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The Last Days of Judas Iscariot: A Play

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Overview

From one of our most admired playwrights, “an ambitious, complicated and often laugh-out-loud religious debate” (Toby Zinman, The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Set in a time-bending, seriocomically imagined world between Heaven and Hell, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot is a philosophical meditation on the conflict between divine mercy and human free will that takes a close look at the eternal damnation of the Bible’s most notorious sinner. This latest work from the author of Our Lady ...

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The Last Days of Judas Iscariot: A Play

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Overview

From one of our most admired playwrights, “an ambitious, complicated and often laugh-out-loud religious debate” (Toby Zinman, The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Set in a time-bending, seriocomically imagined world between Heaven and Hell, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot is a philosophical meditation on the conflict between divine mercy and human free will that takes a close look at the eternal damnation of the Bible’s most notorious sinner. This latest work from the author of Our Lady of 121st Street “shares many of the traits that have made Mr. Guirgis a playwright to reckon with in recent years: a fierce and questing mind that refuses to settle for glib answers, a gift for identifying with life’s losers and an unforced eloquence that finds the poetry in lowdown street talk. [Guirgis brings to the play] a stirring sense of Christian existential pain, which wonders at the paradoxes of faith” (Ben Brantley, The New York Times).

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A real jaw-dropper. [Guirgis’s] imagination is dazzling and his command of language downright thrilling.” —Marilyn Stasio, Variety

“Guirgis may be the most extravagantly talented . . . playwright in America . . . To put it clinically, he is a master of American urban vernacular; to put it as one of his characters might put it, the s—— is real.” —Jeremy McCarter, The New York Sun

From the Publisher

“A real jaw-dropper. [Guirgis’s] imagination is dazzling and his command of language downright thrilling.” —Marilyn Stasio, Variety

“Guirgis may be the most extravagantly talented . . . playwright in America . . . To put it clinically, he is a master of American urban vernacular; to put it as one of his characters might put it, the s—— is real.” —Jeremy McCarter, The New York Sun

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780571211012
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber
  • Publication date: 12/27/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 320,376
  • Product dimensions: 5.52 (w) x 10.28 (h) x 0.34 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Adly Guirgis's previous plays—Our Lady of 121st Street, Jesus Hopped the A Train, and In Arabia, We'd All Be Kings—were published by Faber in an omnibus edition in 2003. He lives in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

ACT 1

Darkness. Rain. From nowhere, a woman emerges from her past.

HENRIETTA ISCARIOT: No parent should have to bury a child ... No mother should have to bury a son. Mothers are not meant to bury sons. It is not in the natural order of things.

I buried my son. In a potter's field. In a field of Blood. In empty, acrid silence. There was no funeral. There were no mourners. His friends all absent. His father dead. His sisters refusing to attend. I discovered his body alone, I dug his grave alone, I placed him in a hole, and covered him with dirt and rock alone. I was not able to finish burying him before sundown, and I'm not sure if that affected his fate ...

I begrudge God none of this. I do not curse him or bemoan my lot. And though my heart keeps beating only to keep breaking—I do not question why.

I remember the morning my son was born as if it was yesterday. The moment the midwife placed him in my arms, I was infused with a love beyond all measure and understanding. I remember holding my son, and looking over at my own mother and saying, "Now I understand why the sun comes up at day and the stars come out at night. I understand why rain falls gently. Now I understand you, Mother" ...

I loved my son every day of his life, and I will love him ferociously long after I've stopped breathing. I am a simple woman. I am not bright or learn-ed. I do not read. I do not write. My opinions are not solicited. My voice is notimportant ... On the day of my son's birth I was infused with a love beyond all measure and understanding ... The world tells me that God is in Heaven and that my son is in Hell. I tell the world the one true thing I know: If my son is in Hell, then there is no Heaven—because if my son sits in Hell, there is no God.

 

JESUS, carrying a bucket, has approached the woman. He kisses her cheek. She does not notice. They vanish.

 

A courtroom. Court is in session. A woman with wings, GLORIA, rises.

 

GLORIA: Between Heaven and Hell—there is another place. This place: Hope. Hope—is located right over here in downtown Purgatory.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Next case!

GLORIA: Now, Purgatory, contrary to popular belief, has plumbing, and bodegas, and they even got a movie theater and a little park that people can walk their dogs at. Hope—well it ain't got none a that, and it definitely don't smell good.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Next case, Bailiff!

GLORIA: I worked here in Hope for two and a half years—thass how I got these wings. And I wouldn't trade nothing for these wings—I can fly with these wings! At night, I fly down to Earth, and I watch my littlest Babyboy sleep. He's seven, and he's got a picture of me on his wall—right in between Shaquille O'Neal and the Incredible Hulk. Then, I go fly uptown to the window of my oldest Babygirl's house and watch my granchild, Little Bit, sleep. Most nights I can see my oldest Babygirl, Tanya, with her feet in a pot of hot water, always studying books; and I'll stick around to see her man, Winston, come home late at night from work,always with a muffin or a hamburger for my Babygirl. Winston's love for my Babygirl is all over his face—I was wrong about him, I always thought he was shifty ... When I get back to Heaven, I tell my husband, DeLayne, all about it. DeLayne don't like to fly, but he likes to hear the stories, and he likes how I look like when I come home from Earth all "windblown" ... Now Hope, it changes with the times, but has stood always as God's gift to the last of his children. It is said that every civilization rearranges the cosmic furniture differently. In biblical times, Hope was an Oasis in the Desert. In medieval days, a shack free of Plague. Today, Hope is no longer a place for contemplation—litigation being the preferred new order of the day.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Where's my damn bailiff??!!

BAILIFF: Here, sir.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Then call the next damn case!!!

BAILIFF: Yes, sir. "God and the Kingdom of Heaven and Earth versus Thorseen the Implacable: Motion to appeal"!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: DeniedNext case!

BAILIFF: "God and the Kingdom of Heaven and Earth versus Henry Wayne Masters—"

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Nope!

BAILIFF: "God and the Kingdom of Heaven and Earth versus Benedict Arnold—"

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Aw, hell, no!

BAILIFF: "God and the Kingdom of Heaven and Earth versus Judas Iscariot—"

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: —"Judas Iscariot" ??!! Who brings this crap before me??!!

CUNNINGHAM: Your Honor, my name is Fabiana Aziza Cunningham—

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD:—Never heard of you!

CUNNINGHAM: I live in Purgatory.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Well you shoulda kept your legs closed! Motion denied! Next case!

CUNNINGHAM: Your Honor, I have a writ signed by Saint Peter at the Gates of Heaven!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Next Case!

CUNNINGHAM: But I have a writ!

BAILIFF: She has a writ, sir.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Excuse me?!

BAILIFF: Just saying: The lady, she's got a writ, so, I mean—

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD:—Bailiff: let's set up a little signal between the two of us, okay?

BAILIFF: Okay.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Good. Now, when I come to court dressed as Ethel Merman in a one-piece bathing suit, that'll be my signal to you that I want your opinion!

BAILIFF: Yes, sir.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Next case!!

BAILIFF: But what about the writ, sir?

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: What's your name, Bailiff?!

BAILIFF: Julius of Outer Mongolia.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: You're on work-release from Purgatory, Julius—correct?

BAILIFF: Yes, sir.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Wanna get to Heaven someday? Eat fried chicken and mashed potatoes, feel the sun on your face.

BAILIFF: Very much, sir.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Then call the next damn case!!!

BAILIFF: Yes, sir. Absolutely, sir.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Good. Have a lollipop.

BAILIFF: Thank you, sir.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Next case!

BAILIFF: But, like, the writ, sir—

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Bailiff!!!!!!!!

YUSEF AKBAR WAHID AL-NASSAR GAMEL EL-FAYOUMY rises dramatically from his seat in the courtroom.

 

EL-FAYOUMY: Your Honor, if I may?!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Who speaks before me?!

EL-FAYOUMY: It is I, Yusef Akbar Wahid Al-Nassar Gamel El-Fayoumy!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Who the hell are you?!

EL-FAYOUMY: An attorney, great sir! Willing and able to prosecute this sham of a case and defend the Gates of Heaven and the Kingdom of God against this big shenanigan of a so-called writ, great handsome sir! Look no further, Your Honor! Yusef Akbar Wahid Al-Nassar Gamel El-Fayoumy is a beacon for justice!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: A "beacon," eh?

EL-FAYOUMY: May I approach you?

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: The bench, not me!

EL-FAYOUMY: The bench! Of course! YES!—And it is a lovely bench, splendid and sturdy like the great derrière that rests upon it!! Your Honor, I received wind of this so-called "writ" several weeks ago. I have been preparing night and day to refute the allegations it contains!

CUNNINGHAM: Your Honor, let the record reflect I have no opposition to Mr. El-Fayoumy here.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD (to CUNNINGHAM): Speak when spoken to!!!

EL-FAYOUMY: Do not bait this great man, lady! He presided over the appeal of Attila the Hun when you were nothing more than a cheap shot of whiskey on your great-great-grandfather's first unpaid bar tab!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Well said!

EL-FAYOUMY: Forgive the outburst.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: ... You got a license to practice, Mr. El-Fajita?

EL-FAYOUMY: A license? A license! Yes. Absolutely!! Submitted for your most scrupulously discerning approval, eminently great sir!

 

EL-FAYOUMY crosses, fumbles, searching his pockets for the license.

 

BAILIFF (cautiously): Sir, his name's El-Fayoumy.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: What?

BAILIFF: You called him El-Fajita.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Just gimme my glasses!

BAILIFF: You're wearing them, sir.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD (exploding): My other glasses!!!!!!!!!

BAILIFF: Oh. Here.

EL-FAYOUMY: Most worshipful lord and master: very tiny problem. My license, I seem to have left it in my other suit. I could rush back to Hell and retrieve it—

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: From Hell are you?

EL-FAYOUMY: Temporarily detained—a problem with my papers.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: You sure about that?

EL-FAYOUMY: Quite sure, your grace. I attribute the mix-up to the Americanization of the afterlife—completely understandable in lieu of recent events.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: You're damn right.

EL-FAYOUMY: Yes, your eminence—as are you, great sir!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Cunningham! Let me see this "writ."

CUNNINGHAM: Here, Your Honor.

 

JUDGE reads the writ.

 

EL-FAYOUMY (an aside): You have great legs, Fabiana. Free for dinner, perhaps?

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Cunningham! This writ is garbage! Next case!

CUNNINGHAM: Your Honor, my client—

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Your client is Judas Iscariot! Your client sold out the son of God, for Chrissakes!

CUNNINGHAM: Your Honor, that has no bearing—

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Cunningham—Judas Iscariot committed the one unforgivable sin. Everybody knows it—

EL-FAYOUMY:—The sin of despair!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD. And then he did the world a favor and hung himself!

EL-FAYOUMY: From the olive branch, the coward!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Next case!!

CUNNINGHAM: Your Honor, that writ you hold in your hand is signed by Saint Peter!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: I know Peter, and he's prone to error, believe me. And he's rash—

EL-FAYOUMY: Rash! Absolutely! A little place called the Garden of Gethsemane ring a bell, Fabiana? When the authorities came to arrest Jesus—after your client sold him out with a kiss—what did Peter do?

CUNNINGHAM: I know what he did.

EL-FAYOUMY: Well, know it again!! Peter took out his sword and started chopping off the ears of the authority! Can you imagine?! Jesus had to correct him, put the ears back on—it was a big mess, really.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Next case!

CUNNINGHAM: But Your Honor—

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Next case!!

EL-FAYOUMY: Come Fabiana: dinner and a sensual massage—it will soothe you—

CUNNINGHAM:—Your Honor, I cite the Beatitudes, and Kierkegaard. I cite Christ on the Cross!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: I cite my foot in your ass, Cunningham!

CUNNINGHAM: I cite Hegel: Within every idea—thesis—iscontained its contradiction—antithesis—and out of that struggle is created—synthesis. Synthesis, Your Honor! The Union of Opposites—their interdependence and their inevitable clash producing what's next—what must be revealed: God's Perfect Love versus God's Rightful Justice equals what, Your Honor?

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Out of my courtroom!!!

CUNNINGHAM: The synthesis of Love and Justice can produce only Mercy and Forgiveness, Your Honor! If a just God sits in Heaven, it can fall no other way!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Next case!

CUNNINGHAM: But Your Honor—

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Next case! NEXT CASE NEXT CASE NEXT CASE!!!!!

 

The gavel bangs. Blackout.

 

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD (sotto voce): Crazy Mick Bitch.

 

In darkness, we hear voices, noises, and portentous rumblings like an earthquake. Lights flash.

 

VOICE OF ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER: All right now, people!—Cue them trumpets and the dancing camels!

 

The sounds of trumpets and dancing camels are heard. Music and wild lights.

 

SAINT MONICA: Thanks, boys!

Hey, y'all. Welcome to my world ... So this is the part of the story, where, if it wasn't for me, there wouldn't be no more parts to the fuckin' story, okay? My name is MONICA—better known to you mere mortals as SAINTMonica. Yeah, dass right, SAINT—as in "better not don't get up in my grill 'cuz I'll mess your shit up, 'cuz I'm a Saint and I got mad saintly connects," okay? You ever drove down Santa Monica Boulevard? You ever ate some sushis down the Santa Monica Pier? Well dass my boulevard and my pier, and dass all I gotta say about that—word to the wise, word is most definitely B-O-N-D bond ... Anyways (lemme catch my breaf). Anyways, up in Heaven, a lotta peoples don't wanna hang with me 'cuz they say I'm a Nag. It's true. And you know what I say about that? I say: "Fuck them bitches," 'cuz—you know what—I am a Nag, and if I wasn't a Nag, I wouldn't never made it to be no Saint, and the church wouldn't a had no Father of the Church named Saint Augustine—'cuz I birthed the mothahfuckah, raised him, and when he started messin' up, like, all the time and constantly, I nagged God's ass to save him! I nagged and nagged and nagged and nagged till God got so tired of my shit that he did save my son, and my son—Saint Augustine—he stopped bangin' whores and sippin' on some wine and he became learn-ed, so fuckin' learn-ed that he's known as one of the Fathers of the Church, and you could look that shit up! Go ahead, look it up right now, I'll wait! ... Dass right: "Father Up In This Mothahfuckah"! "Father of the Church"—got a plaque and everything! So if I hadn't been a Nag, All a Y'all niggas woulda been a bastard church, so, sip on dat, bitches! ... Anyways (lemme catch my breaf), okay: As a result of my reputation of having God's ear, a lotta mothahfuckahs pray to me—I have three full-time assistants just to sift through it all. Long story short, I was axed to look into the case of Judas Iscariot by this Irish Gypsy lawyer bitch in Purgatory named Cunningham. She wanted me to do some naggin' to God on Judas's behalf, and, quite frankly, I was impressed by her nagging abilities—'cuz thatbitch nagged my ass day and night for forty days ... But I don't nag for juss any anybody, and I definitely don't nag for no mothahfuckah I don't know, so, I went down to check out Judas for my own self—

 

And now she is with JUDAS.

 

(To audience): He looked fuckin' retarded, he wouldn't talk or nuthin'. He didn't seem to hear me, and I'm not someone who has a problem expressing myself. I figured he was fakin', so I did this:

(To JUDAS): Yo, Judas! ... Judas! ... Yo, You Deaf, mothahfuckah? ... Judas, yo! ...

(To audience): I smacked the bitch around a little.

 

MONICA slaps, kicks, shoves.

 

Yo, Helen Keller! Yo, wake up! ... Don't front—I know you could hear me ...

(To audience): Then I started snappin' on his ass.

(To JUDAS): Yo, Judas, you got change for thirty pieces of silver, muthahfuckah?! ... Yo, Judas, how much you pay for that haircut?—thirty pieces of silver?! Yo Judas, why you so "hung" up? C'mon, let's "hang" out. C'mon, bitch, go out on a "limb"! You want a "olive"? C'mon muthahfuckah, have a "olive." Wanna go to the "Olive Garden" restaurant? Day got good "Olive Oil" there ... Ah-aight, fine, come on, Judas, whaddya say you an' me go down to the bar and—betray some mothahfuckahs! Whaddya say?! I know you like betraying! What's up, you ain't in the mood to betray today?! Ah-aight, mothahfuckah, we can just "hang"?! Get it? Hang?! Get it?! Do you get it?! ... Wassamatter?! Hungry?! How 'bout somesupper?! You want some supper, mothahfuckah?! C'on, one last supper, whaddya say?!

(To audience): I couldn't break him. So I sat down next to him.

 

She sits.

 

I sat with Judas Iscariot for three days. Then, on the night of the third day, sumpthin'happened. While I was restin' my vocal chords, I saw sumpthin' unexpected. I saw a single tear fall out Judas's eye. Just one. When the tear hit the ground, I saw it was red like a ruby. I looked into his eyes, like this:

 

She looks into JUDAS's eyes.

 

He couldn't look at me. Or he looked through me. I couldn't tell. His eyes was empty. He barely breathed. He was like a catatonic statue of a former human being. And I detected sadness in him. Paralyzing, immobilizing, overwhelming sadness. His sadness ran through him like a river that had frozen up and died and no one lived there no more. After a while, I didn't know what else to do, so I thought I'd just hold him in my arms for like a minute, warm him up before I left.

 

She cradles JUDAS in her arms. Beat.

 

I held him in my arms for four days. On the third day, I remembered how Jesus had said that God has the biggest love for the least of his creatures—and Judas was the leastest creature I had ever seen. On the fourth day, Judas dropped another single tear. It was clear-colored this time and it evaporated into the earth on impact. He trembled briefly,then froze up again ... I had seen enough. I took off my outer garments and left them for him so he could smell something human. I collected my tears in a bucket and poured it on his face so he could taste the salt. Then I went back home and got on the horn to God. I dialed direct, yo. Some people call it being a Nag, I call it doing my Job. I got a calling, y'all—you should try giving me a shout if ya ever need it, 'cuz my name is Saint Monica, I'm the mother of Saint Augustine, one of the Fathers of the Church, and ya know what? My ass gets results!

 

A gavel bangs.

 

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Next case!

BAILIFF: "God and the Kingdom of Heaven and Earth versus

Judas Iscariot"!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Bailiff!!!!!

BAILIFF: She got a writ signed by God, sir.

SAINT MONICA: Signed, Sealed, Delivered, mothahfuckah! Peace!!

CUNNINGHAM: Here is the writ, Your Honor—note the signature at the bottom.

 

SAINT MONICA and JUDAS vanish.

 

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Bailiff!! Bailiff!! Where's El-Fajita?

 

EL-FAYOUMY rises with panache.

 

EL-FAYOUMY: Present and accounted for and dripping with anticipation to defend with marvelous cunning and great relish the Kingdom of Heaven and Earth and your great sir-ness against the Satan-spawned traitor Judas Iscariot andhis beguiling but outlandishly misguided counsel, most eminently great and rakishly handsome great sir!!!

 

Beat.

 

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD (re: the writ): Cunningham, I do not like it when lawyers go over my head.

CUNNINGHAM: You gave me no choice.

EL-FAYOUMY: Objection, Your Honor!!! As human beings, we always have choice! Motion to strike!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Mr. El-Fajita, you are aware that the trial hasn't actually begun yet, right?

EL-FAYOUMY: Uh ... Yes ... Right. Of course. I was merely, uh ... Yes, sir ...

 

EL-FAYOUMY sheepishly sits.

 

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: "Fabiana" "Aziza" "Cunningham," that right?

CUNNINGHAM: It is.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: So where's the red hair and freckles, Cunningham?

CUNNINGHAM: My mother was a Romanian Gypsy who settled in Vinegar Hill in Harlem in the 1960s.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: And your father?

CUNNINGHAM: A local parish priest.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Got more than his palm read, did he? All right, then, Cunningham, I think it only fair at this juncture to tell you some things about myself, things that may, perhaps, inspire you to take your little mission elsewhere. For example, I strongly dislike Tapioca Pudding—

EL-FAYOUMY (rising): Tapioca, the worst, I spit on it!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Siddown!!

(to CUNNINGHAM): But even more than Tapioca, Cunningham, I dislike the following: Defense Attorneys as a rule, half-breeds in general, and Judas Iscariot as anything other than a cautionary tale. Now that a problem for you?

CUNNINGHAM: No.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: You ever met God, Cunningham?

CUNNINGHAM: I don't know that I believe in God.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: You've just handed me a writ signed by Him, and, yet, you don't know if you believe?

CUNNINGHAM: Correct.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Well, what if God appeared to you, Cunningham? Just one day, boom! God: White Beard, Flowing Robe, The Whole Rack a Lamb.

CUNNINGHAM: Your Honor—

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: What if you were to go home tonight, Cunningham, and Jesus Christ himself were to greet you at your door with a dozen Krispy Kremes and a quart of cold milk and say: "Cunningham. Fabiana. It's me. I really am that thing that you've always feared more than doubted"—what would you do?

CUNNINGHAM: Your Honor—

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: And what if you let him in, Cunningham, and you sat down with The Man for just, say, three minutes? And you could touch him and inspect him and interrogate him all you want and have him do miracles and tell you the exact story of your life, and you ended up convinced—convinced, Cunningham—wiping away tears of joy and relief on your living-room couch. If he proved it to you, Cunningham, would you believe then?

CUNNINGHAM: If he proved it, I suppose I would have to.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: After only three minutes?

CUNNINGHAM: But that would never happen—

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Cunningham, you're the cynical, faithless spawn of a Crackpot Gypsy and a Defrocked Mick—yet you just told me Jesus would have you on your knees in three minutes.

CUNNINGHAM: So?

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: So consider this: Your friend Judas? He had Jesus for three years! Think about that, Cunningham. Three years in the foxhole with the best friend ya ever had, then he shot him in the back for a pack of Kools. Think what that says about the essential character of the man. Now go home and stir that into your wee Gypsy teapot! Petition's invalid, Motion denied! Next case!

EL-FAYOUMY: Pure genius! I am erect!

CUNNINGHAM: Your Honor, this petition is signed by God!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Yeah, but it ain't signed by your client, now, is it?

CUNNINGHAM: My client is catatonic, he's incapable of signing.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: If he's catatonic, then how do you know he wants an appeal in the first place?

CUNNINGHAM: Who couldn't want to appeal "eternal damnation"?

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Someone who was aware of his own self-inflicted erosion of the capacity to be filled by Grace ... Someone too prideful to ask for forgiveness even in the face of the fiery furnace. Or maybe, he don't bother askin', 'uz he knows he don't deserve it!

CUNNINGHAM: Your Honor, the only person who needs forgiveness is the one who doesn't deserve it.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Then let him ask!

CUNNINGHAM: I'm asking for him!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Out of my courtroom, sister, and may God have mercy on your blasted arrogant soul! Now get thee back Uptown, woman. Stop your rabble-rousing, and gethumble—'cuz you ain't gonna get to Heaven by trying to dismantle the Natural Order of Things that the good lord has so thoughtfully put together!!!

CUNNINGHAM: Your Honor, are you a citizen of Heaven?

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Bailiff! Remove this woman!

CUNNINGHAM: You live here with us—you know no more about God's Law than anyone else in this court!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: My papers are pending—I'll be up there any day now.

CUNNINGHAM: Your papers have been pending since 1864, Your Honor, that's a hundred and forty years—

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD:—If there's an insinuation at the end of that statement, Cunningham, I suggest you don't make it!

CUNNINGHAM: Not an insinuation, Your Honor, but a question: If the "truth" really does set us free, then what is it, Your Honor, that is progressively precluding your capacity to respond to the call of that truth? Because "a hundred and forty years" suggests to me that you are moving not closer, but farther and farther away from it every day!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: What the hell does "Judas Iscariot" have to do with my truth, Cunningham? I didn't hang myself from some olive branch!

CUNNINGHAM: Not from an olive branch, but on a battlefield in northern Georgia in 1864. Allatoona. And the tree—Oak, I believe. Your Honor, I have to wonder what your honest answer will be, when you are someday asked how different you are now from that day when you died?

 

An uncomfortable pause.

 

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: ... Tomorrow morning. Nine a.m. That work for you?

CUNNINGHAM: It does.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD (to BAILIFF): Put it on the docket.

BAILIFF: Docket?

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: just write it down!

BAILIFF: Um ...

 

BAILIFF takes out a pen and scribbles on his hand.

 

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Anything else, Fabiana Aziza Cunningham?

CUNNINGHAM: No, Your Honor.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Next fuckin' Case!!!!!!!

EL-FAYOUMY: Fear not, your grace, I shall slay this fallen woman as the crocodile slays the one-legged newt!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: NEXT CASE NEXT CASE NEXT CASE NEXT CASE!!

 

The gavel bangs. GLORIA and LORETTA, wearing a hospital gown, appear.

 

GLORIA: Very little is actually known about Judas Iscariot—Oh! this is my fellow jury member Loretta. On earth, she's currently on Life Support.

LORETTA: Hi, Hello!

GLORIA: Have they figured out whether you comin'or goin' yet?

LORETTA: Not really. "Any day now," they say.

 

GLORIA takes a peek around.

 

GLORIA (conspiratorially): Say, Loretta—you smoke cigarettes?

LORETTA: Well, not unconscious on a respirator.

GLORIA: Yeah but—you got one for me?

LORETTA: Maybe in my clutch. Oh. Here.

LORETTA produces a cigarette.

 

GLORIA: Oh snap—Newports?! Oh, you my girl now! You got a light?

LORETTA (producing a lighter): It's a NASCAR lighter.

GLORIA (uninterested): Mmmm-hmmm.

 

She lights her cigarette, inhales.

 

(To audience): So anyways—about Judas, not a lot is known except that he was chosen to be an Apostle, he betrayed Jesus, and then he hung his-self. Not a lot to go on—especially when we're meant to rely on facts.

LORETTA: You know, I had an uncle—can I say this?

GLORIA: Go ahead.

LORETTA (addressing the audience): When I was a little girl, my drunk uncle Pino, he used to like to go around saying:

 

UNCLE PINO appears.

 

UNCLE PINO: "I believe, because it is absurd! It is certain . because it is impossible!"

 

UNCLE PINO vanishes.

 

GLORIA: What did he mean by that?

LORETTA: No clue ... But I think—

 

BUTCH HONEYWELL enters.

 

BUTCH HONEYWELL: Ladies, we're back.

GLORIA (to audience): Oh wait—hold up!

GLORIA snaps her fingers dramatically and both BUTCH and

LORETTA freeze in time.

 

Now that's Butch Honeywell: and unlike Loretta, he definitely dead. And also unlike Loretta, he got no real interest in finding that out.

 

GLORIA snaps her fingers again and BUTCH and LORETTA unfreeze.

 

So Butch, did we miss anything in there?

BUTCH HONEYWELL: Oh, just some crap about the essential paradox of man: How we refuse to juxtapose the absolute to the relative, and some other some-such about paradox as an ontological definition which expresses the relation between an existing cognitive spirit and eternal truth—You know, bullshit.

Listen, they passed out the lunch menus—I ordered you guys the Combo Club with Fritters.

ORETTA: Fritters: awesome! Thanks, Butch.

BUTCH HONEYWELL: Right this way, ladies.

 

The gavel bangs.

 

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Next witness!

EL-FAYOUMY: Great Magnificent Sir! The Prosecution now calls Henrietta Iscariot, mother to Judas Iscariot, to the stand!

BAILIFF: State your name, ma'am.

HENRIETTA ISCARIOT: Henrietta Iscariot.

EL-FAYOUMY: Yes ... Good day, Miss Iscariot.

HENRIETTA ISCARIOT: Good day.

EL-FAYOUMY: Yes ... Well ... I can't help but notice, MissIscariot, that you are a very well-built woman—would it be fair to say "your cup runneth over"?

HENRIETTA ISCARIOT: Um, all the Iscariots are buxom, if that's what you mean?

EL-FAYOUMY: My meaning exactly!! Now then: can you recall if Judas Iscariot as an infant was prone to steal more than his fair share of milk from your deliciously well-apportioned bosom?

HENRIETTA ISCARIOT: I can't recall that. No.

EL-FAYOUMY: Very well, but can you recall ... this!!! I take you back to the year eight. You were a single parent raising many children, Judas being your eldest, and the man of the family. You sent him out fishing to get food for you and his poor starving sisters. What happened next?

HENRIETTA ISCARIOT (to JUDGE LITTLEFIELD): Do I have to answer?

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Just tell the truth, ma'am.

HENRIETTA ISCARIOT: Well, Judas didn't come home till very late. I waited by the fire. I was worried, he was only eight. I was concerned that maybe the Romans had detained him for shoplifting again—

EL-FAYOUMY: A shoplifter! So please the court!

HENRIETTA ISCARIOT: But then he came home.

 

JUDAS crosses, sits on floor. He is eight.

 

JUDAS: Hi Mommy.

HENRIETTA ISCARIOT: Judas! I was so worried.

JUDAS: Look what I got, Mommy! A spinning top!

HENRIETTA ISCARIOT: Judas, did you catch any fish? Your sisters are weeping with hunger—

EL-FAYOUMY: Weeping, your great sir! Weeping and Wailing!

JUDAS: I caught five fish, Mommy!

HENRIETTA ISCARIOT: But where are they?

JUDAS: I sold them in the market and bought this spinning top. Look how it spins, Mommy!

HENRIETTA ISCARIOT: Judas Iscariot, I am ashamed of you!

JUDAS: But Mommy—

HENRIETTA ISCARIOT: Selfish boy, you will come to no good!!!

EL-FAYOUMY: "Selfish boy, you will come to no good," was that your statement at that time?

HENRIETTA ISCARIOT: He was only eight!

EL-FAYOUMY: Eight—and too late!!! Nothing further, great sir!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Cross?

EL-FAYOUMY: No, thank you.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: I wasn't asking you.

CUNNINGHAM: Miss Iscariot, what happened the next day?

HENRIETTA ISCARIOT: Well, he ran away from home that night, and I searched for him all day. Late in the afternoon, I observed the following:

 

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE, a sad-looking boy, crosses to JUDAS, who is spinning his top, alone.

 

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE: Hi.

JUDAS: Hi.

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE: Hi.

JUDAS: ... My name's Judas. What's yours?

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE: Matthias of Galilee.

 

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE sits.

 

JUDAS: Hey, I got an idea: Why don't you go home and get your spinning top, and then, when you get back with your spinning top, we can play battle of the spinning tops?

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE: I don't got a spinning top.

JUDAS: Oh.

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE: I wish I had a spinning top, all my friends got one except me.

JUDAS: Yeah, that's rough. I used to not have one, too.

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE: All the kids, they call me "sissypants" 'cuz I don't got no spinning top.

JUDAS: You should ask your mommy to buy you one.

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE: I don't got a mommy.

JUDAS: Ask your daddy then.

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE: I got a daddy, but he's very stern. He don't believe in spinning tops, so I can't never get one.

JUDAS: Wow.

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE: You prolly think I'm a sissypants, too.

JUDAS: No. Hey man—don't cry.

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE: It's just very hard to get through life without a spinning top, you know?

 

Beat.

 

JUDAS: You ... You wanna try mine?

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE: For real?

JUDAS: Here.

 

MATTHIAS spins the spinning top, and his mood immediately improves.

 

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE: Wow! Nobody in Galilee's got a spinning top like this—this is a wicked cool spinning top, Judas.

JUDAS: I picked it out myself.

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE: Boy oh boy, your father must really love you to buy you such a most definitely dope spinning top as this!

JUDAS: My father's dead.

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE: What???!!!

JUDAS: The Romans kilt him.

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE (in one breath): Yeah? The Romans, they took all our goats last month and now we don't have no money for nothing, even food, and so my father makes me go to the butcher and ask for bones for my dog but I don't have a dog and the butcher knows I don't have a dog, but he gives me the bones 'uz he takes pity on me and then I give them to my father and he makes soup for us with the bones and we eat it and it tastes really bad and my grandmoms says my father's pride is wounded 'cuz he can't earn no money 'cuz the Romans took our goats and that's why everything's messed up and I can't have no spinning top or nothing ... Uh-oh!!

JUDAS: What?

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE: I bettah go home now. I have to be home before six. My father's very stern.

JUDAS: Oh. Okay.

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE: Thank you for letting me play with your spinning top, Judas. Maybe someday my daddy'll get some more goats and then I'll get a spinning top, and then I'll come back and play spinning tops with you, and we can play spinning tops and stuff, 'uz that was really fun.

HENRIETTA ISCARIOT: The sad boy started to leave, then:

JUDAS: Wait. (Pause.) Here.

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE: What?

JUDAS: You can have it.

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE: I can have your spinning top?!

JUDAS: Yeah.

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE: For real?

JUDAS: Yeah.

MATTHIAS OF GALILEE: Wow—ee Zow—ee!!! Dag! Thank you, Judas!

 

MATTHIAS kisses JUDAS on the cheek, exits.

HENRIETTA ISCARIOT: When people ask me who my son was, I tell them that story.

CUNNINGHAM: Thank you, Miss Iscariot. The witness is excused.

EL-FAYOUMY: Not so fast! Miss Iscariot, your son was picked up by the Roman Authorities the very next day, on a charge of stealing a blind man's staff, correct? A Blind man's staff that he then pawned to Omar the Baker to purchase, it says here: "cotton candy and a royal-blue spinning top," correct?! Correct?! ... Is that correct, Miss Iscariot?!

HENRIETTA ISCARIOT: I don't know, it was so long ago—

EL-FAYOUMY: Speak into the microphone!!!!!!!

HENRIETTA ISCARIOT: There is no microphone.

EL-FAYOUMY: Yes. This is true ... Uh, Your Honor, we have reason to believe that The Staff Deprived Blind Man in question was later run over by a rabid Judean Camel. Here is the death certificate. No further questions.

 

Gavel bangs.

 

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Next witness!

YUSEF EL-FAYOUMY: Yes! Great, wise Sir: Prosecution calls the incomparable Mother Teresa to the stand!

 

MOTHER TERESA hobbles up to the stand with a cane. She's old, but tough. She wears her signature sari, and a cross around her neck. She can hear hardly at all.

 

BAILIFF: Name.

MOTHER TERESA: Did you say something?

BAILIFF: Name?

MOTHER TERESA: What?

BAILIFF: Your name, please, ma'm?

MOTHER TERESA: Oh. Jess.

(She checks her watch.): Ten forty-five. Okay? BAILIFF: Uhh ...

 

EL-FAYOUMY takes charge.

 

EL-FAYOUMY: Mother Teresa: Hello. Over here!

MOTHER TERESA: Who's dat?

EL-FAYOUMY: Hello. It is I, Mother. Remember me?

MOTHER TERESA: Oh, jess. Handsome Boy! Hello.

EL-FAYOUMY: Yes. Hello. How are you?

MOTHER TERESA: Speak louder, boy.

EL-FAYOUMY (much louder): I said, "How are you?"

MOTHER TERESA: What?

EL-FAYOUMY (very, very loud): I SAID, "HOW ... ARE ... YOU?"

CUNNINGHAM: Uh, Judge, Bailiff—I believe we do have a hearing device for Mother Teresa?

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD (to BAILIFF): Get the device.

BAILIFF: I believe you have the device, sir.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: What?! Here.

 

BAILIFF takes a large set of earphones, hands them to MOTHER TERESA.

 

BAILIFF: Ma'am, put these on, ma'am?

MOTHER TERESA: What?

 

BAILIFF puts the earphones on MOTHER TERESA's head.

 

MOTHER TERESA: Oh. Thank you, giant man.

EL-FAYOUMY: Yes. Hello Mother! Yes. Can you hear me now?

MOTHER TERESA: Jess.

EL-FAYOUMY (much softer): How about now?

MOTHER TERESA: Jess.

EL-FAYOUMY now simply mimes speaking.

 

EL-FAYOUMY: How about that?

 

MOTHER TERESA: ... You are tricking me, no?

EL-FAYOUMY: Yes! Yes! I was tricking!

MOTHER TERESA (playfully): Bad boy.

EL-FAYOUMY (playing back): Very bad! A scandal! Yes! I know.

 

EL-FAYOUMY and MOTHER TERESA titter.

 

CUNNINGHAM: Your Honor, if Prosecution is through flirting with the beatified iconic virgin, we could, perhaps, begin?

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: El-Fayoumy, contact has been established—let's get on with it now, shall we?

EL-FAYOUMY: Without further hesitation, your grace. Forgive the delay, I was simply enamored to be in her beatific presence, your eminence. I love Mother Teresa, great one. In Christian Egypt, she is a great star—as a young boy, I used to don a towel and my mother's nightgown and stalk the back streets of Cairo looking for dying things to comfort and salve. Yes.

 

EL-FAYOUMY has become a little emotional.

 

(To MOTHER TERESA): Mother! I love you, really. You are the Oasis! You are the Light!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Do we need to take a moment here, counselor?

EL-FAYOUMY (dabbing his eyes): Yes. Yes, Your Honor. Perhaps we do.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Five minute recess! Adjourned.

 

Gavel bangs.

 

Lights cross-fade to SAINT PETER and SAINT MATTHEW sitting in a quiet place up above.

SAINT PETER: My name is Peter. They got a Basilica named after me in Rome, which is ironic, 'cuz, back in the day, if you even said the word "Rome" in my presence—more than likely I'd a beat you with my stick. I even had a standing rule on my fishing boat that was strictly enforced: "Talk about Rome, and your ass can swim home alone." I had to have those kinda rules laid down strong 'cuz my younger brother Drew and his friends—they liked to waste their time talkin' about overthrowing Rome and the coming of the Messiah instead a focusing on the task at hand—and I'd always be like: "Look fellas, unless your Messiah gonna come down right now and help us catch some fish, then, y'all need to shut the heck up and put your undivided focus on these damn nets." Then, one day, Drew didn't turn up for work, then he come runnin' up to me at the shore at the end of the day when I'm bringin' the boat back in talkin' 'bout: "This is Jesus, bro—he's the Messiah. I ain't fishin'no more. I'm just gonna follow him" ... And this Jesus, who resembled a Messiah about as much as I resemble a ballerina in a tutu, strides on up to me and says: "Catch any fish today?" And I says: "No I did not catch any fish today," and he says: "Take the boat back out to the Sea and you gonna catch some fish." So, I took Jesus out with me—intending to throw his ass overboard—but then he says: "Cast your nets wide and deep," so I did, and then ... well ... All I can say is, I'm a damn professional commercial fisherman. No one knew the Sea and its tides better than me. There weren't no fish out there ... but ... that's because it turned out they was all in my net. And then Jesus said: "Follow me and I will make you a fisher of men." And what I didn't know then was that I would never see the Sea again.

SAINT MATTHEW: My name is Matthew. I was a Jewish tax collector for the Empire. My job was to take the food out of your mouth and see it shipped off to Rome. Roman tax wasexorbitant and non-negotiable. If you had six geese, I took three. If you had a flock of sheep, I took fifty percent. If you had only one sheep, I cut that sheep in half. If you had no sheep, I took a child—your child—and had him or her sold into slavery to settle your debt to the Emperor. This is not a made-up story. This is history. This is fact. We were a conquered nation and I was a traitor to my people. I was a Jew stealing from Jews. According to our laws, I was a sinner and a traitor, I was unclean—unfit to be gazed upon. That's who I was.

SAINT PETER: I hated your ass to look at it.

SAINT MATTHEW: And I looked at you, Peter, as a dumb, ignorant fisherman.

SAINT PETER: And I looked at you, Matthew, as something I can't say in mixed company.

SAINT MATTHEW: I was a scumbag.

SAINT PETER: True 'Dat.

SAINT MATTHEW: I was a scumbag, and it was against the law to look me in the eye. Jesus, he looked me in my eye. That's all he did. He looked me in my eye and he said: "Follow me." And before I knew it, I had. And before we broke bread that night, I was clean again ... (Beat.) I was clean.

 

Lights fade as the gavel bangs.

 

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: El-Fayoumy, are we ready to proceed?

 

EL-FAYOUMY rises.

 

EL-FAYOUMY: Absolutely! ... Forgive me the delay ... Mother Teresa—I will not take much of your time here, and, certainly, you are in no need of introduction.MOTHER TERESA: I don't mind.

EL-FAYOUMY: Very well, then ... Mother Teresa, you are a soon-to-be-canonized saint and a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace. You are from Albania, which tells me you know how to handle a firearm, but yet, from the age of twelve, you desired to serve God, at eighteen you entered the convent, and at twenty-one, you left for the slums of Calcutta, and soon after began ministering to the sick and dying—which you did with mercy, love, grace, and generosity for the rest of your life until the day you died. Correct?

MOTHER TERESA: Jess.

EL-FAYOUMY: Yes. Absolutely yes, Mother. Now then, Mother, I call you to the stand today for a special purpose.

MOTHER TERESA: And what is dat?

EL-FAYOUMY: Yes. I am coming to it ... Mother, your life and subsequent canonization suggest to me that you know a thing or two about God and the life of the spirit—correct?

MOTHER TERESA: I know what I know. What do you want to know?

EL-FAYOUMY: Yes. Mother. Is there a Hell?

MOTHER TERESA: I hope not, but I think so.

EL-FAYOUMY: Judas Iscariot—he is in Hell—yes?

MOTHER TERESA: Well, we can't never know for sure, but it doan look good.

EL-FAYOUMY: Mother, shouldn't we feel sorry for someone in Hell?

MOTHER TERESA: Very sorry. Jess.

EL-FAYOUMY: Does God feel sorry for people in Hell? MOTHER TERESA: More sorry than us. Jess.

EL-FAYOUMY: But, if God feels so sorry, why not bring the "damned" upstairs? "Three hots and a cot," yes? Surely God has that power?

MOTHER TERESA: Boy, God can lead us anywhere, but sometimes, the people, they doan wanna go. And if the people doan wanna go, then, whaddya gonna do?

EL-FAYOUMY: But surely, these people do not prefer to go to Hell?

MOTHER TERESA: You'd be surprised. Do you know what despair is, boy?

EL-FAYOUMY: Mother, illuminate me.

MOTHER TERESA: I will tell you what Thomas Merton—who was a very handsome boy like you—I will tell you what dat boy had to say about despair. You may not know this, but I at one time in my life suffered a great spiritual darkness—

EL-FAYOUMY: Oh no, not you—

MOTHER TERESA: Quiet now, boy. Jess, for many, many years, I experienced a terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, and of God not really existing. One day, I confided my feelings to a friend: an Irish Nun, one of the Sisters of Loretto from Dublin, Ireland. My friend, Sister Glenna, she quoted to me Thomas Merton on the subject of despair. She said:

 

SISTER GLENNA appears.

 

SISTER GLENNA: "Despair ... is the ultimate development of a pride so great and so stiff-necked that it selects the absolute misery of damnation rather than accept happiness from the hands of God and thereby acknowledge that He is above us and that we are not capable of fulfilling our destiny by ourselves."

MOTHER TERESA: Do you understand what I'm saying to you?

EL-FAYOUMY: Can you repeat it?

MOTHER TERESA: Jess, sure:

SISTER GLENNA: "Despair ... is the ultimate development of apride so great and so stiff-necked that it selects the absolute misery of damnation rather than accept happiness from the hands of God and thereby acknowledge that He is above us and that we are not capable of fulfilling our destiny by ourselves."

EL-FAYOUMY: Ah, yes. I think I see.

 

SISTER GLENNA vanishes.

 

MOTHER TERESA: Judas, he succumb to despair. The music of God's love and Grace kept playing, but he, he made himself hard of hearing—like me, no? I need this earphone device to hear you, jess? Without them, I can no hear nothing. Judas, he threw his earphones away—and dat is very sad, but dat is what he chose and dat is what happened.

EL-FAYOUMY: But Mother, couldn't God have just obtained a megaphone and simply shouted instructions into Judas's ear?

MOTHER TERESA: Boy, one must participate in one's own salvation. In order to hear, one must be willing to listen. When you turn off God, you are saying: "I know better than you." No good, boy. No good.

EL-FAYOUMY: No good indeed. Mother, you are a ravishing delight and I thank you for your astute and expert testimony!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Cross?

CUNNINGHAM: Mother Teresa, upon receiving your Nobel Prize, did you say to the world, quote: "The biggest obstacle to Global Peace in the world today is abortion"?

MOTHER TERESA: Jess. I said dat.

CUNNINGHAM: Do you actually believe that?

MOTHER TERESA: Jess, I do.

CUNNINGHAM: You accepted large cash donations from the Duvalier family in Haiti, correct?

MOTHER TERESA: Jess.

CUNNINGHAM: Duvalier being a dictator who murdered and stole from his people?

MOTHER TERESA: He gave. I took.

CUNNINGHAM: Blood money?

MOTHER TERESA: No. Cashier's check.

CUNNINGHAM: You also took money from Charles Keating, the savings-and-loan scam artist who robbed American citizens of billions of dollars?

MOTHER TERESA: For the poor, I took it. You got five dollars? I take from you, too.

CUNNINGHAM: You opposed the Vatican II reforms, which among other things, called for a long-overdue official condemnation of anti-Semitism as it relates to the death of Christ. Did you oppose Vatican II, Mother Teresa?

MOTHER TERESA: Jess.

CUNNINGHAM: You blamed the wars of the world on abortion, took blood money from murderers and thieves, and opposed taking a stance against anti-Semitism. I'm having trouble understanding why we're supposed to consider you an expert on anything having to do with the spirit.

MOTHER TERESA: Oh, jess?

CUNNINGHAM: Yes.

MOTHER TERESA: Then maybe you better figure it out. CUNNINGHAM: I had two abortions, Mother Teresa, what do you think about that?

MOTHER TERESA: I will pray for you and your children.

CUNNINGHAM: I don't have any children.

MOTHER TERESA: Not anymore, and dat's terrible.

CUNNINGHAM: Mother Teresa, if abortion is so terrible, then how come I'm not in Hell?

MOTHER TERESA: I don't know. Did anybody tell you you weren't?

CUNNINGHAM: Must be nice to have all the answers.

MOTHER TERESA: Must be hard to have only questions.

CUNNINGHAM: I can live with my questions, Mother Teresa. But if you can live with those answers, then, with all due respect, I'd say your place is not in Heaven with the Saints, but with the rest of the dinosaurs living in the Stone Age. Nothing further.

 

EL-FAYOUMY rises emphatically.

 

EL-FAYOUMY: Mother Teresa—I wonder if you join me in wondering just (turning to CUNNINGHAM) who the hell defense counsel thinks she's speaking like that to??!!

MOTHER TERESA: It's okay, boy. Everybody wanna say something—

EL-FAYOUMY:—Yes—

MOTHER TERESA:—Nobody wanna listen nothing.

EL-FAYOUMY: This is correct, Mother. And on that well-struck note, Mother, let us now go back and address some of the outlandish—

 

MOTHER TERESA rises.

 

MOTHER TERESA: I go now.

EL-FAYOUMY: But I'm not finished.

MOTHER TERESA: I go now.

EL-FAYOUMY: Oh ... As you wish, Mother. (To jury): And I think we should all emblazon in our memories—

 

MOTHER TERESA takes off her earphones.

 

MOTHER TERESA: Boy.

EL-FAYOUMY: Yes, Mother?

MOTHER TERESA: Maybe, Boy, you give this earphone device to Girl. Like this, maybe Girl gonna hear something make her head don't hurt no more.

CUNNINGHAM: There's nothing wrong with my head!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Cunningham, stand down!

MOTHER TERESA: Nice boy ... Handsome boy ...

 

And time stands still as we see MOTHER TERESA hobble off with

BAILIFF.

 

Gavel bangs.

 

CUNNINGHAM: Defense calls Simon the Zealot to the stand.

 

SIMON enters, carrying a staff.

 

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Name.

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Simon the Zealot.

CUNNINGHAM: You were one of the twelve apostles, Simon—correct?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Yeah.

CUNNINGHAM: And you were a zealot.

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Yeah.

CUNNINGHAM: Was Judas Iscariot a zealot?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Well, he didn't go to the meetings or nuthin', but, yeah, he was pretty much a zealot if you ax me.

CUNNINGHAM: Zealots being Jews seeking an end to the violent oppression of the Roman occupation, correct?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Actually, not exactly, no.

CUNNINGHAM: Are you saying the zealots were in favor of the occupation?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Nah. Not at all. We hated the Romans—absolutely we wanted their pagan asses to hit the curb runnin' and bloody, but we was also opposed to any gentiles in Palestine—Greek, Roman, whoever. What us zealots was really about was promoting a strict adherence to the Mosaic Law.

CUNNINGHAM: Mosaic Law being?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: The Law of Moses—the Torah. That was the whole bag right there, miss. Get rid of the bad seeds and unite the people under the Holy Law of God. Basically, we were the street version of Caiaphas the Elder except we had knives and shit and we thought Caiaphas was soft.

CUNNINGHAM: Soft how?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: With the Romans. He was a bit of a politician, ya know?

CUNNINGHAM: And what was life like under Roman rule?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Where you from, miss?

CUNNINGHAM: New York.

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Okay: Imagine New York was taken over by, like, Violent Devil-Worshipping Cannibals who spit on your laws, stole all your money, took your women and children as slaves, and put giant swastikas on all your bridges, tunnels, libraries, and civic institutions ... and anybody that complained about it got nailed naked to a piece of wood in Times Square—left to be eaten by rats, and shit on by pigeons until the weight of their body asphyxiated them to death. That's what it was like.

CUNNINGHAM: And you thought Jesus was going to change that, didn't you?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: We all did.

CUNNINGHAM: Change it how?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Throw them out. That's what the Messiah was supposed to do.

CUNNINGHAM: But he didn't do that, did he?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Nah.

CUNNINGHAM: And yet he was capable of it, wasn't he? You saw him perform miracles, raise people from the dead.

SIMON THE ZEALOT: It was a bit of a conundrum, yeah.

CUNNINGHAM: Were you at the disturbance at the Temple?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Yeah.

CUNNINGHAM: What did you think about that?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Ya kiddin'? I loved it. Judas, too. We all did. We thought it was on, ya know?

CUNNINGHAM: "On" meaning?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: The beginnin' of the revolution.

CUNNINGHAM: But it wasn't, was it?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Nah.

CUNNINGHAM: What happened after the riot at the Temple?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Jesus had us all retreat to this house, then, he was like: "I'm going to die soon, so let's just chill."

CUNNINGHAM: Must have been very disappointing.

SIMON THE ZEALOT: It was confusing—I mean, whacked-out shit, man. One minute Jesus is beating infidels down—and I'm talking fists and whips—Jesus was whipping ass, knockin' out teeth, screaming he's gonna tear down the Temple, the next minute, he's all passive. And we were all like: We invested three years in this guy, and now he's gonna just lay down? It didn't seem to make no sense.

CUNNINGHAM: Simon: Why do you think Judas Iscariot turned Jesus in to the authorities?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Personally, I think Judas was trying to throw Jesus into the deep end of the pool—make him swim.

CUNNINGHAM: Judas was testing Jesus?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Not testing,'cuz we all knew Jesus had mad skills pass the test.

CUNNINGHAM: What then?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Lissen, I knew Judas pretty good. We was pretty tight on account of, ya know, our politics and whatnot. What I believe is this: Judas knew that if the Romans grabbed up Jesus, that Jesus would have to act.

CUNNINGHAM: Meaning?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Meaning Act. Get it on and start kickingass like He was supposed to. Emancipation was our birthright. That's what the Messiah was there for. I think, personally, that Judas did what he did to help Jesus realize his destiny and fulfill his mission.

CUNNINGHAM: Judas tried to help Jesus?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: I believe so. Yes.

CUNNINGHAM: Thank you.

 

EL-FAYOUMY rises.

 

EL-FAYOUMY: So ... Judas was a "helper," eh?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Yeah.

EL-FAYOUMY: Just ... there to lend zee helping hand, yes?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Yeah.

EL-FAYOUMY: Yes. Yes, I think you are correct, Zealous one! Because, for me, I know that if my best friend were to sell me out and betray me for a roll of quarters, causing me to be beaten, whipped, gouged, and mangled, and then strung up and left to be baked by the Hot Judean Sun till I resembled a shriveled-up, bearded frankfurter—Why Yes! I'm sure my first thought as I gasped for air and bled to death would be, "Really, that Judas—what a helpful guy!—Oh, yes, I must remember to send him zee Thank-You note"!! ... . . . Simon the Zealot, let's talk turkey: Judas was your friend, yes?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Yeah.

EL-FAYOUMY: You thought the same way, yes?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Yeah.

EL-FAYOUMY: Shared the same opinions.

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Yeah.

EL-FAYOUMY: Had the same beliefs.

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Yeah.

EL-FAYOUMY: Wanted the same things.

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Yeah.

EL-FAYOUMY: Wanted them desperately.

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Yeah.

EL-FAYOUMY: Then why, Zealot, did you not do like Judas did? If you believed what you believed and thought what you thought, why, Zealot, did you not join Judas or turn Jesus in on your own? Can you explain me this?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: ... I don't know.

EL-FAYOUMY: Protecting a friend—that is admirable indeed. Zealot, Jesus never said his mission as Messiah on Earth was to overthrow the Romans, did he?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Not exactly, no.

EL-FAYOUMY: You wanted it to be the mission, you even thought it was the mission, but it wasn't really the mission, was it?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: I guess not.

EL-FAYOUMY: How is it, Zealous One, that you came to understand that violence wasn't part of Jesus's mission, but Judas never did?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: ... I couldn't say.

EL-FAYOUMY: Answer me this: What was your inner life like before you met Jesus of Nazareth? And I don't think I need to advise you to be honest here, do I?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Nah. I was consumed with anger. Jesus—he saved my life.

EL-FAYOUMY: Man of Zeal: Final Question: Do you believe, as the Bible says, that God made man in his own image?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: I do.

EL-FAYOUMY: Of course you do, and there, Zealous friend, lies the answer to one of my previous questions. The difference, I posit, between you and Judas Iscariot is that you accepted that you were created in God's Image, whereas Judas Iscariot—he sought to create God into his own image—God as earthly avenger, which was not God's way. And even thoughyou were scared, Zealot, even though you were confused and angry, and hurt, still, you chose to obey God, didn't you? SIMON THE ZEALOT: I guess I got lucky.

EL-FAYOUMY: Luck indeed! Simon the Zealot: There is something beautiful about you—and that—is your modesty. You are a God-Fearing Man. Go now. Be free.

 

CUNNINGHAM rises.

 

CUNNINGHAM: Jesus never proclaimed himself to be God, Simon—correct?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Nah. He never did.

CUNNINGHAM: What did Jesus say to Judas at the last supper?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: He said, "Do what you gotta do."

CUNNINGHAM: Sounds like Jesus approved.

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Maybe.

CUNNINGHAM: But if you were Judas, Simon, and "doing what you had to do" ended up getting you thrown into despair and hanging from a tree and then sent to Hell to live in misery and infamy in perpetuity—if you were Judas—wouldn't you have kinda wished that Jesus had maybe said something else instead?

SIMON THE ZEALOT: Yeah, counselor. I very much would have.

CUNNINGHAM: Would it kind of make you feel like you got fucked?

EL-FAYOUMY: Objection: Language! "A foul mouth is a dirty bird"!

CUNNINGHAM: I withdraw the question.

SIMON THE ZEALOT: ... I woulda felt like you said, though.

CUNNINGHAM: Thank you, Simon. Nothing further.

 

SIMON exits.

 

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Next witness!

EL-FAYOUMY: Most reverent senor—with your magisterial permission—Prosecution now conjures Satan—Prince of Darkness, to the stand!

 

SATAN enters, waves amiably to the jury.

 

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Name!

SATAN. (to CUNNINGHAM): Fabiana Aziza Cunningham, right?

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Lou.

SATAN: I been keeping the light on for ya, Cunningham.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: C'mon now, Lou—why don't you take your seat and we can get started here?

SATAN: You never change, Frank, do you?

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: I suppose I don't.

SATAN: I like that about you. Now say, how's Wilhemina doing? And the girls?

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: I wouldn't know. Now, park your caboose in that chassis if you would, please?

SATAN: I'm sorry. Of course.

(To EL-FAYOUMY): Fire away.

(To JUDGE): My apologies, Frank.

 

BAILIFF enters.

 

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Bailiff!

BAILIFF: I was helping the elderly, sir!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Let's just proceed. El-Fayoumy—proceed!

EL-FAYOUMY: Ah. Yes. Uh ... Yes ... Uh ... How are you today, Satan?

SATAN: Well ... Long night, but uh, no regrets.

EL-FAYOUMY: Up late partying with the decadent and debauched?

SATAN: Oh, God, does it show?

EL-FAYOUMY: Oh—No no, not at all.

SATAN: I'll tell ya—I could barely make it through my double-session Pilates this morning—if it weren't for the good genes, I'd be a raisin with tits and a perm.

EL-FAYOUMY: Yes. Well, you look very good. Sincerely. Really, Satan, you have an excellent physique.

SATAN: Oh—Thank you. So do you.

EL-FAYOUMY: Oh. Thank you, too. Yes, I make exercises ... Anyway, so ... No horns and tail today, Prince of Evil?

SATAN: No.

EL-FAYOUMY: At the dry cleaners, I suppose.

SATAN: Yes.

EL-FAYOUMY: Yes ... . ... . I must say, Claimer of the Damned, your candor is quite refreshing.

SATAN: As is yours.

EL-FAYOUMY: Oh ... Thank you ... Yes ... Oh! Your jacket, Satan, really, it is smart.

SATAN: You like it?

EL-FAYOUMY: Beautiful, really. Armani?

SATAN: Gucci.

EL-FAYOUMY: "Gucci." Yes. Elegant. Very. Yes ... So ... (And your trousers, they are Gucci, too?)

SATAN: Yeah.

EL-FAYOUMY: They have a lovely sheen ... Anyway, let's begin then, shall we?

SATAN: I am at your service.

EL-FAYOUMY: I appreciate that.

SATAN: And I appreciate your appreciation.

EL-FAYOUMY: Excellent ... So ... Dark One, tell me: Did you ever have any conversations with Judas Iscariot prior to his selling-out of Jesus Christ?

SATAN: No, I did not.

EL-FAYOUMY: Sure about that?

SATAN: Quite sure, yes.

EL-FAYOUMY: Never "entered into him," as I believe Saint Luke's Gospel puts it?

SATAN: No.

EL-FAYOUMY: And again, you are more or less sure of that?

SATAN: Ask my main squeeze, Sheila: If I had "entered" Judas Iscariot, trust me, he woulda felt my considerable "presence"—if you know what I mean.

EL-FAYOUMY: Yes—you and Jimmy Woods—I've heard the rumors. So then, it would be safe to say that the "Devil didn't make him do it"?

SATAN: Absolutely—Unless, of course, there's some other Devil runnin' around that I don't know about.

EL-FAYOUMY: Very funny. Really, you are quite charming, Satan ... But let us be quite clear: You did nothing, Satan, nothing, to sway Judas Iscariot towards selling out Jesus of Nazareth, Prince of Peace? Correct?

SATAN: Correct.

EL-FAYOUMY: Not even a tiny nudge?

SATAN: Honestly, he didn't require nudging. Judas was a gimme—It happens like that sometimes.

EL-FAYOUMY: A "gimme," yes. A bad seed.

SATAN: Yes.

EL-FAYOUMY: Yes. Well, then, how 'bout after he did the deadly deed? Did you speak with the Savior Betrayer then?

SATAN: I spoke to him, yeah.

EL-FAYOUMY: Care to share?

SATAN: Not a problem. I appeared to Mister Iscariot at Bathsheba's Bar and Grill shortly after the night in question. I was actually in town for a guy named Abdul Mazzi-Hatten, but he never showed. When I encountered Mister Iscariot, he appeared to have already taken full advantage of the Happy Hour.

JUDAS crosses to playing area. He is very drunk and very troubled.

SATAN meets him.

 

Oh. Hello, friend. How are you this evening?

JUDAS: "How am I this evening?"—what are you, a fuckin'maitre d', man?

SATAN: I'm Clementine. Clementine of Cappadocia.

JUDAS: Yeah?! Well, why don't you go home and fuck your mother, Cappa-douche-a, okay?!

SATAN: "Doe-sha"—Cappa-doe-sha.

JUDAS: What??!!

SATAN: It's Cappa-doe-sha.

JUDAS: Well, lemme ask you something—Cappa-douche-ah—Do I look like someone who gives a flying fuck right now about where the fuck you're from?!

SATAN: I'm very sorry.

JUDAS: Sorry don't mean shit, dick! Take all the "sorries" in the world, pile 'em one on top of the other, ya know what you got, Cappa-douche? You got a big pile a fuckin' nuthin' is what you got! Okay?

SATAN: You're right.

JUDAS: You wanna do somethin' about it??!!

SATAN: No, sir.

JUDAS: Then go fuck your mother and leave me the fuck alone!

SATAN: I will. Thanks for the advice.

JUDAS: Hey!!! ... Where you going?!

SATAN: It seems like you preferred to be alone.

JUDAS: Why would I prefer that?! What're you saying: I look like some kinda Lone Wolf? Like a fuckin' piranha, bro?

SATAN: Do you mean Pariah?

JUDAS: I mean what I mean. Whaddya—need a light or something?

SATAN: Oh. Thanks.

JUDAS: Like this lighter?

SATAN: Very nice.

JUDAS: I bought it today, man. Expensive shit, but—I got it like that.

SATAN: I can see you're a man of wealth and substance. I admire that.

JUDAS: "Wealth and substance"—don't push it. So, what's your name?

SATAN: ... Clementine. Clementine of Cappadocia.

JUDAS: Clementine, eh? Isn't that a girl's name?

SATAN: Not in Cappadocia.

JUDAS: Well, it is here, bro—you sure you ain't a girl, man?

SATAN: Pretty sure, yeah.

JUDAS: I'm Judas, Judas Iscariot—maybe you heard of me?

SATAN: Nah, man—I'm from out of town.

JUDAS: You never heard of me?

SATAN: Nope.

JUDAS: You don't get around much, do ya, Clementine? So whereabouts you from, man—Egypt?

SATAN: Cappadocia.

JUDAS: That's in Egypt, though, right?

SATAN: No—Cappadocia is in Cappadocia.

JUDAS: I dig your pyramids, man—and the sphinx?

(to BARTENDER): Bartender! Hey! More of that Mesopotamian Wine for my Nubian friend! And some dates and figs, too!

(To SATAN): You smoke opium, Clam? .

SATAN: Clem.

JUDAS: And some opium, bartender—the good stuff!

SATAN: You seem like a man on a mission.

JUDAS: Took this girl to a puppet show today, man.

SATAN: Yeah? How was it?

JUDAS: Fuckin' sucked. Puppets are bullshit, ya know?

SATAN: In Cappadocia, we burn puppets!

JUDAS: Well, you people got the right idea over there—That Pharaoh, he's a smart man. Yeah, man. Hey, Clammy—Cheers!

SATAN: Cheers!

JUDAS: Yeah.—Whoa! Hey man, thass a nice shirt, what you pay for it?

SATAN: Two pieces of silver.

JUDAS: Two pieces of silver? HA!!!! I'll give you five. Here ya go, switch shirts with me.

SATAN: But, I'm rather fond of this shirt.

JUDAS: C'mon, man—switch shirts—switch shirts. We're buds now, friends an' shit—I'll let you be my wingman—get you laid, bro!

SATAN: A nice brunette?

JUDAS: Two brunettes and a eunuch! C'mon, strip!

SATAN: Oh, okay.

 

They switch shirts.

 

(To audience): He was so drunk, he didn't even notice my unmistakably Satanic stench.

JUDAS: Yo, I dig this shirt, what is it? Silk?

SATAN: From Cappadocia.

JUDAS: Fuckin' Cappadocian Silk!! All right!

SATAN: Your shirt is nice, too.

JUDAS: Yeah?

SATAN: Yeah.

JUDAS: Wow ... . . Thanks, man. That's a nice thing to say. Yeah. Been a while since I heard something nice. That's really nice, bro.

 

Beat.

 

Hey, man, if I told you something corny, would you think that I was, like, a dick?

SATAN: Not at all.

JUDAS: Okay ... I'm kinda mildly afraid of going to Hell.

SATAN: Why?

JUDAS: Minor incident last night—a miscalculation on my part—nothing serious.

SATAN: Well, one thing I can tell you about Hell: As an eternal destination, it's apparently vastly underrated.

JUDAS: Yeah?

SATAN: And "Hell" is nothing more than the Absence of God, which, if you're looking for a good time, is not at all a bad thing. You wanna play the lute, sing Mary Chapin Carpenter—that's what Heaven's for. You wanna rock? Apparently, Hell's the venue.

JUDAS: Are there, like, girls down there?

SATAN: Not many, but I hear they import them from developing nations on weekends ... But hey, I wouldn't worry about going to Hell.

JUDAS: Even if I did something, perhaps, a little controversial?

SATAN: God understands.

JUDAS: Yeah, but, don't choices have, like, consequences?

SATAN: C'mon, you really think we have a choice?

JUDAS: Well, don't we?

SATAN: Okay: Did you pass by that fuckin' disgusting, stinky, fuckin' leper on your way in here tonight?

JUDAS: Who? Freddy?

SATAN: "Freddy," yeah: You think he had a choice, Freddy, stinkin it up out there, can't scratch his balls for fear a pullin' out his testes? Huh? And what about what's-his-face from the old days—Job? Don't you think if Job had a choice he woulda a been like: "Okay, God, enough! I get the fucking point"?!

JUDAS: Yeah, but, Job did say that!

SATAN: Yes he did! And what happened next, Judas? God kept right on fucking with him until Job made the only choiceavailable—which was to quietly keep his wrinkly ass-cheeks spread wider than the Red Sea till God got tired of drilling him for oil!

JUDAS: I guess ... But say ... Ah, never mind.

SATAN: What?

JUDAS: Not important.

SATAN: C'mon.

JUDAS: Okay. Well, say, what if someone were to betray, for example ... the Messiah—

SATAN:—You mean the Messiah, messiah?

JUDAS: Yeah. Say some idiot had a choice to betray the Messiah or not betray him, and he chose to betray him?

SATAN: Gee, I couldn't say. Whadda you think?

JUDAS: I'd say the guy's fucked, right?

SATAN: I really couldn't say.

JUDAS: C'mon Clams, I'm just askin'.

SATAN: Well, since you asked, I guess I'd say that if this guy—

JUDAS: 'Cuz this is just some hypo-theoretical guy here—

SATAN: Right. I'd say that if this clown we're talking about betrayed the Messiah, that, probably, "it would've been better for that man if he had never been born."

JUDAS: Never been born???!!!

SATAN: Hey—you asked.

JUDAS: That's heavy, man. That's a fuckin' heavy trip, man, Clams.

SATAN: I'm thirsty—how 'bout you?

JUDAS: That's fuckin' really heavy.

SATAN: Let's have another round here, Pops! Two barrels of wine and a hooker menu!

(To JUDAS): You okay, man?

JUDAS: Clams, man, I haven't been laid in three years, bro. Can ya believe that—guy like me?

SATAN: Three years?

JUDAS: I wasted my prime, man. And then I wasted my prime after my prime.

SATAN: Well, I think you'll prolly get fucked tonight, bro.

JUDAS: Ya think so?

SATAN: Yeah. I'm pretty sure.

JUDAS: I wanna nother fuckin' drink. Tonight man, I'm gonna drink this fuckin' bar!

SATAN: Hey. Judas, lemme ask you something: Who is this Jesus of Nazareth guy I've been hearing about?

JUDAS: Jesus of Nazareth?

SATAN: Yeah—I heard he's some kinda somebody.

JUDAS: Some kinda somebody?

SATAN: Yeah, that's what I heard.

JUDAS: Aw, fuck that guy, man—he's a bitch!

 

YUSEF EL-FAYOUMY rises triumphantly.

 

EL-FAYOUMY: "FUCK THAT GUY, HE'S A BITCH"!!!!! Your Honor! Nothing further!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Cross?

CUNNINGHAM: ... Not at this time.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Lou, stick around.

SATAN: I know the drill.

 

The gavel bangs.

 

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD: Meal break! Fifteen minutes!

EL-FAYOUMY: Fabiana, free for lunch?

 

Gavel bangs. Lights fade.

 

Cross-fade to JUDAS's lair. JESUS is there with his bucket, alone.

Copyright © 2006 by Stephen Adly Guirgis All rights reserved

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    one good read

    If you are reading this, go buy this book now. The writing is superb and the characters are very well developed.

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