Guy Noir
Saturday, May 12, 2001
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(GK: Garrison Keillor, TR: Tim Russell, SS: Sue Scott, TK: Tom Keith)

(GUY NOIR THEME)

TR: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but one man keeps trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions. Guy Noir, Private Eye. With Tim Russell as Ralph, Tom Keith as the Admiral, and Sue Scott as Gwendolyn. (THEME UP AND UNDER FOR…..)

GK: It was one of those beautiful spring mornings in St. Paul when the world is green and wondrous and full of new life and some of the new life drifts on the breeze in the form of pollen and your eyes start to puff up and your nose fills up with new mucous. That's how it is with nature. Gives with one hand and takes with the other. I was trying to explain this to Wendell the news boy------

TK (TEEN): Is that something like the yin and the yang?

GK: No, it's the principle that inside every silver lining there's a storm cloud.

TK (TEEN): Is that what they call stoicism, Mr. Noir?

GK: No, it's called realism, Wendell. Stoicism is when you collect a lot of stuff and stow it in closets.

TK (TEEN): Oh. In college I think they said it was stoicism.

GK: Realism. You weren't listening very well, Wendell. You didn't heed what your professor said: you're not a hedonist.

TK (TEEN):I thought hedonism was someone devoted to selfish pleasure, Mr. Noir.


GK: You're thinking of teenager. Anyway - Wendell, inside every intelligent person is a dumb person trying to get out. Anyway, when you're my age, you'll understand this better.

TK (TEEN): I am your age, Mr. Noir.

GK: You are?

TK (TEEN): Turned fifty a couple years ago.

GK: How come your voice is still changing, Wendell?

TK (TEEN): It happens every spring. My acne comes back and I get real shy around girls and gee willikers---- I don't know what to do, Mr. Noir.

GK: Well, for starters, don't fall in love with anyone unless she has a sense of humor, Wendell. I think you're going to find it's important. (BRIDGE) I was just settling down with the crossword puzzle ---- going through and getting the easy ones ---- Mel Ott ---- Abba Eban ----- emu ---- ecru ---- kiwi ---- (KNOCKS ON DOOR) Yeah, come on in, the door's unlocked. (DOOR OPEN, FOOTSTEPS, DOOR CLOSE) . Yes, ma'am?

SS: Are you Guy Noir, the private eye?

GK: Just like it says on the door, ma'am.

SS: On the door it says "Gerald Knudsen, pet astrologer."

GK: Previous tenant. I guess the Post-It must've fallen off.

SS: So you are a detective?

GK: Yes, ma'am.

SS: I'm Barbara , Mr. Noir. Barbara Erickson. I've come about my boy, Ralph Waldo Erickson.

GK: I see. You---- you're an English teacher, aren't you, Mrs. Erickson.

SS: Yes, I am. How could you tell?

GK: The oxfords, the tweed suit --- and the slight indentation on the side of your right index finger where you hold your pencil. And your perfume. Unless I'm mistaken, that's a perfume called Syntax. A rather astringent aroma compared to most perfumes.

SS: Compared with most perfumes.

GK: Compared with most perfumes.

SS: You're very perspicacious, Mr. Noir. I teach English to 9th graders.

GK: My heart goes out to you.

SS: (WEEPY) It's so hard. So terribly hard. (BLOWS NOSE) But that's not why I'm here. It's about Ralph. He's in the Navy. And he hasn't written to me in weeks. He's stationed in Nor-folk, Virginia. I'm terribly worried.

GK: He used to write to you?

SS: Every week. One page, typewritten, double-spaced, with one inch margins. And I always corrected his letters and mailed them back.

GK: You don't think that was a little ----

SS: We learn by correction, Mr. Noir. What sort of a mother would I be if I didn't give my son the benefit of my training and experience?

GK: You don't think this might be a reason Ralph doesn't write?

SS: No, I believe there's a woman involved. I telephoned Ralph last night. I heard a woman's voice in the background.

GK: Well, they have women in the Navy, ma'am.

SS: In the course of the conversation, he used the word "blissful," Mr. Noir. Twice.

GK: Blissful.

SS: I've never heard Ralph use the word "blissful" conversationally before.

GK: You're right. There's a woman involved.

SS: Please. Go to Norfolk and check on it. I'm a liberal Democrat, Mr. Noir. If my son got involved with some ----- some----- right-wing blonde with big hair, I don't know what I'd do. (BRIDGE)

GK: So I hopped a plane for Norfolk. I'd always wanted to see the place. It was founded by my ancestors, hence the name ----- Noir folk ---- started out as a French settlement and then the Baptists and Methodists came in and passed a law against eating snails, an escargot embargo, and also a coq au vin ban, and my people high-tailed it to Canada and never looked back. It's not a bad place if you can stand the heat and the seagulls. (SEAGULL) Temperature was 89 when I arrived. By the time I got to my hotel, I was ready to throw myself onto an air conditioner. It was a place called the Buccaneer Inn ----

TR (PIRATE): Aye, matey, you prefer smoking or no-smoking?

GK: I don't smoke myself but I'd like a room in smoking, for the memories.

TR (PIRATE): Aye, aye, matey. And that comes with cable TV and complimentary breakfast and Magic Fingers and that's $180 per night not including tax.

GK: A hundred and eighty---- why, that's----

TR (PIRATE): Piracy. Aye, indeed it is. (HE LAUGHS) (BRIDGE)

GK: The room was small. You could wash your hands without getting out of bed. I turned on the TV (TV AUDIO) and the Magic Fingers (JIGGLING OF SPRINGS) and I lay and watched the Weather Channel and vibrated for awhile. For a minute I thought there was someone in bed with me, but it was only the doorknob. And then I went off in search of Lieutenant Erickson. (SEAGULLS) Oh, shut up. (GULL EMBARRASSMENT) At the front gate of the navy base, a beautiful young M.P. directed me toward the Personnel Wheareabouts Inquiry Section, where I found an ensign and a captain and a rear admiral behind the desk.----- Ensign, I'm a private eye and I need to find Lieutenant Ralph Waldo Erickson.

TK (ENSIGN): CIVILIAN REQUESTS INFO, CAPTAIN.

TR (CAPTAIN): CIVILIAN REQUESTS INFO, ADMIRAL.

TK (ADMIRAL): CIVILIAN REQUEST FOR INFO GRANTED, CAPTAIN.

TR (CAPTAIN): CIVILIAN REQUEST GRANTED, ENSIGN.

TK (ENSIGN): YOUR REQUEST FOR WHEREABOUTS OF LIEUTENANT ERICKSON GRANTED, SIR.

GK: Thank you.

TK (ENSIGN): THANK YOU, CAPTAIN.

TR (CAPTAIN): THANK YOU, ADMIRAL.

TK (ADMIRAL): YOU'RE WELCOME, CAPTAIN.

TR (CAPTAIN): YOU'RE WELCOME, ENSIGN.

TK (ENSIGN): YOU'RE WELCOME, SIR.

GK: Uh, okay. Do you want me to wait here while you find out where he is?

TK (ENSIGN): CIVILIAN REQUESTS ASSIGNMENT TO WAITING AREA, CAPTAIN.

TR (CAPTAIN): ASSIGNMENT TO WAITING AREA REQUESTED BY CIVILIAN, ADMIRAL.

TK (ADMIRAL): CIVILIAN IS ASSIGNED TO HOLD POSITION, CAPTAIN.

TR (CAPTAIN): HOLD CURRENT POSITION, ENSIGN.

TK (ENSIGN): STAY WHERE YOU ARE, SIR.

GK: Okay. Could I ask you a question privately ---- just between you and me, Ensign?

TK (ENSIGN): CIVILIAN REQUESTS PRIVILEGE OF PERSONAL QUESTION, CAPTAIN.

TR (CAPTAIN): PRIVILEGE OF PERSONAL QUESTION, REQUESTED, ADMIRAL.

TK (ADMIRAL): PRIVILEGE OF PERSONAL QUESTION, DENIED, CAPTAIN.

TR (CAPTAIN): REQUEST DENIED, ENSIGN.

TK (ENSIGN): REQUEST DENIED, SIR.

GK: Okay. I'm just curious ---- how long would it take to find out where the Lieutenant is, Ensign?

TK (ENSIGN): REQUEST FOR E.T.A. OF LOCATION COORDINATES, CAPTAIN.

TR (CAPTAIN): REQUEST FOR E.T.A. OF REQUESTED INFORMATION, ADMIRAL.

TK (ADMIRAL): E.T.A. INFORMATION WILL BE PROVIDED ONLY ON A NEED-TO-KNOW BASIS, CAPTAIN.

TR (CAPTAIN): NO INFORMATION ON E.T.A. EXCEPT ON BASIS OF NEED TO KNOW, ENSIGN.

TK (ENSIGN): Sorry, sir. Can't tell you.

GK: Goodbye, ensign.

TK (ENSIGN): Goodbye, Captain.

TR (CAPTAIN): Goodbye, Admiral.

TK (ADMIRAL): Goodbye? Where am I going?

TR (CAPTAIN): ADMIRAL REQUESTS DESTINATION, ENSIGN.

TK (ENSIGN): CAPTAIN REQUESTS DESTINATION, CIVILIAN.

GK: OUT THE WINDOW.

TK (ENSIGN): OUT THE WINDOW, CAPTAIN.

TR (CAPTAIN): OUT THE WINDOW, ADMIRAL.

TK (ADMIRAL): OUT THE WINDOW. (MARCHING FEET, CRASH OF GLASS, FALLING CRY). (MARCHING FEET, CRASH OF GLASS, TR FALLING CRY) (MARCHING FEET, CRASH OF GLASS, TK ENSIGN FALLING CRY) (BRIDGE)

GK: One by one the three of them leaped out the window and fell a few feet and lay on the grass awaiting further word. I turned to get out of there and a man stood in the doorway, in full uniform----

TR: I'm Lieutenant Ralph Waldo Erickson, sir. I understand you're looking for me. (BRIDGE)

GK: We walked toward the Officers' Quarters and I told him why I'd come. (FOOTSTEPS ON GRAVEL)

TR: Mother's always been a worrier. But I suppose I should write to her.

GK: Send her some flowers. It's Mother's Day.

TR: I will. I promise.

GK: Everything else okay with you, Lieutenant?

TR: What do you mean?

GK: Your health is fine? You're not in debt or anything? Running with a rough crowd? You're not handling snakes or speaking in tongues? (FOOTSTEPS STOP)

TR: No, I'm fine.

GK: What are you hiding, Lieutenant?

TR: Nothing.

GK: You are.

TR: No, I'm not.

GK: Why is the water trickling out under your door then?

TR: Oh my gosh! (STING) (HURRIED KEY IN DOOR, DOOR OPEN, RUNNING FOOTSTEPS AWAY)

TR (AWAY): Gwendolyn! Gwendolyn-----

GK: He ran back toward the bathroom and I stood there and waited. I could hear voices. His and the voice of a woman. So his mother was right. Mothers usually are. I waited a few minutes and then they came out. I was not prepared for her. (FOOTSTEPS, AND FISH FLOPPING STEPS)

SS: Hi. I'm Gwendolyn. (SEXY SAX)

GK: She was blonde. Blue-eyed. A woman so beautiful she took away your breath and she wouldn't give it back. Her skin was what God had in mind when he said, Let there be skin. It was creamy and pale right down to her bellybutton. And below her waist, it was scales. A long tailfin. She walked into the room balanced on her fin and climbed into a plastic wading pool full of water (SLIGHT SPLASHING AS SHE GETS IN).

TR: Now you know, Mr. Noir. Gwendolyn and I are deeply in love. I've never met a woman like her. She makes me----

GK: Blissful----

TR: Yes. Blissful.

GK: Of course. Of course. Well, a mermaid. Every sailor's dream, eh? (CHUCKLES)

TR: It's not like that, Mr. Noir. Gwendolyn is not that kind of mermaid. She's born-again.

SS: Spawned-again, but never mind.

GK: You're a Christian mermaid?

SS: Yes, that's how we met. At church. My church. At Bible study.

GK: Oh. Well, I'm sorry. I guess I thought of mermaids as --- you know----

SS: Free spirits. Sort of loose.

GK: Sort of, yeah.

SS: Not around Norfolk.

GK: Oh.

SS: You're thinking of the Danish mermaids.

GK: I guess so.

SS: They're Lutheran. I'm a Southern Baptist mermaid.

GK: I see.

SS: Total immersion. And we can walk on water.

GK: So you go to a regular church?

SS: Right. Sit right in the baptism tank. With my waterproof Bible.

GK: And you're pretty well accepted in the Southern Baptist church?

SS: Sure. Why not?

GK: Well, someone who's half woman, half fish----

SS: There are a lot stranger people than me around----

GK: Who?

SS: People from up north.

GK: Oh.

SS: Mister, if you love the Lord and you talk real Southern and you bring dessert when it's your turn, they accept you around here.

TR: The problem is my mother. She's Unitarian. If she knew I was dating a Southern Baptist, she'd go stark raving nuts. She might sic the Uniterrorists on me.

GK: What's that?

TR: Bunch of men in 100% natural cotton robes and hoods who go around and burn question marks on people's lawns.

GK: I see. I hope you're not offended if I ask you a sort of biological question. Is it possible for a mermaid and a man to have sex?

SS: Not before marriage, absolutely no.

GK: What about afterward?

TR: I don't know. I never thought about that.

GK: You never thought about that?

TR: No, never.

GK: Either you're a very spiritual person, Ralph, or I shouldn't ask and you shouldn't tell.

TR: I never thought about it because all of our dates so far have been to go to Bible Study on Wednesday nights. Somehow the book of Deuteronomy doesn't exactly stimulate a lot of carnal thoughts.

SS: The answer to your question is yes, we can have sex, but it has to be in about ten feet of water. And first I deposit my eggs in a little trench and then he fertilizes them.

TR: Ten feet of water?

SS: Yes.

TR: You never told me that.

SS: What's wrong?

TR: I can't swim, Gwendolyn.

SS: You can't? You never told me.

TR: I wanted to.

SS: Why didn't you?

GK: Sometimes in a romance you find out things later ----

TR: I'm terrified of water.

SS: But you're in the Navy.

TR: I wasn't terrified until I joined the Navy and met my commander.

SS: But you told me you wanted to spend the rest of your life with me-

TR: I know, but ---- I thought you could change. Get a leg transplant or something.

GK: You know, maybe I should leave you two to work this out----

SS: You expected me to give up my family? My culture? Underwater singing. My friends. Never eat plankton and algae ever again?

TR: I've been meaning to talk to you about that-----

SS: About what?

TR: About algae.

SS: What about it?

TR: All that algae makes your breath smell terrible ---- rancid-----

SS: According to who? Your breath smells disgusting. Animal fats. Yecchhhhhh.

TR: If you got a leg transplant, you wouldn't smell so musty either-----

SS: Me???? Take a whiff of yourself, mister. At least mermaids don't sweat.

TR: What do you have against getting a leg transplant?

SS: You really want to know? With legs, there'd be a great temptation to dance.

GK: You don't dance, then?

SS: We don't even do synchronized swimming.

GK: Sounds like you two have a few issues you need to work out.

SS: I don't think so. I think this is goodbye. (SPLASHES)

TR: Gwendolyn---- wait-----

SS: Goodbye, Ralph. Next time you go to sea, those bubbles in the water ---- that'll be me praying for you, Ralph. (FISH FLOPPING STEPS) (BRIDGE)

GK: He was pretty broken up over losing her. I could've told him that time heals a broken heart, but there's something unbearable about common sense. ---- I checked out of the hotel----

TR (PIRATE): You going already? You aren't gonna see the sights? Go to Doumar's? See a ballgame? Go to the beach?

GK: I gotta get home. I'm too happy here. It makes me nervous. Sorry. (BRIDGE) Flew home and made it to the Five Spot a few minutes before last call. (DOOR OPEN, JINGLES, CLOSE. FOOTSTEPS)

TR (JIMMY): Hey, Guy, how's it going?

GK: Could be worse, Jimmy. Could be much worse. I could be in love.

TR (JIMMY): Yeah. I see your point. What can I get you, Guy?

GK: Ah, the usual, Jimmy. A martini straight up with a couple of rabbit droppings.

TR (JIMMY): A couple of what?

GK: It's to discourage you from having that third martini.

TR (JIMMY): Oh. Right. (SHAKING OF MARTINI, POURING STARTS HERE)

GK: The third martini is one of life's little tragedies, Jimmy. Men have gotten married on the basis of a third martini.

TR (JIMMY): Yeah. A guy's got to be careful.

GK: Inside every silver lining is a major storm cloud, Jimmy. And inside every romance is a gigantic misunderstanding.

TR (JIMMY): That's what they call stoicism, right.

GK: No, stoicism is what you got after you're married and you wake up one morning and all your closets are full. This is called realism. (POURING OF MARTINI)

TR (JIMMY): Oh. Here's your martini with a couple of rabbit droppings in it, Guy. I just used olives but they sort of look like rabbit droppings.

GK: I'm going to believe they are, Jimmy. That's the important thing. I'm going to be disgusted at myself and yet I'm going to drink it anyway. Here's looking at you. And thank goodness for rabbits. (THEME)

SS: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions. Guy Noir, Private Eye. (THEME OUT)

© Garrison Keillor 2001, with material from Philipp Goedicke

Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

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