The next afternoon I walked by an assignment meeting and into a raging debate. Loosely huddled around a long conference table, my co-workers ignored the bank of TV monitors behind them. Instead they all stared at the starfish-shaped speakerphone in the middle of the table and argued their point.
“No one cares about some school that’s not even built yet. The moon rock’s our talker”, a shaggy young producer said. “You see last night’s numbers?”
“Sure, but unless you got men in white suits crawling all over the place I’m not putting a reporter on it”. The assistant news director poured over his Wall Street Journal with a sniper’s eye. When he found what he wanted he looked up from his fifth morning paper of the day and looked for a certain sculpted hairstyle,
“Erik, go do the school story. Stewart, go see the moon rock family. And someone get those phones!”
With my camera hung low on the shoulder strap, I rang the doorbell and counted the cars in the driveway. Five, about three too many. But at least none boasted bright TV station logos. That was my job.
The door opened and a weary looking woman in a beautician’s pant suit stared back at me.
“Mrs. Klumpf, hi - I’m Stewart from the TV station - we just wanted to follow up on the rock….”
“Yes, well we already have…” The woman’s voice trailed off as she looked over her shoulder, a confused look in her tired eyes. I followed her gaze and saw why, two middle-aged men were wrestling with a step-ladder in her living room, upsetting knickknacks and arguing astrophysics.
'Aw Geez', I thought, Not Frick and Frack from the Astronomy Club. The same two very two excitable old telescope geeks had chewed up hours of my time six months ago. I should have known they’d be here, taking measurements and complicating matters. At least they’d be good for a few sound bites, I thought as I pushed past the Moon Rock Mom.
“Not another damn ghostbuster!”, the man sitting at the kitchen table in his ball-cap sliced his pork chop and gave me the once over. Beside him, a boy of twelve or so stared over his glass of iced tea at the camera hanging off my shoulder. I hoisted my toy and powered up, recorded a shot of the he-man dinner club. A few seconds later I panned over to the the living room, where one skinny silhouette helped the fat one up the ladder. I smiled inside the viewfinder, knowing I’d just bagged my Opening Shot.
Moving on the living room, I hovered around Frick and Frack as they shined flashlights up the hole in the ceiling. To my delight, the barely acknowledged me, instead they babbled back and forth to each other in a stream of consciousness code.
"From the steep trajectory, we know it came from above!", Frick the Thin spat. "Yer darn tootin', snapped the fatter Frack, I'm a go get my scopes, W'ere puttin' this rock under the glass!"
With that Frack almost ripped the hinges off the door, caught up in a scientific frenzy I recognized from before. When the door slammed shut, I was surprised to see a tall young fellow amid the curtains. I’d never seen him before, but something about his wily afro and workman-like dress clothes screamed newspaper reporter, even before I spotted the tell-tale skinny notebook in his hand.
‘This place is getting crowded‘, I thought as the cell phone on my belt started ringing.
Next Time: Wood Chipper?