.....more great Fiction!

THE SPOTLIGHT

 

            The Company Spokesperson loved press conferences, the media tango, gliding the company to the favorable limelight.  The so-called tough decisions, the ones he brushed over with emotional pastels for sound bite consumption, weren’t his job.  His role was to stage the performance, finesse any potential negative into a minute triviality or, better still, into an outright positive.  To do this, some days he wasn’t flashy—the unnamed source, the insider close to the situation.  But as much as he enjoyed cloak and dagger character intrigues, today was the star turn and he relished it.  The spotlight was directly on him, the perfectly poised public persona of closed door corporate finagling, and it was time for the finale.  One last question from the minions, one last answer to leave them enthralled.

            He looked over the gathered journalists.  Who would get the privilege of supporting him in one last, precious performance?  Not the local newspaper’s business guy.  The Spokesperson was smart enough to always call on him first, leaving plenty of time to blunt the impact of the reporter’s opinionated questions with a glittery crescendo spun of just the right words and phrases.  Not the columnist who perceives injustices in every business decision.  No, but the right supporting player was out there.

            And just a few feet in front of him, standing by a woman who scarcely glanced his way, was the perfect choice.  The representative of the tech college newspaper.  The boy looked barely capable of forming a coherent question, let alone able to upstage the master.  Besides, the school was the grateful recipient of many corporate gifts and knew it had to play ball to keep the gravy train chugging.  The Spokesperson called on him, much to the chagrin of the real reporters.

            The boy stood, stated his name and media outlet, ignored the snickers of the journalists, and cleared his throat.  “This company fired thirty percent of—”

            “Right-sized,” the Spokesperson reproached gently.  Best to train them while they were still pups.

            “Whatever.  Anyway, that’s a lot of people who don’t have jobs now.”

            The Spokesperson flashed his best meet-the-public dazzler.  “Is this a question or are you writing an editorial?”  The crowd laughed with him.

            The boy swallowed hard.  “A question, but I want to be sure of the facts.  A lot of people who had jobs yesterday don’t today and the company feels bad, right?”

            “It was the toughest decision the directors have ever had to make.  It wounds all of us deeply to lose fine members of our corporate family because of economic conditions beyond our control.”  The Spokesperson silently thanked the boy for another chance to play for sympathy.

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          “Your corporate family,” the boy repeated.  “That brings me to my question.  As a member of the family, can you name any one of your dear relations who are out of work today?”

            The Spokesperson kept his smile plastered in place.  “For reasons of confidentiality, I can’t release that information.”

            “You can’t say yes or no?” the boy pressed.

            “I can’t name names.”

            “Fair enough,” the boy said.  “I’ll change the question.”

            The Spokesperson rolled his eyes and summoned his best patronizingly placating voice.  “Please do.”

            “There are only a handful of people in this room who are not from the media.  One of them, my guest, became a former member of your corporate family yesterday.  Can you, personally, pick him—or her—out?”

            The real media was beginning to look interested.  Time to spin this farce to a quick end.  “For reasons of confidentiality, I—”

            The boy waved a piece of paper.  “I have a release.”

            Contrite control. That was the emotion to draw on.  “No,” the Spokesperson said softly.  “I can’t.  I can’t be expected to know every employee of the company by name any more than you would know the names of every student in your school.  But the staff reductions have affected us all.  Every one of us has lost people we care about.  No one is an island, after all.”  The Spokesperson waxed poetically in this vein for a few moments, his improvised sorrow winning the reporters back to his cause.  He tap danced his way to a close and drew the curtain.

            Back at his cubicle, the Spokesperson checked his email for early reviews.  The notices were universally positive, accolades from the company president down to his own boss.  He smiled at the screen, basking in its glow.  He turned away for a moment to tell—brag really—to the woman across from him, the jealous one who dealt with the fluffy sideshows while he soloed on the main stage.  He started to speak, then saw the telltale dust and dangling wires of a workstation deserted.  Like he told the kid, the layoffs affected everyone.

            At least now he’d be spared her inane chatter and endless distractions.  Marry your company, the Spokesperson’s mentor told him when he first started.  Your best friend is your employer.  Your client is your lover.  Keep your focus on the company and you’ll be a PR industry star.  And now he was.  His best moments were always mentioned in industry magazines and his peer network looked to him for guidance, for inspiration, and they never failed to applaud his star turns.

            A new email dinged into his inbox.  His boss again.  The header was simple:  Explain.  Of course.  Explanations were his specialty.  The text was a simple link to the tech school’s website.  Intrigued, the Spokesperson clicked the link.  There was a picture of the Spokesperson, not an official shot, but not bad.  Above it, in big letters:  DYSFUNCTION IN THE FAMILY.  The Spokesperson scanned the article, then slowed when he saw the other pictures from the conference.  The woman who sat across from him until yesterday smiled from the screen in one shot, stood no more than three feet in front of him in another.

            Damn.  How the hell could he spin this?

Michael Giorgio’s fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies. His novels, Justice Comes Home and The Memory Swindlers were published by Black Rose Writing. He has also published poetry and nonfiction and leads workshops at AllWriters’ Workplace and Workshop in Waukesha, WI.

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