By Ben Sumner
“You’re on the air.”
“Yeah, buddy, I’m listening. I’m hearing you. You got something to say, some problem, some heart-throbbing story, anything, that’s what I’m here for, say it.”
“My whole show is based on helping people, listening to their problems, analyzing their minds, trying to keep them sane.”
“So what is it?”
“I’ve been feeling suicidal.” The man’s voice cracked.
“My girlfriend dumped me.”
“There ain’t a dame in this world worth killing yourself over. I don’t care who it is. Except for Pamela Anderson. Don’t do it, buddy. That’s my advice, and you will follow it.”
“That’s how I’ve been feeling. My girlfriend and I were supposed to marry next Spring. We’ve been dating for five years.”
“It’s a shame love is one of those things that doesn’t always last forever. I think once you make it to your 50th anniversary, you don’t got much to worry about in terms of divorce.”
“Well, I’ve been really depressed about it. I loved her.”
“How old are you?”
“You’re a spring chicken. There are plenty of women out there to meet. If she left you, she obviously wasn’t the right one.”
“But she was until she dumped me.”
“Then you weren’t the right one for her. You got your whole life ahead of you. All you can do now is look to what the future offers. Go find someone else. Stand on a roof top and scream to the world that you’re available.”
“She’s the only girl I’ve ever been with. There’s no one that could possibly fill her shoes.”
“Yeah there is. And I’ll let you have sloppy seconds with her as soon as I’m finished… Just kidding, buddy. Hold on a second and let me get you the number of a professional. You can use some medication right now.”
Steve Boyer, WKLG 9 p.m. to midnight talk show host, pressed the next blinking red button.
“Hello, you’re on WKLG.”
“Steve, you-” Ten seconds swallowed.
“I had to hit the delay. You can’t use that language on my show. Now I gotta wait for the delay to catch up before I take another phone call. That’s how it works. Those are their rules that I must obey. You can’t live on this planet and do whatever you want, because whatever you want can be punishable by the standards that others set. A society with morals is what they’re trying to preserve. If the FCC were to fine my company every time I or someone else broke morals over the airwaves, Hebdon broadcasting would have to claim bankruptcy.”
Ed the producer, who stood in the other room, gave a hand signal through the glass partition.
“I see by the erect middle finger of my producer that it’s time for a commercial, what pays my salary and makes it worth coming here. It’s 11:45 right now, and I got one more stop set to go before I get out of here. I’ll be back on WKLG.”
Cut to commercial. Five minutes to air time.
Steve was 25 years old, making a good living for only working 15 hours a week. His show had been on for six months and the ratings were steady. A rap station, a country station and a rock-n-roll station were ahead of him during that time-slot, but he still had plenty of loyal listeners. His station manager promised him a raise if he passed the higher-rated shows on the other stations. In order to do that, Steve needed the freakiest people in the listening area to call in on a regular basis. Freaks pushed up his ratings. He always said to himself, “As long as there are depressed and troubled people out there, I can make this living.”
Steve sat back in his chair, reading the newspaper. The dimly lit studio lights glowed over the studio. He could see by the flashing red lights that plenty of people were on hold. Ed answered phones and pressed the commercial buttons, while Steve read the radio column.
“Typical.” Steve saw the review of his show. He had been waiting a while for that columnist to acknowledge him. “Steve Boyer rants and raves to young adult callers foolishly seeking his advice on relationships. Boyer’s advice is sometimes insulting, especially to females, though he claims it is helpful if they do what he says. However, he does not seem to really care too much about his guests. A consistent audience keeps him at number four in the late night ratings.”
A few minutes later, Ed counted down with his fingers before he turned on the ON-AIR light.
“We’re back on WKLG, I’m Steve Boyer the destroyer. You’re on the air.” He pressed the blinking button.
“What is wrong with this freaking world?” A female voice said on the other line.
“That’s an open question, and I can do hundreds of shows trying to answer it. What’s your problem?”
“I left my boyfriend-”
“Would this be the guy I talked to a few minutes ago?”
“No, not him. Anyway, I left him because he was really into drugs and got me into it. He would beat me when he was drunk then treat me nice and make it up to me somehow.”
“Why is it that girls go out with guys that treat them like crap? I’ve heard a million stories like that, and I can never figure them out. Are you good looking?”
“Well, I think so.”
“Come on, do you think so or does everyone think so? Your mother’s opinion doesn’t count.”
“Yes. I know I’m good looking, and I’ve made poor choices with men because I have so many choices. I’m a ‘Stupid American Princess’ as you like to call them.”
“I shortened it to SAP, but go on.”
“Well, he was really good looking, and a lot of fun, but he’s crazy. I’m scared of him. He might come back to hurt me.”
“I’ve been saying for years for all girls, especially beautiful girls, to be careful who they choose. From every story I’ve heard, beautiful women, or SAPs, make poor choices with guys. At least women with less physical beauty have more time to wait to make a choice. They barely get the chance to rush into a relationship without getting to know the guy first. That’s a generalization, of course, but true in many cases. How long have you been dating him?”
“About a month.”
“A month! You’re the queen of the SAPs! But like all SAPs who prove me right, I like to help them out. The only way I can help them out is by giving them advice. I’ve gotten many calls from lonely, depressed guys who can’t get laid with a billion bucks in the best little whorehouse in Texas. Most of them would treat you like a queen, but you’d never consider going out with them because you don’t meet them at the Lucifer’s Ball Sack concert.”
“So you’re saying I should go out with guys I don’t have anything in common with?”
“Oh jeez, sweetheart. If you wake up with a guy you don’t remember meeting the night before, and you decide you want to get to know him so you continue the relationship, you’re headed for trouble. Or, you can get some guy who sits at home on Saturday nights and surfs the net and watches Star Trek. He’ll treat you better than any of those skinheads at the bars. Why? Because all that sci-fi watching geek wants is a woman. He’ll trade it all in for you. As long as you put out.”
“Goodbye and God bless. God doesn’t bless enough of us. Hello, you’re on the air.”
“Get to the point.”
The guy on the other line hesitated. “I-”
“Come on, man, spit it out.”
“I’m so depressed.” His voice cracked and the tears rolled, slurring his speech.
“What’s the matter, man?”
“I’m one of those geeks who has no life.”
“Hang in there, buddy. I can sense it in your voice that you were a lot like me. No dates. Few friends, no close friends. Nothing to do on the weekends. Live with your parents. Are you still in high school?”
“College. And you’re right about everything.”
“You try picking up chicks at school?”
“I wouldn’t know who and how.”
“You gotta have confidence, man. I’ll tell you a great way to meet women. Buy two concert tickets to a popular band. Post a note in a sorority house that you are looking for someone to go to the Leper’s Pecker concert. You’ll get a few phone calls. It’s a blind date, but it’s still a date. Take her out and show her a good time. Don’t expect to get any hooch on the first date. You gotta be slow with that, especially when you don’t know her. If she likes you and vice versa, take her out again. If not, post another note in a different sorority. Try that.”
“I think I’ll try. I’m desperate.”
“Sure, why not? Also, try and go out with more friends. Plan things and do things. You’ll feel a little better. And get yourself a cat or dog to keep you company when your friends aren’t around.”
“I already have a dog.”
“Good. Now go give it a bone or something. Thanks for the call. A woman is the best thing a man can have. A woman can make a man’s life much better if he chooses the right one. In fact, I want to tell my girlfriend, Rachel, that I love her. She always helps me and stands by her man.”
Steve pressed the next button. “You’re on the air.”
The caller spoke. “That bitch that just called is gonna die!”
“Why is that?” Steve had to deal with threats in the past. The worst he heard that happened was only a fist fight between a jealous ex-boyfriend and the woman’s new flame.
“I’m outside her house right now on my cellular phone. She’s home. I got a switchblade and her house key.”
“Don’t do it!” Steve screamed into the microphone.
“I’m walking up to the door right now.” The phone crackled a bit.
“Whoever you are that just called, lock yourself in a room and call the police! Hey man, don’t kill her! Why’re you gonna kill her?” Steve soaked the windscreen with his saliva as he yelled.
“I’m opening the front door right now.”
“Please don’t kill her! There ain’t a dame worth killing or killing yourself for!”
“Sorry bud, I’ve made up my mind. The door is opened. I’m walking in.”
“Don’t kill her, man. Just get in your car and drive away before the police get there.”
“Come on now, Steve. You know this is making great radio. Your sponsors are loving it. Tina! Where are you? You make your living off of other people’s problems and freaks that call you for help. You’re loving this, too.”
“Dude, I’d give up my whole career if you get out of there. Don’t do it!” The next DJ waited in the lobby, staring into the studio at Steve’s back.
“The radio’s on, can you hear?” the man asked.
Steve heard the feedback but didn’t care. “Put that god damn knife down and get out of the house!”
“I guess I could strangle her to death. At least that way I can feel her die with my own hands.”
“You sick bastard!”
Steve heard the faint sound of a door slamming.
“I’m walking up the stairs now. She’s up there. She just slammed the door. Tina! I know you’re in there!” Steve could hear banging on the other line. “You see, I knew she’d hide in here. It’s got a good lock on it, but I can break it down easily. You wouldn’t believe how many times I fucked her in this room. Now if you’ll excuse me-” Smack! “I gotta-” Smack! “Kick this fucking door down.” Smack!
The man cursed but Steve did not press the delay. Steve screamed in the microphone. “Tina, sweetheart, find something to protect yourself with!”
“It’s no use, Steve. She can’t hear you. The radio is on downstairs, not up here.” Smack!
“Why’re you killing her?” Steve had to stall him, and he planned on doing that any way possible.
“She dumped me. After all the good things I did for her. She’s dead.” Smack!
“She told me you beat her.”
“She deserved it. She cheated on me.” Smack!
“No one deserves to be beat but you!”
“Sorry, Steve, I can’t hear you. The door is cracking. A few more-” Smack!
“I said no one deserves to be beat but you!”
“I’ve been beat mentally and physically all my life.”
“You were abused as a child, weren’t you?”
“I was raped by a male babysitter. I was beat by my father.”
“And you wanna take it out on her?”
“That’s how I feel, man. She also owes me a thousand bucks on top of that.” Smack! “Almost there.”
“This is about money?”
“Hardly. She dumped me without paying me back. She wasn’t going to, either.” Smack!
“Are you prepared to go to jail for the rest of your life? I’ve got the evidence right here on tape.”
“Don’t even start talking about the justice system, man.”
“They’d probably give you a year in prison,” Steve said.
“More than that you sarcastic asshole.” Crash! “Broke the lock.”
“Don’t do it!” Steve screamed. His microphone levels hit the furthest point in the red. His static voice screeched out of hundreds of radios, taken in by helpless ears, waiting for the conclusion.
Steve stared at his microphone, standing up from his stool, speechless for the first time in his radio career.
The cellular phone fell to the ground, rustling to a stop, breaking.
“Hello?” Steve said. “Hello? Oh shit. Oh God.” He caught his breath, leaving about ten seconds of dead air.
“I don’t know what to do or say now. All we can do now is wait. Ed, we better go to commercial. The sponsors are getting their money’s worth now. I’ll break in immediately if I hear any news. This is WKLG.”
Steve turned off the microphone as Ed pressed the commercial button. The phone lines flooded with calls. Steve picked them up, though he was not on the air.
“Did he kill her?” A kid asked. Steve hung up.
“What’s going on? I heard something about some guy killing some woman?”
“No time to explain.” Steve hung up.
Steve answered the phone eight more times from people asking what happened.
“Hold on a sec. Ed! Stop the commercial!”
Ed stopped the commercial in the middle and cued it back to the beginning.
“This is WKLG and we got Tina on the line. Tina, what the hell just happened there?”
“I- I- stabbed him.” She cried, shaking with fear.
“I heard on the radio that he was coming up to my house. I grabbed a kitchen knife and ran up to my room.”
“As soon as he broke down the door, I stabbed him in the shoulder. He’s not dead…” she trailed off into more tears.
“Call the police, Tina.”
“Oh God. There’s blood everywhere. Holy shit he just moved!” She cried. Words slobbered out of her mouth.
“Tina, get out of the house. Get in your car and drive to the police station! Do it now!”
“Okay.” She dropped the phone.
“Get out of the house!”
“Well, thank God for that. My heart is beating like a jackhammer. I’ll replay the whole tape tomorrow and fill you in on the whole story. This has been the late night help line with Steve Boyer on WKLG. It’s 12:10, and I ran overtime. Take it away, Ed.”
Ed pressed the commercial button.
Steve turned off the microphone, grabbed his stuff, and left the studio. He got in his car and sped to the local 24 hour diner.
. . .
Steve parked his car in the mostly-empty lot. He entered, seeing that his girlfriend, Rachel, and her brother, Max had already arrived.
“Hey, great show you put on tonight!” Steve kissed Rachel, then shook Max’s hand.
“Thanks. I hope we don’t get caught,” Max replied.
“We won’t if you keep quiet,” Steve smiled back at him, then sat.
“You think everyone fell for it?” Rachel asked.
“The police will probably investigate and ask me questions, but when they can’t find out anything else, they’ll drop it. As for Ed, I was doing so much acting in the studio he wouldn’t have had any idea.”
“Well, I hope this helps your ratings,” Max said.
“I’ll replay it on my show tomorrow. No one will recognize your voices because I have that harmonizer thing for the phone. It disguises everyone’s voice.”
A young man walked into the diner. Light reflected off the trails of tears which had streamed down his cheeks. His face was flush red. Steve took a prolonged glance at him.
“May I help you?” The waitress walked up to Steve’s booth.
Rachel and Max ordered.
“And for you?” the waitress asked.
Steve ordered his food, looking over at the young man. “One more thing. Get that boy over there whatever he wants… on me.”
“Okay,” the waitress smiled and walked back to the kitchen.