"Bombing sensation! Five dead! Film at seven!"
By Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie
"Left, left, left--all right, hold it!" The slim man with the
clipboard made a notation. He looked with satisfaction at the video monitor
I was watching a small-town video crew making films of a sewer
grating. I didn't know =why= they were photographing a sewer: I was just
taking a walk and stopped to watch. Mr. Clipboard was supervising two
youngsters who looked like recruits from the high school AV lab, one working
the camera, one on the videotape recorder.
"All right," Clipboard ordered. "Shoot it!"
Just then a van pulled up beside their blue station wagon. It
was a real TV truck, the roving eye of a probing video magazine. A
dapper young man with a thatch of sandy hair and an authoritative
moustache jumped out of the truck. He stood before the local crew like
a teacher confronting a naughty child. He cocked a sandy eyebrow in a probing
wink. "We saw you from the road. What's the story?"
"Story?!?," demanded a gruff voice from inside the truck. "=What=
story!?! Who said there's a story? Who says there has to be a story every
time dog meets tree!?"
"Oh, come =on=!," said Sandy Eyebrows. "This is a TV crew isn't it?
Where there's a TV crew there's a story. You trust me about this. I have an
instinct about these things."
"Look, kid," the Gruff Voice replied, "I understand, I really do.
You're young, ambitious, enthusiastic... You want to make a name for yourself
by doing more than anybody's paying for. But take it from a man who's been in
the business a long time: you do the stories the assignment editor hands
out, you get on TV; you do the story you find on your own, you get on the
shelf. Besides, there's no story here. We're just wasting time."
"Oh, yeah?," Sandy inquired, his voice mixed with amusement and awe.
He pointed up the street. "What's =that=?!" Another video truck was
approaching, this one from the news staff of a distant city. "If there's
no story, what are =they= doing here!? Answer that one!"
Sandy Eyebrows waited impatiently, his hands on his hips, but
no reply emerged from the truck. "All right!," he called. "Haul 'em out!
Set 'em up! Get set to make a movie!"
Gruff finally recovered: "Kid, this is on your head, not mine. If
the bosses want to know why this money was wasted, I'll tell 'em it was on
"Okay," Sandy agreed contemptuously. "Just remember to say
the same thing to the prizes committee."
"Prizes, already! What an ass!" Gruff fell off to swearing and bullying
the crew, at work setting up the cameras and lights. I drew nearer to the
truck so I could see what was happening inside. Gruff, a fat, jowly
man was seated at a mixing board, his hands flying over the complex dials
and switches, his eye trained on the video monitor before him, his gruff
voice still damning all of existence, especially smart-assed kids.
Sandy had gone over to Clipboard. "Who lives here?," he asked,
pointing to the trim ranch house nearest the sewer grating.
"The Peldhoppers," was Clipboard's clipped reply. "Man, wife,
"Ready!," Gruff called. "Ready, dammit, ready! Where the hell are
Sandy rushed over to the cameras. He quickly composed himself,
cocked his eyebrow and said, "The PerfectiVision eye is open! We're here
at the home of the Peldhoppers in rural Marrowsboro, New York, watching the
exciting events unfold. The full ramifications of this startling
development are not yet known, but your PerfectiVision crew is here to record
the events as they occur!" He shot a spiteful glance at Gruff, hidden within
the truck. "How about that!"
"How about what!?," came the sarcastic reply. "You said it yourself:
'not yet known'! You don't know anything! You still don't know what
the story is, if there =is= a story!"
"Oh, yeah!," Sandy countered. "Well what about them!?" He pointed
up the road again: two more news trucks were approaching, one from a city news
staff, one from a network news program. The first city crew had unloaded
and was setting up. "This isn't a story?"
"So far, it's a collection of trucks...," Gruff replied, but he
sounded less convinced.
"No, sir! This is a story! If this isn't a story, I don't know what
is! Don't I have an instinct about these things?"
Gruff said, "...!" He fell off to swearing again.
A bent old woman was waddling down the street. Sandy coralled her.
In the voice of a courteous field marshal he demanded, "What can =you=
tell us about the notorious Peldhoppers?"
"Trash," the woman replied grimly. "Just plain trash... Why that
daughter of theirs? Do you know she's out with a different boy every night of
the week? I don't hold for gossip, but the truth is the truth."
"Yet another exiciting aspect on the Peldhoppers," Sandy said to the
camera, "the mysterious Upstate New York family who have fallen into the view
of PerfectiVision. Neighbors report that the Peldhoppers seem to have little
control over their daughter." In a different voice he said, "Film of:
'she's out with a different boy every night'." Back in his video voice he
continued, "It is not known if the Peldhopper's daughter entertains these
men for profit or for other nefarious purposes... Film of: 'the truth is
"Gawd!," was Gruff's sole comment.
The old woman was being harried by the second news crew. The two
later arrivals were setting up. Sandy was again looking up the street. Two
more video trucks were pulling in, one from a cable news operation, one from
a competing network. Behind them was one of those aluminum-bright refrigerated
snack trucks. In the distance, I could hear approaching sirens.
"You see!," Sandy gloated. "You see!! I have an instinct about these
Gruff continued to grumble.
"So...," Sandy posed, "we should take it for what we can get. Let's
play that network card..."
"What are you talkling about, kid?"
"That network card, the card I saw you stash at NewsCon, when you had
that earnest conversation about network news departments needing all the film
they can get. They're not here, so we've got what they need. Let's go live!"
"Kid, you don't know what you're talking about. I don't have the pull
to take this live! This is a =feature= crew, for christ's sake!"
"Come on! This is the story that could make your career!"
"Stop suddenly," Gruff replied gruffly.
"The hidden words in 'this could make your career' are 'stop suddenly'."
The sirens had arrived, two police cruisers and a tow-truck. Their
bubble lights cast eerie fleeting shadows upon the scene. Up the street,
two more news truck were approaching.
Sandy seethed, "Go live, dammit! We've got it! We've got it before
Gruff sighed. "All right, kid... But if anyone asks, I'm gonna tell
'em it's all your fault..." The fat man picked up the telephone at his side
and made growling noises into it.
Sandy had trapped another passer-by, a middle-aged man with a paunch.
"Thirty-seconds," Gruff called. "We feed in three minutes."
"Okay," Sandy responded absently, his face screwed into
concentration, his hand a vise on the arm of the paunchy man. "Go with the
first film, then live, then the second film, then live to close. How's that?"
Gruff said nothing. He busied himself with readying the tapes.
I watched the film as it appeared on Gruff's monitor, and an
identical version of it on a monitor tuned to the network broadcast. In
Sandy's first live segment, he got the paunchy man to admit that one of the
Peldhopper's sons was a hot-rodder. To quote Paunchy: "He looks sort of
wild... You know, druggy..."
In his second live segment, Sandy Eyebrows offered this analysis:
"It is not known whether the scandal of the Peldhoppers results from their
promiscuous daughter or their juvenile delinquent son, or if these are just
consequences, of some other, deeper corruption. But you may be assured that
your probing PerfectiVision crew and the entire staff of TVC News will be
pursuing the questions that remain open about the infamous Peldhopper clan."
To be honest, this speech left a bad taste in =my= mouth if not
Sandy's. I wandered over to the coffee-truck, on the way unavoidably
overhearing the other 'news-spotters' making their reports to the cameras.
A striking black-haired woman in a blue overcoat was asking, "Is is true that
the Peldhoppers are associated with the Pet Rights Militia and other
reactionary terrorist groups?" Another, a tall man in a bulky suit was
inquiring, "It is true that Walter Peldhopper associates with known tax
evaders?" Still another: "Is it true that June Peldhopper, while in college,
was a member of known Communist front organizations?"
When I got back to the PerfectiVision truck with my coffee and
donut, Sandy was delivering another live update. While I was away, he had
confronted the Peldhoppers on their doorstep. The film of that encounter,
as edited, was running:
Sandy: "What makes you so reluctant to confront the media? What
have you got to hide...?"
Mr. Peldhopper: "Would you please just leave us alone!? Don't we
have a right to our privacy?"
The image cut away to a live and knowing Sandy. "Of course, criminals
and radicals fall back on their rights as well... And this isn't just idle
speculation: TVC News has received dozens of anonymous phone-calls
linking the notorious Peldhopper Assault Force with many violent, subversive
terrorist groups. What the infamous Peldhoppers will do here, today, in
Marrowsboro, New York, remains to be seen. But TVC News will be here live,
continuously, to bring you the events as they unfold!"
The broadcast monitor cut away to a talking-head in New York, followed
by an interview segment on terrorism with a Los Angeles psychologist. In
Gruff's monitors of the scene, Sandy jumped up and shouted, "Whopee! We
got 'em! We got 'em! We scooped the world!"
Gruff was eyeing a bank of small monitors at his right, tuned to
various network broadcasts. "VNN!," he exulted. "CTV! They're all going live!"
"And we were there first! See?! Don't I have an instinct about these
Gruff did not respond. He was mumbling into the telephone he clutched
with his shoulder as his hands raced over his control board. He shot Sandy
an unrevealing grimace. "Uh, huh," he said. "Uh, huh, uh huh... Kid! The
Radical Vegetarian Liberation Movement claims that the Peldhoppers are tied
up in the conspiracy to continue the wasteful slaughter of innocent
animals. They're coming =here= to take revenge for the animals!"
"...Wow! Take revenge how?"
"The caller said a bomb!"
"Quick!," Sandy ordered the crew. "Let's get in closer! Maybe we
can interview the bomber!"
Just then there was an immense explosion. The Peldhopper home was
wracked apart in one instant, and the sound of the blast seemed to be echoed
in the expressions of dismay in the faces around me. The cameras
faithfully cataloged the flaming fragments of an American dream...
"An exciting moment!," Sandy crowed. "TVC News is on the scene
as it happens! The hideout of the notorious Peldhopper Assault Force
has just been bombed by the Radical Vegetarian Liberation Movement." In
the monitors, the house was again consumed in flames. "A violent if
fitting end to a sad chapter in the saga of American terrorism. The infamous
Peldhopper gang could flout the law and the sensibilities of their
neighbors in sleepy Marrowsboro, New York. But they could not flout the
explosive force of the bomb that has ended their string of violent acts...
For PerfectiVision and TVC News, this is Sandy Eyebrows reporting."
"Kid," Gruff said, a tone of admiration in his voice, "you don't
know nothin' about nothin', but you know how to make great television."
Sandy shuffled bashfully. "Like I said, I just have an instinct about
"Damn!," said Clipboard. "Damn, damn, damn!" He was stomping around,
swearing a blue streak at his two crew-kids.
"Hey," Sandy called. "What's the matter?"
"What's the matter! Are you kidding?!? My car's stuck in this
mess. I didn't get the footage I needed. I've got these two clowns on overtime.
And to top it all off, I'm not going to get =paid= for this time at all!"
"Not get paid...? Why, this is the biggest story of the week!"
"The biggest story of =my= week is that my client died before I could
"I don't get it. What story were you covering?"
"I wasn't covering =any= story!," Clipboard stormed. "I was
hired by Mr. Peldhopper to make films of this sewer grating."
"Why? Did you think they were trying to subvert Marrowsboro through
"What!? What are you talking about? Peldhopper's sewer keeps
getting clogged with leaves. Every time it rains, his lawn gets flooded. He
hired me to make films of the flooding so he could complain to the city."
"We have reports that the Peldhoppers were the spearhead of a
violent hate group. Could you comment on that?"
"Well, I'll say one thing, Peldhopper was damned mad about the
sewer. He said he'd written =three= letters and nothing happened. By the
time he hired me, he was =furious=!"
"Okay!," Sandy called into the truck. "Let's use this for the seven
o'clock broadcast." He began to converse with the camera in his authoritative
tone, his eyebrow cocked just so, "The story of the Peldhopper Assault Force
continues to unfold. Earlier today, the radical terrorist group was bombed out
of this Marrowsboro, New York, hideout. Cut to: footage of explosion, footage
of aftermath. Voice over: the bomb was apparently detonated by the Radical
Vegetarian Liberation Movement, a rival hate group. Back to me: since the
explosion, it has become known that Walter Peldhopper, the mastermind of the
subversive group, was a violently angry man who would stop at nothing to
achieve his ends. Film of: 'Peldhopper was damned mad', 'he was =furious='.
Back to me: in time, more may be known about the violence and fanaticism that
infested this sleepy, rural town. But what is known now is that the
mysterious Peldhopper Assault Force will terrorize no more... Sandy Eyebrows,
TVC News, Marrowsboro, New York."
Gruff said: "Jeesh!"
"Now we'll do the promo: Bombing sensation! Five dead! Film at seven!."
Sandy Eyebrows turned to face the truck. "Ha! Ha! I got you this time! See!
I =do= have an instinct about these things!"
Gruff grumbled, "Smart-assed kids...!"