2017 Scene-Writing Challenge: Day 9
Scott Myers

Scene 9


A clearing in a wooded area. The ground is soft from a recent rain. A man in a linen suit with a well-groomed, white beard stands near the trunk of a 1930s Alfa Romeo. His name is SALERNO (60). The car and attire give the sense of a Pre-WWII setting.

At Salerno’s feet is a six-foot long, closed pine box. It has all the markings of a homemade coffin. And just ahead of the box we see the ground open up into a ditch which is being hastily dug by LUCA (25) and PIERO (32). The men toss away their final scoops of dirt and climb from the hole.

SALERNO (to Luca): Forgetting something?

Luca has left his shovel in the ditch. Salerno whacks him in the back of the head. Luca chases after it, slips on the wet earth.

PIERO (to Salerno): I don’t mean to overstep, Salerno, but why isn’t he getting a normal funeral?

SALERNO: There’s not a soul in this town that hasn’t been affected by Vitale’s ways. More specifically, by the swing of his hammer. He would have crushed his own mother’s knuckles if she brought his dinner a minute after six. Asking the church to host his passing would have incited a riot. We don’t need that kind of publicity. Times are hard enough. Still, he was a loyal worker. He took care of a lot of problems for us.

Salerno remembers his late lackey. A slight revulsion comes across his face.

SALERNO: Even if we didn’t approve of his method.

Piero nods in understanding. Luca stands next to the men, shovel in hand, a dumb look on his face.

SALERNO: Well? Get to work. Put him in the ground.

They jump to the ready. Start lifting the pine box. Salerno observes them, intently. His eyes find a curiosity at the top corner of the coffin.

SALERNO: Wait. Put it down. You didn’t put the final nail in.

The boys set it down. The top corner of the closing panel dangles freely, offering us occasional glimpses of a corpse.

SALERNO: You can’t leave it open. He’ll have insects and vermin devouring him in seconds. Close it properly.

LUCA: I thought he’d want to be buried with his hammer. I kept the corner open so I could put it in there with him.

Salerno is dumbfounded. He glares at his wayward progeny.

SALERNO: If you’re going to bury someone with a hammer, and you need to close their casket with a hammer, bring two goddamn hammers!!

Salerno puts his hand to his forehead. Luca whimpers.

SALERNO: Forget it. Just take it out. It was a brutal tool anyway.

Luca kneels beside the coffin. Reaches in and pulls. Nothing. He struggles violently to no avail.

LUCA: It’s stuck. I slid it into his hands. But he seems to be gripping it.

SALERNO: Gripping it?! He’s dead!!

Piero runs over. Tries his best to loosen it. Fails.

PIERO: I can’t, Salerno. It’s like, glued or something.

Salerno paces. Mutters to himself.

SALERNO: Fuck it to hell. Just put the box in the ground. Leave the hammer be.

Luca and Piero follow orders immediately. They lift the box. It’s heavy. The ground depresses under their weight. Luca loses his footing at the edge of the ditch. Slips on the wet dirt. The casket turns sideways and Vitale’s body comes tumbling through the open corner. It lands in the hole with a loud THUNK!!

The men get their footing at the side of the grave. All three dumbfounded, at a loss for words. They look into the ditch to find…

Vitale’s pale corpse, laying face up, the claw of his own hammer lodged into his left eye socket. It’s almost fitting.

Salerno about faces, leaves the scene. We hear his car start.

SALERNO (O.S.): Fill up the hole. And find your own way home. And break down the box. That’s expensive wood.

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