The Music in Cans, A Dramatic Monologue By Tim W.

Brown Character: Blind Reverend Bill Blind Reverend Bill crawls center stage, dragging a plastic garbage bag and feeling for the many aluminum cans that are strewn across the stage. He is dressed as a Protestant minister, complete with collar. His clothes are dusty, torn, etc. He wears a pair of sunglasses. His cheeks and nose are flushed, and he needs a shave. He discovers a paper bag full of discarded cans and stops. He struggles to his knees; his speech is halting and filled with slang, although at times reaches the point of oratory. BLIND REVEREND BILL Who's there? You're afraid of me. Don't be, I won't hurt you. See? I'm one of God's servants. The name's William Gladfellow, but most folks know me as Blind Reverend Bill. Oh, I know I don't look like a minister, but I assure you I am. I got my Doctor of Divinity at Concordia College in Ft. Wayne, Indiana in 1958. Before that, I earned a B.A. at Indiana University in 1952. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, God has seen fit for me to experience some changes in my life. No. No hedging. I'm one of God's fallen angels, and I willingly fell. But I'm slowly working on my redemption, really I am. Now I live hand-to-mouth like a bum. A BUM! He picks up a couple of cans, crushes them, and tosses them into his bag. It's missionary work, really, because I run into good people like you and try to pass along what I've learned. But don't you worry. I'm not going to make you listen to one of those earbeatings like at the mission. It's true -- I'm an ordained minister, but I'm no mission stiff. This spot here's a gold mine. Of course, it's a damn shame when people chuck bagfuls of beer cans out their car windows, but at least it means a meager income for me. I hope you can excuse my picking up these cans while I talk, but I got to work my way back into God's grace. You understand that don't you? Like I said, I haven't always lived like this. I was even pretty good at what I did. After I left the seminary, I got married to respectable woman from a God-fearing family. Her father wanted

her to marry a minister, and I seemed a likely candidate. After all, I got a call from a church in Peoria, and a downtown one I might add. My wife and I never had any kids. She was so Godfearing she insisted we sleep in twin beds. She didn't believe me when I told her there was an unofficial eleventh commandment that said, "Thou shalt be fruitful and multiply." She loved me, I guess, though I sometimes doubted. She was good in her role, though: The Dutiful Minister's Wife. Why, she ran the Peoria Lutheran Wives' Collective, and she edited my church's bulletins. But as soon as I went blind and became unable to read off my sermons, she divorced me. I caused quite a scandal, let me tell you. This is what I think of romantic love ... He crushes a beer can and throws it into his bag. You see, I lost my sight to the demon rum. He crushes a beer can and tosses it into his bag. I'll bet you're wondering how a minister like me, with dozens of sermons published in Lutheran Bi-Monthly, became a drunk. Well, starting in the middle sixties, the make-up of my congregation changed drastically. All the rich people moved to the edge of the city. They stopped coming to my church when Olaf Thornquist, the car dealer, got mugged one Sunday morning after the service. Busload after busload of blacks and Mexicans moving north for jobs took over their homes inside of ten years. I guess that life in Peoria turned out even harder than in Mississippi or Mexico, because these new arrivals, their spirits broken, often stopped in at the church to receive some counsel. Men who roasted their lungs on the paint line at Caterpillar. Women whose husbands left them with five or six kids to look for work in Chicago or St. Louis, but never came back. Teenagers who thought forming a Youth Group sounded better than joining the Disciples gang. All these people wanted was a little help. But I was so busy trying to rebuild a congregation of the wealthy, I didn't listen and promptly waved them out of my office. He crushes a beer can and throws it into his bag. Wanting an escape, I'd leave my office, say I was making hospital visits, and take a walk. When all the stores moved to the shopping malls at the edge of the city, downtown went completely to pot. In all the storefronts, naked, armless mannequins took the place of mannequins


dressed in the latest fashions from Chicago or New York. The only souls that were left downtown after five o'clock were winos and bums. Nothing was keeping anybody else. None of the restaurants stayed open past lunch and all the theaters were boarded shut. One afternoon, I met a bum called El Loco. Glancing down an alley, I saw him motioning me with his finger to join him. While he handed over his bottle to share sips with me, I told him my troubles. First he laughed at me like the devil was in him, then he sputtered something about wanting to shut off his brain. He crushes a beer can and throws it into his bag. For some mysterious reason, some purpose I came to see was God's alone, I spent more and more time in the streets. Too drunk to go home, I slept many a night on some trash heap, dreaming the dreams of Job. Sometimes when it rained or snowed I'd sleep at the Salvation Army, two bums to a bed. They were a lot warmer to sleep with than my wife, let me tell you. Then my sight began to fade. I knew why, and so did the president of the local synod, who let me go for neglecting my pulpit. That was when my wife left me, although she was pretty fed up with me for a long time already. You see, when I lost my church, I lost her church. I just drank more and more, trying to hide it all behind a purple curtain. He crushes a beer can and tosses it into his bag. Since then I've sobered up and taken to following the streets and highways collecting cans for a living. I don't mind at all, really. I may not be able to see, but I sure can feel more now than when I had a church. Nothing refreshes me more than crawling in ditches still wet with morning dew. It's like baptism. And the sound ... He crushes the last two cans in both hands and drops them into his bag. ... that's music. Do you hear it? Well, I've got to keep moving. Beer cans don't come looking for me. Hope my little sermon has lifted your spirits some. See you in heaven. Blind Reverend Bill exits, crawling and groping.


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