“Upbeat, dynamic, engaging: words that do not describe you. You have until the end of the day.” With that, The Boss dismissed Barbara Ferara from his office as contemptuously as he would any other buzzing, biting insect.
Steam wafting from her ears, Ms. Ferara stomped out of the office, her pretty pink panties bunched way up her butt, her fists clenched like a defiant child’s.
Outside, her assistant flitted back and forth, voice shaking. “What did he say? Are we fired?”
“Get my brother on the phone,” Ferara spat, “I am not losing this job.”
Within the hour Peter Ferara’s rust-brown bucket of a car coughed up alongside the shiny, white news van, six undelivered pizzas riding shotgun. He’d been waiting for this call. This was the day it paid to be connected. The era of mooching endlessly off his sister’s B-level fame and extra-zero salary had arrived. Peter slipped his hand into his right front pocket, feeling the smooth powder hugged safe inside a Ziploc bag. Cha-ching.
“Give it to me,” Ferara growled, yanking her brother by his Metallica t-shirt into the belly of the channel 7 news van. “Give it to me now. I have news to tell.”
Behind the door that sealed as tight as her news team’s lips, Ferara readied herself for the six o’clock news.
They arrived at the corner of Chester and Winsome, and Ferara spilled out of the van, high-heels clicking wildly. “I need to check my hair. Give me a mirror.”
Sticking his head out the window, Peter warned, “I wouldn’t recommend that,” but his sister had already snatched the mirror from her assistant and was plummeting face first into her reflection.
“Has my nose always been that long?” she whispered, voice low but words spilling from her lips at warp factor 8. “What is this?”
“What’s what, boss?”
“This, this, this reddish splotchish spot. Right here: look, look.”
“I don’t see it.”
“It’s in your eyes, my sistah.”
“Shut up, Peter. Don’t you see this?” She pressed her nose against the mirror and poked the spot, digging her long red nail into it, creasing a crescent onto her face.
“Seriously, get that mirror away from her,” Peter repeated, flopping halfway out the window to grab it, “I’ll take this. Go tell the news. Remember: energy!”
Standing slightly pigeon-toed in front of the van, Ferara waited for her news team to ready the equipment. They seemed to move in slow motion, feet made of molasses, voices an octave too low. Her heart thundered against her bones; she squeezed her eyes shut.
“Energy!” the cameraman reminded, placing his hand on her shoulder, “You’re on in 5, 4…”
“Energy,” Ferara repeated.
The news came pouring out. “This is Barbara Ferara live on Chester Street where Mindy Evans and her team of watchful women have successfully gathered enough evidence to aid police in making an arrest earlier this morning in the Case of the Kitty Capers. For weeks the cat burglar has terrorized this quaint neighborhood but that’s all over now thanks to Mindy. Mindy?”
“Oh, it wasn’t just me you know, we—“
“Mindy? Is that a Dutch name?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Are you sure? It sounds like it should be. I hear the name Mindy and I want that person to be Dutch. You’re not Dutch?”
“But your name is Mindy. Huh. That doesn’t sound right. Go ahead, anyway. Tell us how you nabbed the cat bandit.”
“Well, it was Carla who-“
“Who stole the cats,” Ferara interrupted.
“No, who first suspected the water delivery man.”
“Water man? So this scum enters your homes under the guise of bringing you water and just snatches your cats? Snatches them right away from you? Cat snatcher.” Reaching out a hand to Mindy’s shoulder, Ferara paused. “What fabric is this?”
“We need to go to Holland.” Her fingertips circled along Mindy’s sweater, lost in the threads. “This is very soft. Do you ride a motorcycle? You’re a real hero. Excuse me for a moment.” Stroking the sweater one last time and biting a hole in her lip, Ferara disappeared into the van.
Thrown, Mindy froze. “Is she alright?” she asked, trying to peer inside, “Are, are you crying? I just did what any conscientious citizen would. I installed a hidden camera and caught the thief in the act. Then, I turned the evidence over to the police and they took it from there. The cats-”
“The cats! I’d forgotten about the cats.” Ferara leaped back into frame, sniffing once and rubbing her nose against her palm, words spattering out uncontrollably. “Are they alright? What’s wrong with people, stealing cats right out from someone’s home and taking them for who knows what reason to who knows where and not allowing the cats ever to return again? Did they find them? Are they okay? Tell me these cats are okay. Tell me. No, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.” She tried to release her grip on that soft sweater, but it had her by her fingers.
“They’re fine. They were all in his house. They’ve been returned…”
“To their homes.”
“…To their owners, yes.”
“What a beautiful story. Cats kidnapped, concealed, kept in the cold, then turned to the light and set free, free to go home again. I applaud you for your bravery, Mindy.”
Ferara brought her hands together in genuine admiration, and then turned again to face the camera.
“This is Barbara Ferara reminding you that if you see something, say something since stopping scandal should start with you. Cats are precious. Don’t let the water man inside. Stay tuned for sports and weather after the break.”
The cameraman scratched his beard. “Clear…”
When Ferara answered the phone that buzzed against her thigh, The Boss’s curt voice jabbed out at her. “That was certainly upbeat. Ratings are up and that means keep it up.”
He hung up.
“Peter,” Ferara barked, “Get me a kilo of your best cocaine.”