Read an Excerpt
"All right thrill seekers," the DJ said, leaning close into the microphone. "Plug in your electric danger shoes and go ask mom for a glass of water..."
He shot a finger at the soundproof booth across the studio, and the Sound Effects man hit a button on his complex control panel. There was a loud electric crackle, followed by a piercing scream and the dull thud of body drop.
"Because its time at WTGC..." the DJ shot out a finger again, and the SFX man hit a different button.
"All radio all the time!" happily sang an angelic choir over the wall speakers.
"...for us to interview noted Science Fiction author, Nick Polombo!"
The SFX man hit another button and thunderous applause sounded.
Sitting in the guest chair, a dark-haired man with wire-rim glasses and a bushy moustache scowled at that. "My name," Nick said with a strained smile, "is Pollotta. Three syllables, Poll-lot-ta. Nick Pollotta."
"Hey, you bet it is!" beamed the DJ with an idiotic grin. "So Mr. Pamplona--"
"Pollotta, you ass!"
"...I understand you were born and raised in New Jersey?"
Taking a breath, Nick relaxed and said, "Well, yes, but I escaped as soon as possible."
The SFX man hit a button and there came a roar of canned laughter.
Over his glasses, Nick scowled at the fellow behind the soundproof glass. "Would you please stop that?" he asked, furrowing his brow.
The man in the booth shook his head in the negative, and touched the Union pin on his label.
"Wow, that's fascinating," gushed the DJ. "And we will return to this radio interview with noted sci-fi guy, Nick Pollotta, right after this important word from our sponsor."
"TheGunderson Corporation!" sang the angelic chorus.
"Yes, the Gunderson Corporation!" the DJ intoned, leaning in closer to the mike, and dramatically lowered his voice, "Makers of Solar Flares! Felt tip pens that can write on the surface of the sun."
The SFX man hit a button, and a sizzling sound came.
"...and by Murphy's Law Soap!" the DJ continued. "Whatever can be cleaned, will be cleaned! So, if it fits in the palm of your hand, is made of plastic, costs under ten bucks and breaks in a week..."
There came the sound of shattering glass.
"...then you can be sure that it's another quality product from..."
"The Gunderson Corporation!" sang the chorus.
Sighing deeply, Nick began to slowly shake his head.
"And we're back," the DJ grinned at his unseen audience. "So Nick, I understand you became a stand-up comic in Brooklyn for a while?"
"In Manhattan, actually," Nick said, rallying once more. "And I was doing pretty well doing the nightclub circuit. But my true love has always been..."
"Internet porn star Ashley Juggs!" the DJ interrupted.
Almost dropping a cup of coffee, the SFX man frantically hit a button and there came the sounds of a two women having wild sex, followed by a crackle of fireworks, and then heavenly trumpets.
"Writing!" Nick muttered with a dark expression. "My true love has always been writing novels. Although I did spend several years creating advertising copy for radio stations."
"Wow, that's great!" the DJ cried out, as if he had just discovered radium. "So what was the first story?"
"First story written, or first story sold?" Nick asked politely.
"W-h-o-a there, professor brainiac!" the DJ chundered, raising both hands. "Don't try to trick me with your fancy Latin! I'm just a simple disk jockey."
"Latin? What Latin?" Nick asked, glancing about to see if it was somebody else the DJ was addressing. But there was only him in the talk booth, with the fiendishly grinning Sound Effects Man behind the glass wall.
"Are you okay, buddy?" Nick asked in concern.
Radiating bravado, the DJ beamed a toothy grin. "Of course! Everything is fine here at WTGC--"
"All radio, all the time!"
"Anyway..." Nick muttered, shifting position in his chair. "My first short story sold was, "The Incredibly Civil War," which is included in my new humor collection, 'Invasion from Uranus'."
The SFX man hit the button and a huge crowd roared with gales of laughter.
"Wow, you are a twisted little space monkey, ain't cha?" the DJ said, tilting his head from side to side.
Exhaling deeply, Nick tried to ignore that. "Yet my first short story ever written was actually a school assignment. It was in my junior year at Saddle Brook High School, and for once we were learning about something rather interesting; Luna."
"The one-legged, albino Latina rock star?"
"The moon," Nick corrected through clenched teeth. "After a long droning lecture, the Science teacher asked the class to write a story about playing sports on the moon. Everybody else groaned in misery..."
Nick paused to shoot a finger at the soundproof booth, and the SFX man came alive to hit a button generating a groan of misery.
"But I was intrigued," Nick went on; flashing the man a thumb's up gesture. "I eagerly got to work and slaved over the assignment for weeks! Well, on the assigned day, one by one, my classmates trudged to the front of the room and read their one paragraph description of playing football, or basketball, on the moon; how the ball would travel really far because of the low-gravity, and spacesuits would be necessary because there was no air."
Changing the timber of his voice, Nick took a dramatic pause. "And then ... it was my turn. Swallowing my monumental nervousness, I walked to the blackboard and started reading aloud my fifteen page story, "The Glorious Rings of Earth". A Lunar mining company was about to go bankrupt because of embezzling, so they hired a hotshot accountant from Earth to find the culprit. But because he was a 'groundpounder'..."
"A necrophiliac?" the DJ asked excitedly.
"From Earth," Nick sighed in pain, massaging a temple. "And because of that, nobody would talk to him. So to try and break through the wall of silence, he joined the local, and extremely illegal, baseball club. In a very early game played outside the city domes, a player took a fastball in the faceplate of his spacesuit. It cracked and he died. Now all outside games were banned. Which, of course, only made them all the more popular."
"Of course!" the DJ chortled. "And that's why..."
Moving fast, Nick yanked away the man's microphone and sat down to continue. "I described how there were metal strips between the plates for players to shuffle along, how both teams now wore military spacesuits that no fastball could possibly damage. The UN Space Marines agreed to help, in exchange for the gambling concession. The players in the field were attached to the end of long elastic cords so they could skydive for a highball and not go flying away, only players could have live suit radios, the civilians in the grandstand had their radios turned off."
The DJ made a grab for the mike, and Nick smacked his hand away. "But rude gestures abounded, since many moonies learned sign language so that they could curse out the umpires as colorfully as anybody in an atmosphere, each team had their own secret radio frequency. But each side also did some minor jamming and eavesdropping on the other team, so all conversations were in code, etc., etc. Now, with the clock ticking..."
Promptly, the SFX man hit a button, and there came ticking.
Nick winked at him in thanks. "...the accountant passed on the first two pitches to gauge their velocity, worked out a mathematical formula in his head, dug in, slammed the third and got a homer. His team won, and people started talking to him about the missing funds. Soon he would have the embezzler. It was a double victory!"
"Ah, but I can hear you asking yourself, what about the baseball?" Nick said, fluttering his tones as he switched hands on the mike. "Well, that particular crater had been chosen with extreme care, along with the time of the games. So that if a player hit the ball hard enough, it would reach escape velocity and leave Luna to eventually take up a permanent orbit around our blue-white homeworld and join all of the other homerun baseballs that were slowly, but surely, building..."
Inhaling silently, Nick paused again for a full three beats this time, before saying, "The Glorious Rings of Earth."
Right on cue, the SFX man hit several buttons and there came a cavalcade of applause and wild shouting. Frowning unhappily, the DJ started opening drawers in his console, pulling out an assortment of sex aids, chewed pencils, a boomerang, inflatable conquistador helmet, and other radio effluvia.
"The class was dead silent when I finished," Nick said in remembrance, reclining in his chair. "And as I sat down, the teacher showed me the grade book with an A+ written in big red ink. Wahoo! Well, that did it. I was hooked. Writing was for me!"
"Fantastic! Amazing! Colossal!" the DJ interrupted, pulling out a spare microphone from below his console. "And we will be right back to Nick Pollotta, moon writer, after this word from our sponsor ... the Mafia Travel Agency!"
"The who?" Nick gasped, going pale. "You are aware that I'm half Sicilian, aren't you?"
Lifting a promo sheet, the DJ shrugged as he shouted, "Yes! The Mafia Travel Agency!"
Moving quickly, the SFX man hit several buttons and there came a door slam, and a roaring car engine, followed screeching tires.
"Surprise car rides and one-way river trips are our famous specialty," the DJ read from the sheet. "With a foundation you can build on, let us be the cornerstone of your get-away plans."
A burst of machine gun fire came over the speakers.
"And be sure to ask about our Disappear-Forever vacation holidays! There's always an extra discount for government witnesses, nosy news reporters and big-mouth stool-pigeons."
His eyes closed in rapture, the SFX man was pushing buttons and throwing switches like an insane concert pianist. There came a watery splash, followed by a man's muffled cries for help, crossfading into gargling the word 'help', and then grisly gurgling.
"Yes, MAFIA TRAVEL!" the DJ intoned in a booming announcer voice. "Your friend to the end ... of every journey."
Suddenly, there was a shadow covering the DJ. The man spun and looked up about just in time to see Nick swinging a fire extinguisher. There was a soft crunching sound, blackness filled the universe and the DJ fell into a warm and painless eternity, with a really terrific echo effect.
"As for my short story," Nick said, taking a seat at the console, and slipping on the still-warm headphones. "Sadly, somewhere along the way I lost my only copy of "The Glorious Rings", but it still holds a very special place in my heart. I have tried several times to rebuild it, just for sentimental reasons, but I always start to rewrite it and the original plotline quickly vanishes. Ah well."
"And how does all of this connect to your new collection?" the SFX man asked, over the wall speakers.
Hit with a legitimate question, it took Nick a moment to recoup his bearings. "Well, ah, you see, that is," Nick cleared his throat, and plunged onward. "In honor of my first artistic success, I was going to call this collection by the same name. But while it would have great meaning for me personally, it would have meant nothing to a casual reader. Thus, the new, and hopefully much funnier, title."
"Pretty dirty, too," the SFX man said helpfully.
"Actually, the name of the planet is pronounced U-ran-us," Nick explained. "But since everybody says it wrong..." He smiled mischievously.
"And so..." the SFX man said encouragingly.
Puzzled, Nick frowned. "And so the title is a joke."
"You mean there's no anal sex in the whole book?"
Quickly fumbling on the console, Nick found the kill switch and turned off the wall speakers. Blessed silence filled the studio, aside from the gentle snoring of the unconscious DJ sprawled on the dirty floor.
"Now these stories are not in chronological order," Nick said, getting comfortable. "But in a mix that I think compliments each tale and helps maintain a smooth dramatic flow. All of them are funny, in one form or another, ranging from an oddball comedy to dark humor ... okay, very dark humor. Yet always with an unexpected twist that is my comedic hallmark."
The SFX man slammed a homemade sign against the soundproof glass that read, "That name is copyrighted!"
"My trademark," Nick corrected brusquely, swiveling away so that he could no longer see the sound effects booth. "So, sit back, relax, and welcome gentle listeners to my shotgun view of a very odd universe."
Reaching into a pocket, Nick pulled out a new trade paperback and opened it to a dog-eared page.
"The first story in my collection is one that I am particularly fond of. The most common theme in all vampire-fiction is about how awful it is to be undead," Nick said into the microphone, getting comfortable. "Well, I decided to offer a mirror-image point of view with this first story."
Gamely, the Sound Effects man hit a button and there came the sound of shattering glass.
"Thank you!" Nick smiled tolerantly, hitting the kill button again to no effect. Damn. "Now, this is one of my 'Eureka' stories so named by my loving and very tolerant wife, Melissa, as I suddenly wake in the middle of the night, lurch out of bed and dashe to the computer in my underwear to pound out a story at 2AM. At first, she used to fix me coffee, now she just rolls over and goes back to sleep." Nick chuckled. "Ain't love grand? Enjoy."