October 27, 2012

FICTION: A Short Story



PUNCH DRUNK
It was the punch that sealed the story's fate – how many times do you hear of a celebrity hitting a 15-year old Girl Guide?  That punch guaranteed a social media landslide. In this day and age? Puh-leez. Within 24 hours, it had been e-mailed, Facebooked, tweeted, Googled, hashtagged, pinned on Pinterest, videoed on YouTube, blogged, stolen by the Huffington Post, analyzed on reddit, linked to by content curators and memed by the culture crowd. As an afterthought, it had also been drafted as a print article for the local newspaper.

The folks of Falderall, a small town in America's mid-west, were suddenly under a mammoth microscope. The story about the punch travelled quickly and with exponential rage, blazing a path with boisterous bits and bytes. Within hours, over a million hits on the local paper's website effectively crashed the server. Advertisers complained, but what could anyone do? Technology ruled.

Poor old George, who had become dependent on the website's daily weather report, walked out on a fine day without an umbrella and got soaked by an impertinent weather system. Colette didn't have access to her daily horoscope and ended up saying "yes" to a job she didn't really want. In the local hair salon, all tongues were wagging about Bernie having an out-and-out verbal volley with the paper's editor, because she thought printing the story on the front page was sensationalist and misleading.

"It's just a black eye," she screamed, "It wouldn't be a news story if that celebrity tart hadn't fallen out of her tank top."  As it turned out, after swinging her right arm with all her regal might in an effort to tank her tormentor (who, as it turned out, was not the Girl Guide but a photo-opportunist standing next to her) the celebrity's left breast had popped out of her slinky top for a brief second. Most of the other photographers had turned their attention to the victim, who was screaming and shrieking, holding both hands over her left eye. But one lone lens-man had kept his eye on the star and got the busty glory shot. The girls at the salon were wondering which picture was getting the most "hits", no pun intended.

Bernie was of the opinion that neither should make the front page. As the only writer for the local paper, she was no fancy journalist, but she had read the Chicago Manual of Style many, many times. The town had just opened a new recycling centre, and that was the lead story, according to her. 

"I'll give you a black eye," shouted the editor, "If you don't get this written and out before it's old hat." To that point, it was already old hat. The print version, as everyone knew, would only confirm the story that was already in circulation, being shared by untold millions -- thanks to the sticky fingers and eager beavers texting and twittering on the Internet. Not to mention the hundreds of Falderall citizens who made it their duty that day to convey the story by word of mouth.

Alex, the daily paper's tech-guy, yawned in his cubicle and clicked "new" for another game of Spider Solitaire. Without the Internet, it was the only game he had access to. He was waiting for the remote server to fix the site problem, and was already bored with the buzz. As far as he was concerned, this particular movie star was passé. The only reason she had included Falderall on her boring memoir book tour was because she had family there. The family in question, the Cusacks, were not amused. The scandalous nature of the story led them to pack up the town car and head for the Catskills, presumably for a short stay until the media roar became a rumble.

The Girl Guide at the centre of the media storm – Linda – was busy fielding invitations. Aside from the local yokels, the story had attracted some attention from high up on the food chain. Ellen DeGeneres wanted to know if she could come on the show. CNN was sending a reporter over first thing in the morning. Fox News had already come and gone, using a boxed background set that arrived in a van, was installed within half an hour and gone within two. Linda had been asked to say, breathlessly (which took a few takes) one short sentence – "I never saw it coming!" --and stand still for five minutes of photographs. She signed a release and was promised a copy of the story.

The celebrity – you've probably guessed it was Joan Cusack – had been rushed by her agent back to Los Angeles. No one knew for sure, but it was thought that she and her PR team were in strategy sessions, to determine how much exposure she could get by leveraging the story internationally.  While it was unseemly here in North America to have hit a young woman, in other countries she was being hailed as a hero for her anti-establishment activism in attempting to pop a member of the dreaded paparazzi. Hitting a female drone in the line of fire wasn't necessarily a bad thing, given the right context.

The mayor of the town was paid a visit by a man called Jacko, who represented a large advertising agency in New York. Their client was a global pharmaceutical company. Jacko was there to pitch an idea that would put the town on the map, and make them all richer than Bill Gates. The idea was tied in to the power of one particular drug to deal with the pain of fame. When the mayor asked him how it worked, Jacko rolled his eyes. "Don't ask!" was his answer.

To celebrate, the mayor took Jacko out for dinner at the town's best restaurant. The mayor didn't get out much, and it was one of those rare times when he felt he could expense the event. He had a little too much wine with dinner, and had to be escorted back home at the end of the evening by Peter, the town sheriff. Peter was all puffed up about brushing up against fame, and had spent time polishing his shoes that morning. Just in case.

Jacko, left to his own devices, was dragged to an after-hours house party by the bartender, where he ended up sitting next to, of all people, Linda the Girl Guide. Perched on the couch wearing a plaid skirt and a black eye, she was soaking up all the attention and ignoring those "you aren't old enough to be here" looks of jealousy. "I'm not really a Girl Guide," she confessed confidentially to Jacko, "Technically, I'm a Ranger." 

Jacko nodded and told Linda she was going to be a star, did she know that?  It was her turn to nod, and she added that she was ready for it. "I'll do what I have to do," she said bravely. He was impressed with her courage and fortitude. He finished off his drink and walked with purpose back to the hotel, certain that he was in the right place and had found the right idea at the right time.

When he called his wife back in New York, she was already in bed watching the Daily Show. "Jon Stewart is calling Cusack a Cookie Monster," she said, referring to the boxes of Girl Guide standard fare that had ended up on the floor after the fracas. "And Colbert just tweeted that he's giving her the MILF Meow-Ow award of the year." His wife loved celebrity gossip. Who didn't? He tucked his BlackBerry under his pillow and put his iPod earplugs in place. As he fell asleep, the images of Linda's black eye and Joan's bouncy breast juggled for position in his alpha state. Unfortunately, it was a third image – that of the mayor passing out in his plate of pig's feet – that stayed with him as he dozed off.

By the time he made it back to the agency in New York the next morning, the pharmaceutical company had changed their collective mind. A six-year old child in a southern state had hit his mixed-race grandfather and caused a stir about senior abuse – the company felt that their drug would have a bigger hit with this target group, and the idea of using Falderall as a case study was abandoned. 

George, nursing a cold, looked at the story in the local newspaper with a sense of deja viewed and turned to the weather map. He was determined to be more prepared tomorrow. Bernie quit her job in a huff and ended up taking over for Colette, who had just begun her new job, albeit with severe misgivings. The mayor and Jacko began a meaningful exchange on LinkedIn about oenophiles and hangover remedies, and Alex, who had been taking notes, began work on a blog called "The Deconstruction of Devolution." Linda packed her suitcase, having been lured out to Hollywood by the promise of a part on an upcoming series called "Fifteen and Famous."

Life in Falderall resumed its normal pace. And within 48 hours, after its brief and feverish flirtation with fame, the town was duly forgotten by the rest of the world.


BLEEP



3 comments:

  1. Great, I got dizzy just reading the story! I'm so glad to be technologically impaired.P3of5

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great read! And unfortunately not unbelievable...

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  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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