Elena hastily finished her coffee as she noticed her boss, Dirk, walking towards her cubicle. She threw the paper cup right into the wastebasket, straightened her shirt and flashed a smile. Damn that coffee was hot.
"Yeah, hey." Dirk nodded his almost-bald head. "Listen, I may have something for you. Come into my office after, say... two." He took a glance at his watch and left even before Elena managed to say "Okay, will do."
She sat down on her chair and noticed the smiling face of Sarah from the next cubicle resting over the partition. People in this town are either over-friendly or just nosy, she doesn't know which. Sarah chirped in her high-pitched soprano, "So? First assignment, hmm?"
Elena forced a smile, "You heard what he said. I've no idea what he has for me." Then on an afterthought, she added, "You don't think it's something bad, do you? Or does the man never smile?"
Sarah broke into a high-pitched obnoxious laugh. "Dirk is like that only, kinda lone soul. Humor is not exactly his thing. But he's a good guy, don't worry."
Elena turned her face away and muttered softly, "I didn't exactly mean humor, but--"
"Did you really go to film school?"
Elena turned back and raised her eyebrows. "What?"
Sarah was looking straight into her. "You went to film school, didn't you?"
Elena frowned, "No... um... not at all. Who told you that?"
"Well, the guys were talking about it yesterday... supposedly Dirk said that the new girl went to film school or something like that."
Elena smiled now. "Not at all. TV and documentary production was my minor in my last sem in BSU. I don't know anything about filmmaking. I only worked at WCVB for a year prior to this."
Sarah's eyes went round. "You worked at WCVB?"
Elena shrugged. "Mm-hmm."
"God! What happened? You didn't get fired, did you? I mean, what makes you come into this small town TV station?"
Elena would have slapped Sarah's face if she didn't know that her new colleague's apparently rude question was fully innocent. Instead, she only said, "You mean why I came to work at Swimmer's Due? Well, I had to move."
"Oh," Sarah seemed to considered that for a moment. "Why?"
Elena sighed and shook her head. Nosy. "Um... my husband just got transferred here. He's the manager at the local GleeMart branch."
Sarah's face lit up again. Before this she seemed really concerned about Elena's poor career choices, but now she said happily, "Oh, the new retail store that opened up? I shopped there yesterday. Your husband is the manager? Cool."
"Yeah," Elena turned away from her and concentrated on her monitor. Sarah giggled and went back to her cubicle (apparently). Elena glanced at the clock. It's just eleven o'clock.
At first Swimmer's Due appeared to her as any other Southern small towns with wierd names. Family business diners, bars with old pool tables, nosy neighbors with half-broken picket fences, local grocers protesting the opening of a retail store, the quintessential smart-talking old sheriff... and one of those quiet places with nothing much to do after sundown except watching TV or maybe playing pool with old hacks at the bar.
It was nothing Steve could do also. Whenever these chains open up a branch somewhere they bring someone experienced to get it up and running and then only someone from the locals takes over. Steve's placement in this town may be temporary, but nobody knew how long it might take to find a new employee who's suitable to manage a store like this. Steve could be stuck here for as long as two years.
It's ironic, she felt, how she thought she had it all figured out. The job at the WCVB channel wasn't much per se. But for a fresher like her, it was only the first step towards ABC itself. Steve's seven years older than she is, and with her position it was only logical to marry him soon after she got her job. As a twenty-five year-old, everything fell into place. Even having children wasn't looking like that bad an idea. And then came Steve's transfer. It's not like he'd been taken advantage of, it was helpful for his career and the pay was really good.
Everyone she knew told her that leaving her job was an insane idea. And she would have considered them even if Boston was something like a two/three hour drive from this place. But it's not. It was a hard decision, and she took it. She knew there's no point going all over it again. But that's all she did in the past seven days. It was only enough for her that Steve expressed the desire to quit his own job, although both of them knew that's not going to happen. It's not the men who quit the job in these circumstances, certainly not when theirs pay better.
At least Swimmer's Due had a local TV station.
When she entered her boss' office, Dirk had a headphone on and was going through some new clips that came in. Another guy was there sitting opposite of him. She wasn't familiar with most of the field crew yet. This guy was tall, with long blonde hair and thin rimmed glasses on. He looked at her and smiled, "Hi."
Dirk looked up and said, "Oh, sit down there. This will only take a minute." Elena smiled at both of them and sat on the chair.
A few minutes passed. There was no way Elena could know what was in those clips. From her chair she couldn't see Dirk's monitor, and the sound was through his headphones only. Then Dirk spoke up, without taking his eyes off the monitor, "You can smoke if you want."
Perplexed, she glanced at the other guy, who was looking at her, and back to Dirk. "Who, me?" she spoke, "Um, I don't smoke."
Dirk took off his headphones and pushed back into his chair. "Oh, ok." Then he turned to the other guy, "That wasn't bad. But you know what I mean, I don't know, it could be better."
The guy shrugged, "It was cloudy, man. There was nothing I could do."
Dirk scratched his bald head. "True. Very true," then looking at Elena, "By the way, Elena, this is Russell from our camera crew. Russell, you know Elena, right? She joined us since yesterday."
The tall guy outstretched his hand, "Yeah, I saw you. Hi."
Elena shook it lightly. "Hello."
Dirk said, "Ok, now let's get into business, shall we? Elena, you were in a band, isn't that what you told me in your interview, right?"
That caught Elena off-guard. Why, that was abrupt. And she had no idea how that's going to be relevant in this job, but...
"Well, yes. Kind of... in college. Not after that." She noticed that Russell was staring at her with eyebrows raised.
"Good," Dirk said, "What's your take on Rosethorns? You listen to them?"
This was getting even weirder. Who haven't listened to Rosethorns, the multi-Grammy winning classic rock band, one of the pioneers of the so-called arena rock outfits that went popular in the 80s. She even remembered a photo of their parents attending a Rosethorns concert near Hoboken. Back then they used to live in NY and her nanny's name was -- what was her name? She couldn't remember.
Dirk didn't care much for her response. He went on, "I'm not much into rock, to tell you the truth. I might have heard two or three songs by them at most on the radio. But what I know is, Tommy Frederick, the frontman and the bass player, what's his name?" He looks at Russell.
"Peter Gibbs," came the response.
"Yeah, yeah. Peter Gibbs. I bet you don't know that those two guys are actually from Swimmer's Due." He paused for a reaction from Elena.
That was fascinating. And kinda coincidental too. Elena smiled, "Really? That's awesome."
Dirk nodded, "Quite. And you'll be more surprised to know that the band actually started here, with two more local guys. But they broke up soon and Tommy and this other guy moved straight to L.A. to pursue their music."
Russell interrupted softly. "Well, it wasn't that simple. But--"
Dirk raised his hand to stop him. "Whatever, that's for you people to find out. What I know is, next month is the twentififth anniversary of their debut album release. Am I right?"
That's true, Elena thought. Their eponymous debut album was released in 1984 and was an instant hit. The music video of their second single "Bleed On" is now considered as one of the best videos of early MTV. The album itself went to double platinum eventually.
Dirk looked at Elena. "Well, what I think that on this occassion it would probably be a decent idea to do a feature about how they started from here... you know, old photos, some segment on the bar where they used to play, interview the other two founding members. Yeah, they still live here. I want you in this. Russell and Kyra will also be there."
Kyra was their primary anchorwomen. She's probably around forty, but her tall and attractive frame gave a different first impression. Elena asked, "Kyra will be there; so where do I come in?"
Dirk frowned and shook his head. "Ah, she'll only do the interviewing and stuff. I don't mean it like a small segment in the evening news. I'm talking about a full feature... like about an hour. You'll do the research and also direct it." He noticed that Elena was staring at him with her jaw dropped. He continued, "Listen, I am acquainted with Jean, your superior at WCVB. She said you're a bright kid. I'm sure you'll find this no problem. Just find out whatever we can use. Interviews, narrations, photos, even technical discussions on whatever gear they used, if possible. Kyra certainly can't do all that."
Elena was still recovering from it. A full hour-long show? On just this? It was not like they could interview Tommy or Peter actually. Long-forgotten past was all they'd got.
Dirk sighed. "That's all. Russell knows a few more things about this stuff. He'll tell you on your way out."
Russell closed the door as they came out of Dirk's office, then smiled at her and asked, "You were in a band? What do you play?"
Elena smiled too. "I was the bassist. It was nothing much. We used to play mostly covers." Then after a pause she added, "Our lead singer Jerry was bald. So everyone used to request Pumpkins songs, and we really sucked, especially him when he tried to mimic Billy Corgan's voice. But Jerry didn't believe that. He even considered putting up an ad in the campus for a guitarist with mongoloid features." She laughed.
Russel joined the laugh. Elena asked him, "So what do you think we should do? It's really unbelievable that the two other guys still stay here. Perhaps we should start by talking to them?"
Russell shrugged. "Yeah, Freddy Hicks was the original drummer I believe. He now owns a music shop near the highway. Also gives drumming lessions to those who want it. Swimmer's Due isn't actually a town where you usually come up with kids wanting to form a band, you know."
Elena nodded, "And the other guy?"
Russell made a peculiar face. "Well, that's old Georgie. Freddy says he was a great guitarist and all and had even toured in the state with little bands and stuff. But now he's just a drunk wreck. I don't know whether he'll even talk to us."
Elena raised her eyebrows. "Well, let's see."
Elena was in the shower when her cellphone rang the next morning. She wrapped a towel around herself, came out and picked it up. Steve was probably in the kitchen.
"Hello mom, good morning."
"Oh yeah, everything's fine."
"Mom will you stop that? That's enough already. I quite like this job around here and frankly I---"
"CBS? No mom, we don't have any major affiliation or anything. It's an independently run local channel, mostly news programmes and sometimes reruns of old shows."
"Look I gotta go. I don't have the time to argue with you about the same shit over and over again." She disconnected and let out a sigh, not noticing that Steve was standing behind her.
He put his arm around her waist and kissed her on her bare shoulder, burying his face in her neck. Her body was still wet and she could feel that Steve was turned on. But this wasn't the time. It's already nine o'clock in the morning. But Steve was pulling her towel.
"Take it off," he muttered, with his face still rubbing her neck.
Elena turned around and kissed him on his right cheek. "Not now, big guy. We both gotta run."
Steve answered in a laid-back voice, "They don't care much for punctuality here, baby."
"Well that's because you're the manager in your place."
Right then the phone rang from the living room. Steve sighed, looked at her and smiled, "Dry up, I'll get that."
Elena went to the bedroom and took off the towel. She was about to dry her hair when she heard Steve calling, "Leni. it's for you. Some guy named Russell. Says it's kinda urgent."
Elena frowned a little as she came to pick up the phone. What could be so urgent? She was going to be at the station within fifteen minutes.
"Hi. What's up?"
"Yeah, hello." Russell's voice sounded tense, "Old Georgie died last night."
(to be continued)