Faye was looking particularly reptilian that day. Her eyes were reduced to mere slits underneath a puffiness that suggested her weekend at Donatella Versace's South Beach villa had involved some kind of head-on collision that activated a set of air bags beneath the sockets. She leaned back in her chair and draped a lamppostlike leg over her desk, knocking over an ashtray and a stack of videotapes and causing her shoe to fall off and reveal a set of contorted blackened toenails.
"Lucinda!" Faye screamed, though I was three feet away. "I have received a memo from upstairs."
"Are they firing you?" I asked. We had this sort of relationship. Sparring, playful. Though there was always the possibility that she would lunge unexpectedly, like a big cat.
"They want to move the show in a new direction," she said. "They think it's too provincial, too New York centric. They want us to cover issues of concern to average Americans. Maybe even humanitarian issues. Of course, I find that profoundly uninteresting. But I have no doubt that you can tap into the psyches of fat housewives in trailer parks."
"Actually I've always thought the show was too limited," I said. "Are we going in a more, like, Frontline-ish direction?"
"Don't get uppity," Faye said.
I caught her noticing my shoes, which were scuffed and from Banana Republic and utterly beneath her standards.
"I'm sending you to the Midwest," she said. "There's a very dangerous drug there that women are doing to help them lose weight and clean the house. Basically it's coke for the Payless shoes set. It sounds disgusting and I'm sure you can find a bunch of disgusting people who will talk on camera and give the show a dose of realness."
She handed me a story memo.
To: Up Early Exeuctives
From: Faye Figaro, Senoir Producer
Meth: Its Cheep, Its a Quick High, and Its Endangering Womans Lives
Had lunch with Roseanne (Barr? Arnold? whatever) the other day to brainstorm about shows new direction and she told me about a new drug that is priminont in the midwest United Stats. It's called methenfetimyne and it is basicly a much, much more potant form of the "mothers little helper' upper that was previlant in the 1960s. It is made in labs that are often in farm houses and then sold to averge, normal women who want to lose wieght or just have more engery to do housewrk or care for the kids. The main thing here is that it is very, very common and extremley dangerous and people die from it. I would like to send Lucinda Trout, who has been doing a good job as Lifstyle Correpsondent, to invesigate this alaming trend.
"You had lunch with Roseanne?" I asked.
"They set it up," Faye said, lighting a cigarette and snaking her foot around under her desk in search of her lost mule. "She's actually quite brilliant in her way, given her cultural context."
"Where would I have to go?"
"Hello?" Faye yelled. "That's your job. Figure it out! You're going on Friday."
"For how long?"
"I don't know, a week. Make it in depth. They're serious about this getting serious thing. But no fat people, please. I'm not throwing all our standards out the window."
Faye softened as the nicotine worked its way through her nervous system. She slid her foot into her shoe and returned her leg to the desk.
"So how are you, Lucinda?" she asked, turning suddenly empathic. "Are you well?"
"My rent is being raised to twenty-one hundred a month," I said.
"Can't you ask your parents for money?"
"Faye, you know my parents are retired schoolteachers."
"Well, then I guess you'll have to move to Queens," she said. "Can you redo this memo for me?"
I took the memo and got up to leave.
"Can you pick up my ashtray?" Faye asked.
From The Quality of Life Report by Meghan Daum. Copyright Meghan Daum 2003. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the publisher Viking Press.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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