A Play by David Erdos
For Henry Woolf and Susan Williamson
FINCHLEY – AN ASTRAKHAN SAGE
AMBROSE – AN ENCRUSTED ACOLYTE
EDNA – AN ANTIQUE WAITRESS
CHISWICK – AN ANCIENT JUVENILE
This play is concerned with the shortcuts to religion, the need for truth and delusion and the irksome clothes peg of belief. It could have been called SELFSAME JESUS or perhaps, ONE TIME CHRIST.
An old style breakfast cafe somewhere in London. Formica tables and barely formed chairs abound. The space glazed by light, sanctioned in part by the morning. Distant traffic echoes and snatches of music are heard. FINCHLEY and AMBROSE sit, two elderly men, worn but vital. Finchley’s decrepitude is impressive. His clothes and demeanour would stop an interested car on the street. Ambrose rubs his back as if recovering from an ailment. An interminable silence, comically timed precedes speech.
FINCHLEY. It’s late.
AMBROSE. No, its not.
FINCHLEY. The light in here is deceptive. It only looks early, but truth to tell, it is late.
AMBROSE. Truth, eh?
FINCHLEY. Cold fact.
AMBROSE. Well, you’d never believe it.
FINCHLEY. I know. I’m not asking. But it is what it is, take my tip.
FINCHLEY. Anywhere. Its the weather, you see. Its not kosher.
FINCHLEY. Its unruly. Some might say mischievous.
AMBROSE. The weather?
FINCHLEY. The light.
AMBROSE. I wasn’t aware light was jewish.
FINCHLEY. It isn’t. Its catholic.
AMBROSE. What do you mean?
FINCHLEY. The light lies.
(Nonplussed they sit on as EDNA, the Waitress approaches. She is neatly preserved, dodders over in her antique uniform.)
EDNA. Did you want your tea?
EDNA. Only I’ve got your tea standing.
AMBROSE. Then you’d better have a sit, you look tired.
EDNA. No, I’ve got your tea standing, standing there, over there.. You ordered it.
EDNA. But then you didn’t come back to collect it. I thought I’d just walk across and remind you, but then you left it for so long I thought you might have lost interest.
FINCHLEY. I hadn’t. But thanks.
EDNA. So, not all of my efforts were wasted?
FINCHLEY. No, not all of them. Just a portion..
AMBROSE. Perhaps just a little..
EDNA. A little bit..?
FINCHLEY. Yes. Just a tad.
AMBROSE. What with the walk..
FINCHLEY. Yes, that would have made a strong contribution. What with that and the making, and then of course the reminding. That took the biscuit. And a massive bite of it, too.
EDNA. You didn’t ask for one.
FINCHLEY. No. Biscuits make me dizzy.
AMBROSE. Biscuits do?
FINCHLEY. Awful. I once had a bourbon, I couldn’t sit down for a week.
EDNA. I think I will.
(She goes. Slowly.)
AMBROSE. Good job there’s no fire.
FINCHLEY. Flames like a challenge. Its sage to say she’d be safe. (He watches.) Nice girl. I knew her a bit in the old days. I may even have married her. Faces. They get a bit blurred over time.
FINCHLEY. Just a smudge.
AMBROSE. Well, she isn’t fast, that’s for certain. But get the wind set against you and she’d be lost in the smoke all the same. (BEAT) Would you say you were hiding here?
FINCHLEY. Yes. But not in this cafe.
AMBROSE. Well, no. You couldn’t. How many does it seat?
FINCHLEY. The select.
AMBROSE. And yet you admit it..
FINCHLEY. I do. But not, as I say, in this cafe. But in these streets, yes, I grant you. And in this little part of the city. There’s no way on earth I’d deny it. And yet here I am, plain to see. (BEAT) Have you healed?
AMBROSE. I think so. I was on the bus when it got me.
FINCHLEY. Vinegar can work wonders. But what you should be asking is who was it chose the wasp?
AMBROSE. Was it chosen?
FINCHLEY. It was. The wasp is instructive. As are all creatures, all over the world, fish or fowl.
AMBROSE. I sat back on it.
FINCHLEY. Yes. But that wasp was waiting. I know. I saw it.
AMBROSE. You saw it from here?
FINCHLEY. Saw it all.
(The Waitress returns. They watch her coming. She has a plate with her which she gives to them.)
EDNA. Here it is, then.
FINCHLEY. I didn’t order it.
EDNA. Don’t you want it?
FINCHLEY. Not especially.
EDNA. It’s got cheese on.
FINCHLEY. What’ll I do with that?
EDNA. Cheese on toast!
AMBROSE. I’ll GLADLY have it!
FINCHLEY. You won’t! Not before I know why she did that! Why would you do that?
EDNA. Everyone likes cheese on toast! Its the ultimate food in inclement weather. In the great wet and windy. And the clement, too. Cheese on toast.
FINCHLEY. I have dictates. I can’t.
AMBROSE. I didn’t know that you suffered..
FINCHLEY. I don’t. I avoid it. Especially smeared fat on toast! I live a pure life of strict abstinance and obeyance and sidestep the glut and the googly by aiming myself for the snug. I’ll take some porridge, though. Oats.
EDNA. I think we’re fresh out of porridge. I could probably rustle some cornflakes..
AMBROSE. Talk about the wet and windy..!
FINCHLEY. No thanks..
EDNA. Or Sausages..
EDNA. Well, I don’t know what there is I can give you.
FINCHLEY. How about peace and quiet?
EDNA. Everything here comes with chips.
(He glares at her. She goes. They watch her journey. She gives them the finger before moving back to her place.)
AMBROSE. That was very harsh.
FINCHLEY. Harsh is right if one is deliver the message. If it wasn’t for class 2 diabetes I’d turn you both into salt.
(A silence. They sit. Ouutside,traffic echoes. They turn to regard it, but soon turn back. Ambrose smiles.)
AMBROSE. So is there anywhere else?
FINCHLEY. Anywhere what?
AMBROSE. You’d deny it.
AMBROSE. Your avoidance.
FINCHLEY. I’m not sure I know what you mean.
AMBROSE. Don’t you?
AMBROSE. I think you do. And know well. That’s a face that knows. I can smell it..
FINCHLEY. You can smell my face..?
AMBROSE. When I came here – when I stumbled in –
FINCHLEY. You glimpsed light?
FINCHLEY. Very wise. Perhaps you’re going to tell me you smelt it?
AMBROSE. I just smelt something fishy. It was a matter of chance I came in. I usually breakfast at home. But I’ve seen you about, seen you walking. People outside often comment. So I’ve taken the chance to – Well, what should I say? Verify.
FINCHLEY. Yes, but by coincidence.. or by wasp? Because, you see, the wasp was commanded. The wasp was the herald..
AMBROSE. The herald of who?
FINCHLEY. Don’t you know?
(The silence of incomprehension.)
AMBROSE. My interest was piqued if you want the truth..
FINCHLEY. You should earn it…
AMBROSE. And people talk. You’d been noticed..
FINCHLEY. Then it must be my coat. Or my smell. I’m not sure I’d want to stand out. The mysterious way is the smoothest. But if I’m the stuff of talk I will listen until some of that stuff is drawn out.
AMBROSE. From what I’ve heard people say they just want to put the right handle on you.. Are you what they think, just another stray fart in the barrel.. Or are you the barrel with a bit of the froth leaking out? People talk. They obsess.
FINCHLEY. Oh, I wouldn’t want to be an obsession. I work undercover.
AMBROSE. Undercover of what; darkness? Quilt?
FINCHLEY. Definitely not quilt.
AMBROSE. I see.
FINCHLEY. But that’s not nearly enough to define me. That sort of thing won’t propel me. I need a few more wheels on my bus.
AMBROSE. But you can’t stay here!
FINCHLEY. Why not?
AMBROSE. If you’ve got something to prove, you should prove it! You can’t just waft!
FINCHLEY. I like wafting..especially in front of those who would watch!
AMBROSE. You like it here?
FINCHLEY. Yes! I enjoy their stupefaction! Do you really believe I’d not noticed? I relish the way that they stare. An eccentric old man, come to teach them a lesson.. but are they the receptive or just the corner dunce through their stares? Let them tongue-wag and obsess, as I command the flies and wasps as my heralds!
AMBROSE. As your heralds? Jesus!
FINCHLEY. And what would be –
FINCHLEY. Wrong with that?
AMBROSE. Because people would know that you’re mad and then they’d send others to get you..
FINCHLEY. They have before and they will do, time after time. That I know. Until then I relax. And choose to do so in this cafe. What’s wrong with that? Don’t you like it?
AMBROSE. Its hardly appropriate..!
FINCHLEY. Well, I love it. Who couldn’t love it? Biscuits and tea, all on tap! Or near the tap, anyway. Certainly close enough should I want them. Not that I want them, or ever overstate my own case. A man needs a place in which he can scrutinise others. His own case, his castle. His secular monastery. The spot where the nut can be cracked and once its cracked, contemplated. The locale. The Headquarters from which the rocket launch can be made. I see so much sitting here. Things. Some have taste, some have texture. Often, the look of certain things will sustain me and I can sit the whole day through, measuring. I can see it all, from this drum. The entirety of the city. Or on these streets if I’m passing. A piece of old wedgewood china. Or the musical arse of a cat.
AMBROSE. A cat?
FINCHLEY. Watch the arse. It bobs up and down as its walking..it flows in motion making everything else musical. Have you never seen this?
AMBROSE. Me? No.
FINCHLEY. Clearly you don’t scrutinise your surroundings. Clearly you do not stop to question the flow and the weave of the buds..
AMBROSE. The buds, now?
FINCHLEY. The buds.
AMBROSE. I thought we were on cats and their music..
FINCHLEY. Cats are all music. They are also cunts.
AMBROSE. Cats are cunts?
FINCHLEY. They don’t care. They receive. But then restrict when they want to. They move to the rhythm that no one else can quite get. But they are musical, all the while. Sometimes they’re Beethoven, soft and romantic as they idle upto your thigh. Then they are rich, plush and full and like Mozart, and then in a second, Stravinsky, tearing at you, scratching things! I’ve seen them all. I once had a Duke Ellington pussy. He was all strident rhythms and colourful floors where he walked. Your pussy plays you. And then he licks his conductor.
FINCHLEY. His baton.
AMBROSE. Oh, I see what you mean..
FINCHLEY. Yes, you do.
AMBROSE. I hadn’t thought of it..
FINCHLEY. No, but that’s typical of your species. The animals are the angels that we all read about. They keep watch. They keep step. Some of them even fly like the angels! But what do you do? You castrate them. You have them with chips, or fried egg. They mean nothing to you and yet they have been sent here to warn you. Every single day they remind you, reflecting what you were, what you are.
AMBROSE. Me, personally?
FINCHLEY. All.. of the so called human behaviour, running like a film strip, and close enough to the eye..
AMBROSE. Listen –
FINCHLEY. Why is ones gaze known as the naked eye? Can you answer? Because to see clearly is to see pretence stripped! Stripped, I say! Peeled! I see it all from this cafe. You should attend to my gospel. You could do a lot worse, that’s for sure!
AMBROSE (TAKEN ABACK) ..I am.
FINCHLEY. The city is displayed and I can see the full contradiction… They replaced the walls of the temple and onto these are projected all of the past’s low facades… I can see Lyon’s Cornerhouse and the stall they had that sold treacle… I can see the truth’s crumpled pages snagging censorship’s gate! I can see eels ferrying their messages of shit along rivers..I can see squirrels burying the full evidence! I can see Vera Lynn and the white cliffs of Dover – they were bitten into, I tell you! Bitten by God! Who spat back!
AMBROSE. God did?
FINCHLEY. Yes, you’ll only just feel it now.. this is what I have come here to tell you! The wind and the rain, God’s saliva, staining the floors of each town! Acid rain in some parts where He feels particular anger..this is not the water in kisses, the water of tea! It is tar! Black oil, raining down, with or without the appropriate colour! It darkens the heart! The Eel rises, before expunging his word! Read your shit!
FINCHLEY. Read your shit! It was in the coffeecake and the buzzbombs..behind all you ate to cover or drown out the word – it was there! The warning was sent! Who is there to left to receive it? Who is there left to resolve it! Who is there left to refute? I see it all! I may almost stand – LET ME TELL YOU! THIS IS MY MISSION! THIS IS MY CUP OF TEA!
(The Waitress returns. She sits across and stares at him.)
AMBROSE. Are you alright, dear?
EDNA. He’s glowing. I can see it, sitting here.
AMBROSE. Is he?
EDNA (POINTS) There.
AMBROSE. Where? I can’t see…
FINCHLEY. You know, you’re not the first girl who’s said that.
AMBROSE. Who was the last?
FINCHLEY. If I told you..She who loved blindly would stand unmasked before God.
We attend the Lords of Lunch.
AMBROSE. Great. What time is it now?
EDNA. Half past seven.
AMBROSE. Lords, then, in waiting.
FINCHLEY. And ladies, too.
EDNA. His teeth gleam.
The same – with the three of them sitting. Apart from CHISWICK who joins them. He is elderly also and sits next to Ambrose.
AMBROSE. I’ve brought my son along.
AMBROSE. I thought he might help to confirm you.
FINCHLEY. I’m not at all sure that’s what’s needed.
AMBROSE. Nevertheless, it all helps.
AMBROSE. For three.
CHISWICK. I’m still deciding.
(She gets up and moves over.)
EDNA. Well, let me know. Once I get there I can’t be changing everything that goes on…
(She mutters on..)
FINCHLEY. Your son, you say..?
AMBROSE. Born and bred.
CHISWICK. Pride and joy. Since the first day.
FINCHLEY. You must be tired..
CHISWICK. I’m the expression of his doubts.
FINCHLEY. Are you now?
CHISWICK. My Dad says you’ve said things. ‘In eloquence,’ as he called it. You’ve made claims, observations..prophecied photostats. People have talked and as you can see, we’re established. We areof these people and all of them want to know. So, I’m here to decide if you can really open up what you’ve posted. You need to display that you’ve risen. You need to batter down for the fight..
FINCHLEY. I do, do I?
FINCHLEY. Well, listen, son..if I do it..
FINCHLEY. When I do it, you’re really going to know you’ve been stood. As will they all, all over the district. And not just the district, the Manor. The Bordergate. The ploughed field. They’ll know everywhere. The Spurs will have to put up a banner. The Hammers, too. And the Gunners. And the good old –
FINCHLEY. C of E.
EDNA. Its standing here.
EDNA. The tea. Come and get it.
AMBROSE. Why don’t you bring it?
EDNA. I don’t want to walk over there. Its a lot of bother and fuss, unless you can provide me good reason.
FINCHLEY. Can we provide her good reason?
CHISWICK. No, what can you? What can you?
FINCHLEY (SIGHS) If you bring me your sick I will try to dispel them. If you bring me your sundry I will do my best to clean up. Forgiveness for all, but at a cost: true commitment. That’s the bit they find testing. When you spread the word, it all fails.
AMBROSE. Why, what happens?
FINCHLEY. They stick, that’s if you insist on their thinking. This changes too as you travel. What saves souls in Tooting is not what they need in Southend.
CHISWICK. Why, what did they need there?
FINCHLEY. Not much. They’re pretty much fucked, if I’m honest.
CHISWICK. Then what about Bath, Bristol, Brighton?
FINCHLEY. Brighton’s besmirched. Nagged by sea. Its had all this time with sea’s copyright chipping at it. A constant chewing. A constant cold grey at the tits. Hastings. Eastbourne. The cannibalism of seagulls. Seagulls eating Seagulls because they want to go to Bombay. Or anywhere hot. The constant cold has erased them. And below them pale people are clinging to gentrified restaurants. I have toured these places. I’ve seen their Go-kart rides and their Poundshops. I’ve eyed their plunder and I have found it all circumspect. If you want me to stand then know that my gaze will confound you. Your heart will be up on the waltzer while what remains of your knackers will be ghost train bound, wait and see.
CHISWICK. Will they?
FINCHLEY. They will. As has been written. I’m an old man. Come and test me.
CHISWICK. Ok I will.
FINCHLEY. Where’s his manners? I’ve been all over the world. Who is he?
AMBROSE. Don’t blame him. He’s –
AMBROSE. Just a crazy cock, aren’t you, Chiswick?
EDNA. Is that his name?
CHISWICK. I’m called Chiswick.
AMBROSE. Yes. He was born there.
FINCHLEY. Is your place of birth a life label?
AMBROSE. His Mother liked it.
FINCHLEY. Oh, a Mothers boy..
FINCHLEY. Pretty boy..
EDNA. He isn’t!
CHISWICK. Look, you – I’m not a parochial prat, let me tell you! I’ve been all over!
FINCHLEY. All over where?
AMBROSE. Scotland. Twice.
CHISWICK. I’ve seen more.
AMBROSE. A day trip from school. He was seven.
EDNA. He isn’t now!
CHISWICK. But I’ve travelled!
FINCHLEY. All the way where?
CHISWICK. To the coast.
FINCHLEY. The coast, eh?
CHICWICK. The coast.
FINCHLEY. And you think you can challenge me, do you sunshine? Where are his manners? Still on the coach, I expect. (He pauses.) They put a lot of pill heads there.
FINCHLEY. Who then begat homosexuals. Places like Brighton are gaudy because of all of their acid dop Mums and Dads. They were the rats on the ship, or the lemmings of course on the clifftops. After the fizz and fuss of the sixties they wanted the rest of their lives to be smooth. So the sea, like long hair – especially since it was parted – fell across them and over and granted them all scant relief. They kept their old clothes and the tar of Victorian values and found tatty shops there to sell them and in that way, a lost lifestyle that they could then fetishise. They swapped their drugs for cream cakes and wilted away in brown teashops..
FINCHLEY. Not like here..this has colour. Hamburger red, hash brown yellow. Byzantium blue..
AMBROSE. Sorry, where?
FINCHLEY. On her pinny.
EDNA. What, this?
FINCHLEY. Is that what it is, that..a pinny?
FINCHLEY. The shawl of the virgin.
(They all look at her.)
EDNA. Not in here.
FINCHLEY. The world has warped, that’s for sure. But have we warped along with it? That is the question that I try to divine and define.
CHISWICK. As you sit here.
FINCHLEY. As I.
CHISWICK. I what?
FINCHLEY. As I sit here.
AMBROSE. As you –
CHISWICK. What? Loiter?
FINCHLEY. As I..
FINCHLEY. Genuflect. I observe, you see.
FINCHLEY. Plus I notate all the changes. I write them down. Swab the scoreboard. I keep the wicket watched, so to speak.
CHISWICK. Oh, you keep it watched?
FINCHLEY. So to speak. I’m like the KGB, if I’m honest. I’m inordinately fond of the Russian. Communism’s a concept that would easily benefit the right book. The problem is no-one reads. Or perhaps they’d scribbled over the pages. Nobody listens. That’s what I’ve seen most of all.
FINCHLEY. No. THAT’S WHAT I’M TELLING YOU! CAN’T YOU HEAR ME?
AMBROSE. What do you think, charm? Persuasion?
CHISWICK. Possibly urine extraction. I wouldn’t like to say.
AMBROSE. We’ll ask Mum. We’ll get her down here for a look. See what she makes of the problem.
FINCHLEY. So, suddenly I’m a problem??
CHISWICK. Yes, because you persist..on this ruse.
FINCHLEY. This is no ruse. No ruse at all. I assure you.
EDNA. No ruse is good news, that’s what I always say.
CHISWICK. You’re not going to stand, then.
FINCHLEY. I might. When I feel moved. You don’t move me.
CHISWICK. I could try.
FINCHLEY. There’d be trouble.
CHISWICK. What do you mean?
FINCHLEY. Well, a row.
CHISWICK. You mean a fight?
FINCHLEY. More a row. No, I’d say the word row would contain it. And what’s more, a row by the Thames, this fine river..
AMBROSE (JOKES) No, that’s a row, surely!
CHISWICK (TO AMBROSE:) Shut up! (TO FINCHLEY:) A row about what? For what would we row? What’s the trouble? Why won’t you tell me?
FINCHLEY. You’re an impetuous youth. Wait and see.
FINCHLEY. Its a question of belief, afterall, seeing as that’s actually what you’re defending. But the problem of course with believing is that its always a matter of buggerall evidence.
AMBROSE. You mean that faith is blind..?
FINCHLEY. As the mouse.
AMBROSE. I may have to put on my glasses. What about you?
FINCHLEY. I don’t wear them. (He takes out and puts a pair on.) As you see. There is nothing there if I say there isn’t. No view is clouded if there is nothing at all there to see..
CHISWICK. But you’re wearing some!
FINCHLEY. No, I’m not!
(He takes them off.)
EDNA. He’s not now!
CHISWICK. But I saw them!
FINCHLEY. What is it makes you so angry? Problems with girls?
CHISWICK. Bugger off!
(He storms away.)
FINCHLEY. Then I must look to the source. What are the sins of the father? Does one blame the parents, or is it all peer influence? They have a lot of piers on the coast, but sadly, these days they don’t seem to influence anybody. Mostly they crumble. They weep to the sea. Dissipate.
CHISWICK. He’s a fucking lunatic!
FINCHLEY. Not at all. All I do is pass comment. If what I say gleams with madness, then it is the tacky display that’s to blame.
EDNA. The tacky display’s the best part. Somedays they make life worth the living.
AMBROSE. Hang on, she’s coming..
(Once more, the approach.)
FINCHLEY. Have you brought the tea?
EDNA. Its gone cold. Besides, you don’t want tea, now when its truth that needs chasing. I’ve seen you. I’ve listened. And I also understand what’s been said. I represent sense. Feminine wiles, worth and wisdom. You won’t catch me napping. I’ve got doors to open and no end of tea here to waste. I empathise with his words. Something’s been lost from the city. And who’s going to find it? Certainly not those scared to look. You’re also attacking him. Don’t. He’s caused no harm. We look busy. I don’t care for these people..This is one of those rooms no-one goes to.
AMBROSE. Is this a room?
EDNA. Its got walls.
AMBROSE. Yes, but do walls make a room? I mean, surely its attitude..
EDNA. And a ceiling!
CHISWICK. A cell’s not a room. Nor a cafe.
EDNA. Isn’t it?
CHISWICK. No. Its a place.
FINCHLEY. Yes, but a place is made by a sense of occasion..
CHISWICK. This isn’t your argument!
FINCHLEY. How they bicker!
EDNA. Is a cave a room? Or a pit?
AMBROSE. No. Is it?
CHISWICK. Only to the cave or pit dweller!
FINCHLEY. Lazarus’ cave was his coffin, until he woke – Voila: Room!
AMBROSE. Ah, very slick. I see you’ve turned our minds to religion.
CHISWICK. Mine hasn’t.
FINCHLEY. You’re doubtful. And doubt is the courdroy to religion’s lace and cheesecloth.
CHISWICK. I don’t see the twain.
EDNA. The twain of thought!
FINCHLEY. Its the same material, Chiswick. Doubt’s a religion. It has its own piety. Its own fervour. Its creed. You call your priests the High Sceptics. You search for absence because you want to contrast and combine. You would love a deep truth but are scared that you won’t understand it. And so you fudge and fickle and leave the clearest path upto us.
FINCHLEY. He and me. I. Us. Altogether.
EDNA. I’ve always loved music. If you’re about to sing, count me in.
CHISWICK (VICIOUS) What are you doing here?
CHISWICK. Are you deliberately trying to distract or disturb us? With your wiles, what and wisdom? Because I don’t actually see anything! I’m trying to get to the truth of whatever this supposed sage is saying. This fucking joseph in his astonishinhg coat of shit colour..!
EDNA. Oh, and yours –
EDNA. ..is special?
EDNA. You think yours is the cord we should pull? Well, all I’ll say is God shame your Mother, because yours is no treacle to drip on my fashion plate!
EDNA. You heard!
CHISWICK. I’ve had a hard life. Look at what I’ve had for a father… Unlike this dreamer. In fact why doesn’t he show us –
FINCHLEY. What? Show you what?
EDNA. And why should he? Veer left! Since when were you the voice of the people?
CHISWICK. I want to know if he’s weathered!
CHISWICK. Come on, apprise us: What’s it been for you, stones or bread?
CHISWICK. Show me!
CHISWICK. Bollocks. You’ve held nothing solid. Or if you did, its men’s balls.
CHISWICK. Gay men’s balls.
FINCHLEY. I could be a Doctor.
AMBROSE. Are you a Doctor?
CHISWICK. A Doctor of cock,mate, he is.
FINCHLEY. He’s a callow youth, isn’t he?
AMBROSE. I blame his mother.
FINCHLEY. When did the young grow so bitter?
EDNA. I’ve got the best part of a pot of tea standing there. For the taste, I mean.
FINCHLEY. Let us sup. Why, we could even break bread together..
CHISWICK. What is it, stale?
FINCHLEY. You’re a charmer. But only of snakes in the grass.
AMBROSE. I’m sorry, but you have that wrong. They only ever appear from a basket.
FINCHLEY. Since time began, man’s dirty laundry has had something of the snake smeared on it.
The same – but somewhat later. They each now have their own table from which to make their statements from.
AMBROSE. Time flies.. and once it has flown, it shits on you. From a great height.
FINCHLEY. It passes.
AMBER. And yet the aeroplane always seems to lumber on through the sky.
(Chiswick checks his watch.)
CHISWICK. Its only nine now.
EDNA. Someone will come in in a minute.
AMBROSE. You would have thought, yes. For breakfast.
FINCHLEY. Have you got enough tea?
EDNA. I’d best check.
(She goes out back. Once more they all watch her. They turn back to the light of the morning. They stare it down, sit back, sigh.)
AMBROSE. It is quiet here.
FINCHLEY. Its a church.
AMBROSE. Or a synagogue on a Tuesday.
FINCHLEY. Mosques, they keep busy. They’re always looking for God.
AMBROSE. The jews don’t. They judge. They’ve grown too used to abandon. That’s the reason why they turn inward, have bald wives and two kitchens. They need the protection and so some of them shag through a sheet.
CHISWICK. Through sheep?
AMBROSE. I said sheets! They shag through sheets! Makes them holy!
CHISWICK. Is that supposed to be funny?
AMBROSE. Its a long time to lunch. Killing time.
CHISWICK. I’d say you just buggered it.
FINCHLEY. Ah. Now that’s a very biblical practise. The frequency of the buggers is one of that books USP’s. Unique Selling Points.
AMBROSE. Ah.. I wondered how long it would take to go Bible.. Fick off, Gideon!
FINCHLEY. Yes, I’ve travelled. You pick up the odd scrap or two on the way.
(The Waitress returns.)
EDNA. I’m alright for tea. There’s a box. So now I’m armed.
FINCHLEY. Glad to hear it. (Turns to AMBROSE:) I didn’t know you were jewish.
AMBROSE. Yes, I’ve been shorn..
EDNA (TO CHISWICK:) So he’s Irish?
CHISWICK. He isn’t irish!
AMBROSE. I had a bald wife of my own for a while.
FINCHLEY (OF CHISWICK:) Not his Mother..
AMBROSE. God, no! He was not born of woman! I mean, look at him!
CHISWICK. Beg your pardon?
AMBROSE. I mean, who could mother that!
FINCHLEY. Who indeed?
CHISWICK. And up you!
FINCHLEY. It isn’t the face that irks as me as the inner acne behind it..
AMBROSE. I’d say he was a bit old for acne..
FINCHLEY. He’s a virtual Dorian Gray of the zit! No, I refer to the smear, the smear of hate growing in him. If this is him young then I shudder to think about what it is he’ll grow into!
EDNA. Gargoyle, or devil!
FINCHLEY. You did say he was not born of woman..
EDNA. It looks like you’ll snip their secret. My sister was the same. She was both. She was a kangaroo job from the pouch, as well as prong mangled. God, it was awful! She was never right, though. She’s loose. She’s 76 and still losing. Nevertheless, she keeps at it. I’ll give her that, give or take.
(They ignore her.)
CHISWICK. I’m not a cesareian.
FINCHLEY. Ah. Nor is it a crime to like women..
AMBROSE. I think you’re confused.
EDNA. He could well be. He hasn’t had breakfast yet.
CHISWICK. Why are we waiting?
FINCHLEY. At lunch, I happen to know, they are coming.
FINCHLEY. You will know them and they are those I must meet. I’ve seen it before. Its been writ. And now we must all read the sentence. Our medium is the message and there is a gospel to guess, acolytes.
AMBROSE. A gospel?
FINCHLEY. That’s right.
CHISWICK. You haven’t got a tambourine in here, have you?
CHISWICK. Glad to hear it.
AMBROSE. What do you mean, acolytes? And of who?
FINCHLEY. Of the soon to be, not the who. The person at stake’s unimportant.
CHISWICK. And are you the person? Is that what you mean?
FINCHLEY. I could be. Or it could be one of us here. He can call anybody.
FINCHLEY. All are surfeit to the will and the wish of the winds.
CHISWICK. So God’s a wind?
FINCHLEY. A strong wind..
CHISWICK (TO EDNA:) Do any of your chips come with bollocks?
FINCHLEY. I am the mouthpiece of the fanfare of horns! Trumpets blasts!
EDNA. Shut up!
FINCHLEY. I am the conduit and the vessel!
CHISWICK. The condiment?
FINCHLEY. Share my hunger as we may not survive after lunch. I feel it now, as a rush and could concede to a sausage..
EDNA. Bread or bap?
AMBROSE. Are there kippers?
CHISWICK. I don’t think they exist anymore..
CHISWICK. Don’t they?
EDNA. We might have the odd tin of mackerel.
FINCHLEY. I could favour fish.
AMBROSE. Its not Friday…
FINCHLEY. As I mentioned before, I’m no Pope. I am only the word..
CHISWICK. Yes, and that word is bollocks!
FINCHLEY. Friend Chiswick your fancy is also swinging low in the wind. Pray, Virgin –
FINCHLEY. ..fetch our final plenty..
EDNA. If you’re not a Pope, I’m no virgin! You don’t even know who I am! Everything’s wrong. I spent my declining years in this cafe. When my husband died I decided I’d try and see a little bit more of the world. I’d done my duty at home, pressed and cleaned, packaged children. I’d sent them out and my husband, posted to the great far and wide. Now, I would go and get myself among people. I would polish my contribution. Furnish with tea. Celebrate! I would welcome and warm and offer a small consolation.. in an unfriendly world I would guide them to love on a plate or in cups! Now you’ve come here to tell me its over! What was my purpose?
FINCHLEY. Your purpose, dear girl was for now.
FINCHLEY. For this, yes.
EDNA. I’ve never had the pioneer spirit..
FINCHLEY. You did not need it. You only needed to walk your own streets.
EDNA. And they lead me here.
EDNA. To you.
FINCHLEY. To me, yes.
EDNA. To Finchley.
AMBROSE. This isn’t Finchley!
EDNA. Finchley’s his name!
CHISWICK. Is it?
AMBROSE. Finchley’s a place!
FINCHLEY. No more than Chiswick..
FINCHLEY. A nom de plume. One of several. As my hat landed a different name was begat. I spread the word. I moved on. I was, am a Nomad. And yet I at last settled as soon as I recognised what would fall.
AMBROSE. What did?
FINCHLEY. What will.
CHISWICK. What are you hiding? What’s under the hat? And where is it? And why are we all involved? I didn’t ask to come here..he bloody made me!
FINCHLEY. No man is resistant to what he truly knows in his heart.
FINCHLEY. You see, you really must heal the wound with your father. Your heart knows your answer, but you’ve got far too much of it on your mind!
AMBROSE. Look, none of us convinced. You’re just covering up the conjecture..
FINCHLEY. About your son?
CHISWICK. He’s vindictive!
FINCHLEY. Compare the two books and see judgements on the nature of man as he was. I call it testament temprement, and it comes in two different flavours. First destroy then forgive them: everyone must know what will come! Look deep down in yourself and if you are still unsure let others look, they will tell you.. they will drink deep and gnaw on you and in that gnaw you will know!
CHISWICK. What is he – Are you..?
FINCHLEY. You are lost. I will lead. I can provide you with a purpose, for everyone has a purpose even if that means accepting that they are themselves purposeless.
AMBROSE. Are you saying that we are.. and her?
FINCHLEY. You are all here to witness..
AMBROSE. Witness what?
EDNA. The enigma!
CHISWICK. The witless, you mean!
FINCHLEY. You are three. I am One. Your belief elevates me.
AMBROSE. Where to??
FINCHLEY. They are coming and when they do, you will see.
CHISWICK. See what?
FINCHLEY. They’ll be loud. You will know as you hear them..
EDNA. Nobody comes here. My small mission failed. Only him.
FINCHLEY. You did not fail. They will know..
CHISWICK. BUT WHO IS IT WHO’S COMING?
FINCHLEY. They will come with new names, just as you heard about me.
AMBROSE. I only met you this morning. I’d been stung by a wasp!
AMBROSE. I wanted vinegar for the sting.. I thought this was a chipshop..
FINCHLEY. Locusts too! All the insects! Blood from the sky! Rain and fumes!
AMBROSE. You started talking to me..you said the light was deceptive..
FINCHLEY. I knew what would happen..day into night, night to day..
CHISWICK. He’s a fucking lunatic!
(He makes to leave.)
FINCHLEY. Leave and you lose your chance at beginning! A new and true religion is starting if you make it so! You are the witnesses if you just recognise it! I AM THE WITNESS TO THE FIRST AND LAST SAVING GRACE! Nothing manmade may last! We must submit to the process! As the fire rises let the grill plate dispel who you are! Pass to me all you were! I will surrender it to the keeper! Emerge clean and fruitful for the food in your weeded garden to grow! The tangles persist! The snag’s a conundrum! Free yourselves! Liberation comes with the special acceptance of light!
(He stands at last. They stand back.)
EDNA. There’s that glow again!
EDNA. Look, the glow is returning!
(There is no glow. Nothing happens. It all looks the same. Edna starts to feel quite enthralled. Ambrose and Chiswick are paniced.)
FINCHLEY. EARTHBOUND DEMONS TO ANGELS! WHICH ONE OF YOU WILL TAKE WING? You must be free, I warn you! You must be unadorned to stand ready! You must be as He made you for you to be saved and reborn!
EDNA. I’m ready!
AMBROSE. I’m lost…
CHISWICK. I’m disturbed, mostly..
AMBROSE. Who is it who’s coming?
FINCHLEY. Those who judge and devour! The Lords of Lunch are approaching..!
AMBROSE. So what does that make us?
EDNA. The dinner that never once gets to eat.
(Finchley relieves the men of their coats and Edna of her pinny. He disappears with them into the darkness or into the blazing light through the door. A silence falls. The three eventually look to each other. As one, they look up to the heavens, then back to the doorway and then, realising, into their own absences. Nobody comes. One by one they diminish. We hear the starting sounds of a fire. A possible question forms. End of play.)