The Great MacGrady
Mr. Ratburn: And that, in short, is the difference between liverworts and mosses. The bell rings. Class dismissed.
The kids walk out of the classroom.
Francine: Ugh. I though class would never end. I’m starving.
Arthur: Me too. I wonder what’s for lunch.
Buster: Hold on, I’ll tell you! He takes a notebook from his pants pocket. Let’s see. Two days past the full moon, it should be baked ziti.
Francine: What’s that?
Arthur: Buster’s school lunch almanac. He’s been keeping a record of everything we’ve eaten since first grade.
Buster: Yup, she’s ninety-nine percent accurate. (sniffs) Hm. That’s odd. It doesn’t smell like baked ziti.
Something greenish is bubbling in the tubs serving counter in the cafeteria. Flies are swarming around it. Buster, Francine and Arthur are the first kids to come in.
Francine: Eeyuch! It smells more like baked gym shoes.
Arthur: With a side order of sweaty socks. Instead of Mrs. MacGrady there is a burly man behind the counter.
Buster: Who are you? The man has a large stain on his shirt.
Skip: Skip Bitterman, substitute chef. He wipes his nose. Goulash, anyone? He puts food on a plate. The kids look at it with disgust.
Title Card: Stampede
Arthur chews while Francine and Buster watch.
Arthur: Ooah! How can someone ruin a cracker?
Buster: Look at the color of this pudding. I’d save it for my food cabinet, but I’m afraid to touch it. Francine takes a bite off a bread roll and spits it out.
Francine: I give up. The stale roll won.
Arthur: I wonder where Mrs. MacGrady is.
Francine: She probably just has a cold.
Buster: I hope she’s back soon. I think this goulash just moved on its own. All three watch the goulash bubble.
Kids: Yuck! A bubble squirts something green in Buster’s face.
A few days pass. Mr. Ratburn addresses his class.
Mr. Ratburn: Good morning, class. I have an important announcement to make. I’m sure you’ve all been wondering where Mrs. MacGrady is.
Binky: Did she quit?
Muffy: If it’s about money, Crosswire Motors would be happy to…
Buster: The aliens took her. They’re making her teach them Earth cooking.
Mr. Ratburn: Everyone sit down, please. Mrs. MacGrady is sick. She has cancer. Her sister’s coming to stay with her to help her out.
Buster: What? Cancer?
Francine: Mrs. MacGrady?
Mr. Ratburn: The good news is, they caught it early and her doctors are working very hard to make her better. Francine raises her hand. Yes, Francine?
Francine: Oo, when is she coming back to school?
Mr. Ratburn: We don’t know that yet. But it probably won’t be for several weeks. Perhaps longer.
In a clothes store the assistant holds two ties for Muffy to inspect.
Muffy: The one on the left says “I wanna rule the world”. The one on the right says “I’m artistic and refined”. They’re both so daddy. Francine is sitting on a chair looking glum. Which do you like better?
Francine: I think it’s a tie. Get it? The tie. She does not smile.
Muffy: I’ll take them both, Sebastian. And please have them gift-wrapped. You could pretend to be a tiny bit interested. It is for my father’s birthday after all.
Francine: Muffy. Mrs. MacGrady has cancer. Excuse me if I don’t feel like going shopping. Muffy looks at clothes.
Muffy: Francine, she’ll be fine.
Francine: How do you know that?
Muffy: I just do. This is Mrs. MacGrady we’re talking about. She never gets sick.
Francine: Well, she’s sick now. You know, some people don’t get better. My grandfather died from cancer.
Muffy: Oh, you’re being so negative. Hh, look! A money-clip shaped like a hubcap. Should I get that instead. Francine looks reprovingly and walks off.
Arthur and D.W. walk to Mrs. MacGrady’s house. D.W. is dressed as a nurse, while Arthur carries a heavy bag.
D.W.: Are you sure we brought enough?
Arthur: There are four giant jars of homemade chicken soup in here. I can barely lift it.
D.W.: What about honey? And stuffed animals? And Mary Moo Cow DVDs. They reach the house.
Arthur: Mrs. MacGrady does not want Mary Moo Cow DVDs.
D.W.: How do you know? Did you ask? Arthur rings the doorbell. Wait! I have to get ready.
Mrs. MacGrady opens the door.
Mrs. MacGrady: Well, hello, Arthur. What a pleasant surprise. Good to see you too, Nurse Read. Come on in.
The kids come inside. D.W. is wearing a surgical mask.
Arthur: Would you take that mask off?
D.W.: I don’t wanna catch the cancer.
Mrs. MacGrady: Don’t worry, sweetie. You can’t catch it, I promise.
Mrs. MacGrady: Absolutely positively promise. D.W. takes off the mask. But you two can wash your hands so I don’t catch anything from you. Right now I can catch things really easily.
Mrs. MacGrady eats a spoonful of chicken soup in the living room while Arthur and D.W. watch her.
Mrs. MacGrady: Mm. Delicious. Tell your father I’d like that recipe.
Arthur: Aren’t you gonna have anymore?
Mrs. MacGrady: I’ll have some later. Would you two mind if I put my feet up?
D.W.: I should probably examine you.
Mrs. MacGrady: Whatever you say, nurse. D.W. examines Mrs. MacGrady’s knee with a toy stethoscope.
D.W.: Hm, you knee sounds normal. Say “Havana bananas”.
Mrs. MacGrady: Havana bananas. D.W. looks in her mouth with a magnifying glass.
D.W.: No problem with tongue twisters. Are you sure you’re sick? You don’t even have the sniffles.
Mrs. MacGrady: Well, cancer isn’t exactly like a cold. There are many different types of cancer. But here, let me try to show you. She sketches on a block. See, you’re all made up of teeny tiny things called cells. You can think of them as flowers in a garden. She has drawn three flowers and a weed. Your body makes them every day. Unfortunately, my body is also making a few weeds. Right now, my body is trying hard to get rid of those weeds… She erases the weed. …and it takes a lot of work.
Arthur: We’ll let you rest.
Arthur, D.W. and Mrs. MacGrady say goodbye at the door.
D.W.: But we’ll be back. And we’ll bring oranges next time, and honey, and videos, and more Mary Moo Cow CDs… Arthur pulls her away.
Lakewood plays soccer against Mighty Mountain. Francine is keeper and lets a ball pass her without even moving.
MM Player: Yeah! Francine picks up the ball.
Binky: How could you let them get seven goals?!
Francine: The sun was in my eyes. Anyway, who cares? It’s just a game.
Binky: Well, yeah, but that was embarrassing.
Francine: What’s the point if we win or lose? It’s not like it’s gonna make Mrs. MacGrady better. Am I the only one who understands that. She walks off the field. Muffy runs after her.
Muffy: Oh, Francine! I just wanted to remind you, Daddy’s birthday dinner starts…
Francine: I’m not going!
Mr. Crosswire unpacks his presents on a couch with his wife and Muffy sitting next to him. Bailey stands beside the couch.
Mr. Crosswire: “Endgame” by Samuel Beckett. Sounds like a gripping thriller. Thank you, Bailey. What great presents. This was a terrific Birthday.
Muffy: My gifts weren’t very original.
Mr. Crosswire: Nonsense. I loved your ties. Look at these colors.
Muffy: Chip gave you that one.
Mr. Crosswire: Oh, well, ah…
Muffy: Oh, it’s all Francine’s fault. She was supposed to help me shop, but she’s been so gloomy, lately.
Mr. Crosswire: Well, I can understand why, what with Mrs. MacGrady being sick. How are you feeling about that?
Mr. Crosswire: Maybe you’d like to visit her. I’d been meaning to send over a care package. Muffy looks sad.
Muffy: (yawns) I’m exhausted. Here’s the receipt for the ties. It’s okay if you wanna return them. Goodnight. She leaves.
Francine lies in bed.
She dreams that she is walking through the empty cafeteria to the food counter. Steam is rising everywhere. She sees a sign on a large pot.
Francine: Cream of Bunion Soup. I wonder what it looks like. She opens the lid. Yeuch! Mrs. MacGrady appears behind the pot.
Mrs. MacGrady: Hi there, Francine.
Mrs. MacGrady: Sorry to have startled you, dear. I was just looking for something. Waffle iron, pepper mill, egg slicer… Ah, here we go! She holds up a spatula that looks like it has a face. Meet Flip, my lucky spatula. Flip and I have been through a lot together, haven’t we, Flip?
Flip: You’re darn tootin’.
Francine: So, you’re back now? You’re all better?
Mrs. MacGrady: No, I just came to pick up my stuff. Because I’m sick. I need an easier job. From now on I’ll be spinning the bingo wheel at the community center. She leaves with a box full of kitchen utensils. Skip come in. Francine follows Mrs. MacGrady.
Francine: But… but you can’t leave! This place won’t be the same without you!
Mrs. MacGrady: Sorry, that’s just the way the crumpet crumbles.
Francine: Wait! Don’t go! Come back! She runs after Mrs. MacGrady in a school corridor but she does not move forward.
The dream ends. Francine sits up in bed. It is daylight. She looks at Catherine who is still sleeping.
Francine’s parents are sleeping in their bed. They wake up when Francine comes in.
Mr. Frensky: What’s wrong, Frankie? Bad Dream. Francine sit on the bed.
Francine: Uh-huh. Can I stay home from school today? Mr. Frensky nods.
Nemo chases a ball of string in front of the house. Francine sits on the stairs and watches him. Binky and Buster come by with a bag.
Binky: Hey, you’re not sick! Why weren’t you in school today?
Francine: I don’t know. Just didn’t fell like it, I guess.
Buster: Wanna visit Mrs. MacGrady with us. We’re bringing her some vegetables and… this. He pulls a rock out of his pants pocket.
Francine: A rock?
Buster: Not just any rock. This one’s special. He hands it to Francine. Look at it! See? It’s shaped like Iowa. I think it has healing properties.
Francine: Buster, a rock isn’t going to cure Mrs. MacGrady’s cancer. She throws it in a bush. Buster goes after it.
Buster: How can you be so sure? He retrieves two rocks. Hey, this one looks like Texas! Binky hands Francine a note.
Francine: What’s this?
Binky: Lance Armstrong’s email address. I got it when we met at the Bike-a-Thon. You should write him.
Francine: Why? So he can give me pointers on my biking?
Binky: You know he had cancer, right.
Francine: No. Is that why he retired?
Binky: Are you kidding? He had cancer before he broke any world records and a long time before he retired.
Flashback: Lance Armstrong gets on a bike and races through an alpine French town.
Binky (narrator): When he got cancer, most people thought he’d never race again. But he got better and went on to win the Tour de France, the world’s hardest bicycle race. Lance crosses the finish line. He gets a flower bouquet. And then he went on to win it six more times. That had never been done before. And no one has done it since.
The flashbacks end.
Binky: Anyway, I thought he’d be a good person for you to talk to. He leaves.
Francine: Like he’d ever write back! She crumples the note and throws it in the trash. Nemo swipes it back so that it falls at her feet. Alright, alright, I’ll give it a shot. She picks up Nemo and goes inside.
Francine sits at the computer while Nemo sit on her bed.
Francine: “Dear Mr. Armstrong, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Francine Alice Fren…” Ah. She deletes what she wrote. “Hi Lance! How are you? Hope this isn’t a bad subject, but I heard you had cancer in…” Oh. She deletes what she wrote. “I’m afraid. Really afraid. I have this friend, she’s the cook at our school, but she’s so much more than that. Flashback: Mrs. MacGrady cooks while Arthur, Buster and Francine watch. She’s Mrs. MacGrady. Once she played in a rock band with me. Clips from “Arthur – It’s Only Rock’n’Roll” are shown. She’s one of the coolest and most amazing people I know. She’s really wise, but fun too. Mrs. MacGrady dances to a vinyl record in her home. And now she has cancer. Mrs. MacGrady knits on her couch. So this is what I wanna know. Will she be alright? Could you please let me know that? Thanks, Francine”.
# Part 2
In the cafeteria, Buster looks at a plate of Skip’s cooking and writes in his almanac.
Buster: What do you think the orange things are?
Arthur: Carrots? Maybe cheese?
Buster: I’ll just say “Skip’s Mystery Stew Number Six”. Francine comes with a note.
Arthur: Hey, Francine. What’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.
Buster: You didn’t eat the stew, did you?
Francine: I’m fine. I just received some… weird news this morning. She hands the note to Arthur.
Arthur: “Dear Francine, thank you so much for your email. Maybe I could talk to you in person about your friend when I’m in Elwood City next week. Lance Armstrong??”
Brain: Lance Armstrong emailed you??
Francine: Ya. Binky put us in touch and I told him how worried I was about Mrs. MacGrady. Muffy joins them.
Buster: Hey, guess what. Francine’s gonna meet Lance Armstrong.
Muffy: You’re not going to wear that, are you?!
Francine: What’s wrong with it?
Muffy: Ahaha. You’re so funny. Seriously, meet me after school
Muffy and Francine stand in the clothes store where they bought the ties. The shop assistant holds two dresses.
Muffy: The left says “smart and sassy”, the right says “cool and confident”. Neither are you, but they’re both bargains.
Francine: It doesn’t matter what I wear. We’re gonna talk about Mrs. MacGrady, not go to an award ceremony.
Muffy: Oh, speaking of which, wanna visit her with me? I’m bringing a care package.
Francine: Um, I would, but I promised my dad that I’d… rake the yard.
Muffy: But it’s spring.
Francine: So? Leaves still fall, you know. And, well, I wanna remember Mrs. MacGrady the way she was. Not sick with cancer.
Muffy: There you go again being all doomy and gloomy. I’m sure she’s doing fine. Ooh, thirty percent off.
Brain and George are just walking away from Mrs. MacGrady’s house. Mrs. MacGrady is inside doing the dishes. She is wearing a bandana. The doorbell rings.
Mrs. MacGrady: Be right there! Ah, the party never ends.
Mrs. MacGrady opens the door and sees a huge toy polar bear outside.
Mrs. MacGrady: Ah! The bear moves inside.
D.W.: He’s stuck!
Arthur: Push harder! The kids fall inside with the bear. Oof.
D.W.: Hi. This is Chilly Billy. Grandma gave him to me when I had an operation. I thought you might like him.
Arthur: And here’s four more jars of soup.
Mrs. MacGrady: Oh dear. I haven’t finished the first batch yet. But please, give him my thanks.
Muffy stands in the door with a gift basket.
Muffy: Is this a bad time? I could come back later.
Mrs. MacGrady: No, no, come on in. The more, the merrier. Muffy comes in.
Mrs. MacGrady, Arthur, D.W. and Muffy sit in the living room with a box of chocolates.
Muffy: Mm. A cashew cluster. My favorite. Sure you don’t want one? They’re imported.
Mrs. MacGrady: Not right now, dear.
D.W.: Urg. This tastes like cough syrup. How come I keep getting the gooey ones? The filling from her half-eaten chocolate drips on the carpet.
Arthur: D.W., watch out!
Mrs. MacGrady: That’s alright. I’ll just get some paper towels. She stands up with difficulty.
Muffy: I’ll do it! She runs off. Arthur looks surprised.
Muffy gets paper towels from the kitchen. She notices the room is dirty. In the living room she wipes the carpet.
Muffy: Oh, by the way, I love your bandana. It’s so retro-chic.
Mrs. MacGrady: Thank you. I thought about getting a wig, but this’ll do till my hair grows back.
Muffy: Your hair? You mean, you’re bald under there?
Mrs. MacGrady: Smooth as a honeydew melon.
Arthur: It’s a side effect of the medicine, but her hair will grow back. D.W. holds Mrs. MacGrady’s drawing.
D.W.: See, the weeds keep popping up in Mrs. MacGrady’s garden, but the medicine’s getting rid of them. Right?
Mrs. MacGrady: Something like that. (yawns)
Arthur: We’ll let you rest now. Come on, D.W. He leaves with D.W. Muffy sits on the couch.
Muffy: I thought the bandana was just a style choice. I had no idea you were so…
Mrs. MacGrady: Sick? Cancer’s no walk in the park, but if it makes you feel any better, I intend to get better.
The Frenksys' doorbell rings. Catherine opens to Lance Armstrong.
Lance Armstrong: Hi. You must be Francine. Catherine stares at him.
Catherine: Uh-huh. Pleased to meet me. They shake hands. Francine comes wearing a blue dress.
Francine: Um, actually that’s Catherine, my sister. I’m Francine. Shouldn’t you be hanging out at the mall, or something?
Catherine: Can I get you something, Mr. Armstrong. Sparkling water? Protein shake?
Lance Armstrong: No, thanks. I was wondering if you wanted to go for a ride. My bike’s downstairs. That is, if it’s okay with your parents. The parents nod.
Francine: Sure. I’ll just change into some normal clothes. She leaves.
Catherine: Could I have an autograph? Anywhere on this hand is fine.
Catherine and Lance Armstrong ride their bikes up a hill and into a forest.
Lance Armstrong: Woohoo!
Francine: (laughs) You don’t seem like someone who’s had cancer.
Lance Armstrong: Why is that?
Francine: I don’t know. You’re so… healthy. They ride around a corner.
Lance Armstrong and Francine sit on a cliff overlooking the city.
Lance Armstrong: When I had cancer, I was very sick. Some of my doctor’s didn’t even think I would survive, let alone ride my bike again.
Francine: So how’d you get better?
Lance Armstrong: Lots of medicine, a few operations… I also had tons of support from my family and friends.
Francine: I just wish I could do something.
Lance Armstrong: Being a good friend is doing something.
Francine: Do you think there’s a plant somewhere that could cure cancer? Maybe in the rainforest. Lance Armstrong puts his helmet back on.
Lance Armstrong: There might be. And you might be the person to discover it. But until then, I can think of some other ways for you to help. Francine smiles.
In a school corridor, Francine has handed flyers to Buster and Binky.
Buster: “Pedal for a Cure”. Oh, it’s to help fight cancer. Okay, I’ll do it.
Francine: All the money we raise goes to help people with cancer.
Binky: We’re all doing something.
Francine: Prunella is knitting Mrs. MacGrady a scarf, George is helping out with her gardening… Binky gives Buster a stack of flyers.
Binky: So I expect all these to be handed out by the end of the day. He leaves with Francine. Buster gives a flyer to Mr. Haney.
Binky gives a flyer to Mr. Ratburn in the classroom.
Francine gives a flyer to Skip in the cafeteria.
Buster sticks flyers in people’s lockers.
Francine walks out of the school with Muffy. She looks at a clipboard.
Francine: Over seventy people have signed up already. And it’s just been three days.
Muffy: Hey, what if you got a celebrity to support the race. Like Lance Armstrong.
Francine: Muffy, it was his idea.
Muffy: Oh. Speaking of great ideas, I was wondering if you wanted to come with me to Mrs. MacGrady’s house.
Francine: Er, I can’t today. I still have tons of flyers to pass out. Tell her, I’ll visit her really soon. Gotta ride. She rides off on her bike.
Muffy comes to Mrs. MacGrady’s house with two bags. Mrs. MacGrady is just coming out with another woman.
Mrs. MacGrady: Hello, dear. This is my sister Martha. She just flew in to help me out.
Martha: We’re off to a doctor’s appointment.
Mrs. MacGrady: Are those for me?
Muffy: Yes, but I can come back later.
Mrs. MacGrady: Don’t be silly. Just leave it inside. And lock the door when you leave. And while you’re in there, help yourself to some food. They leave.
The bags contain cleaning utensils. Muffy unpacks them in the kitchen. Martha comes in.
Martha: Just forgot the car keys.
Muffy: Do you think Mrs. MacGrady would mind, if I did a little cleaning.
Martha: I think she’s love that. I was just gonna do some when I got back. You can be part of our support team. She leaves.
Muffy puts on pink rubber gloves. She reads the label on a bottle of detergent.
Muffy: “Cleans dirty dishes in no time.” She sprays detergent over the dirty dishes in the sink.
She waits. Then she picks up her cell phone.
Muffy: Bailey? This dish wash lotion doesn’t work. What do I do? The doorbell rings. Oh. That’s the door.
Arthur stands outside with a crate of oranges. D.W. stands next to him with a toy monkey.
Arthur: Hey, Muffy. Where’s Mrs. MacGrady?
Muffy: She had to go to a doctor’s appointment. Are those all for her?
Arthur: There was a special at the supermarket. I figure you can’t have too much vitamin C, right?
D.W.: And they came with a free doll. They come in.
Muffy: Have you ever thought you might be bringing Mrs. MacGrady too much stuff? She’s running out of room. There is a crowd of stuffed animals in the room.
D.W.: Chilly Billy, meet Barney Bonobo. We just want to help
Arthur: Yeah, what else can we do?
Muffy: I’m so glad you asked.
Arthur washes the dishes and D.W. dries them.
Arthur puts a trash bag in the can and D.W. closes it. Muffy puts an empty detergent bottle in the recycling bin.
Muffy dusts off a record player.
Muffy puts a vase of flowers on a table while Arthur vacuums the floor.
When Mrs. MacGrady comes into the living room, it is clean and there are a bowl of oranges and a note on the table.
Muffy’s Voice: “We tidied up a few things. Love, Muffy, Arthur and D.W., your support team.”
A group of bikers waits at the starting line for the “Pedal for a Cure” event. Lance Armstrong and Francine stand side by side. Both are wearing pink shirts with a picture of Mrs. MacGrady.
Lance Armstrong: Amazing turnout, Francine. Thanks for all your help. You’re ready to ride.
A horn sounds and the bikers are off. Francine quickly overtakes Muffy, Buster and Arthur.
In her fantasy she sees a sign “Rainforest 8499 km”. She follows it.
Binky: Hey, the finish line is this way! Where are you going?
Francine: To find a cure for Mrs. MacGrady.
A map shows arrows depicting Francine’s journey from the North Eastern United States to the Amazon basin. Francine now ride along a path through a rainforest.
Francine: (pants) She sees a red flower by the wayside. There it is! Plantus curomo cancerus! Just…a little bit…farther.
The fantasy ends. In reality, Francine crosses the finish line.
Francine drinks water from a bottle after the race.
Mrs. MacGrady: Wow, that was some performance. We should have this ride every year and call it the Tour de Francine.
Francine: You came! Does that mean you’re all better.
Mrs. MacGrady: Not quite, but I’m feeling pretty good today.
Francine: I’m sorry I haven’t come to see you. I just… I was afraid that…
Mrs. MacGrady: You don’t have to explain. It can be pretty frightening to see someone you care about when they’re sick. There is something you could do to make it up to me, though.
Francine: Just name it.
Mrs. MacGrady: First, put some of this hand sanitizer on. She puts some on Francine’s hands.
Francine: Now what?
Mrs. MacGrady: Now give me a big hug. They hug.
Francine: I’ve really missed you.
Mrs. MacGrady: I’ve missed you to, Frankie.
A calendar is ticked off from May 14th to May 31st.
Buster looks at something that looks like grey lasagna with fungi growing out of it on his plate. He writes in his almanac.
Buster: “June second. Today’s lunch: a strange grey rectangle." He pokes it with his fork. It has the texture of jelly. Possibly a sponge. Hh! That’s it! I can’t take this anymore!
Buster shows his plate to Skip.
Buster: What is this?!
Skip: A little of this, a little of that. I call it watchamacookin’.
Buster: Well, I call it terrible! It smells like feet, and I’m not gonna eat it!
Francine: Neither am I!
Mrs. MacGrady: Settle down, spartakids. There’ll be no revolt in my lunchroom.
Skip: Aunt Leah, you’re back!
Mrs. MacGrady: Thanks for filling in, Skip. Skip takes off his apron.
Skip: Ehh, cooking’s not for me. I think I’ll stick to investment banking. He gives the apron to Mrs. MacGrady and leaves. Mrs. MacGrady puts on the apron and raises her spatula.
Mrs. MacGrady: Now who’s hungry?
Muffy: Me! Me!
Binky: I am!
Buster: “Correction. Lunch is ‘unknown’, but will taste delicious.!