The 11.57

by Dick Sawdon Smith

Performed by The Progress Theatre for the 2009 'Write-fest'

The scene is a railway station platform.  On the platform there is just a plain slatted bench seat.  There are no passengers waiting for trains.

Onto the platform walks a young man.  He is wearing jeans, an anorak and a woolly hat.  Slung over one shoulder is a small rucksack.

He walks up to the bench seat and puts the rucksack down on it. He pulls the woolly hat further down over his ears and bangs his hands against his arms to keep warm, walking a few yards back and forward. He stops at the bench seat and takes a notebook out of the rucksack, which he lays on the bench and then a thermos flask. He pours himself a cup of tea from the flask.

As he screws the top back on the flask a young woman dressed only in jeans and sweater comes on to the platform. She hesitates when she sees the man, as if she wasn't expecting to see anyone else on the platform. She then walks past him and stands as if waiting for a train.

 

MAN              There's not another train for three hours.

WOMAN        So what are you waiting here for then?

MAN              I'm waiting for the 11.57 from the West Country but it doesn't stop.

WOMAN        It will for me.

MAN              Oh I don't think so

WOMAN        We have to wait and see won't we. Anyway, if it doesn't stop, why are you waiting for it?

MAN              I want to get its number.

WOMAN        Get its number? What are you, some sort of nut?

MAN              I'm a train spotter and the 11.57 is one of the Warship 43 class.

WOMAN        And that's supposed to mean something is it?

MAN              It does to me, it means I'll have got the complete set.

The woman shakes her head in disbelief.

The man looks at the cup in his hand.

MAN              Would you like a cup of tea to warm you up. You can have the lid of the flask. It doesn't have a handle but it's the same as a cup.  That's what it's meant to be, a second cup, when two people share, only normally I don't have anyone to share with.

The woman shakes her hand to show she doesn't want any tea.

The man puts his cup down on the bench and takes a Tupperware container out of the rucksack.

MAN              What about a sandwich.  They are egg and water cress.  My mother always makes too many for me and I finish up feeding them to the pigeons.  You always find pigeons at railway stations don't you.  Do you think I'm encouraging cannibalism?

WOMAN        Are you doing what?

MAN              You know, giving scrambled eggs to pigeons.  I mean they're all birds aren't they.  Is that cannibalism?

The woman closes her eyes for a couple of seconds

WOMAN        Listen.  Why don't you go and feed the pigeons at some other  railway station.  I'm sure there are some other more comfortable stations where you could watch for the 11.57.

MAN              Ah yes, but they won't let me on the platform.

WOMAN        And why doesn't that surprise me.

MAN              What it is - they don't have platform tickets any more and they want me to buy a ticket to somewhere before they let me on.

WOMAN        Sounds logical

MAN              The people they employ on the stations these days have no sense of tradition. At best they think I am a graffiti artist and at the worst a crazed Al Qaeda terrorist.

WOMAN        I can't say I blame them.

MAN              They don't seem to understand that I would never do anything to harm the railways. I offer to let them look in my rucksack. I tell them they'll only find my flask and sandwiches but they won't listen.

He holds out the Tupperware container to her again.  She waves it away.

                        You are going to wait a long time to get something to eat.  There's nothing here and the next train that stops doesn't have a buffet car.

WOMAN        I won't be here by then. I'll be gone with the 11.57.

MAN              I think you're mistaken if you think you'll be able to get on that train.

WOMAN        I'm not going to get on it.  More like I'm going to go under it.

MAN              You don't mean you're going to throw yourself in front of the train?

WOMAN        That's exactly what I'm going to do.  That'll shake the bastard.

MAN              You can't do that.

WOMAN        And why not?

MAN              You'll disrupt the whole network.  Do you know how much suicides cost the railways last year?

WOMAN        I'm not going to bloody worry about that am I?

MAN              Why do you want to do it anyway.

WOMAN        It's a man of course, if it's any of your business.  I moved down here to be with my boy friend only to find he's got another woman.  When I objected he threw me out.  As well as a broken heart, I've got no job and nowhere to live.  I've got nothing to look forward to,  Nothing to live for.  Does that sound a good enough reason for you?

MAN              Well at least in one way, you're better off then me.

WOMAN        How the hell do you make that out?

MAN              I've never had a girl friend in my life.  You know the old saying,  It's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.  Who was it said that?

WOMAN        I don't know and I couldn't care less.

MAN              And what about me?

WOMAN        What do you mean - 'What about you?'  It's got nothing to do with you.

MAN              Of course it has.  I'll be the last one to see you alive.  You know what they'll be asking - did she fall or was she pushed?

WOMAN        Don't be bloody ridiculous.

MAN              I'm not being ridiculous.  I can see it in the newspapers, lone single man - loner, have you noticed how when it's a single man they always say - loner,

He holds his hand out, palm outwards and moves it across in front of his face

                        'loner in train death drama'.  What would my mother say, and my co-workers in the jam factory?

WOMAN        I don't suppose it even occurs to you, that if you were a real man you would be trying to stop me.

MAN              I am trying to stop you.  I told you not to do it.

WOMAN        I mean physically stop me.

MAN              Oh yes!  And then you complain that I assaulted you.  I can see it in the papers,

He puts his hand out again

                        “loner attacks single …”

WOMAN        Don’t start that again.

MAN              You are putting me in a very difficult position.

WOMAN        Why?  You can always walk away.  You don't have to be here when I jump.

MAN              I can't leave.

WOMAN        Why on earth not?

MAN              I wouldn't get the train number.

WOMAN        Make it up.

MAN              Make it up?

WOMAN        You must know what the number's going to be.  You said it would complete your set.

MAN              I have to see it, I couldn't hold my head up again at a Train spotter's Convention if I made it up.

A railwayman in his waistcoat comes on to the platform with a broom in his hand.  He starts to sweep the platform when he sees the man and woman, he puts the broom down and walks over to the couple.

RAILWAYMAN       Can I see your tickets please?

MAN              I haven't got a ticket.

RAILWAYMAN       You shouldn't be here if you haven't got a ticket sir.

MAN              I've only come to get the number of the 11.57.

He shows his notebook to the Railwayman

RAILWAYMAN       Ah yes!  It will be one of the Warship 43 class.

He takes the book from the man and looks at it.

                        This will complete your set.  You've got to get this one.  We don't often get a Warship 43 on this line.  And you madam, are you train spotting as well?

WOMAN        Am I hell!  I've got better things to do with my life.

She pauses for a few seconds and then holds out her hands.

                        That's right, I've got better things to do with my life.

She walks over to the bench and picks up the Tupperware container.

                        I'll take a couple of these sandwiches with me, if you don't mind.  At least it will prevent cannibalism amongst the pigeons.

The Railwayman stands open mouthed, first at the woman and then the man

MAN              Does this mean that you are not going to kill yourself?

WOMAN        It certainly does.

MAN              So I've talked you out of it?

WOMAN        Let's put it like this.  I may have no boyfriend, no job, nowhere to live, but I realise that there are people in this world, who have a sadder life than me.

She walks off munching an egg and watercress sandwich.

RAILWAYMAN       What gives with her?

MAN              A very emotional lady I'm afraid. I think she needs to find herself a hobby.