Stephen Say "ninety-nine".
Stephen Good. Say "thank you".
Hugh Thank you.
Stephen Say "breasts".
Stephen Mmm. "R".
Stephen Well, if you'd like to do your shirt up now Mr Pepperdyne.
Hugh Everything as it should be?
Stephen Nothing too serious, you'll be glad to hear. You say that you've been having a little trouble breathing at night?
Hugh That's right.
Stephen Been bringing up any sputum?
Hugh Er, not really.
Stephen Any yellow or green phlegm ... blood?
Stephen Tightening of the chest?
Hugh Well a little I suppose.
Hugh Apart from the children, you mean? Not really. They both laugh weakly.
Stephen Right. I want to try you on a course of these: one twenty times a day. Have you ever taken them before? Gets out a plain cigarette from a drawer.
Hugh Um - what is it?
Stephen It's a simple nicotinal arsenous monoxid preparation taken bronchially as an infumation.
Stephen Yes, you just light the end and breath in.
Hugh What, like cigarettes?
Stephen You know them, then? Yes, actually, it's a bit hard to admit, but they're basically a herbal rememdy.
Hugh Oh, herbal cigarettes.
Stephen That's right. A leaf originally from the Americas I believe, called tobacco.
Hugh But medicated.
Stephen Medicated? No.
Hugh These are ordinary cigarettes?
Stephen That's right.
Hugh But they're terribly bad for you aren't they?
Stephen I hardly think I would be prescribing them if they were bad for you.
Hugh Twenty a day?
Stephen Yes, ideally moving on to about thirty or forty.
Hugh But they give you lung cancer and bronchitis and emphysema.
Stephen Where on earth did you get that idea?
Hugh Everyone knows that.
Stephen Are you a doctor?
Hugh No, but it stands to reason doesn't it?
Stephen What on earth are you talking about? "Stands to reason." You wouldn't even know what a pair of lungs did if a doctor hadn't told you. It's taken mankind thousands of years to work out what the heart is for, what a blood vessel is, what the kidneys do, and now you're telling me because you've read a few weedy magazine articles that you know more about the human body than a doctor?
Hugh Well no, but - it can't be natural, can it?
Stephen Perfectly natural leaf.
Hugh Yes but setting light to it and inhaling the smoke, I mean ...
Stephen More natural than Baked Alaska or nylon socks.
Hugh Yes but you don't inhale nylon socks. At least I don't.
Stephen You wear them next to the skin.
Hugh But you can't seriously be recommending cigarettes.
Stephen Why the buggery sod not? A bit of leaf smoke to loosen the lungs, ease that tightness and clear the head. Perfectly sound.
Hugh I suppose you're going to tell me that cholesterol isn't bad for you next.
Stephen What's cholesterol?
Hugh It's ... well, you know -
Stephen Yes I know perfectly well what it is, but I don't suppose you'd so much as heard of it until a few years ago. You'd die without the stuff.
Hugh Yes but too much is bad for you.
Stephen Well of course too much is bad for you, that's what "too much" means you blithering twat. If you had too much water it would be bad for you, wouldn't it? "Too much" precisely means that quantity which is excessive, that's what it means. Could you ever say "too much water is good for you"? I mean if it's too much it's too much. Too much of anything is too much. Obviously. Jesus.
Hugh But I thought the balance of informed medical opinion held that -
Stephen You thought, you thought. You didn't think, did you? Cigarettes are healing, natural and effective.
Hugh If you don't mind I think I'd like a second opinion.
Stephen That's your privilege.
Stephen (Pause) My second opinion is that they are also cheap, nutritious and stylish.
Stephen And if you're interested in a third opinion they're soothing, harmless and sexy.
Hugh Well, I must say that does seem to clinch it.
Stephen Alright then. So twenty a day, rising over the week.
Hugh And the tightness in the chest?
Stephen Should disappear completely.
Hugh Tremendous. Well you're the doctor.
Hugh You're the doctor.
Stephen Whatever gave you that idea?
Hugh Well I mean - you did.
Stephen God, you are pathetic aren't you?
Stephen I'm a tobacconist. Isn't it obvious?
Hugh But the -
Stephen Yes, it looks more like a doctor's surgery than a tobacconist's.
Stephen Why? Because you're the kind of idiot that falls for that sort of thing. It's the same reason that cosmetics sales staff wear white coats, because pratts like you think a Swiss name and something called a "skin treatment" must be better for you than a tub of cold cream which is all you're in fact getting. You're a credulous git, Mr Pepperdyne. A stethoscope and a plausible manner doesn't make me a doctor. I'm a conman and you're a moron.
Hugh You are a doctor then?
Stephen Could be. What do you think?
Hugh You really want to to know?
Stephen I'd be fascinated.
Hugh I think you've taken a reasonably good idea and overworked it. I think what started out as a fairly interesting and amusing statement about our susceptibility to received ideas has become something vague, ill-thought out and rambling. And I think it's time to finish it.
Stephen Well do you? I think you've comp - Blackout
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