The Broken Hairt
by: Blackhall, Sheena
The Broken Hairt
This play was commissioned by Gordon Menzies Productions for BBC Education's 'Around Scotland'- 'A Tongue in yer Heid', televised Jan/ Feb 1995
(The first scene is set in a wintry city graveyard. Dead leaves are blowing around sightless granite angels. Alone on a bench, a man sits drinking. He is scruffy and unshaven, around six foot tall and short sighted. Filthy glasses sit on the end of his nose.)
DA: Are ye fur real? Are ye really there? It's jist that...I see things, whyles, that ither fowk dinna...The genii in the bottle, ken? Yer nae gaun tae spik? Please yersel! I'm gled o the company onywye!
Mebbe it's better if ye dinna spikk...the dirt some o the weirdos come oot wi roon aboot here...Wid ye like a sook o ma bottle? Ye widna? Ah, weel.,..aa the mair fur me, frien.
Wint tae hear wee story? Oh, aabody's got a wee story tae tell. Mine's jist a stoater....See I didna aye bide in a kirkyaird. Oh no, I eesed tae hae a job, a wife, a faimly... Ay, I wis a sparky, an electrician till I wis pyed aff.
At least the boss gaed me a wikk's warnin. See the wife? See her? Nae warnin, naethin ava, I gaed frae a We tae a Me in ae day flat.
Ae mornin I set aff doon tae the pub fur a wee dram tae keep oot the cauld, leavin a hoose fu o bairns ...fire cracklin up the lum....paper angels birlin roon the livin room licht...it wis aroon Christmas, ye ken, I'm nae richt sure o the day...I canna mind things weel..An fit dae I come hame tae?...Fit dae I come hame tae? A teem hoose! Sixteen years doon the tubes, an I still dinna ken fit wye. Yer deid right, I’m roosed. Yer deid richt, I’m soor. Wid ye nae be? Ye canna trust weemin. I dinna, nae noo.
She widna see me, widna even spik tae me efter. Widna spit on me if I on fire, she said. Widna hae a wee news aboot it. She jist packit her bags, pit on the bairns’ coats, pit their jammies an toys in carrier bags an left.
Aathing’s on her side, ye ken. I’m nae borin ye, am I? I dinna get muckle company, hereaboots, ye see. It’s fine tae hae a wee news... Ay, she's got the bairns, the hoose, aathing. A fine fire, roarin up the lum... Yer luikin at the bottle... Ay, OK so I drink a bit. Ay, OK, so I drink mair nur a bit... A chiel needs a dram efter a wik’s wark, or he’d gang gyte.
Naethin bit bills, bills an mair bills. An the din the bairns cud makk, wi their fechtin an argy-bargying! Funny, ye ken, I niver mindit the din efter a few wee drams. Made aathing seem hunky-dory, like. Ye dinna wint a wee scoof? Ah the mair fur me, pal... I niver hit, niver laid a finger yon wummin... tho I did belt Andy, whyles. Ay, I did belt Andy. Yon bairn needit it! Annie, that’s my wife, spyled him rotten frae the wird go. Onybody’d think HE pyed the bluidy bills.
Noo, I’ve lost the lot, bairns, wife, hoose. Oh ay, the Law’s on her side. 'Cheerio” sez the Law, “Clear aff” sez the Law. “Yer nae winted,” sez the Law.'
Wid ye like tae ken a wee secret? Come in aboot, till I fusper it tae ye. I'm nae gaun tae wirk again. Nae iver. Nae tae pye yon bitch maintenance. Frae noo on, I’m lookin oot fur me.
The scene changes. A twelve year old boy, Andy, is wandering aimlessly down a dingy street. Walls around are covered with graffiti. He is kicking a tin can. He sees an empty wine bottle, picks it up and smashes it against a door.)
ANDY: I hinna seen ye hereaboot afore. New are ye? I’m Andy, I suppose ye saw me haived aff the bus... Wisna my wyte. OK, OK, I shouldna hae sworn at the guy on the bus. But he wis fou, see? A richt alki. An I canna thole alkis - they gar me cowk. Sae I telt him - “I think yer a human midden, a waste o space - a richt scunnerin daud o keech...”
Did he belt me roon the heid? Nae fear - he widna try tae skelp me. It’s easy kent you’re nae fae hereaboots! Listen! I’ve seen umpteen alkis - they’re aa yap.
See on a bus? I can get them thrown aff, nae danger. It’s easy tae wind them up, caa them aff their stot, gar them makk an exhibition o thirsels. So no, no he didna offer tae cloor me. He didna ken I’m twelve, see? Maist fowk think I’m fourteen, or fifteen. Maist fowk dinna mess wi loons that age, nae fin there’s twa or three o us... God, I’m tired... I’m that tired...
(Andy slumps down by a litter bin, rubbing his eyes. The scene changes to a midnight poker game. His Da is slumped over a rickety card table, smoking and drinking. The Father rises and stumbles towards a bedroom door - he pulls open the door and drags the half-wakened, crying boy over to the table.)
ANDY: “I’m tired, I’m that tired! Leave me alane, Da, fit wye dae ye aywis pick on me? I’m that tired! Oh, Da, Da leave me alane!”
(The father deals out cards to the boy in the half-light. The record-player is blaring out a tune... Andy rubs his eyes and is back again by the litter bin. He inadvertantly kicks over a half full bottle of wine... it seeps over the ground. He rises and continues stumbling down what is to be a dead-end.)
Still followin me, are ye? Maks a change! Maist fowk bide ooto my road. I hate my Da. I really hate him. Whyles, I winner, fit wye did he ay pick on me? Fit did I iver dae tae him, except be his ain loon? I telt him tae sober up ae day. I telt him tae his face... Yer makkin my Ma nae weel. Yer naething but a waste o space! He belted me. Threw me oot in the rain. A faimily man? Some man. Some faimily! Learned me tae play poker fin I wis five. I gaed Ma the winnins. She wis gled o them. I won fivers aff yon eejit fin he wis blootered. He blames me, ye ken, fur the divorce. Eesed tae promise, eesed tae say ‘I’ll takk ye fishin neist wikk, Andy, fur sure!’
Aye, in his dreams! I eesed tae wyte aa wikk. He got drunk insteid. Aa yap, aa spikk. Yon’s an alki.
(Andy closes his eyes again. This time, the scene is a football match.)
Social Wirkir tells my Ma, 'Peety ye cudna share his interests- watch him play fitba’
My auld wummin hates fitba. I eesed tae wint her tae come an see me play. I wis captain o the schule team aince... she niver come, tho. Ay some excuse. “Katy catches the cauld in the rain an ye ken fit her chest’s like” “If ye’d learn tae play the pianie or the fiddle, I’d wauk miles tae hear ye - bit fitba’s a yob’s game, Andy. Aa yon spittin an sweirin. Nae future in it.”
Fa wints tae play the feechy pianie, tell me that? Then, she’d say - “I wish ye’d try harder at schule, Andy. Yer teachers say yer a bricht loon!” A bricht loon! A bricht loon! She kent damned fine the auld man hid me ooto bed at 3 a.m. fin he wis bleezin.
“I need company, Andy," he’d girn. “If a man cannae hae a wee game o cards wi his ain loon, fa can he play wi?”
Sae I bide oot late, noo see? I’m eesed wi it. I canna sleep richt onyway, nae noo. I’m bored. Tired aa day, raikin aboot aa nicht. Ma lets me aff wi it, lets me aff wi aathing. Whyles, I miss Da, jist fur yon. He’d hae bawled me oot, stood up tae me. Bit Ma - if I shove her ower far, she lies doon, quate like, an takks a peel. An yon fears me. Fit if she tuik ower mony peels? My granda says: I’m the auldest - I’m the man o the hoose - I’ve tae be top dog.
“Leave the ither bairns alane,” the teacher says, my Ma says, aa itherbody says. Bairns? I wadna ken, I’ve niver bin a bairn.
(At the end of the street, Andy steps onto a roundabout. Slowly it speeds up, playing the tune already heard on his father’s record player... An eerie echo. Round and round goes the roundabout. Slumped upon it, a lonely figure, the boy stares into nothing.)
THE SCENE CHANGES (A goldfish bowl is perched upon a sideboard. It tips over and smashes. The fish flip-flops frantic over the carpet. The view changes to another part of the room. George, a ten year old boy, is playing with Lego on the floor. Placed along a sofa are his toys.)
GEORGE: Hello! Are you anither social work wifie? I quite like social work wifies - they bring me games and toys an whyles, claes; an the claes are nearly new. I’m makkin a really posh hoose. A REALLY posh hoose. See, fin I’m big, I’m gaun tae hae ma ain hoose, wi a lock on the door; an inside it’ll he bonnie an clean wi a fire roarin up the lum an lots tae eat an jist me in the hoose.
Fin I grow up, I wint tae be a vet. I like beasties a lot, they’re better than fowk. I dinna like ma new schule. The loons there are aywis fechtin. I bide in maist nichts an makk up comics, or play wi ma Lego wi ma sister Katy. Katy’s a bossy wee bizzim, she’s Ma’s petty. My Granda says she’d be nane the waur o a skelpit dock.
My best frien wis Fink, ma goldfish. Fin Fink deed, I telt Ma I didnae believe in God onymair, nae since my goldfish deed. I gaed him a great big funeral wi aa the trimmins.
(George closes his eyes, picturing the small backyard burial)
I pit Fink inno a big match box and howked a hole and beeriet him. I cut a wee cross ooto a cornflakes packet and pit ‘FINK R.I.P.’ on it. It stood up fur a hale wikk until the rain caad it doon an Katy pued daisies an pit them on the grave.
I liked ma last schule. Ma frien there wis Graeme Baxter. We made up comics thegither an puppet shows. His faimily war nice, except some-times they said they were oot and I’m sure they were at hame. Ma says I shouldna hae pestered them aa the time, but it wis a nice faimily, a really nice faimily. I look at photys o me an Graeme an his dug Neddy an I wint tae greet sometimes, except loons dinna greet.
Here’s a photo - See? Here’s me an Graeme wi Neddy. Fin Da an Ma split up, I ran awa a lot, because Andy walloped me. Ma cried in the Bobbies an the Bobbies said “Loons WILL be loons, Madam” an ae Bobby said: “Dae ye niver try keepin them apairt?”
Sae Ma bocht a lock fur ma door an it’s better noo. I sit in ma room an draw Andy’s pictur, aa coorse an nesty an ill-naturet like Desperate Dan. An I screive ‘Winted Big Bully. Ten Million Pounds Deid or Alive.’
Whyles, I pit Andy in a story in my comic an horrible things happen tae him. Syne, I hide the comic fur fear he’ll see it. I keep ma room really bonnie, nae like Andy. He spits on the fleer an haives his claes aawye. Fin Ma rages him, he roar “Shut up!” He his hair like a hedgehog an his face is a hotterel o plooks. Da eesed tae skelp Andy an chuck him oot. Ma says: “Ye canna expect muckle wi yon fur a beginnin.”
The last social wirkir said it wis ‘Peer role models,’ but I makk good models, so foo can’t Andy?
I eesed tae write ma Da aa the time. I wrote ‘PRIVATE” at the front. Then I heard he took ma letters doon tae the pub an showed them tae aabody. I dinna hardly write tae him noo. My Ma says naebody’s perfect. She says drink’s a disease like measles. But if he winted us back REALLY, I think he’d stop drinkin for good.
Fin I grow up, I’m buyin a hoose in the country. I’m haein a dog, a cat, a goldfish, a shelt an a sports car an I’m gaun tae eat tomato soup ivery day! Oh, an a hamster like Dibbles, ma pet afore Fink...
(George picks up a small hoop and whirls it around his arm. The hoop wheels blur... The blur changes into a hamster’s wheel. It is night, in the family kitchen. Ma is drinkin coffee. Dibbles, the hamster, is racing round and round on his wheel. Ma is writing her sister, Jacky, in Aus-tralia, with news of the family split. The hands of the clock crawl slowly round, the hamster wheels and wheels.)
MA: That’s richt - jist come in - ye’ll be the Kirk veesitor. The meenister said ye’d be roon wi some groceries - ivery little helps. I didna think ye’d be roon sae late - efter yer wirk, oh ay. I’m jist writin a letter tae ma sister, Jacky. She bides in Australia. That’s her photo on the mantle. Ay, she’s dane weel fur hersel, Jacky. My fowk are richt prood o her.
Are ye disturbin me? Mercy, na. I’ve started writin this letter a dizzen times, bit I jist canna fin the wirds tae pit it doon - nae in a letter, y’unnerstaun. I ken the Kirk disnae haud wi divorce an me an Dan war merriet in the Kirk. See that photy neist tae Jacky? Yon’s Dan an me on wir weddin day. We war a bonnie couple - ay, a richt bonnie couple. He wisna ay a boozer, my Dan. There’s a lot o my Dan in the bairns... he IS their father, efter aa’s said an dane.
The bairns are the guid side o him. Andy, the auldest loon, his his faither’s luiks... oh my Dan wis a real chairmer fin he wis younger - lots o lassies war efter him... an wee George, the wye he haunles animals. Dan hid a collie fin he wis young, a collie caad Glen. Follaed him aawye, yon beast. An Katy, Katy wi her faither’s een an his smile and the same wye o lauchin an cowpin her heid tae ae side, fin she’s thinkin...
I canna write this letter ava, jist. I dinna ken far tae start. Far dis a merriege start tae ging wrang? Funny, foo things cheenge. “Rose-tinted glaisses, that’s aa love is,” ma faither eesed tae say. “Takk aff yer rose -tinted glaisses an see Dan as he really is. He’s jist a drooth an he’ll ay be a drooth. I widna spit on your Dan if he wis on fire - he’s a waste o space.”
Ay, funny foo things cheenge. Fin we war first merriet, I cudna see enough o Dan. Bit efter the bairns war born, he started drinkin mair an mair an mair... I wis that busy cheenging skittery hippens an dichtin up cowk, that I didna notice foo muckle Dan wis drinkin.
First it wis ilkie Setterday, fin he got pyed. Syne it wis Setterday nicht and Sunday efter a fitba match. Syne it wis Wednesday, anna. Efter a year or twa o yon, it wis ilkie nicht - syne, it wis aa nicht - aa day. An then, he wis fired - nae job awa. Doonhill quick. I’d tae wyte fur the Postie bringin the gino, or he’d be aff tae the shop for a cairryoot. An he wis that sleekit! He’d hide yon bottles aawye!!
It wore me doon, gaun roon an roon an roon in circles, borrowin siller tae pye back siller, beggin frae relations, tappin neighbours fur milk, fur breid, fur jam. The G.P. wis affa good aboot it. “Here’s a wee prescrip-tion tae help steady yer nerves,” he telt me. It wis him that signed me intae hospital fur a wee cheenge... an the social workers sortit oot maist o the upheaval. Danny wis oot o the hoose, ooto wir lives afore I come hame frae the hospital.
In a wye, it’s a queer boost bein merriet tae a drunk. ‘Puir Annie,’ fowk eesed tae fusper. ‘Fit a dashed coorse life she maun hae, bein merriet tae a gowk like yon. She maun be a real mervel, managing tae cope, wi three bairns anna. Yon wummin’s a wee gem.’
Of course, as ye ken, a wife in a merriege like yon is King, Queen an Eece. She’s the heid-bummer, boss o the hoose. The jack of Spads is the husband. The deck’s stacked agin him. If iver he sobered up, the hale pack wad faa doon. There’s cracks in lots o merrieges, sure. Bit fin yer a real wee gem, the nearer ye are tae a split.
I winna keep ye langer. Kind o ye tae drap in. Ye’ll let yersel oot?
(From the kitchen drawer, the mother draws out a pack of cards. Playing a game of patience. The hamster wheel continues to rattle round and round and round. The wheel changes to an infant classroom. Children are dancing around in a ring, holding hands, they are singing -
‘Ring a ring o rosies
Pocket full o posies
A -tishoo, a-tishoo,
We all fall down'
In the centre, at the upright easel, the youngest child of the family is painting. The painting is entitled 'My Dad.’ The little girl looks up as the unseen figure approaches.
KATY: Hullo. Dae ye like this paintin o ma Da? My Da’s got bushy hair an a nice smile... My name’s Katy. I’m seven years auld an I’ve got a Teddy caad Growler an a wee doll’s hoose. I’m the best fechter in my hale class, even tho’ I’m wee. My teacher says I’m a good reader an I think so anna.
I’ve jist sterted this schule. I liked my last schule better. It wis in the country an I’d lots o friens. I bide on an estate noo. I’ve got a bunk bed, but I like tae sleep wi ma Ma in her bed even tho’ it’s a wee bit squashy. Fin I’m a big wifie, I’m gaun tae be a doctor, or maybe a hairdresser. We’ll bide wi my Da in the country like we eesed tae an that’ll be rare.
(A blob of paint seeps down the page like a tear. The scene changes back to the bench and the churchyard.)
DA: Back again, are ye? Wid ye like a sook o ma bottle? Ye widna? Ah weel - aa the mair fur me, frien. Wint tae hear a wee story? Oh, aabody’s got a wee story tae tell, mine’s jist a stoater... See I didna ay bide in the kirkyaird, here. Oh no, I eesed tae hae a job, a hoose, a faimly... I’ve telt ye already? Did I tell ye aboot the faimily tho? See yon George an ma wee Katy, they’re a pair o darlins... Oh ay they love their Da...
(The stone angel changes into a whirling paper angel mobile. Katy is sitting in her bedroom, speaking to her teddy, Growler.)
KATY: Did ye ken my Ma an Da are gettin a divorce, Mr Growler? The Sheriff Court says I canna see my Da again till he stops boozin. I writ tae the Sheriff Court and said: “My Da has ay bin a boozer, fan can I see him please?”
Fin I get tae see my Da every second wikken fur an oor, he gies me bosies and pennies an whyles he pyes fur me tae get a big ice cream. Fin I say ta ta, he greets an greets. My Granda says it is the booze that makks him greet, but I think it is a broken hairt...
(The whirling paper angel mobile ends the play, blurring into a repeat of the fairground scene, with the roundabout whirling around.)