By John McNeil
A businessman tries various methods to reduce stress, all with unfortunate results.
Anthony Baron - the patient
(The stage is set with a doctor's desk and chair to one side. At the desk is the Doctor, who remains throughout the play, but "invisible" when not involved in consultation.)
(Enter Anthony Baron, very listless; can scarcely drag himself to the chair.)
Doctor: Good morning, Mr Baron. My, you are looking down on it today. What seems to be the problem?
Baron: Hello, Doc. I just don't seem to have any get up and go these days. I'm listless, tired all the time, wake up in the morning feeling as if I've had no sleep. My appetite's gone. Up to now I've been a ball of energy - up at dawn, work a 14-hour day, on the road six days out of seven. Now I feel like a shell of the man I used to be.
Doc: Sounds a bit like classic symptoms of stress. That is, if you haven't changed your diet or your lifestyle lately.
Baron: No, not at all. Though maybe I should. I've lost interest in just about everything I do. What can you give me for it?
Doc: There's no pill labelled "Enjoyment of life", I'm afraid. And I'm not sure I'd prescribe it if there were. You need to recharge your batteries. There are perfectly good, natural ways to do it.
Baron: Like what?
Doc: Let's start simple, shall we!? When was the last time you did a spot of gardening?
Doc: Yes. Get your fingers into the soil. Enjoy nature. You'll be amazed at what it does for you.
Baron: And for this bit of nonsense you'll charge a hefty consultant's fee, I suppose.
Doc: No, just the usual. Go on, try it.
(Baron exits, looking dubious.)
Doc: Next please! (Starts writing up case notes.)
(Baron re-enters, carrying a chainsaw and a fold-up ladder. He is now in his garden. The Doctor "freezes" during the following.)
Baron: (Breathes deeply) Maybe Doc was right! It is too long since I communed with nature. (Looking at the chainsaw and then up at the tree) Well, let's get on with that pruning.
(He tries to unfold the ladder while retaining hold of the chainsaw, without success. The ladder is totally unco-operative, folding in all the wrong ways. The more he tries, the worse it gets, until he ends up a tangle of ladder and arms and legs. In frustration he throws the ladder off to one side, grits his teeth, and with an "I'll conquer you" look up at the tree, mimes beginning to climb, chainsaw in hand. Exhausted, he reaches a branch, throws a leg over it, and sits down, exhausted. On his precarious perch, he tries to start the chainsaw, but it only sputters. In desperation, he gives a really hard yank, and falls. There is a loud crash as he hits the ground, and then suddenly the chain saw kicks into life. Baron shakes his fist at it and limps over to the Doctor's desk.)
Baron: Commune with nature, the man says!
Doc: (Takes out a bandage, and begins to bandage his head.) If I may say so, Mr Baron, I had meant a slightly more down-to-earth start to matters horticultural. Perhaps we need to think of something a bit more relaxing, to help you charge your batteries. What about fishing?
Doc: Yes, get out your old fly rod, find a nice quiet stretch of river, and let the gentle rippling of the water restore your soul. "He leads me by still waters."
Baron: Who does?
Doc: I don't know ... it's a quotation from somewhere or other. A figure of speech.
Baron: You're not going to charge a fancy fee for that, are you?
Doc: No, just the usual. (Baron exits.) Next please! (He goes on writing.)
(Baron re-enters, carrying a fishing rod. He breathes deeply with a sigh of satisfaction, looks round for a suitable spot, and gets ready to start fishing. He takes out a fishing lure, and in trying to tie onto the line, jabs his finger. He succeeds in tying it on. He swings his rod back to cast, and the line catches in a tree behind him. He puts down the rod, and goes to untangle the line. No matter how he pulls, it won't come, so in frustration he takes out a knife and cuts the line. Turning to go back to his rod, he trips over a piece of wood and falls into a patch of stinging nettle. With grim determination, he picks himself up, picks up the rod, and attaches another lure, pricking himself again in the process. Finally, he succeeds in casting the line, and he waits in tense expectation for the fish to bite. Nothing happens. He reels in the line, and casts, again waiting tensely, urging the fish to take the lure. As he reels in again, the sound of a jet boat is heard in the distance, rapidly approaching. As Baron casts for the third time, the jet boat comes past with a roar, the line jerks, and he is pulled into the river. [Fortunately, it is shallow where he is standing.] He gets up, shakes his fist, winces from a suspected sprain, and dripping wet limps off.)
(Baron re-enters, goes to the doctor's desk.)
Baron: (Through gritted teeth.) No more of these fancy ideas, Doc. (In desperation) Give me a pill. Vitamins, Valium, Viagra, whatever. I don't care.
Doc: (Applying a sling to his arm) A pill will not give you quality of life, Mr Baron. Your problem is, you do everything too intensely. The quotation I mentioned last visit said "still waters" - not a raging torrent.
Baron: Forget the philosophising. I want a cure.
Doc: Then do yourself a favour and have a real holiday. Bury your cell phone. Laze on a beach somewhere. Soak up the sun and the sea. (Pedantically slow.) Take ... it ... easy.
Baron: (Resigned) All right, I'll try it your way one last time. (Exits)
Doc: Next please! (Goes on writing.)
(Sounds of airport departure lounge. Baron enters carrying suitcase, with wife and preschool daughter in tow. Wife is carrying a baby, which is crying. The child, constantly complains or wants something.)
Baron: Honey, can't you keep the baby quiet? Shove a pacifier in its mouth or something, for goodness sake!
Wife: Just you try holding him. He's all out of routine.
Child: (Pulls on Baron's trousers, urgently.) Daddy, I need to go the toilet.
Baron: Well, I can't take you. I'm not allowed to go in there.
Child: But I've got to go. NOW!
Baron: (To wife) Okay, I'll hold the baby, while you take her. But hurry up, we're an hour late for reporting now.
Wife: It's not my fault the taxi got a puncture.
Baron: Go! Go! (They exit. The baby's cries increase. Baron tries everything he can think of to pacify it. Meanwhile.....)
Announcer: This is a last call for passengers on Flight 713 to Hawaii. If you have not checked in, please do so now before standby passengers are allocated your seats.
Baron: Hurry up! Hurry up! (The baby cries unmercifully.)
Wife: (Enters at the run.) Tony, you've got to do something quick. Matilda has locked herself in the toilet, and the door has jammed. She's screaming blue murder and I can't find an attendant.
(All freeze as.....)
Announcer: Repeating the final call for passengers on Flight 713 to Hawaii.......
(Lights fade on family. They come up on Doctor still sitting at his desk. He finishes writing, puts the folder away and stands.)
Doc: Mind you, it is easier for some of us than others. (He unbuttons two or three buttons of his shirt, opens a small cavity, takes out a battery, throws it in the rubbish bin, and inserts a new battery. He shrugs his shoulders and exits.)
© John McNeil 1999
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.