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Too Many Cooks

by D Alexander Tindale 

Posted: 11 October 2005
Word Count: 1870

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Exterior: A Blasted Heath. 3 witches gather round a large cauldron. The wind is howling.

W1: When shall we three eat again? In kitchen, lounge, from microwave.

W2: When Gardener's World is done, when the lottery's lost and won.

W3: We'll have corned beef on a bun.

W1: (beat) Dum de dum.

W2: Not very eldritch, really.

W1: Eh?

W2: The whole...dum de dum. Not really dripping with eldritch tones.

W1:It's a lot harder to adlib when you've not eaten.

W2: You had that adventurer not three months ago.

W1: He was stringy and tasted like glue.

W2: That's because what you thought was mayonnaise was actually glue.

W1: (annoyed) and that's not my fault either. You had the eye, I heard you bloody laughing.

W3: Alright, you two, that's enough...I'm tired of all this. Come make the tea, will you?

W1: I come; Earl Gray, milk in?

W2: That's the ticket.

W3: This is almost ready. (dropping a piece of something into the cauldron, it smoulders and fizzes in the contents)

W2: Don't put too much eye of newt in.

W3: It helps to put a little extra in. Makes the images clearer.

W2: But the last time we went a too far forward and I caught some lad in the toilets...I'll never look at a bag of mince the same way again.

There is the sound of rustling and a young man forces his way through some brambles.
He looks shocked as he sees the witches.

M: Speak, if you can; what are you?

W1: All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee Thane of Glamis.

W2: All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee Thane of Cawdor!

W3: All hail, Macbeth! That shalt be king hereafter!

M: Sorry, no. I'm looking for the Asda near Forres.

W3: Another one. (rolls eye)

W2: Go back to the ring road and take the second exit. Look out for...(pause for effect)...a little chef (evil fanfare)

M: A little chef? (fanfare)

W3: Yes, it has a kiddy area.

W2: Does great fry ups…if you don’t mind waiting three quarters of an hour.

M: Thanks. (Exeunt, looking puzzled)

W1: That's the third this week. I'm getting bored out here and it's freezing, too.

W2: At least we got some impromptu rehearsal.

W3: True, but it seems a bit samey after all this time. I was thinking of...I dunno, maybe re-writing.

W2: Not the whole prophecy?

W3: No, just maybe...well a few differences in rhythm, update it a little.

W1: (looks dubious) Like what?

W3: How about...'How do, Macbeth! You'll be thane of Cawdor in a bit.'

W2: Hasn't really got the same ring.

W1: I know... 'Yo and hail to thee Macbeth, your throne will come with Duncan's death!'

W3: Hmm. I think we should keep it as is.

W3 turns to W2 and pulls a face as though to say 'what is she talking about'(of W1) but W2 cannot see. W3 passes her the eye and does it again...they laugh. W2 passes the eye back.

W1: You sods! Are you doing it again?

W2: Doing what?

W1: I know you're doing it, I know you are!

W3: We're not doing anything. (They chuckle.)

W1 sulks and turns away on her rock.

W3: Oh, don't sulk. We were only having a laugh.

W1: At my expense, of course. Never have a little side-joke with me about her, do you? Hmm? HMM?

W3: I'm sorry, I didn't know it upset you that much. We're sorry, aren't we?

W2 nods

W3: She can't see you.

W2: I'm sorry. (Sticks up two fingers)

W1: Well...(hesitantly) alright. But no more or I'm taking my dragon toenails back.

W2 and 3: Alright.

Enter Hecate, carrying a basket.

W1: Why, how now, Hecate! you look angerly.

H: How many times have I told you to speak properly?

W1: Sorry.

H: I can't get any powdered vole. We've run out again.

W3: Her fault, her fault! (Pointing at W1)

W1: Snitch! It was only a Glamour, Hecate! And I looked Gorgeous!

H: Another seduction?

W1: 's (timid)

H: And who was it this time?

W1: 'l 'chie.

H: Speak up!

W1: Lionel Ritchie.

Hecate stands with her hands on hips.

H: This obsession has gone far enough. Go, now, and take down the posters.

W1 pouts and feels her way off stage.

H: Right, you two.

They stand to a ragged attention. Hecate walks up and down in front of them like a drill sergeant.

H: Now, we're going to shape up.

W2 and 3: Yes, Hecate.

H: We're going to prophesise like we've never prohesied before.

W2 and 3: Yes, Hecate.

H: No more wasting resources; I run a tight ship…. A tight… a tight clearing of slightly stubby trees. We're going to grab them with a foretelling then really go for the kill with a good doomsday spiel.

W2 and 3: Yes, Hecate.

H: Any sign of Macbeth?

W2: Not yet...just another bloke looking for Asda.

W3: Do you think we're wasting our time?

H: What do you mean (affronted)?

W3: It has been five hundred years.

H: The auspices were good, the chicken bones spoke true.

W3: They'd been used for stock, though. Maybe it took a little mojo out.

H: Mojo?

W2:I think what she's trying to say is...three witches were once revered and feared throughout the land.

H: And?

W3: Now the local schoolchildren pelt us with cheese strings. We're not exactly the wyrd sisters anymore.

W2: We're just weird.

H: Then it must be remedied. Come, sisters, we must bustle.

W1 re-enters looking sulky.

W3: What?

H: It means, get a bloody move on. Get you gone.

W3: Righto.

H: And at the pit of Acheron meet i' the morning; thither we will know his destiny.

They exit.

Interior: A Cavern. In the middle, a boiling cauldron. Thunder. Enter the three witches.
W1 has a clipboard.

W1: Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.

W2: Thrice and once the hedge-pig whin'd.

W3: Wait a moment.

W2: Come on.

W3: Ah, yes. Harper cries: 'Tis time, 'tis time.

W1: I have a confession to make...we kind of...ran out of a few things.

W3: Like?

W1: At last check we had no poisoned entrails, toads, swelter'd venom, fillets of fenny snake, eye of newt or toe of frog, wool of bat or tongue of dog.

W3: Adder's fork?

W1: No.

W3: Blind worm's sting or lizard's leg?

W1: Nope.

W3: Howlet's wing?

W1: Again, no.

W3: Okay, let's cut the list short. Do we, in any capacity, have any ingredients that we need?

W1: (checks down the list.) We have...a wolf's tooth, a witches' mummy, tiger's chaudron and some baboon blood.

W3: So, tell me again why we're here?

W1: I got substitutes...they'll work, it just might be a little weak.

W2: And I missed Trisha for this. Let's get on with it, then. Hecate'll be here soon, I don't want to be caught sitting on my thumbs.

They gather round the cauldron and begin to chant.

W1: (referring to clipboard.) Round about the cauldron go; in the Bernard Matthews throw. Gum, that under chair hath stuck, mix with management trainee snot.
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.

W1 passes clipboard to W2 along with eye. She scans it and sighs.

W2: Fillet of a breaded hake, in the cauldron boil and bake; Pair of jeans bought from Joe Bloggs, woollen jumper, cotton socks. Tuning fork and fake gold ring, turkey leg and southern fried wing. For a charm of powerful trouble, like a hell broth boil and bubble.

All: Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble.

The clipboard passes to W3

W3: Scale of gecko, tooth of wolf (W1 smiles brightly), Witches' mummy, tuna's tummy, root of onion digg'd i' the dark. Hat of a blaspheming Jew, can of Spam and Hobo's shoe, silver'd in the moon's eclipse, nose of berk and chicken lips. Biscuit fingers, skirt of drudge, piece of mouldy cadbury's fudge. Make the gruel thick and slab: add thereto a tiger's chaudron, for the ingredients in our cauldron.

W2: Cool it with a Baboon's blood, then the charm is firm and good.

Enter Hecate carrying heavy shopping bags.

H: You have prepared the potion of prophetic truth!

Witches: Yes, Hecate!

They cackle.

H: Stop that. O! Well done! I commend your pains, except for those unsightly stains, but everyone shall share the gains. And now about the cauldron sing, Like elves and fairies in a ring, enchanting all that...wait a moment.

W2: What is it?

H: My thumbs are pricking.

They witches wait for an expectant moment.

W3: Well?

H: Oh, come on!

W2: What?

H: You know! Oh, honestly...by the pricking of my thumbs something wicked this way comes.

The witches make noises of comprehension.



W3 makes a 'pcth' noise and looks like she should have known it all along.
A sound comes from the cavern entrance.
Enter a postman.

P: How now, you secret black and midnight hags!

H: I beg your pardon?

P: Sorry, I get a bit bored on the long routes. Special delivery for one 'H.Witch.'

H: Oh, (surprised) that's me.

P: Sign here.

She signs.

P: Whate'er thou art, (examining the signature) for thy good caution thanks; those fountain pens can leak something rotten.

He exits.
Hecate tears open the package and reads the covering letter with a growing expression of worry. Hecate clears her throat and stuffs the book up her robe.

W3: What is it?

W2: Ooooooh!

W1: What?

W2: Oooooooooooooh!

W1: What!?!?

W2: It's the new Harry Potter!

H: No, it's...er...nothing, really. Just a treatise on... (Backing toward exit) ...wool, and needles. Knitting! That's it.

W2: Knitting?

W3: Doesn't sound much like you, Hecate.

H: Well, you know, perils of old age, and all. Got to run.

She takes to her heels, almost tripping in her haste.

The witches shake their heads.

W1: You know, we really shouldn't waste this.

W2: You're right it'll get cold.

W3 takes the spoon and drinks, to be mirrored by the others.

W1: Show!

W2: Show!

W3: Show!

The cauldron smoke parts and wavers as they look on. After a few seconds pause W3 peers closer, murmuring as though reading a letter.

W3: Dear reader, we are proud to deliver to you a magnificent presentation; one of Shakespeare’s finest works, lovingly bound in dark green leather and gold leaf. The story of one man’s bloody rise to the throne of Scotland, Macb….

She looks at the other witches with an expression of undisguised fury. They share the eye, and mimic each other’s looks.

W3: Hecate? HECATE! Five hundred years. Five hundred!

W1: All those re-runs of The Good Life!

W2: Five hundred years sitting on my arse in a grubby clearing.

W3: Five hundred years! All the money I’ve wasted on crochet!

W2: Jigsaws!

W1: Sky Plus!

W3: (Taps w2 on shoulder) Um, do you still have that spell that makes your underwear shrink?

W2: Yes.

W1: I’ve got that one that makes your bottom change places with your mouth.

W1: Yes.

W3: How about the one that makes you punch yourself whenever you speak?

W2: Yes.

W3: (Cracking knuckles) Let’s go.

They exit.

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