CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF A STORY
The man suddenly became aware of himself and then slowly, of a half lit stage which he didn't understand for a few minutes. But thoughts and ideas were coming very rapidly, like scrolls unrolling to him from many directions. He soon understood a lot of things.
In the corner a middle-aged woman appeared, she had no expression on her face. Looking up towards him, at first she was puzzled, then she smiled and realised somehow that his name was Richard. And that hers was Vareena.
Richard was reading a notebook he had found in an office at the back of the stage. Vareena joined him and together they read outlines of their characters, their backgrounds and personal details, she discovered that she liked gin and tonic and wondered what it tasted like. Richard's pronounced Adam's apple was exactly how it was described. There was a lot of crossing out and some parts looked as if they had been spat on. On the front page barely visible was a title:
“RICHARD AND VAREENA”,
A play in( various numbers crossed out) acts.
They looked again and again through the notebook but there were no clues to any story. And the swift unrolling of thoughts and memories in them only told them about their past and not why they were here on an empty stage.
Then from somewhere came a loud hard noise and a cry followed by wails and sobs. They found the source of the noise: inside an apartment at the back of the theatre. By now the sobbing was quiet and weary. They stood in a yard outside the front door wondering what to do, but when desperate choking sounds came from inside, Vareena quickly went in. Richard followed and to his surprise saw her giving a blue faced man violent bear hugs from behind carefully flicking her silk scarf away as he spewed out a mess of flem and tablets; lots of tablets. She had remembered being a doctor and knew what to do. Richard gave him his handkerchief to wipe his face.
The choking man was asleep. He had tried to shoot himself but the old gun hadn't worked, he'd smashed his desk with it, and then tried to swallow a great many sleeping tablets. When he eventually came round his bleary eyes set into a fixed stare at the two mysterious figures looking at him.
“Hello Gordon”, said Richard and Vareena simultaneously.
“My head felt like it had been hit with a brick, my guts were burning and I could hardly move. But when my eyes focused, I knew those two faces: the heroes of the play I couldn't write, Richard and Vareena, peering at me with that intense kindness I knew I would never be able to convey. I didn't know whether I was dead or alive, or something else, I'd certainly wanted to be dead: I've never known writer's block to get to me so much. I felt angry and cheated that I was still here, but this was overtaken by a growing outrage that here in front of me, holding my hands were two people who shouldn't exist, except in a script and on a stage.”
“They say they just appeared on the stage, and somehow their minds filled up with memories and knowledge of who they were but beyond that, they know as much as me. They don't seem to be bothered about the impossibility of this, but they're here and there's no arguing with that.”
After being put to bed that first night Gordon slept until early evening the next day. Over the next week Richard and Vareena gently nursed him back to health.
Gordon needed to get out, so the three of them walked into the West End, it was early Friday evening, not too busy. They wandered into a bar that boasted the largest selection of gins in London, and there Vareena discovered the taste of gin and tonic, Gordon just drank orange juice.
It was late when they returned to Gordon’s place, he felt much better but he was very tired. When he bid his strange friends goodnight he didn't really hear their reply: “Goodnight, Gordon,” they said almost in unison, “you’ll see us again.” Richard looked at Vareena, “ Home?” Looking up towards him, at first she was puzzled, then she smiled and nodded.
In the morning they were gone.
Gordon was wide awake, he couldn't stop thinking about the past few days with the mysterious couple, “ Who the hell were they, where did they come from, where have they gone, and why were they so good to me? With all those tablets and my pathetic mental state maybe I imagined it all. Perhaps I should go and see someone and get help.”
By lunch time he had decided that it had all been some kind of mental episode, and went into town to try and forget it. He passed the gin bar and went in, his agent Jerry sometimes came here. It would be good to bump into him.
“ Gin and Orange without the gin please”
“ How come you're drinking orange juice?” Beryl the landlady asked.
“Oh, I've not been well.” Just then he noticed something behind the bar; his mouth dropped and he stared.
“ You alright? You look like you've seen a ghost, and we ain't got any since that priest came, what's the matter?”
Gordon was staring at Vareena's silk scarf hanging on a hook by the mirror.
“ Er, that, scarf, it's my friend's, we were in here the other day.”
“Oh yea, she left it here, very nice, Liberty by the looks of it, you'd better take it to your friend.”
When Gordon came home he layed the scarf on the table and stuffed his hands into his pockets; Richard’s hanky! He'd forgotten. He placed it flat on the table by the scarf. A dirty hanky stiff with dried flem, and a beautiful blue silk scarf with an abstract diamond pattern. He stared at them for a long time, then he began to cry. For a long, long time.
The following day the telephone rang. For the first time in weeks he picked it up. “ Gordon! I've been trying to get you for ages,” It was Jerry, “ Listen I know you've been going through a hard time but I've had ‘Nightmare’ from the BBC on to me. She really wants a new play from you for this Thursday evening series in the Autumn, darling they love your stuff but they won't wait. I hate to be a bull…” “Good to hear you Jerry, sorry I've been a bit elusive lately. She'll have a finished script by the end of the week. Three episodes.” Jerry was surprised and happy, “ What's it about?”
“ Oh failed suicide, people appearing from nowhere and then disappearing. But mainly kindness”
WILF DEC 2018