Fatty & Skinny Go to Work


                       FATTY & SKINNY

~ mythical figures from the non-indigenous dreamtime ~ 

                  GO TO WORK (1950-1960)

                          by Tim Gooding


"Go To Work" is the 1st play in the FATTY and SKINNY series:

1. "FATTY and SKINNY Go To Work (1950-1960)"
2. "FATTY and SKINNY Meet A Woman (1960-1970)"
3. "FATTY and SKINNY Go To War (1970-1980)"
4. "Vote 1 FATTY for PM (1980-1990)"
5. "FATTY and SKINNY Get Rich And Famous (1990-?)"

(c) Tim Gooding May 2006


A minimum seven actors are required, some in double roles, as follows.

  • 1. RON (Fatty) SHIPWATER
  • 2. BRIAN (Skinny) O'BRIEN


Scene 1

(The Bay. A cottage front door. Surrounded by darkness. The sound of distant surf.

RON (FATTY) enters. Aged 14. Rotund. Violent red hair and translucent pink eyelids to match. Wearing the impoverished approximation of a 1950s public school uniform. An antipodean Billy Bunter. On a covert mission. He looks round for BRIAN (SKINNY), who - supposedly following - is nowhere in sight.

RON:  (whispers) Skinny? Skinny. Skinny.

(Brian enters. Aged 13. Thin, weedy. Vaguely school uniformed. Tightly belted pants crinkle at his underdeveloped waist. His shorts are too short, as are his shirt sleeves. Head and neck protrude from his collar like a cartoon tortoise. His left arm is in a sling. He hangs back, afraid.)

RON:  Don't be a sook. He's asleep.

BRIAN: I feel sick.

RON: You want a Chinese Burn?

(Ron: extracts a crumpled paper from his pocket. It rustles. BRIAN: turns to go. RON seizes his wrist in a Chinese Burn.)

BRIAN: I've got chalky bones.

(Ron releases him. Slips the paper under the doorknocker. Produces a large paper bag. Holds it open. Waits. Brian stares at it.)

RON: Hurry up.

BRIAN: What if he catches us?

RON: He won't.

BRIAN: What if he does?

RON: He won't.

BRIAN: We'll get into trouble.

RON: We won't.

BRIAN: I will. I'm not leaving till August.

RON: He broke your collarbone.

BRIAN: That was Chocko. He broke my wrist too. Showing off to Fay Jones. She said there was no such thing as chalky bones. Hobbsie broke my arm.

RON: I thought we were mates.

(Brian pulls down his shorts and squats over the paper bag.)

RON: Give him something to remember us by.

BRIAN: He'll remember me on monday. When you're down the pit and I'm not.

RON: Say I made you do it. He hates me. He hates my hair. He specially hates my fat.

BRIAN: And your stupid questions.

RON: They're not stupid questions. Can I have another Anzac biscuit?

(Brian locates an Anzac biscuit in his pocket.)

RON: Mm, these are good, Skinny. Can you make them bigger next time?

(Brian can't oblige the paper bag.)

BRIAN: I'm too nervous.

RON: Keep trying.

BRIAN: I'm not going down the pit. I'm afraid of the dark.

(Ron closes his eyes, with a certain grim ceremony.)

RON: I see you getting a line of scabs down your back with the rest of us.

BRIAN: I'm starting my own business. Lawnmowing. You can work for me.

RON: You haven't got a mower.

BRIAN: I'll save up.

RON: You'll have to get a job first. In the pit.

(Brian vainly fights back tears. Takes out a handkerchief.)

RON: Don't start crying. Stop crying. I'm saving up for a boat. To sail right out of this dump.

BRIAN: The Bay's the greatest little town God ever stuck legs on. Dad said.

(Brian keeps trying...)

SFX: A shrill, nonstop, train whistle begins in the distance.)

RON: Kathleen.

BRIAN: Kathleen.

(They commentate as the whistle traces a familiar sonic pattern on its run from pit to weighbridge.

RON: Last run. Down from the screens.

BRIAN: Through the level crossing.

RON: Round the curve. Up the bank.

BRIAN: Under the white bridge.

RON: Past the cemetery.

BRIAN: Into the weighbridge sidings.

(The whistle dies.)

RON: Hurry up.

(Brian still can't oblige the paper bag.)

BRIAN: I can't do it. I'm bunged up.

RON: Hold the bag.

(Ron squats over it.)

RON: Any more Anzac biscuits?

BRIAN: Last one.

(Ron breaks off a small portion for Brian. Devours the rest himself)

RON: Here she comes.


(Ron succeeds where Brian failed,)

RON: There's more.

(Ron continues, to completion.)

BRIAN: What a beauty.

(Ron folds the top of the bag over.)

RON: Matches.

BRIAN: I forgot.

RON: You forgot on purpose. So you can run home. You're a flaming sook, Brian .

(Brian offers his arm for Chinese Burning.)

RON: April fool.

(Ron produces his own matches. Lights paper bag. It flames.)

BRIAN: Happy birthday.

RON: Thanks, mate.

(They exchange their secret handshake: Ron's fist hits down on Brian's fist, Brian's hits down on Ron's, then both hit own foreheads with own fists, as in the old ice cream cone joke.

RON knocks on the door and they run and hide. Hobbsie opens the door.

HOBBSIE:  Tall. Cheap suit. Harried. Younger than he looks. Educated cod-English voice of the time. Hand rolls Log Cabin.

He sees the flaming object on his front stoop and vigorously stamps it out. With predictable, lengthy, results.)

HOBBSIE: Don't think I don't know it's you, Shipwater. That hair of yours will give you away every time. And don't think I don't know you're with him, O'Brien.

(Silence from the surrounding darkness.)

HOBBSIE: A final statement on your education, is it? Before the pit swallows you up? I tried.

(He hurls a rock into the darkness. Without luck.)

HOBBSIE: Happy birthday, Shipwater. Did one of you drop a handkerchief?

BRIAN: (off) (whispers) He's got my hankie -

HOBBSIE: There's a name sewn on it. Ah. The runniest nose in the school.

BRIAN: (off) He's got my hankie -

HOBBSIE: I'm getting the police.

BRIAN: (OFF) He's getting the police!

RON: (off) Skinny -

BRIAN: He's getting the police!

RON: (off) BRIAN: -

(Brian enters. In tears. Hobbsie seizes him by the ear.)

BRIAN: Don't get the police, sir. I didn't do anything, sir.

(Brian pulls his handkerchief from his pocket. And realises.)

HOBBSIE: April Fool. I'm getting the police, Shipwater.

BRIAN: He's getting the police! He's getting the police!

HOBBSIE: Letting your best mate take the rap, are you? What sort of coward lets his mate go to gaol for him?

BRIAN: I don't want to go gaol! RON!

RON: (off) You're not going to gaol!

HOBBSIE: According to the law, you've committed a serious assault.

BRIAN: He made me do it, sir. I'm bunged up anyway, sir. RON! Tell him I'm bunged up.

(Ron enters.)

RON: I made him do it. Sir.

BRIAN: He made me do it, sir.

RON: Let him go, sir?

(Hobbsie looks down at his (Hobbsie's) befouled shoes.)

HOBBSIE: Do you have a toothbrush, Shipwater?

RON: I don't know. No. Sir.

HOBBSIE: Fetch it. Then I'll let him go.


HOBBSIE: April Fool. Come here.

(Hobbsie lifts RON skyward by the ear. Releases Brian.)

HOBBSIE: Fetch Constable Vella.

(Brian scuttles away. Hobbsie removes his befouled shoes.)

HOBBSIE: I thought I'd seen the last of you. You're a clown, son. What are you?

RON: A clown, sir.


(Ron opts to run. Hobbsie restrains him. Ron sits.)

HOBBSIE: I've seen your grotesque efforts at athletics, Shipwater. I can outrun you in my socks.

(Hobbsie spots the paper under the doorknocker. Opens it. Reads. Ron stares at him.)

HOBBSIE: (reads aloud) "Why is it the quiet ones you've got to watch?" What is this?

RON: It's a list.

HOBBSIE: (reads aloud)"How was I supposed to know troublemakers always sit up the back? Is red really the colour of danger in nature? Why do they say they want you to ask questions when they don't?" There are questions and there are questions, Shipwater.

RON: Lots of things don't make sense. Sir.

HOBBSIE: (reads aloud)"What is a clown of the first water? What is the first water? What is the second water? Why is doing a forward roll important? Or rugby league? What is a tie for? Why did you sit me next to Phyllis Willis? Why is fat funny? How can you see me from behind the pine tree in the far corner, through a hundred other kids kicking up dust, between the bricks under the school, through the tankstand, two sheets of corrugated iron, and three other boys who also ran out of the girls toilet when you shouted? Why did you only see me?" That hair of yours is like a lighthouse, Shipwater. Now I have a question for you. Is that a frown or a smirk?

RON: I don't know.

HOBBSIE: (reads aloud)"Why is there a picture of the pit head and the loading jetty on the school badge?" Karl Marx will tell you, when you're older. "What's the connection between the Kings and Queens of England and the pit? How come the Prince Of Wales gets to be King and I get to go down the pit? Why aren't I the Prince Of Wales?"

RON: It doesn't make sense, sir.

HOBBSIE: Inherited wealth and position, Shipwater. One of many inequalities our system relies upon. Marx -

(Ron continues to stare. Almost in a trance.)

HOBBSIE: Why do you stare at me, Shipwater? I won't hit you. You're not in my class any more. You're fourteen, a young man starting work. Before you embark on your great adventure, I would like to know what you were staring at for the nine years I have had the pleasure of teaching you.

RON: Little flecks of white foam stretch in the corner of your mouth when you talk. Sir. Like tiny elastic bands.


RON: It just came out, sir. Sometimes voices come out of my mouth before I can stop them. They sound like me but they're not me. They just come out. It's not me staring either.

HOBBSIE: I'm glad we're finally having this talk, Shipwater.

RON: When I stare too hard, your teeth grow. Then they turn into an old back fence. And your head turns into a house. Your hair looks like a roof. The door is where your mouth is. It's wide open and inside I can see a dark hall with a carpet. The house is red when you're angry. That's when I know a duster is coming. You're a good shot, sir. Mum says I have a ring of scars around my head. Like a dotted line saying where to cut.

HOBBSIE: You were never really there, were you? Can you really see through your eyelids?

(Ron closes his eyes.)

RON: I see Gallipoli.

HOBBSIE: On the classroom wall. The mural.

RON: (eyes closed) I see Great Uncle Bill carrying his mate down the hill through the explosions.

HOBBSIE: Now? You can see him now?

RON: (eyes closed)I see Great Uncle Bill hit, and a can of bully beef fly out of his pocket, bounce down the hill, and splash into the sea. When I see history I usually see food in it. You never believed me.

HOBBSIE: I'm starting to.

RON: Dad said Great Uncle Bill died looking after his mate.(eyes closed)I see W.E. Shipwater M.M. in gold letters on the Honour Roll, while Phyllis Willis hangs upside down on the goalposts out the window, sucking a Choo Choo bar. Her lips are black and her underpants are blue.

HOBBSIE: You don't have to go down the pit, you know, Shipwater.

RON: Dad put me on the list the day I started school. I was going to work beside him. He was killed by a runaway skip in E tunnel. During the war. When coalmining was a protected occupation.

HOBBSIE: Herbert has a trainee position in a bank. You could do something like that. Work with your brain.

RON: In a bank?(eyes closed)I see a pit with windows. And workers with ties.

HOBBSIE: There's no future in coal. The machines are here, son.

RON: I can't leave Skinny. He's got chalky bones and his mum's always sick. And the Japs drove his dad to drink.

HOBBSIE: Skinny will survive without you.

RON: They'll break every bone in his body.

HOBBSIE: He's not at school for much longer. The Bay is too small for you, Shipwater. When you aren't staring at me, you know you stare out the window.

(Ron: closes his eyes.)

RON: I see the dunes moving inland. Sand is creeping into the cemetery. I see a picture of bones. I see weed washing up on the beach. And a boat with me and Skinny in it putting out to sea.

HOBBSIE: Going where?

RON: To see the longest river in the world. The Nile. The highest mountain. Mount Everest. The capital of Venezuela. Caracas. The pygmy Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert and the Blue Men of Morocco and the Yellow Peril of Asia. Then your duster hits me. And I wake up. And I'm still here.

HOBBSIE: No more dusters, Shipwater. Go see the world. You're brighter than Herbert, you know. My son just pays attention.

RON: Herbert dacked me and pushed me into the girls dunny. That time when you only saw me. He knew Phyllis Willis was in there.

HOBBSIE: Am I right in deducing you are an admirer of Phyllis Willis?

RON: She told all the other girls what she saw when I was dacked. I hear voices when girls look at me.

HOBBSIE: What do these voices say?

RON: "Run. Pretend you don't see her. Throw a rock at her. Pull your pants out of your crack." They all speak at once. I get dacked by everyone. Except Skinny.

HOBBSIE: Skinny - Brian 's not coming back with Constable Vella, is he?

(Ron closes his eyes.)

RON: He's hiding under the house.

HOBBSIE: You better go home too. Go on. Before I change my mind.

RON: Sir? Do you ever walk along the railway track at night?

HOBBSIE: It's a shortcut home for you, isn't it?

RON: I only do it at night. When the engines are stored. I still keep turning round because I think a train might come out of the dark and run me down. I even hear the noise.

HOBBSIE: Maybe you should go the long way.

RON: Dad would've heard it coming. Why didn't he get out of the way?

HOBBSIE: The wind was probably blowing the wrong way. It howls down there. So they tell me.

(As RON starts to exit, Hobbsie peruses the list.)

HOBBSIE: You're right, Shipwater. There is no connection between the longest river in the world and the pit.

RON: It didn't make sense. Lots of things don't make sense. Sir.

HOBBSIE: Get out of The Bay. Believe it or not, there are parts of the world where they don't dack, Shipwater.

RON: I'm saving up for a boat.

HOBBSIE: Good luck, Shipwater.

(Ron exits. Hobbsie sits and intently studies Ron's list of questions while cleaning his shoes. )

Scene 2

(Darkness. Before the beam of a helmet lamp fingers the black, erratically - bumping into walls, spinning, falling - like a lost lighthouse - tracing an increasingly panicked pattern of light. Panic is followed by methodic contemplation, then circling despair. Which leads to binge eating of cream buns. The lamp belongs to Ron.

A second lamp appears. A third. Searching. Second and third lamps, SHORT OWEN JONES, and TINSNIPS, locate the first lamp, Ron.

SHORT OWEN JONES:  50. Ex Merthyr Tydfil. Welsh lilt and perfect pitch. Resembles oversize bath toy in shabby suit. No shirt under suit coat.

TINSNIPS: 55.  Diminished faculties, metal plate in head, always smiling, as result. Shirtless, grimy shorts, hobnail boots.

SHORT OWEN: (to Ron) Don't wander off like that, boyo! We promised your da we'd look after you, didn't we, Tinsnips?

(Tinsnips nods, smiling broadly, as always.)

RON:  Is this E tunnel, Mr Jones?

(Tinsnips nods, smiling broadly, as always.)


SHORT OWEN: Nowhere near it. Don't wander off again.

(They lead Ron - via a complex route - back to his workplace.)

SHORT OWEN: Manys the boy gets lost on his first day and wanders the pit to this day, never to be found, young Ronnie.

(Ron's workplace is an empty wooden "Explosives" box. On which he sits and opens a door controlling airflow to the coalface when coal skips need to pass, then closes the door again.)

SHORT OWEN: There now, you know what you're supposed to be doing?

RON: No, Mr Jones.

(Short Owen laughs, Tinsnips smiles broadly.)

SHORT OWEN: Your father was a joker too. We'll leave him to it, eh Tinsnips?

(Tinsnips: smiles broadly. Short Owen and Tinsnips exit, harmonising on a Welsh standard. As the singing takes recedes..

RON surreptitiously locates a damper roll and tin of golden syrup hidden under the box. He syrups the roll and scoffs rapidly, as his other hand deftly rolls a cigarette.

He hears something. Which alarms him.  

SFX: A distant rolling, a rumble, growing louder. The rolling echoes thunderously as it nears.

(A runaway skip? Coming from where? Ron's alarm finds exaggerated physical expression..)

SFX:  BANG! The sound of a laden skip hitting the trap door.

RON topples off his box. Food and cigarette fly.)

HUGHIE: (off) Open the flamin' door, comrade!

(Flat on his back, flailing like a turtle, Ron hides his food, tries to retrieve the cigarette, as he opens the trap door for HUGHIE MURDOCH.)

HUGHIE MURDOCH: Late 40s. Ex Glasgow. Thick Scottish brogue. Bears a somewhat cultivated resemblance to Lenin. Amiably violent. Historically aggrieved.

The light from Hughie's helmet hits RON'S face.

HUGHIE: What in hell are you playin' at, you daft fat colonial lump? What's that on your face?

RON: Golden syrup, Mr Murdoch.

HUGHIE: Sweet baby Jesus. Are we fighting to keep your job? Two hundred men gone, comrade. Two hundred families on the scrap heap. In five years, The Bay will be a ghost town if we don't stop them. And you're shoving golden syrup down your cakehole?

(He spots the rolled cigarette on the ground. Ron puts his foot over it.)

HUGHIE: Sweet baby Jesus. Are you smoking down here?

RON: No.

HUGHIE: Foot, comrade.

RON: It was for after work.

(Hughie grinds the rollie to dust under his boot.)

HUGHIE: Never forget how many good men have died, comrade. Never forget. Never forget why.

RON: My dad said there's no gas in this pit.

HUGHIE: They warned me about you.

RON: They who?

HUGHIE: That hair is a dead giveaway. Never knew a redhead you could trust. Stay off the beach, comrade. The tide won't get in.

(Hughie: exits, cackling. Ron resumes trapping, metronomically. He closes his eyes, holds a hand to his face, confirms he can still see through his eyelids. Makes shadow puppet outlines: a dog, a rabbit..


Meanwhile, above ground, at the Pit Top...

Brian enters, in pre-grimed clothes, right arm now in a sling, carrying a huge tangle of miners' tokens on strings. (Miners tokens: numbered leather circles used to identify skips of coal for purposes of payment. Also in the "cavil", a ballot for pit places.)

Brian tries to untangle the tokens, one-handed. Without success. Agitation grows to become a flailing battle with a string-and-leather octopus.

Mine Under-Manager GOLDFINCH enters, unseen.

GOLDFINCH:  40. Ex Nottingham and London. Managerially educated accent. Work suit. Cut from superior cloth (for The Bay) but not toffee-nosed. Soft cop.


(Brian jumps. Tokens fly.)

BRIAN: Shite! I beg pardon, Mr Goldfinch sir.

GOLDFINCH: I didn't see your mother in church.

BRIAN: She's sick.

GOLDFINCH: I hope you're looking after her. Take this home. I caught a bagfull.

(Goldfinch hands a newspaper-wrapped fish to Brian.)

GOLDFINCH: Your mother tells me you make meringues now. She's proud of you.

BRIAN: I use her cookbook.

GOLDFINCH: Being the only man in The Bay who can cook is not to be sneezed at.

BRIAN: Am I being replaced by a machine, Mr Goldfinch?

GOLDFINCH: A hard worker like you will have a job as long as he wants it.

BRIAN: Mum will be really happy to hear that, Mr Goldfinch. I'm saving up for a motor mower. So I can start my own business. My mate Ron is going to work for me.

GOLDFINCH: I hear you send most of your lunch down in the lift.

BRIAN: Is Ron being replaced by a machine? Is he cavilled out?

GOLDFINCH: I'm afraid so. Seniority. Last on, first off. I don't make the rules. The union does.

BRIAN: I came on after Ron .

GOLDFINCH: You have your mother to look after.

SFX: A faint, distant, rolling begins underground..)

BRIAN: My mum says Ron's mum is worried sick about Ron losing his job. My mum is her best friend.

GOLDFINCH: I see. Maybe I can arrange something up top for Ron. Seeing as he's your mate.

BRIAN: Thanks, Mr Goldfinch sir.

(The rolling grows louder. Becoming a rumble. Ron waits, anxiously, underground, as the sound approaches..)

GOLDFINCH: So tell me, how is the mood of the men?

SFX: The rumbling, echoing thunder reaches crescendo and..

SFX: BANG! The sound of a laden skip hitting the closed trap door.

TACKHEAD: (OFF) Open friggin' door!

(Ron opens it. TACKHEAD bursts though.

BILLY "TACKHEAD " BAKER: 50+. Thick Lancashire accent. No teeth, wrestler's chest, bald/permanent hat, failing eyesight. 30 years "down pit in friggin' Wigan" before emigrating.

Tackhead's face looms close to Ron's, to peer.

TACKHEAD: I bit prop's ear off in scrum. He were from Hull. If he were from St Helens I would've bit both ear off. If he were mine boss, I would've bit off something unspeakable. What did we fight war for, chum? Full employment, they said. Jobs for life, they said. Chop off their friggin' heads, I say.

He peers closely at Ron, again.)

TACKHEAD: They tell me school bus fell in love with you. Have to widen tunnel again.

(He exits, wracked with laughter.


Back above ground, at the Pit Top...

BRIAN continues trying to untangle the tokens.)

GOLDFINCH: I hear there's talk of a stay in.

(Brian shrugs, unconvincingly.)

GOLDFINCH: Do they want the mine to close for good? We'll all be out of a job.

BRIAN: I'll be my own boss when I get my mower.

GOLDFINCH: There won't be small business if the reds get their way. Or private property.

BRIAN: It's only a mower. Don't reds have lawns?

GOLDFINCH: Listen to me, Brian. You men have my respect, and my admiration. We depend on miners. Our civilisation was and is built on your coal. But a minority of ratbags is white-anting us for their foreign masters. That's not why I fought in the last war. World War Three. That's where it's heading.

BRIAN: Will the reds take our house?

GOLDFINCH: They can come into The Bay and take anything they want. And give it to whoever they like. From wherever. Russia. China.

BRIAN: Russia and China?

GOLDFINCH: They've got the bomb. Can't blame them for wanting The Bay, can you?

BRIAN: It's the greatest little town God ever stuck legs on. Dad said.

GOLDFINCH: I understand the men, Brian. They want security. So do I. The only security is progress. The Bay is finished if it stands still.


GOLDFINCH: Do you think your mother will be well enough to come to the dance?

BRIAN: She might be after I tell her the good news.

GOLDFINCH: Run that fish home before it goes off.

BRIAN: Now? Mr Goldfinch ?

GOLDFINCH: Then tell your mate to come and see me.

(Goldfinch exits. Brian gathers up his mess of tokens. PHYLLIS WILLIS enters, behind Brian.

PHYLLIS WILLIS:  Aged 15. Queen Of The Bay. Strawberry blonde, pale, powdered skin. American hairstyle, makeup, gum-chewing. The remnants of a school uniform.)


BRIAN jumps. Tokens fly.

BRIAN: Phyllis Willis.

PHYLLIS WILLIS: When you were born, were your eyes in single file?

(While Brian - gathering tokens - and Phyllis Willis talk, work continues - silently - underground:

RON'S door opens and closes, to the rhythm of boredom.  Tackhead shovels coal.  Short Owen andTinsnips pick at the coalface.

BRIAN: Pretend you're a gun and shoot through.

PHYLLIS WILLIS: (mock fear) Oo-ooh. I heard there's going to be a stay in.

BRIAN: Who told you that?

PHYLLIS WILLIS: Your mother. A little bird told her. Ha ha. Little bird?

BRIAN: I'm working. Pretend you're a nut and bolt.

PHYLLIS WILLIS: Oo-ooh. I've got an appointment. Goldfinch's looking for a secretary.

BRIAN: He's got a secretary.

PHYLLIS WILLIS: She's leaving. See you later, alligator.

(Phyllis Willis exits.



Tackhead takes a break. He looms in to Ron's face.)

TACKHEAD: Sunlight is white man's enemy, little Ronnie. I can feel sunlight two mile underground in this friggin' country. Couldn't feel a thing in friggin' Wigan. Sun is right there, now.

(He points up, to a specific spot, adamantly.)

TACKHEAD: I'll put money on it, chum. How much?

(Short Owen leaves Tinsnips, to rescue Ron.)

SHORT OWEN: Tackhead, my boy. Saturday night. Found a nice widow to escort?

TACKHEAD: I'll be duchessing a friggin' keg, chum -

SFX: Afaint rumble..quickly intensifying.

TACKHEAD: Shite! Shit - !


A partial blackout - denoting a large fall of coal from the roof - envelopes Tinsnips. The resultant wind blast knocks the other men off their feet.)


(Tackhead watches, listens to the roof, restrains Short Owen from joining TINSNIPS, now pinned on the ground, only head and shoulders visible.)

TACKHEAD: She's not finished! She's not finished! (to Ron) Out! Get out! Everyone out!

(Ron stares, frozen, at Tinsnips. Shoret Owen runs to Tinsnips, cradles his head.)

TACKHEAD: Owen! She's not finished! Owen!

(Tackhead hovers, before he joins Short Owen to scrabble with bare hands at the coal atop Tinsnips. While watching the roof.)

TACKHEAD: Get out of here, Fatty!

(Ron vacillates, joins them, digging with bare hands.)

TACKHEAD: (looking up at roof) Friggin' grey back bastard! Friggin' grey back bastard!

SFX: A loud industrial whistle screams.

Scene 3

(Brian is dressed for a night out in full Bodgie uniform. Stovepipe pants, lurid shirt, glow-in-dark socks, make him appear more skinny than usual. He greases up, combs his ducktail, pomps his quiff, regards himself with approval. Imagines he's Elvis.

Ron enters, in a less stylish but still identifiably Bodgie effort. He waits as Brian applies finishing touches.)

RON: Tinsnips only had two days to go. He was caviled out. Why's Tinsnips smile all the time?

BRIAN: Kicked in the head by a horse. They put a metal plate in his head. But he couldn't be a Tinsnips any more.

RON: I'm not going down again. No fear. That roof's a widow maker. I want to be replaced by a machine.

BRIAN: I put the word on Goldfinch, mate. You're coming up top. Till I get my mower. Don't thank me.

RON: HOBBSIE: said I could work with my brain. But not in The Bay.

BRIAN: Mowing takes brains. Hpbbsie's a leather-elbowed goose.

RON: He said The Bay's too small for me.

BRIAN: He was having a go at you for being fat. Can't leave The Bay, mate. Greatest little town god ever stuck legs on. It's got Phyllis Willis.

RON: It's got Phyllis Willis.

BRIAN: It's got Phyllis. And the ocean. And the sun. And the bush. And no-one's got much money or anything, but everybody knows everybody else and looks after their mate when times are tough.

RON: And make lousy Fatty and Skinny jokes and break your bones every five minutes.

BRIAN: That's just The Bay sense of humour. Makes me laugh sometimes. People like you when you laugh along with them. No airs and graces in The Bay. No-one bungs it on.

RON: Except for Phyllis Willis .

BRIAN: Queen of The Bay, mate. Your Queen.

RON: I'd go back down the pit for Phyllis Willis.

BRIAN: She wants to do it with you.

RON: Bull she does.

BRIAN: She told me.

RON: Bull she did. She saw me without my dacks. She told every girl in the Bay. They still laugh at me.

BRIAN: She told me she wants to do it with you. Close your eyes. What do you see?

RON: (closes eyes) I see Phyllis Willis and me disappearing into the sand dunes, tonight. I see strawberry blonde hair in the moonlight. I see skin like the white marble angels in the cemetery, only with freckles of gold all over.

BRIAN: Talk to Goldfinch tonight. You're in, mate. You're in everywhere.

Scene 4

(A portrait of the young Queen Elizabeth II hangs above a banner reading "Lest We Forget". CHOCKO, in cheap suit, bearing war service medals, plays piano accordion.

CHOCKO (ALBERTO VELLA): 30. Ex Valetta, Malta. Residual accent. Olive skin. Pit ostler.

Tackhead, drunk, pulls a beer from a keg. Goldfinch sips a circumspect middy. Both in suits, bearing medals.

Ron and Brian enter. Ron beelines to the keg. Tackhead Ron and Brian up and down, at close proximity.)

TACKHEAD: What's your friggin' regiment, chum? The friggin' first Elvis Presley Dragoons? Won friggin' war. Lost friggin' peace.

CHOCKO: Elvis isn't a Jap, Tackhead.

TACKHEAD: Bullshit, he isn't.

GOLDFINCH: (to Ron) Are you allowed alcohol, son?

TACKHEAD: Old enough to work, old enough to drink.

CHOCKO: (to Goldfinch) Old enough to join dole queue.

GOLDFINCH: I'm only the Under Manager, Chocko.

TACKHEAD: That's what Adolf Eichmann said.

GOLDFINCH: We're all on the same side today, Billy. Lest we forget.

TACKHEAD: (salutes) Lest we forget, mine under manager sir! Only please sir, call me Tackhead, sir.

(He removes his hat, displaying his bald pate.)

TACKHEAD: I did wore rug, sir. Till dog et it. Ten Ton Tessie's friggin' dog.

RON: She thought it was a cat.

CHOCKO: What sort of overweight hooligan sets his dog on a man's hairpiece?

(Goldfinch gives Ron a beer.)

GOLDFINCH: Courtesy of the company. Gentlemen. The Queen.

TACKHEAD: The Queen. I were King of friggin' Wigan. Abdicated to experience dignity of labour.

(Ron skulls his beer. Trying to emulate him, Brian nearly chokes. Tackhead lurches over to peer drunkenly at Brian.)

TACKHEAD: Do you have to run round in rain to get friggin' wet, chum?

(Tackhead is wracked with laughter.)

CHOCKO: I could pick my teeth with him.

(Tackhead and Chocko lurch away, wracked with laughter.)

TACKHEAD: Where're you from again?

CHOCKO: Malta. I am descended from pirates. Coal mining pirates.

TACKHEAD: Malta. Gallant little Malta. Faith Hope and Charity against might of Luftwaffe.

(Chocko plays a laughter-wracked piano accordion: "There'll Be Bluebirds Over The White Cliffs Of Dover" as they exit.

Music continues faintly off, through the following.)

GOLDFINCH: Your mother coming along?

BRIAN: She's still sick, Mr Goldfinch.

GOLDFINCH: She's sick a lot lately.

BRIAN: She said to give you this.

(He hands Goldfinch a folded note. As Goldfinch reads, RON guns another beer behind his back.

Phyllis Willis enters. A Rock 'n' Roll Saturday Night vision, in American style dress. She carries a new portable record player, and small square plastic handbag containing multiple 45 rpm singles.)

BRIAN: Where'd Phyllis Willis get one of those things?

(She plugs in via long extension cord, leading off.

Goldfinch exits, passing Phyllis Willis en route.)

GOLDFINCH: Good evening, Phyllis.

PHYLLIS: Evening, Mr Goldfinch.

BRIAN: (to Ron) Go on, mate. Talk to her.

(Ron stays put. Skulls his second beer.)

BRIAN: Go on. You know you're in love with her. Go on.

(He shoves Ron towards Phyllis. Ron veers to the keg.)

BRIAN: Go on, mate. I'll get you a beer. Look at her. She's waiting for you.

(Phyllis Willis spins Buddy Holly's "Everyday" and dances, alone. Ron vacillates, shuffles, pulls his pants from his crack, skulls his beer, is verging on approach, when..)

TACKHEAD: (off) Turn friggin' Yankee rubbish off before I do!

(Phyllis Willis turns it down, but not off.)

BRIAN: She's still waiting.

(Ron hesitantly approaches Phyllis Willis. As Short Owen enters.)

SHORT OWEN: Will some dear soul please be so kind as to do us a blessed favour and turn off that American rubbish?

(Someone pulls the plug, off. The record grinds down. Ron u-turns back to Brian.)

SHORT OWEN: Thank you so kindly.

(Short Owen: exits, singing. Brian supplies RON with another beer. Phyllis Willis determinedly reconnects the power.)

BRIAN: She's still waiting. Mate, why do you think she came here tonight? I told her you'd be here.

(Phyllis Willis plays Buddy Holly's "Everyday", and dances, alone, again. Ron finds the wherewithal to approach, again.)

RON: Dance?


(Phyllis Willis turns the music down further.)


RON: Do you want to dance?

(Phyllis Willis whispers extended rejection in Ron's ear. Ron returns to Brian, pulls a large coloured meringue from his pocket, consumes in compensation for humiliation. Phyllis Willis turns the music up again.

Hughie enters.)

HUGHIE: Turn that Yankee caterwauling off, lass! Or I swear I'll smash that blasted thing!

(The plug is pulled again. Phyllis Willis exits in high dudgeon.)

HUGHIE: (sees Ron/Brian) Sweet baby Jesus! Are we the 51st state, comrades? I didn't leave the bonnie banks and braes under the rule of the Sassenach Queen, just to live in Uncle Sam's colony.

(Hughie exits.)

BRIAN: What'd she say?

RON: Nothing.

(Brian rolls a smoke. Ron consumes another coloured meringue.)

BRIAN: What'd she say?

RON: Nothing!

BRIAN: I swear she said she wanted to do it with you. I swear she said it, mate.

(He lights the rollie and passes it to Ron.)

BRIAN: Was it about being fat?

RON: She thinks she's Queen of the Bay.

BRIAN: She's up herself. Have you ever done it?

RON: Not interested.

BRIAN: She's a slack mole. I'm going to tell her, mate.

RON: No.

BRIAN: Let me go, mate. I'm going to tell the mole where to go. And all the other girls who call you Fatty too -

(Short Owen enters, pushing Tinsnips in a wheelchair.)

SHORT OWEN: Tinsnips's here.

RON/BRIAN: G'day, Tinsnips. Good to see you, mate.

(Brian exits.)

SHORT OWEN: Couldn't keep him away. If the Luftwaffe couldn't get him, no load of coal was going to knock him off, was it, boyo?

(Tinsnips nods and smiles, as always, if a little wanly.)

RON: Can he have a beer?

SHORT OWEN:  He 's got crushed ribs but he's not deaf yet, are you, Tinsnips?

RON: Beer, Tinsnips?

(Tinsnips nods and smiles.)

TINSNIPS: Ten ouncer.

SHORT OWEN: His plumbing's tender.

(Hughie enters.)

HUGHIE:  Tinsnips, lad!

SHORT OWEN: Came to wish us well on our grand adventure.

(Tinsnips nods and smiles.)

HUGHIE: (to Ron) How about you, lad?

RON:  (nonplussed) Mr Murdoch?

HUGHIE: Are you with us?

RON:  (nonplussed) I don't know. What - ?

(Brian: enters, excited.)

BRIAN:  Ron. Quick. Come on. To the dunes! To the dunes!

(Brian drags Ron out, chugalugging his remaining beer.)

Scene 5

(Darkness. The moon. Brian and Ron crawl over unseen dunes. Brian stops suddenly. Ronbumps into him.)


(A soft panting is heard. Brian peers over a dune. Points. Phyllis Willis is in moonlit sexual congress with Mine Under Manager Goldfinch.

Ron/Brian observe the event unfold. It unfolds quickly.)

PHYLLIS WILLIS: You said you'd get off at Redfern.

GOLDFINCH: You'll be right. How's the gramaphone player?

PHYLLIS WILLIS: Really good. Want to do it again?

GOLDFINCH: Give me a chance.

RON: Ss. Ss. Ss.

GOLDFINCH: Jesus Christ. Is that a snake?

RON: Ssss.


(Goldfinch drags Phyllis Willis to her feet and flees. Phyllis Willis looks back to see Ron and Brian before she too flees. Brian is hysterical with laughter, Ron in silent anguish.)

BRIAN: I've broke all my ribs!

(He proposes the secret handshake. Ron does not respond. He searches pockets for food. Brian produces a Lamington.)

BRIAN: The Queen's got herself a new King.

RON: He's just the Under Manager.

BRIAN: Prince, then. You didn't want to marry her, did you?

(The crunch of boots. Hughie, Short Owen, Tinsnips (in wheelchair) enter.)

HUGHIE: Make up your mind, lad.

SHORT OWEN: We're going in.

HUGHIE: We're staying in till we get what we want. Are you with us, or against us?

RON: I'm not going down again. I'm getting out of The Bay. Tomorrow.

SHORT OWEN: It's the same everywhere, boyo. You still have to work.

HUGHIE: They can still turf you for a machine. They can still kill you to scrimp on safety. Everlasting uncertainty. That's what the Great Man said. How can a man raise a family like that? Everlasting uncertainty. Everywhere. Unless we stand up, united, and say no.

RON: Is Tinsnips going down?

(Tinsnips nods and smiles.)

SHORT OWEN: You'd be with us if you could, wouldn't you, boyo?

(Tinsnips nods and smiles.)

TINSNIPS: Mates stick together.

RON: I'm in.

HUGHIE: You can get out of The Bay after we win.

SHORT OWEN: What about you, Skinny boyo?

BRIAN: My mother's too sick.

(Hughie, Short Owen, Tinsnips exit.)

BRIAN: Don't do it. You're coming up top.

RON: They're mates.

BRIAN: They're work mates. I'm your mate mate. You're not thinking straight because of Phyllis Willis. Forget Phyllis Willis.

RON: I can't forget Phyllis Willis.

BRIAN: (sotto) Don't do it.

(Goldfinch: enters. Tie straightened, hair combed.)

GOLDFINCH: Where is everyone? Brian tells me you want to come up top?

Scene 6


(The pit..

SFX: Water drips. Roof timber creaks.

Ron - on watch, alone - devours a biscuit, alone.  )

SFX: A muffled sound. Footsteps?

(Ron hides the remains of his biscuit.)

RON: Who's that? Who is it? Skinny? That's not funny.

(Pause. Silence.

A distant song in a Welsh tenor.

A beam cuts the dark. Short Owen, Hughie, Chocko enter by a single helmet lamp. The lamp is placed centrally, the men sit around it. Short Owen and Chocko play cards. Hughie reads a weighty political tome.)

RON: How long is it now?

HUGHIE: You in a hurry to get somewhere?

SHORT OWEN: Sixty nine hours. And five minutes. You're still solid, aren't you, young Ronnie?

RON: Yes, Mr Jones.

HUGHIE: The capitalist never gives anything away, comrade. A "fair go" must be fought for. We can take a breather when they nationalise the mines. We were that close ton it after the war, comrade. That close. Chifley sold us out.

RON: I'm hungry.

HUGHIE: You eat when we eat.

(Ron'S stomach rumbles, loudly.)

HUGHIE: Read something. Read this. You might learn why we're here.

(He passes the weighty tome to Ron. Ron reads. His stomach rumbles again, more loudly.)

CHOCKO: You've stretched the lift cables already, comrade. I'm not touching a bloody pie, Hughie.

HUGHIE: The factory workers are onside.

CHOCKO: Your bloody pies'll break this bloody strike if you're not careful, comrade.

HUGHIE: What'll break this strike will be mates not sticking together.

CHOCKO: It's friday, mate. There's half a dozen Paddies, a couple of Eyeties, and me down with you. Mate.

HUGHIE: Sweet baby Jesus! Get onto the top hands to get onto the Ladies Auxiliary to get onto the fish shop.

RON: I heard someone. Before.

HUGHIE: Jesus! Why didn't you say? Jesus!


HUGHIE: Where?

(Ron points. Hughie silently despatches Short Owen, Chocko, and himself, in different directions.

Ron takes the chance to locate another biscuit in his pocket.

He hears something.

SFX: A distant rolling.

He stands.

SFX: The rolling sound echoes thunderously as it nears.

He vacillates. Run? Which way? His vacillation is overtly physical. 

A coal skip, pushed by Skinny, all but runs Ron down from behind.)

RON: Shite!

(Ron - in a fury - approaches Brian.)

BRIAN: I've got chalky bones!

RON: A skip killed my dad.

BRIAN: Your mum says hello and keep warm.

(Brian takes two large bottles of beer from the skip.)

BRIAN: Essential supplies.

RON: No beer. We're not allowed.

BRIAN: Cream buns and vanilla slices?

(Brian dangles a large paper bag of assorted cakes. Ron is torn between beer and buns, and responsibility.)

RON: Pink or yellow icing?

BRIAN: Both. I made meringues too.

(Brian proffers his fist for the secret handshake. A beat, before Ron yields, shakes hands, guzzles a bottle, scoffs a bun. The beer quickly starts talking..)

BRIAN: Are we really two miles down?

RON: Work is the curse of the drinking class. Work to drink, not drink to work. We're striking so we can keep working. It doesn't make sense.

BRIAN: Come out, then. You said you wanted to be replaced by a machine.

RON: Lots of things don't make sense.

BRIAN: What if we run out of coal because of all the strikes? Mr Menzies said World War Three is coming.

RON: Better start learning Russian.

BRIAN: There are no strikes in Russia. And they've got the bomb.

RON: They've got the bomb?

BRIAN: They've got the bomb, Ron.

RON: The bomb?

BRIAN: The bomb.

RON: She'll be right. It's all shite then you die. Don't you want that?

(Brian gives Ron his beer. And his cakes.)

RON: (closes eyes) I see enough coal for ten world wars. I see the reds running all the way back to Moscow. I see the Russian bomb is a fizzer.

BRIAN: It's not a joke, Ron. China will get the bomb too, soon. There are billions of Chinese. They want to take over The Bay.

(The noise of men, approaching. Ron skulls the second beer.)

RON: Get rid of the bottles.

(Ron hides the cakes. Brian vanishes with the bottles. Hughie enters.)

HUGHIE: Where'd this skip come from?

(Brian enters, startling Hughie.)

HUGHIE: Jesus! Jesus Mary and Joseph!

(Hughie lifts Brian bodily.)

RON: Careful. He's got a chalky neck.

HUGHIE: You not a spy, are you, laddie? Or a reporter for a ruling class rag?

RON: Skinny's in the Ladies Auxiliary. His mother's still sick. He wants to be a Lawnmower Baron.

BRIAN: Mrs Murdoch says hello and keep warm.

(They unload sugar bags and suitcases of supplies. Hughie lugs them into the dark. Brian lifts a kerosene tin from the skip.)

RON: (eyes closed) I see a kero tin full of tea. I see victory in the tea leaves! I see early retirement -

(Hughie enters.)

HUGHIE: What're you jabbering about, comrade?

BRIAN: RON: can see through his eyelids.

HUGHIE: I can fart peas through a keyhole. Fat lot of good it did me. What do you see?

RON: Food, mostly. Food past, present, and future. Food in historical events. The lamb shanks with white sauce and parsley getting cold in the parliamentary dining room as Chifley orders the army into the coal pits. That sort of thing.

BRIAN: It's a gift.

HUGHIE: Seeing the class traitor Chifley is not a gift, it's a torment.

RON: Other times I see sense. When there isn't any. Like work. Work doesn't make sense. Until I close my eyes. Lots of things don't make sense until I look at them through my eyelids. Or vice versa.

HUGHIE: What will you do if we lose and they cavil you out?

RON: Fish. Lie in the sun. Eat cream buns. Drink beer. Steal a boat.

HUGHIE: You'll leave the pit feet first, if you're lucky. Like your father. Close your eyes.

(Ron obeys. Hughie holds up a newspaper taken from the skip.)

HUGHIE: What's this?

RON: (eyes closed) Ruling class lies and propaganda.

HUGHIE: Smart mouth'll get you a thick ear.

RON: (eyes closed) There's a cartoon about us on page five. "Miners' underground picnic threatens economy."

(Hughie flips to page five. Reads. Hurls the newspaper away.)

HUGHIE:  Picnic, is it? Two hundred men laid off is a picnic? Are their families having a picnic too? Bastards. Bastards. Stay here and keep watch.

(Hughie ferries supplies into the dark.)

BRIAN: What if World War Three does happen?

RON: (eyes closed) I see you and me fighting side by side.

BRIAN: Do we die?

RON: (eyes closed) We save each other's lives. And win the war. We're heroes and we never have to work again. We buy a big boat and sail over the horizon -

HUGHIE enters.)

HUGHIE: Your father didn't like work either. He had red hair too.

RON:  So did my grandfather. And my great grandfather. My father said I had the reddest hair of all and I was the culmination of the great and longstanding tradition of red-haired coalminers.

HUGHIE: He was a clown too. Wasn't laughing when he got laid off. Three years, wasn't it? Took to the drink, if I remember.

BRIAN: Mr Menzies says World War Three is coming, Mr Murdoch.

HUGHIE: Pig Iron Bob talks though his arse.

BRIAN: What if we lose because we run out of coal?

HUGHIE: You're not a scab, are you, Skinny? Better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

RON: Why?

HUGHIE: You are sailing close to the wind, Fatty.

BRIAN: There's billions of them and they've got the bomb, Mr Murdoch.

HUGHIE: There's another war. Bigger than World War Three. The one that killed his father.

(Short Owen and Chocko, escorting Goldfinch.)

SHORT OWEN: Look what we found in an air shaft.

HUGHIE: Decent of you to drop by, Mr Goldfinch.

GOLDFINCH: You can't keep me here.

HUGHIE: Wouldn't dream of it. Don't you like picnics?

CHOCKO: (checking the skip) Where's the radio?

GOLDFINCH: A radio is not an essential item.

HUGHIE: Pig's arse. We're running this pit now. A radio is a bloody essential item.

SHORT OWEN: Men become unpredictable when they can't bet on saturday.

GOLDFINCH: Violence or vandalism will see the police sent in, Hughie. None of us want that.

HUGHIE: Your boss is shipping in scabs, is he not?

GOLDFINCH: I've heard nothing about scabs, Hughie.

CHOCKO: You tell him we'll be here till Christmas.

SHORT OWEN: Easter if we see hide or hair of a scab.

HUGHIE: Come in again, you stay in.

(Goldfinch exits.)

SFX: The sound of a bottle being kicked, and breaking.

(The stay-in workers are alarmed. Goldfinch enters carrying the broken bottle.)

GOLDFINCH: Have you got beer down here?

HUGHIE: Not unless you planted it.

GOLDFINCH: This is not good, Hughie. People could get the impression you're having a picnic down here.

(Goldfinch exits.)

SHORT OWEN: They'll love this! The papers will love this!

SFX: The sound of the second bottle being kicked. Breaking.

HUGHIE: Jesus! Did one of you stupid bastards bring beer in? You idiot!

(He pins BRIAN to a wall.)

SHORT OWEN: Hughie. Easy.

HUGHIE: I said no beer!

SHORT OWEN: What were you thinking, boyo? We're already red ragging traitors who breed like rabbits and don't wash. Now we're drunks as well.

CHOCKO: Goldfinch put him up to it. Didn't he?

HUGHIE: How much did he pay you?

CHOCKO: Goldfinch is mummy's boyfriend. Mummy plays jigajig with the Under Manager.

BRIAN: She does not!

HUGHIE: I ought to break your chalky neck.

(Ron interposes himself between terrified Brian and Hughie.)

RON: I asked him to bring it in.

HUGHIE: Is that right?

(Brian nods. Hughie backs RON against the wall. Raises his fist.)

HUGHIE: Close your eyes, Fatty. What do you see?

SHORT OWEN: He's only a boy, Hughie.

RON: Why can't we have beer, anyway? I bet the bosses have beer.

HUGHIE:  It's all a joke to you, isn't it?

SHORT OWEN: The working man is expected to have higher standards, boyo.

HUGHIE: Your father was drunk when the skip hit him. Did you know that?

(Ron glares. Hurt. Short Owen intercedes.)

SHORT OWEN: You've let us down badly, Ronnie. The men won't be happy. I think you'd better go now. Go now.)

HUGHIE: Aye, it's all a joke to you. What the old timers fought for, what they lived on nothing to get. A secure job, a decent wage, the pension, sick leave, safety regulations, all a joke to you. You'd just throw it all away.


HUGHIE: Never forget.

(Hughie, Short Owen, Chocko troop off into the dark.)

RON: You hid the bottles in the lift!

BRIAN: It was dark.

RON: Goldfinch? He paid you?

BRIAN: He said World War Three was coming and my mother was worried. And the Russians and Chinese have got machines so we've got to have them too. And if the reds win they'll have people with chalky bones put down. And you can't stop progress. Thanks for copping it for me.

(Brian proffers the secret handshake..)

RON: You owe me a dozen meringues. Pink, white, and blue.

(Ron completes the handshake, without enthusiasm. They push the skip off.)

BRIAN: I have to use ink to get blue.

RON: I've eaten ink before.

(They disappear into darkness.)

Scene 7

SFX:  Intermittent sound of surf, not far distant.

(A gravestone marks the resting place of RON's father.

Ron and Brian enter. Ron carries a shovel, Brian pushes a shiny, new, motor mower, and totes a small gladstone bag.

Ron tidies his father's grave with the shovel. Before taking two folded yellowing newspaper clippings, from his pocket.)

BRIAN: Those clippings will fall apart if you unfold them every day, mate.

RON: (reads) "The funeral was well-attended by members of The Grand United Order Of Free Gardeners, and there were many floral tributes." I like that bit. Short Owen said dad could get sweet peas to grow up a shovel on a slack heap.

BRIAN: You ought to stick them in a book. With a flower.

RON: (reads second clipping) "B. Baker - Tackhead - improper language, fined 2 pounds. H. Murdoch - Hughie - drunkenness, fined one pound five shillings. S. Jones - Short Owen - riotous behaviour, ten shillings;"

(As RON reads, BRIAN escorts him to a new site, upstage.)

RON:  "Chocko Vella, riotous behaviour. Pleaded guilty under provocation, seven and sixpence, Leonard Thorpe, drunk and disorderly, seven and six.."

(Ron pockets the clippings.)

RON: (eyes closed) I see the Grand United Order Of Free Gardeners blind drunk and rioting in memoriam.

(Brian saves Ron from falling into a hole.)

BRIAN: Watch where you're going, mate. That hole's taken.

(Ron trims the edges of the hole with his shovel. Brian consults instructions and methodically negotiates the numerous steps required to prepare a motor mower.)

RON: They won't get drunk and riot in memoriam for you and me.

BRIAN: You're better off out of the pit. The machines are here. There's more on the way.

RON: We're scabs.

BRIAN: We're mates. Who are ahead of the pack. Gravedigging is a job for life. There'll always be graves, there'll always be lawns. People die. Grass grows. Where's the choke?

RON: (closes eyes) I see a machine for digging graves.

BRIAN: You'll be working for me by then. I'll have a fleet of these things.

RON: (eyes closed) I see you replace me with a robot.

BRIAN: You don't replace a mate.

RON: (eyes closed) I see a new, bigger, better mate come along. I see you choose to stay ahead of the pack, over your old mate. I see your new, bigger, better mate form a company and replace you with his girlfriend's cousin.

BRIAN: You're depressing me, mate. I'm trying to get a mower started.

(Brian takes a replete paper bag from his gladstone.)

BRIAN: Eat an apple turnover, will you?

(Ron tucks in.)

RON: (closes eyes) I see your new, bigger, better mate and his girlfriend's cousin's company taken over by an international kikuyu cultivation conglomerate who monopolise the global mowing market and staff The Bay branch with fourteen year olds on low wages.

BRIAN: Bloody hell! Eat my apple turnover too, will you?

(Ron tucks in.)

RON: That paspalum patch is Hughie old man. Mow round it. That sand is Jimmy Jones. The dunes are taking over.

BRIAN: Shut up and stand back.

(Brian yanks the starter cord. Again. Again.)

BRIAN: Ah! I've done my collar bone again. You try.

(Ron tries without success. BRIAN re-primes the carburettor, re-opens the throttle..)

RON: Maybe your new mate Goldfinch didn't put any petrol in your reward.

(Brian unscrews the fuel tank cap and peers in.)

BRIAN: He didn't put any petrol in!

RON: It's all shit then you die. (closes eyes) I see a petrol station in Swansea.

BRIAN:  I'm not pushing this thing all the way to Swansea!

RON: (closes eyes) I see petrol stations closing because oil runs out.

(Brian thrusts the bag of pastries at Ron.)

BRIAN: Take the bloody bag! There's ten thousand years of oil just slopping round under the ground, mate. Ask the bloody arabs. Someone'll invent an atomic mower anyway.

RON: (closes eyes) I see men out of work and grass growing out of control.

BRIAN: We're not going to run out of bloody atoms. You're in a bad way.

(The sound of a brass band, playing the Dead March, nears.)

RON: Tinsnips's coming over the white bridge.

(Ron and Brian move away, to RON'S father's grave, and watch.

Short Owen, Hughie, Chocko, Leonard THorpe enter, bearing Tinsnips' casket. MINNIE trails, in black. They wind their way to the grave site.

MINNIE : 70. Mother of TINSNIPS.

LEONARD THORPE: : 40+. A miner. Ex Durham.

They lay the casket down/lower it into the grave.

Short Owen sings an appropriate hymn.

MINNIE  throws a handful of earth into the grave. The others follow suit.

The mourners disperse and exit. Passing Ron and Brian, pointedly ignoring them. Except for Hughie, last to pass.

HUGHIE: Never forget.

(Ron moves to Tinsnips' grave and begins to fill it with earth.

Darkness descends.)

Scene 8

(Night. A bright moon. Wind brings the intermittent sound of surf.

Ron and Brian emerge from the darkness. Brian's collarbone is supported by a makeshift sling. They are walking home along the railway track.)

BRIAN: (mimicking Hughie) Never forget. Hoots mon. Donald, where's your troosers? (sings) "Go home, go home, go home with bonnie Jean.."

(Ron looks over his shoulder (back up the track) into the darkness, as if wary of something coming up behind them. )

BRIAN: Don't dwell, mate.

RON: Dad must've heard the skip coming up behind him. Even though he was drunk.

BRIAN: Rule number one, when you work in a graveyard: don't dwell.

(Ron looks back behind them, again.)

BRIAN: Do you want to go the long way?

RON: I like following the moon on the tracks.

(Ron stops suddenly. Brian bumps into him. Ron peers back, again.)

RON: I heard something.

BRIAN: Kathleen's stored for the night. Isn't she?

(They listen. Peer into the dark from whence they came.)

BRIAN: It's the wind in the white bridge. Or blowing through the cutting. Let's go the long way.

SFX: The wind brings the sound of distant male singing..mixed with the intermittent sound of surf.

RON: The wake. It's the wake.

(Brian tests the wind direction with a wet finger.)

BRIAN: Could be lodge choir practice in Cessnock.

(The singing dies down, as the wind drops..but never completely disappears.

Ron walks onward. Stops. Brian again bumps into him. Ron peers ahead, this time.)

RON: Who's that?

BRIAN: What is it?

RON: Who's there?

PHYLLIS WILLIS: (off, softly) Woooooo.

BRIAN:  Run. Run!

PHYLLIS WILLIS: (off, loudly) Woooooo!

(Phyllis Willis runs out of the darkness ahead, on the track.)


(Phyllis Willis nearly splits her sides, laughing.)

RON: Phyllis Willis.

BRIAN: Phyllis Willis.

PHYLLIS WILLIS:  I've wet myself. What are you two scabs doing here?

BRIAN:  Nothing. Going home. We're not scabs.

PHYLLIS WILLIS: Phil says you were blackballed.

BRIAN: Phil who?


BRIAN: Goldfinch tricked us.

PHYLLIS WILLIS: Phil says it was all your idea, Skinny.

(Ron eyeballs BRIAN. BRIAN limits eye contact.

SFX: The wind brings the sound of the wake again.

They listen.)

RON: What are you doing here?

PHYLLIS WILLIS: My mother kicked me out. She can go jump. The Bay can go to hell. I'm getting married. Congratulate me.

RON: Congratulations.

PHYLLIS WILLIS: I'm moving to Snob Hill. See you later, alligator.

(Phyllis Willis surges off into the darkness.)

BRIAN: She's got one in the oven. Bad luck, mate. Chocolate crackle?

(He finds a chocolate crackle for Ron, as they walk onward.)

BRIAN: She'll get what's coming to her.

RON: (looking over shoulder) So will we.

BRIAN: Maybe working in the bone orchard isn't such a good idea. Spending all that time with the past. Maybe being near your old man has dislodged a few of your tiles.

(Ron stops suddenly. Brian bumps into him. They listen.

SFX:  The sound of hobnail boots, crunching on gravel, and occasional shouts.

Accompanied by distant helmet lights, bobbing like fireflies, as a line of night shift workers head for the pit.)

RON: Was it your idea? To leave the beer bottles for Goldfinch to find?

BRIAN: I had to get you out somehow. Just tell yourself you're luckier than your old man.

RON: It wasn't luck.

BRIAN: Planning for the future, then. You saw it yourself. In the cemetery.

RON: What did I see?

BRIAN: You saw me shaft you for someone else. You saw them shaft me for someone else. You saw someone else shaft them. You saw the future. You're a visionary. Hughie's war is over. It's every man for himself. Except that we're mates and I won't shaft you. I got you out, mate. Never forget that.

(Brian starts to go.)

BRIAN: What's done is done. We have to put it behind us.

(Ron stays, looking back at the line of bobbing lights.)

BRIAN: It's in the past.

RON: It doesn't stay there.

(The sound of boots, the line of lights, diminishes..is gone.)

RON: It turns into what we've got coming.

(Ron gets down on hands and knees, puts his ear to the track..)

BRIAN: What have we got coming? We haven't got anything coming.

SFX: A faint rolling, rumbling noise.

(Ron gets down on hands and knees, listens to the track.  Brian appears not to hear anything.)

BRIAN: What? Mate, don't do that. I get this picture in my head of your head, flat as a highway frog. We haven't got anything coming.

(Ron gets to his feet. Closes eyes. Peers back into the dark.)

RON: (eyes closed) Shite.

BRIAN: (fear rising) What?

RON: (eyes closed) Shite!

BRIAN: What?!

RON: (eyes closed) SHITE!


RON: (eyes closed) It's too dark.

(Ron: starts walking back into the darkness, peering.)

BRIAN: No! This way! Stop looking back, will you? Look ahead! Look this way! And let's get out of here.

(He turns Ron around and walks him away from whatever the darkness holds. Ron continues to look over his shoulder, eyes closed.)

BRIAN: Look ahead, mate. Lawnmower Baronss. You and me. That's what's coming. Look this way. Lawnmower Barons.

(Ron stops, looking back. Brian surges ahead, before noticing RON is no longer with him.)

RON: (eyes closed) It's us! I see us! It's us!

(Brian returns and collects RON.)

BRIAN: Are we getting out of here!?

RON: (eyes closed) Running. I see us running.

BRIAN:  We are running!

(And they are. Running.)

BRIAN: Are you sure it's us? Never seen you run.

RON: It's us!

(They continue to run.)

BRIAN: Are we running away from something, or to something?

RON: Both.

BRIAN: Do we look afraid?

RON: You do. I look hungry.

(Brian passes Ron a chocolate crackle.)

BRIAN: Don't look back. We can outrun it. Don't look back.

(They continue to run. Looking ahead.)



(c) Tim Gooding
     May 2006