law, won’t it? No, I’d love to go but the kitty’s not pretty these days…bank account dear…well, of course she should pay for her Mum’s ticket, after all I’m the only mother she’s got but you know how it is…we’re just not very close…don’t know why…look, I’m going to be a very naughty girl today and buy this jolly hat. Violet Riley’s about to paint the town red…

How much, dear?

copyright © 2010 Celine Gibson. All rights reserved.

Celine Gibson lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, residing “most happily with my husband and two cats who are all extremely patient with the lady who hides upstairs for long intervals tapping on my laptop. I write everything and anything but I admit plays are my favourite—probably because it’s the closest I’ll ever get to actually being on the stage.”

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