Tuesday, December 23, 2008

William Gibson, "Butterfingers Angel"

ANGEL. "Hail thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. For thou hast found favor with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. And he shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever: and of his kingdom there shall be no end."

MARY. What?

ANGEL. "Thou hast found favour with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great--"

MARY. What?

ANGEL. Mary, I can't go on repeating this time after--

MARY. Who are you?

ANGEL. I am the angel of the Lord.‘

MARY. (pause) You?


MARY. You're just a --


MARY. You said conceive, what?

ANGEL. "Conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and-- "

MARY. Have a baby?


MARY. I can't, I haven't got a husband. I haven't even got a boy friend! I hate boys, you must have the wrong Mary.

ANGEL. "The Holy Ghost shall--" I beg your pardon?

MARY. I said you must have the wrong Mary.

ANGEL. Is that possible?

MARY. Possible, there's three Marys just in this building, everybody is named Mary! that's the trouble with this place, people get the same ideas over and over—

ANGEL. Oh, I-- I am sorry--

MARY. What for?

ANGEL. My mistake, I--

MARY. Everybody makes mistakes here.

ANGEL. No, I make too many, it's not only here. They know how I get things wrong, they said this time get it right or don't come back.

MARY. Don't--?

ANGEL. Come back.

MARY. Your nose is sweating!

ANGEL. Yes, when I make a mistake.

MARY. I won't tell anybody, stop sweating.

ANGEL. Thank you. I was looking for--

MARY. Act more confident, for an angel.

ANGEL. I-- had it here--

MARY. Look confident you get more things right, it's how I do, most people don't know the difference anyway--

ANGEL. Apartment 328, Hadeganim Towers.

MARY. Down the hall, take the elevator to the third floor, when you get off go right through the fire doors, second door on your right, door's kind of kicked in.

ANGEL. Yes, you're very confident.

MARY. I ought to be, that's my apartment. (Beat) Oh, my--

ANGEL. Mary.


MARY. (finally) You see-- you were right!


MARY. (points up) They were wrong!


MARY. Yes, if I haven't got a husband or a boyfriend or--


MARY. --something male--

ANGEL. It's a virgin birth.

MARY. A what?

ANGEL. Listen, Mary. "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing that shall be born of thee--"

MARY. Without even asking me?!

ANGEL. "--shall be called the Son of God. For with God nothing shall be impossible"‘

MARY. I have other plans!

ANGEL. What plans?

MARY. To go to Jerusalem, I'm saving every cent--

ANGEL. You'll go to Jerusalem.

MARY. --to make something of myself!

ANGEL. Mary, be still! I tell you God is to be born of your womb, and live on the earth as a man, and all men shall see in him the love that shakes the stars, and you have other plans?

MARY. I do, I do, give up everything I thought of all my life, for what?

ANGEL. A firstborn Son.

MARY. Diapers!

ANGEL. Who will light the world.

MARY. That's what they all think! Why me?

ANGEL. I have no idea.

MARY. Go back and tell them I said never.

[She stalks out with her wash]

ANGEL. I can't go back! They said-- (But he is alone. He closes his notebook, drops it, and gazes up.) God? God? I don't see what to do. God, it is very dark
on the earth, and if I can't see my way, how can these creatures? They have not much light in them. Oh, I know you know that, it's why your light is to become flesh, so that men will live more joyously in love than in hate, and see one another as themselves, but this-- girl is a brat. God, you can't make a silk purse out of a-- (thinks better of it) Well, I think there's been a mistake, not mine. And if so, and I'm not to come back till it's right, it will be dark here for some time. Is that what you want? God?

[Mary walks back with the washbasket]

MARY. I thought it over. I'm sorry I lost my head, that's how sometimes I think things over. Let's sit down.

ANGEL. Of course.

MARY. I heard what you said.‘

ANGEL. Oh, I am sorry--

MARY. Don't keep apologizing, I am a brat.

ANGEL. I was speaking to someone else--

MARY. I don't think he's out there.

ANGEL. You're an atheist too?

MARY. Did you ever see him out there?

ANGEL. Well, not exactly--

MARY. I thought you were so important.

ANGEL. Oh, no. The important ones are--

MARY. I don't think he's out, I think he's in. I know why it's me.

ANGEL. You do.

MARY. It's to start with me because-- See, I'm not the only brat, there's eighteen in my family, all with black beards except me. It was nineteen but the baby fell off the balcony and died, only she didn't fall, they were drunk and dropped her. It's like living with crazy wolves, you better be a brat. I'm surrounded by morons, I hate everybody I know. And I shouldn't. See one another as themselves, did you make that up?


MARY. So it's to start with me. How do we begin?

ANGEL. It's begun.

MARY. Well, I always get things right, I mean nobody wants a baby with three feet, especially this one. So I-- I'm scared, I never-- never was so scared in all my life, why am I so scared?

ANGEL. Mary.

MARY. Hold my hand! Oh God, let him be healthy and happy, I don't care if he's all that special or even a girl, just let me deserve this baby! Did I say that?

ANGEL. Mary, I'm scared too, hold my hand. It's a-- terrifying thing we--

MARY. Terrifying, what'll I tell my family? They'll kill me in that place--‘

ANGEL. You can't go back there, they--

MARY. I live there, where'll I sleep?

ANGEL. --they throw babies off balconies! I'll speak to Joseph.

MARY. Joseph?

ANGEL. Joseph.

MARY. Joseph--

ANGEL. Mary, from now on I'll take care of you.

MARY. And I'll take care of you, I have to go now--

[She makes for the washbasket, the Angel after her]

ANGEL. No, be careful!

MARY. What?

ANGEL. Don't lift any heavy objects--

MARY. I'm healthy as a whale--

ANGEL. No. (He gets the washbasket from her) I'm responsible for this baby.

MARY. Well. Just don't spill it, please.

ANGEL. Mary, you must be more trusting now--

MARY. I know.

ANGEL. And humble.

MARY. I am humble, it's my strongest point-- (they exit)

Excerpted from "The Butterfingers Angel, Mary and Joseph, Herod The Nut, and the Slaughter of 12 Hit Carols in a Pear Tree" (1974) by William Gibson - not the science fiction William Gibson, but rather the "Miracle Worker" William Gibson. This scene was used by permission in Pacific Theatre's FIRST CHRISTMAS: AN ENTERTAINMENT, and again in FIRST CHRISTMAS: A THEATRICAL CELEBRATION.