SYNOPSIS: The sounds of a child crying in a park draw a WOMAN (its mother) and a MAN (a stranger who’d been watching) towards the same point where very differing reactions to the child’s predicament provide a surprising conflict between two individuals who might not be all they seem to be.
CASTING SUGGESTIONS: While I usually write characters with a particular actor in mind, for this short play I purposefully didn’t as I thought it’d be interesting to see who the reader envisions in the roles. Also, keeps it utterly open.
The sound of outdoors. Leaves rustle as they’re kicked around, a playground being enjoyed, children laughing in the background. The sound of a child crying suddenly erupts.
WOMAN: Hold on a second my darling girl, hold on! Okay honey… okay, okay! I hear you… Hold on! Just wait one second more, one moment, while I find -.
MAN: Everything alr- … Is she okay?
WOMAN: She will be, she will be; but look at her the poor love!
MAN: I see… What happened to her?
WOMAN: Look what she fell over into! Disgusting!
MAN: Yes, but… What are you doing, sorry?
WOMAN: What do you mean?
MAN: Do you not have… Look! I have wipes!
WOMAN: Wait a second… You too, honey, you too! Yes, I know…
MAN: She needs -.
WOMAN: I know what she needs, but I need to do this! Look at me darling, look at me.
MAN: She needs to be cleaned up! Let me -.
WOMAN: Don’t tell me how to parent my own child! I need to show this!
MAN: What’s wrong with you woman, let me -!
WOMAN: Step away from her! Honey, stop crying, stop crying, it’ll be alright. I will make this alright.
MAN: How, by film- ?
WOMAN: Who else is going to stop this fucking shit?
MAN: Choice of words.
WOMAN: Don’t be funny. Leave us be, let me deal… I’m nearly done, love. Just look at me for one second so we can show them.
MAN: Let me just give her -.
WOMAN: I told you!
MAN: Look, I am not telling you how to parent but I think she’s about to be sick.
WOMAN: She’s just a gaggy child. Baby girl, deep breath. Hold it in, like we do at the pool, yes? Calm, calm. No, don’t do that. I just need to show -.
MAN: This is fucking madness…
MAN: Excuse me, you just -.
WOMAN: Why are you even interfering? Leave us be, I said -.
MAN: Because your child, oh… Oh, look. Bloody hell.
WOMAN: I said no, honey child! No. No, keep your hands down! Don’t touch, it’s revolting.
MAN: Which is why her face needs to be wiped!
WOMAN: If you take one more step towards my child, I’ll call the police.
MAN: Well at the moment your phone’s too busy being a camera.
WOMAN: Children should not be afraid of playing outside because irresponsible dog owners -.
MAN: Oh, please! I can’t watch this anymore.
WOMAN: Then – walk – away.
MAN: She’s been sick and she’s got shi- … dog-do on her face and you’re filming it first?
WOMAN: Because someone needs to be held accountable!
MAN: Not to the detriment of -.
WOMAN: Are you a parent? Would you like this to happen to your child!? I’m here, baby girl, one more second. You’re doing really well.
MAN: Doing well? I’m not a parent, no, but that -.
WOMAN: You wouldn’t understand.
MAN: Oh, please! You don’t need a child to have a heart. Look, people are watching now.
WOMAN: What? Hey!
MAN: You really cannot tell someone else to stop filming you.
WOMAN: You! Stop it! Right… You can wipe her face now.
MAN: I beg your pardon? WOMAN: You’ve got wipes, yes? MAN: You haven’t?
WOMAN: No. No, I haven’t. I left the house in a hurry.
MAN: And you want me to?
A silence, a pause. The sounds of the playground soft in the background.
WOMAN: What’s that look for?
MAN: I just wonder… The logic behind who becomes a parent.
WOMAN: What do you mean by that?
MAN: Here, take this for your hands, sweetheart. But let me… Hold still. What do we call you, hey?
WOMAN: Don’t answer that, darling.
MAN: There, close your eyes. Man…
WOMAN: What did you mean by that?
MAN: By what?
WOMAN: About logic.
MAN: It would seem you left your house with your phone and…
MAN: Well, nothing else.
WOMAN: What do I need? She’s playing in the park.
MAN: I think the lesson should be pretty apparent.
WOMAN: No! You just don’t get it, do you? I bet you’re a play-around, revolving bedroom- door kinda bachelor, yep?
WOMAN: You don’t get why I filmed her. Someone needs to be -.
MAN: I know, I know; taken to task. How noble of you, letting your child stand there covered in shit for five minutes while -.
WOMAN: It was not five minutes.
MAN: However long it was, do you not think she was upset -.
WOMAN: Oh, leave the cod psychol- .
MAN: No. You should be ashamed of yourself! It’s so transparent why you were filming this. It will get you in the papers for fifteen minutes, admittedly. Online tabloid fodder.
MAN: Look at you. I was. While your child was playing you looked at her zero times. Eyes glued to your phone. You didn’t even see her fall over.
WOMAN: Oh, and you did? You were watching her? Maybe not play-around bachelor after all? Maybe something a bit more -.
WOMAN: I should have your face on record, too.
MAN: Don’t even think about pointing that thing at me.
WOMAN: What were you doing watching my child, then?
MAN: How dare you!? Throwing accusations and assumptions at me when you don’t me from Adam! I took one look at you and knew -.
WOMAN: Knew what? What did you know about me? No, love, don’t keep hold of that!
MAN: I knew… Ah.
WOMAN: What? Hm?
MAN: Well, I knew you didn’t mean it.
WOMAN: Mean what?
MAN: Your noble cause.
WOMAN: How so?
MAN: You’ve just let her drop those dogshitty wipes on the ground.
MAN: Are you for real? Some other child -.
WOMAN: That’s not the same.
MAN: It’s almost worse! What if some other child -.
WOMAN: You’ll be watching, I’m sure.
MAN: You’re the worst.
WOMAN: You don’t know me. You don’t know my life! I come to this park every day. I know my daughter’s safe. Step away, love, come here.
MAN: Oh, don’t be so ridic- .
WOMAN: And somebody else has brought their filthy mutt in and allowed it to defecate where it should be safe for my child to play. So yes; I am going to the papers.
MAN: You think that’s -.
WOMAN: What’s that sign say over there? That one?
MAN: I see it.
WOMAN: Read it.
MAN: ‘No dogs allowed on the grass. Children play here.’
WOMAN: And look at my poor child. Look at her! She will be traumatised.
MAN: Trauma’s a bit much, hey? She’s a child. Children fall over.
WOMAN: But they shouldn’t fall over into dog shit! Let me look at you, dear. Oh. Oh, love.
MAN: Kids get mucky. They get over it! If you’d have cleaned it immediately, she wouldn’t have gotten so upset!
WOMAN: You know that from all those kids you have, yes?
MAN: I’m just being -.
WOMAN: Pass me a wipe.
WOMAN: You obviously don’t have children, you’ve done a really shoddy job here.
MAN: Man, you’re something.
WOMAN: You mean, woman, I’m something.
MAN: Let’s not entertain playround politics, hey? Here.
WOMAN: I’d say this is the perfect place to do that. Thanks. There, there, love. Nearly all gone. I promise I’ll get the nasty man that did this.
MAN: How do you know it was a -.
WOMAN: Oh, leave it. You’re done here, yes?
WOMAN: We’ll be fine.
MAN: I hope she will be. And you’re welcome. Don’t forget to pick your trash up.
MAN: Bye. Take care, little girl. Promise?
WOMAN: Don’t answer that, honey. And you can stop shaking your head.
A moment of silence in the outdoors.
WOMAN: One second love, just let me get this on…
MAN: Fuck’s sake. Are you serious?
WOMAN: Just in case. Can’t be too safe.
MAN: You do know, right, that you’re the one with shit on your face?