Joe and the Night Visitor
By John McNeil
A Christmas play for those who don't believe in Christmas (or who have
lost what it's about).
Joe Davidson is a driven, self-made man. He was born into a poor family, but
with hard work has made a name for himself as a property developer. A small,
dilapidated house in Linwood has been both his inspiration and his obsession.
The house once belonged to his parents, but was taken over by the bank after
his father lost his job. Later, as a young married couple, Joe and his wife
Miriam rented the house, which had become run down, but was all they could afford.
One Christmas, Miriam caught a bad chill in a sudden storm. In their damp and
unheated home, she developed pneumonia and never recovered. She died giving
birth to the child, a boy, Joshua. Joe has never forgotten the house. In his
continuing bitterness at Miriam's death, he has become obsessed with a determination
to buy the property, pull the house down and build a new apartment block. But
the property is now owned by the City Mission, which uses it as a community
drop-in centre. The conflict comes to a head when on the anniversary of Miriam's
death, Joe receives an unusual night visitor.
Note: This is an alternate version of the script, and relies on less
Joe Adamson – mid-40s to mid-50s - a self-made businessman with an obsession
Miriam – his wife
Joshua Adamson – his son, in his early 20s
Tracey – Joshua’s pregnant girlfriend (video only)
Joshua as a young boy
The Night Visitor
Christine – Joe’s secretary
Mary – mother of Jesus (can double with Miriam)
Joseph – husband of Mary
City Mission clients (can be doubled with shepherds)
Doctor or nurse
Note: Miriam and Mary, mother of Jesus, can be played by the same person;
if played by separate people, they should be of similar appearance. The Night
Visitor can be male or female.
Video/slides: (We see various scenes of Christmas preparation in the city.
Cut to a city office block. Cut to interior.)
(As the video fades, we are in Joe’s office. He is on the phone.)
Joe: I know it is only six days till Christmas, Gerald. I know everybody
is already in holiday mode. I know that this country shuts down for three
weeks come Friday. But you know what, Gerald? I don’t care! I don’t care
if we do gate-crash the Council’s Christmas party – I want an answer from
your committee this week. (Pause) Why? Because this is a week just like
any other. People live, people die. Life goes on. And now is as good as
any other time to get that house condemned. (Pause) The fact that it’s
owned by the City Mission is totally irrelevant. It’s a dump. I should
know. Christmas does not make it less of a dump. (Pause) I’ll put it this
way. If your committee does not condemn the house tomorrow, your election
campaign next year is going to look very sick.
(There is a loud crash offstage. Joe turns, startled, as his secretary
enters backwards, hauling in a large fir tree. She is wearing Christmas
baubles as earrings.)
Joe: What the..!!? Gerald, I’ve got to go. Madness has struck at this
end. Fix it! (He slams down the phone and turns to the secretary.) Christine,
what on earth are you playing at? Get that thing out of here.
Christine: But it’s Christmas.
Joe: Not in this office.
Christine: You can’t have Christmas without a tree.
Joe: I can have Christmas any way I want it.
Christine: (Perservering against the odds.) I’ve bought some lovely
decorations for it. (She hauls out a box and shows him.)
Joe: Get them out! (He throws the decorations out the door.) And that.
(He indicates that she should take the tree out, and goes back to the phone.
As he tries to carry on the next conversation, Christine struggles with
great difficulty to try and push the tree out the door the wrong way round.)
Joe: Brian? Joe. What’s happened to those plans? I expected them on
my desk first th.... hold on. (Turns, he’s getting angry) Christine, without
the play acting! (Back to the phone) Sorry. Those plans. Where are they?
The architects guaranteed this morning. Timing’s getting critical. (Back
to Christine) Christine, you have five seconds exactly to ....
(There is another crash as she exits, sweeping all before her. Joe
barely contains his anger as he turns back to the phone.)
Why do normally intelligent people go soft in the head at Christmas?
(Pause) Season of goodwill? I don’t see why people should wheel it out
in December when they cheerfully kick each other in the teeth the rest
of the year. There are more murders at Christmas than any other month.
There’s about to be one more if I don’t see those plans by lunchtime. Sort
(Joe slams down the phone. For a moment he presses his hands to his
Joe: Incompetents. (He takes out a small bottle, and extracts
a tablet, which he goes to swallow, then stops, grimaces.) Christine!
Christine: (Enters. She is trying to maintain a festive air in the
face of heavy opposition.) Yes?
Joe: I need a coffee. Has the courier... (he stops as he catches sight
of the earrings.) Are you acting the part of the Christmas tree instead?
(She goes to say something.) Forget it. Just keep your madness out of my
sight. Did the courier bring those plans?
Christine: No, should I ring the architects?
Joe: Don’t bother. Brian’s jingling their bells. Just get me the coffee.
(as she exits) And no mince pies.
(While she is gone, Joe opens a drawer and takes out an architect’s
perspective drawing of a development he plans to put up in place of the
Joe: (Muses grimly to himself) Twenty-three years... but I’ll wipe
the memory of that place! What it took, it’s going to give back. Be there
already if it wasn’t for.... Where are those plans?
Christine: (Enters with the coffee) Your coffee, Mr Adamson.
And ...uh... you have a visitor.
Joe: I thought I said no appointments this morning!
Christine: Yes, but ... it’s Joshua.
Joe: So? This morning is not convenient.
Christine: He says it’s urgent, Mr Adamson.
Joe: Isn’t it always?
Christine: Please, Mr Adamson. It is Christmas.
Joe: Why do you persist in thinking that Christmas changes anything?
(Pause) Oh, all right. Tell him I can spare (with emphasis) five minutes.
(Christine hurries out. Joe begins to pace up and down, till Joshua
enters. Joshua half reaches out a handshake, but with no responding gesture
withdraws it. During the first part of the conversation with his father,
Joshua’s body language says he wants to reach out and bridge the gap between
them, but does not know how. Joe is an unbreachable defence.)
Joe: Five minutes.
Joshua: (sighs, screws up his courage) I’ve come to wish you a Merry
Joe: In that case, you don’t need five. Thank you.
Joshua: And to issue you an invitation. To dinner.
Joe: (Half picks up his diary) I’m pretty solidly booked....
Joshua: To Christmas dinner. At our place.
Joe: I had planned....
Joshua: ...to go to the Club for dinner. I know. How about coming and
experiencing something a bit more homely? Meet some of the people in the
Joe: Why do I get the impression this is not intended to be a simple
Joshua: It’s not like you think. You know the City Mission puts on
Christmas dinner for people who would otherwise be on their own, or who
can’t afford it. This year we’ve decided not to have a huge bun fight like
we’ve done in the past. Instead, we’re going to spread things around the
staff homes and branches, and invite just the people who regularly come
to us. Tracey and I are having a hangi (luau) at the drop-in centre, and
we really want you to come.
Joe: (Not joking) If you promise to burn that house down in the process,
I’ll certainly be there.
Joshua: (sarcastic) Funny!! Do you know how much that house is providing
for the people round Linwood? Since the bank donated it to the Mission,
it’s been a wonderful resource for the community. I know it has painful
memories for you, about Mum, but the work we’re doing there has turned
it into a living memorial to her. Isn’t that worth preserving?
Joe: It’s not fit for human habitation, and the sooner it’s pulled
down the better.
Joshua: The Mission is renovating it. And being able to help with that
has given the locals a sense of achievement, too.
Joe: There’s not two square metres of board worth renovating. How you
and that girlfriend of yours can bear to live there....
Joshua: It’s only till I finish my degree. And it’s a symbol of hope.
Not just a symbol. Every day we give real, practical hope to the people
who come to us.
Joe: It’s a hovel.
Joshua: Why do you have this fixation about tearing it down? I would
have thought you would want to preserve the memories of your first home
when you were married.
Joe: The house that was so run-down, so damp, my wife caught pneumonia
Joshua: Is that why you’re so bitter?
Joe: It’s why I’m so realistic.
Joshua: Can’t you accept that the Mission owns it, and it’s doing good?
Joe: And if the Mission didn’t own it...?
Joshua: I know you’ve tried hard to buy it, but there’s no way they’re
giving it up. It’s too strategic.
Joe: Maybe they’ll have no choice.
Joshua: (Angry) You’ve tried every supposedly fair means in the book.
Leave it at that.
Joshua: I didn’t come here to pick a fight with you, Dad. I really
wanted to try and show you the value of what we’re doing. But if you’ve
chosen war ... I’m not backing off just because you’re my father.
Joe: You’d do far better to walk away. I don’t want to hurt you, but
I will win, you or the Mission notwithstanding.
Joshua: (turning to leave) Don’t count on it. Goodbye. (exits)
(Joe stares after him. Even though he was terse with Joshua, he had
not really wanted to come to blows. Mixed emotions wrack him, as he remembers
their early years.)
Joe: (in anguish)It wasn’t meant to be like this. What happened?
(Joe enters, carrying Miriam. They have just been married.)
Miriam: (laughing) Put me down, you idiot! You’ll do yourself an injury.
Joe: It’s traditional for the groom to carry his bride across the threshold
on their wedding day.
Miriam: But not traditional for him to do his back in. It won’t be
much of a honeymoon if you’re too crippled to make love to me.
Joe: It’d take more than a bad back to stop me doing that. But as you
wish. (puts her down, takes her hands) My whole body is at your service,
Miriam. I promised that in our vows today, and I meant it. I know we haven’t
got much now, but I’ve got big plans, and having you alongside will give
me the courage to keep going when the times are hard. They will be for
Miriam: I know, we’ve already discussed that.
Joe: … but it will be worth while one day.
Miriam: (sweeps her arms in a grand gesture) And one day our children
will inherit all this …(struggles for a word)… all this..
Miriam: Everybody has to start somewhere.
Joe: Believe me, the moment we can afford it we’ll be out of here.
I want to build you a mansion, Miriam. A fit home to bring up our children.
Miriam: I believe you, Joe. But our relationship is more important
than a grand home. And talking of relationships … (she takes Joe by the
hand and leads him out).
(lights dim briefly, then fade up. As they do, we also hear “Jingle
Bells” or similar in the background, as if coming from a radio.)
(Joe enters in a hurry, carrying a brief case. He looks anxiously at
Joe: Where can she have got to? I just can’t wait any longer. This
meeting’s too important. (Looks around for paper, grabs a scrap and hurriedly
writes.) Put my dinner in the oven. I’ll be back soonest. Joe. (Looks up)
I don’t like the look of that weather – it could turn nasty at any moment.
(Scrabbles in a corner) Where is that …. Ah, here it is. (turns up a tatty
umbrella). Not much, but guess it will have to do.(He dashes out.)
(There is a pause, then Miriam, now heavily pregnant, enters, wet through,
and carrying groceries. She is obviously ill. She staggers to the table
and dumps them down. She can scarcely stay upright.)
Miriam: (Distressed) Joe! (Pause) Joe! (Pause – becoming more distressed)
Are you there, Joe? (Sees the note on the table. Reads it.) Oh, Joe! Not
again. Not Christmas Eve. (She slumps over the table, then raises herself.)
Got to get out of these wet clothes. (She pauses, still slumped. Mumbles.)
Got to get out of these … (she takes a few steps, stumbles, takes a few
steps, falls. She lies still for a short time, then slowly raises her head
and starts to crawl.) Got to … get … (slowly exits.)
(Lights fade to black. As they do we hear…)
Sound FX: Ambulance racing through streets. Hospital noises. A heart
monitor beeps, stops, beeps, then stops.
(As the lights hit black, we hear a loud cry.)
(Lights fade in to half light)
(Joe is standing beside a cross in centre stage. He is cradling a baby.)
(We hear various voices.)
Voices: I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in
(Joe’s voice) Miriam, you’re going to make it… you’ve got to
(Miriam’s voice, faint) Joe, I will always love you…
Joe, I can’t tell you how sorry we are.
Wouldn’t it be better if you had Joseph fostered?
She didn’t even have a proper coat…
If you need anything, we’ll be there.
Are you sure you can manage the baby and a job?
Ashes to ashes and dust to dust ….
Joe: (Centre stage) Why? God, why?
(Lights fade to black, then fade up as…)
(Joe’s aunt enters)
Aunt: I’m glad you asked, Joe. It’s the least we could do for
Joe: I just couldn’t see any other way. Since Miriam’s mum died …
Aunt: My sister would have wanted me to take her place. We always looked
after each other, right from kids. (Reaches out) Can I?
Joe: (Hands over the baby) You’re sure you can manage the two of us?
Aunt: The less you have on your mind, the quicker you’ll get through
your studies. Actually, I’m getting quite clucky again! And it’s important
that you two stay together. You’re the most important person in his life
Joe: (savagely) I won’t let you down, Miriam. Or you, Joseph. But that
house … I’ll get you!
Aunt: What do you mean?
Joe: That house killed Miriam. If it hadn’t been such a squalid hole
she wouldn’t have died. One day I’ll tear it down with my own two hands.
Aunt: (softly) Joe … don’t waste your energy on anger. If you loved
Miriam, make the bringing up of Joseph your memorial to her.
(She exits as lights fade briefly to black).
(As the lights fade up, we see Joe standing centre stage, scarcely
controlling himself. Joseph enters, carrying a rolled blueprint.)
Joseph: A courier thrust into my hands at reception. Must have thought
I work here. (Hands the roll to Joe and turns to exit.) That offer for
Christmas dinner still stands.
Joe: I told you.
Joseph: Dad … (pauses, then exits).
Joe: (Looks after the departed Joseph) Damn!!! (He savagely bends the
roll in frustration, before stalking out.)
(We are in Joe’s house, that night. Joe is pacing, with a glass in hand.
He is reliving the day’s events in his mind. He goes to a small table and
picks up a bottle of tablets, opens it and tips a couple into his hand.
He washes them down with a drink, grimaces. As he does so, we hear the
sound of a Salvation Army band in the distance, playing a Christmas carol.
When he hears the band, Joe stares in horror at the door, knowing someone
will come knocking. Looking around, his gaze seizes on the TV set. Grabbing
the remote, he stabs at the volume to turn it up. We get a loud blast of
the news – all bad, the usual Israeli or IRA violence, or suchlike, followed
by a raucous commercial. The TV sound continues in opposition to the following
Joe: (shouts) And this is peace and goodwill to all men!! God,
what have you wrought? Go away!!
(He hastily pours another drink, dashes it down, and hides his head
in a cushion.)
Joe: I will win. You won’t get in my road. (He gets up suddenly, goes
to a photo of Miriam, picks it up.) Miriam...why!! (pause) Curse you, God.
(He slumps down again, head in his hands. The photo falls to the floor.)
(The TV and lights fade slowly.)
FX: (There is a brief snatch of another carol in the distance, then
a short electronic sting.)
(A figure enters as lights fade up partially, or with pin-spot. The
Night Visitor goes to the photo and picks it up, putting it back in its
original place. It sniffs the two bottles Joe has been using, and replaces
them. Its expression throughout is non-judgmental and “neutrally” compassionate.)
(Joe is so far unaware of the Visitor. Without looking up, he reaches
again for the bottle. As he does so, the Visitor draws it just out of reach,
so Joe’s fingers find only air. Still without looking up, Joe reaches again,
a bit further, and again the Visitor draws it out of reach. This time,
Joe looks up to locate the bottle, and sees the Visitor.)
Visitor: (picking up the bottle) You don’t really need this. (Puts
the bottle to one side, furthest away from Joe.)
Joe: Who the dickens are you? Get out of my house! (Stands hurriedly,
but a bit shakily. He is not drunk, but nonetheless feeling the combined
effects of the day, drink and medication. The Visitor does not move, but
Joe: I said, get out! (He tries to stand taller than the Visitor, but
is unable to manage that.)
Visitor: (unperturbed) I think it will benefit you far more if I stay,
Visitor: There is something I want to show you, Joe. Something for
Joe: Do I know you?
Visitor: You have probably seen me more often than you realise. But
whether you know me...
Joe: Are you from the Council?
Visitor: (smiles slightly) Not the City Council.
Joe: You’re talking in riddles. Are you a lawyer?
Visitor: A lawyer, no. An advocate, yes.
Joe: For heaven’s sake, stop beating round the bush.
Visitor: Most certainly for heaven’s sake... and for your own. Come,
there is something I want to show you.
(He reaches out his hand to Joe. As he does so, all lights fade. The
stage is lit by a single blue light.)
Joe: Who are you? What are you doing?
Visitor: Take my hand, Joe.
Joe: Why has it gone dark? Who are you?
Visitor: For the moment, you will just have to trust me. Come!
(Lights fade partially up on stage to show Joe and the Visitor standing
elevated at the rear, still holding hands.)
Joe: Where are we? What’s going on?
(The Visitor points.)
(Joseph and Mary enter, mid-stage. Mary is heavily pregnant, wet and
in distress. They trudge slowly across the stage as the Visitor talks to
Visitor: They have come a long way, these two, looking for shelter.
As you can see, her time is very near. It’s been a hard pregnancy. When
her family found out she was expecting a baby, they threw her out, and
the only person who would take her in was a cousin. The man you see also
turned his back on her at first. They were engaged when he found out she
was expecting someone else’s baby. At first he disowned her, but he eventually
had a change of heart, took her back, and persuaded her family to forgive
her. They’ve travelled a long way over the last few days, shunted around
by petty bureaucrats. And because they are poor, she has had to walk most
of the way. I’m afraid her thin cloak was not a lot of protection against
the last shower of rain. (Joseph and Mary exit.) She is cold, wet, more
tired than she has ever been before, and now they can find nowhere to put
up for the night.
Joe: Who are they?
Visitor: A poor couple, finding out that life can be very hard. Yet,
with a vision for the future that they are trying hard to hold on to in
the face of a lot of hardship.
Joe: I thought at first ...
Visitor: What did you think?
Joe: (strained) That woman looked just like Miriam, my wife. But the
man ... he’s sort of like me, but he’s not. Is this some kind of alternate
Visitor: There are some realities which never change. Like poverty,
and injustice. Those two have experienced both. They have found a place
for the night, but it’s not very satisfactory. Some would call it a hovel,
but it’s all they can afford. It will have to do.
Joe: That sounds all too familiar.
(Mary enters, mid-stage. She falls to her knees, panting heavily. As
she does so, Joe cries out.)
Joe: It is Miriam! (He tries to go to her, but the Visitor restrains
Visitor: No, Joe. She cannot hear or see you. You can do nothing for
Joe: But I must go to her. She needs me. Let me go!
Visitor: You can not help her.
Joe: What sort of devil are you, taunting me like this?
Visitor: Just wait a moment, Joe, and much will become clear. (Joe
is still trying to reach out, but held by the Visitor.)
(Joseph enters, and goes to Mary. He kneels beside her and takes her
in his arms. She sobs on his shoulder as he comforts her.)
Joe: Quickly! They must get her to a hospital, before it’s too late!
Believe me, I know what will happen! (The Visitor does not answer.)
(The woman begins to spasm in labour pains. The man rises hurriedly,
and going to the door, calls out. He hurries back to the woman, and a moment
later another, older, woman enters. When she sees Mary in labour, she quickly
arranges her in a kneeling birth position, leaning against Joseph.)
Joe: (Tries unsuccessfully to shake the Visitor) How can you just stand
by and not help? She will die if she doesn’t get to hospital.
Visitor: Joe, this is not your Miriam. She will not die. This is another
time and place. Watch, because a great miracle is about to happen.
(Mary gives a final push, and delivers her baby. She collapses exhausted
in Joseph’s arms, and he helps her to a comfortable position, before the
midwife hands the baby to her and then leaves. Joseph finds a piece of
cloth and begins to dry Mary as best he can. The midwife returns holding
out a cloak. She beckons to Mary to follow her. Mary hands the baby to
Joseph, and goes out leaning on the midwife’s arm.)
Joe: It will certainly be a miracle if she doesn’t catch pneumonia.
(bitter) Would to God that my own wife hadn’t. Where was my miracle when
I needed it?
Visitor: Miracles come in many different forms. All births are a miracle.
I cannot tell you why Miriam died. But I assure you it was a real miracle
that your son survived it. There were hands helping you then, even though
you could not see them. Just as you cannot be seen now by these people.
Joe: But you would let me do nothing to help. Why are you showing me
(The Visitor does not reply.)
(Mary returns, clothed in the new cloak, and escorted by the midwife.
Joseph helps her to recline, and hands her the baby. There is a commotion
outside, and Joseph, surprised and suspicious, goes to the door. He is
almost pushed back by a group of rough shepherds as they enter. They spot
Mary and the baby, and kneel in awe, indicating that they heard a message
from the skies telling them to come to this place.)
Joe: This gets crazier by the minute.
Visitor: You do not know the story? (Joe looks questioningly) You have
not guessed? You have just witnessed the most astonishing event in the
whole of human history ... the birth of Jesus Christ to Mary and Joseph
Joe: (scathing – angry that he has been the victim of an apparent set-up)
A hoax!? You’ve set up this elaborate charade to play some sort of pathetic
hoax on me? For a moment I thought it was real. But it’s just some fools
enacting a fairytale. Get me home.
(Stage lights fade. Mary, Joseph and the shepherds exit.)
(The stage is lit by a single blue light)
Visitor: Did you know that your Miriam believed this ... fairytale?
Joe: What!? She never told me.
Visitor: Would you have listened?
Joe: Probably not. And what good did it do her? It didn’t stop her
Visitor: It gave her something to live for.
Joe: How do you mean?
Visitor: Miriam loved you very deeply, Joe. It didn’t matter to her
that you were poor. She knew you’d rise above that. In the meantime, she
was happy to live in a run-down house because you were there. And when
she found she was pregnant, she felt doubly blessed. Because she was carrying
your child ... but also because she believed God was fulfilling a promise
He had made to her.
Joe: If those are the sort of promises God makes, why would anyone
want to believe them. It seems they only lead to heartbreak.
Visitor: Let me ask you a question. You don’t believe in a God. But
if you had the chance to invent God, what would you have him do?
Joe: Save Miriam.
Visitor: Just Miriam?
Joe: Yes ... no ... everyone who suffers, I guess. And stand up for
the poor. Heal the sick. Kick butt when petty tyrants send innocent people
to death. (pause) And do away with all those prigs who sit in church with
poo faces on Sundays pretending to be self-righteous but then rip their
neighbour off the rest of the week. If God rolled his sleeves up and got
his hands dirty with the muck of this world, maybe ... just maybe ... there
would be something worth believing in.
Visitor: Come ... let’s move forward in time.
Video: (cuts to shots of Jesus among the people, touching, healing,
cleansing the temple.)
(Lights fade up to show Joe and the Visitor on stage. As they do, the
sound fades on the video, but the images remain.)
Joe: (Indicating the screen) Who is that?
Visitor: God rolling up his sleeves. The baby has grown up, and he’s
beginning the work his father set for him.
Joe: More riddles!
Visitor: Let me give you a key to unlock it. Christmas is not about
a baby. Or decorations and mince pies. There was a baby, certainly - life
has to begin somewhere. But it was about God breaking into this world in
a new way. He heard the cries of the suffering, the sick, the downtrodden,
the millions who groan under petty tyrants. And unlike the governments
of man, he didn’t form a committee and call for a report. He sent his own
son – to be born in a hovel, as you saw. That was real. He gave him the
job of bringing freedom to everyone held captive by their circumstances.
Jesus is showing us God getting his hands dirty.
Joe: Pity it all stopped there, then.
Visitor: It didn’t. God is never happier than when he’s among the poor
and dispossessed. Since the time of Jesus, millions have come to love God
and follow his example. A roll call would just about go on for ever.
For instance, William Carey had the practice of women being burned
alive with their husbands in India banned .... William Wilberforce outlawed
slavery in England ... Mother Theresa gave dignity to the dying of Calcutta
.... Martin Luther King fought for equal human rights for blacks in America.
(Note: The following segment – which replaces the last paragraph of
the Night Visitor’s last speech - is optional, depending on your technical
(Enter Herald, who begins calling a list of people down through history
who have worked among the poor)
Herald: (list to be compiled, but eg) William Carey, had the practice
of women being burned alive with their husbands in India banned .... William
Wilberforce, outlawed slavery in England ... Mother Theresa, gave dignity
to the dying of Calcutta .... Martin Luther King, fought for equal human
rights for blacks in America.
Video: (The roll call is accompanied by a quick montage of clips illustrating
the work of these people.)
(End optional segment)
Visitor: God has a strange way of doing things, Joe. Where there is
injustice, he pours in love. Where there is darkness, he lights up someone’s
life. And where there is a hovel, he transforms it with hope.
Joe: There’s one hovel I definitely want to transform.
Visitor: And will that bring hope?
Joe: It will bring jobs. It will improve the neighbourhood. It will
get rid of an eyesore. It will ...
Visitor: It will rid you of an anger that has been burning in you for
more than 20 years ... you think. But Joe, you can’t blot out bad memories
by destroying the bits of the past that remain.
Joe: I can and I will!
Visitor: You will only lose that hurt when it is changed into something
else. People have tried to show you the love that would work that change,
but you keep shutting them out. However, there is still a chance. Come
... I want to show you another story.
(Joe and the Night Visitor move to the elevated platform at stage rear.
Joshua and his girlfriend Tracey enter. Joe and the Night Visitor are unseen
to them. Tracey, heavily pregnant, is being supported by Joshua and they
are both wet, as it has been raining. As they go up the steps to the front
door, Tracey stumbles and falls. Packages go flying. Joseph tries to help
Tracey up, but she is in too much pain. Distraught, Joseph calls out, and
several “clients” from the Mission enter at the run. One runs to get an
ambulance, one takes his old jacket off and puts it over Tracey.)
(As the lights fade to black, we hear the sound of an Ambulance.)
(Exit all except Joe and the Visitor.)
(A single blue light lights Joe and the Visitor at the rear of the
Joe: Is that happening, or is it something that might happen? Don’t
lie to me!
Visitor: It is happening.
Joe: Again! Let me destroy that house, so that it can’t claim another
Visitor: Perhaps you want another victim, to give you more justification.
Joe: It’s done enough harm already.
Visitor: Joe, that house is not alive! It has done nothing but provide
shelter to people who have nothing else.
Joe: How many more do you want to die?
Visitor: Tracey is not dead yet, Joe. But whether she lives or dies
may depend on you.
Joe: What do you mean?
(As the lights fade up, Joshua enters, accompanied by a doctor or nurse)
Joshua: What’s happening, nurse?
Nurse: She’s lost a lot of blood, Mr Adamson. Another transfusion will
be needed. Unfortunately, we have run out of her type, which is not common.
We have put out a call to the blood bank and other hospitals – we’re waiting
to hear back. Unfortunately, she has a less common type, and we lost a
lot of donors after the mad cow scare in England.
Joshua: What type is it? I’ve given blood.
Nurse: O Negative.
Joshua: Blast. (beat) When will you know?
Nurse: We should hear back any minute.
Joshua: What about the baby?
Nurse: We can still hear a heart beat. It’s faint, but we’re hopeful.
Have courage, Mr Adamson. We’re doing everything we can.
(A cell phone rings. The nurse answers it.)
Nurse: Thank you. (Hangs up. To Joseph) The nearest supply is Auckland.
They’re rushing it down by courier. All we can do is wait.
Joshua: But that’s at least two hours away!
Nurse: We’re doing everything we can, Mr Adamson. Do you want to wait
here, or come back to the ward?
Joshua: I’ll come back to the ward.
Joe: Will she live?
Visitor: I can’t tell you that.
Joe: Why not?
Visitor: I can tell you only what is.
Joe: But if they can’t get blood to her.....
Visitor: You heard the nurse. They are doing everything they can.
Joe: But is it enough?
Visitor: Only time will tell.
(There is a pause – Joe is in agony of indecision)
Joe: You said whether she lives or dies will depend on me.
Visitor: I said “may”.
Joe: You know?
Visitor: I know your blood type.
Joe: I thought you might.
Visitor: That’s all I know.
Joe: It’s all you’ll tell me.
Visitor: It’s all I know. (Pause) Although I do also know about your
Joe: That doesn’t count at a time like this. Let me go to them.
Visitor: You can go yourself. You are in the hospital. From here on,
they can see and hear you.
(There is a brief pause when they measure each other up, then Joe turns
and begins to exit.)
Visitor: There’s something else you might wish to know. (Joe
pauses, questioning.) Your friend at the City Council has just secured
the authority you need to have the house condemned. The council offices
close for the Christmas break in half an hour. If you hurry, you will just
(Joe stares horror-struck at the sudden choice he is confronted with.)
Visitor: My task is completed. Goodbye, Joe. (The Visitor exits.)
Joe: Wait! You can’t leave me like that. How can you do this to me?
(Pause)I don’t even know your name.
(The lights fade, as we hear a group of carollers in the distance,
mixed with the sound of an ambulance siren.)
(NOTE: This is the conclusion of the script as originally written.
I prefer that it be left ambiguous, so that the audience can be left to
make up their own mind about what Joe would do. In life, even those people
we love do not always make good choices, or they make bad choices out of
wounded lives. So it is not a given that Joe would choose what we would
hope for, or necessarily the best for Tracey. However, in order to satisfy
those who must have a “happy” ending, the following is offered.)
(As the lights rise, we see Joe centre rear, standing head in hands,
in huge inner turmoil.)
Joe: (in anguish, without lifting his head) No!!
(Pause. Enter Joshua, also in anguish. He does not see Joe.)
Joshua: God, no. Not another. Not like her.
Joe: (on hearing Joshua, lifts his head and gives a loud gasp)
Joshua: (spins round at the sound) Dad! How come you’re here?
Joe: I don’t think you’d believe me if I told you. I’m not sure myself.
Joshua: You heard about Tracey?
Joe: Yes. (pause) How is she?
Joshua: It’s touch and go. She’s been haemorrhaging badly – we may
have lost the baby. But they’re out of her blood type, and it’s at least
an hour and a half before some more can arrive. (He gives way to his distress)
Oh, God – what are we to do?
Joe: You’re asking me?
Joshua: Are you still playing God?
Joe: (Joe winces, realising that in this case, he is almost is. He
is not happy with the realisation.) There must be something...
Joshua: They’re doing everything, but . . .
Joe: Can’t we call in another specialist? If it’s a question of money
Joshua: You think your money can solve any problem, don’t you! Flash
a few dollars, and zip . . . all the messy bits cleared out of the way.
Well, I’ve got news for you. Life’s not like that. Not in the real world.
(punches his stomach) Not here. Not where it really counts. There’s nothing
your money can buy that hasn’t already been done. Unless you can magic
blood out of thin air – buy a faster jet, whatever. (rounds on Joe) Did
you come here to try and fix everything up? Make like you are the concerned
father? Or did you come here to gloat – see the last of the opposition
crumble so you can buy that bloody house. (starts pummelling Joe’s chest)
Did you? Did you?
Joe: (wraps his arms tightly around Joshua to prevent him hitting further.)
Josh . . . Josh . . . please. It’s not like that. I didn’t . . . I just
. . . I just . . . Oh God, help! Listen, Josh . . . I . . .
(The pent up emotions finally burst, and Joe bursts into tears. Joshua
is stunned by the outbreak, and stops fighting Joe. There is a moment when
all we hear is Joe’s weeping.)
Joshua: Dad? (He looks into Joe’s face.) Dad? You . . .
(Joshua also is overcome with tears. The two cling to each other.)
Joshua: I never thought I’d see the day . . .
Joe: (quietly) To everything there is a season.
Joshua: Did I hear you quoting . . .
Joe: Joshua. There’s no time to lose. Take me to Tracey’s doctor.
Joshua: Why, they won’t let you in?
Joe: Yes, they will. I’ve got something money can’t buy. But every
(He grabs Joshua’s hand and pulls him out the door.)
(As the lights fade up, we see Tracey sitting in a chair nursing her
baby, singing to it as she feeds. Joshua enters, distraught.)
Tracey: (absorbed in the baby, not looking up) How is he?
Joshua: Tracey, he’s .. .. (he can’t finish)
Tracey: (realises something is wrong) Joshua!
Joshua: (falls to his knees beside her) He’s dead!
Tracey: But how? Giving blood doesn’t kill anyone.
Joshua: He had a heart condition. No-one knew. Well, I suppose he knew,
but you know what he’s like. Never let on any weakness to anyone.
Tracey: But it’s been three days since the transfusion.
Joshua: They had to take more than they normally would. He insisted,
and your situation was bad. Sure, he was weak afterwards, but no-one thought
it was serious. When he went home that night, he had a mild heart attack,
but he didn’t tell anyone. Obviously he didn’t let on to either you or
me when he came back the next day, and we were so wrapped up in our own
miracle we never noticed anything.
Tracey: I’ll never forget the look on his face when he saw the baby.
I never thought I’d see that man cry.
Joshua: The second time. I get the feeling something’s happened we
Tracey: Oh, Joshua, how gut-wrenching.
Joshua: There’s a strange irony here. He never believed in God, yet
he gave his life to save another.
Tracey: There’s one way we can honour him. We haven’t settled on a
name for our son. Please let it be “Joe”.
Joshua: Three days ago I would have fought heaven and earth to avoid
that. But now . . . yes.
(Gerald Hargreave enters)
Gerald: Joshua Davidson? My name’s Gerald Hargreave. The nurse told
me I’d find you here. I’m an associate of your father.
(Joshua looks queryingly at the newcomer)
Gerald: I’ve just heard the news about your father. I’m terribly sorry.
Joshua: (slightly cynical) Word travels fast.
Gerald: In my business it does, yes.
Joshua: I don’t understand.
Gerald: I handle a lot of your father’s business . . . arrangements,
shall we say. He phoned me yesterday about one in particular. He sounded
very weak on the phone, and impressed urgency on me.
Joshua: Everything was always urgent for him.
Gerald: I knew this was unusually urgent. He didn’t shout at me.
Tracey: Definitely something odd going on.
Gerald: He wanted me to get some paperwork drafted and signed.
Joshua: Where would he get a lawyer the day after Christmas Day?
Gerald: There are ways. That’s what he pays me . . . paid me
. . . for.
Gerald: Your father was insistent that everything be completed yesterday.
You’ve no idea what it cost me, both in money and in favours.
Joshua: I am definitely not understanding.
Gerald: The upshot was, the deed was signed over last thing yesterday.
The house is now yours. That’s above and beyond the estate that you’ll
inherit, of course.
Joshua: He knew he was dying!
Gerald: I think so.
Tracey: He knew he couldn’t take it with him.
Gerald: Strangely, I don’t think that was the motivation. From the
way he spoke, I think he would have done the same even he thought he was
going to live. Your father was a hard man – I should know. No disrepect.
Joshua: You’re not telling me anything new.
Gerald: He said something very odd. He said, “Someone I never knew
has given me a choice I never knew I had.” He wouldn’t explain. Just told
me to make sure I gave you the deed.
Joshua: That’s strange.
Gerald: I’ll tell you something stranger. He wished me ‘Merry Christmas’.
(c) John McNeil 1998
All rights reserved
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies
are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any
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Or at: 36B Stourbridge St, Christchurch 8024, New Zealand.