The setting for A Severed Arm in a Pot is a threadbare cottage in rural Galway. A crucifix hangs on the back wall along with various butcher knives. Johnny Hatpin, the local butcher, whose cottage it is, is by the stove cooking a severed arm in a large pot as he hums a chorus of “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen. His clothes and hands are dripping with blood. The severed arm sticks out of the pot, revealing a Mickey Mouse watch on the wrist.
Enter Mary O’Flaherty, a neighbor in her 70’s.
JOHN: It is hot, Marymicky. And only 10 more shopping days left ’til Christmas.
MARY: Aye, summer’s scarce begun and I wish I was a young slut again.
JOHN: Will you have a drop of poteen to warm you up, Marymicky?
MARY: I will. ( Noticing his blood-soaked clothes and hands. ) A butcher’s work is never done.
JOHN: And a good joint is hard to come by these days, Marymicky. What with foot-and-mouth disease and all.
MARY: There’s nothing that beats a good stew. The pity is there’s only you to enjoy it since your beloved wife of 25 years disappeared. Tell me, Johnny Hatpin, when was it exactly that poor Kathleen was last seen?
JOHN ( shiftily ): It was on a dark and stormy night three years ago, soon after she returned home from the trip to Disney World, as well you know.
MARY: And that would be where she purchased her Mickey Mouse watch, would it be?
JOHN: It would. ( Suddenly disturbed. ) What have people been saying? What have they been suggesting ?
MARY: She was awful fond of her Mickey Mouse watch, was poor Kathleen. Why, I don’t believe it ever left her wrist in the brief time she had left on earth.
JOHN: Now don’t go casting any more fecking aspersions , you ol’ fat slag yer, or you can feck off home and buy your own fecking poteen.
MARY: The tongue on you, Johnny Hatpin. Sure I’ve known you since you wet your pants as a lad. A wussy like you wouldn’t hurt a fecking fly.
He stirs the pot .
JOHN: I wouldn’t. I swear it.
MARY: I believe you, Johnny Hatpin. But may you rot in the stinking fires of hell if this is one of your fecking tall stories.
He pours her more poteen and throws several turnips into the pot .
JOHN: According to Julia Child, it’s always best to add the turnips when the stew has gathered a head of steam. Well, how have you been, Marymicky?
MARY: I won first prize at St. Paul’s bingo night, although I didn’t win it exactly. Nobody else wanted it. Even Father Flinty turned it down, and they say he’s an educated man.
JOHN: What was the first prize, Marymicky?
MARY: It was a free ticket to the theater. I thought to myself, “You only live once.”
JOHN: True enough. But Christ, you must have a lot of time on your hands to go to the theater voluntarily.
MARY: I do have a lot of time on my hands, Johnny Hatpin, particularly now the 18 little ones have sucked me dry and are proud fathers themselves, bless ’em.
JOHN: I went to the theater once. It was about the ghoulie of a murdered king who haunts someone who’s always talking to himself, the poor fecker. It was called Hamlet . He dies in the end. To be honest, Marymicky, the only scene I enjoyed the entire, endless fecking night was the one with the grave-digging. What was your play about?
MARY: It was about grave-digging, too.
JOHN: Was it the whole play that was concerned with grave-digging or was it a part of the play?
MARY: I would say that a fair portion of the play was directly concerned with the grave-digging issue. But not the whole play, no.
JOHN: Then I’m not sorry I missed it.
MARY: The rest was concerned with skull-bashing and wife-killing.
JOHN ( suspiciously ): Wife-killing?
MARY: And skull-bashing. It was called A Skull in Connemara . Hence the skull-bashing shenanigans, I imagine.
JOHN: And who would be writing such a thing?
MARY: He would be a Martin McDonagh–an Irish writer, I believe, who’s always lived in London.
JOHN: Which fecking Irish writer lives in Ireland, that’s what I want to know.
MARY: To be sure, the only people left in Ireland nowadays must be miserable oul’ feckers like us.
JOHN: Soldiering on.
MARY: To appear in plays.
JOHN: And did you enjoy this play of his?
MARY: I’ve given the matter some serious thought, now, and frankly I’ve come to the conclusion it was a load of shite.
JOHN: We’ll make a drama critic of you yet, Marymicky.
MARY: And me an ignorant oul’ wretch living in a quaint Irish backwater without a pot to piss in, like.
JOHN: Was it the graveyard humor that you didn’t particularly care for, Marymicky?
MARY: It was partly the skulls, yes. We can see skull-bashing any fecking Saturday night in Connemara.
JOHN: That we can.
MARY: And wife-murdering, too.
JOHN: Now don’t you be starting with your eejit aspersions again, Marymicky.
MARY: I’m no expert, Johnny Hatpin, but I believe that you could have driven the massed pipe bands of County Galway through the plot and no one would have blinked an eyelid.
JOHN: Was there nothing that tickled your fecking fancy, Marymicky?
MARY: On occasion there was. A debate about whether it’s preferable for an Irish drunk to choke to death on his own vomit or drown in wee roused the spirits.
JOHN: Well, it’s an important issue.
JOHN: Does the wee have to be your own?
MARY: It was never resolved.
JOHN: Will you join me in another drop of poteen, Marymicky?
MARY: Just a drop. I tell you frankly, Johnny Hatpin, it’s the image of the Irish as drunks that gets me goat.
JOHN: And fecking foul-mouth feckers, as thick as two planks.
MARY: And prone to violence, no doubt.
Enter Mick, the 16-year-old grandson of Mary O’Flaherty, with an ax buried bloodily in his head.
MARY: Been playing cowboys and Indians again, you scallywag yer?
MICK ( a little dazed ): I have, you oul’ whore. Is that poteen, Johnny Hatpin?
JOHN: What is it you have come over about, Mick O’Flaherty, when you can see I’m busy cooking up a storm.
MICK: Father Flinty sent me over on urgent fecking business. You wouldn’t spare a drop now?
JOHN: Urgent is it, Mick?
MICK: It is.
He pours him poteen.
MICK: Father Flinty says to make sure and tell you that your wife Kathleen has been found alive and well and working in Disney World in fecking Florida.
JOHN: Is she all in one piece?
Mick stares fixedly at the pot with the severed arm sticking out with the Mickey Mouse wristwatch .
End of Scene One.
To be continued, but not necessarily .
Martin McDonagh’s A Skull in Connemara opened at the Gramercy Theatre on Feb. 22.