Duncan Blitz's Off Day
(Online Fiction)

November 2002

by Amy Bowers

Duncan Blitz was having a bad day. The mast wouldn't go up on his microwave truck and the power zoom on his wide lens was sticking. We'd been on the road so much, he couldn't look his dog Wiley in the eye. His kid needed orthodontia, his ex-wife was peeved, and his agent was useless. By the time he cleared the security door to the KYUK newsroom at noon, Dunc was frazzed. I gave him a double espresso with a shot of half-and-half from a café called Albuquerque Allo and waited for the caffeine to kick in.

With the truck in the shop, the News Department sent us out to shoot promos. "Can the contents of this backpack hurt your child?" asked Kath Kishbek, our consumer reporter, "Find out tonight at 10." "That was three and a half seconds," I said. Can you make it four? The Production Department wanted a :05 and a :15, including one second for the station logo. "Can the contents of this backpack hurt your child?" asked Kath. Dunc: "we had a truck." (meaning, the engine noise). Kath: "Can the contents of this backpact hurt your child?...I fluffed that, I'm going again.... Can the contents of this backpack hurt your child?" Duncan: "EFF THIS FRIKKING LENS! I'm sorry, I need another one." Kath: "Can the contents of,.. you think it's better if I say, of THIS backpack? Can the contents of THIS backpack hurt your child?" Me: "It's fine the way you've been doing it, Kath. Angle your right shoulder towards the camera. Is the reflector okay, Duncan?" "It's fine. Any time, Kath." "Three, two, one, Can the contents of this backpack hurt your child? Find out tonight at 10." I never understood why some reporters do an audible countdown. We start their standup when they start talking, whether they count it down or not. Me: "Four seconds exactly." "That's a keeper," said Duncan. "Want to see it?"

Kath wore the headphones and watched herself in Duncan's black and white viewfinder: "Can the contents of this backpack hurt your child? Find out tonight at 10." "Okay, it's good...Want to shoot an insurance?" she asked. Insurance is an extra take, in case a Gremlin, or and Act of God, ruins the tape between the time we shoot it and the time it's dumped to the AVID edit system. "Sure," said someone, and Kath got back on her mark, putting her toes against a little stick we had set on the ground. She checked her hair and waited for me to put the reflector in, and for Duncan to roll the camera, and wiggle his finger to cue her, and said, "Can the contents of this backpack hurt your child?"

Duncan handed Kath the tape with the :05, the :15, and one insurance take, each. She waved bye, tape in hand, backpack over her shoulder. My cellphone rang and Duncan's pager beeped. Our assignment editor, Bev Barkowitz: "Hey, guys, I have an interview for you in Northeast Heights, before you break for lunch." I took down the info while Duncan drove the Explorer through Mickey D for pre-lunch. Dunc ate a Big Mac, sipped his Dr. Pepper, and drove with his knees while I did my best to keep burger crumbs off my sweater, already flecked with alfalfa.

At the Malmart pharmacy we met Rx Bob, a pharmacist with a sweet smile and the ten-thousand mile stare. He'd been a pretty good interview during the anthrax scares. We stood him up at his counter: "Can you say something so I can get an audio level on your mic?" Rx Bob: "I sell drugs and I take drugs," Me: "You know anything about Fentanyl?" "Yeah, it's a lot like heroin." Me: "That's what the Russians used, to gas the theater." "You're kidding? Really? are you sure?" "The Russian Health Minister announced it." "Evidently it wasn't a very safe choice," said Bob. "I have a hard time believing they would use Fentanyl, or even stock that much."

A shopper: "What Channel are you?"
Me: "Channel 7."
Shopper: "What's going on?"
Me (will it make sense if I say we're interviewing the pharmacist about the gas the Russians used in the theater?): "A report on the economy."
Shopper, to friend, "It's Channel 7."

"Okay, are we ready to rock and roll?" I asked Duncan.
"Speed," he said, referring to the frame rate of his betacam.
"Bob," I said, "what is fentanyl?"
"Fentanyl is a synthetic narcotic. It acts on the central nervous system. The biological effects of fentanyl are indistinguishable from that of heroin with the exception that fentanyl may be more potent."
"Was fetanyl a good choice at the Moscow theater?"
"It's a pretty good drug, but not for warfare. Aerosols are tricky in that you don't know what they are going to do in an enclosed space."
"Tell me about the antidote."
"You can reverse it quick with a drug like Narcan, but you have to use it quickly."
"Great, thanks Bob."
Duncan made a few B-roll shots of Rx Bob filling a prescription.

We brought the tape back to the station and Bev broke us for lunch. She said Engineering was working on the mast, and we could probably have our Live Truck tomorrow. Duncan's bad day was getting better. We picked up burritos from Acapulco on San Mateo, about a mile from Kirtland Air Force Base. "Duncan, you're crowding me," I started to say, when I realized he wasn't behind me in line. Something was not right.
me: "Dunc?"
Duncan: "what the... you see that?"
me and Dunc: "UFO!"
Duncan ran to the Explorer for the betacam and I pulled out the sticks, planting them in the parking lot.
D: "Frikking zoom's stuck."
A: (silent)
D: (nothing)
Duncan: "I can't hold the camera down."
Whatever it was, it was sucking the camera, the sticks and Duncan from the parking lot of the Acapulco. I threw my arms around Duncan's waist and saw a flash through my tightly shut eyes.
The camera and sticks were sucked up to the UFO. abducted. gone.

Duncan Blitz's bad day just got worse.

© Amy Bowers
Contributing Editor

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