“I’ve got to admit, you’ve got guts,” Clumby let your article slip out of her paws and onto her desk. The fact that she hadn’t thrown it into the paper bin immediately was encouraging.
“Tracking Lizbert down inside an erupting volcano…” You glanced at Filbo, who didn’t seem to notice, and instead continued to look forward with a polite, earnest expression. “It’s compelling, dramatic, sensational!” Clumby slammed her desk with her small fists as she said it, causing everything on the surface of the desk to jump. You knew from experience that the praise wasn’t a promise to print. You continued to hold your breath.
Sure enough, her expression switched to a tired sneer the next second. “I’d call it fiction if you didn’t have this Filibus yahoo along as a witness.” She tossed her paws up slightly at the name. You were surprised for a second, but the feeling was snatched away as you saw Filbo start to open his mouth. Filbo, no…
“It’s Filbo, actually-”
“Point is, you’re a regular Grumpter S. Thompson! Too bad those bugsnax weren’t real, huh?” She shook her head with an upward quirk at the corner of her mouth, watching Filbo.
“Ha ha, yeah, too bad...!” Grump, he sounded nervous. “I-I-I Hate to think we went through all that for nothing, so… Uhm… I hope you can spread the truth about Snaktooth before anybody else gets hurt!” Filbo frowned.
“Don’t worry. GNN specializes in painful truths.” Clumby reassured him. “And speaking of…” She turned to you, which was the opposite of reassuring. “You’re fired!”
You blinked at her.
“This story’s a page-turner and all, but you lost your job the second you walked out that door!”
Your mouth opened. “...Whaaat?” It came out kind of a soft wheeze. You meant to say ‘how dare you,’ but the indignant disbelief rising in you had collided with the shocking reality of being jobless, and as a result the part of your brain that was responsible for converting thoughts to speech had stopped working.
Your expression was apparently still doing a good job of conveying your feelings, because Clumby let out a put upon “Oh, please.” She put a paw to her forehead. “It’s not like I expected you to come back!” She actually sounded insulted that you had lived. She looked up, having remembered something. “Also, you’re legally dead.”
The retort that had begun forming in your head was wiped out by that bomb. You just sat there with your mouth open, blinking.
“Might want to clear that up soon!” Clumby was already quickly making her way out of her own office.
Your mouth started to form the word ‘what’ but you didn’t get past the ‘whuh’ noise before Filbo was turning to you, interrupting your pitiful attempt to call Clumby back for answers.
“Well…! That wasn’t... ideal. But, you’ve had worse days, eh Buddy?” Your face started to screw up slightly in objection, but then you remembered all of Snaktooth… No, this was still worse. Filbo continued before you could say so.
“So, I hear the elections are coming up and uh… I was thinking of running for mayor!” You shut your mouth finally, brows raising. “I could use a helping paw…! How ‘bout it?” He smiled hopefully.
Well, you were unemployed now, so why the hell not?
“Sounds good, Filbo.” You didn’t sound very enthusiastic, but you were still processing being fired and dead. Filbo grimaced slightly.
“A-alright, let’s… Let’s get you up. C’mon, Buddy.” Filbo leaned down to throw your arm over his shoulder. You made a face because you would have preferred to sit for a second longer, to enjoy the illusion that you’d ever be back in this building, but he was ushering you out.
You stood up to leave with him, shuffling your way out with a frown. Once upon a time, you had been a hot-shot up-and-coming reporter. . . Then you got a bad lead and several bad witnesses, and the next thing you knew, your career had been defined by some bozo wandering in the woods with his head stuck in a mascot suit. You wondered why Clumby had even bothered sending you to Snaktooth after the Grumpfoot scandal, rather than just firing you. The story had been good - even Clumby couldn’t deny it - so why? She didn’t even wait to fact check it.
Filbo paused outside the main door of GNN with you, patting your shoulder. You glanced over at him, trying not to look miserable. “Thanks for coming with me, Filbo. It really wasn’t necessary, we don’t usually bring witnesses with us in-person when we do these things, but I guess it’s a good thing you asked to tag along.” Well, maybe. Actually, now you were just sad and embarrassed in front of Filbo, instead of being sad and embarrassed by yourself.
Filbo gave your shoulder another pat, like he was trying to put out a fire before it could catch. “I… Buddy, I forgot something inside, but I’ll be right back. Chin up, okay…?” He gave you a small, encouraging smile, but it was replaced with a tight frown as soon as he turned around. He hurried back into the building.
You sighed and let your shoulders slump, padding over to one of the metal benches in front of the building. People bustled by as you sat, and you watched them glumly. You hated to have any witnesses to your misery, but you also felt incredibly lonely. You were a reporter. A writer. A journalist! It’s what you lived for, and what you loved. Without this job, what were you? Who would hire you with your credibility shot like this? What would you do…?
You scrubbed at your eyes quickly, ashamed that this setback would bring you to tears. No one on the island had ever seen you cry, and you knew this kind of self pity would earn you a few eyerolls… Maybe. No, actually… Your friends would comfort you. You rubbed harder at your eyes, missing them all terribly in that moment, but you weren’t going to let yourself cry over it. You took a few deep breaths and got up, pacing a bit, and fished your big brick phone out of your bag. You felt a little calmer as you dialed Beffica.
“Heeeey Bestie! Long time no chat!” She picked up almost immediately, and the sound of her voice made you grin a little. You felt better already.
“Hey Beff. How’ve you been holding up?” You put her on speaker.
Beffica scoffed. “Ugh, I thought being in the city would be interesting, but like, it’s barely a step above snoozeville. The dumb rag I’m writing for keeps asking for the same old stories. I never thought I’d say it, but… All this celebrity drama? It’s basically the same.” You heard her sigh. “I dunno.”
“Yeah… I know exactly what you mean." Things that had felt important and fulfilling before didn’t matter as much after Snaktooth. That hollow feeling of loneliness pawed at your heart again, and you cleared your throat. “So… I have some news.”
Filbo was walking out of the building then. He smiled as he saw you and began walking over. You waved. “Can I tell Beffica?”
“OMG, tell me what?”
Filbo nodded, looking surprised.
You grinned. “Beff, Filbo’s running for mayor.”
“OMG, Mayor Squeeb! He knows that wearing a homemade sash doesn’t automatically make him qualified, right?”
You grimaced as Filbo picked at his sash self consciously. “Um… Beff, you’re on speaker phone and he’s standing next to me.”
You took it off speaker.