ACT THREE, in which the writer, defeated, puts the novel away.
In which the writer, defeated, puts the novel away.
At rise of curtain, KATE is discovered at her kitchen table, left. In the centre of the stage is a very large and very old chest of drawers. KATE is alone – for the purposes of this self-indulgent introspection, the audience will forget the husband and small child whose presence would ordinarily preclude the silence of the scene. Her hair is chaotic, and not in a tousled way. She wears a satin nightgown – suggesting a history or an expectation of glamour – and an expression of resignation. In front of her is a bottle of whisky, and a thick, white manuscript.
A thin wall of something like natural light is creeping up behind her, through the curtain, right. The light is weak, and it is unclear if it signals the beginning or the end of a day.
KATE (Her hand on the manuscript.) Well, old friend. This is it. Act three. The denouement. Fin de bloody siècle.
(She wipes the back of a hand across her eyes, sniffs. She is really very awfully sad, see.)
KATE We did our best, didn’t we? You and me?
(A tear, maybe several, fall onto the cover page. She brushes them off and stands, heaving the very heavy manuscript which took a very very long time to write, from the table, and clutching it against her heart.)
KATE What’s that? (Lifting the manuscript, listening.) You don’t want to go? Oh, my baby. Don’t be afraid. You won’t be alone. Everything I’ve ever written is in there too. (Pause.) Yes, it’ll be dark. (Another pause.) Yes, and cold too. I can’t help that. But it wouldn’t be much of an Obscurity otherwise would it?
(Off stage, a letterbox creaks, followed by the thud of papers hitting the floor. Quickly KATE lays the manuscript on the floor, brightening for a moment as she takes a step towards the door. Then she stops, the despair returning. She drops to her knees, and begins to wail.)
KATE Oh agonising hope! Why do you torment us?
(She scoops up the manuscript, wrapping it into her gown, and points viciously at the door. Her voice becomes a growl.)
KATE Leave him alone! He’s not an idiot! He knows as well as I do that good news from literary agents doesn’t come through the post. They would use the phone, damn you, or they’d email. Take your stinking, filthy, photocopied pro-forma rejection letter and –
(She stops abruptly, bringing the manuscripts out again, cradling it)
KATE You’re right. I’m sorry. I mustn’t tarnish our goodbye.
(The light changes, as if the sun has gone behind a cloud. KATE looks over to the window, then to the chest of drawers, which she now approaches.)
KATE It’s time.
(She kneels, and opens the bottom drawer. It is filled with other manuscripts. She finds a place for the manuscript she holds, and carefully lays it down.
The manuscript looks up at her, its hopes and ambitions drained now from its pages, all its youthful self-assurance just a distant memory. It weeps, yes, weeps, for its abandoned dreams, its forgotten promises. And then, slowly, it turns its face away from KATE, its eyes still open, its sad, sad heart still beating.)
KATE Don’t worry, old friend, I’ll visit. I’ll come and hold you, late at night, and spill tears and whisky on your sheets, as I always did. We’ll always be together. But I have to leave you now. The world wasn’t ready for you, my dear, overworked comrade. It might have been your multiple point-of-view narrative, or your under-developed protagonist. Or even the confused political stance, that we never quite seemed to fix. No, my darling, it isn’t a criticism. It’s not you, it’s me.
(She pushes the drawer in to the chest, but it is stiff, and she has to shove.)
KATE Please. Don’t cry. Please. You’ll be OK. (One final shove, and the drawer is closed. She leans her head against the chest, defeated.) We tried. We really, really tried.