• Sarah Royal

Steam Radio Syndicate: The Mayor

This story was written for the maiden broadcast of Steam Radio Syndicate, a four-hour live broadcast from the decks of the steamship-turned-artspace UV746 docked underneath the St. John’s Bridge in Portland, Oregon.

The Mayor

He took a long pull on his cigarette. Staring out of the window, he watched ships pass into and out of the harbor, against the backdrop of the new shipyard. Icons of the West. The movement. The rebuilding.

Arriving from back East, as he and so many others had, he was drunk on the potential of this town. Everyone is a mutt. Everyone is uprooted, from somewhere else—chasing the new, jettisoning security for possibility, feeding into the narrative of the West. No one need know your past, and you could rebuild. It was so damn… American. Right now, ahead of him in the yard, men were building a whole city, forging it of wood and steel, bringing it from paper to production, concept to construct, in a span of a quarter year. Mighty vessels, bigger than ever seen and made to conquer any sea, were being erected in mere weeks. And all the while—multi-colored men, lifting, pulling, heaving… moved about in a frenzy below. Working with knotty hands, acting as symbols of defending forefather and manifest dreams, and buried neck-deep in a spirited sea of can-do.

And yet.

He grasped his forearms and massaged them, uneasy. He hadn’t had any introspection, hadn’t truly questioned that part of himself that had felt apprehensive about it all since he took that step. The control he desired, high on power, has now fallen to detritus—spread amongst his assorted countrymen, bickering and politicking, questioning his belief, his judgment, his conviction. This wasn’t back home: controlled and prepared, built over decades with a worn groove of obvious pitfalls and squabbling and pettiness. This was newer, rougher, realer, unpredictably fraught with terrible hope—and he was expected to charge through it, and deliver the dream. His principles, his canon had seemingly drifted away from him like so much flotsam and jetsam, and all the while he was to stand up and be that archetypal hero. His fingers grazed his suitcoat. It felt foreign. He was merely an actor; a fraud. He didn’t feel like he could play this part anymore. He didn’t understand where he even belonged, if anywhere.

And yet.

A bird sang out, softly, lightly, breaking the hum of the scurrying men and their clinking and clanking below, and he paused. He scoffed at himself. Loss of conviction was fleeting. An ephemeron. To be shaken off and tamped to the ground, like his cigarette.

Pulling down on his lapels, he straightened up, breathed outwards, and moved towards the door.

It was time. They were expecting him. And he was expecting all. » Steam Radio Syndicate & its Live Broadcast Excitement

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