A true and wondrous shaggy dog story. Secundus's fifth-grade play is the musical version of Peter Pan, a hugely accomplished and enjoyable production, in which all the children in the grade take part. (S is the pirate Starkey.)
Having watched the first evening performance from the front, I had happily volunteered to help wrangle the large cast of ten- and eleven-year-olds behind the scenes for the next night's performance, a role that principally involves saying "Shhhh!" a lot. We're about halfway through the show, and the long corridor that runs past the stage entrance is momentarily devoid of pirates, Indians, or Lost Boys, who are either onstage or shut in the gym. It's a rare moment of peace.
I look up and see a dog, padding along the corridor toward us. A Golden Retriever. Alone.
Dogs are not allowed in school. Not even during theatrical performances. Even Nana, the Darling family's nursemaid Newfoundland, is played by a boy in this production.
A couple of us intercept the beast, who is docile and friendly and seems pleased to have some attention.
And then one of the girls recognizes it. "It's Hilary's dog!" she cries, referring to the talented young student who is that night's Wendy. An examination of the dog's collar reveals that it is indeed the redoubtable Scout. But how did he get here?
"Shall we tell Hilary?" another girl asks. "No!" the grown-ups respond quickly, not wanting to distract her from her performance. Nor, we decide, should we tell Hilary's mother, one of the two hard-working and inspirational moms who were the guiding lights of the show, now contentedly sitting with the rest of the family in the audience, unaware that she should have saved a seat for a late-arriving canine member.
One of the mothers backstage finds a necktie to use as a leash, and I keep Scout distracted while she tries to telephone the family's neighbor, who is able to come to the school and take him home. The play continues to the end, and Hilary -- unaware of the backstage drama -- gets to enjoy the well-deserved standing ovation, along with the rest of the cast and her mom.
Here's what we think happened. Hilary's family lives in a house next to a pathway that runs into the school grounds. Scout must have have gotten out, taken a fairly familiar route, and finding the cafeteria doors open to let in some air on this warm evening, trotted into the school looking for company.
Of course, we could be fanciful and believe he knew mighty things were happening that night, and he was determined to share in his family's triumph. (After all, if he'd chosen the previous evening for his escapade, he'd have seen a different Wendy.) So he took the second star on the right and went straight on till morning. Yes, that must be it.
(Cue Twilight Zone music.)