My One-Act Play “True Friendship”

This one-act play is based in part upon some of the author’s experiences as an opinion columnist for a northeast Georgia weekly newspaper.

The action takes place in the city park gazebo at Vickery, a small town in northeast Georgia. Mark Fredericks the owner, publisher, and editor of the Vickery Citizen newspaper sits behind a table working on a laptop computer. He occasionally sips from a transparent plastic cup containing a clear amber liquid. A paper sack containing a whiskey bottle and additional cups is under the table.

Bob: Enters, carrying a newspaper, from stage left and sits on Mark’s left. What’s in that cup, Mark?

Mark: Water.

Bob: Hold cup to nose. Smells like Marse Jack’s sour mash whiskey to me.

Mark: Jesus must have passed another miracle. Want some?

Bob: My Christian duty compels me to have a goodly portion.

Mark: Passes whiskey and cup to Bob. How do you figure that?

Bob: Pours whiskey into cup. I’m your pastor and the guardian of your immortal soul.

Mark: Therefore?

Bob: The more of this devil’s brew I drink, the less the opportunity for you to sin by overindulgence, a well-known fault of yours.

Mark: I appreciate your great sacrifice.

Bob: We all have our crosses to bear. Both sip whiskey; Bob opens paper. Good column this week.

Mark: That’s a rarity, a compliment from you, but even a stopped clock’s right twice a day.

Bob: Nah, your average ain’t that good.

Mark: What did you like best in the column?

Bob: Reads from newspaper. “For Christians, the most important questions do not concern when life begins, is abortion equivalent to murder, or simply an expression of a woman’s right to control her own reproduction. No, the central question in the abortion debate should be: How will we welcome children into the Community of Believers?”

Mark: Almost sings, doesn’t it?

Bob: A lot better than you sing in church.

Mark: I’m only following John Wesley’s instructions.

Bob: How so?

Mark: “If God gave you a good voice, sing loudly to his glory; if God gave you a poor voice, sing loudly to remind him of how he deprived you.”

Bob: No doubt what God did to you. Waves newspaper. Did you have help writing such a good column?

Mark: The Holy Spirit provided the inspiration.

Bob: One day, God will finally have enough of your blasphemy and will surely smite you with a thunderbolt.

Mark: I pray for mercy, not justice.

Bob: I hope the Almighty isn’t so angry that his aim’s off and the thunderbolt strikes me beside you.

Mark: No problem. You wear the whole armor of God.

Bob: Looks up to gazebo roof. How long, O Lord, must we suffer?

Mark: About the same amount of time we have to sit through your abysmally and abominably long sermons.

Bob: Retribution may be at hand for you. Your columns on the Confederacy mightily incensed the good boys and gals of the New South Restoration Movement.

Mark: Seems that way, but I’d call the organization a bowel movement.

Bob: Rumor has it that, at last week’s county convocation, they drew straws for the sacred privilege of offing you.

Mark: That’s what I hear. Points away from gazebo. Here comes Chief Hollis.

Hollis: Chief Hollis, in uniform, enters from stage right and sits at Mark’s right. Afternoon, Pastor Bob, Mark. What’re you two drinking?

Mark: Started out as water.

Hollis: Picks up Mark’s cup. Smells suspiciously like Black Jack whiskey. Preacher Bob, did you miraculously change water into this fine example of aqua vitae?

Bob: Not me. Had I passed the miracle, we’d be drinking single malt Scotch.

Mark: Chief, would you like a snort?

Hollis: Consumption of alcohol on public property constitutes a grave offense in our metropolis, and I’m on duty.

Mark: So?

Hollis: I’m charged with upholding the law.

Bob: Be that as it may, I’m sharing this formulation out of religious duty.

Hollis: Pours generous portion of whiskey into cup. In that case, I’ll preform my civic duty. I wouldn’t want Mark to drink so much that he couldn’t walk home.

Bob: Sweet Allison for sure won’t pick him up from here or the jailhouse.

Hollis: She’d be mortified if one of my cruisers delivered a passed-out Mark to her front door.

Bob: On the other hand, she probably would like for you to throw him in jail for a few days so she could have some peace from his foolishness.

Hollis: Downs whiskey, pours more into cup. Mark has good taste in adult beverages. Too bad we can’t say the same about what he writes for our beloved newspaper.

Mark: How ‘bout my talents as a sacrificial lamb?

Bob: Chief, you’re pretty sure the wannabe executioner will try to make the hit this afternoon?

Hollis: According to my sources.

Bob: Mine, too.

Mark: The whole town knows it’s this afternoon but nobody has any idea who’s doing the deed?

Hollis: Don’t worry. My people are hidden all around here. No one can touch you.

Bob: The worst that can happen is you’ll get a front-page story out of the experience. You might even win a Pulitzer Prize, especially if the shooter only wings you.

Hollis: You could be on TV.

Bob: The liberal-leaning CNN or PBS, but not the conservative Fox News Network.

Hollis: No, Fox might run the story if Mark’s killed.

Bob: Why?

Hollis: They’d want to celebrate the demise of a pointy-headed, evolution-loving, secular humanist liberal Democrat.

Bob: If we fail in our duty to protect Mark, Bill O’Riley surely would mention Mark’s passing in passing.

Hollis: Preacher Bob, are you going to sit here with Mark and offer him spiritual comfort?

Bob: That’s my clear intention.

Mark: I’d like it better if you’d sit in front of me, rather than at my side.

Bob: You want me to take the bullet for you?

Mark: It would be your bounden duty, the ultimate sacrifice.

Hollis: Stands up. Y’all work out the seating arrangements. I’m going to my command center. Hollis leaves to stage right.

Mark: I hope Chief Hollis is right about this afternoon.

Bob: It’s a good call. The whole county knows you’re here on Friday afternoons to deal with comments from the Thursday editions of The Citizen.

Mark: My being here cuts down on a lot of stupid Letters To The Editor.

Bob: Hey, you for sure aren’t receiving acclamations from your admiring public, a vanishing small number of people, most of whom can’t read.

Mark: I should pin a bull’s eye over my heart.

Bob: Might save your life ‘cause you don’t have a real heart. The roar of a powerful truck engine breaks the silence. That’s Wilbur’s new truck, a Ford F-350 with 4 X 6 dual rear wheels, and a ten-cylinder high output diesel engine. A redneck’s wet dream come true.

Mark: All decked out in University of Georgia colors, decals, and flags. Those chromed exhaust pipes must rise six feet above the cab. Reckon what he’s carrying in the gun rack?

Bob: Knowing Wilbur, he probably has a twelve-gauge Browning automatic shotgun, a rod and reel, and an umbrella.

Mark: Prepared for anything, and he was kicked out of the Boy Scouts for being disruptive.

Bob: At the same time you were.

Wilbur: Enters from stage right, sits on Mark’s right. Preacher Bob, Mark. Good day for a killing.

Mark: Nice truck. Hate to see you mess it up working on your farm.

Wilbur: Won’t happen. This one’s my going-to-town truck.

Mark: Don’t you need a big truck for your farm?

Wilbur: I got another new one for the farm. It’s painted in Florida Gator colors, dirty blue and putrid orange.

Mark: Why?

Wilbur: I use it for hauling chicken litter, cow manure, and sundry other kinds of smelly stuff.

Bob: When you can’t beat ‘em in football, you can cover ‘em with muck?

Wilbur: Shrugs. What’re y’all drinking?

Mark: Jack Daniel’s Black Label whiskey.

Wilbur: Pour me some of that nectar. I’m hanging around for the fun.

Bob: Passes bottle and cup to Wilbur. Pour it yourself. I won’t corrupt a member of my congregation.

Wilbur: Pours whiskey, takes a big swallow. What about Mark?

Bob: He’s polluting himself. I’m setting a good example by drinking in moderation.

Mark: Sighs loudly, looks up. O Lord, how long must we suffer?

Wilbur: Mark, good buddy, if you survive this afternoon, I know a great way for you to get back into most people’s good graces.

Bob: Pray tell.

Mark: Why would I want to get on the good side of a bunch of KDPs?

Wilbur: KDPs?

Bob: Knuckle-Dragging Philistines, present company excluded.

Wilbur: See, Mark, you can’t help insulting people.

Mark: How do you suggest I rectify the situation?

Wilbur: And you talk funny. Who the heck around here, present company excluded, knows the definition of rectify?

Bob: I’ll use that word in my sermon Sunday.

Wilbur: Make it short, for once.

Mark: That’s a forlorn hope. What scheme do you have in mind?

Wilbur: Write some front-page articles in The Citizen to raise funds for erection of a Confederate Soldier statue, right here in the city park.

Bob: Might work. People would love for Mark to come to his senses about the glorious war for Southern Independence.

Mark: It was an insurrection, a rebellion.

Bob: But for a bonnie good cause.

Mark: Wilbur, the stature should face north?

Wilbur: That’s where the enemy comes from.

Mark: I have some conditions.

Bob: O Lord!

Wilbur: What conditions?

Mark: Stand up, face north.

Wilbur: Me?

Mark: Yes.

Wilbur: OK. Stands up at side of table with back to audience.

Mark: Lean over and put your head as far down as you can.

Wilbur: Are you crazy? I’ve never seen a statue like that.

Mark: Humor me.

Wilbur: Puts head between his knees. Like this?

Mark: That’ll do.

Bob: O Lord!

Mark: Try to bend your neck up as far as you can.

Wilbur: This is stupid. Does his best to look up.

Mark: What do you see?

Wilbur: What do you think I see? My butt.

Bob: O Lord!

Mark: Once last thing.

Wilbur: Hurry up. People might be looking this way.

Bob: O Lord!

Mark: The inscription on the pedestal will come from Walt Kelly’s Pogo comic strip.

Wilbur: Spit it out!

Mark: “We have met the enemy and he is us!”

Wilbur: Sits, gulps whiskey. And you wonder why people hate your guts?

Bob: He can’t help himself. All those years he spent away from here corrupted him.

Wilbur: Turned him into a schizophrenic.

Bob: You have any specific examples of his multiple personalities?

Wilbur: He’s a dues-paying, card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Nation Rifle Association.

Bob: A dubious distinction not shared by anyone else in this county, maybe even in the whole state.

Mark: Hey, all I want is a level playing field.

Wilbur: That’s only part of his mental disease.

Bob: You’re talking about how he’s a registered Republican but usually votes Democratic?

Wilbur: He pulls that stunt to irritate Allison.

Bob: Claims he’s so committed to fundamentalist . . .

Mark: Fundamental, not fundamentalist.

Bob: . . . principles that he’s often mistaken for a liberal.

Wilbur: When he wrote that in one of his columns, it made no sense whatsoever to anyone.

Bob: Present company excluded.

Wilbur: Preacher Bob, why don’t you pray for Mark to repent?

Bob: I’d rather pray for something the good Lord is more apt to grant.

Mark: Points to stage left. Speaking of the power of prayer, looks like the Holy Spirit has descended upon Rev. Bailey.

Bob: That’ll be the day.

Bailey: Enters from stage left in a highly agitated state carrying a briefcase. Stands at end of table near Bob. Is that demon rum in those cups?

Wilbur: No, it’s Jack Daniel’s sipping whiskey.

Mark: And mighty good. Want some?

Bailey: Points finger accusingly at Bob. You’re a man of the cloth, pastor of one of our largest congregations.

Bob: Your point being?

Bailey: I would have expected better of you, not this public display of licentiousness.

Bob: Brother Bailey, don’t you understand the reality of expectations?

Bailey: You’re not living up to the expectations of your church and this community.

Bob: To the contrary, as I can easily demonstrate.

Bailey: How?

Bob: Hold both hands in front of you, palms up.

Bailey: Holds hands as Bob directed. What’s this prove?

Bob: You’ll see. Now, I want you to put your expectations in your left hand and expectorate in your right hand.

Mark: O Lord!

Bailey: You mean, spit in my right hand?

Bob: That’s right. This demonstration won’t work if you don’t.

Bailey: Reluctantly spits in right hand. What more foolishness do you have in mind?

Bob: None, because your empty left hand reveals the reality of your expectations.

Bailey: Wipes spit on trousers, puts hands at his sides. You have insulted our God and me.

Bob: We don’t worship the same God.

Mark: Rev. Bailey, is our public consumption of demon rum simply a target of opportunity for your wrath or do you have something else in mind?

Bailey: I have here . . . Reaches hand into his briefcase. Mark, Bob, and Wilbur stand, push aside their sports coats to reveal holstered pistols.

Mark: You be most careful what you pull out of that briefcase.

Bailey: Flustered, sputters. I never . . . Removes packet of papers from briefcase. Mark, Bob, and Wilbur sit. I’m presenting this petition to you as the owner, publisher, and editor of The Vickery Citizen. All fifty-seven adult members of my congregation at the Baptized By Holy Fire, One True Apostolic, and Sanctified by the Holy Spirit Temple for Worship of God Almighty signed the petition.

Mark: No children signed?

Bailey: Of course not. They haven’t reached the age of reason.

Wilbur: Doesn’t the same criterion apply to the adults?

Mark: What’s the subject of this petition?

Bailey: That you must write a front-page article recanting all your nonsense about evolution and accept Intelligent Design as the exhibition of God’s creation of life.

Mark: You want me to endorse Creation Science?

Bailey: It’s the word of God as revealed in the Bible.

Bob: Creation Science is mumbo jumbo, not true science.

Mark: What happens if I don’t recant?

Bailey: My entire congregation will cancel our subscriptions and our business owners won’t advertise in your paper.

Mark: Won’t happen. The Citizen’s the only paper in the county.

Bailey: Our minds are fixed upon this course of action. We will not be swayed.

Mark: OK, that’s your prerogative; however, from now on, the paper won’t publish free notices of engagements, weddings, deaths, funerals, or births of anyone in your congregation. Furthermore, you’ll have to pay for any announcements of your worship services and frequent revivals.

Bailey: You wouldn’t dare! That would violate freedom of the press and separation of church and state.

Wilbur: His mind’s fixed upon it; he won’t be swayed.

Bob: Mark’s like Captain Ahab in Moby Dick: What’s he dared, he’s willed, and what he’s willed, he’ll do.

Mark: Rev. Bailey, do you have a copy of the Bible in your briefcase?

Bailey: The King James Version, the authentic word of God. Takes Bible from briefcase, holds the book reverently in front of him.

Wilbur: With Jesus’ words in red, just like they came out of his mouth in Elizabethan English, not the Aramaic he likely spoke?

Bob: Wilbur, you’re talking over the poor man’s head.

Mark: Rev. Bailey, please open your Bible to the first chapter of Genesis.

Bailey: Opens Bible. May the Holy Spirit bring you to your senses.

Mark: I’m a newspaperman, so let’s look at that first chapter from the perspective of a news story.

Bob: He’s talking about who, what, when, and how.

Mark: Right on. Rev. Bailey, who’s the who in this creation story?

Bailey: God. Says so in the first verse.

Mark: What’s the what in the story?

Bailey: Creation of the universe and all therein.

Mark: When?

Bailey: In the beginning.

Mark: Where did the action take place?

Bailey: Pauses to think. In our time and space.

Mark: Any idea of why God created the universe and all therein?

Bailey: Who am I to speculate on the Almighty’s motives?

Bob: Because it pleased God to create; says so in Holy Scripture.

Mark: Final question: How did God go about creating?

Bailey: I don’t understand.

Mark: Let’s make it simple. What mechanism did God use to create life?

Bailey: That’s not addressed, but God must have worked through the Holy Spirit.

Bob: How about, “The work of creation is, God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.”

Bailey: Where did that statement come from?

Bob: The Presbyterian Shorter Catechism.

Bailey: I rely upon the Holy Spirit, not false creeds or catechisms.

Mark: Elegant as the catechismal declaration may be, it still doesn’t explain the nuts and bolts of the actual process.

Bailey: You’re going to blaspheme by invoking godless evolution?

Mark: Let’s get one thing straight: I profess that God is the creator and absolute sovereign ruler of all that exists, seen and unseen.

Bob: Mighty profound, fundamental, even catechismal.

Mark: Based upon all the available evidence—scientific, theological, philosophical, continuing revelation, whatever—evolution is the best explanation for the mechanism God used and uses to create and maintain life.

Bailey: I am fearfully and wonderfully made by God.

Mark: Through evolution.

Bailey: Shouts. I did not come from pond scum!

Mark: You for damn sure haven’t evolved very much.

Bailey: Mark Fredericks, God will surely consign you to the nether regions of hell for the eternal punishment of the damned!

Bob: Stands up, leans threateningly toward Bailey. Aloysius Percival Bailey, if you don’t get away from here, I’ll open a can of whoop-ass on you, like I used to do when we were kids.

Wilbur: No, Preacher Bob, let me bring him to Jesus.

Mark: How?

Bob: By beating the hell out of him. Bailey, gesturing wildly, rushes off to stage left.

Mark: What’s he doing?

Bob: Performing an exorcism to drive the unclean spirits out of us.

Wilbur: Might work for you and me, but not for Mark. The three friends lift their cups to toast each other.

Mark: Amen.

Bob: Look who’s crossing the street, waving her cane to stop traffic.

Wilbur: Miss Helen, as spry as when she taught us English in high school.

Mark: Reckon how old she is?

Bob: That’s a closely guarded secret, but I double-dog dare you to ask her.

Mark: No way. I’ve already got enough trouble.

Wilbur: Her nose boogers and earwax are older than most people around here.

Helen: Enters from stage right carrying a large purse and using a cane to walk. The men stand up, Helen sits on Wilbur’s right, and the men retake their seats. Helen points to bottle of whiskey. Are you three miscreants drinking alcohol in public, where the whole town can see you?

Bob: Yes, Miss Helen.

Helen: I’m not surprised at Mark and Wilbur but, Rev. Bob Jenkins, you should know better.

Bob: I agree. This miraculously transformed liquid should be a fine, single malt whiskey rather than Tennessee sipping whiskey.

Wilbur: Would you like some, Miss Helen?

Helen: Puts purse on table with a large thud. So all my former students can see me?

Mark: Miss Helen, the entire town knows Chief Hollis brings you a quart of Wild Turkey bourbon the first and third Friday afternoons of each month.

Helen: I shamed him into it. Only serves him right.

Wilbur: Because he took away your driver’s license and car keys?

Helen: He said I was a menace to society.

Bob: Many of us prayed for that blessed event, for our safety and for yours.

Mark: Pours whiskey into cup, passes it to Helen. Would you like some, Miss Helen?

Helen: I’ll have a touch, only to be sociable. Takes small swallow of whiskey. Aloysius Percival appears to have been quite upset when he left you three troublemakers.

Bob: Lost his equilibrium when he came face to face with St. Augustine’s dictum.

Helen: Which one of the several?

Bob: If a man believes what he observes with his own eyes conflicts with Holy Scripture, he’s mistaken about what Holy Scripture actually says.

Helen: You three adult delinquents certainly must realize that Aloysius Percival suffers from optico-annal malocclusion.

Wilbur: Say what?

Helen: It’s a birth defect, a congenital disease.

Mark: What are the symptoms?

Helen: He has a crappy outlook on life because his rectum and optic nerve were crossed at birth.

Mark: Miss Helen, I am flabbergasted—nay—dismayed at your description of a former student.

Helen: Aloysius Percival was a poor student with no intellectual acumen; therefore, I don’t hold him in high regard.

Bob: She only tells the truth.

Wilbur: The twerp always has an expression on his face like death eating a sour pickle.

Mark: What compels you to join us this afternoon, Miss Helen? Surely you’re not here for a discussion of Rev. Bailey’s many shortcomings.

Helen: Mark Fredericks, before the bloodletting begins, I want you to know that I’ve discovered your secret.

Mark: My life’s an open book.

Helen: Books. That’s the operative word. I’ve read all the Bruce Langley novels.

Wilbur: To Duty Called, Duty To Kill, Duty To Love, Dangerous Duty.

Helen: And Triumphant Duty.

Mark: You want to write book reports for The Citizen?

Helen: Don’t be impertinent. I finally determined why the author’s writing style seems so familiar.

Mark: You’ve been engaged in literary criticism?

Helen: Shakes cane at Mark. You’re the author. The similarities among the novels, your columns, and your old high school compositions from my classes prove the point. Downs the whiskey, holds out her cup for more.

Mark: Three friends exchange glances. What do you plan to do with this knowledge?

Helen: Nothing. I wouldn’t want the general public to realize my best student writes such explicit sex scenes and uses so much profanity, not to mention putting all that violence in the Bruce Langley novels.

Bob: But none of those things shocked you, did they?

Helen: Raps Bob’s knuckles with her cane. I hope Mark doesn’t engage in that type of sexual behavior with Allison.

Wilbur: He doesn’t. Allison wouldn’t put up with it.

Bob: He fantasizes the sex. Allison cut him off years ago.

Wilbur: I know for a fact that Doctor Mary refused to prescribe Viagra for Mark.

Bob: Why?

Wilbur: She said it would be like putting a new flagpole on a condemned building.

Helen: Lord, how Mark ever convinced that sweet, intelligent Allison to marry him mystifies me.

Bob: Maybe he has hidden talents.

Helen: I wish you’d hide your talents for long-winded sermons.

Bob: I want to make sure the congregation gets the point.

Helen: The point is that we’re getting tired of having to wait in the back of the line at the Sweet Gum Barbecue and Fish Lodge for Sunday dinner.

Wilbur: It’s bad enough to get behind the Baptists with their big appetites, but it is down right unacceptable when the Holiness and Church of God crowds beat us to Sweet Gum.

Helen: Those people eat like swarms of starving locusts.

Mark: I wish their preachers would bless the food before the people leave church.

Wilbur: Why?

Mark: The members of those churches take up too much time saying long-winded blessings, and shouting “Praise God” and “Hallelujah,” not to mention the speaking in tongues.

Helen: They should get right to the business at hand, eating.

Bob: With respect to my sermons, humans cannot live by bread alone. Focus on hearing and believing the Word.

Helen: Obviously, you’re not putting sufficient time into preparing your sermons, a problem that’s plagued since you sat in my classes.

Bob: How’d you reach that conclusion?

Helen: Don’t you remember what you were supposed to have learned when you studied Mark Twain?

Mark: “Had I more time, I would have written you a shorter letter?”

Helen: Correct. Simply exchange sermon for letter.

Mark: Next time Bob gets carried away with one of his sermons, why don’t you throw your cane at him?

Helen: I may do that. Drains the last of the whiskey from her cup. Bob and Wilbur, are you here to protect Mark?

Wilbur: Yes, indeed.

Helen: Are you sufficiently armed?

Wilbur: I have my Sig Sauer.

Bob: A Colt model 1911 is at my side.

Helen: Mark, surely to goodness, you’re not totally relying on these two?

Mark: No, ma’am. I have my Glock.

Helen: You boys shoot fast but straight.

Bob: We will, that’s our firm intention.

Helen: See that you do. I want to keep reading Bruce Langley novels. Helen leaves to stage right.

Mark: What do you suppose she has in that handbag? It sounded awfully heavy when she put it on the table.

Wilbur: I know better than to ask her something personal like that. We’re lucky she didn’t beat us on our heads with that cane.

Bob: Tough love personified.

Mark: Cell phone rings. Hey, Allison. What’s shaking? Listens. No, Bob and Wilbur are here with me. Listens, looks upward. What are we drinking? Mostly water.

Wilbur: He’s dissembling.

Bob: Lying by omission of the full truth.

Mark: Listens, grimaces. All right, sweetheart, we’re drinking Jack Daniel’s whiskey. Looks at Bob and Wilbur. Mary Anne and Janice are with you? What do you mean, do I know why they chose today to visit you?

Bob: They’re there to comfort the grieving widow.

Wilbur: Who says Allison will be grieving?

Mark: Has been listening to Allison. No, honey, I don’t know why Officers Missy and Harold are in an unmarked car across the street in Miss Helen’s driveway. Listens. I have no idea why they’re out of uniform.

Wilbur: The truth’s not in him.

Bob: He’s trying not to worry Allison about the forthcoming bloodletting.

Mark Speaks to Allison. I have a little business to finish here. I’ll bring Preacher Bob and Wilbur home with me. Listens. For supper? They’ll eat anything that won’t eat them first. Listens. As soon as I can. I love you. Goodbye. Closes cell phone.

Bob: All this talk about food has stimulated my appetite.

Wilbur: Mine, too. I hope this business can be concluded before too much longer.

The three friends unholster their pistols, check them, and reholster the weapons.

Mark: Preacher Bob, not that I object to your being here, but have you considered how incongruous it appears for a minister to be armed and dangerous?

Wilbur: There you go again, using big words like incongruous.

Bob: You mean odd, strange, out of place, inappropriate? That’s what you’re trying to say?

Mark: Yes, but I like incongruous. Anyway, do you have a theological explanation?

Wilbur: I can guarantee that he doesn’t intend to lay down his life for you or anyone else.

Bob: Indeed not. God gave me my life; hence, I can’t let somebody kill me. Only God has the right to take my life.

Mark: But you could have stayed home today and avoided the threat of being killed.

Wilbur: No, he couldn’t. He’s as bloodthirsty as the Israelites of the Old Testament.

Bob: Well, I’m here because God sanctioned great friendship, even if it’s sometimes difficult with a person like Mark.

Mark: Then, if the shooter aims at me and you’re beside me, you figure you can justifiably shoot back?

Wilbur: Preacher Bob will try to shoot first as a theologically condoned act of preventive violence.

Mark: My intellect is now satisfied by the impeccable logic from both of you.

Bob: To change the subject, Mark, I was most gratified to see your two daughters with you and Allison in church Sunday.

Mark: They were here for a short visit.

Wilbur: A short visit with their father is all they can take. That’s why Allison goes alone to see them so often in Texas.

Bob: I’m surprised they come at all, the way he treated them when they were children.

Wilbur: You have specific examples of his child abuse?

Bob: He never let them win any games—he always beat them.

Mark: I wanted to prepare them for life.

Bob: Both girls have told me they didn’t mind Mark winning all the time, but they powerfully resented the way he gloated about it.

Wilbur: The girls will get their revenge because they get to choose his nursing home, if he survives today.

Bob: You think they have a plan?

Wilbur: More’n likely they’ve already selected a place like GITMO.

Bob: Guantanamo Bay, with all the other terrorists?

Wilbur: Be only fitting, proper, and just.

Bob: Points away from table toward street. Why’s that county sheriff’s patrol car coming this way?

Mark: It’s for sure not Sheriff Smith’s tricked-out Hummer.

Bob: Must be a deputy.

Wilbur: Look out! The fool’s aiming a shotgun at us!

A shotgun blasts as the three friends dive under the table and begin firing their pistols.

Bob: Aim for his head, men. He’s wearing a bulletproof vest.

Rapid gunshots from the friends’ pistols that conclude with two smaller sounding shots.

Hollis: From off stage. Hold your fire, men; he’s down!

Mark, Bob, and Wilbur stand up, continuing to aim their pistols.

Wilbur: Which one of us got him?

Hollis: The way y’all were shooting, I doubt that any of you hit him.

Wilbur: You’re kidding. I shot him at least six times.

Bob: The Holy Spirit gave me true aim, right to his forehead.

Hollis: Enters from stage left carrying a huge long-barreled revolver. Put those pistols away before you hurt yourselves. The three friends comply. What calibers were y’all firing?

Wilbur: Nine millimeter.

Bob: Forty-five.

Mark: Forty.

Hollis: From the small size of the holes in his head, I’m thinking someone hit him with a couple of twenty-two long rounds, probably hollow points. The three friends look quizzically at each other. Well, it doesn’t really matter.

Mark: Why?

Hollis: The coroner will list the cause of death as suicide by terminal stupidity.

Bob: Let’s have a moment of disrespect on behalf of our unlamented late brother.

Mark: You’re going to pray for this idiot?

Wilbur: He prays for you, doesn’t he?

Bob: I pray for all sinners, even Mark, our chief sinner.

Mark: Get on with it.

Hollis: Make it short. I gotta get back to protecting our great metropolis from the criminal element, present company excluded.

Bob: Raises face and hands to sky. Almighty God, we beseech you to have mercy on this fool’s soul. He tried to do his duty to rid our community of an unsavory element. Little did he know that you have a great purpose in mind for Mark. Would you please, however, soon reveal that purpose? We grow faint and weary, waiting for that happy day of revelation. One more thing, Lord . . .

Others: Amen! They pull and push Bob off stage to left.

Helen: Enters from stage right, goes to center of stage in front of table, carries a twenty-two caliber automatic pistol. Lord, won’t those three ever grow up? With great difficulty, I taught them English grammar and literature . . . Smiles wickedly at audience . . . but they for damn sure didn’t learn how to shoot straight. Exits stage left.

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