By John McNeil
Uncle Henare was rescued from the gutter as a street kid. Now he devotes his life to helping kids who are not making it....including his own daughter.
Phil (a friend)
Scotty (late teens/early twenties; has been in trouble with the law)
Gordon Ford (Council building inspector - rather officious)
(Note: In the play as produced, we built a simple small frame of timber, and actually cut and nailed pieces in place as the play progressed. Alternatively, the work could be mimed, with sound effects to match the actions. Eg, as they cut a board, we hear a skil saw; as they hammer, we hear the sounds.)
Henare: (Hands Phil the end of a tape measure) I'd like to check the measurement on that bottom plate, Phil. (Phil holds one end of the tape. Henare measures and marks the cut to be made.) Two-oh-one-six?
Phil: That's it.
Henare: Right, pop the stick on the horses. (Phil does so, then holds the piece of wood while Henare picks up a saw, and cuts it.)
Phil: (As they prepare to nail) Only a couple more noggins to go and the frame'll be finished, won't it?
Henare: Yep. Trouble is, that's the easy part. They reckon 80 per cent of the work takes only 20 per cent of the time, don't they. We'll slap the cladding and roof on fast enough - reckon next weekend will see that done. It's the plastering I don't like.
Phil: I've got a nephew who's just starting out on his own in gib stopping. He'll give you mate's rates. Like me to give him a call?
Henare: Sounds good. Treena likes interior decorating. Seeing she's going to live with it, reckon she can choose what goes on the walls, and Aunty Bet will give her a hand to put it up.
Phil: When does she come home?
Henare: Fortnight tomorrow. It'll be a bit tight for a few weeks, but we'll manage.
Phil: I've never known a house with so many people coming and going. How do you manage?
Henare: Bet and I always wanted a large family. But when we found we couldn't have any more after Treena, we figured we'd look out for kids who didn't have much of a family.
Scotty: Gidday, Uncle Ralph, Phil.
Henare: Hi Scotty, how'd it go?
Scotty: Wasn't any easier just cos it was the last.
Henare: Periodic detention isn't supposed to be a soft option.
Scotty: That Bill Horrocks is so up himself. I came this close to planting him today. He was really trying it on. I reckon he wanted an excuse to get me back before the judge.
Phil: Knowing the two of you, that must have taken an effort.
Scotty: (Belligerent) I wasn't going to give him the satisfaction. They've got nothing on me now, and I intend to keep it that way. (Softens) Thanks for everything, Uncle. Is Aunty Bet home? I'm starving. (Exits)
Phil: D'you reckon he can keep his nose clean?
Henare: He's got a lot of guts. Yeah, I think he'll make it.
Phil: And what about Treena? Sorry, perhaps I shouldn't ask.
Henare: It's okay. I don't know. All we can do is love her.... like the others.
Phil: Is she going to keep the baby? (Henare's look is sufficient answer.) Guess that was a silly question, knowing you and Bet. What's the future for her....
(Enter Gordon Ford)
Ford: Good afternoon, Henare. Good afternoon, Philip.
Henare: Hello, Mr Ford. I didn't know building inspectors worked Saturdays.
Ford: It's not an official visit, I was just passing and thought I'd drop in. I see the framing's nearly done. You know you have let me see the bracing in place before you start cladding, don't you.
Henare: Yes, Mr Ford.
Ford: And this time you'll get a registered drainlayer in to do the stormwater, won't you.
Henare: Is there something you're trying to tell me, Mr Ford?
Ford: Just some friendly advice, that's all. (Goes to leave, turns back.) Oh, Henare. You know I'm chairman of the school PTA. They...ah...want you and Mrs G to come and talk to our next meeting about the needs of foster children. Can you make it?
Henare: They only need someone to believe in them, Mr Ford. It's that simple. But yes, I can make it.
Ford: Thank you. Let me know when you're ready for that inspection, won't you. (Exits)
Phil: How do you keep your patience with that man, Henare?
Henare: He's no different from the kids. Doesn't believe he has any worth unless he's wearing his patch. (pause)Smoko? (They put down their tools and pick up flask, cups etc, begin to eat/drink). Funny how things go in circles. If it wasn't for Ford's father, I wouldn't be here now. You know I was a pretty wild kid. Ran away from home more times than I can count. Got into petty crime, then into drugs. Went to Auckland and hit the streets. Ford's old man worked at the City Mission in Auckland in those days. He came across me lying in the gutter one day - I was too stoned to move. He took me in his own car to their detox facility and sat with me for three solid days and nights. He force fed me food. He held me down to stop me bashing holes in the walls. He bandaged the bits when I was too fast for him. And he walked with me through the hell of the next three months. He saw something in me I didn't see in myself. I guess you could say his God got me through, and then got through to me.
Phil: That explains a lot.
Henare: You were asking about Treena.
Phil: No, that was rude of me.
Henare: Everyone else will talk about her. Better to my face than behind my back
Phil: How did you feel when she told you?
Henare: We all have hopes for our kids. They died a bit, I guess.
Phil: What did you say?
Henare: Come home. (Pause) Just....come home.
© John McNeil 2000
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.
In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed.
He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or at: 36B Stourbridge St, Christchurch 2, New Zealand.