Margaret Cradmeier’s Catalogue
Of Minor Yet Helpful
A Short Play
Allen: Hi. I’m Allen Zinky. I’m here to act as sort of the opposite of a bodyguard for the next person who’s going to come out. She doesn’t need a bodyguard, no. You need a bodyguard from her. I mean, not that she’s going to attack you or anything. Well, she sort of will, but not physically. Probably not physically.
Maggie (off): Allen! Allen, where are you?
Allen: Just, uh, checking the acoustics out here. They’re quite resonant. You’ll enjoy them.
Maggie (off): Are you out there warning the audience of my impending entrance?
Allen: No, no. Sound check. Lighting check. Good lights. Very illuminating.
Maggie (off): Because if you are, I am giving you to the count of five to clear the stage. One…
Allen (over Maggie’s counting): I have to go, but just be forewarned that Maggie is a very good person with excellent intentions but--trigger warning!--she can be quite harsh.
Maggie (entering): Five! (Allen exits with a high-pitched scream.) Weasel. Announcement one: My name is Margaret Cradmeier. I go by Maggie. Three people can call me Margaret: Myself because I own me, my mother because she birthed me and my great-grandfather because he’s senile. If you’re not one of those three people, it’s Maggie. Announcement two: I hate Harry Potter.
(The Ensemble pops out from the wings and from behind the set. This is the convention with the Ensemble, both as a group and when they are playing individual characters. They come from their hiding places, say their lines, then retreat.)
Ensemble: What? How could you?
Maggie: I tolerate that collection of mice, aka the Ensemble, because they do my bidding. Usually. Announcement three: I hate superheroes.
Ensemble: Unthinkable! UnAmerican! Oh, Maggie!
(The Ensemble ducks back down again, with the exception of Allen, who remains for a momentary plea.)
Allen: Try not to hate her.
(Maggie turns on him quickly. Allen squeaks and ducks away.)
Maggie: All right. You gotta feed mice or they die, right? True fact. I’m gonna leave for two minutes and 15 seconds to let the rodents come out and express their dismay over what I have just proclaimed because, for small theatrical mammals such as they are, stage time is their food. 135 seconds, scurrying beasties, nothing more!
(Maggie exits. Ensemble members flood the stage.)
E1: How can she hate Harry Potter? He’s like, like everybody’s brother!
E2: I think of him more as a cousin I have a mid-level crush on, but I know what you mean.
E3: I think she was saying that she not only hates Harry Potter, the character, but the entire series.
(The Ensemble takes in a shocked breath.)
E7: Voldemort? (Everyone turns to E7.) I mean, not that I love him, but, you know, he’s an essential part of the...how can she hate Harry Potter?
E8: It’s a set of books, it’s a mythology, it’s a theme park, it’s a way of life! I belong to a Quidditch league. We play on Thursdays, rain or shine.
E9: And superheroes, too? I mean, how crazy is that?
E8: 6:00, if anybody’s interested. We need a new Seeker.
E10: We’re moving on.
E8: Right. Text me if you’re interested!
E11: How can anyone hate Superman, with his x-ray vision?
E12: Wonderwoman, with her magic lasso?
E13: Spiderman, swinging from building to building?
E14: Garbonzo Girl, tiny inhabitant of macaroni salads, ruler of summertime picnics? She’s my invention, but she’s destined to go viral. How can Maggie hate Garbonzo Girl?
Allen: Guys, maybe she doesn’t actually hate…
E1: You know what it boils down to? Magic. Imagination. Fantasies. The things that make life fun and entertaining--Maggie is waging war on our dreams!
Allen: See, I think she was exaggerating a bit to make her point, that’s all.
Maggie (entering): And...time! (The ensemble ducks back out of sight.) How’d they do? Never mind, I don’t care. I’m sure they griped sufficiently to represent the view that I was being too extreme, too polarizing with my statements. But if your knickers are already in a twist, hang on, because I’m gonna go even further.
Ensemble: How can she?
Maggie: How can I indeed? By telling you that not only do I hate Harry Potter, that I hate superheroes, but that I hate everything similar to them, every story, every spin-off and sequel and merchandising scheme that comes with them. And yes, that includes Star Wars.
E11: Now wait a minute. You cannot insult The Force!
Allen: Back off, back off, Jedi Master. Relax.
E11: But The Force is important.
Allen: We know that. She knows that. She’s making a different point.
E11: I like The Force.
Allen: So do I. Sink down.
(E11 and Allen retreat.)
Maggie: And why, you might ask, have I made these extreme statements?
Ensemble: Why, Maggie?
Maggie: Have I taken this deeply unpopular stance?
Ensemble: Why, why, why?
Maggie: Have I gone out on this particular long and tenuous limb? Ensemble creatures, do not pop up and ask “why?” again because it will be predictable and annoying.
E9: Why, Maggie, why would you…(looks around, sees she is alone). I think I missed a memo.
(Ensemble Member 9 pops back down.)
Maggie: Myhua. Myhua! I will be back with a heavy and significant prop.
(She exits. The Ensemble members come out, looking puzzled.)
E5: What did you she say?
E10: My hula? Is she going to go get her hula hoop?
E1: That’s not heavy.
E10: But it might be significant.
E12: She said “myhua.” There was no L in what she said.
E14: Yeah, she got the L out of there, didn’t she? Ha, ha, ha-ha, ha...the L? Get it? Yeah, puns are curse that run in my family. We need help.
E4: What does “myhua” even mean?
E7: Oh, it’s that word! It’s that word they say when you get off the plane in Hawaii and they put flowers on your neck and they want you to dance with your hips but you just end up looking like a stupid tourist. Because you are. What is that word?
E8: She didn’t say “aloha.” She said “myhua.”
E7: Well, they could be the same language.
E9: “Aloha” stands for “a long overdue Hawaiian adventure.”
E3: No. It means both hello and good-bye in Mauri.
(Maggie has entered, carrying a large book. She stands behind the Ensemble members, observing from a high point on the set.)
E9: But that would be... “hagim.”
E3: You can’t be serious! Words in other languages are not English acronyms!
E2 (speaking to a nearby Ensemble member): What do you think the letters in “acronym” stand for?
(Maggie drops the book. It makes a large bang, causing the Ensemble to disappear. Allen screams again.)
Maggie: The book I have just so dramatically dropped is my creation, and it is called “Margaret Cradmeier’s Catalogue of Minor Yet Helpful Uncanny Abilities.” And now, for dramatic and ceremonial effect, I will say that title again, and the Ensemble critters will rise and shout the appropriate acronym. This book I have created is called “Margaret Cradmeier’s Catalogue of Minor Yet Helpful Uncanny Abilities.”
(Only E9 pops up.)
E9: Myhua! (looking around) Did I miss another memo?
Maggie: No. You were the only one who got it.
E9: Ha! Take that, fellow small mammals!
Maggie: We’ll try this again. This book I have created is called “Margaret Cradmeier’s Catalogue of Minor Yet Useful Uncanny Abilities”!
Maggie: Very nice.
Maggie: Don’t let it go to your heads.
Maggie: And now for my inspirational monologue with backup humming. (As Maggie speaks, the ensemble hums “America” or a similar tune in the background.) People, we do not need Harry Potter and superheroes and Star Wars and their ilk to take us away to impossible places that never were and never will be. We do not need wands and incantations, hyperstrengths, mythological hammers, impossible forces that defy the laws of physics; nor do we need to be carried away into other worlds, to imagine ourselves somehow, someday being able to enter into those realms. We do not need invented villains who can only be vanquished by those who wield incredible weapons, who possess celestial talents. Come back to Earth. Put your feet on the ground. There is wonder enough here, as I will reveal to you in the pages of my catalogue of Minor Yet Helpful Uncanny Abilities. Myhua!
(She points to half of the ensemble.)
½ of the Ensemble: Myhua!
(Maggie points to the other half of the ensemble.)
Other half: Myhua!
(Maggie makes a grand gesture to the whole group.)
All Ensemble: My-hu-aaaa!
(Allen claps enthusiastically.)
Allen: Oh, well done! So inspirational! I told you she was...oh, man, that was…. Maggie!
(Allen gives her two big thumbs up and a big grin.)
Maggie: Well, that completely killed the moment. Be gone, mice, until you are needed.
(The Ensemble ducks away.) The point is, while we are wasting our energy and attention on made-up, apocalyptic comic-book craziness, we have real problems here-- real villains. Mr. Cardona, for instance, our history teacher.
(The Ensemble members play these various characters. They quickly don costume pieces to help their portrayals, but make no attempts at realism.)
Mr. Cardona: I know I assigned three chapters of reading yesterday, each with a set of 50 short answer essay questions due tomorrow and a 20-page research paper that needs to be on my desk by the beginning of the week, but I had a dream last night in which more than 33% of you successfully accomplished all of that work and frankly, I cannot live with such a high percentage. So let me tell you what else you’re going to do for me.
Maggie: The school secretary, Mrs. Gribble.
Mrs. Gribble: You’re late again. Oh, sure, you claim you were stuck in traffic, but I know the truth. You were doing drugs. You were having illicit sexual encounters. You were vandalizing the bathrooms. You were terrorizing helpless kittens. You were on-line with teenagers from across the country coming up with new ways to destroy the very fabric of America! Unexcused tardy. Get to class.
Maggie: The five-year-old Beckerman twins whose parents pay the highest baby-sitting rates this side of the Mississippi.
Bobby B: So, what’s it gonna be, Sweetheart?
Becky B: How you gonna keep us amused?
Bobby B: Whatcha got? Piggy-back rides?
Becky B: Ice cream cones?
Bobby B: Video games?
Becky B: Shadow puppets?
Bobby B: Whatever it is, you better make it good.
Becky B: ‘Cause if we’re not happy, you ain’t gonna be happy.
Bobby B: There’s a reason our parents pay the highest baby-sitting rates this side of the Mississippi.
Becky B: It’s a little song we like to sing.
Bobby B: We’ve been known to sing it all night long.
Becky B: And it goes a bit like this.
(They both scream at the top of their lungs for a full five seconds. They stop suddenly, smile, take a deep breath, and scream again for just as long.)
Maggie: Aunt Barbara.
Aunt Barbara: Oh, how long has it been? You look so good! You have your mother’s nose, did you know that? The way it spreads out at the bottom and it almost seems like an annex to your mouth--that is just what your mother had when she was a kid, before she got the operation. But the thing is, you look wonderful! I remember the last time I saw you, you had gained a little weight, probably up around the 85th percentile on the height/weight chart for your age, but now I see you’ve lost that. Most of it. Aren’t those last ten pounds the worst? But you’ll get there; they’re hardly noticeable, as long as you don’t wear things that split you at the waist like that shirt does that you have on right now. How long has it been?
Maggie: The three absolute worst group-project companions that could ever be randomly selected by your English teacher: Milo, Tansy and Mel.
Tansy: Oh, wow, when is this due? Because I always forget due dates until the day before, always, always, always. I have an idea about what we should do, though.
Mel (glued to her phone): Just a sec.
Milo: What is this supposed to be about, Shakespeare? You wanna know how high up on my priority list Shakespeare is?
Tansy: We can build a replica of the Globe Theatre--out of snow globes! They’ll be Globe globes.
Mel: Just a sec.
Milo: On my priority list of things I want to do, Shakespeare ranks below getting a lobotomy with a toothpick.
Mel: Just a sec.
Tansy: Because teachers love cute things like that. Or food! Yes! If you feed the class, teachers love it! We could make a human-sized cupcake in the shape of Mel Gibson as Hamlet.
Milo: What that means is I would rather get a lobotomy with a toothpick than study Shakespeare, you hearing me?
Mel: Just a sec.
Tansy: I call frosting duty!
Mel: Just a sec.
Milo: Shakespeare is number one on my priority list of things I will never put on a priority list. Is anybody hearing me?
Tansy: I’m frosting Hamlet.
Milo: I am not doing this.
(Mel looks at both of them briefly before saying her line and returning to her phone world.)
Mel: Just a sec.
Maggie: As you can see, in the real world, doing real things, we are surrounded by real villains. But do we need magic wands, superpowers, charmed weapons and horcruxes to overcome these villains? (At the mention of the word “horcrux,” E11 jumps up from her hiding place.) No! To overcome real villains, we need real… (E11 conspicuously clears her throat.) Am I hearing throat-clearing of the type designed to be an interruption?
Maggie: And now an “um.” What possible reason could anyone on this stage have, just when I am executing a crucial transitional moment, to throat-clear and um at me?
E11: Never mind.
Maggie: Oh, no, too late. You’ve disturbed my flow, my rhythm. You have successfully derailed my train of thought, so the opportunity for never-minding has left the building. What is the issue?
E11: Well, you mentioned horcruxes.
E11: And I know, in the context of what you were saying, that it was just one item in a list of fanciful things for solving fanciful problems.
Maggie: I’m so glad you caught that, thank you.
E11: You’re welcome, but…
E3: Horcrux was the wrong word.
Maggie: Oh, look, another rodent speaks.
Allen: Guys, maybe we should just…
E9: I’m really glad we’ve stopped for this.
Maggie: Oh, me too. I am thrilled.
E3: See, a horcrux is more a tool of the villain than a weapon against the villain.
E14: In fact, the horcrux is the ultimate villainous tool, an object imbued with a portion of the demon’s soul in an attempt to secure eternal life for the dark wizard.
Allen: Everybody, we’re getting a little off track.
Maggie: Oh, no, no, no. Off track? Clearly not. I mean, what could be more relevant than a discussion of the fictional splitting of evil souls? And here I was, naively thinking that I had something worthwhile to say about actual people in actual situations.
E7: How many horcruxes were there, seven or eight?
E8: Don’t forget that Harry Potter himself was a horcrux.
Maggie: Talk, talk, talk. Listen to the rodents chatter away about such important things.
Allen: Guys, I’m warning you--when Maggie gets this sarcastic, we’re heading into a danger zone, so…
Maggie: And I certainly hope, after you get to the crux of the horcrux discussion, that you’ll spend at least several more precious minutes jawing about equally crucial things like the fabric of Aquaman’s suit or the name of the third wookie to the left in the second Star Wars prequel to the prequel!
E1: Aquaman is pretty much naked.
E10: Oh, yeah, he is.
Allen: We need to stop.
E2: I would categorize Wookies as solitary creatures.
E12: I think she means Ewoks.
(Maggie growls loudly, getting everyone’s attention. She focuses on E12. She walks toward him slowly.)
Allen: Maggie, now, Maggie…
(Maggie grabs E12.)
Maggie: How many Ewoks have you seen in your life?
E12: Uh, you mean, on the movies?
Maggie: In real life? How many?
Allen: Maggie, don’t kill him.
Maggie: Real life. Ewoks. Give me a number.
E12: Uh, zero? None?
Maggie: Correct, you unthinking cousin of a bilge rat.
E12: Ow. That hurts both physically and psychologically.
Allen: I tried to warn you.
Maggie: And why haven’t you seen any Ewoks in real life?
E12: Because...they’re imaginary?
Maggie: Also correct.
(Maggie lets go of E12.)
E12: I say again, ow.
Allen: You got off easy.
(Maggie hyperventilates, looking furious.)
Maggie: I swear, I am going to…
Allen: Maggie, stay with us. Everyone, we have gone severely off track, veering into a territory that definitely puts both our presentation and perhaps even our very selves in dire jeopardy. So…
Maggie: These magic-hugging, fantasy-drooling sons of…
Allen: Maggie, I’m working on it. Please refrain from both imploding and/or exploding.
(Maggie claps her teeth at him like a mad dog. Allen squeaks.) So, people, I will pretty much immediately need your focus and attention back on our task at hand. Maggie--leader, mentor, intellectual paragon, and perhaps, I dare say, friend…(Maggie growls menacingly.) Myhua!
Allen: Myhua. Right, everyone?
Ensemble (getting increasingly louder each time): Myhua. Myhua! Myhua!
(Allen picks up Maggie’s book and offers it to her.)
Allen: Minor yet helpful uncanny abilities, right? Myhu…
Maggie (grabbing the book): This is mine. I made it.
Allen: Yes, you did, and I believe you were about to…
(Maggie holds up the book and abruptly speaks to us, leaving off where she left off.)
Maggie: To overcome real villains, we need real people with myhua: minor but helpful uncanny abilities.
Allen: For instance?
Maggie: In this catalogue, I have gathered the for instances, the examples of precisely what I mean.
Allen (to the Ensemble): I think we’re good. No more sidetracks.
Maggie: Page Five, Annabelle Glick.
Annabelle: Hello. I’m Annabelle. Anna for short.
Maggie: In most ways, average.
Annabelle: I like soccer. I have a chihuahua named Bluto. My mother claims to be a natural blond because if you ask her if she dyes her hair, she says, “Naturally.”
Maggie: Individual, yes. Extraordinary, no. Except when she encounters the likes of the aforementioned Mr. Cardona.
Mr. Cardona: Now, tonight’s homework, if done correctly, should take no less than five hours. What I need you to do is… (Annabelle raises her hand.) What is it, Anna?
Maggie: That is when Annabelle Glick’s myhua shines forth!
Annabelle: Mr. Cardona, I know this might seem a little off-track, but you mentioned something earlier about--oh, what was it?--Gettysburg? On second thought, never mind. I don’t want to interrupt.
Maggie: Notice the subtlety and skill of her myhua. Putting out the bait, then pulling it back.
Mr. Cardona: No, no, Anna. What was your question?
Maggie: It can wait. I was just curious. I thought you said you actually visited the battlefield. I must have heard wrong.
Mr. Cardona: Actually, yes, I did visit the battlefield again last summer. I go there every chance I can get.
Maggie: Really? Where is it?
Mr. Cardona: Well, naturally, the Gettysburg National Military Park is in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The truth is, I hope one day to become an interpreter there. You see…
Maggie: And he’s off on his favorite tangent, urged on by Anna’s exceedingly convincing expressions of interest.
Anna: Is that right? You did? Wow. Uh-huh. That’s amazing! Jeepers, no kidding!
Maggie: The next thing he knows, Mr. Cardona has been talking for a full 20 minutes about his hopes and dreams concerning the Battle of Gettysburg, and the bell rings.
(The bell rings.) While the students rush out, Anna included…
Anna: That was so interesting, Mr. C. Have a good day!
Maggie: He suddenly remembers his major purpose, maximum student pain…
Mr. Cardona: Wait, wait, wait! I need to tell you about the...I have five hours of homework to...you can’t…!
Maggie: But it’s too late.
Mr. Cardona: Now how did that happen?
Maggie: One foiled Mr. Cardona, one victorious Anna, thanks to her minor but helpful uncanny ability to distract her teachers.
Maggie: We don’t need caped crusaders and spell-spouting sorcerers. No! We need to watch and learn from ordinary people in our midst like Paula Timson, who, when faced with the evil Mrs. Gribble handing her yet another tardy slip…
Mrs. Gribble: You want the white slip, don’t you, because white means pure and clean and excused? You don’t want the yellow slip, because yellow is for cowardly and urinated on and unexcused. Guess which one you get because I know all about your juvenile delinquency and your deviant tendencies. You get the…
Paula (extremely pitiful): I know. I know. I get the yellow. It’s what I deserve.
Maggie: Here it comes, Paula’s myhua.
Paula (working up tears): I wonder if you might have something even worse for me, something heavy I could hang around my neck or maybe you could tattoo something shameful on my forehead.
Mrs. Gribble: Well, now, we don’t need to go that far.
Maggie: Artistry. Genius.
Paula: I try, I do try to get to school on time. And I know it’s no excuse, just because...because our dog had puppies this morning and one of them looks like he might die--that’s no excuse.
Mrs. Gribble: The puppy might die?
Paula: It has a 50-50 chance. It’s a labradoodle.
Mrs. Gribble: Oooh.
Paula: With the softest curly hair and when it looked up at me this morning with its big, mournful eyes it was as if I could hear it saying to me, “Oh, please don’t leave me here during these brief, probably final moments on this Earth.” I’m sorry for crying.
Mrs. Gribble: Oh, don’t be, Honey, don’t be!
Paula: I should get to class.
Mrs. Gribble: No, no, take your time. Here’s a white, excused pass--write whatever time you want on it.
Paula: Oh, your kindness is going to make me cry even more. Bless you!
Mrs. Gribble: Here, take the whole pad! Fill them out however you want! For Heaven’s sake, go home and save that little labradoodle!
Paula: I will! I will!
(Paula and Mrs. Gribble fall into each other’s arms, sobbing.)
Maggie (whispered): Myhua.
All (whispered): Myhua.
Maggie: Majesty lies in myhuas like Paula’s, her minor yet helpful uncanny ability to summon up useful tears. But not every myhua is sentimental. Behold the great Sammy Duncan doing battle with the heinous Beckerman twins!
Sammy: Hello, twins of the Beckerman variety.
Becky: Hello, fresh meat.
Bobby: Hello, rookie tender tender.
Sammy: I’ve heard about you two.
Becky: Have you now?
Bobby: Nothing good, I hope.
Sammy: I’ve heard you like to sing a song, and sometimes it goes on all night long. Multiple verses, or did I hear wrong?
Bobby: Oh, rhyming. Ain’t that quaint?
Becky: I hope you don’t think that some Dr. Seuss-type action is going to keep us amused.
Bobby: No. We like candy. We like ice cream.
Sammy: Sorry. Fresh out.
Becky: We like expensive video games and blockbuster movies.
Sammy: Forgot my entertainment system.
Bobby: That’s all right. You can keep us happy by turning yourself into a combination human roller coaster and trampoline that can fling us and throw us and hide-and-seek us until we fall asleep like exhausted, happy little angels.
Sammy: Whoops--I recently sprained my pinky. Won’t be doing any of that.
Becky: Well, I guess you leave us no choice.
Bobby: Guess we’re just going to have to start blasting our list of greatest hits.
Becky: And it goes about like this.
(They both open their mouths to start screaming. Before they can get out the first deafening-decibel note, though, Sammy goes into a brief, violent, spasmodic fit. He shouts nonsense, flails his body wildly, then suddenly stops, looking serene.)
Becky: What the heck?
Bobby: Why did you do that?
Sammy: Do what?
Becky: You just, like, freaked out like some, some…
Bobby: Freaky guy!
Becky: Yeah! What was that?
Sammy: Oh, shoot. Not again.
Bobby: Not again what?
Sammy: I didn’t do anything, did I? I mean, to you guys? You’re okay?
Becky: What do you mean?
Bobby: You don’t remember?
Sammy: No, no, I just black out when I have these...episodes. It’s been a while; I thought I was over them. You’re both sure you’re okay?
Becky: Why do you keep asking that?
Sammy: Oh, no reason, really. Don’t worry about it. I’m sure it won’t happen again. (He has another “episode,” just as violent and weird as the first, but shorter. He snaps out of it and continues talking as if nothing happened.) We can just mark it down as a one-time thing. No problem.
Becky: But, but…
Sammy: Uh-oh. I didn’t have another one, did I? (Bobby and Becky both nod their heads and huddle together.) That’s kind of not good. I didn’t cause you any bodily harm, though, right? (Bobby and Becky shake their heads.) Excellent. This hardly ever happens--actually, only once before--and it was the third fit that caused the...problems.
Becky: What kind of problems?
Sammy: I mean, I didn’t end up going to jail or anything. It was deemed temporary insanity. Those poor children, though.
Bobby: What happened to them?
Sammy: I don’t want to put disturbing pictures in your young minds. Don’t worry; they’re still alive. Mainly. You know what’s amazing to me?
Sammy: How far modern medicine has come. I mean, it used to be that someone who has had his leg ripped off couldn’t expect to lead a full life. The artificial limbs these days are just miraculous, don’t you think?
Bobby: You...you ripped some kid’s leg off?
Sammy (suddenly intense): Where did you hear that?
Becky: We didn’t! We swear we didn’t!
Bobby: I never heard it! Did you hear it?
Becky: Never heard that, no.
Sammy (back to being cheerful): Great. So, what do you want to do?
Bobby: Uh, you know, it’s weird, but I’m suddenly really tired.
Becky: Me too. I think I just want to go to bed now.