HE THOUGHT HE COULD
Ed O'Neill..............Al Bundy
Katey Sagal.............Peggy Bundy
David Garrison..........Steve Rhoades
Amanda Bearse...........Marcy Rhoades
Christina Applegate.....Kelly Bundy
David Faustino..........Bud Bundy
Edan Gross..............Young Al
Joseph Dammann..........Book boy
Peggy and Marcy are in the Bundy kitchen. There is popcorn sitting on the stove.
PEGGY You know, the boys are upstairs working so hard and this popcorn will make a nice
surprise for them. So easy to make, too.
MARCY Uh, Peggy, you're supposed to move it around.
PEGGY Oh. [She gives the popcorn a few shakes] Well, gee, now it's not easy anymore.
Marcy shows Peggy the packet.
MARCY Peggy, did you know this says "Use before May 11th, 1972"?
PEGGY Marcy, if you read it carefully, it says "BEST if used before May 11th, 1972."
Peggy takes the popcorn to the table and she and Marcy sit.
PEGGY [calling upstairs] Boys! Popcorn! [opening the popcorn] Can you believe it? This little
treasure was hiding in a box up in the attic. It was a wedding present from Al's parents.
MARCY They gave you popcorn?
PEGGY Yeah. Popcorn and Al. I made out like a bandit.
MARCY Well, Steve's parents gave us china. And written instructions on how to make melon balls
for their son. It's the only way he'll eat melon, you know.
PEGGY Yeah, men are so fussy. Do you know that after we were first married, Al wouldn't eat
unless his food was warm.
Steve and Al come downstairs carrying a box full of stuff.
STEVE Okay. We've cleaned out your garage, your backyard and your attic. So tomorrow you're
gonna help me clean out our garage, right Al?
AL One second... [they put the box on the table] No.
PEGGY Now, Al, I hope that attic is nice and clean for when mother comes to stay.
AL Well, the straw's been laid down, the trough's been built... All we need now is a little
glass of bourbon to put her teeth in, and she'll be in, pardon the expression, "hog
STEVE Hey! Popcorn.
As Steve reaches for some popcorn, Marcy holds his arm back and shakes her head.
STEVE Marcy, I don't need you to tell me what to eat, you're not my mother. If you were, you'd
know how to make a decent melon ball.
Steve eats some popcorn and reacts with disgust. Marcy smiles. Al eats some popcorn also.
AL Mmm, it's good.
Al reaches for more.
PEGGY No no no no no. No more popcorn till you put that junk in the garbage.
AL Junk!? I got a lot of good stuff here. I can use a lot of this. Steve, look what she
wants me to throw out.
Al and Steve look in the box. Steve pulls out some hedge clippers.
STEVE My hedge clippers! They disappeared one day from my yard, how did you get them?
AL [searching for an excuse; calling upstairs] BUD! Get down here.
Bud runs downstairs.
BUD What, Dad?
AL Did you take these hedge clippers?
BUD Yes, Dad. Remember you called Mr. Rhoades up on the phone and I slipped over and took 'em.
AL Well, don't ever do it again! I'm sorry, Steve, he must have misunderstood.
Steve continues to look through the contents of the box.
STEVE Hey! That's my car battery.
Steve looks at Al, who laughs.
AL Well, you can't count that, Steve, that was before we became friends.
KELLY Hi, everybody. Oh, the greatest thing happened at school today. The bus driver had a
nervous breakdown, so we had to drive the bus ourselves. So, um, if anybody calls and
accuses me of locking the driver in the bathroom and taking the bus on a joyride, now you
know it's not true! So, what is all this junk, anyway?
BUD It's not junk, Kel. It's Dad's life. And it's all in this little box, isn't it, Dad?
AL You bet it is, Son. Hey now, look at this. [Al picks up some trophies] MVP Pop Warner
Football. I was a little younger than you when I got this, Son. All Star Little League
Short Stop... Oh, man. [picks up another trophy] All City Football. Eh? Then I met your
mom. [He picks up a few more trophies, these noticeably smaller than the others] Co-Ed
Softball, Participant Award. Rookie of the Year Shoe Salesman, 1968. You notice how
they're getting smaller?
PEGGY Everything about him is.
AL Oh yeah, and I'm sure you didn't have anything to do with that either, did you, Peg?
Well, that's the end of my trophies.
STEVE Gee, Al, what a testament to a... loser.
AL Thanks, Steve.
STEVE No, really, uh, you'll never relive this glory. God, you must feel low. I mean, I didn't
have much of an athletic past...
AL Oh, come on, Steve, you must've got the Running Home to Mommy trophy once or twice?
STEVE Well, if I did win one, I'm sure it's somewhere in your box. The point, however, is my
life is getting better. I've got the best trophy in the whole world right here to share
it with me.
Steve kisses Marcy on the top of her head.
MARCY Couldn't you just eat him up?
Peggy makes a face.
AL Nah, Peg'd probably just serve him cold.
Steve finds a book in the box and takes it out.
STEVE Hey, look at this. The book that inspired my whole life.
AL "Wanda the Preppy Hippo"?
STEVE "The Little Engine That Could". Is this my book, Al?
AL No, it's not, and I can prove it. Look here. [Al looks inside the book's cover and shows
it to Peg] There, "Property of the Oakwood Library."
PEGGY Uh, gee Al, it's a little overdue. 1957 is passed, isn't it?
BUD Can you believe that, Kel? Dad was alive in 1957.
KELLY I didn't even think it was a real year.
STEVE Oh Al, what memories this brings back.
Al takes the book and tosses it carelessly in the bin. Steve fishes it out.
STEVE You can't throw this away.
PEGGY Steve, it's a book, he certainly can't read it.
Al sits on the couch. Marcy follows him.
MARCY Al, this is literature! Don't you understand? You have to bring this book back. Libraries
all over the country are suffering from a shortage of books. And a book is fuel for a
KELLY Yeah, books are for idiots. I mean, you can learn everything you need from a movie or a
BUD Well, the world needs bimbos too.
STEVE Al, just take the book back.
AL Eh, I've got bad memories of that library.
PEGGY Oh honey, is that because all the other kids were reading?
AL No. Because of the librarian. Miss DeGroot. God, she was fat and old and... fat. I
remember she had this cup of coffee on her desk and she'd always be spooning mounds of
sugar into it from a jar. When she'd stir it it would make these clinking sounds like
chains on a ghost. A fat ghost. God, she hated me.
The school library.
Miss DeGroot, the fat, red-haired librarian is seated at her desk. She is stirring her
coffee and the spoon is making the chains-on-a-ghost sound. She puts three spoons of
sugar into her cup, pauses and thinks, then adds a fourth spoonful.
Al (at nine years of age) approaches Miss DeGroot with an armful of books. He puts
them on her desk. She looks at him.
DGROOT Well, young Mr. Bundy. The devil boy. You'd like to check these out, would you? Well, I'm
afraid you can't. You know why?
AL Because I didn't bring you french fries like the other boys do?
DGROOT You're a bad seed, Bundy. You can't have these books because you are consistently
overdue, you never have the money to pay... and looking at you now, I doubt you ever
AL I'll bring them back, I promise.
DGROOT You always promise, but you don't follow through. And that, in a nutshell, is your
problem. Make a promise, keep a promise.
AL Yeah, yeah, "Bake a pie, eat a pie." Can I have the books now? I've got a book report due
DGROOT You may take just one book.
AL Hey, be fair! Can you eat just one pig?
DeGroot stands up.
DGROOT You're a horrible little boy. You'll never amount to a hill of beans. And I wish that on
you, Bundy, to be the failure you deserve. And take that hand out of your pants, it's a
filthy little habit.
Al takes his hand out of his pants.
DGROOT Now, I'm going to let you have "The Little Engine That Could" on the basis that you might
learn something. Though we both know you won't. You think anyone can teach you anything?
AL Well, you've just taught me that even the slightest movement can make a fat person sweat.
DGROOT Three days! [giving Al the book] You have 3 days to bring this back. You promise you'll
bring it back on time?
AL I promise.
DGROOT Ehh, that's means almost nothing. [Al takes the book] But if you don't, remember - I'll
DeGroot goes back to her desk. Al approaches his friend, Lenny.
LENNY Boy, she hates you, Al.
AL I swear, one day I'm gonna take that bowl of sugar and pour that whole thing down her gas
tank. [he puts his hand in his pants again] My life's gotta get better than this.
Al and his friend leave.
Back to the present. Al shudders.
AL That's when I first learned that redheads can kill ya.
STEVE Come on, Al, that was thirty years ago. The woman's dead. No one can eat that much sugar
and live. [Marcy offers the book to Al] Take it back. Face your fears, Al. Be a man and
return "The Little Engine That Could".
Al looks over at the table where Peg and Bud are there, nodding at him.
Al reluctantly takes the book and leaves.
The library looks the same as it did 31 years ago. Al walks in and looks around. He spots
something on the desk and his eyes widen. The bowl of sugar is still there. DeGroot, still fat
but now gray-haired, grabs Al's shoulder and he turns around.
AL You're alive!
DGROOT And you owe us $2,163.
Still in the library.
AL Wait a second. You're charging me $2000 for an overdue library book???
DGROOT Perhaps if you didn't ignore the overdue notices we sent you for the first ten years, you
wouldn't be in this pickle.
DeGroot offers a child's chair for Al to sit on, as she sits as her desk.
DGROOT Sit down.
Al sits with a bit of effort.
DGROOT You made me a promise and you didn't keep it. So now you must pay the piper. For you see,
even the road to ruin has its tollgate. Now, will you be paying cash or food stamps?
AL Can't we make a little deal here? Now, I'll tell you what. Suppose I tape a, a doughnut
to my driver's licence and slip it to ya, you give it back and the doughnut just
DGROOT Could it be that you don't have the $2000? Could it be that I was correct when I made an
educated guess that you would fail in life?
AL Could it be that the nails that hold your chair together are from the planet Krypton?
DeGroot checks her watch.
DGROOT Oh, look! It's after twelve. That's another 20 cents you owe us.
AL Well, it just so happens that I returned that book years ago.
DGROOT [standing] I'd remember if you did.
AL You weren't here.
DGROOT I'm always here.
AL Not that day... I believe that was the day of the big cake heist. You were rounded up for
DGROOT Perhaps a policeman's rubber hose can get to the truth.
DeGroot reaches for the phone, but Al stands.
AL Wait! I'll just go to the shelves and get that book and prove it you.
DGROOT [following him] We'll both go. So, Mr. Bundy, what do you do for a living? Presuming
you're not still in high school.
AL Librarian hit man.
DGROOT I thought so.
Al has his hand inside his jacket. He begins to search the shelves.
DeGroot walks around to the shelves behind him.
AL Let's see, I... I know I put it here somewhere, uhh... [looking for a distraction;
pointing away from the shelves] Is that a duck!?
DGROOT The book, Bundy, the book.
DeGroot puts one foot up on the shelf ladder.
AL Yeah, maybe... it could be... uhm...
Al pushes the ladder so Miss DeGroot turns away and almost falls. Al quickly grabs the book out
from his jacket and puts it on the shelf. He sees Miss DeGroot looking back at him and grabs the
book again to show it to her.
AL Oh, here it is! "The Little Engine That Could". Boy, this brings back a lot of memories.
DGROOT You planted that in there.
AL Prove it, DeGroot. [he chuckles] A loser? I think not.
Al hands the book to Miss DeGroot and walks proudly out. Miss DeGroot watches him.
The Bundy living room. Al is telling Peg, Kelly and Bud about his experience.
AL So, I paid a little fine, I apologized, that was it!
PEGGY Aw, see, Al? You were worried over nothing.
AL Yep, you're right.
Al puts his arms around Bud and Kelly.
AL Kids, let this be a lesson. You can't do wrong doing right.
Al laughs and tousles the kids' hair. Then he picks up the remote and turns on the TV. A news
report comes on.
TV On the darker side of the news, surveillance cameras in the Oakwood Library caught the
man with the most overdue book in the school's history, as he sneaks "The Little Engine
That Could" back on the shelf to avoid paying the fine.
We see the surveillance camera view of Al fooling Miss DeGroot as he places the book back on the
TV Watch carefully in slow motion as he distracts - and almost kills - the librarian, then
puts the book back on the shelf. [A close-up shot of Al's face is magnified for the
viewers to see] So take a good look at this man, he's been identified as Chicago's own Al
Bundy. In this reporter's opinion, a true piece of human garbage.
The Bundys are watching in shame and disbelief. Al turns off the TV with disgust. The phone
rings, and Peggy answers it.
BUD Dad, let me try something out on you. How does this sound: Bud... Smith.
PEGGY [on the phone] Yeah, Mom, we were watching. Didn't he look good?
KELLY Well, Daddy, this may be the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to this
family. I mean, we've been training for something like this all our lives, but... you're
never really ready.
The doorbell rings.
AL Gee, let me get that. That's probably either somebody telling me I'm Time Magazine's Man
Of The Year, or it's Steve and Marcy.
Al opens the door to Steve and Marcy, both of whom look stern and disappointed.
AL Hi, Steve and Marcy, what's new?
STEVE Weren't my property values low enough?
MARCY I'm glad you got caught, Al.
AL Oh, I think we all are, Marce.
MARCY You serve as an example for all our young readers. Showing them they must be book smart,
not book cheats. That the hand of justice will triumph. Even if it must reach down to the
very bowels of the Earth...
Al cuts her off by shutting the door on her and Steve.
AL It was Steve and Marcy, Peg.
PEGGY Gee, Al, do you think this means you'll be on America's Most Wanted?
KELLY Daddy, why couldn't you have gotten caught robbing a bank like Cindy's father? I mean, at
least she can walk around with her head held high.
BUD Yeah, Dad. As the lone carrier of the Bundy seed, I foresee some lonely, seedless nights.
AL Family, first of all, it was entrapment. So, legally, I feel vindicated. And second - so
what?? Look, I know things look dark right now, but this is gonna blow over. Who's up for
a game of Yahtzee?
The other Bundys react by getting up and leaving.
Peggy, holding a beer, walks from behind the couch to sit on it next to Al. She gives him the
beer and looks at him somewhat sadly.
PEGGY Al. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks about you. I just want you to know that
this hasn't changed my feelings at all.
She kisses him on the cheek.
AL [putting his arm around her] Gee, that's nice of ya, Peg. Hey, you wanna go
upstairs and fool around?
Bud and Kelly, enter through the back door. They have paper bags on their heads.
Peg gets up to greet them.
PEGGY Hi Bud. Hi Kelly.
Bud and Kelly remove their bags.
BUD It's Jim.
KELLY And Natalie. So, um, what's for dinner, Aunt Peggy?
PEGGY It's Ruth. Ruth! Now kids, go ahead and put your bags in the closet next to mine. [they
do so] And let's try to cheer your father up. He's a little bit down, what with that
piece on Paul Harvey.
AL I used to like him.
PEGGY Oh, now Al, don't worry. Honey, we've weathered your pay checks, we'll weather this too.
And Al, I want you to know, no matter how bad it gets, and I think I speak for the kids
too, we will not wear our bags in the house. Right, kids?
Kelly and Bud mumble some things in a way that may mean they're not going to promise anything.
PEGGY There, you feel better, Al?
Al gets up and gets his jacket.
PEGGY Where you going, honey?
AL I'm going to pay the fine. It'll break us, but at least we don't have to be ashamed of
who we are.
Al opens the door to leave, but Buck runs in. He is also wearing a bag over his head.
The is a poster on the wall with Al's surveillance picture with the words: CAUGHT! BRING BACK
YOUR BOOKS written on it. DeGroot is sitting at her desk, stirring her coffee. Al walks in.
DGROOT [without looking up] Hello Mr. Bundy, I've been expecting you.
A two young boys are also in the library. One grabs a book and hides it in his jacket. His friend
BKBOY Hey man, don't Bundy that book!
The boy, looking at Al, puts the book back.
DGROOT You're quite famous, you know. This week we've had 34 overdue books returned by mail.
With cheques. The children are terrified and treat each book like fine china. Mr. Bundy,
You've become the Freddie Krueger of the library system.
AL Miss DeGroot, does the word "sooey" mean anything to you?
DGROOT Oh, children, quiet down or you'll end up like this man.
DeGroot starts packing up some things.
DGROOT You know, Mr. Bundy, I've worked at this library for 44 years. I was eligible for
retirement 3 years ago. Do you know why I stayed?
AL You learned to eat books?
DGROOT You're a horrible little boy. I kept this job for one reason. I knew I'd nail you and I
did. Pat Garret got Billy the Kid and I finally got you. My job is over. Today is my last
day. You know, it's funny. I could've given you amnesty on the book. I would have for
anybody else. But I always hated you. Is it wrong to hate a nine year old boy? No. Not
when that boy is you. It's the joy of my life to see you grow up like I always knew you
would -- a total and complete loser. Today, when I get in my car and leave this place for
the last time, I will be whole. Your shame is my gold watch.
Al snaps his chequebook shut and puts it away.
AL So you think I'm a loser? Just because I have a stinkin' job that I hate? A family that
doesn't respect me? A whole city that curses the day I was born? Well, that may mean
"loser" to you, but let me tell you something. Every morning when I wake up I know it's
not going to be any better until I go back to sleep again. So I get up, have my watered
down Tang and still-frozen pop tart, get in my car with no upholstery, no gas and six
more payments, to fight traffic just for the privilege of putting cheap shoes on the
cloven hooves of people like you. I'll never play football like I thought I would.
I'll never know the touch of a beautiful woman. And I'll never again know the joy of
driving without a bag on my head. But I'm not a loser. 'Cause despite it all, me and
every other guy who will never be what he wanted to be, are still out there being what we
don't wanna be, forty hours a week for life. And the fact that I haven't put a gun in my
mouth, you pudding of a woman... makes me a winner!
DGROOT No, Mr. Bundy, that's what makes you a loser. You see, you could have made something of
your life, I suppose. But you never followed through. That's always been your problem.
Like I always told you, "make a promise, keep a promise." And maybe if you did that just
once, you'd be a winner.
DeGroot turns away from Al and starts sorting through her drawers.
AL Thank you, Miss DeGroot. As a matter of fact I'm going to start keeping promises right
DGROOT You won't.
AL Yes I will.
DeGroot not looking, Al picks up the bowl of sugar from her desk. He puts his other hand in his
pants and walks out.
DIRECTED BY GERRY COHEN
WRITTEN BY RON LEAVITT AND MICHAEL G. MOYE
CREATED BY RON LEAVITT AND MICHAEL G. MOYE
ASSOCIATE PRODUCER BARABA BLACHUT CRAMER
"THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD" USED BY PERMISSION OF GROSSE AND DUNLAP.
COPYRIGHT (C) 1988
All Rights Reserved
Transcribed by Marriedaniac
would you like to contribute a script?
home on the range