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To Catch a Wink

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(door squeaks)

JOSH: (loudly) Good afternoon, Hut 33!

CHARLES: Ugh. Speak for yourself.

JOSH: Oh no, what's the matter, Charles? Did you translate more news about another German attack? Or did the vile Nazis sink another food supply convoy?

ARCHIE: Yes, what's the matter, Charlie? I thought grunting was reserved for us lower classes.

CHARLES: (tetchily) Insomnia, however, is reserved for those of us with the ability to have things on our minds, and sadly insomnia has taken me in her clutches. I haven't slept properly for weeks now. It's a wonder I'm still on my feet.

ARCHIE: Oh, you poor thing! Is that why you've been so hard at work on those crosswords all day?

CHARLES: Crosswords are a good way to keep one's brain in shape, Archie. You and Gordon have your word puzzles, I have my crosswords.

ARCHIE: They're not 'word puzzles', they're letter charts, and they're part of vital work to win the war. But you don't care who wins the war, do you?

CHARLES: Of course I care! The fate of the war has been weighing heavily on my mind for weeks! (prolonged yawn) I could lose half of our family's properties if the Germans win, and Uncle Henry can only protect me so much.

ARCHIE: Well, nice to see you so deeply involved in the fate of the free world. I have some sleeping aides for you, Charles. (cracks knuckles) Do you prefer the right or the left one? The right one's guaranteed to be efficient in one dose, but I'm more than willing to try repeated applications of the left.

CHARLES: Oh yes, the working class at its height of compassion, as usual, and compounding the injury with the pretension at wit. Some of us have more on our minds than the next meal and pint. Intellectual fatigue, the burden of which you'll never endure, is known to cause Morpheus to abandon the restless would-be sleeper to the unkind arms of...

MINKA: Charles, if you not shut up, Minka give special iron-coated sleeping pill. (sound of gun being cocked)

ALL: Gah!

JOSH: Minka! Stop doing that! You're going to frighten us to death one day!

MINKA: Pah, you British are weak. Back in Polish Youth Resistance, we had special training program for new recruit. We let him fall asleep in nice cosy bunk bed, we take kitchen pan and spoon, and then... we play music. New trainee always fall on floor, very funny. (laughs, unsettingly)

CHARLES: Well, I am glad I was not a plucky young Pole trainee then. (sotto voce) And not for the first time.

ARCHIE: So your Greek boyfriend has deserted you, has he? Turns out there's only so much pompousness even an imaginary foreign deity can take.

CHARLES: Insomnia is a terrible torment for the body, mind, and soul alike, Archie. Not that I expect you to understand. You've probably never missed a night's sleep in your life. What could possibly keep you awake? Dread of the working class being replaced by machines? Fear of the north running out of coal?

JOSH: Haha, good one, Charles. Imagine, the coal ever running out! That's like saying we could ever be running out of- of trees, or water!

ARCHIE: I have important intellectual things on my mind too! (pause) (longer pause) I am constantly preoccupied by the direction of the Communist Party!

CHARLES: Oh, I saw the Communist Party yesterday. It was heading steadily in the direction of the pub. You can probably catch up with it, Comrade Bobby must be under a table somewhere, searching for the doctrine.

ARCHIE: Hey, there's more than Comrade Bobby and me in the Party! And us communists have been toughened by hard work and dedication to the Revolution. It takes more than the weak ale they serve there to knock down a comrade. Speaking of which, I'm heading to the bar. Mrs B was saying something about a new whiskey delivery, and I want to get there before Hut 6. I'm not letting that bunch of nancy boys drink all my whiskey again.

GORDON: Ooh, and there might be fresh orange squash, too! I think there was mostly coloured water in my last glasses, to be honest.

CHARLES: Well, nice to see a bright young mind like yours be so quick on the uptake. I'll join you, maybe a few glasses of claret will reacquaint me with the kingdom of dreams.


MRS BEST: Good afternoon, boys. Hello, Professor! Nice to see you so early! What will it be?

CHARLES: A glass of your finest, please. Or whatever you have that was not made from dandelions, root vegetables, or any other plants than the noble grapevine.

ARCHIE: What's the news on that whiskey, Mrs B?

GORDON: And is there really fresh orange squash? I'd like a really big one.

MRS BEST: Here's your wine, Charles. (seductively) And a special treat to round up the day, later?

CHARLES: Mrs Best, for the thousandth time: I am not going to sleep with you!

GORDON: But I thought you were desperate to get some sleep, Charles.

MRS BEST: Oh, Gordon, bless! Not that kind of sleep... Though well, you can sleep afterwards, I suppose. If you're into that kind of thing...

ARCHIE: See, Charlie-boy? Maybe Morpheus is waiting for you in Mrs B's bed.

MRS BEST: Oi! I'll have no rumours of that sort, I've reputation to maintain here!

CHARLES: It's all right, Mrs B, Archie is just referring to my continuous inability to get some decent sleep.

ARCHIE: Charles is being lazy again, Mrs B. He can't even be bothered to count sheep properly.

CHARLES: Ugh. I have the most terrible case of insomnia, Mrs B, and yet I'm being worked into the ground by the demands of my country.

MRS BEST: (warmly) Oh, but I have the perfect remedy for you, Charles!

CHARLES: Mrs B, I am already beyond exhausted, the last thing I need is your kind of remedy.

MRS BEST: I wasn't talking about that. Although, now that you mention it, I used to suffer from insomnia pretty badly when I was younger. Turns out all I needed was some... physical activity. You know, get the body exhausted so the mind can rest, and all that.

ARCHIE: I see. Good to see you practising such an intensely healthy lifestyle, Mrs B.

MRS BEST: Not so intense lately, what with everyone being so down all the time... You boys work too hard. You should... play harder, too. But I was actually talking about this.

(glass on wood)

ARCHIE: What's this?

MRS BEST: A herbal remedy. It's very healthy. Helps you relax and sleep, with lavender, and camomile and that sort of things.

GORDON: Oh look, it must be healthy, it's got celery too!

MRS BEST: Oh, does it?

CHARLES: Nice try, Mrs B.


(loud knocking on door)

ARCHIE: Charles? You asleep yet?

CHARLES: No.

ARCHIE: (mutters) More's the pity.

CHARLES: What do you want?

ARCHIE: Well, I wanted to check on you, see how's your 'bad case of insomnia'.

CHARLES: I see. So you can wake me up if by some chance I had succeeded in falling asleep, or to taunt me if, as is the case, the comfort of dreams still eluded me.

ARCHIE: Basically, yeah.

CHARLES: How very noble. Any other reason why you're squatting at my door?

ARCHIE: No reason.

CHARLES: Then would you mind going away?

ARCHIE: Why, do you have anything better to do?

CHARLES: That's an easy one: anything would be better, so: yes.

(loaded silence)

CHARLES: Are you still there?

ARCHIE: Maybe.

CHARLES: Archie, is it possible that you can't sleep either?

ARCHIE: Can't sleep with you pacing on top of my head.

CHARLES: I'm not pacing.

ARCHIE: Not now, but you're going to in about half an hour. You've been doing it for the past week.

CHARLES: So what's stopped you from sleeping before?

(silence)

CHARLES: Ah, so even a hard-working member of the working class can be afflicted by the 'disease of the toff'. 'Curse of the nancy boys.' I would empathise with your suffering, if you were a completely different person, and I didn't know you.

ARCHIE: The sentiment is very much mutual.

(silence)

(door creaks open)

CHARLES: I think I still have an unfinished crossword from yesterday. Though I would be astonished if you could finish it. And I don't mean by scribbling random letters and pretending you're using an encryption algorithm.

ARCHIE: It's called the Caesar cipher! And my mind was still focused on work that one time, because I'm not a time-wasting toff like others I could name, Charles! I'm going to the saloon bar to work on it.


ARCHIE: Hey, Gordon. What are you doing here?

GORDON: I couldn't sleep, so I'm working on a mathematical proof. Simon from Hut 10 said he could try and get it published in his father's math journal! What are you doing here, I thought you were trying to get some sleep with Susie Wilson again?

CHARLES: Oh, Archie. Keep trying and she might eventually be overcome with pity.

ARCHIE: Gordon, remember what I explained to you about the two kinds of sleep?

GORDON: Yes.

ARCHIE: Then try to remember what I said about shutting up, too.

GORDON: (sheepish) Sorry.

CHARLES: Well, it looks like all of us have been revoked access to the King of Dreams' demesne. Might as well drown our sorrows together.

GORDON: I wonder if Minka is having any trouble sleeping. It would feel weird not to have her-

MINKA: Minka never have trouble sleeping. Minka is always vigilant.

ALL: Gah!

ARCHIE: Hello, Minka.

CHARLES: Well, if there were any doziness left in me, that was sure to scare it away.

(door creaks open)

JOSH: Hello, chaps! Did I forget about the meeting again?

ARCHIE: What meeting?

JOSH: This meeting.

ARCHIE: Josh, it's the middle of the night.

JOSH: So?

ARCHIE: There is no meeting!

JOSH: Oh. Well, I was taking a stroll outside, and I saw the light, and you were all here, so I thought I'd have to be here too.

ARCHIE: It must be the moonlight. The human brain was not meant to sleep with this much light on. It's like a bloody search light!

CHARLES: Oh dear, Archie. Do you also feel an explained urge to howl at it? This would explain so much...

ARCHIE: Oh, haha.

JOSH: It is unusually bright, isn't it. I could see the road plain as the day.

GORDON: Do you think one could fly a plane in this light?

CHARLES: Gordon, don't be ridiculous.

JOSH: Oh no, do you think the moonlight presents a tactical danger? Just when we're trying to reinforce the curfew during the blackouts!

ARCHIE: Yes, Josh, I'm sure the moon can act like a lighthouse. If it wasn't for the constant cloud cover, no one would ever bother with ground lights.

JOSH: Oh dear, oh dear! Do you think we should alert Bomber Command about this?

GORDON: (shyly) I think they're having a-

ARCHIE: (loudly) Of course! In fact, Josh, I think it's your duty to alert both your father and Colonel Standring, just to be sure.

GORDON: But it's the middle of the night!

ARCHIE: Surely a military man's job knows no night or day, especially for such an emergency?

JOSH: Oh, right-o, if you think it's for the best...

ARCHIE: Don't forget to tell us exactly what he said!

CHARLES: See you in the morning, in Hut 33!