“KNEW News, how may I direct your call?”
The receptionist sat at a small grey metal desk in the center of a large empty room. Plain-looking and obese, she wore wire-rimmed glasses, a flowered shirt and a brown cardigan. She had long brown-and-grey flecked hair tied up in a bun with bright blue eye shadow and blinding red lipstick painted on her face. As Tate walked in, she glanced up at him and smiled, displaying yellow-stained teeth between her pudgy cheeks.
“Mmm, hmm,” she hummed patiently while listening to the person on the other end of the line. She motioned for Tate to sit down on a tattered brown couch against a side wall. As he did, he surveyed his new place of employment. Frayed gray carpet covered the dirty tiled floor. Rotting boards hid a teller’s window where attendants once took money from roller skaters. A paint-chipped door with a hand-written sign on yellow legal paper taped to it read, “Newsroom – Staff Only”. As Tate sat down, he glanced at the magazines on the table in front of him. Nothing but old copies of Boy’s Life and National Geographic dating as far back as 1990.
“Ma’am, have you called the police yet?” the receptionist asked into the phone. “No? So let me get this straight. Two men have broken into your house, you are hiding in the closet right now and instead of calling 9-1-1, you called us? I understand you want this story on the news but I suggest you call the police first and then call us back after they arrest these guys. Hon, I’m hanging up now. No, I will not call the police for you. Yes, I will tell Jack Lemons you said hi. And that you think he’s cute. Okay ma’am, have a great day!”
The receptionist put the phone on its cradle and looked over at Tate with a smile. “Good morning, sir. Can I help you?”
Tate sat befuddled. “I’m sorry, did I hear you right? That lady on the phone was being robbed…”
“And she called us before the police. Yep. Happens all the time.” She continued smiling as if it didn’t bother her at all. “Are you here to see someone?”
Tate stood up, walked over and extended his hand. “Hi. I’m Tate Thompson.”
She stared at him blankly.
“Didn’t James tell you I was coming?”
“Oh! Right. You must be here to apply for the intern position,” she said.
“The intern – no, I’m the new news director.” Tate continued holding out his hand.
She did not shake it but looked at him apprehensively and asked, “Is this a senior prank?”
“A what?” Tate asked, confused.
“You’re pulling my leg, aren’t you? I know how you high school seniors like to play pranks before graduation.”
“High school? No, I just graduated college,” Tate said.
She looked him up and down. “Now I know you’re pulling my leg.”
“Honest. Call James Tush. He’ll confirm it.”
She raised an eyebrow, picked up the rotary phone and dialed his extension. “Mr. Tush, a high school senior is here to see you. Yes, sir, he’s in the lobby.” She slowly put the phone back down. “He’ll be right…”
The newsroom door swung open and a man wearing a very expensive brown suit with slick gray hair, a moustache and a bright white smile swooped into the room. “Are you here to do a profile on me for your school’s paper?” he asked Tate in a very cocksure voice.
Tate shook his head in confusion as he measured up his father’s old friend. Tush looked like a used car salesman with gold rings adorning his fingers, gold chains swinging underneath his unbuttoned dress shirt and a toothpick hanging out the side of his mouth.
“No, I’m Tate. Tate Thompson?”
“Shane’s son! Welcome to Crapville. Great to finally meet you.” He put his hand out and Tate grabbed it. It felt cold and sweaty. “Patty. This is Ted Thompson, our new KNEW News news director.”
“It’s Tate, sir.”
“I didn’t know you hired a new news director,” Patty said.
“Of course you knew,” James said.
“No, I didn’t know. If I knew, I would’ve known that Ted here was our new KNEW News news director.”
“Patty, I told you last week our new KNEW News news director would be here Monday at nine o’clock sharp.”
“No, you said you planned to renew the KNEW News news director’s newscast.”
“That doesn’t even make sense. Why would I say that?” James asked.
“How the hell should I know?” Patty asked.
James turned his attention back to Tate. “We only do true news at KNEW News. We also do a lot of new news at KNEW News, too, because if it’s new and news, KNEW News knows. Our crews only choose new news KNEW News viewers need to know.”
“Wow, try saying that three times fast,” Tate said.
“Why would I do that?” James asked. “Let me warn you – it can be hard finding new news because there’s not a lot going on in Crapville.”
“Actually when I walked in, Patty was talking to a woman hiding from some robbers who broke into her house. Maybe we should send a reporter there?”
“Great idea,” James said as he turned to Patty. “Where is this happening, Patty?”
“I don’t know,” Patty said. “She never said. I’ll ask her when she calls back.”
“Great!” James smiled. “It’s not every day we get a home invasion in Crapville.”
A snort escaped Tate’s lips.
“What?” James asked.
“It’s just the way you say the name of this town. Calling it Crap-ville, like Poop-ville.”
James coiled in disgust. “I didn’t say crap. I said crap.”
“Right. You said crap even though it’s spelled C-R-E-P-E. You know, Crepe. But you pronounce it crap.”
“Yes, you do! You said crap, not crepe.”
“No. I said crap.”
“Right. Crap,” Tate said.
“Noooo,” James said, visibly frustrated, “I never said crap like poop. I said crap like the French breakfast waffle.”
“That’s not a crap, that’s a crepe, and it’s not a waffle. It’s more like a rolled pancake,” Tate said.
“Well, how the hell would I know that? I’ve never eaten a crap before.”
Tate regained his composure and said, “I’m happy to be here in Crepeville.”
“You mean Crapville,” James said. “Enough talk. Come. Let me show you your new KNEW News newsroom and introduce you to the gang.”