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Radio Signals

Peter LaBerge, Honorable Mention, Fiction


Sometimes, I wish the real world were more like the radio world. This is mainly because, in the radio world, lies are generally accepted.


Tonight, my father and I are driving home from the train station, an ad for breast cancer awareness is playing on the radio. “Studies show that over thirty-five percent of women who would’ve otherwise missed their cancer find it early through the use of mammograms.”

He reaches to change the channel and suggests we call to make appointments, peeling a smile from me.

The radio buzzes on and snows on the impurity of my dirt, hides the impurity of my body. I feel unconvincing. In the silent variations of 8:30 Monday evening, I feel dragged down to a simple pile of earth with the setting Amarillo sun. I want to build a hill, make the process of falling into myself easier, more efficient. I want to fall like a tornado. I don’t care about being graceful. I want it out.

I’ve never been linguistic. By that I mean communicative; since childhood, I’ve had a slightly irrational fear of stringing words together – some words more than others. Peeling words from beneath my iron-willed tongue is like unearthing seeds I planted a month ago. They come out all split and stunted and unmeaning.

I’m afraid of admitting to things because admitting to things means implicating things, and implicating things tends to blemish things and ruin things and topple things, and frustrate people. I feel the wind picking up now, outside the car. Neither of us has said anything. Ed Sheeran is on Lite FM. The wind thrills around us, small and insignificant on the interstate.

In the wind, walls fall.


I don’t have cancer, or breasts. In Texas, in real life, I’ve found that there aren’t enough ways to see things. I think it would be easier to have breasts or cancer than to ever admit to being something nobody can see or prove.

I’ve read online that God always knows what you’re thinking. This is something I have chosen not to believe – not because I don’t want to believe it, but because I imagine God’s cubicle in heaven overflowing with reams of receipt paper documenting every human thought, and think no amount of knowledge is worth that.

And too, I don’t want my thoughts tracked. I want to appear calculated, and definite, and sure. I want to appear inquisitive, but I want my thoughts to appear congruent and complimentary. Most of all, I don’t want to appear rash, and I don’t want to flood God with superfluous thought.


Tonight I think I may want to be a girl.

These thoughts frighten me. I am Ross, I am seventeen, and I think I’d like to bloom someday. I want to have blooms. I want to welcome myself to my body. I want to break the mulch surface of my parents’ garden with buds, I want open air.

Lies are generally accepted, but only in the radio world. I sit quiet and still, listening like an antenna, but I cannot be a radio because I am Ross, and my father and I shared a blackberry snow cone earlier tonight because it is hot here in Amarillo. Did you know studies have shown that thirty-five percent of women have found cancer due to mammograms? I know this now. Sometimes I want to be soulless and empty like the red dust clinging to everything in Texas this time of year. I want to cling to something, because clinging implies belonging, and that’s what I want: more than blooms, or earth, or even radio waves rising like water to engulf us all.


I lie about some things. That’s okay, I think. “Yeah, you’re right,” I say to myself. The radio buzzes still. I don’t care who is singing. Tonight, it is snowing on the impurity of my dirt. It is snowing more than it has ever snowed in Amarillo, Texas, and I am the only witness of my own falling.

I am not linguistic. I am unmeaning, and stunted, and split into jagged stem puckers. I am something misshapen, something pathetically not beautiful. I am beautiful like a hibiscus posthumous.

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