The Midnight Shift



NOTE: Hearing a nighttime radio personality complain about his cold inspired this story. He was stuffy and sniffely and it was wonderful to listen to him attempt to sound audible. Of course I was in the car with my boyfriend and had to pretend not to enjoy it… and thus, here's a story J



            “Shoot, shoot, shoot!” Cecile gave the road one long look before quickly averting her eyes to pick up the cup she'd dropped that was now rolling about the car floor, threatening to get beneath the pedals. She tore off her jacket before the wetness on her lap, arm, and leg would spread onto it. After turning the corner, she reached over to the glove compartment for a stack of napkins for the seat, parking break, and surrounding area. It was a quarter after midnight which was a quarter after work began. The break in music began on the radio and she gritted her teeth at how the night was going already.

            “Hey. It's the midight show with Wolfie add CeCe, but CeCe's idvisible right dow. Hobe you're havig a great dight. Gotta be better thad mide. Have you ever had ode of those colds that just dod't go away?”

            Cecile's heart melted and a warm tingle shot through her body. He sounded adorable.

            The voice on the radio continued. “I abologize for the way I sound. Let me get some more sogs od here for you. Weather, traffic, add dews comig ub after this… I hobe…” And music resumed.

            “Just hold on, I'm on my way, buddy.” She turned into the parking lot and parked by the door. As quickly as possible, she grabbed her purse and hurried in past the two card swipe machines and the several hallways. The studio door was surrounded by glass windows, with a pair of eyes staring out anxiously. She waved and made sure the 'on air' light was off before entering.

            Expecting to be yelled at for her tardiness, she was instead met with two loud sneezes. “uhhhEhhhshoo! EhhhHishhoo! Two lovely, slightly-wet sounding, full sneezes. Beautiful. The man with one hand cupped over his nose and mouth used his other to push long brown strands of hair behind his ear. He nodded, sniffed, and excused himself. Then a wide grin broke on his face as his eyes stuck on her crotch. “You're wet.”

            She froze with fright. He'd only sneezed twice… yes they were adorable and he looked as sweet as candy. But she certainly was not attracted enough to show… She looked down to see the large wet spot. Of course. “I spilled my soda on the way over. It's been one of those nights.”

            “Tell be about it!” He nodded and rubbed the side of his nose. He was a young man of twenty-seven, with long brown hair and deep brown eyes. He was handsome and striking and certainly not what they say about how ugly the people behind the handsome voices on the radio are. He smiled and pointed toward her chair. “You're od, girl. Weather add dews.” He sniffed strongly. “Add I hab a cold.”

            Cecile giggled and sat cross-legged in the chair, pulling up the information on the studio laptop. When the music stopped she flipped the switch and the light turned on. “Good evening, everyone. It's CeCe at last with the weather and information on Tuesday morning 12:28. It's a balmy twenty-three outside and it's looking to snow soon. Brrr! Traffic's a pain on the south side- I know, I was stuck there. As for news, no news is good news, so let's just skip all election updates, shall we? Just sit back and relax to some sounds from Wolfie and CeCe.” She pushed a few buttons and the music started back up.


            She looked over at him. “It's no problem. How are you feeling, Wolfie?” She knew his real name was Wallace McKinnell but to her, he was Wolfie. He sounded like a Wolfie, he looked like a Wolfie, and above all he acted like a Wolfie.

            “Ha!” He pulled a tissue out of the box and rubbed at his nose with a sweep of his hand over the soundboard in front of him, littered with balled up tissues. “How does it look like I'm feelig? Sniff, sniff!” He rubbed his nose. “I've beed sdeezig all weeked from this cold. My doze is so stuffed add ruddy. Sniff, sniff!

            Awww, poor thing. It does look a bit red. It's just a cold?” She reached over and touched his forehead as he nodded.

            “Yup.” He reached up and waited a few seconds before flipping the switch. “We're back here at Mix at 12:45 here od this Modday mordig. I'b still sick add CeCe's here. You ever have ode of those days? We were just talkig about theb… stuck id traffic, sbillig thigs…”

            “Oh thanks!” she giggled. “Anyway, why don't you all call in with some of your bad day or night stories. I'll take the calls and Wolfie—“

            humphtsh! Ehhumtsh

            She chuckled. “That is, Sneezy the Dwarf over there will judge the worst. The number is 1-800-MIX-1070. We'll take calls right after this by Billy Joel, The Backstreet Boys, Whitney Houston, and words from our wonderful sponsors.”

            When the music had been changed to, Wolfie groaned, his head in his hands. “I sdeezed od the air!”

            He sounded so entirely distraught that she shifted immediately into sympathetic mode. “It's ok, I'm sure no one minded.”

            “If they did, they would have chaged the statiod log ago. Sniff, sniff! Oh God… I'b godda…” he grabbed for the tissues. Goddaehhh godda sdee-sdeeeehhh eehhhEhptchah! Uhhshahh! ehhhTshahh!” He paused, sniffling into the wad of tissues that were pressed to his nose. Then he closed his eyes and his body tensed, pulling back. “huhhUmmmphshh! HehTishooo! ihhhHishhh! heh-SHEOO!

            Gonna sneeze?” she finished for him, feeling warmer. “Bless you.”

            He nodded a thank you, sniffling and blowing into the tissues. “Thagssniff, sniff, sniff. Welcobe to by hell.”

            She giggled and wheeled over to him to give him a pat on his back. “It's ok, I'll watch your back and take care of you tonight. I'll do your spots, and talk more. I'll get you some tea or juice or more tissues from the store room. Whatever you need, ok?”

            He nodded, replying slowly, “Thags, Cecile. You're so sweet.”

            “Don't mention it. Need anything before we take some calls?”

            He shook his head, dropping the tissues onto the soundboard and leaving the box on his lap for easy access. “I'b ok for dow. Thags.”

            “Sure, you need anything, let me know.” She waited for the commercials to end and then pushed a few buttons. “All right, we're back here at MIX with some callers who'll be telling us about their worst days to make me and Wolfie feel better. So let's go to the phones.” She hit a button. “Hello, you're on the air.”

            “Hi, CeCe. This is Mark Wahlberg.”

            “Hi Mark, where are you from?”

            “Just uptown, I'm at state college studying for midterms.”

            Wolfie laughed. “Midterms? I thick we have a wider already!”

            They all laughed. And Mark continued. “Actually, this happened to me last week. Got a call that my dog died back home, then I got stuck on the subway on my way to work and was there through class hours so I missed a test, too.”


            “Yeah. So I talked with the teacher and headed home and guess what? The subway breaks down again! Three hours later, and I get out, only to realize I'd left the lights on when I'd parked it at the station that morning so the car is completely dead!”

            “Whoa! Sounds like a whopper there, please hold as we get the other callers, all right Mark?”


            She punched a few buttons. “Hello, you're on the air.” It was uncreative, but it was a habit. One of those standard things you practice so long that it sticks forever.

            “Hello.” A woman's unsure voice piped out.

            “And who is this?” she asked in routine.

            Taryl, from the fire department here. The boys and I have a good one.”

            Wolfie spoke up. “Go for it.”

            “Oh, before I start, down here we wanted to give you a shout out, Wolfie. Feel better, k?”

            He chuckled, stifling a congested cough. “Thags, I'll try.”

            Though he looked all right, Cecile could tell he wanted the subject changed… quickly. “So tell us about your story, Taryl.”

            “So we're doing the regular firemen thing all day, a small kitchen blaze ate up half a house, smoke flooded a rec center… nothing too out of the ordinary. Then, we get a call about a cat stuck in a tree.”

            “They still have those?” Wolfie exclaimed with a surprised laugh.

            “Sure do. So we head over and boom, flat tire. So we change it and keep going… only to boom, have another one. So we changed it and headed over. But the ladder was too tall to rest against the tree or any nearby buildings. The cat looked scared to death and so I volunteered to climb the tree. BIG mistake! Cat kept moving about on the tree. Scratches, cuts, and I feel twice, breaking both my leg and one arm while spraining the other arm. So finally the owner gives a sigh, disappears, then comes back with both a small cat toy and a smaller ladder. She climbs up and within a minute, the cat was in her arms purring like a baby!”

            “Wow, that's a bad day! Please stay on hold while we take the other calls, all right?”


            She looked over at Wolfie who was rubbing his finger madly under his nose, his face half fallen. A rush went through her as she brought up the next caller. “Hello, who's this?”

            “This is Simon of West Bridge. Hi CeCe. Hi Wolfie, hey I hope you feel better soon!”

            Cecile's eyes were stuck upon her co-host who was panting like a hot puppy, trying to control a sneeze that was approaching. Opening his eyes just enough, he shot her a look of help and weakness and embarrassment.

            “He, er, can't speak just now. He's in the middle of—“

            efftchah! UhhhTishoo! uhhHishh!

            “—that.” She smiled, reached over and ruffled his hair.

“So, Simon,” Wolfie fought back, straightening out his hair in frustration, but then giving her a smile back. “Tell us about your bad day.”

            “Well, I had to be up at 5am for a drive to my mother-in-law's with the kids for what I thought would be a Sunday trip. They protested and after some crying and yelling, we're on the road by 9. Now if you've ever been in a minivan with five young children… you get the picture. Well, after three or four hours… I realize that I've been driving in the completely wrong direction!”

            “Oh no!” Cecile laughed. “So you ended up getting there late?”

            “And spending the night, and thus having to take the next day off from work to drive back home!”

            “Oh no! Stay on the line for us, Simon?”


            “Let's take one more call here. Hello, you're on the air.”

            A pause.


            “Hi, sorry, had the radio up. This is Chester from Centahamn. It's snowing over here already, CeCe.”

            “Really now?” Cecile hit a few keys on the board and a weather map popped up. She swore at herself about not checking as regularly as she should have been. Too many distractions. “Looks like the front is coming in strong. Already snowing as far north as Tuckston and as far south as Spotsylvania. We'll keep you updated as we get more. Maybe even some school closings by the morning. Thanks a lot, Chester. Do you have a story for us?”

            “Sure do. Happened a few months ago when I was out of town skiing with some buddies. I'm an experienced skier, but I still managed to miss a ski lift and fall right on my rear. It felt like I bruised it but I'm a tough guy, right?”

            Cecile looked over to see Wolfie sniffling into another fistful of tissues. He cleared his throat and sniffed, pushing his hair back. She smiled, “I know the type. Go on.”

            “Well, I got back on and proceeded to ski down the hill. A buddy comes by to hit my rear in fun and it hurt so much that I slammed myself right into a tree! After the hospital, a broken leg and a bruised rear, I'm sitting back at the lodge and get bumped- hot chocolate all over!

            “Oh no! You weren't burned, were you?”

            “Only a minor burn and a ruined shirt, but that was enough for me to crawl into bed and stay there the rest of the day.”

            “I cad ibagide. I'd like to do that right about dow,” Wolfie laughed, rubbing his palm against his nose.

            “Thanks for calling, Si-Chester. You're Chester and the last guy was Simon. Geez, I'm falling apart here, too. Thanks, stay on the line and we'll decide right after this.” She lined up the music, three long songs, some commercials, and then two more songs. Enough for Any decision making to take place and certainly anything else that needed to be done.

            Wolfie breathed in deeply, wheezing. “Cecile…” he panted weakly.

            She wheeled over and patted his back. “Wolfie, you should be at home.” As much as it pained her to say, he really looked miserable and she knew he would be happier at home.

            He paused, then nodded. “You're right.”

            Suddenly a beep went off across the room. She rolled over it, reading a message across the computer screen. Her heart fluttered to read the news. “Wolfie, where do you live? Across the bridge, right?”

            He nodded. “Why? What's wrog?”

“The bridge is out. The whole south side is being blanketed by snow.”

“Excuse be?!”

            She rolled her chair to the side and he rolled his over, staring at the monitor. “Add traffic is backed ub…”

            “They've closed the roads and are turning people over to gyms and recreation centers for the night.” She put her hand on his back. “Look, if you need a place to stay, I have a really comfy couch at my place… Wolfie?”

            He was frozen in place with… disbelief?

            “Wolfie- Wallace. Wallace, what's wrong?”

            He quickly cupped his hand over his nose and mouth. “uhhIhhshh! UhhChishhh! ehhChushh! ehhHishh! ehhffTchuh!” And he froze again, bent almost in half with his hand covering the lower half of his countenance. IhhhHufsh! ehhhHishh! uuuhhhhCHishh! uhehhhKisho!

            Cecile reached over and took a handful of tissues from the box. She handed two to him and turned her head to give him some privacy while he did the switch between his wet hand and the tissues. When she looked back, he suddenly shivered with chill and gave a strong blow. He sniffed woefully, balled them up and threw them onto the soundboard. Cecile handed him the other few she'd taken and patted his back. “Give me a minute and a half. And get your decision ready on the contest. We're back in three with weather and the announcements, then we'll discuss, all right?”

            He nodded, settling back in his chair to blow his nose with a bit more relaxed stature now that she wouldn't be watching.

            Cecile smiled and quickly darted back. She returned with two cups of coffee and a thick blanket. She handed the coffee to him and wrapped the blanket around his shoulders. Her hand brushed his forehead again and she frowned. “Has your cold been this bad all weekend? I think you've got a light fever going here.”

            The man shrugged, wrapping his hands around the mug for warmth. “I dod't dow. I'b a sigle guy. Whed I get sick, I stay id bed udtil I have to leave. I dod't bay attedtiod to by teberature or addythig.”

            He was sounding worse. And looking worse. Poor guy. She nodded and patted his leg. “Well, it looks like you won't be heading back to your bed tonight. Can you wait till our shift ends? You never gave me a full answer on that invitation.”

            With a meek smile, “Could I sleeb over? Sniff, sniff, sniff! Blease?” It was almost a whisper, his cheeks bright red.

            She nodded with a light giggle. “I wouldn't have asked if I didn't want you to.” She looked over at the clock. “Twenty seconds. Get your decision ready. I'll get weather and traffic. All right?”

            With a smile, he nodded back and rubbed his finger against the bottom of his nose.

            “Hello, we're back at 1:12 here. And the bridge is out. Snow is falling softly in the north, but elsewhere is getting blanketed with strong gusts. The wind chill is minus 15 out there, so bundle up and stay off the roads if you can. Just stay tight and keep us on. We're actually about to announce the winner of our “bad day” contest. Wolfie, will you do the honors?”

            He cleared his throat. “It was a close call, but I have to go with our last caller, Chester. Good job, dude.”

            “Within the week when it's less snowy out, please stop by the station and pick up your prize package. Thanks to everyone. Another long music streak up ahead after a few commercials. Then we'll be back.” She punched in the buttons and let the others go. After giving Chester the details, she turned her attention back to her sniffley co-host. “Wolfie, the situation is not looking good here. We may get snowed in at this rate.”

            The main phone on the wall flashed and both of them jumped for it. Even though Wolfie got there first, he handed it over to CeCe, with a hand cupped over his nose and mouth. His eyes immediately closed. “Huhshh! Huh-ihshh! Sniff, sniff!

            She took the phone from him. “Cecile here… yes, Sir. Yes… no, he'll be all right. We can handle it until then, sure. Yes, Sir. Goodbye.” She hung up the phone with a sigh. “That was Mr. Callwell. Apparently Peter and Al are completely snowed in and no one can get out here until four. I told him we could handle an extra hour and he's trying to line up a snow plow as we speak.” Her voice softened. “Will you be all right?”

            He nodded, snuffling into a wad of tissues. “Sure… it's odly…” he looked at his watch, “six bore hours, right?”

            She nodded. “We can take shifts if you like. If you need to take a nap, I'd be happy to—“

            ehhHishh! uhhHishho! EehhuhhhehhTishoo! Sniff, sniff!

            “—to fly solo for a while. Bless you, Wolfie.”

            Thags, sniff, sniff. Yeah, I bay deed that. But dot quite yet. You want to record sub sbots for later add work odd the lide ub?”

            “The line up? Sure. I think it's important we keep them updated as far as the weather… but aside from that, I think we're taken care of.”



*                      *                      *


Here will go about 10 pages of trading off. Just haven't written it yet!!



*                      *                      *


            “Hey, this is Wolfie heading you idto the bordig shift. We're sdowed id here as bost everyode is. Cobig id with a rebote traffic rebort is Stacy. How are the roads, Stace?”

            The voice shot out of the sound system and our through the air, “Not good. Wolfie. You don't sound too good yourself. Under the weather?”

            He sniffled into a fistful of tissues, the middle of his second box for the night. He groaned inwardly at the traffic reporter's attempt at wit, but he played along. “Yeah, add dot just frob the sdow, either.”

            “Ha ha! Well, on the south side…”

            Wolfie tuned her out and switched his mike off. His nose was tickling yet again, in a familiar sensation that he'd gotten to know well over the weekend and even better during this night. Every cold had its worst points, and this, he reasoned, was his. His fingers instinctively reached for the tissues. “Huhh” several were clamped over his nose and mouth and his other hand was cupped over that to contain more sound. “Huh-ehhhhushh! Huhshh! Ehhfushhh!” He glanced over at Cecile, who was still lying, asleep, stretched out over a line of chairs with a blanket draped over her. Wolfie tightened his own blanket around his shoulders and sighed; he was quite glad he hadn't woken her up. He folded the tissues as best he could and blew his nose as quietly as possible. He waited for Stacy to finish, then switched to commercials. In his fatigue, he had gotten behind on the line-up, and was back to scheduling commercials and songs as they came, rather than an hour ahead as they had earlier.

            There was a soft knocking sound, then a buzzer as the hallway door was opened. He looked up to see two members of the morning show walking toward him. A quick glance at his watch told him that it was a little past 9.

            Wolfie quickly cleared off the soundboard, stuffing as many balled up tissues into the trash can as possible. Then he cleared his throat. “Hey guys. Good bordig.”

            One took a seat by the computer, glancing at the delays and weather reports. He was Nick, a blonde with a deep, typical radio voice. The other was a short, plump man with a rather regular voice but a true love of music and live shows. That was lost in today's fast-paced world. The first checked the timing and then turned to Wolfie. “Sorry it took so long; the roads were impossible, and the parking lot was covered. And then the snow is so thick they had to shovel y'all out before we could get the door open. Y'all all right?”

            Wolfie smiled, then nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, we're all right.” He sniffed, running a finger under his nose. Then he made his way over to CeCe. “CeCe… we cad go hobe.” His nose was running, and he sniffed strongly, pulled a tissue out of his pocket and rubbed at his nose. “Cub od, CeCe…” He touched her shoulder gently.

            She stirred and Wolfie gestured toward their relief. Cecile nodded and proceeded to wake up.

            Wolfie turned back to the mike for his sign-off. “Hey, Wolfie back. It's beed a wild dight, but the bordig crew just walked id so we're heading out. Drive safely, edjoy the sdow, add have a good bordig!”

            Groggy, CeCe stood up, yawning. “Come on, Wolfie, we'll crash at my place. Leave your car—I'll drive.” She patted one of the visitors on the way out.

            It was a short drive home, even with the traffic and snow, but one filled with many more yawns, shivers and sniffles than either might have liked. Cecile led the way in and threw her things onto the chair by the door as usual. She then gestured toward the couch. “Have a seat and make yourself at home.” She disappeared into a few rooms for a minute or two.

            Wolfie, aching, tired, and uncomfortable in a fish out of water sort of way, lowered himself onto the sofa. Crossing his arms over his chest, he sighed and attempted to stay warm and conserve heat.

            “Make way for the CeCe Express!” She giggled, popping out to pile pillows and blankets on top of him. Two boxes of tissues were placed on the coffee table, and beside that, a cup of hot tea and a glass of water. She knelt down beside him, feeling his forehead. “What else can I get you to make you feel better? Do you take cold medicine or anything?”

            He shook his head, settling into the mass of comfort and warmth. “Cad't take ady because of high blood breasure. I've always had it.”

            She nodded, brushing her hand over his forehead, then pulling his long hair back, out of his face. “Well, if there's anything I can do…”

            The shakes of his head slowed, and his eyes closed. Realizing how powerful and wet the sneeze was to be, he reached out blindly for the tissues, missing them by about half a foot.

            Restraining her laughter, she tapped the box closer for him.

            His fingers found them and latched on as he shook in place. “uhhIhhshoo! EehhhhhhChishh! ehhhuhhhhHishh! EhhTichh!” He paused, pulling out another few, then falling forward again, “ehhhTishh! UhhhIhhshoo! uhffTushh!

            “Bless you.”

            Thags,” he snuffled though the tissues as he blew his nose lightly and balled them up. He looked around a moment, wondering what he should do with them. Perhaps he should just get up and throw them away in the bathroom…

            “Just throw them on the floor there. Don't worry, yeah, that's it. Just lie back and be comfy and treat this place as if it were your own. And if you need anything, just call for me. And that,” she pointed to the far room, “is my bedroom. Come on in and don't worry about waking me up if you need me. All right?”

            Hesitantly, he gave a nod. “All right. Oh doh…” he waved his hand in front of his face and reached for the tissues with the other. “Hehhhhehuhfftchah! Ehhchishh!” He sniffled, coughed and closed his eyes with a soft groan. Then he felt a hand on his head, rubbing gently, soothingly.

            “Bless you. Sleep well, Wolfie. If you need a friend, don't hesitate to come on in, all right?”

            He got the hint. They both certainly needed some deep rest away from each other, after spending most of the night together and fighting to stay awake. But Wolfie had to admit a small desire to crawl into bed with her and keep her company. It would certainly make him feel a bit better. “All right. Dight, CeCe.”

            “Sweet dreams, Wolfie. And feel better.”

            Nodding and sniffling, “I will dow. Sweet dreabs.” When she was gone, he pulled the blankets up to his neck and fell into the nest of thick blankets and pillows in warmth. In only a few moments, he was deep asleep and dreaming.