Whitespace O: Every Child
Shady hillside in Iława, Poland

Whitespace O: Every Child

Skreyola's White Pages

- Whitespace O -

- Every Child -

A play in two acts

by Lincoln Sayger

Dedicated to Tristen and Thomasyne.

May you some day have a father to whom to show all the exquisite feathers and interesting rocks you find.

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DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
Edward, the protagonist, a man of medium or tall height, a computer programmer
Ruth, his friend and companion
Catherine, a single mother
Esther, Catherine's daughter
James, a kind-looking man with a beard
Dream Man, Edward as he appears in his dreams, must sound like Edward
Dream Children, 11
Dream Child
A waiter or waitress, or one or more of each.
The action takes place in four settings, a street, a cafe, a playground, and an orphanage.

STREET: The street should not need to be depicted by any set. Players should simply act on the downstage area.

CAFE: The cafe may be portrayed by a small table with a red checkered tablecloth and two smooth wooden chairs with round cushions placed stage DC. Or similar. Passage of time between scenes should be portrayed by changes of clothing, e.g. jackets, hats, shoes, gloves, etc. and/or by changes of accessories, e.g. an umbrella, a newspaper, etc, or reversible tops with differing colors inside and out.

PLAYGROUND: The playground may be portrayed by a section of chain-link fence secured to two eight foot poles which are fastened to a sheet of plywood laid flat on the stage with handles upstage of the fence for easy moving. Or similar. Alternately, the plywood and fence combination may be left onstage in the dark if size of stage permits.

ORPHANAGE: The interior of the orphanage may be portrayed with a spiral staircase set against a curved wall of plywood or other material, all decorated to look like stone, with the top of the stairway resting on the stage at stage R. Directly upstage of the stairs should be twelve beds set in two rows. Each bed should be or appear to be gray wrought iron, made up with white sheets covered by a gray spread. A door may be placed between the beds and the stairs if mechanics are available to lift the door out of sight after Dream Man steps through it. Otherwise, the door should be pantomimed. Somewhere between stage DR and stage DC, a doorframe should be erected perpendicular to the audience so that Dream Man can step through it without it blocking the audience's view. Or similar. At each performance, a different actor or actress should be Dream Child, rotating through the Dream Children.

ACT I

Scene i

SCENE: The orphanage.

[As curtain rises, Dream Child and Dream Children are seated on the twelve beds. Dream Children include short children and tall children; plump children and thin children; children with long hair and children with short hair; children with dark skin and children with pale skin. Children sit frozen until Dream Man enters the room. Stage is in darkness.]

[Spotlight on Dream Man at base of stairs. He walks slowly up stairs and stops at landing. He pauses and looks toward door at stage C, but goes through the door in front of him. Fade up lighting on the area portraying the twelve beds. If door is suspended, he should pause while it rises out of view. Dream Children and Dream Child turn toward Dream Man and look at him with searching gaze. Dream man looks at each child quickly and slumps his shoulders, almost at tears. After a pause, Dream Man walks to Dream Child and kneels by the bed.]

Dream Man: I want to help.

Dream Child: Who am I? What am I supposed to become? Who will tell me what to do?

[Dream Man takes Dream Child into his arms in a hug. Lights fade quickly.]

SCENE: The playground, Spring 2000.

[Spotlight on Edward as lights go down on orphanage set. Edward is leaning gently against one of the fencepoles with his back to audience. Ruth stands behind him, slightly downstage, facing stage L, her arms crossed, glaring at Edward.]

[Sound: Child's delighted scream. Perhaps other playground noises in background.]

[Edward stands up, as though startled out of a reverie, and turns toward Ruth.]

Ruth: You were ignoring me.

Edward: [Shakes head] I turned as soon as I was aware of you.

Ruth: [Waves hand in front of Edward's face.] Earth to Edward! I called you three times!

Edward: You did?

Ruth: Yes. [Calmly. Holds up fingers to count off the times she called him. Presses index fingers together.] First, I said "I thought I'd find you here." Nothing. [Moves index finger to next finger.] Second, I called you by your first name. Nothing. [Moves index finger to third finger.] Third, I called you by your full name. Nothing. [Drops hands to sides.] Finally, I just stood behind you and waited patiently for you to return from— [Lets sentence fade and holds up her hands in an expression of ignorance.]

Edward: [After long pause.] I'm sorry, Ruth. I had a dream last night. It's the same dream I've been having for a week.

Ruth: Want to tell me about it?

Edward: I was at an orphanage. There were children, and they asked me who they were and what they were supposed to become. Then I woke up.
[If performed on a small stage, the orphanage scene may be omitted, and Edward may say the following line: EDWARD: I found myself on a spiral staircase with stone walls. At the top of the stairs, I looked down a long hallway. Halfway down the hallway, I stopped at a door. Ahead of me was another door, but I only looked at it for a moment before opening the door beside me. In the room, I saw twelve beds, and each bed had a child. They were all shapes, all skin tones, and all sizes. They looked at me with a searching gaze. I wanted to cry. [Takes a breath] I walked to one of them and knelt down. I said, "I want to help," and the child asked me who he [or she] was, and what he [or she] was supposed to become. He [or she] then asked me who would tell him [or her] what to do. I hugged him [or her], and then I woke up.]

Ruth: [Strokes chin imitating psychiatrist's manner and voice.] Was your childhood a happy one?

Edward: Come on, Ruth! You've known me since we were kids.

Ruth: [Holds up hands in gesture of defense.] Okay. It was only a joke.

Edward: I think this might be serious.

Ruth: What do you think it is?

Edward: I think it might be a call.

Ruth: A call? What is it a call to do? Start an orphanage?

Edward: No.

Ruth: What, then?

Edward: [Shakes head.] I'm not sure. I think it might be a call for me to heal the hurts of the orphans in my dream.

Ruth: How?

Edward: By helping them figure out who they are and what they should become.

Ruth: [Inquisitively] How will you help orphans in a dream?

Edward: [Sadly] I don't have to dream to find orphans.

Ruth: You're getting weird, Edward.

Edward: [Pauses, smiling.] No. I just think I've found the way I will serve God.

Ruth: [Long pause, scowling. Expression softens.] I'll support you. You know that. I don't understand it, but I'll support you.

Edward: Thank you.

Ruth: So, is that why you're at the playground all week? You think you'll see one of your orphans here?

Edward: [Nods.] They're not orphans, though. Not exactly.

Ruth: What do you mean?

[Edward points upstage past the fence.]

Ruth: [Looks.] She's not an orphan. [Confused] Her mom's in our Sunday School class.

Edward: No. Not an orphan. Not exactly. But she is a child without a father.

Ruth: What are you going to do? [Playful] Walk over and propose to her mother?

Edward [Chuckles.] No. I want to help as many children as I can. [Soberly:] I can't afford to fall in love. I was thinking I'd spend time with these children when I am not working. I can't give them all all of my time, but I can give several of them some of my time. Maybe that will help them grow up healthy. Maybe that will help them to feel comfortable with who they are. Maybe that will help them learn what a Godly man is like.

Ruth: A father of the fatherless?

Edward: Yes. Something like that. I think I can make a difference for some of these children. I'm not yet sure how to begin.

Ruth: Is there anything I can do to help you?

Edward: Pray for me.

Ruth: I will.

[Edward and Ruth freeze. Silence. Pause. BLACKOUT]

[Curtain]

Scene ii

SCENE: The cafe, a few days later.

[Fade up]

[Cafe table at stage DC sits in a small pool of light.]

[Enter Edward, Ruth, and waiter or waitress stage CL and walk toward table. Edward and Ruth pantomime telling waiter or waitress what they want to drink. Exit waiter or waitress.]

Ruth: [pantomimes talking until waiter or waitress is away from lighted area.] ...will have plenty of money they can use to send their children to college. [Pause.] Speaking of children, have you figured out anything for your ministry?

Edward: No. I haven't. [Frowns.]

Ruth: Okay. I have. [Smiles.]

[Pause. Edward waits for her to continue.]

Ruth: I was talking to Nicole, and the subject came up. She said she wished her son, Roger, had his father to watch his baseball games. I asked if he would like someone else to come and root for him. She said she didn't know of anyone who would be willing to do that. [Pause. Shrugs. With mischief:] I told her I had a friend I'd ask, and that I might possibly be able to persuade him to do that for her.

Edward: [Uneasy.] You mean you didn't tell her I wanted to?

Ruth: No. I wanted her to think it was her idea.

Edward: I'm not sure that's a good idea.

Ruth: What can it hurt?

Edward: I don't know, but I'm not comfortable with it.

Ruth: Well, it shows you that the mothers are willing to have someone do what you propose.

Edward: One mother. Besides, it's God I want to please. Is this what He wants me to do?

Ruth: Go to the game. If it goes well, maybe that's God's answer.

Edward: I guess so.

Ruth: He won't write you a letter asking you to do it.

Edward: I know.

Ruth: Try it. From what you've told me, and from how easy it was for me to set it up, I think God wants you to do this.

Edward: I agree. But let me put it together from now on, okay?

Ruth: Okay. I knew you'd only need one nudge.

Edward: Write down when the game is. I'll— [Edward is interrupted by waiter or waitress returning with drinks. waiter or waitress pantomimes placing a drink in front of each of them and asking them for their food orders. Exit waiter or waitress. Edward and Ruth pantomime looking at the menus as the lights fade.]

[Fade down]

Scene iii

SCENE: The cafe, few days later.

[Fade up]

[Cafe table sits in small pool of light. Edward is seated in one of the chairs.]

[Enter Ruth stage CL and sits opposite Edward.]

Edward: I went ahead and ordered your drink. [Gestures toward imaginary drink.]

Ruth: How did it go? [Pantomimes taking a sip.]

Edward: How did what go?

Ruth: The baseball game, silly.

Edward: It went well. I think Roger was happy to have someone there rooting for him. I think it did him good.

Ruth: I'm glad to hear that. How's work?

Edward: Pretty good. I'm almost finished with the engine I was working on. [Clears throat. (Changing subject, not drawing attention)] I visited the minister the other day, too.

Ruth: Oh? What did he say?

Edward: I told him about the ministry I had in mind, and he said he knew of a young man who needed some help with his math homework.

[Ruth nods.]

Edward: I went over this morning and helped him with fractions. It went pretty well.

Ruth: Anything else on the horizon?

Edward: Not yet, but I will take what God sends me.

Ruth: What about Amanda?

Edward: What about her?

Ruth: She was the one you pointed out to me on the playground. I figured you would want to do something for her.

Edward: Oh, I forgot about that when you asked me about the horizon. I plan to talk to her mother this Sunday.

Ruth: Good. [Pantomimes picking up menu and reading.]

[Fade down.]

Scene iv

SCENE: The cafe, the following Monday.

[Fade up]

[Cafe table at stage DC sits in a small pool of light. Edward is seated in one of the chairs.]

[Enter Ruth CL and sits opposite Edward.]

Ruth: So, tell me about it!

Edward: [Smiling gently.] I talked to Jacquelin after Sunday School.

Ruth: I know that. [(She had seen them talking.)] What did she say?

Edward: I told her what I was doing and I asked her if there was anything I could do for her.

Ruth: And? [No pause]

Edward: And she said she thought it was a good idea. She said that Amanda has a dance recital on Thursday, so I thought I would go to that.

Ruth: Did she say anything else?

Edward: Yes. She said that one of the things she felt she needed was someone to talk to about everday things. She felt she could do a better job of being a parent if she could talk things out with someone and get a man's perspective on things. Since that would help the children, I said I thought that was a good idea. I told her to call on me any time she needed someone to talk to, and I called the other two mothers and told them about it. One said she'd take advantage of that, and the other said she wasn't interested, but that she appreciated what I was doing for her son.

Ruth: This is exciting! I can't wait to see how far this will go.

Edward: I've been thinking about it.

Ruth: You have?

Edward: Yes. I think five children is all I can handle with my job and everything.

Ruth: [Touches Edward's hand.] It's a start.

Edward: Yes. I'd like to see more children helped, but I can't do it alone.

Ruth: God will provide.

Edward: He always does.

[Enter waiter or waitress CR. Fade down as waiter or waitress reaches the table.]

Scene v

SCENE: The cafe, several days later.

[Fade up]

[Cafe table at stage DC sits in a small pool of light. Edward is seated in one of the chairs, pantomiming as though eating. This continues for several moments.]

[Enter Ruth stage CL and sits opposite Edward. Edward pantomimes putting down utensils or food and swallowing the bite in his mouth. Ruth doesn't settle on her chair, but sits as though about to get up at any moment.]

Ruth: You're probably wondering why I'm here.

Edward: Not at all. I figure you haven't seen me in a few days, so you've come to satisfy your curiosity on how my ministry is progressing.

Ruth: [Holding up hand.] Guilty as charged. Will you tell me?

Edward: I am not unkind, am I?

Ruth: No. Forgive me for asking a silly question.

Edward: I'll be glad to give you an update. I went to another of Roger's baseball games, and the following Monday, I took him to see the local minor league team play. He really enjoyed that. Amanda was pleased with my compliments following her dance recital, and Colin is doing well with his schoolwork. Jacquelin and I have had some long discussions, and I ran into a woman named Catherine today. She has a daughter, but she seemed reluctant to accept my offer of help, so I didn't push the issue. I know she'll be at something I'm going to in a few days, so I'll talk to her about it then.

Ruth: Why was she reluctant?

Edward: She doesn't know me very well. [Off-handedly] I don't think she trusts me. I don't blame her for that. It's a harsh world, and the naive can get hurt.

Ruth: [Nodding.] Yeah, I guess that makes sense.

Edward: If God wills it, she will accept me eventually.

Ruth: [Smiles. Stands.] I'll see you later, Edward. I need to get back to work.

Edward: Bye.

[Exit Ruth stage CL. Fade down.]

Scene vi

SCENE: The cafe, a few days later.

[Fade up.]

[Cafe table at stage DC sits in a small pool of light. Edward and Ruth are seated at the table.]

Edward: Guess what.

Ruth: You got Catherine to accept?

Edward: No.

Ruth: What, then?

Edward: Dr. Jackson introduced me to another mother, and she wants me to spend time with her daughter.

Ruth: [Brightening:] That's wonderful, Edward! [Very short pause. Cautiously:] Are you going to wait on Catherine, or will you fill the last position elsewhere?

Edward: I'm going to wait. I have a feeling I should help her daughter.

Ruth. Have you prayed about it?

Edward: About little else.

Ruth: God will take care of it.

Edward: I know He will.

[Fade down.]

Scene vii

SCENE: A street (outside Edward's work), a few days later.

[Fade up a shallow ribbon of light on the downstage area. Ruth is standing stage DL, waiting patiently for several moments.]

[Enter Edward stage DL. Edward and Ruth begin walking slowly R.]

Edward: Thank you for being so patient. How are you?

Ruth: I am well. I am also dying of curiosity.

Edward: [Shakes head.] Curiosity is rarely fatal on its own. Tabitha's daughter, Miranda, is studying piano, and she was ecstatic that I've been around to listen to her play. Roger is going to the state championship with his baseball team. Colin got better grades on his last report card than the previous time—He made the honor roll.

Ruth: Wonderful!

Edward: I spoke to Catherine again. She's beginning to open up to me, but she's still wary of my ministry. Her husband died last year. I'm praying she will let me help her. Jacquelin's daughter, Amanda, seems to be benefiting greatly from a fatherly influence. Jacquelin says this ministry is an answered prayer, and she wishes there were a hundred men doing what I'm doing.

Ruth: Yeah.

Edward: [Lets out a deep sigh.] Every child needs a father.

[Exeunt stage R.]

[Fade down.]

Scene viii

SCENE: The Diner, a few days later.

[Fade up]

[Cafe table at stage DC sits in a small pool of light. Ruth is seated in one of the chairs, waiting impatiently for Edward.]

[Enter Edward CL and sits opposite Ruth.]

Ruth: I think sometimes that you are deliberately tormenting me.

Edward: Hello, Ruth.

Ruth: So tell me the news. Your message said I should meet you here for an update.

Edward: [Chuckles] Catherine agreed to let me help her.

[Ruth shrieks with delight. Edward covers his ears.]

Ruth: Sorry about that, Edward.

Edward: So am I. My ears are ringing now. [Makes ear-popping motions with his mouth. Deadpan:] Where was I?

Ruth: Catherine.

Edward: Oh. Well, there's not much to say about that. I've spent a few hours with her and her daughter. She confides in me, and her daughter, Esther, is delighted to show me things that she finds. The others are about the same as the last time we talked. God is blessing me more than I am blessing any of these children.

Ruth: It is always like that in God's work. You get out of it much more than you put into it.

[Fade down.]

[Curtain.]

ACT II

Scene i

SCENE: A street (outside Edward's work), Spring 2001

[Curtain.]

[Fade up a shallow ribbon of light on the downstage area. Ruth is standing stage DL, waiting patiently for several moments.]

Edward: [Offstage.] Good evening, Ruth. Been busy at work?

[Sound: jingling keys, deadbolt locking.]

Ruth: Golly, have I ever. I've been swamped. The phone has been ringing off the hook, and—Enough about me!

[Enter Edward stage DL.]

Ruth: [Continuing:] Tell me how your ministry is going. I haven't seen you in a while.

[Edward heaves a weary sigh.]

Ruth: Is something wrong?

Edward: The ministry is great. I believe I'm making a huge difference in the lives of these kids.

Ruth: Then why are you troubled?

[Edward and Ruth begin walking R. Ruth follows D of Edward. On small stages, begin walking immediately after Edward says "That I'll Mess it up."]

Edward: I guess I'm scared.

Ruth: Of what?

Edward: That I'll mess it up.

Ruth: How would you mess it up? You're working in God's strength, right?

Edward: Right. I couldn't do this in my own strength.

Ruth: Then how could you mess it up?

Edward: I don't know. I just have this nagging feeling that something is going to change my ability to minister to these kids.

Ruth: [Stops, pausing. Catches up to Edward. Hopefully:] If it's a change, it could be a positive change.

Edward: It could also be negative.

Ruth: True, but Jesus told us not to worry. We're to give all our troubles to Him.

Edward: I know, and I have. The feeling just keeps coming back.

Ruth: Do you need a break?

Edward: A break? How could I take a break? The best times are when I'm with these children.

Ruth: Then what's the problem?

Edward: I'm not sure. I'll just have to do what good I can for as long as God allows me to.

Ruth: That sounds like a good plan to me. Keep it up, and don't worry.

Edward: Thanks, Ruth.

Ruth: My pleasure. I want to see you succeed.

Edward: I appreciate it. Please pray for me, that I can find out why I have this feeling so I can figure out if there's anything I can do to solve it.

Ruth: I will, Edward.

[Fade down.]

Scene ii

SCENE: The cafe, several days later.

[Fade up]

[Cafe table at stage DC sits in a small pool of light. Edward is seated in one of the chairs.]

[Enter Ruth CL and sits opposite Edward.]

Ruth: Golly, Edward, you sure have been hard to track down the past few weeks.

Edward: I'm sorry. I've been taking my laptop and working in the park.

Ruth: Well, I'm just glad I found you. Hey! Do you know what today is?

Edward: Nope.

Ruth: It's the one year anniversary of your ministry! You told me about your plan last year today.

Edward: Wow. [Suddenly scowls. Short pause.] That's interesting.

Ruth: You sound kinda down. [Pause.] Did you ever figure out what was bothering you?

Edward: Yes.

Ruth: And was there anything you could do about it?

Edward: Maybe there was, but I'm not sure there is now.

Ruth: What do you mean?

Edward: I mean [Takes a breath.] that I find myself with more than a ministerial attraction to Catherine.

[Ruth's jaw drops and she puts her hand on the table as if to steady herself. Her eyes widen, but she remains silent.]

Edward: [Pause.] As if that wasn't hard enough to handle, she told me the other day that she would like to get to know me on a more romantic level.

Ruth: Wow. That was rather sudden.

Edward: I know.

Ruth: What are you going to do?

Edward: I don't know. I guess I may have to find someone to help Catherine's daughter.

Ruth: You want to give up on her?

Edward: Not at all. I want to devote more of my time to her, but that's impossible, because I have four other children to think about. [Frustrated:] And I can't keep things as they are because of the attraction between us.

Ruth: Yeah. I'm sorry this happened, Edward.

Edward: It's okay. I knew this might happen. This is why married men can't do this ministry. There is a danger of becoming too attatched to one of the mothers.

[Ruth nods.]

Edward: [Continuing:] Do you think I'll be able to find someone to help her?

Ruth: I don't know, Edward, but I'll pray for you.

Edward: Thank you.

[Fade down.]

Scene iii

SCENE: The orphanage.

[On small stages, this segment can be omitted. At beginning of scene, Dream Child and Dream Children are seated on the floor in a circle which includes James. Children sit frozen until Dream Man opens door. Stage is in darkness.]

[Fade up spotlight on Dream Man at base of stairs. He walks slowly up stairs and stops at landing. He pauses and looks toward door at stage C, opens the door in front of him, but does not enter. Fade up lighting on the area portraying the twelve beds. If door is suspended, he should pause while it rises out of view. Dream Children and Dream Child pantomime listening intently to James. James hugs the child on his left and then the child on his right, then pantomimes telling a story. Dream Man walks through the door, but Dream Child, Dream Children, and James do not notice him. Dream Man turns back downstage and walks out the door. If door is suspended, Dream Man should pause while it lowers back into place. Fade down lighting on area containing circle of children. Dream Man looks around and finally walks L to door near stage DC and opens door. Dream Man steps through. Fade up lighting on DC area. Catherine stands in center of lighted area, smiling.]

[Fade down.]

SCENE: A street (Outside Ruth's house.)

[Fade up a shallow ribbon of light on the stage DR area as lighting fades down at DC. Edward is standing stage DR, waiting. To L of Edward, two porch chairs sit.]

[Sound: Car pulling into a driveway. Car door slamming.]

Ruth: [Offstage.] Is everything okay?

Edward: [Slightly dreamy:] I had another dream.

Ruth: Do you want to tell me about it?

[They sit.]

Edward: It started out like the other one, but when I got to the top of the stairs and opened the door, all the children were gathered around another man. I walked in, but they ignored me. The man was telling stories and hugging the children. [Pause.] I turned and walked out, but instead of waking up, I walked down that hall I had never explored. At the end of it, I opened a door, and I was in the hall at my house. I heard voices in the living room, so I went through the door to that room, but as soon as I had glanced around, everything faded and blurred, and I woke up shortly after that. The only thing I saw from the dream's living room that I could remember after I awoke was Catherine's smile. I don't know what she was doing in my living room.

Ruth: [Tugs at lower lip for a moment, thinking.] Do you think this dream is as meaningful as the other dream?

Edward: I'm not sure.

Ruth: Would you like a cup of hot tea?

Edward: I think that would do me a world of good.

Ruth: [Stands.] Come in and relax for a few minutes. I have a feeling this dream will explain itself when the time is right.

[Edward and Ruth walk upstage as lights fade down.]

Scene iv

SCENE: The cafe, a few days later.

[Fade up.]

[Cafe table at stage DC sits in a small pool of light. Edward and Ruth are seated at the table in relaxed postures. They pantomime sipping their coffee leisurely throughout the scene.]

Edward: I had a very interesting meeting today.

[Ruth waits.]

Edward: I met with Dr. Jackson during my lunch hour. He introduced me to someone I already knew.

Ruth: Why did he do that?

Edward: Because the man to whom he introduced me didn't know me.

Ruth: You enjoy tormenting me with these cryptic statements, don't you?

Edward: I didn't mean to be so opaque. You said my dream would make sense when the time was right.

Ruth: Now I'm even more confused.

Edward: The man Dr. Jackson introduced to me was the man I saw in my dream. I knew it as soon as I saw him. Then something happened that was really interesting.

Ruth: I'm going to die of curiosity one of these days.

Edward: [Pauses, taking a sip of exaggerated length and swallows.] Be patient. Dr. Jackson introduced him and said that he was interested in my minstry. We talked for a while and I felt very comfortable with him. I almost felt as though I could trust him with anything.

Ruth: Almost?

Edward: Well, I don't mean almost felt. I mean I felt I could trust him with almost anything. It was really comforting.

Ruth: What happened then?

Edward: I went back to work.

[Ruth covers her face with her hands in an expression of frustration and makes a short, frustrated noise, then quickly speaks.]

Ruth: Please be more clear!

Edward: I'm going to talk to the mothers and see if I can't get him involved. He could help me to help more children.

Ruth: What about Catherine?

Edward: I haven't decided.

Ruth: Are you sure you're taking the right course?

Edward: Why? Do you think there is some danger?

Ruth: No. I'm not sure what I think. I mean, I think it's great that someone else wants to get involved. I'm just not sure you're making the right choice, for some reason. It's strange.

Edward: I don't think I understand.

Ruth: Never mind. If I figure it out, I'll tell you.

Edward: Okay.

[Fade down.]

Scene v

SCENE: A street (Outside Edward's work.), the next day.

[Fade up a shallow ribbon of light on the stage DR area. Ruth is standing stage DR, waiting.]

[Sound: Car pulling into a driveway. Car door slamming.]

Ruth: I figured it out!

[Enter Edward DR.]

Ruth: [Calm, explaining:] I was lying in bed after I hit the snooze this morning, and it just came to me in a flash. [Excited:] I figured out why you're making the wrong choice.

Edward: I had that dream again.

Ruth: You did? Wow. That's cool, because the reason is in your dream.

Edward: [Smiling:] I'm listening.

Ruth: The man in your dream wasn't helping you, he was replacing you.

Edward: I know.

Ruth: [Takes a breath to say something, then realizes what Edward said.] You do?

Edward: Yes. I noticed it last night when I had the dream.

[Ruth lets out her breath in a disappointed sigh.]

Ruth: I ran over here for nothing.

Edward: I guess I'm going to have to get James more involved than I thought. Thank you for coming by to tell me, Ruth. I appreciate it, and it confirms what I thought. You're a great friend.

[Fade down.]

Scene vi

SCENE: The cafe, a few weeks later.

[Fade up]

[Cafe table at stage DC sits in a small pool of light.]

[Enter Edward, Ruth, and waiter or waitress stage CL and walk toward table. Edward and Ruth pantomime telling waiter or waitress what they want to drink. Exit waiter or waitress.]

Edward: It's been a good week.

Ruth: Has it? Tell me about it.

Edward: I've been spending the past few weeks getting the children used to James. He's been going with me to all of the events for the children. The only problem has been with Amanda.

Ruth: What's the problem?

Edward: She just refuses to let James get close. Actually, she's been a little cold with me, as well. I finally figured it out, though.

Ruth: Oh?

Edward: I sat down with her yesterday and asked her to tell me what was troubling her. She said her mom was spending a lot of time with a man. I knew about that, because Jacquelin had discussed it with me. Amanda told me how she felt about things, and I tried to help her understand that her mother was spending time with him without her so that she could make sure he wouldn't hurt her, and that when her mother was satisfied with that, that she would be included, and it would be better than when she had her mom to herself.

Ruth: Did she understand that?

Edward: I think so. Anyway, today Jacquelin told me that she has decided he's a good man and will be a good father to Amanda. He has proposed to her, but she told him she would only say yes if Amanda agreed, so she asked me to talk to Amanda about meeting him. I'm going back tomorrow to do that.

[Long, uncomfortable silence. Edward fidgets, drawing with his finger on tablecloth, or thumbing the edge of imaginary menu.]

Ruth: Is something wrong?

Edward: I was just thinking.

Ruth: You were just thinking what?

Edward: I was wondering if I've worked with the same kids for too long.

Ruth: What do you mean?

Edward: [Frustrated:] I mean, for example, that Amanda has gotten really attached to me, and so has Esther. I know that these children still need fathers, and that until James came there was no one else to fill that gap, but it's dangerous for these kids to get too attached to someone who can't be there for the rest of their childhoods. I was never supposed to be a permanent replacement. Amanda is exactly the way this is supposed to work. [Becoming more calm and even] I stepped in when she needed me, and I hope that she will soon have a real father, whereupon I step out of the picture. The only problem is that there has been, and will be again soon, only one person being a stand-in father to these kids.

Ruth: I'm not sure I understand.

Edward: There needs to be some rotation, so that the children won't get so attached to one person that they would be devastated when he eventually moves to another ministry or retires.

Ruth: As you are?

Edward: As I am.

Ruth: Edward, don't worry. God knows what He's doing. He will raise up the needed men.

Edward: What if I'm one of the needed men?

Ruth: You're not. God has called you to a commitment to a single family. He will call others to this ministry. It is up to those men to fill your place and to expand this ministry until every child has someone to guide them in what a godly man is as long as they don't have a full-time father. You must trust Him.

[Enter waiter or waitress stage CL pantomiming as though carrying a tray. waiter or waitress pantomimes placing drinks on the table, then exits.]

Edward: [Frustrated:] You're right. I just see so much need.

Ruth: Esther needs you more than you can provide while you carry this burden. God has provided another to take it from you. Let him.

Edward: I will. [Pantomimes picking up menu.]

[Fade down.]

Scene vii

SCENE: The cafe, the next day.

[Fade up]

[Cafe table at stage DC sits in a small pool of light. Edward and Ruth are seated at the table. Edward is R of Ruth.]

Ruth: [Pantomimes sipping drink and swallowing.] So, how did it go?

Edward: You mean talking to Amanda?

Ruth: Of course.

Edward: Well, I sat down with her and told her that her mother is going to be spending more time with her, and that there's going to be a new man spending time with her, doing the things I've been doing and more. I told her she needed to get to know this man. She wasn't happy about that, but I told her she needed to give him a chance, because her mother was trying to help her get the things she needs, and that having this man in her life was likely to help her do that. She put her arms around me and asked why I couldn't go with her. I told her I would get in the way, but that I would go with her when she first met him. She decided that that would make it good. I'm not sure how it will turn out, but I've been praying about it, and I have high hopes for it.

Ruth: Did you see James today?

Edward: Yes, I did. He was on his way to Tabitha's house to spend time with Miranda.

Ruth: How is he doing with the ministry?

Edward: He seems to have a real talent for it. He's a better storyteller than I, and he has a little more time to devote to it. Funny thing is that now I don't know what to do with my time.

Ruth: Well, don't try too hard to fill it. Remember that you have a new responsibility.

Edward: I know. [Pause. Glances CL.] Here comes our food.

[Ruth turns to look CL as lights fade down.]

Scene viii

SCENE: A street (outside Edward's work), Summer 2001

[Fade up a shallow ribbon of light on the downstage area.]

[Enter Edward and Ruth stage DL, walking slowly R as they talk.]

Edward: Thank you for meeting me here today.

Ruth: You're welcome. How was the honeymoon?

Edward: It was wonderful. Catherine and I went to a little bed and breakfast in the Smoky Mountains for a fun weekend, bonding with each other and getting used to each other's idiosyncrasies. When we got back, she and Esther and I spent as much time as we could together, playing games, walking together, eating, watching the sunsets, and looking at the stars.

Ruth: That's great!

Edward: How is the ministry going?

Ruth: I met James for the first time the other day. He's certainly an easy man to talk to. [Ruth stops. Edward stops.] He's very excited about the ministry. He said Colin told him to make sure you were told that he got an A in math.

Edward: That's wonderful!

Ruth: James has found two children to fill out his group. Also, our bishop is visiting the area.

Edward: Oh?

Ruth: Yes. Dr. Jackson told him about this ministry, and he wants to study it to see if he can organize ministries like it in other areas.

Edward: That's great!

Ruth: Where's Catherine?

Edward: [Pointing stage CR:] Over there, in the park with Esther.

Ruth: [Both start walking again. Ruth takes a moment to study Edward's face.] You look very happy.

Edward: My face is a poor reflection of the level of my joy. I love them. I wish every child could have what Esther has now. Every child needs a father. I should let you get back to work, and I should get back to my family. [Pauses, smiling.] It's a wonderful feeling, being part of a family. [Both stop walking.] Good-bye, Ruth. [Exit Edward stage DR quickly.]

[Ruth faces the audience. She stands silently for a few moments, as though contemplating.]

[Spotlight on Ruth fades up as ribbon of light fades down so that amount of light on Ruth remains constant.]

Ruth: It's sad. So many children don't even have a stand-in father. [Looks offstage DR, then back at audience.] He's right. Every child needs someone to call—

Esther: [Offstage, delighted:]—Daddy!

[Ruth smiles wistfully. BLACKOUT]

[Curtain.]

[fin]

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