Last week . . .
Bennett grinned. “Well, we were a mess today.” He sobered. “I sure hope Monday’s practice goes better. If not, the play is likely to be the worst ever instead of the best.”
“You know if won’t be the worst ever,” Mia said confidently. “It can’t be.”
Her brothers exchanged glances and turned to look at her. “Why couldn’t it be?”
“Because our puppies are in the play, and we have a real horse.”
Exploding into laughter, the boys leaned against the fence and rocked with mirth. When at last Derek could speak, he gasped out, “Oh, Mia, you’re priceless!” and then went off into another laughing spell.
Monday did go better and even Mr. Sheets, who usually growled and shouted directions until the opening night, watched the last run through without a word. As the curtain was closing on the last notes of the song, Mr. Sheets stood up and called, “Open those curtains.”
But the curtains kept closing. “I said,” roared the director, “open those curtains!”
A dead silence fell on the theater for the curtains had closed completely instead of opening and tension grew with each passing second. What was going on?
Then, into the silence came Derek’s voice, sounding clearly from off stage. “I’m sorry, Mr. Sheets, but you gave explicit orders that I was not to open the curtains after that last song. I was only following your instructions.”
There was an instant of silence and then the room erupted into laughter. The curtain opened, the orchestra struck up and the entire student body began singing ‘Happy Birthday’ as Mia and Chloe carried a large cake down to the speechless Mr. Sheets.
When the noise died down, Mr. Sheets attempted to scowl fiercely as he thundered, “Who put you up to this? Who told you it was my birthday?”
Looking up at him, Mia replied with a grin, “Mrs. Sheets did. And besides,” she added sweetly, “it’s always your birthday on the 14th of December.”
Tuesday morning arrived. Not one of the Marley children had much of an appetite for breakfast, but sat staring down at their plates in silence.
“Tut, tut, opening night jitters.” Mrs. Marley shook her head. “I don’t know how you are to manage a half day of school.”
Bennett looked dismal. “I don’t either.”
“But I guess it’s better then sitting around the house all morning,” Derek sighed.
“The day is going to creep by, I just know it is,” Mia wailed.
Putting down his paper, Mr. Marley glanced around at the long faces before him and laughed. “If you don’t eat something the play certainly will be ruined before it has gone very far because the driver will tumble off his carriage, the pretty girl in the shop will faint, the stage manager won’t be able to direct his crew and the settings will all be wrong.”
“Disaster!” Derek exclaimed. “That’s what it would be. Come on you two, we could do the play in our sleep, we’ve gone over it so many times. What’s wrong with us today?”
“I don’t know.” And Bennett shoved a large bite of pancakes into his mouth.
In spite of opening night jitters and sudden nervous terror of forgetting lines or coming in at the wrong time, the play that first night was a success. The Gary children made their gingerbread house, the wealthy couple from the city became snowed in as Mr. Thompson had predicted and the final song brought cheers from the audience, but not the opening of the scarlet curtains.
“Oh, Daddy!” Mia cried, running to fling her arms about his neck when they were at last free to head home. “What did you think of it? Did you like it? Was it the best one yet? Were you surprised by the song at the end? Didn’t the orchestra do a great job and wasn’t Uno cute with that red bow?”
“Whoa!” Mr. Marley chuckled, unclasping his daughter’s hands and dropping her down beside the open car door. “Yes to everything, but let’s head home now.” And he gave her a little push.
The ride home that night was one constant stream of talk. Yes, the play was delightful. The kids had done a great job. The song at the end was a surprise and the orchestra was great. Mr. and Mrs. Marley couldn’t think of a single thing that would have improved the night’s performance.
“And we didn’t have any disaster,” Bennett whispered to Derek as they pulled into their driveway.
Wednesday night’s performance was even better and Thursday’s better yet. Everyone was confident about what they were supposed to do and when to do it.
“So tomorrow is the really big day, huh?” Mr. Marley asked as the family drove home that evening.
“Yep,” Derek answered. “It’s all on us.”
Not only had the annual Christmas play become a tradition at Coolidge High School, but the precedent of allowing the students to entirely direct the final two performances had brought packed houses each year to the theater. It would be no different this year.
“Oh,” Mrs. Marley glanced over her shoulder at Derek, Bennet and Mia. “I was talking with Mrs. Gann from over in Midway and she said they had two tour buses coming through the area tomorrow and they are all coming to the play.”
The children exchanged glances. “Tour buses?” Bennet asked, “What are they doing in the area?”
Mrs. Marley shrugged. “I heard they were on a Christmas tour across the country and either Mrs. Gann told them about the tradition of the school play or they learned it from someone else. You know Mrs. Gann has connections with different tour groups.”
Bennett sighed. “Just watch, tomorrow night will be the night one of the puppies gets tangled in the wires and pulls the lights off the Christmas tree or Dilly gets scared and runs off the stage and breaks a leg. Why couldn’t they have picked another night? Like last night.”
“Boy, you’re in an optimistic mood,” Derek retorted, giving him a friendly shove.
“Nothing is going to happen,” Mia put in as the car stopped before their house. “It never does.”
Will something happen tomorrow night?
If so, what do you think it might be?
Come back on Friday for the next part.