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 Thirteen years later, the students have gone and been replaced by others, but the paper does well enough to remain as obstinately independent as Oliveri himself.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.