PANTHER VALLEY

by Peter Bird

Play Script
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A ONE ACT PLAY

CHARACTERS IN THE PLAY.

BRUCE BOTTLEMAN: 45-50 yrs old. Tall, fit, adventurous. Has a passionate ambition to catch the Panther at all costs.

MARION BOTTLEMAN: 40-45. Wife. Determined, like Bruce, to catch the Panther.

CLARKE REDFORD:  30-35. Inventor for a Children's toy  manufacturer's company. Believes he has found the ideal toy in his latest creation; A Panther Peeker!

JENNY REDFORD:  30-35. Sceptical of Panther's existence. Sceptical of Clarke's new toy. Has a habit of breaking out into opera during her sleep.

ROY GILL. 45-50.  World famous expert on the Kangaroo Valley Panther. A bit of a crafty sort of fellow. Disguises himself as the panther.

THE PANTHER ITSELF....Note** There can be an option as to whether two panther costumes are needed for this play. One: Roy Gill's fake outfit. Two: the option exists for a panther (supposedly the REAL one) to follow the last actors off stage in act III. I have written the play with the second panther in it, but this can be easily omitted, providing the "growl" is still heard as curtains close.

 [SCENE 1. AS THE CURTAIN OPENS BRUCE, MARION, CLARKE AND JENNY ARE FOUND SEATED AROUND A SMALL CAMPFIRE SOMEWHERE IN THE WILD KANGAROO VALLEY BUSHLAND. THEY ARE HAPPILY ENGAGED IN A SERIOUS GAME OF CARDS. A THREE PERSON TENT IS OFF TO ONE SIDE. THERE ARE A FEW SCATTERED CAMPING IMPLEMENTS AROUND SITE. I.E. A BILLY, POTS AND PANS ETC... THEY EACH HAVE A MUG OF TEA FROM WHICH THEY SIP FROM NOW AND THEN.

IT IS NIGHT TIME. STAGE LIGHTING IS MINIMAL.]

               BRUCE]

I did not cheat!

               MARION]

You did, love. I saw you.

               BRUCE]

[TO THE OTHERS] Did you see me cheat? Did you? I don't cheat! I've never cheated in my whole life!

               MARION]

You did, dear. You put a diamond down instead of a heart. You reneged.    [PAUSE]

               BRUCE]

Ah! God damn it. Did you see that? A flaming great mozzie just took half a pint of blood out of me neck. Look! There he goes! Come back here you rotten scoundrel of a thing. Give me my blood back!

[HE SWIPES AT THE MOZZIE, KNOCKING THE CARD TABLE OVER IN THE PROCESS.]

 

          

   JENNY]

Oh! Bruce, now look what you've done.

               CLARKE]

You clumsy clot!

               BRUCE]

Don't call me a clumsy clot. Who burnt the billy water not five minutes ago?

               MARION]

You cannot burn water, Bruce.

               BRUCE]

Well Clarke did, didn't you, Clarke.

               CLARKE]

You can't pick on me now Bruce. You may be my boss at the workshop, but out here your insults fall on deaf ears.

               BRUCE]

Well I hope you're listening to this, because the fact that you are here is not because of some wild adventurous spirit of your own. It's because I have kindly decided to give you the opportunity to air your latest project. As you can understand, myself, being the owner of Bottleman Toys, I have a monetary interest in the success of your latest invention, and not only that, I, personally have a very indulgent passion for the subject we are here pursuing. I have put a lot of money into this expedition, and I expect a certain favourable result to come from it. A weekend in Kangaroo Valley does not come cheap. I hope you all appreciate that I am digging very deeply into the kitty money.

[JENNY LAUGHS]

               BRUCE]

What are you laughing at?

               JENNY]

Kitty money. Isn't that what we're here for?

[ALL LAUGH EXCEPT FOR MARION, WHO YAWNS INSTEAD]

               MARION]

Well, I don't see what's so funny. Perhaps it's because I'm so tired. [RISES] Think I'll go to bed.

               CLARKE]

Wait a minute, Marion, you can't go yet. We haven't finished the game.

               BRUCE]

Let her go, Son. Can't you see she's tired? It's probably a good thing to finish the game there anyway. We'll call it a draw.

               CLARKE]

How can you call it a draw? Your team was losing five games to two.

[THEY SIP AT TEA, GAZING INTO THE NIGHT SKY.]

               BRUCE]

Beautiful night.

               MARION]

Yes. It's nice here, away from the city. Nice to be back. But I hope this time we're more successful than last year's expedition.

               CLARKE]

Do you think we will find this panther?

               JENNY]

Who knows!

          

   BRUCE]

Of course we will, my boy. Don't listen to your doubting wife. This is our third expedition, but I'm feeling very positive about things. And this time, don't forget, we've got your new invention, the marvellous panther detector. So we're sure to catch it now.

               MARION]

Where is this so called Panther detector, Clarke? You've been talking about it all morning. I'm dying to see it.

               CLARKE]

[ENTHUSIASTICALLY] I'll show you tomorrow. It's a bit of a handful to set up. Children won't have any difficulty putting it together, of course. They seem to go in for awkward toys. Toys that adults struggle for ages over. Seems the more complex a toy, the more kids love it. Funny isn't it. Anyway, I hope they like this, otherwise [TURNS AND WINKS AT BRUCE SLYLY] I might be out of a job soon.

               MARION]

Good luck anyway. I hear that yo- yo's and Frisbees are big news

at the moment.

               CLARKE]

Just a passing phase they are. No, I think my invention will topple the humble Frisbee. What children are lacking is that adventurous spirit. I hope to encourage that inquisitive, adventurous mind through my creation. Got to get them away from those stupid bloody computers. Get them into the wild outdoors. Get some fresh air into their lungs. I honestly couldn't think of a better thing to do on a warm sunny day than for the family to enjoy a day in the bush hunting panthers.

               MARION]

How does it work?

               CLARKE]

It's works on a sound frequency concept. My machine acts as a sound sine wave which can be altered according to different sound patterns in animals. In particular, panthers, which this instrument aims at attracting. Thus, I can draw a panther in from a radius of about five kilometres. Once I have drawn in the panther, I can alter the frequency and sedate it. Make it go to sleep. That's especially handy if one wants to study the animal without being eaten by it. It causes relatively little pain to the ears. It's also ozone friendly.

               JENNY]

You don't think panthers would mind being zapped?

               CLARKE]

[SHRUGGING] Who cares anyway? I'm trying to sell Panther Peekers to the public. Not patronise a panther's privacy.

               JENNY]

Oh, Purrrfectly put.

               MARION]

[AMUSED] Panther peekers?

               CLARKE]

Certainly. Don't you like the name? I thought it had a certain childish innocence about it. Appeals to adults' soft centre to buy it for their kids, you see.

               BRUCE]

You think children will be safe enough against a panther armed with simply one of these panther peckers?

               CLARKE]

Peekers. Well, it's only a bloody cat after all, isn't it really?

               MARION]

We're talking about WILD panthers here, Clarke. The Kangaroo Valley panther is a WILD panther. It kills dogs. No, no. It RIPS dogs apart. It tears them into shreds. It has Alsatians for breakfast and Dobermans for between meal snacks. It has claws, which with just one single swipe, can rent the flesh clean from your very bones. It has fangs which are over two inches long. It can leap five metres in the air. It can outrun most other animals. It is a brutal and methodical killing machine. Don't underestimate a panther.

               CLARKE]

That's all very well, but it's still only a cat.

               MARION]

Oh! I give up. I'm going to bed.

               BRUCE]

Nite, dear.      [MARION EXITS]

               JENNY]

Watch out for the panther!

               CLARKE]

Jenny, really! You'll have Marion staying awake all night now. She'll be scared witless.

               BRUCE]

No. It's okay. I think my wife can handle it.

               JENNY]

If you ask me I think all of this is a big joke. Panthers and panther detecting toys, for Christ sake!

               CLARKE]

I believe there ARE panthers out there. [JENNY MAKES A RUDE FARTING SOUND IN HER MOUTH.]

               BRUCE]

Clarke's right.

               JENNY]

Oh, how do you know?

               BRUCE]

Evidence, of course.

               JENNY]

What evidence? Plaster casted pawprints. What a load of crap.

               BRUCE]

 What about all the sightings from reputable people over the years?

                JENNY]

They're all loose in the head, the whole lot of them.

               BRUCE]

I've seen it, and so has Marion. Are you suggesting WE'RE loose in the head too?

               JENNY]

Well.... no.I mean..

               BRUCE]

What about all those photographs of footprints taken last year by Roy Gill- Now there's a man who knows his panthers.

               JENNY]

Roy Gill's an idiot!

               BRUCE]

How can you justify saying that? Roy Gill has a PHD in Pantherology. He is head of  Sydney's Panther University for Social Studies. He has been a member of the Panther Investigation Society for twenty years. What Roy Gill doesn't know about panther's is anyones.

               JENNY]

Well I still think that...

               BRUCE]

Shhh...Listen!

               CLARKE]

What is it?

               BRUCE]

Out there, by those trees. Thought I heard something.

               CLARKE]

Could it?

               BRUCE]

It could.

               JENNY]

It probably is, and I'm going for the shotgun.

               CLARKE]

Spoken in the true manner of a sceptic! As for the gun, don't bother dear. I left it at home.

         

    JENNY]

You did what? What on earth for? What if there is a bloody panther out there? Are you just going to sit here and let it fall on you from a great height?

               CLARKE]

That's just the typical sort of reaction we don't want. Look what happened to King Kong when they showed hostility toward him.

               JENNY]

I fail to see what that has to do with anything, but tell me anyway. What happened?

               CLARKE]

Huh? What?

               JENNY]

King Kong. You were talking about King Kong. What happened to him?

               CLARKE]

Oh...er. They shot him, didn't they?

               BRUCE]

I don't think so, Clarke. I always thought it was the Empire State building. I'm not sure. Didn't they blow him up with an atom bomb? [THE TREES RUSTLE. THERE IS THE SOUND OF A WILD PANTHER MEOWING.] Stay calm. I think it might only be the panther.

               JENNY]

I'm going to get the gun.

               CLARKE]

We've been through this before. I told you I left it at home. We're not here to shoot the damned thing. We're here to test my Panther Detector on it.

               JENNY]

I've seen you do trial runs with that contraption of yours. Your pecker takes about ten minutes to get set up for use. Until that time it is completely useless.   And BY that time anyway, I feel we would all be nothing but bits of flesh and bone dangling from the inside of some happy panthers' mouth. Need I remind you also that our tent is in that direction. In case you hadn't worked it out, the Panther is between you and me and your pecker.

               CLARKE]

It's peeker, dear. Pee-ker.

               JENNY]

Whatever you call it! The fact is, we are in a crisis situation, and all you care about is the name of your stupid invention.

               BRUCE]

Never fear, good people. I have a humble item in my bag which will save us all. [HE REACHES INTO A PAPER BAG AND PULLS OUT A MANDARIN WHICH HE MISTAKES FOR AN ORANGE.] An orange.

               JENNY]

Are you kidding? What good is a bloody orange? I suppose we could throw it at the thing if worst comes to worst.

  BRUCE]

No. Cat's hate oranges. They find the smell repulsive. It's the best defence a person can have against a panther. Honestly. Cats loathe oranges. Try it on the neighbour's cat when you get home.

               JENNY]

[HIDING BEHIND CLARKE'S BACK] But they're cats. We're talking about a man eating monster out there that is capable of tearing us to shreds, and may do so at any ..[SHE SUDDENLY DISCOVERS THAT IT IS A RABBIT] You twits! That was no panther! It was nothing but a very noisy rabbit. Look! There it goes! You two have been drinking too much. How could you have mistaken a rabbit for a panther?

               BRUCE]

Well it sure sounded like a panther to me.

               JENNY]

Bruce, I think you are drunk?

               BRUCE]

Drunk? I'm not drunk. In fact I've never felt better. Now what could I be drunk on?

               JENNY]

I have a sneaking suspicion that your water container does not contain water.

               BRUCE]

My dear lady, water and nothing else. I assure you.

               JENNY]

Well, I'm off to bed. Coming Clarke?

               CLARKE]

Er..no Jen, not yet. Bruce and myself have still got some business to attend to. I'll be along shortly.

               JENNY]

Don't be too long, now.    [JENNY EXITS] [BRUCE AND CLARKE WATCH HER GO. WHEN SHE HAS GONE, THEY EACH PULL OUT A SIX PACK OF BEER AND GIVE CHEERS TO THEMSELVES.]     [CURTAIN]

SCENE 2. [THE SAME, AN HOUR LATER. THE EMPTY BOTTLES ARE STREWN AROUND THE CAMPFIRE. BRUCE AND CLARKE ARE LOOKING ALMOST DRUNK. AS THE CURTAIN OPENS THEY ARE HEARD SINGING THE LAST FEW BARS OF "THE OVERLANDER" VERY LOUDLY. THEY ARE SEATED BESIDE THE CAMPFIRE, A BOTTLE IN HAND.]

               BRUCE & CLARKE SINGING]

"So pass the billy 'round boys, don't let the pint pot stand there, for tonight we'll drink the health-of every overlander." [CLARKE BURPS LOUDLY- ALMOST VOMITING. SUDDENLY THERE IS A FIERCE GROWLING NOISE, FOLLOWED BY THE SOUND OF SOMETHING MOVING THROUGH THE BUSH. THE MEN SOBER UP VERY QUICKLY.]

               CLARKE]

Shit Bruce, what was that?

               BRUCE]

Well it wasn't me if that's what you were thinking. I went before tea.    [MORE GROWLS]

               CLARKE]

It's the panther, Bruce! It's out there!

               BRUCE]

Don't worry. I've still got the orange. [PLACES IT TOWARD STAGE LEFT EXIT.] Here kitty kitty. See what I've got for you? A nice orange. [PAUSE. MORE "SUBDUED" GROWLS.]

               CLARKE]

See it?

               BRUCE]

No. Not yet. No. Yes. Wait a minute. There's something out there. Its...its.. [JENNY'S VOICE IS HEARD BREAKING OUT INTO A LOUD AND VERY UNPLEASANT OPERA OF SOME UNDEFINABLE ORIGIN. LASTS FOR ABOUT 10 SECONDS.]

               BRUCE]

[BLOCKING HIS EARS] My God! What a fiendish sound that brute of a monster makes! It's enough to drive a man insane. I have never heard such a mournful cry come from an animal. Brace yourself Clarke. We are dealing with no ordinary panther, but of some hellish demon, for surely something that cries with such hideous passion as that can be nothing that our good God has created in all his innocence.

               CLARKE]

Well, in fact that was my wife.

               BRUCE]

Your wife? Jenny?

               CLARKE]

Yes. It's one of her worst habits I'm afraid. She does it almost every night just as she gets to sleep. She has a passion for opera, you see. I suppose it's like talking in ones sleep. Jenny isn't aware that she does it, and when I ask her about it, she denies the whole thing.

               BRUCE]

Why, that's crazy!

               CLARKE]

I'll say it is.

               BRUCE]

Well, crazy or not, I think she might have just saved both our lives. The panther appears to have departed.

               CLARKE]

Or whatever it was. Anyway, I thought you said we were in no danger. I thought you said the orange would protect us.

               BRUCE]

And so I did, but I've only just realised something very startling. [PICKING UP THE PIECE OF FRUIT.] It's not an orange. It's a mandarin. [BOTH LAUGH.] I think we'd better get some sleep. A big day is ahead of us tomorrow.

               CLARKE]

I'll have the peeker set up first thing in the morning.

               BRUCE]

No doubt. But in the meantime I think I'll go and sleep with your wife.

               CLARKE]

I beg your pardon?

               BRUCE]

Seems to me to be the safest place to be whilst that panther is roaming about.

               CLARKE]

 I'm sure Marion will protect you. You could always learn to sing opera. [LAUGH] [PAUSE]    [*SOUND FX OF A CRICKET.] Beautiful night.

               BRUCE]

Yeah.

               CLARKE]

It's so peaceful here. Well, save a cricket chirruping in the distance.        [SFX* ANOTHER CRICKET.] Ah, there's another.  [SFX* A THIRD CRICKET] And yet another. [SFX* OWL] And there's an owl. [SFX* KOOKABURRA] Oh, and a Kookaburra! [SFX* LOTS OF DIFFERENT ANIMAL SONDS ALL TOGETHER.] And frogs! And bats! And possums! [SUDDENLY THE FOREST IS FULL OF NOISY ANIMALS.]

               BRUCE]

[BLOCKING HIS EARS.] I wish you'd have kept your bloody mouth shut! [BRUCE EXITS.]

               CLARKE]

What did I say?  [FOLLOWS BRUCE. EXITS.]

[CURTAIN]

SCENE 3. [THE NEXT MORNING. SAME SETTING. THERE IS A SMALL TABLE, UPON WHICH  A LARGE BASIN SITS. MARION IS WASHING DISHES IN IT. JENNY IS WIPING. THERE ARE A FEW CAMPING TOOLS SCATTERED ABOUT. {I.E. SHOVEL, ETC} CAMPFIRE IS OUT. BOTTLES HAVE BEEN REMOVED. ETC..AS CURTAIN OPENS BRUCE IS CLIMBING FROM THE TENT.]

               BRUCE]

[YAWNING] Morning Jenny.

               JENNY]

Morning Bruce.

               BRUCE]

Morning love. [KISSES MARION]

               MARION]

Morning dear. [BRUCE PICKS UP A SMALL CAMPING SHOVEL AND EXITS S/LEFT]

               JENNY]

How long have you and Bruce been married?

               MARION]

Fifteen years. Fifteen good years.

               JENNY]

It's nice to find somebody happily married.

               MARION]

That has an ominous tone about it. I take it things are not faring too well with you and Clarke?

               JENNY]

You could say that. Seems like we just fight and fight all the time. I wish we could sort it out between us, but. Well. He's so compulsive. For example this panther business. Now really...

               MARION]

I detect sarcasm. You have doubts about the success of our expedition?

               JENNY]

Don't you? Oh, I forgot. You're on their side.

               MARION]

No. I'm not on anybody's side. I happen to believe that there is a panther out there and it will eventually be found. Maybe not by us...

             

               JENNY]

And maybe not with Clarke's stupid bloody panther invention, either. Do you know how many nights he has kept me awake talking about that thing? Talking about his great revolutionary discovery. `Think' he said. `Think of how this invention is going to benefit all Australians. Think of how it will alter the traditional beer- in-front-of-the-telly weekend for all the treacherous Norms out there. No longer will they need to be sitting on their great arses doing nothing. The panther detector is going to change all of that. Think' he said, `of all the people out there suddenly hunting for panthers. It's just what the public has been waiting for'. HA!

               MARION]

But it's his job. Clarke has to come up with new ideas or Bruce will fire him. It just so happens that Clarke's invention coincides with Bruce's favourite pastime; hunting for panthers.

               JENNY]

Do you know what he invented last year? His so-called `big break through'? I'll tell you. He invented a new kind of yo yo.

               MARION]

Yes... I remember Bruce mentioning something about that a long time ago. Tell me about it.

               JENNY]

It wasn't a normal yo yo. Not one that simply went up and down. No, that's too obvious. Clarke's yo yo played from left to right.

               MARION]

Well that's marvellous! A horizontally played yo yo. What a great idea. That should prove popular.

               JENNY]

You think so? How many horizontal yo yo's have you seen lately?

               MARION]

Well... [BRUCE ENTERS LAUGHING TO HMSELF. REPLACES SHOVEL.]

               BRUCE]

Clarke's on his way down. [LAUGHING] You should see the thing he's brought with him. It's .ridiculous. I just hope it works, or Clarke's out of a job. [EXITS]

               JENNY]

You see? Clarke's been made a fool of by everyone. They joke about him. Pick on him. Call him hurtful names. I tell you, Marion, it isn't fair to him. He's the laughing stock of the planet. They're calling my husband a froot loop. It's so embarrassing

               MARION ]

I'm sure people aren't that cruel to him. They just misunderstand him, that's all.

               JENNY]

But can't you see? Everything they're saying about Clarke is absolutely true. Clarke is a dickhead.

               MARION]

But you love him?

               JENNY]

Yes, I do. I just wish he wasn't so...so.

[CLARKE ENTERS]

               CLARKE]

Hi girls! [HE IS WEARING THE PANTHER DETECTOR. IT HAS 2 OR 3 STRAPS COMING FROM IT. ONE AROUND HIS WAIST AND PERHAPS A FEW AROUND HIS ARMS. THE OBJECT LOOKS LIKE A GOLD DETECTOR WITH ITS BIG PANNED END AND LONG HANDLE. ON THE PAN ARE A FEW COLOURED LIGHTS WHICH FLASH WHEN REQUIRED. {THIS CAN BE CONTROLLED BY A SWITCH AT HANDLE END]} Here it is, girls, the panther peeker mark ten.

               MARION]

Mark ten? [MARION MOVES OFF TO ONE SIDE, PERHAPS PLACING SOME WASHED DISHES NEAR TENT WHEN SHE NOTICES SOMETHING PECULIAR]

               JENNY]

Yes. The panther peekers mark one to nine take pride of place on our bedroom wall.

               CLARKE]

It's only for a short while, dear, until I can get the shed built.

               JENNY]

And how long have we been waiting for you to do that? It must be at least...

               MARION]

Hey everybody, look at this. Look what I've found. Where's Bruce?

               BRUCE]

Here I am. What have you found, love?

              

MARION]

I think it's a. it's a.....It's a...It's an `IT'S A' [SHE HOLDS UP A CARD WHICH HAS THE LETTERS "IT'S A" WRITTEN ON IT.] What does it mean, dear?

               BRUCE]

It means that, not terribly long ago, somebody has passed through here and left some scrap of junk behind them. It could mean that this place has already been canvassed by panther hunters before we came along. It could affect our success quite substantially. Anything else there, dear?

               MARION]

No. not really. Oh, there is a footprint here which looks very much like a panther's.

               BRUCE]

Yeah, well we can look at that later when we've got time.  Right now what's more important is to come to some conclusion about this `IT' A' Any ideas?

               CLARKE]

Well, wouldn't it be more..

               BRUCE]

Marion?

               MARION]

Yes, dear?

               BRUCE]

Did you say you think you saw panther prints?

               MARION]

Yes. Just here. Look! [BRUCE LOOKS AT THEM NUMBLY THEN SUDDENLY IT REGISTERS.]

               BRUCE]

Oh my God! This is great news! [THROWS THE CARD OVER HIS SHOULDER.]

               MARION]

I'll get the plaster of paris before it gets away. [SHE ENTERS TENT. RETURNS]

               BRUCE]

I can't believe it. Darling, this is so exciting! I must take a photograph. [TAKES A FEW QUICK SNAPS.]

               JENNY]

It might only be a kangaroo's footprint. This IS Kangaroo Valley, after all.

               CLARKE]

Don't be silly, love. Everybody knows there are no kangaroos in Kangaroo Valley.

               JENNY]

My apologies. I should have known better. [SHE STEPS BACKWARD FROM THE SCENE AND STEPS IN SOMETHING  VERY UNPLEASANT.] My God!  What in hell have I stepped in?

               BRUCE]

Wait! Don't move! Marion, over here. Bring some plaster with you. [ALL EYES FOCUS ON JENNY'S DISCOVERY.]

               MARION]

This is fascinating!

               JENNY]

It's disgusting! [SHE REMOVES HER SHOE.]

               BRUCE]

Don't wipe it off! It's evidence of the highest order! Now I know we're on the right track. This might be the greatest find we will ever make. Pure, natural, authentic, panther poo!

               MARION]

It's beautiful. [BRUCE TAKES A PHOTO.]

               BRUCE]

I feel so proud, darling. Do you realise we are the first to find authentic panther poo. Who would have believed that we'd be this lucky? Darling, this is my finest moment.

               MARION]

[TAKING HIS HAND] It's mine too, dear. We knew sooner or later our hard work would pay off.

               JENNY]

[SARCASTICALLY.] Would you like me to take a photo of you holding your turd?

               BRUCE]

[BEAMING WITH DELIGHT. HE PICKS UP POO IN HANDKERCHIEF.] Why Jenny, that is an excellent idea! Will you oblige us?

               JENNY]

Don't be ridiculous!

               BRUCE]

[GIVES CAMERA TO CLARKE] Come on Jenny, you're in too!

               CLARKE]

Smile everybody. Say "Poooo" [ ALL SAY POOOO. CLARKE TAKES A SNAP. JENNY LOOKS ON IN DISGUST.] [BRUCE LAYS POO DOWN. PULLS OUT A TAPE MEASURE AND STARTS MEASURING IT. THEN PUTS IT IN PLASTIC BAG.]

               BRUCE]

Once we get the measurements down we can set it in plaster. [HUGGING MARION.] Darling, it's so exciting, isn't it? This, if nothing else, proves the panther does at least exist. It's all the evidence I need to go on. Suddenly I feel alive. Like a new man. Now, my dear, now there is no stopping us. Bring on the panther!

               ALL]

Bring on the panther!

SCENE 4. [THE SETTING IS FULL OF SMALL TREES AND PLANTS. A FEW LARGE ROCKS SCATTERED ABOUT. ETC..THEY ARE WALKING THROUGH THE BUSH WHEN SUDDENLY CLARKE'S PANTHER PEEKER LIGHTS UP.]

               CLARKE]

My God it's working. I don't mean to sound surprised or anything but...

               BRUCE]

Are you sure?

               JENNY]

 Of course he's sure. Don't ask such a stupid question. How many panthers have you tried it on lately, Clarke?

               CLARKE]

Well none, but..

            

 JENNY]

But he's got the whole cat population in our neighbourhood scared shitless.

               CLARKE]

I have to experiment on something. And a panther is basically a cat, isn't it.

               MARION]

I would say very basically. [SPIES A BLUETONGE] Look! There goes a blue tongue lizard. Oh, it's running away. [SHE CHASES IT. EXITS STAGE LEFT. THE PANTHER PEEKER STOPS FLASHING.]

               BRUCE]

Among many of Marion's offbeat interests. Marion adores the slimy bloody things. You'll have to excuse her.

               JENNY]

Explain that? Some panther peeker!

               CLARKE]

It was a few more tweaks off frequency than I first thought. It just needs a bit more fine tuning, that's all. [HE TAKES A SCREWDRIVER FROM HIS POCKET, SITS ON A ROCK AND BEGINS ADJUSTING IT.] It may take a couple of minutes.

               MARION]

[RETURNING WITHOUT THE LIZARD] Missed him.

               BRUCE]

Never mind dear. [WIPING BROW] Whew! I for one could use a break. It's been a long hike for an old bugger like me. How's the time, love?

             

             

MARION]

I think a nice cool drink wouldn't go astray. [MARION PREPARES A COOL DRINK FROM A FLASK INSIDE HER PICNIC BASKET. MAKES ONE FOR HERSELF, CLARKE AND JENNY. BRUCE TAKES A SWIG FROM HIS OWN CANISTER.]

               CLARKE]

Tell me, Bruce, why this fascination with panthers?

               BRUCE]

Well, ten years ago Marion and myself were visiting some friends in the Valley. Whilst we were staying at their place overnight, we heard the most blood curdling cry that had ever struck our ears. Martin, that's the friend, sent his dog to check things out. The dog never came back. We found it next morning, torn to pieces. Martin was saying it was the third dog in as many weeks to be ripped apart by what he called the Kangaroo Valley panther. We were intrigued by this panther and wanted to know more. That's why we're here. We believe it exists, and we are passionate about finding it.

               JENNY]

Clarke was telling me the panther legend has a basis in fact.

               MARION]

Yes. In 1966, we understand, a circus truck crashed over an embankment somewhere between Nowra and Moss Vale which is bordered by the Morton National Park. It is believed that a female panther escaped from the truck.

               BRUCE]

But that is not what we believe.

             

MARION]

We believe that it isn't a panther at all. We think it might be a kind of marsupial cat, something like a Thylacine, only it feline form.

               JENNY]

A what?

               MARION]

A Thyla...[ SHE PAUSES, FOR SHE SUDDENLY REALISES BRUCE AND CLARKE ARE STARING AT SOMETHING VERY INTENSELY. SHE FOLLOWS THEIR GAZE.]

               BRUCE]

Marion?

               MARION]

Yes dear?

               BRUCE]

You see it?

               MARION]

Yes dear, I can see it.

               BRUCE]

You think it can see us?

               MARION]

Yes dear. I think that is why it is licking its lips with its big pink tongue. I think it's hungry.

               BRUCE]

Marion?

             

MARION]

Yes dear?

               BRUCE]

Too much information.

               CLARKE]

Your husband is right, Marion. That was a very tasteless thing to say.

               JENNY]

For once I agree with you Clarke. Very tasteless and tactless, Marion.

               MARION]

I'm sorry. I was just stating the facts. And the fact is, it's licking its lips. You can see it in its eyes. It's sizing us up for a banquet. It..It.. Look at its tongue!

               ALL]

Marion!

               MARION]

But it's so pink!

               BRUCE]

Marion, don't say anything more about its tongue! Please!

               MARION]

All right, I'll shut up then. I should have stayed with the blue tongue!

               BRUCE]

[SCREAMING] Aaahhhh! You said it again! You said it again! You reneged, and you reckon I cheat! You said you weren't going to mention that word again, but there you go. Can't help yourself, can you. Suddenly out you come and say. Look,Marion, head in that direction, so we can create a diversion for the rest of us. We'll stay here and keep an eye on the panther.

               MARION]

But, but.

               BRUCE]

What's the matter?

               MARION]

But, but.

               BRUCE]

Well, spit it out. What are you trying to say? Don't tell me the cat's got your tongue? Oh God! Now I'm saying it!  [MARION CREEPS PAST PANTHER. BRUCE PREPARES HIS CAMERA FOR A SNAPSHOT. FUMBLES AROUND WITH IT, NEVER QUITE GETTING IT RIGHT.]

               JENNY]

I see your shitbox panther machine has come to the fore and saved our skins. A marvellous little invention you got there, Clarke.

               CLARKE]

There's no need to rub it in. For all we know, this might not be a panther. You heard what Marion said. It could be a marsupial cat- not a real panther. I'll have to do some more fine-tuning, that's all.

               BRUCE]

I don't think there's any time for that. Either my eyesight is improving rapidly or it is heading our way at a reasonable kind of pace.

               CLARKE]

I do believe it is, in fact, heading this way.

               JENNY]

Clarke, do something. Don't just sit there playing with it!

               BRUCE]

What we need is something to divert its attention long enough for me to get a photograph of it.

               JENNY]

[LAUGHING] Why don't you try your Tarzan impersonation out on it, Clarke? That's sure to divert the poor thing.

                CLARKE]

That's not funny, Jenny. You know I take my Tarzan impersonations seriously. It's one thing to say I'm a fool and a nit wit, and an imbecile and...other things. But it's quite another. I mean QUITE another to joke about my Tarzan impersonations!

               JENNY]

[TAKEN ABACK] Well..I was..

               BRUCE]

[STILL FUMBLING WITH THE CAMERA, BUT GROWING MORE AND MORE AGITATED ABOUT THINGS. TAKES A DEEP SWING OF HIS CANISTER TO STEADY HIS NERVES.] Whatever it is you're going to start, you had better do it soon. We're about one hundred metres between meals.

               CLARKE]

I have had a gutful of your smarmy attitude. How dare you joke about my Tarzan impersonations? Why don't you sing some of your opera? That's sure to stop it in its tracks.

               JENNY]

You bastard! What's wrong with my voice? I can sing opera with the best of them, DuPaccio, Golenzo, Gimicco, Sanfresco.

               BRUCE]

[STEPPING BETWEEN THEM] I hate interrupting you like this, but there is man- eating panther in our midst and, well. I just thought I'd mention it. [BRUCE EXITS QUICKLY.]

               CLARKE]

If you could only hear yourself in your sleep. DuPaccio and all the others would turn over in their graves. Your snoring/singing or whatever that is you do in the middle of the night sounds to me so much like an orgy of rutting seals that I feel compelled to vomit every time I hear it!

               JENNY]

Rutting seals eh?

               CLARKE]

Yes, rutting seals. [IMPERSONATES THE SOUND OF MATING SEALS.]

               JENNY]

Criticize my snoring, will you! At least mine is lyrical. Christ, your snoring sounds like ten thousand cane toads farting in unison.

               CLARKE]

Farting cane toads eh?

               JENNY]

Yeah. Like this. [MAKES FARTING/SNORING SOUNDS.]

               CLARKE]

Well that's very artistically explained, I must say, which amazes me, because I didn't think your little pea brain would understand things artistic.

               JENNY]

What would you know about being artistic? Look at all those shit paintings you hang around the house. Call that art? Call that taste? That's shit!

               CLARKE]

Robert Ashton Smith is not a shit painter. He is a master of the art. Anyway, at least those paintings are more subtle than that rap music you have blaring through the house. Bile on vinyl.

               JENNY]

It never bothered you before. I often see you rapping on the floor, spinning on your back.

               CLARKE]

I'm not dancing, sweetheart, I'm convulsing! [SUDDENLY THERE IS A BLOOD CURDLING ROAR WHICH SHUTS THEM BOTH UP. THEY REALISE THE PANTHER IS ONLY METRES FROM THEM. THEY LOOK AT EACH OTHER, SCREAM, THEN EXIT S/LEFT.]

[CURTAIN]

SCENE 5. [JENNY AND CLARKE ARE CAUGHT INSIDE A CAVE OR ROCKLEDGE. THE PANTHER IS OFF TO ONE SIDE PREVENTING THEM FROM ESCAPING. CLARKE HAS HIS PANTHER PEEKER. IT IS LATE IN THE AFTERNOON. STAGE LIGHTING IF POSSIBLE SHOULD BE FOCUSED ON STAGE/RIGHT WHERE THE CAVE WOULD BE. TOWARD S/LEFT THERE IS A TANGLE OF SHRUBS AND SMALL TREES IN WHICH THE PANTHER SITS LICKING ITSELF. LIGHTS WOULD BE DULLER IN THIS AREA SO AS NOT TO GIVE A CLEAR IMAGE OF THE ANIMAL. AS CURTAIN OPENS, JENNY IS CURSING IT ANGRILY.]

               JENNY]

Shoo! Go on. Nick off! Get out of here!

               CLARKE]

Panthers are apparently very patient animals.

               JENNY]

You're telling me. How long have we been here now, I wonder?

 

               CLARKE]

About four hours. [TAKES JENNY'S HAND.] Jen, I'm sorry for what I said to you earlier. I was only kidding about the rutting seals.

               JENNY]

I forgive you if you forgive me. I was only kidding about the farting cane toads. Shall we kiss and make up?

               CLARKE]

Good idea! [THEY KISS LIGHTLY.] [PAUSE.] [THEY CONTEMPLATE PREDICAMENT.]

               JENNY]

We're never going to get out of here at this rate. What are we going to do, Clarke?

               CLARKE]

 I'm afraid all I can do is fine tune the peeker. We can but try it.

            

 JENNY]

Well I suppose that's something. But how's it going to save our lives?

               CLARKE]

I'm hoping that the high frequency signal waves will put it to sleep just long enough for us to escape. You see it's designed to attract the animal and just with a flick of a switch, immediately puts it to sleep long enough for people to take photographs and give it a pat. That's why I thought it would be such a hit on the toy market. Kids just love patting animals. Especially real ones.

               JENNY]

Well, we've got our panther. I don't know whether you found it or it found us, but it appears to be enjoying our company.

               CLARKE]

I must admit I have found some drawbacks with this model. For one, I think I'll go back to the version with the retractable handle. It makes it easier to carry around. For another thing I think I'll reduce the voltage regulators. The battery appears to be very weak, and that is quite a nasty problem.

               JENNY]

Why is that a problem?

               CLARKE]

Whilst the peeker is working, the animal is completely immobilised. It can't move. Can't run away. Can't do anything, unless the batteries go flat on you, and then there's big trouble.

               JENNY]

Surely you can't sell something that dangerous to the public?

             

CLARKE]

Why not? Consumers buy what they want. What is fashionable. Safety takes a backseat to fashion. Right now the trend is for the off beat. Be the first in your block to track a panther.

               JENNY]

And survive the ordeal, although, according to you, the survival of the consumer is of monetary interest only.

               CLARKE]

That's not fair, darling. You're hitting below the belt again. You know I am concerned for the general buying public. If all the first generation panther peeker buyers were to be eaten, then who would be left to patronise the product?

               JENNY]

So what's the solution? [BRUCE ENTERS, STAGGERING ACROSS THE STAGE FROM S/RIGHT. HE GULPS DOWN THE LAST FEW DREGS FROM HIS WATER CANISTER AND PEGS IT OVER HIS SHOULDER. SEES THE PANTHER AND STOPS. TAKES THE CAMERA FROM HIS NECK AND TRIES TO FOCUS ON THE CREATURE WHO HAS NOT AS YET SEEN HIM. CLARKE AND JENNY OBSERVE.]

               CLARKE]

 A backup power unit...I can see it as being the only way out.

               BRUCE]

[REALISES CLARKE AND JENNY ARE IN CAVE, AND REALISES THEY HAVE STOPPED TALKING TO OBSERVE HIM.] Keep talking, will you. I don't want the panther to hear me creeping up on it.

             

CLARKE]

Bruce, are you crazy? It'll have you for dinner. Get away from it. My panther peeker isn't working yet.

               BRUCE]

I seriously doubt that it ever will. But I don't care, I just want one photograph. Just one photo, just one.

               JENNY]

For heaven's sake, Bruce, it's not safe!

               BRUCE]

I just want one photo. Is that too much to ask? One lousy, stinking photo. I only need one second more.

               JENNY]

But you haven't got one second. A panthers' reflexes are one thousandth of a second faster than mans'. In one second you could be wriggling under its paws.

               CLARKE]

Jenny's right. This is madness, Bruce.

  BRUCE]

Madness is it? Madness is it? All that I require is one miserable, stingy photograph to establish, to cement, to prove that there is such an animal in existence. This animal has been eluding people for years and years and bloody years. Marion and myself have busted our guts trying to prove to others that we are not completely insane and that there is such a thing as the Kangaroo Valley panther. Surely I am justified by wanting to claim one single, incy wincy goddamned second to take a photograph.

               JENNY]

But there's time enough for that later when Clarke gets his machine  working.

               CLARKE]

Look Bruce, Jenny's right. When I get this thing working, I will be able to immobilise the panther long enough for you to take a whole roll of film.

               JENNY]

Listen to Clarke. Listen to reason. What you're doing there is committing suicide. You're a sitting duck.

               BRUCE]

I'm not waiting around for that stupid cruddy piece of shit to work. I doubted it would work anyway, right from the start.

               CLARKE]

I say!

               BRUCE]

You're a dill, Clarke. And I'm a dill to have even thought that it might work. I'm wasting my time with imbeciles here. You're fired, Clarke. Go home. I don't need you to find the panther for me. And take your stupid bloody contraption with you!

               CLARKE]

You can't speak to my wife like that!

               BRUCE]

I should have come here by myself. Look at the mess you've got us into.

               CLARKE]

I say I say I say!

                BRUCE]

Stop saying "I say" when I'm trying to say something to you! Thanks to you, Marion is lost in the bush, probably never to be found again. We should never have trusted that contraption of yours.

               CLARKE]

Peeker! You surprise me, Bruce. I thought you had more faith in me and my invention.

               BRUCE]

Well I haven't.

               CLARKE]

That's obvious. For another thing, if you'd have cared to have taken the trouble to have found out, you would have realised my mark ten panther peeker is also capable of finding lost people who disappear in the bush.

               BRUCE]

What are you saying?

               CLARKE]

I'm saying that my mark ten peeker is capable of finding lost people who disappear in the bush.

               JENNY]

But Clarke, that's a wonderful idea! [SHE PLANTS A KISS ON HIS CHEEK.]

               CLARKE]

Oh, it's nothing really, just something I put in to the instrument to enhance its sales potential, and also to shut the critics up.

               BRUCE]

That's all very well. We can find Marion later- if you ever get it working, that is. Right now I absolutely must take this photograph because I will never get an opportunity like this again, even if I have only one second to do it in. [HE LINES UP HIS CAMERA AGAIN.]

               JENNY]

Clarke, do something! That panther will make mince meat out of him! [CLARKE GRABS BRUCE FROM BEHIND, PULLS HIM BACK TOWARD THE CAVE. CLARKE LEAPS FROM THE CAVE AND TACKLES BRUCE AROUND THE WAIST.]

               BRUCE]

What are you doing, you silly fool? I haven't got my snapshot yet.

            

 CLARKE]

I'm doing this for your own good.

             

               BRUCE]

You've destroyed everything, you big dope. I'll never get a chance like that again. If that panther gets away, I'm holding you personally responsible.

               JENNY]

We were concerned about your wellbeing. Concerned about the danger you were in.

               BRUCE]

Do you think I am some crazy, pompous twit who doesn't know anything at all? I am fully aware of the danger I was putting myself into. I know everything I need to know about panthers, and more. I have [TAKES OUT A POSTER FROM HIS JACKET] a wheat biscuits poster here which has all the relevant information I need. See? It tells you how fast they are, how far they can leap in a single bound. What colours they come in. What they eat. And it even lists the places that panthers are found throughout the world. Twenty four places in all. Do you know there is no mention of Australia being one of those places. What do you make of that?

               CLARKE]

I don't know. I eat corn flakes for breakfast.

               BRUCE]

[IGNORING CLARKE'S SARCASM.] I will tell you what it means. Hic. It means that the history books are wrong. There. That thing out there is a marsupial panther found only in Australia. And we are the first, my friends. The first -hic- to discover it. We are going to rewrite all the books on Australian marsupials that have ever been written.

               CLARKE]

[STILL TINKERING WITH HIS PEEKER.] That may take some time.

               BRUCE]

No, you dill. We're not going to rewrite them. We are going to rewrite them. We're going to be famous. We're going to be rich!

               CLARKE]

Did he say?

               JENNY]

Yes, I think so. I think he said..

               BRUCE]

Rich. That's what I said. Filthy, stinking rich. No more poverty. No more silly panther peckers. From now on we're drinking champagne and panther piss! All I need is one measly photograph. [CLARKE AND JENNY LOOK AT EACH  OTHER AND THEN BOTH PUSH HIM OUT OF CAVE.] Hey, steady on. What do you think you're doing?

               JENNY]

Giving you your photograph.

               CLARKE]

Since, after all, it won't take a second.

               BRUCE]

Yes, but there's a panther out there for God's sake!

               JENNY]

You weren't worried about that a moment ago.

               BRUCE]

Yeah -hic- well now I am. Clarke, use that panther thing of yours. That is what you're here for, after all.

               CLARKE]

[RELEASES HIM] Yeah, I suppose. In fact I think it might be working now. [SHRUGS] I'll give it a go. What have I got to lose?

               JENNY]

Only your life.

               BRUCE]

Will you do it?

               CLARKE]

Yes I will!

               BRUCE]

Three cheers for the boy! Go on out there and at 'im! Show us what you're made of. Go on, Son, subdue the angry jaws of poverty that bar you from the elite immortals of this world. Don't know what the hell all that means, but it sounded pretty damned good. Hic- Hic-

               JENNY]

Bruce, you're drunk!

               BRUCE]

Course I'm bloody drunk. What do you think I've been drinking in my water canister? Water? Bull-- shit! The fact is, panthers scare the crap out of me, and I need it to calm my nerves. So you see, I use it purely as a medicinal beverage only. [CLARKE TAKES UP THE PEEKER AND STALKS PANTHER. PANTHER SNARLS. CLARKE RETREATS.]

               CLARKE]

The.. the.. the.. the teeth on that thing. You should see..

               BRUCE]

Up there and at 'im, boy.

               CLARKE]

[TRIES FOR A SECOND TIME, BUT FAILS AGAIN] I'm not sure if I can do this. Maybe if I..

               JENNY]

Go on, Clarke, for goodness sake.

               BRUCE]

Yeah, don't be such a flaming sook. [CLARKE TRIES AGAIN. THE PANTHER PREPARES TO LEAP, BUT AT THE LAST SECOND IT FLIPS ONTO ITS BACK. LEGS IN THE AIR. STIFF AS A BOARD.]

               CLARKE]

I did it! I did it! I did it! But of course I knew I could. [JENNY AND BRUCE CONGRATULATE HIM.]

           

  JENNY]

Honey, you did it! My hero! [SHE PLANTS A KISS ON HIS CHEEK.]

               BRUCE]

Good one, Clarke. My man! [SHAKE HANDS.] I knew I could depend on you. We'll patent the design as soon as we get back. You're going to be a rich man.

               CLARKE]

Yeah. I guess so. Funny thing, though, I didn't have the setting on P for panther. I accidentally had it on M for..

               BRUCE]

Who gives a fig what setting it was on. The fact is, we've caught ourselves a real live panther. Evidence of the first degree, my friends. [PULLS PLASTIC BAG WITH PANTHER POO INSIDE] We won't be needing this anymore. We've got something far more valuable right here.  And now, good people, now for some photographs! [MARION ENTERS]

               MARION]

Oh! Thank God I've found you. I've been running through the bush for hours and hours.  [SHE NOTICES PANTHER.] What's happening here?

               BRUCE]

Darling, it's so exciting! We've caught the panther. We've caught the Kangaroo Valley panther. Clarke's machine finally worked! It's immobilised for at least half an hour, isn't that right. Clarke.

               CLARKE]

Well, give or take twenty  minutes or so. [MARION INSPECTS THE PANTHER.]

          

   MARION]

Bruce, that's wonderful![SARCASTICALLY] A real, live panther. I'd hate to disappoint you all, but it's wearing a price tag.

               ALL]

What!?

               MARION]

[READING LABEL.] $39.99 at Budget cloth and fabrics. Money back guarantee if fabric shrinks within 12 months of use. Fully machine washable.

               BRUCE]

Let me see that! [SNATCHES TAG FROM MARION.] She's right! This is an impostor. A pretend panther!

               MARION]

The worst kind!

               CLARKE]

How dare it!  At least it comes with a money back guarantee.

               BRUCE]

An impostor panther! I'd like to know who is behind this panther's face. Who could it be now? Who could it be? [CURTAIN.]

SCENE 6               [SCENE; THE SAME, FIVE MINUTES LATER.]

               BRUCE]

[PACING UP AND DOWN, MADLY WAVING HIS ARMS ABOUT.] An impostor panther! An impostor panther. Do you realise what we have here?

         

    MARION]

Yes, dear, you've told us fifty times already.

               BRUCE]

An impostor panther, that's what we've got here. An impostor panther. God I need a drink.

               MARION]

Dearest, why don't you stop pacing around and see who is behind the mask.

               BRUCE]

[NODDING] Yes, that's a good idea. We've waited long enough. Let us find out who is behind the facade. [HE PULLS OFF PANTHER MASK.] Oh my God!

               MARION]

 What is it, dear?

               BRUCE]

It's disgusting. A face so hideous, so vile, so foul. A face that I find so utterly detestable, that I feel I must retch. Has anyone a bucket? [BEGINS TO PACE, ABOUT TO RETCH VIOLENTLY.]

               CLARKE]

No, sorry. We didn't bring a bucket.

               BRUCE]

I must retch somewhere! [PULLS OFF A SHOE]

               MARION]

No, dear, they're your new shoes. Go behind a tree.

               JENNY]

That's hardly fair on the environment, Marion.

               CLARKE]

Why don't you do it in the mask? [BRUCE TAKES THE MASK AND RETCHES IN IT. PLACES IT ON THE GROUND.]

               MARION]

Are you better now, dear.

               BRUCE]

[NODDING] Much better, thank you. I needed that. Now, to the face.

               JENNY]

Do you think you can handle it?

               BRUCE]

I think I will be alright now. It was just the sheer terror of that face that shook me.

               MARION]

Who is it, dear?

               BRUCE]

None other than that despicable caricature of a man. That awful dreaded man- who has seen more panthers than anybody. The man who has been photographed with more plaster casts of panther paw prints than anybody. The man who knows more about Yeti's and Yowie's and mystery panthers than anybody. The Kangaroo Valley Panther himself; Roy Gill!

[ALL GASP.]

               MARION]

What's Roy Gill doing in a panther suit?

               JENNY]

Isn't it obvious? The whole thing is a hoax. The Kangaroo Valley Panther is nothing but some silly hoax.

               BRUCE]

Hang on there, Jen, we don't know that.

               CLARKE]

Bruce is right, Jenny. You can't say things like that.

               BRUCE]

It might be that there's a real panther hiding behind Roy Gill's face. [HE GOES TO PULL ROYS' FACE OFF.]

               MARION]

Bruce, what are you doing?

               JENNY]

He's drunk, Marion. He doesn't know what he's doing.

               BRUCE]

Of course I know what I'm doing.

               MARION]

Oh, Bruce, you are drunk. Really!

               BRUCE]

Well, how did I know somebody filled my canteen with scotch? I was damned annoyed about the whole thing, actually. Bloody inconvenient it was. It's a tough state of affairs when a man can't have himself a decent drink of water without it being full of flaming scotch.

               MARION]

You appear to have survived well enough on it.

               BRUCE]

But not easily, dear. [LETS GO OF ROYS' FACE.] It appears that this face belongs to Roy Gill and not a panther impersonating him. It can mean one thing and one thing only. One, that we've been wasting our time. Two, that Roy Gill has been deceiving the whole country, and three, your panther peeker is about the most unsatisfactory piece of machinery that I have seen in my whole life. Call yourself an inventor? Shame on you, Clarke.

               CLARKE]

Well, as I was saying earlier, I had the setting on M for Man and not P for Panther, and..

               MARION]

[LEANING OVER THE PANTHER] I think he's coming around to it. [ROY AWAKENS. STILL THINKING THAT THEY BELIEVE HE IS THE PANTHER, HE SNAPS AND SNARLS AT THEM. JENNY HOLDS UP THE MASK.]

               ROY]

Oh. Well I can explain everything.

               BRUCE]

You've got about one minute, Gill, before we zap you again with the panther pecker.

               CLARKE]

Peeker. It's peeker. Two ee's. It's very easy to say. Say Pee-ker..

               BRUCE]

Alright. Pee-ker. Pee-ker. Jesus Christ! A man can make the odd mistake once in a while, can't he?

               ROY]

Well, the fact is. The fact is I've got nothing to say because it's strictly top secret and none of your business anyway.

           

  BRUCE]

[JUMPS ON ROY'S BACK. RIDES HIM AROUND STAGE AS THOUGH RIDING A HORSE. THUMPING ROY ON THE HEAD AS THEY CIRCLE AROUND.] Don't give me that diplomatic crap! Do you know how long I've been trying to catch the panther? Years, mate, flaming years. And after all this time the panther turns out to be you! You, of all people!

               ROY]

I'm not the panther, you twit. Now get off me will you.

               BRUCE]

You're not the panther?

               ROY]

[STANDING] What, are you deaf as well as dumb? That's what I just said. I'm trying to catch the panther- just like you all appear to be doing. And might I ask you what are you doing with that gold detector?

               CLARKE]

It's an invention of mine. I built it with the intention of offering it to families as a form of recreational toy. It's designed to catch panthers and freeze them just long enough for the whole family to take photos and give it a pat.

               ROY]

Sounds like a stupid idea, if you ask me.

               CLARKE]

Well, I wasn't.

               BRUCE]

Let's get back on the track again. I think you were about to tell us why you're in a panther suit.

               ROY]

Well, the fact is, this suit is a disguise. I'm using it to lure in a real panther. I have fully researched the idea, so don't look at me in that ridiculous tone of voice. My research undeniably proves without a shadow of a doubt that panthers are much more likely to approach an impersonated panther than a human being in normal clothes. I have even sprinkled myself with eau-di-la essence of panther to attract the unsuspecting animal.

               MARION]

Where did you get a scent like that? The zoo?

               ROY]

No, I bought it at the Chemist. It's other name is Chanel number 14.

               JENNY]

Chanel number 14? That's my favourite! [CLARKE EYES JENNY SUSPICIOUSLY.]

               BRUCE]

Another question. What are you doing here?

               ROY]

It so happens I was about to ask you the same question. I've been here since last Thursday trying to catch the panther. I received a hot tip that it was in the vicinity.

               BRUCE]

A hot tip?

  ROY]

Yeah. Some scouts who'd been camping in the area came into my office with some specimens of fresh panther poo on their shoes. If that's not a hot tip, I don't know what is.

               BRUCE]

Ah. That explains the rubbish lying around the ground.

               CLARKE]

I don't want to butt in, but it's getting late, and it's time we were heading home, and frankly I've had enough  bloody panthers to last me a lifetime.

               BRUCE]

I suppose we'd better get going. Heading our way?

               ROY]

No, my caravan is over the river. I guess I'll make tracks back in that direction. My wife will be wondering what has happened to me. [PAUSE. HE TAKES BRUCE'S ARM] If you run into my wife along the way, please don't say anything about the costume. I haven't told her about it yet. She gets sensitive over little things like that.

               BRUCE]

We understand.

               ROY]

Well, goodbye everybody. Been nice knowing you. See you again sometime? Good luck with the hunting. Okay?

               ALL]

Goodbye! [ROY WAVES THEM GOODBYE. PICKS UP THE MASK. EXITS     IN THE PROCESS OF FITTING IT TO HIS HEAD.]

               JENNY]

The mask! We forgot to warn him about the mask!

 [OFF STAGE ROY SCREAMS "OH SHIIIIIIIT!"] [THE REST LOOK AT EACH OTHER, THEN BREAK OUT INTO LAUGHTER.]

               BRUCE]

Come on, gang let's go.

               CLARKE]

I think the camp's this way.

               MARION]

Looks like this is the end of yet another unsuccessful weekend. Are you sad, dear?

               BRUCE]

No, love. There's always next year I guess. The panthers bound to be still around then, if Roy Gill hasn't caught it.  [MARION & JENNY EXIT. BRUCE IS ABOUT TO LEAVE, FOLLOWED BY CLARKE AS BRUCE NOTICES CLARKE HAS LEFT THE PANTHER PEEKER BEHIND.]

               BRUCE]

Don't forget your panther detector, Clarke.

               CLARKE]

Well, it doesn't work, does it? It's useless.

               BRUCE]

I'm sure with a bit of tweaking we can make it do something useful.

               CLARKE]

You mean that? You're going to buy it after all?

             

BRUCE]

Sure. As a panther peeker it's a dud. But it has some things going for it. For example, it caught Roy Gill, didn't it? I figure that we only have to change the name of the machine to suit the animal that it's really suited for. I think we ought to name it a Dickhead detector. [BRUCE EXITS. LAUGHING.]

               CLARKE]

[LAUGHING] Sounds like we've got a winner! [CLARKE IS ON STAGE BY HIMSELF, SNIGGERING AWAY. HE PICKS THE DETECTOR UP AND PROCEEDS TO WALK OFF. THE DETECTOR BEGINS TO FLASH ITS LIGHTS. LAUGHS AT IT.]  There it goes again! Some panther detector! [CLARKE EXITS, LAUGHING TO HIMSELF. SUDDENLY THERE IS A LOUD GROWLING NOISE WHICH REVERBERATES THROUGH THE THEATRE. LIGHTS FADE][CURTAIN]END.

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