Radio Days Pt. 04bycoaster2©
Well folks, we are getting near the end of this saga. On the one hand, a lot of weird stuff has been happening to me, Ozzie Hanswatter. On the other hand, some really good stuff has been happening to me as well; namely Leticia "Tish" Darling.
I've been so busy meeting with alien recruiting agents and wooing beautiful blondes, you'd wonder how I had the time to do my job. The truth is, my job isn't that hard. What is hard is trying to believe that my inheritance, a little radio that tells the future, is actually an alien device. It seems like bait to get me to meet with this guy Snipe. You know, the one who looks like Ming the Merciless.
Anyway, this guy wants me to join his army and help save the planet. I thought that was a job for Greenpeace, but no, he insists I'm the guy he wants, along with another million or so like me. I'm thinking about it. No promises, but I did sort of agree to go along with it just to see what it was all about.
In the meantime, Tish and I are getting really close. Close enough that we've become intimate, if you know what I mean. I can't believe I could be so lucky! I found out she's been trying to cut loose from an ex-husband who liked to hit her. He followed her here to Little River and so I had a talk with the sheriff and he's going to help us keep him away from her.
So that's where we are right now; me waiting to hear from the aliens and Tish and I getting real close. But today was my day of reckoning. I finally had to tell Tish what was going on with my "puzzle."
The Big Finale:
I delivered the copy of the Blanchford restraining order to Sheriff Carbutt on Saturday morning as promised. I could see by the heading that it had been issued by the State of Washington and I knew that was what the sheriff had been hoping for. He took one look at it, flashed a big smile and then proceeded to read the order.
It was pretty specific. Terrence Parmeter was not permitted within 500 feet of Leticia Darling Parmeter and was to refrain from contacting her in any way; verbal or written. The sheriff shook his head and looked at Ozzie.
"Son, this doesn't look good for him. It's a state order and that carries a lot of weight hereabouts. The judge says we'll use this to get a state order here to trump the local county order. That means we can call in the state police if he violates it in Idaho. That's serious stuff as I'm sure you can imagine.
I was smiling I know. It sounded like we had Mr. Parmeter by the short and curlies. Violating the order would get him some jail time, plus a criminal record. If he thought he had job troubles before, they would pale in comparison to that.
"I should be able to get the state order by late Monday or Tuesday latest," the sheriff said. In the meantime, I'll have a little chat with Mr. Parmeter and let him know just how much trouble he might be in. Idaho has an anti-stalking law as well, so if necessary, I can threaten him with that. I'm thinkin' by Monday or Tuesday, he's going to be high-tailin' it out of here, if not sooner.
I shook my head in admiration. "You've gone to a lot of trouble, and don't think we're not grateful, sheriff. Tish is greatly relieved and grateful for your efforts and I'm sure she'll be around to thank you in person," I grinned.
"I'll look forward to it. This office can use a little sunshine, now and then," he smiled.
I gotta explain about our sheriff. He's a big, long drink of water; maybe six-four. He kind of reminds me of Gary Cooper, with a Sam Elliot voice. If they still made westerns in Hollywood, he'd be perfect for the part of the sheriff. A good guy with a good heart mixed with some toughness. Little River was lucky to have him.
We shook hands and I left to head back home. I left Tish at the Timely's and promised to see her later that day. I needed some time to myself. My other problem hadn't gone away. The radio, the meeting with Snipe, my future in their "army," and my unnamed partner. Not to mention explaining all this to Tish.
So now, coming right at me was the moment of truth. I had to live up to my promise. Tish had revealed everything about her life to me. It was my turn. I had stalled her until tonight. I had no idea how I would make her understand or how I could even try. I wondered if this would be the end of us.
On the spur of the moment, I had phoned Ernie Gent and asked to meet with him. This time, it wasn't about new clothes. This time, I needed some sober advice. I had known Ernie since my early days in high school. Despite his carefree outer appearance, he was a serious and smart guy. While we hadn't been close until lately, we were friends and I trusted him implicitly.
"What's up, Oz. It sounded pretty heavy on the phone."
"Yeah ... it is," I admitted. I sat in the old oak office chair in the back of his haberdashery. Ernie had closed up at five pm as he usually did on Saturday. We were alone. I had a hell of a time getting started. I spent a lot of time trying to get Ernie to understand this was going to be a very strange story and that I wanted him to listen and then we could talk later.
"Yeah ... sure, Oz. I understand. Why don't you just tell me the way you want to tell me and we can go from there." There wasn't a hint of humor or doubt in his voice.
So I did. I began with the reading of my Uncle Darby's will and the radio and what I discovered about it, and then my phone call to Felix Bindle. I don't think I left out anything right up to the time I was ushered in to see Mr. Snipe. At that point I paused and took a deep breath.
Ernie hadn't flinched when I described the radio and what I had heard on it. I thought about bringing my notes, but decided it would be a distraction at that point and I could always show them to him later. It was time for the "big one."
I started again, and described my conversation with Snipe as best I could reconstruct it. Again, Ernie didn't seem to react to what I thought would be a real shocker and he just sat, concentrating on my face, saying nothing. Strange?
When I finished, I let out another deep breath, as if I'd been holding it since I started with my story. Perhaps I had.
"Well," I finally managed, "What do you think? Am I ready for the rubber room?"
Ernie didn't say anything for a few moments. He just kept his eyes on me, watching for what?
Finally, he sat up. "I think you believe every single word you've told me. I think you are absolutely convinced that what took place was real and that this story isn't over," he said in a level, controlled voice.
"What about you, Ernie? Do you believe it?"
He smiled. It was one of those self-deprecating smiles that he was so good at. "It doesn't matter what I think," he shrugged. "It matters what you think. But ... but ... I would like to see your notes. There may be something there that will tell me ... us ... more."
"Sure. Why don't we go over to my house and I can show you everything. Even what remains of the radio. OK?"
"Yeah. Let me phone Pearl and let her know I'll be late. I'll meet you at your house in ten minutes," he promised.
He was as good as his word and I let him in, leading him to my office. I showed him the dormant blue radio and my file with all my organized notes and he whistled when he saw the size of it.
"Jeez, Oz. This must have taken forever. How did you remember it all?" he asked.
Kerblammo! How could I be so stupid? The recorder! I still had the portable recorder. Surely, some of the radio broadcast must still be on the little devil.
Ernie saw the look on my face and reacted immediately.
"What's wrong? Are you OK?"
"Yeah," I said, shaking my head in wonder. "I just realized. I couldn't keep up with my notes, so I recorded the broadcasts on a memory card. If I'm right, there must be something still on it that will prove what I'm telling you," I said in what I knew was an excited voice.
I stood and walked to my desk and opened the drawer, taking out the little recorder and holding it in my hand. I was almost afraid to turn it on. I was afraid that there wouldn't be anything there. Then what? If they could wipe the radio and the CD's, they could probably wipe the card. My hands were shaking and I couldn't move. I couldn't bring myself to turn it on.
As I gazed at it, Ernie's hand closed over it and took it from me. He looked at me and then at the recorder and pushed the 'on' button, then 'play.' I held my breath. Within seconds, I knew that I was vindicated. The sounds of the radio came through loud and clear. I remembered the broadcast. It was a year or so in the future and it was a business report I was interested in for potential investment purposes.
Ernie listened in fascination. I don't think it really hit him until the announcer started reviewing stock performances and referring to this year's results. This year wasn't two thirds over yet. He stopped it and reset the memory to the beginning, listening as the tiny machine foretold the future.
I don't know when he turned it off, but it was several minutes later. I had slumped back in my chair and just watched his expression as he absorbed what he was hearing. I expected a different reaction, I guess. His face lacked any sign of amazement or bewilderment. But, he was concentrating very hard. That much I could tell.
"Well, that really is something," Ernie finally ventured.
"It's better than that, Ernie. I can tell Tish about what's been happening, and not worry about her thinking I'm a nut-case."
He nodded, understanding. "One thing, though, Oz. You can't tell anyone else," he said in a level tone.
I looked at him with a question mark on my expression. "Why not?"
"You just can't. Trust me, Oz. I know how much Tish means to you and you don't want to keep secrets from her ... but ... that's where it has to end," he said unequivocally.
I looked at him, wondering what he was telling me. What message was I supposed to receive from this unilateral declaration? And then ... and then ... the lights went on.
He smiled. "Yep."
I thought I was going to pass out. I sat back in my chair, staring at my friend.
"Couple of years."
"Does Pearl know?"
"Yeah ... right from the beginning," he said with a smile. "We don't have any secrets."
"Shit ... I had no idea," I confessed.
"You weren't supposed to. Remember, life goes on and this is a long-term plan. Very long-term," he said levelly.
"So ... my friend ... my tailor ... is my partner," I cleverly summarized.
"Yeah. I didn't have the luxury of the radio to confirm what my contact was telling me was true. Then again, I wasn't going to doubt him after a couple of his predictions came to pass," Ernie said.
"Who did you talk to? Snipe?"
"No ... at least, I don't think so," he laughed. This guy didn't look anything like your description of Snipe. He was pretty non-descript. Plain vanilla, I'd say."
"So who put you in contact with them?" I asked.
"You'll never guess. My father," he said with a grin.
"Your father. He's one of the army too?"
"Yep. Has been for years. He was just waiting for their say-so to recruit me."
"Well I'll be damned," I whistled. "What about Pearl. How did you convince her?"
"It wasn't that hard. With Dad there and with us knowing each other so well, she pretty well figured out I hadn't fallen off the trolley. Then, she got to meet my contact ... called himself Purefoy. Anyway, that was that. I didn't know you were picked as my partner, but as far as I'm concerned, I couldn't be happier."
"Thanks. I feel the same way. I just hope Tish does too."
He nodded. "One thing, Oz. When you tell Tish tonight, Pearl and I will be there. We don't want her freaking out. OK?"
"Yeah ... of course. Thanks. I've been dreading the moment. I don't think I knew how to start, much less tell her this whole loony story.
"Another thing, Oz. When you've finished telling Tish, you're going to format the card, understood?"
"Yeah ... I suppose. As long as Tish is OK with all this ... craziness, I won't need it anymore," I said with some doubt in my mind.
I sat back for a moment and then looked at Ernie and grinned. "So it's all true, then. The army is real, Snipe or whatever his name is ... he's real." Ernie was nodding as I rambled on.
"What about this business of quitting if I don't like it or can't handle it?" I asked.
"All true. But I know you, Oz. You won't just handle it, you'll thrive in it. You are perfect for this role," he said, smiling confidently.
I slumped a little more in my chair as I thought about the implications of what Ernie had told me. I was going around and around in circles again. It was time to drop anchor.
"You want a beer?" I asked.
"Sure. Why don't you order in Chinese for the four of us. It might be a long night. Don't worry about Tish. Pearl is going to pick her up and bring her here. They should be here soon. In the meantime, I think you could use a beer more than me," he grinned.
I wandered into the kitchen and popped the top on two amber ales and strolled back to the living room. We sat in chairs facing each other and I tried to get my mind to slow down and operate properly.
"Ernie," I finally spoke. "You and Pearl ... you've been together over twenty years. As far as I can tell, you two look and act like newlyweds. How do you do it?"
"I bury her in love, Oz. Pearl will never know a day that she isn't sure of that."
He paused for a moment, taking a sip of his ale.
"I can tell Tish thinks the sun shines out your ass, so just bury her in love. That part I know you can handle. You've been waiting for this woman for a long time. Sometimes, good things come to those who wait. I heard that somewhere," he smiled.
"Yeah ... I've done my waiting. I want Tish so badly, I don't know how to tell her," I confessed.
He laughed lightly. "Just tell her. Just tell her like you just told me. Maybe just tell her like you just told yourself ... for the first time?" he guessed.
I thought about it and then nodded. "Yeah. I love her. Maybe I have for a while, but I'm dead certain I love her. I guess I just had to convince myself. I just hope she feels the same way."
"I wouldn't worry about that for one second. She's been waiting just as long for someone like you. You know her history. You're the best thing that's ever happened to her and she knows it. Trust me. Pearl says it's so and if Pearl says it ... it's so!"
We were just starting our second beer when the doorbell rang. I opened the door and welcomed Tish and Pearl into my home. Tish had what looked like an overnight bag with her and when I saw that, I looked at her and gave her a big smile and a kiss; getting one right back.
"Hi girls. Come on in and find a seat. Ernie's pouring you a glass of wine right this minute and the food will be along shortly.
We sat in the living room, exchanging small talk, waiting for the doorbell to ring again. Fifteen minutes later, the food arrived and we all gathered in the kitchen to divvy up the spoils and savor the food. As usual, we ordered more than we could eat, even though I think we all ate far more than we normally would. I know I did.
Sated and relaxed, we returned to the living room to sit and allow our meal to digest. I didn't quite know how to get the topic of my "puzzle" started, but in the end, I didn't have to. Ernie, my "partner," looked after it.
"Tish, you're probably wondering what Pearl and I are doing here when you were expecting Ozzie to tell you about his inheritance and all the things he's been reluctant to explain about it. That's why we're here. We ... Pearl and I ... are part of that "puzzle."
Ernie began by telling Tish about my meeting with Bindle, the radio, and then, finally, my meeting with Snipe. Throughout his narration, she sat completely still, in total concentration on Ernie's concise yet thorough explanation. She didn't blink when he told her about the radio's unique attributes. She did react slightly when he told her about Snipe and his role in recruiting the army.
I had the little recorder in my pocket and I pulled it out. Before Tish really had time to absorb the implications of what she had been told, I turned the device on and let her listen to some of the radio broadcasts. Ernie and I had selected a few samples that would be meaningful to Tish and when we had finished playing them, we waited for her reaction.
"I knew it was something ... different ... something strange. I had no idea that I could be as ... strange as this," she said in a bewildered voice. "Do you believe this, Ozzie?" she finally asked, turning to me.
"Yes." I didn't feel the need for further embellishment.
"And you, Ernie ... Pearl?"
They nodded in unison. "Tish ... I'm ... we ... Pearl and I ... we're Ozzie's partners. We've been part of the army for over two years. It's real and it's important, just like Snipe said. I guess I have to also confess that I was one of the people who was sure Ozzie was right for this job. His uncle believed in him, but we were careful and needed to be sure. I'm sure. So is Pearl. So is Snipe ... and Bindle for that matter.
"Ozzie is special, Tish. He's not like other guys. But then, I think you know that already, don't you?" Pearl said.
Tish turned to me and smiled. "Yes. He's special. He's my white knight."
"White knights are hard to come by," Pearl continued. "We have to learn to share them, just as I had to learn to share Ernie," she said, smiling at her husband.
"I'm sure this is all a bit overwhelming, Tish. I know it's a lot to ask to just accept it. But the reason I chose to tell you is because you have become so important in my life," I said, more nervous that I could ever remember being.
I was about to say something more, when Ernie and Pearl rose.
"I think it's time for us to go. If there's anything you want to know or if you need anything, Tish, please just call us. We'll be there for you," Pearl said, hugging my lady to her. I passed the recorder to Ernie and he slipped it in his pocket. They said their farewells and left. Tish and I watched and waved as they pulled away and then returned to the living room.
Tish sat down beside me on the sofa. I reached for her hands and held them, raising my eyes to her face. She was completely at ease, I thought, which surprised me. With all the confusion and turmoil we must have caused her, I found it odd that she was calm.
"Tish ... there's something I need to tell you," I began, haltingly.
She looked at me and I thought for just a second I saw the hint of a smile. It gave me the courage I needed.
"I love you, Tish. I think I've known it for a while, but whenever it was, I know it and I'm sure of it. I love you," I said, amazed that I could get it all out at once.
This time the smile wasn't just a hint. It was there. It was real.
"I know," was all she said as she continued to watch me, focused on my eyes.
"You mean you can't tell?" she continued to smile.
"I ... I ... hope ... that you ... feel that way too. I mean ... about me," I stammered.
The next moments seemed to take place in slow motion. Her hands first ... and then her arms around my neck ... and then her face right in front of me and then ... and then ... "god, this woman can kiss," I said to myself, desperately trying to breath as she attempted to suck the life out of me.
"Does that answer your question?" she smirked from a distance of about a quarter-inch.
"Yeah ... in spades. God, this feels good. Do you mind if we stay this way for the rest of our lives?" I kidded.
"We've got some serious stuff to talk about, love," I finally said. I hoped this wasn't a mood-breaker.
"Yeah ... we sure have. Real serious stuff," she grinned.
"OK, you go first," I offered.