12+ I'm getting too old for this. My speechwriter's pulse quickens as the PM mounts the flag-decked stage, flanked by senior ministers and mining industry executives, to announce her government's green coal plan. Panned by environmentalists and scientists, polling suggests it could be a vote winner … if the PM nails my speech.
"The flames of climate change are raging," she begins, with a hint of Churchill in her tone.
I'm momentarily distracted, musing whether I should have written, "We will fight global warming on the beaches" instead of the line the PM delivers next, "Now is the time for climate action, from the ground up."
I've always loved words. My earliest memories of writing are of devouring Enid Blyton's Famous Fives and filling a school exercise book with my Blytonesque short stories, The Sand Island Adventures.
"Our future, our children's future, and our children's children's future is green coal."
The PM's words, my words, wrench me back to the present. The younger journos and TV commentators are angling their phones to record the speech, which they'll upload to AI apps to parse my prose, cross-reference the quotes and churn out stories, hopefully for human proofreading and final edits, but typically nowadays, published directly online and straight to print.
As a former journalist, I prefer the old-school hack's approach of scribbling shorthand notes for well-crafted articles composed at the office or, as likely, in a hotel room or on a beer-stained table in a bar.
"This will be a partnership between government and industry."
The mining industry executives are smiling. The PM's speech, my speech, is a state-sponsored blank cheque to dig more mines and inflate company profits and executive bonuses. No wonder environmentalists and climate scientists are furious, given the murmurings of backroom deals. However, I'm not an investigative journalist.
I wanted to be a writer, but my father said I should get a real job. So I studied journalism, paying my dues at regional rags and climbing the pressroom ladder to become the senior political reporter for a leading national daily. The next rung in my career was to be an editor. But I loved words and writing. And in a flash of inspiration, I became a speechwriter.
"We are at a pivotal moment in history."
I've worked for countless high-level bureaucrats and ministers and several PMs. And if I felt inclined, I could publish a tell-all memoir. But I'd rather write the bestselling novel that's been building inside me since I was a kid, making up stories about Sand Island.
"With green coal, we will tackle climate change and secure the future."
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I suppress a groan as the PM and entourage leave the stage. Her Churchillian oratory descended into meaningless tripe, my tripe. But no one seems to have noticed. Ministers and mining company executives congratulate and flatter the PM. And she's pleased, looking over and thanking me with a silent nod for my speech.
Writing that bestseller is growing more tempting. I'm getting too old for this.
© 2023 Robert Fairhead
- The story must start and end with the same sentence
- Feature something being inflated
- And include the words FLAG, FLAME, FLASH and FLATTER (longer versions were okay if they retained the original spelling).
The first (and last!) sentence popped into my head immediately. As for something being "inflated", I thought of egos, especially after settling on my characters on the stage: the PM, her senior ministers and the mining industry executives. But the "state-sponsored blank cheque to dig more mines and inflate company profits and executive bonuses" suited the story better.
A flag-decked stage for the speech, the flames of climate change, a flash of inspiration and the ministers and mining company executives flattering the PM had me ticking off the brief.
However, I sailed past the Furious Fiction 500-word limit and had to cull my darlings to reign in the story. But writing too many words is better than staring at a blank page!
I drew on several pieces of autofiction for the story: I loved Enid Blyton's Famous Five series and wrote a Blytonesque adventure story as a ten-year-old, Sand Island. And ever since then, I've felt I have a bestselling novel building inside me.
I enjoyed my furious weekend of writing and was proud when I submitted My Speech to the Writers' Centre late on Sunday evening. And I was thrilled to find it featured in the Furious Fiction Showcase for September and read the judge's thoughts:
Wonderfully observed with a clever framework built around a PM’s speech, the real action happens backstage with our speechwriter (the real heroes of any politician’s profile – yes even Obama had people writing his words). As jaded as the green coal being proffered onstage, this writer reminisces on how they got here and the kind of writing that actually inspires them. The intermittent snippets of the campaign speech interplay beautifully with the narrator’s growing dissatisfaction – each building to a climax of sorts. The ‘too old for this’ line was made most famous by Danny Glover in the 1980s Lethal Weapon movies, but here it feels equally memorable – instantly relatable for anyone who has ever written words for others!
Interestingly, I've not seen any of the Lethal Weapon movies, so I haven't heard Danny Glover say my opening and closing lines. But I'm sure those of us of a certain age have uttered or thought it at least once or twice!
N.B. You might like to read another of my Showcased Furious Fiction stories, Family Reflections.
Robert is a writer and editor at Tall And True and blogs on his eponymous website, RobertFairhead.com. He also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads storytelling podcast, featuring his short stories, blog posts and other writing from Tall And True.
Robert's book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media. In 2020, he published his début collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story. In 2021, Robert published his first twelve short stories for the Furious Fiction writing competition, Twelve Furious Months, and in 2022, his second collection of Furious Fictions, Twelve More Furious Months. And in 2023, he published an anthology of his microfiction, Tall And True Microfiction.
Besides writing, Robert's favourite pastimes include reading, watching Aussie Rules football with his son and walking his dog.
He has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.