The Tonight Show with Arthur McKenna


"Press nine, eh?"

"Yeah, press nine to answer a call if the little bulb next to nine lights up."

"What about the other numbers?"

"If it was a direct call from a listener, well uh, the light next to eight would glow. So you press eight. Clear?"

"Yeah. Clear."

"We'll be filtering all the calls, so you need not worry. We just send in the ones that match tonight's theme the best."

"All the calls?"

"Yeah. No one has access to your telephone directly. That's not the number you give out on the show. You give the number to the main desk. So, it will go through to the main desk and then be directed to you."

"So I only have to press nine?"

"Yeah. No need to press eight. There won't be a chance to press eight."

Arthur had his arms crossed the whole time. He smiled at the other party and had just started to uncross his arms in what would be an attempt to offer his hands for a warm shake when the other party made a swift turn away from him.

"Mr. Jeffery!" Arthur started, "Thanks for everything."

Arthur settled for a soft pat on Mr. Jeffery's back, a motion that quickly covered up his failed attempt at a handshake. Mr. Jeffrey allowed Arthur the pleasure of being in his field of vision to a limited extent. Arthur admired the profile of his nose. It reminded him of a well-crafted witch's nose. Mr. Jefferey proceeded to address Arthur in a voice laced with acerbity.

"Yes, uh, don't thank me too much. We were just short of staff today. We needed someone to man the nine to eleven show." Mr. Jefferey scratched his nose and glanced sideways at Arthur, his eyes unyielding to Arthur's strong, focused gaze.

"Nevertheless, I'm very grateful that you'd let me do it."

"Yeah, uh, you better prepare. Sound as natural as you can when you're talking to the caller on-air," Mr. Jeffery bobbed his head up and down, perhaps in an attempt to elicit some sort of affirmation from him, "We do have a script for the times when you're not on a call though. Make sure you read efficiently."

"Yes, sir."

"OK. Good luck then. You'll be on-air in an hour's time."

Arthur's smile had the honor of meeting Mr. Jeffery's back. The man had no patience. He'd left a door swinging violently in his wake. Arthur glanced at all the equipment in the little room that he had been ushered into no more than five minutes ago. He affirmed the presence of a mixer, a Telos box, and a telephone, all laid out neatly on a mahogany table with numerous wires interspersed among the different components. He had enough knowledge to operate all the equipment in the room to some extent. He knew that he'd have to switch on the Telos system as soon as he was ready to take a call. Turning the Telos system off would cut off the call. The sound from different inputs would, of course, be controlled by the mixer, of which he had some knowledge and experience in operating.

He seated himself in a comfortable leather desk chair. For a radio station in a small town as theirs, this was pretty darn good. The radio station had two rooms for broadcasting. The other one was currently in use. Arthur glanced at his watch, the ticking of his watch excruciatingly slow.

He had always hoped to be a radio presenter: a disc jockey. Of course, he had done more than just hope. This was his fourteenth interview at a radio station which hadn't exactly ended positively. He hadn't landed the job. He was devastated, until today morning when he had received a call to be a replacement, something to which he had agreed readily. If he worked his magic on the staff, perhaps he'd make a positive impact on the people higher up the hierarchy. Maybe fourteenth time was the charm for him.

A knock on the door roused him from his reverie.

"Arthur?"

"Yes, Mr. Jefferey!"

"You'll be on-air in another 20 minutes. Here, the script."

With that the man left, his stride busy.

Arthur perused the script. His eyebrows rose in an attempt to keep himself focused. He'd just have to reproduce it and in the process keep his tongue from garbling.

Before he knew it, the 20 minutes had passed and he was mouthing into the microphone carefully enunciated words off the script. Every roll of his tongue, every flick of his tongue carefully timed and orchestrated for best results.

"And before we play the last request for tonight, we have time for just one more call! So punch in the numbers, for this could be your chance to be on-air with your story."

Arthur laid back in his seat, relaxed. He was pleased with himself. He had done a good job. He had carried a two-hour show on his shoulders as well as he could have. He chuckled. The stories that had flowed in tonight from the people unknown had really tickled his funny bone so far. Oh, the silly things people had done in order to woo their loved ones!

He noticed a blinking red light from the corner of his eye. He pressed nine in a knee-jerk action.

"Hello! This is the Tonight Show with Arthur McKenna! How-"

He heard static. He stopped and looked at the telephone. The little bulb was still blinking red. It wasn't against nine though.

He pressed eight cautiously.

"Hello. This is the Tonight Show with Arthur McKenna." He paused. A raspy voice greeted him.

"Hi."

"Thanks for calling. Your name and where you're calling from, please! I'm sure you have just as an interesting story as the others who have called in tonight."

"I don't want to share my name if that's OK... Yeah?"

"Haha! Seems our caller is a bit shy. It's OK. Go on then, you're on-air!"

"I've liked this girl forever. I live across her. I have always noticed her. She doesn't notice me though. You know what I mean?"

"Yeah. I know what you mean, haha. Who doesn't?"

"I never miss her birthday you know. Never. I always show up with a gift. Today also, you know, I went up to her with a bouquet of flowers and a collage of her pictures."

"Pictures? Haha, very cute."

"Yeah, I took them. She didn't appreciate it very much. She tore it up."

"Oh."

"Yeah..."

"Well, that was quite rude of your ladylove. What did you do then?"

"I didn't appreciate her tearing up the pictures that I had taken over two years. It was hard work to stay unnoticed, you know? You know? It is difficult to take pictures from the nook of your window or on the cruise that she was on, for which I paid a hella lot bucks, mind you, to stay close to her. So I killed her. I took her teeny-tiny, swan-like neck in my hands and wrung-"

Arthur punched the button on the Telos box.

The line went cold.


A/N: Thanks for reading. Do leave a comment. Constructive criticism welcome.