Something to Scare off the Birds: Extract

The extract is taken from the opening of the play.

(Simon is alone)

Simon: Sometimes when I’m feeling sad and there seems to be no real reason, I try and imagine myself at the funeral of someone very close. I’d have to walk behind the coffin all in black, and I’d be able to cry as much as I liked because everyone else would feel sorry for me and understand. And although I know it might be dangerous, it does make things better. For a while.

(Eleanor moves to Simon)

Eleanor: Simon, what are you doing up here?

Simon: Just looking.

Eleanor: It’s such a fine afternoon. You don’t want to waste it all in a stuffy old attic. Go outside. Have a game of jokari. Stretch your legs a little.

Simon: They’re not fat.

Eleanor: Go on. Don’ t be a baby.

Simon: Will you play with me? There are two bats.

Eleanor: I only wish I could. But you know what the sun does to my head.

Simon: But if you wear your glasses.

Eleanor: It’s not that simple. I’ll see how I feel later. Meanwhile, play against yourself. That’s the best sort of game. You can’t lose.

(The sound of a lawnmower)

Simon: No. I can’t. Look. There’ s someone watching.

Eleanor: You don’t mean to tell me you’re embarrassed by John?

Simon: He doesn’t like me, I know. He’d be glad to see me look a fool.

Eleanor: He won’t even notice you’re there.

Simon: But he does. I’ve told you. Just like he comes by with the mower whenever I’m trying to read.

Eleanor: Sometimes I think you’ve too much imagination for your own good.

Simon: But he does.

Eleanor: He has to cut the grass sometime. I’m sure if you’d only asked, he’d have left it till later.

Simon: But I couldn’t.

Eleanor: Then you’ve only yourself to blame. Now go on; enjoy yourself.

Simon: You say that on purpose because you know I won’t.

Eleanor: Go on.

Simon: I think you like torturing people.

Eleanor: I know. I’m a cruel mother. You suffer terribly.

(Eleanor moves away)


(Simon sets up the game)

Simon: He’s watching me. I know he is. Please let me be good.

(He slams the ball and sets the game in motion. He tries to hit the ball as it rebounds, but only manages to skim it once or twice. The ball bounces to and fro)

Simon: Stupid thing.

(He kicks the box. John switches off the lawnmower and moves to Simon)

John: Here. Let me.

(Simon hands him the bat. John slams the ball quickly and precisely several times)

Give me your hand.

(John puts his hand over Simon’s. Together they hit the ball several times in quick succession)


(Simon breaks free and runs off)

Here. Where are you going? I was only trying to show you. Your game….


John: It’s only me, mam.

Ruth: Who else’d make such a row out of opening a simple door? Make sure you take off your mucky boots before you come in.

John: I always take them off.

Ruth: Just see that you do.

John: I always do.

Ruth: It doesn’t do to be always so sure of yourself. What’s that in your hand?

John: The kid’s game. Left it out on the lawn. All it needs is a spot of rain for the bat to warp. Be no good to no one. Some people, they don’t deserve the clothes they stand up in.

Ruth: He’s just a child.

John: He should still know to take care of his things. Though I can’t say as I’m surprised, seeing the example he’s set.

Ruth: What are you on about now?

John: The way they’ve treated this place since the old lady died. It’s a crying shame. That big house going to waste. How often have they time they came down for a whole summer, hey?

Ruth: Well they’re here now. Is that not enough for you?

John: It’s not right. A house like that needs to be lived in.

Ruth: There’s no pleasing you. You’re on at them when they don’t come. You’ re on at them when they do.

John: But doesn’t it gripe you? Don’t you ever ask yourself what it’s all for? Cleaning out rooms no one goes in. Just to keep down the dust. Like me brushing down pathways no one’ll use.

Ruth: It’s no use trying to reason with you when you’re like this.

John: I’m trying to talk, mam. It concerns you just as much. I pick the currants; you make the jam; and they leave it to moulder in the cellar.

Ruth: What business had you down there?

John: Does it matter?

Ruth: Nosing round everything.

John: I was asking, mam. I want to know.

Ruth: A job well done is its own reward.

John: Do you really believe that?

Ruth: Are you trying to make me out a liar?

John: It might be different if someone took an interest. Properly, not just a quick glance round. Appreciation not manners. That’ s all I ask.

Ruth: Self. Always self. But then what can you expect?

John: What?

Ruth: Knowing where you get it from.


John: I wouldn’t be surprised if they did decide to let it go.

Ruth: What?

John: It would make sense. No use hanging on like this.

Ruth: They couldn’t. They’ve lived here for generations.

John: Forget the past. That don’ t count any more.

Ruth: You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Strangers moving in. Giving you the chance to move out. That’s just what you want.

John: No mam.

Ruth: You don’t give a thought to how I’d feel.

John: That’s not true.

Ruth: Then why bring it up? Just to have a chance to spite me.

John: No.

Ruth: Twisting in the knife.

John: Do you want to know what I’d really like? For the whole place to fall on itself and bury us all in the rubble. That’s what I’d really like.


Ruth: Go and clean yourself up. Your tea’ll dry out.