exorcising the dog : part iv
Excorcising the Dog
an unusually short play
by yours truly
The Players : Madison Cartwright: Madison speaks with a Southern drawl. Her bawdy attire, slow colloquial speech, and winsome smile mask an acute perception. She’s about twenty-nine.
Phillip Smith: Phillip is a rookie attorney dressed appropriately in a suit and tie. He considers Madison a bawdy con-artist and treats her accordingly. Madison is brighter than he is, something he’s vaguely aware of, but unwilling to acknowledge — this makes him prone to outbursts, which he attempts to control for George’s benefit.
George Davies: George is also an attorney, albeit an older, wiser attorney. Somewhat stocky, and very calm, he takes the ensuing conversation in stride — investigations are a matter of form for him. Unlike Phillip, George is careful.
The Set : The players sit at a wooden conference table. They may have cups of coffee or tea. A tape recorder sits on the table, recording the conversation for the attorneys’ benefit.
part iv : dogs fly first class
Phillip: Are your dogs licensed, Miss Cartwright?
Madison: Well, I used to be kind of lax about that. But when all this hoopla started, I took them right down and got them registered.
Phillip: And when was that?
Madison: Right about the time you folks started nosing around. [Staring hard at Phillip.] They’ve got all their shots too.
George: Miss Cartwright, how many of these “social visits” would you say you’ve performed?
Madison: I’m not exactly sure.
George: An estimate?
Madison: Oh, about fifty. Maybe a few more.
Phillip: Would you be surprised, Miss Cartwright, if I told you you and your dogs have performed eighty-three “social visits”?
Madison: No. That sounds a little high, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
Phillip: That doesn’t seem like an unusually high number? What with word just leaking out?
Madison: I never rightly kept track.
Phillip: Miss Cartwright, do you pay taxes?
Madison: Of course I pay taxes.
Phillip: Do you pay taxes on these so-called “social visits”?
Madison: Anything about taxes, you’ll have to speak to my accountant about. I don’t have much of a head for numbers.
Phillip: That’s apparent.
George: I think that’s enough, Phillip. Miss Cartwright, how do you suppose all these people got your phone number?
Madison: Well, I don’t rightly know. We did get a lot of calls, though. We even got a call from England. But that’s an awful long plane ride. Planes don’t really have facilities for dogs, you know?
Phillip: That’s right. Your dogs fly first class, don’t they?
Madison: That’s right.
Phillip: That’s a little unusual, isn’t it?
Madison: I’m not putting my dogs in some cargo hold.
Phillip: And the airlines don’t object?
Madison: Not if I buy a first class ticket for each dog, no.
Phillip: But you don’t buy a first class ticket for each dog, do you? The people you’re working for buy the tickets.
Madison: The people I visit.
Phillip: The people you “visit” pay first class air fare for two dogs and yourself.
Phillip: [incredulous] You don’t think you’re taking advantage of these people?
Madison: Well, I don’t call them. They call me. Sometimes I say no, but they just keep calling till I give up and go on out.
George: [A good deal calmer than Phillip] These are some very sick people, Miss Cartwright. You don’t think you’re inspiring false hope?
Madison: I do not take advantage of people. I mean, you wouldn’t believe what these people offer me. It’s like they’re desperate or something. And I just say, “No sir. I don’t want your money. I just want someone to pay my hotel bill, and something to make up for the time I miss from work.” I’m not out to take advantage of anybody. I just take my dog over there, and he barks a little, and we leave. It’s that simple, and if it makes these people a little happier, well then it does. I don’t advertise, and I don’t say my dog is anything more than a dog.
Phillip: You’re forgetting the air fare.
Madison: If I have to fly somewhere, they pay the air fare. Personally, I’m not crazy about flying.
Phillip: [Incredulous] Are you suggesting that travel expenses, as well as two hundred dollars a day, is an inconvenience?
Madison: Wouldn’t you consider it an inconvenience? The phone ringing off the hook all the time. People I don’t even know wanting me to pack up and come on out — forget my schedule. And bathing Fred. Let me tell you, giving a seventy pound dog a bath is no picnic, and it’s practically every day now. Those people will spit out anything. There was one lady who spit out a Thanksgiving turkey. Gravy matted all over his fur, and stuffing! There must have been two pounds of stuffing stuck all over my dog. Now that was an inconvenience!
The lights fade, leaving George S. Davies in a soft spotlight. Madison Cartwright and Phillip Smith are dark silhouettes of shadow, motionless behind him.
Davies frowns in thought, and lifting the recorder and a sheaf of transcripts [which he occasionally studies], rises to pace as he dictates the closing of his letter into the recorder.
George: As you can see, Miss Cartwright is quite animated on the subject of her dogs. She herself does not claim to perform exorcisms, and we have not been able to trace any form of advertisement to that effect. The rest of the transcript is enclosed for your review.
[He glances at documents] You will note I have conversed with several physicians regarding the seemingly miraculous recoveries of their patients soon after encounters with Miss Cartwright’s dog. I’ve included transcripts of these discussions in my report, and the observations of one Dr. David Mason are particularly worthy of your review. In summary, Dr. Mason suggests his patient’s apparent transformation is the result of the patient’s belief the dog could perform an exorcism. As it were, the patient’s belief he was possessed left the patient open to suggestion, resulting in an apparent cure. I would suggest we forward copies of Dr. Mason’s observations to the Arch Diocese.
Attempts to point out the obvious danger of people substituting her dog’s services for much needed medical attention have not impressed Miss Cartwright. Apparently, all of Miss Cartwright’s “social visits” have been paid to people already labeled “lost causes” by the medical profession, [refer to page 84, Cartwright transcript]. It is a suspicion of mine, although this is merely speculation, that certain members of the medical profession may actually have suggested Miss Cartwright’s dog to certain families associated with the Cartwright file.
I have taken the liberty of speaking with several veterinarians on the subject of Miss Cartwright’s dog. To all appearances, the dog is a perfectly healthy two year old Golden Retriever. The dog Booker is a three year old male Norwegian Elkhound. Both dogs appear normal, although Fred is prone to ear infections. Our observations show that the dogs spend a great deal of time playing in Miss Cartwright’s back yard. Their diet consists of dry dog food mixed with table scraps: Booker appears to be somewhat overweight.
On a final note, Miss Cartwright surprised members of my staff when she produced a tape recorder during our session. We could not deny Miss Cartwright the right to tape the session, as we were taping it ourselves. Offers to provide Miss Cartwright with copies of our transcripts were refused. This leads me to suspect Miss Cartwright has taped phone conversations as well. Please convey my opinion to the Arch Diocese that, if something were to happen to one of Miss Cartwright’s dogs, I do not believe the results would be pleasant, and once again, I urge caution in this matter.
Davies becomes less thoughtful and more businesslike.
George: Type in the standard close, Gladys.
He turns the recorder off with a snap.