You're standing in line at the bank when you begin to feel faint. You think you make it to a chair, but it gets hazy really fast. The next thing you know, you're standing outside an Italian bakery, holding a rubber chicken in your hands, with a television crew in front of you. "And how did such an amazing event make you feel?" The reporter says.
"And how did such an amazing event make you feel?"
There's a microphone in my face. A camera not far off. And there's this odd smell in the air. Like a wet feather pillow.
But the reporter is anxious for an answer. And my Momma taught me it's rude to keep people waiting.
"I -- "
Momma again swam into my conscious. Aside from it being rude to keep people wait, she was adamant -- adamant -- that we should never speak without thinking first.
"I -- I'm not -- not really sure how I feel."
The reporter smiled and the camerawoman stopped rolling her eyes.
"A bit stunned?" the reporter said.
I used to be a reporter, I remembered. Though that memory seemed to bear little aid in the present situation. When an interviewee is at a loss for words, the journalist -- who awakes each morning with scads of words just floating around the brain untethered -- provides them. A smart interviewee, unwilling to break his Momma's rules, would obligingly use them.
"Stunned," I stumbled. "That's a good word for it."
"Can you explain the chicken?"
Rule Two for journalists: When the interviewee is merely parroting those random words, suggest more of them.
There was indeed a chicken in my hands. A rubber one. I sniffed. It was not the source of the smell of the wet feather pillow, a fact which inexplicably made me feel much more at ease than the words the journalist was helpfully providing.
"Oh, I saw the whole thing!"
A man. A man of a certain weight and of a certain lack of teeth -- the kind of person who is gold to journalists because not only did they see the whole thing -- they NEVER lie about that -- they are loquacious to the point the general stunned feeling in the air expands to encompass the journalist as well.
The reporter, sensing the camera dying every second it lingered on my stunned visage, immediately shifted to her newest interlocutor.
"We wuz both standing in line at the bank -- I've got my first payroll check to cash, back to work after two years of living on the dole you know. He was in front of me. Had a lunch bag. Don't know what he was doing at the bank; you'll have to ask him. He was next in line when the robbers came in. Man, they were loud. Screaming for everyone to get down and getting really upset when the deaf guy in the line next to us didn't hear. They shoved everybody who wouldn't get down and this guy -- " he paused just long enough to cock his thumb at me "didn't budge. DID. NOT. BUDGE. Had that look in his eye, you know, the look that means even though it's only 8 in the morning he's already seen enough shit to last him the rest of the day."
"Is that true?" the reporter asked me.
"Yes, it's true. You don't sit around out of work for two years and not know that look," the man said without skipping a beat or ceasing to emit his talkative spittle.
"GET DOWN YOU! The robbers hollered at him. And I mean hollered. Even the deaf guy heard them that time. But this guy didn't budge. Instead, he held up his bag --"
"Oh," I said, and I could feel the blood draining from my face.
"And the robber tried swatting it out of the way, but he held it up and was waving it around and the bag itself was wriggling and there was a gawd-awful noise coming out of the bag -- "
"Oh, no. No, no . . ." A nearby cop grabbed me by the arm.
"So the thugs SHOT the bag out of the guy's hand and feathers went EVERYWHERE!"
"He's going down!" the cop yelled. He lurched forward to catch me and acidentally stepped on the rubber chicken that had fallen out of my hand. And crushed it.
"Dammit! Get me another chicken! NOW!" the cop yelled as the journalist and the loquacious man and the camerawoman bent over me. "You saw how UGLY it got last time! GET ME A CHICKEN!"