FISH WAIF


SOUND: APARTMENT DOOR OPENS

JESSIE: (NARRATES) He opened the door to my apartment and found the most 
brain-blasting, nerve-nihilating, soul-sundering sight it had ever been his 
misfortune to witness: me and a mackerel, soaking wet, rolling around on the 
floor, in flagrante delicto! Yes, I was the woman of his dreams -- and I was 
SHAMELESSLY CAVORTING WITH A FISH!

MUSIC: AN ACCENT, THEN IN BG

ANNOUNCER: The Middlebury Radio Theater of Thrills and Suspense presents "Fish 
Waif," based on the short story by Michael O'Donoghue and featuring ________ 
as the pet store manager and ________ as the fish waif.

MUSIC: OUT

DEREK: (NARRATES) It all began in New York City, 1967. I was the manager of a 
midtown pet shop. It was late in the afternoon and I was training a new girl. 
You have to keep in mind that this was 1967 America -- a backward, primitive 
society -- and our idea of "training a new girl" was to put her behind the 
counter and let her fend for herself every time a customer walked in.

SOUND: DOOR OPENS, BELL RINGS

GIRL: (CHEERY) Hi-i-i! Welcome to Midtown Pet Bowl-O-Rama! How may I help 
you?!

CUSTOMER 1: (SNOOTY) I would like to purchase a box of Dog Yummies for my 
Bedlington terrier!

GIRL: (HASN'T A CLUE) Oooookay ... let me have you speak with the manager.

SOUND: DOOR OPENS, BELL RINGS

GIRL: Hi-i-i! Welcome to Midtown Pet Bowl-O-Rama! 

CUSTOMER 2: (THICK NOO YAWK ACCENT) My ferret has been acting up lately and 
the vet recommended I spray it with bitter apple but it turns out I've got one 
of those ferrets that actually LIKES the taste of bitter apple and so what I'm 
wondering is, do you have any bitter orange or bitter banana or a better 
bitter?

GIRL: (STILL CLUELESS) Oooookay ... let me get the manager for you.

SOUND: DOOR OPENS, BELL RINGS

GIRL: Hi-i-i! Welcome to Midtown Pet Bowl-O-Rama! 

CUSTOMER 3: (ALSO CLUELESS) I just flushed my pet alligator down the toilet. 
It's not going to live in the sewers and grow to enormous size and come back 
to kill me or anything, is it?

GIRL: Um ... (CALLS FORLORNLY) Manager to the cash register?!

DEREK: (SIGHS, NARRATES) All in all, a typical afternoon in the life of a pet 
store manager. At least, it WAS, until this stunningly sultry brunette walked 
in. ...

SOUND: DOOR OPENS, BELL RINGS

DEREK: (NARRATES, LOVINGLY) ... I had never laid eyes on her before but I knew 
instantly that she was the woman of my dreams. I tried not to stare as she 
paused and looked around the store for a moment. She seemed - nervous about 
something. 

GIRL: Hi-i-i! Welcome to Midtown Pet Bowl-O-Rama! How may I help you?!

JESSIE: (COOL) I need to purchase an aquarium thermometer.

GIRL: Okay. Uh, how big is your tank?

JESSIE: (DEFENSIVE) Why are you asking me that?

GIRL: What?

JESSIE: (SHARPLY) Why are you asking me about the size of my tank?

GIRL: Um ... so I can get you the right size thermometer?

JESSIE: Oh. (CALMS DOWN) Oh, of course. Uh, large. It's a - large tank.

GIRL: Okay. One large thermometer.

JESSIE: (FAUX CASUAL) And I'll take these colored rocks, and this plastic sand 
castle.

GIRL: Will that be all, ma'am?

JESSIE: Oh, yes ... and two thousand pounds of Hartz Mountain Fish Food.

GIRL: (STUNNED) Whoa. Two thousand pounds of fish food? (BLURTS IT OUT) 
What've you got in your tank, ma'am -- Moby Dick?!

MUSIC: AN ACCENT, THEN IN BG

DEREK: (NARRATES) I decided that now would be a good time to intervene. From 
the moment this beautiful woman entered the store, I had been rehearsing my 
opening line in the back of my head, carefully considering a few time-tested 
gambits. For example:

VOICE 1: Hiya, Gorgeous. Do you come here often?

DEREK: (NARRATES) No, wait. That's probably not the right line to use in a pet 
shop. How 'bout something more hip?

VOICE 2: Heeeey, ginchy chick! Let's fall by my pad and blow some pot!

DEREK: (NARRATES) Mmm. That might be a little too hip, even for 1967. 
Something more literary?

VOICE 3: You know, beautiful, you're only young once or, as Omar Khayym put 
it - "The rose that once bloomed forever dies!"

DEREK: (NARRATES) No, gotta keep it simple. Something like, uh:

VOICE 4: So, what did you think of that Bonnie and Clyde movie? Personally, I 
like seeing gun battles in slow motion so I can savor the mindless violence.

DEREK: (NARRATES) Or something more cosmopolitan, like:

VOICE 5: Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ma petite chou-chou?

DEREK: (NARRATES) Of course, I could always go with my usual:

VOICE 6: My, what sensitive hands ... you must be a Gemini. ... No? A Libra? 
... Um, Cancer? Sagittarius!

DEREK: (NARRATES) They were all excellent choices. But I was afraid she would 
respond with something equally sure-fire, like:

VOICE 7: Take a hike, you creep!

DEREK: (NARRATES) Or another old favorite, like:

VOICE 8: Buzz off, clown, before I smack ya one!

DEREK: (NARRATES) Or the always-reliable:

VOICE 9: (GRIM) Are you gonna beat it or do I hafta call the cops?

MUSIC: AN ACCENT, THEN OUT

DEREK: (NARRATES) So, instead, I said the obvious thing. (TO JESSIE) Uh, 
excuse me, I'm the manager. Did I hear you say you needed two thousand pounds 
of fish food?

JESSIE: Yes. My regular supplier can't make his usual delivery and I need it 
by tomorrow.  

DEREK: I'm afraid we don't have an entire ton handy -- but I could probably 
scrape up a few hundred pounds and deliver them tonight.

JESSIE: That would be wonderful! Thank you so much!

DEREK: (MAKES HIS MOVE) You know, I get off work in a little while. I'd like 
to take care of this for you, personally. 

JESSIE: (SENSES HIS INTENT) No. No, really, you don't have to. 

DEREK: Oh, but I really want to. Why don't I come by around six? (POINTEDLY) 
Your fish could have dinner -- and so could we.

JESSIE: (SIGHS, LOWERS HER VOICE) Look. You seem like a nice enough guy. And I 
don't want to be too hard on ya, fella, but you don't understand. You see, I'm 
just not interested in men.

DEREK: (PLAYS IT COOL) Ohhhh. Well, you don't have to spell things out for me, 
sister. I get the picture. 

JESSIE: (ANNOYED) No, you don't! (SIGHS) Here, my address is on this card. 
Drop by my place tonight at six, bring the food, and I'll show you where it's 
at.

DEREK: (NARRATES) And before I could reply, she was out the door.

SOUND: DOOR OPENS, BELL RINGS

MUSIC: IN BG

DEREK: (NARRATES) That night, I arrived at the address, a modest apartment 
building in the east seventies. I was pushing a dolly stacked with several 
cardboard boxes of Hartz Mountain Fish Food. After combing my hair in the 
lobby, I took the elevator to the ninth floor and found the door.

MUSIC: OUT

SOUND: KNOCK AT DOOR 

JESSIE: (ORGASMIC CRIES, OFF, IN BG)

SOUND: KNOCK AT DOOR AGAIN

DEREK: (NARRATES) No answer. But I could hear her inside having what appeared 
to be a spectacular orgasm. Apparently, she had decided to start without me. I 
parked my dolly in the hall and opened the door ...

SOUND: APARTMENT DOOR OPENS

JESSIE: (ORGASMIC CRIES, LOUDER, IN BG)

DEREK: (NARRATES) ... to find the most brain-blasting, nerve-nihilating, soul-
sundering sight it has ever been my misfortune to witness. The woman of my 
dreams was rolling around on the floor - soaking wet - completely naked, 
except for a yellow aqualung - and murmuring to a large squirming mackerel 
pressed between her flushed thighs.

JESSIE: (MOANS) Sock it to me, baby! Sock it to me!

DEREK: (TO JESSIE) Hey! Ma'am? Excuse me! Sorry to barge in on you like this. 

JESSIE: (SNAPS OUT OF IT) What? Huh? (GASPS) 

DEREK: Are you okay? What are you, uh, doing? Is that a fish?

JESSIE: Oh! I'm sorry! I lost track of the time. Hang on a sec. Let me get rid 
of Mister Mackintosh.

DEREK: (NARRATES) She stood, picked up the mackerel and tossed it through a 
nearby doorway that led into the living room.

SOUND: SPLASH!

DEREK: (NARRATES, IN AWE) It was only then that I noticed that the entire 
living room was ... flooded with water! Yes, it was a sunken living room and 
it was REALLY sunken! The water came right up to the edge of the door! As I 
stared in amazement ... 

SOUND: SPLASH, DOLPHIN SQUEAKS

DEREK: (NARRATES) ... a dolphin surfaced and balanced on its tail for an 
instant before swimming away. 

SOUND: SPLASH, DOLPHIN SWIMS AWAY

DEREK: (NARRATES) Near the wall, I could make out the dorsal fin of a marlin. 
A jellyfish hovered by the mirror.

JESSIE: (PLEASED WITH HIS REACTION, ENTHUSIASTIC) Do you like it? I've had the 
living room completely transformed into an aquarium, with authentic marine 
vegetation and fossil formations and everything! 

DEREK: (NARRATES) She wasn't kidding. It was arranged so artfully as to be 
almost indistinguishable from an actual ocean floor. 

JESSIE: (MATTER-OF-FACT) Yes, but! The "giveaway" is that I never removed the 
living room furniture. It's just covered with seaweed. See that square thing 
sticking out of the coral reef? It's the corner of a sectional sofa.

DEREK: Wow. So this is where it's at.

JESSIE: (A LITTLE PROUDLY) Yes. Welcome to my world.

MUSIC: AN ACCENT, THEN IN BG

DEREK: (NARRATES) By now she was wearing a robe and was heading into her 
bedroom to get fully dressed. After I wheeled in the boxes of fish food, she 
came out of the bedroom wearing a T-shirt and jeans - and looking just as 
stunning as ever. I had a million questions to ask her so she brought out some 
beach chairs and we sat by the living room door - looking out at the water - 
as she told me of how all this came to be.

MUSIC: TURNS NOSTALGIC, IN BG

JESSIE: I had a lonely, rotten childhood. My father traveled a lot and used to 
bring me home pet turtles. I remember the turtles had things painted on their 
shells, like "Greetings from Atlantic City" and "I'm slow but sure!"

One thing led to another -- my aunt gave me three goldfish for my birthday, a 
neighbor brought me a snail -- and before you know it, I had a real aquarium 
with guppies, angel fish, black mollies, swordtails, neon tetras, white cloud 
minnows, half-banded coolies, dwarf cichlids, thick-lipped gouramies, 
whatever. 

As the years slipped by, I spent more and more time with my fish. They became 
my friends. My only friends.  

MUSIC: OUT

MOM: (COMPASSIONATE) Honey?

JESSIE: (RELUCTANT, SULLEN) Yes, mom?

MOM: What were you doing down in the basement all day?

JESSIE: Nothing.

MOM: Have you been breeding fish again?

JESSIE: Yes.

MOM: You can't do that up in your room, dear?

JESSIE: No, mom. These are bigger fish and they need more space. 

MOM: Oh. Is that why you installed those big round things next to the washer-
dryer?

JESSIE: They're spawning tanks, mom. I like to watch them spawn.

MOM: Oh. It's not going to interfere with my doing the laundry, is it?

JESSIE: No, mom.

MOM: You know, your father and I are worried about you, dear. It's been a long 
time since you had any friends over.

JESSIE: (WANTS TO BE LEFT ALONE) Mom! 

MUSIC: WARM, BRIEFLY IN BG

MOM: (SLOWLY, GENUINELY) Honey, I just want you to know that your father and I 
love you - and we care about you very much - and we want what's best for you - 
and we'll always be there for you, no matter what.

JESSIE: (HEARTFELT) Thanks, mom. You're the best.

MUSIC: FILLS A BRIEF PAUSE, THEN OUT

JESSIE: (CRISP, MATTER-OF-FACT) And then, one morning, while she was down 
washing some laundry, my mom was attacked by a manta ray. She immediately 
threw me out of the house. ... So I came here and flooded the living room. 
It's just that simple!

DEREK: (IN DISBELIEF) Sooooo, the fish are your - friends?

JESSIE: (EMOTIONAL) No. No, they're much more. The fish are my ... my lovers! 

DEREK: (NARRATES) Her eyes grew misty as she reached into the water and pulled 
out the squirming mackerel again.

SOUND: FISH PULLED FROM WATER

DEREK: (NARRATES) She sat there, softly caressing Mister Mackintosh in her 
lap, with a faraway look on her face.

JESSIE: (INTENSE) I'll never forget that day when I was fourteen years old and 
had just gotten a new catfish. When I picked him up, he squirmed gently in my 
hands. He was ... long and ... thin ... and writhing and alive. I felt my 
heart quicken, my loins throb ... I was swept by desire! At that moment, I 
realized normal social values had no meaning for me and that I'd spend the 
rest of my life ... (WHISPERS) ... balling fish!

DEREK: (UNCOMFORTABLE) Um ... Isn't it difficult training fish to make love to 
you?

JESSIE: (LESS INTENSE, ALMOST CASUAL) It's like anything else, actually. Fish 
training requires lots of patience and understanding. The first thing I do is 
win their confidence. Play with them, stroke their gills, whatever. Then I 
start feeding them from my hand.

Gradually, over a period of weeks, I move the hand closer and closer to me 
until the food is against my skin. Then I begin to hide the food in various 
parts of my body. The fish soon learns that he must go in and out while 
eating. ... In and out. ... In and out. ... The last and hardest step is to 
eliminate the food as an incentive and substitute hand signals. I'll show you! 
Watch this!

DEREK: (NARRATES) Suddenly, she rose and dove into the living room.

SOUND: WOMAN DIVES INTO WATER

DEREK: (NARRATES) Underwater, she let go of Mister Mackintosh, then pulled off 
her shirt, and gestured toward a nearby sand shark who immediately swam over 
and removed her bra. 

SOUND: WOMAN SURFACES

JESSIE: You see? And that's only the beginning!

DEREK: (NARRATES, LOVINGLY) Then she turned to me, running her fingers down 
her shimmering body, lightly caressing the glistening tips of her taut, 
thrusting, uh, twin flotation devices. She saw the look on my face and was 
suddenly inspired.

JESSIE: Listen, fella. You wanna sock it to me, right?

DEREK: (UNCERTAIN) Well ... sure.

JESSIE: Okay, then. What the hell! I'll try anything once! Here! Take this 
aqualung.

SOUND: SPLASH, AQUALUNG CLUNKS TO FLOOR

DEREK: Huh?

JESSIE: Put it on.

DEREK: You want me to put on an aqualung? Is that - really necessary?

JESSIE: Well, of course it's necessary! You'll drown!

DEREK: I mean ... that is to say ... couldn't ... couldn't we use the couch or 
the bed?

JESSIE: (HORRIFIED) The couch? The bed? Ewwww. That's - that's DISGUSTING! 

DEREK: It is?

JESSIE: Oh, I should have known! You're hopeless! I think maybe you should 
just leave. 

DEREK: What?! Wait a minute--

JESSIE: No, seriously. I want you to go now. You're not my type. This isn't 
gonna work out.

DEREK: But I--

JESSIE: Take a hike!

DEREK: Okay, but I--

JESSIE: Buzz off!

DEREK: But--

JESSIE: (GRIM) Are you gonna beat it or do I hafta call the cops?

SOUND: SPLASH! WOMAN GOES UNDER

MUSIC: AN ACCENT, THEN IN BG

DEREK: (NARRATES) And, with that, she swam beneath the surface. Perhaps it was 
just as well that I left. It was no use kidding myself. We were of two 
different worlds. A meaningful relationship would be difficult if not 
impossible. But before beating it, I couldn't resist one last lingering look.

MUSIC: TURNS ROMANTIC, IN BG

DEREK: (NARRATES, IN AWE) She was framed in the crystal blue water, locked in 
an embrace with a giant squid - drifting across the room, past anemones, 
coral, cockles, starfish, bookcases, hydroids, sponges, a coffee table, moon 
crabs, kelp, limpets, a footstool on which rested a couple of weary soles, sea 
horses, lugworms ... The squid had its tentacles curled about her loins and 
appeared to be--

SOUND: BUBBLING WATER IN BG

DEREK: (NARRATES) But before I could fully determine the position or 
technique, she gave a subtle hand signal and the squid released a black fluid 
that masked their actions in darkness.

One could still observe, however, the bubbles rising rhythmically to the 
surface, rising with ever increasing frequency, popping like champagne, more 
and more bubbles rising faster ... faster ... faster ...

SOUND: BUBBLING WATER UP TO A CLIMAX

MUSIC: FOR A FINISH


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