by Dan Gurler
copyright © 1987

Performed by Dan Gurler and Inger Hatlen

Lights are out, and remain out through entirety of piece. Jerome and Helen are onstage. Jerome is standing, holding a candle. Helen is sitting, staring at a candle. Jerome hums, turns, faces audience, gasps.

Oh God. I thought you were The Devil.


You're not The Devil, are you?

OK, good. Well, listen, I don't know what you're doing here, but I strongly suggest you get out of this house. Now. I mean it. Get out of my house! It doesn't take to strangers. It doesn't take to family, either, but I gotta live somewhere. Leave!

Fine. Stick around. Let me introduce you. I am Jerome. This is my sister Helen. She's deaf, so don't bother trying to talk to her. No one's ever really tried, lest of all Momma. That's Momma. Right there. Well, perhaps you can't see her, but I can, I've been here a long time, and I can see her form, I can see her face, and she's staring right down at me.

I'm still here Momma.

Don't know where Daddy is. He went lurching off down the street with a handful of his own hair the day Helen was born. I remember that day. I was young, but I remember. The floors buckled, the chimney clogged up, and all the windows cracked. Momma bricked 'em all up, that's why it's so dark in here. I don't know if it's day or night. Momma certainly remembered that day. She mentioned it every single day afterwards, in one neverchanging phrase that went: "Your father left us. I will never leave you. I love you so much." Then she would slither back into her bedroom, but not until she'd ask me, "You'll make sure Helen understands that won't you?" And I would say "Yes, Momma." It always my job to make sure Helen understood.

Helen blows out her candle. Jerome hurries to relight it with his own.

God dammit. Why do you do that?

That ain't an easy job. Truthfully, I'm not sure what she understands. I have no idea what goes on in that head of hers. But I will give her credit. She's real good at watching a candle. See, that's her job.

The day Momma died, she called us into her room and showed us these two candles. She gave one to Helen and then she said to me "I am giving this candle to Helen. The Devil is watching this candle. He's waiting for it to go out long enough for him to fly up, grab my soul, and drag it down to Hell. I want Helen to make sure this candle stays lit. You'll make sure she understands that, won't you Jerome?" "Yes Momma." Then she lit the second candle, gave it to me, and said, "Just in case." Whereupon she fell back into her pink pillows, gurgled, and died.

They never go down. They drip, but they never go down. So here I stand, like the Statue of Liberty, waiting for her to blow that thing out. Which, as you can see, she does do, on erratic occasions. Thank God. Otherwise my life would have no meaning, whatsoever.

Jerome hums, strolls around.

That's it. Nothin' else happens. Now if I were you I'd get out. I mean it, just get out. Just leave!


I remember once, when I was young, Momma turned to me at the table and said, "Jerome, do you believe in Hell?" At the time I said "Yes" even though I wasn't really sure. Now I'm fairly sure.

Pause. Jerome blows his candle out, looks at Helen.

Oh Momma, I wouldn't.

Jerome goes to Helen, crouches, and relights his candle. Helen blows it out.

What're you doin'?

He relights it. Helen blows it out.

Stop it!

He relights it. Helen blows it out.

Knock it off! This is the Just in Case candle! I gotta keep it lit!

Helen looks directly at Jerome. Pause.

Do you believe in Hell?

Helen looks back at candle. Jerome turns and looks at shadow. He stands. He turns back to Helen.

Oh Helen. I love you so much.

Jerome blows Helen's candle out

End of piece.

  • February 1987 - No Shame Iowa City
    Performed by Dan Gurler and Inger Hatlen
  • October 11, 1996 - Best of the Best of No Shame (Iowa City)
    Performed by Dan Gurler and Inger Hatlen
  • June 3, 2005 - National Best of No Shame at Piccolo Spoleto (Charleston)
    Performed by Trent Westbrook and Amy Alls

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