In this short play adapted from Carys Davies’ The Redemption of Galen Pike, a Quaker prison visitor develops an understanding of an inmate in frontier America. Adapted during our March 2020 Playing with Prose workshops by Lucy Doughty, Luciano Maggioni, Yifan Wu and Dominic Green.
A rectangle of chairs – where the audience sit – around a single, square cell.
Knapp appears livestreamed on a large screen, sat outside of the audience .
KNAPP. He ate his fill of life, always. From youth, a particular man, a fussy eater was Galen Pike. Those words would mark his headstone, were he granted such a privilege. A man with motivated palette who never left a scrap. Except not a man; a monster, I would say. A monster, was he, who ate his fill of life. But by the time Sheriff Nye had brought him to town, when they told him he had seven days left in Piper City Jailhouse, under my supervision, he only thought…
(with Galen) Lord, grant me patience.
GALEN. (in a whisper) Lord, grant me patience.
Patience enters. Knapp gets up to let her into the cell.
KNAPP. You’re brave.
PATIENCE. The light of God is in every man.
KNAPP. He’s got light for two then.
Look out, he’s still hungry!
Knapp returns to his seat while Patience enters. A tense moment.
PATIENCE. Good morning, Mister Pike.
Galen clears his throat, says nothing.
I have strawberry cordial.
He looks her up and down.
GALEN. Are you a preacher?
PATIENCE. No. I am your friend.
Galen cackles. Patience doesn’t shun his gaze.
You ain’t half thinner than I expected… given the circumstances.
This shuts him up.
I’ll be coming every morning between now and Wednesday unless you tell me not to.
Shall I read you a psalm?
GALEN. Thought you said you weren’t a preacher.
…Stuff your psalm.
PATIENCE. Right then.
Patience sits herself in the corner. Galen examines her.
GALEN. … I’m not very talkative.
PATIENCE. I don’t mind silence in the least.
I like it more than speaking.
GALEN. So, what are you thinking?
PATIENCE. …About the city’s new hostel, for unwed mothers.
GALEN. Unwed mothers?
PATIENCE. A lot of girls end up coming this way, looking for somewhere to lay their heads.
GALEN. Where’s that then?
PATIENCE. The application’s still with the mayor.
GALEN. So it’s nowhere?
Bowing her head, Patience exits, to Knapp.
KNAPP. You lasted then?
PATIENCE. He’s a difficult man… the mayor.
KNAPP. The mayor? That’s a joke.
The mayor said no to the new roof for the school, no to the road out to Piet Larson’s, no to a library, no to a small fever hospital. In a few days from now, no to your hostel, no doubt. Why are you bothering?
PATIENCE. You must have faith.
KNAPP. Don’t look at me, I didn’t vote for him.
PATIENCE. (to Galen) I’ll come again tomorrow morning.
GALEN. Suit yourself.
Knapp returns to his seat, visible on the screen.
KNAPP. Next three days, she was in there every morning. Without fail. Brought her strawberry cocktail and sat in there with him, like some weird date. Biscuits too. Posh ones and all. She did a lot of knitting, for those bastard babies she was on about.
Think that hostel hearing’s today. The missus said the mayor’s meant to make his decision tonight, so that’ll explain why she’s late. Probably got her knickers in a right twist. Oh, here she is!
PATIENCE. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.
KNAPP. Makes no difference to me.
Knapp lets her inside the cell and returns to his seat.
PATIENCE. Sorry, Mr Pike, for my tardiness-
Galen spits on the floor.
GALEN. Like I give a shit.
… What I wanna know is…
How did you get that pretty nose?
PATIENCE. … I fell off a gate, Mr Pike. When I was nine.
GALEN. Ain’t that a shame.
PATIENCE. Do you know, sir, what I want to know?
They square up to each other.
… Who did you eat, Mr Pike?
Knapp creeps in frame on the screen.
GALEN. QUIT SNOOPING!
Knapp hastily exits.
Jesus Christ. Nosy fat curly-tailed fuckin’ hog.
What did you do then? At the worship meeting?
PATIENCE. Same as always, by the light of God. We abide in silence. Unless the spirit moves us.
GALEN. (cynical) The light of God.
PATIENCE. It shines in every man.
Knapp addresses the audience again, onscreen. In this interval, Patience is missing; Galen is alone.
KNAPP. Shit hit the fan last night. Everyone was turned away at the hearing.
No explanation yet.
Anyway, she’s a no show.
Never seen him pacing like this.
Focus on Galen. A long, hungry silence.
GALEN. I don’t half mind that strawberry cordial.
The silence lingers, then, Patience enters.
PATIENCE. Forgive me, Mr Pike. I would’ve come yesterday.
We waited and waited. At the hearing.
Galen looks down at his feet.
The mayor never even came. Shows how much he cares.
My company would have been very poor I’m afraid, Mr Pike, even for someone who makes as few demands on it as you.
GALEN. Ain’t that a shame.
Knapp leers onscreen – Galen roars, and Knapp ducks away, no longer seen by the audience anywhere.
Patience and Galen are unsupervised.
PATIENCE. Well, enough of my disappointments, Mr Pike. How are you today?
GALEN. I have something for you.
Galen gives Patience a tiny flower, hand-crafted from rags.
Patience takes it, examines it. There’s a moment of recognition.
Then she gives it back.
… You hate me.
I can’t accept material decoration. By God.
GALEN. (with finality) God has passed me by.
GALEN. … What is your name?
PATIENCE. Patience. Patience Haig.
GALEN. You remind me of my mother, Miss Haig.
… I’m afraid.
PATIENCE. What of?
Galen holds his neck.
GALEN. And I’m…
Patience affectionately prepares him, then Knapp takes him to his death.
Patience, alone in the cell, then Knapp arrives.
KNAPP. Sorry Miss, you’re gonna have to leave.
PATIENCE. Right, yes of course.
KNAPP. They want all hands on deck. Results are on back on his victim.
Apparently it’s someone important.
PATIENCE. I wonder if the mayor will show up this time.
They leave together.
Carys Davies is a British short story writer. She won the Society of Authors 2010 Olive Cook Short Story Award for The Quiet, and was then awarded the V. S. Pritchett Memorial Prize in 2011 for The Redemption of Galen Pike, which is available in the multi-award winning collection published by Salt Publishing.