#9 The Voice On The Radio
Drum roll, please, for Story Press #9! If you missed the previous edition, click here.
If you haven’t read any of Story Press, check out the archives here.
The Voice On The Radio
The rain punches the office windows. David’s meeting is as boring as the rain and the air is dry like stale bread.
The client, another accountant, will not stop talking about how he just doesn’t have the time in the day, or frankly the will, to manage his own accounts as well as his clients’.
His voice is dryer than the air and more boring than the rain. David nods and thumbs the lid of his pen up and down repeatedly. He can feel the moisture clambering at his shirt collar; the heating is too high. The windows are foggy.
He wonders what Margaret will cook up for dinner. At the creaking of his stomach, David startles back to the room, and says, ‘Okay, Mr. Writhesley, thank you for coming aboard. Unfortunately, I have to head off now…’ He points at the watch on his wrist he isn’t wearing. ‘Parent-teacher meeting.’
They shake hands and share nods and then David is alone. He’s the last person in his office, nobody else ever stays past six.
Apart from him, that is. He always winds up staying later than the rest, somehow.
After filing away Mr. Writhesley’s accounts, he switches the lights off and locks the doors. Only two cars remain in the car park: the rusty pile of metal that’s been sitting in the corner for 18 months, and his.
David clambers into the drivers’ seat, chucks the umbrella into the back and zips up his coat. He flicks on the radio to whatever signal he can find and rolls out of the car park, happy to be ending another day.
The happiness is short-lived, however. Just three minutes pass before his car isn’t rolling at all.
‘Jesus Christ,’ he mutters, accompanied by a fistful of honks on his horn. He’s not clear who he’s honking at and, besides, it’s redundant when no one is listening among the dissident chorus of the other honks.
David punches the steering wheel, shouts to himself and sits back, his eyes closed and his face arced to the roof of the car.
He breathes in, and out.
‘...We’re receiving reports of some heavy traffic on roads heading west of Hammersmith. Looks like an accident in the rain. We’ll have more as we get it. My sympathy to any of you stuck out there in this weather... And you have to put up with my voice for the foreseeable! What hard luck…’
David opens his eyes and looks out and around him. Nothing has changed. The battering rain falls through the darkness onto his car’s hood, a loud accompaniment to the voice on the radio.
‘It really is miserable out there,’ the voice continues. ‘We’re glad to be in here, in a warm studio with a hot cup of tea..., not to make anyone jealous.’ David laughs. Her voice is soft but authoritative, like you could listen to her read children’s stories and find some profundity in every sentence. ‘Well, listener, to help you through this dark day, there’s only one thing for it. That’s right, here’s Bowie’s As The World Falls Down. See you on the other side.’
David’s car slides an inch or two forward before a menagerie of brake lights shimmers off the glass in every direction and urges him to stop.
Progress… Is this progress?
Staring out into the rain and the darkness, listening to Bowie sing…
As the world falls down
The voice repeats in his head, over and over:
We’re glad to be in here, in a warm studio, with a hot cup of tea…
Well, listener, to help you through this dark day…
Well, listener… See you on the other side…
And then there’s the roar of a motorbike weaving between cars before it zips up beside David. As it passes, it thumps David’s wing mirror, a bang reverberating in his eardrums. The bike stops and its rider looks around. David opens his door and shouts out, but the sound of the rain is so loud his voice doesn’t carry. No one can hear him at all; he cannot even hear himself. And water runs down the back of his coat and seeps into the floor of the car.
He shuts the door again and mutters imbecile! to himself.
David huffs, looks for something to dry himself with, fails, and then rests his head against the ice-cold glass.
‘Oooh, I love Bowie.’ The voice drips out of the radio. ‘What a song… I hope that helped those of you out there in the cold, having a bad day… My name is Victoria Sutton, I’ll be accompanying you all week from five till eight. But it’s nearly time for me to go…’
David surprises himself by whispering: Don’t go.
‘We have time for just one more song… See you tomorrow, friends.’
David’s mind drifts away as the song starts. He hopes he might hear Victoria’s voice just one more time tonight.
A few minutes later the cars inch forward, and then he starts rolling, and then they are driving, albeit slowly. David rumbles through the rain until he finally reaches home. He kisses Margaret who smells like the sofa. He skips dinner.
In bed, his heart thunders against his chest. All he can hear is the voice from the radio and all he can see is what he imagines is her face, her eyes, her hair.
I think I’m in love, he whispers to the dark of the room.
But then he’s shaken by the rain at the window. The rain is always at the window.
Margaret does not stir, and he cannot hear her breathing through the rain.
It just drums and drums, and he thinks, after a time, that that’s her, that’s her voice speaking to him in the clamour of the rain.