Tell Me What To Do

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Tell Me What To Do[1]
Work In Progress
Original Broadcast Date
Joe Frank
Serious Monologue, 56 minutes
Preceded by: Why I Don't Love You Anymore
Followed by: Highways West

He didn't really notice her in the beginning.

Tell Me What To Do is a program Joe Frank produced as part of the series Work In Progress. It was originally broadcast in 1986.


'Kakashi' (Aragon)

0:30: A new employee (unnamed, I call her 'she' - mid-30s) comes into her boss's office (also unnamed, I call him 'he') after work, chats him up, perhaps flirts with him. She moved to New York after having a good job in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to have a relationship with an Australian man, Jeremy. She's considering taking a job in Chicago. He invites her for a drink. She chain-smokes Merits. She wears a hat, raincoat, thick glasses; he wears dark glasses. He wants to take her to a hotel; she demurs. He's married.

4:20: 'She told him the following day she'd be moving her clothes books and records into a friend's apartment.'

5:00: He calls her around noon the next day, asks himself to her apartment (in the east 70s). They drink and smoke. He wants to make love; she doesn't have the time. They neck. He falls for her.

8:00: 'Turtle dreams' (Meredith Monk)

8:30: 'The air smells of candle wax, ancient stones; there's an aftertaste of wine and wafer in the air; every sound made by movement is reflected from the surface, whether from a floor, a stone wall, or a devotional niche.'

8:50: Joe recites opening lines of 'Chicago' (Carl Sandburg)

9:00: 'At the main altar images of Christ and the Apostles, the dry rustle of devotional books and hymnals in the hands of the faithful - and tall gothic windows lights lighting with multicolored beams of the stained-glass images of the saints'

9:20: More from Sandburg's 'Chicago'.

9:30: 'Dark curtained confessional booths from which soulful murmurings can be faintly heard; the pews are of dark mahogany; there are well-worn velvet cushions.'

9:40: More from Sandburg's 'Chicago': 'they tell you are wicked and I believe them...'

10:10: They neck for 15 minutes, then they get up and go. Walking home he suspects the ease of her passion means she's easy.

10:50: At work that evening (apparently they work at night) he can't think of anything but her. When she shows up, he leaves a card inviting her for a drink after work; she accepts. She tells him more about Jeremy, a divorcé with 2 children; he's passed out drunk at the bar - she points him out. She says she thinks she'd make a good whore. He thinks otherwise.

13:00: Jeremy's going to Copenhagen for a week; his wife, Barbara will visit her sister in Ohio that week. He invites her over. They make love. He worries the neighbors will notice her, hear the sounds she makes. The make love all night. She asks him to tell her what to do.

17:10: 'A cavernous stone interior almost like Jonah's view of the whale; eyeless stony saints gazing sightless over the heads of worshippers larger than life - if they ever did live.'

17:30: More from Sandburg's 'Chicago': 'And they tell me you are brutal...'

18:20: 'The muted swirl of priestly garments, the labored breathing of the stricken devoted, uttering prayers heard in God's ear only'

19:40: In the morning he worries that neighbors will notice her leaving, so he checks the hall, sends her out alone, leaves a few minutes later and meets her on the street. Looking back over the night, he remembers how she meekly took orders, did everything she asked, said 'Yes, sir'.

22:10: He sees her next at work, wearing tight jeans and blouse; other men notice her - he's jealous. She has friends visiting, may not be available that night. A friend of his wife, Lila (extremely attractive) calls, reminding him of their dinner date, which he had forgotten. He invites Lila over to the office to make her jealous.

26:00: He and Lila have dinner at her place. She calls while Lila is there; she puts him off. She comes over, buzzes. He has to get Lila out without seeing her. He imagines all the trouble she could cause him. They talk about her future, her relationship with Jeremy, the job in Chicago.

30: 'Statues depicting men holding loaves or fishes or grasping shepherds' crooks or gathering sheaves; in the windows St. Francis among the animals, St. Christopher comforting the solitary wayfarer; Jesus as a shepherd, a carpenter, a healer, a miracle worker, as the prince of heaven in glorious splendor, as a tormented mortal shouldering the sins of all humanity, as a babe in a manger, and - in his passion - on the cross.'

32:20: More from Sandburg's 'Chicago': 'Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth...'

33:10: They slept until morning. He has trouble waking her. She's petulant. They arrange a similar drill for departure, but he can't find her.

35:00: He goes to a luncheonette on Broadway and 79th because he knows her apartment is 2 blocks away. He calls her from a pay phone, leaves a message.[1]

35:50: They go out for a drink after work that night, dance to the jukebox. She wants to go out on a 'real' date Friday night, but doesn't show. He calls after work, gets mad at her, regrets it, asks her to breakfast, which they have at Teacher's, 'a chi-chi west side bar'. They go to his place.

41:00: She tells him that her stepfather in Chicago abused her, why she's ambivalent about taking the new job. She's scared of running into him. They make love.

42:50: He picks up his wife at the airport.

43:30: 'Teami no Onpu' (Aragon)

43:50: They go to a bar after work; she has to return to Jeremy, he to Barbara. They know it's over. They dance to the jukebox.

46:50: 2 weeks later Jeremy proposes; she accepts.

48:20: She calls again next week: she and Jeremy will move to Chicago.

49:10: 'Turtle dreams' (Meredith Monk)

50:10: 'The groom, tall, nervous, wears a morning coat, striped pants, spats, white tie, attended by formally dressed best men; their manner is grave and reserved, their motions slow and deliberate and purposeful; the bride, slender, in old lace, a long train of Victorian gossamer, her face veiled; the bridesmaids attend her in pastel gowns; one of the girls clutches a handkerchief in her left hand; the priest in satin and brought cloth, a bishop's mitre on his head, the purple velvet surplice beneath his gown occasionally glinting in the filtered light of the stained glass windows now reflecting purple then red, then green, and now blue. He says, "Dearly beloved, heaven has brought together this couple with the purpose of holy matrimony; may their union be blessed and fruitful in the eyes of the lord."'

Legacy Synopsis

A married man has an affair with a woman from his office who was abused by her stepfather as a young girl. Carl Sandburg poetry backed by organ music ("Turtle Dreams").


Additional credits

The original broadcast credits state: "Written and produced by Joe Frank. Technical production by Tom Strother."


Joe tells the story of an affair, interspersed with a description of a church, finally of a wedding, possibly in that church. I quoted those portions in full, hoping that I would find a source, but didn't.Arthur Peabody (talk) 01:28, 6 October 2021 (EDT)

At 4:20 she moved to a friend's; later in the story she's still living with Jeremy.Arthur Peabody (talk) 01:28, 6 October 2021 (EDT)


  1. The answering machine message is Jeremy's, but she moved out to a friend's earlier.