TV Reporting for
Fame and Fortune

by Kathy Coogan

(Author's note: Our group of writers frequently resorts to Word Selection Prompts. For this series of words I conjured up a callous TV reporter whose aspirations blinded her to the sad stories she reported. She was doomed to get her come-uppance.)

The words are:

cigarette, snafu, swan, fire, ice,
wind, text, interview, pen


And the story...


The TV reporter stood near the ruined pond a safe distance from the charred acres behind her. “Make sure you get those pines in the shot,” she told her cameraman, pointing to the fire-blackened bottle brushes that were all that remained of the once verdant forest.

Chet rolled his eyes at her then lifted his camera to do as he was told. Cinda Burke was the gold-mine for Local 12 News. What Cinda wanted, Cinda got.

“Can you get the carcasses in? We need the carcasses too,” she said turning up her nose toward the revolting, feathery piles that used to be swans. Erin, Cinda’s personal make-up gal, approached and said, “Geez, Cin, all this heat is making you shiny.” She blotted her boss’s forehead before dusting her with translucent powder.

Ever since the fires broke out ten days ago, Cinda had maneuvered for on-air time for all three evening shows. It was great for the channel’s bottom line and superior for her resume. She was aiming for New York or California not No-whereville, Arizona.

Cinda was preparing for another interview with one of the area fire chiefs, checking texts and high-lighting her hand-written script with her favorite Mont Blanc pen. In the thirty second piece, she had to get all the facts in: numbers of acres burned, residences destroyed, firefighters involved, gallons of water dropped from how many planes. For the tragic deaths she got a few more precious seconds.

She’d much rather do the on-camera piece alone, incorporating all the perfect facial expressions and intonations she’d learned to convey the seriousness of her profession. But she knew the value of having an exhausted hero at her shoulder. If only they wouldn’t talk. The amateurs babbled on and on, gobbling up her valuable on-camera seconds. They should just leave the talking to the pros.

Erin brought Cinda a water bottle. Cinda’s only sign of nervousness before going on camera was a slight dry mouth. She prevented this by swishing ice water around her mouth so her teeth sparkled and her pronunciation was pristine.

“Jesus Christ, Erin, this is warm!” she snapped.

“Sorry, Cin, they sent the last coolers of water over to the firemen coming off their shifts.”

Cinda threw the bottle back at Erin and said, “Get me ice water, goddammit.”

Erin said, “I’ll do my best.” “Bitch,” she whispered as she turned away, knowing Cinda would consider the water-glitch a major snafu if she blew the first live-take. It would be a long drive back to the studio.

The wind shifted, causing sparks to blow Cinda’s way. She brushed at them like she was swatting mosquitoes, not wanting them to singe her khaki silk safari jacket, the perfect wardrobe for this shoot. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a pack of Kools and her lighter. Just one puff and she’d be ready. She had the cigarette to her lips and the lighter poised at its tip when a hard grip around her wrist forced her hand open.

“What the f..,” she yelled.

“Are you some kind of moron?” the man said as he squeezed her wrist tight, bending it as he leaned down to pick up the lighter. “This is a fire-zone, Lady and some other selfish, clueless asshole like you caused it.”

““Let me go! Do you have any idea who you’re talking to?” Cinda said as he let her loose.

“Yeah, you’re the idiot cutie-pie who’s gonna waste my time talking when I should be directing my men to the next hot-spot.”

“Cutie-pie? I’ll sue you for that remark.”

“Oooo. Cinder Burns is gonna sue me.”

“My name is Cinda. And it’s Burke not Burns.”

“Not up here on the fire line. You’re Cinder Burns to us. Cinder Burns, Live at 5:00, 7:00 and 11:00 with your stiletto heels and complaints about the smoke making your eyes red…I’ve seen you using the Visine. Do me a favor. Let us do our jobs and stop using us as your Exclusive.”

He moved in closer to her. “I’ve lost three fire-fighters since this thing started. One a woman - and you couldn’t hold a candle to her in courage, smarts and sense. She was prettier than you, too, but she’d have knocked me on my ass if I ever told her that.”

He stood glaring at Cinda. “Now let’s get this over with so you can go back and edit the tape to show your best side, if you have one.”

Cinda, her mouth dry, needed four takes to get one usable interview in the can. For some reason she kept stumbling over her own name.

Now read Mo's take on the Word Selection Prompt

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