Tim Russell: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets but one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions--..Guy Noir, Private Eye. (THEME FADE)
Garrison Keillor: It was March, a month that combines elements of spring, winter, and the 24-hour flu, and I'd come to New York on an assignment for the mother of a student at NYU-- the mother called me from Fargo--
SS (ON PHONE, MIDWEST): We are worried sick, Mr. Noir -- we are going out of our minds -- he sent us a note that said, "I walk beneath the evening sky, the stars like the teeth of small angry animals" --
GK: What's he studying?
SS: Creative writing.
GK: Well, there you are -- it's a poem.
SS: It's about death!!!
GK: Then it definitely is a poem. Not to worry. (STING, BRIDGE) She asked me to fly out to New York and check up on him so I did --his name was Roger Larson -- and we went to a coffee shop for a couple of espressos. (ESPRESSO SFX)--
TR: I'm in love, Mr. Noir. With a woman named Carmen and I'm entering a poetry contest so we can get married. I've known her since Tuesday. She means everything to me. The day after I met her I sat down and wrote a long poem about wheat.
GK: A poem about wheat.
TR: Yes, sir. (ESPRESSO SFX)
GK: What about wheat?
TR: The beauty of it. The fertility of it.
GK: Uh huh.
TR: It's like an ocean. A golden ocean. The wheatfields.
GK: Like "amber waves of grain"-- (TRAFFIC SNARL, HORNS)
TR: Yeah. Except golden, not amber.
GK: Does Carmen have blonde hair?
TR: She does. Yes. Anyway, I'm entering the poem in a contest -- for the Gladiola Prize.
GK: The who?
TR: The Gladiola Prize. First prize is a hundred thousand dollars. And the deadline is tomorrow. (STING, BRIDGE)
GK: I went to the New York Public Library to find out more. And ran into an old friend, Tony (The Walleye) Galupo.
FN: Hey. Guy. What you doin here? Didn't know you was the bookish type.
GK: Hey-- they got you working security, I see.
FN: Yeah. You like the uniform? (HE TURNS AROUND, SHOWING IT OFF) Nice, huh? Badge and everything.
GK: So you just stand here and look in people's bags, huh?
FN: Nice job. My cousin got it for me.
GK: How come all the security?
FN: Awww, they had some manuscripts stolen last week. Some poem or something. "Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening" --
GK: The original manuscript of Robert Frost's "Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening" --
FN: Yeah, that's it. Somebody swiped it out of the back room.
GK: That must be worth --
FN: Two million bucks.
FN: Two million simoleons.
GK: Who do they think took it?
FN: Somebody who knew something about poetry, probably. Nobody I know. (BRIDGE)
GK: Tony directed me to the director of the poetry division, a short powerful woman named Vandalia Helgeson.
SS (NYER): What can I do for you? I don't have a lot of time. Spit it out.
GK: You're the poetry director?
SS: Yeah. You got a problem with that?
GK: I guess I expected someone more soft-spoken with long brown hair and possibly barefoot--
SS: Yeah, well, this is New York. What can I do for you?
GK: I'm curious about this Gladiola Prize--
SS: Yeah, you and fifty thousand other people. What a headache. Every day. In and out. People asking about the Gladiola Prize. What are the rules, what's the deadline -- I'll be glad when the whole thing is over.
GK: I take it you got a lot of poets in New York.
SS: The town is crawling with them. Everywhere you go, you see somebody standing and looking up in the air and then writing something in a little leatherbound journal. Poets. They're all over. They get their MFA from Iowa or Stanford or Florida -- some teacher tells them they're brilliant -- so they come to New York expecting people to ooh and aah -- thinking they'll get a big book offer -- they write a bunch of sonnets about the changing seasons and take it to an agent and she says, So what? Change of seasons -get out of here-- we already did that. Give me something new. So they write another bunch of sonnets about desperate loneliness and not knowing why we're alive --so the agent takes a look and says, This is yesterday's loneliness! It's retro-loneliness. This desperation is so Nineties-- try again. So they go home and write a bunch of sonnets in which it looks like there are words but really it's just lines of dead houseflies the poet has crushed against the page -- and that book gets published. It's huge. It sells a half million copies. Okay. But what do you do for a sequel? The poet tries spiders. No good. The book tanks. Suddenly you're 25 and you're over. Passe. I've seen it happen over and over and over again. Looking forward to next year when I can retire. Get out of this madhouse. Move back to Minnesota.
GK: You're from Minnesota?
SS: You couldn't tell? (STING, BRIDGE)
GK: I sang her a few bars of "Minnesota, Hats Off To Thee, To Thy Colors True We Shall Ever Be" and she burst into tears and we went to a little restaurant in the East 80s that specializes in hotdish and she told me everything I needed to know about the Gladiola Prize, and the next morning I knocked on the door of the apartment of a woman named Barbara BarBARa. (KNOCKS ON DOOR) (PAUSE) (KNOCKS ON DOOR) (PAUSE)
Debora Garrison (INSIDE): Who is it?
GK: It's Guy Noir.
DG (INSIDE): Go away. Leave your poems at my office.
GK: I'm not a poet, I'm a detective.
DG (INSIDE): Leave it at my office.
GK: I'm not a poet.
DG: What you want?
GK: Vandalia Helgeson sent me, Miss BarBARa.
DG: Okay, come in. (FOOTSTEPS, DOOR CLOSE) Step over here. Take off your shoes and your coat and jacket and put them in the basket. Cellphones, laptops -- take them out and put them in the basket. And then step through the metal detector.
GK: Okay. (METAL DETECTOR) You, uh, take security pretty seriously, I see. (METAL DETECTOR BUZZER)
DG: You're carrying poetry on you--
GK: The metal detector detects poetry--?
DG: Right. What you got?
GK: Just a long poem about wheat--
DG: Good. (BRIDGE)
GK: The apartment was enormous and dark and it had a lot of leather furniture and on the walls were the heads of animals, deer, mountain goats, moose, caribou, and a grizzly bear.
DG: Shot that in Montana. Thirty-ought-six Remington. Just north of Glacier Park. Me and Harrison Ford the big sissy. The grizz came up suddenly -- out of its den -- we were on a narrow trail -- a switchback -- five-thousand feet up -- sheer drop -- it was March -- there was a cold mist -- suddenly this ten-foot bear looms up like a Mack Truck -- and Harrison jumps behind me and I shot it -- right in the eye.
GK: Pretty amazing for somebody in the poetry field -- to hunt big game.
DG: When you're in charge of something like the Gladiola Prize you ought to be able to handle a gun.
GK: A hundred thousand bucks -- greed can do strange things to people. -- So how'd you get the job of judging the Gladiola Prize?
DG: I'm the poetry editor of The New York Times.
GK: The New York Times? I didn't know they published poetry.
DG: We haven't-- yet.
GK: How long have you been poetry editor?
DG: Twelve years.
GK: And you haven't found any poems worth printing?
DG: Some came close. I'm still looking.
GK: You are tough.
DG: According to my mother, that's why I don't have a man in my life.
GK: Well, I imagine New York men tend to be skittish around a woman who shoots things.
DG: You can say that again. --So -- Mr. Noir -- how about you? You alone?
GK: It's a long story, Miss BarBARa.
DG: Skip the story, answer the question.
GK: I'm too old for you. My heart has been broken so many times it jingles when I walk. Romance is a truckload of grief. I'm done with it. Permanently.
DG: I take that as a challenge, Mr. Noir.
GK: Don't. Please. (BRIDGE) I found the donor of the Gladiola Prize, Vincent Gladiola, at his office along with his son, Vincent Jr. They run a trash-hauling business on Long Island and now they'd given the New York Public Library ten million dollars to endow the Gladiola Prize for poetry.
FN (GOOMBAH): So what's on your mind, Mr. Noir? We don't have a lot of time. My dad's gotta take his nap, ain't that right, Pops?
TR (GODFATHER): Yeah.
GK: Just curious about--
FN (GOOMBAH): Just curious about how come a family that's in the garbage-hauling business for sixty-seven years -- how come we care about poetry? Right? Am I right? We get that all the time. Like garbage men don't know about poetry. Huh? Is that what you think? Just cause we haul your garbage, that makes us stoopid or something? Huh?
TR (GODFATHER): Yeah.
GK: What sort of poetry you like, Mr. Gladiola?
FN (GOOMBAH): He likes all kinds. Short poems, long poems. Poems about spring. Love poems. All kinds. Right, Pops?
TR (GODFATHER): Yeah.
FN (GOOMBAH): Especially he likes Dante. The Inferno. That's his favorite. Right, Pops?
TR (GODFATHER): (QUIETLY RECITES SHORT METRICAL LINES OF ITALIAN)
GK: The Inferno. Okay. (BRIDGE) I got a call from Barbara BarBARa that morning.
DG (ON PHONE): This wheat poem you gave me?
DG (ON PHONE): Forget about it. --One other thing, Mr. Noir.
GK: What's that?
DG (ON PHONE): What are you doing tonight? How about a movie? (STING, BRIDGE)
GK: We went to see "Grizzly Adams" and then to a Canadian restaurant in the West Village that had caribou on the menu. (VOICES, RESTAURANT SFX)--
DG: Let me come right to the point, Guy. I think you and I could make a beautiful life together--
GK: What do you mean, Miss BarBARa?
DG: Call me Barbara. -- I think you know what I mean, you big galoot you. You felt it. I know you felt it. Walking over here? There's something happening between you and me and I don't want it to ever stop. Come here--
GK: And she threw her arms around me and we kissed over and over and over (SFX), in the course of which I managed to get into her purse and lift the key to her apartment and make an impression of it in wax and put it back in her purse. (BRIDGE)
TR: So-- I wrote the poem you told me to write, Mr. Noir.
TR: I entitled it "The Inferno"--
GK: Okay. Good.
The cold months, January, Feb--
All the Bushes, George and Jeb--
Anonymous bloggers on the Web--
GK: Sounds good.
TR: There's more.
GK: I'm sure. (BRIDGE) (JIGGERING OF LOCK, EASING DOOR OPEN, TIPTOE FOOTSTEPS) I got into Miss BarBARa's apartment and put Mr. Larson's poem on her desk. And then, just on a hunch, I snooped around (RIFFLING PAPERS) and sure enough, there it was -- (ONE PAPER LIFTED OUT) the original manuscript of "Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening" -- with Robert Frost's changes in pencil --And just then-- (DOOR OPENS, FOOTSTEPS, THEN STOP) --
DG: Aha. Mr. Noir--
GK: I dropped by to see if I might have forgotten my umbrella--
DG: No, you didn't. -- Hands in the air. (COCK GUN)
GK: What are you doing?
DG: This is Mr. Samuel Colt, Mr. Noir, and he says to take that manuscript out of your pocket and set it on the desk. Nice and slow.
DG: Real easy. No sudden moves. (PAPER RUSTLE) Good.
GK: What'd you take the manuscript for, Miss BarBARa. You'll never be able to fence that.
DG: Good fences make good neighbors, Mr. Noir. But I'm not interested in the money. I did it to protect the reputation of my grandfather.
GK: What about your grandfather?
DG: My grandfather was Robert Frost's editor and when Frost sent him "Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening" -- the poem just as we know it -- my grandfather sent it back to him and told him to rewrite it and make it more specific.
GK: I see. So Frost did a rewrite.
"Whose woods these are, I know they're Jim's.
He's in the village, singing hymns.
He will not see me and my little axe,
Cutting off these hickory limbs.
I give the oak tree forty whacks
It's eighty feet tall -- ninety, max.
In no time I will have it cleared
And out of here, and smooth my tracks.
My little horse thinks I am weird
In my long ponytail and beard.
He drops some apples in the snow,
Soft ones, loose -- one might say, smeared--
He looks at me and say, Let's go--
And shakes his bells and --
GK: Okay, okay-- I get the point. So your grandfather --
DG: My grandfather made Robert Frost rewrite a great poem and ruin it.
GK: I've heard of editors like that.
DG: My family has been ashamed of this for eighty years and finally I am going to remove the stain. (CLICK) --
GK: A cigarette lighter-- that's two million dollars you're burning, Miss BarBARa. (FIRE)
DG: It's worth every penny. (DOOR IS FLUNG OPEN) --
SS: Grab her! Grab that manuscript! (COP VOICES, FOOTSTEPS) --
FN: It's gone.
TR: Nothing but ashes. We were seconds too late.
SS: You'll pay for this, BarBARa. You'll pay big time. You've destroyed a piece of literary history. And for that -- you're going to Sing Sing. And you're going to be running their writers' program!
DG: No! Please!!! Anything but that!!!! (STING)
GK: I was standing by the light switch and I just reached over and -- (CRIES OF CONFUSION, CHAOS, GLASS BREAKAGE) it was only dark for about thirty seconds but when the cops got the lights back on, Barbara BarBARa was gone.
SS: What happened??? Where'd she go???
TR: We'll find her, don't worry.
FN: She won't get far-- (COP VOICES, BUSYNESS) --
GK: She made it out to Wyoming. Bought a ranch in the Big Horn mountains. Gave up editing and took up gun collecting. The Gladiola Prize went to a garbage collector in Queens named Ramon -- it was a found poem, it simply listed interesting things he'd found in garbage cans over the years. Roger Larson did not win and he and Carmen broke up. I assume they did because I saw a poem of his in Poetry magazine, about desperate loneliness and wondering why we're here. And you know, it was the best thing he'd ever written.
TR: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets but one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions--..Guy Noir, Private Eye. (THEME)