It’s a Sunday afternoon, and the board have called an emergency meeting. This is their seventh emergency meeting of the year. It’s February. A line of white men pour into the conference room, all visibly shaken; some of them are wearing golf clothes, Mr Evans is still in his pyjamas. His lazy Sunday had been snatched away from him. His wife was at home making brunch for him and his two children when he got the call.
“Thank you all for coming at such short notice,” said Mr Johnson once the men had been seated and the hubbub had died down. Patricia, his secretary, was staring at him from under her glasses, as she sat in the corner ready to type up the minutes. She had half a mind to just copy paste the minutes from the last emergency meeting. Maybe next time she would, just to make a point. Then again, maybe she would just get the point across by staring at Mr Johnson from under her glasses.
“For Pete’s sake Johnson,” offered Mr Williams, “I swear we’re spending more Sundays here than at the golf course!” Mr Williams intended for it to be a quip of levity, but then Mr Black yelled “Hear, hear!” and there were general mumblings of agreement. Mr Black was on the 18th Hole when the call came in.
Mr Johnson was struggling to hide his frustration. He had plans this Sunday too; then again, he was one of the few men wearing a suit. He’d become accustomed to wearing a suit on his downtime. Just in case. “Look, gentlemen, I know we’d all much rather be at home or at the golf course-“
“I was heading to the vineyard!” said Mr Smith. Everyone knew Mr Smith was heading to the vineyard. He’d been talking about it for a week. “Yes, yes Smith, or the vineyard. But you know this is urgent gentlemen, surely you’ve seen the news!” Johnson turned the TV on. It didn’t matter what channel; the news was everywhere. West Virginia was under attack. 80 dead and counting. The shooter had attacked a hospital this time. He’d made a beeline for the paediatric ward.
“Turn that shit off, we’ve all heard the news,” said Mr Bryant. “Can’t we just blame it on ISIS again?”
“Bad news Bryant. He’s white this time.”
“Shit.” The atmosphere of annoyance turned sombre. The think-piece industry must be going crazy. Johnson shuddered to think what Jezebel or The Guardian must be thinking right now. Oh God and the late-night hosts would all be ganging up on them. “Well we’ve got to do something!” suddenly Bryant was an activist. As a white man, he must have felt personally affected by this. “Have we offered our thoughts and prayers?”
“Of course we have, social media department is all over it.” In the office, next door was a group of 23-year-old interns making condolences graphics and sombrely tweeting them.
“Well, surely we can do something else?”
“Do we know much about the guy? Maybe he was gay or depressed! Was he at least poor? Maybe a woman had rejected him one time.”
“No mental health issues that we know of. It’s still too early for details-“
“Exactly! It’s too early! Surely this isn’t the time for conversations like this?” Mr Smith was upset, but he was also itching to get back to the vineyard.
Johnson was about to lose it. “We tried that last time Smith! They’re figuring out the tactic; offer thoughts and prayers for about a week, then sweep the whole thing under the rug until the next one. We need a new plan!” He was more angry than anything. Surely there were security guards at the hospital. Why didn’t they shoot the attacker? What about the parents at the paediatric ward – did none of them have a gun, or did they just not want to defend their children. Patricia couldn’t help but be a little surprised – was Mr Johnson gaining self-awareness or was he just sleep deprived. Tough call.
“Johnson’s right,” said Mr Campbell as he poured himself another coffee. “Kumail Nanjiani keeps tweeting mean things about us.” It was a shame. He loved Silicon Valley.
“Have we considered shifting the conversation to knives? Knives do murders too. Just the other day I read about someone who went on a knife rampage.”
“How many people were killed?”
“None, someone just needed stitches to their thigh. Thoughts and prayers to the victim of course.”
“Yes, yes, thoughts and prayers.”
“Any new video games come out that we can blame this on? Has Quentin Tarantino released a new film recently?”
“Not to worry Evans, we’ve got the interns researching violence in all the new released in the past 6 weeks. Surely there’s something there.”
“Maybe that’s enough Johnson?” said Campbell, “between all the thoughts and prayers and scapegoating, we might be alright. The Guardian will write the odd article, celebrities will tweet mean things at us, but this’ll all blow over in a few weeks. If we’re lucky, ISIS will do something soon to take the heat off us. Maybe there’ll be another hurricane. These are turbulent times, there’s not really any point in coming up with a new strategy now is there.”
Campbell had been vying for a promotion for months, and this just might be the ticket. He was met with nods and mutterings of agreement. “Hear, hear” proclaimed Mr Black.
Mr Smith had enough time to make it back to the vineyard.