After Anton Chekhov
Inside Mabel’s house. A sitting room with a two bar electric heater, with a door leading to a large dining room. It is midday; outside it is raining. In the dining room beyond the table is being laid for lunch and Barry sits reading the paper. Mabel is in a blue dress, the official dress of mad poetesses She is continually editing poems ready for next year’s TS Eliot awards. Her sister Doreen is visiting from Wales. She has no need for poems but is trying to understand their value, preferring the short story or a walk to Lidl.
MABEL: Father died exactly a year ago, on this very same day, on the fifth of May, on your name day, Doreen. It was very cold, and rain was falling, like it is now. You were lying in a faint, as if you were dead. But look, a year has gone by and we can remember it lightly, you are already wearing white, and your face is full of brightness…
DOREEN: Why do you insist on remembering it! Poets (TUT).
(Through the door in the dining room, Barry appears near the table.)
MABEL: Today is raining too, we can’t even have the windows open - but the birch trees are still not in leaf. Barry has taken over the Poem Society, already everything is in flower, everything is flooded with Rain. Good God! This morning I woke up and bubbled up inside my heart … this year I will win the TS Eliot prize, I am sure.
DOREEN: Isn’t that for ‘The Men’? Heavens they need it. Even if we don’t.
MABEL: Its absolutely not true. Sarah, dear Sarah won this year. What a powerful poetess. She’s like a Lioness, I am thinking in rhyme today sister.
DOREEN: Well don’t, it's nonsense. Not even a good rhyme, just an 'ess' sound.
(Mabel, deep in thought over her idea of winning the TS Eliot award, starts to whistle a tune.)
DOREEN: Don't whistle Mabel. How could you! Deranged!
I continually have headaches from all the poetry churning out in this place, and the thoughts I have are those of an ageing old woman, who will never write one. Not one. And really and truly, while I have been working in the Coop, I feel as if every day my youth and my strength have been oozing away drop by drop. The only thing that grows and strengthens is one single dream ….
MABEL. To work in Lidl?
DOREEN. No! To be new editor of Domestic Cherry. I want what you had. Power! To reject poetry, or learn to love it?
(Barry laughs. Mabel gasps)
MABEL: Oh bother! You hate poems so much, at any rate the only difficulty is with poor Roy. He is after the role. I have the Eliots to concentrate on, no time for cherries Doreen.
DOREEN: I can work on it the whole summer, every year. Forget the Eliots. Try the People's Friend, that's where the real poems live.
(Mabel softly whistles a tune.)
MABEL: With God's help it will all work out. (Looking out of the window.) What crappy weather today. I don't know why everything is so bright inside me.
DOREEN: Today you are all radiant, you are looking unusually beautiful. And even Barry is beautiful. Roy would be handsome but it’s just not possible. He has grown rather stout, and that doesn't suit him.
MABEL: Today, I am free. Domestic Cherry is all yours sister. Everything is fine, everything as God wishes, but it seems to me, that if I were to win the Eliot it would be much better.
BARRY: Leave it to me, we’ll make you a winner.
MABEL: I would love that.
DOREEN:You talk such rubbish, it's annoying to listen to you.
MABEL: Well, of course, we'll be delighted for you to be new editor. But how will you overcome poems?
DOREEN: At the most, I can read forty, or forty-five in a year. As long as they are not too long.
MABEL: You talk like a sort of half-wit, speaking all manner of high-blown phrases. I should have given it to you long ago. Perfect.
BARRY: (Coming from the dining room into the sitting room towards DOREEN.) With one hand I can lift up fifty pounds, but with two I can lift one hundred and fifty, perhaps even two hundred. From that I can conclude that two men are stronger than one not by twice as much, but three times, even more … Domestic Cherry is yours. Take it, make it strong Dor, make it dangle.
DOREEN: For loss of hair... two scruples of naphthalene in half a bottle of surgical spirit... dissolve it and use the mixture every day... (Writes in a notebook.) Yes my dear fellow, we'll make a note of it. (To Barry.) So, let me explain to you, you get the cork pushed into the bottle, or whatever, have a glass tube running through the cork... Then you take a small pinch of completely ordinary poems … Domestic Cherry 5 is on its way.