A play by Rachel ME McKenzie 2016 (c) copyright first performed at AGAP’s 2016 Glasgow Lentfest.
After a friends-with-benefits encounter leaves her pregnant, Monica, 19, boards the Motherwell Express. Desperate to reverse the action of the abortion pill she swallowed hours earlier. On board she meets two very different women, Rose and Breda. The three of them are forced to get to know each other as the train is held up in the Lanarkshire countryside while sheep wander onto railway line. Can Monica get the help she desperately needs from the cold careerist Rose or the friendly trolley dolly Breda?
[Monica listening to Mumford & Sons (headphones) through the train carriage
trying to get seat, ignored, bumped into https://youtu.be/Sw-ko6aINI4
SPOTLIGHT ON MONICA – REST TRAIN IN DARKNESS. Tannoy starts and Music fades …
Tannoy (recorded voice):
“Passengers on the Motherwell Express. The train has stopped due to a disturbance ahead on the line. We don’t know yet how long this is going to be. It seems a flock of sheep have found their way onto the grassy banks of the track. We would like to apologise for this Baaaaa’d news. I wouldn’t gambol on how long this will take! It is lovely and sunny out their folks!”
Rose reading papers, coffee
Rose: (groans) Nooo! Breda, Breda!
Breda enters with trolley:
Breda: (mutters) You called your highness
Rose: How long is this going to be?
Breda: I don’t know – we’re not allowed to use crystal balls on Scotrail
anymore. Health & safety – someone might cut themselves…
Rose: I have a very important meeting at Motherwell hospital this morning.
If I am late it doesn’t bear thinking about what they might try in my absence”
Breda: Yeah and I guess everyone else on board is just out for a jaunt.
Rose: Well I don’t care about anyone else”
Breda: You don’t say! I’ve been serving you coffee on this train for Ten years
Rose, that much I know hen.
Rose: Ten years – it may well be but this is the first time we have been
stopped for something as ridiculous as this. Sheep?!!
Breda: All creatures great and small
Rose: You’d know short arse/ skinny melinky long legs
Enter Monica – really distressed:
Monica: Excuse me, I am sorry but how long will this go on? I really have to
get to Motherwell as soon as possible
Breda: I am sorry pet; I really don’t know. Apparently that storm last week
has left holes in the fence. There’s about ten ewes on the track. This time of
the year farmers will shoot anything that worries their pregnant sheep.
Monica: This is a disaster… what I am I going to do…I feel sick
Breda: You better sit down. Do you want a cup of tea love?
Monica: I have hardly any money. I just need to get to Motherwell
Breda: Sit and have a cuppa on the house. I’m Breda and this is Rose, she’ll
look after you.
Rose: (mutters) Breda, eh, this is the first class carriage
Breda: (mutters back to Rose) This train is really busy your highness, can’t you
see she looks dehydrated?
Monica sits down at Rose’s table, Rose reluctantly gathers up her stuff so Monica
can have a seat. Breda gives her a drink.
Breda: Well if we are going to be stuck I am going to sort my trolley out.
Rose has paper everywhere – laptop etc.
Monica: (picks up paper) Motherwell hospital? Is that where you work?
Rose: Excuse me (takes paper back, irritated)
Monica: Sorry…Are you a nurse?
Rose: A nurse? (Scoffs) Absolutely not!
Monica: I’m training to be a nurse. Well I have done my first year.
Rose: That’s really nice for you. Now if you don’t mind -Monica: Why do you have all these hospital papers? (picks up Rose ID badge)
This is you – Dr Rose Garden? (laughs)
Rose: Garten… Garten with a T.
Monica: So you are a doctor?
Rose: I am failing to see where this is any of your business.
Monica: Sorry, it’s just that I really need to speak to a doctor-
Rose: Well, I’m Sorry, I have a pHD in Corporate Management. I am not a
medical doctor and neither would I wish to be.
Monica: So what do you do?
Rose: Not that it is any of your business but I advise the hospital on its
budget. I save them a LOT of money.
Monica: (Scoffs) Oh well that’s kind of you, their time must be money if they’ve
only got 5 mins to see each patient. Honestly, I was waiting for half an hour the
other day. Then when the doctor saw me it was like passing through self-service
machine at Asda. At least with them you get a ‘have a good day’ .
Rose: Sorry love – don’t mean to be rude or anything, but got work to do.
Breda on the other hand has got nothing to do…Breda?!
Breda: Okay. I think I’ll join you… aww it’ s good getting the feet up.
Is everything alright love, do you want to talk about it?
Monica: Nah, sorry, I’m just word vom’ing here, got a lot on my mind. I just need
to get to Motherwell.
Breda: I know hun. Don’t you worry about Rose over there. You talk out as
much as you like, a problem shared is a problem halved as they say eh?
Monica: my mum used to say that
Breda: well there you are then
(Monica struggles within herself to talk or not. Breda can sense that she is wanting
to but finding it hard to open up)
Breda: Why are you so pressured to get to Motherwell hun? Is it related to what
you were crying about in the doctors?
(Monica tries to fight back the tears)
Breda: Aww pet, poor thing, (Putting arm round her)
Monica: I just need to get to the hospital. Before it’s too late
Breda: The hospital? (Lets Monica cry until she compose herself) OK hun. Do
you want to start from the beginning?
Monica: (trying to gather herself together, slightly embarrassed)
He said it was friends with benefits. I knew what that meant. And I was fine with
it, at first. In theory I didn’t want to be tied down right now? With my study and
everything. But I was drawn to him. He was gorgeous, black thick hair. Irish and
really green eyes. Popular. Everyone likes him. I tried to keep my head
strong. “FWB was just what I was looking for” I said to him.
Breda: Sorry, your gonna have to dumb this down for me sweetheart…FW
Monica tries to explain it further, is a bit embarrassed
Rose: Oh for heaven’s sake Breda. You’re the one with teenage kids here,
FWB, friends with benefits, think about it… (with eyes still on her laptop she asks
Monica) your up the duff love aren’t you?
Breda: Oh… OH! I see. Ok darlin, I’m with you now. Oh well, that’s alright, a
baby is something to celebrate! Congratulations!
Monica: No, you don’t understand (Monica starts to get upset)
Breda: Aw sweetheart come here, I’m sorry. Keep going. So you
told him you wanted to be FWB, but things weren’t that simple eh?
Monica: No,arghhh so stupid! In my head I had it together, but my
stupid heart wouldn’t stay put. He is such an arse! Arghhh. (Pause)
Thing is I know right from wrong. My parents were big on that.
I shouldn’t have been taking the risk of getting hurt never mind pregnant.
Breda: So what happened?
Monica: The girls in the flat told me about the RU486. Have you heard about it?
Monica: Our pal Katie had taken it, twice apparently, last time wasn’t long ago.
She seemed fine. I mean, apart from the drunken sobs I would say she was a
happy girl. Always up for a laugh, life and soul of the party, that sort of thing.
Breda: Aye well you can put on a front on for a long time. Things
are not always what they seem and anyway you are not Katie.
Monica: Maybe I could just get it over with, forget it happened and
move on. A fresh start, that’s what I wanted.
Breda: So apart from your friends did you talk to anyone else about it?
Monica: So I went to see my director of studies – a nurse! She
listened, we talked about me being at the start of my studies. She
finished by saying “this is a pro-choice campus so the choice is
yours Monica, here’s a flyer with all the local clinics in case you
need it” As I walked 4 minutes to the nearest one I thought to
myself “It takes less than 10 mins to talk, walk and take an abortion
pill, yet I’ve been waiting 3 weeks to hear back from student
welfare about student creches or how I am going to cope if I have
this baby. Will they let me stay on my course? Another three
weeks I might not be able to fix this problem.
Breda: Wait a minute why are you saying problem? This might be
a problem now but life changes and this ‘problem’ might become a
blessing. Tell me something about this guy, where is he in all this?
Monica: I saw him on my way to the clinic at the student union. I
saw him standing there at the bar. Laughing. Totally oblivious to
the world outside himself. A flock of females around him laughing
louder than the next. His FWB fan base group no doubt. I felt sick. I
wanted to hurt him so bad, or myself maybe, I don’t know. Why
was he happy? Filling himself up with a lunch time beer while I was
full of guilt and confusion. I was walking around with part of his
doing inside me. Half of him and half of me. Yet here I was paying
for the pill that made the choice for both of us. As I swallowed it
down with water I thought how this ‘Friends with Benefits’ lacked
security. Where was the contract in all of this? The terms and
conditions? I figured, like all scams, it would make its way
somewhere in the small print: FWB (will take no responsibility to the
consequences of this arrangement). Yes to sex no to babies and parenthood.
I’m sorry. I better shut up now.
Breda: You just keep talking love. Another cup of tea? I mean we
can’t go anywhere right now anyway. What about your mum and
Monica: Mum and dad wouldn’t be any use, “You must get on with your studies
there’s plenty time for children after”. They are too busy.
Breda: How far along are you Monica?
Monica: Eight weeks
Breda: Do you even know what your baby looks like?
Rose: For Pete’s sake Breda. She has made her choice. Leave her
alone. Your being cruel Breda. Can’t you see you are breaking her.
Breda: All I am doing is telling her the truth. Nobody else has told her it.
Monica: The Truth hurts. If it wasn’t for this talk at school, we had
from some pro-life group the decision would have been easy. I’ve
tried to forget it. All I remember was that babies heart, my baby,
heart was beating after 21 days of conception. Every time I close
my eyes I saw a face, a baby’s face. I knew. I had a few drinks and
I thought about him in the union, laughing with those girls. I felt
sick knowing, he meant friends with benefits and I was so stupid I
thought I needed to do that. I took it. The pill. As soon as I did he
went away. The taunting stopped. I had hurt him back. I slept for
a few hours. Then I just didn’t know what was going on. What is
going on in by body. So I googled it.
They say it starves the baby
Fifty percent of women will begin spotting after taking Mifeprex.
If the bleeding has not already begun, you will start bleeding.
The pregnancy will expel from four to twenty-four hours after taking misoprostol.
IF I can get help at this stage there is a chance
I realised I wanted to stop it.
I googled abortion reversal.
Rose: Rose noticed the sympathetic look from Breda
Oh for God’s sake Breda, stop with the martyr look… Look Love (Monica) It’s not a
big deal, 1 in 3 woman have to make this choice every day.
Breda: Monica’s a person, she’s not a 1 in 3
Breda gives a look which spurs a reaction from Rose. Stops her speaking
Rose: Her body, her choice.
Monica: “Her body, her choice” this feminist narrative. That’ s all I’ve heard from
doctors, campus, friends… Your choice sister! Power to the woman. What were my
choices? I don’t know if I made the right choice, how can you know, I mean I find it
hard to know if I’ve made the choice … What does choice even mean in this
Brenda: She is right Rose. Our generation has passed on a lot of lies.
Choices? What choices? A woman can’t even afford to stay at home and look after
her children anymore if that is her choice. We got it wrong – at least I can admit it.
Rose: whowhowhow I’m not judging anybody. Pause
Breda rolling eyes
But all I am saying is women weren’t in the job I am in fifty years ago.
Breda: I hear you on the phone Rose every day on this train. Your frets
your moans. Will I stay on the executive? Will I get the same as him? Will I get
more? Will I get a pay rise? It’s all about You you you. I’ve known you ten
years Rose. You’d be as well being a man. In fact, have you got a wee 9’ o clock
shadow going on there Rose?
Rose feels her chin
Silence – Rose gets mirror and looks to check
Monica: Do y’know Germaine Greer?
Breda: Ach yea she was all the age when I was your age. She wrote that book the
Monica: what does Female Eunuch mean?
Breda: Well…a wee bit like Rose I think
wink at Rose. Under breath to Monica
I’ve not really read it to be honest, but I do know Germaine Greer, she was big
softy really, she was right about a lot of things to do with woman, compared to
other ‘pro-choice’ folk.
Monica: showing printed out research
Well according to this, even though she was a big voice in feminist movement She
says the RU486 abortion method really puts women and girls lives at risk. Guess
what the chairman of the company that makes them said? – “an appalling
psychological ordeal” I am scared.
Breda: are you okay? – poor soul. They will be doing that in your hospital Rose.
Rose: Don’t start Breda, don’t look at me with that petty mother Theresa eyes and
think I’m getting involved. I’m the last person you want to fight your corner; I’m
staying out of this.
Rose: What is going on today? Breda you are normally so irritatingly happy
every morning. I wouldn’t want you to burst with joy if you found out something
on me!!! What do you want Breda? A confession? A eulogy of my unhappy
personal life? Would that make you feel better thinking your wee schoolgirl
psychology is right: Success doesn’t bring happiness?
Breda: Actually Rose it’s not about you. You’ re missing the point here; I am
thinking of this young girl here. You could really help her. I mean you know
who’s who in the hospital. Who will try to help her reverse the abortion?
Rose: There is no such thing! Well nothing licensed. I’ve seen a board paper
on this but… anyway this is not my area. I am not involved in this. (Rage
building up) Why do you always have to get involved in other people’s lives
anyway? You do it all the time, I see you on your rounds up and down the
carriage, big smiles and sickly sweet treats. Starts with “tea or coffee pet?” next
thing you know you’ve got people telling you their life story with you giving it the
hearts bleeding eyes “everything, will be alright pet, one day at a time, trust, let
go and let God”. Blahblahblah. I don’t know what sick thrill you get it out of it but
why don’t you keep yourself to yourself, and leave the real world to those who can
Breda: Oh Rose, what could be more real!? Monica here. Like this.
Messed up. Knocking on doors for help. Your door, my door. Getting
nowhere. And there’s plenty more where she came from. Ten years. Ten years.
You have never asked me anything about me have you?
Rose: Rubbish. I hear you anyway. You are like a bird on this train chirpy chirpy
chirpy. Telling complete strangers about your kids. That you have three kids but
one’s with the angels. Your husband’s your best friend. Very quaint. If you like
that sort of thing. If you haven’t felt the need to progress as a woman, study,
smash that glass ceiling. I was the youngest to get on the hospital board. The
Breda: I study life. Would it make a difference if I had a masters in biology?
What have you done with all your qualifications? with your feminist liberation?
Rose: Have you got a masters in biology?
Breda: Rose grow up … is that all you heard. Rose, I am asking you, will you
use your position in the hospital to save a life – or at least try – isn’t that what
hospitals are for?
Breda: Maybe I do work every day on the Motherwell Express. But at least when
I am on this train I can help people. That helps me back.
Breda stand up to make tea
Rose: Research helps people. Money makes things happen.
We are coming out with cures all the time. Progress is breath-taking.
Breda: Yeah its certainly taken the breath away. Many, many breaths. Every
day I watch all you suits on the trains – has anything changed? Is your freedom
real? I know you are all every day going somewhere important, making
decisions. Yet the extent of civil disobedience in this country is “dress down
Friday”. The suits don’t speak to me to me unless I put a paper cup in the wrong
recycling bin. Sometimes I do it deliberately to check they still have a pulse.
You feminists have done nothing for women like me.
Breda: Do you want sugar with that? Breda hands cup to Rose
Rose: (gets coffee) Well tell me something about you Breda
Breda: Okay. When I am not on this train I am a voluntary fertility care
counsellor and I run the Motherwell branch of SPUC Scotland.
Rose: (spits out her coffee) S P U C? The society for the
protetction…of unborn children. Crikey no you certainly never told me that Breda?
– do you know there’s a website called … SPUC off!
Breda: Yes. Keep your rosaries off my ovaries. I’ve heard it all Rose.
Sticks and stones.
Rose: Do you…. give talks?
Breda: When the schools let us in.
Rose: How we laughed at school when those Fertility Care speakers came in
and gave us a talk. Do you still explain the need to abstain from sexual
intercourse for about 6 days if you are ‘spacing’ a family? Those charts!
Breda: The message is the same. Truths about Fertility don’t change.
Rose: I remember we got the bravest girl to stand up and say there is no
way any of us could go without sex for 6 days – just to embarrass the counsellor.
Monica: Did you embarrass her?
Rose: No she was pretty cool. She was really interesting too but we only
got one lesson with other. I don’t know why – we got loads of sex education and
a thesis on contraception.
Truth was we were all girls, virgins, we were just having a laugh. We were a
blank canvas. White snow over a grass field waiting for the snowdrop to take its
first breath of air. Yes, more time spent on the Fertility talk would have been
very useful (rueful). Those facts never left me.
Monica: What happened?
Rose: Snowdrops can get uprooted. There were no flowers.
Breda: I suppose children would have been an inconvenience to you
Rose, your career …
Rose: Who is hanging labels now? Perhaps I would have, if the choice was
still there. The barren Rose … I hear them say that in the office. People make
assumptions alright like a paper mill makes paper. You know what’s going to
make the hospitals, the schools, prisons economically unworkable?
Breda: Lack of qualifications I presume?
Rose: See there you go again. Case and point…Isolation because of the
assumptions we make about each other to stop feeling our own pain. It’s
becoming expensive. Relatives – they are estranged. Hospital has to foot the bill
of looking after people who have no-one.
Breda: So you do care about y’know human things?
Rose: Did you ever ask? I’ll have you know I work hard to divert the
hospitals budget to more compassionate aims than some might.
Will this train ever start again? Will the train make it in time for this meeting?
Breda: This train will make it. It’s just held up because a farmer cares
about his pregnant sheep. More than anybody cares about Monica’s pregnancy,
or the thirty other babies which will be aborted in Scotland, today and every day .
That will be costing your hospital too?
Rose: We supply society’s demand – don’t blame us. And now I
am now going to phone the board of directors so they postpone this meeting
because of ten lost sheep!
Rose leaves Breda sits
Breda: ok now that female eunuch has gone, I’ll put my feet up
Monica: So, do you have any children Breda?
Breda: Yes, I have three- two teenagers and one in heaven
Monica: What does that mean?
Breda: Well, when I was eight weeks, I had a miscarriage -I like to think one day
there will be a baby boy waiting to meet his mum
Monica: you see that’s the differences between you and me. Yours was an
accident- mine was a choice.
Breda: Listen sweetheart, your choice was very uninformed- let’s be honest.
Monica: “You know last night…after I took the pill and I was more desperate
than I’ve ever known possible. I prayed. I didn’t know who I was talking to. I
even got out a bible my great uncle once bought me. I never read it. I couldn’t
throw it away either. He was a good man. I do remember that. I opened it…
randomly. I didn’t understand it but it felt comforting somehow…even though I
had done wrong. Although he’d messed up there was this son whom He still loved. Och just Christian mumbo jumbo…but it’s a nice thought.
Breda: Well Monica something I heard which has struck with me that there is
nothing which can separate us from the love of God. Now I better go and check on
the rest of the train. I don’t want them dying of thirst.
Rose: Have you got the entire life story now Breda all the juicy details. How are
you helping Monica with all this?
Breda: (angry now with Rose) You should shut up Rose it ’ s good to talk.
Don’t you feel better now after you have talked about it. There is help Monica.
Even after you get off this train you will have people to talk to.
Monica: I am feeling a bit better
Rose: Breda you really do remind of that fertility counsellor that came to my
school. There must be a mould? Likeable but so Idealistic!
Breda: You said yourself you remember the facts. Truth sticks no? Imagine if
we could reverse the damage to fertility… to women. To you Rose.
Rose: What? I wouldn’t give up what I have.
Breda: What do you have Rose? You shut life out. Your scared.
Rose: I’m a management consultant!
Breda: Is that worth saving more than human life? This baby? Monica’s
baby? We need many hands on deck for this including yours Rose?
Tannoy: We will shortly be arriving in Motherwell the lines are now clear.
The farmer has managed to get all his sheep off the line without any of them
panicking and miscarrying. Thanks for your patience. We wish you a good day
and free tea or coffee for your inconvenience.
Breda: Men! I have to go round the whole train now with free coffee and tea
Rose: Are you going to do that for him? Tell him to do that himself?
Breda: Rose he’s driving the train. It’s teamwork y’know. Anyway on the
Motherwell Express we try to give thirsty strangers a drink”
Rose: Breda. There is a contact, a Dr Ash at the hospital. I think he will be…
sympathetic. I will stay with Monica and phone him now. She can come with
me into the hospital.
Breda: Just get this Mother well! Monica here’s my number. Stick with
Rose – rumour has it she is human after all.
Monica: hugs BREDA
Rose: Dr Ash there’s a girl I need you to assess at the hospital….RU486 yeah
one…no the girl has no bleeding. So if she doesn’t take the second pill there is a
good chance. So you have heard of women that have kept their baby and not
lost it. Yes, the Mother’s right here. She is called Monica McQueen”
Copyright (c) Rachel ME McKenzie 2016