by Beth McKim.
The idea began to take shape as I once again eavesdropped on my wife Eleanor’s supposed book club meeting. After most of the ladies disclosed they had not actually read the selection that month, the tone of the conversation shifted. Millie Maynard shared with the group, “Now don’t y’all breathe a word of this, but I heard from my cousin that Pastor Joe from the Missionary Baptist Church was spotted staggering out of the Skunkhole Bar last Saturday night just a few hours before he was scheduled to preach the opening sermon of the revival.”
Gladys Threadgill offered next, “ Have you ladies seen Sylvia Brown lately? She’s gotten herself a bad facelift and looks like the Joker from Batman.”
Betty Jenkins added, “ Well she’s probably worried because her husband has only had eyes lately for Myra Wilson, the young little hussy who moved down the street. They say she spends more time getting her nails done and batting her eyelashes than she does taking care of those unruly children of hers.”
Once the women got going, there was no stopping their competitive character crucifixions. Instead of making my blood boil like it usually did, I marched myself right downtown to our local radio station, KLIP, and pitched the idea for a new talk show. “I intend to start a call-in gossip program,” I told the station manager who seemed delighted because he had run out of ideas for conversation in our town of only five hundred residents. People were tired of hearing who was sick or dead, away visiting relatives, or just selling farm equipment.
But, when I told him I meant to make it for men only, he scoffed and told me men don’t know a thing about gossip. I promised to prove him wrong and explained that men just don’t get enough practice, and my new show would be a great training ground for them.
My subsequent show, Gossip Guys, was a little slow getting off the ground. The first three callers were women dying to participate by disguising their voices. Talking deep, but sounding like Millie Maynard trying to be a man, one said, “Rumor has it that the twins, Henrietta and Harrietta, have had a fallin’ out and are no longer speaking.”
A second call sounded like my cousin, Lily, in a fake masculine voice, “Hello, it comes from a well known source that the pie that Shirley Johnson took to the county bake-off was not made from scratch.”
And a whispering deep throat call I couldn’t identify claimed, “Simon Sneed has raised his prices at the grocery store because his wife Mabel has a gambling problem.”
At that point, I ranted on air that the women in town needed to stop calling and give the men a chance. I promised to have a drawing for each non-female caller to enter, and at the end of the month, we would give away a free bowling ball.
Jack Henry called first and excitedly reported, “ Say, I hear the Braves are ready to give up a starting pitcher for two first-round draft picks.” He was followed by Arnold Ames who had heard a new icehouse might be built just outside of town, and then Jim Kline who thought his brother-in-law was lying about the size of the fish he caught in the tournament over in Glenwood.
While I appreciated their calls, I demanded they “Amp it up a little. We’re not here to put people to sleep. Let’s talk straight like our wives and girlfriends do.”
Needless to say, I was thrilled when the “anonymous” calls began from male voices I recognized but could not quite place. The first one informed us, “ We have a hot new woman in town. Not sure if she’s visiting or living here but she’s blonde, wears red lipstick, and has a nice rack. If anybody knows her name, please call in?”
And that started the ball rolling.
Much to my pleasure, a fellow named ‘Albert’ called in to tell me, “ I think the secretary, Sandy, at the plant is about to file a sexual harassment suit because Chuck Hawkins pinched her ass when she walked by one day.” This helped the show immensely. I had calls from men who said their wives wouldn’t have sex with them often enough and younger guys who wondered whether size really mattered.
I had to remind them what gossip was to get them back on track. That is what I think prompted the call from a fellow named ‘Tony’ who confessed he was considering going off to California to become a woman. About thirty calls followed from concerned fellows griping that he better not bring back any diseases or try to make passes at them or corrupt their children.
But many calls later, and the one I least expected, caused me to end my gossip show. It came from a man who identified himself only as “John from a neighboring town.” He disclosed on my program, “All I can say is you better watch your back. For the past year, I’ve been sleeping with your wife, Eleanor. She wants to marry me and has been talking about finding a way to get rid of you so we can make that happen. Guy to guy, I thought I should warn you.”
Beth McKim is a non-gossipy actress and writer who lives in Houston with her husband and their Labradoodle, Lucy. Although she is certainly not famous, Beth has enjoyed seeing her work in print in publications such as Front Porch Review, Birmingham Arts Journal, Clever Magazine, Shine Journal, Mayo Review and Write Place at the Write Time.