Short Story “Bethany” by Cynthia J. Cordell
I was reading the headlines from the previous years, and mulling over the fact that the floods in the Midwest had only caused minimal damage. Still, the displacement of people anywhere in the world was always a major concern. In order to find your way home, sometimes people had to undergo numerous tests by God.
The arrangement and then the re-arrangement of all of the global markers were a telltale sign that something had gone awry in the communication part of internal affairs. There was a rumor mill gal by the name of Bethany, who sometimes embellished on her facts. Detergent that cost a dollar ten when she reported it, might actually only cost a dollar five. Things were always a little different from what she divulged.
Bethany was illiterate, but she functioned in society as a meaningful news reporter. She had audio recordings of news clippings from the future, but they were often first-run decisions made from the immediate past that had yet to be refined.
Those who heard Bethany’s take on things never sought to question her because on everything else, except the most current of facts and figures, she was correct.
The Unusuals, a race of Beings from another world owed her family for some precious knowledge, when young Bethany was growing up, so they entrusted her with some ear buds that she could plug into any listening device and hear what the future had to say. She didn’t question this, only that she knew that she had a career in broadcasting ahead of her.
At first Bethany thought the facts she heard through the ear buds were coincidental happenings in her small town and she began to lean on the news facts it brought her.
The only thing was, that there were different versions of the news stories that came through the ear buds because the as they came out, they became more refined.
Bethany was unaware of that fact and usually went with the first or second news versions, rarely with the third, and never with anything past the third one. Therefore, eventually Bethany put everyone in the town under a cloak of non-truthful news clippings.
Then we get to know our central character Marion to finding out the truth about the town of Cornertown, USA. The truth comes to her through the strips of paper from the fortune cookies that she eats. It just happens, as if divine intervention from the Unusuals themselves, that the truth about the actual current events comes from the messages embedded in those fortune cookies.
Marion will buy lunch from the little Chinese eatery and they will send her home with her food with five or six fortune cookies. Inside the cookies lie the truth and also the beginning, to Marion’s own writing career. Her newsletters were always based on ‘what-if’ scenarios, but in actuality, they are the plain truth, about just about everything.
For example, Marion’s baseline rule in how to budget, is that one day a week, for dinner, you have to have soup. It could be an elaborate blend of soup fixin’s, but you had to have soup. Hand in hand with that rule or in place of it, might be a ‘Fish Friday.’ However because Marion is always trying to diet, she follows both traditions. She’ll do a Fish Friday, every Friday and a happy soup night every Tuesday night.
Marion used to embed the information she received from the fortune cookies just for fun in her newsletters, because just like caffeine, it runs a thread of truth in an otherwise cloaked society. She weaved the truth transparently through her newsletters.
The voice in the future that reported to Bethany automated his system and because of her illiteracy, she never took the time to cross-reference the reports that she received first-hand.
Therefore, everything was just a little bit off here and there, but Marion took it upon her shoulders to re-create and to re-build the facts and tout them as ‘what-if’ fictional scenarios in her newsletters.
* * * * * * * *
One of the sections of the newsletter would read:
If we had local rock star living amongst us and he just turned 49 on May 14th, suppose he wanted to plan a dinner for his guests and he needed to speak to his caterers about the Roast Beef dinner that he was planning for everybody. Then, Marion might conjure up some faux facts and share that with the rest of the town. People simple thought that it was her take on what was going on around town and were happy to read about the fluff and stuff that she gushed on.
For Marion, although she didn’t get paid for her newsletters at first, she had a fun time re-constructing the facts and bringing them to light. So for Marion, initially gaining 20 pounds from all that Chinese food was the beginning of a new career for her. She seemed to be the only one who knew the truth in town, but nobody knew that it came from her dietary intake of Chinese fortune cookies and the strips of fortune messages inside each one.
In fact corruption got its foot in the door permanently when Bethany’s non-truth facts became an automated part of the newsfeed that went through Conertown, USA. In fact Marion (even if she tried), couldn’t get a job at the local news station or the local newspaper, because what she actually knew, would be constantly clashing with what was often reported.
If you can imagine that the future automated system that supplied Bethany with her news feeds through her ear buds started to interpolate what people might be doing in the future time, you could tell how even more outlandish Bethany’s news reporting became. That’s when Marion helped even harder at righting the system of Cornertown, USA.
Marion’s newsletters were eventually compiled by her to form for her book titled, “A Budget With Marion.”
There were certain people who enjoyed Marion’s weekly newsletters and over time, she had amassed enough information to compile her book. She wanted to independently publish her book, therefore, she wanted to self-publish. However, if she happened to have come across an interested literary agent or a traditional publisher, she would not have been against them either.
In any case, she wrote out her query letters and put them out as bait for the literary agents and publishers. After many rejections, she was contacted by a small press publisher that combined the elements of a traditional publisher with the small-fee-affordability of a partnership deal.
Marion was really happy with how the book turned out after the publisher’s editor had gotten a hold of it. The cover they gave her was fun, lively and colorful. The books were just in time for the holiday season, so she wrapped up several copies and gave them out as presents to family and friends.
Five years down the road, she had stayed the course with her newsletters and wondered about whether an update to her book on budgeting might be due. Marion continued to get truth messages by way of the fortune cookies and she valued her ability to transform the various truths and somehow work them into the ‘what-if’ scenarios about the town she lived in.
Merry Christmas 2014 and Happy New Year 2015!