Harrison Mathews – mid-thirties, feels life/God has given him a bad deal
Erica Murphy – mid-thirties, a woman who has suffered loss, but for whom things are looking up
Jacob Davenport – a street worker
A snatch thief
(The set is very simple. There is a large nativity scene center stage. Fully lighted with a baby doll resting in the manger. There is some snow around the edges of the figures. It is simple, yet beautiful. At the side of the manger there is a change box for donations.
Harrison Mathews enters stage right. Harrison is in mid-thirties. He seems to be a well-to-do type of fellow. He is dressed in jeans and a t-shirt with a light jacket over the top of it.
Harrison crosses past the manger and stops. He stares just a moment. After standing there for a brief moment, he pulls out his wallet, opens it, and closes it. He huffs, and then places the wallet back in his back pocket. He then turns and exits stage left.
As he is leaving, Erica Murphy entering from stage left passes him. She is another thirty-something, but appears to be less well off. She sees the manger and stops. She wipes a tear from her eye. She then opens her purse and takes out a dollar bill. She folds it up and places it in the box. She then exits down the right aisle.
As Erica is leaving, Jacob Davenport enters down left aisle. Jacob is in his mid-twenties. He is carrying several department store bags and looks like he has been shopping for days. He gets to the manger; see the donation box and tries to pat his jacket pockets to feel for any loose change that he may have. Realizing that he cannot reach into any of his pockets with his hands full of packages, he crosses to the change box and sets down his bags. As he is reaching for his wallet, an unknown assailant enters from stage right, grabs as many bags as he can and runs off stage left. Jacob yells after the man. Before the thief exits he runs into Harrison reentering from stage left. The thief drops one of the department store bags that he had stolen.)
Hey buddy, watch where you are going!
Outta my way, jerk!
The thief exits leaving Harrison slightly disheveled. Jacob looks a little lost as he is checking the bags he still has left. He crosses over to pick up some of the bags and packages that were scattered in the attack.
I certainly hope he needed those things more than I do…
Are you okay?
Harrison helps Jacob pick up his packages.
Yeah, I’m fine. A little frustrated, a lot angry.
Do you want me to call the police?
What’s the point? He’s long gone. I didn’t get a decent look at him. (pretending to be on a phone) Yeah Officer, he was wearing a jacket with a hood and he had legs… yes legs… he was running. Is that a common feature on criminals, legs?
I see what you mean.
They finish picking up packages.
He carries the bags back over next to the donation box and sets them down. He is more aware of his surroundings. Harrison just stands silently and watches Jacob. Jacob pulls out his wallet again and takes out a twenty-dollar bill and places it in the box and smiles. He collects his things and crosses over to where Harrison is standing.
You have a Merry Christmas.
Jacob exits stage left. Harrison stands there for a moment and looks at the nativity and then turns around to watch where Jacob had exited. He then crosses over to the change box. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out some small change and throws it in the change box. He then reaches into his jacket and pulls out a flask. He holds it up in toast.
Cheers…oh yeah, and a Happy Birthday to you.
Harrison takes a swig.
Fade to black.
The set is the same. Harrison is sitting up against the change box. He is somewhat drunk. As he sits there, Erica enters from stage right. She isn’t carrying anything, but is accompanied by a small group of people. They are Christmas caroling. Harrison sees them and gets up. He exits stage left. One of the carolers has a guitar that he is playing. The carolers sing two songs; “Joy To The World” and “Away In A Manger”.
If we hurry, we still have time to get to the nursing home before lights out.
There is a chorus of agreement.
Alright. Um… why don’t you all go ahead… I’ll be along in a moment -
Don’t be too long, or there might not be enough green jell-o to go around.
The group makes its way down one of the aisles. They begin an impromptu chorus of “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing” as they exit.
Well… Happy Birthday Jesus. Um… I… uh… wanted to thank you. This past year has been so wonderful. You have given me so many gifts. I can’t begin to thank you enough. Thank you for…for…this…this nativity…for being born…for bringing peace. Bringing ME peace. When Michael died, I had no idea what I was going to do. I stayed at home all day and cried. I couldn’t work
Erica’s monologue continues as Harrison enters from stage left. He stands in the shadows and listens to what she is saying.
I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t feel anything. I was numb.
Does that make sense? I was numb. Sometimes in the middle of my crying
I would start laughing at how pathetic I was to just be sitting around
in an old ratty bathrobe sobbing. Then I felt so bad about laughing that
I just started crying again and harder than before. Then I lost the house
- I felt my whole world unraveling. You know? Like a sweater when you have
one piece of loose thread and you pull it. Then you keep pulling it and
suddenly you have a sweater with no right arm. That’s what my life felt
like. Someone kept pulling the thread and I kept losing the arms off of
my sweaters. So there I was… I was sleeping in my car… I had no job… no
home… no family… Michael and I had always talked about having kids… there
was never time. There’s never time for a lot of things. There’s never time
to say “I Love You” enough. There is never enough time to stay awake at
night and listen to the person lying next to you breathe. There is never
enough time for life. You know… that’s how I started this year…alone…homeless…jobless…penniless…hopeless.
I don’t think… no wait… I know I couldn’t have survived much longer without,
well without you. I remember, it was - um - January 14th… the day they
repossessed my car. I had no idea what I was going to do. I had spent my
last five dollars on two gallons of gas and a cup of coffee. I had driven
across town to some little dive motel I had been sneaking into to take
showers… while I was in the room, they took away my car. I should have
seen it coming. I hadn’t made a payment in, what, eight months? Panicked…
I ran into the motel office and told them that my car had been stolen.
The man at the desk looked so smug. “Kinda like my showers, huh?” I just
stared at him for what seemed like forever. He then said, “Why do you think
that room is always unlocked?” I must’ve turned seven shades of stupid.
This man knew that I had been sneaking into that same room every few days
to take a shower. What happened next absolutely blew my mind. He handed
me a ring of keys. I asked what on Earth that was supposed to mean. His
response? “Seven fifty an hour, Tuesday through Saturday, plus that room
is yours until you can find a suitable place to live”. How do you like
that? I steal showers and get a job in return for a repossessed car. I
had been praying. I had been praying so hard. I asked you for a sign… for
a reason… for anything… I thought you were ignoring me. Did you ever notice
that people only seem to really pray hard when they are in deep trouble?
It must be frustrating. Anyway, here it is almost a year later… I have
a small apartment of my own… Harvey, that’s the guy from the motel, we
just got married… People think it’s too soon, but when it’s right, it’s
right. He was a widower… Apparently, he had been praying for a friend seeing
as how he lost his best one to cancer the year before. Everything just
fell right in to place for the first time in a long time. That’s how I
knew you had your hand in it. I still don’t have all the answers, you know.
Why did you need Michael in the first place? I really could’ve used him
a little bit longer - but…uh… you’ve probably got him doing some amazing
thing up there… because he was amazing and I thank you for that… for the
time we had together… although it was way too short. I want to thank you
for Harvey… for bringing him into my life when you did… Most of all… I
want to thank you for this…
Erica places two hands on her stomach, she is pregnant. If it’s a boy, we will name him Michael, if it’s a girl, she’ll be Charlotte… that was Harvey’s wife. Tell Michael I am doing okay, and tell Charlotte I am taking good care of Harvey. And again, God, thank you. I wouldn’t have been able to survive as long as I did without you.
Erica takes a couple more bills out of her pocket and places them in the change box.
Just in case someone out there needs it.
Erica exits through the audience in the same direction that the carolers did. Harrison walks up to where Erica had been standing.
Seven fifty an hour? She would make so much more if she would sell that story to Lifetime as a movie of the week. (to baby in manger) I’m sure Oprah could produce or something. Do you see what people have resorted to? They talk to you like you are there. Like you mean anything. You are just a stupid plastic doll in a cheap display. I admit that it’s great marketing. Heck, have everyone pour their hearts out to a poor child in a barn. Who was the brilliant person behind “A Waif In a Manger”? And listen to me; here I am talking to you like you can hear me. You are just a doll. A symbol of a good idea that never came to fruition. It’s a great and humbling notion, isn’t it? “I can’t deal with the problems in my life, so I’ll pray to a baby, that he can fix my problems that I am too much of a coward to fix myself.” It’s such a great idea they built an entire Holiday around it. Happy Birthday indeed.
He throws his flask at the manger and it lands in with the baby Jesus doll. Harrison exits stage right.
A homeless man has passed out next to the manger. He is wearing a jacket with a hood and some old jeans and run-down tennis shoes. Jacob enters stage right with a cardboard box full of bags with food on it. He is passing out the food to homeless people on the street. He also has extra scarves around his neck. He sees the man lying next to the manger and stops. He puts down the box and crosses over to the man.
Hey buddy! You need to wake up! Buddy!
Huh? I didn’t do it…(groggy) I promise.
No buddy… Do you want some food?
I don’t have any money, but if you’ll spot me ten spot I can get something to eat -
No… I brought you some food.
The guy perks up. Then looks a little nervous as he realizes who is talking to.
Oh, man, I’m sorry. People don’t get nice to folks like me -
Not a big deal.
Jacob crosses over to the box and takes out a sack with a sandwich and some chips and a bottle of juice in it. He then crosses back over to the man and gives him the bag. The man is visibly thinking about running.
No, this is like a vacation in the Bahamas. You should try sleeping by the waterfront - that’s cold.
Here, take this.
Jacob takes off one of the extra scarves and gives it to the man.
You didn’t have to do that.
I know- but since I have an extra, there is no reason not to.
The man begins eating the sandwich.
I’m sorry it’s not hot food…
It’s food. Right now, that’s good enough.
Alright. Um… I’ve got more food to give out. I normally give out presents to the children I find too. There is no reason for children to be upset on Christmas. But…
Jacob picks up the box. The man has an epiphany.
Over on 23rd Street, you know that highway overpass?
There is a woman who stays there; she has two kids - a boy and a girl. They sleep in an abandoned security shack down there. They could use some food… and I am sure the kids would like a toy or two… it is Christmas.
The food I can deal with… The bags of toys I bought were stolen this afternoon from right over there. Those were the toys I was going to give out. So…
Rising to his feet
Listen. I know you are going to be - well… let’s just say…um… I found these earlier today…
He reaches behind the manger and pulls out the bags that were stolen from Jacob earlier.
Where did you find them?
Listen, man, I need to go. Thanks for the food, but I need to go.
The man rushes off stage left but leaves the scarf. The flask is still sitting in the manger.
Jacob collects the bags and his box of food but doesn’t get the scarf.
He’ll be back for that.
Jacob exits stage left.
The scarf is where it was left. The flask is still in with the manger with the baby Jesus doll. The homeless man enters from r. He is looking around to see if anyone is watching. He crosses to the scarf and picks it up.
Glad it’s still here.
Looks at manger
Thank you Mr Jesus, sir.
Notices the flask in the manger. He reaches to picks it up.
This is ridiculous… have people no sense of decency.
He tosses the flask off stage l
Aaah! Dangit! What on Earth?!
That’s my cue to exit.
The homeless man rushes off stage right, away from Harrison. As the man is leaving, Harrison enters stage l holding the flask and rubbing his head.
I’ve heard of raining dogs and cats … but silver flasks…
He shakes the flask… it is empty…
He crosses to in front of the manger scene.
I suppose you have something to do with this? What’s the problem Jesus, don’t you approve of alcohol? Well then, I have sinned a whole lot tonight… let me tell you. I hate this time of year. I absolutely hate it. And do you want to know why I hate it so much? I hate it because you give people false hope. People think that everything is okay this time of year and they spend all their extra money buying gifts for people who wouldn’t give them a plug nickel. I hate this time of year because it reminds people how lonely they are. It reminds them how much they’ve lost over the previous twelve months. People put themselves in so much debt they declare bankruptcy in April. But do you want to know why I really hate Christmas? Do you really want to know? Huh, Jesus? I hate Christmas the most because it celebrates your birth. You’ve done nothing for me. I have prayed and prayed and what do I get? Nothing! Please God, heal my daughter - she doesn’t deserve this. Please relieve her pain… and you don’t answer. No wait! You answered. You killed her! You took away my baby. I looked to you for help. I looked to you for hope and I got nothing. I still went to church. I heard the whole gambit about how God had a purpose for her and how I should be thankful for the time I had with her. My wife and I stopped talking. We seemed to have nothing to talk about. And when we did have words to say to each other… it was just yelling. We haven’t had a civil conversation since March. I got home from work yesterday… the apartment was empty. She had taken everything. Except she left me the answering machine and the phone. She didn’t even write me a goodbye note. She let her attorney deliver that in person this morning with the divorce papers. I lose my whole family in a matter of months and I am supposed to celebrate your birth? What kind of sick God are you?
Harrison starts crying.
I didn’t deserve this. I spent my whole life praying to you. Believing you cared. What about me, God? What about me?
He throws the flask back at the manger. He crosses to the manger.
I WANT MY LIFE BACK! I DIDN’T DESERVE THIS!
In his anger he pushes over the figure of Mary.
I HAVE GIVEN MYSELF AND GOT NOTHING! DO YOU HEAR ME? NOTHING!
He throws the Joseph figure. He looks at the baby Jesus.
And you! You have done nothing but cause me pain and misery. I put my faith in you! I put my trust in you. You said you would be my strength and shield! You were nothing! Nothing to me. Do you even know my name, let alone, the number of hairs on my head? You don’t! You don’t know me!
He picks up the baby with one angry hand and holds it clenched tightly. He squeezes the Jesus doll in anger.
What child is this? Who lay to rest on Mary’s lap sleeping? That child was a joke! That child never happened! Not in the way everyone else wants to believe. I needed to be held. I needed someone to talk to. You were none of those things. You were none of them. None of them! And I hate you for it!
He holds the baby above his head as if he were going to throw it.
I hate you! Hate you!
He begins to really break down and sob. He falls to his knees.
He begins to rock back and forth on the ground. He clutches the baby in his arms as if he were real.
I’m sorry. I am just so lost. I am just so lost. Dear God, forgive me. Forgive me. I can’t go on feeling this way. I can’t. Please God, give me strength. I just don’t know how to believe anymore -
He sobs into his arms with the baby.
I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.
He keeps repeating “I’m sorry…”
The homeless man enters stage right. He sees Harrison on the ground.
Sir? Excuse me, sir? Are you alright?
Sir? Are you okay?
I think so…
As he stands up he places the doll on the ground.
Did they hurt you, too?
Whoever tore up the nativity. Did they hurt you, too?
He wipes his eyes and stands up.
No, no one hurt me. No one but myself, anyway.
You sure you’re okay?
Yeah. I guess so. Why don’t you give me a hand and we will clean this mess up.
They cross to the nativity and each pick up one of the large figures that have been toppled. Harrison places the baby Jesus doll back in the manger. They finish cleaning up the mess that Harrison made during his rampage.
It’s a funny thing, you know…
Christmas. So many people are wounded… hurt… bleeding… and dying. In their hearts and souls they are dying. And they hide it all with “Ho-ho-ho” and “Happy New Year”
If you only knew…
I know more than you think.
I can imagine.
People sleepwalk through their emotions, trying to hide what they are really feeling from everyone… including themselves.
And hide behind plastic smiles.
He gives a fake smile.
That depends on who they’re looking at.
Or how you look at them?
I wish everyone could learn that.
Unfortunately… not everyone learns things that easily.
Well, it is the time of year for miracles, isn’t it?
If you say so.
What is Christmas?
Man, if I have to explain the meaning to you…
No, really. Christmas is about the birth of Christ. That’s it. Nothing else. Everything else is added hoopla! A baby was born… it happens everyday.
It’s more than that. It’s a gift. It’s about renewal and hope… but sometimes that’s just too hard to see.
Harrison picks up the baby Jesus doll and lays it in the manger. He stands there a moment and stares at it.
But that, that’s just a doll.
You don’t think there is more to it?
No, that’s just a doll. The real thing is in here
He motions to his heart.
But how do you know? No offense, man, but you live on the street.
How can you believe in someone that allows you to be a failure and lets you suffer the indignities of your everyday life?
It’s called faith.
I don’t have faith anymore.
I don’t believe that.
Why should I have faith?
If I didn’t have faith, facing tomorrow would be impossible. But I know in my heart that I am here for a reason. I remain obedient and faithful, and I know one day I will be rewarded.
I wish I had that kind of faith.
You will, in time. I have faith in that.
I’m glad someone does.
Harrison looks around and seeing that everything is cleaned up…
I really need to be getting home now…
Be thankful you have a home to go to. Not everyone is as blessed as you.
Yeah. Well, that’s one thing to be thankful for. Goodnight…
And…um… Merry Christmas.
Harrison exits stage left. The homeless man stands there for a moment.
To the baby
I don’t what that was about, but…I was listening.
The homeless man heads to exit stage right. As he begins to exit, Harrison re-enters stage left.
Hey! You! You, guy person man you!
The homeless man turns around
Yeah, you. Um, I’m sorry I never caught your name.
It’s been so long since someone asked, I almost forgot I had one… It’s Christian.
It’s nice to meet you, Christian.
They cross towards each other and shake hands.
You too, um -
You too, Harrison.
Um… I realize this may be short notice and all, but um… I don’t have much to share, but would like you to come to my house and have a hot meal… maybe take a shower. I don’t have much, but I am willing to share.
Thank you, but I hate to cause you any trouble.
It would be no trouble, really. Consider it a Christmas gift.
I’m sorry, but I don’t have a gift for you.
You’ve already given me one…
Man turns to manger and whispers “Thank you”.
They both exit stage left.
Copyright Ralph M Cooper 2001, all rights reserved.
This play may be performed free of charge, provided no entrance fee is charged. In return, the author would appreciate being notified of any performance. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org