Author: editor

In the Sistine Chapel…every great photograph has a story behind it.

In the Sistine Chapel
by
Michael Miller
©2017 all rights reserved

CHARACTERS

THE PRESIDENT Character description.
MELANIA
POPE FRANCIS
A MYSTERIOUS PRELATE
PHOTOGRAPHER

SETTING

The Vatican Palace, May 24, 2017.

Scene 1 The Sala Regia
Scene 2 The Sistine Chapel.

SCENE 1

(Pope Francis, the stiff, awkward meeting over, is hastily taking leave of the Trump party.)

THE PRESIDENT

Don’t forget it, Pope, I really like you. You’re a simple man like me. And I sure do like the beautiful walls you have around this place.

POPE FRANCIS

(Poker-faced, distracted, his mind already on the next item in his agenda.)

THE PRESIDENT

(Smiling fatuously and leaning over close to the Pope, speaking low into his ear.)

I wonder if you could do a little thing for me, friend…

POPE FRANCIS

(Looking away, disgusted, and eager to move on, but turns quickly to the President and speaks.)

I’m very sorry, Mr. Preeident, there is a delegation from Somalia waiting.

THE PRESIDENT

Hm?

POPE FRANCIS

Somalia.

THE PRESIDENT

That rings a bell. Somehow. Rings a bell.

MELANIA

(Leaves a group of Vatican officials trying to lead her through a large double door. Four photographers, dressed in immaculate black suits, white shirts, and black ties, Nikons around their necks, wait, impassively by the door. Approaches the President and the Pope.)

They are waiting for us. It is time to go.

THE PRESIDENT

Go ‘way. He’s telling me about some alley in the walls. Could be a security breach!

MELANIA

The photographers are waiting for us, Donald.

THE PRESIDENT

Photographers? Why didn’t you say so?

(Immediately turns his back on Pope Francis and strides towards the group by the door. Turns to Melania on his way.)

You gonna behave yourself this time?

(MELANIA)

(Under her breath)

Ugh!

(Turns furtively to Pope Francis, approaches him.)

Holy Father, could you please bless this rosary and this medal for me?

POPE FRANCIS

Yes, of course, my dear. Is it your patron saint? Who is it?

(He looks down into the palm of her hand.)

But it is not St. Melanie, It is St. Julian?! Why? Are you praying for a murderer?

MELANIA

Not for him.

(Hastily make the sign of the Cross over her open palm, muttering under his breath.)

In nomine Patria et Filii et Spiritus Sancti…

MELANIA

(Curtsies and turns to join the President and the photographers.)

(The door opens to the Sistine Chapel, and they are led into it.)

SCENE 2

(In the Sistine Chapel)

(The officials lead the presidential couple into the chapel.)

THE PRESIDENT

(Muttering to himself)

“Some alley in the walls…some alley in the walls…there’s a security breach. Those walls look better than they are. Gotta remember that. Wall can never be strong enough, never have a gap in it. Too late for me to talk about that. They’ll have to figure it out for themselves, if they can, those poor dumb dagoes.

MELANIA

(Melania suddenly notices that she is in a church and begins to fuss with her veil. No satisfied, she reaches into her handbag for a pocket mirror and studies her head from three angles as she adjusts the veil.)

THE PRESIDENT

(Began to march ahead, but stopped, glaring at his wife in irritation.)

MYSTERIOUS PRELATE

(A man wearing a Cardinal’s surplice and biretta quietly approaches The President. He has a tiny, downwards-pointing triangular  tuft of hair on his chin. His mouth seems fixed in a menacing triangular smile going in the opposite direction.))

I know what you want, and I can obtain it for you. Let me handle it.

THE PRESIDENT

I know you. I remember you from the last time—just a few months ago. Then years ago…when you introduced me to that Russian…(dreamily) my first Russian…What are you doing here?

MYSTERIOUS PRELATE

I am an occasional, but loyal visitor to the Holy See. And you need help, don’t you?

MELANIA

(She has finished primping and walks over to her husband, more in curiosity about the strange prelate than a desire to continue the ceremonial visit. As she joins the two, the prelate stares sharply into her eyes, smiling all the while. At close quarters with him, she is deeply disturbed. She takes her husband by the arm and leads him aside.)

Donald, you must go away from that man at once. He has a terrible odor. Don’t you smell it? He smells like you, when you…of sulfur and…govno

THE PRESIDENT

(Smiles condescendingly and leads her down the center of the chapel towards the photographers, who wait impassively. As they turn towards the altar, he smiles and winks at the prelate.)

MELANIA

The smell won’t go away! Now it’s coming from you! Nothing good is about to happen!

THE PRESIDENT

We are going to pose for our photograph here in this big church, and you are going to behave. Then, I hope, we’re going to lunch. I’m hungry! By the way, you don’t smell so good yourself.

(They photographers spring into action and position the couple side by side about two-thirds of the way towards the altar. With extreme, possibly sarcastic politeness, they position them with their hands, as if they were sculpting them from clay. They take special care to position their heads in relation to the figure of the damning Christ on the Last Judgement.)

PHOTOGRAPHER

(Kneeling behind them with camera in hand)

Now please take the signora’s hand.

THE PRESIDENT

(Reaches for Melania’s hand with alacrity, but she pushes it away. He turns backwards towards the Prelate, but he has disappeared.)

PHOTOGRAPHER

Very well, Signora. I understand. Please just relax your hand and let him put his fingers around it..just a part of it, just long enough for us to do our work…for me, Signora…Eccoci! Not so bad is it? No?! We’ll be very fast. We are professionals, no? Then it’s a job for Photoshop. You may not like the hand I give you. All right. Thank you.

(He returns to his kneeling vantage point behind them. The other photographers shoot from other angles.)

PHOTOGRAPHER

The Holy Father devised this composition himself. He called us to the Sistina, and he explained it to us himself. He wanted Michelangelo’s great picture of Jesus Christ right between your heads.

Done! Thank you so much Mr. and Mrs. President. Allow me to say that you are a very handsome couple. You will cut a fine figure on Judgment Day.

MELANIA

(Pulls her hand away rapidly and rubs it to relax her muscles and wipe it clean. The prelate reappears to guide them over to the rest of their party.)

THE PRESIDENT

A lot of good you were!

MYSTERIOUS PRELATE

You don’t know what I was up against, or maybe you do. And who says Photoshop isn’t my work? And we didn’t even have to use it. Some of my best helpers are photographers.

Watch out! She looks like a poisoner to me! I know them well.

THE PRESIDENT

(To Melania)

I hope I get a decent steak this time. They don’t know how to make them here. Thin as cardboard, and you can’t get one without a goddam bone in it. And they can’t cook it through. Last night the pink stuff was oozing out of it. I hate the sight of blood!

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