"The natives won't like it."
"Maybe not, but we either put money into schools today or into welfare tomorrow." The source of that money was the problem. Not wanting to argue it again with Armand, who was one of the wealthiest of the landowners and would be soaked if property taxes doubled, he pulled up the next dummy. "Page three leads with a report on Chris Diehl's trial -- closing arguments, jury out, verdict in, Chris home. I have a piece on profit sharing at the mill, and one on staff cutbacks at the retirement home. The newcomer profile is on Thomas Hook."
"Can't stand the guy," Armand muttered.
John uncapped the thermos. "That's because he has no people skills, but he has computer skills. There's reason why his business is worth twenty million and growing."
"He's a kid." Spoken indignantly. "What's he gonna do with that kind of money?"
John filled his mug with coffee. "He's thirty-two, with a wife and three kids, and in the six months he's been here, he's tripled the size of his house, regraded and graveled the approach road, built another house for an office in the place where a god-awful eyesore stood, and in doing all that, he's used local contractors, carpenters, masons, plumbers, and electricians -- "
"All right, all right," Armand's growl cut him off. "What else?"
Sipping coffee, John pulled up the next page. "There's an academy update -- message from the head of the school. New year starting, one hundred twelve kids, twenty-two states, seven countries. Then there's police news, fire news, library news." He flipped open the Wall Street Journal and absently scanned the headlines. "There's the week in review from papers in Boston, New York, and Washington. And ads, lots of ads this week" -- he knew Armand would like that -- "including a two-pager from the outlets in Conway. Fall's a good time for ads."
"Praised be," said Armand. "What else?"
"School news. Historical Society news. Tri-town soccer news."
"Want some breaking news?"
John always wanted breaking news. It was one of the city things he missed most. Feeling a twinge of anticipation, he sank into his desk chair, brought up a blank screen, and prepared to type.
Armand said, "They just read Noah Thacken's will, and the family's in a stew. He left the house to daughter number two, so daughter number one is threatening to sue, and daughter number three is threatening to leave town, and none of them is talking to the others. Look into it, John."
But John had retracted his hands and was rocking back in his chair. "That's private stuff "
"Private? The whole town'll know by the end of the day."
"Right, so why put it in the paper? Besides, we print facts."
"This is facts. That will is a matter of public record."
"The will is. Not the personal trauma. That's speculation, and it's exploitative. I thought we agreed -- "
"Well, there isn't a hell of a lot of other excitement up here," the old man remarked and hung up the phone.
No, John thought, there isn't a bell of a lot of other excitement up here. No fascinating book material in an education bill, a computer mogul, or a family squabble; and Christopher Diehl's bank fraud trial was a far cry from the murder trials he used to cover.
His eye went to the wall of framed photos at the far end of the room. There was one of him interviewing a source on Boston's City Hall Plaza, and another of him typing at his computer with the phone clamped to his ear in a roomful of other reporters doing the same. There were photos of him shaking hands with national politicians, and of him laughing it up with colleagues in Boston bars. There was one of a Christmas party -- he and Marley in the newsroom with a crowd of their friends. And there was a blowup of his Post ID mug shot. His hair was short, his jaw tight, his eyes tired, his face pale. He looked like he was either about to miss the story of his career or severely constipated.
Copyright © 1999 by Barbara Delinsky
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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