This was my first foray into children’s plays. I wanted to write something where the dialogue would appeal to adults (figuring that the costumes and action would hold the kids.) It worked out much better than I hoped. “Mature” adults never understood a word, but those who were kids at heart got it all. In this scene our narrator – FENNIMORE FROG – has just been introduced to a private detective, one BEBE WOLF.
FENNIMORE: I guess I’m ready. When do we begin?
BEBE: Begin? Dear frog, we have begun! I call this …
(HANS enters, blows a squawk on a toy saxophone, then exits.)
…”The Case Of The Missing Mast!”
FENNIMORE: What was that?!
BEBE: We’re trying to work a little music into the act.
(FENNIMORE moves away from Bebe.)
Where are you going?
FENNIMORE: Out of the line of fire when they start throwing things.
BEBE: I know what you mean. I thought the accordion lacked dramatic effect.
FENNIMORE: I want to hear about the missing mast. If that’s alright with you. If you don’t mind.
BEBE: Yes. Alright. I don’t mind. It all started when I was approached by this old sailor, see, and …
FENNIMORE: Of course he came from the sea. Where would you expect a sailor to come from? Arizona?
(HE looks for a reaction from Bebe. There is none.)
(FENNIMORE crosses down to the audience.)
FENNIMORE: Where is it carved in stone that the frog gets all the straight lines and none of the funny stuff?
(HE crosses back to Bebe.)
BEBE: You’re welcome. Are you done?
BEBE: As I was saying – before I was interrupted – I was approached by this old sailor, s-s-s – you understand, and he was in a very low state …
(HE again looks for a reaction from Bebe. He receives a blank stare.)
Don’t you get it? You said he was in a low state, and I said Florida, and … I quit.
BEBE: Where was I?
FENNIMORE: Low state.
BEBE: … and he told me that during the night, someone had stolen one of his masts! Right off his ship!
FENNIMORE: Stolen a mast?
BEBE: I’m sure he said it was a mast. One of those big long things? You hang sheets on it?
FENNIMORE: I know what a mast is!
BEBE: Of course, it could have been an anchor … or a rudder … or a week from Tuesday … No, it was a mast. I’m almost positive it was. Anyway, the curious part – oh, most curious indeed – was that no one saw or heard anything! I’m sure the crime would be undetected yet today … EXCEPT … when the sailor woke up in the morning? … and went up on deck? … he found all this rope on the floor, and this big hole? Well. He suspected something was definitely amiss. You don’t live on a ship for years and years, and not notice a thing like that.
FENNIMORE: I suppose not.
BEBE: Well. Once he realized something was wrong, he decided to count the masts. I never would have thought of that. Brilliant! And when the full realization struck him, he cried out in a most stricken voice: oh my goodness! One of my masts is mizzen!
FENNIMORE: Mizzen? Now wait a minute …
BEBE: How cold you are, frog. How callous. I’m sure if YOU had a mast mizzen …
FENNIMORE: You don’t understand. There IS a mizzen mast …
BEBE: That’s what I said. That’s what HE said.
FENNIMORE: Every large sailing ship has a mizzen mast. You may have misunderstood what …
BEBE: Every ship has a mizzen mast?
FENNIMORE: Large sailing ships. Yes.
BEBE: Every one?
FENNIMORE: Every one.
BEBE: Crime wave! Crime wave!
FENNIMORE: No, it’s CALLED the mizzen mast, and it’s …
BEBE: I’m sure I would call it the mizzen mast also, considering the circumstances.
FENNIMORE: Will you listen? The mizzen mast is the one behind the main mast. He was referring to …
BEBE: Darling frog, it pains me to contradict, but the mizzen mast was before the main mast. The main mast was after … In other words, the mizzen mast was the main mast mizzen – missing. The main mast wasn’t missing and couldn’t be mizzen, therefore we must mark the missing mizzen mainly, and merely mention the remaining main … mast.
BEBE: Let me put it the same way. The main mast missing is the mizzen, however if the main mast is ALSO missing, then we must mention the missing mizzen more meaningfully, merely because it’s the main mast. Missing.
FENNIMORE: I’m glad we cleared that up.
BEBE: You might call this a marvelously malevolent moment in maritime memorabilia.
FENNIMORE: A what?
BEBE: Don’t ask me to repeat it, frog. I was lucky to get through it the first time.
FENNIMORE: Just tell me one thing – are we looking for one mizzen – missing – mast, or two?
BEBE: Masts? Oh dear me no, lovely frog. You won’t find masts, I dare say. Not one. Gone gone gone.
FENNIMORE: Then what ARE we looking for?
BEBE: Isn’t it as obvious as the nose on a chicken? Somewhere in this town lurks the world’s largest termite!
BEBE: Yes! A terribly tremendous and tenaciously tempered termite, threatening the titanic toothpicks of trade trawlers and troop transports everywhere. What do you think?
FENNIMORE: I think the role I got in this show isn’t so bad, after all.
(FIZZY, HIZZY, and WAYNE enter.)
FIZZY: Don’t push!
HIZZY: I didn’t push. HE pushed!
WAYNE: Did not! Did not!
HIZZY: Did so!
WAYNE: Did not! Did not!
BEBE: Excuse me.
(SHE crosses to Fizzy, Hizzy, and Wayne.)
I thought I told you to wait back there.
FIZZY: It’s dark back there.
HIZZY: It’s cold back there.
WAYNE: It smells back there.
FIZZY and HIZZY: We don’t wanna wait back there.
HIZZY: We’ve been back there for MINUTES!
FIZZY: I wanted to say that.
WAYNE: I thought of it first.
FIZZY and HIZZY: Did not! Did not!
WAYNE: If I can’t think of it first, I’m gonna hold my breath ‘till I turn purple!
FIZZY: You ARE purple!
FIZZY; We’re the three little figs. I’m Fizzy.
HIZZY: I’m Hizzy.
WAYNE: I’m Wayne.
FIZZY, HIZZY, and WAYNE: Hi!
WAYNE: A poem! In honor of the sales … frogman.
BEBE: Oh good.
FENNIMORE: A what?
BEBE: Wayne is very talented.
FENNIMORE: No no no no no no ….
BEBE: Sweet frog, do you know what happens when you hurt a fig’s feelings? They sing.
FENNIMORE: A poem. How bad can that be? Why do I keep asking questions when I already know the answers?
WAYNE: A poem. By Wayne Fig Newton. That’s my stage name. I thought of it myself. A poem. I call it “Ode To A Fig.”
FIZZY: He used to call it “Odorous To A Figorous.” He did.
HIZZY: But that was too long.
WAYNE: So I shortened it.
FENNIMORE: Good plan.
WAYNE: Ahem. “Once there was a fig,” …
FIZZY: A fig? That was me!
WAYNE: “… who tried to climb a twig.”
HIZZY: Yesterday it was a tree.
WAYNE: Who’s telling this?
FIZZY and HIZZY: Sorry.
WAYNE: “And just because the tree was tall …”
FIZZY: “He climbed up on a bee!”
HIZZY: A wall!
FIZZY: “Then fell down on a flea!”
HIZZY: A ball!
WAYNE: “Because the tree was big and scary …”
FIZZY and HIZZY: “He decided he should name it Mary!”
WAYNE: “And when he saved the last for best …”
FIZZY and HIZZY: Yes?
WAYNE: I’m pretty sure I forgot the rest.
FENNIMORE: That was it?
BEBE: Very nice.
FENNIMORE: I didn’t feel the ground shaking. Maybe the worst is over.
Post script; this was my first play written on commission, to be produced at an outdoor Arts Festival. I remember starting it one morning at about 5am, and finished it that same day just before midnight. The script remained virtually unchanged for 15 years, until I added the poem by the figs. You have been the first to see that addition.
On my own, with all of my falls.
3 years ago