Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler


premature fiction

Charlie Oliveri

After ten years of try­ing to get out of the pro­duc­tion room and on to the streets report­ing, Charlie Oliveri quit his job at the San Jose Mercury. He and his wife sold their house in Redwood City and used the pro­ceeds to buy The Brenlee News and, with it, Phillip Bergoyan’s old ram­shackle cot­tage, then on the edge of town. Oliveri grew up in a small town out­side of Salinas, so, he knew how things worked in Brenlee before he arrived. His wife Fran taught at the school and for the first five years he did every­thing at the paper him­self.

During their sixth year in Brenlee they learned that Fran Oliveri had only nine more months to live. She had Ovarian Cancer. Charlie hired two stu­dents from Foothill Junior College to help with lay­ing out the paper and report­ing on the local sports and church events. At first, the paper bare­ly broke even, but both stu­dents began sell­ing more adver­tis­ing in order to keep their own jobs and to help out Charlie. Thirteen years lat­er, the stu­dents have gone and been replaced by oth­ers, but the paper does well enough to remain as obsti­nate­ly inde­pen­dent as Oliveri him­self.

Oliveri always wears a but­ton down shirt, slacks, and a bad­ly tied tie. In cool­er months he wears a tweed sports coat. In sum­mer, he car­ries a light­weight tan sports­coat and keeps his sleeves rolled up unless report­ing on some­thing air con­di­tioned to feel like a nordic win­ter. Brenlee’s Editor-In-Chief seems to style him­self after Jim Rockford, except he is five feet-sev­en inch­es tall, fifty pounds over­weight, rarely charm­ing, and bald. Hernandez has only seen him smile twice, once after pub­lish­ing a sto­ry on the front page of The Brenlee News about the may­or pay­ing for a trip to Puerto Vallerta with city funds and the oth­er time after Hernandez told him he thought peo­ple in Brenlee were basi­cal­ly good at heart. Oliveri smiled when he heard the word ‘good’ and not because he agreed.

Today, Oliveri has parked his bald head and nylon slacks on the cement steps in front of Hernandez’s apart­ment build­ing where he patient­ly watch­es the light and col­or fade from the day, smok­ing cig­a­rettes and reread­ing a twen­ty year old let­ter from Phillip Bergoyan about a boy found dead near an orchard. It is a let­ter meant for some­one like Hernandez and, if nec­es­sary, Oliveri will wait all night to deliv­er it.