- Radio Free Alice
Let the priest in surplice white, that defunctive music can, be the death-divining swan, lest the requiem lack his right.—William Shakespeare
Radio Free Alice wheels in, nurse in tow, logs-in early— 11:35 pm—I’m on till midnight.
Relief, I confess.
AITOR, types Radio Free Alice, MY FRIEND, GIVE ME SOME GOOD NEWS.
I shrug. You’re early. Nothing to do?
Radio Free Alice shrugs as well as can be expected. The chair shrugs. The entire unit, jockey and machine and nurse, move together. A single, sanitary unit.
What time did you log? I ask then.
MIDNIGHT. I LEFT A SPACE FOR YOU TO LOG-OUT
Did you check the plates on your way in?
I don’t answer.
I WROTE DOWN THE SAME NUMBERS YOU HAD.
I nod, confess again: I put in what Cam had for her show. I don’t reckon anybody’s actually checked the plates or filaments for years.
DAYS ANYWAY, says Radio Free Alice. THE FCC EVER COMES IN HERE, THEY’LL MARVEL AT OUR CONSISTENCY.
Possible we haven’t even been transmitting.
POSSIBLE, agrees Radio Free Alice without seeming to care one way or the other. The whoosh of the vacuum pumps is marvelously quiet and magical; some frothy liquid slips through a clear tube winding across Radio Free Alic e’s shoulder and collarbone.
The wheelchair, enameled white with chrome, a Cadillac really, glows under the red on-air light. A silver shaker and gunmetal Zippo glint blisteringly from the right armrest. The cursor blinks green on the empty screen, waiting for the driver’s nex t command. Radio Free Alice types slowly, moving only the middle finger on the left hand, the nurse in bleached whites shifts from one foot to the other, the chair pauses tense, ready to vocalize the ponderings of this degenerating physicist cum disk jock ey.
At eleven forty-five I give station ID and read a Public Service Announcement about the early detection of skin cancer. I throw on a Scorpions’ tune and talk into the boom-mike: You won’t need be lonesome, Lizzy my love, when your beau gets his glut of cold meat and hot soldiering; one last night, Liz my love, to take your beau out, to the warm steamy streets where the music is smoldering.
I time it just right and, as soon as I stop speaking, The Zoo pounds through the monitors. Radio Free Alice rocks in quiet laughter, the chair rocks. SICK BOY. STILL, YOU GOT PAST ORIGINAL SIN.
And redemption, I say, I have arrived.
WE HAVE ARRIVED, types Radio Free Alice, WE’RE ALL LIFERS HERE. Yes, the nurse, the chair, the corpus delicti. TIME FOR YOU TO LEAVE. THE AIRWAVES ARE NO PLACE FOR SUCH SUBVERSION. Radio Free Alice attempts a smile.
Subversion. Radio Free Alice is subversion, the hero we all want to turn to: the one who proclaims: if you don’t like the way I do it, don’t come to the show.
SOMEONE’S TRYING TO CALL, says Radio Free Alice indicating the flashing light on the studio phone.
I know. It goes all night, but I never answer it.
POLITICS? queries the throned.
Not politics, I say, I just—you know.
PHYSICS. A flat statement.
Radio Free Alice nods. POLITICS.
The phone keeps flashing.
DO YOU KNOW WHO IT IS? asks Radio Free Alice.
I shake my head. This phone thing bothers Radio Free Alice. I’d never have guessed.
Answer it if you want, I say.
IT ISN’T FOR ME, NOBODY KNOWS I’M HERE YET.
Radio Free Alice types quickly, but the machine speaks these three words with great pause: MIGHT BE ALICE.
I shake my head.
I SEE HER AROUND THOUGH.
Me too, I say.
The nurse lights a cigarette, leaves a long scorch mark on the NO SMOKING sign with an Ohio Bluetip—the Zippo must be for show—and puts it in the Rabbi’s mouth. Radio Free Alice offers...