NIGEL: (panting) Stupid... town planners... who the hell... do they think... uses these eyesores... for picnics... huh?
(He catches up with Dave, who stands, looking at the platform and its contents.)
NIGEL: Who, huh? Tell me that, Dave... who uses these things?
DAVE: (points) They do, I guess.
(Nigel follows his gaze. Boggles.)
NIGEL: Good answer...
(Sitting around the picnic table are four statues – a man, a woman and two children. There is a half-finished meal on the table. Nigel examines the statues, amused.)
NIGEL: You thinking what I’m thinking, Dave?
DAVE: That this is just a tad spooky?
NIGEL: Spooky? What do you mean? This is the mutha load, Restal. The mutha load. Why try and palm off Doris with one statue when we could do a whole family pack?
DAVE: Why do you think she’ll want any statue for her milk bar?
NIGEL: To lighten up the place, of course! Conversation ice breaker, novelty hatstand, plus it’ll give a nice European style to the place. Just need some white marble arches, tiled flooring, very Mediterranean...
DAVE: Don’t you find it rather odd that these statues are here, hogging up a picnic area, but with genuine food?
NIGEL: Not at all. Sounds like just the sort of stupid move a local council would make.
(Nigel takes some off the food off the table and sniffs it.)
DAVE: Well, I don’t like it.
NIGEL: You don’t like anything, Dave, that’s your problem.
DAVE: There’s no sign, no presentation, nothing in the news. It’s just like they...
NIGEL: Yeah? Like what? A bunch of picnickers were turned to stone in the middle of brunch? (eats food) Get real, Dave. This is a publicity stunt. A Chaser-style publicity stunt. And I’m not going to hang around waiting to be told we’re on candid camera. Help me with this one.
(Nigel levers one of the child statues out from the table.)
DAVE: That looks so wrong. It’s stealing, dude.
NIGEL: I’m not stealing it, Dave. Just relocating it a few streets away. Plus, it’s half the weight.
(Dave reluctantly helps pick up the legs.)
DAVE: You really think this is some prank or other?
NIGEL: Oh, and what do YOU think happened? They did the whole Lot’s Wife thing?
DAVE: She was turned into salt not stone.
NIGEL: Rock salt, then?
(Something watches from below as Dave and Nigel, carrying the statue, emerge from the picnic area and begin to climb up the steps.)
NIGEL: Look, just come on. You’re freaking yourself out again.
DAVE: I am not the one who had the panic attack by the river.
NIGEL: Hey, my head was jammed into a drain pipe which was flooding. That’s rational fear right there, that is...
(Whatever is watching them turns and hurtles down the steps back the way they came. At the top of the hill, at a steep angle, Nigel and Dave sway unsteadily.)
NIGEL: Did you hear that?
NIGEL: That is the sound of no one agreeing with you, Dave. Come on. I’m starving, here!
(They stagger up the steep road with the statue between them.)
(Down by the river, Andrew peers down his arm at his extended thumb, as if judging perspective. With his other hand he paints furiously. He pauses and looks at his work. A rather crude landscape picture, dominated by his arm and thumbs up in the foreground. Satisfied, Andrew nods and shakes his stiff and sore arm, accidentally knocking over the jar of murky water he’s used to clean brushes. The brushes bounce down the hill and Andrew sighs and heads down there to pick them up. Something watches him from further down the path and starts to close in towards Andrew, who is facing away picking up brushes. The something draws closer and closer.)
ANDREW: (not looking up) Afternoon!
(We see an ordinary-looking guy is standing over Andrew.)
MAN: Yeah, afternoon. Um, do you know the way to Calvin Parade?
ANDREW: Just up that hill and hang a left, can’t miss it.
MAN: Oh, thanks.
ANDREW: No worries.
(The guy walks on down the path while Andrew heads back to the easel. Something watches both from the shadows.)
(Dave and Nigel, still carrying the statue, turn their way round the corner of the local milk bar burger joint. They are both exhausted.)
NIGEL: Right, Dave, you do the talking.
DAVE: Why me?
NIGEL: Cause I don’t want to get spat on, do I?
(They stumble into the shop. The butch grey-haired woman is behind the counter, cleaning a grille.)
DAVE: Hey, Doris.
DORRIS: Afternoon, David. What do you want?
DAVE: Ah, two burgers with the lot, and a fish and chips please.
(Nigel, now alone carrying the statue, struggles to dump it in a chair, and slides to the floor in exhaustion. Doris glances up, seeing the statue but not registering it’s true nature.)
DORRIS: Afternoon Greg. (to Dave) That’ll be twenty, please.
(She starts to make the burgers. Nigel hurries out before he is noticed.)
DAVE: Uh, yeah, about the cash for comestibles thing...
DORRIS: I don’t do discounts, freebies, knock offs or novelties.
DAVE: No, no, I know that. And, I also have the money, it’s just about Nigel...
DORRIS: (dangerous) And?
DAVE: He owes you money. (to himself) He owes lots of people money. (to Doris) But he’s trying to make amends, give you something to balance out the debt.
DORRIS: Like what? His kidney?
DAVE: ...is that what you’re into?
DORRIS: No, but I like the thought of him desperately needing the lavatory for the rest of his life.
DAVE: Harsh. Look, we’ve got this statue we thought you might like...
DORRIS: Statue? I don’t want any statues in here. It’s bad luck, and it’d put off my customers. I don’t want to hear another word about it and neither will you if you want to be certain the paprika isn’t dyed cyanide crystals.
DAVE: (sighs) Sorry, Doris. (hands over cash) Here you go.
DORRIS: And tell Nigel when you see him...
DORRIS: If he doesn’t pay up before the end of the financial year, he will wind up as the central ingredient in my new beef falafels, all right?
(Dave lets out a nervous titter, takes the plastic bag full of hot food and runs out to where Nigel is hiding and getting his breath back.)
DAVE: No good, Nigel. And she’s still going to kill you if you don’t pay up by July.
NIGEL: Screw her. I hope she gets botulism. As WELL with all the nasty yeast infections she’s already got.
(They turn and head off back to the riverbank.)
(Inside the milk bar, Doris tidies up her bench.)
DORRIS: You’re quiet today, Greg. Where have your mum and dad got to any...
(She idly looks up and twigs it’s a statue.)
(Outside, Dave and Nigel turn the corner as Doris’ hideous screams can be heard.)
DAVE: Is that Doris?
NIGEL: I hope so. Stingy cow. I hope whatever it is screws her up something rotten.
(More screams can be heard. They listen for a moment.)
NIGEL: OK, the moment has passed. It’ll just get kinky from now on in.
(They head off down the street down the hill. The screams continue.)
NIGEL: Do you think she knew you were ordering for me, or did she think it was for Eve?
DAVE: Dunno. Why do you ask?
NIGEL: Oh. No reason. Hey, can we swap burgers?
DAVE: You think she’s spiked one of the burgers, don’t you?
NIGEL: Of course I don’t. That would be ridiculous. So there’s no reason for you NOT to have MY burger and be completely safe, is there?
DAVE: Ah, screw you!
(Dave pulls out his burger and starts to eat it.)
NIGEL: Selfish git.
DAVE: Hey, YOU couldn’t be assed to pay for it, could you?
NIGEL: I was more than willing to pay. It’s just that stupid Doris didn’t accept my perfectly valid currency.
(Police sirens can be heard in the background as they reach the steps.)
DAVE: It’s all go today, isn’t it?
(Down by the river, Dave and Nigel approach Andrew’s abandoned art supplies. Nigel has taken out his own burger and regularly tries and fails to summon the courage to taste it.)
DAVE: If there WAS rat poison in it, you’d be able to smell it, wouldn’t you?
NIGEL: Oh yes, David, of course I would. I mean, what on earth is the point of poison that rodent’s CAN’T smell a mile off to ensure they don’t consume it by accident. That’s why machine guns are designed not to accept bullets that could kill people. (suddenly furious) YOU IDIOT!!
DAVE: Hey, Andrew. Got your fish and chips. Andrew?
(They look around.)
NIGEL: He’s forgotten about us. He’s probably buggered off home! Terrific!
DAVE: Yeah, yeah, there’s a time for sarcasm, Nigel.
NIGEL: Who’s being sarcastic? I call shotgun on his food.
(Nigel drops his burger into the grass, snatches up the box with the fish and chips in it and starts to stuff chips into his mouth, making disturbing noises of pleasure as he does so.)
DAVE: And you wonder why you never get a second dinner date...
NIGEL: (mouth full) That’s one more than YOU get, boy...
(Dave looks around and spots a statue by the railings, as if recoiling from something.)
DAVE: Bloody hell... look!
(Nigel spares it a glance.)
DAVE: That wasn’t here when we left.
DAVE: And I don’t see Andrew anywhere, do you?
DAVE: So? So? SO maybe he’s been turned into a statue! Maybe that’s where they’re all coming from – they aren’t being carved and dumped in odd places as part of a TV stunt or a local council initiative, they’re real people who’ve been turned to stone!
NIGEL: (still eating) Yeah. That’s a MUCH more logical explanation right there, Dave.
DAVE: Then where’s Andrew gone, huh? And why is there a statue where he was?
(They wander over to the statue.)
NIGEL: (munching on fish) Dave, let’s think about this. Surely if some petrifold regression crap took place and Andrew turned from flesh and blood to cold grey stone, surely said grey stone would look like him. I mean, honestly, does that look like Andrew? Look at it. Not nearly ugly enough...
(Something in the river swims to shore, listening to their voices.)
DAVE: Well, I dunno about petrifold regression, do I? You want to know about pathological endomorphisms and the complex geological changes of sedimentary layers of rock metamorphosis, spend a night with Granite Greta! I’m saying that we’ve seen half a dozen statues today and no solid evidence that they WEREN’T people who’ve somehow been turned to stone. What do you say to that?
(Something bursts out of the water and grabs the railings. Nigel and Dave cry out, startled before they realize it is just Andrew, hauling himself out of the river.)
ANDREW: I say: “Where’s my Solo, Dave?”
DAVE: Ah. Damn. Knew I forgot something.
NIGEL: What were you doing in the river, anyway?
ANDREW: Dropped a brush. You didn’t think I was going to leave it behind do you? I paid six bucks for that arts and craft set.
(He wrings water out of his singlet.)
ANDREW: And you seem to be eating my lunch, Nigel. That’s another seven dollars out of your wages, boy.
NIGEL: (annoyed) Oh, that’s...
ANDREW: Try and win it back by packing up all the art equipment and carrying it home.
NIGEL: Yez, bahz, I will do as you surely co-mand!
(Nigel flips Andrew the finger and keeps eating.)
DAVE: Oh thank god. I don’t want to spend any more time down here. It’s spooky. Like, bottom of the trapdoor in famous plasticine cartoon The Trapdoor, spooky.
(Andrew idly picks up Nigel’s abandoned burger and eats it.)
ANDREW: You worry too much, Dave. It’s the main cause of your suicidal depression.
DAVE: I am not suicidal.
ANDREW: What about that time you tried to jump off the bridge?
DAVE: Oh, that was ONE time... and anyway, who dumped that there?
(Dave points to the statue.)
ANDREW: (shrugs) Dunno. I had to head down the path a kilometre or so before I could get through the mangroves. Maybe they did it while I was gone.
DAVE: “They” seem to do it whenever no one’s watching.
ANDREW: ‘Anything that needs to be done in secret probably shouldn’t be done at all.’
ANDREW: Something a god-botherer told me. Of course, that doesn’t count planning a surprise party. Or toilet breaks.
DAVE: Or dumping statues in the local area?
ANDREW: (tilts head) You know, that statue looks a bit familiar.
DAVE: From art class, you mean?
ANDREW: No, from a guy walking along here about half an hour ago, I mean.
(The statue does indeed resemble that guy.)
DAVE: You think he got turned to stone by some monster?
ANDREW: I think... I think we should go home now. Very very quickly and very very quietly. That is what I think.
NIGEL: What about your oh-so-precious art stuff?
ANDREW: Meh. The artistic drive has left me. Let’s get out of here.
(Andrew and Dave head up the path as fast as they can walk without running. Nigel shrugs, and throws the empty box to the ground, and starts to follow them. Stops. Hurries back, picks up the box and heads off again, muttering to himself.)
NIGEL: Like they need ANOTHER excuse to call me a tosser.
(Something watches Nigel as he hurries to catch off with the others....)
- to be continued...