Thursday, December 25, 2008

Outage

In Memoriam

Harold Pinter
(1930-2008)


"The power's gone."

"Again?"

"What do you mean again? When did it go before?"

"That time you were away on work. I told you."

"Oh, yes. But that must have been, let's see, four months ago now."

"Yes, but it did go."

"True. So how long was it gone that time?"

"I don't remember. Three, maybe four hours?"

"Well I hope it comes back quicker this time. It'll be dark soon."

"Oh, the dark's not so bad. Not when it comes on slowly, when you have time to get used to it. Unless you're planning to read, that is."

"But there's the match tonight. I don't want to miss that. Besides, it'll start getting cold soon."

"True."

"I wonder what it is this time. Probably a transformer or something."

"Or maybe a tree fell on a wire, caused a short circuit."

"That's not very likely. Why would a tree fall? There hasn't been a storm or anything."

"Not here there hasn't. But who knows where the electricity comes from. Besides, you don't need a storm to knock a tree down. Sometimes they just fall of old age."

"I suppose. In any case, I hope they fix it soon."

"Me too. [pause] Harry?"

"Yes dear?"

"Do you ever think what would happen if the power never came back?"

"You mean tonight?"

"No, I mean if it never came back. Ever."

"But that's absurd! Of course it'll come back. It has to."

"I suppose. It's just that you never really know, do you?"

"What? Of course you do."

"No, I mean there's always some doubt."

"No there isn't. Of course the power will come back. Have you ever heard of it not?"

"Mr. Morton says that once during the war they didn't have power for two weeks."

"Yes, but it came back after that, didn't it? And besides, that was in wartime."

"But if it can go for two weeks then it can go for two months, two years, two centuries."

"No it can't. It's not the same thing at all. What's got into you today?"

"Nothing. Sorry, I'm being silly, I know. It's just what I was thinking about the last time."

"The last time?"

"When the power went. When I was alone."

"Oh, right."

"I just kept thinking what if there was a village somewhere where the power went and never came back."

"Well, they'd contact someone wouldn't they?"

"What if they couldn't? What if with the power gone none of their phones were working?"

"Well then they'd walk to the nearest place that had power and call from there."

"But what if they didn't want to leave their homes? What if they kept hoping the power would come back?"

"Now you're just getting carried away. Just let it go. Really. [pause] Any idea how long it's been?"

"Since the power went?"

"Yes."

"Fifteen minutes maybe? Oh!"

"What?"

"I just remembered!"

"What?"

"The clothes are in the dryer."

"So?"

"So they've been sitting there all this time. I should go hang them out to dry."

"Why bother? When the power comes back you can just run the dryer."

"But who knows when the power will come back. Or whether."

"Don't start that again."

"Okay."

"It's taking them a while to fix it though, isn't it? I hope they know there's a problem. Maybe I should call someone and complain."

"Who would you call?"

"I don't know. I'll look it up in the book."

"Oh, I'm sure they know Harry. They have all sorts of instruments. And besides, someone else must have called by now."

"What if they haven't? What if everyone's assuming that someone else will call."

"Well then eventually someone else will. You sit down and take it easy. You know the doctor told you not to exert yourself."

"There's no exertion. I'm just going to make a phone call."

"No you're not. I know you. You'll call to complain and get into a fight with someone and spend the next three days sulking. You just let it be."

"Okay, okay. So how about some tea then?"

"That would be nice, wouldn't it? Only I don't know how to boil the water without the power."

"Hmm. I hadn't thought of that."

"It's frightening how dependent we are on electricity, isn't it?"

"Well, I suppose if the power really were gone for good we could start a little wood fire in the backyard and boil the water in a canteen. The way we did it when we went camping. Do you remember that?"

"Of course I do. It was lovely being out in the country like that."

"Yes it was, wasn't it? You know, I haven't thought about that for years."

"Me neither. We don't usually talk about the old days much, do we?"

"I guess we don't."

"I mean we're only talking about it now because the power's gone and there's nothing else to do."

"Well, so at least we have something to thank the outage for."

"I suppose. [pause] Harry?"

"Yes?"

"Do you believe in reincarnation?"

"In what?"

"In reincarnation. You know. Like when you die but then are born again - only this time as some other person. Or maybe not even as a person. As an animal, or insect, or something."

"Do I believe in reincarnation? I can't say I've thought about it much. Seems a bit pointless, doesn't it?"

"Pointless? You don't think it'd be wonderful to start over, to have another chance?"

"I don't see why. It's not like you'd have learnt anything. You'd just end up doing the same things again. You might even do worse. Why do you ask anyway?"

"Oh, no reason. Was just thinking about it the other day, so thought would ask you. I figured it would pass the time."

"It's been a long time, hasn't it? How long, do you know?"

"Almost an hour, I think."

"It's something serious obviously. Still, I hope they don't take too much longer. The match will be on in half an hour."

"I'm sure they'll fix it by then."

"You said last time it took four hours."

"More like three I think. And that was because it was a major breakdown. A grid failure or something. Half the city was without power."

"You know I think I'll just pop out for a minute."

"What for?"

"Just to see if other people on the street have power."

"You mean it could be just us?"

"It could be."

"I hadn't thought of that. That would be terrible."

"Yes, it would. Which is why I'm going to go out and check."

"But where will you go?"

"Not far. Just down to the bar at the corner."

"Why the bar?"

"Well, I can't exactly barge into someone's house demanding to know if they have power, can I?"

"You could just wait fifteen minutes or so. It'll be dark soon. Then we'll see the lights coming on if it's just us."

"Yes, but if it is just us the sooner we know the better."

"But I don't want you exerting yourself."

"I won't be exerting myself. I'm just going down to the street corner, for god's sake."

"What if you go and don't come back?"

"What? What are you talking about? Of course I'll come back. I'll be back before you know it."

"But it'll be dark soon and I don't want to be alone in here when it's dark."

"Look, it's a three minute walk to the corner. Tops. I'll be there and back long before it gets dark."

"But what if you're not?"

"Why wouldn't I be? You're just being silly."

"But Harry"

"Look, I'm going now. I'll see you in a bit."

"Harry"

"Stop worrying, will you? Bye."

"Harry, don't go. Please. Harry? Harry?"

8 comments:

Scribbler said...

brilliant!

Ms.Mephistopheles said...

:)

brinda said...

wow!
to which brilliantly insightful comment, i shall add this old chestnut:
In Pinter's new play that's now running,
Our Harold's lost none of his cunning.
Throughout the three acts,
We hear just four facts,
But the pauses between are quite stunning

Anonymous said...

I don't get it.

Anonymous said...

Hey 2x3x7,

I will be in Philly on the 29th. Do you meet people you don't know?

Spock said...

Loved it! I haven't read any work by Pinter yet. But if this is indicative of his style, then I really want to.

Falstaff said...

scribbler: Thanks.

Ms Mephistopheles: Thanks.

brinda: Thanks. And nice.

Anon: How much of Pinter have you read?

Anon2: No, sorry, I don't.

Spock: I don't know about indicative - I'm obviously not capable of writing like Pinter. That said, if you liked this, you should definitely try reading some of his work.

havs said...

just wonderful. more please.