A new play in ten scenes. Our cast of characters: Annie Ellis, Garrett Molloy, Gibson Maguire; together in a Capra-corn for the millennial age.
The sound of a zipper and a clasp.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Give me the notebook.
ANNIE ELLIS: It’s packed, Garrett. We need to get a move-on. Traffic is a beast and it looks like rain.
GARRETT MOLLOY: I need the notebook back, Annie.
ANNIE ELLIS: I’ll give it to you when we’re on the road. You can go through the luggage and grab it then. Let’s go.
GARRETT MOLLOY: I made a huge mistake.
ANNIE ELLIS: Of course, you did.
GARRETT MOLLOY: I wanted to hurt them.
ANNIE ELLIS: Of course, you did.
GARRETT MOLLOY: But, I can’t do that. I need to know that’s not what is going to happen.
ANNIE ELLIS: Of course not. Garrett, we’re going to be in each other’s space for a while, so please calm down. We don’t need hysterics on the interstate.
GARRETT MOLLOY: I need the names back.
ANNIE ELLIS: And you will get them back, Garrett.
ANNIE ELLIS: Mr. Molloy, I’m about to hand you the keys to kingdom. So, if you ever feel betrayed by me or exploited in some fashion; you can blow the whistle and send me up with this intel. Okay?
ANNIE ELLIS: In order to build our mountain of records, we suck in every glyph. In order to protect people, we have to endanger others. We’re of the people, for the people, so naturally we start our records with information from the people. One of the easiest motivations is money, but the fuel is typically revenge.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Revenge.
ANNIE ELLIS: A record of wrongs created by the need for revenge. No one knows where exactly those records will end up. They’ll travel the conveyer belt into the mountain bunker, sorted by endless systems, programmed by many hands.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Why?
ANNIE ELLIS: To fill the database, Garrett. To identify a KST. In order to protect the public from credible threats, the database must grow at an incredible pace. Every record begins with a name. Each numbered record is a story. Each is a memory. The names will be sold to other hands to build the files which will be sold again for the rows of eyes to monitor and eventually decide upon.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Decide what exactly?
ANNIE ELLIS: Exactly? How should I know? But, approximately? They’ll decide on whether the file represents a genuine threat or whether they have reasonable doubt and should just be aggressively marketed to, and therefore, continuously watched. Watchlist, whitelist, blacklist, no-fly list. Into the database they all go; forever and ever, amen.
GARRETT MOLLOY: But, not my names.
ANNIE ELLIS: No, Garrett. Most certainly, not your names. The world doesn’t need your names. It needs you, my friend; and you need your names.
GARRETT MOLLOY: I’m going to burn the notebook.
ANNIE ELLIS: Um…no, you’re not. You’re going to help me organize them.
GARRETT MOLLOY: I thought they weren’t…
ANNIE ELLIS: Not to record or to monitor, Garrett. We need to organize the people behind those names.
GARRETT MOLLOY: I don’t understand.
ANNIE ELLIS: You’re going to need flesh and blood help. People who remember you fondly and will stand up for you even if you were willing to sell them out. How many people will you need to actually make this farming experiment work?
GARRETT MOLLOY: Uh, about a dozen.
ANNIE ELLIS: Great. Then we have a great, big pool of qualified people from which to fish.
The sound of a door opening.
GARRETT MOLLOY: I don’t want to sell anyone a bill of goods.
ANNIE ELLIS: Garrett, I have no stomach for selling. But, I was born to recruit.
GARRETT MOLLOY: I don’t know that you’ll be able to get anyone else to help me.
The sound of a door closing.
ANNIE ELLIS: It’s human nature to deny that the medicine can cure, to suffer without asking for help.
The sound of a key turning to lock the door.
GARRETT MOLLOY: I’m not in any position to ask.
ANNIE ELLIS: You’re so lucky.
GARRETT MOLLOY: What are you talking about?
ANNIE ELLIS: So lucky. You’re right where you need to be.
GARRETT MOLLOY: How can you say that? I’m nothing. I have nothing.
ANNIE ELLIS: You’re helpless.
GARRETT MOLLOY: See what I mean?
ANNIE ELLIS: Sure, I do. I just see farther.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Farther than me?
ANNIE ELLIS: Farther than your poverty. What you have is better than riches.
The sound of a car door opening.
GARRETT MOLLOY: With all due respect…
ANNIE ELLIS: How does a rich man enter the kingdom of God?
The sound of another car door opening.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Oh, Annie.
ANNIE ELLIS: Ask yourself the question. You have a real chance. You’ve been handed a real gift.
GARRETT MOLLOY: I have nothing.
The sound of both car doors closing.
ANNIE ELLIS: It was all taken away! Can you believe it? You have a chance now.
GARRETT MOLLOY: You call this a chance? I get to believe that I can be brought closer to, what, a dream?
ANNIE ELLIS: It’s not simply believing and belonging, Garrett. That’s well and nice, but I’m telling you to un-crumple your mistakes and then fold them into something useful and that process will be holy.
GARRETT MOLLOY: My mistakes lead me into holiness?
ANNIE ELLIS: At the very least, they lead you into wholeness!
GARRETT MOLLOY: So, I give up the little dignity I have in order to have everything?
ANNIE ELLIS: Almost everything.
GARRETT MOLLOY: I give up…
ANNIE ELLIS: …to see what you actually need.
GARRETT MOLLOY: I just give up…
ANNIE ELLIS: …to accept everything you didn’t realize you needed.
GARRETT MOLLOY: That actually sounds beautiful.
ANNIE ELLIS: You’re the least of these.
GARRETT MOLLOY: No. That can’t be right.
ANNIE ELLIS: You don’t believe that?
GARRETT MOLLOY: That can’t be right. That sounds strange. I see the least of these; trust me I get to see the least of these. I’ve never imagined, because I’ve never been… I’m lucky.
ANNIE ELLIS: See what I mean?
The sound of the car engine.
GARRETT MOLLOY: It seems terribly wrong to place myself in that category.
ANNIE ELLIS: That’s what I like about you, Garrett. You’re willing to stand in the threshold. That means you can be a conduit. The work we do is in the space in between the categories. We glide between the stone columns people lean against. Sometimes we do one thing, sometimes we need to do another; all within the same motion and in the same direction. We respond and that is the constant.
GARRETT MOLLOY: He responded to the need.
ANNIE ELLIS: Who?
GARRETT MOLLOY: Peasant. My friend, Peasant.
ANNIE ELLIS: Peasant?
GARRETT MOLLOY: I don’t know his real name. He only goes by Peasant.
ANNIE ELLIS: Ah.
GARRETT MOLLOY: He’s the least of these… But, he’d fight anyone who’d say so.
ANNIE ELLIS: Because…
GARRETT MOLLOY: Peasant scrounges up enough to help out where he can. He heard about a family that lost their car…it was towed out of the parking lot where they slept. Peasant heard about their problems while we were getting some food at the free market over at Oleander and Florida. He used all his money to help the family get a room that night.
GARRET MOLLOY: Peasant wouldn’t consider himself to be the least of these. But, he’s got it harder than I do. Trust me: I’ve seen everything he owns when both of us had our clothes cleaned at one of those free laundry of love projects. We didn’t feel like the least of these. Just felt human.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Peasant worries about others before he worries about himself. He’s one good, old, angry dude.
ANNIE ELLIS: Sounds like a great and holy man to me. I used to tell my boys that the moment they started worrying about another person over their own problems…that was a moment of maturity. That was when my boys could see manhood on the horizon.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Your boys?
ANNIE ELLIS: Yeah…more like young men now. But: always my boys. George, Billy and my oldest, Russ. Their father is picking them up and taking them for a few weeks, while you and I get this mission in Pahokee underway.
GARRETT MOLLOY: You really are going to help me.
ANNIE ELLIS: You pulled me into your orbit, Mr. Molloy. I’m quite enjoying this change of path.
GARRETT MOLLOY: You make me feel like a brother instead of a bum.
ANNIE ELLIS: Got a pen? Make a list of everything you’ll need. Slow down to go fast.
GARRETT MOLLOY: First. More money than I have in my pocket.
ANNIE ELLIS: That’s surface, Garrett. Dig deeper. Take your time.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Okay. I think I can do that now.
ANNIE ELLIS: We have a long drive ahead of us. You can tell me all about backyard farming and stuff.
GARRETT MOLLOY: I could fill you a notebook with agricultural theory, I could.
ANNIE ELLIS: What I really need is for you to comb through the notebook in the black bag. Find me at least twelve names to vet, all folks you remember for their kindness and generosity.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Well. The first name would be Nathan…
Thank you for reading the script of FOUR BUCKS A NAME.
Dedicated to the families, friends and memory of Yaz’min Shancez, Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis.
Written in solidarity with Marissa Alexander and her children.