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THE GOOD SON

BY STEPHEN MCANENA

 

 

 

EXT. THE FARMYARD. MONDAY MORNING (DARK).

MICK DOYLE lies unconscious, as the wind and rain lash around him. His overcoat is blown open, to reveal only thin cotton pyjamas underneath. GABRIEL DOYLE runs to him from the house. Gabriel grips Mick under the arms, drags him across the rough gravel, and into the house.

INT. SAME SCENE. THE KITCHEN.

Gabriel drags Mick into the room, then rushes out. Mick lies very still, breathing in hoarse gasps, his skin blue with cold. On the lit stove a pan of bacon, burnt to a crisp, sizzles. Gabriel returns with an armful of blankets and spreads them over Mick. MRS. MACKIN, the home help, follows him. She takes in the scene, shocked.

GABRIEL

Daddy’s had a fall, Mrs. Mackin.

FADE OUT

OPENING TITLE

FADE UP ON

INT. THE HOSPITAL. MONDAY.

The SISTER stands with Gabriel at the entrance to the ward.

SISTER

We’ve made him comfortable, but ... Father Mullen is with him now. I’m sorry, Mr. Doyle.

Gabriel walks towards a curtained-off bed. FATHER MULLEN emerges, ashen-faced, as Gabriel reaches the bed.

MULLEN

(sotto voce)

What in the name of God happened, Gabriel?

Gabriel walks past him towards the bed, not looking at him. A look of irritation crosses Mullen’s face.

Mick is attached to a respirator, his breathing laboured. Gabriel stands by the bed, watching, expressionless.

INT. THE SITTING ROOM. SUNDAY.

Mick watches through the window as a car pulls up outside. Mullen gets out of it, carrying a small leather bag.

MICK

(excitedly)

It’s the Father, it’s the Father.

As he tries to get up, he slips and falls against the sofa. Gabriel hurries in, and helps Mick into a sitting position. The doorbell rings.

GABRIEL

Are you all right, Daddy?

Mick nods impatiently and grips Gabriel’s arm. Gabriel pulls Mick to his feet and steadies him.

MICK

He’s waiting.

The bell rings again. Mick links his arm into Gabriel's, and pulls him towards the door.

INT. SAME SCENE. THE HALL.

When they reach the door, Mick extricates himself from Gabriel, and opens the door. He shakes Mullen’s hand.

MICK

Come in Father. You’re welcome here.

MULLEN

You’re very kind Mick.

As they turn towards the sitting room, Gabriel reaches to take Mick's arm. Mick irritably waves him away, hitting Gabriel on the shin with his walking stick. Gabriel backs off, embarrassed. Mullen takes Mick’s arm. 

MULLEN

Perhaps some tea, Gabriel?

They go into the room, leaving Gabriel to close the door.

INT. THE WAITING ROOM. MONDAY.

Gabriel, looking pensive, comes into he waiting room. He sees Mullen at the far side of the room, deep in conversation with the Sister. Just as Mullen glances towards him, Gabriel looks away. Keeping his head down, Gabriel walks quickly around the edge of the waiting room, to a drinks machine.

INT. THE KITCHEN. SUNDAY.

 

Gabriel carefully arranges cups, milk and sugar on a tray, then fills the kettle. 

TRACK AWAY TO THE LIVING ROOM.

SLOW PAN across a series of family photographs on the mantelpiece: 

Mick as a young man, standing proudly in his IRA uniform ...

MULLEN (OOV)

This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.

Gabriel as a young boy with his parents, a happy family ...

MICK (OOV)

Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.

Gabriel with his parents on his graduation day.

PAN ACROSS TO

A view across the hall, and into THE SITTING ROOM.

Mullen's bag is open on the sitting room table. Mick sits on the sofa, his hands clasped before him. Mullen stands over him, holding a small wallet and a communion wafer.

MULLEN

The Body of Christ.

MICK

Amen.

Mick opens his mouth and Mullen places the wafer on his tongue.

PAN ACROSS TO

Gabriel waits in the hall with the loaded tea tray.

INT. THE WAITING ROOM. MONDAY.

Gabriel watches a FATHER with his YOUNG SON, playing happily while they wait. Mullen leans forward to try to catch Gabriel’s eye.

MULLEN

Did you not see Mick going out?

GABRIEL

(still looking away)

I was getting the breakfast ready.

MULLEN

They say he was blue when he came in. He must have been lying out for a long time.

Gabriel continues to look away. Mullen shakes his head, exasperated.

INT. THE LIVING ROOM. SUNDAY.

 

Gabriel carries the used dishes into the kitchen and returns a moment later. Muffled laughter can be heard from the sitting room. As Gabriel reaches the hall, the voices become clear.

 

MULLEN (OOV)

So Gabriel’s looking after you all right, Mick?

Gabriel slows his pace.

MICK (OOV)

If he could look after himself it’d suit him better. His mother has him spoilt.

INT. SAME SCENE. THE SITTING ROOM.

As Gabriel reaches the sitting room, Mullen glances towards him, an uneasy smile on his face.

MULLEN

I’m sure he does his best.

Mullen gets to his feet.

MICK

Will you not stay for a bit of dinner, Father?

MULLEN

Other obligations, Mick. Now don’t get up. Gabriel can see me out.

Mullen shakes hands with Mick, and follows Gabriel out of the room. He closes the door behind him.

INT. SAME SCENE. THE HALLWAY.

Mullen turns to Gabriel, smiling.

MULLEN

He’s in great form.

GABRIEL

He gets confused ... talking about the farm ... thinking Mammy’s still alive. It’s hard to know what to do.

MULLEN

(gently)

Ah, well ... you’ll be glad of someone to look after you when you’re older.

GABRIEL

(becoming angry)

And who’ll that be? My wife? My children?

Mullen looks around at the silent, empty house, then pats Gabriel on the shoulder.

MULLEN

We all have our role.

Mullen pulls the door open and strides out of the house, oblivious to Gabriel’s outraged stare.

INT. THE WAITING ROOM. MONDAY.

The father wipes his son’s nose, then lifts him onto his lap. Gabriel, still watching, starts to smile. The Sister comes in, gestures for Gabriel, then returns to the ward. As Gabriel stands, Mullen reaches out and grabs his wrist.

MULLEN

Is there anything you want to tell me Gabriel?

Gabriel looks at him for a moment, then shakes his head.

GABRIEL

Excuse me, Father. I’ve got to do my duty.

Mullen releases him and stares angrily as Gabriel follows the Sister back towards the ward.

INT. THE UPSTAIRS LANDING. NIGHT.

Mick can be heard groaning painfully, his cries growing louder and more desperate. Gabriel, half dressed, emerges from his room and strides along the landing.

INT. SAME SCENE. MICK’S ROOM.

The door opens, throwing a harsh light across the room and on to Mick, his body jerking as he tries to raise himself from the pillow.

Gabriel sits on the edge of the bed and immediately starts to massage Mick's legs. Gradually, Mick's cries recede and the tension in his body subsides. As Gabriel slows the massage, Mick reaches out for him. As he squeezes Gabriel's hand, Mick falls asleep. Gabriel looks down at their clasped hands.

INT. THE WARD. MONDAY.

With one of Mick's hands clasped in his, Gabriel sits on a chair by the bed. Mick is barely breathing. As Gabriel allows his gaze to wander across the ward, Mick gives a sudden gasp. Gabriel looks back at him, startled.

INT. THE FARMHOUSE KITCHEN. MONDAY MORNING.

Gabriel is frying bacon when Mick enters, wearing an overcoat and boots over his pyjamas. Gabriel turns towards him.

MICK

You’re burning that.

GABRIEL

Come on Daddy, go back to bed and wait for the home help.

MICK

What are you talking about? Where’s your Mammy?

Gabriel puts a hand on Mick's shoulder.

GABRIEL

(gently)

Mammy died five years ago, Daddy. Remember?

Mick stares at him for a moment, puzzled, then reddens with anger. With surprising speed and strength, he lashes out, catching Gabriel back-handed across the face. Gabriel shrinks away from him.

MICK

You filthy, lying bastard. Pack your bags, and get out of this house.

Mick opens the back door and staggers out into a pre-dawn rain-storm. Gabriel goes to the door and sees Mick standing in the yard, roaring incoherently at unseen enemies. Gabriel opens the door.

EXT.. THE YARD.

 

Gabriel steps outside, and flinches as the rain hits him.

GABRIEL

Daddy! DADDY! Come inside.

He advances towards Mick. Mick half turns, and points a bony finger at Gabriel.

MICK

Get away! You’re nothing but a bastard. You’re no son of mine.

As Gabriel takes another step towards him, Mick swings his walking stick at him and overbalances. He falls painfully.  Gabriel stares at him.

MICK

Gabriel, help me.

Gabriel continues to stare, expressionless, then abruptly turns and walks back towards the house.

MICK

(pleadingly)

Gabriel. Please ... son.

Without looking back, Gabriel steps inside and closes the door.

INT. THE KITCHEN.

Gabriel lights a cigarette, and sits down at the kitchen table. He stares straight ahead, lost in himself, oblivious to the rattle of the rain outside, the sizzle of the bacon burning in the pan, and Mick’s feeble cries from the yard. Mick abruptly falls silent, as Gabriel taps the cigarette into an empty ash-tray. 

INT. SAME SCENE. LATER.

Gabriel crushes a cigarette beside the four butts already in the ash-tray. The DOORBELL RINGS. Gabriel stares towards the sound, startled. He hesitates for a moment, then pulls open the back door and runs into the yard.

EXT. THE FARMYARD.

Gabriel rushes to Mick, grips him under the arms and begins dragging him to the house.

INT. THE HOSPITAL. MONDAY.

Mick's breathing is almost imperceptible, but the heart monitor bleeps with slow regularity. From the doorway of the ward, Mullen and the Sister watch as Gabriel leans close to Mick.

INSERT - CLOSE UP.

Gabriel kisses Mick on the cheek, then moves his lips to Mick’s ear.

GABRIEL

(sotto voce)

Are you not dead yet, Daddy?

PREVIOUS ANGLE.

Mick shows no sign of life. Still holding Mick's hand, Gabriel sits back in his chair and closes his eyes, as if asleep.

THE END

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