© Sim Shattuck.
Used by permission.
All rights reserved.
- Micky, 37, leader of service squad of BL & T
- Carlos, 29, service worker
- Abdiel, 22, service worker newbie
- Radio announcer, female
- Hook Man, no specific age
- Setting: All three men sit in the cab of a BL & T service van. The van has a ridiculous logo (but taken seriously by management) on the visible part of the van, which is the front end. BL & T is a cable and telephone company. The time is just before dawn, and the men are parked to the side of a cheap all-night diner, eating sandwich-like breakfasts. From audience left they are Carlos, Abdiel, and Micky in the driver’s seat.
Carlos: Look, man, that’s what I heard. Ralph heard it from some chick in the Alexandria office.
Micky: But — …
Carlos: That’s all I heard. I don’t even know it’s true. Ralph says they’re layin’ off thirty people — even engineers! — in the middle part of the state where Alexandria is.
Micky: Anything else? Did you hear anything else? Like about how we might have layoffs around here?
Carlos: No, that’s all he said. Why dontcha just forget it? Ralph’s an asshole troublemaker. He loves to spread rumors and get everybody all scared and worked up. Then nothing happens. It’s all bullshit.
Abdiel: Jesus! What’ll I do if I get laid off? I can barely keep my apartment, as it is. I don’t know what I’ll do! I was last hired so they’ll fire me first! And I can’t go home… ..
Micky: [notes Abdiel’s great agitation and fear, which A tries to hide] Calm down, Ab! Calm down! It’s probably nothing. They may have some problems up there we don’t know about. [puts his arm around Abdiel’s shoulders and pats the far shoulder gently]. It’s all right. Don’t get upset, okay? [After a few seconds he nonchalantly withdraws his arm and begins eating his sandwich again].
Carlos: [grimacing] This egg tastes like it has sandpaper in it! [looks curiously at Abdiel] How come you can’t go home? If you don’t mind me asking.
Abdiel: I gotta go to the bathroom. Let me out. [leaves the truck via Micky’s side].
Carlos: [turns to watch Abdiel walk to the restaurant, then turns casually back to Micky] You think he’s going to be okay?
Micky: Well, you scared him! Damn it, Carlos! Why did you have to go and upset us? [Angry, Micky seeks relief by turning on the cab radio, crosses his arms and leans back in a huff.]
[The music stops after a few seconds, and a Radio announcer comes on]
Radio Announcer: GOOD MORNING, KENNER, LOUISIANA! TRAFFIC’S MOVING FAST ON I-10 AND THE HIGH RISE. THE NEWS: POLICE ARE LOOKING FOR AN ESCAPED MENTAL PATIENT LAST SEEN NEAR THE CASINO AT THE END OF WILLIAMS BLVD. HE’S SIX-TWO AND WEARING A GRAY HOODIE. HE HAS A METAL HOOK FOR A LEFT HAND. IF YOU SEE HIM CALL 911 OR THIS STATION FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS. THIS MAN IS CONSIDERED EXTREMELY DANGEROUS AND UNPREDICTABLE. DO NOT TRY TO APPREHEND HIM IN ANY WAY. IN OTHER NEWS, — … [Micky clicks the radio off]
Carlos: Hey, that’s right around here. What the hell? [looks out all the windows]
Micky: [ignoring Carlos] Where is Abdiel? We’ve got to get rolling. Look, the sun will be up in a few minutes. Damn it! [turns to Carlos] Do you think Abdiel wants the rest of this bacon biscuit?
Carlos: What? How the hell should I know?
[They hear the van’s backdoor opening and startle.]
Micky: That’s all right. It’s Abdiel. He’s getting his monitor. He forgot it last time.
[Hook Man enters the rear of the van and comes up to the cab. He puts his hook at Carlos’s throat from behind. Carlos lets out a frightened squeak but doesn’t move. Micky turns to find the glistening metal hook against Carlos’s Adam’s apple, ready to rip it out]
Hook Man: I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but your little friend back there — he’s, well, dead. I mean, not to put too fine a point on it. And, I’m sorry to say, both of you will have to die too. “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop” and all that, you know. [tugs ever so slightly on Carlos’s neck skin Carlos turns his head to avoid loss of blood] Are you ready to make peace before you see God, unlike Hamlet’s father?
Carlos: Look, man! We don’t got money on us. All our customers use checks or credit cards. We ain’t — …
Hook Man: Shut up, you miserable rat. When I want to hear your ignorant solecisms, I’ll ask you.
Micky: Mister, why do you want to kill us? We’ve got wives depending on us, and I have two kids, eight and six. We never hurt anybody. We just do our job and want to be left alone.
Hook Man: [patiently, even kindly] Let’s just say I hate Tuesdays. I’ve come for you. That’s all there is to it. I’m sending you home to God or back to your mother Earth. I guess that depends on what you thinks comes next.
[Micky reaches for the door handle to flee, but Hook Man yanks his hook across Carlos’s neck. Carlos screams] If you want him to die now, keep trying to leave. Lock the door. If you scream I’ll rip out his throat. [Hook Man: locks Carlos’s door as well]
So, tell me about your wife and children. How do you think they’ll feel when they know you’ve died? I suppose they’ll cry and mourn your loss.
Micky: [clears his throat] Well, that’s not so certain. She — my wife Ellen — we don’t get along so well anymore. I suppose it’s my fault…
Hook Man: Oh, do tell. But you! [talks into Carlos’s ear] I’m postponing your demise for a few minutes. Look at the palms and trees rustling in the wind. Look at the sky turning from gray to blue. It’s your last look at Earth. If you try anything stupid, you’re dead right then. Understand me?
Carlos: [afraid to move] Yes, sir. [sinks lower in his seat and eventually closes his eyes, the hook still against his throat]
Hook Man: [to Micky] Excuse me. You were saying?
Micky: My wife’s really mad at me. I’ve met someone else, and I really like her a lot.
Hook Man: Are you having an affair?
Micky: No, it hasn’t happened yet. I . . . I don’t know what to do. It’s not like . . . I mean, I even thought about bringing her home to meet my wife. After all, we’re just friends right now. Of course Ellen hates the idea. I’m not sure what else I want.
Hook Man: But you were smart enough not to bring her home. That was prudent, to say the least. Especially for someone who can’t make up his mind to sin or not. It’s rather sad.
Micky: Oh, I’ll tell the world. Yes, it’s sad. And other things are happening too.
Hook Man: Oh?
Micky: Now I want to gamble. I don’t like drinking anymore. The hangovers are like medieval torture. All I want to do is play the cheap quarter slot machines in the four local casinos. Have you ever been to a casino?
Hook Man: Can’t say that I have. Are they fun?
Micky: They’re miserable places. People who gamble all the time look like glassy-eyed zombies. They shuffle from machine to machine, losing money.
Hook Man: Why?
Micky: They’re bored. Almost no one ever wins, I mean really big. Chance is a stingy date.
Hook Man: You sound bored too, actually. Are you?
Micky: Yes, I hate this job and don’t like the people I have to work with, usually. Except for Abdiel. He was like a little brother to me. I was just getting used to him.
Hook Man: One of the quotidian vicissitudes of my line of work, I’m afraid.
Micky: I can respect that. With you being a maniac and all. [pause]
Hook Man: So what happened with this other woman?
Micky: Why do you want to hear this story if you’re going to kill me? What difference does it make?
Hook Man: You have me all wrong. I love a good story. And if yours is good enough, I might let you live. I’m somewhat like the Tsar in Tsar Saltan. Not the one in the storybooks but more like the one in Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera. Keep telling me something interesting and I’ll keep letting you live.
Micky: Can I make a request?
Hook Man: Certainly.
Micky: You’ve already killed Abdiel. So would you please let Carlos go? I smell urine. I think he’s wet himself [pauses a moment]. Look, you can put him in the back of the van and then close the door. The rear door locks automatically when someone steps into it. He can’t go anywhere then.
[Wordlessly, Hook Man: yanks Carlos by the collar and shoves him into the rear of the van, and then knocks him out with a blow from the hook’s metal base.]
Hook Man: There. That should do it. By the way, did you know that Abdiel is an angelic name?
Micky: No, I didn’t. What does it mean? [pulls down visor to deflect morning sun]
Hook Man: It’s Hebrew for “Servant of God.” It’s a beautiful name. Really. It’s famous too.
Hook Man: Milton used it in Paradise Lost. The one angel who remained loyal to God in all of Lucifer’s host called Lucifer out to his face. He called him a traitor. But something’s strange. How did Abdiel get pulled into that group of rebels without knowing what he was doing in the first place? Why was he hanging with them?
Micky: Sounds pretty sketchy to me. Maybe he just decided to do a 180 at the last minute.
Carlos: [muffled voice from the back of the van] Hey, I hafta pee! It’s really hot back here!
Hook Man: SHUT UP, YOU MORON. [instant silence ensues] [to Micky] He’s annoying. He really is. At any rate, I myself should do a 180 here.
Micky: Can I call my wife? Can I at least say goodbye to her?
Hook Man: No, I think not. Those kinds of scenes are — how shall we say? — untoward. Unfruitful at best. Son, it’s time. Unbutton your collar. I’ll be swift and thus merciful.
Micky: [uncertain what to do, he looks around desperately, finds nothing to help him. Tremendous effort expended in self-control, trying unsuccessfully not to tremble or weep]
Carlos: [muffled] I gotta pee, man! It’s getting really really hot back here!
Hook Man: [rolls eyes] Insufferable! I swear… . Look, here’s a blindfold [pulls one from his hoodie pocket]. It’ll be easier if you don’t see it coming.
Micky: Wait. Wait just a minute. Tell me, now that I’m at the end. Did you ever love anyone? Did you? I’m not sure I ever did, really. I just don’t know. [puts on blindfold]
Hook Man: I did. Several people. They’re dead now. But I appreciate your honesty. [pauses] So. Take this pill and roll your window down. I won’t act until I know you’ve swallowed it.
Micky: [swallows it]. So I won’t feel the pain?
Hook Man: No, it’s a sleeping pill. I’ve thought about it. You’ll muddle through, somehow. You’re honest and smart, and I like that in my victims.
Carlos: [muffled] Hey! Yoohoo?
[Micky’s eyes close from the drug. Hook Man: kisses his hook and lays it tenderly on Micky’s forehead] Goodbye, sweet and confused man. The world can deal with you in its own way.
[Hook Man: leaves quietly by the passenger door. Wind comes through Micky’s open window and moves Micky’s hair.The blindfold stays on.]
Text Prepared By
- Bruce R. Magee
Shattuck, Sim. Hook-Man Returns. © Sim Shattuck. Used by permission. All rights reserved.