In the following days Frank received updates from the warehouse. The alien didn’t say or do much apparently, which was hard to fathom. He put that mostly to one side, however, and soon was ready for his press conference. Amid all the wrangling, back room promises and tetchy debates, they had come up with a plan where everyone was only slightly disappointed with their lot. To him, this meant he was on to something good, something representative of all strands of modern Irish interests.
He felt his sweaty palms, he had sneaked a look earlier and the place was full of journalists. Merrion Street was a grand old building, normally quiet with the day-to-day footsteps of several civil servants - but today it was abuzz with expectation and gossip. For a brief moment it would be the centre of the world’s attention.
“You’ll be fine” Martina reassured, “remember our practice sessions, keep it simple and to the facts. And don’t forget to sell it, yeah? Sell sell!”
Frank approached the lectern with well-hidden trepidation. He laid down his notes and surveyed the crowd.
“Good afternoon everyone. I’m sure you’re all waiting with bated breath on the plan we’ve made for you today. I think you’ll find it’s out of this world”
The last sentence was delivered with a smirk that only an out-of-touch politician could muster. It was met with silence, this wasn’t helping his disposition.
“Ahem, anyway, on the presentation behind me you’ll see some of the major bullet points of what I’m about to outline”
Photos and scribbling ensued from the journalists.
“We believe that we have come up with an integrated plan to deal with the scientific, economic and cultural issues we’ve been confronted with.
We have invested considerable money into an interpretive centre in County Clare, close to the landing site. Here, visitors can learn about the Alien himself, his ship and some of the theories around his origin. The interpretive centre is located next to a visitor centre. Yes indeed, you too can come and visit the Alien himself in all his glory. Come face to face with a creature, who up close, is like nothing you’ve ever seen or experienced.
We have also allocated generous scientific research grants, to help us to continue study this creature. Indeed we believe the Alien can be an ambassador for the country. What I mean is, he symbolises the fact that Ireland is at the forefront of the scientific community and this situation only enforces that.”
“What about the economics?” one journalist interrupted.
“Well, there are several strands to this - tourism is obviously one…”
“You’ve covered that” - another interruption.
“Well, there are some marketing aspects, such as memorabilia….”
“A licence was tendered for Alien dolls and mugs”
Some journalists exchanged glances.
“Next question?” Called Frank, changing course slightly.
“What about the moral aspect of a visitor centre? Is this a P.T. Barnum show?”
“Next question!” Frank deflected.
He saw a friendly face.
“What does this mean for Ireland as a whole?”
“I’m glad you asked!” Frank replied, before cringing slightly at his own cliché. “I’m glad to announce some special news today. We are creating a national holiday in honour of the alien landing! We believe he chose this fair land due to its inherent beauty and of course - its the land of a thousand welcomes” This jape did not hit the spot either. “So I’d like to announce ‘Fáilte Day’ which will, from now on, fall on the first Monday in April every year”
This was met with appreciative, but stifled applause. Stifled, because this was May. Like any good news or tax reduction from the Government, it had a built in delay - unlike tax increases.
“Thank you very much” said Frank and wrestled control of the situation back by choosing his own time to leave and strode off the podium. Almost immediately he stopped and turned to peer around the edge of the stage. Without looking at Martina he assessed his own performance:
“That could've gone better” he paused “still though, they seem to have a broadly positive look on their faces and look like they’re scribbling away furiously. Sure, like - there’s no other story in town, you know”.
“You did great” Martina encouraged him. She had a slimy expression right then, she couldn’t hide it. Frank noticed it and thought to himself that doubtless she could see the money in all this. It was no coincidence that she had stakes in some of the companies licensing the products.
“Thanks” he said, and lumbered off for a deserved cup of tea.
True enough, the next day’s headlines were giddy with excitement and carried with them the spirit of the talk Frank had given. These days, he thought, journalists had less and less time for editorialising, especially when they needed to get this story out a quick as possible.
JJ had all the main dailies on his desk, reading through the headlines and subheadings.
“Jesus, they’ve gone for it Frank. Hook line and sinker.”
“You make it sound like I’ve sold them a pup.”
“No, no. You're not misleading them obviously, but we always weave our own version of the truth. Usually, there’s a least a certain level of questioning. Questioning of our logic, our position, integrity etc. etc. But not this time. Drank the bloody Kool-Aid so they have”.