An improbable comedy in one act
RON: About 60; well built, smartly dressed, normally reserved but subject to occasional fits of violent temper.
ARTHUR: Around 30; jovial, waggish, once a junior colleague of Dennis.
BETTY: Late 20s; Arthur’s wife, an occupational nurse in the same firm. On comfortable teasing terms with Dennis.
DENNIS: 65; newly-retired senior designer in an engineering firm; slight, bespectacled, inoffensive, fastidious, pedantic.
JOAN: Betty’s mother; middle 50s, sprightly, neat and chatty.
A quiet corner in a pub with two tables, bench seats behind them and chairs to the side.
Peter D. Wilson
Seascale, June 2004
Copyright © 2004, 2016
(The play opens with Ron sitting at one table, engrossed in a newspaper crossword, with a plate of sandwiches and a pint of shandy. For some time he takes no notice of the action. Arthur and Betty approach the other table.)
ARTHUR: Will this do?
BETTY: Fine. I’ll keep the corner seat for Mother.
ARTHUR: Any idea how long she’s likely to be?
BETTY: None at all. You know what she’s like when she gets on the phone.
ARTHUR: Only too well! Who was it?
BETTY: Sounded like one of her old AA friends.
ARTHUR: I thought she’d given that up.
BETTY: She hasn’t gone to the meetings for years, but a few of them stay in touch.
ARTHUR: Helps to avoid backsliding, I suppose. Shall I hang up your coat?
BETTY: No thanks, I’ll just pop it on Mother’s seat for the time being.
(Dennis approaches with drinks on a tray with a bowl of peanuts. He distributes them before seating himself.)
DENNIS: Here we are - G&T for you, the usual for your mother, bitter for Arthur …
ARTHUR: Thanks, Dennis. Is that yours? You’re skimping yourself a bit, aren’t you?
DENNIS: I’m driving. In any case, I don’t like to overdo things at lunch. I’d be asleep half the afternoon if I did.
BETTY: It wouldn’t be the first time, I seem to remember.
DENNIS: Sh! No telling tales out of school!
BETTY: Of course, you were simply gathering your thoughts, weren’t you? Or was it resting your strained eyes?
DENNIS: Actually I did get quite severe eye strain when we moved to desktop computers, until I realised why and got a pair of middle-distance spectacles. (He takes a seat and relaxes.) Aaaah!
ARTHUR: Worn out?
DENNIS: Not really. But that’s the first time today I’ve been able to relax properly. Oh damn, I’d better take the tray back.
ARTHUR: Don’t move, I’ll do it. (He does so.)
BETTY: Was it such a strain?
DENNIS: It was, rather. I’m not one for public appearances.
BETTY: Even when that particular public’s your friends?
DENNIS: In a way, that makes it worse. With people who’d forget all about it in half an hour, it wouldn’t matter.
ARTHUR: I’ve brought the menu in case you’d like to order.
BETTY: Better wait for Mother, I suppose.
ARTHUR: Nothing to stop us choosing for ourselves, though. (To Dennis) No need to guess what you’re having.
DENNIS: I don’t know. I might risk something a bit more exotic, on a special occasion.
ARTHUR: Wow! Make a note for the record, Betty!
DENNIS: Actually, I’m feeling rather peckish today. Hence the peanuts.
BETTY: So don’t wolf them all, Arthur. I know what you’re like once you start. Not like you to
be admit being hungry at mid-day, Dennis.
DENNIS: No, but I didn’t feel like having much breakfast. Nerves, you know.
ARTHUR: It wasn’t that much of an ordeal, was it?
DENNIS: More than I expected. They sprang it on me only last night that the Managing Director was coming out from Head Office and would make the presentation. I’d thought it was going to be Simmons.
BETTY: Well, when the Senior Designer retires, it is quite an occasion.
DENNIS: I don’t see why. They’ve never made much of me before.
BETTY: Oooh! How’s that for a sting in the tail!
ARTHUR: The old grouse, eh? Managers and administrators getting all the limelight, while the people doing anything constructive are ignored.
BETTY: Well, it’s true enough, isn’t it? What was it - one percent for technical content, in the job evaluation?
DENNIS: So it was rumoured. I did resent it.
ARTHUR: But did nothing about it.
DENNIS: Actually, I did complain, but it got nowhere.
BETTY: You should have pushed it more.
DENNIS: It didn’t seem worth it. After all, I had an interesting job, and certainly didn’t envy all the paperwork that they were having to do.
ARTHUR: But you might have envied the salary. Not to mention the perks.
DENNIS: No, I had enough. And no particularly expensive tastes.
ARTHUR: Sanderson didn’t come out specially for your do, did he?
DENNIS: No, he wanted to see Simmons about something, and when he realised it was to be an occasion, he had to do the honours.
BETTY: Decent of him - or was Simmons just ducking out himself?
DENNIS: I doubt it. To be honest, he’s always been as fair to me as the rules allowed.
BETTY: Anyway, between them they certainly gave you a good send-off, didn’t they?
ARTHUR: You don’t sound too pleased about it.
DENNIS: It was very generous.
BETTY: How diplomatic. Come on, you can’t fool us. There’s something bothering you about it.
DENNIS: Well, yes.
ARTHUR: Don’t you like your achievements to be recognised when at last someone gets round to it? Though I must say you’ve kept pretty quiet about them.
BETTY: Yes, quite a dark horse you turn out to be. However did you find time for all that? Let alone manage to keep it so well under wraps.
ARTHUR : It was certainly news to me.
DENNIS: Me too.
DENNIS: I didn’t recognise it either.
BETTY: Well, he did seem to be rather - shall we say? Exuberant? - when he got into his stride.
ARTHUR: Now who’s being diplomatic? He was half sloshed.
DENNIS: No wonder at that. I noticed his hip flask was well used.
BETTY: Perhaps he gets nervous, too. How much was he exaggerating?
DENNIS: It wasn’t just exaggeration. I didn’t notice at first - too busy thinking about what I was going to say myself. The light wasn’t too good and my scribbled notes rather illegible.
ARTHUR: Wrong glasses again?
DENNIS: Actually, they were for that, so I was struggling. And in any case I wasn’t sure that what I’d been planning for weeks would be appropriate in the altered circumstances. But then the guff about "community involvement" and "helping the underdog" started to penetrate and I realised he was going on about things I’d never heard of.
ARTHUR: Sounds like one of those nightmares about finding yourself in the midst of a big public occasion you don’t understand at all and having to take a main part in it.
DENNIS: Yes, that’s it exactly. Until right at the end it clicked.
BETTY: What clicked?
DENNIS: That bit about the Milford Haven job. I remembered getting some misdirected mail about it at the time. It was intended for another Dennis Roberts at Head Office - I’d forgotten about him until that moment.
BETTY: Quite a coincidence, having two people of the same name in the same firm.
ARTHUR: Well, I’ve often said that coincidence is the rule of life rather than the exception. I remember once -
BETTY: Arthur! You’re not going to tell us yet again about bumping into the author of the book you happened to be reading on holiday?
ARTHUR: Sorry, have I bored you with that one?
DENNIS: Don’t worry, Arthur. You haven’t yet got as bad as the chap who told me the same story three times during a ten-minute car journey.
ARTHUR: Phew! Thank God for that. But anyway, the point is that Dennis’s name isn’t all that uncommon; it isn’t an incredible coincidence.
DENNIS: And when Sanderson had to mug up something about the background at the last minute, the local man would obviously come to mind first.
BETTY: Or when he got someone else to do it for him. Probably some junior secretary who’d never think of looking beyond the end of her nose.
DENNIS: Well, however it was, it left me in an awkward position. You can’t tell the MD he’s got it all round his neck in front of a crowd like that, even on your last day. All I could do was thank him for his kindness.
ARTHUR: So all that stuff about helping lame dogs over stiles and plucking people out of the gutter was really about the other fellow, was it?
DENNIS: Must have been. Assuming it wasn’t just a load of flannel. Come to think of it, have you ever come across a lame dog trying to get over a stile?
ARTHUR: Hmm. The odd sheep, perhaps. Never a dog. And I can’t imagine our Dennis picking a drunk out of the gutter, can you, Betty?
BETTY: No. Not his style at all.
ARTHUR: Nor even the lame dog’s.
(Betty groans at the pun. Dennis looks a little shifty and Arthur notices.)
ARTHUR: You’ve gone very quiet, Dennis. What are you hiding from us? Don’t tell us you have a secret night-time patrol to search the gutters for drunks needing help. Like Gladstone and his prostitutes?
DENNIS: I’m hardly in Gladstone’s position. And I’ve often wondered what he actually got up to with those women - even if he did want to save them from sin.
ARTHUR: (To the tune of "My bonny lies over the ocean," 3rd and 4th lines) "He’ll save you a blonde for a shilling" and all that? "By Jove how the money rolls in."
BETTY: By all accounts it was nothing at all like that. Completely above board - if rather silly.
ARTHUR: What a waste. But you’re dodging the question, Dennis. What about these drunks?
DENNIS: Well, as it happens, there was just one occasion.
ARTHUR: What? Then don’t leave us in suspense! Tell us.
DENNIS: There’s nothing worth telling.
BETTY: You really can’t get away with it like that, you know. Arthur will give you no peace until you come clean.
DENNIS: Really, it was nothing.
ARTHUR: Your maths is better than that, Dennis. "Just one occasion," you said. One is more than nothing. Come on, out with it!
DENNIS: Well, even if it was more than nothing, it was very little more. I just came across this chap, lying in the street evidently paralytic, and hoicked him on to some kind of bench nearby.
(Ron is distracted from his crossword and starts surreptitiously to take notice)
ARTHUR: What on earth for? It sounds a damn silly thing to do.
DENNIS: It probably was. But I wasn’t the hardened cynic then.
BETTY: You a hardened cynic? Pull the other one.
ARTHUR: And what has cynicism, or lack of it, to do with it anyway?
DENNIS: All right, I was less objective then, if you prefer. I’d been brought up a churchgoer and some of the habits still stuck, at least superficially. I remembered the business about the Good Samaritan and couldn’t bear to prove myself the hypocrite I’d always suspected.
DENNIS: Well, for years, at least. I sometimes felt rather like one of those well-fed, penguin-suited baritones bellowing on about the joys of living as a tramp.
ARTHUR: You didn’t, I suppose, take this character to an inn like the original Samaritan, and tell the landlord to give him two penn’orth of care till you returned?
DENNIS: That would have been going too far.
ARTHUR: Too far? He wouldn’t get much for tuppence these days.
DENNIS: Don’t forget, in the original story, it would be two days’ wages for a labourer - not an insignificant sum for an ordinary man. But that’s beside the point. I simply didn’t want to get any further involved. (Lightening the mood) In any case he was too heavy. I’m no weight-lifter and I didn’t have a donkey or whatever.
BETTY: When was all this?
DENNIS: Oh, years ago. It was on my first visit to Cardiff. I had a meeting at the University the next day and was staying at a little hotel fairly near the campus. It was obviously a bad night to be there - there was a hell of a racket going on - a Son et Lumière display or something of the sort at the castle, with a PA system booming away and a load of fireworks - and I couldn’t see much chance of sleeping until that was over so went for a walk.
ARTHUR: I don’t remember our having any business at the university there.
DENNIS: It was well before I joined the firm. Probably some time in the seventies. Let’s see, I’d come down from Warrington and noticed that the railway passed right by Stokesay Castle. It struck me especially because a few weeks before I’d been there during a short break with my fiancée.
BETTY: More and more revelations! I never knew you’d been engaged. Did you, Arthur?
ARTHUR: No indeed. So he’s evidently not always been the confirmed bachelor we thought. What’s the dark secret?
DENNIS: No secret at all. Nothing dark or remarkable about it, either. I never intended to stay a bachelor. It’s just how things turned out - fate, or Providence perhaps, not design - at least, not my design.
BETTY: I can see we shall have to do something about that.
ARTHUR: (In mock horror) Betty, please! Don’t meddle! You know how disastrous your match-making efforts have always been.
BETTY: (Indignantly) Not always. What about -?
ARTHUR: Not now, Betty. Don’t let him off the hook. I want to hear the end of this story about the Cardiff drunk. (To Dennis) And I don’t see what your engagement had to do with it.
DENNIS: Nothing, really. I was just trying to fix when it happened.
ARTHUR: Why? Is it important?
DENNIS: Not at all, but it annoys me when I can’t remember things.
BETTY: Better get used to it, Dennis. "Time’s wingèd chariot," you know. Practically everyone has that problem sooner or later.
ARTHUR: Betty should know. (Betty sticks her tongue out at him.) But you’re sliding off again - come on, Dennis, back to the plot.
DENNIS: Really, there’s nothing more to tell. Except that I split up with Sheila a month or so afterwards, and that more or less settles the time. Towards the end of 1975.
(Ron rises abruptly and lurches across to confront Dennis)
RON: You bloody meddler!
RON: You bloody, interfering bastard! Why can’t your kind ever leave things alone?
ARTHUR: (rising) Now just a minute -
RON: And you can keep your poncy nose out of it, too! If you don’t want it flattened.
BETTY: (Urgently) Arthur, get the landlord.
RON: You can get whoever you damn well … damn well (his fury suddenly collapsing in confusion) er …What …? Oh, hell …
(He leans on a chair for support)
ARTHUR: Now look here -
RON: Just - just give me a moment. Please.
ARTHUR: Why the devil should we? You can’t go barging around accosting people like that and expect them to take it like "Lovely weather we’re having."
BETTY: (With unaccustomed authority, moving to Ron) Shut up, Arthur. There’s something wrong here. (To Ron) Are you ill?
RON: I’m … er … a bit woozy. Things seem somehow out of focus. I’ve a nasty feeling of … Did I do something outrageous just then?
DENNIS: You certainly did.
RON: (humbly) Do you mind telling me? I blanked out for a while.
ARTHUR: Well, you called Dennis here an interfering bastard, and offered to rearrange my features. Not that they couldn’t do with it, perhaps, but I’ve rather got used to them as they are.
RON: Oh lord, that’s terrible. I really can’t apologise enough. And there I was thinking I’d got it beaten - my temper, I mean.
BETTY: That wasn’t just a fit of temper. Come on, you’d better sit down.
RON: (Still standing) No need, thanks. But you’re right. It was a completely blind rage. It’s happened once or twice before - never as bad as that, though.
BETTY: It’s a medical disorder, is it?
RON: Yes. I’ve been having treatment. The quack warned me that a shock might still bring on an attack, but … Look, I’m desperately sorry. I mustn’t bother you any more.
ARTHUR: A shock? What sort of shock?
BETTY: Don’t you think we should let Mr. - er -?
RON: Williams. Ron Williams. If you really want to know. I’m a bit late with the introduction, I’m afraid.
BETTY: Arthur, we really ought to let him go if he’s fit to.
ARTHUR: (Not wholly sympathetic) Well, I do think - if you’ll pardon the cliché - that he owes us some sort of explanation. If it wouldn’t be too upsetting to give it.
DENNIS: I must admit being curious myself. Why don’t you sit down - er - Ron?
RON: Are you sure?
ARTHUR: Shove along, then, Betty. Make a bit of room.
BETTY: Just let me fold my coat. (She does so)
RON: Oh - all right, thank you. (Sitting) And I do appreciate your not making an issue of it.
DENNIS: Well, there’s no real harm done, is there? Though you seem to have startled the folk at the bar for a moment. And you certainly gave us a shock.
RON: Shocks all round, it seems.
BETTY: Oh? It seemed perfectly peaceful here.
RON: It was. But I couldn’t help overhearing your story of picking up a drunk from a Cardiff street.
DENNIS: What of it?
RON: You probably won’t believe this. But I was that drunk.
(Stunned silence for a moment)
ARTHUR: Well, I’ll be damned. I was saying earlier that coincidence was the rule of life, but this does seem to be stretching it a bit.
RON: Yes. I could hardly believe it myself.
DENNIS: Well, I suppose when you have a finite number of people in a finite space, the statistical chance of a repeat encounter is also finite.
BETTY: Come again?
ARTHUR: Translating - If you have twenty people milling around in a small room, you’re likely to bump into any one of them more than once.
BETTY: There’s a bit of difference between the British Isles and a small room. Not to mention between twenty people and fifty million.
DENNIS: Yes, but that just makes the chance smaller. It doesn’t eliminate it altogether.
ARTHUR: It must be the next best thing.
DENNIS: Well, yes. (To Ron) How can you be sure you’re the same man? After all, Cardiff did have something of a reputation then … I mean, there must have been more than one occasion around that time when a drunk was lying in a street somewhere around there.
RON: Very likely. But I doubt if any other would have been picked up like that. They’d have been left there or bundled off to the nick. Well, it was kindly meant, I’m sure.
BETTY: But you don’t seem very pleased about it.
RON: No. Base ingratitude, isn’t it? But there it is.
ARTHUR: Sorry, I’m baffled. What’s wrong with giving a helping hand?
RON: Well, how would you like to wake up and be told that a complete stranger had been hauling you about like a sack of potatoes?
DENNIS: Who told you that? There was no one else around.
RON: The woman over the road had seen what happened. Came across to see if I was all right when I’d sobered up a bit. She was always a bit of a busybody.
BETTY: It doesn’t seem much cause for taking such violent offence.
RON: Not if that had been the end of it.
DENNIS: There were repercussions?
RON: You can say that again. Every time I felt like going on the binge it came back to me - the horror of some unknown character laying hands on me when I was too incapable to do anything about it. It didn’t stop the drinking, but made me disgusted with myself. Eventually I went to Alcoholics Anonymous.
BETTY: What’s so terrible about that? My own mother did the same - and doesn’t mind who knows it.
RON: Oh, that wasn’t the problem - not directly, at any rate. I was lucky - it turned out I wasn’t technically alcoholic - just a casual boozer and occasional drunkard when other things got on top of me. Drying out wasn’t too difficult. I don’t even need to be completely teetotal now.
ARTHUR: You seem to have got up a pretty good head of steam on what you did have.
BETTY: (reproving) Arthur!
RON: It’s all right - no offence. But that was memory, not alcohol.
BETTY: I still don’t see why the resentment. Is it too painful …?
RON: No, there was more to it. When I really sobered up, I began to notice things I’d missed before. My wife had taken to drink as well - can’t blame her, must have been self-defence, I suppose - and frankly, she’d become a bit of a slut. The house was a tip. I nagged her to do something about it -
BETTY: You could have done something yourself, couldn’t you?
RON: Oh, I did. But she always turned it upside down again when my back was turned. Then one day I was hunting for an important letter and as far as I could gather she’d thrown it out by mistake. I really blew up - you’ve seen what that can be like - and she walked out on me. I’ve never seen her since.
ARTHUR: Maybe for the best.
RON: For her, maybe. No, certainly for her. Not for me. I really loved that woman. I didn’t realise how much until after she’d gone.
(A brief pause)
BETTY: Always the way, I believe.
DENNIS: Didn’t you try the police or whatever?
RON: I tried everything. But when someone’s really determined not to be found there’s not much to be done about it. I tried hospitals - clinics - maternity units …
RON: Yes, we’d had an idea she might be pregnant. But nothing came of the search. It’s been lonely without her. Damned lonely.
ARTHUR: Very sad. But you can’t really blame poor old Dennis for that.
RON: Of course not. Anger isn’t logical. (More positively) But it did make me take myself in hand. Now I can hold my head up in decent company - except when I put my foot in it like today. So thank you for that, very belatedly, and again, I’m sorry for making such a scene.
(Joan enters hurriedly and sweeps across to join the party, ignoring Ron who retires to his table and resumes the crossword, though without much success at concentrating.)
JOAN: Sorry I’m late, dear. Freda just wouldn’t stop talking. I couldn’t even get in a word to say I’d have to be going.
BETTY: What was it about?
JOAN: Don’t ask me. I never listen when she’s rabbiting on. I was more concerned about when I was going to get away. Then when she did hang up, I realised I hadn’t washed the breakfast things and had to do that.
BETTY: Don’t worry, Mother, we’ve saved a place for you.
DENNIS: I’m afraid the lemonade will be flat. Let me get you another.
JOAN: No, don’t bother. This’ll be perfectly all right. Probably better as it is - the bubbles tend to get up my nose. Or go down and start me burping - most unladylike. Well, how did the presentation go?
ARTHUR: A bit of a fiasco, as Dennis has just been explaining. But it seemed pretty well at the time.
JOAN: I don’t understand - how can a fiasco be "pretty well at the time"?
DENNIS: Well …
ARTHUR: Before we launch into that, can we order? Dennis is rather hungry.
JOAN: Oh, I’m sorry my dear, you shouldn’t have waited.
BETTY: We’d no idea how long you were going to be.
JOAN: All the more reason for getting on with it.
DENNIS: Here’s the menu.
JOAN: Thank you. Now carry on explaining.
BETTY: No, Mother. You can’t concentrate on two things at once. Choose your meal and then you can attend to Dennis.
JOAN: Very well, dear. Ah … hmm … the plaice and chips, I think.
BETTY: Same for me.
ARTHUR: Dennis? You fancied something different.
DENNIS: Yes - I think I’ll try the spaghetti Bolognese.
ARTHUR: (ironic) Oh, very exotic! (Moving to go) Right.
DENNIS: Arthur, this is my treat.
ARTHUR: No, you’re needed to tell the story.
DENNIS: But …
ARTHUR: You can settle with me afterwards, if you insist. Just now your place is right here.
JOAN: No, he’s having spaghetti, not plaice. And it isn’t even ordered yet.
BETTY: Mother! That’s as bad as one of Arthur’s.
JOAN: Sorry, dear. It must be catching.
ARTHUR: Right. Take note of any new developments, Betty.
(Exit Arthur to place the order)
JOAN: Now, Dennis, tell me about this apparently successful fiasco. I love paradoxes. (Singing out of tune) "A paradox, a paradox, a most ingenious paradox."
BETTY: (Wincing) All right, Mother, we don’t need the "Pirates" just now.
JOAN: Sorry, dear. Go on, Dennis.
DENNIS: Well, I’d thought it was going to be Simmons - he’s the office manager - making the presentation, but the Managing Director was here for some reason and decided to do it. Goodness knows why - I’ve never had anything to do with him. Thought it would impress the troops, I suppose. Anyway, he gave a very impressive eulogy of my supposed doings in the firm and the community, only he’d somehow got someone else’s history instead of mine. Wouldn’t know the difference, of course.
JOAN: How embarrassing!
BETTY: Not all loss, though. Out of it came a very interesting story of something that happened before Dennis joined the firm.
JOAN: Fascinating. Do tell me, Dennis.
DENNIS: Another time, perhaps. I couldn’t go through it all again just now. Especially just now.
JOAN: Why "especially now"?
BETTY: (Hastily) Dennis is right, Mother. I’ll explain afterwards.
JOAN: A mystery! Do tell me.
(Arthur returns to his place.)
ARTHUR: They’ll be a little while - the kitchen’s rather busy. I’ve brought some more peanuts.
BETTY: You had more conversation than that with the barman.
ARTHUR: He wanted to know what the commotion was about.
JOAN: (Eagerly) Commotion? What have I missed? Don’t tell me you and Dennis have been coming to fisticuffs?
BETTY: (Ignoring her; anxiously) What did you tell him?
ARTHUR: That it was just a misunderstanding, all happily sorted out. It seemed to satisfy him.
JOAN: This is all very intriguing. I’m fascinated. It seems I really should have let the phone ring and to hell with the housework when you called for me.
DENNIS: Perhaps as well you didn’t. It was rather embarrassing. Very embarrassing, in fact.
ARTHUR: And when Dennis is as emphatic as that, you know there’s something in it.
BETTY: (Whispering) There was a little difficulty with a man at the next table. But as Arthur said, all sorted out.
JOAN: The plot thickens. What sort of difficulty?
ARTHUR: He had some kind of seizure. But Betty took care of him.
BETTY: Arthur, that’s …
JOAN: Good girl, Betty. But shouldn’t he see a doctor?
BETTY: No, it wasn’t that serious. And he’s got medication, I gather.
JOAN: You really must tell me all about it when we have the chance. The man at the next table, eh?
(Ron, vaguely aware of her curiosity, prepares to leave.)
JOAN: That’s odd - there’s something about the way he folds his paper … Good heavens above! I don’t believe it! Ronald!
RON: (Startled) What?
JOAN: It is Ronald, isn’t it?
RON: (Puzzled) Yes, but … Good lord! Joan! Wherever did you spring from?
JOAN: Just round the corner, as it happens.
RON: I searched for years …
JOAN: Did you? After all the names you called me?
RON: Don’t bring that up. I’ve cursed myself every day for it.
JOAN: (Appraising his appearance) You’ve changed, Ronald. You certainly seem to have done well for yourself.
RON: You’ve changed, too. Hardly surprising. So many years …
JOAN: Well, we both seem to have pulled ourselves up pretty smartly.
RON: With some help.
JOAN: With a great deal of help.
ARTHUR: (Grinning) I said earlier that we were stretching coincidence, but this is ridiculous!
RON: It can be as ridiculous as you like, for all I care. So long as I’m not actually dreaming.
DENNIS: Betty, Arthur, don’t you think we’re rather in the way?
BETTY: Of course. Mother, I think we’d better be off.
JOAN: I’m certainly not leaving now.
BETTY: Not you! Dennis and Arthur and I.
JOAN: Nonsense. This is a family party. And the food hasn’t arrived yet.
BETTY: But …
JOAN: No buts, dear. I insist.
BETTY: Oh … All right. Why not?
DENNIS: I really think …
JOAN: And you’re practically one of the family, Dennis. Don’t even think of going. Arthur, pull up another chair for Ronald.
BETTY: That’s it. Now - come and sit down - Dad.