Thursday, 10 March 2011

Enza - Scene Four.

This isn't going to make much sense unless you start reading from the beginning - Enza - Scene One.

(Sanatorium. Herbert has been sat up on pillows on his bed. He is just finishing his supper.)

MAVIS. Finished?

HERBERT. Still got room for more. Look at him on that bed. He’s left his - I could have that!

MAVIS. Yes, and you could catch what’s made him loose his appetite, you greedy scamp.

HERBERT. I’ve just got a healthy appetite. You should be glad to see me getting better.

MAVIS. If you want to get better, you don’t want to eat too much of this stuff, believe me,
Private Inglis.

HERBERT. Where do you get this meat from? That tripe didn’t come from a healthy ox.

MAVIS. Know better, do you?

HERBERT. Yes - I do!

MAVIS. And I suppose that once you’ve got out of here, you’re going to be a chef at the Savoy Grill?

HERBERT. Good idea. No, you must remember- I told you. I’m a farmer.

MAVIS. Oh yes. And such an able one, judging by how you got those wounds.

HERBERT. I have been in a war, you know.

MAVIS. I know, love.

HERBERT. You don’t have to eat the stuff that we do.

MAVIS. Yes, we do, and at least you get it when it’s hot!

HERBERT. When will they let me go to the dining room for supper?

MAVIS. Once you can walk there and back without damaging yourself.

HERBERT. But I could! I can walk to the lavatory.

MAVIS. Oh yes. For a few days, now?

HERBERT. For a week!

MAVIS. Are you sure about that? Let’s have a look at your papers. Oh yes, well done - “partial mobility from November the Ninth”. Any recurrence of bleeding since then?

HERBERT. Only once, and that was because I scalded myself.

MAVIS. Clumsy! Tea, was it? Someday we’ll get that urn replaced. I burnt my tongue on that tea once, my mouth came up like the mumps. Haven’t you asked to eat at the table?

HERBERT. I did mention it to Matron, but she just waved me away.

MAVIS. While she was on her daily round?

HERBERT. Well, yes.

MAVIS. Not a chance. You have to get her when she’s not doing anything else. She has to inspect a hundred patients in half an hour when she’s on her rounds. Unless you’ve turned blue overnight she’s not going to stop for you. Why haven’t you asked Doctor Sullivan when he’s seen you?

HERBERT. Well, I did try, but he just looked at his notes and muttered to himself.

MAVIS. When Doctor Sullivan comes around, you have to be like a market trader and find a special way to attract his attention.

HERBERT. “Lovely tomatoes!”

MAVIS. No, “Lovely Guernsey tomatoes! First of the season!”. Let’s see, what have you got? Unusual wound. “Doctor, I think that my spleen is swelling.”

HERBERT. That sounds rather inaccurate to me.

MAVIS. It would be enough to get him to look up from his notes. “I don’t think that can be right. Now what makes you think that, my good fellow?” Then you’ve got his attention.

HERBERT. Like talking to girls.

MAVIS. Like talking to some girls, Private Inglis.

Nurse Taylor?

PHYLLIS. Yes, Nurse Bryant?

MAVIS. I’m just going to ask Doctor Sullivan to take a look at Private Inglis’ papers. It looks as though the patient has enough mobility to be eligible for privileges. I think that you ought to just test Private Inglis’ blood pressure and heartbeat again while I’m gone.

PHYLLIS. What - now?

MAVIS. Yes, now!

PHYLLIS. Doctor Sullivan might not even be in here until four o’clock.

MAVIS. There’s no time like the present!

PHYLLIS. I’ve got these plates to finish!

HERBERT. I wouldn’t want to put either of you to any trouble.

MAVIS. You wouldn’t be putting either of us to any trouble at all, Private Inglis! I can do them when I get back.

HERBERT. Only if you’re sure it will be alright.

PHYLLIS. Don’t be silly, Nurse Bryant. They take half an hour. Matron -

MAVIS. You can just tell Matron that I thought it was my turn and told you not to do them.
Dear oh dearie me! Right, I’ll only be gone for a few minutes - Private Inglis - Nurse Taylor.

(Exit Mavis.)

PHYLLIS. When were you last examined?

HERBERT. About two hours ago.

PHYLLIS. (Examining bedside notes) So I see. What? So I’m supposed to fill this in again, then, am I? This is most irregular. Right -

(Phyllis rolls up Herbert’s right pyjama sleeve, straps his bicep and holds his wrist, looking at her watch as she does so.)

HERBERT. How does today find you, Phyllis?

PHYLLIS. Wishing that I was somewhere else, Private Inglis.

HERBERT. Where would you like to be?

PHYLLIS. Oh, I don’t know. I’d happily swap places with you. Lie in a bed to myself all day, have meals brought to me, time to think… very pleasant.

HERBERT. The novelty soon wears off.

PHYLLIS. Yes, I suppose that it must. Sorry. Herbert.

HERBERT. Did your father have his little talk with you last night?

PHYLLIS. Yes he did, since you ask. I don’t want to talk about it.

HERBERT. I do want to hear.

PHYLLIS. Oh, my parents are very happy for me to live with them and take delight in my kinship with, affection for, and care of my dear little sisters. It was nothing to have alarmed myself about.

HERBERT. Are you quite sure about that?

PHYLLIS. Mm. You must be planning to go back home?

HERBERT. Oh yes. My mother writes almost every day, asking when I’m going to go back.
Marvellous! I want to go home.

PHYLLIS. I don’t. Lucky you! Your father, too?

HERBERT. He’s getting on a bit. Too stiff and old to plough anymore, too creaky and rheumatic to get up at four to milk the cows at his age. He says that he wants me to go back on the farm, too.

PHYLLIS. I wonder why. You’re never going to be as fit as you were, Herbert. You won’t want to overstrain yourself once you do get back.

HERBERT. A man’s no good without his work. I like the feel of your hand.

PHYLLIS. It’s not as soft as it once was.

HERBERT. You’ve got a good firm grasp.

PHYLLIS. I don’t like the look of those veins. Owwh - you can tell its winter- chilblains again.

HERBERT. You’re bleeding.

PHYLLIS. Oh bother! I am sorry, Private Inglis.

(Phyllis lets go. The strap is released. Phyllis gets handkerchief.)

HERBERT. Don’t worry.

(Herbert licks the blood off his wrist.)

PHYLLIS. Ugh! Dracula! You’d make a terrible nurse, Herbert Inglis.

(She rubs his wrist with her handkerchief.)

PHYLLIS. I suppose that I’d better write this down.

HERBERT. Will I live, nurse?

PHYLLIS. I’m not surprised to discover that you’re exactly the same as you were two hours ago.

HERBERT. If I knew that I was going to put you to all this trouble I wouldn’t have mentioned walking to the dining room.

PHYLLIS. No, I’m sure that Nurse Bryant would have found some reason or other for me to examine you this afternoon, anyway.

HERBERT. Really?

PHYLLIS. You don’t want to eat in your bed anymore, then? You do know that the officers have a separate table, don’t you?

HERBERT. Is that in the rules?

PHYLLIS. It’s just the way that things are. Come on, let’s take your pulse.

(Herbert unbuttons pyjama top. Phyllis uses stethoscope.)

PHYLLIS. We have to wait until all of you patients have finished before we get to eat our dinners, you know.

HERBERT. Your friend Mavis was telling me.

PHYLLIS. Mavis, is it? That’s Nurse Bryant to you. If Matron were to hear patients talking about us by our first names she’d assume that something unethical was going on.

HERBERT. I do see, you know.

PHYLLIS. What do you see?

HERBERT. I do see, I do notice, I watch the nurses -

PHYLLIS. I’m sure that you do.

HERBERT. No, I don’t mean that… I lie here all day, and I do notice you, all of you, the nurses and the doctors. I notice when your shifts start and when they are supposed to end. I see how tired you get in the early evening and how you can perk up and become very efficient in the last five minutes when you get everything finished very quickly, and how disappointed you get when you’re kept on late. And I do see how different you all are even when you’re all doing the same things. I see how you all talk with Matron, how you’re all afraid of her, but you all respond to her differently. I see how Nurse Jones tries to be very enthusiastic when she talks to her, and how she can’t see how that doesn’t work and that Matron actually prefers nurses to be like Nurse Harper, who never smiles at all but listens to what she says. I see how that new Nurse is really pleased when she does something right and I wonder how long that will last for. I see how good Nurse Bryant is at taking each patient as they come, how she’s cheeky with some soldiers who always want attention, but she’s more… what’s the word?

PHYLLIS. Solicitous?

HERBERT. That sounds right, anyway. She’s more… soliticous… with the shy ones. I see how different you all are with Dr. Sullivan, how impatient Nurse Hayes is with his bumbling and how she thinks that she could do better than him if she was in his shoes.

PHYLLIS. She’s right, too.

(Phyllis removes stethoscope.)

HERBERT. Nurse Harper is in love with him though.

PHYLLIS. He’ll never notice.

HERBERT. Now, Matron is interesting. She has a way, butter wouldn’t melt, but once you start looking at her you see the things that she approves of, like when she sees a soldier praying. I know that you like her.

PHYLLIS. I do. She’s fair.

HERBERT. She likes you. You remind her of somebody she used to know. I think that’s what it is.

PHYLLIS. Well! What makes you notice all of these things, then, Herbert?

HERBERT. It’s because I see you all, all of the doctors and nurses here… and it reminds me of being in the army.

(Phyllis laughs.)

PHYLLIS. That’s very funny! I never thought of being here like that before!

HERBERT. It’s true; officers, duties, boredom, panics, insubordination. It’s a real home from home.

PHYLLIS. You should be getting rested and recuperated, Private Inglis.

HERBERT. I do notice you, too, Phyllis.

PHYLLIS. Yes. I was afraid that you might say that.

HERBERT. I see how you feel pleased when you do several things right in a row. And how flustered you get when you get given two things to do at the same time, you worry that you’ve started on the wrong one. I see… how you don’t mind dealing with blood at all.

PHYLLIS. I am a nurse, Private Inglis.

HERBERT. No, the thing that you quite like doing is staunching a wound. I know because you make a clicking sound with your tongue when you’ve done something well.

PHYLLIS. My mother complains when I do that.

HERBERT. I like it. I do. You seem so worried most of the time, but when you start to concentrate you look content, like a… cat in the sun.


HERBERT. When you’re here, I look at you and I see this worry and this weariness, and I feel such… for you.

PHYLLIS. What do you feel for me, Herbert?

HERBERT. I feel… pity.


HERBERT. Pity and tenderness.

(Re-enter Mavis.)

MAVIS. Well, Doctor Sullivan says that should be alright in the next day or so, provided that your tests have shown no complications.

Have they? Nurse Taylor?

PHYLLIS. Oh. No. They are exactly the same as they were two hours ago. Unsurprisingly.

MAVIS. I might have thought that your heart would have beaten a little faster with Nurse Taylor taking your pulse, Private Inglis.

HERBERT. I do feel better when she’s around.

MAVIS. Praise indeed! We must be doing our jobs well, Nurse Taylor.

PHYLLIS. I think that we usually know what we’re doing, Nurse Bryant.

MAVIS. I’m sure that you’ll like eating at a table again, Private Inglis. It’ll be like a mess hut again.

HERBERT. Better!

MAVIS. It’s a pity that the food won’t get better, like Private Inglis will - eh, Nurse Taylor.

PHYLLIS. No, you can leave here for the farm, but we’ll still be living off brown Windsor soup.

MAVIS. Well, don’t get carried away with the excitement yet, you’ll still be here until the New Year at least. You can make some new friends. Now, I’ve arranged for the two of us to have a little stroll around the grounds together tomorrow just to get your strength up. Will half past ten suffice?

PHYLLIS. Is that what Doctor Sullivan suggested, Nurse Bryant?

MAVIS. He did say tomorrow morning. I thought that just after you’ve had your tea, you should be feeling hale and hearty, Private Inglis. I’ll take you to the garden and then go and leave you to your own devices for a while and do you know what?

HERBERT. No - what?

MAVIS. That’s just the place and time where Nurse Taylor goes for her little break on a
Friday morning. You’ll be able to pass the time of day alone together, won’t you, Phyllis?

PHYLLIS. Not if it’s raining, Nurse Bryant.

Next -
Enza - Scene Five.

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