When it is Over

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: The Imaginarium
Fifth of five short plays about the First World War. Not the usual stories about trench warfare, but more about the lives that were affected at home, and the change in society.

Four monologues to remember those who died in the conflict.

Submitted: November 03, 2018

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Submitted: November 03, 2018



Centre stage there is one lit candle. Four characters come onto the stage to read the four parts related to time, tear, poppy and candle. Time steps forward first and reads names from a sheet.


John Culshaw; William German; William Hesketh; John Hyland; Albert Keating; Thomas Knowles; Anderson Nixon; Charles S Prescott; Joseph S Prescott; James Threlfall; and Thomas Todd.
Just eleven names of people I don’t know. It doesn’t take long to read them; just about 20 seconds. If I were to read the names of all the allied soldiers and civilians that died in the Great War; if my voice did not falter; if I spoke constantly and took no rest I would be standing here for 166 days and nights.
If I have no time to read the names, how then am I to remember them? As time builds a gulf between their world and ours, it cannot distance our gratitude to them, nor should it. So let time itself be a memorial to them. Each swing of the pendulum in a grandfather clock in some stately hall shall mark a life lost, as will the moving hand on the cheapest wristwatch. Timepieces of all standing shall reflect the lives given.
Time shall change the generations. New lives will be born and they will know peace, as we have known it.
We can stand and watch the sun rise and set; we can watch the moon wax and wane as each month passes. We will see the wheat grow and ripen; the leaves turn from green to brown and fall. We shall wrap warm against the cold rain as it beats out time on our faces. With each breath, and with each moment we will know that we are alive.
For them there is no time at all. It stopped as they died. Leaving only a memory of what they were and a promise of what they could have achieved. 

Time steps back and Tear steps forward.


A tear will fall each time a memory comes to those who remember them. Today those tears might be fewer, but once they would have flowed freely from many who had lost a love, a family member or a friend.
There would be dry spells. The grievers would armour their spirits and stride on through their lives, but another shower would be ever near them. The sight of a favourite hat might draw more tears. So too might the sound of a well-loved melody, or just the idea of sharing a thought with one who is no longer there to tell.
Each tear would leave a trail as salty as the sea to which it was headed. For whichever tributary, or brook or river is its route, it will end up in the ocean of grief. That ocean covers all our world. No matter where the tears fall, the sea rising or falling affects us all. If we let it, it will sweep us away to war once more.
What of the tears that may have fallen had the soldiers returned? We will never know what melody might have been born, and what feelings it would have evoked. We will not know what painting would have caused someone to stand and gasp. Most of all we will not know what tears of joy would have come from a simple question with a ring attached.
Do we need the tears? Do they fall upon us like the rains on a parched earth, bringing forth flowers that show us the beauty after the storm? What flowers shall we see?

Tear steps back and Poppy steps forward.


Shall we see the poppy, in its red mantle where the land is freshly turned? It lives but one year, yet it brings such a glory of colour. Do we see it as just a simple flower, nourished from the generation lost? Will it last forever as a symbol of a victory for one side, or will mankind see the victory the way King Pyrrhus saw his? Is there now so much at stake that any victory will come at too high a price?
The sun that falls on the poppy is the same on all flowers. It is the same on all faces and on all land. Do the poppies in the field know what country they are in? Do they know where the border is? Does the same sun not shine on them wherever they grow?
Does the single red flower know why the soil was turned allowing its seed to awaken? Does it know why there is so much nutrient on which to feed? If it knew, would it care? Would it instead just live for the year and leave the germ of life for another generation?
What of those who look on the fields of poppies: will they care? Will they just live without understanding the loss, or will they see it as bloodstain upon the land and upon the conscience of the nations that took part?
After many generations of poppies do we really know why they grow there? Was the death of one man worth the deaths of so many who did not even know his name?
The poppy seed can lie quietly in the soil and wait for the soil to turn and the rain to come. It can rise with new life and begin again. After that it leaves new seed waiting for another spring.
Those we left silent in the soil will remain that way forever; never again to see the sun, or feel the rain. They remain as silent as the congregation that remembers the sacrifice they made. 

Poppy steps back and Candle steps forward.


As the congregation looks upon the candle and remembers those that gave so much, they will see the flame flicker and give light. Just as the candle is consumed to give light, so too were their lives. It is right that we are saddened by the loss, but we must remember why their flame was short but bright. They did not expect a darkness to threaten their land, but they did not hide from it when it came.
They marched to muddy trenches and waited the order to climb and run into fear. I do not know whether I would have courage enough to do that. What I do know is that I shall be forever grateful I was never called upon to find out.
A hundred years from now no one will remember me as we remember them. The light they gave will always shine upon our world, even in the darkest night. It will call on us to stand up one more time and push forward; to make a difference.
How then should we best honour the sacrifice they made? Perhaps we should just appreciate every step on the grass of the land they were fighting to protect? If we appreciate what they left us, then we shall have honoured them.
Every free word written, every free opinion uttered and every day of peace shall be as much a memorial to them as the stones that bear their names. Each day we will show them we are grateful, and we will do that every day until our own flame goes out.
Candle snuffs out or blows out the flame. All leave the stage taking the candle with them.

© Copyright 2019 Kevin Broughton. All rights reserved.

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