A wooden table with two wooden chairs is in the middle of the stage. A man and a woman, both in their thirties, are seated at the table looking at pictures. He is dressed in shorts, a shirt, and flip flops. She is dressed in jeans, a shirt, and sandals. There is a large projection screen behind them.
MAN: So which one would be the best author picture for my book?
WOMAN [spreading out a few pictures before her on the table]: Well… [she takes her time looking at each picture] Ok, I’ve been able to narrow it down to these five pictures.
WOMAN: Ok, picture number one.
A picture of the author is projected on the screen. He is smiling widely.
WOMAN: This picture says you’re a nice guy. There’s a subtext of quiet humor.
WOMAN: Picture number two.
A second picture of the author is projected on the screen. He is half smiling.
WOMAN: This picture says you’re a nice guy, but you don’t let people steal your lunch money.
A third picture of the author is projected on the screen. He has a serious expression and his right hand is holding his glasses in front of him.
WOMAN: I love this! It’s so literary. The hand adds a nice touch. But the expression is pretty bold. And there’s a stray thread over your collar.
MAN: [squinting at the photo on the table]
WOMAN: Maybe try taking this picture again, but cut out that thread. Otherwise, you risk looking like a painter, and people are usually suspicious of painters.
A fourth picture of the author is projected on the screen. There is a hint of a smile.
WOMAN: In this picture, you’re smizing—
WOMAN: Smiling with your eyes. This trick can only be done by Tyra Banks and now you. So kudos.
MAN: [proudly] Wow. Thanks.
A fifth picture is projected on the screen. The expression is unreadable.
WOMAN: Something is off in this pic, I can’t tell what. It looks like you’re thinking through an algebra problem, figuring out a tip, or maybe plotting to kill me. So no. Eliminate this picture. Now, let’s look at the four remaining pictures.
The four remaining pictures are projected together on the screen.
WOMAN: Picture 3 has too much uber-gravitas, and that thread makes you look homeless. In picture 1 you look too nice, too cute, too Lab puppy. This is the kind of picture your mom should have on her desk. So give it to her, framed, with a red ribbon. It’s a nice touch. Picture 2 has microscopic smizing, but not enough warmth. Picture 4 is the winner because you neither look like a schmuck nor a murderer nor a Lab puppy nor a painter.
MAN: Ok. Let’s go with Tyra.
Before us is a damp basement. To the left, there is a stairwell leading up to the house’s ground level. In the center of the stage there is a round table with a red-checkered tablecloth. A green porcelain enameled pendant light with an amorphous conical shape hangs over the table, casting a warm amber glow. There are five men sitting around the table smoking and playing poker. Sam has horn-rimmed glasses and a pork pie hat on, while Michael is wearing a Fedora. The other three men—Paul, Merrill, and John—are wearing suspenders and sport crew cuts. Paul is rolling up his sleeves. Merrill is puffing on a cigar thoughtfully while he looks at his cards. Michael is winding his watch. To the right of the stage is a small table with a black rotary dial phone. Everyone has a glass of beer in front of him.
MERRILL: So, are you going for Seabiscuit or War Admiral?
SAM [without looking up from his cards]: Seabiscuit.
PAUL: He’s kind of a small horse. I’m going for War Admiral. Son of Man O’War, can’t do better than that.
JOHN [taking out a twenty-dollar bill from his wallet]: Twenty.
The phone starts ringing.
PAUL: I’ll get it.
Paul gets up, walks over, and answers the phone.
PAUL: Hallo…Mary? [alarmed] Mary, calm down, what? Say again? [listening intently for a few seconds] No, we haven’t heard anything…you want to talk to John? Alright. [covers earpiece] John, the wife. She’s agitated.
John sighs and gets up. He takes his glass with him.
JOHN: Mary?…What, where?….Right now?…How do you know?…No, we don’t have a radio here.
The men continue playing unabated. Sam burps loudly.
JOHN: I can’t come home right now. I’m twenty dollars in….twenty. TWEN-TEE…the number that comes after nineteen…No, I’m not worried…they’re in New Jersey, we shouldn’t worry. Make yourself some tea and lie down. Call me when they cross the border. Bye…ok, ok. Bye. [hangs up the phone and takes a big gulp of beer]
John returns to the table, sets down his beer glass, and picks up his cards.
MICHAEL: What’s wrong with Mary?
JOHN [sighs]: Apparently extraterrestrials have landed in New Jersey. It’s all over the radio. It’ll be awhile until they get to Knoxville.
MERRILL: Nah. From there they’ll cross over to Manhattan. Maybe go up to Boston.
SAM: Good. I hate Boston.
The sounds of monks singing a Gregorian chant are heard at a distance.
Before us is a rectory with high ceilings. Bookshelves made of cherry wood reach from the floor to six feet in height. The top shelf has recessed lighting and is lined with expensive copies of historical Bibles: the late fourth-century Vulgate written in Latin, the Wycliffe Bible of 1380 written in Middle English, the Matthews Bible of 1537, the Geneva Bible of 1560, and the King James of 1611 Bible. The second shelf is lined with large hardcover Bibles written in English. The third shelf is lined with works by St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John of the Cross, St. Theresa of Avila, and Hans Küng. The remaining shelves are full of hymnals. Above the bookshelves, there are stained glass windows depicting various stages of the Via Crucis. The sun is shining through the windows, casting amorphous dollops of color on the gray stone floor.
There is a double pedestal table, also made of cherry wood, in the middle of the room. There are two, tufted leather arm chairs at each end of the table. There is a blue Lalique vase in the center of the table with fourteen freshly cut lilies. A cardinal enters slowly from stage left, wearing a black simar with scarlet piping and a scarlet sash. He stops for a moment to adjust his scarlet skullcap, then continues toward the table, sitting down on the chair at the left end of the table. He takes out a golden pocket watch and checks the time. He winds the clock, then places the watch back in his pocket.
A woman enters the rectory from stage right. She is wearing a black form-fitting dress that reaches just below the knee along with black patent kitten heels. Her hair has been pulled back in an elegant bun. Her jewelry is understated, and she is carrying a black leather briefcase. She sits down at the right end of the table and places the briefcase carefully flat on the table in front of her.
The cardinal and woman look at each other for a moment. Then, the cardinal gets up and goes to the second bookshelf and pauses, as if thinking which Bible to choose. He finally decides on a copy and brings it to the woman at the table. He opens the Bible to the first page, reaches in and pulls out a Beretta 92. The woman opens her briefcase and takes out a suppressor silencer. The cardinal hands over the Beretta, and she checks to see if the gun is loaded. It is. She then snaps the silencer into place. It makes a satisfying loud click. She places the gun with the attached silencer into her briefcase and then closes the briefcase. The cardinal makes the sign of the cross on her forehead. She in turn kneels, kisses the cardinal’s ring, takes the briefcase, and leaves the rectory quickly.