christmas belles

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CHRISTMAS BELLES CHARACTERS MISS GENEVA MUSGRAVE, town florist HONEY RAYEFUTRELLE, oldest Futrelle sister GINA JO (G.J.) DUBBERLY, Frankie and Dub's daughter JOHN CURTIS BUNTNER, deputy sheriff TWINK FUTRELLE, middle Futrelle sister DUB DUBBERLY, Frankie's husband FRANKIE FUTRELLE DUBBERLY, youngest Futrelle sister RHONDA LYNN LAMPLEY, manager of The Dairy Dog JUSTIN WAVERLY, Interim Pastor at the Tabernacle of the Lamb RAYNERD CHISUM, part-time employee at The Dairy Dog PATSY PRICE, local society matron ACT ONE Scene I Christmas music plays over a crackling PA. 3ystem. Lights come up on Miss Geneva Musgrave, 6Os, the crusty proprietor of BooKoo BoKay, the only flower shop in Fayro, Texas, population 3,003. The shop is also the town bus depot. The phone rings. She answers. Geneva. This is BooKoo BoKay. Whether you’re sayin’ “Get well Soon, “I do” or “I’ll never touch that woman again,” say it with flowers. How can I help you Why, Tenny, how you doin? Actually I’m waiting for the three twenty—five from Houston to bring my floral shipment. Nelda’s funeral today cleaned me out. And speaking of which, if Nelda Lightfoot was half the psychic she claimed to be, how come she didn’t know that runaway Christmas float was bearing down on her Yeah, up ‘til then it was a real good parade. The float from Clovis Sanford’s House of Meat was definitely my favorite, even though it turned out to be a killer. Oh, business is great. After all these years, I have found the key to success in the floral business: helium. Do you know I’ve tripled my Christmas orders by introducing tile “Happy Birthday Jesus Balloon Bouquet”? Well, I sure have. And even my Greyhound franchise is startin’ to pay off. Oh, hold on, Tenny. I got a bus just in from Brownsville ... (Into a microphone.) Attención, Ladies and Gentlemen, Señores y Senoritas. Welcome and bienvenito to Fayro, Texas. We hope you’ll do your holiday shopping para la entire familia 1

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Christmas Belles





HONEY RAYEFUTRELLE, oldest Futrelle sister

GINA JO (G.J.) DUBBERLY, Frankie and Dub's daughter

JOHN CURTIS BUNTNER, deputy sheriff

TWINK FUTRELLE, middle Futrelle sister

DUB DUBBERLY, Frankie's husband

FRANKIE FUTRELLE DUBBERLY, youngest Futrelle sister

RHONDA LYNN LAMPLEY, manager of The Dairy Dog

JUSTIN WAVERLY, Interim Pastor at the Tabernacle

of the Lamb

RAYNERD CHISUM, part-time employee at The Dairy Dog

PATSY PRICE, local society matronACT ONE

Scene I

Christmas music plays over a crackling PA. 3ystem. Lights come up on Miss Geneva Musgrave, 6Os, the crusty proprietor of BooKoo BoKay, the only flower shop in Fayro, Texas, population 3,003. The shop is also the town bus depot. The phone rings. She answers.

Geneva. This is BooKoo BoKay. Whether youre sayin Get well Soon, I do or Ill never touch that woman again, say it with flowers. How can I help you Why, Tenny, how you doin? Actually Im waiting for the three twentyfive from Houston to bring my floral shipment. Neldas funeral today cleaned me out. And speaking of which, if Nelda Lightfoot was half the psychic she claimed to be, how come she didnt know that runaway Christmas float was bearing down on her Yeah, up til then it was a real good parade. The float from Clovis Sanfords House of Meat was definitely my favorite, even though it turned out to be a killer. Oh, business is great. After all these years, I have found the key to success in the floral business: helium. Do you know Ive tripled my Christmas orders by introducing tile Happy Birthday Jesus Balloon Bouquet? Well, I sure have. And even my Greyhound franchise is startin to pay off. Oh, hold on, Tenny. I got a bus just in from Brownsville ... (Into a microphone.) Attencin, Ladies and Gentlemen, Seores y Senoritas. Welcome and bienvenito to Fayro, Texas. We hope youll do your holiday shopping para la entire familia while youre here. So let BooKoo BoKay help with any floral necessitas you may have. Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad to yall and yours! (Back to the phone.) Im telling you, Tenny, all this success has helped take the sting out of not being asked to direct the church Christmas Program for the first time in twenty-seven years ... Evidently the Deacons thought the show needed new blood. I only hope Honey Raye Futrelle knows the mess shes getting into. .. . Youre right. I have to let it go. After all, it is Christmas. And to quote Tiny Tim, God help us everyone ... Of course I know its really God bless us every one, but girl, this is Fayro, Texas. And we need all the help we can get ... (Blackout.)

Scene 2

A light comes up on Honey Raye Futrelle, 50, a sexy vivacious go-getter. She writes on a notepad at one end of a table. Gina Jo G.J. Dubberly 20s, guileless and enthusiastic, sits at the opposite end of the table sewing silver stars onto a white garment.HONEY RAYE. Hows it going over there, Shug?

G.J. I think Im getting the hang of it. Aunt Honey Raye, Im so excited youre directing the Christmas Program this year at the Tabernacle of the Lamb.

HONEY RAYE. Me, too. Ive always wanted to get my hands on this show and people are going to be dazzled! Theyre gonna feel like theyve just seen Baby Jesus born on Broadway! For starters, this the Wise Men will be accompanied down the aisle by . . a camel.

G.J. A real, live camel?!

H(oNEY RAYE. Even better, a two-person camel costume I rented from the Waco light Opera Company. And its not just three Wise Men, either. I have finagled a special celebrity appearance by none other than Cee Cee Windham.

G.J. The lady who hosts Hospitality House every morning on Channel Fifteen?

HONEY RAYE. In the flesh. And not only will Cee Cee portray a Fourth Wise Person, but shell present the Holy Family with the gift of her Butternut Squash Lasagna. And thats not all.

G.J. I dont know how you can top that.

HONEY RAYE. There is only one way: Mary and Joseph will he blessed with a visitation from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in the person of the other King: Elvis!

G.J. Oooh, Im getting chills!

HONEY RAYE. Doyce Penders got the wig, the glasses and the cape. You tell me one verse of Love Thee Tender wont bring down the house.

G.J. No wonder the cable access station in Sweetgum wants to show it on TV live. I bet theyll play it over and over every year, just like White Christmas ... and Shawshank Redemption.

HONEY RAYE. TV coverage is exactly why Im jazzing it up with lights and costumes and a flying angel.

G.J. And sewing stars onto the angels costume will make it look like shes floating in the heavens. And see here? I just got the second star in place.

HONEY RAYE. Lets have a look.

G.J. Okay. (She slips the costume over her head. A star has been stitched directly over each breast.) What do you think? HONEY RAYE. I think the Wise Men might not follow the right star. Tell you what, lets concentrate on casting. Now, we got to get us some shepherds. Any ideas?

G.J. How about Wade Porter?

HONEY RAYE. No, I dont think so. Wade and I had this little flirtation a while back that didnt end well. I dont think that would be too comfortable for either one of us. Who else? G.J. Well, theres DeVurl McSpadden. Hes definitely got shepherd potential.

HONEY RAYE. No. That wont work. DeVurl and I had a little flirtation and he was real bitter when it ended. Next?

G.J. Johnny Ralph Elmore?

HONEY RAYE. No, Johnny Ralph and I had a little G.J. Aunt Honey, this might be easier if we focus on men you havent had a little flirtation with.

HONEY RAYE. Then Im going to need time to come up with somebody. Meanwhile, Ive got a request: I want you to be Mary. G.J. Oh, I am. Im a very happy person.

HONEY RAYE. Umm ... not merry as in Merry Christmas. I mean Mary as in the Virgin Mary. Youre perfect.

G.J. Oh, no. No, no, no! No, maam. Im not good in front of crowds.

HONEY RAYE. Now, you dont know that.

G.J. Yes, I do! When they asked me to give that demonstration last night at the Bi-Annual Cow Insemination Workshop, why, halfway through my demonstration I just froze. I didnt know which end was up. Even the cow felt sorry for me. I could tell by the look on her face when she turned around to see what was happening. HONEY RAYE. Shug, just forget your inseminating nightmare. Im counting on you, G.J. And I know youll want to be a part of it when you hear the name I came up with for the Christmas Program. G.J. What is it?

HONEY RAYE. Honey Raye Futrelle and Company proudly present Bethlehem-A-Palooza! (Blackout.)

Scene 3

Lights come up on John Curtis Buntner, 40s, Deputy Sheriff He sits at a desk. On it is an open toolbox. He eats fries from a Dairy Dog bag.

JOHN CURTIS. As I perceive it this is a class-A Southern tragedy. Not to infer Im condoning what you did, Twink Futrelle. No, I am not. But it is my position you come by it naturally. TWINK. (Offstage.) And just how do you figure that, John Curtis? JOHN CURTIS. With the clear and unclouded eye of legal detection. Factoid A: It is common knowledge amongst the populace of Fayro, Texas, that the Futrelles are women of passion. If Wiley Hicks had more than the I.Q. of a Milk Dud, he would have known that and you would not be in the situation you are today. (Twink Futrelle, 4Os, enters wearing an orange jumpsuit with McTwayne County Jail printed on it. She carries a large wrench which she puts into the tool box.)TWINK. I had no idea youd put so much thought into this. JOHN CURTIS. Simply the machinations of a peace officers mind. Factoid B: Even the most superficial observation reveals that Wiley Hicks took advantage of you. I mean, you dated him for sixteen and a half years. Everybody in Fayro agrees the man shouldve married you out of pure pity if for no other reason. TWINK. I cant tell you what a comfort it is knowing yall were pulling for me. JOHN CURTIS. Well, we were. Thats why when Wiley got a snoot lull and ran off with Maryjack MacLemore everyone was shocked. TWINK. Some of us more than others. Now, Id better get back in there and spackle up that hole. I had to drill out a little more wallboard than Id counted on to replace that pipe.

JOHN CURTIS. Good gosh, Twink, you already patched the linoleum in the mens room and reorganized the computer files, alphabetically according to crime. You are by far, the most outstanding female prisoner to ever grace McTwayne County jail. Im just sorry I was the one who had to arrest you that day.

TWINK. In just sorry you stopped me before Wiley Hicks got what was coming to him. Dragging all his NASCAR collectibles outside and setting em on fire was only the start of what I had planned.

JOHN CURTIS. But Twink, what everybody in Fayro wants to know is ... why the Dale Earnhardt memorabilia? Even from a woman bent on revenge, that was low.

TWINK. Preserving Dales memory was the furthest thing from my mind. I just wanted to hurt Wiley the way hed hurt me.

JOHN CURTIS. I do see your side. But I just wish you hadnt picked such a windy day.

TWINK. I never thought the embers would make it across the road to Tug Moodys Mobile Home Paradise. I guess I wouldve pressed charges, too, if a fire had taken out nine of my doublewides and my brand new hen house.

JOHN CURTIS. Yeah, that was a pity. Course, on the positive side, the whole town did smell like fried chicken for a week. (Blackout.)

Scene 4

Lights come up on Dub Dubberly, 40s, wearing work clothes and a camo cap. He digs through a pile of laundry, shakes out a Santa suit and calls offstage.

DUB. Frankie! I cant find my stomach! (Frankie Futrelle Dubberly, 40s, enormously pregnant, waddles in carrying what looks to be a pillow.)FRANKIE. Do you really think its wise to say that to a woman who hasnt seen her own toes since last summer?

DUB. What I meant was: Love you, Puddin. Now, let your sympathetic and supportive husband have his pillow, okay? (He gingerly takes it from her.) Hang in there, Precious. Were just this side of the finish line. Maybe mommy just needs a little nappy-poo.FRANKIE. What mommy needs is to get these babies born so she can be a normal-sized human being again. Yesterday I was at the store and a woman asked if I knew where the Petite Department was. I said, Do I look like I know where the Petite Department is? (She seizes Dub by the collar.) Dub Dubberly, I am sick of being super-sized! You hear me?! Sick of it!

DUB. (He gently pulls her hands off his collar and eases her onto a chair.) You know, maybe we should talk about something else. Why dont you tell Santa what you want for Christmas.

FRANKIE. Fine. I want Santa to get a vasectomy.

DUB. A what?! Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. Hell, no. Theres not enough milk and cookies in the world to make Santa ever consider that.

FRANKIE. You asked what I want. So gift wrap that and stick it under the tree. Because Mrs. Claus is not going to have another surprise like this (She points to her stomach.) again.

DUB. You know, some women complain their husbands have lost romantic interest in them after years of marriage.

FRANKIE. Clearly, that is not one of our fundamental issues.

DUB. Looka here, Frankie, these last nine months havent exactly been a joy ride for me, either. Im still trying to figure out how were going to afford these twins. So isnt it enough that Im down at the Super SmartMart every night wearing this stupid costume for extra money, without you asking me to rework my plumbing? FRANKIE. Thats another thing. Youre working too hard. And now Im having to worry about these babies and me and you. Im sick of that, too.

DUB. Well, I just cant do anything right, can I? So, if youll excuse me, this seasonal hire with no benefits and a bad knee is off to enjoy one final round of pushy parents and greedy kids with boney butts. (He exits.)

FRANKIE. (She calls after him.) Wait, Dub! Im sorry. I dont mean to be (She stops and sighs. Looks heavenward.) Mama Eula, I hope youre not up there thinking I only talk to you when things are bad, but, well ... things are bad and I need to talk to you. This pregnancys got me as tense as a havelina crossing I-20. And having to deal with my sisters has not helped. I mean, Twinks in jail, Honey Rayes trying to turn The Tabernacle of the Lamb into Caesars Palace, and then theres that other situation. I know Ive promised to break the news before Christmas. But Mama, with the twins coming, on top of the mess were already in, I dont see how that can happen. Besides, its been a secret this long, a little longer isnt going to hurt. Of course everything would have to happen this time of year. I swear, Mama, getting through the holidays with family is about like baptizing a cat: Your heart may be in the right place, but it makes you wonder if all the scratching and fighting is worth it. (Blackout.)

Scene 5

Three weeks have passed. Its Christmas Eve. Lights come up on the fellowship hall at The Tabernacle of the Lamb. Upstage right is a door that leads to the unseen kitchen. Upstage center is a door that leads to the hallway into the church sanctuary. Stage right is the door to the parking lot. Downstage left is a clothes rack filled with costumes. On a table beside it is a sewing machine, various headdresses, props, etc. Downstage right is a table on which sits a large chafing dish and trays of snacks. Rhonda Lynn Lampley, early 50s, dressed in a flashy Christmas sweater and tight pants, high-heeled boots and large, gold dangling earrings, sets out and arranges a buffet of snacks on the tables. She sings to the tune of We Wish You a Merry Christmas






G.J. (She enters from the sanctuary carrying a doll wrapped in a blanket.) Hey, Miz Lampley. How you doing?

RHONDA LYNN. Darlin, if things got any better, Id have to hire somebody to help me enjoy it.

G.J. Do you have a pair of tweezers? One of this baby dolls eyes is stuck open and we cant have the Little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head if hes wall-eyed.

RHONDA LYNN. (She gets tweezers out of her purse.) Here they are. Ooh, I cant believe were just hours away from opening night. You make a fantastic Virgin Mary You know, next to Maria in The Sound of Music, I think its the most important female role on the stage. G.J. I completely agree. But its all because of Aunt Honey. Shes such a fantastic director, if she ever decided to give up selling dinette sets, I bet she could go straight to Hollywood and direct TV movies.

RHONDA LYNN. Shes very innovative. Talking Bruton Hairgrove into letting her use one of his sheep in the show was pure-D genius. And who knew Wendall Poovey would make such a convincing Joseph?

G.J. And the way Aunt Honey Raye keeps Wendall pointed upstage, people arent going to be distracted by that goiter at all. RHONDA LYNN. Its just a win-win for everybody.

G.J. Well, I better get Jesus back in there.

RHONDA LYNN. Tell Honey Raye I brought stuffed jalapeos. Since Raynerds back on his medication, I let him work the fryer down at the Dairy Dog. But he got a little carried away and made a few too many ... actually, three hundred too many.

G.J. You know, I thought it was real brave of Aunt Honey to put Raynerd Chisum in the Program.

RHONDA LYNN. Yeah, but it was the right thing to do, him being so crazy about Christmas and all.

G.J. Oh, I think so, too. Course Aunt Honey is still trying to convince Raynerd a shepherd in Bible times would not be pulling a red wagon behind him.

RHONDA LYNN. Speaking from experience, thats a fight she is not going to win.

FRANKIE. (She appears in the door to the parking lot, bundled up.) Wide load coming through. (She has wedged herself into the door frame and cant move.) Wide load stuck in the door. Somebody give me a hand!

G.J. Mama? (She and Rhonda Lynn run to the door.) What are you doing here?!

RHONDA LYNN. Now, Frankie, Darlin, relax. Well pull you through. (She and G.J. pull Frankie through the door. Frankie enters.) There! Now, that wasnt awful, was it?

FRANKIE. Not as awful as being the sixty-year-old mother of high school seniors is gonna be.

C.J. Mama, you should be at home.

FRANKIE. Where I should be is in the delivery room. I thought moving around might give these two freeloaders a little encouragement. But I couldnt go to the Super SmartMart to see Dub. Santa wouldnt like Mrs. Claus going into labor somewhere between Housewares and Ammunition.

RHONDA LYNN. Well, long as youre here, Darlin, how about some eggnog?

FRANKIE. No, thanks, Rhonda Lynn. Ive got to watch my weight. (Beat. She and Rhonda Lynn burst into laughter.) Hey, thats a good one. Make it a double.

G.J. Mama, I dont think you should have something so rich before you FRANKIE. G.J., stop worrying about me. Remember, I went through this before with you and Tina Jo. Okay? RHONDA LYNN. (She hands Frankie a mug of eggnog.) Now, run on back to your rehearsal, G.J. Ill be right here with your mama. G.J. Oh, alright. I did promise Doyce he could try the Elvis wig on the baby. (She exits into the sanctuary.) FRANKIE. I swear, that girl hasnt left my side since I hit the seven month mark. But I guess I cant really blame Gina Jo for being anxious since Im so overdue. RHONDA LYNN. Well I, for one, am glad you showed up. I need help putting this panel in Freida Milsaps tunic. Ever since she quit going to Curves, shes really packed on the l-bs. So, not only is there no room in the inn, theres no room in the innkeepers costume.

FRANKIE. (They laugh.) You know, I came down here mostly because of you. Youre the one person whos been able to cheer me tij these last few months. Youre like a walkin, talkin happy pill. RHONDA LYNN. Darlin, laughters the only medicine any of us can afford that doesnt come from Canada. (They laugh together. Blackout.)Scene 6

Lights come up on Brother Justin Waverly, 20s. He clutches his Bible and looks up into the light.

JUSTIN. Kind Heavenly Father, its Brother Justin Waverly. I just want you to know how happy I am to be Interim Pastor here at the Tabernacle of the Lamb. Although, if the salary were a little better and I didnt have to work that second job down at the Super SmartMart, Id probably be happier but thats another prayer. (He sighs.) Now, I really need some guidance on handlin Miss Geneva. When she got word shed been replaced directing the Christmas Program, she came in here cussin and threatenin to do things you only see on HBO! See, we never covered that sort of situation at the seminary. And on a personal note, Heavenly Father, you know things have gotten mighty serious between myself and Gina Jo Dubberly. What I need is help getting up the courage to discuss with her Daddy that certain matter Ive been praying over. And speaking of G.J., shes seemed fairly ... distant lately. Could you maybe nudge her back toward me? Thanks so much and Amen. G.J. (She enters.) Oh, Justin! Youre here.

JUSTIN. (He glances heavenward.) How great Thou art!

G.J. Hi, I, uh ... I thought youd already left for your other job. I just came into your office to borrow your stapler.

JUSTIN. Im fixin to leave here in a minute, but Ill be back tonight for the Program. Listen, I called you twice today. Did you get my messages?

G.J. You know, I did. And I was going to call you, but

JUSTIN. Doesnt matter. Youre here now. See, theres something really important I need to discuss with you.

G.J. Actually, I have to get into place before Ozella Smoot starts rehearsing 0 Holy Night. Aunt Honey Rayes given her a whole routine to go with it, using the Bible puppets.

JUSTIN. So, when do you think we could talk?

G.J. Im not sure. Would sometime in March be good for you? JUSTIN. March?!

G.J. Or July. Yeah, July would be much better for me. (She exits.)

JUSTI N. (He looks heavenward.) Lord, is this one of those mysterious ways you tend to work in? (Blackout.)

Scene 7

Lights come up on the fellowship hail. Frankie works at the sewing machine, Rhonda Lynn hems a costume nearby.

RHONDA LYNN. ... So the first woman says, My husbands real angel. And the other lady goes, Youre lucky. Mines still alive. (They laugh.)

FRANKIE. I am so glad you moved to Fayro. Im just sorry I havent been able to come through on that promise I made you.

RHONDA LYNN. Youll know when the time is right. I trust you. HONEY RAYE. (She hurries in from the sanctuary. Dressed very similarly to Rhonda Lynn: a flashy Christmas sweater, tight pants, high-heeled boots and large, silver dangling earrings. Shes fighting anxiety and losing.) Has anyone heard from Beulah Dodge Hargis? The womans recitation of Luke Two, Verses Eight through Fourteen has been the centerpiece of every Christmas Program since the earth cooled. Its the only thing the Deacons made me promise to keep in the show, so where is she?

FRANKIE. You called her granddaughters? You know Beulah had to move in with her after Twink burned her trailer down.

HONEY RAYE. Of course I have! Nobodys home anywhere. All twenty-six buck-toothed, jug-eared Hargises have suddenly vanished from the face of the earth. What am I supposed to do?!

RHONDA LYNN. Darlin, you want a little Frito Pie to take the edge off? You seem just a touch tense.

HONEY RAYE. Tense? Ive got three Wise Men who are so simple, they couldnt tell the East from the hole in their shoes, the camel costume still hasnt gotten here from Waco, the little drummer boys so hateful, the sheep has bit him twice and if I have to stare at Wendall Pooveys goiter another minute, I might just grow me one, too! Of course Im tense!

FRANKIE. But on the bright side, look how well youre handling it. HONEY RAYE. (She fans herself) Dang it! Here comes another scorcher. (She strips off her sweater down to a camisole.) FRANKIE. Hot flash or no, you keep your clothes on! HONEY RAYE. How is it possible for a grown woman to melt like lard on a hot skillet in five seconds flat? Good Lord, its unbearable.

RHONDA LYNN. Did you try the spray bottle of skin toner in the fridge idea I told you about? Its the only thing that helps my flashes. HONEY RAYE. Listen, Rhonda Lynn, Im not really interested in any more of your wacked-out little home remedies. RHONDA LYNN. Oh. (Shes stung.) Well, Ive got one out in the Dairy Dog van. Ill just go get it; you might change your mind. (She exits.)

FRANKIE. Its one thing to be nervous about your show, but its another to be downright rude. Rhonda Lynn just wants to be your friend.

HONEY RAYE. (She puts her sweater on.) I dont care for the woman, okay? She tries way too hard: volunteering to help with this show, joining my Lucky to Be Single Club, shes even starting to dress like me. And that weirds me out.

FRANKIE. Youre just too self-centered to give her a chance.

HONEY RAYE. My plate is full with this show, Frankie. When I left Fayro, my reputation wasnt exactly sterling. And when I moved back, I thought directing a church program might make people think better of me. But if Id known it was going to be such a burden, I would never have taken it on.

FRANKIE. Its just a little church Christmas Program. There cant be that many difficult things to deal with. (Just then, Raynerd Chisum, 40s, enters wearing his shepherds robe, an ear-flap cap, pulling a little red wagon.)RAYNERD. I just love Christmas, dont you? Are you coming back in there, Miz Honey Raye? The sheep just bit that mean little drummer boy again and the little boy bit him back. Everybody thinks one of em ought to go get shots for the rabies. Would you let us know if thats a good idea, Miz Honey Raye? I just love Christmas. (He exits into the sanctuary.)HONEY RAYE. Make you a deal, Frankie: You take my place in the sanctuary, Ill take yours in the delivery room.

FRANKIE. Honey Raye, its all going to be fine. HONEY RAYE. Oh, I want to believe that. I just want to leave the First Baptists in the dust. They deserve it for scheduling their Cantata, Sing, Savior, Sing!, on our big night. Im counting on everyone in Fayro coming to my show because of the big celebrity I bagged.

FRANKIE. I cant wait to meet Cee Gee Windham. I want to ask her about her pulled pork recipe, if you have to use the full two cans of Coke in the marinade or could you substitute Dr. Pepper. GENEVA. (She hurries in from the sanctuary.) Okay, people, listen up. Were missing a rusty green toolbox.

HONEY RAYE. Geneva, what are you doing here?

GENEVA. Helping the cable access boys set up. Weve got to get a dolly on one of them cameras and Harley cant find his toolbox. I told them if they need anything, just ask me.

HONEY RAYE. No. They should ask me, Geneva, since Im directing the show this year.

GENEVA. Well, considering your being a rookie at directing, it became clear to me youd need some help. And dont bother thanking me. Just consider it my Christmas gift to you. (She exits into the sanctuary.)

HONEY RAYE. Noooo! Dont you dare JOHN CURTIS. (He enters from the parking lot, carrying a rifle.) Merry Christmas, everybody!

FRANKIE. John Curtis. What are you doing here so early? JOHN CURTIS. Surprise! (He steps aside.)

TWIN K. (She enters.) Christmas gift! (A long coat covers her orange jumpsuit.)HONEY RAYE. Twinkerbelle! (She hugs Twink and lifts the coat off her shoulders. Twink is handcuffed with her feet shackled.) Oh, my. If I were you, Shug, Id ask Santa for some less chunky jewelry for Christmas.

FRANKIE. I knew youd never miss your big sisters directorial debut.

TWINK. Now, Im not going to take credit. It was John Curtis who pulled this particular rabbit out of the hat.

JOHN CURTIS. Oh, it wasnt that hard, really. I just had to submit a Work Release Waiver Form W Six Four dash Three Zero in triplicate to the County Clerk before she left for the day. But yall be sure and give Twink something to do. Were using tonight as part of her Community Service.

FRANKIE. Theres plenty to do. Well even make her the rear end of the camel if we have to.

JOHN CURTIS. So long as we get Twink back in her cell by midnight. We dont want to do anything thatll jeopardize her May release date. Now, let me get these cuffs and chains off you, Twink. Here. (He hands Twink the rifle, then unlocks the cuffs and shackles.) TWINK. Youre awfully sweet to be doing this.

JOHN CURTIS. The State of Texas is not without compassion. But dont you be thinking about making a run for the border, cause Id sure hate to have to shoot off one of them cute little kneecaps. (They laugh together. Their bond is not lost on Honey Raye.) HONEY RAYE. (She squeezes between them and gets very close to John Curtis.) Im going to have to do something special to show my thanks. Tell you what, lets have a toast to Twink when you accompany me to the cast party, okay? (Twink is not pleased with Honey Rayes possessiveness.)

JOHN CURTIS. Well, uh (Takes rifle from Twink.) Any way to help out the Futrelle sisters is my pleasure.

GENEVA. (She sticks her head in from the sanctuary.) Honey Raye, just to let you know, the Three Wise Men came to me with their concern about that awkward entrance you gave them, so I restaged it the right way. No need to thank me. (She exits back into the sanctuary.) HONEY RAYE. (To John Curtis.) Stick close, John Curtis, cause I may need to use that rifle just once before the show starts. (Blackout.)

Scene 8

Lights come up on the employee dressing room at Super SmartMart. Dub, in Santa suit and camo cap, sits on a bench in a sour mood, holding his back. Justin enters with a backpack. He wears brown pants.

JUSTIN. (Hes nervous.) Hey, Dub, funny I should run into you. DUB. I dont see nothin funny about it, Justin, specially since weve enjoyed this little nightmare together every day for the past six weeks.

JUSTIN. (He sniffs the air.) Oh, brother, something is definitely wrong. It smells like rancid meat in here.

DUB. Its me. Since Frankies had to cut back doing laundry, my Santa suit hasnt been washed as often as it shoulda been.

JUSTIN. You sure? (He checks under the bench.) Cause it really smells like an armadillo crawled up in here and died.

DUB. I let it get a little ripe, okay? But it does keep the kids from staying in my lap too long. Which is absolutely what you want when youre faced with a bunch of em wearing real suspicious-looking diapers.

JUSTIN. (He pulls a brown turtleneck sweater out of his backpack and puts it on.) Oh. Well, its a blessing its working out for you. But we only have a second and I wanted to talk to you about Gina Jo and me. DUB. What about my daughter and (A pain hits Dub in his back.) JUSTIN. (He doesnt notice Dub is in pain.) As you know, weve been dating for about six months now, and uh, and I think we both agree this is the real thing and uh, well ... I wanted to know if I could ask you for (He notices Dub.) Are you okay?

DUB. I been better. (He doubles over and grabs Justins hand.) Sorry, I just gotta hold onto something til this passes.

JUSTIN. (He struggles to hide the fact that Dubs grip is killing him.) What kind of pain is it?

DUB. My back. It comes in waves. Unbearable killer waves. Started this morning.

JUSTIN. (He sinks to his knees tying to counteract Dub grip.) Maybe youre having sympathetic labor pains for your wife.

DUB. No way. That kind of bull hockey only happens in California. (The pain subsides. He releases Justins hand.)JUSTIN. Maybe its a kidney stone.

DUB. On Christmas Eve? No way. Im never going through that. Besides, I drank a full glass of water just last week. I probably pulled a muscle lifting that fat Munnerlyn kid last night.

JUSTIN. Yeah, hes a big un. I had a hard time fitting both of you in the picture. (He struggles to his feet, massages his nearly-broken hand.) Well, if youre feeling better, we ought to get out there. Its our final shift. (He pulls antlers and a red nose from his backpack and puts them on.)

DUB. I really dont know how Im gonna face them kids one more time.

JUSTIN. Deuteronomy Thirty-one, Verse Six: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you.

DUB. (Beat.) Does that ever really work for anybody?

JUSTIN. They said it would in my crisis management course at seminary.

DUB. They lied. I cant do it. Give me one good reason to go out there.

JUSTIN. We dont get paid unless we finish this shift. DUB. Thats the one. Lets go, Rudy. Its Snow Time! (Dub puts on his beard and hat. They exit. Blackout.)

Scene 9

Lights come up on the fellowship hall. Frankie finishes a hem. Rhonda Lynn enters from the sanctuary.

RHONDA LYNN. I think Honey Rayes got things back on track. Turns out LaDonna Thompkins allergic to hay, but shes hell-bent on being the angel. Her mamas bringing down her inhaler. FRANKIE. Itll be mighty impressive if Honey Raye pulls off flying an angel in over the stable ... especially an angel the size of LaDonna. RHONDA LYNN. Oh, theres a whole team working the ropes and pulleys. John Curtis is in there helping them strap LaDonna into the harness to try another lift off. Maybe this time shell actually clear the stable.

HONEY RAYE. (She and Twink enter from the parking lot carrying a large box. They set it down.) Look what finally got here from the Waco Light Opera Company.

TWINK. The worlds slowest camel.

RHONDA LYNN. Why, Twink! Its a Christmas miracle! (She runs to Twink and gives her a hug, which is not returned.) This is the first time Ive ever seen you without bars in front of your face. TWINK. Hey, Rhonda Lynn. I guess I should thank you for all the corn dogs and fries you brought me. Every single day Ive been in jail.

RHONDA LYNN. And weve got plenty ofem here tonight. Oh, and you gotta try some of Earlenes Pink Stuff. It is out of this world. Ive got to get her recipe; mine always turns out funny. HONEY RAYE. Its only Cool Whip and Cherry Jell-o, Rhonda Lynn. A one-armed baboon with a learning disability could make it. FRANKIE. (Low, to Honey Raye.) Im warning you. RHONDA LYNN. Oh. Well, forget that. Let me take the camel costume into the sanctuary for you.

HONEY RAYE. Dont you need some help with that?

RHONDA LYNN. (She easily picks up the box.) Darlin, when youve hauled as many hundred pound sacks of Ore-Idas as I have, you can lift a Buick off a squirrel and never break a sweat. (She exits into the sanctuary.)

FRANKIE. Youre lucky shes here to help you tonight. HONEY RAYE. If you say so. All I care about is things are finally coming together for this Christmas show ... and that the Futrelle Sisters get to spend Christmas Eve with each other.

FRANKIE. Lord, the things weve seen and done.

HONEY RAYE. Yeah, weve been through a lot together.

TWINK. We sure have. And most of it was your fault.

HONEY RAYE. Considering recent events, Id say were about even.

FRANKIE. (Shes eager to change the subject.) Hey, Twink, I want you sitting with me and Dub when the show starts.

TWINK. I dont think so, Frankie. I dont want to give all those gossips the satisfaction of seeing me in this jailhouse jumpsuit.

FRANKIE. Teresa Denean Futrelle, I know youre bigger than that. You just have to overcome your sense of shame and embarrassment. Honey Raye did. I mean she was labeled nothing but tramp and white trash early in life because of all her wild ways.


FRANKIE. Sure you were jilted by a boyfriend and burned down a few doublewides, but Honey Rayes overcome her horrible reputation and had to face unbearable humiliation!

HONEY RAYE. Okay, thats enough

FRANKIE. I mean, just think about all those ridiculous marriages: The Christian Ventriloquist, Rabbit, the Tilt-A-Whirl operator, that wrestler who was already married

HONEY RAYE. In Snakes defense, his previous wife had entered the Witness Protection Program and she wasnt free to let him know their divorce was not final.

FRANKIE. Uh-huh. Then Bulldog somebody-or-other, the third husband with an animals name, and finally, a character known to law enforcement officials state-wide as Wild Bill Boudreaux, The Crazy Cajun. Theres no reason in the world Honey Rayes not off squattin in a cave somewhere, but instead, here she is, with her head held high. And you know why? Because shes a Futrelle. She can bear the shame of her stupid decisions. And you can, too.

HONEY RAYE. You know, I hated the thought of you having to go through the pain of childbirth again at your age, but suddenly, Im feeling a whole lot better about it.

FRANKIE. What Im trying to point out to Twink is, people will understand. So she made a mistake. It doesnt have to be the end of her life.

TWINK. Mistake? The only mistake I made was not leaving Wileys NASCAR junk inside his trailer when I torched it.

HONEY RAYE. You have got to let this go.

TWINK. Oh, no I dont. The only perk of being in jail is it gives you plenty of time to plot revenge.

FRANKIE. I never thought you were a vindictive woman who could bear such a vicious grudge.

TWINK. You know, I didnt think I was, either. But turns out, I am. HONEY RAYE. What happened to my happy, generous little sister? The volunteer who kept the books at the Food Pantry and drove the Kidney Caravan to the Dialysis Center every Wednesday? TWINK. Shes in a chain gang picking up trash off the side of the road. (Unnoticed, Rhonda Lynn enters from the sanctuary.) I dont know why you two dont get it. Im the one who was wronged. How come Ive got nothing and Wiley Hicks has everything? If you think Im going to let him and Maryjack MacLemore get away with living happily ever after, you are sadly mistaken. I will not rest til I have had my revenge. Somehow, some way, Wiley Hicks will get whats coming to him for what he did to me. (Frankie and Honey Raye are clearly alarmed.)RHONDA LYNN. (She breaks the tension.) Listen, if you girls want something to eat, get it now. The cast will be coming in here any minute to grab a bite before the run-through.

TWINK. Hey, the fires gone out under this chafing dish. (She picks up a lighter and clicks it on.)

FRANKIE, HONEY RAYE and RHONDA LYNN. (Horrified, they rush to the chafing dish and form a barricade to keep Twink from getting near it.) No!!!

RHONDA LYNN. (She takes the chafing dish.) I needed to refill this thing, anyway. Ill just ... you know.

FRANKIE. Ill help, Rhonda Lynn, after I go to the bathroom again. (She and Rhonda Lynn exit into the kitchen.)

TWINK. I dont get that Lampley gal. Shes been bringing me food and magazines and papers down to the jail for months now. What does she want?

HONEY RAYE. Search me. But she and Frankie have been thick as thieves ever since Rhonda Lynn moved to town. And she tries to be friends with me just a little too much. All the time, in fact. (She checks her watch.) Theyve got to be finished with that angel harness by now. G.J. (She enters from the sanctuary.) Aunt Twink! We didnt know youd be here tonight.

TWINK. You think a little jail sentence could keep me away from a Tabernacle Christmas Program?

HONEY RAYE. G.J., are we ready for the run-through? G.J. No, maam. The sheep had an accident and Miss Genevas having the area around the pulpit wet-vacd. Right now shes restaging the shepherds abiding in the fields. She had the idea to put the sheep in Raynerds wagon and Harley, the TV camera guy, liked it a lot. HONEY RAYE. (She starts for the door to the sanctuary.) I cant leave that meddling, old woman alone out there for one second! I should have GENEVA. (She barrels in from the sanctuary.) Okay, people, listen up. Weve got a Yuletide disaster in the makes. HONEY RAYE. We already know about the sheep incident, Geneva, not to mention your taking liberties with my staging. GENEVA. Youre welcome. But heres the new problem: There are three people throwing up their guts in the restroom as we speak. Youre down two Wise Men and an Elvis. HONEY RAYE. What?! TWINK. Why? Whats causing it? GENEVA. Not a clue. But you better pray its not contagious. HONEY RAYE. Nooooo! Things were just starting to go right! They cant ruin this for me! (She races into the sanctuary.) GENEVA. (She turns to G.J. and Twink.) Far be it for me to state the obvious, but this never wouldve happened if I was directing the show. (Blackout.)

Scene 10

Lights come up on Dub, who sits on his Santa Throne. He is clearly in pain. Justin calls after unseen children. He has a camera.

JUSTIN. (He speaks in an odd falsetto.) Thanks for coming to the North Pole, kids. And make sure Mommy buys the Super SmartMart eight-by-ten glossy print of your picture with Santa, for only nineteen ninety-five. Merry Christmas!

DUB. (He snaps at Justin.) Why are you talking in that weird voice? JUSTIN. (He drops the voice) I just thought it sounded like how a reindeer would talk.

DUB. Did you factor into that thought process that reindeer cant talk?!

JUSTIN. I only wanted to make the experience more fun for the kids. Sorry.

DUB. (He squirms, trying to ease the pain.) What Im sorry about is the real cause of this back pain. Ive lied to myself as long as I can. I am passing a kidney stone. Why me, Justin? Why now? JUSTIN. Oh, gosh! You want me to take you to Dr. Ballards? DUB. I have to make it through the last hour. Frankie and I are counting on the money. Bring on another brat.

JUSTIN. (He speaks in the voice.) Sorry, Santa. There are no boys and girls (Dub shoots him a withering look. Justin drops the voice.) Uh, no ones in line right now.

DUB. Then do something to take my mind off this brain-numbing pain!! Talk to me ... about something ... anything! JUSTIN. There is something I really need to talk to you about, but you know how touchy Management is about Santa having conversations with anyone whos not sitting in his lap. (A wave of pain engulfs Dub. Justin looks around, then climbs on Dub lap.) DUB. What the Sam Hill are you doing?!

JUSTIN. Talking to you. Ive come ... Id like ... what Im trying to say DUB. For the love of Mike, just spit it out!! JUSTIN. Right. Id like to ask your permission ... to marry Gina Jo.

DUB. Okay, fine! Hell, you can marry Frankie, too, if youll just get off my lap!! (He dumps Justin on the floor. Dub screams in agony.) JUSTIN. (He spots some children waiting to see Santa and speaks in the voice as he gets to his feet.) Uh ... hello there, boys and girls. Now dont be worried about dear, old Santa Claus DUB. (He wails.) I cant stand it!!

JUSTIN. Hes ... just ... so sad he has to ... leave you to start his deliveries.

DUB. This is killing me! (He falls on the floor and writhes.) JUSTIN. Yes, its killing him to ... have to say good-bye. But he has to fill his sleigh with toys for all the good little girls and boys. (Dub screams.) Oh, just listen to Santa scream for joy. (Justin grabs Dubs feet and pulls him offstage.) Well, so long and Merry Christmas! (Blackout.)

Scene 11

Lights come up on the fellowship hall. Lost in thought, Twink flicks a lighter off and on. G.J. enters from the sanctuary and watches Twink. Rhonda Lynn enters from the kitchen, sees Twink, then edges over to G.J.

G.J. (She whispers.) I dont think leaving Aunt Twink alone is a good idea.

RHONDA LYNN. (She whispers.) Everythings gonna be okay as long as none of us tell her where Wiley is. Now, lets go cheer her up. G.J. (She and Rhonda Lynn approach her.) What are you doing out here all by your lonesome, Aunt Twink?

TWINK. Just thinking about all the things Id like to give Wiley Hicks for Christmas. Can you gift-wrap a compound fracture? RHONDA LYNN. Darlin, I know what its like to be betrayed by a man. My last ex, Talmadge Lampley, had a back so hairy, I had to vacuum the sheets before I could make up the bed. After burning out my second Dust Buster, I sent him to the cosmetology school to get that mess removed. And wouldnt you know it? He ran off with Little Miss Hot Wax.

TWINK. Am I supposed to get something from this, Rhonda Lynn?

RHONDA LYNN. Im just saying, I know youre furious with Wiley, but you cant stop believing theres a good man out there for you. I havent.

G.J. Thats what I always say at work. Even though were doing artificial insemination, I remind my cows to have faith that one day maybe the right bull will come along.

TWINK. Thanks for trying to make me feel better. But honestly, the thing that would really do the trick is for one of you to just tell me where I can find Wiley.

G.J. Uh, . . . I think hes out of town?

RHONDA LYNN. Know what? I think G.J.'s right. Now, let's get your mind off your troubles, Twink. Here. (She takes a scrapbook off the table.) It's the scrapbook from last year's Christmas Program. (She gives the book to Twink and eases the lighter out of her hand.)

TWINK. (She thumbs through the pages.) This was a good one. Everyone was having so much - Oh, my Lord. Look at these pictures of Wiley and Maryjack playing Joseph and Mary. This is where it started. They were makin' moon eyes at each other over the manger!

G.J. (She takes the scrapbook and hands it to Rhonda Lynn.) You know, maybe the scrapbook isn't such a good idea.

TWINK. Then can I have my lighter back?

RHONDA LYNN. I don't think that's such a good idea, either. (She exits.)

TWINK. People must think Im an idiot!!!

RAYNERD. (He enters from the sanctuary pulling his wagon.) You'll get used to it, Miz Twink. I have. Miz Honey Raye says I can eat my supper now. I'm really hungry, too, Miz Twink. (He goes around the table filling a plate.) Mostly 'cause I've had to pull the little drummer boy around all afternoon. That hateful sheep keeps trying to kill him. I just love Christmas.

HONEY RAYE. (She hurries in from the sanctuary.) We've got two more cast members down. Turns out everyone who's blown their groceries ate at the Band Boosters Pancake Supper last night. Any moron would know that nasty Sissy Fowler and a pancake griddle are a recipe for disaster. (She goes to the tub of soft drinks.) Look, I'm going to fish out as many ginger ales as I can. G.J., get some saltines and see if we can resurrect Elvis.

G.J. Oh, if we only could. (She grabs a box of crackers and exits into the sanctuary.)

TWINK. Saltines and ginger ale won't cure food poisoning. Tell you what, give me your keys and I'll run out to the drug store for you.

HONEY RAYE. We're all on to you, Twink Futrelle. You only want my car so you can go out and hunt down Wiley Hicks. Can't you just forget your revenge for now and give me a little help? I've left six phone messages for Dr. Ballard, Wendall Poovey's dishing out Kaopectate and Miss Tenny's playing "Nearer My God To Thee." We're sinking like a stone here!

FRANKIE. (She enters from the sanctuary.) Ozella Smoot's kicked the hem out of her choir robe again. This is the last time I'm going to - (She holds her stomach and groans.) Ohhh! Ohhh!

HONEY RAYE. (She and Twink race to Frankie's side.) Is this it, Frankie? Are the babies coming?

TWINK. John Curtis can turn his siren on and get you to the hospital in two minutes flat.

FRANKIE. Wait. It's my cell phone. I have it on vibrate. (She pulls it from her pocket and answers.) Hello?

RAYNERD. Miz Twink, you might want to get you a plate before Miz Frankie does. I believe she's the biggest white lady I ever seen.

TWINK. Can't argue with that.

FRANKIE. (Into the phone.) Oh, no! Is he okay? ... Well, when you find Dr. Ballard, call me back, Justin. (She hangs up.) Dub's passing a kidney stone. That poor, sweet man. Can you think of anything worse than passing a kidney stone?

TWINK. Yeah. And Honey Raye's directing it.

HONEY RAYE. Thank you for that vote of confidence. I have worn myself to a frazzle trying to create a work of art as my gift to this community! (She wails.) Why is all this happening? I feel like I'm being tested. All I need now is for Satan himself to walk through the door. (Patsy Price, 50s, well-coiffed, dressed in an elegant gown, enters from the sanctuary. The sisters freeze.)

PATSY. Hello.

TWINK. (To Honey Raye.) You just had to say it, didn't you?

PATSY. (She eyes the women coolly.) Ah, the Fertile, the Flirt and the Felon. Just another day at the Futrelle Family Circus.

RAYNERD. Hi, Miz Patsy. Wanna stuffed jalapeno? Fried 'em myself.

PATSY. Complete with sideshow.

FRANKIE. Patsy, it's Christmas, can't we play nice? It's bad enough Parker and Tina Jo can't be with us.

PATSY. Yes, my son and your daughter are really enjoying my gift of the ski trip to Vail. And Parker wanted me to thank you for the present you and Dub gave them. One can never have too many salad spinners.

HONEY RAYE. We'd all love to stand here and compare bank balances with you, Patsy, but you need to leave. I'm trying to stage a show here.

PATSY. About that, you're going to have to try harder. You can't expect me to carry the entire program alone.

HONEY RAYE. And I don't, since you're not in it.

PATSY. Oh, but I am. Beulah Dodge Hargis has done a delight-full job of mumbling through The Christmas Story every year since the Mayflower docked. But I convinced the Deacons - with a sizeable donation - it would be a nice change to have someone vivacious and young do the honors.

TWINK. Bur they settled for you, instead?

FRANKIE. Why am I not surprised you bought your way into this show?

RAYNERD. Don't worry, Miz Patsy, you'll do good. And if you get mixed up on the words, I know it by heart, 'cause I just love Christmas. (He touches her dress.) You look like an ornament on a tree ... or Miz Jo Ann Castle on The Lawrence Welk Show.

PATSY. (She turns to Honey Raye.) Would you please get him out of here? I will nor have Boo Radley pawing my gown.

HONEY RAYE. Raynerd, Shug, I need you to help me. Go check on everyone who's sick and report back to me, okay?

RAYNERD. Yes, ma'am. I won't be long. (He hurries to exit into the sanctuary, pulling his wagon behind him. He points at Frankie.) Y' all don't let her eat nothin' from my plate while I'm gone. (He exits.)HONEY RAYE. Patsy Price, don't you ever talk that way to Raynerd again. I'm proud to have him in my show and I'd better be able to say the same about you at the end of the evening.

PATSY. If there's another highlight in this program besides my performance, I'll be stunned.

HONEY RAYE. Oh, this show is nothing but highlights. And now I'm more determined than ever to make sure tonight's program is wonderful.

FRANKIE. That's right, Honey Raye.

HONEY RAYE. I put my heart and soul into this production.

TWINK. You tell her, Honey Raye.

HONEY RAYE. This is going to be a show Fayro, Texas will never forget. And it's not going to be because of you, Patsy, it's going to be because-

JOHN CURTIS. (He enters from the sanctuary) Bucky Waddell wanted to know what it felt like to fly, so he strapped himself into the angel's harness. And when he got all the way up to the ceiling, the Pancake Supper hit him. You do not want to know what it looks like out there. Now, do any of you know how to shampoo a sheep?

FRANKIE. John Curtis, forget that. You've got to help us find Dr. Ballard. Dub's passing a kidney stone.

JOHN CURTIS. A kidney stone, oh, no! God! Ooh! Passing a kidney stone is the most horrible pain a human can endure.

FRANKIE. (She gets in his face.) You want to rethink that?

JOHN CURTIS. Yes, ma'am, I see your point. Uh, Honey Raye, I'll go to my cruiser and put out an A.P.B. for the doc, but somebody's got to get on to that sheep. (He exits.)

HONEY RAYE. Okay, go! Go! Twink, you're hosing down a sheep.

TWINK. I most certainly am not! But if you give me your car keys, I'll go find Dr. Ballard for you.

FRANKIE. Twink, you're staying put. It's for your own good.

TWINK. Helping me find Wiley Hicks would do me a lot more good. Doesn't anybody in this stinkin' town know where he is?

PATSY. Ido. He's just down the street.

FRANKIE. Patsy, don't.

PATSY. Twink's been through so much. I think she deserves to know the truth. Wiley's over at the First Baptist Church. He and Mary jack are performing in the Cantata tonight. In fact, I believe they're doing the big duet in "Sing, Savior, Sing!"

TWINK. Oh, no they're not! Not if I can get to him first! (She starts for the exit.}

HONEY RAYE. (She stops her.) You stay where you are, Sister. You're going to help me get this show fixed and back on its feet.

TWINK. I don't care about your stupid show! This is the moment I've been living for. Now, let me go! I've got to get my hands on Wiley!

HONEY RAYE. Nothing doing. We promised John Curtis to keep an eye on you. Frankie, help me. Sit on her if you have to. (Honey Raye and Frankie push Twink into a chair and tie her to it with a length of rope from the costume table.)

PATSY. I'm sorry. I'd just hate it if I caused a family rift.

G.J. (She enters from the sanctuary) Aunt Honey, there's a problem with the camel costume.

HONEY RAYE. You're going to have to fix it, G.J. I've got my hands full.

TWINK. Just give me a shot at that Cantata!

G.J. Aunt Honey, I can't fix it. See, turns out the costume they sent isn't really a camel. It's more like ... a bear.

HONEY RAYE. A bear?!

G.J. Okay, it is a bear. (Beat.) Actually, it's a polar bear.

HONEY RAYE. A polar bear?! They can't do this to me! There was no polar bear at the Nativity!

PATSY. Honey Raye, is this one of those highlights you were referring to?

FRANKIE. Back off, Patsy. Honey Raye can't have any more dumped on her right now.

GENEVA. (She barrels in from the sanctuary.) Okay, people, listen up. We just got a call from Cee Cee Windham. She bailed on us.

HONEY RAYE. She what?!

TWINK. I'll go get her for you, right after I'm done with Wiley.

(Rhonda Lynn re-enters from the kitchen.)

GENEVA. Cee Cee's substituting for the weather girl on Channel Four in Longview tonight. She thinks it could lead to something big so I told her we wouldn't stand in her way. Don't worry, I've started marking her name out of all the programs. No need to thank me.

HONEY RAYE. Why would I thank an interfering, old gasbag who doesn't know she's been put out to pasture and isn't needed any more?!

GENEVA. Careful, Lolita. Any more lip and all you'll want for Christmas is your two front teeth.

RHONDA LYNN. Honey Raye, Darlin', Miss Geneva's just trying to help you.

HONEY RAYE. Butt out, Rhonda Lynn! My show is falling apart and we've got two hundred people due to arrive in a little over an hour to witness the birth of the Baby Jesus! And nobody's helping me here. People are either standing around or bringing me bad news but nothing's getting done!

FRANKIE. Honey Raye, there is no need to bite Rhonda Lynn's head off.

TWINK. But that is exactly what I want to do to Wiley. So, somebody untie me RIGHT NOW!!!

HONEY RAYE. Frankie, will you stop shoving this woman down our throats! You've insisted on dragging this stranger into everything our family's done for the last three months and we're sick and tired of it. Can't you understand? It's not like she's family, for heaven's sake.

FRANKIE. Yes,she is! She's our sister! (Silence. Rhonda Lynn gives a meek little wave. Honey Raye and Twink are dumbfounded, then angry. They turn on Frankie.)

HONEY RAYE. She's our WHAT?!

TWINK. And you've known all along?!

PATSY. Well, so much for peace on earth, good will toward men.

(Curtain.) End of Act One


Scene 1

Lights come up on Frankie in the ladies' room. She stands over the sink and looks heavenward.

FRANKIE. Mama Eula, I hope you're having a white Christmas up there, 'cause down here, the Futrelle family Christmas has just turned mighty black. You would've been so ashamed at how ugly Twink and Honey Raye were when I told them who Rhonda Lynn really is. I explained the reason we didn't know about her being our sister is because Daddy never knew about her, either. Rhonda Lynn's mama only told her the truth right before she died. Then Rhonda Lynn tracked me down, we went to the courthouse together, searched the birth records and found out it was true. But Twink and Honey Raye weren't having it. They upset Rhonda Lynn so bad, she walked out over an hour ago. Why am I the only one who's happy she found us? Mama, I could sure use some help with this situation down here. Oh, and one more thing: Could you also send me some patience with Patsy Price? 'Cause I swear, if that stuck-up busybody makes one more nasty remark about the Futrelles, chestnuts won't be the only things roasting on an open fire ... (Blackout.)

Scene 2

Lights come up on a hallway behind the sanctuary. Geneva sits in a chair calmly filing her nails. Honey Raye enters in a panic.

HONEY RAYE. Geneva! Geneva, the show's supposed to start in ten minutes, the sanctuary's almost full and Doc Ballard says most of our cast should be home in bed!

GENEVA. I'm wondering why any of this should matter to me.

HONEY RAYE. 'Cause right now we are limping toward Bethlehem with one Wise Man, an angel too fat to fly and half a polar bear. We can't just let our show go down the toilet.

GENEVA. Oh, so now it's our show. Well, I'm not sure this old "gas bag" is available right now. (She studies her nails.) I'm pretty busy.

HONEY RAYE. Please, Geneva, I am desperate. This Christmas Program's gonna play on every TV in the Tri-County area and I cannot let it turn into one more life-long humiliation for me and my family to bear! You've got to help me.

GENEVA. So what I'm hearing is, you regret all the vicious remarks you made about my direction of the previous twenty-seven Christmas Programs. And that you've realized my crowd-pleasing interpretation wasn't so dull and boring after all.

HONEY RAYE. (Beat.) Yeah ... what you said.

GENEVA. You just seem so pitiful, I guess I should help you, but only if you do the following: One, you give me full co-director acknowledgement. Two, you order flowers every week from BooKoo BoKay to spruce up your showroom at Wynette's Dinette City. And three, you throw in, at cost, that little cute chrome breakfast set in your display window. Delivery included.

HONEY RAYE. You would actually blackmail me at a time like this?

GENEVA. God helps those who help themselves.

HONEY RAYE. (She fumes.) Oh, all right. Deal.

GENEVA Then, let's move. If I'm going to save this show, I've got to scrape together a cast out of the survivors of the pancake massacre. We'll cram as many of the walking wounded onto that stage as we can ... even if it's the last thing they ever do.

HONEY RAYE. Isn't that a little inhumane?

GENEVA No, Babycakes, that's show business. (They exit. Blackout.)

Scene 3

Lights come up on the fellowship hall. G.j., in her Virgin Mary costume, applies make-up. Frankie enters from the sanctuary.

FRANKIE. Any sign of Rhonda Lynn?

G.J. No, ma'am. But I can't tell you how happy I am knowing Ms. Lampley's my new aunt. Uh .. , you think there are any more relatives out there we don't know about?

FRANKIE. I don't think so. But just to be on the safe side, let's keep an open mind. I'm starting to get worried about Rhonda Lynn. And it's not like I don't have enough to worry about.

G.J. Mama, I'm sure everything bad that's going to happen has happened.

JOHN CURTIS. (He rushes in from the sanctuary.) No need to panic, but I've been waiting for Twink outside the ladies room. Just found out, she's not in there, never has been. We may be dealing with an escaped prisoner. (He pulls his pistol and exits to the parking lot.)

G.J. 'Course, I could be wrong about that.

FRANKIE. That does it. This has just become the worst night of my life.

G.J. Now, Mama, all this stress is not good for you or the babies. Everything's going to be fine. I just want you to know I've made the decision to be here for you and Daddy and my new baby brothers as long as you need me.

FRANKIE. You are so sweet. (She and GJ. hug.) That's the only Christmas gift I need.

G.J. Good, 'cause what I bought you probably won't fit 'til you drop at least fifty pounds. (Dub and Justin enter from the parking lot. Dub's in his Santa suit. Justin's in his reindeer outfit without the antlers and nose.)

FRANKIE. Oh, Dub! Your poor thing! (She starts to hug him and recoils.) Good, Lord! That Santa suit smells like a tub full of dead frogs.

DUB. I know. I'm gonna burn it in the barrel out back with all the Christmas wrappings.

JUSTIN. Gina Jo, I need to talk to you.

G.J. I'm sorry, Justin, but I have to go get in character. (She hurries out the door into the sanctuary.)

JUSTIN. (He follows her.) No, wait, G.J.! Gina Jo! (He exits.) FRANKIE. Are you in pain? Did you pass the kidney stone?

DUB. No, Doc Ballard says the stone's probably lodged. I won't feel any more pain until it starts moving again. But Doc gave Santa a present. (He pulls a large prescription bottle from his Jacket.) When the stone heads for the exit, I take one of these super-duper pain killers and I'll be so blissed-out, I'll never even know what happened. So, I'm going to go home and wait. I'm just sorry I can't sit with you through the show.

FRANKIE. Oh, don't think a thing about it. Just go!

DUB. (He sets the bottle of pain pills on the table.) First I want to make sure you're doing okay, Dumplin'. Anything happening?

FRANKIE. Nothing exciting to report. But everything else is in such a turmoil. I accidentally blurted out the news about Rhonda Lynn.

DUB. Oh, boy. How'd that go over?

HONEY RAYE. (She races in from the sanctuary, snatches up a costume.) Don't you dare speak to me, Frances Anne! Why on earth you would choose tonight, of all nights, to drop that bombshell, I will never know. I am so furious with you, I could just spit nails! (She flies back into the sanctuary.)

FRANKIE. Oh, 'bout like you'd expect. (Blackout.)

Scene 4

Lights come up on a hallway behind the sanctuary. G.J. enters with Justin on her heels.

JUSTIN. G.J., stop! Please. (She does so, but doesn't meet his eyes.) What's gotten into you lately? I know we both meant it when we said "I love you" that night after the awards dinner at your Bull Semen Sales and Service Seminar. But now it's like you're trying to avoid me.

G.J. Don't be silly. I'm not avoiding you. Okay, bye. (She exits.)JUSTIN. (He's deflated.) Glad we got that cleared up.

JOHN CURTIS. (He enters brandishing his pistol, checks the hall.) Brother Justin, you might want to move to a more secure area. We may have a felon on the loose.

JUSTIN. Who cares? I've got problems of my own right now.

JOHN CURTIS. Well, who licked the red off your candy?

JUSTIN. I'm desperate for advice. Do you know anything about women?

JOHN CURTIS. Well, I have acquired a sizeable amount of knowledge regarding the fairer sex. However, "fairer sex" may be a misnomer because in my experience few, if any, have actually been fair to me.

JUSTIN. Look, John Curtis, I made up my mind to ask Gina Jo to marry me on Christmas Eve and I bought her this ring. See? (He fishes the box out of his pocket and hands it to John Curtis.}

JOHN CURTIS. Say, that's a beaut. This should make Miss Gina Jo a very happy, young lady.

JUSTIN. That's what I was hoping, but all of a sudden she's son of backed away from me and I don't know what's gone wrong.

JOHN CURTIS. Ah yes. It's what we call the PFR - that's Primal Fear Response for you civilians. You see, the female of the species is far more perceptive than the male and the instant she registers fear, she has the good sense to flee. This explains why more male perps are apprehended. The way to outmaneuver her natural instincts is to take her by surprise. My advice? An extraordinary proposal.

JUSTIN. Extraordinary? Like how?

JOHN CURTIS. Take my parents for example. Daddy knew how much Mama loved Moon Pies, so he tucked her engagement ring right into the center of one. Now, as you may know, my Mama is a nibbler. The woman always works the edges off a Moon Pie first before she goes after the center. Well, when she finally bit into the middle, there that diamond was, sparkling in that fluffy, white goo. (He chokes up.) Give me a moment. That part always tears me up.

JUSTIN. That's it! Thank you. Thank you, John Curtis. You have renewed my hope. (He pumps John Curtis's hand and runs out.)

JOHN CURTIS. (Calling after him.) Just here to protect and to serve! You go get her, Buddy! (Then.) Preacher Boy ain't got a prayer. Durn! Now I've got a hankering for a Moon Pie ...


Scene 5

Lights come up on the fellowship hall Frankie and Dub pace from opposite sides of the room, each holding her/his aching back, stomachs protruding. Their paths cross in the middle of the room.

DUB. How you doin'?

FRANKIE. Hangin' in. You?

DUB. Same. (They continue to pace.) I just wish Justin would come back so I can get out of here. (Twink enters from the sanctuary.) Hey,Twink. Good to see you outta the slammer. And you did a heck of a job cleaning up Highway Twelve out by the Rendering Plant.

TWINK. Thanks, Dub. I - (She sniffs the air.) Good Lord, you smell like -

DUB and FRANKIE. We know.

TWINK. So, did your wife tell you the big family secret she's been keeping from us? She was finally thoughtful enough to mention the fact that we have a sister we never knew about!

FRANKIE. I'm sorry if y'all don't like the way I've handled this, but considering what you and Honey Raye have done to the Futrelle family name in the past few years, you are in no position to pass judgment!

TWINK. Dub, would you please tell your wife that I do not need another sister. In fact, I'm not even sure I want to keep the two I've got.

FRANKIE. Twink, we can't pretend life doesn't throw us a few curves now and then ... (Pointing to her stomach.) I give you Exhibit A. But we all have to find a way to deal with change. So as far as Rhonda Lynn goes, I suggest you build a bridge and get over it.

JOHN CURTIS. (He enters from the sanctuary.) Twink Futrelle! You told me you were going to be in the ladies room. However, when Ozella Smoot finished heavin' and staggered out of said ladies room, she reported you had never been in there.

TWINK. Look, I needed to be alone. That's why I was up in the preacher's study. JOHN CURTIS. I'll need a witness to verify that fact and that you did not violate your work-release privilege by leaving the premises.

TWINK. You'll just have to trust me, John Curtis.

JOHN CURTIS. I see. Well, I hope you are telling the verifiable truth, because I just got a call from Dispatch and your former fianc, Wiley Hicks, has been reported as missing.

TWINK. (Shes way too calm.) Is that so?

DUB. Good Lord, Twink. What have you done?

FRANKIE. Haven't you gotten yourself into enough trouble without pulling another stunt?

TWINK. What? I haven't done anything to Wiley.

JOHN CURTIS. Look, the Sheriff wants me to proceed with the search for the missing person. Maryjack's beside herself and the entire Cantata at the Baptist Church is in peril. Frankie, I'm entrusting you with the custody of my prisoner until I return. (To Twink.) I surely hope you weren't involved in this. (He hands Frankie his handcuffs.) Cuff her if you have to. (He exits into the parking lot.)

FRANKIE. You know, Twink, for someone who hasn't been able to talk about anything but revenge all afternoon, it's mighty suspicious that you're suddenly tight-lipped on the topic.

TWINK. Maybe I'm just a little bit preoccupied with the news that I have another sister and that my very own daddy was a womanizer.

FRANKIE. He was not! Rhonda Lynn was born months before Mama and Daddy were married. I told you he never knew!

RAYNERD. (He enters from the sanctuary in a shepherd's costume. He pulls his wagon.) Don't you just love Christmas? I do. I love Christmas. Even though that mean little drummer boy stuck the polar bear head on that sheep and nobody can get it off, but I think it looks real cute. (He stops at the buffet table then turns to Frankie.) You ate all them corn dogs, didn't you? (He goes to Dub.) You were a good Santa Claus at the Super SmartMart, and if you didn't smell so bad, they might've hired you at the mall.

DUB. Okay, that's it. I can't wait for Justin. I'm going home.

GENEVA. (She and Honey Raye burst in from the sanctuary.) You're not going anywhere, Dub Dubberly. The cameras are ready, the church is packed and those folks are expecting a celebrity to appear. You're coming with me.

DUB. Why? I'm no celebrity.

HONEY RAYE. No, you're not. But Santa Claus is.

FRANKIE. Dub cannot go out there. He's sick and needs to get home.

GENEVA. Which he's welcome to do ... right after he opens the show for us.

FRANKIE. I can't believe you're doing this.

GENEVA. Don't blame me. It wasn't my idea to throw out a show that's worked for twenty-seven years and change everything around.

RAYNERD. (He picks up the bottle of pain killers and shakes it.) Hey, I could use a little bottle like this. Can I have it?

HONEY RAYE. (She barely pays attention to Raynerd.) Yeah, go ahead. (He pockets the pill bottle.) Look, Geneva, I can change anything I like. I'm the director.

GENEVA. Correction. You are the co-director. Which is why you will co-operate with me now. You dragged me into this mess, but I'm gonna get us out! Okay, the show's startin', Vamanos, muchachos.

DUB. Boy howdy, the things you women get me into. (Dub, Honey Raye and Geneva exit into the sanctuary.)RAYNERD. (To Frankie.) I just love Christmas ... even though Santa stinks so bad it makes you want to urp. (He exits. Blackout.)Scene 6

Lights come up on a hallway behind the sanctuary. G.J. tiptoes through the hall. Justin sneaks up behind her.

JUSTIN. G.J.! (She yelps and jumps back.) Oh, I'm sorry. Look, I know this is a big night for you and the Program's what's on your mind, but I thought you might like a little snack before you go on. (He holds out a brownie he's been hiding behind his back.) Here. It's a brownie. A special brownie. Just for you.

G.J. That's very nice of you, Justin. Matter of fact, I've been too nervous to eat a thing. I'm starved.

JUSTIN. Go ahead, then. Take a little bite.

G.J. (She pops the entire brownie into her mouth, chews and swallows with difficulty.) Boy, that had some big walnuts in it. Well, thanks again. Bye-bye. (She exits.)

JUSTIN. (He is horrified.} But ... But you just ...

GENEVA. (She storms in carrying a costume.) There you are. We just lost Wendall Poovey to the Pancake Plague. So, forget doing the opening remarks. You're playing Joseph.

JUSTIN. But ... but I haven't been to any rehearsals. I don't know any of the lines.

GENEVA. (She puts the costume on him.) You're a preacher. You know darn well Joseph didn't have that much say in the whole deal, anyway. (She puts a headdress into his hands.) Now slap that on your head and haul butt to Bethlehem. (They exit. Blackout.)Scene 7

A spotlight comes up on the "stage" in the sanctuary. A Christmas-y trumpet fanfare plays over the church speakers. Honey Raye walks into the spotlight and addresses the audience.

HONEY RAYE. I'd like to welcome y'all this evening to the Tabernacle of the Lamb's Annual Christmas Program. It's wonderful to see this church filled with friends and neighbors ready to focus on the real reason for the season, remembering it's about the spiritual and not the material. In fact, I was just talking to one of my valued customers down at Wynette's Dinette City where, now through New Year's Eve, we are having our big, End-of-the-Year Twenty-five Percent Off Sale, and we agreed it's such a pity that Christmas has become so commercialized. Anyway, thank you for coming. Now, tonight, you'll see lots of non-traditional moments in our Program -

GENEVA. (She sticks her head into the spotlight.} Mixed in with traditional favorites from the previous, much-loved twenty-seven productions. HONEY RAYE. (She is miffed and covers as she pushes Geneva away.) Now, I know you're all looking forward to the celebrity guest, as promised -

GENEVA. (She sticks her head into the spotlight again.) Although for twenty-seven years, we got along just fine without a celebrity guest.

HONEY RAYE. And I know you're expecting Cee Cee Windham, hut we found somebody even better. So, without further ado, we present Bethlehem-A-Palooza! with our celebrity guest for the evening ... none other than ... SANTA CLAUS!!!

DUB. (He hesitantly enters the spotlight. Honey Raye leads the audience in applause, hands him an index card. She and Geneva exit. Dub reads from the card.) It is a pleasure to celebrate Christmas Eve with my fans. I want to thank all of you for watching my morning cooking show. And in the spirit of giving, I'm here to share with you the recipe for my famous Butternut Squash Lasagna -

HONEY RAYE. (She darts into the light, yanks the card out of his hand and whispers.) Wing it! (She exits.)

DUB. Uh... so, boys and girls, remember that I am a big Christmas celebrity, but ... uh ... there's a star in the Christmas firmament that's much bigger than me. And we're here to celebrate his birth tonight. So, Ho, Ho, Ho-Ohhh! (He groans and grabs his back. The kidney stone is moving. He tries to pull himself together.) Merry Christmas! And ... uh ... (Another horrible pain hits. He screams and grabs his back.) OH, HOLY NIGHT!!! I mean ... (Another one hits.) OHHH, COME ALL YE FAITHFUL!

GENEVA. (She swoops into the spotlight. As she drags Dub off, she addresses the audience.) So, come with us now to the little stable in the City of David, long, long, ago. (They exit the spotlight.)

DUB. (Unseen, he screams in torment) OHHH, LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM!!! (Blackout.)

Scene 8

A light comes up on another part of the "stage" in the sanctuary. G.J., as the Virgin Mary, kneels beside the manger. An instrumental version of "Away in a Manger" plays throughout the scene.

G.J. My, oh, my. It sure is lonely here in the stable. I do wish Joseph was here with us. I wonder where he could be. (Louder.) I said ... I wonder where he could be.

JUSTIN. (He enters abruptly as Joseph.) Sorry, Mary. I was ... uh, just double-checking to make sure there was no room in the inn. (Beat.) Full up.

G.J. (She's surprised and whispers.) Where's Wendall?

JUSTIN. (Whispers.) He's sick. (Then, to the audience.) So, here we are in the stable and ... uh ... I'm sure the cattle are lowing ... and, uh ... why, look. The baby awakes. And isn't that interesting? The little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.

G.J. Yes, Joseph, we have been blessed on this very special night. And behold, a large, bright star hoverereth over our humble stable.

JUSTIN. Uh ... Could we just hold off on that for a minute? I really can't wait any longer. Will you marry me?

G.J. (She's horrified but covers.) Why, Joseph. Don't be silly. We're already married. Remember our big wedding back in Galilee?

JUSTIN. (He drops to one knee.) Gina Jo Dubberly, before God and all these witnesses, I love you and want us to share our lives and be a family. So, I'm asking you, will you marry me?

G.J. No! Don't ask me. Because I can't! I just can't! (She exits.)

JUSTIN. (He's aware of the audience and speaks to the doll in the manger.) Uh ... well, son, that was pretty embarrassing.

DUB. (In excruciating pain, he lurches across stage) I can't take this pain anymore! Kill me! Somebody shoot me in the head! (He exits.)JUSTIN. (He addresses the doll.) But not as embarrassing as that.


Scene 9

Lights come up on the fellowship hall. Frankie stands at the door to the kitchen and yells inside.

FRANKIE. It's your own fault, Twink. So just stay in there 'til you cool off. (Rhonda Lynn enters from the parking lot wearing a coat and gloves.) Rhonda Lynn! I've been worried to death. Where have you been?

RHONDA LYNN. I went for a drive. I just needed some time to think and calm down. Hey, who were you just hollering at?

FRANKIE. Twink. She's been driving me crazy because I didn't tell her about you before now. And my nerves are so frazzled, I couldn't take it. I handcuffed her to the oven door.

RHONDA LYNN. Wow. Remind me never to tick you off.

FRANKIE. I'm so sorry for causing this mess. I should've told Honey Raye and Twink when they had time to absorb it.

RHONDA LYNN. Darlin', the truth is the truth and it had to be told. I'm disappointed with the way they took it, but hey, I'm a very positive person. I know I can find ways to win them over.

HONEY RAYE. (She races in from the sanctuary and runs to the costume rack.) Wise Man down! Wise Man down! Where's the frankincense?

I'm going on! (She grabs a beard, a robe and a crown and flies back into the sanctuary')

RHONDA LYNN. But I don't think I'll start on Honey Raye until tomorrow.

FRANKIE. Good idea. (Unseen, Patsy enters from the sanctuary and stops. She soaks up every word.)

RHONDA LYNN. You know, it's unbelievable to me that I spent my whole life 'til now not knowing I had an entire family just one county over.

FRANKIE. I admire the courage it took to come find us. In that way, you're a lot like Daddy Brice.

RHONDA LYNN. Oh, I love hearing that.

FRANKIE. I'm sorry he's been gone for so long. He really was a good man.

RHONDA LYNN. I'll just have to depend on you to catch me up on who our daddy was. I want to learn everything I can about our family. (She and Frankie hug.)

PATSY. Then I suggest you contact the State Department of Mental Health. No doubt they've done a case study on this family that reaches back for generations.

FRANKIE. Patsy Price, I can't believe you're eavesdropping.

PATSY. Who has a choice, considering you Futrelles have made a cottage industry of airing your dirty laundry in public. (To Rhonda Lynn.) You know, since only a few of us are privy to this gruesome secret, it's not too late for you to catch the next Greyhound out of Fayro. Surely, you can fry chalupas anywhere.

RHONDA LYNN. I resent that. I'm proud to be a Futrelle.

PATSY. You won't be. The Futrelles have reached the lowest rung of the social ladder. But what's amazing is, just when everyone is sure they've hit rock bottom and can't go any lower, the Sisters Futrelle pick up their shovels and start digging ..

FRANKIE. That's enough, Patsy. What did you come in here for?

PATSY. Apparently it's up to me to elevate this hog-calling into a production worthy of being televised and I need - (just then, Raynerd enters from the sanctuary.)

RHONDA LYNN. Raynerd, Darlin', aren't you supposed to be onstage?

RAYNERD. Yes, but everything's slowed down because Miz Geneva's trying to catch that Santa Claus. He's running all over the sanctuary screaming and yelling. You ask me, I don't think he's right in the head.

FRANKIE. Oh, poor Dub. The stone must be moving again.

RAYNERD. Hey, Miz Patsy. Want a ride in my wagon?

PATSY. The answer now and always will be "no." It's having to deal with people like you that's given me this terrible headache. (To Frankie and Rhonda Lynn.) I need something to get rid of the pain.

RHONDA LYNN. I've got a sledgehammer in my van we could try.

FRANKIE. Good one, Rhonda Lynn.

RAYNERD. (He takes the bottle a/pain killers from his pocket.) You can take these.

PATSY. (She snatches the bottle and shakes two pills into her hand) It's only sheer desperation that allows me to touch something you've pulled from your pocket. (She gulps down the pills and puts the pill bottle on the table.)

FRANKIE. Raynerd, hon', go back out there and get ready to go on stage. I'm sure the other shepherds are waiting for you ... if any of them are still able to stand.

RAYNERD. Okay. Then I better go load that sheep in my wagon. (He heads toward the sanctuary.) I just love Christmas. I love Arbor Day, too, but it don't have any good songs. (He exits.)

PATSY. (Re: Raynerd.) Face it, the wheel is turning, but the hamster is dead. (Then.) Well, it's time for me to step in and save this show with my moving and memorable interpretation of the Christmas Story. You girls will just have to continue swirling down the drain without me. (She exits into the sanctuary]

RHONDA LYNN. That woman makes my skin crawl. I don't know how any of you can stand to - (She picks up the pill bottle.) Oh, my Lord! Frankie, what Patsy just took is not aspirin!

FRANKIE. (She waddles to Rhonda Lynn.) These are Dub's pain killers. Doc Ballard told him one of these things is strong enough to knock out a horse!

RHONDA LYNN. We should tell Patsy before it hits her.

FRANKIE and RHONDA LYNN. (Beat.) Naaah!!! (Blackout)

Scene 10

A light comes up on a hallway behind the sanctuary justin, still dressed as Joseph, looks heavenward.

JUSTIN. Heavenly Father ... and you'll note I omitted the word kind." That's right, I did it on purpose. Because I've been asking you to help me propose to Gina jo, letting you take the lead on this and look what's happened! Not very kind" in my book. So now I've got no fiance and no engagement ring, which - need I remind you - is not exactly in a place I can retrieve it from at present. So I may as well be honest with you, I am seriously considering a career change. There's an opening for Assistant Manager down at the Bojangles Fried Chicken that I'm thinking I'll apply for. How would you like that? I mean, you've let me down pretty bad today. I don't know anything worse you could put me through. (Just then, Dub ricochets past Justin, clutching his back and yelling in mortal agony. He exits on the opposite side of the stage.) Uhhh ... on second thought, I think I'll stick with preaching. Amen. (Blackout.)

Lights come up on the fellowship hall. Frankie sits as Rhonda Lynn straightens up the buffet table.

RHONDA LYNN.... and the farmer's truck broke down, right next to a mental institution. One of the patients yelled through the fence, Hey! Whatcha gonna do with all that manure?" The farmer said, "I'm gonna go home and put it on my strawberries." The mental patient yelled back, Well, we may be crazy, but we put whipped cream on ours!" (They both laugh. Unseen by Frankie and Rhonda Lynn, Twink tiptoes out of the kitchen, carrying the oven door that's still attached to her wrist by the handcuffs. She heads toward the exit to the parking lot.)

FRANKIE. Lord, nothing beats a good manure joke. (Then, without looking.) Twink Futrelle, don't you move another inch toward that door! (They turn to Twink.)RHONDA LYNN. (Low, to Frankie.) I'll go call John Curtis. Looks like we're gonna need backup. (She exits into the kitchen.)

TWINK. Look, I've had it with the shabby treatment I'm getting around here. Everyone is so suspicious of me.

FRANKIE. Well, maybe the fact that you burned down half the town has colored our opinions.

HONEY RAYE. (Dressed in a Wise Man's costume, she flies in from the sanctuary) Gotta have an angel. Gotta have an angel. Frankie, get me that halo and those wings now, now, NOW!

FRANKIE. Okay, but only because you asked so nice. (She goes to the costume rack.)

HONEY RAYE. Good Lord, not now! (She strips off the crown and the beard.) I am on fire! I don't know why they call it menopause. There is no pause to it!

TWINK. Honey, Raye, if you see John Curtis before I do, tell him I'm ready to leave. I've had about all the fun tonight I can stand.

HONEY RAYE. In case you haven't noticed, I'm trying to bailout the Titanic with a thimble here, okay? I'm not going to tell John Curtis anything, but there's something I am going to tell you. I've watched you putting the moves on him every chance you get. You can Just keep your hands off John Curtis.

TWINK. You only go out with him when you can't snag the date you really want. You're JUStusing him.

HONEY RAYE. He's never seemed to mind.

GENEVA. (She enters from the sanctuary) Okay people, listen up. Wiley Hicks has been located. He was stripped down to his jockey shorts, strapped to the cannon in front of the VFW Hall and covered in green dye. He had a big sign hung around his neck: "I'm gettin' nothin' for Christmas, 'cause I ain't been nothin' but bad." The gals from the Red Hats were out caroling when they found him. Once they quit laughing, they called the police.

FRANKIE. Oh, my God! Is Wiley alright?

GENEVA. Half-frozen, but he'll live. Sorry, Twink.

JOHN CURTIS. (He enters from the parking lot.) Hey, folks, I've got some info for you. Wiley Hicks has been found _

GENEVA. I already told them that.

JOHN CURTIS. And he was covered in-

GENEVA. I already told them that, too.

JOHN CURTIS. Darn it, Geneva. It was my news.

GENEVA. Then you should've gotten here a little faster.

JOHN CURTIS. Did you tell them he was blindfolded and didn't see who his attacker was?

GENEVA. No, I didn't know that part.

JOHN CURTIS. Ah ha! Then until you're wearing a badge on your chest, I advise you to keep your lip zipped.

HONEY RAYE. So, Twink, been by the VFW lately?

TWINK. I'm telling y'all, I didn't do it. But I sure hope whoever did, took pictures, 'cause I would love an eight-by-ten glossy.

FRANKIE. (She hands Honey Raye the costume.) Here's your angel costume.

HONEY RAYE. (She grabs it.) Oh, my God, I forgot! I'm on.

GENEVA. And that's the other thing I have to tell you. Doyce Pender just had a relapse and it doesn't look like Elvis is leaving the men's room any time soon.

HONEY RAYE. Oh, no! It was going to be the highlight of the show! I was so proud of that idea.

GENEVA. Probably because it was the only good one you had. There's only one person who can save this show now. (She turns to John Curtis.) Deputy Buntner, it's time for you to put on some blue suede shoes.

JOHN CURTIS. Why, I ... I can't. I mean, I just ... it just seems sacrilegious.

GENEVA. God won't mind a little rock 'n' roll on Christmas Eve.

JOHN CURTIS. It's not that. I'm talking about impersonating The King. It just feels wrong.

HONEY RAYE. But we all know you can sing. We need you. Do it for me.

JOHN CURTIS. I just don't think I could bring myself to do it.

TWINK. Then would you do it for me?

JOHN CURTIS. (He hesitates, then.) Oh, alright. If it'll save the show. But I draw the line at hip-swivelin' in front of the Holy Family. I have to be able to live with myself (Twink gives Honey Raye a triumphant look and leads John Curtis to the sanctuary. Honey Raye, fuming, follows them as they exit.)FRANKIE. Can John Curtis really pull this off?

GENEVA. Not without the hip-swivelin', And I never thought you'd hear me say this, but thank God Patsy Price is up next ... (Blackout.)

Scene 12

A spotlight comes up on the "stage" in the sanctuary. Honey Raye has barely finished getting into the angel costume as she steps into the light. A shiny star is still prominently stitched over each breast.

HONEY RAYE. And now we come to the moment in our program - (A loud wolf whistle is heard offstage. She looks down, quickly covers herself and turns around to look for the culprit. She is unaware there is a large star stitched on her behind) I'd like to remind whoever it was who did that, you are still in a house of worship. (Then, to the audience.) As is tradition on Christmas Eve, we will now have a reading of the Christmas Story from the Book of Luke. And here to do the honors, is none other than Fayro's own, Patsy Price. (Patsy enters, wobbles toward Honey Raye, doesn't stop and keeps on going.) Patsy. Patsy? Over here.

PATSY. Huh? Oh, sorry. (She crosses back and gets into place. Then, to Honey Raye.) You're not going to just stand there and stare, are you? (Honey Raye exits. Patsy opens her Bible.) "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus." That's a funny name. (She looks at the audience.) You want to know another funny name? Nelbert. (She laughs.) Nel-bert. (She laughs again.) Sorry ... back to the Bible. (She reads.) "So there went out a decree that all the world should be taxed." And they'd still be trying to do that but some of us wised up and moved our assets to the Cayman Islands. (She gets tickled, loosens up.) Anyhoo, back to our story ... You know who else writes a good story? Danielle Steele. But I doubt she'll ever top Passion's Promise. (She wobbles.) You know, it would be a lot easier for me to read this if you people would stop spinning around. Seriously, I want you to stop ... Oh, no, wait! I know what I really want. I want to tell you this - (She starts to sing sultrily.)





(She starts to dance provocatiuely.)



(Honey Raye and Geneva, on opposite sides of the "stage" both try to catch Patsy as she shimmies past them. They fail.)




(Geneva hurries offstage and hauls Patsy off. Blackout.)

Scene 13

Lights come up on the fellowship hall Dub, still in his Santa suit, is on his back on the downstage left table. Frankie hovers over him.

FRANKIE. You sure you wouldn't rather have a chair?

DUB. I'm not moving. This kidney stone's lodged again and I'm not about to risk knockin' it loose one more time.

FRANKIE. Then at least take one of your pain pills.

DUB. Much as I want to, I've decided it's more important for me to be coherent when you go into labor. I'm gonna be there for you.

FRANKIE. That's probably the sweetest thing you've ever said to - (She puts her hand on his arm.)

DUB. Don't touch me! You'll make the stone move!

FRANKIE. Just look at us. Aren't we the spry, young things to be bringing two babies into the world?