A large crucifix hangs at the back of the stage. A long wooden bench stretches across the stage. A simple alter stands between the bench & the crucifix. A priest enters. He is a crouched-over old man with short, balding white hair and big Coke-Bottle glasses. He walks across the stage, blesses himself, genuflects and then sits on the bench facing the crucifix.
PRIEST: Good evening my Lord. I hope this day finds you well indeed like all the others.
[Takes out a napkin and wipes some sweat from his brow.]
PRIEST: This hot weather is not for the old I fear. It creeps into the blood and seems to accumulate there. It’s days like these that you miss those blissful days of youth. Those days when one could embrace the warmth in one’s heart without being overwhelmed by it. Ah, but sure those days are long gone from us now.
[His face curls into a boyish smile, and he supresses a giggle]
PRIEST: Mind you, the past did catch up to me today, all told. Well not so much ‘caught up’ more like found me again. I –
[A creak is heard, not unlike a door opening. PRIEST looks around checking for people.]
PRIEST: Well the day began like any other. I paid my Tuesday visit to Eileen and she’s…Well she’s feeling a lot better then she has been. Her legs are still playing up a bit, but well John’ll be back from college for the summer by the weekend so he’ll be able to help her. And Jim has started getting better at cooking the dinner and things since Nell’s passing and –
[He looks around again ensuring he is alone. He edges forward on his seat]
PRIEST: (lowering his voice slightly) Well the main thing that I wanted to talk to you about was that Rose is back in town. I saw her dressed in black velvet at John’s wake last Saturday; remember I told you about that? Well today she was going for a walk down the New Lane by Cleary’s. She says that she’ll be back for a week or so, from Chicago. That’s where she lives these days. She’s even picked up a Yankish twang.
PRIEST: [Almost Inaudible] She hasn’t aged a day in fifty-seven years. Her lily-white skin is just as…
[He reaches forward as if to stroke something in front of him. Catching a glimpse of his own hand, he retracts it violently.]
PRIEST: (Beginning to study his hand) Like withered weeds growing out of a grave.
[He staggers to his feet and walks to the alter. He studies his face in a brass Communion Cup. He studies the lines on his face.]
PRIEST: (unconvinced) Terrible sin vanity. It’s just despicable.
[Rubs his hands through his hair and stops on the bald-patch]
PRIEST: She wanted me once. Well she said that she did anyway.
PRIEST: (mutters) What can we ever really know. But those tears…those tears…they seemed real.
[He walks towards the stained-glass windows and stares into them. One Minute Pause]
PRIEST: (through a fake smile) She seems happy. Now that he’s passed. (Pause) I’m sorry that’s a terrible thing to say.
PRIEST: (assertive) Well she does. She never really felt that way about him. (Bitterly) But he did adore her. Followed her around like a love-sick puppy. Followed us around as it were. (more bitter) But then the calling (almost sarcastic) came and –
[A creak is heard from the back of the stage. He looks around awkwardly. With little enthusiasm he recites the Our Father. When he has finished he walks hunch-backed to the back of the stage, peers behind the curtain and then walks back towards the Crucifix. He blesses himself, genuflects and kneels at the stage]
PRIEST: She does seem happy now though. Her son’s just had a third child, but she doesn’t get to see him as often as she would like. They moved onto her daughter-in-law’s farm outside the city. Her father has been suffering from dementia for a number of years so they live out there near him. She says her son prefers for the children to be raised on a farm too. The city is just no place for a child. Too many negative influences, he says. And he’s right too. Not that –
[He turns abruptly behind him]
PRIEST: Not that I’d really know anything about what’s best for a child. (sighs) Or a wife for that matter. (Bitterly) She could have been mine. She’d wanted to be…Oh, I know, The Seventh Commandment . But she was mine before she was his and –
[Looks scared at the Crucifix]
PRIEST: (hesitating) I…I…know m…m…my vows.
PRIEST: (confident) But she came before them. Long, long before them. If it –
[Darts his head back and then forward to the crucifix again quickly]
PRIEST: (whispers) If it wasn’t for them, I might still have her.
[Throws his head in his hands.]
PRIEST: (shouts) I would still have her! She’d be there to hold me on those cold winter nights. She’d be there to –
[A creak from the back of the stage]
PRIEST: Oh Lord give me patience with these old walls. Are they trying to tell…
[Laces his fingers and places his head on them.]
PRIEST: Is it you? Are you trying to tell me to stop?…But stop what?…A confession?…A show of weakness?
[He throws up his hands, stands and walks eagerly towards the back of the stage. He stops at the Exit and pauses. He turns slowly to face the crucifix.]
PRIEST: (Softly) I never really got a choice either, you know…I know that we all have the freedom of choice since Adam and Eve…But parents as you know have a way of –
[He lets out a gasp and shuffles for a small golden crucifix around his neck, kisses it with shaking hands and holds it to his forehead repeating the Act of Contrition.]
PRIEST: I didn’t mean to blaspheme or compare myself to…well…you know.