By Kevin Penner
A light-hearted look at a rather dark part of Israel's history, when the country was beseiged by the Syrians.
SCENE 1 -- in the king's palace
(King enters, sits at a table. Officer enters with a cardboard cut-out of a donkey's head. British accents ala Monty Python might help this sketch!)
Officer: (bowing:) My lord, the king, I have returned.
King: So what did you find me for my dinner?
Officer: This. (holds up donkey's head)
King: What is it?
Officer: My lord, it is a donkey's head.
King: Kind of skinny, isn't it.
Officer: Everyone is skinny. My wife is skinny. My kids are skinny. Our dog is skinny -- we ate it last week -- the cows are skinny, the horses are skinny, the . . .
King: Yes, yes, I get the idea. Since those blasted Syrians besieged this city, even I am getting skinny. So how much did you pay for this . . . wretched . . . thing?
Officer: Eighty shekels, my lord.
King: Eighty shekels? That's almost one whole kilogram!
Officer: A kilogram? What is that, my lord?
King: Never mind! Eighty shekels??? Do you think silver grows on trees?
Officer: If it did, we might be able to eat it. (pause) I did bargain the fellow down from 150 shekels.
King: You should have brought him to me. I'd teach him not to take advantage of the situation. See how he likes the food in our dungeon.
Officer: There's no food in the dungeon, my lord. Hasn't been for weeks.
King: Hmm. Yes, I thought it had been rather quiet in there the last couple of days.
Officer: And anyway, everyone's selling food for outrageous prices these days. It's getting quite out of hand.
King: It's appalling.
Officer: Something must be done, my lord. The things that are happening! It's terrible.
King: I'm appalled. (pause) What sorts of things are happening?
Officer: I can't even tell you because children are present.
King: (looking around) Where?
Officer: Never mind, my lord. The question remains: what are we to do?
King: You're my advisor. You tell me what to do!
Officer: I suppose we could try to blame it on someone.
King: Yes, yes, that's it. When in doubt, blame someone! It's the government's fault. If wasn't for the government, we wouldn't be in this mess!
Officer: Uh, you are the government, my lord.
King: Oh, yes, quite right. Are you trying to tell me it's my fault?
Officer: No, no, not at all. How could you help it that the Syrians invaded us?
King: So who's fault is it?
Officer: In situations like this, it's always convenient to pass the buck, so to speak.
King: But I'm the king. The buck stops here. No one's higher than me.
Officer: Except . . .
King: God! Yes, that's it! God's to blame!
Officer: Of course, you can't punish God.
King: Oh no, but you can punish His messenger. Elisha! He's going to take the blame. Why, it was only six months ago that I had the Syrian army in the palm of my hand. There they were, my prisoners! Elisha had made them all blind, and brought them to me. I asked him if I should kill them, but you remember what Elisha said?
Officer: Yes. "Give them a meal and send them home." Yes, I remember . . . I had to make the feast. As I recall, we had roast lamb and couscous and . . . oh, yes all those fresh grapes . . .
King: Stop it!
Officer: Oh. Sorry, sir.
King: I should have killed the lot of them. No more army to come invading us, and we'd have had a lot more food in the larder right now. YES! It's all Elisha's fault! Bring him to me! (Officer exits) Officer!
Officer: (re-entering) Yes, my lord?
King: (handing him the donkey's head) Have the cook do something with this.
O: (bowing, and exiting with head) Yes, my lord.
King: (grabs shirt, as if to rip it) No, I better not, my wife would kill me. (Picks up cloth from table and rips it. Strikes a dramatic pose:) May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if the head of Elisha son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today!(looks amazed at his own eloquence. He strikes another dramatic pose, but no words come out. He starts to look worried, but just then, the officer returns with Elisha)
Officer: (bowing:) My lord, the king, I have returned. With Elisha.
King: That was quick.
Officer: Yes, well, we didn't want to leave you on stage by yourself too long.
King: So, Elisha. Still bald as ever!
Elisha: Are you mocking my bald head?
King: (hastily:) No, no. I was just making conversation. So, what do you have to say for yourself?
Elisha: (solemnly:) Hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Lord says: About this time tomorrow, a seah of flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.
King: (impressed) Well, thank you, Elisha. That's great! It'll do just fine.
Officer: You believe him? (to Elisha) Even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?
Elisha: You will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat any of it! (He exits)
Officer: You're going to let him go? Just like that?
King: Oh yes, I was going to cut off his head, wasn't I? No, let's wait till tomorrow and see what happens. (they exit)
SCENE 2 -- The next day, outside the city gate
(four lepers enter. They are dressed in rags, with bandaged -- and missing! -- fingers. They lay about the stage, moaning. L1 is the leader. L2 is sort of the assistant leader)
L1: (to L2) I wish I was dead. Don't you?
L2: Yes, I wish you were dead too.
L1: NO! I meant: don't you wish you were dead, too?
L2: Not really. I'd like to live a bit longer.
L3: What for? I mean, we're lepers. What kind of life is this? (strikes a leering pose:) Unclean! Unclean!
L1: Of course, we're all going to die anyway.
L2: Yes, I guess everyone dies, eventually.
L1: No, I mean, we're going to die pretty soon. We haven't eaten for a whole week, remember? The city's besieged, the gates shut, no one's been through here for months!
L2: I sure could go for a big hamburger with fries and a Coke, right now!
L4: Or pizza!
L3: Or Kentucky Fried Chicken!
L1: All right, stop it everyone! We're not going to be eating anything, unless . . .
L3: Unless, what?
L1: Unless, we go down to the Syrian camp. (the others all groan loudly)
L2: You really want to die, don't you?
L1: You just don't get it, do you?
L3: Get what?
L1: We're going to die anyway! Maybe they'll spare us. We can eat their scraps.
L2: (enthusiastically) Cold french fries!
L4: (eyes lighting up:) Pizza crusts!
L3: (sitting up suddenly:) Chicken bones!
L1: (jumping up:) All right, let's go! (the others all jump up. They hobble and stagger wildly around the stage, with L1 in the lead. They gather on one side of the stage as a tent is placed center stage. The lepers walk cautiously toward the tent)
L1: Hello. (pause) Hello! (ahem!)
L2: We'd like to surrender.
L3: If that's okay.
L2: Anybody home?
L3: Come out with your hands up!
L1: Shush! We want to make a good first impression.
L2: Lights are on, but nobody's home. (L3 glares at L2, who smirks:) I wasn't talking about you!
L1: (cautiously entering tent:) There's no one in here. Hey, you guys! COME IN HERE! FOOD!!! (they all enter tent, which bulges with their wild arm motions. The next few lines are said from inside tent)
L2: Hamburgers and fries!
L3: Kentucky Fried Chicken! (the next few lines are said with mouths full, jumbled together, ad lib)
L1/L2/L3/L4: This is great! Yes! Oh, wow! Gimme some more! (continued exclamations, sounds of eating, slurping drinks, belching! They come out of the tent, with last bit of food still in hand)
L2: I think I've died and gone to heaven!
L1: And that was just the food. This whole camp is deserted! Go to it, boys! (they run to different parts of the stage, finding clothes, money, armour, which they bring to center stage)
L3: Are we all having the same dream? (L2 pinches L1)
L1: Ouch! What did you do that for?
L2: I just wanted to see if we were dreaming and if you would wake up. It's not a dream! Hey, this food could last us a long time!
L1: Wait a minute! (he holds up rubber index finger which falls off. He picks it up and replaces it) Hold everything! (the others grab tight to their stuff) What are you doing?
L2: You told us to hold everything.
L1: No, what I mean is: this isn't right! This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let's go at once and report this to the royal palace.
L2: Yeah, I guess you're right. Let's go, guys. (they exit)
SCENE 3 Inside the city gate; early morning
(The officer enters bringing a very sleepy king with him)
King: What do you mean, waking me up so early?
Officer: My lord, there is someone at the gate to see you. They brought this. (gives king a hotdog) It's food.
King: (taking a bite, talking with full mouth) Mmm, very good. What is it?
Officer: They say it's a hot dog.
King: A dog, hmm? (continues eating) Well it's better than donkey meat. Where did they get it?
Officer: From the Syrian camp, my lord.
King: Really? Good for them. Can they get more?
Officer: They say there's lots more. As much as we want.
King: All right! I'll have my next one with ketchup and relish and just a bit of mustard. Oh, and maybe some onion, too.
Officer: They say the whole Syrian camp's deserted. We can just walk right in and take what we want.
King: I say, jolly good. Let's open the gate and have a go!
Officer: Um, wait a minute, my lord, this could be a trap.
King: Like, hey, let's hand the King a poisoned hot dog. (suddenly looks worried) Ooh, there's a thought.
Officer: Well, I mean, they might just want us to open the gates of the city.
King: Right, right. Well, then, why don't you be a good chap and go check out the Syrian camp. See if their story is true.
Officer: Me? Go to the Syrian camp?
King: Yes. Oh, and while you're at it, let in these fellows who brought the food. (officer exits. The lepers enter) Come in, come in. Oh, I say! You're lepers!
L3: (leering) Unclean! Unclean!
L2: (shaking head, says quietly:) Lights are on, but . . .
King: (suddenly horrified -- looks down at remainder of hotdog in his hand) Oh, I say! This hotdog . . .
L1: It's good, isn't it?
King: But you touched it . . .
L2: Yes, we brought it just for you!
King: And I ate it . . . (quietly, to himself:) I wonder if it would do any good to get my stomach pumped? (Officer returns) That was quick!
Officer: Yes, well . . .
King: I know, you didn't want to leave me on the stage too long by myself. Anyway, what's to report? Is the Syrian camp really deserted like they said?
Officer: (loudly) Yes! It's true! There's lots of food for everyone! (suddenly, a whole crowd of people appear and chases the officer offstage, where he screams as he is trampled. King goes offstage and reappears with cardboard cut-out of the officer -- flat!)
King: And I thought I was skinny!
© Copyright Kevin Penner. All rights reserved.
This is copyrighted material, but you may use the sketches anytime, royalty-free. The only thing I ask is that you include my name and address in the copies. ("by Kevin Penner Box 2840 Swan River, MB, CANADA R0L 1Z0 firstname.lastname@example.org")