Sunday, June 17, 2001

Sneak Preview time. Here's the first chapter of a new short story I'm working on...

I was watching the night that Jerry Stucker lost it all on live TV. He started the newscast without any outward signs of the stress that must have been building up inside of him. He got through the first segment stories of the latest terrorist bombing in the Middle East and the investigation into the business affairs of the President’s sister-in-law without any show of emotion.

He started to slip in second segment, the local news. I’ve never seen him upset over a zoning decision, but he was starting to sweat as he told us about how the old Ferguson swampland making way for a new major high-tech office development. Maybe it was just because he knew which story was coming next and was already upset about it. I don’t know why he found it so difficult. Nobody had died, no bombs went off, and it wasn’t going to have any effect on the local economy. Still, I guess he found it somehow disturbing.

What had happened was this woman over on the east side had flipped out and taken a baseball bat to her six children. She’d just had enough of them, and who could blame her? Six of them, all needing things she couldn’t afford and energy she didn’t have. So in the middle of a family ball game at the local park she went after them all with a bat.

The field reporter talked to a couple of the older kids who explained how a few of them would try to jump her to take the bat away, but she’d just fling the bat around and beat them off as quickly as they could get up. As bloody as the kids were, all swollen red eyes and busted noses, and their arms already slinged, you could tell they were getting off on being on the news. You know that as soon as the interview was over they were asking the reporter what time and channel it would be airing on so they could call all their friends and set the VCR to record it.

Then the report moved on to the hero of the story: Charlie Wilson, an un-employed 32 year-old black man who lived across from the park. "I couldn’t believe what I was seeing," said Charlie. "This crazy white woman was beating the heck out of these kids, and they just kept coming at her, and she’s just beating them off again. So I came running out into the park and just tackled her from behind. Just put my shoulders to the back of her knees and took her straight down. Then a couple of the kids held her in place while I took the bat away and ran back inside to call the police."

When the taped report was over and Stucker was back on the air he was visibly shaken. His high forehead was red and wet and for the first time you could see every line and wrinkle that the make-up normally covered. His chin, normally firm and square, a real power-chin, was trembling and seemingly hiding behind his jowls that had grown swollen with bile.

He looked up at the camera and started to speak, "This report just in: Scientists at Cal-Tech and MIT have confirmed reports of an asteroid heading towards Earth." His voice was cracking in a very un-anchor-like manner as he continued, "Experts say that the asteroid will likely hit in just under five years, and set off a chain reaction of events the like of which has not been seen since a similar event several million years ago led to the demise of the dinosaurs. The Pope and the Dalai Lama have each issued statements offering spiritual guidance to those who would like to get their lives in order in the five years left before the end. The President has met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and..." and then he was gone. But instead of going to video of the President, or the Pope, the scientists, or even the dinosaurs, it went to a commercial for a new video game called Torture Chamber 3000.

After what seemed like a very long break the show was back, but Stucker was gone. It was Jimmy Sanders going right into sports as if nothing was wrong, without even any introduction or pleasant banter. Just Jimmy and sports.

The next night the news was being anchored by Shelly Folie, who normally anchored the weekend news. No word was ever made about the fate of old Jerry Stucker or the asteroid that was supposed to wipe us out in less than five years.

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