Friday, July 07, 2006

Great Times," Chapter 10

Copyright 2006, Terry F. Phillips Sr.

All rights reserved


Chapter 10

Back in Chicago, the next morning dawned mostly sunny with a few clouds over Lake Michigan. The wind in that Windy City was cold, even in springtime, but Ted Lane didn’t care. He was now an announcer on a big-city radio station, one of Chicago’s foremost radio stations. The world was his oyster. He was in control and nothing could go wrong.

Ted made his way through the brass doors at the radio station’s business entrance. The receptionist flashed a brilliant white smile at him.

‘I’m here to see Mr. Howard,” Ted said, returning her smile. “I’m a new announcer.”

“Oh, you must be Mr. Lane,” she said, shuffling some papers, as if stalling while she recalled the details. “Mr. Howard said you were to tour the building and he will see you in about an hour. You can’t miss his office. It’s on the second floor.”

Ted made his way down the stairs, choosing them over the elevator, so he could have a moment to savor his new surroundings.

Even the stairs leading to the basement where beginning announcers found their office was exciting to him.

As he made his way down the last landing, he could hear the clink of dishes and guessed the station’s commissary was located in the basement.

It was still early, so he thought a cup of coffee might be in order.

After going through the line and filling his white, china cup from a gleaming silver urn, he carried it to a nearby table.

He stirred in sugar and was wagging the spoon through the cup when more than his coffee was stirred.

He looked up to see the most gorgeous woman he had ever beheld. Well, perhaps not the most gorgeous, but she was stunning.

She wore a red dress, matching shoes and a white blouse. Her hair was blonde and cascaded down her back.

His greeting came involuntarily. He must meet her, he thought.

“Excuse me.”

She glanced his way and smiled.

“Excuse me,” he repeated. “C-c-can I b-buy you a cup of coffee?”

“You must be the new announcer,” she teased.

“As a m-m-m-matter of f-f-f-fact …”

“Oh, really!” she smiled the brightest smile he had ever seen.

Perhaps she was a movie starlet, though he couldn’t place her face and didn’t know why should be in the building at that hour of the morning.

“Ted Lane,” he said, standing. “I am a new announcer, as a matter of fact.”

She was just about his height and a look into her eyes said she would at least be his intellectual match as well.

“Connie Collins,” she replied with a twinkle in her eye. “Do I know you?”

“I-I-I don’t think so,” he said, feeling as if he were fumbling for the right words. “I’m new here and you looked like someone I know.”

“Ouch!” he thought. “That’s an old line.”

She smiled again. This time it looked as if she were going to laugh at him.

“It’s the hair,” she said. “Everyone tells me it reminds them of the way Veronica Lake wore her hair in ‘The Blue Dahlia.’”

“And, w-w-w-what do you do around here?” Ted asked. He was beginning to get back his nerve and, he hoped, his charm.

She tossed her hair and looked at him askance.

“I’m a singer,” she said. “You don’t listen to the radio station much, do you?”

Her accusation made him uncomfortable. After all, this was his first day on the job.

“People who work for a radio station should listen to the radio station,” she said.

“G-g-good point,” he said, not wanting to get defensive with this exquisite creature. She could find out his weak points later. And he hoped there would be a later for them.

“I must be moving on,” he said, rising, not noticing that he spilled some of his coffee and that the spoon was rattling in the cup. He grabbed his writ with his other hand to stop the tremors.

“Wait,” she said. “What do you do here?”

“I’m an announcer,” he said. “Really. Newest one.”

“Do you have a name?”

“Ted,” he said. “Ted Lane. Remember it, you’ll hear it often.”

“Forgive me, Mr. Lane,” she said. “But, if I can be so forward; most announcers don’t have - ah, um -“

“S-s-s-speech impediment,” he said, finishing the sentence for her. “It’s from the war. When I get nervous, it comes back.”

“Sit down,” she invited him, returning to her own seat.

He obliged and smiled, thinking he may have found someone who would understand.

“I helped out in a veterans hospital,” she said. “It’s all right. I saw many men who came home with physical and - other problems.”

“I - mine started when I saw a buddy killed,” Ted explained. “Everyone says there was nothing I could do, but the next day I started having trouble talking when we heard distant bombs or received word of the enemy on the march.”

“So, how did you - why did you decide to go into announcing?” she asked.

“Therapy,” he said. “The psychologist who worked with me suggested I practice reading aloud. Somebody said I had a nice voice and I decided to audition for a radio station at home. That and this gimpy leg of mine led to my decision.”

“Did you receive the bad leg in the war?”

“Yes, they sent me home after I was hit. They saved the leg, but I don’t know if it will ever heal properly or not.”

She thought a moment before speaking.

“Where is home?” she asked, sipping her own coffee.

“South Bend,” he said. “I got on at the CBS station and eventually heard about the opening at WXBR. I auditioned and - here I am.”

“Oh, look at the time!” Connie said, glancing at the Bulova that adorned her wrist. “It’s been nice chatting with you, --“

“Ted.”

“Right, Ted.” She got up and pushed her chair under the table. “See you around the building!”

And she was gone. Ted hoped she wasn’t gone out of his life.