A man – Kenneth, stands alone over a table, he’s admiring a big knife, turning it over in his hand and watching the light glint on the blade.
A younger man – Sam, comes in timidly.
Kenneth looks around at Sam, the knife still in his hand.
KENNETH: You the new boy?
SAM: Well . . . yes.
KENNETH: You done this sort of thing before?
SAM: Well . . . no.
KENNETH: Where you worked before then?
SAM: In a record shop.
KENNETH: Is that it?
SAM: Well . . . I worked in a restaurant once.
KENNETH: What sort of restaurant?
SAM: A vegetarian restaurant.
KENNETH: You’re not a vegetarian are you?
SAM: Well . . . no.
KENNETH: Good. Now what did she tell you?
SAM: What do you mean?
KENNETH: Did she tell you exactly what the job involves.
SAM: No, not exactly, but I assume . . .
KENNETH: You can’t make no assumptions here boy. You’re here to learn. Watch and learn, that’s all you need to know.
SAM: OK, sorry . . .
Kenneth laughs and tousles Sam’s hair.
KENNETH: Don’t take it so seriously – it’ll drive you mad. Cuppa tea?
SAM: Um . . . yes please.
Kenneth busies himself with making the tea, Sam looks around.
KENNETH: You got your provisional license?
SAM: Yes, I had to get it for the job.
KENNETH: Milk and sugar?
SAM: Yes please.
KENNETH: What do you think of the place then?
SAM: Different than I expected. Cleaner. Neat.
KENNETH: It’s essential, especially in a small house like this. We pride ourselves on being a speciality . . .
Their conversation is interrupted when Mags, the office manager enters.
MAGS: Good morning Kenneth. (she gives Kenneth a knowing smile). Good morning Sam, I see you’ve already discovered the most important thing in this place. (nodding at the tea brewing on the table).
SAM: (mumbles nervously ): Well. . . yes . . . no.
MAGS: You’ll get used to us.
Mags turns to Kenneth.
MAGS: Looks like a quiet one today, orders are still down. There’s a batch on their way down to you though, just half a dozen for now – no rush.
KENNETH: That’s handy, give this one a chance to see how it’s done.
Mags drops some papers on the table.
Kenneth blows a kiss to Mags as she leaves, turns to Sam.
KENNETH: The missus.
KENNETH: Right, I think this is ready (hands Sam the tea and sups his own).
KENNETH: So, today’s the day eh!
SAM: I suppose.
KENNETH: Today’s the day you learn how to kill a lamb . . . You ok with that?
SAM: Well . . . yes . . . I suppose so.
KENNETH: Good. They’ll be here in a minute. Tell me, what do you think the first thing we gotto do is?
SAM: Um . . . stun them?
KENNETH: Wrong. First you gotto check their teeth.
SAM: Their teeth?
KENNETH: It’s important to look at their teeth. You can tell how old it is by the state of their teeth.
SAM: Oh yes.
KENNETH: You don’t want to go killing no sheep, you have to make sure it’s a lamb. They have these baby teeth, you have to check for the baby teeth. When they get to about a year they get these adult teeth – they start to become adults at about a year, they’re not lambs no more then, they’re sheep – mutton. No good to us, we are specialists, though I do like a bit of mutton myself . . . so does Prince Charles.
KENNETH: So you yank its mouth open to look at the teeth, that’s the first thing you do. OK Well maybe not yank – that would be cruel, but you have to look at the teeth before you kill them, see?
SAM: Yes, I see. (nods).
KENNETH: That’s when you know it’s a lamb. We’re gonna kill some lambs today. (starts singing to the tune of the Camptown Races) – we’re gonna kill some lambs today – doo dah, doo dah, We’re gonna cut their throats away, doo dah, doo dah day . ..
KENNETH: (Stops singing) You think that’s funny?
SAM: Well . . . yes, I mean . . . no, you’ve got a good voice, ever thought of doing something with it.
KENNETH: Used to be in a band.
SAM: Oh! Me too, what sort of music?
KENNETH: All sorts. Quo, Queen, bit of country, anything really.
KENNETH: Don’t you like that sort of music then? I expect it’s all Dirty Rascal and Lady Gaga with you.
SAM: (laughs) Nah! Frank Sinatra’s more my style.
KENNETH: Get away, youngster like you.
SAM: It’s not about age.
KENNETH: I dunno, been doing this job nearly thirty years I have, reckon I’ve killed about sixty thousand lambs me. You can’t do that without age.
SAM: Sixty . . . thousand . . . lambs.
KENNETH: Well to tell the truth, it’s probably a bit less, lambs that is. Done them all I have, lambs, pigs, cattle, couple of buffaloes, some llamas, the odd goat, even done a few ostriches. All the rage at one time, everyone was setting up ostrich farms all over the place – awkward little buggers they are too – ostriches.
KENNETH: Right, so after you’ve confirmed it’s a lamb, what do you reckon is next?
SAM: Kill it?
KENNETH: Can’t do that boy not yet anyway – that’s illegal, unless it’s for religious purposes. No, you gotto stun it first, you gotto knock the bugger out – so it don’t feel no pain see.
SAM: Yes, of course.
KENNETH: Never mind boy – you’ll learn.
SAM: It’s weird though.
KENNETH: What is?
SAM: All this, you know, I mean, how many lambs are killed in Britain say, every day?
KENNETH: Ah, now I know this, I read the trade papers see. It’s thirty-odd thousand a day, about a million a month, depends on the time of year mind. All them lovely Sunday dinners, mmm . . . sorry, got carried away, the missus is making a nice shepherd’s pie tonight – it’s Thursday see.
SAM: What happens to all the bits?
KENNETH: What bits?
SAM: You know, the heads and things. And the eyes – the eyes. Two million eyes a month.
KENNETH: Shut up boy. I don’t know if you’re cut out for this job.
SAM: And that’s just the sheep. What about the chickens? There must be millions of them – millions of beaks . . .
KENNETH: Shut up boy. You can’t talk like that, what if the boss hears, you’ll be back on the dole. Anyway, here they come – snap out of it. Don’t look them in the eyes. You’ll be all right, you’ll get used to it – it’s just a job, somebody’s got to do it.