The Blood Flow Game | The New Engagement

The Blood Flow Game

By Seamus Scanlon
The Blood Flow Game


AUGUST 14, 1985 - WOMAN meets VICTOR one last time to move on with her life.


FIVE YEARS LATER - VICTOR interrogates small time drug dealer. (It is WOMAN's new husband)


NEXT DAY - WOMAN comes to se VICTOR to ask for a favor.

FIVE YEARS LATER - VICTOR visits WOMAN in hospital.








BERNIE MCGOWAN – VICTOR's sister – died years before (1974) in a joy riding incident. WOMAN was driver. WOMAN not sure VICTOR knows. VICTOR knows but has never mentioned it.



AUGUST 14, 1995. Location is isolated rural area near Northern Ireland/Irish Republic border.

PRE CURTAIN MUSIC (30 SECONDS) Can't Stand The Rain (Ann Peebles).

(Cut to music coming from radio on window sill.)

Mostly bare room except for table and chair and big clock on wall. Black hold-all on floor near table. Window upstage with radio on window sill. Heavy rain cascades off galvanized tin roof.  Rain streams down windowpane.

PRISONER is bound and blindfolded at table that is bloodstained.  Blood is also speckled on the floor and ceiling and across poster of the 1916 Proclamation and Padraig Pearse.

VICTOR stands at window facing away from audience looking out (20 seconds). Leans on cane. He has one hand resting against top of windowsill and his head resting against that arm. (Lonesome cowboy stance.)

VICTOR turns around. Watches PRISONER.

Then VICTOR begins walking around the room marking out progress with the cane hitting  the wooden floor. The PRISONER is hyper attentive, trying to follow noise with head moving as much as he can although blindfolded.

VICTOR goes back and sits down on narrow windowsill this time facing PRISONER.

PRISONER is agitated by sudden quiet and keeps turning his head expecting assault or worse.  VICTOR watches him. Then turns off radio.



VICTOR: (subdued mood, sings quietly)

I can't stand the rain against my window pane.

Bringing back sweet memories.'

(beat, then gesturing at the rain-streaked window, he says resignedly)

I like the rain and the Irish paleness thing like everyone else but it can be overdone. As with this typical Irish summer. (beat) My mother used to say I was pale and interesting. Once upon a time. In the west of Galway. Now no more though.  (beat) Now she is no more. Now she thinks she is Eva Braun. She thinks she is in the bunker in Berlin. (long beat, then sings quietly)

'There's a Braun Girl in the rain,

 Tra la la la la.

There's a Braun Girl in the rain,

Tra la la la la la  '

(to the beat of Brown Girl in the Ring by Boney M)

VICTOR moves away from window. Walks towards PRISONER. The cane strikes the floor loudly as he does so.

VICTOR: (contd.)

 (beat) She had sallow skin, you know? My mother. Black Irish. Spanish blood. The Spanish Arch in Galway and all. Blood was spilt there you know. And all around. I am never wrong. Ask anyone.

PRISONER struggles a lot in chair.  VICTOR keeps walking - the cane beating out rhythm on the bare wooden floor.

VICTOR: (contd.)

Irish rain causes depression, rheumatism. Ague. Chill blains. Consumption. Phytophthora infestans. (potato blight) -  not many people can pronounce that.

VICTOR takes out a silver Colt 45 and raises it high above his head. Like it is communion chalice at Catholic Mass. He looks at it a long time. He moves it so the light shines off it.  He seems to be in reverie. He points gun at PRISONER's head. He suddenly hits PRISONER across the head with it, causing him to moan and lean down over further. PRISONER cries out.

VICTOR:  (contd.) (leaning down to his ear) Shut up, crybaby!



PRISONER stops making noise or moving. VICTOR puts gun away. Picks up lump hammer from black hold all bag.

VICTOR: (contd.)

On the positive side rain reduces the efficacy of Brit patrols. And civilians notice less when you are laying an ambush. (points lump hammer around the room and out to audience as if it was a rifle)  It's a major fucker though when sniping from the top of Divis, laying down fire on the good old Crown Forces. (beat) (in reverie mode) The water droplets on the barrel vaporize and send a warm mist swirling past the front of the scope. The things I have to deal with. (beat) I am sure you are fascinated.


VICTOR: Stop saying 'what'. I do not like it.

VICTOR in an absent minded manner drops lump hammer on floor and suddenly pulls off black hood. He throws it away into the far corner of the room. PRISONER thinks it is execution scenario and squirms to get up / away, but futile because tied fast to chair.

PRISONER: (terrified) Fuck - I thought it was just a punishment beating. It was only drugs. You have the wrong guy.

VICTOR: Everyone says that. Everyone is guilty of something. (beat) You're correct, though. I am moonlighting. You are just here for punishment beating slash punishment shooting.

VICTOR sits down. Puts his walking cane on table.

PRISONER: (semi relieved) OK.

VICTOR: You know about me, I see?

PRISONER: Yes, everyone does.

VICTOR: You know anything else about me, Mister Backrub?

PRISONER: Sure. Everyone knows you. (long beat) I don't get it.


PRISONER: The backrub thing.

VICTOR: I suppose not. Long story. OK. (beat) Any news?


VICTOR: News - like who's dating who, when is Thatcher going to die, when are Paisley and McGuinness getting married, etcetera.

PRISONER: (faltering, bewildered) No. No news.

VICTOR: (angry) So, it is NOT news to you that you were abducted this morning, were roughed up a little (points at PRISONER's face) and are sitting here tied to a hardback chair.  (shouts) In other words, you were expecting it all along.

PRISONER: No! No! Of course not. I can't think of any news, is all. I think it is natural  under the circumstances.

VICTOR: (pacified) I suppose you are right. Stress reaction DOES cause brain retraction. (beat) That is official. A recent study published in the BMJ – that is the British Medical Journal before you ask – also I do not like saying British – we are fighting them allegedly – was called The Effect of Random Shock on the Longevity and Maze Travel Skills of Rats:  A Guide for Interrogators. (beat) The subtitle part is a joke.

PRISONER: Long? Maze? Long Kesh, is it?

VICTOR: (exasperated) Jesus! No, mazes.  Like your fucking non brain. (beat) It showed that rats who got electric shocks at predefined intervals were more healthy than those that were shocked at random times. 


VICTOR: Rats – yes. Like yourself. Try to keep up. THEY – the fucking rats - did better on maze negotiation and did not eat as many of their fellow rats legs off, etcetera.


VICTOR: Have you fucken echoalia?

PRISONER: Echo location?

VICTOR: Rats, not bats! Fuck me!

PRISONER: I am not following you. I think my eardrum is punctured. 

VICTOR: Let's see.

VICTOR pulls out pen and stabs PRISONER in ear. VICTOR pushes it in deep. Pen stays embedded.  Blood bursts from PRISONER'S ear, and PRISONER screams and then passes out momentarily. (beat) He regains consciousness. Then moans. Then cries.
VICTOR: (contd.)

It is punctured alright. You are right.

PRISONER: (long beat, in pain) That makes sense.

VICTOR: I know – there is a Bic in it.  

PRISONER: (in pain) About the rats.

VICTOR: (mystified) Yeah?

PRISONER: (in pain) About the mazes. And the shocks.

VICTOR: (beat) (in a rage slaps table, blood droplets fly into the air) That is just fucking great. I can tell all those doctors and scientists so there is no need to go to Med school for 7 years so. Because you (points) Billy Fuckface knows it all. And we can abolish peer-reviewed journals, as well, and ban experimental research since you know it all already? Is that what you are telling me?  Next you will be splitting the atom with your arse.

PRISONER: (terrified and in great pain) No, no, I just mean …

VICTOR: (calmly) Yes, all that shit is self evident, regarding rats in the maze. You are right. (beat) Interests rates are falling, I saw earlier.

VICTOR: Aye, slope head. YOU are falling out of my good books. (sings) 'A good book these day is hard to find. [Air of A Good Heart by Fergal Sharkey] (long beat) It is 'heart' actually. Fergal Sharkey. From the Undertones you know? Teenage Kicks - John Peel played it twice in a row on the BBC. Again the British thing makes me ill. But that is something. That was a first. Impressive. Tell me your side.


VICTOR: (in a rage punches PRISONER) Quit that fucken 'what' shit. I am warning you.

PRISONER moves head to relieve pain in ear as blood flows down pen onto the table.

PRISONER: (hesitant) I just sold some ecstasy tablets.  I am not a drug dealer per se like with heroin, etcetera.

VICTOR: (sarcastic) 'Per se,' is it?

PRISONER: That's Latin.

VICTOR: I fucking know it's Latin.

PRISONER: It is a venial sin.

VICTOR: You are a cannon lawyer, now it is?

VICTOR fires shot close past undamaged ear of PRISONER who moans in pain. VICTOR lowers gun.

PRISONER: (fearful and in pain) Ecstasy only it was.

VICTOR: A drug is a drug. You were up to no good. (beat) Ha that rhymes! How are we supposed to fight the Brits if we are injecting heroin into our spindly Irish forearms and pale groins, can you tell me - huh?

PRISONER: (annoyed) It was Ecstasy only, I said.

VICTOR: (angry) Behave yourself fuckface.  Aims gun at PRISONER's head. (beat) Any last requests?

PRISONER: (alarmed) Jesus, what?

VICTOR punches PRISONER in the face.

VICTOR: What! Stop saying that 'what' thing.  Last requests is a figure of speech – you know 'per se' – so just relax to fuck.

VICTOR: (Contd.) (Lowers gun.) So any non-last requests?

PRISONER: (thinks) Maybe you could let the missus know where I am. She worries all the time. She is getting on my nerves. 

VICTOR: (interested) I see. Go on. Why?

PRISONER: You know what they are like?

VICTOR: Yeah. (beat) (On reflection) Actually - not really.

PRISONER: (baffled) Why are you here exactly?  It should have been over already. The punishment thing.

VICTOR: (uncertain to say it) Special circumstances. I was curious. (beat) Personal interest. When I saw your name. Curiosity killed the tout.

PRISONER: (indignant) I am no tout!

VICTOR: I know - you are too stupid to be one for even ten minutes.

PRISONER: They were furious they had to wait for you. They nearly did it anyway. I heard them talking. 'Victor this. Victor that.'

VICTOR: Sure. It comes with the territory. Senior management you know?  (beat) Any special circumstances about the ecstasy?

PRISONER: Well they were not real. They were fakes. Does that help?

VICTOR: Fake ecstasy. That is two crimes in one! Drug dealing in addition to addiction deception. That is four kneecaps worth there already. (beat) What about domestic violence? Word on the street is you are rough at home.

PRISONER: (indignant) Who says?

VICTOR: (hits him across the face, angry) I fucken say. I am asking the questions not you. Stick to your assigned role. You are the one tied up to a hard chair in case you missed that. You are in trouble deep. Did you happen to notice all that blood on the table? This place is tout debrief central.

PRISONER looks down at table surface. VICTOR grabs him by the hair and pushes his face into the blood on the table and wipes the table with PRISONER's hair as if cleaning the table top.

VICTOR: (contd.)

You have a cow lick now.  Like Elvis. Not Costello. It suits you, I must say. Come on, start talking. I am losing my patience.

PRISONER: (fearful) Ok. Ok. It was nothing much. Honest. Sure they all need restraint at times. You know yourself?


PRISONER: (more confident) The missus is lippy. She is strong willed. I thought she was having an affair. She would disappear every Thursday. I followed her one day. She was only visiting some auld one that gave the Nazi salute when she opened the door. Anyway there was a cute Eastern European nurse's aid minding the auld one, though. I would not have minded invading her Steppes to help with the cold war thaw and all. (laughs as in man to man banter). You know, yourself?

VICTOR: Sure - Eastern promise! It is always exotic.

PRISONER: (lasciviously) I love Turkish Delight* (*type of chocolate bar  in Ireland).

VICTOR suddenly hits PRISONER in the mouth with gun. PRISONER moans and spits out a tooth. 

VICTOR: Ah ha! The tooth fairy will be calling around to some lucky boy soon. Squeezes PRISONER's cheeks like would do with child/baby.
Or the mortician.


VICTOR: I mean the orthodontist.  Refuckenlax. (beat) Okay, so no affair. That was good news then for you, I suppose.

PRISONER: (cautiously) I suppose. I decided to teach the missus a lesson, though, for all that worry she caused me.

VICTOR: (sarcastically) That makes total Irish sense!

PRISONER: Yeah. I started seeing this fine thing in Divis.

VICTOR: Through a glass darkly, is it?

PRISONER: (bewildered) No.  No. During the day.

VICTOR: (exasperated) Fuck. Give me patience. (beat) Did she - your missus - not suspect?

PRISONER: No. She is as trusting as a lamb. You know what some of them are like?

VICTOR: Nods. Sure.

PRISONER: Lambs to the slaughter what?

VICTOR: (somberly) Sure. Slaughter. I know what that is like.

PRISONER: (realizes not best analogy to be making) She was not having an affair but she is in love with someone from her youth anyway. So it is fair enough. She is always looking off into the distance when she thinks I am not watching.


PRISONER: Yeah. Some Fenian wonderboy probably. Along the lines of yourself.

VICTOR: Sure. It can happen. I suppose. (beat) What's the name of the one in Divis?

PRISONER: You want a crack at her as well? It might not be the best timing…

VICTOR: (angrily interrupting) No. Background. Have to check it.

PRISONER: OK! OK! Jesus! She will kill me. Do not tell her it was me.

VICTOR: I never tell anyone anything. That is least of your worries. Here is paper. Where is my pen? Oh yes.

VICTOR Pulls pen from PRISONER's ear. PRISONER screams.

VICTOR: You have a very low pain threshold, I notice.

More blood falls on table.

Write the name and address. I will loosen your hands.

VICTOR loosens hand from ties. PRISONER tries to write name and address.   Pen won't work. VICTOR takes pen and tries to wipe it clean and runs pen back and forth over the paper to make it work.

VICTOR: Your broke my fucken biro.

VICTOR takes up the lump hammer and slams it on PRISONER'S hand. PRISONER screams. VICTOR puts lump hammer down.

VICTOR: Luckily for you I bought a set of six.  VICTOR takes out another pen from jacket. Hands pen to PRISONER who with great difficulty writes the name and address. VICTOR looks at writing.

VICTOR: What a scrawl. MMM. Okay. Is that an m or an n?

PRISONER: looks at it. An N.

VICTOR: As in Nutjob?

PRISONER hesitatingly nods.

PRISONER: Please - I have suffered enough. Can you skip the kneecapping?

VICTOR: (thinks it over) I will sanction one knee instead of three.  I can't say fairer than that. Will you have a cup of tea?

PRISONER: (bewildered) Oh….. Okay. Yeah. Thanks. 

VICTOR boils kettle. Goes to window. Straightens one of the posters. Looks out. Looks back. Walks back when the kettle is boiled. Spoons in loose leaf tea and then pours water into the teapot.

VICTOR: One lump or two?

PRISONER: (faltering) One…one!

VICTOR: 11 is it. No wonder you have dental caries.

VICTOR quickly picks up lump hammer from and hits PRISONER on the collar bone. Audible crack. PRISONER moans in pain.

VICTOR: (contd.) The old clavicle concerto!

PRISONER starts crying.

VICTOR: It could be worse, you know? I think you are lying. Regarding 'one lump.'

PRISONER: No – I swear.

VICTOR suddenly swings lump hammer again down on other collar bone. No crack this time. PRISONER screeches.

VICTOR: No crack that time. I am losing my lump hammer touch. I bet it was two lumps of sugar. You have a sweet tooth, I bet. It is an Irish flaw. Also freckles – they are much worse, though.

PRISONER: Jesus! Please ease up. 

VICTOR: I am – this is VICTOR lite.

PRISONER: I am going to be a father as well.

VICTOR: (stops suddenly) What?

PRISONER: I do not want to be a cripple. Especially with the kid on the way.

VICTOR is stricken looking. Drops lump hammer on floor. Falters. Almost goes to knees.

VICTOR: (shocked) What?

PRISONER: You are doing the 'what' thing now!

VICTOR: (not amused) (emotionless) Go on.

PRISONER: (hesitant) She is a hormone tidal wave at the moment. I wish she would get that kid out here, so life could return to normal. She always wanted one, but it never happened before. She is thrilled! I am not!

VICTOR takes gun and shoots PRISONER multiple times in head and torso. He falls back onto floor, his feet still tied to the chair. VICTOR keeps firing until  clip is empty. Keeps dry firing. Stops. Puts forearm of gun hand to cover his eyes.



Seamus Scanlon is a Galway born author based in New York. His McGowan Trilogy was produced by the Cell Theater Company in New York in September 2014 as part of Origin's 1st Irish Theater festival where is own awards for Best Actress, Best Director and Best Design. The McGowan Trilogy was published by Arlen House. His first story collection As Close As You'll Ever Be was published by Cairn Press (2012). He is a resident artist at The Cell and a Fellow of The McDowell Colony, La Muse, Dora Maar House, and The Center For Fiction (New York). He is the librarian at City College's Center for Worker Education.


Join Us!

Mercy, ingenuity, nuance, complex truths, guts and honor still matter! Join us in proclaiming so by purchasing, or giving the gift of, The New Engagement in print.

Order Today!

Follow Us

"You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive."
~ James Baldwin

Help us spread the ethos of compassion and understanding by joining our social media networks and sharing generously!

Contests & Prizes

Flash Fiction Contest
On May 1st, we announced the winners of our Flash Fiction Contest: Thomas Garcia (1st), Rick Krizman (2nd), and Rios de la Luz (3rd). Read more.

The James Baldwin Literature Prize
It is with great pleasure that we announce the winner of The James Baldwin Literature Prize of $1,000 to Hafsa Musa. Read more.

The New Engagement

The New Engagement endeavors a novel approach to discovering, introducing, and showcasing writers, artists, and filmmakers, by providing them digital and print platforms, while encouraging and supporting their social-consciousness.