Fun With Kiki Cullen
I decided, just for fun, to post the opening scene of a novel I wrote. I used to post excerpts from works-in-progress, but those bits never resulted in a completed manuscript. This one did. I still get a kick out of my main character, Kiki Cullen:
My car hydroplaned through the radio station’s parking lot thanks to a hyperactive sprinkler system, skidding to a halt a fraction of an inch from the Employee of the Month sign. I gasped at the near miss and then beamed at the shiny pole, which bore a rectangle’s worth of affirmation.
It would be a shame to dent the back of a sign I desperately hoped to be parked in front of someday.
No time to wax wistful now, though. The manufactured rain created an arc like a crystal rainbow over the front end of my car, where I sat just long enough to gather my computer bag, my purse, and the umbrella that was wedged under the passenger seat.
Why was I late again? Oh, yeah. Copious numbers of cratered orange barrels and so many tipped construction cones that it looked like scores of drivers had bowled perfect strikes with their SUVs.
And now? A show to host with no prep time at all.
Worse, I’d missed Sweet Talk, the semi-regular pastry-laden meeting during which any broadcasting career might be shaped, sliced, filled, or even turned into a burnt offering.
I shoved the car door open, snapped the umbrella up like a parachute, and splattered my way onto the puddled concrete. I ran around to the other side of the Employee of the Month sign for another look at that name.
The seams of my umbrella nearly split with pride and I allowed myself a moment’s sopping satisfaction, but I couldn’t very well stand there and gloat. I sprinted for the building, regretting my choice of stilettos more with every triangle-toed slosh. When I finally threw open the station’s side door, my show’s call screener greeted me—a girl I must say seemed a tad testy even though she was perfectly dry.
She bit her lip and glanced down to observe her old-fashioned watch’s sweep second hand do its sweeping thing. “Four minutes, thirty-seven seconds.”
“Plenty of time,” I said, impersonating an optimist.
We set off walking.
I gulped stale smoke in the narrow hallway leading to the studio, struggling to keep up with her. A long line of former bigwigs crowded the walls, framed and hung, suspended on black velvet cords—almost by their necks, if you asked me. They alternately scowled and glared, and I could have sworn one winked as I skittered through the mostly-dead-executive gauntlet.
Like a friend who empathizes with your blue funk by sharing her own tale of woe.
I shrugged and huffed, the huffing being not so much with exasperation as with inhalation deprivation. Short legs are so overrated. “Doesn’t matter now. Catch me up on today.”
“It matters. Gillespie’s watching you.” A timer went off in her pocket. A back-up system for her never-fails second hand. “Four mins, five secs.”
“Watching? I thought we were still doing radio.” I shouldn’t tease her, but sometimes I couldn’t resist.
She made a face, not an amused one. “Watching from the control room. That’s what this morning’s Sweet Talk was about.”
“What exactly will he be watching for?”
While we jogged the final few yards of marble-floored hallway, she held out a document and pointed to a paragraph midway down the page. “It says here, ‘The host’s no-holds-barred attitude during Your Marriage Matters will ultimately make or break the show.’”
“Yeah, and it gets worse.” She pointed even more pointedly, flipping the page my direction. “Market studies show improved ratings on days following one of your…um…rants. Three minutes straight up.”
“The document from corporate used the word rants?” I knew I’d gone mildly hormonal with a few callers in recent weeks, but three days ago the doctor adjusted my meds. Besides, at no time did I think my on-air behavior constituted a bona fide rant.
We skidded around the corner and into the studio. She handed over the sheet. Green highlighter blended with a fleck of icing on the page like food coloring on a St. Patrick’s Day cake.
“Read it and don’t weep,” she said. “This could go either way.”
Gillespie planned to choose one program for much wider distribution across his expanding network of stations. Either Your Marriage Matters would break out, or the following hour’s show would prevail: a knockdown, drag-out, he-said, she-said, liberal-conservative shout-fest.
Like that’s what the world needs now.
“So what happens to the other show?”
“Didn’t say.” Fiona glanced over my shoulder into the control room. “But you’d better put on your headphones. Gillespie wants to talk.”
I shivered, though my blouse had completely shed the sprinkles. “You mean, before I go on?”
She gave me one of those looks and nodded.
Two minutes and small change. Good thing I could skip out on wardrobe check, hair, and make-up. Radio does have its plusses, but having a pre-show conversation with Gillespie?
So not one of them.
“By the way,” I said, meeting her eyes. “I missed it, didn’t I?”
Her lips curved into the most modest of smiles. “Yeah, Kiki. I really wanted you there.”
My heart melted. What would I do without this girl? “You’re the best Employee of the Month ever, Fiona Carmichael.”
And then she grinned outright and I hugged her with all my might.
Posted by Katy on 07/20/11 at 10:54 AMFallible Comments...
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