American Fishing Theater script
Saturday, May 13, 2006


GK: And now the American Fishing Theater presents an original play for radio entitled "Never Try To Cheat A Mermaid" (MUSIC UNDER. OUTDOOR AMBIENCE THROUGHOUT. ON THE LAKE.) (CAST AND DISTANT SPLASH, REEL IN SLOWLY)

TR: Nice day for the opener.

GK: Yeah. You can say that again.

TR: Nice day for the opener.

GK: Could be warmer. But---

TR: Not bad, I'd say.

GK: Yeah.

TR: Could be worse.

GK: I suppose.

TR: This is the 10th year that you and me went out for the opener. (CAST AND DISTANT SPLASH, REEL IN)

GK: Is that right?

TR: Yeah. I figured it out. Ten years.

GK: Don't seem that long, does it.

TR: Nope.

GK: Well, I always used to go with Elmer, you know.

TR: Right. I remember that.

GK: Then that year you called me up and wanted to come with.

TR: Right. Ten years ago. (CAST AND DISTANT SPLASH, REEL IN)

GK: So I says to Elmer, how about we bring Ernie and then he says, "I like Ernie, but he talks too much."

TR: Elmer said that?

GK: He said, "Ernie talks too much."

TR: Huh.

GK: Kinda surprised me too. (CAST AND DISTANT SPLASH, REEL IN) So he and I kinda had a little set-to over that. And that's how I wound up going fishing with you instead of Elmer.

TR: I didn't realize that.

GK: And that weekend, opening weekend, Elmer caught the big white walleye.

TR: I remember that.

GK: Three-hundred pounder.

TR: Quite a fish.

GK: Biggest fish in the history of Minnesota.

TR: Really----

GK: A rare albino walleye. Sold it to Japanese investors for a quarter-million dollars.

TR: That's a lot of money.

GK: Sold the film rights to Hollywood for another quarter-million.

TR: Boy---

GK: Invested all that money in AOL.

TR: Really----

GK: Caught AOL when the stock was $13 a share and he rode it up to $100 a share and sold it right before it headed down into the toilet where it is right now.

TR: Nice.

GK: Met a woman online at AOL who turned out to be a lonely widow who owned about half of downtown Houston, Texas. He married her. She died a year later. Died happy. Elmer walked away with about $3.2 billion. He's living in Singapore now. That's what I hear.

TR: What's Singapore like?

GK: It's a good place to be rich.

TR: You in touch with Elmer these days?

GK: No. But I visit his website sometimes. Read his autobiography.

TR: Anything in there about you?

GK: No. He doesn't mention fishing at all. He just talks about the importance of hard work.

TR: Huh.

GK: I wouldn't mind being in touch with him.

TR: No.

GK: I just don't see it as a real possibility.

TR: You got a bite?

GK: I don't think so.

TR: I thought I saw the line jerk.

GK: Let me see. (REELING) Hmm, maybe there is something. (REELING HARDER, SLOWER. STRAIN) Gosh, I got something, but it's not a fish. (REELING, HARD, SLOW. THEN WATER SPLASH) It's a boot. (DRIPPING) Ish.

TR: Maybe there's something in it. Money or something.


TR: You ever regret going fishing with me instead of with Elmer?

GK: You bet I do.

TR: Yeah. I can imagine you would. I would if it were me.

GK: If I hadn't stuck up for you, I'd've been in on catching that 400-pound white walleye that made him rich and famous.

TR: I thought you said it was a 300-pounder.

GK: That was cleaned.

TR: Oh.

GK: It was four-hundred when he caught it.

TR: Fish must've had a big head.

GK: I've had a lot of bitter regrets over the past ten years, I'd say that fishing with you has been right up there at the top.

TR: Well, maybe I oughta take you back to shore.

GK: Maybe so.

TR: Wait---- (REEL) I got something. (STRAIN, HARD BREATHING) Man, it's a big one. (REELING SLOW) Boy, this is 300 pounds. (REELING, STRAIN) Whoa. Like a big rock or something. It isn't fighting, it's just hanging there. (SPLASH) --- Well, I'll be---

GK: Isn't that something.

SS: (HEAVY) Hi. How you two doing?

TR: Who are you?

SS: I'm a mermaid.

TR: You're kind of big for a mermaid.

SS: Well, there's little mermaids and there's big ones. I'm one of the big ones. I'm from Wisconsin. Moved over here when I married a walleye.

GK: You married a walleye?

SS: I did.

GK: A white walleye?

SS: How'd you know?

GK: Did he disappear about ten years ago?

SS: Middle of May.

GK: Boy. It's a small lake, isn't it?

SS: I assume he was caught.

GK: He was.

SS: If you're looking for big white walleyes, I've got a couple of brothers-in-law down there.

TR: You do?

SS: Yep.

TR: White ones?

SS: Yep.

GK: How deep?

SS: About thirty feet down.

GK: They down there now?

SS: Yes.

TR: What sort of bait they go for?

SS: Both of them are vegetarian.

TR: So they'd want, what?

SS: Artichoke. Cauliflower.----

GK: So you're offering up your own brothers-in-law?

SS: For a piece of the action, sure.

GK: Boy. Kind of mercenary mermaid, I'd say.

SS: It's a fish-eat-fish world down there. And I need liquid assets. I don't want to stay in this lake forever. I'm getting tired of the winters. I want to head down to Florida.

GK: So what's your price, sister?

SS: Fifteen cents.

GK: Fifteen cents! How do you want it? Cash?

SS: You can pay me later---

GK: Put an artichoke on your line and a sinker and let's see what's down there, Ernie.


GK: Course, what's to keep us from catching those white walleyes and not paying you a dime, huh? You're a mermaid. What are you going to do about it?

SS: Never fool with a mermaid, mister. We have magical powers like you wouldn't believe. If you cheated me and ran off without paying, I'd just say a couple of mermaid words and you'd be right back here in the boat.

TR: (UNREELING) Fifteen feet. (UNREELING) Twenty feet.

GK: You can do that?

SS: I can bring you back here so fast it'd make your head spin.

GK: You know the guy who caught your husband?

SS: What about him?

GK: Did he pay you fifteen cents?

SS: He did. Yes.

GK: Did you know he got a quarter-million for that fish?

SS: He got what?

GK: A quarter million.

TR: I'm at thirty feet now.

SS: He told me a white walleye only was worth 39 cents a pound.

GK: He was off by quite a bit.

SS: That liar.

GK: Well, he's a fisherman.

SS: I'll show him. (BIG POOF, GLISS)

TK: Hi.

GK: Hi, Elmer. You remember Ernie?

TR: Hi.

TK: Hi. Good to see you.

TR: How you been?

TK: Good. Where am I now?

GK: You're on the lake. In Ernie's boat.

TK: Am I in Minnesota?

GK: Yep.

TK: I was afraid of that.

GK: Haven't seen you for awhile.

TR: Heard you were in Singapore.

TK: Yeah.

TR: Nice place, huh?

TK: Yeah.

GK: That tuxedo looks good on you.

TK: I was at a dinner and this beautiful woman was dancing with me and suddenly---- this.

GK: Huh.

TR: Kind of a surprise, I suppose.

TK: Would you mind taking me to shore so I can get down to the cities and catch a plane?

GK: Well, we're not done fishing yet, Elmer.

TK: I'll pay you.

GK: I don't care about that.

TR: Just relax. Take off your jacket and tie. You want a pole?

TK: No, I want to get back to Singapore and find that woman.

GK: I don't think you're going to be going back to Singapore,

TR: I think he's right, Elmer.

GK: I think you're going to be living here for awhile.

TK: How do you know?

GK: Just know, that's all. Forget about it.

TR: Unless we can hook one of these white walleyes.

GK: I wouldn't count on that either.

TK: I had it all. Beautiful home. Money. Beautiful women. And now--- I'm right back where I started from.

TR: Oh well, easy come, easy go.

TK: Easy for you to say.

GK: Well, make the best of it.

TK: It's hard to make the best of it when you know how good the best can be----

GK: Let me help you take off your tuxedo, Elmer. (RIP) There. (SPLASH) This isn't so bad. They say it should warm up next week or the week after. Could use some rain, but it's not bad.

TR: I thought I felt a nibble. Could've been. Shhhh. I got a feeling they're down there. It's just a matter of time. Anyway, it's nice to have you back, Elmer. Missed you. How about you come over for supper tonight? The wife is fixing walleye. Soon as we catch us some. You need a place to stay, you're welcome to use our couch.

TK: You talk too much, you know that?


GK: The American Fishing Theater has brought you an original play for radio entitled, "Never Try To Cheat a Mermaid".

© Garrison Keillor 2003

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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