The Long Way Home

Written for The University of Melbourne 24Hr Play 

THE LONG WAY HOME by Emily Armanios and Alexander Hagemeyer
STIMULI: CHARACTERS
(in order of appearance):
PROPS: TECH:
Object: Photo Frame Thelma Photo Frame
(large enough to be a window)
Mic for sound effects
(optional)
Word: Hairspray Young Man Newspaper Standard Lighting
Event: Cyclone Young Lady Chair(s)
Location: Train Disembodied Voice
Random Passerby
Matt – Uber Driver
Old Lady
Busker

THELMA is sitting on a chair in the foreground of the train, looking out of the window. A couple comprising of A YOUNG MAN and a YOUNG LADY are in the background, standing up and holding onto the hanging straps. They are swaying with the movement of the train. The Young Man is holding a rolled up newspaper in his free hand.

YL:
I don’t like trains. They make me nervous.

YM:
You must know that’s totally irrational, right? If you would think about it logically, using your brain, you might realize they aren’t very dangerous after all.

YL:
Leave me be, you scoundrel. I don’t tease
you about your fear of spiders.

YM (indignant):
Spiders — spiders have venom! And fangs! I wish I were courageous enough to face one on my own. My personal belief is that anyone who’s not afraid of spiders must secretly be one.

The Young Lady pauses, looking at him and rolling her eyes.

YL:
Just pass me the paper so I can take my mind off this hundred-tonne death machine.

The Young Man passes her the paper, chuckling, and she unrolls it to look at the front cover. The Young Woman scans the paper for a moment before her face becomes alarmed.  

YL:
Oh, Steve, you didn’t tell me about this!

YM:
What? What is it?

YL:
Today’s paper says that there’s a cyclone coming from up North straight to Melbourne. Are you sure we’re gonna make it to that side-street performance of
Kangaroos and Koalas? Because you know I wanted to see that Hairspray show after it.

YM:
I’m sure we will, darling.

YL (panicked):
This is why I hate trains! What if we get thrown up into the air like
The Wizard of Oz?

YM:
That was a tornado.

YL:
They’re
cousins in the natural disaster family! There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…

YM:
Stacy! Listen. Nothing’s going to happen — it’s not like the bloody cyclone is going to delay all the trains and then we’ll have to get off and somehow find our way into the heart of Melbourne without the use of the public transport system, miss both shows, and then be late for lunch with your parents!

The train decelerates to a stop, and then an announcer’s tone comes through the speakers, followed by a voice.

DISEMBODIED VOICE:
Good morning passengers and we hope you have been enjoying your journey. We regret to inform you that this train has been delayed until further notice as representatives deemed it unsafe to travel any further with the impending cyclone. Sorry for the inconvenience and please find alternative methods of travel.

THELMA:
That’s awful!

DISEMBODIED VOICE:
You’ll live.

Thelma is surprised by this, but brushes it off. Silence for a moment. The train doors open, and the Young Lady and Young Man file out, mumbling under their breath about “21st Century Bullshit”. Thelma, suddenly worried, sighs and runs her fingers through her hair, and walks out of the train doors before they close behind her.

THELMA:
How will I get to school now? No buses around… bike’s at home…

A RANDOM PASSERBY walking their dog hears Thelma talking to herself.

PASSERBY (matter-of-factly):
Why don’t you just catch an Uber?

THELMA:
Oh. Okay. That sounds reasonable. Thanks, passerby!

PASSERBY (with finger guns):
You betcha, Thelma!

Thelma does a double-take as she realises she never said her name. Shaking it off, she takes out her phone and taps on it for a few moments. After a couple of seconds of waiting, the Uber Driver, MATT, arrives and Thelma enters the car.

THELMA (to herself):
That was quick! Um, hello sir, I would really appreciate it if you could drive me to Melbourne Uni… as fast as possible.

MATT:
Of course ma’am; I do this for a living so I will have you there in no time, no time at all.

THELMA:
Excellent! I am in a bit of a rush now after my train almost got derailed by an enormous cyclone.

MATT:
Oh.. really? I did hear about a cyclone, but no “derailed trains”. It’s not gonna hit until noon.

THELMA (spluttering):
Tch, well, I did say
almost!  

MATT (under his breath):
Drama queen…

Matt quickly looks up and to the right for a police camera and presses the gas hard.

THELMA:
Sorry, was that a red light we just passed?

MATT:
You did say as fast as possible! I beg your pardon, but I don’t want to be mocked while travelling in my own personal motorized individualized VEHICLE!

THELMA:
You can’t just do whatever you want! You know what the lights mean, right? Green, go; orange, beware; red, stop?

MATT:
Do you know what my butt in the driver’s seat means? You can’t do anything about it!

THELMA:
I’ll… I’ll… leave you a bad review! ONE STAR!

Matt is affected by this, and dabs at his forehead as he breaks out into a sweat.

MATT:
Okay. I won’t run any more red lights. Maybe a couple of orange ones though… kidding!  

THELMA (after a pause):
You know what? I think I’m good here. You can just drop me off here.

MATT:
We haven’t arrived at Melbourne University yet. Don’t you want to travel the whole journey?

THELMA:
No, no, I’m okay. Just here is fine.

MATT:
Okay, you’re the boss, boss.

The car stops. Thelma checks her phone to view her receipt.

THELMA:
You just charged me the whole fare? We only went a couple of streets!

MATT:
Gotta make a living somehow.

THELMA:
Whatever. (whispers) One star.

A little disheartened, Thelma must take to walking until she can find another mode of transport. The streets are narrow and she finds herself behind an OLD LADY.

THELMA (to herself):
Am I an asshole if I tell this old woman to move out of my way? Ugh, that’s definitely asshole material. Okay. Try and walk around. All right
no there’s a lady with a pram coming my way. Just stay behind the slow walker.

OLD LADY:
I can hear you, you red-slippered devil.

THELMA:
I’m so sorry! But, in that case, could you please step to the side a little? I’m going to Melbourne University.

OLD LADY (sarcastically):
Congratulations. I am in awe.

THELMA:
If only there was a way I could get there quicker! How can I speed up my travel?

OLD LADY:
I’m merely here to hinder you, dearie.

THELMA:
I won’t let you! I need to get to school urgently. Nothing else matters!

OLD LADY:
I’ve never seen such a dedicated student! However, you must be wary of your own desires as they may lead you to a sullen fate.

THELMA:
That’s way too cryptic for me to even comprehend right now. I’ve got shit to do, places to be!

OLD LADY:
Heed my warning, the governess of wild winds will whisk away the wilful woman, today! AT NOON! NOOOOOOOON.

THELMA:
Stop trying to distract me with your alliteration, you wicked witch!

The Old Lady cackles maniacally.

Thelma finally pushes past the Old Lady, breaking free onto the other side of the street. On the other side, a man (the BUSKER) is busking with his various animals. People stop for a couple of seconds before continuing on with their day. There is a small crowd watching the koalas and kangaroos. The BUKSER has a very Australian accent.

THELMA (shaking her head): The things you see on the side of the street…

BUSKER: Welcome one and all! I am the BOGANY BUSKER of AUS. Here we have some marvelous and magnificent creatures, consisting of only Kangaroos and Koalas. I urge you to come close and say hello, but please — pay no mind to the creature behind the curtain.

From behind the curtain, a strange creature growls. The Young Man and the Young Lady make it to the show and look relieved.

YL:
Okay, so I must admit, the hot-air balloon was a good call.

YM:
You never know when you need to head up three hundred meters or so!

BUSKER (interrupting):
What brings you two to this wonderful show?

YL: Well, I was hoping that you had with you… spiders? I’m trying to help my boyfriend get over his phobia.

The Young Man is alert.

BUSKER:
Well, I don’t think I have any spiders with me… but, you can have this little spider plush toy. I got it earlier at the Spider Fair.

THELMA:
That’s… a thing that exists?

BUSKER:
Why, this is Aus! Anything goes! And with this cute Spider toy, I grant you your courage! (under his breath) for a small fee of fifteen dollars.

The Young Lady scowls for a second before reaching into her purse, paying the Busker. After receiving the money, the Busker hands the Young Man a plush toy of a cute spider.

YM:
Well, it is pretty adorable… but, Stacy, I can’t believe you were going to try and scare the phobia out of me! Listen, Animal Man, how about you instill some logic in my dear girlfriend about how trains are not very scary at all?

BUSKER (turning towards the YOUNG LADY):
Well, my dear, you should know that commuting by train is second-safest form of travel! Just behind planes, of course. You’re fifteen times more likely to get struck by lightning than to get hurt in a train crash!

YL:
Oh… I didn’t know that. But train crashes are always being talked about on the news!

BUSKER:
Yes, well, that’s because they’re so very rare! I assure you, train-travelling is one of the safest ways to get around.

YL:
That makes me feel a lot better, and if I really think about it, it makes sense.

YM:
I guess we both got something we needed today! But check out that big kangaroo! What’s his name?

BUSKER:
This Hunk of a Roo is called Kanga! In my opinion, kangaroos are simply put, the best creatures in Australia. And do you know why? It’s because they are
so strong, they could support a fully-grown person! For example, if by chance a person wanted to ride one from here to Melbourne Uni, the Kangaroo would be powerful enough to support them.

THELMA:
That’s — oh wow. Sometimes everything just falls into place, huh? To whoever is looking out for me, thank you, thank you!

DISEMBODIED VOICE:
You’re welcome.

BUSKER:
Excuse me ma’am, did you say something?

THELMA (taking a deep breath in):
I’m so sorry about this!

Thelma runs up to one of the kangaroos and jumps on it, this freaks it out and begins to hop frantically in every direction. Thelma holds on tight and uses her body to steer it in the right direction, towards Melbourne Uni, and the cyclone.

BUSKER:
OI, COME BACK HERE MATE!

YM:
Did that girl just
mount the kangaroo?

YL:
Doesn’t she know that the cyclone’s about to hit?

THELMA:
Yes, I did; and yes, I know, but
I really have to get to school!

As Thelma is riding the kangaroo she feels the breeze lifting the kangaroo higher with each jump, and begins to feel slight drops of rain.

THELMA:
I’m in the cyclone! I’m really in it! Oh man, there’s no place like home…

She closes her eyes and prepares to see the light. The other characters on stage become the storm, chanting and making wind noises. They circle around Thelma, getting faster and faster, closing in on her until she is hidden from the audience. Silence. But after a second, she finds herself on steady ground with her trusty steed supporting her. The rest of the characters go off-stage, leaving just Thelma with her kangaroo. She squints open an eye, surprised to find herself at Melbourne Uni.

THELMA:
I’ve… I’ve finally made it! I’m in the eye of the storm at Melbourne University, exactly where I needed to be! Oh joy, my heart flutters with excitement! With nobody around for miles.

She pulls the straps of her backpack and shrugs her shoulders.

THELMA (cont’d):
Well! Time to start rehearsal for the UHT 24 Hour Play. I’ve got so many great ideas!

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