The Voice on the Radio
When I was little my parents packed my brothers and sister and me into the back of a huge station wagon every August, and off we went to Palm Springs. There was no air conditioning in the car or the budget hotels where we stayed. It was 110 in the shade if we were lucky. The kids shared one room and my parents another. I understand now that we weren’t well off, that we picnicked at ever meal because we couldn’t afford to eat out, but it didn’t matter. We were a warrior tribe of Forsters ready to conquer new lands. These trips began my love affair with travel and adventure but also my obsession with thriller fiction.
In those days there were no freeways from Long Beach to Palms Springs, so it was a long drive. During day-driving my father listened to baseball games as he drove, but on the sleepy night drives back home he liked to listen to radio plays.
One particular homeward bound trek stands out in my mind. The two smaller kids were asleep in the make-shift bed in the back. My older brother and I shared the middle seat. Oncoming headlights illuminated my parents in harsh white, red taillights from the cars in front of us created burgundy shadows under their eyes, and the man on the radio had a voice as dark as the desert night.
I was mesmerized by the voice and paralyzed by the story of a man in the jungle, searching for I-don-t-remember-what. He trekked through the hot, miserable, never-ending jungle, unsure of what lay past the next tree, pausing when an animal screeched above hm. My little heart nearly stopped when he fell onto the loamy earth. Before he could rise, he was set upon by army ants and devoured. His radio howls were so terrifying I was rendered mute. My parents didn’t notice my distress. They looked like zombies staring at the endless ribbon of road, turning neon-white one moment and blood-red the next. My brother turned his head to look at me just as the man on the radio screamed his last, but instead of eyes he had deep black holes in his head.
I didn’t know it then, but the seeds of my future were sewn. I was a writer in the making. It would take me years to become a full-fledged novelist, but here I am. Suspense, thrills, crime are my daily fair. I stand beside my characters to howl and scream and help them make their way through whatever a jungle I have created that day. And when my readers go mute, do not see the ending coming, or give a little squeal of surprise, I am delighted.
This week my brother sent me a link to that radio-play. Listening to it again not only made me feel like a little girl, it made me realize there were reasons I was caught up in the story and the most important one was because it made me part of an adventure.
Thanks mom and dad for not turning off the radio.
Listen to the story that changed my life.