âInmates of Gu..an..ta..na.. Bay,â he watched the cluster of syllables scrolling off the prompter like runaway rascals and the intern news reporter, under the spell of an email he had read minutes earlier, blurted, âCut, cut, cut!â
The news directorâs peeking tongue and his glee-splashed face squinting at the computer screen titledÂ Pension Details for Earliest EligibilityÂ suggested that he was set out to daydream. Willard Ramhorn was about to click OK when he heard âcutâ repeated twice. A moment passed. The JH Broadcasting news director felt emerging turbulence in his stomach. He slid down headphones and asked the nonexistent in his cabin, âWho the heck?â
The sight of a subject at the newsdesk turned the insignificant looking short-legged hawk eyed plump Ramhorn into an impressive belligerent. The subject, measuring over six feet, deer eyed, peace loving news reporter Buxton Painskill was presently engaged inÂ humoringÂ the cameraman, apparently least expecting any entityâs purposeful advancement towards the news platform.
“You!â the sound resonated slightly within soundproof walls, âWhat the heck you think, you’re doing?” Ramhorn stood in the middle of the platform like an amphitheatre thespian pointing a gun finger.
âAaooov!â reciprocated Buxton Painskill and put up hands. He looked as if a barbarous roar had entered from the eardrums and shocked his cardiovascular compartment.
âWho the — asked you to direct my people?â he jabbed the finger in the air, âare you the freaking director here?â Ramhorn lasered at Buxton whose body had visibly shrunk.
âUrragh..â Buxton released a sound equivalent to that of a tromboneâs short note and lowered his hands with hesitation.
The newsroom seemed to have transformed into a wax museum and the fervent curator cradling an extra-large coffee cup was addressing a particular one of several sculptures around. Had a studio fly been present on the wall, it would have however confirmed existence of another life throbbing in the upper lip of Cameraman 1. His lips twitched in direct accordance with Ramhornâs pitch.
âBut, Willard, Guantanamo -â The intern argued with vowels and consonants.
âDo not say a word. You understand? Do not.â Ramhorn, in a heightened theatrics, spaced andÂ emphasizedÂ each word. Marilyn nodded affirmatively. He turned, as if expecting consenting nods from statues, and spotted intern Switcher who avoided eye contact. Cameraman 1 examined the floor tile design as his lip resumed spasmodic movements. Ramhorn noted an empty seat at Audio and eyed Cameraman 2 who had assumed battle hoplite posture and gazed at a fictional horizon.
The lid flap kept bumping his nose as it refused to stay in the notch; Ramhorn tossed the lid before taking a swig and swung his gun finger at Buxton. The hand that swung had the cup embraced in it. The liquid with second-degree burn potency splattered on his limb and the Greek warrior Achilles exited the scene babbling unscripted lines.
Buxtonâs heart still drummed over the prescribed rate; the bright studio riddled with snaked cables and dangling fixtures stifled the intern reporter. The fat finger kept coming at him; he clutched his microphone a few times and almost pulled it before his phone vibrated. Buxton felt giddy seeing another email flashing from the ex-lover Studio Security officer Vifareli. The message read her urge to disembody his certain organs. However, cameras rolled, the prompter started and Cameraman 1 watched him with a nervous eye. Buxton put on a newsreaderâs face and looked at the camera.
âInmates of Guantanamo Bay dug a kilometre long tunnel and escaped last night. US Marines are now searching sick-teen, umm, sixteen runaways in Cuban Island.â Dews popped on Buxtonâs eyebrows and the tie chocked him. âThis is all from the Orb news at noon,â he said and every cell of his body screamed for a stiff elixir. However, Mr. Adam smiled from the sky at that moment and Buxtonâs virility aroused. Despite Ramhorn having not asked, he looked into the camera, pointed his thumb like Mr. Adam and said, “Back to you, Marilyn.”
When glanced beyond his thumb, instead of a cheery blond anchor who had bent under the desk to fix a stocking wrinkle, Buxton spotted on the diffuser umbrella, a crisp shadow of seemingly a crouching female with a pointy object gripped in hand. His body uprooted itself from the chair, his palms swung on the left chest and wide eyes fixed at the umbrella, Buxton yelped a high octave, âOaieeee, help! My god sheez here, help!â
âAaieee. Aaieeeâ Marilyn joined the commotion with a shrill variety of primal sounds after banging her head to the desk. Disoriented Anchor looked for the invading primates. Sound Engineer backed against a wall and took lateral steps towards the exit. Switcher toppled a computer and landed on the floor in an attempt to jump over wires spaghetti. The lad in pain demonstrated potential for throat singing as he cried for his mother.
In the midst of a mayhem, the person emerged from the umbrella-cover was not Buxtonâs ex-lover but longhaired Floor Manager and part-time Ballet Danseur Otto Pickabu. Buxton, as his incredulity faded, noted that the Floor Manager held a screwdriver and not a dagger.
Chaos subsided albeit a dispute continued to determine the cause until Willard Ramhorn reappeared with a fresh coffee, accompanied by the security. He handed the letter and looked at the bulky guard, âThrow that goof out immediately.â
Buxton walked to his desk with a trailing fidgety wrestler and put on the coat, the one that his Dad had presented him with tears a week ago on the first day of his job. He stuffed the letter and exited JH Broadcasting for the last time. Nobody said goodbye. Nobody looked at him.
Bloated clouds drizzled and turned the studio pavements dark wet.
When Katya Hotfry stumbled out of Broadcast Building and slumped on the lawn, it looked as if she was performing an inconsolable protagonist in a heart-wrenching scene and the rain seemed accentuating the mood. In reality, a prior event, unparalleled in shock, had affected the growing up girl: The lovebird hopeful of surprising her beau had tiptoed to the newsroom and pushed the greenroom door ajar. Katya saw aÂ long-hairedÂ man, arched like Tango milonguero, struggling to stay grounded due to the weight of a clinging woman by his neck. From the mirror, it became clear that 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 spelled temperament of a mating season canine. The stun was instantaneous but her cognitive organs responded seconds later and Katya waltzed with surroundings and landed 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 mustached guard stood up surprised 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 gates, the devastated lover found a lone sorry looking tree to lean on and shake off the hurt. Vehicles zoomed by on the road. Guardâs Fyfe, on a scheduled round to mark the territory, saw the young 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.
Hotrfys, in addition to managing romance treachery secretively, handled heartaches by flaring up. Presently Ms. Hotfry tested new highs of her fury as the greenroom scene replayed in slow motion. Had Pickabu been in a kickable proximity, the ballet danseur would have had lost his jewels forever. Katya contemplated to go back in. However, the rain got heavier and she moved on towards Avenue K. The rain added to her misery and the sidewalk was getting crowded, 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 and joined the crowd under the canopy of packed Avenue K cafĂ©. A few quick sips later, he called Shiva and arranged to crash at his place for the night. The divine influence of the cocktail coupled with rhythm of raindrops raised his spirit; it was the time for an ontological dialogue with Mr. Adam. Buxton lifted his head and looked beyond the end of skyscrapers:
âMr. Adam, am I the news reporter or just a guy?ââBoy, 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 on a runway. Water streamed off hair tendrils of the tall tanned model material. 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 a 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 the 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 visibleâ
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 the animal-love and his platonic needs were regarded excessive baggage, the quarrelsome chick was sweet at core. He recalled the bubbly girl had opened the fist, one finger at a time, 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 meanâ
Her laughter had sounded like a diesel engine running on a steep slope. The vigorous punch on the shoulder had almost knocked him. Then she had said, âNowya tell me honcho, wata âlse matter?â
She was one pushy gal and even Ramhorn had succumbed to interviewing him. 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 whistling exotic birds along 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 dayâs events. Shiva felt he just had 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 woke 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 learn 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 somber noir detective and placed her hand in a pocket. She felt the paper. It was the letter from JH Broadcasting. It was the termination notice.
Sun sprung in the east radiated the sky and its crisp rays filtered through the tree gave no trace of previous dayâs downpour until he walked out of Shivaâs place. The leaves were a bit soggy and air was damp. Buxton hopped on the ten-thirty express almost empty. He watched shops and traffic as events of previous day burned like smothered coal.
At condominium entrance, the rabble of butterflies fluttered in his stomach. For a news reporter, breaking the news was not tricky if it was not about 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 cheered him. Buxtonâs heart sank further within him realizing that 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 to think about all until next morning. Today he just needed to release the coat loss news, a plausible story 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 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.
âO, 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 inquired chewing his food.
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!