Barb: SNIFFING AIR Can you smell that? They’re roasting turkeys for Christmas dinner. Reminds me of home.
Mel: Hope it’s better than that slop they served for breakfast.
Barb: I remember when I was a kid, me and my friends, we’d like, stay up dancing and clubbing all night, I mean we were under-age, but we’d sneak in anyway; well, in the morning we’d go to Denny’s and order the Grand Slam Breakfast. It tasted so-o-o good!
Mel: Maybe I’ll apply at Denny’s as soon as I get out of the joint. You know, I ‘ve never had a job, never paid taxes. The old man left when I was five. Said he was going out for cigarettes and never came back. Isn’t that rich? Everyone in my family runs away sooner or later. Mom always called him ‘That Wretch.’ I used to tell people, my daddy’s name is Wretch. We never had Christmas after the old man left. My brother and I used to go to school and make up what we got for Christmas. ‘I got a Howdy Doody doll, and a Davey Crockett hat and a bike and a BB gun and an electric train.’
Barb: Didn’t your friends see when they came over?
Mel: No one came over. I went into my first institution when I was twelve. Now my parole’s coming up and I can’t wait to get out and get a job, an apartment, a car, learn to drive, pay taxes, live like a regular person. You know, I’d like to work with children, or people who’re in trouble with the law.
Barb: When I get out the first place I’m going is Denny’s and order the Grand Slam. WORRIED They serve breakfast all day, don’t they?
Mel: ‘When’ is gonna be a long time coming, sweetie. There’s that little problem of your life sentence.
Barb: I’m appealing! I’m gonna get that reversed. My lawyer’s working on it right now.
Mel: That must be a great comfort. We’re all appealing, sweetie…and we’re all still in here. Appeals, parole, and politicians: the unholy trinity in which we, the incarcerated, place our hope in order to endure the unendurable.
Barb: And my parents have started a petition…they’ve got 500 signatures already…they’ve written to the Minister of Justice, and the Prime Minister, and everything!
Mel: MOCKINGLY I am innocent, Your Honour!
Barb: But it’s true! I would never hurt anyone!
Mel: STILL MOCKING BARB I am wrongfully accused!
Barb: I’m a good person!
Mel: Tell it to that nice policeman’s widow whose husband got blown up!
Barb: I don’t know anything about bombs!
Mel: Unfortunately, sweetie, you had friends who did. That’ll teach you to hang out with the wrong crowd.
Barb: I hadn’t been part of that group for months. I support civil disobedience, but in a totally nonviolent way. Oh, I feel so alone sometimes…I had a boyfriend on the outside…we were talking about getting married…having kids…that’s all gone now.
Mel: Yeah, sweetie. You’ll be well and truly passed your ‘Use by Date’ when you get out of this hole.
Barb: He used to visit me at the beginning. No one visits me now. My friends didn’t want to know me after I was arrested. You should have heard them testify against me at the trial. I felt like I was living in some parallel universe. I didn’t know the person they were talking about.
Mel: What about your parents?
Barb: It’s too far for them to travel…and it’s just too hard on us all. They try, but they’re not that strong anymore…the trial and everything, it’s worn them out…and they’ve used up their life savings on me. I’m their only child, you know. Oh, God, I can’t grow old in here! It’s, it’s, ….
Mel: A prison? Hey, it doesn’t hurt to be optimistic. Maybe you will get out. Maybe you’ll get all your wishes. The homeless will be housed, the hungry will be fed, there’ll be peace in the Middle East, no logging, no whaling, or fill in the blank. God’s in His Heaven and all’s right with the world. Oh, yeah, we’ll all be vegetarian.
Barb: Do you always have to be such a smart-mouth, Mel?
Mel: Actually, I do. You know, maybe they’ll even make a TV movie about you, and you’ll get stinkin’ filthy rich. Who do you want to play you? Pamela Anderson? Or how about Jennifer Lopez?
Barb: I think not.
Mel: SHE NOTICES A BIBLE ON A CHAIR. Hey, what’s this? FLIPS THROUGH. Oh, It’s forgotten to take Its bible to Chapel. SEES CASS ENTERING WITH GUARD. HIDES BIBLE BEHIND HER BACK. GUARD UNDOES CASS’ HANDCUFFS AND LEAVES. SHE STARTS TO LOOK FOR HER BIBLE.
Mel: This what you’re looking for?
Cass: REACHING FOR BIBLE. Thank you.
Mel: SNATCHING BIBLE OUT OF CASS’ REACH. Actually, I was just coming to the interesting part. Get a load of this, Barb. READS FROM BACK INSIDE COVER OF BIBLE MOCKINGLY. ‘My decision to receive Christ as my saviour. Confessing to God that I am a sinner, and believing that the Lord Jesus Christ died for my sins on the cross and was raised for my justification, I do now receive and confess Him as my personal saviour. Signed, Cassandra Mills.’ Now isn’t that just too rich! TO BARB If there’s people like It in heaven, I sure wouldn’t want to go there. I’m sure even Jesus draws the line somewhere. Hey, it’s dated April 1. It’s an April Fool’s joke. Had me goin’ there for a while.
Cass: May I have my property?
Mel: MOCKINGLY. May I have my property? If I recall, you weren’t too concerned about your property when you offed your two kids and burnt your house down.
Barb: TORMENTINGLY. Yeah, you think you’re so good with your bible and your chapel and your pious mumbo jumbo. You know, I used to go to Sunday School when I was a kid, I know what the bible says: Blessed are the peacemakers. Well, I wanted peace, and I’ve been blessed with a 25 year jail sentence!
Cass: REACHES FOR BIBLE. Please. MEL THROWS IT TO BARB. A PHOTO DROPS OUT OF IT. SCUFFLE AS BARB PICKS UP PHOTO BEFORE CASS CAN GET TO IT.
Barb: What’s this? A photo of your children?
Cass: Give it to me, please.
Barb: Did your kids go to Sunday School, Cass? Did they? At least my mother didn’t kill me. Would you say that’s a blessing, Cass? Would you? Children are a blessing to their parents…is that true, Cass? Is it? You have to tell me because I won’t have the chance to find out!
GUARD ENTERS TO DELIVER SOMETHING
Guard: Someone got a problem here?
Cass: No problem.
Barb: We’re just having a little bible study. Let the little children come unto me. Jesus said that, didn’t he Cass?
Mel: Our friend here says she’s a Christian.
Guard: LOOKS AT CASS. Well, that makes two of us. HANDS MEL AN ENVELOPE. Letter for you McCormick. Merry Christmas.
MEL STARTS TO OPEN LETTER. GUARD IS WATCHING SNOOPILY. SHE GIVES HIM A DIRTY LOOK. SHE READS WITH GROWING SHOCK AND DISBELIEF.
Barb: What is it? Your parole?
Mel: My lawyer. Wants me to be the first to know before it hits the papers. They’re scheduling a Dangerous Offender hearing for me.
Barb: What does that mean?
Cass: If the judge rules you’re a Dangerous Offender, you can be kept on jail indefinitely, even after your sentence has been served. No parole.
Barb: TAKES LETTER AND READS. ‘In light of your more than 20 criminal convictions for violent crimes, involving weapons, threats, and violence, Crown Counsel is seeking Dangerous Offender status, in the interest of public safety.’
Mel: What about my interest? My safety?
Barb: CONTINUES TO READ. ‘Can’t function on the streets…shows no remorse….
Mel: GRABS THE LETTER. Give me that!
Barb: Surely your lawyer can….
Mel: INTERRUPTING. That court-appointed hack! Not exactly the dream-team. There’s never been one person who cared whether I lived or died, in or out of prison. DESPAIRS. To live without hope. No! No! I can’t! I won’t! I won’t, I tell you! It’s, it’s, ….
Barb: Too rich?
Cass: I’m sorry.
Mel: Don’t you dare sorry me! I want nothing from you. I’m not like you. I never murdered anyone…I was just a stupid kid who made some bad choices…all right…a lot of bad choices…but…you’re…a disgusting thing…you wanted to kill, to destroy…your own kids…you’re a fiend…you’re evil in a way I know I could never be. I’m not like you. Yet I’m the Dangerous Offender. I’m too evil to be free. Isn’t that rich?
Cass: It may not happen, Mel. Dangerous Offender status depends a lot on circumstance. Even if there is a hearing, Crown Counsel has to persuade the judge to make a ruling. And that ruling can be reversed by the Court of Appeal.
Barb: How come you know so much about the law?
Mel: It’s one of the perks of doing hard time, sweetie. We’re all searching for some miserable legal loophole to crawl through. All is forgiven, come home. Except in my case there’s no home to go to. No one’s missing me, that’s for sure. I may as well be here as any place. TO CASS. Put on your holy mask and go to Chapel, why don’t you?
Cass: How can God love me? How can I have the nerve to believe that God loves me? Why does that make everyone so angry? Is it so unbearable? Oh, God can love good people of course, that’s a given, and He can love people who are a little bit bad—people who cheat on their income tax or their spouse, or drink too much, or just plain ignore Him, then it’s all Brother This, and Sister That, and are you coming for coffee after the service. But people like me, we’re a special minority group. We contaminate the holy waters of Christianity. We mustn’t say we’re Christians. Well, I’ve never said that. Even I feel I don’t deserve to say those words. Only! All I have to offer Christ is my own wretched self—no excuses, no reasons, no explanations, no noble causes, no bad childhood. I know what people say. ‘Take her out and put a bullet through her.’ I agree. Do it! Do it! I’d welcome it. I’m not allowed to say I’m suffering. I’ve given up all right to suffering, to pleasure, to being human. I must be a monster, a mutant, subhuman, an aberration! It scares people to think they have the least little thing in common with me. GRABS BIBLE WHICH BARB IS STILL HOLDING. But this book…the promises in this book…Jesus…I have freedom I’ve never known. Everything you say about me is true. It’s all true. I did it. I did it. What they say. And you want to know what scares me most of all? Some days I feel as if I’m the same old me. Some days I think, am I lying to God? Am I lying to myself? When I signed my name, was I sincere? But it says in this book that I’m a new person. READS VERSE FROM BIBLE. ‘If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation.’ All I know is that for me it all comes back to this. Nothing else makes sense. I have nothing else. I have no hope of anything else. You ask for justice. I ask for mercy I don’t deserve.
FAINT CHRISTMAS MUSIC IS HEARD. FIRST PLAYERS USED ‘HARK THE HERALD ANGEL SING.’
Cass: GIVING BIBLE TO BARB. Chapel’s starting. Keep
HOLDS OUT ARMS FOR GUARD TO HANDCUFF HER. GUARD EXITS WITH CASS FOLLOWING. MEL MOVES TO FOLLOW THEM.
Barb: Where’re you going?
Mel: It’s a free country, isn’t it. I’m going to Chapel. SHE PAUSES BEFORE HER FINAL EXIT. Me, goin’ to church. Isn’t that just too rich?
A SOLO OF ‘HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING’ IS HEARD OFF STAGE. BARB SITS ALONE AS LIGHTS SLOWLY DIM. END.
Copyright Nadine Laughlin, all rights reserved.
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged. In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed. She may be contacted at: email@example.com