Kindness of Strangers
Cliffís House. Kitchen.
CHERYL and JIMMY at the table. Meal finished. Two empty bottles of wine on the table. CHERYL is clutching the third bottle as well as her glass. Sheís very drunk. JIMMYís quietly amused throughout.
CHERYL: but weíre meant to be a talkative people, arenít we? Us Irish. We are. Itís in our genes or something. Weíre famed for it. The world over. Yakety-yak. We love the crack. Ah, we do, we do, we do. Go on, go on , go on. Would yer just listen to us talk our lives away. Why, we live for the crack. Itís better than food. Sit down love, join in the crack. Hello there, fella, join the group why donít yer? Tell us yer life story. (Drinks.) And where I come from, how yer talk is who yer are. Ah, Brendan Flaherty, now heís a lovely fella, what a way with words he has. And itís all bollocks, Ďcause Brendan Flahertyís a lying, cheating little gobshite. He is. And would yer just listen to him playing up the lilt whenever thereís an English girl nearby. Like some feckiní eejit in some stupid Hollywood film. I swear to Jesus he said top oí the morniní once. (Drinks.) He likes the English girls does Brendan Flaherty. And díyer want to know why? Shall Iíll tell yer why? Iíll tell yer why. But keep this under yer hat. Yer might not know this, but English girls are sluts. Thatís right. Out and out sluts. All of them. Just mad for the sex they are. This is what Brendan thinks Ďcause this is the pearl of wisdom passed down to Brendan by his great feckiní red-nosed loon of a Da. English girls are sluts and Irish girls are all apprentice nuns. She drinks, tops up her glass.
CHERYL: This is exceptionally good wine. Isnít it? Isnít it? Isnít it though? Where was I? Oh yeah, talking. I was never one for the talking. I donít trust talky people with their gobs running away with them and their brains always struggling to catch up this endless torrent of meaningless words this this this this this relentless stream of utter shite and I come to Liverpool and Iím thinking, great, a change from Dublin and itís worse! They never shut up. Itís like itís like theyíre so desperate to be Irish theyíre trying to outdo us or something. And everyone, Iím telling yer, everyone in this city is a feckiní comedian. This fella, this fella down at the college, he took to calling me Marcel because I was so quiet. Yer know, Marcel Marceau. Oh, how he laughed at that one. (Scouse accent:) All right, Marcel. Howís it goiní Marcel? Been stuck in any glass boxes lately, Marcel? Prick.
She drinks, tops up her glass.
CHERYL: Where was I? Oh yeah, the talking. Iíve no time for it. And díyer want to know why Iíve no time for it? Shall I tell yer why? Iíll tell yer why. (Pause.) ĎCause itís corrupt. (Pause.) Language. Itís rotten. It is. Itís the natural medium of the liar. Words were invented to hide things. Not explain them. (Drinks.) I canít abide liars. Shape-shifting bastards. Iíd like to take every liar in the whole wide world, every last one of them, and tie them all together by their rotten, thieving tongues and and and thieves is what they are stealing yer love stealing yer life picking the pockets of yer soul just robbing yer of every last selfish fuckers.
(Pause. She helps herself to some more wine only the bottleís empty.)
Ah now thatís a sight to bring a tear to yer eye.
JIMMY: This Brendan fella he really hurt you.
CHERYL: What?! Brendan? Brendan Flaherty? Iím not talking about that longwinded, spotty little gobshite. (Long pause.) I was talkiní about me Ma. (Pause.) Me gran used to say that some women are just a bruise waiting to happen. Emotionally. Yer know what I mean? (Pause.) She never had much luck with (ah fuck it.)
JIMMY: Cliff told me your mum
CHERYL: Died. Yeah. Cíest la vie. (Long pause.) I wonder whatís keeping him.
JIMMY: Heís probably got a run in his nylons.
CHERYL: Yeah. Heís a funny little fella. (Pause.) I thought he was a nosey old hen at first but heís sweet, isnít he? Isnít he though? That rare thing a decent human being. They should stick him in a museum or something. (Long pause.) So, Mister Quiet Man what brought you to Liverpool? (Pause.) So much for the chirpy cockney.
JIMMY: I followed a girl up here. Woman.
CHERYL: Is that it? Thatís not much of a story there fella. Thereíd be no free Guinness for you where I come from.
JIMMY: Thereís not much to tell. It didnít work out.
JIMMY: She wasnít who I thought she was.
CHERYL: And who did yer think she was?
JIMMY: I forget.
CHERYL: But yer stayed here anyway.
JIMMY: I like the place.
CHERYL: Yer do?
JIMMY: Yeah. The people are straight with you. Most of them.
Long pause. CHERYL looks at JIMMYís face closely.
CHERYL: I just noticed havenít yer got lovely long eyelashes?
CLIFF: (Off.) Almost ready.
CHERYL tries to make a whistling sound by running her wet finger round the rim of the glass
JIMMY: So howís this gap year working out for you?
CHERYL: (Bristly.) Itís working out just grand. Thanks for asking.
JIMMY: You know, itís none of my business
CHERYL: Thatís right. Little pause. JIMMY: I just thought CHERYL: What? Yeríd be playing the good Samaritan? JIMMY: Not exactly.
CHERYL: Yeríd be coming round here to dish out a little charity. Trying to make yerself feel better? Is that it?
CHERYL: So what is it then? What are yer after?
JIMMY: Iím not after anything.
CHERYL: Donít lie. Everyoneís after something. I might be drunk but Iím not stupid.
JIMMY: No one said you were stupid.
CHERYL: Good. Otherwise Iíd be asking yer to step outside. What are yer laughing at? I could take yer in a fight and no mistake. I might be small but Iím wary.
CHERYL: Yeah! So watch it. You just watch it. She points a threatening finger at him then, suddenly, she passes out, her head resting on the table, but still holding the bottle and glass.
JIMMY takes the bottle and glass from her, puts them on the table. Off stage, CLIFF makes the noise of a drum roll. Then hums the bass intro to Wilkommen from Cabaret.
CLIFF: (Off, singing.) Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome, Fremde, Etranger, Stranger. A stockinged-leg appears
CLIFF: (Off, singing.) Glucklich zu sehen, Je suis enchante, Happy to see you, Bliebe, Reste, Stay. Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome, Im Cabaret, Au Cabaret, To Cabaret!
CLIFF enters, in drag, sans make-up. He, too, is very drunk.
CLIFF: Mein damen und herren, mesdames et monsieurs, comment Áa va? Do you feel good? I am your host! Leave your troubles outside! So life is disappointing? Forget it! In here life is beautiful! The girls are beauti - Whatís up with Cheryl?
JIMMY: She talked herself into a coma.
CLIFF: But I havenít done my Vivien Leigh yet. Balls! I was gonna do the scene where they take her away at the end of the movie. Whoever you are - I have always depended on the kindness of strangers. (Pause.) What díyou let her drink so much for? (Pause.) Ah look at her look sheís kind of cute isnít she? (Pause.) Donít you think sheís cute? Pause.
JIMMY: Well, itís time I was going. Thanks for the meal.
CLIFF: Hang on, hang on, you canít just leave her there.
JIMMY: What díyou want me to do?
CLIFF: Put her to bed.
CLIFF: Well, I canít carry her up the stairs can I? Not in this. Iíll go arse over tit.
JIMMY lifts CHERYL up into his arms. She sleepily throws her arms around his neck.
JIMMY: Where to?
CLIFF: Top floor.
JIMMY: Top floor? CLIFF: Oh stop your moaning, itís only four flights.