Creative Writing

An Excerpt from ‘A Wild River’

(Music: Benedictine monks. Set: Two chairs. A small table sits between them, with a a plate and a small religious-themed statue, preferably of a female saint, on it. Two men enter. Paul wears a religious robe. Peter is a journalist, wearing a tie and...

(Music: Benedictine monks. Set: Two chairs. A small table sits between them, with a a plate and a small religious-themed statue, preferably of a female saint, on it. Two men enter. Paul wears a religious robe. Peter is a journalist, wearing a tie and jacket and carrying a pad and paper. He’s clearly nervous.)

PAUL: In here.

PETER: Thank you.

PAUL: Please sit. Water?

PETER: No, thank you.
PAUL: Something else? Tea, coffee, apple juice, orange juice, Coke or Pepsi…

PETER: You have both?

PAUL: It is our policy not to choose favorites.
PETER: No, I’m fine, really.
PAUL: All right.

PETER: Thank you.

PAUL: You are welcome.
(A pause. Paul sits down across from Peter.
 A longer pause.)

PETER: So. Big changes here, huh?

PAUL: Yes. A new beginning.

PETER: I never thought I’d see the day.

PAUL: You and several billion other people.

PETER: It’s historic.

PAUL: It is larger than historic.

PETER: You’re right. It’s a miracle.

PAUL: Not necessarily, no. Here, that word means something very specific. There are criteria. Elaborate criteria. We send priests to interview people, take statements, do research…it can take years.
PETER: Right. I just meant…
PAUL: The Church doesn’t leave anything to chance. The election of the Supreme Pontiff was not a matter of chance. You are not here by chance. You are sitting in that chair, preparing for the most important interview of your life, because the Pope, the Wearer of the Three Crowns, the Pastor and Physician Possessed of all Power both in Heaven and Earth, requested you to be here.

PETER: Me specifically?

PAUL: The Supreme Pontiff likes your writing.

PETER: Are you sure?

PAUL: Yes. Particularly your interviews in Rolling Stone.
PETER: I wouldn’t think my writing…I don’t normally interview someone like this.

PAUL: I am aware of that.

PETER: Celebrities, rock musicians…

PAUL: The Pope is not a celebrity.

PETER: I didn’t mean…

PAUL: The Pope is the representative of God on Earth.

PETER: Of course.
I guess I’m just sort of awestruck.

PAUL: That is a proper state of mind for
this interview.

PETER: So, uh, what’s the proper way
to address…

PAUL: Your Holiness.

PETER: Not Holy Father…

PAUL: We’re still working all of that out. These are early days.
(a regal trumpet flourish)
The Supreme Pontiff approaches!

(Paul turns towards the approaching Pope and genuflects elaborately. Peter stands up, sits down, tries the genuflection, gets lost, kneels. The Pope enters. She’s an energetic and attractive young woman, dressed in tasteful robes and drinking a Diet Pepsi.)

GRACE: Thanks, fellas. You can both stand. The Pope says you can stand.

PAUL: Your Eminence, this is Mr. Peter Kettle.

PETER: Your Holiness.

GRACE: Mr. Kettle. I’m a fan.

PAUL: Really?

GRACE: I loved your Macy Gray interview.
PETER: Thank you.

GRACE: That woman’s got a voice, huh?
(she sings a little Macy Gray)
Hey Paul, we got some Macy Gray?

PAUL: I’m sorry?
GRACE: Tell a couple of the Swiss Guards to go out and get some Macy Gray. The music around here’s kind of a downer. Anyhow…
So, let’s get this thing started. Sorry I don’t have long. Still have to finish my big speech for the induction.
(she pulls out a cigarette and a lighter, then offers one to Peter)

PETER: No, thank you.

GRACE: (starts to light cigarette, but then stops)
Kidding, kidding. I don’t smoke.

(nervous laughter)

GRACE: Be funny, though, wouldn’t it?
“The new Pope is a woman, and she smokes!” I can see the headlines now.
Like I don’t already have my work cut
out for me.
So – first question.

PETER:  Uh, were you surprised by your election?

GRACE: Sure. I mean, sort of. You ever come out of an exam, and you’re telling people, “Woah, I didn’t know half of that stuff, I just hope I passed,” but you secretly think you aced it, but you don’t want to say anything? It was like that.

PETER: You thought you aced it.
GRACE: Yeah. And you know, I prayed. A lot. I’m a really good pray-er. That should be obvious, right? Because I prayed for this, and look what happened!

PETER: Sure.

GRACE: Positive thinking. I think other people were more surprised than me,
actually. Paul, you were surprised, right?

PAUL: Yes, your Eminence.

GRACE: You should have seen his face! It was hilarious!
Sorry, Paul. Just giving you a hard time.
PAUL: Of course, Holy Father.

GRACE: Aha! Got you! Another lira in the Patriarch Plate!

(Paul fishes out a coin and puts it onto the plate.)

PETER: So, why do you think you were elected Pope?
GRACE: Let’s see: I’m a good Catholic. That’s job requirement number one. I enjoy public speaking, and I get along with just about everybody, especially priests. I love hanging out with those guys. Also, I look good in the robe and the big hats. My predecessor – amazing theologian, but did not look good with the big hat. True, Paul?

PETER: Indeed.

GRACE: “Indeed.” You are always so serious.
(finishes up her Pepsi; to Paul)
Could you get your Pope a Coke this
time? Diet?

PAUL: Of course, Supreme Pontiff.
(he exits)

GRACE: Great guy. Really. Just needs to take the stick out, know what I mean?

PETER: He seems a little uptight.

GRACE: It’s the job. Anyhow…next question.

PETER: What are your plans as the first female Pope?

GRACE: I thought it was going to be, “Are you single?” Kidding. Though I am single, obviously. Well, I’m not actually the first female Pope. There was one back in the ninth century, Pope Joan. But she had to disguise herself as a man, died in childbirth, and had her story scrubbed from all official Church history, so she’s not exactly a role model. Peter…can I call you Peter?

PETER: Of course.

GRACE: You still have to call me the Pope! Those are the rules! Anyhow. There’s so much to do. We live in a world where women always get the short end of the stick, especially in my line of work, with all this blatant patriarchy. Still, you have to start somewhere, right? I’m thinking contraception. God’s plan obviously isn’t having us multiply into misery while we turn the earth into an ashtray.
(Paul returns with a Coke)
Thanks, Paul. Your Pope is pleased. Ooh, it’s chilled! Anyhow…where was I?

PETER: The ban on contraception?

GRACE: Oh yeah. That’ll be lifted in Papal Decree Numero Uno. Then we’ll see about women priests, economic equality, and universal child care. But that’s just the stuff everyone expects from me. I’m still thinking of what I can do that they don’t expect.

PETER: That all sounds pretty radical.

GRACE: It’s a new millennium. Time for some new ideas. The world changes, so must the Church. Right, Paul?

PAUL: With all due respect, your Eminence, no. The Church is eternal, unchanging. You are the latest in an unbroken lineage of Supreme Pontiffs whose duty is to protect the sacred legacy of Peter, the apostle of Christ. He was the rock. You are the rock. We look to you for stability, not wild or arbitrary change.

GRACE: Faith is not a rock. Faith is a wild river. I could say that it’s a rock or a mustard seed or a happy valley of gentle breezes and pretty flowers and cute bunnies. You might find that more comforting. But no. Faith is a wild river, cold and swift. You can’t live in this world and not get bruised or beaten up some. My job is not to just lie midstream and let the currents rush past. It’s to help people navigate the waters of faith to a tranquil sea.
(standing up)
But we’ll talk more later. I’m just the Pope. It’s not like everything I say is infallible. That’s not infallible, that’s insufferable. Anyhow. Got a cassock fitting in ten minutes, so…Peter, lovely meeting you. You’re even cuter in real life. Send me a copy of the interview when it comes out, okay?

PAUL: Of course, your Holiness.

GRACE: Come back in a couple of months, see how I’m doing.
(she exits)


PAUL: Indeed.

PETER: She’s not what I expected.

PAUL: She’s not what any of us expected.

PETER: So tell me: how did she get elected?

PAUL: Off the record?

PETER: Off the record.

PAUL: They like her.
It’s been a long time since any of us have really liked a candidate.

PETER: I see.
You know? She’s kind of hot.

PAUL: Is she? I hadn’t noticed.
(he smiles) •