âInmates of Gu..an..tana.. Bay..â A cluster of words scrolled off the teleprompter like runaway rascals. âCut! cut, cut,â said Buxton.
âYou should read the script.â The anchor pulled out a brush and stroked her cheeks.
The potbellied cameraman chewed his nail and walked over to the news desk. âBe careful man, Ramhorn is here,â he whispered.
Be careful. Buxton Painskill had heard it many times, but it was not his fault that he had inherited eyes from his doe-eyed Mom. âBut why do I have to be vigilant of the harmless news director?â Buxton wondered. When he was introduced to Willard Ramhorn last week, the five and half foot boss had sounded like a hopeless philosopher. Even his palm showed a short, broken personality line. The only bizarre trait of that insignificant man was his voice. It seemed to come from the depths of the cave set below his ferocious moustache.
Not far from the newsroom, in a dimly lit cabin, Willard Ramhorn cursed at the computer screen. It displayed a report titled W Ramhornâs Pension Projection at Age Fifty-five. The irate news director was about to take a sip of his coffee when he heard âcutâ repeated twice. He pulled the headphones down and asked the coffee cup, âWho the heck?â
“You!â The volume gauge needle quivered.
âOooh!â Buxton instinctively put up his hands in the air. The man pointing a finger, whose thunderous roar had shaken Buxtonâs cardio system, was Willard Ramhorn. Ramhornâs eyes smouldered under elliptical eyebrows.
âWho the – asked you to cut my men?â
âHoumm..â Buxton sounded like a trombone. Thoughts competed in his head; he processed one that suggested putting his hands down. Buxton realised there was no point in doing anything else but watch Ramhornâs mouth booming. He wondered why Ramhornâs teeth were fitted so nicely in his mouth.
The newsroom seemingly turned into a broadcasting wax museum, looked like this:
The man in the center of the news platform, who wore the curly cable attached headphones around his neck and cradled an extra-large cup, appeared to be addressing one sculpture in particular. The recipient of Ramhornâs address, a wide-eyed, ginger-haired, tall man, sat at the news desk exhibiting his fright. Next to the him, a well-endowed blonde gazed at the non-existent horizon. A blank faced lanky man stood cemented on the ground next to a camera, mimicking a Private waiting for his Colonelâs inspection, and a lad at the switch desk was a fully clothed Rodinâs The Thinker, observing a design on the floor. The studio fly, just entered its residence, found humans frozen in time. However, it was relieved to observe its favourite, the principle cameraman, alive. The proof was in his upper lip, which seemed to quiver in direct accordance with a roaring voice in the room.
Buxton drew courage, drop by drop from the icy silence, as Ramhorn had zoomed in on his coffee cup. Apparently, the lid-flap kept bumping his protruding nose, and finally Ramhorn tossed the lid onto the floor. Buxton cleared his throat and said, âBut Willard, you know, Guantanamo is complica-â
âDo. not. say. a. word. Do. not.â Ramhornâs expression did not change but there were subtle movements of his nostrils. He swung his finger once again at Buxton, his hand still holding the coffee cup. The liquid, apparently of second-degree burn potency, splattered on Ramhornâs limb. He exited the scene babbling forbidden words. Buxton, as he heard the clip clop of rapid steps thumping off the wooden platform, guessed that the little man must be a Taurus zodiac.
Buxton reflected on his past humiliations; todayâs was unparalleled, as he had never felt his body shrink before. He reckoned that the Saturn planet had taken an interest in him recently, eclipsing entirely the brighter side of his life. The atrocious finger of Willard-the-Ram kept coming at him. As if that misery was not enough, his mind brought up the morningâs text message from his ex-lover, the studio security officer Vifareli. Before deleting her ID from his cell phone, he read the message again, âIâm gonna disembody your heart, my heartless Buckyâ. Buxton felt dizzy. The bright studio riddled with snaking cables and dangling fixtures stifled him. He clutched his microphone and almost pulled it off, but the cameras rolled and the prompter beeped. The man behind the camera watched him with a nervous eye. Buxton put on his newsreaderâs stance and faced the camera.
âInmates of Guantanamo Bay dug a kilometer long tunnel and escaped last night. US Marines are now searching sick-teen, umm, sixteen runaways in Cuban Island.â Dews popped on his eyebrows, âThis is all from the Orb news at noon.â Every cell of his body screamed for a stiff elixir. However, Mr. Adam smiled from the sky and he began seeing the studio in an optimistic light. Among other virtues, his virility aroused the most. Buxton looked into the camera, and without Ramhorn asking, he pointed his thumb, and said in a sonorous voice, “Back to you, Marilyn.”
When he glanced beyond his thumb, instead of the cheery blond anchor, which was under the desk fixing a stocking wrinkle, Buxton spotted a crisp shadow on the diffuser umbrella. He figured it was a crouching female with a pointy object gripped in one hand. In a split second, his body uprooted itself from the chair and his palms swung to his left chest, and the petrified Buxton yelped in an octave higher, âOaieee, my god sheez here, help!â
âAaieee, aaieee,â the disoriented anchor, contributed to the commotion with a shrill variety of primal sounds after banging her head to the desk. The sound engineer backed against a wall and took lateral steps towards the exit. The switcher toppled a computer and landed on the floor in an attempt to jump over spaghetti wires. The lad in pain demonstrated his potential for throat singing as he cried for his mother.
In the midst of the mayhem, the person who emerged from the umbrella-cover was not Buxtonâs ex-lover, but the longhaired floor manager, also a part-time ballet dancer. As his incredulity faded, Buxton noted that the floor manager held a screwdriver and not a dagger.
The chaos subsided, albeit the dispute continued to determine its cause, until Willard Ramhorn reappeared with a fresh coffee, accompanied by the security. He handed the termination letter to Buxton and looked at the bulky guard, âThrow that goof out immediately.â
Buxton walked to his desk with a fidgety wrestler trailing behind. He put on his coat that his dad had presented him with only a week earlier, on the first day of his job. He recalled his fatherâs tears of pride. The intern stuffed the letter into his coat and exited JH Broadcasting for the last time. Nobody said goodbye nor looked at the intern.
Bloated clouds drizzled. The pavement of JH Broadcasting turned dark wet.
When Katya Hotfry stumbled out of the news building and slumped on the lawn, it looked as if she was performing a grief-stricken act. The rain seemed to be accentuating the mood. In reality, a prior event, unparalleled in shock, had affected the young girl. Moments earlier, the hopeful lovebird had planned on surprising her beau, she tiptoed into the newsroom, and as she pushed the greenroom door ajar, Katya saw a longhaired man arched like the tango Milonguero. He was struggling to stay grounded while a clinging woman held him by his neck. From the mirror, it became clear. It was her lover, Otto Pickabu, making out with the blonde newsreader, and his tongue was attempting to reach new depths in her mouth. His body language expressed the temperament of a canine during mating season. The stun was instantaneous, but seconds later, her cognitive organs responded and, Katya gracefully waltzed out, landing herself on the lawn.
Hotfrys belonged to a species that preferred anonymity in affairs of love betrayal. Katya scooped herself and loped to the gates of JH Broadcasting. The mustachioed guard stood up in surprise and fussed with things in the cabin before mumbling, âWant umbrella, Maâam?â Katya registered his moving lips and replied that she wanted fresh air.
Outside the gates, the devastated lover found a lone sorry looking tree. She leaned against it and shook the hurt off with the accompanying noise of zooming vehicles. Guardâs Fyfe came out of the gait on a scheduled round to mark her territory. She found the not yet grown up girl wetting the tree although with tears. Judging the level of her despair, Fyfe concluded youthâs inexperience with loveâs trials and tribulations. She left the matter at that and proceeded to the fire hydrant.
Hotfrysâ, in addition to managing romantic treachery secretively, handled heartaches by flaring up. Presently Ms. Hotfry tested new highs of her fury as the greenroom incidence replayed in slow motion. Had Pickabu been in a kickable proximity, the ballet dancer would have lost his jewels forever. Katya contemplated going back, but the rain got heavier and she moved on. The rain added to her misery and drivers were annoyingly staring her. She thought of any alternatives to walking through the busy Avenue K sidewalk. She wished to reach the taxi stand sooner. For a moment, it seemed she was in a surreal dream of a witch swinging by the neck of a ballet danseur demon while wet raincoats brushed one another, umbrellas collided under the waterfall from the sky.
Buxton Painskill walked out of the liquor store with a brownbag in hand. He joined the crowd under the canopy of packed Avenue K cafĂ©. A few quick sips later, he called Shiva, his good friend and arranged to crash at his place for the night. Under the divine influence of the cocktail, coupled with the rhythm of raindrops, his confidence and spirits began to rise. He decided that it was the time for an ontological dialogue with Mr. Adam Buxton. He raised his head and looked beyond the end of skyscrapers.
âMr. Adam, am I the news reporter or just a guy?â
âBoy, what you see, hear, feel and taste is what you are.â
âDid you forget smell? But why canât I taste 100 year old Macmillan like Brokaw and Jennings? Why canât I feel the wheels of Porsche like those big shot anchors?â
âThank you Bucky, of course smell too. Dear, to your query, I say you do their deeds and you shall be what they are.â
A banker type man frowned and Buxton thought of connecting to Mr. Adam some other time. He took a gulp and tossed the can seeing heads including bankerâs turned towards the harbor side. Buxton held his breath and stretched over a shorter man. There was a girl in white drenched and ambling as if she was on a runway. Water streamed off hair tendrils of the tall, tanned model like girl. Collective eagerness soared under the canopy. Buxtonâs amusement however vanished as she neared; the beauty appeared dazed and engrossed in pathos. âIs she crying?â he muttered.
The wet fabric clung to her body. Upon closer inspection, Buxton realized that her white costume had turned see-through. He gasped, âWhy on the earth, the pristine Aphrodite exposed to a row of devouring eyes?â
A gang of lads from the station spotted Katya. The yellow poncho kid made palm cups in front of his chest and walked behind her swaying. The toothless hotdog seller laughed along with the hooligans. Buxton yelled at them and hollered at her. The beauty glided further. He removed his coat, marched past and blocked her. Katya bumped into him.
âGet lost! Move away.â
âTake my coat!â
âWhat? Whoâre you?â
âItâs all visible.â
Katya swung her arms in front, buried her face in palms. The sounds dulled down, air was too thick. She wanted to evaporate in the air.
âPut it on, you crazy!â Buxton wrapped the coat on her shoulders and waited.
âGo away, go away!â Her face fell back in palms and shoulders shuddered.
Buxton told her to go home. She stared a long few moments and strode off, leaving him to recover from seeing human tragedy in a pair of pure green eyes. He experienced nothingness, no thoughts bubbled.
âWhat happened, Mister?â asked the hotdog guy. Buxton noted the crowd had grown and watching, water flowed from the shirtsleeves and the brown coat was a dot in the crowd.
On the bus, Buxton remembered emails from Vifareli. He had not seen her since midweek. The peculiar peace that followed the rainstorm helped clear his conscience and allowed remorse to fill his heart. Although her curiosity revolved around his animal-love and his platonic needs were regarded as excessive baggage, the quarrelsome chick was sweet at core. He recalled the time the bubbly girl had opened his fist, one finger at a time, while she counted her needs,
âA bottle of Jim Beam Rye with juicy lambâ
âNice touch,â she had grabbed his palm and rubbed on her face, âand yes, Country musicâ
âSmell of men and flowers. And of course, all night long, ya know whataâe mean.â
Her laughter had sounded like a diesel engine running on a steep slope. The vigorous punch on the shoulder had almost knocked him over. Then she had said, âNowya tell me honcho, wata âlse matter?â
She was one pushy gal and even Ramhorn had succumbed to her persuasion in interviewing him, her lover. Buxton believed his termination at JH Broadcasting was a punishment for dumping Vifareli for no particular reason. Fair enough, he thought it was a fair play of destiny and felt his life aplomb for a fresh start. In the seat across, he saw a man in a brown coat and words echoed in his head, âtake my coat.â Life is a box of assorted events, he mused, and sometime it involves a green-eyed girl staring at you.
At the door, Buxton heard Shiva ebulliently whistling exotic birds alongside a Bollywood song. The old chum handed him a bottle of Taj Mahal at the door and pulled him to the table,
âChicken biriyani, garlic naan and tadaka dal, weâre in business baby!â
They ate their plates clean while talking about this and that. After dinner and a few beers later, Buxton narrated the dayâs events. Shiva felt he had just taken a tour to the Studio en route Ave K.
âO Bucky, those who seek the fruits of their work are verily unhappy,â said Shiva staring at a wall picture of a meditating man with an aura circling his head.
âCome again?â Buxton was not sure who was drunk.
âDo you remember that day, at the plaza across our dorm? Youâd let an old man go ahead at the lotto and you, bloody bugger, won five hundred from the ticketâ
Buxton smiled at the amused chum but he could only recollect losing over a grand at the casino.
âBro Iâm glad you came. Stay away from your old man for a couple of days,â Shiva glanced up, âAlmighty always keeps one opportunity door open, donât forget. Bud, enjoy your time off the grid.â
âYah man, I didnât want fireworks at home,â Buxton took the last sip, âthanks for everything budâ
When she was woken up by a chirping bird, Katya realized that Otto was not jumping and fumbling to grab the water flask from her hand nor was she riding a hot air balloon in middle of a desert. From missed calls, three were from Dad and in the last message Mr. Hotfry was worried and flaming. As she texted him, a wave of guilt overtook her as she recalled lying to him in the morning. He had a big smile hearing that his only heir desired to go the studio to learn his Business. She had said, âI want to learn the nitty-gritty of broadcasting, Dadâ. âI lied and ended up seeing Otto-the-otter smooching the blonde hamsterâ Ms. Hotfry wanted vengeance and reflected of venues the otter frequented in nights. She searched for Ottoâs address book and spied the coat on a chair. The coat man had lingered all night. She sat and pondered, âwas it his unconditional kindness or those big innocent eyes? He should have given his number. I gotta find him at the station.â
The girl bloomed. She put on the coat, glasses and walked to the window like a sombre noir detective and placed her hand in a pocket. She felt the paper. It was the letter from JH Broadcasting. It was a termination notice.
The sun sprung in the east, it radiated the sky and its crisp rays filtered through the tree, it gave no trace of the previous dayâs downpour, until Buxton walked out of Shivaâs place. The leaves were a bit soggy and the air had kept the damp, greasy feel. Buxton hopped onto the ten-thirty express, it was almost empty. He watched the shops and traffic pass by as events of previous day continued to burn like smothered coal.
At the entrance of parentsâ condominium, the rabble of butterflies fluttered in his stomach. For a news reporter, breaking the news was not tricky if it was not about his own job loss and the viewer was not Byron Painskill. âI can look in the old manâs eyes and take the humiliation.â He wanted to tell them right away. âMom will be sad.â It was always disheartening to see guileless Mom attempted to hide her despair and cheer him. Buxtonâs heart sank further within him realizing that his parentsâ anniversary was next month and he was just two paychecks short for their cruise to the Caribbean. And another paycheck would have bought his little brother the promised mountain bicycle. Buxton decided that it was best not to think about it until the next morning. Today, he needed to release the news of his lost coat; it was a plausible story, one to keep the old man cool. After all, from dadâs view, it was an expensive, all-season, shiny, polyester coat with detachable cashmere lining.
âWhat happened? You got flu?â Joshua asked at the door and ran back.
Byron Painskill had settled on the usual living room sofa spot watching Two and Half Men with Gizmo, who always remained within a short radius. Byron pointed the remote to a bikini-clad girl, âLook, thatâs Megan Fox!â Gizmo aroused from a meditative trance, raised ears and heard him say, âHang out on the Harbor Square with that kind of clothes and some Marco or Dick will kidnap her, for Godâs sake!â Byron shook his head and returned to the TV, Gizmo seemed confused whether Byron had more to elaborate.
Senior Painskill got up when he saw Buxton and like a polite front desk receptionist he said, âOh, welcome! Welcome back to Painskillâs humble hotel. Sir, we missed your patronage yesterday!â
Buxton looked at Gizmo, âMom knows I was at Shivaâs.â He glanced at Byron, âAnd just to let you know, I am not feeling well today.â
At the dinner table, Painskills congregated. Mom opened a pot of Chicken Roast with Capers sauce. Byron and Josh made noise with plates and spatulas. Left elbows on the table, heads at the plates. Mom was a slow eater. She radiated joy, as men were busy stuffing her dish.
âOh..by the way, guys you wonât believe what happened yesterday!â Buxton saw the opportunity. Mouthful Mom widened her eyes in interest.
âYou know, I was having lunch at the set. And the crew was readying a shot for some thriller sort of scene. You know, cops with a bunch of dogs, kind of stuff. And my coat. Well-â
âWhatâs the name of film?â Joshua resumed ferocious bites on the poultry wing.
âDonât worry about the name, I donât know,â Buxton snapped.
âLast one. Donât screw with your health, Giz!â Byron tossed bony meat in the plate.
âWhere was I? O yes, I had half sardine sandwich in my coat. And guess what?â Buxton looked at Sr. Painskill who was interested in anything but guessing and presently belching a chicken leg while watching Gizmo chewing its.
âOut of the blue, two scary giant dogs started sniffing my coat.â Buxton scanned the table and raised the volume, âlong story short, those crazy dogs tore apart my coat literally.â
âWho? What?â Byronâs curiosity upped several notches as the talk turned to destruction.
âCoat? Oh -â Joshua chimed in.
âHold on Josh. Well, good news is, they were quite sorry and gave three hundred bucks!â Buxton pulled a wad of bills and waved. Byron shoved the food in the corner and shouted,
âHow many times Iâve told you, donât keep money in a role like mafia man? Bucky, you gotta respect money!â
âOh, speaking of the coat, there was a man from JH film or something like that. He left the coat and said it belongs to you. Oh yes, he also gave the envelopeâ Joshua spoke in one breath, ran to his room and came back. At the sight of coat that he instantly recognized, all grew dark before Buxtonâs eyes.
âMy coat?â Buxton asked placing a finger on his chest, âbut itâs not mine,â He said to Mom almost in a defending voice of a child.
âOkay, then Iâll take itâ Joshua shrugged.
âBut Bucky darling maybe they felt terrible and sent you another. How nice of them -â Mrs. Painskill interrupted by Painskill Sr., now engaged in the table talk, shouted,
âDo you know that thing cost two hundred and forty nine dollars? Whereâd you left it?â he pointed at the coat that Joshua held as an exhibit for the jurors. Gizmo also took interest.
âBut, mommy, he doesnât want itâ said the impatient.
Buxton reckoned to drop the coat theme and he snatched the envelope from Josh. Parents busy debating monetary importance and conversing etiquette, and Josh disappeared with the coat, Buxton opened the envelope. The letter had a JH Broadcasting logo and the owner Jeoffry Hotfry had signed it today. He turned away from the noise and read:
âJH Broadcasting, Inc. is pleased to offer you a job as Junior Anchor for our news segment, Around the World in Ten Minutes. We trust that your knowledge, skills and experience will be among our most valuable assets. Should you accept this job offerâŠ.
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Thank you for reading Take My Coat. Any feedback greatly appreciated!