By John McNeil
Two neighbours at loggerheads try mediation to settle their differences.
I Peter 3:8-18
Gail Middlemiss (a mediator)
Tom Huff, Gerard Badger (two neighbours)
(The scene alternates between the office of the Christchurch Mediation Service and the properties of the two neighbours. At the front of the stage is a coffee table and 3 chairs. In mid-stage, at a right-angle to the audience, is a fence. Seated in one of the chairs is the Mediator, Gail Middlemiss. An assistant enters.)
Mr Huff and Mr Badger are here for their appointment, Ms Middlemiss. Shall I show them in?
Yes, Sarah, please do.
(Goes to door. Beckons through it.) Please come in, gentlemen. Ms Middlemiss is ready for you now. (After showing them in, the assistant exits.)
(Stands) Welcome to the Christchurch Mediation Service, Mr Huff (shakes hands) and Mr Badger (shakes hands). I am Gail Middlemiss. Please sit down. (They do.)
Thank you for choosing to bring your situation to mediation, and for taking the time to come here today. Now, your solicitors have written me an outline of the situation, but I wonder if you each might tell it to me in your own words. Perhaps you first, Mr Huff.
That's easy. He's just an inconsiderate upstart who thinks he can ride roughshod over the rights and feelings of others.
Is that so? And you're just a slob and and a bigot who shoots off his mouth before engaging any sense of decency.
Gentlemen, please! We will make no progress if you can do nothing but trade insults. Your feelings are important, but what I need to hear first are the actual facts of the situation. Could you try again, Mr Huff. (Smiles at him.) Just the facts.
Hmmph! Well, it all began the day my mother came to stay the weekend. She's elderly, and loud noises irritate her something chronic. (He gets up, goes to his side of the fence.)
My wife had just got her settled after the long trip, when a chain saw starts up next door.
(Sound FX, chain saw). What on earth! That's the last thing we need right now! (Tries to yell over top of noise.) Hey, Jerry, can't you put a sock in it. Me crook mum's just arrived, and that noise'll drive her bonkers. (Shouts) Jerry, I said will you shut that infernal machine up.
(Addresses Mediator). But he wouldn't listen, and even when I went around, he wouldn't see reason.
(Puts on ear muffs, moves to his side of fence. Picks up chain saw.) I tried to explain that I could only borrow this chain saw for the afternoon, and I had to tackle that rotten tree before the winter came. And it was for his benefit. If a good southerly pushed it over, it would have landed right on top of his garage.
Then to add insult to injury, that night the meatheads moved in.
(Sound FX, loud rock music, party.)
For crying out loud, I don't believe it! Badger, what do you think you're doing? Turn that bloody set down, or I'll call the cops.
(To Mediator) I went round there hot-foot, but would you believe, they wouldn't even let me inside! So I called the cops, and they said I had to ring the council noise control officer. By the time I got them I was at my wit's end, and must have accidentally given the wrong address, because they took four hours to turn up, and by that time the racket was over.
(To mediator) I wasn't actually home when this happened. It was my daughter's birthday, and I said she could invite some friends over while Janine and I went to the movies. I strictly asked her not to make a lot of noise because of Mrs Huff next door. But they obviously didn't take any notice, and I didn't realise what had happened until the noise control officer turned up. I gave my daughter a right dressing down, but by then the damage was done, of course.
I was out in my yard the next morning, wondering how I could best apologise, when the next thing....
(A ball flies over the fence towards Badger, followed by Sound FX of breaking glass.)
(Shouts) Huff, that irresponsible son of yours has done it again! That's the third time this year! Wait till I get my hands on him, I'll tan his backside! (Goes and picks up ball, angrily throws it back. There's a sound of more breaking glass.)
Oh, heck! Well, tit for tat!
Badger, what do you think you're doing, you've just smashed my new cloches!
Well, your idiot son just smashed my window.
Who are you calling an idiot? At least, he hasn't turned a poor woman into a nervous wreck, like your inconsiderate cacophony did last night!
(To Mediator) I'm afraid things just escalated from there.
If your tree drops rotten pears on my side of the fence again, I'll come and smear them over your face!
I'll have your car towed away every time it obstructs my driveway, so there!
(Throws paper bag over) Here's the droppings your dog left behind, and if you want the dog, you'd better try the SPCA.
That tree house is an illegal structure. I think the council building inspector will be interested to hear about that.
(Both freeze, then return to seats in mediation office.)
In short, you've become locked into a cycle, an escalating spiral of hurt and counter-hurt. And you know, neither of you set out to injure the other in the first place, but you don't know how to break the cycle now.
Huff and Badger:
(Together) He started it!
And it will take both of you to break out of it. I'm going to ask you both to put the past hurts behind you. You've come to me for a way out of this mess. So here's my suggestion. As a first step, I want each of you to make a gesture of goodwill towards the other. It won't be easy, but try it anyway. And then use that first step to rebuild the relationship I believe you once had. (All rise.) Thank you for coming. Good luck, and God bless.
(She exits. The two men move to their respective sides of the fence.)
A gesture of goodwill! Only if he makes the first move. (Turns his back on fence.)
I reckon penguins will dance the can-can before he does anything. (Turns his back.)
(Sound FX, door bell ringing.)
Huff and Badger:
(Together) I'll get it!
(They each go to their doors, and return carrying cakes.)
Well, I'll be blowed! He did!
Unbelievable! Perhaps there's hope for him yet.
(They freeze. Mediator and Assistant enter her office.)
And a Mr Cartwright at 3 o'clock. That's all the appointments today.
Thanks, Sarah. Nice to have a quieter day.
(Notices something on Mediator's dress.) Excuse me, there's something on your skirt, Gail. It looks like ... flour!?
Could be. (Laughs) I was doing a little baking last night. I kept a bit for morning tea. Join me!
© John McNeil 1998
All rights reserved.
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged.
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He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or at: 36B Stourbridge St, Christchurch 2, New Zealand.