[Be sure to read Play No. 49, Craig Taylor’s other tiny play about London.]
(Two men sift through garbage in a bin near Highbury Fields. They wear Islington Council reflective jackets and yellow gloves. They use long metal utensils.)
Pete: So you come across lots of unopened bottles, don’t you?
Phil: Bottles. Lots of cans.
Pete: You ever take them?
Phil: Tins once in a while.
Phil: If they’ve still got the labels on.
Pete: Like a homeless guy would?
Phil: They’re sealed tins, you know.
Pete: But you only take the ones with labels, yeah?
Phil: You could end up with mangoes if you don’t.
Pete: Or some freak who puts his shit in a tin.
Phil: Never seen that.
Pete: I wouldn’t take a tin. Couldn’t pay me to take a tin.
Phil: I never once heard of someone who would take time to put his shit in a tin and then seal that tin and put that tin in the garbage and think that someone would take it home.
Pete: You never know.
Phil: You can be sure of some things.
Pete: I’ll buy my tins in the store, I will.
(They sift through the garbage. Phil uncovers a bottle of Budweiser beer. The cap is still on.)
Pete: Bud’s not bad, yeah?
Phil: When you got nothing else.
Pete: No, I used to drink it when I was with my brother in America. Like water they drink it there. Even have bottles with a wider opening at the top so you can slam beer. My brother slams beer.
Phil: They treat it like a soft drink.
Pete: He slams it. One swallow.
Phil: It’s just Pepsi to them.
Pete: You can buy it in cases of ninety.
Phil: And tasteless too. Gassy.
Pete: My brother could burp, you know, for five minutes after slamming.
Phil: You spend half your time burping
Pete: Sometimes ten minutes he would go on for. You want it?
Pete: Label’s on it.
Phil: I didn’t say I take everything with a label, did I?
Pete: All right.
Phil: There’s discretion, yeah?
(They root around through the garbage.)
Pete: It’s sort of disgusting. This job? If you think about it.
Phil: You get the odd diamond.
Pete: Tell me when you see one.
(They root around.)
Phil: I play this game sometimes where I try to figure out where a piece of garbage comes from. It’s like everything has its own story. Everything in here was once somewhere else. When you think of it that way the whole job gets more interesting.
Pete: Gets interesting how?
Phil: You should give it a try.
(Pete picks up a newspaper with his utensil.)
Pete: What was this in the beginning? A newspaper? What’s it now? A wet newspaper. That’s really fucking interesting.
Phil: You’re not trying. What about this?
Pete: Oh, that’s even better. I’ve never seen an empty bag of crisps before. That’s absolutely stunning.
Phil: But if you were playing the game, you’d be able to imagine that maybe this bag of crisps belonged to some kid who might become the, I don’t know, the next Frank Sinatra.
Pete: The next what?
Phil: Or whoever. It’s just an example.
Pete: But it didn’t even belong to them. They just used it for a few minutes, or however long it takes to eat a bag of crisps. It’s not like it was one of their things.
Phil: Who truly knows what we remember later on?
Pete: You remember every bag of crisps you’ve eaten then?
Phil: No, but I’ll be having a laugh at you in twenty years when some young singer is on Top of the Pops and he’s talking about how his dad would take him to Highbury Fields…
Pete: And buy him a bag of crisps?
Pete: And when have you seen a singer on Top of the Pops talk about what kind of shit food he used to eat when he was small and sitting in a park? You’ve been going through garbage too long, mate.
Phil: Don’t be getting on me about going through garbage. You find the odd diamond you do.
(He retrieves a tissue spotted with blood.)
Phil: What do you think of this?
Pete: Oh, come on, it’s a bloody tissue.
Phil: But this would be a good item to use as an example. What do you think its story is?
Pete: Someone had a nosebleed. I’m not touching it.
Phil: But if we were playing the game.
Pete: We’re not playing the game.
Phil: But if you gave the game a chance.
Pete: We’re not playing the game.
Phil: I’ll tell you what I see. I see a murderer coming over from Highbury Grove, bloodied from the final swings of his victim.
Pete: What are you? Jeffrey fucking Archer? It’s a tissue with some blood on it. It’s from some sad shit addict is all.
Phil: That’s the idea.
Pete: The idea of what?
Phil: Go on. Is it a she? Comes from a broken home? Shoots up twice a day?
Pete: There’s no story. It’s a thing.
Phil: Two kids, different fathers, can’t support them both so she has to stand out by the Barclay’s machine and whisper to the men passing by.
Pete: Yeah. She says, “Watch out for the crazy tosser sifting through garbage in the bins. He says he works for Islington Council but he’s really a spaz.”
Phil: I’d happily play a part.
Pete: Put the tissue back, Philip.
Phil: Don’t point your utensil at me, Peter.
Pete: I really, on a day like this, don’t need to be standing here acting out the life history of a bloody napkin.
Phil: You see how it passes the time though? You see that?
Pete: You know, doing work passes the time, too.
Phil: Doing work.
(They eventually begin rooting around in the garbage again. Phil lifts out a horse figurine. It’s missing one of its front legs.)
Phil: It was her first Christmas in the new house.
Pete: Oh, that’s it.
Phil: And she loved ponies more than life itself.
(Pete throws his utensil to the ground.)
Phil: I’m sorry.
Pete: There’s a reason…
Phil: That was uncalled for on my part.
Pete: There’s a reason it’s called garbage, yeah?
Phil: But who throws out a toy like this?
Pete: I don’t care.
Phil: A miserable, jealous stepmother, that’s who. And she’s blonde…
Pete: Phil there’s no stepmother, there’s no fucking girl with a pony, there’s no addicts at the Barclay’s, and there’s no Frank fucking Sinatra junior eating beef and onion crisps in the park.
Phil: And there’s no God.
Pete: There’s no what?
Phil: You were going to tell me there’s no God.
Pete: I was not.
Phil: It just seemed like you were on a roll is all.
Pete: Well, you know what? There is no God, yeah? Not in this bin.
Phil: Maybe not but…
Pete: You’re not gonna find anything but bloody tissues.
Phil: Maybe not but…
Pete: Now please don’t say that shit again.
Phil: You do find the odd diamond.
(He holds the pony figurine up with his utensil.)
Phil: It’s only missing one leg now, isn’t it? Pete?