new writing in long forma proper archive for this site


Here is an excerpt of another sketch from my sketch writing class. Again, the full sketch is pretty long - about 9 pages - and I know I can't read more than about 2000 words online before punching my computer monitor in the face, so in the name of compassion I've only provided a little bit here. For this assignment, we were asked to examine a 'routine', and then have one of the characters in our sketch break the routine - laughs to follow. I chose a factory assembly line for my sketch. I now take you to the middle of page four.


RONNIE throws his hammer on the floor, and its noisome clang attracts the attention of THE FOREMAN.

THE FOREMAN is a thick-sized middle-aged man – the kind of man who hitches the waistline of his Dickies down as far as possible, to clear the girth of his swollen, beer-nourished belly. He wears a hard hat, lab coat (with "Worthington Industries" silk-screened on the back), and safety goggles. As with all foremen, he also carries a clipboard and, trailing behind him is his NEW TRAINEE.

NEW TRAINEE is a rodent-faced sixteen year-old boy with a weak but ambitious beginner's moustache and a long braided rat-tail hanging down below the bottom of his hairnet. If he could, he’d wear full Insane Clown Posse makeup to work each day. TRAINEE has ripped the sleeves coveralls off his coveralls and carries a standard-issue hammer in each hand. Throughout the scene, when not specifically called upon to act, he should nonetheless remain in constant loping motion, like he just shot a juice glass full of bathtub speed into his body for breakfast.

OK now, what's the trouble here? That sounded like an Oh-Eight-Seven violation.

Um, yeah, uh, that's a "rogue hammer at rest on the assembly floor without proper authorization." That's right, yeah. In your face for eighty-eight!

This is John Henry –

Snake. Call me Snake.

John Henry's the new trainee. He's gonna be working in the new Angleville factory but we gotta train him here on account of the asbestos clean-up over there.

(sniffing loudly)
Asbestos gets all up in Snake's eyes. Ain’t that a bitch?

Don't worry. There's nothing wrong here. We just had an accident. The hammer slipped.

Well, Ronnie you know you got to lay off the hand moisturizer. I know it smells pretty, like lilacs. But ever since the union started making it mandatory in the men's bathrooms we've lost at least six good hammers and two Mexicans.

He'll be more careful. Won't you, Ronnie?

The TRAINEE quickly attacks the conveyor belt with both hammers, bring each of them down several times in quick succession before getting out of breath. The others look at him, somewhat astonished.

(panting, and then posturing)
Hey. OK. Wassup now?

(trying to ignore the TRAINEE)
No. Now listen. That wasn't no accident. I gotta tell you. I can't smash puppies no more, for certain. I quit.

Listen here, Ronnie. I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that, especially from September's employee of the month. Why don't you clear your head of nonsense, pick up that hammer, and continue to make your folks proud? It’s your birthright.

DARLENE rushes over and grabs the fallen hammer. She presents it to RONNIE.

No. I won't do that. Y’all go ahead and be small-minded, but I can't just come in here everyday, doing the same old thing without a single thought to it. No. There's something out there for me, and it's time I found it. It’s time we all found it.

TRAINEE and DARLENE seem especially affected by this last comment. They take pause, and stare at their own hammers meaningfully for a moment. Then they both notice the conveyor belt moving in front of them and smash it. The TRAINEE then continues to smash it several more times.


(sighs deeply before continuing)
Well, it looks like I'm going to have make this speech again. (throws an arm around Ronnie) Ronnie, look around you. Take a good look now. The work we do here - this is our life, and our love. And these people are your family, and as far as we’re concerned this is the world.

Here on this assembly line, we kill puppies with three-pound steel hammers. That's what we do. And it's what we've always done. Killing puppies with three-pound hammers put you through school, Ronnie. And Darlene, you like rainbows, right? Well, killing puppies makes rainbows. And John Henry -


Killing puppies with a three-pound hammer paid for your prosthetic leg, John Henry.

(addressing others)
It's made of bamboo. Extra-strong, yo.

TRAINEE smashes conveyor belt with his hammer.

Now some people might argue that killing puppies with a hammer all day long is tedious work. Some people, like those folks at 60 Minutes, might even say it's unethical, that ultimately killing puppies all day long and burying their corpses in a tremendous landfill just outside of city limits has little or nothing to do with the production of Worthington's Après-Dinner Pastel Mints. But if you ask me, that's just missing the point. Fact is, killing puppies is a Worthington Industries tradition, as rich as exchanging presents on Christmas day or setting fire to foreign-made automobiles. We don't ask why. We just do, and we do it proudly.

Ah, but what of the world out there, Ronnie Dreamer? That mysterious unknown for which young hearts burn. Sure, we don't know much about it right now, except what our schools teach us: that it's a vast, smoldering wasteland run by atomic-strength zombies who drink gasoline and feast on the sweet flesh of humanoid travelers. If you ask me, we're doing a lot more good here by providing cool, soothing mints to the world's remaining population of senior citizens than we'd be doing out there, meting out the short remainder of our lives hiding behind rocks and surviving on each other’s urine while we curse nightfall, for that is when the zombies attack.

And if our production of Worthington's Dinner-Dinner Pastel Mints means the steady, systematic destruction of every breed of puppy on earth, so be it. I say it’s the natural order of things. If it weren't, why would dogs continue to make more puppies? What kind of God would allow that, Ronnie?

Now embrace me, for I am your foreman.

DARLENE and TRAINEE, now practically choked up with fear, embrace the FOREMAN while RONNIE remains on the outside of the tight circle, shaking his head. They hold together for a moment until the TRAINEE breaks the silence by smashing the conveyor belt with one of his hammers. The FOREMAN sees this and approves.

That boy's going to make a fine plant manager some day.

You're all brainwashed by this system! Don't you ever dream about having something more?

Like another hammer?


Listen, if you still feel so strongly, I can offer you a transfer to the Division Four assembly line, where you'll be killing puppies with a length of piano wire. Might be just the right thing for your wandering spirit. You know, your grandfather was this factory's best wire-man in his day.

You don't get it. You all just don't get it. I quit. I'm going to graduate school.

RONNIE takes one last look at the crew, throws his baseball hat down, and stomps off.

Can I have his hammer?

I guess his heart just wasn't in it. We'll never know why.

DARLENE swings her hammer down, slowly, mournfully.

He'll be back. Mark my words. He'll be back.
DARLENE and TRAINEE stop working for a moment to look at the FOREMAN reverently. This moment should last about 4 seconds, at which point RONNIE returns and others draw their attention to him.

OK, I'm back.


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2001 todd levin
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