"Pieces Of Bait"
by Richard Nathan
The spotlight is up on our host, GUS THE GHOUL, while the set for the next story is prepared. Most of the stage will represent the living room of a small cabin in the tropics. There are several boxes packed, because the man who lives in the cabin is about to move out. There are some bottles of booze and glasses upstage. Downstage left is an area that will represent the deck of a charter fishing boat. This area includes a deck chair. Sometimes in the story the boat will be at sea, and sometimes it will be at a dock.
The next tale is really scaly! Thatís because
itís about deep sea fishing. And someone
is going to get gilled. Some parts of the story
take place over here in the home of Fred
Martins, a charter boat fishing captain. The
rest takes place over here on this boat, and
on the dock. The title of this naughty nautical
is ďPieces of Bait.Ē
Gus exits. Thereís a lout clap of thunder and we hear the sounds of a rainstorm. The lights come up on the cabin. FRED and his friend SHERRY run in the front door, out of the rain. Fred is a charter boat captain. Sherry is a waitress at a nearby saloon. Fred is scared, but trying to hide his fear.
Just one drink, and . . .
She notices the boxes.
What...? You going someplace?
Sorry. I should have said something earlier.
Tomorrow, my stuff goes to my sisterís
house in Ohio. And Iím going with it.
ButÖ you love the sea. You couldnít live
I never want to see it or hear it or smell it,
ever again! Never!
Fred goes over to the bottles and pours two drinks.
There was an accident. You want to hear
about it? Thatís the real reason I brought
you here tonight, to tell you the story. Iíve
got to tell someone.
Youíre in some kind of trouble.
She sits down on a stack of the boxes.
Fred canít sit. Heís too nervous. He
Sherry, you remember that English guy who
kept hanging around the docks?
The one who kept coming into the saloon
and ordering tea?
Thatís him! Cyril Trattnor! He kept
chartering my boat. Iíve taken jerks fishing
before, but never one like him!
If he was such a jerk, whyíd you let him
I shouldnít have! But you know how the
seasonís been! I wouldnít have taken
Trattnor if I couldnít found any other paying
customer! And he was a paying customer
all right. At the end of each trip heíd hand
me $350 in cash and heíd sayÖ
The sound of the rain stops, and TRATTNOR enters onto
the boat. Fred walks over to the
boat, and takes the big wad of cash that Trattnor hands him.
Same time tomorrow, Freddy old chum?
I feel certain that tomorrow I shall catch a
shark at last!
I donít know, Mr. Trattnor. Iíd sort of
promised this other partyÖ.
Really? Who? Some old salt, I dare say,
eh? I should really like to meet an American
old salt, like that fellow in ďJaws,Ē the one
who gets eaten in the end? Iíll wager we
could find a shark with someone like that on
board, eh? Of course, I donít mean to imply
that you donít know what youíre doing, old
chum, but sometimes I do get the impression
that youíre not terribly keen on sharks, eh?
Itís like I told you, Mr. Trattnor. Most
captains donít consider sharks a sporting
fish. You see, a shark Ė especially a big one Ė
heíll just be a strong drag on your line. He
wonít dive and run and leap out of the water
like a marlin or a sail or a tarpon will. A marlin
is probably the best sporting fish. But a shark
is kind of dull to bring in.
Dull? That shark in ďJawsĒ wasnít dull.
Awfully clever fish, Iíd say.
That was a movie!
Scary, though, wasnít it? But if you donít
want to go after sharks, you neednít feel
compelled on my account. Weíll just keep
chasing after these marvins youíre so fond of.
Right. Now, if youíll just help me up onto
Fred helps Trattnor climb out of the boat onto the
I think Iíll stop by in the morning, just in case
that other party doesnít show up. Ta-ta!
Trattnor waves and exits. The sound of the rain starts again. Fred turns to Sherry and continues the story.
Iíd spend the rest of the day pleading with
tourists to charter my boat. But no luck.
And early the next morning Iíd find myself
stuck with Trattnor again. It was like there
was nothing on heaven or earth that could
keep him away from going out on my boat!
The rain stops as Trattnor enters and walks up to the
boat. Fred turns to face Trattnor.
Freddy, old chum! Looks like your party
let you down, eh? Good luck for me!
Shall we be off? Out to see, after all those
helpless fish! Look out, you fish! Here
Trattnor enters the boat.
Look out, fish!
You know, Freddy, Iíll wager I could catch
a shark if youíd throw a few handfuls of
bait out into the water. Just a few tasty bits
of dead fish, to tempt the sharks to come in
Trattnor looks at him blankly.
Itís called ďchum.Ē
Whatís called, chum?
The bait! The bait is called chum.
The bait is called? Who calls it?
Not who! What!
Yes. Chum. Chum. Chum!!!!
Well. That's all very friendly and agreeable,
but I have no idea what we're speaking
is what the chopped up bait is called.
Oh! Iím frightfully sorry. When you said,
ďchum,Ē I thought you were addressing me.
But you meant the bait is called chum. You
werenít calling me chum. Well, then, letís
throw out some chum, Freddy old chum!
Trattnor sits down in the deck chair, and freezes.
The sound of the rain comes up again, and Fred turns to Sherry.
Thatís how it went, day after day!
Did he ever catch anything?
A total of three blowfish and a baby barracuda.
He had the worst luck of anyone I ever saw.
Or maybe the fish just hated him as much as
I did. Then, last Friday, as we were heading
out into the Gulf Stream, he announced that
his luck had changed.
The sound of rain stops. Fred steps offstage, into what must be the cabin area of the boat, and he brings back a rod and reel, with a baited hook. Fred casts the baited hook so that it lands offstage. Trattnor is still in the boat.
There. The current should carry that out.
Here, you take the rod. If you feel a fish hit
your bait, pull up hard! Thatíll set the hook.
Fred hands the rod to Trattnor.
I pity those fish today, Freddy old chum.
Try as they might, they shanít escape from
Trattnor! Oh, they may try to be careful.
I can imagine a great big shark saying to
himself, ďI do feel frightfully hungry just now,
but I must be careful! I canít go biting into
anything that looks good, or Iím likely to get
a big hook set in my throat. Yes, I had
better be particularly careful today, for I hear
that Trattnor is out fishing!Ē
Yes, Iím sure thatís exactly what the fish are
saying. But why are you so certain youíll
catch something today?
Because today I have a magic talisman with
Trattnor take a chicken bone out of his pocket and
shows it to Fred.
Thatís a chicken bone!
Yes, but not just any chicken bone. This
is a very rare, magic chicken bone, sold
to me by an inebriated fellow whom I pulled
out of the street just as he was about to be
run down by a motorcar. He was so grateful
to me for saving his life, he sold me this magic
chicken bone at half the usual price!
Well, letís hope it works, because itís time
you caught something. Iíve put a large hook
on that line. Itís the right size to catch
You neednít worry, Freddy old chum! Iím
The line zings out as something takes the bait!
Pull up! Pull up on the rod! Now reel!
Reel it in!
Trattnor tries to reel in the line, but the fish
keeps pulling it out!
Iím trying, old chum, but the line keeps
Trattnor and Fred freeze as the sound of the rain
starts. Fred unfreezes and turns to
speak to Sherry.
And then it jumpedÖ the most beautiful
blue marlin I ever saw, shimmering in the
Trattnor must have struggled with it for all of
fifteen minutes before he wanted to quit.
The sound of the rain stops again, and Trattnor
I donít seem to be getting anywhere.
You just got started! It can take all day to
bring in a marlin that size!
All day! I donít want to spend all day on
one fish! Couldnít we just let it go and try
for a shark?
Thatís a blue marlin! Sportsmen fish for years
dreaming of a catch like that!
Then you bring him in! Iím going to rest!
Trattnor hands the rod to Fred, who grabs hold of it.
Fred takes the deck chair as Trattnor walks offstage into what would be
the cabin of the boat. Fred
struggles to bring the marlin in. The
sound of the rain comes up, but only faintly, as Fred talks to Sherry.
I struggled with the magnificent fish for hours!
My hands were bleeding all over the reel, but
slowlyÖ slowly, I was bringing him in. Then
suddenly, there was no pull on the line. I
was afraid Iíd lost it, but then it leapt out of
the water, right in front of the boat, this huge,
A deafening gunshot blasts offstage.
The rain stops. Trattnor steps onto the stage (out of the cabin) with a
smoking pistol. Fred jumps out of
the deck chair!
You shot the fish!!!
Yes, I found the pistol in the cabin, and
thought Iíd give you a hand. It should be
a lot easier to bring him in now, eh?
You jackass! Thatís no way to fish!
Isnít it? This is my trip, after all, Freddy old
chum. Iím paying for it, and Iíll fish as I
Give me that gun!
I donít think I care for your tone of voice.
Give me that gun!!!
Fred tries to take the gun away from Trattnor.
As they struggle, the gun does off!
Instantly thereís a blackout on the stage.
When the lights go back up, Trattnor is gone, and Fred is seated beside
Sherry, telling her the story.
It was his fault. If heíd given me the gun,
heíd still be alive.
Maybe I should have radioed the coast
guard, and explained what happened, but I
panicked. I weighted him down and tossed
the body overboard. Then I cleaned up the
blood, waited until it was dark, and sailed
back to the dock.
Who else knows about this?
Donít you think someone would have noticed
Whoíd notice? If he had any friends, you
think he would have gone out fishing alone
every single time? No oneís going to miss
You havenít heard the worst.
What? He's dead, dumped overboard, no
one even knows he's gone. What could be
I meant worse for me. I'll tell you, but I need
a drink first.
Fred pours himself another drink.
He takes a big gulp.
When I cam beck that night, I wanted to
sleep, just fall asleep, forget everything that
happened. I came in, didnít turn on the light,
and just threw myself down on the bed.
Then I felt something on my pillow. Something
wet. It was the chicken bone. Trattnorís god
damn chicken bone, dripping wet, like it had
just come out of the sea. I threw it out of the
window. I went to pour myself a drink. And
the bone was there, right beside the liquor
bottles! I took it outside and buried it. I dug
a hole and I buried it! Then I came back in
and drank myself to sleep!!!
That explains it. You were drunk! You thought
you saw the bone because you were drunk.
I was sober when I woke up. The chicken
bone was back on my pillow, dripping wet.
I stuffed it in the pillowcase and smashed it
with a hammer until it was splinters! Then I
took it with me to My boat. I sailed out into
the Gulf Stream and I hurled it as far as I could
out into the sea. I swear that as it hit the water,
a hand came out of a wave and grabbed it.
Maybe you saw a fish!
I wanted it to be a fish. I told myself it was a
fish. But it was Trattnorís hand! I came back
here and I locked myself in this cabin for five
days! There was no way Iíd let that bone back
It didnít come back, did it?
No. It never did.
Because it wasnít real. Fred, I know how
terrible you must feel aboutÖ about the
accident. And I know guild can do all kinds
of things. I work in a saloon! You should
hear what some of the customers think they see.
But itís just hallucinations!
It wasnít a hallucination! It was a chicken
But itís gone now. And youíre okay.
I wonít be okay until Iím miles from here.
Iíve put my house and my boat up for sale,
and tomorrow Iím moving. I have a sister in
Ohio. Iíll stay with her for a while. Then, who
knows? But I never want to go near the sea
Is there anything I can do?
I gave your number to the agent whoís selling
the house and the boat, in case he canít reach
I donít know. What can anyone do? MaybeÖ
Maybe if youíre ever out in the Gulf Stream,
maybeÖ maybe you could just try to tell
Trattnor Iím sorry. Tell him Iím sorry he died.
And Iím sorry I never got him a shark....
I will. I promise.
Youíll be okay.
Sherry walks to the door.
I guess I will. Iíll call you as soon as I get
You take care of yourself.
Let me walk you to your car.
Fred opens the door, and Trattnorís corpse, pale
and soaking wet, is standing there, waiting for him. The corpse grabs Fred as Sherry screams!
Blackout! Everyone on stage
exists in the blackout, and GUS THE GHOUL enters.
A spotlight picks up Gus, and the sound the rain stops.
Would you like to know what happened
next? Poor Sherry fainted, and she never
did find out. But Iíll tell you. First off all,
when Fred saw Trattnorís corpse, he went all
to pieces. Then, the next morning, when it was
bright and sunny, and a lovely day for fishing,
the late Mr. Trattnor sailed out into the Gulf
Stream on poor Fredís boat.
The lights come up on the boat.
Trattnorís corpse enters, carrying a fishing rod and a bucket.
Trattnor casts out the line, and then sits in the deck chair.
After a moment, he reaches into the bucket and brings out some pieces of
bloody mean, which he tosses overboard.
And with all that tasty chum heís throwing out,
I think Mr. Trattnor is sure to finally catch a
shark. Wouldnít you agree, Freddy old chum?
The corpse reaches into the bucket and pulls out a
recognizable piece of human anatomy, such as a hand or a foot, and throws it
into the ocean. The lights go out
on the boat, leaving only Gus the Ghouls in the spotlight.
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© 2000 by Richard Nathan. All rights reserved
The author grants all internet uses to print these scripts for their own, personal, non-commercial use. No other use may be made without the author's permission. Without limiting the foregoing, the plays may not be staged without the author's express permission.
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