Author : Kathy Kachelries, Staff Writer

There are two things I hate about a job like this: Carrie, and the viewer-at-home.

That’s not true.  There are dozens of things I hate: network executives, directors, producers, footage editors with their nasally little ‘we could have used a little better resolution here. ”  I hate pretty much everyone involved in a documentary, but it’s the viewer-at-home who matters.  Once that viewer decides they don’t like Carrie, don’t like fish, or don’t like learning, all of us are out of a job.

“There’s the entrance!” Carrie squeals.  If nothing else, she has enthusiasm.

It’s a low-budget gig.  Unlike Carrie up ahead, who was lucky enough to be female, skinny, blond, and (of lesser importance) a marine biologist, Tommy-crap-for-lighting and Joe-the-assistant-camera-guy (that’s me) actually have to lug junk into these tunnels.  The sound guy and lead cameraman are resting cozy on the boat, practically retired.

“Over here,” she calls, swimming smoothly over a long-still turnstile and into the submerged station lobby.  I bring the cameras around an ancient ticket machine but find nothing more than a ragged hole, smaller than a kid’s fist.  “There are thousands of these,” Carrie continues, looking at my headcam.  Who the hell wears makeup underwater?  “Even though their slowed metabolism gives them twenty or thirty minutes underwater, the skeletal structure hasn’t changed much.  If it weren’t for these nests, they’d make easy dinner for anything down here.  A single Long Island Crocodile could take out a whole school in seconds.

Great.  Crocodiles.  I really ought to read a pamphlet or two about this junk before strapping on the cam and jumping overboard.

My comm beeps and the cameraman patches in, private to me and Tommy.  “Can we get a shot of these rats?”

“Carrie, they want rats,” I say, switching frequencies.

“Be patient.”  Her primary concerns always involve creatures lacking higher brain function.

“She says be patient.”

“We’re working overtime here,” he says.  I hear the hiss of a bottle opening.

On the main channel, Carrie’s still rambling science.  “Marine biologists continue their search for the secrets of the tunnel rat,” she says.  “Despite intensive study, their rapid evolution remains a mystery, and we can only hope that in decades to come-”

“Joe, can you get a better shot of that hole?” Tommy comms.

Carrie, caught up in describing the rats’ miraculously pathetic life, doesn’t notice as I clickswitch my handcam to fisheye without turning my helmet camera from her face.

And then, Tommy delivers a kick to the ticket machine with so much force that I have no idea how he pulled it off with flippers.

They crawl and swim, dozens, maybe hundreds, not just from the hole but from the ticket slot as well, from unseen gaps behind and beneath the machine.  An emptying hive of nearly hairless grey and pink rodents, tails swishing and feet scrabbling for purchase as a stream of bubbles trail upward from a corner.

“That’s what we need!” open-comms the cameraman.  “We can edit out that kick, right?”

Only the glow of Tommy’s sidelight lets me see Carrie shake her head.  “You can’t just empty a whole colony like that!” she says, voice weak.  “Do you have any idea how territorial–”

“Look, Carr, we’re making a documentary here,” comes a new voice, the assistant director.  Asshole must have been monitoring everything.

“They’ll only invade another colony, and–”

“Let the marine biologists worry about that junk, okay?  All of you, back to the boat, and–”

“I am a marine biologist.”

“Back to the boat.  Now.”

It’s a month until filming starts on Carrie’s next Learning Channel adventure, and hopefully, it’ll be somewhere warm.

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