Scene I--Just outside the town of Armageddon
Scene III--Just like Scene I
Just outside Armageddon. The time is one o'clock in the afternoon. The first scene is acted in front of the closed curtain. The only furniture is a bench, which is downstage right.
MINISTER (offstage right). Let's get a move on, Martha, I see a bench just ahead.
(Enter the Minister and his wife, right. He is carrying a large suitcase, an umbrella, and a canteen. She carries another, smaller suitcase covered with travel stickers, and has a huge purse slung from her shoulder. He wears a black, vested suit with Episcopalian collar; She is plainly and decently dressed, past middle age and, like her husband, obviously of tough pioneer stock. They both seem overheated and fatigued.)
MARTHA. Edward, please wait.... Edward, listen to me!
MINISTER. We can rest here for a few minutes.
(They reach the bench and sit down heavily. He unstraps the canteen and passes it to her.)
(He continues to offer it, and she suddenly takes the canteen and drinks gratefully. She returns it to him, and as she speaks, he is occupied with swallowing some water, sighing appreciatively, wiping his mouth and the lip of the canteen, screwing on the lid, etc.)
I know I shouldn't, but I simply must speak. I don't like this place. Look at the landscape; doesn't it bother you at all? All those bare, bleak rocks...the sand.
There's something else, too. Do you realize we've walked all morning and haven't seen a single living thing? No cactus, no birds--not even a lizard.
MINISTER. Martha, I swear I don't know what's got into you. This is no different from Arizona, as far as I can see. Except the roads are worse. Where's the guidebook?
MARTHA (taking a small guidebook from her purse). It doesn't say anything about the location....
MINISTER. Let me look; I'll find it--
MARTHA. There--you've lost the place.
MINISTER. No I haven't (hunting desperately), it's all right...Arabia...Argentina...Arlington...hah-- Armageddon--a pagan village of roughly five thousand inhabitants, by a bastard son of Alexander the Great, parenthesis, 'folk .
Once a thriving center of trade, it was almost completely destroyed by the 'Great Fire' of 'oh-oh-six, an disaster which leveled the nearby townships of Sodom and Gomorrah. Now a cultural and backwater, it is not recommended for tourists."
Just think--all those people, waiting, for close to two thousand years. Like grapes on vine--and now here we are come to weed the vineyard.
MARTHA. Grapes on a vine! Raisins, more likely. I never saw desert like this before, so hot and dry. The sun glaring down so, all this space ...makes me feel naked. We're just a couple of pins on the Bishop's map! You're a black pin; I'm a beige pin. TER. Now, there, there, don't yourself...the ground is I can feel it. (Standing.) me in mind of one of Pappy's "Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in and thou shalt smite the rock," (he strikes the stage with his umbrella) "and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink."
He stops, and looks comically at the spot he has hit.)
Dry as a bone. I guess it's true what they say about the age of miracles, eh, Martha?
MARTHA (abruptly). We should have accepted the position in Philadelphia.
. Whoa! I thought that was settled. I'd only stagnate there; know that. So would you. We're well-suited for missionary life, you and I. Settling in a new country, building a church up out of nothing...ahh! There's something about it.
MARTHA (cheering up). Oh, I think it's just a game with you. Sometimes you looking at the heathen to say--
MINISTER. That the Lord created them my particular benefit instead of vice versa? Who knows, maybe he did.
We're a couple of hardened professionals; our results so far have been 'way above average. The Bishop himself says so.
MARTHA. The Bishop is an old rogue. I know what he tells you--"Edward, the only reason I so much as mention Armageddon is because you and your good wife are worth a hundred ordinary preachers."
MINISTER (sullenly). He only said ten.
MARTHA. "...Now, that little town is a blot on the Church's record the size of a...of a--"
MINISTER. Silver dollar.
MARTHA. "No minister has ever stayed there from one dawn to the next. I wouldn't go there myself. But in view of your truly miraculous achievements--"
MINISTER. He did say a few nice things about our work in Bora-Bora.
MARTHA. That was something, wasn't it.
MINISTER. Rather out of the ordinary.
MARTHA (gloomily). So you accepted right away.
MINISTER. What could I do? He had the steamship tickets in his pocket. (He looks at his watch.) It's after one (rising), what do you say we get moving? Are you rested?
MARTHA (sighing). Plenty, thanks. Let's get started. I'm so anxious to see the people--that's always been the nicest part of our work. I want to see how they eat, and what they wear--how they make their children behave....
MINISTER. Of course. We'd better get there soon if we expect to find a place to stay. When it gets dark, it'll get dark fast.
MARTHA (as they exit, left). Oh, Edward, I do hope at least some of them are friendly.
There is a brief pause, then the curtains open, revealing a portion of Armageddon's principal street. It is totally deserted and sadly run-down, but in the dazzling sunlight posses a lazy, rather Spanish charm.
There are only two buildings, one apparently a residence of sorts, with simple wooden steps leading up to a green door, which has a brass knocker. Though it is late afternoon, there is a bottle of milk and a folded newspaper on the bottom step. The effect is conservative.
The other building is a ruined temple, the plaster facade coming away at several points disclosing the brick construction. The doorway is wide, almost square, and is hung with double scarlet curtains. These are closed and set off the six bottles of milk ranged before them. There is also another newspaper. In a corner lies an untidy heap of rags, and other miscellaneous trash.
Note: The sky darkens gradually while this scene is played; the last of the "midway" sequence occurs at night.
(Enter the Minister and his wife, walking slowly, cautiously, looking up and down the street, at the buildings and at each other. They pass a smartly painted sign which reads
"Welcome to Armageddon."
The Minister brushes against it, and it promptly swings around to show the back, on which is crudely lettered
"SO LONG, SUCKER.")
MARTHA. Where could the people be?
MINISTER. I don't like it.
MARTHA. You don't suppose they could be--waiting for us?
MINISTER. Like an ambush. Nope. From what the Bishop told me privately, they're not exactly anti-religious....
MARTHA. How could they be, when they don't even know what being religious is? Probably all they need is good example.
MINISTER (gesturing to temple). Oh, they know, all right...they knew. Once. But they must have forgot. That place of worship is like a string tied around their finger--
MARTHA. A mighty dirty piece of string--it looks like a hardware store. Look--milk. And a newspaper!--(slowly)--Someone should have taken those in hours ago.
MINISTER. Another bottle over there, see?--and another paper. What could have happened?
MARTHA. It's--almost as if the Angel of the Lord had passed during the night. Edward! do we dare look inside? What if they should all be dead, or just not there?