This is an excerpt from a theatre piece that I wrote a few years ago. I am hoping to get this into production with a new theatre company later in the year. You can read more from the same piece here.
The stage is dark. A casket or box towards the rear of the stage, partly in shadow throughout the play. In the darkness the Baker stands centre stage. With a panic he turns a torch on and waves it manically around toward the audience. Occasionally he used the torch to light himself. He is scruffy, looks tired. His skin is blotchy with red sores. His apron is smeared with a mixture of blood and faeces.
There they go, twittering and squeaking. Plagues of the dirty twittering thieves. I don’t doubt for one second that they were sent by ‘Him’ at the top of the street. He’s never done well. I’ve worked hard here to build this place up. Built it up from nothing. Years of work , and he thinks that he can just come in and steal my customers just with a click of his floury fingers. Well it doesn’t work like that. I don’t know who he thinks he is, or where in hell he comes from, but if this is his doing then its low. Disgusting. Only been there a few months. Doesn’t get his way and he lets some dirty, stinking, squalid, flea ridden, dirty rats in to lay their droppings in my flour. To eat the meat from my pies. There’s one now! Sent here to scratch my worktops. Dirty my clean kitchen. Sleep in my larder.
I kill one, another two seem to take his place.
They’ve been here for days now, maybe weeks. There’s one! I hear them when I sleep. Scratching. Scratching at the walls. Running around in the kitchen, knocking down my pans. All day, all night.
I kill one, another three appear. Driving me mad!
They’ve eaten all the food, all the food to make bread and pies and they’ve eaten everything I’ve bought, everything I bought for me and my wife and my daughters to eat. I buy more, they eat anything that we don’t eat straight away.
I kill two, four more flea ridden beast’s creep out. It’s a factory.
I’d move us out. Move us all out. We’ve got nowhere to go. There’s one. I’m going to get this one. Come here you little… It’s useless. Nowhere for us to go though. Where can we go? It’s not just a shop it’s our home.
I kill three, I look behind me and six more appear.
Then there’s the little ones, it’s no good for them being around this. No good. I’m sure that they will make them ill if they stay. I’ve got to get rid of them, before they get ill. Before any of us get ill. The shop can rot, but the children, we need to do it for them.
I kill four, twelve more march in.
Then there is the hair, dirty, smelly, damp hairs moulting everywhere. Everywhere. Can’t remember the last time I baked. Not since the woman and that hair. What can I do after that. I don’t understand. I’ve always kept it clean, such a clean kitchen. Mopped the floor all the time, clean down the sides. It shouldn’t be this way. Look, there’s one.
It must be the end.
I kill five and get twenty new ones. New born and dirty.
I’d get a cat. If I had a cat it would sort them out, maybe if I had a few cats they would get it done quicker. Not scared of me, but they would be scared of a cat I am sure! Probably would need a hundred cats. But then that’s like that rhyme with the woman with a spider, I’d be stuck with loads of cats then, I’d have to get dogs to get rid of them…
I kill ten, fifty more within minutes. Send in more troops. They’re winning the fight, but still the onslaught continues. Total annihilation.
And for every one of the little, dirty balls of love and happiness, a hundred fleas and ticks! Count the rats. How many fleas do you think there are? I’ve scratched so much I bleed. My skin is raw. Scratching, scratching all the time.
I lay traps.
I kill twenty. A hundred more.
I lay traps. Boiling water, vats of oil, hit them with sticks, stamp on them, skin them and bash in their brains. They just eat each other’s corpses. They can eat up to one third of their own body weight a day. I look away and there is nothing left of a dead rat. I kick them, brush them out. But it wears me out. I can’t get rid of them. I can’t get help, I can’t afford it. They’ve bankrupted me.
I’d kill myself, but a thousand would come and feed off my corpse.
They’ve ruined my shop, my beautiful shop. My shop of rat’s blood and excrement, blood soaked walls.
Baker motions to audience members
Come in, I’ll cook you a pie, they’ve taken the best stuff so I’ll have to do a rat pie. It’ll be fresh, killed on the spot. Rat meat, bit tough though. It’s all I’ve got. But if you close your eyes, you could image that its pork, or lamb, or beef, or chicken, or turkey, or duck, or anything you want it to be.
There’s one. Look! and another!
I kill fifty, fifty, takes me hours. I sit back and I’m swamped. I can’t count.
come out and help me, they are waking up. There are loads. Bring the brush.