Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Case of the Disappearing Radio Station

It was a cold December morning, so cold the radio dial was stuck in place like a CEO’s fingers on his annual bonus. In the quiet bedroom community of Fuzzydale, a woman woke to the sound of voices babbling about market prices and faraway places, using words that sounded like varieties of pasta spelled backwards. She clapped her hands over her ears and looked for help.
In a fifth floor office of the Acme Building in a city that keeps its secrets, a world weary private eye answered the telephone: “Nuit here.”
“Sy Nuit?”
The voice of a troubled woman, the lonely detective thought. He had been hearing voices like this for more years than he cared to remember, but something told him this one was different.
“Yeah, Miss, that’s me. What can I do for you?”
“You gotta help me, Mr. Nuit!”
“Sure, sure, I’ll help you, Miss. What’s the matter?”
“Somebody stole my radio station!”
“Your radio station?”
“It’s the only station I listen to. This is terrible, Mr. Nuit! I don’t know what to do! I’m lost without it! I can’t eat a spoonful of my cereal. It just lies in the bowl accusing me! It asks me where the music is!”
“All right, all right, now just calm down, Miss. Start from the beginning. When did you hear this radio station last?”
“Last night! I’m sure it was right there on the dial where it always is when I went to bed.”
“Uh-huh. I see. What were you listening to?”
“Music, of course! What else would I listen to? I listen to classical music all day. I listen to jazz every evening. Folk and blues on the weekends. It’s wonderful! You’ve gotta try it, Mr. Nuit. It’s different from all those other stations, you know, with nothing but talk-talk-talk all day, yada-yada-yada! If it’s talk I want, I can listen to my husband!”
“All right, now, take it easy, Miss – what did you say your name was?”
“I didn’t. It’s Misty. Misty Signals.”
“All right, Miss Signals. I got an idea. I think I know what happened.”
“You do?”
“You must have turned your radio to another station.”
“I never touch my dial! I wouldn’t think of it. Never!”
“I see… Well, if you’re sure your dial is in the right place, maybe there’s something wrong with your radio. Give me the frequency number of this station of yours –“
“Eighty-nine point seven!”
“— and I’ll try to tune it in on my radio. So that was—?”
“Eighty-nine point seven!”
“Aw right, aw right, I hear you… Wait a second there.”
Sounds of static; stations whizzing by; a radio dial tuned to a frequency. “There it is,” the aging detective says. “I’ll turn it up and put the phone up close to the radio and you can listen.”
“… Meanwhile in Greater Phillupistan negotiators for People Out Of Patience Yikes!, known as POOPY, met in marathon sessions with representatives of the Consortium of Irreconcilable Moderates over the issue of chronic currency manipulations and the inexplicable multiplication of health care proposals…”
“AHHHH! My ears! Turn it down!”
Silence. “I take it that wasn’t your station, Miss Signals. All right now, get a hold of yourself, Miss. That frequency was definitely eight-nine point seven. I have very up to date technically sophisticated equipment in this office. The latest stuff – very high-priced equipment. I got it cheap as surplus goods from some people who were opening up a new studio at – let me see – it was One Guest Street. A swell place, Miss – a real palace, everything top of the line.”
“I see… Well, my radio may be a bit old-fashioned, Mr. Nuit, but it’s brought in my station fine for years. And there’s nothing wrong with it!”
“Okay, okay. Let’s see. If there’s nothing wrong with your radio, then the only other explanation is – they must have moved the station to somewhere else on the dial.”
“Moved the station? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of! This is a famous station, Mr. Nuit. It has a very strong signal. It has loyal listeners. This station’s listeners are so loyal they even send in their own money just to keep the station on the air doing exactly what it’s always been doing! –“
“They send in money? No kidding. How do you get into a racket like that?”
“We do it because we like our favorite station just the way it is!”
“Yeah, yeah, hard to believe anyone would mess with a sweet deal like that. So maybe it’s one of those astronomical things, you know, solar acne or something.” He fingers the dial on his radio. “Maybe something from outer space, some alien power or something, has messed up the frequencies. I’ll just go down the dial a little bit here and you tell me if something sounds familiar…”
“"Freu-de, schö-ner Götter-funk-en“—
“That’s it!”
“That’s it? That’s your station? Okay, good, good. It must be some freak interruption of the natural order of the universe and I’m sure everything will be back to normal tomorrow...“
“Ahhhh….” She sighs.
“Lemme see the number here. Okay, if you want to find your station it’s on ninety-nine point five.”
“That’s wonderful. How can I ever thank you?”
“Well…”
“I’m just tuning in that frequency on my own radio now. I can’t wait for things to get back to normal around here....”
The sounds of a radio dial being adjusted. Static. More static. “You said ninety-nine point five?”
“Yeah – what’s the matter, Miss? What’s happening over there? What do you hear?“
“Static. Just static. I hear nothing, Mr. Nuit. No music.”
Silence. “Gee, Miss Signals, I’m awfully sorry. There’s really nothing more I can do.”
“Yes, there is. I’ll be right over, Mr. Sy eighty-nine-point-seven Nuit. You’re going to loan me that fancy radio of yours.”