RYEBREAD CREATIVE

A blog dedicated to the creative output of R.P. Brown ryebreadcreative@gmail.com

Being Frank with Ashley-Lee

SCENE ONE

It is a sunny day in Victoria Park, East Belfast. FRANK sits on a bench with ASHLEY-LEE sitting beside him. He is a fidgety man in his mid to late twenties, wearing a dishevelled suit; his work bag is at his feet. Ashley-Lee is rocking a pram absent-mindedly. She is a fierce, slightly younger woman, in a t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms. “Park-Life” is playing and fades out.

FRANK:
I saw a dead bird yesterday. It was only a wee one like, its parents were squawking in the tree above. They were crows. (Pause) Got me thinkin’ – that’s ominous. I thought of em gobbling the eyes from a dead man’s socket or picking at someone’s neb. That’s when I saw the cat and the wee baby in its mouth. The vicious monster was bringing it home to his master. Up it jumped, all proud of itself, a skip and a jump onto the ledge and in through the open window. The parents were losing their minds, obviously.

Then I was thinkin’, the perceptions we have and the judgements we make. Those sorry birds were the victims, not the perpetrators. It really is disgusting; the way society jumps to conclusions.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Your life’s a fuckin’ disaster mate.

FRANK:
I know.

ASHLEY-LEE:
I mean who thinks like that. Sunny day like today and that’s where your head goes. It’s like you go out of your way to be a miserable bastard.

FRANK:
I know.

ASHLEY-LEE:
I mean your life mate is just you thinkin’ pish.

FRANK:
Aye. Your right there. But… see your woman over there? Feeding the pigeons?

He motions in the direction of the audience where the  fictional woman sits opposite.

(CONT’D)
I see her and that’s what pops into m’head.

ASHLEY-LEE:
I hope I’m as cute as her, when I get to that age.

FRANK:
If I get to that age, I hope someone puts me outta me misery.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Wise the bap Frank.

FRANK:
I’m serious. Only the old and decrepit feed the birds and you know why? Cause they have no mates so they have to talk to the birds.

ASHLEY-LEE:
There’s you going on about perceptions and that She’s probably having the time of her life. She’ll be off to the bingo, when her husband’s done playing bowls.

FRANK:
Well I’ll not hold my breath waiting on him.

They both watch the woman for a moment.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Maybe this will cheer you up. My Isla started crawling the other day

FRANK:
(Pause) Huh?

ASHLEY-LEE:
My weein, Isla. Comes to the park every day to listen to you gurne.

FRANK:
Oh yeah? That’s grand.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Got a wee video and all. Here take a look.

ASHLEY-LEE pulls out her phone and shows FRANK the video.

ASHLEY-LEE:
She’s gorgeous ain’t she?

FRANK:
Aye, she’s a cute wee thing but listen; I think I have a date on Friday.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Aye? Who’s the lucky girl?

FRANK:
She’s a friend of me Aunts. Well not my Aunt’s friend but her wee girl.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Aye, you a kiddy fiddler now then Frank?

FRANK:
Shut yer gob. She’s a woman. You know, like a fully grown one.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Get you. I’m happy for ya.

FRANK:
I’m not. She does this weird gurgle thing when she eats. (Enacts the noise) The thought of it makes me chunder. Rather take a cheese grater to me bawls than put up with that.

ASHLEY-LEE:
When’d you last see the poor girl?

FRANK:
Ten years ago.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Should take what you can get, with a name like yours.

FRANK:
What’s wrong with Frank?

ASHLEY-LEE:
It’s a grumpy ould man name. You’re parents never gave you a chance, pal.

FRANK:
I am a grumpy ould man.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Aye and you’re only twenty-five.

FRANK:
(Pause) What kind of a name is Ashley-Lee anyway? Anyone with two first names is bound to get up the duff, sooner or later.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Aye. My parents never loved me either.

FRANK:
We’re a right couple of sob stories, we are.

Natural beat.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Is it hot?

FRANK:
Aye, I’ve got a sweat on like?

ASHLEY-LEE:
No I mean is it too hot? Do you think Isla’s alright?

FRANK:
What do I know about weeins?

ASHLEY-LEE:
She’d be bawlin’ if she was sweltered.

FRANK:
Not if she’d died in the heat.

ASHLEY-LEE abruptly stands to check the baby.

ASHLEY-LEE:
You’re a Bastard, Frank.

FRANK:
Wha?

ASHLEY-LEE:
You don’t wish death on a child.

FRANK:
I didn’t! I just meant… I mean it happens like. I was only sayin’.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Well don’t say.

FRANK:
It’s just a fact. Babies get heat stroke and they die.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Just shut yer fuckin’ face, alright Frank.

FRANK:
Alright. Alright. Sorry.

ASHELY-LEE moves back to the bench, seething.

(CONT’D)
(Pause) Have you fallin’ out with me now?

ASHLEY-LEE:
You don’t wish death on a child.

FRANK:
I never did. I bloody love Isla.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Aye well she thinks your tube.

FRANK:
Nah, she doesn’t. She loves her uncle Frank.

He moves to tickle her in the buggy. Ashley-Lee pushes her out of his way.

ASHLEY-LEE:
If you wake her, it’s not worth your life.

FRANK:
Alright. I won’t. Let me tell you what happened to me last.

ASHLEY-LEE:
I knew it wasn’t the date. You were gaggin’ to tell me somethin’.

FRANK:
You know me always got a story to tell.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Aye well, before ye start yer nattering, what have you got for me?

FRANK rustles in his bag.

FRANK:
I’ve got you some mags, Glamour, Now, Heat, a packet of tayto cheese and onion, a bottle of pop and a pastie.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Is it warm.

FRANK:
The pop?

ASHLEY-LEE:
No the pastie, you eejit.

FRANK:
It was.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Fuck sake, give it here then. So what’s this big yarn of yours?

FRANK:
So I’d been having a few wee drinks and playing some counter strike. When I thought I would… you know.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Thought you would what?

FRANK:
I thought I would… um… thought I would…

ASHLEY-LEE:
You thought you would have a wee pull. Milk the one eyed beast.

FRANK:
Aye, well so, I was watching some… you know.

ASHLEY-LEE:
You were watching porn. I don’t have all day, Frank. Get on with the bloody story.

FRANK:
Sorry, it’s just you know… a sensitive subject.

ASHLEY-LEE:
What’s sensitive about it? I wank at least twice a day. More if Danny is too plastered to get it up.

FRANK:
That’s a bit more information than I was lookin’ Ashley-Lee.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Just get on with it.

FRANK:
Right, well so there I was tugging away, eyes closed, ready to go and then I open them and I get a good look at the wee girl’s face.

ASHLEY-LEE:
What was wrong with her face?

FRANK:
Nothing! Everything! Wasn’t it my bloody cousin?

ASHLEY-LEE:
You had a wank over your cousin?

FRANK:
I didn’t know did I?

ASHLEY-LEE:
How could you not know like?

FRANK:
It was a bit grainy and I’m usually just skippin’ to the good bits.

ASHLEY-LEE:
You didn’t… finish? Did you?

FRANK:
Did I fuck.

ASHLEY-LEE:
What did you do then?

FRANK:
I went to bed, half cut, with a raging boner.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Fuck me. Does yer ma know?

FRANK:
Aye cause that’s a conversation starter. Alright ma? Guess who I just saw on redtube.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Suppose so. Wouldn’t be bringing that up at the next family funeral either.

FRANK:
God, that didn’t even occur to me. Mum’d wet her catheter.

ASHLEY-LEE:
It isn’t the daughter of the aunt that set you up on the date is it?

FRANK:
Aye the very one.

ASHLEY-LEE:
God you’d be scundered. You better be careful mate or you’ll end up an internet sensation yourself.

FRANK:
I’d probably get stage fright. You’ve never…?

ASHLEY-LEE:
Have I ever what?

FRANK:
You know filmed yourself?

ASHLEY-LEE:
What kinda skank do you take me for? There are some things you shouldn’t have to ask a lady, Frank.

FRANK:
Aye, but when you see your cousin like that it makes you question things.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Know where you’re taking this girl on your date?

FRANK:
Not a baldy. Any ideas?

ASHLEY-LEE:
Danny usually takes us to Nandos. Only when he’s in the dog house, mind.

FRANK:
Can’t remember the last time I went anywhere.

ASHLEY-LEE:
If you take her to the cinema, you won’t have to watch her eat.

FRANK:
What if she wants popcorn? I can’t afford that shit.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Put your wee lad in the box and she might give you tug.

FRANK:
You’re filthy.

ASHLEY-LEE:
That’s how Isla was conceived.

FRANK:
Fuck off.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Aye during a Pixar film.

FRANK:
And I’m the peado?

ASHLEY-LEE:
Sure there’s no one there during the day.

FRANK:
All over the seats though.

ASHLEY-LEE:
There’s no seat anywhere that doesn’t have a bit of cum on it.

FRANK:
There’s a thought.

FRANK checks his smartphone.

(CON’T)
Christ my boss wants to speak to me when I get back.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Could be good news.

FRANK:
Not after this morning. Couldn’t be. He’ll probably give me the boot this time.

ASHLEY-LEE:
What happened to ya?

FRANK:
I was showing these right arseholes round a house in Carryduff. They hated the place, you could tell. Complete waste of time. They wanted a miracle for their money and then they ask to see the upstairs.

ASHLEY-LEE:
What was wrong with the upstairs?

FRANK:
It was a bloody bungalow. There wasn’t one.

ASHLEY-LEE:
So why didn’t you just tell him it was a bloody bungalow?

FRANK:
I did. I says to him it’s a bloody bungalow and he says I know but where’s the stairs and I said it’s a bloody bungalow mate. I had to explain to him what a fuckin’ bungalow was.

ASHLEY-LEE:
It’s not your fault the guy was thick as bricks.

FRANK:
Aye but then he asked me who would live in a bungalow and I said protestants.

ASHLEY-LEE:
What’d you say that for?

FRANK:
Christ knows. I was thinking of who lives in a bungalow and I thought about my Gran. She lived in one before she died. I figured what type of person was she, a protestant.

ASHLEY-LEE:
I suppose it’s just a fact. Protestants do live in bungalows.

FRANK:
Well a lot of them live in terraces and semi-detached.

ASHLEY-LEE:
What did yer man say?

FRANK:
He lost his rag. Went completely mental. He starts screaming about his rights and the Good Friday Agreement. Asked me if I knew my history, starts talking about Catholics being denied housing. Then he called me a sectarian half-wit or some other middle-class shite.

ASHLEY-LEE:
It was a daft thing to say, like. Should of said old people. They love bloody bungalows.

FRANK:
It just slipped out. Anyway I said I was sorry.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Aye well there’s not much else you could have done.

FRANK:
I know, what else did he want from me?

ASHLEY-LEE:
You don’t half stick yourself in it, like.

FRANK:
Story of my life. I guess I’d better go face the music.

He stands up to leave.

(CONT’D)
Have you got the gear?

ASHLEY-LEE:
Aye. Hold your fire.

She brings out a bag of weed from the bottom of the pram and hands it to Frank.

ASHLEY-LEE:
You need to start cutting down or you’ll never get anywhere.

FRANK:
I wasn’t getting anywhere anyway.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Twenty quid.

FRANK: (Handing her the cash)
Cheers mate.

ASHLEY-LEE:
I need to get going as well. Isla will be wanting her feed when she wakes up.

FRANK:
You be here tomorrow?

ASHLEY-LEE:
Aye where else would I be? Angus and Isla ain’t much talkers.

FRANK:
See you then.

He exits. End Scene.

SCENE TWO

Still in the park, FRANK sits on the bench rolling a joint with difficulty. The strings of “Eleanor Rigby”. He is now wearing a waterproof jacket and shivering against the cold. Finally, he puts the spliff in his mouth, digs in his pockets for a lighter and attempts to spark it into life, but to no avail. FRANK swears under his breath. Enter ASHLEY-LEE, dressed in a hoodie the sleeves pulled down over her hands, ISLA in tow.

ASHLEY-LEE:
You all right there Frank?

FRANK:
Fucking cunting thing won’t light. You got a lighter?

ASHLEY-LEE:
You know I gave up smoking after Isla.

FRANK:
Always thought you were lying. Fuck it.

He puts the rollie and lighter in his pocket. ASHLEY-LEE sits down beside him.

(CONT’D)
It’d bite the bawls off you that weather.

ASHLEY-LEE:
It’s definitely nippy out. Much craic with you?

FRANK:
I went out the other night.

ASHLEY-LEE:
You did not.

FRANK:
I did.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Get you. Who with?

FRANK:
The ones from work.

ASHLEY-LEE:
But you don’t like the ones at work.

FRANK:
They’re all right.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Frank, you said to me that they all had a stick so far up their arses it was like working with a box of ‘Pear Picking Porky’s’.

FRANK:
You can’t hold me to everything I say.

ASHLEY-LEE:
You didn’t make an eejit of yerself did you?

FRANK:
What do you take me for?

ASHLEY-LEE:
An eejit. You’re an absolute clueless eejit.

FRANK:
I was blootered, aye, there was some slut drops but thankfully I lost them all before I did anything too stupid.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Dodged a bullet there.

FRANK:
Aye but listen, so I was staggering home when I overheard a guy talking about surnames, so I started talking to him about my ma’s maiden name Bawn, there’s only a few of them left dotted about the place, Canada mostly. Anyway so I ended up walking past my house and chatting with the fella at a bus stop.

ASHLEY-LEE:
As you do.

FRANK:
Aye, then he started showing me these photos of him and his ex-boyfriend, in Bruges like.

ASHLEY-LEE:
What like the film?

FRANK:
You know it’s a real place right Ashley-Lee?

ASHLEY-LEE:
Every day’s a school day.

FRANK:
Right will. There’s an age gap between them, yer man’s in his sixties and the other guy looks your age. I can’t figure out what was wrong with them, the photos. Then he asks if I’d like to go back to his for a drink and I think why not.

ASHLEY-LEE:
He doesn’t look like an axe wielding psycho?

FRANK:
Exactly. Turns out the guys an alcoholic, there’s white lightning everywhere, place is an absolute tip. He’s got these different religious…, you know, books like the Koran and the Bible and all.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Is there a point to this adventure, Frank?

FRANK:
I’m getting there. Anyway he’s telling me all about the ones from the church who visit him and how good they are. Has a picture of him and big Ian.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Wha? Paisley?

FRANK:
Aye the good reverend himself. Says he used to be a Catholic, now he’s a Prod. Swears by the man.

ASHLEY-LEE:
It takes them all, doesn’t it.

FRANK:
You wouldn’t have known this guy was an alcoholic, he was so articulate. We’re smoking and drinking away and at about six in the morning I left him to it. Then, I’m back home in my kitchen and the tears are tripping me, praying to God to help that man.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Are you telling me you had a religious experience getting off your head with some drunk?

FRANK:
Well it was something he said to me. He said “you’re lonely too aren’t you.”

ASHLEY-LEE:
Aye, well, just the way things are. It’s almost like… like, there’s too many people in the world to watch them all. Not sure what God’s doing but he’s let his eyes wonder that’s for sure.

FRANK:
Can’t blame him for everything.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Course you can. If I ever met him I’d be having words with him.

FRANK:
Bet you would too.

ASHLEY-LEE:
The other day I get a knock at the window of the living-room just after Isla has gone to bed. Danny and useless mates are comatosed on the couch so here I am left to defend the nest, on my own, like.

FRANK:
I wouldn’t fancy my chances against ya.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Aye few would. So I answer the door with the chain on. Can’t take any chances with Danny’s drugs in the house.

FRANK:
Course.

ASHLEY-LEE:
There’s this five foot nothing wee slip of a thing there with her bike. Asks me if I could help her fix it.

FRANK:
What do you know about bikes?

ASHLEY-LEE:
Exactly I can’t even ride the bloody thing but ma heart bleeds. She asks me if we can fix it in my house and I’m thinkin’ what’s her scam. Could be the peelers crackin’ down the paras or anythin’.

FRANK:
It’s a bit weird like.

ASHLEY-LEE:
So turns out she just lives across the estate so here I am in a stranger’s house and no one knows I’m there. It’s a puncture she has in the bike; we’re trying to get the tyre off, she has this problem with her wrists. Turns out she lives with two blokes, one of them has his mates round and they are just standing there and laughing at us. Askin’ for me to blow em’ and all.

FRANK:
Fuckin’ hell.

ASHLEY-LEE:
I was there for hours, terrifying like. Anyway couldn’t get the poor girls bike fixed. Had to just leave her to it but it crossed my mind, like, why was she living there? She clearly wasn’t related to them or nothin’. Then, I thought, same reason we all do, she had nowhere else to go.

FRANK:
That’s rough.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Aye.

FRANK:
Did you tell Danny about it?

ASHLEY-LEE:
Nah, the boys were foreign, didn’t want him sorting them out and ending up on the Nolan Show. The big lad would run away with that one. Danny was fumin’ though, asking where I was. I told him I was fixing the bike, showed him my hands and all but he wasn’t having any of it.

FRANK:
He’ll come round. (Pause) You know I just realised what was wrong with that guys pictures. The ones from Bruges.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Go on then.

FRANK:
He was younger in em’ like a good bit. He said it was in January this year but it couldn’t have been. He’s been in love with this guy for years.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Must have been tough to be in a relationship like that.

FRANK:
I’d say so…. (Pause) Can’t get over that.

ASHLEY-LEE:
All the lonely people, like.

FRANK:(Sings)
“Where do they all belong?”

ASHLEY-LEE:
What are you on about now?

FRANK:
Don’t worry about it.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Do you want your usual today or wha?

FRANK:
Any chance you can sub me today? The cost of me Ma’s carers is bleeding me dry.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Aye all right but just don’t make a habit of it. I’m not made of money.

FRANK:
Cheers mate. Really appreciate it.

ASHLEY-LEE pulls up her sleeves slightly and moves to her buggy. Her right hand is bandaged. FRANK reactively reaches out and grabbing ASHLEY-LEE’s injury.

FRANK:
What’s wrong with your hand?

ASHLEY-LEE:
Ow! Nothing’s wrong with it. Get off me you asshole.

FRANK:(Moment of realisation)
I’ll kill him the steeky bastard.

ASHLEY-LEE:(Defensively)
He lost his temper it happens, alright?

FRANK:
What just happens?

ASHLEY-LEE:(Sighing)
He spilt some boiling water on me.

FRANK:
I swear to God I’ll kill him.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Frank you have no upper body strength to speak of.

FRANK:
You have to get outta that estate, Ashley-Lee. It’s no place for a wee one.

ASHLEY-LEE:(Biting)
Aye and with all my qualifications and all those job prospects for drug dealers. Sure I’d be livin’ the life wouldn’t I?

A brief silence.

FRANK:
You could live with me.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Are you right in the head?

FRANK gets down to his knees in front of her and takes her hand.

(CONT’D)
You proposing to me now Frank?

FRANK:
Move in with me, Ashley-Lee, go on?

ASHLEY-LEE:
What about Isla?

FRANK:
Obviously she’d come to.

ASHLEY-LEE:
And your mother? What would she think of you bringing home a criminal and her weein?

FRANK:
Fuck the scrounging munter.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Aye and when Danny comes knocking looking for his two girls with the UDA in tow, what will you do then?

FRANK:
I’ll… I’d…

ASHLEY-LEE:
You’ll do nothing Frank. Because ya can’t. Me and Isla will just have to take our chances with his temper over your cummy tissues.

FRANK falls back onto the ground.

FRANK:(Softly)
He’ll kill you, you know.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Aye maybe.

ASHLEY-LEE stands and makes to leave. For a moment, FRANK stares out into the park, a man defeated by the world’s endless capacity for misery. Suddenly something catches his eye and life pours back into him. He turns and jiggles the buggy frantically.

FRANK:
Ashley-Lee, Ashley-Lee!

ASHLEY-LEE:
Frank! What do you think you’re doing?

FRANK:
He was at bowls!

ASHLEY-LEE:
Who was at bowls?

FRANK:
Yer man. Yer woman’s husband. Ages ago.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Who?

FRANK:
She’s been feeding the birds and he was at the bowls!

ASHLEY-LEE:
Frank, I’ve got to get back to the house or Danny will be wonderin’ where I am.

FRANK:(Manic)
She’ll be at the bingo next!

ASHLEY-LEE:
I told you. Some people just like feedin’ the birds.

FRANK:
It must be a sign or somethin’

ASHLEY-LEE:
You’re not havin’ a fuckin’ epiphany on me now.

FRANK:
Your telling me you don’t think it means anythin’?

ISLA begins to cry and ASHLEY-LEE attempt to sooth her.

(CONT’D)
Just… Just come get a poke with me.

ASHLEY-LEE:(Frustrated)
I don’t even like ice-cream. It’s too cold.

FRANK:
Please, Ashley-Lee. I mean what were the chances?

ASHLEY-LEE:
Wise up, Frank. Go back to work. (Pleading) Alright?

ASHLEY-LEE rushes away. A bird shits on FRANK.

SCENE THREE

“Delilah” is playing. Two loud, explosive gunshots are heard. In the park, ASHLEY-LEE is wearing a light jacket and smoking. She is rocking ISLA as usual. FRANK enters dressed in a t-shirt, sweats and is struggling on crutches. He lowers himself down slowly beside her.

ASHLEY-LEE:
You’re milkin’ it a bit, aren’t you Frank?

FRANK:
You should see the looks I’m getting. Florence Nightingale syndrome, like. It’s brilliant.

ASHLEY-LEE:
I’ll call yer gurgler, see if she’ll still have you.

FRANK:
Har de har har.

ASHLEY-LEE:
I reckon she’d be able to catch you when you do a runner this time.

FRANK:
You know how to kick a guy when he’s down.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Look on the bright side, all that quality time with your mother.

FRANK:
Brutal. You’d think she was the only cripple in the family. She keeps complaining about her food being cold cause it takes me so long to hobble in. I’ve never wanted to smoother her with a pillow more in my life.

ASHLEY-LEE:
She’s getting worse.

FRANK:
I spat in her tea this morning.

ASHLEY-LEE:
You didn’t.

FRANK:
She threw it over me and cackled.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Should have known better than to mess with your maker, Frank. Doesn’t matter what she’s dying of.

FRANK:
You think I’d know that by now.

ASHLEY-LEE:
That reminds me, I brought you these.

She brings out a bunch of grapes from the buggy and hands them to FRANK.

FRANK:
Grapes?

ASHLEY-LEE:
Grapes. You know to make you feel better. I was going to visit you in hospital but there was a lot going on.

FRANK:
Don’t sweat it. I was high on morphine half the time anyway.

ASHLEY-LEE:
I did mean to come.

FRANK:
Honestly don’t worry about it. (Sighing) You know, never thought I’d say it but I miss work, just the opportunity to get out of the house and speak to someone else.

ASHLEY-LEE:
That’s how I used to feel about coming out to see you.

FRANK:
How’s the shelter?

ASHLEY-LEE:
Aye it’s all right. I’m stocked up on toiletries for life and Isla loves it, she’s never seen so many toys and there’s other kids there and all.

FRANK:
Sounds like the high life.

ASHLEY-LEE:
It’s not the same as having your own place though. With your own stuff and you can feel settled like. I left everything with Danny.

FRANK:
Any luck with it?

ASHLEY-LEE:
What my own place?

FRANK:
Aye.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Well I’m housing stress.

FRANK:
What does that mean?

ASHLEY-LEE:
As far as I can tell it just means you’re slightly less fucked than everyone else.

FRANK:
Couldn’t organise a piss up in this country, could they?

ASHLEY-LEE:
I’m surprised you even have legs left.

FRANK:
Not much use to be fair.

A reflective pause. ASHLEY-LEE fumbles with another cigarette. She offers one to Frank who gratefully accepts.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Thanks for not telling him where I was Frank.

FRANK:
He was more interested in the money anyway.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Glad he had his priorities right. You know he was actually sweet when I met him. I was only seventeen and he was the older lad and all that was attractive but it was that he was more sensitive than the ones my age, that was what I liked. Bought me a ipod with all our songs on it.

FRANK:
Class.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Didn’t know about the drugs then but even after that, you don’t even think someone you love is capable of shooting someone. He always hated the thought of blood.

FRANK:
I guess, when you left, he just needed an excuse to break something.

ASHLEY-LEE:(Uncharacteristically fragile)
In the end he didn’t need much of an excuse.

FRANK:(Placing a hand to hers)
You won’t be seeing him anytime soon.

ASHLEY-LEE looks FRANK in the eyes for a moment. After a moment, he removes his hand.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Doesn’t help me sleep.

FRANK:
Anytime I do manage to nod off, ma wakes up screaming. Can’t stop seeing balaclavas in the night.

ASHLEY-LEE:
You should see us, all roaming the corridors of the place like banshees.

FRANK:
Banshees?

ASHLEY-LEE:
All wailing because we all know what’s comin’ for us.

FRANK:
Fuck me that’s dark.

ASHLEY-LEE:
You didn’t have to do it y’know.

FRANK:
He would have done it anyway.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Even so.

FRANK:
I should thank you really. I always wanted to do something dramatic with my life. (Shakes his crutches) Here it is.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Didn’t need you to protect me, Frank.

FRANK:
Aye but Isla needed her Uncle Frank.

ASHLEY-LEE:(Playing with Isla in the buggy) No she doesn’t. She’s tough too.

FRANK:
She’d need to be to put up with you. (Pause) Me on the other hand… You know at night, I can still feel the blood pouring out like glue.

ASHLEY-LEE:
That what it felt like? Glue?

FRANK:
Only way to describe it. I wake up clutching my legs, trying to stem the flow but it’s not there. (Rubbing his neck) I can’t see it but I feel it.

ASHLEY-LEE:(Pause)
You seeing anybody?

FRANK:
In this state? Who wants a cripple?

ASHLEY-LEE:
I meant like a professional. A psychiatrist or something.

FRANK:
I went to this group but it was full of joy riders and other wee scumbags.

ASHLEY-LEE:
You should maybe give somewhere else a go.

FRANK:
Aye maybe… I’m not really a people person though.

ASHLEY-LEE:
There’s an understatement.

FRANK:
Can’t bear the thought of spilling my load in front of a crowd.

ASHLEY-LEE:(Laughs)
Not like you to spill your load.

FRANK:
Fuck off…

ASHLEY-LEE:
I’m serious though. About speaking to someone.

FRANK:
You’re probably right but you know what those whingers won’t get? What really nags at me?

ASHLEY-LEE:
What?

FRANK:
How I wasn’t even really… frightened. I would have been happy enough to just… just slip away, you know?

ASHLEY-LEE:(Pause)
People can surprise you though.

FRANK:
What do you mean?
ASHLEY-LEE:
You never know what they are feeling. It’s been good for me to be around the other women.

FRANK:
Yeah maybe…

ASHLEY-LEE:
I’ve been thinking about that dead crow of yours, Frank. What do you think happened to its ma?

FRANK:
What crow?

ASHLEY-LEE:
From a while back. You know the one the cat got.

FRANK:
That seems like an age ago, Ashley-Lee.

ASHLEY-LEE:
Do you think the ma just went on eating and shitting and fucking? Or do you think she stopped looking for the worms? Kept on flying round in circles, and when she was completely knackered like, drained by the emotion of it all, she just lay down on her hoop and died.

FRANK:
I don’t know, Ashley-Lee.

ASHLEY-LEE:
There is a woman who used to be in the shelter. Her ex came round and broke all her teeth, just kept hittin’ her. Then social services came. She lost her weein’.

FRANK:
Danny is locked up, Ashley-Lee.

ASHLEY-LEE:
I couldn’t cope without Isla. The loneliness, I think it’d just swallow you up.

FRANK:
I think it’s what gets us all in the end.

Silence.

ASHLEY-LEE:
I’ve been spending too much time with your miserable bake.

FRANK:
You and me both.

ASHLEY-LEE stands and pushes ISLA away. She puts a hand on FRANK’s cheek.

ASHLEY-LEE:
You’ll be alright, Frank.

ASHLEY-LEE Exits.‘I Think That We are Going to be Friends’ plays and fades.

END OF PLAY
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being Frank with Ashley Lee

By

R.P. Brown

Page Break

 

 

SCENE ONE

 

It is a sunny day in Victoria Park, East Belfast. FRANK sits on a bench with ASHLEY-LEE sitting beside him.  He is a fidgety man in his mid to late twenties, wearing a dishevelled suit; his work bag is at his feet. Ashley-Lee is rocking a pram absent-mindedly. She is a fierce, slightly younger woman, in a t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms. “Park-Life” is playing and fades out. 

 

FRANK I saw a dead bird yesterday. It was only a wee one like, its parents were squawking in the tree above. They were crows. (Pause) Got me thinkin’ – that’s ominous. I thought of em gobbling the eyes from a dead man’s socket or picking at someone’s neb. That’s when I saw the cat and the wee baby in its mouth. The vicious monster was bringing it home to his master. Up it jumped, all proud of itself, a skip and a jump onto the ledge and in through the open window. The parents were losing their minds, obviously.

 

Then I was thinkin’, the perceptions we have and the judgements we make. Those sorry birds were the victims, not the perpetrators. It really is disgusting; the way society jumps to conclusions.

 

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Your life’s a fuckin’ disaster mate.

 

FRANK:I know.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I mean who thinks like that. Sunny day like today and that’s where your head goes.  It’s like you go out of your way to be a miserable bastard.

 

FRANK:I know.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I mean your life mate is just you thinkin’ pish.

 

FRANK:Aye. Your right there. But… see your woman over there? Feeding the pigeons?

 

He motions in the direction of the audience where the

fictional woman sits opposite.

 

(CONT’D) I see her and that’s what pops into m’head.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I hope I’m as cute as her, when I get to that age.

 

FRANK:If I get to that age, I hope someone puts me outta me misery.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Wise the bap Frank.

 

FRANK:I’m serious. Only the old and decrepit feed the birds and you know why? Cause they have no mates so they have to talk to the birds.

 

ASHLEY-LEEThere’s you going on about perceptions and that She’s probably having the time of her life. She’ll be off to the bingo, when her husband’s done playing bowls.

 

FRANK:Well I’ll not hold my breath waiting on him.

 

They both watch the woman for a moment. 

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Maybe this will cheer you up. My Isla started crawling the other day

 

FRANK:(Pause) Huh?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:My weein, Isla. Comes to the park every day to listen to you gurne.

 

FRANK:Oh yeah? That’s grand.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Got a wee video and all. Here take a look.

 

ASHLEY-LEE pulls out her phone and shows FRANK the video.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:She’s gorgeous ain’t she?

 

FRANK:Aye, she’s a cute wee thing but listen; I think I have a date on Friday.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye? Who’s the lucky girl?

 

FRANK:She’s a friend of me Aunts. Well not my Aunt’s friend but her wee girl.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye, you a kiddy fiddler now then Frank?

 

FRANK:Shut yer gob. She’s a woman. You know, like a fully grown one.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Get you. I’m happy for ya.

 

FRANK:I’m not. She does this weird gurgle thing when she eats. (Enacts the noise) The thought of it makes me chunder. Rather take a cheese grater to me bawls than put up with that.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:When’d you last see the poor girl?

 

FRANK:Ten years ago.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Should take what you can get, with a name like yours.

 

FRANK:What’s wrong with Frank?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:It’s a grumpy ould man name. You’re parents never gave you a chance, pal.

 

FRANK:I am a grumpy ould man.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye and you’re only twenty-five.

 

FRANK:(Pause) What kind of a name is Ashley-Lee anyway? Anyone with two first names is bound to get up the duff, sooner or later.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye. My parents never loved me either.

 

FRANK:We’re a right couple of sob stories, we are.

 

Natural beat. 

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Is it hot?

 

FRANK:Aye, I’ve got a sweat on like?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:No I mean is it too hot? Do you think Isla’s alright?

 

FRANK:What do I know about weeins?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:She’d be bawlin’ if she was sweltered.

 

FRANK:Not if she’d died in the heat.

 

ASHLEY-LEE abruptly stands to check the baby. 

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You’re a Bastard, Frank.

 

FRANK:Wha?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You don’t wish death on a child.

 

FRANK:I didn’t! I just meant… I mean it happens like. I was only sayin’.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Well don’t say.

 

FRANK:It’s just a fact. Babies get heat stroke and they die.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Just shut yer fuckin’ face, alright Frank.

 

FRANK:Alright. Alright. Sorry.

 

ASHELY-LEE moves back to the bench, seething. 

 

(CONT’D) (Pause) Have you fallin’ out with me now?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You don’t wish death on a child.

 

FRANK:I never did. I bloody love Isla.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye well she thinks your tube.

 

FRANKNah, she doesn’t. She loves her uncle Frank.

 

He moves to tickle her in the buggy. Ashley-Lee pushes her out of his way.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:If you wake her, it’s not worth your life.

 

FRANK:Alright. I won’t. Let me tell you what happened to me last.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I knew it wasn’t the date. You were gaggin’ to tell me somethin’.

 

FRANK:You know me always got a story to tell.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye well, before ye start yer nattering, what have you got for me?

 

FRANK rustles in his bag. 

 

FRANK:I’ve got you some mags, Glamour, Now, Heat, a packet of tayto cheese and onion, a bottle of pop and a pastie.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Is it warm.

 

FRANK:The pop?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:No the pastie, you eejit.

 

FRANK:It was.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Fuck sake, give it here then. So what’s this big yarn of yours?

 

FRANK:So I’d been having a few wee drinks and playing some counter strike. When I thought I would… you know.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Thought you would what?

 

FRANK:I thought I would… um… thought I would…

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You thought you would have a wee pull. Milk the one eyed beast.

 

FRANK:Aye, well so, I was watching some… you know.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You were watching porn. I don’t have all day, Frank. Get on with the bloody story.

 

FRANK:Sorry, it’s just you know… a sensitive subject.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What’s sensitive about it? I wank at least twice a day. More if Danny is too plastered to get it up.

 

FRANK:That’s a bit more information than I was lookin’ Ashley-Lee.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Just get on with it.

 

FRANK:Right, well so there I was tugging away, eyes closed, ready to go and then I open them and I get a good look at the wee girl’s face.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What was wrong with her face?

 

FRANK:Nothing! Everything! Wasn’t it my bloody cousin?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You had a wank over your cousin?

 

FRANK:I didn’t know did I?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:How could you not know like?

 

FRANK:It was a bit grainy and I’m usually just skippin’ to the good bits.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You didn’t… finish? Did you?

 

FRANK:Did I fuck.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What did you do then?

 

FRANK:I went to bed, half cut, with a raging boner.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Fuck me. Does yer ma know?

 

FRANK:Aye cause that’s a conversation starter. Alright ma? Guess who I just saw on redtube.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Suppose so. Wouldn’t be bringing that up at the next family funeral either.

 

FRANK:God, that didn’t even occur to me. Mum’d wet her catheter.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:It isn’t the daughter of the aunt that set you up on the date is it?

 

FRANK:Aye the very one.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:God you’d be scundered. You better be careful mate or you’ll end up an internet sensation yourself.

 

FRANK:I’d probably get stage fright. You’ve never…?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Have I ever what?

 

FRANK:You know filmed yourself?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What kinda skank do you take me for? There are some things you shouldn’t have to ask a lady, Frank.

 

FRANK:Aye, but when you see your cousin like that it makes you question things.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Know where you’re taking this girl on your date?

 

FRANK:Not a baldy. Any ideas?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Danny usually takes us to Nandos. Only when he’s in the dog house, mind.

 

FRANK:Can’t remember the last time I went anywhere.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:If you take her to the cinema, you won’t have to watch her eat.

 

FRANK:What if she wants popcorn? I can’t afford that shit.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Put your wee lad in the box and she might give you tug.

 

FRANK:You’re filthy.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:That’s how Isla was conceived.

 

FRANK:Fuck off.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye during a Pixar film.

 

FRANK:And I’m the peado?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Sure there’s no one there during the day.

 

FRANK:All over the seats though.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:There’s no seat anywhere that doesn’t have a bit of cum on it.

 

FRANK:There’s a thought.

 

FRANK checks his smartphone.

 

FRANK: (CON’T) Christ my boss wants to speak to me when I get back.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Could be good news.

 

FRANK:Not after this morning. Couldn’t be. He’ll probably give me the boot this time.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What happened to ya?

 

FRANK:I was showing these right arseholes round a house in Carryduff. They hated the place, you could tell. Complete waste of time. They wanted a miracle for their money and then they ask to see the upstairs.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What was wrong with the upstairs?

 

FRANK:It was a bloody bungalow. There wasn’t one.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:So why didn’t you just tell him it was a bloody bungalow?

 

FRANK:I did. I says to him it’s a bloody bungalow and he says I know but where’s the stairs and I said it’s a bloody bungalow mate. I had to explain to him what a fuckin’ bungalow was.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:It’s not your fault the guy was thick as bricks.

 

FRANK:Aye but then he asked me who would live in a bungalow and I said protestants.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What’d you say that for?

 

FRANK:Christ knows. I was thinking of who lives in a bungalow and I thought about my Gran. She lived in one before she died. I figured what type of person was she, a protestant.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I suppose it’s just a fact. Protestants do live in bungalows.

 

FRANK:Well a lot of them live in terraces and semi-detached.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What did yer man say?

 

FRANK:He lost his rag. Went completely mental. He starts screaming about his rights and the Good Friday Agreement. Asked me if I knew my history, starts talking about Catholics being denied housing. Then he called me a sectarian half-wit or some other middle-class shite.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:It was a daft thing to say, like. Should of said old people. They love bloody bungalows.

 

FRANK:It just slipped out. Anyway I said I was sorry.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye well there’s not much else you could have done.

 

FRANK:I know, what else did he want from me?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You don’t half stick yourself in it, like.

 

FRANK:Story of my life. I guess I’d better go face the music.

 

He stands up to leave.

 

(CONT’D) Have you got the gear?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye. Hold your fire.

 

She brings out a bag of weed from the bottom of the pram and

hands it to Frank.

 

ASHLEY-LEEYou need to start cutting down or you’ll never get anywhere.

 

FRANK:I wasn’t getting anywhere anyway.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Twenty quid.

 

FRANK:(Handing her the cash) Cheers mate.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I need to get going as well. Isla will be wanting her feed when she wakes up.

 

FRANK:You be here tomorrow?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye where else would I be? Angus and Isla ain’t much talkers.

 

FRANK:See you then.

 

He exits. End Scene. 

Page BreakSCENE TWO

 

Still in the park, FRANK sits on the bench rolling a joint with difficulty. The strings of “Eleanor Rigby”. He is now wearing a waterproof jacket and shivering against the cold. Finally, he puts the spliff in his mouth, digs in his pockets for a lighter and attempts to spark it into life, but to no avail. FRANK swears under his breath. Enter ASHLEY-LEE, dressed in a hoodie the sleeves pulled down over her hands, ISLA in tow.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You all right there Frank?

 

FRANK:Fucking cunting thing won’t light. You got a lighter?

 

ASHLEY-LEE: You know I gave up smoking after Isla.

 

FRANK:Always thought you were lying. Fuck it.

 

He puts the rollie and lighter in his pocket. ASHLEY-LEE sits

down beside him. 

 

(CONT’D) It’d bite the bawls off you that weather.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:It’s definitely nippy out. Much craic with you?

 

FRANK:I went out the other night.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You did not.

 

FRANK:I did.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Get you. Who with?

 

FRANK:The ones from work.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:But you don’t like the ones at work.

 

FRANK:They’re all right.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Frank, you said to me that they all had a stick so far up their arses it was like working with a box of ‘Pear Picking Porky’s’.

 

FRANK:You can’t hold me to everything I say.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You didn’t make an eejit of yerself did you?

 

FRANK:What do you take me for?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:An eejit. You’re an absolute clueless eejit.

 

FRANK:I was blootered, aye, there was some slut drops but thankfully I lost them all before I did anything too stupid.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Dodged a bullet there.

 

FRANK:Aye but listen, so I was staggering home when I overheard a guy talking about surnames, so I started talking to him about my ma’s maiden name Bawn, there’s only a few of them left dotted about the place, Canada mostly. Anyway so I ended up walking past my house and chatting with the fella at a bus stop.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:As you do.

 

FRANK:Aye, then he started showing me these photos of him and his ex-boyfriend, in Bruges like.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What like the film?

 

FRANK:You know it’s a real place right Ashley-Lee?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Every day’s a school day.

 

FRANK:Right will. There’s an age gap between them, yer man’s in his sixties and the other guy looks your age. I can’t figure out what was wrong with them, the photos. Then he asks if I’d like to go back to his for a drink and I think why not.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:He doesn’t look like an axe wielding psycho?

 

FRANK:Exactly. Turns out the guys an alcoholic, there’s white lightning everywhere, place is an absolute tip. He’s got these different religious…, you know, books like the Koran and the Bible and all.

 

ASHLEY-LEE: Is there a point to this adventure, Frank?

 

FRANK:I’m getting there. Anyway he’s telling me all about the ones from the church who visit him and how good they are. Has a picture of him and big Ian.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Wha? Paisley?

 

FRANK:Aye the good reverend himself. Says he used to be a Catholic, now he’s a Prod. Swears by the man.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:It takes them all, doesn’t it.

 

FRANK:You wouldn’t have known this guy was an alcoholic, he was so articulate. We’re smoking and drinking away and at about six in the morning I left him to it. Then, I’m back home in my kitchen and the tears are tripping me, praying to God to help that man.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Are you telling me you had a religious experience getting off your head with some drunk?

 

FRANK:Well it was something he said to me. He said “you’re lonely too aren’t you.”

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye, well, just the way things are. It’s almost like… like, there’s too many people in the world to watch them all. Not sure what God’s doing but he’s let his eyes wonder that’s for sure.

 

FRANK:Can’t blame him for everything.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Course you can. If I ever met him I’d be having words with him.

 

FRANK:Bet you would too.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:The other day I get a knock at the window of the living-room just after Isla has gone to bed. Danny and useless mates are comatosed on the couch so here I am left to defend the nest, on my own, like.

 

FRANK:I wouldn’t fancy my chances against ya.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye few would. So I answer the door with the chain on. Can’t take any chances with Danny’s drugs in the house.

 

FRANK:Course.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:There’s this five foot nothing wee slip of a thing there with her bike. Asks me if I could help her fix it.

 

FRANK:What do you know about bikes?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Exactly I can’t even ride the bloody thing but ma heart bleeds. She asks me if we can fix it in my house and I’m thinkin’ what’s her scam. Could be the peelers crackin’ down the paras or anythin’.

 

FRANK:It’s a bit weird like.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:So turns out she just lives across the estate so here I am in a stranger’s house and no one knows I’m there. It’s a puncture she has in the bike; we’re trying to get the tyre off, she has this problem with her wrists. Turns out she lives with two blokes, one of them has his mates round and they are just standing there and laughing at us. Askin’ for me to blow em’ and all.

 

FRANK:Fuckin’ hell.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I was there for hours, terrifying like. Anyway couldn’t get the poor girls bike fixed. Had to just leave her to it but it crossed my mind, like, why was she living there? She clearly wasn’t related to them or nothin’. Then, I thought, same reason we all do, she had nowhere else to go.

 

FRANK:That’s rough.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye.

 

FRANK:Did you tell Danny about it?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Nah, the boys were foreign, didn’t want him sorting them out and ending up on the Nolan Show. The big lad would run away with that one. Danny was fumin’ though, asking where I was. I told him I was fixing the bike, showed him my hands and all but he wasn’t having any of it.

 

FRANK:He’ll come round. (Pause) You know I just realised what was wrong with that guys pictures. The ones from Bruges.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Go on then.

 

FRANK:He was younger in em’ like a good bit. He said it was in January this year but it couldn’t have been. He’s been in love with this guy for years.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Must have been tough to be in a relationship like that.

 

FRANK:I’d say so…. (Pause) Can’t get over that.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:All the lonely people, like.

 

FRANK:(Sings) “Where do they all belong?”

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What are you on about now?

 

FRANK:Don’t worry about it.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Do you want your usual today or wha?

 

FRANK:Any chance you can sub me today? The cost of me Ma’s carers is bleeding me dry.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye all right but just don’t make a habit of it. I’m not made of money.

 

FRANK:Cheers mate. Really appreciate it.

 

ASHLEY-LEE pulls up her sleeves slightly and moves to her buggy. Her right hand is bandaged. FRANK reactively reaches out and grabbing ASHLEY-LEE’s injury.

 

FRANK:What’s wrong with your hand?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Ow! Nothing’s wrong with it. Get off me you asshole.

 

FRANK:(Moment of realisation) I’ll kill him the steeky bastard.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:(Defensively) He lost his temper it happens, alright?

 

FRANK:What just happens?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:(Sighing) He spilt some boiling water on me.

 

FRANK:I swear to God I’ll kill him.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Frank you have no upper body strength to speak of.

 

FRANK:You have to get outta that estate, Ashley-Lee. It’s no place for a wee one.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:(Biting) Aye and with all my qualifications and all those job prospects for drug dealers. Sure I’d be livin’ the life wouldn’t I?

 

A brief silence.

 

FRANK:You could live with me.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Are you right in the head?

 

FRANK gets down to his knees in front of her and takes her hand.

 

ASHLEY-LEE: (CONT’D) You proposing to me now Frank?

 

FRANK:Move in with me, Ashley-Lee, go on?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What about Isla?

 

FRANK:Obviously she’d come to.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:And your mother? What would she think of you bringing home a criminal and her weein?

 

FRANK:Fuck the scrounging munter.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye and when Danny comes knocking looking for his two girls with the UDA in tow, what will you do then?

 

FRANK:I’ll… I’d…

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You’ll do nothing Frank. Because ya can’t. Me and Isla will just have to take our chances with his temper over your cummy tissues.

 

FRANK falls back onto the ground. 

 

FRANK:(Softly) He’ll kill you, you know.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye maybe.

 

ASHLEY-LEE stands and makes to leave. For a moment, FRANK stares out into the park, a man defeated by the world’s endless capacity for misery. Suddenly something catches his eye and life pours back into him. He turns and jiggles the buggy frantically. 

 

FRANK: Ashley-Lee, Ashley-Lee!

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Frank! What do you think you’re doing?

 

FRANK:He was at bowls!

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Who was at bowls?

 

FRANK:Yer man. Yer woman’s husband. Ages ago.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Who?

 

FRANK:She’s been feeding the birds and he was at the bowls!

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Frank, I’ve got to get back to the house or Danny will be wonderin’ where I am.

 

FRANK:(Manic) She’ll be at the bingo next!

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I told you. Some people just like feedin’ the birds.

 

FRANK:It must be a sign or somethin’

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You’re not havin’ a fuckin’ epiphany on me now.

 

FRANK:Your telling me you don’t think it means anythin’?

 

ISLA begins to cry and ASHLEY-LEE attempt to sooth her.

 

FRANK:(CONT’D) Just… Just come get a poke with me.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:(Frustrated) I don’t even like ice-cream. It’s too cold.

 

FRANK:Please, Ashley-Lee. I mean what were the chances?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Wise up, Frank. Go back to work. (Pleading) Alright?

 

ASHLEY-LEE rushes away. A bird shits on FRANK.

 

Page Break

SCENE THREE

 

“Delilah” is playing. Two loud, explosive gunshots are heard. In the park, ASHLEY-LEE is wearing a light jacket and smoking. She is rocking ISLA as usual. FRANK enters dressed in a t-shirt, sweats and is struggling on crutches. He lowers himself down slowly beside her. 

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You’re milkin’ it a bit, aren’t you Frank?

 

FRANK:You should see the looks I’m getting. Florence Nightingale syndrome, like. It’s brilliant.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I’ll call yer gurgler, see if she’ll still have you.

 

FRANK:Har de har har.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I reckon she’d be able to catch you when you do a runner this time.

 

FRANK:You know how to kick a guy when he’s down.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Look on the bright side, all that quality time with your mother.

 

FRANK:Brutal. You’d think she was the only cripple in the family. She keeps complaining about her food being cold cause it takes me so long to hobble in. I’ve never wanted to smoother her with a pillow more in my life.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:She’s getting worse.

 

FRANK:I spat in her tea this morning.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You didn’t.

 

FRANK:She threw it over me and cackled.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Should have known better than to mess with your maker, Frank. Doesn’t matter what she’s dying of.

 

FRANK:You think I’d know that by now.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:That reminds me, I brought you these.

 

She brings out a bunch of grapes from the buggy and hands them to FRANK.

 

FRANK:Grapes?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Grapes. You know to make you feel better. I was going to visit you in hospital but there was a lot going on.

 

FRANK:Don’t sweat it. I was high on morphine half the time anyway.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I did mean to come.

 

FRANK:Honestly don’t worry about it. (Sighing) You know, never thought I’d say it but I miss work, just the opportunity to get out of the house and speak to someone else.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:That’s how I used to feel about coming out to see you.

 

FRANK:How’s the shelter?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye it’s all right. I’m stocked up on toiletries for life and Isla loves it, she’s never seen so many toys and there’s other kids there and all.

 

FRANK:Sounds like the high life.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:It’s not the same as having your own place though. With your own stuff and you can feel settled like. I left everything with Danny.

 

FRANK:Any luck with it?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What my own place?

 

FRANK:Aye.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Well I’m housing stress.

 

FRANK:What does that mean?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:As far as I can tell it just means you’re slightly less fucked than everyone else.

 

FRANK:Couldn’t organise a piss up in this country, could they?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I’m surprised you even have legs left.

 

FRANK:Not much use to be fair.

 

A reflective pause. ASHLEY-LEE fumbles with another cigarette. She offers one to Frank who gratefully accepts. 

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Thanks for not telling him where I was Frank.

 

FRANK:He was more interested in the money anyway.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Glad he had his priorities right. You know he was actually sweet when I met him. I was only seventeen and he was the older lad and all that was attractive but it was that he was more sensitive than the ones my age, that was what I liked. Bought me a ipod with all our songs on it.

 

FRANK:Class.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Didn’t know about the drugs then but even after that, you don’t even think someone you love is capable of shooting someone. He always hated the thought of blood.

 

FRANK:I guess, when you left, he just needed an excuse to break something.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:(Uncharacteristically fragile) In the end he didn’t need much of an excuse.

 

FRANK:(Placing a hand to hers) You won’t be seeing him anytime soon.

 

ASHLEY-LEE looks FRANK in the eyes for a moment. After a moment, he removes his hand. 

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Doesn’t help me sleep.

 

FRANK:Anytime I do manage to nod off, ma wakes up screaming. Can’t stop seeing balaclavas in the night.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You should see us, all roaming the corridors of the place like banshees.

 

FRANK:Banshees?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:All wailing because we all know what’s comin’ for us.

 

FRANK:Fuck me that’s dark.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You didn’t have to do it y’know.

 

FRANK:He would have done it anyway.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Even so.

 

FRANK:I should thank you really. I always wanted to do something dramatic with my life. (Shakes his crutches) Here it is.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Didn’t need you to protect me, Frank.

 

FRANK:Aye but Isla needed her Uncle Frank.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:(Playing with Isla in the buggy) No she doesn’t. She’s tough too.

 

FRANK:She’d need to be to put up with you. (Pause) Me on the other hand… You know at night, I can still feel the blood pouring out like glue.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:That what it felt like? Glue?

 

FRANK:Only way to describe it. I wake up clutching my legs, trying to stem the flow but it’s not there. (Rubbing his neck) I can’t see it but I feel it.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:(Pause) You seeing anybody?

 

FRANK:In this state? Who wants a cripple?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I meant like a professional. A psychiatrist or something.

 

FRANK:I went to this group but it was full of joy riders and other wee scumbags.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You should maybe give somewhere else a go.

 

FRANK:Aye maybe… I’m not really a people person though.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:There’s an understatement.

 

FRANK:Can’t bear the thought of spilling my load in front of a crowd.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:(Laughs) Not like you to spill your load.

 

FRANK:Fuck off…

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I’m serious though. About speaking to someone.

 

FRANK:You’re probably right but you know what those whingers won’t get? What really nags at me?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What?

 

FRANK:How I wasn’t even really… frightened. I would have been happy enough to just… just slip away, you know?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:(Pause) People can surprise you though.

 

FRANK:What do you mean?

ASHLEY-LEE:You never know what they are feeling. It’s been good for me to be around the other women.

 

FRANK:Yeah maybe…

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I’ve been thinking about that dead crow of yours, Frank. What do you think happened to its ma?

 

FRANK:What crow?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:From a while back. You know the one the cat got.

 

FRANK:That seems like an age ago, Ashley-Lee.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Do you think the ma just went on eating and shitting and fucking? Or do you think she stopped looking for the worms? Kept on flying round in circles, and when she was completely knackered like, drained by the emotion of it all, she just lay down on her hoop and died.

 

FRANK:I don’t know, Ashley-Lee.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:There is a woman who used to be in the shelter. Her ex came round and broke all her teeth, just kept hittin’ her. Then social services came. She lost her weein’.

 

FRANK:Danny is locked up, Ashley-Lee.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I couldn’t cope without Isla. The loneliness, I think it’d just swallow you up.

 

FRANK:I think it’s what gets us all in the end.

 

Silence.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I’ve been spending too much time with your miserable bake.

 

FRANK:You and me both.

 

ASHLEY-LEE stands and pushes ISLA away. She puts a hand on FRANK’s cheek. 

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You’ll be alright, Frank.

 

ASHLEY-LEE Exits. ‘I Think That We are Going to be Friends’

plays and fades.  

 

END OF PLAY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being Frank with Ashley Lee

By

R.P. Brown

Page Break

 

 

SCENE ONE

 

It is a sunny day in Victoria Park, East Belfast. FRANK sits on a bench with ASHLEY-LEE sitting beside him.  He is a fidgety man in his mid to late twenties, wearing a dishevelled suit; his work bag is at his feet. Ashley-Lee is rocking a pram absent-mindedly. She is a fierce, slightly younger woman, in a t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms. “Park-Life” is playing and fades out. 

 

FRANK I saw a dead bird yesterday. It was only a wee one like, its parents were squawking in the tree above. They were crows. (Pause) Got me thinkin’ – that’s ominous. I thought of em gobbling the eyes from a dead man’s socket or picking at someone’s neb. That’s when I saw the cat and the wee baby in its mouth. The vicious monster was bringing it home to his master. Up it jumped, all proud of itself, a skip and a jump onto the ledge and in through the open window. The parents were losing their minds, obviously.

 

Then I was thinkin’, the perceptions we have and the judgements we make. Those sorry birds were the victims, not the perpetrators. It really is disgusting; the way society jumps to conclusions.

 

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Your life’s a fuckin’ disaster mate.

 

FRANK:I know.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I mean who thinks like that. Sunny day like today and that’s where your head goes.  It’s like you go out of your way to be a miserable bastard.

 

FRANK:I know.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I mean your life mate is just you thinkin’ pish.

 

FRANK:Aye. Your right there. But… see your woman over there? Feeding the pigeons?

 

He motions in the direction of the audience where the

fictional woman sits opposite.

 

(CONT’D) I see her and that’s what pops into m’head.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I hope I’m as cute as her, when I get to that age.

 

FRANK:If I get to that age, I hope someone puts me outta me misery.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Wise the bap Frank.

 

FRANK:I’m serious. Only the old and decrepit feed the birds and you know why? Cause they have no mates so they have to talk to the birds.

 

ASHLEY-LEEThere’s you going on about perceptions and that She’s probably having the time of her life. She’ll be off to the bingo, when her husband’s done playing bowls.

 

FRANK:Well I’ll not hold my breath waiting on him.

 

They both watch the woman for a moment. 

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Maybe this will cheer you up. My Isla started crawling the other day

 

FRANK:(Pause) Huh?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:My weein, Isla. Comes to the park every day to listen to you gurne.

 

FRANK:Oh yeah? That’s grand.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Got a wee video and all. Here take a look.

 

ASHLEY-LEE pulls out her phone and shows FRANK the video.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:She’s gorgeous ain’t she?

 

FRANK:Aye, she’s a cute wee thing but listen; I think I have a date on Friday.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye? Who’s the lucky girl?

 

FRANK:She’s a friend of me Aunts. Well not my Aunt’s friend but her wee girl.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye, you a kiddy fiddler now then Frank?

 

FRANK:Shut yer gob. She’s a woman. You know, like a fully grown one.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Get you. I’m happy for ya.

 

FRANK:I’m not. She does this weird gurgle thing when she eats. (Enacts the noise) The thought of it makes me chunder. Rather take a cheese grater to me bawls than put up with that.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:When’d you last see the poor girl?

 

FRANK:Ten years ago.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Should take what you can get, with a name like yours.

 

FRANK:What’s wrong with Frank?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:It’s a grumpy ould man name. You’re parents never gave you a chance, pal.

 

FRANK:I am a grumpy ould man.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye and you’re only twenty-five.

 

FRANK:(Pause) What kind of a name is Ashley-Lee anyway? Anyone with two first names is bound to get up the duff, sooner or later.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye. My parents never loved me either.

 

FRANK:We’re a right couple of sob stories, we are.

 

Natural beat. 

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Is it hot?

 

FRANK:Aye, I’ve got a sweat on like?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:No I mean is it too hot? Do you think Isla’s alright?

 

FRANK:What do I know about weeins?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:She’d be bawlin’ if she was sweltered.

 

FRANK:Not if she’d died in the heat.

 

ASHLEY-LEE abruptly stands to check the baby. 

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You’re a Bastard, Frank.

 

FRANK:Wha?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You don’t wish death on a child.

 

FRANK:I didn’t! I just meant… I mean it happens like. I was only sayin’.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Well don’t say.

 

FRANK:It’s just a fact. Babies get heat stroke and they die.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Just shut yer fuckin’ face, alright Frank.

 

FRANK:Alright. Alright. Sorry.

 

ASHELY-LEE moves back to the bench, seething. 

 

(CONT’D) (Pause) Have you fallin’ out with me now?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You don’t wish death on a child.

 

FRANK:I never did. I bloody love Isla.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye well she thinks your tube.

 

FRANKNah, she doesn’t. She loves her uncle Frank.

 

He moves to tickle her in the buggy. Ashley-Lee pushes her out of his way.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:If you wake her, it’s not worth your life.

 

FRANK:Alright. I won’t. Let me tell you what happened to me last.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I knew it wasn’t the date. You were gaggin’ to tell me somethin’.

 

FRANK:You know me always got a story to tell.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye well, before ye start yer nattering, what have you got for me?

 

FRANK rustles in his bag. 

 

FRANK:I’ve got you some mags, Glamour, Now, Heat, a packet of tayto cheese and onion, a bottle of pop and a pastie.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Is it warm.

 

FRANK:The pop?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:No the pastie, you eejit.

 

FRANK:It was.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Fuck sake, give it here then. So what’s this big yarn of yours?

 

FRANK:So I’d been having a few wee drinks and playing some counter strike. When I thought I would… you know.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Thought you would what?

 

FRANK:I thought I would… um… thought I would…

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You thought you would have a wee pull. Milk the one eyed beast.

 

FRANK:Aye, well so, I was watching some… you know.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You were watching porn. I don’t have all day, Frank. Get on with the bloody story.

 

FRANK:Sorry, it’s just you know… a sensitive subject.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What’s sensitive about it? I wank at least twice a day. More if Danny is too plastered to get it up.

 

FRANK:That’s a bit more information than I was lookin’ Ashley-Lee.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Just get on with it.

 

FRANK:Right, well so there I was tugging away, eyes closed, ready to go and then I open them and I get a good look at the wee girl’s face.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What was wrong with her face?

 

FRANK:Nothing! Everything! Wasn’t it my bloody cousin?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You had a wank over your cousin?

 

FRANK:I didn’t know did I?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:How could you not know like?

 

FRANK:It was a bit grainy and I’m usually just skippin’ to the good bits.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You didn’t… finish? Did you?

 

FRANK:Did I fuck.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What did you do then?

 

FRANK:I went to bed, half cut, with a raging boner.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Fuck me. Does yer ma know?

 

FRANK:Aye cause that’s a conversation starter. Alright ma? Guess who I just saw on redtube.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Suppose so. Wouldn’t be bringing that up at the next family funeral either.

 

FRANK:God, that didn’t even occur to me. Mum’d wet her catheter.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:It isn’t the daughter of the aunt that set you up on the date is it?

 

FRANK:Aye the very one.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:God you’d be scundered. You better be careful mate or you’ll end up an internet sensation yourself.

 

FRANK:I’d probably get stage fright. You’ve never…?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Have I ever what?

 

FRANK:You know filmed yourself?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What kinda skank do you take me for? There are some things you shouldn’t have to ask a lady, Frank.

 

FRANK:Aye, but when you see your cousin like that it makes you question things.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Know where you’re taking this girl on your date?

 

FRANK:Not a baldy. Any ideas?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Danny usually takes us to Nandos. Only when he’s in the dog house, mind.

 

FRANK:Can’t remember the last time I went anywhere.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:If you take her to the cinema, you won’t have to watch her eat.

 

FRANK:What if she wants popcorn? I can’t afford that shit.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Put your wee lad in the box and she might give you tug.

 

FRANK:You’re filthy.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:That’s how Isla was conceived.

 

FRANK:Fuck off.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye during a Pixar film.

 

FRANK:And I’m the peado?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Sure there’s no one there during the day.

 

FRANK:All over the seats though.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:There’s no seat anywhere that doesn’t have a bit of cum on it.

 

FRANK:There’s a thought.

 

FRANK checks his smartphone.

 

FRANK: (CON’T) Christ my boss wants to speak to me when I get back.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Could be good news.

 

FRANK:Not after this morning. Couldn’t be. He’ll probably give me the boot this time.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What happened to ya?

 

FRANK:I was showing these right arseholes round a house in Carryduff. They hated the place, you could tell. Complete waste of time. They wanted a miracle for their money and then they ask to see the upstairs.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What was wrong with the upstairs?

 

FRANK:It was a bloody bungalow. There wasn’t one.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:So why didn’t you just tell him it was a bloody bungalow?

 

FRANK:I did. I says to him it’s a bloody bungalow and he says I know but where’s the stairs and I said it’s a bloody bungalow mate. I had to explain to him what a fuckin’ bungalow was.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:It’s not your fault the guy was thick as bricks.

 

FRANK:Aye but then he asked me who would live in a bungalow and I said protestants.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What’d you say that for?

 

FRANK:Christ knows. I was thinking of who lives in a bungalow and I thought about my Gran. She lived in one before she died. I figured what type of person was she, a protestant.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I suppose it’s just a fact. Protestants do live in bungalows.

 

FRANK:Well a lot of them live in terraces and semi-detached.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What did yer man say?

 

FRANK:He lost his rag. Went completely mental. He starts screaming about his rights and the Good Friday Agreement. Asked me if I knew my history, starts talking about Catholics being denied housing. Then he called me a sectarian half-wit or some other middle-class shite.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:It was a daft thing to say, like. Should of said old people. They love bloody bungalows.

 

FRANK:It just slipped out. Anyway I said I was sorry.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye well there’s not much else you could have done.

 

FRANK:I know, what else did he want from me?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You don’t half stick yourself in it, like.

 

FRANK:Story of my life. I guess I’d better go face the music.

 

He stands up to leave.

 

(CONT’D) Have you got the gear?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye. Hold your fire.

 

She brings out a bag of weed from the bottom of the pram and

hands it to Frank.

 

ASHLEY-LEEYou need to start cutting down or you’ll never get anywhere.

 

FRANK:I wasn’t getting anywhere anyway.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Twenty quid.

 

FRANK:(Handing her the cash) Cheers mate.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I need to get going as well. Isla will be wanting her feed when she wakes up.

 

FRANK:You be here tomorrow?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye where else would I be? Angus and Isla ain’t much talkers.

 

FRANK:See you then.

 

He exits. End Scene. 

Page BreakSCENE TWO

 

Still in the park, FRANK sits on the bench rolling a joint with difficulty. The strings of “Eleanor Rigby”. He is now wearing a waterproof jacket and shivering against the cold. Finally, he puts the spliff in his mouth, digs in his pockets for a lighter and attempts to spark it into life, but to no avail. FRANK swears under his breath. Enter ASHLEY-LEE, dressed in a hoodie the sleeves pulled down over her hands, ISLA in tow.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You all right there Frank?

 

FRANK:Fucking cunting thing won’t light. You got a lighter?

 

ASHLEY-LEE: You know I gave up smoking after Isla.

 

FRANK:Always thought you were lying. Fuck it.

 

He puts the rollie and lighter in his pocket. ASHLEY-LEE sits

down beside him. 

 

(CONT’D) It’d bite the bawls off you that weather.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:It’s definitely nippy out. Much craic with you?

 

FRANK:I went out the other night.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You did not.

 

FRANK:I did.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Get you. Who with?

 

FRANK:The ones from work.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:But you don’t like the ones at work.

 

FRANK:They’re all right.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Frank, you said to me that they all had a stick so far up their arses it was like working with a box of ‘Pear Picking Porky’s’.

 

FRANK:You can’t hold me to everything I say.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You didn’t make an eejit of yerself did you?

 

FRANK:What do you take me for?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:An eejit. You’re an absolute clueless eejit.

 

FRANK:I was blootered, aye, there was some slut drops but thankfully I lost them all before I did anything too stupid.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Dodged a bullet there.

 

FRANK:Aye but listen, so I was staggering home when I overheard a guy talking about surnames, so I started talking to him about my ma’s maiden name Bawn, there’s only a few of them left dotted about the place, Canada mostly. Anyway so I ended up walking past my house and chatting with the fella at a bus stop.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:As you do.

 

FRANK:Aye, then he started showing me these photos of him and his ex-boyfriend, in Bruges like.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What like the film?

 

FRANK:You know it’s a real place right Ashley-Lee?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Every day’s a school day.

 

FRANK:Right will. There’s an age gap between them, yer man’s in his sixties and the other guy looks your age. I can’t figure out what was wrong with them, the photos. Then he asks if I’d like to go back to his for a drink and I think why not.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:He doesn’t look like an axe wielding psycho?

 

FRANK:Exactly. Turns out the guys an alcoholic, there’s white lightning everywhere, place is an absolute tip. He’s got these different religious…, you know, books like the Koran and the Bible and all.

 

ASHLEY-LEE: Is there a point to this adventure, Frank?

 

FRANK:I’m getting there. Anyway he’s telling me all about the ones from the church who visit him and how good they are. Has a picture of him and big Ian.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Wha? Paisley?

 

FRANK:Aye the good reverend himself. Says he used to be a Catholic, now he’s a Prod. Swears by the man.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:It takes them all, doesn’t it.

 

FRANK:You wouldn’t have known this guy was an alcoholic, he was so articulate. We’re smoking and drinking away and at about six in the morning I left him to it. Then, I’m back home in my kitchen and the tears are tripping me, praying to God to help that man.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Are you telling me you had a religious experience getting off your head with some drunk?

 

FRANK:Well it was something he said to me. He said “you’re lonely too aren’t you.”

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye, well, just the way things are. It’s almost like… like, there’s too many people in the world to watch them all. Not sure what God’s doing but he’s let his eyes wonder that’s for sure.

 

FRANK:Can’t blame him for everything.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Course you can. If I ever met him I’d be having words with him.

 

FRANK:Bet you would too.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:The other day I get a knock at the window of the living-room just after Isla has gone to bed. Danny and useless mates are comatosed on the couch so here I am left to defend the nest, on my own, like.

 

FRANK:I wouldn’t fancy my chances against ya.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye few would. So I answer the door with the chain on. Can’t take any chances with Danny’s drugs in the house.

 

FRANK:Course.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:There’s this five foot nothing wee slip of a thing there with her bike. Asks me if I could help her fix it.

 

FRANK:What do you know about bikes?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Exactly I can’t even ride the bloody thing but ma heart bleeds. She asks me if we can fix it in my house and I’m thinkin’ what’s her scam. Could be the peelers crackin’ down the paras or anythin’.

 

FRANK:It’s a bit weird like.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:So turns out she just lives across the estate so here I am in a stranger’s house and no one knows I’m there. It’s a puncture she has in the bike; we’re trying to get the tyre off, she has this problem with her wrists. Turns out she lives with two blokes, one of them has his mates round and they are just standing there and laughing at us. Askin’ for me to blow em’ and all.

 

FRANK:Fuckin’ hell.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I was there for hours, terrifying like. Anyway couldn’t get the poor girls bike fixed. Had to just leave her to it but it crossed my mind, like, why was she living there? She clearly wasn’t related to them or nothin’. Then, I thought, same reason we all do, she had nowhere else to go.

 

FRANK:That’s rough.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye.

 

FRANK:Did you tell Danny about it?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Nah, the boys were foreign, didn’t want him sorting them out and ending up on the Nolan Show. The big lad would run away with that one. Danny was fumin’ though, asking where I was. I told him I was fixing the bike, showed him my hands and all but he wasn’t having any of it.

 

FRANK:He’ll come round. (Pause) You know I just realised what was wrong with that guys pictures. The ones from Bruges.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Go on then.

 

FRANK:He was younger in em’ like a good bit. He said it was in January this year but it couldn’t have been. He’s been in love with this guy for years.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Must have been tough to be in a relationship like that.

 

FRANK:I’d say so…. (Pause) Can’t get over that.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:All the lonely people, like.

 

FRANK:(Sings) “Where do they all belong?”

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What are you on about now?

 

FRANK:Don’t worry about it.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Do you want your usual today or wha?

 

FRANK:Any chance you can sub me today? The cost of me Ma’s carers is bleeding me dry.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye all right but just don’t make a habit of it. I’m not made of money.

 

FRANK:Cheers mate. Really appreciate it.

 

ASHLEY-LEE pulls up her sleeves slightly and moves to her buggy. Her right hand is bandaged. FRANK reactively reaches out and grabbing ASHLEY-LEE’s injury.

 

FRANK:What’s wrong with your hand?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Ow! Nothing’s wrong with it. Get off me you asshole.

 

FRANK:(Moment of realisation) I’ll kill him the steeky bastard.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:(Defensively) He lost his temper it happens, alright?

 

FRANK:What just happens?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:(Sighing) He spilt some boiling water on me.

 

FRANK:I swear to God I’ll kill him.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Frank you have no upper body strength to speak of.

 

FRANK:You have to get outta that estate, Ashley-Lee. It’s no place for a wee one.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:(Biting) Aye and with all my qualifications and all those job prospects for drug dealers. Sure I’d be livin’ the life wouldn’t I?

 

A brief silence.

 

FRANK:You could live with me.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Are you right in the head?

 

FRANK gets down to his knees in front of her and takes her hand.

 

ASHLEY-LEE: (CONT’D) You proposing to me now Frank?

 

FRANK:Move in with me, Ashley-Lee, go on?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What about Isla?

 

FRANK:Obviously she’d come to.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:And your mother? What would she think of you bringing home a criminal and her weein?

 

FRANK:Fuck the scrounging munter.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye and when Danny comes knocking looking for his two girls with the UDA in tow, what will you do then?

 

FRANK:I’ll… I’d…

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You’ll do nothing Frank. Because ya can’t. Me and Isla will just have to take our chances with his temper over your cummy tissues.

 

FRANK falls back onto the ground. 

 

FRANK:(Softly) He’ll kill you, you know.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye maybe.

 

ASHLEY-LEE stands and makes to leave. For a moment, FRANK stares out into the park, a man defeated by the world’s endless capacity for misery. Suddenly something catches his eye and life pours back into him. He turns and jiggles the buggy frantically. 

 

FRANK: Ashley-Lee, Ashley-Lee!

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Frank! What do you think you’re doing?

 

FRANK:He was at bowls!

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Who was at bowls?

 

FRANK:Yer man. Yer woman’s husband. Ages ago.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Who?

 

FRANK:She’s been feeding the birds and he was at the bowls!

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Frank, I’ve got to get back to the house or Danny will be wonderin’ where I am.

 

FRANK:(Manic) She’ll be at the bingo next!

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I told you. Some people just like feedin’ the birds.

 

FRANK:It must be a sign or somethin’

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You’re not havin’ a fuckin’ epiphany on me now.

 

FRANK:Your telling me you don’t think it means anythin’?

 

ISLA begins to cry and ASHLEY-LEE attempt to sooth her.

 

FRANK:(CONT’D) Just… Just come get a poke with me.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:(Frustrated) I don’t even like ice-cream. It’s too cold.

 

FRANK:Please, Ashley-Lee. I mean what were the chances?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Wise up, Frank. Go back to work. (Pleading) Alright?

 

ASHLEY-LEE rushes away. A bird shits on FRANK.

 

Page Break

SCENE THREE

 

“Delilah” is playing. Two loud, explosive gunshots are heard. In the park, ASHLEY-LEE is wearing a light jacket and smoking. She is rocking ISLA as usual. FRANK enters dressed in a t-shirt, sweats and is struggling on crutches. He lowers himself down slowly beside her. 

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You’re milkin’ it a bit, aren’t you Frank?

 

FRANK:You should see the looks I’m getting. Florence Nightingale syndrome, like. It’s brilliant.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I’ll call yer gurgler, see if she’ll still have you.

 

FRANK:Har de har har.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I reckon she’d be able to catch you when you do a runner this time.

 

FRANK:You know how to kick a guy when he’s down.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Look on the bright side, all that quality time with your mother.

 

FRANK:Brutal. You’d think she was the only cripple in the family. She keeps complaining about her food being cold cause it takes me so long to hobble in. I’ve never wanted to smoother her with a pillow more in my life.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:She’s getting worse.

 

FRANK:I spat in her tea this morning.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You didn’t.

 

FRANK:She threw it over me and cackled.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Should have known better than to mess with your maker, Frank. Doesn’t matter what she’s dying of.

 

FRANK:You think I’d know that by now.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:That reminds me, I brought you these.

 

She brings out a bunch of grapes from the buggy and hands them to FRANK.

 

FRANK:Grapes?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Grapes. You know to make you feel better. I was going to visit you in hospital but there was a lot going on.

 

FRANK:Don’t sweat it. I was high on morphine half the time anyway.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I did mean to come.

 

FRANK:Honestly don’t worry about it. (Sighing) You know, never thought I’d say it but I miss work, just the opportunity to get out of the house and speak to someone else.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:That’s how I used to feel about coming out to see you.

 

FRANK:How’s the shelter?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Aye it’s all right. I’m stocked up on toiletries for life and Isla loves it, she’s never seen so many toys and there’s other kids there and all.

 

FRANK:Sounds like the high life.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:It’s not the same as having your own place though. With your own stuff and you can feel settled like. I left everything with Danny.

 

FRANK:Any luck with it?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What my own place?

 

FRANK:Aye.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Well I’m housing stress.

 

FRANK:What does that mean?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:As far as I can tell it just means you’re slightly less fucked than everyone else.

 

FRANK:Couldn’t organise a piss up in this country, could they?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I’m surprised you even have legs left.

 

FRANK:Not much use to be fair.

 

A reflective pause. ASHLEY-LEE fumbles with another cigarette. She offers one to Frank who gratefully accepts. 

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Thanks for not telling him where I was Frank.

 

FRANK:He was more interested in the money anyway.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Glad he had his priorities right. You know he was actually sweet when I met him. I was only seventeen and he was the older lad and all that was attractive but it was that he was more sensitive than the ones my age, that was what I liked. Bought me a ipod with all our songs on it.

 

FRANK:Class.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Didn’t know about the drugs then but even after that, you don’t even think someone you love is capable of shooting someone. He always hated the thought of blood.

 

FRANK:I guess, when you left, he just needed an excuse to break something.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:(Uncharacteristically fragile) In the end he didn’t need much of an excuse.

 

FRANK:(Placing a hand to hers) You won’t be seeing him anytime soon.

 

ASHLEY-LEE looks FRANK in the eyes for a moment. After a moment, he removes his hand. 

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Doesn’t help me sleep.

 

FRANK:Anytime I do manage to nod off, ma wakes up screaming. Can’t stop seeing balaclavas in the night.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You should see us, all roaming the corridors of the place like banshees.

 

FRANK:Banshees?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:All wailing because we all know what’s comin’ for us.

 

FRANK:Fuck me that’s dark.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You didn’t have to do it y’know.

 

FRANK:He would have done it anyway.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Even so.

 

FRANK:I should thank you really. I always wanted to do something dramatic with my life. (Shakes his crutches) Here it is.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Didn’t need you to protect me, Frank.

 

FRANK:Aye but Isla needed her Uncle Frank.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:(Playing with Isla in the buggy) No she doesn’t. She’s tough too.

 

FRANK:She’d need to be to put up with you. (Pause) Me on the other hand… You know at night, I can still feel the blood pouring out like glue.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:That what it felt like? Glue?

 

FRANK:Only way to describe it. I wake up clutching my legs, trying to stem the flow but it’s not there. (Rubbing his neck) I can’t see it but I feel it.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:(Pause) You seeing anybody?

 

FRANK:In this state? Who wants a cripple?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I meant like a professional. A psychiatrist or something.

 

FRANK:I went to this group but it was full of joy riders and other wee scumbags.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You should maybe give somewhere else a go.

 

FRANK:Aye maybe… I’m not really a people person though.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:There’s an understatement.

 

FRANK:Can’t bear the thought of spilling my load in front of a crowd.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:(Laughs) Not like you to spill your load.

 

FRANK:Fuck off…

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I’m serious though. About speaking to someone.

 

FRANK:You’re probably right but you know what those whingers won’t get? What really nags at me?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:What?

 

FRANK:How I wasn’t even really… frightened. I would have been happy enough to just… just slip away, you know?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:(Pause) People can surprise you though.

 

FRANK:What do you mean?

ASHLEY-LEE:You never know what they are feeling. It’s been good for me to be around the other women.

 

FRANK:Yeah maybe…

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I’ve been thinking about that dead crow of yours, Frank. What do you think happened to its ma?

 

FRANK:What crow?

 

ASHLEY-LEE:From a while back. You know the one the cat got.

 

FRANK:That seems like an age ago, Ashley-Lee.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:Do you think the ma just went on eating and shitting and fucking? Or do you think she stopped looking for the worms? Kept on flying round in circles, and when she was completely knackered like, drained by the emotion of it all, she just lay down on her hoop and died.

 

FRANK:I don’t know, Ashley-Lee.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:There is a woman who used to be in the shelter. Her ex came round and broke all her teeth, just kept hittin’ her. Then social services came. She lost her weein’.

 

FRANK:Danny is locked up, Ashley-Lee.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I couldn’t cope without Isla. The loneliness, I think it’d just swallow you up.

 

FRANK:I think it’s what gets us all in the end.

 

Silence.

 

ASHLEY-LEE:I’ve been spending too much time with your miserable bake.

 

FRANK:You and me both.

 

ASHLEY-LEE stands and pushes ISLA away. She puts a hand on FRANK’s cheek. 

 

ASHLEY-LEE:You’ll be alright, Frank.

 

ASHLEY-LEE Exits. ‘I Think That We are Going to be Friends’

plays and fades.  

 

END OF PLAY

 

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