Wisdom Through Humor
The Loser (part 2)

by Cooper Thomson

I turn the radio dial until I reach a familiar frequency. The station emits a distinct and recognizable hum. It's this same hum that fills the background of many of my memories of adolescence, during which period I lived, of course, with my parents.

At the age of about twelve, after having saved - quite literally - my pennies, I proudly purchased a large, antique-looking radio for my mother on her fortieth birthday. It was a copy of an old-fashioned, circa 1940's model, I would say, and was mahogany red, though most assuredly not actual mahogany. At twelve, obviously, I thought it was very classy; now I'm not so sure. Regardless, my mother adored it. It was plugged in and switched on promptly and, to my knowledge, hasn't been silent since.

From the very beginning it was twenty-four-hour talk radio. All other dial positions might have been, and may still be, faulty; we'd never know for sure. With my father at work, and my sister and I at school, the myriad voices emanating from that big, faux-wooden box would keep my mother's company and, most likely, her sanity. Even when she would venture out to tend to her daily duties, on the radio would stay, and at a slightly raised volume.

"To keep the burglars away," my mother would say sagely.

Needless to say, that radio, coupled with Stallion, our fierce and stalwart miniature poodle, played an integral role in maintaining the security of our modest home. It should come as no surprise to anyone that we were only robbed three times. The radio was never taken.

Initially I was made happy by the fact that my mother seemed to like so very much the gift I had gotten her. It's rare that one truly gets to see a present they've bought someone else actually receive the appreciation one hopes it might while plunking down the last few coins required for exact change at the register. Having said that, I simply did not know the extent to which that radio would affect me psychologically. I mean, it was just on all the time. And the worst part of it all isn't the fact that the sound of talk radio would become a sinister, Pavlovian trigger for all my adolescent recollections of home. No, the worst part is over. The worst part was sitting on the sofa in the living room watching television with the constant hum of that station tickling my ears. That damned hum, distracting me just enough so that I would lose track of the T.V. program, but never being quite audible enough for me to make out what the radio voices were saying. It may not seem like much, but to a kid in the throes of puberty it was enough to drive you to drink. It was not long after the first year of the radio becoming a permanent fixture in our house, in fact, that I actually did break open the family liquor cabinet in an effort to assuage my cephalic tension - a course of action taken with the utmost discretion and, of course, stealth.


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