‘Beating Heart’ – Excerpt


Finn arrives at the shore. He raises his arms, PUMPS his fists and CHEERS, staggering across the sand.



Harry emerges from the trees. They meet in the middle, the bags and trophy between them. Peace. Harry looks over Finn’s shoulder. Fixated on the water. Confusion scrawled across his face. Finn’s arms slowly drop from above his head. Unsettled.


I raced Ross for the trophy.


Where’d he go?

He turns around. The water settles. Just the gentle KISS of the tide against the sand. Ross is absent.


He was behind me. I passed by him.

Wind WHIPS Harry’s towel against his leg.


Are you sure?


Didn’t you see?

Trees HISS as the wind rustles through them. Finn and Harry stand at the shore looking out at the jetty. The water remains still.


It’s windier now. Trees RUSTLE. The sun is smothered by cloud. They grow pale. Their nipples harden. Droplets of water on Finn. Everything colder.

HARRY (shouting)

Ross? Where are you man?

Finn looks down at his hands. Then out to the lake.


I- Did you see him swimming?


I saw him dive in… then…

They fall silent again. Looking around the lake side from afar for any movement. Walking skittishly around the shoreline, always pulled back to the same spot.


Maybe you should swim out to the jetty. He might be hiding behind it or something.

Harry drops his towel back by his bag.


I feel like you’re setting me up. Like you’re both gonna run off with my stuff as soon as I get out there.

Harry slips into the water and THRASHES his way out to the jetty. He swims around it. Ross is nowhere to be seen. Harry climbs onto the jetty.

HARRY (CONT’D) (Shouting)

Nothing! He’s not out here.

Harry watches the surface.


The water isn’t that deep – he must be at the treeline hiding. (shouting) Ross! Come on out man.

Finn edges away from the water. He retreats to Ross’ belongings. His clothes remain by his bag and towel.

HARRY (shouting)

Finn. Get in the lake. We need to look for him.

Harry dives in and races towards the shore. Finn steps into the lake. He halts, the water caressing his heels.

FINN (shouting)

He’ll be hiding in the trees.

Harry stops. Just past halfway between the jetty and the shore. It’s shallow enough. The rim of his orange swim shorts just above the water.


What if he’s not?


He must be. It’s too shallow to- it’s too shallow in there.


But what if he’s not, Finn?

Finn turns away. Harry hurries after him. The water BURSTS as he charges out of the lake and onto dry land.


Finn! Come here.

Harry reaches out to grab Finn’s arm. Finn pulls away.


No. He’s not in there.

Harry grabs him this time.


Where the fuck else is he?


I don’t know! But he’s not in there. He can’t be.

Finn wrestles free of Harry. He starts running for the treeline.



FINN (to himself)

I’ll find him.


Finn wanders through the trees. The surroundings RUSTLE. His attention keeps turning to the lake. Harry swims in zigzags. Finn leans against a tree. His hands on his head. He looks to the lake then at his hands then down at his feet.


No. I need you to come out man!

He shakes his head, fighting back thoughts. There’s frantic SPLASHING in the background. We hear Harry struggle.


FINN! Finn, quick! Help!

He watches as Harry clings to Ross. Struggling to keep him above the surface. He watches as Harry DRAGS the body through the water. Struggling to make his way to shore. Floundering.



Finn remains paralysed by fear. Watching as Harry struggles. Another shout triggers a response. Finn opens his phone. Dialing 999.


It’s my friend! It’s my friend Ross. He’s… I don’t know! Please, just send an ambulance to the lake. He’s in trouble!


Harry has dragged Ross onto the shore. Finn arrives as he starts CPR. Harry looks takes a brief look at him.


Where were you?!




I needed your help.


I was calling an ambulance.

Harry slides his hands across Ross’ chest, adjusting. He’s unsure of where or how to place them. He tilts Ross’ mouth open and starts pumping his chest. Finn stands over him. He pumps four times, then breathes air into his mouth.


I don’t think you’re supposed to do that anymore.


How the fuck is blowing air into someone going to stop them from being resuscitated?


I don’t know!


Neither do I! But we need to do something. Maybe you should have kept the emergency services on the phone.

Harry continues pumping on Ross’ chest. This time he hesitates breathing air into his mouth, stopping to look up at Finn.


Well should I phone them back?!


Jesus Finn, I don’t know.

Finn sinks to the ground, his head bowed, folding his arms around his legs. Sirens BLARE in the background. The ambulance is nearing. Harry leans away from the body. He drags his hand through the sand, clenching his fist as the granules slip through.

His resolve strengthens and he attempts CPR with even more vigor. Finn raises his head to watch. He blinks with each press at Ross’ chest. His fingers sliding up and down his face, resting over his mouth. Tears well in his eyes as he watches.

Harry’s attempts to beat Ross’ chest fade. He breaks, tears seeping down his face as the intensity of his efforts consume him. He lies back, falling away from the body.

The ambulance arrives. Three paramedics sprint from the vehicle to the boys. One of them crouches next to them.


Boys, we need some quick answers to do our best for your friend okay?

They’re in tears. Struggling to answer verbally. They nod.


How long have you been applying CPR for?


Two minutes maybe.


Has there been any response?

They shake their heads.


And how long was he in the water for?

Harry and Finn look at each other.


Ten?… M-maybe fifteen minutes…

The paramedic nods at her colleagues.


…It feels like longer.


Okay, I need you two to give them some space.


No, we’re staying with him.


I need you to give them some room. Come back to the ambulance with me.

Reluctantly they follow her to the ambulance at the head of the beach. She jumps into the back of the vehicle. Finn and Harry wait. Watching as the other paramedics perform CPR.

Droplets of rain land on the blackened ambulance window. The reflection of Finn and Harry watching on. Paramedic #2 performing CPR looks up, shaking her head as she tries again. Paramedic #1 pops her head out from the ambulance.


Come inside boys. We need to get you warm.

They don’t respond. They watch. Paramedic #2 stops. Shakes her head. Paramedic #3 checks his watch. Finn looks at Harry. His mouth slightly ajar. Disbelief. Paramedic #3 pulls a silver cover from her bag. They wrap it over the body.

Harry half shakes his head. Biting his lip. Holding back the wave of emotion. Paramedics #2 and #3 approach.


I’m sorry. We weren’t able to resuscitate him.

Finn and Harry embrace. Both in tears.


We’ll give you a bit of time, but it’s best to get you out of the cold and tend to you at the hospital.

Finn pulls away from Harry.


We don’t need tending to, there’s nothing wrong with us!


We need to take you somewhere where your parents can collect you. The shock-

They run across the sand to the body. The silver cover whipped by the wind. Rain pitter-patters upon it. They sit by it.




Finn and Harry sit in a reception area. Ross’ Dad, TERRY NICHOLSON (47), sits across from them next to one empty chair.


Thanks again for coming boys. I want you to know, there’s no pressure on you to go in and see him.


I’ll be fine, Terry.


Aye, it’s nae bother. Terry nods.

Silence falls between them as they wait. Terry’s attention turns to the chair next to him.


Feels like they’re rubbing it in leaving this spare seat next to me.

Finn and Harry don’t know how to respond. Terry stands and lifts his chair. They recoil, unsure what he’s going to do. He slots it down on top of the spare chair and sits on them.

Terry wobbles. The chairs don’t stack properly. They CREEK as he struggles to maintain his balance. Finn and Harry watch on. Dumbfounded.


This is a bit uncomfortable.

The FUNERAL DIRECTOR approaches. Terry does his best to sit still, staring at Finn and Harry across from him.


We’re ready now if you’d like to follow me.

Everyone stands. As Terry does, the chair he was sitting on slides forward, CLATTERING onto the floor. He hurries to collect it, sitting it back in it’s original place and mouths a silent sorry.

They follow the Funeral Director through a narrow doorway into a tight corridor. There’s a window at the end where light seeps in through a set of curtains.


He leads them to a door and opens it.


I’ll leave you to it.

The Funeral Director leaves. Finn and Harry hesitate, waiting to see what Terry does. Terry lingers in the doorway, looking in at the body resting on a white, cloth covered table. Terry finally decides to enter and the two boys follow him in. Terry stands at Ross’ head. He brushes Ross’ fringe with his hand.


I always wanted him to cut the hair.


He used to tell us that’s why he kept it long.

Terry laughs.


The wee bastard! It even looks like he’s smirking just now.

Harry smiles.


It’s partly why I asked you to come along today.

Finn’s hand rests on Ross’ leg. The same leg he tugged at in the lake that day.


I didn’t want whatever you saw a few days ago to be your last memory of Ross.

This draws Finn’s attention away from Ross, JOLTING his hand away from his leg.


I’ll leave you two with him for a few minutes.

Terry leaves the room. Harry walks away from Finn, around to the other side of the table which Ross’ body lies on.


I keep… wishing, that we had been setting you up. Just to steal your clothes.

Harry lets out a short, breathy laugh.


I’m still expecting him to walk in the door with my stuff.

They’re both amused.


I keep coming back to the same question.


How could he drown in shallow water?

Finn shakes his head.


He’s not fuckin’ dim, y’know? How could he drown? Harry stands.


Maybe… maybe he got tangled in something. Seaweed or-


Not that I saw.


I don’t know.


Didn’t you notice anything as you swam past him?


We were next to one another. Neck and neck. He gave me the finger. Then I swam past him. I looked back… just once…

Harry gets closer to Finn.


…But I didn’t see anything. He was still swimming. And I focussed on the beach.


You were right there. Right there! Yet I’m the one who had to carry him out.

They’re nearly in each others’ faces.


I had to search the woods. You know what he’s like-


I was in the water, I had to-! Whilst you fucked about in the trees.


I was calling an ambulance!


“Search the woods”

Harry pushes Finn.


Too scared to get in and help me.

Finn barges out of the room.

‘Everything we’ve ever missed’


As I watch the opening title scroll,

The memory floods back,


He approached us in a flurry,

Where are you? we wonder but I dare not tread,

Into the water. I ask around instead

but no answer drowns my worry.


Time drips by neither fast nor slow,

Inevitably the answer we didn’t want to show.

Though you lingered, in the shallow blue;

they said no pain, nor fear had troubled you.


Robbed of a future by fickle fate.

You had the Heart to run,

But Here it stopped, in the sun.

The idyllic lake, I need to hate.


I wonder who will run the shop,

Before I tell myself to stop.

What about your younger brother?

A situation like no other.


One final moment left to share,

I will those eyes to open and stare.


The credits close and no loophole,

No final scene and no comeback.

‘The Longest Moment’

He thought of she and him, breezing round the coastal roads on his old Gran Royale Bicycle. They installed a second seat at the start of summer and though he opposed the pink; she was the one with the skills. They shared an earbud each, as they listened to the soundtrack of their rural montage. He nearly crashed when he skipped that Switchfoot song in jest, he was unsure what impressed her less but the clasp of her hand on his waist never wavered.

As he lay on the ground now, breathing heavily, he could still feel that hand clenching his hip. His whole body was clenching. He moved his own hand to his side. He winced. He heard Tatsuro Yamashita playing on the earbud which remained intact, the other stricken on the cold concrete his cheek rested against. His mind wandered to her head leaning against his back, listening to Magic Ways.

She would caress him with her black hair as he peddled, nuzzling as they passed the tides which stroked the golden beaches. The gulls glided along beside them, sniping suspicious looks. He liked to think they had a mutual appreciation for the scenery, an understanding that transcended language but they were probably just eyeing up the picnic basket.

He spent all summer in that highlight reel by the sea, maybe he should have gone with her to Uni. He wouldn’t be in this situation if he had, he knew that. It only served to elevate this pain. He could feel trickles of heat sliver over his hands, but his body grew cold.

Fresh from sunbathing the sea massaged her shoulders as she raised her head out of the warm water, sliding her damp hair behind her ear. He placed his hands at her waste and ran his fingers over those stretch marks at her left side, she stood on her tip toes and kissed him. They later laughed at how rude it was for the gulls to pick that moment to pilfer the picnic.

He felt saliva seep down the side of his cheek onto the concrete, escaping his now coarse throat, as he wriggled his brittle bones against the slates. He had once snapped a picture of the cafe tiles for his Instagram, now they were ruined by a growing pool of red.

He recalled Pineapple Sand, how she cast her chair aside and bounced to her feet when they planned their future, selling bicycle decorations made of sea shells out of a camper van. The clock in that coffee shop had a heart shaped time piece. It swung slower now.

The music got quieter. He could make out a woman yelping. He mustered a couple of splutters, warmth splattered across his lips and smothered the dryness in his throat. He could hear sirens.

They lay upon a bed of green, she rested against his bare chest with her hand placed upon his side as clouds gathered on the horizon.

He heard the music no longer, nor the sirens, though they continued to ring. The heart shaped time piece had come to a halt.