in the last branches

A short play in which a hangman (a particular kind of hangman) named Can I arrives at a casino to carry out a sentence on a noble-born lady named Littul. Although Can I tries to make the process as pleasant as possible, Littul is not reconciled to the judgment attached to her crime.

Download in the last branches as a Word doc.


…in the dark rain over the flood
cowering in the last branches…


There are 12 stage directions in the play. They appear in the order:
breath held

You should definitely think about changing around the order that these occur in.


in the last branches


Can I: I can do it I can do it because I want to do it – it’s for you!


Can I: yes that’s it that’s definitely it, that’s it ready to run out and go.


Can I: No definitely, definitely, completely. All there, all there, everything ready. Noose, yes. Noose, yes. All the pieces here, yes. Noose, yes. All the pieces here and I’m here because
want to.

But I’m so glorious! So dazzling! I knock you to the ground with power!

You’re still going to swing.

But I have everything here for you, I have all the bits you were ever missing in your life here for you in this small grey pouch here for you!

You’re still going to swing.

But you’re sorry for me! I’m a speck in your flood. I’m a little broken mote floating across your eyeball. I’m not big enough to even –

You’re still going to swing.

even to –

You’re still going to swing.

But I can outwit you and trick you. I can choke you and stomp on your throat and trick you and stick you.

You’re still going

But you already –

I did already swing.

You already swung.

But you’re still going to swing. Finished? There you see I out-debate your every point. It’s easy because I can do it because I want to do it – it’s for you.


You dirty maimed dog! You put your paws on me? My dogs will tear out your arms by the roots! Croupier, slice this vagrant in half! You don’t interrupt me during a game. You don’t touch me without permission.

Can I: May I touch you?

Littul: I know what you are. I know what you’ve got. You don’t dare come for me.

Can I: I’m here.

Littul: If you try to give it to me they’ll take you apart. My old chamberlain, his son now works for the Head of the Guard. I can have you arrested, have your face underwater in a tank before you get as far as the gates.

Can I: I didn’t realise that.

Littul: I’ve got friends in every hand of the Administration and just even for the damage you’ve done already, coming in and insulting me in front of these people, they’ll punish you, just even for, just even for interrupting me in the middle of – in the middle of –

Can I: Were you winning?

Littul: They’ll know who it came from, it’ll have your fingerprints all over it, your every prints, and they’ll drop you in a hole – there’s people in every hand of the government, I have birds on every feather of every wing of – adminis – they’ll know who it’s from, and you’ll – you’ll die sucking gravel at the bottom of a well if you touch your skin to my skin –

Can I: Maybe. You’re still going to swing. Now what do you want me to wear?

Littul: …

Can I: Colours. What colour should I dress in?

Littul: Silver. Black. Wings. It doesn’t matter.

Can I: It always matters! I can take from your clothes if you like, or I have a bag full of different outfits. What colour turns you on?

Littul: No.

Can I: Transparent? I have a dress in here transparented. Do you like that? You like baby blue?

Littul: Do you think you’re going to – right here? You think you can just pass it to me in the middle of a casino?

Can I: You knew I was coming. You could have run and been halfway across the rivers by now. Didn’t have to come here.

Littul: How do you think you can get away with it in front of all these people? Everyone here knows who you are. They know what you’re carrying. Everyone knows what this woman is, don’t you?

Can I: Yes they do.

Littul: No shame! This woman, not ashamed to walk into a casino, to walk right into the middle of a game and grab a victim. Why should she be ashamed? Look at her! Standing here wrapped in rags with her bare feet and hair washed in a river, what’s she got to be ashamed of? Standing there as if none of you know why she’s here –

Can I: -they know why I’m here.

Littul: You should have brought an escort of guards and knocked on my door in the morning, instead of coming here by yourself. Shouldn’t have shown everyone your face.

Can I: Maybe not. You’re still going to swing.

Littul: Doing yourself up like a hermit with a noose – why don’t you wear a hood and carry an axe?


Can I: You’re trying to shame me in front of these sad pissheads? Hangman wears a hood cause she’s scared of being recognised. I take responsibility for every head I ever put through a noose, but I don’t feel – I don’t feel – You sour animals, on the other hand – all you behind the poker machines and you creatures behind the bar – you’re glowing with guilt and fear. I might have been coming for any one of you. There might still be someone coming for you, on their way right now. If this woman deserves to swing, so does every one of you. Do they know what you did?

Littul: …might have guessed.

Can I: They’ve done worse than you. They’ve all got something following them. Who knows when it’s going to catch up, but they know it’s on its way. They’re watching us now because they want to know what it looks like when it gets here. Pay attention, all of you! This is how it happens. One of us – maybe me – comes for you especially. All for you. This lady can dress me how she likes, have me whatever way she wants. This arm, think of this arm wrapped around you – look at my legs – think of these legs wrapped however you want them – my face, my mouth, saying whatever you want to hear…. Or are you scared to look at me?

Littul: …

Can I: Now what do want me to wear? Any outfit, any costume – if you have something in your wardrobe, I’ll wear it. What do you like?

Littul: …naked.

Can I: You want me nude? Is that what you like?

Littul: Only I’m not turned on right now.

Can I: That’s okay. That’s okay. Naked’s fine, I can do that.


Can I: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you then. Just watch me. Eyes open, keep your eyes on me. Just relax. Watch my shoulders.

Littul: You’re not attractive.

Can I: I’m sorry, I know – that’s why the outfits.

Littul: I don’t mean – I mean, I’m not into…

Can I: I know. I knew you were straight. I mean I knew about your – I knew about Rory, so I figured. Even so I can make it good for you. I can make you sing. Even when – I can make you sing.

Littul: You can be bribed, can’t you? You’ve been bribed before.

Can I: Not for money.

Littul: No, not money. A hunk of meat or a puff on a cigarette, maybe, yes? No? What about a job?

Can I: A job?

Littul: A job, that’s right. In my gardens. Shade from the sun all day and then a meal at night. And sleeping out of the wind.

Can I: Sleeping?

Littul: Out of the wind. A little nest in the garden with dirt piled up and soft grass inside it. Out of the wind. And food, and a pair of shoes, and no more sleeping in trees to keep out of the lion’s reach. A place to sleep. Do you want it?

Can I: How can you –

Littul: Yes. I can. I have moneys. I have – I pay – I move you creatures through my gardens like pieces on a board.

Can I: Used to.

Littul: Still! I have money still!

Can I: Even if you still did –

Littul: I do! I move you creatures through my gardens like pieces on a board!

Can I: You’re still going to swing. How do you want me to touch you? Like this?

Littul: That’s why I came here tonight. I was going to win enough to buy you off with.

Can I: Touch you here… How does that feel?

Littul: No, Rory touched me – I had seven dollars and now they have it. They gave me one of those bones with nothing on it.

Can I: Where did Rory touch you?

Littul: If I’d kept hold of that money – the rivers, the dolphins in the rivers – no, not there, don’t – don’t – I could have afforded to keep him.

Can I: Maybe you wouldn’t have kept him even then.

Littul: I wouldn’t have done it if I could have afforded – if he hadn’t gotten expensive – don’t. Don’t.

Can I: Please don’t plead. Please relax.

Littul: It was a mistake. It was a mistake. I don’t know what it was. I didn’t think it would do this much damage –

Can I: Don’t jerk your head.

Littul: It’s not fair punishment. I didn’t have anything to do with it, I didn’t untie it – I can’t untie anything. This is not – it’s not – not compassionate – it’s not –


Can I: Please, please don’t panic. It’s scary, it is scary. But I want it to be nice as well. Help me.

Littul: Why do you want to make it good for me?

Can I: Because it was bad for me.


Can I: When you were sentenced, when they announced what you’d done, I asked for this. I wanted to be the one that swings you. I thought you should – I want to make you sing. What did Rory do? What you want, I want to do that for you.

Littul: What I want?

Can I: I’m here for you. Whatever makes you feel, whatever makes you shiver in the base of your belly.

Littul: Your breath.

Can I: My…

Littul: Hold your breath.

Can I: Is that what Rory did – what you enjoy?

Littul: Hold your breath. Yes. And I’ll tell you what I enjoy.






Littul: Keep going, that’s right. This is what I like. Lie back. I need to be on top. And you have to hold my hands – take my hands in your hands – lie back, I’m going to sit on your stomach, keep your breath in – now, take my hands and lay them on your throat. This is what Rory did for me, and he used to drag my fingernails down his windpipe as well. Hold your breath – keep holding. And he rested his arms at his sides. He rested his arms at his sides. He laid his hands on the ground. Hands – yes, hands on the ground. This is what I like.


Littul: You plague-bearing bitch! You asked for – you let them poison every cell in your body and then you sign up to keep spreading it – you requested me? You requested me? You –

Can I: You’re still going to swing.

Littul: You’re going to choke, you horrible bitch! We’re going to cover you in chalk and bury you in the mud! You –

Can I: I’ve got your eyelid. Feel that?

Littul: …

Can I: And I’ve got your tongue, and I could pull it right out of your head before you bite down on my fingers. Feel that?

Littul: …

Can I: So take your hands off my throat.

Littul: …

Can I: All you animals on the edges, I can see you. I’m memorising your faces. You want to be stepping back behind your pokies, behind your bar, behind that roulette wheel. Or maybe you want to keep coming closer. What do you think?
…my throat is burning. That was stupid. That was stupid of me, that was stupid of you. You’re trying to turn this into torture, and it doesn’t have to be. My throat is killing me, I need an orange.


Can I: Want an orange? Okay, well you can have a piece of this if you change your mind. Tell me, how was that ever going to work?

Littul: I can’t even imagine what it must be like in your head. That you can bring yourself to do this over and over again – your brain must be stewing with river mud and razorblades. I mean it’s a horrible thing that you had to swing, but you’re a poison sadist for volunteering to pass it on. …Can I have a bit of that orange?

Can I: Here you go.

Littul: When did you request me? When Rory was… gave them my name?

Can I: Tortured. You can say it, it’s not a secret.

Littul: He never even said my name to me, not as long as I remember. He called me – he called me – but he never said my name, not to me. I half thought he didn’t know my name. I never told him not to call me by my name, but he never – I don’t remember him ever using it…

Can I: Of all the throats going through the noose, yours deserves to sing. I want – I want to – give that to you. But – listen, don’t go down into yourself, listen to me – they are going to have you. There are no one in a thousand chances. You’re going through the rope. But I swear
I promise you
I can make it good.
I can make it sweet and soft and you moaning and sobbing and your face like a bird struck with lightning
I can hold you there
hook you and dangle you with one little finger inside
can make you scream and shake yourself into a whole new world shredded together out of orgasm paper –
I want to. I want to.

Littul: How long does it take?

Can I: Don’t know. Some people, a few hours. Sometimes a lot longer.

Littul: You?

Can I: Me? Four months ago.

Littul: What did you do?

Can I: Nothing as righteous as you. You should be proud.

Littul: I should have known better.

Can I: You knew – you knew –
They said ‘She’s deliberately set loose a saboteur in the system.’
They said ‘She’s jettisoned a valuable commodity in order to deliver it to its own savagery’ (they said).
They said ‘She’s angry because she has to give a good hard cock away in spits and shackles.’
‘Her family (they said) once was a Family – now one decaying lady and a couple of barely sapient cousins crawling around a shrunken garden –
‘No workers (they said) no servants no soldiers no human flesh to rise on the back of, and all she feels now is anger (they said) and only anger because she can’t afford dresses to sweep the floor at every function, can’t sponsor every expedition and have her name inscribed on every raft that pushes past the waves –
‘She feels hatred because of how little she has left (they said) and so she’s deliberately set loose a saboteur in the system.’
I thought you were a woman risen above her own lies.
You untied the knot. Why should you, of anyone who has ever swung, why do you have to shake and quiver and burn up piece by piece? What for? You earned a sweet farewell and to trickle through the loop in a daze of orgasms.

Littul: It was the way he looked – the start of it was – his legs looked – I thought they’d – when they moved – I thought they were running – I didn’t think – and how he smelled, how he smelled when I found him – very very cheap back then he was very very cheap back then he got more expensive as he got – his voice for starters, it was breaking and cracking, but when he got his man’s voice he sounded beautiful – his voice in my hair – his voice in my hair – he never said my name, he called me – he called me – his voice in my garden and the wind over trees – wind over the fence in the dark – I thought he’d keep quiet – I thought he’d slip under – he had strong arms I thought he’d swim – cross the rivers, or sneak through the swamp – he was out of my reach I thought – out of everyone’s reach I thought – it was the way his legs looked – moving – his legs moving –

Can I: Tell me.

Littul: I thought he might stay – even after I untied the knot I was waiting for him to say – maybe I won’t go – maybe I’ll stay –

Can I: He was grateful.

Littul: He was tortured.

Can I: He was grateful. Even when they started on him he was grateful. He looked up at the roof and said no thing but he looked up at the roof and somewhere he was still gripping you –

Littul: He gripped me –

Can I: Tell me.

Littul: He laced his hands behind my head and put his face – his face down on me – you’re not – you’re not –

Can I: Shut your eyes – his face –

Littul: His face down on me – and his tongue – climbing – to the light –

Can I: to the –

Littul: to the light – but you don’t smell – you don’t smell like him – no –

Can I: No, let me – his smell, let – no, don’t – his smell –

Littul: bleach – and dirt – and wind, and cold, and rust from old chains – and his knee between my legs – and his fingers digging into my wrists – climbing –

Can I: climbing –

Littul: to the light – to the light –

Can I: lie back – part you – you

Littul: don’t – don’t – you don’t sound – you don’t sound –

Can I: his voice –

Littul: not his voice, his breath – in my ear, on my cheek – he called me – all over my mouth, he called me – and his tongue – and his fingers climbing – his nails in my wrists – climbing to the light – to the light –

Can I: and his fingers –

Littul: and the dirt against my back – and the grass – against my – he called me – you – you –

Can I: I can make you sing –
Littul on the grass – on the grass on the dirt –
Can I sing –

Littul: to the – to the – climbing to the –