Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: SCUTTLEBUTT (rumor or gossip) (10/03/19)
- TITLE: Morning Mill
By Arlene Baker
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Humanity. Mr. Nastyâ€™s world. He sank into his plush fit-for-a-superior-court-judge-sized rolling chair and leaned back; hands laced at the back of his neck. A huge grin split his swarthy face. He reached for his intercom.
â€œSarah, call Ms. Gossip in here.â€
A slim blonde skipped in a few minutes later.
Mr. Nasty waved to the chair opposite his desk. She sat and crossed one well-shod foot over the other.
â€œWhat do you have?â€
â€œGreat scoop on Mrs. Faithful.â€ Her deeply stained red lips curled up. "Unsubstantiated, of course.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s your angle?â€
She laughed. â€œRun the story and simply suggest she dined with a married man down at La Chez and let the readers run with it. We can always retract â€¦â€ A pregnant pause. â€œAfter the damageâ€™s done.â€
â€œKnow who the mystery man is?â€
â€œAbsolutely. I do my homework.â€
â€œHer obscure brother.â€ Another laugh. â€œNobodyâ€™s going to know or bother to check.â€
â€œGood. Have the final on my desk today.â€
â€œNo problem.â€ Ms. Gossip stood, smoothed her linen skirt and left.
â€œSarah, get me Ms. Queasy.â€
â€œSit.â€ He pointed to the recently vacated seat.
Her eyes darted about as she perched on its edge.
â€œCanâ€™t use this copy,â€ he growled. â€œItâ€™s sloppy, unprofessional and apologetic. Whereâ€™d you get your training?â€
She named a conservative institution.
â€œCanâ€™t believe they graduated you on this drivel.â€
Ms. Queasy shrank back.
â€œI checked the information I was given.â€ She closed her eyes for a moment. â€œMostly untrue.â€
â€œYour point would be?â€
â€œIâ€™m a journalist. I was taught to write facts. Truth.â€
Mr. Nasty snorted. â€œWhat is truth?â€
â€œIâ€™m not an idiot, Ms. Queasy,â€ Mr. Nasty cut in. â€œI didnâ€™t get to Editor-in-Chief on stupidity.â€
Horror widened her eyes. â€œOh, no, sir.â€
â€œI want this story run and run right.â€
â€œHow can I â€¦?â€
â€œMs. Queasy.â€ His tone turned ominous.
â€œYou have family? Children?â€
â€œNo, sir. However, I keep my elderly parents. Theyâ€™re â€¦â€
â€œNone of my concern.â€ He leaned forward. â€œUnderstand this. You fail on this piece and youâ€™ll be looking for another job â€” far, far from the city, because â€¦â€ He paused and steepled his fingers. â€œIâ€™ll see to it that no printed publication will hire you within 500 miles. Understood?â€
â€œBut, sir, the subject of the article has done nothing wrong.â€ Tears pricked her eyes. â€œNothing.â€
Mr. Nasty howled.
Ms. Queasy shivered.
Again, he leaned forward. â€œThis is all you need to understand, Ms. Queasy. Heâ€™s our political foe. Bury him.â€
Mr. Nasty picked up the next article.
â€œSarah, get Snoops in here.â€
The wizened figure materialized in a breath, glided in and sat.
â€œThis angle on Mr. Integrity. Not malicious enough.â€ He tossed the copy across the desk. â€œFix it.â€
â€œHeâ€™s a tough one, sir.â€
Mr. Nasty scowled.
â€œThatâ€™s why I hired you. Was told youâ€™re the best; that you never stop digging until you find something. Get on it.â€
â€œI did stumble across one tiny possible tidbit.â€
â€œWell, sir, itâ€™s not yet verified but â€¦â€
â€œScuttle the but. Run it.â€
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