Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Strong Enough - Chapter 1

excerpt from:
Get the Party Started
by P!nk, M!zzundazstood

     DJ Kelly Carter, known off air as Whitney Brown, adjusts her headphones. Most DJs use their own names but she prefers being someone else on the air—someone new and unknown even to her. She glances at the calendar on the studio wall and automatically calculates that today would be her four-month wedding anniversary if she hadn't left Woods Cross. Instead, she's an assistant DJ on a morning show in Somerville, the buckle of the Bible belt. Life is funny.

     "Good Morning, KFXT, thanks for calling in to be one of our Consumer Critics. What's your review of the new movie Serial Blues?" asks Rick Grant, of Rick in the Morning, his voice rumbling with just a touch of growl. She prefers for Rick to take the calls. Whenever he gestures to her for a big smile or more enthusiasm, Whitney either giggles on the air or becomes flustered and says things like "Serial Blue...is that the movie about Cornflakes and skim milk?" Luckily that happened at 6:20 this morning and the caller laughed.

     "Coming up, the first drawing in our weekly give-away, but before we get to all that, Kelly Carter is here to give you a traffic update."

     She can do the report without staring intently at her notes but Rick likes to coach her in everything—even the excitement of non-moving traffic—so she keeps her eyes trained on the thrilling Somerville traffic report. "Thanks Rick. Traffic has dwindled since the nine o'clock update but Route 35 still has only one south bound lane due to an overturned semi." Like a machine she churns out the words to the listening public, wrapping up the morning traffic report and leaving the news tidbits for the next crew. The clock on the computer counts down to less than twenty minutes.

      "Guess who's coming to town at the end of November?" Rick brings her and their listeners back.

      "I don't know. Do you have a hint?" she asks and laughs on cue at Rick's hint. When they first started working together, Rick provided scripts that read laugh here.

      "Well, gosh my brain isn't working. Do you have a guess Andy?" She quips to another DJ in the booth, carrying on the banter. Rick likes lots of banter. It feels a little stale to her but that's the morning show. Rick and Andy, the other DJ, carry-on in an effortless exchange created from years of working together. They aren't excluding her. It's up to her to interject, as Rick has told her several times. In her few month's at the station, she's learned that she has to make opportunities and suddenly she's wondering, Will today be the day? Almost three weeks ago she put in her request for live promotions. Live promotions—just the sound of the two words sends the resident butterflies into a frenzied flutter of anticipation. She's doing it. She's surviving. When she left her hometown with no job, no plans, she never imagined she could be here, wanting more. She returned to Somerville, to her second home, already wavering and scared but she kept begging herself to stay, to try one more day, to hold out one more hour and not return home. It isn't just that she wants more; it's that she finally knows what she wants. 

      She literally stumbled onto this job. As she remembers it, she was delivering lunch to the station when she tripped and plastered herself against the bulletin board in her usual graceful manner. Before she could blush, though, she saw something important. A young woman had just tacked up a job posting: WANTED: researcher, commercial voice, office gopher. Intern experience preferred, communications degree necessary, ready to start at the bottom. The paper was still warm from the copier. She just knew it was fate and snatched it down asking, "When can I start?" She loves radio—the power of a voice penetrating walls, entering homes and hiding places. She loves the history, the variety of DJs through the volatile decades of the 20th century; the intuition of masters, and the depth of knowledge by icons. She has no illusions that music radio is what it used to be, but being near even a ghost of it gives her a jolt of happiness.

       Suddenly Whitney hears the silence, the dead air filling the small sound proof booth threatening to suffocate everyone inside. They're staring at her shocked that she would allow dead air into the show and she squeaks back into the moment. "Anti-Light?! It'll be a great concert! I am so excited about this show!" Every other time they discussed the concert this morning she had trouble injecting equal amounts of enthusiasm, but the dead air adrenaline pumped the ‘ra- ra’ to whole new heights. Rick gives her the cut signal and motions her out of the booth with his thumb. Knowing he'll want to discuss her flub, she flees downstairs to her desk to do her daily research. Quickly she becomes engrossed in her work until an email alert interrupts. She'd ignore it like the rest but this one bears her manager's name. Toggling over she stares at the subject line RE: Expansion of Kelly Carter Position. She blinks hard several times but the words on her screen inform her that she'll be hosting a minor promotion at Backdoorz for Little Izi, this Thursday. It's pushing alcohol and t-shirts but it's all by herself—no Rick, no Andy, just Whitney....Well, Kelly Carter.

     She. Is. Presenting! Whitney thrusts away from her desk and sends her chair into a rapid spin of celebration. She'd rather be dancing on top of her desk, screaming hooray at the top of her lungs but she doesn't like to draw too much attention. Too soon dizziness from the tight circles sends nausea to turn her stomach. She stops her little celebration, her head still swimming, and waits for the sick feeling to calm. In that moment her pessimistic voice implant whispers, won't there be an audience with actual live people watching? Watching her. Whitney, not Kelly. Closing her eyes against her former negativity, she focuses on enjoying her success. This is what she wants. She asked for this and she’ll do her best. Plus, she reminds herself, it's a no name band in a no name town, so it's fitting that a no name DJ hosts their first five minutes of fame.

      Her desk partner, Lisa, interrupts her swimming thoughts by brightly announcing, “Lunch!” Whitney glances at the clock surprised to see two hours have managed to pass since the morning show ended. As quickly as the fear washed over her, it washes away and she grins at her friend. Lisa is another female low on the radio totem pole who works for one of the other five stations crammed into the building. She drew the country spot at the intern party and remained faithful-–faithful enough to wear boots and keep her long hair a lovely bottle blonde.

      "I ... sure but... I mean... I got a live promo!" It spills out like fairy vomit, all sparkly and gross, but Lisa grins.

     "When did this happen?"

     "Just now! Read," squeals Whitney, bouncing in her chair, high on excitement once again.

      Lisa turns the screen toward her and reads. "Congratulations! So does this mean it's time to find a real apartment?"

      The question flattens Whitney’s bounce. One night over drinks Whitney explained why she rents a room by the week. It's cheap and temporary which makes it easy to leave but also a motivation to succeed. She absently lifts her hand to her mouth to chew a thumbnail. "I suppose so."

      "Do you need help searching?"

      "Thanks but I'd better call an old friend of mine first." She rubs the rough tip against her palm and feels the clammy sweat. "I'm pretty sure she owns some lofts near here."

      "Downtown? Wow, I hear those are amazing."

      The bounce has completely deflated. She knows Leah owns lofts and restaurants and more buildings; she read the cover story in last month's Somerville 411 Magazine. It's time to call her college roommate, something she's avoided for months.

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