Lights up on Harry McMullen, a balding middle-aged worker. He is sitting in a cubicle in an office, stapling stacks of papers in as monotonous and repetitive a manner as possible.
Narrator: Harry McMullen. Aged 37 years and 83 days. Works on the 54th floor of the 26th office building on 72nd street. Owns two cacti and one cat. Exactly twice a day, at remarkably uniform intervals, one morbid thought passes through his mind and lingers, as though invited.
Harry: (almost catatonic, staring ahead) If I accidentally stapled my finger, would the staple fold over upon itself upon contact with my skin, or slice through, like a knife in freshly baked cake?
Narrator: He remains haunted by a story his mother had told him some 28 years earlier.
Spotlight up on Harry’s Mom, who is wearing an apron and gesturing with a spatula. She speaks out to the audience.
Mom: Son, remember your friend, Billy Fristopherson? Before he moved to Bokey, Indiana, his father was involved in a freak stapling incident at the office. He acquired tetanus and had seizures for three months before his wife discovered what was wrong and took him to the hospital, where the doctors removed his spleen and found an infestation of rabid insects indigenous to the planes of the Sahara. Harry, he died within 24 hours. Billy’s mom went insane, and Billy was shipped off to an orphanage in Middle America. And that’s why you are never, ever, under any circumstances, to ride your bike without a helmet.
Narrator: Unfortunately, Harry had forgotten two important details of the story. One,
Mom: Billy’s dad worked at a construction site, and the tool that brought about his destruction was an industrial stapler.
Narrator: And two,
Mom: The rest of it is true.
Narrator: But …rabid insects?
Mom: I stand by what I said. And you’d do well to heed my advice, sonny.
Narrator: But helmets are so uncomfortable!
Mom: Do it!
Narrator: I never want to see you again!
Mom: Don’t say things you don’t mean. It isn’t polite.
Narrator: Sorry, Mrs. McMullen.
Mom: It’s ok, dear. We all make mistakes.
The lights fade on her.
Narrator: In order to drive that horrifying nag from his memory, Harry would make up elaborate Stapling songs and recite them religiously.
Harry: (singing a decidedly un-elaborate song to himself) Staple Staple Staple! Oh, I staple to the left, I staple to the right, I staple Down but never Up, Staaaaaple!
Narrator: Because of this, his colleagues thought him rather strange, and he found himself the brunt of a substantial amount of office gossip.
Two of Henry’s colleagues, a man and a woman, assemble DL excitedly and speak in hushed voices, as though they are in second grade and have just heard (from Billy’s Younger Sister’s Brother’s Cat) that Bobby Joe liked Suzy May and wanted to maaaarry her.
Man: Guess what guess what? I heard that Harry McMullen wears two layers of socks to work.
Woman: Well, I heard that he puts jelly on his Turkey sandwich, instead of mayonnaise!
Woman: I know!
They both look suddenly at Henry and become extremely quiet. He attempts to smile at them; they run offstage. Harry becomes sad.
Narrator: It is today, January 2nd, 2005 (insert current year here), that harry McMullen realizes he is entirely alone.
Harry continues his stapling. He does not sing. He is just about to staple a gigantic stack of papers together, when, low and behold, his finger gets caught in the mix.
I have absolutely no idea what this is about, where it came from or where it's going! I quite like the idea of the bloke with the strange obsession - but I wonder if you might explore a bit further. Did he get tetanus? And if not, upon realising the baselessness of his fear, does he go on to worry about letter openers? Or maybe he meets a girl with a fear of hole-punches? Or a girl with a passion for staple-removers with whom he can at last find love?
Hahaha, thanks Poet for your comments...they are all very valid, and this isn't really anything "complete" in any traditional sense of the word. I went through a period where I just scribbled down little vignettes of action when they came to me...almost like character studies or something. I'm very interested to see how people react to them when they are isolated, though...because to me, each of the vignettes feels 'complete' (I posted another one a week or two ago, "One Ordinary Day" and the primary feedback I got from it was to expand it as well). But they're all sort of fragmentary and I have no real idea what to "do" with them.
When I wrote them initially, I had a loose idea of making a collection of such "moments," woven together by a narrator...but after spending a few months away from them, looking back on them I now think I may be cheating myself out of a lot of dramatic possibilities. Like your suggestion for "a girl with a passion for staple-removers"? BRILLIANT. Perchance I should use these character sketches as just that...suggestions for more exploration...and delve more into their world.
Yeah. Anyways, this was basically a long-winded way of saying thanks!
I think you could explore this. Right now, we don't have any investment in any of the characters. The narrator's purpose is not only to tell the bits that would otherwise be too hard to explain, they are a character, and have desires, and stakes. The Narrator starts out very precise, like Rod Serling, and then in the second line, slips into, "a story his mother had told him some 28 years earlier.", which doesn't have the same energy.
It's an interesting premise, but for me, that's all it is thus far. Keep playing with it.