{The stage is completely dark and we hear Abel stumbling around in the Chamber. He trips over something and is sent sprawling.As he tries to get up the stage lights come up a bit and we see the Chief Judge come out from hiding…)

ABEL: (Partly up from his fall. Rubs shin) Ooh that hurt.Where am I?

CHIEF JUDGE: (A man of past fifty, with a full black beard and wearing judicial robes, moves forward with a lithe athletic step, and as he gets close to Abel, crouches down and suddenly shouts in his ear) Booooo!

ABEL: (Genuinely frightened) Help! (Chief Judge grabs hold of Abel who tries to break loose but Chief Judge holds him tight} Why do you keep shouting "Boo"

CHIEF JUDGE: Because it's the answer to your question. You asked "Where am I?" And I said "Booh" as an answer.

ABEL: But "Boooh" doesn't tell me anything.

CHIEF JUDGE: It should have told you that you are in the Chamber of Degrees, and thatI am the Chief Judge

ABEL: Oh, the Chamber of Degrees…that's where I'm supposed to be. But how does "Boooh" tell me that?

CHIEF JUDGE: Don't you see…it's a perfect way of saying that this is the place of swift, certain and unambiguous answers to all questions

ABEL: How so?

CHIEF JUDGE: I'll show you. See this? (Holds up object)

ABEL: (looks closely) Is it a pair of thumbscrews?

CHIEF JUDGE: Right! Excellent. Now suppose I ask you a question, and then I take out this pair of thumbscrews…dangle them in front of you like this. In a little while, even if I don't actually put them to use-only show them to you-chances are even if you don't want to tell me what I want to know, that I'll get a swift, certain and unambiguous answer to my question. Understand?

ABEL: Probably.

CHIEF JUDGE; And it's almost always the answer that I want-whether it's the truth or not. That doesn't matter at all. And if it happens not to be the answer that I want, we have other ways to get it. There are such worthwhile items as the strappado, the bastinado, the rubber hoses, the dripping water, doses of castor oil, windup magneto telephones, the bright light that never goes out, the narrow cell just large enough for a person to stand up in…and a lot of other assets that we have handy. (Smilingly continues) The wonderful thing is that because people know that we have them handy, most of the time we don't actually have to use them. That's how we maintain our reputation as the place of swift, certain and unambiguous answers to all questions. We here at the Chamber belong to a very old, and tested tradition… and all through the centuries our kind becomes more widely known and (clears throat) respected. Now do you see what I meant when I shouted "Booh" in your ear?

ABEL: Sort of.

CHIEF JUDGE: But we're losing time. I sent you a Subpoena. Did you bring it with you?

ABEL: (Produces the Scroll and hands it to the Chief Judge) Here it is.I was told that you want to change my life…or change me in some way.

CHIEF JUDGE: I'd put it differently. I think you are already something we want in the Chamber. It's like…finding the figure in the block of stone which the sculptor reveals by cutting away what is unnecessary.

ABEL: But what are you going to cut away? (Looking down at himself) There doesn't seem to be anything I can dispense with.

CHIEF JUDGE: It was only a metaphor. I want you to become part of the Chamber.

ABEL: But I don't know anything about what you actually do here…other than using those "devices" you mentioned.

CHIEF JUDGE: Actually, you do have some knowledge that we want to employ.

ABEL: But I'm such a failure. You probably know all about that, don't you.

CHIEF JUDGE: Yes, I do. But that's not what concerns me. A question for you. When you can spend the time on anything you choose, what do you like to do?

ABEL: I don't really have a first choice. I've never thought about it.

CHIEF JUDGE: Alright. Let me ask you this: what part of the daily newspaper do you turn to first?

ABEL: (A little embarrassed) Why…usually, it's the obituary page.


ABEL: Well, I find it interesting to find out how people die.

CHIEF JUDGE: And why is that?

ABEL: I'm not sure. Lately, I was looking for the best way to commit suicide. But even before that I used to be interested in the whole business of dying.

CHIEF JUDGE: Let me make sure of what you are saying? You've studied dying, and ways that people die?

ABEL: Oh yes, for as long as I can remember. I know the poisons--including all the natural toxins as well as the man made synthetic kind, and of course the noxious and toxic gases and the other lethal agents as well as the mechanical devices…you know, the machinery, the nooses, scaffolds, as well as the torture racks, the knives and hatchets, and…well I guess it's like a hobby.

CHIEF JUDGE: Or perhaps it should be described as a vocation, a calling…in other words, you've just verified my hunch…you're the man!

ABEL: Man? What do you mean?

CHIEF JUDGE: The man I've been hoping to find--the new Chief Executioner!

ABEL: (Visibly stunned) Sir, I feel flattered at your idea, but I think you're mistaken. Sure, I've studied the various ways in which people can be killed, but that was just a kind of hobby. The only person I've ever seriously wanted to kill…is me.

CHIEF JUDGE: Yes, of course. But there isn't much difference between killing yourself or killing someone else. The principle is the same, the knowledge and the skills are the same, and you have on your own done the basic research to make you a superb Chief Executioner. I can't imagine there might be one more qualified than you.

ABEL: I hear what you've saying, but what you are describing is something that my mother would say is a…a…job. And, you may not know it. But my aim in life has always been to avoid looking for a job because I have always sought--

CHIEF JUDGE; (Interrupting) --to achieve greatness!

ABEL: So you know about that. Could I achieve greatness as Chief Executioner?And do you think mother will approve?

CHIEF JUDGE: I am very confident that when she hears about this appointment, she will be very pleased.

ABEL: I guess the position will enable me to continue with what you call my vocation.

CHIEF JUDGE: You will be part of the Chamber of Degrees, and we'll provide you with everything you need to become a great Chief Executioner.

ABEL: And along the way, I can strive to fulfill your expectations.

CHIEF JUDGE; I am confident that you will. (Hands him the Scroll) This is your Warrant of Office, as Chief Executioner. Congratulations! I know you'll be a success! On to achieve greatness.


Scene 5 - The Inauguration




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