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Preston Dirges in the Round

In the last instalment of Preston Dirges’ office saga, our hero found himself trapped in the pub, forced to socialize with his colleagues. Will he survive the experience? Will they?

A large group arrives in the pub for Belinda’s leaving drinks. Belinda, Doug, Rubnick, Kirsty, Lee and Nitya are amongst them. The group takes the seats all around. Preston is hemmed in, along with Valerie, Gordon and Tina.

VALERIE: (whispered, to Preston) I thought you said you were going.

PRESTON: (whispering) I can’t go now. It’ll look rude, and they’ll think I’m weird. Why didn’t you mention the leaving drinks to me?

VALERIE: (whispering) I didn’t know this was the pub. It was you that brought me here.

DOUG: Preston, I didn’t expect to see you.

PRESTON: I’m sorry to see Belinda go. I’m sure we all are.

BELINDA: Why, thank you, Preston.

A work colleague carries a tray of drinks up to the table.

COLLEAGUE: The first round is on Doug!

Preston looks to the camera.

PRESTON: Seconds out.

A boxing bell rings. Music plays: “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. The words ‘Round 1’ flash up.

COLLEAGUE: Pint of lager for you, Preston.

PRESTON: I don’t drink.

The colleague puts the pint glass in front of Preston.

COLLEAGUE: It’s still yours if you want it.

Gordon cosies up to Valerie.

GORDON: Valerie, did you know that, in Bhutan, they measure Gross National Happiness instead of Gross National Product? It means they care more about the things that promote health and well-being, rather than monetary wealth.

VALERIE: I did know that. Bhutan’s so lovely. I wish I could have stayed a lot longer. When did you visit?

GORDON: Err… I’ve not been.

VALERIE: You should go. It’s wonderful.

GORDON: I intend to. I just could do with a pay rise first, so I can afford the fare.

Preston slumps into his seat, avoiding the drinking game that takes place around him. Tina doodles on a napkin.

TINA: Take a look, Preston.

Tina shows Preston her drawing. It is a caricature of him as a super hero – “Pedanticman”.

PRESTON: You know, that’s very good. Thanks. But I’m not pedantic. It would be more accurate to say I’m pernickty.

TINA: You’re funny, Preston. Why did you choose to work somewhere so boring?

PRESTON: I thought it was only temporary.

TINA: Everything’s only temporary, when you think about it.

PRESTON: Tina, you’re wasted here.

TINA: I know. You too.

PRESTON: I know.

Doug takes the seat next to Belinda.

DOUG: I bet you won’t miss having me as a boss.

BELINDA: I wouldn’t say that. You were always first to the bar.

DOUG: Was that the only good part about working for me?

BELINDA: No, but the alcohol certainly helped.

A boxing bell rings; ‘Round 2’ flashes.

GORDON: Do you have much planned for this weekend?

VALERIE: You mean for Valentine’s Day? I’ve been invited over to a friend’s house – girl’s night in. Make some food, watch a movie, drink some wine, gossip about friends with boyfriends – that kind of stuff.

GORDON: You don’t have a boyfriend then?

VALERIE: No, I’m a lesbian.

GORDON: Oh, that must be very… (pause) refreshing.

VALERIE: I’m kidding, Gordon. No, I don’t have a boyfriend and I’m not looking for one. The last one was a total jackass.

GORDON: I’m sorry. What did he do?

VALERIE: I don’t know what I saw in him. He was goofy, and clumsy and a horrendous dancer. I met him when he barged into me at a nightclub. He was a loser, he was always coming round without warning, then disappearing for days, he forgot my birthday and tried to make up by sending me an e-card the next day. Who sends e-cards to a girlfriend?

GORDON: They’re good for the environment.

VALERIE: Not if you’re in my environment.

Valerie knocks back her drink.

VALERIE: I’m going to go powder my nose.

Kirsty and Nitya are both standing, eyeing who to schmooze next.

KIRSTY: I love your shoes. They look so comfortable. I’m not brave enough to wear shoes without heels. I’d be worried that everyone is looking down on me.

NITYA: I don’t worry about that because mostly I work sitting down. They pay us for our brains, not our legs – allegedly. And we’re all the same height sitting down.

KIRSTY: You know what they also say? We’re all the same height lying down.

NITYA: I’ve heard it said, but I’ll defer to someone with more experience.

‘Round 3’. A third full of pint of lager is put in front of Preston. It joins two other pints he has not touched.

PRESTON: People don’t take the hint, do they?

TINA: I think that’s what they’re saying about you.

Gordon approaches Kirsty.

KIRSTY: How’s it going, Gordon?

GORDON: It’s going great! How’s it going for you?

KIRSTY: Couldn’t be better Gordo, couldn’t be better. (Beat) Couldn’t be better.

GORDON: That’s good. (Pause) Did you know that in Bhutan, they measure national happiness in preference to national wealth?

KIRSTY: You know why that is, don’t you? It’s because they’re poor. If they were rich, they’d measure their happiness by measuring their wealth.

Valerie pushes her way to the bar. She rubs elbows with the man she danced with in the nightclub.

NIGHTCLUB MAN: Hello Valerie. How are you? I didn’t expect to see you here.

VALERIE: Oh hello, it’s you.

Valerie catches one of cupid’s arrows in mid-flight, before it can strike her. She snaps it in one hand.

VALERIE: I’m with some work friends. Work’s just down the road. I started there just this week.

NIGHTCLUB MAN: You’re with that bunch? They’re here all the time. Very rowdy, very loud, very drunken.

VALERIE: Yeah, I fit right in.

NIGHTCLUB MAN: Let me buy you a drink.

VALERIE: No, I’m getting a round in.

NIGHTCLUB MAN: You know you left some stuff at my place.

VALERIE: Stuff? Yeah, that sounds like the kind of thing I leave lying around.

NIGHTCLUB MAN: You know, stuff. Stuff people don’t talk about in public. Stuff that runs on batteries. Stuff you secretly carry in your handbag but must have left on the bedroom floor.

VALERIE: Oh, stuff. Now I know what you mean. Yeah, I’ve been missing my stuff, now that I’m single again.

NIGHTCLUB MAN: Do you want me to bring it over?

VALERIE: I don’t think that’s a good idea.

NIGHTCLUB MAN: You could come collect it.

VALERIE: I don’t think that’s a good idea, either. Post it to me.

NIGHTCLUB MAN: Now that’s not a good idea. If it starts vibrating, it might be mistaken for a parcel bomb.

VALERIE: Don’t make excuses to see me again. Just ask.

NIGHTCLUB MAN: Do you want go out for a drink sometime?

VALERIE: No.

NIGHTCLUB MAN: Please, I’m sorry. I didn’t even know it was your birthday.

VALERIE: You should’ve known. There are ways to find these things out.

NIGHTCLUB MAN: How was I supposed to know? You didn’t tell me.

VALERIE: I shouldn’t have to tell you. You should just know. Look it up on Facebook, like everyone else does.

NIGHTCLUB MAN: You know I don’t use Facebook.

VALERIE: Exactly. You’ve got no idea how to interact with people.

‘Round 4’. Despite Gordon’s attentions, Kirsty looks around for someone else to talk to.

KIRSTY: So I hear Tina’s got a new boyfriend.

GORDON: Where did you hear that? She didn’t want everyone to know.

KIRSTY: Then you should have kept it secret. I heard if from Belinda, who heard it from Dan C, who heard it from Dan G, who heard it from Liz who heard it from new girl Valerie who heard it from you.

GORDON: Well don’t tell anyone else.

KIRSTY: Too late, Gordo. There’s only six degrees of separation between any two people.

GORDON: Then I suppose even Kevin Bacon knows by now.

KIRSTY: Yes he does, and he’s right jealous. Aren’t you?

GORDON: Me? Why would I be jealous?

KIRSTY: Because you two are as thick as thieves. I always thought Tina had a bit of a crush on you. But she seems to have grown out of it.

GORDON: You’re kidding?

KIRSTY: Gordo, you’ve got so much to learn about women.

Valerie returns to her seat, which Preston saved for her. Rubnick takes the seat left vacant by Gordon.

RUBNICK: Val, I need you to settle an argument I’ve been having with Doug. He says young women like men to hold the door open for them, and I say they don’t expect that any more. Which one of us is right?

VALERIE: Both of you. I think anybody likes to have the door held for them, but nobody expects it any more.

RUBNICK: So you think men and women are now exact equals, in every regard?

VALERIE: Not in every regard. Women are still superior at everything that matters.

‘Round 5’. Gordon is drunk, and stands closer to Kirsty, who leans away from him.

GORDON: You’re right. There is a lot to learn about women. I just need someone to teach me.

KIRSTY: Ten out of ten, Gordo. Now that’s the spirit. But you’re not ready to study at my school. I have very exacting entrance requirements.

GORDON: You should let me take the test. I’ll pass any examination.

KIRSTY: I’m seeing a whole new side to you that I’ve never seen before.

GORDON: And there’s still more to reveal.

KIRSTY: ‘A’ for effort, Gordo, but it’s not going to happen. You’re not in my class.

GORDON: I’m a quick study, and I like being the teacher’s pet.

KIRSTY: No, Gordon. School’s out. I’ve moved on from the boys, on to the real men.

GORDON: Maybe school is out, but that doesn’t mean you have to act like a professional.

Valerie is still trapped by Rubnick.

RUBNICK: So the speedo said I was doing well over a ton, so when I saw the flashing lights in the rear view mirror, I thought they had me bang to rights. A few seconds later and the cops blew right past me! Of course, that’s how it is, driving on the German autobahns.

Valerie suppresses a yawn.

VALERIE: That’s interesting. You drive a fast car?

RUBNICK: Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS. That car’s a classic. I call her my liebchen – that’s German for sweetheart, you know. You should let me take you for a ride.

VALERIE: I bet you say that to lots of girls.

RUBNICK: I hope you’re not implying anything improper.

VALERIE: You probably say that a lot, too.

‘Round 6’. Neither Preston nor Tina have moved seats.

PRESTON: How’s it going with your new boyfriend?

TINA: How did you hear about him?

PRESTON: I’m not sure. I think everyone at work knows. I know this even though I don’t talk to anyone at work.

TINA: Don’t tell anyone, Preston, but I don’t have a boyfriend. I made him up so I didn’t have to make an excuse for what I’m doing this Valentine’s Day.

PRESTON: So what are you doing?

Tina shakes her head, refusing to answer.

PRESTON: Now you have to tell me.

TINA: I’d lie if I was any good at lying. But you mustn’t tell anyone. I could get into trouble.

PRESTON: Like I said, I don’t talk to anyone at work. It’s a miracle I’m talking to you now.

TINA: I’m launching my new webcomic. The characters are based on people in the office. Let me show you.

Tina uses her smartphone to visit her website.

PRESTON: That’s great, and unexpected. What character am I?

Tina holds up the cartoon of Pedanticman.

PRESTON: Well, I should be happy that I’m worthy of inclusion. But won’t everyone find out?

TINA: I’m not going to use my real name.

PRESTON: Still, don’t you need to tell people in general if they’re going to visit it?

TINA: It’s not the first one I’ve done. I’ve already told all my followers on Facebook.

PRESTON: You’ve got followers? Are you a cult? How many followers?

TINA: You’re being silly. A few thousand.

PRESTON: Wow. Good for you.

Preston leans forward and drinks one of the pints of lager in front of him.

TINA: Preston, what are you doing?

PRESTON: I suddenly felt like a drink. I’m twice your age and I’ve got zero followers.

TINA: It’s not a competition, Preston.

PRESTON: Yes it is. That’s exactly what life is – a great big competition. And I’m losing.

TINA: Then get out.

PRESTON: Get out of life?

TINA: Get out of here. Get away from all this. Go do something you’re good at, something you might really enjoy.

PRESTON: You should get out.

TINA: That’s what I’m gonna do. Marvin, my eldest brother, started work and is moving out. Now that Marvin can help dad with the bills, I can quit this place and focus on the webcomic. It’s worth a try. Now what’s stopping you?

PRESTON: The only thing stopping me from leaving is not knowing where I’d go.

Gordon sits next to Tina, the far side from Preston.

GORDON: Tina, do you like me?

TINA: Of course I like you, Gordon.

GORDON: No, that’s not what I mean. I mean, do you like me?

PRESTON: You should stop drinking, Gordon. You must have had 16 units of alcohol by now. That’s 4 times the recommend daily limit.

GORDON: Who’s counting?

PRESTON: Me. Just then.

GORDON: Well don’t. And this is a private conversation.

TINA: Gordon!?

PRESTON: No problem, I’ll bother Valerie and Rubberdick instead.

Preston turns from Tina, to Valerie, who sits on his other side. Rubnick is uncomfortably close to Valerie, leaning over her, with an arm stretched on the couch behind her.

PRESTON: (aside) And not a moment too soon.

RUBNICK: So we were on the World Trade Centre, which was still standing back then, and I said: ‘this is so high up, it’s amazing that planes don’t hit it’. Can you believe I said that?

PRESTON: I can’t.

RUBNICK: Preston, I was talking to Val. Why don’t you mingle?

PRESTON: Because I’m going to try it on with Valerie. I’ve been waiting my turn but I’m not waiting any longer. Valerie, would you like to come back to my place, for some rumpty-pumpty naughtiness?

VALERIE: You’d have to break your own rule on workplace relationships.

PRESTON: I wasn’t suggesting a relationship. Just hard sex.

VALERIE: Okay. If it’s just a fuck you want, then I’m your girl.

RUBNICK: You’re both very funny.

Preston mirrors Rubnick’s body language, putting his arm around the seat behind Valerie, and sitting close to her.

PRESTON: Who’s being funny?

Rubnick takes the hint, and shuffles back from Valerie.

RUBNICK: I’m going to get a drink. Do you want one?

PRESTON: We’re both good.

Rubnick leaves.

VALERIE: I actually wanted a drink.

PRESTON: But you didn’t want him coming back, did you?

Valerie drunkenly leans against Preston.

VALERIE: No. But I do want a drink.

PRESTON: It’s a school day tomorrow.

VALERIE: Preston, you’re so uptight.

PRESTON: And you’re so drunk.

VALERIE: Yes I am. But I’m also very relaxed as a result. You need to learn to relax. If you won’t drink, perhaps you should masturbate.

PRESTON: You don’t know me at all. If wanking was against the law, I’d be public enemy number one.

VALERIE: That’s funny. That’s much more like it. You take life too seriously.

PRESTON: Life is serious. It’s work that’s the joke.

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