Writer’s Digest Creative Writing Prompt: Revolution Radio
You’re a local disc jokey with a morning radio program. On your show you often take phone calls from commuters to talk about music and celebrity gossip, but on this particular morning you pick up a caller who says he’s going jump off the top of your building unless you play every song he requests during your show—and he’s purposefully picking songs that are hard to find or that he knows you hate! Start with him calling in and write this scene.
The intern gestured wildly through the window, pointing to the phone and holding up four fingers. Troy made a note to talk to her about professionalism but picked up line four anyway.
“KRED, you’re the air.”
Troy waited, met only with some heavy breathing.
“Good morning, you’re on the air with T-Roy. Who’s this?” he tried again.
A muffled sound of someone blowing their nose followed, and then the cracked voice of a woman. “Is this T-Roy in Tacoma?”
“Yes it is, and you are live on the air,” he said, glaring at his intern. “Who is this?” There was another pause, and Troy could hear himself in the background. “Ma’am, if you turn off your radio this will go a lot easier.”
“I’m sorry,” the woman said. “I can’t do that.”
There was a strange disconnect in her voice. Despite the sniffling and occasional crack, her voice seemed otherwise devoid of emotion.
“Well, my intern seems to think you wanted to talk to me,” he said. Troy’s hand hovered over the button which would end the call.
“The view is really quite pretty from the top of your building,” she said, followed by another sniffle.
“Excuse me? You’re on the roof?”
“Well. For the moment.”
Troy finally gave his intern a big thumbs up. In the other room she nodded and got on the phone.
“Well, ma’am… sorry, what did you say your name was?”
“Rome,” she said after another pause.
Troy could still hear himself in the background, a few second’s delay between broadcast and reception.
“Rome, huh? That’s an interesting name. Well, Rome, what can we do for you here at KRED?”
“I want you to play a song.”
“Well, we’re not really taking requests at the moment-“
“You’ll play this song,” she interrupted. “You’ll play it, because if you don’t…”
Troy waited, but dead air is death on the radio. As soon as he decided she wasn’t going to finish the thought he spoke up.
“What song did you want, Rome?”
“Four to the Floor,” she said. “Four to the Floor, or I’ll take the short way down.”
The intern gestured at the window again and gave a thumbs up in return when Troy looked over.
“I don’t think I’m familiar with that one,” he said, meaning the song itself but leaving it open to be misinterpreted. He resisted the urge to ask her to ‘hum a few bars and I’ll fake it’.
“Starsailor,” she said.
Troy had never heard of it, assuming it was the artist. He scribbled a note as he spoke.
“Is that any relation to Rosebud?” Troy laughed at his own joke. “Well, listeners, it sounds as if Rome is saying she’ll jump if I don’t play the song. Have I got that right, Rome?”
Rome gave a few heavy breaths.
Troy held up the scribble for his intern, indicating she should find the song.
“Okay, I’ve got our station intern looking it up.”
“I must say, this is a rather extreme way to get a song on the radio, isn’t it?”
More breathing, then the sound of pops and bumps as the phone, and presumably the person holding it, moved.
“Rome, you still with me?”
“I can see Jefferson park from here,” she said with a hint of wistfulness.
“Well, Rome, I’m just keeping an eye on our station feed for what some of our helpful listeners have to say. ‘LB’ writes ‘How did someone get onto the roof, don’t you have security?’ That’s an excellent question ‘LB’. I’d like to remind our listeners that they can send in their comments to KRED@Kmail.com or to my show, @T-RoyKRED. KRED, the station with cred.
“If you’re just tuning in we’ve got Rome up on the roof who’ll be jumping if I don’t play this song she’s requested. Rome, how about you tell us a bit about what brought you to this moment while our station intern continues to look for this song.”
“I’m afraid you won’t find it very interesting,” she said.
“I’m sure that’s not true,” Troy said.
“Are you going to play the song?”
Troy looked at the queue on his panel; ‘Four to the Floor’ was scrolling on the read-out. He glanced at the monitor in the corner, watching the live news coverage play out silently. A crowd was gathering along the street. The intern held up another note.
“Just as soon as we find it, Rome.”
“I can’t wait any longer.”
The camera zoomed in.
“Why is that? What is motivating this kind of extreme behavior? We’ll be having psychologist Dr. Landstrom joining us a bit later in the studio to discuss what drives people to these actions- oh, and it seems the fire department has just arrived on the scene. Isn’t this exciting? I remember when I was a kid, I got to ride one in the parade. These men and women, many of whom are volunteers, just do such an amazing job, don’t they? If you see one, why not give him or her a handshake and thank them for their service.”
“Play the song,” Rome insisted.
“These things take time,” Troy said, trying to assure her.
He kept his eye on the monitor, where she was just now stepping out onto the ledge.
“Lots of good comments still coming in @T-RoyKRED; looks like someone went and worked out that it will take you a little less than six seconds to hit the pavement if you simply step straight off the edge, but if you jump first, it could take almost seven. These are the kinds of daily things most of us just don’t think about.
“Once again, listeners, this is T-Roy in Tacoma and we’re broadcasting live here on KRED, the station with cred, as someone named Rome seems to be considering jumping from the roof of the station building unless I play along. I mean a song.” He hadn’t meant that at all. He had been right the first time.
“Rome, are you a long-time listener and is this your first time calling in?”
“Listeners, if you’ve got any advice you’d like to offer Rome, write in at KRED@Kmail.com or send a comment to @T-RoyKRED. If it’s good I’ll read it on the air. ‘KarlX’ just sent in a note which reads, ‘Should have packed a parachute.’ Ouch. I mean, he’s got a point, but…”
“You want a comment?” Rome said, voice still dull. “You want a statement?”
“You’re making quite the statement already, Rome,” Troy said. “Aren’t you? Isn’t that what this is really about? Not some song?”
A brief silence.
“You won’t play the song.” It wasn’t a question, nor even a statement. It was a resignation.
“You’ve hardly given us enough time to find it. It seems to be a very obscure request.”
“Nero fiddled…” she said, then took a step.
“One… two… three… fou- huh. Maybe I count a little slow,” Troy mumbled, then put on his DJ voice again. “Well, listeners, it seems Rome may have been a little confused, I believe the phrase is ‘Nero fiddled as Rome burned’, not ‘fell’. But there we have it: Rome has fallen.”
The music began, Troy talking over the first few bars before the lyrics kicked in.
“And now, a tribute to Rome and others like her; here’s ‘Four to the Floor’, by Starsailor.”
He muted his mic and swung open the door to his sound booth where the station manager was standing.
“Good job, Troy. We’re already showing a spike in ratings, with an estimated forty percent jump in listenership in just the last five minutes!”
One of the secretaries covered his phone receiver with his hand and whispered, “This is the third new company asking for our ad rates.”
Troy turned to the intern and gave her a pat on the back.
“Good job, kid. I was worried at first but you really pegged that one! There’ll be a bonus in it for you.”
As he returned to the booth, he added, “Get me a coffee and let me know when the psychologist gets here!”
Troy settled back into his chair and listened to the last few lines. Catchy. With any luck, it would hit number one on the charts. As the song ended he turned his mic back on.
“Once again, that was ‘Four to the Floor’. Remember, you heard it first on KRED, the station with cred.”