(GK: Garrison Keillor; SS: Sue Scott: TR: Tim Russell, RD: Rich Dworsky)
GK: Our sound-effects man, Mr. Tom Keith, is with us tonight.
TK: Good to be here, Carson.
GK: Tom has been away from the show for a couple months and people have asked why, and it's because he was put on probation for a sound effect back in November. The script called for him to do a brook trout and instead, Tom did a (FLUSH) --- a toilet, yes. And under the Code of Excellent Good Taste that governs this show, anyone who does waste disposal sound effects, or for that matter, lower digestive tract ones (FART), faces 60 days suspension, so Tom had to take a break, which is not a big tragedy if you happen to own an 800-acre plantation in Jamaica. A place with peacocks (SFX) and flamingoes (SFX) and a pool (DIVE, SPLASH) and servants (BRIT: You called, sir?) and a steam room (HISS) and an outdoor ping-pong table where Tom plays against his pet orangutan Earl (PING PONG VOLLEY, THEN SMASH, THEN MONKEY EXCITEMENT), and it's a paradise, with the surf (SURF) on the shore and you ride your horse (HOOVES, WHINNY) along the beach, you and the dark-skinned native girl Nanani (OFF, GIRLISH TITTER) ---- I don't resent Tom for enjoying that good life.
GK: Even as the rest of us have to toil on here in the sweatshop. While he was in Jamaica, our show was in Buffalo, N.Y., during an incredible blizzard (BLIZZARD) when we could hardly get out of the hotel parking lot (TIRES SPINNING) and snowmobiles had to take us to the show (SFX) and the wind blew our antenna down (CREAKING, BREAKING, CRASHING) and we had to broadcast using a satellite dish that (CHAINSAW) we had to construct out of a garage roof that we cut off and (HAMMERS) attach to the top of a dumpster and powered up with jumper cables (SHORTING) and in the midst of it we were attacked by feral dogs (SNARLING) and feral cats (VICIOUS HISSING) and after the show we had to fend off our disappointed fans (TR & TK, ANGRY CROWD, OFF) and get to the airport in a broken-down car (CAR MISSING) with exhaust leaking in (BAD COUGH) and we got to the airport and went through security (TK: This way, sir) and this guy kept wanding us and wanding us (HUM) front and back and back and front and (TK VAMP: I really wand you) and we were flying a Wisconsin airline called Dairy Air and the turbulence was bad (SHAKING GLASSWARE, MOTOR MISSING) and even the pilot was shaken (TK ON P.A.: I can't take it anymore), but bad as it was, there are no hard feelings toward Tom for abandoning his old pals of the sawdust trail. None whatsoever. Not on my part.
GK: Even though we knew that he was riding his horse through the surf (HOOVES, SURF, GULLS, WHINNY) with that dusky maiden (GIGGLE) on his Jamaica plantation, Audio Acres. How did Tom realize this windfall profit? Simple. Most of the cats you hear on television, that's Tom doing the voice---- (MEOW) And most of the dogs. (WOOF). And all of the chickens. (CLUCKS). Because nobody can do chickens and give them personality as Tom can. (DUBIOUS CHICKEN) And he can do chicken hiccups (SFX), which not many sound effects men can do. And every time one of his animal voices is used, Tom earns $189.85, AFTRA scale. Every animal sound he makes. (ROOSTER CROW) $189.85. Every sound he makes. Every time it's used. (MEOW) It's a real cash cow for him. (MOO) And who would want to be a dog in the manger---- (WOOFS) Tom found the goose that lays the golden egg, that's all ---- (GOOSE)
GK: Now you're wondering what this has to do with that toilet sound effect that got Tom suspended from the show ---- okay, I'm coming to that. Back in November, we called Tom down in Jamaica, and we said, "Tom, we're doing a benefit in St. Paul for your old buddy, Russell Timmy.
TK: Russ Timmy? What's wrong?
GK: Well, I don't want to get you upset, Tom----
TK: Tell me!
GK: Russell Timmy has had some sort of breakdown.
TK: Oh my gosh----
GK: He's lost the power of speech----
TK: Oh no!
GK: Except in Swedish. (TR SWEDISH)
TK: Poor Russell! (HE SOBS) He was like a dad to me. He gave me my big break.
GK: Russell Timmy was a daytime radio star who befriended Tom after Tom got out of reformatory and taught him how to do helicopters (SFX) and all those hoofed animals like the eland (SFX), the emu (SFX), the elk (SFX), the wapiti (SFX), the caribou (SFX), the antelope (SFX), the wildebeest (SFX) ---- and now this beloved old entertainer, as a result of having choked on a pickle and falling and hitting his head, was spending his afternoons on a park bench muttering in Swedish---- (TR SWEDISH) with his caregiver Nadia (TR FEMALE RUSSIAN).
TK: Just tell me what I can do. I'll be there. I'll do anything.
GK: So Tom came for the benefit which was at the State Fairgrounds, in front of the grandstand----
TK: What do you want me to do?
GK: We want you to dive off this tower and onto that damp sponge on the ground---- (WIND AT HIGH ALTITUDE) You see that damp sponge? The one way down there.
GK: Way down.
TK: Down there????
GK: Down there.
TK: I can't do itff..
GK: Fine. That's okay. You can't do it. We'll just send Russell Timmy off to a warehouse and shut him up in a cubicle (TR SWEDISH) and turn on the TV (TV AUDIO) and attach the IV drip with the sedative (DRIP, AS SWEDISH SLOWS, SEDATED) and let your mentor, the man who gave you your big break, sit there and vegetate, if that's what you want, Tom.
TK: Okay. I'll do it.
GK: You'll dive into the damp sponge----
GK: Good. So he started climbing the tower (FOOTSTEPS ON STEEL RUNG, EFFORT OF CLIMBING) and there was a big crowd in the grandstand (CROWD ROAR) and he waved to them as he climbed higher and higher, but they were watching the Famous Hudson Auto Thrill Show on the racetrack (SQUEAL OF TIRES, SERIES OF CAR ROLLS) and when the Thrill Show ended with a tremendous crash (CRASH, EXPLOSION) most folks assumed the show was over and headed out -----
TK: Wait! What about my Plunge to the Sponge?
GK: He could've not done the dive, but Tom is a pro, and in the show business we have a saying----
TK: The show isn't over till the bald man falls.
GK: Or, in Swedish. (TR SWEDISH) So Tom stood poised on the high tower (WIND, ALTITUDE) and waited until a flock of mergansers passed beneath him (DUCKS, PASSING, IN FLIGHT) and he closed his eyes and he dove off the high tower (WHISTLING OF WIND AS HE FALLS) and as he fell toward the earth, he saw the stagehands far below, who evidently also thought the show was over----
TK (FALLING): Don't----move---the----sponge! (FALLING)
GK: He fell through the darkening air, looking around at his beloved St. Paul, at St. Anthony Park and the farm campus and the train yard and University Avenue and that old KSTP tower and Prospect Park and the State Capitol and the Cathedral on the hill and the tower downtown with the numeral One flashing to signify the Oneness of Mankind, Our Oneness with the Earth, and he felt such love for the city, knowing that this would be his last glimpse of it as a corporeal being, and just then (AIRPLANE) a little plane came by towing a long banner that said, "Sparkle Spackle, America's No. 1 Decorative Grout" and Tom managed to grab onto the "T" of grout (TK EFFORT) and he held on and he landed safely, even though the post-show fireworks display came mighty close (ROCKETS). Mighty close. (ROCKETS) And the landing was a little rough. (SLIDING, BUMPING, LITTLE CRIES OF PAIN). And when you take a long fall like that and grab onto an airplane banner and have that sort of landing, you find that afterward you need to use a toilet right away. (FLUSH) So that's how Tom came to miss those shows.
TK: And now I'm going to have to miss more because of that dumb sound effect.
GK: Looks like you'll be suspended again, pal.
GK: Enjoy Jamaica and say hello to Nanani.
TK: I will.
© Garrison Keillor 2002