Cast of Characters
GRANDMA: ORAL's mother. Sharp-tongued, quietly terrified of death; seventies.
ORAL: A prosperous, wide-eyed, oblivious but ultimately well- meaning Southern businessman; forties through sixties.
ALMA: ORAL's second wife, ten or twenty years younger than he is. Kind-hearted, stronger than he initially knows.
DANIEL: ORAL's son and ALMA's stepson. Introspective,
brave: a daydreamer with potential to be heroic. In love with TYLER; eighteen or nineteen.
MARY-ANNE: ORAL's daughter and ALMA's stepdaughter. Sweet, pouty, timid around authority figures despite her visions of rock and roll rebellion. In love with VAUGHN; almost seventeen.
TYLER: In love with DANIEL, in awe of his intellect, and the person who comes closest to sharing his interests; early twenties.
VAUGHN: A serious, likable young man, to the manor born, who has inherited a lot of money. In love with MARY-ANNE; late twenties.
THE REVEREND CHADWICK PUSSER: A hypocrite. Often syrupy smooth and overly friendly on the outside; thirties through sixties.
DOREEN: The maid in ORAL's household who tells it like it is. Not from a rich background. Her dress is a little low-cut but nothing shocking by today's standards; twenties through fifties.
Doubling is possible if one actor plays both Vaughn and Pusser.
NOTE: ALL THE WOMEN SHOULD WEAR FLOOR-LENGTH DRESSES AND HAVE KERCHIEFS ON THEIR HEADS AT ALL TIMES, UNLESS OTHERWISE INDICATED.
In ORAL's house during Act One; alternating between ORAL's house and VAUGHN and TYLER's house during Act Two.
A possible future that's less than one century away.
(GRANDMA, energized by righteous rage, is taking her leave of ALMA, DANIEL and MARY-ANNE. VAUGHN and TYLER look on.)
No need to hover 'round and make a show;
Just quickly say goodbye, and let me go.
But we would love for you –
You have less right to speak than anyone
You're not what I'd have chosen for my son.
His first wife was obedient and meek;
She knew our sex is prone to vice, and weak
And kept her voice low, and her eyes downcast.
You're too obsessed with our benighted past.
Your only thought should be your husband's love,
And not the blighted age we rose out of.
You watch old movies, one after another;
You're nothing like these children's sainted mother!
Now you look pale, and play the invalid
But you can’t teach them values like she did.
But, Grandma –
Don't Grandma me, young man, with your fool friends.
(indicating DANIEL, VAUGHN and TYLER)
The three of you don't know where childhood ends
And sober, manly dignity begins
I'd hate to read your catalogue of sins –
All of you gamblers, no doubt, heavy-drinkers
And radical, heretical free-thinkers.
Really, Grandma –
At last, the little shy one speaks! She thinks
She's guarding all her secrets like a sphinx,
And hopes we'll never guess what's underneath;
Her sweet smile hides rebellion, and sharp teeth.
(indicating VAUGHN and TYLER)
One of these gentlemen, forgive my crudeness
May already lead her to acts of lewdness,
And I'm not sure that you should tell me, Daniel
Why the other follows you like a pet spaniel.
Oh, leave them alone, they're nice kids –
Be quiet! Will you never learn your place?
Or stop your loud remarks, and shut your face?
A housekeeper should give thanks on her knees
For such a fine home, and a chance to please
A master like my Oral. But you strut
About in sluttish clothes, much too low-cut,
And sound off on affairs that don't concern you
A whipping is the thing that just might learn you
To play the servant's role that you've ignored.
We all are humble servants to the Lord
And handmaidens in great homes, now, post-Plague, are
Best off if they don't rebel, as Hagar
Did, defying Sarah, wife of Abram.
But Reverend Pusser is as strong as I am
And he sees through you all. He's not afraid
To search out sin, and call a spade a spade.
It's true, in this house Pusser has no fear;
No matter what he does, he's in the clear.
He tells us on the hour that we've sinned
And lectures like the pompous bag of wind
He is. Since Daddy found him in the lurch
Immersed in scandal at that megachurch,
And took him in, our home's become a hell
You won't see it – you're underneath his spell –
The scandal was a lie! The man was framed!
Those girls came on to him, and he got blamed.
He never touched them once! It makes him weep
To think how guilt must rob them of their sleep.
The lies he tells don't interest me at all
And I don't care when preachers take a fall.
What galls me is the scale of his hypocrisy!
This house of ours was never a democracy.
I do respect my elders. But when he
Moved in, and chose to daily lecture me
On purity of word and deed and thought ...
He lost his pulpit! Three times he’s been caught!
He has no shame. Sometimes he makes me shake
With anger. There's just so much I can take.
GRANDMA Then learn humility and gentle ways
Submit, and leave behind this teenage phase.
Ma'am, this whole house is ripe for revolution
We can't put up with Pusser's persecution!
He spies on us, with searching, nasty looks;
He takes away our music, shows and books.
Well, good for him! So, while my son is gone
This house will not become a Babylon.
We're half afraid to laugh, or talk, or blink.
He told me that it's dangerous to think,
So I should “lose the habit.” What a jerk!
And then he tells me how to do my work,
Expects I'll bring whatever he should want
And orders food like it's a restaurant.
He'll sermonize at me, and all the while
I'm creeped out by his over-friendly smile.
That's just because you're paranoid and vain;
You've always got flirtation on the brain.
The Reverend Pusser's love is genuine;
That's why he gives you bitter medicine.
You're all too young to see the stakes are high,
To know you need this discipline, and why.
I've seen the years go by, and I recall
The way man lived in sin, after the Fall
Before the birth of our Redemption State
Praise God, we've managed to survive that fate!
The Patriarchs speak true, and I believe
We all were tainted by the sin of Eve
And when Christ came and died in expiation
The world did not accept that liberation;
Too many lived as though they'd never heard
The promise and the power of His Word,
And those of us who heard Him, and were baptized
Put up with a society half-capsized.
They hated us, and mocked our being blessed:
Envious of the secret we possessed.
Their decadence and arrogance were numbing.
We thought, then, it would take the Second Coming
To bring God's love to those it could not capture –
Or maybe Armageddon, or the Rapture!
Instead, the scientists who knew so much,
Yet went through life completely out of touch,
Who played with stem cells, and taught Evolution
Without the slightest fear of retribution,
Went too far – as blasphemers always do.
They bred a new strain of the Avian Flu
Transmittable through air, and more contagious.
Their license to play God then was outrageous!
The formula was stolen and was used
By enemies of mankind. Some accused
A pious group of Fundamentalists
But this was libel! Godless terrorists
Were perpetrators of the hideous crime
That stopped the world, and led to the End Time.
My memories of those hard years of Plague
Are shadowy, and changeable, and vague.
At seventeen, I watched my family die
In quarantine, and could not answer why
I had been spared – me and my brother Bo –
Out of a clan of forty folks or so.
It seemed unfair. But years passed, and I knew
God's will placed me among the Chosen Few
Who braved the darkest night and saw the morn
In which our pure Redemption State was born.
I thank Christ I was present at the birth,
At long last, of his Kingdom here on Earth.
I've seen the lifting up of mortal men;
America itself is Born Again.
Our Patriarchs are wise, and govern well
And guide you younger fools away from Hell
Into which you'd plunge, eagerly and blindly!
They're patient, firm, compassionate and kindly
With human error, with each human flaw
As they translate the Bible into Law.
And men like Reverend Pusser do their bidding
Reminding you that Jesus wasn't kidding
When He demanded pious, righteous living.
Don't think that He is endlessly forgiving
Of cynical and scandalous behavior!
Now, here, reminding you all of our Savior
Is Reverend Pusser, enemy of Sin,
He'll watch you and, if need be, turn you in.
And that's the biggest favor he can do ya,
Praise be to God, and Glory Hallelujah!
I'd like to see my son, but I can't stay
I'm off to church, to bow my head and pray
And fling my hands into the air, and speak
In tongues, and let the Spirit make me weak
And strong. Tell Oral that I can't delay
With heretics who carry on this way.
I send him all a mother's love, and I'm
Hoping he'll call me, when he has the time.
(SHE sweeps out.)
END OF SCENE ONE
(DANIEL’S room. DANIEL sits at his odd, half-home-made computer. TYLER dozes on DANIEL’S bed.)
You’ve spent an hour drifting through the ether.
Why not come over here, and take a breather?
I’m not tired, and I’m almost finished, thanks.
I’m learning things, and filling in huge blanks
With basic facts the outside world knows well
Of life here – till the stained-glass curtain fell.
Let me help you relax, put that behind you.
I’m sorry, Tyler, that I must remind you –
Say and do anything here that you’d like
Recorded by a camera and a mic.
If there’s a hidden camera in your room,
And you’re watched all the time, as you assume,
Then why admit you’re flaunting Selma’s orders
And traveling the ‘net beyond our borders?
My father knows I surf around on-line
I teach him things, I help him out – he’s fine
With it. But I’m afraid if he should see
Some other kinds of things – he’d disown me.
I’ll try, then, to behave more circumspectly,
Since I can’t even talk to you directly.
Not here, you can’t. But isn’t it fortuitous
That we can talk in ways that are circuitous?
My family’s discourse is so eroded
We’re safe, if our communication’s coded.
Know in your heart that we remain close friends
As we were, far beyond the camera’s lens.
All right then. I’ll let that thought keep me brave
And watch you as you surf the cyber-wave.
And once my brother’s married to your sister
I won’t hide what I feel in a tongue-twister;
You’ll call on kin, here in your neighborhood
And stay with us, as a good brother should.
Yes. Just wait calmly till the honeymoon
Is over, and we’ll be together, soon.
(turns to computer)
While I pour all my energy and passion
Into this box I update and re-fashion
With improvised parts, memory chips and glue
To make it do more than it’s meant to do.
I’ll grow into what once was called a slacker,
Combined with nerd, and renegade, and hacker.
And what have you learned from barbarian
Lands, that say we’re totalitarian?
I’m getting lost in speculative fiction
This universe feels like a contradiction
So counter-intuitive, so very wrong
So not the kind of place where I belong.
And as I read, I find that there's a fine line
Between this world and one by Robert Heinlein;
Revolt in 2100 is his book
Of crazed Christians in power. And a Canuck
Named Margaret Atwood tried to show how frail
Real rights were, down here, in The Handmaid's Tale.
They wrote their science fiction allegories,
About a future US, and their stories
Are what we're living now. The Patriarchs
While spreading fear of Sodom and Karl Marx
Destroyed our nation's greatest contribution:
The spark of freedom in its Constitution
The closest law has come to poetry –
Though they would call such feelings blasphemy.
It’s like we’re trapped in some nightmarish vision
Meant just to warn – pure satire and derision –
As if this world were dreamt up by some asshole
Like Philip K. Dick’s The Man In the High Castle
In which the Germans and the Japanese
Won World War II. Laugh at me if you please,
But even fiction helps give me a sense
Of what we’ve lost through Plague and violence.
There were some groups our first Redeemers smote
Like Mormons – they held out – that’s all she wrote.
Weren’t they men who married many wives?
Some did. Some not. But some paid with their lives
For not converting, locked in prison towers.
Their leaders were called Patriarchs, like ours.
They had one writer, named Orson Scott Card –
The power of his prose caught me off guard.
What characters, and what imagination!
One story, set post-nuclear conflagration
Has thieves raid a great Temple that once stood
In Salt Lake City – now it’s gone for good.
In this tale, it had sunk into the lake.
The thieves thought it held treasure they could take.
They dove down deep, but couldn’t find the gold.
For Card, it wasn’t coins that hands could hold,
But spiritual treasure of his tribe.
I tell you, Tyler, it’s hard to describe
The pleasure my poor heart gets when it delves
Into good books on foreign cyber-shelves.
I glimpse imagined futures, and real past,
My eyes start to tear up, my heart beats fast,
I can’t engage with my real life because
I’m caught up in the Now that almost was.
I won’t make fun of you or get sarcastic
I love it when you’re so enthusiastic.
Your grandmother sure kicked up quite a fuss.
Bizarre, what she was saying about us.
Oh, good old Grandma, and her interference.
She hates sin, yes, but also the appearance
Of it: what just sounds filthy and immoral.
Strange, for a woman who named her own son Oral.
It’s nice to sit with you and shoot the breeze
Even if I cannot take liberties.
So, did your gran have reason to accuse
Your stepmom of a love for what the Jews
Of Hollywood once put up on the screen?
My stepmom has no use for what’s obscene,
Violent or scary. She likes old rom-coms
And musicals aimed right at moms and stepmoms:
The Sound of Music, Gigi, My Fair Lady ...
I find them on the web, there’s nothing shady
About them, crass, or anti-clerical
No need for prudes to get hysterical.
My sister likes old songs, ranging from doo-wop
Right through a later form they once called hip-hop.
I think that she might risk a family showdown
To hang on to a music they called Motown.
Girl Groups, and “Emo” make her happy – very,
And bland stuff called “Adult Contemporary.”
Again, I search for what her ears prefer
And when I hear it, download it for her.
The three of us have formed a strange alliance
A passive, quiet, weak form of defiance
The four of us I should say, since Doreen
Loves sitcoms and old shows she’s hardly seen.
I read old books, they watch, and sing and dance
It’s like we’re all caught up in the romance
Of what was lost, and all that might have been.
I know my father thinks of it as sin,
Yet our loving obedience suffices
To make him overlook these tiny vices.
At least, it did when he was fair, and wiser
Till Pusser moved in as his main adviser.
It’s odd to hear how you and Mary-Anne
Hoard up all these condemned works while you can,
Exclaiming over every pre-Plague fossil –
When your mom was so pious and so docile.
My Grandma thinks she understood my mother.
They never spent much time with one another.
My mother knew that Grandma was a terror
And hid from her all deviance and error.
Gran turns on Mary-Anne, who bows and trembles
Not out of cunning – Mary-Anne resembles
Our mom, who loved our father, as does Alma
But secretly, Mom thought the men in Selma
Were frauds who stifled our country’s growth;
She gave a love of learning to us both.
I feel at last that I know the real you
Through talking, since there’s nothing else to do.
Of course, with lights out, little need be said ...
And yet some cameras can turn infra-red.
My house is yours, just bring your things and stay –
Pusser would know. My dad gets home today.
Pusser’s persuaded him I should be hounded,
Watched, checked, and indefinitely grounded.
Well, I don’t envy you your Grand Inquisitor.
But I’m content, for now, to be your visitor.
So tell me more about the long ago
That Holy Rollers don’t want me to know.
I like to hear you talk, give me a sense
Of those strange lands beyond our border fence.
We’re thwarted here, but talk feels like resistance
So, let our voices reach across this distance.
END OF SCENE TWO
(ORAL has just arrived home. As HE takes off his coat, DOREEN and VAUGHN approach. DOREEN takes the coat.)
Sir, welcome home. I’ll hang this on the rack.
The whole house will be glad to know you’re back.
It’s good to see you here, sir, and if you
Have time, I’d like to speak a word or two.
One moment, Vaughn. I hate to be dramatic
But my cell phone would give me only static
Each time I tried to call my family.
Doreen, do you have any news for me?
To tell the truth, your wife was very ill.
She’s resting upstairs – she feels tired still.
And the Reverend Chadwick Pusser?
He showed her no concern – maybe a smidge –
And stuffed his smarmy face with half our fridge.
He washed down cold fried chicken I had sliced
With red wine that he called the “Blood of Christ”
He sipped it first, but then he came to gulp it,
And sermonized like he was in the pulpit.
He wolfed a pot roast so fast, I said: Dang!
And, solo, put away a whole meringue
That I had baked for your return today.
Meanwhile, your wife grew hot, then cold as clay.
Two nights ago, not knowing what to do
About her fever of one-hundred-two,
I almost called an ambulance, but I
Know hospitals don’t cure much now, and why.
The doctors take an oath that they won’t harm a
Patient, but their first love is Big Pharma;
And drugs are hoarded to drive up their prices,
And patients are left to their own devices
As doctors say to trust the power of prayer ...
I couldn’t wish on her that kind of care.
Be careful, Doreen, you live in a nation
That’s left behind all pre-Plague regulation.
Those checks on the free market are not missed;
You’re sounding like a godless Communist.
I still say pain, from cancer down to cuticles
Deserves more than the games of pharmaceuticals.
I agonized, your wife’s state was no joke –
Until, at 2:00 a.m., her fever broke.
And the Reverend Chadwick Pusser?
He managed to tune out most of our drama;
It didn’t seem to cause him too much trauma
He helped himself to fine cigars of yours
And through the night his belches and his snores
Went echoing along the upstairs halls
And, at their most explosive, shook the walls.
That’s how it’s been most nights he’s been our guest
And that night was no different from the rest.
And so he’s happy here?
As happy as pig among the slops
His pious criticism never stops.
I’ll tell your wife you’re here, and how you care
So much. A love like yours is very rare.
She ought to know you showed so much concern
When I told you about her awful turn.
I think just now Doreen was being flip
She’s always been one to shoot from the hip.
But really, sir – I’ve known you all my life
My parents thought that you and your first wife
Were their most righteous neighbors. Forgive me
For speaking of the change in you I see
But your good judgement, kindness and strong sense
Of justice cannot all be in past tense.
If you permit this man –
Vaughn, didn’t you say
You’d like to talk, and then be on your way?
Yes, sir. I meant no harm. Lately, I’ve tried
To ask when Mary-Anne will be my bride.
Without your help, we cannot plan a thing;
For three months she’s worn my engagement ring –
(avoids looking at him)
I’ll let you know what I decide, but I’m
Too busy now, I just don’t have the time
For silly matters such as these.
You know her tender heart – please, think of her
She talks to me of women’s intuition;
She’s now afraid you’ll withdraw your permission.
You’ve changed so much within the last few weeks –
Remember, it’s your elder, Vaughn, who speaks
To you now. Stop your whining, and reflect:
You owe me deference, not disrespect.
No disrespect was meant, just honesty –
A quality that you once prized in me.
Well, young men think they’re honest when they’re rude.
I’ve come home from a trip, please don’t intrude
Here any longer. Let these questions cease
Get in your car and leave my house in peace,
And if your brother’s here, then take him with you
Go read about how Satan tempts, in Matthew.
My children need no boyfriend, and no buddy –
And all of you could use more Bible study.
We’ll go, but now my heart is full of dread.
I’m scared you’ll break your word, just like she said.
(VAUGHN EXITS. ORAL speaks to himself, in a kind of prayer.)
Oh, Reverend Pusser, keep me on the path
So, I don’t hear them, and forget God’s wrath.
END OF SCENE THREE
(MARY-ANNE is in her room, listening to something by Ellie Greenwich, produced by Phil Spector – or that sounds like their work – and dancing to it. Her kerchief is off her head. There is a curtain or screen blocking off part of her room. There is a KNOCK at her door. SHE hurries to a wall switch, to turn the MUSIC OFF, and puts her kerchief on.)
Just a moment, Daddy.
(The MUSIC is OFF.)
What was that ghastly noise that I was hearing
Like savages beating bongos in a clearing?
Oh – that was Alabama’s All-Girl Choir
Their worship songs have set the world on fire!
They raise God’s temple up on holy ground
With something that they call a “Wall of Sound.”
I doubt the truth of your last few remarks.
The Selma Council of the Patriarchs
Would outlaw such crude music, I believe.
I fear that you’re too trusting and naive,
Too eager to respond to your five senses
And let in tempting outside influences.
Someone gave you that rock abomination
And you bought his smooth, pious explanation
That it was legal, Godly and legit;
You don’t see Satan’s handiwork in it.
No, Daddy, no one outside –
Let’s leave our talk of false friends far behind.
You always were a good girl, Mary-Anne
And now I need to know if I still can
Depend on you to listen and obey,
Without back-talk, whatever I may say.
I like to make you happy –
That’s well said.
You’re almost seventeen, you should be wed
To a man who hates all pre-Plague heresy.
Until you’re his, the job belongs to me
To save you from yourself and be your shield;
A girl is a weak vessel, and may yield
To punks, or creeps – a gambler or a cusser ...
Tell me – what do you think of Reverend Pusser?
I – don’t think of him much, I must confess.
I’ll say what you would like me to, I guess.
Yes, see it my way, let the new thoughts in
Turn your back firmly on a life of sin.
Womanly virtue will bring you a sweetness
That drowns old memories in its completeness.
Now, tell me you’ll renounce your former life
And live in grace and glory, as his wife.
As whose wife? Dad, I’m sorry, but I find
I’m way confused – or else I’ve lost my mind.
My love for you has led me to decide
You’ll be the Reverend Chadwick Pusser’s bride.
But, Dad, you know that I’m engaged to Vaughn.
(DOREEN is now visible listening behind the curtain or screen.)
I fear those plans were prematurely drawn.
Vaughn doesn’t fight to see temptation skewered
He isn’t fit to be your guide and steward.
No, it’s the Reverend who deserves to be
The newest member of our family.
So, tell me now you aren’t disappointed
To join in holy bonds with the anointed.
Why would you have me say something untrue?
In such a moment, should I lie to you?
I want you to be truthful and sincere
When you tell me the words I ask to hear.
(Becomes suspicious, finds DOREEN behind the screen or curtain)
This is outrageous! Tell me what you mean
By spying and eavesdropping here, Doreen!
No, sir, it’s just I’ve heard this ugly rumor –
It’s growing like a pustule or a tumor –
That you’re so cruel and crazy now, you plan
To hand that Pusser creep our Mary-Anne!
I came here for a chance to hear you scoff
At all that stupid talk, and laugh it off.
Each day you grow more insolent, and bolder.
But yes, they are engaged – I just now told her.
No, seriously, she’s easily upset
She doesn’t know you’re messing with her yet.
Fun’s fun, okay, but can’t you see she’s freaking
Out from all this bull crap you’ve been speaking?
(points out of the room)
Enough! Go clean your stove, or wax your floor!
Don’t sass me, I won’t listen anymore!
You’re good, sir, quite an actor, quite the joker
And if you played the godless game of poker
Your face would not betray you – but I know
You’re not some snake who’d lay his daughter low.
Deep down, you sense how evil that old goat is.
Tell me, is this your way of giving notice?
Would you like to live back among the masses,
In fear and hunger, with the lower classes?
You think my patience with your talk is endless
But you could end up penniless and friendless,
Fighting for scraps, part of the unwashed mob,
So mind your tongue, if you value your job.
I’m marrying her to Pusser! It’s quite true.
Forgive him, God. You know not what you do.
Are you that cold, to hand your only daughter
To Pusser, like a lamb off to the slaughter?
Her mind and love and sweetness gone to waste
What makes you think that this girl will stay chaste?
She can’t be loyal to that pile of slime
He’ll gross her out, she’ll stray – just give it time.
‘Cause when a girl’s romantic dreams are drowned
She gets tough. Pretty soon, she sleeps around.
No! Girls need men of faith to guide their ways
I don’t see Vaughn in church enough these days
I’ve heard that he plays games with cards and dice;
I’ll save my daughter from a life of vice.
Vaughn may not wear his faith upon his sleeve
But that’s not how you tell what men believe;
A good man doesn’t wave his inner soul
Like it’s a flag, or run it up the pole.
Smart, thoughtful people wrestle privately
With faith, and talk to God in privacy.
The flashy style of guys who make a splash
Should clue you in – they’re two-faced, low-life trash.
That preacher will spout scripture like a spigot
And Mary-Anne will squirm free of that bigot.
You’re so annoying, I feel almost violent!
I love you too much, sir, to remain silent.
When dads like you force teenage girls to wed
It leads to sin, so be it on your head –
Shut up! One more word and I’ll lose my temper.
Mary-Anne, I hope, like the Marines, you’re Semper
Fi. Your answer still remains unspoken.
Please, don’t talk to me now. My heart is broken.
But you know where your duty lies, I trust.
Of course, I’ll give you time to readjust ...
(Uncertainly, HE LEAVES.)
You wimped out, so I spoke up in your place
But now you have to get up in his face
And tell him that he’s wrong – don’t be a pussy!
No woman ever won by being wussy.
That’s not a thing that I can do, Doreen.
I have friends who were married at fourteen
To deacons and rich men, not men they chose.
I never thought I would be one of those
But my dad finds this preacher so inspiring
It’s blinded Dad, it’s messing with his wiring,
And what he thinks love is – I can’t get through –
So, let him marry Pusser then, not you!
Be obnoxious, forceful, fight when things get hairy –
You’ve got to be a Rhoda, not a Mary.
How can I disobey my father’s word?
His mind is all made up, as you just heard.
Of course! I didn’t realize you were hot
To get hitched to the Reverend. Like as not,
You’re tired of Vaughn, you want somebody older,
Warmer on the outside, inside colder,
Syrupy smooth, self-righteous, full of shit!
You want to be joined to that hypocrite
And be his helpmate, bed-mate, bear his spawn.
Could any man compete with that? Not Vaughn,
Although I’ve heard you tell me, now and then
That Vaughn’s the one you love, above all men.
But now I know it’s time for celebration
You’re ripe and primed for your Pusserfication.
Forget your love, your promises and kisses
Just get psyched up to be the Reverend’s missus.
Don’t torture me! It’s Vaughn who has my heart
I ache for him each day that we’re apart,
And now we’ll spend a life-time unfulfilled.
You know this, it’s to you I’ve always spilled
My hopes and secrets, so why would you mock me?
Because your whiny, lame excuses shock me.
So terrified of incivility,
So full of maidenly humility ...
Your father’s playing without a full deck,
And you’re not burning mad?
I’m mad as heck!
Then don’t submit and leave him in control!
You haven’t learned a thing from rock and roll.
Fight back! Before he chains you to that louse
You should kick out the lights! Burn down the house!
Forget it, you know what? I can’t stay here
And watch you let your future disappear.
(SHE heads for the door.)
Doreen, I can’t oppose my father’s will!
I’ll kill myself: OD on Benadryl.
Oh, that’s constructive, that’s how to combat
Life’s problems. So long, lots of luck with that ...
Doreen, don’t go! Please tell me what to do.
I wish I could be half as tough as you.
I’m not, I’m scared, I wish I had a friend;
My life’s become a nightmare that won’t end.
Okay, okay. I’ll help you. Here’s some tissue
Let’s try to get an angle on this issue
That we can work – now dry the other eye.
As Frankie Valli said: “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”
I wish my life was like an old rock song
I wish I could be fabulous and strong,
Instead of such a doormat and a victim.
But how can I defy my father’s dictum?
Well, stall for time. Tell him you want a year
To plan the big day, and to engineer
The dresses for the bridesmaids, perfect flowers ...
Bore him with girlish chat, go on for hours,
And meanwhile, we and Vaughn have time to plot –
It should be Vaughn who tells my dad what’s what.
It’s not my job to put this right, it’s his!
Look, kid, you really can’t blame Vaughn for this.
He’s courted you and waited, patiently;
It’s not his fault your father’s off his tree.
But there’s a chance Pusser could be exposed
And some of his hypocrisies disclosed
So clearly that your dad would get a clue.
Till then, we’ll stand by you and see you through.
Now take a deep breath. Steady on your feet
We know the enemy we have to beat.
That Big ‘80s song you played me, Mary-Anne,
Said: “Don’t mess with a missionary man.”
That’s good advice, the words she sang were true.
Let’s find a way that he can’t mess with you.
END OF SCENE FOUR
(ORAL joins PUSSER in a comfortable study.)
It’s good to see you, friend, but you look sad.
I know that as a husband and a dad
Those under you pull you in all directions
And play upon your kindness and affections.
If there’s some trouble that you want to share
I’m here to help, and join with you in prayer.
Oh, Reverend, it’s like you just read my mind!
My family says I’m out of touch, and blind
To their needs – just an old deluded fool.
I’m even thinking that it might be cruel
To marry Mary-Anne to you because
She dotes on that boy Vaughn the way she does.
Sometimes you’re too soft-hearted, and too nice.
But tell me, would you value my advice?
Yes, please! Until you speak I never see
The outlines of what God has planned for me.
Well then, I’ll say it would be a mistake
To cause strife in your home just for my sake.
But what’s at stake here now is your position
As patriarch-protector. It’s my mission
To save the Christian family, and each soul
Must understand it plays a different role.
Your leadership here was ordained by Heaven
Says Paul, in First Corinthians 11.
Our sweet Redemption State has disinterred
The beauty and the meaning of the Word,
And women all wear kerchiefs as a sign
Their place is not the same as yours and mine.
Before the Plague, foul secularization
Had women seen as equals in this nation,
They reveled in this hideous distortion
Indulged in drugs, and partial-birth abortion
And no-strings, casual, contraceptive whoring;
They found the role that God chose for them boring.
They’d masquerade as senators and teachers
Or stand up before congregants, as preachers!
But now, with men back firmly in control
We calm the female mind, and save her soul.
Some still say male and female are the same
And girls should go bare-headed, without shame
As they once did, but men of God now know
That Christ is above man, God wills it so,
As man is above woman. Man was made
In God’s own image. So, don’t be afraid
To rule those fashioned from a rib! Believe
That Adam sinned through listening to Eve.
A man’s a fool to think a woman’s wiser
And let her play the role of his adviser;
Man’s moral sense is libertine and shoddy
If he lets woman control her own body.
Sure, but – my daughter’s rather shy and gentle
Full of romantic notions, sentimental.
These plans of ours, they just seem to nonplus her.
Please, Oral, listen here to Brother Pusser.
I know it’s hard – when so many refute
The truth – to go on, strong and resolute.
But God affirms the man who’s not distracted
By thoughts like these: a man who’s not impacted
By such emotional considerations.
No, build your house on more solid foundations
Like Lot! Recall how Abraham asked God
To stay His mighty hand, and spare the rod
If ten clean-living, righteous men were found?
Abraham’s nephew was the only one around.
God sent two angels, and Lot took them in.
And all around his house there rose a din
Of wicked sinners! “Send them out,” they cried!
They would have raped those angels, once outside.
Those men of Sodom were vile as can be
This story’s one more proof that sodomy
Is loathsome to our Lord, offends his eye.
But back to Lot. Now, what was his reply?
I don’t remember. I’ll have to re-read.
He didn’t let his fatherly heart bleed.
He heard the threats and cat-calls, harsh and loud
And gave his virgin daughters to the crowd
To do with what they wanted and gang-rape:
A fate he knew the angels must escape
For as a host, he owed it to a guest
To save him from a mob out to molest.
Now, shielding those two angels from the horde,
In this way, was most pleasing to the Lord.
He let Lot and his family quickly pack
And leave the city – but Lot’s wife looked back.
Perhaps she heard the agonizing screams
From her town ripped asunder at the seams
As friends and neighbors, citadel and spire
Were burned and choked in brimstone and in fire.
That disobedient female was at fault!
So God turned her into a pillar of salt.
The story goes on: in a mountain cavern,
Lot’s daughters got him drunk, as in a tavern
And lay with him, thinking no other men
Were left on earth. Now, I ask you again:
If you believe the Lord’s will should be done,
And Lot was Sodom’s only righteous son,
And God didn’t mind his drunken fornication
With his two girls, which led to procreation –
For one’s son was Moab, and one’s Ben-Ammi –
While God dealt very harshly with their mommy,
Then what more proof could you search scripture for
That women’s whims are things we must ignore?
The Lord rewards the man who’s firm and steady
So if a female’s out of line, be ready
To cut her loose, or show her who’s still boss.
And that’s the best advice I’ll give you, Hoss.
Wow. I’ve got so much to think about ...
I’ve got to mull it over, work it out.
Well, take your time, have doubts if you’re not sure.
It isn’t easy, Oral, to be pure,
When all around’s the casual ubiquity
Of profane thoughts, uncleanness and iniquity!
My condemnation of rank sins like these
Is why I have so many enemies.
I know it. And it fills me with disgust
To hear those fools accusing you of lust.
They couldn’t quite destroy me, though they tried
They hate me because I’m so sanctified
And I will not make peace or compromise
With sin. I act – I don’t apologize.
And that’s what each of us has got to do.
God’s told me there are tests ahead for you
To see if you can spot sin, and condemn
Your children when it’s manifest in them.
I don’t speak of the girl but of the boy;
I know his quick mind fills your heart with joy
And pride, so you indulge him, give him scope
To bend the law on-line because you hope
He’ll prove to be a genius and a leader.
But Oral, any serious Bible reader
Knows there are some abominable acts
God will not tolerate – that’s just the facts.
I’ve hinted to you, though it gives you pain
That your son’s “friendship” may be so profane
With that guy Tyler, one way or another –
Yes, I sent Tyler packing, with his brother.
That may not be enough. You were away
A week, and meanwhile, nearly every day
Both men came to the house and they were closeted
With Mary-Anne and Daniel. God deposited
Me in this house to guide your tough decisions.
He speaks to me through prayer, He sends me visions
And I grab on and hold them tight and fast.
That Tyler might could be a pederast;
If your son Daniel willingly takes part
In foul acts that could break a father’s heart,
Then you must cut him off just like a cancer
And, when he pleads with you, give him no answer.
But there’s no proof of this – it’s still not clear ...
Prepare yourself, in case proof should appear
For you may have to shut him out for good.
A son has value as no daughter could
But still may be what you must sacrifice
To show you love the Lord, and abhor vice.
God is the judge, the way, the revelator
Your offering to Him is all the greater
When it hurts you to sacrifice that lamb.
Recall the tale of Father Abraham
Who knew God’s grace was infinite and blinding!
And when the Lord demanded Isaac’s binding
Then Abraham stood ready with the knife!
To do God’s will may mean we take the life
Of sons of ours, and sons of other men.
The Patriarchs have heard, time and again
The call of those who want to end the War,
Who wonder what our boys are fighting for
Across the Caribbean, where they raid
And battle in a glorious Crusade!
Catholicism, Communism, Voodoo
Are purged from our backyard, and, tell me, who do
Those peaceniks think they are to criticize
Our fight to save souls and evangelize?
If talk of those we massacre disturbs
Then we should pray to be more like the Serbs
Who raped and cleansed things in the 1990s
And mowed down Bosnian Muslims, ‘neath the pine trees.
Those Serb Christians were fierce! Bad to the bone!
Their stand at Srebenica stands alone;
They rounded up eight thousand men and boys –
Then bullets stopped their “Allah Akbar!” noise.
God must have thought those Serbians did well –
Though Serbs ain’t Baptists, so they’re bound for Hell.
We have to understand that evil-doers
Deserve death at the hands of their pursuers,
Yet some would call our ruthlessness ungodly –
And on some islands, our fight’s going badly.
It’s true: in Cuba and in Port-au-Prince,
The natives fight so fierce, it makes me wince.
They hate our freedoms, so our mission drags,
And our own boys come home in body bags.
We’ve conquered Grenada! But in Port-Au-Spain
The casualties are heavy, and the pain
The Council feels is great. Still, they love truth;
Like Abraham they offer up our youth,
To show the world we’re mighty, like before
The Plague. They may bring back the draft once more,
And if so, there will be a noble beauty
In how they hold back tears, and do their duty.
You watch and see. And are we so above
Our leaders in how much we feel and love?
I don’t claim I feel more than leaders can
But I’m not strong, I’m just a simple man,
My children are the ones that I love most –
More than the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?
Just listen to yourself, and understand
Why you must bow your head to God’s command
You’ll face some holy trial he’s invented
So you can show you truly have repented
Of tolerating sensual abuses
And rank debauchery – no more excuses!
It hurts to love the Lord, it hurts to grow
Close to him, but work through it, and you’ll know
That you’re a man the Devil can’t deceive
A man to whom no wicked thing shall cleave,
You’ll cut it off! As in Psalm 101.
God loved the world, and gave his only Son
Although it hurt Him, and it may hurt you
But if you’re called to do it, you can, too.
I’m here to help make sure that you don’t falter
When you place your burnt offering on the altar
And prove that you’re a loyal son of Zion
And you know you’ve got my shoulder to cry on
When it gets hard for you to persevere,
Remember God loves you and sent me here
To be your buddy and your moral guide
Until you’re safely on the other side
Of that old cold and muddy River Jordan:
As close as man can get now to the Garden.
So, pray with me, and have faith, and exhale;
The Lord God will provide, and will prevail.
END OF SCENE FIVE
(DANIEL is at the computer in his room. TYLER ENTERS. DANIEL stands, delighted to see him.)
How’d you get here? Dad made you a pariah.
As I’d greet the return of the Messiah
I’m glad you’re back – but I did not expect it.
There’s a mistake – Doreen hopes to correct it.
She smuggled Vaughn and me by the back stair.
“Mistake”? Now Pusser’s made my dad declare
Marriage will place that crook near my dad’s wallet
"Catastrophe” is more like what I’d call it.
Poor Mary-Anne’s distraught, she cries all day
But I’m afraid that scum will get his way.
She’s never been assured or self-reliant,
She doesn’t have the nerve to be defiant
And she expects that Vaughn will take a stand
And Dad take back his terrible command.
And Vaughn is angry at her passiveness
They both may feel offended – it’s a mess.
We’ve got to find a way for you and her
To be yourselves, at our place, as you were.
It’s true – while we’re trapped here we sulk, and seethe;
It’s only there that we relax, and breathe.
Have you devised a clever strategy
Or are you mired in hopelessness, like me?
Neither of those two sensible reactions.
I’ve lost myself in fanciful distractions
(returns to computer)
And you would laugh to know what strange digression
My thoughts went off on – now it’s an obsession.
Don’t tell me you just play with your computer
While Mary-Anne has that dirt-bag as a suitor!
Tyler, you know I think our age’s curse
Is we got trapped in this false universe
Somehow – the right one’s still out there, somewhere.
I read about a man named Moliere
Quite unafraid to call a fool a fool –
He lived during Louis XIV’s rule
And lampooned every fool, and fop, and quack,
And then they’d all demand he take it back.
His plays caught the discerning ear and eye
Of that fab king, resplendent at Versailles
But one play caused such fuss that even Louis
Could barely throw this poor Moliere a buoy
And save his skin. The play was called Tartuffe.
What shocked the world was, it was a reproof
Aimed straight at those impostors masquerading
As holy men; it showed how they’re degrading
To real faith, and to honest souls they dupe
But this theme got the playwright in the soup;
He wasn’t Christian – that was the suspicion
The Church had, in that age of Inquisition.
Abbés and bishops spread outraged malarkey
That this work mocked the whole Church hierarchy.
The play seemed lost – Moliere might have to can it.
For some time, Louis even had to ban it
Though he enjoyed it when it played his Court.
He said folks of the less discerning sort
Might take it the wrong way and come unglued
If what it had to say were misconstrued.
Moliere, to save his play and please the Crown,
Reworked the piece by watering it down
And excised bits the Church found most offensive;
The price to keep them in was too expensive.
Moliere had wisely made the King the hero
Who saves the day when hopes are less than zero
And so Tartuffe survived, first, on the page,
Then in salons, and, unbanned, on the stage.
The play we have today’s that later draft,
And, even as I’ve read it and I’ve laughed
I’ve longed to read the first, which was more pointed.
But I can’t, unless time is double-jointed.
I’ve come to think time’s out of joint because
We cannot know that play the way it was.
After Tartuffe was changed, the universe
Began backsliding toward this bad-to-worse.
But if, somehow, the play could be restored
As it once was, the Council that has whored
Our nation, and the Reverend Pusser’s kind
Would be a nightmare we could leave behind.
I’m sorry, Daniel, I can’t quite work out
What it is you’ve been worrying about.
It sounds as if you think that there’s a chance
That some old play, lost long ago in France
Will magically appear, and in so doing
Give our world a revisionist renewing?
Look, I’m a little crazy, you know me
And full off odd ideas, and OCD ...
This hope may sound post-modernist and weird
I didn’t know how loony it appeared
Till I tried to explain it all just now
But there’s a site on-line that’s showed me how
To dream big, as I’ve never dreamed before
And entertain the thoughts that most ignore –
Don’t let it sell you penis-growing pills –
No, not that kind of site. This site distills
The secrets tucked in every nook and cranny
Of my mind, in a way I’d call uncanny.
I find my every wish, thought and regret
Anticipated – at oracle.net.
Oracle.net? Is that from overseas?
It won’t answer those questions, only tease
My brain with riddles I can’t quite apply;
I don’t know if it’s hackers, or A.I.
Or foreigners who want to overthrow
The forces over here that run the show ...
Or, when it says things wise and allegorical,
I think that it might really be the Oracle!
The one that spoke at Delphi, long ago.
I’ve wrestled with my doubts – I just don’t know –
Faith has a music to which I’m tone-deaf,
And yet – I’ve asked it for a pdf.
A pdf of what?
The play he wrote.
The way it was when it first rocked the boat.
The later draft has bite, still, in its spoofery
And Nietzsche always used the term tartufferie
For fakes, but if we want this “Now” exploded
We need the first draft, locked and fully loaded!
Or so I tell myself – maybe, I guess,
So I don’t have to face my helplessness
And uselessness, in helping Mary-Anne
I dream, since I don’t have a clue, or plan.
Well, here’s a way to help her if you want –
If these two are to enter a detente,
(MARY-ANNE and VAUGHN, both sullen, FOLLOW HER into the room)
They need a place where they can talk things out.
Her room’s no good – too many folks about.
You’re welcome, but I’m not entirely sure
This room’s not watched by some creepy voyeur.
The same could be said now of every room.
(to VAUGHN and MARY-ANNE)
Come on, you two. Talk like a bride and groom.
How can I be a groom? She’s acquiesced.
She’ll form the union that her dad has blessed.
And what do you think I should do instead?
Marry the man. It’s clear our love is dead.
That’s your advice? That’s all I mean to you?
You wouldn’t ask me if your love were true.
Vaughn, you’re a man, at least I thought you were
I’ll give up on our love, if you prefer
Because a man is free to speak and act
To right a wrong, defend a sacred pact
Or save someone – that’s if he has a spine.
You’re spineless, or you just don’t care – so, fine.
A girl can also speak up if she cares
And stand by all the promises she swears
But you, you’re into meekness and obedience.
I see those as the optimal ingredients
To make a preacher’s wife, and so good luck.
Thanks. I’m glad I found out that you’re a schmuck
Before we had a chance to tie the knot.
All right, you two, now I’ll tell you what’s what.
Vaughn, the one that she loves is you, only
And, Mary-Anne, this man is hurt and lonely.
Now stop this foolishness, ‘cause time is short
And there’s an ugly plot we have to thwart.
Mary-Anne, it isn’t easy to forgive
The way you’ve acted, but I guess I’ll live.
You think I should be grateful, but you’re wrong.
It’s like that old Aretha Franklin song
She spoke of R-E-S-P-E-C-T
And you can find out what it means to me!
I’ll find out what? I guess I’ve lost the thread
Of whatever you think that you just said.
Now stop this, both of you! Give me your hands.
(puts their hands together)
Now hold each other’s tight, like wedding bands.
Lovers are nuts, it’s been well-documented
But there’s a wedding that must be prevented.
Let’s look for a way out, ‘cause we’re in deep;
How do we show your dad Pusser’s a creep?
(ALMA enters, and looks around)
I heard your voices, so I came exploring.
I’ve been too long in bed, and it gets boring.
I’m feeling better, and I have a sense
Of what’s been going on, and why you’re tense,
But you can count on me not to betray
Your cause. I’ll help you out, if there’s a way.
It’s good to see you, Alma, you’re the kind
Of stepmom that is often hard to find.
Your husband’s coming down on noncompliance.
But I still want to join in your alliance.
Though I love Oral, as I think you do
In this my sympathies are all with you.
To force this girl to marry that old phony
Would be to mock the bonds of matrimony.
I can’t believe that things will go that route.
The six of us should work this problem out.
END OF SCENE SIX
(MARYANNE sits in her room, sadly listening to music. This time it’s not joyous rock and roll. It’s something wistful and contemplative by Norah Jones, Carole King, Carly Simon, Janis Ian ... ALMA KNOCKS, carrying magazines featuring models with heads covered.)
(sullen, turning OFF MUSIC)
(forced cheer, ENTERING room)
I found some pictures in some magazines
And articles meant for romantic teens
That talk about new wedding banquet favors
Look! Hand-pulled candies, in five different flavors.
(shows her a picture)
Each nestles in a hand-embroidered bag
That we can fill with other wedding swag
Like dyed, teased ribbons, doilies made of lace ...
We’ll get to work and set a steady pace,
And by the time you say that you can wed
That creep will match with someone else instead.
I don’t see much point even to begin;
Daddy and Pusser won’t be taken in.
They’ll see right through this wedding prep pretense –
No, Doreen’s idea makes a lot of sense.
Girls your age often make a major fuss
When they are brides. Between the two of us
We’ll find some ways to drag this out forever.
Now, where’s your sewing kit?
I wish I never
Met Vaughn, and found out that love was real;
Then I wouldn’t have to feel the things I feel.
I would like a white dress and a bouquet;
I’d like a lovely, magic wedding day,
My friends arrayed behind me as I walk ...
I’d like to dream out loud with you, and talk
About the gowns and colors – you and Doreen.
To plan this bogus wedding is obscene:
To sew and baste, and work embroidery
When every stitch feels like it’s mocking me!
My love of Dad and Vaughn have both gone south
And all my dreams are ashes in my mouth.
It’s true we’re messing up the fairy-tale
But love is more than white silk and a veil.
Your love for Vaughn should brace you for adventure
So, while you’re here, just serve out your indenture
And take things as they come, and don’t ask why.
When Curly had to fight and kill Judd Fry
Aunt Eller handed Laurey this advice:
Life don’t always turn out so neat and nice,
And love means you get strong, and grow up quick
Through seasons rich and poor, and well and sick;
Be hardy, and take what life dishes out!
The frills are not what marriage is about.
I guess Vaughn loves me. I wish I was sure –
He loves you, and his impulses are pure,
And when he says to flout your dad’s command
It’s just a sign he doesn’t understand
The way things work around here – recently.
Alma, I wish that you’d explain to me
How you love Daddy, as I know you do
When “recently,” he’s been so harsh to you,
Ignoring you! Doreen told of your fever
And says Dad almost seemed not to believe her
Or care, now Pusser is his sun and moon.
The way Dad’s dancing now to Pusser’s tune ...
I think that my respect, and love, and trust
For Vaughn, in such a case, would turn to dust.
Why is your love for Daddy not affected?
My whole life, he’s the man that I respected
Most, and now he’s acting like a fool!
I don’t say this to hurt you, or be cruel –
It’s just ... please tell me how you take in stride
The way Dad’s turned so mean and sanctified,
Oblivious to everything that matters?
Sometimes your vision of somebody shatters,
And if you’re honest, you admit you see
That he is less than what he means to be,
But you don’t let the door to your love slam;
You take it like a lady from Siam
Who said: Don’t turn your back upon a king
Because he tries too hard at everything.
(with a “Something Wonderful” cadence)
He has a thousand dreams that won’t come true –
Believes in them, and that’s enough for you.
You go along, protect him when he’s wrong ...
I think there’s wisdom in that show and song.
The point is, Mary-Anne, that women’s lives
As mothers, and as stepmoms, and as wives
Mean we help others out, we’ve got their backs;
We live in shadows, hide within the cracks
Of life, when we’re not goods showcased on shelves,
Yet we must save our husbands from themselves
With gentle, loving patience, as we try
To curb their weirder habits, by and by.
Sometimes men’s sense of self can need a boost,
And so they stride around and rule the roost
In heavy-handed ways, and act all tough;
They don’t think being human is enough.
It’s certainty they crave, in all they do,
The way, you’ll notice, they crave barbecue.
They have to feel that those who put their trust
In them believe they’ve got all problems sussed
And look to them to always lead the way;
They want things black and white, without the gray.
Now, I don’t like it when women get bashed,
Or how health-care for moms keeps getting slashed, And –
(looks around, fearful, whispers)
I’ve heard Patriarchs make proclamations
On TV that ... Let’s just say my expectations
Were not quite met.
But when you’re in a couple
You’ve got to be more flexible and supple
About this power stuff. You wear a ring –
And so you let your man act like a king.
They’ve always felt a need to matter more ...
Since Adam first rode on a dinosaur!
I bet Eve had to crown him as a winner
Each time he speared a T-Rex for their dinner!
(SHE and MARY-ANNE laugh)
I’m glad to see I’ve gotten you to laugh.
But – that’s how I cope with my better half.
A man like Oral wants so much to lead,
To raise you kids right, he has such a need
To make his mama proud and do his duty
As a Christian man ... I see the beauty
Of what he aims to do, though it falls short.
And I see how a Pusser can distort
The best in such a man, till it’s the worst,
Hand him a poisoned cup to quench his thirst
For blesséd, sweet salvation ... So, I grit
My teeth, and do my best to deal with it.
Your strategy is different than Doreen’s.
We may reach the same ends by different means.
Doreen is not afraid of confrontation;
She goes in for direct communication,
But she helps others, maybe more than me;
And she could write the book on loyalty.
I’m glad I had this chance to talk with you.
Good! Let me know whatever I can do
To help you through this scary time. For now
We’ve got these glossy pages, so let’s plow
On through. I give my word that I’ll help you sew
A ton of fancy doodads for your trousseau,
And dainty gloves, and wedding souvenirs ...
We’ll plan a wedding that will take five years.
END OF PART ONE