The Loneliness Project
A Bit of Give and Take By sue gale
A small front room in a terraced house somewhere in the Midlands.
Myra is a 54 year old teaching assistant.
Myra’s mother is a feisty 84 year old, now widowed.
Myra’s mother sits in an armchair with a wheeled walking frame at her side doing a Sudoku.
MM: Damn and blast! Two sevens on one line
M: (Offstage) Did you call?
MM: Two sevens. On one line. On the Sikudo (Flings it down.)
M: (Offstage) Sudoku
(Enter M with two mugs)
M: Here’s your tea mum. I’m following the doctor’s orders so no sugar.
MM: Oh him, he’d take the joy out of Christmas. Any biscuits?
M: I found some right at the back of the cupboard. How long have they been there? They’re way past their sell-by.
MM: Well I eat them - I’m way past my sell-by and they haven’t killed me yet. I was just saying to young Oliver last week…
M: Oliver? Who’s Oliver?
MM: Oh he’s such a nice young man. Honestly, they say young people these days just take drugs and don’t care about anything but…
M: Mum. Who is Oliver?
MM: Oliver? He’s the lad who phones me up from that animal welfare place. Some of the things people do to their pets you wouldn’t believe Myra. Tie fireworks to cat’s tails, make dogs smoke cigarettes though I don’t know how they manage that. Anyway for five pounds a month I can cure a poorly dog and find him a new home.
M: OK. Let’s get this straight mum. You’re paying this Oliver £5 a month to sponsor an ill animal even though you can’t stand dogs and you’re always moaning about their mess, and you’ve never had a pet in your life.
MM: Well you don’t know anyone in Nepal but look at the song and dance you made of that Car Boot Sale and selling all those cakes.
M: Mum! That was completely different. Whole families died or lost their homes in those floods.
MM: And a lot of dogs have died and lost their homes as well. That’s why I like to give a little something to help when I can. Like I do with the others.
M: Others? What others?
MM: Oh you’d be surprised Myra! Eugene says I must be quite a celebrity in the charity world!
MM: ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind’ Eugene. This month alone I’ve saved three kiddies from malaria, helped find a cure for cancer and sent practically a herd of cows to Uganda.
M: Oh my God mum you haven’t. How long has this been going on? How much have you been giving away?
MM: That’s none of your business Myra. And anyway, I can spend my money how I like. When your dad died he was very clear about that. You remember what he said. He said I should spend the money on what I wanted. Well this is what I want.
M: Christ, dad would be turning in his grave if he knew what you were doing.
MM: He’d be turning a somersault if he knew you were taking the Lord’s name in vain. And anyway, I don’t remember you blaspheming when you came to me cap in hand to ask for that money for Alex’s university fees. Oh yes, it was a different tale then.
M: But that was family mum. He’s your only grandson. I didn’t realise you begrudged it. You know it was only a loan…
MM: Family he may be but if it was a loan when can I expect to get it back? You took it like it was your right Myra and that was over three years ago. He never said thank you, not so much as a bag of sweets. In fact I haven’t seen him since before Christmas and then he was off out with his friends. Couldn’t wait to get away. At least the others have
time for me.
M: He’s young mum. He’s busy. Remember what I was like at his age?
MM: Exactly the same as I recall. Well my friends on the phone are young and busy but they’ve always got time for me. They like a chat. Sometimes we talk for nearly twenty minutes.
M: But they’re not your friends mum. Not really. What on earth do you talk about?
MM: I tell them about my life and they tell me about the terrible things going on in the world. Myra, I had no idea. And if I can help…
M: So they keep calling you to see how much more they can get out of you?
MM: I like to give it. I haven’t got much left now, but it seems a small price to pay for all the time they give me.
M: But you shouldn’t have to pay for people’s time to talk to you.
MM: Well what do you suggest sitting here day after day on my own? I tried the Samaritan once just to have a chat not to talk about dying, and a very nice lady talked to me for over an hour but when she knew I didn’t intend to do away with myself in the back yard I think she lost interest.
M: Oh Mum. Have you sent any cheques recently? We could phone the bank and explain
and then stop them…
MM: We will not stop them! As usual, you haven’t been listening to a word I’ve been saying. I knew this is how you’d be and that’s why I never told you.
M: I have been listening very carefully mum. You have no idea who these people are, they could be anyone. Even if they are genuine, you must know it’s only your money they’re after. Tell me again. They phone up, ask for a donation, you agree and then you hang up?
MM: Oh no. It’s not like that at all. We have a nice talk. They like to hear about my life. They’re always impressed when I tell them I’ve met Churchill.
M: You never met Churchill mum. I’ve told you that before.
MM: Well I saw him in the distance and stood for hours in the Strand to watch his coffin go by.
M: Alright, alright but let’s get back to this charity thing. How much do you think you’ve given in say, the past six months?
MM: I know what you’re after Myra. I can read you like a tuppeny book. You’re worried there won’t be anything left in the pot for you when I go. That’s what this is all about isn’t it?
M: No mum it isn’t. You’re an 84 year old woman. I don’t like you being taken advantage
of by these charities. They’re fleecing you.
MM: That’s a lot of old eyewash. I like having someone to talk to. How many times have you visited me in the past three months Myra?
M: I come when I can. I’ve been busy at work…
MM: Twice. And I live about 10 minutes away by car. Twice in three months.
M: I’m sorry but now I am here, can you promise me you’ll stop all this donating nonsense?
MM: I don’t know. Eugene and Oliver – they do make me laugh. They make me feel like someone, like someone special. I can’t give that up in a hurry.
M: I can see that. (Pause.) Well I certainly wasn’t expecting all this today of all days. I actually came round because there’s something I need to tell you and I need to say it before you read about it in the papers….
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