Thursday, December 29, 2011


Yep . . . If you came here looking for the old Turd, he moved. Check out the new-and-improved blog.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

CREDIT (end)

Weaver caught me in the parking lot. “Lemme guess, three-day suspension. You, not Lou.”

“Yeah. I don’t get it.”

“It’s how Finch operates. I tried to tell you to let me handle it.”

“Well, next time just stop me before I give a shit about a story.”
“No. Next time, don’t leave your story with Lou.” Weaver smiled and punched my arm. “Brock, you’ve got something special. A passion and raw talent that doesn’t come along often. Don’t let this thing with Lou keep you from caring about your work. That’s what makes it special. Lou’s jealous. He couldn’t crank that out if you did it for him.”

“I did crank it out for him.” I tried to laugh. “And see where it got me.” I just wanted to go home and cry on Susan’s shoulder, but I sucked it up for the boss. “Payback’s a bitch.”
I had already started concocting ideas to torpedo Lou’s story the next time we worked together. His stand-up would look lovely a shade of sea-sick green. Or better yet, there had to be a way to embarrass him in front of his fans at the next live shot.

“You know I can’t let you do that, Brock.” Weaver had obviously seen the wheels turning in my head.

“That bastard deserves it.”

“He’ll get what’s coming to him. Guys like that always do.”

“Yeah, but I want to be around to see it.”

“You got the short end, and that sucks. But you gotta let this drop.” Weaver put his arm around my shoulder.

“Drop it? What about journalistic integrity?” I pulled away from Weaver. “Lou plagiarized. Where’s the penalty for that? What if that was to get out somehow?”

“Don’t be stupid.”

“I’m not saying I would . . . I’m just saying.”

“Okay, say this 'leaks' to the paper. There’s a big investigation. The station ends up with egg on its face. The only answer for Percy Finch is to fire both of you. Try getting a job after that. And after what you saw today, how sure are you that he’ll do the right thing? You’ve got to let this go and get past it.”

“I know, but how? I put my heart into that story.”

“And that’s why it was good. This business needs more guys like you. I’ll make you a deal.” Weaver’s tone brightened. “Ever heard of NPPA Boot Camp?”


“Every March, the National Press Photographer’s Association holds a week-long training camp for photogs. The best of the best from places like KUSA/Denver, KSTP/Minneapolis, WBZ/Baltimore fly in to run you through the wringer. It’s a tough week, but it’s one that will change your life.” Weaver studied my face. I guess he liked what he saw, because he continued, “They just wrapped up this year’s camp. You keep working hard and keep your nose clean, and next year, I’ll send you . . . If you’re still with us.”

“What about Percy Finch?”

“It’s next year. He’ll forget about this by then, if you can drop it.”

“As long as I don’t have to work with that son of a bitch the day I come back.”

“I don’t think Lou will be asking to work with you anytime soon. Now start your vacation. Treat Susan to a room in that fancy hotel of hers.”

Monday, April 19, 2010

CREDIT (part 2)

Weaver caught my shoulder from behind as I stepped through the doorway. “Now’s not the time, Brock.”

“Oh, it’s time.” I answered over my shoulder.

I zeroed in on Lou’s smug anchor’s grin. My cork was about to pop. I checked my hands – no fists.

“Th-thanks.” Lou leaned forward in his seat as he watched me enter the room. His gaze darted between the news director and me. His grin dimmed just a bit. “Uh, Brock did a heck of a job shooting it too.”

“Yes. Good job, Brock.” Percy Finch fanned a limp-wristed salute my way.
I was torn. Should I play it cool, give Lou a little rope, and watch him dangle before he hung himself, or –

“You sonofabitch!” Choice made.

I dove across the corner of the table. Lou scrambled from his chair, but I managed to grab a handful of his tie before he could hide behind the ASSMAN. Ken nearly tumbled out of his chair trying to dodge us. Two women producers screamed.

Weaver leapt with me. He threw his arm over my shoulder and across my chest, and he pulled hard to keep me off of Lou.

“Tell ’em, you son of a bitch! Tell ’em what you did!”
Lou’s eyes swung nervously from me to Weaver to Ken, and back to me. “What? Uhh, I – ”

“Brock.” Percy Finch stood, smoothed his tie, and buttoned his suit coat. “What is the meaning of this?”

Ken wrestled Lou’s tie from my grip, and Weaver backed me across the table.

“That no-good son of a bitch ripped off my story!”

Lou backed flat against the wall and tried to disappear.

“Tell ’em! Tell ’em how you put your lock-out on the end of the Sonic story! Tell ’em you piece of shit!”

“Brock, calm down.” Percy Finch’s voice remained calm as he ran a hand through his starched hair.

“I’ll calm down as soon as this plagiarizer gets what’s coming to him!” My hands were balling themselves into fists again.

“We’re not going to handle this in the morning meeting.” Percy Finch turned toward the producers and reporters at the table. “If you’ll excuse us. Both of you, in my office. Now.”

Percy Finch leaned way back in his chair and faked his most sincere smile. Until now, I had steered clear of the diminutive Director of News. At five-foot-three, his less than impressive stature mirrored his yes-man managerial abilities. Percy Finch hated conflict. “Gentlemen, can’t we solve this without fisticuffs?”

I couldn’t contain myself. “Lou had absolutely nothing to do with that story last night.” My hands waved wildly around my head as I ranted. “I shot it! I produced it! I edited it! And he goes and slaps his name on it!”

“I think I’ve heard quite enough from you, Brock. I’d like to hear from Lou.” Percy Finch bobbed back and forth in his chair, his stubby fingers intertwined across his tie.

“Well,” Lou started tentatively, avoiding eye contact with me. “We needed a kicker for the late news. Brock had this story.”

Percy Finch smiled.

“Brock’s story didn’t have a KALX lock-out on the end.” Lou looked nervously at my hands. They were folded in my lap.

I waited for what I already knew was coming.

“Brock was gone. So I recorded mine over the last line.”

I gripped the arms of the office chair to keep from flying across the room.

“He’s not even a reporter!” Lou explained, desperation in his voice. “He couldn’t have locked it out even if he was here.”

Percy Finch nodded. “Brock, stay.” He held out his hand. “You see, a logical explanation. Thank you, Lou. You may go.”

“What!” I jumped from my seat. “Is that all? ‘Lou, you may go?’ He took credit for my work! That’s plagiarism!”

Percy Finch leaned across his desk. “Lou, would you close the door on your way out, please?”

When the door closed, Percy Finch stood and shut the blinds all the way around his glass office. That couldn’t be good, but at least no one would see me pummel the runt.

He took his seat behind the desk. First, he studied the doodles that covered his desk calendar. He rummaged around his top drawer for a pen, and doodled another running cowboy stick figure.

I waited, breathing heavy to keep from shouting.

“Brock,” he finally said never looking up from his doodles, “what are we going to do with you?”

“Me? I’m the victim here!”

“You’re not a victim. You are a photojournalist. You shoot stories for reporters.”

I squeezed my lips and gritted my teeth. I wanted to take his head off.

“Lou is an anchor.” He continued. “He tells stories.”

“Well excuse the hell out of me for stepping out of my narrow job description. Isn’t part of being a photojournalist telling stories?”

“Well . . . yes, but you tell them with pictures and sound.” Percy Finch looked me dead in the chin.

“That’s exactly what I did last night! And that son of a bitch took credit for it!”

“Son, everything on tape here is KALX property. It’s not your work.”

“So it’s okay for me to record my name on one of Lou’s stories?”


“It’s the same damn thing Lou did. Only he did it to me.” I pounded my fists on his desk. The blast nearly rolled Percy Finch out of his chair.

“Son,” Percy Finch fought to suppress the startled look on his face, “if you don’t learn to control your emotions, you’re going to have a heart attack before you’re thirty.” He leaned way back in his chair again. “I’m going to help you with that. You’re suspended. Three days, starting now.”

“Suspended! I do the work. Lou plagiarizes it. But I’m suspended!”

“That’s twice you’ve almost punched a co-worker. I can’t have you threatening my staff without penalty.”

“What about Lou?”

“Lou didn’t threaten anyone. He’s fine.” Percy Finch stood and opened the blinds all the way around his glass office.

For once, I was speechless.

“No hard feelings.” Percy Finch winked. “Leave the door open on your way out.”

to be continued

Friday, April 16, 2010


I strode into the station the next morning confident in my abilities for the first time. ASSMAN’s drunken congratulations the night before was just what my sagging attitude needed. With Sam’s carhop story, I had finally broken the jinx. I had shot and edited a good story, one people would not forget when they switched over to Johnny Carson’s monologue. And Susan and I had agreed that I had been an ass, but an ass that deserved a second chance if he learned to pick up a phone when he was going to be late.

“Nice piece last night, Brock.” Sarge patted me on the back.

“Thanks, Barb. I worked hard on it.”

“You finally got that white balance thing down. All the colors on the school board meeting were right.”

School board? She was just jealous. After all, she had turned down the chance to do Sam’s story.

“Good story last night, dude.” Dick Hicks high-fived me. “Can’t believe you got it in. The ASSMAN was pretty hot you shot the thing.”

“Thanks. Lou helped get it in the late show.”

“Yeah, you guys rocked it.” Hicks headed to his desk to make his daily crime blotter calls.

I loaded Icky, with its duct-taped viewfinder, and the rest of my gear into the Turd-Brown Taurus.

When Weaver pulled in to the parking lot he was wearing a smile almost as big as mine. “Helluva job last night!” He pumped my hand. “I knew you had it in you! How’d you talk Lou into working it with you?”

“He stopped by the edit bay as I fini – What do you mean, talked Lou into working it with me?”’

“Nothing.” Weaver gave me a quizzical look. “I just mean you two knocked it out of the park with that story last night.”

“Two of us my ass. I shot and edited it. Lou just made sure it got back to the tape room.”

Weaver’s smile began to wane. It was obvious a light bulb was blinking inside his head. And it wasn’t one he wanted to see. “You . . . didn’t see the newscast last night, did you?”

“No, I was buying flowers and arguing with Susan.” My stomach knotted with a sudden realization that all was not well with Sam’s story. “Why?”

“You need to see this.” Weaver headed for the newsroom door.

“But, I know the story backwards and forwards,” I explained as I trailed him. “I worked on it all night.”

Weaver led me through the empty newsroom and into to the feed room. Lights and l.e.d.’s blinked and fluttered on complicated-looking electronics that were crammed, ceiling to floor, in two heavy racks opposite the door of the tiny room. Two wall-mounted video monitors flashed pictures from network affiliates around the country, and CNN. A third ran the KALX off-air signal. The fourth showed the competition, KELC.

In six months, I hadn’t bothered learning much about the room, except how to get video from a live truck to the switcher, and which tape deck the ASSMAN used to record the newscast.

Weaver grabbed the shuttle knob on the ASSMAN’s recorder and scanned backwards past the last commercial break in the 10pm newscast. Sam’s face wiped in over an out of focus shot of the Sonic Drive-In sign. She sped through the story doing all her spins and tricks backwards at sixteen times normal speed until Lou’s smiling face beamed from the anchor desk.

Weaver stopped the tape. He gave me a this-hurts-me-more-than-it-does-you look.
“What? Did the director fat-finger the switch and punch color bars over the beginning?” I pulled my hand nervously through my mullet. “What was so important that you can’t just tell me?”

“You’ll see.” Weaver sighed as he punched play. Lou delivered a sugary intro with a gleam in his eye and tossed to the story.

No photog credit. No big deal, the story had gotten back late. Maybe the graphics girl didn’t have time to whip up a fancy lower third graphic with my name on it. Photogs never got credit for their work anyway. That’s just the way the business worked. We were paid for our work, reporters for their name and poofy hair. Nothing to get bent over.

The story rolled, just like I had edited it . . . until the last shot. Sam’s lips moved, but the words didn’t match, neither did the voice. It was much deeper. Manly.

It was Lou’s standard lock-out. “Reporting from the Sonic Drive-In, Lou Jameson, KALX News.”

Sam disappeared from the screen.

Weaver paused the tape and waited patiently for me to react.

He didn’t have to wait long.

“That son of a bitch.” I whispered in disbelief. My heart began to race as I fought to keep my words measured. “That no-good piece of shit,” I said a little louder. My hands balled themselves into tight fists.

Weaver put his hands up hoping to keep me from boiling over. “Brock, stay calm. Let me handle this.”

Crack! My hand sent itself straight through the hollow-core door of the feed room.

“Stay calm?” I dug my hand out of the splintered hole in the door, and wiped a thin trickle of blood from my knuckles on the thigh of my faded Levis. “That no-good bastard stole my story! I’ll have his job, that plagiarizing son-of-a-bitch!”

“Brock! Calm down and let me handle this.”

“I’ll calm down,” I mumbled “just long enough to knock that bastard flat on his ass.” I made a bee-line for the conference room where reporters and producers gathered each morning to plan the day’s coverage. I could feel Weaver on my heels.

“. . . and hats off to Lou Jameson,” a perfect mid-western non-accent drifted into the hallway outside the conference room, “for a masterful bit of storytelling on that Sonic story last night.”

I poked my head in, just in time to watch News Director Percy Finch draw his midget fingers to his forehead and wave a flaccid salute toward Lou. Finch's small crowd of producer drones clapped dutifully, while Barb Wilders and Dick Hicks tried to avoid his gaze. At the end of the table nearest the door, Lou Jameson beamed in the adulation.

Friday, March 26, 2010


“Brock, what are you thinking?” Susan’s long hair dangled in my face and tickled my nose.

How do you answer that question? After I had ruined our anniversary dinner plans in a late-night edit session and only managed to save the evening with pancakes by candlelight, I couldn’t tell her what I was really thinking – not with her laying naked on top of me.

How do you tell a woman glistening in a thin sheen of perspiration and the after-glow of a particularly vigorous session that you’re thinking you want a beer and some sleep?

I gazed into her eyes and made something up. “You.”

“What about me?”

Dammit Einstein, you should have known better.

“You and me.” It wasn’t really a lie. I had been thinking a lot about her lately – just not right at that moment. Six months of co-habitation had gone a lot smoother than I had thought. Actually, our relationship had outlasted any of my other flings by more than three months.

Susan rolled off me and onto her side. She propped herself up on one elbow and looked into my eyes. “What about you and me?” Shadows created by the candles we had lit danced across her porcelain skin.

Maybe it was because she had seen me naked before we ever met – of course the same could be said for most of the city – or maybe it was the way Ernie beat the crap out of me the night we first kissed, or maybe it was that Susan was just different, but whatever the reason, hanging out together felt natural. I didn’t have to be careful what I said, or did. I wasn’t always on my best behavior like with most of the women I’d dated. And neither was she.

Nope, with Susan, I was free to be the same happy-go-lucky prick I was before we met. We never had to play the tiresome courtship games, unless of course we played them as a sarcastic slap in the face of social norms.

And I liked having someone to greet me when I came home at the end of the day. That that someone wanted to jump by bones was a plus, and the fact that she genuinely cared about my day made those romps in the sack special. As much as I liked to pretend these were just casual flings, I knew Susan felt differently. I didn’t like the idea of leading her on. But I liked the idea of her moving out less.

“I don’t know – just us.” I rolled on my side to face her. I brushed her hair away from her face with the back of my hand and let it linger on her cheek for a second too long.

Susan breathed a short gasp. “Ooh. You just gave me the yon-yons.” It was her favorite expression to describe the butterflies in her stomach when we kissed. Her face glowed with contentment. I just smiled and let my hand rest on her cheek a little longer.

Humor. That’ll diffuse the situation.

“Who would have thought that getting my ass kicked could lead to this?” I coughed a little laugh.

Susan’s face brightened and a loving grin gave way to a toothy smile. “You looked so helpless on the floor in the fetal position with Ernie pounding you and Nubby trying to pull him off.” She rolled on her back giggling.

I laughed along with her. The beating Ernie handed me that night was on par with the way my life had been headed at that time. I had flunked out of college. My naked cameraman routine made me a laughingstock in town. I was hopelessly lost shooting news, and I was bluffing my way through life. I knew it, and others around me were beginning to suspect it. I still couldn’t explain why Susan had hung around so long.

“Why’d you take me home that night?”

“I don’t know.” Susan stopped giggling.

I waited. “Sympathy?” Susan’s face went blank. I knew that hurt, but I persisted. “Revenge?”

Susan stared straight ahead with a puzzled look on her face.

What the hell was I doing? Susan was the first woman to have real feelings for me, and I was accusing her of throwing me a mercy hump, but it was what I thought about every time I thought about us.

She turned her back to me and pulled the covers up to her ears. He shoulders twitched. She was crying.

Good work Einstein.

I nestled in to spoon her, but Susan rolled onto her stomach.

“C’mon, Susan. You gotta admit,” I pushed myself sitting against the headboard, “we went from flirting, to bed, to roommates pretty quick.”

“Is that how you think of me? Your roommate?” Her voice held no expression.

“I don’t know what I think anymore.”

“That’s your problem, Rene. You think too much. Love isn’t rational.”

There it was again. The ‘L’ word.

“You think my feelings for you are rational?” Susan rolled to face me. Her eyes puffy, determined not to cry. “One minute I want to scream because you can’t remember to take out the garbage or pick up your smelly work shoes. Then I see your sexy smirk and I just want to kiss you.”

I wanted to smirk, but I couldn’t. I’d never seen Susan like this. Vulnerable. My shoulders slumped. My heart sank. What a prick.

“Then,” she sniffed, “I want to slap that damn smirk off your face when you don’t call when you’re going to be late, and when you finally come home, I want to hug you and never let you go.”

She looked me dead in the eye. She took a deep breath as if to stiffen her resolve. “You want to know why I took you home that night?”

It really didn’t matter at this point, but I was sure I was going to find out.

“Because I knew you.” Susan sat up.

I couldn’t look her in the face. My gaze trailed off somewhere around the nape of her neck.

“I knew you had passion. The way you ranted about being fired inside the store the day we met. Who says those kinds of things to a complete stranger? One look into your eyes that night at the Cotton Gin, one kiss on the dance floor, and I knew all I needed to know. I could feel it.” Susan’s voice brightened a bit. “It was more than the yon-yons. It was the way my heart fluttered. The way the world disappeared when I was in your arms. The way the room spun.”

I remembered those same feelings that night . . . right up until Ernie landed his first punch. “I think that was Ernie.” I tried to look coy.

“Why do you always do that?” Susan frowned.

“Do what?”

“Try to make jokes about something serious. Do you think my feelings are a joke?”

I stared into the sheets like a scolded kid. “No.” I finally sputtered. “It’s just all this talk is uncomfortable for me. I feel like letting you tell me you love me all the time is leading you on. I’m not sure what I feel.”

“You know exactly what you feel. You just don’t want to admit it.” Susan leaned in to me. Her skin was soft and warm. Her eyes begged me to give in. Something inside me melted.

Susan held me in her gaze.

Why was it so easy to listen to that passion at work but not at home? She could have gotten me to do almost anything if she had just asked. Instead, she pulled me down onto the pillows and snuggled into my side. She laid her head on my chest.

“I can hear your heart.”

“Oh yeah, what’s it saying?”

“That’s something you’re going to have to figure out for yourself. But don’t think too hard. Just listen.”

Monday, March 8, 2010


Edi-turd's note: Taking a break from Brock's story for something a little different. My local writers' group tackled a little writing exercise. 600-800 words. Character opens a black box holding a secret. Lemme know what you think.

Tony gently placed a box on the table next to a large pair of scissors. His hands trembled as he ran them back and forth across the lid.

She never let him have his “little treasures” (as she called them). He always had to hide them.

Why’d she have to be such a bitch?

Once, she found one of his smut mags – another of her names for the many things she of which she disapproved – and immediately called her pastor over for dinner and a lecture.

What did he care what her pastor thought? Like he was any better, robbing little old ladies with his stories of miracles and promises of salvation.

That’s when Tony had started hiding his treasures in plain sight. She’d never think to look in the decorative black box wrapped in black and white speckled ribbon with curly-q ends. It had been sitting empty atop the entertainment center for three years.

Hiding shit in his own house. His check paid half the mortgage, the utilities, the groceries. He even paid for the expensive interior designer who’d re-done the house in colors he despised. It was all about her, and what she wanted. From the spit-shined brass knick-knacks on the mantle to the flowery wall paper in the bedrooms, to the potpourri candles that choked him every time she lit them.

Every time he took the box down to fantasize, he’d carefully untie the ribbon so as not to kink or tangle the ends and give away his little secret. And when he was done, he would re-tie the bow in exactly the same manner and fluff the loops so that she’d never notice the difference. Then he’d wipe off any fingerprints or smudges he may have left on the shiny surface and slip the box back into its place at the exact angle it had been before. He’d been doing that for almost two years now.

Fuck her.

He picked up the scissors and studied his reflection in the cold steel. His heart raced at the sound of the two honed steel blades grinding past each other, and he slid his hand down his pants to soothe his growing erection.


It was music to his ears. He had waited so long for this chance. Now he’d finally get his release.

He watched the ribbon fall to the table.

Tony’s hand trembled as he removed the top.

“Tony, I’m home!” she called from the kitchen.

Caught in the act. But this time he was ready. This time it would be different. He, with his guilty pleasures, wasn’t the freak of the house. It was her with her spotless wine glasses, polished dinner table and floor clean enough to eat on, her alphabetized book collection, her closet arranged by color and size, her early morning cleaning rituals, her meticulous schedules.

She was the freak, not him.

This was going to rock her world.

“In here, Mother,” he answered trying to keep his voice from quivering. “You stupid sadistic fucking whore,” he added to himself.

“Can you be a dear and help me unload the groceries.”

“I kinda have my hands full.” The truth and irony of the line made him smile almost as much as hatching his little plan. He released his erection and reached into the box. “Can you give me a hand?”

“Tony Simon! The ice cream is melting in the trunk. You come out here this instant or you’ll be scrubbing the car!” Her voice grew louder as she left the kitchen and made her way toward the family room, “I won’t have sour milk spoiling my clean car.”

She rounded the corner into the family room.

The blast reverberated through the spotless home. Panes of sparkling glass rattled in their frames. Blood spatters marred the freshly painted walls.

She froze. All she could do was stare as Tony’s brains leaked over the rich brown leather of her sofa.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


The silence was worse than the fight. And knowing I had hurt her was worse than the silence.

I let my eyes drop from her face to a spot on the floor half-way between us. My body was drained, my mind blank. And through it all, Susan stared silently, her eyes dead, refusing to hint at what she was thinking, what I needed to say.

“When do we come first, Bock?”

Finally. A clue. I played out the options in my head. You’re always first. I hadn’t exactly acted that way. What was the other option?

I finally broke the silence. "I know I've taken you for granted lately. You're really important to me." I crossed the kitchen and stood in front of her. "But this television thing is tough. I've got so much to learn to catch up with the rest of the photogs. I've got to pay my dues. And it's still new."

“That’s what I’m talking about! Why do you always do this?”

“Do what? I’m trying to explain.”

“Why do you always make this about your job?” Susan sighed. “This isn’t about cameras or tape or news. This is about having a life. I’ve got a job too. But you don’t see me hanging around the hotel for hours after my shift. I have a life outside of work. I thought you did too.” Another tear rolled down Susan’s cheek. It was obvious she had been holding back these feelings for a while.

I wanted to tell her – to explain – but I didn’t know, myself, why I spent so much time at work.

“What is it that makes you spend night after night in that station instead of at home? Is it me? Am I smothering you? Did we move in too soon? Do you need your space?”

She brushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear while she waited for me to answer. I didn’t have a clue what to say. The last thing I wanted was for her to move out.

She dabbed at her eyes with a dish towel. “I’m not asking you to spend every waking hour with me. But a phone call when you’re going to be late would be nice. And once in a while, I’d like to be able to plan a nice date.”

Susan leaned back against the sink.

Thick, heavy silence filled the room. The kitchen was only eight feet wide, but Susan felt an ocean away. I didn’t know why it even mattered. We had only known each other six months, but what she thought about me and my non-life mattered more than I wanted to admit it. My heart pounded inside my chest. "I wish I could explain the rush I get from telling a good story.” My head reeled as I searched for exactly the right words. “Its adrenaline and anticipation and butterflies . . . It's like a first kiss."

Wrong words.

"Oh, so when you're kissing me, you're thinking about work!" She turned away from me and slammed her hands on the counter top. "Fucking brilliant!"

I put my hands on her shoulders and tried to turn her to face me. “No. It’s – ”

She pulled away. "That's what you said." She answered into the kitchen sink.

"It's . . . the excitement of creation."

“So, now you're god.”

"Just forget it. You wouldn’t understand.”

“No, I need you to understand something.” Susan sighed and slowly turned toward me. The anger in her eyes had softened. “I’m not trying to take you away from your job. I know that you love it. I see it on your face every day when you walk through the door.”

A whisper of a smile crossed her lips. Susan dangled her hand limply next to mine. My heart raced as her fingers brushed against my palm, and she let my hand wrap around hers.

“That excitement in your eyes why I come home every night. I work all day dreaming of the smile on your face when you get home. I want that smile to be for me, not some city alderman running for re-election. I can’t wait for you to come in with those big, blue eyes sparkling like a kid who just pulled one over on his teacher. But I don't get that when you don't come home.” She slipped her hand from my grip. “This all happened too fast. You need time to sort out your life.”

My chest ached again, but this time it wasn't the bruise from my falling camera. I knew exactly where she was going. Things had moved fast between us, but it was that passion that kept me going. Susan's belief in me and her support made facing the mistakes I made every day at work bearable.

Brock, call me at home. The small voice pager on my belt could not have squawked at a worse time.

I ripped it from my belt and sailed it across the kitchen. It hit the wall and broke into three pieces. At least it silenced the ASSMAN.

Susan frowned. “You better answer that. Ken sounds like he means it.”

“The ASSMAN can wait.”

“It's okay, call him. He probably wants you to go in early and work late tomorrow.” She tried to smile.

I put the phone on speaker and dialed Ken’s number. I wanted Susan to hear me tell him where he could stick his late-night page, but she retreated to the bedroom. Ken answered on the first ring.

“Great fushing story!” He was smashed. “Why didn't you tell me she was sho good?”

“I tried, remember. But you didn’t want to hear it.”

“You guysh did great! I always knew you had it in you. See you at work tomorrow.” And the phone went dead.

Silence hung in the room like the smell of cooked cabbage.

I walked over to the corner and gathered the pieces of my voice pager. The speaker lay near the wall under a small knick it had left in the paneling. The belt clip landed a couple feet from it near the stove. I picked up the cover to the battery compartment from under the kitchen table last and sat down to put it back together. Why couldn’t relationships be that easy?

I sat at the kitchen table, afraid to disturb the uneasy peace, and rewound the day. I had finally found a small degree of success at work. Ken’s phone call should have been great news. I should have been happy. But all I could think of was how I had wrecked Susan’s night. And the more I thought about that, the more I realized she was right.

Why hadn’t I just called to tell her I’d be late? Stupid question. That would have been admitting that I’d rather work than go out with her. Even though that’s the way it looked, it wasn’t the case. Telling a good story was like catching lightning in a bottle. It was urgent. If I didn’t do it right then, the opportunity would be gone forever. Susan, it seemed, would always be there.

I’m not sure how long I sat in the quiet of the kitchen asking myself if I really believed that and why it was that my mind worked that way. The longer I sat there, the heavier the silence became until it was unbearable. I had to do something, but what?

I pushed away from the table as quietly as I could trusting that the words would come to me when I reached the bedroom. I met Susan in the hallway. Evidently she was thinking the same thing. We stood there for a while, each waiting for the other to say something.

It had always been my experience that in situations like this one, the first person to speak was the one that lost. For some inexplicable reason I was more worried about losing Susan than an argument. I took a deep breath and looked her in the eyes. “I've been a dick lately. I should have called tonight.” I paused hoping my apology would sink in. “I'll do better. Don’t move out.”