Power Trip – A 5 Minute Play

(A comedic look at workplace hierarchy/pecking order, first performed as a staged reading at Community TV of Santa Cruz.)


LEONARD – middle management

GORDON – recently promoted to middle management

CLAUSEN – upper management

Place: LEONARD’S workplace office

Time: Contemporary

(LEONARD is sitting at his desk and writing on some paperwork. GORDON enters.)

LEONARD:  (Puts down pen and addresses GORDON)  Well Gordon, after seven years you’ve finally risen up to middle management. Congratulations.  (Stands up and extends hand)

GORDON:  Thanks, Len.

LEONARD:  Leonard.

(They shake hands.)

LEONARD:  You’ll find that things are a little different up here.

GORDON:  Yes, and I’m looking forward to putting my experience to good use at a higher level of responsibility.

LEONARD:  (Laughs a bit, goes to front of desk)  Yes, of course. But you know what the best part is?

GORDON:  The higher pay?

LEONARD:  Actually, now that you’re salaried, you won’t get paid overtime if you work after hours, which you probably will because you’re new to middle management. In a way, you’ll actually be losing money, but I’m talking about something more fundamental.

GORDON:  Being rewarded for dedication and loyalty?

LEONARD:  Sure, why not. But I’m talking of something more satisfying to the soul.

GORDON:  I know, being a more integral part of the company.

LEONARD:  Now listen to me, Gordon. The only integral people here are the executive board, the upper management. Everyone else is expendable. Got it?

GORDON:  (Warily)  Understood.

LEONARD:  Good. You see, what I’m talking about is something that will make the rise up the ladder much more worth it.

GORDON:  What’s that?

LEONARD:  Lording it over the underlings.

GORDON:  You mean our staff of workers that keep the company going?

LEONARD:  They are peons!

GORDON:  Excuse me?

LEONARD:  You heard me! Mouth breathing, knuckle dragging morons!

GORDON:  Oh, I didn’t know you felt that way.

LEONARD:  It’s not just me, it’s everyone in middle management on up. And that’s the other thing you must learn.

GORDON:  Yes, the hierarchy.

LEONARD:  Hierarchy?! I’ll tell you what it is here. This company is triple decker sandwich. The board of directors are the top slice of bread, the plebes are the bottom slice of bread, and we are the ingredients in the middle. And our job is to make sure the bottom slice knows its place, and doesn’t get any ideas of trying to be the top slice.

GORDON:  I have to say, I never got the feeling anyone down on the work floor wanted to start a mutiny.

LEONARD:  Do you don’t know that for a fact?

GORDON:  Well…

LEONARD:  Of course not. Those sneaky little devils wouldn’t let you in on their scheme because deep down, they knew you weren’t one of them, and that you’d end up here.

GORDON:  Okay, I think I’m starting to get it now.

LEONARD:  Do you? Because I get the feeling you’re still sympathetic toward those pawns.

GORDON:  Well I have to confess I’m not totally hard hearted. I hope that won’t be a problem in middle management.

LEONARD:  I used to be like you, concerned about the average schmuck, worried if they’re able to get through their miserable lives or not, but then I was set straight.

GORDON:  By who?

LEONARD:  By the rest of middle management, under the direction of our glorious executive board of course, long may they reign!  (Looks to GORDON for response of agreement)

GORDON:  Oh yes, of course.

LEONARD:  A little slow there, Gordon.

GORDON:  Never happen again.

LEONARD:  I hope so, for your sake. But as I was saying, when I was plucked from the horde, they educated me to the true way of how this company, indeed, how the world works.

GORDON:  Hard work and service to the greater good?

LEONARD:  When will you learn? I’m talking about divide and conquer.

GORDON:  I don’t know, the workers seem pretty reasonable about what they want.

LEONARD:  And they must be kept that way.

GORDON:  With respect, it seems like the executive board is acting a little paranoid.

LEONARD:  Do not doubt the executive board! They know all and see all!

GORDON:  Oh, of course. Silly me.

LEONARD:  I am serious! Now that you’re here in middle management, you must change your behavior.

GORDON:  Yes, I’m starting to gather that.

LEONARD:  No more fraternizing with the the proletariat!

GORDON:  But what if one of them starts talking to me? Maybe they have an important question.

LEONARD:  You say to them, ‘I am your superior! Now genuflect before me!’

GORDON:  That sounds a bit…lofty.

LEONARD:  Lofty, he says. I’m starting to wonder if you have what it takes to occupy the awesome responsibility that is middle management. You seem to think doing common, physical labor is acceptable.

GORDON:  Oh, I don’t mind working with my hands.

LEONARD:  Well you better start minding! Because that kind of thinking will make you weak, and could get you demoted back to where you came from!

(CLAUSEN enters.)

CLAUSEN:  What’s going on in here?!

LEONARD:  Oh! Mr. Clausen! So good to see you! I was just explaining how we do middle management to this recent promotion.

CLAUSEN:  See that you do it right!

LEONARD:  Yes, sir!

CLAUSEN:  Good! And when you’re done I want a full report on the Lipschitz account ASAP!

LEONARD:  But I was going to have Gordon here do that, sir, since he is new here to middle management.

CLAUSEN:  What? Are you turning down an order from upper management?

LEONARD:  Oh no, sir!

CLAUSEN:  Good, because if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a knuckle dragging, mouth breathing middle management peon underling who doesn’t know his place!

LEONARD:  Yes, sir! I’ll get right on it.  (Exits quickly)

CLAUSEN:  (Calls out to LEONARD)  And make it snappy!  (Derisively)  Silly toady.  (To GORDON)  Hi, I’m Clausen, and you are?

GORDON:  Leaving!  (Exits)


©2018 Robert Kirkendall


Writing Prompt: Masks – The Bank Robbery

Very short story inspired by a writing prompt posted by Rachel Poli.  Subject: masks



A masked man entered the bank. He went to the nearest window, pulled out a pistol, and held it low as he pointed it at the teller.

“Fill this up!” the bank robber ordered as he tossed an empty paper sack st the teller.

The surprised teller picked up the sack as he stared at the pistol. Then he looked up at the bank robber, and started to chuckle.

“What the hell are you laughing at?” the bank robber said angrily.  “I’ve got a gun!”

“Your mask,” the teller answered between chuckles. “It’s ridiculous.”

The bank robber was flabbergasted. “Your life is in danger and you’re laughing at my mask?!”

“But it’s a clown mask,” the teller explained after he finally composed himself. “And a loud, garish one at that.”


“Well how do you expect to be taken seriously as a bank robber if you look like an escapee from the circus?” the teller pointed out as he started laughing again.

“Will you just fill that up with the top drawer so I can get out of here?” the bank robber demanded. “I’ve got places to be!”

“Oh, of course, right away,” the teller assured as he picked up the sack. He slid open the top drawer, then started laughing again. “Seriously? A clown mask?”

“Okay, you made your point. Now give it a rest!”

“I mean, could you imagine John Dillinger wearing a clown mask? Or Bonnie and Clyde? Everyone would laugh at them!”

“Maybe I didn’t have time to find a proper ask. Did you consider that?”

“All right, sorry for laughing at you,” the teller apologized as he kept laughing. “It’s just so totally absurd!”

“I don’t believe this,” the bank robber said with exasperation.

“Look, it’s not you, it’s me,” the teller admitted. “I just tend to laugh at inappropriate times.”

The bank robber threw up his hands. “You know what? I don’t need this.” He began to leave.

“Now wait a minute, I’ll get you your money.”

“I didn’t come here to get laughed at!” The bank robber put the pistol back in his pocket and walked away. “I’ve got feelings too,” he muttered under his breath.

“Aw, c’mon,” the teller called after the bank robber. “I promise I won’t put in the exploding ink cartridge.”

The bank robber exited out the front door, got into a getaway car, and shook his head discouragingly at the driver. The driver looked dejected as he drove off.

The teller looked at the empty paper sack and thought of the bank robber’s lost opportunity. “Some people just don’t know how to laugh,” he said with pity as he slid the top drawer shut.


©2018 Robert Kirkendall


99 Word Prompt: Comet

August 16: Flash Fiction Challenge


“I see a dark omen ahead for you,” the sorceress warned.

“Well that’s a bummer,” the man said nonchalantly.

“Heed my words!” the sorceress reiterated. “When a comet appears that is aligned with one of the planets, it will spell your doom!”

“How does a comet align with a planet?” the man said dismissively. “That doesn’t even make sense.”

“Doubt me at your own peril!”

“Planets move in orbits, comets go in a straight line,” the man explained condescendingly. “Crazy old bat,” the man chuckled and left.

He crossed the street and was struck by an old Mercury Comet.

99 Word Prompt: Peering

August 9: Flash Fiction Challenge


The mountain lion came up to the forest’s edge drawn by the scent of food.  She peered from the woods at a flock of livestock in a nearby pasture.

One of those sheep could feed me and my little ones for a week, the mountain lion thought as she longed for the forbidden sustenance, but if I take one, the humans will come after me and kill me!  I only want one, the lion moped, and they have so many, it isn’t fair.

The dejected feline slouched in defeat.  Why must the humans be so cruel? she wondered piteously.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

I imagine it’s quite easy to spot the mistake in the above picture, taken on the Sunday afternoon of July 22, 2018 across the street from my building. But in addition to blatantly parking right next to a fire hydrant, this vehicle had neither a parking a sticker nor a day pass hanging from the rear view mirror. Because it’s next to a major tourist attraction, this is a permit parking neighborhood, and there are signs up and down the street announcing that (including one on the sign post in this picture).

Now I know what an ordeal it is to search for a parking space as you remain stuck in your overheated vehicle crawling form one block to the next, but is it really worth the $58 ticket? And that doesn’t include the extra fine for parking right next to a fire hydrant. Does the owner of this Ford have deep pockets, or were they just desperate to escape from vehicle hell and considered the fines a small price to pay for freedom? Or maybe one of the passengers had to use the john real bad.

Ultimately Santa Cruz just isn’t big enough to handle its volume of summer tourist traffic, and its geography between the ocean and the mountains places limits on how much it can expand. But it’s tourist money that helps keep the local economy going, so there’s always going to be a need for tourists. Now if they could just get here without their cars. There used to be a direct train route that connected Santa Cruz to San Jose, it was called the Suntan Special, and ran from about 1880 to 1940. High time it was brought back, but that’s another story for a later post.

20180722_154340 And as you can see, the owner of this vehicle was properly ticketed. I wonder how much was added to the local coffers?

Hope you enjoyed this rare non-fiction post written in my first person voice that allows me to communicate directly to you, the reader, I know I did. Next post will be a return to fiction and my opaque third person voice.

©2018 Robert Kirkendall

99 Word Prompt: Buttons

July 5: Flash Fiction Challenge


Now listen here, swine!” Claude bellowed with inflated self importance. “Now that I’ve put in charge of this department things are going to be different! There will be order!”

The employees looked at him blankly.

First rule, my cubicle is off limits! Nobody enters my territory! Nobody messes with my stuff! You will respect my authority!”

The employees rushed Claude, tackled him, knocked down all his cubicle walls, overturned his desk, scattered his paperwork, and threw his laptop out the window.

If you don’t anyone to push your buttons,” an employee reminded, “don’t make them so big and shiny.”

99 Word Prompt: Not All Is Lost

June 21: Flash Fiction Challenge




A city person pulled into a rural service station.  “Excuse me, sir, do you know the way to Davenport?”

“Davenport?” the rustic attendant answered.  “Don’t reckon I do.”

“How about Greenfield?”

The attendant pondered.  “Nope, don’t know the way there either.”

“Well can you tell me the way to the nearest Interstate?”

“I suppose if you keep driving down this highway you’ll run into one, but I don’t rightly know exactly where.”

The driver became frustrated.  “I must say, you don’t seem to know your way around here.”

The attendant chuckled.  “Yeah, but I’m not the one who’s lost.”

All In The Island – A 10 Minute Play

A Gilligan’s Island spoof in which the roles of the Skipper and Gilligan are reimagined as played by Carol O’Connor (he read for the part of the Skipper) and Rob Reiner. The rest of the castaways should appear as portrayed by their original actors. Gilligan’s Island debuted on CBS on September 26, 1964, about a month and a half after the Gulf of Tonkin incident that escalated the Vietnam War, and the premise here is that the SS Minnow was supposed to be a part of the operation but was surreptitiously steered off course by Gilligan because he is opposed to escalation.









Scene: An uncharted island in the South Pacific

Time: Day, August 1964

(MARY ANN and GINGER are sitting on a log talking while sewing a net.)


I sure hope Gilligan and the Skipper can get the Minnow fixed. I’d hate to be stranded on this primitive island.


I’m sure they will, Ginger. The Skipper is very capable and experienced.


And Gilligan?


His incompetency keeps everyone amused.

(Holds up net)

What do you think of the repair I did?


Oh, that’s very good, Mary Ann! I wish I knew how to sew like that.


It’s not that hard. Let me show you.


See? Nothing too it.


Oh, I see. I never had a chance to learn how to sew. If one of my costumes had a rip during one of my shows, our costumer would sew it up.


Wow, that sounds convenient.


Yes, it was. I wanted to bring him along on this trip, but his husband doesn’t want him travelling overseas.


Wait a minute, his husband? That’s not legal.


But why not? If two people love each other, they should be able to marry no what their gender is.


This is 1964, remember?


Oh, the dark ages.

(SKIPPER and GILLIGAN enter. They are both upset.)


Gilligan, you meathead! We’re supposed to be in Tonkin right now, not this island of cannibals!


We have no right to be in Southeast Asia! Our foreign policy is firing at everything that moves!


What’s wrong, guys?


This dumb Polack sabotaged us!


Oh no, Gilligan! How could you?


I didn’t sabotage anything! I merely diverted our course to this island to avoid any danger.


But what if no one rescues us?


Yeah, genius! Did you think of that?


We’ll be fine! We just hit a reef a little too hard, that’s all. We’ll fix it. And I’m sure the natives here are very friendly people who’ll be more than willing to help us.


Oh my god! Are you serious?


I am. And I’ll bet they’re not at all like those stereotypes you believe in.


I’ve had enough of your commie peacenick talk! We work for Uncle Sam, not Ho Chi Minh!


And why do you assume this island is populated with cannibals? Because they’re different from us, and therefore must be uncivilized?


Oh yeah? I bet you wouldn’t want one living next to you!


It wouldn’t bother me one bit to have a Pacific Islander as a neighbor.


What, you’d live next to an Oriental? Would you live next door to a colored as well?



I’d live next door to anyone. We are all equals.


Meathead, of all the stupid things you’ve said, that’s the stupidest one yet!

(Rest of castaways enter.)


What’s all this fighting about?


Yes, you boys are making such a terrible racket.


This pinko steered us off course!


We’ll fix it! Now enough with the anger.


Well please hurry because we need to get back out onto sea and get to Tonkin as fast as we can. My friends at Bell Helicopter are counting on us.


And Lockheed, and Raytheon, and Northrup Grumman.


Yes, lovey, I was just getting to that.


Don’t you see? We’re fighting for corporations!


Corporations made America!


That is so narrow and misinformed! Isn’t there more to America than just taking wealth from other nations?


Gilligan, I think you’ve been reading too much I.F. Stone.


Yes, Gilligan, you really should avoid those dreadful radicals.


Bomb throwers they are!


And I’m not taking anything, Gilligan. If anything, I’m giving of myself.

(The Castaways give words of agreement and support.)


So you see, Gilligan, there’s more to this mission than just corporate profitability. For instance, I’m doing experiments with a new chemical compound I’ve developed for Dow Chemicals.


That’s right. And how is the new defoliant coming along, Professor?


So far amazingly well. I predict a bright future for Agent Orange.


That’s just wonderful. Isn’t it, dear?


Yes, we’ll destroy the jungles of Vietnam in no time. I’ll bet they surrender within the year!


So that’s our strategy? Defoliating their entire country?


Oh it’s harmless, we use the same stuff on the farms back in Iowa. And except for the occasional birth defect or serial killer we haven’t had any problems.


But will this operation only last a year? I’ve been working hard on my USO act and was so looking forward to performing for our boys.


Well perhaps our involvement will be more than a year, maybe it’ll be two years.


Just as long as I get to entertain our boys.


Don’t you worry, Ginger. We’ll get you to your show, just as soon as we fix the Minnow. We just had a little problem thanks to Gilligan’s meatheadedness!


Skipper, we have no business taking part in another country’s civil war!


Haven’t you ever heard of the domino principle? If one country falls to Kremlin Joe and Chairman Mao they’re all going to fall.


But it is so much more complex than that! How can you reduce the complications of world politics and conflicting ideologies into a kid’s game?


So people can understand it. Otherwise the average American won’t be able to appreciate our Southeast Asia mission.


It’s that kind of dumbed down thinking that leads to war.


But that’s how progress is made. When this skirmish is over we’ll have a new ally in the Cold War.

You have to look at the big picture, Gilligan.


Yes, the Soviet Union will come crawling to us.


That’s right. And once we win the Cold War that’ll be the end of world tensions once and for all.


So as you can see, Gilligan, we’re on a mission of peace.


That’s right. In the future people will be appreciative how Vietnam brought peace to America.


But how do we know that the Pentagon isn’t lying to us?


That is absurd, my dear boy. Our government would never lie to the public.


But they do keep some secrets, like classified military operations.


Well of course, lovey, but that’s not the same thing as giving out false information, something our government would never do.


Ha! And you call me naive!


No, we call you meathead.


But why believe everything the government says?


Because we conservatives believe in maintaining our institutions, not overthrowing them.


Oh, Gilligan, you really should come to your senses.


But I have! That’s what I’m saying.


So what makes you so skeptical about our mission, Gilligan?


Well, look at what happened to the French.


Oh don’t get me started on those frogs!


But don’t you remember how they got bogged down over there? And they had colonized Indochina for almost a hundred years! We can’t let the same thing happen to us.


France was weakened by German occupation during World War II, so maintaining their colonies was becoming extraneous.


And they did it all wrong because they were too busy swilling wine and being rude! Uncle Sam has to go in there and finish the job!


And how’s it going to be different for us? What if we get stuck in the same quagmire?


Because we’re America, dear boy! And America doesn’t do quagmires.


Yes, quagmires are so tedious.


But nobody intends to get into a quagmire! They happen when you underestimate your situation and you end up getting bogged down by unforeseen obstacles.


But Gilligan, must you be so defeatist?


Yeah, Gilligan, you need to jump on the bandwagon and cheer America on for the big win!


I don’t trust sports analogies, they usually happen around a cover up.


But you need to have more faith in the government, Gilligan. They may get it wrong sometimes, but only by accident. They would never purposefully get us into an intractable situation.

(Everyone except GILLIGAN agrees.)


Okay, hear me out. Suppose, hypothetically, that our government is in collusion with certain business interests to make sure this military operation lasts longer than they’re saying.

(Everyone except GILLIGAN is disbelieving.)


Now would they do that?


Because war is good for business.


Now wait a minute, nobody said anything about a war! We’re providing support for a police action!


Yes, that’s how it starts, but then it’ll escalate, just like Korea!


We handled that!


That ended with a cease fire, technically we’re still at war there.


Technically, yes, but do you really think little North Korea will ever pose a risk to us?


Yeah, it’s not like they’re a nuclear power.


But still, that kind of heavy handedness creates pockets of oppression, frustration, and discontent, and then people lash out.


Then an air strike is called. Case closed.


But I thought we weren’t at war! Clearly an air strike is an act of military aggression.


An air strike doesn’t mean a war, it’s about protecting our men serving overseas!


Ah, and why are our men overseas if it’s not for military purposes?


It’s all part of the overall plan of world peace we’ve discussed.


Yeah! Weren’t you listening?



Of course, peace through war! Makes perfect sense.


Gilligan, you may not like our foreign policy, but as long as we’re all stuck on this island, you won’t have a chance to express your views.


And I won’t get a chance to build up my stock portfolio.


And I won’t get a chance to perform for our boys.


Yeah, Gilligan, you really need to repair the Minnow.

(Everyone tries to convince GILLIGAN until he relents.)


Okay, okay! You’ll all be happy to know that I’ve already got the bow fixed. So we can all get off this island and resume our dubious Southeast Asia mission.

(Everyone lets out cheers of satisfaction.)


At last! We can leave this island of primitives.


And I can get back to work on my death ray.


And I can entertain our boys!


And what do you do, Mary Ann?



You know, I’m not sure.


Well I make sure you all get to your destinations, now let’s get going!

(Everyone exits toward the Minnow, except MRS. POWELL, who stops the SKIPPER to ask him a question.)


Now Skipper, before we get going, I was wondering if you could help us load our trunk back onto the Minnow. I tried to talk Thurston into leaving it on the boat, but he insisted on bringing it on shore. He almost threw his back out! Poor thing. I keep telling him, lovey, you’re not on the college polo team anymore, but he doesn’t listen. Hardly ever does really, mother tried to warn me. But the trunk shouldn’t give you any trouble, certainly not a strapping sea captain such as yourself.

(During monologue, SKIPPER will pantomime suicide, one of Archie Bunker’s classic shticks when Edith talked too much.


And I was also wondering if wouldn’t be too much trouble to make a stop over in Thailand? They make these lovely looking figurines, and I was hoping to pick some up as Christmas presents. Now I know Christmas is still months away, but they are such lovely figurines, and I really don’t know when Thurston and I will be in the South Pacific again. Did I ever tell you about the time we dined with King Rama? A gracious host, but oh so serious. A guest who had had too much to drink had made an off color remark that really upset the King. He was going to have the man publicly flogged, but fortunately for him the CIA station chief intervened and we are all spared the indignity of seeing poor Senator Kennedy whipped in front of all those peasants.

(The SKIPPER pantomimes tying a rope into a noose, then hanging himself dead while MRS. POWELL talks obliviously.)



©2018 Robert Kirkendall

99 Word Prompt: Fishy Story

April 26: Flash Fiction Challenge

“So I caught a fish this big,” said a fisherman, his hands slightly apart.

“Oh yeah? Well I caught one this big,” bragged another fisherman, his arms stretched out farther.

“That’s nothing,” another fisherman chimed in. “I caught one this big!” He strained his arms apart as far as they could stretch.

“Hey, guys!” announced Spiderman foe and public nuisance Dr. Octopus as he approached. “Wanna hear how big of a fish I caught?” he boasted, a proud smile underneath his coke bottle thick eyeglasses. He eagerly prepared to extend his four extra metallic arms to maximum length.


99 Word Prompt: Sun Silly

April 5: Flash Fiction

Horace ran around the town square under the midday sun laughing and whooping while doing flips and cartwheels.

“Horace is acting rather strange,” a townsperson observed.

“He sure is,” another concurred.

“Must be because it’s spring,” a third interjected.  “He does act strange when the seasons change.”

“But this is out of control,” the first said.  “And look at that suggestive move he’s doing to one of the pillars in front of the courthouse!”

“Perhaps it’s time to kick Horace out of our respectable community,” the second townsperson suggested.

“Agreed,” the third agreed.  “He’s too weird for Santa Cruz.”