Tim Marks
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"Despite his vices, every man's not out for just himself."


"They totally control us, you know that? They don't need to police us—we do that ourselves with fear."

 

locating the plant | pearldivers | eve's barette | the judas ballot | the cleric | the naz

the english crew | the tradition

An Excerpt from The Cleric, by Tim Marks

© 2002-2006 Tim Marks. All rights reserved.

Act I, Scene One

(Afghanistan! House lights down. Low whoomp-whoomp of an Apache helicopter, growing louder quickly. Gunfire erupts as strobe effect plays on darkened stage. Intense volume. Suddenly, a lull in the noise.)

Father Sean:

American! For pity's sake don't shoot, I'm American!

(Strobe flashes reveal a man kneeling center stage, dressed as a Mujahiddin.)

Act I, Scene Two

(Father Sean Pearson, a 53 year old Irish-American priest, sits handcuffed to a chair which is bolted to the floor by a table, also bolted down. He wears an orange jumpsuit, and his head is covered by a white hood. He sits relaxed. Stage lights are subdued. Stage left there is a glass/plexi window / screen. Visible are two men: Robert Marsh, late thirties, tidily dressed in slacks & short sleeved shirt and tie, a CIA interrogator, and John Cervantes, late thirties, a DIA field spook wearing GI desert combat fatigue pants, para boots and a GI t shirt. He wears a web belt with a holstered 9mm pistol. He is bearded, with longer than regulation hair. Enter the Defense Secretary's Liason dressed immaculately in a linen suit. He nods to Marsh and Cervantes. Cervantes reacts before Marsh; he comes from behind the window, hurries across the room, and delivers a full impact punch to Father Sean's mouth. Sean's head snaps back and he grunts, but he recovers quickly and sits still. There is blood on the sack.

Cervantes:

Asshole!

(Marsh stares angrily at Cervantes and motions for him to chill. Cervantes goes behind the priest and delivers a blow to the back of the head. The priest rocks, but recovers his equilibrium. Cervantes looks toward Marsh and mouths.)

Cervantes:

Chilled enough?

(He grabs the priest by the shoulders and pulls him back in the chair.)

Cervantes:

Nothing to say asshole?

Marsh:

We know you are an American.

(He pushes Cervantes aside and gently removes the priest's hood. Father Sean blinks repeatedly in the light. His hair is long and matted, as is his beard. He tries to bring his cuffed hands up to his face.)

Cervantes:

They tight enough for you, asshole? I think we should take the cuffs off this piece of shit Bob. Then I can blow his fucking head off for trying to take my gun.

Marsh:

You claimed to be an American. Why not talk to us?

Cervantes:

Sunnuvabitch is too dumb to talk to us, Bob. Jesus he was dumb enough to join the Taliban and go against the greatest fighting machine on God's little acre.

(The Defense Liaison comes from behind the glass and motions for Marsh and Cervantes to join him behind the glass.)

Defense Liaison:

Gentlemen, I fear the game has changed.

(He hands a buff folder to Marsh, but Cervantes intercepts it and reads it.)

Cervantes:

Jesus Fucking H!

Defense Liaison:

There is no need for that kind of vulgarity.

Cervantes:

You're shitting me, right?

Defense Liaison:

What separates us from these people is our ability to act in a civilized manner. You will refrain from cursing in my presence. Are we clear on that, Mr Cervantes?

Cervantes:

Crystal.

Defense Liaison:

I'll take that as an affirmative.

Marsh:

May I see what the fuss is about?

(Cervantes hands him the folder.)

Marsh:

I hate to agree with this clown, but I think he summed it up perfectly. Jesus, I think this could get awful damn messy.

Act I, Scene Three

(Father Sean sits at the table. He is still handcuffed, but both his beard and his hair have been shorn. His face is badly bruised around the eyes. Marsh enters alone.)

Marsh:

It's incredible the information available. You were fingerprinted when you were 18 and thirty something years later here you sit, no longer shielded by your secret identity. My name is Marsh, and yours is Pearson. Father Sean Pearson to be exact. Born in County Wexford, Ireland to American parents. You are also a Medical Doctor, which is what you were doing when you were kidnapped by Hezbollah in Beirut 17 years ago. Which begs the question - why all these years later do we find you playing soccer with the enemy?

Father Sean:

Playing soccer my arse! I was a goalpost. It was easier to have me stand there than to dirty a coat!

Marsh:

Why didn't you identify yourself?

Father Sean:

I was too busy absorbing blows to make a polite introduction.

Marsh:

I'm sorry about the beatings, but emotions are pretty raw.

Father Sean:

Glad I was there then, to help those poor men focus all that pent up aggression!

Marsh:

It doesn't say in your file that you are such a funny man.

Father Sean:

I've been practicing in front of an audience of one. There are days when I almost piss myself laughing!

Marsh:

I'm sorry.

Father Sean:

For what?

Marsh:

You deserved better than you got.

Father Sean:

Are you the good cop?

Marsh:

Excuse me?

Father Sean:

Your partner is obviously the bad cop. I watched a lot of Hill Street Blues before I gave up completely on electricity.

Marsh:

I'm what I am I guess. I wont hit you, but I will be aggressive in my questioning and I will expect answers. Tell me about the kidnapping.

Father Sean:

This one or the one before?

Marsh:

The one before this, the real kidnapping.

Father Sean:

I was at the clinic. One of the helpers rushed in and said I was needed. I followed him out and I was hit in the stomach and a bag was placed over my head. I think I was thrown into the bed of a pickup. That was the start of this. My very own midlife crisis.

Marsh:

Do you know where you were taken, or who your abductors were?

Father Sean:

I'm trying to get words out as fast as my brain forms them, but I feel I'm talking through sand. Am I intelligible?

Marsh:

You're doing fine. What language did you converse in while you were in captivity?

Father Sean:

There was no conversing.

Marsh:

Surely?

Father Sean:

I don't think you understand the position I was in.

Marsh:

Explain it to me.

Father Sean:

I was initially held by Hezbollah. I know this because they spoke to me in English. I don't know where I was held. They kept me in a dark room chained to a ring in a wall. They fed me, provided one blanket and a palliase to lie on. They also provided a bucket for waste, which they emptied. I was told of the rules and the speech was punctuated with blows from the butt of an AK-47.

Marsh:

You recognised the weapon?

Father Sean:

It was Beirut in the 80's, everybody had one.

Marsh:

What were the rules?

Father Sean:

I was never to initiate a conversation, I was never to talk about my religion, I was never to look up when they entered a room, I was to make neither demands or requests. I was to know that my future lay in the hands of Allah and I was to be grateful for that.

Marsh:

Did you obey the rules?

Father Sean:

After the first three or four mistakes, yes. Retribution was incredibly swift and violent.

Marsh:

How did you deal with the beatings?

Father Sean:

I dreaded them, but after a time I learnt to absorb them for the most part... but sometimes there was nothing to do but to pray and cry.

Marsh:

How did you end up with the Taliban?

Father Sean:

Who are?

Marsh:

Your last captors.

Father Sean:

I'm not sure when I was transferred over to them. I have been moved constantly.

Marsh:

How did you communicate?

Father Sean:

I've already said I didn't.

Marsh:

Surely you had some words?

Father Sean:

Sit, stand, kneel. I always dreaded kneel.

Marsh:

Why?

Father Sean:

Somewhere along the line a young man found he could make me piss myself by making me kneel, putting a cocked pistol to my head, and pulling the trigger. It was like something from Pavlov's dogs. I wasn't particularly afraid of dying, but every time he did that he got the same result.

Marsh:

Perhaps you were more afraid of death than you thought?

Father Sean:

Perhaps. Other words in my extensive vocabulary were eat, move quickly and I think I picked up the equivalent of fuck. Toward the end I found that these words changed as I was moved around.

Marsh:

So the language changed? What did that tell you?

Father Sean:

I guess I concluded I was no longer in Lebanon. My captors were older. They seemed to possess no English. I was living in caves and sometimes tents. Often we would be on the move for days.

Marsh:

What function did you fill?

Father Sean:

I fetched and carried, tended goats once.

Marsh:

Alone?

Father Sean:

In sight of a sentry, but essentially alone.

Marsh:

Did you never think of taking off?

Father Sean:

In the beginning yes, but the original kidnappers never provided me any opportunity. Later on it was a question of where I would go. So much time was spent in the mountains: bake during the day and freeze at night. The environment was it's own jailer. What will happen to me?

Marsh:

I'm not sure.

Father Sean:

I know there's a war going on, but who are the combatants?

Marsh:

The good guys and the enemy.

Father Sean:

And we are?

Marsh:

Well, that is what we're here to discuss.