ACT SEVEN – ESCALATION
[Classroom. The children are entering the room and Nigel, Jason, Phoebe, Dave, Jadi and another girl, Danielle sit down at a block of tables that are their position. Nigel is furious and muttering to the others as they take their place.]
Nigel: [trying to keep his voice down] I cannot believe it! I am gone for a few weeks and some Soviet thug comes here and establishes himself as School Bully! Do any of you reprobates even HAVE spinal chords! Why don’t you stand up to him?
Jadi: What happened to you, Nige? You get a free personality on your medicare card?
Nigel: Oh, and did you swap your backbone for some Ren & Stimpy merchandise, Jadi?
Dave: Look, he’s only going to be here for the rest of the term. And his dad is a big Russian diplomat.
Nigel: What?! You mean he’s got diplomatic immunity too?
Nigel: What else does this bastard have? Super-strength? Flying? Can he breathe poison gas?
Danielle: He can beat the living crap out any one of us, he can’t get in trouble but he can get everyone of us in trouble and none of the teachers will argue with him!
Nigel: And that’s it, is it? Oh, well, let’s just grin and bear it, let’s roll over and play dead! Is that how you lot are going to be from now on? Letting anyone walk over you? Well, not me, that’s for sure! Nigel Yang didn’t let a serious knife wound stop him and some Russian kid with a pituitary gland problem isn’t going to stop him either! But if any of you so-called youth of Australia had an ounce of worth in your puny bodies, you’d have done something by now instead of cowered like the pack of useless fu---
[The teacher, a big Greek man enters.]
Teacher: Morning class.
[Everyone replies, including Nigel even though his expression and tone are the same.]
Class: ---good morning, Mr. Kontassas.
[Recess. Nigel, arms folded, stands before Benny, still fuming. Benny is playing handball with several other girls.]
Nigel: You didn’t mention there was a muscle-bound thug on campus? You didn’t think that would be some kind of useful information to tell me on my first day back? But no. Is this some kind of protracted assassination attempt on me, Benny?
Benny: Look, the doctors said not to stress you!
Nigel: And me getting flung into a dumpster REALLY had the edge taken off it by being a complete surprise!
Girl: Look, guy, are you playing or not?
Nigel: No I’m not playing. None of you are any good anyway!
Girl 2: Who are you, anyway? You look cool.
Benny: He ain’t cool, Patricia. He’s my brother.
Girl 2: ...he doesn’t look like your brother.
Nigel: I know. Beauty like mine often seems amazing. But I am real nonetheless.
[The other girls giggle and blush.]
Benny: Look, Nige, we all agreed. Why don’t you go and pester Kenji or Akiro?
Nigel: What, you think I have nothing better to do about this situation than complain?
[A little later. Nigel stands by the edge of the basketball court shouting at Kenji.]
Nigel: You are SUPPOSED to be my big brother and do you even make any attempt to keep me save from that Communist lunatic with the miss-spelt tattoos? Do you even MENTION him in passing? A clue, Kenji, just for you, a clue and that clue is “NO YOU BLOODY DIDN’T!”
[Kenji is clearly more interested in the game. Furious, Nigel manages to snatch the ball and kicks it with such force it hurtles into the sky. The other players are annoyed. Nigel points at Kenji.]
Nigel: It’s all his fault.
[Nigel turns and storms off as the other players gang up on the protesting Kenji.]
Nigel: Honestly, the things I have to do to get attention round here...
[A little later. Nigel is standing beside the queue at the canteen, following Akiro, who is in the queue.]
Nigel: You are supposed to have the three-digit IQ, Akiro, so what the hell did you think was going to happen once you’d followed that brilliant plan of “say nothing”? No, really, I’m fascinated in knowing what exactly is the result you planned for!
Akiro: Look, he decked you once. He won’t bother you again unless you annoy him.
Akiro: Or if he wants money. Or if he looks at you in a funny way.
Nigel: And what happened to all that red dragon rising crapola you’ve been spouting since you were on solids, Akiro? Or is that just more oxygen being stolen? You spineless dogs sicken me.
[Akiro gets her order.]
Akiro: Oh, and what exactly are you going to do with your spine, Nigel? Offer it to Magnus with a note saying “Please Snap Me In Half Like A Useless Twig”?
Nigel: You think I can’t beat him?
Akiro: Maybe. You might be able to drown him in your blood.
Nigel: Well, I’ll show you, Akiro. I’ll show you all! I am not going to kowtow to ANYONE!!
Canteen Lady: Are you buying something?
Canteen Lady: Well, rack off then.
[Meekly, Nigel does so. Akiro gives him a look.]
Nigel: That, dear sister, was the exception that proves the rule.
[Back in class. The children are all working on question sheets.]
Jason: So, you can’t get him in trouble or fight him. What are you going to do?
Nigel: Take him out of his comfort zone.
Jason: What? Ask him really personal questions about his political views?
Nigel: Wha... no! Honestly, Jason. Look. That Russian Neanderthal is like a shark. Vicious. Bloodthirsty. A remorseless killer from the deep. With jaws forged from steel by the hands of Satan himself...
Dave: I think you’re trying to talk YOURSELF out of this.
Nigel: The point is, Dave, that any shark is completely stuffed out of the water. All those teeth and fins don’t help a damn when you’re drowning in oxygen and your internal organs are being crushed!
Phoebe: So... you’re going to lure him out of a pool.
Nigel: Metaphorically speaking, yes. He will be in a situation that maximizes my advantages over him.
Jadi: And then what?
Nigel: And then I strike. And you lot hold your manhood cheap against my brilliance.
Nigel: Or girlhood. Womanhood. “You’re all losers” is basically what I’m saying.
Jadi: I preferred him when he was depressed.
[It’s the start of lunch. Nigel is standing on a bench, telling an anecdote to a few kids. More gather, many of them girls. Jason stands nearby. He spots Magnus leave a classroom and gives Nigel a signal before hurrying off. Nigel nods and talks louder.]
Nigel: ...and so, right, his dad says, “Son, can you tell your mother I’ll be working late at the office again tonight?” and his mum goes, “Son, can you tell your father that he better not be expecting dinner tonight?” and his dad is like, “Son, can you tell your mother she can’t cook and I’d rather eat the contents of the ash tray in my car?” and his mum’s all, “Son, can you tell your father if he wants someone else to cook for him, he can go back to the Filipino stripper he pimps for!”
[The kids laugh, but few get the joke, more amused at Nigel’s silly impressions. Magnus approaches, curious to hear the rest of the anecdote.]
Nigel: So his dad is furious and he goes, “Son, remind your mother I only pimped for that stripper to pay for her plastic surgery addiction!!” and his mum goes, “Son, tell your father that’s an absolute lie and he knows it! He did it to pay for his drug habit!” and his dad is, “Son, tell your mother I only got addicted to heroin when I tortured in that German prisoner of war camp!” and mum goes, “Son, point out to your father he was only in that German prisoner of war camp because he was the commandant!” and dad’s like, “Son, will you refresh your mother’s memory that she was also in the prison camp because of what she did to the pot bellied pig?” and so, get this, his mum goes, “Tell your father I thought the pig was HIM!”
[Everyone laughs. Even Magnus.]
Nigel: And here he is!
[Nigel points to Magnus and everyone else points and laughs.]
Magnus: What the...
Nigel: Sorry, I was just telling everyone about what your parents said to you this morning.
Magnus: You lying spastic choco-skinned bastard!
Nigel: Oh look everyone! Magnus is so ashamed by his parents, he’s going to take out his frustrations with violence!
[The kids don’t look too pleased at that. They start to back off. Nigel undaunted, strides forward.]
Nigel: And you know why? Cause anything else would overload that festering piece of dog poo in his head he laughingly refers to as “a brain”!
[Magnus’s eyes bulge.]
Nigel: Go on then, Maggie, do your worst! Show everyone what a total moron you are! Or are you going to prove us all wrong and walk away? You clever enough for that... bitch?
[Magnus lumbers closer, looming over Nigel.]
Magnus: I don’t care what these turds think of me. As long as they know I can make them bleed.
Nigel: That’s very self-aware of you, Maggie dear. [waves] Hello, Mr. Anderson!
Magnus: [snorts] You think I’m going to fall for that?
Nigel: Fall for what?
Magnus: There’s no teacher here.
Nigel: Oh, very good, Maggie! I’m almost impressed! But if there’s no teacher then that means...
[Nigel suddenly and very violently kicks Magnus in the balls and he doubles over. The crowd inhales, gasping and horrified.]
Nigel: I can do this.
[Nigel shoves Magnus. The slope of the playground causes him all to collapse. Nigel runs for it. The kids cheer. Pausing to scramble to his feet, Magnus manages to shamble after him. He gives the kids an evil look and they shut up. Magnus hurries as fast as he can, but there is no sign of Nigel’s retreating form. Growling, Magnus hobbles off. He doesn’t look back to see Nigel simply ducked around the other side of the canteen and was just hiding. Nigel grins with triumph but his expression turns painful. He’s hurt his foot. He limps away.]
[Library balcony. Nigel is sprawled in one corner as Phoebe and Jason delicately take his shoe off.]
Nigel: Stupid Russian bastard with his Cro-Magnon testicles...
Phoebe: Are you sure we’re safe up here?
Nigel: Phe, that gimp probably doesn’t even know where the library is, let alone out-of-bounds parts! Jason, careful, that’s the only right foot I have!
Jason: Sorry, Nigel. But he’s going to come after you twice as bad now.
Nigel: Pfft. What’s he going to do? Go to the teachers?
Jason: He might!
Nigel: What? Say “Some kid kicked me in the balls”? That’ll really boost his street cred.
Jason: You could get into trouble!
Nigel: If they come after me, they have to ask me WHY I did it. And that’d blow the cover off that psycho’s PR altogether. No, he won’t dare. Besides, I can claim post-traumatic stress.
Jason: Post-automatic tests?
Nigel: Jason, if you were any dumber you would watering. Just undo the bloody velco straps, OK?
[Chastised, Jason does so.]
Phoebe: OK, so he might not go to the teachers, but he will still get you back.
Nigel: But I, sweet red-haired flower of youth, have a plan.
Phoebe: Is it clever?
Nigel: Oh yeah. It worked on TV.
Phoebe: What’s the plan?
Nigel: All we need to do is trick Maggie into thinking his number one enemy is a particular kid, right? Then, he’ll kick nine colours of shit out of that kid, right? But he won’t know we chose that kid because he has a huge, muscle-bound, steroid-addicted, incredibly violent mum and dad who will immediately hunt him down and hospitalize him. Our hands will be guiltless!
Jason: ...brilliant plan, Nige.
Nigel: Thank you.
Phoebe: There is just one problem I can see.
Nigel: Uh huh?
Phoebe: I don’t know any kids with huge, muscle-bound, steroid-addicted, incredibly violent mums or dads. And the chances are that if I DID know, so would Magnus and he wouldn’t fall for it.
Nigel: Oh, for smeg’s sake! That was my master plan, that was!
Phoebe: You saw it on TV. Any other plans?
Nigel: A few. Maybe we can trap him by convincing the police he’s a burglar? Or maybe we can piss off some Mormons and trick them into getting into a fight with him? Or hypnotize him? Can we do that? ARGH! Jason, SLIDE the shoe off, don’t pull it!
[Jason does so. There is blood on the sock.]
[Phoebe delicately removes the sock.]
Phoebe: I think you split your toenail.
Nigel: Oh, this is just brilliant, this is!
Jason: We’ll have to get you to the front office! Mrs. Chang knows first aide!
Nigel: Yeah, but she doesn’t know third aide, does she? I wouldn’t trust her to trim her own moustache, let alone deal with this nastiness...
Jason: She doesn’t trim her moustache.
Nigel: My point completely.
Phoebe: I think I know a way to fix it...
Phoebe: Well, we put some nail varnish on it, sort of glue it back together. Dave’s Mum did it once.
Nigel: [shrugs] She’s the sort who knows what she’s doing. Where can we get some nail varnish?
Phoebe: I dunno!
Nigel: What do you mean, “you dunno”? You’re a girl, aren’t you! You’re into painting your toenails, combing the hair of plastic horse toys and dressing up Barbies!
Phoebe: [keeping patient] Is Benny like that?
Nigel: Oh, great! I get another girl with a life outside of being a stereotype! Just what I need! [winces] Phe, baby, you realize it’s the excruciating agony talking, right? I need help! You must have friends apart from Jadi and Dave! Half the school are girls!
Jason: Hmmm. I have a plan.
Nigel: If I wasn’t hurting so much, I’d worry. Go for it, Jason!
[Phoebe and Jason are helping Nigel out of a classroom and down the hill.]
Nigel: Jason... this is without doubt the stupidest idea in human history... since the dawn of time when amino acids doth flux under Jaggaroth radiation, not a single concept has EVER been so MONUMENTALLY retarded! [groans] With the possible exception of the Spice Girls.
Phoebe: I hate those bitches.
Nigel: I know. Apart from the blonde, they can all go and die.
Phoebe: I thought you preferred redheads.
Nigel: No, sweetcheeks, just you...
[Phoebe tries and fails not to blush. They all stumble into the girls’ toilets. A moment later there are screams. Jason is thrown out.]
Jason: Was it something I said?
[Inside the girls’ toilets. Nigel is sprawled up against the walls between two sinks. He smiles, trying to look relaxed. Phoebe and several other girls of similar age are present. Danielle is painting Nigel’s big toe with clear nail varnish.]
Nigel: I’d just like to say... I am so totally grateful for this.
Danielle: If they find out you’re in here, you’re in dead trouble.
Nigel: What’s it matter? If I went into the next door it would be fine. One metre and suddenly I’m a criminal? I think not. [to himself] Sure is nice and tidy in here.
Danielle: So what happened to your toe?
Phoebe: Didn’t you hear? He kicked Magnus in the privates.
[Some of the girls laugh.]
Nigel: Considering the size of the target, it was a very good shot.
Danielle: He’s so going to get you for that.
Nigel: Danielle, please, when you are stabbed like I was, there is nothing left to fear.
Danielle: What about Mary Walker?
Nigel: [blinks] Who’s she? Wife of the Phantom or something?
Danielle: [amazed] You don’t know about...
Danielle: Sorry. Look, you can’t say her name three times or she appears.
Nigel: What? Three times EVER?
[The girls exchange looks.]
Danielle: Well, maybe not ever. But for each person.
Nigel: So you’re never ever going to say that name again? Even if you meet someone with that exact name? First name Mary second name Walker? Does it count if there are words in between. [sighs] Girls, you’re all stunningly beautiful creatures on the ripe edge of womanhood BUT COME ON! Ghost stories?
Sonya: It’s true!
Nigel: Is it?
Sonya: Yeah. If you put an apple and a knife on your head and look in the mirror and say her name three times, she picks up the knife and cuts up the apple.
Danielle: Ooh! He swore!
Nigel: It is! That did not happen!
Sonya: It’s true!
Nigel: What? Did it happen to you?
Sonya: My cousin!
Nigel: Why the hell was your cousin wandering around with a bloody knife and an apple on her head when she happened to be at the mirror? Why would you summon a ghost to cut an apple anyway?! You know you have teeth for a reason! This is ridiculous!
Danielle: It’s true! She haunts the school!
Nigel: I’ve never seen her!
Phoebe: You haven’t said her name three times!
Nigel: Well, why would I? I, believe it or not, can cut my OWN apples without a séance! Why would she haunt the school anyway?
[The bell rings. Everyone looks at Nigel.]
Phoebe: You’re dead.
Nigel: More alive than Mary freaking Walker, girls. I have a plan.
Girls: [in unison] Oh?
Nigel: Yeah. [grins] I bet I can kiss you on the lips without touching you with ANY part of my body.
[Danielle gives a slightly crooked smile.]
Danielle: Five bucks?
Danielle: You’re on.
[Nigel leans forward and kisses her passionately. She is left breathless.]
Nigel: Damn. Guess I owe you five bucks, Danny.
[Danielle looks flushed and dazed.]
Phoebe: ...so, how is this helping your plan?
Nigel: It’s in development. Fancy a bet, Phe?
[Children are gathering to enter the main attendance hall for Friday afternoon assembly. Nigel strides out of the girl’s toilets, in full view of everyone, looking incredibly pleased with himself. Kids point, laugh, comment, but this dies off as Phoebe, Danielle and the other girls emerge, looking dazed, hair messed up and those with lipstick smudged. All their clothes are rumpled too. Nigel gives a shark-like grin to Jadi and Dave, who are getting into line.]
Dave: [awed] Dude... he was in the girl’s toilets... and the girls loved it...
Jadi: How in the name of God’s arse did he manage that?
[Phoebe wanders over.]
Jadi: Hey, Phoebe, what were you doing with Nigel?
Phoebe: [dazed] Painting his toenails.
Jadi: Oh, fine, don’t answer then!
Dave: Phe... did you and Nigel... you know?
[Phoebe smiles knowingly.]
Jadi: [confused] If they did, how did Danielle, Haley and Sonya get involved as well?
[Jason joins the queue.]
Jason: I dunno. I think we might have to ask a grown-up.
[They all give Jason a despairing look. At the front of the queue, Nigel is IMMENSELY smug. A lot of girls are gossiping, clearly about him. The kids move to their positions and sit on the floor.]
Nigel: I could SO do all that all over again.
[The end of the school day. The bell rings and the playground is full of kids heading to meet their parents. Nigel’s class soon breaks up, with Phoebe, Jadi and Dave heading in one direction, leaving Nigel and Jason alone as they head for the gates.]
Nigel: You know, Jason, I detest hyperbole...
Jason: I kind of like it, myself. Better than soccer anyway.
Nigel: [ignoring him] ...but today is probably the best day of my life so far.
[Nearby, Magnus walks with some difficulty in their direction.]
Nigel: And it’s just going to get better.
Jason: Nige, he’ll kill us!
Nigel: He’ll have to reach us first.
[Laughing, Nigel and Jason skip away, slightly too fast for Magnus to catch up with him. Magnus gives up and simply glares at them as they leave the school.]
[The next day, Nigel, Jason, Phoebe and the others are returning to their desks after lunch.]
Phoebe: [laughing] His face! Oh, it was like a squid on heat!
[Jason laughs very loudly, and then looks confused.]
Jason: I don’t get it.
Nigel: I notice Mr. Diplomatic Immunity wasn’t in today. He’s probably got his bollocks in traction.
Dave: [irritated] However will you survive without him to go on about?
Nigel: “Go on about”? I don’t go on about him?
Jadi: You never shut up about him! The only time you’re not ranting about how you’re next going to humiliate him is when you’re bragging about pashing every girl in the year.
[Phoebe clears her throat, embarrassed.]
Phoebe: Yeah, well, can we move the subject on? It’s Maths now.
Dave: Oh god...
[They sit at their tables and start to take out their problem books.]
Nigel: I know what you mean, David. Humanity has spent the last six thousand years developing technology and science precisely so there can be computers and calculators to do all this crap for us.
Danielle: And what happens if you don’t have a calculator and you need to do maths?
Nigel: ...and what, darling Danny, kind of situation would that involve? You think I’m going to get kidnapped by terrorists and challenged to solve Fermat’s Last Theorum or something?
Dave: Fermat’s what?
Jason: That’s about beer, isn’t it?
[Everyone stares at him.]
Jason: Fermatting is how you get beer, isn’t it?
Jadi: [slowly] ...ferMENTing is how you get beer, Jason.
Nigel: I’d like to say it all would make sense when you grew up, Jason, but you know I cannot tell a lie.
Nigel: Mouth closed, Jase.
[The teacher, who has been talking to another teacher, crosses over to the table.]
Teacher: Nigel, pack your bag up, please.
Nigel: [worried] Why? What have I done?
Teacher: You’re not in trouble, Nigel, but you have to go to the hospital.
Jason: [anxious] My goodness, is he sick?
Phoebe: [even more anxious] It’s not contagious, is it?
Teacher: [patiently] Nigel, your sister Bernice, she’s had an accident on the play equipment. She fell off the slippery-dip. Your parents are here to pick you up along with your brother and sister.
[Nigel swallows, devastated and hurries out with the other teacher.]
Danielle: Man. It must be bad to take her to hospital.
Jason: Nigel said the first aide lady is crap and they take everyone to hospital so they can get plausible deniability.
Jadi: Well, for his sake, I hope he’s right.
Dave: She can’t be pretty bad, I mean, how far is the slippery-dip from the ground? Ten centimetres?
Danielle: What if she fell off the top?
Jadi: Oh, Danny, she can’t fall from the top. There are all those railings, and the slippery dip goes round and round. There’s no way you can fall off it.
Phoebe: By accident.
Phoebe: She can’t fall off it by accident. But what if it wasn’t an accident?
[The mood turns sinister.]
Jadi: You mean, she didn’t fall...
Dave: ...but she was pushed?
Danielle: But who the hell would want to push Bernice Yang off the top of the slippery-dip?
[Nigel leaves the school at a run, easily outpacing Kenji and Akiro (the latter not really hurrying at all) to reach the car where Togi is waiting. As the trio enter the car, we see that Magnus is watching from the street opposite, leaning on a walking stick. He grins a feral grin.]
NIGEL: I’m not joking, you know. I will fucking kill you for this.