"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 
                                    without it.

                                    I never want to see it or hear it or smell it, 
                                    ever again!  Never!

                                    Why not?

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 paces.

                                    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 
                                    charter you?

                                    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 
                                    the dockÖ

Fred helps Trattnor climb out of the boat onto the dock.

                                    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 
                                    comes Trattnor!

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 
                                    closer, eh?




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 

The chopped up bait is called chum!  Chum 
                                    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 
                                    me!  See?

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 
                                    something big.

                                    You neednít worry, Freddy old chum!  Iím 
                                    certain IÖ  

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 
                                    going out!

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 

                                    What happened?

                                    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 speaks.

                                    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. 
                                    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.

                                    Oh Fred.

                                    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?  

                                    No one.

                                    Donít you think someone would have noticed 
                                    heís gone?

                                    Whoíd notice?  If he had any friends, you 
                                    think he would have gone out fishing alone 
                                    every single time?  No oneís going to miss 

                                    How awful.

                                    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 

                                    Anything else?

                                    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.   

                                    Thanks, Sherry.

                                    Youíll be okay.

Sherry walks to the door.  

                                    I guess I will.  Iíll call you as soon as I get 
                                    to Ohio.  

                                    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

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