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Hot-Air Balloons, A Play
Sigrid Johnson ~ The Radiowoman
Administrator ~ The Administrator
Annie Dyker ~ A Hot-Air-Balloon Captain
Nick Russell ~ A Hot-Air-Balloon Captain.
Nairobi Waters ~ A Hot-Air-Balloon Captain
Dyker Crew ~ Nat, Mitchell, Sara
Russelton Crew ~ Jason, Jerome, Fred
Waters Crew ~ Kira, Bracken, Lark
The Tempest, Captained by Annie Dyker
The Argo, Captained by Nick Russelton
The Victoria, Captained by Nairobi Waters
(Sigrid Johnson is off-stage. Her voice is heard crackling over the radio.)
Good morning, Arizona! It’s a beautiful sunrise in the Grand Canyon State, or at least that’s what the weather channel tells me. It’s November nineteenth, and let me tell you, what amazing weather we’ve been having. Straight days in the high sixties, clear skies, and talk to me about sunshine. Mm! Speaking of which, what are you doing this weekend? Thanksgiving is only days away, folks. If you’re not going out of town, then why not go to the Cochise County Hot-Air Balloon Festival? This nationally-acclaimed gathering hosts over one hundred airships and their captains, and this year, kicks off it’s first hot-air balloon Air Race, covering approximately five hundred miles from Cochise, Arizona to Amarillo, Texas. I say five hundred because of the checkpoints scattered throughout the course, including one just outside Santa Fe. Did I mention that Yours Truly will be one of the radio callers? It’ll be my job to stay in constant contact with the competitors, and to call in support for teams whose chasers are a little bit behind the balloons. I tell you, folks, I wish I could be up there with the airmen and women who fly those balloons, I envy their lack of vertigo, yu-uck! That’s something you don’t want to see… (Trails off into static as curtains rise)
(A large crowd mills around food vendors and souvenir sellers. The air is buzzing with chatter, and in the background you can see hot air balloons of all shapes and sizes. The sun beats down relentlessly, and competitors fight their way through a flimsy white registry tent. NICK RUSSELL pushes his way to the registration table.)
I’m here to register? Nick Russell? Am I on the—
(Sighs) Nick Russell.
Yes, Mr. Russell. You’re placed in lot… let’s see, seven? Is your team prepared?
Good. (Pushes sheet of paper and pen towards him.) Now, just sign here, and here…
(Signing the paper absently.) What are these?
Next! Oh, wait, don’t forget your pennant, string it on your balloon, it’ll mark you as a racer. Next!
(Takes the pennant, a large, rolled up triangular flag.) All right! Thanks!
(NICK walks off, but remains onstage. He opens a cell phone, and begins instructing his crew to begin setting up in lot seven and that he’ll be there in a minute. ANNIE walks onstage, staring intently at a map of the layout of the festival. Several people in the crowd seem to notice and recognize her, both competitors and not.)
(In loud whispers.) It’s her… Annie Dyker…? Isn’t she the one who…? Yes, that’s right, I can’t believe she’s still…
(Annie doesn’t appear to notice, but makes her way to the registration tent. She walks up, still not paying attention, and the competitors all quiet down at once and form a path for her to walk through.)
Is this the—
—um, registration tent? It’s Annie, Annie Dyker?
(NICK hears the name, and looks up interestedly. He closes his cell phone, and watches intently.)
Dyker? Oh… yes, let’s see, then. You’re in lot five. Is your chasing crew prepared?
I see… well, it looks like your forms are all in order. Here’s your pennant, make sure it’s attached to your balloon.
(Takes a rolled-up pennant.) Of course.
(Annie walks off, but Nick quickly moves to cut her off.)
Hi, I’m Nick. Are you competing in the race?
(Uncomfortably.) Yeah, that’s right.
Me, too! Hey, if you don’t mind me asking, and I hope you don’t think anything of it, why didn’t you have to fill out any forms? I mean, they’ve generally saved all the liability waivers until the end so people have a chance to chicken ou—um, I mean, so people can decide if they really want to go through with the race or not.
Well, I’ve been around balloons a long time. It’s sort of a… family thing.
Cool! Yeah, I didn’t start until a couple of years ago, but once I caught the bug, well, there was no turning back, you know?
Um, no. Hey, I’ve got to go, my crew’s probably waiting for me. I’ve gotta go help them set up. Balloons don’t blow themselves. (Jogs off.)
Well, that was rude.
(NICK walks offstage, talking into his cell phone again. Almost immediately, SIGRID comes onstage, almost flamboyantly overdressed for classic cowboy weather. She carries an army radio, and has a headset strung around her neck. Nairobi, a tall, athletic-looking African-American, glides beside her, dressed far more sensibly for the Arizona sun.)
So, about that interview…
I’d love to, of course. But you really want to do it while I’m in the air?
Sure, why not? But it’ll have to be on a different wavelength, and I probably won’t be able to air it live. I wouldn’t want it to interfere with my duties.
(Smiling slightly.) I wouldn’t, either.
Naturally, naturally. I have to say, I’m excited! I’ve never done one of these before! Are there many… accidents?
No, not usually. But you’re a weatherwoman, aren’t you? Generally, the only thing we have to worry about when it comes to accidents are fuel issues or freak storms. But seriously, so long as there’s a chasing crew nearby, most teams’ll be fine.
Broadcaster extraordinaire. Not weatherwoman.
No matter, no matter. So, is there supposed to be a prize for the winner?
Just everlasting fame and glory. But there’s a cash prize of three thousand dollars. Most of us are just here for the scenery and a week off of work. If even that. I guess you could say it’s sort of a homage. A couple of ballooners died about ten years ago, just outside of Santa Fe. They were the best of the best, too. It was a weather accident. The daughter, part of the chasing crew back then, is still around. I don’t know if she decided to show up for the race or not. I wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t.
The memories. The ballooners here are all dedicated to the sport, just like that old family. It’s a shame. I met the Dykers once or twice, they were great people....
Yep. That’s them.
I swear I’ve heard that name before…
(Interrupting them is the ADMINSTRATOR on a megaphone.)
All right, everyone. The race starts in one hour! Racers, get to your balloons! Spectators, the west stands are opening, don’t forget to get your concessions and complementary Cochise Hot-Air Balloon Festival t-shirts before they run out! Thank you!
That’s my cue. See you on the air.
See you on the air. Lets go monitor some airwaves, people.
(Scene ends with SIGRID and the ADMINISTRATOR ushering spectators over to the west stands.)