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The Angel Game
(The scene opens on a school hallway. Lockers line one side. They are split in half: there is one locker on top, and one on the bottom. There is a group of high school girls talking and giggling next to the lockers. Ella Clark is one of the girls, and she is opening a locker on top, while talking to another girl. Enter Dahlia White. She kneels down at one of the lockers on the bottom, and starts to open it.)
ELLA. (Sarcastically) Hey Dahlia, I like your glasses!
(Dahlia ignores her. The other girls laugh. As the teasing goes on, however, they slowly stop laughing.)
ELLA. Four Eyes, what are you doing this weekend? Going out with friends? Oh, wait, you don’t have any friends. Oh, well, I guess you’ll just be sitting at home, all alone, thinking of everyone out there in the world having more fun than you. But don’t worry, we’ll be thinking of you while we’re having all the fun.
(Dahlia is still firmly ignoring her. Ella laughs, although she is the only one to do so. All her friends are looking at her dubiously. Ella stops laughing, realizing she is the only one.)
ELLA. What is your problem? Can’t you ever take a joke?
(She sighs, rolls her eyes, and walks past with her friend, Callie. Outside is dark, as night has fallen.)
CALLIE. You’re really hard on her, you know. You shouldn’t be so mean, all the time.
ELLA. It’s OK. It was just for laughs.
(Ella walks in front of her friend, but suddenly, the sound of a rushing car is heard, and two headlights come up quickly from behind her. Ella screams and the lights go out. The only things that are seen are the flashing blue and red lights of an ambulance, and a siren blares faintly. The sounds and the lights slowly fade out.)
(The lights turn on to an improvised courtroom. There is a judge seated facing the audience, and two tables, with two men wearing suits sitting with their back to the audience. The clerk stands near the judge. Ella slumps, asleep, in a chair at one of the tables. The clerk speaks, and Ella is jolted awake.)
CLERK. All rise.
(The two lawyers at the tables stand. Ella is still seated.)
ELLA. What? Where am I?
(She looks around, confused. She is wearing a puffy, light, white dress, almost a nightgown.)
CLERK. Case number 7459921. The People versus Ella Clark. The Honorable Judge Kathy Garcia presiding. The gallery may be seated.
(The lawyers sit down.)
JUDGE GARCIA. How do you plead?
(The lawyer next to Ella, Lewis, responds.)
LEWIS. Not guilty, Your Honor.
ELLA. (Whispering to Lewis) Hey! What’s going on?
LEWIS. You’re dead. You’re on trial for being a “bad person”. The regular sentence for that offence is eternal suffering.
ELLA. You mean I’m not alive anymore? And I’m going to Hell?
LEWIS. (Almost to himself) Not if I can help it.
JUDGE GARCIA. Are both parties ready to present their arguments?
(The prosecutor, Reed, stands.)
REED. Yes, Your Honor.
(While Reed organizes his papers in his briefcase, Lewis and Ella continue their whispered conversation.)
ELLA. There must be some mistake. Last time I checked, I was very alive. Who are you, anyway?
LEWIS. I am your defense attorney. Steve Lewis. Nice to meet you.
(Ella and he shake hands. Lewis then points to Reed.)
LEWIS. See him? He’s the prosecutor. Steve Reed. I know he stole my name. I was named Steve before him, I died first. … (Ella clears her throat) Anyways, he’s won every case since his death. But don’t worry, this one won’t be one he’ll win.
ELLA. (muttering to herself) Yeah right. I bet you weren’t even a good lawyer in your past life…
(Reed walks to the center of the room. He stands upright, staring the gallery straight in the face.)
REED. (Fluently, eloquently) June 12th, 1995. A baby girl is born. Ella Clark. With parents who love her and care for her. But what no one knows is that in the body of (He raises his voice and points to Ella.) this girl, there is a little devil just dying to come out. And that devil shows his impish little face just about when she started going to school. It starts with failing to follow her parents’ orders. Then, there are actual insults. And by the time Miss Clark turns 16 years old, she has deceived everyone she knows.
(Ella has been watching the speech completely astonished. Her mouth is agape but no sound can come out. Lewis stands up.)
LEWIS. Objection. Mr. Reed has no proof to support his assertions.
REED. Oh, the proof is coming, Steve. You only have to wait.
(There is a moment of silence. Then, Judge Garcia clears her throat.)
JUDGE GARCIA. Mr. Reed? May the court see your proof, please?
REED. Of course. (He claps his hands dramatically. A television set is rolled in.) Everyone, please enjoy the show.
(The television turns on, and the light on the stage dims. Playing on the screen is the earlier scene at the school with Dahlia White.)
TV ELLA. Hey Dahlia, I like your glasses! What are you doing this weekend? Going out with friends? Oh, wait, you don’t have any friends. Oh, well, I guess you’ll just be sitting at home, all alone, thinking of everyone out there in the world having more fun than you. But don’t worry, we’ll be thinking of you while we’re having all the fun.
(The television turns off and the lights come back on. Reed pushes the eject button on the old VCR machine, and a tape pops out. He places it inside his briefcase. )
ELLA. Hey! Where did you get that tape?
LEWIS. We have millions of them. We can see everything on earth from up here, you know. We document everyone’s life in case we ever need them for something like this.
ELLA. You mean you’ve been stalking me? Gross!
JUDGE GARCIA. Mr. Lewis, please calm your client down. Mr. Reed, please proceed.
REED. What more is to be said? Miss Clark sees Dahlia White, a brilliant young girl, in the hallway. I believe it is common courtesy on earth to say “hello” when one meets another in public places. But no “hello” from Ella. No, Ella is too good to say “hello”. The only thing she is good for, is insulting other people.
JUDGE GARCIA. Objection sustained.
REED. Miss Clark did this girl—Dahlia White—ever do anything to you? To offend you, perhaps?
REED. Then why would you attack this poor girl with insults?
(Ella is silent.)
REED. Then my case has been made. That is all.
(He swaggers back to his table.)
JUDGE GARCIA. (Looking at Lewis, who is still seated.) Mr. Lewis? Your arguments?
LEWIS. Um, well, the thing is… I don’t really have any.
(Ella stands, infuriated.)
ELLA. Are you crazy? What kind of lawyer are you? You don’t have anything for defending me? Who picked you to be my lawyer? I want to talk to a real lawyer!
LEWIS. There aren’t very many lawyers up here. The thing is, people get kind of lazy, and don’t want to work when they go to Heaven. There’s pretty much only me and Weed.
REED. It’s Reed! Not Weed! (Lewis chuckles softly.) But Ella’s right. You’re not a lawyer. This case is pretty much over. Mr. Lewis did you really think you could win? I’m much smarter than you, or your client, for that matter. Cases like this, they’re easy. Good versus bad. I am good. Defending Heaven. Ella Clark is bad. And she is going to live the rest of her life—Oops! I mean death—suffering in Hell.
(Ella stands up indignantly.)
ELLA. Hey! Objection!
LEWIS. Ella, please sit down.
ELLA. No! (She stands on the table.) You’re just trying to make me look bad in front of everyone. You talk about all the bad things I’ve done in my life. And, yeah, I get it, I’ve done bad things. But you don’t say anything about the good things. I have done good things in my life, but for some reason, they’re not in any of your stupid stalker tapes. You don’t care if I finally get what I deserve. You just want to make sure Steve Lewis loses every case against you. But I don’t care about your stupid rivalry. I don’t want to go to Hell, or suffer from “eternal punishment”, or whatever. You’re only a bully! (Muttering to herself) It’s just like Jimmy Woods all over again.
LEWIS. Jimmy who?
ELLA. Jimmy Woods. He used to bully me in preschool. You know, beat me up, call me names, take away all my food. I was lucky I didn’t starve to death. My parents didn’t do anything about it, they didn’t believe me.
LEWIS. Mr. Reed, when did you say Ella started misbehaving?
REED. Around the time she started school. Why?
LEWIS. (To himself) So this would’ve been right before. (Aloud) Could we consider the fact that there was a reason Ella started being a bully? Because she herself was being bullied? (He turns quickly to face Reed, and points an accusing finger at him.) Hey! Why weren’t there any tapes showing the bullying? They should’ve been there, as a document of Ella’s life!
REED. You don’t really think I would’ve stolen the tape?
LEWIS. You tell me. It would’ve been too easy for you. You had access to all of them for the case. You just needed somewhere safe to hide it.
REED. Fine. Look through my apartment. Search my office. You won’t find anything.
LEWIS. Because it isn’t in any of those places. It’s too obvious. It would be somewhere you could always check on. Somewhere no one would search… Mr. Reed, may I see your briefcase?
JUDGE GARCIA. May he?
(Reed hands it grudgingly to Lewis. He opens it, a takes out a tape, with a sticker on it.)
LEWIS. (Reading the label) Jimmy Woods. (He looks up.) Well, I’ve found the tape.
JUDGE GARCIA. Mr. Reed, you are under arrest for obstruction of justice. (While she is talking, two policemen walk in, handcuff Reed and push him off stage.) Miss Clark, you are ordered to perform 40 hours of community service. This case is closed. My judgment has been made. There is a special spot in Heaven waiting for you, young lady. And Mr. Lewis. (She pauses.) Congratulations. This is the first case you’ve won since your death.
LEWIS. Thank you, Your Honor.
JUDGE GARCIA. Please… Call me Kathy.
(Judge Garcia leaves.)
LEWIS. Well, see ya, kid.
(Lewis prepares to leave.)
ELLA. Wait… I’m sorry, Mr. Lewis. You are a good lawyer. The best one I’ve ever met. Well, the only one I’ve ever met. Anyways, thank you. It’s thanks to you I’m not going to Hell.
LEWIS. Don’t worry about it, Ella. It was nice to meet you, too. (He pauses.) Hey, isn’t this the first time you’ve ever apologized to anyone? Or thanked them?
ELLA. Yeah. Yeah, I guess it is.
LEWIS. Well, I’ll see you around, in Heaven.
(Lewis smiles, nods to Ella, and leaves the room, leaving her alone. Ella watches him go. She looks around the room, astonished. A white light appears, and she walks into it and disappears. The lights fade.)
Concord, North Carolina
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"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." -Will Rogers