Sangam Playhouse






Salvation

A Play by


One hour, fifty minutes, including one fifteen-minute intermission.
The entire dramatic text. Please contact the author (jamesmclindon@yahoo.com) to use this text in any form.




ACT ONE: . . . . . . . The living room of a run-down apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The time is Ash Wednesday, the present.

ACT TWO: . . . . . . . . The same setting, a few minutes later.

CAST OF CHARACTERS
(In Order Of Appearance)

BARTHOLOMEW . . . . . . . . . AN UNCERTAIN YOUNG MAN IN HIS MID- TWENTIES TO EARLY THIRTIES

JACK . . . . . . . . . . . A DYING CRIMINAL IN HIS FIFTIES,
BARTHOLOMEW’S FATHER

FATHER GALLAGHER . . . . . . A WEARY, DISPIRITED PRIEST IN HIS FIFTIES

A VOICE OUTSIDE . . A TALL, HEAVY, BRUTISH MAN AROUND JACK’S AGE

SETTING: The setting may be minimally depicted or realized in thoroughgoing detail. In any event, the living room where the play takes place is a mess. Paint or wallpaper peels from the wall. Pizza boxes and other signs of a fast-food diet are strewn about. In the center of the room is a Barcalounger being used as a sick bed. It is covered with a very old, tacky, ill-fitting slipcover. A plain wooden chair sits next to it, along with a night table that holds a pitcher of water. (A pile of books on the night table – Shakespeare, Joyce, Yeats, Dickens and so on – make a nice touch.) Nearby is a dilapidated couch. Elsewhere, a desk or table holds a laptop. Upon its corresponding chair, which is on rollers, rests a roll of duct tape and a pair of scissors. An old framed photo of a beautiful young woman sits near the laptop, perhaps on the desk or a wall. Along the upstage wall is a window with a fire escape visible outside as well as the front door bristling with locks, which leads to a common hallway. A hammer and a box of nails sit on the window sill. A coat tree with many coats is next to the door. Another door, this one on the Stage Left wall, leads to the rest of the apartment. The living room is filled with original paintings made by a decidedly untalented hand, some finished, some still in progress.

A note about the text: Sometimes a sentence is cut off by a dash, preceded by words inside parentheses. In such cases, the last word spoken by the actor should be the last word before the parenthesized material. The words in the parentheses are presented only to inform the actor of the meaning of the abbreviated sentence. Thus, in speech like “I’m not (under his thumb)—”, the last word spoken is “not.” “Under his thumb” merely informs the delivery of “I’m not.”

Salvation

Act One

Scene One

The living room of a run-down apartment somewhere in Cambridge, Massachusetts. JACK, in his 50’s, reclines in a Barcalounger, wearing rumpled pajamas and a bathrobe. He is decidedly not well, although his iron constitution helps him mask this fact most of the time. Occasionally, he will get up and walk around the apartment, at which times he reveals how sick he is. BARTHOLEMEW, although in his mid-twenties to early thirties, is nevertheless filled with the anger, uncertainty and awkwardness of a 13-year-old. He sits next to JACK, wearing a track stopwatch around his neck. He reads aloud from a book of poetry with little feeling, and abundant boredom. JACK, eyes closed, deeply feels every line. BARTHOLOMEW, who has paused, now sighs deeply, barely able to go on.

BARTHOLOMEW
“Mavrone, mavrone! the man has died
While I slept on the chair”;
He roused his horse out of its sleep
And rode with little care.

BARTHOLOMEW sighs again and falls over sideways on the couch.

BARTHOLOMEW
Oh my god, I’m sooooooo bored with this stupid poem!

JACK
Read.

BARTHOLOMEW struggles on.

He rode now as he never rode,
By rocky lane and fen;
The sick man’s wife opened the door:
Father—

JACK
“Father! you come again.”

Do you see the miracle, son? The exhausted priest had fallen back asleep after the boy asked him to come absolve his dying father. He was worn out (from tending his parishioners)—

BARTHOLOMEW
Dad. I’ve read this poem to you, like, 1000 times. Do you think maybe I figured out the story?

JACK
Yeats has written the most beautiful poem in the English language here.

BARTHOLOMEW
It’s sentimental crap. Let’s go back to Shakespeare.

JACK
Crap!? This is art. You wanna see crap, look at this roomful of crappy pictures, Mr. Crappy Picture Painter!

JACK points to a painting of a poorly drawn figure in the midst of a fiery red world.

JACK
What’s the title of this one: “Crap Descending a Staircase?”

BARTHOLOMEW
I was thinking more, like, “My Dad Descends Into Hell.”

JACK
Ha, ha— ahhhhhh.

Suddenly, JACK hunches over, grimacing in great pain. BARTHOLOMEW cannot hide his concern.

BARTHOLOMEW
Dad. You okay? Dad?

After a moment, JACK recovers and nods.

JACK
I’m fine. Give me that book! Now, listen and learn.

BARTHOLOMEW hands the book over and sprawls on the couch like an adolescent. JACK reads with melodramatic feeling and a cheesy brogue. BARTHOLOMEW moves to the desk. Occasionally, he will work at a laptop computer.

JACK
“Father! You come again!

“And is the poor man dead?” he cried.
“He died an hour ago.”
The old priest, Peter Gilligan
In grief swayed to and fro.

“When you were gone, he turned and died
As merry as a bird.”
The old priest, Peter Gilligan,
He knelt him at that word.

“He Who hath made the night of stars
For souls who tire and bleed,–”

See, he’s talking about God right there: “He who made the stars,” that’s God. Real religions have a God, you know.

BARTHOLOMEW
Buddhism is a real religion.

JACK
How would you know, you’ve never even been to a Buddhist synagogue.

BARTHOLOMEW
They’re called temples, Mr. Ignorant.

JACK
So why don’t you ever go to one? Why don’t you ever go anywhere, instead of hanging out here all day pretending to be an artist?

BARTHOLOMEW
I go out. I’m just … comfortable here.

JACK
Well, I’m glad you like being with your dad.

BARTHOLOMEW
I hate being with my dad. But at least it’s familiar.

JACK
You know what your problem is?

BARTHOLOMEW
You?

JACK
You’re afraid of the world.

BARTHOLOMEW
Wha—!? Since when are criminals afraid of the world?

JACK
Oh, right, you’re Mr. Cybercriminal. All of which you can conveniently do without ever leaving the house. You’re afraid.

BARTHOLOMEW
I’m not (afraid)—! Okay, fine.

BARTHOLOMEW heads to the door.

BARTHOLOMEW
You want me to leave the house so bad, maybe I will.

JACK
Okay. (Pause) So go.

BARTHOLOMEW
(Crossing to the door)
Okay, I will.

JACK
Okay, do it.

BARTHOLOMEW
Okay, I am.

JACK
Okay, out you go.

BARTHOLOMEW has stopped at the door. He does not open it, but rather contemplates it as a thing to be feared. He can’t do it.

BARTHOLOMEW
(Pause)
I … don’t feel like it.

BARTHOLOMEW, shaken, hurries back to his desk.

JACK
(Softly)
When was the last time you went outside, son?

BARTHOLOMEW
I’ve been taking care of you, okay?

JACK
Three months? Four months?

BARTHOLOMEW
I’ve been taking care of you!

VOICE 1:
(Off, drunken)
I want my god damn money, you son of a bitch! Gimme my money!

BARTHOLOMEW
What is with that drunk? (Looking out the window) And now he’s gone again.

JACK
It’s Tommy, son.

BARTHOLOMEW
Pffft, Tommy. I thought you said you and “Tommy” made up.

JACK
Well, I thought we had. I gave him 50 large when I met him at O’Connor’s Tap last month—

BARTHOLOMEW
You never had $50,000 to give anybody.

JACK
I gave him 50 large for old times’ sake, even though he’d been too drunk to do the bank job. He seemed thankful enough, even got me the Percocet. But that Tommy, he’s a brooder—

BARTHOLOMEW
It’s not Tommy, dad. D’ya know why? Because there is no Tommy.

JACK
Oh, it’s him. You cut a man out of his share of a bank robbery and however justified you are, he’s apt to be a little pissed off—

BARTHOLOMEW
And you so never robbed a bank.

By now, BARTHOLOMEW has walked over an old photo of a beautiful young woman and is studying it.

BARTHOLOMEW
Tell me the story again. Please.

JACK
She was beautiful, wasn’t she?

BARTHOLOMEW
Yeah.

JACK
Especially her ears.

BARTHOLOMEW
Especially her ears. One more time, Dad.

JACK
You’ll do the voices?

BARTHOLMEW
(Returning to him)
Yeah.

JACK
Okay. Once there was a little boy … born without any ears. Every night when his mother sweetly tucked him in, the toddler asked:

BARTHOLOMEW
“Mother, why have I no ears?”

JACK
And she told him, “Everything God makes is perfect, and you’re perfect, too.” But the other children were not as kind as the mother and they taunted the little boy without mercy:

BARTHLOMEW
“He has no ears, he has no ears.”

JACK
And the boy wept. But his mother prayed for a miracle. And one day, it came: a surgeon, who knew how to give the boy ears. And so the boy grew up, a happy boy.

BARTHLOMEW
With ears.

JACK
With ears. But, alas, motherless. For God called her home soon after. And as he viewed her in her coffin, that little boy thought he couldn’t love her any more than he already did. Until his father asked:

BARTHOLOMEW
“Son. Do you know where your ears came from?”

JACK
The boy shook his head. And so the father brushed back the mother’s hair from the sides of her face and revealed…

BARTHOLOMEW
(Whispering reverent)
That she had no ears.

JACK
Oh, she still had ears, son. Her ears lived on, on the head of her beloved boy. On you, Barty. Do you remember, son?

BARTHOLOMEW
I … I … almost do.

JACK
Oh, my darling Kathy. You were so young when God took her home, so young. All right, how long do we have, son?

BARTHOLOMEW
85 minutes and ten seconds.

JACK
Where the hell is he?

BARTHOLOMEW
He said he was running a little late.

JACK
Well, he better not run too late. Now, Barty, c’mere, there’s not much time. (Pause) Promise me you’ll take ‘em.

BARTHOLOMEW
Dad, I told you, I don’t want your stupid holy medals.

JACK
(Pulling out religious medals hanging around his neck)
Promise me! These are my legacy to you, boy, now swear it!

BARTHOLOMEW
Yeah, fine, I swear … to Buddha.

JACK
That don’t count! Swear that you’ll study ’em. They protected me my whole life. And they hold the key to your life, too.

BARTHOLOMEW
Yeah, my life, Dad. My. Life.

A knock on the front door is heard.

JACK
Ahhhh. Now, you’re gonna see how a real religion does it.

BARTHOLOMEW
Buddhism is a real religion.

JACK
You worship cows, Mr. Stupid Cow Worshipper.

BARTHOLOMEW
Those are Hindus, Mr. Stupid … Stupid.

Another knock interrupts.

JACK
Are you ready for anything?

BARTHOLOMEW
Yeah.

JACK
Show me, then.

BARTHOLOMEW reveals a .357 Magnum hidden in the coat tree. More knocking.

JACK
Is it loaded?

BARTHOLOMEW
Of course it’s loaded—! (Pause; suddenly uncertain) Crap.

As JACK responds, BARTHOLOMEW finds a shell box in his desk, loads the gun, and puts the box back. More knocking.

JACK
Jesus, Barty. You don’t know what this guy is capable of.

BARTHOLOMEW
Who, the priest?

VOICE 2:
(Off)
Hello? Is anyone home?

JACK
Not the priest, Tommy! Now, answer the damn door. (As BARTHOLOMEW starts to comply) Wait, what’re you doing!?

BARTHOLOMEW
Answering the door.

JACK
And just how do we answer the door in this family?

BARTHOLOMEW
It’s the priest, Dad, I just talked to him.

JACK
Maybe it’s the priest.

VOICE 2
(Off)
Are you too ill to get up?

JACK
Or maybe it’s Tommy disguising his voice.

VO2
(Off)
Oh jeez. Okay, maybe I’d better force the door.

The sound of a body weakly hitting the door is heard.

VO2
(Off)
Owwwww.

TOMMY
I told you, Tommy’s a brooder. He knows I’ve been sitting on my five million since you were a baby, and he wants a cut. But it’s all for you.

The body hits the door again, a little harder.

VO2
(Pause, off)
Owwwwwwwww. Darn it.

BARTHOLOMEW
Oh, really? Well, if it really exists, not that it does, wouldn’t you have, oh, I don’t, told me where it is by now?

JACK
You’ll know when you need to know. I tell you now and what do you need me for? Not for nothing did I read King Lear. Now check the peephole!

VO2:
(Off)
Third time’s the charm.

BARTHOLOMEW
(Looking out, mock surprise)
Oh my god, Dad! (Pause) It’s the priest.

BARTHOLEMEW hides the .357 and opens the door. FATHER GALLAGHER ENTERS, standing there prepared to put his shoulder into the door again. He is a Roman Catholic priest, a spare man in his 50’s, weary, dispirited, and preoccupied with his own problems. In particular, he has lost faith in his church, if not his religion. But when he manages to rise above these feelings, he evokes the good parish priest of an old Bing Crosby movie. Prominent on his forehead is a black smudge. He carries a small black bag containing what he needs for the Last Rites. He straightens up awkwardly.

BARTHOLOMEW
(Sarcastically quoting the poem)
“Father! You come again!”

FATHER
(Pause)
Have I been here before? Oh, there are so many sick right now and so few priests left, I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. Tell me I’m not too late.

JACK
Still breathing, Father.

FATHER
Thank God. When no one answered, I— (Almost catching BARTHOLOMEW as he puts the gun away) Do you know there’s a drunk out front threatening to kill someone?

JACK
Hah, told ya! It’s gotta be Tommy! A tall fella, was he, Father?

FATHER
It was hard to tell, he was lying in the bushes, yelling. Then he seemed to pass out. Maybe we should call the police.

JACK
No, no cops! (Pause) I mean, we don’t want to embarrass the poor man, he’ll sleep it off.

FATHER
Well, okay. Would you like some ashes? It’s Ash Wednesday.

JACK
You bet, Father.

FATHER
Here you go. (Taking a healthy smudge from his forehead and administering them to JACK) Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return. (Offering some to BARTHOLOMEW) Would you like (some)—?

BARTHOLOMEW
No way.

JACK
Forget it, Father, Barty here is pretending he’s a Buddhist. Just to piss me off. Take Father’s coat.

BARTHOLOMEW helps FATHER out of his coat. He will hold onto it for a while before hanging it on the coat tree.

FATHER
Oh. Well, I’m Fr. Gallagher.

JACK
What happened to Fr. Ryan?

FATHER
He’s on … administrative leave. There have been certain … allegations. I’ve been asked to help cover Holy Redeemer in the interim. Anyway, it’s nice to meet you, Mr. Grant.

JACK
It’s Grace, Father, Jack Grace.

FATHER
Oh, gosh, I’m so sorry, I’m terrible with names. Oh, here I go, off on the wrong foot again. (Slumping down on a chair next to JACK) Each time, I swear it’ll be different, but you get so, so discouraged, so worn down, so bone tired.

FATHER sighs and hangs his head. A pause. JACK and BARTHOLOMEW exchange a look, unsure what to do.

JACK
Ah, don’t be so hard on yourself, Father. And, not to tell you your business, but as you’re the priest and I’m the dying guy, I think maybe you’re supposed to comfort me.

FATHER
Sorry, sorry, I’m just having a really bad …

JACK
Day?

FATHER
Decade. (Looking around) There are no children here, are there?

JACK
No.

FATHAER
Oh, good.

JACK
You don’t like kids?

FATHER
Oh, I used to love children, their faith, what an inspiration. But now, since, since … well, since everything, to have parents snatch them away from you, as if you were a, a wolf, not a priest … And you can’t blame them, after how the Church has handled that whole, tragic affair….

FATHER sighs again and buries his face in his hands. JACK considers him for a moment.

JACK
Um, Father, if you could pull yourself together, I’m kinda on a tight schedule here, seeing as how I’m dying! Barty, my legs are cold, get me Father’s coat.

BARTHOLOMEW
You don’t need his coat.

JACK
Yeah, I do.

BARTHOLOMEW
You’re pathetic.

BARTHOLOMEW reluctantly complies, tossing the coat to JACK who spreads it over his lap and legs.

FATHER
All right, then, let’s get right to your confession.

BARTHOLOMEW
Make yourself good and comfortable, Father, because you’re in for one long day with this asshole.

FATHER
Now, son. The death of a loved one is very hard on a family.

BARTHOLOMEW
Yeah, especially when the loved one is an asshole.

FATHER
Billy, please.

BARTHOLOMEW
It’s Barty.

FATHER
Right, right, Barty. You mustn’t say words you’ll regret later.

BARTHOLOMEW
Why don’t you tell that to Mr. Jackass over there?

JACK
No, you tell Mr. Jackass, Jr. over there!

FATHER
Please! Please. Let me help you both through this hard time. Now, I have to ask, sir: You don’t look so bad. Are you really very ill?

JACK
Ah. Is it usually worse than this, Father?

FATHER
Oh, you have no idea. Trying to ignore the stink of urine and worse while you hold the hands of old sinners rightly terrified that a just and angry God is about to damn them to an eternity of unimaginable torment that they have so richly, richly earned—

FATHER’s head is again beginning slowly to sink in despair. JACK pulls it back up.

JACK
Father!

FATHER
What!?

JACK
You’re scaring the crap outta me! I was expecting sidewalks-paved-with-gold, flights-of-angels, that sort of talk.

FATHER
Forgive me. I’ve had no rest for weeks. I just tend the dying, that’s all I do. But before I anoint you, I just need to know: Are you sure you’re quite sick?

JACK
You can trust me, Father. I mean, if you can’t trust the dying, who can you trust? The law and I agree for once. Even though it’s hearsay, the law allows into evidence a man’s dying words, because no man would dare go to his maker with a lie on his lips. In fact, a dying declaration once kept my ass out of prison for bank robbery.

FATHER
Oh my gosh! You were accused of bank robbery!?

JACK
What the hell’s so surprising about me robbing a bank!? What happened was, the security camera got a picture of me taking off my mask outside and it was a pretty good likeness. The cops were thrilled, cuz usually robbers scout out where the cameras are, but if the scout is more interested in making sketches, sometimes they miss one. Barty here is also pretending he’s an artist just to piss me off.

BARTHOLOMEW
I am an artist!

JACK
No, you’re not. Artists wear black, artists wear berets, artists exhibit their work.

BARTHOLOMEW
You wouldn’t know art if it crapped on you.

JACK
Your art craps on me all day long, Mr. Art Crapper. Why don’t you ever show it to anyone else and let it crap on them for a change?

BARTHOLOMEW
They … no one would understand it.

JACK
They’d understand it’s crap and tell you so and then you’d have to get on with a real life.

BARTHOLOMEW
And it wasn’t even a bank, it was a convenience store. Dappled in a very evocative light.

JACK
It had an ATM, which makes it a branch of the God damn bank, which makes it a bank robbery! Anyway, one lousy picture and I was looking at 20 years hard. But as luck would have it, who should be dying just then but Sonny Hannaway. And for a 25% cut of the heist—

BARTHOLOMEW
Pfff, fifty bucks.

JACK
For a 25% cut of the heist to his widow—! Father, I’m remiss. This conversation is confidential, isn’t it?

FATHER
The sanctity of the confessional is unassailable.

JACK
Of course, of course. Would you mind raising your arms?

FATHER
What?

JACK
Like you’re surrendering. Bartholomew?

FATHER, bewildered, complies. BARTHOLOMEW perfunctorily pats him down.

JACK
Not like that. Do it right.

BARTHOLOMEW does a more thorough job.

BARTHOLOMEW
He’s not wired, he’s a priest. You’re dying anyway, what’s it matter?

JACK
Good fundamentals always matter! Fifty-six years old and not a day in prison, Father.

BARTHOLOMEW
You were always in and out of jail.

JACK
But not prison. Jail is for misdemeanors, but prison is for felonies, and they never could pin anything big on me. Now where was I?

FATHER
Bribing Sammy Hartigan.

JACK
Sonny Hannaway. Sonny resembled me enough that his deathbed confession set me free. We both saw the business opportunity there and I became his agent his last week on this earth. For 50 bucks, Sonny’d confess to any crime you happened to be accused of. Thus did he finally become in death the one-man crime wave he’d always aspired to be in life—

FATHER
Okay, look, may we—

JACK
What’s your hurry, you got dinner reservations?

FATHER
You said you were in a (hurry)— I am trying to save your immortal soul here, sir! May we get on with it!?

JACK
All right, fine.

FATHER
Now, before I anoint you, I must hear your confession.

JACK
Bless me, Father, for I have sinned, it’s been … it’s been …. Bartholomew, google “Richard Nixon, years in office.”

FATHER
We’ll just say it’s been a very long time. What are your sins, my son?

JACK
I had Bartholomew design a spreadsheet to lay them out, Father, thought it would be easier for you to manage.

FATHER
God is not the Great Inventorier of Iniquity. I don’t need an exhaustive list.

JACK
You sure as shit do cuz I’m going up clean! Where’s the list, boy?

BARTHOLOMEW
(Handing him a thick stack of paper)
Here.

FATHER
I mean, it’s the sum of your choices, the moral sweep of your life that’s important.

JACK
I got your moral sweep right here in this printout, Father. You do the least extrapolating from this data and I think you’ll agree, I’ve been quite the son of a bitch.

JACK hands FATHER the stack of paper.

JACK
Do you know why a man robs a bank?

FATHER
Because he is contemptuous of God and his fellow man. Which means, he is contemptuous of himself.

JACK
Pfff. A man robs a bank to prove himself to himself. Bank robbers are the elite.

BARTHOLOMEW
Only a loser robs with a gun anymore. Anyone with any brains robs with a laptop.

FATHER considers BARTHOLOMEW, who is working on his laptop. He stops guiltily and closes it.

JACK
Now, Father, you can look up what I was doing in, say, 1979, with the chronological index there. Or you can go by category: see, assault, bank robbery, breaking and entering—

FATHER
This is … staggering! Surely, no one man could have done all this—

JACK
Ah, thanks, Father, I tried to do my best.

FATHER
You’ve waited decades with these sins blackening your soul—?

BAR:
He’s lying about that $20 million bank job. Don’t you absolve him of that!

JACK
Excuse me, whose confession is this?

FATHER
Bertrand, listen—

BARTHOLOMEW
Bartholomew!

FATHER
Bartholomew, sorry. Listen, John is—

JACK
Jack!

FATHER
Jack, Jack, got it, Jack. Jack’s right, please let us talk. (Turning to JACK) Now, sir. As you stand on the precipice of eternity, gazing into the flaming depths of hell and damnation—

JACK
Father? You’re starting to scare me again.

FATHER
I intend to. This is the time to be utterly truthful.

JACK
Okay, no, you’re right, I do have a couple more since this morning. Barty? (Motioning BARTHOLOMEW to turn away) When Barty was in the bathroom this morning, I stole $6 from his dresser.

BATHOLOMEW grunts and pounds the desk, but does not turn around.

FATHER
From your own son!?

JACK
You’re sounding a bit judgmental there, Father. Judge not, lest ye be judged. Now, I had my reasons.

FATHER
Which were what?

JACK
To teach Bartholomew a lesson, that he needs to be more careful. He’s so naïve.

FATHER
But you’re his father!

JACK
Yeah, well, still.

FATHER
Fine. Anything else?

JACK
I also ate the last of the Cocoa Puffs. They were Bartholomew’s.

BATHOLOMEW again grunts and pounds the desk, but does not turn around.

JACK
He left them down where I could reach them. See, more careful, Barty.

FATHER
All right. My son, now these are very grave sins—

JACK
What, Cocoa Puffs?

FATHER
No, (holding up printout) these! Had you died an hour ago—

JACK
Okay, okay, wait, Father. There’s one more.

BARTHOLOMEW
Two.

JACK
One!

BARTHOLOMEW
(Patting where a vest pocket would be)
Two!

JACK
Oh, right. (Handing FATHER a wallet) Now, Father, you need to be a little more careful yourself.

FATHER
You … you stole my wallet!?

FATHER retrieves his coat and puts the wallet back in it.

JACK
As a lesson to you: always be careful who you trust.

FATHER
And what’s the other sin?

JACK
Yeah, right. Boy, is this awkward.

FATHER
More awkward than stealing your Confessor’s wallet!?

JACK
See, that right there! That was definitely judgmental!

FATHER
Tough! (Pause) Go on, you can’t shock me. I haven’t had anyone confess a new form of human depravity in 15 years.

JACK
Oh, no one’s ever confessed this.

FATHER
I’m sure someone has.

JACK
Yeah? Well, earlier today … I committed suicide. Whaddya think of that?

FATHER
(Pause)
I stand corrected. Suicide, what are you talking about?

JACK
I killed myself. Just before you got here. You see, Father, in second grade, I had an episiotomy.

BARTHOLOMEW
Epiphany, Dad. Remember, you had me google it?

JACK
Oh, right! An epiphany. Sister Angela told us God so loved us, that no matter how sinful a life we might lead, we could still go to heaven as long as we made a perfect Confession just before we died.

FATHER
Well, yes, but what she meant was—

JACK
Oh, I know what she meant cuz I grilled her. “Why doesn’t everyone lead wicked lives and just confess at the end?” I asked. “Oh,” she said, “there was a little boy ten years ago in this very class who thought just as you do. He decided he was smarter than God, and sinned all day long. But he was not smarter than God, Jackie. And that night, God caused a plane to crash into the unconfessed boy’s house and he went straight to hell.”

A powerful counterargument, but one that did not bear scrutiny. Because when I asked Sully at the candy store about the plane crash 10 years before, he just laughed and said: “Sister Angela makes that crap up.” And, as he turned to another boy … I stole a candy bar. And for the rest of that day, I sinned. I sinned with the exuberance and imagination of youth, with peace and joy in my heart. Oh, but as darkness fell, so did my spirits. What if Sully was wrong? What if, somewhere out there in the night, God was vectoring in to settle accounts. So, I lay in bed until my parents stopped yelling, which meant they’d fallen asleep. Then I climbed out my window and hid among the bald tires and weeds of our backyard, scanning the night sky for the doomed planeful of Innocents that an angry God might be about to sacrifice just to teach me a lesson. And suddenly I was waking up, half frozen, at dawn. Fearfully, I raised my eyes to gaze upon the smoking ruins of my house. Needless to say, it was pristine. Well, actually, it was a pigsty, but you get my point.

BARTHOLOMEW
But if God could see you sin, he could’ve seen where you’re hiding and crash the plane there. Did you ever even think of that?

JACK
(Pause)
Sister said the house, she was very precise! Catholicism is very precise, dammit, and–!

JACK stops, clutching his side and groaning.

BARTHOLOMEW
Dad?

FATHER
Are you all right?

JACK
(Gasping as the spasm passes)
Yeah. Yeah. Anyway, that was when I realized … God doesn’t give a rat’s ass what we do—

FATHER
The fact that God doesn’t immediately punish sin hardly proves His indifference.

JACK
Would you let me finish? God doesn’t care what we do when we do it. With six billion people to keep tabs on, it’s more efficient for Him to just let us run, and then sort us all out afterwards. But He’s left a loophole, you see: as long as a guy makes a good confession at the end, he can lead as sinful a life as he can imagine. Oh, and I have a great imagination.

FATHER
But what if you had died suddenly?

JACK
Exactly! Caution was my watchword. (Pulling out the medals) I wear every saint’s medal ever made. I dodged the draft, exercised regularly, ate heart healthy, crossed with the light. Anything that could kill you suddenly, I avoided.

BARTHOLOMEW
(Mockingly)
I thought you robbed banks.

JACK
You ever seen a bank guard? Pfff, they’re jokes. Armored car guards, now they’re a different story.

FATHER
Did Sr. Angela happen to mention purgatory?

JACK
Oh, c’mon, how bad can it be?

FATHER
It’s hell with a timer! (To BARTHOLOMEW) Tell me you’re not following your father into a life of crime.

JACK
I wish it. That boy’s so timid, he never even leaves this apartment anymore. If Stop ‘n Shop didn’t deliver, we’d’ve starved this last week.

BARTHOLOMEW
I’m not timid.

JACK
What do you call it, then? The world scares him, Father.

BARTHOLOMEW
No, it doesn’t.

JACK
Does so.

FATHER
Why does the world scare you?

BARTHOLOMEW
It doesn’t! (Pause) Look, the world took my mother from me and left me alone with him. That would scare the crap out of anyone.

JACK
She died when Barty was two. A living saint she was, God rest her.

BARTHOLOMEW
That’s why I like Buddhism. It doesn’t believe in a God and neither do I. No God would make a world where that could happen.

FATHER
You really are a Buddhist!? Oh, I loved Buddhism in comparative religions. Are you Theravadan or Mahayanan?

BARTHOLOMEW
Thera… thera… that first one you said.

JACK
Reading a few books doesn’t make you a Buddhist. You gotta go out and live your religion. Like me.

FATHER
So bold, Buddhism, so lonely. No God, just us, alone, life after weary life, alone, desperately struggling … all alone …. Maybe not so different from Catholicism. Except, ironically, it’s more forgiving. You agree, son?

BARTHOLOMEW stares at him like a deer caught in the headlights for a moment, then answers cautiously.

BARTHOLOMEW
Okay.

FATHER
I mean, with Christianity, you’ve got one chance to get it right or to hell with you. Whereas, in Buddhism, you get to keep coming back till you figure things out. Christianity isn’t nearly that kind, is it?

BARTHOLOMEW
(Pause, still uncertainly)
Okay.

FATHER
But you can’t ignore Karma, can you?: a bastard in this life pays the price in the next. But Buddhism gives you that next life to make amends. Right?

BARTHOLOMEW
(Longer pause)
Okay.

FATHER
And the Samadhi, the devotion to one’s own spiritual life. Oh, to be a Theravadan monk, attending to my own spiritual needs, instead of being spread thin-to-breaking, trying to save other souls when your own is so desperately, desperately in need—

JACK
Are you sure you’re a Catholic, Father!?

FATHER
Oh, who the hell is sure of anything!? (Remembering himself) Yes, yes, of course, I was just … musing.

JACK
Well, if you’re done musing, how about we finish my confession?

FATHER
Yes, certainly. Where did we leave off?

JACK
Suicide, Father. Shortly before you arrived, (showing him an empty bottle) I took three bottles of Percocet.

FATHER
You took an overdose … but it hasn’t worked yet.

JACK
You’re all caught up! Let the absolution begin!

FATHER
But suicide … Is there no hope?

JACK
Skin cancer, the nasty kind, it’s spread everywhere. I wouldn’t touch fried food down the Cape, but I always had a helluva tan.

FATHER
But why kill yourself, man, why not cling to every precious moment—?

JACK
Well, for one thing, I’m eaten alive by the pain.

FATHER
You seem pretty jovial.

JACK
So would you, after three bottles of Percocet.

BARTHOLOMEW
This is the first time he’s been comfortable in a week.

JACK
Two, I gotta control how I go out. If I waited till the very end, I might slip away in my sleep and go straight to hell.

FATHER
But, but, let me absolve you now, we’ll get your stomach pumped, and we’ll talk this through tomorrow.

JACK
You don’t understand, Father. Sin is what I do, all I’ve done, for fifty years. If I don’t die right after Confession— I mean, look, Barty goes in the bathroom for a minute this morning and bang, bang, two new sins. No, this is how it’s gotta be, so, c’mon, absolve me, chop-chop. How much time, Barty? I had him google “Suicide, Percocet, duration” this morning so we’d know how much time.

BARTHOLOMEW
(Checking his watch)
62 minutes.

FATHER
Now, let me tell you something, sir: This isn’t some game you’re talking about, this is God’s divine plan.

JACK
No, Father, it is a game. God made up the rules, I figured out how to beat them, and if you don’t like the result, take it up with Him. Cuz he’s gonna be impressed with me, as any Father is with a son who does well. As I was the time Barty here … um … um …

JACK considers BARTHOLOMEW who looks back at him hopefully.

As any father is. Which brings me to the one flaw in my plan.

JACK leans over to FATHER and whispers.

JACK
It’s Barty.

FATHER
What do you mean?

JACK
He’s not ready for me to leave him yet, not by a long shot.

BARTHOLOMEN
Oh, yes, I so am.

JACK
I need your help with that, Father.

BARTHOLOMEW
No, you don’t, I’m fine.

FATHER
Well, what do you expect me to do about him?

BARTHOLOMEW
I can hear you, you know!

JACK
Absolve me and I’ll tell you.

FATHER
(Pause)
Where is your phone, sir?

JACK
Why?

FATHER
You need an ambulance, not a priest. Come on, where is it?

FATHER spots and picks up the handset of an old telephone. The cord that would connect it to the telephone has been removed.

JACK
“Always prepared,” that’s me. Good planning was my trademark.

FATHER
Yeah, well, I was a boy scout once myself.

FATHER searches his pockets, looking for something. JACK produces a cell phone.

JACK
Looking for this?

FATHER reaches for the phone.

FATHER
You took my phone, too?

JACK drops it in the pitcher of water on the night table.

FATHER
Hey!

JACK
You’re out of your league, Father. C’mon now, time and me are a-wastin’. Barty?

JACK nods to the door, alerting the inattentive BARTHOLOMEW, who crosses to it.

FATHER
I can’t absolve you. I’m sorry, I can’t. I just can’t be a party to suicide.

FATHER heads to the door. BARTHOLOMEW is already there, locking it and pocketing the key.

FATHER
Okay, okay, fine, I’ll … I’ll yell for help then. (Pause, then weakly) Help.

JACK
Knock yourself out. During the workday, a gentrifying neighborhood is like space: no one can hear you scream.

FATHER
(Pause)
Help! Help! Someone! Call an ambulance.

JACK
C’mon, Father, you’d have to stand outside and fire off a gun to get any attention around here.

FATHER runs around the apartment, calling for help, then tries to open the window leading to the fire escape.

FATHER
I’ll go out the fire escape then.

FATHER cannot open the window.

FATHER
You nailed it shut?

JACK
Well, I thought through your likely responses. So far, I have to say, they’ve been rather pedestrian.

FATHER finds a hammer on the window sill and uses it to try to pull out the nail.

JACK
Jeez, Bartholomew! How could you leave the hammer there!?

BARTHOLOMEW
Crap.

JACK
Wouldja help Father to a chair … before he gets hurt.

BARTHOLOMEW advances on FATHER. The two struggle ineptly. The bigger BARTHOLOMEW wins, pushing FATHER into the chair.

JACK
Look, Father, your job is just to absolve all the bastards and let God sort ‘em out. Let him go, son. (After BARTHOLOMEW slowly releases FATHER) Now, you gotta help me. You know you do.

FATHER and JACK gaze at each other for a moment. Then FATHER bolts for the door, pulling on it futilely.

FATHER
I don’t have to do anything. Help me, help me, my God, somebody, help me!

JACK
Well. Now, I stand corrected. Help the good Father back to his chair, boy. It’s time for Plan B.

Lights down.

Scene Two

FATHER is duct-taped to the chair on rollers. He is awkwardly gagged with a huge winter scarf. He struggles futilely against his bonds, and rolls himself around the apartment looking for an escape as JACK talks. BARTHOLOMEW chases FATHER and drags him back. A fatigued JACK, in the Barcalounger, cleans a gun, a .38 Police Special.

JACK
The firing mechanism of a gun has a dozen moving parts. To paraphrase Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield: If you clean 12 moving parts, what’s the result? Smooth action, happiness and life. But clean only 11 moving parts and the result? Jammed action, sadness and death. Life, death, God, the devil, they’re not in the details, are they, Father? They’re in the cleansing.

FATHER tries to answer, but is unintelligible. JACK watches the chase around the room.

BARTHOLOMEW
I can’t believe you made me duct-tape a priest to a chair.

JACK
I can’t believe you duct-taped a priest to a chair with rollers. You knew this was the backup plan. You could’ve said no.

BARTHOLOMEW
I did say no! You never listen to me. (Pause) Well, what do we do now?

JACK
Let’s find out. Take the gag off.

BARTHOLOMEW removes the gag. FATHER gasps.

FATHER
I can’t believe it, my God, kidnapping a priest, it’s barbaric! Help, help, help—!

JACK
Back on. (As he complies) Now, you seem to be having a problem with this, Father, but it’s not … all … about … YOU! Frankly, I’m getting a little … tired of you … Jesus ….

JACK slumps on his pillow, moaning, his breathing labored.

BARTHOLOMEW
Dad? DAD! Get back here, Father.

FATHER, who has rolled off toward the door, stops.

BARTHOLOMEW
Help him!

FATHER starts to return, mumbling. BARTHOLOMEW retrieves him and pushes him toward JACK, and pulling off the gag. JACK moans again.

FATHER
Set me free, dammit! (As BARTHOLOMEW hesitates) He’s right, I can’t leave a dying man!

BARTHOLOMEW frees FATHER.

FATHER
Jake, Jake—

BARTHOLOMEW
It’s Jack, Father, Jack!

FATHER
Dammit I knew that! Jack, are you with me?

JACK
Father… is that you?

FATHER
(Putting on his stole)
I’ll hear your confession now.

JACK
(Gasping)
I confess all my sins …

FATHER
Very good. I now absolve you of—

JACK
… and incorporate by reference the printout I gave you earlier …

FATHER
OK, good, I now absolve you—

JACK
… as well as the further sins added by oral addendum …

FATHER
I now absolve—

JACK
… including, but not limited to this suicide and your unlawful imprisonment. Father, I am heartily sorry for them all.

FATHER
Now, words alone mean nothing, you must be truly repentant.

JACK
I said “sorry,” whaddya want from me!?

FATHER
I want you to look into your heart and find remorse. Not remorse that you got caught, but true remorse—

JACK
Yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah, wave your hand and get on with it.

FATHER
It doesn’t work that way—

JACK
(Grabbing him by the collar)
Well, it sure as shit better start working that way—! (Collapsing back onto the pillows, coughing) Add that assault and battery to my tab.

FATHER
All right, fine, I absolve you of all your sins. For what it’s worth.

JACK instantly looks better.

JACK
Ha! I knew your priestly instincts would take over! Tie him up again.

BARTHOLOMEW
You were faking it? You asshole!

FATHER
You, you … asshole!

A frustrated BARTHOLOMEW pushes FATHER into a chair and starts to duct tape him to the chair.

JACK
I told you to read through my sins. There’s a whole section on fraud.

FATHER
Why are you tying me up again? You got what you wanted.

JACK
Not everything. We need to talk about Barty, Father. Tie him up good, son.

BARTHOLOMEW
Dad …

JACK
Do it.

FATHER
(Jumping up and pushing past BARTHOLOMEW)
You old sonuvabitch! HELP! Why don’t you hurry up and die and go straight to hell where you belong!? And take your broken-spirited seed here with you!

JACK
Father!

BARTHOLOMEW
(Unconvincingly)
I’m … I’m not broken-spirited.

JACK
Time?

BARTHOLOMEW
57 minutes. I’m not broken-spirited!

FATHER
And I haven’t even finished yet.

JACK
Whaddya mean? You absolved me.

FATHER
But I didn’t give you your penance.

JACK
Penance? Shit! Well, can’t you just waive that, I’m dying here?

FATHER
(Hefting the printout)
Oh, I think not.

JACK
All right, what is it? Ten Hail Marys? Twenty?

FATHER
Well, I don’t know. Something on this scale …. (To BARTHOLOMEW) Do you have a calculator?

JACK
A calculator!?

FATHER
Well, all these sins, I’ve got to multiply it out.

JACK
You’re crapping me! I’ll be dead before you even do the math!

FATHER
Let alone saying ‘em all. Seems you’re not as smart as God after all … are you?

JACK
Father, are you gloating at my damnation?

FATHER
(Caught)
No, no, of course not. Call an ambulance, sir, and we’ll start over tomorrow. I will save you.

JACK
No can do, Father, I’m dining with Barty’s mother in paradise tonight. So waive my God damn penance!

FATHER
I can’t. (Waving printout) This is a little above my pay grade. You need the Cardinal. You need the Pope. You need an ambulance!

JACK
Or what? I’ve been planning this for 50 years, Father, and one thing I know is that you can’t let me die knowing I’ll go straight to hell.

FATHER
Hey, if you didn’t leave time to do the penance, that’s your problem—

JACK
Can you, Father?

FATHER
(Pause, then beaten)
All right, fine, I guess maybe I could reduce it.

JACK
Now you’re talking. Make me an offer.

FATHER
Twenty Hail Marys.

JACK
Five.

FATHER
Ten.

JACK
Done!

FATHER
If … you swear that after, you’ll let me go.

JACK
What about anointing me with oil and all that?

FATHER
That’s mostly just for show.

JACK
Okay, it’s a deal, Friar Liar. And take my advice. You really need to grow yourself a pair. You can’t let life just push you around like this.

FATHER
Who said I was? I’m only agreeing if you let me do it from the doorway.

BARTHOLOMEW
He’s just gonna run away.

FATHER
No, your father’s right. I can’t take the chance he’d be damned.

JACK
Told ya so. All right, Father, we’re doing it your way. Open the door, boy.

BARTHOLOMEW apprehensively approaches the door.

JACK
C’mon, it won’t bite, open it.

BARTHOLOMEW does, then backs away.

JACK
Whoa, Barty, you forgot something.

BARTHOLOMEW
Tommy’s not in the hallway, Tommy’s not coming for his cut, there’s no Tommy. (Gesturing towards the door) See, no one.

JACK
Well, you still need your gun, Barty, for Father here.

BARTHOLOMEW
I thought you were sure he wouldn’t run away.

JACK
You know my motto: “Trust everyone, but keep a gun on ‘em.” And it would give you a chance to show the good father how unbroken your spirit really is.

BARTHOLOMEW
Yeah. (Pause, his face hardening) Yeah!

He pulls the .357 out of the coat tree, putting it against FATHER’s head. Coats fall to the ground.

BARTHOLOMEW
How’s that, Father? Am I spirited enough for you now?

JACK
Don’t use that cannon on him. Where’s your .22?

BARTHOLOMEW
This is fine.

JACK
It’s not fine. Right tool for the job. Now, where is it?

BARTHOLOMEW
This is fine!

JACK
Bartyyyyyy!

BARTHOLOMEW
I left it in the kitchen, okay!? Is that what you want to hear!? I’m a screw-up, I forgot it, there, you happy!?

JACK
You see why I’m worried about him, Father. You can’t forget your .22 in a situation like this, it’s not okay.

FATHER
The cannon seems to be doing the job.

JACK
Well, it’ll have to. Time is short, now change my penance.

FATHER
It doesn’t count under duress. I will not run, I swear.

JACK considers FATHER for a moment.

JACK
Okay, lower your gun, boy.

BARTHOLOMEW
He’s just gonna make a break for it—

JACK
Do it.

BARTHOLOMEW slowly complies.

FATHER
I absolve you of all your sins with a penance of 10 million decades of the Rosary. Adjusted down to ten Hail Marys under the circumstances. Amen.

JACK
Amen.

FATHER
(Taking off his stole and retrieving his bag)
So now I’m just going to go. (Pause) Okay? Okay.

JACK
Wellllllll … not just yet.

FATHER
You, you said I could go.

JACK
I did, “after” you gave me my penance. But, well, not to get all Bill Clinton on you, but the definition of “after” … that’s a bit elastic. To me, it means within, ohhhh … how much time, son?

BARTHOLOMEW
51 minutes.

JACK
Within 51 minutes. Now sit down. Cuz you still have to talk to me about Barty.

FATHER
You, you old son of a bitch!

FATHER bolts for the hall, surprising BARTHOLOMEW, who fumbles the gun.

JACK
Barty!

FATHER trips on the fallen coats and sprawls on the floor. BARTHOLOMEW recovers the gun and levels it at FATHER.

BARTHOLOMEW
Dammit!

FATHER
Dammit!

JACK
Oh, it’s a sad world when you can’t trust your own priest to keep his word. Now get back over here.

FATHER
No!

JACK
Then I’ll shoot you.

FATHER
No, you won’t, you’re a Catholic. Not even you could be so warped as to shoot a priest.

JACK
Wow, that’s a good argument, Father. Thank God Barty here is a Buddhist. Shoot him, son.

BARTHOLOMEW
Wha—? No!

JACK
Oh, right. I guess your spirit’s too broken for that.

BARTHOLOMEW glowers at JACK, then turns back and sights down the barrel at FATHER.

BARTHOLOMEW
My spirit is just fine!

FATHER
No, no, wait! Don’t do it. You’re not your father.

BARTHOLOMEW
Yeah, I’m all wimpy and stuff, aren’t I?

FATHER
No, no, I mean, you’re not depraved like him, not yet, Bobby!

BARTHOLOMEW
It’s! Barty! Damn it!

FATHER
Barty, Barty, sorry. This is your chance, son, to show your father you’re serious about your religion.

BARTHOLOMEW falters.

FATHER
Buddhists do not kill, son. Not even a flea.

BARTHOLOMEW lowers the gun, beaten.

JACK
Jesus H. Mahogany Christ. Well, good for you, Father, you beat him fair and square.

FATHER
Yeah. Yeah, I did. Good-bye.

FATHER takes a step to leave. JACK removes the .38 from beneath the blankets. BLAM! FATHER falls to the ground, motionless.

VOICE 1
(Off)
You missed me, you little bastard. Now, give me my money!

JACK
Clean a dozen parts: happiness and life. This is what comes of Buddhism, boy. Weakness.

BARTHOLOMEW
You … you killed him. You really killed him.

JACK
If you won’t even kill a flea, how’re you ever gonna kill a man when you need to.

BARTHOLOMEW
I don’t need to kill. I’m an artist!

JACK
What the hell am I gonna do with you, boy? (As BARTHOLOMEW sniffles) Hey, hey! You’re still my son, no matter how many times you utterly fail me. But, Barty, you’re not gonna make it in this world by yourself. You need my medals to find the way.

BARTHOLOMEW
I don’t want your stupid way! I’ll find my own way!

A pause.

FATHER
(Without moving)
I can’t believe you shot a priest.

JACK
Trust everyone, but keep a gun on ‘em, Father. Get the first-aid kit, son. How much time?

BARTHOLOMEW
48 minutes.

JACK
Better hurry.

Lights down. Curtain.

Act Two

Scene One

A few minutes later. BARTHOLOMEW is dressing FATHER’s leg wound, the leg propped up on the end of JACK’s Barcalounger. JACK is not present.

FATHER
I slave all day, selflessly ministering to the souls of others, and I get shot for my trouble? I mean, come on!

BARTHOLOMEW
If you’re so unhappy, why don’t you just go do something else?

FATHER
I nearly did. I was this close to becoming a monk when I came out of the seminary.

BARTHOLOMEW
What stopped you?

FATHER
I was afraid I’d miss other people. (Pause) HA! Oh, when I was your age, I thought I was joining God’s army, marching off to save His children. Well, we were marching off for God’s children, all right, but not all of us to save them.

BARTHOLOMEW
Well, but that wasn’t your fault.

FATHER
Oh no? Where was I, son, where was I!? Where the hell was God, to let that happen!? Oh, I know, “His ways are mysterious, we can’t understand them.” Well, here’s my answer: Bullturds! Oh, he’s a slippery fellow, God is, like a leprechaun with his pot of gold. Just when you think you’ve got Him cornered and the treasure is yours, life distracts you for a split-second and when you look back, He’s gone. (Haunted) Gone. Gone. Gone.

BARTHOLOMEW
(Pause)
For a guy who’s supposed to comfort the dying, you’re kinda dark.

FATHER
See, I’m a lousy priest! Lousy!

BARTHOLOMEW
You just think too much.

FATHER
I don’t have nearly enough time to think. If I did, maybe I could figure God out.

BARTHOLOMEW
That’s my point: you can’t take care of other people when all you do is worry about whether you even believe.

FATHER
Oh, so, I should just pretend.

BARTHOLOMEW
Why not? If you believe in something hard enough, it doesn’t even have to be true, to be true enough.

FATHER
What?

BARTHLOMEW
I mean, look at my dad.

FATHER
Look at you. You’re going to have pretend a lot harder that you believe in Buddhism and your art before anyone’s going to take you seriously.

BARTHOLOMEW
People take me (seriously)—! You know what, why don’t you just go be a monk now and leave us alone?

FATHER
I tried to leave you alone, and you shot me! Oh, it’s too late for me. But if life ever gave me another chance to live out my days alone in a cold, comfortless monastic cell, I’d grab it with both hands.

BARTHOLOMEW
Yeah, right.

FATHER
Oh, and you’re Mr. Take-Life-By-The-Horns? How can you stand being under his thumb like this?

BARTHOLOMEW
I’m not under (his thumb)— Those, those Cocoa Puffs were stale, okay? I left ‘em out on purpose.

FATHER
He’s right, isn’t he? You are pretending to be a Buddhist artist just to piss him off.

BARTHOLOMEW
I’m not pretending!

FATHER
You should leave here if you’re so miserable. Or do you really never go outside?

BARTHOLOMEW
I go outside. All the time.

FATHER
I don’t believe you.

BARTHOLOMEW
Well, I do, okay?

FATHER
Okay. Show me.

BARTHOLMEW
Okay, I will.

FATHER
I mean, now. Go stand in the hall.

BARTHOLMEW
I could go stand in the hall, easy. It’s no big deal!

FATHER
Fine. Then do it.

BARTHOLOMEW
Fine. I will.

BARTHOLOMEW strides to the door, throws it open, and steps outside. He stands there for a moment, trying to look casual. One leg begins to twitch and he slowly starts to fall apart. He rushes back inside and shuts the door, breathing hard.

BARTHOLOMEW
See, it’s no big deal.

FATHER
Son. You don’t have to be your father to make your way in this world.

BARTHOLOMEW
I’m totally making my way—

FATHER
Don’t be afraid of living, be afraid of not living. Do what makes you happy, not what pisses him off.

A pause as BARTHOLOMEW gazes at FATHER. A toilet flushing, off, breaks the mood.

BARTHOLOMEW
Why does everybody keep saying I’m afraid. I’m not afraid, okay! Jeez!

JACK ENTERS, walking haltingly, carrying BARTHOLOMEW’s .357. He stops by the window and looks out.

JACK
Now, there’s no need to thank me, Father.

FATHER
Thank y—? Why would I thank a psychopath for shooting me!?

JACK
Now, Father— (Looking down out the window) Ah, look, there’s our Tommy, trying to sit up. Drunk as a monk as always. Come here, Bartholomew.

BARTHOLOMEW
No.

JACK
You don’t believe there’s a Tommy, come here and see for yourself!

BARTHOLOMEW
If I come over there, you’re just gonna say, “Oh, he went around back.”

JACK
I am not, now come here. (Referring to something below) Uh-oh. Steady, fella.

BARTHOLOMEW has come over and now looks out the window.

BARTHOLOMEW
Yeah, where is he?

JACK
He just went around back.

BARTHOLOMEW
You are such an asshole!

JACK
I’m kidding, he passed out in the bushes again. Go down and see for yourself. Oh, right, you can’t.

BARTHOLOMEW, furious, walks away and sits by his laptop.

JACK
You should be thanking me, Father, that your femur’s intact and that you’re not spurting blood. That’s the sign of a thoughtful shot, using the right tool. Now Barty’s .357 Magnum would’ve left a helluva mess, but I used a .38. So you’ll just end up with the kind of scar that’s a conversation starter at a cookout, but won’t put people off their food.

FATHER
(Patting blankets)
Do you have a whole arsenal in this Barcalounger?

JACK
(Slapping his hand)
No, no, just the basics. The .38 here is for general usage. (Producing a sawed-off shotgun) But my sawed-off here is for Tommy as he’s a big fella. Now, Father, I need your help.

FATHER
Then maybe you shouldn’t have shot me!

JACK
Can you try to get past that? I’m running out of time.

FATHER
Whatever.

JACK
Good. Barty?

At JACK’s gesture, BATHOLOMEW turns his head away. JACK’s criticism will evoke exasperated sounds from him.

JACK
(Quietly)
Do you know what my biggest disappointment, my greatest failing in this life, has been?

FATHER
Can you give me a page reference?

JACK
It’s not in that printout. It’s sitting right over there: my son. How can I depart this earth with the worry I feel about leaving that kid behind, all alone?

FATHER
Well … he seems like a nice enough boy.

BARTHLOMEW
Thank you.

FATHER
I mean, when he isn’t holding a .357 on me.

JACK
See, that’s my point. A .357 woulda taken half your head off. Bartholomew, you take my .38, and get that Magnum out of sight, right now!

BARTHOLOMEW, embarrassed, stuffs the .38 in his waistband at the small of his back. He then tries to put the .357 back in the coat tree, but it keeps falling out. As JACK and FATHER talk, he tries several other hiding places around the apartment, such as in a vase, but the gun sticks awkwardly out of each one. Finally, he just stuffs it under the couch.

JACK
And you never aim for the head when you’re executing someone without putting down a dropclothe first, now that’s just basic. A real artist would know about dropclothes.

BARTHOLOMEW
I am a real artist.

JACK
I thought I would leave him with a trade at least. He doesn’t need the money, my bank job has left him plenty, but a man needs to feel useful. I had hoped he could at least manage a little street crime—

FATHER
What’s useful about street crime?

JACK
It creates jobs for one, Father, good union cop jobs. That’s way more than Wal-Mart does.

FATHER
He just wants a different life from you.

BARTY
Yeah.

FATHER
And if he steals with his computer instead of a gun, what’s wrong with that? (Realizing) I mean, not that I’m endorsing it.

JACK
But where’s the manhood in that!? Seeing your power reflected in your victim’s terrified eyes, that’s a huge psychic payoff, Father. Oh, I don’t know where I went wrong with him.

FATHER
You haven’t let him grow up. You tell him what to do and how to do it, what to think and how to think it.

JACK
And it’s still not enough! I tell him to duct tape you to a chair, and he picks the one with rollers!

FATHER
But the next time he kidnaps someone, he’ll know better. He’s needs to make his own decisions, learn from his mistakes.

JACK
I don’t know, maybe it’s these kids today, Father. They just don’t have our fire, our hunger—

FATHER
Oh, I know, this whole generation, well, they’re all pretty much a bunch of slackers, aren’t they?

JACK
That’s what I’m saying.

FATHER
We see it all the time in the seminary. Where’s the next generation of parish builders?

JACK
Or the next generation of muggers?

FATHER
Exactly!

JACK
A way of life is passing from this earth with us, unmourned and unregretted. Breaks my heart.

BARTHOLOMEW
Muggers. See Father, he’s no epic criminal. He’s a failure.

JACK
A fail—! A life of crime as thick as the Yellow Pages and you dare call me a failure!? Never a day in prison and you—

BARTHOLOMEW
That’s my point! Prison is for felons, for big guys. Jail is for penny-ante guys. The DA never went after you because you—

JACK
Because I was way too smart for him.

BARTHOLOMEW
Because you didn’t matter. You were just a little guy, Dad, a little, little guy.

JACK draws back his fist to strike BARTHOLOMEW, who scurries out of reach.

BARTHOLOMEW
So I’m not good at shooting priests, is that so bad?

FATHER
I don’t think so.

BARTHOLOMEW
I can steal more with 100 keystrokes than you took in your entire life.

JACK
Why you arrogant little puppy!

BARTHOLOMEW
You wanna know what kind of criminal he is, check your wallet.

FATHER takes his wallet from his coat and examines it.

JACK
Barty!

FATHER
It’s, it’s empty!

BARTHOLOMEW
Wow, Dad, what’d you get, ten bucks?

JACK
Twelve.

BARTHOLOMEW
Now, check your Visa card.

FATHER
He took that, too—!? No, wait, it’s still here.

BARTHOLOMEW
Not really. I stole your wallet when I hung up your coat and got your Visa number. I’ve ordered $10,000 worth of electronics with it, which will be FedExed to a post office box tomorrow. I’ll get the stuff and close the box weeks before you notice anything is wrong. Foolproof. That’s my way. Foolproof.

FATHER
Except you just told me.

A long pause as BARTHOLOMEW realizes his mistake.

BARTHOLOMEW
Yeah. I know. And … okay, my point is, just look at this dump, Father. Does this look like the home of a millionaire to you?

JACK
The fastest way for a bank robber to get caught is to flash the money around. To this day, the bank is offering a four million dollar reward and that’d buy a lot of rats. So when I got back from that job, I told his mother we had to sit on the money for five years. Meanwhile, the boys were filling O’Connor’s Tap with strippers. I threw the girls out in the alley and paid ‘em off, then read the riot act to those clowns: we live like paupers till the heat died down.

BARTHOLOMEW
Well … mission accomplished! So, why even rob a bank if you can’t ever spend the money?

JACK
Because your son can! It was something I could give you. Cuz I sure couldn’t give you back your mother.

BARTHOLOMEW
(Pause)
So, so give it to me then, where is it?

JACK
Need-to-know basis. It’s in the safest possible place.

BARTHOLOMEW
Yeah, in their vault, which it never left.

JACK
Get the scrap book, you. Now!

BARTHOLOMEW retrieves the scrapbook.

BARTHOLOMEW
Oh, right, the scrap book.

JACK
You’ll see, Father. 20 million dollars, and a quarter of it to me.

BARTHOLOMEW gives the book to FATHER.

BARTHOLOMEW
Yeah, read all the clippings, Father. See if you can find the name “Jack Grace” in there anywhere.

JACK
Of course my name isn’t in there, they never caught me!

BARTHOLOMEW
When I was a kid, he told me these stories were all about him. He was all I had, he was my hero. Then I grew up. And I did a “bank job” with him. Robbing people as they left convenience store ATMs.

JACK
You couldn’t handle a real bank job!

At the start of JACK’s speech that follows, BARTHOLOMEW, who has heard the story a thousand times, groans and collapses on the couch in mock exhaustion. As JACK continues, he mouths some of the speech along with JACK and may also act out some of the action.

JACK
Look at the Globe headline, Father: “Thieves Intercept Secret Payroll Transfer; Police Stumped At Audacious Daylight Holdup.” They were in awe of us! I spent years preparing that job. The transfer of half the payrolls in Boston through one bank was a stone cold secret, but my mole at the bank tipped me off. I handpicked a crack team of thieves and studied the bank guards’ habit. We practiced for weeks and when we went in, each guard had a gun in his ribs before he knew what hit him. That bank manager, he only brought out one bag from the vault, stalling for time, but I was ready. I grabbed the nearest teller: “Guess I’ll have to start shooting your girls here till you find me the other 19 million.” Before that manager could open his mouth, the other tellers went running to get the rest. Those girls ran!

BARTHOLOMEW
Convenience store ATM’s. He’s nothing but a fraud.

JACK
Get out. Get the hell out, I’m giving the money to someone else, get out!!

BARTHOLOMEW
A fraud, Father! I don’t disappoint him, he’s the one who’s disappointed me.

JACK
Oh, no, I’m the one who’s been disappointed!

BARTHOLOMEW
No, you’re not, I am!

JACK
I am!

FATHER
Gentlemen, gentlemen, please!

JACK begins to cough loudly, racked by pain.

FATHER
Jesus was probably the last son who didn’t disappoint his father. And God was the last father who didn’t disappoint his son.

JACK
I did not disappoint him! That kid refuses my medals, he refuses my faith. Those are my greatest disappointments.

FATHER
All sons reject their fathers’ ways. And do you know what we call them when they do that?

JACK
Yeah. Ungrateful, snot-nosed, little twerps—!

FATHER
No! No. We call them normal. A boy has to reject his father, to become his own man. He starts the process when he’s two, but he only finishes it as an adult. And our proper response to him as an adult is exactly the same as when he was two.

JACK
Yeah, smack him till he straightens up!

FATHER
No. Give him room. And remember that, after he rebels, a son has to learn to respect his father’s tradition, for your father’s truth is true for him, Barry, just as Barry’s truth will be true for him, Jim. You can only do all this with understanding. Try to understand your son. Of course the world frightens him: He lost his mother as a young boy and he’s been scared ever since that he’d lose you, too. And now he’s about to, and he is terrified. Understanding. That’s what we’re on this earth for. Not (regarding leg, swaying) … random shootings. Oh, dear, my leg’s bleeding a lot.

BARTHOLOMEW
Jesus, he looks awful, Dad. You must’ve nicked his artery!

JACK
Calm down.

BARTHOLOMEW
But what if he does die? What do we do then, Dad!? What!?

JACK
This is what I’m talking about, Father, the boy’s panicking. We redress the wound and hope for the best. If you die, you die and we deal with it. We don’t go getting all panicky about it.

FATHER
A little panicky would be good.

FATHER whimpers.

JACK
Tighten his dressing, he’s starting to whine like a little girl.

As he talks, BARTHOLOMEW adjusts the dressing.

BARTHOLOMEW
Dad?

JACK
What?

BARTHOLOMEW
You’re forgetting something, you know.

JACK
No, I’m not. Now you’re overtightening it.

BARTHOLOMEW
Oh, you’re totally forgetting something.

JACK
Loosen that up. I am not.

BARTHOLOMEW
Yeah, you are. If I remember correctly, Father absolved you of all your sins.

JACK
Yeah?

BARTHOLOMEW
And then you shot him.

JACK
(Long pause)
What’s your point?

BARTHOLOMEW
I don’t know, maybe that gunning down priest is a big, fat mortal sin.

JACK
Nooo. It’s not. It’s, it’s probably just a little one. I wasn’t trying to kill him, so no big deal.

BARTHOLOMEW
Whether he actually dies or not doesn’t matter?

FATHER
No, it does! (Uncertain) It should.

JACK
Father’s right. You get a lot more prison time for murder than attempted murder.

BARTHOLOMEW
Your punishment should be less just because you’re a lousy shot? What kind of moral construct is that?

JACK
What do you know about moral constructs, you believe in gods with 20 arms who dance! (Worried) Crap! Google, “Attempted murder, mortal sin” and we’ll just see—

FATHER
C’mon, you don’t have to google it! You shot a priest!

BARTHOLOMEW
(Reading the screen)
Ha, I’m right, it’s a mortal sin and you’re totally damned!

JACK
Crap! C’mere, Father, we gotta start over.

FATHER
No.

JACK
Come here, you want me to shoot your other leg!?

FATHER
I can’t come there, I can’t walk, Mr. … Stupid!

BARTHOLOMEW
Yeah, Father, now you’re starting to see what I mean about him.

JACK
Crawl then! I’m running out of time.

FATHER
Benny has to carry me. Oh! That’s why it matters if I die. Forget the shooting: callously allowing me to bleed to death, that alone is a mortal sin. Oh, your father is so, so screwed, Benny.

JACK
God damn it! Bring him over here, Benny!

BARTHOLOMEW
Dad! It’s Barty!

FATHER
(Sing-songy)
You’re going to hel-ell, you’re going to hel-ell.

As FATHER sings, BARTHOLOMEW lifts him in a firemen’s carry to take him to JACK. FATHER suddenly grabs the .38 from BARTHOLOMEW’s waistband and puts it to his back.

FATHER
Ha! Steady, boy, and put me down. Gently.

JACK
Oh, for Chrissake! Barty!

BARTHOLOMEW
(Scared)
Dad?

JACK
You let this dying wimp of a priest disarm you? Shame’s gonna kill me before the Percocet does.

FATHER
I’m not a wimp! And I’m not exactly dying. (To JACK) No, you don’t, keep those hands above the covers.

JACK
My own priest lied to me. Have you no scruples, sir?

FATHER
Not nearly as many as when I got here today. Oh, I’ve learned a few things. Trust everyone, but keep a gun on ‘em. Sit down, boy. (As BARTHOLOMEW does) Now, I’m just gonna leave.

JACK
Father…

FATHER tears off the dressing and throws it at JACK. He takes a step toward the door and falls to the ground.

FATHER
As soon as I have some feeling back in my leg. Dammit!

FATHER attempts to massage feeling back into his leg.

JACK
Ha, told you you overtightened it, Mr. Dressing Overtightener.

BARTHOLOMEW
Did not, Mr. Dressing Tightness … Liar!

JACK
Did so!

FATHER
Shut up! Shut up! Just shut up! (Stunned pause) How can you act so evil?

JACK
Oh, it’s no act, Father. I am evil. Man is evil.

FATHER
No, no, we’re not, not at heart.

JACK
Don’t kid yourself. We are and you can’t change that.

FATHER
No, no! The hope that I can make better— that’s all that keeps me going. If I ever believed that Man is irredeemably wicked, I’d, I’d … implode.

JACK
Okay. If you think Man is so good, you tell me one completely selfless act that you’ve ever seen.

FATHER
Well … that’s easy.

JACK
An act so selfless that the doer’s goodness was beyond doubt.

FATHER
I, I could tell you dozens.

JACK
Tell me one. Just one.

FATHER
That’s, that’s easy. Easy …

JACK
Ha! See, you can’t even tell me—

FATHER
Once there was a little boy born without a nose!

A long pause.

JACK
Okay, look, we don’t have time for this—

BARTHOLOMEW
Yes, we do, I want to hear this.

FATHER
And you will. For you, sir, have challenged the goodness of Man, and I need to answer! The other children taunted the little boy, and his mother wept at his suffering. And she prayed to God for a miracle, and that miracle came: a surgeon, who could give the boy a nose. And the boy grew up, a happy boy. With a nose. And at her funeral, the boy stood over her coffin, thinking he couldn’t love her any more than he already did. Until his father brushed back the hair from her face and revealed—

BARTHOLOMEW
That she had no nose.

JACK
It was genetic?

BARTHOLOMEW
No, Dad, she’d given the boy her nose.

JACK
And the boy didn’t ever notice her nose was missing?

FATHER
Well, she, she wore her hair over her nose— I mean, it was very long….

JACK
Her nose?

FATHER
No, her hair!

BARTHOLOMEW
It was her ears, Father, not her nose. You’ve just forgotten the details.

FATHER
Yes. It was her ears. How did you know?

BARTHOLOMEW
She was my mother. (Gesturing to his ears) These ears were hers.

FATHER
Really? Really!? I thought it was a sort of a Catholic urban legend. In the seminary, they give you a book on writing sermons, and one of the examples is the Ears Story. I’ve tried my whole life to vary it, you know, make it my own, with different body parts, but it only ever seems to work for ears. But it really happened! My God. That one person could love another so much, it’s enough to restore a man’s faith, to enable him to rise up again under his cross, and trudge on.

BARTHOLOMEW
It’s true. Look, here’s her picture.

FATHER regards the picture, then BARTHOLOMEW, then the picture again.

FATHER
But … this woman’s ears …

BARTHOLOMEW
What? What about them?

FATHER
They’re pierced. Yours aren’t

A pause.

BARTHOLOMEW
What did you say?

FATHER
They’re pierced. These ears can’t be yours.

BARTHOLOMEW
(Pause)
Daaaaaaaaaad!

JACK
(To FATHER)
Fatherrrrrrrr!

FATHER
Oops.

BARTHOLOMEW
You lied to me about my ears! How could you lie to me about that!?

JACK
I had my reasons.

BARTHOLOMEW
What reason could you possibly have to lie to your own son about the most important thing in his life!

JACK
Barty—

BARTHOLOMEW
Is anything you say true? Is she even dead?

JACK
Of course she’s dead! (Pause) Okay, she’s not. See, she … left us. Right after you were born. Right after I robbed that bank.

BARTHOLOMEW
Where’s my gun.

BARTHOLOMEW storms off to sofa. As JACK and FATHER talk, he tries to retrieve his .357, which is hung up on something under the sofa. It is a clumsy, violent struggle.

JACK
Barty, wait—! Oh, you are on my shit list now, Father.

FATHER
I’m a disaster. A pastoral disaster.

JACK
Careful you don’t shoot yourself, boy.

BARTHOLOMEW has finally freed the gun and now levels it at JACK.

BARTHOLOMEW
Tell me why you lied to me!? Why!? WHY!?

JACK
Because that story made you believe your mother still loved you. Oh, son, a thoughtful lie is better than the truth any day.

BATHOLOMEW stiffens as if about to shoot. A pause.

BARTHOLOMEW
I worked so hard to believe you, Dad. So, so hard.

BATHOLOMEW slowly lowers the gun.

JACK
You worked? What do you mean?

BARTHOLOMEW
And I never doubted you, not once, till one night, this big, drunk guy came to the door when you were out. Called you a thieving son of a bitch who owed him money and said he was glad my mother had left you. Not “died.” “Left you”, dad!

JACK
That bastard! That was Tommy!

BARTHOLOMEW
There’s! No! Tommy!

JACK
Barty! Why didn’t you ever say anything, son?

BARTHOLOMEW
Maybe because I was terrified of what you’d say, dad! I’d already lost the rest of my mother. I wanted to at least keep her ears. As long as I didn’t know for sure what the truth was, I could just try to believe your story.

JACK
I just wanted you to feel a mother’s love, Barty, but I didn’t know how. So I went down to Holy Redeemer to pray for help, and God sent it: this young visiting priest who gave a sermon about a woman who had given her son her toes, and at the wake the father pulled off her shoes to show the boy— Oh, what a hash he made of it, as if they’re gonna open the casket up and pull her feet out to have a look at—

JACK stops in realization and turns to a sheepish FATHER.

JACK
That young priest … it was you.

FATHER
It … really only ever works with ears.

FATHER slumps to the ground, defeated. BARTHOLOMEW slumps against the couch and stuffs the .357 back under it.

BARTHOLOMEW
Why, Dad? Why did she leave me?

JACK
Kathy left me. Her note said, “I’m not cut out to be your wife. You know why.”

BARTHOLOMEW
What did that mean?

JACK
I never figured it out. Right after the bank job, I told her when it was safe , we’d move down the Caribbean and live like kings. But she was just a kid, maybe five years was just too long.

BARTHOLOMEW
So why aren’t we living in a tropical paradise now, huh?

JACK
What good is paradise without the only girl you ever loved? What if she came back here and we were gone? The only bit I ever spent was on detectives, but she’d vanished without a trace. The rest, I saved for you.

BARTHOLOMEW
Why didn’t she take me with her?

JACK
Her note said you’d be better off without a loser like her. Your mother never had a whole lot of self-confidence. Sorta like you.

BARTHOLOMEW turns away from JACK.

JACK
Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t have lied about her. Maybe I haven’t been all the father I should’ve been—

BARTHOLOMEW snorts.

JACK
But I had to raise you by myself, boy. Everything I ever did was for you, and not even all the mistakes you’ve made, or that you’ve caused me to make, can ever change how I feel about you. I love ya, boy.

A long, tense pause. BARTHOLOMEW turns away.

BARTHOLOMEW
I love you, too, Daddy.

FATHER
See, Joe? Neither you nor Man is truly evil at heart, and within your good heart, you’ve had the power all along to do what needed doing today. Well, I guess you don’t need me any more …

JACK
Horseshit, Father! I need a priest to absolve my sins again. What are you, a God damn Lutheran?

FATHER
No, no, right, of course.

BARTHOLOMEW’s watch starts beeping. He checks it anxiously.

BARTHOLOMEW
That’s the five-minute warning.

FATHER
My gosh. My son, you face the judgment of a righteous God. Have you now confessed all your sins?

JACK
Well, I should add the ears lie, too. Oh, and don’t forget where I shot you there.

FATHER
No, no, I haven’t. Anything else?

JACK
Well … um …

FATHER
Come on, now. The bank robbery. Did it really happen?

JACK doesn’t respond.

FATHER
In a few seconds, you’ll meet your maker face-to-face, man!

JACK
Of course it happened. I’m the greatest bank robber—

FATHER
Stop it! Stop pretending to be some superhero your son can never live up to. Let him see your flaws. We’re all flawed, man.

A long pause.

JACK
God damn it …

BARTHOLOMEW
(Perhaps with a victory dance)
Hah! Hah!! Hah, hah, HAH! I knew it, it’s a lie, it’s a lie, it’s a big, fat lie.

JACK
We did too rob that bank! But I embellished a little. One Thursday, after the boys had gotten drunk at poker night, I go, “Who wants to try a bank tomorrow?” That was it, that was my planning. We were still hung-over the next morning when we saw that big armored car sitting outside the bank. Holy shit, I thought, those guards shoot to kill, so I just kept going.

Tommy drained his hip flask at the sight of it and could hardly stand, so I sent him home. The rest of the boys wanted to quit, too, but, well, not for nothing did I read Henry V. I held them in my gaze: “We few, we happy few. We band of brothers. Once more into the branch!” And they followed me, by God, they did, as soon as the armored car had left. There were no guards at all. I was hoping for five grand. And when that manager brought out $20 million dollars, well … no one was more surprised than me. But that doesn’t matter. I’m still the greatest bank robber in the history of Boston.

FATHER
Thank you, sir, for finally telling me everything.

BARTHOLOMEW
Wha—? Are you kidding!? After all his lies, you believe this!?

FATHER
It’s not for me to judge, son. The truth of it is now between him and God. Now, are you heartily sorry for all your sins?

JACK
Oh, indeed, I am, Father. Pretty much.

FATHER
Close enough. I do now absolve you of your transgressions.

JACK
Wait, my penance: Can’t you waive the ten Hail Marys, Father?

BARTHOLOMEW
30 seconds.

FATHER
Well, you’ve had plenty of time to say them.

JACK
You’re gonna doom me for a lousy ten Hail Marys?

FATHER
No. I will take your ten Hail Marys, and a thousand more decades besides, upon myself for the repose of your—

BARTHOLOMEW
20 seconds.

FATHER
—of your immortal soul, 1001 decades of the Rosary, amen.

JACK
You’d do that for me, Father?

FATHER
You’ve shown me I can still save souls. For that I owe you everything.

JACK
Still, Father, that’s the most selfless … that’s as good as … a pair of ears any day. God bless you.

BARTHOLOMEW
10 seconds, hurry!

JACK
Barty, Barty?

BARTHOLOMEW
I’m here, Daddy, I’m here.
JACK
My blessing on you, son. Now, when I go, take my medals … promise me!

BARTHOLOMEW
I won’t, stop it.

JACK
Take my medals, son. They are the way. They hold the key.

BARTHOLOMEW
They’re your way, Dad, not mine—

JACK
It’s my last wish, boy, my last wish on this earth.

The stopwatch alarm begins to beep.

JACK
God bless youuuuu—

JACK slumps.

BARTHOLOMEW
Dad! Daddy!

BARTHOLOMEW throws himself on JACK and weeps. A pause.

FATHER
You gave him what he truly wanted today. His own son’s love.

BARTHOLOMEW
Yeah. Although he was pretty hateful right to the end.

FATHER
Well, perhaps we should make allowances for the disease—

BARTHOLOMEW
No, it was good that he was the lying, domineering, manipulative bastard in death that he was in life.

FATHER
Oh. Okay. Because …?

BARTHOLOMEW
Because I realized I loved him anyway. Not the “master crimi-nal,” he pretended to be, but the small-time, bottom-feeding loser he really was. That was my father … and I loved him.

Crying, BARTHOLOMEW buries his face in JACK’s chest again. A pause. Suddenly, JACK pushes him off and rises up.

JACK
Small-time, bottom-feeding loser!? That’s how you talk while my body’s still warm!?

BARTHOLOMEW
You’re, you’re still alive!?

FATHER
This was all just another trick!!!???

JACK
Noooo! I thought I was dead. When I heard that alarm I thought, “Time to head to the light, Jackie.” But there was no light, there was nothing. Then you two started talking about me, and, well, not for nothing did I read Tom Sawyer. So, I decided I’d listen in on my own funeral, hear how loved I was. Ha!

BARTHOLOMEW
No, don’t you ruin it! (Suffocating him with a pillow) We did it perfectly! I won’t let you ruin your death like you ruin everything else! Die, dammit, die, die, die!

FATHER puts the .38 to BARTHOLOMEW’s head.

FATHER
Freeze, art boy! Or so help me God, your brains’ll play the paint to my Jackson Pollock.

BARTHOLOMEW lets up and JACK emerges, gasping.

JACK
Thank you, Father. Um, do you mind not pointing that at me?

FATHER
Yes. I mind. Don’t move.

JACK
What the hell’s your problem?

FATHER
He’s right, you did ruin it! I came here today desperately trying to believe that I could make men better. You convinced me that I could, and then you snatched it away. And I think I can have only one response to that.

BARTHOLOMEW
(Pause)
Does it involve the gun?

FATHER
Oh, I’ve had my own epiphany today. I’ll never make men better: One, I SUCK with people. Two, you’re right: Man is just plain wicked. And three, I’ve therefore been living a life of misery, all for nothing, nothing, NOTHING!

VOICE 1:
(Off, drunkenly, from outside the fire escape window)
Jack Grace, you thieving bastard! You’re a dead man!

JACK
Great, you woke Tommy up. (Going to the window) Why don’t you come up here and get me, Tommy, you big, drunken pussy!

VO1:
(Off)
It’s payback time, you little shit of sack!

JACK
Heh, heh. Oh, watch yourself now, Father, he’ll be up the fire escape any second. And this drunk, no telling who he’ll shoot.

FATHER
Do you really think I still believe a word you say?

JACK
Now, I’m gonna need a gun to handle him, Father, so—

JACK reaches for the sawed-off shotgun.

FATHER
Don’t.

JACK
Now, Father, you know you could never pull that trigger—

FATHER cocks the gun. JACK freezes, shocked.

FATHER
Oh no? Guess who just grew a pair?

JACK considers FATHER, then withdraws his hand.

JACK
Well. I stand corrected again. Now we’ve both had an episiotomy.

FATHER
Get away from that chair.

FATHER backs JACK away from it. BLAM! A shot from outside, followed by glass shattering, makes all but FATHER flinch.

JACK
That sonuvabitch! You’re paying for that window, Tommy!

A squealing sound of rusty metal is heard outside.

JACK
He’s pulling down the fire escape. C’mon, Father, I need a gun!

As he talks, FATHER slowly circles downstage of JACK.

FATHER
I’m done slaving for others. Sometimes the good shepherd just needs to tell his little flock to go and, and … screw themselves!

Pounding footsteps are heard coming up the fire escape.

JACK
He’s coming up the stairs, Father!

FATHER
Sometimes, the good shepherd needs to do a little thinning of his herd.

JACK
Well, okay, thin Tommy, cuz he’s—

TOMMY
Jack. Grace.

TOMMY HAS ENTERED out on the fire escape, his face appearing in the shot out window, gun pointed at JACK. He ignores the others. He is a tall, heavy, brutish man at his best. At present, he is heroically drunk, perhaps brandishing from time to time a hip flask. TOMMY climbs in through the window he has shot out. A pause. ALL stare at TOMMY, who sways as if in a gentle breeze.

BARTHOLOMEW
It’s him, it’s the drunk guy who said my mother had left you, it’s, it’s—

JACK
Tommy.

TOMMY
Well, it sure ain’t St. Peter. He ain’t coming for you, Jackie, cuz this life, and what we can grab from it, that’s all there is. And I’m here to grab. I’m your worst nightmare.

FATHER
An existentialist?

TOMMY
No, the past. Your past, Jackie, and it’s finally caught up with you. Now, I got one question: Where’s. My. Money?

BARTHOLOMEW claps slowly.

BARTHOLOMEW
Bravo. Dad, whatever you paid this guy to play “Tommy,” it wasn’t nearly enough.

TOMMY
I want my share! Give it to me!

JACK
You didn’t earn a share, you hid in your room till it was over! Life doesn’t happen in your room, Tommy.

TOMMY
Yeah, well life’s about to happen in this room, life’s about to get splattered all over it! Now give me my damn money!

JACK
A man only gets what he deserves.

TOMMY points the gun straight at JACK’s forehead. JACK doesn’t blink.

TOMMY
THEN YOU’RE GOING TO GET WHAT YOU DESERVE!!!!

JACK
Why shoot me, the Percocet’ll kill me any second now?

TOMMY
That Percocet’s expired. I wanted the pleasure of killing you myself.

TOMMY cocks his pistol.

TOMMY
And now the last thing you hear on this earth will be—

FATHER
Put the gun down. Slowly.

FATHER has put his gun to TOMMY’s neck. A pause. TOMMY complies. FATHER follows TOMMY with his gun.

JACK
Whoa! Thanks, Father, guess I owe you—

FATHER
(Turning the gun on JACK)
I’m shooting him.

JACK
Oh.

TOMMY
A priest is gonna shoot a dying man?

FATHER
Long story.

JACK
You shoot me, Father and you’ll spend the rest of your life in prison, in solitary, alone.

FATHER
(Pause)
Alone?

JACK
Yeah, you bet, alone, all alone.

FATHER aims the gun at JACK.

FATHER
That sounds perfect. Say good-bye. Jack.

JACK
Now you get my name right?

FATHER
Suddenly, all is clarity.

FATHER adjusts his grip, ready to shoot.

BARTHOLOMEW
You can finally be a monk in that cold, comfortless cell you’ve always wanted, huh, Father?

FATHER
I can almost taste it.

BARTHOLOMEW
But you don’t have to shoot Dad to get that.

JACK
Barty’s right. Shoot Tommy.

BARTHOLOMEW
I meant a monastery—

TOMMY grabs the gun out of FATHER’s hand and throws him to the ground like a rag doll behind the couch, out of sight.

TOMMY
I’m shooting him. And as I started to say. the last thing you’re gonna hear on this earth, Jackie, is my confession. About why Kathy left you.

JACK
What do you know about it?

TOMMY
Everything. The boys threw me out of O’Connor’s in front of all those strippers when I went for my share. Your orders, they said. I was humiliated. So I found Kathy, told her you’d been hurt in a fight. we got back to O’Connor’s just in time for her to see you handing out hundred dollar bills to strippers.

JACK
I, I was getting rid of ‘em!

TOMMY
Funny, that’s not how she saw it. Never saw a woman cry that hard. Said she never wanted to see you again. I told her, then she’d better skip town and change her name cuz you’d be looking for her.

JACK
What’s her new name?

TOMMY
I gave it to her: Banks. Robbie Banks.

JACK slumps on the couch.

JACK
Jesus.

TOMMY
So, keep the money, Jackie, but just tell me: Was it worth it?

JACK
Nothing was worth that.

TOMMY
That’s what I was hoping you’d say. Now, say … bye-bye.

JACK closes his eyes and braces. TOMMY steadies himself for the coup de grace. BLAM! JACK falls over on the couch.

BARTHOLOMEW
Oh my god! You killed him!

ALL freeze for a long beat. Then TOMMY drops his gun and falls on top of JACK as FATHER emerges from behind the couch, holding the smoking .357. JACK simultaneously opens his eyes, surprised to be alive, and stands up.

BARTHOLOMEW
No, you killed him.

FATHER
I said, I’m shooting your father. Or no one is. And I can’t.

FATHER puts the gun down. TOMMY speaks without moving.

TOMMY
I can’t believe I was shot by a priest.

A police siren whoops outside and police lights play across the room; perhaps radio traffic is heard.

FATHER
Quit your crying, I spared your femur.

JACK
Father. You really have learned a few things—

FATHER
I want my damn cell. How do I get it?

JACK
Couldn’t be easier with the cops here. Take Tommy out with you, surrender to ‘em, plead guilty to attempted murder, and coldcock the first prison guard you see. After they beat the crap out of you, you’ll get all the solitary a man could want.

FATHER nods, then helps TOMMY up.

FATHER
Come on, Tommy. (Turning back to JACK) Jack. Find Kathy, tell her you’re sorry. It’s never too late to be forgiven.

FATHER and TOMMY, leaning on each other, limp to the front door. FATHER leaves behind his possessions. He doesn’t need them where he’s going.

JACK
For what? I didn’t do anything.

FATHER
You unleashed all that befell you and yours. (To BARTHOLOMEW) Bartholomew. Leave this place. Or you’ll die here.

FATHER opens the front door.

TOMMY
Father, what about me? What should I do?

FATHER
Tommy. Never … wear shorts to a cookout. C’mon.

FATHER EXITS with TOMMY. BARTHOLOMEW drops down on a chair by his laptop. A pause. JACK suddenly stands.

JACK
They expired!? That’s why I’m still alive!?

BARTHOLOMEW
(Examining a Percocet bottle)
Yeah, like in 1998.

BARTHOLOMEW begins to type on his laptop.

JACK
That thieving Tommy! Where’s my sawed-off, I’ll shoot him from the God damn window.

BARTHOLOMEW
This says they should still be pretty potent.

JACK
Well … good. It’ll just take a little longer then.

BARTHOLOMEW
Yeah. Good.

JACK
If Father tells them how you stole his credit card, here’s what you say—

BARTHOLOMEW
Dad … I didn’t actually order all that stuff. I have no idea how to keep them from tracing it back to me. I’m just not a criminal.

JACK
No. You’re not, are you?

JACK and BARTHOLOMEW sit in awkward silence for a moment or two, BARTHOLOMEW studying the photo of his mother. The police siren whoops again as the cruiser departs. The cruiser lights are gone.

JACK
Find her, boy. It’s too late for me, but maybe not for you.

BARTHOLOMEW
How? Cuz you’re right, Dad, I am scared of the world.

JACK
You can do it. But you’re gonna need help. C’mon, now, take ‘em.

BARTHOLOMEW
Your stupid saints won’t help me.

JACK offers BARTHOLOMEW his medals. BARTHOLOMEW fends them off. As JACK insists below, BARTY backs away. JACK persists, chases him, and soon is pressing the medals against BARTHOLMEW, who tries awkwardly to swat them away.

JACK
Oh, you want my medals, Barty.

BARTY
No, I don’t.

JACK
Yes, you do. They hold the key.

BARTY
No, I don’t, stop it.

JACK
You do, dammit, you do!

BARTHOMEW
Get away from me!

JACK
They hold the key, boy. The key. The key!

BARTHOLOMEW
(Over him)
These medals are not my key to—!

BARTHOLOMEW realizes JACK is holding the medals by a single key dangling on the cord. He takes them.

BARTHOLOMEW
There … there really is a key.

JACK
Nice work, Sherlock Dumbass. It’s need-to-know time. That key opens our safe.

BARTHOLOMEW
We don’t have a safe.

JACK
Sure we do.

BARTHOLOMEW
Where?

JACK
What have I always told you I had to do with the money?

BARTHOLOMEW
You said we had to sit on it.

JACK
I said, I had to sit on it.

JACK lifts the lumbar pillow on the back of the seat, revealing a safe built into the chair. BARTHOLOMEW opens the back with the key and pulls out two stacks of dollar bills. JACK stands and raises his arms in triumph.

JACK
Ha! HA!! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

BARTHOLOMEW
You … you really were the greatest bank robber in the history of Boston.

JACK drops exhausted into his Barcalounger.

JACK
I was also lucky. I just made it up as I went. But that’s all life is: you just make it up. If it works out, you get the money, if it doesn’t, you lose the girl. There’s nothing to be scared of.

BARTHOLOMEW
What about that isn’t completely terrifying?

JACK
You can use that money to put your art out there if you want. Maybe it’s crap, but the Bible teaches us, we must not hide our crap under a bushel.

BARTHOLOMEW
(Putting the money back in the safe and leaving the medals and key on the arm of JACK’s chair)
I don’t want stolen money, Dad.

JACK
Yeah, I figured. So here’s Plan B. Lead the cops to a quarter of the heist and get the million dollar reward.

BARTHOLOMEW
Rat out my own father?

JACK
Put your father on the front page of the Boston Globe, so the world will finally know, he was the greatest ever. Use that reward to go find your mother. Google her, soon as I’m gone.

BARTHOLOMEW
What good would it do now? What if it’s a disaster.

JACK
It won’t be.. You’re more like her than you can imagine, Barty. Go find her—

BARTHOLOMEW
This is for me to decide, Dad.

JACK
Then you better decide to do what I tell ya and google—!

A long pause. JACK masters himself. It is difficult. He picks up the medals and works on detaching the key.

JACK
Okay, then you should do what you want. Whatever you want. (Offering the key) Here.

BARTHOLOMEW takes the key. JACK puts the medals back on.

JACK
Now read me the end of the damn poem again.

JACK is racked by a painful cough. He recovers, holds the printout to his chest, and closes his eyes.

JACK
And tell her I’m sorry.

BARTHOLOMEW
“He Who hath made the night of stars
For souls who tire and bleed,
Sent one of His great angels down
To help me in my need.

BARTHOLOMEW continues, reading more thoughtfully.

BARTHOLOMEW
“He Who is wrapped in purple robes,
With planets in His care,
Had pity on the least of things
Asleep upon a chair.”

(Pause) Do you want it again, Dad? Dad? Dad, don’t mess around!

BARTHOLOMEW nudges JACK. Sheets from the printout cascade from his hand like snow. He is gone. BARTHOLOMEW gazes at him, stricken, then kisses his forehead. He picks up the photo of his mother and clutches it, backing slowly away from JACK. Suddenly, he turns and hurries to the laptop, putting the photo next to it and starts to type. Just as suddenly, he jumps up and returns to JACK.

BARTHOLOMEW
(To JACK)
Oh, no, no you don’t! Oh, nice try, you almost got me, but you can just forget it! I’m not googling her, okay, you’re dead now! I don’t care what you want me to do any more! It’s my life! (Pause, calming) Just like … just like I don’t care what pisses you off any more. It’s my life.

BARTHOLOMEW walks to the door and opens it. He stands there for a few moments, looking out into the hall.
 
BARTHOLOMEW
My life.
 
     BARTHOLOMEW steps tentatively out into the hallway. Signs of incipient panic appear again, but he manages to control it this time. Perhaps he takes a deep breath and looks around for a few moments.
 
BARTHOLOMEW
And I’ll just make it up as I go.

Leaving the front door open, BARTHOLOMEW reenters the room, still mostly the master of himself. He takes up his mother’s picture and sits next to JACK. He places his hand on top of JACK’s, and contemplates the photo.

Lights down slowly. Curtain.

END OF PLAY






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