Walt sat between the open doors in the back of the news van, his legs dangling over the bumper as a he held an ice pack on his crotch. As he struggled to cope with the pain, he overheard Natalie on the phone, speaking to his union representative.
“Eighty-three forms?” Natalie asked. “But…but…uh…I understand but listen…no..listen to me. I’m going to try to explain this as clearly as possible. I require the services of a cameraman and this imbecile has no idea how to operate a video camera…uh huh…right but…how many hearings? Oh…fine…fine. You win.”
Natalie swiped the hang up button on her phone and patted Walt on the shoulder. “I’m sorry I kicked you, Walt. I don’t know what came over me. I’ve never lost control before.”
“I understand,” Walt said as he adjusted the ice pack. “You did warn me.”
“I hope you’ll still be able to father children,” Natalie said.
“Eh,” Walt said. “Who’d want a kid that looks like me anyway?”
Natalie leaned up against the van. “Walk me through this, will you?”
“I’ll try,” Walt said.
“You’re a fully trained camera man,” Natalie said.
“I am,” Walt replied.
“You’ve recorded footage in Iraq, Afghanistan, war zones all over the world as well as at home,” Natalie said.
“Yes,” Walt said.
“For twenty years,” Natalie said. “Long, long before they stuck me with you.”
“Right,” Walt said.
“But now, all of a sudden…what?” Natalie asked. “You can’t work a camera anymore?”
“I can,” Walt said.
Natalie slapped her forehead. “Then why won’t you?”
Walt coughed into his fist. “I’m tired.”
Natalie shook her head. “Excuse me?”
“I’m exhausted,” Walt said. “I’m getting old. I’m worn out. I’ve been to every hellhole in the world, holding the camera as one hot ass blonde chick with big titties after another berates me. When they assigned me to you, I thought it would be a cushy gig, that they wouldn’t give you much work to do on account of the fact that…”
“I’m not a hot ass blonde chick with big titties?” Natalie asked.
“Correct,” Walt said. “I thought like maybe they’d let you cover the county fair or something once in a blue moon you know, just to keep the feminists happy so they can be all like, ‘Hey, we’re not always just about the hot ass blonde chicks with big titties! We let brunettes with small titties on air too!’ But then you turned out to be a go getter.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Natalie inquired.
“You work hard, kid,” Walt said. “You’ve got Moxie. One day you’re covering a gang shootout. The next you’re chasing down corrupt politicians. And the whole time you expect me to keep up with you. I can’t do it.”
“Maybe we can get you transferred to a less ambitious reporter,” Natalie said.
“Nah,” Walt replied. “There isn’t one. Everyone in the news game thinks they’re the next big sensation. All reporters, even the ones who aren’t hot and don’t have blonde hair or big titties are hoping to make it big. I realize that now. If I transfer to another reporter, she’ll just make me run around behind too.”
“But that’s your job!” Natalie said.
“I know,” Walt replied. “But I don’t want it to be anymore. I want to be forced into early retirement so…”
Natalie stepped back. “You fail on purpose?”
Walt nodded. “Yes.”
“But why?” Natalie asked.
“Because I want to be forced into early retirement,” Walt said. “A hot ass blonde chick reporter gets put out to pasture by thirty and gets to write books about her time as a hot ass blonde chick reporter for the rest of her life. Me? They’ll work me until the morning of my funeral. I thought if I screwed up enough on purpose I’d get an HR rep demanding that I take an early retirement package but I’m union so…”
“It’s impossible for you to be let go,” Natalie said. “Your union rep told me I’d have to file eighty-three separate forms just in order to convene a hearing to discuss the issue.”
“Yeah,” Walt said. “Gotta love the bureaucracy. All that red tape protects the competent.”
Natalie took a seat next to her cameraman. “You cost me my footage. I had the inside scoop on a celebrity murder and you blew it for me.”
Walt looked down at his shoes. “I know. I’m sorry.”
“Look Walt,” Natalie said. “I can see you’ve been through a lot in your life, but I need you to pull it together.”
“I don’t know if I can,” Walt said. “The more screw-ups I rack up, the more likely it is I’ll get a retirement package. It’ll take at least ten thousand screw-ups before that happens, so I need to start getting a documented history of failure now.”
Natalie stood up and slapped Walt across the face.
“Ow!” Walt shouted. He dropped his ice bag, then immediately felt pain surge through his groin, which he quickly grabbed. “Ow!”
“Now, you listen to me,” Natalie said. “We are covering the biggest story of the year, here. Maybe of the decade, nay, the century! War? Schmore. Famine? Schmamine. Sure, everyone pretends to care when a bunch of kids in some far off country don’t have enough fresh water to drink but what really causes people to pay attention is the death of a celebrity! And we don’t just have a celebrity death on our hands. We have a murder! We were the first ones on the scene and if we keep working this story, there’s no telling how far we could go.”
“You mean, how far you could go,” Walt said.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Natalie asked.
“Everyone always remembers the reporter who broke a big story,” Walt said. “No one ever remembers the cameraman.”
“That’s not true,” Natalie said.
“Really?” Walt asked. “Name a famous cameraman.”
Natalie tapped a finger against her cheek as she thought about the question. “There was that guy…umm…and the…you’re right. I’ve got nothing.”
“No, you don’t,” Walt said. “And thus, there’s no incentive for me to try to help you. There is, however, plenty of incentive for me to keep screwing up because when my ten thousandth screw-up is logged, there will be a hearing to discuss sending me on my merry way and maybe, just maybe, that’ll end up with me with a nice pension check and a delicious fruity drink with an umbrella in it in my hand as I sunbathe on a beach in the Caribbean.”
Natalie closed her eyes, counted to ten, then opened them. “I can’t believe I’m offering this but…”
“I’m listening,” Walt said.
“I can’t get you on camera,” Natalie said.
“I don’t want to be on camera,” Walt replied. “I’m too old. Too fat. That’s a young person’s game.”
“I can promise you that if I ever write a book about this, I’ll give you a co-author credit,” Natalie said.
Walt looked up. “Huh. Now you’re talking. Wait…do I have to write anything?”
“Nope,” Natalie replied. “I’ll write it all and we’ll split the profits sixty-forty.”
“Fifty-fifty,” Walt said.
“Do you want another kick to the balls?” Natalie asked.
“Not especially,” Walt said. “Fine. Sixty-forty it is. But I want to be interviewed by a hot ass blonde chick with big titties.”
“I thought you just said you don’t want to be on camera,” Natalie said.
“I don’t,” Walt replied. “But I’ve always wanted to stare at one of the hot ass blonde chick reporter’s big titties. I’ve never had a chance to really enjoy looking at them because I’m always working on the camera.”
Natalie sighed. “Well, if I ever get that kind of pull, I will arrange for you to be interviewed by the hottest blonde chick with the biggest titties I can find. Deal?”
“Deal,” Walt said.
“Will you do your job now?” Natalie asked.
“Yes,” Walt said as he hopped out of the van. He examined his camera. “This piece of junk will never do, though. I’m going to have to get my hands on an XYS Panastatic Pro, preferably with a Nantuzasaki refracting lens and an infrared flare.”
“I knew there was a cameraman in you somewhere, Walt,” Natalie said. “Especially because you look like you’ve eaten three of them.”
Walt headed to the driver’s side of the van. “Let’s roll, woman. There’s a celebrity murderer on the loose.”
“Thank God your head is finally in the game,” Natalie said. She was about to jump into the passenger’s seat when her phone buzzed. She looked at the screen. The name she saw made her heart jump: “Manley, Kurt.”