Falling For a Story

He heard of an organization one evening while at a Washoe County Parks and Recreation meeting called the Nevada Rock Art Foundation. The group had formed with the idea of establishing a refuge designed to save a grouping of petroglyphs along Interstate 80 just east of Sparks.

Tommy was so intrigued by the idea that he contacted one of the founders and asked if he and Debra Reid, the newspapers photographer could be taken on a tour of the area. He wanted to do an article on the place, providing he didn’t disclose the location of the petroglyphs.

Debra Reid was a wiry, thin woman in her 50’s. She had been with the paper for nearly 15-years and had a progressive, if not liberal point of view about the world including anything military or political. Saving “Mother Earth” was her thing along with covering protests.

Doctor Bob Fowler agreed to meet the pair.

By the time Tommy arrived both the doctor and Debra were already there. He could see their vehicles from the Interstate. As he pulled up to park he saw that they had not waited for him, they had gone to the site without him.

After he parked, Tommy walked over to the edge of the roadway and looked down towards the Truckee River. In the distance, to his right he could see Dr. Fowler and Debra, so he decided to head down to join them.

He took to or three steps down the hillside and found a loose stone under his foot. Without warning, he started tumbling headlong down the hill, landing on his left side.

For a few seconds he couldn’t catch his breathe. He just laid there gasping over and over. Then he rolled himself onto his back. That’s when he felt the sudden, sharp pain in his left shoulder, as he gulping a large volume of air into his lungs.

Tommy knew that his shoulder was separated. This had happened several times before. “All I have to do is take my time, relax and it should reduce itself,” he said aloud.

Reduce was the technical term the emergency room used to describe what happened when the arms long bone popped back into the socket.

“It hurts like the dickens,” he told his son Kyle, “But afterwards it feels so much better.”

Slowly he sat up and looked around. Things looks so much different from ground level than from up where he had been. “Usually when I come down a hill I get to see where I’m going,” he chuckled.

Tommy rotated his legs underneath himself until he was on his knees, then he stood up. His shoulder was giving him a lot of pain and he reached up to discover it was drooping lower than he had ever noticed before.

He quickly pulled off his thick gloves and neatly rolled them up. Then he reached inside his light parka and underneath his sweatshirt and stuffed the pair of gloves into his armpit. The gloves offered a small amount of support for the dislocation and helped relieve some of the pain.

Once he finished that, Tommy trekked off to find Dr. Fowler and Debra. The interview with the doctor lasted less than an hour and the threesome hiked out of the river canyon along an easy to negotiate trail.

Back at in the newsroom, Tommy was told that the story would be held over until the weekend edition. “I’m thinking Sunday, for a greater impact on our readers,” said the papers editor Angela Mann.

Tommy felt relieved because he wanted to get off work and go to the Reno Veterans Medical Center and the emergency room look at his shoulder. He could feel it starting to stiffen up and he knew that could not be a good sign.

It was Jessica who noticed that something about Tommy was off.

“Are you okay?” Jessica asked. “You’re as white as a sheet.”

Tommy was feeling a little light headed at the moment. The feeling had been coming and going for sometime. “I fell while at the petroglyph site,” he answered.

“Did you fill out an accident report form?” she asked. It was stupid question to have asked and Jessica knew it the moment she asked it.

“No,” was Tommy’s answer.

“You should go to the clinic,” Jessica said. She picked up the phone and buzzed Nancy the papers business manager.

Nancy came into the newsroom, “You have to go to the clinic, Tommy.”

“I don’t want to go,” Tommy replied, “I’d rather go to the VA Hospital.”

“Nope,” Nancy said, “It’s the clinic.”

“I’m not going and you can’t force me,” Tommy said. Then he added, “I’m not going to wait an hour to take a piss-test just to get my dislocated shoulder relocated!”

Nancy responded, “The law says…”

“The law says that I have to take a piss-test if I report an on-the-job injury,” said Tommy. “Do you have anything in writing?”

“Well, no?” Nancy answered.

“Then there’s been no on-the-job injury,” he replied. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Tommy smiled and walked out the front door swinging both arms as if they were normal. He fished the keys to his truck from his pocket and climbed in, fired it up and pulled out of the parking lot.

He made certain he had turned off 10th Street and onto Pyramid Way before his manly façade crumbled into what he thought looked like a jagged ball of used paper. Tommy could feel the sweat starting to roll down his back and he gulped for a breath.

It took two hours and 29 pounds of weight for the emergency room doctor to reduce Tommy’s shoulder.

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Breaking the Mold

Tommy was willing to do what the paper had not been doing for a very long time ant that was going out and investigating stories. The first time he did his own investigation and was able interview a person linked to criminal activities Janine was so appalled that she yelled at him to sit down.

“I don’t care if you when out there and got the story,” she said, “You’re dressed unprofessionally and you put yourself in danger and that won’t happen again! Now sit down!”

Tommy looked at her and wondered over to his desk and seated himself behind it for a few minutes. Then he got up and walked out the back door and got in his truck and drove home.

“Who in the hell does she think she is?” Tommy asked himself as he headed north on Pyramid Highway. He thought about the three different bars he had visited that morning to find the person he needed to talk too.

Calvin wasn’t an easy guy to track down even though he was known to frequent the local biker bars, strip clubs and skin head bars along Fourth Street in Reno. Tommy just had to find out which one he was in and that would take some legwork.

Tommy had done some rough work like man-hunting fugitives when he was younger, however he wasn’t looking for a fugitive and he wasn’t young anymore. He was looking for a man who was at one point the second in charge of the Aryan Nation in the Northern Nevada area. The known leader of the group had just been arrested for soliciting male prostitution and Tommy wanted to talk to a former member.

“His idea is to rekindle the holocaust,” Calvin said as the two men sat and drank beer on Tommy’s front porch.

Tommy looked at him and asked, “I don’t get it, how?”

“The man is infected with HIV and he thinks that if he gives it to enough homosexuals it’ll start the holocaust,” said Calvin. “Sick, ain’t it?”

“You said it,” Tommy answered. He took another sip of his beer.

He had his story. Walking into three biker bars, a number of strip joints and several skin-head bars where he could have been stomped half to death had been worth it. Calvin and his family were going to take a two-week vacation in Southern California as soon as Tommy dropped him back behind the Lady Luck Bar.

Getting banged up on the job was another thing that the newspaper was not accustomed to having happen to their reporters. It was Janine who admitted in a off-hand remark, “Most of the time nobody does anything too exciting or adventurous.”

Tommy broke the mold of reporters sitting behind their desks.