Pathways – a play in Progress

Should you have time to read this, I would welcome comment. Apologies for irregularities in formatting. Tinkered for ages but WordPress doesn’t like scripts.

The scenario is Wellington Grove Care Home – a neuro-rehabilitation centre that has relied on NHS funding but has recently had it withdrawn and is about to close. The implications for staff and residents are pessimistic. This is the first scene.

PATHWAYS

EARLY MORNING. RONNIE’S ROOM AT WELLINGTON GROVE CARE HOME. MAY IS FINISHING WASHING RONNIE AND STARTING TO DRESS HER DURING THE CONVERSATION. RONNIE YAWNS.

May                       You’re a sleepy girl today Ronnie – you had bad dreams in the night?

Ronnie                  Yes – yes – I had awful dreams

May                       What did you dream about, Ronnie?

RONNIE TRIES TO REMEMBER

May                       Can’t remember?

Ronnie                 No – no – I can’t remember.

May                      But you know you had bad dreams?

Ronnie                 Yes. They were fucking awful, actually.

May                       Now you use a bad word there, Ronnie. Not ladylike.

Ronnie                   Sorry.

May                        Sorry what? Lift your arms up, let me dry you.

RONNIE DOES SO AND MAY TOWELS HER

Ronnie                   Sorry, armadillo.

May                        That’s not my name. What’s my name?

RONNIE LOOKS AT HER FOR A MOMENT, PERPLEXED.

Ronnie                    I don’t know . . .

May                         Yes you do. May, my name’s May

Ronnie                    May – (SINGS) ‘May-time, playtime, God has given us May-time – ‘

MAY JOINS IN

Both                       ‘Thank Him for his gift of love, sing a song of Spring’

THEY APPLAUD THEMSELVES.

May                        You’re still a good singer, Ronnie.

Ronnie                   Am I?

May                        The best. God gave you a good voice.

Ronnie                   Thank you, darling.

MAY LIFTS RONNIE’S ARMS BACK UP AND APPLIES DEODORANT

May                        No. Thank God.

Ronnie                  Thank God, darling

May                        I suppose that’s near enough for God.

MAY PUTS RONNIE’S ARMS BACK DOWN AND STARTS PUTTING HER BRA ON.

May                        Your sister’s coming this afternoon.

Ronnie                   Is it my birthday?

May                         No, your birthday’s in June. But we dress you in something nice to see

your sister. What would you like?

Ronnie                  I don’t know.

May                        What colour?

Ronnie                  Purple.

May                        You and your purple! You want a skirt or trousers?

Ronnie                   Trousers.

May                        Sure you wouldn’t like a skirt?

Ronnie                   Yes, yes – I’d like a skirt. Is Mum coming?

May                        No, sweetheart, your Mum is not coming. Lean forward.

Ronnie                  When is she coming?

May                        Not today.

MAY FASTENS RONNIE’S BRA THEN SITS HER BACK. RONNIE STARTS HUMMING ‘MAY-TIME’ AND CONTINUES UNDER MAY’S MONOLOGUE. MAY FETCHES CLOTHING AND DRESSES RONNIE. RONNIE IS COMPLIANT WITH BEING HANDLED LIKE A CHILD.

May                    The men coming again this morning to measure the building for the new

hotel.They stare, stare, stare. Ignorant. Just have to work round them.

Suppose they’re doing a job, just like us. Doing what they told. Sit still,

sweetheart.   Everything’s running late. And I got to leave by nine to get

the  train for my  interview today. For The Lilacs. So I can still look after

you, Ronnie. Have to change and look smart. Wonder if they’ll want an old

woman like me. If not, I have to find work quickly. Somewhere I can live in,

like here. Can’t sleep,thinking, thinking.

SHE STROKES RONNIE’S HAIR. RONNIE LOOKS UP AND GIVES HER A WIDE SMILE.

May                Listen to me. Like I got problems … (SHE PATS RONNIE’S CHEEK AND

CONTINUES DRESSING HER)

Did I tell you? I got a letter from my youngest.

You remember his name? Ben-ja-min. In Johannesburg. Wants to get

married! Married! And no money to buy a house, feed a family. I write back

to him, say “Benjamin, plenty of time for that. Not like I need any more

grandchildren. You work hard, get a good job, somewhere to live,” I tell him.

“Then you think of getting married. Leastwise, I ent paying for a bride”.

Enough to pay for him and his brother and sisters. Did I tell you what my

father-in-law paid for me? Four cows. Four cows! Probably want motor cars

now, BMW or a Rolls Royce –

 

Ronnie          I had a Rolls Royce. And a chauffeur.

 

May                – so he can forget it. No degree, no wedding, that’s what I tell him.   Not a

good time for me – all this uncertainty – don’t know where I’ll be by

Christmas – if I have a job even. Heh? What you think, sweetheart? What

would you do without May?

 

Ronnie          I don’t know. I don’t know what I’d do. You’re not going away are you,

darling?

May               All are – we all are, Ronnie. All going somewhere else when they shut this

place.

Ronnie          Shut this place?

May               Yes, sweetheart. It’s not making enough money for the bosses. So Wellington

Grove shut down and they make it a hotel. We all got to go somewhere else.

Patients, nurses, carers, physios – everyone. Even Mr Donaldson got to find

someplace. You, Miss Thomas, are going to a nice new home called The Lilacs.

They got a swimming pool and hairdressers and beautiful gardens.

Ronnie          Really?

May              Yes. A charity home. No Health Service, now. You like to have your hair

done, Ronnie?

Ronnie         Yes! (SHE IS EXCITED AND EXPRESSES IT PHYSICALLY)

May              Stay still, stay still or I can’t get this on you. We do your hair nice today, maybe

a bit of make up – if we have time.

Ronnie        (SINGS FROM “Say a little prayer”)

May             (PICKING UP) “make up…”

Ronnie       (CONTINUES LYRICS THEN CLUTCHES AT MAY) I do love you. I love you.

May             And I love you, sweetheart.

Ronnie        I do, I really, really do love you. You’re so beautiful. Give me a kiss.

SHE PUCKERS UP FOR A REAL KISS. MAY KISSES HER ON THE  FOREHEAD.

May             Bless you. Now, hair.

Ronnie        (SINGS FROM “Come together”) “… feel his disease…”

May             That’s terrible! Why you sing that?

Ronnie       John Lennon. Beatles.

May             John Lennon – he was a strange guy.

Ronnie        He was my sister’s favourite.

May             I didn’t go for the Beatles, really. I was doing my training then. Beatles never

came to Botswana.

Ronnie        And I liked the Rolling Stones. I snogged Mick Jagger once.

May             And you boast about it? You want a ponytail or a French plait?

Ronnie        French plait.

MAY LOOKS SKYWARD.

May              Sorry, Ronnie, didn’t hear you. You want a French plait – or a pony tail?

Ronnie         Pony tail.

May               Right, that’s what we’ll do. (STARTS BRUSHING RONNIE’S HAIR)

Ronnie          Can I have some juice?

May               You just had breakfast, Ronnie.

Ronnie          I’m thirsty.

May               You have juice when we finish your hair and face.

Ronnie          I’m really, really, thirsty. And I’ve got bellyache.

May               Indigestion bellyache or period bellyache? No, no – don’t answer that.

What kind of bellyache you got?

Ronnie          Armadillo.

May               You really got bellyache, Ronnie?

Ronnie           I really, really have.

MAY PUTS THE BRUSH DOWN AND CHECKS THROUGH RONNIE’S CHART.

May               You’re usually very regular – let’s see . . . yes, yes it’s that time again,

sweetheart. I’ll get you a pill – and we’ll remember to change your pads

more often. About time you get rid of those old things. Periods.

Ronnie          Periods? Bloody waste of fucking time – ha ha!

May                Not funny. Your periods should be stopping. You’re fifty one, now, isn’t it?

Ronnie           Fifty one? I can’t be.

May                 Yes – it says here. Fifty two next birthday.

Ronnie           Fifty two? Shit.

May                Next birthday – see here?

SHE SHOWS RONNIE THE CHART

Ronnie           (READS) Veronica Mary Thomas . . . Dob –

May                Date of birth

Ronnie           Date of birth fifteen, six, fifty eight. Blimey.

MAY               I’m almost exactly ten years older than you. (TAKES THE CHART AWAY)

How old is that, Ronnie?

Ronnie           I don’t know.

May                Come on, fifty two plus ten makes – ?

Ronnie           Bollocks.

May                No. Be sensible.

Ronnie           Armadillo.

May                It makes sixty two.

Ronnie           Get a bus pass.

May                (PUTS A SCRUNCHY ON RONNIE’S HAIR) Not here, sweetheart. I’m not

British. Not at home, either.

Ronnie          That’s really shitty, darling.

May               My home is Botswana. In Africa. A long way, way from here.

MAY FETCHES RONNIE’S MAKE UP

Ronnie          I know. The capital’s Gaborone.

May                You remember that? Did I tell you that?

Ronnie          I don’t know.

MAY TAKES OUT SOME FOUNDATION AND STARTS APPLYING IT

May                What goes on in that head of yours my friend?

Ronnie          Dead weird stuff, I can tell you. What goes on in your head?

May               Put your face up. I remember things. Like I remember when I got married I

went to Francistown with my husband, Elwyn, and worked at Nyangabgwe

Hospital. We had a little apartment. Before the children came along. Didn’t

take long! (SHE LAUGHS) You got a few little whiskers here. And your

eyebrows need doing. Haven’t got time, now. Not like you’re expecting Prince

Charming.

Ronnie       (SINGS) “Prince Charming – Prince Charming – ridicule is nothing to be

scared of . . .”

May           You don’t be quiet, I can’t put your makeup on.

Ronnie      Sorry, darling.

May           Then we got a bigger apartment. I was there sixteen years and we were very

happy there but I left to work in South Africa because the money was better and

I had to pay my children’s education fees. You’re running out of foundation. I’ll

put it on the list for your sister.

Ronnie    Will you, darling? Thank you. Tell her I want Clarins.

May          I can tell her, but I bet you get Boots. So when I saw the advertisement for nurses

in the UK, I applied and came straight to Wellington Grove, here to you, Ronnie.

God must have meant it. (PAUSE) Why don’t you tell her?

Ronnie    Tell her what?

May         You want Clarins.

Ronnie    Who?

May         Elaine. Your sister.

Ronnie    ‘Cos she’s not here. She’s in America.

May          Your sister is over here. Elaine is coming to see you today.

Ronnie     Elaine? Today?

May         Elaine! Yes, she’s coming today.

Ronnie    Is it my birthday?

May         Not going there again. Elaine is coming to sort out your move, sign the consent

form for you to go to The Lilacs.

Ronnie    Oh.

A PAUSE WHILE MAY CONTINUES APPLYING MAKEUP.

May         I been Wellington Grove nine years and Senior Sister, now, with special

responsibility for infection control. So when they ask me –

RONNIE MOVES MAY’S HAND AWAY, GENTLY. SHE IS TROUBLED – A MOMENT OF INSIGHT, POSSIBLY.

Ronnie   Why am I here?

May         (RECOGNISING THE CHANGE. ) Because something went wrong with your

brain, Ronnie. A long time ago. Something went wrong with your brain and you

came here so that we could help you and look after you.

Ronnie    What went wrong? What happened?

May          Injured brain happens many ways. Stroke, heart attack, automobile accident,

brain tumour… (SOFTLY) drug overdose. Maybe somebody gave you some bad

drugs, Ronnie? And it made you very sick? Lucky you didn’t die.

RONNIE IS SILENT, DEEP IN THOUGHT. MAY IS KEEN TO KEEP GOING BUT SENSITIVE ENOUGH NOT TO RUSH RONNIE.

Ronnie     I wish I had. I wish I had died.

May         You don’t say that, Ronnie. The Lord gives you life and you must cherish it,

be grateful.

RONNIE REMAINS PENSIVE. MAY CONTINUES WITH THE MAKEUP.

May        Close your eyes.

MAY APPLIES EYE SHADOW. THE LIGHTS FADE

(This is a work in progress. It is based on my knowledge of neuro-rehabilitation. The characters in it are fictitious and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.)