A blog dedicated to the creative output of R.P. Brown email@example.com
The gallery of a courtroom in Belfast. Conversation will be ‘hushed’. On the front row sits CAOILEANN dressed in black and wearing a veil. Two rows behind sits pensioner, TRISH knitting.
BALIFF: (Off stage) All rise!
The two woman rise to their feet and after a pause return to their chairs.
Enter WILLY, unable to be inconspicuous as he clomps in. He throws himself down next to TRISH.
WILLY: Alright Trish. What’d I miss?
TRISH: Minor assault. Some guy whinging about a scraped knee. Suspended sentence like.
TRISH: That skitter Tina Q has been lifted again and there’s Paramilitaries in after.
WILLY: What about Court 10?
TRISH: EU nonsense.
Pause. Willy looks all round him, board. He spots CAOILEANN.
WILLY: What’s the craic with Queen Vic up front?
TRISH: What do I care?
Pause. WILLY disastrously makes his way over the chairstowards CAOILEANN, stopping halfway to whisper an apology to the judge. He continues his disruption until he sits next to CAOILEANN.
WILLY: You a Rawls man?
CAOILEANN: Excuse me?
WILLY: The veil of ignorance right? You know for developing a new society.
CAOILEANN: No, I’m…
WILLY: (Quotes dramatically) “Behind this veil, you know nothing of yourself and your natural abilities, or your position in society. Behind such a veil of ignorance all individuals are simply specified as rational, free, and morally equal beings.” You know John Rawls? Legal philosopher?
WILLY: Me, I like Bentham. Do whatever the fuck you want as long as it doesn’t interfere with the rights of others.(Pause) Take Tina Q here, coming up to the dock, next. She can take as many drugs as she likes as far as I’m concerned but as soon as she starting nicking stuff to fund the habit. Well fuck ‘er. Throw away the key.
CAOILEANN: She’s an addict.
WILLY: She’s a thief. 132 counts of shoplifting and she broke an auld dolls ankle breaking into her house. It’s just Justice, like.
CAOILEANN: Look, I’m not sure who you are but…
WILLY: Name’s Willy.
CAOILEANN: (Turns and moves veil) Right Willy. Well if you don’t mind…
WILLY: And you are?
CAOILEANN: (sighs) I’m Caoileann.
After another brief pause WILLY turns round to TRISH, taken with the idea of an introduction.
CAOILEANN is visibly baffled by this behaviour.
CAOILEANN: (Throws veil over her head) Are you right in the head?
WILLY: You’ll love Trish. Utilitarian, Ulster says no, God fearing, Jim Alistair is my moral compass type. (To Trish) Pssssssssssssst
TRISH: No you c’mere.
WILLY: Come meet Caoileann.
TRISH: What for?
WILLY: What’d you mean what for? She’s a Rawls girl.
TRISH: What’s a Rawls?
WILLY: Why don’t you c’mere and ask her.
Trish reluctantly moves in behind the other two spectators.
TRISH: Alryt love.
CAOILEANN: Hi there.
TRISH: What’s a Rawls?
CAOILEANN: I haven’t a clue. Look, can’t you see I’m in mourning?
TRISH: I used to be in mourning, but that I remembered what a useless eejit my husband was, always bringing home these strays from the bar and sitting up drinkin’ all night, Lord knows what they’d be speakin’ about. Took me and half a dozen angels to get him to church in the mornings. God help him.
CAOILEANN: Well my Kieran wasn’t like that.
TRISH: Aye I know but I’m just trying to say, remember how useless they all are and then you won’t miss ‘em. God as my witness, love.
CAOILEANN: Thanks, I ah… appreciate that.
WILLY: Here comes Tina Q.
CAOILEANN: Poor woman looks like she’s fading away.
TRISH: She’s a drug addict, what’d you think she’d look like?
CAOILEANN: You got a wonder how someone ends up like that.
WILLY: Her Uncle was a kiddy fiddler; he turned her into an all-round head case.
CAOILEANN: That’s so sad. (Pause, watching the court) Imagine, arrested picking the kids up from school.
WILLY: The kids have been in care a long time.
CAOILEANN: You know her?
WILLY: I work at the Bel Tel, she used to phone up twice a week, balling down the phone asking us to print the story.
CAOILEANN: And did you?
WILLY: What story? Drug addict loses kids? We blocked her number.
CAOILEANN: That’s awful.
WILLY: We used to get all kinds, rape victims, retards, homeless. Nothing we can do for ‘em.
CAOILEANN: They’re probably just needed someone to…
TRISH: Shhh. Give it a rest will ya? I can’t hear the sentence.
Pause, all listening intently. With the judgement passed, court is adjourned for the time being. Conversation is no longer hushed.
CAOILEANN: It breaks your heart.
TRISH: Aye right. It’s the weeins I feel sorry for, having to grow up with a mother like that. I raised my two right.
CAOILEANN: But, I mean she was in rehab for the first time in years and she was holding down a part time job.
TRISH: ‘Thou shalt not steal.’
WILLY: Did you not get caught shop lifting a turkey from Marks and Sparks?
TRISH: It was for Christmas. It was God’s Turkey.
CAOILEANN: (Snorts under her breath) The Lord loves a hypocrite.
TRISH: Did you say something dear?
CAOILEANN: I said she needs help Trish.
TRISH: You liberals are always the same, no real sense of the world.
CAOILEANN: Aye and you Christians are always loving your Neighbour when it suits you. And I told you I’m not…
TRISH: (Interupting) There’s that Fenian (directed at CAOILEANN) from the Bel Tel.
CAOILEANN: Excuse me?
TRISH: Must be in to cover the paramilitaries.
WILLY: That prick. (To the invisible woman) Psssst, psssst, Oi ballbag.
CAOILEANN: (Covers her head) Jaysis Christ, what’s wrong with you?
WILLY: Aye thought so can’t ever look at me.
TRISH: Our saviour had nothing to do with it. (Moves beside CAOILEANN.)
WILLY: That’s my wee mucker Ashleen McSorely, trained her up for about four years before her and that feckin’ yuppie stabbed me in the back.
CAOILEANN: You were fired?
WILLY: Made redundant.
TRISH: Such a shame.
CAOILEANN: I wonder why?
WILLY: (Losing his temper) That bastard, Andrew, is why.
CAOILEANN: Who’s Andrew?
WILLY: Mind your own.
TRISH: It’s a sin so it is.
WILLY: You and all.
TRISH: His wife’s unfaithful
WILLY: (Fuming) You fuckin’ bint.
TRISH: It’s nothing to be ashamed of dear. It’s your wife who’s the sinner.
WILLY: I said it’s none of your fuckin’ business. Ask her why she’s here Caoileann. Go on ask her.
TRISH: I’m here to see the Lord’s justice.
WILLY: Oh I don’t deny you enjoy that part. It’s much better than watching the soaps but go on tell her the real reason.
TRISH: Wha reason?
WILLY: You’re not the only one who can listen to gossip. Belfast is a small place. Go on tell her about your daughter.
TRISH: Wha’ daughter?
CAOILEANN: Just leave it all alone Willy.
WILLY: She’s there right now cleaning her house and cooking her dinner.
TRISH: She’s no daughter of mine.
WILLY: The mental auld doll’s been chased out of your home by her own flesh and blood. You want to know why?
CAOILEANN: No I don’t want to know Willy, just like I didn’t want to know about your wife. Let’s just leave it at…
WILLY: She’s (Spat with emphasis) Gay
TRISH: She ain’t mine I said.
WILLY: Still finds the time to care for you, though.
CAOILEANN: It wouldn’t have been long ago that we would have seen your daughter in the dock.
TRISH: Aye she probably should be too.
CAOILEANN: You’re awful. It’s the way she was born, Trish.
TRISH: She was not and it wasn’t the way she was raised I tell ya.
WILLY: (Snorts) Do you know what they do?
CAOILEANN: I’m well aware.
WILLY: You’re not a dyke are ya?
CAOILEANN: No. I’m not but that doesn’t mean I think they are all some sort of disease.
WILLY: So I take it you don’t believe in God then, Caoileann?
CAOILEANN: No and I haven’t had a reason to in a long time.
TRISH: It’s never too late, love. He always forgives.
WILLY: I very much doubt she was our kind of Christian, Trish.
TRISH: As long as she wasn’t a terrorist. God may forgive her but I wouldn’t.
CAOILEANN: Thanks Trish, you’re a model follower.
TRISH: (Missing the sarcasm) I just say it as I see it love.
WILLY: Caoileann, if you don’t believe in God, then you don’t believe in justice. Think about it. If there is no higher power, then where do the judges get their right to pass judgement? What about the jury? How can we trust the witnesses?
CAOILEANN: Justice comes from democracy… from human rights.
WILLY: Bullshit. This country is still a monarchy built on Christian morals.
TRISH: We used to have more morals. I don’t know what’s wrong with the world. Thank God, for my son, he runs a church choir you know.
CAOILEANN: Why are you both here? To watch as people fall through the cracks?
WILLY: I’m stilla journalist but what about you? Your husband is the subject of the historical enquiry right? Why you here? To watch your killer fall? Your kind of Justice, Caoileann, is just another word for revenge.
CAOILEANN: (With venom) You don’t know anything about me. (Beat) You don’t know anything about them (gesturing to the court). All those people’s misery and you feed off it.
WILLY: Judge or be judged. Thing is love, we all love to watch others’ fail, fall or die. We’re all thinkin’ those poor, poor souls but at least I’m better than them. Without God, Open Justice is just the coliseum without the lions and the gladiators. People are sick, admit it.
CAOILEANN: Will you leave me alone Willy? I’m here for closure alright? I’ve been waiting long enough. I deserve that much.
WILLY: Have you seen him? Your husband’s murderer has spent the years since the troubles working as a youth worker, keepin’ the wee ones off the streets. He’s an old man.
CAOILEANN: What has that got to do with it?
WILLY: What good does it do?
TRISH: You atheists are all so miserable.
CAOILEANN: Says the old lonely woman dying for paradise. So your daughters gay? So what?
WILLY: She’s disgustin’
CAOILEANN: And you Willy, you’re just a grown man sulking.
All three begin to seem oblivious of each other as they hastens them down their own paths.
WILLY: The years I’ve put in to that job. Then, my wife fucks the man who laid me off? Where’s the Justice in that. I can’t forgive my wife, she can’t forgive her daughter, you’re out for blood. It’s like everything in this country, a bitter marriage. People shackled to another.
CAOILEANN: There are kids today who are sick to the teeth of us.
I was only married three months. I’ve had thirty years of empty beds.
WILLY: After twenty six years of marriage, you won’t even know each other. She says I’m closed off, while we both pretend I don’t know.
CAOILEANN: (Breaking down) I was drenched, it was raining so heavily and his blood was pouring into the grating.
WILLY: You think as a Journalist you don’t see it all?
CAOILEANN: That Bastard just left him…
TRISH: I’m glad I’ll not live to see all those young ones make of the world.
BALIFF: All Rise!
Pause, sounds of the court. Steps on a stair. Unlocking of handcuffs. CAOILEANN, places her veil back over her face. Conversation returns to hushed.
TRISH: The poor ould man, he looks like he’s been caught in the headlights.
Pause, TRISH and WILLY are watching the court. CAOILEANN is watching her lap.
WILLY: (Putting his hand on CAOILEANN’s) Listen, I’m sorry I lost my rag. You alright love?
CAOILEANN: I came here, dressed like this, to put the fear of God in him… But Justice… (Scoffs and removes her hand from Willy’s) it’s in his hands now right?
TRISH: It always has been.
CAOILEANN: (Pulls off her veil) Hatred… it’s for burning out… not holding on to. I’m getting some air, don’t either of you speak to me when I get back.
CAOILEANN bows her head to the judge as she exits.
WILLY: She… She needs her head looked at.
TRISH: You coming to watch that murder case tomorrow?
WILLY: (Pause) No… No, fuck that…
WILLY gets up, pauses, bows to the judge and then exits. Trish continues knitting.