Sixteen Random Acts
"Ten minutes to air, senior staff in the conference room, please."
Natalie's voice, so professional, had just the tiniest edge to it now, and, hearing it, Casey knew that something was up tonight.
He knew Dana had called the meeting to try to drum up 5 minutes 19 seconds of newsworthy material. In theory it shouldn't be difficult. In the last hour, he'd learned of two fist-fights breaking out in three separate soccer games, one during a figure skating routine, and two on golfing greens. Five players had quit their respective basketball teams, two hockey players had retired altogether, and three horses on the backside of Keenland Racecourse had broken loose and escaped onto Man O War Boulevard. Something was up tonight. And when something weird happened, it almost always affected Dana.
"Dana, we've got like 16 random acts of unpredictability taking place in the last two hours in professional sports. Why do you think it's impossible for us to have film on any one of these?"
"Well, Casey, seeing that it's us, that we're five minutes nineteen seconds short on the show, and that we're on the air in 11 minutes, I would assume that God or someone has ordained that it's impossible for us to have film on any one of those 16 .. whatever you just said."
"Eleven minutes? Natalie just called 10."
Dan joined them and tapped his watch with authority. "Natalie's wrong."
"Natalie's wrong about what?" Natalie asked as she handed Casey a stack of papers. "Did you get this?"
"What is it?"
"You learned to read at an early age, didn't you, Casey?"
Casey's eyes rolled and then dropped to the page, and Dan told Natalie, "It's 11 minutes to air."
Natalie tapped her watch with authority. "Ten."
Danny glanced at his watch. "All right, well it was eleven a second ago."
"A second ago, it was ten, Danny, and we need senior staff *now*."
"On our way."
Dana dropped into her chair at the head of the table in the conference room, half a cream cheese bagel in her left hand and a sheet of paper in her right. "Fix your tie, Casey," she said. "Jeremy, what have you got that's 5:19 and interesting?"
"Not a thing. Casey?"
"Sixteen random acts of unpredictability and not an inch of tape on any of them. Danny?"
"Got a fill?"
Dan laughed and went back to examining his watch. "Elliot, what time do you have?"
"As do I. Natalie?"
"People, we need to focus," Dana stated.
"Eight till. Dana, what time do you have?"
"I don't have a watch. We've got no time for this. Jeremy, see what you can put together on a racehorse jockey called Lisa McMillion. She rode a horse called Silver .. Something ..to his victory in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, and everyone seems to think she's going to gain a mount for the Derby this year. If she does, it could be a big thing."
"I've got seven till. Why would it be a big thing?"
"See?" Natalie said smugly.
"I've got seven till now, too," Elliot announced.
"Nat, check your watch," Dan suggested.
"It is SIX minutes to air!" Natalie called.
"I don't know," Dana said.
"You don't know what?"
"I don't know why it would be a big thing. Apparently she's a fairly new jockey and the daughter of some trainer guy ..or something ... Just do it, Jeremy, please. Casey, what are these random whatever you keep blubbering about?"
"I am not blubbering, this is honest disbelief. Sixteen people have quit, fought, or escaped and run wild in the last two hours, and we have not an inch of film on this."
"These people escaped and ran wild?" Isaac asked.
"I think that was the horses, Casey," Natalie said. "We can put together something for the retired guys, and I think the horses can be mentioned offhand during the thing about the woman and Silver Whatever, but when it comes to the fights I think our best bet would be to show cartoons."
"Show cartoons?" Jeremy asked.
"Like at the movies. How they used to show cartoons during the movies in the theater."
"Well, they didn't actually show them DURING the movies .."
"People, please!" Dana dropped her hand on the table with a smack. "We've got six ..or seven minutes to air. Jeremy, go do the thing about the horses. Chris, we'll need a graphic to go with the retired guys. Dave, put us at ready one. Kim, Elliot, go do your thing. The rest of you, let's focus. We've got 3:19 to fill and not an ounce of footage with which to fill it. Plus there's blood on the moon and I don't think this night is going to go well for us."
"There's blood on the moon?"
"Indeed there is. Casey, we don't see much fighting in figure skating. Who fought in figure skating?"
"Jessica Holbrook and Jackson Duiker. Turns out Duiker'd had a little too much to drink."
"Never heard of them."
"That's ‘cause they suck," Dan offered. "We've got six minutes."
"Five," Natalie amended.
"They were drunk?" Dana asked.
"Just Duiker was drunk. He's the one that started the fight. Claimed he wasn't drunk but that he'd just had too much cough syrup. Later he changed his story and said he thought enough coffee would keep him sober."
"Spell Duiker," Dana said.
Dan laughed. "First three letters of that guy's name are D-U-I."
"First team," Dana said suddenly. "Let's at least have you sitting at the desk when the camera starts rolling. Natalie, please stop looking at Dan's watch, it's distracting. Danny, can you stretch the soccer highlights to include 38 more seconds? With a story on this Duiker guy, we might make this after all."
"Got it," Danny said. "And it's six minutes to air."
"Just go, please."
Casey and Dan stood and Danny chuckled under his breath. "D-U-I."
"Dana," Isaac said. "Your bagel is under your injury report. Thought you might like to know that."
Dana blinked. "Thank you," she said, and brushed a spot of cream cheese off the paper. She stood then and followed Dan and Casey to the control room, where Dave, Chris, and Will were involved in an all-out argument over graphics.
"Will, did you know that the first three letters of Duiker are D-U-I?" Danny said over his shoulder.
"Yes indeed," Will tossed back. "If you use this one, you're looking at nothing but the audience. Where's the guy?"
"He's right here, and there's no alternative. It's five minutes to air."
"Four," Natalie corrected.
"We can use this one," Chris said.
"This one's nothing but his ass."
Dana glanced over their shoulders. "Use it," she said, "I'm sure he'll thank us. Who spilled coffee on my chair?"
"Blood on the moon," Jeremy reminded her.
"D-U-I," Danny chuckled from the desk.
"Please stop saying that," Dana pleaded.
"Dana? Is this your bagel?" Kim lifted a sheet of paper and handed the damaged snack to Dana.
"Thank you. Jeremy?"
"Got it. It's going to look fine. Casey?"
"In the twenties. Danny, what about Duiker? Where do you want him?"
"Well, off the roads," Dan snickered.
"Up front. Our top story sucks."
"Our top story does not suck and we are not putting DUI guy up front," Dana told them. "Move up the Bulls and put Duiker somewhere in the 30s. Natalie?"
"I'm on it." She turned to Jeremy. "Sweetie?"
"*I'm* on it. Kim, what do you know about horses?"
"Not a hell of a lot, why?"
"This woman, this McMillion person, rode Silver Screen to victory in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. I want to know why this matters to anyone."
"It matters to Silver Whatever's owners."
"Does that make it newsworthy?"
"Jeremy," Dana intervened. "I thought you were finished with that."
"Then why are you still --"
"That's nice. But we don't have *time* for pure curiosity, Jeremy, given the fact that we've got three minutes to air."
"Three!" Dan said from the desk.
"Now that we've proven that we're not smarter than your average omen of bad luck, can we please rise *above* the moon's influence and stop bickering long enough to get the show on the air?" Dana pleaded.
"Nevermind, just get to work. Dave?"
"Two-twenty to VTR."
"Look at the network feed!" Natalie said.
"What about it?"
"The clock in the background. It agrees with me."
"The clock in the background agrees with you."
"I've got 10:57 and 50."
"I've got 10:57 and 45," Dan announced.
"I'm just going to weep. Casey, what are you doing?"
"Trying to accept the fact that we're about to make raging fools of ourselves."
"Not to mention we're going to make a raging fool out of the drunken DUI guy," Danny reminded him.
"He deserves it."
"Yeah, we're so much better than him," Dana muttered. "Jeremy."
"You said my name."
"*You* said *my* name."
"But then *you* said *my* name."
Dana blinked. "Let's start again. Jeremy."
"I need 30 seconds of tape."
"Thirty seconds of tape."
"...Just 30 seconds of random tape."
"Yes. Isaac, what are you doing?"
"I'm trying to summon up the spirit of humility and survive the disaster that will be the next two minutes."
"D-U-I," Danny chuckled. "If that were my name, I'd take my wife's name upon marriage."
"Jeremy, what's this horse's name?" Casey asked.
"And what's so important about him?"
"I don't know."
"Then how ought I to tease it?"
"I don't know."
"Danny, just to keep from screwing this up, as we are prone to do on last-minute efforts, you're going to speak first, then me, and we are at no point going to speak in unison."
"Sixty seconds live," Dave called.
"We ought to be live right now," Natalie muttered.
"Your bagel is under my chair."
"How in the hell .. ?"
"D-U-I. Desperately UnIntelligent." Dan laughed some more.
"Silver Spurs?" Casey called.
"Screen!" the control room shouted back.
"I hate it when there's blood on the moon."
"Dana, what are you talking about?" Natalie asked.
"It's an omen, Natalie."
"It's an atmospheric condition, Dana," Jeremy announced.
"It's an omen!"
"I assure you that it's not."
"Guys, do you know what you're doing?"
"Rare if ever do we," Casey answered.
"Jeremy, what time is it right this instant according to your watch?"
"It's about 12 seconds till eleven."
"About? I didn't ask for an about, Jeremy. This is serious."
"Ten seconds live," Dave complied.
"The guy's name is DUI and he has the presence of mind to live up to it," Dan told Casey gleefully.
"He did not live up to it."
"He did. They found him drunk."
"Was he driving?"
"Then he didn't live up to his name."
"But he was drunk."
"We're starting the show 60 seconds late," Natalie announced. "Just thought you'd like to know."
"In 3 -- 2 -- "
"Good Evening, from New York City, I'm Dan Rydell alongside Casey McCall. Those stories plus, the Bulls aim for glory, a group of Thoroughbreds aims for freedom, and Jackson Duiker aims for sobriety and misses."
"We've got two retirees, four punch-drunk golfers, and 16 random acts of unpredictability. All that coming up after this, you're watching Sports Night on CSC, so stick around."
11 January 2000