Excerpt from Flowers from Tunisia
Reah – Elderly Mother suffering from dementia and her son, Keith.
KEITH She’s not a baby, and she’s not with us, she’s with her mother, alright. Now did you look at these questions, the ones the doctor’s going to ask you?
REAH I know what bloody questions he’s going to ask, whether I’ve given up smoking, well I’ll tell him to mind his own bloody business.
KEITH Well he might ask that, but he’s going to ask these as well, to assess you.
REAH Assess me? I’m not a bloody kid.
KEITH No. Have a go anyway. Right, first question.
REAH Is there a prize
KEITH No, no prize.
REAH So it’s just for fun?
KEITH Yes. Fun. A bit of fun. OK. First question. What is today’s date?
REAH That’s it. That’s what I wanted to ask you. That’s why I went out. How funny.
KEITH Right, so what is it?
REAH No, that’s what I’m saying, that’s why I went out to ask you.
KEITH Yeh, but do you know?
REAH Well don’t you know.
KEITH I’m asking you.
REAH So neither of us know then, well we’re bloody stuck now. Who would know I wonder.
KEITH Look, I know what the date is.
REAH Well what is it then?
KEITH The tenth of November –
REAH Right, that’s that one sorted then.
KEITH Oh Jesus Christ. Listen, today is the tenth but tomorrow, when he asks you, is the eleventh so that’s what you say. Alright?
REAH But he’s a doctor, surely he’ll know the date.
KEITH OK, OK, let’s forget that one, Question two – oh god – right, what day is it?
REAH What day is it? Bloody hell, this doctor’s in a bad way isn’t he. Do we think we should move Keith?
KEITH Just say Monday, alright, that’s all you have to say. Right. Next. Question three. OK? What country are we in?
REAH Alright Spain then.
KEITH What are you talking about?
REAH Well we always go to Turkey, I get mixed up.
KEITH We never go to Turkey, we’ve never been to Turkey.
REAH We have, you and that wife of yours argued all the time.
KEITH Alright, once, we’ve been once, I don’t know how you can say we always go.
REAH Spain, then, we always go to Spain.
KEITH Not always.
REAH Well mostly, I can’t think of anywhere else we’ve been
KEITH There’s lot of places, Tenerife, Mallorca – oh this is ridiculous, never mind where we’ve been, the question is where are we now. What country are you in?
REAH Well you’ve said it’s not Turkey.
KEITH Mam, look around you. Your furniture, your shoes, your tele, all your things, it’s obviously not bloody Turkey or Spain, so where do you think you are?
REAH Well – I’m at home you soft sod, where do you think I am.
KEITH Yes! Yes, exactly. So what country are you in?
REAH You say.
KEITH Wales. We’re in Wales.
REAH Well course we are.
KEITH So why didn’t you say?
REAH You didn’t ask.
KEITH Oh for god’s sake, I give up, let’s forget it shall we, say what you like.
REAH No come on, let’s carry on I’m enjoying this, I’ve always been good at quizzes.
KEITH You haven’t had one right yet.
REAH You haven’t asked me anything I know about.
KEITH Look he is not going to ask you about the songs of Nat King Cole.
REAH I’d get those right, no problem
KEITH Yes I know. Look, he’s just going to ask you these questions here.. He looks at the list despairingly. Look, they’re easy if you just think about it, , what town are you in, what street, what neighbourhood
REAH Well it’s not much of a neighbourhood is it, you never see any bugger, now when I lived on the Broadway.
KEITH So where’s that?
REAH Treforest, where do you think, though some people would say it was Ponty. Well that was a neighbourhood, neighbours from hell some of them, but you knew them all. And they all knew you and all your business. But they looked out for you, mind. They used look out for my mother. My father used to hit her when he couldn’t get a drink. He used to hit her when he had one too. Til I hit him with a poker. That shook him. Shook my mother too. She was crying, I was crying. He was a swine my father was. She hasn’t been today has she, my mother?
KEITH Your mother? Mam, your mother’s – No, she hasn’t.
REAH Sheppard Street wasn’t so bad, had nice neighbours there.
KEITH Where was that?
REAH Where was that? Come on Keith, it’s you should see the doctor, Ninteen Sheppard Street, Pwllgwaun, Pontypridd. First and last house we ever had. No garden though. No garden, no view and no bloody flush on the outside toilet. Neighbours were alright though.
KEITH Yeh, Maude Rees, The Longs, Mrs Wills, Wecca.
REAH I must go and see her too. She hasn’t died has she?
KEITH Mrs. Westcombe? Yes, she died years ago.
REAH Oh God, I’d forgotten that, see. This is not Sheppard Street is it?
KEITH No, this is the flat.
REAH Yeh, course it is. Right, how did I do on those?
KEITH You did fine. Just fine.
REAH Right, what’s next?
KEITH Look it doesn’t matter.
REAH Yes it does, I’m going to show this doctor what’s for.
KEITH Right. OK. Think about this one. And obviously it’ll be different tomorrow. But think about what you just said about where you are. What floor are you on?
REAH What floor? Am I allowed to look?
KEITH Not really. You have to try and remember. So tomorrow, try and clock whether you go upstairs or not. But now, well, think where you are.
REAH I’m thinking.
KEITH Right, so what floor are you on?
REAH Lino flooring, we had it put down last Christmas. She looks down. Damn, it’s carpet. I must have been thinking of Sheppard Street.
KEITH No, floor, what floor, ground, first, second, upstairs, downstairs.
REAH You said it was a flat, we haven’t got upstairs.
KEITH But tomorrow, at the hospital, they might have, they will have, and you have to remember what floor you’re on. OK?
REAH OK. It’ll be tiles in a hospital though, always is.
KEITH Yes but – never mind. Stares at the paper, then at his mother. Right, this is going to sound funny but just do it, alright. Just do what I ask you to do.
REAH You’re not going to hypnotise me are you.
KEITH No, nothing like that.
REAH Because I’m not giving up fags whatever that doctor says.
KEITH No, nothing to do with fags. I want you to take this piece of paper, fold it in half then put it on the floor.
REAH But it’s got the questions on it.
KEITH It doesn’t matter.
REAH But what if I see the answers?
KEITH You won’t. Just do it.
REAH takes the paper and very slowly and tentatively folds it and carefully places it on the floor.
REAH Like that.
KEITH Yeh. Suppose so.
They look at each other,look at the paper then KEITH picks it up.
REAH So what was that all about then?
KEITH I haven’t got a clue, but it’s the first thing you’ve got right all morning.
REAH There you are, nothing to worry about then.
REAH Is that it?
KEITH Last question, take the paper again and write a sentence on it, anything at all, but it must be a complete sentence.
REAH A sentence?
KEITH A sentence, you know what a sentence is, with subjects and objects and all that, something with a beginning, a middle and an end.
REAH Right, a sentence. I was always good at English. Could have been a scholar my teacher said but I had to leave when I was fourteen. That was my bloody father.
KEITH Right, so show me what can you do now.
He hands her the paper and pen. She thinks for a moment then starts to write. Hands the paper back to Keith. He reads it. Says nothing for a while.
REAH Well? Is that one?
KEITH Yeh. Yeh, in a way.
REAH Pointing at the writing. Nineteen Sheppard Street, Pwllgwaun, Pontypridd. A beginning, a middle and an end. That’s a sentence isn’t it? What do you think?
KEITH Yep, can’t argue with that. It’s almost perfect mam.
REAH Right, and don’t worry I’ll practice. Practice makes perfect.
KEITH Yeh, you practice. And remember you’re going to the day centre after, you like it there.
REAH Do I?
KEITH You say you do.
REAH What about the baby though, who’s looking after little ‘un.
KEITH Mam, don’t worry. It’s sorted. You just – practice.
REAH Practice. And what are you going to do?
KEITH Me? Well perhaps I’ll practice too.
REAH What do you need to practice for?
KEITH You know, we all need to practice mam, to get it right, to get things right..
The lights dim on them to the tune of Nat King Cole.