A Bit of Fry & Laurie

Gelliant Gutfright

Stephen sits in a leather armchair and addresses the camera, spookily and fast.

Stephen Between imagination and desire, between reality and ambition, between what is known and what is feared, between purpose and despair, between sense and shite, between the visible world and the inner world that straddles the curtain hung between what we know and what we think we suspect is a dark veil that waves gently between the beckoning finger drawing us into the world of what could be and what never couldn't be impossible to dread. OR DO THEY? Perhaps it isn't. Maybe we were only dreaming? Perhaps the answers can be found in that other realm that lies between the foundry of the heart and the sweating laundry-room of the imagination where the only rhythms are the smiles of a forgotten winter and the incessant beating of the frightened human thigh that we call "Fear". Or is it? I'm Gelliant Gutfright and tonight's tale must give us pause. It is called "Flowers For Wendy" but might it rather have been called "You Have Been Warned"? No, it might not. The picture starts to fade. Andrew Beckett is on his way home from work. A nice young man is Andrew Beckett. A kind word for everyone and liked by all who come into contact with him.

We see a smiley Hugh walking along the street. He passes a flower stall, manned by a sinister looking Patrick, with dark glasses and white stick.

Stephen (now off) Another hard day's work. Another quiet evening in. Perhaps a little television, the crossword. Maybe he'll finally get around to cataloguing those ... wait! Hugh stops and clicks his fingers as he remembers something. What is he thinking of? Not just another evening, after all. It's Wendy's birthday! Dinner at Mario's! But first he should ... Hugh turns and sees the flower stall. Strange! He's never noticed that stall before. Yet he comes home this way every evening ... providential. Hugh walks towards the flower stall.

Patrick Good evening, Mr Beckett.

Hugh (amazed) But that's extraordinary! How on earth do you know what time of day it is? You aren't wearing a watch.

Patrick I know many things, Mr Beckett. Would you like to buy some flowers for your wife's birthday?

Hugh This is uncanny! Flowers are exactly what I want. How could you possibly have known?

Patrick smiles creepily.

Patrick How about some roses? All the ladies love a rose.

Hugh looks around. He sees some yellow things.

Hugh What are these?

Patrick Ah. You don't want those, Mr Beckett. Those are special blooms.

Hugh They're rather fine. What are they called?

Patrick Ranunculus pugnans.

Hugh (picking the bunch up) Ranunc ... what?

Patrick Commonly known, sir, as Old Man's Wrinkle or the Fighting Buttercup.

Hugh Well, I think they're lovely. The smell is ... Hugh sniffs deeply.

Patrick They didn't get that name by accident, Mr Beckett.

Hugh What name?

Patrick The Fighting Buttercup. They say that the bouquet of this bloom will bring out all the anger in a person.

Hugh Oh what nonsense.

Patrick That's what they say.

Hugh Superstitious hooey.

Patrick No doubt you're right, sir.

Hugh Arse-clap.

Patrick As you say, sir.

Hugh Rhino-bollocks. How much are they?

Patrick Five pounds, sir. But I ...

Hugh gives him a fiver and stalks off. Patrick watches him go. Hugh knocks over an old woman in the street as he goes. Cut to Hugh tutting as he tries to let himself into the flat. He mutters at the recalcitrance of the key.

Stephen (voice-over) Poor Andrew. Poor Wendy. A kind thought for a birthday and a simple bunch of flowers. But when your life is a perilous yoyo, eaten by Destiny's right hand: when Fate lights the cigarette: when Chance plays the trumpet not very well and Hazard deals the cards from the bottom of your aunt, then you must expect ... the unexpected.

Hugh gives up and smashes the door down. Wendy, played by Caroline, appears worriedly in the hallway.

Caroline Darling! What ...?

Hugh Jesus suffering ARSE! That bloody door.

Caroline I don't understand.

Hugh Don't understand? Don't understand? What's to understand, you hopeless saucer of pus? It's a frig-mothering door and it keeps getting vomiting stuck. That's all there is to understand. It's not differential calculus.

Caroline Andrew!

Hugh heaves a colossal punch at her and sends her flying through the banisters which collapse satisfactorily. She lies in a dizzy heap.

Hugh Now look what you've done, you pointless tart. You've broken the snotting bannisters.

Caroline Andrew ... is something wrong?

Hugh tuts violently and drops the flowers on her.

Hugh I'm going to get myself a drink. Happy birthday, you saggy old bitch.

He storms off. Caroline looks at the flowers that have dropped on to her chest.

Caroline They're lovely, darling. Thank you. And they ... (inhaling deeply) ... they smell gorgeous.

She takes another sniff. Cut to Hugh in the drawing room, pouring himself a drink. The lid on the whisky bottle is tight. This narks Hugh.

Hugh Oh, come on. OPEN, you scrotuming dribble of faeces. The lid opens. That's better. (Drinks) Oh, that's much better. Hugh looks at the drink and starts to smile.

Hugh Only a door, after all. Not the end of the world. Silly to get annoyed about ... His thoughts are cut off. Wendy suddenly throws an enormous punch at him, sending him miles across the room. What the ...?

Caroline Sorry.

Hugh Sorry?

Caroline Yes. Sorry I didn't hit you with a sockful of gravel, you flabby, drivelling, waste of clothes.

Hugh Wendy, darling ...

Caroline "Wendy, darling". I'll darling your arse with a rusty lawn- sprinkler ... She punches Hugh again. He gets up, holding his nose.

Hugh What ... what's happened?

Caroline Happened? Nothing's happened that a Swiss Army penknife can't sort out. Now why don't you take these bottom-wipingly ugly flowers and stick them into your lungs? Caroline tosses the flowers at Hugh, who looks at them.

Hugh The flowers ... flowers, that's it ... Wendy, listen ... I think I know what's happened. What this is all about.

Hugh starts to talk as Stephen's voice comes over. During this, Hugh gets up and starts drawing diagrams on a blackboard to explain his tale.

Stephen And so, Wendy Beckett sat at her husband's knees and listened to a story. A fantastic story. A tale that danced along the crumbling brim of credibility, yet never once lost its footing. A tale of walking home, and pavements, and forgettings of birthdays, and rememberings, and wantings to buy flowerings, and discoverings of a flower-stall just at the right momentings. And when he was finished, Andrew Beckett took his young wife's face in his hands ...

Hugh Now do you understand, Wendy? Do you see what this is all about?

Caroline Oh Andy. I feel such a fool.

Hugh I think we've both been a little mad, Wendy. It's not a question of blame. What matters now is us. The future.

Caroline Oh Andy ...

Hugh Oh Wendy ...

As they embrace, the camera starts to pan off to the waste-paper basket.

Stephen A happy ending, you may think. Loose ends tied up, the books balanced. And yet ... and yet .. what of our friend the blind flower-seller?

Cut to Patrick selling to another passer-by.

Patrick Old Man's Wrinkle, madam. Otherwise known as the Fighting Buttercup. They do say that the smell of these flowers brings out all the anger in a person ...

Passer-by Really?

Patrick And then, when they've done that for a bit ... they explode.

There is the sound of a distant explosion, and after a few seconds, a tinkle of broken glass and falling debris. The passer-by doesn't seem to notice.

Passer-by How much?

Patrick To you, madam, nothing.

Passer-by Oh. Thanks very much.

She takes them and sniffs deeply. Close-up on Patrick as he starts to cackle fiendishly. We get closer and closer as his laugh gets louder and louder until suddenly, a fist knocks him out of view. Cut to Stephen in his chair.

Stephen Sleep well. If you can ...

Vox Pop

Hugh In the morning? Oh, I used to use one of those things that automatically pour you a cup of tea and make a horrid screeching noise in your ear. But she divorced me. Now I use a Goblin Teasmade.

Stephen (as a woman) Well, I'm aroused every morning by a very insistent cock.

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