originally published June 28, 2014
It is the final day of classes. Just a day in the life of Mr. Maxwell, a grade six teacher who’ll be flying across the street to teach summer school next week. It’s not the end for him, just the annual hello/goodbye to this year’s crop of kids. The man has a real love for his profession, but something doesn’t feel right today. This boy wants a vacation. And his kids are running here, there and everywhere with the bottled-up energy of ten months’ anticipation of being – finally – free as a bird.
MAXWELL: Good morning! Good morning everyone. Take a seat.
JIMMY: Mr. Maxwell?
MAXWELL: Yes Jimmy?
JIMMY: I forgot to remember… to forget… to get a note from my mom about our end-of-year picnic today.
MAXWELL: I’ve got a feeling you’re still half-asleep. The picnic was last week. Remember the rain?
JIMMY: Right. Those three cool cats were sniffing an old brown shoe while two of us threw rocks at it by the new grazeeboo.
MAXWELL: The what? What’s the new – Mary-Jane, tell me why you just smacked Joey in the head? You can’t do that.
MARY-JANE: He told me, “Run for your life, cuz I’m searchin’ for a taste of honey, and baby, it’s you.” He’s always so bad to me!
JOEY: Oh yeah? Well she said… she said I was the sun king.
MARY-JANE: I did not!
MAXWELL: Alright, that’s enough. Mitchell, slow down and get back to your desk; you’re liable to trip and roll over Beethoven, the class gerbil, and I ain’t using my first aid skills for no one on the last day of school. *
MITCHELL: Yes Mr. Maxwell.
MAXWELL: Okay everyone. It’s the last day! Let’s talk about the summer. I’ll be on my way to the airport after dismissal today. I’m headed back in the USSR on a long, long, long flight (please let it be a smooth one). It won’t be long though, and I’ll be back here with another class of bad boys – sorry, just ‘boys’ – and girls. Ha ha.
JULIA: Mr. Maxwell?
MAXWELL: Yes, Julia?
JULIA: Why do you call it the USSR? It’s Russia, isn’t it?
MAXWELL: I call it the USSR just as I call your name – it’s how I’ve always known it. You see, in my life there’s a place in my heart for Moscow in the 80’s. The inner light of that city always spoke to me; I’m so tired of hearing how bad it was back then. The night before I left last time, the warm and lovely Rita – she’s a girl I’d just met – whispered words of love into my ear. She said, “I need you to know that I’m happy just to dance with you, but that true happiness is a warm gun.” Yep, that’s what I loved about Moscow – the girl and the guns.
JULIA: Do you miss it?
MAXWELL: When I get home from Moscow in August I’ll be fixing a hole in my heart. I feel fine while I’m there, but I want to tell you that if I fell in love just once, it was with Moscow. I’d love you to see it in person. And the women are long… tall… Sally, quit passing notes! *
MAXWELL: No reply from you, not today. Arguing will get you nowhere, man – I don’t care if you think you’re not guilty. Now where was I?
MAXWELL: Right! These were the days before the revolution.
HOWARD: The Russian Revolution?
MAXWELL: No, that was revolution 1. By the late 80’s I think they were up to revolution 9 or so – Glasnost. Anyway, there was Rita. She’s a woman who knows what goes on, if you catch my meaning. She was a wild honey pie, the kind who wouldn’t be afraid of saying, “Hey, why don’t we do it in the road after sundown?”
CLASS: <befuddled looks>
MAXWELL: So I’d wait and wait for her, like dreamers do. “I’ll follow the sun to your doorstep and wait beneath Mr. Moonlight until I’ll get you, in spite of all the danger. PS, I love you.”
MAXWELL: Maybe. *
JULIA: I think it’s romantic. She loves you! Or ‘Sie liebt dich’ as my German aunt Maggie may say.
MAXWELL: Thank you, girl! But I think she loved some other guy. Oh, the misery. “It’s only love,” I’d tell myself. “I should have known better than to slide down the helter skelter of the heart.” But wow, when I saw her standing there beside that little child holding a matchbox and munching on a savoy truffle, I said, “I wanna be your man!”. But then came the end. It was time to say goodbye.
MAXWELL: Yep. It was rough. “I’m a loser who can’t figure out the magical mystery tour of love!” I told myself. We fought, then she came in through the bathroom window one night to tell me she had a ticket to ride – that she’s leaving home for the land of the strawberry fields. Forever! “We can work it out,” I pleaded, but she shrugged and said, “That’ll be the day. I don’t want to hear about yer blues; our love is so yesterday. You like me too much, you never give me your money, and while I love the rock and roll music you brought into my country, I simply can’t live within you. Without you will have to do. You know my name – look up the number. You know what to do.” But she never told me where she was moving. ‘Land of the strawberry fields’??? Is that code?
JIMMY: I don’t think so.
MAXWELL: Think for yourself, Jimmy. <sighs> Love me, do not love me – Rita couldn’t choose. So while my guitar gently weeps for her when I play in my band on the weekends (with a little help from my friends, the Max-tones, of course), I’ve moved on to a better lady. Madonna said it best in “Papa Don’t Preach” when she said – Hey! Jude! I said no more passing notes! *
JUDE: How do you catch every little thing I do wrong?
MAXWELL: You’ll have to carry that weight of your bad luck eight days a week, Jude. Such are the chains of bad karma, y’dig it?
JUDE: All I’ve got to do is be more careful, because I want to get away with stuff any time at all.
MAXWELL: You’re getting better at it. All you need is love and good deeds. All my loving balances out my bad karma.
ELEANOR: Mr. Maxwell?
MAXWELL: Yes, Eleanor Rigby Bronskowitz?
ELEANOR: How do you do it?
MAXWELL: What do you mean? Tell me what you see me doing.
ELEANOR: For you, blue shouldn’t be an option. You should be happy! What I’ve learned from the things we said today is that if you’ve got trouble – like your love for Rita not working out – why not just track her down and tell her, “I’ve got to get you into my life, somehow, some way?”
MAXWELL: It’s not that simple.
ELEANOR: Yes it is!
MAXWELL: Honey, don’t argue with me. Look, today I’m down about it. I will bounce back, and tomorrow I’ll have the landscape of Moscow to hold me tight. I’ll cry instead of searching for her – there’s no point! Tomorrow never knows what the piggies of yesterday might reap.
MAXWELL: It’s all too much to cram into a metaphor. Look, I know what you’re doing – you really got a hold on me feelings and such, but there’s no point. Love may be an octopus’s garden of delights, but eternal love is only a northern song lyric – it ain’t real. Sometimes you’ve got to hide your love away or else you’re going to lose that girl. *
MARTHA: Mr. Maxwell?
MAXWELL: Yes, Martha my dear?
MARTHA: What is sex?
SADIE: EEEEEEEE –
MAXWELL: Sadie! Don’t interrupt!
SADIE: – EEEEWWWW!!!!
MAXWELL: Martha, your mother should know. Ask her. Dammit, Pedro! I want to hold your hand and drag you to the office – I said no more passing notes! I’m not going to warn you again, not a second time!
JULIA: Or, ‘komm, gib mir deine hand’ as my German aunt Maggie may say.
MAXWELL: Thank you, Julia. I want a postcard if you travel this summer. Don’t let me down or I’ll be begging my mailman: “Please, Mr. Postman! Don’t pass me by! Please! Please! Me old friend Julia is sending me a postcard, I know it!”
MAXWELL: Ain’t she sweet? Hey everyone, do you want to know a secret? We have some time for questions before the year-end assembly. Dear Prudence, why don’t you start?
PRUDENCE: No please, start with another girl.
MAXWELL: Okay then. Hello, little girl! What’s up with her majesty, queen Michelle?
MICHELLE: Can you please tell the foreign kid I want my paper back?
MAXWELL: Right. Er… can you please call him by his name?
MICHELLE: I can’t pronounce it! Obla Diyobla?
OBLA: Da. That is good.
MAXWELL: Brendan, what are you doing?
BRENDAN: I’m only sleeping, Mr. Maxwell! Louis, lend me your comb; I think he’s going to send me down to see mean Mr. Mustard.
MAXWELL: You’re damn right. To the principal’s office. Now.
BRENDAN: Aww…. <leaves> *
MAXWELL: Anna, go to him too. That’s it for passing notes.
GERTIE: There’s a blackbird outside the window! I have one of those in a cage at home!
TROY: And your bird can sing louder than your mom, I know.
GERTIE: Shut up, Troy. And look at that blue jay, way over by the playground!
MAXWELL: Okay, okay, I know you’re all excited. It’s a good day – sunshine, cool breezes, a brilliant blue above, like a loose sea in the sky, with diamonds of clouds speckling the view. It’s a glorious display of polythene – Pam? You have a question?
PAM: What are you talking about?
MAXWELL: Just getting a little poetic. You won’t see me again until the fall, and by then I’ll either be exhausted from a hard day’s night of travel from Moscow, or else I’ll be jilting the taxman who’ll come looking for my money. That’s what I want to do – spend all my money before my birthday, then tell the taxman, “don’t bother me” when he shows up to collect. I’ll just drive my car across the universe and back.
YOLANDA: Mr. Maxwell?
MAXWELL: Yes, Yolanda?
YOLANDA: I lost my little girl-shaped cookie. It was going to be a gift from me to you, but now it’s gone! This morning I was crying, waiting, hoping you’d like it, but now I’ll never know! <cries>
LOUIS: <quietly, to Jimmy> That girl will cry for a shadow. She needs help!
MAXWELL: Don’t listen to them, Yolanda. Cry, baby. Cry all you want. As for you, Louis, I’m looking through you. I’ve just seen a face made of cookie icing poking out of your backpack. You think I’m the fool on the hill up here? That I don’t see everything?
MAXWELL: You aren’t sneaky, Louis. Everybody’s got something to hide except me and my monkey, but I am the walrus of wisdom. Don’t think kids didn’t know how to steal stuff till there was you. Give it back. *
LOUIS: Alright. <he gives the cookie to Yolanda>
MAXWELL: Anna? What are you still doing here? To the office, I said! I’ve been waiting all day – trip ‘er and you’ll be off to the office too, Louis. Tuck in your leg. Anyway, I’ve been waiting all day to hear what you kids are up to this summer.
ELIZABETH: Ask me why I’m so happy!
MAXWELL: Because you’ve been running around in circles until you were dizzy? Miss Lizzie, that’s just a joke.
ELIZABETH: I know! My family is going to Kansas City!
MAXWELL: Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! That’s a great place! If I needed someone to show me the beauty of Missouri, that’s where I’d go. What’s wrong, Penny?
PENNY: Lane stole the picture I drawed!
MAXWELL: Drew, Penny. The word is drew. Jeez, ten months and I couldn’t twist and shout proper grammar into your head, hey?
PENNY: <to Lane> Leave my kitten alone! I drawed that for Rocky!
LANE: Raccoon! It ain’t no kitty, it’s a raccoon! Look – the word at the bottom, it says ‘raccoon’!
OBLA: You kids all be same. Much o’ this make no sense to Obla.
MAXWELL: Settle down, everyone. Lane, give her back the picture. Oh! Darling Naomi don’t enter those golden slumbers like Brendan did. You have all summer to sleep. Okay, let’s come together as a class one more time. Any more questions?
BECKY: There’s a bulldog outside!
MAXWELL: That’s nice, Becky.
BECKY: Hey! Bulldog poop!
MAXWELL: Focus, everyone. We’ve got just a few more minutes in this yellow submarine of a room. Man, I hope they paint over the summer. Besides, I know that bulldog. There’s a devil in her heart; she poops in the playground every day, honey pie. *
RACHEL: I have a question! I want you –
LOUIS: <quietly, to Jimmy again> She’s so heavy!
MAXWELL: Louis! To the office! It’s the last day of school, with mother nature’s sun blasting a carnival of light from the sky like a magical glass onion. No need to be a little asshole or I will keep you after school on the last day. What were you saying, Rachel?
RACHEL: Will you ever move to Russia?
MAXWELL: It’s the long and winding road of paperwork to move to Russia that’s holding me back. Maybe after I retire, when I’m sixty-four or sixty-five. Besides, baby, you’re a rich man from inheritance if you can simply up and move around the world on a teacher’s salary.
OBLA: You can’t buy me love. Not for sale. Not I, me, mine or myself’s.
MAXWELL: Right. Thanks, Obla.
TERRENCE: I am being, for the benefit of Mr. Kite, our shop teacher, a wood-saw for Halloween!
MAXWELL: We weren’t talking about that, but that’s great, Terrence. Monty, what are you drawing?
MONTY: It’s a bunch of babies in black makeup. Kind of a goth album cover for this 12-bar original song I wrote. It’s called, “You’ll Be Mine Or Else.”
MAXWELL: Cool! What does it sound like?
MONTY: Have you ever heard of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band?
MAXWELL: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band?
JULIA: “Re: prize”. I just got an email with the subject line “Re: Prize”! Do you think I won something?
MAXWELL: Julia, what have I told you about checking email in class?
BILL: Mr. Maxwell?
MAXWELL: Ah, another chapter from the continuing story of Bungalow Bill! Here comes the son of Doctor Robert Grossman, my chiropodist, with another great question.
BILL: I want to be Norwegian. Would…
JIMMY: <quietly, to anyone who’ll listen> This bird has flown out of his mind!
BILL: …that be possible?
MAXWELL: If you go to Oslo and act naturally, eventually you can be. Oh, and quit dressing like the sheik of Araby. Norwegians dress just like us.
JULIA: Mr. Maxwell, will you ever try to find Rita?
MAXWELL: Look, I don’t want to spoil the party, kids, but it’s time to head to that assembly then out the doors for summer. I’d love to stay and chat until Christmas time is here again – and I love her, Julia, I do, but it wasn’t meant to be. Single-file, kids. And because I won’t see you again for a couple months, let’s say it all together now:
ALL: Good night!