What follows is the final monologue from Carol Lashof’s play Gap.
Pomp and Circumstance plays in the background. As the music fades out, SHERYL, a middle-aged woman, begins speaking to the audience.
Of course I was proud. Any mother would be proud. There she was—my daughter, my Maggie, addressing an audience of hundreds, no, thousands of people. Seven hundred and twenty students in the graduating class, plus parents, and grandparents, and teachers, and siblings. So maybe . . . three thousand people, give or take. So much to be proud of. She won a scholarship from the local TV station, “The Phoenix Scholarship,” for students who overcome difficult backgrounds in order to excel in school.
She didn’t learn how to read at the first grade level until she was nine or ten, even though we always had lots of books in the house when she was little, and I read to her every night and took her to the library for story time on Saturdays. For a couple of years, they had her tracked in Special Ed. Then, finally, one of Maggie’s teachers in seventh grade realized she was really very smart and had her tested for dyslexia. That changed everything. So I am grateful to that teacher.
When Maggie won the scholarship, the TV station interviewed her in front of the high school building and one of her friends was standing next to her. She was jumping up and down and clapping, and she said, “Oh, Maggie, you’re so perfect for the ‘Phoenix’ thing.” It was very sweet. Even the weatherman said so after the camera cut back to the studio and before he gave his forecast: “Morning fog. Clearing in the afternoon.”
So I deserve to be proud, don’t I? In the fall, she’s going to Brown University on a full ride scholarship.
In her speech, Maggie said that her life changed in middle school.
(Pause. Gathers her courage.)
Her life changed when Child Protective Services took her away from me and made her a ward of the state. That’s what she said to all those thousands of people. All her amazing success, she said, she owed it to her foster parents and to her teachers and her friends.
In seventh grade, she told her teacher that when she came home from school in the afternoons, there wasn’t anyone to help her with homework, except prostitutes and drug dealers. If she remembers it that way, I can’t necessarily argue. When you’re schizophrenic, you lose chunks of your life. So I don’t know.
But what I remember was a house full of musicians and artists. And yes, there were parties. And yes, there were drugs. But where is it written that a drug dealer can’t help you with your Algebra homework? Or that a prostitute knows nothing about Catcher in the Rye?
I can tell you this much: no one in that house was ever anything but kind to her. And I never did anything but love her, or ever wanted anything except what was best for her.
I had to leave the graduation after Maggie’s speech. What with all those thousands of people sitting there in the sun despising me. So I didn’t get to see her receive her diploma. I wish I had been able to stay for that. I wish . . .
Well, there’s a whole lot of things I wish. A lot of stuff I wish were different.
(Pause. Change of tone.)
But mostly I just wish for her to be happy. I wish for her to get everything she wants, every good thing in the world . . . She deserves it all.
(Carol Lashof’s work is included in One on One: The Best Men’s Monologues for the 21st Century and the forthcoming DUO!: The Best Scenes for Two for the 21st Century—both from Applause Theatre & Cinema Books.)
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Carol S. Lashof
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