Harry was a newsman. He was one of the greats back in the day. But now he was a dying breed, and he knew it. The paper was only keeping him around because he was due to retire. At least they respected him enough to do that.
Harry had no clue what he would do after retirement. Better not to think about it. Focus on the job. That’s what always got him through the day. Well, that and whiskey.
Then something unexpected happened and changed the course of Harry’s life.
Harry was sitting at his desk when his editor, George Daily, walked up and said, “Harry, this is it. Your last assignment. I want you to cover Wilson’s speech at the opening of the new playground at 42nd and Bright.”
“Is this some kind of joke?” Harry replied.
“Listen, Harry. It’s your last day. Go watch the kids play for 15 minutes and give me 200 words. Then take the rest of the day off. You’ve earned it. You had a great career. We will all see you at Murphy’s tonight.”
Harry sighed and said, “You’re the Boss.”
Harry was not the least bit interested in attending his retirement party but felt obligated to go. Just as the staff felt obligated to give him one. He wasn’t good at sentimental crap, as he called it. Neither were most of his co-workers. But he figured he would end up at the bar anyway, so he might as well endure it.
Harry arrived at the playground a few minutes before Mayor Wilson was scheduled to give his speech. Harry could have written the speech himself, having heard countless political speeches all saying basically the same thing. “Hope. A new beginning. The future is in your hands. Blah, blah, blah.”
Then Harry had a roguish thought. No, a great idea! If this was to be his last story, he would make it one to remember. Forget facts. He would simply make it up. Fiction was good enough for politicians and social media; why not him? Of course, fiction wasn’t really his thing, but he was confident he could pull off one story. It wasn’t like the paper was going to run the story anyway. Both he and the boss knew it.
This might even be fun, he thought. Harry took out his notebook. He still took notes on paper, refusing to use a phone as a note-taking device like all his colleagues. Harry would end his career the same way he started it. Taking notes in a pocket notebook, typing up the story, and then submitting it to his editor. He begrudgingly learned to use a computer, only because his editor demanded it.
He began writing, not bothering to wait for the ceremony to begin.
May 05, 2018–0900
Mayor Wilson presided over the opening of the newest playground in the city today. On the corner of 42nd and Bright. Everything was going as planned. Boring speech. Boring ribbon cutting. Kids finally getting to play after trying not to explode while adults politely listened to the Mayor ramble.
Then a rhinoceros came crashing through the playground fence and charged the Mayor.
Harry stopped for a second to admire his work when a rhinoceros came crashing through the playground fence and charged the Mayor.
Harry jumped up from the bench he was sitting on and took cover behind a car. How could this be happening? Harry thought.
The police grabbed the Mayor and threw him into a squad car while everyone else scattered. The rhino rammed into the police car, turned, and started running down 42nd Street. The police radioed it in as chaos ensued down several blocks. Countless vehicles were damaged by the rhino before someone with a tranquilizer dart gun finally arrived and sedated the charging beast.
Harry looked at his notebook again. It happened exactly as he had written. As if he was writing the future. This can’t be possible, he thought.
Harry’s phone rang. It was his editor, Daily.
“Did you see the rhino, Harry?”
“Of course. It almost ran me over.”
“Where did it come from?”
“I don’t have a clue. It just appeared out of nowhere.”
“That’s not possible. Alright, Harry. It looks like you have a real story after all. Interview everyone you can. I want to know how a rhino ends up rampaging in the city.”
“You got it, Boss.”
First things first, Harry thought. He opened his notebook again and wrote:
Reporter Harry Reak finds rare gold coin on ground near playground.
He looked down, and lying in the street by his foot was a gold coin. He picked the coin up and put it in his pocket, then quickly wrote:
It started to rain.
A few seconds later it started to rain. Harry wrote:
It stopped raining.
It stopped raining.
It was too much to handle. Harry flopped down on the bench.
Focus Harry. You’re not going crazy. Don’t lose it now, he told himself.
It didn’t work. Harry’s thoughts started flying. Am I dreaming? Am I drunk and delusional? He didn’t think so. If this was real, what would he write next? He could make himself rich. He could change the future. He started wondering if he could make himself young again? Could he travel through time? The possibilities were overwhelming.
Harry decided to put it out of his head for the time being and get his interviews. He spent most of the morning interviewing everyone still at the playground. Then Harry went up and down the street, interviewing witnesses to the rampage. Finally, he chatted with the guy from the zoo who shot the rhino with the tranquilizer dart. Apparently, no one saw where the rhinoceros came from. They all said it just appeared. Harry went back to the paper and wrote up the unsolved mystery of the rampaging rhino.
Editor Daily loved it. He knew the story would get people talking. And more importantly, sell papers.
“Good work, Harry. This is great,” editor Daily said.
“Go ahead and knock off work. We’ll see you later at Murphy’s.”
Harry walked out, leaving everything except his pocket notebook. He kept that close, in his shirt pocket.
Continues in part two: