Getting myself ready for a show was never much of a problem. A bit of soda and whiskey was sure to get the appropriate fires burning. Station WVMP, talk radio, had pretty much become a second home for me. Which was sorely needed these days since me and the wife weren’t on the best of terms. And not just ‘at the moment’, but hardly ever. I don’t know how much ‘affection’ the old bag wants me to give her. I come home, I put food on the fucking table, I buy her gifts on all the regular gift giving holidays…what is she complaining about? The way she mouths off, you’d think I beat her. Maybe NOT beating her is the problem. A little slap every now and then might allow my balls to come out of hiding whenever I’m at home.
And people wonder why I sleep at the job some nights. It ain’t the whiskey, folks!
“Mel…you about ready to get started? Commercial break is almost over.” Vonetta, my assistant. She thinks I’m not aware of the fact that she despises me, but I don’t much care. As long as I’m paying her rent, she’ll do what I tell her to do and like it. Besides, it’s not like she has much of a pokerface to hide behind.
“I’m ready to roll. Hey, go downstairs and bring me up a bag of those salted pretzels from the cafeteria, would ya?” I told her, and she rolled her eyes, walking off without much more than a sigh. I looked over at Peter, who was working the phone lines. The kid’s only 20 years old, what the hell is he doing working on a late night radio talk show anyway? He’s too damn pretty to do much else, I guess. Smart kid, but just a few long eyelashes away from being a freakin’ WOMAN. Pretty boys, psh! Who needs ‘em?
I sat down with my drink, and waited for Vonetta to come back and count me down to showtime. I never quite knew what the appeal was of people listening to my bullshit. I rant and I rave about the most controversial subjects known to man, and even though they claim to absolutely HATE me for it, they just keep lining up to hear what I’ve got to say. Hell, if they just stopped listening and tuned me out, the station would have let me go years ago. But they just keep calling in to whine and complain, and because of that, I’ve got the number one talk show in the city. And they call ME the dumbass? Hehehe, hey, the big wigs can’t argue with success. If it’s attention they want, then it’s attention they’ll get.
“You’re on in 2…” Vonetta said, practically tossing me my pretzels like some kind of canine.
I looked over at Peter and told him, “Hey kid, NO fuck ups tonight! You hear me? You keep those calls coming, weed out the cranks and the nutcases, and you might still have a job after this is over.” He’s still scared of me. After three months, the boy still trembles in my presence like a toddler awaiting a spanking. I don’t need some young post-teenager thinking about his boner and screwing up my show. It’s good to keep him on his toes.
“And 4…3…2…” Vonetta counted me down, and I took one last sip of my drink before putting my headphones on.
“Good evening ladies and germs, it’s your host, Mel Workman on WVMP late night, and this is ‘Say It Straight’. Where I tell it like it is, and you choke down whatever I give ya!” I said, starting off with my lips loose and ready to bring more morons to the phone lines. “Funny I should say that folks, because we’ve gout ourselves a special topic tonight. You all know what I’m talking about, people. We’re talking the magical world of…gay pride.” I said, making sure to lift my tone of voice for emphasis. “Gay pride…can you believe this? Have you heard about this big parade going on this weekend? All to show pride and acceptance for the gay community. Heh…what a crock! What the hell is there to be PROUD of? Can you tell me? I mean…heh…since WHEN did we say it was okay to be a homosexual? I don’t remember having a vote on that!” It had only been a minute or two, and I could already feel my momentum picking up. Tonight’s show should be a crowd pleaser. “So we’ve got an entire parade of limp wristed fairies, strutting their stuff through OUR city streets, in assless back leather chaps no less, to promote an immoral lifestyle that is not only unhealthy, disgusting, and PERVERSE…but it’s a mortal SINas well! Written right there in the pages of the Bible itself. What has the world come to? We might as well have a serial killer parade! Or how about a ‘worship false idols’ day? I mean it’s all okay, right? That’s what they want us to believe! That’s what they want our CHILDREN to believe! Sure, just go on out and sleep with whoever you like! Sure! Go on kids…let your scoutmasters touch you in strange places and teach you all about looovvvvvveee!” Peter looked up at me from the boards, and I frowned at him to get his head focused back on those phone calls. I’m sure they’re gonna start early tonight. What the hell does HE look so hurt for? “Well, America…let me tell you what *I* think, and let me tell it to you straight, if you’ll pardon the pun! It is NOT okay to be gay! I don’t want some pansy ass pillow biting queers dancing in our streets, and corrupting the moral fabric of our city! Hell, maybe even the WORLD! Oh, they may whine and complain and cry little pink crocodile tears about their rights and their precious little communities and support groups…but I want them all to know that WE have rights too! We have the right to not be infected with the big sparkly display of perversion you guys seem to be so damn ‘proud’ of! It’s a curse, it’s a SICKNESS, and it is SPREADING! Do you know they have gay proms in high schools now? Do you know they have entire gated communities, all to themselves? And NOW…heh…now they want the right to get MARRIED to each other! Ha! Well la-di-dah…ain’t THAT special?”
Vonetta let me know that we were going to commercial in a moment, and to wrap up the intro segment.
“Well folks, I’m gonna give it to ya straight, I always do! And I’m being honest when I say that I don’t want any giant rainbows being waved outside of MY house this weekend. Tell the ‘pole stuffers’ of America to stop prancing around in their undies and get a clue! You guys wanna talk to me about this, you know the number to the station. And if you don’t, look it up, I’m not your ‘nanny’! But let me tell you, ya better come with guns blazing folks, because I’m coming out the box swinging tonight! This is MY city, and I’m not giving it up without a fight! Mel Workman, WVMP, give me your thoughts on this.” I heard Vonetta shut off my mic and go to commercial, allowing me to lean back and pour myself an even stronger drink than before. I’m gonna need to get up and move around once we get back on air. Actual movement adds power to a good old fashioned rant…even on the radio.
Vonetta walked in and spoke in a slightly hushed voice. “Hey, it’s probably like talking to a brick wall, but do you think that maybe you could tone down the name-calling tonight?” She said sarcastically.
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Well…” She looked over her shoulder for a moment, and then said, “…He never really mentioned it, and I never really asked, but…I think Peter might be gay. So…can you try to have a fucking heart for once? He’s just trying to work his way through the last two years of school.”
I looked over her shoulder at Peter, and I don’t know why I didn’t see it before. Soft, flawless skin, youthful medium brown haircut, slender and slim in a way that was almost ‘dainty’. Peter was always soft-spoken too. No wonder. I knew he was too damn ‘pretty’ to be normal.
“Is THAT what he’s all worked up about? Well tell him he better grow a thicker skin and get used to it, because my listeners aren’t expecting me to pull punches. Tell him to get his fucking head in the game We’re doing what’s best for thestation right now. To hell with his sensitive little queer feelings.” Vonetta bit her tongue, as her job was solely dependent on me actually wanting her there. But she looked really ashamed to even be a part of this show tonight. So what? I’ll take my lashes for it in Hell when I get there. Right now, I’ve got a program to run.
Vonetta began to count me back from commercial, shooting daggers at me with her eyes. But instead of paying her any attention, I looked over at Peter beside her…and with a bat of my eyelashes, I gave him a smile and an effeminate wave. Which pretty much got him shaking all over again. The pretty little kid practically looked watery in the eyes.
“And we’re back, ladies and gentlemen…and all strange creatures somewhere in between.” I had a nasty little urge to really reach out and sucker punch the kid emotionally. I probably shouldn’t have pushed it, but I never censored myself when it came to telling it like it is, so I went with my gut instinct. It’s kept me on the radio for this long. I’ve learned to trust it. “So…to everybody listening to the sound of my voice, you might think that I’m exaggerating when I say that this homosexual sickness is infiltrating EVERY walk of life. But nothing could be further from the truth. In FACT…I have just learned that our pretty pretty intern, Peter, MIGHT just be one of the infected!” Peter’s eyes were definitely welling up with tears as the shock of what I said ripped through him like a bolt of lightning. “You see? It’s everywhere! And they are getting sneakier and sneakier about getting into places that us REAL Americans can’t. But don’t worry folks, if you fellas out there call up and ask him real nice..maybe cute little Peter will blow you a kiss. And then…just blow you! Heh!” At that, Peter couldn’t contain himself any longer. Vonetta attempted to calm him down, but he started to cry and had to run out of the room to collect himself. Vonetta took over the phone lines, her facial expression literally trying to murder me with her gaze alone.
“Gee…I hope Mommy and Daddy weren’t listening tonight! I’d hate to pull his little ballerina outfit out of the closet! Hehehe! You see, that’s another thing about these so-called ‘proud’ sissies. They’re so SENSITIVE! They cry at the drop of a hat, these days. What is that about? To all you dad’s out there…get your kids involved in sports or something! Play catch with them in the park. Then you don’t have to worry about them dirtying their knees up in some dingy public bathroom for Father Chester! Family values, people! That’s what we’ve got to get back to! That’s what this country was built on, and that’s what is ultimately going to save it.” Vonetta let me know that I had a call, and I gave her the nod to put it through. “Ooh, looks like the buttons are already firing up. Let me hear what you’ve got to say. Yes, caller, where are you from?”
“You’re an asshole!” Said the woman on the line.
“Whoah, watch it lady, we’re on the freakin’ RADIO here! Hehehe!” I said, egging her on.
“I want you to know that my son, Alex, happens to be a homosexual! And I am proud of him in EVERY way that a mother could be! He has NOTHING to be ashamed of!”
“Really now? Ok, let me just take a stab at figuring out the situation here You’re a single mom? Am I right? No father figure in the house?”
“What does that have to do with my son being proud of who he is?”
“First of all, what you’re son is doing is sick and wrong. If you’re allowing him to be proud of that, then you’re even more screwed up than he is.” I told her. She started to get angry, but I cut her off by out talking her. “And SECOND…SECOND of all….it was being constantly sugarcoated by his ‘mommy’ that turned him into a sissy in the first place! Get a man, sweetheart. A REAL man to show him how to be one. If you’re too ugly to nab one, bring the kid over to my house and I’ll show him what being masculine is all about. Even if I’ve got to whip it right out of him.”
“You son of a bitch! I’m going to do everything in my power to get your show taken off the air! The trash that comes out of your mouth is absolutely unforgivable!”
“Hey, I tell it straight…you choke it down, baby! You knew what this was. Why are you listening?”
“Somebody needs to put some common sense in that tiny little pinhead of yours! You don’t deserve to be on the radio you MONSTER! You’re barely a human being!”
“Hey sweetheart, you know what the difference is between a conversation over the phone and one in real life? With the phone, this little button let’s you know when it’s over.” ‘Click’…and it was time to move on to the next idiot with a problem. “You see? This is what I’m saying people. We have gotten so confused about strong family values, that we actually go around DEFENDING such a disgusting choice. And don’t get all bent out of shape when I use the word ‘choice’! Because that’s exactly what it is. Nobody’s forcing you to kiss the guy next to you Hell, I don’t wanna do it. It’s gross! Two men…humping and grinding on one another? Yuck! Makes me want to run to the nearest church and pray for God almighty to beam me off the planet completely!” Vonetta, her hand over her face, put through another call for me. “Next caller? Where you from?”
“My name is Shawn, and I’m from Cincinnati.” His voice was very ‘gay’ sounding, so I already knew that I had myself an instant target.
“Shawn from Cincinnati, wow, you sound absolutely adorable, creampuff. I take it you’ve got something intelligent to say?”
“Insult me all you want, but you’re not going to change how I feel about myself. I came out of the closet when I was 13, and I have a steady boyfriend, a good paying job, and we’re getting ready to buy a house. I grew up with both parents, did well in school…we have JUST as many ‘family values’ as you do.”
“I find that hard to believe, Shawn. You’re not convincing me here.” I told him. “Say, let me ask you something. When you decided to be gay…at THIRTEEN years old…not even old enough to drive a CAR, much less make choices about who you want to have SEX with…what was going through your mind? I mean, what made you want to turn your back on your friends, and your family, and God himself…and decide, ‘hey…I want to cram a big meat stick up my anus for the rest of my life?’ Hmmm? I mean how can you even MENTION family values, when you CAN’T have a family?”
There was a pause, and then he said, “You know, despite your ignorance, I’m not going to let you tick me off. And for your information, it’s NOT a choice. It’s who I am.”
“Noooo, no, let me stop you right there, Shawn. Being a homosexual is as much of a choice as any other sexual fetish. Look it up. You weren’t born that way. You waited until your little teen-peenie started twitching and DECIDED to start humping the leg of the first person you could get to lay still for you. You and your boyfriend might be blinded by this strange ‘fantasy’ that you can’t help it, but there have been DOCUMENTED cases of men who were cured of their mental illness and set straight. Men with families. Good men, who grow up to teach their own children better than that.”
“I used to think your show was all an act, Mr. Workman, but now I’m starting to think that you’re REALLY that stupid! You’ve got to be KIDDING me!”
“Uh oh…you hear that ladies and gentlemen? Our friend, Shawn, sounds like he’s starting to get mad. You’re an ANGRY fairy, aren’t ya?”
“You are actually laughably ignorant! Do you know ANYTHING about what it’s like to be us? NO! You have no goddamn idea what it’s like to be hated, and spit on, teased, and beat up, JUST because you LOVE differently then somebody else!”
“So why CHOOSE it then??? Stop playing house with you’re little male escort and get a GIRLFRIEND! Have you ever even BEEN with a girl? You might just like it!”
“And to think, I actually thought that I could inspire some thought in that head of yours. I was wrong. You know, I hope that you find out what it’s like to feel ALONE! What it’s like to be bullied and judged! Gay pride parades were MADE to bump shoulders with narrow minded bigots like you! Grow up!”
The phone went dead, and I smiled. This job gets easier and easier all the time. “What do you think, people? Am I saying something wrong? Am I off base here? The reason guys like Shawn get so flustered and angry is because I’m not afraid to pull their card and call their bluff! I’m not gonna back down and ‘embrace it’ and ‘accept it’ like the rest of you crybabies. I see something undeniably WRONG happening here, and I’m going to fight it with every last breath in my body! Sure, you guys wanna play the sap and say that it’s ok to be a homosexual…but what happens when the neighborhood priest touches YOUR kid in a confessional booth? Huh? What happens when you find out little Billy’s gym teacher is gay? Or when you find your daughter making out with some other slut on a ‘Girls Gone Wild’ video? Ohhh…it’s a whole different STORY then, isn’t it? THEN you wanna cry foul! And all of that ‘love’ and ‘tolerance’ bullcrap goes right out the window, and into the freakin’ TRASH where it belongs! Cut out the middle man, and save yourself from the horror of having to deal with it later! Take care of this growing disease NOW! I know you’re with me, people! Whether you’re too afraid to say it or not.”
Vonetta tapped on the window to put through another one.
“Alright, caller, you’re on with Mel. C’mon and shout at me.”
“Yeah, my name is Frank, and I’m calling from Savannah. I just wanted to let you know that I’m listening to you in my truck and I’m riding with you the hole WAY on this one, man!” He said.
“FINALLY! It’s good to hear that somebody out there has a good head on their shoulders and isn’t too scared to put it out there like they should.” I told him.
“Damn right, man! I tell you, I had some guy tell me he was queer not more than a week ago! This faggot actually told me he thought I was CUTE!”
“Wow! And what did you do? Did you sock him one?”
“Mannnn…I liked to beat that queer to DEATH right there, I tell you! He’s LUCKY I got a record, because I would have just kept wailing on him till I was tired! Don’t you worry though, Mel…I’m gonna see him again! REAL soon!”
I chuckled. “Well, now, Frank…I can’t publicly condone any violence on the show! I’ll just say that you should do what feel is right and sane, and leave it at that.” I told him. “Thanks for calling, Frank. You’re a real American.” I hung up on the call, and said, “At least SOMEBODY out there is on my side. *I* was starting to feel like the ‘queer’ one for a moment there! Heh!” I looked at the booth, and it was time for another commercial. “Alright folk, it looks like it’s time for me to give the old voice box a three minute rest. So get your ideas together and give the station a call. Give me a REAL argument, folks! You’re making this too easy for me! Mel Workman, ‘Saying It Straight’, WVMP, we’ll be back in a minute.”
I sipped some more whisky and soda out of my cup, feeling energized over what was certain to be a hit episode of the show, when Vonetta walked in. “You really are a bastard, you know that? A true bastard.”
“What? Peter? Give me a break.” I said. “It’s gay PRIDE week, isn’t it? He’s supposed to be PROUD. So what if I told a few people on the radio, he’ll get over it.”
“Get over it? Mel, that poor kid is in the bathroom crying his EYES out right now. How can you DO that? How can you be so cruel! What did Peter ever do to you to deserve that?”
“Alright, alright…calm down.” I said, trying to get her to take a breath before she lost any more of her quiet sarcasm and replaced it with a full blown hissy fit. “I’ll apologize to him when he comes back. Alright? He’s too pretty to be so uptight.” Vonetta almost walked out on me. “It’ll be FINE, V! The kid will have himself a good cry, go home and lick his Zac Efron poster, jack off till cream splatters all over his chest, and go right to sleep. Tomorrow he’ll wake up and he might not even remember what the big fuss was about. Hell, he might even get himself a boyfriend out of it. Look on the bright side.”
“Asshole.” She mumbled, and went back into the booth.
When the commercial break was over, Vonetta was quick to put the next caller through. Then she left him on the line while leaving the room to see if Peter was ok. Sighhh…great, I’m all on my own here. Some staff I’ve got working tonight. One sissy crying in the bathroom, and another lady trying to help him do it.
“Alright, next caller, you know the drill. What’s you’re name and location?” I said….but there was only silence on the other end of the phone. “Hello?” I normally would have hung up by now, but since Vonetta took off on me, I was stuck. I swear…she is going to be SO fired if I don’t see her back in that booth in the next five minutes! I don’t CARE about her rent, she can either do her fucking job or she can beat it!
After a few seconds, I heard the sound of heavy breathing on the other end of the line. Awkward silences on the radio are a definite no no, so I decided to use it to my advantage. “Well, well, well…it looks like we’ve got a LIVE one here. You’re gonna have to do a lot more than that to turn me on, fudge packer. Heh!” The breathing continued, and I tried to frustrate them into speaking. “If you don’t have anything to say, why don’t you try hanging up, snowball? I’ve got a live show to run.”
“I know. I’ve been listening…” Said the voice. It was deep. Extremely deep. But not in a man’s voice kind of way. It was more like an unnaturally deep teenager’s voice on the line. And it had this weird…alien ‘vibration’ in it. He must have been using some kind of vocal enhancer or something.
“Finally, it speaks. You wanna say your name for my listeners out there?”
“My name is unimportant at this time. Just call me…the Midnight Caller.”
His speech was slow, measured. I could almost hear a smile when he spoke. “Okaaaay…whatever makes you tingle, boy wonder. So what’s on your mind? I take it you’re ready to whine about gay rights too, huh?”
“Whine? No. Not hardly.” He said. “I just happen to like the sound of your voice…on the radio that is.”
“Meaning…I’ve heard it before. It sounds…’different’ in person”
It looked like I had myself a real winner here! Especially with the whole creepy talking thing…it’s ratings GOLD! “I think you must have me mistaken for one of your little party friends, darling. You’ve never seen me in person.”
“Oh, but I have. I’m certain of it.” He told me. “I can hear it. Clearly. The sound of you is unmistakable. I guess you could say that…vocal patterns are my…specialty.”
“Really now. That’s ALMOST fascinating.”
“It’s just something I was born with. Call it a ‘gift’.”
“Doesn’t even sound like you were born all that long ago. Aren’t you up a little late, junior?” I said, trying to get a reaction out of him.
“Believe me, I’m much older than you would think.” He said, and it was followed by a strangely chilling grin, and some more deep breathing.
“So do you have an OPINION on anything that I’ve said tonight, Midnight Caller? Or…are you just calling in to get your rocks off?”
“Hehehe…far from it, my friend.” The voice said, a sinister tone in its delivery. “I’ve actually been listening for quite a few months now. Hearing you talk about this and that. It’s been rather entertaining. A lesson in hypocrisy that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else, honestly.”
“Hypocrisy? You might want to back up the trailer on that one, buddy boy! I tell it straight, I tell it fair. It’s not my fault if somebody else can’t take the joke?”
“The joke?” The voice hissed with a smile. “You bully everyone with your harsh words and your stuck up viewpoint, pretending to be blissfully unaware of the damage you cause. I’ve decided that it was time to call your bluff, Mr. Workman.”
“Call my bluff, eh? Well bring it on, kid. I’m just getting fired up.” I said with a smile. After all the years I’ve been on the air, I haven’t had one person debate me yet and win. Never once have they rattled my cage. It’s MY world. MY game. He’s lucky I even let him play! “So…gay pride? What’s your take? I suppose you’re a fairy too, or maybe know someone who is?” That’s it. Keep the insults fresh. Weaken him from within. Get him to argue without thinking. Get him angry.
“A fairy? Hehehe…yes. If you want to call it that.” He said. “Me and my ‘fairy’ friends are gathering to join in the festivities this weekend. Should be fun.”
“Ah, so your from the city? Is that where you are?”
There was a pause, and a calm grin spread across the caller’s lips. “…I’m close.”
“So, Midnight Caller…what made you wanna be a fag? Hmm? All that tasty female love out there, and you chose salami. What’s the deal? Never been with a female before?”
“As a matter of fact, I have.” He said.
“Really? Well, now that’s a first. I half expected you to tell me girls were ‘yucky’. Heh!”
“It was a long time ago. I was trying desperately to fit in. To be normal. I was only 16 at the time, and hoping to ‘cure’ myself by getting a girlfriend. Needless to say…it didn’t work.”
“Maybe you weren’t doing it right? Maybe you needed a little more stroke in your back. A little spin in your hips.”
“Now, Mel…I thought you of all people would give my sexual abilities more credit than that.”
“Me of all people?” I asked, and he waved off the comment with another subtle grin.
“My girlfriend and I didn’t work out, so we split up. Unfortunately, it was too late. She was pregnant.”
“Whoops. Listen up people, we’ve got a gay daddy on the line. How festive.” I said. “So did you stick around? I’m guessing not since you’re out there prancing in the streets and polishing every knob you can get your lips around.”
“No. I felt very lost back then. It’s hard when your a teenage boy…trying to fight against what seems like the whole world. To be bullied and hurt, teased. When I came out to my parents…I was kicked out of my house. In the rain, no less. I don’t know if they’ll ever forgive me.”
“Oh, boo hoo! You know, you pansies always baffle me. You KNOW it’s wrong! You KNOW it’s dirty! And yet when you‘come out’ as being a pervert, you just expect us to rejoice and understand and cuddle you while you go make whoopee with some construction worker. What did you THINK your parents were going to do? Huh? Serves you right, I applaud them. It’s too bad you haven’t learned your lesson since then.” I said taking another sip from my cup.
“Oh…I’ve learned many lessons since then. Believe me.” I set down my cup, and then I heard the voice say, “Careful, Mel. The alcohol is already beginning to take effect. I can hear the subtle changes in every word you speak. Whiskey, I’m guessing?”
I stopped and stared at the microphone for a second. Then I looked back at the booth to see if anyone was in there. No windows to peek in through, no open doors.
“Are you still there, Mr. Workman?” The voice asked.
“I’m…” I looked at the door again, just to make sure no one was standing outside of it. Was this a joke? “…I’m right here.”
“Good.” The voice said, breathing deeply. “As I was saying…I was thrown out of my house. Instead of love and understanding…I got the same mistreatment from my family as I got from society. I was forced out into the streets, and experienced some truly dark times until I found someone who was willing to love me for me. Someone who could…’help’ me see things more clearly.”
“Please! Spare me the details, sweetheart. I’d like to keep a little bit of my lunch down.” I told him. “So, you got yourself a partner in sin, and left your preggy girlfriend with the check, is that right?”
“You have such a talented way of putting things, Mr. Workman.” The voice said. “True, I wasn’t ready for a child at such a young age. But despite that, I vowed to take care of my son…the best way that I could. I’ve been keeping my promise.”
“Too bad your son’s dad is a sissy. Otherwise, I’d say you sticking around would be a good thing.”
“My son is actually a homosexual. So I doubt he would mind.”
“Zing! TWO in a row! What, are you passing down a family CURSE or something?” I laughed. This guy really WAS entertaining! I could do a whole show on him alone. “What the hell did you do to turn your SON gay? I mean what are the odds? Let me ask you, do you blame yourself, or do you blame God? Hey, maybe he’s trying to tell you something.”
There was another short silence, but I could tell this caller was smiling. Almost as if he was taking great joy out of my answers tonight. “Did you know that your heart is working overtime trying to keep you alive, Mr. Workman?”
“What?” I asked confused.
“Your heart. I can hear it when you breath into the microphone. Your blood pressure is awfully high. I’d say you weren’t many years away from your first heart attack. If it weren’t for the alcohol, your blood flow might have come to a complete stop months ago.”
I frowned a bit, wondering what the heck this guy’s problem was. “Is that what you do, Midnight Caller? You get off topic and switch to something else whenever you feel cornered to answer a simple question?”
“It’s been many years since I’ve felt ‘cornered’ by much of anything, Mr. Workman. It was simply something I thought you should know. Not that it will matter much..after tonight.”
“Yada yada yada, you wanna answer me now, or what? If you want to play games, I can go on to somebody else. You wanted to make a comment, so make one and get off my show.”
“My comment is…that my son now lives in a different period. In a different time. He can be who he wants to be now, without fear of persecution from people like you, Mr. Workman. Thankfully…my son is growing up in a time when homosexuals are being accepted, and embraced, more and more every day. Where they don’t have to hide, and run scared, and fear being lynched in the street for who they are and who they love. The world still has a VERY long way to go, yes. But between the time that I was growing up and now, I have seen a major improvement.” The voice said. “Eventually, the intelligence of our children will lead the way towards driving your stubborn and antiquated beliefs right out of the window. And THAT…is a world I look forward to seeing in the future. A world where ‘gay pride’ will be more than just aparade…it will be a way of life.”
I gave a loud sarcastic applause for my listening audience. “Well spoken, kid. Well spoken indeed. Now…let me tell you what *I* think!” I took a deep breath as I stood up from my chair, raised the mic, and went into rant mode. “*I* think that you’re ideas of being free and liberated to go poking your nose in the crotch of some cowboy’s blue jeans is a crock. I think you use this big ‘gay pride’ banner to somehow justify the same sickening acts that, just one or two generations back, were ILLEGAL in this city and many others. I think most of the ‘queer’ community is a bunch of disco dancing potential pedophiles and predators, looking to take your little boy over their knee and give him a sensual spanking after junior high. And I think your argument for ‘tolerance’ of your lifestyle is both weak and misguided! How confused could you possibly be about the ideas of right and wrong? You come on MY show and talk about all the hardships and hard times you’ve been through, because of your CHOICE to be a queer…and then you say you’re proud of your own SON for making the same mistakes? What kind of man ARE you? Oops, I’m sorry. I forgot. You’re no kind of man at all.” I said.
“Say what you want about me, Mr. Workman…but the fact of the matter is, times are changing. And they’re changingwithout you. For the better.”
“We’ll just have to agree to disagree on that one, babycakes.”
“Name calling won’t stop progress. It won’t stop society from growing up. And soon, my son will have a chance to be truly happy.” The voice said, slightly increasing in volume. “He won’t have to HATE himself for his own feelings. He won’t grow up to be a bitter old man, spewing hate out of his every pore, hoping to make everyone as miserable as he is for never living the life he wanted to have. So now he bashes and badgers everyone who has a fighting chance at being true to themselves. Now…he roams the parks at night, looking for random teenage boys to satisfy his urges…coming home to his wife, who tries desperately to pretend not to smell the scent of sex on him when he climbs into bed.” At that moment, my breath got caught in my throat. I felt a tremble in my hands as I reached out for my chair, and sat down in silence. “Does it ever work for you, Mel? That so-called hatred for homosexuals? Does it help to thicken the mask you wear around your co-workers? Around your family? Does the alcohol somehow make it easier to deal with the overwhelming sensation you have to turn your head when you see a teenage couple, two boys, holding hands in the street? Boys you wish you could have. Boys you wish you could BE.”
“Well…now you’re just babbling.” I told him, and felt a cold shiver run through me as I looked over at the booth for Vonetta. She STILL wasn’t back yet! Neither was Peter. Fuck! Do I have to do EVERYTHING myself. “Thanks so much for your sugar coated offering, Midnight Caller. But I’m afraid you’re way off base with this one.”
“Goodnight. And don’t choke on any hot rods this weekend. Breathe through your nose, sweetheart.” I said, and quickly hit the button to hang up on him. What does he know about me? NOTHING! Fucking nothing! Goddamn queers and they’re fantasies.
I had to take a quick commercial break, and had to walk out to operate the switches myself before opening the door to look out into the hallway. But the hallway was completely dark…except for one flickering ceiling light up ahead. I stared down the long hallway, holding on to the door frame…hearing only silence.
“Vonetta?” I called out.
I got no reply.
“Vonetta??? Peter???” I shouted a bit louder.
I got no reply.
“If either ONE of you wants to keep your job, you’ll get your assess back in here and run these boards!” I said.
I got….no reply.
I felt a slightly cool wind breeze through the hallway…and I could have sworn that I heard the ever so faint sound of ‘breathing’.
My heartbeat began to slightly pick up its pace, and I nearly stumbled backward as the breathing got louder. Echoing off the walls around me. It was as if the walls themselves were breathing. With a sudden rush of fear, I went back in the room and shut the door tight. Backing away from it as I tried to calm my nerves.
It was so illogical. So strange. What the hell was I doing? It’s a dark hallway for crying out loud. It’s not like the friggin’ BOOGEY MAN was going to jump out of the shadows. Get it together, Mel. We’ve got work to do.
I heard the last radio ad coming to an end, and quickly went to the boards to accept all calls so that I could choose from them at will. There was a moment of dead silence as I took a heavy gulp of my drink and fumbled to put my earphones back on.
“Alright, we’re back with ‘Say It Straight’ on WVMP. This is Mel Workman, your host. And tonight we’re talking about the ridiculousness of this so-called ‘gay pride’ weekend.” I pressed one of the blinking buttons at random “Alright caller, you’re on with Mel. Where are you from and what are your thoughts?”
“Funny…we must have gotten accidentally disconnected.” Came the voice again, the same sinister grin translated through his voice alone. “And we were having so much fun.”
“Look, I don’t know who you are, but this is a LIVE radio show! All of this is being recorded, so…”
“Good. I’m sure people would love to hear what I have to say about their favorite radio host.” He said. There was another silence as I fought to find the right words. To maybe piss him off enough to get the spotlight off of me and back where it belongs. I won’t lose control. This is MY world! In here..I’M the king! But after a few seconds, the voice asked, “Are you there, Mr. Workman?”
“Oh, I’m not going anywhere. Believe me. Ok, you want to tangle, let’s tangle. FACT…you destroyed your family by choosing to be gay. FACT…you destroyed ANOTHER family in the making, by abandoning your own child for a homosexual lifestyle. FACT…you screwed your son up by failing to step in and teach him right from wrong! So now you’ve left him to get the same treatment as you had growing up. Probably some kind of punishment. A form of torture that pleases you because you want everyone around you to burn in hell right next to you.”
“You know…your mock confidence doesn’t work on me, Mr. Workman.” The voice said. “Your vocal patterns tell me when you’re lying.” I puffed my chest out a bit more, but he continued. “Your larynx contracts, muscles strain, body temperature rises…gently heating the hot air coming out of your mouth. Your tone changes, your pitch changes..the oncoming panic has shifted your patterns completely. I can detect it in every breath you take. You know…when you practice for a decade or two…vocal recognition is almost as good as mind reading. So you can yell and you can shout and you can pace around the room…but you can’t hide, Mr. Workman. Not any more.” Then the voice lowered to a whisper, and he chanted, “I seeeeeeeee youuuuuuuuu….”
“I’ve had about enough of this game! You know what, kid? The next time you call back here…I’m tracing your call to the police!” I said, and slammed my fist own on the button. “VONETTA??? PETER???” I yelled, hoping they could hear me through the door. But I got nothing. Angrily, I hit another one of the buttons on the phone. “NEXT CALLER!!!” I said, a lot louder than I meant to.
“You having trouble with them sissies, Mel?” I recognized the voice, and it was Frank that had called in earlier from Georgia. Thank God. I instantly stood back up out of my chair and began to get my composure back.
“Is that you, Frank? It’s good to hear that good old American voice back on the line. I tell you, these freaks get weirder and weirder every year.”
“Yeah, those queers are a wild bunch, let me tell ya!” He said. “But I’m still riding with ya! You keep doing what you’re doing, and don’t let them rattle ya none!”
“You’re damn RIGHT I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing! Because my listeners need to know that it is NOT ok to be a flaming homosexual! It never has been, and it NEVER WILL BE! I don’t care WHAT they tell me about political correctness! They’ve got everybody running around and afraid to hurt people’s feelings. But I want my listeners to know that I’m not afraid to say what we’re all thinking!”
“Damn right! Woo hoo!!!” Frank cheered, chuckling a bit afterwards. “Hey, let me ask you something, Mel, and give it to me straight!”
“You know I will.”
“Do the people listening to your show know that you used to tongue kiss little Jimmy Warner in his sleep up at summer camp?”
Again….my heart dropped. My entire body began to shake violently. “Wh-what….?” I whimpered softly.
“Little Jimmy Warner. You was 14 years old, and he was almost 12. You shared that two man tent together up at boy scout camp, remember? Nice little curly blond angel. Slim hips. You’d drink hot cocoa before going to bed, hoping the caffeine would keep you awake until after he fell asleep. Hard sleeper, that Jimmy Warner.”
I fell back into my chair…my mind paralyzed with the memory of it “What are you…what are you doing…?”
Frank’s voice sounded as though it was melting back into the voice I heard before. The Midnight Caller. “You remember, don’t you? Mmmm…you enjoyed the pleasure of kissing him soooo deeply. Feeling those goosebumps rise as his soft sleeping breath blew against your cheek. It was such a pain for you…having to wait until bedtime. THIRSTY for another few hours of passion at his side. Such a fragile beauty.”
“Stop it…” I said. I meant for my voice to say it louder…but it came out barely above a whisper.
“You miss him, don’t you? In fact, throughout your entire life, even in marriage…you’ve never been able to find a young pair of sweet ruby lips that could compete with the soft lush taste of good ol’ Jimmy. And it’s NOT for lack of trying…is it?” I BURST forward and hung up the phone, picking up another line, and looking at the clock to see how far it was to my next commercial break. I swear, dark hallway or NO dark hallway, I’m gonna get my staff back in here and MAKE them do their FUCKING JOB, screening these calls!
“Next…n-n-next caller. You’re on with, Mel…”
“I certainly hope our little ‘talk’ isn’t over” Said the voice again. He was literally on EVERY line! And then…in my OWNvoice, he said, “We’ve got to tell it like it is! I say it straight, and you choke it down! The truth is a bitch, isn’t it?” I gasped and pushed away from the table as the voice giggled happily. “I told you…voices are my ‘specialty’.”
“Get off my show!”
“Are you getting angry, Mel? Ohhhh, I certainly hope not. You hear that people? He’s getting himself all worked up…”
“SHUT UP!!! GET THE FUCK OFF OF MY PHONE LINE!!!” I screamed into the mic.
The voice suddenly got a bit more serious, and told me, “Are you sure? Because…you should really try to stretch this conversation out for as loooonnng as you can. Because when it’s over…..hehehehe….” The voice left it open, and I heard him breathing again. There was a silence, and then he said, “I’m sooooo very hungry tonight, Mr. Workman. Sooooo very close.”
“You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me…” I said, feeling tears well up in my eyes as the voice penetrated my every thought. My deepest, darkest, secrets…and broadcasted them live on the radio.
“I know a lot about you, Mel. Your mind was an open book…that night we met in the park. Do you remember?” It said, and that is when the first few tears slid down my cheek. “You offered me money, but I was looking for something more…’satisfying’ that evening. You just didn’t know it. I simply decided to let you go. I gave you a blessing…and you didn’t even realize it” The voice said. “You see, my son…he always wanted to get into radio. Had a passion for it ever since he was young. Had to start at the bottom, work his way up. Just finishing up the last few years of college. You know my son, right? Peter?” I sat back in horror…and found myself speechless. “Are you THERE, Mr. Workman?” Said the voice, more demanding. Now almost with a hint of anger.
“You see, I’d do anything in the world for my son. I love him VERY much. And the world he lives in now will be good enough, fulfilling enough, for him…to not have to make the choices I made 20 years ago. His humanity is a special and precious thing. I’d do almost anything to preserve that heart of his. Anything. As long as he’s happy in daylight…he won’t ever have to trade it in…for a life in darkness.”
“Who are you?” I sniffled.
“Do your listeners know that you once gay bashed your own college roommate? Even though he was straight…you wanted him. And when you couldn’t have him you spread rumors and had your friends throw him down the university steps…”
“WHO ARE YOU????”
“Do your listeners know that you have to struggle not to watch my son while you work? That you can barely lift your eyes to look at him when he’s there?” The voice said. “He’s awfully ‘pretty’ isn’t he? And you like that. You want to hold him up against you, and feel him tremble in your arms. I imagine it’s hard to go back to your wife after spending your nights with someone sooooo appealing to your youthful tastes.”
“You can save your breath, Mr. Workman. Both Vonetta and Peter are sleeping peacefully. I happen to have a good ‘friend’ that can keep them safe and sound while we finish our little…’chat’. She’ll be sure to wake them when we’re finished.”
“You….you….what the hell did you do???”
“It’s a creepy feeling, isn’t it, Mel? Being all alone?” The voice said with a grin. “I’m willing to bet your listeners didn’t know that you like picking up teenage boys for random sex in the park. You forgot to tell them that part, didn’t you?”
“Afraid not, Mel. I know…because I was one of them. Or have you forgotten me? Is that it? Have you forgotten our short time together?” The voice laughed at me as I sat still. “That night…my ‘fairy’ boyfriend was able to put just a hint of a suggestion in your mind. A little something to help my son succeed in getting started on his dream job. So for that bit of help…I am grateful. But..alas…it appears that your assistance is no longer needed. And frankly..I’m getting rather bored of this conversation. Shall we…‘end it’ now?” The way he said it, it send shards of ice into my spine. The creepiness of it left me numb from head to toe.
“I’m…I’m tracing your call to the police. They’ll…they’ll be here any minute…”
“No, Mr. Workman. You’re not.” The voice told me. “And even if you could…they won’t arrive in time. I told you…I’m veryclose. We all are. Hehehehe..”
Without another moment’s hesitation, I tossed my headphones to the floor, the dark echo of laughter vibrating throughout the entire studio. I headed for the door, taking my jacket and keys with me. Fuck this, I’m out of here!
I rushed out into the hallway, seeing the one working light down at the end. And the shadow of three or four teenagers, mostly boys and one girl…standing there….waiting. Even from this distance, I could see a bright crimson glow in their eyes…
They didn’t speak.
They didn’t move.
They just STOOD there.
And the breathing continued.
And when I finally found the courage to turn around on weak knees and try to run…they sped towards me at what looked like the speed of LIGHT! The covered the entire distance in the blink of an eye with a screech and a howl! As my hand reached out for the door, my body frozen in its position…I felt four sets of teeth sink into me from different angles. Sharp fangs, piercing my flesh…and drinking heavily. My body got numb. And then cold. Something in the air…a scent…kept me from struggling. Not that it would have done me much good. They were too strong. Too fast. Too many.
I fell to my knees, unable to scream, being drained of my life’s energy. And as my vision began to fade to black…I thought back to the times I watched Peter’s slim hips and soft features while I worked. I remembered the boys in the park that I paid to do ‘favors’ for me…taking advantage of the homeless teens, undernourished and alone. I thought about the nights I would masturbate thinking of my college roommate lying naked on top of me. Wishing that I could sink into those firm round cheeks of his just ONE time. And yes…I even thought of kissing little Jimmy Warner in his sleep. I’ll never find a pair of lips that sweet again. Ever.
Death isn’t so bad. It’s the letting go that hurts most of all. But maybe…if I’m allowed to come back…I’ll be a part of this ‘better world’. Maybe next time…I’l get it right.
Mel Workman…WVMP….signing off….