A Foot in the Door
A Monologue in One Act
Setting: A small and very old chapel. A crucifix shrouded in black gauze is on the wall. There are three candles. Front and center is the Host and a candle. Midway up the aisle is another candle. At the door is the third candle. The light of the candles is the only light. Good Friday Vigil watch, 3 AM. The chapel is empty except for one parishioner.
Penny: (enters chapel from rear door, hobbling) Ouch, this hurts like a son-of-a… (Parishioner 1 turns around and glares at Penny, Penny puts finger to his lips, mumbles) Sorry. Sorry. (Penny hobbles to a front pew favoring his right foot; sits down; carefully takes off right shoe) Owww, ow, ow, ow.
(After a minute, Parishioner 1 leaves the chapel; Penny is alone)
(Grimacing in pain Penny slowly kneels down onto the pray bench. He makes the sign of the cross) Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner. (Beat) Lord, like the dumb sinner that I am, last night I ate Delores’s corned beef and I woke up with this gout. Every time I eat corned beef I get this blasted gout. And it hurts like…like…like you know what! But I am here like I promised You, like I promised her. (Looks at the shrouded crucifix on the wall for a time) “Go or else!” she said to me. “You have issues,” she said to me. But, who doesn’t have issues? She has me going to marriage therapy to get “fixed”. I am not a dog who needs to get fixed! But, what’s to be done? I am married to her… or else! (Beat) You remember the time, Lord, when I was lonely and Delores made those cow eyes at me. Now, I all get is bee bee eyes! (Beat) Well, I’m lonely again. What’s to be done? We both know that Delores liked to sit in front of the TV with her glass of wine and watch movies after the kids were in bed. I would have liked to go out to the garage and putz around and fix whatever is broken and listen to baseball. You know I can’t sit still not even with this awful gout. The universe isn’t static. Space-time isn’t static. I read somewhere that the galaxies are separating at the proportion of their distance from each other. That reminds me of my father. He never sat still. Even when he was sitting his knee would bounce up and down like he was pumping a manual sewing machine. You know me. I have to be a part of something moving and not watching it move in some little box. I’d rather play baseball than watch it but ever since I pulled my groin muscle running to second base, I benched myself. Talk about pain. Oh, that was miserable. (Beat) You know what else I read? That my body’s cells are replaced every ten years. That’s good. I am in need of new toe cells! (Penny lifts his foot to rub the area around this big toe) In the same article I read that after fifty half of my heart’s cells have been replaced! Maybe that explains why I don’t feel the same way I did thirty years ago. Maybe that explains why I am so lonely – I miss those old cells. (Beat) When I sit with Delores she thinks my knee is bouncing because of too much coffee. We better keep that to ourselves. (Beat) If I don’t sit with her she says she doesn’t feel loved. So I do. But then, after two glasses of wine, she says to me “Bill, you have issues”. Between You and me, I think her mood bounces because of the wine. (Beat) “Well, Yes”, I want to say. “Give me time. My cells are going to be replaced,” I want to say. “I am not the same person I was or will be,” I want to say. But, you know I can’t go there with her. The wine doesn’t make her laugh and I can’t make her laugh anymore. Too bad the cell replacement thing doesn’t work on dispositions. (Beat) (Penny sings) When you’re smilin’, when you’re smilin’, The whole world smiles with you. Hah. We both know who else doesn’t smile: my sister the tattooed Atheist. According to her, we are evolving organic life that happened to develop on the edge of a minor planet in a universe that emerged from preexisting quantum foam derived from out of nothing. It amazes me how people create something out of nothingness. Then she tells me, “any narrative or language explaining origins came down to us from power-hungry men who only wanted to oppress”. Besides, she says, “Christians think the world is six thousand years old, because some man in a pulpit told them it must be so.” So, I say to her, “Look, the earth is only 14.54 billion years old. Give them time.” And, when I mention You, she waves her hand in my face and says “let’s not talk about God. Let’s focus on the manageable world in the moment and not think about what we can’t manage”. “Live in the moment” she says to me, “in the unbearable lightness of being”, she says to me. It’s no wonder the whole world is not smiling with us. It’s been turned on its head. (Beat) (Penny sings) When you’re smilin’, when you’re smilin’, (The wind blows the door open, slams it shut. Penny turns to see. The candle by the door goes out.) …the whole world blows your candle out.
(A passing car’s headlights shine though a stained-glass window; Penny looks up at the stained-glass window) Ah, there’s St. Mark at the window! And the lion! Please pray for my big toe. It hurts like a… like…like I said. (Beat) As you know, St. Mark, Delores, she never forgets. I said something years ago. I don’t know what I said and it’s still echoing back as, how shall I say it in church?… You know, she keeps her distance ‘as far as the east is from the west.” St. Mark, she told me to come here tonight and confess my issues. So…. yes, I curse…I’ll admit that. Yes, I eat corned beef pretending it doesn’t give me gout. But, I can’t admit to what someone holds against me if I don’t know what it is I did twenty years ago. St. Mark, Delores wants the marriage therapist to find an issue with me that fits her unhappiness! (Beat) And, now, can you believe it!? Delores won’t forgive my brother, either. You know what happened. Sam turned fifty and turned into a woman. I knew that my hearts cells were replaced after fifty but I didn’t know that brother cells would be replaced with sister cells after fifty! (Beat) Well, my brother did try. He was married three times. Marriage does have a way of bringing someone to their knees. I get Sam. Life is hard. I get that he saw his change as a means to create, of giving birth to the art he wanted to create. But, I don’t get Delores after 35 years. She says that what my brother has done is absurd. “Compared to what”, I say. I pulled out my copper ore and showed her. “Now look at this copper ore which came from an exploding star that is hundreds of light-years away”, I tell her, “The universe of things does not happen in a box with a screen.” Well, You saw the look on her face. You saw Delores roll those bee bee eyes and grit her teeth. And, You heard Delores’ mother tell me that You do not have a sense of humor! Well, she doesn’t think I am funny either! I told her the goldfish joke. You know the one. One goldfish says to another, “If there is no God, who keeps changing the water?” She just stared at me. Now, that does make me wonder. If You don’t have a sense of humor where did the goldfish get their sense of humor? (Makes the sign of the cross) Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner. (Stops kneeling and sits back in the pew, puts right leg carefully out straight, fishes in his pocket, pulls out a rock- copper ore – and looks at it) That reminds me. I read somewhere that a star’s intense heat and pressure fuses together new elements. There’s a shoving match between gravity and the energy released (Laughs) Maybe a star fused a new sister element. Maybe there was some inner gravity drawing Sam to be a woman and some enormous release of energy in trying to appear normal. “Wonders never cease”, my father would say to Sam. (Holds up the rock) Dad gave me this chunk of copper ore and said to me, “Bill, you are made from stardust from an exploded star. And to stardust you shall return.” (Penny drags his finger along the top of the pew, looks at it) See. This stuff is everywhere. This dust probably came from an exploded star 100 light-years away and here it is on this pew waiting to be touched! My sister should get a bang out of this! I’ll write a technical paper: The Physical Properties of Dust and Its Unearthly Edge of the Universe Origin. I’ll give it to my sister and include You as the main source in the footnotes. She’ll freak out. (Beat) Well, it’s no wonder that I sneeze all the time when I sleep on the couch. (Sits back in the pew and grimaces) And my back, Lord. You know that Delores has me sleeping on the couch. She says I snore. So, you see why I am in the doghouse? I snore. I bounce my knee. I have (drags out the word) Is…sues! (The wind blows the door open, slams it shut. Penny turns to see. The aisle candle goes out.) Whew, I thought Delores heard me… but it is the Winds of Change! (Beat) You know what I wanted to be when I was a boy. I wanted to be a conductor. I stood in front of my parent’s stereo and conducted all of the classical LPs my grandfather passed on to me. Now, I am an engineer and I conduct current flow. Hah! Wonders never cease. Speaking of wonders. The dream I had last night was a doozy. You probably saw it. I am conducting Dvorak’s New World Symphony and Delores is sitting in the percussion section holding a timpani mallet in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. She is watching TV and yelling at it so she misses my tympani cue. Then I see my sister off stage and she’s at a grocery checkout buying Oreos with a coupon. After each purchase, she gets another coupon for more Oreos. She eats the Oreos she just bought and then she goes and buys another bag of Oreos and gets another coupon. I watch her going back and forth and eating and then all of a sudden Delores stabs my right foot with her drumstick and says, “Who’s watching the kids?’ I wake up and… You know the rest. Must have been the corned beef. (Beat) (Penny looks around) The people who built this place 175 years ago, they knew that heaven and earth belonged together. Priests of creation, that’s what I’d call them. They put a garden around this chapel, not a parking lot. When the windows are open, you can smell the lilacs and the hyacinths, the actual earth. (Takes a deep breath) Ah, nature, the fresh scent of rain, creation! (Beat) You and I agree. The best architects and artists and engineers and scientists in the world draw out all kinds of glory from creation. (Beat) Which now makes me wonder…churches today…many look like drab government buildings. It is as if those churches had to box up their faith and keep it earth bound so that people wouldn’t get carried away… at least not until they were “Raptured” away, as they call it in their fantasy books, to some nebulous cloud in the sky. To that my father would say, “everything done decently and in order.” Then he’d wink and say, “just like the big bang”. (Wind opens the chapel door and slams it closed. The candle on the altar is blown out. The light from a street lamp projected through a stained glass window is the only light. Penny pulls on his chin.) Damn, it’s getting dark in here. Oh! Yeah! You know me. I get frustrated with things. You know when I first started cursing? About a month after I turned sixty-five. Joints I didn’t know I had started aching. My knees retired. Little things started becoming big things, like trying to say a word I just had thought. And when I do curse Delores yells “Stop that! Little ears!” I don’t know what’s gotten into me. (Beat) I know. I know. What comes out of a man corrupts a man. But, Lord, the corned beef that my wife Delores gave me, I ate it and it went into me and corrupted me with this gout. How can anyone keep from cursing this awful gout! You know what else I read? Cursing helps to ease pain, but if you curse all day long, then it doesn’t help. (Beat) I’ll tell You one thing. I don’t want my whole life reduced down to shopping for cookie coupons. …And, I am not afraid of dying. I am afraid of cursing my life.
(Parishioner 2 opens the door and stands there backlit; Penny holds his watch up to the dim entrance light) It looks like my time is up. (Makes the sign of the cross) Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner. St. Mark, a small request before I go. The next time Delores offers corned beef for dinner, could you have a word with my wife? And, maybe you know the answer to this? Did the apostle Paul have gout? You know. Was that his “thorn in the flesh”? And, the disciples? It would have been hard to be your follower, Lord, having gout: all that walking around and not being able to curse. (Carefully puts his right shoe back on) Ow…ow….ow…da…ang! (Gets up from the pew, turns to leave, sees Parishioner 2 in the light of the door, puts finger to his mouth, mumbles) Sorry, sorry. (Hobbles toward rear door; points to foot) Big toe… Wife’s corned beef… What’s that? …Why is it so dark in here? (Stops for a moment to rest) The wind came three times and blew out the three candles. Wonders never cease. (Begins hobbling again and then stops to listen) What? Where’s the light switch?… Did you hear the one about the two goldfish?
(Parishioner 2 opens door wider for Penny.)
Curtain comes down.
© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2017, All Rights Reserved
(Beat) = beat – a break or space of air in between lines or words