On Plum Island
Summary: Hannibal is about to turn 80; he has managed quite well for years in the guise of a gruff but beloved college professor. However, he now has heart palpitations, arthritis and memory loss. His long-suffering, irrepressibly cheerful wife brings him for one last summer at their old vacation cottage on Plum Island.
Timeline: Outside canon
The characters of Hannibal Lecter, Clarice Starling, Frederick Chilton and Mischa, as well as all permutations thereof, are the intellectual property of Thomas Harris. Norman Thayer, Ethel Thayer, and Charlie the Mailman, as well as all permutations thereof, are the intellectual property of Ernest Thompson. This composition is strictly for fun and not for profit.
Author's brief note:
This short play will be incomprehensible to anyone who has not read or viewed The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, and On Golden Pond. It was written in 2001 under the nom de plume of Running With the Deer. All these many years later, I still cannot believe how well the two storylines work together.
Hannibal Lecter, a.k.a. Norman Thayer
Clarice Starling, a.k.a. Ethel Thayer, his wife
Mischa, their estranged daughter
Fred Chilton, her fiancé
Freddie Ray, Fred's teenage son
Charlie, the mailman
As the story opens, Hannibal and Clarice arrive in their old Mustang. As they emerge from the car, they hear the distant lowing of the cattle at the Foot & Mouth Disease Research Center.
CLARICE:Norman, listen! The cattle! They're welcoming us back!
HANNIBAL:Who the hell're you calling Norman?
CLARICE:Why, YOU, you old poop! Come on, let's uncover the furniture, gather wood for the fireplace, repair all the window screens, and hook up the motion-sensor lights. Then we'll pick strawberries, go out in the boat and catch enough trout to last us all summer! Isn't it marvelous? Isn't it glorious?
HANNIBAL:Will we get to go skinny-dippin'?
CLARICE:Oh, I suppose we'll find time in our calendar. But Norman, why do you insist on talking with that ridiculous New England accent?
HANNIBAL:Quid pro quo, Ethel. You stop calling me an old poop, and I'll lay off the Gorton Fisherman routine.
CLARICE:Oh, all right, Norman. Look, here comes Charlie, our mailman.
[The mailboat arrives, with Charlie at the helm. Charlie approaches warily, happy to see Clarice, always a little nervous around Hannibal.]
CHARLIE:Well, howdy-do, folks. Always good to see you back on Plum Island.
[Shakes hands with Hannibal, then gives him a peculiar look.]
HANNIBAL:What th' hell're you lookin' at, you nitwit?
CHARLIE:I dunno, Norman, but…didn't you used to have six fingers on your left hand?
HANNIBAL:Didn't you ever hear of arthritis? I'm about to turn 80 years old! Ain't got much time! You young bucks always think you know everything. Get me my Harpy knife, Ethel, I'll take 'em all on!
CLARICE:Oh, Norman! Pay no attention to him, Charlie. He needs a nap and a dose of Geritol.
HANNIBAL:Yeah, I need to get some blood in my iron. I mean, some iron in my blood…
CHARLIE:Well, I won't be but a moment, Mrs. Thayer. Just wanted to drop off your mail.
CLARICE:Thank you so much, Charlie. Oh, Norman, look, we have a letter from Mischa!
CHARLIE:How is Mischa these days? I always wished I could have married her.
HANNIBAL:Why didn't ya?
CHARLIE:Well, you wouldn't let me, sir. You kept calling me a "damn, deer-eatin' Nazi." Never did figure out why. You were always threatening to pick an eggplant out of your garden and jam it up my—
CLARICE:Ha, ha! Oh, Charlie, you know Norman's bark is much worse than his bite!
HANNIBAL:Yeah, especially these days. Damn dentures. Shoulda killed that dentist while I still had m'real teeth…
CHARLIE:Well, I'll leave you two alone now. Give my regards to Mischa.
HANNIBAL:Why, you no-good… Poachin' in my territory again! Ethel! Where's my crossbow?
[Ethel helps Charlie into his mailboat and sends him hastily on his way with a wave.]
CLARICE:Oh, Norman, now look at you. You got yourself so upset, your eyes are all red!
HANNIBAL:Forgot m'damn contact lenses again!
CLARICE:Well, never mind that…let's go in the house. You rest while I refinish the hardwood floors, make and freeze two weeks' worth of dinners, and prepare your birthday cake from scratch. Shouldn't take more than thirty minutes or so. Be a dear, Norman? Find me a box of baking soda.
HANNIBAL:For the cake?
CLARICE:No, fire safety. If those eighty candles fall the wrong way when you try to blow them out, the whole island could burn to the ground.
Hannibal is perusing the classifieds.
HANNIBAL:Look, Ethel. This ad says "A.A. Aaron—The lambs are still screaming. Love, Hannah." Do you think I oughta walk clear over to the other side of the island and see if someone wants to sell me some lamb chops, extra rare?
CLARICE:Oh, Norman, for goodness sake! I wrote that twenty-five years ago. You're looking at a newspaper from 1998!
HANNIBAL:Hey, keep that. I was so busy in Rio and Florence, I missed out on the whole Clinton Administration. Got a lot of catchin' up to do, and probably not much time to do it!
CLARICE:Well, never mind the newspaper now. Read Mischa's letter. She's coming to visit! And she's bringing a friend! Isn't it marvelous? Isn't it glorious?
HANNIBAL:I thought she got married awhile back, to that bug fella, Pilcher.
CLARICE:It didn't work out, don't you remember?
HANNIBAL:Haven't seen her in such a long time, I forget what she even looks like.
CLARICE: Well, it's never too late to make friends with your own daughter!
HANNIBAL:What if she doesn't want to be friends with me?
CLARICE:How could anyone not want to be friends with you, you adorable old curmudgeon?
HANNIBAL:You've got a point. I'm glad I married you, Ethel. You never forget the important things…like which suitcase the Depends are in.
The following evening, Mischa arrives. She greets her mother with a warm hug, then turns to Hannibal and shakes hands formally.
HANNIBAL:Well, how's my little fat girl?
MISCHA:Oh, Mommy! There he goes again! Ever since I was a child, he was always feeling my arm, telling me I was too fat! Trying to hide me in the barn! What's wrong with him?
CLARICE:Pay no attention to your father, dear. He always meant well. Didn't you say you were bringing a friend?
MISCHA:Yes! It's Fred! I wrote to you about him. He's a psychologist.
HANNIBAL:A psychologist? Good God! He'll be givin' us Rorschach tests all damn summer.
MISCHA:His son, Freddie Ray, is here too.
[13-year-old Freddie Ray enters. He and Hannibal check each other out.]
HANNIBAL:So. You're the psychologist's kid. Think you'd like to have your liver eaten with some fava beans and a nice Chianti, boy?
FREDDIE RAY: What are you, some kind of vampire?
CLARICE:Oh, they don't have a word for what he is, Freddie. But you'll love Plum Island. You can watch the cattle swim over from Long Island, take the boat out, and if the tide is just right, the current'll catch you and drag you all the way to Nova Scotia! A perfect way for a boy to spend the summer! But where's Fred?
MISCHA:He's locking up the car.
HANNIBAL:What kind of car has he got?
MISCHA:Well, it's a rental, and it breaks down every 40 miles or so.
HANNIBAL:You mean, he doesn't drive a super-charged Jaguar?
MISCHA:No, Norman, I'm sorry…We'll try to get a Jaguar next time.
HANNIBAL:No Jag? Not even a damn Bentley?
[Just then, Chilton enters, looking frightened.]
CHILTON:Good evening, folks, nice to meet you. I think I saw a bear out there.
HANNIBAL:You probably did. We've got bears, cows, lambs…even some man-eating pigs. One of 'em ate an old pedophile!
CLARICE:Oh, Norman, there you go again! We haven't seen a man-eating pig in years! Why don't we all go outside and see if the terns are nesting yet?
The next day…
Hannibal, Clarice, Mischa, Chilton and Freddie Ray are standing by the car, as Mischa and Chilton prepare to depart for a two-week whirlwind tour of Lithuania.
CHILTON:I want to thank you folks again for agreeing to keep Freddie Ray while we're letting the Euro burn a hole in our pockets.
FREDDIE RAY: Dad, I told you! I don't wanna spend my summer on this island with these two creepy old people!
CHILTON:Son, you keep a civil tongue in your head, or I'm sending you back to the asylum!
MISCHA:Fred's the director of the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. He's raised Freddie Ray ever since his wife died. This is the first time Freddie Ray's ever been out in the daylight.
FREDDIE RAY: Not true—it's just my first time outside of Baltimore.
HANNIBAL, CLARICE, CHILTON, MISCHA [in unison] Same thing.
CLARICE:Don't worry about Freddie Ray! We'll keep him busy all day, fishing, hiking, patrolling the grounds at night with an infrared scope…
HANNIBAL:Sure. I'll show him how to make his own handcuff key out of a pen clip.
[They wave goodbye.]
CLARICE:Well, I'm going to go plant an acre of corn, add a new wing onto the house, and rebuild the transmission on my Mustang. Shouldn't take me more than fifteen minutes or so. Will you men be all right on your own?
[Hannibal and Freddie Ray mumble a reply and stalk into the cottage. Clarice watches them go with a look of helpless anxiety].
In the cottage, Hannibal grabs a book and sits in a chair, ignoring Freddie Ray. Freddie Ray paces around the living room, unable to relax. Hannibal watches the boy when he isn't looking.]
HANNIBAL:So. What does a 13-year-old boy in Baltimore do in his spare time?
FREDDIE RAY: Cruise chicks. Suck face.
HANNIBAL:Ha! I was doing that when I was in my fifties. You think you're any good at it?
FREDDIE RAY: Probably better than you!
HANNIBAL:You ever read Milton?
FREDDIE RAY:What?! M-Milton Who?
HANNIBAL:JOHN Milton! You mean to tell me you never read Paradise Lost?
[Pulls a book off the shelf, tosses it to FR.]
HANNIBAL:Here. Go read this. First ten stanzas, write me up a report.
FREDDIE RAY: Now?
HANNIBAL:Go on, boy! Enthrall me with your acumen!
HANNIBAL:You ever go fishin', boy?
FREDDIE RAY: No…
HANNIBAL:Well, what good are you? I'm going. Might want to get your ass down to the boat in the next two minutes.
[Hannibal and Freddie Ray troll the cove. Hannibal is watching out for rocks; Freddie Ray is looking bored.]
FREDDIE RAY: We've been fishing for hours. What are we trying to catch?
HANNIBAL:Old eel. Ten footer. Name's Crawford.
FREDDIE RAY: How do you know he's down here?
HANNIBAL:Ethel keeps checkin' the website.
FREDDIE RAY: What?
HANNIBAL:Make yourself useful, boy! Bait that hook. Here—use my hair.
FREDDIE RAY: What are you going to do with him if you catch him?
HANNIBAL:All kinds of things you can do with him! Eat his liver, pin him to a tackboard with arrows, you can stuff him down somebody's throat if you like…don't you know anything? Where were you raised?
FREDDIE RAY:In the basement of an asylum.
HANNIBAL:Oh, ayup, I'd forgotten. Cripes, here comes Ethel.
[Clarice arrives on a Jet-ski. She pulls up alongside the boat and hands Hannibal a large picnic basket.]
HANNIBAL:How'd you find this place?
CLARICE:I read the case file. Now Freddie Ray, you keep him out of trouble.
FREDDIE RAY:Yes, ma'am.
[Clarice speeds off. Hannibal rummages in the basket]
HANNIBAL:We don't need food! We'll have all the trout we can eat!
FREDDIE RAY:Norman? Are you sure there are trout here? This is a salt-water cove.
HANNIBAL:Ha! Well, just because I haven't caught a trout in twenty years doesn't prove a thing. Here, have some paté and figs…there's caviar down in there, too. Put your mouth to some good use.
FREDDIE RAY:Hey! Hey! My line! Norman, I caught something!
[Hannibal rushes to help him. They struggle together with the reel; after several minutes, they bring up something large and dark]
FREDDIE RAY:Is it the eel? Is it old Crawford?
FREDDIE RAY:What is it, Norman? Phew! Whatever it is, it really smells bad!
HANNIBAL:Well, of course it smells bad. It's a bottle of Chateaux d'Yquem. Somebody opened it before it was time, they didn't let it breathe… aww, cut it loose. Let's go on home, Mischa.
FREDDIE RAY:Mischa! Norman, are you okay?
HANNIBAL:Of course I'm okay. Young whippersnapper, always running off at the mouth.
FREDDIE RAY:Norman? Are you afraid of dying?
HANNIBAL:What kind of question is that? In my day, people would be asking themselves that whenever I was around. Come on, turkey, put the boat in gear. I'll look out for rocks.
[They approach a large boulder as the sky darkens and it starts to rain]
HANNIBAL:Reverse! Full throttle! Now!
[Freddie Ray speeds forward by mistake, Hannibal is thrown from the boat and strikes his head on a rock. The boat is wrecked; Hannibal and Freddie Ray cling to it feebly in the pouring rain, crying for help. Soon, they hear a helicopter. Clarice is piloting. She puts the craft on hover, lowers herself on a rope, and hauls Hannibal and Freddie Ray into the chopper]
[Two weeks later. Hannibal and Freddie Ray, still sporting bandages and bruises, are playing chess with live insects]
CLARICE:Well, I'm off to the Statue of Liberty. We're going to haul it a mile eastward, so New Jersey will stop claiming it's theirs. Shouldn't take me more than a couple of hours. Will you men be able to manage on your own?
FREDDIE RAY:Of course we will, Ethel. This is a really cool chess set. Where did you get it?
CLARICE:From Mischa's ex-husband, Noble. He left it to her. Before he…disappeared. Well, ta.
[as soon as she leaves, Hannibal & Freddie Ray grab fishing poles and tackle and start sneaking out to the dock. Clarice catches them.]
CLARICE:What do you two juvenile delinquents think you're doing?
FREDDIE RAY:We still haven't caught Crawford!
HANNIBAL:Don't forget, Ethel, there isn't that much time left!
CLARICE:Oh, for goodness' sake. Well, take my encrypted cell phone with you, and try to stay out of trouble!
H/FR [in unison]We will!
A few hours later, Clarice is alone by the water's edge, dancing and singing her favorite old nostalgic song.
CLARICE: I wan too go to Jesa! I wan too go wiv Criez!
[Mischa approaches, unseen; she joins her mother]
C/MISCHA: [in unison]I can go wiv Jesa ef I ac rell nize!
CLARICE:Oh, darling! Welcome back! Did you and Fred have a good time?
MISCHA:We sure did, Mom. We got married in Lithuania!
CLARICE:Why, that's just marvelous!
MISCHA:[looking around] Where's Norman? Where's Freddie Ray?
CLARICE:They're out in Belvedere Cove, fishing. Still trying to catch that eel.
MISCHA:Crawford? That thing is still lurking out there?
CLARICE:Norman seems to think so. Oh, Mischa, they've had the best time. I should have gotten Norman a 13-year-old boy years ago!
MISCHA:[sulks]Sure. He would have had a lot more fun than he did with me!
CLARICE:[inwardly cursing herself for bringing up an unpleasant subject] Mischa, he had a lot of fun with you! Don't you know he loves you? How much time do you think is left for you to tell him?
MISCHA:I don't think I'll ever be able to get through to that old sociopathic serial killer!
CLARICE:[slaps Mischa across the face]"That old sociopathic serial killer" happens to be my husband!
[Mischa runs and jumps into the lake. She swims to the dock, just as Hannibal and Freddie Ray return with the boat.]
FREDDIE RAY:Hey, Mischa! Lookin' good, girl!
HANNIBAL:What, you came back for one last wheedle before I finalize my will?
MISCHA:[her eyes welling with emotion]I hope you've had a good summer on Plum Island.
FREDDIE RAY:We had a fan-damn-tastic time…we caught old Crawford!
MISCHA:Where is he? What did you do with him?
HANNIBAL:We let him go!
MISCHA:Let him go? But you've been obsessed about Crawford as long as I can remember! You kept saying you wanted to catch him before he caught you first.
HANNIBAL:I figured, he's close to retirement. Catching him in my net was good enough.
FREDDIE RAY:Norman showed me how to trepan a skull!
MISCHA:Oh he did, did he?
HANNIBAL:Boy caught on quick! I always wanted you to learn.
MISCHA:You always said girls couldn't do it as well as boys.
MISCHA:Ha! We'll see about this! I'm going to do it! I'm going to do a lobotomy, right now!
[She quickly subdues Freddie Ray, ties him up with duct tape, anesthetizes him, and uses Hannibal's autopsy saw to sever a neat line around the top of his head]
HANNIBAL:Tie those blood vessels off!
MISCHA:I know! I know! I watched you do it enough times…
CLARICE:Oh, this is marvelous! I knew you two could find a common interest! I'll go build a campfire and gather some truffles and caper berries! Shouldn't take me more than five minutes!
[later, they all enjoy helpings of Freddie Ray's frontal lobe]
HANNIBAL: Mischa, you outdid yourself. I'm impressed. I award you Second Place.
HANNIBAL:Well, Freddie Ray won first, but…
[he removes the medal from around Freddie Ray's neck and slips it over Mischa's head. Freddie Ray is staring vacantly into space and appears not to notice]
HANNIBAL:I don't suppose he'll really need this now.
The next morning, Freddie Ray is being gently placed in the rental car. He looks the same except for the headband and the open-mouthed drool]
HANNIBAL:Take care of yourself, turkey.
MISCHA:He says, "I'm gonna miss you, ya nitwit."
HANNIBAL:That's what I thought he said.
CLARICE:He'll be all right, won't he, Mischa?
MISCHA:His cell is just the same as when he left it, Mom.
[kisses her parents goodbye]
See you soon!
The leaves are beginning to turn. Hannibal and Clarice are on the porch.
CLARICE:Norman, do you want to carry the shingles up to the roof? Or would you rather take the buckets of hot tar?
HANNIBAL:Why don't I just hold the ladder while you climb uhhhhhhh—
[He clutches his chest and falls to the floor, eyes squeezed shut. Clarice rushes to his side.]
CLARICE:Norman! Norman! Oh dear! Oh dear! Where's my cell phone? I have to call for help!
HANNIBAL:Freddie Ray—left it—
CLARICE:What dear? Oh, this is awful! I must find my cell phone!
HANNIBAL:His head! His head! Mischa—put phone—in head—thought it was—battery charger!
CLARICE:Oh, heavens! What am I going to do? I can't lose you! Can't bear the thought of it!
HANNIBAL:I'm kind of—attached—to you too—you scabby old bat.
CLARICE:Oh, Norman, you do care! You do!
[Hannibal regains his breath, opens his eyes and sits up carefully]
HANNIBAL:Didn't I keep telling you, we don't have as much time as you think?
CLARICE:But…this is the first time I ever really believed you!
[Footsteps approach. They look up to see a middle-aged couple with suitcases approaching].
CLARICE:Who are you?
MRS SMITH:We're the Smiths. Today is September first.
CLARICE:I don't understand.
HANNIBAL:Ethel, how many times do I have to remind you? We have to vacate this time-share property—the Smiths have it now.
CLARICE:Oh, pooh! Norman, can't we…do something about them? We still have the autopsy saw and the duct tape!
HANNIBAL:You tryin' to kill me, old woman? How much cholesterol do you think I can take in two days?
CLARICE:Oh, you're right, Norman. Let me pack up the car and finish reshingling the roof. It shouldn't take me more than ten minutes…
They walk slowly to the Mustang, hand in hand. Clarice gets in; Hannibal stops, listens to a distant mooing..
HANNIBAL:Ethel! D'you hear that? The cattle! The cattle are saying goodbye!
CLARICE: Oh, Norman. You old loon…