Nan Fuller's Naked Truth
Nan Fuller often gave Gary "Hutch" Hutchinson amused looks during their daily morning Staff meetings when the editorial staff met as a team to discuss the various stories of the day.
Nan had been serving as the Greenville News and Dispatch's Features Editor for the past few years while Hutch had worked his way up to the Sports Editor position. They were among the most seasoned veterans on the Dispatch Staff as the newsroom was known for its revolving door of writers, reporters, and editors who used the Dispatch as a stepping stone to other opportunities.
Hutch joined his hometown newspaper as a sports reporter fresh out of college. Nan, a few years older than him, had already established herself as an up and coming local political reporter and sometimes Hutch felt guilty for playing it safe with local sports coverage while Nan was creating her firebrand reputation as a thoughtful and hard fighting serious reporter.
The two became unlikely friends even though they had different viewpoints, outlooks, and interests, bonding mostly because both of them were cynical. They usually joined forces to criticize and mock questionable if not foolish editorial and managerial decisions and because they had outlasted most of the "empty suits" that had come and gone, the two editors felt entitled and justified in their attitudes and denigrations.
Hutch had been married and divorced during his time at the paper. Nan never married but she went through a series of long term relationships over the years, often with big name local politicians and other well established personalities but none of her romances seemed to last.
Nan left the Political beat when she began dating the Mayor, turning to investigative reporting instead and then moving to the Editorial Page as a columnist and editor when her relationship with the Mayor ended. Nan eventually soured on the often insane, hypocritical, nauseating and frustrating world of Politics and she voluntarily moved to the Features Editor position around the same time Trump came down the escalator for the first time.
"I would have had to kill myself if I had to editorialize on that piece of shit every day," she told Hutch not long after the campaign began.
Hutch didn't concern himself with politics that much in his everyday life. He voted and he paid attention to current events and local issues but he didn't take pontificating politicians very seriously and he'd rather watch the sports channels than the cable news channels.
Hutch relied on Nan to keep him abreast of the important stuff with her entertaining comments, observations, and insults. She made him laugh and she made the newsroom fun, even though she was serious as a heart attack when it came to keeping writers accountable and responsible. She was a stern editor and she was unyielding in her writing standards and expectations.
Nan used the entire fleet of Dispatch writers to produce the features for the paper, including Hutch's sports reporters who felt they should be exempt from such assignments. Nan told them that was bullshit and she was constantly at odds with Jay Burnham and Jess Lajoy of the Sports Staff who came to resent Hutch for not coming to their defense more but Hutch was too old to get in a pissing contest between his younger sports reporters and Nan who didn't take shit from anybody.
Burnham was in his mid-thirties and Lajoy was a newbie, not yet twenty-five, still learning the ropes. Hutch covered the major local sporting events, including the big Serguci League games, and he wrote a column a couple of times a week in addition to managing Burnham and Lajoie. Long time legendary Sports Columnist Mickey Demrest was semi-retired but still produced some stuff on the Serguci League for Hutch. Hutch didn't fight Nan using his guys for her needs as long as it didn't interfere with his ability to oversee the department.
Burnham tolerated Nan's interference but Lajoy hated her. His initial submission was a first person take on skateboarding but Nan edited the hell out of him, calling his feature "sexist, macho, and stereotypical, reading like it was written by a twelve year old". Lajoy never forgave her criticism and he and Burnham often referred to Nan as "the old lady" and the "femi-Nazi" behind her back.
Hutch didn't react to those insults much because he didn't want the guys to think there was anything between them – even though there wasn't anything between them anyway other than decades of working and surviving together.
Jesus, had it really been that long? Hutch realized that he had morphed into a middle aged has-been editing and writing boring and pointless local sports stories on high school athletes, rivalries, and personalities – something he could do in his sleep. He still enjoyed the occasional good game and the periodic interesting human interest story but most of the day to day grind was routine and unremarkable.
Hutch found that he didn't relate all that much to Burnham and Lajoy beyond their mutual fondness and respect for sports in general. Those guys seemed to be much more manly and Chauvinist than he ever remembered being. They probably voted for Trump although Hutch really didn't want to know any of that stuff. He remained chummy and personable with the two sports writers but he often thought they were trapped in their own Wide Worlds of Silly Sports, unable to grasp the larger reality of life.
Sometimes Hutch felt guilty for not defending Nan more when those guys razzed and insulted her behind her back but Hutch just wanted to come in, punch the clock, avoid confrontation with the managerial stooges and the Editor who tended to treat the Sports Department as a necessary evil, and get the stories written by deadline without hassle. At least once a week he was convinced it was time to retire and go drive a school bus or something but he kept coming back for more punishment.
Hutch knew he couldn't afford to alienate his guys since the Sports Department was already viewed as the poor step child in the newsroom's pecking order but sometimes even he thought sports was pretty lame. Hutch tolerated the rest of the Staff, acting affable and friendly without much conviction or investment, but in truth Nan was his only real compatriot and ally among the peer group and that's why they shared their own caustic and sardonic attitude while attending the management meetings together.
Nan was outspoken and while she wasn't one of those left-leaning whack jobs, she was definitely progressive and she was willing to speak out for those who could use a voice – her features often focused on controversial and unusual topics, she used mostly women writers, and she didn't take a lot of gruff from her male counterparts.
"The old lady was looking for you earlier," Lajoy reported when Hutch returned to his desk one afternoon.
The Sports Department was relegated to four desks and a television in the far corner of the newsroom, separated by a partial wall and a couple of portable dividers. Various sports photos and articles were taped to the walls, a Greenville Giant high school football helmet was on the cluttered bookshelf full of old reports, sports almanacs, and other irrelevant information.
How old was Nan anyway, Hutch wondered. Sixty maybe? He was fifty-six and she was a few years older than him so she might have been that old, even though she didn't look it. Her hair was light gray but fluffy and she still wore it long, often in a ponytail to her shoulders. Her figure was still sharp – she often wore tight dresses or skinny-style jeans in the office and she still turned Hutch's head even though he was known to date the younger crowd, including a couple of reporters along the way who sensed moved on.
Hutch was surprised that Nan hadn't quit – or more likely been fired – years ago. She was a rebel rouser and trouble maker well known for taking on the Publisher, Editors, and other authoritative roles in any fight, argument, or debate she decided was worth having. She lasted because she was a passionate advocate for journalism and a free press, she was a top-notch writer and Editor, and she was a fireplug around the office. Even those who didn't like her knew they could rely and depend upon her to do the right thing. Nan was the first one to be called upon to resolve conflicts within the office, speak out on controversial issues within the community, and to pen a scathing editorial when necessary because she was willing to take the heat and answer the call.
Nan was one of the lucky few to get her own office along the row of rooms on the far side of the newsroom. Each space had a large window overlooking the newsroom. Nan decorated her office with all sorts of posters of Civil Rights heroes, journalism superstars, and powerful notable women. She had a desk, two computers, and a bookcase jammed with books.
She was at her desk banging away on the keyboard when Hutch knocked on her door.
"You were looking for me?" He said
"Yep," Nan said when she finally looked up from her computer screen.
"What's up?" Hutch asked, taking a seat in the chair across from her.
"I got a story idea," She announced.
"Great!" Hutch replied. "What is it this time?"
"There's a New England Naturist Group Camp this weekend," Nan replied.
Hutch frowned. "Nudists, or wildlife enthusiasts?" He asked, slightly confused.
"Nudies," Nan said, not taking her eye off the computer screen.
"Who's getting that fun assignment?" He laughed.
"I'm taking it," Nan announced.
"Jesus, seriously?" Hutch said with surprise.
"I don't want to go alone," Nan said. "So you're coming with me."
"Wait, what?" Hutch asked with disbelief.
"It'll be a great story," Nan said, finally looking up at him. "I'll give you a co-byline if you want. You can add your own observations."
"We won't be getting naked, right?" Hutch frowned.
"That's kind of the whole point of the story, Hutch," Nan said, rolling her eyes.
"Why don't you take one of the younger female writers?" Hutch suggested.
"Because I don't want to look like an old dyke with her young lover," Nan replied with annoyance. "You and me will look like a couple."
"A naked couple," Hutch said.
"We're not going to ogle," Nan groaned. "It's a family friendly nude recreation organization. They're letting us come as long as we don't reveal where it is."
"Where is it?" Hutch wondered.
"Vermont," Nan reported. "They're renting an overnight camp out in the middle of nowhere."
"So, you want to write about what it's like to be naked at a nudist camp?"
"Naturist," Nan corrected. "A nudist is someone who likes to get naked, while a naturist gets naked to achieve a natural state," she explained.
"So, you've been researching this already?"
"Of course," she verified. "I've already got half the story written!"
"And what have you learned so far?" Hutch asked.
"Organized social nudity came to United States in the 1930s, mostly from German immigrants," Nan told him. "They stripped down for their health, performing arduous group calisthenics."
"Thank God we didn't have that in gym class," Hutch joked.
"The Industrial Revolution inspired retreats to nature because they thought that nudism was the answer to the woes of city life and satisfied a wholesome curiosity about the body."
"Wholesome?" Hutch asked.
"Of course the anti-vice groups protested," Nan continued. "Some saw it as sexual liberalism and that's why private rural nudist camps were formed – to escape scorn, controversy, and charges of deviancy. Nudists groups focused on family friendly venues to avoid attracting pedophiles, perverts, and homosexuals. They tried to rebrand themselves as sunbathing and naturist clubs to escape the more offensive implication of nudist. Those who wanted to get naked often faced conflicts with sex."
"I guess that makes sense," Hutch shrugged.
"Today, it's much more diverse," Nan explained. "Clothing-optional family resorts, college naked bike rides, clothing-optional beaches, and even full-time retiree nudist compounds."
"So, what's this New England Naturist's story?" Hutch asked.
"They started in the 1970s as nude beach buffs," Nan said. "Now it's a mish-mash of all sorts of people from all walks of life who like to be naked in the great outdoors."
"And you want to do a story about it?" Hutch asked.
"You have to admit it's an intriguing one," Nan smirked.
"Sure," Hutch agreed.
"So, I'll pick you up around 8:00 on Saturday," Nan announced. "We'll stay until Sunday evening."
"I was going to cover Saturday's Hilltop-Greenville Serguci League game at Beano," Hutch protested.
"Have the Neo-Nazi Lajoy cover it," Nan suggested.
"You sure about this?" Hutch asked with worry as he stood.
"Of course," she replied, already focused on her computer screen again.
"Aren't you nervous?" He wanted to know.
"It's work, Hutch," Nan said with irritation. "We don't have time to get nervous and I'm certainly too old to be self-conscious about my body image." She glanced at him again. "Okay, then?"
"Great," Hutch said with a forced smile as he left the office.
"What'd the Old Lady want?" Lajoy asked when Hutch returned to his desk.
"I need you to cover the Greenville Serguci League game Saturday afternoon," Hutch answered.
"Crap," Lajoy protested but he knew better than to say anything else to his boss.