'You got me. I'm listening.'
I can almost hear the voice, tactile and smooth in my imagination, curling and settling softly in my ears like the finest, cleanest lines of Miles Davis.
"This is the all-night request line, for those of you awake enough to know we're closer to daylight than midnight. Got a request? A dedication? Something on your mind?" A pause. If there was such a radio show, playing at an hour like this, on a night like this, I could imagine a speech like that hanging on a pause and finishing with "Give us a call. We'll see what we can do." The hiss of dead air would be followed by the the shuffling of notes and fingers, followed by shunting the current phone call to the live audio feed.
After all, a show like this one wouldn't exactly need a tape delay.
* * * * *
"A good night to you, caller. You got me. I'm listening. Talk to me. Tell us who you are."
"I'm Amy, from Huntsville. I've been trying to call in for ages, and just couldn't ever get through."
Laughter; cool, amused: "I know. Lines are kinda busy around here."
"You're rather popular these days, it seems."
Rich, throaty laughter. "You and I both know why you're calling, but it'll help if you spell it out for yourself. It'll help you see things a little more clearly, and you know what I say -"
A laugh from the caller; wry, a little unsure. "God helps those who help themselves."
"You bet, darlin'. I hate having to tell people that one all the time."
"I'm kinda worried. So many people I've got on my mind; it's hard to balance all the worries and the well-wishes with knowing that no matter how much I wish or hope for the best, that events are, in the end, always out of my hands."
"Anyone in particular?"
"So many people. A little girl out in Atlanta who is probably going to be born in the next week or so…" The caller trailed off for a moment, silent, the end of the sentence more a question than a statement.
"Ah, yes, little miss Elizabeth."
"And a little boy out in Texas who will be arriving in a month or two…"
"Aidan. Still think he's going to look like his mother?"
The caller laughs. "Yep. But I was wrong about Danny; I figured he'd look more like his father. So maybe I'm wrong on this one too."
"You gotta trust me on this sort of thing. My plans are a little more devious and convoluted than you give me credit for sometimes."
"I know." A soft, liquid sound slides through the speakers; it takes her a moment before she recognizes the sound: coffee being sipped.
"You gotta trust me on this. I have a plan."
"But there are all these people I care about…"
"Quite a list you've got going there, I'd think. Ever noticed you've got more worries than shoulders to carry them? You ought to consider setting a few of them down every now and then and trusting that someone else might pick them up and tend to them for a little while." Silence. "Well, I should've known better than to suggest that. You never were that way."
"Still, I don't suppose you can tell me that they're all going to be okay?"
"You know that question doesn't have an answer."
The caller sighed. "Can I ask it in a different way?"
"Sure. But I've got some other people on the line that I need to get to pretty soon."
"You keeping an eye on all of us?"
"Did you doubt?" he asked.
The response, when it finally came, was slow and hesitant. "Not really, but sometimes it helps to just hear it from the source."
"Makes it a little easier to comfort friends when they need it, hmm?"
"Good night, caller."
* * * * *
Silence. In broadcast terms they call it dead air; here it would be an intentional, reflective silence, punctuated by the sound of coffee being slowly sipped. "We always seem to get those calls between three and six a.m. People don't always call in to get the answers; sometimes they call in just to get a bit of reassurance that they're still capable of finding the answers on their own.
"Normally, we'd need to take a break for station identification purposes, but we all know who we are and what we're listening to."
Silence again. In the background, a line is switched, a connection opened.
"A good night to you, caller. You got me. I'm listening."