The Last English Eagle

 

Neil:  aged sixty

Amy:  aged nineteen

Barbara:  thirty to forty

 

Time: 2014 (with some flash-backs).

Setting:  A room in a hotel close to Haweswater in the Lake District.  Bed – chair – table – cupboard - kettle - suitcase.

 

ACT ONE

Black-out.  A sudden loud rustling of feathers and the cry of a small mammal.

Lights up.

A waterproof is hanging from a hook.  A pair of binoculars, a book and a newspaper have been placed on a table.  A man (Neil) has just come in from the hills.  His back is toward the audience as he is looking out the window.  He rotates his head - pushes out his arms - fingers outstretched - splayed. 

He exercises his shoulders - twists - appears to float awhile on a thermal.  Closes his “wings” and turns.  Sits.  Closes his eyes.  A few long breaths.  Then he opens his eyes.  He begins to take off his boots. 

Door opens.

Amy:  Oh!

           Sorry! 

            I thought ...!

            How did you ...?

            I saw you both going out.  So I didn’t expect ...!

She seems puzzled.

            I can come back.  It’s just the towels and ... and topping up the sachets.  I can easy ...

Neil:  It’s fine.  Just do whatever.

She goes into the bathroom with towels - returns with used towels while he undoes his boots.  She looks at him, puzzled.  Her phone pings a message.  She takes four sachets out and puts down the tray.

Neil:  I was hoping to catch a glimpse of him this morning.

            But ... nothing.

She’s checking her phone.

            Buzzards - ravens ...

            ... a stonechat ...

            Year by year there's fewer swallows.  There aren't the insects to ...

He watches her         

            As far as I know he hasn't got a Facebook page.

Amy:  Mm?

Still checking.

            I’ve left you a couple more coffees.  It’ll save you going down the bar.  It’d be stupid to have to pay for one. 

            It’s a mess down there anyway.

           With all the decorating.

Neil:  Have you seen him?

Amy:  Who?  Who’s that?

Man sighs.

Neil:  You at uni?

Amy:  I’ll be starting this September.

She’s distracted - tapping something in – comes back to the conversation.

            I tried to get a proper job but ...

She shrugs.

            There’s only things like this.  A levels don’t let you slip into anything – I shouldn’t have stayed on for them – my only option now is uni.

Neil:  So what you going to be studying?

She’s reticent.  Busy with phone – sends message.

            Mm?

Amy:  I don’t like saying.  People laugh.

Neil:  Why would they laugh?

Amy:  Because.

Neil:  Was that a full stop there? 

            Our son spoke like that.

Amy (making an elaborate gesture)Performing Arts.

            You didn’t laugh.

Neil:  Why would I? 

            If that’s what you want to do.

Amy:  See!

Neil:  See what?

Amy:  That tone.  It’s the one people use when you say.  Like it’s not a proper thing.  Like it’s ... like I’m one of those sad girls you see in the X factor queues.

She checks her phone. 

            And and when you hear them being auditioned they’re crap only they didn’t know they were and their family didn’t neither and everybody starts crying.

Neil:  We’ll see a ...

            ... suicide one of these days! 

Amy:  It’s that – well I think I can ... 

Neil:  Be famous?

Amy:  Not famous.  Not famous.  Just ... 

            Don’t most people want to be famous?

Neil:  “Appreciated” maybe.  “Valued.”  

Amy:  So has your wife gone out on her own?

Neil:  My wife?

            Yes.

           Yes – she has.

Pause

Amy:  That’s the towels and ...

Message comes through.

             ... coffee and ...

She reads the message – smiles.  Leaves.

Man goes to the window, turns.  Looks puzzled.

He sits, puts on spectacles, picks up a book, pours and sips a whisky.  After a couple of seconds he gets up and goes over to the window again - looks out.

The door from the bathroom opens and a woman (Barbara) in a slip enters.  She sees Neil looking through the window - pauses.  Barbara turns her head to speak to him though he doesn't react.

Barbara:  They cover a huge range you know.  The entire county’s their territory.  Further afield than that, I would think.  The chances of one turning up on the bird feeder is pretty slim. 

            Hey!

Neil turns and walks back to his chair.  He picks up a book and reads.  Barbara turns to him.  She speaks and it’s like a telephone conversation – we only hear her lines with short pauses in between.

            Thank you! 

She throws herself on the bed

            Well?

She displays herself mock-erotically.

           Come on.  Step up to the mark sir!

           It’s important we keep to tradition!  You’re expected to tear my clothes off and ... and afterwards we hang a sheet out of the window to show the town I’ve ...

            ... okay the ... sheep then

            ... that I’ve been successfully deflowered.

Neil puts the book down - stares through her.

            ... yes, welI – we might have to improvise there.  I could prick my thumb maybe.

            Alternatively - I could thumb your prick!

            ... Crude?  It’s witty

He smiles - picks up the book again and continues reading

            ... Witty and Crude then ... solicitors for the ....  What’s the matter? 

She laughs – shakes her head.  Speaks more seriously.

            You do this you!  You agree to things and then go all ... regretful.  Well it's too late now mate – you’ve signed up.  The contract’s been filed away. 

She displays the ring on her finger

            We’re wedded.  Welded!

            - Lost

            - What “something”?  You need to be more specific, Neil.

 She gets up from the bed - leans against the window.

            Why’re you taking it so seriously?  What difference is it going to make?

Neil looks up from his book a moment - thinking?  - remembering?

            - Yes, well you take things on and you give things up.  I scratched away my name, matey.

He returns to the book.

            Half of me is gone.  So don’t ...

            Oh!

She shakes her head impatiently and goes out through the bathroom door.

Neil sits up – raises his nose and sniffs like he’s caught a unexpected waft of perfume. 

There’s a sudden banging – it comes from the other door.

Amy:  Mister Lawson!  Mister ...

The door opens.

Amy:  I left my tray of sachets.  I’ll just ... 

            Are you all right?

He’s still sniffing the air.

Neil:  Yes.

          You said “both”.

She clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Neil:  When you came in you said ...

Amy:  'Bout the sachets.

Neil:  No!  Before!  When you came in before!  You said you thought I was out ... out there.  You saw ...?

Amy:  You and ... your wife.  Yes.

Neil:  You saw us?  You saw us?

Amy:  Starting off down the lane.  But ...

She's puzzled

            ... I couldn't have, could I?  You was in here.

            Someone else.

            But ...

Instinctively he has grabbed her wrist

            There isn't no-one else.

            I’ll just take the tray.

She is tugging against his grip but he holds on.  She nods to the bathroom door

            The towels.

They both look down at his hand on her wrist.  Neil realises he’s holding her and lets go

Neil:  Yes.

Amy:  I did change them, didn't I?  Yes, I ...

Neil:  Yes.

Amy:  I’ll ... the tray.

Neil:  Yes – of course.  Mm.

Amy leaves.  He stands thinking. 

Fade.

 

Lights up

The girl is standing.  She has a tray of used food in her hands.

Amy:  I suppose I just ... thought ... you know with it being a double room ...

Neil:  Someone else then.

Amy:  There isn't nobody else here.

Neil:  There’s staff.

Amy:  There's only me at the moment and cook was in the kitchen.

Neil:  The morning light then. Making shadows. 

She doesn't look convinced.

Amy:  My eyes aren’t brilliant.  But ...  I’m supposed to wear glasses.  I do at home.  When I get some money – if I get some money I want to put in for that laser thing you see on TV.

Neil:  I was sharp with you.  Sorry.   I’ve been ... Retirement isn’t suiting me.  I need to ...

            Find things to do.

Amy:  My mum says with the way things are going I won’t be able to retire till I’m eighty.

            Course to retire you have to get a job.  A proper one.  She thinks acting and dancing are ...  Ah!

He looks her up and down.  She shifts a little.  Uneasy.

Neil:  You’ll be okay.  There’s ... you’ve a brightness about you.

            I mean I don't know you but ... you can tell when someone's got ... something about them ... A bit of a sparkle, you know?  They’ll be able to see that – when you go for interviews. 

            There's a lot of youngsters – I’ve interviewed them – as soon as they come through the door – they look ...  They’re dead...  A lot of them.

He looks at the bathroom.

            ... inside.  Their voices are dead.

He looks directly at her. 

            They have dead eyes.  Yours are ...

She looks uneasy

            You’ll be all right.

            I’m used to reading people.  I worked in HR.

Amy:  Are you all right? 

Neil:  Me?

 Amy:  I mean you’re not ill are you?  We had a man about a month ago came here and you could tell he had ...

Neil:  I’m fine!

She smiles awkwardly.

Amy:  It’s just you look ...

Neil:  So where are you going?

Amy:  Mm?

Neil:  Uni.

Amy:  Oh.  Carlisle.

Neil:  Not too far then.

Amy:  That’s ...

Neil:  Yes?

Amy:  Well, it’s just that it’s that bit too close ... for mum to ...

Neil:  In serious danger of your freedom being curtailed eh?

Amy:  I know my mum - she’ll plan unexpected visits. 

Neil:  Unannounced arrival of concerned parent. 

            At inopportune moments. 

            You need to be sure to select your boyfriends on the basis of how well they’ll fit into your wardrobe. 

            Never stash the dope in the dirty laundry cos she’ll take it home to wash. 

            And always leave an unfinished essay blinking on the lap-top.

Amy:  Have you got kids?

Neil:  You need to make sure it’s a different essay the next time she visits.

The girl looks at him.

Neil:  We’ve a son.

Amy:  Ah.

Neil:  Somewhere.

Amy:  Somewhere?

Neil:  It’s a big place.  About the size of Nowhere.

Amy:  Have you fallen out?

Neil:  He’s dropped out. 

            I don't suppose you say that now, do you?  Dropped out

            It seemed more romantic in the old days – “turning on” - tuning in” – “dropping ...

            ... out”.  It just looks squalid now.  It would have been then only we didn’t see it for what it was.

Amy:  Is he into drugs?

Neil:  The nasty one. 

Lou Reed impression.

            “When the smack begins to flow I really don’t care anymore.” 

            The Velvet Underground!

Amy:  ? 

Neil:  ‘s a group.  Back in the Stone Age. 

            The stoned age. 

            Part of a package they sold to the folk back then as ... rebellious.  Heroic. 

            Except they could afford the cost of rehab. 

            It’s a less exclusive drug these days.  

            He’s out there.  Somewhere. 

            Or he isn’t.

Amy:  What’s his name?

Neil:  Stephen.

Amy:  Did you try putting him on a milk bottle?

Neil:  I tried putting him on methadone.

Amy:  I mean ...

Neil:  I know!  Why milk bottles I wonder?

Amy:  I haven’t seen them photos in a while.  They might not do it now.

Neil:  It’d put you off your cornflakes. 

Amy:  I think it was Iceland!  They’ve probably not done it for ages.

Neil:  Starting your day looking at someone’s lost loved one?  It’d make you feel uneasy about your own relationships.  It’d send you off to work in the wrong frame of mind.

 Amy:  You’re strange.

Neil:  Thank you.

Amy:  No, I mean you talk strange.

Neil:  It’s the Northumbrian accent.  People think it’s a speech defect.

He over-does the rolling rs.

            Round the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran.

Amy:  The things you say, I mean. 

            You’ve been here before.

Neil:  You guessed – yes, in my previous existence I was ...  

           An eagle!

He flaps his arms.  Crarcks!  Amy jumps.

Amy:  See!  Like that

            No, you know what I mean.  You have been though, haven’t you?

Neil:  Here?

Amy:  This hotel.  You know your way around.

Neil:  It was a long time ago. 

Amy:  How long?

Phone buzzes.  She focuses all her attention on it.

He waits.

            Yeh – I got it sorted.  I look stupid in it.

            Yeh well there’s stupid and stupid.

She exits with the tray – involved in the call.

He shakes his head - walks towards window - sniffs - turns toward the bathroom door.  He opens a wardrobe – pulls out a suitcase - roots in it for a map – the audience is allowed to see a gas canister in the wardrobe.  He spreads the map on the floor. 

Fade.

 

There’s the sound of a woman involved in sex.  The sound continues long enough for the audience to become uncomfortable.

 

Fade up

Amy is making the bed.  Neil has an OS map spread out on the table

Neil:  Someone was enjoying themselves last night.

Amy:  Mm?

Neil:  Who’s got the room next door?

Amy:  Nobody.  Like I said - there’s only you in the whole hotel.