Castigated by Marcus Hook

There are two kinds of fat dopes in this world. There are those who know they are fat dopes and do their best to mitigate the situation and there are those clueless F.D.s who think they are just super and wear sweaters no matter how much they then resemble blivets.

Chuck, as evidenced by his allowing people to call him Chuck, was a second category F.D. so completely absorbed by his job that he had no other distinguishing characteristics. If seen on the big screen, he would appear to have no parents, siblings, friends or other interests aside from his sporadic relationship with his perfunctory girlfriend. In short, he was a company man. The company in question was one of the big package delivery services and he was always jetting off to trouble shoot in places like Moscow where he had no time to look over his shoulder at sights such as the Kremlin. He only looked at the clock.

This was back in the olden days when people like Chuck wore pagers on their belts. His buzzed during a huge Christmas dinner at a table lined with generic relatives all blathering away and, of course, he had to jet off to Malaysia with no time to spare. His attractive but uninteresting girlfriend drove him to the airport. He sealed his fate by blithely shouting I’ll be right back!

The plane crash was quite cinematic, a real money shot, and very well-lit considering it took place during a stormy night in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Naturally, Chuck was the lone survivor and rode out the night in his little yellow life raft and washed ashore on a charming desert island still wearing his sweater but without his playlist. Strangely, for a F.D. so obsessed with timeliness, he did not wear a big waterproof watch.

He spent the next few days ineptly adjusting to his surroundings and ignoring numerous continuity problems with differing sun angles and tides and the like. Instead of writing SOS in the sand he wrote HELP. Certainly not unforgivable, but it points to a lack of thoughtfulness.  

He dutifully gathered and stacked various packages as they washed up. He hobbled around island and climbed the high peak and spotted a body washed up from the plane wreck. He seemed surprised when he turned it over to find the guy dead and bloated.

He dug a pitifully shallow grave and buried the guy along with his clothes and leather belt with its metal buckle. On a big rock he scratched the guy’s name and, despite having read his driver’s license, the wrong year of birth.

On his second night on the island he spotted a light on the horizon and tried to signal it with a small flashlight he’d found on the body. He demonstrated no appreciation for the absurdity of his actions. And he never thought of using the flashlight to start a fire.

Although he eventually succeeded, his lame effort to make fire made clear that he had never been a Boy Scout or even a Cub Scout. Nor had he ever read an account of wilderness survival or picked up any men’s magazines with their numerous articles on such matters. With two pairs of shoelaces at hand he didn’t make a bow drill. What a maroon.

Chuck opened all the packages except for a heavy one with a drawing on it of a pair of bulbous testicles. It seemed he planned to deliver that one himself. Among his finds was a basketball. With a burnt stick he drew a face on it and set it on a rock to more or less keep him company.

After more tomfoolery, Chuck eventually learned to crack coconuts and spear crabs and collect rainwater and he knocked out a sore tooth with a rock and an ice skate (don’t ask), but he also started going a little wonky and he began talking to the basketball. As he sat beneath a palm tree lamenting yet another endless afternoon he said what am I going to do? What if I never get off this island?

The wind rattled the palm fronds yet he distinctly heard the word dumbass. He looked over and said, Spalding, did you just call me a dumbass?

Yes, I did Dumbass.

Why would you call me that?

Because you’re a dumbass, Dumbass.

What do you mean?

Figure it out, Dumbass.

Look, I’m tired of you calling me that. I think I’m doing pretty well here considering the circumstances.

You’re not considering the circumstances, Dumbass.

What do you mean?

Think about it, Dumbass. You notice anything odd about this set up? I mean you’ve got a tropical island here, right? And the only thing living on it are coconuts and crabs? Where are the birds and the snakes and do you really expect me to believe there are no bugs? You been on this island how many days now? And you haven’t seen one creepy crawly. How ‘bout that?

What are you saying?

What I’m saying, Dumbass, is that, to me, this looks more like some elaborate male fantasy than an actual survival scenario. I mean, come on, you even found yourself a nice one bedroom cave with an ocean view and running water.

What do you mean? Who would want to be stuck on this island?

A Dumbass like you who doesn’t want to get married.

What? I love Kelly. I do want to get married.

No you don’t, Dumbass. This is just like Love Story or A Farewell to Arms or Romeo and Juliet where something tragic happens so dumbasses like your character don’t have to get married, have kids, and buy a house in the burbs.

What do you mean my character?

Figure it out, Dumbass.

So, what? Are you saying I’m just a character in some fairytale?

That’s it, Dumbass.

Stop calling me that. And prove it.

OK, Dickweed, what’s your mother’s first name?

What do you mean? I never called her by her name. I just called her mother. That doesn’t prove anything.

Ok, Dickweed, I’ll bet you couldn’t tell me what she looked like, but let’s move on. Why haven’t you ventured off the beach? You’ve got all this time on your hands and you haven’t even explored all of this little island? What’s behind all those trees?

I’ve been busy. I mean, I think I’ve done pretty well here.

It’s all been handed to you, Dickweed.

Bullshit, I went through hell making that fire.

That was just for dramatic effect, Dickweed. You should have known how to do that.

Lots of people don’t know how to do that. That doesn’t prove anything.

OK, here’s the big one. Why aren’t you doing anything about getting rescued, Dickweed?

What do you mean?

Stop asking me that every time I tell you something, Dickweed.

What is there to do?

Never mind.

No, tell me. I want off this island. I want to go back to my life and to Kelly.

No you don’t, Dickweed.

Yes I do. What more can I do? We’re in the middle of the Pacific. It’s a remote area. There are no ships.

You saw one the other night didn’t you?

Yeah, but that was probably just a search vessel. We’re far from the regular shipping lanes.

So? There are irregular shipping lanes, right? There are six billion people on this earth. Someone’s bound to come by sooner or later.

So how do I flag ‘em down?

It’s staring you right in the face every day. It’s so obvious. The fact that you haven’t done anything about it proves my whole point, Dickweed.

You mean that I’m a character in a story?


Bullshit. So what happens if I get rescued? Do I just cease to exist?

No. You may be some a boob, but you’re also kind of an iconic character, Dickweed.


Yeah, Dickweed. Years from now people will still be thinking about you.

So I’m immortal?

No, you’ve just got legs so to speak. But some of those people are going to be thinking why didn’t he figure it out?

Figure what out?

How to get rescued, Dic – I mean Dumbass.

Just tell me.

OK, I guess we need to wrap this up anyway.

Wrap what up?

Oh,no, no, no that’s enough of this meta crap for now. We aren’t going all wheels within wheels here.

So, can we lose the Dickweed bit now?

Yeah. Fine. Look, no ship is going to see you in the daytime, but a plane might see something if you use all this beachfront real estate. Nobody but a dumbass writes HELP. Get with the program and write SOS as big as you can and, while you’re at it, how ‘bout a big ol’ X?

So what about ships?

Look, if you don’t get this one I’m going back to calling you Dickweed.

Fire? At night?

Amazing! Somebody give Dumbass a cookie.

Boy, I’d love a cookie right now.

Well, you’re not going to get one until you figure out where to build the fire.

Where do I build the fire?

What’s the most prominent feature of this island?

That it’s in the middle of nowhere?

No, no the island itself. What pops?

Uh, the peak?

Boy, it doesn’t take you long does it? That’s it, Dumbass! Build the fucking fire on the fucking peak! How hard is that?

Well, it’s really hard. It took me a long time to get up there.

You’ve got the time. That’s all you do have besides an apparently endless supply of coconuts. Build a ladder. Build a staircase. Build an escalator. Just do it and start spending your evenings up there. One of these nights you’ll see another light and you fire it up. You got a much better chance of it being seen from up there. How could they have not thought of that?

Who’s they?

I told you we’re not going there. Just get started.

Chuck followed Spalding’s instructions and a few weeks later he spotted a light and he lit the fire it had taken him so many days to build. Nothing happened.

Two months after that, early in the morning following the third time he saw a light and lit his fire on the peak, Chuck spotted the sails of big ship. When it got closer, he could the see the crew on deck and in the rigging. They were all women. Of all shapes and sizes. Spalding laughed and said oh man, here we go again.

The sails came down and an inflatable Zodiac boat launched from the stern and threaded its way through the coral reef. There were two women on board. They came up on the beach. Chuck was dazzled to find one was a buxom blond with a thin denim shirt tied just below her breasts and the other was a winsome, shirtless Asian girl with long hair. They were quite friendly and helpful.

Soon it was time to leave and they asked him what was in the package with the big balls on it. He said let’s find out and tore it open. It contained thick Styrofoam and a sealed pouch with a satellite phone and extra batteries.

They asked if he wanted to bring the basketball and he said nah and booted it deep into the jungle where it bounced off a palm tree and landed between the craft services tent and the camera shed.



About bbcstudiowrites

This blog is me archiving the BBC Studio Writers Workshop.

Posted on November 4, 2015, in Fiction, Seattle, Short Stories. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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