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to pass on the invite. She said that, at the moment, it wasn’t really appropriate for them to call your house – they were worried about the message getting through. Does that sound about right?’ It did sound about right. His father’s mood had, if anything, deteriorated since the encounter in the players’ tunnel. On the plane trip home, Lucas had encouraged his father to read his essay, but it was hopeless. Charlie was convinced that his son had been stooged. Lucas had won because of who he was, not what he had written. ‘They’ve suckered us,’ Charlie said, using the back of his hand to shove the magazine off the polished timber eating tray, just one of the private-jet accoutrements that seemed so exciting to Lucas on the way over, but had been dulled by the change of mood. ‘I don’t need to read it to know that Anton Giles suckered us.’ Later that night, Monica had sent him to Lucas’s room to apologise. There was a whole section in Me, We, Us that discouraged family members from going to bed angry. ‘I’m sorry I yelled at you,’ Charlie had grunted. ‘I checked out the article. It was fine.’ He had then turned disconsolately towards the landing, where Monica was casting a mediatory ear. Charlie had found himself annoyed by that too. In the pick-and-choose of how she lived her self-help agenda, why had not-going-to-bed-angry survived, when others of her socalled ‘cornerstones’ had not. Her hypocrisy was infuriating. Lucas hadn’t answered the goodnight. He was, if anything, even angrier than Charlie. It was just so typical of his father to deny him this success. Just because he wasn’t good at football, he apparently couldn’t be good at anything. Then his mum, true to her interfering ways, made Lucas get up, go to his father’s room, and say a proper goodnight. That time, finally unsupervised, it was Charlie who didn’t answer. ‘You are invited on Friday,’ Ms Sharma said. ‘If you can get a signed permission to go, I’d like to extend the same offer I made to Millie. I’d love to drive you down there. Is your mother likely to
Making News let you meet with The Globe people?’ Lucas nodded. If she didn’t, maybe it was time to get some benefit from those book-signing sessions. ‘I think so.’ ‘And what about you? Do you want to do this weekend trainee thing?’ Lucas waded through a muddy series of thoughts that encompassed his father’s rage, his own rage, his ambitions to become a writer, and the prospect of forty minutes in a car with Ms Sharma. ‘I guess I do. I mean, thank you, yes. I’d really like to.’ He lifted his head to meet his teacher’s eye. ‘And no, I shouldn’t have too much trouble getting Mum’s signature.’ It only took twenty seconds in the company of Anton Giles for Lucas to understand why his father disliked the man, and to begin hatching some serious misgivings himself. For starters, Mr Giles was an ‘apropos’ guy. In the first bellowed sentence Lucas heard from The Globe’s ‘boy wonder’ commander-in-chief, he used both ‘apropos’ and ‘fuck her sideways’. The exact sentence was ‘apropos that Melanie Griffith story, you can tell her people that they either confirm the quote or we fuck her sideways with those rumours about darling daughter Dakota’. Lucas could overlook the expletive and perhaps even the bullying, but wasn’t going to forgive the mocha-ground pretension of ‘apropos’. What was wrong with plain old ‘regarding’? And he knew the rot wouldn’t stop there. There was not an ‘apropos’ guy alive who wouldn’t also chance his arm with some ‘vis à vis’. Anton Giles ranted for another thirty seconds, and finished by telling the unfortunate on the other end of the line that Michael Ellam could ‘fucking well wait on hold’, because ‘I’m with ten kids’ and that ‘introducing new blood to the Fourth Estate was more important than whether Gordon fucking Brown thought they caught his good side in a page four photo’. He slammed the phone down and sat back, hands behind head, surveying the lucky ten. ‘Okay, okay, okay. Here you all are. England’s best and brightest. I’m Anton Giles, you know that. You also know that I’m thirty45
Tony Wilson six years old, which makes me the youngest newspaper editor in England and potentially the person who can give you the career break of a lifetime. I hope you all know that it is actually impossible, statistically impossible, for you to land a job here. Understand that, and you might just understand how hungry you need to be. The fact is that for you ten standing there, I’m Willy Wonka, and you’re Gloop and Veruca and Beauregard, and whoever the fuck else pulled a golden ticket out of their backsides only to go and stuff up the opportunity when it was delivered to them on a plate.’ He leaned back in his recliner chair and tucked a tan boat shoe into the crook of his knee. He wasn’t wearing socks. ‘Look. I know who you all are, or, at least, I’ve read your pieces, and …’ Giles glanced distractedly at the flat-screen television on the interior wall of his office, his twenty-four-hour-a-day Star News portal. ‘And … after sifting through god knows how many tons of shit with this project, you ten were the nuggets that stood out.’ The nuggets stood awkwardly in a line, recruits facing the drill sergeant on the first day of basic training. The drill sergeant had a most unmilitary mop of curly black hair that fell foppishly across his brow. His cheeks were pink and his lips were wet. Despite Giles’s relative youth, there was a shiny fullness to his face that Lucas suspected had been achieved through hors d’oeuvres and alcohol. There was no doubting his fondness for the sound of his own voice. ‘And so the question is, kids, will you turn out to be nuggets of shit, or nuggets of gold? This exercise is about giving you a chance to experience reporting. We want to send you out into the field, match five pairs with a senior each, so that you can feel what writing for this paper is like. We know you can string a sentence together. The ten of you are standing here right now because we believe you can write, because we believe most of you have a creative streak, and, fuck knows, you’ve got to be creative when you’re putting together a tabloid story. But what we don’t know is whether you’ve got a nose for this business; whether you can interview. And we don’t know whether you can use all five senses,
Making News and possibly a couple you don’t even know you’ve got, to work out what is going on in a given situation. What the truth is. Whether it’s a story. A lot of that stuff is instinct … but it also means work, work, work. Research, research, research.’ He paused, drinking in his seventeenth-floor view, pretending to be lost in the Canary Wharf scenery. ‘I mean, right now, sitting here, I’ve already told you one lie.’ His voice was calm and measured, as if delivering a review on a Sunday arts program. ‘Who can tell me what it is?’ Lucas didn’t want to be a nugget of shit any more than the next person. He knew not to swing at this. ‘Come on. Think about what I’ve said. What lie have I spun you in the last five minutes?’ A scrawny black kid with a West Country accent raised his hand tentatively. ‘We don’t have seven senses?’ Anton exploded. ‘Oh, for fuck’s sake. That wasn’t a lie. That was a figure of speech. Come on, you geniuses. What is the lie I’ve told you? Sharpen up, Sherlocks. You might even find the answer on the fucking wall.’ With robotic synchronisation, they turned their necks to stare at the interior walls. Above a long wooden liquor cabinet and over the editor’s desk, there were framed front pages celebrating the great scoops and news events of Anton Giles’s reign. A remorseless, phone-throwing Russell Crowe was up there, tagged with the edgy, fill-in-the-gaps headline ‘Six Odd Foot Of _unt’. Next to that was the wordless smouldering horror of a front page dated September twelfth, 2001. There were maybe a dozen more around the room, including a joke front page, a for-staff-eyes-only mock Christmas edition featuring the editor’s grinning mug and the headline ‘ARSEHOLE: But Our Kind of Arsehole’. He had hung it beside a real front page containing his visage, an eight-yearold souvenir of the first edition bearing his handprint. After an interminable thirty seconds, the black kid raised his hand again. ‘It says on that front page “Giles, 30, youngest editor ever”. And yet, that was before September 2001, which means you must be thirty-seven or thirty-eight now. But just before, you told us you
Tony Wilson were thirty-six.’ ‘Hallelujah,’ Giles grinned, looking to the ceiling in mock celebration. ‘What’s your name, kid?’ ‘Tyrell.’ ‘Well, it seems Tyrell here has just aced the class. I am not thirty-six – I’m thirty-nine, which, I might add, still makes me the youngest newspaper editor in England. But, kid, the way you’re going, you might have my job by your twentieth birthday.’ Tyrell smiled, obviously pleased. ‘The rest of you, observe the scene. Look and listen. Smell and feel. Taste, if you have to fucking well taste. Keep a camera phone and a recording device with you at all times. And, mark my words – stuff happens!’ He stood up, preparing to dismiss the troops. ‘Okay, Christine is here, and she’ll take you to a conference room to pair you off with senior journos. Lucas Dekker, as the winner of the competition, you’ve also got the opportunity to provide us with a five-hundred-word-a-week column for two-hundred quid a pop. We’ll try you out for ten weeks. If you’re no good, we ditch you after three. Take it or leave it.’ Lucas felt the others’ eyes on him. ‘And to you other whingeing pricks, no, he didn’t fucking win because of his surname. Read his piece. Then read your piece. And instead of wasting your time complaining, pull up the window shades and bask in the light of some harsh reality. Okay, he’s not Hemingway, but his writing is fresh and interesting and, at this stage, it’s fucking better than yours. So, stop crying into your pints, and just get on with it, okay?’ The ten stood motionless. None of them had, to that point, felt like complaining. Only one of them was old enough to legally drink pints. Lucas shifted from foot to foot. He was embarrassed, but pleased: embarrassed to be singled out; pleased even to be ‘not Hemingway’. Giles rode out the pause. ‘Okay, okay. Speaking of getting on with it, I’ve got the Prime Minister’s press secretary on hold, so I’d best be getting back to it.’ ‘No you haven’t.’
Making News Lucas swung his head around. The female voice was soft but clear, and came from their lineup. ‘Sorry, did one of you speak?’ Giles asked, disbelievingly. Millie cleared her throat. ‘I spoke, sir. I said, “No you haven’t”, as in, “No you haven’t got the press secretary on hold”. She stared down at the phone. A red light was dutifully flashing. ‘So that makes two lies.’ Anton Giles placed his palms on the desk, bemused. ‘Excuse me, darling. Take a look at the flashing light. The press secretary is on hold.’ Millie pointed to the flat screen. ‘Michael Ellam is currently on TV, giving a press conference.’ Lucas marvelled at her calm. Jesus, she really wasn’t intimidated by anybody. Giles, already ruddy faced, turned a deeper shade of pink. ‘Well, that press conference must be from earlier on. My PA just told me that Ellam is on hold.’ Millie was unmoved. ‘It says “LIVE” in the bottom corner there.’ Giles picked up the receiver. His fleshy jaw clenched in a forced smile. ‘Sandy, is Ellam still on hold? Okay … thanks.’ The phone smacked down again into its cradle. ‘Well, hats off, young lady. I’ve just been informed that, vis à vis that conversation with Mr Ellam, my personal assistant had her wires crossed.’ He gave an awkward laugh. ‘Well done, um … sorry, your name, Miss?’ ‘Millie Overgaard.’ ‘Well done, Miss Overgaard. I wasn’t lying, but yes, I can see … anyway, fair play to you.’