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.