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

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 June in St. Paul, one of those bright sunny days that shows you how long its been since your windows were washed. I looked out toward the river bending to the south and the railroad tracks and the smokestack of the brewery. A fine town, St. Paul. And how a New York gumshoe like me wound up out here, it's a long story. I came on account of a beautiful woman from St. Paul who fell in love with me in a little jazz club in Manhattan listening to a trumpet player named Art Barron and it was October when the light tends to favor the older guy so I came to St. Paul with her but once I got here I didn't have the club, didn't have the trumpet player, and it was February. By the time October rolled around, she'd fallen in love with a schoolteacher. That was sixteen years ago. She's been hard to forget. (MUSIC) Funny. A man would be perfectly happy alone, listening to the ballgame, having a cold beer, having some herring and crackers and Cheese Whiz and olives, going to bed with a nice mystery, but one night you're sitting there, perfectly happy, and you hear music and women laughing, and you go check it out and before you know it, you're at a party engaged in a very intense conversation with a beautiful woman whose face is three inches from yours and who is saying, "Yes, I know exactly what you mean, exactly," and suddenly your herring days are over and you have a whole new set of problems.

She lived in a railroad flat up near Selby and Western, behind the Cathedral. She was an actress who went to New York to become a waitress. Her name was Karen Oleson but she'd changed it to Prairie Beausoleil. We were happy for about three months. Then she asked me to meet her at Frost's one night for a drink. It was the middle of June. We sat outside. (AMBIENCE, BAR)

SS: Beautiful night.

GK: Yeah.

SS: I love summer.

GK: Me too.

SS: How do you like Minnesota so far?

GK: I like it. It's different. You know. People are quieter. There's less eye contact. More melted cheese than I'm used to. But it's nice.

SS: It's probably boring for you. Coming from Manhattan....

GK: No. Quiet, maybe. But not boring. I like quiet.

SS: We don't have good bagels here. I know we don't. People say we do but we don't really. And there isn't a really first rate kosher Chinese restaurant here.

GK: I don't care about that.

SS: And theater. We don't have theater like New York. Or the jazz clubs.

GK: That's not true.

SS: I don't think I'm right for you at all.

GK: What are you talking about?

SS: I'm not. I'm all wrong for you.

GK: Where'd you get this idea?

SS: I realized it when I had you over to my parents' house for dinner on Sunday. We're not right for you, Guy.

GK: We----?

SS: We're not colorful like you.

GK: What're you driving at, Prairie?

SS: I'm changing my name back to Karen, Guy. And I'm going back to teaching third grade. And I'm seeing a guy named Jeff.

GK: Jeff. Somehow I can't see you with a Jeff.

SS: He's very nice. We're old friends. He's a teacher too. My parents like him a lot.

GK: That's fine. That's fine. But does he have a record collection like mine? Ellington? And Yancey. And Thelonious. Right there. Does he like good writers, like Raymond Carver? And William Stafford? Can he make you a Martini? Does he mambo? Can he kiss like me? Minnesota guys tend to be quick kissers, you know.

SS: He's learning to kiss. He's starting to like it.

GK: Is it the suit that bothers you? the fedora? I can always switch to chinos and the blue-button down shirt and the corduroy sportcoat with the leather elbow patch?

SS: It's not that.

GK: The big black shoes? You want I should wear moccasins?

SS: No, it's not that.

GK: I can do moccasins.

SS: I tried to be somebody else, Guy. I tried to be an actress and I'm just not one. I'm just me. You were part of my actress life. My made-up life.

GK: It's a good life, the made-up life. Everybody's making it up as they go along. The difference with you and me, kid, is that we knew it.

SS: Goodbye, Guy. It was great knowing you. I wish you all the best. (VIOLIN)

GK: And she stood up and walked away. A beautiful summer night in an outdoor cafe on Western Avenue and the most beautiful woman in the world walks away and gets into her car and drives off. I looked down and saw my reflection in the Martini and I said to myself, Okay, More ballgames. More herring and Cheese Whiz. Take a mystery to bed. And I'm still telling myself that sixteen years later. Every time I look into a Martini. (TIME CHANGE, BRIDGE)

TR (JIMMY): What's wrong, Guy?

GK: Nothing, Jimmy. Just thinking about a girl.

TR (JIMMY): Care for another drink?

GK: No thanks, Jimmy. One reflection is enough. I'm headin for home and catch the ballgame on the radio.

TR (JIMMY): Twins ain't having such a great summer, are they.

GK: They're doing about as well as I'm doing.

TR (JIMMY): Sure ain't nothing like '87 though.

GK: Well, neither am I. But you know what--- The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong nor riches to men of understanding.

TR (JIMMY): Ain't that the truth. Especially the part about men of understanding.

GK: You and I, we're too smart to be rich, Jimmy. We know that you gotta make your choice, whether to live life fully or whether to go for the filthy lucre. And you and I made the right choice.

TR (JIMMY): You really believe that, Guy?

GK: No, I don't.

TR (JIMMY): I didn't think so.

GK: No, I was just saying it---

TR (JIMMY): You were trying it out, seeing if you believed it.

GK: Exactly.

TR (JIMMY): Yeah, I don't believe it either.

GK: But at least we managed to avoid marriage, Jimmy. You know about marriage, pal. You're a bartender. You hear it first-hand.

TR (JIMMY): Yeah. Lot of unhappiness out there.

GK: Half of all marriages end in divorce.

TR (JIMMY): And the other half fight it out to the bitter end.

GK: Lot of guys hustling home right now on the Interstate, like drones, knowing that if they walk in five minutes late, the little lady is going to say,

BOTH: Where in the world have you been?

GK: But that's not you or me, pal.

TR (JIMMY): You're right about that.

GK: Lot of guys they'd like to break out a cold one, listen to the ballgame, have the herring....

TR (JIMMY): The herring and the Cheese Whiz.

GK: The crackers.

TR (JIMMY): Take the mystery to bed.

GK: And they can't do it because the little woman has invited two other couples over to sit around and eat a salad with tuna on it and talk about where to send their kids to school for pete's sake.

TR (JIMMY): But that's not you or me.

GK: Exactly right. By not being fathers we've managed to miss out on some of the most boring conversations ever invented by the mind of woman.

TR (JIMMY): Child-rearing.

GK: Exactly.

TR (JIMMY): Toilet training. Schools.

GK: A lot about schools.

TR (JIMMY): And when you tell a woman what you think about kids or schools, you know, she always rolls her eyes.

GK: Always. Women don't accept anything men say about kids.

TR (JIMMY): It's like an Englishman telling you how to make a Martini.

GK: We get no respect on the subject.

TR (JIMMY): My brother ---- the wife brought the baby home from the hospital, my brother picked it up out of the crib, the wife says, "Not like that." Everything he does, she's right there. "Not like that. That's wrong. You're holding him wrong. That's not how you do that."

GK: Fatherhood. It's the end of the good life as we know it. Sex vanishes. Whoosh. Gone. Conversation, gone.

TR (JIMMY): Unless it's about schools.

GK: In which case we don't know anything anyway.

TR (JIMMY): It's the end of listening to ballgames.

GK: You gotta listen to Raffi tapes.

TR (JIMMY): No more herring, the kids might choke on it.

GK: But you and I, we managed to escape the great penitentiary of paternity and stay on the sunny high ground of bachelorhood. (DOOR OPEN, JINGLE, CLOSE. FOOTSTEPS)

TR (JIMMY): Like I always say--- the best way to prevent divorce is not show up for the wedding.

GK: Well, I think I'm going to head home and open up a jar of herring.

TR (JIMMY): Good afternoon, sir, what can I get for you.

TK: I'm looking for somebody.

TR (JIMMY): Who would that be, son?

TK: I wrote it down on a piece of paper. Noyer? Guy Noyer?

GK: That's me, kid. Except it's Noir. Guy Noir. What can I do for you?

TK: I think my mother used to be a friend of yours.

GK: I've known a lot of women in my day, kid---

TK: Karen Olson? --- It's Karen Johnson now, but back then it was Karen Olson. She was an actress?

GK: I remember her. How is she?

TK: Okay.

GK: Good. And your dad?

TK: Actually, that's why I came looking for you.

GK: What?

TK: Guess.

GK: You're kidding.

TK: I wish.

GK: You're not kidding.

TK: She broke up with you in June and I was born in February. Add it up.

GK: I am. I am.

TK: You're my father, Mr. Noir.

GK: Well, isn't that something. Me. A dad. Hard to believe.

TR (JIMMY): He's got your eyes, Guy. With that same furtive look.

GK: Mind your own business, would you.

TR (JIMMY): But his jaw is stronger.

GK: I didn't ask you, okay?

TR (JIMMY): Course he just has the one chin.

GK: Okay. Butt out. ---Well, I'm stunned. I don't know what to say. What's your name?

TK: Jim. Jim Guy Johnson.

GK: Jim Guy. Nice. You play baseball, kid?

TK: Some.

GK: Just curious. Noticing your baseball cap. Guess a lot of kids wear it backwards like that now, huh?

TK: Yeah.

GK: And I like that ring you're wearing.

TK: Thanks. It's my class ring.

GK: I've never seen one worn in the nose before. You interested in music at all? Jazz? Duke Ellington?

TK: I listen to R&P a lot.

GK: R&P--- that's something like R&B?

TK: No. It's a band. Rape and Pillage.

GK: Oh, sure. R&P. So what kind of music they play?


GK: You mind turning it down?

TK: It is turned down.

GK: Sorry. Maybe some other time. (METALLIC BAND, SHUT OFF) You combine music like that with a Martini and you're likely to get a seizure. You listen to other bands?

TK: Naw. Mostly Rape & Pillage. Listen to Electric Eyeball Drill some. They're okay. And Ground Glass Cocktail. They're cool.

GK: Great. So how's your mom?

TK: Fine. I brought a picture of her. Recognize her?

GK: Yeah. Sort of. She gained some weight.

TK: Yeah.

GK: Tell her "hi" for me. How about school? you like school?

TK: Naw.

GK: What grade you in?

TK: I don't know.

GK: I see.

TK: It's not that kind of school.

GK: Oh. Right.

TK: It's a non-structured school.

GK: Sure.

TK: No tests or anything.

TR (JIMMY): Personally, I like the old fashioned school. Where the kids have to raise their hands before they hit the teacher.

GK: Well, to each his own.

TK: Mostly we sit and discuss stuff.

GK: Good. You ever discuss jazz?

TK: I don't think so.

GK: How about baseball?

TK: Naw.

GK: How about New York?

TK: New York --- that's out East, right?

GK: Right.

TR (JIMMY): You care for another Martini, Guy.

GK: Yeah. -- No. No. Not for me. I'm a father now, Jimmy. Bring me a beer.

TR (JIMMY): One beer. Coming up.


SS: A dark night in a city that keeps its secrets, where one guy is still trying to find the answers...Guy Noir, Private Eye. (MUSIC OUT)

(c) 2000 by Garrison Keillor