Rory Reed wasn’t opposed to getting high, but he never did it on Sunday nights, not while he was on the air at WABB. He always laughed at himself for it, too. He could’ve gone in soaring like an eagle that had snorted a metric ton of coke off the back of a kite, and no one would ever say a thing. No one except the production assistants sleepily earning two hours of course credit would’ve been around to say it. Instead, he dug in fully, showed the interns some respect, and each week cast himself with love into the radio graveyard otherwise known as the eight to ten p.m. slot on Sundays.
“That was the latest from Kid Krayon, a new song called ‘Sun the Wanderer.’” Rory browsed the event announcements. “Looks like Kid’s going to be doing a set at Creolefest next weekend, going on at two p.m. on Saturday the seventeenth. He’ll be teaming up with Abe Wood and the Big House who you heard before that, should be fun. And before that, you heard Nita Nitenga with ‘Leave Me Then Love Me…’” Rory shook his head but kept talking. A deejay got to say “before that” only so many times while retracing the trail through his playlist. How long had he been doing this now? Gods help him if he ever started streaming his show online this late at night. He decided that the twenty or so local listeners currently tuned in would forgive him if he himself sounded like the broken record.
Because every time he turned on the console’s lights, it was as if a new day had started and the sun had announced that it was okay with Rory standing in its glow after all. Every day Rory burned incense to thank the powers that allowed him to keep doing his job. Every day he tweeted his appreciation to the fans who listened to him, not only at WABB Community Radio, but also during his late morning stint at 98.3 The Force. And he always took care to find them the best among the latest sounds.
“Up next, something new from local artist Jules Horace. His debut track, ‘What I Lose Now,’ got him some buzz around these parts, and now he’s back with the follow-up. It’s called ‘What I Lose Now,’ here on WABB Community Radio.”
He let the song’s C minor opening chord progression wash over him so that he could parse it. Fresh as sushi, yet with something incredibly familiar about it. He had felt the same way about Jules’s first single—how did that one start? Rory closed his eyes and began pushing away columns of darkness that had risen brick-solid in his mind until he cleared a path for the first single’s melody. He found himself humming the exact same song that currently was spinning from disc drive number one.
The song still going, Rory dug his phone out of the pocket of his coat. “Call Mary Midnight,” he instructed it.
Mary never answered before the second ring. She also never insulted Rory with anything so tepid as a standard greeting. “I’m wearing nothing but a trenchcoat like yours and a smile, thanks for asking.”
“Turn on WABB and tell me what you hear.”
A few seconds slipped between Rory’s fingertips while Mary fiddled with her receiver in the background. “It’s that new single by that Horace kid. It’s cute, kind of wistful. I like it,” she said. “What’s wrong with it?”
“What’s its name?”
“It’s ‘What I Lose Now,’ right?”
“What was the name of his first song?”
The silence that followed was the silence of Mary’s tongue being drowned in thick tar. Rory whispered a few syllables into the phone and heard Mary’s breath.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” she said. “I’m so sick of these guys.”
“You’d think they’d learn,” he agreed, turning over the blank jewel case in which the Jules Horace CD had arrived. If only the disc had arrived blank, too, he thought. And who the Hell still sent out discs?
“You need to have an equipment malfunction right now. I don’t want this self-indulgent little dickhammer to get any more airtime.”
Rory sighed. “Song’s almost over. Can’t take most of it back. Besides, I’ve got some El Be Dee queued up next.” For most people, Rory knew, a favorite song by a favorite artist could clear the residue that a bad day left behind. In Rory’s hands, it could clear the night air of some seriously spoiled mojo as well.
“Meet me at Acevo’s after I’m done?” he said.
Through the phone, he could hear the sound of car tires singing across wet pavement. “I’ve already got my boots on. Hell, I’m halfway there,” Mary told him.
“You’ve always got your boots on and ready to go.”
“That’s because they look so good under this trenchcoat.” Rory heard Mary chuckle as she moved the phone away from her face to end the call, her laughter washed away in the streetlight drizzle. He started the track from El Bee Dee even though he still had five seconds left on the Jules Horace. Without his friend’s voice, it was too cold in the studio otherwise.