Prose
Teatime in Hell
by J. Bowers
A play in one act, with one actor, one set, and probably one audience member.



Cast:

LUCIFER--1 person, preferably male.

[LUCIFER should be clothed in an angular-fitting pinstripe suit, slippers, Clockwork Orange style eye makeup, whitish face, red devil horns and tail, red fingernail polish. He should always sound bored, as if he’s about to yawn. He’s a foppish, blase man, who speaks in a droll, affected British accent. He should never just sit there; rather, he should inhabit his chair, as though the angles of his suit do not quite fit it.]

[Set: A lush-looking wingback chair, preferably draped in red velvet material. An end table beside it, similarly draped, and holding the pipe, ashtray, and nail polish. If possible, smoke or dry ice should engulf the floor of the stage.]

[Props: A steaming tea cup, a pipe, an ashtray, nail polish.]

Scene 1.

(The stage is dark. Lights come up on LUCIFER. He just sits there, legs crossed, for about 20 seconds, long enough to make the audience uncomfortable.)



LUCIFER: (uncrossing his legs, addressing the audience with condescending mock-surprise.)

“Oh, you didn’t expect me to act, did you?”

(LUCIFER sighs theatrically)

LUCIFER: “God knows there’s been enough of that going on for the past two thousand years...and He still hasn’t done jack about it. No, no, I won’t act. I won’t contribute. You’ll do that for me, won’t you?”

LUCIFER: (sniffing superciliously)

“It’s hard enough to get anything done around here these days as it is. Not that I don’t have the time, of course...after all, plenty of people don’t believe in me anymore, and that saves me working on the income taxes, doesn’t it? Idle hands are supposed to be my work, anyway.”

(LUCIFER holds up his hands, then throws them up in bored consternation.)

LUCIFER: (brightening, as much as a Denizen of Darkness can brighten...)

“But it’s still a bit disappointing. I mean, here I am, updating my image for the 90s...I don’t smoke anymore...(he picks up his pipe, puts it down again)...because I know you’re trying to quit. And the fact that I already have just drives you crazy, doesn’t it? (he grins evilly.) Yeah, I’ve cut out the fire and sulphur and all that carcinogenic crap. I much prefer you coming to me in your own time. Yeah, I’ve shaved off the goatee. I’ve turned the Elysian Fields into a parking lot. It’s what’s expected. Heavens, darlings, I’m not even the Lord of Darkness anymore.”

(LUCIFER laughs, pleased with himself.)

LUCIFER: “I mean, God can keep calling himself that if he wants, King of Kings, whatever. He can stay in his Fat Elvis period. Me, I’m the C.E.O. in Charge of Evil, Marketing, Boy Bands, and George W. I’d have a corner office, if there were corners in Hell.”

LUCIFER: (reflectively) “But I like my little chair. So many have visited me here over the years...I did keep the red. You like the red? (he holds up part of the drapery) Some people think it’s the ultimate emblem of evil, but it’s really just my favorite color.”

(he grins, staring into the audience, pausing.)

LUCIFER: (condescending even when disappointed, reaching for his nail polish.) “Of course, you’re not here to talk about that, though. You want answers to some great questions, some universal overarching mysteries, and God’s voice mail was full again. So you come down here, you bribe Charon into taking you across the Highway Styx, and now you’ve got your Official Devil of the New Millenium, and you want some answers. Is that it?”

(he yawns, opens his nail polish bottle.)

LUCIFER: “I thought as much. You know, some people think nail polish is effeminate. I don’t. I think it’s just what’s required. There’s your first answer. I don’t know that there’s anything else to talk about, really.”

(he repaints a nail, taking his time.)

LUCIFER: (thinking better of his last statement.) “Oh, right, yes. There is no Loch Ness Monster. That’s an important one. I get at least five e-mails about that every day.”

(keeps painting his nails, then slams the bottle back onto the table, looking at the audience accussingly)

LUCIFER: “Well, WHAT? What else could you possibly want to know? I’ve given you all sorts of wonderful toys to play with...alcohol, bovine growth hormone, go on, scat, shoo!”

(raises a hand to his forehead, long-suffering.)

LUCIFER: “No, no, you’re just going to sit there, aren’t you. Like televisions. Like eggs in a little cardboard carton, each and every one having what he’s having what she’s having. (conspiratorially) That’s what got the Greeks and Romans, you know. It was the complacency, not the Latin. All their lives, running around going ‘Oooh! The devil made me do it!’ et cetera, et cetera--sometimes they even said the ‘et cetera’ aloud--and all the while, I was much more interested in how my dry cleaning was going. Oh, sure, a few were truly evil enough to warrant my attention, but for the most part, I just let ‘em go. They weren’t worth my time. And I, ladies and gentlemen, I have a lot of time...but you don’t. You’re mortal. You strive and you bleed and you work at being good, and somehow, by some divine providence, I get to be evil and still exist. It’s a bitter pill, isn’t it? How after all these years, good keeps getting held up to the light, praised, virtued, vaunted goodness...and they still insist on having a Dark Side, a Yang, a Hell to tell people to go to. They still sign my benefit cheques...”

(LUCIFER grins, conspiratorially.)

LUCIFER: “You’re right. I haven’t done any work in ages. I do what everyone else does. I delegate. I have people to be evil for my people who are evil for me.”

(LUCIFER stands up grandly, throwing his hands wide.)

LUCIFER: “Yes, welcome to the New Millennium! It’s great, it’s brilliant, it’s brand-new, baby! And who knows...maybe I’ll get a promotion soon. That’s up to you, really. Provided you keep up the prostitution, the Bon Jovi records...that’s what I live off of, you know. Whores and crap music. The Romans were excellent at giving me those, at least.”

(yawns, picking up his tea and crossing the stage, and going about his business. He looks over his shoulder, as if to notice casually that we’re still watching him.)

LUCIFER(lazily): “Oh my, you really don’t have anything better to do, do you? Oh well. I suppose you’ll expect me to do something interesting, then...conjure up some lesser devil or torture a few insolent souls, some light entertainment, no? Well, I won’t. I’m afraid recalcitrancy is simply part of my nature. If I cooperated, I’d ruin my reputation, you see. But while you’re here...I might as well clear a few things up.”

LUCIFER: “Take 2,000 years ago. I thought it might be nice to take up cross-stitch, just as a diversion between wars, you know...I was going to do a life size self portrait, with this lovely red thread...but no, if I used anything other than human entrails, you’d probably think I was going soft.

LUCIFER(long-suffering) “It’s not easy to be me, you see. And don’t even get me started on the time I tried to bake blueberry muffins. Something other than brimstone drifting out of Hell’s kitchen? Heaven forbid! Oh, I see you raising your eyebrows. I see you thinking, what now? If the C.E.O in charge of Pan-dee-monium wants to bake brownies, where does that leave me?

(laughs)

LUCIFER “Oh, I do love to toy with you. That, at least, has never grown old. But I do find myself wondering...” (sniffs superciliously) “If you’re all wearing t-shirts saying “I Do What The Voices In My Head Tell Me” and such, if evil is, in fact, the new good...shouldn’t I be allowed to have a few Martha Stewart moments now and again?”

(looks pathetic)

LUCIFER: “Ah well, you don’t have to answer that, I don’t mind. Still, I’d like to be cut a little slack now and again. If I want to get crafty, I ought to be allowed. There shouldn’t be any caveat against popsicle stick birdhouses and pompons. Of course, if I start using them, they’ll have to be evil...that’s the regulation, you know. You’ve seen what I’ve done for pitchforks and eyeliner in the past! (gestures at his teacup) This is all part of my approach for the new millenium. My new joie de mortre.”

LUCIFER: (gleefully, simperingly) “I’ve talked to my publicity boys, you see...I think it’s an excellent way to sneak attack. Teacups, super-glue, buttons...I’ll get you where it’ll hurt, you know. I’ll hit you in your pipe cleaners and fabric swatches! Bundt pans and air fresheners! Kids will need to buy spatulas to be me for Hallowe’en! Ha, ha!”

(demonic laughing fit.)

LUCIFER: (recovering) “You’ll like it, I think. Oh, don’t worry, I’m all talk in the end. I’ll still be doing the whole eternal damnation, bat-winged, fiery death thing and all. Nothing down here really changes. That’s what separates me from your world. See, this tea’s still hot. That old geezer is still rolling his rock up and down that blessed hill...”

(a groan from offstage.)

(pantomimes watching him for a while, then puts down his tea, dusts himself off.)

LUCIFER “You know, I think I just might go and join him for a spell. What’s torture for you lot is fun for me, you know. Take this little chat, for instance. Ha, ha! That’s why it’s called Hell! (laughs at this private joke.) Well, never mind. There’s a word in French for what I meant, I’m sure. Ah well, ciao for now, my little poppets. And don’t you worry. Goodbye doesn’t mean I won’t be listening! Adieu! Adieu! Kiss kiss!

(flounces off-stage.)

FIN.
Posted by: J. Bowers

Prose (March 31st, 2006)