Start Me Up

By: J. Kenner

Chapter One

“Goooood morning, Austin,” Nolan belted into the mike in his best Robin Williams impression. “It’s six am on Wednesday, and if you thought you’d gotten up early enough to miss the traffic, then you’re crazier than I am. It’s a madhouse out there, but that’s okay because it’s crazy in here, too. But I’ll be here to make your drive just a little more whacked, whether you’re heading down the street or all the way across town.”

He hit the switch on his console to pull up the Twilight Zone theme song, then leaned closer, deepened his voice, and channeled his inner Rod Serling. “It’s the dimension between comedy and stupidity, between humor and idiocy. That’s right, folks. I’m your host, Nolan Wood, and this is…” He paused for dramatic effect as his producer, Connor, increased the reverb on the sound effects, then finished on his show’s title, “…Mornings with Wood.”

He’d been standing—it might only be six am, but Nolan was always revved before a show and he did his best work with a little bounce in his step—but now he fell back into his chair He rolled a few feet to the back wall of the small, glassed-in studio as Connor cued the Satisfaction Sound Effect, a little clip Nolan had put together with rising applause that crescendoed on a woman’s satisfied purr of, “Oh, Nolan!”

Then the drive-time show’s theme music played, ending with the tag—recorded by one of the station’s voice actors—”You’re listening to Mornings With Wood on K-I-K-X Austin—kicks FM—at 96.3 on your radio dial. Classic music and classless chatter with your host, Nolan Wood.”

In a rhythm as natural as sex, Nolan was back at the mike on cue, his body humming with energy as he slid into his schtick. “That’s right, campers, it’s a beautiful May morning. The sun is shining. The grass is green. The birds are singing. And there’s one hell of a pile-up on southbound Mo-Pac near the Far West exit. Get off while you can, because that ain’t pretty.

“And if you don’t have an alternate route, well, I hope you like the sight of your dashboard, because other than the rear of the car in front of you, that’s your view until you get off that highway to hell. And if that’s not a good segue, I don’t know what is. So here’s a little AC/DC to wake you up and ease your pain.”

As Nolan finished, Connor faded in Highway to Hell, and Nolan looked up with a grin. “Damn, but I love my job.”

“Good,” Connor shot back. “Because I sure as hell don’t want it.” He glanced down at the yellow pad that was never far from his side. “We’re spinning into a commercial next, then where do you want to go? Requests? Naked News? Date-a-palooza?”

That’s one of the reasons Nolan loved working with Connor. Nolan’s last producer had insisted that he plan out the program in advance. But when Connor had stepped in nine months ago, Nolan had insisted the show would have more energy if Nolan had more leeway. He’d expected push-back, but the skinny former surfer from California had only shrugged and said that so long as he knew what was on the menu, he’d dig into whatever dish Nolan chose.

Honestly, if Connor had tits, Nolan would have dropped to one knee and proposed marriage right then. As it was, he took his new producer out for a drink at his favorite local bar, The Fix on Sixth, then exchanged life stories as they got rip-roaring drunk in that time-honored male-bonding ritual.

As for that marriage thing, it wouldn’t have worked out, anyway. Gail—Connor’s wife of five years—would never have approved. Then again, maybe she would. After all, unlike Nolan’s ex, Gail had a killer sense of humor.

Frustrated, Nolan shook his head to clear out the unwelcome thoughts of Lauren. “Let’s go with Come With Me,” he suggested, referring to a new segment he’d only recently outlined.

Connor made a rough noise in his throat. “Ix-nay on that one until Mannie gives us the thumbs-up. He thinks you’re going to push the line with too many orgasm jokes.”

For the most part, the station’s General Manager, Manuel Ortega, kept a loose rein on Nolan. But every once in a while he got a bug up his butt about a particular concept.