On the Monday following my two week adventure in the mountains, you would have thought I had won seven gold medals at the Olympics. Many of my co-workers come up to me and shake my hand and congratulate me, for what is a mystery, I must be missing something. I have been away for two weeks, none of my current work has been really earth shaking, so what is all this about?
My editor comes up to me hand extended. Now I know something is fishy.
"Hell, Ashton even when you are supposed to be resting, you're making good copy. What a public interest story. Hell, even the local television station wants to interview you."
What the hell is going on? Is everybody crazy or is it just me. In my office, my desk is covered with my mail and all the papers from the last two weeks. The headlines of the Sunday issue tell me the tale.
"Bayfield Reporter and Rescued Young Girl Are Safe."
It goes on to rehash the ordeal we had due to the storm and the road being washed out. Flipping through the balance of the papers, they have a running commentary on the weather and all kinds of scenarios of what could possible happen if it weren't for the heroics of their top reporter. They make me out as the hero saving this young girl from the unknown perils of the mountains, everything from large bears and poisonous snakes to your imagination. What could be further from the truth? It was Barbara Ann who was the one that looked after me. Where did they get all this trash? The byline is by my assistance and my self. It seems my ghost did a lot of writing while I was away. Opening the intercom, I shout.
"Jooli, get your ass in here."
Jooli Kim is of Chinese decent, in her early twenties. For some reason she has never made any attempt to exploit her hidden Asian beauty, wearing what I consider frumpy clothing, horn rimmed glasses and no make-up giving her a more than a dowdy look. She has been my assistant for the last three years and has been offered other positions, but she has refused all of them, she likes being on top of breaking stories and is very good at her job. However, the crap I have been reading isn't one of them.
"Welcome back Ash, what a two week vacation. Have you read the entire story?"
Standing before me is a vision of beauty; the transition has created a splendor way beyond my imagination. Speechless, I can help but gape at the change. I must look ridiculous sitting there with my mouth hanging open. Gone is the granny style clothing she has worn for years, she is sporting a stylish, body accenting business suit of a squashy body clinging material. Her make-up is flawless, something she hasn't indulged in before, and her big sparklingly brown eyes usually adored with glasses are now sporting contacts. Her eyes are the magnetic feature of her face. Her lips are luscious, delicately coated with lip-gloss chosen to match the rest of her make-up. She notices my tongue tied stupid look, does a piquet for me. She does have breasts, not the largest in the world, but oh so perky.
"What's not to like, what happened?"
"I took the advice you have been giving me for the last three years about how dowdy I looked. I like the new me. So, did you like our story?"
"Very few parts of it, just where the hell did you get all this shit?"
"Shit, what do you mean?"
"Who gave you this story? It really has nothing to do with what actually happened up there."
Jooli has a shocked look on her face, like someone let the air out of her balloon. She sits on the chair in front of my desk. Her skirt rides up her legs giving a view previously hidden in her bad fitting clothes, her nylons are opaque white stay-ups as I can see beautiful haunting bare skin above them ending in darkness. Another part of my body comes to life. Shit, now I feel uncomfortable.
"The young lady you saved called everyday and gave me a lead for the story of the day. Didn't you know?"
"No, I didn't. Didn't you think it was odd that I didn't give you the calls?"
"No, she explained you were fishing when she called, making sure you didn't run out of supplies."
"Jooli, we had enough supplies to feed an army. Not only did I bring tons, the company that owns the cabin had every pantry and refrigerator full of food. Barbara Ann gave you all this bunk?"
"I am sorry boss; I had no reason to think of it as bunk, when I showed it to Bob he told me to go with it and gave me a byline under your name. I though it was a good piece."
Bob is the editor, the same prick I still plan on getting even with for sending me on that trip. Not that I didn't enjoy the way it turned out, but it is the principal.
"If the truth be known, Barbara Ann knows 1000% more about the bush and it wonders than I do. She is the one who fished, cooked, made me pick berries and a host of other things I would have never done. Hell, I am a klutz when I leave the city."
"I wouldn't say anything about that; our circulation went up eighteen percent while we ran the piece. All the street boxes sold out everyday. That has never happened before."
"Leave it with me; I will have to see what can be done."
I watch her leave my office, her magnificent bum outlined in her skirt, I can't believe all that beauty has been covered up for all these years. Dare I ask her for a date?
This is crazy. Gathering all the papers, I find the first article. In each one it outlines what we did each day to survive. All the things Ann did were reversed as if I had done them. When could she have made the calls? Then it dawns on me, each day I pumped water to fill the storage tanks we used for warm water. It usually took anywhere from ten to twenty minutes depending on how much water we used the previous day. It was one of the few things I could do without screwing up. Oh, how I would like to get my hands on Barbara Ann. Women, age doesn't matter, they can find a way of making a fool out of you. My intercom buzzes.
"Ash, it is Dahbia Sidhoum from KWTZ for you. They have been calling all morning. They want an on air interview."
Dahbia Sidhoum is my equivalent with her television station, always dressed to the nines with a body and personality that all men would kill for and she knows it. She and I have worked a number of Charity functions in the past. She is another very provocative Asian beauty. Secretly, I have always wanted to ask her for a date, but didn't have the guts. When we are together, I turn into jelly.
"Okay, I will take it."
"Dahbia, how are you?"
"Not as good as you. That was a hellva piece saving that young girl and then keeping her in good health until you were rescued. I don't know how you did it. I would have been useless."
I wanted to say I know the feeling, but didn't.
"Well, it is all over now; I can get on with life."
"Oh no it isn't, I want an exclusive interview with you and the young lady. I have already talked to her parents and they have agreed as long as you are present. I also got clearance from your editorial staff. It seems you made a big impression on that young girl. I wish you could have rescued me."
"And what would we have done for two weeks secluded in the mountains?"
Again my buddy Bob has put me in a precarious situation, why can't anyone ask me if I am interested in all this pomp. Being over the barrel, the best thing is to make the most of it. Revenge is going to be sweet; all I have to do is come up with the right situation for dear Bob.
"And when would you want to do this epic?"
"Well, it isn't that I am not a feeling person, with you just back and all that, but let's say my Friday show. Your story is still big news."
"Hang on; I will have to check my schedule."
I don't have a schedule, but it sounds good. The first thing I need to do is call Barbara Ann. We have to get this straightened out.
"Dahbia, I tell you what, leave it with me. I have to contact Mr. Green and make sure Miss Green can attend as well. She had two weeks without her family. She may be still shaken up."
"That is sweet of you. I will mark you down for Wednesday for confirmation. Is that fine with you?"
"Sound good, as long as I can get in touch with the Greens."
As soon as I hang up the intercom buzz again.
"Ash, Big Bob wants to see you in his office, ASAP."
That is the asshole that got me into this mess. May a camel have diarrhea on his desk?
"Tell him I will be there shortly."
As I walk through the newsroom a number of co-workers give me the thumbs up sign, many say good job, etc. This is not the way I wanted to return to work. I like publicity, but not this goody two shoes shit. It is not me. Bob is waiting for me.
"Good to see you, Ash. What a hellva story, we can milk this until the cows come home. Nobody else can poach on it because it is about you, a Bayfield Chronicle reporter. They can't even write about it without your permission. The P. R. is priceless."
"It really didn't happen that way."
"Who gives a shit? The readers are gobbling up the story. You did rescue that young girl and you are both back home safe and sound, we may have embellished the story, but that young lady really fed us everything you did. We have it all on tape if you want to hear it."
"Great as long as you are happy, let me get back to my job."
"Hold on, you are going to give a lecture to the students at Miss Green's School a week from Friday. Write it in your day planner. I have already called Jooli to make sure you don't forget."
"I don't have a day planner."
"Giving speeches is not in my job description."
"You don't have a job description."
"I do, it is with my day planner."
"Get out of here, and make sure you are presentable to a young class of students."
It is now apparent there is nothing, absolutely nothing; I can do to reverse this diabolical plan. My only hope is it dies a quick death. I have to get on with my life. Back in my office it takes nearly two hours to go through my mail. The majority of it ends up in File G, but out of the mess are two letters from readers voicing their concerns in regards to items that may end up as feature stories. Most of my leads for my stories come from whistle blowers as they know I have never revealed a source. To make matters even more antagonizing, the staff keeps knocking at my door, then walk in smiling to congratulate me. If they only knew how it aggravates me.
At four-thirty, I thumb through the note Ann gave me when we parted, her telephone number. Dialing, a sweat covers my body; guilt has that effect about taking advantage of a young girl in her hours of distress. Who am I kidding? There wasn't any distress from the point we hit the cabin. Barbara Ann was the strength of the two of us. I may have a reputation as a super reporter, but as a bushman I am a joke. Dialing the number, it rings twice and a young girl answers, not Barbara Ann, it must be one of her sisters. She has a very distinct voice.
"Hello, may I speak to Barbara Ann Green?"
"Who is calling please?"
"Please tell her it is Ashton Stone."
Her ancestors used smoke signal to communicate to each other, very quiet, very effective, however, the young lady uses a piercing voice, screaming into the receiver.
"Barbara Ann, your boyfriend wants to speak too you."
That reverberating statement really has me concerned. What did Barbara Ann tell her family, especially her sisters? What else can happen? Waiting, I hear some screaming, it is Barbara Ann threatening bodily harm to her sister. From the interchange it is her sister Karen.
"Hello Ashton, I am so glad you called."
"Well, after your numerous telephone calls to my paper, what did you expect? Why in the hell would you do that? Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is for me."
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Mr Double's Palisade A MrDouble Production:
Changes last made on: Tuesday, November 23, 2004