2014 – A Year In Stories: Week 36 – Good Going, Gertrude

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Posted on September 13, 2014 by

This week I am putting my story up a little bit early. Oh! What a treat for you lovely people!

This week’s story is the second suggested by Geoff Le Pard. It was meant to go up last week but I didn’t have access to the suggestion, so it got pushed back a bit.

Anyway, this is what would happen if… ‘Banned: the letter ‘G’ is to be dropped from the alphabet’.

2014 – A Week In Stories
Week 36
Good Going, Gertrude

“Are you sure?” newscaster Leonard Fulcrum asked his producer, who shrugged and nodded. “The letter ‘G’ is banned and has been removed from the dictionary?”

“That’s what it says on the crib sheet,” the producer replied.
“And you checked with the researcher?”
“Johnny asked her and she said she pulled it off the wire. Look, just run with it, you’re on in ten, nine, eight…”
“Wait! Howard! Can I use the letter on camera?!”

Howard simply shrugged again. Or rather, he shrued.

The news show theme played and Leonard settled himself in to read the bulletins.

“Good ev…no…,” he began. “Hello… And welcome to the Ten O’clock News. I’m Leonard Fulcrum. Up first tonight…” he tailed off as he read the next line on the TelePrompTer.

You have to be kidding, Leonard thought to himself. He rubbed the bridge of his nose and regained his composure. After all he was a professional, and the show must go on.

“The …Reat Atsby opened at number one at the box office over the weekend, finally breaking the record set by Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the second film about trader …oh come on Howard. The second film about trader Ordon Ecko.”

Leonard prayed to any deity that would listen that there were no news stories about Gary Glitter, and that George Galloway hadn’t been cavorting around with any more Middle Eastern dictators recently.

“And now on to our bi…lar…top story for the ni…evenin…show. Apparently the letter ‘G’, and I suspect in the interests of fair journalism I’m allowed to say it there, has been banned and will be forthwith removed from the dictionary.

“Writers nationwide are reacting with annoyance, as they will now have to look back through all their works and switch words using the banned letter out for others.
“There has been an outcry by many whose names contain the banned letter, with thousands petitionin…askin… Howard I just can’t do this.”
“Just suck it up, Leonard, you’re live on air,” the producer replied in to Leonard’s earpiece. “Keep going for now, I’ll check it out.”
“The…people who run the country have asked for calm nationwide as they look in to alternative letters to replace ‘G’. They have said they will consider several options before a choice is made. When questioned as to why they made the decision to remove the letter, political sources refused to comment. More on this story later…”

#

Meanwhile, Howard, the producer, walked in to the research department backstage. There was only one researcher working on shift for the Ten O’Clock News, which Howard noted was unusual.

The woman in the office was not one he recognised. The lone researcher turned to look at him. As she turned she blinked a couple of times and squinted heavily at home.

“Mum?” she said, a hint of confusion and surprise in her voice.
“Er…no,” Howard replied. “My name is Howard Rubb, I’m the show producer for the Ten O’Clock News.
“Oh, that’s good. It would have been a bit strange if you had been my mum, she’s been in an old folks home in Scotland for ten years.”
“Err, quite. Who are you?”
“I’m Gertrude, the new temporary research assistant.”
“Where is everyone else? Where is the Senior Researcher?”
“Oh, they’re all on holiday, dear. That’s why they brought me in on temporary cover.”

A feeling of dread began to come over Howard.

“Look,” he said, sitting in one of the empty chairs in the office. “We’ve got a bit of a problem. Leonard, the newsreader, is questioning the authenticity of a news story that he has had to report on for the broadcast.”
“Oh yes?” Gertrude asked, sounding perplexed. “I checked them all, they all came off the website of the Associated Press. Which story was it?”
“The letter ‘G’ story. Has it really been banned? The government can’t seriously be considering banning it. That would make them the overment, and I don’t think they’re silly enough to do that.”
“Oh yes, it was up there with the rest of them. Susannah had left the tab open with the others after she left for me to compile the stories for the scriptwriters.”
“Would you show me?” Howard asked.
“Of course,” Gertrude replied, swinging her chair back round to face the computer. Howard noticed that she missed the mouse with her hand at the first attempt. “Oh,” she said. “Clumsy me!”

Gertrude clicked through the different tabs, all of which seemed to contain, as she had explained, legitimate news stories, all of which were found on the journalists section of the Associated Press website. Eventually she came to the tab she was looking for.

“Here you go,” she said. “The letter ‘G’ has been banned from the dictionary,” she read from the screen, with some difficulty, Howard noted.

He craned his neck around her to look at the screen. A look of horror passed across his face as he saw what was on the screen.

“Oh no,” he said. “Oh, no, no, no, no, no. You have to be kidding me.”
“What’s wrong?” Gertrude asked. “Did I get something wrong with the story?”
“No, you got the story exactly right. It’s just that it’s not real. That isn’t on the Associated Press website. That’s the Onion.”
“What’s that?” Gertrude asked.
“It’s a satirical news website. All the stories are made up. They’re jokes!”
“Oh dear!” Gertrude said cheerfully. “That is a bit of a problem isn’t it?”
“A bit of a problem?!” Howard said. “It’s more than a bit of a bloody problem! Leonard Fulcrum, three time winner of the National Newsreader of the Year award just read out a story from the bloody Onion live on air. Everyone knows Susannah likes reading the Onion on her lunch break. Couldn’t you tell the difference?”
“Now mister, I don’t like your tone,” Gertrude said. I didn’t know that. Plus I’m still getting used to my new contact lenses. The sites looked the same to me on the screen.
“You’re right,” Howard said, calming down. “I’m sorry. Just, be more careful next time.”
“You mean I’m not fired?” Gertrude asked.
“Everyone makes mistakes,” Howard said.
“Uh, Mr Rubb?”
“Yes, what is it?”
“Isn’t he still out there?”

The chair Howard had been sitting on span around as he bolted from the room.

#

Back out in the studio, Leonard was becoming more and more irate.
“Look,” he said in to the camera, rubbing his temple again to ward off the migraine that was marching its way across his frontal lobes. “I’ve had enough of this. This is ridiculous. I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Howard burst in to the studio just as Leonard stood up from the desk. He tried to run on to the set but he was held back by one of the show’s runners.

When he protested that it was an emergency the runner simply reminded him of his own policy that only breaking news stories were allowed to interrupt a live broadcast, meanwhile, Leonard had reached the front of the desk.

“If this is really true, then the government – yeah I used the letter ‘G’ I’m a word. Do something about it. There, I did it again! If this is all real then I have something to say to those idiots down in Westminster. There will be rioting in the streets. You can’t just declare a bloody letter illegal. We will give as good as we get. Hah! You hear that? That was some alliteration! Bet you didn’t see that coming did you?”

Howard’s head was in his hands as the runner held him back. He decided it was time to end this and struggled his way out of the runner’s grip.

“I for one will not sit by,” Leonard continued. “Wait, Howard, what are you doing?”
“It was a scam, Leonard, it was an Onion article. You’ve been ranting for the last five minutes about a joke on the internet.”

Leonard stood, mouth agape for a moment, staring directly in to the camera. After a few seconds of contemplation he bolted and ran from the building. He knew his career was in tatters. Howard tried to chase him down but by the time he got to the street Leonard was gone.

Howard knew that his career was finished too. He was ultimately responsible for the content of the show and he should have done more to verify the story. He hung his head in his hands and sat down heavily on the curb.

#

Back in the research office Gertrude was still sat at the computer. She span around a couple of times on the chair before grabbing her purse from the floor. From it she pulled her mobile phone and dialled a number.

“Jenny,” she said as her friend answered the phone. “You owe me £100.”
“You never!” her friend replied.
“Yep, he said it all live on air. I told you I could get a national newsreader to read an Onion story on air.”
“I’ll stick it on +1, this sounds like its worth watching.”
“Next time make the bet a bit harder, yeah?” Gertrude said as she picked up her bag to leave. “This one was almost too easy.”

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