· SPRING /FALL 2013 | VOLUME 9 | ISSUE 1 ·

Rougarou, an online literary journal.

Out of Context

Lenny Levine

Okay, for those of you who don’t know me…Can you hear me back there? Okay, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Perry Masters, and I’m Senator Awkwell’s communications director. The senator, unfortunately, is not able to be at this press conference... Okay, hold on. Can you quiet down? Please?

I was saying, he can’t be here because of an unspecified ailment that was discovered earlier today. Now, I... Could you please control yourselves? I’ll take all your questions in a few minutes.

I don’t know what his illness is, to anticipate your curiosity, but I’m told it’s nothing major. Please, please! I need you to hold on, okay? Can you do that? I have a statement here from the senator.

There, I guess that quieted you down a minute. You know, looking around, I can’t help noticing there are a lot of people in this room that I haven’t seen before. It makes me wish we’d had this much coverage when the senator was campaigning, eh? Heh, heh. What?

Listen, you blogger or whatever you are, that was rude and uncalled for. Of course I’m not making light of this situation. No one is, and certainly not Senator Awkwell, which is why he’s prepared this statement. I will now read it to you.

Ahem. “To my constituents: First of all, I am deeply sorry I can’t be there to speak to you in person. Believe me, I wanted to with all my heart, but my doctors said no, and I have to follow their advice.

“To anyone who may have been offended by what seemed to be my remarks, I deeply apologize. To offend was never my intention, and, indeed, if you put what I said in its proper context, there is nothing to be offended by.

“This is yet another example of the media playing politics. To take a person’s words out of context and use them against him is reprehensible, and I hope those who took this opportunity to attack me will look inside themselves and feel the shame they deserve.

“Once again, I apologize to anyone who, through willful media manipulation, did not properly understand the meaning of my words. I urge you to take them in their full context before you judge me. Thank you, and may God bless the U.S.A.”

Okay, wait, wait! Stop shouting! I’ll take your questions, but one at a time, all right? We’ll start over there with Dennis.

No, I don’t know where the senator is right now. I’m afraid his location, like his illness, is undisclosed.

Next question... Huh? I’m sorry, Dennis, you already asked one. No, I’m not taking follow-ups. There are too many people, and we’d be here all day. Fred over there, go ahead.

The answer to that would be no, I will not comment on the statement I just read. It’s perfectly clear and self-explanatory. Lisa?

Okay, Lisa, let me interrupt you; that’s incorrect. We did not initially deny it was the senator’s voice. We were unaware that remarks made by him to a private donor had been secretly recorded, and we needed time to confirm it. What? Yes, of course, it was the senator’s voice on the tape. Next?

No, Lisa, I’m sorry. You’ve already had your question, and then you sneaked in a follow-up. Sam?

Sam, can we please move past this line of questioning? The senator’s remarks were taken out of context; that’s all I can say. What was the context? Okay, that’s a follow-up, but I’ll answer you. Obviously, it was poverty in America and how we can alleviate it. Amanda?

Okay, let me just make something clear: I am not going to parse the senator’s words, and anyone who thinks they can... Wait, who said that? Who the hell just said that?

Sir, I don’t know who you are, but you’re way out of line. Senator Awkwell did not imply anything of the kind, and to suggest that he did is libel. Do you understand me? We could sue you and your so-called publication for everything down to your tooth fillings if you don’t watch it.

The senator’s remarks were about kindness, plain and simple, despite the way they were twisted. In fact, that was exactly the word he used.

Okay, this press conference is over; thank you for coming.

* * *

Ahh, thanks, Senator, I really could use a drink. Man, it was every bit as rough as we expected. Dewar’s straight up, if you have some. Great.

Well, you watched it. What did you think?

I agree; we accomplished everything we can at this stage. If we keep pounding the theme that your words were taken out of context, it’ll stick, I guarantee it. In about three days, the news cycle will turn over and they’ll lose interest. Maybe we’ll luck out and a major crisis will erupt by then, eh? Heh, heh.

In the meantime, try not to get cabin fever, okay? Remember, Abe Lincoln grew up in a cabin, and I’ll bet it wasn’t half as nice as this one.

How long? Figure four days max before you re-emerge. We’ve been working on the medical reports. You know, usual treatment, tumor in one of your vital organs and it’ll turn out benign.

Did you get a chance to work with Phil and Larry on the speech? Good, good. Just keep in mind, there are lots of people out there who agree with us but are afraid to show it. Maybe they will, after this.

Yes, that’s right, absolutely. Americans are sick and tired of poverty. Generation after generation, it drags us down and uses up our resources, so if we could prevent millions of future Americans from living in poverty, isn’t it our God-given duty to do so? Hey, that was why I signed on with you, Senator, because you see things the way they are.

Oops, it’s my damn cell. Yeah?

Phil, can’t you guys handle that yourselves? I’m with the senator. What? Okay, okay, give me an hour.

Sorry, I have to get back to New York. Larry got into it with some asshole at MSNBC, and they need the cavalry. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

You’re looking good, sir; just hang in there. We’ve been through a lot worse together, as you well know. Just remember: Out of context. Out of context. From now on, it’s our mantra.

I have faith in us, I really do. This could be a blessing in disguise, if we handle it right. We could finally make them admit what’s secretly in their hearts, that there’s only one effective way to end poverty in the United States. And even though we have to rephrase it, you put it quite eloquently: Sterilization and humane euthanasia are a kindness.

Sleep well, Senator, I’ll see you tomorrow.