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About the time Alex was scheduled to pick up his parents at the airport, he realized that the girl he had been admiring from afar, Ava, would be starting her radio show, “Pop Candy” on the local co-op station. Before he could get going, he had to check that the tank was full, and the car did not smell of cigarettes or pot. Chrysler LeBarons were not hip cars, but Alex and his Dad had managed to put in a sweet stereo system— sort of a father/son project- last summer. During all hours he liked to sit in the car and read magazines or listen to music and drink a beer or two. Even if there were traces of trust-breaking evidence, his parents usually turned a blind eye to them. For the trip home, he would climb in the back seat and make sure everything was kosher, and no beer cans were left floating and banging under the seats. God forbid Dad would let Alex drive the family around, anyway.

He started slowly down the interstate at a reasonable clip and turned on the radio.

“I’ll be with you until 6 o’clock, and coming up we have Spoon with ‘I Turn My Camera On.’ Let’s check it out,” Ava announced.

Just what he wanted. Knowing that her voice could be instantly called up at the touch of his finger gave Alex an immense sense of joy. Long before Alex discovered “Pop Candy” and Ava, he really never had an interest in alternative pop music. Music was music, but he thought that the idea, even the whole genre of alternative pop was a ridiculous oxymoron. Naturally, he was most encouraged to give the show a chance when he heard Ava’s voice. On the radio, she sounded sweet, smart, passionate and mostly just very cool. Possibly, he would meet her one day at a café downtown, or maybe in the lobby of an old movie theater. Question was, wouldn’t that be sort of a stalker fantasy?

“Rolling along,” Ava said, “that was Spoon for everyone trying to find some decent tunes for that summer soundtrack. Speaking of summer, it is hot as hell which is good for me because apparently that keeps you guys indoors, or in your car, for your daily dose of alternative pop music. Today we have some Voxtrot, Beirut, The Rumours, followed by some of the bands that started it all like the Velvet Underground. You know Lou Reed has a special place in my heart– I got my first kiss from a guy named Ray when “Sweet Jane” was on the radio, but I always think of Lou.”

She sounded relaxed and happy today, Alex thought. Tonight, he would go to her website and see if she’s posted any new pictures. Unless, of course, his Dad hogged the computer again, which he probably would, because no access to e-mail for four days makes his Dad pretty anxious. Virtually every time his father came home, Alex was reduced to spending most of his time in his bedroom—the same bedroom he’s had for the last 31 years. When his mother comes in with the classifieds, or phone messages or mail, Alex usually asks for a tuna melt with Fritos, banana pudding, a Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper, and that’s about it.

Xenophobia, agoraphobia, even a brief stint with arachnophobia almost had gotten the best of Alex. Yards away from the driveway, then a street block, and now the straight ten minute bi-weekly car ride to the airport.

Bjork is coming up next,” Ava cooed. “And this one’s going out to Alex.”

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