(radio static) Bizarre reports of hundreds of rubber ducks appearing overnight in Central Park continue today. Another 4,548 of the squeaky yellow toys were found this morning. The bath time companions have mostly been found inside trash cans, on benches, and on top of bridges across the park’s grounds.
Rumours are circulating amongst concerned parents that a gang of thieves is breaking into their homes, somehow undetected, as part of a strange prank. Reports indicate that children across the city, too, are becoming distressed with rumours of rubber-duck-stealing bogeymen and monsters infecting playgrounds across New York City.
A group of small children gather next to the swings in a busy school playground during lunch time.
SID: Okay, guys…guys…we need to do something. No more duck stealing in this joint. I won’t sleep until I get my duck back.
DUNCAN: But who’s taken ‘em? If it is the bogeyman, I ain’t fighting him.
LEWIS: Aw, are ya scared? (Makes chicken noises.)
LEWIS: Duncan’s scared of the bogeyman!
SID: Hey! Even if it is the bogeyman, we can beat him! There’s trillions of us and only one of him. Everybody wait at the gates after school and we’ll go find him and get our ducks back for good.
MOLLIE: But how we gunna fight the bogeyman? We need weapons, Sid. We can’t fight him just fisticuffs alone. (Pause.) Megan still has her ducky, ya know.
The group turn and look at Megan.
SID: Do you, Megan?
Megan holds her hands in front of her and gives a coy smile. She nods without saying a word.
DUNCAN: No way! Where is it? I want it! You don’t even like rubber ducks. I bet it isn’t even yours. You’ve stole mine! Give it back!
Duncan tries to push Megan, but she pushes him back with all the force she can muster and manages to knock him over. Mollie stands in between them as Duncan whimpers on the ground.
MOLLIE: You leave her alone, you big…big…freak! She hasn’t stole your ducky. She’s got her own, fair and square.
SID: Well, somebody’s stealing from us. And I bet it’s the bogeyman.
LEWIS: There’s no such thing, slime ball!
DUNCAN: (scrambles to his feet) If you say ‘slime ball’ into a mirror three times, the bogeyman appears.
MOLLIE: Shut up, Duncan!
SID: Shush everybody! Listen, we need to go out and get this guy! We’ll take weapons from class. Pens and pencils can be knives and we can use Lego blocks to throw in his eyes and…and…blind him! We can get the monster and get our duckies back once and for all times. Who’s with me?
Parents meeting in a small-town hall in Manhattan.
There is a lot of chatter and commotion. Everyone is talking over each other, getting louder and more frantic.
GAIL: Quiet everyone…Everyone? Please! Quiet! (The group eventually stops talking.) Thank you. Okay. Good. I’d like to thank you all for coming at such short notice.
Now, we need to discuss what our plans are. This hoax, this prank. I don’t know what it is. I won’t pretend to understand, and I won’t pretend it doesn’t scare me. I don’t know who is doing it. And I don’t know why they’re doing it.
I didn’t understand that stupid creepy clown craze and I don’t understand this rubber duck hoax either. But this is serious. Our children could be in danger.
MATT: (scoffs) That’s a bit of an exaggeration, isn’t it?
LINDA: An exaggeration? People are clearly breaking into our homes!
MATT: How? How are they breaking in? Do you see any signs of forced entry in your home? Has anything of value been stolen?
GAIL: Well, how do you explain it, then? Our children’s rubber ducks are missing and hundreds of them turn up in Central Park of all places. I don’t see how the children could orchestrate something on such a large scale. We’re talking about four and five-year olds, here.
MATT: Yeah, I do think the kids are behind it-
LOUISE: This is ridiculous.
DAVID: You’re in denial, Matt. Kids could never organise something this big. Come on, be serious. We’re talking about hundreds of kids across New York City. How do you explain that? Do they have some kind of underground network? Do their Sippy cups double as cell phones?
MATT: I can’t explain it! It’s weird. Of course, it’s weird. Any logical explanation is going to sound weird because we’re talking about rubber duck theft here, for Christ sakes. But I don’t believe that predators have broken into our homes with the sole purpose of stealing our kids rubber ducks. I feel ridiculous even saying it!
GAIL: Look, regardless of what’s going on, we need to find a way to stop it.
PATRICIA: My little Duncan cried last night at bath time. It’s not the same without his little ducky. He’s so melancholy!
GLEN: Oh, be quiet, Patricia. I think this is a little more important than your son’s duck and his perpetual bedwetting.
PATRICIA: How dare you! My Duncan does not wet the bed! Don’t you dare make out he’s a sissy again. Not like you did at the last parent council meeting.
(Groans from everyone at the meeting.)
GAIL: Patricia, please! We’re not getting into all that again.
PATRICIA: Well, tell him to keep his toxic masculinity away from my son and we won’t have a problem!
GLEN: Toxic masculinity?!
LINDA: Oh, give it a rest, you two! Patricia, you are an overbearing, overprotective mother, and Glen, you’re an asshole. There, it’s settled!
GLEN: I’m not an asshole!
PATRICIA: I’m not an overbearing mother!
IAN: (shouting over Glen and Patricia’s squabbling) Aren’t we going to talk about these predators?!
GAIL: People, please! We’re getting away from the point of this meeting. We should be working together. There’s no need to start squabbling and get personal. It’s not necessary. We’re adults!
DAVID: Okay, okay. Let’s get back down to business. We’re talking about creeps who are getting into our houses undetected. How are they getting in, first of all?
MATT: Nobody has gotten into our houses!
DAVID: How do you explain it then?!
MATT: I don’t explain it! But predators are NOT breaking into our homes. To. Steal. Rubber. Ducks!
HILDA: (appears from the back of the group) My Megan still has her rubber duck.
The group fall silent and all turn to look at Hilda.
PATRICIA: (breaks the silence with a frantic yelp) How much do you want for it? I’ll pay for it! Name your price!
DAVID: I’ll pay double whatever she offers!
IAN: I’ll give you five dollars!
HILDA: No way! Megan would have a fit without her duck. It’s a novelty pink unicorn one I got in a store in Time Square. She won’t go for a bath without it.
GAIL: But, Hilda. I don’t understand. I thought every rubber duck in the city had been stolen. How can little Megan still have hers? Is it new? Did you buy it to replace her stolen one?
HILDA: No. I bought it for her years ago, before all this nonsense started.
PATIRICA: What makes Megan so special? My Duncan deserves his ducky more than your spoiled brat!
HILDA: Spoiled brat? That’s rich! Coming from you and that little tyrant you’ve babied for five years!
Patricia gasps in outrage.
LINDA: That’s enough!
GAIL: Stop! We’re not going to get anywhere if we keep going on like this.
The group fall silent for a moment.
IAN: I’m telling you people. It’s predators doing this! If you don’t listen to me now, you’ll be sorry. We need to do something about this. Who’s in agreement?
ALL: Oh, shut up, Ian!
Hilda’s high-rise apartment in Manhattan. Megan has just got out of the bathtub, wrapped in her pink dressing gown and holding her pink rubber duck. She looks out the low window directly in front of her which leads to the fire escape. She can hear the buzz of the city and sirens whizzing by below. Hilda has been trying to convince Megan to leave her duck in the bathroom and go to bed when the phone starts to ring.
HILDA: (sighs) Ugh, okay. You just play with ducky. I’ll be back in a minute, sweetie. Okay?
Megan nods and smiles.
Hilda leaves the room to answer the phone. Leaving Megan to play with her duck alone. After a moment, Megan sits the duck down on the side of the bathtub, cups her hands to her mouth, and imitates the sound of an owl. A rattle comes from the fire escape. Megan toddles over to the window and pushes the window pane up. A breeze blows in and the sounds of the city fill the room.
The rattling from the fire escape gets louder as someone climbs up. Finally, a mime dressed in monochrome clothes and makeup with a huge red smile appears at the window. He waves at Megan and she waves back.
The mime gestures to her duck and imitates a silent quack. Megan giggles without noise. She holds her duck out to the mime as a gift.
The mime mouths ‘No!’ He pushes the duck away, letting Megan know it is hers and she must keep it. The mime appears to have remembered something and, out of nowhere, pulls out a black bag. He opens the bag and, inside, there are dozens of standard yellow rubber ducks.
He lifts a handful out of the bag and hands them to Megan.
Megan is giddy with excitement and quickly snatches them all and cradles them in her arms. The mime makes a shushing gesture and Megan nods. She pulls out a big box of her bath time toys from the cupboard beside the sink. She opens the box and it is full to the brim with rubber ducks. Megan squashes the new additions inside, closes the box, and quickly hides it again.
She turns back to face the mime. He makes a strange gesture with his hand, like a salute, and Megan copies the action. The mime waves goodbye and sneaks back down the fire escape.
Megan walks towards the window and leans over the edge to watch the mime climb down the steps with the speed and agility of Spiderman. She watches him with wonder as he shoots down to the bottom, skips down the street, and disappears into the distance.
Hilda comes back into the room and sees Megan sticking her wet head out the window.
HILDA: Megan, what are you doing?! Get away from there!
Hilda runs over and pulls Megan away from the window while she giggles with glee.
HILDA: (sighs with relief and chuckles with Megan in her arms) You are so mischievous, little lady! What have you been up to?