Before you read this… please let me say something. This was and IS a first draft. This was written in 1995, very quickly. I originally saw it as an examination of evil. Then I saw it as a black comedy. Then I saw it as an examination of the black comedy of evil. In the end, I decided it was an extended comedy sketch with an overly complex plot and a dark punchline. While there are some very interesting moments and I like the idea and plot quite a bit, I think the characters are drawn too cartoonish. Ted seems to be the only character that shows any growth – and that is minimal. I actually think I had trouble finding motivation for my characters actions sometimes. I was warring in myself, looking for a character to empathize with, and I didn’t like any of them. I also think that, while there are a few good zingers, the dialogue isn’t that great. One day, perhaps, I will rewrite. Until then, in my role as “scribe of the tribe”, here is HOW TO GET AHEAD IN A BASKET – for the whole world to see.
HOW TO GET AHEAD IN A BASKET by Eric Schwartz
(The scene is the office of Ted Portly. A desk, a couch, a wet
bar, a computer and a large window make up the room. Also. placed
left of center, awkwardly off setting the room, is a large wicker
basket. It is approximately 3 ft. wide, 3 ft. deep and 4 ft high.
A large bow is fixed to the basket, with a card. JUDY enters.
She carries a stack of mail. CHUCK, the delivery guy follows.)
JUDY: (Dropping the stack of mail on the desk.) Are there any
CHUCK: (Checks his invoice) Nope. It's all paid for. I just
need you to sign this invoice so I can get outta here. (Judy reluctantly takes the invoice and signs it. Chuck rips off the pink copy and hands it to Judy.) Pink copy's for you. Have a nice day.
JUDY: (Reading the invoice) Thanks, you to.
(Chuck exits. Judy reads a bit more. She shrugs and puts it on the desk. TED
enters. He is carrying a brief case and walks with authority.)
JUDY: (Smiles wryly at him.) How was your trip to the convention in.. uh....Vegas?
TED: (Putting his briefcase on the desk.) Hmm.. Looked strangely like a two story house in Oak Park. But I guess one queen size floatation system looks the same as all the others.
JUDY: You're horrible.
TED: That's not what Tory said. (Looks at his left hand. He drops his hands in dismay.) I seem to have misplaced my wedding ring. (Begins to rummage in one of the drawers in the desk.) Judy? Where's my box of spare wedding rings?
JUDY: Other side.
(Ted opens the other drawer and pulls out the box.)
TED: You're a life saver Judy. I don't know how I could run a business without you. (He searches for a ring then picks one and puts it on. He looks up and notices the basket.) What the hell is that?
JUDY: (Looks over at the basket.) Dunno. The invoice is on your desk. There's a card. (Walks over and takes the card. She opens the card and reads it.) To Ted. I hope you enjoy this antique statue. The Signet Corporation.
TED: (Crumples up the invoice and throws it in the waste paper basket.) Send them a fruit basket or something. A crate of lipstick would probably be more appropriate. They always were a bunch of Ass-kissers.
JUDY: Are they trying to influence how you vote your stock?
TED: Yep. The Board all want to keep their jobs and they know that my vote will definitely weigh heavy. Plus I'm voting as Harolson's proxy while he's laid up in Switzerland. Nasty business insider trading. What time is it?
JUDY: Almost a quarter after 9.
TED: Whew! I need a scotch. (Goes to the wet bar and begins to pour.)
NEAL pokes his head in.)
NEAL: Am I interrupting anything?
TED: (Leaning back and taking a long drink. He sighs.) Only breakfast.
NEAL: Oh. Okay. (He strides in. He is carrying a portfolio. He flops down on the couch.)
NEAL: Sure. Whiskey neat.
JUDY: (Moves to the door.) I'll send Betty in when she gets here.
TED: (Pouring Neal's drink.) Thanks. (He walks over and gives Neal his drink)
NEAL: (Taking his drink. He nods at the basket.) Nice basket.
TED: Sssh yeah. Just those pricks over at Signet sweating their job security. My place is art-deco anyway, I've got no place for antiques. (He walks over to the basket and opens it. He reaches in. He pulls out a fistful of packing styrofoam) Great. (He lets the lid drop.) How environmentally conscious.
NEAL: (Laughs) Funny. Especially from a guy who has made a fortune transporting hazardous waste around the country to illegal dump sights.
TED: Amtrack moves garbage all over the country everyday. (He moves to the desk) That's part of the reason I called you in here.
NEAL: (Sits up worried) What's wrong?
TED: (Putting up his hands to calm Neal) Relax your ulcer. You're fine. The guys from Over seas shipping are chickening out of the off shore dump proposal.
NEAL: Well, it is a dangerous. What if the government found out?
TED: Look! This train thing's been going on under the Feds’ noses for almost 3 years and we haven't gotten so much as a raised eyebrow.
NEAL: Well, I don't blame them.
TED: Great! Wimps. That’s what our nation's economy was founded on.
NEAL: I'll go along with it, but I just want us to be cautious.
TED: Well, it sounded like you were going moralistic on me.
NEAL: You know me better than that. By the way, I seem to have misplaced my wedding ring.
TED: (Reaches into his desk and pulls out a spare ring. He tosses it to Neal.) There you go.
NEAL: I hope this one fits better than the last one. My little,"I lost weight" lie didn't hold a lot of water with the Mrs.
TED: (Kicking his feet up on his desk) Anyway, the guys in shipping are the least of our problems. We took a rather large advance from all three companies and they're going to want results.
NEAL: (Stands) What?!
TED: I wanted to see a portion of the money up front. Plus with a major increase in volume moved we're going to have to pay off more people. Hush money isn't cheap.(The phone rings. Ted picks up the phone) Yeah. Okay send her in. (He hangs up the phone.) You seem a little antsy today Neal. Is your back acting up? (BETTY enters. She carries herself with a business air.)
BETTY: What's up Ted.
TED: I was just telling Neal that we've hit a snag in the Atlantic plan. (Picks up the phone.) Judy, hold my calls and under no circumstances let anyone in. (He hangs up)
BETTY: I'm pulling out Ted.
(Ted looks up, shocked.)
BETTY: There have been reports of cattle dying around Pead industries' dump sight. The EPA is talking about ground water tests. If they find the dump, it'll eventually lead them to us.
TED: Has anybody gotten sick yet?
BETTY: Not yet but I'm sure it's only a matter of time. This is getting so complicated.
TED: We could always deny everything.
NEAL: How far would that go? The government won't believe that we moved barrels of stuff to farmland in Nebraska without asking questions.
BETTY: Well what can we do?
TED: Wait it out.
BETTY: You're nuts. I'm gone. This is getting to be a big pain in the ass.
TED: The only pain in your ass is your overstuffed wallet. This deal has made you rich and you're up to your tits in it. So, I don't think you pulling out is going to solve anything.
BETTY: Is that a threat?
TED: I don't want to threaten you, but I can't have anything jeopardize this project. The money from this has made you richer than you would otherwise. True?
BETTY: (Softening) True.
TED: It's sending your kids to college. And on the books it looks totally legit. You really have nothing to worry about. Anyway I have Pead's assurance that they will deny our involvement. They can place blame on their usual Waste handlers who know nothing about us.
BETTY: (Sits, defeated.) Okay. Maybe I was a bit hasty. But if the heat gets turned up anymore I bolt.
TED: Okay. As far as the advance goes, we could ship some of Pead's and Omnitech's stuff to Bond's Illinois dump. They have more holding capacity than the other two.
NEAL: Are the other two going to care that their shit's being dumped in the competition's sight?
TED: Why should they? Once the waste is off their hands why should they care where it goes? The real problem would be keeping Bond from finding out that we've increased their intake with the competition's bulk.
BETTY: How many more people are you going to rip off?
TED: As many as it takes.
TED: Hey! You don't play hard ball with tampons. You play with bats. And while I'm coaching this team we're going to play with the biggest, hardest bats.
BETTY: What about the board? Do they have any clue that they're paying for extra baggage on every trainload?
NEAL: No. They're none the wiser. And they won't be as long as you keep doctoring the shipping records.
TED: God! I love the smell of misinformation in the morning.
BETTY: Are you some kind of risk addict.
TED: Yep. I live on it. I mean look at the scope of it all. We've got three competing chemical companies, A steel company, three states, and the Federal government. And they're all blind to this.
NEAL: For now.
TED: Yes sir! And I plan to keep it that way.
BETTY: How do you know it'll work?
TED: (Stands and gazes out the window.) Because, Betty, I have foresight. I thought it over time and time again. I have to have something to do when I'm in bed with my wife. It will work. See Betty, business is like a chess game. You've got to plan your attack several moves ahead.(Ted turns back and smiles at her. Suddenly DOUG bursts out of the basket. Packing styrofoam falls everywhere. He hold a gun in one hand and a tape recorder in the other.)Holy shit!!!
DOUG: Checkmate!(Neal and Betty are stunned beyond the capacity for rational thought. Ted darts for the phone. Doug jumps out of the basket and aims the gun at Ted.) Ah-ah-ah. I wouldn't do that. (Betty begins to move toward the door.) Uh-uh get back here. (Betty moves back slowly) Have a seat.
DOUG: Oh. I'm surprised you remember my name. Don't bastards like you forget people when they fire them?
TED: Oh is that it, the disgruntled postal worker syndrome?
DOUG: Not exactly.
NEAL: You know this guy?
TED: Yeah. I know him. His name is Doug Chapman. He was my data base operator. I fired him almost six months ago.
NEAL: Nice move Ted.
TED: Well, if you're going to kill us, kill us. Don't sit around and eulogize like some bad cop drama.
DOUG: Oh, I'm not going to kill you.
NEAL: Oh thank God.
TED: Shut up Neal.
DOUG: Not that I didn't want to. After what you did.
TED: I fired you.
DOUG: No! You fired a decent hard working man. While you stayed up here in your cushy office.
TED: I fired you because you weren't doing your job.
TED: You took extra long lunch breaks. Your work was normally behind schedule. And toward the end you were taking more than your fair share of sick days. I would fire anybody for that. I didn't gain anything by firing you, I lost a good database operator.
DOUG: Whatever. But all the same you played God.
TED: What do you want?
DOUG: I want money. I want what I deserve.
TED: Why should I give you money? You got your last paycheck. That's what you deserved.
DOUG: What about what happened to me as a result of YOU?!? My wife left me....
TED: Is that my fault?
DOUG: Yes! You weren't happy with what I was doing so you threw me away like garbage. Well you're the garbage you rotten fuck! You think that because you have money and power you can shit on us! Well you're going to think twice before you fire anyone again.
TED: Oh Jesus! Will you cut it with the put-on bullshit.
BETTY: Ted. Please don't forget, he's got a gun.
TED: I'm not forgetting anything. (To Doug) So you're going to make a statement. Make me an example to all the masters of the "evil empires" of this world. The Robin Hood of Generation X?!?!
DOUG: You are such a pig.
TED: And you're a psychopath.
DOUG: Am I?!
TED: Your moral sense is really messed up.
DOUG: That's funny from a guy who is poisoning the planet for his own personal gain.
TED: What do you care?! In 50 years you won't be here what will you care then?! I'm looking out for myself, and I'll be damned if a bunch of greenpeace liberals are going to lobby money out of my pocket and the pockets of your lovely proletariat.
DOUG: (Holds out the tape recorder) Well, I think the Signet Board will feel differently.
TED: Oh do you think they're pristine and clean? Do you want to know what Signet uses our steel for? Weapons. U.S. issue guns and ammunition. Killing people has put Signet into the Billions area. Do you think that they're going to care one iota.
DOUG: They'll put pressure on you to give up your stock!
TED: Let them! I don't give a rat's ass about Signet! It won't make a dent! I've got more money than I can spend in a life-time!
DOUG: Money you got dumping hazardous waste onto farmland and poisoning ground water. You're a greedy, evil son of a bitch.
TED: Who the hell are you to judge evils?! You're the one with the gun.
DOUG: That's different!
TED: Is it? You and I are no different. Only when I was given the catalogue of evils I chose to ignore environmental laws, you chose violence. Like I said FUCKED UP MORALS!
DOUG: What's worse? A sudden act of violence or what you do?
TED: What do I do? I provide a service. The government has been regulating "good hard-working people" out of decent jobs!
DOUG: But look what you're doing in the long run.
TED: Who knows! Who cares. The more stuff I move, the more these companies can produce to help your precious humanity.
DOUG: Nice rationalization.
TED: Hey! Eat me loser! I sleep just fine at night!
NEAL: Ted, please shut the hell up. You may not care but I have a wife and children.
TED: (To Doug)Scared out of his mind! Is that what you wanted? Believe it or not we all have families. We all have feelings.
(Doug looks at Neal. He doesn't quite know what to do.)
DOUG: I already said that I'm not going to kill you.
TED: Then why did you come here with a gun?!
DOUG: I wanted to hurt you. I wanted to scare you. The way you did to me. I hated feeling powerless.
TED: You felt jealous.
DOUG: I'm not jealous of you!
TED: Admit it. You think you deserve what I have. You want the money and power. You want to be me. You wouldn't be here with a gun if you didn't. It's like a little kid hitting his brother because he got what the kid wanted for Christmas. You're just a jealous little child who didn't get what he wants.
DOUG: (Leaping to Ted) You're a son-of-a-bitch. (He hits Ted on the back of the head with the gun. Betty shrieks. Ted's knees buckle and he grabs his head in anguish.) You're my way out of here and I'm going to make sure that you get what you deserve. (Points the gun at Neal
and Betty.) You two. Move to the door. (Back to Ted)Move it asshole. We're getting out of here together. And remember, I've got a gun on all three of you.(He pushes Ted to the door. Neal opens the door and the four leave. There is a SCUFFLE outside.)
MAN: (Off stage) Hey!
(There is a GUNSHOT. A woman SCREAMS. The door flings open. Doug shoves Ted into
the room. Doug leans against the door, shocked.)
DOUG: Oh my god!
TED: You shot the water cooler guy.
DOUG: Is he dead?
TED: You blew his face off, I don't think he's going to be country line dancing any time soon.
DOUG: (Begins to shake) Oh my God.
TED: Give it up.
DOUG: I've never even fired a gun before.
TED: Beginner's luck.
DOUG: Shut the fuck up!!! (Motions with the gun to the couch.) Sit down.
TED: In five minutes this place will be swamped with cops. Each one of them will have one thing in mind. You! Dead!(Doug collapses against the desk.)
DOUG: Why'd you have to fire me?
TED: Are you still blaming me for all this? Man, I don't think all your parts are in place.
DOUG: I never meant to do any of this. I just wanted a normal life.
TED: Do you think I set out to do anything I've done? Things just came up. Opportunities knocked.
DOUG: Why couldn't you just let them keep knocking? Do you see what you've done?
TED: So I killed a few cows and some plants. You just blew away the guy from Hinkley and Schmidt. What's going to be judged worse in the end?
DOUG: Do you got anything to drink around here?
TED: (Nodding to the wet bar) Over there. (Doug gets up and begins to move to the bar. Then he stops and turns back. He raises the gun.)
DOUG: Why don't you fix me a whiskey. (Ted shrugs and walks over to the bar. Doug keeps the gun on him and watches him carefully.)
TED: (Pouring the drink) You're pretty good at this. You sure you haven't done this before? (Puts the lid back on the bottle. He holds the glass out top hand it to Doug.)
DOUG: (Moving away from Ted around behind the desk.) Just put it on the desk and go sit down. (Ted chuckles. He puts the drink down and moves to the couch. He flops down.)
TED: There. I didn't try anything stupid. (Doug grabs the drink and guzzles it.) Go on. Get tanked.
DOUG: (Sarcastically) Nah! That's okay. But thanks. (Folds his arms and sits back bored.)
TED: So where did you go to college?
TED: Just killing time.
TED: Ah. A Hoosier. Never cared for Indiana.
DOUG: Dump anything there?
TED: Only my hatred. Never had the chance to dump anything else there. I'm sure if any state deserved it, it's Indiana. I went to Ball State myself.
DOUG: So that's where you got your balls.
TED: What a dump. No pun intended. Corn. Corn. Corn. It was hell on earth. Even Satan avoids going to Indiana.
DOUG: It's not so bad. The people are good.
TED: As good as people can be I guess.
(Police sirens wail outside. Doug runs to the window. He looks down.)
DOUG: Shit! (Ted makes a break for the door. Doug turns just in time and holds the gun on him.) Hold it asshole! You're not going anywhere. Have a seat. You're my only way out of here.
(Ted sits back on the couch.)
TED: Give it up! You killed an innocent man! You're all into justice! Take what's coming to you. Get what you deserve.
DOUG: I've got to get out of here. I've got kids.
TED: So did the water cooler guy!
DOUG: And the farmland you poison could feed people.
TED: And I'll get what's coming to me in the end.
DOUG: No you won't! You'll never get caught. People like you slip between the cracks in the system.
VOICE: (Off stage) Mr. Chapman?! This is Detective Sergeant Phillips. Can you hear me okay?
DOUG: Yeah I can hear you!
PHILLIPS: Is Mr. Portly all right?
DOUG: Yeah! He's okay. (To Ted) Tell them.
TED: I'm here.
PHILLIPS: Are you hurt, Mr. Portly?
TED: No I'm okay.
PHILLIPS: What do you want Chapman?
(Doug thinks for a moment)
DOUG: Give me a second!
TED: You're not going to get out of here alive.
DOUG: I'm not stupid. I know that.
PHILLIPS: You there?!?!!
DOUG: Yeah. (He looks at Ted then a thought dawns on him.) I want to talk to a reporter!
PHILLIPS: There are some downstairs. I'll get one.
DOUG: Make it fast!!
TED: Oh I see. You're going to ruin me before you die.
DOUG: Yep. Bother you.
TED: Actually, my mind is on other things right now.
DOUG: You're kidding?
TED: Believe it or not, I do care whether or not I live through this.
DOUG: Well, chances are pretty good. I don't know if I have the stomach to kill again.
PHILLIPS: They're getting a reporter from channel 2 up here. Is there anything else?
DOUG: Are there cops on top of the buildings across the street?
TED: Man, you watch a lot of television.
DOUG: Tell them to hold their fire. I'm not going to hurt Portly if I can talk to the reporter.
PHILLIPS: All right. We don't need anymore bloodshed today.
DOUG: Yeah. I'm... uh... sorry about the Hinkley and Schmidt guy. I never meant to hurt anybody.
PHILLIPS: Well, it's a little late now.
DOUG: Yeah, I know.
VOICE: (Off stage) Mr. Chapman? This is Denise Lange from channel 2 news.
DOUG: Yeah. I've got a story for you.
DENISE: Go ahead. The cameras are rolling.
DOUG: Okay. Edward Portly, vice president in charge of shipping for the Idon Steel Corporation, has been taking payoffs from Pead Industries, Omnitech Technologies, and Bond Chemicals, to use Idon Freight trains to transport hazardous waste across state lines to illegal dumpsites.
DENISE: Can we confirm that?
DOUG: Yeah. The EPA is about to begin ground water testing on an area near Pead Industries’ abandoned agricultural research farm, outside Lincoln Nebraska. Portly has been dumping waste there for three years. There are two others. One in Wyoming owned by Omni Tech. And another owned by Bond in Illinois. Portly has also been planning an off shore dump-site with Idon's overseas freighter ships.
DENISE: Is that all?
DOUG: Yeah that's it. I want that on the 5 o'clock news. Phillips!
DOUG: I'll let Portly go as soon as I know the story is being broadcast.
DENISE: It already had been. The cameras were on live feed to the station while you were talking.
DOUG: (Breathes a sigh.) Thank you. Portly will be out in a moment.
(Doug turns to Ted.)
TED: Not bad. I don't know if they're going to believe you.
DOUG: Does it really matter. Even if they don't your career is over. Even the companies who've been paying you will pull out now.
TED: Can I get my car keys from my briefcase?
DOUG: (Starting to ease) Sure. (He turns to the door) Phillips?! Portly's on his way out.
PHILLIPS: Thank you Chapman. You know you're under arrest.
DOUG: (Smiles sadly) Yeah I know.
(Ted moves to the desk. He watches Doug but he doesn't turn. Ted opens a desk
drawer. He pulls out a gun.)
TED: (Raising the gun at Doug) You did the right thing Doug.
(Doug turns. He sees the gun. He raises his. They both fire. They empty their
cartridges into one another. They both collapse dead to the floor.)
(The door flies open Phillips and police rush in.)
FADE TO BLACK
NEWSCASTER: Three people lie dead today after a gun battle in the offices of Idon Steel industries. Douglas Michael Chapman entered the office of Edward Portly early this morning with a gun. After the death of a Hinkley & Schmidt employee police began hostage negotiations with Chapman. Police state that Chapman and Portly killed each other in a struggle. Before his death Chapman implicated Portly in a hazardous waste dumping scam that involved Pead Industries, Omnitech Technologies, and Bond Chemicals. All three companies have denied knowledge of any such operation.