The Edited Lowlights: A Tragi-Comedy


Phil: The Father in Law

Milllie: The Mother in Law

K-man: The Son

Nic: The Daughter in Law


Act 1, Scene 1

[It is 11.30pm on a Thursday night.  The front door of the house bursts open amidst cries of ‘oh!’]

Phil: Ah, hello!  Yes, it was the Spanish this time you know, the French last time.

Nic: What?  Hello.  Would you like a drink?  You must be very tired.

Millie: Yes please.  I’ll have a glass of cold milk.  Do you have any biscuits?  Sometimes I like a biscuit in the middle of the night just to nibble if I wake up.

[K-man takes a gargantuan suitcase upstairs.  Phil is in the hallway staring at a suitcase as though the power of intention will transport it upstairs, before beginning to talk to himself].

Nic: Yes, I made chocolate chip cookies.   Do you think Phil would like a glass of milk?

Millie: Yes, I expect so.

[Nic pours two glasses of milk.  Phil enters.]

Phil: Oh.  Is that for me?  Ah, um, oh.  Did I say I wanted milk?

Nic: It’s fine – just pour it away if you don’t want it.

[K-man enters].

Phil: I don’t want it.  But you can’t pour it away.   NO.  That would be such a waste.

Nic: I don’t mind.

K-man: Yes, just pour it down the sink.  It’s our milk, and we don’t mind.

[Phil reaches into the fridge to very slowly extract the milk carton and carefully spill milk everywhere while trying to pour it from the glass back into the milk carton.]

Nic: OK!  Well, I have to go to work tomorrow, so, goodnight!


Act 2, Scene 1

[5.30pm. K-man and Nic are on the packed commuter train heading for home.  The phone rings.]

Nic: Oh God.  They’re locked out.  I thought you demonstrated the trick with our door?

K-man: Last night I did, yes.  [answers the phone] Hello?

Nic: Shit.  I wonder how many of the neighbours they’ve met.

K-man: Hello?  Oh, you can’t get the door open.  Did you try the trick?  Like I showed you last night?  You have to turn the key to 9 o’clock.  Yes, 9 o’clock, 90 degrees to the left of straight up and down.  Then pull the door while turning the key a little bit more to the left.  You should hear a click.  [pause] No?  Oh, you met the neighbours?  Oh, good.   Just try the key again.  [pause].   Still no?  OK.  We’ll be home in half an hour.  Just sit on the step until then.  Hello?

Nic: Fucking hell.  The door isn’t THAT hard to open, especially if you have instructions.  How many of the neighbours did they meet?

K-man:     Some that we haven’t met yet, apparently.   We got cut off.  I’ll call back.  Hello?  Hello? Oh, you’re in?  Well done.  What? [pause].  OK, we’ll see you soon.  Bye.

Nic: They got in?  Good.

K-man: Yes, the door was unlocked probably at their first attempt.  All they had to do was push it.  You know, like you do when you want to open a door.


Act 2, Scene 2.

[A quiet suburban cul-de-sac.  K-man and Nic zoom around the corner on bikes.  Phil is in the street talking to a neighbour, who waves.  Phil closes the conversation and comes to the front step].

Phil: [loudly].  What a lovely woman.  Very interesting, you know.  Did you know her husband is from —

K-man: Father!  Shhh.  Could we wait until we get indoors before we talk about other people please.  [To the assembled crowd of neighbours].  Thanks!   Very warm, isn’t it?

Phil: [still on the front step] — the Province.  They offered us a cup of tea you know, very nice.  Do you know that woman?

Millie: Oh HELLOOOO!   You’re back at last.  We had terrible trouble.  What’s wrong with your front door?


Act 3, Scene 1

[A garden with tables and chairs, outside the cafeteria at a stately home open to the public.  It is sauna-hot, and Nic sits at a table in the shade.  K-man enters.]

K-man: Father wants to sit inside.

Nic: What?  Why?  It’s hotter than hell in there.

K-man: He doesn’t want to sit in the sun.

Nic: He wouldn’t be in the sun.  I specifically chose a table in the shade.  There’s no aircon inside, and there’s a breeze out here.

[K-man exits.  After a time, K-man enters followed by Millie and finally, Phil.  They sit.]

Nic: Is this OK?  It’s in the shade.

Millie:           Oh, yes, lovely.

[Phil is wearing a shirt, a jumper, and a coat.]

Phil: Very warm outside, isn’t it?

Nic: Not as warm as inside the cafeteria.  Are you OK, Phil?  Wouldn’t you like to take  your coat off?

Phil: No, no.

Nic: Maybe that’s why you’re too warm.

Phil: Whompf, womphf, [unintelligible].

[Phil removes his coat].

Act 3, Scene 2.

[Phil is telling a boring anecdote]

Nic: Wait.  His name’s Hill Dick?

Phil: Yes.  You know, there are a lot of Dicks in Northern Ireland.

Nic: Really?

[K-man shoots Nic a warning look]

Nic: But, Hill?

Phil: Yes.  Possibly it’s short for something but I don’t know what.

K-man: Hillard?   No, wife, don’t follow that through.

[Nic guffaws uncontrollably].

Phil: Yes, he can tell you anything you need to know about blades of grass.  It really is astounding.  I don’t know why you think that’s amusing.


Act 4, Scene 1.

[9pm, Sunday night.   After a day visiting yet more stately homes, Phil and Millie have enjoyed two-hour naps while K-man has done laundry and Nic has cleaned up the dinner, roasted and de-carcassed a chicken, prepared sandwiches, made chicken-stock from scratch, and packed her bag for work the next morning]

Millie: I think I’ll try out this new weeding tool in your front lawn.  I want to see if that concrete   edging extends all the way up to the house.

[Nic stares, open-mouthed and mute]

Millie: No?  Is that not OK with you?

Nic: Well, I just think its a bit of an odd thing for you to want to do.  [looks at watch].

Millie: Really?  [stare-down commences]

Nic: Well, whatever you want.

Millie: Right!  Fine.

[Fifteen minutes passes, during which loud scraping can be heard from the front garden.]

Nic: [to herself] I beg you, make it stop.

[Nic goes to the front garden where a good chunk of the lawn has been hacked away.  Remnants of lawn lie on the driveway].

Nic: Oh.

Millie: What?  No?

Nic: Well, I thought you were just quickly trying out the tool.

Millie: I am.  Do you not think this looks better?

Nic: It’s not that.  It’s just that I would like to GO TO BED.  I have to go to work tomorrow and I’m exhausted.

Millie: Right!  Fine!

[Fevered and pointed cleaning up ensues]

K-man: So, mother, we’re off to bed.  Tomorrow between 7am and 8am we will need a clear run in the bathroom and kitchen, OK?


Act 5, Scene 1

[Monday, 7.45am.  Upstairs.  Sounds can be heard from downstairs].

Nic: What’s going on down there?

K-man: Oh, they’re up and about.  I think they’re making their breakfast.

Nic: Now?  [looks at watch].  Perfect.  Completely perfect.

K-man: I know.  [sighs] They’ll be gone by tonight when we get home.



9 Responses to “The Edited Lowlights: A Tragi-Comedy”

  1. 1 unmitigated me (m.a.w.) June 29, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Makes Heather’s mum seem absolutely normal.

  2. 2 Ashley June 29, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    I can see all of that. And I’m so sorry.

    This weekend my in-laws came for a visit (they live in Chicago, we see them every few weeks or so). We sat down, all 7 of us, to watch Braveheart. Those who know me would gasp reading that. My MIL can’t sit still during movies. She also can’t concentrate on them while she is still. She can’t stay quiet during them. And she misses nuance and dialogue while she’s watching. So for a complex story that starts out with a quick review of the political climate of the day (Longshanks is a bastard) and then moves into dialogue which conveys a lot in an accent she’s not familiar with . . . OH DEAR GOD it was “what just happened?” and “what did he say?” and “why did they do that?” all night long. Plus, she draws really strange conclusions from everything in life, including what she’s seeing in a movie. So even when she tries to guess what’s going on, she’s WAAAAY off and we have to pause the movie to explain why that makes no sense and what the real story is. And then, of course, she finds religious reference in everything. And says so. And then my FIL argues with her on those points.

    Add all of that to me, a person who likes to shut everything else out while reading or watching a movie, really dig in and immerse myself in the story . . . and hating to see others miss crucial points because i know they’ll have the wrong idea from that point on. It’s torture.

    This movie is already hella long. We were there for almost 4 hours. And this was on a good day where all of that stuff above was on the low-frequency side.

    • 3 nic June 30, 2010 at 9:43 am

      Oh, Ashley, I am totally with you on the film-watching. Argh! No wonder it drives you crazy.

      Phil is not interested in popular culture, preferring to lecture anyone in the vicinity about Roman Baths and the relative merits of different railway gauges. So his approach when everyone else is trying to watch a film is to read his newspaper as loudly as humanly possible. RUSTLE RUSTLE RUSTLE GRUNT SHIFT RUSTLE RUSTLE. I’m like you – I need to embed myself in whatever I’m watching – so this is seriously annoying. As for the questions, yep, it’s Millie all over. Couple that with the fact that whenever there’s anything more intimate than kissing on screen it will be time to be asked whether we might have a cup of tea to distract from the debauchery.

  3. 4 Suzanne June 30, 2010 at 3:14 am

    Very Pinter-esque. Complete with heavily fraught pauses and all! Well done, Nic! Congratulations on surviving with little to no bloodshed!

    Pinter is probably better than Albee or Ayckbourne, I suppose. Either way, here’s hoping they don’t return to visit for quite a while!

  4. 5 Elizabeth June 30, 2010 at 5:48 am

    My in-laws broke our door trying to get into the house. They promised to replace it. It’s been 8 years.

    • 6 nic June 30, 2010 at 9:45 am

      What is it with in-laws? Millie broke one of our wedding crystal glasses 5 years ago, amidst promises to replace it. Still waiting. A door, though? I’d be sending them a bill.

  5. 7 Sophie June 30, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Ah, the Provincials, how I’ve missed them! I didn’t recongnise them at first but knew there was something familiar about stately homes and stare-downs….more please!

  6. 8 Ashley June 30, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    The paper rustling!! It would take all I had not to reach over and slap it out of his hands.

  7. 9 Denise July 1, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    I adore your writing and am thrilled to find you post-TWC!

    The line about needing a biscuit in the middle of the night just about did me in!

    As far as in-laws… there is no limit to the crazy stories I could tell. And, yes, they live two miles from us!

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