Westpoint Tales

by Kiwi

Flight of The Toucan - Pt 2

Toucan flew. Toucan ruled! He was loud and funny and rude and controversial and his audience grew larger every night. The Warwicks were delighted; they were on to a winner. (He was a nice kid too - off air.)

His life at school didn't change. He was still quiet and shy and largely ignored, but for two hours an evening, three nights a week, he was Toucan and he ruled.

The rumors flew around the town. Toucan was a woman! No he wasn't. Of course he wasn't. He was a stud. He was a big-city radio jock on the run from the law. He was an old man in a wheelchair. He was a kid, a crippled kid. Crippled and blind, but with a great voice and personality. He was a retired rock-star. He was Toucan and he was a star, and the legends grew in the telling.

Before long, Toucan was the best known unknown in town and everyone who listened to the radio was listening to him. His Friday night show was extended to midnight, and he began broadcasting on Saturdays as well - 7pm., to midnight.

He tried to talk to everyone who phoned in, but the lines were running hot. Colin Warwick, noticing how busy he was, started coming in to take some of the pressure off him. Then he brought some of his other staff into the secret and made sure that someone was always working the panel when Toucan was on the air.

Largely on the strength of Toucan's success, Westpoint Community Radio expanded. They linked up with other community stations and began broadcasting Coastwide. This necessitated a change of name and they became West Radio - All over the Coast. (In later years, when they began broadcasting in FM, they became West FM - The Voice of the Coast.) And they never looked back.

Soon after Toucan started flying, a game of cat and mouse developed and everyone entered into the fun. Some people, especially nosy teenage girls, were determined to find out who Toucan really was. Robbie, the Warwicks, their staff and his family were equally determined that they would not.

Various strategies were tried, including hiding him in a back room, for hours, while the late-shift DJ lied that, "Toucan has left the building." They tried bundling him up and smuggling him out by car. That didn't work; other cars were soon waiting to give chase.

 Robbie, officially, got at job as a cleaner at the newspaper offices to explain his presence there. This got him noticed at school, but they soon gave up when he claimed not to know who Toucan was. But, some people still wondered.

The best solution they found was for Robbie to stay at home and not come into the studios at all. Technical staff converted his garden shed into an outside broadcasting unit. Telephone lines were laid on, and he did his shows from there with a technician on the panel at the radio station.

One day the most unlikely rumor of all started, but it soon died as people laughed it off. The quiet outsider, Robbie Keenan, couldn't possibly be Toucan could he? No. That was ridiculous.

This short-lived rumor had one lasting result. Bryce Hartigan noticed him again and he started watching Robbie even more closely. Could it be true? Well, could it? He was sure that there had to be more to this quiet, shy and unobtrusive, (and very cute!), boy.

Appearance could be deceiving. Bryce knew that for real. Everyone thought that he was really good-looking, every girl's dream, but when he looked in a mirror, that was not what he saw.

Bryce Hartigan was good-looking. Okay, he was REALLY good-looking, but that was only on the surface. On the inside, where only he could see, he was ugly. Ugly, lonely and probably gay.  No-one knew that, but he did. He was alone, scared and gay - probably. Dammit!

Robbie Keenan? Toucan? Well, why not?

He watched him closely, from a distance. Robbie was always alone, but seemed to be happy with it. The only time Bryce had tried talking to him, he'd run away. Now he just watched him. Robbie always seemed to be outside every group, always standing in the background, just watching what was going on.

Every night when Toucan was on the air, he always had lots of the latest gossip. Gossip, jokes and stories that only someone who was there would know about.

Bryce watched Robbie watching and he wondered. Robbie went to school and that was it - he went to school and then he went home, nowhere else, not even the Square. He was a real loner.

The more he watched, the more he liked the kid. He was very cute. How come no-one ever noticed that? He'd really like to make a friend of Robbie Keenan, but he didn't know how to. Every time he approached him, Robbie walked away.

He wouldn't want to know Bryce anyway, not if he knew what he was really like. Life's a bitch sometimes.

Toucan was flying high and West Radio was spreading its wings. The link-up was completed and they were going to start broadcasting, 24/7, to Brownsville, the largest town on the Coast. Colin Warwick called a meeting of all the staff and, when they were assembled, handed over to his wife, Linda.

"Okay. Listen up people. This is my show. Well, it's everybody's really, but I got stuck with the job of organizing it, so here's what we're going to do - "

On the Saturday, West Radio was live on air, broadcasting from Brownsville's annual Industries Fair at the Victoria Raceway. They broadcast all day, but the eagerly awaited climax was on Saturday evening when, during a live concert of local bands and artists, all of the announcers and DJ's of West Radio would be live on stage. That is ALL of the DJ's, including the mysterious and never-seen, Toucan.

That announcement caused a bit of a sensation, and it seemed like half the kids in Westpoint made the hundred-kilometer pilgrimage to Brownsville to see Toucan live on the stage.

The radio jocks, five of them, four guys and one girl, came out on the stage one by one. They introduced themselves and spoke about their regular shows and timeslots on West Radio. Finally, two of the guys carried a small, cloth-covered table out to centre stage. The girl, Lise, brought out a wooden-box speaker shaped like an antique radio. She placed it on the table and stood back, announcing.

"Last but not least, we have the latest addition to our staff - the man without a face. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you - Toucan!"

She switched the speaker on and stepped to the side as Toucan's distinctive theme song began. "I love Rock and Roll, put another dime in the jukebox baby. I Love Rock and Roll, put another dime and dance with me."

He introduced himself, "Hello Westpoint. Good evening West Coast and Hellooo Brownsville. Toucan talking to ya."

He continued talking about his show, the timeslots, requests, dedications, give-aways and the music, always the music. As expected, the crowd was disappointed by the faceless voice on the speaker, and they grew restless.

Mutterings grew and booing started. "Fraud."

"Gyp."

"We want Toucan. Where is Toucan."

Mrs. Warwick had planted protestors in the audience but they weren't needed as the whole crowd soon took up the chant. Clapping and stamping, they began chanting with one voice.

"We want Toucan. We want Toucan!"

The sound grew louder and louder. Objects, fruit and stuff, were being thrown at the speaker on the table. It looked like a fully-fledged riot was about to break out.

"We want Toucan. We want Toucan."

Two of the DJ's lifted up a screen - a white bedsheet attached to poles. They held it up in front of the table and the speaker and flying objects bounced off it. All the lights on the front of the stage went out and the lights behind it came up so that all that was visible was the brightly back-lit screen and the silhouetted shadow of the table and speaker.

The noise didn't stop. It just got louder and louder until it was suddenly cut off by a super-loud and penetrating "Screech."

"Screech, screech screech!" There was an outburst of applause and cheering as the shadow on the screen moved. The silhouette stood up, wide wings lifted and spread and the head turned sideways to reveal the shape of a huge parrot's beak, and a toucan stood before them.

The faux wings dropped away, the head was lifted off and discarded and the shape of a slender teenage boy was revealed on the screen. His arms lifted out to the sides again, with his fingers splayed out. He turned a couple of slow circles and he screeched.

"Toucan. Toucan! Toucan!! Away with the crud." And he danced and sang as music played.

"Just give me some more of that Rock and Roll music."

Now the crowd whistled and cheered as the shadow danced and sang along with the Beatles. The song finished and the boy cried out, "Toucan. Toucan! Toucan!! That's it folks."

He bent over and folded into a small square again, The DJ's dropped the sheet, the lights came up, and there was nothing there but the speaker on the table. Lise lifted the speaker up and carried it away. Ivan whipped the cloth off the table with a flourish and Jerry picked up the spindly-legged table, held it above his head and walked away leaving the brightly-lit stage empty.

Mr. Warwick came out, a microphone in one hand and waving with the other. "That's it, Folks", he announced. "Toucan has left the stage. If you want more, listen to West Radio. Toucan flies Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, 7pm., until late, on West Radio - all over the Coast."

He left the stage, the lights went out and music played - "Dance on."

And they danced. A dance party went on into the night and it was still going as Mrs. Warwick drove Robbie home to Westpoint.

"Don't you wish, Robbie, that you could just go out and join them? To be a kid in the crowd, dancing and having fun?"

"No. Not really. No-one would want to dance with me anyway. I'm a loser, but for a few minutes there I was the King of the World. I was Toucan, everyone was looking up at me and nothing beats that."

"I don't know, Robbie. It's all a bit of fun, but I think that if I was your age, I'd rather be out there having fun with the rest of the kids. You're only young once and it doesn't last long. Don't waste your youth, that's all I'm saying."

"Thanks, Mrs. Warwick, but I'm not. I'm doing the best that I can. When you were a kid I'm sure that you would have had lots of friends. You must have because you would have been gorgeous. I'm not. I don't have friends, none at all, but I can be Toucan."

"You're wrong, Robbie. Really wrong. You could make friends; you don't have to be Toucan. You could just come on air and say, "Hey, I'm Robbie Keenan." People would still want to know you."

"No, they wouldn't. Toucan is popular because nobody knows who he is. He's just a voice on the radio so they all have their own idea of what he's like. Nobody wants to know Robbie Keenan. He's just a loser."

"He's not you know. Far from it. You're a great kid, Robbie. You're bright and smart and really good-looking too. You went out and got yourself your own radio show. How many other fourteen year-olds have done that? And you do it and people listen and they love it. Don't sell yourself short, you're a great kid. You rock."

"Toucan rocks, it's not me. Hell, it's not even an original idea, I stole it from the movie."

"Robbie, shut up. If I was fourteen again, I'd rather get to know Robbie, not Toucan. Any day."

"Mrs. Warwick. Let's both shut up."

Bryce knew. He stood in the crowd at the Brownsville racecourse. He watched the shadow dancing up on the stage, and he knew who it was. Toucan was the same boy he'd been watching for weeks. No doubt about it. He didn't know how he knew, but he did. Toucan was Robbie Keenan.

He had no intentions of blowing his secret; he wouldn't do that to him. He didn't even dare dream that Robbie could be a pervert like himself, but he really liked him and he wanted to make him his friend. If he could. If he wanted to. If only he'd stop running away from him.

How could he use this information? Blackmail?  No, of course not. You can't blackmail someone into liking you. He knew that there was more to this kid than met the eye. Beneath that quiet exterior, Robbie was a really cool guy. Robbie rocked. 'Rocking Robbie on the Radio.'

Well, one thing was for sure, Robbie knew everything that happened on Toucan's show. Of course he did, Robbie was Toucan. There must be some way he could use that.

Monday morning at school, everyone was still talking about Toucan's appearance on Saturday night. A lot of the theories had been killed by his standing up on the stage. He couldn't be an old man, or anything else either. Toucan was a kid and not a crippled one either.

Still, some people refused to give up their favorite fantasies. Maybe that wasn't really Toucan. Maybe that was some kid pretending to be him. No! They all heard him, didn't they? Ah, but, was that really his voice? Maybe Toucan was off-stage, talking into another mike. How did they do that trick with the table anyway? There was more to this than meets the eye.

Indeed there was, Bryce smiled to himself. He didn't wonder who Toucan was, he knew who he was. And he thought that, maybe, he was  falling in love with him too. Bryce walked away from his friends and he went looking for Robbie.

He'd almost given up when he finally found him. He was sitting on the steps at the back of the library, with his sister, Liz, (his gorgeous sister, Liz), her current boyfriend and another girl - Rebecca Bangs. ("And she does," was a favorite joke.)

She was sitting very close to Robbie. Too close - she was all over him, the slut! She even had her feet hooked across his ankles. Rebecca was a "bad girl" and she had a reputation as an easy lay. Men's Rooms all over town had the message written on the walls. "If you want a good time, Rebecca Bangs."

When he saw them, Bryce was totally dismayed. So that was how it was? Robbie Keenan was not like him, he was straight. Just another horny, straight boy and he was going to bang Rebecca like so many others before him.

They were talking about Toucan, of course, like everyone was. Or, rather, Rebecca was talking and the others were listening to her.

"I've figured it out, it's obvious. Toucan is like the Wolfman, you know, in that movie. Whoever he is, he's a completely different person to who he is on the radio. I'm going to find out; Jack Swan's working at the radio and he will know who Toucan is. He'll tell me. I'll make sure he does. I, like, totally love Toucan you know."

'If only you knew. You've got your hands all over him.' Bryce turned to walk away, but he looked back and something happened that would change his life forever.

Robbie looked up at the movement and their eyes met. He rolled his eyes, made a little shrug, and flashed a small, embarrassed grin at Bryce.

He got the message. Robbie was telling him that he really didn't want to be there. He was uncomfortable and he wasn't interested in this cheap girl who was all over him. Great!

Bryce beamed his happiest smile back at him, but, unfortunately, Rebecca saw it and she got the wrong idea entirely.

"Bryce Hartigan," she simpered. "Hello cutie. How's the best-looking boy in Westpoint?"

"Umm. I'm good, Rebecca. Catch you later" Bryce fled.

'You're not eating me, Maneater.'

'Robbie doesn't want to be with her. He doesn't. Maybe, just maybe, there's hope for me yet. He smiled at me. Well, it was a grin, but it was for me. Definitely for me. I love you, Robbie Keenan. I want you, I need you, I love you. But am I ever going to get you? No, probably not. But that won't stop me from trying.'   

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