Write a play about a brave little soldier.
Connie – the translator
Jess – the terrorist
Dr Khan – the medic
Cain, Mira, Josh, Cherish – the Disabled Liberation Front
Translation happens between a screen and Connie. There is always a lag and usually the conversation is paraphrased for a hearing audience. Connie also often speaks what she signs unless she knows Jess will get into trouble. Jess also speaks when there are no adults about.
The hospital. A bed. Jess is in the bed, Connie hovers near the bed.
Dr Khan: Well, that looks ok. No signs of visual damage and we’re happy that police brutality hasn’t been committed, so as soon as we have the paperwork, Miss Lancing can be discharged into your care.
Connie: Thank you.
Jess signs “what’s the quack saying?”
Connie signs “you’re fine and we can get you out of here soon.”
Jess signs “hurrah.”
Dr Khan (talks slowly): Now Jess. You seem like a good girl. Hopefully, we won’t see you in here again.
Jess signs “does he know I’m a retard?”
Connie signs “you make it hard to tell. And don’t use that word.”
Dr Khan: Everything ok?
Connie: Yes. Jess says thank you.
Dr Khan: No, thank you Jess. Now would the brave little soldier like a lowwy pop?
Jess signs “what did he say?”
Connie signs “he called you a brave little soldier.”
Jess signs “cunt.”
Dr Khan: Problem?
Connie: She’s allergic.
Dr Khan: OK. Well how about a lovely sticker instead?
Dr Khan gets out a smiley face sticker and hands it to Connie.
Dr Khan: Nice to meet you Jessica.
Jess signs “nice to meet you too wanker.”
Connie: Jess says nice to meet you too.
Connie shakes Dr Khan’s hand.
Dr Khan: Good day.
Dr Khan leaves. Jess gives his back the middle finger and sticks out her tongue.
Connie: Do you know how much trouble you’re in?
Connie: Damage to property. Vandalism. Attempted GBH on a police man!?
Jess signs “I don’t think writing the words ableist cocksuckers on a shutter is a big deal.”
Connie: You punched a policeman.
Jess signs “I got spray paint in my eyes. It was windy.”
Connie: And what will the others think?
Jess signs “well done?”
Connie: You’re supposed to set an example.
Jess signs “that’s what I was doing you great cock-sucker.”
Connie: You’ve been let off with a caution.
Jess signs “only because the policeman thought I was “special”.”
Connie: House privileges are withdrawn until further notice. No going out unsupervised. No treat days. Nada. Understand…?
Connie: Get dressed.
Jess sighs and jumps off the bed. She starts getting dressed.
The House. A big kitchen table. Cain, Josh, and Cherish are watching Mira reenact her recent escapades. Cain is counting cereal onto the table.
Mira: So then we copped off with this man. I think it was a thing for him making out with a “downs.”
Josh: How’d you know that?
Mira: He kept shouting to his mates, “look, I’m touching up a mong.”
Mira: It’s fine. The bigger problem is he kissed like a washing machine.
Cherish: Ewwww. TMI.
Cherish: So where was Jess?
Mira: Who knows? Probably had a mouth full of cock in the disabled shitter.
Cherish: At least they are good for something. I once went to the toilet when-
Mira: Anyway, next thing I have all these missed call from Jess and that weird voice text-to-speech voice on my answer phone-
Cherish: What did it say?
Mira: “The Pigs have got me. The Pigs have got me.”
Cain: She was on a farm?
Cherish: She so got sprung bj’ing a bouncer, again.
Josh: I don’t know… Connie seemed mad when she left.
Mira: Jess don’t care. It’s all about the Disabled Liberation Front these days.
Cain: Maybe she killed a “Normal”?
Mira: And had sex with the dead body?
Cherish: Ewwww, again.
Josh: Maybe she’s gone too far and won’t be allowed back.
Cherish: No. She’d like that too much. And we’re not that lucky.
Jess walks in.
Jess sign-speaks “hello suckers.”
He runs up to her and gives her a big hug. She sticks her smiley face sticker on his t-shirt.
Mira: Jess! We thought you had sex with a dead body?
Cherish: You thought that.
Jess sign-speaks “Funny.”
Cherish: Then where have you been?
Jess sign-speaks “The Police Station.”
Josh: Oh that’s bad.
Jess sign-speaks “Only for normals. They let me go with a warning. Hashtag perks.”
Josh: Were you scared?
Jess sign-speaks “No.”
Josh: Did they beat you?
Jess sign-speaks “They tried. But I’m way too tough.”
Mira: So cool. You’re a criminal.
Cherish: What did you do?
Connie walks in.
Connie: She wrote something stupid on the side of the corner shop.
Connie: Not cool. Bloody stupid.
Cain: Connie swore!
Connie: Sorry Cain.
Cain: It’s ok. You’re sad.
Connie: I’m furious. If I catch any of you doing anything that stupid you will be out on your own.
Josh: I don’t like going out.
Connie: And if I catch any of you celebrating Jess as a hero, you will also lose house privileges. Understand?
General chorus of consent.
Connie: Jess, I’m going to call your parents.
Jess signs “enjoy.”
Connie leaves. Jess takes Cain’s box of cereal and pours herself a huge bowl. She ploughs into it.
Jess sighs and pushes the box back to him. Cain pours his table cereal back in the box and starts counting again. Jess watches this and puts down the unfinished bowl of cereal.
Mira: So, spill.
Jess sign-speaks “it was glorious. I got some spray paint-”
Josh: Was it red?
Jess sign-speaks “and I was graffiti’ing Disable Lib slogans all up and down the high street-”
Cherish: We have slogans?
Jess sign-speaks “yes.”
Cherish: Like what?
Jess sign-speaks “Ableist cock-suckers.”
Josh: but was it red?
Mira: Does it matter?
Josh: Yes. I don’t like red.
Jess sign-speaks “not red. Gold. And then the Pigs came along and tried to take me on so I punched one in the face.”
Mira: Power to the Disabled Liberation Front!
Cherish: And that’s when you got arrested?
Jess sign-speaks “exactly.”
Mira: All hail our fearless leader.
Jess sign-speaks “it’s not enough.”
Mira: What’s not enough.
Jess sign-speaks “a bit of vandalism. You should have seen everyone. Talked to me like I was an idiot. Called me a brave little soldier. Like I was a kid.”
Cherish: Well, to be fair…
Jess sign-speaks “I’m tired of being treated like I’m a freak or crazy. I want to be taken seriously.”
Josh: So what you gonna do?
Jess sign-speaks “make a bomb.”
Jess sign-speaks “we need to show them we are serious. I’m going to make a bomb and put it in the post box.”
Josh: But the will hurt people.
Jess sign-speaks “good. Then they will know what it’s like. I want everyone to know what it’s like.”
Cherish: Jess that’s awful.
Jess sign-speaks “you saying you don’t wish everyone was like you and you were like everyone else?”
Cherish: Obviously she’s joking. Or she’s gone mental.
Jess sign-speaks “I’m not mental.”
Cherish: You’re ridiculous. I don’t know what you’re sniffing but I want no part of it.
Cherish: And you’re as bad. Making up imaginary boyfriends. You guys do what you like. I’m out of here.
Cherish wheels herself out. The Josh and Mira hesitate and then follow. Cain remains at the table counting cereal. Jess sits at the table. She is very still. Suddenly she stands up, flipping the table as she storms out. Cain’s cereal spills all over the floor.
Cain: My crispies. Nasty Jess.
The hospital. The bed. Jess is in th bed again. This time her hands are bandaged. Connie is asleep in the chair next to the bed.
The door opens and the Cherish and Mira enter. Jess holds her hands to her lips to try to signal they all need to be quiet because Connie is asleep.
Cherish: Is she ok?
Cherish: You ok?
Cherish: Why did you do it?
Cherish: And your hands?
Jess shakes her head.
Mira: How will you talk?
Cherish: you’re an idiot. An absolute fucking idiot.
Cherish: But she is. Of all of us, she was so close to being a normal. She looked normal. She just couldn’t hear. But she could see and she could feel and she could walk.
Mira: Yeah but it’s her head that’s weird. We just look weird.
Cherish: I am sorry you are angry but look what it did to you. Josh is terrified to leave his room. Cain just cries all the time. Did you know he got hit in the head?
Jess shakes her head.
Mira: He got hit in the head and now it hurts all the time. Because of what you did.
Connie wakes up.
Connie: Girls. Is anyone with you?
Mira: Paul drove us in his car. It was great.
Connie: Is he outside?
Connie: Say good bye Mira. Cherish. Jess needs rest.
Cherish: Don’t worry. We aren’t staying.
Jess speaks “why you here?”
Mira: To say good bye.
Cherish: We had a house vote. The Disabled Liberation Front doesn’t want you. We don’t want you.
Connie: Paul is waiting to take you both home.
Mira: Are you coming, Connie?
Cherish and Mira exit.
Jess and Connie look hard at each other. Connie nods.
Lights fade to a spot on Conne and a low light spot of Jess in bed. She is just gazing at her hands.
Connie: Jess would like to thank everyone for their well wishes. She continues to make progress, but unfortunately the medical team were unable to save her hands. Her main means of communication. As you can imagine, it has been a devastating blow. You, the press, have asked why a nice Disabled girl from Bristol would do such a thing. Try to blow up herself, her friends and the home who cared for her. The answer is she is a teenager. An angry teenager. Who had all the problems most teenagers have; love, college, friends, getting a bit pissed on a Friday night. But then she also had everything else. The abuse. The insults. The insinuations. All chipping away. Everyday. We failed Jess. All of us failed Jess. We fail young people like her everyday. And it hurts. It hurts to watch them go through the humiliation and the rejection. And all because we are scared. And we cover it with rubbish like “I don’t want to say something wrong.” Say something. For gods sake. It’s better than pretending there are people on the us or in the supermarket who are invisible, because they can definitely see you. They can see everything you do. Every time you look away or loom over their heads. Maybe we all need a bomb under us. Maybe Jess had the right idea. Thank you for your time.
Sound of murmur of voices and flashes from cameras. Lights fade on Connie. Jess sits and looks at her hands. She smiles.