Judy Klass

After Tartuffe 
Part Two


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, likeable 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. 
Scene 
In ORAL's house during Act One; alternating between ORAL's house and VAUGHN and TYLER's house during Act Two. 
Time


A possible future that's less than one century away. 

                
SCENE ONE

(DOREEN is sweeping the room where the characters were in the first scene of the play. PUSSER ENTERS.)

PUSSER
Doreen, I couldn’t speak to you before                      

When you were saying something at my door,                  

‘Cause I was lost in prayer and meditation;                            

When God talks, it’s a private conversation.

DOREEN
I’ll bet. But I was just the messenger –                      The missus hopes you’ll have a word with her.

PUSSER
With pleasure! I’ve been hoping for a chance                   To counsel her at length, and to enhance                            The qualities in her that suit her best.
DOREEN
I’m sure she’ll be thrilled by your interest.

PUSSER
(looks at her, then away)
Oh! Quickly, Doreen, take this handkerchief                    So we two aren’t compromised – 

DOREEN
As if!

PUSSER
Cover your bosom, rising, round and bare                    
Before some Godly man is shipwrecked there                     By wicked thoughts. A maid of your maturity                   Should put more stock in modesty and purity.

DOREEN
The way you lecture me sounds almost fresh                   It’s funny how you’re tempted by the flesh                      So strongly, you want me to wear this rag.
(hands back handkerchief)
If I saw you butt-naked, I’d just gag,                            So I guess I’m less lustful and less frail                        Than guys like you: the average pious male.                    To make sure not to tempt that kind of jerk, a                      Girl would have to wrap up in a burqa.

PUSSER
If you remain so brazen and so rude,                         I’ll have to leave.

DOREEN
No, I’m gone. Later, dude.

(SHE EXITS, as ALMA enters.)

ALMA
Reverend Pusser?

PUSSER
Ma’am! My prayers are answered, thank the Lord               It’s good to see you looking so restored.                    Your cheeks, that were so pale, are pink and flush;              A man might get the feeling that you blush.

ALMA
Yes, I’m much better, thanks.
PUSSER
I’m glad.

ALMA
That’s sweet.                                                    Let’s talk about a few things. Have a seat?

(They sit.)

ALMA (CONT’D)
There’s a strange circumstance in which we’ve landed –           All of us here. I hope you will be candid                      And tell me what you’re thinking, honestly –                  

PUSSER
I’ve longed to do what you’re asking of me.                        I’ve waited for us two to be alone,                         
To find a private, candid comfort zone.

ALMA
I know you fear for my eternal soul                           And wish to teach me virtue and control,                          And I will listen to your counsel, soon.                      But let me speak a word, this afternoon,                        For Mary-Anne, who’s forced to hold her tongue.                 She’s scared, romantic, vulnerable and young,                    Not quite a woman, on the brink, in between
(with a Sound of Music cadence)
She is sixteen going on seventeen – 

PUSSER
Who’s Mary-Anne? Her face, now, is a blur.                     With you right here, how could I think of her?                 The first time I saw you, hot passion blazed                  Within my heart – 

(DANIEL ENTERS, and watches, unseen by both)

ALMA
But, Reverend, I’m amazed                                      To hear a man of God say such a thing!
I can’t believe that you’re imagining                           That I would ever welcome this advance –

PUSSER
I’m such a fool for you, I took a chance.                          I prayed on it, I tried hard to resist                      Those full, ripe lips that I have never kissed;                   
PUSSER (CONT’D)
I shut erotic thoughts out, in God’s name                       But your wild, luscious beauty is to blame.
(grabs her hand)
You’re all the Heaven His grace will allow                        A mortal man on Earth –

ALMA
That hurts me! Ow!

PUSSER
Oh. Sorry.

ALMA
I’m sorry I let you get this far.                               I ought to tell my husband what you are.

PUSSER
I trust you to be merciful and kind,                           To know that men are weak, and love is blind.                     And if you made my happiness complete                            Then I would be both tender and discreet. 

ALMA
Well, I urge you to try to recollect                           The faith you claim to uphold and protect.                      I won’t tell Oral you felt the need to try                       This crap, but take your hand off of my thigh!                And swear you’ll stop the crisis you began                   When you came between Vaughn and Mary-Anne.

PUSSER
You’re threatening me with blackmail?

ALMA
Possibly.

PUSSER
You’re too hot for your threats to bother me                  I’m burning up here, in your atmosphere.

DANIEL
(stepping closer)
Well, don’t fear her, but hear me loud and clear.                 
I’ll tell my dad I witnessed this burlesque                       You’re such a twisted liar, it’s grotesque!                    
He’ll see the crook who’s caused him to ignore                  His sense – and us – is rotten to the core.

ORAL
(ENTERING)
What’s going on? Why are your voices raised?

DANIEL
And now I get to tell you. God be praised.                   This guest of yours, this disbarred fallen shepherd               Cannot change his spots; he’s the kind of leopard              Who preys on those who kindly take him in                      Then licks his chops, and lectures about sin.                  He preys on gentle souls, then prays out loud                     As if he held the precepts he’s avowed.                       His claim to be your friend is an atrocity!                   Just hear how he’s repaid your generosity:                      A few moments ago, I heard and watched                              Him coming on to Alma. This was scotched                        By her firm “No,” which she had to repeat.                     Now take this bum and throw him in the street! 

ORAL
I’m overwhelmed. I don’t know what to do.                       Reverend, could the things he says be true?

PUSSER
It’s true – that I am nothing but a sinner.                   And all my life I’ve wrestled with my inner                    Demons – a Christian man could do no less.                     So I am more than willing to confess,                        Though I have never lusted in my heart                         After your wife, I know that there’s a part                        Of me that’s flawed, and mortal, and unfit                         For God’s sweet grace – in fact, I will admit                    To any vice you name – no, I won’t grumble.
(sinks to his knees)
A minister must stay abject, and humble.                          Call me a horse thief, meth head, or the Devil                    In some way, it may be true, on some level.

ORAL
Get up, please, friend. How could I ever doubt you?                Or listen to such vicious lies about you?
(to DANIEL)
And you, do you hate righteousness so much,                        And manly virtue, that you have to clutch                           At vile, flimsy lies and accusations?


DANIEL
No, I am like his last few congregations                         And see him as he is, not some mirage.
How can you not see through this camouflage?                     How can you not believe I speak the truth?

PUSSER
Please, Oral, don’t be too hard on the youth.                He’s just a boy, he knows not what he does.                     I love him. I don’t hate his lies because                       I take as gifts my times of pain and loss                       As Christ did, at each station of the cross.

ORAL
You’re too good, and it burns me up inside                     To see you so abused and vilified                                 By my own son, who I should now disown –

ALMA
Oral, don’t, please, leave the boy alone.                        I don’t want a big circus or a scandal                          What happened was a thing that I could handle.                      And if the Reverend puts right what’s amiss                       Then never again will I speak of this.                             But if he doesn’t – 

PUSSER
Listen, Brother.                                              The boy came stumbling in and found me here                  Confiding in your wife about my fear                              That I would have to give you awful news                      About your son’s decision to abuse                             The sacred vessel given him by God.                           Your wife was hoping you would spare the rod,                    And Daniel, perhaps scared I’d say too much                       Yelled out about adultery and such.                            Poor Alma, wanting only to protect him,                                   Enabling the vices that infect him,                                  Now backs his tale. She’s lax, and I know why                                                      She watches a film called The King and I                           From pre-Plague times, and that’s her education;                      It celebrates alien lands, and miscegenation,                        As its bareheaded teacher heroine                                Bosses a heathen king, then draws him in.                        They dance a polka, stirring and obscene                         Of course by Jews: Rodgers and Hammerstein                         
Their names are. With this filth inside your walls,                         Why blame your wife when she stumbles and falls?                  
PUSSER (CONT’D)
Why blame the boy? Real love is genuine.                         We never hate the sinner, just the sin.                        
And now, let me go back to my room, please.                        I feel a need to shower, and hit my knees,                          Once cleansed, and talk to God. The way I see it                                            
If He should call me Home tonight, so be it!                  It’s not for me to question or rebel;                            
He is my fortress and my citadel.                             I’m His to teach, to chastise, bless or kill                      Whatever comes, I celebrate His will.

(PUSSER EXITS.)

ORAL
You hear that? You’ve both made him feel unclean                  And yet he stays forgiving, and serene.                        He’ll go upstairs and wash away the taint                             Of this, and bless your names. The man’s a saint.               I only wish my goodness was as boundless,                         Since I know his suspicions are not groundless                      When he says, Daniel, that you’ve lost your way,                     And stoop to – 

DANIEL
What?

ORAL
(looks away)
We’ll talk another day                                          About those things. I guess I’m not so brave.                 For now, since I still hope your soul to save:                    I fear that you’ve grown far too ecumenical                      With all your fancy theories – smug and cynical.                 Do you admit you embrace atheism?

DANIEL
No. But I hate Biblical literalism.                             The Patriarchs say they play by the Book;                      That’s not true, when you take a closer look;                  Then you become bewildered and perplexed                       At how selectively they use that text.                                       Our felons publicly are hanged and shot,                        But Biblical chastisements those are not.                     Too many harsh mandated acts are done                          These days, and yet we don’t do every one.                     We subjugate the poor but we don’t own them,                   We jail non-virgin brides, but we don’t stone them,              
DANIEL (CONT’D)
Fine those who work on Sundays, but that’s all –                 There are no sins for which stones fly and fall                 Though if they did, some zealots wouldn’t mind.                     For now, we still do not forbid the blind                             And nearsighted from sitting near a pulpit;                   
I guess we figure they have some exculpa-                            Tory value, with their flaws, as people ...                                     The Bible wants them banned from ‘neath a steeple.                
Leviticus and Deuteronomy                                    Crave deaths. Yet churchmen claim autonomy                                
To speak out against being vain and selfish,                       But not the vicious act of eating shellfish,                Which we all know is an abomination!                            
It never seems to earn a peroration,                          And many who find comfort in a psalter                        Don’t leave burnt offerings on a holy altar.

ORAL
Sure, clever young men think it’s fun to mock                    The shepherd along with his holy flock.                      They and their jaded friends hunt through the Book                 And twist things ‘round, until their faith is shook.           But Christ brought change, Paul told us all that men                       Can miss some old commandments – just not ten.             

DANIEL
And yet one of the Ten Commandments seems                          To call for stoning any who blasphemes.                          So far none has been so strongly chastised,                  Though when that law comes, I won’t be surprised.            It’s not law now, but I still haven’t mastered                Why God tells us to persecute a bastard.                      God is God – God the Father did not change                        When He exults in war, I find it strange.                     When Israelites fight Amalekites, or Og,                         Why does it always seem the epilogue                           Is smiting, raping, killing babes and sucklings,              Mowing them down like rows of arcade ducklings?                 Why does God wax wroth when any are spared?                    I’d like to praise a moral God, who cared                     For human life. Or, how do you contrive                        To think God wrote Deuteronomy 25?                           Wherein we read in language most majestical                  That if men fight, and a wife grab the testical                Of her husband, to shield him, then that hand                       Of hers must be chopped off. Please, understand,                 

DANIEL (CONT’D)
Dad, I don’t sneer. I want your certainty.                    But – when I read those things, they baffle me.

ORAL
Why should Alma hear such foul obscenity?

DANIEL
And yet it’s from a Book full of serenity.

ORAL
You ought to talk to our guest, and repent;                    He’ll tell you what those Bible stories meant.

DANIEL
Dad, I can’t really talk to Reverend Pusser                      He’s more a lecturer than a discusser                           And though you don’t believe what my eyes saw                   I do. His shamelessness sticks in my craw.

ORAL
Your Godlessness plain stabs me through the heart!           There’s such a thing as too schooled, and too smart.           You argue like a Philadelphia lawyer                           And I don’t let those slick types past my foyer.
As for burnt offerings, boy, though I don’t leave them                 I read the Holy words, and I believe them!                       And someday soon, faced with a grave offense,
(looks away from DANIEL)
I – might sacrifice for God’s law, in a sense.

DANIEL
(missing his meaning, happy)
In a sense, yes, take it symbolically!                        That Biblical approach makes sense to me.
A book that old, composed by many men                             Demands we use our minds, and think again,                        Read scripture as a metaphor, or poem – 

ORAL
As long as you are living in this home                         
You'll fear the Lord, respect his living Word,           Ignoring lies that, no doubt, you have heard
From some smooth, sly, insinuating demon
If you think I'll put up with that, you're dreamin'!                
I’m not afraid to shake you, or to slap                           Or, as with little children, use the strap                        To save my son from worldliness and doubt –                      
ORAL (CONT’D)
But if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out.                   And if thy son offend thee ... Listen, son;                     
It’s true that Deuteronomy 21                                      Calls for the stoning of a stubborn child                         It won’t come to that – but if you stay wild                       And willful, then I surely will disown you                        And cut you dead – as if I’ve never known you.

(ORAL EXITS)                           

ALMA
That Pusser’s like a pustule on his brain                         He isn’t quite himself – he’s not quite sane.
 
DANIEL
I’m not the son he wants; I’m part of why                       He’s taken in by that smooth-talking guy.                       I’m one more source of terror and confusion;                      He soothes himself with Pusser’s Grand Illusion.

ALMA
Daniel, I only wish you really knew                           How infinitely proud he is of you,                             Of your intelligence, and all your promise!                          He’s just scared you’ve become a doubting Thomas.                 
I’m sorry that I didn’t speak up more                            And back your story in that scene, before.                      I wanted Pusser to lay off your sister ...                        
We’ve got to lance him, like a fever blister                          Somehow, before he ruins all our lives.    

DANIEL
You’re still the best of stepmoms and of wives.                  How can you fight that bully when he rips                       Into your love of classic movie clips?                         It certainly would lighten all our loads                       If our pustule/blister man explodes                            And all his lies burst with him. While he festers                    Dad won’t believe the people that he pesters                        And all our conversations are distorted,                          And love and truth and happiness – all thwarted.

ALMA
Well, Mary-Anne’s still here. We haven’t lost her.               I sew with her, to put off that impostor                            Twelve bridesmaid bonnets for the wedding feast –                  That ought to take us two more weeks at least.

DANIEL
I’m scared there’s less time to expose that preacher;                  Each day he makes Dad more and more his creature.

END OF SCENE ONE

 

SCENE TWO
      
(PUSSER KNEELS, his head bowed in prayer. HE is in the space that HE and ORAL were alone in before. ORAL enters, and watches reverentially.)

ORAL
Reverend?                                                  Again, I only can apologize                                   For all that, and for listening to their lies.

PUSSER
Disloyalty’s a very human vice                              Peter loved Christ, and yet denied him thrice.

ORAL
Well, I am shamefaced for denying you.                      Please tell me if there’s something I can do.

PUSSER
(gets up)
Just stay here, and we’ll sit and talk a spell.                 I hope your soybean sales are going well?

ORAL
The foreman sent me word from the plantation;                 The latest crops are nearing maturation.                      The sales of my soy protein cakes are high –                     In some ways, I’m a very lucky guy.

PUSSER
Except on this front. I don’t mean to probe                    But you must feel as put upon as Job                          When it comes to that loud housekeeper hellion,                         And daughter, son and wife all in rebellion.                 Remember, though, with everything you’re feeling,            That Dr. Jesus offers instant healing.
(beat – they sit in chairs)

PUSSER (CONT’D)
And I’m so glad your product’s really hot;                     Be proud of that fine business head you’ve got.

ORAL
Well, I’m not sure that too much praise is merited.             My land, my soybean crops – they’re all inherited.

PUSSER
You’re doing by the Lord the way you should                      And that’s the reason why business is good.                       He helps not one who’s arrogant, or cursed.                 Their vats shall overflow, their barns shall burst                 Who honor and obey the Prince of Peace                            And give him the first fruits of their increase.
That’s what it clearly says in Proverbs 3.                   It’s myth, that God hates wealth, it’s fantasy.
Cash is God’s way of telling you “well done.”                  He blessed King David and King Solomon                       With fortunes so vast, we can hardly grasp it!                When He gifts you with treasure, you should clasp it.            The Communists and Socialists and such                         Think treasure is all stolen, it’s too much                      To have a thousand times more than the poor –                    Who always are with us, who will endure,                          Who squander many gifts of charity;                            We might as well see facts with clarity.                      You worked hard to be where you are today.

ORAL
Well –

PUSSER
Your soy cakes help the poor in their own way.

ORAL
For cheapness and nutrition, you can’t beat ‘em,                  Though I’ll admit, I wouldn’t want to eat ‘em!

PUSSER
Your marketing is strong, your land is arable ...                   In Luke 19, Lord Jesus tells a parable:  
A noble gave his servants one pound each
To use for trade while he was out of reach.
When he returned, two men showed interest
That they had earned – but one did not invest;
His feeling about money was, why make it?
The nobleman might come home soon, and take it.
PUSSER (CONT’D)
That servant’s assets quickly were passed on
To one now rich. A moral can be drawn:
To him that haveth, giveth even more
From him with little, take his meager store.                      
I think the poor sense God wants more from them;               In my last church we had an ATM                                   And I made sure that when we passed the plate                   Folks forked cash over, at a good, high rate.                    Some foreign fools think wealth needs an apology;                    They practice a pinko “liberation theology”                                 And say God calls the rich into account.                       Those Commies love the Sermon on the Mount!                      They say Christ walks with poor men, and the meek                   And twist around some words they’ve heard Him speak.                       
They’ll re-think that in hellfire, when they’re writhing.      Now, Oral, are you keeping up with tithing?

ORAL
Yes, sir. Each year I take out ten percent                       Of earnings, to send to the government.

PUSSER
Good for you! And we’ve just gone over facts                        That show why poorer men pay higher tax.                           It shouldn’t seem unfair, corrupt or odd;                          
They’re wanton, lazy and less close to God.             
High on the list of acts that are God-pleasers                 Is: Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.                         Of course today, the Church and State are one;                When you pay Uncle Sam, you pay the Son                              Of man at the same time. But have you thought                 About how much more grace might could be bought                If you gave of your riches even more                           To the army, or the missionary corps?                        Your heart is big, your pockets are quite deep,                  And you know: as you sow, so shall ye reap.

ORAL
I’d be glad, if I knew how to invest                         More in the Lord’s work. Reverend, you know best;             I’d be so grateful if you’d take a look                        At this year’s budget in my counting book.                        My son’s computer program always planned it;                   He tried to teach me – I don’t understand it.                 So, I put figures down on a hard copy                               To have two records, in case things get sloppy.                   The biggest favor you could do for me                                  
ORAL (CONT’D)
Is: let me help you in your ministry.                         Let me fund your pet projects and your dreams,                   So my wealth my unworthiness redeems.

PUSSER
Well, I am moved. My friend, just let me say                    The Reverend Chadwick Pusser’s seen a day                       That he’s prayed for. Your old life’s in the dust.             It warms my heart to see such simple trust                           And faith, in one to whom much has been given.                  I’ll tell you of a few pet dreams. I’m driven                  To set up a small factory, to sell                              The vials of holy water you know well.                             
Since, as I walked, the Holy Ghost touched me                   By that stream flowing through your property,                       I’ve sent this holy water to the sick --                                It sells on-line, and people get well quick!                   Your mother found no scientific answer                          And yet, she says, this water cured her cancer;                  Now she won’t die – an angel told her so!                          It goes to show there’s not much doctors know.                  One lady found it cured her rheumatism,                         An old man, who had a brain aneurysm                                    
Is paralyzed, but almost comes to grips                       When his wife puts this water on his lips,                    She wrote. You know, I could go on and on.                       My store of small glass vials is almost gone;                     
If I could pack the water, at a plant,                            
We could cure thousands! Who’s to say we can’t?                And if I buy some ad time on TV              
America will get real used to me.                              We’ll move a lot of product, friend, and I’m                       Sure I can get my own show, on prime-time.

ORAL
A prime-time show’s the least that you deserve!                  A chance to reach the people that you serve,                         And minister to each lost, broken soul                            As you have mine, and make them sound and whole.                 

PUSSER
Now tell me – this program that your son uses:                      Is it just on his hard drive?

ORAL
No, he chooses                                                 To update everything on my hand-held.
PUSSER
So, you can move funds, should you feel compelled                  To do so, without Daniel’s interference?

ORAL
The password’s mine, and no one else has clearance                 To act for me in making a transaction.                           I’ll give it to you, when it’s time for action.

(They stand.)

PUSSER
Well, Oral, you’ve sure cheered me up – and how!                 You’ve shored up my faith in mankind just now,                       And more than made up for that incident                          Downstairs. You’ll know that your wealth is God-sent               When you soon see it furthering God’s glory;                    I’m here to help you spend it – end of story.

END OF SCENE TWO

 

SCENE THREE
                
(DANIEL, alone in his room, sits at his computer and talks to himself – and the computer.)

DANIEL
Spam, and more spam! My inbox filled to bursting               With useless mail, and all the while I’m thirsting,             Knowing the Oracle alone can quench                            My need. I swear that I will master French                         To translate that first draft when it arrives;                   And once it’s true that manuscript survives –                     Theocracy implodes! The universe will shift                     And those of us now hopelessly adrift                        Will find our strength and stride. After Tartuffe               Returns, no longer will we fear reproof. 
(dreamy, spins in chair)
There once was a land where people could vote                     Where students thought, and did not learn by rote             Where women and men were honest, strong and free               And spoke and wrote and lived life candidly ... 
(angry)
Until a crazy Christian group, desirous                          Of total power, stole and spread a virus                         And killed two thirds of our population                       
DANIEL (CONT’D)
Rendering us a scared and backward nation.                     Us Baptists took control, and we were hostile                   To Quaker, Methodist and Pentecostal.                        Most Plague deaths were in once-great urban centers                            
And nowadays our rulers and tormentors                       Cling to a backwoods mind-set, and suspend                       The Bill of Rights that was our truest friend.                 They moved the seat of power further South                      And taught each citizen to watch his mouth                    And back – and speak a holy platitude                        Rather than risking giving latitude                             To cogent, secret thoughts. The law of greed                   Now reigns, and it has come to supersede                        Consumer rights we once had, long ago                         Which First World countries guard – like Mexico. 
‘Round these parts, those who rule in Alabama
Create a very different panorama
The hatred of science and real education                               Cherished by Selma’s dull administration                           
Are why our products suck, and lack design                         And quality control. We’re in decline.                          To hide it, the Patriarchs hold big parades                   And stadium prayer events, and launch Crusades               Against our tiny neighbors. Some we plow,                     And some can hold their own against us now.                    At home, the church cops try to stop the rumbles               Of misery, while the infrastructure crumbles.
A seething sea of those in poverty                          
Is dotted by us men of property.                              The poor choke down the soy cakes my dad sells,               
And thank their pastors for their magic spells.             
He who rebels gets whisked away to prison;                    The state absorbs all money that was his’n               
While, shouting songs of praise, the Holy Rollahs               Are basically just like the Ayatollahs                        Who once had total power in Iran,                           Which now holds big film festivals, like Cannes                  And shows the world democracy makes sense ...                   While we all rot behind our border fence.                       I can’t live in this nightmare! I suspect it                      Is a cosmic lie, and I reject it!                               I curse my life of hiding, compromising –                       And wistful, Hamlet-y soliloquizing.                                 Much good it does me – sitting here reduced                         To waiting games, till one old play is loosed.

(HE uses his computer. PUSSER ENTERS.)
PUSSER
Daniel?

DANIEL
(spinning, surprised)
Reverend Pusser!

PUSSER
I wish that you would call me Reverend Chad                   And see me almost as a friend or dad.                        Your future will get easier, you’ll see                        If you just trust and open up to me.

DANIEL
Sir, really, we have nothing to discuss                         I know you use my dad, you spy on us,                         You hit on Alma – you’re just worthless scum.                 You can’t think I’d trust you; you’re not that dumb.

PUSSER
My wish for friendship’s not all that outrageous;                  It could be mutually advantageous.                               A young man needs the guidance of a rector                     To be his comfort and his close protector.                       I don’t hate you -- I think that you’re delicious                 And I can help if your dad gets suspicious                  About the “direction” in which you’re leaning –                       I’m guessing that you’ll understand my meaning –                 I can make sure that things don’t get unpleasant;              I’m your best bet to handle him, at present.                  And as an older man, I know a lot!                            I’m more than glad to give you what I’ve got.

DANIEL
Now, wait a second. Things just got surreal.                 This time it isn’t anger that I feel.
Just dizziness. I’m awestruck. Can it be                     
That you would really make a pass at me? 

PUSSER
I save souls when I can, but in your case                     I’m sensing qualities I can’t erase.                           If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, that’s my motto,              So, let’s drink Blood of Christ, until we’re blotto,             And I’ll give you more than that Tyler can.

 

DANIEL
You eat our food. You’re taking Mary-Anne                      Against her will, but you don’t give a crap.                     You tried to catch my stepmom in your trap                          And now you’re after me. I have to say                         
You’ve really taught me something here today                      About the nature of a psychopath                                   Who hides behind a big smile and God’s wrath.

PUSSER
Now, Daniel, since you’re growing up, you know                   This world contains a lot of quid pro quo                       And more and more, your daddy’s given me                        A king-sized role, and the authority                               To make things nice or nasty here for you,                        So let’s just stop and think what we should do                       Before we call names, or we judge or blame –                     You scratch my back, I’ll more than do the same.

DANIEL
I read a lot of pre-Plague history                            And there are pillars of hypocrisy                            Who stand out – great showmen like Jimmy Swaggart:               Jerry Lee’s cousin, a lecher and a braggart,                    Or Marcus Lamb, another pious faker                                Who chased ass, like Coy Privette and Jim Bakker.             But the worst filth, secular and holy,                             To my mind, were figures like Mark Foley                          Or Senator Larry Craig, or Eddie Long                           Men who called homosexuality wrong                                     Denouncing it before a congregation                            Or else in office, backing legislation                            That took the rights of gay men, just like them.                It makes some sense that you’re that kind of phlegm                 In human form, I shouldn’t be so staggered;                
You’re a pathetic fucker like Ted Haggard                      Paul Barnes or Lonnie Latham – pleasure seekers                  Epitomized by that George Alan Rekers                             Who took a rent-boy on a Europe spree                           When his game was conversion therapy                          And telling kids they weren’t born that way:                        That they should try to “pray away the gay.”                     
Is it self-hatred that’s the common link                        For men like you – does it cause double-think                   From early on, and send you on a mission                         Against self, as preacher or politician?                       If only you were funny, you’d be jokes ...

PUSSER
Conversion treatment works for lots of folks.                  I’ve helped to lead it; I’ve been quite inspired                 When sissy-boys, with God’s help, get re-wired.                   
And if you seek it, someday you will find it –                     There’s lots of darn good science facts behind it!               But that’s not for you now, it’s manifest                         So, why not let me make you my conquest                          In love, if not in Christ? I tell you, son                         Life’s short, and we could have a lot of fun.

DANIEL
Take one more step toward me and I’ll be sick.

ORAL (O.S.)
Daniel?

DANIEL
Is that you, Dad? Come here, quick.

(ORAL ENTERS)

DANIEL
I’ll tell you what just happened, though I fear                 Again, you won’t allow yourself to hear                          A word I say. This pious friend of yours,                   Pillar of faith, one of its guarantors,                      Just propositioned me, as with your wife;                  That’s how he thanks you, now he runs your life
And your estate. I’m saying this to you                      Because I value trust between us two –                         Or valued it, when I felt it existed,                          Before our home life turned so dark and twisted.                 I’m still your son, and I will play that role                       Whatever this creep’s doing to your soul.

PUSSER
Well, Oral, my poor friend, I might have known                     He’d find some reason why we were alone                            And change things ‘round, so my motives look bad
But still, I’m stunned. Son, this is really sad.
I understand you’re desperate, but to think                       Your daddy would believe that I would sink                          As low as you – that’s some deep criminology.                   Is this what smart boys call reverse psychology?
(to ORAL)
What happened was I told it to him plain:                           As much as I would hate to cause you pain                        
PUSSER (CONT’D)
Or Daniel trouble, ‘cause he’s a nice kid                           I had to tell you about things he did                            
With his corrupter Tyler – not quite rape;                       My hidden camera caught it all on tape.

DANIEL
What tape? I’d like to see that. Show us both!                    First, I would like my dad to swear an oath                         That if no tape exists that shows this scene,                     You’ll finally consider what I mean                              When I say Reverend Pusser lies, and lies,                             While any trace of love and honor dies.

PUSSER
The truth is, Oral, I had to erase                                That hideous tape. I watched. You couldn’t face     
Such images – they’d sear and burn your eyes                    Forever, when you’d sleep and when you’d rise.                    I told Daniel as much, so it makes sense                         He’s yelling now to see the evidence.                           But if you glance at that chink in the wall
(points)
You’ll see the secret eye that saw it all.

DANIEL
So, that’s where you’ve got your spy set-up hidden.                  I knew this place was bug and camera-ridden.                      I have one more request. I’d like to see                       The footage of us talking, you and me                              Before my father heard me call, and entered.

PUSSER
Boy, why be so dishonest and self-centered?                    You’re really set on brazening this out?
(to ORAL)
Yeah, that’s another thing we talked about.                        I told him that the camera was shut down                    While, privately, I asked him to leave town.                      I said I’d keep his secret if he went;                          
This show-down’s what I wanted to prevent,                     But if he stays, you need to be alerted                       Their sex scene was disgusting and perverted.                    This child that you love is now quite bent;                     I fear the damage may be permanent.

 

ORAL
(to DANIEL, near tears)
There’s nothing you can say that will not sicken                  Me now. You’ve got me gasping, heartbroke, stricken!               No more lies, please, your voice fills me with shame.

DANIEL
(also near tears)
If I speak lies or truth, it’s all the same                    To you now, but it’s truth that I prefer.                         He went to Alma and came on to her,                               And he came on to me, and fabricated                            This story of a tape he’s just related.                         The only truth in what he had to say                             Is what you’ve known a long time now. I’m gay.                    I’ve wanted to come out to you, for years;                      I couldn’t get past either of our fears.                           This wouldn’t be the moment that I’d choose                      To tell you, but there’s nothing left to lose,                       So why not? There, between us like a wall                       Was that one lie – so why not let it fall?                        I love you, Dad. And what is best in you                     Could let me be myself, and love me, too.

ORAL
Enough. You’ve ground my dreams into the dust.                  I close my heart to you, and your foul lust                     And deeds. I have no son! Or, when this man                      Becomes one with your sister Mary-Anne,                            Then he will be my only son and heir.                         For you, I do not even have a prayer                            To spare. My heart is hardened, it won’t thaw,                       If Reverend Pusser saw the thing he saw.

PUSSER
Friend Oral, I sure wish that I could fix                         Boys called out by Romans 1:26.
What I saw was unspeakable, and graphic.

ORAL
(to DANIEL)
If you leave soon, then you can beat the traffic.               I’ll tell Doreen to come and help you pack.

DANIEL
I’ll only take the shirt that’s on my back                       And my computer. Can I take my car?

ORAL
Of course.  
(reaches into his wallet)
Here’s cash for gas – 

DANIEL
(shakes head)
I won’t go far.                                                My friends are waiting, and when I get there                      Tyler and Vaughn will lend me things to wear.

(HE picks up his computer.)

ORAL
(Yelling)
Confirmed! You’ll go to their house – ain’t that nice!           Just run to Tyler, wallow in your vice!                              Disgraced before the Lord, just like he said!           

(MARY-ANNE and ALMA have ENTERED)

DANIEL
Why should that matter to you now? I’m dead.                      Remember? Please, Dad, just let me get by.
(Sees MARY-ANNE)
Oh. Hey there, little sister. Don’t you cry.                  Goodbye, and may God bless your heart, so good.                 I swear that I would save you, if I could.

(HE leaves.)

ORAL
It’s true. He’s dead to me. He has no right                     To be my son, if he’s a sodomite.

ALMA
Oral, call the boy back while there’s time.                     You’re breaking your own heart, and that’s a crime.

ORAL
My heart is closed to him, by God above!

(MARY-ANNE holds her hand up to ORAL, like a traffic cop – or a Supreme.)

MARY-ANNE
Stop it, Daddy, in the name of love!    

MARY-ANNE (CONT’D)
You’re always telling me to think of Mother;                        She’d want us to be good to one another.                  
You say these days you’re feeling like a new man                 But what you just did isn’t even human.
If being “saved” means acting like you’ve lost                    Your decency, then that’s too high a cost.                        I know you say a girl should just obey                         And I have tried to live my life that way;                    You were the one I looked up to, and trusted,                 But now it’s like what’s good in you got busted.                       There’s no one who loves Daniel more than you –                 
Why hurt him, for something you always knew                     Deep down inside? Make peace with it, at last.

ORAL
Do you think I’ll just stand here and be sassed                 By you, young miss? Well, least said, soonest mended.    
(with a nod at PUSSER)
It’s time you said your vows with your intended.

MARY-ANNE
(frightened glance at PUSSER)
No, Daddy, there’s too much I have to plan                    I’m finishing it up, fast as I can.                             Already I have something old, it’s true                            And Alma’s helping me sew something blue,                       I’ll buy new shoes, but I still have to borrow – 

ORAL
Quit stalling, girl! You’ll marry him tomorrow!
(to PUSSER)
As God is my redeemer, you’re my rock.                        You shielded me, then helped me through this shock.              In twenty ways, you’ve proved yourself my friend –              The only one on whom I can depend.                              Tomorrow we will change up the accounts;                      Not only will I give you large amounts                         Of cash for more commercials on TV                            But as you’ll soon be in our family,                               This house and all that’s in it should be yours.

PUSSER
I like to help you soldier through the wars                     Against the Devil and his disguised minions                     You know I always give you my opinions,                           But I don’t want your warm heart over-reaching                    In gifts to me, just ‘cause you like my preaching.
ORAL
You’ve earned more than each penny I can give;                    You give me strength, you show me how to live.                     Beside this house we’ll build your factory                      For Holy Water.

PUSSER
Well, it seems to me                                           If it’s a comfort just to have me by you –                      I wouldn’t be a Christian to deny you.
                        
END OF SCENE THREE

tiffany jolowicz Monday on Michigan Island, Yesterday, the Day Before, Two Thousand Years
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