SHELL    6'?m3f Salvation: cults, works, truth, hope

KAT -- (enters carrying TV-tray-table with three walnut shells,
a pea, and a fistful of money, sets up, shifts walnut shells
skillfully) Okay, who wants to win my money?

LIZ -- (enters opposite) Hey, what's he got there? Is that a
game he's playing?

AMY -- You don't want to have anything to do with that game.

LIZ -- What do you mean? I'm good at games! Come on. (crosses)

AMY -- (follows) Don't say I didn't warn you.

KAT -- You want to win some money?

LIZ -- I don't know. What do you have to do to win?

KAT -- (demonstrates) I put the pea under one of the walnut
shells and I shuffle the walnut shells around, then you guess
which shell the pea is under.

LIZ -- Sounds simple enough. Since there's only three shells,
even if I'm a lousy guesser, the odds are only three to one 
against me. Right?

KAT -- Right.

AMY -- Don't count on it.

KAT -- So, which shell contains the pea?

LIZ -- Well, actually, you're not very fast at this game. I
followed it easily. It's under that one. (points)

KAT -- (uncovers pea) Right you are! Hey, you play this game
pretty well! Let's put the pea under a different shell and try
again. (shuffles) Now, which shell contains the pea?

LIZ -- That one. (points)

KAT -- Are you sure?

LIZ -- Yeah. You're not very good at shuffling the shells
around. It was easy to follow the shell with the pea.

KAT -- Would you like to put some money on it?

LIZ -- How much?

AMY -- Please don't do this.

KAT -- I'll take any bets up to $200.

AMY -- Don't do this.

LIZ -- I'll just bet $20.

KAT -- (uncovers pea) Well! You ARE good at this! You win!
(offers $20)

LIZ -- (to Amy) What did I tell you?! (takes $20) It's like
taking candy from a baby!

AMY -- I don't know how to tell you this, but, I think he let
you win so you'd bet more money.

LIZ -- Well, that would be kind of stupid. Don't you think? I
could walk away with $20 of his money right now.

AMY -- But you're not going to walk away, are you?

LIZ -- Of course not! Look at all the money he's got! I could
win a lot of money.

AMY -- I'm telling you, he's just giving you false hope.

KAT -- So, do you want to try again?

LIZ -- Sure!

KAT -- Let's put the pea under a different shell and try
again. (shuffles) Now, which shell contains the pea?

AMY -- Please, think about this for just a second. This guy is a
scam artist. There is no way he's going to lose more money to

LIZ -- You don't understand. I've got an unfair advantage.

AMY -- You think you have.

LIZ -- The shell he put the pea under has a dark stain on it.
You don't even have to be good at the game. You don't have to
follow the shells at all. This is the shell right here. (points)

AMY -- I can tell you with absolute certainty that the pea is
not under that shell.

LIZ -- Wrongo, wrongo. I saw him put the pea under the shell
with the dark stain. This is a sure thing! I know it!

AMY -- No. It's not! I have seen this scam before.

LIZ -- (to Kat) I'll bet one hundred dollars that the pea is
under that shell there!

KAT -- You know. You're friend is right. Maybe you SHOULDN'T bet
so much money. You're relatively new at this game. Maybe you
should come back when you have more experience.

LIZ -- I know what you're doing.

AMY -- So do I.

LIZ -- You know that the pea is under that shell and you're just
trying to wiggle out of paying me one hundred dollars.

AMY -- Actually, that's not what he's doing at all. He's trying
to get you to bet more money.

LIZ -- Well, it's working. (reaches in to pocket) What's the
most I can bet?

KAT -- $200.

LIZ -- I'll bet $200 that the pea is under the shell with the
dark stain. $100, $120, $140, $160, $180, $200.

AMY -- I'm begging you, please don't do this.

LIZ -- $200 that's the bet. (drops money on tray)

KAT -- (lifts shell, takes money) Oh, I'm sorry. You lose.
(exits with tray-table, shouts) Who else wants to take my money?

LIZ -- (walks away stunned) What happened! I was so sure! I saw
him put the pea under the shell with the dark stain.

AMY -- (follows) I'm sorry. I tried to warn you.

LIZ -- That WAS a scam, wasn't it?

AMY -- Yes.

LIZ -- I'll bet he chose to put the pea under the shell with the
dark stain on purpose, just to increase my confidence.

AMY -- That's right.

LIZ -- But what happened to the pea? I saw him put it under the

AMY -- It was an illusion. He only made it look like he put the
pea under the shell. But he palmed the pea.

LIZ -- You mean, it wasn't under ANY shell?

AMY -- No.

LIZ -- So, I didn't have even a one in three chance of winning?

AMY -- Not a chance.

LIZ -- Bummer! Why didn't I listen to you? (sigh, pause, snaps
fingers) Hey!

AMY -- What's the matter?

LIZ -- You know, this could be the best $200 I ever spent!

AMY -- How can you say that?

LIZ -- I was watching one of those televangelists on TV the other
night. And I came up with the idea that starting my own religion
could make me rich!

AMY -- I'm sorry, I don't follow. What does that have to do with
a shell game?

LIZ -- Don't you see? All you have to do to get people to give
you their money is to give them false hope.

AMY -- Oh, I get it. You tell them the rules of the game and
make it look easy.

LIZ -- Yes, you tell them that Jesus died for their sins. And
then when they're sure they're going to Heaven, you give them
something else to put their hopes in...

AMY -- Like the shell with the dark stain on it.

LIZ -- Exactly. But in the case of religion, it's something that
will make them take their eye of the original rules. It's starts
out as "Jesus saves", then you add Jesus and Water baptism
saves, then Jesus, water baptism and tithing, then Jesus water
baptism, tithing and membership in MY church only. Speaking in
tongues, selling magazines, ANYTHING. It doesn't matter.

AMY -- Very clever! After while people forget all about Jesus
and put their faith in the dark stain on the shell.

LIZ -- Exactly. (exiting) And just like the shell game, they
don't have a chance of winning!

AMY -- (follows) A shell game.
2013 Bob Snook. Conditions for use:
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