Saturday, January 30, 2021

And My Lovely Wife Made a Nifty Thing - WELCOME TO THE HOUSE, BERNIE!


On Being Taken Seriously

"I never know when you’re serious!” “You’re always joking around!” “Why don’t you just say what you mean!!?”

I get this a lot. First of all, I’m always serious. Especially when I’m joking. As far as hiding the feelings thing, well, those are always on my shirtsleeve. Right there. Plain sight. Sometimes they drip into my coffee. I just make more.

The trouble is, the feelings are not always what people want to see, so they usually get dismissed. Rather than make a case of it, I make a joke. There is something about making a joke, creating a different way of looking at a situation that is troubling, that gives me a lot of comfort.  I reserve my tears for “It’s a Wonderful Life” and movies that celebrate the possibilities of living, which amuses people to no end, or for those moments alone following a funeral where I can have a personal meditation on the extra chill created in an often chilly world.

Then I claw my way to happy. Sometimes I overreach my grasp, and happiness becomes joy. And I tear up again.

I laugh inappropriately. I find that when the world threatens to roll over you, if you hop just a bit, it will roll under you. And it tickles. So I laugh.

I love to hear others laugh. There’s a certain exaltation in a room filled with laughter, akin to a choir belting out a chorus by Handel. I think Dante was looking in the wrong direction when he wrote his Divine Comedy. It’s not above, or below, it’s within.

If I joke with you, it’s because, frankly, I give a damn. If I don’t give a damn, well, I can be as serious and functional as a stapler. If I joke with you, it’s because I want to fuss. I can’t build you a chair, I can’t repair your carburetor, I can only do a moderate job of mowing your lawn. But I will try to have you laugh.

It’s for you own good, dammit.

21 May 2008

Monday, January 25, 2021

You Didn't Hear It From Me! - A One Act Play in Three Scenes

 You Didn’t Hear It From Me - A One Act Play in Three Scenes - Perpetrated by Jim Middleton

Part of a volume of "Performance Perpetrations" available from Amazon - You Didn't Hear It From Me!


A Newsboy

The Police Inspector

An Old Lady - Relief Nurse - Volunteer

An Elderly Man

A Head Nurse

An ER physician

The  CHORUS - who double as background characters and prop managers

Scene One: The Police Station

A NEWSBOY comes down the audience center aisle, waving papers

NEWSBOY: "Extra!  Extra!  Police flummoxed about string of homicides.  Read All About It!  Murder most foul!  Blood!  Mayhem!  Pictures on page...four!  And oh man, are there pictures!  Extra!  Extra!"

(If props allow, he hands copies out to members of the audience)

(NEWSBOY ascends to stage, retreats behind the curtain)

The curtain opens on a darkened stage, but we hear a bustling police station in a large city, with teletypes, telephones, doors slamming, and radio communications in the background.  

A CHORUS, here of police staff, are drawn to the open window on stage left, listening to the newsboy.



A scandal we can handle

But if it comes from fates of man, we’ll

Be stained with words on paper

That won’t taper in their tone!

What doom!

What rumination!

They use every machination 

We are smeared with every ring we hear

Upon our telephone!


(Phone rings) The CHORUS resumes its role as police operatives at the station.  They will serve other functions as the story progresses.

The lights rise to show the police office, with a detective desk upstage and off-center. 

Police are examining a white board of connected evidence clues written on scraps of paper, photographs, and maps of the city.An  INSPECTOR is at the desk, on the phone, looking through stacks of folders and papers, pulling stray bits of food (stray bits of pizza) and possibly a sock, from between them, upending a paper cup of cold coffee on top of desk, soaking a load of paperwork, which, now damaged by coffee he sweeps into a waste basket upstage from the desk. 

Into the flutter of activity, apparently lost, comes a sweet looking old lady, nearly a cliche in appearance - her white hair pulled back in a bun, her black outfit from a 1908 Sears catalog, her purse more like a carpet bag. She is helped along with a slender, hooked cane.  

She is out for a formal visit, so she is wearing white gloves, as a proper lady should. 

She walks up to the INSPECTOR’s desk, and is ignored, so she quietly sits in the chair and observes his frustration with all the material that he's juggling around his desk during this current investigation. The old fashioned rotary phone is pressed to his ear.

LADY:  “Excuse me.”  

She is ignored. 

LADY: "Excuse me?” 

She taps the desk with her cane.

LADY:  “Excuse me!” 

She takes her little cane and hooks it through the INSPECTOR’S  phone cord and yanks it from his ear. 

The INSPECTOR spins around, furious.

LADY: “Oh, I'm sorry, did I interrupt you?”

INSPECTOR:  “How'd you get in here?!”   

LADY: “That nice young sergeant sent me over to you.”

INSPECTOR:  "Oh he did, did he?  The nice young.... Mulligan!" 

Mulligan waves.

MULLIGAN:  "Pleasure's mine, Inspector.  Thought you could use a distraction!” 

INSPECTOR (returning to the lady at his desk):  "Lady, you may not have noticed, but we're pretty busy here tonight.  Perhaps you've caught some news about it in the papers- a serial killer is on the loose.” 

LADY: "I don't pay attention to such trifles.  I'm here on a very important matter.” 

INSPECTOR: "Important matter?”

LADY: "Most important. I am here to report - a missing cat." 

INSPECTOR: “A missing cat.”

LADY:  “Oh, you're already treating me like a crazy person. I can tell you're not a cat lover." 

INSPECTROR:  Tonight of all nights is a very bad time to deal with a missing cat.' 

LADY:  "This is no common feline, inspector..  He has been my one reliable companion, my one true source of comfort, these many years.”

INSPECTOR:  “I see.”

(the old woman begins to stare off into the distance, as the INSPECTOR decides to let her ramble and surreptitiously returns to his stack of reports) 

The LADY stands, moves downstage from the desk.  The stage darkens and she is spotlighted.  

The CHORUS of police staff circles her.

LADY:  “I don't think you can - few have true sight. My first true love professed a fondness for felines, but it was a ruse, one of his many, a ruse to cloud my clear vision.   I didn't realize his – his insincerity -  but my cat could, he could smell it on him like cheap tuna. That, and his Bay Rum was mostly rum.  It was no wonder that he died as he did, as he deserved.”

At “died,” the INSPECTOR regains some interest.  The spotlight dims, the stage lights return, and the CHORUS pulls away.  The LADY returns to her chair.

INSPECTOR:  “Your cat?”

LADY:  “No, my first love. Do try to pay attention, inspector.  First loves always die, don't they?  Nothing so intense can last forever, can it?   Love is exhausting. My cat, however, perseveres.  Purrr-severes.”

She chuckles. The INSPECTOR  is becoming a bit impatient. 

INSPECTOR:  “OK, lady, I suppose I can find you a form here.”  He pulls a sheet out his desk drawer.  “This one is for missing persons, so just scratch out “person” and put in “cat.” 

LADY (almost to herself):  "Scratching out persons, funny you should say that." 

Another detective with a new report comes to the INSPECTOR and they continue to chat about some new information while the old lady continues with her story.  More pages get pinned to the data board in the background.

The room darkens, the LADY stands and moves forward again, and the CHORUS returns near her.


O incapacitation

Surrounds each investigation!

Our inspector can’t inspect her

Suitors who hardly seem to suit her!


LADY:  "Cats can get into the most interesting things, and it doesn't seem to affect them at all. But people get just the slightest scratch, and if they're not truly cat people, they can be gone in just a few heartbeats.”

The stage lights return.  The LADY turns to the INSPECTOR.

LADY: “You know, the heart pushes its entire supply of blood through the body in less then five minutes." 

INSPECTOR:  “I'm sorry, lady, but I have to attend to this report.  You, you just wait  right here end we'll finish up with your cat story in just a little bit...I need to check on some forensics right now, you know, that silly police work we do around here." 

The two policemen leave. The lady pulls a bit of cat hair from her dress and examines it.  She moves again downstage.  

LADY:  “Some kitty confetti.” 

She puts it in her purse. 

“It has only been an hour and how I miss you. Remember how they would get so upset when you came around the secretarial pool and curled up at momma's desk? I learned to type to your purr. It was like a waltz.  And all those salesmen would come around and try to flirt.  All that talk about chattels, indemnities, and whole life. We've led a whole life many times, haven't we?  A whole lot of lives.  And you always knew what they really wanted and you kept them all away. Good thing we liked to travel, wasn't it? So many men, but not one could get near my cat.”

She begins to waltz with members of the CHORUS, one to another, and particularly close with a female member.

LADY: “My, what happens in the chorus, stays in the chorus, doesn’t  it?”

The lights come up, the CHORUS disperses.  The INSPECTOR and detective return. 

INSPECTOR:  "So, how's that missing cat report coming along?" 

LADY:  "I don't believe you are taking me seriously, young man." 

INSPECTOR: “Well,  ma'am,  we can't move forward without a report, can we?" 

LADY:  “Could I trouble you for a pen, then?  Pencil?  Perhaps you use crayons?”  

The INSPECTOR  is not amused. 

INSPECTOR:  “Perhaps I should fill it out for you. With a pen.” 

He takes the form. 

INSPECTOR:  “Ok, Missing cat” He scratches through the word person.

 LADY: “That's C-A-T.”

INSPECTOR:  “You wouldn't prefer a K?”

LADY:  “No, C is fine."

INSPECTOR: “l was thinking of using another letter myself. OK -- Cat. What was the name of your cat?' 

LADY:  “Is. Nine lives, you know. This would be his....third. (she looks off in a wistful way)

INSPECTOR:  “The name, lady, the name.”

LADY:  “Euripides.” 

INSPECTOR: "Euripides.”

LADY:  “That's what I said - Euripides. Need I spell that to you as well?”

INSPECTOR:  "No, it doesn't really matter. Cats don't come when you call them, anyway.” 

LADY:  "Oh, not my Euripides. He's quite accommodating.”

Tbe LADY looks off for another monolog.   The lights dim, the CHORUS joins from behind, perhaps a soft waltz emerges.

LADY:  “Euripides... what is a name?  I’m used to being ignored now, in fact, I’m nearly invisible.  But I was once always seen, often sought, and very selective.  Men - well, boys, performed their rituals, those dances, those lovely dances (the chorus responds) , smeared with their Bay Rum and macassar oils, hair untouched by these fingers.  Those untuned banjos and voices barely cracked, in a singular quest like a stag in spring.  As time went by, they slowly learned I was impervious and inempressed, even as I slowly dimmed the parlor lights to obscure the mirrored reality.” (The lights have been dimming through this monologue) 

“And then I met - Olivier!”  

(The lights pop back)

“I didn’t feel invisible!  I wasn’t old, I possessed character.  My hair wasn’t gray, it was a braided, silvered memory of melodies.  I...”

The LADY sighs, turns, encounters the CHORUS/POLICE swaying to the music, if any, or just to the melodies in their heads.

LADY: “Speech is what distinguishes men from the other animals.  But they are still animals.”


“I detect impetuous eavesdropping!

Imperious shadows needing stopping!

While current speeches move amusement’s gauge,

These staged events remain on the stage!!!

Remember - not a word to share

Or by Aphrodite, I’ll rain despair!!” 

The CHORUS, chastised, disperses to their background.

The LADY returns to her seat.

INSPECTOR:  “I need a description on this feline – Color?” 

LADY:  "Is that on your people form?  In this day and age?” 

INSPECTOR:  “Yeah, it is.  And it still applies here.  Color.” 

LADY: °In the dark, all cats are gray. Ben Franklin said that once.”

INSPECTOR:  "Not surprised you would know what Ben Franklin said about cats.” (he flip a page on his report) 

INSPECTOR: “Weight.”

LADY: “Certainly.”


LADY: “I'll wait. Do you need to get a crayon after all?” 

INSPECTOR:  “No, no no no no.  How much does the cat...” the LADY raises a finger at him – "How much does Euripides weigh?” 

LADY:  "He's very light on his feet. He always lands on them, you know.  Let's see, he weighs 12 pounds, so that makes ... " 

INSPECTOR:  “Three pounds per foot.” 

LADY:  "In physics, they call that foot-pounds.  Have you ever studied physics?  Perhaps you need a physic?" 

Another detective comes over and they confer about the homicide case under investigation.

INSPECTOR (to LADY) "I'll be right back." 

LADY:  “I'll stay right here, young man. It'll be my weighty matter.”

INSPECTOR (to detective) "Come on, Bill, show me the splatter report." 

LADY:  "Don't run with anything sharp, inspector.” 

The lady opens her purse again. 

LADY:  “If this is Euripides' third life, then it must be my –    (she produces some 3 x 5 cards from her purse and looks them over)  – my fifth." 

The LADY pulls out a small vial from her purse and places it on the lieutenant's desk.  She also pulls out a little ring of measuring spoons, chooses the smallest of them, measures out some fluid, and drips it into her open purse.  She then pulls out a small glass from her purse, now containing the little amount of fluid she dripped in, and puts it on his desk (or other unexpected stage business). 

The LADY slides her cane back onto the desktop as well.   The INSPECTOR returns.  He is carrying another cup of coffee. 

LADY:  "Young man, may I trouble you for a little water?” 

He comes back with a small glass.   The lady mixes it with the cup of fluid.

LADY:  "My medicine is very touchy. A little bit fine, a lot - not so fine.”

INSPECTOR:  "Have you finished your little wildcat chronicle for me?" 

LADY:  "Oh yes.”  She slides her paper over to the inspector.

LADY: “All this talk about murders.   Murders are so messy, so noisy, and all that flailing about, begging for mercy..." 

The inspector's phone rings. 

INSPECTOR: "Detective bureau. (His voice softens)  Oh, hello, honey." 

He turns his chair around from the lady for privacy.  “Just tell me how Sam's doing.”

The lady pours her “medicine” into his coffee. 

INSPECTOR:  “You know I wish I could be there, this string of murders is keeping us here all night again. Tell you what, I'll finish up with a little matter here and get right over to the hospital. They can reach me there and you could get a break.  Sure.  OK,   Love you, too.  Bye.”

He hangs up. 

LADY:  "Something wrong with your son?" 

INSPECTOR:  “Daughter.  Samantha. She is my special – she has, ah, special needs.   Her caregivers can be – careless, let's say.  Our only child.  She means the world to us.  (brief, but thoughtful pause) So, I have to ask again, why all this concern tonight about your Euripides?  Tonight, of all nights.”

LADY:  "I'm afraid Euripides can be a bit willful and not completely follow my instructions at times.   He just might have gotten into some - some- cleaning fluid at home and...”

A street cop comes in, carrying a small plastic animal transport box.  We hear a muted “meow” from within.

LADY (ecstatic) :  "Euripides!"  

In her excitement, the LADY seems to inadvertently push the tainted coffee into the abused wastebasket with her cane.  

INSPECTOR:  “This is your cat?” 

LADY: “Gray and light on his feet!  Light gray, you could say! Oh my, yes! He complains in perfect pitch – the key of C.  It's music to my ears!"  

The LADY happily peers into the box. 

LADY:  “You have family, too, lieutenant, you have others who depend on you, who need you. I might say that is a very redeeming characteristic – to me, anyway.” 

INSPECTOR:  "Well, let's just look at this feline." 

He opens the box's door, and reaches in.

INSPECTOR: “Hello, there, troublemaker...” 

LADY:  “Oh, my, young man, don't do that!" 

The cat growls. the INSPECTOR pulls his hand back. 

INSPECTOR:  "Youch!”

LADY:  “He doesn't care for strangers. you should know that about cats." 

INSPECTOR:  “My mistake.  After all our talk, I felt I had already met him.  He certainly seems healthy.”

He turns to the street cop.

INSPECTOR:  "Where'd you find it?”

COP: "About a block from the scene. You told us to round up anything unusual." 

INSPECTOR (irritated):  “Well, give it to her!” 

The INSPECTOR sucks on his scratched finger.

COP:  “But....”

INSPECTOR:  “Just give it to her, ok?  I've had enough distractions involving cats for a lifetime." 

The LADY takes the box. 

LADY:  “Oh, Euripides, up to mischief, my naughty boy.  Thank you so much, inspector." 

The LADY begins to walk off stage.   The INSPECTOR looks at his desk. 

INSPECTOR:  “All this mess and now two cups of coffee shot.” 

The LADY is still talking to her cat. 

LADY:  “AIl these noisy murders, all these people falling out of buildings.  When someone yelled medic! they should have yelled spatula!” 

She turns to the INSPECTOR  just before leaving completely offstage. 

LADY:  "Thank you for your help, inspector.  Be sure to get that scratch looked after.  From my experience, it may need more than a little ointment, no matter how redeeming your character is."

(then back to the cat) 

LADY:  “Good thing he's already going to the hospital, isn't, it? Now that puts our number still at eight, doesn't it?” 

The policemen watch her leave.

INSPECTOR:  “That splatter report wasn't made public, was it?”

COP:  “No.”

INSPECTOR:  “And the M.E.  did rule out suicide, didn't he?" 

COP: “Yeah, in fact, the last examination showed he a series of raised welts, consistent with subcutaneous exposure to concentrated formic acid.  It's not a common chemical, we usually associate it with bee stings. But these weren't stings, more along the line of incisions.”

INSPECTOR:  “Pre-mortem?”

COP: “Yeah, and pretty painful.”

INSPECTOR:  “The three story fall probably didn't help much, either.”

COP:  “And it wasn't his idea.  There is evidence of a struggle.”

INSPECTOR:  “What did this guy do for a living?”

COP:  “Insurance salesman –  term life, indemnities, the whole thing.  You ok... sir?”

The INSPECTOR is holding his throbbing hand, now turning red.

INSPECTOR:  “I've felt better.  Get forensics up here to analyze my wastebasket – and call me an ambulance.”  

He slumps into his chair....


Curtain closes, Newsboy walks across stage, waving papers.

NEWSBOY: “Extra!  Extra!  Inspector in hospital!  Killer still at large!  EXTRA!  EXTRA!”


Introduction to Scene Two:

LADY and CHORUS COME ON STAGE, in front of drawn curtain


The proscenium calls!  Quick!  Move your joints!


We’ll do naught to disappoint!

We shall never break our promise!

We’re no scheming Nostradamus!

An oath for both

A creed, indeed!

We’ll utter not a word.

A sacred trust

It’s love, not lust,

The thought is just absurd!

NEWSBOY (off) : “EXTRA!  EXTRA!  Suspect  Still at Large!”

The curtain arises, the CHORUS takes its assigned places - holding tree branches, representing street lights...

Scene Two - The Next Morning, In the Park

An ELDERLY MAN is sitting on a bench, with a few books and his lunch. 

The LADY approaches and joins him on the seat, at a respectable distance. She is carrying her cat in the same box from the police station. 

The ELDERLY MAN takes no real notice of her, and finishes his sandwich. He carefully refolds the wax paper that held it, places it in a little brown bag, and then folds the bag carefully before putting it in one of his jacket pockets.  

With an expression of satisfaction, he says to himself: 


The LADY perks up. 

LADY:  "Yes?" 

The elderly man takes notice of her. 

ELDERLY MAN:  "Excuse me?" 

LADY:  "Oh , I'm sorry. I thought you were addressing me." 

The ELDERLY MAN is bewildered. 

LADY:  "My name is Kay. And this is my cat, Euripides." 

ELDERLY MAN:  "Do we know each other?" 

LADY:  "Possibly.  I've become quite forgetful, I'm afraid, so if someone says my name, I reply. I don’t wish to be rude.." 

ELDERLY MAN:  "I understand that feeling very well." 

LADY:  "You come here often?".

ELDERLY MAN:  "I believe that’s supposed to be my line.  But I do try to have my little lunch here each day, on this bench, among these trees.  I enjoy the birds, the people walking their animals." 

LADY:  "Routines are important." 

ELDERLY MAN:  "And your cat. Such an interesting name - Euripides. I'm  reading this little book about him." 

LADY:  "Imagine that." 

ELDERLY MAN:  "Just catching up on things I should have read in school.  Did you know be said 'leave no stone unturned'?" 

LADY:  "I may have heard that.”

ELDERLY MAN:  "Sometimes he sounds almost like Ben Franklin.”  

He points at her carrier. 

 “Did you know Franklin once said, 'in the be dark, all cats are gray'?" 

LADY:  “I may have heard that, too." 

ELDERLY MAN:  “I'm sorry - I'm being inconsiderate - I'm called Julius." 

LADY:  "How do you do, Julius." 

ELDERLY MAN:  "Very well, thank you. And you are Kay,  and your cat is Euripides, and isn't this a lovely day?" 

LADY:  “It is a lovely day, Julius.”

ELDERLY MAN:  "A day that makes you feel good to be alive." 

LADY:  "It's a good habit." 

ELDERLY MAN:  “I’m a creature of habit.  I need structure.  I guess I get that from my years of selling insurance." 

LADY:  “Oh,  you sell insurance?  Imagine that!” says the lady.

ELDERLY MAN:  "Oh , I quit the business nearly 20 years ago - I only do policies for family and friends now. Don't even charge a fee. Just to keep myself busy." 

LADY:  "Everyone needs a hobby, Julius.”

ELDERLY MAN:  “I'm so sorry - here I am; finishing up my lunch and I don't have a thing to offer you or your cat.”

LADY:  “That’s quite all right.  But you know, I am in the market for an insurance policy." 

ELDERLY MAN:  "There you go again, you're taking all my lines!  This is all quite a coincidence." 

LADY:  "Quite a coincidence." 

ELDERLY MAN:  "I don't have any of the forms with me – they're back at my apartment." 

LADY:  “I imagine that isn't very far away." 

ELDERLY MAN:  "Oh , I could go and get them and - it’s only a short walk.  I can....”

The LADY stands, picking up the carrier with Euripides. 

LADY:  "Oh, I can manage the three blocks, just fine." 

ELDERLY MAN:  "Oh, my.  Well, it is a nice day for a walk."   

He stands as well. 

LADY:  "A lovely day to be alive." 

ELDERLY MAN:  "And I must apologize in advance for the state of my place.  I get so few visitors." 

They begin walking off stage. 

LADY:  "I'm sure it will be fine.  Not too many flights, I expect?"  

ELDERLY MAN:  "Well, I'm on the fourth floor - that isn't too many, is it?   I take the stairs for exercise, but they do have an elevator." 

LADY:  "Four floors should be about right."

 ELDERLY MAN:  "Well, this has turned out to be quite a  day.  Quite a day.  I meet you, a cat called  Euripides, and I get to do something redeeming, and -- how' d you know I’m only three blocks away?" 

LADY:  "Just a lucky guess." 

ELDERLY MAN:  "A lovely, lucky day." 

They walk off stage together.


NEWSBOY (across stage, waving papers): “EXTRA!  EXTRA!  HOSPITAL ON LOCKDOWN!  Food still terrible!”

Scene three - The Hospital Room  

The CHORUS has taken its place as props for the scene, holding a window frame, an IV, serving as an IV pump and cardiac monitor.

A NURSE is attending to an IV attached to the INSPECTOR.   She is dressed in a typical, if somewhat old fashioned, crisp, white nurse's uniform.  Her hair is almost unnaturally red. 

When she leaves, the stage is fully lit on the hospital room. The bed is angled downstage so that movement may be seen on either side. The IV is to the right of the bed, near a bedstand table. A window, or a representation, is to the left. There is a hospital curtain that can seclude the bed at any time.  Members of the CHORUS fulfill the manual duties.

NURSE (now off-stage):  "He should be up soon.   Looks like you arrived just in time." 

The INSPECTOR’S wife, MOLLY, enters and approaches the bed.  The INSPECTOR sits up.

MOLLY:  "A fine show this is. The only way our family can get together is at the hospital. At least you and Sam both have beds." 

INSPECTOR:  “Hi, Molly."

MOLLY  kisses his forehead.

MOLLY:   "You were in surgery for nearly five hours. Like these guys don't get paid enough - you gave them overtime." 

INSPECTOR:  “At least with the ether, the food doesn't taste as bad."

MOLLY:   "Speaking of food.  I ordered your breakfast.  Hope you like egg-flavored mush.  Does it hurt?” 

INSPECTOR:   "It's still pretty numb. I’ve been told not to move my hand, but I can feel the bandages. Cancel my ukulele lessons." 

MOLLY:  “Still no sign of the crazy cat lady?" 

INSPECTOR:  “Nothing.  We have a man at the hospital entrance with a description.  How’s Sam doing?” 

MOLLY:   "She'll be fine.  She's like you - just keeps bouncing back.  Not much of a view here.  Is that a poster of a window?" 

The CHORUS member holding the poster of a window reacts.

INSPECTOR:  “That's fine with me.   I’ve had enough stimulation for a while. Think we’ll be able to see Sam together today?  I suppose they can wheel me down there if all my vital signs stay vital." 

MOLLY:   "That sounds like a reasonable goal.  We’ll see what the surgeon says.”

THE HEAD NURSE and a candy-striper VOLUNTEER enter. This new, HEAD NURSE is in scrubs, and the VOLUNTEER is in the typical costume of a “candy striper.” They are both putting on rubber gloves. 

HEAD NURSE:   "This is your first day, so you need to get in the habit of gloving up before interacting with patients with this level of infection. Oh - I see you're already gloved. That's a great start.  Inspector, good morning. I see your wife is here already. We have a new volunteer with us today, so I'll be showing her some of the procedures.”

VOLUNTEER:  "I get to bring breakfast today.”

 MOLLY:   "Is he still getting antibiotics?” 

HEAD NURSE:  "He'll be on clindamycin for a week, at least, and since he's a good little inspector, we'll keep it in an oral form." 

INSPECTOR:  “As long as it's not a suppository. I promise to be a good boy”

At the word "suppository," the volunteer girl reacts uneasily.

 HEAD NURSE (to the VOLUNTEER):   “Now the layout here is like all the rooms on this floor - charts are by the patient door, emergency call switch by the bed.”  

MOLLY:  “I’ll check on Sam now and will be back to help with your feeding time.  Do as you're told, dear,"  MOLLY kisses him again and leaves. 

VOLUNTEER:  "I can help feed him!" 

HEAD NURSE :  “It’s my opinion, that a good candy striper should try to be invisible.”

The VOLUNTEER makes a pouty face. 

INSPECTOR:   "Between the hand surgery and the IV there, I'll be glad for any help.”  

The VOLUNTEER seems happier with that. 

The HEAD NURSE  approaches the IV. 

HEAD NURSE:  "And about that IV... odd.... it’s been stopped.  It should be at a keep-open rate, at least.  I’ll check the main orders at the desk.... there.  Don't go away, inspector.” 

The INSPECTOR reacts to that by waiving his bandaged hand and IV’d arm.

HEAD NURSE: “I'll be right back." 

The  HEAD NURSE and the VOLUNTEER leave together.

INSPECTOR:  “And I'll be right here!" 

The VOLUNTEER shyly returns to the room after a few moments. 

VOLUNTEER:   "Are you really the policeman who got poisoned by a cat?”

INSPECTOR:   "Yes, ma'am, I'm that lucky dog.  All this fuss over a little gray cat." 

VOLUNTEER:  "I hear that, in the dark, all cats are gray," 

The VOLUNTEER is getting closer. 

INSPECTOR:  “I remember hearing tha-- hearing .. huh huh haaa -" 

The INSPECTOR  is struggling to talk. 

VOLUNTEER:  "Don't be alarmed.  It's just the curare. A very little dose. Vocal paralysis is usually an early sign that it’s working." 

The INSPECTOR  tries to reach out.   His arm flops down. 

VOLUNTEER :  " ...  followed by interrupted motor reflexes ... "

The INSPECTOR is staring at the VOLUNTEER , helpless. 

VOLUNTEER:   “You're probably a little confused. You don’t remember me, because we really haven’t met yet.” 

She taps at the IV (actually the head of a CHORUS member.  The CHORUS member reacts.) 

VOLUNTEER :  "That's a little too fast." 

The VOLUNTEER makes adjustments. 

VOLUNTEER:   "Hospitals are such dangerous places, don’t you think?  Accidents happen all the time.  It's not all about being the cradle for life, the pillar for health,  providing succor to serrated souls.  Isn't that right, inspector?  Sometimes it's just one strange coincidence after another.  At least on the ground floor, you can’t drop far from a window.”

VOLUNTEER (switching  to an old lady's voice):  "But you brought me my cat."

VOLUNTEER (reverting to her previous voice): "And I like to be sure I've covered all my bases before I leave a town.   And you're going to let me leave, aren't you, because you love your job, you love your daughter Samantha, and you love your patient wife Molly, your home at 320 Sycamore Street.  And I think you love your breathing.  I'm pretty sure you have a safe enough dose, but you’re covered if this hospital experience becomes something less hospitable." 

She looks at the IV again, then back to the INSPECTOR. 

VOLUNTEER:  "Oh, my, I may have forgotten to move a decimal point. You appear to be going into shock." 

She reverts to her candy-striper persona, hits the emergency call button (another member of the CHORUS), and runs from the room. 

VOLUNTEER:   "Help! Help! We need help in room 104!” 

The HEAD NURSE  runs in, followed by MOLLY and another aide. 

HEAD NURSE :  "I double checked the orders and your husband isn’t supposed to have any IV.  I called a code blue." 

(much activity and coordinated pandemonium as a handful of clinicians - more CHORUS - rush in) 

The HEAD NURSE  pulls the bed curtain (CHORUS business), and MOLLY stands outside of it as we hear CPR being administered - “Keep chest compressions until we get the ventilator!” “Where’s that crash cart?!” “I need epinephrine!”

(stage fades to black for a few moments) 

(fade back up, it is now a few minutes later) 

An ER DOCTOR emerges from behind the curtain, now being pulled back (a flourish by a CHORUS member).  He turns to the HEAD NURSE.

ER DOCTOR:    "He’ll be ok , but follow that monitor.  It's nice when basic CPR does the trick. What set it off?    He was perfect after surgery.”

MOLLY runs to check out her husband.

INSPECTOR (rasping out):   "Curare.  Curare in the IV." 

ER DOCTOR: “Curare? How do you know that?”

INSPECTOR:   “She told me. The volunteer." 

HEAD NURSE:  "The new candy striper? Oh, sure, inspector.”

MOLLY:  “If he says it happened, it happened.”

ER DOCTOR:  “But we don’t even keep curare, plain curare, anywhere in this hospital.”

HEAD NURSE, stunned, produces a vial from the bedstand. 

HEAD NURSE:  “We do now.”

The ER DOCTOR examines it.

ER DOCTOR:  “This looks like army surplus - something from an old bomb shelter.  It has to be 30 years old!”

INSPECTOR:   “But it wasn't a candy striper.  It was the crazy lady with that damn cat." 

MOLLY:   “Oh honey, they’ll track her down.”

A POLICE GUARD comes in, carrying a red wig and a candy striper outfit.  

POLICE GUARD:  “I just found these in a laundry bag as I was comin’ down the hall.”

INSPECTOR:  “No sign of an old lady, though, right?”


INSPECTOR:  “Oh, she’s long gone.”

An ELDERLY MAN enters.  He is the same ELDERLY MAN from the park bench.

ELDERLY MAN:  "Excuse me, is this where the ... (he looks at some papers) " ... the inspector is staying? He wasn't at his home on Sycamore." 

MOLLY:  “"What do you want?” 

ELDERLY MAN:   "I just need to get a signature on this insurance policy." 

MOLLY:   "Insurance policy?" 

ELDERLY MAN:  “Yes – you see,  if a party of the first part takes out a policy on a second party, and that second  party is not present at the time of the policy being granted, I am obligated to get a signature from that insured second party before it can become active." 

INSPECTOR:  “What?” 

ELDERLY MAN:   "Oh, please, don't make me repeat that. I've had a long morning.” 

MOLLY:   "So have we." 

ELDERLY MAN:   "This term policy has had its premiums paid in advance, in cash, but I need to get a signature. A signature from the inspector. It's his policy.” 

He hands it to MOLLY, who takes it to the inspector and begins reading it. The clinicians are looking rather stupified. 

MOLLY: “Honey, it's for $50,000, it's in your name, and Sam and I are listed as the beneficiaries.” 

ELDERLY MAN:  “Yes, and if you could please sign it, then I can be on my way, and I’ll  never, never have lunch at that park bench again.”

INSPECTOR:  “You know, we’re going to have a lot of questions for you about this.” 

The INSPECTOR  scrawls on the paper, and MOLLY: hands it back to the ELDERLY MAN. 

ELDERLY MAN:  “I don’t care.  I just want to go back to my apartment and try to figure out how to get this new cat of mine to shut up!" 

INSPECTOR:  "Euripides.”

ELDERLY MAN:  "Yes, Euripides,”

ELDERLY MAN moves offstage.

Lights dim.   Curtain closes.   CHORUS emerges.


Frightened felines, feigned senescence

Making known their punctured presence

Serve enlightenment

Clear insightenment

For those of you who gaze this stage.

Remember, when serene observering

The gauze used for sedate preserving

Makes one inclined

To tricks of mind

By wisened, willful, wicked age.

So check things twice, and sometimes thrice

And claw your way to being nice

For shades exist, 

Observe, persist!

Attending to what we now decree.

But if such as you become enlightened,

There’s not a need to become frightened

Just repeat

In words discreet,

You Didn’t Hear It From Me!

NEWSBOY walks across stage.  The CHORUS scatters. 

NEWSBOY: “Extra!  Extra!  Inspector survives death attack!  Serial killer leaves town!  Read all about it!”

Behind him, the LADY follows, with a deliberate pace.

LADY (sinister tone): “Oh, young man...young man... I need to have a word with you!  Young man!”

(Fade to black)


25 January 2021

Saturday, January 16, 2021

I Seem to Annoy Some Folks, Imagine!

OK, Facebook is a sewer of misinformation and faux science, and folks who repost the fauxhood du jour without a lot of critical thinking.

This morning I came upon a local "private" group who had sent out a load of anti-windmill information with "unanswered questions" for any "township officials" considering adding this variety of green energy.

It ended with, "This isn't Texas and you aren't in Kansas!"

I felt it my obligation to respond, with all the sincere sobriety the posting deserved:


Plop one - two! - in my back yard RIGHT NOW. Just think of all the grocery money I'll save with all those free dead birds. I love flicker! It reminds me of television, and who doesn't love the secret messages sent in the flicker of televisions (it must be true! I heard it on Coast to Coast last night!) And every township official, each a science-based individuals, has lots of money for third party sound testing, and my, none of those third-party reviews would ever, ever, ever have an agenda. And decibel levels? Whoa, think of the money I can save on sleepytime sound machines! Yep, this isn't Tahiti, but I can sure feel the Guam!!!  

Somebody replied, but I don't think he understood my joking:

Jim Middleton I think you need a little bit more research on this subject. They have thousands over on the other side of the state and they not complaining about the royalty check every month.

So I felt it necessary to expound:

Yes, I love to be treated like royalty! And have extra poultry and enough electricity to run my 21 inch Zenith Chromacolor ALL DAY and ALL NIGHT. Bring on the windmills! Love 'em love 'em love 'em! Proof we're in the 21st century!

And, after a moment's thought, wrote another response:

And then our little town could have Don Quixote festivals! Tilting at windmills! Who can tilt the furthest? Or is it farthest? Or is it farthing? How many leaks to a farthing? Or is that a furlong? How long is my dog's fur in a headwind? And her tailwind redefines downwind. It's all gravity based. Not gravy based, although my dog LOVES gravy. Nom nom nom nom she says. You may quote me. (How many quotes to a gallon, by the way....never can keep that conversion straight, but that goes down the road of conversion therapy, and that's another can of words.)

I hit "enter" only to find that the original article had been deleted by the first poster.  And dawgunnit, I was on a roll....  

Well, it was fun while it lasted!  

Oh that internet!

Friday, January 15, 2021

More mini-movies from the 2000s - Bear Country

 All this footage from the past 20 years, but available technology then didn't permit any affordable editing.  So here are some trimmings from tapes digitized before fading completely....

Bear Country (2001) - South Dakota

(cc) 2021 Jim Middleton, Animating Apothecary
(Music: "The Teddy Bear's Picnic," from a 1905 Edison recording)

Monday, January 11, 2021

Everett J. Nienhouse, 1936-2020

Sometimes news travels far too slowly - this notice is from the Big Rapids Pioneer, dated January 7, 2021:

CARLSBAD, CA -- Everett James Nienhouse, 84, of Carlsbad, CA, passed away peacefully on Nov. 17, 2020.

Ev was born in Oak Park, IL, the son of Edward and Gladys Nienhouse. He attended Oak Park High School where he was a national champion hurdler. He graduated from Hope College with B.S in Chemistry, and earned an M.S. from Northwestern University and a Ph.D. from SUNY at Buffalo.

Ev participated in the Hope Vienna Summer School abroad program in 1956 and counted it as one of the fine experiences of his life.

He was married to the late Elaine Vanderbrug for 33 years. They had two children, Eric and Jonathan.

Ev taught at Ferris State University for 30 years and took advantage of numerous sabbatical leave opportunities which took him to the University of Groningen (Neth.) to UNC (Chapel Hill), the SE MO Crime Lab (Cape Girardeau), Dartmouth (Hanover), Montana State (Bozeman) and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

During his tenure at Ferris State University, he was the youngest faculty member to be promoted to full professor in Ferris State's history. He received multiple other honors including being named Distinguished Professor of the Year by his Ferris State colleagues in 1975 and Professor of the Year by Ferris State students in 1980; the Michigan Association of Governing Boards of State College and University Award for excellence in teaching, research and scholarly activities in 1984; and elevation to Distinguished Merit Professor in 1992.

In 2012, Hope College awarded him the Distinguished Alumni of the Year for his significant impact as an educator. His passion for teaching organic chemistry contributed to countless of his students' academic successes and made a difference in the lives of over 4000 students while serving at a variety of schools.

He lost his late wife to cancer in early 1998. Later, while attending his 40th college reunion, he met his lovely wife Erika who also participated in the Vienna Summer School Program in 1956. A reunion romance ensued which magically culminated in their marriage in October of 1999.

They lived a "two coast" life, enjoying lovely Carlsbad California winters and cool Northwestern Michigan summers at his beloved Farm House property. Ev and Erika were married for 21 years and enjoyed many adventures together.

Ev's Dutch background included a kind of mysticism that helped to explain his deep religious faith. He loved sacred choral music, researching the backgrounds of writers and composers of the Great Hymns of the Faith, and playing interesting piano arrangements of these hymns.

He also enjoyed researching topics from the History of the Navajo Code Talkers to the Use of Poisonings in Contemporary Detective Fiction.

His love of life stemmed in large part from his close brush with death at age 39 which led to implantation of a nuclear powered heart pacemaker, his being one of very few in the world. He felt that each day was a gift from God and lived it to its fullest, never shying away from difficult tasks.

He will be remembered by many as a very special and unusual friend.

Ev is survived by his wife, Erika; and his two sons, Jon and Eric.

He was an enthusiastic, multi-talented and good man. We will miss him.

A memorial service is planned for Summer 2021 in Ellsworth, MI. For more information see and search for "Everett Nienhouse".

Charitable donations may be made to the "Everett Nienhouse Endowed Scholarship" at Rehoboth Christian School, Rehoboth, New Mexico.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Middleton Gardens, Clips from 2002

Edit in 2021, some pup named Toscanini conducting Respighi in 1917 for the background.  Narration after one too many hot mint juleps.

(cc) 2021, The Animating Apothecary