Daily Fiction 4: Mad With Power

I had been at the local paper a few years when I decided to fabricate a story.

My thinking was, everybody was writing about things that happened. There wasn’t really any room to make a mark there, at least without working very hard. And working really hard seemed like a hassle, to be honest. But I still wanted to make a mark.

So I thought, with everybody going in the same direction, racing, competing, bumping each other out of the way, I’d just switch lanes and go for open territory. I figured, I may not know much, but I know what’s in my own head better than anyone else does, so I’d be ahead of the competition if the story came from there.

I was working for the small neighborhood paper at the time. I applied for a job at the big-name paper. My friend told me they’d pay you $60,000 a year to be a clerk. At the time I was making $11 an hour driving ambulances. They didn’t pay you by the year, because they didn’t want you to think too far ahead and get scared about your mobility. Better to stay in the moment. They would have paid us by the minute if they thought we could handle the math. Or if it divided evenly by 60. I’m convinced they would have paid us 20 cents a minute if that didn’t mean they had to pay us 12 dollars an hour. It might have made us safer. We’d drive more carefully back to base if we know that clocking an extra minute meant 4/5 of the quarter we’d need to get a cup of coffee in the machine.

Anyway, any job where you got paid by the year sounded luxurious. They really wanted you to focus on how much money you were piling up. Some day I hope to be paid by the career. They’d have to pay you a lot for you to sign that contract and not feel like you were a failure.

I asked my partner to drive, and wrote out my application letter on the little laptop they gave us to write out patient reports. We had a very standard format for the reports: say as little as possible except that you performed all the tests you were supposed to perform. That way you covered your ass and avoided exposing it.

We had our own language

“UPON ARRIVAL FD 54 Y/O MALE PT COMPLAINING OF CHEST PAIN. UPON EXAMINATION FOUND + ABC, HEENT INTACT, NO DCAP/BTLS…”

and so on yada yada yada. But I was sure I was going to make it with the paper. So I shortened up my patient reports, got a little sassy. I even dropped the upper case and abbreviations and went to standard English, because I already saw myself as an English language writer.

“Upon arrival found 54 year old male patient complaining of chest pain. Turned out he was fine though.”

I decided I should get to the bottom line first, instead of going chronologically.

“The patient was fine.

He, 54, called us because he thought he was having a heart attack.”

That still seemed too slow.

“A 54 year old man said he was having a heart attack but wasn’t.”

That sounded about right. I had designs on trimming the “54 year old man” part but I know newspapers like their demographics.

With that done it was easy to bang out the letter to the newspaper. I went outside to have a cigarette, which was a habit I picked up to pass the time while my partner was smoking cigarettes. It took about the same amount of time.

When I got back there was a reply waiting in my inbox. “Sounds fine. The job doesn’t pay much, and you’ll have to work some weekends and holidays, but it’s a good foot in the door. Let’s set up a meeting to talk.”

I told them that was cool, I had gigs with my band but they were few and far between and dispersed evenly between weekends and weekdays, and holidays were fine, the only one I cared about was Thanksgiving but I’ll gladly trade out the others.

I got the following replay.

“I fear I was too hasty in extending the offer to talk to you about extending the offer.

We cannot proceed from here. We must retreat. I cannot discuss the job further with you.

We expect our clerks to be available any and all days—yes, this does include Thanksgiving. Why in an unprintable expletive would you mention such a day, knowing that all I want from you is your willingness to ignore that day entirely? Are you that ass-backwards?

Also, clearly you are. Because, here’s another thing: the candidate for this position should be excited to work there and willing to prioritize it over everything else. Yet you mention that you have a band. I do not care that you have a band. You should not care that you have a band. I have made it very clear what it is that you should care about, and this band of yours is not among those things, which are this paper, and this job.

In short: you are not, and will never will be, a good fit at our organization.

But let me make this clear, because you have shown a pattern of not understanding things that are clear: the fact that you are not a good fit for this paper is but one (albeit the most important) manifestation of this general chracteristic: you are not a good person. You are a garbage person—not even a recyclable person, because you don’t have enough substance to even be recycled.

I will now return to my Valhalla.

Sincerely, and heavily,

John Yakub Jingleheimerschmidt II

Sent from my iPhone. The newest model.”

I responded “Fine, I’ll work Thanksgiving. When should I come in?” I never heard back. I think he was insulted that I asked when I should come in, instead of just assuming I was working all 24 hours.

It went a little easier at the tabloid. The guy said “It’s a shit job, you know that, right?” “Yup.” “Okay, you’ll do great here.”

But it turned out in there own way, they were just as uptight at the tabloid. Everything had to be as exciting as possible, and at least one in every four stories had to connect to the Jews. I’m actually happy to connect everything to The Jews, but they had a very particular way they wanted it done, and that was boring.

So I quit, and worked for the little local, and that’s when I decided to fabricate the story.

I had a good idea for it: The President had gone mad with power.

I didn’t mean it as an opinion, or an interpretation of events, or as an attempt at psychology. I meant to fabricate the story that the President had gone mad with power as an objective fact, so everyone would see it in the paper and say “well, did you see, Judy? The President has gone mad with power.”

I wanted a story so good it would make your friend be named Judy… (that’s all for today)

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