ACT EIGHT – DEVASTATION
[The very hospital that Nigel was born in, but as no one is aware of this, for all intents and purposes, it could be any damn hospital, really. In one room, Benny lies on a bed, looking very much the worse for wear – black eye, bruised cheeks, neck in a brace, arm in a sling. Nigel, Kenji, Akiro and Togi are present. Togi is reading a magazine, bored.]
Togi: Apparently she’ll be fine in a month or so. Be able to walk inside a week.
Akiro: Well, at least she won’t moan as much as Nigel did after that silly knife incident.
[Nigel doesn’t respond.]
Bernice: Do you have to talk about me like I’m not here?
Kenji: Oh, come on, Beriniko! We all know you’re just doing this for attention! You like hospital food and the bedpans – any excuse to come here...
[Benny laughs painfully.]
Bernice: Don’t make me laugh.
Kenji: [calls] Oh, nurse! Can we get some mashed sweet potato and some thermometers here, stat?
Akiro: The other kind of thermometers!
Kenji: Better make that twenty of them, sister!
Nigel: It was Magnus, wasn’t it?
[That kills the mood. Kenji looks furious.]
Kenji: What?! Someone DID THIS to YOU?!
Bernice: Doesn’t matter.
Kenji: MATTER?!? Of course it matters!!
Kenji: HE NEARLY KILLED HER!
Akiro: So how are you going to make it better, Kenji? Get yourself in trouble by beating him up?
Bernice: Akiro’s right, Kenji. We have to stop this whole cycle thing.
[Akiro and Kenji look at Nigel, who doesn’t respond.]
Bernice: An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind and all that crap. Just let him go.
Kenji: [sighs] I promise, Beriniko.
Bernice: I’m tired now. Sleep.
[She dozes off. Akiro crosses to a cleaner mopping the floor.]
Akiro: You! The girl in that bad – from now on, she gets everything she wants. If she wants ice cream, you get her ice cream. If she wants TV, you get the best from Retravision! If she wants a sponge bath, you do it with champagne! Are we clear?
Cleaner: Uh... yeah...
[The three start to leave.]
Kenji: Benny likes being rubbed down with champagne?
Akiro: It’s a girl thing. You wouldn’t understand.
Kenji: Fair enough.
[Nigel follows, still not talking.]
[Nigel’s room. It’s very late. A CD player plays Toto’s “Africa”. Nigel thinks for a moment, then snatches up the phone beside the bed and dials. He waits for an answer.]
Nigel: Ah, yeah, sorry about the late hour but... Hello? Mr. Richards? Yeah, I’d like to talk to Phoebe, please. Phoebe. Feeeee-beeeee. Richards. Your daughter. She’s about a metre and a half tall, long red hair, easily an A cup if she wore a bra... No, your DAUGHTER. Not your wife. Dude, I want to talk to Phoebe. Not your wife. No, I’m not having an affair with your wife! That’s why I don’t want to talk to her! I don’t care IF you’re waiting for the adulterous bastard to ring up so you can catch him, this is serious! No wonder your wife’s playing around, you thick numbskull! [shouts] PHOEBE! IF YOU’RE THERE, GET THIS LOONY OFF THE PHONE! [beat] Yes, THAT Phoebe! Thank you! [sighs] Phe, girl, is he always like that? He is? Jeez, and I thought some of my older male relatives were weird. Look, sweetcheeks, I need you to do something for me... [slightly hysterical giggle] Oh you dirty little girl! No, not THAT! Oh? Why have you been doing that with a hot water bottle? Phe, when they say you’re hot, they don’t mean you’ve got some kind of fever temperature, it’s entirely different. Now stop doing that before you get burns which will be very awkward to explain. Now, listen, I need you to do something for me. I need...
[A dramatic pause.]
Nigel: ...a makeover.
[Akiro, in a dressing gown, pauses in the hall by the door as she hears Nigel’s voice.]
Nigel: ...yeah. And contact Jason and tell him what’s needed. I want this small and contained, comprehende? Yeah. And that thing I taught you to do with your hands? Yeah, good isn’t it? See ya tomorrow.
[Akiro peers round the door as Nigel hangs up.]
Nigel: Huh? What? Were you listening, Akiro? You, an eavesdropper!? I’m shocked!
Akiro: Nigel, are you...
Nigel: It is not what you think!
Akiro: Isn’t it?
Nigel: Seriously, I know what it could sound like, but it’s just a little trick. If you sit on your hands long enough they go completely numb, right? So I suggested some of the girls at school do that, then they get to find out what it feels to be groped without having to get someone else to do it [not changing tone] and why the hell am I even explaining this to you? You think a libido is Mexican food!
Akiro: You’re going to go after Magnus, aren’t you?
Nigel: [avoids her gaze] It’s my fault, Akiro.
Akiro: She asked you not to.
Akiro: And you promised.
[Nigel looks up.]
Nigel: [completely serious] Oh, no. That’s the killer. Kenji promised. Me? I never promised Benny a thing.
[He smiles. Slightly disconcerted, Akiro leaves.]
[The school playground, the next day. Togi drops off Nigel, Akiro and Kenji, who split up as they enter the school. Akiro hurries off, casting a worried look at Nigel, who seems to act like nothing happened. He meets up with Danielle, who kisses him. He grins, and notices Magnus leaning against a tree not far away. Nigel smiles politely at him, as if they’ve not met before. Magnus smiles back and mimes slicing his throat. Nigel and Danielle wander off and meet up with Jason, who looks incredibly paranoid and shifty, and is hugging his bag. Jason hurries off after Nigel as well.]
[The classroom. Nigel gets a few odd looks as he enters, the kids whispering about the accident the previous day. Nigel sits down at the table with the others, seemingly normal. He meets Phoebe’s eye. She nods. He looks at Jason, who stares back and mouths “What?” Nigel sighs and holds his head in his hands.]
[Lunchtime. The kids leave their classes. Nigel, Jason and Phoebe head off in completely different directions, not looking at each other. Making sure no one is watching her, Phoebe ducks down through a side gate and out of the school. She hurries off into a side road and out of sight. Meanwhile, Jason heads towards the dumpster where he stabbed Nigel, and heads straight on through the gates. Nigel heads towards the tree Theo climbed over. He pauses as a cute girl about four years younger than him runs up and offers him an ice cream. He takes it with a smile and then signs her arm with a texta she provides. He heads off, munching the ice cream, unaware that Magnus is watching him. Nigel climbs the tree, drops into the alley and sprints off at top speed. Magnus watches him go.]
[Nigel runs down a suburban street, looking around. He reaches the end, only a main highway and then hurries down the street, past several shops and car yards. He finishes the ice cream and ducks into a pub. He heads out into the beer garden where Jason and Phoebe sit, drinking lemonade and water respectively, both looking rather nervous. Nigel enters with an orange juice.]
Nigel: Sorry I’m late. The fans, you know. More of them every day. [sips drink] And I’ve just discovered that mint-choc Cornettos and orange juice don’t mix.
[He spits in a plant pot and takes Phoebe’s water and gargles with it.]
Jason: You sure we’re not going to get in trouble, Nige?
Nigel: Course not. Students and teachers have been sneaking off here since time’s start. As long as we don’t drink booze, it’s all right. You got what I asked for.
[Jason puts some bottles of hair product on the table. Phoebe puts some paperwork forms on the table.]
Nigel: Perfect. What about the main object?
Jason: My uncle thinks it’s for a science project. It’ll be ready by tomorrow.
Nigel: Good. Then we just need to get him outside the caretaker sheds at hometime.
Jason: No one goes there at hometime, Nige! It’s about as far away from the way out as you can get!
Nigel: [sighs] Yes, exactly, Jason. That’s why we aren’t relying on him just being there by accident. We need to somehow trick him into going there of his own free will.
Phoebe: And then?
Nigel: And then what those in the know refer to by the technical expression “payback”.
Jason: You’re gonna stab in the leg with a spear like the Aborigines do?
Nigel: No, that’s how civilized people behave. Mister Magnus stopped being civilized a long time ago.
Phoebe: You can’t be serious about this, Nige?
Nigel: Phe, he pushed the one person in the world I care about off a seven-metre high slippery dip and gave her a compound fracture in her arm. And then he kicked her when she was down and wandered off until someone found her and helped her. I can only assume you’re complaining my plan ISN’T nasty enough to balance out that festering bag of liquid manure’s unspeakable crimes against humanity?
Phoebe: This is wrong. What you’re going to do...
Nigel: ...is not half as bad as what he did to my sister. For nothing. Because she shares my last name. That’s all she did wrong, Phoebe. Which is why I got you to get me these forms.
[He picks up the forms and flips through them.]
Jason: Why didn’t I have to get any forms?
Nigel: [kindly] Because I need someone who is literate enough to spell their own name correctly, Jase.
Jason: [shrugs] Fair enough. What do you need these forms for?
Nigel: Changing my name by Deed Poll. The only way that walking yowie could have found out about Benny is by looking up the school register and comparing last names. Nigel Yang, Bernice Yang, see? But if my name wasn’t Yang, he’d be clueless.
Phoebe: That’s not going to do her much good now, is it?
Nigel: [reading pages] It might help in the future, with what I’ve got planned...
Phoebe: No. This is sick, Nigel. You’re going to screw up his whole life!
Nigel: Phe, I don’t intend to harm a hair on his head.
Phoebe: Because you’re going to do something worse!
Nigel: Compared to what I WANT to do to him, red, he is getting off scott free.
Jason: Who’s Scott Free?
Phoebe: Nigel! This is wrong, OK? You can’t go round treating people like this!
Jason: Is he a boy?
Nigel: I know it sounds really childish and pathetic, but it’s still true: he started it. And I’m going to finish it.
Jason: Magnus is getting off with another boy?
Phoebe: And then what? You’re going to do that to anyone else that annoys you?
Nigel: Annoys me? Phe, I’m not doing this because he slurped his soup or sung “Black and White” off-key! He could have killed her – just to get at me! What if he did that to you, huh?
Phoebe: Or Danny?
Nigel: [after a beat] Oh, is that what this is all about?
Jason: OH MY GOD!
Nigel & Phoebe: What?
Jason: Magnus! Are you saying he’s gay?
Nigel & Phoebe: ...shut up, Jason.
Phoebe: Look, Nigel, I can’t be friends with someone who can be this cruel.
Nigel: Then don’t, Phe.
[Phoebe is hurt.]
Phoebe: Don’t you care?
Nigel: I care enough to stop a psychopath who beats innocent girls up because of his magical diplomatic immunity get-out card. If you want to leave everyone in the school to the whim of that madman, then which one of us is actually being cruel?
[Phoebe doesn’t reply.]
Nigel: Go off then, red. Back to school! I don’t need your help to finish this! And it’s not like you’re actually my girlfriend or anything – otherwise Dave would probably have slashed his wrists by now.
Phoebe: [confused] Dave?
Nigel: [annoyed] Phe, I’m trying to pick a new moniker for myself here, now either you can help out or rack off back to school! Danny could probably be a better help...
[Phoebe glares at him.]
Phoebe: You want a new name? Fine. Here’s a suggestion.
[She scribbles two words down on the form and storms out.]
Jason: Um... bye, Phe! [to Nigel] Shouldn’t we go after her?
Nigel: No. Let her go. In fact, I’m glad she’s gone. We didn’t need her anyway. And one day, she’s going to end up lying on the ground, in indescribable agony because of some boy she underestimated, and all because she didn’t stick with me. I just hope I’ll be there to see it, Jase. [looks at form] Whoa. Did she kiss me with that mouth? Get me a rubber.
[Jason hands him an eraser and he tries to rub out the offensive words.]
Jason: But how are we going to get Magnus to the caretaker sheds?
Nigel: Oh, I’ll think of something.
[A lonely pause.]
Jason: Maybe Phoebe’s right.
Nigel: [filling out form] She isn’t.
Jason: She sounded like she was right. Maybe we shouldn’t do this.
Nigel: As another Magnus once said... I’ve started so I’ll finish.
[The playground. The end of lunch bell rings and students start to return to their classes. Nigel and Jason run through a gate and manage to mingle with the other children.]
[Nigel’s class reenter the classroom. Nigel and the others sit down at their table. Phoebe blanks Nigel completely. Jason looks embarrassed, Nigel blanks her right back. Dave and Jadi exchange looks.]
[Playground. The end of school bell rings. The children head for the exits.]
Nigel: OK, Jase, you’re with me tonight.
Jason: Right, boss.
[Magnus watches them go, leaning against a tree. He turns and prepares to head off home himself when he realizes that Phoebe is waiting for him.]
Magnus: What do you want, freckle-freak?
Phoebe: I’m trying to save your life.
Magnus: [baby talk] Aw, do you fink I will give you an ickle kiss as a reward juz like the dumb Abbo did? [normal] Slut.
[He heads off. Phoebe calls after him.]
Phoebe: Nigel’s setting a trap for you.
Phoebe: It’ll work. And you’ll die.
Magnus: [smirks] I kinda doubt that.
[She grabs his arm.]
Phoebe: Then the last thought that you’ll ever have is “Oh, fuck, the redhead was right!” Understand?
Magnus: You’re touching me.
Phoebe: He’s setting up a trap in the caretaker’s shed, tomorrow afternoon, after hometime. Then he’s going to lure you there and make it look like an accident.
Magnus: Oh. Well, forewarned is forearmed.
Phoebe: So don’t go anywhere near the shed, OK?
Magnus: [smiles sweetly] Oh, I won’t, little girl, I won’t.
[Phoebe lets his arm go.]
Phoebe: I’m not living with your death on my conscience, Magnus. Not even you.
Magnus: I’m touched.
[He turns and starts to walk off, then turns back.]
Magnus: Oh, one more thing.
[He decks her right in the face. She falls without a sound and lies still.]
Magnus: I really don’t like people touching me.
[He turns and wanders off again. Dave and Jadi run over.]
[They roll her over. She’s bleeding from the nose and mouth.]
Dave: Aw, Phe... It’s OK, we got you!
Jadi: Why did he hit you?
Dave: That does it. I’m calling the cops.
Phoebe: [in a lot of pain] Don’t... bother...
[She spits some blood onto the grass.]
Phoebe: [icily] I just set him up for something a lot worse than the police. [winces] I think I need a dentist...
[Jadi and Dave help her up and fuss over her.]
[Nigel’s room. Nigel is in a dressing gown without his sunglasses. Jason holds some bottles.]
Nigel: Right, so the final piece is set up tomorrow. The deed poll stuff is sorted. Just need to finish this. Now, you read all the instructions on the bottles, Jase?
Nigel: And you understood them when I read them out?
Jason: Oh yeah.
Nigel: Let’s do it then.
[They head out towards the bathroom. They enter just as Kenji is leaving.]
Jason: Hello, Kenji!
Kenji: ...who are you? And why are you and my brother going into the toilet together?
Nigel: Don’t bother answering, Jason, he won’t remember.
Jason: Oh. [to Kenji] See ya!
[Nigel slams the bathroom door shut leaving Kenji alone.]
Kenji: [shakes head] You’re getting as bad as Uncle Miko, Nige.
[Later, inside the bathroom, Nigel is toweling his head. Jason throws the empty bottles into a bin.]
Nigel: Right, Jason. Head straight home and when you come to school, bring in the you-know-what. Under no circumstances turn up without it. [grabs his face] I mean it, Jason. If you screw up any instruction I ever give you, make sure it ISN’T THIS ONE. This isn’t for me, Jason. It’s for mankind itself. Get it wrong, and it’s all over. And that includes the koala bears.
Jason: [aghast] Not the koalas!
Nigel: Yes! So you’re not going to get this wrong, are you?
Jason: NEVER, SAH!
Nigel: Good boy. I’ll see you tomorrow morning. And then...
Nigel: ...and then everything changes. And the story of Magnus the school bully ends. Forever.
[Sobered, Jason nods and leaves.]
[The next morning. The school bell rings. Nigel strides towards the school. His hair is now acid blonde. He is the Nigel we know in everything except years. He gets some admiring glances, wolf-whistles and gestures from girls as he heads to class. Jason is standing outside.]
Nigel: You brought the stuff?
Jason: Huh? [startled] Who are you!?
Nigel: [sighs] Beechawowa. Jason! It’s me! Nigel!
Jason: Oh. Right. Didn’t recognize you. Did you get a tan?
[Even Nigel boggles at that.]
Nigel: Did you bring the you-know-what?
Jason: Yes! I did! Please tell me the koalas are safe now?
Nigel: I can’t. Not yet. But for the time being they are just the way they should be?
Jason: Half-way up a gum-tree, completely stoned out of their brains and waiting for the sunset?
Nigel: Exactly, Jase. Exactly.
[They enter the class.]
[Classroom. Nigel and Jason sit at the table with Jadi, Dave and Danielle.]
Danielle: What the hell did you do to your hair?
Nigel: Do you like it?
Danielle: [surprised] Actually yeah. You look even cooler.
Nigel: I thought so. [slightly awkward] It seems we’re one short today.
Jason: Where’s Phoebe?
[Dave snaps his pencil in half, not quite controlling his emotions.]
Jadi: She uh... she’s having her teeth straightened.
Danielle: She doesn’t need her teeth straightened. She had those braces all through Year Three.
Jadi: Well she...
Dave: [voice cracking] Magnus. Magnus... he hit her. In the face.
[A pause. Jadi snaps his own pencil, almost involuntarily. So does Jason. And Danielle. Nigel very deliberately puts his pencil on the table, as if to stop him snapping it as well.]
Nigel: Well now, Dave. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think Maggie should get away with that. In fact, I’ve got a plan to get even with him. Maybe even MORE than even.
[Dave is disturbingly interested in the idea.]
Dave: Such as?
Jadi: [frowning] David, I don’t think...
Nigel: Jadi, I think I could use your help as well.
Nigel: Phoebe IS your best friend, isn’t she?
[Jadi sighs and puts his head in his hands.]
Jadi: I am so going to regret this.
Nigel: [grins] But you’ll regret not doing it more.
Dave: What do we have to do?
Nigel: YOU, Dave, have a mission to the caretaker’s shed with a little something Jason will give you at recess. Get it inside there. Do not open it, Dave, unless you don’t want to live long enough to get back to class. Leave it shut and you will be fine, get it?
Dave: Got it.
Nigel: Good. As for you, Jadi, I need to have a chat with you about Magnus. Jason?
Nigel: Get out my problem books and finish the stuff about pyramids, cylinders and spheres.
Jason: Right, boss.
Danielle: [eagerly] And what do I do?
Nigel: Sit on your hands until they go numb and then give those [points at her breasts] a good fondle under my strict supervision.
[Nigel realizes everyone is now staring at him. Or rather at the teacher who has been standing behind him. Nigel clears his throat and chuckles.]
Nigel: Algebra is bloody fantastic, isn’t it, everyone?
[Playground. A rather chastised-looking Nigel and Danielle emerge with the others from the classroom and sit down on the brick edge of the garden area outside.]
Danielle: I didn’t know you could get detention for that.
Nigel: He’s probably just annoyed his wife doesn’t do it for him any more. [frowns] Does he have a wife?
Danielle: I dunno. Is this going to stuff up your plan for Magnus?
Nigel: [arches eyebrow] Danny, please. This is part of the plan.
Danielle: [boggles] Really?
Nigel: You think after six years I haven’t learned how to hear a teacher creep up on me? Ye of little faith!
[Nigel sighs and lies down, resting his head in Danielle’s lap. She strokes his hair. Meanwhile, Jason hands a parcel to Dave who, holding the object as far from his body as possible, tries to subtly head down the hill to the caretaker sheds. As there are absolutely no kids around there, he sticks out like a sore thumb.]
Danielle: [vo] So everything’s going to plan?
Nigel: [vo] Oh yeah. That’s what’s terrifying me.
Danielle: [vo] Terrifying you? Why?
[Dave reaches the metal gate that covers the doorway and smuggles the parcel between the bars.]
Nigel: [vo] Phoebe thought it was a bad idea. My sisters thought it a bad idea. Just how many people have to think this is a terrible, terrible thing to do before they’re right?
Danielle: [vo] Why? What are you going to do to him?
[Dave straightens up, dusts his hands and, much relief, heads off. He is unaware Magnus has been standing only a few metres away and has watched the entire thing.]
Nigel: You remember that Superman movie? The last one with the black guy?
Nigel: And you know there was that little fat lady with the dark hair?
Danielle: [grimaces] The one that got eaten by the computer, and turned into a robot with glowing eyes and wires and electricity and stuff?
Danielle: What about her?
Nigel: What I’m going to do to Magnus is a million times worse.
Nigel: [quiet] Should I give up on it?
Danielle: Hell no. He beat up your sister, he beat up Phoebe, I could be next! And I don’t want that?
Nigel: [amused] Why, Danielle, what an overdeveloped and selfish survival instinct you have!
[He leans up and kisses her. A loud cough. They break to see the teacher standing beside them.]
Nigel: OK, I admit it, THAT time I never heard him coming.
MAGNUS: Please... don’t...