The shedding of skin

Based on Snake by Kate Jennings


FADE IN:
EXT. A LONG STRAIGHT ROAD IN OUTBACK NEW SOUTH WALES – DAYTIME, LATE SUMMER, 1965.
SUPER:
NEW SOUTH WALES, MARCH, 1965.

The day is hot and a heat haze rises from the asphalt road.

A car, far in the distance, travels along a long, straight dirt road, seemingly leading to nowhere, it creates huge amounts of dust in it trail.


EXT. SAME OUTBACK ROAD – MINUTES LATER.

The car, a classic ute, is closer.

Inside a man, REX MAHONY, early 50s, can be glimpsed as he sits raMr.od straight at the wheel.


INT. THE HOLDEN UTE – SAME TIME.

REX is dressed in the uniform of an outback farmer, RM Williams shirt, chinos, boots et al.

His gaze is fixed on the road ahead, determined and unsmiling.

He unwraps a peppermint and puts it in to his mouth.

He starts to chew and it brings a wry smile to his face.


EXT. THE SAME ROAD – SAME TIME.

The car drives off the road and heads for the dam.


INT. THE CAR – SAME TIME

REX is still firmly holding the driving wheel and sitting raMr.od straight.

His expression hasn’t changed, a steely look of determination.

He starts to sing, still sucking on his mint.

REX MAHONY (SINGING)
Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don’t Care

Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don’t Care

Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don’t Care

My Master’s Gone Away.


EXT. SAME ROAD – MINUTES LATER.

The car drives steadily towards the dam.

The car, seemingly without slowing down, drives straight in to it.


INT. CAR – SAME TIME.

The driver tries to keep calm, steadfastly gripping the wheel and staring straight ahead.

At the last second the sense of self preservation kicks in and he takes a series of deep breaths to control his natural instinct to save himself.

The car twists a couple of times, sinks and disappears to be replaced by bubbles until they, too, disappear and the dam goes back to its calm self.

GIRLIE (V.O.)
My father killing himself would have come as little surprise to anyone living in or near the township of Prospect, so many farmers did in those days.


DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. A NARROW TRACK IN THE QUEENSLAND RAINFOREST – PRESENT DAY.
SUPER:
NORTHERN QUEENSLAND, 2007

A Hertz rental car drives along a narrow track in the Queensland rainforest.

The weather is hot and humid and there is no sign of civilization.

Macaws and parrots screech as they fly through the trees.

The car stops and the driver, BOY MAHONY, 50s, an attractive man, smartly dressed in chinos, Polo shirt and light jacket, gets out of the car.

He unfolds a road map then spreads it out on the car roof and looks at it closely.

He then gets back in to the car and continues his journey.

The car continues its journey along the track, still no sign of civilization in sight.

Further up the road, the car takes a turn in to an even narrower track. A house can be glimpsed in the distance.

The car drives along the track and eventually turns in to the house’s driveway and stops in front of the house – a typical Queensland ‘stilt house’ surrounded by exotic trees, bushes and plants.

BOY gets out of the car, goes to the boot and unloads two small travelling cases and a small parcel.

He picks up the cases and the parcel and walks up the driveway.


EXT. THE VERANDAH OF A QUEENSLAND STILT HOUSE – SAME TIME.

IRENE MAHONY, early 80s, still an attractive woman, dressed in a Balinese sarong and a large straw hat, stands at an ease. She is working on a large painting of exotic Australian flowers.

She sees the car coming up the driveway, puts down her paint brush and walks over to the wooden railings.

Knowing who it must be, she waves at the car.

As she is waving she looks down in to the front garden and sees a brown snake in the throes of shedding its skin.

She stands there for a while watching then walks back in to the house.


INT. FRONT ROOM OF HOUSE – A MINUTE LATER.

The room is filled with cane and ratan furniture including tables, chairs and a chaise-longe.
The floor is covered with Balinese rugs and there are colourful Balinese throw-overs on all the chairs.

IRENE walks across to a set of bamboo shelves full of books and vinyl discs.

After picking out a number of selections, she finally chooses one, takes it out of its cover and walks across to an old fashioned record player.

She takes the record out of its sleeve, carefully wipes it and then places it delicately on to the turntable.


MUSIC: BEETHOVEN’S ‘EMPEROR’ CONCERTO CONDUCTED BY JOSEPH CRIPS WITH ARTHUR RUBINSTEIN ON PIANO.

BOY walks up the stairs to the house and leaves his two bags on the verandah.

He hears the music and smiles as recognises what it is.


INT. FRONT ROOM – SAME TIME

BOY walks into the room, kisses his mother affectionately on the cheek and hands her the prettily wrapped parcel.

BOY
Happy Birthday, Mother.

IRENE opens the gift with a smile.

It is a handsome, leather bound photo album.

Irene
Thank you, Boy, you are a good son.

She gives him a kiss on the cheek.

IRENE (CONT’D)
Let’s sit outside.

The pair walk back out on to the verandah.

IRENE indicates a box full of photographs at the side on the recliner. BOY nods knowingly.

IRENE (CONT’D)
How was your trip?

BOY
Fine, a bit tiring.

IRENE
But you found it easier this time?

BOY
Still had to use a map.

IRENE
And Sydney?

She crosses to a recliner and sits down.

BOY
Good. The business runs like clockwork. Gives me plenty of time to myself.

IRENE
Yes, that’s something you always enjoyed. How is your wife?

BOY
Busaba? She’s good. Sends her love. And you. How are you?

IRENE answers with a bitter sweet smile.

IRENE
I’m fine. The Doctor is hopeful. Says I’m doing well.

BOY walks over to the painting and admires his mother’s work.

BOY
That’s good. You’ve certainly been busy.

IRENE
Yes, it keeps me occupied.

He stands back to admire it from afar.

BOY
It looks great.

IRENE
Not quite up to Margaret Olley standards but I’m getting there.

BOY walks over to the box of photos and starts to look through them.

BOY
Shall we make a start on the photos? You’ve got so many.

IRENE takes a photograph from the top of the box and looks at it closely.

IRENE
That’s what happens when you get old.

BOY
Do you have any regrets, Rene, about how things turned out?

IRENE shrugs her shoulder with a questioning look on her face.

IRENE
The past is of no importance. The present is of no importance. It is with the future that we have to deal…..

BOY has a knowing look on his face, he recognises the saying. He CLICKS his fingers.

BOY
Oscar Wilde.

IRENE nods her head in agreement.

IRENE
But the past is important, you know. It’s what makes us who we are now.

Irene puts the photo back in to the box and takes out another.

It is IRENE and her husband, REX, on their wedding day standing in front of a small country church. Both are smiling happily at the camera.

IRENE hands the photograph to BOY.


DISSOLVE TO:
INT. SMALL COUNTRY CHURCH, PROSPECT, NSW – DAYTIME, 1947.
SUPER:
PROSPECT, NSW, 1947.

It’s IRENE’s wedding day and the many guests are gathered in church.

Although small, the church is beautifully appointed.

Two of the bridesmaids, KATE AND MARGIE, are sitting waiting for the bride’s entrance, giggling and speaking behind their hands.

KATE
Irene White getting married to a war hero, who would have thought it. What happened to the Yank?

margie
Ran away, didn’t he (she giggles) same as the Maori.

KATE
You’ve got to hand it to our Irene, she sure does have exotic tastes.

MARGIE
Not any more.

MARGIE looks across to the bridegroom as he waits next to the best man at the altar wearing a demob suit and his medals.

REX is good looking and well built with a genteel manner but looks somewhat like a schoolboy who has lost his dinner money.

KATE
No, you wouldn’t exactly call Rex Mahony exotic, would you?
MAGGIE nudges KATE and looks across to an older woman.

She is tall and thin with an ungenerous set to her mouth, very conservative.

MARGIE
Her mum approves.

KATE
Yes, well, she wouldn’t have wanted chocolate-coloured grandchildren, that’s for sure.

An elderly woman dressed in a floral dress sitting at the Church organ starts to play the Wedding March.


MUSIC: BHERE COMES THE BRIDE.

IRENE enters on her father’s arm.

He, WILLIAM WHITE, 50s, too is the arch conservative.

IRENE is lovely in her white silk wedding dress and looks very happy.

MARGIE
Oh, she looks so lovely.

KATE
Always scrubbed up well, our Irene.

Her father looks very proud as he walks her down the aisle, acknowledging people as he walks past them.

IRENE is trying to look serious but when she sees the two laughing bridesmaids she gives them a cheeky wink.

When IRENE reaches REX she gives him a big smile. He smiles nervously back but it is obvious that he is very proud of his soon-to-be wife.


INT. VILLAGE HALL – LATER THAT DAY.

The after wedding party is in full swing, everyone dressed in their ‘Sunday best’.

They stand in mixed groups, the men looking uncomfortable in their mostly ill fitting suits and tight fitting shirt collars, the women delightful in their frocks and jewellery.

IRENE runs from group to group, accepting their kisses and congratulations.

REX is standing with his parents, ETTIE and ALEC. They look somewhat out of place, uncertain of themselves.

They both hold plates of half eaten sandwiches.

ALEC
They certainly put a good spread on for you, son.

ETTIE reaches out and straightens REX’s tie.

Ettie
Must have cost a pretty penny.

ALEC
Done well for himself, Mr. White. And he isn’t afraid to spend it.

ETTIE
Nothing too good for his Irene.

REX
Yes, he’s been very generous. They both have.

The BAND starts to play and the singer breaks in to THE MORE I SEE YOU, an American hit record of 1945.


MUSIC: THE MORE I SEE YOU BY MAC GORDON.

Everyone watches to see the happy couple take the first dance of the evening.

IRENE runs up to REX and drags him on to the dance floor.

She is a great dancer. Although reluctant to make a show, REX is, too. He gets admiring glances from all the female guests.

As they dance, REX relaxes a little and matches all of IRENE’S movements.

Soon everyone else joins in and the dance floor is full of people dancing.

As well as the married couples there are girls dancing with each other, grandparents with their grandchildren and little children dancing on their own.

IRENE and REX are interrupted by Mr. WHITE who claims his daughter.

REX stands watching the two dance away. He is immediately asked to dance by an attractive wedding guest.


EXT. GARDEN – LATER

BILLIE, early 20s, a vivacious young friend of IRENE’s with long black hair, walks towards a swing on which there sits another young woman, DAPHNE, early 20s, rather prim and proper.

BiLLIE
Hi, Daphne

DAPHNE
Hallo, Billie

Billie
Well, do you approve of your new brother-in-law?

Daphne takes a second or two before she answers.

Daphne
A bit dull.

BiLLIE
Really?

DAPHNE
I asked him about the Victory March in London. Expected him to regale me with tales of cannons and fireworks and the Royal family.

BILLIE
Yes?

DAPHNE
All he could talk about was the neck of the man in front. Said it was all he saw. And that it was dirty.

BILLIE laughs at Daphne’s description.

BILLIE
He’s handsome, though. You can see why Irene fell for him.

DAPHNE
Handsome is as handsome does, Billie.

BILLIE
Did you get that from your Mum, Daphne?

DAPHNE doesn’t answer. She pushes herself back and starts to swing vigorously.

BILLIE walks back to the party.

INT. CHURCH HALL – LATER SAmE NIGHT.

The room is almost deserted and IRENE is dancing with BILLIE – as girl friends do.

IRENE
Oh Billie, it’s so exciting. I feel as if it’s the beginning of a new life.

Billie
You’re so lucky, Irene. You’ve got everything a girl could hope for.

They both look towards REX who is with three male friends.

IRENE
I’m going to talk him in to taking a sales job in Sydney. At Anthony Horderns.

BILLIE
Anthony Horderns?

IRENE
His Aunt Em works there. Knows the manager. We’ll get a flat. Become real city people.

BILLIE
But doesn’t Rex love it here?

IRENE
He’ll do anything to make me happy, Billy, you see if he won’t.

She looks over to REX who is still the centre of the group of men. The men are laughing at something REX has said. One of them slaps him on the back.

IRENE
Look how popular he is. Sales manager in no time, I shouldn’t wonder.

Rex look over and Irene gives him a little wave of her hand.


INT. SITTING ROOM OF IRENE’S PARENTS – FEW DAYS LATER.

REX sits with Irene’s father and listens as Mr. WHITE explains his plan.

The walls of the room are covered with prints of maidens in Roman costumes and of cows in the English countryside.

The books on the shelves are Gardening Annuals and Georgette Heyer romances.

Mr. WHITE takes one of the gardening books down from the shelf and begins to leaf through it.

Mr. White.
The house isn’t much to look at, Rex….but I’m sure you can fix it up. And I’ve put it all in your name. Only right the husband should own the property.

REX gives an embarrassed nod of his head at the smiling Mr. WHITE.

REX
Thank you, Mr. White….

Mr. WHITE
William, Rex, please, it’s William.
REX is embarrassed

REX
Thanks, William.

Mr. WHITE puts the book down and his arm around REX’s shoulder in a gesture of mateship.


DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. FARM HOUSE – DAYTIME.

REX and IRENE stand outside the farm house. It is a wooden construct and raised on posts a foot above the ground with a verandah on two sides.

The garden is every small and contains the stumps of four palm tress which have been planted with flowers, now in full bloom.

REX looks as if he’s lost a penny and found a pound.

REX
Our own home, Irene. Who could ever have believed it?

IRENE looks distinctly unimpressed.

The couple enter the house and start their inspection.


INT. SITTING ROOM OF FARM HOUSE – SAME TIME.

The sitting room has a decorative fireplace and mantel piece.

Rex walks over to the fireplace and looks up into the flue.

REX
I guess it’s in working order. Pretty, too.

IRENE pulls a face behind his back.


INT. BEDROOM – SAME TIME

They enter the main bedroom with its set of windows of pressed glass in three colours – yellow, purple and green.

REX opens and closes them a couple of times.

REX
Nothing wrong with the windows.

IRENE shakes her head in exasperation.


INT. KITCHEN – SAME TIME

They enter the kitchen, it’s old looking but has everything there.

REX
Think this will do you, Rene?

IRENE opens the doors to the ancient Aga cooker, she is clearly not impressed.

IRENE
Needs a good cleaning. Till we get a new one.

She closes the door with a bang.


INT. LAUNDRY – SAME TIME.

They walk in to a large laundry.

REX
Plenty of room here, Rene.

REX starts to pace out the measurement.


INT. BATHROOM – sAME TIME.

IRENE is inspecting the claw-footed bath, it has stains running from the tap to the plug hole.

REX
Good sized bathroom, too.

IRENE
Think we might need a new bath.

REX shrugs as if he can’t see a problem with the bath.


EXT. GARDEN – SAME TIME.

The two stand in the garden looking at the outdoor toilet, its door swinging open in the breeze.

REX
We can soon do something about that.

IRENE
You sure can, Rex. First priority.

As they stand on the verandah outside the house REX is looking at how he can improve things.

IRENE is looking bothered.

IRENE
But what about Sydney, Rex?

REX
Going to Sydney would be like thumbing our noses at your Dad, Rene.

IRENE
Forget Dad. He’d understand. We can always take this on later, Rex. Once we’ve lived a little. Got some more money together.

REX doesn’t seem to hear her. He steps on a loose board on the verandah.

REX
Have that fixed in a jiffy.

IRENE kicks the post rail and walks off in a temper.

REX bends down to look at the loose board more closely.


EXT. FARM LAND – DAYTIME.

REX stands in a field looking at the fields that have been left neglected during the war years.

On his face there is a look of grim determination.

Mr. white (O.S.)
As for the property, well you come from good farming stock, no problem for you there. Especially as its fully irrigated.

REX walks towards his ute and begins to unload his tools from the back,


CUT TO
EXT. FIELD ON PROPERTY – DAYTIME.

REX, stripped to the waist, stands in a deep trench, still digging it out. It’s no easy job and REX is sweating with the effort. He wipes his brow with an old red rag and starts digging again.


CUT TO
EXT. CLUMP OF TREES ON PROPERTY. – DAYTIME.

REX, again stripped to the waist, this time axe in hand, is chopping down a massive tree.


CUT TO
EXT. TIMBER SUPPLIER – DAYTIME – DAYTIME

REX loads his ute with timber posts. He whistles and two cattle dogs run up and then jump up in the back of the ute, tails wagging all the way.


CUT TO
EXT. BOUNDARY DIVISION – DAYTIME.

REX drives in fence posts.

An old ute pulls up and IRENE gets out of it. She is carrying a lunch box which she opens and hands over a wrapped package to REX.

IRENE
Brought you some corned beef sandwiches.

She produces a thermos flask.

IRENE
And some tea.

REX
Thanks, Rene, smashing. Shouldn’t be too much longer now.

Rather than eat, REX goes back to driving in the fence posts.

IRENE takes an apple from the lunch box, sits on the bonnet of the ute and begins to eat.

IRENE
You come and eat now, Rex Mahony, you need the strength.

REX
I’ve got enough strength, Rene.

IRENE
Not for what I’ve got in mind, you don’t.

REX gives a sheepish smile and come back to the ute.

IRENE reaches for him and kisses him hungrily.


EXT. THE FARM – DAYTIME.
SUPER:
TWO MONTHS LATER

REX stands in the fields as before but now all has changed.

Everything has been cleared and water gushes in to the newly formed furrows and REX watches it all with great pride.

He takes his boots and socks off and walks into the water, throwing it up in the air, washing his face with it. It is a joyous moment.

He then takes a mint from his pocket and pops it in to his mouth.

REX (SINGING HAPPILY BUT OUT OF TUNE)
Jimmy Crack Corm and I Don’t Care, Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don’t Care, Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don’t Care, My master’s gone away.


Int. FARMHOUSE – DAYTIME.

REX stands inside the house looking on with approval at a newly laid concrete floor, freshly plastered walls and varnished stair rails.

He runs his finger approvingly along the stair rail and smiles contentedly.

REX
Nice work, Rex my boy, even if I do say it myself.

IRENE is standing at the front door. She is not so impressed. She can see Sydney getting further and further away.


INT. THE LOCAL PUB – EARLY EVENING.

REX sits at a table in the small local pub enjoying a beer with his friend and best man from the wedding, COL.

A typical Australian ‘country boy’, COL, mid 20s, is wearing the well worn uniform of beige chinos and short sleeved shirt plus R. M. Williams boots.

COL
Done well, mate. The farm looks a treat.

REX slowly takes a sip of beer before answering.

REX
Yea, it has come on well, Col, I but I have to be thankful for Mr. White giving it to us.

COL
The old bastard should be thanking you for taking his daughter off his hands.

REX
I’m lucky to have her, Col, she’s another dream come true.

COL throws some peanuts in to his mouth.

COL
How did you meet her, Rex?

REX
At a dance. Just after I arrived back. A dance for returned soldiers. Didn’t want to be there but when I saw Irene my whole world changed.

COL gives his friend an affectionate punch on the arm.

COL
You’re a lucky boy, Rex, that’s for sure. Another beer?
COL picks the two glasses up and heads to the bar.


INT. MAHONY FARM HOUSE – EVENING.

IRENE and REX are having supper.

IRENE
What about the job in Sydney, Rex? You said you’d consider it.

REX
But we’ve got everything we want here, Rene.

IRENE
Not everything I want, Rex. I want to live in the city. Enjoy the life there. For a while at least. It’s what we talked about before we got married.

REX
We couldn’t just leave the farm, Rene. Not now. Not after all the work we’ve put in. And what would you Dad say?

IRENE
We could put a tenant in. Till we wanted to come back.

REX
What about kids?

IRENE
We haven’t got any kids.

REX
Yes but we want them, don’t we? Soon? It’s the perfect place to bring up kids, a farm.

IRENE pulls a face full of frustration.

IRENE
But not yet, Rex, we don’t have to have kids yet.

REX puts his arm around IRENE

REX
This is everything I’ve ever wanted, Rene, ever since I was a little boy. A farm, a beautiful wife, kids running around….


DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. REX MAHONY’S FAMILY FARM – EARLY MORNING.
SUPER:
THE MAHONY FAMILY FARM, I934.

A 12 year old REX MAHONY, skinny and with a face covered in freckles, stands in a small horse coral in front of the farm helping his father, ALEC, fix a post rail.

There are three horses in the coral and a younger boy, his brother JOHNNY, overweight, sits on top of one of them walking up and down.

ALEC
Rex, go and see what your Mother has made us for lunch.

REX stops what he’s doing and walks towards the gate, SINGING Jimmy Crack Corn as he goes.

REX
Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don’t Care
Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don’t care

REX gets to the gate and opens it to get out.

He pulls the door but, unseen by him, it doesn’t close properly.

As REX walks away, the door opens wider.

JOHNNY sees his opportunity for a gallop and urges his horse through the gate.

The FATHER sees what has happened and runs to the gate but he is too late to do anything.

ALEC
Johnny come back. Come back right now.

Once outside, the horse goes hell for leather and the young boy, who has been clinging on to the horse’s neck, is thrown.

Instead of falling free, however, the boy’s foot is caught in the stirrup and he is dragged along the bone hard ground. He is SCREAMING.

Eventually the horse comes to a stand still and REX and his FATHER rush over and disentangle the younger boy who is now unconscious.

ALEC looks down at his younger son in dismay, then bends down and cradles him in his arms.

Alec
There, there, Johnny, you’ll be fine, just a few cuts and bruises I shouldn’t wonder.

REX stands there tears streaming down his dust covered face.

ALEC looks up and gives REX an accusing look that would have frozen hell over.

REX
It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t do anything.

ALEC
No, Rex, of course you didn’t. The gate left itself open.

REX walks over to the now settled horse, takes its reins and leads it away.

His father calls out to him.

Alec
Tell Mother to call the doctor. To get here right away.

REX starts to run towards the house.


INT. LOUNGE ROOM OF THE MAHONY FARM – 4 YEARS LATER.
SUPER:
FOUR YEARS LATER

ALEC sits in a large, well worn leather armchair.

On a side table there’s a portrait of him as a younger man wearing the ill fitting uniform of the Light Brigade with cockaded hat, jodhpurs and a riding whip.

REX stands before him, looking nervous.

REX’s brother comes in to the room, he has a bad limp and his face is badly scarred.

ALEC
The farm can’t support the two of you, that’s obvious enough.

The two boys look at each other.

ALEC (CONT’D)
I know you’ve set your heart on it, Rex, but it’s going to have to be you who finds something else.

REX
Dad….

ALEC
There’s no way your brother can fend for himself, not after what happened to him.

REX looks as if the world has fallen in around him.

JOHNNY smiles, it’s almost a smirk.

ALEC
The luck of the draw, Rex, I’m afraid.

REX stands there heartbroken but trying not to show it

The FATHER takes the photo of himself and examines it closely.

ALEC (CONT’D)
Why don’t you think about joining the army, it made a man out of me.

REX turns away from his father and walks slowly from the room.

EXT. SYDNEY SHOW GROUND – SOME WEEKS LATER.

REX and scores of OTHER YOUNG MEN are standing in lines on the oval of the Show Ground.

They all look bewildered and a little scared.

An OFFICER stands in front of them all.

OFFICER
Boys, your first task as enlisted men is to have a medical.

The boys look nervously at each other.

OFFICER (CONT’D)
So off with your clothes now. Carry them to the sheds. Then do exactly what the doctor tells you.

There is little or no movement from the collected ranks.

OFFICER (CONT’D)
Come on, off socks, hands on cocks.

The young soldiers start to undress.

REX is very shy and doesn’t want to undress in front of other people. He does his best to protect his modesty.


INT. MEDICAL OFFICE MINUTES LATER.

REX stands naked in front of the medical officer. He is very tense.

MO
Name?

REX
Mahony, sir.

The medical officer finds his name on his list and ticks it off.

MO
Any known illnesses, Mahony?

REX
No, sir.

MO
Allergies?

REX
No, sir.

MO
Do you normally wear glasses?

REX
No, sir.

MO
Any members of your family had TB?

REX
I’m sorry, sir.

MO
TB. Tuberculosis.

REX
No, sir. Don’t think so, sir.

The medical officer puts his hand under REX’s scrotum.

MO
Cough.

REX coughs.

MO
Had trouble finding them but they seem healthy enough. Off you go.

REX is humiliated by the MO’s comments.

Some of the OTHER SOLDIERS snigger behind his back.

He walks away and tries to look as if he doesn’t care about the others. He fails miserably.


EXT. PORCH OF HOUSE IN COOGEE – LATER SAME DAY.

REX stands at the front door of a working class, terraced house, his kit bag at his feet.

The door is opened by a hard looking woman, AUNTIE EM, mid forties, dressed in a store uniform bearing the name ‘Anthony Hordern’.

She is sucking heavily on a sweet.

REX
Hallo, Auntie Em, Dad said you’d be expecting me.

Before he can say any more, REX burst in to racking sobs and seems unable to stop.

AUNT EM looks embarrassed. She looks around to see if any of her neighbours have seen what is happening. Then she hurries REX in to the house.

She dips in to the pocket of the uniform she is wearing and pulls out a mint which she hands to REX.

AUNT EM
A mint. It’ll make you feel better.

REX stops crying, wipes his eyes and pops the mint in to his mouth.

AUNT EM(CONT’D)
That’s better. Mahonys don’t cry. They just get on with things.

She ruffles his hair, takes him in to the parlour and puts a kettle on the hob.


INT. LOCAL HOSPITAL – DAYTIME.

IRENE lays in bed holding a new born baby. She has been breast feeding her but the baby is now head butting blindly at her breast and screaming fit to bust her lungs.

IRENE looks very unhappy with it all.

A middle aged NURSE gives her instructions.

NURSE
Your daughter is hungry, Mr.s. Mahony, you really must try harder. You can’t take her back to the baby shop, you know.

IRENE givers her a withering look.

The NURSE takes the baby from IRENE and puts her in to her crib.

NURSE (CONT’D)
I’ll get you a cup of Ovaltine. That should settle you.

The NURSE walks away, all efficiency.

A look of distaste appears on IRENE’S face, she comments to the NURSE’S back

Irene
Bloody Ovaltine, (beat) Bloody baby.

She throws the magazine she is holding on to the floor and shouts at the departing nurse.

IRENE (CONT’D)
Bloody everything.

REX walks in carrying a huge bunch of flowers.

He puts them on the bedside table, carefully takes the baby out of the crib and begins to gently rock her.

REX
There, there, my beautiful little girlie, Daddy’s here now.

He continues to rock her and she stops crying.

REX
That’s better.

REX turns to IRENE.

REX (CONT’D)
She’s beautiful, Rene, beautiful.

IRENE gives him a filthy look, her mood not helped by the fact that REX is making a fuss of the baby and not her.


Int. the mahony farm – early evening.

IRENE is at home being visited by BILLIE.

The baby is in its crib, crying.

Irene
She never stops crying, Billie. Makes me feel so trapped.

Billie
It’ll get easier, Rene, you’ll soon learn to love her.

BILLIE makes a fuss of the baby who continues to cry, an angry cry that fills the house.

IRENE
Billie, don’t you ever get fed up, want to run away?

BiLLIE
Not really.

IRENE
Everybody tells me how happy I must be. But I feel like my life has come to an end.

BILLIE
Don’t be silly, Rene.

BILLIE takes the baby out of the crib and starts to rock her in a soothing way.

BiLLIE (CONT’D)
You’ve got what every woman dreams of.

IRENE
I always dreamed of getting away. Living in Sydney. Going to London. Being a dancer. My Mum dreamed of being an engineer.

BILLIE
An engineer?

IRENE
She wanted to build bridges. But she didn’t do it. Not once she met my father. Now she’s full of bitterness. I don’t want that to happen to me, Billie. I don’t think I could stand that.

BILLIE hands IRENE the baby, no longer crying.

IRENE takes her, albeit somewhat reluctantly.

IRENE (CONT’D)
Didn’t you ever have a dream, Billie?

Billie
All I’ve ever wanted is what you’ve got, Rene. A good husband and a beautiful baby.

BILLIE leans over and tickles the baby under her chin.

IRENE shakes her head in consternation at BILLIE’s simple needs.


INT. THE MAHONY FARM – DAYTIME. A year LATER.

IRENE sits at a sowing machine busy making clothes for her (now) two children.

On the table there sit an array of home made jams, preserves, bottled fruits and such, all neatly labelled in IRENE’s beautiful handwriting.

BOY is in the crib, gurgling happily away.

GIRLIE is on the floor having a tantrum which IRENE is pointedly ignoring.

REX walks in and picks his baby daughter up, she stops her crying.

Rex
What’s up, Kiddo? Been missing your Daddy?

He looks in the crib and tickles his son under the chin.

REX (CONT’D)
I think she’s jealous, you know, Rene. All the attention you give to this one since he’s been born.

He ruffles his daughter’s hair and starts to leave.

REX (CONT’D)
Can’t stay, Rene, got to fix some fences. Bloody rabbits are swarming all over the place.

IRENE
Go on, run away, get out of the house, leave it all to me. It’s what you usually do.

REX looks upset but says nothing, just leaves.

GIRLIE starts to cry at her father’s departure.

IRENE ignores GIRLIE and walks over to BOY in his crib and picks him up to make a fuss of him.

IRENE
Oh, Boy, tell me, what did I do to deserve your sister?

BOY gurgles happily in his mother’s arms.


DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. QUEENSLAND HOUSE – PRESENT DAY.

BOY and IRENE are chatting away, heads together, more like friends than mother and son, laughing at the photographs they are looking at.

BOY gets up from his chair and walks over to the side of the verandah and looks out over the garden.

BOY
Do you remember the garden we had in Prospect?

IRENE rummages around in the box and finds a photograph of her and a young BOY standing proudly in a garden full of flowers.

She waves it at BOY.

IRENE
Yes, I did my best there, but it wasn’t easy. You always helped, of course. You were my little gardener.

BOY smiles and starts to recite what is obviously a litany.

BOY
Banksia, Bottlebrush….


SOUND BRIDGE DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. IRENE’S GARDEN IN PROSPECT – DAYTIME, 55 YEARS EARLIER.

IRENE is kneeling on the ground busy planting exotic flowers. The garden is already well planted with other exotic flowers and bushes.

She puts name cards on stakes complete with botanical name next to each flower.

BOY is keeping her company, patting down earth with a small trowel and reciting the names of all the plants.

boy (CONT’D)
…..Cat’s-paw…..Grevillea…. Wattle…

IRENE digs in one of the plants vigorously.

IRENE
All natives of Australia, just like me and you, Boy. All with their roots in Australian soil. All stuck in the one spot…

She beds it in with a final, vicious pat of her trowel.

IRENE (CONT’D)
…..and there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it.

BOY looks on, surprised at his mother’s sudden change in mood.


INT. KITCHEN – EVENING, SAME DAY.

IRENE is preparing a simple evening meal, corned beef and asparagus with white sauce. REX watches her.

Rex
Kids not eating with us?

IRENE
Boy’s out with a friend. Girlie’s late from school, she’ll be here soon.

REX
Did you have a good day, get all your planting done?

IRENE places the two plates on the table.

REX immediately starts to eat.

IRENE looks at him in disgust, vitriol suddenly pouring out of her.

IRENE
No, I didn’t have a good day. Yes I got all my planting done. Was it worth doing? I doubt it. Am I happy? No. Any more stupid questions or does that cover it?

REX stops slicing his corned beef.

REX
Have a heart, Rene, I only asked if you had a good day.

IRENE (shouting)
Have a heart? What do you mean, have a heart?

Rather than be drawn in to a row, REX tries to placate his angry wife.

REX
How about we go in to Tamworth at the weekend? Take the kids to the country show.

IRENE remains standing, not in the mood to be placated.

IRENE
Bloody Tamworth with the bloody kids, oh that’s really going to set the world alight that is.

REX
Come on Irene, it’s not as bad as all that. It’s been a good year, we’ll be able to afford a trip down to Sydney before you know it. Go to the Easter Show.

IRENE is singularly unimpressed.

IRENE
How about we go to Sydney and see a real show, Rex? Now that would be a treat.

REX
Well, we’ll do that, too. Soon.

IRENE ignores him.

IRENE
But no, all you can think about is going to Tamworth. Bumping in to your mates, having a few beers, swapping a few yarns, moaning about the crops, moaning about the weather….

GIRLIE(O.S.)(SCREAMING)
Daddy, Mummy, help me, help me.

IRENE and REX rush outside to see GIRLIE standing like a statue, completely terrified.

In front of her is a large brown snake.

REX is the first to react.

REX
Stand where you are, Girlie, don’t move.

REX goes back in to the house.

IRENE gives her daughter a withering look.

IRENE
Don’t be a sook, Girlie, it’s only a snake.

GIRLIE(distraught)
It’s a brown snake, Mum, they kill you.

REX marches back out, a large axe in his hand.

Without breaking stride, Rex brings down the axe with great force.

The brown snake sees the movement and shoots across the verandah back in to the garden.

REX puts his arm round his daughter.

REX
Nothing to worry about now, Girlie. He was probably more afraid of you than you him.

IRENE walks back in to the house.

IRENE
What are we going to do with you, Girlie? Frightened of snakes! Little scaredy cat.

GIRLIE stands where she is, upset by what her mother has said. REX puts his arm round her and lead her in to the house.


EXT. PROSPECT MAIN STREET – DAYTIME.

REX is marching in the annual Anzac Day Parade. The whole town has turned up and line the streets.

The local marching band, mainly YOUNG BOYS still trying to master their instruments, leads the parade of about one hundred and twenty men of all shapes and sizes.

REX wears his smartest suit and a row of medals is pinned to his chest. He is by far the most awarded soldier in the march but looks uncomfortable at the cheering and the waving of the bystanders.

Many of the marchers are talking to each other as they march but REX ignores them all and keeps his eyes firmly on the back of the man ahead of him.

IRENE, looking very smart with a pill box hat, is there holding the hands of BOY and GIRLIE who are dressed up in the ‘Sunday Best’.

IRENE
There’s your father, doesn’t he look smart. Give him a wave.

The children proudly wave to their father but he doesn’t seem to see them and continues to march with his eyes straight ahead.

GIRLIE
He didn’t wave back.

IRENE
He couldn’t have seen us, Girlie, otherwise he would have.

The children are disappointed but Irene looks as if it’s what she expected.


INT. PROSPECT RSL – LATER

REX and COL are drinking together in the local RSL club. REX is looking depressed, COL is trying to get him talking.

Col
Still not going to tell me about what you got up to?

REX
What would I want to talk about that for?

COL
Anyone else here would be bragging.

REX
There’s nothing to tell, Col. I was just like any other soldier out there.

COL
Come off it, Rex. You were a hero, everyone knows that.

REX
They gave me some medals, Col, that’s all, doesn’t make me any different from anyone here.

COL looks around to view the other men sitting around the club.

They are all hard working, ‘battlers’ enjoying themselves at the end of a special day, many proudly wearing their medals.

COL
Your Dad would have been proud of you, though. If he was still alive.

REX
Na, he would have said it was what he expected.

COL
Your brother, then.

REX
Don’t think he even knew there was a war on, Col. Too busy counting the money he makes from the farm.

COL
I’ll get us a beer.

He goes to the bar to get another beer.

A ‘two up’ game is setting up and the ORGANISER calls over to REX.

Organiser
Hey, Rex, you going to start us off. It would be an honour.

REX
No, thanks, mate, money’s too hard to come by these days, can’t be throwing it away.

The ORGANISER turns away to encourage someone else to take ‘the skip’.

ORGANISER
Who’s going to start the game off, boys? Lots of money to be made here today.

COL comes back and puts two beers down on to the table.

COL
How’s Irene? Haven’t seen her for a while?

REX pulls a face and throws his hands up in despair.

REX
Up and down. Nothing seems to make her happy. Don’t know what it is.

COL
Women, Rex, who can ever fathom them out?

REX
That’s for sure.

COL
Woman near here drowned her kids a few months ago,no one saw it coming. Post natal depression they call it.

REX
I read about that. Real shame.

COL
You should get Irene out more, take her dancing.

REX
Think so?

COL
She loves dancing, mate. It would do her the world of good. While you’re at it set me up with that pal of hers.

REX
Who, Billie?

COL
That’s the one.

REX
Gone travelling, Col. Gone to see the world. Upped sticks and left, just like that.

COL
Women, eh. Said you could never fathom them out.

COL gets up and walks over to the 2-Up game leaving REX thinking about his problems with IRENE.


INT. THE CATHOLIC CLUB, YANGOOLI – NIGHT TIME.

REX and IRENE and their friends are seated together at a large table, the men drinking beer the women port and lemons. They’re all smoking.

The BAND starts to play a medley of Johnny Mathis songs.

An attractive WOMAN asks REX to dance. He agrees readily and once again his dancing gets admiring glances from all the women in the hall.

A bit put out by the attention he’s getting from the other women, IRENE approaches the best looking of the remaining men, HANS, and invites him to dance. He eagerly agrees.


INT. SAME – SOMETIME LATER.

REX is dancing with a different partner. He looks happy. The woman he’s dancing with looks even happier.

IRENE is still dancing with the good-looking HANS.

He SINGS along with the song in to her ear.

IRENE looks very pleased with what’s happening.

HANS (singing)
It’s not for me to say you love me
It’s not for me to say you’ll always care

HANS gives her a knowing glance, looks to see that REX isn’t watching them and heads for the Exit door.

They dance up to the door, open it and then dance straight through in to the Church car park.

HANS continues SINGING to IRENE.

HANS (singing)
Perhaps the glow of love will grow< With every passing day

IRENE interrupts him and SINGS to him.

IRENE (singing)
Or we may never meet again
But then, it’s not for me to say


EXT. CLUB CAR PARK – MINUTES LATER.

The car park is full of battered Fords and Holdens.

The couple continue dancing. All the time HANS is steering Irene towards the cars.

IRENE starts to say something

IRENE
Are you sure….

HANS puts his finger to her lips

Hans
Shhhhhh.

Almost before she know it, IRENE is laying on the bonnet of a car, her dress up and HANS is making love to her.

IRENE can’t help but giggle. It’s all a big adventure to her.


INT. INSIDE THE HALL – A WHILE LATER.

REX is still dancing. Again he has another partner.

IRENE and HANS sneak in unobserved, both looking very pleased with themselves.

REX catches IRENE’S eye and she waves to him, all smiles. He smiles lovingly back.


INT. IRENE’S KITCHEN – DAYTIME.

IRENE and REX are sitting in the kitchen when there’s a knock on the door.

REX answers it to find a man, WILLY ROGERS, late 20s, standing there, a battered valise in his hand.

REX
Willy, Willy Rogers! My God, what are you doing here?

WILLY
Just visiting, Rex. Got a cup of tea for your old cobber?

REX
Got more than that, Willy. Got a bottle or two I reckon we can crack open.

REX leads WILLY in to the kitchen

REX (CONT’D)
Irene, this here is Willy Rogers. A mucker of mine from the army.

IRENE is uncertain at the thought of an unwanted house guest and gives WILLY a questioning look.

IRENE
Pleased to meet you, I’m sure. Have a chair in the sitting room.

WILLY takes himself in to the sitting room.

REX gets a flagon of sherry out of the pantry, pours two glasses and takes them in.

IRENE pointedly stays where she is.


INT. SITTING ROOM – SOME TIME LATER.

REX and WILLY are way in to their cups, laughing and swapping old army stories.

WILLY
Yea but what about the time you filled the sergeant’s tea with senna pods and he couldn’t stop running to the latrine……

REX
And he swore it was the all the curry he’d been eating, didn’t have a clue……

REX gets up and walks out of the house and urinates in to the flower beds in the garden.

IRENE looks out with a face like thunder.

IRENE
Rex, what on earth do you think you’re doing? Stop it this very moment.

REX turns and gives her a silly grin.


INT. BOY’S BEDROOM – SAME EVENING.

BOY watches the action in the garden from his bedroom. The room is full of model aeroplanes hanging from nylon fishing lines.

He shakes his head at the behaviour of his father and goes back to his bed, picks up a book and turns on a transistor radio.

GIRLIE enters the room upset by what’s happening.

GIRLIE
I don’t like that man, Boy. I’ve never seen Dad like this before.

Boy
Don’t worry about it, Girlie. He’ll be gone by tomorrow.

GIRLIE
And Mum doesn’t like him either.

BOY
That’s for sure. That’s why he won’t be staying.

GIRLIE
Why does Mum shout at Dad so much? Doesn’t she love him any more?

BOY
Course she does, Girlie. It’s just what happens to married people.

GIRLIE
I’m not going to end up like that. Having a husband who I shout at all the time.

BOY pinches her arm.

BOY
You’ll be lucky if you end up with a husband at all.

GIRLIE punches his arm.

GIRLIE
I will, too, and he’ll look just like Dad.

BOY
As long as he doesn’t look like that Willy

The two dissolve in to giggles.


INT. KITCHEN – LATER SAME DAY.

REX and WILLY are still telling stories, more drunk than ever.

BOY and GIRLIE have come downstairs and stand in the door way watching their father and his friend.

REX
Ah, there they are. My two little beauties, come and give your dad a cuddle.

REX tries to cuddle GIRLIE but she runs away from him.

He leaves BOY alone and instead gets his friend up and stumbles in to the garden with him.

They both fall over, giggling all the time.

GIRLIE shows her disapproval, gives them a haughty look and stomps off to her room.


DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. THE VERANDAH OF THE QUEENSLAND HOUSE – PRESENT DAY.

BOY walks back from the inside of the house bringing a tray with drinks and more nuts and crisps.

IRENE is still busy filling the photo album.

BOY
Anzac Day weekend in a week’s time. Thought I might call Girlie.

IRENE
Is she still in New York?

BOY
Yes, still doing well. They say her new book will be a best seller.

IRENE
She used to drive me mad with all those stories she wrote. Drove everyone else mad, too.

BOY
Well, it was her dream. To be a writer.

IRENE
I’m glad somebody’s dream came true.

BOY
I suppose she hasn’t been in touch?

IRENE
Boy, she doesn’t want to speak to me. She hasn’t forgiven me for so many things.

BOY
Couldn’t you make the first contact?

IRENE
It’s not my call. She was the one who walked out.

BOY
Yes, but you could still be the one who makes the first move.

IRENE
But why should it be me?

BOY looks uncomfortable with the conversation so he changes it.

BOY
Do you remember that Anzac Day essay Girlie won a prize for? Then had to read it on the radio?

IRENE
How could I forget it? If old Freddie Garlick could see me now. He had a bit of a crush on me, you know?

BOY raises his eyebrows and smiles knowingly.

BOY
You and your men!

IRENE looks at BOY and smiles – it’s as if they’re sharing a secret.


DISSOLVE TO:
INT. THE FRONT OFFICE OF PROSPECT RADIO – DAYTIME.

IRENE and GIRLIE sit in the waiting room of the local radio station.

GIRLIE is wearing a skirt of shot silk, which she twists at all the time.

She is holding a painting in vivid colours of Gallipoli.

A short, swarthy man with jug ears, FREDDIE GARLICK, late thirties, appears and ushers them in to the recording studio.

FREDDIE
Come in, ladies, come in.

He takes GIRLIE by the hand.

FREDDIE (CONT’D)
So you’re clever girl who wrote the essay on Simpson and his donkey. Ready to read it to everyone, are you?

GIRLIE, determined to do her best, nods her head.

FREDDIE(CONT’D)
Beaut, just the thing for Anzac Day, a story like that.

He takes the painting from her and looks at it closely.

It shows the sea streaked with blood, Australian soldier lying dead on the beach, swarthy Turkish soldiers behind tangles of barbed wire

FREDDIE (CONT’D)
And did you paint this, too?

GIRLIE nods her head vigorously.

FREDDIE (CONT’D)
It’s good. Bloody good. Have you written anything else?

IRENE
She’s always writing. That or her head stuck in a book.

GIRLIE
I want to be a writer. I’ve got lots of other stories I’ve written.

To put himself in IRENE’s good books, FREDDIE makes a fuss of GIRLIE, mussing her hair in a friendly gesture.

FREDDIE
Commendable, highly commendable.

GIRLIE smiles happily at the praise.


INT. RADIO STUDIO – SAME DAY.

GIRLIE stands in a sound booth in front of a microphone, very nervous.

FREDDIE, outside the booth, is paying more attention to IRENE than he is to GIRLIE.

IRENE is fully aware of the attention and is making the most of it.

GIRLIE
Selfless, he was to set out on the journey……….

FREDDIE gives GIRLIE a nod of encouragement and the turns his attentions back to IRENE.


INT. RADIO STATION – 15 MINUTES LATER.

The three walk out of the studio.

GIRLIE relieved it’s all over but looking for approval.

FREDDIE still looking at IRENE.

FREDDIE
I like your style, Irene. I can call you Irene….?

IRENE, flattered by the attention, nods her head in approval.

FREDDIE (CONT’D)
….you wear your clothes like Paris couture, Irene. Not looking for a job are you? Not much, general dog’s body really.

IRENE beams in delight.

GIRLIE is visibly upset at her Mum getting all the attention on what was supposed to be her big day.

GIRLIE
Mr. Garlick, can I read some more of my stories on the radio?

FREDDIE
We’ll see. If they’re good enough….

GIRLIE looks a bit more pleased with herself and punches the air.

GIRLIE
Yes!

IRENE and FREDDIE laugh at her behaviour and go back to their conversation.


INT. RADIO STATION OFFICE – A MONTH LATER.

IRENE sits at her desk, typing away.

She sees FREDDIE walk in and immediately reaches for her compact and freshens herself up.

FREDDIE walks in to her office and IRENE gives him a big smile.

IRENE
Good Morning, Mr. Garlick

FREDDIE
Irene, how many times do I have to tell you, Freddie, call me Freddie.

FREDDIE shows IRENE the book he is carrying.

FREDDIE (CONT’D)
Dylan Thomas. A great poet. Welsh.

FREDDIE opens the book and begins to recite from Do Not Go Gentle Into That Night.

FREDDIE (CONT’D)
Do not go gentle into that good night

Old age should burn and rave at close of day

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

FREDDIE closes the book and hands it to IRENE.

IRENE takes the book and quickly looks through it.

IRENE
Thank you, Mr…..Freddie. I’ll start on it this evening.

FREDDIE
And when you’ve finished that, the joys of Oscar Wilde await you.

FREDDIE begins to recite by heart

FREDDIE (CONT’D)
He did not wear his scarlet coat

For blood and wine are red,

And blood and wine were on his hands

When they found him with the dead,

The poor dead woman whom he loved,

And murdered in her bed.

He goes in to a theatrical bow, IRENE claps approvingly.

FREDDIE (CONT’D)
Thank you my dear, the first stanza of Reading Jail.

FREDDIE produces a small book from his pocket and presents it to IRENE.


INT. EVENING -THE SITTING ROOM OF THE FARM, SOME TIME LATER.

IRENE sits in an armchair reading Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis and listening to CLASSICAL MUSIC.

REX is sitting in the other chair reading Farming News.


MUSIC: BEETHOVEN’S 5TH SYPHONY.

IRENE
Listen to that, Rex, isn’t it beautiful.

REX
Doesn’t do much for me.

IRENE
I suppose not.

REX
What is it?

IRENE
Something Mr. Garlick lent me. Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.

REX
Right.

IRENE
He says Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovitch, Rimsky-Korsakov and Liszt are the only classical composers worth listening to.

REX
Are they? Well I’m happy to listen to whatever you like, Rene, might even grow on me.

IRENE gives REX a disdainful look and goes back to reading her book.

IRENE
I doubt it.

GIRLIE comes in to the room holding an exercise book.

She is excited but apprehensive at the same time.

REX
Rene, Girlie wants to ask you something.

IRENE looks to Girlie.

IRENE
Well?

Girlie
Mum, can I read you my new story? Tell me if you think it’s good enough for Mr. Garlick.

IRENE waves her away.

IRENE
Not now, Girlie, I’m busy.

REX
Rene, she only wants to….

IRENE cuts him off before he can finish.

IRENE
I said I’m busy. I’m listening to Beethoven.

IRENE closes her eyes to concentrate on the music.

GIRLIE looks to REX. He shrugs his shoulders as if to say he can’t help.

GIRLIE looks hurt and walks out.


INT. BATHROOM OF FARMHOUSE – LATER SAME EVENING.

BOY is feeding wood into the bathroom’s antiquated chip heater.

He uses a jemmy to cautiously lever the lid off the heater and drop the slivers of pine in to the heater’s belly.

Boy
That should do it.

IRENE is enjoying a bath, the bath itself full of suds.

IRENE
Thank you, Boy. You’re so thoughtful.

BOY walks across, sits on the edge of the bath and scrubs his mother’s back.

They both begin singing A HARD DAY’S NIGHT by the BEATLES, something they have obviously done before.

IRENE (singing)
It’s been a hard day’s night

BOY
And I’ve been working like a dog

IRENE
It’s been a hard day’s night

BOY
And I should be sleeping like a log

BOY stops his scrubbing and makes to stand up.

Boy (CONT’D)
Got to go, homework to do.

In a nasal voice quite unlike her own and trying for a Liverpool accent, IRENE quotes a line from the film

IRENE
Books are for the birds

BOY continues the game, also using a Liverpool accent.

BOY
Books are good.

IRENE
Parading’s better.

BOY
Parading?

IRENE
Parading the streets, trailing your coat, bowling along. Living!

BOY
I am living.

IRENE
You! Living? When was the last time you gave a girl a pink-edged daisy? When was the last time you embarrassed a sheila with a cool appraising stare.

At this IRENE dissolves in to laughter and the throws the soap at BOY, fully revealing her breasts, he throws it back. There is no embarrassment on the part of either.

Boy
Mum, I was thinking of building a gondola for Mr. Garlick’s Water Carnival.

IRENE
That’s a great idea, Boy. I’ll help you.

BOY looks pleased and throws a couple of more slivers of wood in to the burner before he leaves.


INT. DAYTIME -FARM HOUSE SHED. WEEKS LATER.

IRENE and FREDDIE GARLICK stand looking at BOY’s creation, a gondola frame sitting atop of an old rowing boat with a canopy decorated with purple crepe flowers.

BOY is putting the final coat of silver paint on.

FREDDIE
It looks great, but it needs a name.

IRENE plays up to him as usual.

IRENE
What do you think, Freddie, something classical, the Hesperus perhaps?

FREDDIE
No, let’s name it Bella. Beautiful. Just like you.

IRENE claps her hands and laughs with delight. BOY nods his approval.

BOY
Great idea, Mr. Garlick, Bella it is.

FREDDIE mimes launching the boat with a pretend bottle of champagne.


EXT. MAIN STREET OF PROSPECT – DAYTIME, WEEKS LATER.

BOY and REX stand on the pavement watching IRENE and FREDDIE GARLICK sailing ‘Bella’ down the short stretch of water where the carnival is being held.

FREDDIE, wearing a red waistcoat and tasselled cap is polling. IRENE, in all her finery, is sitting back drinking champagne.

As the boat passes, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle pulls up.

The motorcyclist dismounts and, to REX and BOY’s surprise, it is a woman, HILDEGARDE, early 30s, well built with straight, blunt-cut hair

FREDDIE GARLICK spots her from the gondola and points her out to IRENE.

FREDDIE
A touch exotic for Prospect, don’t you think Irene? Wonder how long she’ll be staying.


INT. RADIO STATION – DAYTIME.

IRENE sits at her desk. FREDDIE walks in with HILDEGARDE. She is now dressed in a more conventional manner but completely without any make-up.

FREDDIE
Irene, I’d like to introduce you to Hildegarde Hochschwender,

IRENE stands up to shake hands.

IRENE
Glad to meet you.

FREDDIE
Hildegarde is an expert on all things European. She’s German, Irene.

HILDEGARDE (German accent)
Originally, that is. I have lived in Australia for a few years now. Such a country.

IRENE
You like it here?

HILDEGARDE
Oh yes, very much

FREDDIE
I thought you’d be interested in some of Hildegarde’s stories. She’s been to places we’ve only dreamed of.

FREDDIE takes both ladies by the arm and marches off with them in tow.


INT. RADIO STATION – LATER SAME DAY.

FREDDIE and IRENE are enjoying a cup of tea together.

FREDDIE
A gap lapper.

IRENE
A what?

FREDDIE
A diesel.

IRENE
I’m not with you.

FREDDIE
Hildegarde is a lezzo.

IRENE
Oh!

FREDDIE
Need a diagram?

IRENE
No.

FREDDIE
Johnny Mathis was a homo.

IRENE
I knew that.

FREDDIE
You’re not shocked?

IRENE quite clearly is but tries not to show it.

IRENE
Of course not. Why should I be?

FREDDIE goes to change the record playing on the turntable. IRENE is deep in thought.


INT. DAYTIME – FARM HOusE LIVING ROOM. WEEKS LATER.

IRENE and HILDEGARDE sit in two comfortable armchairs listening to the phonograph.


MUSIC: LISZT’S HUNGARIAN RHAPSODIES.

HILDEGARDE
I first heard this in Vienna, such a beautiful city. The composer Liszt developed his piano skills there.

IRENE
Tell me more about Vienna, Hildi.

HILDEGARDE
Ah the River Danube. The tree- lined streets. The coffee houses. So many theatres, three opera houses.

IRENE sits there spellbound.

IRENE
And tell me about Paris, Hildi, I’ve always dreamt of going to Paris.

GIRLIE walks in to the room.

HILDEGARDE
Hallo, Catherine, do want to hear all about Paris, too?

IRENE gives GIRLIE a look that could kill. GIRLIE looks crestfallen.

GIRLie
Oh, no thanks, I’ve got my chores to do.

GIRLIE scuttles away.

HILDEGARDE
Irene, why don’t we take the children camping one weekend? It would be such fun.

IRENE looks unimpressed.

IRENE
Certainly, Hildie, if that’s what you want. A lot of flies about, though.

HILDEGARDE waves her hand in contempt.

HILDEGARDE
Flies.

IRENE smiles at the antics of her new found friend.


EXT. FARM – DAYTIME – LATER SAME DAY.

REX is holding a large chopper in one hand and a trussed up rooster in another.

He calls to GIRLIE who is trying to hide from him.

REX
Come on, Girlie, it’s about time you learnt to do things around this place.

GIRLIE
Do I have to, Dad? It’s so cruel.

REX
I’ll do the first, next one’s yours.

REX puts the neck off the rooster on the stump of a tree which he is using as a chopping block.

With one swift blow, REX decapitates the bird.

Instead of dying, though, the headless bird breaks away and runs around in frantic, useless circles, spurting blood and shedding feather as it goes.

GIRLIE screams in terror, runs down the path and makes for the paddocks.

REX is half amused and half annoyed.

REX
Girlie, get back here this minute.

BOY watches the happenings but is more entertained than appalled by the mess of feathers and guts.


INT. FARM HOUSE – EVENING.

GIRLIE creeps back in to the house and goes to her room.

REX and IRENE see her come in and exchange looks.

REX goes up to her room, hauls her off the bed and starts to shake her.

REX
Girlie, never do that to us again. We’ve been worried silly. Searched everywhere for you.

GIRLIE cries hysterically.

GIRLIE
I’m sorry.

REX
Sorry’s not good enough. As much as I hate it, you’re going to be have to be taught a lesson.

REX marches GIRLIE down to the kitchen and takes a tin of Epsom Salts (a laxative) from the cupboard.

He mixes a spoonful of the salts in to a glass of warm water.

He hands it to GIRLIE.

She pulls a face and refuses to take it.

REX pushes it in to her hand.

REX
Drink it down, Girlie, it will get the badness out of you.

GIRLIE looks to IRENE for help.

GIRLIE
Mum, do I have to?

IRENE
Just do as your dad tells you.

GIRLIE takes the glass and reluctantly drinks its contents.

IRENE watches but has not a word of comfort for her daughter.


INT. FARM HOUSE – LATER.

GIRLIE sits on a chair placed outside the toilet. She is crying with big sobs.

BOY is in his bedroom, under the bedclothes listening to his small radio.

Hearing GIRLIE’S sobs, he gets out of bed and peaks out of his door to see GIRLIE sitting there sobbing.

BOY
Got the trots, have you?

GIRLIE gives him a withering look, BOY gives her a look of sympathy.

BOY (CONT’D)
Don’t worry, Girlie, better tomorrow.

BOY goes back to his room leaving GIRLIE to suffer on her own.


INT. FARM HOUSE – NEXT MORNING.

IRENE and GIRLIE are together in the kitchen. GIRLIE is sullen.

IRENE
Come on, Girlie, off to school.

Girlie
You could have said something, Mum.

IRENE
You deserved it, running away like that.

GIRLIE
No, I didn’t.
IRENE
Girlie, you’re a country girl. You’re supposed to do things like kill chickens.

GIRLIE
You don’t.

IRENE
Yes, well I’ve got better things to do with my time.

Girlie
And what about Boy, nobody makes Boy.

IRENE
Girlie, will you stop your moaning and get off to school.

GIRLIE picks up her school bag and leaves.


EXT. SCHOOL PLAYING FIELDS – LATER SAME DAY

GIRLIE stand inside a discuss circle made out of roughly laid stone. She is dressed in long shorts and a loose white blouse

A teacher, notebook in hand, talks to her.

Teacher
Pretty good, Mahony, all that practice is really paying off.

GIRLIE picks up the discuss and gets ready to throw again.

GIRLIE
Do you really think I’ll get in to the state team for Sydney?

The teacher indicates that she should throw again.

GIRLIE crouches, swings her arms in wide arcs, propels herself forward and finally releases the discuss.

The discus flies through the air a long, long way.

The teacher looks on admiringly.

TEACHER
Without a doubt, if you keep that up. I’m sure your parents will be very proud.

GIRLIE (to herself)
As if Mum would care.

GIRLIE walks up the field to collect the discuss and practice some more.


EXT. OUTSIDE SCHOOL – LATER.

GIRLIE is walking home.

HILDEGARDE pulls up on her motorcycle. She offers GIRLIE a second helmet.

HILDEGARDE
Here, Catherine, put this on and I’ll take you for a burn up.

GIRLIE takes the helmet and smiles in delight.

Girlie
Thanks Miss Hochschwender.

GIRLIE gets on to the bike and hangs on to HILDEGARDE tightly.

They drive along the dirt road at a steady speed but as soon as they reach the bitumen road, HILDEGARDE goes full throttle.

GIRLIE turns her head to put her cheek on HILDEGARDE’S substantial back. The look on her face is one of bliss.


EXT. MAHONY FARM HOUSE – LATER THAT DAY.

HILDEGARDE and GIRLIE pull up outside the farmhouse.

REX is there unloading his ute.

GIRLIE gets off the bike.

GIRLIE
Thanks Miss Hochschswender, that was great.

HILDEGARDE
My pleasure, Catherine, We shall do it again.

GIRLIE runs off.

REX walks over to HILDEGARDE.

REX
Hildegarde, I wonder if you could give me some advice.

HILDEGARDE
Yes?

REX
It’s Irene’s birthday soon and I’d like to buy her something nice.

HILDEGARDE
Of course.

REX
I was thinking classical music.

HILDEGARDE
Yes?

REX
But I don’t have a clue what.

HILDEGARDE considers for a moment or two.

HILDEGARDE
Mahler’s First Symphony. Conducted by Bruno Walter. I’m sure the music store in Prospect will have it.

REX beams with delight.

REX
Mahler’s First Symphony by Bruno Walter. Got it.

HILDEGARDE
Irene will love it. I’m sure.

REX
Thank you Hildegarde, you are a real friend.


EXT. RIVERSIDE – EARLY EVENING, DAYS LATER.

The river runs quietly by an improvised camp site, two tents and a number of throw-rugs.

Mosquito nets are hanging from the branches of the trees at the edge of the sandy bank.

GIRLIE and BOY, both in swimming togs, are running about on the grass, diving in and out of the water, thoroughly enjoying themselves.

IRENE and HILDEGARDE sit on the bank enjoying the last rays of the warm sun.

HILDEGARDE
Let’s swim

IRENE
I’ll get changed.

HILDEGARDE
No need for that.

HILDEGARDE throws off her clothes and dives in to the river.

IRENE stands up to watch, and laugh at, her antics.

The children look on in amazement at the naked woman swimming.

IRENE looks at the kids, then at HILDEGARDE, stands up, takes her clothes off and dives in, too.

IRENE swims up to HILDEGARDE who is now treading water. IRENE does the same.

Suddenly HILDEGARDE pushes IRENE’S head under water and gives a cry of victory.

IRENE recovers and pushes HILDEGARDE under and a fake fight ensues.

BOY and GIRLIE look on in amazement but soon start to laugh, too.


Ext. Camp site – later same evening.

THE TWO WOMEN sit by a camp fire.

BOY is in bed reading a comic.

GIRLIE is watching them from just inside the tent. They are unaware of her presence.

The remnants of tea are scattered on the floor and a billy can stands on the embers of a dwindling camp fire.

IRENE nibbles at a biscuit, a crumb remains on her lip.

HILDEGARDE reaches over and brushes it away.

HILDEGARDE
You’re a very attractive woman, Irene.

IRENE smiles shyly.

IRENE
Thank you, kind lady.

HILDEGARDE
I’m serious, a very attractive lady. Have you ever thought about making love to another woman?

IRENE giggles.

IRENE
Not the kind of thing that would go down well in Prospect, Hildie.

HILDEGARDE leans across and kisses IRENE on the lips.

IRENE lets it happen, it’s another adventure.

HILDEGARDE pulls away and the two look in to each others eyes.

From the tent, GIRLIE is closely monitoring the action, her face like a dark cloud.

IRENE happens to look over to the tent and sees GIRLIE watching. She moves away from Hildegarde, the spell is broken.

HILDEGARDE wonders what’s wrong, turns and also sees GIRLIE.

HILDEGARDE
The children are still awake I see.

IRENE
They are, Hildie, but they can’t stay awake forever.

IRENE stands up and starts to stoke the fire.


INT. Farm house – next day.

GIRLIE and BOY are telling REX about their camping trip.

BOY
And then Mum and Auntie Hildie had this water fight.

GIRLIE
With no clothes on.

REX
With no clothes on?

GIRLIE
And they kissed each other.

BOY
No, they didn’t.

GIRLIE
They did. Later.

BOY
They didn’t.

GIRLIE
You didn’t see them, you were reading.

BOY
Why would two women kiss each other?

GIRLIE
I don’t know why, but they did.

REX
Are you making all this up, Girlie.

GIRLIE
No, Dad, honest. They kissed each other.

REX looks both perplexed and worried.


Int. Pub – next day.

REX is drinking with his mate COL.

COL
Well, a few people round here are saying she’s a lessie.

REX
A what?

COL
A lesbian. You know, she likes other women.

REX
No way.

COL
That’s what they’re saying.

REX
Can’t believe it. She seems so nice.

COL shrugs his shoulders and goes back to his drinking.


Ext. Garden of farm house – same time.

IRENE, HILDEGARDE and GIRLIE are all together in the garden.

BOY walks in with a magpie chick cupped in his hands.

BOY
I found it under the big pine.

IRENE
Must have fallen out of its nest.

HILDEGARDE
We should put it back there.

BOY
I thought that but it’s such a big tree.

HILDEGARDE
No worries, I shall climb.

The three look impressed and off they all go out in to the paddock.


Ext. Paddock – minutes later.

HILDEGARDE is wearing a windcheater and she nestles the chick next to her breast.

As the other three watch in awe, she quickly shins up the tree trunk and hoists herself on to the lower branches.

IRENE looks worried.

IRENE
Careful, Hildie, don’t fall.

HILDEGARDE
As a child I used to play in trees like this.

Although looking somewhat apprehensive, HILDEGARDE continues to climb and soon finds an empty nest.

She takes the bird out from her windcheater and is rewarded by the chick nipping at her hands leaving them scratched and bleeding.

Despite the attack, HILDEGARDE puts the chick in to the nest and quickly shins down the tree.

IRENE and the children rush over to congratulate her and IRENE notices the blood and scratches.

IRENE
Oh, Hildie, you’ve hurt yourself.

HILDEGARDE
It is nothing, merely scratches.

IRENE takes her hand and in both of hers and fusses over it.

IRENE
OH, Hildie, you’re so brave to do that.

As IRENE continues to make a fuss, REX walks past and gets totally the wrong idea.

He rushes over to the group and pushes HILDEGARDE away from IRENE.

REX
Get out. Get out now.

IRENE
Rex what are you doing?

GIRLIE (ALMOST HYSTERICAL)
Auntie Hildie saved a chick. Put it back in the nest.

REX ignores them both. He speaks again to HILDEGARDE, veins bulging, spit flying.

REX
I never want to see you here again. If I do I’ll set the dogs on you.

IRENE
Rex, stop it.

REX
All the time pretending to be my friend. I know what’s going on and it stops now. Get out. And I don’t want to see you near my home again.

A bemused HILDEGARDE looks at IRENE and the children and shrugs her powerful shoulders.

She walks away without a word.

REX speaks out – to no one in particular

REX
Stupid woman. The other birds won’t let it in the nest, not now she’s touched it.

IRENE is too shocked to do or say anything.

The children are bewildered and look at their father in horror.

GIRLIE goes to run after HILDEGARDE but IRENE pulls her back.


EXT. PADDOCK – NEXT DAY, EARLY MORNING.

GIRLIE walks through the paddock. She sees the chick dead covered in ants. She pokes it with a stick then kicks it away.


EXT. FARMHOUSE – SAME TIME.

REX rummages through the back of his ute.

He finds a neatly wrapped parcel.

He unwraps it to reveal a record – Mahler’s First Symphony by Bruno Walter.

He takes the record from out of its cover and smashes it over his knee.


EXT. VERANDAH OF QUEENSLAND HOUSE – PRESENT DAY.

BOY has taken his jacket off and is lounging in one of the comfortable ratan chairs.

BOY
Beautiful day.

IRENE
Yes, the weather up here suits me.

BOY
Bit different from Prospect.

IRENE
No worries about lack of rain, that’s for sure.

BOY
I often wonder how farmers can put up with the vagaries of the Australian climate.

IRENE
It becomes a way of life. And we were lucky, the farm was fully irrigated.

BOY
Didn’t help with the hail storms, though, did it.

IRENE
No, you’re right there.

IRENE dives into the box of photos to see if she can find some reference to the calamities they suffered.


INT. FARM HOUSE – DAYTIME.

IRENE, GIRLIE and BOY stand at the window watching as a viscous hail storm destroys all the plants in IRENE’S well tended garden.

The hail is enormous and the noise it makes on the corrugated roof is deafening.

A gust of wind blows over a huge garden pot containing a beautiful cumquat tree. The pot shatters.

IRENE is almost in tears.

IRENE
My beautiful garden.

BOY
Don’t worry, Mum, we’ll get it happening again.

IRENE
We said that after the locusts. And the mice plague.

BOY
Yes, but we did it, didn’t we?

IRENE
Don’t know if I can face it again.

The two children look at each other but say nothing.

REX walks in to the room, a face as black as the rain clouds.

REX
Sod your garden, what about the wheat. It’s ruined. All the work I’ve put in.

IRENE
And I haven’t?

REX
Not the same, Rene. Your garden’s just a silly hobby.

IRENE explodes in fury.

IRENE
I hate this place. Bloody hate it.

She rushes out to the porch, pulls on her Wellington boots, raincoat and hat, runs in to the garden and starts to bring in all the plants that are contained in pots.

REX watches but does nothing.

BOY goes out to help his mother.

boy
I’ll help you, Mum.

IRENE and BOY start to do what they can to rescue the plants and pots that have been thrown everywhere by the storm.

GIRLIE stands by REX and just watches.


INT. LIVING ROOM AT FARM HOUSE – DAYTIME.

IRENE is typing away at an ancient Remington. GIRLIE watches her.

Girlie
If you hate the country so much, Mum, why do you keep writing about it?

Irene
Something to do, Girlie, and I seem to do it well.

GIRLIE
Do you think so?

IRENE
Yes, I do.

IRENE picks up a letter and waves it at GIRLIE.

IRENE (CONT’D)
And so does somebody else by the sound of it.

GIRLIE snatches the letter and starts to read it.

IRENE (CONT’D)
The local rag has asked me to do a regular column. The ABC next, shouldn’t wonder.

GIRL
That’s terrific, Mum. Do you think I could help you?

IRENE
Don’t think so, Girlie. What do you know about country life? Can’t even kill a chook.

GIRLIE is crestfallen at the put down.

REX walks in from the paddock.

REX
What you writing about today, Rene?

IRENE
The McGarry family.

GIRLIE
Oh Mum, that was awful. Why on earth would a man shoot his wife and children then turn the gun on himself?

IRENE
Must have had some reason.

REX
Debt, Irene, debt. It does funny things to a man, even to a battler like Ray McGarry.

REX picks up a paper and sits down at the table ready for something to eat.

Girlie
I’m off to practice.

GIRLIE leaves. IRENE waits until she hears the front door SLAM.

IRENE
Rex, I want a divorce.

REX acts as this is something not totally unexpected, that he has been expecting something like it for ages.

REX
Really.

IRENE
I want to start a new life. In Sydney.

REX
A new life in Sydney.

IRENE
I can’t stand it here any longer.

REX
You know the farm’s in my name.

IRENE
So?

REX
You won’t get a penny from me if you leave.

IRENE
Life’s not just about money, Rex, it’s about living.

REX
And what about the kids?

IRENE
We’ll share custody. I’ll take Boy, you keep Girlie.

REX stands up from the table and calmly folds the paper.

REX
You’re out of your mind.

IRENE
Boy doesn’t share your silly dream, Rex, he doesn’t want to be part of a farming dynasty.

REX
Nor does Girlie. But neither of them are leaving.

IRENE
We’ll see about that.

REX
Think it over, Rene. If you walk out you’ll have no home. No money. And certainly no kids. Is that what you really want?

REX puts the paper down on the table and calmly walks out of the room.


EXT. OUTSIDE – MINUTE LATER.

REX walks towards his ute. He WHISTLES for his dogs.

They bound up to the ute and jump in the back.

REX opens the driver’s door.

He pauses to take a packet of mints from his trousers pocket.

He opens the pack, pops a mint in to his mouth and, with a steely look in his eyes, climbs in to the ute.


EXT. QUEENSLAND – PRESENT DAY.

BOY and IRENE are still sorting through the photographs.

BOY comes across one and laughs.

The photo shows an attractive blonde woman dressed in jodhpurs blatantly posing for the camera.

BOY
My God, Gwyneth what’s-her-name.

IRENE takes the photo from him and examines it closely.

IRENE
Birch, wasn’t it? Gwyneth Birch. Now that does bring back some memories.

IRENE(laughing)
I should think it does.


CUT TO:
INT. BOY’S BEDROOM – NIGHT TIME.

BOY is in bed, half asleep.

Gwyneth Birch, early to mid-thirties, enters his bedroom, tiptoes over to his bed and slips in.

BOY turns round to see who it is. Gwyneth puts her finger to his mouth to keep him quiet.

With the other hand she reaches down and puts her hand in the open fly of his pyjamas.

A look of bewilderment, then surprise, then joy appears on BOY’s face. Gwyneth looks happy, too.


CUT BACK TO:
QUEENSLAND – PRESENT DAY.

BOY goes back to sorting through the photos.

BOY
I wonder if you still have a photo of April.

IRENE
April Bennett. The one you got pregnant?

BOY
How did you know that?

IRENE
Mothers know everything, Boy. l even know that you spent all your savings flying her to Sydney to have an abortion.

BOY shakes his head at his mother’s knowing about the abortion. Then starts to laugh.

IRENE (CONT’D)
You can laugh about it now but you were in a right panic at the time.

BOY
I thought my life had ended. I wasn’t ready for kids, that’s for sure.

IRENE
Yes, I know what that feels like.

IRENE finds a photograph of April Bennett.

IRENE
April Bennett. If your father had known about that there would have been a right to-do.

She flicks the photo at BOY who has to duck to stop it hitting his head.

BOY
I wonder what happened to Graham.

IRENE
Girlie’s first boyfriend? Don’t suppose he came to any good.

boy
Bit of a rascal. Girlie liked him well enough, though.

IRENE
Only went with her cos she had the use of my car.

BOY
She dropped him as soon as she met Nick. Had quite the hots for Nick, our Girlie.

irene
What, the photographer? I knew she liked him but I didn’t know she had a thing for him.

BOY
So mothers don’t know everything after all.

IRENE laughs and gives BOY a ‘one up to you’ sign.


INT. IRENE’S CAR – NIGHT TIME.

GIRLIE, next to her, arms round her shoulder, GRAHAM, a handsome boy and confident with it, are listening to the car radio.


MUSIC: LET ME GO LOVER BY KATHY KIRRBY

GRAHAM takes GIRLIE’s hand from the steering wheel and places it on his crotch.

Girlie pulls a face and removes it.

Girlie
Graham, no.

GRAHAM puts it back.

GIRLIE looks unhappy but leaves it there, gritting her teeth as she does so,

GRAHAM looks nonchalantly ahead.


EXT. RIVER BANK – DAY TIME.

GIRLIE and GRAHAM are walking along a river bank, GRAHAM pushing aside the overhanging branches to ease the way,

They come to a clear spot and GRAHAM takes a towel out of the rucksack he is carrying and throws it on to the floor.

He gestures for GIRLIE to lie down on it.

GIRLIE looks at the towel, looks at GRAHAM, and runs back to the car.

GRAHAM watches her go and sits down on the towel waiting for her to return, a confident smile on his face.


INT. RADIO STATION – DAY TIME.

IRENE is working away and GIRLIE sits on the desk talking to her.

IRENE
So how’s Graham, Girlie? Haven’t seen him for a while.

GIRlIE
Not going out with him any more.

IRENE
Oh?

GIRLIE
He tries to do things.

Irene
All boys try to do things, Girlie. It’s the way they’re made.

GIRLIE
Well, I don’t want to do them.

IRENE
Good for you! Don’t want you wasting your life getting pregnant, do we.

FREEDIE GARLICK walks in to the office accompanied by a handsome, somewhat exotic looking younger man, NICK PASQUALE, late 20s – early 30s.

GIRLIE is immediately attracted to him. IRENE, too.

FREDDIE
Irene, Girlie, I’d like you to meet Nick Pasquale.

NICK gives an introductory bow.

FREDDIE
Nick’s a photographer, damned good one, too.

IRENE
Are you planning to stay?

NICK
Hopefully. I want to open a studio.

FREDDIE
He’s just got back from abroad.

NICK
I’m looking for someone to be my assistant, help out at weddings, that sort of thing.

GIRLIE goes to offer her services but before she can say anything IRENE beats her to it.

IRENE
Well, I’m sure I could help you, Nick. My work here doesn’t take up much of my time, does it Freddie?

FREDDIE shakes his head.

FREDDIE
Nope.

NICK puts his hand out.

NICK
A done deal, then.

IRENE takes his hand and shakes it.

IRENE
A done deal.

GIRLIE turns away crestfallen.

FREDDIE sees it and tries to make her feel better.

FREDDIE
Any new stories for me, Girlie?

GIRLIE gives him a withering look and walks out of the office.


INT. NICK’S STUDIO – EVENING.

NICK and IRENE are sorting through photographs of a wedding party Nick has just shot.

They are drinking beer. The Greek singer Nana Maskouri is SINGING on the record player.

NICK selects one picture and shows it to IRENE.

NICK
Some people you just can’t do anything with.

IRENE
And they thought they looked so good.

NICK rummages in a desk drawer.

NICK
Irene, you’ve been marvellous. I’ve got a little present for you.

IRENE
You don’t have to do that, Nick, I’m loving every moment.

NICK
It’s just something I picked up on my travels. In Lisbon.

NICK produces a pretty coral necklace.

IRENE
Oh Nick I couldn’t take that. It’s too nice.

NICK
I want you to have it. It’s a bonus if you like.

NICK puts the necklace on to IRENE’S neck and she admires it in the mirror.

IRENE
It’s lovely, Nick, really lovely.

She walks over to Nick and gives him a kiss on the cheek.

Just as IRENE kisses NICK, GIRLIE walks in, see what’s happening, gives her mother a hateful stare and storms off.

NICK starts to go after her but IRENE stops him.

Irene
Let her go, Nick, she always gets the wrong end of the stick. I can’t be bothered explaining.

IRENE takes the necklace off and admires it again.

IRENE
Thank you, it’s a lovely present.

NICK smiles and walks over to camera equipment.


INT. NICK’S STUDIO – DAYS LATER. AFTERNOON

NICK stands on a ladder putting a new light bulb in.

GIRLIE walks in, a determined look on her face.

Girlie
Nick, can I have a word with you?

NICK
Just the person I wanted to see.

NICK gets off the ladder and grabs a magazine from his desk.

He opens the magazine, looks through it, finds what he’s looking for and waves it at GIRLIE.

NICK
Did you write this?

GIRLIE
What is it?

NICK
A poem. ‘Grief’.

GIRLIE
Yes.

NICK burst out laughing.

NICK
Girlie you haven’t started living yet, what on earth do you know about grief?

GIRLIE darts for the magazine, grabs it out of NICK’S hand and run out of the studio.

NICK watches her go, still laughing.


EXT. PICNIC SITE – DAYS LATER. AFTERNOON.

IRENE and GIRLIE are packing the car up after a picnic.

The two say nothing to each other. There is obviously a bad feeling between them.


INT. CAR – MINUTES LATER

IRENE is driving, GIRLIE sitting in the passenger seat, her face like thunder.

GIRLIE
Are you doing it with Nick?

IRENE turns to her in shock.

IRENE
What?

GIRLIE
Are you doing it with Nick?

IRENE
Girlie, what are you talking about?

GIRLIE
The necklace. Why did he give it to you?

IRENE
It was a present.

GIRLIE
I know it was a present. What for? Services rendered?

IRENE is shocked, angered by her daughter’s presumptions.

IRENE
How dare you!

IRENE goes to slap GIRLIE, GIRLIE defends herself.

IRENE loses control of the car. The car speeds into a tree. There is an almighty crash.


INT. CAR – MINUTES LATER

GIRLIE wakes up in the car. It is a wreck.

The driver’s door is open. IRENE is lying outside the car halfway in a ditch covered in dust and blood.

GIRLIE looks at her mother and sees the necklace still round her neck. She reaches down and yanks the necklace off.

The necklace doesn’t come off easily and GIRLIE has to pull harder.

As the chain comes away, IRENE’S mouth dribbles blood.

GIRLIE throws the necklace as far as she can into the undergrowth and then starts to cry.

GIRLIE drags her mother out of the ditch and makes a pillow of earth for her to rest her head on.

Having made sure her mother is as comfortable as possible GIRLIE runs down the road to get help.


INT. HOSPITAL – WEEKS LATER.

IRENE lays in her hospital bed looking much the worse for wear.

GIRLIE sits on a chair bedside.

GIRLIE
Everyone I like, you take away from me.

IRENE
Girlie, what are you talking about?

GIRLIE
Hildegarde, I really liked Hildgarde but no you had to act up and get Dad to send her away.

IRENE rolls over in her bed, away from GIRLIE.

GIRLIE
And Nick, cos I liked Nick you treated me like a child in front of him. So now he treats me like a child.

IRENE
You are a child.

GIRLIE
And how do you think Dad feels. About all your goings on?

IRENE
There are no goings on, Girlie.

GIRLIE
Can’t you see your breaking his heart? You’re ruining his life.

IRENE rolls back and tries to sit up.

IRENE
And what about my heart, Girlie? What about my life? Stuck here in this godforsaken town just waiting for you and Boy to leave so that I can, too.

GIRLIE
It’s always about you, isn’t it?

IRENE
But it’s true. I only stayed here because of you and Boy.

GIRLIE
You shouldn’t have bothered, we would have been happier without you.

GIRLIE gets up from the bedside and storms from the ward.

She turns one final time and gives her mother a hateful look.

GIRLIE
Much happier.

IRENE watches her go and turns away from the door, a resigned look on her face.


EXT. QUEENSLAND HOUSE – PRESENT DAY.

IRENE and BOY are enjoying coffee on the verandah.

BOY
Did it come as a surprise when Girlie left?

IRENE
No, it was time. She needed to get away from me. Some daughters do. But your father was upset, he wanted both of you to love the land like he did.

BOY
He didn’t say much when I told him I was leaving.

IRENE
No, that was Rex’s way. But he felt it. His dreams of a farming dynasty was all that kept him going in the early years.

BOY
I’ve never asked. What happened when you told Dad you were leaving?

IRENE
Not much.

IRENE gets up and goes to the drink trolley to make them both a cocktail.


DISSOLVE TO:
INT. PROSPECT PUB – DAYTIME.

REX and COL sit at a table in the pub, at this time of day the pub is pretty empty.

REX seems to have had more than enough already.

REX
Said she’s going to leave. That now the kids are gone there’s no reason for her to stay.

COL
She’s just having one of her turns.

REX
She means it, Col.

COL
Mate, she’s said it all before.

REX
She’s going this time. Dead set on it.

COL
She won’t leave.

REX
No, with the kids gone there’s no reason for her to stay.

COL
Mate, it’ll be fine, you’ll see.

REX
Not much sense in me carrying on either.

COL
Boy’ll come back and help you.

REX
No chance. He hates the life. Always did. I’ll sell up.

COL
Bad time.

REX
When’s a good time?

COL stands up to go to the bar.

COL
Come on, cheer up. I’ll get another couple of beers in.

REX checks his watch.

REX
No, nearly midday, better get back to the farm (laughs) the dogs will be missing me.

REX stands up, unsteadily, and as he reaches the door he stumbles, already drunk.


INT. FARMHOUSE – DAYS LATER.

REX stands at the window and watches as IRENE walks up the path to her car carrying two suitcases.

REX walks to his gun cabinet and takes his rifle out.

He walks back to the window, opens it and takes careful aim at IRENE.

He pauses to put a mint in to his mouth.

He pulls the trigger. Nothing happens. The gun is not loaded.

IRENE, totally unaware of what’s happening behind her, opens the boot of the car, puts her suit cases in, goes to the driver’s door, gets in and drives away.

As she leaves the property, IRENE begins to sing a Broadway show tune.

IRENE (SINGING)
I’m gonna wash that man right outa my hair
I’m gonna wash that man right outa my hair
I’m gonna wash that man right outa my hair
And I’ll be on my way

REX watches the car leave.

He walks across to the gun cabinet and puts the gun back in to its rack.

He then walks in to the yard and whistles for his dogs who come bounding up to him.< He makes a fuss of them, and they of him.
EXT. FARM HOUSE – DAYTIME.

REX is standing at an incinerator. Clothes that IRENE has left behind are strewn across the floor.

REX throws one garment at a time in to the fire.


EXT. FARM HOUSE – DAYTIME

REX drives his ute up to the garden.

He gets out and releases four pigs from the ute and herds them in to the garden where they start to destroy IRENE’S plants, flowers and bushes

REX watches quietly, a sad yet strangely satisfied smile on his face.


EXT. FARM HOUSE GARDEN – DAYTIME.

REX stands in the garden, everything has been destroyed.

He whistles for his dogs who rush up to him.

REX makes a fuss of the dogs then takes a gun from his waist band and shoots them both.

He takes a spade and starts to dig a grave foe them both.


DISSOLVE TO:

REX has buried the dogs and stands by their grave.

He walks to his ute, gets in and drives away.


EXT. QUEENSLAND – PRESENT DAY.

IRENE and BOY are still talking on the verandah.

BOY’s mobile phone RINGS. He looks at the caller ID and then answers.

BOY
Hallo darling.

He puts his hand over the phone and speaks to IRENE.

BOY (CONT’D)(WHISPERING)
It’s Busaba.

IRENE stands up and indicates she is going inside for a moment.

IRENE
Won’t be a second.

BOY nods and goes back to his phone conversation.

BOY (CONT’D)
She’s fine. (pause) No she hasn’t spoken to Girlie. Says it’s not her call.

He pauses while Busaba speaks to him and nods in agreement at what she’s saying.

He sees that his mother is on the way back carrying a small box.

Boy (CONT’D)
I can’t speak about it now, I’ll give you a call this evening.

He listens as something is said to him then blows a KISS in to the phone receiver.

BOY (CONT’D)
Love you, too.

IRENE
That was a quick call.

BOY
Just called to see if I had arrived safely.

She hands the box to BOY.

IRENE
I’d like you to give these to Busaba.

BOY looks at her quizzically. He opens the box and looks at the contents.

BOY
But they’re your jewels, Rene.

IRENE
I’ve kept a few of my favourites.

He takes out a coral necklace and holds it up to the light, admiring it as he does so.

BOY
Shouldn’t you be giving them to Girlie?

IRENE waves her hand at him in a gesture of dismissal.

IRENE
She wouldn’t want them. She wouldn’t want anything of mine.

BOY
I don’t know.

IRENE
Take them. Just make sure Busaba gives them a good home.

BOY nods in agreement.

BOY
OK. I’m sure she’ll treasure them.

BOY puts the coral necklace back inside the jewel box.

BOY (CONT’D)
Why can’t you and Girlie speak to each other? It’s so silly.

IRENE is thoughtful and takes a moment or two to answer.

IRENE
She thinks I never loved her. That I never paid her enough attention. Perhaps she’s right.

BOY
Why didn’t you?

IRENE
When she came along I knew I was trapped. I felt as if my life had come to an end. That I would never do the things I had dreamt of.

BOY
What about when I was born?

IRENE
It was different. I suppose I had accepted the situation by then. And somehow we had a closeness. Right from the start. I suppose that was hard for her, too.

IRENE walks back to the table and picks up a photo of the family, standing together in front of the homestead.

In the photo, REX, GIRLIE and BOY are smiling, IRENE isn’t.

IRENE (CONT’D)
But things haven’t worked out too badly.

She hands the photo to BOY, he examines it and smiles.

IRENE (CONT’D)
Girlie has gone on to become a best selling author. You’ve become a successful businessman.

BOY
Girlie always said Dad would kill himself if you ever left him.

IRENE
A vivid imagination, our Girlie. Obviously what makes her such a good writer.

BOY
She’s certainly that.

IRENE
Your father is happier now than he has ever been. Big house in the city. Dining out in the best restaurants. Going on cruises to exotic places. Doing everything I ever wanted to do.

BOY
And you?

IRENE sorts through the photos to find a shot of Hildegarde in front of the Vienna Opera House.

She finds it and looks at it with great affection. She hands it over to BOY.

IRENE
Me? I’m still dreaming of seeing the Opera Houses of Europe.

BOY looks at the photo and a smile of remembrance comes over his face, too.

BOY
I’m surprised you haven’t done it before.

IRENE
I always met someone who got in the way of my going.

She stands up and makes for the inside of the house.

IRENE (CONT’D)
I’ll show you the itinerary the travel agent has worked out.

BOY
Will you have time?

IRENE
The Doctor says time enough.

IRENE walks back in to the house.

BOY walks over the rails of the verandah and stands and watches as the brown snake finally sheds its skin and slithers away in to the undergrowth.

BOY watches it go and then follows his mother back in to the house.


INT. NEW YORK APARTMENT – DAYTIME
SUPER:
NEW YORK – 2007.

GIRLIE, now an attractive, smartly dressed woman in her late fifties, sits working on an Apple Mac in a stylish New York apartment.

The furniture is black leather and chrome.

The wooden floor is covered with expensive rugs.

There are painting covering all the walls,these include canvases by Australian Aboriginal painters.

The bookshelves are full.

Exotic flowers stand in a vase on a glass table.

Classical MUSIC is playing on the expensive Bang & Olofsen hi-fi equipment.


MUSIC: BEETHOVEN’S ‘EMPEROR’ CONCERTO CONDUCTED BY JOSEPH CRIPS WITH ARTHUR RUBINSTEIN ON PIANO.

GIRLIE stops her keyboard work and reads out aloud what she has just written.

GIRLIE
And, what with the cruelties of the Australian climate, an unsympathetic bank manager, plus the nefarious activities of my Mother, he probably had more reasons to kill himself than most.

She leans back in her chair, looking at the screen in front of her. She smiles, happy with what she has written.

There is a pack of mints on the desk. She takes one and pops it in to her mouth.

She starts to type again, reading aloud as she does so.

GIRLIE
Everybody liked him. A good man. Decent. But disappointed. Who wouldn’t be? That wife. Those children.

GIRLIE is doing what she always dreamt of, being a writer.


FADE OUT.