JACK HARTE





Cross Purposes (sample) by Jack Harte

The stage represents two locations, the snug of a public house in the Midlands of Ireland and the street in front of the public house. Downstage, across, is the street. Centre stage and upstage is the snug, which is traditional and functional. Fixed lounge seats surround the walls. The only door is in the centre of the wall stage left. Centre of the wall, stage right, is a serving hatch, which opens into the bar. There is a circular lounge table and two free-standing chairs centre stage.

The time is the recent past.


Scene 1

Enter, on the street, downstage right, Sean Moloney, a teacher in his late thirties. He walks along the street in a business-like way, and exits stage left. After a moment, he re-enters through the door of the snug. He carries a brief case in one hand, which he deposits on a lounge seat. He opens it, takes out a bundle of copybooks, and places them on the table.

He goes to the hatch, pulls it back, and stoops to look in. He catches the eye of the barman and gives a signal with his finger. He then turns to the table, takes off his jacket, and hangs it on the back of a chair. He takes a red biro from his pocket and places it beside the bundle of copybooks on the table. He returns to the hatch and waits a few moments. When the pint of ale is pushed through the hatch, the hatch door is slammed down.


    SEAN
Thanks, Tom. Good to talk to you too. He returns with his pint to the table. The great thing about Irish pubs - the sympathetic chat with the barman. He raises his glass to the hatch before taking a long draught. World famous hospitality. He sits down, arranges himself, takes another long swig from the pint, lifts the top copybook, opens it, and begins to examine it carefully, occasionally making a mark, or writing a word, with his red biro.

On the street, downstage right, Gabrielle enters. She walks cautiously from right to left along the street. When she reaches downstage left she gives a significant glance behind her and another in front of her to ascertain that she is not being watched. She then exits stage left.

She re-enters, nervously, self-consciously, through the door of the snug. She is a slim blonde, glamorous girl in her late thirties. She closes the door firmly behind her.

Sean has been so totally immersed in what he is doing that he starts with surprise when she enters. He jumps to his feet awkwardly, knocking over the pile of copybooks and almost spilling the pint.


    GABRIELLE
Hello, Sean. I knew Iíd catch you here.

    SEAN
In considerable confusion. Gabrielle! How are you? He pulls out the other chair, removes his jacket, throws it over on a lounge seat, and offers the chair to her. Would you like a drink?

    GABRIELLE
No thanks. I just dropped in to see you.

    SEAN
Well, itís great to see you. You Ö look wonderful, as ever.

    GABRIELLE
I donít know about that. The years take their toll.

    SEAN
On the rest of us, yes. But not on you. He gets embarrassed when he realises the personal nature of his comment. Are you sure you wouldnít like a drink or something?

    GABRIELLE
No, Iím fine, honestly, thanks.

Sean sits down and gathers the copybooks to one side.

    GABRIELLE
Looking around. So this is where you hide yourself.

    SEAN
Quizzically. I like it here. The peace and quiet. Thereís no one around at this time of the evening.

    GABRIELLE
Of course not.

    SEAN
Why, of course not?

    GABRIELLE
Everyone knows to leave the snug free between four and six, Monday to Friday. Everyone knows youíre here then.

    SEAN
Oh! Do they think I have the plague or something?

    GABRIELLE
Quite the opposite. They know you like your quiet pint after school, so they leave you alone out of respect. ĎSean's studyí they call this snug.

    SEAN
Laughing. Yeah, I suppose I have made a habit of it. I'm not so sure Tom approves. Nodding towards the hatch. I'm probably keeping away more serious drinkers. But itís the only way I can correct copybooks. If I brought them home, I'd sit looking at them all night! This way I bribe myself with a pint to get them finished before I go for the dinner.

    GABRIELLE
I know. Your habits are well known, Iím afraid. But I wouldn't have imagined you needed to bribe yourself. I would have thought you enjoyed your teaching.

    SEAN
I do enjoy teaching. But I hate correcting copybooks.

    GABRIELLE
Well youíre certainly good at the teaching. Your students seem to worship you.

    SEAN
Young people, you know. They have no sense.

    GABRIELLE
Itís the old people too, the parents. They seem to idolise you. They claim you work miracles with their offspring.

    SEAN
Now showing embarrassment. I suppose I do my best, and they appreciate it. I know that, and, yes, it is gratifying.

    GABRIELLE
I regret my two didn't have you teaching them. I know they're missing something special.

    SEAN
Your two boys. Yes. I would have liked to teach them. But you didn't send them locally.

    GABRIELLE
Apologetically. No. You know the way. They had to follow the family tradition. Boarding school. Like their father and their uncles, and their grandfather before that. The same school.

    SEAN
Yes, of course, I remember Charlie going.

    GABRIELLE
Still, it's a pity.

    SEAN
That's life, isn't it?

    GABRIELLE
A pity?

    SEAN
Lightly. A procession of lost opportunities.

    GABRIELLLE
Well, you seem to have found what you wanted.

    SEAN
Laughing. And what's that?

    GABRIELLE
Teaching. A reputation as the best teacher in the county. Adulation. Hero-worship.

    SEAN
You're mocking me now.

    GABRIELLE
Believe me, I'm not. That's the way they look on you out there.

    SEAN
Well that's nice. After a pause, looking around. I like this place. Do you remember next door?

    GABRIELLE
Next Door? Oh, Donlon's Ice Cream Parlour. Of course.

    SEAN
Enthusiastically. The two old sisters, back from the States, who thought they would bring a bit of America back with them.

    GABRIELLE
They thought they would make a fortune, I suppose. They saw how popular the ice cream parlours were with the young people in America. But there wasn't the same demand for ice cream in Ireland. The thermometer wasn't exactly hitting the nineties all summer long.

    SEAN
Still we enjoyed the place while it lasted. Do you remember? Every Sunday after Mass?

    GABRIELLE
Yes, I remember. It came to mind lately!

    SEAN
Lighting up. Yes?

    GABRIELLE
Do you remember William?

    SEAN
Of course I do. William and you and I, every Sunday morning after Mass. The fun we had. I can't remember any other patrons in the Ice Cream Parlour. But the big slices from the ice cream block, and the bottle of fizzy orange turning to foam when it poured over the ice cream. Sheer delight to the taste buds. And us laughing and laughing.

    GABRIELLE
I remember. After a pause. William is back.

    SEAN
William! Willie Boland? I hadn't heard.

    GABRIELLE
That's what I came to talk to you about.

    SEAN
Willie Boland?

    GABRIELLE
You know the great big house that's being built on the hill above the lake?

    SEAN
The ranch house with the helicopter pad?

    GABRIELLE
The biggest sprawl of a house ever built in the county.

    SEAN
I hear people talking about it. I've seen it from the road. It's monstrous.

    GABRIELLE
Itís being built for William.

    SEAN
I don't believe you.

    GABRIELLE
It's true.

    SEAN
So William made good.

    GABRIELLE
He sure did.

    SEAN
Who would have believed it? Willie Boland? I knew he was doing well. I used to enquire about him when his parents were still here. But then he brought them over to the States, and I have never heard a word since. That must be, what, ten years ago.



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