On the tiny Channel Isle of Herm, the church play is shaping up to be a disaster unless simple-minded Dev can save the day; by Paul Sherman.
One dude once said, 'Yeah, I see why they call you gofer. You look like one.'
So I went on the web to find some gofer pics. There is a 'gofer' spelt odd, with a 'ph' instead of a 'f'. There be loads of pics of the 'gofer' with the 'ph'. It's a beast from the USA. There be a word that begin with 'indig...' means it comes from that place only. I can't spell very well tho' I'm OK with short words, and even then, I spell some wrong.
I stare at the pics of the 'gofer' spelt with the 'ph' and then I look in the glass. What I see is like what is in those pics, I have to own. There is buck teeth and rings round the eyes (like my specs) and a daft look. It makes me sad. That this is how folk see me. Well, some folk.
When I tell Mike, he says 'Dev. It's what's in a man. You're a good guy Dev. And I am going to take you to Herm with me.'
Herm. I have not heard of Herm. (Herne Bay I do know; I did work on a farm in Kent with my Ma and Pa til they have no more use for me and sent me on my way.)
Mike is a man of the stage; he do put on plays. He do the Bard and he do farce and some sad plays too. He gets his cast of folk from all over and he work them hard. Often he gets cross and he do shout at them. Mike lets me work for him. I am his gofer; gofer with the 'f' that is, not the 'ph'. I like being Mike's gofer. The stuff I does seems to make him happy. He never ever shout at me.
One day he say to me: "Dev, I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have you here." That made me feel real good, when he said that. Real warm, in my tummy.
So we are off to Herm to do a play in a kirk. I have found Herm on the web; it is a tiny isle in the midst of the sea. It do have a small kirk called St. Tugal. I don't think I spelt that right, so I shall call it St. T. It is very old they say. Mike is doin' a play known as 'Noah's Flood.' It is an old play from the Mid Age. Folk who work in a type of trade used to do it on a cart. We are going to do it in St. T's Kirk. On Herm. In the midst of the sea. And I am right proud.
So now we are on the Isle of Herm - me, Mike and the cast of Noah's Flood. We do stay in tents in a big field. Some of us do share, but me and Mike have a tent each.
I have never slept in a tent, tho' I did once sleep rough for a night or two in some big city when my mum and dad did kick me out.
The tent is nice, and I have a big warm bag to snug up in.
At the break of day, after bread, jam and tea, we all trek up to St. T's, the kirk I told you about. It is a tiny kirk with an L-shape and it is very old and very nice - just right for Noah's Flood I'd say.
At the front of the kirk is an altar and this be our stage. It isn't too big but Mike says if we take the front two rows in each limb of the 'L-shape' out, it'll give us a bit more room. This is one of my jobs, so I set to movin' the seats into a room in the small house next door.
There be nine cast in all - Noah, Mrs Noah, their three sons and the son's wives. So that's eight. Oh yes, I forgot. God is also in it - at the start and the end.
Now you'll be sayin' to each other - what about the live-stock? I was comin' to that.
Ten mins to the start of the show, and no Noah. I am to run down to the pub and see if he is there, for he do have a love of the ale. Just as I set off, he turn up and he is very drunk. They sit him in the open air and we do give him water and latte. I am told to get the kids in order. You asked about the live-stock. Well that's where the kids come in.
Now I have seen to cows and sheep but never kids and they do look scary to me. They make so much noise. The lion do poke the tiger with a stick, the sheep do bleat, to try to get it right, I think, but it do sound rank. Then the horse ask to go to the WC but (1) I do not know if it is a boy or a girl and (2) I think the WC is way down the hill by the pub and (3) I do not think there is time.
A good lady do come out of her house and allow the child to use her WC, so that is OK. The rhino is now tryin' to stab all the rest with his horn, but it is only made of card and I worry that he might break it. The hippo, a surly girl in a grey suit too tight for her, has sat down and will not get up, even when she is told she can have an ice cream. She just will not move.
The hyena do laugh at all of us and the bleat of the sheep do grate on me. I have never had a need to slap a body before, but I would love to slap that sheep.
Then the ape say she got fleas in her ape-suit and she do start to rub her back agin the wall, when great bits of her fur do start to fall off.
"Hey, stop that," I say, but she make a very rude sign at me, picks up her fur and start to shove it down the top of the suit of the hippo. She do start to scream, folds her arms and still won't get up.
Then I do smell a funny smell in the air.
"What's that?" I shout.
It is the skunk, which I s'pose is right for him if he do act the part, but what he must have had for lunch, I do not care to guess.
In the kirk, Noah's three sons are at the back, playing poker. Mike does not think this is right, bein' a kirk and all.
"Go and stop them Dev," he say. I go in and stand over them.
"It's the gofer," Ham say to me. "What's up gofer? Want some nuts?"
I tell them to stop the poker game. They laugh. I tell them again. Ham say to me:
"You ain't half ugly gofer."
I say, "If you didn't have to act in a play in a bit, I'd black your eye. Then I'd bash your nose."
I did learn to stand up for my own self, 'cos no one would do it for me. I do now. And right proud of me I am too for doing it.
I fix Ham with my glare and he fix me with his, and you know, folks, he give up and says to the other two sons of Noah:
"Game's over guys; stack 'em." Then he look at me and say, "I'll deal with you later."
By now, Mrs Noah is in a panic over her skirt, which will not stay up.
"Fix it Dev," Mike says to me.
Now Mrs Noah is known as a bit of a lady's lady who don't like men to touch her, so I see the look of fear on her face as I move near her with a large pin. I don't know if it was the pin she was afrit of or me, bein' a male and all. Never mind, I got round the back of her and let the pin do its work. She do not like me at her rear end and there are a few tears and a small cry at one point when I do miss the dress with the pin and get her rump in its place. She is not a happy bunny on which I do pin her tail.
Shem's wife do bawl out. She is on her phone.
"The rat!" she cries out. "He's two timed me. That's it. I can't go on. I'm too upset."
Mike do stare at her as if she has lost her mind.
"Dev!" he call out to me. "Talk to her."
Shem's wife's face is red, her eyes full of tears and she do look at me as if she will lose it any time. I do not like to talk to this lady. She do scare me. I think if I say the wrong thing, she will claw my eyes out. She is like that.
But no. She don't go for me. She start tryin' to claw Ham's wife's eyes out in place of mine.
"You snide cow!" she do say. "You bin havin' it off with my man."
It's vexin' bein' in show biz. I stand and wait for the storm to blow over. I'm sure the folks who watch our play won't see the claw marks down Ham's wife's face and Shem's wife's puffy eyes and runny nose. As long as she don't check her phone on stage. Mike would not like that.
The kirk do fill up with folk and there are a lot of them. They stand at the back and sit in the aisle. It is what we call in show biz a full house.
I check the kids. There do not seem to be any probs there. The tiger has got the stick off the lion so there be no more pokin'. Well, not much. The sheep and the hyena are quiet now - for those that are not, I have tape ready - tape that I can stick over a mouth.
The ape has no fur left on her back at all, so she has to make sure she do face the front all the time. And the skunk still do not smell at all nice but only the front row will know.
The sons are ready to go on, Mr Noah is a bit more sober and is goin' over his lines. Every so often he do aid his mind with the help of a small flask he keep hid in his robe.
Mike give me the thumb up sign. Show time, he do mime to me.
I press a knob on my key board to start the sound. St. T's do fill up with the sound of Duran Duran with 'Girls on Film.' I stop the sound and see Mike with his head in his hands. This time I press the knob, the right sound do come out.
'Tis a piece of holy music that do sound like the sea. And the play is ready to begin...
Only it don't. I see Mike mime at me:
"Where is God?"
Now I know that this is a big query that a lot of folk do ask and I think why do Mike ask me this now, with 'Noah's Flood' about to start.
All is not well. He mouth at me again, "Where the hell is God, Dev?" and I know what he be sayin' now. God opens the show - I mean the man who play the part of God, and he is not here.
God has to come on at the start and say a bit and then call Noah and tell him to build the Ark.
There is real worry in Mike's face. God is not here.
The crew do go out and scout round for God, and I think upon this.
Here we are in St. T's kirk and there is no God. It do not make sense.
Mike come over to me, near to tears. I do not like to see Mike upset, so I say:
"Mike. Fear not. I will be God."
He look at me as if I am crazy, but I go ahead. I put on a spare robe that hangs on the back of a chair, take my specs off and ruff up my hair.
I am about to walk out to start the show and I see Shem's wife is on her phone again, so I do grab it from her and put it in the folds of my robe. She looks cross but does not speak.
Then, tryin' to look like God, I walk out in front of the crowd. Mike do start the music again.
Now you might find it hard to take, but I have seen that play done so many times that I do know all the words. I could never read it mind, on the page, but I know it all - in my head.
So I, Dev, go out there, and play God. My voice do swell and fill that tiny kirk, as I spout God's lines.
I have never acted in my life afore, but I do give it my all now. I just reach the bit where I call upon Mr Noah to build his ark, when Shem's wife's phone do go off in my robe.
The crowd are quiet. They wait.
I whip the phone out, press it to stop it, put it to my ear and I say:
"Hello? Yes, I will see Mr Noah now. Send him up."
And the folk do laugh and clap. And I see Mike grin at the side of the kirk, so I know I done right.
Mr Noah come in and his nose do not look all that red from his time in the pub. I say to him to build the ark, how big it should be and then I exit. And the crowd do clap again as I go off, and I feel right proud.
The play do go with no hitch at all. Well, not many. The skunk do smell so bad we do not let him go on. Mr Noah do lose his lines at one point but a quick swig from his flask gets him going again.
Mrs Noah's pin do come out and she all but lose her skirt. She do have to hold it up with both hands and when she make to wave her arms, she gets near to losin' it agin. Then Shem's wife do have a go at Ham's wife.
"Cow!" she do shout. "Cow!"
At which point, the child who do play the cow think she has to come on. She walk on to the stage.
"Moo!" she say.
Shem goes on to get the child, sayin', "Sorry, the cow's got loose."
Then comes the bit where all the wild life have to come in two by two. Only it don't. It comes in dribs and drabs. The ape do stop to pick up bits of fur which do drop off her still. The zebra, whose eye-holes in her mask are too small, do fall over the ape. The hippo do turn round and kick the lion who is now pokin' her with his stick.
The folk laugh and clap.
It is near the end of the play. It is God's turn again, so I get ready to go on. He has to make the sun shine at the end of the play to show Noah he has done good.
"Thou shalt have no other gods afore me!"
I turn. It is God who stand by me back stage - the real God, the man who was to do the part.
"How dare you take my place?" he say.
"You were not here," I say to him.
"I went into the wild," God said, his eyes on fire. "There are times when I need to be alone."
"Not when you are in a play," I say. "I had to take your place. The show must go on."
"I will go on now," God say.
"You can't. What will folk think? A new God they don't know. I'm God now."
"I AM GOD!" God said, "and I will play my part."
He do scare me, God do. But I stand by what I say.
On the stage the live-stock do bleat, roar, neigh, moo and bark. There is a pong in the air. Even the skunk has got back in the act. One God has to go on now. And I think it must be me. I make to go on. God holds me back. He tries to go on. I hold him back.
Then this girl come from out the blue. She go up to the other God and say:
"Dad, let Dev be God. 'Tis only right. You went off into the wild. And he's good."
I look at this girl and some odd sense come over me. She is right nice to look at.
God turns to me.
"You are a good God?" he do ask.
"I am a very good God," I reply.
"Then go out and cast thy word, good God."
The girl do smile at me and wink. My heart kind of turns over.
By now, the noise of the live-stock is very loud. The pong is strong an' all.
"Dev!" I see Mike wavin' fit to bust. "Be God!"
So I walk out. And the live-stock do cease their noise. All eyes are on me. The folk who watch are still and quiet. It is my time.
I say my lines about how Mr Noah done good and do you know what? As I reach the end, the kirk do light up. The Herm sun do come out from the cloud and the whole kirk is warm and sunny. The folk do look round them and up at the stain glass. One of them is a man in a boat, and that one is very vivid. None other than Noah himself. And his ark.
The play do end. I go off about to cry. It all went wrong. I have let Mike down. I stand there, tears comin' out of my shut eyes. Then Mike comes up and puts his arm round me.
'Hear that Dev?'
I hear the crowd clap. They do clap and cheer. Loud. Very loud.
"Take a bow Dev," Mike say. "You made the show."
I go on and the crowd clap even more. The girl do smile at me and that is great. The real God seems happy. The cast clap me. Even Ham who was going to sort me out later.
After the show, the girl do come up to me.
"I'm Abbi," she say, "and you were great Dev."
And she do kiss me. I think we like each other and will see each other again. I give her a hug. I see God spyin' on us. And I think... what will it be like to have God as a dad-in-law?
I do learn a new word that day.
It do have seven letters. The play was a MIRACLE play. And it was a MIRACLE. The sun-shine at the end of the play was a MIRACLE. To meet Abbi was a MIRACLE. To be able to love her is a MIRACLE. If she love me will be a MIRACLE an' all.
See, they do occur. And to have been part of one makes me feel right proud.