Heath Excerpt

Manhattan Loft Apartment

January 2008 Evening

House lights dim to Nick Drake track ‘Magic’:

“I was born to love no one
No one to love me
Only the wind in the long green grass
The frost, and a broken tree.

I was made to love magic
All its wonders to know
But you all lost that magic
Many, many years ago.“

Lights up on 4th floor of a converted warehouse. Open plan, with acres of white walls and the old industrial girders and plumbing exposed.

Lounge a step or two down from the kitchen, bedroom, wet room and hallway leading to front door, off.

One wall is a floor to ceiling window. But apart from a narrow slice of avenue and sky, the walls of the next warehouse loom down and press in close.

Now only the lounge is lit. The rest of the loft in darkness.

It’s about 10pm and the narrow slice of city is ablaze with lights.

HEATH lies sprawled out on the floor. Unshaven, unkempt.

A travelling bag half-unpacked nearby, spewing its contents over the floor.

He lies motionless.

Roar of traffic below at odds with the awesome stillness in the apartment.

Long pause.

Then a cell phone on the coffee table starts to beep. Regular beeps, on and on. Then faster beeps. Then silence again.

HEATH remains motionless.

From the street below a screech of brakes.

Music just audible from another apartment.

Another long pause.

The cell phone begins to beep again. Regular beeps as before. Then faster ones. Then frantic ones, the phone going crazy, sliding across the table.

Suddenly HEATH jerks up.

Dragged from a dark dream and with an expletive, he lunges out blindly to switch it off.

Falls back groaning.

Conks out.

Then dazed, disorientated, he stirs again.

Stretches, painfully.

Attempts to read his wristwatch.

Sits up, rubbing his eyes.

Staggers to his feet, feeling like shit.

Tries to make out the time again.

HEATH: What...???

In disbelief he glances around; a plate of uneaten food; the scrunched up script he’s been lying on; the night outside....

As the penny finally drops, he hits his head in a paroxysm of self-recrimination.

Fucking deadbeat moron!!!

Still dazed, he topples round and collapses into a chair.

Gritted teeth he pounds the arm of the chair with his fist.

Shit...shit...shit...

Only the traffic and the turmoil of his thick clotted breathing.

Suddenly he remembers the purpose of the alarm. Checks his watch again and, flicking on the lights, slams through to the kitchen.

Here everything is high tech, coldly gleaming. On the table a half-unpacked bag of groceries from ‘Gourmet Garage’.

HEATH rummages through a muddle of small prescription packets and bottles. Finds what he’s after and downs a tablet with a swig of bottled water.

Meanwhile, the prescription, as printed on the packet, appears enlarged on the wall above him:

‘Valium 250gms - Anti-anxiety Diazepam: 1 tablet to be taken morning and evening at regular times’.

He stands paralysed. Totally unknowing what to do next.

Then hardly aware, he rifles through the groceries - a wave of panic and rage swelling within him.

HEATH:(quoting a slogan) ‘Do What You Gotta Do’ — Fucking cunt-face!

With a manic burst of energy he storms back to the lounge.

Picks up the crumpled screenplay and tries to smooth it out.

Sorry Steve, sorry Steve. I did intend to get this read so I could speak to you this evening.

Fiercely he checks for the page that he’d got to when he fell asleep.

Then, fighting his resistance, and to force himself to concentrate, he reads the screenplay aloud at break-neck speed:

(reading) “The Red Knight, Page 37.... Exterior, Drawbridge to city of Belrepiere, evening: Parzival, alone, before the gates of the besieged city. Mounted on his Castalian, in his full red armour.”

(HEATH groans) Here we go again...

(then continues reading) “We see the intricate metal work, the massive panels of weathered oak - A beat - Heavy wrenching and creaking as the gates begin to open.... Exterior, Belrepiere, main street: We follow Parzival, riding down the narrow cobbled street. Timber-framed buildings either side. Crooked, lop-sided, like gingerbread houses. Beneath them, a throng of starving townspeople, silent, awestruck. Dare they believe this auspicious visitor heralds hope? Could this magnificent Knight be their deliverer?”

(HEATH under his breath) could he, fuck...

(then continues reading) “Montage of Townspeople as they watch him pass - a hollow-cheeked mother.... a wounded soldier ...”

(HEATH, flipping a page) Etc, etc...

(then continues reading) “Exterior, Belrepiere, in front of the castle: Large courtyard paved with mosaics. Wide steps leading up to the castle entrance. Fairytale turrets and barbicans toppling over the gilded casements. Parzival has halted. The townspeople, surging forward, held back by guards. Four Pages, in royal attire, assist as he dismounts....Exterior, castle, a window, continuous: we can just make out the young rosebud queen, Condi -” -

(HEATH struggles to pronounce the name) Condi — who?! ‘Cond-wi-ra-murs’. Shit, what kind of name is that???

His resistance to the script erupts and he hurls it aside and leaps up.

Fuck, Steve, she won’t even look at it!

On sudden impulse he circles the lounge, hunting for and yanking on, a sweater, boots and jacket.

Then grabs his cell phone and makes a call.

Oh, hi, Heath here...Just back from London, yeah...Look, could I book my favourite table again for tonight?... Hmm, the small one, you know, the small one in the, the furthest corner from the stage...Yeah, yeah...Right away, well, ten minutes...Nice... nice...thanks... bye.

Next he searches for wallet, keys and beanie. And pulling the beanie over his disheveled hair, he flicks off the apartment lights and exits.

Neon from the slice of city splashes into the darkened lounge. A flashing slogan up the walls; a lurid spider of colour over the floor.

The front door is opened, then slammed shut.

Keys turn noisily in the locks.

Silence.

Only the background hum of the city.

Then faint shouting and jeering rising from the street.

Another silence.

Then the keys in the locks again.

Front door opening, slamming.

HEATH re-enters in a fury.

Without turning on the lights, he dives for a panel in the window.

Opens it.

HEATH: (yelling down) FUCK OFF!!!

Faint jeers and taunts rise from the street below.

A tooting car horn and a searchlight sweeping across the window half blinding him.

He slams the window shut and contorts in a painful coughing fit.

Dick-head! Dick-head!... You’re supposed to be cool with them these days, remember?

His coughing continues.

Gets worse.

Stabbing pain across his chest which he tries to massage away.

Now the tooting car horn is joined by others and the searchlight sweeps the window again.

A fugitive in his own apartment, he lurches back to the kitchen.

Gulps down water but coughs at the same time causing it to spray all over his jacket.

Crazy he searches through the pills and tablets but this time can’t find what he wants.

Slams across to the bedroom.

Stumbles over more dropped luggage.

Exits into the wet-room.

As the wet-room light falls across the bedroom - rattling of more packets and bottles.

Eventually HEATH re-emerges, clutching the tablets he’s after.

Flying back to the kitchen he downs them with the bottled water.

As he does so, the prescription, as printed on the bottle, appears enlarged on the wall above him:

Codeine Super: Contains Doxylamine anti-histamine 2.5gms — for colds and allergies

At same time, the cell phone in his pocket vibrates.

Unconsciously he pulls it out and checks the message.

In disbelieving, he stops dead.

HEATH: No...no... How the fuck did they get this number???

As the prescription fades on the wall above him, it is replaced by the enlarged text message:

Tired of childish tantrums Mr Ledger. Thought you were a big boy now. Come on down. We only want some - welcome back to NY - pics.
- B and the gang.

His anger explodes.

Arseholes!!! Now I got to change my number again — I’ll show you...!!!!

Beside himself, he roars back into the lounge but slips on the down step and falls with a yell, his phone flying out of his hand.

THE JOKER appears on the ledge outside the window.

Dressed in his purple suit, his smudged white face and torn red lips leer in at HEATH.

Sensing his presence, HEATH swings round to look up at the window.

But THE JOKER has already vanished.

HEATH leans back defeated — mental turmoil unmanageable, the black hole of fear and despair threatening to swallow him up.

The tooting has stopped.

The searchlight has stopped.

Only HEATH’s heavy breathing as he tries to steady himself and pull himself back together.