Gangster and the Student

Part 1.

Billy Banner's a giant of a man and a career criminal. Max, a teenage student on study leave, always chatted to Billy's wife Florence (Flo) and his Mum Miriam (Ma), when walking past their house on the way to the shop. Over morning coffee with Flo and Ma, Max explains how writing Shakespearean soliloquies on butcher's paper and sticking them on the kitchen wall at the holiday house up the street, helps him and his mates memorise for the exams. Billy's reaction when he walks into the kitchen is to kick him out and he pushes Max through the front door.

Ma owns the food van in the township, a holiday destination at the foot of the mountains and the high season has started. Flo invites Max in for coffee a few days later when Billy's away, so Ma can offer him casual work helping in the food van. Max can cook the fish and chips, make the hamburgers and operate the coffee machine. His gift of the gab will entertain the customers.

Max goes horse riding with Maddie, Billy and Flo's 14 year old daughter, to keep an eye on her as the 17 year old substitute for the big brother she never had and they sit and chat while the horses rest. Maddie has a story from her Dad's history. Billy was bullied at school before he grew to herculean proportions. With new confidence, he went after every boy who bullied him and gave each of them a beating.

Maddie leans into Max so he knows he can kiss her. He tries to look like he wants to, but too late. She sees in his eyes that he doesn't want to.

Over coffee, Max tells Flo and Ma about Maddie leaning into him and Flo wants to know what that means. If he were the older brother, Max wouldn't want her encouraging a 17 year old boy. Flo looked at Ma. She needed Max to understand how serious this is and Billy had to be told. Max protested because he wanted the best for her, just as any brother would for his sister. He didn't initiate this, so why blame him? To Flo, it doesn't matter who leaned in on who. The issue is how he thinks of Maddie and Billy has to know. Flo suggests Max leave town tonight because Billy will be home by midnight. Max should not come back. She said, "Billy will come after you Max".

Max is scared and his instinct is to flee. Billy is a giant who he can't defeat. Later that night Billy finds Max hitch hiking out of town and gives him a serious beating, leaving him by the side of the road.

Part 2.

Max emerges from the study house after a week and limps slowly to the shop, his severe injuries visible. Flo calls him from across the street to join them for coffee on the way back, but he waves his hand and quietly declines. She crosses the street to him because something has happened with Maddie and they need to talk, so Ma will have coffee ready. He agrees and hobbles down the street.

He stopped outside their house on the way back, more from exhaustion than from agreement, and Ma calls him in indicating that Billy's away. Flo gives him the news that Maddie has run away. After Billy knew about the kissing, and Max interrupted because there was no kissing, Billy demanded Maddie go through everything about every boy she knew. They argued and Maddie gave him an ultimatum to find balance between being a good Dad and minding his own business. He lost his temper with her and that night she packed some clothes and ran off. They don't know where she is. Max realises he's their best chance of finding her. Everyone that Billy approaches runs in the opposite direction.

Max puts out some feelers around town and finds a homeless boy he met with Maddie, Patrick Chan who takes Max to a vacant holiday house that he and other homeless kids are squatting in. Walking inside, he sees Maddie. She hugs him and checks all of his dressings. She cries over what happened believing it's her fault.

Maddie was not ready to forgive and forget, so Max didn't push. He went to the house to see Flo and Ma. From Max's catch up with Maddie, she will be fine. She was in good spirits but had not yet forgiven her Dad. Max was ready to return to work because he had an idea.

He wants the food van to sponsor his initiative to help the homeless. Max wants to teach one homeless person to cook and serve customers and a second to learn barista and service skills. Homeless people need knowledge and experience to make themselves employable and Max is confident he can achieve that.

Apart from Patrick Chan, he knows Maddie's friend Chrissie. Patrick became homeless when a drunk driver killed his parents and Chrissie was kicked out of home by her drug dependant single Mum. Doing something to help Maddie's friends will go a long way to reconciling with her. Flo pointed out that this discussion needs to include Billy for any chance of going ahead. Max agreed.

Part 3.

The meeting is with Ma, Flo, Max and Billy, who arrives late. He's on the offensive because Max is trying to be superior and push his own agenda. He wants Max to stay away from his family and he should have learned that lesson by now. Billy can make Max leave this town tonight and he won't ever want to return.

Max won't leave, for two good reasons. The first, because he can bring Billy's daughter back home, happy with her family and the second, because he knows some things about Billy that will stop him bullying and start him listening.

Billy thinks Max knows nothing. Max saw letters and photos about Billy and his crime boss. An associate imported goods using a deposit from the crime boss. When the goods came to the warehouse, the delivery had been faked so he gave the associate 48 hours to find the goods or refund the deposit.

Billy was given his instructions. A car would be parked in a deserted warehouse and the associate sent there to inspect the delivery in the boot. Billy was waiting at 6:00 am in the cold in his trench coat and hat. When the associate arrived Billy pointed to the boot of the car, telling him to check the delivery. While the associate was looking through boxes in the boot, Billy pulled a shotgun from under his coat, waiting for the guy to turn and face him. The trigger moves only a short distance.

All the pigeons on the warehouse roof took fright and flew off at the same moment.

As the trace of smoke cleared, Billy walked past the associate and looked down on him to be sure the job was done.

The morning after the warehouse job, a detective knocked on the door of Billy's house in the city which was surrounded by armed police. Billy grabbed his coat and hat, leaving with the detective. He was convicted and went to prison.

There was a letter advising Flo to buy a house away from the city. Billy would be released but there was a condition that he never again set foot in the city. There were photos of the house at the foot of the mountains.

Max can see that Billy's supposed to be a model citizen. He's been given the chance to live a good life with his family. If Max is beaten again tonight he'll report it to Criminal Investigations in the city. Billy asks if he reported it the first time. Max did not. Billy asks why not. Max doesn't want to make problems. He's grown to respect the family, including Ma Banner, Mrs Banner and Maddie.

Max wants Billy's support to teach two homeless people work skills to give them a chance at getting a job and having a decent life. Max wants to nominate two people known to Maddie so she has reason to watch over their progress in the family business and that means she would set a better example living at home rather than a homeless person herself. Max insists it's a good plan and Billy should support it. Billy looks at him for a while before giving him the nod. He holds out one of his giant hands but Max recoils because he's still sore and doesn't need it crushed again. Billy tells Max to man up if he wants this relationship with his family.

Part 4.

Three months later Max returns for a study break beneath the mountains. He calls at the food van first. Maddie's friend Chrissie, serves a customer his coffees. She sees Max and squeals with delight, running from the van to hug him. It's now off-season for the food van so she doesn't get as many hours, but she's so happy.

He goes inside and Patrick's looking after the food. He greets Max with a beaming smile. He runs things when it's quiet, then Ma comes in for the busy times. Max is interested in his hours. He's now full time and working long hours but it's what he wants.

Max assumes the living arrangements have improved. Patrick and Chrissie just moved into a shared rental. Max raises his eyebrows but Patrick reminds him of his long friendship with Chrissie. Nothing's changed except when Maddie's not with her folks, she hangs out at their place. Max wants to know if they have enough money and Patrick smiles again. Billy Banner knew the owner of the holiday house, so he suggested renting it to Patrick and Chrissie cheap, or he might end up with squatters in it, so it's a bargain for them.

Ma buys groceries for them. She won't admit it, but every week they find a big box of food at the door. Patrick and Chrissie are thankful for what Max has done. Patrick struggles to express how good it feels when people come along and change your life. Max gives him a hug and waves to Chrissie as he leaves.

He stops outside Billy's house, who sees him and calls from the front door, "Get in here. I've got something to say to you!" Max looks straight into Billy's eyes as he walks in. "Sit down!" says Billy while Flo and Ma make the drinks. Billy asks if Max has been to the food van yet. Max shakes his head in disbelief at what he saw. He feels 10 feet tall. Taller than Billy. Billy tells him not to push his luck. Maddie comes in, all smiles and laughter. She hugs Max and they're all seated.

Billie says, "I'll tell you something. I watched you walk up to the house just now. You walk different now. You hold yourself different. I see your eyes and they're focussed. Max, you put your hand out to shake mine. No one does that to me. You're proud and you're not afraid of me anymore. What you done in this community is a good thing and because you were smart enough and brave enough to take on my family, a lot of people know about you.

I done something to you Max to leave my mark so you'd always remember Billy Banner. You took it and you came back and left your mark on me in your way. You left a big mark 'cause you got me a second chance with my daughter and you helped those homeless kids at the food van. Flo says you're 18 now. I used to look at you and see a scrawny little punk, but no, not now. From my family you've learned about life - good and bad. You gave back to my family and our town more than you took from us. Now when I see you, I see a man, because of what you done".

Maddie's crying and Ma puts a box of tissues in front of her. This is what she wants to do when she grows up. She wants to help people and figure out how to put things together so that no one has to suffer. If Max helps her to know what to do, then she's got this. Of course he wants to help her but fixes his gaze on Flo. She gives her approval.

Photo: campfirenyc2011 on / cc by-nd