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

SS: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but on the 12th floor of the Acme Building, one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions --- Guy Noir, Private Eye.


GK: It was one of those freezing February days in St. Paul when everything is tighter than a rusted nut and you walk outdoors and you breathe and it hurts. I had just finished a case and I was thinking of ordering another and meanwhile I was looking for work. Something. An adulterous husband. An embezzling brother. A lost cat. But there was nothing. One morning the mail came and there was one postcard, from my old girlfriend Sugar in Rio.

SS (SUGAR): Hi Guy. The weather is here, wish you were beautiful. Ha ha. Having a gorgeous time, going to clubs, to the beach, etc. Sergio is so good to me.

GK: It was two years since Sugar and I broke up and in that time she'd been dating a whole string of beautiful hunks and I'd had two dates with a 53-year-old English teacher.

SS (MOUSY): Would you like to go see Room With A View? There's a showing at 7.

GK: But we've seen it, Eunice. Twice.

SS: It's my favorite picture. And afterward we could have tandoori.

GK: She was a very nice woman, don't get me wrong, but she was rather earnest. And she had a big self-esteem problem.

SS: You're not having a good time, are you.

GK: No, no. It's fine. I'm fine. No problem.

SS: You're bored with me. I can tell.

GK: I'm not. I'm just in a quiet mood.

SS: You're bored. I know.

GK: Not at all.

SS: You are. Just say you are.

GK: I'm not.

SS: You haven't said a word for twenty-five minutes.

GK: Just feeling thoughtful.

SS: Thoughtful about what?

GK: Everything. It's a general thoughtfulness.

SS: You're bored.

GK: I was just about to say something.

SS: What?

GK: I forget now. Something. It'll come back to me.

SS: You don't like me, do you?

GK: I do. Really.

SS: You think I'm boring.

GK: No, I don't.

SS: You do. You think I only think about myself.

GK: Actually, no----

SS: You think I'm completely self-absorbed.

GK: Not at all.

SS: It just doesn't seem like you're having a good time.

GK: I am. Really. Those watercolors on the wall. I was just looking at them and thinking how much they say, how much there is there --- woods and a pasture and yet everytime I look at them I see something new --- do you know what I mean--- they seem to get darker. (MUSIC BRIDGE) The next morning, a man named Wimsley, Seymour Wimsley, walked into my office with that dark troubled look that I've learned to recognize --- he was in love.

TR: She's like the first real soulmate I've ever found, I'm wildly in love with her, I want to marry her, but the thing is I've never laid eyes on her.

GK: Met her on the Internet, eh?

TR: In a chat room called Heather & Haggis.

GK: A Scotswoman, eh?

TR: Her name is Jeannie. She's a student. In Edinburgh. In her twenties. She's just wonderful, Mr. Noir. Every night we talk for hours online.

GK: Lovely. So what do you want me to do, Mr. Wimsley?

TR: Go over and see if she's for real, I guess.

GK: Make sure she's not in prison for putting anthrax in her husband's yoghurt.

TR: Something like that.

GK: Why don't you go?

TR: I'm a computer programmer. Working sixty-hour weeks. I can't get away. (MUSIC BRIDGE)

GK: And that's how I found myself flying transatlantic in seat 36E on a no-frills Irish airline called Derry Air. The fare, New York to Glasgow, round trip was $116. Did I say "seat" --- it wasn't a seat, it was a stall, a stanchion actually, with a big leather collar to hold your head and shoulders. (SHEEP) The two gentlemen next to me were being sent over to Scotland for breeding purposes, so they were in a good mood. (SHEEP) I let them have my oats.

SS (IRISH, ON P.A.): As we prepare to make our landing approach into Glasgow, and our flight attendants come around to shovel out the manure, please make sure that your water dish is in the upright position. Thank you. We'll be on the ground shortly.

GK: I hate it when they say that, "We'll be on the ground shortly." I'm not anxious to be on the ground as soon as possible. I'd like it to be a gradual thing. (JET LANDING) So we landed at Glasgow Airport. (LANDING, SCREECH OF TIRES) And taxied to the gate. And (FOOTSTEPS) then came the long walk toward customs. I was jet-lagged so bad, I was hallucinating.

TR (RICO): You come up to the customs guy, try not to sweat, okay.

GK: I imagined I was arriving from Caracas with big plastic bags strapped to my underwear, carrying three million in uncut heroin.

TR (RICO): Just stay calm. Okay?

GK: I imagine this every time I come through customs, so of course I was dripping sweat and my hand shook when I handed him my passport.

TR (SCOTTISH): That's your baggage claim, lad. It's your passport that I need to look at.

GK: Sorry. Sorry. Here. Here you go. Sorry.

TR (SCOTTISH): This appears to be a paperback book. "Her little fingers fluttered like butterflies as he tore the gossamer-thin nightie from her creamy shoulders." Lovely.

GK: Here. Passport. Sorry. The book was blue, passport is blue---- there.

TR (SCOTTISH): Come from America, eh? And what is the purpose of your visit?

GK: Just come to enjoy the climate. I hear you have beautiful nude beaches up in the Hebrides. Came to see that and enjoy the cuisine. Something about the taste of a sheep's stomach lining that a person just never forgets.

TR (SCOTTISH): So you're here for pleasure?

GK: I hope so, yes, sir.

TR (SCOTTISH): I see. What is your occupation, Mr. Noir?

GK: By day I'm an ordinary butcher and by night I'm a fabulous tap dancer.

TR (SCOTTISH): Very well, (STAMPS THREE TIMES) enjoy your stay, sir. (MUSIC BRIDGE)

GK: I took the bus into Edinburgh (BUS COMES TO A STOP, AIR BRAKES, DOOR), a handsome old place with a big hill in the middle and the castle at the top, a place where every summer the entire populations of Iowa and Nebraska come and pay money to sit and listen to hundreds of bagpipers. Sort of like people paying to be able to have the stomach flu for a couple hours. (TRAFFIC) I went to cross the street and at the last moment I remembered to look right (CAR PASSES CLOSE, FAST) but the guy next to me, the guy with the Green Bay Packers cap, he looked left--- (HORN) look out (BRAKES, SMOOSH) --- and he landed about fifty feet away. (FAST FOOTSTEPS) He didn't look good. Sir--- sir---- help is on the way, sir.

TR (WEAKLY): Tell Jeannie we love her. Tell her to come home. And tell my wife that the season tickets go to my brother Elmer. (HE DIES)

GK: The ambulance came. (EURO SIREN, OFF) (FOOTSTEPS)

TK (SCOTTISH): Sir? Sir? Were you a witness --- can you tell me what happened?

GK: Sure, officer. He looked left. It's painted on the pavement, Look right. He looked left. What can I say? It's a form of natural selection. The less adaptable, the older males, they go to the U.K., they don't come back, and over time, gradually intelligence rises. And then I thought---Jeannie--- (CHORD) could it be the same person? (BRIDGE) I headed straight for the pub where Mr. Wimsley said his lady love was employed as a barmaid, The Throbbing Thistle. (DOOR CREAKS OPEN. CROWD INSIDE. BAR AMBIENCE. FOOTSTEPS.) There was an old drunk throwing darts (TK DRUNK, MUMBLING) and everytime he wound up, the patrons ducked (TK DRUNK, THROWS. CROWD ANXIETY. CRASH OF GLASS). I headed for a booth in the back (FOOTSTEPS) and I sat down and I didn't have long to wait. (SEXY SAX) She was tall with long wavy red hair that cascaded down her bosom like a waterfall, a waterfall that any man would've happily gone over. She wore a kilt so short it was practically a belt and she had the kind of flawless skin that comes from long walks on the moors, or short trips to the plastic surgeon.

SS (SCOTTISH): May I bring you something, sir?

GK: I'd like a whisky without an e.

SS (SCOTTISH): I see. And which whisky, sir?

GK: Well, that's hard to say. I have so many friends there. Mr. Glen Fidditch. Mr. Glen Morangie. Mr. Dal Whinnie. Tell you what. I'd like a whisky with so much smoke in it, it's against the law in America. I'd like one with a big chunk of peat in the bottom of the bottle.

SS (SCOTTISH): I've got Old No. 29. In Scotland we consider it whisky but in other countries it's called chemotherapy.

GK: Sounds good.

SS (SCOTTISH): You care for ice with that, sir?

GK: Heavens forfend! What do you take me for? A heathen? No, ma'am. Straight. In a glass with no foreign objects.

SS (SCOTTISH): What brings you to Scotland, Mr.----?

GK: Noir. Guy Noir.

SS (SCOTTISH): You here looking for your ancestors, sir?

GK: My ancestors are all in cemeteries, ma'am.

SS (SCOTTISH): So you're not tracing your family line?

GK: No, I know as much as I care to. I'm descended from a long line that my mother fell for. And her father was so dumb he was the village idiot in three villages. It's a family tree with a lot of dry rot in it. So tell me about your family, Jeannie.

SS (SCOTTISH): Well, what--- I mean---- what about my family?

GK: Drop the accent, kid. What movie did you get it from? The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie? You're from Wisconsin, aren't you.

SS: How'd you know that?

GK: Just a lucky guess, kid. What's your game anyway? What's going on?

SS: I came over on a Semester Abroad from the University of Wisconsin, Mr. Noir, and I just felt so good here, I wanted to be one of them. Why? Who sent you, Mr. Noir? My father?

GK: Your father's dead, Jeannie. Sorry to tell you, but it just happened. He looked left and a bus hit him. But he'd just come from having fish and chips, so he died happy.

SS: Then that means--- that means I've inherited White Cloud.

GK: White Cloud?

SS: The toilet paper company. My father was majority stockholder. I'm his only child.

GK: White Cloud Toilet Paper--- "We're the softest in the land, no ifs, ands or buts"?

SS: The very same. Now I can afford to go back to the Midwest and marry Brent.

GK: Brent?

SS: Brent Bradford. He's a professional skier and former U.S. squash champion. We've been corresponding over the Internet.

GK: Have you ever met this Bradford?

SS: No. Why?

GK: Nothing, nothing. Good luck, Jeannie. And scratch the whisky. I don't think I'll be needing it. (BRIDGE) I was going to stay in Edinburgh for a few days but the cash machine turned down my credit card. (BUZZER) The message on the screen said: Shame on you for even thinking of it. So I got back on Derry Air for the trip home. (SHEEP) (BRIDGE) Back to the frozen tundra of Minnesota. Back to the Acme Building. Where Mr. Wimsley was waiting.

TR: So you found her, Mr. Noir? What was she like? Was she nice?

GK: She's perfect, Brent. Brent Bradford.

TR: Oh. So she told you about that.

GK: Professional skier, huh?

TR: I'm hoping she won't come until spring.

GK: This is Minnesota, kid. We get snow in the spring.

TR: May?

GK: We've gotten snow in May.

TR: Then I'll put a cast on my leg.

GK: What can I say? Love is a game, Mr. Wimsley. You want to attract her interest, but you don't want to set the standard so high that you have trouble maintaining it over time.

TR: What does that mean?

GK: Tell her you didn't say ski, you said whisky. Professional whisky drinker.

TR: Okay.

GK: Over the long run it's easier.


TR: 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.


(c) 2000 by Garrison Keillor