Short Story Sunday 204: Headline

Short Story: "Headline" | Flash Fiction | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

            Martin stormed into the classroom and threw the school newspaper down on Todd’s desk. He pointed to the large, black, bolded words at the top. His finger tapped it angrily all the way giving Todd the stink-eye. He didn’t exchange any words, but he didn’t have to.

Todd looked down at what Martin was so uptight about and then slyly covered his mouth with his hand. He looked up at Martin with worried eyes and then shrugged as though that would be the appropriate response. He didn’t really know what to say though.

“What is this?” Martin demanded.

“It’s the headline.” Todd shrugged. “Maybe you should talk to Erica about it. I didn’t write it.”

“You didn’t write it, no, but you do the final check before the newspaper goes out!” Martin shouted.

Todd looked around the room. By now everyone on the school’s newspaper team was staring at the two of them. He sighed looking back at Martin.

“I was out sick when this one came out. We typically hold the newspaper back a day or two, or until I get back. However, I think you’re the one who told them to go ahead and publish it anyway.” Todd explained. He pushed his computer’s keyboard away to make room for his elbows. He folded his hands together on the surface of his desk and looked up at Martin challengingly.

Martin supervised the newspaper team, but that was about it. He made sure that everyone did their jobs and, as a senior, he was trusted by the teachers to run the club without teacher supervision. It was the school’s way of allowing senior kids to add something else to their college applications or resumés or whatever.

Todd was the second man in charge. He assigned everyone their parts of the newspaper and sent kids out to research certain stories. He checked, checked, and carefully checked each and every part of the newspaper before each issue was sent out and published for the entire student body to see and read for their pleasure.

He was out sick for this particular issue so they usually put out the newspaper a day late. It wasn’t a big deal, but for some reason Martin gave them the go-ahead to publish this without Todd looking it over.

How was he supposed to know that when he sent Erica to find a first-page story, she would whip up a nasty article about Martin? Well, Todd supposed he deserved it. After all, he did cheat on Erica with her best friend.

Martin’s eye twitched as he stared down Todd. He clearly didn’t know what to say to any of this. No one really liked Martin. He thought he was doing something special because he was helping to run the newspaper, but he didn’t really care about it. His guidance counselor made him do it because he had nothing useful to put on his college application.

Todd wasn’t afraid of him. In fact, Todd thought this was great.

“When I’m not here,” Todd began to explain, “As your job of supervisor, you should have overlooked the entire newspaper before allowing it to be published. Or, you should have just let it be and wait for me to come back to school.”

Now that Todd was thinking about it, he really didn’t know what he would have done if he was in school that day to look it over. Sure, the right thing to do would be to sit Erica down and talk to her about it. He’d have to make her re-do the article and find something else. Or, as a penalty, take the first page privilege away from her and ask one of the other writers to do it.

However, he knew Martin deserved the article and he was proud of Erica for fighting back. He didn’t know Erica all that well. They met on the newspaper team and only talked when it had something to do with the newspaper. She was a nice girl though and Todd didn’t like how Martin was a jerk to her when they were dating. Then he ended up cheating on her.

“Well, I didn’t!” Martin shot back. Todd raised both his eyebrows trying not to laugh. Great comeback there, Martin.

“You have to retract the newspaper. And I want you to kick Erica off the team!” Martin exclaimed.

“Really?” Todd said pretending to be surprised. He took the newspaper, scanned the headline and the beginning of the article. Then he turned to the second page where it continued. “I don’t see any typos or grammatical errors… The words flow right along the page and I find her creativity to be her best yet.” Todd closed the paper and looked Martin straight in the eyes. “I don’t see any reason to kick her off the paper. She truly is a fantastic writer with a great eye for a good story. It’d be a shame to let her talent go to waste.”

Martin balled his hands into fists, his arms shaking, and his teeth clenched. Todd stood his ground, remained seated at his desk. He could feel the eyes of the rest of the newspaper team staring both of them down; wondering what was going to happen next. Maybe some of them were even hoping for a fight.

After a few moments of nothing, Martin snatched the newspaper off of Todd’s desk, crinkled it up into a ball, and tossed it into the nearest trash can. Then he stomped his feet out of the classroom.

After a minute or two of silence, and Todd watched the door waiting for Martin to come back with fists flying, the rest of the room erupted into applause. Todd turned his attention to everyone else and they were all smiling and clapping for him. He couldn’t help but smile.

He shrugged it off and told them to get back to work.

Now he just needed to remember to talk to his homeroom teacher about looting Martin to a different club. There was no way the rest of the school year will go smoothly after that encounter.

Words: 1,020

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