Rated: E · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2116874
Writer's Cramp winner.
|March 6, 1968|
I simply cannot believe I am writing in a journal like a mere schoolgirl once again, but I feel I have absolutely no choice on this particular day. Working as a secretary for an editor of a newspaper is not nearly as exciting, for the most part, as I had hoped. I am not allowed an original thought in my head, and instead I am left clacking away at the typewriter to record Mr. Livingston's most interesting and original ideas. Not that his ideas are particularly interesting or original. I have absolutely no idea how he achieved the promotion that put him where he is today. I have always wanted to write for a newspaper, although writing someone else's insipid ideas was hardly what I had in mind. It hardly seems fair.
As for today, I couldn't be more grateful that he was stuck at home with a cold. I sat in his office typing out his handwritten works of absolute drivel, when the telephone on his desk rang. Between the clacking of the typewriter and the ringing of the phone I had a pounding ache in my head, but I answered the telephone regardless. It was possibly the best decision I made all day.
I still have no idea who it was calling. A man with the local Tennessee accent raved about how I, assuming I was Mr. Livingston, needed to get my best reporter outside right now to see the spectacle unfolding. He didn't even give me the chance to respond before ending the call.
I took my chance in reporting. My husband had always frowned upon such careers for a woman, and says I should consider myself lucky he allows me to work as a secretary. I don't consider myself particularly lucky most days, but today was my chance and I absolutely took it.
I went outside with Mr. Livingston's camera, notepad, and pencil. The sight that I was met with still doesn't seem real to me now. A single cow stood in front of the newspaper's building, grazing on the front lawn as if nothing were amiss. I snapped a quick photograph and wrote some notes, quite pleased that I would have something interesting, if a bit mundane, to write about. When I turned my head to go back into the building, however, something caught my eye.
Cows as far as the eye could see. They dotted the road, the sidewalk, and the front lawns of businesses, all the way down Main Street in Memphis. I couldn't believe I hadn't noticed before, given that they seemed to be everywhere. Cow sounds filled the air, mixed with regular city sounds. There were a few more car horns blaring than usual, as the traffic attempted to make its way around the cows.
It was the most absurd thing I have ever seen in my life. I took as many photographs as I could manage, with as many shorthand notes I could think up. When I saw a farmer attempting to round up the scattered dozens of cows, I ran over. I told him I was from the Memphis Chronicle and asked him what had happened. I am sure Mr. Livingston would consider that misrepresenting my position, but I know he will want this particular story too much to be too upset. It was wonderful to say I was from a newspaper though; I finally feel like I got some credit for the mundane writing tasks I do every day.
It turns out the cows had been startled by a cat chasing a mouse, and had stampeded out of the farm in a frenzy, knocking the fence down as they went. When they finally calmed, they were right in the middle of Memphis, the panicked farmer following behind them. He didn't have much time to spare, but I had my quote. I wrote the article up myself and submitted it to assistant editor who was in charge while Mr. Livingston was under the weather. Tomorrow's paper will feature a photograph and an article about the cows overrunning Memphis, and it will have the name Mary Brownstone in the byline.
Even if I never write another article for the newspaper, I will still have this one achievement to be proud of. It will remain my greatest achievement, even if I should have further opportunities, simply because it was my first.