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Chapter 17: The Cemetery
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Friday, January 3, 12:00:05 P.M.
It was all over and Lacey Bowder, for one, was sorry to see it end. It had been the most fascinating experience in her whole life and she'd remember it forever.
The resurrection of the recent and long dead. The beautiful song they sang. What was it? All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name? And then that fantastic trumpet choir while the old country preacher and quite a few of the people gathered for the grave-side service were changed into the same glorious creatures she'd seen come from the moldy graves. And finally, the soaring ascent of the second group until they, too, disappeared from view in the blue of the January sky.
Wow! Something to remember. Something to tell about and write about and store as a treasured memory forever.
With a start Lacey remembered her finger was still pressed to the button of her digital watch and she checked the time before lifting her finger. The seconds display was still on and it was 30 seconds after noon.
A gust of cold wind moaned through the trees and she realized with a shiver that a Pennsylvania winter still gripped the cemetery. The warm breezes and soft green grass had gone the way of the trumpet choir and robed singers, she guessed.
The wind spoke again and Lacey felt a sudden urge to leave the place. The remaining mourners walked dazedly about the cemetery, looking at the old graves and crouching near the fresh one. Her friend of the flower car was absent when she scanned the small crowd and Lacey asked the funeral director about him. His vacant stare reminded her of some people she'd seen while visiting the Harrisburg State Hospital. No help there.
On impulse, she walked back to the driveway and checked the dash of the black Buick station wagon. Sure enough, the key was in the ignition with a rabbit's foot dangling from a beaded chain. A few minutes later, she parked the Buick at the church and dropped into the Vette's left bucket, grateful to be back in contact with reality. The car rumbled its usual greeting and she backed swiftly out of her slot in the church parking lot.
By 1:30 Lacey was being pelted by a full-force shower in her Mechanicsburg apartment. Twenty minutes later she was sound asleep in her own bed, her body drawn up into the fetal position.
She dreamed of hell.
Back at WMOR Dan Marlow waited for the Ford spot to end and then tapped the start button for a red cut. The next cut up was a golden oldie by Herb Alpert and he hummed along with the lively soft-brass tune as he logged the commercial he had just run.
Been a good morning, Dan mused as he pulled carts for the next 30 minutes or so and stacked them on the shelf beside the cart machines. Have to do this more often. Sleeping in ... breakfast with the kids ... a leisurely drive down the river in the daylight. Yes, 10-till-2 shifts have a lot of fringe benefits.
The Brass was starting to do a fadeout and Dan checked his three cart machines to make sure they were loaded with the proper spots. Then he opened the mike.
"Herb Alpert, taking you for a little ride in his somewhat elderly Tijuana Taxi. Eighteen degrees in Camp Hill under clear skies at 11:45 on a sunny Friday morning. Dan Marlow here with the good stuff on WMOR, where you get round-the-clock stereo music plus a real live announcer to talk with you. What's that? Somebody ask for network news? Have that, too, coming your way at the top of the hour, courtesy of Associated Press. Right now, though, you need to hear this word and then it'll be music time again with Carly Simon."
Dan hit the cart with a commercial spot and leaned back in his chair with his hands clasped behind his head. Maybe WMOR isn't a 100,000 watter in a top-10 market but it sure feels good to me. Like Dad used to say, "Better to be a big duck in a little puddle than a little duck in a big pond."
The spot ended and he hit the start button for a yellow cut, setting Carly to warbling. Tim stuck his head in the door.
Dan, how do you like the middle shift for a change?"
The big man swiveled in his chair and smiled at his newly-appointed program director. "Might like it well enough to make it permanent. No sense in an old man like me getting up with the chickens each morning."
Tim rubbed his jaw. "Guess that makes me the number one prospect for the new morning man, then." Dan smiled but didn't answer and then Tim snapped his fingers. "Just remembered. Betty said to tell you she's not feeling well and probably won't be back after lunch. If I go out now, too, think you can fly her all by yourself till I get back?"
"Man, I was running a six-hour air shift all by myself before I was out of high school. Used to sign on at six in the morning and not see another living soul until noon. Did that ever Saturday and Sunday for months and months. Just lock the front door when you go out."
"Okay, Dan, I'm on my way, then. See you in about an hour."
"Enjoy your lunch, Tim."
The studio door hissed shut and Dan started another yellow cut. Do I think I can handle it by myself for an hour? What a clown!
The clock showed less than two minutes to noon and Dan got ready to put the AP radio network news on from the satellite. The news logo was already in cart 3 and he pulled the satellite pot down on cue and waited for the 60-second alert tone. It came at 11:59:04. Not bad. The AP's only running 4 seconds slow today, or we're 4 seconds fast.
At 11:59:45 Dan faded the yellow music. "Stereo music will continue here on WMOR-FM Camp Hill right after network news from the Associated Press. Twenty degrees in Camp Hill at twelve noon."
By now the alert tone on the network had dropped out and Dan had the pot up to broadcast level as he hit the news logo cart. At precisely 12:00:03 he faded the logo sharply and the network announcer came on strong and clean.
At that same instant, Dan thought he heard a strange brassy tone of about a half-second duration. Probably garbage brought down by the satellite from somewhere out in cyberspace.
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