The Conference Enigma
A Little Play
(A dark, silent sitting room. Carpet. Wood shelves. Books. Cozy, but almost entirely in shadow. Door opens. DALLIN steps in. He is bald, eighty-ish, a bit gnome-like. Wearing a dark suit that’s just a tiny bit too big. He sets a briefcase on the floor, sighs, and snaps on a table lamp.
In the new light, DALLIN gasps, and jumps.
In a corner, only just illuminated, sits DIETER in an overstuffed chair. He is tall-ish. seventy-six. Stunning, steel-grey hair. Also wearing a dark suit, but much more crisply tailored for him. His voice has a mellifluous, but sometimes sharp, German accent.)
DALLIN: Holy—! Oh, Dieter, it’s only you. You gave me such a fright. How did you get in here?
DIETER: Guten abend, Dallin. I hope I did not scare you too much.
DALLIN: Indeed. My heart’s still jumping. Can I get you a drink?
DIETER: As you will.
(DALLIN fusses with a cabinet and pours two Martinelli’s. He sets one on the side table near DIETER.)
DALLIN: Can I help you with something?
DIETER: Are you rested?
DALLIN: What, from Conference? Yes, yes. I try to pace myself, these days.
DIETER: But, this time, your exertions must have been so much greater.
DALLIN: Whatever do you mean?
DIETER: Perhaps you are accustomed to… what do you say… cramming?
DALLIN (Blustering.): Cramming? I don’t know what you’re talking about.
DIETER: Oh, but I think you do. You see, I came in here Saturday night.
DIETER: I was here, Saturday night, while you were sleeping so soundly upstairs. I read your talk for the Sunday afternoon session.
DALLIN (Nervous.): What do you want?
DIETER: Don’t act so surprised. Thomas asks me to keep him informed of what the Twelve are doing. I must follow prophetic counsel, of course.
DALLIN: It was only a draft.
DIETER: No, no. I thought it was lovely. Very polished. You seemed to have worked so very hard on getting it just right.
DALLIN (Defensive.): I am meticulous.
DIETER: Of course, you are. Only—very curious—this was not the talk you gave on Sunday.
DALLIN: I made some adjustments. Obviously, I’m at liberty to revise as the Spirit directs.
DIETER: Oh, liberty. We must be careful how we use that word, Herr Dallin, no? You had planned to speak on the subject of extra miles and the going of them. What changed your so meticulous mind, Dallin? You must have worked in a frenzy during the Sunday break, composing a completely new address for the membership. And at your age. Must have been very taxing. I hope you were able to get some lunch.
DALLIN: I listened to the still, small voice.
DIETER: Perhaps. Or, perhaps you listened to me on Sunday morning.
DALLIN: That’s preposterous. I never listen to you.
DIETER: Oh, but this time, I think, you did. You were so meticulous on Sunday afternoon to re-set the message.
DALLIN (A touch panicked.): What message? Whose message?
DIETER: What message matters, mein Liebchen? You heard what I said, at that pulpit, on Sunday morning, about obedience. Yes?
DALLIN (Carefully.): I heard what you said.
DIETER: Of course you did. You were sitting right there. Behind me. And you, Dallin, unlike some, are far too well self-disciplined to fall asleep.
DALLIN: Who do you think you are…?
DIETER: Tut, tut. Let’s talk about you. You heard me try to take the hammer out of the hand of the culture. No?
DALLIN: I heard you try to undermine the organization that made you what you are.
DIETER: Ah. And so, you wrote a new talk. On the spot. To put the hammer back. Very impressive.
DALLIN: We cannot honor opposition, Dieter. Surely you know that. If we give an inch…
DIETER: Someone will go the extra mile?
DALLIN: Don’t patronize me, you German fop. I was steering this ship when you were still playing with your cockpit.
DIETER: I think you wrote too hastily, though, in the break, without proper nourishment. One cannot have genuine choice where opposition is not honored. You see? You want… how do you Americans say it about cake? Ah. You want to have it and eat it.
DALLIN (Slamming his Martinelli’s on the desk.): The members can’t “discover” themselves, Dieter! If we are not all going the same way, we scatter. We fail. There must be punishment for acting out, for the sake of everyone’s security.
DIETER: Yes, of course, you are right, mein Erdferkel. Never mind that the shepherd will watch over us. We should be new Pharisees, condemning, shaming, and ridiculing sinners, to batter each of them into the holier shape that best suits everyone, collectively.
DALLIN: Don’t bring your wild, European way of thinking into my house. Look back a few decades at what all that Western enlightenment did to Germany!
DIETER: You are so mistaken, Dallin, mein Nebelhorn. I didn’t come into your home—uninvited, startling you—to reason with you. I came here to oppose you.
DALLIN (Backing away.): What do you mean?
DIETER (Pulling on leather gloves as he stands.): As you say, some opposition actually—what was it?—facilitates god’s plan.
(DALLIN grabs the Martinelli’s bottle by the neck and smashes the bottle on the cabinet. He wields the jagged bottle neck in his hand as a weapon.)
DALLIN: Stop right there. I will gut you like a Teutonic fish.
DIETER (Shaking his head, slowly.): Dallin, Dallin, Dallin. Hush, now, meine kleine Nachtmusik. This will be over in a moment.
(They face each other. DALLIN waving the broken Martinelli’s neck. DIETER cracking his knuckles in his leather gloves.)
(A wolf howls, far away.)
*image adapted from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bielsko-Bia%C5%82a,_Teatr_Polski,_scena.jpg