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Title: Twelve Moons Cold
Author: Lionel Shave
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1600521h.html
Language: English
Date first posted: March 2016
Most recent update: March 2016

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Twelve Moons Cold
A Drama in One Act


Lionel Shave

From Five Proven One Act Plays
The Australasian Publishing Co. Pty. Ltd.
Sydney, N.S.W.
First published 1948

* * *

To the memory of "PAKIE" MACDOUGALL
to whose kindly encouragement these plays owe their being.


MA, a blowsy, middle-aged person.
SALLY WILSON, her daughter.
FRED WILSON, Sally's husband.

THE PLACE. A converted flat within gunshot of King's Cross.

THE TIME. Any afternoon in the present.

THE SCENE. The living room has, in addition to the entrance door R. two other doors L. leading to kitchen and bedroom. Between these doors there is a small table on which is a mantel radio. There is a food safe or cupboard R. on top of which are cups and dishes and inside which is a bottle of wine, known familiarly as "plonk ". At the table C. are a couple of chairs. There is a couch R. on which is a brown paper parcel. Against the back wall is an ironing board and somewhere about this untidy room there is a flat iron. SALLY is making some effort at "tidying up" when MA enters, badly winded...

* * *

MA. Four flamin' flights! It's enough to kill you!

SALLY. Hullo, Ma! You're back early. Didn't you go to the court?

MA. Wait till I get my breath...I don't know why the hell we ever moved in here...Of course I went.

SALLY. And did Pa's case come on?

MA. Too right.

SALLY. So he was acquitted, was he?

MA. No—thank Gawd! He got seven years-good and proper...

SALLY. Seven years?

MA. Yes [moving towards safe]. He was seven weeks out of the jug and now he'll be seven years in.

SALLY. Gee! That's the biggest stretch Pa's ever had, isn't it?

MA. Yes, and it serves him right. Time was when your old man could crack a can with the best of 'em. But he's slipping to blazes these days.

[ MA seats herself at table with a bottle of port and a cup.]

SALLY. If the coppers keep on pounding him he can't get much practice, can he?

MA. You're. right. He even made a mess of opening a can of beans the other night, if you remember.

SALLY. Well, he'll be laying off them there safes for a bit.

MA. That's why I say thank Gawd he's back in the jug. He's more flamin' worry than he's worth when he's out. Have you been at my pinkie?

SALLY. No I haven't. It's the same as you left it this morning.

MA. Humph! It looks as if it's all there but it tastes a bit watery.

SALLY. Well, I haven't touched it, see!

MA. Just as well for you. You know I thought your old man might have got off a bit light he told the judge such a good tale.

SALLY. Who was up on top?

MA. Old Mayhew. And your old man ups and tells him, with tears pourin' down his face, that I'm so-so [behaves pregnant].

SALLY. And are you?

MA. My Gawd. I hope not.

SALLY. And what did old Mayhew say?

MA. Oh, he was real sarcastic. "I'm sorry to hear it" he says..."Your child won't recognise you by the time you come out. Seven years".

SALLY. Seven years! And he mightn't have done it.

MA. Oh, he done it, I'll bet. No-one else would have done so crook a job.

SALLY. He might have been framed, same as my Freddie.

MA. You'll be telling me next he was topped-off.

SALLY. How could anyone top him off when he didn't do it? Unless it was you, just for spite.

MA [indignantly]. My Gawd! Me a topper-off and from my own daughter.

SALLY. Oh, all right, stow it.

MA. Don't talk to me like that!...And why are you always harping about Freddie being framed?

SALLY. Well, he was!

MA. Who said he was, but him?

SALLY. I know he was. And I reckon they got him set just because Pa's no good.

MA. There might be something in that. I wouldn't trust a bull as far as I could see him.

SALLY. Nor me, after what they did to Fred.

MA. Ah, well. You'll have him home tomorrow.

SALLY. To think he's been inside for a year.

MA [derisively]. Twelve moons! That's not a stretch. Your old man does twelve moons on his ear.

SALLY. So he can if he wants to. And it's a damned good job he's gone in again. Consorting with him is something they won't be able to hang on Freddie.

MA. Not for a while.

SALLY. And by the time he comes out, they won't be able to hang anything on him! He'll be going straight.

MA. P'raps you're right. But it's a funny thing. he's not out before this.

SALLY. He's not due out till tomorrow.

MA. What about time off for good conduct? Your old man always gets a wad knocked off his stretches. But, of course, he always was an out angel, home devil.

SALLY. Maybe they got Freddie set in gaol, too ..

MA. Well, if he socked the governor like he socked the bloke he got lumbered over...

SALLY. I tell you Freddie was framed.

MA [ingratiatingly]. Oh, yes. So he. was. I forgot...He'll be sorry he missed his pa-in-law, won't he?

SALLY. Freddie doesn't give a damn for Pa.

MA. I wouldn't blame him for that.

SALLY. Nor for any of Pa's mob, either.

MA. He might be making a big mistake there. P'raps they could help him along a bit.

SALLY. Yea, back into gaol. But he isn't going back, see! Not if I can help it.

[Picks up parcel from sofa and takes it to table left.]

MA. What's that you've got there?

SALLY. Freddie's good suit.

MA. Where've you had it planted?

SALLY. It's been in pop where he put it.

MA. And you've had the ticket?

SALLY. Too right I have.

MA. You bitch, Sally Wilson.

SALLY. I know that you'd have borrowed a few bob to get his suit out and then sold it.

[She picks up ironing board and proceeds to lug it between table L. and chair.]

MA. And why not? Freddie won't be needing it. He'll be getting plenty of new dums--flasher than them, too.

SALLY. I tell you Freddie's going to run straight, same as he's always done.

MA. I hope you're right. I hate the idea of a daughter of mine going out slushying by the day.

SALLY. If it's good enough for you, it's good enough for me, isn't it?

MA. Well, I could have been something better, I suppose. Your old man has been at me often enough to take on shoplifting, but what'd be the use of that?

SALLY. I should say that one crook in the family was plenty.

MA. Just one?

SALLY. Yea, you heard! Just one.

MA. Have it your own way, but what'd be the use of it anyhow? I could pick up a few swell things but where would the necessaries of life be comin' from? How could I have hoisted a radio, f'r instance.

SALLY. That radio's Freddie's and mine.

[She exits to kitchen.]

MA. I know! But we'd have had to get one somehow if Freddie hadn't. I wonder how he did get it?

SALLY [off stage]. The same as he said; He got it in a raffle.

MA. Yes, so he did! About the time Hawkins Music Store down the street was bust into, wasn't it?

SALLY. I don't know whether it was or not.

[Freddie enters smoking a hand-rolled cigarette. He drops his hat on couch.]

MA. Maybe Freddie remembers.

FRED. Remembers what?

SALLY [entering] Freddie!

FRED. Hullo, Sally. Hullo, Ma.

SALLY. When did you come out?

FRED. When do you think? This morning, of course.

MA. Didn't you get no time off?

FRED. No! There was a swine of a screw got me set.

SALLY. A screw?

MA. Warder to you, love.

SALLY. There, what did I tell you?

MA. Looks like you might have been right for once.

FRED. How long have you been in this frowzy dump?

SALLY. since I wrote and told you.

FRED. About six months.

SALLY. That'd be about it.

FRED. What in the name of Gawd made you move?

MA. The agent, o' course.

SALLY. We couldn't pay the rent after they put it up.

FRED. Blast 'em. A nice fix it put me in.

SALLY. How do you mean?

FRED. Well,'t know where to find you.

SALLY. But I sent you our address.

FRED. I lost it.

SALLY. Never mind, you're home now.

MA. [leeringly]. But it was too bad that you should have been put in a fix, Freddie. Have a drink?

FRED. Plonk? Too right, I will.

SALLY. [with a little anxiety]. Wouldn't you sooner have a cup of tea, Freddie?

FRED. Oh! I'll have both.

SALLY. I'll put the kettle on.

[She exits to kitchen.]

FRED. A decent cup of tea'll be a treat after the hog-wash we've been getting.

MA. How was it in stir?

FRED. Lousy!

MA. Oh, you're soft. Your pa-in-law reckons it gets more like home every year. He's been thinking about starting a bowling club in there.

FRED. I hear he's been pounded again.

MA [Suspiciously]. You've been getting around a bit already.

FRED. Oh! It don't take long for news to travel.

MA. Pity you missed him.

FRED. Who said I...What were you saying?

MA. He'd like to have seen you.

[SALLY enters.]

SALLY. Who would!

MA. Your old man would have liked to have seen Freddie.

SALLY. It's a damn good job he didn't. Freddie don't want to have any truck with Pa or any of his mob, either. Do you?

FRED. Of course I don't. One stretch of twelve moons is enough for me.

MA. And what do you reckon doing for a crust?

FRED. I'll find something, somewhere.

MA. I'll bet you do! But don't let anyone see you finding it, that's all I say.

SALLY. Listen, Ma. You lay off...He's going to run straight, the same as he's always done, aren't you?

FRED. Too right, I am.

MA. Well, Sally's been getting everything nice for you. She put buttons on your shirt and everything.

SALLY. And I got your suit out of hock.

FRED [rising]. You did?

SALLY. Yes, I thought you'd want it.

FRED. My oath, I wanted it.

MA. Sally thought you'd like to look pretty smart when you went out on your first job.

SALLY. After his first job, if you don't mind, Ma.

MA. You do pick me up, don't you?

FRED. Oh, shut up, the pair of you. Where did you find the ticket?

MA. She's had it all the time.

SALLY. I found it when we were moving.

FRED. Oh, did you?

SALLY. Yes, a good job it wasn't Ma that found it.

MA. That's enough of you, Sally.

SALLY. You know you'd have sold it.

FRED. That's why I planted the ticket.

MA. Freddie—you've hurt me feelings. To think I'd behave like that?

SALLY. Oh, don't be so touchy, Ma.

MA. It's the principle of the thing.

FRED. Oh, well, forget it.

SALLY. Yes, forget it, Ma. I thought I'd give it a bit of a press for you, Fred.

FRED. You needn't bother. I'll hop straight into it.

SALLY. But you can't wear it as it is. It'll look as

though you've been sleeping in it. And you'll need to look smart.

MA. Yes. He just might.

FRED. What do you mean? [Knock on door.] Christ?

SALLY. What's the matter?

FRED. That sounds like a bull.

SALLY. Supposing it is?

FRED. [sotto voce...]. Keep quiet, will you. [He drops cigarette butt on floor and puts his foot on it.] How can I get out of here? [Knocking repeated...]

MA. The same way as you came in!

FRED. With that bull there? Isn't there a fire escape?

MA. What have you been up to?

SALLY. Nothing. But he knows they might frame him again. There's no fire escape, Freddie. [FRED fumbles with parcel of clothes.] Leave that! Go in and get under the bed.

MA. Under the bed? Of course, no copper would look under a bed. Get out the window and hang on to the sill. [Knocking repeated.]

SALLY. Don't you, Freddie. It's a forty foot drop, you might break your neck.

MA. Well, if he does he won't be hung, so what's the difference.

SALLY. Go on—hide under the bed. We'll sool the bull off, if it is one ..

(FREDDIE exits...SALLY opens door...DETECTIVE BOGAN enters...]

BOGAN. What's going on in here? Why didn't you answer the door?

MA. We did, didn't we?

BOGAN. But why didn't you answer the first time I knocked?

MA. We didn't hear you.

BOGAN. You didn't hear me!

MA. No, so help me! We only heard you the last time. Didn't we, Sally?

BOGAN. All right. Skip it.

SALLY. Anyway, what do you want?

BOGAN [sarcastically]. Just a friendly call to say how sorry I am the old man's gone in again.

SALLY. There's no need to rub it in.

BOGAN. Oh, you're all right now your man's out.

SALLY. He doesn't come out till tomorrow.

BOGAN. Go on I It'll be very nice to have him back, won't it?

SALLY. Yes, it will be, so long as you and your likes leave him alone.

BOGAN. We'd leave him alone if he ran straight.

MA. She's going to see he does.

SALLY. He always has.

BOGAN. Yes! Except the time he turned old Diamond Gershman over and went along.

SALLY. He was framed and you know he was!

MA. Yes, of course he was.

BOGAN. Oh! So he did his stretch cold, did he? That's too bad.

SALLY. Did you get him with the goods?

BOGAN. No, we didn't. And there was nearly a thousand quid's worth of rocks too. Anyway we got him and we may get the rocks yet.

SALLY. You got the wrong man.

BOGAN. Maybe we did but we got the right hat. Careless of him to leave it behind but he'll learn.

MA. It couldn't have been Freddie's hat, could it, Sally?

SALLY. I don't care what you say, it wasn't his hat.

[BOGAN picks up hat from couch.]

BOGAN. It seems as if he's got a bad habit of leaving his hat around.

SALLY. He didn't leave that behind either.

BOGAN. I know! It just blew in the window. In fact neither of you have seen it before.

SALLY. I took it out of pawn this morning. Didn't I, Ma?

MA. Yes, dearie. Along with his good suit.

BOGAN. Oh! Going to turn him out a bit smart, eh? Where's the suit?

[As she turns to pick up suit, BOGAN smells hat quickly.]

SALLY. Here it is, I've just undone it.

BOGAN. Humph! Yes, it's got a pawnshop smell about it. Plenty of moth balls. And was his hat wrapped up with it?

SALLY. I don't remember.

MA. Of course it wasn't. It was separate.

[BOGAN has another sniff at hat.]

BOGAN. You're not too slow on the uptake are you? Where's the paper it was wrapped up in?

MA. She lit the fire with it.

SALLY. To make a cup of tea.

BOGAN. Go on—what's wrong with the stove? Gas been cut off? [Laughs.]

MA. She used the copper. We make a lot of tea when we're at it.

BOGAN. You must have been expecting company. Who was coming?

SALLY. Who do you think?

BOGAN. I wouldn't have the slightest idea.

MA. It was for you, She thought you might be along.

SALLY. Will you have a cup?

BOGAN. I might—later. You know, it's queer the way coincidences happen. Your husband's been wearing a hat the dead ring of this for the last couple of days.

MA. In the jug?

BOGAN. Don't come that stuff! You know he's been out four days.

SALLY. Four days?

BOGAN. So you thought he only came out today eh?

MA. We didn't expect him till tomorrow.

BOGAN. Maybe you didn't. And maybe you were surprised when he blew in. And maybe that's why you gave yourself away just now.

SALLY. Who did?

BOGAN. You did—the way you said "four days".

MA. Pretty smart for a bull, aren't you?

BOGAN. Oh, I wouldn't say that, but I'm smart enough to catch a mug like Wilson.

SALLY. What do you want him for, anyway?

BOGAN. Didn't he tell you?

MA. We haven't seen him, so help me.

BOGAN. No? Maybe he didn't have your new address.

SALLY. That's right. He didn't,

BOGAN. Maybe that's why he broke into the joint you were living in before.

MA. When did he do that?

BOGAN. The night he came out.

MA. You're balmy! What would he find in a dump like that? Gold plate?

BOGAN. Probably not! But he might have been after that parcel of rocks.

SALLY. You know they weren't there. You coppers went over every inch of the place.

MA. Yes! And you never even put the wallpaper back where you found it.

BOGAN. It's a pity about that! Anyway he'll tell me when I get him.

SALLY. What makes you SO cocksure it was Freddie?

MA. He probably signed his name all over the joint.

BOGAN. So he did. He left as fine a lot of fingerprints as ever you saw on one of the windows.

SALLY. They'd been there since before he was framed.

BOGAN. Don't you reckon they ever wash their windows?

MA. We never did.

SALLY. In any case, they might have missed them.

BOGAN. They might and they mightn't. But, as it happens, these were a fresh lot and they were his.

MA. If you say so they must have been.

SALLY. [with some display of earnestness]. If I tell you why he went there, will you let him go and not breathe a word to him?

BOGAN. I'm not promising, sister.

SALLY. But you've got to!

BOGAN. Listen! How would you know anything if you hadn't seen him?

SALLY. Pa told me.

MA. Eh! Leave him out of this.

BOGAN. He couldn't tell you anything. He's been in custody ever since Wilson came out.

SALLY. Freddie, told him in the jug. He'd heard I was living with another fellow and he said he'd get him.

MA. Oh, that I Yes, her Pa told me that, too.

BOGAN. So you reckon that's why he bust into the place—just to catch you in the act.

SALLY. Yes. That would be the reason.

BOGAN. A pretty good tale, except that he did know you'd moved.

SALLY. But he didn't.

BOGAN. Oh yes he did. You wrote to him and told him when he was inside. Don't forget that all prisoner's letters are opened.

MA. And you call yourselves gentlemen.

SALLY. Least ways, he isn't here and if you want him you'd better be moving along.

BOGAN. I'm quite comfortable here, especially as I know there's only this door he can get out by. Got a cigarette. I seem to have run out.

SALLY. [taking packet from table L.]. Yes, here you are.

BOGAN. Tailor-made! No thanks. I don't like 'em. [To MA.] Haven't you the makings?

MA. Me? What do you take me for? Think I'd lower myself to smoke cigarettes?

BOGAN. [stooping to pick up butt from floor]. Someone around here has the makings. You're not still living with that fellow are you. [Laughs...]

MA. He just came to see her.

SALLY. Yes, he was here this morning.

BOGAN. Listen. You might as well come clean. I followed Wilson and I know he's here.

MA. Then what are you mucking about for?

BOGAN. I thought I might have picked up something or another.

MA. Well, you just picked up a butt. What more do you want?

SALLY. We don't know anything and we wouldn't tell you if we did. Besides, Freddie hasn't done anything.

BOGAN. All right. Tell him to come out quietly.

SALLY [interposing herself between BOGAN and the door]. He's not in there I tell you.

BOGAN. No? Then I'll just have a look see. [To MA] And you get that hat and suit wrapped up. I'll be taking them along.

SALLY. You can't go in there! You can't go in.

MA. She hasn't made the beds yet.

BOGAN. Get out of the way! I'm going in.

MA. Eh! Half a mo! Where's your warrant?

BOGAN. Oh, I've brought one. Just in case I needed it. Here, have a look at it.

MA. It doesn't matter. I've seen dozens of 'em. It's no use trying to stop him, Sally.

BOGAN. I'd hate anybody to get hurt. Tell him to come out.

[BOGAN pushes SALLY aside in an unequal struggle.]

SALLY. I won't, you brute! You great big stiff, you! Freddie...Look out .

[BOGAN exit.]

[To MA.] Why couldn't you help me stop him. You don't care if Freddie does go along again.

MA. I've got enough savvy to know when to come in out of the wet.

SALLY. Do you think he'll look under the bed?

MA. D's are dumb, dearie, but not as dumb as all that!

SALLY. It would serve him damn well right if Freddie had a gun.

[She turns towards bedroom door.]

MA. My Gawd! I hope he doesn't start anything around here. I will say for your old man, he always went peaceful—when he had to.

[She feels something in coat pocket...looks towards door and is about to take it out when BOGAN enters...slightly agitated.]

BOGAN. Well, it. looks as if you were right. He isn't there.

SALLY. Oh! Did you look [she pulls herself up quickly].

BOGAN. Yes, I looked everywhere...even...out the window...

MA. She told you he wasn't there.

BOGAN. Yes. I'm sorry suppose you wouldn't like to give me that cup of tea you asked me to have.

SALLY. Of course I will. The kettle'll be boiling. I won't be a tick.

(SALLY exits.)

BOGAN. Do you know where Wilson went?

MA. How should I know anything about him?

BOGAN. He must have tried to get out by the window...and dropped!

MA. How do you know?

BOGAN. He's lying in the bottom of the light well.

MA. Then why the hell don't you go and see if he's hurt?

BOGAN. There isn't any hurry. I can tell by the look of him. I don't want that tea. I'll get down to him now. You tell her...and tell her how sorry I am.

MA [indicating clothes]. Won't you be taking these along?

BOGAN. No. We won't be needing them now—any more than Wilson will.

[Exits quickly...MA feels in coat pocket and takes out packet. Opens it up and quickly wraps it up again pulling it behind her back as SALLY enters with cup of tea.]

SALLY. Where's the D. gone? [Nods her head towards bedroom door.]

MA. He changed his mind about waiting...

SALLY. Freddie must have made a get-away.

MA. You bet he did! [Cunningly...] By the way, did you go through these pockets?

SALLY. No, I did not. I wouldn't lower myself. And don't you, either!

MA. Oh, Sally, as if I would.

SALLY. Why didn't the copper take them like he said he was going to?

MA. I suppose he reckoned he had nothing on Freddie after all.

SALLY. Of course he hadn't—any more than they had last year.

MA. No, love. He was framed then all right.

[SALLY moves towards bedroom door.]

SALLY. Ma! Do you really and truly believe that?

MA. Yes, dearie, I could almost swear that your Freddie did his twelve moons cold!

SALLY. Oh, Ma!

[SALLY exits...MA watches her...looks in doorway...has another look at packet.

SALLY screams off-stage. MA slips packet down her blouse with a cunning leer. She pours herself out some more port as the curtain falls.]


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