Episode 1: Inadequacies Are Your Strengths

Explaining the Watchman
Isaac Sampson

As this is the first print run of the Watchman, we should cover what’s going to appear — in the future. This is not your typical newspaper (more of a magazine, really) — but it goes by the standard conventions of magazines or journalism. However, it containing editorials and reports will be the only thing it has in common with the farces of journalism, such as the White Post, which I wrote for for a great while. The difference between the Watchman and those phony newspapers is like the difference between counterfeit and real, tangible money: one gives you the illusion of wealth, but is worthless; the other does not cast such a facade. We will present the facts, and nothing but — we will not refuse to call out a politician or a businessman or a celebrity who flat out lies. We won’t print their lies because of the false rule of journalism that we have to print “both sides of the argument” — to do so is to give credence to and a volume with which they can express their lies. Why should we be forced to show both sides, when one is fact, and one is fiction? We don’t want to be complicit in the delusion of the masses (though, they’re probably still reading the Post), so we simply will let you, the reader, know when somebody newsworthy lies.

The Watchman is a biased publication, sure: biased towards truth.

By mentioning bias, I should say, we’re not going to be inherently biased towards the left or right; the individual writers on staff have to make their own objective decision on who they like or dislike. As for me, I support the policies that I think are right, and will be good, with a vehement dislike for those who lie. Even though I may disagree with certain politicians, I will give “airtime” here for those who have integrity, and believe themselves that their policies are right, not because their advisers think so. Those who are honest and admit when they make mistakes are the kind of people we should be supporting here, and that’s my dying wish: to have a newspaper which focuses on those with integrity, and refuses to praise those that are incompetent or are liars. For, if we, as members of the media, sanction lies, dishonesty, and corruption, people will begin to think that it is acceptable to do that themselves.

I have invited those who are the greatest models of proper journalism to join this magazine, and a great majority have accepted. They, politically, range from the right to the left, but none of them are advocates of the authoritarianism that so suffocates society today: they are believers in freedom, much more than the posturing liars that get up on their soapboxes, plead that they’re passing all these laws to defend our freedoms, all the while driving freedom away. It’s akin to throwing you in prison, while saying you’ll be safer there.

So, my readers: will you run away because this isn’t the stuff you’ll see on television and certainly isn’t anything resembling what you read in newspapers nowadays? Make your decision: pick up our magazine and read, whether you agree with us or not, or go with the sheep, go with what the government supports, go with the frauds and scammers. It just depends how much you truly value honesty.

What we’re really doing is defending what is most important to us — and what we think should be defended in this country: freedom of speech and personal integrity. And that’s what the Watchman is all about.

Alex Whister placed his copy of the Watchman on his impossibly immaculate desk — though it had endured his 3 years of work and some other poor sap’s years, lost to the black hole of the past, it looked as if it were assembled that day, having a nice, even sheen. Its cleanliness could be attributed to the lost hours of the day where Alex, sitting, decidedly bored and apathetic, waiting for the clock to strike quarter of 6, would simply clean his desk with whatever means he had at his disposal. Between 4 and 5, Monday through Friday — especially Friday — Alex would be sitting there, paper towels in one hand, bottle of Windex in the other, wiping off his desk with punctilious precision, taking extra care to wipe the stains that had accumulated on his desk: stains that were only visible to his eyes. What made his desk’s spotless condition even more astounding was that he ate lunch there every day, without fail. At noon, he’d be at his desk, eating a sandwich, or an apple, drinking green tea always — decaffeinated. Always decaffeinated.

He raised his head to view his computer monitor deliberately, as to appear lazy or simply uninterested in what it had to hold for him. The clock read 5:31. He wheeled his chair out to the entrance to his cubicle, scanned the area for signs of life, found none, and retreated back inside, thinking aloud, “Well, 4 more minutes until you have to do it. 4 more minutes. What are you going to say? What are you going to do? What –” a man walked by, cast an inquisitive glance at Alex, then walked away indifferently. After the man walked by, Alex whirled around, faced his computer, and decided to think in his head.


Just seem confident. That’s all you have to do. Seem bloody confident. Don’t stutter, don’t look down, just be smooth, like James Bond. Look her in the eye, put on a smile, and just ask her to get a cup of coffee with you. Simple’s that. Confidence. Confidence. Confidence. Oh, relax too. Don’t get too emotional, just relax, and have fun with her. Relax. Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Relax.


He repeated these little mantras for the next two minutes, staring up at the clock every few seconds, desperately wishing that the clock wouldn’t advance; if he had his way, the clock would remain frozen perpetually at 5:33, and he’d never have to take action. He pleaded with the clock — please, please, don’t move to 5:34, not 5:34! — to no avail: the clock, surely enough, ticked ahead to 5:34, which left him with under a minute to work up the courage to ask her out.

He looked at his cubicle wall, focusing his eyes on the one and only quote he himself coined. He cracked a wry smile at the sight of it, and viewed it with contempt:

“He who takes action and fails has, in fact, succeeded; he who takes no action, expecting failure, has failed.”

His mouth contorted into a smile, and then a full-blown grin, his lips forming a slight parabola on his face, and, for the first time today, Alex Whister laughed. He laughed at the sheer absurdity of his seriousness, and he laughed at the fact that he actually was laughing. He noted, quite joyously, that to laugh is to live, and he’d been missing, well, life this entire time, committed entirely to his work, religiously cleaning his desk. He laughed at himself, at the quotes on his cubicle wall, and grimly noted that he knew he was going to be rejected, but for this minute, between 5:34 and 5:35, that he didn’t fear it. When the clock struck 5:35, he knew this instance of happiness would descend into myth, into legend, into blackness.


“Showtime,” Alex said, and, much to his surprise, the elatedness he felt at the sheer action of laughing did not, in fact, fall away. He rose out of his seat, carrying himself with energetic purpose, like that of a man who rises from bed in the morning and is genuinely excited about what a new day will have in store for him. He smiled again, and chuckled at himself. Alex thought he was in some sort of alternate reality — a place with positivity, a place where things are of no consequence, a place where he can live — and marched down to Erica Apels’s desk, the woman he was going to ask out. Whether she refused or not, he didn’t care. He felt as though the feeling of taking a risk was a good enough feeling, though this risk didn’t mean anything at all. It meant nothing at all, though, he noted, it meant everything. It gave his life color and darks and lights; his action erased the drab gray that so permeated the world around him.

This is how that guy Isaac must’ve felt, rebelling against those liars and crooks of the corporate media. By taking a risk, by standing up for what he and only he wanted, he gave himself freedom and… self-satisfaction. He didn’t quit at the last minute, did he? He saw it through, and he was proud of himself at the end. He had to be, because he had accomplished what he ultimately wanted — a newspaper with integrity. But… that’s only the beginning, isn’t it? He has to fulfill his promise; he has to keep writing, keep challenging the status quo. He has only gained a little victory.

He turned the corner, mechanically, without effort, and stood at the entrance of Erica’s cubicle, and was taken aback at how good she looked. He gazed at her wavy, almost metallic, blond hair, which descended in little curves down her neck and shoulders, her pale, but flawless skin, her slightly rounded face, and her small, dainty nose, which was a perfect fit on her face. She turned to him, and oh my God, her eyes are unbelievable! looked at him with inquisitive, green eyes. Despite her beauty, her demeanor seemed lethargic, almost as if she had worked too hard during the day — and stayed up late the night previous.

“Yes?” she said, with an undertone of annoyance.

“Hi Erica… I’m — uh — Alex. Listen, I was wondering whether you’d like to –” Alex managed to eek out, but he could already tell that he was losing confidence. He wasn’t helped by Erica’s careless smile — which was probably hiding contempt for him. He’d dealt with politically correct people before, and he couldn’t stand that blank smile they all put on, the one that masqueraded as caring and sympathy, but concealed annoyance and hate. He spotted that little smile, that face that told him you know, I’m trying to act nice to you even though I really am not in the mood, so cut me some slack. Go away.

Her lips were still stiffly contorted into something resembling a smile. She said, “Not particularly, but… I’m sure if you asked me, say, Monday, I’d give you a better answer. That’s fine, right?”

“No, no, it’s fine! I’ll just… Just…” Alex jerked his thumb in the direction of the nearest exit. “I’ll — I’ll get going now,” he sputtered, hardly caring to conceal his embarrassment, and, what’s more, his humiliation at getting shot down. Thoughts blaming himself, himself and only himself, entered his mind, invading and conquering his brain with ease. It was his fault that he had been shot down, it was his inadequacies that made him undeserving of having a cup of coffee with such a woman, and it was he who was unworthy of being even her slave. He cursed himself a thousand times over, knowing that it was a decision akin to a man jumping into a river knowing full well that he can’t swim, desiring only to get wet. Alex was swept away by the self destructive rapids that were now his own thoughts, drowning in them, wallowing in them.

During this time, he was marching toward the door, without thought; his face displayed no emotion, cloaking the bitterness raging inside of him. He accidentally ran into a coworker, who dropped the newsmagazine he was holding. Alex muttered remorsefully, saying something about him having a long day and being stressed out from work, but they were rushed words, whose memory — and meaning — would vanish as soon as they were spoken. The man said something to the effect of, “that’s alright, mate,” and things carried on as if nothing ever happened: both men knew the futility of even issuing an apology and an acceptance of said apology, as they knew the collision was a mere accident. But, in helping the man pick up his fallen magazine, Alex was struck: he forgot the copy of The Watchman on his desk. He rushed saying a blatantly extraneous “Goodbye” and jogged to his desk, zigzagging through cubicle aisles and coworkers with surprising agility. He picked up his copy of the Watchman, and ran back out to the nearest exit, nearly crashing into more coworkers on his way.

God, I need a coffee. Alex thought, and, yet again, let his control of his body fade, transferring it to the force of habit — he was traveling a route that he had taken so many times that he could go there even if his eyes were gouged out of their sockets (assuming there was no traffic, of course).

Come on, pick yourself up — every single time something goes wrong, you take the opposite approach of everyone else by blaming yourself. Their approach is to blame everyone but themselves, and you blame yourself only; both approaches are wrong. Hell, you’re good at everything you do, especially your job, and you do have a bit of charm — when you’re not looking like you’re going to puke because you’re so nervous. You need to relax and feel comfortable, even when you know your “performance” isn’t going too well; when the crowd gets antsy, step up your game. But that just makes you more nervous.

It’s like… Like… I’m desperate to find a girlfriend. Tone that down. You don’t need them to survive, that’s for sure — you’ve been without one since my got out of college and… Mary. Let’s not mention her. I know it’s been tough rebuilding my confidence, but hey: I’d much rather be doing well at I job and enjoying yourself at home than having success with the ladies and being incompetent, right?

Uh, sure.

But, most of all, the thing that’s killing me is that I need someone to talk to. I don’t care who, I just need someone to bounce my ideas off of — someone to acknowledge my existence as something more than another guy stuck in that awful cube farm. And someone who’s competent. And someone who loves me, not for the six figures I somehow make crunching numbers, but for my ideas, for my thoughts, for my accomplishments. And someone — here’s the important part — who has compelling ideas themselves, someone who creates things I would’ve never thought of myself. I want someone to look in the eye as an equal. That’s what I want. Not these politically correct buffoons who are a dime a trillion nowadays, who have nothing to offer but altruistic bullshit that they don’t even believe in themselves.

By now, Alex had already received his coffee, and sat down at a table, reading the Watchman, reading as slowly as he could to kill whatever time remained in his day.

* * * * *

Eric Lansing walked, energetically, toward Madeleine Schaffer’s desk, carrying a paper in his hand. He walked with a smile on his handsome face, but his thoughts betrayed what the smile seemed to convey. He plopped the paper down on Madeleine’s desk, forcefully, as if angry, and said, in a tone that was, ironically, lighthearted, “So, Mad, what do you call this?” He winked at her, injecting the conversation with some deliberate faux-cheeriness.

She responded as he had predicted, sarcastically saying, “A newspaper article, Eric.” She didn’t bother to wink back, knowing full well that Eric was not really happy with it — as he usually was. For whatever reason, she mused, he never thought her work was up to par, and criticized it, but on everything else, she (or so he said) was wonderful. She just was not as good as him at their job; he outclassed her, and to her, he asserted his superiority far too often.

“No. I call it trash. Or something like it,” Eric’s voice turned grave. “Why are you reporting on this — why are you printing what uneducated buffoons say as fact? Because they’re the ‘common people’, is it? Because they’re the voters? The ‘common taxpayer’? Some bloke is going to see that article and think, ‘Gee whiz, Nancy, if Mark Smith from Toledo thinks that we should demand leaders that we can identify with, we damn well should.’ That’s not good. Print your own thoughts, man.”

“Excuse me Eric, but at least I haven’t been warned by management to keep my trap shut at all yet, unlike you, who can’t suppress your radical political beliefs. I’m doing my job as an objective journalist, by reporting on the facts and not giving my opinion. I only give the facts that are available at the time. And, indeed, Mark Smith from Toledo did say that we should vote for our leaders based on how we identify with them. That’s a fact. That’s what a voter thinks, so the statement that ‘common voters choose their leaders based on how they identify with them on a personal level’ is a fact. The press should be as close to transparent as it can be — acting as a seamless conduit between information and the people. I’m not allowing personal emotion into this, so aren’t I doing a good job?”

“It seems we have different ideas and ideals about what the press should be. I think the press should be the separation of right and wrong, the people who can report on the facts and not show the spin doctors as truth-tellers — of course, within reason. I mean, we’ve still got to be as transparent as possible, and report for what the people want because… Well, they’re paying for our paychecks, by buying these newspapers. And, maybe — maybe you’re right. We’ve got to cater to the common man because he’s the one who feeds us. I still… Still think that we need to have honesty in our reporting, but not so much that it drives away customers: to do so is to flush money down the toilet, so to speak. I’m sorry, Madeleine. I have been accused of being too idealistic, and it seems my critics,” — he motioned toward her — “might be half-right,” he said, in a sardonic tone, with an accompanying sarcastic smile donning his face. Anyone else would’ve thought that he was just being devilishly sarcastic in saying that, but Madeleine knew that was his way of admitting defeat in the way that would damage his ego the least.

“Hey, at least you get where I’m coming from,” she said, matching her tone of voice to accompany his. “Let’s… drop it, okay? Go earn your paycheck or something.”

They both laughed for a reason they couldn’t quite identify, but were happy to find that they finally were distracted from the impact — and the eeriness — of their disagreement. It was a rare thing to see, for both of them, and it burdened their consciences, for they each viewed the other as a glimmer of light in the human race, a person that they could admit as a positive influence on their lives: a person worth remembering. But, yet, a disagreement could make the illusion of symmetry between them disappear, and made the instigator (or the rebel) prone to conceding their argument, trying to keep the illusion alive as much as possible. To lose faith, to lose confidence in the other person, was, truly, to lose self-esteem. To punch a mirror because the reflection looked sinister would be an accurate way to describe it — after all, the mirror image, despite all appearances to support it, is not the object itself. It is an illusion of being — and this is exactly what Eric and Madeleine knew their relationship to be: a struggle to keep their souls afloat in a world that hated their being. And so, like the good friends they were, they clung to each other in support, in celebration that the other person made them feel good to be themselves. It didn’t matter that it was all a mirage.

Eric sighed and picked up the article swiftly, saying, “I’ll go back to work. For a moment,” and turned and walked away, back to his desk. He read the article again, put it back on his desk, and shook his head in disbelief. His head was in civil war; his ego was against itself. He picked up the article, turned to his left to go throw it in the trash, and thought better of it, placing it softly on the desk. He smiled at himself, and knew that it was okay to disagree with Madeleine, that it was fine to go against their little similarities. But, at the same time — he wondered how she was taking it, as he knew their feelings mirrored each other well on matters of this kind. Would she think that he was a lost cause by disagreeing for once? Would she think ways were on the way down between them, even though they weren’t even involved romantically?

“Maybe it’s my responsibility to fix it,” he whispered, answering the questions in his mind. “Maybe I’ve gotta do it.”

  1. Wow, I’m intrigued! The characters have snared me, and the different scenes in the story have me wanting more! I like your use of language: …his mouth in a parabola… for instance, and I love the quote; very true!
    I am SO wondering about the characters’ motivations.
    Hooked, hooked, hooked.

  2. thebeadden

    I meant to comment on this earlier. I read it from my surfer. I agree, I am hooked. I want more, now, darn it! 🙂

  3. Thanks, both of you. There aren’t massive motivations (for the characters, that is; the story isn’t THAT complex, I hope!), but I just loved creating these characters, as they all have bits and pieces of me in them all.

    I should really get to writing next week’s episode!

  4. “It seems we have different ideas and ideals about what the press should be. I think the press should be the separation of right and wrong, the people who can report on the facts and not show the spin doctors as truth-tellers — of course, within reason. I mean, we’ve still got to be as transparent as possible, and report for what the people want because… Well, they’re paying for our paychecks, by buying these newspapers. And, maybe — maybe you’re right. We’ve got to cater to the common man because he’s the one who feeds us. I still… Still think that we need to have honesty in our reporting, but not so much that it drives away customers: to do so is to flush money down the toilet, so to speak. I’m sorry, Madeleine. I have been accused of being too idealistic, and it seems my critics,”

    So many people feel this way because – and we are wrong – we buy the papers so they should report the truth and not spin. The correct aspect is that newspapers are nothing more than fat advertising flyers.

    Good piece, Brett – well written.

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