It took me over three months to drum up the courage to call in to Henry’s show.  It was on July 4.

I became a “first-time caller”  choosing the moniker, “Annabelle from Rocky Point”.

My real name is Karla…but I have always loved the name Annabelle.  I wanted to give that name to our daughter when she was born but Chuck didn’t like it…not even for a middle name.  I bet there’s a story there…

Anyway…this seemed like a perfect time for a name-change.

I didn’t have to wait very long before my call was answered…it was a holiday and the subject was pretty intense.

Apparently, there were not too many people who wanted to talk about the movie “Born on the Fourth of July” a powerful and painful movie about a Vietnam veteran.

Henry said, “Let’s see what Annabelle from Rocky Point has to say.”

“Hey, Annabelle! What’s keeping you awake at…let’s see…1:12 in the morning?  Is it my sexy, melodious tones or my incredible insight into just about everything?”

I laughed at that…more of a deep, rumbling chuckle…I don’t know where it came from…I hadn’t laughed like that for a long time.

“Jesus! That’s one sexy laugh, Annabelle.  What do you think, Alex?”  He said to his producer.  “Is that the laugh of a single lady…or a married lady?”

Not giving Alex much of a chance to answer…which I had discovered was quite the norm…Henry continued.

“I’m betting ‘Annabelle from Rocky Point’ is a single lady.  So, what does that laugh mean Annabelle?  Am I right…as I usually am?  Are you single?”

I laughed again…only softer this time.  I suddenly got a little shy…but I was also finding that this was really fun and suddenly I found that I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be.

“Yes,”  I replied.  “Yes, I am single.  Divorced actually, for about a year.”

I couldn’t quite hear what his producer, Alex had just said but then Henry said rather reluctantly “Annabelle, I’m sorry.  I have to cut this short.”

“Alex tells me I have to go to break and then we have a scheduled guest that I can’t move…will you call back again?  If only so I can hear you laugh?” I could hear him smiling over the phone.

He paused then and said, “Please?”

Of course I said yes.  The next night I called and when I gave Alex my name he said, “Oh good!  You just made Henry’s night.  He’s been kind of cranky.  Hang on, Annabelle.”

I paused…it took me a second to remember that he was talking to me…not another caller.

It was now official…I was “Annabelle”.

Later that night…I had a frustrating conversation with my daughter, Lizzie, who was currently being “played” by her father to get back in my good graces…for whatever reason I did not know…nor did I care…although I suspected it had somethin to do with money.

“I think he wants you guys to get back together!” Lizzie had said excitedly.  I could hear lots of “hope” in her voice.

She hadn’t been in favor of the divorce but…I hadn’t had the heart to tell her everything either.

I knew I should have told her about his “friend” Sally and how that little encounter had directed the inevitable end of our marriage.

She and Chuck had always had a good relationship and I didn’t want to spoil that…so I chose to remain silent…and use the standard “we just grew apart” excuse.  Chuck had followed my lead.

“Won’t you come to the barbecue this weekend?” she begged.  “It’s our first of the season!”

Lizzie and her husband, Fred, were huge fans of “the barbecue”.  I was not.  I did not like my food charred on the outside and raw on the inside…which was Fred’s specialty.

Every year they could barely wait for the snow to melt…which in Rocky Point is around April first…before they trekked out to the elaborate grill that Fred had constructed last year out of old red bricks he had salvaged from a closed fire station in Duluth.

“Let me think about it, Lizzie.  I’ve got to get going, honey.  I’ll call you later.”

“I think dad is coming!!” she cried out just before I hung up.  Oh brother…how can I get out of this?

It was just after midnight when I finally found myself in bed and settled.

I turned on the night light and then I turned on the little transistor radio.

I slowly moved the little ridged dial…stopping briefly at each AM station to discover what they offered.  The reception was crystal clear on each one.

Contemporary music, country music, a Twins game, a heated discussion on the future of the Duluth Canal Park area, a review of the play “A Streetcar Named Desire” at the Rocky Point Civic playhouse and…then I heard this…

“Look…say what you want.  But today was a beautiful day and I’m not going to spoil it by talking politics with an idiot like you!  Call me again, George! You’re one of my favorites!”

“Next up…Terry, Jane and Oscar.  But first…a little commercial message from the fine folks at…you know…I’m not sure.”

“Hey Alex!  Who’s paying for this 15-minute segment with Henry Dickson and his unbeatable charm?”

My mouth fell open and I smiled.  “Who the hell was this guy?”  And then I thought…I’ve always liked the name Henry.

I wondered for only a couple of minutes  if this was a syndicated program or a local one…before “Henry” launched into a conversation about the need for Vikings’ pre-season football games.

He also asked his listeners to call in and share their favorite hamburger joint.

He rattled off the phone number of the radio station.  Then a commercial for “End of the Road Bar & Grill” began…but not before Henry ordered…”Everyone go here!  Their double cheese burgers with sour cream are the best!!”

“End” was a popular local bar in Rocky Point!  I had been there just a few weeks ago…and I had loved it and their beer-battered onion rings.

I pulled the covers up around me and settled down to hear the results of his “hamburger hangout” poll.

I was asleep in less than 15 minutes but not before enjoying the interaction between Henry and his callers.

And…I’m pretty sure I had a smile on my face as I drifted off…

So…there I sat on the edge of my bed…pathetically holding my little pink radio…trying to think of how I could make it sound better…

I looked up at the wall across the room from me.  There was a blown-up photo of my mom and dad sitting in a couple of deck chairs on the back porch of this house.  Lake Superior was in the background.

It was my favorite picture of them.  They looked so relaxed and happy.

The sun was just starting to set behind them.  Between them on a little table was a  couple of martinis, a large ash try, a pack of Marlboro cigarettes, my dad’s Zippo lighter and a little black box.

Okay.  It wasn’t “just a little black box”.

It was a transistor radio.

In fact…it was my dad’s “famous” transistor radio…the one that he swore could get clear reception from anywhere for miles around…and he had been so right.

And in this particular photo…I knew that radio was picking up the Minnesota Twins baseball game from the WCCO radio station in Minneapolis, Minnesota…which was located about 180 miles away.

The two of them would often sit on that porch during the summer…cocktails at the ready…listening to the Twins…and get perfectly clear reception.

Eureka! My problem was solved…right?  Yeah…but only if I could find that radio…

I got up and put my little Sony back on the freshly dusted shelf and walked out to the kitchen. Where the hell was that radio?

I remembered that it was always by his bedside…because after mom had died, he would listen to the Twins when he went to sleep.

I also remember him being a little paranoid about it when he had entered the Shady Oak Care Center.

He was pretty sure someone would steal it because it was such a great radio.  Hey, what did I know…maybe he was right.

I certainly didn’t remember seeing it when I went to gather his belongings from Shady Oak after his death a couple of years ago.  Of course, I didn’t paw through all his stuff either.

I headed down to the basement to search through the many boxes of stuff I had “inherited” from my folks and their years of living.

They had blessedly tossed a lot of their accumulated junk/stuff  about ten years ago…”just planning for the future” my mom had gruesomely told me when she asked for my help.  “You’ll thank me someday for doing this.”

But she had kept a few boxes that contained old dishes, some old magazines, my school stuff, her mother’s fox stole and a couple of boxes of old greeting cards.

When she had died three years ago…my dad couldn’t bear to toss anything.  I hadn’t been ready to toss anything either.  Plus…I loved reading her little notes to me on the back of my old birthday cards. She wrote on each and every one…

I knew my dad’s stuff had been packed up by the staff at the care center, so that made the searching a little easier.  They had put everything into two plastic bags labeled  “Shady Oak Care Center”.

I quickly went through the stuff in the first bag…his clothes had been cleaned and nicely folded.  No radio.

But then…at the bottom of the second bag there was a plastic container with “Good Stuff” written on the lid.

This was very odd since the words “Good Stuff” wasn’t in my handwriting nor my dad’s…and there was no Shady Oak label on it.  It was just a plain white, plastic box.

I realized I was holding my breath as I lifted the lid.

There was a small, blue hand towel covering the contents.

And then I heard a ticking sound…what the hell?

I  knew I should be grateful that I had not suffered any devastating side-effects from my stroke…and I truly was.

I didn’t even mind using a cane once in a while…if I felt I needed it for stability.  I was in a good place.

But honest to Pete…I needed something to replace the books I had gotten so used to reading every night before I went to sleep.

I had tried using the magnifying glass device that hangs around your neck but that didn’t work out very well for me.  Large print books were great…but the selection was limited.

I had also tried watching television but found that to be more stimulating than relaxing.

But one day as I was half-heartedly dusting my bedroom…the duster flicked on the shelf on which my ancient Sony clock-radio sat.  I paused…duster in mid-air…and if this were a cartoon…you would see a little light bulb snap on over my head.

I had never actually used this as a radio…just as a back-up alarm clock.  I turned it on and slowly started to scan through the FM stations.

The reception was pretty good…and the sound was not half bad.  But the program offerings were just plain awful.

Other than a couple of syndicated sports channels, I kept getting one religious channel after another.

Some were pretty aggressive in their desire to save my poor soul.  One guy actually promised…or at least he said “there was a pretty good chance”…to get a seat next to God on the day I died…if I would just send them $20.00…cash…right now.

Any delay and I could lose my “potential” spot.  “Didn’t have that cash laying around.?” he inquired.  How about your credit card…that would work just swell!”

Well.  I better get right on that!

I moved the dial further to the end…only to find pre-programmed music…with short breaks at the hour and half-hour for local weather and any “breaking news”.  I loved music…but not when I’m trying to fall asleep.

Then I flipped the switch to browse the AM stations.  I knew there were several in this area…they used to advertise in the Rocky Point Press.

Somewhere deep in my slightly damaged brain were vague memories of local stations with programs that ran from dawn to dusk and some even around the clock…covering a myriad of topics from how to make the perfect pancake to the wide-ranging field of politics, to current events, to discussions about movies, theater and book reviews.

I also remembered there were  a couple of very popular night-time radio programs where listeners followed the host every night and even called in to talk to him on a regular basis.

Things were looking up and I didn’t even have to send any money to God!

But…of course there’s a but…

The reception was terrible.  I caught just a brief scratchy voice of some woman talking about different ways to cook smelt…but the sound was so bad I could hardly hear her at all.

Even though I tried everything short of attaching a metal clothes hanger to the radio as a make-shift antenna…the static would not go away.  Besides…who has metal hangers anymore.

I moved the radio to various  areas of my bedroom but I still received poor reception.  Every AM station was almost totally blocked by static.

I was not discouraged.  I was pretty sure I could somehow make this work…if only I could get rid of that damn static.

I was also motivated by the woman cooking smelt…you can never have enough ways to cook that little beauty.

The stroke…although minor…had affected my vision slightly…to the degree that I couldn’t read very well…at least not without high magnification.

I was advised that in cases like mine, my eyesight should return to…about 90%.  I somehow managed to find this reassuring.

I had “retired” from my job as assistant editor of  the Rocky Point Press a couple of years ago so there was no rush to “heal up quick” and get back to work.

Regarding my everyday life activities…I could set my own schedule.  Obviously money was not a problem…but quickly getting back to volunteering at the Rocky Point Lakeside Daycare center was the best medicine I could ever imagine.

My new “compromised sight” was often amusing to the little squirts that came there every day.

I had discovered that face recognition was also a problem for me.  So if a kid was more than 50 feet away…I had no clue as to who they were.  So, on their own, the kids  came up with a plan.

If they needed my help or just wanted my attention…they would call “Mrs. Anderson or Mrs. A!” and then add their own name. It worked perfectly.  

Many kids also found it funny when I would “ask them” for help to read something for me because the print was too small.

They would give me a blank look and then I would realize that even though they could “see” the words…they didn’t yet know how to “read” the words.

And then they would just about break my heart by saying, “I’m sorry I can’t read yet, Mrs. Anderson.”

If I had to have a “saving grace part” of my whole stroke experience…aside from Chuck getting tossed by his young tennis instructor…it would be the help and love I got from my kids at Lakeside.

Now if only they could come up with a solution to help me fall asleep at night. Before my stroke…reading had been as important to falling asleep as turning off the bedside lamp and closing my eyes. 

There was nothing like reading an exciting murder mystery to pleasantly send me off to dreamland.  Apparently now…I had a different mystery to solve.

By

Tina Nelson

Prologue

Every night…before he signed off from his nighttime radio show, Henry Dickson would say, “This…is for you.”

And then his faithful listeners would hear the beginning lyrics of the song “In the Still of the Night.”

Henry

That huge 1960 Billboard hit by the Five Satins was Henry’s favorite song when he was seventeen years old and a dashingly, good-looking senior attending his high school prom.

His bright white dinner jacket highlighted his sun-bleached hair and recently sun-burned face.

Back in the 60’s no one wore sun screen…why would you?

He and his friends had spent most of the day surfing and playing volleyball on the beach close to their homes in Santa Monica, California.

Later that night…and to no one’s surprise…the very popular Henry was named “Prom King”.  There had been a “Prom Queen as well..  Her name might have been Annie…but not many remembered.

As the years rolled by…and class reunions came and went…classmates  all remembered  the charming Henry…who had the endearing ability to remember all of them.

Henry was a gifted story teller and as he got older…that talent enabled him to become the most popular afternoon drive-time radio host in San Francisco.

His radio listeners especially loved it when he drifted back in time to share stories of his sometimes “sensational past”.

Occasionally, Henry’s stories seemed to push the boundaries of reality…but very few of his listeners minded.

“Sometimes a good story is just that,” he would say,  “a good story”.  And his fans most often agreed and eagerly anticipated more.

A perfect example of a “good story”  was his very own personal account of how he…a life-long resident of California…ended up in a sleepy little town in northern Minnesota… nestled on the edge of Lake Superior.

Henry’s parents had died much too young in a horrific car accident.  They had always told Henry…who was their only child…that they wanted their ashes to be sprinkled along the rocky shores of Lake Superior.

This is where they had spent their honeymoon many years ago…and this is where they had wanted to spend eternity.

The heart-broken Henry took a three-week leave of absence from his radio show and journeyed with his black and white calico cat, Cisco, to Rocky Point, Minnesota.

He dutifully and with tears falling freely from his eyes…slowly scattered his parent’s ashes along the shoreline as thunderous Lake Superior waves came crashing in around him and appropriate storm clouds gathered in the distance.

The next day Henry rented a rustic but definitely high-end cabin overlooking the magnificent Lake Superior.

He then stocked the cupboards with…among other things…Cisco’s favorite varieties of Fancy Feast cat food and filled the refrigerator/freezer with his favorite foods including rib-eye steaks, chicken filets and tomato juice.

He converted a closet into a pantry and loaded it with necessary staples and essential supplies.

He also made sure he had plenty of Jim Beam whiskey and cartons of Marlboro cigarettes…even though he planned to quite smoking…soon.

Finally, he bought two very comfortable patio chairs…one for him and one for Cisco.

The large, screened-in deck which faced the lake,  provided a spectacular view and when he and Cisco chose to get up early…which was never very often…they were treated to magnificent sunrises.

The intense beauty of Lake Superior was magical and soon began to ease his broken heart.

Henry and Cisco never left.