“I don’t know what to do. Tess won’t respond to my calls or letters.”
“What do you say?”
“That we need to talk.”
“So, you are demanding a response and she won’t submit to your demands?”
“I wasn’t demanding. I want to keep lines of communication open. I’m hurt.”
“So, you choose to be offended because she has nothing to communicate? What if you wait for her to want something?”
“I could wait forever.”
The session ended soon after that.
Avery wondered, “Am I beating my head against the wall? Isn’t a therapist supposed to at least pretend to be on his side?” Not that he wanted a mere ‘yes man.’ “But at the hourly rate I’m paying…”
Avery quietly celebrated his therapy came after the show. He’d never be able to fill his three-hour radio show with his therapist’s inane questions careening around inside his skull.
He needed to prep for tomorrow.
Even at dinner with friends, the therapist’s questions wouldn’t leave him alone.
He tried the waiting game before. His sister, Tess, was far more patient than Avery. Everyone knew that. Avery spent his show getting callers talking. He’d then spin out on tangents when they finally tried to make a point. It exasperated the callers, but his audience thought it hilarious.
But it wasn’t an act. He had no patience for the tedious points the callers flailed at. As if they were Perry Mason or somebody. He never let them finish. And yet they kept calling. Each caller thought his argument so compelling. The fools. He had command of the mute button. And Avery had mastered the non-sequitur.
At home, after dinner, he tried to prep the show. He read several papers and got the latest commentaries on the day’s events. He made notes. But he couldn’t concentrate.
His sister lived in his head rent-free, as they say. He didn’t know how to evict her. Why couldn’t they be close?
Avery picked up the phone and almost speed-dialed her. But he stopped himself. He knew the futility of it.
The next day, Avery arrived at the station. His producer, David, told Avery he would be out the next day but Don, the engineer would cover the show.
“For Yom Kippur.”
“The holiday. Jewish Day of Atonement.”
“Oh, well happy Yom Kipper.”
“Yeah, right. It’s not exactly Christmas… It’s the holiest day of the year. I never heard the word ‘happy’…”
He had an idea.
Avery opened the next day’s show with the announcement, “We have a special edition today. Yes, folks, it’s Atonement Day. Today, our callers will share regrets, their shame and the things they want to change about their lives.”
Don, the engineer’s look clearly said, ‘Are you sure?’ Avery gave him a thumbs up and continued.
“Come on fans. Here is your chance to unload all that guilt that burdens you. Lay it on us. Let the world see you’ve turned your life around. If time allows, I may even do a little atoning myself. The lines are open. I’ll be right back.”
Don went to a commercial. He pressed his mic button.
“Avery, what are you doing?”
“It’ll be fine.”
“But it sounds like you’re ridiculing a religious holiday. You need to rethink this.”
“Don. Are you the engineer or the host?”
“Do your engineering. I’ve got this.”
The bumper music ended and Avery returned. Don piped him some calls. Avery gave them a chance but ultimately cut them off for being insufficiently remorseful.
“They don’t get it. Come on, folks. I want to hear your pain.”
A few tried to give him grief for commercializing this solemn holiday. Avery cut them off too. No one should be surprised he stuck to the show’s format.
At last, came the call he waited for, Tess. How did Avery know she would call? With that hook? How did he know she listened to his show? Everyone listens. How could she not?
“So Tess! Welcome to our show. What tale of woe do you have for me today?”
“Thanks for having me on your show, Avery. I’m a first-time caller. I don’t have one.”
“You don’t? But today’s show is giving all our callers the chance to turn a new…”
“Well, unless you want me to talk about my brother.”
Avery did a silent hand pump of victory.
“Your brother? You regret the way you treated your brother?”
“No, it’s not that. I regret the way he treats me.”
“But this is supposed to be about self-examination and repentance. Come on Tess. Why have you called us today?”
“How about this? I regret trusting my brother who turned out to be a narcissistic creep.”
“Wow! Those are strong words, Tess. I hope you don’t regret them.”
“I won’t. I could have used others. I don’t want to get bleeped.”
“I see. Right now, I want to say something to all my listeners out in radio-land. I have a bit of a confession to make. Tess, my current caller, is my sister who I invited on to talk. We haven’t spoken in years. I’ve been trying everything to reach her and today she has deigned to call in. Isn’t that true Tess?”
“I’m your sister, yes. But you didn’t invite me.”
“Right, well. In any case, you are on the air now and I want to tell you, with everyone listening, I forgive you.”
“You forgive me? For what? You can’t forgive someone for nothing. I’ve done nothing wrong.”
“But I can. Listen to me say it again... Here it comes… I forgive you.”
Tess tried to interrupt.
Avery continued, “The theme of today’s show is repentance. Since you are proving incapable of that, I forgive you for your many failings. I’m offering you a clean slate.”
“What failings, Avery?”
“To start, my listeners will attest to the abusive language you used toward me, mere moments ago.”
“Avery, your listeners will attest to your numerous personality defects. And also that my language was pretty mild, considering.”
“My personality defects? I have a hit show.”
“On which you display your abrasive personality for the amusement of your audience.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“In that context, nothing. A clown has a right to make a living. But you owe me an apology.”
“It might mean something if you apologized without prompting. But to forgive me from your perch on Mount Olympus is absurd. You’re grandstanding for ratings and to further inflate your gargantuan ego. Coming from you, forgiveness is meaningless.”
Don did a facepalm. He signaled to Avery to wrap it up.
“I’ve been trying to reach you. I wanted to talk. And this is all you have to say?”
“Not by a long shot, Avery. If your forgiveness were sincere. Or better yet, your apology. You would make it with humility and in private. Not on some drive time show to brandish your grandiose sensitivity.”
Don waved his hands frantically.
“Well, Tess. I guess you put me in my place. I am severely chastened. I wish we could have made peace before this.”
“Is that a commercial coming, Avery? But you did remind me of one thing I did wrong, which I will never do again.”
“And what is that, Tess? You have fifteen seconds.”
“I am sorry I ever called you or your show. It won’t happen again.”
Don cued the bumper music and went to a hard break.
Avery’s sponsors were not amused.
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