By Katherine Dubois
Brenda has just come to the end of 40 days spent in the wilderness, trying
to decide her mission in life. She is more modern woman than the Messiah, but
Satan still comes off second best.
Author's note: The inspiration for the piece is Matthew 4:1-11. I thought to myself, "Now, how would I have reacted to those temptations?" And then pushed it from there.
(BRENDA enters. Her hair is disheveled, she carries her shoes. Her feet drag, her shoulders droop; she looks exhausted. Enter SATAN. He is very dapper.)
SATAN: Excuse me. You look a bit run down. Are you all right?
BRENDA: All right? As if. I'm so hungry I'm about to die. My clothes are practically hanging off me. I've been fasting, you see.
SATAN: Oh, I see. How long?
BRENDA: Forty days.
SATAN: Really? That's a long time to go without food. Are you lost?
BRENDA: No, no. I did it deliberately. I had this sense that I was supposed to come out here into the desert and fast. You know? I was sure it was the right thing to do, like God was telling me to do it.
SATAN: God told you to fast. You're a very spiritual person, then.
BRENDA: I thought it would give me insight into what I'm supposed to be doing with my life. But how can I be expected to discern anything when my stomach is rumbling and I'm so weak I can hardly stand up? I can't think about my purpose in life. I can only think about food. And you know, I started this out thinking I had a really special mission. I'd just been baptized. I don't know if you know my cousin John, but he's been going around baptizing people. It's been a huge hit, but somehow I thought that wasn't quite "me." Baptizing other people, that is. But I got baptized myself, I could feel that was the right thing to do. In spite of what it did to my clothes. I mean, he couldn't use clean water? But I did the baptism thing. And I had this amazing experience when I came up out of the water. It was as though I heard this voice saying I was God's beloved. Right at that moment, I felt like I could accomplish anything. Save the world, even. But I wasn't quite sure how to go about it, and that's when I had this feeling that I was meant to go into the desert. For solitude, right? Ha! Don't believe it for a minute. There's a million different kinds of insects out here and none of them shut up for a minute. You can hardly hear yourself think. And the heat. I probably have sunstroke.
SATAN: But what about the voice? Do you still think you're God's beloved?
BRENDA: Well, naturally. That stands to reason. I mean, why would that change?
SATAN: So you're God's chosen one.
SATAN: And surely God's chosen one deserves better than to be hungry and tired and thirsty and hot-
BRENDA: Yes, well, it's true, I didn't get the kind of affirmation I was hoping for. I did think maybe I'd stumble on a spring bubbling up out of the ground or something, and I'd know it was a sign.
SATAN: Maybe you should be less passive. Take matters into your own hands.
BRENDA: You mean by going home and getting myself something to eat? And I could do with a nice shower, too.
SATAN: No, that wasn't quite what I meant.
BRENDA: Well, then, what? Come on. Spit it out. I'm dying on my feet here.
SATAN: You're hoping for some kind of message from God.
SATAN: A sign that will tell you what God wants you to do.
BRENDA: I already said that.
SATAN: Maybe the sign will come from within you.
BRENDA: What on earth do you mean? Will you talk sense for a change?
SATAN: You're God's chosen one, yes? Then surely you have some of his power. You don't have to wait for something to happen. You can make things happen.
BRENDA: You mean, miraculous power? I guess. I mean, I probably could do something like that. I hadn't really given that part of it much thought.
SATAN: Maybe you should try it out.
BRENDA: Try it out? You mean, do a miracle, right here?
SATAN: Why not?
BRENDA: That's an idea. (She thinks a moment, raises her arms, then shoots him a suspicious look.) Wait a minute. Who are you? Is this some kind of test?
SATAN: Test? You'll want to test out your powers before you try anything splashy in front of a big audience, won't you? You could avoid a lot of embarrassment that way.
BRENDA: True. But why are you so interested in me?
SATAN: Maybe I could help you out. I could be your manager, in a way.
BRENDA: I'm not sure I need a manger. I see myself as more of a solo act. I expect I'll have a following, of course.
SATAN: I could make things run more smoothly. Handle all the little day-to-day business, leave you free for the big stuff.
BRENDA: Well, thanks for your offer. I'll think about it.
SATAN: Is there anything I can do for you right now? Anything you need?
BRENDA: Like I told you, I'm starving. I haven't had a bite to eat for forty days. And here I am in the middle of nowhere. John told me once he was reduced to eating locusts, but no thanks. I'm not that desperate.
SATAN: The legs do feel kind of funny going down.
SATAN: But you wouldn't have to settle for locusts.
BRENDA: What else is there? Oh, I know, cactus are edible, if you can get past the spiny parts.
SATAN: You need to think outside the box, Brenda.
BRENDA: How do you know my name?
SATAN: Truth be told, I've had my eye on you for a while. Wondering if you're the one who was going to come.
BRENDA: Come where?
SATAN: To save Israel.
BRENDA: I feel like I was meant to do something special.
SATAN: Because of the voice.
BRENDA: That, too. But I've always had a feeling about myself. Maybe because of the stories my mother told me when I was growing up, about when I was a baby.
SATAN: What kind of stories?
BRENDA: Angels, shepherds, presents. I don't really want to go into the details right now.
SATAN: Anyway, Brenda, if you are the beloved of God, you don't need to find something to eat. You could command these stones to become bread and they would.
BRENDA: You think?
SATAN: Oh, I know so. I can see you have it in you.
BRENDA: To turn stones into bread?
BRENDA: I don't know-that's an awful lot of carbs. I haven't eaten for forty days, I'm bound to have taken off a few pounds. But metabolism is a tricky thing. I'm not sure bread is really the way to go.
SATAN: It wouldn't have to be bread. That was only a suggestion.
BRENDA: But it wasn't a helpful suggestion. If you want me to consider you for the position of manager, I'd have to know that I could trust your judgment. Otherwise I'll just wind up doing everything myself anyway. You're really just distracting me. I still have to decide what direction my life's going to take, how I'm going to accomplish the great work that's before me.
SATAN: Here-take my hand.
SATAN: I want to show you something.
(HE takes her hand and spins her around.)
BRENDA: Whoaaa! Wha-? What are you doing?
(They stop, She looks around.)
BRENDA: Where are we?
SATAN: The temple.
(She looks down, gives a little squeal and shrinks back.)
BRENDA: We're so high up. How did we get here?
SATAN: You need a following. You need to attract attention. If you're going to save the world, you need to make a name for yourself.
BRENDA: (edging toward him) I hate heights. What are we doing up here?
SATAN: Throw yourself down.
SATAN: Go on. Jump.
BRENDA: Jump? Are you crazy?
(She recoils from him, starts to lose her balance, clutches at him to right herself.)
BRENDA: Why would I do that?
SATAN: If you're really God's beloved, he'll send his angels to bear you up. Think how impressed the people down below will be when they see that.
BRENDA: Angels? They'd catch me? What makes you think that?
SATAN: It says so, in Scripture. "He shall give his angels charge over you, lest you dash your foot against a stone."
BRENDA: Oh, I don't think that's meant to be taken literally. It's more of a metaphor. Will you please get me down from here?
(She clings to Satan's arm.)
SATAN: Don't you trust God?
BRENDA: Well-for some things. Like-to make the sun come up in the mornings, and-
SATAN: To care about your welfare?
BRENDA: In a general sort of way. But you know, the universe is a pretty big place. I mean, suppose the very moment I jump, some plague breaks out somewhere else in the world, or there's an earthquake somewhere, or maybe a whole bunch of people start praying all at once, like at a football game or something, and he gets distracted?
SATAN: God? Get distracted?
BRENDA: Well, yes, I know, in theory he's omniscient and omnipresent and everything, but has anyone ever actually proved that?
SATAN: Aren't you God's beloved?
BRENDA: Well, yes-
SATAN: You heard him say that. That you're God's beloved, the one who was sent to save the world.
BRENDA: I thought that's what I heard him say, but I could be mistaken. Or it may have been a more universal thing, you know, he loves all his children. I may have been wrong about the saving the world part.
SATAN: You don't have much faith, do you? How do you think God is going to be able to use you?
BRENDA: He knows my skills run more along the administrative line.
SATAN: You sure you don't want to give it a try?
(He takes a step back and gestures.)
BRENDA: Don't leave me! Don't let go of me! But don't push! Can't you hold still?
SATAN: Think about it, Brenda.
BRENDA: I'm not jumping, and that's final.
SATAN: I still say you're missing a great opportunity.
BRENDA: Will you just get me down from here?
SATAN: If you insist.
(He spins her around again. When they stop, she looks around.)
BRENDA: This isn't where we started. What is this, some mountain?
SATAN: Look. You can see all the kingdoms of the world from here.
BRENDA: Really? All of them?
SATAN: I could put you in charge. You said your talents are administrative? How about it? Ruler of all the kingdoms of the world. Then you could save it.
BRENDA: What, you want me to take over running everything?
BRENDA: Like I don't have enough to do in my life already? What, holding down a job and running a household isn't enough? I've got three kids, you know. You think they're going to raise themselves? Oh, I suppose next you'll tell me if I'm God's beloved he'll send angels to do the dishes.
SATAN: You didn't think saving the world was going to entail any extra work?
BRENDA: I want to save the world, not run it. You think I want to put up with all the whining I'd get from everyone who didn't get things exactly their way? People coming to me day and night with their complaints and demands?
SATAN: You'd have the power to do anything you wanted.
BRENDA: But I wouldn't have the time to do anything.
SATAN: Everybody doing what you say…
BRENDA: Some manager you'd be; you have the stupidest ideas I've ever heard. This is your idea of how to help me find my true calling in life? I mean, I'm thinking along the lines of writing a book, or maybe getting my own talk show, and you're going on about jumping off buildings. I only said I hadn't figured out what direction I wanted my life to take, and right away you're trying to take over. What's in this for you, anyway?
SATAN: I did think you might be grateful. That you might-appreciate me.
BRENDA: Grateful? What have you done that was any help?
SATAN: If you'd follow my advice, I know a lot about image.
BRENDA: Image? Is this about my looks? (gesturing to her clothes and hair) Look, buster, this is just because of the heat. I'd like to see you last forty days in the wilderness in that suit.
SATAN: It's permanent press.
BRENDA: And your smugness is totally infuriating. You just have no empathy at all. I'm a very feeling person, I trust my intuition whenever I have an important decision to make, and I'm not getting good vibes about you at all. I can't envision us being able to have any kind of mutually supporting relationship. And I don't see any sign that you're good at taking constructive criticism. When I nixed the idea about bread, you just changed the subject. You didn't acknowledge my input. I'm not sure it would be at all beneficial for me to work with someone who-
SATAN: You know what? Forget it. I'll pass. Never mind.
BRENDA: What did you say? Something about pass? Then I was right, it was a test. And I pass? Oh, goody. Thank you.
SATAN: Thanks for nothing. I'm outa here.
BRENDA: I've passed the test. (She beams.) Is there a prize? (She looks around.) Oh. He's gone. I wonder who that man was? (sudden inspiration) I'll bet he was an angel! God did send an angel to me. He was the sign I've been waiting for. Now I know I'm on the right track. Oh, I feel so special. I knew I was destined for great things.
(She walks off cheerfully, patting at her hair and brushing off her clothes.)
© 2005 Katherine Dubois Reed. All rights reserved.
This script is not intended for free performance. If you wish to use it, please send payment of $US5 per performance. My address is 3185 17th Street, Boulder, CO 80304 USA. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org