It was only when the boss called me into his office that I knew something was genuinely wrong. I’d been getting comments about my style since I’d joined – snarky shots from veterans of the paper passing by my desk – but I hadn’t taken it to heart. Hadn’t shifted one syllable to appease them.

  “Look kid,” he starts off, his accent and choice of words insulting in their adherence to stereotype.
  “Austen,” I said quickly, “Bobby Austen." I didn’t want to sink into ambiguity. I wanted to make a name for myself, and everyone I’d talked to had told me that this is where I’d get it done. The paper that made things happen. Few journos stayed around for long, I’d been told. Headhunted within the first couple of years, that’s if you don’t decide to go and write the next great American novel before they sniped you.

  “Whatever,” El Jefe says, physically waving my introductions aside with his hand as if they were annoying insects. He reaches behind him, his heavy-set frame twisting around to reach a stack of newspapers next to the window. He isn’t fat. No, he’s built, with the kind of arms that require the owner to roll his sleeves up to his elbows. His striped Louis Philippe – the same one he’d told me about procuring, in exchange for a personal mini-fan, on his trip to India last year – is riding high. He means business.

  He slaps yesterdays paper on the desk between us, open at page twenty-three, looks down at it, nonchalantly scuffs his nose with his thumb as if he were on an episode of Naruto, and looks up at me – obviously expectant. I half shrug.

  “It was a sobering scene to see her there, defiled and mutilated beyond recognition,” he starts in a sardonic tongue that makes his intentions clear, and it’s only now that I realise what I’m here for. I guess the chief isn’t a fan either. He continues in his mocking tones, defiling my prose almost as much as the killer had defiled the body,- “And who would recognise the bloody mess that had once been the lively and energetic Lilly White – Seriously kid, what the fuck is this?”

  “It’s my report on the White case, like you told me-“

  “I told you to report it kid, not turn it into America’s next top novel,” he snaps back.

  I’m not sure whether he intended the compliment or whether it was his idea at a biting insult, but I take it nevertheless. I sit there waiting for him to continue. There’s a silence that lasts so long I’m thinking he’s done before he finally pipes up again, a little calmer now.

  “We have a way of doing things around here, kid,  and it ain’t exploitation.”

  “Tabloid is exploitation,” I quickly reply before catching myself, and once I’m off I figure I may as well go down with the ship, “We take scum-sucking news and turn it into entertainment for the masses. I’m just doing a damn better job of it than the rest of them.”

  Oh god. I really liked this job too.

  He doesn’t gawp or stare and I’m surprised. “I really, really, dislike the word Tabloid when it comes to our rag,” he says softly. Oh my god. He is mafiosa and I am sleeping with the fishes or a horses head in the very near future. He pinches the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger and closes his eyes.

  “Kid, I liked the piece,” he finally says, “I really did. And I like you. You got your head outta your ass but you stink like shit when it comes to the keeping your goddamn mouth shut when it’s good for you.”

  I’m wondering how far down the rabbit hole this guys gonna go with the cliché.

  “Keep your head down and fix your goddamn style and you might just get somewhere with this shit-“ he slaps the paper with the back of his hand “-but not right now. Tighten this up tighter than a postnatal gyno-surgeon and I’ll keep you abreast of any spots opening on the editorials. We cool?”

  We so cool.

  “Yeah, totally,” I say, getting up quickly before he can throw a weirder metaphor in my direction. I watch him for a second, waiting for him to pull out a cuban and light up before I catch myself and remember I don’t live in a movie and leave. I have deadlines to make, after all.

Well this positively spewed out of me. Love it.

~ by Joseph Blame on October 15, 2010.

One Response to “Deadline”

  1. What a great creative sprint! Loved that Joe 🙂 I think something tragic should happen to this guy, feels too much like spiderman at the moment! (Not helped by Jonah Jameson!) HG X

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