Snow Queen
Saturday, January 22, 2000
Listen


(GK: Garrison Keillor, SS: Sue Scott, TK: Tom Keith, TR: Tim Russell, RD: Rich Dworsky)

CHORUS
In Minnesota (2)
Where I will live til I die
And then I'll go t'(2)
Paradise in the sky.
And if I run into you, I'll sure be amazed.
To see Norwegians in heaven--- God's mercy be praised.

Will there be snow there (2)
Way up beyond the stars
And when we go there (2)
Will there be coffee like ours?
I only hope there is soup and crackers, and please--
You know it couldn't be heaven if there was no cheese.

It was a beautiful snowstorm and it left big drifts of fresh white snow in the yards and a cushion of snow in the streets so the cars whispered past (SFX), and the children shoveled the snow off the rink and skated counterclockwise and played pom-pom-pullaway and Crack The Whip except for one boy, who stopped skating and stood staring at the old pump beside the warming house and remembered what his dear old mother had told him when he left the house, she said:

SS: MOTHER
My boy, you must never never put your tongue on the pump handle --- you must never do it or your tongue will freeze to it, and all sorts of bad things will happen. Promise me that you won't put your tongue on the pump handle.

TR: HENRY I'm in sort of a big hurry, Mom!

SS: MOTHER Please! Promise me, my boy!

TR: HENRY Bye. See you later!

And now, looking at the pump handle in the freezing cold, he was terribly tempted to do it. There was no reason to do it, except his mother had told him not to, and once a person gets something in his mind it's hard to stop thinking about it and so----

TR: HENRY
Well, here goes. (SPLAT, BOY'S UH-OH. HENRY TONGUE-TIED SOUNDS) And a girl named Karen was the first to see him.

SS: KAREN
Somebody has his tongue frozen to the pump handle! Call 911!

TR: HENRY (TONGUE TIED)
Thank you. I appreciate that.

She stood with her arm around him, weeping. She had a tender heart and he looked so sad bent over with his tongue frozen to the cold iron.

(SIREN APPROACHING)

SS: KAREN
Here comes the fire truck.

CHORUS
We are the firemen, we are the firemen
We are the men of Engine Company One.
We rescue cats and ladies in labor,
We rescue children stuck to pumps with their tongue.
We put out fires, seegars and candles
We hasten to the rescue when the bell is rung
We rescue foolish people from bathtubs
We rescue kids who are caught by the tongue.

(PURPOSEFUL GUYS TALKING) The firemen put a tent over Henry and warmed the pump with a blowtorch until his tongue came free, and they took him to the emergency room where they put tongue lotion on (SQUISHES) and also gave him an I.Q. test.

TK: FIREMAN
He appears to be above average, actually.

And they sent him home. But his mother noticed that he wasn't quite the same boy.

SS: MOTHER
There's a black mark on the tip of your tongue.

TR: HENRY
Oh yeah? Well, who cares? Nyaaa-nyaaa-nyaaa.

SS: MOTHER Henry! You can't stick out your tongue at your mother!

TR: HENRY
Oh yeah? Just try to stop me!! He wasn't nearly as nice as he had been. He wasn't nice at all.

TR: HENRY
Where'd you get that haircut, Mom? At the dog show? You're so ugly you'd scare a buzzard off a garbage wagon. Heh heh heh. If my dog looked like that, I'd shave his butt and walk him backwards.

SS: MOTHER
Oh Henry, how can you be so cruel?

CHORUS
What a jerk.

TR: HENRY
You're so ugly, they ought to hold Halloween on your birthday, Mom. You walk into a bank, they turn off the cameras. You entered the ugly contest, they said, "Sorry, no professionals." Heh heh heh heh.

CHORUS
He used to be such a good kid. And now?
A complete jerk!

Everyone in town avoided him. Nobody wanted to be with him.

CHORUS
It's all the fault of the schools.
They don't teach values anymore.

But it wasn't true. It was caused by putting his tongue on the pump handle.

That night, at midnight, Henry awoke, hearing a car outside. (LIMO SLOWS AND STOPS) He looked out and saw a long white car and next to it a beautiful woman in a white dress that sparkled as if it were made of ice. She was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen except in movies.

SS: QUEEN
Come, my darling. We'll go for a ride And see my beautiful countryside.

CHORUS
Get away from the window, Henry.

She had icy blue eyes and her lips glittered.

SS: QUEEN
I am the Queen of Ice and Snow
Across the frozen lands I go
And what I say, it shall be so. ---Come.

CHORUS
It really is not a good idea to listen to someone whose body temperature is below zero, Henry.

TR: HENRY
Maybe I should ask my mother...

SS: QUEEN
Let your mother have her rest. Obey your Queen, I know what's best.

And she raised her hand and threw a shower of snowflakes that glittered like diamonds. He had never seen anyone do this before.

CHORUS
No. Don't.

He opened the door and stepped out in his pajamas, and the moment he felt the Snow Queen's icy cold hand on his shoulder (TR SHIVERS), he knew he shouldn't have come. He tried to pray, but he couldn't. All he could do was say his multiplication tables over and over.

CHORUS
Go back inside, Henry.

SS: QUEEN
Don't be afraid. It's only ice.
I'm taking you to paradise,
Far north of here, beyond Duluth,
Where you shall have eternal youth.

TR: HENRY
Eternal youth?

SS: QUEEN
You shall be forever hip,
You'll never slump or sag or slip.
Old age shall never touch your brow.
You'll always be as you are now.
Not like your father, that old fool---
You, Henry, are forever cool.

CHORUS
Go back in the house, Henry.

SOLO
Wait!

CHORUS
What?

SOLO
If he goes back in the house--- there is no story!

CHORUS
Good point. ---Go for it, kid!

So Henry got into the long white car and the snowman who was at the wheel turned and grinned and winked his coal-black eye----

TK: SNOWMAN
Hang onto your hat, kid. Next stop--- North Pole. (LAUGHTER)

And he drove the limo up into the air (SFX) and over the snowy lands and Henry dozed off and when he awoke, they were at the Snow Queen's castle which stood majestic on a mountain, glittering in the moonlight, and he was so tired, he lay down on a bed of ice and he fell fast asleep and he dreamed that women in white uniforms were putting ice packs on his head.

CHORUS
Ice will keep away disease,
And germs --- you won't have any.
Notice how your troubles cease
Whene'er it's minus twenty.
Woe is he who gets too hot,
He will likely go to rot,
Ice, have some, I have plenty.

Henry's family searched for him (TK & TR: Henry!! Henry???) and the police brought out their bloodhounds (DOGS BAYING) and there was no sign of him at all. Karen looked for him. (SS: Henry!! Henry???) The police said that probably he had drowned in the river. And they called off the search.

SS: KAREN
But we can't just forget about the whole thing. Sure, he was a jerk, but he was a person----

She was a girl with a tender heart. Sometimes at night, she lay in bed and wept for people she had read about in the newspaper, people in far-off countries, victims of distant earthquakes, plane wrecks, famines. And now she wept for a boy whom she hardly knew who had disappeared. She missed him. But she couldn't tell anybody she knew, so she told the birds.

SS: KAREN
He was a person. He had some good in him.

CHORUS OF BIRDS

SS: KAREN
Somehow I can't believe he's dead.

BIRD
He's not! (BIRD CLAMOR)

SS: KAREN
He's not?

BIRD
No, he's alive.

SS: KAREN
But where did he go?

BIRD
North.

SS: KAREN
To Duluth?

BIRD
Much farther.

SS: KAREN
I must go look for him.

BIRD CLAMOR

Karen knew that the old man who lived across the alley was a truckdriver who drove his big semi north. He was grizzled and gruff and he growled and he smoked cigars that smelled like burning tires but she knocked at his door and he opened it.

TR: TRUCKER
Yeah? What you want, kid? If you're selling Girl Scout cookies, I ain't interested. Unless you got some with chewing tobacco in em. Ha ha ha ha.

SS: KAREN
I need a ride, north, Mister. I'm looking for my friend, Henry.

TR: TRUCKER
Henry the rotten kid with the smart mouth?

SS: KAREN
That's him.

TR: TRUCKER
Forget him. He's no good. He was mean to his own mother.

SS: KAREN
Some people say you're mean.

TR: TRUCKER Me?

SS: KAREN
But I don't believe them. I think that people are mostly good at heart. I think that good people aren't as good as we think and bad people aren't as bad. There's a lot of both in everybody. Please. Give me a ride.

TR: TRUCKER
Okay. Tomorrow morning, kid. That night, she wrote a note to her parents:

SS: KAREN
I'm going away to look for Henry.

CHORUS
Are you sure?

SS: KAREN
I don't think a person should be allowed to just vanish.

CHORUS
Be careful.

SS: KAREN
I'll be careful.

CHORUS
Take your down underwear.

SS: KAREN
I will.

And she walked up the alley to where the truck was waiting (TRUCK IDLING). She climbed up into the cab, which was full of smoke (SS COUGHS), and the old trucker headed north and she watched the countryside pass by, until she fell asleep and when she awoke they were out on the tundra, a flat treeless plain, and there the trucker pulled into a truckstop called Big Betty's.

TR: TRUCKER
This is as far as I go, kid. But Betty's a pal of mine and she'll take care of you. Good luck.

Big Betty was five feet tall and five feet across. She wore a Green Bay Packers sweatshirt and a cap that said, "Don't tell me about it."

TR: BIG BETTY
Where've you been? You said you'd be here at five and here it is six-thirty. Get an apron on! And get in that kitchen and start cooking, girl!

SS: KAREN
But I can't cook.

TR: BIG BETTY
Neither can anybody else. Just get in there and do it.

SS: KAREN
What sort of food do you serve?

CHORUS
Pancakes, waffles, western omelet
Sausage on the side,
Ham and bacon, too --- yes, sir,
We got eggs: would you prefer
Boiled hard or boiled soft,
Scrambled, poached, or fried?
Would you care for juice with that?
Large or medium size?
We got orange or grapefruit.
Sorry but no substitutes.
And potatoes are included:
Hash browns, cottage fries?

So Karen tried and though she did burn the hash browns (SS: Sorry!) and she did overcook the steaks a little (SS: Sorry!) and she did drop two big platters of scrambled (MAJOR CRASH AND BREAKAGE), nonetheless everybody got fed.

TR: BIG BETTY
Good job. Appreciate it, kid.

SS: KAREN
Sorry about the eggs I dropped on the floor.

TR: BIG BETTY
No prob. I served em up anyway. They liked it. They thought the hairballs were croutons.

SS: KAREN
Yucchhhhh. That's disgusting!

TR: BIG BETTY
Hey, it's winter. These guys'd eat a bale of hay if you put some melted cheese on it. Speaking of that, it's almost time for lunch.

SS: KAREN
What's for lunch?

CHORUS
Roast beef sandwich with potatoes,
They say it's pretty fine.
Soup is chicken rice today.
And we have the fish filet
The barbecue is lovely too
For a dollar ninety-nine.

TK: DOG
Excuse me. Would you mind fixing me an omelet?

Karen looked down at the end of the counter and there was a beautiful dog sitting on a stool.

SS: KAREN
Actually we're on the lunch menu now, sir.

TK: DOG
You couldn't make me an omelet with kibble? And raw hamburger?

SS: KAREN
Sure. What the heck. You're the first talking dog I ever met.

TK: DOG
Do I have an accent?

SS: KAREN
You speak very clearly. I can understand every word.

TK: DOG
You're not just saying that?

SS: KAREN
No, you speak better than a lot of people I know.

So she made him an omelet and she told him about Henry and how he had put his tongue on the pump handle and how he disappeared.

SS: KAREN
I came north to look for him but I wonder if he isn't dead.

TK: DOG
I'll go and ask the roses. They've been in the ground. They know. And a moment later, the dog came back.

TK: DOG
The roses say no. They've checked. He's not there.

SS: KAREN
I must go look for him.

TK: DOG
If you're searching for someone, you really ought to take a good dog along.

So Karen and the dog walked up the road, and walked all day, and sat under a tree to rest.

SS: KAREN
I am so hungry.

TK: DOG
Me too.

And just then a crow flew down from the tree and dropped some bread crumbs at her feet.

TR: CROW
It's white bread, but you're welcome to it.

SS: KAREN
You wouldn't have whole wheat or seven grain, would you?

TR: CROW
I don't. Sorry. How come you folks are this far north?

SS: KAREN
I'm looking for a boy named Henry who came this way a few weeks ago. Have you seen him?

TR: CROW
You don't happen to speak Crow, do you? It'd be so much easier to explain this in Crow. English is very hard for someone with a beak.

SS: KAREN
I'm sorry. I never learned Crow. Did you see him?

TR: CROW
It's hard for me to say (CAW) in English.

SS: KAREN
What does (CAW) mean?

TR: CROW
That's not what I said at all. I didn't say (CAW), I said (CAW)....

SS: KAREN
Sorry. What does--- what you said--- what does that mean?

TR: CROW
It means that your friend came by here in a white limousine with the Queen of the Snow.

SS: KAREN
You can say all that with one (CAW)?

TR: CROW
I didn't say (CAW). I said (CAW). What you said --- that has to do with stock prices --- entirely different, entirely different---

SS: KAREN
You saw Henry? Was he in his pajamas?

TR: CROW
What is "pajamas"? Is that an insult?

SS: KAREN
No, you're thinking of "pejorative". Pajamas are what you wear at night.

TR: CROW
Yes!! He went that way!!

And the crow pulled out a feather from each of his wings and gave one to Karen and one to the dog.

TR: CROW
These are magical feathers. Hold onto them and you can fly. I think.

Karen held the crow feather in her hand and jumped in the air to fly away and she crashed to the ground. (SFX, SS CRY)

TR: CROW
Not working, eh? Darn. Well, how about that car over there? I can start it for you.

SS: KAREN
Steal a car?

TR: CROW
You can't walk. And it belongs to the Snow Queen.

TK: DOG
Let's take it. Come on.

SS: KAREN
I guess. Stealing a car from a frigid person isn't the worst thing.

(CAR START, CROW CAWS)

SS: KAREN
Goodbye! (CAR ACCEL) You steer and I'll put my foot on the gas.

TK: DOG
Who'll step on the brake?

SS: KAREN
We're not going to stop!

They drove north, toward the mountains. Soon there was snow all around them, and then you couldn't see the road at all, it was all snow, and the wind blew (SFX) and wolves and bears stood along the road and snarled at them (SFX) and on and on they drove (CAR), up a glacier, toward the highest mountain peak.

TK: DOG
It's good this car has snow tires.

SS: KAREN
Whatever you do, don't stop.

They were getting higher and higher and they came around a bend and there was a bear sitting in the middle of the road. (CAR SLOW AND STOP) Karen put her head out the window.

SS: KAREN
Could you please move aside and let us pass?

TR: BEAR
Hmmmph. You're not the boss of me. I am a baron. I am the Baron de Mountain.

SS: KAREN
Please, Baron de Mountain. Please move.

TR: BEAR
Hmmmphhhh. People! They're so self-centered.

And he lumbered away (TR GRUMBLING). And they drove on. (CAR) Now the road was all ice and it wound among the rocks and boulders and now Karen began to worry.

SS: KAREN
If Henry is a prisoner of the Snow Queen, what can I do? I'm only a kid. I have no power.

TK: DOG
You have a lot of power. You have a pure heart.

SS: KAREN
I'm not even a friend of his, I only think that nobody should just disappear like that.

TK: DOG
I wish I were a braver dog so I could be a help to you.

SS: KAREN
You are extremely brave. And that very moment, she saw the ice castle on the mountain top. The dog took his foot off the gas and the car stopped. (CAR SFX) She bowed her head and said a prayer.

CHORUS
Our father in the night
Who comforts us in darkness
When fearful things appear
And evil comes to harm us.
Oh smile on us, we pray,
Your loving voice be heard,
And watch your children alway
According to your word.

And she marched up the rocks toward the Snow Queen's castle. In front was a immense snow sculpture of a woman on a horse and rising up a hundred feet in the air two towers of ice with turrets and battlements. The walls of the palace were clear ice and you could see, through the walls, the vast rooms inside, flaming torches on the walls, ice chairs and tables. Above the palace, the Northern Lights danced in the sky.

SS: KAREN
I should have brought my camera---

And then she saw the Snow Queen on her throne and Henry at her feet, looking quite blue. Karen crept closer.

SS: QUEEN
Tonight, my dear, I shall take wings
And fly to Miami and Palm Springs,
And Tampa --- places people go t'
To get away from Minnesota,
Escape the January freeze
And do exactly as they please,
Pick the oranges off the trees,
Play tennis, sit beside the ocean
And smear on quarts of tanning lotion.
People from Fargo and Cloquet,
Pequot Lakes and Thunder Bay,
What makes them think they can get away?
I'll lay some frost and sleet
Around those tanned bare feet
And their beach blanket and barbecue grill,
And let them chill,
Let them share in the winter sorrow.
You stay here, darling.
I'll be back tomorrow.
My snow sculpture --- don't disturb it.
And I'll bring you back some orange sherbet.

And she laughed (A HIDEOUS LAUGH) and flew out the door (SS FADING: Au revoir!) and up into the sky and immediately it turned dark and snow began to fall. Karen dashed into the ice palace and ran to Henry and threw her arms round his neck, and hugged him.

SS: KAREN
Oh Henry! I found you.

He looked at her. His eyes were icy. His hand was bitterly cold. He moved his mouth as if to speak and nothing came out. She held his head in her hands and wept hot tears (SS WEEPING), and the tears fell on him (BRIGHT NOTES) and ran down his face (SFX), and two tears trickled into his mouth and touched his tongue (BRIGHT NOTE), and he smiled.

TR: HENRY
Thank you.

And she helped him out of the ice palace and down the hill to the car where the dog sat behind the wheel. He had found a cap and put it on and looked very important. They sat in back, and the dog released the brake, and the car coasted down the hill and onto the snowy road and through the trees......

TR: HENRY
You know why I put my tongue on that pump handle?

SS: KAREN
No, why?

TR: HENRY
It was because of my grandma.

SS: KAREN
What about your grandma?

TR: HENRY
It's a long story.

CHORUS (Gubben Noach)
Minnesota, Minnesota
That's where I was born,
Grew up on a dairy farm
Fifty Holsteins in the barn
Frozen fingers, frozen fingers
But our hearts were warm.

Every winter there were blizzards
We got lots of snow,
By the time the roads were cleared
Lots of folks had disappeared
Lost my grandma, lost my grandma
Many years ago.

Then we found her in Las Vegas
In the girlie shows.
She looked younger than her age
Go-go dancing on the stage
Grandma wasn't, Grandma wasn't
Wearing many clothes.

Grandma said, "Good evening, darling,
Welcome to the sun.
Winter's much too cold for me,
So is your theology,
I'm a Buddhist and a nudist
Unitarian."

Grandma's happy in Nevada
So we left her there.
I'm still milking fifty cows,
Mama's taking all the bows,
She's a dancer,
I'm a rancher,
Life is sure unfair.

SS: KAREN
And that's why you put your tongue on the pump handle?

TR: HENRY
I was desperate.

SS: KAREN
You didn't know your tongue would freeze?

TR: HENRY
I thought I'd get lucky.

CHORUS
January, January
It is too darn cold.
Put my mouth up to the pump,
Thought I'd be like Donald Trump,
I'd get lucky, I'd get lucky,
Pockets full of gold.

SS: KAREN
And instead you wound up with the Snow Queen.

TR: HENRY
No, I wound up with you. And that's what I call real luck.

TK: DOG
You want me to keep driving?

SS: KAREN
Keep driving.

And the car kept rolling south and then trees with green leaves and soon there were birds singing and then the car slowed down because they were on flat land and then they could smell the rich smell of dirt and fields being plowed and it was spring and they looked at each other and they were no longer children, they were a young man and a young woman.

TR: HENRY
What an incredible trip.

SS: KAREN
I'll say.

TR: HENRY
Actually, I don't remember a thing about what happened.

SS: KAREN
I'll tell you someday.

TR: HENRY
I always dreamed I'd be in a car with a beautiful woman.

SS: KAREN
And here you are.

TR: HENRY
Is this what people call "falling in love"?

SS: KAREN
How would I know? I never was in love before.

TR: HENRY
I think I'm falling in love right now.

SS: KAREN
Are you sure?

TR: HENRY
Absolutely. When you've been frozen, and you thaw out, then you know.

SS: KAREN
Well, if you're falling in love, I must be too. Why else would I go out searching for you?

TR: HENRY
Then I guess we're in love.

TK: DOG
What about me?

SS: KAREN
You keep driving. And don't look in the mirror.

TR: HENRY
I love you.

SS: KAREN
I was waiting for you to say it.

TR: HENRY
I really do.

SS: KAREN
That's good. I love you.

CHORUS
And that's amore (2)
Wherever you go.
And that's the story (2)
Of the Queen of the Snow.
So viva l'amour and try not to freeze
Don't put your tongue on a pump handle,
I'm begging you please.

We are a chorus (2),
A vocal elite,
And they adore us (2)
All the critics we meet.
But no matter how glowing our latest review,
We never lick pump handles and neither should you.

For our brilliance (2)
In our choral career,
We have earned millions (2)
Of dollars a year.
But when we fly to Paris or Rome to perform,
We stay away from pump handles even if they are warm.

We burn candles (2)
For remorse.
And we sing Handel's
Messiah of course.
And when we go skiing we go off the high jump,
But we never put our tongues on the handle of a pump.

 

(c) 2000 by Garrison Keillor

Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

Old Sweet Songs

Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).

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