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The play opens at an office building security desk. Two security guards—Hector, an older man, and Julius, a younger man—are standing behind it. Hector has a button depressed on an intercom, and he is speaking into it.
OK, OK Dr. Massenger, we’ll make sure the signs are up for the meeting tomorrow. You don’t have to worry about a thing; we’ll take care of it. Anything else, you just let us know.
He releases the button and sighs.
I had maintenance put up the signs two days ago.
Guess they forgot, I’ll have to have Brian—
No, Hector, I saw the signs go up. It’s all taken care of.
I don’t know what Dr. Massenger is talking about.
Well Julius, there’s a simple explanation for that. She’s a scientist. While they may work on the third floor, their heads are in the clouds. They can work fantastic equations, but half of them can’t work the elevator. And Dr. Massenger is one of the worst.
Yeah! There was this one time I saw her come down to the cafeteria. At the time, someone was there to refill the juice machine. So she comes in, and she sees the machine, the metal guts exposed, and she just stares. She watches the man stock the sodas, empty the change, his whole routine. Once he finishes, she continues to stare. Then a few seconds later, she snaps out of it and goes back upstairs.
That’s not so bad...
You’re right; that’s not so bad. But then what happens is some guy walks up to me, asking for Dr. Massenger. He said they were supposed to have a meeting over lunch, and she hadn’t shown.
Yeah, and this guy was from the government; he was going to rule on her funding for the next year. Luckily I buzzed her back down. But that was a big thing and she just spaced out about it. The doctor is definitely daffy.
What did you just say?
What kind of a word is daffy?
It’s... you know, crazy...
Like the duck?
Yeah. It’s just a more endearing way of saying she’s nuts.
Hector, I’ve got to say: the word “daffy” is way before my time.
It’s before mine, too. But for the scientists, it fits. They like to think that they’re just as hip as everyone else, but it’s just not the truth. Believe me, I’ve seen what they do at parties...
The scientists are a special breed...
On recognition, Julius smiles and begins to quote a poem.
“I grew a special breed of sunflower/Because others grew too high./So I dug and planted one/That wouldn’t even try./And...” Ah, I forget the rest...
Is that something Maggie wrote?
Yeah, I think it’s great. Though we’ve never had a sunflower at our place...
Ah, that’s not important. You see with Maggie, the real sunflower is in her mind...
You know, figuratively?
That’s why I’m the security guard. She’s the poet...
But she loves writing, huh?
Absolutely. I’ll wake up sometimes, and she’ll have left me a few handwritten pages about kittens, the mortgage, all kinds of stuff. It’s her imagination, just spilled all over our bed. I wish I could appreciate it more, you know? I mean, I love it, and I try to memorize some of it, but I feel like this could connect to somebody a lot better than it connects to me.
But you try.
That’s all that counts.
You know Julius, you should really have Maggie, tell her to do something with her words.
How do you mean?
Get it out there; find an audience...
She’s doing that tonight, actually. They’ve got something, I think it’s at the Barnes and Noble’s downtown. They do an open mic poetry thing every couple of weeks. And tonight she’s there, standing in front of a crowd, reading some of her favorite stuff...
He punches the palm of his hand.
God, tonight, out of all the nights I’ve worked here, I just want to walk on out of here. I want to be with Maggie. It’s horrible because here, it’s just another night. I’m stuck, working the desk like hundreds of nights; Maggie’s out there having a once in a lifetime experience. It would be easier—not by much—but it would be easier if Dr. Massenger’s meeting was tonight instead of tomorrow, you know? Then here something would be happening—something. Not like this nothing. She’s going to bring me home her entire night; her sets of poetry, the looks in the crowd... And I’ve got nothing for her...
I’ll cover for you.
Julius looks at him.
If you want to get out of here, I’ll say you were here the whole time. In your place I’d want the same thing.
Julius takes a few steps away from the desk, stops, and turns back to Hector.
Nah, I can’t make you do that...
Are you sure? I’ll make excuses, say you’re on phony calls, destroy security tapes...
Thanks Hector, but I’ll stay...
He checks his watch.
I probably missed most of it anyway...
Can I destroy some tapes anyway?
He smiles. Julius does the same, then sighs.
The sunflowers of her mind, Hector... They’re blooming... I’m missing them...
He walks back to the desk.
She’s bringing the baby and everything...
At least you’re there in spirit. And furthermore, hey, she’s probably reading something about you right now...
No, Maggie doesn’t have any poems like that.
Most of her poems are like the sunflower one; they’re things that you could picture Maggie doing, but things I’ve never seen her do. And actually, I’m really happy about that. Why limit her poems to just us, when her imagination is so much bigger than that?
So no poems about Julius, huh?
I asked her the same question once; same exact words. She turned around and said to me, “They’re all you, Julius, all of them. All my poems are about me, and you’re the most treasured part of me.”
Hector, that means more to me than if Maggie wrote a hundred poems about me. That’s my “Ode to Julius” right there. Everything she writes; it’s me.
That’s a heck of an ode.
I try to give it back. It’s because I treasure her, and she’s a part of me, that I’m in this uniform, behind this desk right now. It’s for her...
And all those sunflowers blooming tonight are for me...
Is she reading the sunflower poem?
Yeah, along with a few others she really likes; sort of her greatest hits.
Why’d you ask?
Well, she’s telling the same thing again, and that made me think...
You remember a few months ago when Dr. Fielding’s ex-husband came around here, to harass her?
Yeah, and you found him hiding in the-
Yeah; you know it...
I’ve heard you tell that story hundreds of times.
That’s the thing; that’s part of what I’m talking about. Not only did you hear it all those times, I must have repeated it to everyone in this building ten times over. I got sick of it.
So you’re afraid that Maggie is going to get sick of reading her poems again?
That’s part of it. But there was something else in the repetition. I wasn’t telling the story anymore...
You remember how in school they make you memorize the Gettysburg Address? Well I had memorized my own story, and now I was feeding it secondhand to my listeners. It wasn’t mine. For all it mattered, Abraham Lincoln was the one who captured and hogtied a half-naked Vince Fielding...
Now there’s a thought...
But you see my point; I didn’t know it at the time, but I was squeezing the life out of the event. I was burying the memory and chiseling the epitaph. And I had no idea until after I’d done it. And even now, when some random part of the memory comes to mind, it’s still overpowered by the loud voice of the words I committed to memory.
He turns to Julius.
Julius, this is what I don’t want to see happen to Maggie. I don’t care if she writes them down, but the moment the poems start coming from the paper and stop coming from her, don’t let her read them. Those pages she leaves on your bed, the moment you start seeing words in print and stop seeing Maggie, don’t let yourself read them. It’s Maggie’s life in these poems. If it’s treated like a child with the Gettysburg Address, well, what a life we’ve wasted...
No, that’s the end of the poem; the sunflower poem.
I triggered a memory?
You triggered Maggie.
He takes a breath.
“I grew a special breed of sunflower/Because others grew too high./So I dug and planted one/That wouldn’t even try./Then I thought ‘What a life/The plant I’ve just begun./A sunflower designed/to never reach-’”
The intercom buzzes. Hector and Julius roll their eyes.
There’s the door...
I’ll buzz them in.
He does so. The two wait for the visitor to approach the desk. The Comic Book Supervillain enters, either in full supervillain regalia, or in a very shabby disguise. Either way, Hector and Julius are skeptical.
I’m here for Dr. Massenger and the Coding Sequence Center.
Don’t waste my time:
I’m sorry, that’s off limits...
The Supervillain stands in a fearsome battle pose and attacks the pair. Hector and Julius react, but they are killed by the Supervillain’s super powers. Alarms sound. The Supervillain looks around, then dashes past the desk to offstage. The bodies of Hector and Julius are left strewn across the desk. The lights fade.