THE AZURE SKY IN OZ
There is a desk and a cork display board on stage. Mary enters, carrying a large plastic bin with a
stuffed Toto dog on top, which she hefts up onto the desk. She puts the dog under her arm as she
removes the lid. She suddenly stops.
I don’t belong here anymore...
(looks around the space)
But I just can’t stand to think of them
coming into “this”.
(wipes perspiration off her face)
My God, did they cut funding for the air conditioning?
She crosses to a wall unit air conditioner, turns it on. It hums to life.
I think if summer in Florida lasted
one more month, we would all hang ourselves.
(frowns, fanning herself)
August, and another school year begins.
Whatever happened to September, y’all?
Don’t want to be all sweaty for my
contract meeting. This is my last
hour as a teacher. Come nine o’clock,
I will be an administrator at another school.
(puts face in front of air conditioner)
Please, God. Get cold…
A slight rise in the humming sound and Mary sighs in relief from the first of the cold air. She
She mops her face with the stuffed Toto, moves back to bin, takes out her teacher I.D. badge on a
Supposed to turn this in but I kinda’ want to keep it.
(considers the badge)
I guess we all wonder if we’ve done enough.
(sets badge on desk,smiles at them all)
I’m Mary Tilford by the way. Hey!
I’m gonna hurry. I don’t want the kids to see me.
(takes out a deck of cards from bin, smiles)
The ace of hearts.
My first student was hit by lightning. Walking through
a field by a chain link fence. That lightning hit that fence, shot out
and killed him. Mike was dead, but his brother revived
him. His brother, who was walking a few feet away... Just a
few feet made the difference. Of course, in the womb,
the difference is a hair’s breadth.
(she sets down cards, starts taking out “classic” plastic
cartoon figurines, carefully arranging them on her desk)
Yeah. My students and I like ‘em. They’re cheerful.
And when Alicia throws them at you, they don’t hurt
too much. Bullwinkle rocks.
(continues setting up figurines)
Admin said the room should be “restored to neutral”, but
I want the place set up so the new person will have
what she needs. So it won’t seem so strange to the kids
without me. We’re like a big family.
I come from a small family who all died.
My Mother was a Catholic from
Mississippi and my father was a Jew
from New Jersey-- a naval officer who played the
organ. No, I’m not kidding. He died
in front of me when I was six.
I remember the ambulance coming, but no sirens.
Did you know that?
For heart attack victims, so they won’t startle ‘em..
No sirens, just the red lights... that silently take
my Dad away and leave Mom and me alone... with his debt...
surprise debt. That’s a man thing, I guess, so the women
folk won’t worry.
Mom borrowed money to pay for his funeral and we
had to move into a trailer in Orlando.
(beat, distant thunder is heard)
Mike-- it’s weird-- what the lightning chose to take from him
and what it left him. Reading, writing, math-- 16 years
of learning and education-- gone.
Mike would pick stuff off his face and put it
in his mouth-- Not that teenage boys are known for
their social graces, but...
So that’s what I worked on with Mike-- social skills.
Back then, I wasn’t trained or qualified to teach him
to read from scratch-- I was a substitute. The beginning of
every year in most public schools around here-- there are
unfilled teaching positions, so they say “Mary?”... and we
need the money, so here I am, teaching this boy with
traumatic brain damage about
courtship and zit picking... And I got him to stop,
even though he didn’t understand why it wasn’t okay.
The lightning had taken that, too.
Mike’s sense of humor, though... completely intact. Incredible.
(picks up cards again)
He loved his cards-- not playing games, he couldn’t-- just
the cards themselves.
(she sorts through the cards)
He had a crush on this really pretty girl, learning disabled,
and he showed me a card.
(she shows the audience…)
“I’m gonna give Lauren
my heart--” It was the ace of hearts-- And I said “Go ahead, Mike.”
And I watched him hand her that card and say
“Lauren, I’m giving you my heart.” And Lauren just...
(she makes a blank face)
(sets cards back down)
That’s a tough part... Lotta times, they
just don’t get it. So that’s the highly romantic, noble reason
I began teaching special education, I needed
the money. I guess that’s why a lot of us start
doing what we end of doing for the rest of our lives....