“Bounding Burger Blocks Building – Press Peeved. Crap, that’s not the headline I had planned on…”
Wendy folded up the newspaper and stared out the train’s window, watching America fly by at 70 miles an hour. How had her situation changed so quickly and in such a wrong direction? Yesterday she was an idealistic, determined young woman, out to educate the world about the dangers of greenhouse gases. Today, she was Wendy Wilson, fugitive on the lam. Even though Wendy was new to the world of social activism, she thought she had it all planned out. How wrong she was; how lucky no one was seriously hurt.
The town of Beaver Falls was the perfect choice to start her campaign to reduce greenhouse gas production. It was a small town, populated mostly by now-retired flower children of the sixties and tail-end baby boomers who had grown up during the seventies. Wendy assumed that these people had been on the planet long enough, seen enough poor decision making in Washington, and were of enough means to at least listen to her words of warning.
“Yes. Cheeseburgers are killing the Earth…”
That opening statement caught Bob Hedley’s attention. As the local “Lifestyle and Culture” reporter for the Beaver Falls Weekly, Bob was always on the lookout for something, anything really, that was happening in the sleepy little town. He thought he had hit the jackpot when a perpetually happy Stanford grad, engineering degree in back pocket, walked in his office, offering advice on how Beaver Falls could lead the nation on greenhouse gas reform.
“But I like cheeseburgers.”
“Doesn’t matter, Bob. The cows that create your cheeseburger produce 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas. That, my friend, is a lot of ozone-killing flatulence. We need to stop this trend and you, along with the enlightened people of Beaver Falls, have a chance to take a stand.” Wendy was so excited. Bob thought she may have been on something. Could there be such a thing as too much caffeine?
“Wendy, please. Please call me Wendy.”
“Right. Okay, Wendy. Look, Beaver Falls is not exactly a hotbed of anarchy. The only real excitement we have here is the occasional moose that gets into the liquor room in back of Sharky’s. You haven’t lived until you try to deal with an intoxicated…”
“You have a new fast food restaurant just up the hill, opens tomorrow. You can see it from your window. And you have to admit, that giant burger perched on top of the building looks absolutely tacky. In my opinion, at least.”
Bob looked out the window, wondering if he had somehow entered into The Twilight Zone.
“Bob, I can see you are flummoxed by my ideas. Let me explain. The burger bar there will have its’ grand opening tomorrow. I am sure that you, as the fine reporter I know you are, will be there to cover this big event. Am I right?”
“Hold on, let me finish. What if, amidst the hoopla of someone dancing around as a bottle of ketchup, there were peaceful protesters holding up picket signs? Would you be willing to take a picture of them and send it to the wire?”
“Well, it seems clear to me that you don’t understand what it is that reporters do…and don’t do. Yes, you are correct in that I plan on being at the opening of that fast food restaurant tomorrow. Where you go wrong is asking me to further your ideals.”
“So you are saying that you don’t mind the ozone hole growing larger and larger?”
“What I believe is not the issue. As a reporter, I am going to report the facts as they happen. The readers get to make their own call on the issues. I tell you what, if there are protesters there, I am sure they will get at least a mention in the paper. Photo? Probably…maybe. I’ll just have to make a judgment call at the time. Now it looks like our meeting is over, unless you have something else to say?”
Looking like the last kitten left in the free kitten box, Wendy stumbled her way through a thank you and left the office. She could not believe the only reporter in town could not see the importance of saving the environment. As she left the newspaper’s old cinderblock building, she stared up the hill, focusing on the burger shack and its’ 40 foot wide burger statue sitting astride the rooftop.
Then the ol’ light bulb clicked on above her head.
Once the sun had set, Wendy put her ideals into actions. A few quick turns of a wrench and she had removed the bolts holding the plaster patty perched atop the roof’s peak. Installing a small electronic actuator, she set the timer to dislodge the burger at precisely 5 minutes into the ceremony. Glancing down the roofline, Wendy made mental note of where the burger would fall. She certainly did not want anyone hurt, so she planned on being the only protester in the line of fire. With luck, she would jump out of the way, but not too far as to not make it into at least one picture. “All it takes is one…” she thought.
The next morning, the ceremony was only minutes away from starting. Wendy was worried. No reporter. The crowd had assembled, mostly young kids and the mothers they dragged out on a Saturday morning. The mayor, who also owned the new burger barn, was pacing. No one wanted to start the ceremony without Bob. “This is the biggest news to hit Beaver Falls in years,” the mayor would say. “I’ll be damned if we don’t get front page coverage. Has anyone seen Bob?”
A few people looked around, then someone offered that they had seen Bob picking up donuts earlier that morning. As if on cue, the crowd turned away from the restaurant, peering down the hill at the gray newspaper building. Wendy didn’t want to look down the hill; she was staring at her watch. Time was almost out. She would have to start protesting on her own, just to clear the area.
“There he is!” Fingers started pointing. There was Bob, chocolate glazed donut in one hand, camera in the other. As he started up the hill, Wendy glanced up at the burger, just as she heard the faint click of the mechanical piston.
As planned, the two ton burger dislodged from its’ frame, allowing gravity to do the rest of the work. There was now 4,000 pounds of plaster meat, cheese and bun, careening down the roof.
“Run!” Wendy yelled, dropping her placard. She picked up two small kids as she lurched away from certain death. Having safely cleared the crowd, the burger was rolling down the center of Main Street, right for Bob. He had the wherewithal to snap a photo, then took three steps to the side, just as the statue rolled on by. He took another photo once the burger stopped. Several wire services would grab those shots, with viewers showing preference of the second shot showing the burger resting against the front door of the Beaver Falls Weekly.
Wendy knew it would only be a matter of time before police would find the actuator. And her conversation with Bob? It would come back to haunt her. She would easily be the number one suspect. The only thing to do was leave.
Wendy bought a ticket, paying in cash, for the next morning’s train to Canada. She would get off the train before it crossed the border and hitch to Michigan. She knew a college friend from the U.P. that would put her up. Wendy was certain she could live for years up there, away from prying eyes. At least the newspaper focused on the bounding burger and not the lone protester.
The train stopped just before the border. Wendy assumed that her name would be on every watch list on the planet so the last thing she wanted to do was deal with border agents. Finally off the train, Wendy strolled across the parking lot, looking for a trucker willing to take her across the Continental Divide.
By the time Wendy settled into the log cabin in the Upper Peninsula, she would never see the second edition of the Beaver Falls Weekly. The headline read: “Where is our hero?” Wendy’s picture, the one showing her saving the lives of two kids, would be the third photo picked up by the wire service…
©D.J. Lutz, March 2011