Betwixt

bowler hats

Wiltshire 2001

YE QUAINT Olde inn was near Winchester. The first night we couldn’t sleep for the late summer heat and the back and forth blaze of sirens along the nearest stretch of road. By the time the three or four police cars had converged just below our window and the guy got slammed over the boot of his car, we were up and about, peeking from behind the bedroom curtains like naughty children who couldn’t or just wouldn’t go to sleep.

* * *

LATER, on the road out of Stonehenge, I noticed something peculiar in the rear view mirror.

“Eh … don’t want to alarm you, but why is there a black helicopter following us?”

“Well,” he replied coolly, “if you look out my rear window, there’s actually five of them.”

And true enough, there was. All unmarked and menacing, flying low in a criss-cross pattern. The farthest must have been about half a mile back. I didn’t think they looked like police or conventional military – logic dictated that they were triangulating for mapping purposes. Nonetheless they did seem to stick to our backs. And they were very very low.

“Is there a base near here or something?” I asked.

“Och,” he replied, “loads of them. The place is riddled. Could be anybody.”

Just as he finished uttering the words, two of the choppers got into line behind the vehicle. One dropped to what looked like about twenty feet off the ground. If my loved one was at all rattled, he hid it very well.

“What is this, a f***ing James Bond movie?” For the next twenty minutes or so, I would have been forgiven for thinking that it was.

After a while, it got tiresome. “This is getting stupid now. They must be bored by now.”

* * *

LATER still, we passed by Winchester Train Station. Shifty looking blokes in bowler hats tried to disguise themselves with newspapers.

“God,” I whispered, “it’s like a timewarp to the Sixties. I thought you were joking about all this New Avengers Stuff.”

“Told you,” he said. “It’s a different world down here, you know.”

Jeez, this entire trip felt as unreal as the one to Washington State two years earlier, when only hours after watching Enemy of the State inflight, my camping trip in a black pickup with a survival expert with OCD and a Ninja Rottweiler became a pastiche of practically every movie I had ever seen. Only then the police were following us, just for sticking out like a sore thumb.

Streuth, are all my holidays going to turn out like this?

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2018

Advertisements

Kiss

lips

IT BEGAN with a kiss. Not a passionate embrace but a soft brush on the cheek.

The feeling of warmth and love from an old friend lingered on beyond the dream and well into the following days …

Like a little seed, the feeling grew and grew until I longed to be with my old friend. All the while, I thought to myself how sublime that Cupid should strike without even so much as the presence of one who I hadn’t heard from in years …

The phone call came three weeks later. He came round for a few beers and we shared stories. He’d sent me a distress flare of sorts three weeks earlier, he said. Yes, I definitely got the message, I said. And then the rest was history.

 

Copyright M K MacInnes 2018

Brothers in Arms

templar

TO THE strains of Dire Straits, I am surrounded by battle in its last throes, a sea of mud everywhere. These fields of destruction, baptisms of fire, I’ve witnessed your suffering, every man has to die …

But not just yet. A trapped horseman is pulled from between his fallen mount and the mire. Am I the one being pulled or the one doing the pulling? I can’t tell which of us is which.

I do not know where I am or who I am other than that I am a man. And I know not how I know but the other man is Rab …

* * * * *

BOTH RAB and I fluttered in the same social circle. For me anyway, the sense of having met before was instantaneous.

It was while walking along a busy street only days after our introduction that I was hit with the cinematic picture of horses flopping about in the mud and an intense feeling of loyalty, brother to brother. I had never had a ‘vision’ with audio before.

Somewhere between a week and two weeks later, I meandered through Leith Links, on my way to the house of the mutual friend who had introduced us. Having never taken that particular route before, I scanned the open green and surrounding buildings. As I did so, got a strong impression of mud where there should have been grass.

The answer to my immediate question came quickly and without the asking. It was my friend who told me that here in the middle of the 16th century, the French had occupied Leith, until they were forcibly removed by the English army in 1560. Like most Scots, I had never heard of the Battle of Leith Links, or rather the Siege of Leith.

A short time later, Rab and I found ourselves blethering – as we were prone to do – like there was no tomorrow. Only this time our conversation took a more spooky turn than usual. Ghosts, dreams, you name it. The situation was ripe for bringing my battle vision into the conversation.

Thing is, Rab beat me to it …

“I’ve been having this recurring dream,” he said. “Well, actually, it’s more like a vision coz I only get it when I’m awake during the day.”

I know what he is going to say. Baited breath.

“I’m in a battle and I’m being pulled out from under a horse.”

I felt my face turn to rubber. It must have blanched, for he said “Not you as well.”

Up to that point, I had told no-one.

I choked “Was it a muddy battlefield?”

“Yes,” came the whisper.

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes

Natividad

cubanflag

IT IS 1961. Tensions between Cuba and America are at an all time high and an Englishman and his heavily pregnant Cuban fiancée flee New York for their lives. The Cubans just want the baby. The Feds just want the Englishman. Who knows what the CIA want …

I’ve written this ‘modernisation’ of the Nativity in a biblical style to give it a more ‘genuine’ feel. It is not a political tale and is not pro-this or anti-that, so don’t be put off by the flag, which is necessary to the story in its symbolism.

CHAPTER ONE

IT WAS Nineteen Hundred and Sixty-one in the year of our Lord. In those days the leaders of America were most incensed that Communism had taken the land of Cuba. So too the new government of Cuba was greatly displeased that America had secretly taken its children on the pretext that they were saving them.

And living in the city of New York was an actress exiled from the land of Cuba called Eva. Her betrothed was an English advertising consultant by the name of Percy.

And it came to pass that two months before the day of their legal union, Eva declared that she was three months with child. By the time she realised that her physician must have made a mistake, it was too late. Percy did not believe that the child could be his, for he was on business far away at the time of its conception. Eva was aggrieved that she could do nothing to persuade him otherwise.

And so Percy made it known to Eva’s father, who happened to be a high-ranking official in the court of Fidel Castro, the King of Cuba, his displeasure, in the hope that he would come and take her away. Until then, he would renounce their betrothal but not put her to shame, instead continuing to keep her, but in a separate dwelling.

One night Percy became so intoxicated that he fell into a deep but fitful sleep on a park bench.

A well-spoken man wearing a fedora and a belted overcoat appeared to him, saying “Behold. Marry your beloved and go to England. She speaks the truth. Verily I say until you, the child is of your seed and you are all in grave danger.”

When he awoke, his head was as if cloven in two.

CHAPTER TWO

FIVE months passed. During this time, Percy forgot about the dream and was too preoccupied with the demands of his profession and the infidelity of his once beloved to pay much heed to the host of vehicles regularly parked outside.

When it was made known to Percy that Federal agents were about to apprehend him for being a Communist spy, he knew that he had no choice but to flee to England.

He found a listening instrument in his apartment but left it in its place.

Meanwhile, Eva’s father had bade his time before he sent an agent of his own to persuade his daughter to return to the land of Cuba and bear her child there. But she refused.

The agent said to her “Verily, if you come with me now, and bear this child in the land of your forefathers, I shall guarantee you safe return to New York.”

Realising that her father had interest only in the child, she kicked her abductor in such a manner and with such force that he might beget no offspring of his own and ran for her life.

Then she pleaded with Percy to take her out of the country. He agreed to this but only on condition that she spoke quietly so that no-one might hear them and promised to have the child given away.

CHAPTER THREE

THE day before Christmas Eve, word came to the FBI of Percy and Eva’s intended departure, and this so enraged them that they ploughed every possible furrow to discover their destination. London they were told. So a Federal agent was sent to the airport to prevent their escape.

Percy and Eva arrived there only to find that they were followed by not one, not two but three men. One looked like an FBI agent, another was the man who had assailed Eva; the third man Percy recognised as the stranger in his dream. They seemed none too pleased that the others were there.

It was for this reason alone that Percy and Eva reached their flight without incident. ‘Twas the last flight before Christmas.

During their journey, Eva protested her innocence anew. But still Percy’s heart was cold.

Once in the land of Percy’s forefathers, they got through the airport as fast as they could to confound the Federal agent. Then when they hailed a taxi to take them into the city of London, where they had booked a hotel for the night, they saw the Cuban agent.

Followed by two taxis, Percy and Eva finally arrived at the Waldorf Hotel, exhausted and sore afraid. But their reservation was not to be found and there were no more rooms.

Percy flew into such a rage that he struck fear into the receptionist, so he was informed by the manager that if they did not leave, they would call the police. Meanwhile, Eva’s pains had begun and snow was nigh.

Their fear made greater by the sight of the third man lying in wait outside the door, Percy instructed the next driver to take them to the mansion house of an old friend in a place called Bethnal Green.

CHAPTER FOUR

WHEN they arrived there, not a soul was to be found, the doors and windows were locked up and twilight was nearly upon them. So Percy, knowing the place from his boyhood, found them refuge in the mews behind his friend’s dwelling house. He looked about him but there was no sign yet of their pursuers.

And once Percy had found a lamplight, he went up into the loft with it, knowing that even though it would guide their pursuers, they had no choice.

And he made for Eva a bed of mattresses and blankets that were packed away in a chest. And once he had made her comfortable, he gathered all manner of implements so that he might defend them.

CHAPTER FIVE

AND it came to pass that the light did shine through the window and betray them.

A voice from beneath them cried up “I know you are there. I am come to help you.”

And when Percy asked why he should be believed, the voice said “I say unto you I am coming up now.”

And when he had ascended, Percy saw that it was the man in his dream. But before Percy could smite him, the stranger put down his weapon and held forth his badge so that Percy could see under whose authority he had come. He was a special agent of the CIA by the name of Armstrong.

And when Percy asked why he was here, Agent Armstrong said “It is classified”.

At that moment the birthing began in earnest.

Then it came to pass that the Cuban and the Federal agent were below them and gunshots could be heard.

And Percy heard the Cuban say to the American that he only wanted the child; the American to the Cuban that he wanted only the Englishman.

But when they heard Eva’s screams, they took pity on her and conspired to cease hostilities.

So the American cried up into the loft to offer their assistance. And once they were ascended into the loft, they put down their weapons and introduced themselves as Comrade Rodriguez and Federal Agent Young.

CHAPTER SIX

MIDNIGHT came and the babe left its mother’s womb to utter its first cry and to the sound of much rejoicing.

From her belongings, Eva took a headscarf bearing the single star on red of her motherland, and in it she swaddled her newborn.

Then she laid her in a drawer filled with hay and blankets, saying “For unto us a daughter is born. And her name shall be called Emanuelle, for she entered this world on the same day as our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And Agent Young pulled a gold coin from his inside coat pocket and pressed it into the infant’s hand.

And Rodriguez drew from his pocket a cigar but pressed it instead into Percy’s hand.

Then Special Agent Armstrong took from his coat pocket a small flagon of whiskey and pressed it into Eva’s hand, saying “Verily, that is the best I can do.”

Percy and Eva thanked them for their gifts. Then Percy whispered to Eva that he would raise the babe as if she were his own.

And Agent Young said “But she is your own.”

And Rodriguez said “It is true. Behold her eyes. And behold her nose.”

Then Agent Armstrong said “While you were away, our eyes were on your house. If she had deceived you, we would have known it.”

Young and Rodriguez voiced their accord, for all he had said was true.

Knowing for certain now that he had falsely accused his beloved, Percy wept.

Then the three agents conspired amongst themselves in order that they might tell their masters the same story.

Before the three men bid Percy and Eva farewell, Armstrong said to Percy “You do know that this is not over”.

And Percy said to him “Indeed.”

And within the hour an ambulance came to take mother and child to the safety of a fine, warm hospital bed.

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2017

The Dalmatian, the Cactus and the Wormery

cactus

ALEX tells me he had a dream in which he has a dog. A Dalmatian to be precise. Only, it leaves him because he didn’t feed it properly.

“Jeez, that sucks,” I say. “If a dog leaves you, you really have to be doing something wrong.”

Nose in the air, bags packed, the Dalmatian says to Alex “I’m leaving. I’m not staying here a minute longer.” Then off he goes, nose down, tail down, into the sunset.

In theatrical fashion, I nearly cry. I say to Alex “Please, I beg you. Don’t tell me any more. This is just too sad.”

The next thing he knows, the Dalmatian is standing on a branch next to his wee suitcase.

Eyes tight shut, I wail “Nooooooooo.”

My mind darts back to the night before when we realised that we had somehow managed to murder a mere cactus through unwitting neglect? After congratulating ourselves on how lovely it looked and how much it had grown? Why hadn’t we thought to look underneath?

I say as much. “Thank God we don’t have kids.”

“And then …”

“No, don’t tell me any more.”

My existential crisis of 2012 … Only weeks after being congratulated by my gardening tutor on how considerate a mother I was to the contents of the wormery I had lovingly set up on my balcony to compost my food waste, I somehow managed to wipe them all out.

Eyes tight shut, I wail again “Nooooooooo.”

“In the end he came back.”

“Aaawww.” Relief.

“With a bunch of other dogs …”

“Aaaaaaawwwwwww.”

“And moved back in.”

“Aaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwww, that’s so sweet.”

“And gave me a big hug.”

“Really? Well, why couldn’t you have just said that in the first place?”

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes

Le Piroquet

parrot

THE SEARING Marseilles heat was a welcome change from the clinging smell of autumnal mildew that permeated Paris of an evening. It was morning, dawn but a distant memory for the flora and the fauna encircling my bedroom window. The sun already seemed high and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. I had just opened the wooden shutter, invigorated by a subtle awareness of the cool air hugging the ground and the soft caress of sun on my face. Better than I had ever imagined life in the South of France to be, the moment could not be more perfect. I felt connected, at one with the whole of Creation.

Sitting on the branch of an orange tree about five feet from me was a beautiful winged creature, a glorious technicolour parrot straight from the pages of Treasure Island.

“Wow, you’re gorgeous!”, I exclaimed.

He blinked at me, as if to say “Yes, I know.”

I blinked too, in disbelief that such an audience had presented itself.

The parrot studied me. I studied back. Who was the more curious, me or him? I looked about to see if there was another soul around. Nope. Just me and the bird.

It flicked its head as if it had a nervous twitch. Just as it occurred to me that he wanted to scratch, he lifted his right claw and did the deed. He squawked in a self-satisfied manner and tilted his head the other way.

I tilted mine and squawked back.

It occurred to me that I should try to teach it to say something funny. How did one say “Who’s a pretty boy, then” or “Don’t get your knickers in a twist” in French? No, that would be beneath me and insult the parrot.

As if he knew what I was thinking, he cocked his head, strutted on the spot as if walking on hot coals, then began to whistle. He articulated three crisp clear notes.

I said nothing. I couldn’t whistle to save myself. All attempts by my father to teach me had failed.

He whistled the same three notes yet again. Still I uttered not a sound.

It was only when he whistled the third time that the penny dropped and I attempted to follow suit. My first efforts were in vain, for I blew like a flat tyre.

He repeated the same notes. I tried again. And again. And again. He persisted until I had mastered whistling all the notes in exactly the manner that he had done.
I couldn’t believe I was actually doing it. At long bloody last, I could whistle …

After a short pause, in which he almost seemed to make a little bow of approval, the maestro whistled again. Only this time, there were four notes. The first two were the same as before, but the third was different and the fourth was entirely new.

In the midst of my euphoria, it was not lost on me that the parrot knew exactly what it was doing. Everything about this strange and wonderful experience made me want to pinch myself. I half expected Richard Dreyfuss to come out of nowhere and a massive flying disk to appear above my head. Close Encounters of the Bird Kind … ha ha. I kept my imaginings simple and settled instead on Simon Says.

But Mister Feathered Smarty Pants was not satisfied that I had got the hang of four notes. Oh no, he piled it on and took it up to five. By the time he racked the level of difficulty up to six, my attention span was shot to pieces and I couldn’t handle all the notes.

He paced about like a disgruntled drill sergeant, then looked at me as if to say “Pfft, is that it?”

Mmm, I could smell breakfast. I shrugged my shoulders as if to say “Mais oui.”

In the blink of an eye my Teacher fluttered off into the big blue sky.

FIN

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2015-2017

Devil’s Pawn

fireplace

ACT I

A TEENAGE boy wakes from a deep sleep surrounded by a beautiful vista, a field of blue and red poppies in a sea of green. The sky is exquisite sapphire. An airship in the shape of a pointing hand flies overhead, emblazoned with red block letters that he cannot read.

A road appears to be going in the general direction of where the finger is pointed. Before the boy has a chance to follow the path, the hand swings in his direction. Thunderclouds form and the sky turns black. Now the hand is pointing squarely at the young man. In terror, he runs as fast as he can.

But the airship chases him across endless fields of dead poppies until, exhausted, he crumples into a heap. The last thing he sees is the ship bearing down on him and the words DEVIL SPAWN.


ACT II

Scene 1

A LOG cabin nestles in a blanket of hard-blowing snow, illuminated by a soft moon. The chimney coughs furballs of pinesmoke. The scene would be idyllic, as that of a Christmas card, were it not for the trio of wolves chewing on a moose carcass just by the treeline.

 Scene 2

THE interior of the cabin is fitted in plush Viking style. Rich tapestries, paintings and animal furs deck the walls. A leather wing-backed chair stands by the hearth of a walk-in open log fire. The date on the state-of-the-art TV unit flashes 01:17, 010197.

A MAN in his early thirties emerges from a well-camouflaged elevator to the back of the living area. Wearing a richly embroidered bathrobe, he pours himself a Jack Daniels on the rocks and falls into the leather chair.

Within a few moments, the sound of a helicopter is discernible. It gets louder and louder, until it finally stops. Seconds later, there is a loud knock at the door. MAN picks up a device, puts it to his ear, then points it at the door.

An OLDER MAN enters wearing heavy ski-ing gear. He pulls up his frost-covered goggles and pulls down his ski mask.

OLDER MAN: Happy New Year, sir.

MAN: Happy New Year. What do you want?

OLDER MAN hesitates and casts his eyes around the room.

MAN: We’re in the middle of the Arctic Circle, for chrissakes. What do you think?

OLDER MAN: I have every reason to be paranoid, sir. Right now the company’s leakier than the Titanic.  Half our phones are tapped.

MAN: It’s clean. Say what you have to say, then clear off. I’m in no mood for auld lang syne.

OLDER MAN: We have a problem at the lab.

MAN: There’s always a problem at the lab. Tell me something new.

OLDER MAN: But this time Austin’s threatening to go to the press. This could blow up in all our faces. What do you want me to do?

MAN: Just do what you’re paid to do. I don’t care how you do it.

OLDER MAN: But, with respect, sir, the public mood is turning. And the shareholders are getting nervous.  They feel you’re taking too many unnecessary risks. You might pull it off once but not twice.

MAN: Don’t be such a wimp. The shareholders have plenty else to worry about if I don’t. I know what I’m doing and what I’m asking of you is perfectly legal. It’ll be my neck on the line, anyway, not yours.

OLDER MAN: You’re out of your depth. You’re not your father.

MAN: No, I’m not. But I will not fail him. And I will exceed him.

MAN does not see OLDER MAN roll his eyes.

MAN: Any news of Hannah’s whereabouts?

OLDER MAN: Your sister?

MAN: Who else?

OLDER MAN: Oh, she’s doing same old same old.

MAN: She’s with the protesters then?

OLDER MAN: Yes, I’m afraid so, sir.

MAN: Yeah, that figures. Just my luck to have a treacherous tree-hugger in the family. You know your life won’t be worth living if you let her out of your sight, don’t you? What about Melanie and the kids?

OLDER MAN: They’re fine. Out of sight. Confused, of course, about what’s going on. Come to think of it, what is going on? If you want me to do my job, you need to tell me everything. I know this is only the tip of the iceberg.

MAN: You really don’t want to know. Just be thankful you have the luxury of deniability.

OLDER MAN: Yeah, you’re right, you’re so so right.

OLDER MAN puts his ski mask and goggles back on and turns towards the door.

MAN: See you when the dust settles then.

OLDER MAN: Yeah, see you. Thanks for the drink an’ all.

MAN: Yeah, whatever.

OLDER MAN opens the door to the sound of the harsh wind. Seconds later the door is shut. MAN is left in silence staring at the ice in the bottom of his whisky glass.


ACT III

Scene 1

TWO New York paramedics push a trolley along a busy hospital corridor at a brisk pace, accompanied by a junior doctor in surgical greens trying to keep up and carrying a clipboard. The patient lies on his side, attached to an IV drip and numerous electrodes connected to a monitor emitting rapid beeps. The digital clock on the wall reads 06:17 PM, Oct 6, 2015.

OLDER PARAMEDIC: Caucasian male, mid forties. Identity unknown. Suspected drug and alcohol overdose. Respiration forty to fifty, heart rate around one fifty. Pupils dilated. Core body temp thirty nine point six and rising.

DOCTOR: No ID at all?

ROOKIE PARAMEDIC: Nothing. The guy that made the call gave us a name but it turns out to be bogus. Whoever he was, he covered his tracks.

DOCTOR: Any evidence of habitual drug use?

OLDER PARAMEDIC: None that we can see. But then he wasn’t at home. We got the call from the director at the Waldorf Astoria, so maybe an occasional coke user, you never know. Only whatever he took, we don’t know what it is. He paid for his room in cash, so no credit card, nothing.

DOCTOR: So what do we know?

OLDER PARAMEDIC: Half a bottle of whisky and an unidentified drug, no label or bottle. We’ve sent four blister packs with the whisky bottle to the lab for analysis. Caution, product sample, not for use.  In case of emergency, please contact Something Laboratories followed by a phone number. The desk are on it now.

DOCTOR: How many then?

ROOKIE PARAMEDIC: Most likely the whole pack. Two thousand milligrams of God only knows what. Ingestion two, maybe three hours ago. It was lucky he was already in the recovery position when we arrived.

OLDER PARAMEDIC: I just hope for his sake this wasn’t a cry for help.

ROOKIE PARAMEDIC: What do you mean?

OLDER PARAMEDIC: He’s too far gone. He won’t make it.

ROOKIE PARAMEDIC: You can’t say that.

OLDER PARAMEDIC: Oh, grow up. I do know it’s too late to pump. Just pray to God that number’s not on answerphone.

Just as the trolley arrives at the surgical room, the beeping on the monitor gives way to a continuous tone. Mad dash. Full CPR.

Scene 2

MAN arrives at the Pearly Gates of Heaven. He is greeted by an impish figure dressed in a
white medical coat and carrying a clipboard.

IMP: Name.

MAN: Name? Sorry, where am I?

IMP: if you don’t know where you are, then you’re in bigger trouble than I thought. Name.

MAN: Rogan. Josh.

IMP: Ha ha. Very funny. Name.

MAN: My name is Josh Rogan. Now where the hell am I?

IMP: Ooh, close. Come this way, please.

IMP leads MAN away from the Gates and down a flight of stairs.

Scene 3

A door opens. MAN and IMP enter. The room resembles a domed greenhouse, glass and flora everywhere. In the middle of the dome is a massive ornate desk, with a leather top and quill and ink. Behind it is a shiny wing-backed leather chair facing away. The person sitting in it is on the phone.

IMP: Josh Rogan, sir. Or so he says.

The chair swings round and the occupant puts down the phone. An older man with a dark brown freckled complexion and fuzzy silver-grey hair beams a perfect set of pearly white teeth.

CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Grenville. Have some coffee. We might be some time.

JOSH’s eyes widen.

JOSH: You, you look like Morgan Freeman … You are Morgan Freeman. Then that means …

JOSH is white as a sheet.

CHAIRMAN: Yes, that’s right, son, you guessed it. You’d better sit down.

A chair materialises in front of the desk. JOSH sits and makes himself uncomfortable.

CHAIRMAN: Sooo, it’s been a while. Have you anything to say for yourself?

JOSH: Sorry?

CHAIRMAN: No, you don’t have to be sorry. I’m not here to judge you. I’m here to help you. Understand.

JOSH: Understand what?

CHAIRMAN: What happened. Why.

JOSH: I really don’t follow. You mean what did I do wrong?

CHAIRMAN: No, I never said that. I asked you to tell me what happened. No right. No wrong. I repeat, you are not being judged.

Long silence. CHAIRMAN remains cool. JOSH shifts in his seat.

CHAIRMAN: I’m waiting.

The colour rises in JOSH’s face. A flash of conflicting emotions.

JOSH: No. No, you’re not doing this. This isn’t part of the deal. There’s been some mistake. I should have gone straight to Hell. Why am I even here?

CHAIRMAN: No, that is where you’re wrong, Josh Rogan. This is by far the best part of the deal. Why would you think otherwise?

JOSH: But I am nothing to you. You gave up on me a long time ago. And I gave up on you.

CHAIRMAN: Ah, yes, you did. But which came first? The chicken or the egg?

JOSH: This is ridiculous. Will you please stop talking in riddles. You’re really pissing me off now.

CHAIRMAN pulls out a cigar from a top drawer.

CHAIRMAN: Tsk. Harsh words for someone who’s trying to get his soul back.

CHAIRMAN lights up cigar and puffs a billow of smoke. Josh stands up abruptly and leans over the desk.

JOSH: Don’t you dare play with me. I don’t care who you are. This is some joke, it must be. This isn’t real.

CHAIRMAN: Oh but it is. Why would you think this is a joke?

JOSH throws himself back into the chair in resignation.
He pulls at his face.

JOSH: Because I’m fucked. My soul is gone. Deal done. Finito. Sayonara.

CHAIRMAN: And you know this how, pray tell?

CHAIRMAN leans right back into his wing-backed chair. His casual demeanour exacerbates JOSH’s nerves further.

JOSH: You know full well. Why even ask?

CHAIRMAN: I want to hear you say it.

JOSH: Say what? That I sold my soul?

JOSH spits the words.

JOSH: That I knew from the age of frickin’ fifteen that I was damned for eternity? Is that what you want to hear?

JOSH is standing up now, in a state of agitation, hands clasped on top of his head.

CHAIRMAN: What happened when you were fifteen to make you so certain of this?

JOSH: You know. The dream. The one where you told me that I was the spawn of the Devil.

CHAIRMAN: I told you that?

JOSH: Yes, you did. You disowned me. From that day forward, you obviously wanted nothing more to do with me.

CHAIRMAN: How did that make you feel?

JOSH: Hey, let me finish. At first I was devastated. I felt empty. Like I do now. But then in time realised that I had been set free. And I owed nothing to nobody except myself.

CHAIRMAN: Then what?

JOSH: Well, you know. I sold my soul.

CHAIRMAN: You keep saying this. But did you really? Think back.

JOSH: Well, what else do you call it? I sold my soul when Father got sick and gave me control of the company. Lock, stock and barrel.

CHAIRMAN: Are you sure about that now?

JOSH: Yes, of course I’m sure. How could I forget something like that? The day my life changed for the better. The day I became somebody.

CHAIRMAN: Josh, there’s something I want to show you.

CHAIRMAN gets up.

CHAIRMAN: Follow me.

CHAIRMAN leads JOSH to an elevator. The 6th floor button is lit up.
CHAIRMAN presses 3rd floor button. The lift door opens and they enter.

Scene 4

CHAIRMAN and JOSH exit the elevator into another corridor. Further along the corridor is an ornate oak door. CHAIRMAN opens the door onto a beautiful vista, a field of blue and red poppies in a sea of green. As they move through the door, the panorama opens up. The sky is blue and an advertising balloon in the shape of a hand pointing a finger is flying overhead. It is emblazoned with the words DEVIL’S PAWN SHOP.

JOSH: What the …?

CHAIRMAN: Sshh. Just keep going.

In front of them is a path that appears to be going in the general direction of where the finger is pointed. JOSH and CHAIRMAN follow the path.

Scene 5

JOSH and CHAIRMAN enter what looks like a quaint small town store. The ceilings are high, the walls lined with brass-handled wooden drawers. The man behind the front desk is bent over as if he is looking for something. CHAIRMAN rings the bell, causing the ATTENDANT to jump up. He is wiry in appearance, and wearing a faded pair of denim dungarees, a striped tee-shirt and a baseball cap. He appears to be pregnant. Around his neck is a fine gold chain with an eyeglass
on the end of it. Sitting in the corner disembowelling a tennis ball is a surgically-enhanced chimp wearing a bridal corset.

ATTENDANT: Oh my, you gave me quite a stir. What can I do for you, sir?

ATTENDANT puts his monocle on. His face lights up when he sees CHAIRMAN.

ATTENDANT:  Oh, it’s yourself, sir. What a pleasure. It’s been such a while.

CHAIRMAN:  Yes, it has. Now, I’d like you to dig something out for me. My friend here would like to see his papers.

JOSH looks confused. As he casts his eyes all over the shop, his brow is furrowed. There is a glimmer of recognition in his face.

JOSH: I’ve been here before.

CHAIRMAN: Aye, that you have.

The ATTENDANT slides a ladder across the back wall, then climbs up until he reaches one of the drawers. He opens it and rifles through the contents. Finally, he pulls out a wallet, descends the ladder and brings the contents to the front desk.

ATTENDANT: There we are, sir, it’s all there. In black and white.

JOSH: What’s he talking about?

CHAIRMAN leafs through a beautifully handwritten document until he finds the page he is looking for. Marking the spot with his finger, he beckons JOSH.

CHAIRMAN: See for yourself.

JOSH grabs the document and starts to read it, flipping back and forth through the pages until he has seen all he needs to see.

CHAIRMAN: That’s the deal. You see, Josh, I have news for you. You cannot sell your soul. It’s a loan. You either repay the debt. Or you don’t. In your case, the term was thirty years.

JOSH: But I’ve always been a bad person. Since the day I was born.

CHAIRMAN: Who told you that?

JOSH: Everyone. My birth parents. The nuns. My kindergarten teacher.

Long silence. Then a jolt.

JOSH: The dream, that was thirty years ago today.

CHAIRMAN: Yes, it was. Time’s up, Josh.

JOSH is calmer now. He is letting the information sink in. He looks like is about to cry.

JOSH: You knew I was dyslexic.

CHAIRMAN: Yes, I did.

CHAIRMAN’s voice is tender. He puts his hand on JOSH’s shoulder.

JOSH: So what did you expect?

CHAIRMAN: Everything. And nothing.

Scene 6

JOSH and CHAIRMAN are back at the CHAIRMAN’s office. Both are enjoying a cigar, only JOSH is smoking like there’s no tomorrow. He is still in shock.

CHAIRMAN: So, Josh, what about the one you had when you were eight? Just before your adoptive father took you out of the children’s home.

JOSH: The one what?

CHAIRMAN: The dream. You know, the one you’ve forgotten. The most important one of all. When you remember it, you will know what your Mission was. And still is.

JOSH: Mission? I have no clue what you’re talking about.

CHAIRMAN: The reason you’re here. The reason you were born.

CHAIRMAN leans forward. His voice drops to a whisper.

CHAIRMAN: The reason I sent you.

Scene 7

JOSH and CHAIRMAN are back at the Pearly Gates.

JOSH: So if this is all part of the plan, why did you allow me to get the wrong end of the stick in the first place?

CHAIRMAN: Because you now have the power to change all of it. To reverse what you started.

JOSH: But I’m broke. I’ll be lucky if I have a roof over my head. I’m finished.

CHAIRMAN: Josh, you are known the world over. You have a voice. Now go. Your mission starts …

CHAIRMAN looks at his watch.

CHAIRMAN: … now.

Scene 8

MAN wakes up. He is in a hospital bed, surrounded by tubes and equipment. A middle-aged woman with a natural golden complexion and braided blue-grey hair sits by his bedside, holding his hand. She calls a nurse.


ACT IV

JOSH is in an office, stretched out on a chaise longue and clutching a cushion to his belly. His coat is draped over the back. Sitting across from him in a leather wing-backed armchair is a balding man wearing thick black spectacles, an open shirt and a pink tank top.

THERAPIST: You’re making good progress, Josh. Sadly for me, you don’t really need my services any more. Maybe we should be thinking of monthly sessions, then once every six months. But before you go, tell me about your dream again. The one you said you had during your coma. I know you told me six months ago, but I’d like to hear you tell it again.

JOSH sits up and starts to put on his coat.

JOSH: Well, as you know, it was quite the most beautiful, the most lucid dream I have ever had. It was like I was really there. I was climbing this mountain, then when I got to the top, I felt such a peace that I have never felt before. I closed my eyes, then when I opened them again, there was all these people everywhere, as far as the eye could see. They just came out of nowhere. They were all unwell or injured in some way. And they just stared at me. And just sat there all around me. And even though I tried, I couldn’t not look at them. And they wouldn’t go until they knew that I knew what I must do.

JOSH is ready to leave. He takes his mobile phone from his coat pocket.

THERAPIST: And what was that?

JOSH: Help them get the future back that I had taken from them.

THERAPIST: What time’s the press conference?

JOSH: Two o’ clock.

THERAPIST: Then be gone. Get the hell out of here.

 

THE END

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2016