Time Delay

Begin a post with a scene that includes dialogue. Think of a hook — a moment that can act as a catalyst and drive your narrative forward… —Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge: Dialogue

“I can’t wait to see this week’s show.” Suzie sat down on the couch next to me.

“Stan says that it is the best free entertainment available these days.” I looked at my watch, it was almost 1 AM.

“Is this your first time?”

“Yep, I’m still a virgin.”

Suzie smiled, took a long drag off a joint and offered it to me, “Hmmmf?”

“Nah, I’m good.” I took the joint and passed it to our hostess, Eve, who was sitting on the other side of me.

“Thanks, Big Guy. You sure?”

“Yeah, I’m sure.” I held up a 16 oz. can of beer, “Gotta pace myself tonight, Blondie.”

Our host, Stan, entered the small living room and changed the channel on the 19-inch television set to the local UHF station and adjusted the hoop antenna. He turned to the assembled crowd and said, “Alright guys, grab a seat and get comfortable—you won’t believe what is going to happen next.”

Through the haze of smoke in the room I could see a wide shot of a small television studio, where a raised platform had two straight-back chairs to the left of a desk and chair. Four tiers of bleacher-type seats for the audience were placed at angles in front of either side of the stage and the broadcast crew was set up in the middle, between the seats. Young people with long hair, colorful tie-dyed shirts, jeans and granny dresses were everywhere on the bleachers.

Stan sat down on the carpet and said, “Free admission to a live late-night TV show, what could possibly go wrong? Check out the studio audience, buncha Freaks and Stoners this time of night.”

Eve turned to me and leaned in close to my ear, “You are going to dig The Freddy Fehjian Show, trust me.

“I hope so. He’s the guy they did the movie about, right?”

“A couple of years ago, yeah. The one with the cops, up North.”

“It was based on his life, or he wrote it?”

“Nah, the movie was about him, I think he had a bit part in it.”

“So now he’s got a late-night weekend TV Talk show down South, in Fort Lauderdale?”

“That and a couple of businesses—a bar, I think, and maybe some kind of Private Investigation thing.”

I glanced at the TV screen, the show was in progress. My attention was equally divided between the triangular jelly-roll shock of hair hanging down onto Freddy’s forehead and the unblinking stare of a man who has seen too much.

Freddy was already introducing his first guest, “…a woman who, according to her own admission, has been at times a thief, a prostitute, a drug-dealer, addicted to heroin, on welfare, and a convicted embezzler. Helen is just the kind of person that I used to chase down and put in jail. Let’s bring her out and hear what she has to say for herself.”

The audience gave a smattering of applause as a small African-American woman walked across the studio and up onto the stage to shake hands with Freddy. She turned to wave to the audience and mouthed the words, “Thank you.”

“Helen, you have had quite a life. I read your sheet and I am amazed that you are out loose among us.” Freddy looked at his guest and then the audience.

Helen looked at Freddy. “What is important is what I am doing now, not what I did in my previous life.”

“Yeah, we’ll get to all that but first I wanna know more about your drug use and your life as a hooker.”

“Freddy, I have learned from my mistakes. I don’t deny my past, but I have changed and now I am in a better position to help others. My—.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Tell me something, how many Johns a day did you take care of?”

Suzie shifted her position in the seat. “This guy is so rude.”

Helen continued, “I am not proud of being a prostitute and the details of my life back then have nothing to do with why I am here tonight.”

The studio audience woke up, “You tell’em, sister!”, “Give’em Hell!”, “Cut her some slack, Freddy!”

Freddy Fehjian looked up from his notes and scanned the audience, a slight smile forming on one corner of his mouth. “I see here that you were a drug-dealer who was hooked on your own product. How much smack a day are we talking about? Did you cover expenses?”

Suzie leaned forward on the couch, “Why won’t he shut up and let her speak? This guy drives me crazy.”

Helen grimaced and took a deep breath. “Freddy, you have my biography—I wrote it and do not deny the contents. I simply wish to bring my message of hope to your viewers, my experience is that a person who has had the kind of life that I have can turn it around and be a productive member of Society.”

“You say here that you went down on a rap for embezzling. How much money did you take? Over what kinda time period are we talking?”

‘I served my time and it was in prison that I had a revelation. I realized that when I was released I had a choice: go back to the neighborhood and friends where I got in trouble, or go somewhere else and do something different—start a new life.”

“A convicted junkie whore…”

“Boooooo!”, “C’mon, Freddy!”, the studio audience started shouting.

Freddy looked straight into the camera, “We’ll be right back after this commercial break.”

The living room filled with shouts of outrage. Suzie rose up off the couch, “That man is being a dick!”

I was surprised at Suzie’s outburst. In the four years that I had known her it was the first time that I had seen her upset or heard her swear. Tonight might be a lot of fun after all.

“He is not being nice to her at all. Freddy needs to let her talk. I wish someone would set him straight.”

My sympathies were with Suzie. “I agree, absolutely. Maybe he will be nicer to her after we return from the break.”

“And we’re back, ladies and gentlemen,” Freddie’s face filled the tv screen. “My guest here tonight, Helen, was just about to tell us about her life of crime and what it was like to be a prostitute with a heroin habit.” He turned to Helen, “Please tell us about your drug habit, when you started, how you got hooked on smack and so forth.”

“Freddy, I want to speak tonight about the prison program that I have started…”

“Helen, you are…”

“…after graduating from college.”

“Helen—”

Someone in the studio yelled, “LET HER TALK!” It was followed by, “YEAH, LET HER TALK, FREDDY!”

Freddy quickly assessed the situation—the mood of the studio audience had turned ugly and he & the crew were out-numbered. What to do?

“Aww right, AWW RIGHT!” Freddy scanned the crowd. “I’m gonna let Helen say what she’s gotta say and then I am going to continue my interview.”

“Interview MY ASS, it’s an interrogation!” Suzie was seated on the front edge of her couch cushion, bent at the waist, elbows resting on her jean-clad knees.

The studio audience grumbled and shifted in their seats. Some of them got up out of their seats and walked off the set.

I looked at Suzie. “Easy now, let’s hear what Helen has to say for herself.”

The story that Helen told us was one of strength and hope that came from weakness and despair. When Helen was released from prison she went to a women’s shelter, enrolled in college, worked nights as a waitress, got a degree and a job as a Social Worker.

Helen realized that if she really wanted to help people who were being released from jail, she needed to start working with them prior to their release and help them acquire skills that would allow them to re-enter society as a different person and not slide backwards into the old neighborhood, the old friends, the old way of life that landed them in prison to begin with. Her program was just over a year-old and had about an 85% success rate.

Eve turned to me, “This woman is amazing.”

“She really turned her life around.”

When Helen finished her story, Freddy was ready to pounce, “After we return from another commercial break I am going to take some calls from our viewers, I hope that you are ready to discuss some of the more lurid areas of your life on the street. Our phone number is up on your television screens now. Give us a call if you have a question for me or my guest. ”

“BOOO!” The studio audience was still mad, “YER AN IDIOT!”

“He is a horrible man,” Suzie cried out. “Someone should phone him up and let him have it!”

I could hear a bell ring in my head. “Why don’t you do it, Suzie?”

“Whaat?”

I looked around the room, people were headed for the kitchen to get some snacks or refill their drinks. We were alone on the couch. “Pick up the phone and dial the number. It’s right there on the screen. Go on, you can do it.”

“AL!” The Lioness was watching the two of us from the kitchen, “Stop badgering Suzie.”

“Who, me? I was just—”

“Yes, YOU!” This was followed by The Look (every guy knows it when they see it).

“Yeah, I’m just saying…”

“Well stop saying it for now, would you please?”

“OK.”

The Lioness went into the kitchen with the others and Suzie and I sat quietly—for a moment. “Do you think that I could even get through to talk to Freddy if I dialed that number?”

I took a quick look at the kitchen. Nobody was paying attention to us. “You never know unless you try, AND I’m not telling you what to do here, right? This is your idea, for the record?”

“Yes, but I don’t know what I would say.”

“Just say what’s on your mind. You have been pretty impressed with Helen and pretty pissed at Freddy tonight. Go with that.”

Suzie thought it over and stood up. “I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna call the show.”

“Go for it.”

Suzie walked over to the wall phone just inside the kitchen and said, “Stan, is it ok if I use your phone to call The Freddy Fehjian Show?”

Stan looked at Suzie and then at me. I shrugged my shoulders and put my hands up, palms out. “I’ve got nothing here.”

Stan smiled and turned to Suzie, “Please, be my guest, and give him Hell for me while you are at it.”

Suzie dialed the studio phone number. “I’ve got a busy signal, damn.”

Stan worked 2 years for Southern Bell when he got out of high school and he knew things about the phone system. “Dial the next number up, that number on the screen ends in xx41—try xx42.”

Suzie dialed the new number, “It’s ringing, I got through, oh my God what am I going to say?” She put her palm over the speaker on the phone and looked at me.

“Just say what’s on your mind.”

By this time Freddy was talking to his first caller who was more or less a cloned version of Freddy. He was very critical of Helen and over the top in love with all-things-Freddy. This only made Suzie more angry.

“I’m so nervous, I don’t think that I can do this. I think that I am just going to hang up.”

“Noooooooooo!” The assembled multitude in the living room and kitchen were invested in Suzie’s outrage. “You can’t give up now.” “Don’t hang up, tell him what’s on your mind.”

Suzie looked at me and I gave her my best dopey grin and raised my eyebrows. “Do it. Helen needs someone on her side.”

Suzie removed her hand that was covering the speaker and put it on her hip. A determined look took over her face as she faced the television and the man that she was about to talk to.

On the television screen Freddy was talking into the telephone. “Thank you caller, I’m glad to hear that I am not out in left field when it comes to getting the truth out of my guests. Our next caller is Suzie from Fort Lauderdale. Suzie what do you have to say tonight? What’s on your mind?”

Suzie took a deep breath and said, “Fre…Fred….Freeedddy…”

“That’s my name, sweetheart.” Freddy gave a quick wink to the camera and smiled. “Don’t be nervous, tell me what’s on your mind, honey.”

“I..I-I-I…I-I….I think that you’re FUCKED!”

From Suzie’s mouth to Freddy’s ear and broadcast to God-knows how many denizens of the Late Night. Freddy dropped the phone onto the desk, his mouth wide-open; Helen snapped her head back and let out a war-cry; The Freaks and Stoners shouted approval as they jumped to their feet and pumped their fists in the air; Stan and Eve’s small apartment was a filled with shouts, hugs and words of encouragement.

“What should I do?”, Suzie yelled as she waved the phone in the air.

“Hang it up, just hang it up!”

Freddy regained his senses. “We’re gonna take a commercial break and we-we-e we will be back.”

Suzie hung up the phone. “Oh my God, oh my God,” she said as she sat down on the floor across from me.

“Suze, ya did good. You were right, fuck that guy, and his attitude.” Did this really just happen?

“Am I in trouble? Will they trace the call? Should we go?”

Stan came to the rescue, “Suzie, they couldn’t even afford to have a profanity delay button—or someone to operate it. Don’t worry about it, they are scrambling to save their asses right now. Their only hope is in the form of their worst nightmare—that hardly anyone is tuned in to this program.”

The commercial break ended and The Freddy Fehjian Show started again. Freddy was seated at his desk, staring at a spot on the floor about ten feet in front of his desk. The broadcast crew was trying to get the studio audience back in their seats. Helen sat in her chair watching the mayhem around her as she smiled and laughed, shaking her head and slapping the palms of audience members who walked over to meet her.

Freddy looked up from the floor and the camera zoomed in tight on his face. The man who had seen too much now had the face of a man who knew too little. “We are gonna take another break and sort out some things. We’ll be right back.”

Freddy did return after a lengthy commercial break and the mood in the studio was rather somber. The studio audience was gone, unceremoniously ousted in the middle of the night. Helen was gone, no reason for her disappearance was offered. Freddy did not take anymore phone calls but he did share a quick lesson on proper Telephone Etiquette, Grammar and On-air Behavior.

As for our group of Interactive Viewers, we stopped watching The Freddy Fehjian Show after this episode because another late-night show had caught everyone’s attention, Saturday Night Live. Freddy’s show went off the air soon after this broadcast.

Over the next few months, and years, Suzie was viewed in a much different light by us. She blossomed into a determined young lady who stood up for herself and wasn’t shy about sharing her opinions.

To quote a line from Risky Business, “Sometimes ya gotta say, What the fuck…”

  14 comments for “Time Delay

  1. September 14, 2015 at 8:43 AM

    Enjoyed your story. Good job on the dialogue, which can make or break the cadence of the narrative.

    Like

    • September 14, 2015 at 9:43 AM

      Thank you, Sally. I have a lot of fun writing dialogue and it is nice to know that it is appreciated. Ω

      Like

  2. September 5, 2014 at 11:29 PM

    hi Allan, I can’t resist:
    always when I read the name SUZIE
    this song jumps into my mind:

    Like

  3. October 2, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    Yep. Sometimes ya gotta say it…

    Like

  4. October 2, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    Interesting post! And more power to Ms. Helen, especially.

    Like

    • October 2, 2013 at 3:26 PM

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Cynthia. Helen was a kick, and ahead of her time.

      Sent from my iPhone

      >

      Like

  5. October 1, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    Great story Al. And I take it from your mention of the Lioness this was a true event. I wrote about my life too.
    http://lingeringvisions.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/dialogue-the-conversation-we-never-had/

    Like

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