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).

Summary

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.

Production Note
This version of the script incorporates on-location scenes on video with the same characters, which are used to provide flashbacks, images amplifying action, etc. A version which does not rely on multi-media techniques can be read by clicking here.

Characters

Joe Davidson - a self-made businessman with an obsession
Miriam - his wife
Joshua Davidson - his son, in his early 20s
Mary - Joshua's girlfriend
Joshua as a young boy
Mary - mother of Jesus
Joseph - husband of Mary
Midwife
The Night Visitor
Herald
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. Miriam and Joshua as a young boy are seen on video only.

Script

SCENE ONE

Video: (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) Gerald! The fact that it is 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 this end, too. Fix it! (He slams down the phone and turns to the secretary.) Marcie, what on earth are you playing at? Get that thing out of here.

Marcie: But it's Christmas.

Joe: Not in this office.

Marcie: You can't have Christmas without a tree.

Joe: I can have Christmas any way I want it. And specially without that.

Marcie: (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, Marcie 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) Marcie, 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 Marcie) Marcie, 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. Anyway, 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 it out!

(Joe slams down the phone. For a moment he presses his hands to his temples.)

Joe: Incompetents. (He takes out a small bottle, and extracts a tablet, which he goes to swallow, then stops, grimaces.) Marcie!

Marcie: (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 Christmas tree instead, or just supporting Christine Rankin? (She goes to say something.) No, don't bother. Just keep your madness out of my sight. Did the courier bring those plans?

Marcie: 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 house.)

Joe: (Muses grimly to himself)

Marcie: (Enters with the coffee) Your coffee, Mr Davidson. And ...uh... you have a visitor.

Joe: I thought I diaried in no appointments this morning!

Marcie: Yes, but ... it's your son.

Joe: So! This morning is not convenient.

Marcie: He says it's urgent, Mr Davidson.

Joe: Isn't it always?

Marcie: Please, Mr Davidson. 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.

(Marcie 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.)

Joshua: Dad?

Joe: Five minutes.

Joshua: (sighs, screws up his courage) I've come to wish you a Merry Christmas, Dad.

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. You always do. How about coming and experiencing something a bit more homely. Meet some of the people in the neighbourhood.

Joe: Why do I get the impression this is not intended to be a simple family get-together?

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 it around all the homes and branches, and invite just the people who regularly come to us. Mary and I are having a hangi at our place, 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? I know it has some painful memories for you and mum, but the work we're doing there has turned it into a living memorial to what she believed in.

Joe: It's not fit for human habitation, and the sooner it's pulled down the better.

Joshua: The Mission is renovating it.

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 a symbol of hope. Not just a symbol. Every day we give real, practical hope to 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 and died?

Joshua: Is that why you are 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.

Joe: No!

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. Images from those times flit through his mind, images of Joe and Miriam in their early marriage, the night of Miriam's death, the bringing up of Joseph. The images reach to the present moment, and all the while Joe struggles with the conflicting feelings of past love and current obsession.)

Joe: Damn!!! (He sweeps a pile of objects off his desk in frustration, before stalking out.)

..................................................

SCENE TWO

Video: (We see a group carolling at night, and other city night scenes. Cut to an upmarket suburban house.)

(As the video fades, 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 monologue.)

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) Damn you, God. (He slumps down again, head in his hands. The photo falls to the floor.)

(The TV and lights fade slowly.)

Video: (We see a night sky.)

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 remains impassive.)

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, Joe.

Joe: Pardon!?

Visitor: There is something I want to show you, Joe. Something for your benefit.

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) No, at least not the City Council. But another counsel ... ?

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, time's wasting, and there is much I want to show you.

(He reaches out his hand to Joe. As he does so, all lights fade.)

Video: (We see the Visitor still holding out his hand to Joe, but they are now in another space, with no discernible background.)
 

Joe: Who are you? What are you doing?

Visitor: Take my hand, Joe.

Joe: Why has it gone dark? Where are we? Who are you?

Visitor: So many questions. For the moment, you will just have to trust me. Come!

(Despite himself, Joe reaches out his hand to the Visitor. As he does so, the background becomes night sky, and then the two figures dissolve.)


(Lights fade partially up on stage to show Joe and the Visitor standing at the rear, still holding hands.)

Joe: Where are we? What's going on?

Visitor: Just watch. You will see. (He lets go Joe's hand.)

(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 Joe.)

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 with child, 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. But he eventually had a change of heart, and 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: 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 reality?

Visitor: There are some realities which never change. Like poverty, and injustice. They've experienced both. They've 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: Miriam! (He tries to go to her, but the Visitor restrains him.)

Visitor: No, Joe. She cannot hear or see you. You can do nothing for her.

Joe: But I must go to her. She needs me. Let me go!

Visitor: I repeat, she cannot see or hear you. 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) What sort of fiend are you? 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 try and 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. 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 this?

Visitor: Again, wait and watch.

(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. What's going on?

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 to Mary and Joseph of Nazareth.

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 stunt 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)

Video: (We see Joe and the Visitor again against an undefined background.)
 

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 dying.

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, and 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 ... I might believe in him.

Visitor: Come ... let's move forward in time.


Video: (cuts to brief 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.

(Video fades)

Joe: Pity it all stopped there, then.

Visitor: Here's the next bit of good news - 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.

(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 ....

(The roll call could be accompanied by a quick montage of video clips and stills illustrating these works).

(Exit Herald)

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. But there is still a chance. Come ... I want to show you another story.

Video: (We see a street in Linwood, near the City Mission. It is the present day. Joseph and his girlfriend Mary come into view, heading home from shopping. Mary, heavily pregnant, is being supported by Joseph and they are both wet, as it has been raining. As they go up the steps to the front door, Mary stumbles and falls. Packages go flying. Joseph tries to help Mary up, but she is in too much pain. Distraught, Joseph calls out, and several "clients" from the Mission come rushing out. One runs to get an ambulance, one takes his old jacket off and puts it over Mary. We see an ambulance racing through the city streets, and enter hospital. The screen goes to black.)

(Lights fade up on Joe and the Visitor at the rear of the stage)

Joe: Don't lie to me! Is that happening, or is it something that might happen?

Visitor: It is happening.

Joe: Again! Let me destroy that house, so that it can't claim another victim!

Visitor: Do 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: Mary is not dead yet, Joe. But whether she lives or dies may depend on you.

Joe: What do you mean?

Visitor: Watch.

(Joseph enters, accompanied by a doctor or nurse)

Joseph: What's happening, nurse?

Nurse: She's lost a lot of blood, Mr Davidson. Another transfusion will be needed. Unfortunately, we have run out of her type. 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.

Joseph: What type is it? I've given blood.

Nurse: O negative.

Joseph: Bugger. When will you know?

Nurse: We should hear back any minute.

Joseph: What about the baby?

Nurse: We can still hear a heart beat. It's faint, but we're hopeful. Have courage, Mr Davidson. 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.

Joseph: But that's at least two hours away!

Nurse: We're doing everything we can, Mr Davidson. Do you want to wait here, or come back to the ward?

Joseph: I'll come back to the ward.

(They exit.)

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: Yes, 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 heart condition. (Pause. Joe is pacing in indecision.) Reconciliation might be the more painful thing. It could spell the death of your ambition.

(Joe continues to debate internally)

Visitor: My task is completed. You are in the hospital. From here on, they can see and hear you. Goodbye, Joe. (The Visitor exits.)

Joe: Wait! You can't leave me like that. How can you do this to me? What should I do? (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 ďhappyĒ ending, the following is offered.)
....................................

SCENE THREE

(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 youíre here?

Joe: I donít think youíd believe me if I told you. Iím not sure myself.

Joshua: You heard about Tracey?

Joe: Yes. (pause) How is she?

Joshua: Itís touch and go. Sheís been haemorrhaging badly Ė we may have lost the baby. But theyíre out of her blood type, and itís at least an hour and a half before some more can arrive. (He gives way to his distress) Oh, God Ė what are we to do?

Joe: Youíre 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: Theyíre doing everything, but . . .

Joe: Canít we call in another specialist? If itís a question of money Iíll pay.

Joshua: You think your money can solve any problem, donít you! Flash a few dollars, and zip . . . all the messy bits cleared out of the way. Well, Iíve got news for you. Lifeís not like that. Not in the real world. (punches his stomach) Not here. Not where it really counts. Thereís nothing your money can buy that hasnít already been done. Unless you can magic blood out of thin air Ė 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 Ė see the last of the opposition crumble so you can buy that bloody house. (starts pummelling Joeís chest) Did you? Did you?

Joe: (wraps his arms tightly around Joshua to prevent him hitting further.) Josh . . . Josh . . . please. Itís not like that. I didnít . . . 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 Joeís weeping.)

Joshua: Dad? (He looks into Joeís face.) Dad? You . . .

(Joshua also is overcome with tears. The two cling to each other.)

Joshua: I never thought Iíd see the day . . .

Joe: (quietly) To everything there is a season.

Joshua: Did I hear you quoting . . .

Joe: Joshua. Thereís no time to lose. Take me to Traceyís doctor.

Joshua: Why, they wonít let you in?

Joe: Yes, they will. Iíve got something money canít buy. But every minute counts.

(He grabs Joshuaís hand and pulls him out the door.)

(lights fade)

(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, heís .. .. (he canít finish)

Tracey: (realises something is wrong) Joshua!

Joshua: (falls to his knees beside her) Heís dead!

Tracey: But how? Giving blood doesnít kill anyone.

Joshua: He had a heart condition. No-one knew. Well, I suppose he knew, but you know what heís like. Never let on any weakness to anyone.

Tracey: But itís 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 didnít tell anyone. Obviously he didnít 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: Iíll never forget the look on his face when he saw the baby. I never thought Iíd see that man cry.

Joshua: The second time. I get the feeling somethingís happened we donít understand.

Tracey: Oh, Joshua, how gut-wrenching.

Joshua: Thereís a strange irony here. He never believed in God, yet he gave his life to save another.

Tracey: Thereís one way we can honour him. We havenít settled on a name for our son. Please let it be ďJoeĒ.

Joshua: Three days ago I would have fought heaven and earth to avoid that. But now . . . yes.

(Gerald Hargreave enters)

Gerald: Joshua Davidson? My nameís Gerald Hargreave. The nurse told me Iíd find you here. Iím an associate of your father.

(Joshua looks queryingly at the newcomer)

Gerald: Iíve just heard the news about your father. Iím terribly sorry.

Joshua: (slightly cynical) Word travels fast.

Gerald: In my business it does, yes.

Joshua: I donít understand.

Gerald: I handle a lot of your fatherís 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 didnít 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. Thatís what he pays me . . .  paid me . . . for.

Joshua: And?

Gerald: Your father was insistent that everything be completed yesterday. Youíve 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. Thatís above and beyond the estate that youíll inherit, of course.

Joshua: He knew he was dying!

Gerald: I think so.

Tracey: He knew he couldnít take it with him.

Gerald: Strangely, I donít 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 Ė I should know. No disrepect.

Joshua: Youíre not telling me anything new.

Gerald: He said something very odd. He said, ďSomeone I never knew has given me a choice I never knew I had.Ē He wouldnít explain. Just told me to make sure I gave you the deed.

Joshua: Thatís strange.

Gerald: Iíll tell you something stranger. He wished me ĎMerry Christmasí.

(lights fade)

....................................................
(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
entrance fee charged. In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed. He may be contacted at: soul.communication@outlook.com
Or at: 36B Stourbridge St, Christchurch 8024, New Zealand.