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    Wombat Bill
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May contain graphic sexual content

Catering With Benefits (3) - An Appetite for More - 23. What Have I Gotten Myself Into Here?

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“Prism! Steadman! Phone! Immediately!”

“Right away Sir, shall I tell him what it’s about?”

“Yes, you can tell him he’s in deep shit.”

“...um...yes...sir.”

<>

“Good morning Jonathan, Prism seems to think there’s a problem. How can I help?”

“I would like to say your resignation will help, but I’m not going to let you off that easily.”

“What’s happened?”

“Have you read this morning’s newspaper?”

“No, I don’t buy newspapers, but which one, I’ll get a copy.”

“That Daily News rag.”

“In the meantime I’ll check the headlines on-line.”

“Don’t waste your time, it’s on page 5 anyway.”

“Tell me what it is.”

“I’ve been outed, is that what you call it?”

“Is this to do with Saturday night?”

“You bet your arse it is. Speaking of which, get it in here pronto.”

“Right away Jonathan.”

Price hung up and then buzzed his secretary. “Prism, please get Smidmore on the phone.”

<>

“Good morning Mr Price.”

“Ah Smidmore, have you read this morning’s newspaper.”

“No, I usually have a quick browse at morning tea time. Is there something in particular you want me to see?”

“Most definitely! Get yourself a copy of The Sydney Daily News, read page five and then get back to me with a course of action.”

“You’ve got me intrigued, I’ll get on to it straight away.”

<>

Thomas called Jared before he left for the city. “Hey, did Jonathan say anything to you on the drive in about a newspaper article?”

“No, I don’t think he had a newspaper with him, if he reads it at all he gets a copy in the office. Why what’s up?”

“There’s something in the Daily News about him being outed and he’s fuming about it.”

“Should I get a copy?”

“Yes, I’m going in to the office now, so get a copy, check out page five and meet me in the parking.”

“Will do, bye.”

<>

“Mr Price, Smidmore here. I’ve seen the article you’re referring to, not the best sort of publicity for an aspiring politician.”

“Yes, I get that. What I want to know is, what are you going to do about it; sue the bastards?”

“I don’t think there’s grounds for litigation, unless Mrs Price has been misquoted.”

“But there’ve publicly announced that I, a happily married man, am gay.”

“Price, we both know that’s not true.”

“I’m glad you agree with me, so why can’t we sue them?”

“The part I mean is not true, is about you being happily married.”

“It’s nobody’s business how my marriage is.”

“True, but I suspect you’re really concerned about the accusation that you are gay, and we both know that part’s true. So tell me, from your recollection, is the quote accurate?”

“Well yes, she said that, but it wasn’t meant for the whole world to hear.”

“I heard it, and anybody within five metres of your table would have heard it. Plus it was a semi-public event attended by invited media people. Did you not think they would report on the night’s events?”

“But I only wanted them there to report on the fundraising and my campaign.”

“They did all that, but you can’t dictate exactly what the media will report. If the quotes were inaccurate and the inference untrue, we might have some cause for a complaint. Furthermore, if you do take them to court, regardless of the merits of your claim, your private life will be on show for all to see and commented upon for the length of the case and beyond. Is that what you want?”

“I hadn’t thought about that. Perhaps you’re right... this time.”

“Good, the best you can do now is to try and limit the damage. Do you have publicity people who can do that?”

“I’ve got a campaign manager, he’s on his way in as we speak.”

“I don’t know about his experience, but you really need experts at managing the media if you’re serious about standing for election.”

“Where do I get these people?”

“I’ll ask around and get back to you.”

“Thank you, I’ll wait to hear from you.”

<>

Thomas came screeching into the parking area so fast, he nearly wiped out a car trying to exit and then stopped only inches from Price’s Rolls Royce. Jared did not hear the screech of breaks as he was sitting in the car with the multi-speaker surround sound system at full blast. He did notice when Thomas’ car almost hit him.

“What the fuck!” was his greeting for Thomas.

“Sorry, I’m a mess just wondering what’s in this paper that’s so enraged the old man.”

“Here, read for yourself.” he answered as he thrust the paper at Thomas.

“I should have known this would happen. Jonathan was right to be concerned yesterday.”

“What are you going to do about it?”

“Buggered if I know. This is not the sort of shit I’m used to dealing with. Warm champagne and undercooked chicken is about the most disastrous crises I had to manage in my previous job.”

“Did we take on more than we can handle?”

“You’re ok, you’ve got all the experience and training for your job. I’m just a jumped up secretary with delusions of grandeur, and won’t be surprised when he tells me that.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, but we’ll talk about that later. You better get up there and face the music. Do you want me to come?”

“Has he said anything to you about this?”

“I haven’t heard from him since I drove him here this morning.”

“Then I better face this alone.”

“Ok, I’ll be in the lunch room if you need me. But before you go....” Jared gave Thomas a kiss and a long hug than added “Now off you go and be brave.”

<>

“Well Steadman, what have you got to say for yourself?”

“Me, I haven’t done anything.”

“That’s just my point, I expect you to kill this story.”

“What’s been said is already out there. The important thing now is not to give them any more ammunition to use against you. If that’s all they’ve got then I think we leave it at that.”

“You’re no better than Smidmore, he’s says we can’t do anything about it either.”

“Jonathan, they were your words and Mrs P’s. I don’t know why you expect me to reverse what’s been said and what’s been reported. The best strategy now is to say nothing about what’s been reported and be very, very careful about what you say in public in the future.”

“Humph, I’m not happy about this Steadman.”

“I get that Jonathan, and can you stop calling me Steadman? I know it’s what you call me when you’re angry. You need to calm down. You surely must know politics is a rough game to play and perhaps it has been good that this incident happened now, so early in your campaign. We can learn something from it.”

“Like what?”

“Firstly, be careful what you say in public, especially when there are journos around. Secondly, and this is a bit delicate...”

“Don’t pussyfoot around Stead...Thomas.”

“I know you want Mrs P to be seen as the devoted and supportive wife, but if there are going to be gaffs like this, is that wise? The very image you are trying to project was blown out of the water with that type of behaviour.”

“So are you saying the woman you are so devoted to, is not going to help my election prospects?”

“Not unless you two can come to some agreement about it.”

“We do have an agreement. I bought her a holiday house and let her have an affair with her driver. In return she promised to appear as the supportive wife.”

“But it’s not working is it? So, either you sort it out, we don’t rely on Mrs P or you abandon your ambitions to be a politician.”

“That sounds like an ultimatum.”

“It’s meant to sound like choices for a course of action.”

“Ok I see what you mean, so what would you recommend, out of those choices?”

“Honestly, you stop appearing with your wife in social situations, especially where alcohol is involved.”

“That’s the problem there; it was the alcohol that caused her to make that awful accusation. So she has to stop drinking in public.”

“I hope you don’t expect me to tell her that, Jonathan.”

“No, I’m man enough to do it myself.”

“As may be, but I don’t like your chances of getting her to agree to that or being able to enforce it.”

“Then that only leaves us with the option of not expecting her to help me with this.”

“I think that’s a wise decision Jonathan.”

“So what do we do now?”

“The next items on my list are to get your out handing over the donations to charity and arrange the next function, which will be for the gay community.”

“But will I be seen to be gay if I appear at a gay function?”

“No more than you will appear to a pensioner when you officiate at the function for seniors.”

”Good thinking, I like where we are heading now, and I’ll forget all about this silly poofter nonsense.”

“Except for one thing Jonathan.”

“Yes, I know.”

***

When Thomas finished his meeting with Price he went up to the staff lunch room, on the rooftop, to find Jared.

“How did it go? I didn’t like to say so at the time, but you were so lacking in confidence, when you went up.”

“I was fuckin’ brilliant. By the time I left, he was eating out of my hand.”

“I knew you could do it.”

“I didn’t... just winged it and told it like it is. He accepted my recommendations and we’re sweet again.”

“What did you recommend?”

“That Mrs P. no longer be involved in the campaign, especially when alcohol is served.”

“Wow! How did he take that, and more importantly, how’s she going to take it?”

“He accepted my suggestion and I think she will be relieved. She doesn’t like this politics game anyway.”

“Do you have to tell her?”

“No, Jonathan will do that and we’ll’ probably hear her cheer from here.”

***

The following morning, Thomas wasted no time getting on with the next phase of the campaign. He called Andy, then Max and Charles to arrange a meeting of his Gay Liaison Committee to work out a strategy for getting the LGBTIQ community involved in Price’s election campaign. He also invited a representative from the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.

 

He called Craig, Edward and Dean to pencil in some dates for the gay community political function, but his preference was to have it on International Day against Homophobia.

While speaking to Thomas, Edward asked if he could do an interview with Price, for the radio and Thomas was not only in favour of the idea, but mentally chastised himself for not thinking of it first. They set a date for Edward to go to Price’s office for the interview, without first confirming with Price, who objected to Thomas’ taking such a liberty.

***

“Jonathan, need I remind you that you trusted me to be your campaign manager and as such there will be times when I have to make decisions on your behalf for reasons of expediency. This was one of those occasions, so I would appreciate it if you could make yourself available.”

“I don’t appreciate being spoken to like that young man. You are standing on shaky ground already by not dealing with that newspaper article. So don’t tell me what I will do and when.”

“Very well, if you don’t want to take my advice on this, then perhaps you should look for a campaign manager who will kowtow to your demands. But before you answer me, think about this. Am I running an election campaign to get you elected and are you serious about wanting to stand.”

“What a cheek!”

“As may be, but being a politician, and an independent at that, will not be the same as running your business here, where you are totally in charge. Politics is about the art of compromise and listening to others. Some of those others will be your advisers. Have I made myself clear, Jonathan?”

“Abundantly! I still don’t like your attitude, but if Prism can re-arrange my schedule then I will be available for the interview.”

“Good, and before that I will supply you with notes and talking points, to help frame your answers.”

“So you’re also going to tell me what to say?”

“Tell me, what is the most pressing issue for the LGBTI community?”

“This marriage thing, though I can’t fathom why.”

“That was achieved last year. You really must keep up to date on these matters. Now tell me what the gay community wants, that you, as their representative in Federal parliament will, fight for.”

“Um... equality?”

“A bit vague, can you be more specific?”

“Can I think about that?”

“Oh fuck! What have I gotten myself into here?”

***

At the meeting of the Gay Liaison Committee, Thomas welcomed the attendees and presented them with his agenda. “We have two specific items to address at this meeting and then I will open the meeting for general discussion. Firstly I need to know what rights our community is most in need of and then I would like to set a date for a function where Jonathan Price can present his policies.”

Colin Wishmore, the representative from the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, asked “May I speak first Mr Chairman?”

“Of course, I am anxious to hear, but there is no need to be so formal, first names are fine.”

“Thanks Thomas. Our lobby has thought about this carefully and our position is, we believe most Australians probably think that now we have marriage equality, LGBTI people's rights are fully respected. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Discrimination against LGBTI people causes staggeringly high rates of mental illness, self-harm and suicide, particularly for young people in our schools. Many of the remaining areas of discrimination don't have the same level of visibility as marriage equality, particularly issues affecting trans, gender diverse and intersex people, but that doesn't make them any less important.”

Max then added “Following the resounding Yes vote for marriage equality and the subsequent Federal legislation, which I might add, Charles and I have embraced by getting married....”

“Congratulations.” offered Colin.

“Thank you, and as I was saying, now that we have the support of the majority of Australian voters that gives us a real opportunity to move forward with further demands. We can and should ensure that LGBTI people are treated fairly, and with dignity and respect, under all of our laws.”

Charles then asked “As we are here to help formulate the policy for Jonathan Price’s campaign launch, what specific rights does he need to demand on behalf of our community?”

Damien replied “Firstly, groups that take taxpayer’s money should not be allowed to discriminate. LGBTI groups have called for an end to permanent exemptions from discrimination enjoyed by religious organisations, particularly in government funded service delivery, employment and schools.”

“That’s correct.” added Andy “Any organisation that receives a single cent of taxpayer money shouldn't have a licence to discriminate against LGBTI people, the same way that this isn't accepted because of a person's race or disability.”

Colin then explained further “A recent poll found that four in five Australians don't support existing laws that allow religious schools to fire staff and expel students based on their sexuality. Some faith based groups have advocated for a Religious Freedoms Act for greater licence for people of faith to refuse to employ staff or provide goods and services to others based on their religious beliefs.”

“You mean like a baker refusing to bake a wedding cake or a florist denying delivery of service for a same-sex couple’s wedding.”

“Yes, although I feel in those cases the couple would be happy to take their business elsewhere rather than support a bigot. But what is of more importance is, a religious school should not be able to fire a gay teacher or question their sexual orientation in a job interview. At present they can legally deny employment based on sexuality. ”

“So in summary, Price needs to argue that religious organisation not be given more power to discriminate in business, education or the delivery of any commercial service and further, the existing laws allowing discrimination in faith based schools be wound back. Is that a fair assessment of what is required?” asked Thomas.

***

“Good morning, Sydney Daily News, how can I help you?”

“I’d like to speak to the person who wrote an article in your paper on Monday.”

“Which article are you referring to sir?”

“It was on page five under the heading weekend political roundup.”

“Would you please hold the line sir, while I check with editorial.”

The caller waited impatiently till the operator returned to the call.

“Thank you for waiting sir, the writer of that column is Tim Shand.”

“Could I speak to him please?”

“He’s not in at present, if you leave your number I’ll pass on the message.”

“I don’t want to give my name or number, maybe I could call back.”

“If you wish sir, but Tim is out of the office a lot, it’s his job to attend political press conferences.”

“Ok then, but I’ll only give my first name and number.”

“That’s fine, go ahead please.”

Next Chapter - The Interview - Mr DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up. - Virginia fired.

Copyright © 2021 Wombat Bill; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

👀 I find myself wondering if Mrs. Price/Virginia is the anonymous caller. It would make some sense to me if she wanted to reveal some hard truths on her own terms as they may come out anyway and at this point she surely wants them to. I know he’s deep in the closet but it’s hard to believe how out of touch Mr. Price/Jonathan is with the LGBT+ community, though he’s likely out of touch with the general community/all voters. 🙄 I can’t comprehend why he’s interested in politics when he doesn’t really stand for anything or know anything yet I suppose politics is just a typical hobby for old, rich, white men. 🤷🏻‍♂️ While Thomas has a point about Mrs. Price/Virginia being a liability yet especially following that article I’d think questions would be asked and rumors started when she stops making an appearance. I can’t help thinking it won’t help his image if his wife is never seen with him as it would imply she doesn’t support him and/or they are having marriage problems.

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3 minutes ago, NimirRaj said:

I suppose politics is just a typical hobby for old, rich, white men.

Oh so true, and haven't we seen a perfect example of that, in real life, over the past four years.

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2 minutes ago, ReaderPaul said:

I am wondering if the anonymous caller is Bernard?

So, that's one vote for Virginia, one for Bernard and @Summerabbacat 's vote yet to come. 

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Firstly, I must offer my sincerest apologies to our "wizard of words" for failing to acknowledge and offer profuse thanks for the All About Eve reference in the previous chapter. An exceptional film released in a year (1950) which saw the release of two of the greatest films ever made. In my humble opinion, it was only bettered by one film in that year, the film that was nominated for all the major Academy Awards and won none of them (mostly losing to All About Eve I think), the masterpiece Sunset Boulevard. Well I shall not fail this time @Wombat Bill.  Thank you (to the power of infinity) for the reference to Norma Desmond/Gloria Swanson and Sunset Boulevard in the teaser at the end of this chapter. It may sound trite, but this one small act of kindness has made me very happy for some moments in what has been a very worrying and stressful last three days.

This is a chapter filled with so much to enjoy. It was off to a rollicking start with the appearance of Smidmore. On a previous occasion when he made an appearance I envisioned him physically resembling the character of Mr Rumbold in Are You Being Served (whom most would not accuse of being handsome), with the sense of humour, or more accurately lack thereof, to match. What a delightful surprise to find that Smidmore in fact possesses a rather dry wit. The following discussion between he and Jonathan had me in stitches: “But there’ve publicly announced that I, a happily married man, am gay.” “Price, we both know that’s not true.” “I’m glad you agree with me, so why can’t we sue them?” “The part I mean is not true, is about you being happily married.”

Further joy was to be had with Jonathan's attempt to hold Thomas responsible for the "boiler and poofter" episode. I won't comment again on Jonathan's failure to recognise his part in this episode, other than to say Thomas has not forgotten his contribution. Thomas' railroading of Jonathan was achieved with such finesse that one could be forgiven for thinking he has been doing this for a long time. He is a natural. I kept thinking of Nathan Lane as Max Bialystock inThe Producers (not that I envision Thomas resembles him physically).

Then we had the meeting between Thomas, Max and members of the Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby. @ReaderPaulthe names have been changed to protect the "guilty" parties, but I felt that our "wizard of words" had given @Summerabbacat equal billing when Damien uttered “Firstly, groups that take taxpayer’s money should not be allowed to discriminate. LGBTI groups have called for an end to permanent exemptions from discrimination enjoyed by religious organisations, particularly in government funded service delivery, employment and schools.” I wondered if somehow our "wizard of words" had taped me making these very comments on numerous occasions to work colleagues, friends and family members (especially those who support the Liberal/National Party coalition governments in Australia). 

Now for the identity of the anonymous caller. I strongly suspect that my fellow CWB groupie, our very own Paul Sherlock Holmes Poirot is correct. @Wombat Bill rarely (if ever) introduces a character into his works and then gives them nothing to do. So far Bernard's only contribution to the story was to be on the receiving end of termination of his services. His appearance to date has added nothing to the storyline, other than the conjecture some of we readers raised. The anonymous call  may be his "turn to shine". Some may say @Wombat Bill introduced Chris in chapters 20 and 21 and gave him nothing to do, but I would strongly disagree. Chris exposed a characteristic of Jonathan, and not an attractive one, which had not previously been known. He also added a comedic touch with his Benny Hillesque double entendre's regarding servicing Jonathan.

Excellent work again @Wombat Bill. Certainly deserving of the honorific title @ReaderPaul has bestowed upon you.

 

 

Edited by Summerabbacat
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6 hours ago, Summerabbacat said:

 

Then we had the meeting between Thomas, Max and members of the Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby. @ReaderPaulthe names have been changed to protect the "guilty" parties, but I felt that our "wizard of words" had given @Summerabbacat equal billing when Damien uttered “Firstly, groups that take taxpayer’s money should not be allowed to discriminate. LGBTI groups have called for an end to permanent exemptions from discrimination enjoyed by religious organisations, particularly in government funded service delivery, employment and schools.”  I wondered if somehow our "wizard of words" had taped me making these very comments on numerous occasions to work colleagues, friends and family members (especially those who support the Liberal/National Party coalition governments in Australia). 

Now for the identity of the anonymous caller. I strongly suspect that my fellow CWB groupie, our very own Paul Sherlock Holmes Poirot is correct. @Wombat Bill rarely (if ever) introduces a character into his works and then gives them nothing to do. So far Bernard's only contribution to the story was to be on the receiving end of termination of his services. His appearance to date has added nothing to the storyline, other than the conjecture some of we readers raised. The anonymous call  may be his "turn to shine". Some may say @Wombat Bill introduced Chris in chapters 20 and 21 and gave him nothing to do, but I would strongly disagree. Chris exposed a characteristic of Jonathan, and not an attractive one, which had not previously been known. He also added a comedic touch with his Benny Hillesque double entendre's regarding servicing Jonathan.

Excellent work again @Wombat Bill. Certainly deserving of the honorific title @ReaderPaul has bestowed upon you.

Actually, I can think of additional persons who might have made the call, though Bernard is VERY likely.  Prism, Desmond, and the fixer; all are possibilities.  And no telling who else Jonathan Price might have greatly upset.   

@Summerabbacat, I certainly agree that religious organizations should NOT to be allowed to discriminate if they take even the smallest fraction of a dollar of taxpayer money.  The wrangling over that in the United States irritates me greatly, and that any truly religious organization would ACCEPT any government/taxpayer money galls me. But it happens all too often.  I could say more, but it is obvious we are in major agreement on that issue.

I predict that @Wombat Bill our own warlock of word weaving, the sultan of script, and the creator of chronicles will tell us, probably within three chapters.  

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6 hours ago, ReaderPaul said:

probably within three chapters.  

Sooner than you think. 

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