News is created over lunch.
|"Breaking news!" the red-head exclaimed as she dropped her purse onto the middle of the starchy tablecloth. "I'm going to Greece!" She fell into the empty chair.
Opposite her, a woman with bobbed blonde hair laid her book aside and said, "For real?"
"No!" The red-head laughed. "I couldn't afford to go to Greece even if I wanted to! Besides, I've heard it's filthy. But it's what I've decided to tell Chuck and David and the rest of the gang."
A green-aproned waiter decided that her appearance was the signal to begin serving. He stepped up and without seeming to nudged the purse aside to set a basket of dinner rolls beside the centerpiece. He then filled the women's water glasses.
"So is it supposed to be a vacation?" the blonde asked. Like her friend, she appeared to be in her mid-thirties.
"No, it's consulting work. Isn't it wicked? I've been hired as a consultant by a film company. They're making a miniseries about the Greek War of Independence, and I'm going on location to consult!" She laughed, showing her teeth.
"It sounds incredible," said the blonde.
"In what sense?"
"In every sense. Are you really telling people—?"
"I told David just now. I went into the department to check my mailbox, and he came creeping out to ask if I'd found a new position yet. I just popped out with it. 'I'm going to Greece to do some consulting work on a miniseries.' You should have seen his face!"
"Mm. So how did you find this job?"
"I think it must have been an old college roommate. She— Or he. Maybe I should tell them it's an old boyfriend. I think he's trying to respark something between us, he's been waiting forever for me, and—"
"That also sounds incredible."
"Well, I couldn't have just read it somewhere and applied! Something like this has to be chance or serendipity." She picked up a menu and glanced over it. "And I'm telling you now so that if anyone asks you—"
"Alright, that's what I'll tell them if I'm asked. When do you have to be out of your office?"
"Day after tomorrow. Chuck's being a real prick about it, too, he— Oh, did I tell you I flipped him off the other day?"
"Yes! I was stopped in front of the Frostee, and I looked over and— God, it seems like he's around every corner I turn these days."
"It's a small town."
"A small university town. They're the worst, right? Universities are like small towns anyway, and when you stick one inside another— But I was telling you I flipped Chuck off. He was standing on the corner waiting to cross, wearing that dumb expression he gets on his face when he's try to remember, like, how many Russian czars were named Feodor, and I just flipped him off."
"Did he see you?"
"No, I had the air conditioner running."
"Was he coming out of the Frostee?"
"No, I think he was coming from Butler's. He had a small sack with him and it looked like it had some books in it. Oh, what's that you're reading?" Without asking for permission, the redhead picked up her friend's book and read the cover aloud. "The Fool on the Hill. That could be Chuck's biography!" She dropped it—a heavy hardbound of several hundred pages—back on the table with a thump. "So who's the fool on the hill?"
"Thaddeus Gascoyne. It's a biography."
The redhead's eyes popped. "Not another biography of Thaddeus Gascoyne! That's the fifth this decade, right?" Her laugh escaped through her teeth with a hiss. "By the way, who's—?"
"Some nineteenth-century abolitionist-poet, a friend of Emerson and Wilmot." The blonde looked abashed. "I never heard of him either, but my own chair suggested I review it."
The redhead spun the book around to study the cover. She snorted as she tapped it. "So I wonder who she's sleeping with that she got a book contract with—?" She lifted the book to examine its spine. "Oh God!" she chortled. "Oklahoma Press?"
"Well, it's a living."
"Not much of one! Not if you have to work for Oklahoma Press, or have to write books on abolitionists no one's ever heard of!"
They fell quiet. After a minute, the redhead glanced around the restaurant with a querulous expression. Then, with a start, she seemed to notice the basket of rolls for the first time, and she plucked one up and broke it open.
"It's one of the cable channels," she said in a distracted way. "One of those nature-slash-documentary-slash-history channels. But one that no one's ever heard of."
"That's financing this miniseries I'm consulting for. It's a multinational thing, there's a British and a French and an Italian company, but it's the American cable channel I'm—"
"Is there a Greek one in there?"
"Oh, I suppose so. That's what I'll say if I'm asked. 'I suppose so'." She tore open a butter packet. "But you know, I'm just there to consult and collect a paycheck, I don't pay attention to the business side."
"They'll believe that at least."
"I don't care if they believe any of it!" she said with a sudden, wild fierceness. She wiped the butter across the soft center of the roll and muttered some filthy words. "I almost hope they don't!"
The waiter came up and quietly asked if they were decided yet. Both women ordered salads. The blonde also ordered a sparkling water, while the redhead ordered a whiskey sour. They began talking about plans to go sailing that weekend on a nearby lake, for the weatherman was promising seasonable temperatures.
Meanwhile, a man had been listening to them at another table. Eventually his frown cleared up, replaced by an expression of relief.
Oh! he thought. Her car has tinted windows. That's why whoever couldn't see her. And she had the windows up because she had the air conditioner running.
Co-Winner of "The Writer's Cramp" for 3-19-21
Prompt: breaking news, fool on the hill, around every corner, waiting forever