THE SHAPE OF THINGS
A Short Story In Dramatic Form
The scene opens inside a large, empty hall. There is a table in the middle of the room with a spotlight shining down on it. It is pitch black in the area surrounding them.
There are two chairs at the table, one at each end. Place settings set in front of them. A YOUNG MAN sits at one end of the table, waiting impatiently. He’s dressed in an all black suit. A WAITER walks up. He’s dressed in all white.
WAITER: Would you like a drink while you wait for the rest of your party?
YOUNG MAN: The rest of my-? Is he going to be much longer or what?
WAITER: He’ll take as long as he’s going to take, sir.
YOUNG MAN: It just kills you that you have to serve me, doesn’t it? I can see it in your eyes. Every year another one of you pulls this gig and every year I can see the same look of absolute disdain on your faces. And why? Cause I had a mind of my own? Cause I didn’t want to serve them?
WAITER: Would you like a drink or not?
YOUNG MAN: (Sighs) Red wine. Mouton Rothschild 1945 will do.
WAITER: Coming up, sir.
The waiter walks off.
YOUNG MAN: Winged fairy.
A door opens stage left and a bright light shines through, creating a larger than life silhouette across the stage. The door closes and the man who walked through it steps into the light.
He’s an OLDER MAN, dressed in a blue on white suit. No tie. The young man stands up to greet him.
OLDER MAN: Son.
YOUNG MAN: Dad. You’re late. Again.
OLDER MAN: All apologies. It gets busy up there.
YOUNG MAN: I get pretty busy myself.
OLDER MAN: I’m aware. Again, I genuinely apologize. I should’ve been on time.
YOUNG MAN: It’s fine. Is Pete excited for his annual day in charge?
OLDER MAN: He always is.
YOUNG MAN: Yeah. Who wouldn’t be?
OLDER MAN: Well, are you going to sit? I don’t know about you, but I’m starved.
YOUNG MAN: I was ok until I had to sit here and wait for over an hour.
OLDER MAN: Are you going to hold onto this? Or are you going to let it go and enjoy our meal?
YOUNG MAN: I’m only letting it go cause I know my bitching wont change anything.
OLDER MAN: If only you had learned that lesson years ago.
YOUNG MAN: Funny.
The young man sits down and the older man follows, sitting across from him.
OLDER MAN: So how have you been son?
YOUNG MAN: That’s a bit of a loaded question. Why don’t we order before I even think about answering it?
OLDER MAN: Ok. That’s fine with me.
YOUNG MAN: All right then. Get your lackey back out here.
The stage goes BLACK. When the light comes back on, the two of them have their meals in front of them and are eating. The young man takes a piece of bread, bites from it, and then stops himself. He holds the bread out in front of him.
YOUNG MAN: Wait a second. I’m-I’m not eating your favorite son here, am I?
OLDER MAN: Every year you make that joke. It still isn’t funny.
YOUNG MAN: That’s debatable.
OLDER MAN: Well, your humor always was a bit juvenile for me.
YOUNG MAN: That’s right. Hitting the monkeys with hurricanes and tornadoes, and who knows what other natural disasters, that’s funny to you. Hurting your children is funny to you.
OLDER MAN: I find no humor in their pain.
YOUNG MAN: Then why inflict it?
OLDER MAN: I’m testing them.
YOUNG MAN: That’s what you’ve been saying since the beginning of time. Well, let me tell you father, they’re failing. That’s what they do. They fail. Your flawed little creations will always fail you.
OLDER MAN: I’ve heard this speech before, son. I’ve been hearing it for millions of years, but I’ll never give up on them, and you know that. So why do you continue to give it?
YOUNG MAN: Because I’m trying to open your eyes. You say you’ll never give up on them; well I’ll never give up on you. I have to believe you can be reasoned with.
OLDER MAN: What you spout is not reason; it’s hate. You hate them, so you only see the evil.
YOUNG MAN: Evil is all there is. Evil, by the way, that I am routinely blamed for. It’s the same way every time with your followers. Someone commits an act of unspeakable evil; Satan was behind it. They’re all about the whole “we were created in his image” until that image is even a tiny bit distorted. Then it was all me. I’m behind it all. I was the gunman on the grassy knoll; I changed it so Gredo shot first, and so on and so forth.
OLDER MAN: What would you like me to say? They need someone to blame.
YOUNG MAN: (Angry) Why isn’t it you? You put them on that rock, same as you cast me down in the pit.
OLDER MAN: Don’t act like I didn’t have reason for casting you out.
YOUNG MAN: They don’t deserve what you’ve given them, they never did.
OLDER MAN: See this? This is what I am saying. You talk about listening to reason, I’ve tried to bring you around to mine since the beginning. I’ve been trying to show you what I see in them for ages now. You brought up the natural disasters. Well have you noticed that no matter how many I hit them with, they keep going. They keep fighting. They’re stronger than you give them credit for.
YOUNG MAN: Some keep going. Some take those disasters as their cue to steal whatever they can get their hands on.
OLDER MAN: Never in all the years we’ve been having this dinner have I said they’re perfect. Of course they’re flawed. And those flaws may push them to do things such as steal, but-
YOUNG MAN: What about rape? Or murder? Or sending their populations off to war to die: most of the time in your name? Can you file those under “things their flaws pushed them to do”?
OLDER MAN: No. To be honest, I have no excuse for such things. All I can say is that behavior such as that is necessary.
YOUNG MAN: (Shocked) Excuse me?
OLDER MAN: You heard me. I’ve come to realize that most of the good on my planet is brought out or motivated by an act of evil. You bring up rape. I bring up a woman named Nancy Corrigan. She stepped off a bus one late night, expecting to be safe in her own neighborhood, and she was attacked. She was a victim of this heinous act. But I say was because she is no longer. She’s taken the trauma she went through and has become a rape counselor. She’s helped countless women who have gone through the same as her, push through and continue to lead their lives. Now you bring up murder. I bring up Ryan Lang, who as a young man, aged thirteen, heard the story of Edgar Holly. A child whose parents finally broke down and let him walk home from school alone one day, only to have him abducted and murdered. Ryan took this story as motivation to become a police officer. In hopes that he could maybe one day be in the right place at the right time and save a child from a fate similar to Edgar’s. And lo and behold, last month, his first on the job, Ryan saw an abduction in progress and managed to stop it. He saved a little girl’s life.
YOUNG MAN: Good for Ryan. But what about Edgar Holly’s parents? The poor people who had to have a closed casket at their son’s funeral because when his body was found, he was too badly mangled to possibly show? Or what about Theodore Milligan? Edgar’s killer. Till this day, he sits in a prison, alive, while Edgar is six feet under. Ted gets cable television and three meals a day while Edgar gets eaten by maggots. How can you expect me to see what you see in them when things such as that occur?
OLDER MAN: One day it will be Theodore’s time, and balance will be restored. He will meet his fate down in your pit. Edgar however will spend the rest of eternity in a paradise he created. His parents know that. And his parents also know that one day they’ll be reunited with him, and all the suffering they experienced will be washed away.
YOUNG MAN: Do they know that, though? You think they still believe after what they’ve been through? The problem with evolution is your creations are getting smarter. And the smarter they get, the less of them flock to church on Sunday mornings. They see no reward in it, only pain. Why should they devote themselves to someone who is just going to hurt them?
OLDER MAN: I harbor no ill will towards those who cannot find it in themselves to believe in me. I don’t blame them. I love them. After all, they’re simply doing what I had hoped they would.
YOUNG MAN: And what’s that?
OLDER MAN: Exercising their right to free will.
The young man recoils, very saddened by the older man’s last line.
OLDER MAN: What is it?
YOUNG MAN: Don’t you see father?
A tear rolls down the young man’s cheek.
YOUNG MAN: The very reason you love them so is the same that had you cast me out.
OLDER MAN: It’s not so black and white, son.
YOUNG MAN: It sure seems that way. I did the very same thing when you created them. You told us all that we had to love and serve them unconditionally, and I exercised free will and told you no. For it, you had me cast out.
OLDER MAN: No son, I had you cast out for the war you started. For the countless lives you cost. I didn’t cast you out because your pride couldn’t have you serve lesser beings. I cast you out because that same pride lead you to slaughter all those who opposed you, until only your brother was able to stop you.
YOUNG MAN: I was angry. You turned your back on me, when all I ever wanted was to serve you, and to love you. It wasn’t my pride stopping me from serving them. It was my love for another: my love for my father.
OLDER MAN: If you truly love me, you would’ve fallen in line.
The young man is taken aback by his Father’s words. He falls back in his chair and wipes his tears away.
YOUNG MAN: (Seething With Anger) You know why I hate them? It’s because you’ve given them everything. You gave them earth; they’re destroying it. Your masterpiece is being destroyed by your greatest failing. And quite frankly, I can’t wait for them to finish the job. Cause when they destroy it, for good, I’ll finally be able to tell you I told you so, you self-righteous bastard.
OLDER MAN: When that day comes, you’ll still be down in your pit, and I’ll be up in paradise.
YOUNG MAN: (Letting His Anger Die Down) Why do we still do this? It’s been millions of years and I have never once left one of these meetings any way but angry.
OLDER MAN: I’m going to tell you something, son: it’ll be millions more and that will never change. Which is exactly why you’re down in that pit and not by my side.
YOUNG MAN: Goodbye father.
The young man gets up from the table and walks off.
YOUNG MAN: I’ll see you next year.
OLDER MAN: As always, son.
The young man exits the hall. The older man stays seated, disappointed at the events that just transpired.
The waiter walks back up.
WAITER: How did it go, sir?
OLDER MAN: Not great, Adriel.
WAITER: I don’t understand why you continue to meet him every year.
OLDER MAN: No matter what he’s done, he’s still my son. I’ll never give up on him. I’ll never give up on any of you. Even though what just transpired was not what I hoped, I still look forward to when I see him next. When hopefully he’ll leave my presence in a different state of mind.
WAITER: What if he does? What happens then?
OLDER MAN: I’ll take him into my arms.
The older man lays his hand on the waiter’s shoulder and the stage goes BLACK.