Give Us Good


The Characters

TOM… a man with a monster

AMELIA… his love

Nebuchadnezzar, or NEZZAR… a grave digger

Second Chronicles, or RONNI… his sister, or so she says

Samantha Basil, or SAMBAI… the Monster Eater

JEBEDIAH… a young wood cutter

The Setting

A Dark Swamp, once upon a time. Specifically, the Cemetery of the Ascendant Dead, and a clearing somewhere else.



indicates overlapping speech.

indicates the scoring of silence.


The Cemetery of the Ascendant Dead.

A gravedigger, NEZZAR, and his sister, RONNI, have just finished digging a grave. He is everything you have ever secretly hoped a gravedigger/undertaker might be. Spooky, brooding, dashing. He wears a top hat and a frockcoat. She is just as you imagine he would be if he were a she. They are- in a word- fabulous. But probably you wouldn’t wish to meet them in a graveyard at night.

RONNI: What happens when there’s no more graves to dig?

NEZZAR: It couldn’t happen.

RONNI: It could happen.

NEZZAR: It couldn’t happen.

RONNI: It could happen.

NEZZAR: How, based in reality, could that happen?

RONNI: I don’t know.

NEZZAR: Because it couldn’t happen.

RONNI: Apocalyptic plague.

NEZZAR: That’s thousands of graves.

RONNI: But after.

NEZZAR: I said based in reality.

RONNI: Second coming of the Lord.

NEZZAR: The second coming of the Lord?

RONNI: You said based in reality. That’s based in reality. Sort of.

NEZZAR: What happens when the Lord comes secondly?

RONNI: All the bodies rise up out of their graves. We dig graves. If everyone rises up out of their graves, no more grave digging.

NEZZAR: You say these insane things, and then you wonder why I never talk to you.

RONNI: In the event of the Second Coming of our Lord, we’re out of a job.

NEZZAR: In the event of the Second Coming of our Lord, all of the empty graves will be collapsed, or sunken. And who, dear baby sister, will the good Christians employ to fill in all those graves with earth, so they don’t trip and break their rotten necks?



RONNI: What about me?

NEZZAR: Only if you’re very, very good. So you see, based in reality, we’ll never be out of a job.

RONNI: Are you sure?


RONNI: Are you sure, sure?


RONNI: But what about the apocalyptic plague? What about that?

NEZZAR: I should never have taught you to read. You’ll be the death of me.

RONNI: I’ll dig your grave.

NEZZAR: See? Job security.

RONNI: But what if—

NEZZAR: Tarbells, and Sticklegs, and Fravels, and Ruppensteins…

He waits. This is a routine, between them. She is not playing.

NEZZAR: Fravels and Ruppensteins…

RONNI: Plague.

NEZZAR: (pretending he’s her—) Gilkersons and Neffs…

RONNI Plague.

NEZZAR: (giving chase—)Finchums and Fetchams…

RONNI: Plague!

NEZZAR: You’re going to get plagued, is what’s about to happen.

RONNI: If you kill me, you’ll have to dig my grave, and you won’t even get paid.

NEZZAR: Come here!

They run all over the place, between graves, on graves, around and around the bell-tree.

NEZZAR: Shomos and Flicks and Barnums…

Ronni jumps out from behind the tree, scaring him.

RONNI: Plaaaaguue!

He catches her. They wrestle.

NEZZAR: Rippetoes and Clatterbucks and Groggs…

RONNI: It’s on all the tombstones, Nezzar. Open your eyes.

NEZZAR: Whetzels and Booths…

RONNI: “There is no death.”

NEZZAR: Olhausens and Yoders…

RONNI: “Death is wallowèd up in victory.”

NEZZAR: At least say the last line.

RONNI: “He, being dead, yet liveth.”

NEZZAR: Please?

RONNI: Admit it. Apocalyptic plague.

NEZZAR: Never.

RONNI: I’m not saying the last line until you do.

NEZZAR: I know you’re planning to leave. Don’t make me guilt you.

RONNI: You don’t know that.

NEZZAR: Say it. It’s bad luck to be in a graveyard and not say hello to all the dead folks equal. And rude, besides. (…) You’ve been taking correspondence classes. You think I don’t know, but I do.

RONNI: Skeltons and Grouches and Nolls.

NEZZAR: As long as there are all these many folks in the world, we diggers have a job.

RONNI: Who’s this?

TOM enters, wearing nothing but his long johns. He’s seriously injured, bleeding.

TOM: Please. Help me.

He stumbles towards them, falls and lies still.

NEZZAR: A customer.

RONNI: He’s not dead.

NEZZAR: He could be dead.

RONNI: He’s not dead.

NEZZAR: He could be.


She touches Tom, and he rears to life, screams bloody murder, and collapses.

NEZZAR: Well that’s different.

They look at each other, surprised. Nezzar scoops Tom up and bears him offstage. Ronni grabs the shovels and follows. As they disappear, we notice for the first time a Monster Eater- Samantha Basil, called SAMBAI- standing alone in the graveyard. She is everything you’ve ever secretly hoped a professional monster hunter might be. She moves quietly through the space, looking for footprints, sniffing at the air. She whistles an eerie tune.

Across the stage (in a sheltered place near the Cemetery) NEZZAR and RONNI enter, carrying an unconscious Tom between them. They may, in fact, be dragging him across the ground. They heave him up onto a tabletop. They tend to his wounds, washing him, stitching him up where stitching is wanted. They are at once surprisingly tender and totally inefficient. They work by lantern light now.

Meanwhile in the Cemetery, a giant puppet MONSTER begins to creep across the graveyard, following Tom’s scent. It sniffs and grunts as it goes. It is stalking its prey. It is everything you’ve ever imagined a nightmare monster to be, and then some.

SAMBAI sings to herself. She’s aware of the monster, but seems calm. She draws a circle around herself in the dirt.

SAMBAI: (singing—)

Manger the Monster, a big-bellied ben,

He ate the meat of fourscore of men;

He ate a cow, he ate a calf,

He ate a butcher and a half,

He ate a church, he ate the steeple,

He ate the priest and all the people!

A cow and a calf,

A butcher and a half,

A church and a steeple,

And the good Christian people!

And still he complained

His hunger remained.

The monster draws near her. It howls. Sambai calmly stands firm in her circle. She has to tilt her head all the way back to look at its face.

SAMBAI: I will eat you.

They stand nose to nose. For a moment we believe it is going to eat her, or she it. But then it catches a different scent, and off it goes, sniffing and howling and growling. Sambai follows at a distance. The lights shift a little.

The Sheltered Place, near the Cemetery.

NEZZAR sits in a chair by a table, reading or sleeping. Or both at once. TOM on the table sits bolt upright. He looks around panicked. He checks himself over—his bruises and bandages and brand-new stitches. Ronni and Nezzar have, apparently, been hard at work on him. He looks— if possible— worse than when he showed up. He slips off the table, making for the door. His legs don’t hold. He buckles to the floor. He sees his boots, and crawls for them. On his way, he slips the frockcoat from the back of Nezzar’s chair, and puts it on. He crawls.

NEZZAR: (without opening his eyes-) You’ve three seconds to return my coat and get back on that table. One. Two. Three. (He opens his eyes.) It was worth a try. Nebuchadnezzar Boatwright, at your service. I’m serious about my coat, do it now. You can call me Nezzar. I don’t prefer it, but no one seems to mind that. By no one, I mean my sister. The coat, please.

Tom struggles to get the coat off. His hand stops on his neck.

TOM: Where’s my necklace?

NEZZAR: What necklace?

TOM: My necklace, you son of a bitch.

NEZZAR: You just stole my coat. Please. You’ll forgive me the necklace, I think. It was odd, you wearing nothing but underwear and a pretty thing like that. And bleeding as you were. My coat, on the other hand. That’s inexcusable.

TOM: Give it back.

NEZZAR: What’s it to you?

TOM: A woman gave that to me. To protect me.

NEZZAR: From what?

TOM: Myself.

Nezzar produces the necklace. Tom struggles to get it on, and finally Nezzar does it for him. He takes the coat off Tom.

NEZZAR: Back on the table, atta boy. Your name?

TOM: Tom.

NEZZAR: That’s the worst fake name I’ve ever heard. Lie back.

Tom lies back. Nezzar puts an ear to Tom’s chest and listens for a heartbeat. He’s probably not listening in the right place.

TOM: Are you a doctor?


TOM: You put stitches in me.

NEZZAR: I think I did good, for my first time.

TOM: You’re not a doctor.

NEZZAR: I’m an undertaker, how’s that for funny? Most folk on my table don’t talk back. Sit up.

He puts an ear to Tom’s back, listening for a heartbeat from the other side. Again, probably not in the right place.

TOM: What are you doing?

NEZZAR: Listening to your heartbeat. You don’t have one. Strange.

TOM: I need to go. I need to leave, now.

NEZZAR: Well please, be my guest.

TOM: I might need help.

NEZZAR: You might need pants.

TOM: I don’t—

NEZZAR: And you might want to tell me what happened to you. And where it is you’re so eager to get. And why. And your real name, I don’t believe it’s Tom.

TOM: Thomas?

NEZZAR: Tom was better. Second Chronicles!

TOM: Where am I?

NEZZAR: Godforsaken corner of the Dark Swamp. Specifically, the Cemetery of the Ascendant Dead. I just made that up, it’s a good name. We dig graves, in addition to our many other services.

TOM: How do you—

NEZZAR: Dig graves in a swamp? Old family secret. Second Chronicles!

RONNI enters. She has just woken up.

RONNI: What? I’m asleep— (seeing Tom) Good morning.

NEZZAR: Our friend needs clothes.

TOM: I need to leave.

NEZZAR: And go where?

RONNI: Don’t go.

TOM: It’s not safe here. Give me back my shoes.

NEZZAR: He looks like he’s seen death, Chronicles.

RONNI: We know about death.

NEZZAR: We know all about death.

RONNI: Death and monsters. That’s life for you.

TOM: Monsters?

NEZZAR: What sort of monster?

TOM: I don’t know. It’s big as the sky, and it doesn’t speak. It’s been following my scent for days. It almost got me, more than once. It almost got Amelia, I had to send her away.

RONNI: Amelia?

NEZZAR: I’ve never heard of this sort of monster.

RONNI: We should call Sambai.

NEZZAR: Absolutely not.

TOM: Sambai?

RONNI: She knows all about monsters.

NEZZAR: That woman is not coming back inside my house. Ever forever.

RONNI: She’s a Monster Eater.

NEZZAR: She is batshit crazy.

RONNI: She’s unorthodox.

NEZZAR: She eats rocks. That’s how she solves problems, she eats rocks.

RONNI: She consumed a tiny, tiny bit of dirt one time/ and you make it sound like—

NEZZAR: She actually ate rocks. You weren’t there. You weren’t born!

RONNI: We’re twins.

NEZZAR: We are not calling Samantha Basil, and that is my final word.

RONNI: She broke his heart.

NEZZAR: You weren’t born! She did not break my heart. Go get the man some pants.

RONNI: I’m calling Sambai and/ that’s that.

NEZZAR: Pants. Now.

RONNI: There’s a monster after him, Nezzar. I don’t know what to do about monsters. Do you? We dig graves. We’re good at that. We’re the best. But where monsters are concerned, we’re worse than useless. I’m calling Sambai, and you will be nice to her. You too, new person.

TOM: Tom.

NEZZAR: Not his real name.

RONNI: Ronni. Second Chronicles. I prefer Ronni, but no one seems to mind that. By no one, I mean—

TOM: Your brother.

RONNI: I’ll find you some clothes.

She exits.

NEZZAR: I wish I could say I had nothing to do with her behavior, but I did raise her. I regret that.

TOM: Aren’t you twins?

NEZZAR: I’ve yet to see the proof. It’s not too late. We don’t have to call her, just because Second Chronicles says so.

TOM: Call her.

Nezzar goes out. He gets on a bicycle and rides to the Bell Tree in the Cemetery. Tom tries to stand again, but can’t. He lies back. Nezzar reaches the tree. He rings one of the bells that hangs there.

The lights shift. The bell rings until it stops.

Inside a Memory. AMELIA sits in the chair by the table, book open in her lap, asleep.

Tom jumps off the table. He grabs a pair of pants and hops into them.

TOM: Amelia! Amelia, wake up!

AMELIA: What are you doing? Tom?

He goes to her, kisses her. For a moment he seems lost, staring down at her. Then he’s up

again, tossing things about.

AMELIA: Tom what’s going on?

TOM: Do you remember the first time we met?

AMELIA: You’re so late. I was worried.

TOM: It was in the library, and there were wide windows looking out at the sea. It was grey outside.

AMELIA: It was November. What are you looking for?

TOM: Your shoes.

AMELIA: To the left there. It’s the middle of the night, Tom, why do I need shoes?

TOM: And you were staring at me. I was trying to think, and you just kept staring and staring.

AMELIA: You’re scaring me.

TOM: And staring. And—

Amelia walks over to him. She touches his face, his ear. He grabs her wrist, more roughly than we feel comfortable watching.

TOM: Like you’re doing now. It made me so mad.

AMELIA: You’re bleeding.

TOM: Exactly. That’s what you said. I came over to you, pushed you into a bookcase, almost knocked it over, I was shouting, but you just said—

AMELIA: No Tom, you’re bleeding. Right now.

TOM: And I was. Of course. You made me feel so small. So stupid, like a little child. (He kisses her palm, releases her wrist.) Go put your dress on.

AMELIA: I didn’t mean to make you feel stupid.

TOM: Your dress, Amelia, there’s not much time.

AMELIA: What have you done?

But she goes and puts her dress on.

TOM: I was stupid. I was a little child. But you took me home anyway.

AMELIA: I don’t regret that.

TOM: Not these shoes. Don’t you have shoes you can run in?


She hands him a pair. He sits her in the chair, and puts the shoes on her. He ties them.

AMELIA: You thought I was going to run. I know. It was all over your face.

TOM: You should’ve.

AMELIA: I don’t regret anything, Tom. Where are we going?

TOM: You were wearing this…dress. It was blue, and there was light all around you, and you looked so soft. I made me crazy, staring like that. But even so, you were the…the softest girl I’d ever seen.

AMELIA: Whatever you’ve done, we’ll fix it. I’ll help you fix this.

TOM: Run, Amelia. As far and as fast as you can. Leave no trail. Do you understand?

AMELIA: Come with me.

TOM: I meant to leave in the night. That first night. But I was putting on my shoes, and you woke up. You weren’t supposed to wake up.


TOM: I remember how good you smelled. I remember how your hair looked in the morning, all a mess. I remember my headache, from all the blasts, how you made me tea. I—


He grabs her, again more roughly than we feel comfortable watching.

TOM: I am trying to keep that damn circle of light around me. I am trying to remember us, to keep a perfect picture in my mind, because something unbelievable is happening, and I can feel blood coming. So help me. Help me. Please. Help me be good.

She touches his face. A moment. He turns her around and does up the back of her dress for her.

TOM: Out the window. To the wild. Do not come back here. I will find you, I promise.

The lights shift again, and as they do Amelia runs out. Tom lies back on the table. SAMBAI stands beside the table, watching him.

SAMBAI: If you don’t tell me everything, I can’t help you.

Tom sits up, startled. Sambai is the sort of person who can just appear, when she wants..

TOM: I didn’t say anything.

SAMBAI: Didn’t you? I’m good at reading people. Good is an understatement. My first reading is never wrong. At least, it’s never been wrong yet, and I’ve been doing this since before I knew who I was.

TOM: You’re Sambai.

SAMBAI: You called.

TOM: Can you kill the monster?

SAMBAI: You can’t.

TOM: I tried.

SAMBAI: The secret with monsters is you don’t so much kill them as eat them. Some monsters can be killed. Some monsters can even be killed and kept dead, and that’s lucky indeed. But your monster is another thing altogether. Your monster wants to be eaten. So you called.

TOM: What can I do.

SAMBAI: See? My first reading is never wrong.

TOM: What’s your reading of me?

SAMBAI: Why, you’re a handsome knight on a fine horse, Tom Wheeler.

TOM: That sounds good, but I think you don’t like me.

SAMBAI: People are puzzle-boxes to me. I neither like nor dislike them. I solve them.

TOM: I’m more interested in solving this monster.

SAMBAI: Knights. Always so impatient. It’s one of their worse qualities. But Tom, I can’t solve you and your monster until you tell me the end of that story.

TOM: What story?

SAMBAI: In your dream. With the woman. Amelia.

TOM: You watched my dream?

SAMBAI: I was particularly hoping for the goodbye kiss.

TOM: Don’t you dare.

SAMBAI: You called me, remember.

TOM: If you watched the dream, you know how it ended. She ran. I ran.

SAMBAI: Knights. Such bad liars. One of their better qualities.

TOM: It’s private.

SAMBAI: I’m going to eat your monster, Tom. We’re going to be very private before the end.

TOM: It’s a silly little thing. It doesn’t matter.

SAMBAI: Don’t lie to me. I always know.

TOM: Can you read thoughts?

SAMBAI: Only dreams.

TOM: Then be content not knowing.

SAMBAI: Good luck with your monster. They tell me it’s a doozy. They’re right. I’ve seen it.

TOM: Where?

SAMBAI: In the graveyard. It lost the scent where Nezzar and Ronni picked you up, but one imagines it’ll find it again. The world is not so big, after all. And they didn’t carry you very far. They dragged you most of the way. A bit of sniffing—

TOM: Swear you’ll help me.

SAMBAI: I can’t help you if you don’t tell me everything.

TOM: Swear first.

SAMBAI: For the first time in your life, dear knight, you do not have the upper hand. You’re just a poor fool being chased by something big as the sky and quiet as the grave. So good luck. And good day.

She makes to leave.

TOM: It’s a circle of light. (…) That’s what Amelia used to say. “See, I’m putting a circle of light all around you.”

SAMBAI: The light keeps you good.

TOM: Yes.

SAMBAI: It’s not so easy to love a bad knight, is it.

TOM: That night- in the dream you saw- before she left she took off her necklace and put it on me. A tiny circle of light. We’ll see how long it lasts.

SAMBAI: I need three things from you.

TOM: I told you the end of the dream. That’s one.

SAMBAI: That was a gathering of information. We haven’t begun the real work yet.

TOM: Ronni says you work alone.

SAMBAI: I do. But I need things for my work, tools and spaces and traps, and I don’t have time to do everything myself. You’ll do these three things for me, and you won’t ask why.

TOM: And if I refuse?

SAMBAI: It is an awfully big monster, and I could use the nourishment, with winter coming. But you can refuse, and then I can refuse. There are other monsters.

TOM: What’s the first thing?

SAMBAI: Dig me a grave for the monster’s head.

TOM: It’s as big as the moon.

SAMBAI: Then you best start digging. Nezzar will show you how. Old family secret, apparently. I never eat a monster’s head. Very disrespectful. Also, not very appetizing.

TOM: What are the other things?

SAMBAI: We’ll come to that by and by. Good day, Tom Wheeler.

TOM: Do you really eat rocks?

She laughs. She exits.

About the Author

Pam Mandigo

Pam Mandigo is a great American playwright, when she’s not too busy cooking breakfast at the best restaurant in town (no, seriously, come eat!). She studied theater at Eastern Mennonite University, where she enthusiastically converted to Mennonitism, praise the Lord. Her work has been produced by the Crash House Collective and the Great American Theater Company. This spring she will be in residence at the MacDowell Artist Colony in New Hampshire. In addition to playwriting, she has begun work on her first novel. There are zombies in it. She lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where she attends Community Mennonite Church.