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Fiction #433
(published May 7, 2009)
The Wreck of the Lizzie G.
by Michael Pelc
I'm just out of college and working graveyard at the Courier-Dispatch, which is as good a job as I can get seeing as how I got no experience yet, when this kid, this little piss ant kid who can't be more than nine or ten at the most, comes stumbling into the news room all dripping wet and disheveled from the storm that's raging outside. He's leaving puddles at his feet wherever he goes, what with the water pouring down off his yellow rain slicker the way it is, and all I'm thinking is that Mr. Grasso's gonna have my ass in a sling when he comes in in the morning on account of how, even if he ain't exactly the Charlie Pulitzer of newspaper editors, he does at least take pride in the appearance of the place. And so I'm making plans to get some towels and the like to mop things up, when the little portable lake of a kid holds up this Brownie camera he's toting with him and says, "I got pictures."

"Yeah? Pictures of what?" I ask, being all Joe College cool.

"The Lizzie G," he says. And then he adds, because he sees I ain't looking particularly impressed and/or interested, "getting smashed on the rocks."

"That a fact?"

"Yes sir, it is. And if'n you want pictures of the wreck of the most famous lobster boat in these here parts so's you can run 'em in your newspaper there, it'll cost you plenty."

"Famous, you say. How so?" A logical question for a reporter unfamiliar with local lore.

"Why, a painting of it was once on the cover of an L.L. Bean catalogue," says the kid. His chest is all puffed out with pride when he talks, like it was the news event of the century. He's still dripping on the floor, though.

"That right?" It's getting close to 3 a.m., and if I'm gonna go with a special morning edition of the Courier-Dispatch, I'm gonna need to get my hands on that film. "So, kid, how much you asking?"

"Two bucks and a byline."

"A byline? Kid, it ain't like this is the New York Times here, in case you hadn't noticed." I fish around in my pocket and come up with a quarter. "What would you say to two bits?"

The kid starts to shuffling his feet and scratching his head and counting on his fingers like he's thinking things over. Or maybe he's trying to figure out how many Baby Ruth candy bars he can buy for a quarter, but either way all the while he's standing there he's dripping on the floor. It's like the kid is made of water.

"Deal," he says at last and hands over the film.

So I give him the quarter like we agreed upon, and he takes it and turns around and heads out the door. I'm surprised he doesn't stop at the news room vending machines on the way out. No matter, though. I've got the pictures and a special edition deadline to meet and a floor to mop, so I don't think about it much until the next morning when Mr. Grasso comes in to work.

"Cooper!" he yells. "Get in here!" His voice is gruff and gravelly. But Mr. Grasso always sounds like that, so I don't make anything of it.

"Yes sir?"

"Are you responsible for this?" he asks, holding up a copy of the special morning edition of the Courier-Dispatch with the pictures of the Lizzie G foundering on the rocks. The pictures are arranged in sequence to show the vessel's demise out at Palmer's Point, and the story that goes along with them is good, tight copy, if I must say so myself.

"Yes sir, I am," I tell him and puff out my chest with pride.

"You idiot."


"Look at this," he says and points to something in the water in one of the pictures. "And this, and this, and this." His short, stubby finger goes from picture to picture. "There's your story, Cooper. Not the wreck of some stupid lobster boat."

The pictures of course, being printed on newspaper stock, are grainy black-and-white, but it's easy to tell what the man is pointing at. Anyone would know what it is. All the kids wear them when it rains. It's one of those plastic yellow rain slickers.

Michael Pelc lives in Florida with his wife and a black cat. The cat is dismayed that Pelc's stories keep showing up around the Internet.

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