A disturbed night by James Archer

Based on 1 Samuel 3

Scene: the vestry of the house of God at Shiloh, in the middle of the night.  The vestry contains two camp beds, a telephone with answerphone and an alarm clock, although the last two could be acted.  For satisfactory sight-lines, the beds should be raised – on tables, pews, or whatever is to hand.  In one bed lies Eli, an old man wearing an overcoat, woolly socks, gloves, scarf, and earmuffs, covered by a rug; he is fast asleep and snoring loudly.  In the other, Samuel, dressed in pyjamas, is in a sleeping bag.  Throughout the drama, God is standing in the lectern looking on.

The telephone rings twice, and switches to the answerphone.

Printable and editable Word version

Voice of Eli

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Hello, this is Eli at the house of God at Shiloh.  I’m sorry, I’m not able to take your call at the moment.  Please try again later, or leave a message after the tone.  (Beep)

(who has woken up and is looking wistfully at the answerphone, talking to himself)  Eli, I wish you’d let me answer the phone, even if you won’t.

It’s God here again.  Eli, as I said to your answerphone this morning and this afternoon, I’ve got an urgent job for you.  If you don’t call me back immediately, I’ll have to find someone else.  (puts phone down)  

(Rushes to pick up phone, but it has gone dead.  Puts it down.  Hesitates, then wakes Eli up.  Eli grunts)  Eli, God’s been on the phone again.  He told you to call back immediately.

(grumpily, not getting up)  Samuel, what time is it?

Just before midnight.

Office hours finish at ten.  I’ll deal with it in the morning.

But He said it was urgent.

(firmly)  Samuel, go back to bed.  (Samuel obeys reluctantly.  Eli goes back to snoring.  Samuel lies awake tossing and turning.)

Samuel!

(Jumps up and wakes Eli)  Why did you call me?

(sleepily)  Call you?  I didn’t call you.  Go back to sleep.  (Samuel obeys again.  Eli is still snoring)

Samuel!

(Waking Eli again)  There you are.  You’ve done it again!

I haven’t done anything.  I’ve been fast asleep.

Yes, and snoring your head off!  I’m not deaf.

And I’m too old to be woken up by you every ten minutes.  Leave me in peace!  (Samuel goes back to bed)

Samuel!

(waking Eli)  Is this some sort of practical joke or something?  Why are you calling me?

I’m not calling you, not even in my sleep.

Well, someone’s calling me, and you’re the only one around.

Hang on a minute.  You’ve given me an idea.

What’s that?

Well, if it’s not me calling you, it must be God.

God?  Why would He do that?

I don’t know.  But listen to me.  Go back to bed.  If He calls you again, say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”.  Have you got that?

Yes.  All right.  (Muttering as he goes back to bed)  Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening; speak, Lord, for your servant is listening……..

Samuel!  Samuel!

(sitting up)  Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.

Good.  It’s time someone did.  I’m fed up with speaking to an answerphone.  Do you want the good news or the bad news?

What’s the good news?

I want you to pass on my messages to my people.

And the bad news?

It’s for your friend Eli.  He’s been so half-hearted as my spokesman that I’ve sacked him.  He’s going to come to a sticky end, I’m afraid, as I’ve told him before.

So what do you want me to do now?

Go back to bed and I’ll speak to you in the morning.  Just keep your ears open.  (Samuel goes back to bed.  After a while, the alarm rings.  Eli switches it off and gets up, wakes Samuel)

Well?

(nervously)  Yes.

(impatiently)  What did He say?

He wanted me to pass on his messages.

Which were?  (Silence from Samuel, who cannot look Eli in the face)  It’s not good news for me, is it?

No.

Tell me, my son.  Don’t hide anything from me.

He said he’d sacked you as his spokesman and you would come to a sticky end, just like you’ve been told before.

The Lord is good.  He knows what He is doing.  I’ll just have to trust Him.  (Pause)  I’m glad it was you who told me.  You’ll do the job much better than I have.  Come, my boy – time for breakfast.  (Exeunt)