We meet some of the hardworking on-camera personnel who make up the tough-as-nails WXX Silt Ridge Midnight News broadcasts: It starts with a sprawling tailgate party with haddock tacos off a food truck as personalities gear up for another big night. Belinda Bessemer arrives in a late-model Mercedes limo, fresh from her first set at the Grilled Canary Gentlemen’s Club. Mindy Pentagee springs from the back of an ambulance, ready to deliver the latest weathercast, and Jerry Runcklastor rattles off a patented line that makes Morris think of a possible game show mixing batting averages and area codes. A security guard stops Morris from entering via the stage door, even though Morris is the boss and his dad owns the TV station. Morris resigns himself to entering the station another way, realizing that this is one more attempt on Daddy’s part to make a man out of him. He wishes it wasn’t so difficult sometimes. Now, he gears up for another gut-busting night of reporting the news, followed by an even more gut-wrenching after-party

Torture at Midnight: A “Typical” WXX Newscast

Let’s Get the Show on the Road (kill)

The snow lightens up as I drive slowly back through town from the Five-Points Highway Diner to the TV station. My sphincter clenches as I think about the upcoming upheaval of egos. Every edition of the Silt Ridge Midnight News is like a train wreck, where the passengers are akin to demonic trash-talkers. They may be stunned for a moment upon initial impact but then shake off the cobwebs and keep coming and coming like rude and determined zombies. Producing an installment of the WXX news would make a fine reality show, brimming with angst, egomaniacal drama and prima donnas run amuck; I just wish I weren’t the one starring in it.

Kicking It with Haddock Tacos

A glow rises above the back entrance of the opera house. Party lights are strung across the lot illuminating a bizarre form of tailgating. Bruce Shellerdahl, our food editor, fixes fish tacos for the hungry cast and crew from the warmth of his gourmet truck. Isn’t this grand? A knot clenches in my gut.

A Mercedes limo pulls up amid massive fanfare and pounding flashbulbs. Belinda Bessemer exits from the rear. She lights the cigarette dangling between her lush red lips and tugs at the revealing hem of her shear, tiger print kimono. I just hope like heck she changes into something more conservative before hitting the anchor desk.

As she struts in platform heels toward the stage entrance in back of the opera house, I wonder if I should question her most recent wardrobe choices. Then I pull up and realize I have bigger fish to fry. I hope against hope she doesn’t cross the threshold with that lit butt. Then I’d have to call the fire marshal, and man-oh-man, what a stink that would cause!

WXX Newscast: Tailgate Edition

An ambulance with siren blaring and its flashers on drifts into the dirt parking lot, ripping up clots of mud and snow. It skids to a clean stop beside Bruce’s food truck.

Mindy Pentagee, a competent and enthusiastic EMT, skips out the rear in heels and a way-too short skirt. It’s enough to make you blush. And she’s not even the stripper. Oops, I didn’t mean to say that. I’ve never seen Belinda at her place of business and I don’t know what she does – honest! I would never look, never in a million years!

Belinda, Belinda, Belinda! I glance around and see she’s detained at the side door, yakking with one of the horde of male stagehands who are always vying for her attention. She signs her autograph on his polo shirt, smiles dimly, blows smoke on him and grinds out the butt with a stacked heel.

I heave a big sigh of relief. Catastrophe averted.

I turn my attention back to Mindy. More blinding flashbulbs announce her arrival. I wave at her but she doesn’t wave back. It’s nice to have Mindy on set, because fistfights have broken out before, as well as people coming at you with exposed wires. Mindy always makes sure to pack some extra bandages.

Batting Averages vs. Area Codes

A Yellow Cab skids on a patch of ice, nearly sideswiping me. The tailpipe rattles after the engine shuts down. “Evening boss,” says Jerry Runcklastor, wrenching from behind the wheel with a butt dangling from his mouth. Jerry is our Sports anchor. “I feel a good one coming on tonight,” he says, blowing smoke. “I’m ballpark ready and home run hungry”

“Not bad,” I say. I mull it over in my head. “’Ballpark ready and home run hungry’.” I wonder if he’s taken out a trademark on that catchphrase. It’s definitely worth the money if he hopes to brand his sportscasts.

I get a flash for a new game show concept. It mixes batting averages and area codes. I don’t know if I should syndicate the show as a part of sportscasts or just fold it into a nightly syndicated offering in access.

Giving the Green Room a Wide Berth

As I step through the stage door, a security guy stops me. “You’re not allowed to go in there Mr. Crimpanfortis,” the burly man says. “I thought we agreed.”

“I know, I know,” I say sheepishly. “But that was then. This is now.”

“I’m with you, man,” the hulking man says. “I hear what you’re saying.”

“But you’re not going to let me through, are you?”

“You know the rules. You enter through your office and go down the main hallway, avoiding the green room.”

“The green room, of course,” I say. “But my father owns this station,” I remind him.

“I’m sure he’s a fine man,” the security guard says.

I strain to see past the maze of people, all carrying on and having a grand old time. I scream at them to knock it off and get ready for the newscast, but they ignore me. My voice is drowned out in all the mayhem. Here is the result of Daddy refusing to pay the news crew what they’re worth. They all need other jobs in order to supplement their incomes to do the thing they love.

Everyone knows Daddy is filthy rich and they blame me for withholding their paychecks, making them seek other forms of employment.

It’s just one more lousy excuse for them to beat me up.