Copyright © 2017 Geonn Cannon
Six minutes before eleven in the morning, though the darkness through the window across from her station was dark enough to feel like night, Nadine Powell adjusted her microphone and checked the notes she had laid out in front of her. It was going to start snowing soon, but so far it was just a bracing wind and a few stray flurries. She could hear the current song playing over the air in her earphones, the big bulky ones she still preferred because they just felt right on her head.
At the beginning of the year, the radio station had completely updated the booth. She rebelled at first, arguing with Miranda that it was an unnecessary expense. It was a big fight by their standards. Nadine accused Miranda of trying to screw with her job. Miranda accused Nadine of being stuck in her habits and routines. In the end, Miranda won because it was for the good of the station. She was gracious and apologetic in victory, and Nadine accepted that she was being stubborn. They needed to keep up with the times, their old gear wouldn't last forever, and they needed to make the change while they actually had it in the budget.
Really, though, the tension had come from the state of the world. The man being ushered into the most powerful office in the world and the terror of what would come next. It was a terrifying time, and the changes being suggested were huge, and it served as a good scapegoat for their emotions. They watched the news. They saw everything that was going wrong in their country and the world, and it terrified them.
Now, ten months later, Nadine sometimes wondered why she had fought so hard against it. Setting up her playlists was so much easier now, and it gave her more time to work on her banter or take calls from listeners. It cut down on the hardest part of her job and gave her more time to spend on the things she truly enjoyed about being a radio host.
A quick glance at the clock above the window indicated the commercials were about to end. She took one last sip of water and waited for her cue. When it was time, she flipped the switch and watched her ON THE AIR light come on. When she leaned forward, she switched from Nadine Powell (her private life) to Nadine Butler (her public persona).
“Good morning, Squire's Isle. I know it's been a while, and I apologize for that. A lot of you know exactly why I was gone for a while, because it hit you, too. That vicious bug hit the island just after Halloween and seemed to hit pretty much everybody like dominoes. I know how much we all mourned for the three days Coffee Table Books was shut down, but it's back up and running now, strong as ever. I avoided it as long as possible, but eventually even I fell victim to it. But now I'm back, too, because I wanted to be sure we spoke before the end of the year.
“It's been a rough year. A rough, rough year for all of us. Even if you weren't affected by everything going on in politics - and kudos to you if you're that rich, male, and white - there has been a constant onslaught of bad news and darkness all around us. I know it's been my voice bringing you some of that bad news, and for that, I apologize. Some people claim that the past few years have only seemed worse because of the internet and social media. The world has always been this bad, it's just that now we have more ways to hear about it. So is that a good thing or a bad thing?
“I think it's good. Eyes are being opened, hearts are being changed, people are starting to see the consequences of their actions. We have people getting fed up and standing up for others. Yes, there are bad people finding their voices as well, but I believe they're just symptoms of an illness this country has suffered for a very long time. Now that they're making themselves known, we can start treating them before they do any more damage.
“And there's been a lot of damage done. Lives put in danger and lives lost. Too many lives lost. People like to say ‘hey, you made it, you got to the end of a crappy year,' but that implies those who didn't make it are weak or they gave up. I don't believe that. Those people were strong enough to give everything they had, to stand up and risk it all. They're as heroic as anyone else these days.”
Nadine rested her elbows on the table, hands folded near her chin. She thought about the Warrens: her ex-girlfriend Kate, and the two women with whom she'd built a life. She could see their gorgeous house surrounded on all sides by nature and perfectly imagined the three of them - Amy in the lead, Kate lingering behind with Nicole - walking down a well-worn trail to “their spot.” They would watch the boats, enjoy each other's company, get a little drunk, maybe a little wasted, then head home. Their partnership wasn't traditional by any means, but it was also more traditional than a lot of relationships Nadine had heard of.
“I'm sorry for the silence, listeners,” she said, “but my mind has wandered to the people I care about. Maybe you know who they are, maybe they're precious to you, too. That's how we've gotten through this year. Relying on one another. Trusting those around us. Knowing that Dr. Crawford and her wife are protecting us from illness and fire. Knowing that Mayor Hood-Colby is working tirelessly to not only make this island the best home for everyone who lives here, but raising a little girl who is part of the generation that will save this messed-up world we're letting her inherit. I'm thinking of her wife, Jill, who is teaching that same generation.
“My wife and I just celebrated our tenth anniversary of being a couple. She was my boss first, and she actually... she was actually on the verge of firing me. For being gay. Back then, a bunch of people on the island were up in arms because I'd come out of the closet - yes, even your Pixie used to live in a closet, try to imagine that - and I did it in a way they couldn't ignore. So I took a stand. I barricaded myself in this booth and I refused to leave. Probably not my smartest decision, but one I would repeat if I had to.”
She looked at the extra chair against the wall. She remembered being a decade younger, sitting next to a woman she barely knew and had never even kissed, unaware of how their lives were about to change. Their home, their marriage, their dog. Their shared lives.
“Come to think of it, Miranda, maybe that's why I fought you so hard on changing this place. This is where I met you. Where I really met you, and where we started to fall in love. I wanted to preserve that. But I know that it doesn't matter what happens to this booth. We took what we found here and spread it all over the island.
“But I'm getting off-topic. What I did that day, the doors I opened by barricading this one, it's completely changed this island. I was going to be fired just because I was gay. I was losing sponsors. The owner of Gail's Seafood Shack threatened to pull their support, but the man who owns it now took a stand because he knew what was happening was wrong. That's Gail's Seafood Shack, where you can get a $3.99 lunch special from eleven-thirty until one-thirty and a free drink if you tell them the Pixie sent you.”
She smiled and lowered her head. She twisted just enough to look over her shoulder and saw Miranda watching her through the glass.
“There she is,” Nadine said. “I always do my best shows when she's watching over me. Hi, baby. Sorry. I didn't mean to go on such a long-winded rant.”
Miranda rolled her eyes and helplessly flipped her hands in the air.
“I love you too, baby.” She faced forward again. “What I'm saying is... well, what I'm saying is, like Elton John said, ‘We've all gone crazy lately.' And maybe we don't know how to save ourselves, but that's okay. We don't always have to save ourselves. I certainly didn't save myself ten years ago when all I had was a microphone and a locked door. I was saved by Miranda, and Kate, and Amy. I was saved by all the brave people of this island who propped me up because they refused to let me get knocked down.
“Look at this island we're lucky enough to call home. Look at the people we call our neighbors, our leaders. Look at the woman who makes you coffee in the morning, and the one who is there when you get sick, or who cooks your meals. None of us got here alone and none of us can stay standing without support. Whether that's the support of a stranger or a friend or a wife...” She looked at Miranda again. “It's going to take all of us to save all of us.”
She leaned back from the microphone and quietly cleared her throat.
“Okay. I think that's enough from me for right now. I got in front of the mic again and just went wild a little bit. I hope you'll forgive me, folks. But I thought that needed to be said. Maybe you needed to hear it. Maybe you needed a boost before starting another trip around the sun. Whatever you need, we're going to be here for you. I'm Nadine Butler, this is Squire's Isle, and you're listening to KELF. We'll get to the music after these messages from our sponsors.”
She switched to the prerecorded messages and took off her headphones. Miranda waited until the light went off before she opened the door and stuck her head in.
“Really good way to start the show,” she said.
Nadine stretched and laced her fingers together on top of her head. “You think so? Not too preachy?”
Miranda shrugged. “If it was, then I think it was a sermon people needed to hear. You could have thrown in a ‘happy holidays' or something.”
“I'm saving that for the sign-off.”
“Okay.” Miranda smiled. “Good to have you back behind the mic, Pixie.”
Nadine smiled and gazed at her kingdom. “It's really good to be back.”
When the commercial ended, she slipped her headphones back on.
“I think that's enough of that. You folks have been patient enough and listened to me yammer on and on. It's about time we get to some music. I have a whole lot of it lined up, so you probably won't hear my voice again for a little while. But you better not go anywhere, because I'm going to be here waiting for you at the other end. Thanks for listening to the Pixie. And hey, if you're brand-new to our shores, we're glad to have you here. Welcome to Squire's Isle. We hope you stick around for a bit.”
She switched to the music and leaned back in her chair. Out the window she could see the snow was now falling. She would call Coffee Table Books in a little while and see if Amy would deliver one of her infamous Spyhoppers. Delicious cocoa drink, and hopefully the marshmallow would survive the journey. If not, she would just drop by the store when her show was over. She crossed her feet under the table and closed her eyes, listening to the music and waiting for her cue.
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