The Real Mr. Jenkins
By Madeleine LEngle
Adapted for readers theatre from A Wind in the Door, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1973
CULTURE: Contemporary (U.S.)
THEME: Self-esteem; compassion
GRADE LEVEL: 6 and up
TIME: 14 min.
ROLES: Narrator 1, Narrator 2, Meg, Proginoskes, Jenkins 1, Jenkins 2, Jenkins 3
NOTE: This comes from the second book in Madeleine LEngles Time Trilogy, which includes A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. (The series has now been expanded with additional titles.) Proginoskes is pronounced "PRO-gin-OSS-kees." Echthros is pronounced "EK-thros" (rhymes with "dose"). Echthroi is pronounced "EK-throy" (rhymes with "toy"). Kythe rhymes with "blithe."
NARRATOR 1: The schoolyard was deserted when Meg and the cherubim Proginoskes reached Charles Wallaces grade school. The buses had not yet arrived.
MEG: Weve got a while to wait, and its okay for you, since youre invisible. But Ive got to find a place to hide.
NARRATOR 2: She could not see Proginoskes, but she talked at the faint shimmer in the air where she knew he was.
PROGINOSKES: Youre too late.
NARRATOR 1: said the cherubim, and Meg swung around to see Mr. Jenkins, her former principal, coming across the schoolyard.
JENKINS 1: (annoyed) All right, Margaret, what is this? What are you doing here?
NARRATOR 2: She had nothing to reply. She felt Proginoskes close to her, felt his mind within hers, but he had nothing to suggest.
JENKINS 1: (compassionately) My dear child. If you have come again about your little brother, I can now tell you that we are reviewing his case.
It is never my policy to allow one child to be intimidated by his peers. But our initial testing shows that Charles Wallaces talents are so unusual that additional, unusual measures must be taken. Ive had several consultations with the State Board, and we are considering getting a special tutor for him.
NARRATOR 1: Meg looked warily at the principal. This sounded too good to be true.
NARRATOR 2: The cherubim too was uneasy. She felt him moving lightly in her mind, feeling her response to this unexpectedly reasonable Mr. Jenkins.
JENKINS 2: That is nonsense.
NARRATOR 1: said Mr. Jenkins to Mr. Jenkins.
JENKINS 2: We cannot make an exception for one child. Charles Wallace Murry must learn to manage!
NARRATOR 2: A second Mr. Jenkins was standing beside Mr. Jenkins.
NARRATOR 1: It was impossible.
NARRATOR 2: But there were two identical, dour Mr. Jenkinses, standing in front of her and glaring at each other.
NARRATOR 1: Proginoskes shimmered, but did not materialize. Meg backed into the shimmer.
NARRATOR 2: She felt that the cherubim was opening an invisible wing and pulling her close to him. She could feel his tremendous, wild heartbeat, a frightened heartbeat, thundering in her ears.
PROGINOSKES: (softly) We are Namers. We are Namers. What is their Name?
MEG: (softly) Mr. Jenkins.
PROGINOSKES: No, no, Meg. This has to be the first test the Teacher told us to expect. One of those Mr. Jenkinses is an Echthros. We have to know which is the real Mr. Jenkins.
MEG: Progo, you can feel into my mind. Cant you feel into theirs?
PROGINOSKES: Not when I dont know who they are. Youre the one who knows the prototype.
MEG: The what?
PROGINOSKES: The real one. The only Mr. Jenkins who is Mr. Jenkins. Look!
NARRATOR 1: Suddenly, beside the two Mr. Jenkinses stood a third Mr. Jenkins. He raised one hand in greeting to the other two men and said,
JENKINS 3: Leave the poor girl alone for a few minutes.
NARRATOR 2: The three men wheeled, stiffly, like marionettes, and walked across the schoolyard and into the building.
PROGINOSKES: We must think, we must think. Meg, try to kythe with me. Open yourself up to me so I can open the door to your minds storehouse.
MEG: All right, Ill try.
NARRATOR 1: To open herself entirely to the cherubim, to make herself completely vulnerable, was not going to be easy.
NARRATOR 2: Still, she trusted Proginoskes completely.
MEG: Listen. Cherubim have come to my planet before.
PROGINOSKES: I know that. Where do you think I got all my information?
MEG: What do you know about us?
PROGINOSKES: I have heard that your planet is shadowed, that it is troubled.
MEG: (defensively) Its beautiful!
PROGINOSKES: In the middle of your cities?
MEG: Well no but I dont live in a city.
PROGINOSKES: And is your planet peaceful?
MEG: Well, no. It isnt very peaceful.
PROGINOSKES: (reluctantly) I had the idea that there are wars on your planet. People fighting and killing each other.
MEG: Yes, thats so, but
PROGINOSKES: And children go hungry.
PROGINOSKES: And people dont understand each other.
MEG: Not always.
PROGINOSKES: And theres theres hate?
NARRATOR 1: She felt Proginoskes pulling away in horror.
PROGINOSKES: I dont know why I should have been shocked at finding Echthroi on your planet. Echthroi are always around when theres war.
MEG: Progo, you took me to see that tearing of the sky, and all that awfulness, but you still havent told me exactly what Echthroi are.
PROGINOSKES: I think your mythology would call them fallen angels. War and hate are their business, and one of their chief weapons is un-Namingmaking people not know who they are. If people know who they arereally knowthen they dont need to hate.
Thats why we still need Namers, because there are places throughout the universe like your planet Earth. When everyone is really and truly Named, then the Echthroi will be vanquished.
MEG: And you think Im supposed to Name Mr. Jenkins?
MEG: But how do I do it? How do I Name Mr. Jenkins when all I think of when I see him is how awful he is?
NARRATOR 2: Proginoskes sighed and flung several wings heavenwards so violently that he went up several feet, materialized, and came down with a thud.
PROGINOSKES: Theres a word. But if I say it, youll just misunderstand.
MEG: You have to say it.
PROGINOSKES: Its a four-letter word. Arent four-letter words considered the bad ones on your planet?
MEG: Come on. Ive seen all the four-letter words on the walls of the girls room.
PROGINOSKES: Love. Thats what makes people know who they are. Youre full of love, Meg, but you dont know how to stay within it when its not easy.
MEG: What do you mean?
PROGINOSKES: Oh, you love your family. And you love your friend, Calvin, with a different kind of love, the confusing kind. But those are easy. You have to go on to the next step.
MEG: If you mean you think I have to love Mr. Jenkins, youve got another think coming! How could I ever feel love for him?
PROGINOSKES: Meg, love isnt how you feel. Its what you do. Cherubim have no feelings at all!
MEG: Progo, Im not a wind or a flame of fire. Im a human being. I feel. And what I feel for Mr. Jenkins is hate!
PROGINOSKES: (sighs) Am I lovable, Meg? To you?
NARRATOR 1: All about Meg, eyes opened and shut. Wings shifted. A small flame shot out.
NARRATOR 2: Yet, all that Meg wanted was to put her arms around Proginoskes as she would around Charles Wallace.
MEG: (fondly) Youre so awful, you are lovable.
PROGINOSKES: So is Mr. Jenkins. And you have to Name him. That is the first test.
NARRATOR 1: The door to the cafeteria/gym opened, and a Mr. Jenkins came out. Which Mr. Jenkins?
NARRATOR 2: Meg looked to the cherubim, but he had dematerialized again, leaving only a shimmer to show where he was.
JENKINS 1: (coldly) I assume that you are as confused by all this as I am, Margaret. I am told that it has something to do with you, as well as your unfortunate little brother.
I had hoped that this year you, at least, would no longer be one of my problems. It seems to me I have had to spend more time with you than with any other student. And now not only do I have to cope with your little brother, who is equally difficult, but here you are again!
NARRATOR 1: This was Mr. Jenkins. He had played upon the theme of this speech with infinite variations almost every time she was sent to his office.
JENKINS 1: For some reason obscure to me, you are supposed to choose between the impostors and myself. It is certainly in my interests to have you pass this absurd test. Then perhaps I can keep you out of my school.
NARRATOR 2: Mr. Jenkins Two appeared beside Mr. Jenkins One.
JENKINS 2: And then I will have time to concentrate on present problems, instead of those which ought to be past.
Now, Meg, if you will just for once in your life do it my way, not yoursIf you would simply stop approaching each problem in your life as though you were Einstein and had to solve the problems of the universe, and would deign to follow one or two basic rules, youand Iwould have a great deal less trouble.
NARRATOR 1: This too was authentic Jenkins. The shimmer of the cherubim wavered uneasily.
NARRATOR 2: A third Mr. Jenkins joined the other two.
JENKINS 3: Meg. Stop panicking and listen to me.
JENKINS 2: Meg, if you will Name me, and quickly, I will see to it that Charles Wallace gets into competent medical hands immediately.
JENKINS 3: Its hardly that easy. After all, her parents
JENKINS 2: (interrupting) Do not know how to handle the situation, nor do they understand how serious it is!
NARRATOR 1: Mr. Jenkins One shrugged in annoyance.
NARRATOR 2: The three men stood side by side, identical, gray, dour, unperceptive, overworkedunlovable.
JENKINS 3: Meg, does it not seem extraordinary to you that you should be confronted with three of me?
JENKINS 2: It is imperative that we stick to essentials at this point. Our number is peripheral.
NARRATOR 1: The real Mr. Jenkins was very fond of discarding peripherals and sticking to essentials.
JENKINS 3: That there is only one of me, and that I am he, is the main point. But this trial that has been brought on us is an extraordinary one, Margaret. Being confronted with these two mirror visions of myself has made me see myself differently. I understand your point of view much better than before.
You were quite right to come to me about your little brother. He is indeed special, and I have come to the conclusion that I have made a mistake in not realizing this, and treating him accordingly.
JENKINS 2: Dont trust him.
MEG: And what will you do about him now, Mr. Jenkins Three?
JENKINS 3: I shall have a long, quiet session with Charles Wallaces teacher. Then I will speak to each child in the first-grade room, separately. If any of them again try to bully your brother, I shall use strong disciplinary methods. This school has been run in far too lax and permissive a manner. From now on, I intend to hold the reins.
MEG: And what about you, Mr. Jenkins Two?
JENKINS 2: (pointing at Jenkins 3) Forcethats what that impostor is advocating. Dictatorship!
But I think I understand Charles Wallace. He has a need to enhance his social prestige, to make himself more of an equal in the eyes of his peers. Theres where happiness lies, in success with your peer group. I want all my children to be like each other. So we must help Charles Wallace to be more normal.
MEG: And Mr. Jenkins One?
JENKINS 1: (shrugs in annoyance) I really do not foresee much change in my relationship with Charles Wallace in the future. If I had the cooperation of the School Board and the P.T.A., it might untie my hands so I could accomplish something. (impatiently) How much longer does this farce continue?
JENKINS 2: (points at Jenkins 1) He doesnt love children!
JENKINS 3: (points at Jenkins 1) He cant control children!
JENKINS 2: I will make Charles Wallace happy.
JENKINS 3: I will make him successful.
NARRATOR 2: Mr. Jenkins One looked at his watch.
NARRATOR 1: Meg closed her eyes. And suddenly, she did not feel. She had been pushed into a dimension beyond that, if such a thing were possibleand if Progo was right, it was possible.
NARRATOR 2: There was nothing but a cold, calm awareness, which had nothing to do with what she normally thought of as feeling.
MEG: Mr. Jenkins Three
JENKINS 3: Are you Naming me, Meg? Thats right.
MEG: No. Youre not the real Mr. Jenkins. Youre much too powerful. Youd never have to be taken away from a regional school you couldnt controlas Mr. Jenkins wasand made principal of a grade school you couldnt control, either.
Mr. Jenkins Two
JENKINS 2: Thats right, Meg! Name me now.
MEG: (shakes her head) I wasnt quite as sure about you, at first. But wanting to make everybody happy and just like everybody else is just as bad as Mr. Jenkins Three controlling everybody.
Bad as the real Mr. Jenkins is, hes the only one of you three whos human enough to make as many mistakes as he doesand thats you, Mr. Jenkins One. (eyes grow wide, laughs in surprise) And I do love you for it!
NARRATOR 1: The air about the schoolyard was rent with a great howling and shrieking, and then a cold nothingness which could only be the presence of Echthroi. It was as though rip after rip were being slashed in the air, and then the edges were drawn together and healed.
NARRATOR 2: Two Mr. Jenkinses were gone.
NARRATOR 1: Proginoskes materialized, delicately unfolding wing after wing to reveal his myriad various eyes.
NARRATOR 2: Mr. Jenkins Onethe real Mr. Jenkinsfainted.
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