By Dan Brotzel
‘Thanks very much for those updates, Peter and Iannis. Our next news and weather will be at about 12.30, as always.
‘So… it’s just gone seven minutes after 12, and you’re listening to Round Midnight, with me, Kevin Limina. And as usual, I’ll be guiding you through the graveyard shift with another lively mix of gossip, chat and opinion.
‘And in this hour I want to hear your calls about… your ultimate emotional teddy bear.
‘“What do you mean by that, Kevin,” you ask? Well, I’m thinking of the story in the papers yesterday about that yachtsman who was rescued in the East Timor sea by helicopter, after drifting in his disabled boat for the best part of two weeks.
‘In one of the interviews, you may recall, he was asked what kept him going, as he drifted through those dangerous waters, sharks circling and drinking water running out. What was the thing he clung to in his mind as he fought off the despair, and the fear, and the hunger?
‘And his reply was very interesting, I thought. He said: The thing that kept me going was the thought of a nice cup of tea and a packet of Custard Creams.
‘Imagine that. There you are, in the most extreme and life-threatening moment of your entire life, and the thing that keeps you going… is a packet of humble biscuits.
‘So my question for you all is this: If you were at a low point like that, and you were alone and terrified and you didn’t even know how you were going to get through the next few minutes or hours, what’s the one thing that would keep you going?
‘Maybe you’re stuck in the air on a long-haul flight with awful turbulence. Maybe you’re trapped in a lift or, God forbid, hanging upside down in a malfunctioning rollercoaster. How would you cope? What would be your metaphorical cup-of-tea-and-custard-creams?
‘I’ve had a few thoughts in already.
‘Linda in Spalding has emailed. She says: “It’d have to be my husband’s unwashed vest. I always wrap it around me when I’m feeling low.”
‘Ew. OK, thanks Linda. A tad too much info perhaps.
‘Oh wait, there’s a PS: “He died three years ago so it’s all I have left.”
‘Right. Thank you Linda. Very poignant.
‘Now, who do we have on the line? Cassie in Aberdeen, is that you?’
‘Hi Kevin, yes it’s me.’
‘So tell us Cassie, what keeps you going?’
‘Well, it’d have to be the thought of listening to another edition of Round Midnight, with your silky voice, Kevin.’
‘Oh stop it Cassie!’
‘Well, it’s true.’
‘Are we related in any way?’
‘Cassie! Carry on like this and I’ll be in big trouble…’
‘-But I do have a phial of blood around my neck manufactured from your DNA, so I can always have you next to my skin.’
‘Oh. I think I’m going to regret asking this but – how is it that you come to have my DNA, Cassie?’
‘Oh I’ve got lots of it. Wine glasses are the best. A tissue you dropped once. Toothbrushes in the trash, that kind of thing.’
‘Dirty laundry too, of course.’
‘Probably for the best.
‘We seem to have lost the connection there, so come in… Jenni in Nottingham!’
‘Hello, Kevin. Sorry about that last caller.’
‘Don’t you worry, Jenni. It comes with the territory. So tell me, Jenni, What would get you through a truly dark night of the soul?’
‘My dog Romeo.’
‘Ahh, that’s nice.’
‘Yes, he’s always there for me. He’s a Jack Russell. I love to get home from work, and see his little legs come skidding over the parquet floor, and then he jumps up at me and he can’t stop barking for joy!’
‘That’s lovely Jenni.’
‘And of course he’s a wonderful kisser.’
‘Oh yes. Better than any human lover.’
‘Thanks Jenni! I was about to say that it was refreshing to have such a normal response, but I’ll reserve that comment for now, if I may. Next up it’s Ricardo in Heligoland…’
‘Hello, Kevin! Top show, as always.’
‘Thank you, sir! So: Tell us.’
‘If I was trapped in the middle of the ocean…’
‘Adrift in a broken yacht…’
‘Yes, go on.’
‘With all the sharks circling, and nothing left to eat…’
‘Yes, yes, that’s the situation.’
‘What would keep me going is the thought of my Total Life Script.’
‘OK, I’ll bite. What is a “Total Life Script” then, Ricardo?
‘It’s an AI-generated, 4D transcript of absolutely everything that anyone has ever said or thought about me.’
‘Private thoughts? From the past? Is such a thing possible?’
‘Right. So how far have you got then, with this… project?’
‘I’m working on a prototype, and the tech is accelerating all the time. It’s my life’s work.’
‘And why would you need such a thing, Ricardo?’
‘So as to be able to operate with optimum effectiveness at all times.’
‘How d’you mean?’
‘Well, say I discovered from my Total Life Script that someone I fancied had confessed to a friend that they had feelings for me, then I could ask them out without fear of rejection.’
‘Is fear of rejection a big thing for you, Ricardo?’
‘Also, if someone said nice things about me, I would know to treat them more kindly in future. And if they were found to have thought bad things about me, then I would know to add them to my Shit List.’
‘Your “Shit List” being, of course…’
‘My Shit List is the full list, updated in real time, of all the people who have been nasty to me in some way or another. And these people, believe you me, will be paid back in full. Whatsoever shit they did unto me, they will get it back tenfold. On that you have my word.’
‘Would you describe yourself as a vengeful person, Ricardo?’
‘No more than the next corpse.’
‘So there you have it. And now, with the time just after seven minutes past midnight, you’re listening to Kevin Limina, here on Round Midnight.’
‘My thanks as always to Peter and Iannis for those updates. The next news and weather will be on the half hour, as usual.’
‘It’s my pleasure and privilege once again to be guiding you through the Witching Hour and beyond, with the usual mix of witty banter and irreverent comment.’
‘And my topic tonight is… Evil Eavesdropping. I’m thinking of course about that new Netflix series, Lady Troll, in which the lead character – played by the wonderful Kate Winslet – controls various people in her life by secretly intercepting their calls and messages and using that knowledge for her own mischievous ends.
‘She manipulates her way to a promotion, lands herself various gifts and freebies, and even manages to stop another woman dating a man she fancies. Naughty stuff, but absolutely riveting!
‘So, on the back of that, here’s my question for you lot. Have you ever accidentally overheard something about you that you weren’t supposed to? And have you ever put that secret knowledge to use?
‘Magda from Horsham has emailed in with a corker for us already. “Hi Kevin,” she says, “Love the show.” Thanks you very much, Magda! “I’m always up late and these hours would be really ‘dead’ if it wasn’t for your dulcet tones.” Ha! See what you did there, Magda.
‘Now what’s Magda’s story? Ah yes, here we are. “When I was in Year Eight at school, I was in the loo when two of my so-called best friends came in. They were bitching about me behind my back, and it turned that out they’d been copying my chemistry project. And managed to get a better mark than me!
‘Hmm. Not very nice. So what did Magda do with this secret knowledge? “I sent anthrax spores to their homes. Never saw them again after that. Think they must have changed schools.”
‘Wow: that anecdote got big on us very fast! Thanks for sharing Magda – that’s what this show is all about. Can’t really condone what you did there, of course, but I suppose I should congratulate you on your biowarfare smarts. To have obtained such materials at such a young age, and to have known how to handle them safely, is quite something.
‘Assuming you did handle them safely, of course. Perhaps you’ll call in and let us know either way.
‘And now it’s time for our first caller. And it’s… Robyn from Pipers Reach! Hello Robyn. my love! We haven’t heard from you in donkeys’!!’
‘Hello there Kevin. Lovely to talk you.’
‘So tell us.’
‘Well, it was when I was studying for the bar. I was an intern for one of the big law firms, and I sat with the defence team on a big case involving a serial killer. This was a notorious villain who was accused of murdering at least a dozen people in a series of brutal assaults in and around one of our great northern cities, back in the early noughties.’
‘Oh do go on! We are all most intrigued…’
‘Well I was just a teenager really. I didn’t look like a lawyer or anything, so I was able to mingle quite easily with the jurors when they were milling about. And I overheard a couple of them talking on the way out. One was saying that he could tell the suspect was a wrong’un and wanted to convict, but the other was saying that the accused seemed to have a really nice wife and she surely wouldn’t have stood by him if he’d killed all these people. She would have known he was guilty just by looking in his eyes.’
‘I see. And so you…?’
‘Yes. I relayed this information back to the legal team. Next day they put the wife on the stand, and she made an impassioned plea for her husband’s innocence. She even mentioned the eyes thing! She didn’t have any facts or evidence, but she was very convincing.’
‘And that swung it for him, did it?’
‘Oh yes. Case dismissed! And I got offered a job.’
‘And just so we’re clear, Robyn. Do you think your eavesdropping helped to save the skin of an innocent man, or…’
‘Oh absolutely not. He was guilty as hell. You did say Evil Eavesdropping.’
‘Yes, yes, I suppose I did. Right, who’s next? Come in Gaynor in Bingley! Hello, Gaynor my love. And how are we diddling this fine night?’
‘Diddling along very nicely, thank you, Kevin love.’
‘Now what’s your story?’
‘Well, this was back in the day when I worked for a big pest control company. I was in HR, and I overheard this temp, Angie her name was, crying on the phone how it was her littlun’s fifth birthday and she was desperate to buy him a new bike. But her husband had just left her for the next-door neighbour and she didn’t have two quid to rub together, poor lass.’
‘Oh, poor lady! But I fancy you had an idea, Gaynor?’
‘I certainly did. I organised a whip-round and raised almost two hundred quid from everyone in the office. Went round all the different departments and everything. People were so kind. And this woman was just a temp and all.’
‘Oh Gaynor, that’s a lovely thing to do. And did you present it to her yourself?’
‘I certainly did. She bawled her eyes out. Made it all worthwhile.’
‘I bet it did.’
‘At the time anyway.’
‘How do you mean?’
‘Well, it turned out the whole thing was a massive con. The woman didn’t even have a son, the sleazy bitch.’
‘Oh I’m so sorry to hear that Gaynor. Someone really took advantage of your trusting nature there.’
‘Oh it’s OK. I took her out that night with a claw hammer.’
‘Just time for a quick call from Cassie. My self-styled “Number One Fan”! Watcha Cassie!’
‘Hiya Kevin love. Absolutely adoring Tonight Show as always!’
‘Thank you, my love! Now what have you got for us tonight?’
‘Well, your topic of the hour reminds me of when I called the show and I was put in the queue to get on. While waiting to go on air, I happened to overhear one of your production assistants describe your delivery style that night as “even cheesier than usual”.’
‘Hmm. Are you sure, Cassie? I’m looking through the window but all I can see are lots of people shaking their heads.’
‘Oh I’m sure they’re all denying it now,’ says Cassie. ‘But the person in question was called Gareth and he had a slight Welsh accent.’
‘Oh yes. Gareth. That does ring a bell. Haven’t seen him around for a while though.’
‘Well, no, you wouldn’t have, Kevin love. That’s because I had him followed for three months, found out a couple of rather embarrassing secrets about him, and blackmailed him into joining an enclosed order of non-conformist monks who don’t believe in the internet, are confined to a remote monastery in the Warwickshire countryside, and only allowed to speak for 5 minutes a day.’
‘Wow. Cassie. I don’t know what to say.’
‘Aw, you’re just too nice for your own good darling! Well, there’s quite a good little gag you could make about radio silence.’
‘OK. Moving swiftly on… I’ve got a text here from Bazza in Bedford.’
‘“Love the show, Kev,” he says. “Listening online.
‘“This segment reminds me of the time I hid behind a stack of sugar in the back of my parents’ corner shop. Heard my Mum plotting to kill my Dad with the bloke from the pub on the corner.
“Unfortunately they heard me cough. The man came round and kidnapped me. I’ve been stuck in this caravan for about 4 years now.”’
‘Quite the story there, Bazza! Does your mum know about the caravan? In any case, thanks very much for tuning in and hope you can get out soon. Or find peace, or whatever.
‘Now… it’s just gone seven after twelve, and you’re listening to Kevin Limina. My thanks as always to Peter and Iannis for the news and weather there.
‘Now as always, I’m here to guide you through the wee small hours, with another fantabulous cocktail of anecdote and observation, insight and opinion. The next news is on the half hour, as always, but in the meantime let’s turn to our question of the hour: Is romance dead?
‘Why do I ask? Well, there was a survey on this last week, and 60% of people said yes, romance is alive and well.
‘The over 55s are the most romantic age group, by the way – perhaps because they’ve got the most money! Well, some of them. And the UK’s most romantic region is Humberside, believe it or not.
‘But although 60% is a big number, and that’s great to hear, this also means that 40% of you don’t really believe in romance, or don’t see it in your lives.
‘So I want to hear what you lot think. Is romance still a thing? Do you still make a point of doing romantic things? And if you’re not attached right now, do you still have hopes of finding the one??
‘Dave from Welwyn Garden City emails: “Romance is still very much alive in our house, Kev!
‘“When we went on our first date, my future wife said that she liked that Springwatch programme. So every year, I trap and stuff another species of British wildlife for her.
‘“She’s got that many now, she’s had to build a special extension to house them all. They whiff a bit after a while, especially as I can’t always get all the guts out. But it’s the gesture that counts, isn’t it?
‘Good Lord. And there’s more! “My wife’s a great joker. She always says she can’t wait to get me in there too, in between the red deer and the Aberdeen Angus…”
‘Thanks Dave! Great story. Now a text just in from Jilly in Stafford. “Who says romance is dead? says Jilly. “My girlfriend and I celebrate every anniversary by watching a video of the first ritual sacrifice we ever carried out together. The couple that slays together stays together. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”
‘Wow. All sounds a tad sinister. Let’s hear from someone who’s going to lighten the tone for us now. Hopefully. It’s… Janine from Buxton! Come in Janine!’
‘Evening Janine. Now I understand that you and your boyfriend Barry have an anniversary celebration every single week. Is that right?’
‘That’s right, Barry. We met on a Friday, and so we have a celebration every Friday night. Crack open a bottle of prosecco and curl up with a nice takeaway and a romcom.’
‘Oh that’s lovely.’
‘Yes, and we celebrate lots of other anniversaries too: First Fight-and-Make-Up Night, First I-Love-You, First Car-Bought-Together Day. First Flat-Warming.’
‘Great! Ok, so…’
‘First Hair Loss. First Colostomy Bag.’
‘Enough Janine – thank you! And it’s swiftly over now to Gordon in Preston.
‘How are you doing this evening, Gordon?’
‘Good, thanks, Kevin.’
‘On you go.’
‘Well, when I first met my partner Aaron, he came out with this line of French poetry: Entre deux coeurs qui s’aiment, nul besoin de paroles. It quite took my breath away.
‘Er, could you just roughly translate that for us, Gordon?’
‘Oh, it roughly means, When two people are in love, they have no need of words.’
‘Very romantic. A very classy chat-up line. And how long have you been together now?’
‘Twenty-seven years. And he’s not said a word since.’
‘Awww. How sweet. Well, sort of. Uh-oh! Look out everyone – it’s Cassie from Aberdeen!’
‘That’s right, Kevin. Your Number One fan.’
‘Oh you’re so sweet.’
‘Nobody loves you better, Kev.’
‘That’s what I’m afraid of!’
‘Not now I’ve taken care of them all, anyway.’
‘Oh. I did wonder why my fan club disbanded.’
‘It’s just you and me now Kevin. We’ll never be parted now.’
‘Ooh Cassie. You send chills down my spine.’
‘I should hope so.’
‘So: dare I ask Cassie? Are you a romantic? Have you found the one?’
‘Oh Kevin! How can you even ask? I love you so much darling, I’ve even started looking like you.’
‘Cassie, I’m sure you look a lot better than this plump, greying old timer.’
‘I look exactly like you, darling. It’s incredible what they can do with surgery.’
‘Now I know you’re joking this time.’
‘Getting the flaky bald patch right was the hardest bit. That and the varicose scrotum.’
‘I’m going to have to stop you there if I may, Cassie, because it’s just coming up on seven minutes after 12. Thanks as ever to Peter and Iannis for the news and weather.
‘You’re listening to Kevin Limina, and this is Round Midnight, with your regular round-up of cheery chat and heated debate.
‘As always, I’m here to guide you through those darkest hours before the dawn that never comes.
‘And my question for you tonight is one that’s always fascinated me: What’s your idea of hell?’
About the Author: Dan Brotzel is the author of a collection of short stories, Hotel du Jack and a novel, The Wolf in the Woods (both from Sandstone Press). He is also co-author of a comic novel, Work in Progress (Unbound). Sign up for news at www.danbrotzel.com