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Nothing Serious 

Wednesday, May 17 2006
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WATER FALLS, BUT IT DOESN’T GET FAR. The clouds are low, so there isn’t far to go. The rain’s a bit less caustic this week. Chlamydia Pines, my senior research associate, is watching a dirty dove through the window. She says it’s doing the same thing, over and over, though I can’t see a thing. When the traffic signal changes from green to yellow, the dove flies out from its shelter — the awning of the yellow light’s lens hood — and alights on a nearby branch, about six feet away. There, the dove waits in the rain for three seconds until the signal switches up to red. And the dove returns. It’s probably nothing serious.

“It’s the temperature,” Ms. Pines tells me, in a moment of clarity.

“I know,” I reply, thinking she means her own.

The red traffic light stays on for a full minute, followed by 30 seconds of green. Traffic lights get hot. The hoods around each lens make nice, safe, relatively dry perches, and the yellow light is dim almost all the time. Smart dirty dove.

“Timing,” says Ms. Pines. I nod. It seems like the polite thing to do.

I APPLY A COOL DAMP CLOTH to Ms. Pines’ forehead, and she tells me about Spalding Wilson. She says Wilson didn’t always live here in Disney. He was born in Altria and lived there for his first 14 years, in a General Electric Craftsman with his parents, Ford and Margaret, his older twin brothers, Kellogg and Brown, and his little sister, Root.

Soon after Wilson’s 14th birthday, the family moved out to Starbucks Terrace, one of Monsanto’s near-north suburbs. Kellogg and Brown graduated from Jenna Bush High School and moved into a basement apartment in downtown Monsanto, where they started a Green Day cover band called the Clash. Young Root dropped out and joined the Army, making decent money as an executive assistant in the bombing campaigns against Indonesia, Venezuela and Antarctica.

Wilson turned 17 and headed out here. After a brief stint as an undercover crack distributor, he landed a job as a late-night announcer on Power PopT WMDS radio. Everyone always said that Spalding Wilson had a nice voice.

THE DOVE RETURNS TO THE DORMANT yellow light, sheds rainwater with a shiver. Ms. Pines announces Wilson’s return. “Hello,” says Wilson. “What corporation are you from?”

Ms. Pines doesn’t answer. She looks at me. Her impatience is palpable.

“Have you lived in Disney long?” says Wilson. Ms. Pines nods.

“My little sister’s in the Army,” Wilson continues. “She’s younger than me. She’s really smart. And brave. I don’t have the same kind of bravery as a soldier. Root — that’s my sister — Root says a soldier’s bravery transcends her own physical form, but an artist’s bravery transcends everyone’s. I think she read it somewhere.”

“So you’re an artist?” says Ms. Pines.

I say, “What?”

“Not yet,” says Wilson. “My brothers are. I’m just a radio announcer.”

Ms. Pines nods. “Radio,” she says.

I say, “Do you want me to turn it on?”

“No,” says Ms. Pines.

“Should I call Dr. White-Kelso?” I ask.

“No,” says Ms. Pines.

“You sure are pretty,” says Wilson. “Do you like basketball?”

“Yes,” says Ms. Pines.

“I’m going to call,” I say, reaching for the phone.

“How old are you?” says Wilson.

“How old I am,” Ms. Pines echoes, indifferently, as if she hasn’t considered the topic since there was a different answer.

“You’re not old,” I say. “You’re not even 40. Not even 30, I think.”

“I’m from Altria, originally,” says Wilson. “Maybe I should’ve been a doctor.”

“Because you want to help?”

“Yes,” I say, hanging up the phone. “I paged Dr. White-Kelso.”

“No,” says Wilson. “But if I were a doctor, would you let me buy you a drink?”

“If we were in a bar,” Ms. Pines replies.

“I hope I remember how to have sex,” says Wilson, not softly enough.

“I beg your pardon?” Ms. Pines opens her eyes and glares at me.

“What?”

TOMORROW’S FLOYD JILKIE HOURfeatures an in-studio visit from Cleo Spiropoulos and the Narrative Points! That’s tomorrow at 9! Then, at 10, Nadine Lewsenclark takes over with Nadine at Night — spinning all your favorite commercial interruptions until 5 a.m., followed by all the latest FCN News from the Fox Carlyle Network! At 6, it’s celebrity gossip for your morning commute with Trina at Dawn! You’re listening to The Floyd Jilkie Hour on WMDS, serving the Disney Basin and all of South California! It’s 9:30!

Ms. Pines tells me Wilson works five nights a week. It takes him three hours on the train to commute from Disney to Clear Channel, then six hours to work, and then another three to get home.

“Wilson really does have a nice voice,” she says. “What a waste.”

MS. PINES IS FEELING MUCH BETTER now, and is resting at home. Her endocrinologist advised her, for $6,381.44, that stress from prolonged exposure to employment had rendered her pituitary vulnerable to a stubborn but non-lethal virus that’s going around, and that she’d recover most efficiently by donating 50 percent of her annual income to the CEO of Pfizer. Without a substantial donation, it might take years to recover.

Wilson comes and goes in different forms, but the fevers are generally milder now, and usually go away within a few hours.

“Sixty-three eighty-one forty-four,” says Wilson. “Next. Driver’s license and insurance. Sixty-three eighty-one forty-four. Next.”

Ms. Pines smiles weakly as I apply the cool damp cloth.

“Timing,” she says.

The dove flies out of the light and onto the branch, then back to the light again. The water falls. The younger plants shrivel and choke, never had a chance.

Probably nothing serious.

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