Friday, November 30, 2012


SHIPS IN THE NIGHT is one of my screenplays, in development, that Ruth Harley and the Screen Australia Board believe would pose a risk to any member of staff who read and assessed it. Just what kind of risk, Ruth Harley refuses to divulge!

...continuing on from SHIPS IN THE NIGHT #2

TRACY You are the first cab in the rank, now.
…They all said no?

MATT nods, looks back down to the parcel and greeting card.

TRACY Problem is, I haven’t got any money.

MATT, not wanting to be rude but wanting her to go away, raises his pen as if to continue writing on the card.

TRACY On me, that is. I lost my wallet and…

MATT  …but you’ve got money at home, right?

TRACY Right.

MATT And you’ll just run in and get it while I wait in the street?

TRACY I’m not a runner. Promise. I need…

Realizing that she is not getting through to MATT, TRACY invests her next ‘I need’ with a ‘desperate’ edge.

TRACY I need…I need…

MATT looks at her properly for the first time. TRACY smiles innocently, plays the ingénue.

TRACY Do I look like a runner?

MATT looks at her for a moment, his face giving nothing away. TRACY spins around in a pirouette followed by an arabesque.

MATT shakes his head, smiles.

TRACY Is that a ‘no’ or a ‘yes’?

MATT Haven’t got a mum or dad to pick you up?

TRACY Nup, I’m a test tube baby. (A BEAT) A mum.

MATT She know where you are?

TRACY (cocky) Hope not. (A BEAT) You got a daughter?

MATT smiles, looks down at the card resting on the parcel.

TRACY  I’ll take that as a yes. How old is she? (A BEAT) Sorry, I’m a motor mouth…

TRACY leans closer to read what he has written. MATT closes the card.

TRACY For someone you love?

MATT I’m not driving you home.

TRACY  But I’m driving you mad, ay?

MATT  Barking.


MATT Where’s home?

TRACY Rydalmere.

MATT That’s west! I’m heading south.

He points to the ‘SOUTHERN SUBURBS’ sign. TRACY nods.

MATT I’m Tracy by the way.

MATT Pleased to meet you, Tracy.

TRACY Liar! (A BEAT) Not gunna tell me your name?

MATT Justin Beiber.

TRACY laughs, leans across MATT to look at his Driver’s ID, bringing her head very close to his. 

TRACY (reads) GQ 1734.

TRACY looks at him for a long moment.

TRACY Were you good looking when you were young, GQ 1734?

MATT smiles.

TRACY Hey, you’ve got quite a sexy smile, GQ 1734. For a man your age! 

MATT And you’ve got too sexy a smile for a girl your age.

TRACY (laughs) Wanna take me home? (A BEAT) Where d’you live?

MATT Cronulla.

TRACY Long way from Rydalmere to Cronulla, ay?

MATT moves his taxi closer to the head of the rank; TRACY following alongside.

MATT (nods) But a good fare this time of night… $70? $80. One of these guys (HE GESTURES TO THE CABS IN THE RANK BEHIND HIM) will take you…for sure.

TRACY Not if I tell them I don’t have money.

MATT You really do have money at home?

TRACY nods. MATT drives forward a little. TRACY follows.

MATT Then don’t tell him you’ve lost your wallet

TRACY Lie, you mean?

MATT No, just don’t volunteer…

TRACY Y’reckon not telling the whole truth is the same as lying? I mean if no-one asks for the whole truth and you…someone…keeps stuff secret? Is that lying?

MATT I reckon secrets are OK?

TRACY Tell me a secret. One of yours.

MATT laughs, shakes his head. 

TRACY You tell me one of yours and I’ll tell you one of mine.

MATT I’m sorry Tracy, my shift’s finished so…

TRACY I know, you can’t drive me home. That’s OK. But you can talk to me, right, till you get a fare?

MATT Even if you had money…I’ve got to be somewhere…a promise I’ve made…

TRACY Promises are important to keep, ay?

MATT nods, suddenly remembers his own recent promise to Juliet. He takes out his mobile, pauses, looks at TRACY. 

MATT Sorry…

He makes a ‘sorry’ gesture. TRACY shrugs (“It’s OK”), 

MATT It’s private.

TRACY That’s OK. I’m good at keeping secrets. (A BEAT) Girlfriend?

MATT smiles, moves forward a little further in the rank, TRACY walking alongside.

TRACY Aha! So, what did you do to piss her off or what didn’t you do you should have done?

MATT smiles, shakes his head.

TRACY Someone you love, ay? Wife? Girlfriend? (A BEAT) or boyfriend?

MATT Daughter.

TRACY’S mood changes from playful to serious.

TRACY You do love her, ay? Your daughter? What’s her name?

MATT looks at TRACY for a long moment.

MATT Juliet.

TRACY As in Romeo and…?

MATT As in…About your age.

TRACY No way!


TRACY You and her mum still together?

MATT No, they live in Melbourne.

TRACY Does she know you’re her dad?

MATT (laughs) Of course.

TRACY Do you love her? More than anything in the whole wide world? (BEAT) Sorry. (A BEAT) None of my business. (A BEAT) But do you?


TRACY She’s lucky, ay?

MATT I guess…

TRACY K. See ya.

TRACY, subdued now, all of her cockiness having deserted her, turns, starts to walk off. MATT calls out to her.

MATT Tracy!

She turns, her face breaking into a hopeful smile.

MATT You be careful, okay?

TRACY’S smile fades.

MATT And I know this is the kind of thing that your mum and dad probably say, but…You shouldn’t be out alone at this time of night.

TRACY  (childlike) Yes dad.

This throws MATT for a moment. He looks at her. TRACY slips back into acting like a confident young woman, smiling ‘sexily’ in a way she has seen women do in some movie.

TRACY  See ya.

MATT nods. TRACY hesitates for a moment, her eyes on the taxi windscreen.

TRACY You know you’ve got a crack in your windscreen?

MATT nods. TRACY hesitates a moment before walking off. After a few paces she stops, thinks to herself.

MATT, mobile in hand, watches her. After a long moment TRACY walks back and stands by Matt’s window. Her cockiness has been replaced with a quiet vulnerability. She looks from his bloodied knuckles to the windscreen.

TRACY Did the windscreen do something to hurt your feelings?  

MATT is thrown by the question; is not sure how to respond.

TRACY I have days like that too. Like yesterday. Yesterday sucked bigtime. But…

MATT’s mobile emits the sound of a rooster crowing. TRACY smiles but is still caught up in her own vulnerability. MATT looks at the screen: Juliet. He wants to take the call but is still processing what Tracy has just said. The rooster crowing stops. TRACY, capable of switching personas at the drop of a hat, slips back into being the ingénue.

TRACY What if I have to hitchhike home and get raped or murdered or something and you read about it in the paper? How are you going to feel?

MATT If you do a runner on me and I can’t make my mortgage payments this week how do you reckon I’m going to feel?

TRACY Like you want to hit someone.

TRACY indicates MATT’S bloody knuckles.

MATT (defensive) I didn’t hit anyone.

TRACY Didn’t say you did. Said you want to.

MATT  No I don’t.

TRACY raises her fists and makes a little boxing gesture. MATT   smiles, shakes his head.

MATT Can’t call your dad and get him to pick you up? Have you got a dad?

TRACY Yes and no.

MATT Test tube baby, ay!

TRACY Biological, yes, but…the rest of the dad stuff…(SHAKES HER HEAD) uh huh! Mum’s had to cope with me alone.

MATT You know who your dad is?

TRACY bites her lip, plays nervously with her hair.

TRACY Yes, but he doesn’t.

MATT Doesn’t know he’s your dad?

TRACY Maybe that too. (A BEAT) Not sure if he knows…doesn’t know… He’s pretty clueless.

MATT You’ve met him!?

The thin sound of an upbeat pop song from Tracy’s mobile.

TRACY A squillion times. I’ve known him since before I can remember.

TRACY takes out her mobile, looks at the LCD screen, sees who the caller is, walks to the front of the cab, speaks abruptly.

TRACY (on phone) What!

MATT watches her through the cracked windscreen as TRACY listens for a moment before venting her anger:

TRACY (on phone) You promised me! I trusted you and you lied to me. Your promises are worth fuck all. I never want to see you again.

TRACY punches ‘end’ on her mobile petulantly, plays absent-mindedly with a silver ring on her left index finger for a moment, walks back to stand by his window. 

TRACY Men! Can you explain men to me?

MATT  Can you explain teenage girls to me?

TRACY (grins) Cost ya a ride t’Rydalmere.

MATT laughs. The sound of the passenger door opening. 

PASSENGER (voice off) You right for Cronulla, mate?

MATT turns, sees the smiling face of a MIDDLE AGED MAN leaning in through the front passenger door.

MATT Sure.

As the PASSENGER drops into the seat, MATT looks at TRACY. He catches the moment of disappointment in her face before she smiles, gives him a double thumbs up.

TRACY Cronulla! Way to go.

MATT nods, smiles, as the PASSENGER fastens his seat belt.

TRACY Fun talking to ya.

TRACY pauses for a moment before turning to walk off.

MATT For me too, Tracy.

TRACY turns, beams a smile at him for a moment, turns keeps walking. MATT turns on the ignition.

PASSENGER (friendly) Had a good night?

MATT seems not to have heard. He looks back out the window. TRACY has almost reached the other side of the road.

PASSENGER  Guess it would have been better if you’d scored that bit of teen pussy.

MATT ignores the PASSENGER; turns on the meter. The muffled sound of a rooster crowing. The PASSENGER ogles TRACY.

PASSENGER  What’s better than fucking a 16 year old girl?

MATT takes his mobile from his pocket: Juliet.

PASSENGER Fucking a 14 year old girl.

The PASSENGER laughs. MATT ignores him, talks into his mobile.

MATT I wish you’d stop doing that, sweetheart!

JULIET’S VOICE Doing what?

MATT Hanging up on me. 

JULIET’S VOICE You don’t have a clue, do you?

MATT About what?


MATT I’m not psychic, Juliet.

JULIET’S VOICE You can say that again.

PASSENGER Can’t live with ‘em, can’t shoot ‘em.

JULIET’S VOICE Who’s that? What did he say?

MATT Nothing.

JULIET’S VOICE I heard what he said. Arsehole!  Bye dad.

Juliet hangs up.

PASSENGER Hey, you know your hand’s bleeding?

MATT ignores him, taps ‘J’ and ‘U’ on the keypad of his mobile when the sound of a rooster crowing announces the arrival of a text message from Juliet: Fuck you! MATT stares at the text message. Natural sound drains away as MATT raises his eyes.


Looking through the windscreen at MATT, staring into space. His eyes focus on the two inch crack as it grows slowly another half inch, another inch, then stops. The PASSENGER’S lips move but neither MATT nor the audience hears any words.  


Close on MATT. Natural sound drains back in. 

MATT Sorry.

PASSENGER Can we fucking…go…!?

He indicates the ticking meter. MATT nods, checks for traffic before leaving the curb, sees TRACY across the road – arm outstretched; hitching. The group of THREE YOUNG DRUNKEN MEN closeby have spotted her. TRACY turns, looks at MATT looking at her. She waves to him as she did before - thumb outstretched and four fingers moving, flapping up and down exaggeratedly: ’ta ta’. Without thinking, MATT moves his hand as if to replicate the gesture but stops himself. MATT looks calmly at the PASSENGER for a long moment.

MATT Sorry, I can’t take you to Cronulla.

The PASSENGER, incredulous, looks at TRACY, back at MATT.

PASSENGER You’re fucking kidding, right!?

MATT Sorry, but…the driver behind me…

The PASSENGER stares at MATT – who reaches across him and opens the passenger door, undoes the PASSENGER’S seat belt.


TRACY watches the PASSENGER get out Matt’s cab on the other side of the road, slam the door.


MATT pulls out from the curb, prepares to do a U-turn. TRACY smiles. The PASSENGER shouts at MATT as he begins his U-turn:

PASSENGER Give her one for me too, arsehole!

Matt’s cab pulls up alongside TRACY.

TRACY You offering me a ride or what?

MATT ‘Long as you don’t take me for one!

TRACY (excited) Yay.

TRACY opens the front passenger door, leaps in happily.

MATT Seatbelt.

TRACY fastens her seat belt, looks at MATT with a big happy smile. MATT drives off.

…to be continued…

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