This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The News As It Happens

There,” say the men and women behind the whirring and clicking cameras. “In there is where it happened.”

A slim young woman comes high-stepping out in front of a TV camera, positioned so that the rest of the milling newspeople are not on view. She tucks  a wisp of hair away behind an ear, adjusts her lapel microphone (which had come slightly adrift), smoothens the irritation from her face, and smiles at the camera.

“Good afternoon,” she says as the studio anchor’s voice sounds in her ear. She steps slightly to one side and indicates the view with one hand – the white picket fence, the brown bare expanse of earth, dry with drought, and the house set far back as though trying to shrink away from the publicity. “We’re looking at where it happened.”

As she continues talking about it, a boy comes riding up on a bicycle and watches. One of the other media people sees him and beckons him to one side.

“No,” says the boy, in answer to the question. “I didn’t see it. But I knew them, all of them.”

“When did you see them last?” More of the newspeople gather, and the questions come fast and thick. The boy is confused, begins to stumble over his answers, and begins to wish he had not opened his mouth.

The woman stops speaking to the camera and comes over to see what is going on. She is the Big One here, the star, and the rest of them know it and step aside. The boy knows her, of course; everyone who watches TV knows her. She smiles at him and asks the same questions, one by one, and he answers.

A police car comes by, and there is a moment’s pause as everyone rushes to it to get a few sound bites from the driver; but he is an old hand, and as soon as he sees the danger he guns his accelerator and drives past the line of reporters and towards the house. Later, he will come out and give an account of what has happened, what is happening, but the deadlines cannot wait, the channels need breaking news, and the only thing of importance is the moment. The public needs constant feeding.

The policeman drives away from the crowd of media people, shaking his head and muttering. He hates them more each time he has to interact with them, and even though he will answer their questions later (“Why did he do it?” and so on; as though he knows what happened inside the poor destroyed creature’s head) he can no longer feel the slightest sense of anticipation.

He drives up to the front door, watching the forensic people at work on the one corpse that lies on the front lawn, and gets wearily out of his car. Sometimes he feels as though everything is part of a game of some kind, which like the poor crazed man lying inside, he cannot win, because the rules have been slanted to prevent him from winning.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2009

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