Steptoe and Son
Disclaimer: I do not own Steptoe and Son or claim to. All credit to the writers and the BBC. No copyright intended. Special credit to the actors who played the characters Harold and Albert, Harry H Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell.
It was Saturday morning, the weekend, Harold's day off. Both Steptoes were woken by a knock at the door. Harold, opened one eye, impatiently, and closed it again, until the knocking continued. He gave up, put on his dressing-gown and went to the door, muttering angrily as he went.
"The one, bleeding, day, I don't have to get up at the crack of dawn!" he said.
He opened the door, to the postman.
"Sorry sir, it says to hand present. Have a nice day," he said.
"Yeah, you and all. Just because you have to get up, doesn't mean the rest of us should suffer! Bet it's not even for me, it'll be for him upstairs! Take more than a postman to wake him up, more than the Royal Mail actually own. Oh, it is for me," said Harold.
He had finally checked the letter's ownership. He then walked into the living room, and opened it in his own way, with a letter opener. He mumbled slightly, as he read it, to start with he was confused, then he started to get a little happier as he read more.
"Uncle who? Never heard of you, or seen you mate...whoever you are, you are no more...Oh God! I hate funerals, they'll all be there again...no they won't, this is on mum's side! I didn't know she had any...please arrange a date with lawyer...as a late business man, he has left you the sum added below, to apologize for being absent from your life, as he disapproved of your mother's involvement with your father...I don't blame him, he had hoped the money would be beneficial to you and your family. That old misery guts didn't even tell me he existed, he's not coming anywhere near my...my...blimey! What kind of business did he run? The bank of England? I'm rich! I'm rich!" cried Harold.
Albert appeared, looking grumpy and tired. He glared at Harold, as he had started to walk in, as Harold has started shouting, and jumping around the room.
"What are you jumping around and shouting for? Do you know what day it is? I don't expect you up until at least eleven," he said.
"Fortune, hath smiled upon me at last father, I shall not tell you about it, as of this very moment you are in disgrace, for not telling me that I had an uncle, on my mother's side," replied Harold.
"Oh God! How'd you find out about that smacked-back-sided...?" asked Albert.
"Never mind that. How many more relatives of mum's are still around? Is there any more Uncles and Aunts? Cousins?" asked Harold.
"Nah! Just that ponce, thought he was better than me, him and his little car business. Tried to split us up, even after you were born," replied Albert.
"A car business! Dad! He was better than you! You should have sucked up, not told him to clear off!" cried Harold.
"He was a snobby, stuck-up git! I didn't want him, having anything to do with you," added Albert.
Harold turned to him, with shock and anger. He shook his head.
"You never learn do you? That's another, life changing chance you took away from me! Well not anymore dad! This letter, you will be deeply saddened to hear, reports of my Uncle's death, but also with a place, time and date, where I can meet, the man in charge of his last will and testimony, where I shall receive a large amount of money," he added.
Harold handed over the letter, and Albert searched for his glasses, then read the letter. He slowly looked up at Harold, who smiled with triumph.
"See! There's one thing you can't spoil for me this time!" he said.
"Did you read the small print?" asked Albert.
"What bleeding small print?" asked Harold.
"Family, to include at least a married partner, or you cannot receive the money," read Albert.
Harold read over his father's shoulder, then gave up and took the letter from him. He read further down the page, and looked panicked, then looked at his father.
"You had to spoil it didn't you?" he asked.
"Better to spoil it now, then get to that office and have it spoiled in-front of a total stranger," replied Albert.
"I don't believe it! Where am I gonna find a wife by Tuesday?" asked Harold.
Harold was sat by the phone, ringing up women, from his little black book. He had been sat there for a while, flicking through the pages.
"Hello? Becky? It's Harold...Steptoe...Hello? Oh be like that then!" he snapped.
"How's it going?" asked Albert, smirking.
"Five already married, six hang ups, and a father, who offered to take me to the local vet. Oh and just now, a gasp followed by a few interesting words, before the hang up," replied Harold.
"Right lady's man, aren't you?" asked Albert.
Harold glared at him.
"It's not me, it's you! Every time I bring a bird here, you go out your way to get rid of her," he replied.
"I do not! Anyway, they shouldn't bother about me, I'm not the one looking for a wife, you are. If a bird was actually interested, I wouldn't be able to stop her, getting her nails into your back, God! What a feeling that was?" added Albert.
Harold's expression, was that of total disgust.
"You dirty old man! How any one can find that a turn on? Many's a marriage been broken up, through unexplained scratches on a man's back, you know," he said.
"Well not yours! It helps if you're married in the first place!" snapped Albert.
"It's no good! I'll have to, to, go down, you know where," said Harold.
"What? Oh no, you're not marrying a woman like that!" snapped Albert.
"I aint gonna marry her! I'm gonna make her pretend to be my wife, sign whatever and give her some money for her trouble, heck I'll afford it then," said Harold.
"She'll only con you, you'll have nothing left. She'll want at least half," said Albert.
"Bit of bad luck she's having then, because she'll have fifty and like it, I'll bung her a bit of gold and that'll be it. I'll be off," said Harold.
"It won't work Harold, they're clever, these, women of the night. They know what they're doing," said Albert.
Harold smirked slightly.
"Well yes, I'm sure the kerb-crawlers are assured to hear that," he said.
"I don't mean that, you horrible little toerag!" snapped Albert.
"Well, honestly! How old am I? If I can't find a bird like that, who'll do anything for fifty quid, the world is against me. Just stay put with your hot milk," said Harold.
Albert couldn't stop Harold, getting his hat and coat, and walking out, into the cold, dark, night. He was walking, like a man on a mission, when he stopped at a scene before him. He first heard a female scream, then saw two, young looking men, trying to snatch her handbag, then it started to get heated as he heard some of the language used.
"Give it here, you little slapper!"
Harold's better nature, returned to him, he ran over, and shouted at the men, attacking the woman. They ran off, but pushed the woman to the floor, leaving Harold to look down.
"Are you alright?" he asked.
Harold's hand reached down, and the woman, who had clearly just been out, looked at him suspiciously at first, but Harold remained patient, until she accepted the offer of help.
"I've had better nights, thank you. Those men could have, well you put yourself in danger in a way," she replied.
"That's alright, I'm a big bloke, can handle it...not that I'm saying you couldn't of course, but..." began Harold.
The woman laughed slightly.
"And I wasn't saying you couldn't either. The danger I mean. Just that not many men would bother, serves me right, stood up again. I'll learn one day. Thank you, I shouldn't hold you up, you're wife must be blessed," she said.
"I don't have no wife," admitted Harold.
"Really? Shame, you could make someone...anyway I'm really grateful for what you did. Don't suppose there's anything I can do for you?" she asked.
Harold raised a thoughtful eyebrow, before his expression, revealed that he had thought of something, before he had even spoken.
"Can I walk you home? We can talk there," he said.
"I should have known..." she began.
"No! Not like that, I mean actually, talk. There is something you can help with see, and I'm not exactly comfortable discussing it here." added Harold.
The woman narrowed her eyes, and looked around. She was alone, and the men from earlier could be, anywhere, just waiting for her to appear, without any form of defence.
"Alright. No funny stuff mind you, or I'll have you out on your ear, with vital missing parts," she said.
"No need to take that sort of tone love! I know when my affection is and isn't wanted, which is more than can be said, for the Jack the rippers, from before," said Harold.
To his surprise, he found himself walking, arm in arm with her, a total stranger, down the street.
"Don't get any ideas, I'm less likely to be attacked if people just think, I'm someone elses'," she said.
"No problem, Harold Steptoe, fake boyfriend, at your service," said Harold.
"I'm May, fake girlfriend, and not at yours," she added.
Harold had to stop himself from laughing. He had found himself, not exactly the kind of woman he expected, but if he could just persuade her to act the part, of his wife, it could work for them both financially. The next thing he knew, he was being let in, to a woman's house, who lived on her own, but without the promise of anything seedy. Harold had his hat and coat taken from him, and they entered an average living room, just a bit cleaner, than the one Harold was used to, but it was the same size.
"So, if not the kind of favour I expected, what is it you expect in return?" asked May.
"Well, thing is, May, a family member, died recently and he's left me, quite a bit behind. Trouble is, I can't claim that money, unless I have a wife. I don't mean to be forward, but I was thinking, perhaps you could pretend to be, the wife, my wife and I'd give you a fair share of that money," replied Harold.
"Not forward? Harold, I just met you, and suddenly, although fake, I am marriage material? They'll ask you for proof and everything. I can't just turn up. We'd actually have to be married, in order to have all of the documents," said May.
"No we wouldn't, see all it wants is a scribble on some paper. You could do that couldn't you?" asked Harold.
"Harold, it's illegal," began May.
"Please! May, I saved your life out there, at great personal risk, as you almost put it. All I ask is for you to sign some paper," added Harold.
"I can't believe I'm agreeing to this," said May.
Harold looked thrilled.
"Thank you! Oh May! You've saved me, well a lot of trouble if I'm honest," he said.
May started to look at him closer, she smiled slightly, then nodded in confirmation to herself.
"It's ok Harold, I know why it means a lot to you," she said.
"You do?" he asked.
"I recognize you, and the name, from the cart. You're a rag and bone man, I've seen you out in all weathers. If anyone deserves some extra, it's you. I was wrong to think of refusing you. You can keep my share," she replied.
"Eh? No May! May! I have to, that's your like, insurance money, if we got caught like, you'd need it for a lawyer or something. I can't expect you to go through it, for nothing can I?" asked Harold.
May smiled, and shook her head.
"I'm the one, repaying a life debt. We'll be quits when I do this. I don't need or want your money," she said.
"But, but, surely you could do with a bit extra. What do you do for a living?" he asked.
"I'm a teacher," she replied.
"There you are then...a teacher? My mother was a teacher, that doesn't really pay well," added Harold.
"It's a steady salary. Honestly I'm fine...oh dear, it's raining heavily," said May.
Harold got up, and looked out of the window.
"Ah well, that's me soaked to the skin. Well I better be off, the meeting..." he began.
"You can't go out in that! Harold, you'd catch your death!" exclaimed May.
"Well I can't stay here can I?" asked Harold.
"Of course you can! I'll fetch you a pillow and a few blankets, I'd hate for something to happen to you," replied May.
Harold had no choice. On the sofa, was where he slept and there he stayed all night, suffering with an attack of conscience.
"Nice bird that May, wouldn't care if I was married to her, not that we can actually, I mean, history repeating itself and all. But she's really nice, too nice to end up in cell block 'H', for my benefit, not that it'll happen, well it could, but it isn't likely. Is it?" he asked.
The next morning, Harold was woken by the smell of coffee. It took him a few moments to remember where he was, he got up and wondered into a kitchen. May looked up, totally calm and collected for someone who had a strange man in the house, all night.
"Is coffee alright?" she asked.
"Yes, fine...here...I'll do that," replied Harold.
"Oh right, there's some toast too, just help yourself," added May.
Harold looked over to the table, sure enough, there was a plate full of toast, with pots of jam and marmalade by it and a butter dish. Harold turned to her.
"You didn't have to you know?" he asked.
"I know, but I thought I might as well. Sleep well?" she asked.
"Woke up well, more like, I'll just..." began Harold.
They turned to each other at the same time, both with coffee in their hands. Harold looked quite mortified, as both cups, wobbled and dark, brown, liquid, found itself on the floor. Luckily May just smiled.
"Don't cry over spilt milk, coffee, or anything else. That's what I added to that saying. Don't look so worried," she said.
Harold stepped aside, and went over to the table. He found himself stealing a glance, as May, bent down to clean up the coffee, then looked away when she got up. Harold cleared his throat, before he spoke.
"May, would you mind, visiting my father, you know. Incase you're asked about the family, it'd be a bit strange, if say you didn't know, your own father in law, well fake but," he began.
May sat down at the table and began to nod.
"No, you have a point. Anything I should know?" she asked.
"A lot, but if I told you, you'd tell me to get lost," replied Harold.
"He can't be that bad," said May.
"Don't you believe it. When you walk through that door, if you don't get abuse, it'll be a first and I'll probably have heart failure, and there's nothing wrong with my heart," added Harold.
"I teach. I'm used to some abuse. I know what those kids say about me, along with most of the staff room. Honestly I'd be surprised if your father, said anything that I hadn't heard before," said May.
Harold smiled, and finally started to eat something, feeling a lot more confident. True to his word, he took May, back home, who waited in the hall, as he went to find Albert.
"Dad! I'm home!" he shouted.
Albert flew out of the kitchen.
"What time do you call this? Dirty stop out!" he snapped.
Harold turned to the clock.
"It is half past ten, in the morning," replied Harold.
"Don't get clever! Where've you been? And don't expect any breakfast!" added Albert.
"Don't need it. I have someone, in the hallway, for you to meet, and I would be much obliged, if you were to behave yourself, as she is not a lady of the evening, she's like mum, a school teacher, and that is where I have been. Now I am going to go and get her, be nice, or so help me..." began Harold.
He returned to the hall, and opened the door. He took May by the hand, and led her into the living room. He noticed that she had become, very quiet. Albert looked at her briefly.
"Hello, Mr. Steptoe," she said.
Harold made gestures, to try and make his father respond.
"Hello. So you're the one, who plans to pretend to be his wife?" asked Albert.
"To return a favour," added May.
"Favour? Harold! So that's what you were doing last night?" asked Albert.
Harold went red, and his eyes widened. May managed, to bite her lip, but didn't respond.
"No it was not! I saw May, in a bit of bother, I helped her out..." began Harold.
"Your son saved me, from two young men, the least I can do is sign a bit of paper," added May.
Albert turned back around to them both. He looked at Harold, then at May. Harold looked at May, and she smiled at him, with confidence. He smiled, quite differently to how he had been.
"I see, so Harold is your hero is he?" he asked.
"Well, yes, I suppose he is," replied May.
Albert, rolled his eyes, as Harold looked at her, through a misty-eyed gaze. May turned to him and Harold, quickly changed his expression.
"The appointment is at two, I should get changed..." he began.
"Oh right, I suppose," she added.
"You alright...down here, with him I mean?" asked Harold.
"It's fine, don't worry," she said.
"Right then. Well I sharen't be long," he added.
Harold didn't move, then when he did, he seemed torn, as though he wanted to do one thing, but ended up, turning away from May, and leaving the room.
"Take a seat, go on," said Albert.
"Thank you," said May.
"My pleasure, he's a good soul, my Harold, just not very bright. He likes you," he said.
"Mr. Steptoe..." began May.
"He'd never take advantage, he's not like that. Give him a chance, won't you? You might be a fake wife, but I can sense something, feel it in my bones," added Albert.
"Please, I am grateful to your son, for his actions yesterday, but, well he told me about his mother, that she was a teacher," added May.
"Oh she was, that's her on the desk in the corner," added Albert.
May turned and squinted slightly at the picture. She then turned back.
"Can I?" she asked.
"Sure," he said.
May got up, and walked over to the picture. She picked it up and smiled at the slight differences, between them.
"She seems a very, nice lady, happy too. It's like, she's trying to look...well, but she can't help herself," she said.
"You can tell all that?" asked Albert.
May smiled, and nodded. Albert stood up, but Harold came through the door, and caught May, with the picture in her hand. Albert saw, the look on both faces, Harold's confusion, and May's embarrassment.
"I thought I'd show her, that, see how teachers were in them days," added Albert.
May quickly, put the picture back in its place. Harold took a deep breath.
"Shall we? Dunno how long the bus will be," he said.
May nodded, and left the room, Harold went to straighten the picture, and paused.
"She's a lovely girl, Harold. Shame, none of it is real," said Albert.
Between his father's words and the picture on the desk, Harold made up his mind. He ran out, into the yard, and stopped May, where she stood.
"Wait! I can't!" he said.
"Harold?" asked May.
"I can't, I don't want you to do this," added Harold.
"Calm down, what's wrong?" asked May, kindly.
"All of it!" cried Harold.
He turned around, and May's eyes and expression, shone with concern. She walked over to him and put her hand, on his arm. Harold looked down, and slowly turned around.
"I can't risk us, you, being found out. The money, would never cover the guilt, I mean, you're a respectable woman, a school teacher, you don't belong behind bars," he said.
May smiled at him, but tears shone in her eyes. On her tip-toes, she kissed Harold's cheek, must to his amazement, and continued to smile.
"Thank you," she said.
She walked down the road, and once she was a few yards away, she waved, and received a half-hearted one back. Harold went back, into the house and sat back down.
"That was quick, no buses? Where's she gone?" asked Albert.
"Just gone," replied Harold.
"Just gone? What do you mean? Just gone?" asked Albert.
"I couldn't do it, I couldn't let her act as my wife, I'd never have forgiven myself, if that bird, would have ended up in the clink," replied Harold.
"You mean, you let her go, all together?" asked Albert.
"Yes dad, I'll probably never see her again," replied Harold, sadly.
"You bleeding, idiot!" she shouted.
Harold turned around quickly.
"What? I liked her, she didn't really like me, it'd never have worked," he said.
"That's what you think! She said things, things that were true, about your mother, when she was looking at that picture. She might have been a school teacher, a class above us, but she was happy. That's what she said, you let her go!" snapped Harold.
Harold, got up and ran out of the door. He looked up the road, and ran up it, turned the corner, only to find loads of people, as he searched for May. He realized that he had made a mistake, that perhaps she could have made him, a real wife. Harold looked at the crowd a while longer, then turned around and walked back home.