“Yeah, Stew…” I could hear phones ringing in the background as the shaggy producer scanned his rundown, “the Network’s going nuts for your Moon Rock story. They want it on the bird by 9:30.”
“They want fries with that?” I barked. Just what I needed, people in New York shaving off precious turn-around time.
“I know dude, but when you’re hot you’re hot. Do ya know what it is yet? We got all kinda crazies callin’”
Out of the corner my eye, I watched Frick sniff at the oblong metal mass, squinting intently behind a pair of bus-window eyeglass frames. In the kitchen, Frack had squeezed his considerable bulk behind the table, pulled several weird rocks out of a dusty leather case and was laying a serious science lesson on the poor trapped family of three.
“They ain’t ALL on the phone. Gotta go.”
I put the cell phone back on my hip and shouldered my camera. Walking up to the skinny man in the Members Only jacket, I stuck my lens in his upturned hands and focused on the object in question. Under his flashlight’s beam, the edges of the rock glistened, casting off weird flickers of green and silver. I could smell the cafeteria coffee on the old man’s breath as the wooly-haired print reporter joined us from the curtain’s edge.
“All right Professor - what’s your best guess?”
I can’t say he didn’t tell me, though I understood darn little of what came out of his mouth. Well-meaning and well versed, the stargazing scholar unfurled a looping thesis of everything the mysterious rock might NOT be. I tried not to think about my aching back as I panned the camera from the rock to his face, all while he went over the finer points of purloined moos dust. The newspaper reporter, who I came to think of Sideshow Bob, scribbled intently in his skinny notebook and said nothing. I backed off for a two shot of the unlikely pair hunched underneath the ceiling fan before moving onto the kitchen.
Bad move. The family sat with glazed looks on their face as Frack pulled musty photographs and cinched bags out of his cracked leather case.
“Now, this here is a piece of an asteroid from 1974, note the scarring on the edges, a distinct sign of burning entry…”
As I hovered over the kitchen table with my lens, the man of the house looked over at me. With his name on his shirt and his dirty fingernails, he didn’t seem too enticed with the science fair unfolding over his pork chops. The look in his eyes reminded me of a couple of hostage stand-offs I had attended. Poor guy, I thought, zooming out to better capture the catatonic clan, probably just wants to watch SportsCenter, not listen to a bunch of rock-obsessed lunatics expound on their favorite constellations. I almost felt real pity as I zoomed in for a tight shot of his hypnotized eyes.
After shooting a few sequences around the table, I returned to the living room where Frick was working himself into a theoretic lather. Sideshow Bob leaned in on every word, still bleeding chicken scratch into his tablet. Not wanting to appear too ignorant, I nodded behind the viewfinder and pretended to understand the litany of scientific terms. But I found myself drifting…maybe this was an honest-to-God Moon Rock, a one in a million piece of Green Cheese that would catapult the family and I into a whole new orbit. For all the astro-babble that Frick and Frack were peddling, they seemed growingly convinced the hunk of metal was not of THIS world. Maybe after all these many years of chasing tripe and trivia, I somehow stumbled across a story that would go down in the History books.
That’s when my cell phone rang. It was Shaggy, with a strange edge to his voice.
“Check it out, dude. Some yahoo just called and swore he knew what the moon rock is. He says, ’what chu got thar is a broke tooth off a tub-grinder’ - you know, one of those big wood-chippers? I wouldn’t have called but the guy sounded CERTAIN.”
“Wood chipper? “ I said, incredulous. Then I noticed the look on Frick’s face. As my own eyebrows scrunched, I heard a thirteen year old voice ring out from the kitchen.
“WE gotta wood-chipper out back!”
It was then the cross-country chase began.
Next Time: The Conclusion...