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Excerpt of "Dead Air"
(From the collection
Thank You For The Flowers)

--Copyright 1998 by Scott Nicholson

I leaned back in my swivel chair, my headphones vice-gripping my neck. The VU meters were pinned in the red, and Aerosmith had the monitor speakers throbbing. I turned down the studio sound level and pressed the phone to my ear, not believing what I'd heard.

"I've just killed a man," she repeated, her voice harsh and breathless.

"Come again, sister?" I said, pulling my feet off the console. My brain was a little slow in catching on. I was two hours into the graveyard shift, and the before-work beers were crashing into my third cup of cold coffee like Amtrak trains.

"I've just killed a man," she said for a third time. She was a little calmer now. "I just wanted to share that with you. Because I've always felt like I could trust you. You have an honest voice."

I potted up the telephone interface and broadcast her live to my loyal listeners. All three of them, I chuckled to myself. In five years at WKIK, The Kick, I'd come to accept my humble place in the universe. The only people tuned in at this hour were hepped-up truckers and vampire wannabes, the unwashed who shied from the light of day. I'd long ago decided that I might as well keep myself amused. And now I had a nutter on the line.

I flipped my mic key and the red "ON AIR" sign blinked over the door.

"Yo, this is Mickey Nixon with ya in the wee hours," I said, in the slightly-false bass I'd cultivated over the course of my career. "I've got a talker on the line, she's there to share. Go on, honey."

"I just want everybody to know that I killed someone. This man I've been dating got a little bit too aggressive, so I blew his damned brains out. And it felt good," she said, her words pouring out over the monitors through the warm Kansas air.

My finger was poised over the mute button in case I needed to censor her. By station rules, I was supposed to send all live call-ins through the loop delay. But since I got so few callers, I usually took my chances. Plus I liked the razor edge of spontaneity.

"I want to tell you that the steam off his blood is still rising. He's lying here on his apartment floor with his pants around his knees and his brains soaking into the shag carpet. If any of you guys out there think date rape is a laughing matter, I'm sharing this little story so you'll think twice."

I gulped. This was really wacky stuff. I couldn't have written it in a million years. I'd paid friends before to call with outrageous stories, but they always sounded a little too rehearsed. Now here was some dynamite, and it was exploding at no charge.

"Wait a minute, woman," I said, playing the straight man. "You mean to tell us you're standing over a warm body right now with a phone in your hand, confessing murder?"

"It's not murder, it's self-defense. I may be a woman, but I've got my rights. Nobody touches me unless I let them. Besides, I've done this before, I've just never felt like talking about it until now."

"So maybe it's what you would call a 'justifiable' homicide. Have you called the police?"

I was starting to get a little nervous now. If this girl was acting, she was too good to be stuck in a Midwestern cow town like Topeka. She was starting to sound too weird, even for me. Her voice was as sharp and cold as an icicle, but with a touch of sexiness all the same.

"That's why I called you, Mickey. I've listened to your show for a long time, and I just knew you'd understand. You think the boys in blue would believe me?"

I was almost flattered, but a reality check rose like stomach acid. Sure, years ago I was a morning star in Los Angeles drive-time, but a little FCC controversy knocked me down faster than a Mike Tyson punch. I'd bounced around a few AM stations and tried my hand at ad sales, but now I was just riding the board until the years of chemical abuse caught up with me.

"Honey, I'm here for you," I said, getting back in the game. "We love you here at the Kick, and Mickey Nixon is not one to judge other people. Live and let live, I always say. . . to coin a phrase."


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Scott Nicholson copyright 2001-03ŠAll rights reserved
Scott Nicholson copyright 2001ŠAll rights r