The intern from The Speaker-Sentinel was named Trieste Millbury. Trieste and I have had our share of go-arounds since her arrival at the paper, and to tell you the truth I was wishing that afternoon that I worked at a bigger outfitperhaps one where the publisher wouldnt find himself at a funeral with the intern. But thats the way The Speaker-Sentinel is: we like to send our own people on stories, even if the wire services have us bound and tied. Were the last of the local dailies not to have sold to McClatchy or Gannett or Murdoch, and though we recently stopped publishing on Sundays we still put out a very good morning edition the other six days of the week, a paper that we write ourselves and have for a hundred and ten years. Im proud of that.
Though I suspect that it, too, is coming to an end. Thats just the way it is up here in Carrol County. Its been ten years now since the hardware store had the name Delaney & Sons on it and the bakery had the name Cleary Brothers, and fifteen since the Starbucks in Carrol Center convinced the descendants of Dutch root farmers to speak Italian at the cash register. Senator Bonwiller was the one who lured IBM up here in the first place, and once IBM arrived it wasnt long before DuPont and Trane and then Siemens followed. And that was the beginning of the way things have turned out now, with our Crate & Barrel and our Lowes and the news of an Ikea opening by spring, all the way up here in what used to be lonely country. Plenty of people are grateful to Henry Bonwiller for that. And plenty are not.
Trieste Millburys parents, I think, are among the latter. She lives with them in the failed farmland ten miles to the north of us, in a trailer on the edge of a drained bog that was allowed to refill in the 1980s after the Wetlands Protection Bill went throughSenator Bonwillers doing, again. That part of the county isnt as sophisticated as some of the areas to the south, which are dotted now with horse farms and gentlemens estates and carriage houses painted historic red. But even so, there arent many other trailers where the Millburys live. Theyre educated peopleTriestes father was once a chemist for DuPontbut Trieste, I believe, is the only one of them who goes to work in the morning.
Her job at the funeral was to help our reporter. The reporter was going to write the story, and Trieste was going to write the sidebar. Pick a subject, I told her when the committal was over, anything she wanted, and if she did it well I would run it Monday morning.
I get a byline, she said, right, sir? Just checking.
If its good, I said. Yes, you do.
The air must have been close to a hundred degrees, and we were making our way to the refreshments. My wife and my father had been at the service, too, but theyd already headed into the stone entrance-house to escape the heat. At the table, a caterer was tearing open the wrapped bottles of spring water, and Trieste took one for each of us.
If what I write isnt good, sir, she said, handing me one, I wouldnt want the byline.
I suppose thats true.
She smiled. I can tell some of these men are famous, she went on. But I dont know who they are.
How can you tell theyre famous then?
By looking at them. Theyre bigger than ordinary mortals.
I took a drink. Powerful men are just like everybody else, I said. They put on their pants one leg at a time.
She smiled again, a habit of hers and a useful quality in a reporter. Is that something your father used to say, sir? I think I saw him at the service, didnt I?
Excerpted from America America by Ethan Canin Copyright © 2008 by Ethan Canin. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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