Mando the Goat Herd
Part one of an exasperating two-part trilogy.
Mando. A shaggy young goatherd, heir to his family’s debts.
Pa. Current proprieter of his family’s debts. Has no left hand.
Gran. Pa’s mother, deaf as a hoot.
Splendid Pete. The bank’s reposession agent.
As many goats as can be mustered.
A lone goat wanders across the stage. It bleats once, pauses, then laughs and bleats again. The other goats come from all sides of the stage, congregate on the other side of the stage from the lone goat. They stop and bleat. Mando enters.
Mando: Sally you silly ape, I’ve been looking for you. He goes to her, hoists her on his shoulders and drops her in the middle of the flock, they all nuzzle in joy.
The corrugated iron shed where he lives with his Pa and Gran. Gran has a bowl of olives on her lap, from which she takes the occasional olive and eats it mullingly.
Gran: There’s no telling what the young will do.
Pa: Until they go out and do it that is.
Pause, Gran has not heard, Pa sees this and goes over to her. He takes the whiteboard and marker which are roped around her neck and writes fast. He puts it under her nose and stands back. She reads aloud.
Gran: “There’s no telling what the young will do…’. I said that. “Until they go out and do it that is.” Good point! At which time it becomes so obvious as to be predictable.
Pa: Still, there’s no telling.
Pa: I said there’s no telling, you deaf old hoot.
Gran: Write it down. Pa refuses. It’s good for you.
Pa: Oh yeah? Rushes to the board, yanks it from her neck and speaks as he writes. You…. Deaf…. Old…. Hoot!
He angrily grabs an olive and munches it nervously. Gran reads the board in disappointed silence.
Gran: You’re not yourself son. Something is on your mind. You can talk to your mother. Pa goes to write. No, say it. Sometimes it’s good to let your woes fall on deaf ears.
Pa: The house is falling down around our ears, our idiot son is going to have to deal with an auditor, the land will get taken, my life’s shirk up in flames. Read this letter.
He gives her a letter. Gran doesn’t read it.
Gran: Well, you can’t win them all dear, olive oil or milk?
Pa: Milk, Milk? At a time like this? Life hanging in the balance and all you can say is “do you want some milk?” We look like a yokel circus. Milk please.
Gran: Good choice. Go get me a goat.
Pa goes upstage and opens a box. He hauls out a goat and brings it to Gran who inserts a teacup underneath it and milks a cup. She gives it to Pa. Mando enters.
Mando: Hi folks.
Pa: Hi Mando.
Gran: Do you want a glass of milk dear?
Mando: Sure Gran. The goat grimaces; is milked again.
Pa: How are the goats, Mando?
Mando: Why don’t you ask them yourself? Whistles, goats enter, they file past Pa for inspection. Gran opens the letter and reads it.
Pa: Looking healthy, looking well. You girls stay strong now. Keep eating grass.
Mando: They will pappa, they will.
Gran has finished reading the letter: Mando, I just want to tell you that we’re proud of you. You’ve always been such a happy boy, you keep us in house and home and today, of all days I get to see my only grandson go into receivership, receivership! We’ve never received anything in our whole lives! You make us proud.
Pa: I can’t believe it! I worked my hands to the bone for this place. Cleared the forests, the birds, the tribes, fertilized it, introduced rabbits and gorse, killed the rabbits and sprayed the gorse, built this hut with my own tin fence, dammit, insulated it with rugs and now you lose it?
Mando: It’s lost yet, Pa.
Gran: Don’t be so hard on the boy, it’s not nice.
Pa mistaking ‘nice’ as referring to the house: Not nice? It’s all we know! He makes hand gestures indicating ‘us’, ‘leaving’ and ‘horror’, Gran points to her whiteboard, urging him to write. Take a hint!
Mando: We’ll not lose the farm.
Pa: We’d better not.
Mando: Or what?
Pa: Or I’ll be sad.
Mando: I’ll try papa.
Pa: He’ll be here any minute. You know what I’m like with waiting.
Gran: I may be deaf, but I can smell the tension.
Pa embarrassed: There, you see, you made me fart. In agony My idiot son is going to lose us the farm.
Gran: Mando, do you know what your grandfather used to say at times like this?
Gran: “My idiot son is going to lose us the farm.”
An ominous knock on the door.
Pa: That’ll be him now.
All pause. They look nervously towards the door. No one enters. A struggle with the door as if the prop has failed, the actors look at each other as if wondering what to do, then look sheepishly at the audience.
Gran: Come in!
Splendid Pete strides confidently in, the door posing no problem. Sticks out a paw.
Splendid: Hi, I’m Splendid Pete, I’ll be repossessing your farm.
Gran: Nice to meet you.
Mando: Glass of milk?
Gran: Mando, we need a new goat, this one’s empty.
Mando: There’s another in the fridge. Opens fridge, there surely is, a blue one.
Gran: Lovely. Goes to milk it.
Mando: Trim or full cream?
Splendid: Trim, thanks Mando pours water in it from a carafe under Gran’s chair Delightful! Pete takes the cup, tips it on the floor and throws the cup over his shoulder. Let’s get down to business. Where the fuck’s the money?
Mando: We’ve got no money, we’re peasants.
Pa: Bust in here, son of a bitch, try and take what’s mine?! Built this farm with my own two hands, till I lost one, then I built it with my hand and my foot, using my mouth to steady.
Mando: It’s all we’ve got, you can’t take it from us.
Splendid: I think I can.
Pa: On what grounds?
Splendid: Your contract of course.
Pa: I signed no lease.
Splendid: The bank wants its money back.
Pa: I signed no lease!
Mando: Stop, please Pa. Just let him speak. What does it say?
Splendid: Six years shall you sow your land and gather its produce: but the seventh year you shall let it rest that the poor of your people may eat and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. Goats come out from all corners, fridge opens, all cheer. In like manner you shall do with your vineyard and/or your olive grove. So sayeth the lease.
Pa: I signed no lease. Pause. Not the olive grove, It’s all we’ve got. You idiot child, why didn’t you let it lie fallow?
Mando: I was looking after the goats, I forgot.
Pa: What does it say about the poor of the land eating?
Splendid: That’s why it lies fallow.
Pa: Ah ha! We are the poor.
Splendid: No excuses, you’ve reneged on your loan, and furthermore all gasp, including Splendid. If an Ox gores a man or woman then the ox shall certainly be stoned and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be aquitted. But, if the ox has tended to thrust with its horn in times past and it has been made known to his owner and he has not kept it confined so that it has killed a man or woman the ox shall be stoned and its owner shall also be put to death.
Mando: Gran, they told you about the ox draws a picture on a whiteboard.
Pa: You’ve got to understand, the oxen are under her name. She’s willing to face the consequences.
Gran: What are you talking to me about the ox for? I stoned it myself. Who did it gore now?
Splendid pointing out the door: My partner, just then, I’m going to phone it in after you pay up.
Gran: Well, I’ll go stone it again, but I’m not promising anything. Will you be out to put me to death?
Splendid nodding: I surely will.
Gran: Wonderful, I’ll see you soon. The goats follow her out, looking annoyed.
Mando: Mr Pete…Splendid, I can call you Splendid can’t I?
Splendid: It’s my God given moniker, you surely can.
Mando: Splendid, I’m sure you understand that times have been tough. If you’ll just let me rob someone.
Splendid: There’ll be no robbery!
Mando: Leach off someone?
Splendid: There’ll be no leachery.
Mando: Bribe someone?
Splendid: There’ll be no bribery!
Mando: Kill someone?
Splendid: There’ll be no killery!
Splendid: There’ll be no buggery! Mr Mando, you have repeatedly failed to repay the loan that my bank kindly offered your grandfather over forty years ago. Your father managed, in twenty-six years to repay forty-two dollars. That is less than two dollars per annum. I’m sure you can see that we have a right to request some part of our loan back now.
Mando: I do understand, yes.
Splendid: When your grandfather was granted the loan he received one hundred thousand dollars. The land you now reside on, that same land is now worth three hundred and forty-two dollars. Since your grandfather’s time you have made no improvements and this current domicile has one less wall than the four your father erected. Therefore, the bank gives me no other option than to ask why before booting you off.
Pa: Boot us off!
Splendid: Boot you off, yes makes languid booting gesture. Boot!
Pa: Where will we go?
Mando: Calm down, please pa. I don’t know where, I don’t know. But it might just be better than this.
Pa: Better than this! We’ve given you all we could, loved you more than we could ever spare, and you say there’s something better. There’s not. This is what we have and it’s beautiful. Please don’t take it from us.
Splendid: I’m afraid I have no choice, sir.
Mando: You just might Mr Pete, you just might.
Splendid: I’m guided by the demands of my institution.
Mando: Please, give me a chance to explain. The original terms of the contract are very important to our case. My grandfather had three brothers and the bank manager gave each of them the same loan, an investment, when he went overseas and told them he’d collect the money when he came back. The first brother he used the loan to make lots more money and gave the bank manager a big return on his investment. The second brother used it to make just enough to be comfortable and returned the manager’s capital plus a little more. The manager was obviously quite pleased at this point - then he got to the third brother. The third brother told him that he was too scared that he would lose money and that he’d just kept the original loan to give back. Well, the manager was furious: “I’m very disappointed in you,” he said to the third brother “I gave you this chance and look what you’ve done, no guts, no spirit. I’d prefer you lost money than insulted me like this.” And that’s when my grandfather crawled out from under a nearby rock and said “I’m glad you say that, because I squandered your money. I bought some goats, an olive grove and a certain measure of tin fencing and boom! All the money’s gone. But it’s a nice piece of land, it gets the sun in the morning and the rain at night. You’re welcome to visit when you like. Well, the bank manager looked at him and said “that’s fine, I just wanted to give you a chance. As long as you’re happy, then I’m more pleased with you. At least you had a go”.
Splendid: Did he write a note saying “I forgive you the loan?”
Mando: He didn’t have to, it was implicit.
Splendid: Not explicit and that’s precisely my point.
Pa: Just go and ask him. He knows us. He likes us.
Splendid: The old manager is dead.
Pa: But he can’t be….I was just thinking to thank him for everything he’s failed to do to us.
Splendid: Well you should have thought to pay him. I represent the new conglomorate that has taken over the firm. I am here to aright such oversights.
Mando: We have license to fail, new manager or not.
Splendid: I’m afraid not, Mando. Your grandfather undertook only a verbal contract. All of those loans come under our new contracts system.
Mando: I’ve signed nothing.
Splendid: You had every chance. We have sent you no less than 77 contractual agreements to sign. How many more times do you want us to cut you slack?
Mando: I never saw one.
Splendid: Well boo hoo hoo, suck for you. In a minute my compatriots Biffo and Blat are going to come here armed to the teeth and march you off this land. There is a gun shot. The goats make a racket. Two more shots then the sounds of a copious number of bullets. That must be them finishing off your granny now.
Pa: Mum, oh no mum. Son, I’m so sorry. We never intended this to happen. A fierce knock on the door.
Mando: Poor Gran. Pause At least she wouldn’t have heard a thing.
The door is broken down off its hinges, smoke enters. Lit from behind, Gran steps into the room and whips new clips into her magnums. She stands in profile to the audience.
Gran majestical in her power: You’re a popular man, Mr Pete, some people popped round to pay you a visit. Bring ‘em in girls.
The goats enter, in their mouths are various body parts, formerly belonging to Biffo and Blat. They drop them at Splendid’s feet. Splendid mouths like a fish.
Pa quietly: That’s some good mauling girls.
Gran: Don’t thank them. It was me who shot them into bite size pieces.
Gran: What? For the first time in 38 years I can hear what you’ve got to say and NOW you shut up?
Pa: What happened, mum?
Gran: Well as it happens it’s an interesting story and I shall be glad to hear myself tell it. It really jogged my memory when that thug fired a gun at me. I suddenly realised that for the last thirty-eight years I’ve been wearing earplugs.
Mando: How did you find that out?
Gran turns to face the audience, blood is gushing down the side of her head: Because he shot my ear off, and I saw the plug fall out. It was a real revelation. I was most pleased. I didn’t know whether to thank him or blow him away.
Mando: Looks like you decided pretty quickly.
Gran: Well, the other one was lining up to take a shot at me.
Splendid: But Biffo never misses, this is unbelievable!
Gran: Biffo’s never had Sally bite a chunk out of his arse just when he was about to pull the trigger. Sally trots in with a big arse hanging out her mouth. Splendid stares down at the pile of gore pilling around his feet. A fire begins to burn in his eyes.
Pa hugging Sally: Who’s a good girl? Yes you are, yes you are.
Mando: Gran, putting the barbarity aside for a second I was intrigued to hear about those ear plugs. Would you like to comment further on revelations that you’ve spent half your life unnecessarily deaf?
Gran: Thank you Mando I would. Three score and two years ago I gave birth to your father on the very plot of ground upon which we stand now. Of course it was a paddock back then, not the fenced off paddock you see before you now, oh no, no such luck.
Pa: We didn’t have shoes back then neither. Used to run around barefoot. In the winter we’d wrap barbed wire round our feet for traction.
Mando: Be quiet for a second Pa and let Gran continue.
Gran: That’s my boy’s boy. Now, imagine my situation. I live in an open field and I’m surrounded by wailing men. Your grandfather used to drive me mad going on and on about how things would be better soon. Talk talk talk and your father cry cry cry. Not an ounce of action from either of them. So one day I was nibbling on an olive and I thought to myself why not, and shoved a pip in each ear. What a difference. I couldn’t hear your grandfather ranting on about his ambitions any more or your father demanding to be fed. All expectation was erased and with it came the most extraordinary peace. I was happy to be in the moment alone. I ‘spose I must have forgot all about the self inflicted part of it, till Splendid’s thug brought it to my attention. Now I want my deafness back but it looks as if we’ve got an issue to sort out. Get me a glass of milk, we need to discuss a few things.
Mando: Here you go Gran.
Splendid exploding: Give me that milk!
Gran: I’m the one with the guns, Splendid.
Splendid: And I’m the one with the marbles you wrinkled trout. Mando I want that milk. Mando does not move. Splendid looks at Pa. Get me that milk old man. Pa does not move. You people entered an agreement. You were unaware of the consequences. That’s a potentially mitigating circumstance. I was here to show you the door, turn you off your land. You could have gone and squatted somewhere else. God knows you’re not fussy. Instead you have dug your own graves. Pulls out his cellphone, flips it open. Gran raises the guns, Splendid puts his thumb to the pad. Now Gran, you have two guns with a limited amount of bullets. I have a smartphone. With one squeeze of the trigger you will kill me. With one squeeze of my thumb I can reach out and touch every bank official, police officer, SWAT team and lawfirm in this country. I will take pictures, send and receive email and have indecipherable hieroglyphics texted to me saying just how long they will take to arrive, take the farm, shackle you and put you in prison for the rest of your miserable days. Have a think old woman. Are you fast enough?
To be continued…
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