PRODIGAL BROADCASTER
By Steven Acevedo

Mother Agatha Cummings was reading the newspaper to her husband Nick one Saturday afternoon on the porch of their house on 21 Cherry Street.

DEEJAY RAY CUMMINGS RESIGNS FROM POSITION AT WSUX the front cover of the paper blazed out. Underneath was a photo shot of Ray holding down his shades to reveal a very tired, worn out defeated human being.

"Oh my! Our son Ray has ruined his life again," she said woefully.

"The boy never did have a lick of sense, Aggie," Ray's father said. "What did he do this time?"

"He broke up with his girlfriend, An English student in Germany," she told him. "They were so perfect together. What possessed him to destroy the only good thing he had?" " Wish I knew, Aggie. With all the success he claims he has I'd have thought Sasha would be his saving grace. What more could he want?" he questioned.

They both agreed that Ray was a tragic figure who through his arrogance suffered great losses and overcompensated for his mistakes which got him into deeper trouble.

Just as they were about to go inside up came Ray to the porch. He looked haggard and broken.

"Mom, Dad! Can I stay here for awhile?" he said mournfully.

After a hearty dinner Ray sat out on the porch again. His father looked at him very concerned and sat next to him on the mini swing.

"What's on your mind, son?" he asked.

"Her, dad. I thought she would go wherever I was going with my career," Ray said to him.

"You can't always get what you want, son," his father explained.

"I know. I just thought people would automatically be happy with whatever I was doing. Like one night I had guests from another radio station come up for a celebration. I thought I'd share my new found achievement with the fans."

"And were they happy?" he asked Ray.

"Well, no. I got so caught up in entertaining my guests that I forgot the listeners were there."

"Oh, son. There's your first mistake right there. You assumed that your audience would tolerate whatever whim you wanted to do. You just can't push anybody aside like that," Ray's father told him.

"But I was doing it to advance my career, dad," Ray said.

"Advancement is all well and good, Ray. But it doesn't mean a thing to those who can't share in it or never truly get there. What would you have done if you had decided to just drop out of your fans' lives just so you can move ahead? They wouldn't accept that. They depend on your to see them through the bad times as well as the good."

"But I want more out of my life than just spinning records and CDs. I want to be somebody, " Ray protested.

"But you are somebody. You are Ray Cummings. A very dedicated person who's good at his job. But you overdo everything or run away from a problem every time you can't handle it, " he told Ray.

"Like Grandma dying recently?" he said.

" She loved you very much and you never came to see her in the last few years of her life. You were always too busy doing something else. You didn't even come to the funeral services, boy. Mark my words, son. You do another foolish thing to break your Mother's heart or mine we'll never allow you here to visit again," he said sternly to his son. "I don't tolerate snobs in my house and home."

"You can't mean that, Dad!" Ray said shocked.

"I'm very serious, son!" said his father. "We've put up with your escapades for far too long. You don't believe anyone can live up to your lifestyle so you throw them away like they are nothing. We raised you better than that."

Ray was now infuriated. "Then maybe coming here wasn't a good idea after all. You couldn't understand what I've been through. No one can! I'll leave and I'm never coming back - EVER!!!!" With that Ray stormed off the porch, went to his 1987 Volvo and drove out of his parents' lives.

Ray's mother, Agatha saw the whole thing from out of the window from the porch. Her husband just looked at her and lowered his head in shame. Her tears fell hard and long.

It was late at night as Ray sped to the airport. Out on the highway Ray drove like a madman trying to cheat the devil. But then all of a sudden.

"PFFFFTTT!!!"

"DAMN IT!!! Out of gas!" he said angrily to no one.

Then one of the tires fell off from the back. Furiously he kicked at the car in a fit of rage. The hubcap fell on his foot as the automobile slumped over on its side for no apparent reason.

"Stupid piece of junk!" he muttered under his breath.

He struggled with the car keys to get out the empty tank from the trunk of his car and it got jammed in the slot. He hit to the trunk and caused himself more pain in his foot then it did the first time the hubcap fell off. Ray was flustered, angry - and miles away from anywhere except a diner. So he began walking to the diner. It was one of those trailer park diners he used to go to when he was a kid. Sitting on a stool he rested his head on the counter trying to get rid of the headache pounding his head at the moment.

"What'll it be, mac?" a chubby short waitress said to Ray. "One cup of java and a doughnut, miss. I'm not very hungry," Ray replied. "Coming right up," she smiled. Behind her was a short order cook who looked very familiar. Squinting his eyes he could see who it really was.

"Trevor? Trevor Bass?" "Pardon?" Trevor asked. "It's me, Ray Cummings. What are you doing here?" "Hey, Ray. Old brother. It's good to see you," he said happily. "What are you doing here, man?" Ray asked Trevor. "Between jobs," he responded. " I lost my gig at another radio station - again." "Why, man? You were the best jock on the airwaves. Everybody loved you." "They used to, Ray. Management said I was too old. They wanted someone young and full of life."
"But that's not fair. You always made me smile with your soft shoe patter. You were the best," Ray told Trevor. "I lost that act when I tried to change my image 20 years ago. I thought that if I did everything the way the radio jocks do today that I would stand out. Boy! Was that ever a big mistake. I lost a lot of listeners and friends when I did that." he said with a somber look on his face. "But they were just listeners. They would've gotten over it," Ray said to him.
"A lot of my fans didn't. They said that I sold out and to be honest with you. I did. I wasn't thinking like a true professional. I wanted to be popular for all the wrong reasons," he told Ray. "What happened to your wife, Trevor?" Ray asked.

"She's...dead!"

"What? How?"

"Died on the operating table while I was at the hospital last year. We were in a car accident. I was drunk at the wheel of my van and she insisted on letting her drive us home. We crashed into a wall because my vision was impaired. I was okay but the impact from the glass of the window of the car cut up her face badly. A big chunk cut her throat open." Trevor said with tears in his eyes. "They took away my license after that. Happened about the same time I lost my job at the station. When management found out what happened I instantly was blacklisted. No one will hire me anymore." Ray was stunned beyond words.
"What about you, Ray?" Trevor asked wiping away the tears from his cheeks.
"Had an argument with my dad just a little while ago over my career choices. Says I should treat people better. I only want what's my fair share in life," he said to Trevor.
"Even after what I've just told you just now you still want to be a big wheel in the world?" he asked Ray. "Listen, son. It's not going to be worth it if you lose something to gain something else. I was too sure of myself and look where I am now. A short order cook trying to make ends meet. There's a big difference between being a big success and keeping it going. You can't always have your cake and eat it too."

"Have you thought about going back into Radio?" Ray asked. "No. If anything I'm fed up with trying to be what the suits want me to be. That incident last year made me realize just how important it is to be happy with what I have. And I am. I never want to be on a commercial radio station again. The pressure will eat you up. Better to start your own and get closer to the fans that way. You don't have to solve all their problems.. Just be there for them."
"I did, Trev. But I'm certain that if I can win the affiliates over. I can make the station as popular as the one you were on."
"Ray. Get it through that thick skull of yours. You were never meant to be in the big leagues. You rise to the top it'll be hard to climb down to the bottom again," Trevor pleaded. "I beg you. Don't screw up your life like mine."
"But..."
"Look. I gotta get back to work. Your java is on the way now. Remember what I told you. Think on it. Then go back home. Just... go home," Trevor said. With those final words Ray's idol for so many years turned back to his work.

A month later Agatha Cummings and her Husband Nick were sitting out on the porch in winter clothes watching the snow fall to the ground. It was Christmas Eve. Up the street a familiar looking car had stopped in front of their home.

"Ray?"

"Can I stay here for awhile, Mom and Dad? I need to re-think my life over," Ray said more mournfully than before.

"What happened, son?"

"They used me. They hurt me. They told me I was worth nothing. I did...a lot of terrible things to people. I never realized that until they let me go ," Ray said now sobbing.

"Please. Let me stay. I won't be in your way. Just let me stay. "

Nick and Aggie's son fell to his knees crying profusely. "I-I'm sorry for anything I ever did to you. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."



Nick held out his hand to his son. Lifting him up off of the snow he embraced him in a long hug. Ray was still sobbing but he felt safe now. Nick placed his hands on Ray's face and looked at him lovingly.

"Welcome home, son."