That Ain't This
by Margaret Eaton
Leon got Rodney to the ER, got the hospital forms filled out, found numbers for Rodney’s family in Rodney’s phone, called them and soothed them through the news. Then he sat next to Rodney’s bed and waited. He hadn’t thought about the station once since Rodney hit that linoleum floor outside the broadcast booth, a full body slam, a thud that wouldn’t stop playing in his head. Leon kept one eye out for Rodney’s kin and the other on Rodney, laying still as the moon, almost dignified, a patient patient waiting for his heart to recharge. Earlier he had scanned his messages and missed calls, turned his phone off and ignored them. Except one. One niggled at him. A kid from the station, a hang-around, a wannabe, an interminable intern always with an idea, an improvement, an innovation. What does that kid want? He fished his phone out of his jacket, tapped the kid’s name and listened.
“Hey Leon I just heard. I can’t believe it old Rodney collapsin’ an shit. That is serious. His heart's gotta still be good though, right? That hospital you’re at, I think it’s the top one. He'll make it, he just gotta do what they tell him. They know. He'll be alright. I'm down here an’ the Rod Man's show is about to start an’ I figure I should get in there an’ do it for him, you know, honor him, let all his listeners know that just because he got a bad ticker don’t mean he dead yet. I know you said I don’t have the requisite training an’ all, but I been sittin’ on the other side of the glass for a lotta Rod's shows, I mean, I know his collection, I know what he like to play and why he don't always be playin’ the same thing like Two Bit does. I was thinkin’ I’d call myself JJ Horn cuz everybody know I can blow me some horn and it’s a good name for a DJ, for temporary usage, just while the Rod be outta commission. I know you gotta approve everything, so I ‘spect we gonna talk this all out tomorrow, but for tonight, for in about six minutes when the Rod Man's chair gonna be empty an’ all those listeners he's got, what's he got? Like thousands man, they all gonna wanna hear them some numbers tonight and I'm gonna start out with some quiet stuff, some of the old giants Rodney love an’ then we gonna open things up, let this town hear what some jammin’ sound like from some masters that don't even know they masters yet, then I'm gonna take some calls and talk to the night people out there, school ‘em up on some shit they don't even know they is missin’, stuff old Rodney never gonna give ‘em. I've got this recording I'm not supposed to have that is gonna put things in a whole new perspective musicality-wise. Rodney he so, This is this, and THAT ain't this. And only THIS is what's goin’ outta here. An there is so much more shit that people got a right to hear, they got a right to be exposed, you know what I'm sayin’? They got a right! Uh, it’ll be cool Leon, just be a temporary thing, just ‘till the Rod get to feelin’ like his ole self. Okay the light’s blinking and no one’s in that chair. We can't have that.”
Leon turned his phone off. His eyes noted the time. Rodney’s show was over.
I was driving home, it was late and dark, the streets were empty, it was quiet. A relief after a long day of meetings. I turned on the radio. The dial was set to a community station that I like. At night you can hear anything from obscure jazz to Brazilian beats to techno-enviro soundscapes. The night DJs all have deep soothing voices, they talk slow, they lull you into a calm vibe. Just what I needed. Not what I got. Instead, a jittery, but enthusiastic voice came into my car. I could hear what sounded like small objects falling in front of the mic and larger objects shuffling in the background. An occasional body part rubbed against the mic as the budding, not altogether prepared DJ was making his broadcast debut. He asked us to pray for the man we would normally hear at that hour who had been taken to the hospital for chest pains. After each song he went into a long passionate commentary and then reigned himself in to ask us to remember to pray for his friend. He was obviously conflicted, ecstatic and sad about the circumstances. I felt for him. I was rooting for him, and for his friend.
Margaret Eaton's work has been published online in Opium, Rumble, Onomatopoeia, The Collagist, Pif Magazine and LITSNACK. One was picked by Fiction Daily as a good find on the web. Another was recently published in The Quotable (print). In addition to writing short fiction, she was an early contributing editor to Dowser, an online news source for social entrepreneurs. Find more of her work here.