Moose, Why Are There Walnuts in the Medicine Cabinet?
A Comedy in Three Acts
The time is 1975 in New York City. Harvey Barlow, a sophisticated Englishman, lives in a one-room apartment he rents from Agnes Bergman, a overly-suspicious, cranky, middle-aged woman who has never had a good time. Harvey has placed an ad in the local newspaper for a “pen pal,” an underworld metaphor for a business partner, usually needed to engage in some illegal scheme. Thackery “Moose” Mullet, the social and intellectual opposite of Harvey, answers the ad and meets Harvey in his apartment, where they size each other up and discuss the shady caper Harvey has devised. The scheme involves secretly stealing winnings from the crime organization that runs the illegal numbers racket. Harvey is university educated, while Moose is only street smart, but he complements Harvey’s needs perfectly and is invited to move into the apartment. It soon becomes apparent that Moose will continually try the patience and nerves of Harvey, even though their numbers scam begins to bring in cash by the bagful. Moose stores walnuts everywhere in the apartment that cascade out from the closet, the refrigerator’s freezer, and even the medicine cabinet.
The telephone is the key to their numbers’ success as it rings and pauses to render the three digits of the winning number, which they receive each day from a confederate on the newspaper, who gets the number daily before it’s published in the final edition of the paper.
Harvey and Moose irritate Mrs. Bergman no end and constantly defy her house rules, which costs her dearly during their occupancy of her flat. The word soon gets out about the source of their sudden increase in income and leads to numerous problems when they are visited by a gold-digging courtesan, Chaquita DeMilo, Moose’s parole officer, and the crime kingpin, Louie the Pharaoh and two of his muscular henchmen. Harvey’s profitable enterprise crumbles and he and Moose are forced to flee for their lives. The ironic thing is that Harvey has become quite fond of Moose, in spite of his need for constant maintenance, and ends up inviting him to join him back in Merry Olde England where they will conjure up more schemes and live with Harvey’s mother in London.
Mrs. Bergman now has the apartment to herself to uncover all the suspected things Harvey and Moose did contrary to her strict rules. But, in the end, she will miss them, in spite of their infractions. She waves a cheerful goodbye to them from the apartment’s second story window as they run down the street mere hours before Big Louie returns to exact his pound of flesh for the fleecing Harvey and Moose have given him. Louie is currently on his way to confront the man at the newspaper who has been aiding Moose and Harvey in their bountiful enterprise
Mrs. Bergman exits the apartment and closes the door. There is a pause and then the phone begins its coded rings. First three rings, then a pause. Then two rings, then a pause. Finally the phone begins a run of ten rings as the lights slowly fade to black on the vacant apartment.