Hooked Into Island Airwaves
I linked up with Suzette Houlton again today. It was NOT official business. Not in either of Suzette’s formal capacities.
I was hanging out around the docks, trying to think through Eliza’s declaration of pregnancy, when I saw Suzette’s impressive bulk lumbering down the bank like an overinflated Thanksgiving Day parade balloon dressed entirely in pink Hawaiian florals. Clamped firmly under one arm was a tiny little scarlet purse, barely big enough to hold a toothbrush and a pile of credit-card slips. Clamped firmly under the other flabby-yet-garishly-outfitted arm was a skinny little pale guy with a sickeningly sheepish expression on his face and a unique knack for looking absolutely no one in the eye. I guessed that Suzette had recently performed her between-the-sheets wallet-lightening act for the fellow, and for the purposes of drumming up the next best thing to word-of-mouth advertising, she was marching yet another temporarily satisfied customer around the busiest part of town.
I had done some discreet sleuthing since my last meeting with Suzette, and I found out that she is, indeed, the town’s Prostitute Laureate. There might be another lady or two who dabbles in casual sex and enjoys the little gifties that come with the enterprise, but Suzette is a gale-force jumper of men. According to the gossip on the street — almost all of which was provided by Cory over beers that I paid for at The Larboard — Suzette has played Everest to a whole slew of the town’s Sir Edmund Hillarys. (The analogy probably extends to the use of climbing ropes and oxygen cylinders.) She had sapped the island of its testosterone quotient in much the same way that a massive electro-magnetic pulse can sap a city of its power supply.
I watched as Suzette dragged her latest grinning victim, newly re-panted but still panting, through the thin crowds that wandered the harbor. They headed toward the small grey shack that houses WGSI, the town’s radio station.
Any visions of radio stations as high-tech, computer-driven, professional-looking broadcast centers can be safely laid aside. Inside the small grey shack, WGSI’s world headquarters looks a lot like a homeless shelter. The station is on the air from seven o’clock every morning until eleven o’clock every night, six days a week, but it has only one employee. He is Rex “the Codfather” Stone, a paunchy man with a thick, beefy neck and almost no hair at all. Not even eyebrows. He is WGSI’s owner, operator, chief (and only) engineer, custodian, security guard, and Number One (and only) DJ. He also lives, literally, at the station. Inside the grey shack are four rooms. One contains a small desk with a computer and a handful of brochures; it’s Rex’s travel agency. One room houses a chipped Formica counter that has a small transmitter, an oversized microphone like the kind you see in 1950s movies, and a large, unorganized heap of CDs. In the heap are recordings of Perry Como, Counting Crows, John Denver, Led Zeppelin, Barry Manilow, the Arctic Monkeys, the old-time Monkees, Frank Zappa, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Green Day, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Snoop Dogg and anything else that Rex could find at tag sales on the mainland. Surrounding the heap on the counter is a galaxy of coffee-stain rings, looking like a brown radar screen spotting hundreds of incoming vessels.
The tiny middle room is the bathroom. It consists of a rust-stained triangular sink tucked into one corner, a rust-stained toilet next to it, and a small, rust-stained bathtub along one wall. The only window is frosted on the bottom, but the clear top half allows a sweeping view of an empty and litter-filled lot.
In the third room, Rex lives. It is small, barely bigger than the bathroom. Along the far wall is a bed with a tubular steel frame that had been painted white once but now boasts a mottled white-and-grey-and-brown appearance. On the bed is a mattress — no box springs — and the mattress is lumpy and thin. You can tell that it is lumpy and thin, even without sitting on it, because all Rex uses for a blanket is a stained and threadbare comforter that spends most of its time rumpled at the foot of the bed. The pillow — no pillowcase — is just as stained as everything else at WGSI, and I refuse to speculate about the source of the colorations. There also is a fiberboard dresser, which has stuck to its surface a two-burner hotplate and an old black-and-white television set. Next to the dresser is a quarter-size refrigerator. The room isn’t big enough to hold anything else.
And everywhere are cats. Scrawny, tattered, mewling, drooling, pooping, licking, scratching, sneezing, furballing cats. Most of them are beige, but others are gray and striped or black and solid, or patchwork and strange. Rex must have forty of them, and they come and go through a hole Rex cut in the front door of the shack. Most people would have installed a flapping little door for the cats to push through, but a hole in the wood was close enough for Rex. At any given time of day, there are cats on the transmitter, cats on the bed, cats on the fridge, cats on the toilet. A steady stream of cats comes and goes through the hole in the door, stopping and starting and thumping into each other like so many bumper cars at a bottleneck. None of them seems to mind.
As I watched from the outside, Suzette and her latest conquest walked up to the shack and stopped at the front door, surrounded by a flowing carpet of cats. Suzette gave the poor man an enormous, waterlogged kiss on the mouth and then sent him on his way. She pushed through the door, ignoring any cats underfoot, and closed the door behind her.
Just for kicks, I went in myself and listened. Standing in the tiny transmitter room, I heard the last few strains of “American Pie” — them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing, this’ll be the day that I die, etc. — and then Rex was live on the air.
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,” he said, using his favorite borrowed-barker line. “That was the indomitable Don McLean, bringing us a great big slice of American Pie. And now a word from our own Grand Seal Island Economic Development Director, a woman who needs no introduction — and I mean that sincerely — the lovely and talented Suzette Houlton!”
Rex turned a crank on the console, producing a raspy sound that might pass for applause if it’s been a long time since you’ve done something noteworthy. The next sound was Suzette’s voice.
“Hi, GSI,” she said in a deep and sultry voice. “I’m running a little low on spending money, so if anyone out there is feeling lonely between, say, 9:30 and 11 o’clock tonight, just swing on by my house. I know just what to do to brighten your spirits.”
Neither Rex nor the cats seemed to think that was weird.
— Donovan Graham, “The Shadowless Writer”
Comment — WomynFire982: when a man sells what he has for cash, it’s considered trade or business. when a womyn sells what she has, it’s sometimes considered cheap prostitution. why is it that a man can rob people blind in a transaction and get a promotion out of the deal, but when a womyn trades sex for cash she is considered an outcast? guess what, men — if you want it, you’re going to have to pay for it one way or another.
Comment — Gemstone: It’s also possible that there is more to Suzette’s story than you can discover through superficial observations. Try to get to know her a little.
Comment — BinoMan211: How come women don’t advertise like that in my town? It would make life a whole lot easier!
Read previous blog entries in the Island Wars story by clicking here.