MUSED
BellaOnline Literary Review
Shades of Rock by Jill Florio


Plays

Bell

K. A. Laity

*kerb – (British) curb

(A table outside a café. WRITER scribbles busily for a few moments before PASSERBY does just that. Stops, pausing to watch WRITER’s furious writing for a time then finally interrupts.)

PASSERBY
Are you a writer?

WRITER
(clearly miles away)
What?

PASSERBY
(sure now)
A writer! You’re a writer, aren’t you?

WRITER
No, oh, no. I’m a dictator.

PASSERBY
What?

WRITER
A dictator.

PASSERBY
A dictator? (pause) Really?

WRITER
Yes.

PASSERBY
A dictator? As in… dictator?

WRITER
Yes, I have ruled all the major countries at one time or another.

PASSERBY
You’re putting me on.

WRITER
No, straight up. Name a country—I’ve dictated.

PASSERBY
I’ve never seen your picture.

WRITER
Well, no, you wouldn’t, would you?

PASSERBY
Wouldn’t I?

WRITER
No, no—I run a kind of shadow government.

PASSERBY
Shadow government?

WRITER
Oh yes. Behind the scenes, very hush hush. If you ever see me, you’ll know things have gone amiss.

PASSERBY
But I’m seeing you now.

WRITER
Well, that’s different.

PASSERBY
Is it?

WRITER
Oh yes. I’m on holiday.

PASSERBY
Really?

WRITER
Oh, yes. Even dictators need holidays.

PASSERBY
I suppose.
(pause)
So were you working here?

WRITER
Well, I don’t think I can say too much about it…

PASSERBY
Or what? You’ll have to kill me?
(laughs)

WRITER
(laughs)
No, no—I never kill anyone.

PASSERBY
That’s a relief!

WRITER
Although I have had to hire other people to do it for me. Frequently.

PASSERBY
(nervous laugh)
Have you?

WRITER
Well, in my line of work, sometimes it becomes unavoidable.

PASSERBY
I suppose so. It’s in the nature of dictating, I suppose.

WRITER
Well, it is one of the perks.

PASSERBY
Perks!

WRITER
Think of it—you’ve got someone who really grates on your very last nerve. Day in, day out, everything they do is like stiff little nails on a chalkboard. Everything.

PASSERBY
I know someone like that, all right.

WRITER
Who doesn’t? Well, a word from me and—poof!

PASSERBY
Dead.

WRITER
Well, now, I never said that.

PASSERBY
Some dictator. You don’t kill anyone.

WRITER
I can hardly say. It’s like taking out the rubbish.

PASSERBY
Taking out the…?

WRITER
Do you know what happens to the rubbish after you’ve taken it out to the kerb?

PASSERBY
No, but I think a lot more of it gets recycled these days.

WRITER
Er, yes. Just so—recycling is good.

PASSERBY
So you recycle?

WRITER
Well, when one can. The point I was trying to make was that like the rubbish, I ask it to be taken to the kerb. What happens next is not my business.

PASSERBY
You don’t even have to take it to the kerb?

WRITER
No, thus a perk.

PASSERBY
We’re not talking about rubbish bins now, are we?

WRITER
No.

PASSERBY
(pause)
It’s not a bad thing being a dictator, I suppose.

WRITER
Well, there is a lot of responsibility involved though, people’s lives in your hand, millions in currency.

PASSERBY
Delicate balance.

WRITER
War and peace.

PASSERBY
Sandwiches—sorry, don’t know why I said that.

WRITER
Well, it does cover sandwiches sometimes.

PASSERBY
It always does, eventually.
(pause)
So—you can tell me. Have you been working here?

WRITER
Well, I ought not to say—
(pause, looks surreptitiously around)
but you look like a reasonable person.

PASSERBY
Oh, very much so!

WRITER
(looking around again, then beckoning conspiratorially)
Well, I have had to come give a push. Just a small one, mind you, but sometimes that’s how it is.

PASSERBY
(clearly awed)
Oh. I can see that.

WRITER
Things are on the upswing now—it may not look like it entirely, but it will be getting better soon.

[Bells ring]
(WRITER looks up attentively)
Good heavens; I’m being called.

PASSERBY
What—just now? That was only the clock tower.

WRITER
(smiles)
You heard the clock tower because you expected to hear the clock tower. If you had been listening closely you might have heard the subtle counterpoint resonances. Easily overlooked unless you’re listening closely.

PASSERBY
Ah.

WRITER
Must dash—countries to run, markets to crash. But here—
(takes out card to hand over)
in case you ever find yourself in a spot, just hand them this.

PASSERBY
Hand who this?

WRITER
Whoever it is—won’t matter. They’ll know.

PASSERBY
Here—it’s blank!

WRITER
It looks blank—but trust me. It’s not.

PASSERBY
Ah…thanks.

WRITER
There you are. Must run—cheers!
(exits)

PASSERBY
Yeah.
(looks closely at card, then up where WRITER has exited)
Dictator?
(pause)
Bollocks!
(throws card down on the floor and moves toward the edge of curtain, turns, looks back at card for a moment, eventually runs back to pick up card, looks sheepishly around, then surreptitiously slips into pocket and exits)

CURTAIN

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