Ruth Harrison, March 31, 2012

Milwaukee Theatre

Milwaukee, WI


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Ruth Harrison

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TR: And now, from the hushed reading room of the Herndon County Library, we bring you: Ruth Harrison, Reference Librarian.

(JACKHAMMER) (GOES IN SHORT SPURTS FOR A FEW BEATS)

SS: Excuse me? (PAUSE) Sir??? (PAUSE) SIR????? (JACKHAMMER STOPS)

FN: YEAH???

SS: Are you almost done ?

FN: Almost.

SS: Because this is a library, sir.

FN: Right.

SS: And you're knocking a big hole in that wall.

FN: Gotta find out where those woodchucks are getting in who been eating the encyclopedias in the basement.

SS: Well, you're creating an even bigger entrance for them to get in.

FN: I'll fill it up, soon as we locate their passageway. Hey----- mind if I use your men's room?

SS: Go right ahead.

FN: THANKS. (FOOTSTEPS AWAY)

SS: Trent?

TR (TEEN): YO—

SS: Trent?

TR (TEEN): YO?

SS: Could you please not say "yo" when I speak to you? Just say "Yes". Okay?

TR (TEEN): No problem.

SS: Did you get the paper shredder working, Trent?

TR (TEEN): Yo. (SHREDDER) Works great. Goes forward and backwards (SHREDDER).

SS: Good. I need you to shred that stack of papers in the corner next to the gray file box.

TR (TEEN): All of them?

SS: All of them. It's fifty years of overdue book notices.

TR (TEEN): Whoa. Cool.

SS: Shred em up and we'll use it to mulch the flowers in front.

TR (TEEN): Awesome. Hey, Miss Harrison? Like, what's going on here----- you know?

SS: Woodchucks broke into the basement, Trent, and they chewed the bindings off about thirty of our encyclopedias

TR (TEEN): Our what?

SS: Encyclopedias, Trent. Those big thick books? With all the information in them? And the pictures?

TR (TEEN): Oh. Right.

SS: Just shred the papers, Trent.

TR (TEEN): I'm all over it.

SS: Good.

FN: I'M BACK.

SS (SIGHS): Okay.

(JACKHAMMER IN SPURTS)

(PHONE RING)

SS: EXCUSE ME???? I HAVE TO ANSWER THE PHONE. (JACKHAMMER STOPS)

FN: WHAT?

SS: TELEPHONE.-----

FN: Oh. Okay.

SS: Herndon County Library, this is Miss Harrison. How may I help you?

(MANLY VOICE AT OTHER END)

SS: Oh. Really.

(MANLY VOICE AT OTHER END)

SS: Oh my gosh. Oh that's wonderful.

(MANLY VOICE AT OTHER END)

SS: WHEN???? Now???? You're here???? In town????

(MANLY VOICE AT OTHER END)

SS: That's fine. See you in a few minutes. (HANG UP)

TR (TEEN): Sounds like good news, Miss Harrison.....

SS: Oh----- Trent. I didn't know you were there.

TR (TEEN): We gonna have a visitor? You want me to go away for awhile, Miss Harrison? Lock the door? Dim the lights? Get out the candles?

SS: No, no, Trent. It's nothing like that. Goodness. It's only my agent.

TR (TEEN): A real estate agent?

SS: It's my literary agent, Trent. I---- I've written a book.

TR (TEEN): Wow. What kind of book?

SS: I wrote a book that I hope will be a best-seller. I'm tired of working 60 hours a week keeping the Herndon County Library going and for what? They haven't given me a raise since Jimmy Carter was president.

TR (TEEN): Jimmy who?

SS: So----- I decided to go for it. It's a young adult novel----- Oh. Here he is.

(FOOTSTEPS)

GK: Hi, Ruth.

SS: Oh. Hi, Mr. Rezentes.

GK: Good to meet you. I just happened to be driving through the area and I thought I'd drop by.

SS: Wonderful. Trent-----

TR (TEEN): Okay. I'll just go start shredding, Miss Harrison. (FOOTSTEPS OFF)

FN: Want me to knock off for lunch?

SS: I'd appreciate that, yes.

FN: Okay. (JACKHAMMER BURST) There. Wait—(A BEAT, JACKHAMMER BURST) There. See you later. ----- Good luck. (FOOTSTEPS AWAY)

SS: So--------

GK: Closing Time is fabulous, Ruth. You've got it. Everyone at the agency thinks this is going to be huge. It really has what it takes to be very very successful.

SS: So you liked the first chapter----

GK: I was transfixed by the first chapter. A librarian vampire who drinks the blood of young patrons and turns them into passionate readers ----- it's completely original. How are you coming with the rest of the book?

SS: I've finished it, Mr. Rezentes.

GK: Call me Ben.

SS: It's all done. I finished it in a white heat last night.

GK: I can't get over your first paragraph. "There was a full moon shining through the driving clouds as they sailed across the summer sky and the shadows moved over the long tables of the reading room where young Christine sat dreamily in her snowy white dress. Suddenly she jumped ---- "Oh!" she said ----- a hand had touched her shoulder. It was the librarian in her customary black robe, with a hood that eclipsed her face in murky shadow. "It's closing time, my dear," she said, leaning down close to Christine's pale face. "But my book club is meeting this evening. Would you like to join us?" "What sort of book club?" said Christine. "We meet at night," she said in a low thrilling voice. "In the basement."

SS: Stop. You're making me blush.

GK: For years I've been looking for that one special book, and now you've written it.

SS: Oh my goodness. I'm speechless.

GK: And you're the first author I've come across in years who writes in longhand on loose leaf paper.

SS: Yes. The computer just doesn't work for me. I need the physicality of pen on paper. One must write from the whole body, Mr. Rezentes.

GK: And that's why your first chapter had such a a physical effect on me. You see, I read with my whole body.

SS: Oh my.

GK: And my body can't wait to read the rest of it.

SS (HEARTBEAT): Well----- goodness----- it's all over there------ oh------ where did it go? It was sitting right there. Trent! ----- Trent????

(RAPID FOOTSTEPS APPROACH)

TR (TEEN): Almost done shredding those pages, Miss Harrison. I've done like about 250 pages ----- it's kinda fun! It's like a catharsis or whatever.

SS: Trent! Those are the overdue notices. There. Those.

TR (TEEN): Huh? Oh. That pile?

SS: What happened to this pile?

TR (TEEN): The pile that was over here?

SS: Trent!!

TR (TEEN): Oh gosh.

SS: I said to shred the stack of papers by the gray file box. Not the green one. The gray one.

TR (TEEN): I'm colorblind, Miss Harrison.

SS: That was my manuscript. You have just shredded my manuscript, Trent. Noooooo!!

TR (TEEN): But you backed it up though, right? You didn't erase the file, right?

SS: I feel dizzy. Everything is going black.

TR (TEEN): Oh gosh, I'm sorry, Miss Harrison. I wondered why those overdue notices were hand-written.

SS: Shut up Trent, just shut up.

GK: You know, so many other writers have lost manuscripts and then they sit down and recreate them and they turn out better than the first vision. It happened to Hemingway. It happened to Thomas Carlyle. It happened to so many.

SS: You shut up, too, Mr. Rezentes.

GK: Just trying to be helpful.

SS: Well, don't.

FN: What about me? (JACKHAMMER BLAST)

TR (TEEN): You want me to leave, Miss Harrison? Want me to throw myself off a bridge or something?

SS: No. I'm thinking. Just leave me alone. I'm thinking.

TR (TEEN): If you like want to take that jackhammer and tear me to pieces, that's okay. I'm fine with that.

SS: I'm thinking. I'm thinking.

FN: HEY.

SS: WHAT?

FN: This plastic bag. The woodchuck dragged it down into the hole.

SS: WHAT PLASTIC BAG??? O MY GOSH.

FN: It's full of papers. Handwritten.

GK: Must be the rest of Closing Time.

TR (TEEN): Whew.

SS: No, that's something else. It's my memoir, Here To Serve: My Years In The Reference Room.

GK: Oh.

SS: How a broken romance led a young Midwestern woman to take up librarianship and to have one of the most amazing experiences of her life-----

GK: Oh. Another romance?

SS: No. Cataloguing.

GK: I see. Well, let us know if you finish Closing Time, Ruth.

SS: I'll do that, Mr. Rezentes.

(JACKHAMMER, IN BURSTS)

(PHONE RINGS)

SS: EXCUSE ME----- (JACKHAMMER STOPS) Herndon County Library, this is Miss Harrison, how may I help? (WOMAN VOICE ON PHONE) Yes, we do have The Hunger Games. I'm afraid it's all checked out but I can put you on the waiting list. (WOMAN VOICE) Of course. You'll be number 267. (WOMAN ON PHONE) You're welcome. Bye now.

(JACKHAMMER)

(THEME)

TR (ANNC): Join us again soon, as we return to the Herndon County Library...... on Ruth Harrison, Reference Librarian.

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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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