Hardball Theatre: The Knuckleballer
A Play in One Act by Keith Good
(Lights up on a deli counter. JIM, the customer is livid with sandwich maker STEVEN Wright)
Jim: What the hell? I asked for a reuben! (Shows plate) This is boiled peanuts and fish heads!
Steven: Guess I don’t have my A-game today.
Jim: I demand to see your manager.
(As if conjured, JOHN, Stephen’s Manager appears. He looks at the plate of boiled peanuts and fish heads and nods.)
John: Don’t have your A-game, Steve?
Steven: Givin it everything I got, skip.
Jim: “A-game?!” I’m allergic to peanuts! I demand action!
John: (holds out hand) We got Sheila warming in the back…
Steven: No, skip, I got enough in me to make this sandwich.
John: Don’t worry, Steve, we’ll get her up here, finish what you started.
(Steven yanks off his hair net, slams it into John’s hand, and slumps away from the sandwich counter.)
John: (slaps Steven’s butt as he passes) We’ll get em next time, Steve.
(Steven skulks stage right, away from the counter. John works the hair net between his hands.)
Jim: (quietly to John) Oh geeze, man, you didn’t have to fire him.
John: Fire Steve? Oh no. Just gave him the rest of the night off.
Jim: I almost die of anaphylactic shock and he gets the night off?
John: That’s a knuckleballer for ya. Last guy ordered an Italian BLT and got marbled rye and a puppy.
Jim: Then why hire him?
John: Because when a knuckleballer is on, his stuff simply can’t be touched. Makes a reuben so good, your head will spin. We had to pay big bucks to snag him in free agency. Used to be a surgeon.
(Spot on Steven. He puts on a surgical mask.)
Steven: M’am, you’re going to be just fine. I managed to get all the cancer without even scratching your cerebellum. I also found a loophole in your medical billing so the procedure only cost you five bucks. Easy-peasy, lemon squeezy.
John: World-class, until he had an off day…
Steven: Did you come in for a flu shot? (Holds up severed foot) Because I accidentally cut off your foot. Is that gonna be a big deal?
Jim: Well no wonder he works here, now.
Steven: (puts Canadian flag pin on his shirt) As my first act as Toronto mayor, I vow to fix the image of our fair city besmirched by my predecessor. I’ve looked at the city finances and balanced our budget while managing to increase spending on police, fire, education, arts, and polar bear removal services.
Jim: He was Mayor of Toronto?
John: Did a hell of a job…until he came to work one day without his a-stuff…
Steven: As my second act as mayor, I will smoke this comically oversized crack pipe. (pulls a giant crack pipe. Lights up and takes the biggest of hits.)
Jim: You know where a knuckleballer like him would do well?
Jim: The Red Sox.
(John considers the thought.)
John: Nah. At his best, he’s damn near impossible to catch. At his worst, he’s liable to crap out a 10.8 ERA against the Astros.
(Jim nods in agreement.)
Steven: Hey skip?
John: Yeah, Steve?
Steven: I was just playing around with some of the wires and cleaning chemicals over here, and either I solved cold fusion…
Steven: Or I’ve started a chemical reaction that’s about to blow up the deli.
John: (to Jim, laughing) That’s a knuckleballer for you… If they don’t have their good stuff, then everything just–
(The Deli explodes. Lights down.)
*Photo of Steven Wright by Keith Allison. Used under Creative Commons license.