The Things One Says While Staring Down the Muzzle of a News Camera
by Lancaster Cooney
I had no want to see what I saw. Sagging ancient breasts, loose as water filled balloons. How the medics knelt around her and banged on that body. One secured her head precise as nail awaiting hammer, while the other applied an AED. Even from across the lawn I could see the folds of skin. Hear the bones snap in her chest. The robotic calculated voice cutting through the warm morning air, unfeeling and revolutionary, CLEAR. The garbage man buckled, gagged on guilt, wishing to be anywhere else, though most likely home. “This is over,” one medic announced, unclear which of the two. And in a matter of moments one of those tents you see on forensics shows was erected. More sirens, more neighbors.
I sipped coffee on the front lawn. An overweight officer nonchalantly popped trunk and began fencing off the area, weaving yellow cautionary tape between trees and mailboxes. News vans fell in line, satellites engaged, cameramen paratrooping from the side doors like angry Dreadknocks. Up in a tree, about seventeen yards by estimation, a Carolina Wren regarded the sun in break beak surrender. All this on a dead-end cul-de-sac, on an ordinary Tuesday morning.
Sure Mrs. Dearborn felt the same. Realizing at some due moment that she had forgotten to sideline the trash receptacle, grabbing hold the aluminum handles and making way down the cobblestone drive, hailing the garbage man.
A neighbor friend of mine, Josh Regan, claimed to have seen the whole incident. Said, “She looked like one of those fish that latches onto the side of a bigger fish. Eats the scraps.”
“Remora,” I told him.
“Yeah,” he said. “She was calling out. Trying to get the truck to stop, then THWHOMP!! went beneath the belly. Come out the back all jelly limbed.” While saying this last part he sort of moved his arms all around and wobbled his head in a psychedelic way.
“Did you know the victim?”
“Huh,” taken off guard. “Yeah, yeah,” I said, “sure I did.” The estuary of a microphone so close to my face that I was sent nearly cross-eyed. On the other end, a young woman with impulsively white teeth, the type of skin God intended and eyes as round as fishbowls. She wore an outfit one might wear to a benefit or ribbon cutting ceremony, sort of thing that played nicely across the TV screen.
“Great,” she said. “You don’t mind then?”
I set my coffee on the ground and knocked my hair about. “No,” I said. “That sounds fine by me.” I felt old. Wondered had that dandruff issue cleared. Allowed my chest to trumpet out. Reminded myself of the weight gain automatically attributed to rolling cameras. Started crunching the percentages, realizing quickly that this young reporter was hands down the prettiest thing to ever traverse these streets. “The TV station supply your wardrobe?” I asked, trying to formulate some sort of compliment that fizzled out. I began to take hold the microphone and she sort of pulled back like a jet pilot.
“That’s okay,” she said, “I’ll hold it. I’ll hold it for you.”
“Ah,” I responded. “Very good.”
She sported a tiny legal tablet and number 2 pencil. “Can I grab your name?” she asked.
“Sure,” I answered. “Anything you’d like,” Realizing the inappropriate undertones of such a reply.
“And you’re a neighbor of how long?” She didn’t look up while jotting my answers. Only when glancing over at the cameraman, a baldheaded man with a snarled expression, did I realize the creepiness with which I stared.
“Let’s see,” I gathered. “Two thousand eight, what’s that make, over four years?”
She shelved the tablet and immediately went all game faced, repositioning so that just beyond her shoulder were the necessary elements of tragedy. “Good?” she asked the cameraman. He arranged the rocket launcher sized camera on his shoulder, tweaked the lens, before thumbing a good to go. She latched onto my arm and pulled me into position. I sucked at my teeth with my tongue. A vehicle with the garbage company logo pulled down the street.
“Three and two and one…An elderly Northern Ohio woman is dead today, hit and killed by a garbage truck…” she began. Two men exited, one going to the heavyset officer while the other escorted the truck driver to the passenger side where the poor schmuck would likely be driven to Business Health for a mandatory Drug Screening. “We are here with Miranda Dearborn’s neighbor Paul Govan,” she said. The cameras automatic eye faded back, “Now Paul, you have lived here on Socialville Foster’s Road for nearly four years?”
“I have,” I said. “Correct.”
“What sort of neighbor was Miranda Dearborn?” she asked.
Now what followed could not be recanted, airing first during the eleven thirty coverage and then again at the six o’clock hour. In little more than seventeen seconds I am able to tell the reporter, as well the entire TriState Area, about Miranda Dearborn’s middle-aged son with, how did I word it, “significant needs, “How he’d visit each Sunday via handicapped accessible van, an African caretaker, whom I tastelessly referred to as “straight out of Africa” and Pomeranian that sat in his lap and incessantly licked at his delicate areas. As a side note I added how the African caretaker never seemed to speak, but merely smile and nod. Though, as grandiose as these previous avowals might seem, they would hold not a flame to what I’d say next. Taking hold the mike all serious browed and eager to please, I declared then and there how I planned to host a candlelight vigil in Miranda Dearborn’s honor, stating, “I just don’t know how else to say goodbye.”
“Work as long as you can.”
– Charles Lancaster Stubbs
These were among the last words spoken to my grandmother, other than dedications of love and such, before my grandfather passed. I feel that writing is my best shot at accomplishing just that. There is nothing I would rather do on the occupational, shitty ass artist, day dream level. Overall I hope to be able to put words together in an open and genuine way. There were times in the past where I kept them near, hunkered down over them like a rotten kid refusing to share, but those times have passed. It is not a form of arrogance to want people to read your work, because there is an army in waiting, hoping to become the exact thing you are hoping to become.
“Self-doubt is a mean wall.”
– Jason Lancaster Cooney
Lancaster Cooney lives with his wife, sweet baby girl and puppy in the Northern Kentucky area. He just found out that he and his wife are expecting, and knows beyond a doubt there is no better news in the world. Most recently his work appeared at Everyday Genius and The Molotov Cocktail.