If a walk could kill, then me walking through the booths in the office would have laid a trail of corpses. My eyes are pinned on the door up ahead that has the pompous sign in dark gold letters: Clarence Jullet, Editor-In-Chief. Asshole-In-Chief is more like it. I don’t even knock, I just push the door open and let it hit the wall.
“What the hell, Chiara?”
“My thoughts exactly,” I place both hands on my waist.
“What is wrong with you?” Clarence gets up and eyes me behind gold-rimmed glasses.
Clarence is so old-school even old-schoolers find him a little bit too much. Screwed on the seat of the editor even before I was born, he is deemed the best in the local news business. That’s why I chose to work here. Instead of a mentor, I found my arch-nemesis.
“Are you seriously asking me to cover this?” I barely hold back from screaming.
“I do not see where the problem is,” Clarence sits back down.
“It’s a wet t-shirt contest!” I am done holding back screaming.
“Fully aware of that,” Clarence toys with a smirk. “I thought it would be more appropriate to have a woman cover this.”
My whole body is shaking and I feel like those cartoons that have smoke coming out of their ears. When I studied journalism, I was thinking political scandals, undercover jobs, dangerous missions, taking out corrupt officials, offering to society and all that jazz. In the back of my mind I knew I would have to tone down the idealism at some point but covering wet t-shirts clung onto fake boobs was not even remotely the thing I was dreaming about as a kid.
“We are the KWSC, Clarence. How about we don’t cover this at all?” I bite.
“Chiara, you know that we may be under the umbrella of a national network but are still a local news outlet. Throwing a few...”
“...tits,” I offer ironically.
“Exactly,” Clarence is unfazed, “helps with our rates and clicks.”
“Glad to see you serve the sacred duty of journalism, Clarence. Your high ideals will be written in golden letters in the history of our profession.”
“Idealism is fine after a full warm meal,” Clarence smirks.
“No need to go full on Charles Dickens on me, Clarence. This is bullshit.”
“This is your assignment and I need it by tonight’s news,” Clarence hits his hand on his desk.
“Oh, you will have it. 3 minutes of how degrading this is along with a focus on the esteemed local politicians attending,” I seethe. “A close-up on a representative drooling over D cups. Quality journalism.”
And with that, I storm out of the office followed by the looks of the rest of the crew that eye me as if I am crazy. Granted, no one talks to Clarence like that and walks through the doors again. But I am a valedictorian of Stanford and the only one here that knows how to use the Twitter. I am the only damn reporter in this place and Clarence keeps treating me like I am nothing more than a pretty face.
It’s been two years since I’ve taken the job at the station and I am still given these shitty pieces to work on. And all because Clarence has this progressive idea of how pretty girls like me should only be covering light subjects and not get their hands dirty. Stupid old goat.
“Okay, you are angry,” Jason assess as I walk up to the van.
“You are so observant, J. Maybe you should be in front of the camera instead of holding it,” I go round the van.
“For this piece? Gladly,” he throws my way and gets in the driver’s seat.
I roll my eyes at him and he knows when to back off. I was teamed with Jason on my first day. We were both in our trial period and they put us together hoping that our inexperience would plunge us both to our doom. It had the exact opposite effect. Jason is an excellent professional with a sharp eye, fearless and with a flair for the artistic that makes him unique for this job. As for me...I am not good at many things but I am a good reporter.
“So, we hit the beach?” Jason asks as he starts the van.
“First we hit the beach and then I hit Clarence’s head against the wall and splatter his chauvinistic brains all over the place!”
“Might want to turn the heat down a notch? He is our boss after all.”
“J, you might be perfectly fine covering wet t-shirt contests, pie contests, eating contests and whatever other stupid contest we’ve been covering for the last year but I am not.”
“Why not? Tits, pies and hot dogs. The trifecta of happiness,” Jason throws a smile my way.
I shake my head at him. He is the epitome of a surf boy, with the sun-kissed blonde hair, the permanent tan, the ripped body and the white, wide smile. He is cute and when we started off he openly hit on me. But I just don’t...I need to be focused on work.
Plus, I was never big on boys. I prefer men and I have yet to come across someone to catch my eye. The fact that my father abandoned my mother when I was 2 is completely irrelevant. Men are dangerous and not trustworthy. I can do without one and I am fine, thank you very much. A bit horny, but other than that...
“Argh!” I let out frustrated.
Sexually frustrated maybe?
“Are you OK?” Jason asks.
“I am peachy.”
I take out my smartphone already thinking how many characters does “KWSC Editor-In-Chief is a misogynistic asshole” have and how many hashtags do I get to add.
“Chiara, you never appreciated the fact you look hot,” Jason says in a serious tone.
“Perhaps because it has brought me more trouble than not. I want to be taken seriously but I have to fight ten times harder for it,” I throw my hands in the air.
“It’s there, Chiara. Why not use it?”
“I can’t believe you are even suggesting that!”
“A little seduction can get you out of a lot, C,” Jason adds with a smile.
I shake my head violently. Not my cup of tea or coffee or even water for that matter. I saw my mother do it all the time, using the good looks I got from her to deal with the male-dominated wine industry. From investors to inspectors she had a smile for everyone and a pair of jean shorts that glorified their name and did little to hide her long legs, toned from the hours she put in our vineyard. I am not going down that road.
“Shut up and drive,” I say to Jason and return to my phone.