THE INFOTHON – SECRET CALLERS

2:55 AM

The advert had been made for radio and the adaptation was shoddy. It began with seagulls and sea-waves, a still image of the sea with sound effects. Then an exuberant voice, “Mac was at the beach enjoying the sun with his girlfriend, when a bully kicked sand in his face!”

“Now, get off my spot!” ordered the fascist.

A girl pleaded, “Mac, do something!”

A sketched picture of Mac appeared on screen. He was not muscular, just a regular guy. The voice artist had the softer tones of a gentleman. “If only there was some way of redeeming my manliness in front of Judy.”

The sound of the ocean returned, louder, splashing and drifting over shells. The black and white illustration was replaced with another, Mac looking into his tall bedroom mirror.

“I suppose I could hold him down in the water. The salt wouldn’t do his eyes any good, but I’d likely be arrested. Say, that Knobby water filter filtration system which removes pathogenic bacteria, pesticides and herbicides, gives me an idea,” said Mac

Mac’s voice was replaced by that of the narrator. “The Knobby self-sterilizing purification system removes chlorine to non-chemical levels as well as iodine, fluoride, arsenic, algae and lichen. Shift your order free of charge, like so many of our satisfied customers!”

Cut to a muscle man standing tall over Mac laying at the beach, his Knobby jug beside the blanket. “Now, you little nerd. Didn’t I tell you this was my space?” said the bully. “Haw, Haw, Haw, Haw!”

There was the sound of splashing water from a jug, which didn’t move in the product photo.

“Hey!” said the bully, then the sound of metal clanging against bone. “Ow, no, my nose, mommy,” cried the bully, “Mac smashed me in the face with the Knobby filtration jug.”

The sound of lips kissing with a ripped-off Russ Heath piece of pop art on-screen. “My hero,” said Judy, followed by, “Officer, no!”

“C’mon then Mac.” There was the stock photo of a cop holding a taser in front of a barbed wire fence. “There’s a faeces covered FEMA cell waiting just for you.”

“Knobby Water filtration – talk to an authorised dealer at 1877-3693 about our specials!”

The advert was followed with another advert: a silver morphing liquid, styled Terminator 2, assumed the form of a jug then altered in various sizes and shapes. As it did so, more silver liquid flowed through the top: high definition rain-drops changing to a calm blue ocean at the base of the vessel. “ProPlus Water Filters – the cutting edge in advanced filtration technology for those who like their liquids as pure as moonlight!” The graphic showed a 360-degree 3d overview then spun around and zoomed in. The screen was covered with grid-lines and statistic notes: ‘reverse osmosis’, ‘volatiles neutralised’, ‘carbons extinguished’ and ‘healthy for hormones.’

“If you value your healthy active lifestyle, we at ProPlus stand proudly by you as entrepreneurs aimed at enhancing your future!” A skier raced over a snowy slope and flashed to a stop by a mountain cafe where a jug of ProPlus sat on a table within view. He pulled off his mask to reveal big blue eyes and smiled with shining white teeth. Two tall strong women came to him, one arms around his chest, the other cuddled his shoulder.
“Call today. We’ll have your order with you tomorrow,” said Rachel.
“ProPlus Water purification – it’s where the future’s at,” said Lara.
The commercial ended with a bolt of lightning, they symbol of Mercury, being broken into a million fragments. Then the feed cut back to Axel in the studio, black bags under his eyes and his face bloated and hanging down. He did not look a good colour.
“October 2nd, 2016. A few minutes past the hour of three o’clock central time, and you’re listening to the Truth Live Info-thon, hash tag: Looking for America. Trying to find my kids: Constitution; Martha; let’s open the phones, maybe someone’s seen something.” He lifted his headphone from the desk. The line was already ringing. “What’s your name and what’s your call about?”
“Ah’ve been a-advertisin’ wit y’all a-leven years,” said the caller, “an’ right aft’ my own commericio y’ran this new polish cor’paritt stuff?”
“Uh, who is this?” asked Axel.
“Bob Knobby. Y’all r’member me, right? What do y’think yer doin’?”
Axel smiled. “Oh hi Bob. Good to hear from you. We’re actually going out live? Look, I’m sorry you feel this way. We try to do our best here and I’m always grateful for our advertisers who make our war on injustice possible.” Axel gave a big thumbs up to the viewer. “Maybe we can make it up to you. What are you doing up at this hour anyhow?”
“Kint sleep. Werryin’ bout th’busness. Ah jus expected battar from you, Axel.”
“Eleven years huh? Really?”
“Leven an’ a haff,” said Bob.
“Cripes. You remembered that detail like a homeopath. If I was into my homeopathy, I’d reach out and buy one of your Knobby water filters right now.”
“You know y’all ahr prob’ly right.” Bob sighed. “Ahve bin workin’ day and night on filter jugs an’ fer what? So Wal-Marr kin come in an sell em at a fifth price? Makes me think ma product ain’t any worth. Rilly. It ain’t that good.”
“Oh come on Bob, don’t say that.”
“I stare at these plassic tubs and plain white lids all hours God sens. It done me crazy. It’s not the job ev’one thinks. No rush o’ fresh spring wat’r in the factoree. No calls from admahrers o’ my jugs nor commissions fer big jobs neither.”
“Well you should feel proud. You’re practically a hero. You’ve saved hundreds in this city, thousands from poisoning. What about the sewage works up by the old Rump Park?”
“Y’were right to get those new guys in Axel. My filter jugs, well, thay suck. Ah’m not even sure ah wid buy ’em.”
Axel laughed. “Listen folks he doesn’t know what he’s saying. Bob grafts tirelessly over these things. He’s never had a complaint yet.”
“You love yer dotter right Axel? When she come back, shop fer a PrawPlus jug and give one har as a college gif. I’ll gi’ y’one of my ole boxes so she kin tahl har chums she a-buyin’ local.”
“Bob! Don’t surrender!” said Axel, but the line cut out from under him. “Ah, I should probably call him back. Bit worried.” The phone was ringing again. “Hello caller, you’re through to Axel America, Truth Live. What’s your call about?”


“Caller, you’re through…hello?”

“Axel,” said the voice. “It’s me!”

“Do I know you sir?” asked Axel. “Caller, state your name and location.”

“Winston, from Blunt in South Dakota, first time caller, long time listener. Your longest actually.”

Axel laughed. “Is that so? Right Winston.”

“I mean I’ve been listening to you since year dot, even when you said all that stuff about Y2K, and when I heard you were going on air for twenty-four hours…”

A Carribean woman’s voice called out, “Winston, come and have your breakfast man!”

“Sounds like someone’s calling you,” said Axel, rubbing his right eye.

“Yeah, that’s my homey. So I’m going to sit up with you the next seven and a half hours.”

“Why?”

“I have all your tapes, and I’ve recorded them so all my friends have copies; and we’ve put up stickers all over the lamp-posts in town.”

Axel seemed flattered. “You shouldn’t deface civic property, Winston. That’ll get you ten days in the gulag.”

“I know, but–”

“I’m serious. Why are you staying up all day and night?” asked Axel.

“Well, like I said, I just want to support you.”

“Have you lost your kids too?”

“…no.”

“Have you lost your kids?” asked Axel, bearing his teeth. Winston laughed. “You think this is a joke? A big joke son? Crawl back under your sheepskin filled with maggots. You’re an automated surveillance unit for the N.W.O.!”

“Axel, I don’t understand…”

“Oh, it’s a big slumber party for you and your friends. Then next year, when someone else loses their kids, we can all sit up six weeks, for the horror show. You’ve set a precedent!”

“…Ah no sir, I don’t —”

“Goodbye,” said Axel.


“Hello caller, you’re through to the Truth Live network.”

“It’s Philip, in Philadelphia?”

“Philip, you’re –”

Philip’s pitch was high; precious, with the sharpness of a betrayed friendship. “Where do you get off saying gays were invented by robot bees?”

Axel laughed.

“Or should I ask?” said Philip, snootily.

“Look, sometimes I say ludicrous stuff,” said Axel. “People think it’s funny…”

“It’s hate speech,” said Philip.

“Is that a fact?”

“Megan says you also said, quote, homosexualists are spies, unquote.”

“And who’s Megan when she’s at home?”

“Oh, no one. A hairdresser I work with.”

“Well I said, and you can tell Megan…”

“Please tell me, please tell me,” said Philip.

“People thought they were spies. Okay?” said Axel. “In the fifties. But you wouldn’t know that; probably too busy reading Cosmo.”

“Oh my god,” said Philip. “You’re so…”

“Sorry. History. I can’t change it.”

“I can’t even talk to you!”

“You’ll find it in books,” said Axel.

“Ahhh. The only thing you do right is run those adverts for the jeans,” said Philip.

“Sorry?”

“‘Fit Right Jeans’, because I look great in them,” said Philip, “Whereas you, Axel America, are an ass.”

“He thought I wasn’t going to cut him off after that,” said Axel.

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