Paid in Full – the Mother’s Story

Adapted by Kathy Ratchford from an original script by John McNeil


1 Peter 4:8 : Love one another with an intense love, for in doing so you will cover a multitude of sins.


The mother of Joseph, a former soldier and mercenary


The lounge of a house. A table has been set for dinner for two. The woman of the house, is going round putting the finishing touches to the setting, lighting candles, etc.


I suppose you're wondering what I'm doing....what's the big event.

I'm celebrating a death. The death of an enemy. Don't look so shocked, it happens all the time, only we generally hide our smug satisfaction behind hypocritical remarks. We kill a person year in year out with our snide remarks, our innuendos, and our cruel thoughts, and then when they're dead praise them for qualities we refused to acknowledge while they were alive. Well, to be honest with you, we’re celebrating this death.

No-one knows where it started. It goes too far back for that. But whenever a misfortune hit our family, somehow the Martins were there. Nothing could ever be pinned directly, of course, but nonetheless it always came down to them. It's said that once our families were in partnership, but the business went bankrupt. When the dust settled, somehow they kept their fine mansion, but we ended up on the streets. For generations after, our family only spoke their name in hatred.

The hatred was drummed into me and our family learned it well. We had every reason. Believe it or not, there was a Martin in my son’s class at school. My poor boy could never measure up to him. His grades were better than Joseph’s and he was always on the first string of the sports teams. Poor Joseph; he would try so hard…..

My husband died when Joseph was 18. He was the Town Clerk of our city; Thomas Martin was the Mayor. My husband found apparent evidence of some dirty land deals involving the Mayor and a firm of developers, but when he tried to make it public, somehow it rebounded on him. I think he died of a broken heart. Soon after that, the Martins left town, and I later heard that one of the boys, Jeff became a priest.

My Joseph went into the Army after high school. It seemed to suit him. He volunteered for Vietnam, and when that was over seemed to have trouble finding his place. Before I knew it, he was fighting in some border wars in Central America. His experience there changed his life…and mine. Let me read you this letter I saved from him.

Dear Mom,

I thought I should write to let you know I am alright. A little shaken, but I’ll be ok.

Mom, there’s something I need to tell you about. Sit down, it isn’t pretty. We were in a rough situation. We were badly supplied....didn't eat properly for weeks....I caught denghue fever, and was captured by opposition guerillas. I could scarcely stand when I was dragged before their captain. Mom, he was a hard man. He had a whipping stick, and he slashed my face and back to ribbons as he ranted and accused me of being paid off by the government. When he was finished, I was half dead. He told his men to take me away and shoot me.

I scarcely heard the voice that called on them to stop. A group of missionaries....some nuns and a priest...had been caught up in the guerilla sweep, and this old priest stepped forward. At least I thought he was old, until he spoke. I could hardly believe it. Mom, it was Jeff Martin. I found out later he'd contracted TB, and the jungle living had aged him. Mom, he looked terrible!

"Let him go," he said. The Captain snarled. "He killed my men, he must die. A death for a death - doesn't even your Bible say that?"

"Then take me," Martin said quietly. I could hardly believe my ears! I wanted to protest, but I couldn’t even move, and the two men bargained over me forever it seemed. Finally the captain said, "You are stupid, missionary, but I admire your bravery. I will take your life in exchange. This dog can go," and he spit on me. They dragged me out and dumped me on a jungle trail, and I could hear shots back in the compound. I wanted to die.

They let the nuns go, too, and they’ve been taking care of me. Mom, I want to somehow repay Jeff Martin – I don’t know how, but I want to make it up to him – to his family. As soon as I can get around again, I’ll be released – and sent home. I look forward to seeing you.

All my love,


When Joseph returned home, he searched for Jeff Martin’s family, desperately hoping to find some way to repay Jeff for saving his life. Sure enough, he found it. He discovered that Jeff’s family had left town because of an unwanted pregnancy. It seems Jeff had a little trouble. When he went into the priesthood, the mother of the child put her up for adoption. Sadly, no one adopted the poor, sickly little girl. So my Joseph did.

So hence this party. We’re celebrating the death of an enemy. Pride, hate, pity, envy....the enemy that has held our family hostage for too long. And the birth of love, a love that began in the jungle, and that hopefully, we can make real to the Martins. This little girl has some special needs that makes others think she’s not pretty or cute, but to us, she’s absolutely beautiful!

(Sound FX: Doorbell.) But you'll excuse me, that should be them now.


© John McNeil 1998, adapted by Kathy Ratchford 2007.

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: and Kathy at