Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Editor (05/27/10)
TITLE: Desert Blooms
By Tom Rinkes
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“I don't...know, Mr. Van Horne,” the young man answered. His head hung a little, eye contact was not an option with goose bumps circleing his neck despite the August day. “The front page...maybe a...Pulitzer...if you think my story has...merit.”
Samuel Van Horne had been at The Daily Times for thirty-five years, the last quarter century its editor. He'd handled young punks like this before; straight out of journalism school, cocky, with that whip-the-world kind of confidence. There was a method in his prolonged silence, and he could make a rookie sweat, even in a Siberian January. Finally, Sam looked up with his judgmental brown eyes.
“I ain't talking about this hatchet-job you sent me, I'm talking about your career!”
Sam leaned back in his chair, lit his forty-second Marlboro of the day and eye-balled the boy. The next answer would mean David's success as a newsman or someone who would say “Do you want fries with that?” for the foreseeable future. Yet, David knew his expose had the prospective for something big, something that would jump start his youthful passion for truth and justice.
“With all due respect, sir, what I uncovered has the possibility to shake this town up—you can see that.”
“All I can see right now for sure is that you're using the Urban Dictionary way too much. Since when is f-a-t spelled p-h-a-t?”
David droped his defensive demeanor as he realized he hadn't relied on his spell checker nearly enough.
“From now on, young man, Google a man named Webster—he was a genius. I assume you've read his book? And re-interview your two sources while you're at it.”
If screwing up paid a hundred dollars a pop, David knew he had a year's salary in the bank.
“Well...truthfully Mr. Van Horne...I...only have one.”
The last deep exhale seemed to flow from Sam's nostrils at a rate that would make a fire breathing dragon envious. Sam lifted his left hand up and cupped his ear.
“You said what? I don't think I heard you correctly—try that one again?”
David needed a hand towel in a hurry, and he was glad he'd used his Right Guard that morning. His hands almost dripped with sweat as he searched for the right answer, but there was none.
“Well, my source is reputable—I swear.”
“One reputable source is eighty per cent liar. Now go get me two or get thee gone—comprenda?”
“Yes, sir, I'll have one by tomorrow,” David's crackling voice said as he tried to rise from his chair. Who put super glue on this seat, he thought?
Sam smashed out his cigarette in an ash tray that looked like the top of Mt. Everest and called for his secretary.
“Jane,” he barked. “Ask Gladys to come here, would you please.”
Gladys Johnson was the Society Column writer, and a pro at that. She knew everyone and everybody in the county, and the criminality thereof. Sam's approach was gentlemanly, but abrupt.
“I understand that you and Frank Frigotta are...an item nowadays—am I correct?”
“Well Samuel, I wouldn't say we were an 'item' as you so crudely put it, but we are dating.”
“I meant no offense, Gladys, but you two do go out occasionally?”
“Yes,” she answered stiffly. “But, anymore than that is my business—am I correct?”
“Wholeheartedly. Nonetheless, he is the county auditor, and he may know more about the Ayer's land purchase than most people, wouldn't you agree?”
“It's possible. Why do you ask?”
Sam lit another one and chose to carefully word his next statement.”You see, old friend, the young man that just left here has something going for him. There are things he's uncovered—impeachable things—that need... nurtured, so to speak. He does need the guidance of an experienced hand at these kinds of sordid affairs. The boy has potential, and I'd appreciate it if you would consent to help him a little, or maybe steer him in the right direction. Consider it a personal favor to me, and I will remember it, you know that.”
If B.S. was really fertilizer, then Gladys thought her friend would be better served in the Sahara, where he could make flowers bloom.
“I'll see what I can do.”
Sam left it at that, and reached for his bottle of calm-me-down.
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