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Post Road Magazine #34

Bondservant

William Orem

CHARACTERS:

JANET: Over thirty, average to plain looking. Single, and feeling the press of age. She projects, at first, an image of someone rather vacuous who has also been drinking too much. In reality, she is quite smart; she is only acting this way because she thinks it makes her attractive.

CLAUDE: Handsome, healthy. Perhaps shaggy hair, but stylish; perhaps a goatee. Impressed with his own good looks—he believes it has something to do with merit—and, at a deeper level, by his own conviction.

Wearing a tee shirt with cut-off sleeves that conspicuously reveals both his well muscled arms and a large tattoo on his bicep. The tattoo is of three Hebrew letters: Ayin, Shin, Yud.

WAITRESS: Young.

TIME & PLACE:

A date at an outdoor café table. Present.

At Rise:

THEY are sitting on either side of the table, forced a bit too close, in the manner of modern restaurant spaces. A “dating rating” chart on the table, with brightly colored flashcards affixed.

JANET’s jacket is over the back of HER chair. Keys, cell phone, and the like are on the table. A purse. More than one drink visible on her side; one, untouched, on his.

CLAUDE is relaxed, at his ease, enjoying himself (quite literally—he enjoys his own company). HE knows he is a “hot property,” especially to women in this situation.

JANET is trying her best, letting cleavage be seen, occasionally touching his wrist. Tipsy, but not as much as she is trying to suggest.

Both of them are lying about who they are.

CLAUDE:

Oh man, that is just adorable.

JANET:

Come on, Claude. A puppy throwing up in my sock is not adorable. It is Claude, right?

CLAUDE:

It is.

JANET:

I know, you said it a hundred times already. I’m so bad at names!

CLAUDE:

First meetings are hard.

JANET:

I mean, except Bob, Evan, Alex. Normal names. Not that Claude’s not normal! I don’t know what I’m saying. Hello, alcohol!

CLAUDE:

It’s French.

JANET:

Do you remember my name? It’s totally normal.

CLAUDE:

     (Sexy.) JANET.

     (SHE swoons a little.)

And I love puppies . . . I mean, the little guy ate too much kibble. How cute is that? It’s not even gross at all.

JANET:

Okay, you love puppies. You get points for male sensitivity.

     (SHE writes, comically, on the chart.)

CLAUDE:

Was it that obvious?

JANET:

These forms and everything are really funny! At first, I thought we were going to turn them in at the end? Like, okay, over-thirty working person who uses our service, how did dinner go? Rate your experience from one to ten.

CLAUDE
(false empathy):

Oh, I know. It’s so not spontaneous.

JANET:

I mean, I used to date a lot, but it’s like, who has the time?I mean I’m glad to have the job, I was ecstaticto get a job in [name of city], so many people here are out of work, I guess I know a little social studiesor whatever, (dismissive) “politics!” but I don’t know, textbook publishing? Social studies? And then your social lifeis just over, you know?

You haven’t touched your drink!

CLAUDE:

Let’s do another game.

JANET

 (reading off a card):

Okay, so, tell something about yourself is next. A personal thing.

CLAUDE:

Well, let’s see. I like to meet people.

JANET:

Come on, that’s not a “personal thing.” I told you about my spaniel getting sick, and how I stepped in the moosh! I shouldn’t have told you that, it was so stupid.

Plus, I told you about the time I fell off the hood of my own car. And the thing with my brothers, and the pear tree. You’ve totally not shared anything, and I’m like, all . . . (risqué) exposed.

CLAUDE:

I like meeting exposed women who fall off their own cars.

     (JANET laughs, flattering HIS wit. HE picks out a card, hands it to HER.)

How about this one?

CLAUDE
(Reading):

“Ask your date a question. Agree ahead of time that both of you must tell the truth.”

Oh my God. This one is so risky!

CLAUDE:

Risque.

JANET

     (Amused):

Ris-KAY!

CLAUDE:

It’s French.

JANET:

“You must tell the truth.” Do we dareto be completely honest? With someone you just met?

CLAUDE
(conspiratorial):

Sounds risky. You go first.

JANET:

Okay . . . okay . . . (working on it) . . . a question.

A question for Claude.

     (Pause. SHE considers HIM, a little sly.)

Okay, I’m just going to say it. I feel like I’ve spent this entire evening with a tattoo.

     (CLAUDE feigns surprise, as in “Oh, is it conspicuous? I hadn’t realized.”)

CLAUDE:

This?

JANET:

Of course that.

What isit? That’smy question.

CLAUDE:

Oh, you don’t really want to know.

JANET:

I do! I totally do.

CLAUDE

     (HE hesitates . . . then:)

Nah. It’s really nothing.

JANET:

You haveto answer, Claude. That’s the game.

CLAUDE:

Well . . . okay. What’s it look like?

CLAUDE
(looking):

Scratchy figures . . . is it trees? People?

CLAUDE:

Can you read Hebrew?

     (Pause.)

JANET:

Hebrew . . . the language? . . . no.

CLAUDE:

It’s three letters. Ayin . . . shin . . . yud. They stand for “Servant of Yeshua.”

     (Significant pause.)

JANET

     (uncertain):

. . . Oh yeah?

CLAUDE:

Do you know who that is?

Ever hear of “Yeshua”?

     (HE taps the tattoo, as if it were a person).

I’m happy to be thisperson’s servant.

     (Pause.)

JANET:

Okay. That’s pretty intense.

     (Quickly taking up another card.)

So, now we’re supposed to play a game together, involving any object on the table. I have some keys . . .

CLAUDE
(laughing, lightly):

Wait a minute. Janet! You have to answer my question first. Fair’s fair.

JANET:

What? Oh, right . . . what was your question?

CLAUDE:

Have you ever heard of Yeshua?

That’smy question.

     (Awkward pause.)

JANET:

No. I don’t think so.

CLAUDE:

He goes by many names.

You probably know him as Jesus of Nazareth.

     (Pause. Trying to move past this, SHE eyes HIM earnestly.)

JANET:

Wow. And you know what, I totally respect that. That’s a “you” thing, a “Claude” thing, I get that.

Mmm.

Do you want to do the game on the table bit?

CLAUDE

 (laughing lightly again):

Janet, Janet. Hold on.

     (HE takes HER hands.)

I’m just going to play all my cards here. I feel like we’ve established some kind of connection tonight. Do you feel it?

CLAUDE
(trying to lighten this up):

Gosh. Should I be writing this down on the “Dating Rating”?

CLAUDE:

Now, now, Janet. I’m being serious. It’s fun, playing these games. I’ve enjoyed our evening together.

But . . . since you asked about the tattoo . . . and youdidask . . . I want to share something important . . . something really important . . . with you.

     (Pause.)

“Servant to Jesus.”

CLAUDE
(Cont’d):

That’s what I am.

Before I became his servant, I thought I didn’t need anything other than a high-paying job, a good-looking partner. The stuff everyone is trying to get in our world.

JANET:

Claude . . . maybe . . .

CLAUDE:

I thought I didn’t need him. Let me tell you, Janet. I was wrong.

JANET:

That’s cool, seriously, that’s completely . . .

     (SHE withdraws HER hands.)

I’m just thinking, maybe we go on to another . . . I don’t know . . .

I’m having a good time tonight, and I don’t want it to be . . . awkward . . . funny feeling.

     (Surprisingly, HE pulls back, conciliatory.)

CLAUDE:

Of course. I pushed too hard.

My bad. I’m sorry.

JANET:

No, it’s cool—

CLAUDE:

No, no, you’re right. (Self mocking.) I was out—of— line!

 (Release of tension. HE smiles that winning smile.)

Do I lose points on the Dating Rating?

     (SHE searches through the cards, relieved.)

JANET:

You totally do not. That’s completely fine.

So, here’s one: “Discuss your favorite movie.”

CLAUDE:

But . . . just let me finish, Janet . . . because it matters.

     (HE takes HER hands again. The lightness was a dodge.)

Before I served Jesus, I thought I knew everything. I thought I was free, everything was so easy.

CLAUDE:

I was only living for my own, personal gain. I just wanted the next job, the next pay raise, the next woman in my bed. I was drinking too much, not respecting my body, sleeping around.

A little bit . . . like the way youare living, right now.

Isn’t that true, Janet?

     (Pause.)

Look. I know this is sudden. But I feel like there’s something special between us tonight. It seems to me, you feel it, too.

I think maybe you could benefit from coming to know Yeshua the way I do. Knowing him, and becoming his grateful servant.

What do you think?

     (Long pause while HE looks into HER eyes. Then HE gently lets go of HER hands. HE relaxes again, and sips HIS drink. JANET drops HER flighty / drunk performance entirely. When SHE speaks from now on, we see her actual intelligence.)

JANET

(calm, but decisive):

How many?

     (Pause. CLAUSE is startled by the change.)

CLAUDE:

I’m sorry?

     (Pause.)

JANET:

How many? That’s my question.

CLAUDE:

I don’t think I understand . . .

JANET:

How many times have you been on dates with this service?

CLAUDE:

I don’t understand why you’re asking.

I told you, I like meeting people.

How many?

A few.

JANET:

More than five? (Pause.) More than ten?

CLAUDE:

I don’t see what . . .

JANET:

You’re not really dating at all, are you, Claude?

You’re a good-looking guy using this service as a way to sit at a table with unmarried women, women of a certain age, over and over again, and wait until they ask about your tattoo. And then you get to tell them about Jesus . . . this special thing you have going on with Jesus.

Isn’t that what’s happening here?

     (Pause.)

CLAUDE:

I thought we had made an important connection, Janet.

I thought you were ready.

JANET:

Do you know how cruel it is, what you’re doing?

     (SHE begins gathering HER things.)

I didn’t want to say anything at first because . . . hey, I’m thirty-four and I’m still single, give it a try. God knows you look good in the pictures online. You’re as charming in your profile as you are on the phone. And then I saw you sitting here, and right away, it’s the tattoo.

So I got kind of mean, and made myself promise I was going to go through this whole date without saying anything about it. But you kept kind of . . . moving your arm . . . pointing it at me. So, okay. He wants me to ask about the tattoo.

So fine. I asked, and now you told me.

CLAUDE:

I only want you to think about it.

JANET:

I have thought about it.

CLAUDE:

All right, then. That’s good. It’s all I ask. What do you think?

     (HE puts out a hand to stop HER from gathering HER things, HIS gesture more decisive than before—even a bit aggressive. SHE is surprised.)

I answered your question honestly.

Are you afraid to answer mine?

     (Tense pause. Slowly, SHE removes HIS hand.)

JANET:

What do I think. You really want to know.

CLAUDE:

Yes. Yes, Janet, I do.

     (Pause. SHE sits back, regarding HIM evenly.)

JANET:

I think people worked long and hard in this country to finally, once in history, create a place where human beings aren’t servants.

I think you woke up in [name of city] this morning, and you were a free person. Absolutely free. You could think, and say, and do what you liked.

And all over the world, in Afghanistan, and New Delhi, and China, people are not free. I think millions of people are slaves, one way or another. They woke up today to sweat shops and labor camps, terrible, nightmare places like North Korea, and human trafficking, and prostitutes everywhere, and child soldiers.

And then there’s you, Claude. You woke up here—in this place—perfectly free. And the first thing you wanted to do was to give it all away. You so much don’t want to be free every morning that you wrote servanton your skin.

And I think that’s really sad.

     (Pause. HE is unsettled, but tries again.)

CLAUDE:

You’re like I was, Janet. You think you aren’t, but you are.

     (SHE rises. Time to be gone.)

You can leave. You can just walk out. But I know you will be back. I have faith that you will still be saved.

JANET:

Claude, faith is not something to be proud of.

     (SHE puts on her jacket. CLAUDE laughs, but with discomfort. HE is trying to maintain control of this situation.)

CLAUDE:

Oh? Perhaps you can tell me what faith is?

     (Pause.)

JANET:

Faith is something that happened to you when you were young. It’s unfair, it shouldn’t have been done, but somebody stuck it into you, like a little cage, and now you have it.

And now you want to be able to pass on the cage to someone else. I don’t want your cage.

     (JANET starts to exit. CLAUDE stands.)

CLAUDE:

Wait . . . wait.

HE approaches her, slowly. HE looks contrite. A helpless shrug, as if to laugh at HIMSELF, and HIS behavior tonight. Then, the romantic charm. Slowly HE raises HIS hands, as if to take her face in a kiss. JANET hesitates, but the date is over anyway; SHE’ll never see this guy again, and HE looks really good. SHE begins to accept the gesture. Instead of a kiss, though, HE slaps her hard.)

Slut!

     (JANET gasps, overwhelmed. HE shakes HER hard as she tries to break free.)

It’s always a woman, you know that? I try to help. I try. But from day one, from Adam and Eve, it’s always been the fucking woman.

     (JANET escapes, exits. CLAUDE straightens HIMSELF, looking around. No one has seen. Finally sits. HE laughs lightly, shakes HIS head, considering the drink menu. WAITRESS enters, begins clearing the drinks. SHE has seen none of this.)

CLAUDE:

     (Sexy again.) Hello.

     (Pause. WAITRESS is struck by HIS good looks.)

WAITRESS:

Hello.

—BLACKOUT—



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