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Monday, January 23, 2006

The Break - Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Anita bounded down the narrow hallway of the television studio. Literally feeling the blood rush through her veins, she could not remember a time when she had been more excited. Just ten minutes ago she received the call. The boss wanted to see her. It could only mean one thing. It was the call. The call she had been waiting for over her entire career.

“Let’s be honest.” She thought. “I’ve been waiting for this moment may entire life.

She felt a tingling in her toes as if her foot had fallen asleep. It began to flow up her body, gaining momentum until she heard a sound explode from mouth.

“I’m going network!” She heard her voice say.

As the words hit her ears, she cringed.

“I hope no one heard that.” She thought. “People can be so petty when they are jealous.”

Indeed Cord Brenner had called Anita, but it was not to talk about going to the network. As Anita giddily pranced down the hall, Cord inhaled deeply as he tried to regain his composure. In the twenty-odd hours passed since the explosion, his phone had not stopped ringing. His secretary bore the brunt, but it seemed every single person that he had ever given his private line had called him directly.

“That ego driven bitch.” He thought to himself. “She couldn’t just go with it could she? Did she have any human feelings?”

When he heard the knock on the door, Cord felt the burning in his stomach. He absoluted hated confrontation, especially this type. Inhaling deeply, he planted both feet on the ground and sat upright in his chair. Slowly , he blew the bad air out.

“Come in.” He managed after drawing in another two deep breaths.

Anita opened the door and allowed it to swing open. When she had a clear view of Cord, she strode though the opening as if she had just been announced to the court of Grimaldi. Her face beamed with self-aggrandizing pride. She felt as if she was being anointed into a sacred brotherhood – the network television anchor.

“Ah jeez.” Cord thought. “Does she have to be so freaking happy?”

Caught up in the moment of her own construction, Anita missed the frown that clouded Cord’s face.

“Have a seat, Anita.” Cord asked the sky-high anchor.

Anita took a moment from her flight of euphoria to float down into the chair opposite of Cord. The whiteness of her over exposed teeth was almost too much for Cord to bear. The only thing that made it bearable was that Cord was fairly confident that she wouldn't be smiling much longer.

“Thanks for coming, Anita.” Cord started.

“My pleasure, Cord.” Anita responded knowingly. “What can I do for you.”

“Since last night’s broadcast, my phone has been ringing off the hook…”

“Oh, I bet it has Cord.” Anite interrupted cheerfully. “That Pepsi Center explosion certainly was something.

“Well, yes it …” Cord tried.

“I mean, a news anchor could wait an entire career for something like that.” Anita babbled happily. “And to have it happen right here in our own backyard and I nailed it. It was so amazing …”

A jolt ran up Anita’s spine as Cord slapped the desk in front of him with the palm o his hand.

“Enough.” Cord barked. “Jesus Christ, are you even human?”

“What?’ Anita asked as her teeth instantly retracted to the normal location for human facial structure.

“Anita, over 8,000 people are dead.” Cord snapped. “D-E-A-D. Get it?”

“Well, yeah. “ Anita said dumbfounded. “That’s what makes it a news story.”

Cord no longer felt nervous about this confrontation. He only felt the rage of moral indignation.

“News Story? NEWS STORY!” Cord shouted. “It’s a fucking TRAGEDY! These people had lives, families …”

“That’s exactly why it such a great story.” Anita stated flatly, her tone expressed her lack of understanding.

For a solid minute, all Cord could do was to sit and stare at Anita. He was sure that his eyes were blinking. Then he became aware that his mouth was still hanging open.

“Really, Anita?” He finally asked. “Truly, is that the way you see the world? Whether or not it is a good story?”

“Well,” she started. “I never really thought about it, but … yeah … I think all good reporters see the story. That’s what makes them good reporters, right?”
As he closed his eyes, Cord’s chin dropped slightly and he felt the air drain from his lungs. He had no idea how long he sat like.

“Ah-hum, Cord.” Anita interrupted. “Did you want to tell me something?”

“Yes, I did.” Cord said as he gathered himself together. “As I said, my phone has been ringing off the hook since …”

“So what did the network say?” Anita interrupted again. “Do they want me to come to New York right away or do they want me to cover the story from here?”

“What?” Was all Cord could manage.

“They probably want me to cover the story from here.” Anita continued babbling. “That makes sense. All the anchors shoot from location when something really big happens.”

“For Christ’s sake Anita, will you shut the fuck up for a minute and let me finish a sentence.” Cord scolded. “Look, the network doesn’t want you. Nobody wants you. You are so self-absorbed, you have absolutely no idea how incredibly offensive you are.”

“What?” Anita asked. It was her turn to be confused.

As he picked up a stack of phone messages from his desk, Cord shifted his weight in his seat and leaned in towards Anita. He took the first one from the pile.

“Completely insensitive to human suffering.” He read as he put the slip of paper down and picked up the next one. “Most cold-blooded thing I have ever seen.” Continuing. “Absolutely dumbfounded as to how she could treat this tragedy like a regular story.”

Cord put the stack down and looked directly into Anita’s eyes.

“And those are the nice ones.” Cord said. “You don’t want me to read the one from the network.”

Anita bit her lower lip for the first time in years. It was an old habit that she had vigorously trained herself not to do. She felt herself twitching and noticed that she was scratching her arm.

“What is going on?” She asked herself silently. “I got rid of these habits a long time ago.”

Cord paused for a reaction. He had never seen her appear to be nervous before in the five years they had worked together. It was very odd to see this.

“Are you starting to get it now?” Cord asked. “The way you treated Jim and Bobbie was completely messed up.”

“That little bitch was the one messing things up.” Anita replied angrily. “She couldn’t even give comprehendible update.”

Cord shook his head in disbelief. Then he remembered who he was talking to and realized he would need to change tactics in order to get through to her.

“Anita.” Cord said softly. “In situations like this, what do you think people want to see?”

“Well, they want to see accurate reporting by professionals.”

“No, they don’t.” Cord explained. “Something like this is more than story. It’s life … well, death ... uh … life and death … on a major scale. People expect to see shock, horror, rage and especially compassion. You showed none of those emotions. In fact, did you have any idea that you were actually smiling?”

“I was?” She asked stunned.

“Yeah.” Cord replied as he picked up another phone message. “That ghoulish smile was the most frightening thing I had ever seen.” Quickly, he picked up another. “What was she smiling about, is she some kind of twisted b… Anyway, get the point.”

Anita’s chin dropped all the way to her chest. She began to twist a lock of hair around her right index finger.

“Oh, great.” She said as she forced her hand back into her lap as if she could control all of her unconscious habits. “Another girlish habit.”

After a moment of silence, Cord was confident that he had gotten through to her.

“Well, that was an interesting critique.” Anita said. “What is the positive feedback?”

“Uh…you’re kidding, right?” Cord asked puzzled.

“Kidding? Of course not.” Anita said. “I accept that I have things to work on. So, now I would like to hear the good things people had to say.”

Cord closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He held it for a count of ten and then exhaled slowly, evenly.

“Anita, you just aren’t getting it.” He explained. “There is no…I repeat…no positive feedback. This was the worst, most callous news report I have ever seen…”

“Do I need to do an on air apology?” Anita asked meekly.

“Anita…” Cord said softly. “You won’t be going on the air again at this station or any other affiliate in this network.”

“But I’m the top-rated local anchor for this network.” Anita said desperately. “How…”

“Anita, please.” Jim said compassionately. “I understand how difficult this is for you. But even the Governor called the network to complain. You’re done.”

They sat for a moment in silence. Cord watched Anita as she fixated on pattern of his office carpet. Finally, Cord reached for the phone and pressed the speaker phone button. When he heard the dial tone, he quickly entered four digits. The phone was answered on the second ring.

“Human Resources.” The woman’s voice said. “This is Ginny.”

“Hi Ginny, this is Cord.” He said into the speaker. “I’m here with Anita. We are ready for you to come in and finish up.”

“Be right there.” Ginny responded.

Cord picked up the receiver and hung it up again. Looking into Anita’s eyes, he could see the painful recognition of the magnitude of the issue.

“Is this really happening?” Anita asked softly.

“Sorry, Anita.” Cord said gently. “But, yes, it is.”

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Copyright (c) 2006 Paul Gavin. All rights reserved.

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