The Changing of the Guard


Scene 4

Hallway near Canteen

Slocombe, Brahms, Grainger, Lucas and Humphries are at the lift.  Humphries is speaking on a wall 'phone.

Humphries:    Thank you, Mr. Mash.  (hangs up) All right, Mr. Tebbs has
                      just started down.  Places, everybody!

The men exit.  The women wait at the lift.  When the doors open, Brahms holds her stomach and grimaces, and Slocombe starts scratching herself.  Tebbs steps off the lift.

Tebbs:          Ah!  Good afternoon, ladies.  (Tebbs "moves" to them.)

Slocombe:    Yes, hello, Mr. Tebbs.

Brahms groans.

Tebbs:          Dear me!  What's the matter with Miss Brahms?

Slocombe:    Tsk!  I hope you didn't have the oysters for lunch.

Tebbs:          Why no, I had the Steak Tartar.  It was a bit underdone, I might add.

Slocombe:     Well, Miss Brahms had the oysters, and she's come over sick.
                     Tsk!  I should have warned her about havin' oysters from Brighton.

Tebbs:          Brighton?

Slocombe:    Yes, there's an oyster blight goin' on down there, you know.

Tebbs:          An oyster blight?

Slocombe:    Yes, every week they've got a blight goin'.  It's on account of
                     all the pollution.

Tebbs:          I must say, I've never seen any pollution there.  Of course, I
                    haven't been there in several years.

Slocombe:    Yes, from the industry down there now.  Oh, you can't see them
                    from the beach, but they've got them tucked away.

Tebbs:         What sort of industry?

Slocombe:   Oh, there must be twenty of 'em, including a  fertilizer factory.
                    You know, some days you can't even go out of the house for the
                    smell!  But of course they hush all that up.  I was down there last
                    weekend.  (scratches) Never again!

Tebbs:         What is it, Mrs. Slocombe?

Slocombe:   Oh, it's from swimmin' there.  There's a fungus in the water, and it
                   makes me all itchy for weeks!

Tebbs:         A fungus?

Slocombe:   Yes.  And the drinkin' water isn't much better.

Tebbs:         In Brighton, you say?!

Brahms groans again.

Slocombe:   Excuse us, Mr. Tebbs.  I've got to get Miss Brahms up to sister.
                   And I hope she has more of that lotion to put on my rash.
                   (she scratches again)

The ladies enter the lift, and Tebbs exits.
 

The Canteen

Tebbs enters.  Grainger, Humphries and Lucas are seated at a table drinking tea.

Tebbs:          Ah. Good afternoon.  (he "moves" to Grainger.)  Mr. Humphries.
                    Mr., ah

Lucas:          Lucas.

Tebbs:          Mr. Lucas, yes.

Grainger:     Good afternoon, er, Percival.

Tebbs:         As this is your last day with Grace Brothers, Ernest, allow me,
                   on behalf of the Bedding Department indeed, the entire Third
                   Floor, (frowns) including Cosmetics and Novelty Candles to wish
                   you a most happy retirement. I only hope that I can come close to
                   your exemplary record one day.

Lucas:         Oh, I don't know, Mr. Tebbs.  There was quite a commotion when
                    you sold all those marbelised toilet suites in Bathroom Fittings!

Tebbs:        Yes, it was a memorable moment.  Will you be staying in the area,
                  Ernest?

Grainger:    Yes, of course.

Tebbs:         Ah.

Humphries elbows Grainger.

Grainger:       Oh!  Er, yes, we are now, I mean.  Mrs. Grainger and
                      I were going to move, er, to Brighton.

Tebbs:           Indeed?

Grainger:       Yes, but, er, we've had to decide against it.

Lucas:         It was too expensive, wasn't it, Mr. Grainger?

Grainger:       Oh yes, very dear.  Why, the agent we spoke to said we could
                      expect to pay more than £100 a month for a small flat, not er,
                      not quite near the water.

Humphries:   Yes, that was for one of the flats near the knacker's yard,
                      wasn't it, Mr. Grainger?

Grainger:      Er, yes.

Tebbs:           Hmmm.  It's quite extraordinary, the disturbing things I'm hearing
                     about Brighton today.  You may have heard that I've put in for a
                     position in our new branch there.

Humphries:   Tsk!  Have you?

Lucas:          Oh, dear.  It's enough to put you right off it, isn't it?

Tebbs:        Perhaps for some, Mr. Lucas, but sometimes one has to overlook
                    minor imperfections to accomplish a greater goal.

Grainger:      You would, er, move there, Percival?

Tebbs:            Let's just say that if the opportunity comes along, Mrs. Tebbs and I
                      will not hesitate to relocate there.   You know, during the war,
                      we had to put up with much greater difficulties on a daily basis.
                      Yes, it would take a lot more than those things you mentioned
                      to put me off.

Grainger:       Oh, how, er, nice.

Lucas leans toward Humphries.

Lucas:           (to Humphries, whispering) Plan B!

Humphries:    (flamboyantly) Yes, it's not that bad.  All my friends are moving
                       there!  They say it's the next big hotspot!

Tebbs grimaces.

Tebbs:            Hmph!  I see.  If you'll excuse me, I must get my tea.
                      (waddles away)

Grainger:       Do you think we put him off, Mr. Humphries?

Humphries:    Hmmm. I'm almost afraid to find out.

Lucas:          What do you mean?

Humphries:    Well, if I'm less popular than a knacker's yard, I'm not sure
                       I want to know it.



 
 
Onward to Scene 5

 
 
 

(c)1999 John F. Crowley