Friday, 31 July 2015

Bottles

This week's Faber Academy QuickFic (250 word short story in 4 hours) was based on the following prompt:

I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story. (First line from Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome.)

I was feeling indecisive, so entered three. I have it on good authority that this was the best one. (I didn't win, obviously, but a friend liked this one best.)

Bottles


That is my beach. I sit here with my chin on my knees and my arse on the sand, ignoring the barbecue with that family all laughing together.

But when they dump their rubbish into the sea, I’m the one getting my feet wet to clear it up.

A letter in a bottle. How novel. Bloody hell.

There’s nothing to do but read it now. It might be from a dying kid in France or something. Full of bloody dust and a crappy piece of paper.

The pain of losing his daughter like that. Years and years of her being gone.

Loads of people lose children. It happens. Move on.

A second bottle floats by while I’m still knee-deep.

But it was him. He beat her. She turned up and showed me the scars and the chunk he pulled out of her hair. She kept it.

Once, long ago, I’d been beaten. A wooden spoon with my mother on the end of it. I learned to dodge.

The next bottle is green and small, like an old fashioned one from a chemist.

You never really know someone though. All I knew was his pain that she’d left.

The next is a pop bottle. I open it fast, spilling the grey dust onto the yellow sand.

Charles loved me. My lovely, gentle, funny, loving Charles.

I wait three hours for the next one.

So I’m sending him to you. Because it turned out I never knew him at all.

---------------------

In case you're interested or would like to judge for yourself, here are the other two:

Truth

‘You’ll never guess what.’
‘What?’
‘You know Pete’s not been in?’
‘Yeah.’
‘He were sacked for being a spy.’
‘No!’
‘Yeah!’
‘A spy?’
‘A spy!’
‘God! I’d never have thought it of Pete.’
‘He was using work email to send stuff to competitors.’
‘And they caught him?’
‘Oh yeah. They can read your emails, you know.’

‘You’ll never guess what.’
‘What?’
‘You know Pete from work?’
‘Fat Pete?’
‘No, Tall Pete.’
‘Oh yeah.’
‘He were arrested for being a spy!’
‘A spy?’
‘A spy!’
‘Who’s he been spying on?’
‘Us! He was selling company secrets to competitors!’
‘Really?’
‘Yep. Using work email an’all!’
‘They can arrest you for that?’
‘Apparently so! Fraud innit. He’s not been into work or nothing!’
‘God!’

‘You’ll never guess what.’
‘What?’
‘You know Fat Pete that my ‘Shell works with?’
‘Oh yeah. Drinks in the Pins, don’t he?’
‘That’s Tall Pete. This is Fat Pete.’
‘Oh yeah.’
‘He was arrested for being a spy!’
‘A spy?’
‘A spy!’
‘God! Who’s he spying on?’
‘Us! Police tracked him using his email!’
‘Can they do that?’
‘Apparently so!’
‘God! You’d think they’d focus on those others.’
‘What others?’
‘Them terrorists.’
‘Yeah.’

‘You’ll never guess what.’
‘What?’
‘You know Andy’s bird’s mate, Phil?’
‘Tall guy? From the Fox?’
‘Yeah, right tall and fat with it.’
‘Oh yeah.’
‘Got arrested last week! Terrorist, in’t he!’
‘A terrorist!’
‘Yeah. Who’d have thought it?’
‘Who’d have thought it.’

‘Peter Connolly.’
‘Yes.’
‘Do you understand the nature of these charges?’
‘...Yes.’

--------------------------------------------

Trouble

‘You’re not in trouble, OK?’

She sits with her blue eyes blinking under hair so white it’s almost transparent. Not in trouble.

‘We just want to know what you saw.’

‘I didn’t see much, Miss,’ she says, with that annoying little sniff that she adds to every sentence. ‘I just saw him on the floor, afterwards.’

But by all accounts, she was right next to him when it happened, playing right there.

This one is exuberant, caught up in the excitement of the morning. He can’t stay seated; he has to act it out for me.

‘It was Billy Jessop, Miss! Billy Jessop ran up to him and pulled at his legs, like this, when he was running, like this, and he pulled him, and he fell, and there was blood and brains everywhere!’

There was no blood. That was the strangest thing about it.

This one is a small boy; slight, red-haired and freckled.  His reports say, ‘Always reliable and mature’.

‘He was trying to get away from Billy, so he climbed to the top of the climbing frame and then he fell off.’

But he was found nowhere near the climbing frame.

This one, head in the clouds, tall and stringy with her long, brown hair. She’s wailing and gulping at the air.

‘It was just a game of tag, Miss! It was just a game that we were all playing!’

So there we are. Just a game of tag, that’s all it was. A game of tag.


Pip xxx

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Scarlet Lovers

Faber Academy run a nice little contest on a Friday. This being Thursday, the contest was today. It's quite simple; you get a picture as a prompt, 250 words and four-ish hours. MrMoth of Moth in a butterfly-net fame highlighted it to me, and it's a lovely way for me to try to get my brain working again.

Anyhow, below the prompt and my entry.

qf31_799

Scarlet Lovers.

They had come a long way together, this pair. Running side by side through bright, dewy parks over fragrant grass. Lazy lunches, kicking freely by duck ponds or dockyards, watching the industry of fowl or fishermen as they waved and winked at them. Evenings of tramping through the town, sharing smiles as passing strangers stumbled from curbs and into cabs.

And the nights! Oh God, the nights! Nights spent tangled and entwined, giggling stupidly at every trip and dizzying spin as they leapt and danced! Wandering home, sticky and light-headed from drink and fun, and settling into their dark corner to enjoy shared but silent sleep.

The love never died. It continued despite the wonky eyes, dishevelled hairlines and frayed edges. They accepted the tear together, not questioning the cause, but acknowledging that time was trickling away.

They were always, always together. Never once had they lost each other. It had happened to all their friends at some time or other, but never to them.

She saw it first, dazzling and tall before them, its history displayed in deep crags, missing chunks and clashing repairs. Older than them; perhaps older than time. Born in some distant past only guessed at by this fading duet.

He talked of the foundations of the earth, and they told of distant lands.


She tried to move on, but he couldn’t leave, and fearing the farewell, she stayed by his side. In the end, the ageing pair bared their souls and rested.

Pip

Monday, 22 December 2014

Fortune Favours - Episode 3 - The Pier



It occurs to me I got distracted by a bee or something, so didn't publish the final few of these.

Fortune Favours S1E3
SCENE ONE
ATMOS: STUDIO 3
ALEX:          (CLOSE) So you know what to do, people. We need to be down at the beach tomorrow morning from ten with our scourers and scrubbing brushes. Let’s get our pier back to tip-top condition so when the council consult with us on Friday, they’ll have to let us keep it! You’re listening to Radio Fortune; because Sandyhaven’s fortune is what we make of it.
CHRIS:    And you’re out.
ALEX:      Thanks. So you’re on for tomorrow then? I’ll phone in and we’ll broadcast me from the beach and you from the studio.
CHRIS:    Wouldn’t it be better if I come with you and make sure that the recording is clear? I’m a sound engineer. Why don’t we stick to what I’m good at?
ALEX:      Chris, you can’t put it off forever you know. With just the three of us presenting, we’re really overstretched.
CHRIS:    I know, I know. I will try, honestly, it’s just…
ALEX:      What?
CHRIS:    I really don’t want to.
ALEX:      Nonsense! Presenting’s brilliant! Do you think Paul will mind if I have some of his cake?
CHRIS:    Yes.
ALEX:      He’s been gloating about his cake all morning.
CHRIS:    Which is how I know he’ll mind.
ALEX:      I’ll just have a bite…
CHRIS:    He’ll notice.
ALEX:      (WHILE EATING) We just need to find a handle on it for you.
CHRIS:    On the cake?
ALEX:      On the presenting. Shelly’s storming along with all her new music stuff, and she was just as nervous as you last week. I know; why don’t we both think about what you’d like to cover, and then have a practice this evening? So you’re ready for tomorrow?
CHRIS:    A practice?
ALEX:      Yes. Just a short one.
CHRIS:    With you?
ALEX:      Yes. We can meet at my place if you like.
CHRIS:    OK.
FX:            DOOR OPENS AND CLOSES
PAUL:     What’s going on!
ALEX:     Nothing! We were fine without you.
PAUL:     But we’re suddenly we're campaigning to save the Sandyhaven Pier.
ALEX:       Of course we are!
PAUL:     And you’ve eaten my cake!
ALEX:      Oh, it’s mostly still there! And anyway, you should share. You’ve had cake every day this week and haven’t shared at all.
PAUL:     It’s my cake! And what happened to discussing all of our campaigns in the management group before announcing them on air?
ALEX:    There wasn't time. It came up in the council meeting this morning.
PAUL:     We've all been here since. I literally stepped out of the room ten minutes ago.
ALEX:     The opportunity arose.
PAUL:    It arose the exact second I stepped out?
ALEX:     Yes. Things happen that way sometimes.
PAUL:     You thought that I'd disagree with you on this one, didn't you.
ALEX:      Do you disagree with me?
PAUL:       Yes.
ALEX:       Well then.
FX:                                                DOOR  OPENS AND CLOSES
SHELLY:     What’s going on?
CHRIS:        Alex wants to save the pier.
SHELLY:      Really?
ALEX:          Yes, really. Weren’t you listening?
SHELLY:       I don’t, like, listen to the show.
PAUL:          Then why are you here?
SHELLY:       I wanted to ask if I could move in with you.
PAUL:          (PAUSE) No.
SHELLY:       But you didn’t even think about it!
PAUL:          I did. No.
CHRIS:        Record’s ending.
ALEX:       Everyone shut up!
ALEX:      (CLOSE) Well I hope you all enjoyed that! Let’s follow it up with something bouncy and fun! Jump! I know, everybody stand up and jump for this one! Get on a trampoline! If you haven’t got one, pretend!
CHRIS:    You’re out.
ALEX:      So, the pier…
SHELLY: Sorry, I’m trying to shake the image of all our listeners suddenly jumping up and down.
PAUL:     It’s OK; we only have about four listeners. Three if Shelly isn’t bothering.
ALEX:      Mrs Baker downstairs listens. She loves us.
PAUL:     When did you see Mrs Baker?
ALEX:      I like to stop by and chat with her sometimes. Pass the time of day. That sort of thing.
PAUL:     Why are you chatting to my neighbour?
ALEX:      I’m just chatting. Now, if it’s all so important to agree in committee, let’s do that now. Do you agree that the pier should be saved? Chris?
CHRIS:     Well saving it would make a nice change, I suppose.
ALEX:       Shelly?
SHELLY:   I kind of don’t care. Chris, can I move in with you?
CHRIS:    Sorry, Shelly, I live alone. I prefer to be witness-lite.
ALEX:      Paul?
PAUL:      No. Don’t save it. Pull it down.
ALEX:        Paul!
PAUL:     The pier is dangerous! And it smells. All I'm saying is that there might be something in the argument to get rid of it.
ALEX:     It's a historic monument!
PAUL:     Not really! It's only twenty years old for one thing.
ALEX:      It’s a unique design.
PAUL:     But that's not so much because the architect was a visionary; it's because the mayor who commissioned it was a nutcase.
ALEX:     He just wanted people to be safe.
PAUL:     But the safety precautions were completely potty! Born out of the mind of a completely potty mayor!
ALEX:     Mayor Granger was...
PAUL:     A nutcase! He was so terrified with the vague possibility of someone throwing themselves from the thing that he insisted the whole thing was built two feet from the ground.
CHRIS:   Well he wasn't wrong. Sandyhaven's suicide rate is...
ALEX:     He was just protecting his people!
PAUL:     It’s a terrible pier! You know when you walk along normal piers you can look down and you’re completely surrounded by sea, and despite yourself, you find it a bit magical?
ALEX:      Yes.
PAUL:     Well that doesn’t happen on our pier. Because Mayor Granger’s fear of drowning means it doesn’t actually extend out to sea.
ALEX:      It does a bit! At high tide!
PAUL:     And his need to commit to a five hundred meter length means that it zigzags across the beach, getting in the way.  It's not uncopied because it's brilliant; it's uncopied because it's stupid. It's an embarrassment.
ALEX:      It's our pier!
PAUL:     It's a wooden plank built two foot from the ground, growing slimy with seaweed and gathering the remnants of people's picnics when they can't be bothered to walk them to the bin! Plus, it's so slippery now, that there are signs up telling people not to walk on it. I'm not even sure it can technically be described as a pier.
ALEX:      The dictionary says that a pier is a raised platform, supported on piles, which is built from the shore, over water.
PAUL:    Well there you are then.
ALEX:      Yes. Ours qualifies.
PAUL:     Only at high tide!
ALEX:      Then it qualifies!
PAUL:     I think we might need to accept the fact, that the Sandyhaven pier is not a good example of its kind.
CHRIS:    It could be a good example of what not to do when you're building a pier.
PAUL:     But it could also be a good example of an eyesore that needs to be removed.
ALEX:      But it's our pier!
PAUL:     Alex; it needs destroying!
ALEX:      It needs preserving! I’m going to meet with Mr Stark of the council after this, and I’m going to thrash out a plan of action with him.
PAUL:    Then what was the point of asking us if we agreed?
ALEX:      You told me to!
CHRIS:    The problem is; it's not like people haven't tried to destroy it over the years.
ALEX:      What?
CHRIS:     There have been numerous attempts to set it on fire, for example.
ALEX:      Have there?
CHRIS:    The ruddy thing won't ignite. Not sure why. Might be the wood's too damp now. Might be because of the seaweed. Could just be that the thing's blessed by Satan and he's protecting it.
ALEX:      Who would try to burn down the pier?
CHRIS:     Y'know. People. Just people.
ALEX:       Which people?
CHRIS:      I plead the fifth.
ALEX:       You can't plead the fifth! We're in England; we don't have the fifth!
CHRIS:      Oh. I'm just shutting up then. Oh, hell; Alex! You’re on.
ALEX:      (CLOSE)  We’re saving the pier! Ten o’clock tomorrow, we’re saving it and I don’t care what anyone says! So there! Have another song!
CHRIS:    Nice.
SHELLY:  Very subtle.
PAUL:     Have some cake.




SCENE TWO
ATMOS:                   BEACH
ALEX:      Thanks so much for meeting me, Mr Stark.
STARK:   It’s fine. I’m always happy to speak to constituents.
ALEX:      This is my colleague, Shelly Jackson.
STARK:   Are you old enough to vote?
SHELLY: Er…
ALEX:      You are. She is.
STARK:   Good then. Here’s my card. It outlines the open office hours I hold for anyone to come and talk to me. In my actual office.
ALEX:      Unfortunately, time is of the essence here. I was surprised that the question of the pier was raised just this morning, and demolition crews have been booked for Monday. Seems awfully good service, don’t you think?
STARK:   We are running a consultation…
ALEX:      Yes, on Friday. And yet, the demolition crews have already been booked. Whatever people might think of the pier itself, the democratic process might be shown to be a bit…
SHELLY: Pongy.
ALEX:      Well put. I’d have said rotten to the core.
STARK:   Right.
ALEX:      Probably best that that’s not highlighted to our citizens, don’t you think?
STARK:   Fine.
SHELLY: Wait, I was talking about the pier.
ALEX:      Yes, the pier. That’s the other reason I got you out here. I need you to see the beauty of the pier.
STARK:   (PAUSE) This pier?
ALEX:      Yes.  (PAUSE) OK, Mr Stark, let’s cut to the chase. What, precisely do we need to achieve to keep it?
STARK:   I’m not sure there’s anything…
ALEX:      I refuse to be defeatist! Explain the council’s concerns, and I’ll work out how to fix them.
STARK:   But really I…
ALEX:      Just do it!
STARK:   OK, well, to be entirely honest, the aside from the smell and the rubbish and the seaweed, the main problem we have is the birds.
ALEX:      The birds?
STARK:   It attracts seagulls by the hundred.
ALEX:      They’re seagulls! It’s a beach!
STARK:   Yes, but they’re quite renowned for the quantity of waste products they produced.
SHELLY: There’s seagull poo on our pier.
ALEX:      And you want to destroy it because of that?
STARK:   Over the years, it’s become quite a problem.
ALEX:      It’s really not as bad as you’re making out.
STARK:   Alex, I’m having difficulty breathing just standing here. It’s horrible. I don’t want to get too close.
ALEX:      You’re being silly. The pier is completely natural thing.
STARK:   Human waste is a completely natural thing. That doesn’t mean I want it on my beach.
ALEX:      It’s not as bad as you’re making out! Look, I’ll even get up on it.
SHELLY: Er, Alex, I don’t think you should.
ALEX:      It’s fine! It’s perfectly safe. I could probably even tap-dance on it…
STARK:   Please don't!
ALEX:      (TAPPING) It’s fine. (SQUEALS. THUD). OK, it’s a bit slippery. But I can fix it.
STARK:   Are you all right? Miss Scott?
ALEX:      Fine. I’m fine.
SHELLY: (LAUGHING) I wish I’d videoed that!
STARK:   Here, take my hand…
ALEX:      I’m a bit… grim. It’s fine though. I’m absolutely fine.
STARK:   Good.
SHELLY: Oh, that was awesome.
ALEX:      So what you’re saying is, if we can clean all the bird droppings off the pier, we can keep it?
STARK:   It’s not as simple as…
ALEX:      And the rubbish and graffiti too. If that’s all gone, the pier stays?
STARK:   It’s not wholly my decision.
ALEX:      But you’ll state our case in the hearing on Friday?
STARK:   It’s more of a consultation…
ALEX:      But you’ll be onside. Here, at the beach on Friday.
STARK:   Are you quite sure you didn’t hit your head?
SHELLY: She’s fine. She’s always like this. It’s hilarious.
ALEX:      Well? Will you bring them here to see?
STARK:   If I agree, will you let me go home now?
ALEX:      Absolutely.
STARK:   I’ll do what I can.




SCENE THREE
ATMOS:                   ALEX’S FLAT
ALEX:      OK, you go ahead.
CHRIS:    Now?
ALEX:      Absolutely now. Do you want me to count you in?
CHRIS:    No, no. I think I can do it. OK. Here goes (BREATH) Good morning, Sandyhaven. You’re listening to Radio Fortune, because… well, for some reason anyway. How are you? No, wait, that doesn’t make any sense…
ALEX:      No, it’s fine. If a question slips out, just answer it yourself. So if you say ‘how are you?’ You can say ‘I hope you’re all doing well’ or even ‘I’m feeling on top of the world.’ So it’s fine. Do you want to try again?
CHRIS:    OK. Right. Hello, Sandyhaven! How are you today? I’m very fine. Well mostly fine. Actually, I have a bit of a rash on my left ankle that’s starting to worry me a bit. Maybe I should see a doctor? What do you think? I’m not mad keen on doctors myself, what with all the poking and prodding, and the cold hands in sensitive areas, but this rash is really sore, and it’s starting to weep a bit… (PAUSE) How was that?
ALEX:      Good! It was really good! Although, it might be better to perhaps rein in some of the personal details.
CHRIS:    You see; this is what I’m so worried about.
ALEX:      What?
CHRIS:    I’m going to get nervous, and when I get nervous, my mouth starts running off, and then I can’t control what comes out of it, and if we’re really lucky it will just be a string of unstoppable, escalating swear words, but if we’re less lucky, I’ll let everyone know which restaurants I’ve been helping with their deliveries, or what I really thought of my brother’s wedding, or a details of where I’ve left the body. By the way, forget the restaurant thing. It’s all totally above board and thoroughly hygienic.
ALEX:      Actually I’m mostly focusing on the body thing. What body?
CHRIS:    A purely hypothetical body at this point, but if you’d met my brother’s new wife, you’ll understand that might change at any moment! And that’s why I can’t present! I say bad things when I get nervous!
ALEX:      But I don’t understand; why are you nervous now? You’re just here with me. We’re all alone, in my living room.
CHRIS:    (PAUSE)
FX:            DOOR
CHRIS:    I’ll get that! I’ll get it right now! Who could it be! Please be someone brilliant! Oh, Shelly! Shelly! Hello! Come in!
SHELLY: All right.
ALEX:      Shelly? Why are you here? Shouldn't you be in the studio with Paul?
SHELLY: He said he was better off without me, so I thought I’d pick us up a pizza and come here.
ALEX:      And help Chris practise? That’s sweet.
SHELLY: No, I thought I’d ask if I could move in with you.
CHRIS:    Where did you get the Pizza from?
SHELLY: Orsino’s.
CHRIS:    OK then; let’s have a slice.
ALEX:      So you want to move in with me? What a lovely idea! I’ve never had a room mate before! Oh, that would be brilliant, wouldn’t it? We could do each other’s hair and sit up and gossip and share clothes.
SHELLY: Yeah. Actually, I don’t think I will. No offence to you, Alex, but your flat’s a dump.
ALEX:      I like it.
CHRIS:    I personally think you’ve made a very good job of it.
ALEX:      Thank you, Chris. I try.
SHELLY: You know what it reminds me off? Imagine an underground cell in workhouse or an old prison or something like that, and then imagine that Cath Kidson came to visit and exploded in it.
CHRIS:    (SNIGGERS) I’d like to object, but that’s actually really poetic. Good pizza, Shelly.
ALEX:      I’ve done my best.
SHELLY: I think you probably have, but you can’t polish poop. Here, Alex. It’s pepperoni.
ALEX:      Thanks. Chris, do you want to go again?
SHELLY: Rehearsal? I’ll listen.
CHRIS:    Oh I’m sure that’ll help. OK, count me in, Alex.
ALEX:      (THROUGH FOOD) On in three, two…
CHRIS:    Morning, Sandyhaven. Welcome to today’s session from me, Chris Turnup, where I’ll keep you informed about what’s going on around town, and get you up to date on today’s campaign to save Sandyhaven pier from demolition. Let’s hear from Alex who’s down at the beach with the clean up operation.
ALEX:      Oh Chris! That was brilliant! Well done!
SHELLY: Yeah! I thought you’d be well rubbish, but that was all right.
CHRIS:    Thank you.
FX:            PHONE RINGING
ALEX:      Sorry! Hang on… it’s Paul. Give me a second. Hi Paul… yes she’s here with us…. She said you told her to leave… oh… well I’ll mention that to her. Shelly, Paul said he just sent you to pick up his pizza.
SHELLY: I’m not his delivery girl! Besides, he’s getting fat. I don’t get why he’s getting fat when none of us have a wage.
CHRIS:    I suspect he’s getting fat because he doesn’t share his cake.
ALEX:      Anyhow, I’m going to go down there to take over from Shelly.
SHELLY: Do you want to take the rest of the pizza.
ALEX:      I should, shouldn’t I. How much is left?
SHELLY: One slice and two crusts.
ALEX:      Oh. Oh well, that’ll have to do.
FX:            DOOR
SHELLY: All right then. Do you want to have another go?
CHRIS:    OK. I think I’m getting into the swing of things.
SHELLY: Three, two…
CHRIS:    Hi Sandyhaven! It’s still me. I’m still here. Actually, this is quite boring isn’t it.
SHELLY: Yep.





SCENE FOUR
CHRIS:    (CLOSE) So that’s the weather for… I don’t know now. Was it tomorrow? I think it was meant to be tomorrow. But looking at the sheet now, I see it was yesterday’s. So here’s another song.
FX:            BEEP
CHRIS:    (CLOSE) No, sorry, it’s er…
FX:            BEEP
CHRIS:    (CLOSE) Damn it! OK! Here!
PAUL:     And you’re out
CHRIS:    Oh God, that was awful, wasn’t it!
PAUL:     Pretty bad, yes.
CHRIS:    Can’t you take over?
PAUL:     No. You owe me for the pizza. I just don’t understand it; you’ve worked in a studio much like this since you were eighteen. How can you suddenly not know which button does what?
CHRIS:    I don’t know! I don’t know what’s wrong with me! It’s something happens that removes all my memory apart from the swearing and the semi-criminal activity!
PAUL:     Well, let’s keep at it, and if you’re still struggling at the end of the week, we’ll just have to tell Alex no.
CHRIS:    I’ve tried telling Alex no.
PAUL:     You’ll have to tell her no more clearly.
CHRIS:    Have you tried telling Alex no? I think you’re underestimating the strength of Alex’s anti-no force field.
PAUL:     Talking of Alex, should we call her yet?
CHRIS:    Better had. Pass me the thingmejig. If I can’t do anything else, I can at least connect an outside broadcast to the studio.
PAUL:     The thingmejig?
CHRIS:    Just give it here.



SCENE FIVE
ALEX:      Hi there studio!
CHRIS:    (ON PHONE) So how’s it going down there, Alex? (BEEPS) Oh, sorry! Can you still here me?
ALEX:      (LAUGHING) I certainly can! I think we’re experiencing one or two technical difficulties at the moment, listeners! But one thing’s for sure; there’s nothing technical down here on the beach, and no difficulties at all! Anyone who can grab a scrubbing brush is welcome to come down and join us!
PAUL:     How’s the turnout, Alex?
ALEX:      It’s great! We’ve gathered quite a crowd down here! Everybody say hi!
CROWD:                  (LACKLUSTER CHEERS FROM ABOUT 4 PEOPLE)
ALEX:      Yey! Brilliant work, all!
FX:            SQUAKING.
ALEX:      And we’re even joined by our very own mascot seagull! Yes, lovely! Get away!
PAUL:     You OK there, Alex?
ALEX:      Fine! I’m… damn you.
FX:            SQUAKING.
ALEX:      Just… Sorry about that, listeners! I’m down here with our very own sea-shell, Shelly Jackson! How would you say the work’s going, Shelly?
SHELLY: Yeah. OK. Not sure what this brown stuff is. Bit worrying, really.
FX:            SQUAKING.
ALEX:      Argh!
PAUL:     Alex?
SHELLY: She’s fine. She’s being chased by a seagull.
PAUL:     OK.
SHELLY: It really is funny, if you want to come down here and watch.
ALEX:      (PANTING) It is true that we could speed up if we have just one or two more helpers down here. And you know what? It’s a great work out too! So if you fancy burning off a couple of pounds but don’t like the cost of the gym, come on down to the beach! We’ll even lend you gloves and brushes!
PAUL:     Brilliant stuff, Alex. Well done all of you down there.
ALEX:      Does everyone want to say goodbye? Everyone yell now!
CROWD:                  (LACKLUSTER CALLS OF BYE).
ALEX:      (LAUGHING) Well, see you soon, Chris!
PAUL:     It’s Paul.
ALEX:      Really? Where’s Chris?
PAUL:     He’s in the corner.
ALEX:      What’s he doing in the corner?
PAUL:     Er, I think he’s crying.
FX:            SQUAKING.
ALEX:      Got to go, now! See you soon.
PAUL:     Cheerio. Keep up the good work.




SCENE SIX
ATHMOS:               PUB
CHRIS:    Maybe I could just move away.
PAUL:     It really wasn’t that bad.
CHRIS:    I’d have to change my name too. I reckon Alex has some fearsome tracking skills.
PAUL:     She really won’t mind. She covered you well.
CHRIS:    I’m not sure I mean tracker, actually. I think I mean stalker. Yeah. I bet that Alex is some sort of super-stalker.
PAUL:     Seriously; you’re over thinking it.
SHELLY: Hello. How come you’re here? I went to the studio and it was empty.
PAUL:     Chris put together an hour-long automated sequence, and we escaped.
CHRIS:    Even an automated sequence is better than me at presenting.
PAUL:     It really wasn’t that bad.
SHELLY: It was awful.
CHRIS:    Thanks.
SHELLY: You were way worse than I was. It was, like, much worse than I was expecting.
CHRIS:    I'm finding your honesty refreshing.
PAUL:     Shelly, aren’t you supposed to be at the beach? Cleaning?
SHELLY: Alex sent me to get more scrubbing brushes.
PAUL:     From the studio?
SHELLY: No, from the shop. I came to the studio because I wanted to ask you about moving in with you.
PAUL:     I already said no.
CHRIS:    You can have my place, Shelly. I’m abandoning it.
SHELLY: Where are you moving to?
CHRIS:    I’m going to places as yet unknown. I will travel all the lands of the earth in a quest for inner peace. I will seek out tranquillity and be wherever love is.
SHELLY: You know what, Chris? You can be quite poetic when you put your mind to it.
CHRIS:    Thank you, Shelly. So do you want my flat?
SHELLY: You’re really moving?
CHRIS:    Yep.
SHELLY: To travel and stuff?
CHRIS:    No. Really I’ll move to wherever I might get a council place.
PAUL:     Wales?
CHRIS:    She’d find me in Wales.
PAUL:     New South Wales?
CHRIS:    That might be far enough. So my flat is yours if you want it, Shelly.
SHELLY: I don’t. I want to move into Paul’s spare room.
PAUL:     How is the clean up going?
SHELLY: It’s going great. Alex is well on top of it. So; your spare room?
PAUL:     No.
SHELLY: But I’m working now! I have an actual job! I can understand you saying no when I was a tea-girl on workfair, but now I’m a radio presenter! That’s like a proper, actual job, and my mum wants proper, actual rent, and if I’m doing that, I might as well live somewhere where I don’t have to share a room with my kid sister.
PAUL:     You make a compelling argument.
SHELLY: Good. So I can move in then?
PAUL:     No. You see your compelling argument overlooks one crucial point.
SHELLY: What’s that?
PAUL:     You’re still not being paid. Your income, as a radio presenter, is exactly what it was as a tea-girl on workfair. Being under twenty-five, you can’t claim housing benefit, so you can’t afford to pay rent. Therefore, you cannot move out of your mother’s house.
SHELLY: But your spare room is empty!
PAUL:     Actually, it’s got my drum-kit in it.
CHRIS:    You play the drums?
PAUL:     I do. I’m not bad, actually.
SHELLY: But your drum kit isn’t paying rent either! What’s the difference whether your spare room is full of your non-rent-paying drum kit, or a pleasant, clever, well turned-out nineteen year old who knows how to clean?
PAUL:     You’d clean?
CHRIS:    That’s not precisely what she said.
FX:            PHONE RINGS
PAUL:     Excuse me. Oh, it’s the Hell Demon. Hello, Alex, how’s it going…. Yes, she’s here with us… No, we’re at the studio. It just happens to sound like a pub today…. Yes, I’m sure she’ll be right back with the scrubbing brushes…. OK, we’ll see you soon.
CHRIS:    Should we get back to Rat Dropping Central?
PAUL:     You two go. I’m going to meet Alex at the beach.





SCENE SEVEN
ATMOS:                   BEACH.
FX:            SCRAPING ON WOOD.
PAUL:     Evening, Alex.
ALEX:      Hi.
PAUL:     What’s up? Where’s all that Alex Scott fighting energy?
ALEX:      I’m alone on a beach, cleaning a pier that nobody cares about, and a seagull ate my hairclip.
PAUL:     Oh. Oh dear.
ALEX:      Why can’t I get through to the studio? I wanted to put another call out for help, but nobody answered the phone.
PAUL:     I needed to take Chris for a debrief.
ALEX:      Pub?
PAUL:     Pub. Sorry.
ALEX:      Is he OK?
PAUL:     He’s fine.
ALEX:      You need to make sure he knows that everyone makes mistakes. Nobody’s judging him. His best is absolutely good enough.
PAUL:     Yeah. He hates it though, Alex. He really hates doing it.
ALEX:      Hate? Strong word that.
PAUL:     He hates it. He’s a sound engineer, and what’s more, he’s still on Radio Sandyhaven’s bankroll. I’m a bit concerned that Nicholas will hear him, and he’ll lose his job doing something that he really loves in order to do something he really hates.
FX:            SCRAPING.
PAUL:     Alex?
ALEX:      Why didn’t he just say something?
PAUL:     Why didn’t you just listen?
FX:            SCRAPING.
ALEX:      (SIGHS) I’ll talk to him.
PAUL:     What will you say?
ALEX:      I’ll point out that Radio Fortune has three good presenters, and what we really need, is a brilliant sound engineer.
PAUL:     Thank you, Alex.
ALEX:      We’ll reduce the hours we broadcast and stick to peak times. It’ll be fine. There’s always another way.
PAUL:     Thank you. Pass me a scraper.
ALEX:      What for?
PAUL:     So I can clear some of these bird droppings off the historic, Sandyhaven pier.
ALEX:      Don’t mock me.
PAUL:     I’m not. Honestly.
FX:            SCRAPING.
PAUL:     Why do you care about it so much?
ALEX:      My granddad helped build it.
PAUL:     Really?
ALEX:      Yeah. It was one of the last jobs he did before the cancer finally got him. He’d been doing less and less. Well, you know, there’s less and less work for the jobbing carpenter in the high technology world. Everything’s temporary. People don’t repair; they just replace. So when the pier job came in, he had a good income for a whole six months. It was like he was young again. I’d be sad to see all that work go.
PAUL:     Well, let’s see if we can save it, shall we?
FX:            PHONE BEEPS
PAUL:     Text from Shelly. Turn your radio on now. Do you have a radio down here?
ALEX:      Of course I do, but we’re not on air at the moment.
FX:            RADIO
CHRIS:    And now for the crime report. There has been a series of arson attempts at Sandyhaven Primary. Now, whoever that is, please stop it. It’s not big, it’s not clever, and nobody’s laughing. And on top of that, your attempts thus far have been poor to say the least. Not much damage done, so the kids don’t even get a day off school. And besides, Constable McKoy will be randomly patrolling the area, and the people in the surrounding streets have been put on alert, so you will be caught soon. So kindly stop; our children need a place to go to school. Now a little light night music to soothe you into your evening. Ah, Mozart, always good to listen to a genius at work.
FX:            BURST OF MUSIC
PAUL:     Wow.
ALEX:      Let’s go and see him.




SCENE EIGHT
ATMOS:                   STUDIO THREE
FX:            DOOR OPENS AND CLOSES
ALEX:      Chris!
CHRIS:    Sh! (CLOSE) Sandyhaven fire service has reported a quiet night, but have also given a reminder for everyone to check your fire alarms. Come on, people; there’s no excuse. If your neighbour is elderly or frail, offer to do it for them. Show some community spirit. You never know, he or she might offer you a whole cake to take to work and share with your colleagues.
SHELLY: You’re out.
CHRIS:    Thank you, Shelly.
ALEX:      You were amazing! Really, really amazing!
CHRIS:    Thank you.
PAUL:     How did you do it? Hypnosis?
CHRIS:    Nope. I am, you’ll be pleased to know, quite splendidly drunk.
ALEX:      What?
SHELLY: I’m topping him up with single malt every fifteen minutes.
ALEX:      You can’t do that!
PAUL:     Well, it seems to work. I’m not sure how, but it does seem to work.
CHRIS:    Turns out, when I’m drunk, all those hidden secrets I have just go to sleep. It’s great. I even called the police station to get their report without slipping up.
ALEX:      You called the police? Willingly?
CHRIS:    I did indeed. Had a nice little chat with Constable McKoy. You know, that boy isn’t nearly as bad as I thought he was.
ALEX:      Well, good, I suppose.
CHRIS:    And the bonus is, now he thinks I’m an ally. And I get insider tips on where they’re paying attention, and, conversely, where they’re really not.
ALEX:      That’s the strangest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s like you have access to a whole new lexicon when you’re inebriated.
CHRIS:    I don’t know what that means, but I thank you.
PAUL:     Hang on, Shelly, why have you got my cake?
SHELLY: I haven’t got your cake.
PAUL:     You have got my cake. I recognise the cake tin.
SHELLY: Yes, it’s Mrs Baker’s cake tin.
PAUL:     Yes! My neighbour, Mrs Baker!
SHELLY: Yes. My landlady, Mrs Baker.
PAUL:     Oh no, you haven’t!
SHELLY: I have, as it happens.
PAUL:     No!
SHELLY: She’ll rent me her back room in return for a bit of light cleaning and shopping. She’s nice. And the garden’s ace.
PAUL:     I hate you.
CHRIS:    Hang on, I just thought… Mrs Baker… with the cake! (LAUGHS) Oh, I can’t believe we missed it! Mrs Baker! Baking! (LAUGHS LONG).
ALEX:      Are you OK, Chris?
CHRIS:    Mrs Baker! (LAUGHS)
PAUL:     Maybe it’s time to put the station to bed for the night?
CHRIS:    Mrs Baker! Oh God! Hehehe! Oh, now I’m going to sleep.
PAUL:     No, up you come. Let’s go for a nice little walk. Come on Shelly, bring the cake.
SHELLY: Where are we going?
PAUL:     Well, we’ve still got a pier to save.




SCENE NINE
ATMOS:                   BEACH.
ALEX:      So here we are, Sandyhaven, at the sight of the historic Sandyhaven pier. The honest Mr Stark is down here with several of his colleagues, and even Mayor Green, and they’re going to survey our work, and see what they think. Well? What do you think?
GREEN:  Well, it’s sill here.
ALEX:      But we’ve made a really good start, don’t you think?
GREEN:  Well, yes. I suppose it could be considered that. The trouble is, and this is quite a big problem; you haven’t finished.
ALEX:      No. But we’ve started.
PAUL:     We’ve been working really hard.
SHELLY: And people did come and help.
CHRIS:    I have a headache and I want to die.
GREEN:  Right.
STARK:   Well, Sandyhaven, sorry, are we on?
ALEX:      Yes; just speak clearly into the mic.
STARK:   OK, well, I do have a little announcement to make.
GREEN:  Do you?
STARK:   I do. In the early hours of the morning, a new suggestion was submitted to the council.
GREEN:  Was it?
ALEX:      What new proposal?
STARK:   The proposal is as follows. The part of the pier which has been recently cleaned should be saved.
GREEN:  Really?
STARK:   But the end of the pier, which has not been cleaned, is still demolished.
ALEX:      No!
STARK:   The clean end of the pier where it is higher and wider and attached to the promenade should be retained, but it’s use changed.
ALEX:      To what?
STARK:   To an open air theatre stage.
ALEX:      Yes!
SHELLY: That’s not a bad idea.
STARK:   The rest of the beach will have to be cleared to make room for the standing audience, and we’ll put in a new building with changing rooms, a ticket office, and a small visitors centre, where we’ll have a display documenting the open air theatre’s history. We’ve needed to renovate the buildings down here for years.
ALEX:      Brilliant!
GREEN:  I’m really not sure…
PAUL:     I believe the plans suggested the new theatre was named after the current mayor.
GREEN:  Well, well, maybe, that would be… Of course, we ought to have Sandyhaven decide.
STARK:   My thoughts precisely. I’ve had these new plans printed up, and they’re on display in the town hall. Please do come along to view them and to have your say.
ALEX:      Get down there, Sandyhaven. Now, back to the studio, where our brilliant Chris Turnup should have some automated music ready to go, if I just press…
FX:            BEEP.
ALEX:      Sorry, hang on…
FX:            BEEP.
ALEX:      Here!
PAUL:     I think we’re out.
STARK:   Thanks very much for all your help, guys. I imagine we’ll be seeing quite a lot of you.
ALEX:      Absolutely you will. Oh, Paul!
PAUL:     What?
ALEX:      I think you know what.
PAUL:     I couldn’t sleep, and I thought I’d just offer up a suggestion.
ALEX:      It was a brilliant suggestion. Thank you. I’d say this was the first big win for Radio Fortune.
PAUL:     Technically you didn’t get to keep the pier. Now, who wants some cake? Shelly? Fetch the cake.