Hereafter was written for the inaugural Pint-Sized Play competition in 2008, back when I was still went by my birth name of Nick Taylor. It was chosen to be one of the 10 finalists and performed in Theatre Gwaun, Fishguard. It won the Performance Award and was published in an anthology of winning scripts in 2013. It has been performed in Wales, Hull and New Zealand. It's a play about men, about friendship, and how we say what's real after we've said everything else.
by Nick Taylor
Copyright © 2012 by Nick Taylor
Mason – A solid bear of a plumber, mid 30s
Joe – His younger, better looking mate, late 20s
Bea – A business-like shaman, 40s
Mason and Joe are two plumbers chewing over the day in their local. Only that smell’s back and things seem unusually quiet, not least from their two invisible friends. Perhaps a stranger called Bea can shed some light on why their evening seems so familiar.
Setting and Properties
A table with seating for four at the far corner of an otherwise deserted pub. Two pint glasses stand half full, two other pints are untouched.
A corner of an empty pub. If there are other people nearby, many doors separate them. MASON and JOE sit at a table with two vacant chairs facing them. Both men have a pensive air to them, as if they’ve been sitting for a while and the burble of fresh chatter has given way to something more thought-provoking.
JOE: (sniffing) That smell’s still here.
MASON: I knew you were going to bring that up again.
JOE: Quiet tonight.
MASON: It’s always quiet.
JOE: Yeah, I know. But tonight feels different. There’s a quality of quiet.
MASON: How much have you had?
JOE: (indicating pint) Just this.
MASON: You need more.
JOE: Not thirsty.
MASON: Nor me.
JOE: (nodding at the empty seats) They’re still a bundle of laughs then.
MASON: No change there, either.
JOE: (speaking as if to the old or dim) You boys ready for a drink yet?
MASON: You’re wasting your time.
JOE: Game of cards? Poker? Snap? Canasta?
MASON: (turning to him) Canasta?
JOE: What? I used to play it. My nan loved it. That and seeing how far she could spit.
JOE: Tell you what though mate: that was close with…
MASON: …that lorry? So you said. Bloody nutters!
MASON: Bloody premium farm assured beef.
JOE: Yeah, fucking Tescos.
MASON: Oi! Language.
JOE: Sorry. We should call that number on the back. Tell ‘em what we think of their driving.
MASON: Bit late for that now.
JOE: (reaching for his phone) It’s 0 8 something hang on.
MASON: Leave it be, Joe.
JOE: No signal.
JOE: It is quiet though. I thought at least they’d be playing that Scooch song by now.
MASON: Hey, look sharp. We’ve got company.
A woman has entered and is looking round the pub as if inspecting its ceiling paint or thinking about buying it. BEA is attractive in an androgynous way, early 40s, with short hair, plenty of jewellery and a distracted air. She may be mumbling to herself.
JOE: I think she’s blind, (calling out) toilets are the other way darling.
MASON: Shush up, will you, she’ll hear.
BEA follows the voice. She appears blind as her eyes are half closed and she’s fumbling towards them.
MASON: Too late.
BEA: May I join you?
MASON: Can’t ban you.
JOE: Sorry if I shouted but you looked blind.
BEA moves to sit in one of the empty chairs.
MASON: Oi! Oi! Oi! Steady on lady, that one’s taken.
BEA: Oh sorry.
JOE: I told you she was blind.
BEA pulls up another chair.
JOE: She was going to sit on your Fred.
BEA: (indicating the empty seats) Your friends are sitting here?
MASON: That’s right. This is Fred.
JOE: And that’s Fred Two.
BEA: They’re both called Fred?
MASON: I named mine first.
JOE: And I’m not good at inventing things.
BEA: They’re very… quiet.
MASON: Oh they just sit there. Not a sound. Like the Chuckle Brothers on an off day. I’m Mason and this is Joe. We haven’t seen you here before. Can we get you a drink?
BEA: No thank you. I’m Bea. As in buzz.
JOE: Like B as in bat. As in blind-as-a…
MASON: Or a bit fruity.
MASON: Touched. You know. Mental.
BEA: (cheerful) Oh that’s me. Crazy enough to talk to thin air and empty seats. That’s why I’m here.
MASON: Come again?
BEA: (shaking her head) How to break this to you… I’m afraid you’re both dead.
MASON: Are you threatening us, lady?
JOE: She means the place. We’re always saying how quiet it is now. Especially when that Scooch song isn’t on.
BEA: No, I mean, you. Both of you. You’ve been killed.
JOE: (blowing out air) Shit! Well there’s something you don’t hear everyday.
BEA: Sorry was that too brutal?
JOE: I prefer the no fuss approach, myself.
MASON: Listen love, no offence or anything but you waltz in here, disturb our pints, then tell us we’re dead. I call that an imposition.
BEA: Oh dear, this is never easy… (putting on glasses and getting out a file)
JOE: Glasses, see. I knew there was a sight issue.
MASON: What’s that for? Are you from the government?
BEA: It’s to look more official. What do you think? My teacher was a seer who favoured chanting barefoot and smudging sage, but I thought you were more run-of-the-mill types.
MASON: Who the hell are you?
BEA: Well I suppose, technically, I’m a guide. I’m here to help you move on.
MASON: You carry on like this we’ll be out like a shot.
BEA: Mr Mason Evans. 35. Of 4, The Close? Self employed plumber. One wife, Yvonne, divorced, two children, Peter and Katie…
JOE: You ARE from the government!
BEA: And Mr Joseph Hughes. 29. Of 13 Reesdale Avenue. Employed by Mr Evans. Living with your mother, Irene.
MASON: How did you get hold of all that?
BEA: It was in the papers. When I heard from the new owners about the problem I did some research. Spoke to your families. It’s what I do.
MASON: I think you’re off your tree.
JOE: Mate, mate, mate. The lorry…
JOE: That lorry that nearly ran us off the road…
BEA: (removing a cutting from the file) There was an accident. Your van hit the struts of a bridge. I’m so sorry…
JOE: Well I’ll be blown.
BEA: You were. About fifty feet before your van went up.
JOE: How long have we been… I mean, when?
BEA: Six months.
JOE: Six months? And this pint not even finished.
BEA: At first people complained about the smell. Like something from under the fridge, someone said. The new owners thought I could help. Sue and Avril. Lovely couple. They want to update. Strip the floorboards. Do a vegan option.
JOE: What about our two Freds?
BEA: You can see them but I can’t. They’re probably your dying shadows, some aspect waiting to clear with you.
MASON: I can’t believe I’m hearing this.
BEA: It is a lot to take in.
MASON: Hang on, if we died on the A40 how come we’re in the snug of the Old Yew?
JOE: Yeah! Why aren’t we haunting that Little Chef by Tumble?
BEA: You died so instantly the shock would have thrown you. You came to rest where you felt most at home.
MASON: (considering) Well they do a good pint.
JOE: I prefer The Salmon.
MASON: (shocked to JOE) You never said. (to BEA) Hang on, we’re talking about pubs and you’re telling us we’re dead.
BEA: I’m just trying to make a bridge. To help you move on. You’re not of this world anymore.
JOE: (shrugging) It could be worse. I always told mum I loved her. And I’m with you mate. That’s something – not going on alone. In Thailand, Buddhism, they say you return, like Christmas. I could come back as Kylie’s cat. A fancy Persian one that needs a lot of stroking.
MASON: She’s having us on…
JOE: (suddenly alert) What’s that?
JOE: By the gents. It’s a sort of gap, like when light spreads through a door that’s not quite shut.
BEA: Joseph, are you ready?
MASON: Joe mate…
JOE: (rising) It’s alright. I get it now…
BEA: That’s it. Go well.
MASON: Oh she’s got to you has she. What is it? Tunnel of light? Angels and harps? Is it? Joe?
But JOE can’t hear. He turns to MASON and though he doesn’t say anything there is a lightness about him, a sense of relief; of going home. He moves away towards the gap and through it.
BEA: And he’s gone. There’s no hurry Mr. Evans… It’s when you’re ready… If there’s anything you want to…
MASON: He’s having me on. I know that boy. He’s round the back having a right chortle. Him and Fred Two: (calling out) you can both come out now. This pint won’t drink itself.
BEA: Your friend Joe has cleared. He’s gone.
BEA: But I wonder Mr. Evans, would you call the pint he’s left behind half full or half empty?
MASON: Shut up just shut up! Ever since you came in here there’s been nothing but crap. You with your government glasses and talk of smells. And now Joe’s gone. Joe, who never left my side. He was…
MASON: It’s just as a bloke, they never tell you about friends. Women fair enough, though god knows Yvonne… talk about trying to make contact with the other side (laughs bitterly). But Joe would follow me to the end of the… he came here with me, for all its stinking carpet and antique stains and that bastard Scooch song on… (twigging) loop.
MASON: I don’t want to die. Thing is… how I was taught… Heaven and Hell. What if Joe got lucky and I go… You see I’ve done my share of bad. Money mostly. Then behind Yvonne’s back… Does that count? Why couldn’t we go together, is that a sign? Am I going to burn forever?
MASON: You’re supposed to help; why don’t you say something?
BEA: I can’t tell you what your heaven looks like, that’s just for you. But I can tell you this. There’s no more hell. This brief tragedy of life with its stillborn babies and rainstorms, arguments and heart attacks, this is the closest you’ll ever come to suffering. There’s no more. And what Joe said, or what he didn’t say, at the end, when he got it. That’s all you need to remember.
MASON: (crying) I’m so scared.
BEA: (taking his hands) I know.
MASON: (seizing hers and holding them, tears at his cheeks) It’s like I feel… I feel… (shocked) I feel? I can feel (smiling) I can feel (a glow spreading, a dawning)
BEA: (releasing him) There you go…
MASON is laughing, ecstatic, he kicks back the chair and exits after JOE with a wild howl of joy. BEA has her eyes closed as the racket quietens. She opens them and rights the chair. She exhales audibly.
BEA: (to the room) Is anybody there?
BEA: (to herself) Not any more.