You peer over the side of the cruise ship as it continues to fly high above the earth. We've been flying for the entire night. You slept soundly in your private cabin and met some interesting people. You've even made friends with a family that lives in the same town as you. The best part of the cruise so far was watching the rise and fall of the sun. "Hold on tight, everyone," Tasha yells as your cruise ship appears out of cloud. You take a stepped back. The cruise ship slowly descends towards the earth. It jerks against the turbulence. A shimmery field of energy surrounds the ship as flames engulf it. Huh, who knew? The ship has a force field to protect you and artificial gravity to ensure you do not fly off while the ship descends to the earth. You wonder what else this ship may have equipped on it that they haven't told you about yet.
You take a step towards the railing and peer over. The earth beneath you reminds you of the dollhouse you once had with Matchbox cars and ant size people. The farther the ship descends the figurine figures become more life sized. You peer at a sign as the ship pulls into a dry dock. You see a woman and a man run out of the way.
Harley and I had almost escaped before the Big Cruise Ship pulled to a dry dock at the side of the low slung, red brick newspaper building on 12th Street. The ship blocked the exit of the parking lot where both my Buick and Harley’s rusty Jeep was parked.
Hell. Now we were trapped. Our getaway cars were incapacitated.
I had hoped to get out of here before the cruisers arrived. Being sociable before having a sufficient amount of caffeine is hard for me. Sometimes I say things that could be misconstrued as being rude. It’s become even harder for me since I “celebrated” my 50th birthday just a few days ago.
I’m Mattie Mason, the garden reporter for the Daily Times. Harley is the skinny, dreadlock wearing, white boy who happens to be the best photographer at the paper…or anywhere else for at least a hundred miles around here.
And we have something very important to do this morning.
Harley and I were just on our way out the front door to go interview and photograph Miss Willa Mae Johnson about her outstanding collard crop. We suspected that Miss Willa Mae might also treat us to some coffee and warm biscuits and homemade plum jelly if we arrived early enough.
Now our mission was thwarted by this big ol’ ship.
Harley was as disappointed to see the arrival as I was. He had taken a few hits off a joint on his way to work and now he was hungry. Well, if he hadn’t been goofing off with Jasmine, the obituary writer, we could have made it out of here sooner, before the ship arrived. I’ll blame him if he complains.
Frankly, I had forgotten about the cruise until Ken reminded us about it at the editorial staff meeting this morning. A few weeks ago, he had told everyone…including me, about a whole group of writers who would set sail from the Davis Mountains, here in Texas, and they would be making their first stop right here in Kenley Falls, Texas.
Being the managing editor, Ken expected the rest of us to pay attention when he made announcements like this. And we did, until we were distracted by other breaking news.
With this morning’s reminder, Ken told all of us…again…to look sharp and by all means, to look busy, when the travelers landed. He said they just wanted to have a quick look at the newspaper as they passed through town, moving on to more exotic places than our mid-sized city with the small town attitude.
Ken said there wouldn’t be much to keep them here. We don’t have much to offer except rodeos, dust, heat, some white collar crime and the occasional murder.
It’s hard to be the garden reporter in a town like this, where three out of four summers have record breaking heat and no rain and the fourth summer has record breaking floods. But I try.
If I can’t find a good story, then sometimes I just improvise. Harley and I have even had to drive 15 miles and across the river to the north…all the way into Oklahoma… just to get a decent photograph of wildflowers. Yes, bluebonnets do grow in Oklahoma, but don’t tell anyone…that knowledge would break the heart of any true Texan.
A warm, dusty breeze pushed the travelers through the front door of the newspaper as they walked the plank and fell into our little world.
Through the floor-to-ceiling, plate glass windows that front the newspaper, I could see Harley out on the street with his camera equipment around his neck. He had hailed a city cab and was talking to the driver, waving his arms dramatically back toward the building…toward me.
Thanks to Harley’s ingenuity, we would make it to our breaking news story, just in time….we certainly were not ones to ever miss a hot biscuit…er, hot story…no matter what inconvenience we might have to conquer.
And our guests could hang around the newsroom and meet the other reporters at their leisure…re-boarding the ship when ready.
“Welcome to The Daily Times and Kenley Falls, Texas! It’s the mid-sized city with the small town attitude!” I said.
I led the visitors through the lobby and into the newsroom. Everybody was busy looking busy, just as Ken had instructed us.
“I’m going to leave you here with my colleagues, while I go in search of some important, breaking news,” I said. “Just make yourselves at home….”
Bon Voyage! Have a great cruise!
Today's episode of the Crusin' With Allison Tour was written by author Peggy Browing. Peggy's blog may be found at http://fiftyodd.com. Please feel free to leave Peggy a comment on this page.