A classroom in a community center. A group of people sit in chairs in a half circle with JUDITH in the center. The group is a mix of adults of all ages, including CHRISSY, a pale, gaunt young woman with a shaved head and a nose ring and GEORGE, an impassive middle-aged man. Also in the group are the Biblical figures JOB and ABRAHAM. JOB is a middle-aged man with a long face and beard, shaved head and is wearing only a loin cloth. His body is covered with boils. ABRAHAM is wearing a traditional Biblical robe and seems somewhat moody. JUDITH, a woman in her forties, is dressed casually and she addresses the group with a sense of openness and sensitivity.
JUDITH: Welcome everyone to Wednesday afternoon group therapy. We have some new faces today so I’d like to welcome Job and Abraham to the group. I am Judith Levy, the therapist or facilitator if you prefer…but these sessions are not about me, they are about you. This is a non-judgement zone. We have limited time so what we’re looking for is a sort of emotional snapshot of where each of you are at right now. Everyone else is invited to respond with mindful, empathic and brief responses if they feel so moved. Chrissy, why don’t we start with you today?
CHRISSY: I hate my life.
JUDITH: Okay, that’s honest.
CHRISSY: I knew coming out of rehab and going back to work was going to be hard, but waiting tables sucks. I mean, it’s one of the reasons I started using again and I hate the smell of fucking waffles, you know, but Waffles Roundup was like the only place that would hire me with my priors. Two shifts a day, and then I go pick up Brittany yesterday after school, and she’s been in a fight again so–
JUDITH: Chrissy, I think you’re adjusting to your new schedule faster than you think.
CHRISSY: Why do you say that?
JUDITH: You’re saying “fuck” a lot less.
CHRISSY: Yeah, I guess you’re right.
JUDITH: (turning toward JOB) Uh, Job, would you like to tell us a little bit about what’s going on for you?
JUDITH: Do you want to share your emotional snapshot?
JOB: Well, I don’t know…
JUDITH: It might help to talk about it.
JOB: Well, okay…um, I was a blameless and upright man. I had seven sons and three daughters, seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen…I was doing all right. One day, one of my servants shows up at the house and tells me the Sabeans killed my herdsmen and carried off all my oxen. He hadn’t finished his story when another one of my servants arrives and says that lightening has struck and killed all my sheep and their shepherds–the words are scarcely out of his mouth when another one appears and reports that the Chaldeans have seized all my camels–he gets cut off by yet another whose face is totally white, and he says that a great wind came up and blew down the house in which all of my children were feasting, killing them all.
JUDITH: Wait, this was all the same day?
CHRISSY: This sounds familiar.
JOB: It gets worse. Then I get afflicted with these boils, and my wife tells me, “Why don’t you just curse God and die?”
CHRISSY: That’s cold.
JUDITH: Spouses sometimes say things they don’t really mean when they are under a lot of stress.
JOB: You don’t know my wife.
JUDITH: You’re carrying a lot of pain with you right now, Job, and I think–
JOB: Yeah, I haven’t really been able to process it all.
ABRAHAM: Pain, you want to talk pain?
JUDITH: What’s that, Abraham?
ABRAHAM: Imagine if God told you to kill your son and you had the knife in your hand, you were ready to kill your own son, and then at the last second, an angel tells you, no, God was just “testing” your faith. How would you feel?
JUDITH: That must have been difficult.
ABRAHAM: Of course it was fucking difficult! I was ready to plunge a knife into my own flesh and blood just to prove my loyalty to a jealous and insecure God. (to JOB) I’d take your dead family, your lost wealth and all your boils and scabs over the mountain of guilt I’m dragging around here.
JOB: Listen to this guy! All my kids are dead, all my possessions stripped away, I’m covered with hideous, painful boils, and he’s going to one-up me in the suffering department with his mountain of guilt.
JUDITH: Guys, come on, this isn’t a competition.
ABRAHAM: You’re still blameless and upright. I’m a terrible father who would have butchered his own kid!
JOB: Come on, Abe, you’re an icon, widely respected by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. Your sense of guilt is admirable but a touch histrionic, don’t you think?
JOB: You’re the patriarch of three great faiths, the founding father of the covenant between Yahweh and the Jews. Your wife let you sleep with that hot young Egyptian handmaiden for God’s sake! Forgive me if I don’t lose any sleep over what might have happened to your kid when I lost ten of mine in one day through no fault of my own!
ABRAHAM: That’s just it–no fault of your own. I do lose sleep because I was culpable. I was guilty.
JOB: Oh, please, somebody cue the violins.
JUDITH: Gentlemen, please–
ABRAHAM: (rises) And you know what else? I’m sick and tired of you being the poster boy for suffering. Every time somebody goes through something bad they compare their suffering to Job’s suffering, Job’s afflictions, Job’s losses. You’re not the only one who’s suffered, you know? Try having God tell you to leave your homeland when you’re seventy-five years old and go found a new nation some place. See how much fun that is. And as far as the Egyptian handmaiden goes, I’d take a lifetime supply of your boils over my wife’s silent resentment in a heartbeat.
JOB: Oh, you’ll take my boils, huh?
ABRAHAM: That’s right.
JOB: You can’t even go out for dinner without everybody staring.
ABRAHAM: You can order out Chinese.
JUDITH: Gentlemen, gentlemen, I think it’s important to acknowledge that each of you has suffered terribly in your own ways. We’ll revisit this when you’re both less emotionally raw, but we really need to move onto somebody else now, all right?
ABRAHAM: (sits down huffily) Fine.
JUDITH: Okay, George, would you like to share something with us today?
GEORGE: (in a cold monotone voice) Yes, yes, I would. You know, listening to Abraham made me feel a little better today.
JUDITH: Better? How so?
GEORGE: Well, I didn’t feel comfortable talking about this before, but a few weeks ago…well, God told me to kill my son.
The rest of the group suddenly becomes alert and turns their attention fully to GEORGE.
GEORGE: Well, as you know, the government has been watching me for some time because of my research on chemtrails and they’ve even had people in my own family spying on me. God told me my son Jimmy was spying on me for the Deep State and that he must die so I picked up a bread knife and I…I started to…but at the last moment, I stopped myself.
ABRAHAM: (rises abruptly) Nobody told me there were going to be nutjobs here.
ABRAHAM storms out of the room as the rest of the group looks on, stunned.