Stet

“You really want to be a frickin’ hoser, eh?”
Illustration by Seth
“Come on, guy. You really want to be a frickin’ hoser, eh?”

“Quit being a parody. You already clean out your desk? If they lock us out you can ’ave Monday off. And all Mondays after.”

It’s otherwise quiet amid the unmanned desks. Yet the air is charged, as if the grey carpet tiles are caffeinated by years of spilled coffee. Mansour, Fabien, and Matt stare at monitors. Keyboards crackle sporadically, like knuckles before a rumble.

“Come on, switch frickin’ Mondays with me. I have hockey practice.”

“What pages you working tonight?”

“Local, National, International.”

“Osti, next they’ll hand you a mop and pail and make you do bathrooms. You young fucks put up with lots.”

“I thought I’d be like Woodward and Bernstein.”

“Hey, you two. Talk about that later,” Matt says. “An hour to edition. Mansour, come over. What’s on your pages, son?”

“Let me grab my notebook. International, we’ve only a page. I’m doing Pakistan, that thing about Afghanistan, and the two Canadians missing among hundreds in Indonesia. For National, there’s Omar Khadr getting shafted, a feature about wildlife dying in the oil sands, which is interesting...”

“Interesting?” Fabien says. “Why’d give our readers interesting? ’Ey, what’s our style for two-four? ’Yphen or no ’yphen?”

Canadian StudiesSummer Reading 2010
“Hyphen.”

“Thanks, Matthieu.”

“... I’ve a piece about a tourist landing in Sydney, Nova Scotia, instead of Australia, who was wowed by the welcome the town gave her. Another piece on residential schools. And a few inches for a GM plant closing outside Winnipeg and a missing kid in Saskatchewan.”

“You guys ever see that bumper sticker? Saskatchewan, ’ard to spell, easy to draw.”

“For Local, let’s see... That Irish pub forced to remove its Guinness sign collection because French wasn’t included. And a bad accident on the 15, but I’m waiting for the call from the SQ guy.”

“If nobody died, spike it.”

“Good. Then I can do briefs about a stabbing in the East End and how the PM was in town and wore that sweater again.”

“Makes him look like ’e ’as a pair of Timbits between his legs.”

“Let’s get this done.”

“F’r sure.”

More silence. Phones ring. Fabien grumbles “Fuck!” then answers.

“News desk. Sorry, sir, what’s your question? Let me get the TV pages. Let’s see ’ere... Non, ce n’est pas une erreur. There are two broadcasts of the curling final. Yes, at nineteen hundred and midnight. Because one is live and the other recorded. Sorry? Yes, that’s correct.” Fabien hangs up. “Tabarnac! The fucking guy asks me, ‘Which one is live?’ ”

Laughter flows, then ebbs. Silence.

“Mansour. Story moved on the wires. They’re threatening to force another election.”

“Not frickin’ again!”

“Vive la democracie.”

“I’m gonna use my vacation time. I can’t handle another election.”

“Especially since Mahogany Row stopped okaying overtime.”

“Those shit’eads on Mahogany Row.”

“Hey, you two working or what?”

“Working ’ard or ’ardly working?”

“You’ll both get back from vacation to find yourselves replaced by drones in Hamilton.”

“Or India. You read about the Miami Herald shipping copy editing to New Delhi?”

“Bad enough a salope in Hamilton spells our streets wrong. Fucking Mahogany Row.”

“Come on, guys. Clock’s ticking.”

Fabien goes to the printer.

“J’ai proofé page neuf.”

“Leave the proof. I’ll read it.”

“‘Ey, Mansour. You see this AP feature about Marshall McLuhan and Canadian identity? It’s a good read.”

“I don’t have space for good reads.”

“See? The medium is the message. What message you think our medium gives readers?”

“Like you say, fucking Mahogany Row.”

“Hey, would you two shut the fuck up? Come on. You don’t think it kills them? Like they just go home and sip brandy and not think about how it used to be? They were reporters, for fuck’s sake. Before your time, kid. So quit reliving glory days you never knew. And just like you, Fabien, the chief started as a rimpig.”

“So that’s where he got his knack for writing heds.”

“He gives good hed.”

“Funny guys. Thirty minutes. How we looking?”

“Benben fun. You read that proof?”

“Yeah. You missed T’s. Sovereignists should be sovereigntists. And kern out that orphan. Oh, and policy from on high...”

“Frickin’ Alberta.”

“... says we change ‘militants’ to ‘terrorists’.”

“Terrorists? They were there first.”

“Policy.”

“‘Ow ’bout I change ‘board members’ to ‘cunts’?”

Work continues. Phone ring. Fabien answers. “News desk. ’Ow’d it go? Still no go? Yeah, I want to picket in two feet of snow. Yeah, we cleaned out our desks. Last time, I left a sandwich in my drawer. We came back after two months, it was as if wrapped in blue velvet. Ouais, stick a fork in it, this place is done.” He hangs up.

“Hey, Fab. You see this on the wire about the left back for Club Brugge? He’s Canadian.”

“‘Ow many Canadians does it take to screw in a light bulb?”

“How many?”

“Fifteen. One to screw in the light bulb. Fourteen others to tell the world the guy screwing the light bulb is frickin’ Canadian.”

“How we doing, guys? A minute to deadline.”

“My pages are gone.”

“Sending mine now.”

“So we’re down?”

Ouais. That’s it, that’s all.”

“Come on, Fab. Switch frickin’ shifts with me.”

“Be polite.”

“Frickin’ please.”
Miguel Syjuco’s first novel, Ilustrado, was published this spring.
Seth, the author of several graphic novels, won the 2010 Doug Wright Award for George Sprott (1894 – 1975), originally serialized in The New York Times Magazine. His work has toured internationally, and has appeared on the cover of The New Yorker.

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