Set Play!

“Make way, make way! The star is coming through!” The broad shouldered youth bruised his way through the crowd of his peers, huddled in clusters back stage in the auditorium at their school.

“Pfft, I don’t know where he gets off.” One child thought, scowling. “All his brains are in his shoulders. That’s why he’s so short.” 

It was true. Jamal was the shortest boy in all the class, but that never slowed him down (except in gym class. It’s hard to run fast when your legs are only an inch long). He never acknowledged his shortness; seemed entirely oblivious to the fact quite honestly, but subconsciously it pushed him all the more to strive for achievement. Which he did.

“Miss Greece, Miss Greece,” Jamal said, occupying the teacher in charge of the annual school play (whose opening night it just so happened to be). “I will be the tree in the front, right?” He said confidently, hands on hips.

“Yes, you will.” Miss Greece turned from her clip board, passion ablaze in her eyes. “You’ve worked very hard to get here, it is only right you should be rewarded. You will be center stage, a grand sage of wisdom whose branches reach into the very heavens!” They exchanged a quick handshake known only to them (the results of many late night rehearsals) before Jamal strutted away to makeup.

“Honestly, he doesn’t even have lines…” Another child thought, overhearing the conversation. “What’s the big deal?” 

A little bit away sat Darrel on the floor, seemingly without a care in the world. “Darrel,” Miss Greece approached the boy. “I know you’re nervous, I can see it in your eyes. This is a big night for you. This is opening night. Your big debut as a leading man. The audience will be watching your every move, listening to every syllable. But I have the utmost confidence in you. Is that a mouse?”

“Yes,” Darrel held up his pet mouse, whom he’d been petting quite contently. “His name is Jasper, on account of my favorite band. Wanna pet him?” Darrel. Indeed, leading man material. Average in regards to height and weight, he stood a few inches taller than his classmates owning to his well maintained fohawk. He was quite unique in many ways but very much liked, the result of a wonderful house and home with his grandmother, whom he and Jasper adored very much.

“Unfortunately, there isn’t time for petting Jasper.” Miss Greece said. “Hurry into costume! Everyone hurry! Time is ticking!” 

“I have to admit: I feel a bit silly.” One girl commented to another, gesturing to her sequence tulle.

“Alright class. This is it.” Miss Greece began, gathering the children to her. “All your hard work this past week, no, your entire lives, has lead to this very moment. I want you to know, regardless of what happens out there, I’m proud of every single one of you, and I only hope! you’ll look back on this night the same way I will: with pride and a sense of victory. Now, are you ready you fools?”

“What’s this play even about?” One child asked no one in particular.

“Beats me.” The girl next to him replied, shrugging.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the announcer began. “Please welcome this year’s fifth grade class, lead by Miss Greece, and their production—”


“Jesus, could you move any slower?” He yelled back at her, the familiar anger thick in his voice. They’d wandered for hours in an unnamed cave, the maze of dark throats showing no signs of ending. She thought giant burrowing worms must have created them years ago: He knew they were just tunnels. “If it wasn’t for you we wouldn’t even be here,” he said. “Why are you so stupid? So completely and utterly stupid.”

“I’m sorry,” she said, eyes cast to the ground. They found themselves in a cavern; a small reflective pool a table around which three gaping mouths waited. He took the opportunity to wheel on her, forcing her against a wall.

“I wish I had never met you. Nothing has gone right since then. You’re incompetent and ugly. Completely useless.” He wasn’t yelling anymore. He didn’t have to. He turned and walked down the far right mouth, darkness swallowing him mercilessly. She listened as his footsteps faded, leaving nothing but silence. Despite herself, she cried. Just as she knew she would. Just as she always did. She curled into a tiny ball of despair and cried.

“Hey,” a voice called. “Hey, are you ok?”

She looked up, but saw no one. “Hello?”

“Over here.” The voice said.

“Please. Just leave me alone.” She turned quite away.

“That’s kinda hard to do, considering you’re inside me.”

“What?” She looked around with more interest. “Is this some kind of sick joke?”

“The only joke around here was your companion. He seems like a real jerk.”

She remained silent for a moment. “No; he means well, sometimes. He only acts like that when he’s angry. When he’s nice–”

“How often is nice?” The voice interrupted.

“Sometimes.” She said, furrowing her eyebrows. “Who are you anyway? Where are you hiding?”

“I told you,” the voice said. “I’m all around you. I’m the cave you’re in. Are you sure you like that guy?”

“Yes.” She stood up, not believing what she was hearing.

“I don’t see why. You should leave him. Except he sort of already left you…”

“He’ll come back.” She said. “He always does.”

“He always does, or you always do?” Again, she remained silent. “Tell ya what, take a walk with me. I’ll help you out of this cave and by the time you see the sky you’ll be over that dude like birds over land.”

“Really?” She asked.

“For sure,” the voice said, full of confidence. “I can feel it in my bones. Take the tunnel on your left and let us be on our way.”

*Note: Somehow or another this was originally inspired by Xia’s latest single, “Flower”. It’s changed a lot over time, but I’m happy with the way it’s turned out. If you haven’t heard the song I highly recommend it, but be warned: the music video for the single can be shocking to the uninitiated.