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Introduction Hello, everyone. I'm publishing a novel. It is the adventures of an ambitious woman with a secret father in a desperate race to ﬁnd a cure for a disease that threatens her secret son. Along the way she battles the Great Recession, investigates mysterious national events, and suffers the collapse of her profession. She gets unexpected help from a team of college students who track down the truths behind the unfairness in life. My goal is to publish a new chapter every week with episodes inspired by real events. I invite you, the reader, to help by contributing any of the following: • Real stories of unfairness to ﬁctionalize in episodes. • Images, video and audio to illustrate the ﬁction • Proofreading, fact checking and ﬁll in the blanks. • --author
The Sucker Punch The worst day of a young life. Why did this happen? Not everything is black and white
Chapter One: "You're Fired! A balding head pokes out the office door. Bland expression. Typical drone. "Mizz Grant, will you please come to the office ?" A couple of folks glance up from their cubicles just in time to see the target -- a mop of brunette hair framing impossibly large hazel eyes that peer from behind a desktop computer. "... be with you in a sec, Mike ... ﬁnishing up some fact checking." Surprisingly, that seems to annoy him a bit, so Mike Milano steps further into the corridor. "Sharee, I really need to speak to you right now ... that other stuff can wait." More heads turn. A handful of producers and correspondents become curious. Rarely do they hear Milano raise his voice. He is not called Mono Mike without reason ... generally keeping his monotone personality parked behind a cluttered desk. Sharee stands up ... and up ... and up. Her tousled mane doesn't really match the custom-tailored gray cardigan that wraps snuggly up her six-foot height. Make that six-feet-three as she slips her narrow foot into stylish heels. One of the gawkers, the news show's recently promoted female commentator, takes envious notice of her new rival's outﬁt. Her mind checks off the price tags. Gray cashmere cardigan cut long and cinched with a silk braided belt--$400. Underneath, a charcoal black, ﬁtted skirt and tunic with a faux turtle neck--$500. The skirt slightly above the knees and hosed in black. This ensemble plus accessories must have cost $3000. "Are those Jimmy Choo heels," she thinks, "That's athousand dollars there at least."
“It's an Armani original for sure Probably purchased from Nordstroms at Providence Place.” The news staff had begun looking at Sharee with new eyes ever since that episode with the Brazilian Bomber several months ago when his Entourage swept into the newsroom, beefy bodyguards ﬁrst, effete hangers-on next, then the Heavyweight Champion of the World himself. The Daily Investigative News’ top producer had gotten an insider scoop about the Champ's personal life and had convinced the most well-known athlete in the world to come to the studio to answer some questions. Everything was set up for D-I-N's new star in the chilly main studio. As Roberto Silva paraded into the newsroom he did a kind of radar sweep, then spotted the blonde almost hidden behind the back desk. "I'll do your damn interview," he growled, "...but only with that girl !" The producer and the news director argued with the Champ's “yes” men. "Sharee is too new and she really doesn't know the whole story" they begged, "Michelle has already been briefed and she is our top news personality." Roberto had settled on the then-blond Sharee. A new look for her that was having spectacular results. "I don't give a damn if she is the Queen of Sheba, If you guys are going to rip me apart at least I am gonna choose someone I can feast my eyes on !" Sharee was rushed to the set. But ﬁrst she made an important pit stop to the Dressing Room ... to powder her nose and, more importantly, to make a quick call to her old college news director.
Back on the set, the producer whispered some tips into her ear and shoved a list of talking points into her hands. Sharee took a brief return cell phone call ... listening intently while the make-up girl primped the champ. He was ...to put it bluntly ... eye candy for every woman in the world. The interview went very well. Sharee wasn't nearly as bitchy as Michelle ... but still managed to make Roberto squirm. Finally the interview came to an end and as Sharee made her thank yous, The Champ looked her in the eye ... and uttered this non sequiter, "Ahh ! _______________, you are not as dumb as you look !" Sharee clearly offended, snapped back, "No _____________ ?" and a few other choice words in a language no one in the newsroom had ever heard of. The Entourage and the Champ shuffled out of the building but not before Roberto stopped and pivoted back to talk quietly in a corner to Sharee Needless to say, the producer, the news director and the sports-spurned female commentator badgered Sharee to learn what he had said. "Well he apologized to me, and to make up for it...he invited me and a D-I-N camera crew to spend three weeks at his training camp outside New Bedford. AND he will pick up the whole tab !" Memorably, Sharee wheeled around and sauntered back to her cubicle as if nothing had happened. She had already made a couple of enemies in her new job ... no need to rub it in.
There is always a hush whenever Sharee moves around the newsroom, broken only by the clip clop of heels as she makes her way to the news director’s office ... looking occasionally back to her desk ... as if she forgot to include a fact or two in her story. Sharee tries to guess what this is all about. Maybe it's a big thank you for the mini-series on the Champ who was as good as his word. Flying her and Julio, D-I-N's best videographer and Puerto Rican. I guess the news bosses felt Puerto Rican was close enough to Portuguese ... as the producer said ﬂippantly, "Same shit different bucket." The champ paid for everything, even settling them in a motel near his training camp for the entire time. The rustic, you might say, spartan digs, were near the site of the upcoming Bay State World Invitational track meet ... on the campus of UMass Dartmouth. The champ liked to joke he could get much needed speed work done there. But back to the moment...back to the news director’s office. The boss "welcomes" Sharee, his eyes downcast, normal posture in her presence. His star staffer and top recruit has been on the job for only a short time yet this has become a familiar behavior. There are two other people in the cramped room ... barely able to ﬁt around the large desk. Sharee recognizes the Human Resources Director and gets introduced to his assistant, a small older woman. Mike refuses to look up.. studying every detail of his shoe tips shuffling awkwardly. It is the Human Resources Director who...intones, "Mizz Grant. You have been on probation for six months now. We thank you for your service. Unfortunately we have decided to go in another direction with our staffing. We cannot offer you employment here at D-I-N !"
Chapter two--Red Flags Let's step back a second from the drama of this minitragedy. Back to the weeks that were wonderful ... the weeks when Sharee's star still shone brightly... but back also when the whiff of something ominous was in the air ... when the show honchos poured over the ratings and decided major changes were needed. Michelle Clark moved up to Main Anchor/Host. Before that, she was just one of several occasional commentators. Now she was the opening act, "Anger ! The story of our times. Unfairness and unemployment are its handmaidens. The jobless rate hovers above ten per cent ...ripping the guts out of consumer conﬁdence ! ...and we have the President to blame !" Michelle read the teleprompter ... but then departed from script ... looking occasionally down at a sheet of talking points on her desk. She was in full ad-lib .... looking conﬁdently .... directly... into the studio camera... to a bemused, amused America. It was the ﬁrst time that a Point of View led the broadcast. Michelle took full advantage, yanking position points from her recently unsuccessful campaign for Congress. It was little more than a stump speech snaked with snarkieness. "Unemployment is unfair ... folks with masters degrees are pounding the streets. Unemployment compensation is running out ...running out after several politically motivated extensions ! The deﬁcit is soaring. Foreclosure rates rising ... and housing prices tanking. It simply isn't fair !" Michelle suddenly stood up and paraded around to the front of the anchor desk ...then sat on the desk, lissome legs provocatively posed.
The producers watching the monitors sensed immediately that the show was changing directions in a way that could become a direct threat to many of their jobs. Why pay for a reporter, ﬁeld producer, fact checker audio man, videographer, remote truck and crew, for a scripted show, when you can pay just one person--the anchor babe--to rant on the air for ﬁfteen minutes. Of course not just anyone could pull this off. This tour de force took the right, almost mystical, mojo. The talisman-the recently dyed ravishing red hair --eye candy for high deﬁnition--the bust line, legs AND the partisan resume. She was the only one of the stable of “talkers” who had readily strayed from objective news analyst to subjective opinion maker. Only a handful knew the bean counters in the background would eventually put ﬁnancial pressure on the unsustainable expenses of a news-gathering operation. The real risk of course was whether the audience would accept the format changes and more importantly ... accept Michelle, red-hair and all. Mike Milano also knew that this was a game changer. No one noticed that he had retreated, turned off his office light, shuttered the windows and begun furiously shooting out emails. "Hello, everybody. Well it's time to send out the escape tapes. The madness has hit us ! We are at the bottom of the slippery slope. Remember, I warned everyone. Once they dropped the Fairness Doctrine and scaled back Equal Time in the 80's ... we would be on our way to oblivion. Well oblivion has arrived !" Milano buried his head in his hands and teared up. Yes, cried. This is a man who never cried. He wept quietly, no one heard him ... but he really didn't care.
His entire worldview ﬂipped. He predicted what would happen next. He would challenge the changes, of course, but his arguments would fall on deaf ears. His bosses would roll their eyes, the marketing and programming people would pooh pooh his concerns, the correspondents and producers would not back him up because they were too busy to see the threat. The public would not really care because they felt journalists were elitist snobs anyway and laced with liberal bias. Truth would be called a lie ! A new mishmash of consultants and accountants would celebrate cost-beneﬁt, cheap citizen journalists, and ignore the Amateurization of America. Milano cringed when management brought in that professor--the naif with, for the nonce, news experience-to consult--or was it to expound-- on the use of Public Journalism. Then it was that program director out of Washington, who preached that daily journalism was dead...that news should be more “analytical” and that reporter-intensive coverage strategies were boring and way too expensive... and, though incorrect, more damning ... “...doesn't build audience...doesn’t attract revenue.” Milano would not tell family, not even his wife, to avoid needless worry or to know that he was worried sick. He would quietly send out his resume and begin networking, But Milano knew it would be much tougher to ﬁnd something at his age and he would be lucky to get a news jobs at half what he is making now. The ﬁrst round of downsizing was bound to begin very soon ... maybe in less than a year, Milano had already heard about the slide in advertising revenue in virtually every medium. He had long ago looked on with concern as internet change swept, ﬁrst the music business with Napster, then commercial radio with the shock jocks, the catastrophe that infected the newspaper industry as Clear Channel-clones
gobbled up and spit out hallowed newsrooms while Craigslist continued to burrow through the bedrock of the business model. Milano reporters had always lived with the luxury of obliviousness, their professional belief in the separation of marketing and media had blinded them to the importance of the business side which was, in fact, the underpinning of everything they could do in journalism. The journalists’ model of the “separation of church and state”, i.e., keeping business separate from news, had already begun to erode with the disturbing changes in the world’s best newsrooms at the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the even worse events at the Chicago Tribune. Milano could even forecast the struggle of journalism schools as jobs in the industry vanished. The wire services would shrink. Aggregators armed with algorithms would take the place of original human sources, and lead to the kind of reliance on digital information gathering which one old FBI hand had said created the national security holes that sank the World Trade Center on 9/11. But perhaps what was most stunning to this old marine was the direct threat to the democracy he fought for as a soldier in the ﬁrst Iraq war, and supported his work as a ﬁeld producer during the second Iraq war. Now that the the shouters and doubters replaced the scientiﬁc approach to news gathering ... where would voters get credible information? Or would this new breed of balloters even care? The accuracy of information was under siege and histrionics had taken its place. The Shock Jocking of television broadcasting became so proﬁtable, that the mainstream news media shifted its core...like tectonic plates rearranging the continents.
Mike Milano had pleaded with his professional associations to lobby for regulatory sanity over the internet so that it matched to the rules which radio, television, and newspapers had to labor under. Where were the libel laws, and the copyright protections that escorted intellectual property in every other medium? Now under a misreading of freedom of speech, people were allowed to yell ﬁre in a theater... or even worse, build bombs on the internet, or incite attacks on the innocent. Milano labored under the weight of all this for ﬁfteen minutes, then struggled to get himself together emotionally. Maybe it's time to consider retirement and let a younger breed rediscover sanity .... maybe even ﬁnd a way to Reﬁnance the First Amendment. Now back to the moment. Sharee can hear her God chuckling at all her public and even private plans...stuff no one at D-I-N knew about. Like the effort it took to relocate her secret son, ﬁnd medical care, track down her wayward father, ferret out discrete addict support groups, haul all her stuff to the condo. It had taken all her savings, to buy the clothes she needed for the job, to pay for the trips to hospitals in Providence, Boston and Atlanta. It took even more emotional capital to reconnect with “Mom”. Professionally, Sharee also siphoned a lot of money out of her personal account to build a team of conﬁdants. The blind mother in Providence who monitored emergency scanners, the grad students at Palisades College who did everything from fact-checking, to research, a stable of sources and informants-- out-of-pocket old school journalism was very expensive. All her planning, scheming and juggling... now coming to an abrupt halt !
Chapter Three--The Sucker Punch.
Sharee had heard of the Sucker Punch before. Actually saw it in action in her ﬁrst job out of college. But she never thought it would happen to her, Nor did she know it could take your breath away like a shot to the kidneys or that it could recast the real world in a starkly pukish pallor. She didn't know, as the H.R. ﬂack prattles on, that the spoken word can become--suddenly-- abstruse. Time splits, diverges, veers away. As if the three who know what has just happened are in a different dimension from the people outside in the newsroom --- who have no idea that their new star has just been ﬁred. "This can't be happening... wha..." Her mind muffles her mouth. Sharee quizzes the company reps, all variations of "why", with answers that bounce back curtly, that never vary from some predetermined script designed to dodge, evade ... and what's that big word, oh yeah, obfuscate.. “This simply can't be happening ! I was doing so well !” What was it Michaels told her when she got the original call from the network to come up as an August sub for a correspondent on vacation? "Be ready, you might be on the Jane Pauley fast track," her old college news director alerted her. (Whenever one of his male former students seemed to be moving up the ladder he would use Peter Jennings as the example. Both made their big network splash in their twenties.)
Sharee certainly thought her career was taking off ... especially when she remembered moving up to the anchor job a month ago. Was it just a month ago? Her mind continues to wander back. Milano had phoned her to come to his office back then. He was used to the brains and brilliance of everyone talented enough to make it to the network level, but still he was frequently ill-at-ease whenever he had to chat directly with Sharee Grant. "Whew, what a day. What a Daayy !" He stretched. He always started with small talk, as if discussing his own managerial problems helped bolster his rank over subordinates, "... had to demote Ted. Took him off weekend anchor and reassigned him to cover consumer safety stories. I told him over and over to get rid of that part in the middle of his head.” “...with his pitch black hair, his white skin, looks like a bolt of lightning on the screen whenever he looks down at his copy to read !" Sharee froze. Did he just make a funny? Was he serious? Why was he telling her this? Next came the kicker. "You interested in the job?" Of course Sharee accepted, knowing this would invite more back-biting from the peanut gallery. Summer subs simply don't move up to any full time news position this quickly let alone to an anchor job on a nationally syndicated show. She had endured this before in Kansas City, when she moved up from ﬂoor director to main anchor in one year. That was unheard of in a major market let alone in a career just one year out of college.
She was certainly doing well for the ﬁrst four months at the network. Several of her stories made the A block of D-I-N...three even got picked up by the nightly news shows. Yeah, they had been great gets--bona-ﬁde scoops. She had used her old college journalism training to create her own beats. Beats were frowned upon in this shop. So on her own time, she would drive over to her three beats, including the federal courthouse in Providence, during the lunch hours on Tuesdays. It was during one of those stops that she happened to sit next to a young woman sitting on a bench outside courtroom 2A. She was an ordinary looking but physically ﬁt bottle blond wearing casual but classy _________ blouse and slacks. Sharee knew from her modeling days that this modest looking outﬁt was made of expensive material that must have placed it in the 500-hundred-dollar range. They chatted about fashion, hair dyeing and even exchanged phone numbers. Sharee heard from her a few days later and agreed to meet at Cafe Nordstrom at Providence Place for lunch and maybe a little window shopping. "Yeah, I think I am going to grow my hair back to its natural color," Sharee toyed over a salad at the crowded eatery while omitting the real reasons ... wouldn’t everyone be surprised if they really knew who she was. "I only went blonde because I thought it might get me a full time job at Daily Investigative News. Then I stopped by Nordstroms to buy a couple of outﬁts for the new job ... I cleared out my savings and spent $5000." "My God !" said Cindy, "What if you didn't get the full time gig? I don't spend that kind of money on clothes in three years! I'm always telling Frank not to buy me expensive stuff.
He's always trying to get me jewelry. Hey, I'm not that kind of girl." "Neither am I," Sharee looked away as a couple of suits have taken notice of her ... recognizing her from somewhere that they can't quite place. Of course she rarely drops by this time of day. She always marvels at how well-known people seemed to pop in every now and then. Clearly Sharee was becoming part of that club, the faces, after rocketing from ﬁll-in to probationer to weekend network anchor. Not only that, but she is reconnecting with her father for the ﬁrst time since she was a kid. He lives in a condo about 30 miles east, in New Bedford. Mr. Gomes had left the family long ago and settled back in the area while he had gone back to graduate school. It's also where a large community of Cape Verdeans lived. He ﬁnally felt at home after stops in the Cape Verde islands, Sierra Leone, London and Florida where he lived with Sharee's mom. Sharee was feeling as good about the latest developments in her private and public life as Cindy felt bad about hers. "They are forcing me to testify against Frank" Cindy whispered. Frank was her boyfriend, Frank Rocco, the much older cousin of Nick "Bones" Bonaro, the reputed head of one of the last of Federal Hill's crime families. That morning a federal grand jury had indicted Frank on ten counts of Medicare fraud. Cindy must have had reason to fear for her life. She was a vibrant 26 year old when Sharee had chatted with her before ... now she was mush, visibly aging from the stress.
For some reason, she began spilling the beans to a reporter whom she'd just met... all about her love affair with the same guy she would have to testify against if she wanted to avoid a handful of fraud charges as an accomplice. Cindy is a licensed mental health therapist, who started her own practice when she had gotten tired of working her butt off for someone else, for little or nothing. It was around that time that she was introduced to an elderly businessman named Frankie, who had dealings with the Medicare system. He offered to ﬁnance her dreams while she managed the business side. Seemed there was a potentially lucrative government push to incentivize women to own small businesses. They met over dinner several times during the next three months. He was, despite his age, a very charming fellow. At close to 70 he was still a very vigorous man and ﬂush with money. After dinner he would always have an after party at his condo. A dozen or so people over to play cards, or sit around yak-king about how to save the world. At any given point he would talk about the adventures of his past life ... his many travels ... his fears during military service and combat ... his time in Hollywood and the stars he brushed elbows with. Once he reminisced about a dinner with ﬁve ﬁlm stars of the one movie he had ever had a ﬁnancial interest in. They were nibbling at a fancy restaurant in Italy. He ticked off the names of the stars sitting around the table ... each one of them in the process of becoming a legend. Frank told stories in that august gathering in his typical expansive ways ... his arms ﬂailing about ...inevitably leading to a clever, even thrilling, climax. One was so stirring ... that he had to jump up .... his napkin detached and dropped from under his chin ... both arms
frozen in a victory pose, to punctuate the punch line ... when he looked down and realized that his ﬂy was open. Well, you had to be there but it was much funnier when he told the story. Cindy was taken with all this. They worked closely on establishing her business. He had a way of attracting angel investors while she recruited the staff, leased a building near a cluster of prominent medical practices and applied to be on the referral list for various health insurance plans. Like all small businesses ... it struggled during the ﬁrst year. Frankie advised her to hire a marketing and development person to help drum up business, and recommended a woman who had contacts with area medical clinics. Suddenly, patients started rolling in and the medicare applications for reimbursements began to clog up the process ... so they had to hire a medical records person to handle the workload. Frankie had run across these new employees in his previous businesses. Three years into the effort, the money began to ﬂow in, so much so, that Cindy observed a change in the lifestyle of some of the new people on staff. While she continued to wear the middle-class clothing of a typical licensed mental health therapist ... she noticed the new hires began coming to work dressed to the nines. She became suspicious when the medical records person drove up in a BMW. But business was so good, that Cindy and Frankie opened up another clinic in town thirty miles away ... then another ...and another. Pretty soon they had ten clinics in the region ... yet, the patients and the money kept pouring in.
At this point in Cindy's story, the distressed young woman gave Sharee a disk. "Please hold on to this. It's the only thing I didn't hand over to the federal prosecutors." She whispered,"It's an off-thebooks record that we began to keep, detailing our actual costs in providing mental health therapies, and the changes we made to requests for Medicare reimbursements for drugs, and physician care." Cindy then admitted that she had become so overwhelmed with the explosive growth of their business, that she had begun to take shortcuts to handle the massive load of paperwork, signing off on patients to whom the practice had given little or no medical care. Some were referrals of people so mentally debilitated, that it wasn't possible for them to understand what a therapist was talking about.
Next week, Cindy was dead ... from "natural causes"
Needless to say, she didn't have to testify and eventually the case against Frank was dismissed, as other elements in the case collapsed. Sharee had enough stuff from Cindy to piece together an exclusive! Actually, that was only one of ﬁfty stories Sharee was working on when Mono Mike called her to his office to offer her the weekend anchor position. That, and the anchor job, convinced everyone in the newsroom that her career was on the fastest of tracks. Oddly enough, many of the stories had to do with the hiring and ﬁring practices of major companies. How the public made that leap from the Rocco story was beyond her, but she became fascinated with the under-covered angle of discrimination in the work place.
But neither Mike nor the rest of the staff knew about the other major story she was working on. The one generated from an innocuous conversation at the Shawmut Diner. The story that led to the White House and the War. As for Sharee's own job prospects, as good as things seemed to be going, there were certainly red ﬂags. For example that day when Mono Mike called her into the office a few weeks ago. "Human Resources wants to talk to you about something. Get on down there and get back for the daily news meeting" The Human Resources office was on another ﬂoor, down where the business office and sales departments were. Sharee got lost several times trekking through the warren. "We were wondering why you applied to go to the National Black Journalist Convention in Detroit. We have a couple of other folks who wanted to go, but we can only afford to send two. The Human Resources Director was more than curious. Why was this young and attractive, yet obviously white, reporter wanting to go to this type of meeting. The executive sized her up. Tall, stylish, professionally dressed. Paler than snow, with muted red lipstick and bright blonde hair. Maybe she wants to cover the event for a story, he thought. Sharee stared back for several uncomfortable moments, then reached into her purse and pulled out a photo. She looked at the HR director again then dropped her professional demeanor and smiled sheepishly...saying quietly" "This is my father," she said haltingly, "My biological father" The network executive registered a look of silent astonishment !
"His name is Galen. Dr. G.A.E.T Gomes to be exact. PhD in Nuclear Physics. He was born in Sierra Leone but grew up in the Cape Verde islands"
All the executive saw was the dark face ... he blanched. He could not reconcile the black face in the photo with the image of the very white-looking young reporter standing there in front of him. The session ended. He said he would give her application due consideration. Later that week, Sharee decided to go back to her natural hair color ... as if it was important to return to her "roots." So here's the replay: three weeks later Sharee is summoned to the news director's office. Photos of Mono Mike’s family, posed shots with big shots, ornate certiﬁcates, littered on the one shelf above his cluttered desk. Surprisingly Mono Mike is there, but so are two other people. The director of Human Resources and his assistant, an older woman who never speaks. Just nods and listens. "Ms. Grant you have completed your six month probationary period. Unfortunately, we have decided not to offer you full time employment here"
Chapter Four --Secrets By Roberta Douglas Judith Gomes, nee Levinson, had only one child – a girl she and her husband Galen decided to name Sharee, a version of the Hebrew name, Sharon, which means ‘a rose’, and is a bow to her strict Orthodox Jewish upbringing. Sharee was a lovely child. She was tall for her age, with a pale porcelain complexion and a lush mane of dark brown hair. She was quite shy, and it was an accomplishment to coax a smile from her, but it was worth the effort, because it was a wide, dazzling smile which lit up her whole face and showed off her beautiful white teeth. Her dad always knew exactly how to get not only that smile, but also a real giggle. As Judith was admiring her teen-age daughter one day, she reflected on Sharee’s impressive height, which was just about a match for her own six-foot stature. That brought Judith back to her own adolescence, which was made uncomfortable by the reaction of people to her uncommonly tall figure. She vowed to let Sharee know one day about her many trials on that account, not that Sharee didn’t have her own tales of embarrassment regarding “How’s the weather up there?” remarks from strangers. Marrying out of her faith had cost Judith dearly. Her parents, according to Jewish law, were obliged to disown her and mourn her passing. Not only had she married a non-Jew, but he was Cape Verdean, a man of color. The split with her family would haunt Judith forever, but this felt like the right path for her to be following. While Sharee was growing and coming into her own, Judith promised herself to be as supportive of her daughter as she possibly could, but she knew in her heart that an attractive girl, who had finally overcome her shyness, could easily get into trouble without half trying. (Perhaps she was remembering her own not so discrete years). So, she became a strict disciplinarian. Sharee was allowed very little freedom growing up, and, as happens in such cases, she had a strong desire to break free and do her own thing. It was terribly difficult for Judith to compromise as much as she found that she had to in her marriage. Her husband had his own traditions, and his own scientific beliefs, and she had hers. She had more than a little metaphysical leaning, and the two constantly locked horns about philosophy. Judith believed that things are perfect just as they are – that things have to run their course in order to bring about the desired result and that there are no short cuts to a happy ending.
Cecil Hickman Jan 9, 11:08 AM
Galen’s approach was to force situations to fit a mold which would then produce the desired result. He was disciplined and focused on the bottom line. That was his happy ending. During Sharee’s teen years, when she proved to have an inner ‘wild child’, this bickering became constant. It escalated exponentially when Sharee was in her first year of college. She brought her boyfriend Melvin home one evening and asked her folks to “Sit down for a minute. We want to tell you something.” Both Galen and Judith sat down on the sofa, expecting to hear the announcement of an engagement. Melvin stood quietly by Sharee’s side when she said, “Mom, you and dad are going to be grandparents.” The air in the room was alive with shock, and there was a moment of stunned silence. Judith was first to regain composure, and asked, “How far along are you?” “About three months” Sharee replied. “Do you intend to continue this pregnancy? Are you considering keeping the baby and raising it? Do you two plan to marry?” Judith’s rapid-fire interrogation threw Sharee and Melvin for a loop. They really didn’t have any idea what kind of reception their news would elicit, but they weren’t prepared for what they got. “Mom, of course we are going to have this baby and raise it. Aren’t you happy to know you’re almost a grandmother?” Judith ignored the question and instead reiterated her own. “Do you plan to marry and give this child a stable home?” Melvin answered that one. “To tell the truth, we haven’t discussed it yet. We’ve been so caught up with the fact of the baby, that we aren’t clear yet on the future.” “Well, don’t you think the future should have been considered before you started a baby?” asked Judith. After an uncomfortable half hour of this sort of back-and-forth discussion, Sharee and Melvin went for a long walk, leaving the older couple to come to terms with the news. Judith was very vocal about her feelings, but Galen just sat. He seemed almost indifferent – as though it didn’t have anything to do with him. He didn’t have any reason to talk about it, and absolutely refused to get involved. Their different styles of coping with that situation ultimately proved to be more insurmountable to her folks than their racial difference, and in less than a year, their marriage broke up. Poor Judith was left to manage Sharee’s situation on her own.
Although Sharee and Melvin did not marry, they took a small apartment and started a life together. They tried their best, but when their little son Butchie Boy began to show signs of being sick, Melvin took off for parts unknown. How could a young woman with a little boy take care of herself? She appealed to her mother, who, of course, took them in. “You can stay here, and I’ll help as much as I can, as long as you go to school and make something of yourself. You can’t just sit here all day and expect to be taken care of.” Sharee got the message, and accepted the terms. With her mom’s help, Sharee managed to finish college and get a degree in journalism. She landed a job which took her to Kansas City, so she entrusted the raising of little Butchie Boy to Judith, and moved out. Sharee didn’t keep in close touch with her mother and her son, but she was well aware of what was happening in their lives. She was on the computer every day, looking for ways to help Butchie Boy, and she was happy to be getting occasional e-notes from Judith. During this time, Butchie Boy was becoming more and more sickly. His attacks escalated to a level that kept Judith in a constant state of worry and agitation. She didn’t have legal custody of her grandchild, so permission for various treatments and procedures was hard to come by. Judith found herself constantly making excuses for the absence of his parents, and going above and beyond to seek care for him. Judith began to lament her old way of life. How did she ever allow herself to get so far away from her core beliefs? She really needed to go within and access all her inner resources to stay on an even keel. Touching again upon her knowledge that Spirit was within her and all around her began to calm the outer storm. Judith knew in her heart of hearts that everything happens for a reason, that each of us contracts with Source for a lifetime of experiences. She needed to keep in mind that this is just the learning she signed up for. Even little Butchie Boy was part of this learning. Whether she was the teacher or the student was something that her soul knew, even if her human self did not. Her estranged husband Galen was baffled by these beliefs of hers. He was a scientist, a realist. If he couldn’t see it or prove it, it just didn’t exist. No wonder they couldn’t live together. The one thing they always had in common, however, was a fervent love of family and home. Deep down inside, Judith kept his love close, and hoped that one day they might again connect. That hope was the one thing which kept her from trying to reconcile with her Jewish family. She knew that, given the opportunity to again be with Galen, she would do it.
Aware that southern New England is a mecca for health care, Judith packed up her little compact car, and drove from Florida to Corinth, Rhode Island, in order to be closer to the facilities which were so important to Butchie Boy’s well-being. Galen had made sure that, in spite of their break-up, Judith still could access the money they had managed to save during their marriage, and he also sent her a small check each month – an unofficial alimony payment – so she was able to comfortably relocate. The house she found was a typical New England Cape. It had a fireplaced living room, a dining room, a half bath and the kitchen on the first floor, with three bedrooms and a full bath upstairs. It was a very comfortable family home with a nice back yard which was just right for a growing boy, and a one car garage. Butchie Boy constantly assured his grandmother that he was ‘fine’, but his health kept him from fully participating in all the activities which are so dear to a little boy’s heart. Sure, he could watch sports and games, but that’s not really what either of them wanted. Judith often asked him, “What would make you happy? What would you like to do to have some fun?” Most of the time, his answer was, “I like watching the other kids. I just want to be with them even if I can’t do everything they can do.” Meditation was Judith’s only escape from the reality of dealing with her grandson’s problem. But, even during those times, she was seeking an inner solution to this heartbreaking situation, so it wasn’t a true escape at all. If only she could come up with some insight, something nobody else had thought of. If only Sharee would involve herself in his life. What a relief it would be to know that an answer was in sight, a light at the end of this interminable tunnel. Instead, she had to be constantly on guard in order to protect him from injury. Meanwhile, Sharee found out where her mother and son had moved to, and she campaigned mightily until she landed a job right in Corinth. It was a job tailor-made for her, and it was wonderful the way it put her back in Butchie Boy’s life. Now she and Judith could finally be friends and allies, instead of disciplinarian and rebel. Judith’s phone rang. “Mom, it’s me. I’m here in Rhode Island and I want to come see you. Please, may I?” “Of course, come!. I love you and I’ve missed you, and if you’ve grown up and think you’re ready to be a proper mother, we can band together to take care of this precious son of yours.” replied Judith.
Sharee rang the bell, and was let in. They sat at the table over a cup of tea and Sharee began to talk. “I’m so sorry, mom. I was young, and I know I behaved irresponsibly. After being on my own for a while, I finally realize how important it is to have family, and to take care of the ones you love. Believe me, I won’t ever leave again,” she tearfully promised. After they had a long sob session, and promised each other to make up for lost time, Judith dished up a steaming bowl of homemade chicken soup and they got down to the business of being family again. Pretty soon, Sharee pulled a much folded piece of paper out of her purse and showed it to Judith. “See, I’ve kept a lot of the notes you emailed me. They helped show me that family is forever, and not just when you’re in front of each other. This one is my favorite. You know, when you told me how tough it was to be the tallest one in school, even taller than the boys. How did you know what I was going through? I never said anything about it.” Judith laughed and said, “Do you think you have the patent on feeling out of place? We all have our little trials. Read it to me, honey.” “OK”. “Height - everyone has it, to one degree or another. Your height has a lot to do with how people see you. Are you short? Are you extra tall? Maybe you are VERY tall. Some folks are even considered of average height. Well, it could never be said that I was average. I began as an over 9 pound baby. As early as kindergarten, I became aware of my tall stature. Some insensitive people even went so far as to ask me if I had been kept back in school - at age 5! Don't think I wasn't aware of that as a very sore spot. All through elementary and junior high, I was the tallest student in class, even taller than the boys. Wasn't THAT fun! I was last in line for everything. I was in the back row for assemblies. I was in the back row for class pictures - with those boys who were approaching my height. Fourteen year old girls, who were 5'8" back in the '50's, were not popular with the male sex. Not only was I too tall, but also, I wore glasses. (Boys really DIDN'T make passes at me who wore glasses.) No boy wanted to date a girl who was taller than he was. As a matter of fact, I didn't want a boy who was shorter than me anyway. I was so self-conscious. In those days, young boys were not six feet tall, as they are today. I don't know what's in the food these days, but it's not unusual to find a 15 year old boy who is over 6'.
My mother constantly told me to stand up straight. I was going to look even taller if I slouched. So, I now have really good posture (I guess that's a good thing). One day, on the beach, when I was about 30, a man stopped me and said that he just HAD to tell me what wonderful posture I had. That was not the compliment I was hoping for, but I guess you take what you can get. As I matured (yes, I am), I began to appreciate my height. I realized that I could wear clothes well, and I began to hope that when I had kids, they would be tall. Well, you are tall. My main advantage now, is that I am tall enough to reach the top shelf in the supermarket for all those cute little old ladies, who are jealous of my height! I am tall enough to carry all the big bling I love to wear. So I wear a lot of it! And I'm getting old enough to say almost anything I want to say, so I say it! Ain't life grand?”
“Mom I just love this note. You have no idea how many times I’ve read it. It brought you close to me when I was at my loneliest. It always made me homesick for you.” Sharee was in tears again at this point, and needed her mom to soother her. That did both of them a world of good. Even when they are getting along well, mothers and daughters have an undercurrent of dissention. The adjustment period for Judith and Sharee was tough, but no worse than anyone else. Butchie Boy’s needs made quick work of cementing the two women together, and between them, they found the right hospitals, and the doctors who could do him the most good, As the two women bonded, Judith began to tell her daughter about her life with Galen before Sharee was born. “We travelled a lot. I think the best trip we had was on our honeymoon. We went to Israel. I never realized how much red tape is involved in over-seas travel. First, we had to be vaccinated against smallpox again. Then there was a tetanus shot. Of course, the smallpox vaccine gives a strong re-action. That hit me right in the middle of trying on clothes for the trip. What a fever I had! Then, passports had to be dealt with. Smile for the birdie!. I really believe that those customs people enjoy producing unflattering photos. They must be jealous of all the places people go, while they’re stuck in one spot. The trip was one of those packages which allowed us to choose which locations to visit, and put us in a different group for each arm of the trip. First, we boarded our plane, El Al Airline, of course, and settled in for a really long flight. It was an overnight, and very uncomfortable for sleeping.
There were so many people in each row, that we felt guilty every time we had to get up for the rest room. The food was pretty good, kosher, naturally. The airport wasn’t as big as the ones we have here now, but it certainly was busy, people of all nationalities, speaking so many different languages. It was a real potpourri, but nothing compared to what we would encounter at the various stops along our way. We stayed at a hostel on our first night. We had a very austere room, with a common bathroom for the entire second floor at the end of the hall. We had a clawfoot tub, and an overhead water closet with a pull-chain. I remember that the toilet paper was so hard that I wrote a letter home on it. At that point, I realized why I was advised to bring with me any paper goods I would need for the trip. A few days later, in Jerusalem, we went into the King David Hotel, and I confiscated a roll of real toilet paper from the public rest room. Our plan allowed for one night in a kibbutz, you know, a commune. That is how the early Jewish pilgrims lived when the State of Israel was new. They did that so they could rely on the talents of each of them to help build the new country without worry about necessities of living. It seemed to work for them, but I can’t see myself not having personal property, and only seeing my kids at dinner. It was, in my view, a tough way to go. Sight-seeing was like having all my Hebrew School lessons come to life. King Solomon’s Mine was so impressive! We saw it from a valley, so that the mountain seemed even taller than it was. We could see all the different colors of the sandstone, in layers, everywhere mining had taken place. One of the things that left a big impression, was a small plane that took us over the Negev desert to Eilat on the Dead Sea. Our cameras were taken away for the flight, because there were military installations in the desert, which were covert. Unfortunately, while we were in Israel, there were military skirmishes here and there. In the windows of all the tall buildings, there were sand bags visible, with rifles poking out between them. Also, we saw a lot of signs posted on buildings and kiosks, which warned of pick-pockets and other things, in three languages – Hebrew, French, and English. We ate falafel in the street, and went to a real flea market. That’s where I found that amber necklace you like so much. It was so much fun to shop, because nobody expects you to pay the asking price. It’s almost mandatory to dicker. We loved it!
After we left Israel by ship (it was half cargo, half passengers), we sailed on the Mediterranean to Pompeii, Italy, to see the ruins. There were tiny mummies, under glass, of children and babies, still in the positions they were caught in by the eruption. There were a lot of signs here, too. It was forbidden to pick up any pebbles or other material and remove it from the site. Also in Italy, we visited a cameo factory. Rows and rows of old men were sitting along benches, each with a flat-topped post in front of him. They would mount a piece of sea shell on their post, lean it against the bench, and with a cutting tool, carved away bits of the shell to leave the cameo design. They told us that the design was already in the shell, they just needed to let it out. They got the inspiration for the picture from the piece they were working. The next stop was Barcelona, Spain. We were told to stay together and not to speak loud, or touch anything. Those people didn’t like strangers. While we were there, I bought those soft calfskin gloves you like. They were fitted to me as a dress would be. They placed my elbow in a brace-like apparatus, powdered my hand, and pretty much forced a glove onto it. That way, it was a custom fit. There was no time to eat before getting back on the ship. Then, we approached the Straits of Gibraltar. The water was starting to get rough, and I didn’t feel too well. It was a relief to disembark in Ponta del Gada, in the Azores. Your dad loved it there, happy to be where his family had settled after leaving the Cape Verde Islands. We saw, on top of a small mountain, twin lakes. One was green and one was blue. They told us that was a natural phenomenon. It was really beautiful. When we got back on the ship to cross the Atlantic, I had a foresight of how the trip was going to be. I was right. I was seasick all the way home. There was a storm in the Atlantic, and it was so rough that the Captain’s Dinner, on the last night out, was cancelled. Seeing the Statue of Liberty at the mouth of the harbor was wonderful. I had no idea it would affect me so. I actually wept. A lot of people cheered, and I saw other folks with tears running down their face. Well, it was time to get back to reality. Going through Customs was easy. They opened all our bags, and did a perfunctory inspection. All we had to do was to say we had nothing to declare, and they let us in. The worst part of any trip is unpacking and doing laundry, and this was no exception. But, it only took a couple of day to get back to normal. I’m really glad we went. That’s one of my favorite memories of your dad.”
Chapter Five: The Backstory Corinth, Rhode Island. It's not easy to get to. Sharee ﬁrst traveled down Interstate 195 from T.F. Green airport south of Providence. She maneuvered her compact car to the correct exit to Highway 24. According to Google Maps on her Blackberry, she would travel a few miles further to get to Corinth. "Why on earth would they headquarter a network show in this Godforsaken place !" Sharee had long ago learned to check her potty mouth at the door whenever she was in the vicinity of a studio. Mark Michaels used to drill into his students that you never know when a mike is hot. Probably a bit of overkill but it made the point. She had little time to pursue that thought. Between peering through a rain-soaked windshield, glancing down at her handwritten directions, and handling her Blackberry ... she had a lot of distractions and focus to deal with. The soon-to-be network correspondent made several wrong turns before following a winding road adjacent to a railroad track through a rural area that suddenly turned into a relatively modest complex of warehouses. The parking lots were packed. The sign was nondescript, and it was only at the bottom of short list other companies that a visitor would see "Daily Investigative News". Wouldn't the world be surprised that the national show many watched in prime time was actually buried in a cluster of buildings, stuck in a backwater suburb of a medium-sized city, in the smallest state in the Union. Sharee got her ﬁrst glance of her new boss. Mike was in the doorway talking to a guy in a parking attendant suit. When he locked eyes on his new hire, he immediately averted his eyes down to his shoes. He had the presence of mind to extend a handshake and guide her inside to her new world. The news director was frankly surprised at Sharee's appearance. The tapes she had sent showed her as a brunette. She is now a bleached blonde. The video rarely showed her full length ... she was surprisingly tall. She was not the skinny minny he normally expected ... she looked the same weight as she did in the video ... the 10 pound inﬂation didn't seem to affect her at all.
Daily Investigative News 10509 Slippery Slope Lane Corinth, Rhode Island
Mike Milano escorted her through security, getting her a bar-coded name tag. He introduced Sharee to the news staff, production crew and even the front office where she signed a few papers that she barely read. Later that day, the program director, the executive director and the woman who actually created the show insisted on joining the news director to give Sharee a tour of Corinth and Providence. Sharee had no idea that this was unusual, that Ted whom they hired the day before was given a perfunctory tour of the operation and put immediately to work. They showed her the mansions that burst with opulence near Newport. Dripping-rich summer homes down hidden lanes. (detailed description of Corinth based on Tiverton written by Kathy?) Gail Swensen, executive producer and co-creater of Daily Investigative News, was the chatty travel guide and name tosser. Sharee would learn later that Gail had parlayed her background as a web designer and refugee from the now defunct Prodigy company, once owned by IBM, to come up with the idea of the Daily Investigative News syndicated show now airing in top media markets. One month after she was hired, Sharee discovered a quiet little coffee house, next to a public pier, that seemed to be a convenient meeting place for many of the folks who lived year round in Corinth. The tourists seemed not to be particularly attracted but the natives loved it. She decided to make this the base of her personal journalistic operation. The idea came up after one of her nightly phones calls to her old college news director. Mark Michaels was an old-school radio journalist who believed in shoe-leather, beats, and sources. He was completely mystiﬁed by the algorithms of modern news aggregators, the very stuff that Sharee was studying in her new job. "Get yourself a beat !" Mark had urged. "Where you can hang out with news makers, develop sources, get tips. You need to become an expert so your news director has to come to you for information. That will make you valuable to the organization !" That was Mark ... old school to the core. A dinosaur who could not comprehend that for women like Sharee ... make-up, lipstick, and a bottle of blond peroxide were just as important in this day and age of modern broadcasting.
Still, Sharee had to spend the early days getting a handle on New Media. She had no problem writing newspaper style for the show's website ... or editing audio for D-I-N on blogtalkradio.com. Sharee could even take passable photo's with her Kodak mini-camera or her Canon EOS5D. Video of course was still handled by professional shooters.... but in a pinch Sharee would grab some B-Roll or set up a tripod for an impromptu interview. This one-man-band skill endeared her to the show producers, but angered the unions. The toughest thing was dealing with the cyber world of algorithms that Gail introduced to the program, a groundbreaking application that transformed the entire news operation, allowing them to select stories differently than aggregators like Huffington Post, Google, or AssociatedContent. The trick of course was to meet old-fashioned daily deadlines. The system plugged into a series of video provided by robot and monitor video cameras, located four hours away at the Capitol in Washington D.C. Also a network of feeds was established at every state capital press room in the country. Gail and her partner had come up with an ingenious system that was cost effective ... reaching the holy grail of making news content economically sustainable. Her direct competitor became ProPublica, the grant-funded investigative team with deep pockets. There were also the sites like Politifact.com and Factcheck.org that were starting to make an impact. But to separate themselves from the straight-news competition, D-IN had started to put opinion in the mix. Officially called a news analyst, the company had hired Michelle Clark to add a little liberal point-of view to spice up the mix. The ratings started to climb, and that emboldened Michelle to ever more cutting-edge comments. Every week ... sometimes every night... Sharee would call her old news director to chat about what she had learned that day. Mark Michaels would always listen politely but would always end by reminding her of the basics she learned in school. "Observe! Question! Report!" “Accuracy ! Accuracy ! Accuracy !”
Chapter Six -- What happened Sharee gathers her stuff ... pulls ﬁles from her locked drawer ... downloads computer ﬁles to her ﬂash drive ... and sleepwalks through the start of her unemployment nightmare. “I was just ﬁred ! “ She repeats it... like a litany... as if repetition would make what happened more ... comprehensible. She looks around at the others...faces register surprise... as it dawns on them that their new star is clearing out her desk. Sharee drowns in her own thoughts. “Shit. Shit. Shit. Why are they letting me go? What did I do? Did I step on somebody’s toes? I tried my damnedest to stay under the radar ... to stay out of the way !” “Was it one of my stories? There had to have been a dozen or so that were so controversial that someone could have gotten pissed off and put pressure on management to get rid of her. Maybe it was that federal probe story, or the mob story ... or ...or ...” “Shit. Did management ﬁnd out about my undercover story?” That must be it!” The tip she had started to work on had been one of the reasons she had dropped the blond dye job. “Shit. shit. shit.” “Or maybe it was the baby. Did they ﬁnd out about my baby? Or was it my race? That got me into trouble before!” Fast forward to the condo in New Bedford. Sharee opens the door and ﬂips on a sidelight... drags a couple of hastily packed boxes and her iPad case. Of course, no one is home in the middle of the day. Dad is gone and the kid is at mom’s home, probably still in daycare. Instinctively she turns on her police scanner sets the squelch and pots it down low. Sharee's movements are robotic ... her mind wanders. "Why am I turning this damn scanner on anyway. I don't have a job, even if I did run out to cover the story. No place to air the piece. Stupid. Stupid. I'm not a reporter anymore!"
Her mind wanders, back to another time, when she was a grad student at Palisades College in Florida. Another time when the scanner blared in the background of the busy student newsroom. Mark Michaels, her faculty advisor had set up the newsroom oldschool. For students, it forced them to learn to tolerate the annoying rapid ﬁre racket from the emergency scanner sitting on a high shelf. "We have a 10-50 J4 near the intersection of Prospect and Euclid. Caller reports multiple-injuries, ﬁre and ambulance enroute. ETA 15 minutes. Heavy traffic ﬂow off the interstate." "___________ please respond. Disturbance in a parking lot at the PC Track Stadium. Male track student smashed into another vehicle ... need escort to hospital. Medical emergency. Three year old non responsive." Sharee Gomes, that was her name then, had tuned out everything except that last transmission. A sickening realization washed over her as she turned up the volume, tweaked the squelch, and locked the scanner on that particular frequency. "___________ do you copy?. 10-50J4. Medical emergency. Domestic disturbance, non-injury accident and medical escort to St. Thecla Hospital. Three year old needs medical assistance. Maybe epileptic seizure." Sharee gasps. and starts barking orders. She not in charge of anyone but she still is barking out orders. "It's my baby !!! Someone has to do my newscast. I don't give a shit who. But I am out of here !" Sharee sprints out of the newsroom, bounds down three ﬂights of stairs, and out the exit into the back parking lot. Hops into her ___________ and weaves her way the seven miles to the university hospital. Sharee pulls up just as the ambulance arrives and the paramedic swings open the door, and her son is wheels out ... his face ashen in a panic ...eyes darting from face to face until he spots Sharee, who trails the gurney through automated doors then follows a couple of registered nurses into a dark hallway which brightens up as everyone's eyes adjust to the change of light.
Suddenly her son eyes go blank, and he begins to ﬂail about violently, his arms straining the restraints, his body jerks from side to side and his head pitches backwards again with such force that it surprises and frightens everyone bedside. "Oh my god! Oh my God !!!!" Sharee hears the shout it again, this time from behind her. It's her boyfriend, Melvin, who has slipped in next to her, breathless from a dead run. "Goddammit , Melvin, what did you do!, “ Sharee yells at him. Melvin dumfounded can't seem to summon a reply, stuck on stutter by the withering rant of Sharee's verbal attack. But their attention returns to Butchie Boy...sweet little Butchie Boy, Who has calmed a little now, entranced In some kind of stupor. Sharee returns to the present. It is hard to believe but that moment was the beginning of the end for her and Melvin. Unfairly, she never forgave him, but he never forgave himself. That was four years ago. Sharee didn't know then she would begin her desperate search to ﬁned out what triggered the seizures...a search that would evenutally lead back to her divorced parents...and account for the urgency and secrecy that characterized Sharee's career. Back in the condo that she occasionally shared with the father that few knew about, with thoughts of the son at Mom’s apartment, that no one knew was hers, Sharee began to grasp the terror of her situation. "What am I going to do now? I no longer have a job. Where am I going to get the medical insurance I need?”
or Rugged Individualist versus Socialists--snicker.
Despite her rapid advancement there were plenty more red ﬂags. Sharee was not just an enigma to the news director ... she was a mystery to most of the news staff. Although her fashion sense was almost come-hither ... she was very guarded about her thoughts and her private life. She didn't meet with the gang after work to share a drink. She didn't join in the locker room kind of talk about their bosses or about famous folks in stories they were working on. Rarely would she huddle around the cooler during a work break ... and whenever she did, she had an uncanny sense of deﬂecting the conversation away from herself. No one saw her on the cocktail circuit that the other correspondents were always invited to, nor would she join, the frequent weekend shopping trips the others took to New York, or even Washington D.C. Yet somehow she was breaking a large number of national stories. What were her sources ... how did she do it? Sharee was certainly aware of the wall she put up around herself. She really didn't want the others to know her business. She tried being open in Kansas City, with disastrous effects. It was clear that the three main secrets she harbored would not play well at the network, regardless how progressive these journalists claim to be. The rest of the staff would be shocked at how much Sharee resented the cursing--or cussing as they said in K.C.--the jokes about blacks, Jews and even Polish people freely bandied about. Even the constant drinking and some cases drugging that seemed to adorn every gathering. It wasn't that Sharee was a prude ... it's just that she had done all that before ... again with disastrous effect. Yet another secret she would not ever willingly reveal. Yes Sharee harbored secrets in a room full of professional secret seekers. Then there was the professional wall. Mark had drummed into her the need for a separation between church and state in journalism. Yet Michelle Clark and management were clearly beginning to blur the line. Sharee wanted none of it. She might look the modern newswoman but when it came to news she was Old School.
Wouldn't the staff be surprised to know that Sharee's drive to succeed was grounded in desperation in her personal life, the ever present need for income to sustain commitments she could tell no one about. Wouldn't the nosiest be shocked to learn that she took the job in Kansas City, not because she was ambitious, but because that's where her biological mother lived ... or that she had applied for the network opportunity because her biological father lived a half hour away. Nor would they really understand why ﬁnding her real parents was of critical importance. Only Mark Michaels knew the whole story about Sharee...even how her conﬁdence was a carapace that hid a profound sense of self doubt and immaturity. The mystery of Sharee included the fact that she would never let the bastards see her sweat. (although she would never say "bastards").
Chapter Eight : Cape Verdean Student Detectives A brother and sister who personiﬁed their news director's rant. Twins. We ﬁnd the brother-- outside of course-- at the track at Palisades-by-the-Sea in Florida. He is taking part in an intense workout. Their track coach--the legendary Mr. Roscoe--had driven the team to exhaustion. Melvin Libramento still considered Mr. Roscoe his coach although technically Melvin had completed his NCAA eligibly a few months ago after the Summer Olympics. Still Melvin would workout with he team during the off-season. After all, he had to stay in shape to run with the Italia Track Club. That club paid handsomely on the European circuit. He remembered being shocked at the offer. "200,000 _______ which translated into __________ in U.S. dollars". The recruiter revealed ... and that was every year. Now all Melvin had to do was ﬁnish up his last year in the journalism program. His minor was in computer-assisted journalism. Life couldn't be better. He could mentor his twin sister, Antoinette Libramento who was prepping for the World games and therefore had a year to go before getting her degree in telecommunications. Not only was she still eligible under NCAA rules but she also worked this semester in the same student newsroom as his brother. His sister came dashing across the ﬁeld and they both headed to the showers. Although practice was intense it was short since it was the weekend. Time to head over to the student newsroom and watch the weekend Nightly Investigative News. They and the news director had become hooked once they learned that one of their own had starting anchoring the show. They snuck into the empty storeroom of WPAL. News Director as sitting on a storage box...chit chatting with a couple of grad students and a stylishly dressed unknown who seemed starkly out-of-place with the group that was there. "I hope Sharee does better than she did last week," Michael mused. "I don't know what came over her. It was like a Jessica Savitch meltdown on air!"
"Yep, she certainly seemed messed up about something." The "suit" responded. Whoever she was, this unknown person talked like a young exec of some type. "...and why did she suddenly change her hair color from blonde to brown? "Yeah, Sami, but I've got problems of my own. Pierre contacted the director of student services last week, then the president of the College and then talked directly to the governor of the state. I don't know how an undergrad from Portugal has contacts like that." "Yep. Actually, Mark that's why I dropped by. My boss got from the administration to have the College counselor's office to look into all this. They assigned me." But the young attorney had lost the attention of the news director. "Where's Sharee !?. What's happening?" Everyone turned to the ﬂat screen. Surprised and mystiﬁed. They saw the guy whom she had replaced back in his old anchor spot. He made no reference to Sharee ... no comment about maybe she was on assignment or was ill. Nothing. There was an undercurrent of grumbling. Something was obviously wrong. The meeting quickly broke up. Lack of interest. Only a handful stayed behind. That's when one of the computers began chirping...The unmistakable sound of an incoming Skype call. Ever the techie, Melvin popped it up from the computer monitor to the ﬂat screen. It was Sharee. Her face sodden, obviously a recent crying jag, her eyes a sickly red beneath the glasses she rarely wore.
Chapter 9: Idealism versus Realism. Melvin liked wide shots. The establishing shots. The way the videocamera pulled back to see, in this case, the whole campus. Palisades College . You can almost hear the voice-over. "Palisades College is located on the east coast of Florida about ﬁve miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. It is a private Catholic college with a small student body of 10,000. The campus is noted for its intensely green landscaping (better description needed here) and iconic Portuguese and Spanish-style architecture." If Melvin ran the video-camera he would have done an amateurish zoom-in to the the largest building on campus--the school of telecommunications and media content. He would dissolve to an interior short of the student commercial radio newsroom of WPAL ... then a close-up of their little group. They were bunched around a 60-inch ﬂatscreen television, a table and chairs haphazardly arrange in the small back room. Mark Michaels would do a little postmortem about the newscasts that aired during the week. Today he was talking about the "emeritus" virus that seemed to infect the newsroom. Thats emeritus pronounced like hepatitis.
"I ﬁrst heard it on the morning newscasts. I called in a correction and continued my trip in from Jacksonville. Then a mile in I heard our noon anchor say ".....em-mer-EYEtus....again" So I get back to the station and ﬂip on the afternoon drive newscast and there it was again-em-mer-EYE-tus. Before I call in another correction .... my cell pone rings ....and it's the dean with a complaint ...Dammit !"
Chapter 10: "No African-american, Hispanic, New York, or Cracker accents !" Michaels was already in trouble this week. The "emeritus' gaffes that aired all day Wednesday did do him no good. Add this comedy of errors to the "accents" disaster and it made it appear that Michaels was not in control of his own operation -- not that he was on the best of days ! The accent issue started out harmlessly enough. He had promoted a foreign student reporter from England to afternoon anchor. She had a mature sound, and was a brilliant reporter with a compelling writing style good enough that two of her features made it to make the network. Student voices never make the network rundown ... so Elaine was certainly special. But yes, she had a pronounced English accent! So perhaps Michaels should not have been surprised to see a note in his office mailbox from the general manager. It was sent to all the program and news directors at the college. That included television, commercial radio, public radio and even the magazine show producers. The ﬁrst sentence all-caps: 'WE HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO THE AUDIENCES WE SERVE TO MAINTAIN THE HIGHEST STANDARDS OF ON-AIR PERFORMANCE. HENCEFORTH, I ORDER THAT NO AFRICAN-AMERICAN, HISPANIC, NEW YORK OR CRACKER ACCENTS WILL BE ALLOWED ON ANY OF OUR STATIONS."
Chapter 11-- The Bay State Relays in New Bedford
Chapter 12 -- Mom and Dad and the baby !
chapter 13--The Theory of Information
Chapter 14--The Shawmut Diner in New Bedford.
Chapter 15: The WRPCA convention in Boston. The Writers Reporters Producers Content Association ! This was to be a monumental affair. The heads of the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission were to be the headliners. All the top network executives and online executives planned to attend a packed auditorium to discuss Reﬁnancing the First Amendment. The Exhibit Hall was packed with eye-popping technology displays. Local and national news organizations sent their best "talent" to the biggest affair of the decade. The awards banquet was packed. But probably the most important activity took place in the evenings. Major media companies set up receptions in suites at the various feeder hotels around the convention center. It was here that the students from Palisades College skittered hoping to bump elbows with the top names in the business. The students from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, the University of Florida School of Telecommunications, and Northwestern University's Graduate schools of Journalism were there en masse along with their gilded faculty and stuffed resumes. This is also where the Twins headed to look for jobs and to track down rumors about the shakeups at Daily Investigative News. The Twins also knew that the Communications Director at the White House planned to attend and maybe they could get a line on the national security story that Sharee was also working on when she was ﬁred. So imagine Antoinette's shock when she is attacked from behind ! It happened as she walked down the hotel hallway looking for Sharee. Her room is around the next corner ... when she is grabbed "It's Jerry, I know it's him !" She thinks while struggling furiously. "I recognize his scent !" Antoinette can't see her attacker but she knows it is Sharee's new boyfriend. She can't scream because he has his big hand over her mouth. She can look down where her shoes have left the ground and see his big feet ﬁrmly planted. "Why is Jerry attacking me?" She would have thought if she had time to think. Then the Man becomes a Menace.
"Alright you little midget, why are you snooping around Frank's stuff? What are you up to? You've got ﬁve seconds to talk!" His hands move into position to snap her neck. Antoinette is convinced she has seconds left to live. Strangely this actually feels familiar. It's like when the weightlifters grabbed her during track practices. Surprised her.... then grabbed her from behind.,,,and guffawed like idiots. "Aww, little Tonette, feet can't touch the ground ... how you gonna run" they would taunt. Once Melvin came to her rescue but there were several times when he wasn't there ... especially when he went overseas to train with Track Portugal. She had to ﬁgure a way out of this chokehold on her own or she would have to stop practicing with the Mens Team. . Antoinette suddenly relaxes ... becomes dead weight ... the move seems to surprise her attacker. She forces her chin down into the crook of his arm...in the process relieving pressure on her neck. The move also sets her up for a break-away move. She clamps down on his index ﬁnger .... uses her sprinters crunch to lift up her legs ... and somehow aims rapid ﬁre kicks to his groin. Her sprinter training kicks in so-to- speak. Mr. Roscoes exercise chants echo every stroke ... the power in her bunched lower limbs is fueled by fear and adrenaline. He groans and she screams as she lands ... one heel on his instep ... the other spikes his shin. Antoinette grabs something ... anything .... turns out to be _____________ and swings at his bulging neck. He slumps to the ground ... cradling his midsection. Antoinette bolts toward the sliding glass door. No time to try to reach and unlock the room’s front door. He would certainly recover and recapture her. Her only chance is the open sliding glass door. __________
In the other hotel ... at another reception ... her twin shifts uneasily in an uncomfortable chair. The anchor babe seems to be ﬂirting with him. Twice she has made eye contact and even stood next to him at the buffet table. Melvin is alway uncomfortable around tall women and this lady towers over him. He moves away and joins a group of online executives who seem to be talking about the craziness going on over at DIN. Maybe he can get a line on what's going on. "I understand you are a friend of Sharee's," the whisper shocks him. Somehow the anchor babe had snuck behind him and to comment into his ear. 'Uhh ! yeah. We went to school together," Melvin stammers ... aware of the close quarters and extremely aware of the perfume. "That's so cool. We were so surprised when she left the job ... she seemed to have a bright, very bright future, ahead of her". She cooed. Yes, she actually coos when she talks. The anchor lady told him her name ... the only time she sounded like an anchor lady. "I'm Michelle Clark, Daily Investigative News."
Melvin was mesmerized. This women is really into him. Making small talk about Sharee and their days in college. She seemed to be very interested in Melvin's computer assisted journalism training. She invited him to her table and insisted that he join her for drink at the bar downstairs. She seemed to want to convince Melvin to take an internship with DIN and was disappointed brieﬂy when she heard that he would be running track in Europe for the next year. "Actually, that's perfect now that I think about it! I overheard my programming bosses say they need to ﬁll a minority assistant producer slot to cover the World Games. I bet you would be perfect for it."
The statuesque white woman and the short but muscular black man would attract looks from time to time ... add that to the wine and it seemed logical to ﬁnish the conversation in her apartment ... it was Michelle's idea. Mel as she began calling him started to feel a little woozy as they entered the hotel room. Ms. Clark guided him by the hand and he followed like a little puppy. "So tell me, we heard a rumor that Sharee is not who we thought she was. That her father is black. Not that I care but did you ever meet her father in college?" Mel begins slurring his words, "Naw. never met her old man. The only thing I know is she changed her name and dyed her hair blond when she left school. Her last name used to be Gomes so I ﬁgured she was Portuguese." That's the last thing Melvin would remember about his "date" with the anchor babe. The next thing was the meaty slap across the face that snapped him awake. "Why have you been hacking into the station's computer?" Another slamming blow. "Who are you working for?" As far as Melvin could see there was no Michele in the room. Just some big guy slapping him across the face. His hands are bound behind him but he is too weak to struggle. Why is this guy slapping me around... who is he?. Why does he keep staring me in the face? Whoever he is he doesn't betray any emotions. Whoever he is ... he certainly is tall.... Maybe a foot and a half taller then Melvin. For some reason, Melvin seems calm. The haze is lifting and he can feel his hands working their way out of the bonds. For some reason he thinks back to his college boss talking about the infamous ﬁght between NBA stars Calvin Murphy and Sidney Wicks. The modern version of David and Goliath. This memory became the basis of Melvin's strategy for counter attack.
Next Story--Obligatory chase scene--with track stars.
Melvin's roundhouse kick lands ﬂush ... in his assailants face. A high arc of a blow ... and the larger man staggers. It's the opening that the sprinter needs to barrel though the mesh screen of the open sliding glass door. He measures the jump. Looks back to see how soon it will take the groggy man in the room to stagger to his feet and come after him. "Six feet," he mumbles, "...not much leg room." Everything hinges on the spring in his legs. He crouches, and stands up ... crouches again, and springs up .... crouches again ....and leaps. Barely Melvin clutches ...it so dark ...what is it? Must be the lower railing. He had aimed for the top railing but at this point he will take what he can get. Now it's crunch time ... his midsection begins to work ... lifting his lower extremities up ... slowly up ....up and over ... over the lower ...then the middle and next ... swinging the right leg over the top railing. "What's that click ?" Melvin's stupid question, He knows exactly what that sound is. It's a ___________ handgun just like he had ﬁrst heard on the streets of his hometown after late night parties. That fool he escaped from is coming after him with a gun. That fear propels Melvin's body over the balcony ...lurches onto the patio ... and desperation guides his hands to the opposite railing ...blind. When moments later ... Melvin opens his eyes ... he is dangling from the opposite side of the balcony ....at least the balcony is between him and the gunman. That gives him a second to get his bearings ... to ﬁnd the next segment of his impossible escape . The downspout won't handle weight ... there are no available handholds. Melvin jams his chin into his chest and looks down to the balcony below and the four others below that. "Poomp.!" "Splang !" A bullet splits the metal railing. Then a second bullet whistles ... actually whistles above his head. Melvin releases his grasp and falls ... falls ... too fast to catch the ﬁrst
No time ... must release again ... close your eyes... and fall into oblivion for a second ... open your eyes in time ... to catch the second to the last railing ... absorb the pain shock and release again ... backﬂipping to where? Something crumply ... falling backwards and landing on something crumply ...bushes that cushion his headlong plunge. Melvin is ass backwards, stuck on stun ... and staring at a gun. But at least the weapon is ﬁve stories away ... and he has the instinct to roll away ...roll behind the building into its shadow. Finally survival and the mind kick in ...and his eyes begin to dart around .. ﬁnally understanding that he will have to sprint across the parking lot ...and take the low road to salvation ...the concrete culvert that meanders behind the complex. Melvin crouches in a sprinter stance. "I am a sprinter, came in fourth in the Olympics. I am one of the fastest men on earth." He makes that strange click/chirp/thrilling sound that is his trademark. The body knows the race is on. Then becomes the dash of his life .... darting in and out of shadows .... no rumble of recognition for an appreciative stadium crowd ... just the salute of a hail of bullets escorting him to the ﬁnish line. Dammit, that isn't a handgun ... it's an automatic ... I can't outrun an automatic. "But I can outrun that fool's eyesight," Melvin thinks... well it's more like a burst of awareness and fear that pumps up the adrenaline in his hope factory. Melvin used to marvel how white heroes ducked bullets suffering at max a ﬂesh wound that they would brush off as the price of doing hero business. How Batman and Robin would swing out of harms way with the contrails of pellets slow-motioning around them ... as if the killers suddenly became blind to their target. It looked so elegant and graceful, those moves. At any given point there would be an artful pose ... as the hero rendered the bullets helpless. The thought balloons would pop out of their heads ... with rakish comments ... like "_____________________________" designed to show no fear. Bruce Willis would even sing to himself while escaping ...echoing in some sort of hip way the old cowboys like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.
But Melvin had never seen those guys on the streets of ___________. They didn't go to the parties he went to ...nor hang out at the clubs he knew, nor dealt drugs in the tight corners of houses he frequeted. Yes there was music, but it was always soul music, or rap music, or something from a _______________, or radio .... that blared contrapuntal to the scramble for escape. There was no ballet of violence that he could ever remember. Just a mad scramble ... heads smashing into butts ....shit words spewing out everywhere ... pushing people out of the way ... being pushed out of the way ...getting stomped on ... seeing blood pop up on bodies ...and screaming ...and scrambling ....scrambling and screaming ... and slipping and sliding ... and fearing and _______
This is how Melvin thinks of the last run of his life. He scrambles and screams ... eyes wide open .... nostrils ﬂaring ....shit coming out of his ass ...head ﬂung back then ﬂung forward ...but one thing.
His arms pump in form. Coach Roscoe would be proud. But Melvin doesn't ﬂee in form because it looks pretty... he keeps his style because it is the fastest way to get away. His speed doubles or he thinks it doubles. But he feels faster. . Now he is in the moment ....swinging over a barrier ....skidding down the slope of the culvert ....sprinting adjacent to the stream....not hearing bullets ...not hearing anything ....then hearing air ....then smelling pungent dampness ...the seeing darkness ...then light at the end of the cliche. Melvin is starting to overheat ...so he starts peeling off his ﬂeece jacket, then off comes the the Palisades College Track shirt ...and his bare skin starts spraying sweat ...and his body glistens.