“Good evening, I’m Roger Markland, reporting for CNN. On tonight’s ‘State of the Scrum,’ political columnist Rufus Schnellenball comment’s on President Hank Chillum’s unusual behavior.” He smiled at the camera.
Sitting in the chair to his right, the female anchor dutifully read from the teleprompter.
“Recently, the President has been making uncharacteristic incendiary remarks. The press and the American public are concerned, Roger.” Thali Ramjan recited, doing her best to put a little life into the flat dialog.
“I know, Thali. At the meeting of the American Bible Society, yesterday in Washington, DC, the President surprised the entire group… I’m not even sure we could play an edited version of the footage, without upsetting our viewers.” Roger laughed in a professional way, keyed to convey discomfort, but not undermine his carefully constructed façade.
“Indeed, Roger. The President was filmed speaking in a startlingly vulgar manner, while fondling the breast of the American Bible Society’s Marketing Director.” Thali arched her delicate eyebrows, and gently shook her head in surprise. It would look good on camera.
“Thali, let’s turn to Rufus Schnellenball, our political correspondent. I’m sure Ruf can give us a little perspective on the issue. Ruf?”
The camera cut to the feed from a different studio, where Rufus “Ruf” Schellenball was waiting. He’d completed his pre-airtime yoga, and was ready to launch into his trademark, frenzied, commentary the moment his director gave him a signal.
“Roger! Thali! I can’t believe it myself!” Ruf stood behind his counter, hands flat on the surface, but every inch of the man vibrated with contained energy. “President Chillum is succumbing to the stress from the Israeli-Iranian Summit! ‘Old Sturdy Hank’ has been pushed to the brink!”
“Ruf, have you spoken to anyone at the White House about these developments?” Roger asked, right on cue.
“Roger! I spoke with my old colleague, Lois Nasen-Hedges, the Presidential Social Secretary—arguably the person who knows President Hank Chillum the best—and she told me it is nothing to worry about!”
“Ruf,” Thali said, ignoring her teleprompter, “there is absolutely something to worry about when the President of the United States gropes someone!”
Rufus sputtered, unprepared to deal with an unrehearsed comment.
“Well! The Middle East is at the brink of war! The world is looking to President Hank Chillum to stem the bloody tide before the dam breaks!” Rufus shouted. His eyes bulged from his head, like a junkie on the first rush of a cocaine high. “The President is under unprecedented stress!”
Thali Ramjan made a split-second decision about her career. She decided to press the issue, knowing that she’d be fired one way or another. Fox News would hire her.
“Fuck it.” She thought. “If Fox doesn’t want me, I’ll go home to India!”
“President of the United States, or not, he assaulted a woman. Rufus, there must be some answer from the White House… a statement at the very least!”
“Well… Well… Thali, they are in shock just like the rest of us! Give them time to assess the situation!” Rufus struggled to cover the growing pile of feces in the CNN studios. He vaguely noticed his left arm hurt, and breathing was slightly difficult.
“Yes, Thali, we have to give the White House time to prepare a statement.” Roger said, and tried to kick her behind the news desk to get her to shut up.
“Roger, you are an apologist and a prat.” She stared him down. The cameras caught it all. “The President’s staff is capable of handling a PR fiasco like this… Where is the statement?”
“This is all a mistake!” Rufus rasped. “There’s no way President Chillum would do something…”
“Ruf?” Roger noticed his coworker’s trouble breathing. “Ruf, are you okay?”
“Mistake!” Schnellenball wheezed as he collapsed to his desktop.
“Oh my God! Cut to commercial! We need an ambulance, right now!” Roger cried, launching himself from his chair.
Roger Markland ran out of the studio like the devil was on his tail. He didn’t notice the tall man leaning on the doorjamb. He certainly didn’t hear the tall man laughing at him as he rushed by.
Tol Agarutha, unseen by mortal men, did his level best not to erupt into guffaws. This chaos was not part of his original plans, but he was not one to piss on serendipity. He wondered, as Thali Ramjan took over the broadcast, if she would be fired or if Roger and Rufus’ relationship would be revealed in the hours to come. Truly, it was a bonus either way.
“I wonder what their wives will do?” Tol pondered, and couldn’t hold the laughter in. “Ah! Welcome to ruin!”