The Marble

Scene One

The office of the principal of a kindergarten school. The principal is sitting at his desk and writing something.

The door opens and a five-year-old boy comes in. In one hand he is holding two tubes of paint and a brush and in the other a plastic cup. From the careful way he is carrying the cup it is obvious that it contains water.

BOY: Hi!

PRINCIPAL (stops writing): Er… Hello. Shouldn’t you be at lunch?

BOY: I’m not hungry.

PRINCIPAL: Oh, really? Well then, tell me what you want.

BOY: I wasn’t here when they were doing the cave. I was sick, and now I want to add something. I asked the teacher, Anna, and she told me to ask you. Can I?

PRINCIPAL: As far as I’m concerned, you can. Just first explain to the others what you want to add, to see whether they all agree.

BOY: They all agree. It’s just a little addition.

PRINCIPAL: All right. Then we’ve solved the problem. Now go and have something to eat and then discuss with Anna what you’re going to do.

BOY: Can I do it now? I’ve brought everything I need.

PRINCIPAL: But you’ll miss lunch.

BOY: It doesn’t matter. I’m not hungry. And it’ll only take a second.

PRINCIPAL: If it’s just a matter of a second, then go on. But afterwards go to lunch.

BOY: O. K.

The boy leaves and the principal continues writing. A short while later the boy opens the door again.

BOY: Would you like to see it?

PRINCIPAL (gets up and goes towards the door): Of course. Is it finished already?

BOY: I told you it was just a small addition.

They go out of the office, but leave the door open, so their conversation can be clearly heard.

BOY: Is it all right?

PRINCIPAL: Er… I’m sorry, but I can’t find your addition. It seems it really is very small.

BOY: There it is, at the bottom.

PRINCIPAL: Oh yes, there it is… It’s fine. What is it, a pearl?

BOY: What do you mean, a pearl? It’s a marble.

PRINCIPAL: A marble?

BOY: Uhuh. A large glass marble with transparent swirls.

PRINCIPAL: Yes, yes… It’s as if the swirls stand out.

BOY: Uhuh, but just a little, ‘cos they’re transparent. I added that at the end with a pencil.

PRINCIPAL: Yes, that’s why it looks bluish. Completely transparent, so that you can see the water through it.

BOY: Bravo. So, do you think it’s good?

PRINCIPAL: Excellent… But how did a marble get into a sea cave.

BOY: Well, it sank there when I was at the seaside. Mummy and Daddy were teaching me to swim and I put my transparent marble in the pocket of my bathing trunks. I was afraid someone might steal it when there was no one around. It’s worth at least ten ordinary glass marbles. The pocket has a button, but it still fell out. Daddy dived in time after time, but couldn’t find it… Anyone of four would have cried.

PRINCIPAL: You must have been very sad.

BOY: Yes I was. But not any longer. Now I know where it is.

PRINCIPAL: Yes, now it’s quite safe… Right, now go along now to wash your hands and then off to lunch. Otherwise the others will have eaten it all.

BOY: You know, I could eat something now. Bye, Mr. Principal.


The principal returns to his office and closes the door. He sits at his desk, smiles to himself good-naturedly and returns to his work.

Scene Two

The same office. The principal is sitting at his desk and studies a few documents for a while. Then he gets up, goes to the door and opens it.

PRINCIPAL (addressing someone outside his office): Good morning, I see you’ve both arrived. Excellent. Would you like to come in first or…?

RESOLUTE WOMAN’S VOICE (interrupting him): I’ll be first.

PRINCIPAL: Come in. (He returns to his desk, the woman following him into the office and closing the door.) Do sit down, please, while I find your papers. (The woman sits on the chair opposite the desk.) You are Mrs….

The woman gives her surname.

PRINCIPAL (removing several sheets of paper from the pile on his desk): Oh yes, here it is. Yes… I see that you have graduated from two faculties. Very impressive.

WOMAN: Thank you.

PRINCIPAL: I’m surprised you haven’t applied for a better-paid job. I’m certain that with two diplomas you could choose to work wherever you liked.

WOMAN: Of course I could. But at the moment I am only interested in working with children.

PRINCIPAL: Excellent. I’m pleased to hear it. However, you’ve written here that you’ve never before worked in a kindergarten. Of course, that isn’t necessarily a problem, but it’s a fact that in a kindergarten, experience can mean a great deal in certain circumstances.

WOMAN: But I do have considerable experience in working with people. Admittedly not with children, but what are children if they are not little people?

PRINCIPAL: Precisely. You put that very well indeed. It’s quite true, they are physically smaller than us, but they are not lesser people than we are. Also, I’ve noticed that many grown-ups talk to children as if they’re idiots. “Oh, my darling little one, what a sweety-pie you are. What’s that, it’s so super-duper, “and so on.

WOMAN: Don’t worry, you won’t hear things like that from me. You won’t get any kind of talking down and pampering from me. You can be certain that I shall control them with a firm hand.

PRINCIPAL: Control them? Er…What was it you said – where did you get your experience working with people?

WOMAN: In several – without false modesty – very significant positions. For the past two years I’ve been working in a ministry.

PRINCIPAL: A ministry?

WOMAN: Yes, I didn’t put that in my application, but I’ve brought you a reference. From the minister in person.

PRINCIPAL (looks at the document she passes to him): Yes, yes… Interesting… It says here that you gave in your notice. May I know why?

WOMAN: Of course you may. I realized that real changes start from the bottom.

PRINCIPAL: From the kindergarten?

WOMAN: Exactly – from the kindergarten. In the ministry I learned that people are the main hindrance to every positive change. It’s not a lack of ideas, not even a lack of money, but people. That irresponsible and useless band of people who make up every social structure. For there to be any change, one has firstly to change these people. And that must be done from the bottom, from the kindergarten. It will take time, but it will eventually provide generations of well-brought up and well-organized people, who will, like well-oiled cogs, fit into a machine that functions perfectly, a machine that can be set in motion in any direction, with which it will be possible to achieve absolutely anything!

Pause. The woman looks at the principal, expecting a reaction, but he turns away, picks up her reference from the table and looks at it for a while.

PRINCIPAL: Yes… (Puts the reference down on the desk.) Er, you ought to know that the job of kindergarten teacher doesn’t offer any possibilities for your – er – project. The duties of a kindergarten teacher are not so…

WOMAN: Of course, I’m quite well aware of that. But I hope that, because of my reference, you will allow me to help you in the running of this institution. Of course, I shall work as a teacher – direct contact with the children is absolutely essential – but I shall actually be, in a sense, your adviser. I’m sure that as a serious man who is aware of my previous experience, will agree to this.


WOMAN: I understand. You’re afraid that I will lower your reputation in the eyes of the other employees. But they won’t know a thing. I shall be your secret adviser. We will meet once a week outside the kindergarten. Perhaps more often, because it’s already obvious that there’s a lot to be done here. For example, this corridor in front of your office must be changed as soon as possible.

PRINCIPAL: I don’t know what you’re getting at.

WOMAN: I mean that terrible blue wall just in front of your door. And those kitsch multicoloured fish all over it. It leaves a bad impression on people who are waiting to see you. But I expect you inherited that from the previous principal.

PRINCIPAL: I expect I shall disappoint you, but I didn’t.

WOMAN: Well, yes, you have disappointed me a little. But if you wanted coloured walls you should have chosen pale green. That colour is soothing, it encourages concentration, seriousness and hard work. But not this horrible colour. You say that you shouldn’t give in to children, and you’ve decorated their wall like a cheap cartoon.

PRINCIPAL: On the contrary, the children decorated it themselves. Together they thought up how it should look and then they painted it themselves, as they did several other walls.

WOMAN: And you left them, without any sort of control, to paint whatever they wanted?

PRINCIPAL: Yes, why not?

WOMAN: Because that way you’ll let them run wild, instead of disciplining them and turning them into responsible people.

PRINCIPAL: If you’d seen how responsibly they went about it, you wouldn’t say that. They agreed among themselves, drew sketches, discussed the project and helped each other… Look, it seems that it has come to a little misunderstanding. When I said that children are people just like us, I did not mean that I think they are already ripe for the army, but that they should be taken as seriously as you or I are. Because they have personalities that are just as complex as ours. Their strange fish demonstrate precisely that. You say that it is kitsch. I don’t know, I’m not an expert on art – it is possible that they are worthless as far as art is concerned. But that does not lessen another of their values: the wealth of shapes and colours. You know, when I first went into a kindergarten and saw children’s paintings for the first time, I suddenly realized how colourless and empty my life was. I also realized that it hadn’t always been like that, and that when I was a boy I also painted such colourful pictures. That is why I decided to try to prevent the same thing happening to these children as happened to me, to prevent their lives later becoming grey and empty like mine has become. To try to help them to keep within themselves all those colours, all those shapes that appear in their paintings. I’ve encouraged them to organize by themselves an exhibition of their new works in the dining room. Everyone can enter his or her own or any other work for that matter. By encouraging them to draw, paint, choose and observe other people’s work, I want to maintain and develop that amazing world of theirs even further.

WOMAN: But that’s entirely wrong. We mustn’t encourage children to hide behind their fantasies. They need to be taught to be rational and practical and thus be prepared for the real world.

PRINCIPAL: I agree. We should be preparing them for the real world, for this world that we adults have built, but why should we, by doing that, destroy the far more beautiful world that these children carry in themselves? You see, in a way I want the same as you: that tomorrow they change our colourless, dark world into a brighter and more beautiful one. And they can do that – they’re already doing it. Look at how they’ve transformed the corridor. To you it’s a blue wall with kitsch fish on it, but to them it’s a cave beneath the sea. As well as the fish there’s a treasure chest, half an old ship’s helm, and a lot more besides. One little girl even brought a diving mask so that she could “work under water”, and she wore it while she was painting.

WOMAN: And you think that’s the way to send them into the real world? With a diving mask over their head?

PRINCIPAL: You obviously don’t understand what I’m trying…

The door opens and a girl comes in.

GIRL: I’m sorry for interrupting. I’ll leave at once, but can I just ask…

PRINCIPAL: Go ahead.

GIRL: Is that thing in the corner perhaps a marble?

PRINCIPAL: Yes it is.

GIRL: Thank you, that’s all I wanted to know. (Starts to leave.)

PRINCIPAL (goes after her): Don’t go. You’ve got the job.

GIRL: I beg your pardon.

PRINCIPAL: Yes, yes. I’ve seen your diploma. You fulfill all the conditions. You’re accepted.

WOMAN: But I’ve got two diplomas. And a reference from the minister!

DIRECTOR: Yes, but you’ve got no imagination. And after all, this is only a kindergarten.


Originally published in BCS (Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian) in Par grama drama (A Few Grams of Drama) in 2010. Translated by Timothy John Byford. Translation copyright by Kosta Tadic.