CATERPILLAR (Act One, Scene 1)
SCENE ONE: IN THE SKY
CLAIRE: I launch myself off the pier. The wind fills my ears and my fingertips brush a cloud as I soar past. It’s soft, as fluffy as the ones your Dad painted on your bedroom wall for when we brought you home and are still there.
I’m propelling forward, still forward, have I made the jackpot distance? I’m probably not even close, but then –
A gust whips your birthday balloons out of my hand. I watch them skitter away, brightly coloured dots in the blue. I expect the plummet, I brace, but no. The wind is now a breeze is now a whisper and I’ve stopped; suspended in the sky. The light glistening off the water is blinding.
I slowly stretch myself out as long as I can go. I feel my spine crick and uncurl, my shoulders loosen. I hold my head up high for the first time in …
I point my toes. I hold my fingers like a dancer. Like I think a dancer might. I’m not really sure.
My body hangs here. My mind is quiet. I breathe the clean crisp air, in and out, deep and long. I picture my lungs filling to bursting. I picture you.
I don’t know how long this will last. It’s already gone on longer than I dreamed. The drop is coming. But I’ve done it. It’s done. I jumped.
IRIS (Act Two, Scene 1)
JULIE: The room is hot with the smell. Blood. Raw meat. Sweat. It’s thick and strong, seeping into the walls and the metal bed frame and the sheets.
The noise fills up the whole space. Even when it’s just her breathing, low and long, or short sharp gasps, it’s coming from somewhere else inside her. From all of her. Her body knows that this is what she is built for.
I’m backed into a corner. My ears are full, my nose, while my eyes sting and stream. I daren’t blink in case I miss a moment of it. I’ve missed so much already, each flutter, kick, but no more.
Then … I don’t know what’s happening, a flurry of voices, movement, gloved hands and red flesh … and now suddenly it’s over, it’s done, and I’m a beat behind everyone else.
The midwife lies you on her chest. Skin on skin. You curl around to fit the shape of her. Instinct. I see her see you. There is no gap, no join. You’re hers. From her. You are one.
Time passes. I’m a spectator. They bring her strong tea and buttered toast. It wafts over, I’m starving for it, but no toast for me. I haven’t done anything.
Then, finally, I’m invited to join in. You’re quiet now, wrapped up tight, passed over carefully. I can’t find a curve for you to fit into. I hold you slightly away.
Your eyes are closed but I can feel hers on me. When I glance over she shuts them tight but I know she’s watching, checking. Of course she is. She’s lying there; torn open and emptied while I sit comfortably with the spoils.
I look and look but I can’t see you. A mass in a blanket, fat face all blotchy, nose, eyes, lips. I can make out the parts, but not the whole. How long have I wanted to hold you? I wait for it to overwhelm me, for the rush …
I close my eyes. They’re so dry I feel the eyelids scrape down. Relief. You’re heavier than I thought you’d be. I hear my own breath in my ears. Maybe it’ll be ok.
You start crying. My eyes snap awake, wild, staring into your black, open mouth.
It wasn’t meant to be like this.
THE SOAKING OF VERA SHRIMP (extract)
Death smells. It smells of casserole and macaroni cheese, soup, corn beef and potato pie, two of them – one’s nice, the other’s disgusting. People leave food on the door step. They ring the bell, but we don’t answer, and then later I open the door and trip over all this tupperware.
I’m just in from school. My key is literally in the door when behind me I hear:
VERA (as Dogs Trust Woman): Yoo hoo!
VERA: She goes,
as DTW: Yoo hoo!
VERA: That’s me as her.
as DTW: Hiya hi hi hi!
VERA: She says ‘Hi’ a lot.
as DTW: I’m glad I caught you.
(To audience:) That’s me as me.
as DTW: Hi. I would have come here sooner but we’ve been having our driveway done. You’ll have seen.
as DTW: Well, I haven’t been able to walk on it – the drive, I mean. It’s been ridiculous really – like being under house arrest.
as DTW: It’s hot, isn’t it?
as DTW: Are you not boiling in that jumper?
as DTW: I like it warm but this is ridiculous. I just want it to break, you know?
as DTW: Is your dad in?
as DTW: I did knock a couple of times but …
VERA: He might be at work.
as DTW: His car’s here.
(Uncomfortably long pause.)
VERA: (to the audience) The silence is THIS long. She stares me in the eyes the whole time, smiling
as DTW: Can you look for me?
VERA: I say I will go and look then I close the door on her. I kick a pizza box under the settee and I look for Dad. He might be at work, he might have gone in on his bike. They’ve stopped leaving messages on the answering machine so maybe he’s gone in and just not said. But he’s sitting at the dining table, staring out of the window. I have to tell him twice that there’s some woman at the door.
as DTW: Hiya, sorry to bother you. I’ve come from number 24. I brought a quiche around when your wife… It was ham and cheese. So if I could just get it back – my dish.
VERA: Dad leaves her on the doorstep and goes to the kitchen. I wait. I see her spot the pile of unopened post spilling out from behind the door; the plate with the mouldy crust. She tries to peek around me but I just shuffle from side to side to block her. Her stupid Dogs Trust polo shirt is bright yellow and her jeans are new and stiff and she doesn’t suit being in our house.
Dad’s back. He has the door nearly closed before…
as DTW: This isn’t my dish, my dish is green. Swirly, sort of avocado.
VERA: I go to look. I open every cupboard, every door. There’s no swirly ‘sort of avocado’ dish. I even tip the bin out in case I’ve thrown it away. I gag at the smells and get rank bin juice on my hands.
(To DTW) Just take this one.
as DTW: I’d like my one back please.
VERA: (To DTW) Just fucking take /
(To audience) But dad shoves the dish-that’s-not-hers dish at her. It drops and smashes on the step.
I stare at her polo shirt – ‘Sponsor a dog today!”.
Nobody leaves anymore food after that.