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The play opens in a psychiatrist’s office. An old desk is placed stage right. To its left is a reclining couch. Two men stand over the couch: Karl Meltzer and Gabe Larson. They stare at the couch.
How does that feel?
Gabe feels the couch.
You use a couch.
Sometimes. Not everybody lies down. What do you think?
It’s not squishy.
Right, you don’t sink into it. You sit. If anything, you bounce on it.
Gabe feels it again.
You do bounce.
I don’t want sinking. Because people fall asleep. I can’t treat them when they’re asleep. It has to be firm.
He turns to Gabe, deliberate:
Gabe, I want to know that you’ll be OK with the couch.
I think it’s great, Karl.
You mean that?
Because from this point forward, it’s your couch, too.
If you don’t like it we’ll get another one.
Karl, I’ll work hard, I’ll come in every day and try my best to hate your couch. But I don’t think I’ll do it. I think the couch will win.
And that goes for everything else, too; if something in this office works against you, it can be changed.
Karl, you’re my boss. Stop being conciliatory; start telling me to do something.
I am. I’m telling to to make yourself comfortable.
I am very comfortable.
Thank you. I mean that, Karl. Thank you for rescuing me.
You worked for this.
I cried for help. Criminal psychology! Working for the state—I hit a wall. You rescued me from dusty police reports, courthouse basements—I get to see people now.
He looks at Karl.
We are going to make a great partnership.
Yeah, I just wish we could be a partnership in name sooner. You’ve taken the tests, but until we pass this by the regional director, you’ll still be under my wing.
Who’s the regional director?
LeAnne McDermott, and unfortunately it’s going to take at least a couple of weeks to get her clearance. It isn’t because she’s slow; it’s because she’s picky.
Is there something to be picky about?
Shakes his head:
She’s going to sit on your application and watch us for a while. Making sure we have our act together.
I’m on probation.
It’s fine. There’s a limit on your number of patients, what you can do in the office, and other fine print. McDermott might breathe down my neck, but otherwise I’m fine. You’re the one with one hand tied right now.
Tell LeAnne to hurry up. I chafe easily.
Karl checks his watch.
What time is it?
Karl checks a clock on the desk.
I have a surprise for you, Gabe.
Your first patient.
You move fast.
I had a woman call up yesterday. She should be here in a few minutes.
She’s starting today?
No no; she’s not starting. She’s just going to get to know you, decide what exactly she needs.
It’s a free sample?
You could say that.
And you think I’m ready?
Oh, Gabe; absolutely. I think she’s a good match. I don’t know for sure; I only spoke with her for a few minutes on the phone...but, you’ve worked with felons, and—I don’t know—but it sounded like she might be having problems with something...criminal.
I’ve done some counseling. Not a lot. No rehabilitation, and that seems like what I’d need to do here.
I might be misreading her completely, Gabe—she could be a saint. But you might be able to help her. And you’d get a fresh start.
Karl glances at the door.
Look, I’m going to see if she’s out there. I’ll send her right in.
Karl starts to leave:
He gives a “thumbs-up.” Gabe returns it.
Karl leaves stage left. Gabe watches him leave, then surveys the office. Gabe comes center, pauses, then jumps on the couch, giddy with excitement.
It’s childish, but Gabe knows it and enjoys it. However, he does not notice Alice Osbourne entering from stage left. She eyes Gabe with a cautious glance.
Gabe turns, gasps, and jumps off the couch. He pauses, then awkwardly sticks out his hand.
Taking his hand, cautiously:
Hi... You’re Dr. Larson?
Yeah, sorry about that; you... you caught me in the middle of my... It’s not squishy...
Here; come on it. Have a seat.
He motions for her to sit and goes to the desk.
Well, I certainly know it’s sturdy...
What can I do for you?
Well, therapy. I was thinking about it, and wanted to talk to you and hear any recommendations you had.
I guess so.
Was there any moment that made you say to yourself, “That’s it. I need a psychologist.”?
Are we getting into this already? Don’t you want to know my name or anything first?
I like to start off patients by discovering what made them perform their last action—in this case, coming to this office—and then working backward from there.
So we’ll get to my name eventually.
Fair enough. What should I call you?
I’m Alice. Alice Osbourne.
It’s a pleasure to meet you, Alice. Now, you called this office; you wanted someone to talk to. What were you doing just before you made that phone call?
You know, I’m going to sound silly....
I’ve been doing that the whole afternoon; it’s your turn.
OK. The moment I knew I needed help came when I was loading my dishwasher. I had loaded the dishes, and I was filling it with detergent as usual, when I noticed that the detergent was different. It had a “spill-proof bottle.”
Yeah, they pointed it out on the label, and you could see it in the spout. It was longer, and it had a reservoir around it to catch any detergent that dripped down the bottle. My first thought when I saw this was: “Wow.” My second thought was: “That’s so sad.”
That’s so sad?
That was after I thought about it. I’ve never spilled dishwasher detergent before. I buy the gel form, so it’s almost impossible to spill anyway. And then I took it personally. It seemed like the detergent company didn’t trust me enough with their product; they couldn’t trust me to keep the gel from spilling without their help.
They didn’t believe in me. From there, I just thought of everybody else who didn’t believe I could do anything. I was a failure that needed to be guided—contained. And all because of dishwasher detergent. From that one spill-proof bottle, there was just a cascade—
Cascade, was that the dishwashing detergent?
No. I was using the word in a sentence.
Anyway, I just felt this as a cascade through every other event in my life. If the dishwasher detergent didn’t have faith in me, then it was obvious that everything else around me didn’t have faith in me. And since all of this came from a detergent bottle, I felt both really silly and really, really sad, all at the same time...
She turns to Gabe:
What do you think?
Gabe frowns, pauses, and thinks.
What brand was the detergent?
I think it was Palmolive.
He scribbles. Alice stares at him. Gabe looks back up.
Go ahead; continue.
I’m done with my story. I just want to know if you think this detergent experience is a legitimate concern—a subconscious cry for mental help—or if it’s just an overreaction.
Gabe leans back suddenly.
I don’t know.
He frowns and taps his pencil.
Alice, what kind of dishwasher do you have?
Dr. Larson, these are the same questions a repairman would ask me. And you’re not that kind of repairman. What is this supposed to do?
I’m just curious. What kind is it?
It came with the apartment. Whirlpool, maybe?
Have I had a breakthrough?
Miss Osbourne, you’re lying to me.
You’re lying to me, and that’s not healthy.
I’m lying to you? I haven’t told you anything yet!
You’ve told me enough, Alice.
It wasn’t a Whirlpool, maybe?
That’s not it.
Gabe, what am I doing wrong?
Alice, deriving the meaning of life from a detergent bottle is very poetic. It’s very nice to hear, but it can’t happen in real life.
How many times did you fall off this couch while you were jumping on it?
Alice, your story, psychologically, doesn’t add up. You just described an abstract thought process brought on during a task that’s almost instinct. Do you know how difficult that is?
I guess not.
You’re doing the dishes for the umpteenth-thousandth time in your life. You won’t notice a big sticker about a new spout. After a lifetime of using a product, you start to shutter out a few new words here and a different shape there. It’s natural human behavior. You won’t notice it.
Dr. Larson, if I won’t notice new packaging, why would companies change it—“psychologically”?
Oh, you can notice new packaging, while looking for it in the store or putting it away, but you’re not going to look at it in the middle of a routine chore. Alice, if you told me you saw the label in the checkout aisle or something, I would have believed you. But as it stands, you’re using the story to hide the truth from me, and I can’t have that.
Alice shakes her head.
All that from the psychology of packaging...
Alice, I really need the truth. The truth about yourself. The truth about the root of your problems.
I could tell you the truth, but it’s harder to believe than detergent. You could even say it’s more tritely poetic than my original story.
I can’t treat a lie, Alice.
You want to hear it?
I need a straight answer.
There’s only one answer I can give. I am the Devil.
Dead Silence. Gabe and Alice stare at each other. Then Gabe looks down and begins to write.
I am the—
I heard you, I heard you. This is...metaphorical? It’s—
No; Gabe, look at me.
I am the Devil. Lucifer. Satan. The Artist Formerly Known as Prince of Darkness. Take your pick.
You’re serious. You think you’re the Devil...
Not “think”—Gabe, that is my story. I am Satan!
Gabe leans forward, about to speak. He doesn’t; he merely sits there, confused. Alice looks away and exhales, relieved.
Boy, it feels good to get that off my chest. I don’t say it that often. Even when I’m surrounded by fire and brimstone, giving people blood-inked contracts, I keep up the charade.
She turns to Gabe.
Dr. Larson, you’re right. Honesty does help.
Alice... You say you’re the Devil... What does the Devil need with psychotherapy?
Well, that part of the dishwasher story was true, Gabe. It’s the lack of faith.
People don’t believe in me. You think God gets upset when everybody since Nietzsche tosses him aside? Well Gabe, I’m part of that package deal. Not only do I get dismissed in the sentence, “God is dead,” I don’t even get an honorable mention. I was a real, tangible figure for a long, long time. Now I’m a forgotten myth. It’s sickening. I’m used to being rejected, cursed, exorcised—but I’ve never been so shut out as I am right now. I don’t know if I fill a need anymore.
She turns to Gabe.
Gabe, I need direction.
Well, Alice—Satan... Alice?
Alice is fine.
Alice. There’s still evil in the world, so I hardly think—
Oh Gabe, you’re out of touch. Being evil has never been the same thing as being Satan. I’d love to take that trophy for the origin of all evil, sure. But I can’t. Evil was just another entry in the rulebook at Creation. My job has never been to produce sin, only to...process it.
But you can still process it, right?
It’s something I’ll have to do anyway, but it won’t have that personal touch. Some cultures don’t have a Satan figure, and I’m fine with that. But if no cultures have me anymore, then my job is really antiseptic. Gabe, it’s like not being able to root for the home team.
Alice... You lost me a long time ago, but I’m still having trouble trying to envision what I can provide for Satan. I mean, if you’re who you say you are, you’re a supernatural kinda guy. With super powers.
Right. X-Ray vision, ice breath. And if I get angry I turn into a big green hulk.
Well, three-faced, encased in ice— It’s something along those lines, right? Is there really anything you can learn from a session with me? Don’t you have a good idea of what I’m going to say, anyway?
Maybe. But just remember who I am; where I’ve been. I love seeing humanity up close and personal. There’s just something there you can’t get by acting like a high and mighty—or low and mighty—force of evil. If I want to understand how to get along with mankind, the best way to do it is as Alice Osbourne.
He raps his knuckles on the desk.
Alice, is there any way you can back any of this up?
What do you mean?
I mean, being Satan.
You want to see a membership card or something.
No no; just... So far everything you’ve told me could come from a regular old Alice Osbourne. An Alice Osbourne who just likes to pretend she’s Satan.
Gabe waits for a response. Alice just stares.
So... Super powers could actually help right now.
I mean, I already know your secret identity.
I don’t believe this! Gabe, this is exactly what I’m talking about! You’ve taken the Bible and turned it into a comic book! I’m not part of faith anymore if I’m sitting on the shelf next to Doctor Octopus.
Yeah, but I can analyze him; first there’s his jealousy issues, feelings of—
Gabe, no offense, but I’m bigger than Marvel Comics. And I’ve heard enough about my jealousy issues. My envy, wrath, gluttony...
...and so on—I’ve had centuries of therapy on that. What I need from you is help in today’s world. How do I adjust? How do I cope? How do I become a modern Satan?
Alice, are you sure that you’re not here so I can help you, I don’t know... realize that you aren’t really Satan?
Alice gets up from the couch.
Oh please, Gabe. The last thing I want to do is play Identity Crisis Ping-Pong every session. I thought a new practitioner like you would be the most receptive to that.
OK, OK; you’re right. If it’s Satanic psychosis you want gone, then that’s what I’ll provide.
So, you want to start Thursday at 12:30, and then we’ll go every week from there?
That sounds reasonable.
Gabe gets up from the desk and shakes with Alice.
She begins to exit.
Can we make it 1:00? Karl has someone in here.
I don’t like to share.
One is fine.
OK. See you then, Mrs. Osbourne.
Alice is cut off as Karl enters, reviewing a file. He does not see Alice and crashes into her. Alice is caught off balance. Karl drops the file and catches her. Alice, recovered, finishes her statement, looking from Gabe to Karl.
It’s Miss Osbourne...
Alice. I’d like you to meet Karl Meltzer.
Brushing her hair aside, extending her hand:
Karl attempts to shake her hand, but his arm is still wrapped around her. Karl attempts to maneuver his arm up around Alice’s head, but this is too awkward. Finally, Karl breaks away and weakly shakes Alice’s hand.
I spoke to you on the phone.
That was you! Nice to meet you, Karl.
She kneels to pick up Karl’s papers.
Here, let me help you—
Oh, no, no. I—I want them on the floor.
Oh. Well, thank you for catching me.
Karl smiles, embarrassed. Alice begins to exit.
Goodbye, Dr. Larson.
Alice exits. Karl stares off. Gabe approaches him.
Gabe stares at the papers on the ground. Karl follows his gaze, then kneels and begins resorting his file.
What’s all that?
I was going over some of your files. Your psychologist’s license, actually.
What about it?
You...don’t have one.
Karl, you know I do. I got it through the state.
Right, you got it. You—past tense—had it. You were contracted by the state to practice criminal psychology, but you were not a criminal psychologist.
He presents Gabe with one of the papers.
I don’t understand.
Your license to practice disappeared when you quit working for the state.
No; they can’t do that.
Gabe, don’t worry. Working for me, you can still have Alice, practice, and do anything else I can sign off on. Once McDermott says yes, you’ll be fine.
What if she says no?
Why would she? All you have to do is lie low for a while.
Karl, this is the doctoral equivalent of going on the lam. How long are we going to have to do this?
It shouldn’t take more than two weeks. It’s rough, but it beats getting the wrath of God from LeAnne.
Karl reassembles the file and puts it on the desk.
So, was I right about Alice? She’s some kind of criminal?
She’s done some bad things.
Karl turns to see Kim Bell enter.
Gabe flips over the couch, hiding from Kim on the other side. Karl and Kim look at him.
Gabe, it’s Kim.
It’s your fiancée. Say hello.
Why are you hiding?
Because she’s going to hit me.
Karl looks at Kim.
It’s true. I’m going to punch him in the face.
Karl looks from Gabe back to Kim.
He begins to exit.
Karl, don’t leave me!
Karl exits. A beat.
I missed lunch.
You missed lunch.
Don’t tell me; tell my father.
Then he’ll punch me in the face, too.
You deserve it. Gabe, I understand about your new job. I don’t mind you running off every time Karl gives you a call, going through however many steps it takes for you to get into this practice. I’ll overlook that you missed lunch with my father to discuss the wedding. You are both “Dr. Larson” and “the future Mr. Kim Bell” and I understand that it’s tough to play both roles at once.
So how about this? Let’s put aside the wedding for now and talk about something Dr. Larson-related.
Get up from there.
Gabe gets up from behind the couch. Kim sits.
I need Dr. Larson to give me a recommendation for my trip to Africa.
Kim presents him with a plane ticket.
Taking the ticket:
But you’ve already been to Africa.
The government was pleased with the job I did last month, so they’re sending me back. This time I’ll even get to meet the rebel leader and hopefully put this thing to an end.
Studying the ticket:
This is for a one way trip.
That’s the way these foreign airlines work. They don’t want to get your hopes up that they’ll have another flight back.
I know. I’m more worried about the flight than I am of the rebel leader, despite his profile.
He’s a madman.
A certified madman! And before the government will let me meet with him, I have to prove that I’m psychologically capable of dealing with this certified madman. I need a note from my doctor.
She looks at him. Gabe stares blankly for a moment.
Oh, you need a recommendation! From me!
You’re the criminal psychologist.
Yes, I—I was last week.
Kim, look: I made dinner reservations. We should eat.
I want my recommendation.
Great. We’ll discuss it over dinner, hash things out, and eventually I’ll get Karl to—
Karl’s not a criminal psychologist!
Kim, you know what? I’ve put it off long enough. You need to punch me in the face right now. I’ve disappointed you earlier today. I’m sure I’m going to do it again before the night is over. So just—
He closes his eyes and presents his cheek.
—go ahead. I’ll understand.
A beat. Gabe remains in place. After a moment, Kim moves in and kisses Gabe on the cheek. He opens his eyes. Kim takes his arm.
Come on; let’s eat.
They start offstage.
But the punch...?
It’ll come when you least expect it.
They continue walking. End scene.
The scene opens in a restaurant. There is one table downstage left of center. There is another table upstage right. Kim and Gabe are sitting at the downstage table studying menus, Kim in the stage left seat and Gabe in the right. Gabe looks up from his menu at Kim and sighs.
I don’t know what I want...
Without looking up:
Give me a recommendation.
We’ll get to that.
The Man enters from stage right. The Man will play several characters throughout the show. Right now he is dressed as a waiter, decked out with an apron and a pad of paper. It may or may not be funny if The Man looks noticeably like Jesus. He approaches the table, surveys the conflicted Gabe and the withdrawn Kim. He coughs. Gabe looks up.
Oh, uh... Well, we’re just about... Honey, why don’t you start?
Kim hands The Man her menu.
I’ll have the steak, either blood-red or burned to a crisp. Or in between; I’m not particular.
The Man jots it down. He and Kim turn to Gabe. He looks up.
Uh... I’ll have the pasta special...
The Man writes the order.
...and, can I have that without onions?
The Man gives Gabe a look, then revises his order. He turns to exit.
Oh, and can you make sure the pasta is al dente?
The Man turns slowly to face Gabe, glares at him, then leaves.
You know, I told you this was a bad idea.
Your partnership with Karl. You jumped ship on a job you liked, a job you were good at—
All to a point—
And now you’re freelance, essentially. Karl thinks you’re unlicensed—which I really don’t think can be true—and now you’re stuck.
Let’s talk about the wedding.
Speaking of being stuck...?
You and me, both, honey.
Major life decisions! I’m excited.
Reaching into his pocket:
You should be.
Let me look this up....
Kim opens a date planner and looks inside. Gabe pulls out a small jewelry box. He opens it and holds it out in front of Kim. She does not notice.
We might as well nail down at least the date of this thing. The caterer alone has most of the month booked up already. My father wants to know if the 17th is our final final date.
It’s final final enough for me.
It’s more important if it’s final final enough for your family. Gabe, we have arrangements to make, and we—
Kim notices the box.
Gabe! What is this?
It’s an engagement ring.
She takes the box.
But, Gabe, we’re already engaged!
Gabe, I told you I didn’t need a ring. You—
She examines the ring.
Oh Gabe, it’s a diamond!
You deserve diamonds.
Gabe, you can’t afford this; not at all!
Kim, it’s OK! When I proposed to you, I couldn’t promise you anything. I was a state employee. Just a grunt with a hand-me-down suit. Well, I’m still that grunt, and I still don’t have a better suit, but I’m on my way up. Soon I’ll be a therapist. Soon I’ll be the guy who would have given you this ring in the first place.
Only if you and Karl start charging more.
I know you think it’s too expensive, but I did this for us. I wanted something to show that there was an us.
Oh... But Gabe...
Kim looks up from the ring at Gabe. He smiles. She smiles.
Gabe takes the ring and puts it on Kim’s finger. He kisses her hand.
You are a charmer, Gabe Larson. It’ll be tough when I’ll have to leave you.
Kim leans over and smiles.
I still want my recommendation.
Ehhh, let’s keep talking about wedding stuff... Does your father have problems with the 17th?
Oh no; he’s just going to be scheduling his surgery around that week.
If it’s a problem we could just hold the ceremony over the operating table...
Kim smiles and looks at Gabe.
...Wheel him through the emergency ward to give away the bride...
Kim leans forward.
The bridesmaids wear scrubs; I like it. Memorable and inexpensive....
How was your first day of work?
Did Karl start you off slow? You alphabetized his files?
No... No, actually I have my very own patient.
Wow, and he’s not a hardened criminal?
Ah, “she.” And no, she’s a very nice woman. She’s just... she’s decided to take a very... unique outlook on life, and I think it’s finally starting to catch up to her. I’m guessing—I’m hoping—that I’ll talk to her, help her let go of some emotional baggage—
Light bulb above head:
That’s another thing I meant to ask you about. Remember last time I borrowed your suitcases, but they were too small to take all of the diamonds?
This time I found other cases, so I’ll only need to take your large green suitcase.
Gabe sits, puzzled.
If it’s a problem, I can go without it...
I remember the luggage... but what was that about diamonds?
Kim shakes her head, pauses, and leans toward Gabe.
The diamonds... from the rebels...?
That I... take care of?
Gabe pushes his chair back, ready to get up.
“Take care of”?! That’s a mafia term! You’re taking care of stuff?!
Gabe! Calm down!
Kim continues, angry, but controlled.
You know about this. You know about this, Gabe!
Know about what?! I know you’re a humanitarian!
“Taking care” of people isn’t very humanitarian!
I’m doing the same thing I did my last trip. I am going to try and convince the rebels to lay down their weapons. Peripheral to this, I will be buying their diamonds to sell here in America.
Buy their diamonds? Kim, you know how bad that is.
These aren’t blood diamonds, Gabe. This is just a technicality. The African governments have made it illegal for anyone to buy any diamonds taken from rebel mines.
It dawns on Gabe:
Kim! You’re a smuggler!
Keep it down!
All of a sudden you’re a James Bond villain!
I’m marrying Goldfinger!
You stop. Have you thought about this? How illegal, dangerous—?
I know all of it.
Kim, these are trained killers and warlords. There are consequences here!
There are consequences, Gabe. There’s compensation. I was thinking, that with you still paying school debts, it might be nice not to worry about payments for our wedding, house, and...
She looks at the engagement ring.
...and you knew about this!
I didn’t! I don’t remember you telling me anything!
I guess you hear so many criminal schemes you get them mixed up, but I know what I said. And I’ve done this before; it went fine. But this time I need a permission slip.
Frustrated, Gabe gets up and paces.
Kim, geez! I mean, this is big. Kim, this isn’t like having the cable guy get you free HBO or the cop let you off with a seat belt violation. When you deal with those guys, they go home and they’re normal people. Kim, after you’re done dealing with the rebels, they go home and kill people! They kill people!
Kim gets up.
Gabe, please! Sit down and let me reason with you!
They kill people!
Gabe Larson, I do not have to take this! I’m going to the bathroom!
Kim whirls around and nearly rams into The Man, who has entered. They back away from each other. Kim makes a threatening start at The Man, who backs out of her way. Kim exits.
Calling after her:
They kill people!
Gabe sighs and sits, his head in his hand. Karl and Alice enter. The Man greets them and seats them at the empty table, Karl right and Alice left.
Gabe groans and throws himself backward, his head hanging over the edge of the chair. He notices Alice.
Alice turns and sees him.
Gabe frowns and rights himself.
He gets up.
How are you, Dr. Larson?
I’ve been better. What are you two up to?
Oh, well, after I got home, I called the office again. I guess I missed you. But Karl called me back, we got around to talking, and now we’re having dinner.
You are, aren’t you?
He turns to Karl.
Karl, come with me for a second.
Karl gets up and follows Gabe downstage. Alice turns her attention to her menu.
Karl, we’re working on becoming partners, right?
Mi casa e su casa...
E pluribus unum...
Alles klar, Herr Kommissar...?
So when you take my patient to dinner, that’s tantamount to me taking her out, in the process violating some serious therapistical taboos.
Oh, no! No, Gabe, I admit: this looks like a very...delicate situation, but it’s really, very explainable.
You don’t have to explain it to me. I’m just worried about how it looks on paper.
It looks fine. First of all, it’s just talk; just to get to know Alice Osbourne. Because of dinner tonight, I’ll be better prepared to help you, my partner, with any assistance you need.
If, hypothetically, anything did happen between Alice and myself, it would help move you from the “junior partner” role you currently have, and give you more autonomy in our work relationship.
So, either way, this turns out to be a valuable learning experience for you, Gabe.
And you, too.
Be right there!
Karl, I just want to make sure that this isn’t going to jeopardize my LeAnne McDermott thing...
Oh, no! Not at all.
On top of the fact that Alice thinks she’s... in need of serious help.
Gabe, don’t worry. I know my way around a patient.
Please don’t elaborate.
Hey, are you here alone?
No; Kim’s in the ladies’ room. I think she’s coming back...
All right; tell her hello for me.
Enjoy your dinner!
He returns to the table, pulling his chair closer to Alice’s and sharing her menu. Gabe watches this as he returns to his seat.
Gabe turns with a start. Kim is sitting across from him again. Meanwhile, the lights dim on the other table while The Man returns and takes the orders of Karl and Alice.
Kim reaches across the table and grabs Gabe’s hands.
Gabe, you’re upset with me. I understand, sort of. But I want you to hear me out. You want to be the psychiatrist, you have to know how people think. So listen.
Gabe, the world is a stupid, stupid place. People are stupid. We get flashes of inspiration here and there, we advance civilization every once in a while. But not a lot. We can go our entire lifetimes being stupid. And stupidity grows.
Let me give you an example. If a pilot lands his plane perfectly once, twice, a thousand times, he gets nothing for it. He gets his paycheck, some vacation time, and maybe a watch come retirement. But that’s it. Now, if he blinks once in his career—sneezes, scratches his bald spot, whatever—it’s all over. He’ll have crashed the plane, costing hundreds of lives and millions of dollars. The airline now has to deal with the insurance costs, the negative publicity, and one less plane. It doesn’t matter if the pilot survives or not, because he’ll never fly again anyway. One stupid mistake gets him more than a thousand correct landings.
She leans back.
Now, you’re probably wondering why I’m using this example—an exceptional moment—if my argument is that people are stupid most of the time.
I’m wondering why you’re using this example if you want to fly to Africa...
Gabe, the real stupidity isn’t with the pilot, it’s with our expectations. The pilot knows how important it is to keep his plane in the air, but rather than empathize with his high-pressure situation, we build on it. We promise that we will destroy the pilot, if he doesn’t do it himself. Is that smart? Gabe, that’s stupid. We put pilots in their worst mental states, work them long hours, and expect a perfect flight every time. What we get is the collective stupidity of our entire culture deposited on every flight.
Gabe, what I’m trying to do is a casualty of our human stupidity, but it shouldn’t make things any worse. The bottom line is this: if the rebels don’t get any more money, they will no longer be able to buy food or medicine. They have assured me that some of the money they earn from these diamonds will go to this kind of relief.
You should be.
You just hand over cash—
That’s arranged beforehand.
—shower wealth on armed psychotics who I’m sure have the best interests of their country at heart.
If it were up to the government, the rebels and their entire villages would be executed. Government aid would be a bullet in the head. Aiding the rebels hopefully reduces the number of bullets in the head and gives these people some of what they need. It’s the least stupid thing I could think of.
The Man reenters, carrying two plates. He approaches the table and puts steak in front of Kim.
Oh, thank you...
The Man puts the other plate in front of Gabe. The plate is empty. The Man reaches into his apron, pulls out a box of dry pasta, opens it, and dumps it onto Gabe’s plate.
He gives Gabe a look and exits. Gabe looks at his plate and frowns. Kim enjoys her steak.
How’s the steak?
Gabe, I just wanted to make that one point. For this trip to Africa, I know what I’m doing, and I know it will help. I just need the recommendation.
Gabe tries his pasta.
Yes, well... Kim...
He crunches loudly on his pasta, his face contorts in pain. He swallows, grimaces, and continues.
Kim, you haven’t heard the last bit of my argument.
They kill people!
Mouth full of steak:
Kim rolls her eyes and swallows.
Gabe, I don’t know what you want me to do about that! The rebels are going to fight no matter what I do; I’m just doing business!
Gabe, I would end all the wars in the world for you if I could. But I’m settling for the closest thing.
The closest thing would be to go to Africa and do your job; your non-criminal one. An even closer thing would be not to go at all. Stay here with me.
Quit my job, sit around and watch you play doctor?
I am a doctor.
You know what I mean.
And you’re talking like someone I used to profile.
Do you want me to be proud of you? Do you want to think of yourself as a freedom fighter?
Why not? This is a higher calling.
Even better; you’re doing the Lord’s work.
I am, Gabe; really. Because I’ve seen the alternative. When I’m abroad I see evil. Every day. You only see evil in criminal profiles, or maybe now if it makes an appointment. Gabe, give me some credit.
No, Kim; no. What you’ve told me maybe isn’t stupid, but it isn’t noble, either. And it still makes you a James Bond villain.
Gabe gets up.
I’ve got to get out of here...
He walks left.
Gabe? The bathroom’s that way...
But the car’s this way...
He exits. Kim stands.
The car? Gabe!
She runs after Gabe. The sound of a car starting and pulling away. Kim walks back in, dazed.
I don’t believe this!
She returns to the table and begins to collect her things. The Man approaches her with the check. He coughs. Kim turns, looks at him, takes the check with her free hand, crumples it and throws it on the floor.
Call me a cab.
The Man looks at her, frowns, and exits. Kim, frustrated, digs through her purse and gets her cell phone. She begins walking off.
Or, I’ll do it myself...
Kim exits. The lights come up full on Alice and Karl. Alice is laughing, while Karl smiles, self-conscious.
I don’t believe it...
Not so loud!
It was painful! I had wires in my jaw.
But now you’re good as new.
The Man enters with their food.
And now I know to keep you away from the non-dairy creamer.
To The Man:
The Man exits.
Alice, let me ask you something now. What exactly made you decide on my practice?
Alice blushes and turns away.
Oh, well, Karl, I have to admit that I was a little less than scientific... I mean, I wish I could tell you that it was because I was recommended to you, that your reputation was excellent, but...
I just opened the Yellow Pages and saw yours was the biggest ad on the page.
My big ad?
Oh, no, don’t be sorry at all.
That’s what I paid for...
Karl, I feel bad. I don’t want you to think I’m shallow.
She looks at him.
I see you as more than just a big ad.
Alice reaches into her purse for a stick of gum.
Want a piece of gum?
In the middle of dinner?
Alice pushes her plate away.
I can’t eat any more of this; the pasta’s overdone.
Enjoy your dinner. The gum will keep me busy.
I’m sorry; you probably hate gum, don’t you? I’m just chewing and chewing and driving you up the wall.
No, no; it’s fine. Actually, I have some gum at the office.
You’re a candy man.
I get a medical catalog; one of their sections has chewing gum—medicinal chewing gum. For medicines that need to be time-released, you can put it in a piece of gum. When it’s chewed, you get a steady stream of the medicine. They have time-release pills that do the same thing, sure. But a pill is a pill. We’ve got this culture of pills, of swallow and forget. With gum you get to be a little more active.
Alice blows a bubble. She lets it pop.
There’s ritual to it. That’s why you see nicotine gum. The drug is just one part; a nicotine pill would only do so much. Smokers take drags, they exhale, they hold something in their hands—that’s ritual. A pill can’t do that.
Beyond that, I don’t know if medicinal gum will catch on. People don’t take it seriously; gum is in the candy aisle, it doesn’t come by prescription. But it doesn’t have to be childish.
Well I think candy is more than a kid’s thing, too.
How do you mean?
Candy is about satisfaction. It’s primal. It’s indulgent. All of the sticky-sweet biting and sucking—candy is sexual.
Well, yeah. There’ll always be a link between... oral satisfaction and... well...
Karl, I know, but it still amazes me how blatant they make it when you look at a bag of candy.
Well, there’s always something devious about saying product names like “Reese’s Pieces” or “Milky Way,” but it just gets naughtier the more you think about it. Take Skittles and M&M’s, for example. They’re both made by the same company, and they both have their initials on them...
All day long in the factory, they pound out little “S”es, and they pound out little “M”s. And if you put them together, what do you get?
Trying to pronounce the consonants together:
You get S & M...
And in the same product, we’ve all heard the rumors about “the green M&M...” This can’t all just be coincidence. I mean, Almond Joy’s got nuts; Mounds don’t. What about jimmies, and sprinkles? What about “the Good Humor Man?” What about a Blow Pop lollipop?
But what I really wonder about is the Snickers Bar. Now, it’s got peanuts, caramel, and nougat. What is nougat?
It’s the... it’s the filling.
Yes, but it’s just so different, it’s just so... nougat.
It’s a real thing. It’s a confection. I’ve made it before.
You’ve made nougat?
I’ve made vegan nougat.
You get nuts, you get some vanilla—
Karl, don’t think about it, just say it.
It sounds racy. Nougat on the tongue. Say it.
Karl looks at her.
Isn’t it exhilarating?
I don’t know what to say...
Of course you do.
With a sideways glance:
All this talk about candy; can I tempt you with dessert?
Tempt who in the desert? Oh, you mean... well, maybe...
I’m done with this, and I figured you might want something.
What do you want? I bet you’re the angel food cake type.
I used to be...
You are again tonight.
He leans back and calls:
Karl and Alice look at each other. The lights fade and the scene ends.
The scene opens two Thursdays later in Karl’s office. Karl sits at the desk. The Man lies on the couch, now dressed as one of Karl’s patients.
Hey, look at me.
The Man does so.
Now, I want you to repeat what you just said. But say it to my face.
The Man hesitates. They stare at each other.
You can’t do it, can you?
The Man rolls his eyes and looks away.
If you can’t say it to my face then you can’t say it to Cecily. And that’s something you need to do. You have to confront her directly. Be honest, and tell her it’s over. You can’t hide behind your job relocation, your family, or any other excuse—she’ll only try to adapt. She’ll tell you she can change—she’ll do anything—because she doesn’t want things to be over. She won’t even understand why things need to end; I’m not sure if you can even tell her why. All you can tell her is that it’s over.
Karl shifts in his seat.
And if she takes it badly, tell her I can see her Tuesday mornings.
He checks his watch.
I guess that’s it. I know you said you needed to leave on time.
Karl and The Man both stand. They approach each other and shake. Karl looks at the man and brings two fingers from The Man’s eyes to his own—eye contact.
Good luck, man. I’ll see you next week.
The Man nods and exits. Karl sits back at the desk. He pauses, then opens a desk drawer. He takes a pack of M&Ms from the drawer. He tears it open, then giggles.
Panicked, Karl throws the bag of M&Ms behind him, sending them scattering all over the floor. He straightens himself and stands to meet Alice.
You didn’t call me.
I know; I’m sorry. I called you two nights ago.
I’ve called you every night for the last two weeks.
Except last night.
I know, I know.
Was anything wrong? Did you have non-dairy creamer?
No, Alice; no. It—I was going to call you. I had the phone in my hand. But I fell asleep.
I’m sorry, and I would love to make it up to you. Maybe tonight?
Tonight? Yeah, sure!
Great! Hey, I’ll go call a few places about reservations, and we can decide after your session.
Cool. I’ll go tell Gabe you’re ready.
Karl begins to exit. Gabe walks in.
Hey Karl, have we heard from LeAnne yet?
It’s been two weeks.
I’d give them a day or two, I think. But don’t worry.
Setting up his desk:
I kinda have to worry...
Gabe, don’t sweat it. Your certification is definitely coming through.
Gabe looks at him.
If she calls, let me know...
Karl begins to exit. As he passes Alice, he begins walking backwards, holding an imaginary phone to his face and mouthing, to Alice, “I’ll call.” Alice nods and mouths “OK.” in return. Gabe watches. Karl exits and Alice watches. Gabe loudly drops a folder on the desk, getting Alice’s attention.
Alice, I want you to take a look at something...
Gabe hands the folder to Alice.
This is a case I’m currently working on for the county. I thought you might want to take a look at it.
Alice eyes it.
Go ahead; read the intro.
“Here’s a story, of a lovely lady, who was chopping up three very lovely girls.”
She looks up, disappointed.
They let you publish this?
Are you horrified?
It’s awfully insensitive...
Are you Satanically satisfied? Look at the photos.
Closing the folder:
I’m not in the mood.
Alice, this woman killed her children, then tried to overdose on antifreeze. What does that say to you about evil?
Gabe, I really don’t care about your Very Brady Human Sacrifice. I know about these things.
Alice, when you read this, how does it make you feel?
I can’t say it surprises me. Though you haven’t told me why this massacre occurred, I don’t doubt it could happen. But Gabe, just the news that Person A axed Persons B, C, and D doesn’t make me feel much of anything.
What would get an emotional reaction from me would be the motivation. What was going through this woman’s head? What was the combination of thoughts, influences, and actions that drove her to kill? What unlocked the tumblers in her brain and brought that axe down? That knowledge would make me feel.
Yes, but make you feel what?
I don’t know... Delight? Disgust? Moral indignation? The important thing is that I would feel them, and share in another part of human experience. That’s what I’m here for! Gabe, photos of dead children: big deal. I know dead children. I want to know why. Gabe...
She leans forward.
The world is a wonderful, wonderful place. People can sing about the praises of Heaven or the evils of Hell, but they’re more or less what you’d expect. If you want the unexpected, you find it here. The world makes magic, Gabe; there’s no other word for it. From the tumbler lock of that woman’s brain to waves of light and color from the sun, hitting the water, making you squint, causing you to drive off a cliff—there is a formula at work. Putting together horror and wonder, madness and clarity, despair and hope.
When I look at this world, Gabe, I think of a garden. A huge garden. Acres and acres of different flowers. And when they bloom, on each flower, on each petal, another garden unfolds. No matter how close you get, there’s still more beauty to see.
I’m allergic to flowers.
Then there’s more horror to see. But that’s beautiful, too.
That’s part of my problem.
People can reach the ultimate depths of evil without any help from the Devil. I don’t mind that; it’s part of the world’s natural beauty. But some of these acts, like this lady bludgeoning her children, aren’t about the facts of life, they’re about giving up on life. That’s not what I’m about at all. Sometimes there is more evil in inaction then there is in the action of evil.
It’s sort of like getting confused, Guns N Roses Appetite for Destruction and Megadeth’s Countdown to Extinction.
Gabe, you’re terrible at this job...
Where is Axl Rose gonna end up, you think...?
What do you mean?
Come on, Alice; you are Satan. You’ve got to have a list. Who’s naughty, who’s nice...
Oh; you want to know if Axl is going up or down on the escalator of life...
Yeah, gimme the dirt!
Alice reaches into her jacket and pulls out a small piece of paper.
...But I don’t do this for just anyone...
She scans it. Gabe marvels.
This is so cool...
Alice looks up and gives Gabe a stern look. She looks back down, following a list with her finger. She stops.
There we go. Axl Rose is going to Hell.
Wow. So you just—
It’s all right here.
And you can tell even before somebody dies?
More or less; there aren’t a lot of surprises.
So what about my seventh grade science teacher, Mrs. Whittingly?
She’s in Hell.
No kidding. And her husband?
He’s on his way there.
Wow. What about historic figures; what about Nixon?
I thought he might be on the bubble. What about Martin Luther King?
It’s on the list.
Yeah, but it’s—
Gabe shakes his head.
What about Gandhi?
Let me finish—Carver?
How about the last five popes?
Hell, hell, hell, hell, and... hell.
Hell. But only for a little bit.
How about Lincoln?
Alice stops, scans the list, and flips it over.
Let me see that!
He snatches the paper out of Alice’s hand. He looks at it.
Wait a minute. This paper is blank.
Or is it...?
She gives Gabe a look.
No; it’s blank.
Alice, let’s try something else. I want to know about your human form. Why Alice?
Yeah. I mean, as Satan, you could be imposing or sinister; somebody who could walk into the room and hit you with the power of evil. Alice, when you first walked in here, you just hit me with... Alice.
He spreads his hands.
What’s up with that?
Gabe, I don’t need to wear my horns on my sleeve, so to speak. Alice has so much more to her. I think I’m easier to talk to this way.
But Alice is just another performance. At the end of the day, you’ve got to come back to being the Prince of Darkness. That’s got to be awkward.
Because deep down, you can never just be human. You’ve got to be Satan, too. And that has to make it difficult to be the human Alice.
Gabe, I’d like to think I have some experience with the human form. After all, I’ve been using it for centuries. You’ve only been using it for a couple of decades.
That’s true, but someone could play a doctor on television for 30 years; I’d still rather get operated on by a kid fresh out of med school. Alice, that’s what you can never have. You can never have that authenticity.
Standing; approaching her:
I’m serious. You don’t think that being Satan makes you a less convincing Alice?
Alice isn’t the problem here...
I think she is! I think that your real problem is that you’re blocking off the inner Alice.
Alice, it’s like a peanut M&M...
This isn’t about sex, is it?
Alice, on the surface, you’re Alice, a crunchy candy shell. Underneath that, you’re Satan, the gooey milk chocolate. And underneath that is the inner Alice, the peanut. What we need to do is get to that peanut.
Sliding over on the couch towards Gabe:
Gabe, I think you have the wrong bag of candy. I’m distinctly a plain M&M. Underneath Alice, there’s just your friendly, neighborhood Devil. There is no inner Alice.
Because that’s where your pain is, Alice. That’s where your problem is. The inner Alice is being neglected.
So let’s just drop the Satan bit for a while, huh?
I don’t believe this; you’re not giving up! You’re convinced that I’m a defense mechanism!
In short, yes!
Gabe, I am the Devil!
Then prove it!
Anything short of demonic torture, Alice, and I won’t listen!
Oh, I’ll show you torture...
Alice winds up and slugs Gabe in the arm. Gabe looks at her. Beat.
Alice assumes a cocky posture, hitting her shoulders, stepping around Gabe, etc.
Hit me back.
Hit me back!
Gabe straightens himself.
Alice, I don’t get what you mean, I—
Time’s up; my turn!
She hits him in the arm again. Gabe staggers.
Owww! What was that for?
You forfeited your punchback!
Come on, hit for hit. You gonna hit me or not?
Alice, I’m your therapist! We don’t hit people, we find out who hit them as a child!
Alice punches Gabe again, and he crumples to the ground.
Alice stands over Gabe and shakes her head.
Mankind is doomed.
Gabe begins to get up. Alice begins walking back to the couch. Gabe stands, looks at Alice, and charges at her.
Gabe takes Alice to the ground; they wrestle. As they grunt and grapple, Kim enters. She watches as Gabe struggles to pin Alice. Gabe looks up.
Alice takes advantage of Kim’s entrance to flip Gabe, almost pinning him.
Do you want to tag out?
Just a second...
Gabe and Alice flip again. Gabe pins Alice’s shoulders to the ground. She taps the ground.
Gabe raises his arms in triumph and gets up. He turns to Kim.
Sorry Kim. I had to lay the smackdown.
I let him win...
Kim, this is Alice Osbourne. She’s my patient.
Physical therapy, eh?
I owe it to my patients to try. I am a doctor.
Good. Because I really need to talk to Dr. Larson.
He turns to Alice.
Alice, can we pick this up in a few minutes?
Oh, sure. I’ll just see what Karl is up to...
As Alice crosses to exit, she hits Gabe in the arm. Gabe holds his arm and opens his mouth to whine again as he watches Alice exit. But he looks at Kim again, and simply closes his mouth.
My plane leaves tonight.
Gabe sits on the couch.
Once I get there, I’ll get to walk around the airport, see the gift shop—if you want a souvenir I can get you one. There will be a government car outside waiting for me. But there won’t be much use getting in it if I don’t have my recommendation.
Oh, geez Kim...
Gabe, I left you alone for a whole week about this. A whole week just to simmer down.
It doesn’t make it any different, any less—
And you know, maybe you wrote me that recommendation a month ago.
Maybe the date written on this recommendation is from when you were still working for the state...
You’re no less qualified now than you were then. You would have done it a month ago. I know it makes you upset. But do you know why it makes you upset? I don’t. What could you be upset about? Is it because I lied about the last time? Because I didn’t. Is it because it’s illegal? Not by U.S. law; only by the law of a regime that is just as bloody as the rebels. Is it because it’s dangerous? Gabe, I’m a big girl...
Kim, it’s all of that. It’s my certification, and it’s more...
Gabe sighs. Kim sits next to him.
Gabe, if you really don’t want me to go, I won’t. But I need you to know just how important I think this is. Not for me, but for us. That’s why I want the recommendation from you and not some other psychologist. This isn’t about diamonds. It’s about us. It’s something to show that there is an us.
So write the recommendation. I’ll bring it with me; nobody in this country will need to see it until I come back. By then you should have your certification.
Gabe, talk to me. Tell me what you want to do.
Gabe looks at her.
I guess I’m sending you to Africa.
Are you sure?
Kim, I trust you. And I believe you when you say we need this.
Kim looks at Gabe. They embrace. Kim releases him and smiles.
I’ll type one up right after my session.
Alice and Karl walk in; Alice is biting into a Snickers bar. As she bites, she looks at Karl, and begins to laugh. The two giggle. Kim starts off.
Gabe, thank you.
Yeah; come back in an hour or so.
Kim exits. Alice sits.
Any word about—?
Let’s pretend I’m about to check right now.
Gabe sits at the desk, staring out.
Alice, what are your personal, Satanic opinions about love?
Her mouth full:
She stops and swallows.
My opinions? I love love...
No, I’m not talking about abstracts right now. I mean you and Karl. Are you in love with him?
Oh, well Gabe... I couldn’t say...
Because you’re not known to fall in love, although you are known for your wining and wooing.
Actually Karl’s been paying for dinner.
Gabe, I’m not after Karl’s soul; you know that. I’m here for psychiatric help. I wasn’t thinking about love at all...
I guess that’s how it usually happens...
Oh, but look at me, I’m getting mushy. That’s not the right image for me. I feel kinda stupid...
Well Alice, love makes all of us stupid. I’m in love and I’m about to do something stupid.
I hope it is, Alice. I really hope so...
Gabe stares out. The lights fade and the scene ends.
Later that evening. The lights come up on Gabe’s desk. The rest of the stage is in total darkness. Gabe, his tie off, sits at the desk, tired. The phone rings. Gabe answers.
Spotlight on Kim, sitting in an airline seat that faces left. Kim is on a cell phone.
Kim! You should be in the air by now. Where are you calling from?
On a cell phone? Doesn’t that interfere with navigational instruments?
The Man enters, dressed as a flight attendant. He offers cocktails to imaginary passengers.
I have been reading your recommendation on the plane. It’s really great.
The Man approaches Kim.
Oh, no thanks...
The Man continues and exits.
Well, that’s my job. As a criminal psychologist, you write a lot of letters; you write letters to convince states to keep crazy people in jail. It’s sort of like a reverse Amnesty International.
Your writing skills are sure to persuade the officials.
Gabe, think of it. We don’t need to hold our breath about school debts, or wedding plans, or anything. Right now we can exhale...
Yeah, well, I think I’ll wait to exhale until you get back home.
Beat. Kim frowns.
Gabe, you’re breaking up.
I have to go. Love you!
Kim hangs up; her spotlight goes dark. Gabe stares at the phone, sighs, and hangs it up. He shakes his head and raps his knuckles against the desk. He retrieves a stack of paperwork, preparing to review it. He searches for a pen. After a moment, Gabe opens the desk drawer. He looks inside and stops. He retrieves a slip of paper and studies it, carefully. Gabe checks his watch, picks up the phone, and dials. It rings.
Come on, Karl... You’re not asleep...
Spotlight on Karl’s bed. Karl, clad in t-shirt and boxers, blinks and picks up the phone next to the bed.
Karl, you’re not asleep.
Rubs his eyes:
No... no, I’m not asleep... What’s up, Gabe?
I’m at the office. I found something in your desk drawer. A note. A phone message.
It says “LeAnne” on it. She called?
Gabe, when is that from?
I think it’s from today, Karl. It just says her name on it, in your handwriting, and then a few more letters I can’t make out.
Gabe, I need to tell you—
Karl stops and frowns.
Tell me what?
Gabe, I’m getting a beep; hang on a second.
Lights down on Karl’s bed.
Tell me what? Karl? Karl; hello!
Gabe bangs the receiver against his head. Lights down on Gabe’s desk and up on Karl’s bed.
Lights up on the other side of Karl’s bed. Alice is there, on a cell phone, staring out.
He drops the receiver and turns to her.
Still into the phone:
Karl, who’s calling at this hour?
Should I be jealous?
He touches Alice’s shoulder. She turns.
Alice, it’s Gabe. And it’s kind of important, so could you just...?
Oh, sure thing.
She ends her phone call. Karl smiles and pats her shoulder.
He leans over and grabs the receiver. Lights go down on Alice and up on Gabe, who is studying the slip of paper.
“R - E - J”...
You wrote three letters down, Karl: “R - E - J”. Then you stopped.
I...guess I did?
A message from LeAnne: “R - E - J”. I’ve been rejected? That’s what she told you?
Gabe, let me—
She rejected me, and you’re too afraid to tell me. You’re too afraid to even write it down.
Gabe, Gabe, I’m sorry.
When was this? Have you been sitting on this all week?
No; Gabe, it was just this afternoon. And I didn’t tell you because we can fight this. We can reapply.
Not for three months. Karl, I need those three months!
I’m sorry, Gabe.
Gabe, you still have everything my practice can give you. You still have Alice.
Alice’s arm appears from the darkness and wraps around Karl’s shoulders. Karl looks at the unseen Alice.
We still have Alice...
Karl, I can’t leave it at that!
Karl’s eyes go wide as Alice pulls him out of the light. He drops the phone, but Gabe doesn’t notice.
It’s one thing to be in a state of transition for a couple of weeks. Now it’s a couple of months! And I don’t even know why I was rejected. Did she give any indication what I did? You didn’t write that down.
Karl reappears, flustered and adjusting his boxers. He grabs the phone.
Uh, yeah Gabe. Listen, tomorrow morning we can talk to LeAnne about this.
You tried that.
I know but—you know what? If we can’t convince her, maybe Kim can.
Kim Bell? My fiancée?
Yeah. She and LeAnne went to college together. Part of the same sorority.
How did you know this?
Kim mentioned it a while ago. Then this afternoon I called LeAnne’s office. Her secretary said she had left early and gone out for a drink with Kim; wish her good luck on her trip.
Like right after Kim left our office?
I guess so.
And LeAnne called you after that to say I’d been rejected?
Yeah. I don’t even know if LeAnne knows you two are engaged. It’s too bad; we should have had Kim put in a good word for you.
Maybe that’s what happened...
I guess we’ll have to wait until she gets back.
Oh my God, Karl... I don’t think she’s coming back...
Gabe holds the receiver limply and stares ahead.
She’s the Devil, Karl. She’s the real Devil...
Gabe continues staring and hangs up the phone. Lights go down on his desk.
Karl frowns and hangs up. The phone rings again. Karl starts for the receiver, but stops. Lights come up again on Alice’s side of the bed. Alice has the cell phone in her hand, tapping her fingers against her leg, waiting for Karl to answer. Karl looks at her, shakes his head, and finally picks up the receiver.
How’d you know it was me?
Karl lets out an amused smile.
Do you have Caller ID?
She quickly glances over Karl’s shoulder at his phone. She sits back down.
No, you don’t...
He puts down the phone and turns Alice’s cheek so she faces him.
Let’s talk, face to face...
Alice hangs up the phone.
Alice... You’re an amazing woman...
Oh, I know...
No, Alice, you’re really the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time. I’ve never connected with anyone on as deep a level as with you. Any other conversation I have with anyone, I feel like I always say too much. But Alice, with you, I can never say enough...
And it’s got me all mixed up inside... Alice, one part of me wants to spend the rest of eternity with you.
But another part of me is cautious; our relationship is still so young. I don’t know exactly what to do.
Oh, Karl... I feel the same way...
So what should we do?
You just have to live it. It’s natural to be cautious, but Karl, there comes a point where you can get close, close enough to a person to know them as well as anybody can. And Karl, we’re close.
Alice, I feel close, but still, I want to be cautious.
Maybe I do have a peanut center...
She turns to him.
Karl, I’m going to get up every day acting as if I’ll be with you forever, and eventually that will be the cautious thing to do.
Karl looks at Alice and smiles.
I think I’ll do the same.
He leans over and kisses her deeply on the cheek.
There’s no woman on Earth like you, Alice Osbourne.
Give me a real kiss, Karl...
She pulls him closer, and the lights fade. The lights come up on Gabe at his desk, on the phone. On the other side of the stage, on the other end of the phone, is The Man. He is dressed as a police officer, with a noticeable badge.
Hello, officer? There’s a woman who’ll be in your city soon. And she’ll have a very interesting suitcase...
Light down. End of Act I.
Lights up on Gabe and Alice in the office. They look out into the audience. Alice peers through a pair of binoculars.
What about that guy?
Alice keeps looking. She thinks.
He’s married. Newlywed.
So, jealousy, seduction—that kind of temptation won’t work for him. Or will it?
It can be done. But it’s no sure thing; I wouldn’t waste my time.
What about money or power?
I just don’t see the ambition. He’s not driven; he’s not desperate. He plays bass in a cover band on the weekends. He’s got everything he needs.
But that’s salesmanship, Alice! Make a deal with him for something he doesn’t need. Make him want it!
Make him want a car; make him want a vacation—Gabe, this isn’t a game show. I don’t do trivial. He has to believe what he’s getting is earth-shattering. Something worth the exchange. I’m not going to pay off his mortgage or anything like that.
So, no deal.
Handing Gabe the binoculars:
I’m sorry, Alice.
Gabe, it’s the truth I have to live with. Not many people are cut out for a deal with the Devil. Not anymore.
Using the binoculars:
It’s OK; we’ll find somebody.
Don’t look too hard. It isn’t a busy intersection.
Gabe puts down the binoculars and hands them to Alice.
OK, you see that kid?
A kid? Oh, Gabe, come on.
Just take a look.
Using the binoculars:
Standing at the bus stop?
Yeah, the one with the skateboard.
He’s loitering. That’s one of the deadly sins, right? He should be a pushover.
Of course he is; he’s barely a teenager. It’s too low stakes.
I figured a soul’s a soul.
It’s just not sporting. I could offer him the car; he’d sign over his soul in a heartbeat. Even if he can’t drive it. I’d give him the car and—let’s see—make him hand over the skateboard.
Ah, a shortcut to maturity, but he loses the symbol of his youth. Growing up too fast, and all he has to show for it is a convertible and a space where his soul used to be. Good work, Alice.
I came up with that in ten seconds. It’s not fair.
Why play fair? You’re the Devil!
Gabe, please. Once I have the contract in hand I want to respect myself the next day. When you’re a teenager everything is earth-shattering. He doesn’t know desperation. He hasn’t ruined his life yet.
Alice hands Gabe the binoculars.
Looking through the binoculars:
Well, you have your reasons....
Are we done yet?
Alice, this is for your benefit. You want to be an active, modern-day Devil, you have to learn how to—
Gabe sees something.
Hey, here we go.
Taking the binoculars:
Check out the suit at three o’clock.
You mean nine o’clock; you have no idea—
Just look at him. The slicked-back hair. Shouting into his phone at...anybody. Everybody, really. What’s he doing here?
That’s his BMW further up the street. He hit a parked car.
He’s terrible! He’s a shining example of everything we hate about humanity. In Hell, he’d fit right in!
Then I don’t need to cut a deal. I’ll wait a few decades and get his soul anyway.
Oh come on, Alice! What if he sees the error of his ways? If he joins Greenpeace or something it’s all over. You’ll have let him slip through your fingers. Seal the deal!
Walk up to him right now, contract in hand, and...help him with insider trading. Let him kick a puppy. Anything. He’ll do it, easily.
That’s just it, Gabe. Easily. I don’t want that.
She gives him the binoculars again.
OK, I see what’s going on here. You are making every excuse not to go to the gym, and yet you wonder why you’re so Satanically flabby.
Seize the opportunity, Alice. Live up to your name once in a while!
Gabe, I’m going to use the ladies’ room.
And it’s a good one, pardon me.
Alice begins to exit. Karl enters holding a fruit basket.
Karl, tell Gabe I’m not a saleswoman.
Alice exits. Karl turns to Gabe.
She’s not a saleswoman.
Karl, should I ask why you keep a pair of binoculars in the office?
In the bottom drawer.
Oh, that’s my collection of hands-off items; things I’ve asked my patients to give up. Totems, really. There’s a photo album in there—I’ve never seen so many puppy pictures. It’s heartbreaking, in a way.
What about that fruit basket? That doesn’t fit in the drawer.
I have a patient who’s taking a big step. He’s getting out of a bad relationship, he’s moving, and he’s got a new job.
So this is a thank you.
It’s also the new job. He makes fruit baskets.
Good for him.
Karl places the basket on the desk and sits.
You’re going to help me with this. Along with Alice and all our other clients. We can’t let it go to waste.
Every part of the buffalo.
If there’s buffalo in here, let me know; I’ll have to have a talk with him.
How’s Kim? How’s her trip going?
Gabe does not respond. He doesn’t know how.
Is that good?
Karl, about Kim... It’s over. She left me.
She broke up with you from Africa?
Before that, even. She’s the reason I lost out on my certification. I gave her a recommendation and she used it against me.
Why? You two were together for so long!
Karl, I know. Kim was getting into something dangerous, but I didn’t know why it would involve deceiving me. I still don’t know why. She’s not coming back.
Gabe, this is insane.
It is insane. But it’s done. And she’s gone.
I’ll tell you what, Gabe. I’m taking you out tonight. We’re going out and getting drunk.
Karl, I’d rather—
Drunk. You deserve this.
I’ll talk to you a little later.
Karl exits right. Gabe slumps in his chair. He looks at the fruit basket, and takes it into his lap, swiveling his chair downstage. Gabe rustles through the basket. He picks up a banana, considers it, but puts it back down. He picks up an apple and considers it.
Go ahead; eat the apple.
Gabe turns to see Alice standing next to him. She smiles and sits.
Wow, that takes me back.
Gabe, is something on your mind?
Alice, there are lots of things on my mind. Why do you ask?
Well, your whole Let’s Make A Deal experiment seemed kind of contrived, like you did it to avoid talking about something else.
I can’t put anything past you, can I?
But I love it when you try...
Alice, I’m upset, because it turns out a woman I thought I knew wasn’t the person she claimed to be. Let me explain...
Gabe reaches in the desk and pulls out a deflated, plastic beach ball. He begins blowing it up. Alice watches, disturbed.
You like Gidget movies, Gabe?
Gabe stops with the ball half inflated, and smiles.
It’s a visual aid. I was thinking about our M&M story from last week, and there might be a better example...
Gabe finishes inflating the ball. He gets up, bounces it against the ground once, and holds it.
Alice, you claimed that the two parts of you were Alice the candy shell, and Satan, the milk chocolate center. Well, I think that Alice is a beach ball... And the Satan inside is nothing but hot air...
He throws the beach ball at Alice. She catches it.
Gabe, we’ve gone through this. I am the Devil.
She throws the beach ball back to Gabe.
Quite frankly, I don’t like you wasting my time by—
Gabe walks toward his desk.
I know, Alice, but now it’s a different situation. I was in your neighborhood this weekend, and I discovered a few things.
It was aimless driving; I really wasn’t all together Sunday, and I found myself on Highland, where your apartment is. I thought I’d get out of my car, stop by and see you, but you weren’t there.
I was antiquing with Karl...
Yeah, that’s what your landlady said. I ended up coming in, sitting down, and talking with her for a while. It was interesting.
Oh yeah. She mentions you’ve been a great tenant, and she’s loved having you these past seven years...
Matching Gabe’s condescending tone:
Doris is sweet, isn’t she...?
Correct me if I’m wrong, Alice, but isn’t seven years an awfully long time for Satan to just slum around in an apartment? If the Alice version of Satan was so good at expressing her feelings, why wait seven years before seeking therapy?
Mere mortals have gone longer without seeking therapy. That’s not unusual.
Yeah, but the Devil has the luxury of appearing and disappearing at whim, making the grand entrances, and fading into the night. Alice, you could have materialized yourself into existence seconds before entering my office; instead you lived as human for at least seven years before!
Maybe I enjoy Doris’ company...
Maybe... And maybe you did materialize at whim, only you’ve stuck around for an awfully long time... You’re right though; it is possible. Maybe you really are the Devil...
But I don’t remember the Devil having a sister...
Alice slowly, silently turns toward Gabe.
Do you? My Sunday School memory is a little rusty, but I don’t remember an extensive angelic family tree. The humans did all the begetting, but up above you’ve got the Father, the Son, and that’s about it.
But you have a sister, huh?
Doris told me that.
You never told me you had a sister before.
It never came up.
The Devil has a sister...
Gabe, I control everything in my life. If I want—if I want to have a sister... I can have one...
I’m sorry what happened to her.
The accident—it sounds horrible. It’s good that you visit her every day, though.
Doris told me that you were supposed to go with her that weekend. But you canceled.
I decided I didn’t like kayaking.
It isn’t your fault—
Begins clapping, interrupting:
“Isn’t your fault,” the magic words! Gabe, you too? I hear that from everybody. People say that automatically; “Alice’s sister is in a coma and it isn’t her fault.” I thought you’d give me something new.
I’ve gotten to you.
You’ve disappointed me. I thrive on new emotions, not the same, tired words over and over.
I know. And after all that repetition, you just can’t believe people anymore when they say that. You have to believe it’s your fault. But why? Why would an accident be your fault?
He looks at her.
Because you’re the Devil. You’re the focal point for all horrific, malicious, and evil acts in the world. Your hands are stained with the blood of a sin a human Alice cannot know, so you must be Satan.
If you think this is sin only the Devil can bear, you’re wrong. Gabe, I made a decision that horribly hurt someone I love, and that could happen to anyone; it could happen to you. As the Devil, my sins are so calculated and distant. But as Alice...
I live close to my sins, everyday.
What sin? Alice, you’re just trying to rationalize your sister’s accident, but that’s all it was! An accident! If you’re the Devil, where did this sister come from, anyway?
She’s me, too. I created her with Alice. I wanted to feel the guilt, the pain... up close and personal...
Alice, I don’t see how I can believe that. I’ve been willing to give you the benefit of the doubt that maybe you were the Devil in disguise this whole time, but things just haven’t added up. Even if your sister was another Satanic fabrication, whatever that means, there’s no reason that you wouldn’t mention her to me. No reason except to hide a very human pain.
It’s a very private pain.
That’s right, Alice. It’s the therapy jackpot! You’re not foolish enough to think I’m going to let you ignore this. I’ve been deconstructing religious myth for weeks now and it’s gotten the both of us nowhere. This needs examination.
What are you going to do, Gabe? I require the new; you know that. You have said nothing new to me.
She gets up.
When I came to you, I wanted to get back some of the fear I used to inspire. Fear of Hell; fear of ending up with me for eternity. Your little exercise earlier with the businessman and the little kid? I’d have their souls without any of them breaking into a cold sweat. There’s no satisfaction there and that’s what I want.
I don’t know how to help you.
No, Gabe; it’s worse than that. You’re actively working against me. A therapist never wants his patient to be afraid. You always give them an explanation; there’s always a way out. But that’s a lie. There are things you should be afraid of.
That’s a start. Hell used to be a great motivator.
Do you think about your sister in Hell?
I think we finished with that topic a few minutes ago.
She’s comatose; she might not have long to—
Gabe, you are not listening to me!
—oh, I’m listening—
You are not helping me!
I won’t, Alice. Talk to Karl, get a refund—whatever you want to do. I can’t help the Devil. I can’t help you unless we talk about your sister. If you won’t—if you insist on repeating the phrase, “I am the Devil”—I can’t be your therapist.
Alice looks down. Gabe stands in front of her.
What’s it going to be, Alice?
Alice looks at Gabe, turns, and grabs her purse off of the couch. She starts off, then turns.
I’ll see you next week. Maybe.
Alice exits. Gabe watches her leave. He picks the apple off of the desk and bites. Lights fade. End scene.
The scene opens in the restaurant. The left side of the stage is not lit. Gabe and Karl sit at the right table, Gabe in the right seat, Karl in the left. Both have plates in front of them. Gabe’s is empty, while Karl’s has food. The Man, as the waiter, stands at their table. He cracks an egg in the air, and lets it land on Gabe’s plate.
Sunny side up.
The Man exits. Gabe watches him leave. Karl eats. Gabe stares at him. Karl continues eating. He looks up.
How’s the frittata?
Why do we come here?
It’s close. I love the food.
I’ll take your word on that. Karl, the service is horrible.
Gabe, that’s part of the atmosphere! One of my patients is a waitress. She says that the first thing they try to do is give us bread, salad, some sort of food, because the less hungry we are, the less temperamental we’ll be. And, if they have a liquor license, they’ll try and do the same with drinks.
We haven’t gotten our drinks yet.
Right. I think we should start ignoring our patients; call it atmosphere...
Karl chews thoughtfully.
Hey, did you know that Alice had a sister?
Mmm hmm. I think she’s with her right now. Alice visits with her a lot.
Did she tell you she’s comatose?
No. She is? Oh my God...
I knew they were close, I just— Whenever Alice would mention her, it was all just so casual...
Karl shakes his head.
She never told me...
Don’t feel too bad. Alice didn’t even tell me she had a sister. She was hiding her from me.
I think this is the key, Karl. Her sister cracked her skull while kayaking, and Alice feels responsible because she wasn’t there to protect her. It explains so much about the things she told me, the things she was hiding from me, and the things she hid from herself...
I never knew she was carrying such an emotional load..
She buries it deep. Alice is tough, but she can keep a secret.
And it’s great that she has you; it opens up her world a lot. It would be horrible if it was just her and her sister. And that’s what I think I have to do. Make her sister more than just a secret guilt, and really bring the two halves of Alice’s life together.
You’ve got a plan. Congratulations, Dr. Larson.
Don’t go patting me on the back just yet. I haven’t nearly finished therapy with Alice yet. I’m not even really a therapist.
You know, Gabe; about that—
Karl stops and frowns.
Karl reaches into his jacket and retrieves a cell phone.
Spotlight on Alice. She sits in a chair.
How are you?
Just fine. Where are you?
I’m out to dinner. Where have you been?
I just got back from my sister’s.
Oh, how’s she doing?
Why’d you say that?
“How’s she doing?” Like you know how she’s doing. Gabe wasted no time to tell you about her, huh?
Yeah, he told me.
So much for confidentiality.
What else has he told you about me? My kleptomania? My fear of clowns? My terrible taste in karaoke songs?
You have a fear of clowns?
Well, only a little...
Alice frowns. Gabe picks food off of the distracted Karl’s plate.
Karl, I really feel like I’ve had my trust betrayed by the two of you. You’re gossiping about my sister!
Alice, it’s not gossip!
How is spreading what I said in confidence not gossip?
Easy! We’re professionals!
Alice groans in disgust.
No, Alice, Gabe just told me one thing, and now I understand... And Alice, it isn’t your fault!
Oh, go to Hell!
Alice hangs up the phone. Her side of the stage goes dark.
Bad move, Karl.
I’ve got to call her back.
Karl dials furiously.
Karl, it might not be—
Karl puts the phone to his ear. Spotlight on The Man, dressed like the patient in the first act.
Ah! Wrong number.
The spotlight fades. Karl hangs up and begins dialing again. Gabe stops him.
Karl, take it easy. I grilled Alice all morning about this same stuff, and she’s still really upset. It’s no good taking action when you’re riled up.
I just wish I knew about this earlier; I’ve said so much. We’re going on a nature trail next weekend, and Alice mentioned that her sister loved hiking. I said she should come along...
If I’d have known, that would have been the most horrible, insensitive thing I could have possibly said.
That’s the way Alice wanted it. It was her secret guilt; your insensitivity is her fault.
Gabe, you’re right. Wow; opening up is going to really hurt her.
It’ll be tough, but it will work.
Now tell me about LeAnne.
What about her?
Just before Alice called, you were talking about me being a therapist. Do you know anything new about her decision?
No, not new. Old.
LeAnne and I have a history.
Beat. Gabe stares.
You two were a couple?
No, we did our undergrad together. And she cheated in class. You know me, Gabe; I have a very sensitive moral compass. I always have. So, I told on her.
She failed the class. Later that semester she transferred to another school.
And now she’s a regional director.
Gabe, I’m just afraid that this is my fault. LeAnne didn’t approve you because of me. You said it was Kim, but I wonder if LeAnne still holds a grudge.
She knows it was you?
She’s never said anything, but I think she does.
Karl, you’re telling me this isn’t Kim’s fault?
I don’t know. What did she do?
She told on me.
Depending on what she told on you for, that might be a better explanation than my story. I don’t know.
I don’t know, either. God, Karl.
Karl, this is serious. Karl, you have to call LeAnne right now.
It’s after office hours.
Find her number. You have to do this, Karl.
It’s not going to make a difference.
I have to know.
We’ll know. I’ll call tomorrow.
Karl, I told on her.
It’s OK, Gabe.
I told on her because she told on me. I thought she told on me.
He answers his phone again.
Light on Alice.
Karl, hi. I’m sorry I blew up like that...
No, Alice; I didn’t realize how insensitive I was getting.
Karl, I shouldn’t be that sensitive!
You have every right to be sensitive; it’s your family! I just want you to know that Gabe and I meant well. It wasn’t just gossip. Gabe asked me what I knew about your sister, that’s all. He didn’t know I didn’t know. And, now that I know, I think what you do for your sister is great.
Oh, Karl... I’m still sorry for what I said.
Alice, you’re not allowed to be sorry. Not unless you let me be sorry, too.
Well, I can’t let you do that...
Then we’re not sorry. We’re both absolutely unapologetic. I like it that way.
Karl, you’re eating.
I’m done, really.
I’ll let you go. Call me later?
Absolutely. Goodnight, Alice.
Alice hangs up, her light fades.
I told on her. I told on her to murderers. Karl.
You and Alice have a fight and you make up in all of three minutes. I’ve done something worse.
Unless she did it. I don’t know. I really don’t know. You’re the one with the perfect moral compass. And it’s led you to Alice.
Gabe, she’s incredible. I mean it. I’ve never had this kind of connection with another woman. Alice and I just get so silly, yet so deep, and it’s just...
He smiles and sighs.
I love her, Gabe. I want to give birth to her children...
I’ve seen that movie.
I never thought I’d be in a relationship where I feel no pressure, no formalities... just a deep connection... It’s so wonderful.
And I’m here for you. At this point I don’t know what that’s worth, but it’s true.
The Man enters, looks at Gabe and Karl, and slaps a bill on the table. Gabe looks at it.
You remembered our beverages.
The Man begins to walk away. Gabe stops him.
Now wait a minute! The lack of service here is out of hand. I think I’m more than entitled to an explanation.
I’m perfectly willing to accept that your treatment of me is somehow all my fault. Really! I’ve been a jerk before, but I really don’t want to be one now. If you’ve got a grudge, just tell me what it is. And then you’ve got my apologies, my condolences, my head on a platter, whatever. But tell me! What’s your problem?
The Man stands, motionless.
Please, I really want to know what you think of me...
The Man frowns, thinks, and proudly extends his middle finger inches from Gabe’s face. Karl looks away, embarrassed.
Oh, well, that’s very... I really don’t think this gets us anywhere... I mean—
Gabe attempts to look past the finger to see The Man eye to eye. But when Gabe leans in one direction, the finger follows.
I’m trying to approach you with— If we can’t even— I don’t see how we can—
Gabe grabs The Man’s arm.
Look... What do you want?
The Man picks up the bill and slams it down in front of Gabe. A beat. Gabe reaches into his pocket and pulls out a credit card. He slaps it down. The Man slaps his hand down, smiles, and takes the bill and card. He exits right. Gabe and Karl watch him leave, then look at each other.
Reaching for his wallet:
I’ve got the tip...
The lights fade and the scene ends.
The scene opens in the office a week later. Gabe is at the desk, poring over something. Alice is on the couch. Gabe looks up.
Alice, what direction is the Leaning Tower of Pisa leaning in?
Flips a card and checks it:
I’m sorry; it’s South...
Gabe picks up a die and rolls it across the board on his desk. The die rolls off the board and onto the floor in front of his desk.
Gabe attempts to move out of his seat and over his desk to retrieve the die, whining as he does so. He gets himself on top of his desk, floundering, when Alice turns. She stares.
Uh, game’s over.
Anyway, Alice. The point of that exercise is—
Gabe stops, gets off the desk, and stands.
Do I want to know?
No. Alice, I think I need to say, “I’m sorry.” And I think I need to say “thank you.”
For the last session. I was bad.
Oh. Not that bad.
I really would, though, Alice, like to talk about your sister. However you want to. I think it’ll help. And I think you’re ready.
I have some old pictures of her. If you’d like to see them.
Gabe, taken aback, pauses for a fraction of a second. He recovers.
Uh, yeah! I’d love to!
I have them in my car.
Bring them up. I’d love to take a look.
I’ll be right back.
Alice turns to leave as Karl enters, carrying various envelopes. They almost collide again, but miss each other. Alice and Karl look at each other and laugh.
Almost! We’re getting better at this.
I’ll be back, Karl.
She exits. Karl dumps a few letters on the desk.
These are for you...
He notices the pieces.
Trivial Pursuit. That’s an interesting approach to therapy.
Oh, that’s mostly not therapy. I just wanted to beat Alice into an intellectual pulp.
Uh huh. I guess that’s why she has four cheeses and why your game piece is on the floor.
Yeah. The counters. They’re cheeses.
I don’t think that’s what they’re called.
The little cheese wedges?
I think they’re just called wedges.
No, that can’t be it. Because the colors all match up to different cheeses. You have the blue cheese, the yellow cheese, the green cheese... the orange cheese is American, the brown is Muenster, with the skin. And pink is, uh, some German-type cheese; you know, the kind they dip in the wax?
It all matches up!
Karl, you just started digging yourself a hole and kept going...
Well... I call it cheese...
Karl starts to exit.
I’ll have to look that one up...
Karl exits. Gabe shakes his head. He picks up a large manila envelope from the desk. The lights fade, except for the area around the desk. Gabe begins to open the package, then stops. He reads the postmark.
Intercontinental Express Mail?
Concerned, he opens the envelope. He pulls out a letter. Spotlight on Kim. She sits on a stool, writing a letter against the same envelope Gabe has just opened. The Man stands behind her, dressed in a monk’s robe. As Gabe reads the letter, Kim writes.
I don’t know why you turned me in. It’s OK; I don’t need an explanation. For a while, though, I was looking for one. I wanted to believe that somebody else could have gotten me in trouble. But Gabe, the only person who knew was you. You were the only person who needed to. Because I did this for us. I believed that there was an us.
Kim shifts in her seat.
I’m safe, if you care about that. I’m not in prison, either. Not yet, at least. After being shuffled through a dozen different jurisdictions, I was let out—temporarily, on bail. As I can’t leave the country, I’ve taken up sanctuary. They have a monastery a few miles outside of the capital. I have a gorgeous view from my room, and all of the monks are taking very good care of me, especially—
She stops writing and looks at The Man.
Excuse me, what is your name?
Al. Al Dente.
—especially Brother Al. It’s a different way of life. I guess I’ll never be a monk, but I think I’d be good at it.
I don’t know when my trial is. I don’t know where my trial will be. I don’t know what’s to become of me.
They have this big mural at the monastery of the Last Supper. You’ve got Jesus, the apostles, and a particularly paranoid-looking Judas. It made me start thinking about the word “betrayal.” I realized I never really thought about the word, what it really describes. A betrayal is a lie in reverse. You take the facts of the future, and you make them untrue. Gabe, you lied to me. You betrayed me.
Gabe stands. Lights down on Kim.
No Kim, you betrayed to—you lied to me!
Karl has entered. He motions to the letter.
Is that Kim-related?
What is it, Karl?
I just spoke with LeAnne. It wasn’t Kim.
I didn’t get a straight answer about your certification. But I asked her about Kim. She cancelled that drink. LeAnne hasn’t seen her for more than a year. She must have gone straight to the airport.
Karl, I’ve got to finish this letter.
I’m trying to get you in for early readmission.
Karl nods and begins to exit.
I’ll let you know.
Karl exits. Gabe picks up the letter and reads. Lights rise again on Kim and The Man.
You betrayed me. But there’s no use dwelling on that. It just makes me feel... Stupid.
So I hope you’re happy with what you did, for whatever reason. Don’t worry about me; I’m not in a warzone. I’ll be safe. Just incarcerated. And I guess we’ll never have that debt-free life together.
You said you wanted a souvenir. Here it is.
Gabe frowns and picks up the envelope. He reaches inside of it.
Good luck, Dr. Larson...
Gabe pulls something out of the envelope. He looks at it in his hands, and lets out an anguished gasp.
Kim puts the letter into the envelope. She takes her engagement ring off her finger and puts it in. Gabe reveals the engagement ring in his hands. He shakes his head. Kim seals the envelope and hands it to The Man. He walks off left. Kim stares out as the lights fade stage left.
Oh my God...
Gabe holds his hand against his head as lights start coming up on the office. Alice sits on the couch, staring at Gabe.
Awww, poor Gabe...
He looks up.
Your fiancée loved you all along, huh?
How did you—
How could I not know? Gabe...
I am the Devil.
That’s what I’ve been telling you...
So, you set this whole thing up?
Oh no, Gabe. I just saw it coming. The misery and tragedy here were completely orchestrated by you and Kim.
I just wanted a front row seat to the pain.
Desperation; that’s what you called it before. So this is the part where, if you were the Devil—which you’re not—this is the part where I’d offer you my soul.
I wouldn’t take it.
No, you wouldn’t.
And I am the Devil.
I could see this a mile away.
Then what else do you know? Why was I rejected? Was it Karl?
That’s not important; what’s important is that you’ve just eliminated your best guess. And you’ve made it so much fun to watch.
That’s sick, Alice. I feel so low I don’t even want to look at myself. But yet that’s all you want to do.
That’s why I’m Satan...
Satan, right... A Satan who waits around seven years, just to feel the pain of losing a sister, and to see the pain of her psychiatrist.
Well, there is one more reason...
Karl enters on cue. Alice turns and looks at him.
Karl, I’m sorry. But it’s over between us.
Karl is stunned. Beat. Alice suppresses a laugh.
Oh wow, that was weird...
Alice, what was that?
Karl, our relationship is through. We’re finished. “X”ed. Past tense.
In short, Karl, it’s because I’m demonic. I get my kicks on Route 666. I’m the Notorious S-A-T-A-N.
I don’t get it. You’re saying your name is really Stan?
She’s the Devil, Karl.
Walking to Karl:
I’m Satan, Karl. Right out of the comic books.
Alice, this makes no sense. Our relationship is over because you’re from Hell?
Oh Karl; I love you, but this is what I do. I torture souls, yours and mine.
Is that what this is about? My soul? Alice, you already have my soul; you know that. If you’re the Devil, I’m a devil worshipper. I love you.
Karl, that’s... sweet, but that’s beside the point. Karl, I came here as Alice to feel. And Karl, with you I felt love. Truly. But Karl, I have to feel the awful, irrational, disgusting feeling of throwing that love away. Gabe’s felt it...
She smiles at him. Gabe glowers.
I know, Karl. I want to stay; I really do. But that’s all the more reason for me to do this; to feel the nausea of knowing that whatever I do with my future, will never be as perfect as what I’m letting go.
Alice pulls Karl close, and gives him a very sincere kiss. They pull apart and look at each other. Alice lets go and begins to exit.
So that’s it, then? You make sure that we’ve all thoroughly ruined our lives—yours included—and then you whisk yourself back to Hell?
I might take my time about it, but that’s the idea. I’m done with your services, Gabe.
Hardly. Alice, this is really some serious psychological self-destruction. We need to sit down and talk. Talk about your sister; explore your guilt mechanisms. We haven’t even gotten to the bottom of the questions you had as Satan!
Well Gabe, that was my original intent, and I think we’ve cleared that up. Maybe I’m not the biblical behemoth I once was, but this whole mess proves I still know how to cause a little bit of despair now and then... That’s enough to renew a girl’s self-worth.
Glad I could help.
Ohhh... I thank you, Gabe; I really do. And I thank you, too, Karl. But it’s time to go.
Alice starts off again.
Alice, don’t do this! I’ve thrown away a good thing. There’s enough pain there for the both of us. If you leave now, though... It’ll just make this Hell.
With some regret:
I know. I tend to carry that with me. Goodbye guys.
Alice exits. Gabe and Karl stare after her.
She’s not the Devil.
You knew about this?
Karl, there’s nothing—
She’s a troubled woman. She needs our help.
She’s had our help.
We’ve got to do something; we’ve got to say something to her and get her back. I’ll call her tonight.
She won’t answer.
You won’t see her.
What; she’ll be in Hell?
She doesn’t need to be. I realize that now.
Gabe, there has to be something—
Karl, can you make her feel anything new?
I can make her feel better.
No, Karl. That’s nothing to her. There’s nothing left to say.
Lights fade. End of scene.
Alice sits on a train. She has a suitcase next to her, and her cell phone sits on top of an unopened book on her lap. As the train begins to move faster, the phone begins to vibrate. Alice watches it ring; she does not answer. The phone stops. Beat. The Man enters, dressed casually.
Is this seat taken?
Alice looks up.
Oh, no. I’m sorry; let me move this....
Alice grabs her suitcase and slides it underneath her seat. The Man sits.
Alice looks at him.
Have we met?
I feel like I’ve seen you before.
I’ve just got one of those faces.
Beat. Alice’s phone begins to vibrate again. It rings twice, then Alice snatches it up.
Alice shuts the phone off and puts it away.
You don’t want to answer it?
No. No, that would be a bad idea.
I’ve been that guy. It’s tough, you know? It’s hard work to break up. Trying to get back together takes less effort.
Yeah... I always end up doing things the hard way.
Waving her hands.
I’m sorry. You don’t need to hear this.
It’s not fine.
I only asked because I wanted to let you know you aren’t doing the wrong thing.
But I am. This is doing the wrong thing. I knew that when I left.
We...we would have made a very good couple. We would have stayed that way. I could see that.
You had your reasons.
No good ones. No satisfactory answers. Just another mistake to live with.
So why don’t you pick up the phone?
I want to be dissatisfied.
That’s a good a reason as any. You’ll figure it out.
Beat. The Man reaches into his coat and pulls out a pack of M&Ms.
Offering the candy:
We just met.
Shaking her head.
No. Thank you.
The Man shrugs and eats a few pieces of candy. Another beat.
You know, I’m making what some people would call a mistake, too.
I am very, very, very likely to die soon.
Soon-ish. A couple months, a year.
That’s terrible. What are you going to do about it?
You can’t do that. No doctor would let you do that.
That’s why it’s a mistake, right? But I know what I need to do.
You’ve got things to do. Ignore doctors. Ride a train. Fifty things to do on Amtrak before you die.
You can put it that way.
Just a thought: It’s my feeling that you can do your fifty things—and more—the longer you stay alive.
Not the way I’d have to live.
Well that’s determination. I’d love to change your mind.
I’m not going to do that. Don’t worry about it, anyway. It’s not like there’s anything you can do; we’re not going to make some sort of deal.
Actually, when you put it that way, maybe we can.
What do you mean?
Searching for paper:
Oh, I’m totally unprepared for this....
That’s not a problem.
Alice stops. She looks at The Man.
There are things I can do. Things that aren’t exactly FDA-approved. If we come to the right arrangement, I may be able to keep you alive for a lot longer than your current timetable.
That’s cagey. What, are you going to clone me?
No, the techniques I use aren’t cutting-edge.
Listen, you’re a...polite guy. The world needs polite guys. I think you should stay alive.
I am. I’m staying alive on my terms.
I can get you better terms.
Thank you; no.
You know, dying isn’t fun.
I never thought it would be.
It isn’t romantic. It isn’t noble. Nobody dies for a cause, not really. You just die.
And if you can avoid dying, that’s probably the right choice. What are we talking about, anyway? Is this some quality of life issue?
More or less.
You don’t want to live surrounded by tubes and monitors; I understand that. I happen to disagree with that decision, but it’s common enough. But if you’re alive...there’s always a chance.
I know. But considering the odds, I have to be accepting.
When another diagnosis comes along, be accepting of that, too.
If you say so.
Alice looks through her purse and retrieves a business card.
Listen, if you want to talk—you know, “talk”—I’ve been seeing someone.
Alice hands The Man the card. He reads.
He isn’t a very good therapist. But he listens.
The Man pockets the card.
You shouldn’t give up.
We all give up sometime.
I’m sorry I went on like that. It’s, uh, important to me. The whole big parade of humanity.
Don’t like to lose a drummer, huh?
Or a bagpiper. Whatever; if you want to twirl a baton, that’s fine, too.
Alice smiles and extends a hand.
It was on your bag.
I wish you luck, Alice. With this guy or the next one.
Thanks. And you should stick around a few more years. I think you’ll like it.
The train begins to slow down.
Hmmm, we’re here early. Do you transfer?
I forget if it’s this one or the next one. I don’t think I’ve gone far enough.
As the train slows, a spotlight appears, Karl walks into the light. He is holding a black candle and upside down crucifix. He may also sport other Satanic accessories. As the train stops, he is directly outside of their train window. The Man notices Karl.
Check out that guy.
Alice turns and sees Karl. Karl stands motionless.
I’m sorry; I’ve got to—
She begins to get up.
Getting up, letting Alice pass.
No, that’s fine. We’ve got time. Well, a minute, at least....
She stops and looks at The Man.
Take care of yourself.
Go see your Karl.
Alice exits the train. Lights fade on The Man as Alice steps onto the platform and walks up to Karl.
Karl sees her.
I summoned you.
Alice, I summoned you.
Karl, I’m going to get my bags. We should talk. I owe you that much. Do you want to...get coffee or anything?
Alice, I’m your servant.
So that’s a yes?
I didn’t think you believed me.
Alice, I believe everything about you. I believe everything you ever said.
You shouldn’t. Stay right there.
Alice walks back into the train. She approaches her seat. The Man moves over to her seat and hands her suitcase to her. She takes another bag from overhead.
Are you and him going to...?
Like I said, if you live long enough, there’s always a chance. We’ll see what happens.
Have fun, Alice.
You’ll think about my deal?
No, but thanks for offering.
Alice takes her bags and exits the train. The Man, now in Alice’s window seat, starts to nap. Karl is still standing there with the cross and candle. Alice looks at him.
Why don’t you give me those, Karl?
Alice puts down the bags and grabs Karl’s hands. She takes the crucifix and puts it back into Karl’s hand right-side-up.
Let’s get that coffee.
She blows out the candle. Lights fade on Alice and Karl. A whistle blows and the train begins to move again. After a moment, Gabe enters. He approaches The Man.
Is this seat taken?
Without opening his eyes, The Man rolls over, facing the window. Gabe sits anyway. He carries Kim’s envelope with him. He looks inside the envelope, then takes out a travel guide with the African continent prominently displayed on the cover. Gabe begins to read as the lights fade. End of play.