Formica is despair in an industrial format.
Feeney stood naked in his cold, plasticized kitchen, finishing a breakfast which consisted of three cups of black coffee. It was a very bad breakfast, but then, Feeney's entire lifestyle was bad for his health. What was he supposed to do about it? He lived alone. He had no friends in that town. He didn't even hang out with Parker's other, down-valley, reporters, Tom Johnson and Greg Stafford, two quiet, hard-working family men. The regular sort. Who had no time for friendship with bachelors, reportorial or otherwise ...
Brilliant, white morning. A sundrenched Saturday.
The sky dazzled cloudless and the silhouettes of douglas firs cut the dawn’s rays from the long yard, but there on his front porch it shined directly.
A morbid mind could form of that an omen, perhaps even a talisman auguring of better things. While otherwise, simply, a bright place to step out into, a gentle welcome to the day, to savor, to enjoy. To breath deep of the fresh morning air.
As usual, he was alone in the morning quiet of the weekend ... often up at such an early hour, although rarely this cheerfully.
But in that odd way Life has of suddenly pouncing, all grinning and optimistic, joyful and vibrant and full of vain hope and even silliness, an indescribable vitality had flood into his body even as he had woken, and he had hurtled from bed as though electroprodded with unknown and strange enthusiasms.
Now he stood, barefoot in his bathrobe, bare legs cold in the morning air. A mug of coffee grasped, steaming. A wild dance of hair spinned, curling and tossing above his head, the orange and red filaments tracing like a collision of sub-atomic particulates, floating into space, forming there a resplendent orange and red sunrise of his own (he needed a haircut).
Not that Feeney had either the temperament, or to be honest, any good reason, to become raptured about Life’s Bounty, and especially not in the morning. But there ... an awkward, inexplicable sense of contentment. Weird, subversive, but accepted simply for once. The proverbial gift horse.
Which it did for all of thirty, pitifully joy-drunk seconds, before he now looked deliberately down at the object lying next to his right foot, and admitted that war, indeed, had been declared on his doorstep.
Of course he had noticed it from the start, and several chary neurons, deep back behind a hazy disavowal, had recorded, analyzed, and given yield to what was there. Assuredly trouble. But resolute to the Poetry, he had clung. Not desperate. But obstinate, in the Irish way when it came to these manner of things. Finally, he leaned over and took closer stock of the folded copy of the Sloklamish Tribune, the largest paper sitting between Dean Parker’s mighty newspaper empire there up-valley, and the rest of the county, down-valley, to the port city of Everett.
Feeney, toying with a wishful hope, allowed himself to wonder if the Slo Trib had been delivered by error. But as it flopped open in his hands, a supplement fell fluttering to land flat on the porch, revealing itself to be the new, Sloklamish-Burdington-Madison-Jacksonville supplement to the Tribune. About as subtle as D-Day on Omaha Beach.
Normally, there was some overlap in news coverage between county papers. The daily down in Everett covered everything. Sloklamish, next town inland, covered Everett and some light, up-county coverage. Then came Parker’s newspapers which covered towns practically the size of Sloklamish. The paper Feeney edited, situated further on up-valley at Jacksonville, went up from there into the Cascade Mountains, covering all through those little towns and burgs to the top of the Pass.
Feeney knew by sight the publisher of the Trib, Donald Jansen, and he envisioned Jansen’s fat, red face and hard, greedy eyes, a cigar poking straight out of a tight mouth which always had a sly turning up at the corners.