by Lee Sutton
Setting: Hospital Café, Hull, England
Time: Day time, November 2009
Character: TERRY, late 20’s, English
TERRY is sat eating a sandwich and reading a newspaper.
Smell don’t they? Not the sandwich; hospitals. Although, there is a very interesting odour coming from my BLT! Not been here since I broke my collar bone at school. Me n’ my mates use to play tag team wrestling on school field. You weren’t allowed to, of course, but to be honest prohibition was never the answer to controlling the inquisitive nature of the playground. The warnings on TV were no use either. They showed you a two-minute montage of your favourite wrestlers; slamming each other through tables, power bombing, choke slamming, applying deadly submission moves and right at the end they’d play that message:
“Please, don’t try this at home”. Fuck right off! That looks awesome!
There’s danger everywhere when you think about it. Front page of the paper again today: “Methadrone ‘legal high’ kills again!”
Fact is we don’t know that, do we? It’s speculation. Nobody wants to look into the facts because they’re afraid to find the things they’re blaming perhaps have nothing to do with the problem in the first place. Look all around you in this place, you see the real danger—smokers, drinkers, unavoidable diseases and then there’s my Mam.
Two days ago they brought her in. Three-thirty in the morning, Dad rings me, said she’d been suffering with pain in her stomach again. To be honest, I didn’t really have a clue what he was on about. I’d spent the previous eight hours pouring lager down my neck at a mate’s birthday party. I meet him at the hospital, pissed as a newt, and he’s disgusted with me.
“Get yourself a coffee for heaven’s sake, you’re an embarrassment.”
Naturally I thought that was a bit unfair. I mean, as far as I was aware the only plans I had scheduled for the following day was “basking in own filth while watching Jeremy Kyle.” But it was the next bit that really tickled the funny bone. He looks me in the eye, shakes his head and he says:
“If only your mother saw you like this.”
Meanwhile, poor old Ma’s lying in a hospital bed, wrapped in tubes and wires while a machine pumps oxygen into her body to help her breathe. Now, Mum—she’s a big lady. Always has been. She complained of similar stomach cramps about five years ago. Doctor said if she didn’t improve her diet, exercise, all the rest of it, she’d be looking at an early grave. Last week, I go home and they’re sat eating a fry up with more trimmings then Santa’s Christmas tree. Embarrassment, he says.
(TERRY takes a bite of his sandwich.)
You know I never truly appreciated the commercial value of catering to the sick before. Take this sandwich—bought it out of boredom than anything else. And that’s where they get you. They’ve even got the doctors n’ nurses acting as salesman. “All you can do now is wait Sir,” “Why don’t you help yourself to something the café.” Genius when you think about it.
I suppose I’ve always had an eye for business. When I was a kid my Mam shopped at those warehouses where you bought all your food in bulk. I’d spend the whole time studying price tags working out how much profit I’d make selling the goods individually. Started with the basics; lolly pops, chocolate bars, crisps. After a few weeks I was the most popular boy in the playground. Everyone was hooked.
I started to expand; flumps, flavoured laces, liquorice, bubble gum, hard sweets, soft sweets, sour sweets, the list continued. Most of the sweets I couldn’t stand myself but when it came to business I figured it’s not about choice, it’s about demand. I had to move with the trends. As soon as the new popular sweets hit the market I’d have them by the bag full at knocked down prices.
Then the school puts a ban on anything THEY deemed unhealthy. All for appearances mind you. Started running a “eat healthy” campaign and set up a tuck shop selling raisin bars n’ cheese strings. I had to sneak in shaded corners to conduct business. When my Head Master found out he threatened to expel me. But where was the harm I thought? The kids got what they wanted, I made a bit of money, everybody’s happy. See, I reckon it was jealousy. That the playground wanted to come to me rather than go to him. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of people loved the raisin bars n’ cheese strings. The point is they should have had the choice. Still, my Head Master always was a stubborn dickhead! Just like my Dad.
He must have been delighted when I was put out of work. I own a small plastering company, employed by the council to regenerate and maintain people’s houses; patching up all the cracks and holes. We’d been contracted for the last few years, never had any problems. In fact they loved our work so much I had to employ five more guys due to all the extra work they put our way.
But you see money’s been tight recently, what with the recession, cuts to be made, and I could tell they were starting to play up. Then a few weeks ago they decide to cancel our contract and hold back twenty-five grand we’re owed for “unsatisfactory work.”
You know what for? One wall! One wall, of thousands, that we’d not even invoiced them for. Now you tell me how you can be “unsatisfied” and refuse to pay for the standard of work on a wall we’d not even charged them for? And because of this ONE wall, I’m twenty-five grand out-of-pocket and my men are out of work. And they call me the criminal!
So you understand I had to find more ways to make money. You understand this wasn’t my fault. Like I said, when it comes to business it’s not always about choice, it’s about the demand.
I didn’t want to be a drug dealer… I had to be.
(TERRY eats the last of the sandwich and crumples the wrapper. He folds the newspaper in half, tossing it aside.)
copyright © 2010 Lee Sutton. All rights reserved. ___________________________________________
Lee Sutton has previously won new writing attachments with The West Yorkshire Playhouse, Hull Truck Theatre, The Royal Exchange Theatre and The Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse. In 2009, he also completed an MA in Writing for Performance & Publication at the University of Leeds. This is an excerpt from his play Yearning he is developing about addiction and blame.