(GK: Garrison Keillor; SS: Sue Scott: TR: Tim Russell; LA: Luke Anderson; KL: Kira Lace; KK: Kate Kennedy; PG: Pip Gengenback)
TR: 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. (THEME UP AND FADE)
GK: It was the week before Thanksgiving and I was feeling blue. I'd been over to see my ex-girlfriend Sugar and somehow I fell asleep as she was telling me what went wrong in our relationship and ---
SS (SUGAR): Please leave. And ixnay on you and me having Thanksgiving together.
GK: I was planning Turkey McNuggets.
SS (SUGAR): Well, you can plan me out. (BRIDGE)
GK: I thought about heading for the Five Spot to drown my sorrows in gin but my sorrows are equipped with flotation devices. So I sat in my office, studying some photographs of a young woman with a staple in her navel, when (DOOR KNOCKS)---- Yeah, come in, it's unlocked. (DOOR OPEN, CLOSE. FOOTSTEPS) What can I do for you, folks?
TR (MINNESOTA): Mr. Noir, I hope we're not bothering you ---- if we are, we can come back later ---- I'm Arnold Larson.
SS (MINNESOTA): And I'm his wife, Elsie Larsen. But spelled with an e. I kept my maiden name.
TK: It's about our son, Mr. Noir.
SS: He's in college and --- we haven't heard from him in weeks. We're worried sick. It's so strange.
TR: This is the last letter we got.
GK: "Dear Mom and Dad, I'm worried about you guys. Please send me a check immediately so I'll know you're okay."
SS: It's just not like him to be out of touch. Not send home his laundry or anything.
GK: Where does he go to school?
SS: St. Olaf. Our Alma Mater.
GK: St. Olaf, huh. Maybe he ate some bad herring. (BRIDGE) I stopped in Minneapolis at Ingebretsons for a Norwegian sweater and a pom-pom ski cap so I could get on campus without notice. I then headed south to Northfield and found St. Olaf, which is hard to miss. It sits up high on a hill so that the wind can come at you from pretty much every direction. (WIND, FOOTSTEPS ON GRAVEL) I ducked into the student center and asked for a student directory.
KK: You're an alumnus, right?
GK: Right, kid. How can you tell?
KK: The fact that you're lost. This isn't the student center. It's the Newman Center.
GK: Newman Center. They got Catholics at St. Olaf?
KK: They don't think of us as Catholics. They think of us as extreme Episcopalians.
GK: Well, I'm looking for someone named Sean Larson.
KK: Try the men's high-rise dorm. Mohn Hall.
GK: Sure. (MUSIC) I headed for the men's dorm and halfway there I felt a beautiful hand on my shoulder and I turned around and there was---
SS: I'm the director of development, Kristen Stavanger. (EROTIC PIANO)
GK: She looked like a model for Scandinavia Today. Today, Tomorrow, Forever. She was a Viking goddess, her hair the color of wheat, her eyes cerulean blue and I don't even know what cerulean means. She wore a T-shirt with a map of Norway on the front and you could tell what a mountainous nation it is. Indeed. Her voice was low and thrilling. Like Lauren Bacall if she'd grown up in Willmar. She was the sort of beauty who would make a man walk through a stained glass window. How about you come to my office and we can discuss deferred giving? I didn't catch your name.
GK: Yon Yonson.
SS: From Wisconsin?
GK: Right. But first I'm here to find someone. Larson. Sean Larson.
SS: Here's the dorm residents' list ---- these are the Larsons over here.
GK: Adam, Aidan, Brent, Brian, Chris, Chris C., Chris J., Chris T., Daniel, David, Erik, Erik J., Erik B., Ian, James, Jamie, Jason, Jeff, Jeremy, Jon, Jose, Josh, Kevin, Knute, Leif, Mark, Matt, Nils, Oscar, Peter, Quentin, Ryan, Sean......Sean D., Sean F., Sean M., Sean O., Sean Philip, Sean S.---- maybe that's it.
SS: Room 1204. Twelfth floor. Let's go. (MUSIC BRIDGE, FOOTSTEPS)
GK: The men's dorm had a definite aroma to it, like someone wearing cheap cologne had made pizza with a crust of old gym socks.
SS: Here's his room. (KNOCKS ON DOOR)
GK: Interesting smells here.
SS: That's gunpowder. It's duck hunting season, ya know.
GK: Students here are duck hunters?
SS: That's why they ask for a room on a higher floor.
GK: For a clearer shot---
SS: Gets you up above the treeline. (KNOCKS) (DOOR OPEN)
LA: Yeah, what is it----Oh, hi Miss Stavanger.
SS: Kevin---- hi, have you seen Sean around?
LA: At this moment, no. I didn't see him before and I continue to not see him. He is a non-Sean in terms of being part of my experience at the moment, but I operate on the assumption that though he is not here, as I would define "here," that he continues to possess his Seanness.
GK: Is this your first year in philosophy, son?
LA: Yes, sir. It is.
GK: Kierkegaard with Howard Hong?
LA: Yes. How could you tell?
GK: I worked with Howard on a case once. Years ago. Case of a platinum blond in a white sweater who disappeared. I called in Howard because I thought maybe it was a spiritual problem. Turned out it was just that she was too white. It was January. Anyway---Sean's not here, so here's my card --- let us know if he shows up. (DOOR CLOSE, FOOTSTEPS) What do you think, Miss Stavanger?
SS: Maybe he moved in with a neighbor. (KNOCKS) (DOOR OPEN) (BIRD CRIES) Biology major.
GK: Apparently so. (ELEPHANT)
SS: We'll come back later! (ELEPHANT CRY CUT OFF BY DOOR SLAM) (FOOTSTEPS)
GK: You've got some serious students down here. (KNOCKS, DOOR OPEN)
GK: It's nice of you to help me out like this, Miss Stavanger.
SS: Oh I'm glad to do it. Call me Kristen.
GK: How about I take you out for lunch after?
SS: Oh, you don't have to do that.
GK: You ever have a hard time telling students apart, Miss Stavanger? All the Ericksons and Andersons and Jacobsons and so forth.
SS: When a kid comes to St. Olaf, Mr. Noir, we stamp his name on his forehead in invisible ultraviolet ink that can be read with these special contact lenses. All the faculty members wear them.
GK: So that's what gives St. Olaf that ---
SS: Friendly small-college feeling. Absolutely. (DOOR OPEN) Sean Larson?
PG: I'm his roommate. Sean Jacobson.
SS: Sorry. Couldn't read your forehead. ----We're looking for Sean Larson.
PG: The tall blonde guy?
PG: I haven't seen him in weeks. We sent him out for a deck of cards and he never came back.
GK: You were having a party?
PG: A seminar.
GK: Here in the room?
PG: Well, it saves having to get dressed.
GK: Of course.
PG: We ran out of aces. So we sent him to the Student Union for a fresh deck and he never came back.
GK: And you didn't notify anybody?
PG: Well, we were going to and then we got sort of engrossed in what we were doing and then we fell over and we couldn't get up.
GK: You're an econ major, right?
PG: How did you know?
GK: Was Sean having any problems?
PG: No. Not at all. He was doing well in everything except school.
GK: Okay, Sean, here's my card. Call us if he shows up, okay? (DOOR CLOSE) (MUSIC) I talked to everybody on Sean's floor and nobody knew much about him although I found an English major who had written about him in her journal----
KK: It was more about feelings though.
GK: Your feelings about Sean?
KK: Sort of. He's in this memoir I'm writing---
GK: A memoir of----
KK: A memoir of St. Olaf.
GK: But you're still at St. Olaf.
KK: I know but I think that memory is a part of the present and all these fragments and images and information that make up memory are part of who we are now and that what we remember about a person is really a reflection of facets of our own experience and the very act of remembering is the act of self-discovery.
GK: So you're saying you did know Sean?
KK: In the sense that he's part of the world that exists as a reflection of my perception of it.
GK: You know, someday, kid, when you discover yourself asking over and over the question, "Large or small fries with that?" you're going to remember the perception of the memory of the fragments of experience and you're going to look at the unpaid balance of your student loan and you're going to ask Why. And nobody has the answer to that.
KK: Do you mind if I write that down?
GK: Be my guest. (DOOR CLOSE, FOOTSTEPS) I don't feel we're getting anywhere, Miss Stavanger.
SS: Let's try this room here. (FOOTSTEPS STOP, KNOCKS) (DOOR OPEN)
KL: (HUMS SINGLE NOTE)
GK: Excuse me, we're looking for a student named Sean Larson---
KL: Tenor or bass? (IMMEDIATELY RESUMES HUMMING NOTE)
GK: I take it you're in choir.
KL: Right. (HUMMING)
GK: Are we interrupting something?
KL: No. (HUMMING)
GK: Are you sure?
KL: Sure. (HUMMING)
GK: Somebody said Sean was last seen heading to the Student Center for a fresh deck of cards.
KL: Heading for the what? (HUMMING)
GK: Student Center.
KL: Never heard of it. (HUMMING)
GK: Student Center. It's the one with the ping pong tables.
KL: All I know is this dorm and the music building, and how to get from one to the other. (HUMMING)
GK: Would you mind not doing that, please?
KL: Is something wrong with the pitch?
KL: You don't like the tone? It's too cloudy? Too breathy?
GK: No. It's just that, honestly, aside from the alto sax, I don't care for music that much. (DOOR SLAM) Sorry if I hurt your feelings. (MUSIC) I loved St. Olaf, loved walking around the campus. When you're a private eye, you tend to keep company with a lot of low lifes. I thought, Maybe I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody. Instead of a bum which is what I am. Let's face it. It was you, Charley.
KK: My name's not Charley. It's Melissa.
GK: Oh. Sorry. Sorry. Sometimes I talk to myself.
KK: That's okay. My grandpa does that all the time.
GK: Thanks for the reassurance.
KK: How can I help you, sir?
GK: (MUSIC) Then I looked around and saw--- she was standing behind a counter marked Information. And I was in a building --- a magnificent building, foursquare, garnished with all manner of precious stones, jasper and sapphires and emeralds and topaz, and with twelve gates thereof, and there was no night there.
KK: Welcome to the Student Center.
GK: Wow. This is quite a place. I mean, sapphires and emeralds---
KK: Well, we have very very generous alumni.
GK: What is this? It says, "Massage ---- Shiatsu, Acupressure, Swedish, Reflexology, Aromatherapy, Personal Trainers, Saunas, Whirlpools, Steam Rooms, Tanning Beds, Sea Salt Scrub" --- "Enjoy a Sea Salt Scrub while you listen to surf sounds on earphones and breathe in the relaxing aroma of hyacinth and juniper." It sounds like a spa. Kind of luxurious, don't you think?
KK: Well, when it comes to student unions, a college has to be competitive.
GK: Hey, wait a minute---- Where's your sign-in sheet?
KK: Right here.
GK: I'm looking for a student named Sean Larson.
KK: That name sure sounds familiar. (TURNING PAGES BACK) Here he is---- Sean S. Larson---
GK: He signed in a month ago but he never signed out. Could that be?
KK: Could be. We offer guest rooms, too. Up on the 33rd floor. Next to the casino.
KK: Of course. Poker, Cribbage, Battleship, Go To The Dump. (MUSIC)
GK: I took an elevator to the 33rd floor of the Student Union and there he was, in the corner (SHUFFLING OF CARDS), dealing solitaire. Sean----?
TR (DUDE): Yeah?
GK: Sean, your mom and dad are worried sick. What's going on, Sean? You having problems? You depressed?
TR (DUDE): How would I know? I come from Norwegians.
GK: What's the matter, Sean? Level with me.
TR (DUDE): It's just that --- like, there's so much here. So many activities ---- billiards, bingo, bowling, bungee jumping ---- plus the spa, the sea salt scrub---- handicrafts. Clubs --- they have book clubs, clubs for baseball card collectors, folk-dancing, and there's the Children of Emotionally Distant Fathers Club.
GK: Children of Emotionally Distant Fathers?
TR (DUDE): Also known as the student body.
GK: I figured as much.
TR (DUDE): I mean, like, my parents told me to get everything out of college that I could. They said, "These are the most important four years of your life. Use every opportunity that comes your way."
GK: So you've been up here, exhausting yourself with recreation.....
TR (DUDE): Do you think it'd be okay if I go back to my room and get some sleep?
GK: Of course, Sean. (TR SNORING, LIGHT) Come on, son. I'll carry you to the car and you can sleep all the way home. (MUSIC) I took him back to his dorm and tucked him in and called his parents and headed back to town, back to the Five Spot. (DOOR OPEN, JINGLE, CLOSE, FOOTSTEPS)
TR (JIMMY): Oh hi there, Guy. How's everything?
GK: Just fine, Jimmy. Just fine.
TR (JIMMY): Somebody here waiting for you, Guy----
SS (SUGAR): Hi, beautiful.
GK: Sugar! Hey. It's great to see you, babes.
SS (SUGAR): I'm so sorry for those ugly things I said to you, Guy.
GK: Aw, don't worry about it.
SS (SUGAR): How about we have Thanksgiving together. I already made something for us.
GK: Sure. And afterwards we can sit around your place and watch football.
SS (SUGAR): My TV's on the fritz.
GK: Well, listen to football then.
SS (SUGAR): Radio's busted.
GK: We'll go outside and toss a football around then.
SS (SUGAR): Don't have a football.
GK: We'll sit inside and talk about football.
SS (SUGAR): Don't know anything about football.
GK: Then we'll stand around on the balls of our feet. Jimmy---
TR (JIMMY): Yo!
GK: Bring me the usual.
TR (JIMMY): One martini straight up with a soybean---
TR: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but there, on the twelfth floor of the Acme Building, one man is trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions...Guy Noir, Private Eye. (MUSIC OUT)
© Garrison Keillor 2001