THE WIDOW AND THE LANDOWNER

 

 

Time:                The Present- 8PM

 

Place:                A church

 

(The priest carries in a tray with tea and cookies in anticipation of expected guests to see her about a civic matter.  Three men enter:  Mr. Green is a real estate developer, Mr. Barber, his lawyer, carries a leather briefcase, and Mr. Maloney is a local landowner.)

 

Betty:                Welcome.

 

Mr. Green:          Beautiful church you have here.  Let me introduce myself.  I am Bernard Green (He shakes her hand) and this is Gerald Barber, my attorney (He shakes her hand) and this handsome fellow is Kenneth Maloney, he owns the square block of land on Elm and Abernathy. (Mr. Maloney shakes her hand)

 

Betty:                Sit, please.  (She moves to a tray with a pot of tea and cookies on a plate) I made a pot of tea.  Any takers?

 

Mr. Green:          Thank you, I will.  (She pours the cup of tea and sets it before him)  Smells delicious, it must be from your special stash.

 

Betty:                It’s Lipton.  Anyone else?

 

Mr. Barber:         No, thank you.  But, I would like a cookie.

 

Betty:                Of course.  (She holds out the plate for him to take one)

 

Mr. Barber:         Thank you.  (He bites it) Yum.

 

Betty:                Homemade.  And you, Mr. Maloney?

 

Mr. Maloney:       No thanks…maybe later.

 

Betty:                (She sees he’s smitten by the cookies) I’ll put the cookies on the table, in case you’d like another, Mr. Barber.

 

Mr. Green:          Mother Betty…

 

Betty:                Please call me Betty.

 

Mr. Green:          Betty…and you must call me Bernie.  Betty, let me explain why we are here.  We came to offer you a gift.  I know that you presently run a thrift shop in your basement.

 

Betty:                Well, we don’t actually run a thrift shop.  We receive donations and we make the merchandise available to the community. Once it’s here a month, we give it away to charity.  We have limited space.

 

Mr. Green:          Exactly…and that’s where we can help.  We want to offer you the opportunity to have a new thrift shop on the corner of Elm and Abernathy.  We’ll build it for you at no cost- 2500 square feet with a basement- all of it to your specifications.

 

Betty:                That sounds very generous, Mr. Green.  But…

 

Mr. Green:          All we want from you is your blessing.

 

Betty:                I don’t want to seem like a Grinch, but….

 

Mr. Green:          Wouldn’t the church appreciate the added income?  How about the prestige and the high visibility of having a shop on the corner of Elm and Abernathy?  It’s the most valuable and highest profile corners in town.

 

Betty:                I’m well aware of the potential of the corner, Mr. Green.  It’s been strangely vacant for a few years now.

 

Mr. Maloney:       I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it.

 

Betty:                You’re very wise to adequately reflect before you make a major decision such as that, Mr. Maloney.

 

Mr. Green:          That’s why he’s decided to give a spanking new thrift shop to the church- at no cost whatsoever.

 

Betty:                You’re very persistent, Mr. Green.  Are you the builder?

 

Mr. Green:          I’m the developer.

 

Betty:                Wouldn’t a project like this require a builder rather than a developer?  What are you planning to develop, Mr. Green.

 

Mr. Green:          (Correcting her) Bernie, please.  How can we help you to make this free opportunity better for you?

 

Betty:                You could just give the money you’d spend on the building to us as a charitable gift.  The community doesn’t need another thrift shop.  Goodwill is already on Main Street.  But the community has so many other needs.  And for that matter so does the world.  We tackle these challenges on a daily basis.  Our congregation has a mountain of intention and a molehill of money.  Is this something you would consider, Mr. Maloney?  (Mr. Green glares at Mr. Maloney in an attempt to keep him on board with their plan).

 

Mr. Maloney:       May I please have a cup of tea?

 

Betty:                (Aware that there is a dynamic happening here and it would be wise to leave them alone and work it out.) Of course, let me warm it up for you.  I’ll be right back.  (She exits with the teapot)

 

Mr. Maloney:       You weren’t planning on telling her, were you?

 

Mr. Green:          Sure.  I’m going to tell a priest that once we get her blessing for the corner spot it will automatically trigger the zoning of the block for commercial development.  Sure.  I’m going to tell her that we really want to build a strip mall next to the thrift shop.  Why would I do that?  How would we benefit from that?

 

Mr. Maloney:       We benefit?  You mean- how would YOU benefit?  You would fill your pockets again-as if they weren’t full already.

 

Mr. Green:          And how about you?  You stand to net about a million dollars out of this.

 

(An elderly woman enters the church.  She walks toward the men as she approaches a small altar prepared with a lit candle and a small silver tray.  She does not pay attention to them.)

 

Mr. Green:          Look what’s walking through the door- a beggar woman coming to see the priest for a few bucks.  That’s great. 

 

Mr. Maloney:       How do you know she’s here for a few bucks?

 

Mr. Green:          Do you see her?  She obviously has nothing.  Jerry, quick- give her a few bucks. 

 

Mr. Barber:         Why don’t you?

 

Mr. Green:          The smallest bill I have is a fifty.  (Mr. Barber gets his wallet and opens it.  The woman reaches the altar and says a prayer.  She takes out a pen, signs a check and puts it in the plate.  This is clearly a prepared and routine visit. The three watch as she piously leaves the church: Mr. Green impatiently and Mr. Maloney with wonder.)

 

Mr. Maloney:       She obviously didn’t come to get money.  It looks like it’s the opposite.  She just gave money to the church.

 

Mr. Green:          She signed a piece of paper- it’s probably a wish list.  Everyone’s always looking for something.

 

(Betty returns with a cup of tea on a saucer and the tea pot)

 

Betty:                (She hands the cup and saucer to Mr. Maloney) Here, be careful, it’s hot.

 

Mr. Green:          Where were we?

 

Mr. Maloney:       An elderly woman just came in, said a prayer, signed a piece of paper and put it on the plate. Then she left.

 

Mr. Green:          I’m surprised you leave the doors open so late?

 

Betty:                Why?

 

Mr. Green:          You never know who can walk in and rob you.

 

Betty:                It was Mrs. Webb.  She’s here faithfully every Sunday.  She’s a widow and lives solely on her monthly Social Security.  The first Tuesday of every month she walks into the quiet church, says a prayer, signs over her check and places it in the plate.

 

Mr. Green:          That makes no sense.  If she lives on Social Security- how can she give it all away?

 

Betty:                She has complete trust and faith that God will provide for her.  She’s been a happy and satisfied woman doing this ritual for twenty years.  She has everything she needs.

 

Mr. Maloney:       (To Betty) Do you think the community needs a park?

 

Mr. Green:          What?

 

Betty:                Yes I do…with a playground for the kids.

 

Mr. Green:          Have you lost your mind?  You’ll give up a million dollars?

 

Mr. Maloney:       And more.  I want to feel like Mrs. Webb.  I‘ve been anxious and sleepless ever since I agreed to this swindle.

 

Mr. Green:          This is not a swindle.

 

Mr. Maloney:       It’s a lie.  (To Betty) He neglected to tell you he wanted your blessing so he could commercially re-zone the lot and build a strip mall.

 

Betty:                I figured as much.

 

Mr. Green:          I do a lot of good for this community.  I give plenty to charity.

 

Mr. Maloney:       You take the whole loaf and give back crumbs.

 

Mr. Green:          I’m not going to listen to you tar and feather me.  I’m a pillar of the community.    Let’s go, Jerry.

 

Mr. Barber:         I’m staying.  They’ll need my help to draw up the papers for the new park.

 

Mr. Maloney:       And playground.

 

(Mr. Green leaves in a huff.  The others smile at each other.)

 

Betty:                (She pours herself a cup of tea and sips it.  With pleasurable satisfaction she speaks.) We never know who will walk through the door- or how our prayers will be answered.