Am radio, p.1
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       A.M. Radio, p.1

           Daniel Hoover
A.M. Radio

  Daniel LaGrave

  Copyright © 2009 by Daniel LaGrave


  The number two radio control room had the tight feel of a single-car garage with a pair of Winnebago’s squeezed into it. The feeling was compounded by the wall-to-wall electronics necessary for transmitting a radio signal. Sound boards, mixing equipment, consoles, transmitter gear, and a desk filled with switches, knobs, a boom mic, a computer and a half empty coffee mug. Mountains of photo static copies threatened to topple into a blizzard of eight and a half by eleven sheeted flakes at the smallest whisper of moving air. The pall of cigarette smoke floating in a haze never seemed to diminish.

  Among the ceiling tiles brown amorphous stains ran in random patterns, the tell-tale sign that at some time in the past rain has seeped through the aging tin roof above. The ever lingering funk of greasy black molds refused to be excised by the gallons of bleach used permeated the air.

  Half a dozen government issued clocks circa, 1950, hung along the wall, each labeled with some far off, exotic city: Chicago, Tokyo, San Francisco, and London. From Tacoma to Timbuktu-all remained silent, their hands still. Coast to coast there was only Bismarck, North Dakota, time.

  The low prattle of the air conditioner did nothing to defy the stifling heat generated by the massive banks of electronics and complete lack of ventilation. The streamers garishly tied to its grate waved languidly in the smoky air as if shimmering mirages of cool air promised, but never realized.

  A battered office chair crouched behind the desk, its thread-bare cushions broken down to form an eternal impression. It remained fixed, no longer able to adjust in height, forcing everything else to adjust to it. Of its four casters three remained to torture the muscles of the back lest they momentarily forget the constant struggle to maintain balance. The faded black plastic hinges groaned mournfully with each twist and change in position made by its occupant. A disheveled man sitting behind the console appeared as if he hadn’t slept in days, his shoulders slumped, and his head drooping slightly as if from a bad headache. His large Hawaiian shirt hung limply from his lanky frame as if it too was exhausted to be its customarily loud self. His dull eyes reflecting little life, his voice, though, seemed to contradict his ragged, worn exterior blasting outward with an almost euphoric tone. It was the only thing that didn’t fit the room.

  “Well folks it’s 15 minutes to the hour, and that means I’ve got to leave you for a few moments but in my absence allow me to offer you these manifestations of our capitalistic democracy. This is KSFE 765 Bismarck. Back in a few, sit tight.”

  The chair groaned loudly as its occupant leaned back, straightening his back; he momentarily wondered if he should give in, and go down to the vending machine, pick out one of those cake things; then again his diet was going well. He shouldn’t risk it. Instead, he reached over and fished out another cigarette from a pack sitting near an ash tray dangerously close to over flowing. As it had before, his first draw of the tobacco caused a hacking cough to erupt. He hadn’t smoked until recently. Frankly, he didn’t like them; he started to rise and head to the men’s room but knew from experience that only another ten seconds remained for the break. Taking a leak would have to wait.

  Outside, the dust storm still raged. It had been the largest since anyone could remember, and no one could recall one that seem to glow dully, probably just some extra quartz the withered man thought nonchalantly. At any rate it hadn’t seemed to affect the ability for the station to get a signal out, so he’d go on with the show.

  John Kane sat back down to the console in front of him and quickly adjusted the signal strength and amplitude before cutting back into the feed.

  “Well, people, we’re back. So far the big story in the news is the tensions heating up between our own Uncle Sam, China, and the Middle East, specifically Iran. All these hard feelings stemming from the rapidly dwindling supply of fossil fuels available to the industrialized countries of the world. Let’s look at what’s going on here. We need oil, and China needs oil, their economy is exploding, and, as a result, the militaries of both becoming more agitated. In return, with the supply dropping at an unprecedented rate, the oil-producing countries in the Middle East are now commanding ever higher rates per barrel.”

  He paused to swig from the chipped coffee cup; the space beneath revealed the darker colored patch where the layer of dust had not covered. What the dust couldn’t cover, it settled into, giving the cold coffee a tangy metallic taste. The space under the cup had provided cover for a cockroach that now skittered away, falling to the floor. Kane watched it struggle for a moment across the dusty floor. Damn vermin, he thought, bringing his foot down on the hapless insect with a satisfyingly wet crunch. He continued.

  “There is also speculation that OPEC countries have been funneling money into Iran’s nuclear program in a militarized effort of their own. In the event they need to defend their most prized commodity. I’m not painting a very pretty picture here am I people? You know I can’t help but say I told you so; we had so many years to consider this moment. To come up with something beyond the use of fossil fuels, but we chose not to and, as a result, we find ourselves hurdling toward the brink.” He paused for dramatic effect. “So here we are. What do we do now? I’ll tell you want we need to do. We get off the oil, develop renewable resources and, thus, throw off the yoke of our old masters in the oil industry.

  He lifted bloodshot eyes to the clock on the wall again, “Well, folks, it’s 15 minutes to the hour, KSFE 765 Bismarck. Back in a few, sit tight.” Flipping the switch beneath the dull glowing indicator light showing him to be on air, which now blinked off, he stood and made his way through to the hallway. Kane’s steps kicked up some of the dust; damned stuff must be coming in through the vents he thought idly to himself. His was an early show, so no one else was at the station just yet, and, as a result, the offices for some of the others lay open and darkened. He wished that the left over decorations from the Halloween party would be put away soon. He made a mental note to complain to the management; whoever thought up the idea to dress up desiccated mummies like the co-workers and leave them draped in so many profane postures needed a talking to.

  Finally making it to the restroom, he quickly used the facilities before moving to the sink to wash up, not that it made a difference now. He’d already caught whatever cold was going around. As if to confirm his diagnosis, Kane glanced up to the mirror; his brown eyes carried heavy bags underneath each. His skin seemed pale, more than just a result of the flickering florissant lighting, and it itched he would resist scratching for a while, but eventually he gave, in running his nails over his arms and legs. Admittedly, he’d never heard of the flu or cold linked to dry skin, but his flaked off in massive patches. The good news was that the nose bleeds had seemed to have stopped.

  “I’ve really got to drop by the doctor’s office after the show today,” he mumbled through cracked lips. Maybe he could get some sort of lotion to help before anymore of his chestnut hair was affected.

  Kane slipped out of the restroom and began to make his way back when he noticed that along the hallway a set of footprints going in the opposite direction, the sight was reassuring; it was always comforting to have someone else in the building. He hurried back to his chair and flipped the switch back into place, the light creeping to a soft glow. “Ok we’re back. Where was I? Oh yeah, talking about today’s top story, the escalading tensions around the globe. I know that a lot you listening are becoming more and more alarmed by the prospects of all out war, but I got to tell ya I don’t think it will happen, and even if it does, it won’t be anything like what’s portrayed at the movie theaters. Maybe there will be some fighting, but remember, folks, America has
yet to lose an all out war. It’s 15 minutes to the hour, and that means more commercials. This is KSFE 765 Bismarck. Sit tight.”

  He lit another cigarette again he began to cough hoarsely. His hand came back with a splattering of blood. He started to crush the smoldering tobacco into the ash tray only to grind out the ember on the table’s laminated surface. Damn cigarettes, he thought though some deeper fear momentarily flickered in him, flipping the switch again. “And we’re back, so let’s get back to the topic at hand. Like I mentioned before, even if we do head into that dark curtain of war, it won’t resemble at all anything we’ve seen on either TV or on film. There will be some skirmishes, and, yes, there will be some casualties, but in the end they’ll call a truce, draw up some sort of agreement and we’ll go back to our day to day lives complete with baseball, weekend barbeques, and mama’s apple pie. It’s 15 minutes to the hour; this is KSFE 765 Bismarck. Sit tight.”

  Kane leaned toward the microphone again resuming the signal with the flip of the control and began without preamble, “The good news here, people, is that I can safely say that there will be no all out world war, I mean, really, nobody wants that. Not us, not OPEC, not China. I remember hearing somewhere some sobering words shared by Professor Einstein to a colleague many many years ago. To paraphrase him, he basically said that he didn’t know how they’d fight world war three, but he knew how they’d fight the fourth, with sticks and stones. It seems to me that in that sort of future that there’s nothing to profit from, and as we well know, if something isn’t profitable, it won’t be done. It’s 15 minutes to the hour; this is KSFE 765 Bismarck. Sit tight.”

  Kane decided he would take calls in the next hour, try to get people talking. He tossed the switch again to cut out of the signal. He flicked the switch again, cutting back into the commercials, the light above scarcely any more light than a moment before. “It’s 15 minutes to the hour; this is KSFE 765 Bismarck. Sit tight.” With a click the switch cut out the signal. Unnoticed, though, by its operator, the indicator light had already gone dark. Kane reached again for the pack of cigarettes, wondering if the dust storm had died down yet.

  Outside the tiny radio station the earthy tempest had blown itself out, replaced now by darkened angry clouds and a blanketing unnatural silence. Following the wind’s wrathful dirge, rain began to fall like tears from the torched sky, born from the poisoned atmosphere. The drops too glowed and struck the ground, their soft pitter-patter betrayed as they landed, sounding with an angry sizzle, pitting the land and everything that lay on its surface. Nothing moved. Nothing remained. Nothing heard.

  “It’s 15 minutes to the hour; this is KSFE 765 Bismarck. Sit tight.”

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