GIDGET finally did the unmentionable. She also found a way to hide the remains.
Fat, in her forties and unable to find other work, Gidget stomped inside the newsroom.
Or she wishes she could: wrench the glass door from its hinges, decapitate the City Hall source that kept her standing, furiously writing notes while he dictated beside the busy photocopying machine on the crowded ground floor while eddying customers jostled her forward and backward, the machine operator pushing against her, too, leaving his ink-stained paws on the last good blouse that disguised her middle-aged spread.
Gidget went to the pantry. No one looked up from their PCs. Perhaps they would spare her a look of pity had they known she was already two hours late in submitting a non-existent story (after confiding in her, the source crumpled his coffee cup and told her that everything was off the record because his boss would find out where she got the story if it ever came out).
She looked around for a clean cup. She would need coffee before and after tonight’s aquarium session, bawled out again for missing deadliness.
She saw only a mug without a handle. The brown coffee stain ringing the inside ceramic made her speculate if a human being, deprived suddenly of a head, would also have a ring marking the level of the blood remaining inside the body.
Nonsense, Gidget chided herself as she rinsed the mug. All those severed tubes—veins, arteries, carotid jugular mumbojumbo—would be spurting fluids all around if she had taken a chainsaw to the smug bastard instead of meekly closing her notebook and saying she would find other sources to verify the tip thank you very much for trusting me with your confidence…
Afterwards, Gidget remembers nothing except that she is sitting at her desk, flipping through a strange notebook. She looks at the wall clock. She reads on the board the hourly deadlines for the different pages of tomorrow’s edition. It’s more or less an hour since she rinsed that cup, longing for coffee or a story, any reprieve from the day’s mess.
How did this notebook get into her hands? She stops rifling through the pages. It’s not hers. The notebook she had with her at City Hall that afternoon was nearly full, its pages bloated with several inserted documents.
She puts down the green-covered journal to press down the throbbing in her temples. Someone will cut off my neck for messing up his deadline, she groans. She must have picked up the notebook when she stopped by to place a call from somebody’s desk—except that she doesn’t remember anything after rinsing the mug.
When she starts to scan the pages, she recognizes the handwriting. It’s hers. The same pudgy vowels, familiar half-crossed t’s and sprawled m’s.
But the name on the notebook is different: Manolo Figueroa. A question about this Manolo Figueroa is not even half-formed in her mind when the newsroom assistant pops in his head: Oy, Manolo! Editor P. wants to see you in 10 minutes. Bring your story or your excuse.
For the first time, she notices the strange male reflected in the glass divider surrounding her cubicle. What is this? The stranger looks back with Gidget’s eyes.
Gidget/Manolo stands up, panic rising like vomit. Nobody looks up from his PC. S/he slowly sits down again. S/he opens the notebook. S/he reads the notes written about a murder committed at City Hall that afternoon, when a reporter named Gidget A. turned amok and cut off the real head of a department head near the first-floor photo copier. She also castrated a man identified later to be the machine operator.
If she were Gidget, she would now be facing ruin and jail, not just midlife crisis, s/he thought.
On the other hand, if s/he decided to be this Manolo Figueroa, s/he faced nothing worse than a story to finish in 10 minutes. And since s/he knew what drove the reporter to commit such crimes in full view of City Hall’s horrified tax payers, not to mention pack of reporters, s/he did not even have to interview the perpetrator because s/he was the perpetrator and even now, could still cross back and forth as Gidget, simmering in her red rage while washing the coffee mug minus the handle, and as Manolo, pressed with only ten, no eight, minutes before facing the boss inside his aquarium, “with a story or an excuse.”
S/he thought for a moment. Then Manolo Figueroa began encoding his story because the lines between reality and psychosis may blur, but never a deadline.
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* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Sept. 30, 2007 issue