Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

premature fiction

All The News

He knows it was Bergoyan. He is the only one with a con­science and the boy’s (he was a man, wasn’t he?) fam­i­ly couldn’t have afford­ed the cheap­est lawyer’s retain­er, much less one who deliv­ers doc­u­ments to local news­pa­per edi­tors after hours. The old man prob­a­bly used the bet­ter part of his pro­ceeds from the sale of the paper to pay the firm of — What was it again? Oliveri looked down at the doc­u­ments the woman had hand­ed him on the stairs the night before - Finster, Windham, & Marshall to keep tabs on Mike Boone up in Folsom. Probably a Sacramento firm spe­cial­iz­ing in this kind of thing. Does any­one any­where actu­al­ly do this kind of thing besides old guilty news­pa­per­men? “Well, that’s prob­a­bly enough busi­ness.” He mum­bles half out loud to him­self.

What was that Mr. Oliveri?” The Adderley kid — Sports, Cooking, and Technology, also pret­ty good at lay­out and ter­rif­ic at get­ting that fur­ni­ture store over in Merced to buy full-pagers every week.

Nothing. Call me Oliveri. No ‘mis­ter,’ Adderley. Remember.”

Right.” Wait for it. Here it comes. “Oliveri.” Like clock­work. Good kid. Fran would have told Oliveri to smile at the kid, but this kid has had too many smiles. Still, Oliveri looks up and smiles quick­ly so the kid will get back to work.

He doesn’t want to make the call, but he has to and he’ll have to do it before talk­ing to the train wreck that is the Boone fam­i­ly. Will the old man be sober? What’s it been, two years since they last spoke? Bergoyan sound­ed wrecked, tor­tured by things that weren’t even in his head any­more, just inside him some­where else. “He’s dis­turbed on a mol­e­c­u­lar lev­el,” is what his niece had told Oliveri. She’s the only way any­one will know the old guy is gone when that over­due day of reck­on­ing comes — her or the ‘Return To Sender’ stamp on one of the papers Oliveri drops in the mail each week.

Adderly.”

Yes, Mist- um. Oliveri.”

You have a han­dle on things down here?” The kid stands amidst piles of the bun­dled mid-week edi­tions, dou­ble check­ing the paper count against a list of deliv­ery loca­tions. The papers arrived about an hour ago and the two of them have proof­read final copies, made note of any cor­rec­tions that will need to appear in the week­end edi­tion, and set aside copies for the archives. The deliv­ery truck will arrive in a few min­utes, Adderley will help load it and then prob­a­bly crash on the couch in the lob­by for a few hours before they open for busi­ness. Good kid.

Everything looks good, but I think we have like six extra bun­dles.”

Besides the addi­tion­al ten I ordered?”

Yeah.”

They on the invoice?”

Um.” Adderley flips through the pages on the clip­board in his hand. “No.”

Give two extra to Harvest Market. One extra each to the Bait Bucket and Grady’s. Keep two here. Set ‘em up out front. If nobody buys ‘em or calls for ‘em by noon we’ll run ‘em over to the school.”

Got it.”

Then call the print­ers and make sure the bill’s right, but make it clear that we didn’t order ‘em and we’re only pay­ing for ‘em if they sell.”

Okay.” But the kid looks more red-eyed and over­whelmed than usu­al.

Oliveri stands up from the old vinyl rolling office chair where he’s been rumi­nat­ing over these strange legal doc­u­ments while the kid worked. “Nathan.”

Yeah.” Startled the poor kid. He’s beat.

How you hold­ing up?”

The skin­ny junior col­lege stu­dent adjusts his glass­es up his nose. “Um. Okay, I guess.” He grad­u­at­ed from Brenlee ele­men­tary only six years before, didn’t he? Can’t even drink legal­ly yet.

It’s gonna be weird for a while, but I think it might get bet­ter. We have a chance. The town, I mean.”

Nathan Adderley glances down at his cheap sneak­ers, the same style Oliveri wore back in high school, and then looks up, “It’s always been weird in Brenlee. Everyday.” He says it like Oliveri is new to town and from a cer­tain per­spec­tive he real­izes, he is still new. He’s only ever caught glimpses of the way a local kid like Adderley sees this place.

Right. Well, hang in there, okay?”

What else is there?”

And now Oliveri real­ly does smile and that only makes the kid sad­der than hell. He clears his throat. “I got­ta make some calls upstairs. Shout if you need any­thing.”

Okay. Um.”

Yeah?”

You know it’s not even 4 AM?”

Yep. Don’t run to the donut shop after the deliv­er­ies go out, Adderley. Breakfast is on me today. We’ll dri­ve out to Grady’s.”

Thanks.”

Don’t wor­ry about it.”

Oliveri’s body drags what pass­es for an aging small town newspaperman’s spir­it up the bat­tered old wood­en stairs. He clos­es the door to his office, which he almost nev­er does, and its frost­ed glass win­dow rat­tles. He sits in the same wood­en desk chair Phillip Bergoyan used for years and years and looks at the type­writ­ten list of num­bers he has taped to his tat­tered desk blot­ter. He punch­es in the num­bers on the old push but­ton phone and pre­pares to report.