for Katharine

On a slow news day
or on a day when the community news pages
were driving me round the bend
I would go up and see Ralph on the editorial writers floor
or sometimes I would feel like flirting with him
he seemed too young to be writing the third editorial
(the first and second were reserved for local issues)
although he knew a lot more about world affairs than most of us
and wrote with an enviable flourish

he said if you wanted to trash someone, really take them apart
you had to read Cicero
especially the Second Philippic Against Antony
I said that wasn’t the most pressing need on my daily rounds
but I did admire Cicero
and I liked his commentaries on friendship and old age

at times I envied Ralph his job (the world was his playground)
as night city editor, I had more freedom
and I didn’t have the publisher breathing down my neck all the time
like those poor bastards on the fourth floor

Ralph called me once when the publisher left town
“If you want to come up, he’s gone for the rest of the day”
as if we were having an affair
what I liked about Ralph’s office, aside from Ralph,
was the superb air-conditioning on that floor
its carpeted serenity, its coolness
compared to the newsroom with fiberboard warrens and noisy fans
the fourth floor was The Sentinel’s hill station
and without Arthur, the publisher,
–a loud and overbearing creature–it was a divine place
I could talk to Ralph for hours if I had the time
which I never did

he’s not married, he’s single
which makes me wonder in a town like this…

returning to the newsroom
after our far-ranging discussions
I always had the sensation of coming back to earth—
on the wall above my desk is a sign that says: THINK LOCAL

 

Stuart Dodds

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