He Hesitated

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He Hesitated[1]
Work In Progress
Original Broadcast Date
Joe Frank
Absurd Monologue, Serious Monologue, 56 minutes
Preceded by: The Policeman's Ball
Followed by: At The Border

There are paper clips, rubber bands, cellophane wrappers, and pennies on my living room carpet.

He Hesitated is a program Joe Frank produced as part of the series Work In Progress. It was originally broadcast in 1987.


Joe describes the litter on the carpet, the desk, the couch, the mess in his bathroom, the kitchen: he's a poor housekeeper. He points out that, after cleaning up, it gets dirty again.[1] His appliances malfunction; he's disintegrating himself - no matter how well he could keep himself, he'll die.

10:20: Joe rolls dice, announces the results.

11:10: She (Joe's mother) saw sheep being slaughtered when she was a girl, remembers stories of the brutalities of Russian soldiers who invaded during WW1, when she was 3-4.[2]

12:10: She takes a fall in her closet.

12:50: A local man was found guilty of killing his wife, who had Alzheimer's. Joe's mother thought he would get off because it was a mercy killing; Joe disagreed.

13:30: Her neighbor Dave had a stroke, can no longer speak. His wife Rose called an old friend in Denver, caught up on mutual friends, all suffering from disabilities.

15:00: We're made of atoms.

15:20: Joe and his mother drive to the new shopping mall; she complains about all the new development.

16:00: She turned down a request to run the local chapter of ORT, a Jewish work-training agency. She was unhappy running other organizations. She takes lots of drugs for her anxiety, considered suicide.

19:20: There are 3 books above her bed. Joe takes down Chaim Potok's In The Beginning, reads the words, 'He hesitated.' (a 2-word sentence) from page 172. Then he turns to page 331, reads, 'He closed the door quietly.' She doesn't remember anything about the book.

20:30: When she's too tired to get out of bed Joe imagines a system to automate her feeding.

21:50: When she has attacks of pain, she puts nitro (nitroglycerin?) under her tongue. She remembers Mr Paoli (sp?) who stayed in Germany: his mother committed suicide instead of going to the camps. An ambulance comes for someone in the development. She used to work in an emergency room. She gets down on herself, calls herself a bitch. She attributes it to survivor's guilt, then her hypochondria to her father's amputated leg.[3]

24:00: Joe saves some bugs from the pool; Joe has found his true vocation, spends the day rescuing drowning insects. Later he tries to save ducklings from a badger, spends the night with them. "I think you made a cruel world, God - you arranged things pretty nastily, didn't you." Then he remembers how he enjoyed eating duck.

26:40: She likes to practice chipping onto the green. Joe adjures himself to make his visits positive.

28:50: Joe rolls dice, announces the results.

29:00: Rain, car starting up and driving off, dog barking.

30:30: Joe asks whether he is his body or in his body, then more questions - sounds of a party in the background.

32:40: Joe tells the story of The Incredible Shrinking Man.

44:40: Joe imagines a party at which people interpret the movie; Joe puts on voices to imitate them.

48:00: Joe asks if it isn't true that we're all striving to find peace and fulfillment, but this is an impossible goal. We do because we were told stories like this. TV shows rehearse such stories.[4]

53:20: 'All My Tomorrows' (Frank Sinatra)

Legacy Synopsis

A list of clutter in Joe's house. The futility of cleaning. Entropy. Joe exchanges witty dialog with his mother, describes her life. Saving bugs in a pool. Saving baby ducks from a badger. A synopsis of The Incredible Shrinking Man. Intellectual discussion of the film at a party. Problem solving and linear progression taught in childhood - nihilism and soap operas.


Shared material

Additional credits

The original broadcast credits state: "Technical production by Tom Strother."


  1. He says he has an incinerator, but these were outlawed before Joe moved to LA.
  2. She tells the same story in Too Close To Home
  3. He died in 1936.
  4. originally aired in Laughing Back - A Movie For Radio