Friday, February 25, 2011

Jesus and Jeet Kune Do: the art of authors and ass kicking

Adapted from my notes for the opening of a week speaking to teens at a summer camp.

 I recently read a tweet from @almightygod that read, "To most Christians, the Bible is like a software license. Nobody actually reads it. They just scroll to the bottom and click "I agree."" Worse yet, I'd argue that when Christians do read the Bible, they read it like a software manual: they go to the index for whatever they're currently troubleshooting, read what they need to fix the problem, and then put the book away. There is, incidentally, an entire line of software manuals called "Bibles" - the Photoshop Bible, Dreamweaver Bible, etc. What this says to me is that we either can't be bothered to read the Bible, or we treat it like a technical manual. 

I teach English, so I read the Bible like I read everything else - as a literary professor. That means when the Bible is telling me a story, I read it like it's a story. When it's poetry, I treat it like a poem. When the Bible uses symbolism, I don't treat it literally. When it's relating action, I read it as description of events, not necessarily  prescription of moral/ethical behaviour. 

What seems even more batshit to me is that we treat the life of Christ with as much respect. According to the Bible (which we do not read), Jesus is "the author and perfecter of our faith." This means that Jesus is like Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee was a famous Chinese martial artist and actor in the 1970s who came up with a style of fighting called Jeet Kune Do. Not only did Bruce Lee write the book on Jeet Kune Do, but he was also the master of it. In other words, Bruce Lee didn't just write about kicking ass - he kicked ass too. Bruce Lee is a legend in kicking ass. And  Bruce Lee trained a guy named Dan Inosanto in the art of ass-kicking, who in turn passed his knowledge of ass kicking along to Jeff Imada. Jeff Imada is the guy who trained Denzel Washington to kick ass while carrying the Bible in The Book of Eli, which brings us back to the point of this whole discussion. If you want to kick ass like Bruce Lee, you will read his book, and then train in the ways of ass-kicking. If you want to do anything well, you go to an "author and perfecter," and if you can't have the man himself, you'll settle for his book.

Now Jesus didn't write any books -- other people wrote books about his life, so to observe how he is the "author and perfecter of our faith," we need to look at those books, and hope they got things right. There's a verse in  the Jewish scriptures, that reads "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Mica Christians believe that one of the clearest ways God has revealed how to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, is through the life of Jesus. And so this week, I want to talk about the life of Christ.

We won't have time to study it in detail, but we're going to look at some key moments. I hope they'll be like episodes of a television series you watch and then want to see the whole series. We're going to look at particular moments from four different books about Jesus in the Bible, which are often called Gospels - that means "Good News." Those books are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Some of these moments appear in all of the gospels, and so when there's overlap, we'll look at that, but a number of these moments appear in only a few, or maybe even only one of the gospels. I'm not interested in proving that any of this stuff ever happened. I don't think you need to believe that every moment in Jesus' life definitely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, happened, in order to understand him as the "author and perfecter of our faith." I also don't have any beef with people who think it all happened exactly the way it's written. My goal is to speak to both of those types of people, and I want you both to be able to walk away with something valuable. So I'm not going to be proving anything this week, although I might make reference to people who try to prove or disprove moments in these stories of Jesus.

I also don't want you to get the impression that because I say "stories of Jesus" I don't think they're true. Truth is a slippery concept, and often has little to do with proof in the way that I can prove that gravity is a law of nature. It's true that if I say "If I jump off the top of the stairs, I will fall." It's also true that I "fell for my wife" back in 1994. I would have an easier time testing the truth of falling down the stairs than I would falling in love. Love is harder to prove, but I'd be ready to get all Bruce Lee on your ass if you said I was a liar when I say "I love my wife." I use the term "Stories of Jesus," not to imply they're untrue, but because that is what they are. They are not a software manual. They are not even very good historical documents, at least by the standards we measure those things today. They are not how-to guides, or self-help manuals. They are stories about Jesus, meant to help us understand who Jesus is.

Furthermore, these stories are propaganda. Propaganda has a bad rap, because it's usually used to say something bad about another group, as in war propaganda from WWII, but it's really just "
a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position" (wikipedia). We need to know that in advance, to understand that the writers of the Gospels had an agenda. They wrote these stories of Jesus for a reason. John's gospel is pretty clear on the reason: "so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:31 NIV). Matthew doesn't come right out and say it, but many scholars believe Matthew was writing to convince Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.

Those caveats aside, I want to talk about Jesus because I think it doesn't get done often enough. Christians say Jesus' name an awful lot, but they don't always seem to know anything about who he was or what he did, other than dying on a cross and rising from the dead, which is bizarre, because although the gospels do spend a good deal of time on those two events, they also devote a lot of space to what we refer to as his "public ministry." The gospels tell us little about Jesus' childhood, and nothing about his adolescence or early adulthood: we mostly read about the period of time when he traveled around, teaching his ideas and performing miraculous acts. And we get a good deal about his birth, in both Matthew and Luke.

I want to talk about Jesus because I believe He's the author and perfecter of the best way to live. That's what I think of Christianity as: the best way to live. I don't have all the answers, but from what I've seen, I like the answers Christianity gives. I've grown tired of reading what someone else thinks Christianity is. I want to get it from as close to the source as I can. So I'm going to the life of the author and perfecter of Christianity. If you want to kick ass like Bruce Lee, you will read his book, and then train in the ways of ass-kicking. If you want to live like Jesus, you will read his book, and then train in the ways of being like Jesus.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Have I Run Too Far to Get Home?

Snapshot, 1992: Filling an overnight bag, getting ready to go to an in-city youth retreat sponsored by the church I grew up in, Temple Baptist Church. I am quickly recording "Would?" by Alice in Chains onto a cassette to listen to in the car. The lyric "Am I Wrong? / Have I Run Too Far to Get Home?" resonates in my head with ideas of sin and redemption, and the parable of the Prodigal Son. I view pop culture through the lens of my faith: I cannot see a film, hear a song, or read a book without attempting to relate it to my faith theopoetically. 

That lyric has been haunting me lately. Lane Staley's passionate vocals plaintively asking if a line has been crossed, a line which forbids a return trip, the clichéd point-of-no-return. The story of the Prodigal Son suggests that there the possibility of return to the Father's arms always exists, and yet I find myself in an ongoing "dark night of the soul" unlike any I've ever experienced.

When I was a younger man, my dark nights of the soul were self-induced, brought on by a combination of a restrictive moral code and lapses into transgressive behaviour: in hindsight, they were mostly the natural outcome of trying to live under spiritual disciplines in my '20s. They were not moments of doubt in the nature of God, but rather doubt in my ability to live in the way I believed God wanted me to. What I experience now is far more difficult.

It's difficult because now it is about the nature of God. I'm pushing forty--I don't have the same opportunities for those transgressive lapses I once did. I'm not so hot-tempered, nor given to passionate whims.These doubts are not melancholic episodes. They are part of this season of life.

I did not come by these doubts suddenly. I did not have a bad experience and then turn away from the Church. I have a grocery list of train wrecks from my years in the Church. When people tell me why they've left faith or abandoned a particular church, I have to stifle a grimace, censor my own desire to say, "Pussy. I've got at least five stories like that one." But they are not the only reason I sit in the desert. I am in the desert because I slowly rejected aspects of the Evangelical-Christian subculture, becoming more and more honest with myself, until one day I realized I'd dropped nearly everything that used to define Christian to me. I don't believe in the complete inerrancy of the Bible, or a literal seven-day-Creation, and I think people who believe in either are stupid. I don't believe homosexuals are some uber-class of sinner. I support gay marriage. I refuse to hide that I read fantasy and horror and love it. I only recently began attending church regularly after a two-hiatus. I find it challenging to read my Bible devotionally. Real prayer is rare and sporadic.

I was like the frog in the boiling kettle, not sensing the problem until it became a crisis. But that's the other difficulty. I'm not terribly alarmed. After all, I'm not physically boiling - I don't feel pain, just a sense of loss and regret. I would like to believe the way I once did, but I don't. Worse yet, I don't know if that's because I've stopped believing, or if it's because I need to find a new way to believe.

I speak at a camp this upcoming weekend. The old me would have called them up and canceled, believing that my doubts render me a poor candidate for speaking about faith. I won't cancel: first and foremost because it's unprofessional; second, because while I have all these doubts, I haven't given up. So long as the prodigal wonders about going home, the possibility remains that he can return home.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Caffeinated Inc. Episode 07: The Christmas Special

Caffeinated Inc. (pronounced fully - "Caffeinated Incorporated") was the Gathering's weekly sitcom in the first two years of our existence. To that end, these scripts predate the Year of the Rabbit I'm celebrating here, but are indicative of the sort of approaches the Gathering took toward expressing the Christian faith. They also formed the basis for my blogged novel, Magik Beans. I was the primary writer, but the characters and sometimes dialogue took shape in a improv-to-script approach I shared with co-stars Blaine Kehl and Marcia Hamm.  I'll be posting all of our initial seven episodes in subsequent updates.

Director's Commentary: This was presented as a full production by recapping all the previous episodes and ending with this one. I've included it here as a separate episode, but if people were interested in performing Caffeinated Inc. as a production, drop me a comment and I'll send you the amended document, which truncates the time line of the previous episodes. This brought the series back to its roots, as a single production I wrote for a youth drama group some years prior. The storyline was a bit different, but the idea of the shop as setting was the same, as was the character of Meran.

(LIGHTS UP.  Shop is bustling with activity, as the first strains of ‘Santa Baby’ are heard.  SARAH enters, sings the song, ending by draping herself on CARL, who looks mildly uncomfortable. SARAH is clearly slightly intoxicated, holding a glass with rum and egg nog in it. The song ends.)

CARL:  You know, with all the things I’ve seen lately, you’d think that wouldn’t catch me off guard.

SARAH:  Why, what did you see now?  The angel Gabriel?  Are ya pregnant?

CARL:  Ha ha.  No, I did not see Gabriel.  But, how shall I put it. . .?

SARAH:  Put what?

CARL:  I met someone the other night. 

SARAH:  A someone?  What’s that supposed to mean?

CARL:  A woman . . .

SARAH:  Ooh!  Carl met a girl.

CARL:  It’s not like that.

SARAH:  It never is.

CARL:  Forget it.  (He starts setting out a nativity scene.)

(ALAN and KIM enter.)

ALAN: Hello!

SARAH:  (Coyly) Say, where were you two?

ALAN:  At Chapters.  We bumped into each other in the Eastern Religions section.

KIM:  Did you know that Alan is a really avid reader?

CARL:  Really?

(SARAH smacks him.)

CARL:  Alan, have you ever read anything about angels?

ALAN:  Sure, Sophy Burnham, Dante, what sort of angels are we talking about?

CARL:  How many different kinds are there?

ALAN:  Lots.  Good ones, bad ones.  Messengers, warriors. . .

CARL:  I don’t think this one was a warrior.  She didn’t even have wings.

ALAN:  You met one?

CARL:  Maybe. . . at any rate, she didn’t have wings.

ALAN: So she’s not a cherubim.

CARL:  A what?

ALAN:  There’s only a few heavenly beings mentioned with wings.  Its actually Babylonian to have angels with wings.  Lots of people who meet angels say they don’t know it until later.

SARAH:  You believe Carl saw an angel?

ALAN:  Why, don’t you?

SARAH:  Seems a little strange, doesn’t it?

ALAN:  Not really.  It seems our little coffee shop is a regular earth node.  It seems to attract metaphysical activity in copious amounts.

SARAH:  What?

ALAN:  A lot of weird shit goes on here.

(CARL nods his head contemplatively.)

CARL: Ever since Peter died.

ALAN:  That could have something to do with it.  Maybe Peter was involved in the occult. That’s how he was able to transport his spirit back to this plane of existence.

SARAH: (taking another drink) Speak English dammit!

CARL:  I don’t think so.  I found a Bible in ‘the box’.

SARAH: So you opened it!

CARL:  Yeah.  It was really anticlimactic.  (He brings the box out onto the counter, opens it, takes out a Bible, a diary and a rosary.) That’s what was in there. This Bible, an old journal of Peter’s and a rosary. That’s it.

ALAN:  Okay, so he was a Christian. . .

CARL:  Probably.

SARAH:  So what?  My family’s Orthodox, I’ve never seen an angel, or a ghost. . .

(MERAN walks in.)

CARL:  There she is!

SARAH: She who?

CARL: The woman I was telling you about.

SARAH: God Carl, you’re really getting desperate – she’s a bag lady!

MERAN:  Hello Sarah.

SARAH:  (To CARL) You told a bag lady about me?

MERAN:  No, it was in his file.

SARAH:  Pardon?

MERAN: Carl’s file.

CARL: I think she’s a federal agent disguised as a bag lady who talks in code as though she’s an angel.

MERAN: I am an angel.

SARAH:  I’m overcome with the majesty of the glory . . .

MERAN:  Don’t be a smart ass dear. 

SARAH:  A vulgar angel!  This gets better.

ALAN:  Sarah, open your mind.  G. C. Lichtenberg said, “If an angel were ever to tell us anything of his philosophy I believe many propositions would sound like 2 times 2 equals 13.”  You already said yourself you’ve never met an angel, so quit acting like the expert on them.

SARAH:  I’m not acting like an expert. . . it’s just preposterous to think that this bag lady is an angel.

MERAN:  No more preposterous than celebrating the birth of God as a bloody, smelly, poopy baby.

CARL:  Oh, that’s lovely . . . let me just adjust the Nativity. . .

ALAN: Actually, believing she’s an angel is a shorter jump of faith than Carl’s federal agent disguised as a bag lady who talks in code story.

MERAN:  I see you’ve opened the box. How are you coming with your reading?

CARL:  I’ve been pretty busy with the Christmas rush . . . but I don’t know where to start.

MERAN:  Carl, this is too important to put aside . . . especially for the ‘Christmas rush.’

CARL:  It’s not that big a deal.  Its not a matter of life or death.

MERAN:  It’s not, is it?

SARAH:  Well at least this makes sense.  An angel trying to get you to read the Bible.

MERAN:  Well, you’re putting out the visual aides, why don’t you just read the Christmas story?

KIM:  Yeah!  My grandpa used to do that every Christmas Eve when I was a little girl.

CARL:  What, you mean right now?

ALAN:  Why not?  It’s the Christmas season.

CARL:  (Brings the Bible out from behind the counter.) All right. . . where do I look?

MERAN:  Well, the book of Luke will probably be the best one to read.

CARL:  You mean there’s more than one?

ALAN:  Yeah, there’s actually two accounts of the birth of Christ.  Matthew has the Wise Men, Luke has the shepherds . . .

MERAN:  And the angels! 

SARAH:  Of course.

(CARL flips to the table of contents, then turns to LUKE.)

CARL:  (Reading) In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth. . .

MERAN:  Good old Gabe.  He had such an amazing singing voice.

(SARAH rolls her eyes.)

CARL: (Continuing) . . . um, to  a town in Galilee,  to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." 

SARAH:  You know, I’ve always wondered about that virgin thing.  Why did she have to be a virgin?

ALAN:  The word in the Greek sort of just means a young woman.

SARAH:  What, you read Greek too?

ALAN: Some. But if I understand Christian belief, the idea attests God’s power over the physical realm.  No sex, just--bang!  And there’s the kid.  It’s a miracle.  How else could the double requirement of soteriology, simultaneous connection, and discontinuity be achieved?

SARAH: What!?

ALAN:  The Christmas story is about God becoming human without being screwed up like the rest of us.  Connection, but disconnection.  God, but human.  It’s a paradox.  Besides, like I said, it’s a miracle.

SARAH:  It’s just a story.

ALAN:  No . . . it’s a belief. “A miracle is an event which creates faith. That is the purpose and nature of miracles—frauds deceive. An event which creates faith does not deceive: therefore it is not a fraud, but a miracle.” – George Bernard Shaw.

CARL:  Do you guys want me to read the story or not?

KIM:  Yes!  Sarah, let him read.

SARAH:  All right, all right.  Storytime at Caffienated Inc.

CARL:  Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.   You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. His kingdom will never end." 

(JASMINE enters.)

JASMINE:  Hi everyone! 

MERAN:  Hello Jasmine.

JASMINE:  Uh. . . hi.  Do I know you?

SARAH:  This is Meran.  She’s an angel. (winks conspiratorially)

JASMINE:  Oh.  Like on that TV show.

MERAN:  I don’t watch much TV, but I’ve heard the program is based on actual files.

JASMINE:  Right.

ALAN:  Nice job on the renovation. 

JASMINE:  Thanks.  I notice there’s a lot more people here today . . .

CARL:  I’m reading the Christmas story.

JASMINE:  But there are more people.

CARL:  I’m reading about GOD. 

JASMINE:  Okay, okay.  Did I miss much?

SARAH:  Just the virgin and the angel thing.

JASMINE:  Okay, so the annunciation.

SARAH:  Excuse me?

JASMINE:  I’m Catholic.

SARAH:  I’m Orthodox, I didn’t know what that was.

JASMINE:  I went to all my confirmation classes . . .

CARL:  Shall I read to myself then?

JASMINE:  We’re just waiting for you to get started.

CARL:  All right then.  Okay . . . (reading down) I’m going to skim here. . . a holiday, she sings a song, goes to see her cousin. . . cousin has baby. . .

MERAN:  That’s all important too.

CARL:  I’m sure it is, I just want to get the Charlie Brown Christmas parts. . . Okay, here we go.   In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  And everyone went to his own town to register.  So Joseph. . .

SARAH:  Where’s Mary at this point. . . ?

CARL:  I’m getting to that.  So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.

ALAN:  So it wasn’t actually his home town. 

MERAN:  Ancestral home.  People considered the home of their ancestors their home town.

CARL:  At the rate we’re going here, we ought to be able to open our presents under the tree when I finish up!

ALAN:  Sorry.

CARL:  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

SARAH:  They already mentioned that!  Why would they mention it again?

CARL:  In case people kept interrupting while the story was being read?  “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

SARAH: Convention was in town. (CARL shoots her a look.) 

CARL:  Hey, here we go.  This is the Charlie Brown part.

ALAN:  The Charlie Brown part?

CARL:  Yeah, I played Linus in the Charlie Brown Christmas at our church when I was a kid. This is the part he recites after Lucy cusses Charlie Brown out for getting such a shitty tree.  Let’s see if I can do it without the book. . . “And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night, and lo, an angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid.  But the angel said unto them, fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you.  You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth, Peace, Good Will Toward Men.”’  That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.

SARAH: Very nice.  What are swaddling clothes?

CARL:  I don’t know, that’s just what it says. 

ALAN:  Swaddling clothes are strips of cloth you wrap a newborn baby in.

CARL:  So Meran, were you there that night?

MERAN:  All of us were required to attend.  You should’ve seen the looks on those Shepherds faces!

SARAH:  Oh, that’s it!  Come on now!  You don’t really think she’s an angel do you?

ALAN:  Why not?

SARAH:  She’s a bag lady!

CARL:  Is it that she’s a bag lady, or is that you just don’t believe in angels at all?

SARAH:  Why should I?  I told you, I’ve never seen one!

ALAN:  You know, that reminds me of something I read the other day.  There’s this Canadian psychologist who artificially stimulated an area of brain tissue in volunteers, making them suddenly have mystical experiences.  Another psychologist did the same thing, but with a different area of the brain, causing them to smell roses or hear conversations without external stimuli.

SARAH:  What’s that got to do with anything?

ALAN:  Well, the first guy’s research, the one where stimulation caused mystical experience, is often used in public debate to prove the fraudulence of mystical experience.

SARAH:  So? 

ALAN:  Well, its just that no one’s ever used the other research to prove the fraudulence of roses and their smell.  Same criteria for proof . . . yet people don’t want to believe.

JASMINE:  Why do you suppose that is?

KIM:  It’s like that  “One of Us” song.  If God had a face, what would it look like. . . and would you want to see, if seeing meant that you would have to believe. . . in things like heaven, and in Jesus and the saints and all the prophets. . .

MERAN:  That’s true.  If you saw my true form . . .

SARAH:  Oh that I’d like to see.

JASMINE:  Careful what you wish for . . .

MERAN:  If I manifested myself in my true form, you’d end up like the shepherds did.

SARAH:  What, in the Middle East?

CARL:  With that charming segue . . .  “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."   So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.   The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

JASMINE:  So if you saw the face of God, or an angel, you’d feel compelled to tell people about it.  Is that what you meant?

MERAN:  My dear, when you meet an angel, you’re not supposed to keep it a secret.

ALAN: ’Tis curious that we only believe as deeply as we live.

SARAH:  Well Carl, you seem to think you’ve seen the face of an angel.  I don’t see much deeper living going on here.

MERAN:  Give him time.  Life is a journey.

JASMINE:  I’m getting deja vu.  I just stopped in to drop off some receipts for Sarah’s records.  Is that all the story?

MERAN:  As much as should be told tonight.

JASMINE:  Then I’m out of here.  Merry Christmas everyone.

ALAN:  I’ll walk you to your car.

JASMINE:  Thanks.

(SARAH and CARL and MERAN remain.)

CARL:  Well, I understand all this business about seeing the face of an angel, and me having some responsibility, but what I don’t understand is, what are you doing here?  I mean, the angels in the Christmas story had a mission. What are you here for?

MERAN:  You’ve opened the box.  You’ve even opened the books that were in the box.  But why the box?  Why did Peter give to you in death what he kept hidden in life?  Why are the forces of heaven and hell converging on this coffee shop?

CARL:  You haven’t answered my question.

MERAN:  No, you’re right.  I haven’t.  Then again, maybe I’m just here to make Sarah tremulous.

SARAH:  Well you’ve completed your mission.  Go away.

CARL:  Do you have someplace to stay Meran?

MERAN:  In my Father’s house are many rooms. . .

CARL:  I’m serious.  Are you just going to end up in one of the back halls?

MERAN:  I’ll be fine. 

SARAH:  Sure.  How about I give you a lift to a shelter?

MERAN:  If you think you need to . . .

SARAH:  Delusional or not, there’s no reason to get yourself arrested . . .

(They exit)

CARL:  Kim, I’m heading out, are you going to be okay to lock up?

KIM:  I should be fine. (Pause.) I need to talk to you about something.

CARL:  You’re quitting.

KIM: No.

CARL: You want a raise.

KIM: No.

CARL: More hours.

KIM: No!

CARL:  A Christmas bonus?

KIM:  Will you be quiet?  This isn’t easy.

CARL:  What is it?

KIM:  I know what all that extra money Peter put away was for. 

CARL: You do?  What was it for?

KIM: It was for a women’s shelter.  Peter used to help out at a women’s shelter downtown.

CARL:  He did?  Why didn’t he ever say anything about it?

KIM: I wasn’t ever sure, until tonight.  And then it all fell together for me, and I understood.  You see, I think the reason Peter never told any of you about the work he was doing in the inner city was because he wanted to be like Jesus. (she picks up the nativity Jesus and contemplates it as she speaks.) I mean, I don’t know if I believe any of this God business, but I sure know Peter did.  And if the God he served came as quietly as this little baby, in a stable, then I’m not surprised that Peter never made a big stink about how he helped hookers and runaways get off the streets.

CARL:  My God.  And I spent all that money on a renovation.  I am an asshole.

KIM: Not Carl, you’re not! The reason I told you all this wasn’t to make you feel terrible. It was because I saw how much money is coming in again.  The shop is really taking off! And that means we can do what Peter did, only better.

CARL:  I guess that’s what all this business about living as deeply as you believe was about. He really did.  And we never had any idea. I always thought it was just the coffee shop. But it was so much more . . . Kim, how did you know all this?

KIM: Because when you read Peter’s diary, you’ll find out who I was.

CARL: Who you were?

KIM: I was one of those...people...One of those runaways. (There is an uncomfortable silence.) I won’t hold it against you if you don’t want to keep me on.

CARL: What?  Why would I do that?

KIM:  I used to be a prostitute, Carl.

CARL: Ex-prostitute from what you told me.  Right? (She nods.) Then there’ll be no more talk about you getting let go.  You’re staying, and that’s final. Come on, we’ll close up early. I’ll buy you a drink at O’Byrne’s. 

KIM: Sure. (They grab their coats, and as they head for the door, KIM realizes she still has the baby Jesus.) I just have to put this back.

CARL: (Seeing what it is.) That won’t be necessary.  I’ll – uh, I’ll put it back.  I’m just going to shut off the lights and turn on the security.  Wait for me outside.

( Kim goes outside.  CARL turns the lights down, then looks at the little Jesus.)

CARL:  I don’t know what this means . . . but I’m ready to try.  I’m ready to live as deeply as I believe.  Whatever that means.

(He places the figure back in the nativity and heads out. MERAN steps from the shadows, smiling to herself.)


Friday, February 18, 2011

Caffeinated Inc. Episode 06: Meran

Caffeinated Inc. (pronounced fully - "Caffeinated Incorporated") was the Gathering's weekly sitcom in the first two years of our existence. To that end, these scripts predate the Year of the Rabbit I'm celebrating here, but are indicative of the sort of approaches the Gathering took toward expressing the Christian faith. They also formed the basis for my blogged novel, Magik Beans. I was the primary writer, but the characters and sometimes dialogue took shape in a improv-to-script approach I shared with co-stars Blaine Kehl and Marcia Hamm.  I'll be posting all of our initial seven episodes in subsequent updates.

Director's Commentary: This is the point at which the series got even weirder than just Peter's ghost. We introduced Engel, who is really supposed to be an incarnation of Jesus (which is why He's in a three-piece suit and sandals, and speaking German, an inside North American Baptist joke - "if German was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for us."). Add a bag-lady who thinks she's an angel, and the series has gone from oddball to bizarre. Again, this was largely due to the challenge of working with a cast who couldn't always make rehearsals or performances, and we were writing with a "whoever is there" approach. Somehow, it held together, and people liked it: some came to the Gathering just to see what happened next with C.I.
CARL, the hardworking, cynical proprietor of Caffienated Inc.
SARAH, an aspiring concert pianist who works at a record store on Whyte Ave.
ALAN, a courier with a high IQ
JASMINE, an effervescent graphic designer
KIM, an old friend of Peter’s who is looking for work
ENGEL, a mysterious man who looks identical to ALAN
MERAN, a homeless lady who lives in the mall who believes she’s an angel.
KIM is behind the counter, SARAH is sitting at the counter on a stool.  JASMINE is  walking around the shop, holding up cloth and paint swatches, mumbling to herself.

KIM:  So how long did the kid stand there before Carl actually talked to him?

JASMINE:  I don’t know, must have been about five minutes, he felt so bad for leaving him hanging that he gave him his coffee for free!

SARAH:  Really, don’t get all tied up in a knot about Carl and his little “customer service” service speech.  Common politeness tends to be better than his “customer service”.

JASMINE:  Sarah!  He is trying.

SARAH:  I know, he is doing way better, but Kim doesn’t really know how to take him yet

KIM:  He seems really nice.

SARAH:  He is , he just doesnt’t always want anyone to know it.

CARL and ALAN enters as the girls are laughing.

CARL:  Hey.  What’s so funny

JASMINE:  Nothing, you had to be there.

SARAH:  You wouldn’t get it.

CARL:  Oh hey Kim, this is Alan.  He comes in here…fairly often.  He reads a lot.  And Alan, this is Kim, she just started.  She, uhh…reads a lot. 

ALAN:  She’s really pretty.

KIM:  Wha…I am?

ALAN:  “Beauty ought to look a little surprised: it is the emotion that best suits her face. . . The beauty who does not look surprised, who accepts her position as her due—she reminds us too much of a prima donna.” - E. M. Forster.  Well, gotta go to work..

SARAH:  What exactly is it that you do?

ALAN:  I’m really late.

CARL:  Thanks for the ride Alan.

(KIM does indeed look surprised…very surprised as Alan waves goodbye and leaves.)

JASMINE:  You’ll get used to Alan.  He doesn’t. . . have a lot of inhibitions.  He pretty much says whatever he thinks.

SARAH:  Exactly what he thinks.  What you hear, is exactly what he was thinking.  He doesn’t know how to lie, near as I can tell.

JASMINE:  Which would make him the perfect man if it weren’t for the fact that he lives on a completely other planet.

SARAH:  Yeah, “Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus, and Alan is from. . .”

CARL:  Oz. 

SARAH:  Which would he be then?  He’s obviously not the scarecrow, since he seems to have a brain. . .

JASMINE:  Well you’re definitely Dorothy. . . And Carl has no heart, so he’s the tin man.

CARL:  Hey! 

JASMINE: (reminding him) Nice-ometrics. 

KIM:  Well, I guess I could be the cowardly lion. . . I’m not terribly brave.

SARAH:  Well that means Alan’s either the dog or the nice Witch.

CARL:  Or the Wizard.

SARAH:  Too much pretense.  We already established Carl has a tough time lying.

JASMINE:  He’s Toto.

CARL:  Yup.  He’s the dog.  (Notices the GIRLS getting their coats on.)  Do I smell bad?

JASMINE: We’re taking Kim to see that new Brad Pitt movie.  The one where he plays death.

SARAH:  Girls night out – you know.

CARL:  I wouldn’t be coming along even if I wasn’t working.  I have an aversion to drool.

SARAH:  Not to mention what being out with three women –

JASMINE:  Beautiful women. . .

SARAH:  Beautiful women, would do for your reputation.

CARL:  My reputation is just fine. 

SARAH: Whatever.  (JASMINE and KIM go out the door saying their farewells.)

CARL:  Sarah, could I talk to you for a minute?

SARAH:  I was just kidding about the reputation thing. . .

CARL:  I know, don’t worry about it.  What I was wondering was, would you be interested in doing some musical numbers here at the shop over the Christmas season?

SARAH:  Sort of like in-mall busking?

CARL:  Yeah.   I just thought that it would be cool for everyone involved.  It would give the shop a cool ambience, while letting you get your name out there.  There’d be money involved. . .

SARAH: Not much.  Remember, I run the books.

CARL:  Well, will you do it?

SARAH:  Just Christmas carols?

CARL:  Mostly, but you could do some other stuff; originals or whatever. . .

SARAH:  Cool.  Its a deal.  When do you want me to start?

CARL:  How about Monday?

SARAH:  Sure, I’ll come over after I finish up at the store.

CARL:  Thanks Sarah.  (She leaves.  CARL begins tidying up, then notices “The Box” behind the counter.  A slight change in lighting occurs as CARL places “the Box” on the counter.  Music comes up at this point, slightly ominous.) Finally. Let’s see what secrets you hold.  (He takes the key from around his neck and contemplates it, then unlocks the box and opens it.  The first item he removes is a Bible, old and worn.  He thumbs through it; inside are pictures, one of which he lingers upon.  It is of Peter and another man, the photo in black and white.  He then removes a journal, which is old and yellowed with age.  He flips it open to the first page; Peter’s Journal - 1972-1973. The sound of knocking at the door to the shop is heard.)

CARL:  What is it with people wanting in when I’m closed?  Go away!

(Another knock.)

CARL:  I’m sure Starbucks is still open!

(Another knock.)

CARL:  Just hold on. . . (He goes for his keys.  ENGEL enters, wearing a suit and glasses.)

ENGEL: Ich ahbe dreimal geklpoft, aber niemand antwortet.  (I have knocked three times but no one answers)  

CARL:  Well we’re closed, what do you expect? (looks up and sees ENGEL, mistaking him for ALAN. ) Alan? How did you get in?  I was sure I locked the door. . .

CARL: (looks up and sees ENGEL, mistaking him for ALAN. ) Alan?

ENGEL: Ich sterbe vor Durst. (Im dying of thirst.)

CARL:  (A little nervous.) Very funny Alan; aren’t you supposed to be at work?

ENGEL: (Approaching the counter, ENGEL looks deeply into CARL’s eyes.) Warum haben Sie Angst?  Sie brauchen keine Angst zu haben. (Why are you afraid?  You need not be afraid.)

CARL:  I’m not afraid. . .

ENGEL:  Der Winter hat begonnen. Sie arbeiten zu langsam.  (The winter is here.  You are working too slowly.  \

CARL:  Of course. . . you wanted a drink.  (CARL begins pouring ENGEL a coffee.)

ENGEL:  Vielen Dank.  (He points at the Bible.)  Das Buch, gehort mir.  (That book belongs to me.)

CARL:  Yours?  I can’t imagine how. . . or did you know Peter?

ENGEL:  Ja. Sein Tod war unerwartet.  Er wurde von meinem Feind getotet. (Yes. . . his death was unexpected.  He was killed by my enemy.)

CARL:  Then you know who killed him?

ENGEL:  Ach, ich weiss es. (ENGEL takes a last sip of coffee.) Ich müsse jetzt gehen. (Oh, I know. . .I must go now.)

CARL:  Wait!  You know who killed him!  You have to stay and tell me what’s going on!

ENGEL:  Ich kann es nicht leicht erklären. (I cant explain it easily.) Der Tagebuch.  Leist es.  (The diary.  Read it.)

CARL:  (CARL notices the Bible, still sitting on the counter.) Your book!

ENGEL: Es ihnen anvertraut. (it is now in your care.)

CARL:  When will I see you again?

ENGEL: ENGEL:  Ich werde ein viertes Mal klopfen. (I shall knock a fourth time.) (ENGEL leaves, and there comes a knock almost immediately. CARL runs out, voices OFFSTAGE.)

CARL:  AHA!  I knew it was locked!

(He comes back in.  MERAN steps out of the shadows.)

MERAN:  Could you spare a cup of coffee for a poor woman?  I’m dying of thirst. (CARL jumps.) I didn’t mean to frighten you. 

CARL:  You just startled me.  The man who was just here, he was just really weird.

MERAN:  What man? 

CARL:  The one who just left.  You must have seen him. 

MERAN:  I saw no one.  My, but I’m cold.  Winter’s definitely here. 

CARL:  Yes. . . what was it you wanted?

MERAN:  A cup of coffee – I’m afraid I can’t pay. . .

CARL:  No, that’s all right.  I’m practicing for sainthood. . . (he starts to regain some of his humor and composure in the presence of this seemingly human presence.)

MERAN:  Quite a lofty pursuit.  (She looks at the Bible.)  But I see you have the proper texts here.  I have one of those you know.

CARL:  The Bible?  It isn’t actually mine.

MERAN:  It is now.

CARL:  (Handing her a coffee.)  Why did you say that?

MERAN:  Because its true. 

CARL:  Please don’t start speaking German.

MERAN:  I don’t know any German; never assigned there.

CARL:  Assigned there?

MERAN:  I’m an angel.

CARL:  Of course.  First Peter’s ghost, then Alan’s German speaking twin, now this. 

MERAN:  You don’t believe me?

CARL:  Right now I’m not sure what I believe.

MERAN:  But you’re looking.

CARL:  I guess so.  I’ve just felt so lost, since. . . well, since Peter died.  He was the owner of the store.

MERAN:  I know.  I read it in your file.

CARL:  My file?  What are you, some weird sort of undercover cop?

MERAN:  I already told you, I’m an angel.

CARL:  Right.  Well, if you’re an angel, how come you didn’t see the man who just left here?

MERAN:  Because there was no man to see.

CARL:  But I saw him!

MERAN:  Who?

CARL:  The man who was just in here!  He was German, about six foot, in a suit. . .

MERAN:  You’re telling me what he looked like.  I asked you who He was.  You still haven’t answered that.

CARL:  He didn’t tell me who he was.

MERAN:  Yes he did.

CARL:  No he didn’t!  And how would you know anyhow?

MERAN:  I can’t answer your question until you answer mine.  Who was He?

CARL:  I already told you!  I don’t know.  He didn’t say his name.

MERAN:  I haven’t told you my name, but you know who I am.

CARL:  I know what you are.  Or what you say you are. 

MERAN:  Sometimes those are one and the same. The who and the what.  That’s your problem; you seem to think there’s a difference between who you are and what you are.

CARL:  This is too weird.  Could you just say things plainly, so I understand them?

MERAN:  I am speaking plainly.  You just aren’t listening the right way. 

CARL:  What?  Well how I am supposed to do that?

MERAN:  It would help if you stopped talking.  Its very difficult to listen when you’re talking.

(CARL is taken aback.  He stays silent a moment, looking about in confusion.)

MERAN:  That’s better.  Breathe Carl, breathe. (He starts) How do I know your name?  I told you, I read the file.  And since I know your name, its only fair that you know mine.  My name is Meran.  I was sent to watch out for you. . . it would be. . . unfortunate if anything were to happen to you now, before you read the diary – and the book. 

CARL:  What’s in the diary?

MERAN:  The answers you long for.  The fourth knock. . .

CARL:  My God.

MERAN:  No dear, I just work for him.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Caffeinated Inc. Episode 05: The Move, the Box, and the New Girl

Caffeinated Inc. (pronounced fully - "Caffeinated Incorporated") was the Gathering's weekly sitcom in the first two years of our existence. To that end, these scripts predate the Year of the Rabbit I'm celebrating here, but are indicative of the sort of approaches the Gathering took toward expressing the Christian faith. They also formed the basis for my blogged novel, Magik Beans. I was the primary writer, but the characters and sometimes dialogue took shape in a improv-to-script approach I shared with co-stars Blaine Kehl and Marcia Hamm.  I'll be posting all of our initial seven episodes in subsequent updates.

NOTE: One of the challenges of writing this series was the availability of cast, the bi-weekly nature of our services, and the fact that we didn't have a home for the services until October of 1998. So the first few scripts imagine the coffee shop on Whyte Avenue, which is where we wanted to be. The subsequent scripts featured the shop in West Edmonton Mall, which is where the Gathering called home until fall of 1999. 
CARL, the hardworking, cynical proprietor of Caffienated Inc.
SARAH, an aspiring concert pianist who works at a record store on Whyte Ave.
ALAN, a courier with a high IQ
JASMINE, an effervescent graphic designer
KIM, an old friend of Peter’s who is looking for work

(SARAH sits amidst a stack of cardboard boxes, going through a black ledger which contains C.I.’s financial records.  CARL and ALAN enter, carrying boxes.)

SARAH:  I’ll have to give this much to Peter, he kept neat books.  Which is less than I can say for you Carl.  Seeing where Peter’s records leave off and yours pick up is like English and Sanskrit.

ALAN:  I can read Sanskrit.

SARAH:  Try reading Carl’s hieroglyphs then.

ALAN:  I said Sanskrit, not Ancient Egyptian.

CARL:  That’s fine.  You’re back now, so if the records are messy, you’ll only have yourself to blame. 

ALAN:  Are you sure you don’t want to start setting up the late machine?  I mean, we’ve got a lot left to load, and. . .

CARL:  Alan, I’m not going to set up the late machine just so you can have one.

ALAN:  I wouldn’t just have one. . . I’ll drink at least five or six. . .

CARL:  That’s what I’m afraid of.  Why don’t you just walk down to Second Cup and pick us all up a drink.

ALAN:  Blasphemy!  You speak the name of the anti-Goat in my presence!

CARL:  It’s just a suggestion.  Besides, you can scout out prices and check out the competition!

ALAN:  Aha!  Joshua and Caleb, spying upon the holy land!  Shall I return with grapes the size of a man’s fist?

SARAH:  A moccacino the size of this cup will suit me just fine. (She extends a Starbucks cup to him. He looks it over.) 

ALAN:  Sarah!  You’re going to get me killed!

SARAH:  What? 

ALAN:  This cup is from Starbucks, and you’re sending me to Second Cup!

CARL:  I don’t think they’ll care much where you got the cup from Alan.

SARAH:  Besides, it’ll complete your disguise. They won’t know you’re part of the competition.  Just think if you walked in with a cup from here.

ALAN:  Carl doesn’t have cups like this for sale.

SARAH:  Never mind.

ALAN:  (To Carl)  What do you want?

CARL:  Can you grab me an Italian Soda?

ALAN:  What flavor?

CARL:  Raspberry.

(ALAN exits.)

SARAH:  What’s the deal with all these goat references?

CARL:  Some story about an African goatherder whose flock discovered coffee beans.  He wanted to call the shop ‘the Frisky Goat.’

SARAH:  It has a nice ring to it.

CARL:  Yeah, if you’re a pub targeting Scottish highlanders.  Don’t ever tell Alan you thought it had a nice ring to it.

SARAH:  From the looks of things it doesn’t seem like you’re going to hear the end of it anyhow.

CARL: Yeah.  Say, thanks for helping me move the shop out here.

SARAH:  No problem.  I’m just surprised you got a space here in the mall so fast.

CARL:  Money talks.

SARAH:  Speaking of which, where did you get the extra money to make the move before Christmas?

CARL:  Let’s just say that Peter put away money with as much proficiency as he kept the books.  He had all this excess money stored away in one of the shop’s accounts.  I can’t figure out for the life of me what he planned to do with it all.

SARAH:  Peter’s turning out to be quite the mystery man, don’t you think?

CARL:  Yeah.  I feel like in some sort of Friends meets Twin Peaks sort of thing.  All I need now is for some coffee drinking federal agent to walk in and tell me he’s been sent to solve the death of Peter Heiss, and it’ll be all too surreal.

SARAH:  I don’t think Canada has federal agents.

CARL:  We must have something like that.

SARAH:  You never hear about it.  Not like the FBI or anything.

CARL:  Yeah.  Well, I’m going to unpack some of these boxes while we wait for Alan to get back.. 

SARAH:  Why don’t you open ‘the box.’

CARL:  You mean the one I ‘found’ the key for on Halloween?

SARAH:  You’re not still convinced you actually saw Peter’s ghost?

CARL:  How else do you explain this key (he pulls it out) being on the counter which was completely empty when I fell asleep?

SARAH:  Who knows?  I guess its possible. . . I don’t know, it’s just too weird to think of Peter’s ghost visiting you on Halloween of all nights.

CARL:  Apparently it’s the only night they get shore leave all year.

(JASMINE enters, packing paint and brushes.)

JASMINE:  Sorry I’m late.

CARL:  Yeah, well, it was your idea to do all this color scheme garbage.

(SARAH thumps him.)

CARL:  But, better late than never.

SARAH:  I need to run down to Wilson’s stationer’s for some supplies.

CARL:  It’s accounting.  You’re not drafting blueprints.

SARAH:  The ledger’s almost full; we need till tape, elastics, lots of little junk that you don’t think about.  You worry about the coffee, I’ll worry about the office.

(She exits.  JASMINE is setting herself up, putting down a drop sheet.)

JASMINE:  So, how has everything been going.

CARL:  Really good.  We should be done shortly.  And as soon as you’re done doing your facelift on the place, we’ll be ready to set up.

JASMINE:  Wow.  No sarcasm. Are you on the cynic’s patch or something?

CARL:  No, its a new thing I’m trying.

JASMINE:  Being nice?

CARL:  (Sharply.) Yes. Being nice. And you’re not helping.

JASMINE:  Think of me as nice isometrics.  ‘Nice-ometrics.’  You’ll improve your ability to stay calm in a shorter space of time due to resistance to higher levels of outside agitation. 

CARL:  No kidding.

JASMINE: Ah ah!  You’re being. . . how did Alan put it?  Tremu—

CARL:  Don’t even say it!  Just paint, and give me some space.  I’m not ready for niceometrics.  I’m lucky if I can handle a twenty minute work out of niceness.  I’ve been sarcastic and cynical for twenty-five years.  It doesn’t go away overnight.

(He goes to ‘the Box’ and puts the key in.)

JASMINE:  Nope, life is definitely a journey.  What’s with the box?

CARL:  It’s got a revolver in it.  Will you shut up already?

JASMINE:  Come on, you’re not even trying. 

CARL:  Fine, all right.  It came with the store.  It belonged to Peter, the former owner. 

JASMINE:  So what’s in it?

CARL:  I don’t even know.  Maybe Jimmy Hoffa.  That diamond from the Titanic movie.  I don’t know if human eyes have ever gazed on the inside of this box.  This could turn out to be a Geraldo-opening-Al-Capone’s-safe sort of thing. 

JASMINE:  That was anti-climactic. You're thinking more along the lines of Pandora’s box.

CARL:  Don’t get me spooked.  You wouldn’t be saying that sort of thing if you knew how I got the key to the box.

JASMINE:  Why, was it on the corpse?

CARL:  In a manner of speaking.

JASMINE:  Well open it already.

CARL:  I AM.  (He turns the key, and the box clicks open. He starts freaking out.)

JASMINE: (Alarmed) What!?  What is it?????

CARL:  Nothing.

JASMINE:  Well, what was all that about.

CARL:  One of those Alberta energy brown out things.  Just be glad you weren’t cooking a turkey.

JASMINE: Don’t be so dramatic.  Just open the box.

CARL:  It’s pretty suspenseful, isn’t it?

JASMINE:  Yes!  Now open it!

(KIM enters.)

KIM:  Hello? Anyone here?


CARL:  Hello.  We’re not open yet, we’ve still got some renovations to do.  We ought to be up and running by the middle of the month though. . .

KIM:  Actually, I’m looking for Peter.

CARL:  Peter. . . he doesn’t work here anymore.

KIM:  Oh.  Do you know how I can get a hold of him?

CARL:  Well, not really.  How did you know Peter?

KIM:  He was. . . a friend of mine.  A good friend.

CARL:  Well then, I guess you ought to know.  Peter’s passed away over a month ago.

KIM:  He’s dead?  But how?

CARL:  He. . . was shot—it was a drive by shooting, he got hit. . .

KIM:  A drive by shooting?  I didn’t think he would—he would go. . .

CARL:  He would what?  Who he? He who?  Go where?

KIM:  (Collecting herself) Peter? But he was such a quiet, caring man.  I can’t imagine anyone wanting to kill him.

CARL:  I know. . . The police don’t think it was premeditated. (There is a significant pause.)  They think it was just random.  Still, how many drive-by shootings do we have in Edmonton?

KIM:  Yeah. . . well, thanks for your time. . . I should go now.

CARL:  Is there anything I can help you with?

KIM:  Probably not.  I don’t know. . . Peter told me to come to his shop if I ever needed a job.  Are you hiring. . . ?

CARL:  Well, officially. . .

(JASMINE thumps him)

CARL:  Yes!  Yes we are!  Especially for friends of Peter. (He scowls at JASMINE.)  What sort of experience do you have in customer service?

KIM:  Well. . . none in this sort of an environment.  None that would apply really.

JASMINE:  Couldn’t be worse than yours. 
CARL:  Excuse me, I’m doing an interview here.  How about education?  Have you graduated yet?

KIM: No. . . um.  I’m a couple credits short.

CARL:  So you’re still in high school.

KIM:  No. . . not currently.

CARL:  Can you make a cup of coffee?

KIM:  Now?

CARL:  No no.  I’m asking you; do you at least know the difference between a coffee bean and a Glossette raisin?

KIM:  Raisins don’t make goats frisky.

CARL:  What?

KIM:  Nothing, I’m just joking around.

CARL:  No, how do you know about that? The frisky goats thing?

KIM:  I read a lot.  I used to work a night shift, so I had a lot of time on my hands during the day.

CARL:  Thank God.  I thought you were a friend of Alan’s for a second there.  So where was it you worked?

KIM:  Downtown.  It’s – closed. 

CARL:  Any references?

KIM:  Peter.

CARL:  I see.  Well, let’s see.  You have no high school diploma, you have no customer service experience, and no living references. 

KIM:  Sorry to bother you. . .  (she turns to go.)

CARL:  On your way out, would you mind stopping by the van parked at entrance ??.  There’s a few boxes still in there.  Bring them back in here and we’ll talk about when you start.

KIM:  Pardon me?

CARL:  You can carry boxes, can’t you?

KIM: Yes, but –

CARL:  Prove it and you’re hired.

KIM: (Smiling.) Thank you.  (She exits.)

(JASMINE stands, stunned.  CARL nods his head, smiling. JASMINE walks over, pries open CARL’s jaw and looks into his mouth.)

JASMINE:  Okay, alien creature, let him go!  Leave this man! 

CARL:  Get off me. 

JASMINE:  Who are you, and what have you done with Carl?

CARL:  What?

JASMINE:  You just gave a job to someone who is not qualified for it.

CARL:  Yes.

JASMINE:  Not qualified for anything.

CARL:  Yes.

JASMINE:  So what is that?

CARL: (Thinks for a moment.)  Nice-ometrics.