This is my most recent story It's the usual word challenge piece. I wrote it for the Uxbridge Writers' Circle's November meeting.
The words we had to include in our story are in italics.
I hope you enjoy reading it.
I follow the story with a reminder about books as gifts!!! They make GREAT holiday presents!
It was hard work. Shelley’s job was to make Minister Bingham look good—under all circumstances. This not only brought headaches complete with visions of stars but also many sleepless nights. The Minister made it even more difficult by scattering untruths throughout his often-tactless remarks.
He enjoyed talking to the press but refused to listen to the resulting media reports and would not read any press clippings. So, there was no point giving them to him.
The most recent story in the Sun brazenly labelled him as a liar. Shelley was not surprised. She was surprised, however, that his behaviour hadn’t made the front page before then.
The headline was bold and emphatic: ‘MINISTER LIED: HOUSING PROJECT A GO’. The press was right, as usual. The Minister had announced the cancellation of provincial government funding for the Bluebell Housing Project, but immediately after that announcement he’d met with his developer acquaintances to reassure them it had the green light.
There was a lot of money at stake. But Shelley knew the Minister was torn between his strong desire to get re-elected and his need to please his developer friends. Shelley suspected kickbacks were involved and so did the press.
Merle, an investigative journalist, had contacted her earlier. She’d deflected his questions, citing the good things the Minister had done for housing, the speeches he’d made in the House, the new housing act he was supporting, and so on. But Merle wasn’t satisfied with Shelley’s pat responses.
The next day, the Minister was lampooned in the press. A cartoon boldly presented a brilliant caricature of him with a Pinocchio-style nose. Statements written in balloons around his head were contradictory and some made no sense. But Shelley had to admit that it was all pretty accurate.
She worked for four hours straight on a press release that she hoped would reverse some of the damage. Just as she printed off a second draft, feeling shaky and dehydrated, she was summoned to the Minister’s office.
“Sarah!” The Minister’s voice boomed across his rosewood desk and vibrated in Shelley’s ears.
“Whatever. The Prime Minister is not happy. When he’s not happy, I’m not happy. Get it?”
“How do you explain this—this effing article? This Merle guy says you gave meaningless answers, and you didn’t address his questions. It says here you were evasive. You’re paid to be direct, to tell them what a good job I’m doing. You should have referred him to me.”
“Your assistant refused to talk with him. I thought it advisable to give some response rather than none.”
“You were wrong, and my assistant didn’t get a call from this guy. I don’t like being in the middle of a media storm, and certainly not one that’s based on lies fueled by one of my own staff. You’re fired.”
Shelley picked up the file she’d put down on the round table in front of his desk. Her cheeks burned and her fingers trembled.
“Leave that. Leave everything. Human Resources will escort you out of the building.”
The next day, the Minister’s office reported that she’d left for personal reasons and her resignation was a great loss to the team.
But the Prime Minister’s office knew differently. They were aware of at least three occasions when the Minister had attempted to blame his lack of integrity and competence on his staff—Shelley in particular.
Two days later, the Minister resigned from his Cabinet post. The Government’s management of the Bluebell Housing Project was under review. There was the suggestion of government corruption, and evidence that the project had been mishandled.
On the same day, Merle texted Shelley to let her know there was a job opening at the Homes for People Society. He told her it was a bona fide organization that advocated for changes in legislation to facilitate increased housing density and hasten the approval process at local government levels.
Shelley thanked him. Perhaps he felt partly responsible for her being dismissed.
She wanted to grab onto the silver lining of her abrupt dismissal and turn it into an opportunity to make a positive change in her life. She attempted to crystallize a myriad of jumbled thoughts into a decision about her future. But even a glass of cool, shimmering rosé which tingled on her tongue didn’t stop her mind from going around in circles.
Merle called the next day and she agreed to meet him for coffee. He brought the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Homes for People Society with him. He was a tall man with a paunch. His clothes were well tailored and expensive looking. After a short discussion, he offered Shelley the job subject to Board approval, which he assured her was inevitable. She said she’d let him know.
Merle, with a wide grin, promised Shelley that if he interviewed her in her new position, he’d be on her side. This comment, rather than putting Shelley at ease, raised questions.
She did some more digging into the Homes for People Society. She tracked down two previous staff members, checked out everything she could find on-line, and reviewed the websites of two key developers she knew had been close to Minister Bingham.
The logo of the Homes for People Society caught Shelley’s eye. It was in the corner of one developer’s home page. She felt like a fool. She’d almost accepted a job of Executive Director for an organization representing developers. She should have realized this when Merle told her the Society advocated for quicker government approvals—this would obviously be to the developers’ advantage—although perhaps not exclusively.
Shelley turned her attention to Merle. She read his recent articles. A bias towards development and the building industry was a common thread, along with support for less government regulation. There was a lack of balance. She wondered if Merle had considered the potential ramifications of the loss of agricultural land and the loss of areas which were home to threatened fauna and flora.
Shelley continued her research, and the more she discovered, the more her values and goals became clear—like the sparkling rosé she enjoyed. She eventually decided to join the Green Party. She has since become an active and valued policy staff member, and an outspoken critic of the current government’s policies on land use and conservation.
Merle keeps in touch. He’s writing an article for his new boss highlighting Shelley’s achievements. Shelley likes to think she’s changed his perspective.
But Merle will never admit it.
Vicky Earle Copyright 2023
Looking for Great Gifts?
Books are the answer!
You can't go wrong!
I thought of listing all the books I've given as gifts in the past, but there are far, far too many.
But, here goes with a few, somewhat randomly selected favourites (missing SO many), in not any particular order, except that my current favourite is first!
Richard Osman: Thursday Murder Club Series.
Steve Burrows: Birder Murder Mystery Series
Miriam Toews: (I love all her books but 'Fight Night' is my favourite).
Vaseen Kjan: 'The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra'.
Fredrik Backman: 'A Man Called Ove'.
Rachel Joyce: 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry'.
Natalie Jenner: 'The Jane Austen Society'.
and many, many more!
And, of course, there are wonderful children's books. I enjoy giving books to our grandsons as well as to other relatives and friends.
And don't forget the five books in the Meg Sheppard Mystery Series are all available at Blue Heron Books (and can be ordered at any bookstore) and on amazon as e-books and in soft cover (in any country where amazon is available).
As you can see, Prancer is devouring 'Dying for Money'.
I'm sure he recommends it!
For more information on the books in my Meg Sheppard Mystery Series, check out my website vickyearle.com
Happy gift-giving and happy reading!