Narrator: Pandora Darling was getting used to waking up stiff. It had only
been a few days since her safe, suburban lifestyle had been turned upside
down: only a few days since she had come home to find her mother having slaughtered
a strange man in her own living room. Every morning since then had been similar:
Pandy would wake up in a small, coffin-shaped box and wonder exactly when
her mother had gone bug-nuts crazy. She would lay still on her back thinking
about moments in years, or even months, past that might have warned her about
her mother’s insanity. Then she would start to feel claustrophobic and
decide it was time to break out of the box. She would find the lock picks
she had hidden on her person before going to bed the night before, feel for
the lock above her head, and work the lock until it sprang free and she could
have breakfast. This morning, however, was different.
Pandy: (under her breath, sleepy, but a little panicky) Wha? Where is it?!
Narr: Pandora ran her fingers over the smooth surface just opposite her face,
and felt no lock. She twisted herself just enough to feel above the crown
of her head, where she felt metal. She almost breathed a sigh of relief, but
started to panic again when she did not feel a hole that her lock picks fit.
As she ran her fingers over the metal piece above her head, all she felt were
little nubbins that she assumed were screws. Slowly, it sank in: this was
not a lock, but a hinge.
Pandy: (still under her breath) She’s got to be kidding.
Narr: Pandy took a deep breath and started feeling around the foot of the
box with her toes. She quickly felt a little metal box with a small hole for
a key. Starting to get upset, Pandy hurtled her chest forward and reached
for the lock – only to bump her head-
Narr: -and fall to her back.
Mom: (after a click of the intercom) What did I tell you about panicking,
Pandy: (muttering, annoyed) It wastes the air.
Mom: Good. Now remember what you read last night, and don’t talk to
yourself out loud. Think in your head. I’ll have breakfast waiting.
Pandy: This is getting really ridiculous!
Mom: What did I just say?
Pandy: I wasn’t talking to myself!
Narr: Pandy took a shallow breath and assessed her situation. Remembering
her reading from the previous night, she felt out the dimensions of the box
that contained her. There was not enough room to bend her leg sideways. There
was, however, enough room to bend her knee directly up toward the ceiling.
Slowly, carefully, she bent her right knee up and slid her right foot under
her backside. She reached down with her right hand and slipped a lock pick
in between her first and second toes. She arched her back and slid her foot
very slowly out from under her, returning her knee to its bent position. Then
she straightened her leg. She lay for a minute, letting her leg rest. Then,
gripping the lock pick tightly between her toes, she fumbled around until
she felt it slip into the lock’s hole. Ten minutes later, Hope Darling
saw her daughter walk into the kitchen looking extremely annoyed.
Mom: Was that too much trouble, Potato?
Pandy: (pissed) I had to do it twice. I dropped the lock pick the first time.
Mom: Never underestimate the utility of strong toes. I’m glad you got
it though. You’re a smart girl. Have some breakfast?
Pandy: (still bitter) No thanks. I’d rather not miss first period again.
Mom: (a little shaken, not sure how to console her daughter) Well, okay.
See you after school then.
Pandy: Oh, goody.
Narr: Pandy made it through first and second period without too much trouble.
Her friends didn’t even bother her about her mood lately. This wasn’t
for lack of concern, however. For in between second and third period…
Tabby: Listen, Bobby, I-
Tabby: I’m sorry.
Bobby: Well why do we have to be under the stairs to talk about this?
Tabby: Look, it’s really not good for my reputation to be seen with
Bobby: Well it’s really cramped under here and…what? Gee, Tabby,
Tabby: Bobby. Focus. We don’t have to like each other, but we both
like Pandy, so we can talk for a few minutes, right?
Bobby: What do you mean, like?
Tabby: Oh cut it out, Bobby, you’re like totally obvious.
Bobby: I don’t know what you’re-
Tabby: Jeez, just shut up for a minute. We only have five minutes till the
next bell. And Pandy’s been acting really weird lately.
Bobby: Well yeah, she has been pretty distracted.
Tabby: I think we need to talk to her. Together.
Bobby: We can’t fit another person under the stairs.
Tabby: No, it’ll have to be … (disgusted) in public, I guess.
We’ll catch her during lunch. She’s my best friend, but she’s
been totally avoiding me lately, and I need someone to back me up on this.
So you’ll talk to her with me?
Bobby: Yeah, sure. (pause) Anything for Pandy.
Tabby: Ugh, you’re so pathetic. Do me a favor at lunch today, and don’t
get all mushy over her and let her get away with not talking to us. We really
need to know what’s going on in her life if we’re going to help
her through…whatever she’s going through. So if she avoids us,
we need to stick to our guns, okay?
Bobby: Yeah, sure. Wait, what did you say?
Tabby: You’re pathetic?
Bobby: No, that last part.
Tabby: Stick to our guns?
Bobby: Yeah. For some reason that made me think I knew why Pandy was so upset.
But it’s gone now. Man, it was on the tip of my tongue…
Tabby: Whatever. (bell rings) That’s the bell. See you at lunch.
Narr: Tabby and Pandy had math together third period. They were passing notes
about their stupid old math teacher and giggling together for about half the
period. Eventually, Pandy got bored and went to look at the clock above the
door, when she saw her mother’s smiling face in the window of the door.
Pandy’s heart dropped into her stomach.
Pandy: (under her breath) Oh god, what now?
Tabby: (whispering) What’s wrong? Oh man, your mom’s here? Is
Pandy: I don’t know…
Narr: Pandy nodded impatiently at her mother, who was gesturing for her to
come out into the hallway.
Pandy: …but I guess I’ll go find out. (louder now, to the teacher)
I’m going to the bathroom, Mr. Belkin!
Narr: Out in the hallway, Pandy rushed her mother away from the classroom
Pandy: What are you doing here?!
Mom: (kind of excited) I was reading the Gazette this morning over breakfast.
Mom: I found a code.
Pandy: Jeez, Mom. You’ve got to get over this. There’s no code
in the Gazette! It’s just a paper!
Mom: No, this one’s important. And complicated. I’m going to
need your help.
Pandy: No way. Not a chance. I’m going back to math.
Mom: Pandy! At least hear me out.
Pandy: Mr. Belkin is teaching a really interesting lesson today, I’ve
just got to get back.
Mom: Pandora Claire Darling! Not another step.
Pandy: (to herself) I hate when she uses my full name.
Mom: I’ll put up with the disrespectful tone because I know this is
all a shock to you, but I will not suffer the lies. (beat) You hate Mr. Belkin.
Pandy: (sighs) Fine. Show me this "code" you found.
Mom: It’s right here in the letters to the editor. See this one? From
Mrs. Joan Reilly?
Mom: I highlighted every seventh word. Go on, read it.
this is totally nuts. This is a letter about a tutor. She’s talking
about bombing tests, not people. You could do this with any letter. Give me
that paper. Okay, how about this letter? I’ll read every seventh word
from this one. Okay. Soccer…glad…thank…pizza…fifth…okay,
fine, that one didn’t work. But this is really stretching it, I think.
Mom: Where is room 25?
Pandy: You’ve got to be kidding.
Mom: This is about CASK, I just know it. Now tell me.
Pandy: It’s downstairs. On the second floor.
Mom: Whose classroom is it?
Pandy: Um…(a little taken aback, remembering whose
room it is) Miss
Mom: And what does she teach?
Pandy: (having a difficult time saying it) Social Studies. I had her last
Mom: You have to introduce me to her.
Pandy: Mom, no. You need to go home. Take a nap or something, and we can
work this out when I get home.
Mom: Either you introduce me now or I’ll go in there myself and you
take your chances with what I say. I’m not going to do anything to her,
Pandy, I just want to meet her. I have to see her.
Pandy: Great. Just great. (beat) Okay fine. I introduce you, and then you
go home. Promise?
Mom: Scout’s honor.
Pandy: You weren’t a scout.
Mom: Mom’s honor, then?
Pandy: You were better off with the first one. Let’s go.
Narr: On the second floor, Miss Stetson was grading papers during her period
off. She was middle aged and conservatively dressed. She had close-cropped
dark hair and wore a pants suit. She looked up and took off her reading glasses
when she saw Hope and Pandora walk in the room.
Miss Stetson: (cordial but professorly. Pandora wasn’t exactly her
best student, but she’s doing that teacher thing) Why Pandora. To what
do I owe this surprise?
Pandy: Er…I wanted you to meet my mom?
Miss Stetson: Well what a pleasure. It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Darling.
I have to say, I was disappointed not to meet you at last year’s Parent
Mom: Well you know how it is with us working moms. I was in for a teacher
conference today and thought I would drop in and meet you on my way out. Pandora
did talk about you often.
Miss Stetson: (taken aback, pleased) Is that so? Why Pandora, I didn’t
think I’d gotten through to you.
Mom: Well it was very nice to finally meet you. Unfortunately I have to be
going, and I know Pandy has to get back to class.
Miss Stetson: Yes, it was good to see you after all this time. I hope you’ll
come back to the school a little more often, now that you seem to have found
a good time to make it.
Mom: I’m sure I will. Take care.
Pandy: Can you go home now?
Mom: (distracted) Hmm? Oh, sure.
Pandy: What’s with you?
Mom: Oh, nothing, Potato. See you after school.
Pandy: Yeah, okay.
Narr: Pandy ran back to math just as the period was ending. Stupid Old Mr.
Belkin didn’t seem to notice.
Tabby: (whispering) What was that all about?
Pandy: Long story. My mom’s been a little weird lately.
Tabby: Seems to be genetic.
Narr: But the bell rang before Tabby could say something she might regret,
and the two friends bade each other goodbye until lunch time. Pandy spent
lunchtime in the nurse’s office. She didn’t know how to deal with
her friends, especially since Tabby seemed really uppity with her lately.
Unable to find their friend, Tabby and Bobby found themselves under the third
floor stairs again.
Tabby: I hope everything’s okay.
Bobby: We could try going to her house. Maybe she went home for lunch.
Tabby: Wow, you need to back off a little. I’ll call her tonight. We’ll
try again tomorrow.
Tabby: Well, your leg was in the way!
Bobby: (slightly annoyed, but still kind of
a pushover) Alright, well I’m
going to go look for Pandy some more. I’ll let you know if I find her.
Tabby: Have fun.
Narr: Pandy nearly ran all the way home after school to avoid seeing any
of her friends. She stood on her doorstep catching her breath for a minute,
and then opened the door. Given the events of the past few days, she almost
expected to see a dead body on the floor. Instead, the carpet was clean. She
heaved a sigh of relief and went into the kitchen for a glass of milk. Sitting
at the kitchen table were her mother and Miss Stetson.
Pandy: Oh…uh…hi, Miss Stetson. (beat) Mom?
Miss Stetson: Your mother was kind enough to invite me over for coffee after
our meeting today. You know, Pandora, I think it’s wonderful that she
is taking an interest in your studies.
Pandy: Yeah, but you’re not my teacher anymore.
Mom: (scolding) Pandora!
Pandy: Sorry. Well, you two have fun. I’m going to go hit the books.
Narr: Pandy had only been freaking out in her room for about ten minutes
when she heard grunts and groans and thumps coming from the kitchen. She ran
out of her room and down the stairs to find the two women with big bruises
on their faces struggling on the kitchen floor. Hope Darling had Miss Stetson’s,
but Miss Stetson was forcing the two of them into a roll across the kitchen.
Mom: (struggling) Quick, Pandy!
Miss Stetson: (struggling) You stupid bitch!
Pandy: (panicked) What? Mom, what’s going
Mom: (struggling) Under the sofa cushions!
Miss Stetson: (struggling) What did you think you were doing!?
Narr: Pandy ran to the living room sofa and pulled out a very long and slender
pistol. She stared in horror at the perfectly crafted killing machine she
held in her hand.
Mom: (struggling) Pandora!
Narr: Pandora ran back to the kitchen just in time to see Miss Stetson pinning
her mother to the floor and landing a heavy punch on her collar bone. Without
hesitation, Pandora ran over to the two women and planted her feet evenly
on the floor. She closed one eye and aimed the pistol at Miss Stetson’s
Pandora: Mom! Get out of the way!
Mom: Now, Pandy!
Narr: Hope Darling heaved one knee up and planted it square between Miss
Stetson’s legs. She pushed the schoolteacher off of her and rolled toward
her daughter. Pandy fired three rapid, silenced shots into the chest of her
formal Social Studies teacher, who fell to the kitchen floor with a dull thump
and lay still as her blood pooled slowly around her. Pandy dropped the gun
and fell to the floor, leaning against the cabinets under the sink. Hope Darling
brushed herself off and left for a minute. She returned with a tarp and her
Pandy: Are you okay?
Mom: I learned how to take punches a long time ago.
Pandy: (remembering her dead teacher) Oh Mom, what did you do?
Mom: You did it too, Potato. And you were brilliant.
Pandy: (loudly, upset) What do you mean, brilliant? I just killed – (quieting
down, realizing she shouldn’t yell that) I just killed my teacher!
Mom: I knew it as soon as I saw her.
Pandy: (really bugged out) This can’t…this can’t be happening.
Mom: (busying herself about the body) I just have to figure out who this
Joan Reilly is. I’m assuming she’s a friend, but one can’t
be too careful.
Pandy: (crying) Oh god, oh god…
Mom: It’ll be okay, Potato. We’ll be fine. But before we do anything,
come and help me find the chip.
Narr: Was Miss Stetson an agent of CASK? Did she attack Hope Darling in self
defense? What will Pandora do now that she is her mother’s accomplice?
Tune in next week for "Cleaning Up."