The Miracle Worker, Act Three 
William Gibson 

The stage is totally dark, until we see ANNIE and HELEN silhouetted on the bed in the garden house. ANNIE’S voice is audible, very patient, and worn; it has been saying this for a long time. 

Annie. Water, Helen. This is water. W, a, t, e, r. It has a name. (A silence. Then:) Egg, e, g, g. It has a name, the name stands for the thing. Oh, it’s so simple, simple as birth, to explain. (The lights have commenced to rise, not on the garden house but on the homestead. Then:) Helen, Helen, the chick has to come out of its shell, sometime. You come out, too. (In the bedroom upstairs, we see VINEY unhurriedly washing the window, dusting, turning the mattress, readying the room for use again; then in the family room a diminished group at one end of the table—KATE, KELLER, JAMES—finishing up a quiet breakfast; then outside, down right, the other servant on his knees, assisted by MARTHA, working with a trowel around a new trellis and wheelbarrow. The scene is one of everyday calm, and all are oblivious to ANNIE’S voice.) There’s only one way out, for you, and it’s language. To learn that your fingers can talk. And say anything, anything you can name. This is mug. Mug, m, u, g. Helen, it has a name. It—has—a—name. 

[KATE rises from the table.] 

Keller (gently). You haven’t eaten, Katie. 

Kate (smiles, shakes her head). I haven’t the appetite. I’m too—restless, I can’t sit to it. 

Keller. You should eat, my dear. It will be a long day, waiting. 

James (lightly). But it’s been a short two weeks. I never thought life could be so—noiseless, it went much too quickly for me. 

[KATE and KELLER gaze at him, in silence. JAMES becomes uncomfortable.] 

Annie. C, a, r, d. Card. C, a——

James. Well, the house has been practically normal, hasn’t it? 

Keller (harshly). Jimmie. 

James. Is it wrong to enjoy a quiet breakfast, after five years? And you two even seem to enjoy each other——

Keller. It could be even more noiseless, Jimmie, without your tongue running every minute. Haven’t you enough feeling to imagine what Katie has been undergoing, ever since——

[KATE stops him, with her hand on his arm.] 

Kate. Captain. (To JAMES) It’s true. The two weeks have been normal, quiet, all you say. But not short. Interminable. (She rises and wanders out; she pauses on the porch steps, gazing toward the garden house.) 

Annie (fading). W, a, t, e, r. But it means this. W, a, t, e, r. This. W, a, t——

James. I only meant that Miss Sullivan is a boon. Of contention, though, it seems. 

Keller (heavily). If and when you’re a parent, Jimmie, you will understand what separation means. A mother loses a—protector.

 James (baffled). Hm? 

Keller. You’ll learn, we don’t just keep our children safe. They keep us safe. (He rises, with his empty coffee cup and saucer.) There are of course all kinds of separation. Katie has lived with one kind for five years. And another is disappointment. In a child. 

[He goes with the cup out the rear door. JAMES sits for a long moment of stillness. In the garden house the lights commence to come up; ANNIE, haggard at the table, is writing a letter, her face again almost in contact with the stationery; HELEN, apart on the stool, and for the first time as clean and neat as a button, is quietly crocheting an endless chain of wool, which snakes all around the room.] 

Annie. “I, feel, every, day, more, and, more, in—” (She pauses, and turns the pages of a dictionary open before her; her finger descends the words to a full stop. She elevates her eyebrows, then copies the word.) “—adequate.”

 [In the main house JAMES pushes up and goes to the front doorway, after KATE.] 
James. Kate? (KATE turns her glance. JAMES is rather wary.) I’m sorry. Open my mouth, like that fairy tale, frogs jump out. 

Kate. No. It has been better. For everyone. (She starts away, up center.) 

Annie (writing). “If, only, there, were, someone, to, help, me, I, need, a, teacher, as, much, as, Helen——” 

James. Kate. (KATE halts, waits.) What does he want from me? 

Kate. That’s not the question. Stand up to the world, Jimmie, that comes first. 

James (a pause, wryly). But the world is him. 

Kate. Yes. And no one can do it for you. 

James. Kate. (His voice is humble.) At least we——Could you—be my friend? 

Kate. I am. 

[KATE turns to wander, up back of the garden house. ANNIE’S murmur comes at once; the lights begin to die on the main house.]

Annie. “—My, mind, is, undisiplined, full, of, skips, and, jumps, and——” (She halts, rereads, frowns.) Hm. (ANNIE puts her nose again in the dictionary, flips back to an earlier page, and fingers down the words; KATE presently comes down toward the bay window with a trayful of food.) Disinter—disinterested—disjoin—dis——(She backtracks, indignant.) Disinterested, disjoin—Where’s disipline? (She goes a page or two back, searching with her finger, muttering.) What a dictionary, have to know how to spell it before you can look up how to spell it, disciple, discipline! Diskipline. (She corrects the word in her letter.) Undisciplined. 

[But her eyes are bothering her. She closes them in exhaustion and gently fingers the eyelids. KATE watches her through the window.] 

Kate. What are you doing to your eyes? 

[ANNIE glances around; she puts her smoked glasses on and gets up to come over, assuming a cheerful energy.] 

Annie. It’s worse on my vanity! I’m learning to spell. It’s like a surprise party, the most unexpected characters turn up. 

Kate. You’re not to overwork your eyes, Miss Annie. 

Annie. Well. (She takes the tray, sets it on her chair, and carries chair and tray to HELEN.) Whatever I spell to Helen I’d better spell right. 

Kate (almost wistful). How—serene she is. 

Annie. She learned this stitch yesterday. Now I can’t get her to stop! (She disentangles one foot from the wool chain and sets the chair before HELEN. HELEN, at its contact with her knee, feels the plate, promptly sets her crocheting down, and tucks the napkin in at her neck, but ANNIE withholds the spoon. When HELEN finds it missing, she folds her hands in her lap and quietly waits. ANNIE twinkles at KATE with mock devoutness.) Such a little lady, she’d sooner starve than eat with her fingers. 

[She gives HELEN the spoon, and HELEN begins to eat, neatly.] 

Kate. You’ve taught her so much, these two weeks. I would never have——

Annie. Not enough. (She is suddenly gloomy, shakes her head.) Obedience isn’t enough. Well, she learned two nouns this morning, key and water, brings her up to eighteen nouns and three verbs. 

Kate (hesitant). But—not——

Annie. No. Not that they mean things. It’s still a finger game, no meaning. (She turns to KATE, abruptly.) Mrs. Keller——(But she defers it; she comes back, to sit in the bay, and lifts her hand.) Shall we play our finger game? 

Kate. How will she learn it? 

Annie. It will come. 

Click here to navigate through the play: page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5, page 6, and Homework.


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