Chapter 8 - Rythe: Blaze of Glory

 
A late-night tracking down leads means I'm late to work, it isn't the first time. I'm no stranger to tardiness. It isn’t one of my finer traits, but it is one I can claim as my own. These days I’m finding it harder and harder to find what my good traits are. I can’t say I have much going for me, and the world of journalism doesn’t seem to have a place for people like me anymore. People who cut their teeth on the newsroom floor. I started delivering papers when I was thirteen, I wrote for my high school paper doing sports, and damn did I hate sports. But I wrote good enough to get a scholarship to a college, nothing special, just a regular old state school. But I could spread my wings as a writer, and that is exactly what I did. Soon I was writing editorials that had people shaken to their cores, questioning all of their beliefs. After college I jumped around a few local papers until I found a home. Then I made damn sure they all knew I was the best writer on the staff. If it weren’t for my refusal to play politics I could have been editor years ago.

I swipe my keycard to enter the building and almost walk through glass. Must be malfunctioning, I swipe again. Still nothing. My tardiness shouldn’t have me locked out of the building? I press the intercom button and ring security. No answer, something must be going on inside. It could be dangerous. Most people would say that’s a reason to run, but I never ran from danger. In fact I moved closer, intrigued by what might happen. I make my way around the back, and try the emergency exit. Sometimes people will leave it propped open when they go out for a smoke. That reason alone is why the alarm doesn’t sound on this door when you exit it. No good, door is actually locked today and nobody is taking a smoke break.

“Hey Ryan,” Collin, a coworker says arriving at the door just before me.

“How’s it going,” I ask making small talk.

“Same as always,” he swipes his card and the sound of a mechanical click unlocks the door.

“Got any big story you’re working on,” I ask as we walk in together.

“Nah, same old stuff. Writing local feel good stories,” he sounded defeated.

“At least people will have good memories when they hear your name. You’ll get something big eventually,” I pat him on the back, a show of comradery.

“I sure hope so,” he says as we split and head to our respective desks.

Taking a seat at my desk and the computer doesn’t allow me to log in. Yeah, I had a feeling. The writing had been on the wall for a while now. They were spending more on sending me to rehab than they were making from the stories I was writing these days. It had to happen eventually, years ago they would make a killing from my work. Blow the lid of some local conspiracy and we’d eat off it for years, write some books, do some interviews. These days, not so much. I could blame it on the fact that print media is dying, but that wouldn’t be fair to print media, or myself. The fact is, a man is heavy, but a dead man is even heavier. They’ve known I was dead inside for years, no longer that fiery young reporter. Now I was just a man consumed by his demons barely hanging on. It was only a matter of time until I got the axe.

“Ryan, I didn’t expect to see you here,” Albert rounds the corner shocked to see me.

“Is there some reason I shouldn’t be here? I know I’m late but I could have sworn I was supposed to be in today,” I play coy pretending I don’t know what’s going on.

“How about we talk in my office,” Albert leads me away from the floor.

Albert’s office is exactly what you would expect, photos of friends and family. A few odd trinkets from his favorite stories and of course a litany of awards. No doubt I helped him earn of few of those awards. I never even got a certificate to hang in my little cubicle, but I suppose a nice office is one of the perks of the job. He offers me a seat on the couch and he rolls a chair over sitting across from me. He gently bangs his fist against each other and sucks at his lips. I didn’t expect him to be good at firing people. I just didn’t expect him to be this bad at it.

“Is there something you wanted to talk about sir,” I ask trying to speed this up.

“Well, Ryan you’re a great reporter. Or, well you used to be,” Albert pauses. “That sounds mean, but your writing just doesn’t have the same passion anymore. The same vigor you once had. You’re the same age as me, we’ve been in this just as long. I know you’re an incredible writer but these new kids don’t respect your work. They respect clicks and comments. Nobody is looking for work that makes them think anymore….” Albert continues to talk about the issues with journalism.

I know I’m being fired, and I didn’t think I would care. Still, I’m a little hurt. Albert feels the same way I do about the news. Things are changing, and not for the better. Everyone is so focused on being the first to report a story or get the most viewers and readers that they don’t bother checking if they’re reporting the truth. The difference between Albert and I is that he played the game, he knew who he was and he used it as leverage. I can’t hate it. Some of just get dealt a bum hand in life. We need to make the best of it, or just accept it. The greatest thing in the world is knowing how to own yourself, and who you are. That’s the one thing I had over Albert.

“So, we’re going to keep you as a freelance journalist. If you’ve got a good story send it to us, or if we have something for you, we’ll send it to you. I’ve got a list of contacts for you as well, other places you can sell work to,” Albert finishes up as I nod along, somewhat numb.

“Thanks Albert,” I say as I head out of his office.

“What,” he asks confused.

“You’ve always been a good boss, no good friend. You kept me around way longer than you should have,” I force a smile and close the door. I hope that lets him sleep tonight.

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