Cemetery

cem4

(Scene: a cemetery. A park bench faces the audience. Sounds of birdsong. Enter Phil, smartly dressed in a suit. He sits on the bench looking out. Enter Louise, also smartly dressed. She sits down beside Phil)

Phil: Morning, Louise.

Louise: Happy Anniversary Phil.

Phil: It’s nice of you to remember. I always forget Birthdays and Anniversaries. Brenda never does.

Louise: My Steve had a mind like a sieve too.

(Pause)

Phil: Autumn’s making itself felt.

Louise: Yes, later and later each year.

Phil: I was at the plant again today.

Louise: I thought you said you wouldn’t go anymore. Phil!

Phil: Well, it was painful. I didn’t go in, just stood at the side gate. Mostly new faces now. I just can’t seem to keep away.

Louise: Well you really should. That place is history for you, Phil. Let it go.

Phil: Alright. I’ll try.

(Pause)

Louise: I’ve never been back to Sinclair’s.

Phil: You’ve never felt the urge?

Louise: Look, Phil. Once something is over, it’s over. You have to let it go.

Phil: I suppose you’re right. As usual!

(They both smile. Pause)

Phil: Lou? When did you know? I mean, DID you know?

Lou: Know what?

Phil: That it was all coming to an end? I mean, I had no idea.

Louise: Ah, well. The signs were there; but I was too bound up in getting the new magazine launched to see them. We had problems, sure. I suppose I thought a new product would save us all.

Phil: It was the same at Blanchard’s. We tried it all. Initiative after initiative. New visions. New strategies. I even sent our HR director to the States to LOOK for buzzwords to bring back. It was all sticking plaster on a festering wound.

Lou: And what was causing it?

Phil: Oh it was very simple really. We launched quality drives, “flexible” this, “agile “that, “Lean” the other; we had empowerment programmes, change programmes, but the real problem was the one we didn’t want to admit. No one was buying pocket toys any more. Kids were getting their fun on Atari’s and Spectrums.

Lou: We had a similar problem. Every magazine was the brainchild of someone around that boardroom table. And, to put it bluntly, most of those children had simply grown old and senile. We kept products going that had less than 10,000 readers just because no one wanted to upset anyone in a meeting.

Phil: So you did all the real talking behind each other’s backs?

Louise: Yep. I was the only one who tried to be honest and all THAT led to was a vendetta against me. It turned into a hate campaign.

Phil: I was under daily pressure from the CEO in the States to turn things around.  He was never too direct which made it worse. But I knew he was blaming me for the sales decline. I thought I could fix it. Guess how?

Louise: How?

Phil: Working longer hours. Taking on more and more of what others were doing badly. At one point I was Managing Director, Quality Champion, Head of the Turnaround Team, and Reengineering Leader. Re-engineering. Now that really WAS the killer blow.

Louise: How so?

Phil: The CEO got a team of consultants in from Pummel and Flatten in the U.S. Re-engineering. They re-engineered us into a business ready for liquidation. Three quarters of the workforce went, and it was my name on the bottom of each letter. It was all levelled in a matter of months. They weren’t interested in any ideas for new products. What about you?

Louise:  I was told very directly that my personal and emotional involvement in the new magazine was clouding my judgement. It was six against one.

(They sigh. Pause)

Phil: But that wasn’t what I was asking.

Louise: Oh?

Phil: I meant, I mean, did you know it was all over for YOU? For you, personally?

Louise: Oh, I see. No. I don’t think so. It was about a week after Steve had left me. By then the company was in the hands of the Receivers. I was “home alone” with a DVD of the Shawshank Redemption and a bottle of Finlandia Vodka. II think I drank the whole bottle. And some red wine as well. I had a pounding headache. I was well gone. It wasn’t an overdose. I don’t want you to think that. But it was a blinding headache. I must have taken a handful of Nurofen. I went to sleep and that was it.

Phil: Shit.

Louise: SO, no. I didn’t see the signs. I wish I had.

(Pause)

Louise: What about you?

Phil: Me? Oh, the signs were there. Did I see them? They were glaringly obvious. But it’s amazing what you can ignore when you aren’t really looking beyond the tip of your nose. Indigestion; Shortness of breath. Not sleeping properly. And I had this terrible itching all of the time. Then, it was in the canteen after a re-engineering meeting. Sausage rolls, vol-au-vents, crisps. I remember, it was a cheese and onion crisp. For some reason I couldn’t get my mouth to work. It wouldn’t chew. Then some chest pains, the classic pain down the left arm and left side. And then it all got much, much worse. So, yes. The signs were al too obvious really. Too late now.

Louise: I’m sorry, Phil.

Phil: Yep. Still, I better get to my plot. It’s our anniversary. Brenda always lays flowers on our anniversary.

(He gets up to go. Lights)

The End


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