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.
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.
(DOREEN is sweeping the room where the characters were in the first scene of the play. PUSSER ENTERS.)
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.
I’ll bet. But I was just the messenger –
The missus hopes you’ll have a word with her.
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.
I’m sure she’ll be thrilled by your interest.
(looks at her, then away)
Oh! Quickly, Doreen, take this handkerchief
So we two aren’t compromised –
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.
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.
If you remain so brazen and so rude,
I’ll have to leave.
No, I’m gone. Later, dude.
(SHE EXITS, as ALMA enters.)
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.
Yes, I’m much better, thanks.
Let’s talk about a few things. Have a seat?
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 –
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.
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 –
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)
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 –
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;
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 –
That hurts me! Ow!
I’m sorry I let you get this far.
I ought to tell my husband what you are.
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.
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.
You’re threatening me with blackmail?
You’re too hot for your threats to bother me
I’m burning up here, in your atmosphere.
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.
What’s going on? Why are your voices raised?
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!
I’m overwhelmed. I don’t know what to do.
Reverend, could the things he says be true?
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.
Get up, please, friend. How could I ever doubt you?
Or listen to such vicious lies about you?
And you, do you hate righteousness so much,
And manly virtue, that you have to clutch
At vile, flimsy lies and accusations?
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?
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.
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 –
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 –
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?
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.
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 –
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?
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,
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.
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.
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,
Dad, I don’t sneer. I want your certainty.
But – when I read those things, they baffle me.
Why should Alma hear such foul obscenity?
And yet it’s from a Book full of serenity.
You ought to talk to our guest, and repent;
He’ll tell you what those Bible stories meant.
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.
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.
(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 –
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 –
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.
That Pusser’s like a pustule on his brain
He isn’t quite himself – he’s not quite sane.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
(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.)
Again, I only can apologize
For all that, and for listening to their lies.
Disloyalty’s a very human vice
Peter loved Christ, and yet denied him thrice.
Well, I am shamefaced for denying you.
Please tell me if there’s something I can do.
Just stay here, and we’ll sit and talk a spell.
I hope your soybean sales are going well?
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.
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)
And I’m so glad your product’s really hot;
Be proud of that fine business head you’ve got.
Well, I’m not sure that too much praise is merited.
My land, my soybean crops – they’re all inherited.
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.
Your soy cakes help the poor in their own way.
For cheapness and nutrition, you can’t beat ‘em,
Though I’ll admit, I wouldn’t want to eat ‘em!
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.
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?
Yes, sir. Each year I take out ten percent
Of earnings, to send to the government.
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.
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
Is: let me help you in your ministry.
Let me fund your pet projects and your dreams,
So my wealth my unworthiness redeems.
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.
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.
Now tell me – this program that your son uses:
Is it just on his hard drive?
No, he chooses
To update everything on my hand-held.
So, you can move funds, should you feel compelled
To do so, without Daniel’s interference?
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.
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
(DANIEL, alone in his room, sits at his computer and talks to himself – and the computer.)
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 ...
Until a crazy Christian group, desirous
Of total power, stole and spread a virus
And killed two thirds of our population
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 ...
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.
Take one more step toward me and I’ll be sick.
Is that you, Dad? Come here, quick.
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.
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?
What happened was I told it to him plain:
As much as I would hate to cause you pain
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.
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.
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
You’ll see the secret eye that saw it all.
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.
Boy, why be so dishonest and self-centered?
You’re really set on brazening this out?
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.
(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.
(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.
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.
Friend Oral, I sure wish that I could fix
Boys called out by Romans 1:26.
What I saw was unspeakable, and graphic.
If you leave soon, then you can beat the traffic.
I’ll tell Doreen to come and help you pack.
I’ll only take the shirt that’s on my back
And my computer. Can I take my car?
(reaches into his wallet)
Here’s cash for gas –
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.)
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)
Why should that matter to you now? I’m dead.
Remember? Please, Dad, just let me get by.
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.
It’s true. He’s dead to me. He has no right
To be my son, if he’s a sodomite.
Oral, call the boy back while there’s time.
You’re breaking your own heart, and that’s a crime.
My heart is closed to him, by God above!
(MARY-ANNE holds her hand up to ORAL, like a traffic cop – or a Supreme.)
Stop it, Daddy, in the name of love!
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.
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.
(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 –
Quit stalling, girl! You’ll marry him tomorrow!
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.
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.
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.
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
(DANIEL lies on a couch or bed at TYLER and VAUGHN’s place, reading Elmer Gantry. TYLER ENTERS. It is the morning after DANIEL’s arrival. They are easy, open and loving with each other. TYLER moves to DANIEL, puts his arms around him and kisses him.)
Did you sleep? It’s mostly rest you’re needing.
Not really. I’ve been thinking some. And reading.
I hope you’re drinking in big gulps of freedom
We’ll get you things you don’t have if you need ‘em.
You might feel guilty with your father’s dough.
Well, soy cakes aren’t people –
Are you still checking email every minute,
Hoping there’s something messianic in it?
Guess what? I got an update! Don’t forget
There’s reasons I trust oracle.net.
It’s not a battering ram, but it’s a splinter
Of hope – please don’t mind, I used your printer.
(Unfolds a square of paper.)
What does it say?
Dear Oddball Supplicant,
We comprehend the work you would transplant
From its own time-line, to disrupt the next.
We’re weighing your desire for this text
With other matters, known to one who hears
The cosmic cries, the music of the spheres.
We’ll send you “yes” or “no” soon, but not neither.
Be patient. Ciao, from this end of the ether.
You really think that’s from some ancient god?
I have to say, I’m not so over-awed.
If that website sends email from Apollo ...
I’m thinking that the sound of it rings hollow.
I don’t know what it is, but I feel hope.
It’s calming me right now – it helps me cope.
I think they have the play, if they would give it;
There is a better life, and we could live it.
I want that pdf, I need it bad!
Perhaps I love illusions, like my dad.
(DANIEL lies back, cradled by TYLER.)
Ya think? It's sad, but also kind of sweet:
Rather than fight, or lie down in defeat,
You’re sure a play's the way out of this crisis.
In that way, I'm a bit like Dionysus
In Aristophanes' comedy The Frogs;
With Athens at war, going to the dogs
That god, mostly concerned with wine and ladies
To save the city traveled down to Hades
To bring a tragic playwright they had lost
Once more over the lake of death he'd crossed.
It was a snarled thread by which Athens dangled;
A wordsmith just might get it disentangled!
You rage like a cultural Mad Max.
(reaches up, plays with TYLER’s hair)
Just quoting one of our great cacophanies:
I know the croaking chorus from The Frogs of Aristophanes.
But you, you only love me for the Wi-Fi
I’ve brought, which means that you can watch old Sci-Fi.
I love you for that, and many another reason
And I don't give a damn that love is treason.
You saved me from Charybdis and the Scylla.
I love you, too. Today, let’s watch Godzilla.
To maybe cheer him up, let’s invite Vaughn.
He’s too upset your sister’s still a pawn –
(feeling DANIEL pull away)
Like you, at times. But hearts can’t go on bleeding ...
Let’s change the subject – tell me what you’re reading.
A book from the black market, second-hand;
There’s no work that’s more resolutely banned.
I didn’t search on-line – I was afraid
The name would trip a wire, and cause a raid.
I’m reading Elmer Gantry by Sinclair
Lewis. And once again, it wasn’t fair
The way that this work got reconstituted;
Like Moliere’s Tartuffe, it was diluted.
They made a film with the great Burt Lancaster
Who played Gantry as a dishonest pastor
But in the movie, he’s an aberration.
To Lewis, he’s more of a demonstration
Of how a pious man must be a sham
And organized religion’s all a scam.
I don’t think Moliere would go that far,
Or me. I don’t believe all Christians are
Fakers and fools: slick swindlers, and their marks.
There’s more to it, beyond the Patriarchs,
The Church cops and the Pussers. All alone
Some people find the courage to atone
For hurtful acts by reading in their Bible.
Some frightened souls find strength, and some are liable
To feel such faith, they take on anything!
The distance between Martin Luther King
And Pusser shows the range of what’s conceivable
For men of God. The ideal is achievable,
If rare. And, as his story ran its course
Christ in the Bible triumphed over force
As it consumed him – that’s a stirring thought.
We never teach the Bible as we ought,
But it sticks up for those most kicked around
And helps them lift their heads up off the ground.
I’ve even seen how Christian faith enlightened
My dad, once – he wasn’t bigoted or frightened.
It’s just – the showmen roll out the red carpet
And hype faith up, and limit it, and warp it.
They claim to speak for God, they claim to know
What’s meant by every word writ long ago,
Insinuate themselves, demand control
Over how each man struggles in his soul ...
They leave no room for quietly communing
Destroying sweet, soft music with false tuning.
Your idealism sure leaves me perplexed
In such a moment, given the context.
The Church hurts you so much, how can you speak
I guess I’ll turn the other cheek.
It’s odd you’re so forgiving, but it’s hot;
You’re noble in a way I guess I’m not.
Strangely, you tempt this cynic with the apple
Of Christian virtue. I think we should grapple,
And, as I get much closer, we can see
If some of your ideals rub off on me.
Again? For you, two times were not enough?
You’re here. The novelty has not worn off.
I know. It’s bliss. All right then, let’s get cooking
I’m so glad now Big Brother isn’t looking.
END OF SCENE FOUR
(DOREEN and MARY-ANNE quietly move through the room where PUSSER propositioned ALMA. They carry suitcases and they’re headed for the door. ORAL ENTERS, and blocks their way.)
Well, look at this! I guess I might have known
In this house, discipline is overthrown,
And all that’s left is chaos and ingratitude.
Doreen, of course I know about your attitude,
But Mary-Anne, I never would have thought
That you’d forget the lessons you were taught
By your sweet mother, may she rest in peace.
By rights, I ought to call the Church police!
Just tell me, please, where do you think you’re going
Without a pass I sign – without my knowing?
Where do you think? You know perfectly well
She’s trying to escape out of this hell
You’ve made here. Blame me, I talked her into it.
I’ll bet. You’re just the hussy who could do it.
She lives by her real feelings, and you hate ‘em;
I told her to reject your ultimatum –
Your view of love as something you can ration –
And stand up for romance, and honest passion!
She’s sweet and wholesome, like the Gilligan’s Island
Mary-Anne always was, except on dry land –
She’s too much of a good sport, and a cringer;
I wish she was more wild and bold, like Ginger.
Still – so hideous is what you’ve planned today
That she agreed to make her get-away.
Well, she didn’t get too far – you’re plan’s a dud.
I’ll nip this brash rebellion in the bud.
But even if you got away, you’d fail;
The Church police would take you off to jail
And Vaughn -- if he was part of what you pulled.
If you got married, it would be annulled
Without a dad’s permission, so you see
It’s mighty good luck you ran into me.
(puts down bags, throws herself at ORAL’s feet)
Oh, Daddy, please, don’t carry out your threat
To make me marry Pusser. I’m young yet –
Please give me time, please, give him all my share,
All my inheritance, I just don’t care.
The sight of him makes me feel sick, and nervous
Let me go into missionary service
Or help the poor, or do most anything
Except this horror you’re imagining.
(ALMA has ENTERED)
(trying not to be moved)
This – isn’t like you, honey, all this drama
I thought that you were calmer, like your mama.
Doreen, I’m blaming you, and you alone.
Unpack her bags, and then go pack your own.
I’m glad to leave this house now. You amaze me.
I liked you, sir, till you went bat-shit crazy.
You unnatural hell-cat –
Oral, I have to say a thing or two.
I didn’t want to publicly discuss
The things I’ve sworn to you, when it’s just us,
But now I need for both of them to know:
Pusser came on to me, I’ve told you so
Time and again, it’s just as Daniel said;
You kept that snake and tossed your son instead.
If you’re so sure of Pusser’s explanation
Then why not let me try a demonstration
Of what you don’t believe? Or do you doubt him?
I guess, if you’re not really sure about him,
You’ll be afraid to put him to the test –
You’re chicken, so you’ll put off my request.
I don’t doubt Reverend Pusser for a minute.
Then take my bet, like you’re in it to win it.
Your bet? I miss your meaning by a mile.
Mary-Anne, go lie down and rest a while.
I’ve issued you a challenge: either take it,
Or, Oral – as a couple we won’t make it.
He’ll pass whatever trick or test you’ve got.
We’ll find out if you’re sure of that, or not.
Doreen, please tell the Reverend I’m down here
And need him –
Alma, I’ve just made it clear
Doreen’s no longer someone I employ –
Well, hold that thought, until your golden boy
Has passed my test.
Could you please bring him, now?
I’ll go get Mr. Holier Than Thou.
(DOREEN EXITS. ALMA points to a table with a long table cloth.)
Get under there, he won’t know you’re around
Be careful not to move or make a sound
But when you’re really sure what’s going on
Please break it up, ‘cause I’ll want that guy gone.
You’re ordering me? Who are you talking to?
You scare me, Alma – what’s got into you?
I’m trying to save this marriage, if I’m able.
Now, keep your word! Get underneath that table.
(HE complies, and SHE talks as HE does so.)
Don’t be shocked if I’m talking like a ho
And using words you didn’t know I know.
I find your sleazy pastor most disgusting
But still, I’ve got to act as though I’m lusting
After him – I’ll say some crazy stuff.
Please, rescue me, soon as you’ve heard enough.
(DOREEN clears her throat at the door and announces:)
The Reverend Chadwick Pusser.
(PUSSER ENTERS. DOREEN EXITS. ALMA puts on a big smile.)
My husband has just gone out for a walk;
I thought this was a good time for a talk.
As days have passed, I’ve fought not to reveal
The power of the way you make me feel.
Though I said I was one you couldn’t coax
You’ve lit a fire that smolders as it smokes.
I tried to act offended, shy and stern
When all the time, your touch made my blood burn.
I knew you were attractive long before
But now I find I want you even more
And I can’t hold it back.
Well, I’m surprised.
You seemed so scared of being compromised,
And wouldn’t let me kiss you, and came very
Close to siding with that little fairy
When he came at me with those accusations ...
And now you say that we can have relations?
When Daniel spoke to Oral, I felt guilt!
It was as if the truth had all been spilt,
Including feelings I was still denying.
I panicked, and of course I still was trying
To end your engagement. I was overzealous
Not for the girl’s sake – really, I was jealous.
Your body spoke to mine; it wasn’t fair you
Soon would take her, and I’d have to share you.
Why would you choose that schoolgirl over me
When I’ll act out your every fantasy?
But still, you’re all I want, my heart affirms
And so I’ll take you now on any terms.
It turns me on to hear your sweet confession.
I’m longing for a bit of decompression
Before the stress of marrying the kid –
I think I’d like to see, and raise, your bid,
And stoke you, so your smoldering fire flares –
Should we do it on the floor, or go upstairs?
My goodness! You’re so quick and so direct!
Don’t you have any fears this might affect
The way things go down on your wedding night?
Oh, I’ll be up for more fun then, all right!
But right now, honey, you look so bodacious,
Your body so enticingly curvacious
So many ripples that I want to smooth ...
And when you give it up to me, you’ll soothe
My last few fears you’re somehow double-dealing –
So, show you’re feeling what you say you’re feeling.
(moves away from him, coughs, glances at table)
I’m hot for you, and yet the guilt remains.
I can’t help feeling once a woman stains
Her honor, she has lost a precious treasure.
You’re wise and holy -- how can we seek pleasure
So shamelessly, then turn to God in prayer?
Now, that’s a useless train of thought right there.
Hon, there’s a simple trick the mind can do
You’ll learn it as I minister to you.
It has to do with sorting thoughts like shoes
You put the reds with reds and blues with blues;
You don’t confuse the God talk with the fun time
You’ll see, it’s easy; just give in this one time
And next time you won’t sweat the rights and wrongs.
Let’s feast on love, like in the Song of Songs,
As Solomon told a wife or concubine:
Come, kiss my mouth, your love is better than wine.
(HE’s all over her; SHE’s coughing significantly, and trying to fend him off.)
My beloved is like frankincense and myrrh
Her ointments are the perfume that is her
Behold, for she is comely with clothes off –
Are you still sick? That’s sure a nasty cough.
I’m worried that this might be a relapse;
Perhaps we ought to let some time elapse.
I could have germs, and you don’t want to risk it –
Aw, baby, you’re my chicken and my biscuit
And if we have to do without the kissing
There’s stuff that can make up for what we’re missing.
Is Oral back? Did that front door just slam?
Please check – I feel so jittery!
If he’s back, we’ll just sneak up to my room
Make it a hothouse and let our love bloom.
Don’t worry, I’m the one he trusts the most;
He’s a sucker, bless his heart, dumb as a post.
I’ll look around for spies but, honey, soon
You’re gonna have to let me at that poon.
(HE EXITS. ALMA lifts the table-cloth and ORAL crawls out.)
My ears ring with his words. I can’t believe it.
My mind cannot entirely conceive it.
Of course, I sympathize with your confusion!
You wouldn’t want to jump to a conclusion.
Right at the start you couldn’t get the gist;
There might have been some subtle point you missed.
You had to watch that whole performance, surely,
To make sure not to judge him prematurely.
Why not wait longer, till he jumped on me
And knocked me up, or shared an STD?
Ten minutes I was pawed at by that skank,
And my own husband’s who I have to thank!
The man’s a devil! I showed him my soul
And now he’s swallowed up my future – whole!
(ORAL hides behind the table now, not under it. PUSSER ENTERS.)
He isn’t in the house or driving up.
Now, come upstairs and fill my loving cup –
Hold that thought. It’s just as I suspected
You figured you could play games undetected
With me around? Well, buster, you’re mistaken,
You daughter-marrying, wife-grabbing, Godforsaken –
Brother Oral! I guess this looks funny ...
Yeah, it sure does, but I’m not laughing, honey.
Now, pack your bags and git, I mean today.
You have no right to speak to me that way.
This is my house, and you’re a parasite
I’d keep around here, if you were polite.
But since you’re not, you all can just clear out;
I’ve got real threats and plans to think about
So, by tomorrow, I don’t want to see
A trace of you, or your damned family.
I made you my heir – I can take it back.
Your money’s mine. Now hush up and go pack.
What did he mean by that?
I don’t quite know.
I wish he didn’t have my password, though,
Or my hand-held, or –
I showed him some files ...
I sure feel freaked out by the way he smiles.
END OF SCENE FIVE
(DANIEL and GRANDMA are now alone in that same room.)
Daniel, I hear that you’re a fornicator.
It happens to us all, sooner or later.
No, it does not. Some of us bless the bond
Of holy marriage, and never look beyond.
Marriage to Tyler would be a lovely option
And raising children, either through adoption
Or each of us could have one – I realize
You saw that civilized world, with your own eyes.
When I was young, I had to contemplate
The world of sin that our Redemption State
Redeemed. God settled things on His own terms.
Not God. Just crazy Baptists with some germs.
(ORAL, ALMA, MARY-ANNE and DOREEN ENTER.)
Daniel! You’re back! I knew that you’d come through!
I’m here to say there’s nothing I can do.
I got in Dad’s accounts, though I was blocked;
I saw he’s cleaned out – now the whole site’s locked.
Doreen asked for my help; I couldn’t refuse
But I wish I was bringing better news.
Daniel – this is hard for me to say:
I guess you think that you were born this way ...
I’m so confused – I know you go with men ...
You’re trying to say that I’m your son again?
Or should I disappear now that you know
I can’t save you from this financial blow?
I’m saying that I owe you an apology.
I got all twisted in that man’s theology
And now I think the whole thing is a crock:
God, and all faith – I’m reeling from the shock.
There’s more to faith than Pusser’s kind, by far.
I think your faith helps make you who you are.
I don’t know who I am, or why I’m living
And I don’t see that I’m much worth forgiving.
Among the lost things I’d like to retrieve
Is my son – who I just would not believe ...
You got him. And that thief who’s made life squalid
Can’t know how strong we are, now that we’re solid!
(bad, happy attempt at Sister Sledge)
Yes! We are family
I’ve got everybody and me ...
I thought you said I act too shy.
Now you seem almost giddy!
Can you guess why?
My head’s been lifted off the chopping block!
I’m gasping with relief, laughing from shock
To know my body won’t receive a mauling
From someone who sets all of my flesh crawling!
At least now Daniel’s back, and this girl’s free.
I’m mighty proud of this here family.
Oral, you appall me with this change
It’s like you’re now a stranger, you’re so strange.
How can you doubt the Reverend Pusser’s love
When he’s been sent to us by God above?
I’m sorry you made him angry, but when you
Humble yourself, I’m sure he’ll soften too.
Mama, don’t ask again – you’ve rubbed me raw.
The man’s a low-down fake; I heard and saw.
He wouldn’t try to seduce your wife, he’s good!
She set him up, and you misunderstood.
There was some lesson that he contemplated
Teaching Alma, so you should have waited
And if the fault was hers, we should have stoned her!
You’re saying I should have waited till he’d boned her?
I know what happened – you say it’s untrue!
Now you know what we had to take from you.
Looks like no truth is truly verifiable
When Reverend Pusser’s word is called reliable.
You’re all wrong, and you’re all going to Hell!
His holy water cured me, and I’m well!
Mama, don’t let’s argue more about it.
We had a good life – now we’ll do without it.
You’re all still here? You’d best turn tail and run.
I see you’ve welcomed back the prodigal son.
Yeah, he's home, and if you make one more pass
The bunch of us will kick your sorry ass.
The government will never let you fleece
A good man like my dad. Just leave in peace.
This is my home, and all of you infest it.
The state hates sin; the Patriarchs detest it,
And those who harbor traitors reek of sin;
I’ll be commended as I turn you in.
(points at ORAL)
You, “Brother” Oral, helped a poor relation
Who made a most repulsive accusation
Against a Patriarch – he fled abroad,
And yet you have the nerve to call me fraud?
The file I saw, that otherwise you hide
Is now in Selma and marked “classified.”
You thought God would forgive your guiltiness
And turned to me to secretly confess,
But now you’ve turned on me, and come unhinged
Well, God protects His own. He’ll be avenged.
Oh, Reverend, please, it’s a misunderstanding
Oral helped my brother Bo to a soft landing
In Mexico, I swear that he was cheated
By a Council member, and terribly mistreated.
(pointing at ORAL)
He broke the law! The laws of God and men.
If you think laws are playthings, think again.
He hid his deviant son – helped his immersion
In sin, instead of battling his perversion.
You’ve got your story down, we’re out of luck;
Hell hath no fury like slime I wouldn’t fuck.
They wouldn’t be your bitches.
But tell me, won’t you drown in all your riches?
And stumble, as you’re striding ‘cross the floor
Of people who don’t live here anymore?
So, you’re “movin’ on up,” you’ve got the bucks
How can you claim this life that’s so deluxe?
This man gave you a place to lay your head;
You stab his back, and turn him out instead?
You’ll build your snake oil factory on his land
With his cash, and not even lend a hand
To a family whose future you’ve destroyed?
Do you believe in God? Or just a void?
My God is good. I know that I was sent
To be His servant and his instrument
And when the shrieking infidels attack me
I know that my avenging Lord will back me.
He knows the bed of temptress Jezebel
And those who follow her down into Hell
Who watch the way her body moves and sidles
Who let her teach, and eat food left for idols.
I understand His ways, in all Creation:
The tribulation seen in Revelation;
I know He watches all things from the skies:
The Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes.
I've looked into His face, bright and intense
Amidst the prayers that rise with the incense.
An ominous future He slowly reveals!
Four beasts look on, as He opens the seals.
I know that He is calm, serene and focused
As He prepares each scorpion and locust.
I've seen the sun of sackcloth, moon of blood –
You'll face the pit, a worse fate than the Flood.
I and the Saved will look down with cold sternness
As you cry out and burn, deep in that furnace,
Thus, you – who call me slime, and psychopath –
Shall meet with justice from the Lamb of wrath.
That day will come, when you face that abyss;
For now, the Lord bequeaths me all of this.
God meant for all these riches to be mine
Things happen for a reason, by design;
God put words in my mouth, like Jeremiah,
And taught me how to speak for the Messiah.
Like Jeremiah, I root out and destroy
The forces that the Devil may deploy;
Like Jeremiah, I build up, and I plant
And do the things that lesser people can’t.
I’ll sell my soy cakes to the wretched masses
And blesséd holy water to all classes,
While eating, wearing, driving all the best
The world can give, and knowing I am blessed.
Then I will go to glory when I die –
Smooth as a camel through a needle’s eye.
You think your God talk puts you far beyond some
Final reckoning – but you’re just pond scum.
You’ve twisted ministry until it’s hateful;
You turn on those who dare to be ungrateful,
And cherry-pick the Bible for what’s scary –
But empty threats are all that your words carry.
You think God hates the folks you’re out to slam?
And you control the nature of the Lamb?
There’s no monopoly on real religion;
The State is godless – you’re just its stool pigeon.
My faith is strong, and can’t be undermined,
Even by bogus Christians of your kind.
My God believes in humor, love and fun
And human bodies, bare, warmed by the sun.
(DOREEN rips her kerchief off her head. GRANDMA gasps.)
So, make your threats, and rattle your old sabre;
My God’s always believed in “love thy neighbor.”
He won’t write off the ones who doubt, or cuss,
He’s never been about Them vs. Us,
He has no time for hypocrites and haters.
To Him, girls aren’t only incubators
Or chattels to buy, or sources of temptation;
My God’s not into rank discrimination,
But swords beat into plowshares! He gets no blame
For those who march and murder in His name.
You sneer at me and my words make you loathe me
But my God asked you: “Did you feed and clothe me?”
It’s for the least among us He has risen,
He said to soothe the sick, visit those in prison.
He’s with the poor, He cheers for women’s rights –
The God you’ve made in your own image bites,
And those with open hearts will look right past you
And glimpse the God of love, who will outlast you.
One hour. Take a few more things apiece
From your rooms – then I’ll call the Church police.
Dad, right now things are looking pretty grim.
I’ll ask a few friends how to deal with him
And if there’s some appeal, approach or angle
That we can use to get out of this tangle.
(HE EXITS in a different direction than did PUSSER.)
Oh, Oral. Son, please catch me. I might fall.
Quite suddenly, I don’t feel well at all.
(HE helps her.)
END OF SCENE SIX
(TYLER anxiously checks messages on a hand-held. DANIEL ENTERS, looking grim.)
(beat – sees his face)
That bad? Is every good thing gone?
Not quite. Tonight, Mary-Anne will marry Vaughn.
My dad will give his blessing, we’ll be out
To all – so there’s some things to cheer about.
That’s it. Pusser’s victory is complete
And we are left to scatter in defeat.
A comedy like Tartuffe is always tending
To hand its audience a happy ending
But our fate is sadder, more complex;
In this case there will be no deus ex
Machina to undo the disaster.
The Patriarchs have made Pusser a pastor
Once more. They'll restore him to his perch
Before the faithful in his megachurch
He handed them some dirt on us he scored;
Getting re-sanctified is his reward
It gives him endless pleasure to convict us
He’s dead inside – that smile is a rictus
His TV ads have proved most opportune;
His prime-time worship show's debuting soon.
Tartuffe was thwarted by Louis Quatorze
But Pusser's free to turn us out of doors.
His lies and pretense will have no debunking;
We're not ruled by a wise, discerning Sun King
But by fools with the same pious façade
As Pusser – who, like him, claim to speak for God.
How can you be so calm, with your dreams broken?
One dream remains.
(holds up his own hand-held)
The Oracle has spoken.
You got the pdf?
No, not what Moliere wrote.
All I got was another cryptic note:
Dear Exposer of Dom Juan, Sweet Misanthrope
The gods find they cannot fulfill your hope.
You may be right your universe needs shifting
But you yourself must do the heavy lifting.
Moliere’s lost draft is lost; what’s done is done:
Go out and write a Tartuffe of your own.
It’s just a hoax, it’s not a magic thing.
No doubt, but then, why am I tingling?
They told you to get lost!
Either that, or
They said to be the one I’m waiting for.
Don’t wait for the Messiah – that much I know.
Or Moliere, or Lefty, or Godot.
I’ll help a world that needs to be befriended
And write the play that Moliere intended –
The play that I intend, as best I can
And fight hard, as a writer and a man.
I’ll try my best to reconstruct the banned scenes
Though I won’t write my play in Alexandrines.
As in that Dickian novel, instead of sniping
And waiting, I’ll be in my high castle, typing.
Well, if you need a castle, or an ark
To shelter you, work here and make your mark.
I can’t stay here. At dawn I have to flee
To Mexico with my poor family.
My father’s left no dowry for his daughter;
But Vaughn will smuggle us out onto the water
Where we will travel ‘round the border fence
And find a wider world, where things make sense. Dad’s been a first-class fool, and there’s no knowing Why – but even Doreen says she’s going
Because we’re so incompetent and clueless.
She says she’ll wear fun clothes at last, and do less.
But you don’t have to go – your place is here!
The world is cruel to poor men who are queer,
Your father threw you out, you came to me;
He has no claim now on your loyalty.
And yet somehow he has it, just the same.
I’m still his son, I carry on his name
We’ll build a new life, burying the past
While he acknowledges who I am, at last.
It must be interesting to be hurled
From a backward land right into the First World.
Perhaps I’ll fight to set our nation free
And put a Guy Fawkes mask on, as in V.
I’ll see some other forms of Christianity
And other faiths, and learn about humanity ...
For all the persecution and the lying
That Christians do, the killing and the trying
To impose what they think, believe and feel
On others with a missionary zeal,
I have a sense there’s something at the core
Of faith that I could love. I’ll find out more
While I’m abroad.
It’s just some wild quest?
My folks are lost, now, kicked out of the nest.
My dad is shell-shocked, counting on my scrappiness – And Mary-Anne and Vaughn deserve real happiness, Instead of persecution from the State
Because they shelter us from outside hate.
Our passion’s known; if Pusser blows the whistle
Trouble will find us like a heat-seeking missile.
Why value only hetero romances?
I love you. I’m prepared to take my chances.
Is Mary-Anne the only one who matters,
So it’s okay to leave, as my heart shatters?
She's not some fragile, helpless little waif!
I’m her big brother. I’ll make sure she’s safe.
Vaughn says, indoors, she doesn’t have to wear
Her kerchief – and she has such pretty hair.
He’ll sign a travel pass, so Mary-Anne
Can live more like a person – like a man.
I love you, too – and, Tyler, this is hard
But there are things I just can’t disregard.
I can’t let you be ripped from me again
And send my Daniel to the lion’s den.
I’ll come with you –
You know you weren’t made
To live life on the run, poor and afraid.
Nor was I. I’m a lover, not a fighter ...
(HE kisses TYLER, then steps away)
The Oracle says I must be a writer.
There’s no sense living as a fugitive,
For years, unless your family has to live
That way. Yours doesn’t, unless we bring you down;
For now, at least, I’m heading out of town.
I’ll write to you. And, breathing that free air
I’ll try to take a page from Moliere:
To call the world on all its contradictions,
Hold up a truthful mirror with my fictions:
Mischievous, honest, cynical and smart –
I'll be a writer after his own heart.
If verses have the power to conquer hate
We may meet in a new world I create.
Be happy for our siblings, please – don’t cry
And say vaya con dios, when it’s time
To say goodbye.
END OF PLAY