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


SS: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but high above the quiet streets, on the twelfth 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 May in Minnesota, May in the conditional sense, as in "I may go out and mow the lawn if it stops snowing." It was warm and then it turned cold and rainy. It felt like winter was demanding a recount. I was in my office at the Acme Building trying to get rid of a couch.

TK: (GROWLY) That couch?

GK: Yeah.

TK (GROWLY): You want us to take that couch? The one that stinks?

GK: Stink is a little strong. It's not that bad.

TK (GROWLY): The one with the fungus?

GK: That's not fungus, it's green velour.

TK (GROWLY): How come it's not the same color as the rest of it?

GK: It's a design. By a designer. It's a work of art.

TK (GROWLY): How come the green velour comes off?

GK: Don't pick at that!

TK: Look, ya got bugs, too.

GK: Those are polka dots.

TK (GROWLY): They're moving! Anyway, I ain't taking the couch.

GK: But you're the Salvation Army.

TK (GROWLY): Some stuff is beyond salvation, Mr. Noir.

GK: But what am I going to do?

TK (GROWLY): Leave it on the sidewalk.

GK: But that's where I got it. Many years ago. Please. (BRIDGE) It was a couch I was sentimental about on account of several girls who had sat on it with me, beautiful young women who now are much older and going around in loose-fitting dresses. Over the years I'd spilled quite a bit of beer on it and yeast and malt are tenacious organisms, and gradually the couch had gone from being mere furniture to being a living thing. I tried to get Wendell the news boy to take it.

TK (TEEN): Sorry, Mr. Noir.

GK: You don't want it?

TK (TEEN): It smells bad.

GK: But you're a teenager? Aroma is part of your life.

TK (TEEN): I'm almost fifty years old, Mr. Noir.

GK: You are??

TK (TEEN): Every spring my hormones go crazy. I wonder if it isn't the pollen that's doing it. The goldenrod----(BRIDGE)

GK: I was just about to call up Goodwill to come and get my couch, when--(KNOCKS ON DOOR) Who is it? (SS MUFFLED) Who is it? (SS MUFFLED) Okay, come in. (DOOR OPEN)

SS (DEEP): Hi. You the detective?

GK: Right. Who're you?

SS: Barbara's the name. Barbara Seville.

GK: What can I do for you, Miss Seville?

SS: What's that smell?

GK: It's my couch.

SS: Boy, that's rank.

GK: I'm trying to get rid of it.

SS: It's like compost with two cushions.

GK: What can I do for you, Miss Seville?

SS: Someone's been stealing my geraniums. Right out of the planter on my front steps.

GK: Stealing geraniums? That's horrible.

SS: They come during the day when I'm at work, they make off with my geraniums, impatiens, petunias, marigolds ---- you name it. I'm sick of it. I want you to find out what's going on. (BRIDGE)

GK: I was just looking through the desk drawer for change for the bus, when---- (KNOCKS ON DOOR)---- Yeah?? (KNOCKS.) The door's unlocked. Come in. (DOOR OPEN, CLOSE.) Yes, sir, what can I do for you? (DOG GROWLS) You mind holding that dog back, sir?

TR: (HARD VOICE) Bruno? He wouldn't hurt anybody. He's just a big dog.

GK: He's drooling on my rug, but never mind. ---- what can I do for you?

TR: I'm an engineer, Mr. Noir. Mungus is my name. Hugh Mungus. I'm with the Xerox division of Wurlitzer.

GK: I didn't realize Xerox had merged with Wurlitzer.

TR: Yes, we're trying to manufacture a reproductive organ.

GK: Of course.

TR: But that's not my problem.

GK: Good.

TR: My problem is that I have a really hard time getting dates.

GK: Uh huh.

TR: I've responded to a number of personals ads and everything is fine at first.

GK: I see.

TR: And then they meet me.

GK: Uh huh.

TR: What's wrong with me, Mr. Noir?

GK: Well, it could be the blue plaid pants and the bright pink sportcoat, Mr.Mungus. You look like a little bit like a barker at the State Fair. The one who works at the tent where they show the two-headed calf and the World's Largest Shark.

TR: Is it too bright?

GK: It could be. And the hair----

TR: You don't care for it?

GK: A shaved head sort of sends a message, doesn't it. And that pistol ----

TR: The gun? You don't care for it.

GK: It looks bad. With the cartridge belt slung over your shoulders. (DOG GROWL) And the NRA stickers on your shoes.

TR: You don't like these?

GK: I think they raise questions in a person's mind.

TR: Boy, you sure are critical, aren't you----

GK: Well, you asked----

TR: Come in here looking for some help and you rip me apart----

GK: Well, you asked me why you couldn't----

TR: A guy's looking for a little self-confidence and instead he gets ripped to shreds-----

GK: I'm only trying to be honest-----

TR: I've taken about all I can take from you, Noir.

GK: Listen, just cool down.

TR: Cool down, nothing----- get him, Bruno---- (DOG SNARLS, ATTACKS. RIP OF CLOTH) (STING)

GK: The dog got hold of the seat of my pants but I managed to leap up on the couch and the moment he got a whiff of the couch, he backed off (DOG WHINE). Something about it seemed to spook him. The guy left and took his Rottweiler with him ----- (TR: You'll be hearin from me!) WOOFS, DOOR SLAM) ---- Boy, you try to help people and they turn on you. If it hadn't been for that couch, I'd've been dog food. (BRIDGE) I took the bus over to Barbara Seville's house where a big pot of red geraniums sat on the front steps. I let myself in and sat down and waited. (DRIPS) Sounds like the faucet. (LONG FOOTSTEPS) (GK STRAIN) There. That's better. (LONG FOOTSTEPS. CREAK OF CHAIR. TWO BEATS. DRIPS) Doggone it. (FOOTSTEPS) Wish I had a wrench. (GK EFFORT) Good. (FOOTSTEPS) (FOUR BEATS) (MEOW) Go away. I don't like cats. (MEOW) I mean it. Go away. (MEOW) Don't jump up. I mean it. (MEOW) You jump up on my lap and I'll use my karate on you. I'm not kidding. Don't do it. Don't you---- (MEOW, JUMP. GK CRY OF PAIN. RIP OF CLOTH) (GK REACT) ---- Oh for pete's sake. (FAST FOOTSTEPS. DOOR OPEN) Get away from those gardenias. Those aren't yours!

SS: Flowers are part of the universal. Flowers are a tool for healing.

GK: They are? Oh--- (SEXY MUSIC) She was a tall woman with the sort of angelic face that men dream about on summer nights. She wore tight jeans and a blouse bought from some sort of catalogue that isn't sent out to the general public. In a color that Crayola doesn't put in the crayon boxes. A sort of magenta that you associate with tassels on dancers in a club you wouldn't take your minister to.

SS: My name is Wanda. Wanda Nomer.

GK: This is not your yard, Miss Nomer. These are not your flowers.

SS: The flower told me that it's unhappy here.

GK: The flower did?

SS: I received a message from it, yes. It said, come and pick me up around noon and I'll be ready. My roots are killing me.

GK: You heard the plant say this?

SS: It isn't happy here. Its chakra is out of balance.

GK: So you came and stole the other flowers, too?

SS: I didn't steal them. I gave them a more secure space.

GK: But you took them-----

SS: They needed the resonance. (MUSIC)

GK: I got her to give me a lift to my office and she agreed to take my couch.

SS: I love fungus.

GK: It's velour.

SS: Whatever. I love the flow of energies.

GK: I enjoyed the flow of beer.

SS: It's such a harmonious flow.

GK: I felt that way at the time.

SS: You must have so many memories.

GK: Let's sit down and create some new ones. Let's sit and resonate. (MUSIC, TIME CHANGE)

TR (JIMMY): So----- did you get her phone number?

GK: E-mail address.

TR (JIMMY): What's her name?

GK: Wanda Nomer. She has a website. She feels she was a geranium in a previous life.

TR (JIMMY): What do you think?

GK: Hey, I don't argue with women anymore. I just feel grateful when one of them wants to sit on my side of the room, you know?

TR (JIMMY): You and me both. What can I get you?

GK: Just a sarsparilla, Jimmy.

TR (JIMMY): You don't care for a Martini?

GK: Well, make me one in case I change my mind. (JIMMY STARTS POURING AND SHAKING) I read a book about dating and it said, "Just be yourself". In my case, I don't think that's a good move. I was online the other day with this woman named Moist Happenings and I fell asleep and next thing I know it's three hours later and there's a helicopter and it's the theme from "Mash". Not what you'd call a fascinating love life.

TR (JIMMY): I know what you mean. My house was broken into last week. And they didn't take anything.

GK: Kind of a comment, isn't it.

TR (JIMMY): It's depressing.

GK: I guess VIkings memorabilia isn't in demand the way it used to be.

TR (JIMMY): Guess not.

GK: Well, at least we have our own teeth and our own sense of hearing. I mean, who wants to walk around town with a piece of metal in your ear that starts to whistle if you get too close to the radio?

TR (JIMMY): My dad tried to teach me about life. He used to say, "Life is like jazz. You have to improvise."

GK: That's good.

TR (JIMMY): His idea of improvisation was putting the beer in the toilet tank when the refrigerator broke.

GK: What happened to him?

TR (JIMMY): He died of a nervous tick.

GK: Didn't know you could.

TR (JIMMY): Turned out it had Lyme disease.

TR: A dark night in St. Paul, a city that keeps its secrets, and there on the twelfth floor of the Acme Building is a guy still trying to find the answers to life's questions, Guy Noir, Private Eye.


© Garrison Keillor 2001