As the Fire Board Turns

A Treatment

Now let s flesh out this Marcia character a bit further and you ll see the ironic beauty of this sexual-harassment concept. A flashback is in order here. DISSOLVE TO: About a decade ago. Marcia is a 30-year-old assistant to County Commissioner Larry Hawkins, a wheelchair-bound Vietnam vet with an intense proclivity toward chasing the ladies. But some of the ladies, including Marcia, do not appreciate his proclivity. Nor do they much admire his bent for knocking a bullet to the floor and asking an attractive young secretary to retrieve it as he peers down her blouse.

I know, Robster, you re thinking this is a bit far-fetched but, hey, in Miami-Dade stuff like this really happens. Anyway, hear me out, Robbo. The flashback ends with a distraught Marcia filing her complaint and calling Hawkins s office a hellhole! Then the commissioner loses his re-election bid and complains in a concession speech that, I thought this election was going to be about the issues!

So, in sum, we have Ana accusing Marcia of sexual harassment. (Where do I get this stuff? I tell you sometimes the imagination is a many-splendored thing, as you well know, Robber-baron.) This plot twist is what you screenwriter-types call a reversal. The big, old brass pendulum has reached its zenith, its apex, its peak, its whatever-you-call-it, is on its way back down, and is heading straight for Marcia.


CUT TO: The present. Ana returns to her west Miami-Dade office to prepare for the fire board s usually deadly dull, semi-monthly meeting. At about 1:30 p.m. the five commissioners convene with their small staff. They discuss their ongoing power struggle and never-ending legal battle with the evil county commission, which refuses to grant the board more authority. ( At least give me a county car, for cryin out loud, one fire board commissioner could say.) Fire board lawyer NEIL FLAXMAN (try Jack Klugman) updates his clients on the latest lawsuits.

The session is living up to its tedious reputation until Marcia, the board s administrator, introduces a hot item not on the agenda. She announces that she will recommend Ana s termination at the next meeting. Ana, sitting nearby, is stunned. (As commissioners bleat, Wait a minute! Hold on! Hey! et cetera) Marcia declares that she has placed Ana on administrative leave. Ana s jaw drops. But you don t have the authority to do that! Ana protests. Accompanied by her mother, JUANA, who is sitting in the audience, Ana leaves the room distraught and angry. She calls the meeting a fiasco, then she and other staff members return to their offices. An uneasy tension fills the workplace for the rest of the afternoon. At about 5:00 Marcia leaves for the day. Ana and Juana are still in the office.

Maybe it s time for a commercial.

Now it's the next morning and Marcia arrives for another day of work at the fire board office. (More happy-go-lucky music.) She looks for audio cassettes of the previous day's board meeting. She cannot find them. Marcia also notices that several photographs of Eddy are missing. She calls the police. A Miami-Dade cop arrives at 8:24 a.m. and begins to make a report. Marcia suspects Ana took the tapes and photographs.

Meanwhile Ana is at her parents' humble west Miami-Dade home, where she has resided since her divorce a few months earlier. That afternoon, she and Juana, a portly woman who suffers from high blood pressure, leave the house and climb in Ana's white Jeep Cherokee, which has a Tweety Bird decal on the rear window. They intend to drop off some posters at the office of fire chief R. DAVID PAULISON, a tall, preppy, affable man whose annual salary is $148,000. (Probably about one-fifth of what don Roberto makes, right?) Ana also plans to pick up a videotape of the prior day's fire board meeting. She wants to collect evidence of her nemesis Marcia's malevolence.

Okay, Rob n' Bob, this is where our saga becomes -- what's the word? -- intense. It is about 4:15 p.m. when Ana and Juana pull into a lot at the Miami-Dade fire department headquarters at 6000 SW 87th Ave. Ana is carrying a bundle of rolled-up posters as she and her mom enter the building. (Now the sinister, foreboding music begins.) They march swiftly through the lobby and down a hall when suddenly they run into LLOYD HOUGH, a beefy, six-foot two-inch, 62-year-old former homicide detective. Lloyd has been a fire department internal affairs officer for twelve years and pulls in a laughable annual salary of $83,050. (I mean, that's what you guys spend in a few days in Martinique, right?) Lloyd walks a little stiffly sometimes because he hurt his back years ago while lifting a corpse from the trunk of a car during a murder investigation. In a junkyard, no less. But he's feeling spry today and stops Ana and her mom in their tracks.

Lloyd advises Ana that she is not allowed in the building. Then he orders her to exit immediately. Ana declines to depart; the headquarters was paid for by taxpayers and is therefore open to both suspended employees and the public, Ana insists. ("Hell-OOHHH!" you could have her say to him, you know, in the Clueless vernacular so popular these days.)

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