Author’s note: This story began as a deleted scene from one of my TV drama scripts, and branches off from there. I liked the scene, but as the script evolved, the story-line it serviced became irrelevant, and so it too became discarded, like many a used and abused intern.
* * *
Working for a Senator is not easy. You have to wear nice suits or dresses. The pay is lousy and the hours are long. You end up having an overpriced rental apartment for no other reason than as a place to crash before heading off to a weekend job to pay off the credit cards you use to buy the clothes you need but cannot afford. And all of that is true whether your Senator is a kind, gentle soul, or the Devil incarnate.
But it is doubly true for the receptionists. These lowest-paying jobs are pre-requisites for even holders of advanced degrees. Receptionists require a plastic smile, often a personal connection to the state your boss represents, and the ability to be the first to arrive and last to leave even while doing mind-numbing work. And letting a call go to voicemail is not an option.
Yet, Pamela did not mind.
After all, at least she wasn’t an intern.
Under the wrong employer, internships are less a valuable learning experience and more a modern-day slave masquerading as a college student. Even if the job is a paid internship, the holy grail of employment for young adults, unless you are a computer science major working for a hi-tech company, you have little more than a glorified minimum-wage job.
Landing an internship on the Hill, for everyone outside the trust-fund-baby set, can be a blessing and a curse. Mostly, it’s a curse. Between the internship itself, taking classes at night, and a second or third job to pay the bills, there was little time for stress release, much less a social life.
That is perhaps why Topher was always cranky. Even when all he has to do is fetch coffee and bring supplies to the real staff whenever they need it.
Jeff, on the other hand, was whistling to himself when he arrived at the office building that morning. He had had a very satisfying and quite aerobic evening followed by his best sleep in months. The Senator had emailed him back on his latest project with only minor notes. And his schedule was light enough for the day that was still a chance he could visit with friends as he had promised and rescheduled twice already.
Pamela was already hard at work fielding phone calls when Jeff opened the front door of the office with a bounce in his step.
A loud THUD sounded on the other end of the door.
A box of paper clamps goes flying through the air, landing on Pamela’s desk, spilling its contents.
Topher, in a heap behind the door, glares as the jubilant Jeff leans down to help him back up onto his feet. Topher than runs over to retrieve the clamps and skedaddle back to the staff bullpen in the next room.
Jeff shakes his head. Nothing was going to shake his good mood today. He approaches the Receptionist, who takes off her ear piece after a moment.
“The phone lines have been ringing off the hook! Even our berries and cells. Somehow, reporters across town discovered–” Pamela said.
“It was only a matter of time,” Jeff replied. “One-bit news stories like the Franklin meeting aren’t going to hold them for long.”
“So now everyone wants to interview the Senator.”
“And every idiot with a webcam thinks they’re a journalist.”
“They want to know.”
“The Senator will discuss his plans when he has made them.”
“That won’t satisfy them.”
“It’ll have to do.”
“Yeah? Try telling them that,” Pamela said as she puts her earpiece back in.
Jeff continued humming to himself as he made his way to his own cubicle in the bullpen. His work with the Senator started in the district office near their mutual alma mater, but recently he moved to D.C. to join the communications team and work part-time on the Senator’s political activities. His light schedule including a couple meetings but was mainly about one thing: starting the leg work on a major speech the Senator was planning back home.
Once at his cubicle, he tugged on his tie, grabbed a book off the shelf, and sat down. To get ready for any major speech, Jeff found that reaching into the past for some themes and ideas always worked with the Senator.
An hour into the research, Jeff was already on his third book and had burned through several pages of notes. He needed a break.
He got up, stretched and decided to take a walk around the office.
He was walking past the break room when he began hearing whispers.
“I can’t wait any longer.”
“Yeah, you can.”
Jeff’s eyes grew wide. What was hearing? Where was it coming from?
“No, I can’t!”
Topher. It has to be.
“You’re going to kill the—“
A small thud, as if a box had fallen over.
“—Just watch me!”
The whispers were coming from the supply closet.
This was one of the nightmare scenarios he had heard Sam brief the Senator on. An assassination attempt. But from one of our very own?
Sure, Topher acted like an entitled ass half the time, but surely even he wouldn’t dare to think such things.
Jeff had to act.
With a sharp intake of breath, he barged in.
A cry of ecstasy was not what he expected.
But then again, he wasn’t expecting to see Topher bent over a crate as one of their other interns was…
“Mr. Simon!” the top said. He pulled away and pulled up his pants as Topher did the same. Their cheeks burned bright red.
“Couldn’t you keep your pants on at work? This is the United States Senate, not the local Triangle Club for Christ’s sake! You’re done, fired. Both of you. Get out.”
The two interns sheepishly bowed their heads as they slinked out of the closet.
Jeff grunted, shook his head. “Well, that’s new.”
He went back to work on the speech.