Turn In, Turn Off
Briggs sat on the edge of the bed, lacing up a pair of dirty high-tops. He glanced up, caught sight of McCrudden, and sighed.
"Crud, this is radio. You can work naked if you want. There's certainly no need to get all dressed up."
"Well, I've been in this business 35 years, and I, for one, have certain standards that I intend to keep up. Radio or not."
Briggs stood and zipped up his faded jeans. "Please yourself," he said. "Just bring your A game today. This is our last chance."
Mickey's 1979 Pontiac Sunfire groaned as it climbed the steep ramp out of the underground parking lot, and backfired loudly as it bounced out into the streets of East Podunk. McCrudden, in the passenger seat, jumped violently, banging his head on the roof.
"Whoa there, Cruddy," said Briggs as he stabbed the throttle, sending the little car lurching down the street. "Don't tell me we're a little nervous! Did you soil yourself, O wise one? Should we go back for a quick inspection, or what?"
Briggs slapped him on the knee and laughed as they careened through a stop sign, and merged with the traffic heading downtown. He punched the radio and a top-40 station blared noisily.
McCrudden struggled to take off his jacket. "I am just fine, thank you," he shouted. "Pay attention to the road, you moron, and see if you can get us there alive."
A few minutes later, belching smoke, they wheeled into the parking lot behind the Stop-'n-Loiter Bar. The engine clung valiantly to life for a few seconds after Briggs switched it off, and then it died with another thunderous explosion. McCrudden painfully eased himself out, put on his jacket, and stood back, looking at the car in disbelief.
"What?" asked Briggs.
"There's no valet parking, I see, and as for this car," McCrudden said, shaking his head, "it's like your bedroom with a steering wheel. Garbage all over the place, and loud music, accompanied by the occasional foul-smelling blast of poisonous fumes."
"Hey, hey, there," said Briggs, feigning injury. "We could have cruised down here on your walker, with me riding shotgun, I suppose? Save your cutting observations for the air. Come on, we have a date with destiny!"
Together they walked around the chain-link fence to the entrance of the bar, where a huge, bald-headed, black man stood in the doorway, slapping a Louisville Slugger into the palm of his hand. He eyed them up and down, and then jerked his head backwards, motioning them inside.
"Where the hell are you taking me?" hissed McCrudden, as they pushed their way past a grubby curtain into the darkened interior. An overpowering stench of stale beer, wet carpet, and cigarettes assaulted them as their eyes got used to the gloom. McCrudden looked around the room, his gaze finally settling on a person of indeterminate gender at the bar, who was smiling a gap-toothed grin into an empty shot glass. "My God, Mickey," he whispered."This place is even more like your bedroom than your car!"
"Welcome to my world, Crud," Mickey grinned. "Come on, the studio is upstairs!"
The creaking of the back stairs alerted Horace Flitcroft, the station manager, who was waiting to greet them as they pushed open the flimsy screen door.
"Hey guys!" he beamed, wiping a lock of greasy hair from his forehead. "Glad you could make it. Dirty Dick and Linda have about five minutes to run, and then you're on. We have the monitor set up for you, tuned to ABS, so we're all set!"
McCrudden stared at Flitcroft, and then at Briggs. He offered his hand to Flitcroft, and introduced himself.
"Bill McCrudden. Er, are you saying that we're going on the air stone cold?"
Flitcroft shook his hand vigorously, all the time looking at Mickey. "Didn't your partner here fill you in with all the details, Billy boy? You two are The Sprinklerheads! It'll be the biggest thing to happen to golf since the invention of the hole!"
McCrudden turned to Briggs, who stared back at him blankly.
"What? You think I could have got you here if I'd told you that?"
McCrudden opened his mouth to speak just as the door to the studio burst open, and an extra large man in a medium-sized T-shirt barged past, followed by a tiny purple-haired woman in fishnet stockings and an orange miniskirt, with a cigarette drooping from the corner of her mouth. She paused for a moment, and then plunged her hand up the back of her skirt.
"Dear God," she said, looking straight at McCrudden. "Sittin' on that plastic swivel chair for an hour or two will give a girl a hell of a wedgie. Wait fer me Dickie!" she yelled as she clicked awkwardly on six-inch heels toward the screen door.
Briggs grabbed the dazed McCrudden by the elbow and guided him into the tiny sound booth. "Sit down here, Cruddy, and leave the rest to me. Here, put on your headset."
McCrudden took the cans and pulled a tissue from his pocket. He wiped around the edges and looked murderously at Mickey. "When this is over, I am going to screw you clockwise onto the tailpipe of your car and rev it up."
Behind the glass, Flitcroft started to count them down. "Ten...nine...eight..."
Mickey grabbed McCrudden by the knee and said, "We're on the air again, partner. Just hang on tight!"
"Two...one...and you're on!"
The red light above came on, and Mickey yelled at the top of his voice, making McCrudden and Flitcroft wince simultaneously.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the moment the golf world has been waiting for is upon us! Briggs and McCrudden are back!"
Flitcroft fumbled with the levels as Mickey poured it on.
"It's the first round of the Depends Senior Tour Invitational, and the men who got kicked off the air for a politically incorrect blunder more than two years ago are back, and this time folks, we're doing it on purpose! Just crank up your radio, tune your TV to ABS, turn down the sound, and phone a friend, because we are going to tell it like it is!"
McCrudden sat in the plastic swivel chair, turning rhythmically from side to side, seemingly in shock as Mickey went on.
"We'll be back in just a moment to watch about 80 old farts who can't stand each other as they limp, twitch, and intermittently squirt their way around a 5,000-yard golf course, so, like I said, phone a friend! We'll be right back on Podunk's wavelength, 95.8 KTRD!"
"And we're gone," said Flitcroft. "Two minutes, boys. Nice opening."
McCrudden swivelled to look straight at Mickey, who was grinning broadly.
"Relax, Cruddy. It's going to work. Mark my words, it's going to work."
"You know what, Mickey?" McCrudden said gently. "We're dead already, so I might as well join in. I mean, neither of us have anything to lose."
"Exactly," beamed Mickey. "So let's dig ourselves a big, comfortable hole, shall we?"
"Three...two...one...and we're back!" said Flitcroft.
"Welcome back, folks, and here's our first look at the leaderboard," Mickey said, looking at the screen in front of him.
McCrudden cut in. "Oh, look, Mickey, Ferguson leads by one. A guy who spent most of his adult life pumping out portalets is beating the crap out of a bunch of old Tour pros. You know that has to make them happy."
"And not only that, Cruddy, but he could swing under a coffee table without hittin' it!"
The picture changed to a par- three tee, and the familiar practice swing of rookie Danny Blodkins, the money-list leader.
"Well, here's a cat among the pigeons," said McCrudden, as ABS switched to the greenside camera, and a shot of a player lying on the ground with two other players standing by a bunker and talking with a Rules official.
"Looks like someone's died,"said Briggs. "They're probably trying to decide whether to call the Blodkins group through, or just bury him in the sand and play on."
Just then, a ball rolled up and nestled underneath the left knee of the prostrate figure on the ground.
"Whoa, Nellie," said McCrudden, as the screen changed to Blodkins picking up his tee and staring malevolently in the direction of the green.
"Looks like Blodkins is playing through, and we have a ruling coming up, Briggsy."
"Well, that looks like Fatty Flaherty that's gone spikes up on us, and there's no way in the wide world of sports that they could move him -- even if that was Tiger's ball -- so I'm guessing that Blodkins will have to play it."
"Oh, look," said Briggs. "There's that moron Feherty who got my job at the network. He's all over the shot. You know he's getting yelled at right now to get out of the picture. Wait a minute, he's walking right up to the camera! Quick everybody, turn up the volume for a moment, this oughta be good."
But instead of stopping, Feherty walked all the way up to the lens, and pressed his big, sweaty nose right up against it, and grinned hideously.
"McCord!" I screamed, sitting bolt upright in bed. The sheets were soaked with my sweat, and I had my teddy bear in a death grip.
My wife rolled over and grunted, "I knew it. You have been sleeping with him, haven't you?"
"Hey, hey," I said, pulling myself together. "It was a nightmare, okay?"
"Yes," she said. "I imagine it probably was.