Summer of Blood or He's Still Out There! by Robert Armstrong

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This Play is the copyright of the Author and may not be performed, copied or sold without the Author's prior consent

ACT ONE

SCENE ONE

IN DARKNESS, WE HEAR TYPING - NOT ON A COMPUTER KEYBOARD - A MANUAL
TYPEWRITER - A WORD HERE AND THERE, PAUSE, THEN A TORRENT OF WORDS.
CLASSICAL MUSIC FADES IN, PERHAPS LISZT'S “LIEBESTRAUM.”

SLOWLY, THE LIGHTS COME UP - WE ARE IN THE DOWNSTAIRS LIVING/DINING
AREA OF A MODERN TWO-STOREY HOUSE. IT IS REALLY ONE LARGE ROOM,
SPARSELY FURNISHED, IMPECCABLY NEAT. DOWNSTAGE RIGHT IS A DOOR (WITH
A KEY IN THE LOCK) LEADING OUTSIDE; DOWNSTAGE LEFT IS A STAIRCASE THAT
LEADS UP TO BEDROOMS (UNSEEN); UPSTAGE ARE SLIDING GLASS DOORS THAT
GIVE ON A WALLED GARDEN. WE SEE THAT IT IS MID-AFTERNOON AND SHADOWS
ARE STARTING TO CREEP ACROSS THE LAWN. UPSTAGE LEFT IS A DOORWAY THAT
LEADS TO AN OFFSTAGE KITCHEN. ONE WALL, ALTHOUGH APPEARING SOLID, IS
ACTUALLY A SCRIM - WHEN LIT FROM BEHIND, WE CAN SEE WHAT IS TAKING
PLACE BEHIND IT.

THERE ARE A THREE-SEATER COUCH (CENTRE) AND A DESK (RIGHT). AT THE
DESK SITS SIMON BALL, TYPING FEVERISHLY. OUTSIDE, A KEY IS INSERTED
IN THE DOOR'S LOCK; THE DOOR RATTLES; THEN SOMEONE KNOCKS. ABSORBED
IN HIS WORK, SIMON HEARS NONE OF THIS. SLIM, PALE AND SENSITIVE,
SIMON CAN LOOK SMALL AND BIRDLIKE OR TALL AND STATELY, DEPENDING ON
HIS MOOD; HIS FEELINGS VERY MUCH COLOUR HIS APPEARANCE.

RIGHT NOW, HE HAS A GOOD COLOUR AND LOOKS ENJOYABLY MANIC. AS THE
TYPING AND THE MUSIC REACH A CRESCENDO, HE TEARS THE PAGE OUT OF HIS
TYPEWRITER AND TRIUMPHANTLY SETS IT DOWN ON THE SMALL STACK OF PAGES
ON THE DESK. HE PATS IT.

SILENCE.

SIMON (pushing back chair): His winter of whimsy had begun!

LIKE ONE IN A DREAM, HE DRIFTS OVER TO THE COUCH, LIES DOWN, CLOSES
HIS EYES. HE SIGHS CONTENTEDLY AS—-

—-A FACE APPEARS AT THE GLASS DOORS - A FACE WIDE-EYED AND ALSO
SOMEWHAT MANIC. THIS IS BRUCE DOUGLAS. HE IS A BIG MAN - TALL,
BROAD-SHOULDERED, WITH THINNING HAIR AND A COMFORTABLE BELLY. HE
LOOKS LIKE HE MIGHT HAVE BEEN AN ATHLETE IN HIS YOUTH, AND HE STILL
HAS A COMMANDING PHYSICAL PRESENCE. WHERE SIMON IS RETIRING, BRUCE IS
DOMINANT, OFTEN CONTROLLING.

HE PUTS HIS HANDS UP TO THE GLASS TO SHIELD HIS EYES AND STARES IN.
HE IS BREATHING HARD AND HIS BREATH FOGS THE PANE. (HE CANNOT SEE
SIMON, SINCE THE BACK OF THE COUCH IS TO THE DOORS).

BRUCE GRABS THE EXTERIOR DOOR HANDLE AND GIVES IT A HALF-HEARTED TUG.
TO HIS SURPRISE, THE DOOR SLIDES OPEN. WITH A CRY, HE HALF-STUMBLES
INTO THE ROOM. HE IS SOMEWHAT OUT OF BREATH.

ALARMED, SIMON SITS UP. SEEING SIMON, BRUCE CRIES OUT. SEEING
BRUCE, SIMON SCREAMS.

BRUCE What the hell—-

SIMON When did you—-

SIMON AND BRUCE What are you doing here?!

THEY STARE AT EACH OTHER.

BRUCE Didn't you hear me knocking?

SIMON I - I ...

SIMON IS ON HIS FEET.

BRUCE I knocked.

SIMON Bruce ...?!

BRUCE LAUGHS, GIVES AN IT'S-ME SHRUG.

SIMON What were you doing out there?

BRUCE I just climbed over the garden wall!

SIMON You're opposed to using your own front door?

BRUCE Someone left a key in the lock.

SIMON Oh. How did that happen?

BRUCE Come here, you little bastard!

SIMON I - well - haha, it's ...

BRUCE GRABS HIM IN A HEARTY BEARHUG.

BRUCE I thought you'd done a runner. Abandoned your book and run off
with the gardener's daughter! Or son - I've never been quite sure
about your—-

SIMON I thought you were a burglar!

BRUCE Who'd bother robbing this place? Nothing to take. Let me get
my bag. Hey, you haven't drunk all my beer, have you?

BRUCE UNLOCKS THE FRONT DOOR AND OPENS IT.

SIMON Just a glass of white wine with the evening meal - that's all I
permit myself when I'm working.

BRUCE BRINGS IN A BATTERED SUITCASE HELD TOGETHER WITH ROPE.

SIMON Louis Vuitton?

BRUCE What were we talking about? Ah - beer!

HE EXITS TO THE KITCHEN.

BRUCE (off) I need this! You won't believe what ...

WE HEAR A BEER CAN BEING POPPED. SIMON CLOSES THE DOOR AND LOCKS IT.
BRUCE RETURNS, DRINKING FROM THE CAN, SUDS DRIBBLING DOWN HIS CHIN.
HE HOLDS ANOTHER BEER, WHICH HE THROWS TO SIMON, WHO REACHES BUT
MISSES - THE CAN HITS THE FLOOR; SIMON WINCES.

BRUCE (going to desk) So, whatcha workin' on?

SIMON Bruce - that's not for—-

BRUCE PICKS UP THE TOP PAGE, READS THE LAST SENTENCE.

BRUCE "His winter of whimsy had begun!"

SIMON Please ...

BRUCE MOCK-SHUDDERS, PUTS THE PAGE BACK DOWN.

BRUCE Sounds commercial.

SIMON DEFENSIVELY SCOOPS UP ALL OF HIS PAGES AND PUTS THEM INTO A
DRAWER. HE LOOKS LIKE A MOTHER HEN.

SIMON It isn't meant to be commercial.

BRUCE FLOPS ONTO THE COUCH AND STARTS TO TAKE OFF HIS DUSTY BOOTS.

BRUCE What's it meant to be - something that sits on people's coffee
tables to impress their dinner guests? "Ooh, look, I've got the new
Simon Ball - though, of course, I haven't read it!"

SIMON HUNTS ABOUT FOR A KEY, WHICH HE EVENTUALLY FINDS, AND LOCKS THE
DESK DRAWER.

SIMON What are you doing back so soon? Three weeks early, yes?

BRUCE There were ... artistic differences.

HE TAKES A SWIG OF BEER, BELCHES.

HAVING LOCKED THE DRAWER, SIMON PUTS THE KEY IN HIS POCKET.

SIMON Artistic differences?

BRUCE Not worth going into.

SIMON Bruce - you were fired!

FINISHED WITH THE BOOTS, BRUCE STARTS TO REMOVE HIS SOCKS.

BRUCE A matter of opinion.

SIMON PICKS UP HIS BEER. CAUTIOUSLY, HE OPENS IT; IT POPS AND
FIZZES.

SIMON And what was this opus, again, that you were working on - the
title of this monumental work of art? Night of the Iguana?

BRUCE Bite of the Bunyip.

SIMON Sounds very up-market.

BRUCE Up yours!

LIFTING HIS BEER, SIMON DRINKS.

BRUCE For your information, Bite of the Bunyip had a shitload of
potential. After fifteen years as a professional thespian, I know a
good script when I see one. And this had all the elements - small
cast, low budget, great set pieces, or potentially great set pieces -
loads of suspense. It's just that my character wasn't very developed,
not really sympathetic. And when I suggested some ways the script
could be improved ... they didn't like it.

SIMON And you were playing ...?

BRUCE The Bunyip.

SIMON The Bunyip ... who bites?

BRUCE Right.

SIMON And you wanted to make him a sweet, sympathetic bunyip?

BRUCE Correct.

SIMON And those idiots couldn't appreciate how helpful you were being
or how relevant your suggestions were?

BRUCE Fuckin' A, matey!

SIMON So they ... let you go.

BRUCE In a manner of speaking.

SIMON Right.

THERE IS MUCH MEANING IN SIMON'S "RIGHT" - TRIUMPH, MALICE, A
TOUCH OF SMUGNESS. FOR A MOMENT, HE LOOKS AT BRUCE AS A BUTTERFLY
COLLECTOR MIGHT REGARD A MOTH.

BRUCE Arseholes, all of 'em! Buncha wankers! They wouldn' know
talent if it bit 'em on the bum!

SIMON Eloquently put.

SIMON LIFTS HIS BEER IN A TOAST. BRUCE LOOKS AT HIM AS IF HE HAS
JUST REALISED HE IS BEING SENT UP.

BRUCE Was it?

SIMON What?

BRUCE Eloquently put?

SIMON Well, for the - considering the idiom, the milieu ... yes.

BRUCE You think so?

SIMON (cautiously) Yes.

SLOWLY, BRUCE GETS UP, STARTS TO STALK ABOUT THE ROOM IN A WAY THAT
MAKES SIMON NERVOUS.

BRUCE Yes. Considering the idiom ... the milieu. And tell me, is
that anything like when one friend lets another fiend crash at his
place for a few weeks to start his latest literary epic, and the first
friend returns early from his artistic endeavours, only to find that
he and his work are ridiculed, made fun of and generally pissed upon
from a great height by the writing guy, who seems to think that he and
his work are inherently superior ... in spite of his lifelong poverty?
Is that the idiom? Is that the milieu?

SIMON (scared) No, no, I - didn't mean it like that!

BRUCE Bullshit.

HE SETS HIS BEER DOWN ON THE DESK AND TRIES TO OPEN THE DRAWER,
FINDING IT LOCKED.

BRUCE Key, please.

SIMON Bruce, what are you doing?

BRUCE I'm just curious to see how my generosity has been repaid. I'd
like to know what you've been up to in my absence - in my house.

SIMON And ... how do you intend to do that?

BRUCE By reading what you've written.

SIMON No!

BRUCE (poisonously) Say that again.

PAUSE.

SIMON I mean, it isn't ready. I don't let anyone read my work until
it's finished. Even my editor doesn't see it until—-

BRUCE But we're old friends, going all the way back to the university
drama society, remember? I had a part in their latest experimental
wank and you were writing those long, moody monologues that everyone
thought so deep.

SIMON Poems. They were poems, not really meant for performance, but
...

BRUCE And I recognised your talent right away - thought, that guy's
got the goods, he's going places! Another Tennessee Williams, I
thought. And fifteen years later, where are we? You've published
five novels that barely earned back their advances, and I've done a
slew of TV and feature films that no one's ever heard of. Did it ever
occur to you, old boy, that as we approach middle age, we are both ...
failures?

BRUCE PRONOUNCES THE LAST WORD WITH BITE; SIMON REACTS AS IF
SLAPPED.

SIMON No!

BRUCE Yes.

BRUCE SITS ON THE DESK, SWINGS HIS BARE FEET.

BRUCE If my mother hadn't carked it and left me this place, where
would I be? Some roach-ridden flophouse, wanking under the sheets and
listening to the hookers watch “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”
through the walls. And where do you, the king of the moody monologue,
find yourself? Beholden to me. Doesn't that strike you as - what's
the term tres ironic?

HE GETS OFF THE DESK AND STARTS BACK TO THE COUCH.

SIMON Bruce, what is it? I know that you've had a bad experience -
you're angry, fair enough - but for most actors, unemployment's a fact
of life - for every Mel Gibson, there are hundreds—-thousands—-

BRUCE Of flops?

SIMON That's not what I meant.

BRUCE Of Holocaust deniers? What about you? Before you start
handin' out noblesse oblige, how many copies did your last book
sell?

SIMON “Lonely, Lonelier, Loneliest”? Four thousand in hardback.

BRUCE And did it top the paperback bestseller list? Any movie
interest? Do the good people at Fox Searchlight want to develop it as
a vehicle for Sam Worhtington?

SIMON Good god, no!

BRUCE And this new one - the one that's so precious you have to lock
it away from prying eyes - what's it about?

[end of extract]

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