Few things in life are more satisfying than pounding the crap out of your alarm clock. They make the snooze button big so you’ll have a nice, easy target for your fist to find at Four Frickin’ Thirty in the morning. And those things are almost indestructible. Almost, but not completely, Brad remembered too late. For three decades that $20 digital brick had sat beside his bed, barking out orders at an ungodly hour. Yesterday it had finally given up the ghost (which was actually satisfying for Brad who had been attempting to kill it every damn morning so had finally succeeded). But this morning a $1,200 smartphone was taking the abuse instead, and the freshly cracked screen showed it clearly wasn’t up to the challenge. Well, the day was off to a great start and he hadn't even gotten out of bed yet.
After collecting the disfigured phone from the floor, Brad reached for a t-shirt knowing it was the first and last time he would ever wear it. Same as the last 10,000 shirts. Every C or D-List celebrity that had ever visited his morning radio show, every charity promoting their 5K run or special day, every car dealer that paid him to broadcast from their lot so he could convince his listeners that the best deals were at Uncle Johnny’s Used Cars. They all had t-shirts and they all wanted him to have one. So, they all went into “the pile” where they would all, one day be selected at random as “the shirt of the day.” 24 hours later they were in “the other pile,” ready to be donated to the next clothing drive for victims of some disaster halfway across the world.
Today’s shirt, he realized after pulling it on, had been patiently waiting for a full quarter of a century. The sound of John Denver singing was like nails on a Rocky-Mountain-High-Colorado chalkboard to Brad so when the folk music icon had come on Brad’s show to promote his performance of the National Anthem at the opening of the Georgia Dome in 1992… well, the shirt his manager handed Brad had somehow ended up near the bottom of “the pile.” Today, it finally won its 24 hours of freedom and soon it would be in “the other pile” – and later rejected by some tsunami victim who’d lost everything but still had higher standards in t-shirt selection than Brad.
The one benefit of a job that started at 6:00 AM was not having to deal with the worst of Atlanta’s morning traffic. Wait another hour and his 20-minute commute would take an extra 45 minutes or more. They say Atlanta is an hour away from Atlanta and they're usually right.
In his early days, Brad would arrive well in advance of the start of the show. That was when he was working hard to make a name for himself. These days, his producer would have been shocked to see Brad behind the microphone before the final seconds of the dramatic show-opening introduction. The intro was almost three minutes long now – full of jingles, TV show clips, animal noises and sounds that couldn’t, or at least shouldn’t have been described - giving Brad enough time to walk in the door precisely at 6:00, catch the elevator to the 12th floor, inhale the scent of a fresh cup of coffee and sit down in front of the mic. He would put on his BOSE, noise-canceling headphones as the intro finished but wouldn’t turn up the volume for another 7 seconds. That allowed him to slightly mute the “GOOOOOOOOOD MORNING ATLANTA!” coming from four feet away on the other side of the desk. How his partner had that much energy this early Every. Freaking. Morning. was still a mystery to Brad. The smell of the coffee helped bridge the gap just enough though.
“The Brad and Bone Morning Show” was exactly what many listeners would say they despised about morning radio shows. Loud. Obnoxious. Rude. Back in the 80s, it was fun. Exciting. Unpredictable. Nothing had changed except perceptions and political correctness. The world was different. The radio business was completely different. But “The Brad and Bone Morning Show” was preserved in a time-bubble thanks to a few key advertisers who had grown up listening to them, and only wanted to spend their sponsorship dollars on a show that sounded like the world they grew up in. A world where guys still talked about drinking too much, getting to 3rd base with a girl in an elevator and what they were going to do with the fireworks they blew half their paycheck on. Middle-aged men pulling the same old pranks they pulled on the substitute teacher in 9th-grade science class. Juvenile. Worn out. Pitiful. In an overly-sterilized world it stood alone as a filthy oasis for guys who felt demonized when they were just being who they’d always been. “The Brad and Bone Morning Show” was a safe space to enjoy being a man without having to apologize.
John Denver began thanking God that he was a country boy.
Producer Jay was on top of his game today. Less than 30 seconds after Brad had walked into the studio, a recording of John Denver was playing in honor of his t-shirt. And Brad already knew, thanks to years and years of working together, that the fun was only starting. For the next four hours, every time they came out of a commercial break there would be a sampling of a John Denver “classic” as the show returned. His “shirt of the day” was often the catalyst for an ongoing sub-plot on the show. Undoubtedly, Leaving On A Jet Plane would be saved for the final segment, both as a way to signal the end of the show, and also so they could make insensitive jokes about the singer’s untimely demise when his airplane had crashed into the ocean. Was there enough coffee in the building to survive the morning?
“Wooooo! That blew up REAL good!” screamed Bone. A triangle-shaped chunk of fiberglass bearing the name Nitro Z21 soared high into the Atlanta skyline, flashing bright reflections of the rising sun down upon the radio station parking lot and a few hundred spectators.
Spinning along the asphalt below, a 300 horsepower Mercury outboard motor collided with a seat that, moments ago, had been mounted directly behind the console of the now-obliterated boat. The remains of a Lowrance fish finder skidded to a stop just barely inside the yellow caution tape separating the crowd from the logo-covered tent where Brad and Bone were broadcasting. Gasoline fumes mingled with the scent of burning carpet and the lingering memories of bass and catfish.
The carnage was from a recently paid off boat that a scorned ex-wife had vindictively taken in her divorce settlement. Her ex-husband took great pleasure in telling everyone that he enjoyed riding that boat more than he ever enjoyed riding her. Sweet karma. The only thing that could have made her day better was if he had been on-board when they blew it up. He wasn’t on it but he would certainly see the video of his true love’s dramatic demise all over social media that day. All his buddies listened to Brad and Bone and none of them would ever miss the Blow-Up Bash. The woman’s grin was wider than any catfish he’d ever pulled out of Lake Lanier.
The 23rd annual Brad and Bone Blow Up Bash was turning out to be one of the best ever. Every summer, against all advice from the Rocket 99.5 attorneys, Brad and Bone would invite listeners to the radio station parking lot to blow stuff up. “You bring it, we blow it” was a phrase that every redneck in Georgia knew and looked forward to hearing. Over the years the list of exploded items included everything from watermelons to an old limousine that had seen one-too-many senior proms. Even a chunk of the already-exploded former Georgia Dome had gotten the treatment.
“Trooper Tom… did any of that debris land on 285?” Brad segued into the traffic report and set his headphones down. He looked around to see who and what was next in the line stretching to the edge of the parking lot. A slightly-balding guy wearing cut-off blue jean shorts and a “Troy’s Roofing” t-shirt had brought something nobody had ever brought before in the previous 22 years. He didn’t want to blow it up. He wanted to offer his services, along with those of his three-foot-tall catapult. A miniature version of the medieval weapon used to destroy castles. And he had his own explosives.
“Woah. Sorry, guy, but the rules are real clear on this part,” Brad said from under the tent. “You bring it, WE blow it. With OUR explosives that have been approved by the fire department.”
“The Fire Chief don’t know shit. This stuff’ll blow up better than anything you’ve ever seen.”
“I bet it will, but I’m not interested in losing any fingers,” replied Brad. More than a decade had gone by since the last spectator injury and that idiot had nobody to blame but himself. Even the judge had said so. The “victim” swore he’d never listen to their show again and his ENT doctor agreed. His hearing was never coming back. The human eardrum was not meant to be that close to an exploding beer keg. The “Do Not Cross” tape was there for a reason.
“But the catapult is sweet. Does it work?” asked Bone. “Can you hit a target?”
“Anything ya want ‘tween 100 and 400 feet,” said the man. “Give me two minutes to set it up and I’ll blow somebody’s crap sky high.”
“Load it up!” Bone was now addressing Dyno Dan the Pyro Man. The explosives “expert” had been the official munitions handler for the event since the lawyers had convinced management to put at least a small barrier between station personnel and the actual explosives. Dan reached into his supply of explosives, picked out a bundle of TNT about the same size and weight as the guy’s homemade bomb and loaded it into the catapult. The man, who turned out to be the Troy referenced on his t-shirt, started making adjustments as the next person in line, a cute pig-tailed girl who appeared to be around 11 years old, set her Build-A-Bear stuffed friend on the asphalt. Her father, proud smile on his face, pulled her back out of the line of fire.
“Your design?” Bone was admiring the catapult.
“You better believe it. It’s a prototype. Take a picture ’cause it’ll be world-famous soon.” Troy sounded extremely cocky. And a little something else that Brad couldn’t quite place. Cagey? Angry? Something was off about this guy.
The big ballsy sound of the radio station promo voice boomed out “Back to the morning show that knows about your mother’s secret tattoo, the Brad and Bone Morning Show!” alerting Brad that the commercial break was over and it was time to put his noise canceling headphones back on. With the monitor speakers in the parking lot, he didn’t need the headphones to hear, just to keep hearing after the event. Bone wasn’t wearing any. He never did anything smart to protect himself. Why should today be any different?
Brad took a deep breath, caked on a smile and lifted his microphone. “And we’re back. Time to blow up some more stuff on the Brad and Bone Morning Show. Our next guest has obviously been preparing for this quite a while. Tell us who you are and what you’ve got here.”
Troy tried to grab the mic. “My name’s Troy. From Troy’s Roofing. You git a hole in yer…”
Brad pulled the mic back. He leaned and whispered “You want to do a commercial you need to talk to Rob over there.” He brought the conversation back to blowing stuff up. “This is a beauty of a catapult you’ve got here, Troy. Tell us about it.”
“It throws stuff,” Troy replied curtly. He’d spent weeks building his masterpiece in the hope of getting some free promo for his business.
“And today it will be throwing a bundle of TNT at this little girl’s teddy bear.” Brad turned to face the girl and pointed a microphone in her direction. “Why in the world do you want to blow up your teddy bear?”
“I’m NOT a LITTLE girl!” the eleven year old retorted. “And he’s FUZZY Bear, not teddy bear.”
“Okay, then. So you’ve outgrown Fuzzy Bear now?”
“Yep! I’m going to be in sixth grade this year. Daddy says it’s time to grow up so we brought Fuzzy here for a fiery funeral.”
Daddy smiled behind her as Bone burst into laughter. “I bet he’ll say something different when you start texting with boys.” Daddy’s smile disappeared.
Troy butted in. “Cain’t you give me something bigger to blow up? My catapult wadn’t made to shoot teddy bears.”
“FUZZY Bear!” shouted the girl.
“Whatever. You just blew up a bass boat without doin’ nothin’ special and I bring in a catapult and you want to shoot stuffed animals with it? This thing’s a real weapon.”
“Stay in your lane, buddy,” Brad leaned out from under the tent and replied with his microphone behind his back. “We can blow it up without you and your catapult if you want.”
Bone jumped in. “No way. I wanna see this! That catapult rocks! Let’s do this!” He took Fuzzy Bear and placed him in the hot zone.
Troy stepped up to his medieval creation. “Y’all gonna do a countdown ‘er somethin’?”
“Three shall be the number thou shalt count,” said Brad in his best Monty Python voice. “Three,” said Dyno Dan and released the catapult’s arm, hurling the explosive to the other end of the parking lot where it exploded directly on top of the teddy, or Fuzzy, bear. Fur flew, the crowd hollered, daddy and daughter high fived. Bone’s jaw dropped at the destructive beauty and accuracy of the catapult. Troy let out a cackling laugh then slowly nodded to himself, eyes glossed over as he seemed to be imagining a different scene in his head. A wicked smile curled up on one side of his mouth. “Famous. My catapult is gonna make me famous.”
Brad shook his head. Something just didn’t seem right about this guy.
“A wedding cake!” Bone had moved on to the next item in the blow-up bonanza. An apparently jilted bride presented a three-tiered cake complete with bride and groom figurines on top. “This is gonna blow up sooooooo good! Dyno Dan! Can we make it blow up where some of the frosting lands in my mouth?”