Sunday, October 28, 2012

Part 2 of my short story "The 35th Amendment," from the NaNoWriMo vault

In a burst of creative fiction last November, I wrote a somewhat utopian, immigration-related short story called, "The 35th Amendment," and now I'm publishing the second part of that story below.  Modern media empires, political kingpins, and legacy are all in this new snippet, Chapter 2.

Why am I releasing what amounts to a serial short story with 12 months in between installments?  Because it takes that long for me to think about NaNoWriMo again. November is National Novel Writing Month - "NaNoWriMo" for short - and the gist is that participants try to write a 50,000-word novel during a single month. That's all there is to it. Three failed attempts since 2005 are under my belt, which essentially leaves me with three unfinished short stories, and here I am this year, going for it again.  Carrie Ferguson-Weir (of Bilingual in the Boonies, Tiki Tiki Blog and Conexion Americas) tells me she tried two years ago and plans on a 2012 attempt, too.

What I published last year on was the first part of the story. Perhaps publishing more of it here is how I'm dealing with the possibility that even a failed attempt at a novel is worth it. Or maybe I just found all my old NaNoWriMo stories and liked this one a little more than the others.  Either way, here's Chapter 2 (of about 8) of "The 35th Amendment."  Enjoy, and thanks for indulging me.

The 35th Amendment, Chapter 2

Photo of Texas Capitol Doorknob
by Michael Connell
Licensed via Creative Commons
Lincoln Ray Bates was known as Lee Ray to his friends, and Sting Ray Bates to his enemies. He lived outside Fort Worth, in a home he built himself - in other words, he had help, but he designed the structure, taught himself some of the technical skills like wiring, and put the sweat effort of ten men into it.

Bates' two passions in life were Native American history, and the harmonica.  Evangelical in name and from the pulpit, he frequently sang in the Tarrant First Baptist Church Choir with his wife, Donna.  Ten percent of his auction company profits went to church, and ten percent more went to various charities.  Bates practiced a sabbath - no news, no media, no electronics, no politics on Sundays. On that last count, however, he just did the best he could.  Just being around people was politics.  Bates had climbed to the top of the political ladder in Texas, bypassing the governor's mansion and occupying the top seat in the Legislature - or the "Lege," as it is known.

Bates was fast friends with Virginia Williams, a Dallas native who had built a media empire that had long eclipsed Turner/Atlanta and was aiming for Saban/Univision and Fox/Murdoch.  Williams had started out as a copy editor at one of the Turner financial channels, jumped over to the business side, bought and sold CMT, took an interest in country music and record labels, and quit to start her own news network with a country/rural/Americana twist, called America News, or "America" for short. Williams used the programming on America to throw her weight behind all of the political parties - Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Tea, Green, Christian Democrat, and Unitarian, but with loyalty to no one machine. Williams had even made a few friends flip parties, or even start (or import) new parties. Some of those experiments stuck at the local or state levels and still thrive, much to Williams' amusement.

America News politicized the 35th Amendment (or "35," as it became known).  That was the modus operandi for the channel, and ratings shot up every time. Where America News differed from the other channels was the scientific, numbers-driven, ebb-and-flow design of the editorial sentiment. Where an issue like 35 was gaining, Williams' anchors, news shows, yell shows, and comedy shows attacked the very idea of a Constitutional amendment, much less this one. Where 35 was losing, Williams turned the cameras on the most sympathetic proponents, and then encouraged mean-spirited attacks from her shows that she knew would backfire, achieving the dual goal of keeping the controversy alive - and her shows in the manufactured debate.

Where different parts of the country were trending differently about the same issue, sometimes Williams would tape two different editions of the same show.  They would never directly contradict each other, but they would be custom-tailored to their purpose.

Williams had been diagnosed with brain cancer three years back but had not shown any significant symptoms. Surgery and treatment had not eliminated the micrometastases in her cerebellum, but whatever her medical team was doing, it was working.

The queen of America News feared death nonetheless. And she feared that she had not set up the business to survive in her absence. This was where Lee Ray made things worse, and it was her mission to fix that before she left this earth.

"Virginia Williams, calling for Lee Ray."

The receptionist sent Lee Ray a note that the call was pending. He looked up at the seven green-vested Girl Scouts in his office and said, "My young American heroines, if you will excuse me.  I cannot do two things in this world: one of them is to turn down a call from the President of the United States; the other is to say goodbye without getting a photo with you and your troop leader.  Could we move our meeting to the next room where the photographer is waiting? I'm sure I'll join you shortly."

And with that - Lee Ray not having lied but having merely implied that an important phone call was waiting, which was true - the office was empty.

"Madam Virginia, how are you?"

Well? Anyone want the next chapter released from the vault? Which was better: Chapter 2 or Chapter 1?

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