The body is returned to the old man’s ancestral marae in a far part of the country. Ben feels left out of the process. A bunch of old kuia he’s never met, a formidable phalanx, each with hips like shipping containers, come take the old man and his spirit. The complications of Ben’s father’s side of the family intrude.
The Dog dies one week later – “Run out by his batting partner,” says Ben.
He buries the dog in the middle of the floor of the shed – it seems appropriate – and shifts the big tangle of rope back to cover it.
We interrupt Ben digging a small grave in the middle of the shed.
Amber comes in softly: Oh Ben… (she says, tenderly).
He stops, briefly hugs her, wipes sweat from his head. Takes a swig at a bottle of cider, hands it abstractly to her.
Amber: Ugh! Homebrew.
Ben: ‘Spose I’d better finish his stock. Before it explodes.
Amber: Will you start farting like him too?
Ben: (Snorts, half heartedly, half funnily. Starts reciting in a broad accent) Oi loike cider…
An awkward silence. Amber goes to flop on the couch, as if by force of habit. Stops when she sees the covered lump on the couch. Looks quickly, understated anguish on her face, at Ben.
Ben: (Shakes his head, just once) One week later. Like an old couple...I hope they don’t make them work too hard in the happy hunting ground.
Amber: (Twisting her hands, standing awkwardly apart from Ben, looking down. Then, trying to make light of things,) I wonder, will they let him make his brew there?
Amber: …wherever there is…
Ben: (Starts digging again) I wonder: Do they take smelly dogs there? Amber: Old men, old dogs, same difference. (Pause) Did the brew kill him?
Ben: Nah. Long innings, that’s all.
Long pause. Ben continues digging. Amber lifts the blanket has a quick look at the dog.
Amber: I ‘spose the old bugger’s death killed him. Funny old things. Everywhere together.
Ben: (Nods affirmatively, says reflectively) Except buried…
Amber: I’ll cook you a meal. Got the stuff. (She holds up a supermarket bag)
Ben: Your -? (meaning, parents)
Amber: I told them already. They’ll fetch me later.
Ben: Nah. I’ll walk you home. Got a poem about the stars.
Amber: (Smiles at him tenderly) Whatever…(She does the W-E gesture)
She touches him on the shoulder, her forearm resting briefly against his upper arm, then gathers her supermarket bag of ingredients; lets herself out into the evening light. She calls out as she’s walking away – We’ll eat here, I’ll bring it down.
Ben replies: Keep the dog company.
Later, it’s meal time, they’re just finishing; eating in quiet companionship. They eat surprisingly well, with tablecloth, bottle of wine, nice-looking food. Sitting in the shed, with a folding table placed over the grave of the dog, which is right in the middle. Suddenly she takes the scarf out of her hair, rips it into small strips. He looks up startled Ben looks at her slack jawed, quizzically.
Amber: Make some flowers for him.
Amber: Make some flowers for him, too!
Ben: (Takes the scraps, starts folding them around his fingers) Good ol’ dog.
Next day, a new scene: We pan across shed. There’s an opened letter on the workbench. The freshly filled grave in the middle of the shed, with its fabric flowers. Ben is working at the tangled mass of rope.
Amber enters, wearing school uniform.
Ben: It’s kinda like zen (smiles, ruefully, gesturing at the rope tangle)
Amber: Time to think.
Ben: Yer. New poems…
Amber: God, no! (Rolls her eyes, mock playfully. She throws her bag down on the couch. She looks at the TV - a cricket game is on) Who’s winning?
Ben: Not us.
Amber: ‘Course. I don’t know why you bother. Why they bother. The women are better.
Ben: (Smiles, snorts) Another kind of art - the zen of losing. Of blowing chances.
Amber: You’re the experts - oh, shit, I’m sorry, I meant men, all men, not you.
Ben: It happens. (He doesn’t appear hurt)
There’s quiet for a while, then Amber spots the letter: Whassat?
Ben: (Looks up) Hnh?
She gestures with her head, starts to get up to retrieve it.
Ben: An interesting development. (Soft emphasis on ‘interesting’)
Amber: (Reading it, quizzically smiling, shaking her head, half laughing.) Interesting …yeah. (And she locks eyes with him, smiling and shaking her head slowly, indulgently.)
So, we see, Ben is delivered a letter with the Old Bugger’s will. It says he must first finish anything he has promised his elders, before doing what he wants to in life. He will inherit the beachfront property, including the shed, which has suddenly become very desirable to Mrs Light and her kind. Ben is suddenly, more than a millionaire. In theory. There is also enough money for that air ticket for Ben’s big OE.
Another woman appears at the door of the Shed, a real-estate agent, a competitor of Amber’s mother.
Amber and her stare at each other. Ben’s not there - he’s out having a pee
Amber says: He’s still gotta pee, you know.
The Other Woman: What do you mean?
Amber: Even with all his property now, a bloke’s still gotta leak. Maybe more so - must mark the corner posts (she turns, talks over her shoulder, mimes shaking off)
The Other Woman: (holds out a buisness card) Melanie Watson. If he wants to sell.
Ben (arriving suddenly behind her): I don’t. Not yet.
What he must do first is untangle the rope. The Old Bugger said so. As Ben struggles with the loss of the Old Bugger and the Dog, a cat moves into the shed to keep him company as he works on the rope. It purrs like a jetski with sugar in its tank.
Amber also comes to spend more time with him – partly as support for her sensitive friend, partly to escape the attentions of her parents. She wants to be an actor, or an astrophysicist, or both, if she can combine the roles: the relics want her to join them in their real estate office. They think she will be a great saleswoman. There are tensions between Amber and her mother, made worse by Mrs Light’s apparent breakdown when her husband (who we never meet) is charged with real-estate fraud – photoshop-doctoring pictures, making beaches appear closer than they really are. Ben and Amber talk a lot in the shed, but I’m not going to repeat all of what they said – it’s their own private stuff. But here’s a snippet, a conversation about Amber’s parent’s dreams, and her resistance to them:
Amber: Maybe I should just get pregnant -
Ben:(stops suddenly and turns from his flower arrangement, says hopefully) I’ll help!
Amber: I’ll decide.
In the middle of all this, some mysterious someone starts re-tangling the rope Ben is working on. Often, in the mornings, it’s back where he was the night before. But that’s cool. These knots in time are gentle and accommodating as.
Bogon calls around, lots.
The scene is usually this: it’s late afternoon, there are cups of tea, going cold, and gingernuts on the work bench; there’s an unfinished paper flower piece behind, there’s the cat hunched, purring on the bar stool, there’s Ben and Amber sitting on the couch, one knee each touching, there’s a school bag, there are crumpled travel magazines, half-made flowers, there’s a radio playing softly, dustily. You hear Bogon pull up in a shower of gravel, and a skitter of pebbles flung against the half-open garage door. You see some of the dust waft into the shed. He yells “You coming to the beach/Carly’s place/the dirt track/the footie/ the Lazy Lounge?” They say “Nah, we’re right, thanks.” And he roars off, “Seeyah!” He never blows the hooter on the bike, because it doesn’t work. And anyway that’s only what tourists in little yellow Vespas do. Amber smiles at Ben, and touches his shoulder, and sometimes gets up to fetch the tea.
As she does this, our camera climbs lovingly up the endless home-made shelves lining the walls of the shed, taking in all the details, all the collected contents (brass screws winking through old glass jars), up past the things hanging on nails, past the cobwebbed windows, the tendrils of jasmine edging in between the planks, to a goon-size marble resting in a comfortable bed of thick sandpaper sawdust on top of an old biscuit tin (which because you can’t see inside, I must tell you contains antique bronze bits from a boat that sank in 1973), on the very top shelf. It seems precarious there, but is still, for now.
We see Ben fitting a Wearable Arts creation on Amber. It’s made of his paper and silk flowers.
Amber unselfconsciously slips off her top to allow him to fit the garment. He’s focused on pinning and fitting the outfit. The cat watches. Amber is enjoying the attention, and absorbing the creative spirit of the scene.
We see a close-up of the Ralph flower, singled out as part of a headpiece for her. She puts it in place, intently.
But the garment is a bit loose. Ben casts around for something to gather it at Amber’s waist. She gestures to the rope.
He quickly cuts a piece, and unwraps one strand of the rope to get a thinner piece. Then experimentally tries it as a belt. Ties a loose looping bow. Stands back, looks. Shakes his head, no, unties it and tosses it aside.
Camera follows the flight of the scrap of rope, and we get a glimpse of the second letter, opened.
Ben playfully plucks at Amber’s bra strap, revealed by the bare shoulders of the dress.
Ben: We’ll lose that on the night…
Amber: Yeah, yeah. Just dress me properly, willya?
Of course the rope must eventually be untangled. And we see it slowly becoming an orderly coil, laid up in one corner of the shed.
We’re getting to the end of our film. Ben and Amber ride Bogon's motorbike to the mudflats. She has the long, flat garment box across her knees.
Ben carries the box out across the shellbanks to the incoming tide, and Amber takes out the garment.
She holds it up to the evening light. Sun filters through it.
Amber says: Runner-up, hey? Not bad!
Ben: ...try harder. Must try harder...
Amber: Maybe more flowers?
Ben (emphatically): No! Less.
The water begins to cover their feet. Amber lays the garment in the water. It's softly agitated by the small waves and slowly disintegrates. The camera lingers, as the surface of the water engoldens (the low evening sunlight), and the water itself does the same (dissolving the painted bits of the garment).
Here is where fiction must intrude; a sense of time and space that is not real. For we must accept that a few days have passed - not many, for we can tell by the ambient light, the sense of the temperature and atmosphere that we are still closely within the same season. But we are aware, that like this particular season, this part of the story of Ben and Amber is drawing to a close.
Our closing scene is in the same evening light we first encountered. It’s a moon and a half later, so now it’s almost full. And it’s rising more to the left now of the hill above Woodside Bay. In the shed, the rope coil is neatly finished. Where will it go? We don’t know.
Our camera work becomes ever so discreet. So we see our two young friends on the couch with the crocheted squares rug that once was bright, we see them briefly, but do note fingers intertwined, and skin toned golden and lovely by youth, dreams and the summer past, revealed in places as yet un…
And so the camera does its usual thing looking at the shelves instead, slowly panning upwards.
But focus is more difficult this time, because there’s a slight shuddering to the shed. Something is moving, something is happening.
By the time we see the lost goonie on the top shelf, the shaking is subtly intensifying, as are voices, soft yet urgent, but not at all grumpy, oh no.
The marble starts to move, slowly at first, inhibited by the dust, and our camera lens is transfixed. But then the marble drops off the edge of the tin, through a channel made by an old ding, and begins a remarkable ride, impelled by something it cannot know, but something it must respond to. It surely has an itinerary it will follow.
We follow as accurately as any living eye, as it hops from on shelf to another, along a ruler angled here, down a spade bit there, across the top of a small wooden box, slowed down by a linseed oil rag that should have been put outside, along the sawblade of a retired skillie, across (surprisingly) the forehead of a dozing cat, between its ears and down a nose between fluttering lids, along the workbench a ways, plopping down on the tops of stacked paint pots (a tidy little Caribbean-style percussive number), then the softer thudlet of landing on a cardboard box of garden irrigation fittings, and finding its way as if by magic luck into the mouth of a short off-cut of hose pipe, to disappear for a while (but we know it’s still moving in there, we trust this force of gravity) and land softly, with a sigh (seeming louder than a marble normally would, a sigh strangely human) and the tiniest puff of dust, in the middle of the softer earth that marks where the old dog was laid.
And then to rest as if all is done.