Construction Literary Magazine

Summer 2017

News Cycle

News Cycle
Photograph via Flickr by Tom Simpson

It’s over,” she typed into her phone.

He read the text, inhaled, then directed three hoarse shouts toward the

playing field, his voice lost in a sea of cheering.

“It’s over!” hollered a bellicose fan, leaning as far as he could toward the

home-team’s bench. “It’s over! It’s over!” The final score was 36 to, well, it doesn’t

matter.

“It’s… over,” said a lawyer to the Saudi prince and three US oil barons inside

one of the luxury boxes, “The present administration has put a kibosh on our little

project.”

“We need a new president,” said one of the barons, swirling his bourbon.

“I thought we already paid for this one,” said another, sucking on a cigar.

“Well, she wouldn’t stay bought.”

“It’s over, Madam President,” said an aide thirteen months later. “The polls

show we stand no chance.”

“After everything I’ve done for this country?” she said.

“They’ve pegged you as dishonest. The Super PACS, the talking heads, the

short attention spans.”

“I’m not any less honest than the next man. Certainly no less honest than my

opponent.”

“That’s part of the problem, Madam President: the American people prefer to

place their women on pedestals. If they can’t… they don’t know what to do.”

“We’ll hold a news conference,” she said, “in the Rose Garden, and we’ll tell

them, we’ll tell them-”

“Whelp, it’s over,” said the editor-and- chief to the gathered newsroom.

“There are no more stories without official access. Public relations is the way of the

future. I recommend all of you who want to stay in news apply to work at the

Huffington Post. They have two positions available.”

THE END TIMES ARE NIGH, read the out-of- work reporter’s cardboard sign.

His application to Kroger’s had gone unanswered. So he was standing by the

highway off-ramp in a shabby raincoat to see what it felt like to be hopeless. He

imagined he would write an investigative report and win the Pulitzer.

“What happened to the music?” asked one of the children in the backseat of

an SUV leaving the highway.

“Yeah, what happened?” said her little brother, looking up from his video

game screen.

“I’m sorry,” said their mom, “but the album is over.”

“What about the next one?” said the brother.

“It’s loading,” said the mom.

“What’s that man doing?” said the sister, pointing at the figure holding the

sign next to the off-ramp.

“He’s crying,” said the brother.

“No, I think he’s laughing,” said the sister.

“Don’t look at that,” said the mom.

“What’s ‘that’?” said the brother, looking again at his screen. ‘Game over,’ it

read. He pressed the red button to make the tiny running, jumping man appear

again.

The tiny man ran!

The tiny man jumped!

“I meant, don’t look at him,” said the mom, meaning the panhandler, but for a

second it was confusing for the brother.

“Where’s the music?” said the sister.

“We’re sorry, dear, we are, but it’s over,” said the pop performer’s family.

“The tour’s over. You need help. We’re going to get you somewhere where there are

people who can help you.”

“I’ll go,” said the performer, looking at her drawn face in the dressing room

mirror. “But first… I want a drink.”

“What about the fans?” said the performer’s booking agent, Herb. “We cannot

leave twenty-five thousand fans out there, waiting right now! we absolutely cannot!”

“Stay out of this, Herb,” said the performer’s father.

“Back off, Herb,” said the performer’s uncle.

“Look, everyone’s upset,” said Herb. “I know, I know. But why doesn’t she go

out and finish this one last-”

“Shut your dirty mouth you rat-fucking sleaze-muffin!” screamed the

performer’s mother, lunging at Herb. Both the father and the uncle held the mother

back. Spittle flew from the mother’s lips. Her prescription glasses slid down to the

tip of her nose.

“I resent that,” said Herb, stepping back and making a brushing off motion

across his Hawaiian shirt. “I really do. Without me, all of you would still be in

Kenosha.”

“Shhh, please please everyone please,” said the performer. “Quiet. I’m trying

to watch this.”

It was a western on the television on the dressing room wall, and it starred

Johnny Farraday, the one who’d got her drinking as often as she now did. Said this

was the only way he knew to be alive without pain, and she decided to share that

with him. Then he was gone, and the drinking was what he’d left her with. But, Jesus

man, did he have the prettiest amber eyes and a voice as comforting as velvet on

your cheek.

Johnny was standing on the TV screen at the edge of a cliff, guns drawn. The

two rifle-toting cowboys that had him pinned there were calling him

“Merriweather.”

The two cowboys walked farther and farther from one another, fanning out

around Merriweather.

“This is it, Merriweather,” said one.

“You reckon so?” said Merriweather.

“Listen to ’im,” said the other. “Drop them pistols, feller.”

Merriweather spit a stream of black saliva out the side of his mouth and over

the cliff’s edge. “Mama always said I’d come to no good end.”

“No where left to run,” said the one, cocking his rifle.

“Don’t gotta be this way,” said the other, trying not to let sweat drip from the

bill of his hat into his eyes.

“You’re cooked, Merriweather,” said the one, grimacing.

“Face it, Merriweather,” said the other, squinting.

“Face what?” said Merriweather.