THE WOMEN FROM BETHANY
A Short Play by Britny Virginia
Scene opens with ANNA-MAE, aged 40, making the bed. She is wearing black trousers with a white blouse. Her hair is in a ponytail, neatly placed. She is about to finish when MRS DAVISON, aged 60, walks in. MRS. DAVISON is wearing a bright-coloured dress. She has many rings on her fingers. She has short white curly hair.
MRS DAVISON: Oh, Anna-Mae! Did I ever tell you how much I just adore your work?
ANNA-MAE: Yes, Mrs Davison, many times.
ANNA-MAE: How are you doing today, Mrs Davison?
MRS DAVISON: Oh, dear, I’m just well. I’ve been tending to my lilies and rose bushes. They are growing so delightfully! I love to hold them close and take in an extremely deep breath.
She shows ANNA-MAE. ANNA-MAE smiles
ANNA-MAE: Ah, I see. Why do you take such a deep breath? Is it because you can’t get enough of the smell?
MRS. DAVISON: Oh, no, it's because I can’t smell it at all! You see dear, I struggle with smelling things. I guess it’s old age, you know? It started with my hair, then my eyes, now my nose. But you know that doesn’t stop me from boogieing!
She shows ANNA-MAE how she dances. Twisting her hips side to side. Moving her hands.
MRS. DAVISON: Come on dear, dance with me!
ANNA-MAE: (laughing) Mrs Davison, there’s no music.
MRS. DAVISON: Oh, dear, the music is playing in your heart. Just listen to it!
She says while she closes her eyes and lifts her head to the ceiling while swaying from side to side.
ANNA-MAE trying to listen looks up towards the ceiling to where she's looking?
MRS. DAVISON then grabs her hand.
ANNA-MAE laughing and joins in her boss’s chunkiness. Tired, MRS. DAVISON falls on the bed dramatically.
ANNA-MAE looks frustrated at the fact she just made the bed.
MRS. DAVISON: Reminds me of ole times. She laughs. I’d be boogieing on the dance floor. Just dancing away and you know, that's how Matthew got a hold of me. Laughs. He just couldn’t keep his eyes off my--
ANNA-MAE: (in shock horror) Okay, Mrs. Davison! You can save the rest!
MRS.DAVISON: Yes, dear. She says thoughtfully.
Continues. Oh, these sheets smell lovely, dear! What fragrance is that?
ANNA-MAE: Summer’s bloom. Your favourite. I use it all the time.
MRS. DAVISON: Oh yes! Lovely, dear, lovely.
ANNA-MAE: I must be on my way now, Mrs Davison. I have to pick up Ben.
MRS. DAVISON: Oh! Ben! What a sweet boy! How is the other one? J something.
MRS. DAVISON: Yes! CJ! What a handsome boy he is! If I was just a few years younger and wasn’t married, I --
ANNA-MAE: Okay, Mrs Davison. Can I have my pay now?
MRS. DAVISON: Yes, dear, here you go. Tell Cedric hello for me.
ANNA-MAE: He’s been gone a while now, Mrs Davison. Remember? You were at the funeral 6 years ago.
MRS. DAVISON: Oh, yes. I was, wasn’t I?
Scene closes in a blackout.
BEN aged 10 is sitting at the table for dinner. ANNA-MAE is placing things on the table to get it ready.
BEN: Hmm, what are we having tonight mumma?
ANNA-MAE: Your favourite- roast chicken with collard greens and roast potatoes!
BEN: Hmm, hmm, hmm that sounds so good. I can’t wait to eat!
She smiles at him.
BEN: Isn’t CJ coming for Sunday dinner?
ANNA-MAE: Oh, yes, he should be. Let me just check -- (she says as she reaches over to check the time)
ANNA-MAE: Oh, maybe he’s just running a little late.
BEN: Yeah, or maybe he’s having Sunday dinner with Shelly.
ANNA-MAE: Or, (she emphasises on the word) he’s stuck in traffic.
BEN: Momma, CJ is going to get tired of coming here for Sunday dinner. Especially now he’s met Shelly. They’re going to get married and have babies and I’ll be the uncle to tell them what to do because I’m older and smarter.
ANNA-MAE: Is that right, mister?
BEN: Yeah, momma, I’m very insightful!
She laughs at her son’s overt confidence.
ANNA-MAE: Just like your daddy!
BEN: Momma, tell me about daddy. I know you get sad thinking of him sometimes, but I like hearing when you talk about him.
She breathes in thoughtfully.
ANNA:MAE: Ok, let’s see, he was a great man. Kind, loving; inspiring, and he loved God so so much. He never missed a moment to help someone who was in need. He was also a pest sometimes but he always knew just how to make your momma laugh when I was down. she says thoughtfully and smiling
he’d say --
ANNA-MAE jolts and they both turn towards the phone.
ANNA-MAE: That must be your brother!
She heads over to the phone.
MR. WALLACE: Hello, is this Mrs. Anna-Mae Nelson.
ANNA-MAE: Yes, this is she.
MR. WALLACE: Hi, Mrs Nelson, I am officer Wallace, can you confirm that you have a son by the name of Cedric Nelson.
ANNA-MAE: Yes, Cedric Junior, why? What’s happened?
MR. WALLACE: There's been an accident involving your son and I’m going to need you to come into the station.
ANNA-MAE: Come to the station? What? Why? What’s happened?
MR.WALLACE: I -I’m sorry to report ... but I’ll need you to come to in to identify the body.
She gasps. ANNA-MAE closely drops the phone from her ears.
MR. WALLACE: Hello? Hello? Mrs. Nelson?
He’s voice slowly decreases.
BEN: Momma, momma! What’s wrong?
ANNA-MAE stares into the audience. She is is in disbelief.
Scene closes to a blackout.
The scene opens with ANNA-MAE in a room resembling a clinical ward. She clutches her purse. MR. WALLACE guides her into the ward. She looks around.
MR. WALLACE leads ANNA-MAE to a table. There lies the body of a young man. The forensic pathologist reveals the face of the body.
He awaits her response.
ANNA-MAE gasps at the sight.
She shakes her head no.
Another a body is revealed.
They continue a third time. The body is not her son. ANNA-MAE begins to get frustrated in viewing the lifelessness of young men fallen victim to gun violence. MR. WALLACE is aware of her frustration.
MR. WALLACE: Maybe we’ll take a break, shall we?
ANNA-MAE: There’s no taking breaks from this pain and there’s no unseeing, senseless death.
MR. WALLACE: I’m sorry, Mrs Nelson. Come, let’s continue this later.
ANNA-MAE: No! This needs to be done and justice is owed to these victims!
They continue down the line of bodies. She comes to one body. The hair resembles her son. She slowly walks towards the body to get a better look. Gasping, she looks up at MR.
WALLACE; she tries to speak, but she’s unable to. MR. WALLACE stands at bay. She tries once more to speak but falls into intense sobs and collapses in the arms of Mr Wallace.
Scene closes. A few days later ANNA-MAE returns after confirming the death of her son. She is grief-stricken and looking for hope and answers. MR. WALLACE has empathy for her.
MR. WALLACE: Hello, Mrs Nelson. Please come in.
ANNA-MAE: Thank you for seeing me at such short notice, Mr Wallace.
MR. WALLACE: That's not a problem.
Would you like a drink? Coffee? Water, maybe?
ANNA-MAE: Water would be fine.
MR. WALLACE gets up to get a drink of water for ANNA-MAE. As he takes his sit ANNA-MAE says.
ANNA-MAE: How can someone do this?
She then looks up at MR. WALLACE.
To a family. To a whole community. To a nation! How could such a thing happen?
Mr Wallace is lost for words. He stays silent.
MR. WALLACE: I know. I often wonder the same thing myself.
ANNA-MAE: So, those people out there, are they the parents of the victims?
MR. WALLACE: Some. Some are relatives, girlfriends, boyfriends, witnesses.
But let's not talk about this, I understand you have another son?
ANNA-MAE has a slight smile.
ANNA-MAE: Yes, my Ben.
MR. WALLACE: Ben. He must be a brilliant kid.
ANNA-MAE: Yes, he is.
She says dream likely.
He always looked up to his brother.
She gets serious.
That’s why this is so hard. My boy lost his big brother and I lost my son! What happens now? Will there be any compensation for this tragedy?
MR. WALLACE: We will do all we can to help and get to the bottom of this.
He gets up to escort her out.
Just give us time and we will call you with any further developments in the case. In the meantime, focus on Ben and maybe connect with the other victims' families for support.
ANNA-MAE is in disbelief.
She gets up too and walks to the door.
ANNA-MAE: You will call you, won’t you? Find who did this and call.
MR. WALLACE: Yes, Mrs Nelson. You have my word.
ANNA-MAE leaves the scene, leaving MR. WALLACE alone.
The scene goes closes.
ANNA-MAE is walking into her house. She is welcomed by all her church friends, MRS. DAVISON in her usual bright colours and her sister-in-law JULIE dressed in a beige flowy dress with her family. They have gifts and food. PASTOR STEVE is a big black man in a blue suit with his belly overlapping his belt. They welcome her with joy. But ANNA-MAE is distant throughout the whole interaction with her loved ones.
ANNA-MAE: What’s all this?
JULIE: Well, we just wanted to say we love you. And we are here for you.
PASTOR STEVE: Yes and whatever you need don’t hesitate to call! You have been a pillar at the church. Your generosity and willingness to help has made a big difference in this community and we want to give back as much as we can. You are not alone in this. We will be praying with you for justice to come through. As the Bible says, revenge is not yours, it is the Lord’s! And what a great scripture that is! It's talking about not letting the weight of our circumstance crush us in spirit because the Lord is with us indeed. Can I get an amen.
Everyone says amen in agreement while Mrs Davison unimpressed says a lazy amen.
PASTOR STEVE: My daddy used to say the bucket is as heavy as your perspective! He laughs at his own joke.
Of course, that's a southern saying, but still very true today. You know when David stood before Goliath -- his voice gets quiet but still mouthing words.
MRS. DAVISON: He sure knows how to talk, doesn’t he?
She whispers to JULIE.
JULIE: Well, he is a preacher, Mrs Davison.
MRS. DAVISON: Yes, but I didn't come here to go to church. She says slightly disgusted by PASTOR STEVE’S speech.
MRS DAVISON: I came to eat
JULIE looks at her questionably. MRS. DAVISON continues
And moral support of course.
JULIE: Hmm, yes, moral support.
PASTOR STEVE gets a louder now as he continues.
PS. STEVE: Goliath had no chance against him because the Lord was with him!
PASTOR STEVE laughs at his own joke.
MRS. DAVISON: Where is the food. I think we best dig in before it gets cold.
JULIE: I think you’re right, Mrs Davison. Thank you, Pastor Steve, for that, uh, that remarkable word of encouragement.
Anna-Mae, would you like me to fix you a plate?
ANNA-MAE: No, thank you. I can manage. Thank you, everyone, for coming and showing your support. Please help yourself to food.
MRS. DAVISON: Oh dear, come here.
She squeezes ANNA-MAE in a hug.
ANNA-MAE: Mrs Davison, I - I can’t breathe.
MRS.DAVISON: Oh sorry dear, I just wanted you to feel my love.
ANNA-MAE: (under her breath) Yeah, I felt it all right.
Ben enters the scene.
BEN: Momma, can Lauren, James and I watch cartoons please?
ANNA-MAE: Uh, sure, sweetheart.
JULIE comes behind ANNA-MAE. She turns to her. They hug.
ANNA-MAE: Thank you for watching Ben for me and doing all of this. You really didn't have to.
JULIE: Of course I did! You're my sister!
ANNA-MAE smiles softly.
JULIE: If there is anything; anything Anna-Mae please let me know. You don't have to go through this alone. Do you understand? I know you like to handle things on your own but you don't have to do it alone.
JULIE: Promise me
ANNA-MAE: I -- Yeah. Promise.
PASTOR STEVE walks up to them.
PS. STEVE: Anna-Mae CJ was such an exceptional young man. He did a lot of the Lord’s work in his time here. His memory will leave on.
ANNA-MAE: Yes, thank you, Pastor.
ANNA-MAE is obviously not present in the conversation. PASTOR STEVE’S voice is lost in the distance of her mind. Everyone and everything seems to disappear in the background. She is left alone.
Anna-Mae stands in the middle of the stage with a spotlight on her. Her grief and pain are overwhelming. She recites a heartfelt poem.
The Lord is my Shepherd.
I shall not want. I shall not be in need. I shall not lack.
But I-I want my son back.
Back in his room sleeping soundly as I watched drool slip its way out from the corners of his tiny lips.
I want to hear his cry wake me from the sweetness of my sleep but holding him close was much much sweeter.
His restful face on the grit of my chest warmed me from the inside.
My tongue is sometimes too heavy to speak
It weighs me down
And sometimes it is too weak
To believe that
The Lord is my sh-shep-shepherd. I shall not want --- this.
I don't want this.
I don’t want this any longer.