(GK: Garrison Keillor; SS: Sue Scott; TR: Tim Russell; TK: Tom Keith)
TR: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets,
but high above the empty streets, in an office 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 --- (PIANO)
GK: It was April, which to many people would suggest spring, but here in Minnesota it suggests things you've read about spring. I was on a temporary job in Bemidji, writing term papers for a guy named Rico who owned the photocopy shop ---- (BRIDGE)
TR (RICO): Lemme tell you how this goes, Noir. You sit there and when the phone rings, you answer it and you say, "Lost and Found". Okay?
TR (RICO): And they might say something like, "I lost my term paper on The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It was 8000 words long and typed double spaced and it was due this afternoon at 3 o'clock."
TR (RICO): And then you say, "Let me look around and see if anybody has turned that in."
TR (RICO): And you count up to five, 1 2 3 4 5, and you say, "Oh. Here it is. It was turned in by an old lady who found it on the bus this morning. How fortunate. Will there be a reward?"
TR (RICO): And they'll say an amount, like maybe $50, or $75, and you say, "That'll be fine, I'm sure. You can come down and pick up your lost term paper around two o'clock."
TR (RICO): And then you go online and find out some stuff about The Scarlet Letter and you write the term paper.
GK: What am I supposed to write?
TR (RICO): Well, that's what we hired you to do. Is to figure that out. (DOG GROWLING)
GK: I don't know why your dog doesn't like me----
TR (RICO): Him? Achilles? This is the friendliest dog you ever saw---- (DOG BARKS)
GK: Well, it just makes me nervous having him sitting there right by my feet.
TR (RICO): Achilles never bit anybody in his life. (DOG SNARL)
GK: He just makes me nervous. (RING) Excuse me. (PICK UP) Lost and Found. ----- Uh huh. Well, that's a tragedy. ---- Eaten by a dog, huh? ----- How sad. ---- Let me look around here and see if one's been turned in. ---- Anybody see a term paper on The Great Gatsby? ----- Oh, right. Here it is. It was found by a dog, actually. He brought it in. It's got some teethmarks on it, but it's fine. Might there be a cash reward? ---- Okay. Two o'clock then. (HANG UP) Oh boy. The Great Gatsby. I gotta write three thousand words in half an hour.
TR (RICO): Not a problem. Get some really long quotes from the book. Stuff em in. And then attack the book as a phallocentric product of a patriarchal colonialist society and toss in a little about Virginia Woolf and you're there. (DOG GROWLS)
GK: I could think a lot better if I didn't have your dog looking at me that way.
TR (RICO): Don't be so sensitive. (DOG SNARL)
GK: I just feel like he's about to rip a chunk out of my pants.
TR (RICO): Those pants, I don't think ripping would be the worst thing that could happen. (BRIDGE)
GK: So I wrote the paper on "The Great Gatsby" and Jennifer came in and picked it up----
SS (TEEN): I really, like, appreciate it. I mean, like, my roommate is going, "Hey," and I'm going, "Huh" and she's going, like, "Whoa. April." And I'm going, "Not." And she's going, "Whatever." And I'm going, like, "Arghhhh." It's like, Gatsby time, and I have not, like, even seen that book for like six months. It's somewhere in my room. And I am going, like, What can I do? Without a B.A. I am, like, never going to get that night job at MacDonald's and so I'm going, like, Oh No, and she is going, Oh Yes, and so anyway. Thanks, Mr. Noir. And now I have to be, like, going.
GK: Right. Jennifer---- let me just point out a couple things to you in the term paper ---- (DOG GROWL) Go sit down. (GROWL) I said, sit. (SNARL) I said sit. (DOG BARK) --- Jennifer---- take a look on page 3 where I talk about how Fitzgerald allegorized the dichotomies of patriarchal hegemony....."
SS (TEEN): Oh wow. That is so, like, powerful. There is so much going on there.
GK: Right down there. (DOG GROWL) Shut up.
SS (TEEN): ---- Right here? "The Great Gatsby is a prose allegory of good and evil that reflects the phallocentric colonialist archetypes that divide rural and urban, male and female, dark and light, caf and decaf, paper and plastic, and contextualizing these dichotomies in a vocabulary of implicit gender trajectories-----" I love it. I totally love it. That is so awesome.
GK: It's probably a good idea, Jennifer, if you actually read the paper before you turn it in. You know, to try to get some of those words straight in your mind----- like ambivalence----
SS (TEEN): Ambivalence?
SS (TEEN): Is that a good thing?
GK: Well, yes and no. (MUSIC) An hour later, she was back----
SS: Mr. Noir?
GK: Yes? (DOG GROWLS) Shut up. Lie down and shut up. (DOG BARKS) What is it, Jennifer?
SS: It's about the, y'know, term paper you wrote? Like, on the Great Gatsby, okay?
GK: Yeah? What about it? (DOG SNARL)
SS: Well, I mean, like, the professor looks at it and he is going,
"Huh?" and I'm going, like, "What is the problem?"
he goes,like, "I cannot believe you wrote this," and I'm going, "What?" and he's going---
GK: Jennifer----- let me interrupt you here. I think the problem, in the context of what I wrote for you, is that in the term paper there are a number of different verb tenses, right? like the past, the future, imperfect indicative, the past imperfect, the subjunctive. You follow me?
GK: The paper is written in different tenses. And you, Jennifer, pretty much speak in the present indicative.
SS: What do you mean, I speak?
GK: No, you don't speak....you go.
GK: Other people, they have gone or might have gone or could go
or will have gone, you just pretty much go, like you know, and they go, okay, and you go, huh, and you go, go, go.....
SS: Speaking of that---- where is the ladies room?
GK: Right that way.
SS: Thanks. (FOOTSTEPS AWAY)
GK: Go ahead and growl all you like, I'm not paying any attention. (DOG GROWL) I'm not listening. (DOG SNARL) I am not going to ratify your aggressions by acknowledging them, they are totally outside any context. (DOG SNARL) I don't even hear you anymore. (DOG LEAPS, RIPS CLOTHING. GK YIKES. A FIGHT ENSUES. (BRIDGE)
GK: And right there, in Bemidji, in April, I thought of
becoming a writer. Why write term papers when you could write the stuff that term papers are written about? Somebody's got to do it. (BIG CHOPINESQUE PIANO, CHORDS, THEN UNDER....)
She walked into my life one April morning in Bemidji. I'd been out fishing
for walleyes and I was headed for Paris and there she was, leaning against
the front desk of the hotel.
SS: You Noir? Guy Noir?
GK: Her eyes flickered like the eyes of a pumpkin with a candle inside. Her Dress was orange the color of highway warning cones on a road you know you shouldn't go down, and it had a sort of subtext that I resonated to, or maybe it was her underwear.
SS: My name is Scarlet. Scarlet Anderson. I'm an associate
Professor of women's studies at Bemidji State. That scare you? Women's studies?
GK: I've been studying women all of my adult life, Dr. Anderson.
SS: Call me Scar.
GK: She raised the cigarette to her lips and as she did, (PHONE)
TR (RICO): What'd you do to my dog?
GK: He bit me. So I sent him on a bus to Duluth.
TR (OTHER END): Duluth!!??
GK: Look, I'm busy writing, okay? (HANG UP) I
could smell her perfume, it was the smell of orchids at high
SS: If you asked me to dinner, I would probably say yes. I would
know better, but I would. And if you kissed me right now, I might not be as horrified as you might expct someone with a women's studies background to be.
GK: I like the subtext of what you're saying.
SS: I've always had a thing about men and their subtexts. A lot of women have written about the patriarchy as if it were a bad thing. You're pretty archetypal, you know that?
GK: People have told me that.
SS: Your eyes ---- there's a whole mythology in there.
GK: I don't know what you're talking about.
SS: I think you do.
GK: In a sense I do and in another sense I don't.
SS: Try the first one. We call it, postfeminism?
GK: Whatever you say, baby. ----- (MUSIC) I'm still working on the book, it's coming along. It's the first detective novel to contain its own term paper, I'm proud of it. And it all started one April, in Bemidji.
SS: Now there is a dichotomy if I ever heard one.
GK: You want to talk about dichotomies, how about you come up to my place?
TR: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets,
and there on the twelfth floor of the Acme Building is a guy still trying
find the answers to life's persistent questions. Guy Noir.
© Garrison Keillor 2003