Bob Nichols is the husband of Grace Paley. He is a wonderfully funny man who also is a writer. During my recent workshop with Grace, Bob attended several of the sessions. On one occasion, we were critiquing a fantastic story by one of the participants, in which a character's life course is changed by an incident that struck me as being similar to something that happened to Bruce Wayne, who channeled his trauma into becoming Batman. Bob was fascinated by my comment and pulled me aside later wanting more details, wanted to know how I knew this information, and what, by the way, was Superman's origin?
At one of our readings, Bob read from his quirky story "The Secret Radio Station," the lead story in In the Air.
"In our town there is a secret radio station.
"Why secret? Everyone knows about it. It's evangelical."
Its secret is that it is beamed only toward our town. (The station can't be located.) But it isn't heard anywhere else.
The secret is in its place, not in its message. Still, the message is given in an unknown language. Words, a vocabulary that we don't share. Therefore one can say what is broadcase is secret.
At the same time everyone knows what the message of the radio station is: simply a picture of the way the town was in the past and the way it can be.
Still, the language itself, the medium in which the message is sent out, is not understood. It's difficult to say how everyone knows the message. And there are some that deny this really is the message. It could be a commercial message of some kind, one just designed to sell products. There are intervals, definite breaks in the continuous flow of the unknown language--this could be commercials. Though of course we can't be sure of it."