The Secret Life of Margaret Sullivan

You are a local news reporter for a failing network. Your boss tells you to ramp up the news by getting “creative” and constructing your own stories. What’s the first fake news story you create and broadcast on air? (500 words or less/Courtesy of WritersDigest.com)

The Secret Life of Margaret Sullivan

“A fake news story?”, I asked Mr. Edison, news manager for KNEW, “That would damage all of my integrity, Sir.”

“When you decided to become a journalist,” he countered, “you already lost it”.

How in the world will I create a news story in this day and age where everything is vetted before press release? After years of study and pounding the pavement for an opportunity at a respected news station, I have been reduced to creating my stories to remain relevant and out of the trash heap. What choice did I have as a new reporter if I wished to remain employed? Do I storm out of this office with an ounce of pride and dignity and quit, or do I tuck my tail between my legs and get to work? Quite frankly, I chose the latter. At the moment, I am barely managing to keep my head above water with piles of bills stacked upon my kitchen counter.

At once, I brainstormed possible “leads”, until I finally created one: Middle-aged Daughter Finds One Million Dollars Stashed In Her Deceased Mother’s Attic A Year Later.

For forty years, Debra Johannson had a sense that her mother, Margaret Sullivan, lived a secretive life. She was a quiet woman that often kept to herself and made sure she never ruffled any neighborhood feathers. “My mother would barely utter an “hello” to her neighbors,” Johannson told KNEW this morning. “When she would leave the house,” she continued barely above a whisper, “she would leave at the very earliest – sometimes dawn- and returned before anyone noticed she was away.” Mrs. Sullivan was seen as the neighborhood eccentric that inspired tall tales and a nursery rhyme passed down among the children that was raised near her home for decades. Johannson added, “As the children passed my mother’s home, they would sing or hum the tune and run off before she’d open the door.” When asked if such things bothered her mother, she replied with a slight chuckle, “No, she got a kick out of it. She figured that if her life was worth writing a song about, it must be worth more than she thought.”

The day Johannson discovered the money was an ordinary one. She was simply clearing space for Sullivan’s granddaughter to use as storage when she discovered a twill sack filled with yellow-tinged money and a note behind a vintage armoire. In the note, she had all she needed to know about her mother’s past life. She was a gangster’s moll and the money was a birthday gift given to her former lover, a man that specialized in bank robberies. “Apparently, Johannson quipped, “my mother’s love was worth all the money in the world during that time. I can’t blame her for not sharing that part of her life with us. It kept a smile on her face.”

What will Johannson do with all that money? “I will pass it on to my children as my mom did for me.”

(I think I have a story here except I’ll change it to an actual story of a woman, not one created by a news reporter.)

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