Originally posted here, a 15-minute-ficlet to the prompt “platitudinous”
She smiled at the gathered crowd and took a long, deep breath. They would listen to her; they’d paid to come in here, after all. But would they hear?
She waited while they squirmed a bit. No-one expected her to be all that interesting, did they? They expected her to preach, to pontificate, to pour platitudes on their plebeian pates. They came to say they’d heard her speak, not because they expected it to be an entertaining speech.
“Punch ’em in the gut,” he’d recommended. “Don’t be platitudinous. Don’t use words of more than two syllables unless no other word will do. They’re here to look at you, after all, and for the cachet of hearing you speak. Let them look at you. Then, and only then, honey, hit them in the gut and don’t let them catch their breath until you’re done with them.”
He’d added a wry smile then, one she’d come to know very well. “I know you can do it. You’ve done it to me.”
She stepped away from the podium, carrying only the small remote control for the projector. She shed her business jacket. Let them look at you. All right, then; under the jacket she was wearing a thin, strappy chemise and a skirt that looked a lot less professional without its matching jacket, especially when a mystery breeze began brushing it to and fro, suggesting more than showing, but certainly suggesting a lot.
While they were staring at the moments of revealed thigh, at her freckled shoulders, at her flame-colored, hair, the projector screen lowered. She stood so that she was directly in front of the images, and showed them her pictures:
Avignon, where a would-be god sat on a throne in the middle of city hall, young men and women in chains at his feet. The light made it seem as if she, too, was chained before him. Click.
Barcelona, where the center of the city stood as destroyed as if an earthquake had hit it. She looked, now, as if she stood buried to her waist in rubble. The crowd began to make uncomfortable noises. Click.
Lisbon, looking as if nothing had changed, at first glance. Peaceful. Calm. Happy. Click… and so very uniform. Everybody the same. Everybody moving with a small careful fixed smile on their face: nothing wrong here. We like our uniforms. We are not stepping out of the crowd. Click.
The light of an American anytown showed them her face, with the same careful smile, the same blank expression.
“The enemy is already here,” she said into the nervous silence. “The questions is not when they will arrive. It is what. will. we. do?”
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