The Abbess – a strong, mature middle-aged woman who runs the Inn.
Tinker – a man of unknown age (older than mid-20’s) who roams the ice wasteland looking for items of value to trade
Simeon – a older Jewish man who lives at the Inn, hoping for the coming of the Messiah.
Rachel – Simeon’s eldest daughter – a whore
Sarah – Simeon’s younger daughter – a whore
Fen, the Matchstick Girl – the Abbess’ ‘daughter’.
Anno – The Abess’ husband
Woman – a traveler who comes upon the Inn in labor
Man – a traveler, the Woman’s companion
(The music begins to fade out, and the Lights Fade Up. ANNO stands at the bar, putting things away. ABBESS enters, looking tired and sweaty. The Inn is quiet, and there are a few PATRONS lying about on the floor, sleeping. ABBESS steps over them. )
ANNO: How is she?
ABBESS: (shaking her head) She wasn’t strong enough to bear the baby and live.
ANNO: And the baby?
ABBESS: Alive…for now. But we’ll see. If the child sees the dawn…why the hell do we keep calling it dawn? No one’s seen the Sun for over a hundred years. Might as well call everything night.
ANNO: Hope, ‘Bess. Hope.
ABBESS: My hope died with that girl Anno. This whole lunacy of going to Tinker’s City of God…all these people are doing is trading real estate. Two generations and we’ll all be dead.
ANNO: Maybe they’re healthy babies being born somewhere else in the world.
ABBESS: Yeah, same place Simeon’s Messiah is living no doubt.
ANNO: (After a silence) What if the baby lives?
ABBESS: Hm? What do you mean?
ANNO: Well, if the baby lives, will you have hope?
ABBESS: What the hell are you talking about Anno?
ANNO: I’m talking about you. About us. About everything. Hope isn’t something someone gives you Abbess. It’s something you grab for yourself. If you get everything given to you, then that’s not hope anymore. It’s just life.
ABBESS: You’re trying to talk about things over your head Anno.
ANNO: No I’m not! I’m talking about what I see, and what I know. Look, if you say you’ll only have hope when the sun shows it’s face, then you will never really hope. Because once the sun’s there, you can’t hope for it to be there. It already is.
ABBESS: You’re confusing me. I’m too tired to talk about this.
ANNO: Dammit Abbess, this is important! I’m saying if you don’t have hope now, you never will! You’ll always be hoping for something else! If the baby lives today, you’ll say you won’t have hope until she grows up! And when she grows up, you’ll say you won’t have hope until she finds a husband! And then it’ll be children! And so on! You have to hope today!
ABBESS: Why Anno, what good does it do? Will that baby live just because I hope she will? Will it bring the sun out if I just hope it does? What will it change?
ANNO: You. It’ll change you, ‘Bess.
(ANNO walks out. ABBESS stands, stunned that her husband has spoken with such thoughtfulness and passion. SIMEON enters from the kitchen area.)
SIMEON: I heard shouting. Is everything all right?
ABBESS: Anno was bringing my attention to some things I’ve been overlooking around the Inn.
SIMEON: Strange timing. What was so urgent?
(Simeon looks perplexed. He is uncertain of what to say. ABBESS goes to the bar, gets down a bottle of whiskey and pours herself a shot. FEN enters, bleary eyed.)
ABBESS: What are you doing out of bed?
FEN: Papa came to say goodnight to me and woke me up when he kissed me—gave me whisker burn. So I came down to find out how the lady and her baby are.
ABBESS: (Pouring another shot.) The baby is doing pretty good so far sweetheart.
FEN: Is it a girl?
ABBESS: It is. What do you have against boys?
FEN: Nothing. I just would rather have a girl to play with. I’ve seen how the boys play with Rachel and Esther…yuck.
ABBESS: Well, it won’t always seem ‘yuck’ to you, but I’ll thank God for everyday it does.
FEN: How is the baby’s mama?
ABBESS: She died, Fen.
FEN: Just like my mama.
ABBESS: Just like your mama.
(There is a silence.)
FEN: Where do they go?
FEN: The people—when they die?
ABBESS: Well, we bury the body out in the ice…you know that.
FEN: Where’s the rest of them--the part that talks and laughs?
ABBESS: Well, my mama used to say that part—our spirit, flew up above the clouds to where the sun is.
FEN: Is that true?
ABBESS: Well, I sure hope—(realizing what she’s said, and what it means)—I sure hope so Fen.
FEN: I wonder what the sun looks like.
SIMEON: Well, my father told me the sun is a star, so it would look like the star in the book Tinker brought you I would guess.
FEN: Really? If that’s where we go, then why don’t we all just go to sleep and die so we can go there too?
SIMEON: (thinks for a moment) Well, if we all went off and died, who’d be around to change diapers on all the new babies? Or teach little girls to read?
FEN: That’s true.
ABBESS: Enough questions. Back to bed with you. I have to go relieve Rachel. She’s been watching the baby.
FEN: Simeon can watch me—
ABBESS: I said to bed.
FEN: All right.
ABBESS: (Gives FEN a kiss on the cheek.) Goodnight sweetheart.
FEN: Goodnight. (She turns to SIMEON) Good night, Simeon.
(SIMEON blows her a kiss. FEN catches it and puts it in her pocket, then exits up the stairs.)
ABBESS: Thank you.
SIMEON: For what?
ABBESS: For not correcting me when I told Fen where we go when we die.
SIMEON: Didn’t seem to need correcting.
ABBESS: That’s not what you believe, is it Simeon?
SIMEON: I didn’t believe in a lot of things before Tinker told us about the city. I talked to you about hope a lot Abbess. I didn’t realize how little I had until tonight, when got what I’d been hoping for.
ABBESS: The girls?
SIMEON: If I’d really had hope for them, I’d have had faith in them, in their decisions. That God was watching out for them when I wasn’t. And now—how do I become part of their lives again?
ABBESS: That’s what Anno was saying to me. That I say I’ll have hope when something happens, that I really don’t have hope at all.
SIMEON: Wise man.
ABBESS: I need to go spell Rachel off from watching the baby.
SIMEON: Do you think she’ll live?
ABBESS: I hope so. (She smiles.) I guess it does change you.
SIMEON: What was that?
ABBESS: Nothing. Get some sleep Simeon.
(She waves as she goes. SIMEON gives her a half-hearted response, and goes to the table. He stares at the chess board. RACHEL enters, looking very tired.)
SIMEON: How is the child?
RACHEL: Sleeping. Just like I’ll be doing soon.
(RACHEL heads for the stairs. SIMEON is obviously in some turmoil. As she reaches the stairs, he speaks up.)
SIMEON: Do you want to play some chess?
RACHEL: (Turns to face SIMEON, a look of slight shock on her face.) So now I’m good enough to play chess with? Now that I have a man who wants to marry me? Is that it?
SIMEON: No—no…that’s not it.
RACHEL: Well if that’s not what it is, then what is it? What’s changed? Two weeks ago I was just a whore, not worth talking to. Now I’m your daughter again. What’s different Simeon?
SIMEON: Do you remember the story of Hosea?
RACHEL: Of course. Didn’t you know? It’s every whore’s favorite book of the Tanakh. (she smirks.)
SIMEON: On my lips I always called you Rachel. But in my heart I called you Lo-Ruhamah…not my loved one. But tonight, when I saw that woman dying while she was giving birth, I looked away and saw you standing beside her, being so strong, so confident, helping Abbess. And I didn’t see a—a whore. I just saw my little girl. And I wanted to tell you that, but I didn’t know how I could after everything I’ve said, and the way I’ve treated you since your mother died. I’ve not been a good father.
RACHEL: You’ve been a terrible father.
SIMEON: I just said that! This isn’t easy you know.
RACHEL: I read that story over and over--Hosea. And I pray to God to bring a man who would be like Hosea, and marry me, even if he knew all the choices I made. But I always said, “It’s impossible. Not even my own father loves me—how could any other man?”
SIMEON: You father was a foolish man.
RACHEL: And that’s different now?
SIMEON: (quoting) I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called 'Not my loved one.' I will say to those called 'Not my people,' 'You are my people'; and they will say, 'You are my God.' " Please, Rachel, give me a chance to be your father again.
RACHEL: (thinking a while) No. Not yet. You can work up to that. Let’s just start with that game of chess.
SIMEON: Yes. That would be a good start.
RACHEL: I’ll need some coffee though.
(SIMEON sits down at the table, turns the board to RACHEL. She is pouring coffee for the two of them as the lights FADE DOWN. Music plays again.)