Maggie Lou Rader

SAINT AND SINNER

A Play in One Act

CHARACTERS

A note. This was written to be performed by anyone. Feel free to change names and pronouns. Rich and Kelsie can be anyone with any pronouns.

RICH- A conflicted young Christian person

KELSIE-  A troubled young person whose mother had recently died

SETTING- Two different therapy sessions with two different therapists

PLACE-  Middle America, USA

SCENE I

RICH is sitting on his chaise lounge looking very uncomfortable, as is KELSIE on her own chaise on the opposite side of the stage.  We can tell from RICH’s demeanor he neither thinks he should be, nor wants to be where he currently finds himself. KELSIE is patient, yet slightly uncomfortable, while waiting for her therapist to arrive. Suddenly RICH’s attention is focused on a fly buzzing around his head. He tries to ignore it but to no avail. He occasionally swats at the flying nuisance while trying to keep his composure.  We see his muscles tighten and her patience run thin. Finally, he gives in to the frustration, grabs a magazine off the table, and begins the hunt. He sneaks behind the fly, rears back his weapon to a furious plateau, and smashes the little bugger in a fiery blaze of glory.

RICH

Ha HA! Take THAT! You lousy, no good, SON OF A…

RICH’s attention is diverted to the therapist that just walked in on him crawling all over the furniture in his office. he is caught.

Let me explain… I know this looks bad and as I told you at my sentencing, I am a well adjusted and healthy person who does not need therapy to learn how to deal with my anger issues mainly because I don’t have anger issues. Sometimes I get upset and all that pent-up energy has to go somewhere! Now, let me tell you, that fly had it coming! He knew JUST what he was doing…

He notices the dead fly smeared across the magazine in his hand.

And I’ll replace this. Even though, I think you should consider having some more decent reading material in here. When encouraging patients to live healthy, stable lives, I can’t help but think there are better options than People.

He wipes off the fly, replaces the magazine, and finds himself trying to be comfortable sitting in the chaise. As KELSIE sits patiently yet anxiously waiting for the therapist, we see his entrance on her face. She stands in a panic to address the man. She is startled as if she knew this moment would come but has no idea what to do now that it’s here.

KELSIE

Well it’s about time. You are late sir and I do not appreciate tardiness. I also don’t appreciate your standard of cleanliness in this office. I mean really, I went to the ladies’ room and do you know what happened to me there? And I’ll have you know I do not make it a habit to tell men, much less men I don’t even know, about my adventures to the toilet! I’m only sharing this with you because I thought you ought to know as I can imagine the ladies’ room is not a place you, as a male, frequent during a day at work. I had barely… sat down, when I felt something tickle the side of my thigh. (Corrects herself) the outside of my thigh! I look over and hanging out of the sanitary napkin disposal box is a banana peel. A banana peel mind you! Who in their right mind would eat a banana in the bathroom? I mean, it’s not exactly a hands-off snack is it? And who has the time to eat an entire banana whilst… you know. And I don’t know why it bothers me so much but it seems wrong to eat such an obtrusively male fruit only to dispose of the remains in that particular location.

That’s alright. I just thought you would like to know.

I will, as long as your couch is cleaner than the ladies’ room…

She sits

RICH

He’s making an effort

It’s not that I don’t want to be here, and I don’t mean to criticize…

KELSIE

It’s not that I don’t want to be here, it’s just that… no… no, that’s it. I just don’t want to be here.

RICH

It’s just that… well I don’t exactly think all this is necessary.

KELSIE

I can’t see how this is going to help if I’m honest.

RICH

Yes, I know what I did was wrong, but I didn’t mean it. It just happened.

KELSIE

You know why I’m here. I know you’ve been talking to my boss.

RICH

No, I don’t mind talking about it. I don’t really think I have a choice to talk about it. I mean, that’s why I’m here, to talk about it, with you, to adjust.

Every Saturday morning, a group of us from my church goes to Victoria’s Square to preach the word of our Lord and hand out literatureI’m used to how people react to us, let me tell you. Few care to hear what we have to say and most ignore us. Like I say, I’m used to it; I am.

On Saturday mornings, there are tons of people like us out there. Other Christians, Muslims, street performers; there is always a crowd, all of us fighting for the attention of the people walking by. I really don’t dislike the street performers, it’s just that they are so… darn entertaining! Twenty people preaching the word of God and the entire city population would rather watch a group of Scotsmen in kilts tossing around colorful sticks with pom-poms on the ends. I mean, who wants to hear about finding religion when you can listen to ten musicians sing and dance about losing it?

KELSIE

Why does it make a difference whether you hear it from my boss or from me? Why ask questions to which you already know the answer? I’m not a Magic 8 Ball, okay? But I canbe!

(Shakes)

“Reply hazy, try again later.”

(Shakes again)

 “Better not tell you now.”

(Shakes one more time)

 “Concentrate and ask again!” And don’t ask me if Sally McSexy will be your date to the 9th grade formal because, based on that haircut alone, I can give you an answer without consulting the oracle.

I’m sorry. I know you are.

I’m sure that’s my fault. Let’s start over. I’m sure you’re a very nice man who just has a crap office cleaner and a drunken barber, but that’s not your fault. Let’s start over. Ask me again. And no Magic 8 Ball this time, I promise.

RICH

A few months ago, tere was this new guy out there with us. He was a street performer and he, he was juggling these big, machete type, knives. Now, I’m used to Oliver who does his little thing with the dancing hamsters. I’m used to the guy who plays the Jamaican drums, Chad. And I’m even used to Robert, the human Jedi statue.

But this guy, this new guy… When he came to the square and started juggling those big knives; everyone was drawn to him immediately. And normally, I wouldn’t have even cared! But at that moment, I was talking to a woman, Iris, who was really listening to what I had to say. She actually cared about what I was telling her and she was opening up to me and to the whole idea! But when this guy started his juggling, everyone went to watch him come within inches of filleting himself… including Iris. She was so close to having a total breakthrough and she backed away from her salvation.

KELSIE

My boss insisted I go to therapy after the third day in a row she found me huddled up in the bathroom, working in the third stall from the end. I really like that stall. It’s got the paper dispenser on the left hand side. Now you’d think it would be easier to have it on the right, but oh no. Your arm is just a bit too long to comfortably reach the paper and pull down without hitting your elbow on the bowl and getting your sleeve dirty. Plus the light in that stall has been burned out for years, which significantly reduces the chance of outside-crack-in-door-peekers.  So yeah, I like that stall.

I was written up for “low productivity,” but what she didn’t understand was that I was more productive in that stall than I’d ever been at my desk. It was quiet, what, being away from the more popular, busy, stalls, I didn’t have Susan, she works in the cubicle next to me, coping with her divorce by listening to her “you’re still a wonderful, beautiful, vibrant woman” tapes, and I had an unlimited supply of incredibly ink absorbent paper.

Had my boss come in ten minutes, just ten minutes earlier, she would have seen the beauty of my new system. That day, I was already on my third roll of expense reports when Susan felt the repercussions of her bad chicken salad sandwich and… deleted my day’s work.

RICH

I fought my way through the crowd shoving anyone who got in my way. I must have pushed Maria, a visiting Catholic missionary, because by the time I got to the juggler I had her fancy rosary with the sliding beads wrapped around my hand. That’s when it happened. I snapped the rosary chain in my hands and let the beads spill to the ground. It happened before I realized it! The beads of course rolled under his feet JUST as he was doing his big finale. He was trying to throw all three knives as high as he could, spin around, and catch them before they hit the ground. Well, when he tried to spin, he stepped on Maria’s beads and went flying! The crowd gasped and screamed as he fell to the ground. We all held our breath as the knives came down.  He’s okay, don’t worry. He didn’t die. In fact, one of the knives didn’t even hit him! However… well… the other two knives came down and, ironically enough, the blades went straight into his palms pinning him to the ground.

KELSIE

My boss thinks my work is suffering and I need to talk about things. She thinks I’m having trouble adjusting and it’s affecting my job performance. So I’m here. To talk. But here’s the thing. I don’t understand how it’s going to help me to talk. I’ve been talking. All around me, there’s talking. All I ever hear is talking. And hell, I even talk back to the cast of Sesame Street. And sometimes, they talk back, well, you know, except for (Signs L-I-N-D-A as she says the name, trying to sound like a deaf person) Linda. But it’s not her fault I don’t know how to adequately express my feelings through sign language. But it’s also not my fault that the Sesame Street crew never teaches you how to sign the dirty words.

I shouldn’t make schizophrenic-ish jokes to a psychiatrist, should I? My point is, I talk. I talk on the bus. I talk to the waiter at my favorite restaurant. I’ve even tried talking to God which is something I haven’t done since I was six when I wanted the Wind Whistler My Little Pony for Christmas. I didn’t get that either. That was the Christmas of Lincoln Logs. So everyone wants me to talk but, why? If I try to work through my feelings out loud it’s not like I’m going to make some discovery that will stop the pain or bring her back. The hurt continues. It’s like when you get stung by a bee; it doesn’t matter if you cry and wail or you just sit there and take it. The stinger is still in your skin and it still hurts like hell. No matter what I do, I just come up with twelve different ways of saying she’s still dead.

RICH

And that’s why I’m here. The court thought since my record is completely clean, that I’m not a threat to society but yet I still need to learn my lesson. So, court mandated therapy it is.

KELSIE

Is this how I’m supposed to be talking?

That’s good.

RICH

I’m not happy about it but I do understand. I’m not a threat to anyone, I just snapped. I hadn’t been sleeping well and I was hungry… No excuse, I know, but it is the way things are, and I’ll make it through.

Thank you. I mean, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right? Look at Daniel in the Lion’s Den.  Trials are exercises in God’s faith in me. See, God wouldn’t put this in my life unless He knew I could take it; therefore, this stress, this situation in my life right now is really God showing me He has faith in me to overcome. It’s kind of flattering when you think about it.

God is preparing me to be a complete follower worthy of Heaven. I believe that. I have to believe that. Otherwise, I never would have made it through these past few months. This hasn’t been easy. I’ve seen my pride, my reputation, my entire sense of self on trial. I was stripped of my dignity and came out the other side so… can you blame me for being kind of angry?

KELSIE

For starters, I hate how everyone I know is almost embarrassed to be around me right now. They’re uncomfortable if I talk about it again, but then things are still awkward if I don’t talk about it because they know I’m thinking about it and then they’re thinking about it and all of a sudden it becomes an unspoken conversation about how none of us are talking about what we’re actually thinking then we all realize we’ve just been talking about Spam and Arnold Schwarzenegger films for twenty minutes. I think I just want to be alone, but then that silence becomes deafening so I decide I want people around because then at least there is someone to be silent. It’s not like I want them around to actually talk; I just want to know they are there… like the wall paper. It gets pretty lonely to say the least.

What are you supposed to do without your mom? I can’t go shopping, I can’t put up a Christmas tree, and I can’t even go into the kitchen on Sunday mornings. She’s there. The cabinets are going to open up and laugh like her. The appliances won’t work without her, they told me. They’re on strike. She is in the tile. If I walk into that room, she’s going to touch and grab my feet from the floor. My father won’t buy food. He says, “She would have bought it better.” And the thing is I know exactly what he means. She would have.

BOTH

 I am not well.

RICH

I’m supposed to be talking about my anger issues, so here’s something that makes me angry. People assume things about you, when you do what I do. They assume, that I’m dumb. That the only reason I could keep faith in religion is that I’m not smart enough to figure out the meaning of life on my own so I subscribe to this fairy tale we call faith instead of dealing with life for what it is, hard, inconsistent, and unpredictable.

I chose this. I love this. I believe a person can be saved without ever hearing the Word of God. I do, but if I can make it easier for someone, if I can give them the name of Jesus as an answer to what they have been searching for, that’s what I want to do.

KELSIE

It’s not bad enough that I’m dying inside. I have to wake up every morning and realize I’m suffering all over again. I lay awake at night because I’m suffering and I suffer because I’m thinking about my suffering and I’m not sure which is worse. That I’m numb from emotional anguish, or that I realize there are other people out there that are still happy. I hate them. No, I want to hate them. I want to sue them. What if there is only so much happiness in the world and I already used mine. The thing was… I wasn’t done. I should have had some warning that it was going away. It’s not fair. I wasn’t done.

RICH

It’s not easy… Those people walking by, those people who I’m trying to help, to save from an eternity of torture; they have the upper-hand. It doesn’t matter that I’m right, or that I have the Truth, or that I can give them the greatest gift, a supernatural, ethereal, and eternal gift from Heaven, because if they don’t stop to listen to me, I’m wrong. I’m wrong because if they decide I’m wrong, I am. But you know… If I bring one person to Christ, it is worth it. All the times I’ve been spit on or yelled at, or had trash thrown at me, it would be worth it. If one person is saved because of me, then all the abuse is worth it.

It’s… it’s never happened. That. I’ve never… done that. I’ve never helped save anyone. And if I haven’t saved anyone, then I’m no better than the trash cans on the side of the street. No, worse. Trash cans are weather resistant. All I’ve ever wanted was to help give someone the gift that I have been given but if I can’t do that, then what’s the point? I’m just some speed bump on the sidewalk on the way to work.

KELSIE

And you know what I hate? I hate those stupid little lines people say to you in times like this. We try to dumb down the concept of death so kids will understand and we just keep saying them no matter how old we get. We tell them, It’s okay, now grandma is in Heaven so she can always watch over you like an angel. Now she can be with you all the time instead of just when she visits.” Why the hell do we tell kids that? I think its so parents convince their kids that they’re always being watched so they won’t be little shits even when they’re alone. “Don’t skip washing up before dinner, grandma’s watching! Don’t forget your chores, grandma’s watching.  Don’t touch yourself there, grandma’s watching!” Can you believe I wasn’t able to climax during sex for over a year because all I could think of was my dead grandmother sitting in the corner of the room? She wasn’t offended, she was judging my technique… So we think we are comforting our children when in reality, we’re giving them complexes because their dead grandmothers are better in the sack than they are.

I knowthey’re trying to help, but they’re not. I want my mom here. She’s not here with me and that’s what I miss. When I was 12, she went away for a summer to look after my sick grandma in Iowa and I missed her then too. It’s just this time I know she’s not coming back in August and now she too can watch me having awkward, beige sex, joining Grandma on the judges’ panel.

RICH

It’s kind of nice, all of us working together for our own causes, something different to offer. Have you ever thought about how the different denominations of Christianity are like the different cliques in high school? You know, Baptists are the Jocks, Catholics are the math club, Mormons are… well… Mormons are the home-schooled kids. It’s like we’re all in spiritual popularity contest.

I hope I don’t make my faith sound like a spiritual pyramid scheme. Well, in a way, maybe it is. We are recruited by Christians to become Christian in order to recruit more Christians to Christianity. And the one who brings in the most new members wins some magical prize. It’s like cashing in your tickets when you leave Chuck E. Cheese. “1,000 plus salvations!?!?! Congratulations! You get to sit next to the right hand of God every Tuesday during the month of February!” or “Oooh… Only five salvations? …Here is a set of the Apostle action figure series. You don’t even have to collect all twelve!” We’re all in some fiery frenzy searching for 3rd party souls to save, because let’s be honest, no one wants the Judas Iscariot action figure in spite his accessories of thirty pieces of silver…

KELSIE

“She’s in God’s hands.” That’s the worst one. Was she not in God’s hands when she out pulled out her own hair from the pain? Or when she didn’t have the physical strength to open her mouth to say, “I love you, too?”  What about when she shit herself because the pain inside her was so intense that it forced everything else out? So… If she’s “In God’s hands” now, why couldn’t she have been in God’s hands then? She did everything right. She prayed; she kept faith through the worst of it. Am I supposed to believe that God’s hands are all-comforting, all-healing, and all-providing but only after death? That’s bullshit.

People keep saying, “God works in mysterious ways,” but I’ve been thinking about that particular little jewel. What kind of sick and sadistic God sees putting us through this hell as a goodthing? Hell reins on earth and we chock it up to God’s will. How can I put down all the love I have for my mother, let go of my soul, my very existence so His sick mother fucking will be done? Fuck God’s will.

RICH

I joke. Of course that’s not why I evangelize. I’m not looking to be the obnoxious kid walking into Heaven to redeem my good works for the stuffed Hello Kitty that’s the size of a small car. I’ve always hated the idea of some salvation checklist with strict rules and guidelines.  I think the problem is that a lot of Christians take scriptures dealing with salvation way too literally. Acts 2:38 says, “Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

My question for those Christians is, what about someone living in, you know, some hut in the deep recesses of a jungle totally cut off from the civilized world who is never going to have the opportunity to hear me preach the Word of God? Is he condemned to hell because he was born in an unfortunate geographic salvation location? If God is as good and powerful as I believe Him to be, surely He has some sort of contingency plan. 

And let’s be honest. All those Christians that believe the actual name, ‘Jesus’ has to come out of your mouth to be saved will be sorely disappointed when they realize the actual guy Jesus did not have blonde hair or blue eyes and definitely did not speak English… He will cry out for something bigger and God will answer. Even if he doesn’t have the name ‘Jesus’ to go along with it. God crosses all cultural barriers and is bigger than any name we can speak.

I told you about the others I see on Saturdays. Sometimes I listen to the others… and they make sense. They are preaching the same things I am.  So, why does one school of thought have to be wrong? What if Christianity is the same as Islam? They have just been separated by culture and language for so long that men have made the same thought into a different religion not because of different fundamental beliefs, but because of differences in culture and tradition. 

That’s what I appreciate about my Saturday group. They know my views on things are a bit different from most, but they listen to me and… and they accept me anyway.

KELSIE

Another thing- I have been told more in the past two months that I’m being prayed for than I’ve been told “I’m sorry for your loss.” Here’s my question. How the hell does prayer work? I pray for something to happen and if it does happen, God loves me and answered my prayer. If it doesn’t happen, God knew better and it wasn’t the right time or place for that particular prayer to be answered. Trust that God knows best. But if God is going to do what He wants anyway, why pray?

I used to pray. You know, for other things besides the Wind Whistler My Little Pony. I used to pray that God would find me a boyfriend. Then in 3rd grade I went out with Greg Johnson for one whole week. We never spoke for the entirety of that blissful week but he did give me, by way of Stephanie Miller, a cheap ring with a pink plastic stone that turned my finger green by Wednesday. He left me on Friday because Elizabeth Gonzalez played soccer with him at recess and I only jumped rope. The joke was on him though because in 9th grade, Elizabeth started going out with Stephanie. Bet Greg didn’t see that one coming.

RICH

Friends?  I guess I have friends.

KELSIE

I prayed for a happily ever after.

RICH

No… I don’t have a girlfriend. 

It’s not that I don’t want to… It just hasn’t come up for me. I would like it though. I actually think about it a lot, what it would be like.

KELSIE

Even at the age of nine I wanted Greg to be my Prince Charming. Had you asked me that Thursday, I would have thought I was marrying that boy, green finger and all. I never would have anticipated the catastrophe that was Friday.

RICH

Sometimes I even wonder what it would be like to… to go to bed with someone. Not just anyone of course. I’m a virgin. I’m waiting until I get married. I always thought I would meet someone in college. I didn’t. Then I thought I would meet a nice Christian girl in the church. I haven’t. I really thought I would be married by now.

KELSIE

What is happily ever after? Do two people just sit around holding hands and smiling all day until 9:30 at which time they eat an entire cheesecake, never get fat, and then go to bed?

RICH

Can you expire? You know, sexually. If you don’t… start by a certain time, will… it just… fall off?

KELSIE

When do you pee in happily ever after?

RICH

Will I have to sit down to pee?

KELSIE

If you can in fact pee, does he have to go with you?

RICH

I had this dream once about eggs.

KELSIE

What happens when you have to wipe?

RICH

Just eggs sitting in a window rotting throughout the seasons. I come in around mid-spring and the smell is just putrid.

KELSIE

What happens when one of you dies? Are you supposed to be happy for ever with the memories of your dead husband until you too keel over?

RICH

By then, they have cracked open and have leaked all over the window sill, down the wall and are puddling on the floor.

KELSIE

How can you be happy when every Tuesday night you remember that the next day is trash and all you want to do is holler at him upstairs so he will take it out for you… but you know he isn’t there?

RICH

Then I’m all alone with a rotten egg puddle.

KELSIE

Do you holler anyway?

                                                                         BOTH

I am desperately afraid I will always be lonely.

RICH

Oh yes, I think about Heaven all the time. Part of the trade I guess.

I think about it so much that I sometimes worry that I’m going to be disappointed in Heaven. I’ve spent my entire life building it up in my mind, but what if it’s not all it’s cracked up to be? I can’t help but wonder. When I was a kid, I used to imagine a house with glass walls and roses, like the ones my grandmother had in her garden, growing within them. Then I would sit around all day reading and basking in God’s glorious light. Then, everyday at 5:00 we all go to, I don’t know, the throne, for a worship service. We bask in His light and praise Him in all His fantastic glory.

KELSIE

I could always be a nun I guess. Being a nun wouldn’t be so bad… I know I’m not Catholic, but certainly if you’ve been living this life long enough in any denomination they’ll let you into the club. Yeah, being a nun won’t be so bad. Think about it! Black is a good color, slimming. If I have a bad hair day, psh, who cares. And the best part of all, I can be in next year’s Nun’s Having Fun Calendar. I’d totally be Miss December.

RICH

What would you do after day five of basking in God glow and you start to get sunburned? Do you think everyone in Heaven develops third degree burns on their faces from God’s brilliance? So what if that’s Heaven? Rotting roses inside glass walls and sunlight pouring in until your skin burns, bubbles, cracks and flakes off and all you’re left with are ever aching blisters and a 5:00 appointment.

KELSIE

Yes! I— Yes. I do joke when I’m hurting. You see, it’s what you people call a “defense mechanism.” If I can laugh, that means I’m still alive. And I’ve noticed, as of late, that’s really something, to be alive.

RICH

Heaven means… I passed the test; I followed the rules and sought forgiveness when I didn’t.  There are a lot of rules to keep in mind. Can I tell you something else? I’ve wondered, sometimes, if the church decided to make things that are completely natural into sins just to stay in business. The whole premise of Christianity is that people have to believe that being a wholesome and sinless person is impossible and so everyone needs atonement through Christ. What if people really could be good on their own? Well that’s when it’s time to start making natural things into sins by taking arbitrary human desires and saying that they’re bad and therefore, keeping Christianity in business. Look at the Catholics!

 If they say no to birth control, then that means Catholic parents are going to have a crap ton of kids. And do you know what Catholic kids become? More Catholic parents and the cycle continues! I wonder which Pope came up with that stroke of economic genius. Not Joan…

KELSIE

Have you ever forgotten a memory? It’s not that it’s traumatizing or anything; it just gets put away in a sort of box. Then, after so many years, that memory is dusty and hidden away like the old Christmas lights when you haven’t used them in a few years. They’re still there; it’s just that they’re in the attic packed behind the boxes of old baby clothes and home videos. Whatever happens to those Christmas lights? Then, if you dig out the memory, all the detail is gone or at least, different than you thought. You still recognize the frame and structure, but the heart of it is gone. Like an old Valentine. You see this thing that was once filled with love, that made your insides turn over but now, it’s just words on a crumbling, yellowing, tattered paper doily. It doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s only proof that there was once an event that meant something to you. 

RICH

What? Are you surprised I would say something that negative about the Church? Big difference between the Church and Faith. Some Christians have been trying to make a buck off congregations since… well… since Christ probably! What if, and of course I’m being a bit silly here, but what if Jesus was just some Roman/Jewish stoner hippie with long hair and a new idea and his disciples just capitalized on opportunity? Can you imagine, Paul following Jesus, setting up shop in Thessalonica selling glow in the dark Jesus statues, baptisms in heated water, and pin-the-tail-on-the-demon toys? I mean that’s just ingenuity.

I joke, but it’s true! When I was 13, a visiting preacher came to my church. He told us that he could guarantee anyone’s salvation within a week. He was like… The Billy Mays of Christ. He had a band with flashy lights, and in the height of the service, he told us to shout the names of those who we wanted to be saved; just shout them at the top of our lungs so it would reach the heavens. I remember the colored lights hitting my tear stained face as I yelled the names of my parents as loud as I could. He then told us the next step was to tell those whose names we had shouted what happened and that God was finding a way to save them. He told us we were “preparing them for the greatness that would be entering their lives.” When I told my parents, who thought I was in way over my head with this church group anyway, became livid and things got pretty ugly. My mother and I haven’t spoken since and my dad came out of the closet two weeks later. Needless to say, it didn’t work, and I bet that Billie Mays guy made a killing.

KELSIE

I’m afraid I’ll forget her. No worse, I’m afraid I’ll remember her for something she never was. With every passing day, I replace her actual characteristics with some… diluted interpretation I have of them. When I imagine her voice now, it’s not her voice, it’s… some… candy coated caricature of it I’ve created. I called her phone, to hear her voicemail message yesterday, and I was surprised. I have already forgotten what my mother sounded like. I’m going to start forgetting all those little things. How she cleared her throat, how it took her an hour to adjust the rear view mirror and yet, half the time, forgot her seatbelt, the way she would look at you over her glasses when she was upset. How many things have I already forgotten? And then, if I am lucky enough to remember them someday, maybe I’ll remember them all wrong? Or what if those memories cease to be precious as I cope with her death? What if I forget to love her?

RICH

Obviously that man was, pardon my French, completely full of stuff. You can’t guarantee or force another’s salvation. It’s a matter of free will. Here is something I’ve always struggled with, the coexistence of a divine plan and free will. How do they go together?  When I was a kid, I thought there was this big, sparkly, bedazzled book up in Heaven. In it, there would be every move anyone would ever make in life. Every meal was decided. Every mistake pre-recorded. That book gave me so much comfort because I knew that no matter what happened or what I did, it was already expected of me. I couldn’t sin beyond repair because God already knew it would happen. One day, I thought I could steal a piece of candy from the store because since God already knew about it, He had to forgive me; a redemption freebie.

It wasn’t until I was older that I first saw the problem with the whole “big bedazzled book” theory. I realized, I could steal the candy but I could just as easily not steal the candy. But then I thought, according to the big sparkly book theory, God already knows the decision I’m going to make, so the book could still exist!

But at that moment, I lost all comfort in the book theory, because I realized, it didn’t matter what I did, ever, because any decision I made wasn’t even mine, I was just living out words on a page. That’s when the comfort of the book turned into contempt of this set roller coaster I was on. The book was shut. It couldn’t be changed. Suddenly I was acting out in search of free will.

KELSIE

Recover? How is recovery relevant when I’m questioning the entire underlying premise of everything I ever thought I knew? It seems, to me, that when in a situation of despair, the worst part isn’t finding an answer to the hard questions, it’s figuring out which questions to ask in the first place. How can you go anywhere if you don’t know where to begin? I have to restructure the entire way I look at things.  Instead of asking where my mother is now, I have to ask if she’s anything now or if she’s just rotting in a box.  It’s not a question of God’s existence; it’s a matter of if I want to follow this God who allows so much bad to happen in the world.

Have at it. I’ve got to warn you; it isn’t as easy as it seems, coming up with questions.

RICH

And then I realized… there is no way a divine plan could exist.

KELSIE

Yeah, I miss her.

RICH

If every decision is prerecorded, then let’s look at Timothy McVeigh. He killed 168 people and God knew it would happen.

KELSIE

Yes, I love her.

RICH

He knew before the man was even born he would be a monster.

KELSIE

Some friends, yes.

RICH

And then I felt sorry for the guy! He never even had a chance.

KELSIE

Some good friends, yes.

 RICH

God decided before he was even thought of that he would devastate the lives of thousands of people without an ounce of remorse.

KELSIE

I DON’T KNOW! Dear God! I wish I did. But I don’t.  I don’t know if there is any good in the world or if there has ever been any good in the world!

RICH

Do you see? If there is divine will, the tyrant God decides who goes to Heaven and who is condemned to Hell. There is no choice, no decision, no hope of salvation, just living out pages in an evil, big, bedazzled book.

KELSIE

I’d like to think there’s some force or God in Heaven who sends us a regular helping of ‘good’ to help us get through the ‘bad.’ I’d like to think that if there is a God, He is good. But I just can’t work out how God can be good and let this kind of pain survive.

RICH

NO! No I’m not alright. I’m FURIOUS!

I always thought, no matter how bad things got, my faith would deliver me. The thing was, when I was in the court room, I was… absolutely… alone. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting but I even prayed for the rapture. I prayed that God would pick that precise moment to pull the righteous out of the clutches of earthly evil. But when it came down to it, the moment that I needed my faith the most, it was gone. I was ashamed. I was hurt, abandoned, no, angry. Livid! There was nothing. Not a flutter or a feeling. Only the judge pronouncing my sentence. The thing was… it was so common, so ordinary. The scariest moment of my life and as I looked around and saw one of the witnesses yawning. He was yawning! I’m about to piss myself from fear and he’s about to take a nap!

“Deliver us from evil?” Where was my deliverance? I wasn’t looking to escape. I knew what I did was wrong and I had to be punished. But what about comfort? Love? Where was God?  I’ve followed His Word with every fiber of my being and for what? To piss myself from fear and abandonment as a courtroom full of strangers yawned at the mundaness that was the most important and terrifying moment of my life! When I was in that courtroom, I was completely alone. Not just alone, I felt empty. He promised to never leave me because as long as I believed and followed Him, He would live in me. I took that to mean, “always there.” And I was empty.

KELSIE

When… it happened, when she finally… left, I knew. She hadn’t been able to speak for a week and she hadn’t been conscious for a few days, but I still knew, at the exact moment. There was a quality of the air that was so full and at the same time, vastly empty. There was a ringing; you know when things are so silent that the silence vibrates in your ear.  At that moment, which was so unbelievably calm and serene despite the extraordinary thing that was happening, I felt she was still there, with me, every sense shifted into overdrive, some heightened state of awareness, and every sensation was filled with her. I just sat there, with her, for fifteen, maybe twenty minutes. My father was in the chair in the corner. I knew he felt it too. My father and I didn’t speak. We couldn’t; the air was too heavy to carry words or actual sounds. We just sat there, the world spinning, vibrating around us, with her, in complete serenity, knowing, and that actually felt good.

RICH

What should I expect? On the cross, on the damned cross Jesus called out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Only two of the gospels had the guts to admit those were his last words and even then they had to make up some bullcrap story about how God split rocks and dead holy guys walked the streets of the city afterward. But what if, what if… Jesus was up on that cross and realized it was all a huge mistake? Can you imagine? Thinking you’re dying for the eternal salvation of mankind and then realizing you’re wrong, not just wrong, but all alone?

KELSIE

What if God grieves with us? For us? In us? What if grief is God with us. We grow and learn from our blue haired Sunday School teachers that God loves us, is all-powerful, and all-good. But how can that be? I learned that life wasn’t fair from the first time Rusty Ritter pushed me down on the playground in second grade. Was that fair? No. If God does exist, He can’t be all-good and all-powerful. If He is, how can evil still exist?

And I don’t buy the logic that God hurts us to help us because when was the last time I was helped by stubbing my toe on the night stand?  I also don’t buy that He only gives us what He knows we can handle because… well, some just can’t. What if God isn’t this all-capable entity with some great plan for us all laid out, pushing the buttons and pulling the strings to control the next big event in life? That makes sense… If God is all-powerful, why would we have free will? But if He isn’t all powerful, then He can still be good. And isn’t that what we need to believe in times like this? That God is ultimately good?

RICH

Maybe what it comes down to is my faith isn’t as strong as I thought it was. I’ve always considered myself a Christian but when everything was on the line, then and only then could I tell how strong my faith really was. Only when life depends on it can I put my faith into the fire and see what’s left in the ashes.

KELSIE

It can all make sense! God created the Heavens and Earth, but what if He’s just not done? What if this is, you know, the sixth day lunch break? Evolution is still changing life on earth to be more practical, better, more perfect. I mean, look at the appendix! What the hell does that do? I don’t know! No one does! What if, it used to…  I don’t know, it used to do something, but God realized there was a better way for the body to work and changed it, to make us more… more perfect, more in His image. Yeah, fuck that appendix. And watch your ass pancreas.

Get where I’m going here? For six days, He worked to create more and more order, order in His image. Order is perfect. There is no evil in order. No accidents, only sense and logic. He’s just not done! Things like this, like cancer, earthquakes, illnesses are little bubbles of residual chaos left in the world. God is trying to bring order to control the last few bits of chaos left before midnight on the sixth day. God is intrinsically good, He’s just not done. God can’t control or stop the events caused by that last bit of chaos left in the world, a world that is nearly completely in order. It’s still a work in progress.

Chaos is random. It’s chance. It’s random that one man is on a doomed flight and another lands safely. God isn’t evil; it’s chaos, randomness that’s evil. It doesn’t discriminate or play favorites; it just is.

RICH

Have you ever thought about the power of words? There is something so liberating about saying something out loud for the first time, speaking the unspeakable.

KELSIE

So that means, God didn’t give my mother cancer. He gave her nurses, and medicine, and a family to care for her and love her when she needed it most. It was random.

RICH

There is something cathartic about dispersing its terror with everyone else instead of keeping it hidden. But even though it’s cathartic, it’s the hardest thing in the world to do, to say those words.

KELSIE

He doesn’t inflict us with suffering, He helps us in the aftermath, and He gave us compassion and empathy to combat it, good nature and community. God can be real. He loves us, He suffers with us. He grieves. My grief is His grief. There’s no almighty plan, only love and support in the face of disaster.

RICH

Say the words you’ve thought a million times, but once you say it, it’s real and you have to believe it. You can’t take it back. Those unspeakable words.

KELSIE

Maybe it is real.

RICH

 “I don’t believe anymore.”

The End.

PDF of play:

I, like many other people who went through the inhumane process of going from child to adult, learned to experience many things in life, while not necessarily learning what could or should divide them. Sexual attraction must be at odds with conservative religious dogma. Sex is to be shamed because you’re not married and that’s what God says! Religion and romantic companionship could not and should not and would not be separated. My Venn Diagram of being a sexual being, follower of God, and being a woman was, for lack of a better phrase, super fucked up.

I want to say this fucked up diagram cannot be blamed on my parents. When you have super cool liberal folks in the south, how else do you rebel other than date the small-town preacher’s kid who had the rotten luck (or genetics) to develop Schizophrenia as a teenager? If you find out, let 13-year-old Maggie know, okay? I also want to be clear that religion can (and has) changed many people for the better. I’m not one of them. If it helps you find meaning and hope in the world, I genuinely think that’s wonderful.  I’m just saying, when your first religious experiences as a teenager are with a boyfriend (and his preacher father) who hears voices (as does the preacher father) and confuses those with angels (as does the preacher father) who have opinions about everything from the length of your hair to the length of your cheerleading skirt, it’s confusing. Fuck that Venn Diagram.

Saint and Sinner was my attempt to forgive myself for the choices, trauma, and pain I experienced in adolescence. This play was written as my last part of graduate school, as many self-reflecting, self-indulging, self-centered pieces of art are. But let me be clear, BE self-reflective! BE self-indulgent! BE self-centered! My mental health is better when I am.

I am a woman with depression and anxiety. As a normally full-time actor during Covid who is cooped up in her house, suffering from depression and anxiety, not working until my union says I can, with no family close by, and a one-eyed hound dog who has started wondering, ‘When is the chick going back to work already?,’ IT SUCKS. Some days I’m Superwoman who cranks out amazing and never before thought of pieces of writing who is amazing and cool and oh my goodness bless the luck of anyone who has ever come in contact with my brilliance! Others… I eat a whole pizza washed down by popsicles and can’t even bring myself to pick out a movie on Netflix.  For me, mental illness is a daily check in, which requires a daily game plan. Some days I win, others I don’t.

I’m grateful I’ve had the chance to revisit this little play 10 years later. I’m grateful that this time is challenging my mind in a new way. I’m glad that so many services deliver wine bottles right to my door. I can’t promise I’ll be happy. But I promise I’ll choose to try to be better every day.

A produced playwright, member of the Dramatist’s Guild, and AEA Actor, Maggie Lou Rader (she/her/hers) tells epic stories of epic women. She’s obtained degrees from William Jewell College in Kansas City and the Birmingham School of Acting in the UK and has called Cincinnati home for nearly 10 years. Her plays have been produced at Know Theatre of Cincinnati, InBocca Performance, Green Buffalo Productions, and Eclectic Full Contact Theatre. As a performer, she has worked with Know Theatre of Cincinnati, StageOne, The Human Race Theatre, Kentucky Shakespeare, Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park, and has been a resident actor with the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company for 10 seasons. In Cincinnati, she lives happily on her homestead with husband Justin, and three fur babies with four eyes between them.

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