Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood


As it happens

Round here, we don’t just break the news, we make it. Actually, make that: round here, we don’t just break the news.

I made the front page again over the weekend, but you won’t have read about it. This paper was printed locally, and only ran to five copies. It was a one-off edition – the first, and possibly only -- of The Family News, rushed into print by the eight-year-old after a hilarious accident in the back yard involving a downhill slope, an old wooden wagon with a faulty axle, and his younger brother.

History will know it as The Breaking Trolley Incedent [sic].

The funniest bit wasn’t the thump as the rear axle parted company from the trolley and the younger brother introduced himself to the ground. Nor was it the look of mixed horror and delight on the face of the older brother as he realized he’d pulled off in real life the sort of gravity-confirming spectacle previously seen only in Tom and Jerry cartoons.

It wasn’t even the tabloid style “interview” I was subsequently subjected to by the trolley-puller turned reporter (“So, when you said you heard a thump, would you say it was more of a huge splintering crashing thump? Because that would be way more interesting for my readers...”).

I gave young William de Worde the beady eye and the lecture on journalistic ethics, but he was unmoved. “Look, honestly, which would you rather read? A boring old thump, or a huge splintering crashing thump?” Fair point, although I would never feed quotes to a witness, myself. (I would, however, do whatever it took to smuggle the phrase “axle rose” into the headline.)

No, the funniest bit was shortly after that, when the younger brother -- unharmed in the huge splintering crash, by the way, not even a scratch, there I go burying the lede again -- came rushing into the kitchen, utterly panic-stricken, and attached himself to my knee like a bulldog clip.

“Brubba says he’s going to put me in the newspaper!” he gasped, his mouth fairly rectangular with anxiety. “That’s not OK, right?”

The extent of his existential terror seemed out of proportion. But when I calmed him down a bit, he explained, shuddering, that he thought he was going to wrapped up in newspaper and put in the bin to be picked up by the rubbish truck.

The horror!

(He’s onto something, though, isn’t he? Budgie cage, fish and chip paper, compost bin, god’s recycling truck. We’re all newspaper in the end, whether we ever made it to the front page or not. Shh, don’t tell the children!)

After we reassured him that there is a world of difference between being in newspaper and in THE newspaper -- although some might disagree -- he was happy to cooperate with the interview in exchange for the promise of seeing his smiling face in print. Soon enough, there was his mugshot, glued to the page alongside in-depth debriefings of all participants and witnesses. Also, some shock-horror-flashbulb photos a la Weegee of the debris, a full-page set of four diagrams explicating the mechanical failure and its unfortunate consequences -- and, for light relief, a comics page at the back.

The entire print edition was completed in the hours between the accident and bedtime and sold out in minutes, with copies already winging their way to grandparents. But in the spirit of journalism in the age of the internet, I have repackaged the story for your consumption and put my own name on it. It might not have the charm or immediacy of the original, but you read it here first.

Good grief, it's December. As you may recall, a dog ate some homework and then proceeded to consume a great chunk of November. I seem to remember promising a round-up and a book-club; I’ll be back in the next couple of days with something that's a bit of both.

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