MIRACULOSITY By T.

Alex Miller ACT I Scene I

Scene: The present Place: A park in the South somewhere, early spring TED, a man in his 20s, maybe early 30s, is sitting on a bench. He is anything but suave; he is, in fact, a geek and probably dresses so. He is obviously waiting for someone, someone who is late. He fidgets, looks about etc. Finally, NINA enters. She is about the same age as him, high-energy and purposeful with a light Southern accent. She looks like a vision from the 40s or 50s, dressed in a pink skirt with a white sweater and handbag. Did she just come from church? She strides directly to TED. NINA (Extending hand) You must be Ted? TED (Standing)

I must be.

(He shakes, a little uncertainly) Or I could be Roger. Who’s Roger? NINA

TED I don’t know. I don’t know a Roger. NINA Nor I. Why did you mention him? TED I don’t know. Something inane to say at an awkward moment. Perhaps I’m a little nervous. First date and all. NINA (laughs) Oh, well, me too. Maybe I’ll say something crazy as well, like ‘let’s barbecue one of those squirrels.’ TED (He laughs, again a little uncertain.) What a charming thought. Shall we sit? (They sit, look about. He regards her.) You look like you I-M.

Miraculosity 2.

Do I? Yeah, all perky, funny.

NINA TED

NINA Well, thanks. Sometimes people are hiding themselves when they’re talking on computer. I think if you’re going to talk and flirt online, you should do it as if you’re there, in person. TED That’s ... sound. What about me? Pardon? NINA

TED Me. Do I live and breathe in front of you in a way that’s consistent with my I-M personality? NINA (laughs) Yes! Listen to those big words! You know, there were times when I had to quick look up words when you were IM’ing me. TED Oh, baloney. You went to school, know a few words. NINA (waving hand) TED

Oh, la. ‘Oh, la?’

NINA Something wrong with Oh, la? TED No, not at all. It’s just very, Southern belle, I guess. It’s a breed I’m still getting accustomed to. NINA Well, I’m sure I don’t agree with the use of the term ‘breed.’ But we are a breed apart. And you, Mr. Ted I-don’tknow-your-last-name, are a stranger to these parts. TED I told you, I’m a Yank, a Northerner. I just moved here, what, two weeks ago?

Miraculosity 3.

NINA Well, our I-Ms were short on detail and long on fa-la-la. TED Fa-la-la is ... bullshit? NINA (Bristling) No. It’s fa-la-la. Nothing-talk. But fun. Southern expression? My expression. TED NINA

TED (Eagerly) So maybe we should get down to biographical information now? Find out if we’re compatible. NINA (Stands, crosses to a tree and touches it) Look at this magnificent old tree. TED Um, yeah. She’s a beauty. What a tree. How old, would you say? NINA

TED (confused) I don’t know. A hundred, million years old? Why did you change the subject? NINA (To herself) I bet it’s over 500 years old. Just think, growing here since before the South was even settled. (To TED) We must dance, Mr. Ted. We can’t go stampeding for the altar. Stampeding ...? Altar? TED

NINA Or fill out forms, putting down our preferences on all things, our philosophies, our desired number of children. Who knows, Mr. Ted, this could be our first and only date. Can’t we enjoy it without getting into all that, that stuff?

Miraculosity 4.

TED Oh, sure. It’s just that I ... Yes? NINA

TED You have to understand, Nina, I’m a mathematician. I design software, which typically means I’m holed up in a room all day and sometimes all night with a bunch of guys drinking Dr. Pepper, reciting lines from ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Monty Python.’ And I’m very process oriented, cut-to-the-chase-like if you will. And you, you’re hugging a tree. (She is, indeed, hugging the tree) NINA I’ve always wanted to do that. You know how they talk about tree huggers, but it’s only metaphorical? I just felt the urge to do it. TED You’re not insane, are you? NINA No. I’m toying with you. Process-oriented, huh? And software? How many dates have you been on? Counting this one? Sure. TED NINA

TED There was one other girl, in college. Actually, she lived in Canada ... NINA Oh, Lord. I was talking about recently. But you really are new at this, at your age? (He nods. She sits) Maybe we should do a little compatibility work, then. But let me just tell you, Mr. Ted, that if we’re going to date, even one more time, we have to stop and smell those roses and focus on just being together and finding out about each other in a way that’s natural and special and, oh I don’t know, romantic. TED I’m not sure I can do romantic.

Miraculosity 5.

NINA I’ll lead at first. You should read some books. If it goes anywhere, there will be expectations later on. It’s a deal. TED

NINA (As if she’s about to take notes) So ... you are male, and that’s good. TED Thanks, thanks for noticing. Been this way all my life. NINA And you’re, what, 25, 30? Close enough. TED

NINA See?! A little coyness, that can go a long way. Bravo! Thanks. TED

NINA So, OK, basic question: Where do you work at your software making thing. TED Well, I don’t work anywhere at the moment. NINA (Curious, possibly displeased)

Oh?

TED That’s why I’m here, actually. My friend, Mudd, he works at the Toyota plant here, and he had a job lined up for me, but it fell through. NINA Ah. The noble worker, double-crossed by the corporate tyrant. TED Actually, it was more like a glitch in HR. But it’s not like there are a lot of other openings for software engineers in this town.

Miraculosity 6.

NINA No. I don’t suppose so. There’s the Piggly-Wiggly and the movie theater and ... So where do you work? TED

NINA (Considering how much to reveal) Hmmm ... well, I am a communications director for ... a growing organization. TED So, like PR. You’re a flak. NINA Ooh, I don’t like that word. But ‘PR Gal’ is OK. TED PR Gal, OK. Do you work for Toyota? Oh, no, no. Not them. Piggly Wiggly? NINA TED

NINA (Laughs) Wrong again. And not the movie theater, either. TED Hmmm. Well, the only other place I’ve really heard of around here is that nutbag preacher, What’s-His-Face, with the whacko ministry on the hill. NINA Ding! That’s it! The whacko ministry, that’s who I work for! TED Oh, shit. I mean, sorry. No, um, that’s ... interesting. NINA (Hand on his knee) That’s OK, Mr. Ted. In fact, that’s one of the reasons Mr. Bolton hired me, to counter those kinds of perceptions. TED That’s him, the Rev. Lane Bolton! So it’s a misperception that he thinks all gays should be slipped between the tectonic plates to burn in hot magma?

Miraculosity 7.

NINA That’s not quite what he said ... TED Or that we should reinstate Prohibition and have a prayer hour in public schools? NINA Those are some of his platforms. I take it you don’t agree? TED (Buries head in hands) Sh-darn, Nina. I was ... god, I hate talking about religion. I just wanted to go on a date with a nice woman and ... Hop in the sack ASAP? NINA

TED No! But talk about other things, fun things. And then after enough fun things were said, then we’d hop in the sack ... (Off her look) ...after a reasonable amount of time and in a caring and adult manner. With romance. Plenty of romance. After I read a few books. (They are silent for a moment) So you’re like a big-time Christian, then? NINA Big time. A real Bible-thumpin’ Jesus freak. TED Wow. I’ve never met one before. You know, I mean, I grew up in Manhattan. Right. NINA

(Standing) So I guess this is it? TED Whoa. I didn’t say that. NINA Well, it’s not looking good, you know. If your religions are all out of whack, there’s not much hope. TED How do you know I’m not a gung-ho Christian? (She gives him a look) I mean, I’m not, but let’s not assume.

Miraculosity 8.

NINA OK. Are you Christian at all? No. TED

NINA A lapsed Christian then? No. Oh no. Do you believe in God? TED NINA

TED (Laughs, catches himself) Um, no. I think it’s a cute myth, like Zeus or something. But not in the literal sense. NINA (Curious, sitting back down) A myth? That’s really what you think? TED (Surprised) Yeah. That’s what everyone I know thinks. I would even go so far as to say it’s what we know to be true. Much the way you believe, I don’t. Just as strongly. I believe in the natural world, evolution ... NINA (Standing again) I see. Then there’s really not much point in continuing, is there? (Sadly) TED

Probably not.

NINA Well, have a good ... life. (She turns to go) Nina? TED NINA (Turning)

Yes?

Miraculosity 9.

TED I think you’re beautiful, anyway. And cool and funny, too. I mean, for what it’s worth. NINA (Touched, despite herself) Thank you, Mr. Ted. What is your last name, anyway? Weinstein. TED

(Lights out/transition) ACT I Scene II Lights come up on the same park, where TED and his roommate, MUDD, are tossing a ball or a frisbee or playing hackysack or even chess. Their activity can change with each appearance. MUDD So, then she just split? TED Well, yeah. I’m a godless Jew, what the hell good am I to her? But she was hot? Oh yeah. How hot? MUDD TED MUDD

TED (Coy) Even hotter than this friggin’ park. What is it, only May? It must be 90 degrees out here. MUDD Welcome to the South, my friend. If you don’t have a job in the A/C, you’re brain stews until all you can think about is beer and college football. How’s that for a stereotype? TED What do the Japanese guys at the plant think about it? MUDD The ones who are assigned here are like those old military guys who do something wrong and have to go to ‘Ice Station Zebra.’ They’re not too happy about it, and if you’ll notice, you don’t exactly see them around in the community, coaching little league or anything. So c’mon, more on this chick. How about the bod?

Miraculosity 10.

TED Perfect, far as I could tell under the dress. MUDD Jesus, she wore a dress? TED Yeah. Or a skirt or something. And don’t call me Jesus. But what difference does it make? I might as well have told her I was a child molester. MUDD Well, if she was a Catholic, that’s something she might understand. Not funny. TED

MUDD Well ... I think you should call her. What? TED

MUDD Yeah. Chicks like guys who are different. Plus, if she’s a gung-ho, card-carrying member of the God Squad, she’ll want to convert you. And that’ll mean spending more time with you. Yeah, right. TED

MUDD I’m serious. That’s what they do. And once you eat the cookie or say your hallelujahs or whatever, man, you’re in. That skirt is off like a prom dress. I never went to prom. I know. TED MUDD

TED But damn, Mudd, I don’t want to be a Christian. I’m a friggin’ lapsed Jew. Atheism my parents can handle, barely, but if I went to play for the other team, they’d lose their minds. MUDD You’re too old to worry about what your parents think.

Miraculosity 11.

TED Mudd, I’ll always be Jewish, regardless of what I believe. I’m a good, Jewish boy. I couldn’t live with my parents’ disapproval. My mother, oy vey. Whatever. So you really think ... MUDD TED

MUDD Listen, all I know is you don’t try, you don’t get anywhere. This girl, Nina? She obviously had something that interested you. TED She’s weird, I mean funny-weird. In a good way. And smart. Even sarcastic. That’s not something you typically see in these people. MUDD Well, you need to get over that, too. What? TED

MUDD “These people.” If you think about her like some kind of other species, you’re not going to get far. She’s a woman, and they all want the same thing. TED Clothes, right? Shoes. (Off his look) I was joking. I’m not that clueless. MUDD Actually, you are. You’re going to need all my help on this one. And what women want is simple: A good guy who’ll take care of her. The details later are a mess, but that’s the basics. TED Why bother? It’s a lost cause from the start. And why am I even here anymore? MUDD Because you sublet your place on 111th street and you’re totally hosed unless you want to move back in with your parents in Scarsdale.

Miraculosity 12.

TED There is that. Thanks for reminding me. MUDD Call her. It’ll be an interesting challenge, if nothing else. (Ted’s cell phone rings; he answers it) TED Hello? Oh, hi. I’m surprised to hear from you. Really surprised. Uh-huh. Yes. Yep, still looking. You’re kidding me, right? Sure I’m good but ... No, I guess it can’t hurt. Two o’clock, OK. See you then. (He puts the phone away) You’re not going to believe this. Who was it? Her. Your mom? No, Nina. MUDD TED MUDD TED

MUDD What the hell did she want? TED It’s something about a job, with the ministry. Shut the hell up! MUDD

TED I’m serious. Some kind of software gig, some program, some protocol this guy Bolton wants to do. She didn’t elaborate. MUDD Well hell, man, there’s your in! But this guy Bolton, he’s a real nut job. I mean, fire and brimstone as far right as you can get bible-thumping lunatic. Wants to crucify all the gays and turn the schools into churches. TED I know. But if I don’t get a job soon, I’m going to have to move in with my parents.

Miraculosity 13.

MUDD Interesting to get an inner look at that world, though. Maybe you could write a book. TED (Not really listening) What should I wear? MUDD I think you should show up in a Speedo. Thanks. TED

MUDD And an Apache headdress ... (Lights start to dim) Good idea. TED

MUDD And you should be drunk. Really drunk. (Lights out/transition) ACT I Scene III The headquarters of the American Christian Values Coalition, a conference room adjacent to the office of the Rev. Lane Bolton. Bolton is an average-looking middle-aged man with white hair and an immaculate suit. He is, at all times, on top of his game and on-message, never betraying much beyond a preternaturally sunny disposition. In his presence, Nina is equally sunny but all traces of her harder edges are gone. She is deferential but not cloying. As the scene opens, Bolton is at his desk and Nina is at a whiteboard or flip chart, talking communications strategy. We might notice Bolton eyeing her posterior, but mostly he’s all ears, impressed by his communications director. NINA (Writing) ... And we can’t just hit the big media. I want to get this out to all the smaller papers as well. That’s where a lot of our constituency is. BOLTON Sounds good, Nina. What’s next? NINA Well, remember I told you I had someone who could help with the Prayer Base? He’s here, if you have a few minutes.

Miraculosity 14.

BOLTON Oh, OK. Bring him in. Where’d you find him? In the park. Mr. ... Bush? Ted? NINA (She opens the door; she seems distressed) (Nothing) (TED appears, confused) TED NINA

Hello. Come in, please.

BOLTON (Rising) Hello there, come on in. NINA Mr. Theodore Bush, this is the Rev. Lane Bolton (They shake hands) Ted is fine, really. TED

BOLTON Bush, eh? Nothing wrong with that. But Ted it is. Have a seat, have a seat. Welcome to the American Christian Values Coalition. Around here, we just say ‘AC-VC.’ TED Hey, ‘Back in black.’ (Blank looks from Nina and Bolton. They all sit) BOLTON So, Nina here tells me you’re the computer guy. In fact, I’ve been having trouble with my iPod, can’t seem to get the darn thing to upload these sermons I’ve recorded ... TED Actually, I’m not that kind of computer guy, Rev. Bolton. I’m a software engineer. I design things, programs and such. BOLTON Yes, of course. But if you could look at my iPod ...?

Miraculosity 15.

TED Nina said something about a database problem, and some kind of automated response issue? NINA Ted, what the AC-VC is needing is something to handle all the prayers that come in. BOLTON And boy, do we get a lot of them! NINA Since the Reverend’s Sunday service has gotten on cable, our prayer count has gone up to over 40,000 a week. BOLTON That’s a lot of prayers, son. And no one does ‘em the oldfashioned way anymore. How do you mean? TED

NINA What the Reverend is saying is that people don’t just pray directly to God anymore. I mean, they do that still, of course, but they also look to us. Electronically. BOLTON We are the conduit, sir, by which the Lord Almighty hears the prayers of the faithful. (Ted looks stricken, pulls himself together) TED Ah. So people are ... e-mailing their prayers to you, your organization? Yes. BOLTON

NINA And also using instant messaging, and text messaging off their cell phones. We also have an online form they use. Wow. That’s ... cool. TED

BOLTON The way I see it, Ted, is that Our Savior is a busy man. What we do is help filter some of the chatter. Focus things. But we just can’t keep up with it anymore.

Miraculosity 16.

TED No, I suppose 40,000 messages a week would be a problem to respond to personally. BOLTON Indeed. We do have a, how shall I say? A process in place. We uh ... Nina, would you explain it to Mr. Bush? I’ve got to visit the little boy’s room. (Exits) TED Mr. Bush?! What the ...? What are you doing, Nina? NINA Oh, god, I’m so sorry! Lord forgive me! I almost said ‘Weinstein,’ but I just couldn’t. TED Why? Does this guy not like Jews? NINA Well, no. I don’t think he does. At any rate, Weinstein wasn’t going to help any. It’d be like, I dunno, showing up to your interview drunk, or in a wrinkled suit. I am a little drunk. Oh, Ted. TED NINA

TED Just kidding. But Bush? Good god, Nina. Why didn’t you just go straight to Helms, DeLay, Santorum? What if I do get hired? I have to work under a fake name? What about the paperwork and all that? (Note: Actors should feel free to insert the names of whoever are the most prominent conservatives in the news) NINA (Wringing hands) Oh, I don’t know. Maybe we can say I got the resumes mixed up or something and you, you were too embarrassed to correct me. TED This is unbelievable. (beat) At the same time, it’s good to see you. I think. I like that dress.

Miraculosity 17.

NINA (Flattered) It’s a skirt and top, Ted. But thank you. I’m ... pleased to see you as well. TED But OK, name thing aside: Tell me about this prayer database. NINA It’s going to sound a little weird ... TED I doubt it. I think I’m ready for anything now. NINA Well, as you said, there’s no way any one person, or even a bunch of people, can keep up with that many prayers. We even get them in snail mail and on the phone, and those are typed into the database. We just can’t respond to them all in a timely manner. TED But how do you respond to them at all? Do they just get an auto-response or something: “Dear So-and-So: The Lord has received your prayer. Look for a miracle in the next 48 hours.” Don’t mock. NINA

TED Sorry. I just don’t understand how this works. OK, we sort. Sort? NINA TED

NINA Yes. Prayers come in pretty much only a handful of categories: Health, financial, hopes for children and other family members. That’s the first sort, actually: whether the prayer is for the person praying or someone else. OK. Makes sense. TED

NINA So now, we have, um, set responses for particular types of prayers. If it’s a health prayer for another family member, for example, there’s a letter that goes out to that effect. So people get that personal touch.

Miraculosity 18.

TED That’s ... unbelievable. NINA (Forging on) And if it’s a financial prayer for the person sending the prayer, then a letter goes out to them saying the Reverend is praying for them to make more money. Although it’s more delicately phrased than that. TED And you’re OK with this? NINA It makes people feel better, there’s no doubt about it. And the power of prayer is very strong, especially when the Reverend combines them all and has the congregation pray together. TED But they can’t possibly address all of these prayers on an individual basis, Nina. You’re sending out form letters that could, they could apply to anyone. NINA And that’s where YOU come in. Go on. TED

NINA Well, the Reverend wants things more specific. And I was thinking, that if we could design a software program that essentially does a better sort, we could generate better responses. It’d be more of an accurate prayer, in other words, if we can group them more, more categorically. ‘Dear So-and-So, sorry to hear about your sister-in-law’s cancer, we’re praying for you, blah, blah, blah.’ TED So ... in addition to a more personalized response letter, you can say, OK, we’ve got 3,941 people with cancer, so we can do a specific prayer for that on the show, and the folks at home will feel like they’re being taken care of personally,from the prayer they sent in. Ding! Exactly! That’s easy. NINA TED

Miraculosity 19.

It is?

NINA

TED Sleazy, but easy. (Bolton re-enters) BOLTON Sorry about that. Well, have we an understanding? TED Yes, I think I get it, Reverend. But ... (He and Nina exchange looks; hers says ‘no!’) I wonder if you could describe the morality behind this. BOLTON (Settling again at his desk) Ah, morality! Faith and morality -- that’s what this is all about, isn’t it? You could say that. TED

BOLTON In two sentences, describe your hesitation, Mr. Bush. TED I can do this pretty easily, from a technical standpoint. But I don’t want to be part of any bullshit, snake-oil salesman deception in the name of religion so you can line your pockets. BOLTON (Laughing loudly) Excellent! And do you know something? Neither do I. (Turns to Nina) Nina, this is exactly the kind of thinking we need to dispel. If this is what all the Ted Bushes of the world are out there thinking, we’ll never reach The Goal. Yes, Reverend. NINA

BOLTON And have you checked out this man’s references, his qualifications? Not yet. NINA

Miraculosity 20.

BOLTON Well why don’t you go ask HR to look into it, because I’m inclined to hire him on the spot. If for no other reason than the ability to spout brutal truths. He knows a thing or two about computers, so much the better. NINA (Casting a wary look at Ted) I’ll get on it. Reverend, Ted ... (Exits) Well, Mr. Bush ... BOLTON

TED Weinstein. It’s Ted Weinstein. I’m sorry, I used Bush to get in the door. Since I’m spouting brutal truths. Really? A Jew? A non-believer Jew. BOLTON TED

BOLTON Good lord. I should throw you out on your ear right now, but do you know what? What? TED

BOLTON I understand why you ... stretched the truth about your name. You do? TED

BOLTON Yes. It goes right to the heart of your misconceptions about me, about the ministry, about conservative Christians in general. You think we’re narrow-minded, judgmental, xenophobic, even anti-Semitic. TED Well, yes. I’m from Manhattan, you know. BOLTON (Laughs) The clouds part! The sun shines through! Learning and understanding and communication can now proceed! I’m sitting here with a lying, atheist Jew, whose probably only real reason for being here is that he wants to boff my PR gal, and I’m about to hire him anyway. And do you know why?

Miraculosity 21.

TED I’m at a loss, Reverend. BOLTON (Shrugs) I don’t either. But sometimes it works out to hire people outside the fold, as it were. Objectivity can be as important as faith when it comes to running these things. We pulled in $7 million last year, you know. Aiming to double that this year. I want to build one of those stadium-sized churches, get on the cover of Newsweek. Nina is part of that, but now, so are you. TED But you haven’t addressed my concerns yet. BOLTON OK, one concern must be money. How does a hundred grand to start sound? TED (Quite pleased) That’s acceptable. BOLTON Good. Now on the morality, here it is: Ted, I believe God is a very real and omnipresent force in our lives, and so do many other people -- about 93 percent of Americans, in the last Harris poll I saw. I also believe that many, many of these believers live what seems to them to be wretched, meaningless lives whose only solace is the God of whom I speak. (He stands, start pacing, preaching) Sure, I want money and success like any other man, but I am also a spiritual leader with a genuine desire to help people. But they don’t come out to the churches as they used to, Ted. There’s so much other noise in their lives: the television, the radio, the internet, cell phones, you name it. God, and that message that he cares about them, gets lost in the shuffle. Who wants to get up on a Sunday morning and go to church when they can play XBox, or surf the internet for porn? I hear that! TED

(Off Bolton’s look) About the X-Box, that is. BOLTON My mission, the mission of AC-VC, Ted, is to cut through all that noise, all that chatter.

Miraculosity 22.

And the way I’ve identified to do that is to reach people on an individual basis, touch them personally, right where it hurts. But the numbers involved make it impractical for me to do it by myself. Yes, we will use modern technology to reach them, but the message itself is the same: God loves you! And if you continue to believe in him, you’ll be OK. Maybe not even in this life, but the next. You see, Ted, to a Christian, there’s always a second chance. And your job will be to help me reinforce that message to the people who need it. (He stands over Ted, puts a hand on his shoulder and looks heavenward) Oh Lord, please let this non-believing man help me be your instrument of love here on Earth! Let him believe in his purpose enough to make a difference, and forgive him his lack of faith. He may come to you yet, but for now his purpose has a very human basis. Please understand this. Amen. TED Please don’t do that ever again. You’ll never convert me. I know. You know, how? BOLTON TED

BOLTON I just know. I’ve been doing this a while. Think of a skilled car mechanic: He’s seen so many, he can size them up when they come in the door. From my point of view, you’re a pretty sharp Mercedes or Porsche, but you’ve got two bent valves and a connecting rod that’s pierced your crankcase. You, son, will never drive to the kingdom of heaven. TED That’s fine. I don’t want to go to the North Pole or Neverland, either. BOLTON (Igorning that comment) But that doesn’t mean you can’t help others get there. I’ll pay you the salary I mentioned, plus benefits and bonuses for performance. What say you? (Nina reappears) Nina! I think we have an understanding here. Mr. Weinstein is on board and will start immediately. I ... TED

Miraculosity 23.

NINA Oh, that’s wonderful! His references checked out and everything. BOLTON Good! Find him an office, he can probably use the one the unfortunate Mr. Green had. Get him whatever computer and software gobbledygook he needs and Ted? Yes? TED

BOLTON Keep the non-believer stuff between the three of us, would you? My people are lambs who would see you as a wolf, even if I know better. TED Sure. I mean, it’s not like I wear ‘God is Dead’ T-shirts or anything. BOLTON Excellent. Jews they can handle, but atheists? Good god! (he shudders, checks his watch) I’ve got another meeting. Progress report in a week? Sounds good. TED (Bolton leaves; Nina and Ted sigh in relief) NINA

How did you do that?

TED I didn’t do anything. He just took off, like a rocket. Said all kinds of stuff about God and how I was an instrument to reach the people or something and that it didn’t matter what I did or didn’t believe. He trusts me, for some reason. NINA Did he ... does he know that I made up the Bush thing? TED No. I told him it was my idea. (She hugs him, looks him in the eye but the kiss hanging in the air doesn’t materialize. She spins away) NINA Oh, Ted! That was very noble of you. Very Christian, I might add.

Miraculosity 24.

TED You know, Nina, you don’t have to believe in Jesus to be a decent person. NINA No, I suppose not. I haven’t known many people ... like you. I just assumed you were all rather bad. TED Going to hell and all that? NINA Yes. It makes me sad to know that. Know what? TED

NINA That you’re going to hell. It’s bound to be awful. TED You really believe that? NINA Of course I do. If you don’t accept Jesus, it’s off to hell with you. That’s how it works. TED (Shaking his head) Nina, I know that sounds totally normal and plausible to you, but you have to understand that the concept of hell is just complete fantasy to me. I can’t believe anyone believes that. Well ... well NINA

TED I’m sorry. I guess if I’m going to work here I’ll just have to swallow all this, reserve judgment, keep my mouth shut. NINA Probably not a bad idea. Still, I’d love to see you saved. TED Why? What difference would it make to you? NINA I like you, for one. If you’re going to be my (beat) coworker, I’d like to know we’ll be in heaven together some day.

Miraculosity 25.

TED (Disappointed) Co-worker, eh? OK. But what would we do in heaven? Do you just float around? Can I get a sax instead of a harp? Do you have to pee, in heaven? NINA (Laughing) Of course not, silly! I think all those bodily functions are just gone in heaven. Just think, no more periods. TED That would be nice. For girls. I wonder if hangovers go by the board as well. Ted! Sorry! NINA TED

NINA But heaven is just this wonderful place where you life is just where you want it to be, and you’re surrounded by all the people you love most. TED That sounds nice enough. But what happens after all the loving and oohing and aahing is over, a few centuries have past and you’re sick to death of playing shuffleboard or canasta or whatever? What do you do to occupy your time? NINA There is no time. It’s heaven. TED And what if the person you love most isn’t with you, because he’s an atheist burning in hell? How is your heavenly life complete then? NINA That, Mr. Bush, is a good question. Maybe one for the reverend. TED Please don’t ever call me that again. Show me this office, and tell me why Mr. Green was so ‘unfortunate.’ Sure, c’mon. NINA (They exit)

Miraculosity 26.

ACT I Scene IV With Mudd in the park again MUDD Well, it’s not like you didn’t know who they are going in. TED I know, Mudd, but the weird thing is they were starting to make sense. In a sort of mercenary, evangelical way. MUDD You drank the Kool-Aid, man. This Nina must be a bombshell. Either that or a hundred grand is enough to change your religion. TED I’m not changing my religion! I don’t have any religion, goddamnit! Stop putting words in mouth. Yes, I need a job. Yes, a girlfriend would be nice. Yes, Nina is ... but I don’t even know if that’s an option now, now that we’re co-workers. There are probably policies. MUDD There’s always policies. But believe me, if people are going to do the nasty in the copy room, they’re not going to consult the employee handbook. TED The thing is, I’m intrigued by it, the project. I think I’ve got a solution. It’s the kind of thing that’ll be relatively easy and make me look like a hero. MUDD Copier room, here we come! TED Oh shut up. Here’s the deal: Setting up a bunch of keywords is simple enough, then I just write some routine for identifying them and moving them into folders grouped by those words. MUDD (sing-song) You’re gonna burn in hell ... TED But then I need some other routines to combine the needs with the desired prayers, plus another level to predicate some kind of path, an outcome. MUDD Hello ma’am, Ted Weinstein here to answer your prayers. Hallelujah. Now let’s get those knickers off...

Miraculosity 27.

TED Then I’ll need a bunch of bullshit from Bolton to create responses. I can have him break down prayer answers into chunks that can be parsed through sub-routines and ... MUDD Man, I thought I was cynical about religion. You’re actually breaking into the system, tossing a monkey wrench in the works. TED And then I can ... what? I’m not ‘breaking into the system.’ Sure you are. MUDD

TED No, man, I’m just ... helping the shepherd steer some lambs with a new technology ... a new radio collar. Sure. MUDD

TED That didn’t come out right. OK: I’m a mechanic, putting a new engine in the preacher’s car so he can get to church. MUDD Man. I’m glad I work at Toyota. The biggest ethical problem I have is trying to stop making fun of how they pronounce their ‘R’s. TED I don’t have an ethical problem, what are you talking about? People want this stuff, and they’re going to get it from somewhere. This thing could be huge, and I don’t just mean for AC-VC. This could be used in lots of other applications where personalization is needed. MUDD Yeah, except it’s not personalization. It’s bullshit. It’s, it’s mean, telling these people their prayers are answered but really it’s some software program invented by a horny Jew from Westchester. TED C’mon, where’s the love? You’re supposed to be supporting me. MUDD I’ll support chasing Nina, not the other stuff. Fine. TED

Miraculosity 28.

MUDD So bottom-line me: Even if you get past the policy book, is she one of these ‘no-sex-til-I’m-married’ types? TED I have no idea. Probably. Hell, I’d be happy just to hold her hand, to kiss her. Man, you’ve got it bad. MUDD

TED I do. I do. It’s hard not to think I’m making a terrible mistake. Act I Scene V TED and NINA are in the AC-VC conference room again. TED is showing some kind of diagram on a white board. TED (Drawing) ...and so the response tree I created has, I dunno, about three dozen different branches, and from there, sub-routines split them down even farther -- into twigs or leaves, if you will. NINA It looks lovely! And it would be super-neat if we can do that text-messaging thing as well. If the responses generated through that medium could then be auto-delivered in the same fashion. TED (Laughs) God you’re a nerd! I love it. You shall have your textmessaging module, my dear. And you can tell Reverend Brimstone that, so far as I can tell, it’s working. The first responses went out this very morning. (NINA is looking at TED with something like reverence. He blushes and looks away) NINA Oh, he will be so happy! But is something wrong? TED (Looking at his chart, not at her) No, no, everything’s fine. Better than fine. I think this is actually the best work I’ve ever done. I’m still not entirely sure it’s completely kosher, but ... Who knows, maybe it’s no different than if we wrote them by hand. Just faster. And after all, your god has the final say, right? We’re just tools, messengers maybe.

Miraculosity 29.

NINA Yes. That’s a good way to look it. TED But there is one thing. It’s hard to say but I think I have to. It has to do with, with working together. Working with you. NINA What is it, Ted? Am I interrupting? Annoying you or something? I’m so sorry if I am! TED No! Good god, no. You’re brilliant, Nina. I mean, some of your ideas, you come up with stuff that’s so logical, but from an emotional angle that I can’t think of. Do you have any idea how much of you is in Prayer Base One-Point-O? And you inspire me, convince me what we’re doing is OK, mostly. But ... I can’t stand working with you. But why?! Don’t you know? NINA TED

NINA (Thinks a moment) Yes, of course I do. You ... hate god. And I love him, and it makes you crazy because you don’t understand and ... TED No! Jeez, Nina, that’s not it! Yes, we have big differences on the religion thing, but it’s ... that’s the kind of thing I can live with, like if you were a Red Sox fan or a Republican or something. I mean, it’d be hard, but doable. NINA Well, I don’t know about baseball, but I think the Republicans are perfectly awful, for the most part. Wrecking the environment, wars all over the place, deficit spending as far as the eye can see. Think of the poor children. TED I know, and that’s what I love about you! That I’m a Democrat? NINA

TED No! That you don’t just follow. So many people on the religious right, it’s like a big friggin’ herd, everyone toeing the line, not thinking for their own.

Miraculosity 30.

But you, you follow your heart and you have your faith on your own terms, even within the ministry. It’s amazing, really. You’re an incredible woman, Nina. Thank you. NINA

TED And I, I have to say ... (BOLTON enters, excited, waving several pieces of paper) BOLTON There you two are! The Lord has, he has spoken through our church! He has spoken! NINA What? What is it Reverend? Look at this! BOLTON (NINA and TED look at the paper)

NINA (Reading) ‘Dear Reverend Bolton. Hallelujah! We just got your message back today in the e-mail and our prayers have been answered! When the Powerball lottery results were read, we matched four numbers and won $847,000! Which is $637,000 after taxes. Hallelujah! Now I can get my sciatica surgery and Ben can get his bass boat. (NINA and TED exchange glances) So thank you, Jesus, and thank you, Reverend Bolton for refirming our faith to believe it could happen! God bless you. As soon as we get the money, we plan to tithe 10 percent to your ministry. Dora and Ben Apple, Birmingham. BOLTON Isn’t that marvelous! See! There’s more, too. (Shuffling through more pages) This fellow’s gout stopped hurting within half an hour after he received our e-mail, and this woman, who thought she was barren, poor lamb, read my message of hope, did another pregnancy test and discovered she was in the family way! (BOLTON gives TED a big HUG) Ted, my boy, we have hit a home run! With the Lord’s help, of course. TED But .. How is that possible? (NINA and BOLTON exchange glances)

Miraculosity 31.

BOLTON It’s the great lord above, Ted! For whatever reason, he has chosen YOU as the instrument of his almighty healing hand. TED Oh, come on. Why the hell would he pick me? What am I talking about? There is no ‘he’ to even pick! NINA (grabbing his shoulders, eye to eye) But Ted, there is. Doesn’t this make you wonder ... just a teeny little bit? TED Doesn’t the notion of a funny set of coincidences mean anything to you people? BOLTON Coincidence is the hallmark of the Lord. Jesus Christ. TED

BOLTON That’s right, son. Jesus Christ. (smacks him in chest) Working through you. (thinks better of it) With a healthy dose of inspiration from AC-VC and believers like me and Nina here. NINA That’s right. Even if you don’t believe, Ted, we do. And we believe in you. BOLTON Nina, this calls for a press release. Make it two press releases. See if any of these people will speak on the record. Let’s make a splash. I’m going to make some calls. (waves papers) This stuff, it’s like money in the bank! (exits) TED Charming. Just when you think the guy might sprout a halo, he pulls out the calculator. NINA Oh, Ted. He’s just excited. And it takes money to run this place, to get the word out.

Miraculosity 32.

TED So, what we were talking about before ... it’s exciting. Yes, it is! NINA

TED I mean, there would be some complications, with us working together and stuff. But if you’d like to give it a try ... NINA (speechless for a moment) Ted, how can you even think about that at a time like this?! This is the culmination of months of work, not to mention a true sign from God that we’re doing the right thing here. TED (stunned)

Whatever.

NINA (now angry) No, not whatever, Ted. I understand that you’re not a believer, but don’t try to bring me down as well. This is real, happening now. How can you be so blind to it? I mean, this is the confirmation of faith, right in front of us, and who knows how many more there will be? TED It’ll take a lot more than a few letters describing coincidences to convince me that ‘the lord’ is working through me or my software. Now you’re mocking. NINA

TED Sorry. But it’s not just my lack of belief, Nina. It amazes me that a woman of your experience and intelligence could ... NINA (darkening) TED

Could what? Never mind.

NINA Could believe in a bunch of nonsense about supreme beings? Believe that God walked this earth and died for our sins? Believe that there’s something bigger than us who created us, who helps sort all of this crazy stuff out?

Miraculosity 33.

TED Yeah, that. It’s so ... Santa Claus. NINA Is that really what you think? That me and Reverend Bolton and millions of Christians around the world are like little kids, hanging our faith, basing our entire lives on a fictional character in the hopes he’ll bring us presents? TED Pretty much. But hey, eternal life, that’s a big present. NINA You’re just ... sad, Ted. I’m sorry. I can’t imagine going through life like that, just you and nothing above to put things in your life into any context, give you any meaning. (moves to door) In answer to your question, I don’t think I could ever be with a man who not only travels through this world so alone, but who mocks those who reach out for something bigger. (exits) TED (stands for a moment looking at the door) So I guess sex is out of the question then, eh? (goes to his laptop, typing) “What if, by Ted Weinstein. What if there really is a god, who created us, who looks over our every move, reaches out to us when we need help, ushers us from death into a new life of everlasting peace? What if this god had supernatural powers and omnipotence, the ability to wave his or her hand to make things better, cure acne and AIDS, pad our bank account and rescue people trapped in mines? What if this god existed and he only did some of that stuff some of the time? Baby dies here, baby is saved over there; one person descends into heroin-fueled hell, another person wins the lottery. How could a loving creator be so goddamned fickle? What if this god were so shy that he keeps his true face hidden, forcing people to make a choice about his existence based solely on faith? Why would he do that? I don’t know, doesn’t make sense. If I were a god, I’d make occasional appearances, like at the Meadowlands or Hollywood Bowl. Just to remind people: I’m here, I’m watching, any requests? What if I were this shy god, would I work my mojo through some putz, some Jew atheist dork who writes software and chases after impossible women? No, I would not. But then, I’m not a god, I don’t work in mysterious ways. Just want the girl. The woman, excuse me. (lights down)

Miraculosity 34.

ACT I SCENE VI TED is again in the conference room, working on his laptop. Several weeks have passed and it’s soon clear from Ted’s attitude that he’s not happy with how things are going. It’s also obvious that he’s much prized by Bolton, and he uses this as an excuse to be insolent. With Nina giving him the cold shoulder, whether he keeps the job or not is immaterial. He’s there mostly out of curiosity at this point. BOLTON ENTERS BOLTON Ted, there you are my boy! What are you doing in here? Don’t you like your office? TED (absently) Sure, it’s fine. But, you know, big thoughts, I need a big room. Plus there’s that whole thing about the ‘unfortunate Mr. Green.’ What happened to him, anyway? I fired him. Why. He was gay. Really? BOLTON TED BOLTON TED

BOLTON (Laughing) No, not really, Ted. I’m just pulling your leg. He was skimming, if you really need to know. TED Skimming? You mean money? BOLTON I wasn’t talking about my pool, Ted. (Has a good laugh at this) Mr. Green, the skimmer! Ha! You missed a leaf over there, buster, you’re fired. Ha! TED (turning back to his screen)

Yeah, ha.

Miraculosity 35.

BOLTON You and Nina still at loggerheads, eh? Well, it happens. Don’t worry, she’ll come around eventually. Or not. TED Thanks for the comfort. Can I call you ‘Dad?’ It’d mean so much. BOLTON (Ignoring this) I mean, it’s not like a beautiful, bright, successful, devout Christian girl can live for long without a sarcastic Jewish atheist in her life, eh? Surely you’re the guy she’s been waiting for all her life -- someone who’ll convince her all this religion mumbo-jumbo is a bunch of hooey. What’s your point? TED

BOLTON Listen Ted, I like you ... Golly, super. TED

BOLTON ...and I want to help you get in, er, court Nina. Good god ... TED

BOLTON But you’re not going to get very far with a girl like her unless you show a little faith. Now, I’m not saying you need to be born again or anything ... TED Actually, I think it would be born for the first time, or however you’d say it. BOLTON But it would mean a lot to Nina if you believed something, anything, Ted. A cosmic consciousness, Mother Earth, the natural order of the universe, karma, the golden rule ... for god’s sake, Ted, throw the girl a bone! And if that’s so hard, then fake it till you make it. What? TED

BOLTON Fake it till you make it.

Miraculosity 36.

TED You mean, pretend I believe in something until I actually believe what I’m pretending to believe? BOLTON (sotto voce) What the hell do you think religion is, Ted? Why do we have it? Why do we sing psalms and hymns and go to church and pray and all of that stuff? TED Because you’re sadly disillusioned and relying on ancient mythology to make sense of the world? BOLTON (ignoring this) It’s because we’re not sure, Ted. Yes, we have faith, but it’s not 100 percent. All of this (gestures around), it’s a support system for faith. You go through the motions until that faith is just part of you, and you believe it with 90, 95 percent of your being. That’s as close as anyone can get, Ted. There will always be some doubt, we’re human, and Jesus hasn’t shown his face in two millennia. I wish he would: It’d be like a million Powerballs at once. (off Ted’s look) Just kidding. No you’re not. TED

BOLTON Well ... but what I’m saying is this: Nina needs to see a chink in your armor, some tiny hint that underneath that tough hide of yours there’s a guy who’s willing to believe there’s something else to the universe than simply what meets the eye. I mean, is that so hard to do? For god’s sakes, Ted, the galaxy we live in is 100 million light years wide, and it’s just one of billions of galaxies. What the hell is going on here? Surely there’s more to it than what Ted Weinstein thinks of it all! Take that, that scrap of otherness, that question of a bigness beyond what’s in front of your face, play with it, think about it, and let Nina see a little of it. TED (intrigued) BOLTON

You think? Yes!

Miraculosity 37.

TED Show a little doubt, have a philosophical discussion or two about the meaning of life, show here that I’m at least open to thinking about it. Not cuddling up to the New Testament or anything ... Heavens no ... BOLTON

TED ...but showing some doubt. A different kind of doubt. Thinking that there might be something more. (To BOLTON) But not Jesus or anything. BOLTON No, no Jesus. Not yet, anyway. Baby steps, m’boy. TED You know this, don’t you, you old dog. Know what? BOLTON

TED How to work the faith thing to get in the pants of nice Christian girls. (Bolton shrugs) What’s your number. My number? BOLTON

TED How many women have you had. BOLTON A gentleman does not kiss and tell. TED Oh, I think it’s been more than kissing. BOLTON (What the hell?) One hundred and fifty seven. TED A hundred and fifty seven! Holy shit! BOLTON It’s been a good life. Let me guess yours: Three.

Miraculosity 38.

Two. Yeah. Pathetic, huh?

TED BOLTON TED

BOLTON Some girl in Canada and a friend of your sister’s who got drunk during a sleepover. TED Close. How’d you know about the girl in Canada? BOLTON Listen, Ted, here’s the thing: I need you, and I need Nina, and I can’t have this silent treatment, bad feeling thing going on during what is our big coming-out party. We’re making history here, and a boat-load of money, so you need to clear this crap up and get on board, you savvy? Either do what you need to do to get the girl or move on and focus on business. Or else what? TED

BOLTON Or else things won’t go as well. I can’t fire you, you’re too valuable. But I can double your salary, triple it, quadruple it, if things go well. In fact, to heck with a salary: I’ll make you a partner, 70-30. I don’t know what you’re doing or how it’s working or why the Lord’s paying attention, but he is working through YOU, my man. But you need ME to put the preacher’s face on all of this. 50-50. 60-40 Deal. What about Nina? What about Nina? TED BOLTON TED BOLTON

NINA (Entering, excited) Yes, what about me?

Miraculosity 39.

Um, well ...

TED

NINA Never mind that now. Listen: Can you hear it? Hear what? Listen! BOLTON NINA

(They listen: Slowly, the sound grows outside the window. It is the sound of chanting or singing. As it grows closer, we recognize it is a song of praise. Nina holds up a piece of paper and reads) “We the people of the Franklin Baptist Church have joined hands with the Alliance of Christian Faithful to join in a march of thousands to bear witness to the Prophet Ted of the American Christian Values Coalition. We believe the Almighty Lord Jesus Christ is speaking through this prophet in advance of his return to Earth. Answering the prayers of thousands is the Lord’s message that hope lives in our hearts, and we entreat the good, right Reverend Lane Bolton to allow us to speak to the Prophet Ted. We will encamp ourselves here outside the offices of AC-VC as if on pilgrimage, awaiting the word from the Prophet. Amen.” Good Lord above! Yes! BOLTON NINA TED (To BOLTON) BOLTON END OF ACT I

50-50. Deal.

Miraculosity 40.

ACT II Three months later Scene I: With MUDD in the park MUDD is wearing sweats and holding a football. TED has on nice clothes, out of place in the park. MUDD So, Rich Guy, I’d like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude that you were able to clear your schedule up to lower yourself into my sordid presence. Catch! (He throws the football) TED (Dodging the ball) Oh, no, man. I can’t with this rig on. MUDD What the hell are you all dressed up for, anyway? It’s Sunday. I’m going to church. TED

MUDD (After a shocked pause, throws up his hands) Hallelujah! It has happened! The Lord has saves this wretched Freethinker from the eternal flames of HELL! TED Oh shut up. Nina asked me to go. Man oh man ... MUDD

TED I know what you’re thinking, but don’t even start, OK? I’m not born again or anything crazy. MUDD Oh, no, nothing crazy for my friend Ted, the friggin’ prophet. Their words, not mine. TED

MUDD Now you even sound like your stealing quotes from Leviticus or something. TED Listen, just chill, would you? I’m going to one of Bolton’s sermons just to get the vibe.

Miraculosity 41.

You work at Toyota moving numbers around, but have you ever gone down to the factory floor to check it out? Sure. Same thing. Right. So ... how are you? MUDD TED MUDD TED

MUDD Fine. It’s been three weeks, no calls, hardly an e-mail, no play in the park ... (Wipes away fake tear) Man, you don’t bring me flowers anymore! TED I’m sorry Mudd. It’s just, there’s a lot going on. MUDD And is that an Audi S4 you just pulled up in? Yeah. TED

MUDD Dream come true. How’s it feel? Hollow. Fake. Stupid. Hmmm... TED MUDD

TED Listen, Mudd, I know you think I’m drinking the Kool Aid, but I’m working on a plan to get the hell out of there. The wheels are going to come off this thing at some point, and I don’t want to be in the passenger seat when it happens. MUDD (As shrink) That’s good. You have become cognizant of the fact that morphing into some kind of religious icon isn’t your plate of gefilte fish. With your super ego coming into play, you can beat down the id and do the right thing. (Back to normal) You’re sounding all sane and shit.

Miraculosity 42.

TED Thanks. So here’s the deal: Bolton is a scumbag who’s getting ready, I think, to clean up and split. All these people think I’m the answer to their prayers, literally, so Bolton is thinking he’s maybe not such a big deal anymore. I mean, Mudd, they come to his sermons, Nina says, and they’re all busy looking around for me, asking about me. Where’s the Prophet Ted? They all want to know. Rumors fly around -- this is a big church, Mudd, like the size of Madison Square Garden -- so they’ll hear that I’m up in one section or something and they all start tripping over themselves to get a look. And so Bolton is up there trying to preach, and it’s like there’s lingerie models or free beer in the back. If the money wasn’t rolling in in dump trucks, he’d be pissed. As it stands now, he just has to deal. MUDD And so you’re not in the place? TED Are you kidding me? I don’t go near it. Except today, to check it out. MUDD How do the faithful know about the Prophet Ted? TED Nina told them. Bolton ... made a mistake. He told her to put out a press release about me, and then this reporter cornered me on the phone one day and I just told her the truth. MUDD The truth? Sketchy territory for an enterprise like yours. TED Yes, well ... she put it all together from the description in the release about what I did, the crowds at the ministry, poking around our website. She’s smart, a hotshot from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Hammersmith. MUDD

TED How do you know her name? MUDD Hammersmith, the famous evangelist buster? I can’t believe you don’t know about her. I’d think she’d be like poison to you, the Toyota Camry to your Ford Taurus.

Miraculosity 43.

TED Well, I know all about her now. Nina and Bolton were ready to string me up after they found out I spoke to her. MUDD But the money continues to roll so they laid off. Pretty much. TED

MUDD And you’re going to church today. Yes. TED

MUDD To get a feel for it? Like you can’t see what’s going on by watching it on TV. I checked it out once, Ted. You could almost see the dollar signs appearing over Bolton’s head with each ‘hallelujah.’ They should have slot machines on stage: say a prayer, pull the handle and bingo! Money money money. TED I know. I guess it just shows how desperate people are for something to hang onto. I mean, they’re practically deifying ME. MUDD But if you’re bailing soon anyway, why bother going to church? (Off TED’s silence) Ahhh ... Nina! You’re, you’re giving her a little something to make her think you’re not beyond reach, aren’t you? (TED shrugs) OK, I see it now. (Rubs his hands together) Alright, this is something I can work with. It’s not outright deceit, right? You’re not going to pretend your born again or born for the first time or a Jew for Jesus or something? TED No. I’m, what I am is this: “Open to possibilities that it’s a big universe and there’s a lot I can’t see or know about.” MUDD Sort of an agnostic ‘what the hey?’ Low commitment lotsa wiggle room kinda thing. Exactly. TED

Miraculosity 44.

MUDD A perfectly acceptable ruse de panty in the Book of Mudd. What’s the response so far? TED Highly cautious, vaguely optimistic curiosity accompanied by a slight thaw in relations. A thaw? MUDD

TED She was pissed at me for sounding all atheistic one day. Imagine that. MUDD

TED So, there’s that. The other part of the equation is, I don’t want to watch this guy Bolton split with all that money. MUDD Sure, you want it for yourself. And Nina, and your children, and you’re children’s children. Hell, you could fuel entire generations of Weinsteins on the filthy lucre you rake out of this deal! TED I’m not after the money! Well, maybe some of it. Just my fair salary, maybe a little bonus. But really what I want is to expose this guy for the fraud he is. MUDD Noble. But will they believe it? It already seems so obvious to those of us on the outside. TED Who knows. But I can try. They may believe this bullshit, but they probably won’t take kindly to learning just how much of their donations go to Bolton and not the church. MUDD (Thinking aloud) Slay the dragon, get the girl, ride off into the sunset in your S4. Right. TED

MUDD Dude, you are living la vida loci! Where do I fit in?

Miraculosity 45.

TED I’m not sure yet. Give me a day or two. I’m pretty sure something is going to come to me. Something ... miraculous. (Lights down)

Miraculosity 46.

ACT 1 Scene 2 In the AC-VC conference room. TED and BOLTON enter. Ted is still in his church-going clothes; Bolton is in his robes. BOLTON Well, what did you think, Ted? And I want you tell me the absolute truth. TED (Without hesitation) I thought it was a stunning example of how to make money by preying on people’s fears and anxieties by exploiting their faith. Really? Nothing else? BOLTON

TED (Thinking) I thought the part about living in the moment and not in the past was good advice. Can’t fault that. BOLTON (Quite serious) You know, I’ve had men killed for saying less insulting things. I’ve no doubt. TED

BOLTON (Laughing) I’m kidding, Ted! Kidding! For God’s sake man, lighten up, will you? That’s the problem with you atheists, you’re so friggin’ serious all the time! TED Oh, and you god-squadders are such fonts of hilarity. BOLTON Well, we may have our grumpy moments, Ted, but for the most part, life looks a little rosier when you believe in something more uplifting than Darwin and death. TED Why are we here, Lane? It’s Sunday. I want to go home and do a little light devil-worshipping. Maybe alphabetize my Stephen Jay Gould collection. (Laughs) See? Now that’s funny. BOLTON

Miraculosity 47.

TED Thanks. I’ll be here all week. BOLTON Listen, Ted ... (Looking around) You don’t have any recording devices on or anything, do you? TED No. Just the satellite uplink videocam to the New York Times. BOLTON More humor! And outrageous insults right to my face! I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have you around. You know, you remind of -- now don’t take this the wrong way -- you remind of those court jesters in medieval times. The guys who were allowed to make fun of the king -- the ONLY guys who could make fun of the king. TED Court jester? Seems appropriate, King Bolton. BOLTON I like the sound of that. “King Bolton.” Strong. Ballsy. But it’d never fly with the flock. It’s too imperial, too highfalutin’. But all joking aside, it’s serious business when you go out there. Oh, sure, you can make little jokes, but when it comes to their souls, people are serious as a heart attack. They don’t want to play games. They want some kind of confirmation. You’ve heard the expression ‘ticket to heaven?’ That’s what people want. A, a can of guarantees that doesn’t have snakes coming out of it. The closer you can get to an iron-clad promise, the stronger their belief. And it all shows up in the bottom line. TED (Checking his watch) Lane, my Sunday devil worship? I’ve got fresh chicken blood sitting out on the counter that’ll go bad if I don’t ... BOLTON OK, OK, OK! Here it is, no bullshit, cards right on the table: We’re in trouble, Ted. TED Trouble? Like “17 bazillion dollars a week isn’t enough and we need 20 bazillion” kind of trouble? Or “the IRS is looking up our financial skirts” kind of trouble or “the right Rev. Bolton has knocked-up a young parishioner” kind of trouble or ... BOLTON Nina. It’s Nina, Ted. Nina is our trouble. Nina, Nina, Nina.

Miraculosity 48.

Stop saying that.

TED

BOLTON Nina is not happy. Nina is skeptical of what we’re doing here. Nina is ... talking to Hammersmith. What?! Wednesday. How do you know? TED BOLTON TED

BOLTON (Theatrically, eyes skyward) Oh, I know. I know all. I see all. TED Sure, Lane. Whatever. But assuming you’re right ... why? BOLTON She’s suspicious that AC-VC is a house of cards, doomed to collapse in on itself. She doubts my faith, she thinks you and I are building a monster. (Growing hysterical) She thinks you are a Jew, Ted! A god-hating liberal Yankee out to destroy the South! Aaagghh! TED Are you off your Zoloft, Lane? BOLTON (Laughing) I’m just messing with you. But seriously, Ted, Hammersmith is coming. Nina wants to do some damage control after she outed you as the brains behind the answered prayers. TED So? That sounds like a good thing. BOLTON It is. Or it would be if Nina hadn’t ... given me a teeny li’l old ultimatum that went like this: Stop funneling money into a shell company in the Cayman Islands and I’ll take care of Hammersmith. TED Are you funneling money to a shell company in the Cayman Islands?

Miraculosity 49.

Of course not!

BOLTON

(Beat) Well, maybe. Yes, in fact. Of course I am. Crazy not to. What?! TED

BOLTON You think this is going to last forever? Do you really believe that the software of Ted Friggin’ Weinstein is channeling the voice and divine will of the Lord? TED Of course ... not. But I thought we believed it as a corporate credo. Like how the SciFi Channel believes in alien abductions, or Microsoft thinks Windows is better than Mac OS. BOLTON Look, Ted, we’re reaching a crisis point. We need to shore up our base. If Nina jumps ship, we’re screwed. What we need is a miracle. Like, a Level 8 miracle. TED We haven’t had any of those yet. And those 7’s, I think some of them are sketchy. Most of them, actually. BOLTON (Ignoring him) A Level 8 miracle would calm Nina down. She’d have her hands full with the press. It’d be lots of great publicity. A Level 8 miracle, on your wonderful Miraculosity index, Ted, would smooth the way for us to finish our work here and ... move on. Move on? TED

BOLTON And the only reasonably solution, unless we want to wait around for the Second Coming, is to create a miracle. Massage one into existence. Just a little helper broom sweeping it into our here-and-now. TED That’s so wrong, on like about 15 different levels. BOLTON Maybe. But there’s lots of real ones already documented. The index is full of them. We’re just introducing a, um, a highend prototype, like one of those futuristic cars at the auto show.

Miraculosity 50.

TED “Real” is a funny word in this context, Lane. This table is real, my hand in front of my face is real. But when someone sends me an e-mail telling me the water pump on their F-150 stopped leaking and it’s a miracle, well ... BOLTON And so a Level 8 miracle, that’d be like someone blind getting back their sight, or a kid with MS or leukemia suddenly getting well. TED I mean “real” is the touch of someone’s hand in yours, or a big bowl of matzoh-ball soup in front of you. Real is not some guy in Elko, Nevada telling us he can miraculously get it on without Viagra because he IM’d you a prayer. (thinking) Of course, when it’s accompanied by a check, it does have a little more street cred. BOLTON ...or a guy who’s been paralyzed suddenly leaping out of his wheelchair. That’s what we need, Ted! A guy leaping out of his wheelchair and dancing across the floor -- right in front of Nina ... and Hammersmith. TED Like either of them would fall for that. BOLTON Ah, Ted, leave the belief part to me. You just find me the miracle boy. Me?! TED

BOLTON Sure. You’re in on this diabolical conspiracy with me. Because if you’re not ... I hear a threat coming. TED

BOLTON Not a threat, Ted. Reality. That word again. TED

BOLTON And our reality is this: If we get nailed with our hands in the cookie jar, we’re both in it.

Miraculosity 51.

I’ve set up an account for you as well, Ted. For you and Nina. A joint account, actually. You’re the primary. What? TED

BOLTON And so, if the house of cards falls, your fingerprints are all over the sordid mess as well. Be a shame, really. You showed such promise, and I think Nina is going to come around eventually. TED Oh, that’s such a bunch of bullshit, Lane. Even if you did set up some offshore account, the whole idea is that it’s untouchable to the cops or the feds or whoever over here. BOLTON Well, you never know. (Desperate) Just find me a fake cripple Ted! Please? TED Why can’t you get him yourself? BOLTON Oh, right: The Rev. Lane Bolton, walking through Skid Row or wherever looking for someone to fake a miracle for cash. I’m sure no one would find out. TED You have a point. But forget about it. I wouldn’t help you do that in a million years, Lane. You Christians, you think you’re so moral and look at you! You’re exactly the kind of guy who gives evangelism a bad name. You’re like a stereotype of yourself. And then you think people who don’t believe are somehow incapable of having morals. Well let me just tell you something, Reverend Bolton ... (A lightbulb appears over his head) I’ll do it. Wednesday, did you say? BOLTON Uh, yes. You’ll do it?! What about the prating speech on morality -- don’t you want to finish? TED No time, no time. You just get me all the info together on those offshore accounts, Lane. A Level 8 might buy us a couple of weeks, not much more. I want to be able to see that red EXIT sign. BOLTON Sure, sure. So how are we going to do this?

Miraculosity 52.

TED OK, here’s the way I see it going down ... (Lights fade) Act II, Scene 2 Back at the AC-VC conference room. NINA is alone, speaking on her CELL PHONE to her mother. It is Wednesday. NINA No, mom, it’s OK. Really. He’s the real thing. I believe in him. I know. I know. No, no boyfriends yet. Well, there is one guy, but he’s impossible. I don’t think he’ll make the cut. (Ted enters) And speak of the devil. Mom, I’ve got to go. Love you. Bye. TED You’re talking about me to your mother? No, don’t be silly. NINA

TED I can’t help it. I’m a kooky guy, all the time. Kooky-kookykoo! (She turns away) But not kooky enough to thaw the cold stone heart of Nina. Did you get my e-mail? Yes. And? And what? And nothing. Great. NINA TED NINA TED

NINA I’m still mad at you, Ted. And I’m deeply suspicious that this newfound philosophy of yours is, is a bunch of baloney. OK. TED

NINA What does that mean, OK?

Miraculosity 53.

TED It means ‘OK.’ As in, I understand your suspicion but I don’t have a response. NINA No defense? Not even for nodding off during Lane’s sermon Sunday? TED None. I’ve already apologized and explained to you how I felt. And I read in a book that I should express but not defend my feelings. NINA Really? A book? Well, that could be a sign. A sign? TED

NINA That you’re trying to figure things out, not just be your old self. It’s a positive step. Thank you. Don’t mention it. I already did. TED NINA TED NINA (tiny laugh)

OK then.

TED So, what’s the drill here? This nurse lady is coming with some old guy? NINA I don’t know if he’s old, but he’s been sick, or crippled, like he couldn’t walk. And then he sent you an e-mail and got an Insta-Prayer ... and he’s all better. TED (biting his tongue)

Wow.

NINA Yeah, wow. We’re awash in these people these days, aren’t we?

Miraculosity 54.

I guess.

TED

NINA And it still means nothing to you? TED I wouldn’t say that. I mean, I’ve thought a lot about it, trying to process it all in my mind. NINA You should try your heart, too. TED Yeah, OK. But, so I think about it, and I think, OK, something is obviously going on here. And my first reaction is to look at the numbers. We’ve had, to date, 3,456 professed miracles big and small reported to us, all of which I’ve coded with an assignation as to apparent level of miraculosity. Miraculosity? NINA

TED Yeah, you like? It’s a scale for assessing these things. A bunion disappearing is, say, a “one,” whereas someone winning a bazillion bucks in Powerball or being cured of cancer is a an “eight” or a “nine.” A nine? Why not a ten? NINA

TED Ten is the Jesus Factor: someone returning from the dead. We don’t have any of those. NINA Oh. Makes sense, in a blasphemous, bean-countery kind of way. TED (Going to flip chart with miraculosity index) So you can see from here that the low-grade miracles, the oneto-five range, is the most common. And it turns out, not surprisingly, that these numbers can be almost exactly indexed to tithes and donation amounts. A level-three miracle, for example, equates to an average donation of $459. A level eight is just over ten grand. Wow. NINA

Miraculosity 55.

TED (Pleased) Yeah, wow. You should’ve seen Bolton when I showed him this. He nearly wet his pants. I’ll bet. NINA

TED And, of course, he expressed an interest, a high degree of interest, in arriving at ways to stack the deck toward the higher end of the miraculosity index. Oh god. NINA

TED Which is not surprising: He’s an American entrepreneur looking to improve on what he’s doing. But as you can see from this other chart ... (flips page) We’ve only had 214 reported events with a miraculosity index of six or above. Those represent, collectively, about 1.2 million bucks, but that’s nothing compared to all the bunion disappearances and pets that found their way home. The one-tofive miracles have netted us over 6 million just in the last quarter. So I say to Bolton, let’s get more of these -they’re bank. NINA Well, true, but the other ones, the level 7’s and 8’s, they’re really great for me on the PR side. Oh, god, listen to me! TED You’re going to hell, baby! But you’ll be loaded when you do. NINA Don’t even joke about that. TED Sorry. But listen, Nina: quantifying this stuff doesn’t change what we’re doing, what’s going on. The miracles are still happening, right? We’re just trying to analyze the data. You guys hired me to do this kind of thing, and if it looks a little cold, well ... NINA Uncle Joe’s bunion is still gone, Fluffy found her way home, Ma no longer needs that double mastectomy ...

Miraculosity 56.

TED Exactly! And, so, all that aside, you were asking about my ‘philosophy,’ so I’m trying to explain it to you, and this is how I think. But this can’t be all of it, right? If I’m trying to understand the bigger picture, all these numbers are the minutiae. So I need to look past them and get back to my original idea that, yes, something is going on here. The old, jaded Ted would conclude that the 3,456 miracles represent only about one half of one percent of the total number of e-prayers we’ve received, and that it’s pretty simple to conclude that this is all chance: Get enough people e-mailing you prayers and even if you have 1 percent of them seeming to be answered, that’s a lot of people who think they’re causally tied to AC-VC. NINA This is falling somewhat short of an epiphany. TED Well, maybe. But the new Ted has another idea: I do believe in karma and the power of positive thinking, and I’ve also read studies about the benefits of occupying the mental state that comes from prayer and meditation. NINA Not exactly New Testament, but OK. TED And so I am starting to believe that there’s more to miraculosity than simple chance. There’s power in what we’re doing, power in what the people praying are doing, and I think that power is evident in these figures. I just need to incorporate some of that belief into my heart. Hmmm ... NINA

TED And that can’t be god for me, Nina, but it can be a faith in something else: positive thinking, the power of hope and prayer, that kind of stuff. Even fate. Maybe fate can be my god. NINA (consulting her watch) Where ARE these people? TED You don’t sound convinced.

Miraculosity 57.

NINA Listen, Ted, I know you’re trying, and all this stuff is fascinating, but at the end of the day, I’m a Christian and I believe that the Lord is behind all of this. Not fate or karma or whatever. It’s not the same thing. You talk about chance and happenstance but what I’m talking about is divine guidance -- with a strong element of free will. Oh. TED

NINA And there’s a big difference between believing stuff just happens and that God is enabling it to happen. And then there’s the salvation, eternal life. TED Yes, the prize for believing. The ultimate pension plan. NINA Call it what you want, it’s what we believe. It’s what I believe. That ... would be cool. What? TED NINA

TED To truly believe like that. That there’s someone watching over you, that you don’t have to be at the end of the road when you cock your toes. Well, yes. NINA

TED I can see the appeal. I really can. It’s like, you know, when I was a kid, I used to send away for toys that were from the back of cereal boxes. A couple of proof-of-purchase things, maybe a buck or two. My mom would help. And then I’d have to wait. That’d be like a week or two of active, highly anticipatory waiting, and then I’d forget about it. And then the thing would show up, like, weeks, maybe months later, and it’d be like a miracle. Are you mocking again? NINA

TED No! I’m serious. I’m drawing an experiential analogy I can relate to.

Miraculosity 58.

God and eternal life is the plastic toy or decoder ring, and faith is those proof-of-purchase things I mailed in. But the other part is religion, which is the reminder that the thing was in the mail. That was the part I was lacking. That reminder system. Yeah. Wow. So you’ve got the reminder system, keeping you from forgetting the prize ... NINA I’m not sure whether to smack you or kiss you. Kiss me. Not now. Does that mean later? TED NINA TED

NINA Listen Ted, I have a big, stupid crush on you but it’s not ... I don’t think it could work. TED Sure it could. A crush? Wow. Me too. NINA I know, it’s noticeable. I noticed. That bad, huh? That bad. TED NINA

TED Well, I must say you’ve done an admirable job of hiding your crush. Maybe it’s more of a dent, or a crinkle. NINA I’m a woman, Ted. I can think things without panting, or humping a post. Oh, right. TED

NINA And a Christian. And you’re a lapsed Jew atheist heathen who’s mostly certainly going to hell. Yeah, bummer. TED

Miraculosity 59.

NINA And while it may be funny or ridiculous to you, it’s serious business for me. You ... are ... all ... wrong for me. And yet I have these ... feelings. It makes me crazy. And you suck, do you know that? TED Yeah, yeah I know. If only ... NINA Yes, if only. God, it’s like being an alcoholic or something. I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t resist. TED You’ve done a pretty good job so far. NINA And so you,you’d just go for it? Even though I’m a bible thumper, a member of the ‘god squad?’ TED I figure, y’know, we’ll work it out. NINA How? What about when we have kids? When we have what? TED

NINA What will we teach them? How will we raise them? TED Just neutral, I guess. Let them decide when they grow up. NINA But that doesn’t work for me. They’ve got to be on board with the Lord from Day One, otherwise, if they die, they’ll go to hell. TED Jesus Christ! Our kids are dying already, burning in hell, and I haven’t even copped a feel yet. NINA (exasperated) Aaarggh! You are impossible! You can’t even edit yourself, you just have to say those hurtful things. TED I’m sorry. It’s just so, so amazing to me, is all. (the INTERCOM BUZZES) Hello? Oh, OK. Send them in, to the conference room.

Miraculosity 60.

(to NINA) The wheelchair guy is here. NINA Mr. Pasmore, Ted. Not ‘the wheelchair guy.’ TED Well, I’m going to call him that to his face. Geez, what is it, ‘criticize everything that comes out of Ted’s mouth day’ or something? NINA Might as well be. You’re like a puppy that never got trained, and you’ve grown into the kind of dog who runs around,thrusting his nose into people’s crotches and pulling the roast off the counter. TED This crush of yours is looking mighty hypothetical at this point. NINA I never should have mentioned it. Now you’ll be pursuing me like a Lab with a frisbee. TED (Pretending to write on a clipboard) Subject exhibits strong tendency to form canine metaphors in insulting manner. (To NINA) I’ll have to check my book to see what that all means. NINA I’m sorry. About the dog stuff. It just seemed to fit. TED Sure. I’m a guy. It’s what we do. We’re just after one thing, right? Who cares if you’re baptist, black, Iranian, Republican, alien, Nazi ... so long as you’ve got two boobs and a ... NINA You’re joking but it’s not too far from the truth. Guys are dogs and women are, I dunno, cats, cursed with wanting to rub up against you. TED I’m glad you shun stereotypes, Nina. (Miss Duff enters pushing MUDD as Mr. Pasmore in a wheelchair. He is in a crazy ‘old man’ wig and bad nylon slacks and Hawaiian shirt)

Miraculosity 61.

Hello!

NINA (Morphing into PR super woman)

(Shaking Pasmore’s hand) You must be Mr. Pasmore! And Miss Duff, I presume? How ARE you? (Shakes her hand) This is Ted ... (More hand shaking all around) Welcome, welcome, welcome. Thank you. MISS DUFF (Pasmore bounds out of his chair and cuts a few waltz steps)

PASMORE Lookee! I could have danced all night, I could have danced all night! (Slams into wall, falls down) Oh Lord! I am slain! (They help him to his feet; he collapses) My legs! It’s a friggin’ miracle, and then it’s not such a friggin’ miracle! Saint Ted, anoint me with your healing balm! TED It’s prophet, not saint. (Nina shoots him a look) I mean,that’s what they say. Not what I say. Whatever. PASMORE (back in his chair, eyeing Nina) Hey, pretty lady! I bet YOU could cure me no prob! (Looks around) Now where’s that wacko preacher dude? I want to meet him. (To DUFF) You said I’d get to meet the blowhard! NINA If you’re referring to Rev. Bolton, he’ll be along in a minute. (BOLTON ENTERS) BOLTON Sooner than that! Behold, the Blowhard!

Miraculosity 62.

MISS DUFF Oh, Reverend Bolton! I am so sorry about Mr. Pasmore. You did say to have him off his medicine for our meeting, so he’s a little loopy. (To Pasmore) Now you behave, Mr. Pasmore! BOLTON No worries, my dear Miss Duff. Yes, we need a pure spirit before us, without the cloud of pharmaceuticals getting in the way. Only then can the real work begin. HAMMERSMITH (Entering) I didn’t know you did ‘real work,’ Bolton. Hammersmith is an unsmiling woman dressed in drab clothes to match her equally drab appearance. Somewhat androgynous looking, she gives off the sense that the only thing that really matters to her is her work. She has a strong Southern accent but is sharp as a tack in sort of a dumb Columbo way. BOLTON Ah, look who’s here everyone! It’s Hammersmith, the Sword of Truth! And hammer of justice. HAMMERSMITH

NINA Miss Hammersmith! Thank you so much for coming. Coffee? No. Tea? Water? No. Back off, Barbie. HAMMERSMITH NINA HAMMERSMITH

NINA (Stung) I’m Nina. AC-VC’s communications director. HAMMERSMITH Oh, the flack. Sorry. I thought you were one of Bolton’s bimbos. TED No, we keep them in the closet when the media is around.

Miraculosity 63.

HAMMERSMITH (Eyeing him) Ah ... you must be the Jew? Interesting. Jews are funny, I hear. Say something funny, Jew. TED Does that accent come with a free pickup truck? Where’s yer banjo? How’r things at the meth lab? (Blank look from Hammersmith; she turns to Pasmore) HAMMERSMITH And this here must be miracle boy. (What the hell?) Say somethin’ amazin’ miracle boy. PASMORE Are those tits or just bra’d-up fat? BOLTON (To Hammersmith) Well, you asked for it. I guess I did. HAMMERSMITH

(Waving her hand near Bolton) Hoo-wee! Why’nt you put on some more cologne, Bolton? I can still breathe outta half-a one lung. NINA (Damage-control mode) Listen everybody, we’re busy people so why don’t we get right down to it? If everyone would like to have a seat ... I’ll stand. HAMMERSMITH

NINA ...or a nice place to stand, we can begin. HAMMERSMITH On yer mark, get set, miracle! TED How’d you guess? Nina, where’s the starting pistol? NINA (Ignoring this) So, this is Mr. Pasmore and his caretaker, Miss Duff. HAMMERSMITH (Taking notes) Duff and Pasmore. Love it.

Miraculosity 64.

NINA Now Mr. Pasmore has been unable to walk for about 10 years, following an auto accident. MISS DUFF But he has occasional happy episodes. ‘Happy episodes?’ HAMMERSMITH

MISS DUFF He becomes euphoric, depending on his meds. He’ll jump out of his chair and fall down. HAMMERSMITH I didn’t think you could jump if yer legs don’ work. MISS DUFF No, well, it’s more of an arm thing. HAMMERSMITH (Writing) ‘An arm thing.’ OK. So, Bolton, what’s on the miracle menu for today? We gonna get Mr. Pasmore here doin’ a little break dancin’ or what? BOLTON (Unflappable, moving to Pasmore) I believe that Mr. Pasmore has the physical capacity to walk, despite what his doctors say. What he lacks is the will, the belief that he can walk. When he sent us his prayers and got our response, that little bit of faith and encouragement from the American Christian Values Coalition was enough to get him across the room -- isn’t that right, Miss Duff. MISS DUFF That’s right. It was like ... A miracle? Yes! HAMMERSMITH MISS DUFF

BOLTON So now what we want to do is summon up a bit more heavenly inspiration for Mr. Pasmore, to push him past that point and into his new life, his next life, as a walking man. Hallelujah. HAMMERSMITH

Miraculosity 65.

PASMORE I am ready, Reverend! Heal me with your soothin’ balm o’ Gilead! Oh lord, take me take me take me into yer ever-lovin’ arms an ... BOLTON MR. PASMORE! Let the good reverend do the praying here for a moment, if you will. HAMMERSMITH (Really enjoying this) Yeah, dummy, shut up. You ain’t qualified. Leave the prayin’ to the pro-fessional. BOLTON (Hands over Pasmore’s head)

Let us pray.

(All but Hammersmith bow heads) Oh Lord, consider our brother David ... It’s Gerald! PASMORE

BOLTON ...our brother Gerald, whom you have, in your mercy, allowed to live after his accident, but whom can no longer walk. Our brother Gerald’s body knows how to walk, O Lord, but it plain forgot. Help us remind his body, recall it to his duty ... (While Bolton speaks and all eyes are on him, Pasmore slowly rises from his chair and stands tentatively, like a monkey on a surfboard) Hear our prayer, Sweet Jesus, and let this man join the family of bipeds into which he was born. Rise! (Turning to Pasmore, they all see he has already arisen) HAMMERSMITH Hoo-lawsy! Wouldja look at that! Amen and hallelujah. BOLTON It is truly a miracle. (With a wide grin, Pasmore does a little soft shoe) HAMMERSMITH Good grief, Bolton, is that all you’ve got? What?! BOLTON

Miraculosity 66.

HAMMERSMITH This old thing, it’s like ‘evangelism 101’ gettin’ some fool who can’t walk to walk. (Gesturing to Pasmore) This fella, you probably scared him up out of a homeless shelter, paid him 50 bucks to do his schtick. BOLTON Well, Ms. Hammersmith, we believe what we want to believe. Look at Nina here, you can see the Lord’s work has affected her greatly. (Nina is indeed crying, staring amazed at Pasmore) NINA Excuse me! It’s just so, so touching. This poor man, I can’t imagine what that must feel like. (Pasmore sits heavily in his wheelchair) PASMORE Holy mother of god, lady, it feels like Christmas, birthday, Chanukah, Easter and the Fourth of July all wrapped up in one. NINA Yes! Because you can walk! PASMORE That, and I can feel my pecker again. Is there a bathroom around here? Something I want to try ... MISS DUFF We’ll be right back! (She wheels Pasmore out the door) Well. Well, well. Well well, indeed. HAMMERSMITH BOLTON

Well ...

NINA (Wiping her eyes etc.)

(To Hammersmith) How about a tour? HAMMERSMITH What the hell? Sure, get me outta here. Is there a gift shop? I was hoping to buy some bullshit repellent.

Miraculosity 67.

NINA Well, no, but there might be some mints, or gum or ... (They EXIT) Well? BOLTON

TED Why is everyone saying ‘well?’ What did you think? BOLTON

TED What did I think of what? My friend Mudd’s ridiculous performance, Nina’s response which I find impossible to comprehend, or this Hammersmith person, who will probably skewer us in her article. Her? Whatever. BOLTON TED

BOLTON Listen, Ted, she wouldn’t believe what she saw no matter what we showed her. But it’ll still be ink, right? And what you saw with Nina, good god, Ted: Don’t you recognize faith when you see it? TED Well ... Crap, now I’m saying it! Listen, Bolton, what I saw with Nina was a good, smart woman being emotionally manipulated by a charlatan. And geez, if you can do that to someone like Nina ... BOLTON Yes. Amazing, isn’t it? Hold on a sec. I’ve got to get some, um, revival currency for our friends here. Be right back. (EXITS) TED (Crossing to the miraculosity index flip chart) Well, Mudd, I think you managed to break my index. (He crosses it out with a marker) There’s no algorithm for complete and utter fraud. Although, if I had to guess, it would skew the numbers upward. At least temporarily. (Sits at LAPTOP) (Typing)

Miraculosity 68.

Dear Mom: You’d be so proud. Today, I engaged in, participated in the kind of activity I used to simply snicker at when I came across it on late-night cable. It was like something out of a Mark Twain novel. Tomorrow, I hope to top it by rigging the stock market and cheating old ladies out of their retirement funds. Well, that’s me. How are things with you and Dad in Scarsdale? (LIGHTS DIM) ACT II, SCENE 3 Only a few moments later. Ted is still at his laptop, staring blankly at the screen or maybe up at the ceiling. NINA enters. Hey. Whatcha doin’? NINA

TED Contemplating this ceiling. Have you ever truly studied an emergency sprinkler system head? That thing, it just sits up there year after year after year, and most likely it’ll never, ever get to squirt water, which is the only thing it’s designed to do. Seems kinda sad, bit of a waste, don’t you think? Ted? Nina? What’s wrong? NINA TED NINA

TED Nothing. It’s just ... Where’s Hammersmith? The potty. Really? Which one? Ted ... Sorry. NINA TED NINA TED

NINA So, you’re not happy. Talk.

Miraculosity 69.

TED Something about the feeling of having just dog-paddled through raw sewage, I dunno ... makes me fell all icky. NINA What? What are you talking about? Listen, Ted, if this is about not believing what that poor man was going through ... TED (Jumping up, crossing to NINA) Forget about that for a minute. I have an idea, a crazy idea and I need you to trust me. Do you trust me, Nina? NINA (Hesitates slightly)

Yes.

TED Good. Not a ringing endorsement, but it’ll have to do. What I want you to do is hide in the closet, and don’t ask questions. What?! Why? NINA

TED That’s a question. Now in the closet with you. Ted! NINA

TED (Hustling her toward closet) You need to hear something with your own ears, OK? Just ... trust me. NINA (As door closes) This better be good! You owe me dinner or something! TED Dinner, yes, love to! (Impulsively, he kisses her on the lips. She kisses back.) Now shut ... be quiet. Someone’s coming. (She will pop her head out of the cracked door in the upcoming scene at key places, seen only by TED) (BOLTON ENTERS)

Miraculosity 70.

BOLTON Ah, Ted. Where is everyone? Are you alright? You look like the cat who ate the canary. TED They’ve all repaired to the vomitorium, I should think. I was headed there myself. BOLTON Now, now. Nobody ever said saving souls and making a buck or two was clean and easy. Look at poor Jesus, up on the cross. ‘Course, he wasn’t concerned about making a buck, but then things were cheaper back then, and he didn’t have kids to put through college. TED Stop it, you’re making me hallucinate. BOLTON Well, where’s your friend and the nurse? Let’s ... see them off and finish up. TED They should be along any minute. Listen, Bolton ... Yes? BOLTON (MUDD and DUFF ENTER)

MUDD Hello boys! How’d we do? BOLTON Wonderful, just wonderful Mr. Pasmore. It was an engaging performance, I must say. I was particularly impressed by the response you got from our Nina. I think it may have helped sway the ever-suspicious Hammersmith. DUFF Listen, I’ve got to get going. Can we just have the money? BOLTON Certainly, certainly. (He hands them each an ENVELOPE) DUFF (Counting the money) This is two grand more’n you said. Is there a problem? BOLTON

Miraculosity 71.

DUFF Reckon not. Just not use to gettin’ more. BOLTON The extra is just a little reminder to keep your goddamned mouths shut, OK? ‘K. Got it. DUFF (She EXITS)

MUDD I’m not clear on all that, reverend. Can you run it by me again? BOLTON (Big smile, arm around MUDD) Certainly, Mr. Mudd ... MUDD It’s just ‘Mudd.’ Like ‘Madonna’ or ‘Sting.’ BOLTON Well, just Mudd, here’s the bottom line, since you apparently value clarity so very highly: Your job now is to shut up and disappear. Mr. Pasmore will vanish. He will not answer any more questions from the press, he will not submit to any medical examinations, he will not appear on Larry King Live. Do I make myself clear? MUDD Sure. Can I say just one thing? No. BOLTON

MUDD You’re a real scumbag, know that? Here I thought people like you were just myths, that you couldn’t really be that bad. But yeah, you’re a snake-belly scumbag of the highest order. Just thought you should know that. Ciao! And thanks for the cash! (EXITS) BOLTON Well, I suppose that’s for the good lord to decide in the end. Don’t you think, Ted? (No response. BOLTON EXITS laughing)

Miraculosity 72.

TED Well, well, well ... (NINA emerges from the closet) Hi Nina! What did you think? NINA I’ll kill him. I think I should kill him. Don’t you think I should kill him? TED I’ve got a better idea, one that won’t land you in a federal penitentiary full of horny Hammersmiths. (He pulls a digital voice recorder from his pocket and turns it on. We hear some damning snippets from Bolton. Nina smiles.) Nice, huh? (Hammersmith enters) HAMMERSMITH Where’s the Reverend Feel Good? NINA Purgatory, next stop for him is hell -- in the form of Chapter 13. Really? HAMMERSMITH

TED (At laptop) Got some truly damning evidence here for you, Hammersmith. I’m e-mailing you an MP3 right now. You can listen to it back at your office and have a field day. HAMMERSMITH I’ll look forward to that. Goodbye Nina. Thanks for the tour. (With a salacious wink, she is gone) What was that? TED

NINA Let’s just say wigglin’ your butt a little doesn’t just work on men. TED (Embracing her) That’s a visual I’m going to try to put out of my mind. (They KISS) Wow.

Miraculosity 73.

Yeah. Wow. So ... Yes?

NINA TED

NINA You were going to tell me all along, right? TED Of course. I was just looking for the right moment. You can’t spring a trap if the bait is jumping around all excited. Bait, eh? NINA

TED The best actress is one who doesn’t know she’s acting. But I have to say ... Yes? NINA

TED Watching you, how affected you were by Mr. Pasmore’s seeming miracle, it was ... intriguing. I’ve never seen faith like that, so clear and so honest. Even though it was, y’know, a setup. And I’m sorry about that. NINA Had to be done. But I’m not sure what you’re saying. You’re obviously not born again, heaven forbid, but ... what? TED Smaller epiphany. A realization, a newfound understanding bordering on respect and admiration. Touch of jealousy thrown in for good measure. In short, I think I could live with it, so long as you don’t hold out too much hope. Any hope, in fact. NINA A hopeless case, hmmm? (Kisses him) But Ted? Yes? TED

NINA If there are kids ... (Off his LOOK of shock) Just if, OK? And we have to do some kind of ritual blending?

Miraculosity 74.

I’m cool with a bar mitzvah, but the bris? As you say in New York: fuhgeddaboutit! TED It’s a deal. Shalom ... and hallelujah! (They kiss again as we FADE TO BLACK) THE END

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