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Fast Fiction: Birthday Tribute

Is it wise to invite a smug journalist to “speak as he finds’’ at your birthday party? Richard Mallinson tells a tale concerning a power of the press.

'Darling,' said Sir Roly Brocker to the dazzling young woman at his side, 'I want you to meet Rick Frankly, who writes a column for one of my papers.'

'Oh, yes,' the young woman said, shaking hands, 'I'm a devoted reader of Mr Frankly in the Daily Blare.'

'Well,' said Sir Roly, 'I hope that doesn't mean you agree with his lefty views - because I certainly don't.'

'I guessed that, darling... So why do you employ him?'

'Because if we didn't, one of our rivals would.'

'Is he really that good, then?' the young woman asked.

'Hm, so I've been told by, Edric, the Blare editor, who seems to think -'

Frankly intervened. 'Now I'm really embarrassed,' he said, smugly, putting his glass down and taking a full one from the tray held out to him by a waitress.

'Hey, steady on, old boy,' Sir Roly said, 'we don't want you pie-eyed when you make your speech.'

'Speech!' exclaimed Frankly. 'Nobody's said anything about a speech.'

'Really? I specifically asked Edric to tell you - nearly a week ago.'

'Well, he hasn't said anything... What sort of speech?'

'A speech about me, of course,' Sir Roly said. 'A sort of birthday tribute, which'll be more convincing from you than it would from Edric, who's very loyal to me ... Anyway, he'll announce you after the meal... Just speak as you find.'

'Speak as I find, eh?' mused Frankly, gulping his drink.

The young woman was quick. 'Oh, darling,' she said to Sir Roly, 'don't you think you're taking a teeny bit of a risk?'


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