(The street. ANGEL and JACK enter.)
JACK:  I dreamt about you last night, Angel.

ANGEL:  That's because you won't touch me, Jack.

JACK:  You know it's the dirt, Angel.
     The dripping taps. The stoves
     left on when we've been spotting.

ANGEL:  In your dream I became something else?

JACK:  Yes, something else.

ANGEL:  What?

JACK:  I don't know really.
     A bird of some sort.
     A water bird. Picking
     at the carcass of a cow.
     Eating her insides out.

ANGEL:  That's your guilt
     for eating cows, Jack.

(ANGEL exits.)
JACK:  What is it with these birds?
     I dreamt of parrots on a farm:

     a Nissen hut of netting
     designed to keep the parrots out
     that trapped a pair of twenty-eights:
     vingt-huit, vingt-huit, vingt-huit,

(PROSTITUTES enter and form line. JACK 'works' his way among them.)
     a French colony, historic,
     like the closing of brothels in Roe Street
     or the surveillance
     and vigilantes here in Smith Street —
     the new phoneboxes without
     glass walls, citizens
     with notepads hoping
     for kerbcrawlers, spitting

     at your sort — refined varieties
     in gardens that won't tolerate
     trampling, the "wandering about"
     roughing it on the edge

     of salinity, or in lingo,
     making a go of it,
     despite the gentrification,
     the naming, the lists

     bred from a new mathematics.
     A storm struck hard
     in the summer, and that's why
     the netting lifted. The parrots'

     panopticon of colours
     looking for an out —
     extra-spectra, safe in the open,
     the daylight, their language.

NARRATOR (emerging from her shop):
     Fancy words from a fancy man.
     Jack of all trades and master of none
     except Angel. Jack, be nimble, be quick,
     the tricks are few and far between
     they're cleaning up and driving out
     and what will you do to earn a crust
     when the Tuscan splendour's all there is
     and the girls go back to school?
     Who'll be your mainstay then?

JACK:  Always got a trick
     up my sleeve, darling,
     they're not going to get
     the better of me; actually,
     I've just tripped over
     a few dozen stereos --
     could be a few bucks
     in it for both of us...

NARRATOR:  Ah Jack, your deals are always
     such big deals! I've heard your talk before.

JACK:  And don't you love it —
     I'll get you on board
     one of these days. Shit!

(PROSTITUTES exit hurriedly.)
     Looks like a pig wagon.
     Angel's out on a date...
     Hope she doesn't roll up
     while they're sniffing about.

NARRATOR:  Yeah, it'd only be the hundredth time
     they've been up and down today. They reckon
     your game is a mug's game...

JACK:  Genetically modified organisms.
     Transgenic pigs. Always seen myself
     as the head of a nature cult —
     we could use some of your
     bondage stuff and make them
     feel at home. Look, it's
     a Mexican standoff. Mexicans
     make great cop movies.
     Something of the Cars
     that Ate Paris going
     on here as well.
     An Aussie flavour.
     Gee, I love the movies.

NARRATOR:  Don't go that often myself. Some of us
     got work to do. But there's a film fest
     coming up at the Rainbow Centre... not
     your cup of tea!

JACK:  Ah, the dialogics of fucking.
     Like my vocabulary, fancy, you say —
     useful for judges. Makes a difference
     if you've got cultural references
     at your fingertips. And a private
     school education. Singapore.
     I've got what you might call
     cachet. Mix it with street cred
     and I'm a star. Don't need to
     punch my girls around,
     they worship me. I'm a god.

NARRATOR:  I'm an atheist myself. No desire
     to get down on my knees.
     But hey, I hope you have a few thunderbolts
     up your sleeve — you might just need them.
     Those cops aren't exactly godfearing types.
     And speaking of things heavenly, there's
     your lady...

(NARRATOR exits.)
JACK:  Shit! and there's a client
     about to make a swoop,
     I'd better catch her eye
     before she hooks him
     — there's no way
     she'll see the cops
     from there...
(ANGEL and CLIENT enter.)
CLIENT:  Let's take a walk.
(They fall into step.)
ANGEL:  Where are you parked?

CLIENT:  At the end of the street.

(COPS enter.)
COP 1:  Soliciting.
(CLIENT panics. Starts denying it.)
ANGEL:  He's a friend.

CLIENT (confused):  I'm not. I mean, yes...

COP 2:  Cut the crap.

JACK:  What's the problem, officer?

COP 2:  Piss off, or you'll go too.

(COPS walk ANGEL upstage. ALL freeze.)
NARRATOR (voice only, heard in darkness):
     Watch this space.
     Each patch and fetish a
     pitch to stopper it, each
     posture to quiet it,
     loud mouth
     this flag this red rag as it
     moves tenuously
     like Ruth singing
     "cover me, cover me
     extend the border of your mantle over me" —
     freedom would be
     oblivion or
     possession of it.
(ALL exit.)
     Watch this space.

Smith Street | Mudlark No. 19
Contents | Act 2, Scene One