Curved into a smile

Tommy-Lee Forté shook his head as the screen announced the next caller: Nigel Allibone. Dull. 40-watt bulbs were brighter.

A consumer slot was not what Tommy had envisaged for his career in radio but it paid the bills, handsomely in fact. Consumer issues encouraged dull, and Tommy knew all about that, having been born Albert Egglington, Albert after his paternal grandfather. Tommy’s younger brother, Simon, a Mötley Crüe fan, had got off lightly.

Tommy looked up at the Perspex separating him and his producer, Sandy, but she looked down at her desk, jotting something in a message book.

Tommy flicked a switch and announced, “You’re back with T-Lee’s Consumer Hour, and next we have one of our regular callers, Nigel from Kindlingbury-on-Sea. Good afternoon, Nigel, and how are you today?” Tommy winced as Nigel sneezed into his earpiece. “Bless you.”

A cold-ridden Nigel mumbled a “thank you”.

“What would you like to talk about today?”

“Erm… well, I don’t really know how to begin.”

“Come now, Nigel. You know me. Nothing is taboo, or too much trouble, on my show.” Tommy flicked back a dark strand of gelled hair. “We’re all family, here at Furze FM.”

“I know but…”

“Go on, anything you like. You have a problem, we’ll sort it out. Not failed you yet, have we, Nigel?”

“No… you haven’t. Alright then,” Nigel blurted, before blowing his nose. “Ann Summers! I bought… er, bought something from them and it broke, and they won’t give me a refund or exchange like they should. They said I broke it, that I was too… er, forceful with it.”

Tommy looked up at Sandy. Unlike him, she couldn’t see the funny side. She made no attempt though to stop Nigel talking, to cut him off, but sat impassively on the other side of the screen, waiting to see what Tommy and his caller were going to say next.

“Hello?” Nigel asked the silent studio.

“Sorry, Nigel,” Tommy said. “I’m just lining up the next song. I daren’t ask what you bought but it doesn’t really matter because if an item’s not fit for purpose then the shop should-”

“I bought a butt-”

“OK. Well, as I… er, as I said, the item is irrelevant but I’m sure we can contact the store for you and get this sorted. Thank you, Nigel, as always, for calling in. We have your number and will get back to you. And now we have Beyoncé and… er, ‘Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)’.”

Tommy flicked two switches on the panel in front of him, cutting off Nigel and starting the music. Then he looked up at impassive-Sandy. “What an asshole, no pun intended. Actually, pun very much intended.” He waited for her to say something but she didn’t move, so he continued. “Anyone sad enough to get one of those things, or even go to Ann Summers in the first place, must be pretty desperate, or lonely, or both…”

He waited for a nod, shake of the head, a shrug, but again nothing. Her reactions were rarely positive where he was concerned, so he should have known better.

“I mean…” He was going to continue but knew it was pointless so sat in silence waiting for Sandy to connect the next call.

As Beyoncé belted out her final chorus, Sandy pointed to her mid-air microphone then towards him.

Tommy looked at his microphone but saw nothing untoward, then looked at the button connecting it, and the callers, to the rest of the world.

239 red lips 38139“Oh God,” he whispered and went pale. The button he tapped to disconnect Nigel hadn’t been to the mic but an obsolete button which had done nothing since they’d stopped using vinyl.

Sandy smiled as a little voice squeaked, “I’m still here, you know.” Sandy held her manicured right index finger up to the left side of her neck.

Tommy gulped as she drew an invisible line, and her red-lipsticked mouth curved into a smile.


Photography courtesy of

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