by: Douglas Hill

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Copyright © 1998 by Douglas Hill

CAUTION: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that Heresy at a Crossroads is subject to a royalty. It is fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America, and of all countries covered by the International Copyright Union (including the Dominion of Canada and the rest of the British Commonwealth), and of all countries covered by the Pan-American Copyright convention and the Universal Copyright Convention, and of all countries with which the United States has reciprocal copyright relations. All rights, including professional and amateur stage performing, motion picture, recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio broadcasting, television, video or sound taping, all other forms of mechanical or electronic reproduction, such as information storage and retrieval systems and photocopying, and the rights of translation into foreign languages, are strictly reserved.

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DARIUS: A large, happy, charismatic man in his mid-thirties.
POLO: A nineteen-year-old woman, traveling light.
See Title.

[Dim LIGHTS UP on DARIUS who is carefully stacking a pile of rocks. Night sounds and the occasional car can be heard in the background. DARIUS stands up, looks at his rock pile and EXITS. After a moment, POLO ENTERS. She is out of breath from running and carries a school backpack. DARIUS ENTERS in with several rocks in his hands. He surprises POLO.]

DARIUS: [A bright smile.] Good Evening. Friend or foe?

POLO: Friend. Definitely friend.

DARIUS: Looks like a definitely tired friend. Are you okay?

POLO: Yeah. I'd better keep. . . going.

DARIUS: What's your rush?

POLO: No rush. I. . . Uh. . .

DARIUS: Where're you headed?

POLO: West. Mostly. West.

DARIUS: You running from something in the east--mostly--east?

POLO: No. Huh-unh. No, my, uh, temporal life is starting. Don't want to be late.

DARIUS: I guess not. F.Y.I.? [He points in the direction POLO is headed.] Our one gendarme station is at the end of this road.


[Pause. No one moves.]

DARIUS: And our one gendarme usually goes home after it gets dark. Pretty soon.

POLO: [Looking up at the sky and slipping off her backpack.] Thanks.

DARIUS: Sure. Just a little detail. And you don't have to worry about me. I'm always on the side of the underdog. The little people like you and me have to stick together. We're just as important as the big guys in power. And they need to learn that. Right? Right?

POLO: Right.

DARIUS: Details and the small guys. I always try to remember that. Small things are important, might does not make right, and bigger is not always better.

POLO: Okay.

[DARIUS quickly pulls out a small wooden cross and erects it in the pile of rocks. He presents this shrine like a vaudeville act.]

DARIUS: So what do you think?

POLO: [Stunned.] It looks good.

DARIUS: I know its not big or anything--it looks really small next to that church over there--
[POLO spins around looking for the church.] It's kind of dwarfed in the shadow of it, but. . . what if I do. . . THIS?! [DARIUS pulls out a flashlight and points it at the cross.]

POLO: [Barely nodding her head.] Mmm-hmm.

DARIUS: Or is it better-- [He moves the flashlight behind the rock pile.] --From behind? I know it's not huge, but bigger is not always better. And I want something that won't look too commercial.

POLO: What's. . . what's commercial about a cross and a flashlight?

DARIUS: I want this to look like something from before all the hoopla--all the lawn ornaments and trinkets--Have you seen those temporary Catholic tattoos? It's just capitalism. I want something reminiscent of the days before the papal seat went hither and yon, and the whole Constantinople fiasco. Something that looks authentic to remind people of how God used to be. That's what I want people to think when they see this: Old God.

POLO: You want to trick people.

DARIUS: Yeah. Make them remember the true nature of God. So? Does it look. . ?

POLO: It looks good. It looks real nice. Very nice. I like the--

DARIUS: Oh, I get you. You're right: It doesn't look like its been around several hundred years. [DARIUS picks up a rock and begins pounding on the cross.] You're a smart young lady. Verisimilitude. That's what you're saying. Ver--Is--Sim--Ill--It--Tude! It's one of the basic principles that I keep forgetting. [He pulls a knife out of his pocket and begins stabbing the cross.] People want to see the facts with their own eyes. They want to believe and I have to help them. And you're right. I mean, come on. [He pockets the knife and pulls out a small handgun.] No one's going to believe that Jews or Moslems or the other heretics have been walking by here for a hundred years if it doesn't have-- [He fires three shots at the cross.] --Some distress marks, huh? So you're headed west? Spain? Portugal?

POLO: Portugal. Why did you do that?

DARIUS: And what sort of temporal life are you going to find there?

POLO: Just--It's--Practical Field Cartography. You're shooting--!

DARIUS: Wow. You really don't want to be late for your first day. What is that? Car--tah--

POLO: Are you crazy? What if someone heard you?

DARIUS: Tell me, what is cartah. . ? Is it illegal? Something to do with drugs? Is that why you're--

POLO: No. It's map making.

DARIUS: Oh. And what did you call it again?

POLO: Practical Field Cartography. I'm going to draw maps and. . . I've got to get out of here.

DARIUS: Hey! Are you a Jew?


DARIUS: Would you swear on the cross?

POLO: The Book of James tells us not to swear, doesn't it?

DARIUS: [Smiling.] All right. All right. That's pretty good. Glad to see you're one of us. You had me scared for a second. I heard the Jews are pretty sneaky about drawing maps and I know they let just about anyone into Lisbon these days.

POLO: Well, I'm not going to Lisbon--I'm headed for Sa. . . Good night.

DARIUS: Wait a minute! Sagres, Portugal? Prince Henry the Navigator? That Sagres?
Have you prayed about this?

POLO: Before you say anything, Prince Henry needs the smartest people he can find on his expeditions. I was Co-Valedictorian, Class of 1425, Naples South High.

DARIUS: You went to school?

POLO: And I've been unemployed for a year because I refuse to cook, sew, bake, weave, or take care of snot-nosed little children.


POLO: But I love to travel and I'm a great cartographer. I taught myself. And Prince Henry is the only one in the world who wants to really map out the--

DARIUS: Prince Henry is the anti-Christ!

POLO: No. He's Portuguese.

DARIUS: I've heard he puts north at the top of his maps. [Pause.] The sun don't rise in the north, kid. Think about it.

POLO: He's using the Ptolemaic method of cartography, which gives him greater precision.

DARIUS: Wait--wait. Ptolemaic? Was he a Jew?

POLO: I don't know. Greek-Egyptian, I think.

DARIUS: Okay, Ptolemaic was pagan. You see what kind of trouble you're putting yourself into? This is crazy. This is the end of the world.

POLO: It's a great adventure and he needs smart people like me taking note--

DARIUS: He needs whores to keep his sailors happy. Don't be fooled.

POLO: Have you seen his maps? They're precise. Detailed. Sailors won't have to go by word of mouth anymore. And he's opening up new routes.

DARIUS: New routes to where?

POLO: Africa, for starters.

DARIUS: He's charting the course to hell. And you're the entertainment.

POLO: Prince Henry is a Christian. Why would he be sailing into--

DARIUS: He's a heretic leading everybody into chaos and damnation and-- [He suddenly spreads his arms out to form a "T".] Let me show you something. This is the world. Have you ever seen one of these? This is a map of the world. I studied it when I was living with a priest in Avignon. Who, by the way, spoke Latin. So I'd say he knew as much as girl from Naples, wouldn't you? All right, then. Up here, where my head is? That's the east. And my head is Eden. Do you know what Eden means?

POLO: No. . ?

DARIUS: "Delightful Place." That's what it means in Hebrew--Which was the language of God's chosen people before they converted to Christianity. But I digress. "Delightful Place." And it's in the east. At the top. Where it belongs. My chest? That's Asia. The right arm is the Danube and the left arm is the Nile. My stomach, of course, is the Mediterranean Sea. Now, are you looking at this? Memorize it. Because that is the world. Does it look complicated to you?

POLO: No, but it doesn't look accurate either.

DARIUS: Okay, let's take a little test. Are you ready? Quick!--Where's Eden?--Where's Eden?--Find Eden! Come on!

POLO: There's a lot of speculation that Eden doesn't actually exist.

DARIUS: I deduct points for heresy! Now, come on! Find Eden!

POLO: [Sighs and points to his head.] Up there.

DARIUS: Up where? Don't just point to it--Touch it! You pointing to my shoulder or neck--?
[POLO puts her hand on DARIUS' forehead. DARIUS bobs his head around in excitement.] Excellent!--That's great!--Eden! Right there at the top!--Okay! Where's Asia? Huh? Where is it? Go find it! [POLO thumps DARIUS on the chest.] Ding-ding-ding! Big old Asia! Right there in the center! [DARIUS begins thumping himself on the chest.] Sounds like Mongolian drums, doesn't it? Out there in wild Asia? DEVIL'S GONNA GET YOU KAHN! Okay! Where's the Danube River? [POLO grabs his right arm.] And the Nile? [POLO grabs his left arm.] And the Mediterranean? [POLO pokes him in the stomach.] All right! Perfect score! Five out of five! You see how easy that is? Now why would a loving God want to take something so simple and make it hard? It's been a perfect model for years.

POLO: But Prince Henry's method isn't hard. All you do is--

DARIUS: Okay, let's try it from Prince of Darkness, Henry's point of view.

POLO: Everything just rotates around.

DARIUS: All right. What's my right arm?

POLO: Well, your right arm would become the, uh, the Mediterranean.

DARIUS: Mmm-hmm. And my head?

POLO: Your head is the Danube.

DARIUS: My head is what?

POLO: The Danube River.

DARIUS: That's the top of the world? Oh brother. And what does "Danube" mean in Hebrew?

POLO: I don't know.

DARIUS: Well, it's probably not "Delightful Place" huh? Okay, what's on the left?

POLO: Um. Eden--if it exists--would be over there--

DARIUS: Eden is on my left? How can Eden--? Do you know what I do with my left hand?
Wait a second. I'm lost, now. Where did you say Asia was?

POLO: Oh--uh, well--

DARIUS: Okay, skip it. Can you find Africa and the Nile at least?

POLO: That'd be your stomach.

DARIUS: So you want to draw maps of my belly? Does that sound smart to you? Does that sound like something a Co-Latin graduate would do?

POLO: Well, you're not an exact map of the world. That's the point. And Prince Henry's already mapped most of northern Africa. He's sending expeditions further south.

DARIUS: [Looking at his waist.] You want to explore that?

POLO: Look. . .

DARIUS: Doesn't that scare you a little?

POLO: We're not going to be exploring your. . . your, uh. . .

DARIUS: Touch it if you aren't scared of it, then.

POLO: The point we're making is more figurative than literal.

DARIUS: Go on. You're not scared. Touch it. Like you did Eden.

POLO: Uh, uh, no. I mean, no.

DARIUS: [Pointing his gun at POLO.] Come on, friend. You're one brave cartwheeler, aren't you? Go ahead and touch the uncharted regions of Africa like Prince Henry wants you to. Touch that vile den of carnal knowledge. Some call it the doorway to Hell itself. [DARIUS unbuckles his belt.] But you're not scared. You want to go there because Prince Henry tells you its okay. Remember? You want to go and draw maps of deepest darkest Africa. Look at it.

[As DARIUS opens his fly, POLO quickly picks up the cross and holds it between them.]

POLO: Please don't. I'm unarmed. I don't want to invade your—please don't shoot me.

DARIUS: Well, of course I wasn't going to shoot you. But you see? Your heart is telling you what Prince Henry's doing is wrong. Look at you. You're clinging to a cross facing the barrel of a loaded gun, because deep inside you know the difference between right and wrong. And I figured you did, being a Christian and all. So be afraid. You're not a whore. You're smart. Go back to Naples and fear the devil and all his works. Fear the power he has over the weak in mankind. And the Lord will reward you forever.

POLO: But I can't do practical field cartography there! No one believes in it!

DARIUS: Then do something else. It's only your temporal life. Look at me.

POLO: I can't put up shrines for the rest of my life!

DARIUS: This? This isn't my job--This is penance. I can't make a living doing this. No, I'm a district manager for a chain of childcare centers: "Suffer the Little Children." We've got five centers in France and I'm--

POLO: I'm not going to baby-sit either! I'm going to work for Prince Henry! He's the only one who believes like I do. In the precise, detailed truth. The rest of you can hang on to your myths about Eden, and your fairy tales and lies and. . . and I don't care if it comes straight out of the pope's mouth, it's still a lie--

DARIUS: [Grabbing the cross from her.] I thought you were on our side.

POLO: I can't do anything else. I have to make maps. I have to tell the truth.

DARIUS: Friend or foe? Friend or foe? [He bludgeons POLO with the cross. She falls and he towers over her, ready to strike again.] Friend or foe?

POLO: Friend. Definitely friend.

DARIUS: [Smiles brightly and extends a hand to help her up.] All right, then. You heretics sure are a handful, aren't you?

[POLO starts to get up, kicks DARIUS in the groin and scurries away as he sinks to his knees.]

POLO: It's not heresy.

DARIUS: Ohh, my God. . .

POLO: You're all wrong! It's not heresy! Stop chasing me!

[POLO EXITS quickly. DARIUS remains on the ground.]

DARIUS: I should have seen it coming. . .


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