Tuesday, January 15, 2013


...continuing on from THURSDAY'S CHILD # 6


NEIL and BEA sit at a roughly hewn table in NEIL’s bark slab hut, illuminated by kerosene lantern light; their empty plates in front of them and a large pot of stew in the middle of the table. They drink tea from metal cups. A fire burns in the background. NEIL’s warm, homey, sparsely furnished hut bespeaks a man accustomed to living alone. Several novels and plays sit on the shelf above the fireplace. As they talk, NEIL repairs an old worn saddle.
NEIL   'Mad Bea Miles', eh!
BEA (laughs)   Mad as a hatter.
NEIL   Well, there’s some folks in town reckon I’m mad as a cut snake...
BEA (surprised)   You!?
NEIL  Well, I don't go too much on socializing, see.  Mostly it’s just me 'n'th'Abos and me animals. 'The Romeo Recluse'.
BEA (laughs)   The reclusive Romeo.
NEIL   Not too much of that these last few years.
BEA   It must get lonely.
NEIL   Bloody lonely, sometimes. One time I had a pen-friend in Tasmania it got that lonely.
BEA   Why do you stay?
NEIL (simply)   It’s where I belong.

BEA's face registers the impact this statement has for her.
BEA   Yes.
NEIL   I tried goin’ t’town more but...well, they’re two different things, aren’t they - bein' alone 'n bein' lonely?
BEA   Yes.

They sit for a moment in companionable silence.
NEIL   You ready for bed yet?

BEA laughs. NEIL blushes.
NEIL   I mean...well, I’ve only got  the on, see...So, you take it and I’ll bunk down here.

He points to the open area in front the fire.
BEA   No, you take the bed and I’ll bunk down here.
NEIL   But...

BEA   Please...


BEA hangs the clothes she has just washed on a makeshift line some distance from NEIL’s hut. In the background NEIL and YORKIE can be seen at work on the barn. The Aboriginal camp nearby catches BEA’s attention. She approaches it tentatively - unsure whether or not her presence would be welcome.  There are a few make-shift shelters but it is quite apparent that the twenty or so ABORIGINALS in the camp sleep outside most of the time. They all wear odd items of tattered cast-off white men’s clothes - except for the dozen or so naked children. The men sit around fires talking and smoking pipes for the most part, while a small group of women crowd around another fire - some distance from the camp.  From where BEA is, it appears that there is a woman crouched over a smoldering fire. This image catches her attention for a moment before she is besieged by naked children (some with golden hair) who swarm over her - touching her, pinching her, laughing and chattering excitedly in their own language and broken English. BEA is moved, overwhelmed; happy.

NEIL finishes saddling a horse, smiling to himself at the sound of excited children’s laughter coming from the Aboriginal camp.  YORKIE finishes packing some supplies on the back of his hose and both the and NEIL mount and make their way towards the Aboriginal camp - the third horse in tow.

As he gets closer, NEIL sees BEA crouched on a log in the Aboriginal camp, scratching herself under the armpits, pulling funny faces and generally behaving like a monkey.  The children - some of them imitating her - laugh uproariously; as do most of the men sitting by the fires. A FAIR-HAIRED BOY calls out:

BEA stops acting like a monkey and points to the boy.
BEA   You show me.

The boy leaps around like a kangaroo. BEA imitates him. More uproarious laughter. BEA smiles up to NEIL, who is close by now.
NEIL   Coming t’see me tin mine?
BEA (excited)   Yes please.


BEA looks on excitedly as NEIL lights a fuse and runs towards her.  She blocks her ears.  There is a loud explosion - dust and rocks flying out from the side of the hill.  NEIL turns on a big hose and shoots a powerful stream of water at the gaping hole left by the explosion.

BEA (excited)   Let me. Let me.

BEA rushes over to NEIL, who hands her the hose. It is too strong for her and it jumps out of her hands, thrashing and twisting about the sluice boxes, picks and shovels, spraying BEA, NEIL and YORKIE with red mud as they wrestle with it to regain control. By the time NEIL has the hose firmly in his hands again BEA is covered in mud and laughing happily.


NEIL, BEA and YORKIE work hard with picks and mattocks on the face of the tin mine; all sweating in the hot sun.  BEA turns to look at NEIL and finds him looking at her. She smiles.


A swimming hole bathed in late afternoon light. BEA strips off her muddy clothes and makes her way into the water. NEIL is embarrassed by BEA’s nakedness. He stands on one leg to take off a sock; looking awkward.

BEA swims about, diving and surfacing; full of exuberant energy.  NEIL stands at the edge of the water hole in his underpants - uncertain whether to take them off or leave them on.
BEA    Come on in. Fraidy cat. It’s lovely and warm
NEIL (uncertain in his underpants)   Yeah. It’s...er cooler down where it’s muddier. The sunlight don’t penetrate through the mud you see. So that’s why it’s cooler.

BEA bursts out laughing.
NEIL   What are you laughing at?

She continues laughing.  NEIL dives into the water in his underpants.  When he surfaces BEA is still laughing.  He smiles sheepishly.


BEA rides easily up and down in the saddle of a horse galloping towards us, her fair hair whipping back from her radiant smiling face.  NEIL is close behind, pushing his horse as fast as he can to catch up. BEA glances back to see how he is faring; exhilarated by the thrill of the race.

Close to NEIL’s hut BEA reins her horse in and stops, her attention caught by a small group of tribal ABORIGINAL WOMEN huddled around a smoldering fire.  She dismounts and moves towards them, the increasingly enthralled expression on her face revealing her growing sense of awe and exhilaration at what she is witnessing.  Behind her, NEIL dismounts and walks up behind her.  BEA stops and looks in wonder.  NEIL stops some distance away.

A YOUNG ABORIGINAL WOMAN naked from the waist down, squats astride the smoldering remnants of a fire as ANOTHER ABORIGINAL WOMAN massages her back while yet another holds her hands between her legs as the child’s head emerges.  The mother-to-be’s straining face is drenched with sweat. Some distance in the background the Aboriginal camp can be seen.

BEA, enthralled, watches open-mouthed as the child is born.

The midwife holds up a squalling bloodied upside-down baby girl, still connected to its mother by the umbilicus.  The mother’s black glistening face turns to look at her daughter.  BEA watches, deeply moved.  Some distance away, NEIL watches BEA.


BEA and NEIL sit at the table in Neil’s hut; arguing.

NEIL   Yeah, but look...there’s gotta be rules. Without 'em you’ve got no civilization. What have you got? Law of the jungle. A dog fight.
BEA   Yes, but...
NEIL  Then what’s wrong with behavin' like everyone else?
BEA   Because I want to be free.

NEIL   To do what?

BEA (clutching at straws)   "He travels fastest who travels alone".
NEIL   Where to?  Where are you going Beatrice?

BEA looks at him; unable to reply. NEIL gets quite worked up.
NEIL   Goin’ off travellin’ half cocked is beaut. But eventually y'gotta be somewhere. With someone. Or the human race...is over...don’t you see?

BEA can only look at NEIL; silenced by his seriousness, his intensity.  Frustrated, NEIL picks up their dirty dinner plates and takes them over to a bucket by the fire. He squats down, his back to BEA, and begins to rinse them. BEA watches him - confused by his sudden change of mood and manner.
BEA   But I haven’t seen anything of the world yet. And I want to see it all.
NEIL   Yeah.


BEA lies in her swag by the fire; deep in thought.  Firelight plays on the bark walls.  NEIL is asleep on his bunk on the other side of the room.


NEIL and BEA ride silently through the bush, back towards town.  BEA's swag is tied to the back of NEIL’s horse.  BEA looks out at the magnificent view and makes an attempt to snap NEIL out of his morose mood with her own cheerfulness.

BEA   I can see why you love it here.

NEIL does not reply.  He puts his head down and begins to turn, as if to say something but changes his mind.


NEIL and BEA, by a river, watering the horses. Out of the strained silence NEIL turns suddenly to BEA.

NEIL   Look, I gone all round it in me mind and there’s no way round it Beatrice, you got to marry me.

BEA looks at him; too stunned to respond. He looks straight at her.
NEIL   Marry me Beatrice. Tomorrow. No, it takes three days... posting the banns or some bloody thing. Pardon me language, I’m a bit...het up.  Look I’ll pay your fare, you can go back to this        bloke, have a wild weekend, get it out of your system...But you gotta marry me Saturday first. Then you can go.
BEA (moved)   Neil...
NEIL   I’m gonna lose you Beatrice, if you get on that boat to Thursday. If you get on that bloody boat...Ah Christ I think I said it all wrong...

BEA moves over to NEIL and touches him …
BEA   No, you said it just fine but...
NEIL   Beatrice, listen. You belong here. Some girls look good on a horse; some don’t. You look good on a horse. You’re strong. You belong here.
BEA (wistful)  I don't think I belong anywhere.
NEIL    Y'can’t always be looking to the next station up th'line, Bea. That way y'never see where you are. There'll always be another station. And another after that...

BEA  And I want to stop at all of them.

NEIL   Y'can’t. Life's too short...I don’t want you as a pen friend, Beatrice.
BEA   Me either.

BEA, moved, confused, torn by different impulses, looks directly into his eyes.  NEIL puts his arms around BEA and kisses her.  BEA responds and for a moment there is an intensity and passion in their kissing, before BEA pulls herself away.
BEA   It’s not what I want. Not yet.

NEIL (desperate)    What do you want, Beatrice?

BEA, in emotional turmoil, with tears in her eyes, can only shrug her shoulders: she doesn’t know what she wants.


BEA rides her bicycle fast through the Botanical Gardens in early morning sunlight, past the Herbarium. She is excited to be back.


BEA bicycles down a street of terrace houses in The Rocks, her face lighting up when she sees Johnno’s motorbike parked outside his boarding house.  She parks her bicycle and runs into the house.


BEA leaps up the stairs of JOHNNO's boarding house, three steps at a time.  She knock excitedly on JOHNNO's door. A few moments later JOHNNO opens the door, clad only in a towel. He is surprised, excited and a little uncomfortable all at once.


BEA moves inward and hugs JOHNNO happily for a moment before she sees, over his shoulder, the naked woman on his bed. She pulls away, hurt. JOHNNO is not quite sure what to do or say.

JOHNNO  (sheepish introductions)   Bea...Gwen...

An awkward silence.
BEA   I...see you later...

She turns and walks down the stairs.
JOHNNO (lamely)   Bea...!

BEA keeps walking.  JOHNNO watches her.


BEA sits in the windowsill of her room, staring into space, an open book in her lap. There is a knock at the door.
BEA   Come in.

The door opens and in comes JOHNNO.  He grins a little sheepishly.  For a long moment they look at each other.
JOHNNO (mildly apologetic)   Sorry about yesterday. Bad timing.
BEA (hurt)   Bad timing!? Is that all?
JOHNNO   I don’t know what else I can say.
BEA   Nothing, obviously.
JOHNNO   I missed you.
BEA   Come off it Johnno.

JOHNNO   Seriously.

BEA   While you were making love with Gwen?

BEA is hurt. She looks directly an JOHNNO for a moment, then away.  JOHNNO runs his fingers nervously through his hair; turns to leave.
JOHNNO   Well...'Bye...
BEA   Johnno?

JOHNNO stops and turns.
BEA   I met someone too...while I was away.

JOHNNO   Nice chap?
BEA   Very...Neil...

JOHNNO smiles.
JOHNNO  And did you miss me?
BEA nods.
JOHNNO   While you were with Neil?

BEA shakes her head. Johnno laughs.  BEA smiles and hits him playfully.
BEA   I hate you.

JOHNNO moves over to her.
JOHNNO   Welcome home Bright Eyes.

BEA   That's all you love about me, isn’t it?  My eyes.
JOHNNO   No, I love your nose...

He kisses her nose.
JOHNNO  ...your ears, your mouth, your neck...

He kisses these parts of BEA's anatomy.

JOHNNO   All of you.

BEA   What about Gwen?
JOHNNO  I only love parts of her.
BEA   I bet I know which parts.

JOHNNO grins.
BEA   I’ve got something for you.

BEA gets off the windowsill and moves over to her dilly bag, from which she extracts a small cloth-bound book.  She moves back across the room to give it to JOHNNO by the window.  He opens it, turns the pages - on each of which Bea has stuck a pressed, dried Australian wild-flower, with both it English and Latin names inscribed beneath it in perfect Italic handwriting.
JOHNNO   It’s beautiful.
BEA  Five for every State. Except Western Australia. I’m saving it up.
JOHNNO  We'll go together.
BEA (excited)   We will, won’t we?

JOHNNO nods. BEA hugs him tight.


BEA stands on the running board of a tram as it moves up the road at full speed. She is leaning out happily, dangerously; oblivious to the sensation her antics are causing for the passengers.  An angry TRAM CONDUCTOR leans out a door further down the carriage.
TRAM CONDUCTOR   I’ll give you ten seconds to get inside, Bea.

BEA turns and smiles at him but otherwise ignores him.  The TRAM CONDUCTOR moves back inside and begins to make his way down the aisle to the doorway in which BEA is standing. BEA looks straight up the road and notices another tram approaching rapidly in the opposite direction. The TRAM CONDUCTOR is almost on BEA when she leaps, it seems, into the path of the passing tram.

There is shock and horror on the faces of the passengers and TRAM CONDUCTOR.

BEA, on the other tram, waves to the TRAM CONDUCTOR as the two trams speed away from each other.


BEA stands in the dock of the Magistrate’s Court, hands on hips, glaring defiantly at the MAGISTRATE.

MAGISTRATE   Why, Miss Miles?
BEA   Why not?

The MAGISTRATE thinks for a moment.
MAGISTRATE   Miss Miles...

The MAGISTRATE is about to offer BEA some advice, but changes his mind when he sees her smiling challengingly at him.
MAGISTRATE   Fined five pounds.
BEA (cheery)   Time to pay, your honour.
MAGISTRATE (tired)  Time to pay.


BEA crouched on the footpath of a fairly busy city street writing on a double page of an exercise book:  SHAKESPEARIAN RECITATIONS 1d. 3d. and 6d.  She tears the page out of the book and pins the sign to her blouse. She stands with her back to the window of a shop. People pass. No-one stops.


IST. MAN   D’ya recite from memory or from a book?
BEA   Memory.

IST. MAN   How much of it d’ya know?
BEA   Most of it.

IST. MAN   Don’t believe ya.
BEA   Bet you a bob I can quote any passage you choose.
IST. MAN   Two bob if you can give me the whole first act of `Romeo and Juliet.
BEA   Make it three bob and I’ll give you the whole play.

1ST MAN (laughs)   You’re on.
BEA   That’s three bob from each of you.

JOHN FOGARTY, a young and slightly portly clergyman in a dog collar, has stopped to observe.  BEA calls out to him.
BEA   How about you?

FOGARTY smiles and walks over, taking three coins from his pocket.  The THREE MEN laugh and nod to each other: anything for a lark.  BEA extracts her volume of SHAKESPEARE’S COLLECTED WORKS from her bag, opens it to the relevant page and hands it to the 1st man, who is a little taken aback.
BEA   With or without stage directions?
IST. MAN  Er...with.
BEA   Righto.  "Prologue. Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona, where we lay our scene..."

Passersby stop to listen.  BEA performs well.


Quite a large crowd has gathered, listening with rapt attention to BEA's animated recital.  BEA's eyes meet FOGARTY's.  He smiles.
BEA   "Scene two.  Capulet’s garden. Enter Romeo. Romeo:  He jests at scars that never felt a wound..."

The 1ST. MAN is still following the text, checking to see if BEA makes any mistakes.  The 2ND. and 3RD. men are fishing in their pockets for some money.
BEA   "Juliet appears above at a window.  Romeo: But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?"

The 1ST. MAN shuts the book, shakes his head, fishes into his pocket and says, with good humor:
1ST. MAN   You win.
The crowd cheers.  He hands BEA her book and the money.  The other men hand her their money also. The crowd disperses.  A few throw coins on the ground in front of BEA. FOGARTY comes forward and holds three shilling pieces out to BEA.
FOGARTY   Excellent performance.
BEA   Thank you.

She looks at the coins and shakes her head.
BEA   No. I tricked you.

FOGARTY is insistent.
FOGARTY   Please.
BEA   "My poverty and not my will consents."
FOGARTY   "Then I will pay thy poverty and not thy will."

BEA laughs. FOGARTY smiles and holds out his hand.
FOGARTY   Reverend John Fogarty.
BEA (shaking his hand)   Atheist Bea Miles.
FOGARTY   A devout one I hope.
BEA   I don’t do anything by halves.

FOGARTY   May I buy you some lunch.

BEA looks at his overweight stomach.
BEA   Looks like you should skip lunch.
FOGARTY   Alas, I have a weakness for Italian food.
BEA   I thought gluttony was a sin!
FOGARTY   Oh, I think we’re all entitled to one sin, don’t you?

BEA smiles warmly at him.


BEA and FOGARTY sitting a small table in a restaurant, having recently finished their meal.
BEA   You Christians don’t believe in reincarnation, do you?
BEA   Nor do we atheists. Pity. Be good to know that you had another life, wouldn’t it?; that you didn’t have to do it all in this one.
FOGARTY   You’d probably come back as a policeman. Or a Christian.
BEA (laughs)   God forbid!
BEA (serious now)  Ever been in love Fogarty?
FOGARTY (smiles)   No.

BEA thinks for a moment.
BEA   If you had a child you’d love it wouldn’t you?
BEA   And if you had a second child and a third child you’d love them as much as the rest wouldn’t you?
BEA   So love is not an exhaustible quality, is it?

FOGARTY thinks for a moment. BEA looks directly at him and he at her.
FOGARTY   No. But time is.
BEA (sighs)   Yes.

...to be continued

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