A Second Coming in Brooklyn
Prospect Park - the same place as in Scene One.
THOMAS: [To the audience] That's it. Do you see the problem? I can't expect even you, whose humble patience is kindly prayed, gently to hear, fairly to judge, who are expected to suspend disbelief – no, not even you can I expect to believe my story. You heard bishop Casey: it's not convincing. What would I think if someone told me what I've told you? I'd be skeptical. I might even laugh. There are no witnesses. A kingdom for a witness. The disbelief of others has planted the seeds of doubt in my own mind – very fertile soil. I suppose that man is born to doubt. Without doubt, after all, there'd be no belief. Doubt and faith belong together like a couple in love, or a pair of ducks in the lake. If only it were otherwise; but how can it be? Without contradiction we'd know everything, or nothing, and couldn't stand it either way. I come here every once in a while in the hope that he'll appear again – but he hasn't, yet. And that was three years ago. I came today because, well, I guess it was a dream. In it I received a message from a pigeon that I should go to the park before the wake. I just now remember ir. [Sits on bench. First Man enters, passes in front of Thomas]
THOMAS: Excuse me. Did you see a black man wearing jeans and a blue t-shirt here in the park, maybe with a girl?
FIRST MAN: [Stops, peers closely at THOMAS] No, and I hope to God I don't. [Exit]
THOMAS: See what I mean? The inhabitants of Brooklyn are seldom ambiguous.
[PRIEST in black suit with clerical collar enters, passes in front of Thomas]
THOMAS: Excuse me, Padre. Did you see a black man wearing jeans and a blue t-shirt here in the park, maybe with a girl?
PRIEST: Sure, plenty of them. So what?
THOMAS: [Stands] You did? Where?
PRIEST: Are you kidding me? This park is full a black guys in t-shirts.
THOMAS: This one is in his thirties, probably. About my height. His name is HeyZeus.
PRIEST: What do you want with him?
THOMAS: I only want to talk to him.
PRIEST: Never mind the never mind. I want to know why you want to talk to him. Are you a policeman? If you are, show me your badge.
THOMAS: No, I'm not.
PRIEST: A private eye?
THOMAS: No, look, just forget it, will you.
PRIEST: Are you out to get him? Did he rape your wife?
THOMAS: [Sits, puts his head in his hands] No.
PRIEST: Your girlfriend then? Your sister?
THOMAS: Get lost!
PRIEST: Are you looking for a black guy or not? If not, why'd you ask? Wait, I know. You're looking for a fix. First you ask me if I saw a black guy in jeans and a blue t-shirt in the park and then you tell me to get lost. What if I did see him? Do you want to know where? Over by the boat-house. A black guy in jeans and a blue t-shirt. Do you know him?
PRIEST: We'll see about that. It's about time this park was cleaned up and the junkies put where they belong. [Exit]
[A young woman enters, approaches Thomas timidly - a punk, dressed accordingly. She sits on the bench next to Thomas, tilts her head and smiles at the audience]
THOMAS: [Startled, looks up] Hello.
ALMA: I'm Alma. I overheard your conversation with that man. It's awful that some people are so nasty and suspicious. I was standing over there waiting for someone too. But he didn't come, so I guess I'm stood up. That's not so bad though. Probably it means something when you're stood up. [Pause] It's nice here in front of the lake at this time of day, but a bit chilly. I don't mind the cold if I'm dressed warmly. Do you? I had to screw up my courage to come over and sit like this next to a stranger, but I know there's no danger. I could see that you're nice and that you have something serious on your mind, and that's why you asked those men if they'd seen your friend. He is your friend, isn't he?
THOMAS: Not really.
ALMA: If you don't mind my asking – if you do, just ignore the question, ignore me if you like, but if you don't mind my asking, who's the guy you're waiting for?
THOMAS: Did you see him, Alma?
ALMA: I don't know. Can you tell me more about him?
THOMAS: He can walk on water.
ALMA: Wow! That's a good trick I must say. Where have I heard that before? It sounds familiar.
THOMAS: You don't know?
ALMA: Mary Poppins? No, she flew.
THOMAS: [shakes his head] Amazing!
ALMA: It certainly is if someone can walk on water. I mean Mary Poppins isn't real. Hey, is this a riddle? If you mean in winter, when the lake is frozen over. Is that the answer?
THOMAS: No, it was in spring.
ALMA: That makes it harder. Let me think. [thinks] Oh, I'm no good at riddles.
THOMAS: It's not a riddle.
ALMA: It's not? Then you're really waiting for someone who can really walk on water?
THOMAS: That's right.
ALMA: How do you know he can do it?
THOMAS: I saw him, three years ago, right here on the lake. [Stands, walks to the edge of the stage] He came from the lake holding a girl's hand, then walked out onto the lake, about 15 yards, then turned around and walked back.
ALMA [stands]: That's really something. Why do you think he did it?
THOMAS: I don't know.
ALMA: Didn't he say?
THOMAS: No, but you see --
ALMA: Was there a storm?
THOMAS: How did you know that?
ALMA: Isn't that funny? There's this famous person -- Didn't he walk on the water during a storm, too? What's your friend's name? You told that man, but I didn't get it.
ALMA: Sounds Greek.
THOMAS: Sounds more like Spanish for Jesus.
ALMA: Oh sure! It was Jesus who walked on the water, but that was a long time ago.
THOMAS: He's supposed to come back.
THOMAS: Well, actually I don't know.
ALMA: Anyway, it must have been him. I mean nobody else can walk on water, right?
THOMAS: I'm not so sure anymore; nobody believes me.
ALMA: Who knows about him?
THOMAS: I've told – or tried to tell – some friends, my girlfriend, a psychiatrist, a bishop, my boss, and a theater audience.
ALMA: Maybe they aren't the right people to tell. I believe you.
THOMAS: I think you do. I think you really do. Why?
ALMA: Why not?
THOMAS: It's not convincing.
ALMA: It's not?
THOMAS: Of course not. First of all HeyZeus is black and Jesus wasn't. And why should he appear to me, of all people, without witnesses. He must have known nobody would believe me?
ALMA: If he's black it must be because he was born into a black family.
THOMAS: [sighs at her ingenuity] Obviously.
ALMA: That last time he was born into a white Jewish family. So what's the big deal?
THOMAS: It's a big deal because, well, just because.
ALMA: And that he appeared to you doesn't seem so strange to me. You're nice.
THOMAS: Oh great, that's a good reason.
ALMA: Sure it is. Of course there may be other reasons as well.
THOMAS: Well, it's not good enough for me.
ALMA: It makes it a little harder for you that there were no witnesses, but that doesn't prove anything as far as whether he's real or not.
THOMAS: May I ask you a question?
ALMA: Sure, go ahead.
THOMAS: Why are you dressed that way? And your hair...
ALMA: Everyone who doesn't know asks me that sooner or later. I thought you might know without asking.
THOMAS: Sorry, but I don't know.
ALMA: Neither do I. That's the problem, if there is one.
THOMAS: If you don't know yourself, how can you expect me to know?
ALMA: You look like you might know. Someone must know. Maybe HeyZeus --
THOMAS: They're your clothes and your hair. You must have a reason for making yourself up that way.
ALMA: But I really don't. Lots of people have asked me, including my parents, but I can never answer them.
THOMAS: Let's analyze it.
ALMA: [happily] Okay!
THOMAS: Do you think your hair looks good that way?
ALMA: No, it looks awful.
THOMAS: What do your parents say about it?
ALMA: They say it looks awful. Everyone says it looks awful. I think it's nice though.
THOMAS: Do you realize it's absurd to think that something that looks awful is nice?
ALMA: Yes, but it's nice anyway.
THOMAS: Do you have a boyfriend?
ALMA: Yes, at least I think so, but he stood me up.
THOMAS: What does he say about your hair?
ALMA: He thinks it looks awful too, but he likes it. His looks even awfuler.
THOMAS: And he thinks it's nice, I guess.
ALMA: No, but he doesn't want to be nice. He says nice is how they want us to look so he doesn't want to look that way.
THOMAS: Who's they?
ALMA: Everybody. His parents, his boss, you, everybody.
THOMAS: So he does it out of spite.
ALMA: I don't know why he does it, but that's what he says.
THOMAS: Maybe you both do it to spite people who have other norms.
ALMA: Oh no! I wouldn't want to spite anybody. I just think it's nice.
THOMAS: Don't you care what other people think?
THOMAS: Not at all?
ALMA: Not what they think about me. I care about what they think about other people. What that man said about you isn't nice at all. Do you care what he thinks about you?
THOMAS: I don't know.
ALMA: I do. It hurt me to hear him talk to you that way. But if he talked to me that way I wouldn't care at all. People think they can tell what you're like by your hair or your clothes or your nose or your color – but they can't. They can't tell what you're like at all without getting to know you, and even then it's awful hard.
THOMAS: If you paint your hair orange and blue and wear crazy clothes it doesn't make it easier.
ALMA: I suppose not. Do you know how I know that you're nice?
THOMAS: Haven't a clue. In fact, you may be mistaken. It depends on what you mean by nice.
ALMA: Oh no, I'm never mistaken about such things, at least I haven't been yet. I know because I can see that you are nice.
THOMAS: I thought you just said you can't tell by outer appearances.
ALMA: Did you ever hear of an aura?
THOMAS: Oh god, please don't tell me that you can see my aura.
ALMA: Why not?
THOMAS: Because I don't believe in such things.
ALMA: You believe that HeyZeus walked on the lake. So why don't you believe I can see auras?
THOMAS: Touché. But anyway, I can't really say that I believe he walked on the lake. I can only definitively say that he appeared to me to be walking on the lake.
ALMA: That's the same thing. You probably saw his aura – or phantom – walking on the lake. If his regular body – if he has one – tried to walk on the lake he'd sink. Everyone knows that.
THOMAS: I don't see auras, never saw one in my life.
ALMA: He made you see it. It's very hard to make others see your aura if they can't see it naturally. Only the gods can do that.
THOMAS: You're a very strange girl. Do you know that? [She smiles] What does your aura look like?
ALMA: I don't know. I can't see my own aura; only other people's.
THOMAS: So, according to you, HeyZeus made me see his aura, which means he's God.
ALMA: I didn't say he's God, only a god.
THOMAS: How do you know that?
ALMA: HeyZeus told me.
THOMAS: So you know him?
ALMA: Yes. I didn't want to tell you right away because we have to be careful. But if Hey made you see his aura you must be okay.
THOMAS: You call him Hey? [laughs] And who's we? And why do you have to be careful?
ALMA: We are Hey's friends. And we have to be careful because they're looking for him. So he usually hangs out in the African-American or Latino neighborhoods. Sometimes he comes here to Prospect Park for meetings. In the boat-house. [points]
THOMAS: Who's they, that's looking for him?
ALMA: Cops mostly.
THOMAS: Why are the cops looking for him?
ALMA: The Church complained about him.
THOMAS: The Church? But why?
ALMA: They say he's a drug dealer, but that's not true. They don't like him because they don't want someone like him butting in on their territory.
THOMAS: Their territory? What do you mean? Brooklyn?
ALMA: No, silly, people's souls.
THOMAS: Wait a minute now. If HeyZeus is Jesus come back – the long awaited second coming – why should the Church not like him? They should love him.
ALMA: Yeah, go figure.
[Priest enters accompanied by a policeman]
PRIEST: There he is, Officer Pilato, better draw your gun.
OFFICER PILATO: I'll decide when to draw, Padre. Who's the girl?
PRIEST: Maybe she's a decoy.
OFFICER PILATO: For what?
PRIEST: How should I know. These people are tricky.
OFFICER PILATO: [Approaches Thomas] Can I see your ID, sir?
THOMAS: Who me? Why?
OFFICER PILATO: Never mind why, just let's see your ID.
THOMAS: I only have a driver's license.
OFFICER PILATO: Okay, let's see it.
THOMAS: [Shows license] I'd like to know what this is all about.
OFFICER PILATO: Turn around and spread your arms.
THOMAS: What the devil! [Cop turns him around and searches him]
OFFICER PILATO: What are you doing here?
THOMAS: Nothing. Any law against that?
PRIEST: He's waiting for a fix from some black guy. I heard him. Or he's selling the stuff. There's a law against that.
OFFICER PILATO: [Puts on his eyeglasses and reads from a paper] This area of the park is a notorious contact point for drug dealers. We have orders to follow up all leads. [Puts paper back in his pocket] Now, who's this black friend you're waiting for?
THOMAS: The person you mean is not my friend, I barely know him. Anyway, I was actually waiting for her – and she arrived. [to Alma] Isn't that right?
ALMA: [After a rather long pause] Yes.
PRIEST: He told me he's waiting for a black man – Hey Zeus, or something.
OFFICER PILATO: Hispanic?
OFFICER PILATO: [to THOMAS] What about it sir, are you waitin' for a spic called Hey Zeus or something?
THOMAS: No, I'm not. [duck quacks]
OFFICER PILATO: What's that?
ALMA: A duck.
[Soft drum beat begins, gradually grows louder till blackout]
PRIEST: It may be a signal. They use bird calls and all kinds of stuff. So why not a duck quack?
OFFICER PILATO: Nah, it looks like a false alarm.
PRIEST: You mean you're gonna take his word for it.
OFFICER PILATO: Whadda ya want me to do, torture him? I'm gonna call for back up. [Exit]
THOMAS: We don´t think he's a drug dealer, Padre, in fact we're sure he's not. What if he's really Jesus, who was supposed to come back long ago? What makes you so sure he's not?
PRIEST: Even if he is – I'm not saying that he is – but even if he is, what good is his being here now? He already gave his message thousands of years ago, and we're the only ones who understand it. Just look around you. He said the truth will make you free. Well, there's a lot of truth around and a lot of untruth, and nobody except us knows the difference. Do you think humanity is ready for freedom, to be free? Don't make me laugh. Humanity needs us to tell them what to do. He would only undo centuries of our hard work.
THOMAS: But that's ...
PRIEST: This isn't the first time he's come back, but we taught him a lesson once – during the Middle Ages – and we'll teach him one again.
ALMA: [To Thomas, stepping between them] What's that red mark on your cheek?
THOMAS: [Touches he cheek] It's where he kissed me.
THOMAS: Yeah, it comes and goes.
ALMA: Wow! It looks like...
THOMAS: I almost forgot about it. What does it look like?
ALMA: [Coming close] It looks like …
ALMA: like a red hook. Did you cut yourself shaving?
THOMAS: Hey, you’re not Maria by any chance, disguised as a punk?
ALMA: I’m Alma, like I said.
OFFICER PILATO: [Enters holding rifle] The SWAT guys’ll be here in a few minutes.
PRIEST: [To Officer Pilato] I bet that duck quack was their signal.
[Lights dim until it's almost dark]
OFFICER PILATO: Hey, what's goin' on?
PRIEST: It's an eclipse, stupid, there's an eclipse of the sun today. Be careful, he's coming. We can’t wait for SWAT.
OFFICER PILATO: Shit. [Puts on eyeglasses] My eyesight is bad enough. Now all I need is a fucking eclipse. Is he armed?
PRIEST: Yes, it looks like an AK-47 assault rifle. He's almost here. See that tree? [Points]
OFFICER PILATO: The oak?
OFFICER PILATO: Yeah, I see it.
PRIEST: He's right under it. You can't miss.
[OFFICER PILATO kneels down in shooting position, aims---
THOMAS and ALMA: No! Don't shoot! He's not armed!
---and fires three times. Three Loud drum beats correspond to gun shots]
OFFICER PILATO: Did I get him, Padre?
[THOMAS and Alma run off in the direction of the oak]
PRIEST: [Blessing him] Yes, my son. God bless you.
Blackout – END
For the entire revised play in pdf format: http://southerncrossreview.org/second-coming.pdf
For permission to produce the play, please write to [email protected]
Copyright 2018: Frank Thomas Smith