Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: SCUTTLEBUTT (rumor or gossip) (10/03/19)
- TITLE: Reminder That Rumors Can Ruin
By Mariane Holbrook
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I was always a prankster but then so were all of my six siblings. Since I was next to the youngest, I learned early on how to spread rumors and gossip and pull pranks (sometimes all in one fell swoop). They taught me well through their example. For the most part, they were silly rumors like spreading the news that Miss Falsey, our principal, was a nun married to our school janitor, Henry Blum, who had fathered their two grown children. That scuttlebutt had a shelf-life of about two days. It was that ridiculous.
Gossip was usually written on the walls of our schools' bathroom stalls which made trips to the bathrooms a "must" for students several times a day. Checking the walls was the best way to guard your reputation.
After graduating from high school, I worked as the secretary to the publisher of our local newspaper to save money for college. My job also included operating the switchboard where I plugged cords in every empty hole except the correct one. I was a certified switchboard's nightmare.
Upstairs in the newspaper building, my best friend, Janice Stombaugh, worked in the proof-reading department. We'd been friends since sixth grade so I knew her well. We regularly had lunch together in a nearby diner to catch up on all the office gossip.
One memorable day my workload was light so I spent time filing my nails and untangling the switchboard. Finally, in my paralyzing boredom, I hit upon an idea that I was sure would make my friend, Janice, collapse to the floor with laughter. I would write a make-believe wedding announcement for Janice and Freddy Fisher, a student we designated as the poster boy for "America's Most Annoying Men's Magazine." Janice, like every other girl, refused to talk to him, let alone date him.
I hurriedly wrote the fake wedding announcement so it would reach the Society Editor in time for that day's edition. She knew Janice well and I was sure she would recognize it as a joke before sending it to Janice.
It was a traditional wedding announcement, using Janice's and Freddy's family as bridesmaids and groomsmen and describing her elegant wedding gown. I listed the classical pieces played by a well-known harpist, the reception held at the Country Club, and other pertinent information.
Dashing upstairs to the Society Editor, I asked her to process it immediately if possible, then hurried back down to my desk to wait for the reaction.
I didn't have to wait long.
Suddenly, the door to my boss's office flung open, and he motioned me to come inside. From the look on his face, I surmised that he wanted to dictate an angry letter to an associate and was in a hurry to mail it.
I was wrong.
"Sit down," he commanded sternly. "I just talked to Bernice at the Society desk and she told me you'd written a false wedding announcement about Janice. Bernice read it and wanted to congratulate Janice so she took it to Janice's office. The girls there told her Janice had called in sick this morning and was home. They hadn't heard about the wedding either, which they all felt was strange."
My boss paced the floor nervously, then glared at me. "Thankfully, Bernice phoned Janice at home, told her about the wedding announcement that you had written and sent to Bernice for approval. I'll let Bernice describe Janice's reaction later."
I put my head down and started to apologize but he interrupted me. "Now listen. If that announcement had been published, this newspaper could have been sued out of business and since I'm the owner, you can only imagine what that would have cost me personally. I should fire you on the spot but I've decided to put you on probation for a week, after which I'll make my decision."
I left his office, stunned into silence, but happy it was after 5 pm and everyone had gone home. Then it dawned on me. Like lightning, I flew upstairs to the Society Editor's desk, praying she hadn't discovered the fake snake I had hidden in her bottom desk drawer before she arrived that morning.
Nonfiction. (And I wasn't fired!)
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