So I'm rewriting Rock and a Hard Place. Originally, it was written by four of us. The more serious (less silly?) scenes were written by Jilliane and Nancie, while Noah and I handled comedy. This time around, it's just me, and I'm making it purely a comedy, one that'll probably make even less sense than the original. Here are the first five scenes, which I just whipped up in about 15 minutes:
Ted and Margot are sitting in their living room. Ted is watching a documentary about mining while Margot is reading a book.
MARGOT: If that’s my bookie, tell him I already broke my own legs.
TED: What have you been betting on this time? (stands up and grabs the phone.)
MARGOT: Cock fights.
TED: Nice. (answers phone.) Hello?
FRANK: Listen carefully, Ted. We don’t have much time.
FRANK: My name isn’t important.
TED: Important or not, your name is Frank.
FRANK: Stop saying my name!
TED: But why, Frank?
FRANK: (whispering) This line might be tapped!
TED: We’re middle management at a marketing firm, Frank, why would—?
FRANK: There’s not enough time! I need to meet with you right away!
TED: Can’t we just talk about this on the phone, Frank?
FRANK: No! Absolutely not! They’ll hear everything!
TED: Frank, you sound like a crazy person. Also, it’s, like, 11:30. I was going to go to bed as soon as my show was over.
FRANK: Can’t you just DVR it?
TED: I can’t DVR bed, Frank. I don’t really care about the show.
FRANK: This is a matter of life and death, Ted! I need you to meet me at midnight.
TED: Where? My place or yours?
FRANK: Neither. Meet me at…(pauses and looks straight at the camera)…the graveyard!
Ted arrives at the graveyard. There is no sign of Frank.
TED: Frank? Hey, Frank!
Ted wanders around the deserted graveyard. Frank is definitely not here.
TED: Fraaaaaaaaaaaank! Where are you?
Ted sits on a bench and picks up a pebble. He absentmindedly tosses it up and down in his hand.
TED: I’m totally punching you in the back of the head when I see you tomorrow, Frank.
Ted looks around some more, looks at the pebble in his hand.
TED: Stupid rock.
Ted throws the pebble away. A cat shrieks off camera, and there is an explosion, also off camera. Ted doesn’t react to either. He gets in his car and leaves.
It’s the following morning. Ted is sitting down to breakfast with Margot. They’re both dressed for work.
MARGOT: So what did Frank want last night?
TED: The little dick-wiggler wasn’t there. I don’t know what he wanted. I’m punching him in the back of the head today.
MARGOT: That’s nice dear.
Ted finishes his breakfast and heads outside. He stops when he notices a huge boulder on his lawn.
TED: Whaaaaaaa? Pause as he examines it. Hey Margot! Margot!
MARGOT: comes outside. What?
TED: points at rock
MARGOT: Oh, that. What’s it for?
TED: I didn’t put it here.
MARGOT: Well, neither did I.
TED: Who did?
MARGOT: Probably your mom. Look, I have to get to work. Get rid of that thing; it’s ugly.
Skateboard Dude passes on the sidewalk.
SKATEBOARD DUDE: Nice rock, Ted.
TED: Your face is a nice rock, rock-face! To Margot: I have to go to work, too. I’ll deal with it when I get home.
Ted and Margot both leave.
Ted’s place of work. He sticks his head in Fran’s office door.
TED: Hey, Fran. Have you seen Frank? I need to punch him in the back of the head.
FRAN: Oh, haven’t you heard?
TED: Heard that Frank stood me up last night? Yeah, I was there.
FRAN: No, not that. Frank has gone missing!
Ted makes a comically surprised face.
Ted enters his kitchen looking through his mail. He notices a letter from the town, and opens it.
TED: (reading aloud) Dear Mr. Ted Stone: It has come to the attention of the Town of Rockwell bylaw enforcement department that you have recently placed a boulder in excess of 500 pounds on your property. This is in direct violation to the town’s boulder control bylaw. If you do not remove the boulder by Saturday of this week, you will be fined $600 and sentenced to death in the electric chair.
Ted sticks the letter to the fridge with the most cheerful magnet he has. He picks up the phone and calls Trevor.
TREVOR: This is Trevor.
TED: The town is trying to kill me.
TREVOR: Did I say “Trevor”? I meant, this is…uh…someone you don’t know, because you dialed the wrong number.
Trevor hangs up. Ted dials his number again.
TREVOR: This is Trevor.
TED: This is Ted. Why did you hang up on me?
TREVOR: Oh, was that you?
TED: Yes. Don’t you have call display?
TREVOR: I disabled it. Sorry man, I thought you were this other guy who the town’s trying to kill. But I’m all, like, “Who isn’t the town trying to kill?” Am I right? Laughs.
TED: I wonder if that’s what happened to Frank.
TREVOR: Frank Zappa?
TED: No. No, not Frank Zappa.
TREVOR: So why’s the town trying to kill you?
TED: I have a big rock on my lawn.
TREVOR: Bigger than 500 pounds?
TED: Yeah, I guess so.
TREVOR: That violates the Boulder Control Bylaw. Why’d you do that?
TED: I didn’t do it. It was there when I woke up this morning.
TREVOR: That won’t stop them from giving you the chair.
TED: How do you know so much about this bylaw?
TED: pauses. Did you just shrug?
TED: We’re on the phone. How am I supposed to see you shrug.
TREVOR: shrugs again. It worked, didn’t it?
TED: Look, what the heck am I supposed to do about this rock?
TREVOR: Don’t worry. I know a guy. I’ll give him a call and we’ll swing by your place to fix this up.
Ted is standing in his yard prodding the rock with his foot. A beat-up truck parks in front of the yard. A sign on the door reads “Garry’s Rock Removal. Garry Rockremover, Proprietor. ‘You can take this rock and remove it!’” Garry and Trevor exit the truck and approach Ted.
TREVOR: Hey, Ted. This is Garry. He’s a rock remover.
TED: Hi, Garry. I’m Ted. Extends his hand to shake with Garry.
GARRY: ignoring Ted’s hand. I know who you are.
TED: Oh. Okay. How?
GARRY: Trevor told me on the way over. It’s basic courtesy to explain to your friend where you need him to go before you get there. I’m surprised you didn’t know that.
TREVOR: points at a stone the size of a grapefruit in the flower garden. Is this the rock here?
GARRY: Removing that rock will be the simplest of jobs. Behold! Garry picks up the rock and throws it at Skateboard Dude. Skateboard Dude dies.
TED: No, it’s the big rock, there. Points at the huge boulder.
TREVOR: This rock here? You’re sure?
TED: Fairly sure. 99% confident, I’d say. The town didn’t provide a picture, but I don’t think that other one was over 500 pounds.
GARRY: Perhaps not. Turns his attention to the boulder. Ah, this rock is more suited to my talents. Truly, it is a worthy foe! Licks the rock. Igneous. It spewed forth from an ancient volcano before man’s ancestors crawled out of the oceans onto dry land.
TED: How do you know that?
GARRY: I am a Rock Remover.
TREVOR: Do you think you could remove it, Garry?
GARRY: May my eyes rot and my tongue shrivel if I cannot. I must examine her.
Garry lays his body over the rock and slowly caresses it with his hands. Trevor pulls Ted off to the side to let Garry work undisturbed.
TED: Where did you find this guy?
TREVOR: I’ve known him since high school. He removed some rocks from my dad’s garden. We’ve been good friends ever since.
TED: Good friends? How come I’ve never met him?
TREVOR: Have you ever had any rocks professionally removed before?
TREVOR: That’s probably why you’ve never met him.
TED: But you said he’s your good friend. I’m your best friend. You’d think our paths would have crossed. Or, at the very least, I would have heard you mention him.
TREVOR: My life doesn’t revolve around you, Ted.
GARRY: Yes! YES! Laughs ominously. She is a feisty one, but I will be able to move her.
TED: Great. She—it has to be gone by Saturday or the town is going to kill me.
GARRY: I will return tomorrow. She and I will dance at dawn! I will require you to pay before the work commences.
TED: Okay. How much will it cost?
GARRY: Oh, this shall be an epic fight! Man against nature! Her rock-hard will against my iron determination! I shall require cranes! Minions! Dynamite!
GARRY: Dynamite! Cackles
TED: How much?
TED: That seems reasonable.
GARRY: Payable only in solid platinum bars!
TREVOR: Sounds good, Garry. We’ll see you tomo—
TED: Wait, wait, wait. Hold on a second. I have a question.
TREVOR: Really? Seems pretty straight forward to me.
TED: Where am I supposed to get platinum bars? Can’t I just use Interac?
GARRY: I cannot afford the wireless terminals.
TED: Cash, then?
GARRY: laughs. By the gods, no! Only the cold caress of platinum will slate my thirst for riches! None of your paper notes will be worth anything once I pull down society with the help of my legions of…well…I’ve said too much already.
TREVOR: Glad we cleared that up. See you tomorrow, Garry. Ted will have the platinum waiting.
TREVOR: Ted, this is serious. You have a rock on the lawn. Just run down to the platinum store and buy some platinum bars.
GARRY: $500 worth of platinum bars, don’t forget.
TED: Shut up, you! Pauses. To Trevor: There’s a platinum store in town?
TREVOR: shrugs. I don’t know. Probably.
That evening, after dark, Ted looks out his window at the rock. The rock glows.
TED: Your days are numbered, rock! Pause. The number is one. Pauses again to look at his watch. Well, ten hours, really. So that’s, what? 0.417 days, rounded to the nearest thousandth.
The rock glows a little brighter.
TED: Stupid rock.
The next day. Close-up of the newspaper on Ted’s front step. The headline reads “Garry Rockremover, Beloved Rock Remover, Dead.” There is a picture of Garry with the story. Ted comes outside and picks up the paper. He reads the headline.
TED: B-b-but…what do I do with all this stupid platinum now?
Ted throws the paper down in disgust. He walks up to the rock and tries to push it, but it’s too heavy. He tries to use a shovel as a lever, but it doesn’t work. He gives up and walks away.
Ted walks into town hall. He approaches the clerk at the desk.
TED: Hi. I got this letter from the town yesterday. Holds up letter.
TED: So it says that I’m in violation of the Boulder Control Bylaw.
TED: And it says that if I don’t move it by this Saturday, I’ll be fined $600 and sentenced to death in the electric chair.
CLERK: Rolling eyes. Soooooooo whaaaaaaaaaaat?
TED: Don’t you think $600 is a little steep? It’s just a rock.
CLERK: Slams fist on the counter. Just a rock? JUST a rock?! Who do you think you are, coming in here and making light of the Boulder Control Bylaw?! You’re lucky the fine isn’t $650!
TED: No, no, no. Don’t do that. I just have a problem, is all.
CLERK: You think you have problems? Try being a municipal clerk someday! I’ve seen things that would make your hair turn white and your balls suck right back up into your body cavity, man!
CLERK: So don’t you tell me about your problems! You put a rock on your lawn, and now you have to suffer the consequences. Move the rock! You have until noon tomorrow!
TED: But my rock remover died, and it’s too heavy for me to move it myself.
CLERK: in a high, mocking voice. But my rock remover died, and boo-hoo-hoo! In a normal voice. Tell me, Mr. Stone, have you ever been to a town council budget meeting?
TED: No. What does that have to do with anything?
CLERK: If you can survive one of those, I might put up with your whining. No one should see interns die like that. NO ONE SHOULD HAVE TO DIE LIKE THAT!
TED: How am I supposed to move the rock without a rock remover? I can pay the $600 if I absolutely have to. I don’t like the sounds of the electric chair, though.
CLERK: You wouldn’t.
TED: What’s up with that, anyway? I mean, this is Canada. Where did you even get an electric chair?
CLERK: K-Mart. Ever think of that, smart-guy?
TED: All this for a rock?
CLERK: If we forgive your violation of the bylaw, pretty soon everyone will have a boulder on their lawn. And then we’ll have to kill them all. We’ll have to kill the whole world! Is that what you want, Stone?!
CLERK: Pay up, man! Pay up and die like a man!
TED: starts walking away. I’ll figure something out.
CLERK: leans over the counter to get a better view at the leaving Ted. You’re going to the chair, man! THE CHAIR!
Ted leaves the town office.
A shot of the rock on Ted’s lawn. Ted comes running and screaming into the shot. He kicks beats at the rock, kicking and punching, but is rewarded with nothing more than bloody knuckles and sore feet. Ted runs out of the shot and returns after a moment with a hammer. He beats the rock with the hammer, but still nothing happens. Ted runs off again, and returns with an axe. He beats on the rock with the axe, but it has no effect. Ted leaves the shot again. After a moment, his car drives in and crashes into the rock. No effect. Ted crawls out of the driver’s seat and collapses, exhausted, beside the rock.
Ted is slouched over on his sofa in his living room. There is a ring at the doorbell. Ted gets up and answers the door. There is only a cat at the door.
CAT: Hey, man. You gonna let me in, or what?
TED: Sure. Come on in, I guess.
Ted and the cat walk back to the living room. Ted sits on the sofa, and the cat perches on the end table next to him.
CAT: So you got any weed, man?
CAT: Yeah, weed.
TED: You mean, like, marijuana?
CAT: No, I mean thistles. I like how they get caught in my fur. Of course I mean marijuana!
TED: I think my wife might have some, but I don’t know where she hides it. She’d kill me if I took some, anyway.
CAT: makes a whipping noise.
TED: Yeah, whatever. Why are you here, anyway? Who are you?
CAT: Geez, man, why you such a downer? With a beautiful rock like that outside, you should be the happiest guy in town!
TED: Don’t get me started on the rock! It’s been nothing but a headache since it showed up!
CAT: A boulder like that? How could it be trouble?
TED: The thing’s gonna cost me $600 in fines! And death in the electric chair.
CAT: $600? Over a rock? Humans are weird.
TED: Tell me about it. I wish I were a cat.
CAT: Oh man! Being a cat is so sweet! The world is my toilet! I have to poop in a sandbox when I’m inside, but my human takes it away! I don’t have to touch it!
TED: That’s the life for me.
CAT: But, hey, chin up, man. You’ll pull through this rock crisis.
CAT: Look, I’m not a details guy. You’ll have to figure it out on your own. I’m just telling you nice things so you’ll stop moping.
TED: mopishly. Okay.
MARGOT: Who are you talking to, Ted?
Ted points at the cat.
TED: This cat. Sorry, I never got your name.
MARGOT: Have you been smoking my pot? I told you to keep your filthy hands off it! If you want some, get your own!
TED: I didn’t touch your pot. I’m telling you, the cat was talking!
CAT: Hey, leave me out of this.
MARGOT: That’s so cool! I’m pretty sure this is my cat. You can’t have him, Ted.
CAT: Listen, lady, I’m just looking for a little weed of my own. If you ain’t sharing, I’ll be on my way. Nice rock, by the way. Who’s your rock guy?
MARGOT: Ted, I thought I told you to get rid of that hideous rock! Why is it still out there! We can’t afford the $600 fine!
CAT: I, uh…I’m gonna go. Leaves.
TED: I hired a guy to remove it, but he was murdered last night.
MARGOT: If you were a real man, you’d move it yourself!
TED: It weighs a ton. A literal ton. At least.
MARGOT: Well, how was the Rock Remover going to get rid of it?
TED: Dynamite, cranes, and I think he said minions.
MARGOT: Well? Why can’t you do that?
TED: Where am I going to get Dynamite, cranes, and minions? I guess I could get Trevor to be minion, but Frank disappeared, and those were my only two close friends. And I don’t even know where to start finding dynamite.
MARGOT: Too bad you can’t use lame excuses to blow up the rock.
TED: Look, what do you want me to do? You don’t have any dynamite tucked into your hidden marijuana stash, do you?
MARGOT: I want you to sac up and get to work instead of moping around the house talking to your little cat friends.
TED: Right. Why should I talk to cats when I have a bitch here all the time.
Margot punches Ted in the face. Ted collapses.
MARGOT: I want that rock gone by morning, or the town’s penalty will be the least of your worries.
Ted stands up and grabs his car keys.
TED: I need some fresh air.
Ted leaves the house.
Ted gets into his car and turns it on. He switches on the radio. “We Will Rock You” by Queen is playing. He changes the station in disgust. The next station is playing “We Built This City (On Rock and Roll)” by Starship. He changes the station again, and “Like a Stone” by Audioslave is playing. He changes the station once more, and “Like a Rock” by Bob Seger is playing.
TED: I give up!
Ted leaves the radio on “Like a Rock” and starts driving around town. “Like a Rock” plays in the background for the remainder of the scene. As he drives, he sees rocks everywhere. Some are actual rocks around town (but not on lawns, so they don’t violate the bylaw). Others are signs with the word “rock” on them. He stops at a park and gets out of the car. He sits on a bench next to a stranger eating ice cream.
STRANGER: Welcome to my humble bench.
TED: Thanks, it’s nice.
STRANGER: Would you be offended if I were to offer you a taste of my ice cream?
TED: No, I wouldn’t.
STRANGER: Holds out ice cream. By all means. Be my guest.
TED: Takes the ice cream cup. What flavor is it?
STRANGER: Rocky Road.
Ted bellows and throws the cup off camera.
STRANGER: Hey! Runs after the cup.
Ted arrives at home. He walks up to the rock and paces around it while he speaks.
TED: Still here, I see. I don’t suppose I should be surprised by that. It’s not like you’re just going to grow legs and walk away. Of course, I met a talking cat today, so who knows what’s possible? My wife punched me today, too, but that wasn’t a huge surprise. I’ve been expecting it since the day I met her. I’m surprised that it took her so long. Pause. I don’t get it, Rock. Why did you choose me? Why my lawn out of all the lawns in town? Look at me; I’m talking to you as if you’re alive and not just a hunk of inanimate minerals. Where did you even come from? Are you a meteorite? Did someone drop you here as a prank? You’d think that, either way, I would’ve heard something. And a meteor as big as you would probably have left a huge crater. So no, you’re not a meteorite. But who put you here? And why? It must be some sort of weird conspiracy. Someone wants me dead, and this is their roundabout way of killing me. Dump a rock on my lawn that is large enough that there’s no hope of me moving it alone, knowing that the town would enforce the Boulder Control by law, and then kill the only man in town who can remove it. Frank must have known. He was trying to warn me the night he disappeared. He’s probably in a shallow grave somewhere.
Ted stops pacing and places his hands on the rock.
TED: You’re cold. Cold like the town. Cold like my life. Garry Rockremover said you came from a volcano, but the heat of your fiery birth has long since left you. You’re ancient. How many millennia have you witnessed? How many more to come? Me, my short days will come to an end tomorrow. After I pay my fine, I’ll be embraced by the harsh kiss of electricity.
The front door of the house opens. Margot sticks her head out.
MARGOT: Hey, Ted!
TED: He doesn’t turn to face her. Yes, Margot?
MARGOT: You’re talking to a rock.
TED: Yes, Margot.
MARGOT: Just thought you should know.
TED: Thank you.
Margot goes back inside and closes the door. Ted kneels down beside the rock, his hands still touching it.
TED: This is it. My last night. You win, Rock. He lies on the ground beside the rock. You win. Weakly sings a line from the Bob Seger song: Like a rock. Oh, like a rock.
The next morning. Ted is sleeping in the same spot, but the rock is gone. Ted wakes up, and notices that the rock is gone. He stands and stares silently at the spot on the ground where the rock had been. Margot approaches and joins him. Trevor arrives and looks on with them. The municipal clerk joins them. Finally, Skateboard Dude joins them. He’s wearing the same clothes from the day Garry hit him with the rock, and blood is covering his face from a gash in his forehead. He is unsteady on his feet, but he looks at the ground where the rock was with the same serious calm that the others do.
SKATEBOARD DUDE: Completely deadpan. This all totally made sense.