copyright © 2005 Todd Ristau

The Interview with the Snake Preacher's Wife

Excerpt from a film script by Todd Ristau, adapted for No Shame

(Lights up on a man trying to set up a camera in front of a woman who is patiently sitting in a chair watching his difficulties.)

VAUGHN: This will just take a minute.

CLAIRE: It’s alright. Take your time.

VAUGHN: It was really nice of you and Cecli to let me stay here with you.

CLAIRE: Well, we try to be charitable.

(Vaughn smiles, somewhat nervously. He adjusts the viewfinder and frames her in the camera.)

CLAIRE: Would you like something to drink?

VAUGHN: Do you have a Coke?

CLAIRE: I’m afraid not. We don’t approve of caffeine or soft drinks.

(Vaughn steps close to her and moves some things around in the frame, he gets a little too close to her hair and can’t resist smelling it. She shifts slightly away.)

VAUGHN: I’m fine, I don’t need anything.

CLAIRE: Alright.

VAUGHN: (holding up a microphone clip) I’m going to put this microphone on your blouse.

CLAIRE: Alright.

(Vaughn moves carefully toward Claire and brushes her long black hair from the neckline of her blouse. He tries to clip the mic on her but is too shy to do so.)

CLAIRE: If you show me how to do it I can manage.

VAUGHN: It’s just like a clothespin, a little metal one. Clip it there above your... Uh, heart, and then run the cord back behind you, you can cover the mic with your hair and no one will see it.

CLAIRE: I think I have it.

(Vaughn steps back to the camera but because he is looking at Claire, he bumps the tripod leg and the camera falls over.)

VAUGHN: Dammit!

(He is shocked by his slip and looks up apologetically at Claire, who smiles.)

CLAIRE: (laughing) Don’t ask me to forgive you, what comes out of your mouth is between you and God.

VAUGHN: (resetting the camera) OK, I’m going to start the camera, but don’t look at it, just look directly at me and talk normally.

CLAIRE: I don’t know any other way to talk, so I guess I’ll be fine.

(she looks at the camera) That thing is on?

VAUGHN: Yes. Now, when I ask you a question, just talk normally.

CLAIRE: How else would I do it?

VAUGHN: You’d be surprised how nervous people get when they are on camera.


VAUGHN: I don’t know. Ok, I’m going to ask you a couple questions to get started, and they you can just say whatever comes to mind.

(Claire looks at the camera.)

VAUGHN: Oh. Don’t look at the camera.

CLAIRE: Why not?

VAUGHN: Um, because when people are watching people on TV they don’t like to have the people on TV look right at them.

CLAIRE: Why not?

VAUGHN: Just trust me. It reads better if you’re not looking directly at the camera.

CLAIRE: What should I look at?

VAUGHN: Look at me.

CLAIRE: I don’t normally look at men who aren’t my husband.

VAUGHN: It’s alright. Just talk to me and pretend like we don’t know each other at all.

CLAIRE: Pretending is a little bit like lying, isn’t it?

VAUGHN: I don’t want you to lie, I want to record you like you were introducing yourself to me for the first time.

CLAIRE: It would be nice to have a record of the first time you meet someone. I’ll try to remember what it was like when I met you yesterday and see if I can do it again.

VAUGHN: Perfect. Who are you?

CLAIRE: My name is Claire Hayes. I’m the wife of Cecil Hayes, who is the minister of the Holiness House of Lord Christ the Redeeming Conqueror.

VAUGHN: And how long have--

CLAIRE: Aren’t you going to introduce yourself?

VAUGHN: No, I’ll probably edit out most of the questions I ask, later.

CLAIRE: You gonna make it look like I’m talking to myself?

VAUGHN: No, it will seem like you’re talking to the audience.

CLAIRE: Then why don’t you want me to look into the camera, like I’m looking at you?

VAUGHN: People watching television don’t like to have people looking directly at their eyes. It makes them uncomfortable.

CLAIRE: Am I making you uncomfortable?


CLAIRE: You seem a little uncomfortable. Are you a wolf or a sheep, Mr. Peterson?

VAUGHN: I don’t know what you mean.

CLAIRE: Some of our people, they think the Bible warned them about you. They think Cecil is making a big mistake bringing you here, inviting you into our home.


CLAIRE: Do you know your bible?

VAUGHN: A little.

CLAIRE: You read the book of Acts? Jesus warned us about outsiders. How they would come like fierce wolves, cause members of the flock to speak perverse things, and draw away the disciples after them.

VAUGHN: I’m not here to do anything but document your story.

CLAIRE: And what story is that? The murder trial my husband suffered at the hands of a non-believing District Attorney?

VAUGHN: That did catch my attention.

CLAIRE: Captured a lot of people’s attention...trouble is it also captured their imaginations. You outsiders have such imaginations.

VAUGHN: We’re living in difficult times, its easy to be afraid of the people who think they have all the answers.

CLAIRE: Shows a lack of faith. They should be more afraid of the ones asking all the questions.

VAUGHN: Are you afraid of me?

CLAIRE: No. I’m only afraid of God.

(Awkward pause.)

VAUGHN: How long have you been married to Reverend Cecil?

CLAIRE: My entire adult life and a little bit before.

VAUGHN: And what is your role at the church?

CLAIRE: I sing. I help Cecil meet his obligations to the flock. And, of course, I’m the snake keeper.

VAUGHN: You’re the snake keeper?

CLAIRE: (laughing) Oh, it’s not as difficult as it sounds. We don’t keep them very long.

VAUGHN: Why is that?

CLAIRE: Some of them die.

VAUGHN: They die?

CLAIRE: Well, I’ve seen people with such a powerful presence of the Spirit in them that when they pick up a serpent in the church it’s like the snake is hit by lightning, and just straight falls dead to the floor.


CLAIRE: And we don’t want the snakes to get too used to people, you know, don't want them to be so that they don’t want to bite.

VAUGHN: You want them to bite?

CLAIRE: You can’t prove your faith if you got a snake that don’t bite.

VAUGHN: I suppose not.

CLAIRE: We only keep our snakes a week or two, and we hunt fresh ones every Friday night.

VAUGHN: The Friday Night Snake Hunt sounds like a fun date.

CLAIRE: You want to come along?

VAUGHN: I’m a sinner, don’t forget.

CLAIRE: God might not protect you, but I’ll do my best in his place.

VAUGHN: (smiling, too friendly) Then, I’m willing to trust myself in your hands.

(Claire blushes, and suddenly remembers the camera. She stands up nervously.)

CLAIRE: That’s enough for right now, I gotta get Cecil’s supper ready.

(She exits, leaving Vaughn sitting by the camera, stunned. Lights fade out slowly.)


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