Gwen wants to be the acclaimed reporter her father is. Has she got what it takes?
|I have always watched people and wondered about their behavior. As a teenager, I followed a strange looking man through a park. He was in a dirty raincoat and kept his head down as though he didn't want to be seen. I stepped off the path and hid behind tall cedars. He came so close I could smell the liquor on his breath. My heart felt like it was jumping out of my chest but I didn't run.
Suddenly he was staring at me with greedy eyes. He fumbled with his coat and exposed himself. Then I decided to run. Listening to his sick laughter, I seriously wondered if I was cut out for the life of a journalist. This jerk could have had a gun in his hand. If I couldn't handle a sleazy geezer, how could I follow foreign terrorists with homemade guns, bombs and no regard for innocent life?
When I got home, I told my father what had happened.
“Gwen, don't you think that was foolish? You might have been raped or killed."
"I might have gotten a great story out of it."
"Or a headline; 'Family grieves for Daughter violently Stabbed by Psychotic Killer'.
He pointed his finger at the stack of papers he reads every morning with his coffee. The one on top read "Body of Two Year Old Child found in Drainage Ditch".
"Honey, your behavior isn't safe. A good reporter doesn't take foolish chances. I have personally known war correspondents that died chasing a story. Marge, do you remember Tony Lemmons?"
He's asking Mom, who probably can't hear him in the kitchen.
"He was supposed to be with a protected unit in Pakistan. Someone screwed up and leaked info to the other side. These guys hate Americans unless we can give them something of worth. It doesn't look good for a journalist to get killed....causes too many questions. It's dirty business and if it is a woman, well...it is an unspoken creed, we try to leave women out of the business."
"But Daddy....look at Marie Colvin who said, "I must bear witness"."
"And she died for it. Don't get me wrong..she will be known as a legend. But, do you think I want my daughter to be known for that? To die for what? I want you to write Mother Maybelle's Cooking Tips, marry a real estate lawyer, have grandchildren for me to play with. I'll be just as proud. Really, baby, just write a bestselling novel!"
A foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, my dad Rupert Holbrooke, traveled many times to the Middle East. He won several prizes including the prestigious 'Edward R. Murrow' award. I longed to follow in his footsteps. I can't wait to get my journalism degree. Then I'll have credentials to start reporting something important not just a school paper editorial.
As a young teenager, I took some chances to get a story for our high school newspaper. I was the 'roving' reporter each year and then Senior Editor. I loved everything about the profession; satisfaction of getting a story, following leads, interesting people, putting the puzzle pieces together and coming up with a story to share with others.
Right now I am a “roving reporter” for the University of Southern California’s college paper. I am tenacious.
Tonight, I am meeting my friend Casey at a bar in L.A. She and I are at the bottom of the food chain at the paper. We desperately want that elusive story no one else has captured. I carry my Christmas present from Dad, the newest cell phone with a great expensive camera that catches every detail. We are hungry, competitive and sometimes "foolish". We have even gone together into the rougher areas of L.A. All reporters want a gutsy story to thrill the reader, other reporters and the Editor. Plus it is a real star on your resume or grad school application.
We didn't have any plans. There wasn't anything special going on right now, like serial killers on the loose. We are hanging out as friends and colleagues, trying to come up with a strategy to put us on top. Of course the national elections are coming up in November and this is the craziest, meanest election ever.
Casey and I excel at multi-tasking; laptop for work/school, iPhone for calls, text, games or read a book. We talk face to face on Instagram with friends while we eat. We do it all while keeping an eye on streaming the news.
The front section of this place has tables and a great old jukebox. It has a 1950's feel with posters of James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando. A local band plays here on the weekends so they have covered all the bases. There is a boy meets girl feeling, two women can meet for burgers and a beer just like guys after work. No one feels out of place and it isn't unusual to see two guys holding hands or two women either.
There is a teaching hospital close by so the bar gets the exhausted 1st and 2nd year medical residents ready to spill their guts about the latest shooting victim to each other. I have made friends and get first bids on these stories as long as names aren't mentioned. Problem is you can't find out whether the tale is true. It could be embellished because of competition so you try to follow-up. That is difficult unless you get to the hospital and the cops are still there and offer to throw you a bite.
We have a few drinks. We laugh at the crazy world of politics. Both of us would love to be on a campaign bus. It would be awesome and a possible ticket for an intern job.
Casey and I gossip and get hit on a few times. Most of the guys here are clean cut and respectful when they approach us. We talk about what school and our major, football and let them buy us a drink. Occasionally I give one my cell number. I really am careful though.
She and I are so different physically. Casey could be a model with her ash blonde hair that always looks perfect. Tall and slender, her body is the type clothes looked custom made for. She has sky blue eyes, a lovely complexion and sweet smile. A bit of a flirt, she is genuinely interested in people.
I am short and carry thirty extra pounds. I don't let it bother me though. My curly copper hair is more of a problem so I wear it pulled back. I have sapphire eyes, thanks to contacts. Freckles dot my nose and cheeks. When I was little, Dad had a name for each of them. My mother tells me I am made to carry babies. That is supposed to make me feel better about my hips. I am not even sure I want children. Guys approach me easily. I think it is because I remind them of a sister or good friend. The fact that I listen with real interest is the key.
One guy walks up to our table. He is dressed in a flannel shirt, jeans and a cap that is frayed and worn. It covers his eyes He appears older and is alone.
"Buy you dudes a beer?"
"No, thanks anyway. We are about to leave," we answer together.
"I've been watching , thought ya'll were the hottest looking girls in here."
Casey stood up. "We said we were about to leave. I don't mean to be rude. Maybe some other time, ok?"
"Can I walk you out? This isn't a real safe area....lots of strange people in this world."
"We are taking a cab," I lied.
"Kind of creepy guy, huh?" Casey said.
"I think he is just lonely. I felt kind of sorry for him." I really didn't pick up any bad vibes.
Then one of the junior residents, Kurt, came over to our table.
"Just got a call.... bad wreck on 1-50, multiple traumas.... I might get to do some cutting!"
He was flying with adrenaline and it was contagious.
"Should we go together or do you want to meet?" I was pulling on my coat. It was understand we would head for the hospital.
"Let's meet in the ER. I don't want to leave a car here...it might get towed if we're late. This is exciting, dude. See you in a few." She gave me a quick hug. "Call me when you get in your car, ok?"
'What a great friend to party and work with'.
We went our separate ways. I rushed through the lighted parking lot. I pushed the alarm disabler on my key-chain and got in my 2014 Honda Civic. The car automatically locked. I put my favorite jazz playlist on. I grabbed my cell phone to call Casey. I hit the camera button by mistake.
Oh well, now she can see what a great camera it is.
There are sudden movements. A cold leather hand closes over my mouth. I hit the horn hard with my palm on the steering wheel.
“Stupid bitch, you gotta pay for hurtin my feelings."
A sudden sharp stabbing pain in my throat, a horrible sound; the escape of air. I am shivering... cold and wet.. can't breathe... a painful twisting motion in my neck.
A male voice mocking, "No one makes me a fu*king loser!"
I think I hear Daddy in my head, "My Star reporter caught it all."
I am light without burdens, lost in a universe of twinkling stars that greet me.
By Kathie Stehr