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17 June, 2009 / Erik

The Fuller Equation, Chapter Four

4. The Live Shot

It’s easier to believe in darkness.

I can’t tell you exactly when my outlook crystallized into cobalt. I could say it was between the first and second time I saw my parents take up knives at each other, but that is just too obvious an image. Also, they never used knives.

Heh.

Those people were never role models anyway. Still children themselves, they left the true parenting to my grandparents. I’d like to think that with me, the seventh child they raised, they finally got it right.

Well, more or less right. I’m still a selfish bastard.

Anyway, as I was saying, it’s easier to take onboard the idea that people are ultimately corrupt and willing to hurt even their closest kin for a bigger scoop of rice pudding.

Of course, I’m surrounded by people outside of my family who seem to prove that thought wrong on a daily basis; particularly during those days after I met Valerija and started working at the local campaign headquarters.

And then I met Garland himself and the universe shifted fifteen degrees.

Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. I need to tell you about the Interview.

#

That day began as any other in the local HQ. I would stand outside, smoking my first clove of the day. Valerija would show up soon after. I would still need coffee, but her friendly brush of the arm had a great restorative effect.

Chalk that up to physical contact that wasn’t inherently violent.

About an hour later, I was out having my second clove of the day. I noticed a newsvan pull up and kicked the door. Out poked, Steve, one of the assistant leads.

“What?” he asked?

“There goes that newsvan again,” I said, pointing out to the crew now assembling the gear.

“Oh, shit, they’re early,” he said, frantically. With that, he disappeared back into the building. I could make out his voice, but not his words. He didn’t sound pleased at all.

At this point, the news lady walked up to me.

“Hi, I’m Tricia.”

“Fuller,” I said. Valerija had been training me to smile when I met new people, so the muscles in my face now reacted properly.

“Where would you like us to set up?” she asked.

I took a quick glance inside to see Steve still do his dervish act.

“Oh. Um, someone in authority will be with you in just a moment. I think they were expecting you later.”

“You’re not in authority?” she asked?

Reflexively, my smile went up again. “Heh. No, I’m just the last smoker in the campaign.”

She flashed a genuine smile. She was probably thirty, or just about to hit it. At a glance, you could see she enjoyed her job, but that it was starting to wear her out.

“That’s an interesting angle,” she said, almost to herself.

“They always send you on these sorts of thing?” I asked.

She crumpled a bit. “No, they usually send me to boat shows and clown events.”

“Clown events?”

“Everyday, there’s five things: restaurant openings, product launches, charitable fundraisers, that higher clowns in the hopes that we’ll give them a live shot on the morning show,” she sighed.

“So you get cream pie in your face?” I asked.

“Constantly.”

Steve appeared and ushered her in, apologizing that our usual spoke-stooge was away. Valerija came out and beamed at me.

“What?” I took a drag.

“You did good.” She was bouncing on one leg, making her bracelets shake. “That woman from the station was smiling. It looked like you were having a decent conversation.”

“I didn’t insult her, no.”

She stuck her tongue out at me. “Point being, Fuller, you made a positive first impression on a total stranger. You weren’t all grumpy and, well, Fullery.”

“If only I could stop being me. Maybe I’d make something of myself.”

Steve reappeared. “Um, Fuller … Tricia from channel 5 wants to interview you.” Apparently phone calls had been made and somehow I was approved to go on the record. Valerija wrapped herself around my left arm. “I’m not exactly the best representative of this whole thing,” I told Steve.

“Exactly why they want you; you’re unlikely. Just tell them what you told me when you started. You’ll do fine,” he instructed.

“I’m not a face for TV.”

“Bullshit,” Valerija said, squeezing herself tighter onto my arm.

“Fine. I’ll face the firing squad.”

#

Tricia never explained the real nature of her story. Before the camera rolled, she started telling me about her days in school. She was a communications major and was required to do at least a semester on the campus TV news show. She stumbled into her clown event job because one of the Academic advisers worked at Channel 5. Valerija stood to the right of the cameraman, thrilled I was having a positive experience with someone other than her.

She’d seen me interact with my colleagues in Haverbrook.

Tricia mentioned she only got this assignment because the usual guy who gets them got food poisoning; although she thinks he was really hungover.

She then asked me how I first got involved in the campaign. I told her a little bit about my time in the school system and my hope to change the test-focused methodology. I left out the part about pissing off Haley Caruthers.

She asked a few other innocuous questions. At some point, the camera must’ve started rolling, because I noticed she started point her microphone in my face.

“It seems the local effort here is mainly staffed by younger people, why is that?” she asked.

“Well, I think younger people reacted to Garland positively. It has been a long time since someone looked them straight in the eye and said, ‘help me.’ For as long as I can remember, the politicians have seen younger people as a low turn-out dead zone. All we ever needed was someone to notice we’re serious individuals concerned with something other than video games and pop stars.” A bit long for a sound bite, but my honest thought.

And then Tricia asked an innocent enough question. Looking back on it, it shouldn’t have provoked me as it did. “Some people say the Honest Appeal is obtuse and naïve. What would you say to that notion?” She wasn’t supposed to ask anything close to a hardball question. I know she was tired of the clown events and saw today as an opportunity. She wanted a hard news beat.

She was, in fact, using me. It just didn’t quite go as planned.

Look at the tape again some time. If you’re like me and have access to a Betacam SP deck with a jog-wheel, scan through the frames. You can see the neurons firing just behind my eyes. Valerija later claimed my eyes turned gray, but I don’t see it in the file footage. Then came my response:

“I am a great cynic. I believe in almost nothing else but my right to survive. I joined the Garland campaign because the world turned around and said I could no longer teach. I lost the future … my future. What I see in the Honest Appeal isn’t just some stack of policies that Garland will throw aside when the money men arrive and buy his franchise. I see something else that is going on at the lowest levels of the campaign and on the streets where people are starting to believe.

“Since the moment we could rationalize the forces of nature around us, we have looked to the sky for deliverance. We sacrificed meats to pernicious and fallible gods. We accepted the word of a single god who answers with fire. Yet all the greed and corruption continues ten-thousand years on. Even now, people still look up and expect something to change the nature of their lives, an apocalypse, an invasion, some event that will mean they will never have to say they’re sorry to anyone. Never do we take our gaze down from the stars and look at each other. We don’t see how much we are hurting or how alone and afraid we all feel. We don’t really take into our hearts that idea of opening our field of visions to others, because it might mean fewer resources for us.

“Working as I have, I’ve seen a change. People are looking away from the sky and seeing, some for the first time, how important it is to work together. Garland is just a man, a transient image blasting across LCD screens at 60 cycles. The appeal, in its wording, is something that will fade and vanish. Its true power lay in what it has started; a community of people willing to help each other for a change.”

Tricia was apparently dumbstruck by this.

“And if believing in others makes me naïve, then put me in a wig and a gingham dress. I’m Polly-fucking-anna.”

The cameraman started kicking Tricia. She looked a little dazed as she closed the segment out.

“That was live?” I asked.

She was startled to hear my voice. “Yes, didn’t I tell you that when we started?”

“I don’t think so. I just assumed this would be something you’d edit down to my least careful statement.”

Her cameraman had pulled away and she started to roll her mic-cable up. She must’ve done this a hundred times, because she didn’t seem to notice she was doing it. She was still looking at me.

“Did I do something wrong?”

That snapped her out of it a little. “No, it’s just … that last answer, you sounded like my pastor. I mean the voice, not what you said.”

“Oh.”

“Do you actually believe any of what you said?”

I considered the question because I wasn’t sure what she was talking about.

“You mean about video games and pop stars?”

“No, the last one. Looking up to the sky and all that?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Her face crunched up a little. Valerija ran up and kissed me. “You were awesome, Fuller.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, you sounded so prepared. It sounded like a speech.”

I pushed her back. “What are you talking about?”

Tricia taped Valerija on the shoulder. “I don’t think he knows.” They traded confused glances. Tricia looked at me. “Come to the van, I’ll show you.”

And then she played back the tape of my final answer. To this day, that tape is my only memory of what would be known as the “Look to Each Other” speech.

It was the exact opposite of my actual operating cosmology.

Valerija gave me another kiss. “It’s great.”

#

As fast as the calls came in for my FCC violation, the money to pay it off ruled into the campaign. I’m not sure how long it actually took for “Look to each other” to become a slogan for our work, but it felt instantaneous.

It’s easier to believe that people, ultimately, are shit. Looking at that tape, though, you see me delivering a thought I clearly, passionately, believe in. The philosophy it espouses leads to a tougher road.

Soon after the broadcast, the local leaders had a pow-wow to discuss what should be done with me. The national leadership called. Garland was scheduled to arrive in town in a couple of days and wanted to meet with me. All of this over a hopeful message I don’t remember saying or can truthfully say I believe in.

However, while Valerija rubbed my shoulders and all the planners circled me, I decided to at least try to live it. Riding the wave of apparent destiny, I surrendered to optimism for the first time in my life.

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One Comment

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  1. Erik / Jul 8 2009 4:57 pm

    Continue onto chapter five: http://tiny.cc/fuller05

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