Policy

By Antonio Muñoz de Mesa

Translated by Phyllis Zatlin

Volume 5, Issue 3 (Spring 2015)

I had never heard of Antonio Muñoz de Mesa when I read the newspaper notice in Madrid about the opening in April 2013 of La visita, directed by the author and produced by his wife, Olga Margallo. The subject of abuse of children by priests intrigued me and I decided to go. Spectators that night were riveted to their seats, unwilling to miss a word of the fascinating performance by Iván Villanueva and Rosa Mariscal of a play that is marked by delayed revelations and touches of humor.

Rather than the anticipated short run, La visita stayed on the boards for over a year at various small theatres in Madrid. It was performed at a theatre festival in Miami in July 2014 and is scheduled for performance at the Thalia in New York City in May 2015. The American translation had its premiere at Rogue Theater in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, for a three-week run in November 2014.

La visita is a two-hander: a priest who is responsible for a Catholic school and summer camp and the woman insurance agent who has handled policies for the archdiocese for a dozen years. As is true of many plays for two characters, the action consists of a cat-and-mouse game. Here the priest seems to dominate in early scenes but at the end the woman triumphs.

The priest proclaims in an early scene that he and the agent are engaged in a game where winning is the only thing. That game is a conflict between his greed and her sense of morality. The game metaphor reappears in a later episode when the priest, believing that the agent has complied with all his requests, invites her to accompany him to a soccer game. The priest’s position of power is established at the outset linguistically, through his addressing the woman with the familiar “tú” while she uses the polite “Usted” with him and gives him his title of “Padre.”

In the opening scene, the priest informs the insurance agent he wants to add two clauses to the archdiocese policy: a confidentiality clause. In the second scene, he reveals that the second clause will define sexual assault of children as a workplace accident. The insurance agent expresses outrage at this immoral suggestion. In the next episode, after consulting her superiors in Barcelona, she seems to accept the proposal.

I chose to translate La visita because I anticipated that it would readily find audiences in the United State. I have left the action in Spain, but the subject, no matter the setting of the action, is of universal interest. The play has a small cast and does not require an elaborate set or expensive costumes. I predicted it would travel with ease.

In my translation, I made changes, always in consultation with the author, who has an excellent command of English and entered into an email dialogue with me on matters of concern, most notably the title, the priest’s name, and the contrastive use of “tú” and “Usted.”

In English, not only is The Visit used as the title of a 1956 tragicomedy by Friedrich Dȕrrenmatt (Der Besuch der alten Dame) and the related 1964 movie, but a musical version of the Swiss satire has been circulating in the United States since 2001. To avoid confusion, the American translation of La visita is called Policy, a word that is deliberately ambiguous, referring to the insurance policy and the Church’s initial policy of ignoring sexual abuse.

The priest’s name in La visita is Lucio. An American spectator, unfamiliar with that male name in Spanish, is likely to hear it as “Lucille.” Muñoz de Mesa clarified for me that he hoped audiences in Spain would associate “Lucio” with “Lucifer,” thus emphasizing the priest’s character as a demon. Ultimately we agreed to change the name in the English version to “Damián,” which should give the desired allusion to demon. The name Damián, along with others from the original text, are left in Spanish.

We do not have familiar and polite forms of  “you” in English but translators can find ways around that problem. The solution in Policy takes advantage of the priest’s title of “Father.” The priest consistently calls the insurance agent by her first name, “Esther.” Esther initially calls him “Father Damián” but drops the title when she ceases to address him with respect. In the original play, Muñoz de Mesa achieves this effect by having her begin to address the priest with the familiar form he has used with her all along.

The author assumed his Spanish audience would have a thorough familiarity with Catholicism. I thought his reference to San Pancracio would bewilder most American spectators, even those who are Catholic themselves as was the case for many in Sturgeon Bay. At Rogue Theater actors and theater co-directors Lola DeVillers and Stuart Champeau agreed and I therefore glossed the reference.

ANTONIO MUÑOZ DE MESA, born in Madrid, Spain, in 1972. Playwright and actor. Graduated at RESAD (Real Escuela Superior de Arte Dramático) in 1994. Antonio has written numerous plays for children and adults. As a playwright he recently premiered “Otro Gran Teatro del Mundo,” a musical adaptation of Calderon de la Barca’s “The Great Theatre of the World” and “Policy,” translated by Phyllis Zatlin. He is now studying musical theatre writing at ANMT in Los Angeles with a scholarship from Fundación SGAE.

PHYLLIS ZATLIN, professor emerita at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, has translated numerous plays from Spain and France. Among books she has authored are Cross-Cultural Approaches to Theatre, Theatrical Translation and Film Adaptation, and Writers to Remember: Memoirs of Friendships in Spain and France. She is a graduate of Rollins College, holds a Ph.D. in Romance Languages from the University of Florida, and is a member of The Dramatists Guild.

 

POLICY: (La visita)

CHARACTERS:

DAMIÁN, a priest

ESTHER, an insurance agent

PROLOGUE

Stage is dimly lit. DAMIÁN puts in place a dead rubber plant, a box, a chalice, and a figurine of a saint. He exits.

BLACKOUT.

LIGHTS UP

ESTHER is waiting in the study.

SCENE 1

(ESTHER is standing in the middle of the study. She has a briefcase in one hand, with a coat draped over it. She sees the chalice, picks it up and looks at if for a moment. She lifts it up to her nose and smells it. At that moment DAMIÁN appears in the doorway on the opposite side of the room. He wears a black suit and clerical collar. ESTHER is startled.)

ESTHER

(Setting the chalice down.)

You frightened me! I’m sorry…

DAMIÁN

Sorry for what?

ESTHER

For… Nothing.

(A strange silence.)

ESTHER

And Father Valentín?

DAMIÁN

Don Valentín?

ESTHER

Yes. We have an appointment at half past.

DAMIÁN

Don Valentín is no longer here. Didn’t they tell you?

ESTHER

Well, no.

DAMIÁN

You’re Esther, aren’t you? From Ibéritas.

ESTHER

That’s right.

DAMIÁN

I’m Father DAMIÁN, the new Father Valentín.

ESTHER

The new Father Valentín?

DAMIÁN

Quite so. His substitute. Sit down, please.

(ESTHER, somewhat bewildered, looks for a seat but the only vacant chair has a box on it. She starts to remove the box.)

DAMIÁN

No, no. Don’t touch that. Get a chair from the hall.

ESTHER

Very well.

(ESTHER exits to get a chair. DAMIÁN takes out a bottle of wine and pours some in the chalice. ESTHER enters with a chair and sits across from DAMIÁN, next to the chair with the box.)

DAMIÁN

Would you care for some?

ESTHER

No thank you. And why is Father Valentín no longer here? I hope nothing’s happened to him.

DAMIÁN

No, no. What could happen to him? He’s gone to Bolivia, some mission, I believe.

ESTHER

My word. On a mission, like James Bond.

DAMIÁN

Some people have it made.

ESTHER

And besides he went off without telling me.

DAMIÁN

It was one of those “get going and don’t let me catch you” departures.

ESTHER

(Looking at the disorder in the room.)

That explains this chaos.

DAMIÁN

One of those transfers that you ask for a thousand times and one day, when you least expect it, they give it to you. When you no longer even remember that you asked for it.

ESTHER

Yes, that does happen. A lot.

DAMIÁN

Are you sure you don’t want some wine?

ESTHER

No thank you. Really.

(ESTHER smiles, trying to follow his thoughts.)

DAMIÁN

If it’s alright with you, let’s get down to business.

ESTHER

Of course. But we can’t sign today. I have to put in your information, instead of Father Valentín’s. If you’ll fill out a form for me, that will speed things up.

(ESTHER hands him a piece of paper.)

DAMIÁN

I’ll do it now. It’s a shame they didn’t alert you. What a disaster.

ESTHER

No problem. You have a digital signature?

DAMIÁN

(While filling out the form.)

What’s that?

ESTHER

It’s a certificate in order to sign the policy on-line.

DAMIÁN

I don’t think I have one. A digital signature.

ESTHER

Then you have to ask for it.

DAMIÁN

Maybe I have it without knowing.

ESTHER

That could be. Would you like me to look?

DAMIÁN

Please do.

(ESTHER crosses to the laptop computer. While lifting the cover, she knocks down the figurine of St. Pancracio that DAMIÁN put there in the prologue.)

ESTHER

Oh, St. Joseph. Dear God, I’m so clumsy.

DAMIÁN

It’s not St. Joseph. It’s St. Pancracio—patron saint of money. He hears prayers for immediate financial assistance.

ESTHER

St. Pancracio. I’m sorry.

DAMIÁN

No problem.

(ESTHER looks in the computer for the digital signature certificate.)

ESTHER

No, you don’t have it. You have to ask the Archdiocese to get one for you.

DAMIÁN

Computers are truly a pain in the ass.

ESTHER

You just have to get used to it. It’s basically very easy.

DAMIÁN

Here. Now you have my information.

ESTHER

Good. Thank you. Well, once they install the signature certificate for you, you’ll be able to sign on-line. I won’t have to come back, so I won’t trouble you further. Here’s my card in case you have a problem.

DAMIÁN

You’re leaving already?

ESTHER

If you don’t need me for anything else.

DAMIÁN

Can we go over the policy?

ESTHER

Well… it’s just the annual renewal. No mystery to that.

DAMIÁN

Precisely for that reason. Taking advantage of the renewal, I’d like to go over the insurance coverage. If you don’t mind.

ESTHER

No, no. Of course not. It’s fine with me… And that way you’ll be brought up to date.

DAMIÁN

Right.

ESTHER

If you like, we can begin with the first clause.

DAMIÁN

No.

ESTHER

No?

DAMIÁN

No.

ESTHER

No.

DAMIÁN

No.

ESTHER

Where would you like us to begin?

DAMIÁN

Let’s see. For me there are only two clauses in this insurance policy that are of interest. One is the confidentiality clause.

ESTHER

Confidentiality… I don’t believe we have a confidentiality clause. This is a standard multi risk policy. It covers the school. For fire, theft, flood, workplace accident, all quite typical. The one big item you insure-

(DAMIÁN exits while ESTHER is talking.)

ESTHER

is the El Greco painting. The one in the Sacristy-

(Realizing that she is talking to herself, ESTHER stops speaking.

DAMIÁN enters with a watering can.)

ESTHER

-In fact that’s what raises your premium. Truthfully, I don’t recall anything about confidentiality.

DAMIÁN

(Watering the rubber plant.)

You don’t recall it because it isn’t there. Take my word for it. Precisely what I want is to add it.

ESTHER

Oh, add it. Well, whatever you say. If you think you need it.

DAMIÁN

Good. It never hurts to have it.

ESTHER

Okay. In fact, lately it’s a clause that’s used a lot. The only thing is your premium will go up a bit. I’ll make a note. Confidentiality. And the other one?

DAMIÁN

What other one?

ESTHER

Didn’t you say there were two clauses you wanted to go over?

DAMIÁN

Oh yes. The other one’s nothing. Don’t worry. If you agree, we’ll talk about it when we sign the new policy.

(ESTHER remains silent.)

DAMIÁN

Is something wrong?

ESTHER

No. It’s just that… Wouldn’t it be better to look at both clauses at once? That would save us a visit.

DAMIÁN

I prefer not to. Let’s go one step at a time.

ESTHER

By steps?

DAMIÁN

Yes.

ESTHER

Yes?

DAMIÁN

Yes.

ESTHER

Why, if I may ask.

DAMIÁN

Because I can only discuss the other clause with you after you’ve signed the confidentiality one. Not before.

ESTHER

Oh. I see.

DAMIÁN

So that’s alright with you.

ESTHER

Yes, of course. The only thing… If we can’t talk about the other clause until we sign the confidentiality one…

DAMIÁN

Yes?

ESTHER

Has something happened?

DAMIÁN

No. (Pause) This is just in case something does. That’s why there are insurance companies.

ESTHER

That’s true enough. That’s what we’re here for.

DAMIÁN

So that’s that. When you have the confidentiality clause, call me and we’ll see one another again. That alright with you?

ESTHER

Okay. Don’t forget the digital signature.

DAMIÁN

Don’t worry. I won’t forget.

(They shake hands.)

ESTHER

I’m sorry about the saint.

DAMIÁN

Anyone can have an accident.

 

SCENE 2

(LIGHTS UP. DAMIÁN is carefully reading the insurance policy on the computer screen. ESTHER enters with a chair and sits down.)

ESTHER

Let me know if there’s anything you don’t understand.

(DAMIÁN continues reading as if he had not heard her. He leans close to the computer screen.)

ESTHER

It would be better to use the little arrow.

(DAMIÁN ignores her.)

ESTHER

If you want bigger print, click on the magnifying glass icon.

(DAMIÁN briefly looks up with an expression on his face of “Are you going to let me read?” He continues reading in silence. ESTHER remains still a few moments staring at the ceiling.)

ESTHER

I’m going to the bathroom for a moment.

(ESTHER starts to leave but DAMIÁN interrupts her.)

DAMIÁN

How do I sign this?

ESTHER

Look…you click where it says to sign, on each of the pages of the pdf file.

(DAMIÁN clicks as instructed.)

DAMIÁN

Okay. And what is this?

ESTHER

That’s your signature. You see how it has your information? Accept every time it appears on the screen and that’s it.

(DAMIÁN starts to accept on each page.)

DAMIÁN

So, accept. Click and accept. Accept. Accept. Accept. Accept and accept.

ESTHER

And to finish, click “send” and the policy will be validated.

DAMIÁN

How modern. So, send.

ESTHER

Now you have your confidentiality clause.

(DAMIÁN gets up, takes the wine bottle and serves himself a drink in the chalice. He then takes out a cheap plastic glass and pours some for ESTHER, who looks at him with a silly grin.)

DAMIÁN

Shall we have a toast?

ESTHER

This early in the morning?

DAMIÁN

Why not? Let’s toast.

ESTHER

Well, alright. Let’s toast.

DAMIÁN

What Insurance has brought together, let no man put asunder.

ESTHER

Provided it’s covered in the policy.

DAMIÁN

Well, in that case, what God has brought together, let no insurance put asunder.

ESTHER

Provided God covers it.

DAMIÁN

God covers everything. Care for more wine?

ESTHER

No thank you.

(DAMIÁN puts the wine bottle away.)

DAMIÁN

Do you know to whom priests go for confession?

ESTHER

Well, to other priests, I suppose. Or directly to God. Truthfully I don’t know.

DAMIÁN

Did you know that the Pope also makes confession?

ESTHER

Even the Pope?

DAMIÁN

Even the Pope. And yes, we always make confession to other priests.

ESTHER

Like masseurs. They go to other masseurs to get massages.

DAMIÁN

I didn’t know that.

(DAMIÁN exits.)

ESTHER

I know because my sister’s husband is a PT…

(Realizing that she is talking to herself, ESTHER falls silent.)

DAMIÁN

(Entering with a couple cushions for the bench where they will sit.)

Oh. How interesting.

(DAMIÁN takes off his jacket, revealing his shirt and clerical collar. He rolls up his sleeves.)

DAMIÁN

Esther, why do you think we signed the confidentiality clause?

ESTHER

I don’t know, but I’m dying to find out.

DAMIÁN

Well, we’ve signed it because from now on I want you to be like a confessor for me.

ESTHER

Me?

DAMIÁN

Symbolically speaking, I mean.

ESTHER

Yes, of course. I understand.

DAMIÁN

I want to be able to tell you everything and rest easy knowing that you aren’t going to be talking about it out there and, besides, you’re going to take my side.

ESTHER

The customer is the customer, that’s the way it is.

DAMIÁN

Exactly. The customer is always right.

ESTHER

So they say.

DAMIÁN

So, shall we talk now about the other clause? Let’s go over it together.

ESTHER

Of course.

DAMIÁN

In confidence. You’ll recall.

ESTHER

In absolute secrecy, Father.

DAMIÁN

Absolute secrecy. Like in spy movies.

(As a good businesswoman, ESTHER is going along with him.)

ESTHER

Like horror films.

DAMIÁN

No, not horror movies. Forget horror. Think mysteries.

ESTHER

Alright. Like mystery movies.

DAMIÁN

What I really love are movies about submarines.

(ESTHER is taken aback. She did not anticipate that the discussion of movies was going to be so long.)

DAMIÁN

How about you?

ESTHER

I like them too, yes.

DAMIÁN

The submarine is damaged under water. They can’t rise to the surface. They can’t communicate with anyone. Nobody knows they’re there. How I love those films!

ESTHER

They are a bit oppressive, aren’t they?

DAMIÁN

Not for me. Rather than oppressive, I consider them intimate movies.

ESTHER

That’s true too.

DAMIÁN

Did Don Valentín make confession to you, Esther?

ESTHER

Quite the contrary. I made confession to him.

DAMIÁN

What did you tell him?

ESTHER

To be truthful, very little. I’m not much into sinning.

DAMIÁN

That’s obvious.

(A long pause.)

ESTHER

If you like, let’s go over the clause we still have pending.

DAMIÁN

Yes, let’s.

ESTHER

So tell me.

DAMIÁN

(Rising, without looking at ESTHER)

I’ll tell you. I’d like sexual abuse of minors to be included in the policy as a workplace accident.

(ESTHER is stunned speechless. DAMIÁN stares into space.)

 

SCENE 3

(DAMIÁN is looking for something in file cabinet drawers. He finds a box cutter and carefully cuts the wrapping tape from a box on the chair. He opens it and takes out a little bag of holy communion wafers. Opening the bag, he spreads the wafers on a little tray. At that moment, ESTHER enters. She crosses the stage and disappears. DAMIÁN puts a couple of wafers in his mouth the way one might eat potato chips at a bar. ESTHER enters with a chair. DAMIÁN offers her a wafer.)

DAMIÁN

Care for one?

ESTHER

(Taken aback)

No thank you.

DAMIÁN

(Munching another wafer)

You’re saying no to the body of Christ, you know.

ESTHER

No. I’m saying no to you.

DAMIÁN

You’re not looking well, Esther.

ESTHER

I’m not sick. Just tired. Yesterday I had to rush off to Barcelona. To report your request to the board of directors.

DAMIÁN

Really? And what did they tell you?

ESTHER

What would you expect? They’re scandalized.

DAMIÁN

And you? Are you scandalized? The other day you didn’t say a word.

ESTHER

I said nothing because you left me speechless.

DAMIÁN

So it seems wrong to you, too.

ESTHER

Yes, it seems wrong.

DAMIÁN

So. And because it seems wrong to you I suppose you did not support me during that meeting of scandalized people in Barcelona.

ESTHER

Nobody can support what you propose. It’s indefensible

DAMIÁN

Why is it indefensible?

ESTHER

Because it’s immoral. The sexual abuse of minors is a crime.

DAMIÁN

I never said it wasn’t.

ESTHER

No. You didn’t say it wasn’t a crime. What you said is that sexual abuse of minors is a “workplace accident.” And as far as I know, accidents are not crimes. So sexual abuse can’t be both: accident and crime.

DAMIÁN

You’re mistaken, Esther. They are perfectly compatible. A crime can be committed by accident. It happens every day.

ESTHER

The truth is that I find it indecent that a priest should seriously be saying this. That indeed is a sin and nothing else.

DAMIÁN

I thought I was the priest here, not you.

ESTHER

That’s what I thought, too.

DAMIÁN

You’re being disrespectful, Esther. Get off your pedestal if you don’t want me to complain to your bosses in Barcelona. I’m your customer. And I’m always right. Remember that.

ESTHER

(Biting her tongue)

I didn’t mean to be disrespectful.

DAMIÁN

Well you have been. Don’t let it happen again.

ESTHER

Have there been abuses in the school?

DAMIÁN

(Long pause)

No. But just in case.

(DAMIÁN pours himself wine in the chalice. He drinks a sip and then munches another communion wafer while ESTHER watches in disgust.)

DAMIÁN

Esther, how did we meet?

ESTHER

What do you mean “how did we meet”?

DAMIÁN

We met at an accident.

ESTHER

What accident?

DAMIÁN

No sooner had we met than you threw the saint on the floor. You didn’t mean to throw it, but you threw it. It was an accident. If you had broken the saint, the Insurance would have had to pay.

ESTHER

That’s some comparison…

DAMIÁN

You think that’s funny. I’ll give you another example. When you take your car out on the highway, you can have an accident and kill someone. Killing someone is a crime. But at the same time, it can be an accident.

ESTHER

You’re splitting hairs.

DAMIÁN

No. Justice on one hand judges the crime, and on the other, Insurance covers the accident.

ESTHER

It’s not the same thing. A priest who abuses a child is not having an accident. What you’re saying makes no sense, Don Damián.

DAMIÁN

I don’t agree, Esther. If a priest commits sexual abuse in the workplace during school hours, it can be considered a workplace accident and Insurance will have to cover it.

ESTHER

That’s nonsense.

DAMIÁN

Why is it nonsense?

ESTHER

Because for abuse to be considered an accident, the priest would have to abuse his victim involuntarily, without meaning to. And abuse is always voluntary, that is, intentional.

DAMIÁN

You’re mistaken, my friend. A priest, when he commits abuse, doesn’t want to. The same as when you take out your car, you don’t mean to kill someone. Abuse occurs because at times the priest loses control of his will, just as the driver, at times, loses control of a vehicle.

ESTHER

What are you telling me?

DAMIÁN

I’m telling you that a priest who abuses a minor is not in command of himself. He’s a toy in the hands of an impulse much stronger than he is. He’s a sick man.

ESTHER

But how can he be a sick man? He’s a criminal. The proof is that priests who abuse minors don’t do it just once. They do it many times. You can’t have the same accident over and over. It ceases to be an accident and becomes…  a habit. How can that be an accident?

DAMIÁN

I’m willing to take you to court to prove it.

ESTHER

Do what you like. There’s no precedent that covers sexual abuse of minors. It’s impossible for you to win. And that’s my opinion—as a lawyer.

DAMIÁN

You’re a lawyer?

ESTHER

Yes, I’m a lawyer. I just have to take my bar exam. That’s why I’m not practicing law yet.

DAMIÁN

Well, if you’re a lawyer, you should be able to answer this question. You just said that there is no precedent for insurance covering sexual abuse of minors.

ESTHER

Yes, that’s what I said.

DAMIÁN

And what if there were? What would happen if there were a precedent, maybe not here but in some other European country or in America?

ESTHER

Well… I don’t know… if there were, we’d have to examine it. But I don’t believe there is. How could there be, Don Damián? It would turn the world upside down.

DAMIÁN

Perhaps we live in an upside down world. Without realizing it.

(DAMIÁN takes photocopies out of a folder and hands them to ESTHER. He retains a second set of the materials).

DAMIÁN

This is confidential.

(ESTHER begins to read the dossier, quite taken aback. DAMIÁN, glancing at his copy, gives her an oral summary.

As you see, in the year 2004 the Dutch Catholic Church asked their insurance company to include in their policy sexual abuse of minors as a workplace accident. The company refused. The Church sued and the Church won. The story is much longer, but to make it short, the Church only requested 58,000 euros for the abuse of a twelve-year-old girl, but they ended up paying a million euros. That was ten years ago.

(At the director’s discretion, number of years may be adjusted to the time of performance.)

(ESTHER is astonished.)

DAMIÁN

You wanted precedents? Now you have them.

 

SCENE 4

DAMIÁN

What you put here is the same as nothing…

ESTHER

(Entering with a chair)

Please… how can you say that? Putting that in is really something.

(DAMIÁN and ESTHER are talking at the same time, without listening to each other. Each of them is holding a copy of the modified policy. They pace back and forth constantly.)

DAMIÁN

Do you think I’m an idiot, Esther? Do you believe that priests only know things about the Bible, angels, and the Holy Spirit?

ESTHER

I neither believe nor disbelieve it.

DAMIÁN

What does “dependent on the particular case” mean? Do you know what “dependent on the particular case” means?

ESTHER

It means that each case will be examined to see if the abuse can be considered an accident or not. A minimal requirement!

DAMIÁN

Do me the favor of not treating me like an asshole. “Dependent on the particular case” means that you will be the ones to decide. And the decision should be made by the Church, the ones who are paying you. And the Church doesn’t want this piece of paper to say “dependent on the particular case.” The Church wants it to say: “in all cases.”

ESTHER

Each case is different.

DAMIÁN

No. Each case is different? No. All cases are the same case. Abuse of minors is a workplace accident. That’s what I want the policy to say. Not “dependent on the particular case.” And if it doesn’t, we’ll sue. You’ll see, Esther. Your insurance company will see!

ESTHER

Do you really think that all cases of sexual abuse of children are workplace accidents? Are you really telling me that? Because, pardon me, but I don’t get it.

DAMIÁN

What I think isn’t important. What matters is what has to go in the policy. We’re not talking about good and evil. Nor about you and me. Nor what you believe and what I believe. We’re talking about money.

ESTHER

I know we’re talking about money. Yes, I know that!

DAMIÁN

Besides, what are the criteria for deciding if a particular case of abuse is an accident or not? Because it says nothing about that here. Here it only says, “dependent on the particular case.”

ESTHER

It says nothing because the issue is still under study. This is only a draft.

DAMIÁN

In your opinion, what will the criteria be?

ESTHER

You know what I think. For me there is no discussion. Sexual abuse is sexual abuse.

DAMIÁN

So for you all cases are the same.

ESTHER

Yes!

DAMIÁN

But you just said they weren’t. That each case is different. That “dependent on the particular case,” it might be or it might not be.

ESTHER

Because each case is different, yes, but sexual abuse is sexual abuse. That’s it in essence.

DAMIÁN

You’re getting confused.

ESTHER

Yes… No, I’m not. A child who has been the victim of abuse once is different from a child who has been abused many times. It’s just that the underlying factor is the same: abuse.

DAMIÁN

Is that what you’re proposing to your bosses in Barcelona? That abuse is more or less an accident depending on how long it’s been going on?

ESTHER

It’s logical, Don Damián! It’s not the same thing when a boy has been the victim of rape for…!

DAMIÁN

Shut up! Of course it’s the same! It’s an accident!

ESTHER

It is not an accident!

(Long pause. DAMIÁN exits. ESTHER sits down at his table and drinks wine.)

DAMIÁN

(Entering with the watering can, he waters the plant.)

We’ll go to court and see who wins. I’m sure your bosses are going to be delighted with you.

(ESTHER remains silent.)

DAMIÁN

Has the company calculated how much it will cost them to lose us as customers?

ESTHER

Of course we’ve calculated that. That’s why we’re still talking. Why else?

DAMIÁN

What will cost more, continuing to have our account or add the clause I want? Shall I tell you which would cost more?

(ESTHER says nothing.)

DAMIÁN

Come on, Esther. What number did you come up with?

(ESTHER remains silent. She drinks some wine and, in disgust, takes some papers out of her briefcase.)

ESTHER

With twenty cases of abuse a year, supposing that each settlement would cost 100,000 euros, that would already be more than the two million euros that the Archdiocese pays us annually.

DAMIÁN

In other words, with fewer than twenty cases, our account continues being profitable.

ESTHER

Well, profitable… You could say that.

DAMIÁN

Especially because if we agree on this clause, the premium will shoot up, right?

ESTHER

That goes without saying.

DAMIÁN

How much?

ESTHER

Three hundred percent.

(DAMIÁN takes out a calculator and punches numbers. ESTHER watches him.)

DAMIÁN

I’d call that high handed.

ESTHER

It is what it is.

DAMIÁN

It’s too much. The most we can handle is an increase of 180 percent.

ESTHER

No way.

DAMIÁN

And then we can negotiate having the premium rise with each case of abuse, if there are any.

ESTHER

I doubt they’ll accept that. The calculations were done very carefully.

DAMIÁN

Esther, do you really believe that there will be more than twenty cases of abuse a year in the Archdiocese?

ESTHER

I hope not. I don’t know. How should I know?

DAMIÁN

How many cases have there been up to now?

ESTHER

As far as I know, none. But that’s not what bothers me.

DAMIÁN

What does bother you?

ESTHER

Even if there were only one case, Don Damián. It bothers me to think that I’m part of this agreement. It makes me want to vomit.

DAMIÁN

But what the hell is the matter with you? What vomit—or holy shit? You’re an insurance agent, not Mother Teresa! You’re going to earn a pile of dough just in the commission you get from my congregation!

ESTHER

Don’t be so cynical.

DAMIÁN

And you, don’t be so hypocritical! Go back to Barcelona and get me what I want. Period!

ESTHER

They’re not going to jump through hoops.

DAMIÁN

We’ll see whether or not they’ll jump.

ESTHER

With Father Valentín, this subject would never have come up.

DAMIÁN

Oh?

ESTHER

No.

DAMIÁN

You mean Don Valentín is better than I am.

ESTHER

I’m not saying that.

DAMIÁN

Then what are you saying?

ESTHER

I’m saying that for Father Valentín morality and principles are more important than money.

DAMIÁN

Is that so?

ESTHER

Yes,

DAMIÁN

Well, you should know that it’s because of Don Valentín that we’re discussing this topic.

ESTHER

What do you mean?

DAMIÁN

That Don Valentín is the one who got us into this mess. That he was the one accused of sexual abuse.

ESTHER

Yes… But… You told me that there had been no accusations, that we were doing all this just in case!

DAMIÁN

In case there are more.

ESTHER

How could you lie like that!

DAMIÁN

And how can you be such a crybaby? We have a problem, Esther, A big problem! You and I! Stop moaning like a soul in Purgatory and help me solve it. That’s your job!

ESTHER

Who was Don Valentín’s victim?

DAMIÁN

What difference does it make?

ESTHER

A boy or a girl?

DAMIÁN

A boy.

ESTHER

When?

DAMIÁN

It doesn’t matter when.

ESTHER

When?

DAMIÁN

Last year. What’s wrong, Esther? What does that have to do with anything?

ESTHER

What does that have to do with anything? It has to do with my son. He goes to this school. That’s what’s wrong!

 

SCENE 5

(ESTHER enters. She hangs up her coat and gets Damián’s bottle of wine. She pours a large amount in the chalice. She puts her hand in the box and takes out a wooden figure of Pinocchio. She also takes out a bag of communion wafers. She opens the bag, takes a handful of wafers and puts them in her mouth while she drinks. DAMIÁN enters.)

DAMIÁN

You didn’t come yesterday.

ESTHER

No. I was in Barcelona.

DAMIÁN

I was worried about you.

ESTHER

That figures.

(ESTHER finishes the wine in one swallow. She wipes her mouth on DAMIÁN’s white handkerchief and puts the box on the floor. She sits in that chair. She opens her briefcase and takes out a folder.)

DAMIÁN

Did you talk with your son?

ESTHER

Yes.

DAMIÁN

And?

ESTHER

Nothing. According to him.

DAMIÁN

I’m glad.

ESTHER

So am I.

DAMIÁN

I asked the headmaster about him. He’s a very bright boy.

ESTHER

That’s true.

DAMIÁN

Esther, wouldn’t it be better if someone else handled this matter?

ESTHER

Why?

DAMIÁN

I don’t know. It seems logical to me that having your son here you’d prefer not to be involved.

ESTHER

Yah, but I can’t help being involved. I’ve been handling policies for the Archdiocese for twelve years. It’s my job. Besides my son has not been the victim of sexual abuse, fortunately, and he leaves here after this year, also fortunately. So there’s really no problem.

DAMIÁN

If you say so, then there’s not a problem.

ESTHER

None.

DAMIÁN

Your son doesn’t know more than he should?

ESTHER

No, no need for you to worry.

DAMIÁN

Good. I won’t. Now, let’s see what they said in Barcelona. Have they jumped through hoops?

ESTHER

(Handing a photocopy to DAMIÁN)

Indeed they’ve jumped through hoops. Sexual abuse of minors is considered a workplace accident provided it occurs during work hours at the work location and during the regular school year, that is, between September and June. The premium will increase 200 percent annually and, if there are more than fifteen cases of abuse in a given year, starting with the sixteenth case, the Archdiocese will pay half of any compensation. If there are twenty or more cases of abuse annually and total compensation is more than two million euros, the insurer is no longer responsible for such fines. The Church will pay one hundred percent of the expenses.

(DAMIÁN takes out his calculator and enters numbers to ESTHER’s indifferent gaze.)

DAMIÁN

How much will the premium go up for each accusation?

ESTHER

The increase will be fifteen percent for each incident of abuse in the first fifteen cases and seven percent, starting with the sixteenth case, but keeping in mind that the Church will pay half of any settlements.

DAMIÁN

That’s assuming 100,000 euros for each compensation.

ESTHER

Precisely. A hundred thousand euros per case of abuse.

DAMIÁN

That means we speak of an increase of 250 thousand euros a year if there were twenty cases.

ESTHER

More or less. Yes. A quarter million.

DAMIÁN

That’s a lot.

ESTHER

It’s what’s fair. You won’t find a better offer. Even if you take us to court. I’ll cover fifteen cases of abuse annually plus half of an additional five cases. That’s one million, seven hundred and fifty thousand euros. It’s somewhat more than what other insurance companies in Europe and the United States are offering.

DAMIÁN

I see that you’ve done your homework.

ESTHER

What choice did I have?

DAMIÁN

There’s just one thing that doesn’t come out right.

ESTHER

Tell me what it is and we’ll discuss it.

DAMIÁN

The policy covers the school year, between September and June.

ESTHER

That’s it.

DAMIÁN

I need it to cover the calendar year. From January to December.

ESTHER

Why’s that?

DAMIÁN

That’s because the school organizes summer camps in July and August. I can’t run the risk of having those months uncovered.

ESTHER

Ah yes. My son always goes to those camps.

DAMIÁN

I should think so. They’ve been very successful.

ESTHER

July and August. Two more months.

DAMIÁN

The whole year. Without having the insurance increase even one euro.

ESTHER

I doubt they would authorize me to do that. I’d have to go to Barcelona again and discuss it with the board of directors.

DAMIÁN

Do what you have to. But let me tell you that without July and August, there’s no agreement. And don’t forget, that’s without raising the premium.

ESTHER

You made that clear. Don’t worry.

DAMIÁN

I’m pleased we’re finally going to score a goal, Esther.

ESTHER

I’m pleased that you’re pleased. One question, before I go. Where is Don Valentín?

DAMIÁN

We sent him to a monastery.

ESTHER

He’s not going to prison?

DAMIÁN

Not if we sign this policy.

ESTHER

What do you mean, not if we sign this policy?

DAMIÁN

We’ve reached a private agreement with the family, that if we sign the policy, they will withdraw their accusation and accept 100,000 euros from the insurance company. They don’t want to make the matter public either. That would be stigmatize the family and the child.

ESTHER

And if we don’t sign?

DAMIÁN

If after all, we don’t reach an agreement and sign, I’ll sue the insurance company, and you know we’ll win. It’s nothing personal. Besides, that’s why insurance exists. To make money off other people’s misfortunes.

ESTHER

That’s true. And this child’s “accident”? In what month did it happen?

DAMIÁN

August.

ESTHER

August. Of course. At one of the camps.

DAMIÁN

Unfortunately.

ESTHER

Unfortunately, of course. I’ll see you day after tomorrow.

DAMIÁN

Esther, wait. I really don’t have anything against you. I like you. Why can’t we try to get along better?

ESTHER

What would you have done if you were that child’s father?

DAMIÁN

I don’t know. I don’t have children.

ESTHER

What I don’t understand is why Don Valentín didn’t go to prison.

DAMIÁN

Neither do I. But that’s the way the Church is. It has its good points and its bad points. Like any institution. (Beat) Are we friends?

 

SCENE 6

(DAMIÁN is working at the laptop. ESTHER enters.)

DAMIÁN

Esther, can you help me with this?

ESTHER

What are you doing?

DAMIÁN

I’m trying to buy tickets for the Atlético-Juventus soccer match, but the webpage won’t let me.

ESTHER

Are you an Atlético fan?

DAMIÁN

No way. I’m for Juve. As the Italians say, “Vincere non é importante, é l’unica cosa che conta.” Winning isn’t the important thing; it’s the only thing.

ESTHER

Nice slogan. It suits you to a T.

DAMIÁN

Terrific!

ESTHER

Let’s see. “Schedule.” “How to purchase tickets .” “Additional information.” And here, “Admission Tickets.” Let’s see:  “Platinum VIP,” “Category 1”…

DAMIÁN

“Category 1”! Where are the tickets for “Category 1”?

ESTHER

Here On this menu.

DAMIÁN

Well, go there. What team are you for?

ESTHER

I’m for Atlético.

DAMIÁN

For Atlético? You’re in jest?

ESTHER

No, in red and white stripes, like the team.

DAMIÁN

Shall I get you a ticket and we’ll go together?

ESTHER

For real?

DAMIÁN

Of course for real. Put in for two tickets.

ESTHER

Thank you!

DAMIÁN

And I thank you.

ESTHER

Do you have your credit card handy?

DAMIÁN

(Taking out his card)

Right here.

ESTHER

Are you sure you want to invite me?  It’s a lot of money.

DAMIÁN

I’m not inviting you. The Church is. As a reward for your patience with me.

(ESTHER enters his card number and completes the purchase.)

DAMIÁN

That’s that. You take care of the sandwiches and I’ve taken care of the tickets.

ESTHER

Consider it done.

DAMIÁN

Good. And what did they tell you in Barcelona? Are they including July and August or are we going to court where I’ll win?

ESTHER

They’re adding July and August for you. No need to go to court. But in exchange they want to add another little paragraph.

DAMIÁN

A little paragraph. Little paragraphs scare me. Let’s see what little paragraph they have in mind.

ESTHER

Well, a little paragraph that says whenever a monetary agreement is reached with a family because of sexual abuse, if the priest who committed the particular act of abuse is not reported to the police, like in the case of Don Valentín, the insurance will not cover possible future acts of abuse that he might commit, only past abuses.

DAMIÁN

Only past abuses.

ESTHER

You understand, Don Damián, that Don Valentín should be put in prison. If you make an under the table deal with the family and Don Valentín can wander about freely, we can’t be responsible if he abuses some other child. Knowing that he has done it before.

DAMIÁN

But Don Valentín isn’t going to abuse anyone again.

ESTHER

We have no way of knowing that.

DAMIÁN

Yes, we can know, Esther. Don Valentín has been removed from teaching. He’s been put in a Monastery, away from the world.

ESTHER

Yah. For how long?

DAMIÁN

For how long? I don’t know. Until he has reformed. Forever.

ESTHER

Which is it? Until he has reformed or forever?

DAMIÁN

It’s the same thing. What difference does it make to you if it’s until he has reformed or forever. The result is the same. He’s not going to repeat what he’s done.

ESTHER

Well, if that’s the way it is, what difference does it make to sign the policy with the little paragraph? If you’re sure that he’ll not touch another child. We’ll give you July and August without raising the premium even one euro, and you give us the peace of mind that if any priests are running around loose, we don’t have to concern ourselves with them.

DAMIÁN

It’s amazing how pigheaded you are, Esther.

ESTHER

No. Not pigheaded.

DAMIÁN

Not pigheaded? Oh, yes you are. And to boot I’ve just invited you to a soccer game that’s costing me a lot of dough.

ESTHER

Not you. The Church.

DAMIÁN

I am the Church, Esther. Don’t get funny with me or I’ll return your ticket in a flash.

ESTHER

You can do what you want with my ticket, Don Damián. But let’s not mix soccer and the Church. That’s all we need.

DAMIÁN

Let’s not mix business and pleasure, is that it? That’s what you’re saying.

ESTHER

That’s the theory. And that should also be the practice.

DAMIÁN

Otherwise, tell that to Don Valentín, right? If he hadn’t mixed what he shouldn’t have mixed, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

ESTHER

At heart, you and I think alike.

DAMIÁN

Don’t you believe it. If we weren’t in this mess, we’d be in some other one. We are all sinners, Esther.

ESTHER

Well, we are all sinners, yes, but we should try to sin as little as possible. Or do the least possible harm to others, given that we are all going to sin.

DAMIÁN

Do you know that you would have been a very good priest?

ESTHER

Me?

DAMIÁN

Yes, if you had been born a man. What a shame you’re a long-suffering Atlético fan.

(ESTHER exits and returns with the watering can.)

The really good priests, like me, are all for Italian teams.

ESTHER

(Watering the rubber plant)

I don’t go for Italian teams. They’re revolting.

DAMIÁN

Say what you will, we’ve won four World Cups.

ESTHER

Winning isn’t everything.

DAMIÁN

Yes, it is, Esther. Do you believe in God?

ESTHER

I do. And until recently I also believed in the Church.

DAMIÁN

I’m not asking you about the Church. I’m asking you about God.

ESTHER

I answered about God. I believe in God.

DAMIÁN

Shall I tell you why you believe in God?

ESTHER

You don’t have to tell me. I already know why I believe in God.

DAMIÁN

Why do you believe in God?

ESTHER

I believe in God because… it makes me feel secure.

DAMIÁN

Precisely. You’re saying I’m right, Esther. You believe in God because it makes you feel secure. God is like you, an insurance agent. You sign a policy with him when you’re baptized. You renew it at your communion. You increase it when you get married and, if there haven’t been lots of reports against you during all that time, God gives you the policy when you die. He gives it to you, for free, forever. You believe in God because he assures you how the game will end, Esther. You believe in God because by being on God’s team you win. Winning is everything. God is winning.

ESTHER

(After a moment of silence)

Sometimes, in order to win, you have to let yourself lose a little.

DAMIÁN

Sometimes, yes. That’s why I’m going to let you put that little paragraph in the policy. Render unto God what is God’s.

(DAMIÁN offers his hand to ESTHER and they shake.)

ESTHER

And to Cesar what is Cesar’s.

DAMIÁN

We’ll sign when we get ready to go to the game, if that’s okay with you.

ESTHER

Okay.

DAMIÁN

You’re going to take a shellacking, you know.

ESTHER

We’ll see about that.

 

SCENE 7

(DAMIÁN enters, putting on a black and white Juventus neck scarf as if it were a priest’s stole. He sits down at the computer to read the revised insurance policy and prepares to sign on-line. Enter ESTHER, wearing red and white for Atlético. She is carrying a tray of ham sandwiches.)

ESTHER

Shall I put oil on the bread?

DAMIÁN

Yes.

ESTHER

And cheese?

DAMIÁN

No cheese. I don’t like cheese.

ESTHER

Sliced tomatoes alright?

DAMIÁN

Esther, please be quiet a minute so I can concentrate. Make mine the same as yours but without cheese.

ESTHER

Okay.

DAMIÁN

Pour me a bit of wine in the meantime.

ESTHER

Fine. I’ll make that two.

(ESTHER pours wine in the chalice for DAMIÁN and in a plastic cup for herself. She puts communion wafers and pieces of ham on a golden plate. They both snack in silence while he reads and she finishes making the sandwiches.)

ESTHER

It will be better to buy the beer there to have it chilled.

DAMIÁN

Perfect.

ESTHER

So it is, right?

DAMIÁN

No. Yes. I mean the policy. It’s perfect.

ESTHER

Look it over again, if you like. We have time.

DAMIÁN

That won’t be necessary. I’ve already seen it twice. What do you think?

ESTHER

Well, sign it and we’ll go to the game.

DAMIÁN

(Moving the mouse to sign)

Right. We’ll see how you lose. Who would have thought, a month ago, that we were going to sign this as such good friends?

(ESTHER remains silent while watching how DAMIÁN signs.

ESTHER

Have you talked to the child’s family yet about the policy?

DAMIÁN

Yes, of course. By the way, you’ll have to get the money ready.

ESTHER

You’ll have the check tomorrow. Have there been any other accusations?

(DAMIÁN stops short. He thinks about it for a moment.)

DAMIÁN

No. Not that I know of.

ESTHER

That’s good.

DAMIÁN

At any rate, if there is some other accusation, you’ll be the first to know. You’re the one who pays.

ESTHER

I don’t. The company does.

DAMIÁN

Well, the company then. It’s all the same to me.

ESTHER

The last page of the pdf file is in triplicate and then you have to sign.

DAMIÁN

I have to fill out the information three times?

ESTHER

Three times. Yes.

DAMIÁN

Like the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

ESTHER

The very same.

(DAMIÁN starts filling out the last three pages but stops a moment before signing.)

DAMIÁN

And this asterisk?

ESTHER

What asterisk?

DAMIÁN

This asterisk. The one by my name.

ESTHER

(Looking at the screen)

Let me see. (Beat.) It’s not by your name. It’s next to the policyholder.

DAMIÁN

Yes. But I’m the policyholder. The one who’s signing.

ESTHER

But it’s not an asterisk specifically referring to you. It’s a standard asterisk for a contract.

DAMIÁN

Alright. Whatever. But where is the explanation for the asterisk?

ESTHER

It has to be somewhere below. Or in a link. I don’t know.

DAMIÁN

Well, find it or I won’t sign.

ESTHER

Let’s see. I’m going to look over the other pages.

(ESTHER reviews other pages in the policy.)

DAMIÁN

You’re not trying to deceive me, are you?

ESTHER

God forbid, Father.

DAMIÁN

I’m asking where is the fine print.

ESTHER

The fine print, if you’ll pardon my saying so, is what you slid in.

DAMIÁN

Kicking the ball out of bounds won’t help. You’re going to lose the game anyway.

ESTHER

We’ll see about that. Juventus isn’t what it used to be. But I’m not finding it.

DAMIÁN

Well if you don’t find it, you’re not going anywhere. You look for it. But I’m going to the game. You’ll see.

ESTHER

Wait. I’ll call the office. (She calls) Marta? Is Jordi there? Oh, he’s gone already. Well, maybe you can answer a question I have. On the last page of our policies, in the pdf on-line version, where it has “policy holder,” there’s an asterisk. Yes, Where is the fine print for the asterisk? Oh. And what does it say? Okay. Yes, yes. Of course. No, it’s just that there’s no link or anything, and if you aren’t careful, you might not even see it. And that’s bad. Tell Jordi, so they can fix it. Right. Well, many thanks my friend. See you tomorrow.(She hangs up.) It’s in the tab for General Contract Terms.

DAMIÁN

See how you were trying to deceive me?

ESTHER

Anyone can have an accident, Don Damián. (Pause) Click here.

DAMIÁN

Let’s see what the asterisk says. “The policy holder, who represents himself or the enterprise, organization or institution for which he has power of attorney, accepts the general conditions and privacy statement of the insurer.” Very good. And you are pleased about that. What are the general conditions and privacy statement of the enterprise?

ESTHER

Oh, what do I know. You’re so suspicious, Father. They must be the standard conditions. To comply with the law for protecting information and all that, and that we’ve had to follow for many years. You signed it as well when you asked for the confidentiality clause and didn’t realize it.

DAMIÁN

Well, I realize it now.

ESTHER

What we don’t have to put up with. Let’s see what Marta says now.

(ESTHER calls and lets it ring a long time.)

ESTHER

She isn’t picking up. It’s after work hours. Let’s check on the webpage to see if it’s there.

(ESTHER sits in front of the computer and begins to navigate the web.

DAMIÁN looks anxiously at his watch.)

ESTHER

Let’s see. About Us. Products. Blog. Customer Service. Employment Opportunities.

DAMIÁN

Forget it.

ESTHER

What?

DAMIÁN

Come on, forget it. We’re going to be late. I’ll take it on faith. Only because it’s you.

ESTHER

It’s no problem for me to look it up, really.

DAMIÁN

Sure. It’s no problem for you but you can’t find it. You’re more inept than I am with these things.

ESTHER

Here’s something we can do. Tomorrow I’ll bring you a paper copy of the general conditions and we’ll sign everything in ballpoint. We’ll forget the internet.

DAMIÁN

And the check?

ESTHER

The check will have to be next week.

DAMIÁN

Next week!

ESTHER

That’s the bad part about doing it on paper. The insurer has to return a signed copy. The good thing about the internet is that it’s instantaneous.

DAMIÁN

(After thinking a moment)

Next week is very late. I want the check tomorrow. I can’t risk having the child’s family change their mind.

ESTHER

I’ll do whatever you say, Don Damián.

DAMIÁN

It’s the damned internet. Let’s see, where do I have to click?

ESTHER

First here, in each one of the three blocks. And then in this tab, under “General Conditions.”

DAMIÁN

Let’s see if we finally get it.

ESTHER

Then in this tab.

(DAMIÁN signs under ESTHER’s watchful eye.)

DAMIÁN

That’s that. Done. What God has signed, let no man put asunder. Don’t forget the check tomorrow. Come on, let’s zoom off to the game.

(ESTHER, grinning from ear to ear, picks up the sandwiches).

ESTHER

Just a minute.

(DAMIÁN exits. ESTHER crosses to the table, picks up the chalice and drops it, indifferently, into the wastebasket.)

 

SCENE 8

(DAMIÁN is searching for something in the study. He seems annoyed. ESTHER enters.)

DAMIÁN

I can’t find the chalice anywhere.

(ESTHER smiles and says nothing.)

DAMIÁN

The damned kids. One of those little monsters must have taken it. If it doesn’t show up today, I’ll mount an offensive in the school that will make them pee in their pants.

(DAMIÁN, giving up, stops looking. ESTHER listens in silence.)

DAMIÁN

So, have you recovered from the rout?

ESTHER

Well, we still have the return match.

DAMIÁN

Hope is what losers lose last.

ESTHER

Uhhhhh! That’s a new saying.

DAMIÁN

Did you bring me the money?

ESTHER

Yes.

DAMIÁN

Fantastic.

ESTHER

But there’s one little thing we have to look at first.

DAMIÁN

A little thing? Beginning with what letter?

ESTHER

It’s nothing. It’s the matter from the other day. You signed accepting the general conditions. The asterisk, you know.

DAMIÁN

No hitting below the belt, Esther.

ESTHER

There’s already been enough of that, don’t you think?

DAMIÁN

I do. So show me “the little thing.”

(ESTHER takes out two folders. She hands one to DAMIÁN and keeps the other.)

ESTHER

This is what you signed yesterday on-line. I’m bringing you a hard copy because I know you prefer paper. Review it carefully.

DAMIÁN

Let’s see…

(DAMIÁN puts on his glasses and begins to read.)

ESTHER

How is the boy that Don Valentín abused?

(DAMIÁN looks up from the papers, surprised.)

DAMIÁN

The child’s okay. And he’ll be better when we give his family the money.

(DAMIÁN reads the document, murmuring some of the paragraphs aloud. ESTHER walks around the room. DAMIÁN finishes and takes off his glasses.)

DAMIÁN

Fine. I don’t see anything odd here. Everything is in order.

ESTHER

Did you look on the reverse side? It continues there.

DAMIÁN

(Pissed off)

Oh, it continues on the reverse side.

(DAMIÁN turns the sheet over, puts his glasses back on, and reads.)

DAMIÁN

What do we have here. “Exclusions of exceptional nature.” And they are… “In addition to exclusions described in the policy are those cited in the following sections:

(DAMIÁN reads in a whisper. Suddenly he stops, in alarm. He reads further in silence. Then, disturbed, he gets up.)

DAMIÁN

I don’t understand section 2.

ESTHER

(Reading her copy)

Section 2. Let’s see. Well. Basically here it says that the policyholder, that is, you, affirms that he has no criminal record or open cases in the justice system. It’s very clear. If there is a violation of this section, the Church will have to pay for abuses, not the insurer. Moreover we would no longer be subject to confidentiality.

(DAMIÁN is silent a moment, his jaws clenched.)

ESTHER

Is something wrong?

DAMIÁN

No. What could be wrong?

ESTHER

Then, what’s the matter?

DAMIÁN

What matters is that this document has no validity if I don’t sign it.

ESTHER

But you signed it.

DAMIÁN

No way. I have not signed this, I’m sure. I’d remember this section.

ESTHER

By accepting the general conditions it’s as if you signed it. From a legal point of view, it is the same.

DAMIÁN

(Exiting)

The lawyer speaks…

ESTHER

Look, I told you yesterday that we could wait.

DAMIÁN

(Entering with the watering can, which he does not use)

Are you making fun of me, Esther?

ESTHER

No, Damián. But what’s wrong? If you don’t have a criminal record, there’s no problem.

DAMIÁN

And if I had one?

ESTHER

Then the policy you signed is not valid.

DAMIÁN

(Stunned speechless, he sets the watering can down on the bench.)

Esther, what have you done?

ESTHER

What have I done? I haven’t done anything.

DAMIÁN

What have you done!

ESTHER

Let me repeat. I’ve done nothing.

DAMIÁN

We’ll have to sign the policy again, without this section.

ESTHER

That’s impossible, Damián.

DAMIÁN

Nothing is impossible, Esther.

ESTHER

I’m sorry, but the General Conditions of policies cannot be changed. That indeed is impossible.

DAMIÁN

Well, I’m going to prove that you deceived me.

ESTHER

How are you going to prove that, Damián? You signed the policy. In triplicate. With your electronic signature. From your computer. With me as a witness.

(DAMIÁN remains silent, thinking. Then he realizes something.)

DAMIÁN

Precisely. I can say that you got me entangled with the computer. I can say it was the first time I did this and I didn’t know what I was signing.

ESTHER

But that’s not true. We have the other policy you signed previously. The confidentiality clause. We have a precedent. As you do with sexual abuse.

DAMIÁN

You think you can win with this bullshit about a digital signature? You have no idea.

ESTHER

I don’t know what you’re talking about, Father.

DAMIÁN

Besides, I have that girl as a witness. The one you called, Marta. She’ll say that we spoke to her because I wasn’t sure of what I was signing.

ESTHER

That’s true. If I’d called someone. But I didn’t call anyone.

DAMIÁN

(Stunned)

You’re a lying bitch.

ESTHER

What’s wrong? You don’t have to worry. You’re clean. You don’t have a criminal record. Or do you?

(DAMIÁN bangs the table and raises his fist at ESTHER.)

ESTHER

Are you going to hit me?

DAMIÁN

Go away.

(ESTHER starts to leave. DAMIÁN stops her.

DAMIÁN

(Defeated)

How did you find out?

ESTHER

Don Valentín.

DAMIÁN

Don Valentín?

ESTHER

Don Valentín was my friend. It wasn’t that hard to find him.

DAMIÁN

I’m not like Don Valentín!

ESTHER

So it wasn’t you who abused a seven-year-old boy at a summer camp in the Canary Islands?

DAMIÁN

That was more than fifteen years ago.

ESTHER

The story is much longer, but to make it short, the District Attorney couldn’t prove anything without the child’s testimony and you were acquitted. Not guilty. Tell me, with your hand over your heart, what happened between you and that little boy was an accident?

DAMIÁN

Be quiet, Esther. Please!

ESTHER

No, I won’t be quiet. We’ve had enough of being quiet!

(DAMIÁN listens in silence, ashamed.)

DAMIÁN

I’ve paid for my sins. God has forgiven me.

ESTHER

He’s forgiven you? A pedophile who keeps other pedophiles from going to jail. With money. Not for principle. Not for love, as God says. But with money.

(ESTHER shows DAMIÁN the check.)

DAMIÁN

Be quiet.

(Silence)

DAMIÁN

I haven’t touched a child since the incident in the Canary Islands. I’m not an abuser.

ESTHER

I don’t believe that. But it doesn’t matter to me. Even if you never abused anyone, what you’re doing… is wrong. Wrong! It’s bad. And it can’t be permitted. We can’t permit it!

(ESTHER beats DAMIÁN on the chest. Then silence)

ESTHER

Did you know that the child Don Valentín abused is my son’s friend?

DAMIÁN

I found out later.

ESTHER

Later. I found out about your “workplace accident” later too. That’s what happens with truth. Sooner or later you find out. By the way, your money.

(ESTHER takes out the check and tears it up.)

ESTHER

If the family wants money, you can pay it. I for one wash my hands.

DAMIÁN

I’ll take you to court, Esther.

ESTHER

No you won’t, Damián. You will not take me to court. You know why? Because you’ve lost. And you know it. And you can’t bear it.

DAMIÁN

You’re a dreamer. Okay, maybe, it’s true this year you’ve got your way and you won’t pay for abuses. But what about next year? Next year we’ll renew the policy. And I won’t be here; it will be someone else. And one way or another you’re going to jump through hoops. Because sooner or later you’ll jump.

ESTHER

We’ll see about that.

DAMIÁN

No. We won’t see about that. But others will see. Don’t think that you’re going to keep working for the insurance company. I’ll make sure of that. You’ll be out in the street.

ESTHER

That’s not necessary, Damián. I’m quitting Ibéritas.

(DAMIÁN is speechless. ESTHER throws the little pieces of the check on the floor.)

ESTHER

Sometimes you don’t have to jump through the hoop. Hooray for Atlético…

(ESTHER starts to leave but stops in the doorway She points at the wastebasket.)

ESTHER

I forgot. The chalice is in the garbage.

(ESTHER exits. DAMIÁN slowly retrieves the chalice, cleans it off, and pours himself some wine. We hear the school bell and the sound of children going out to recess. DAMIÁN munches a communion wafer while he finishes the wine.)

THE END

© 2014 Copyright by Antonio Muñoz De Mesa and Phyllis Zatlin. This work is fully protected under international copyright laws and is subject to a royalty. Contact author through Sociedad General de Autores y Editores (E-mail:sborjasp@sgae.es), or author (demesa@gmail.com) or translator (pzatlin@hotmail.com).

 

One thought on “Policy

  1. Pingback: Editor’s Note 5.3 | The Mercurian

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