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Episode #9

Meeting The Big Fish

The next day, the station manager called a special meeting for the entire staff. Roger Snoble was there, wearing a giant pair of sunglasses inside the conference room.

"Good afternoon, folks," said the station manager.

He walked around the conference table, slowly.

"We've had some reports of accuracy problems on last night's newscast." He smiled. "Now, my motto has always been: We didn't make a mistake, you heard wrong. But they tell me in journalism, the rules are more stringent."

The station manager was a former flight attendant whose only broadcasting experience had been on the airplane intercom, until he married one of his first-class passengers. She owned the station.

"We in management have decided on a new policy: not making mistakes," he said. "Please welcome aboard Edwell Unfun, our new copy editor."

God bless copy editors. Copy editors worry about details, while the rest of us move on to more enlightening topics. They'd saved me from ruin on a number of occasions during my newspaper career. They did tend to be odd people. This one looked like a fish in a tank at a Chinese restaurant - enormous, gray, and with the pensive expression of something about to be eaten.

"Glory, there's a call for you," said one of the PAs, interrupting the meeting. "An emergency."

I excused myself and rushed to the phone, full of panicky images of my family and crashed cars.

But it was only my ex-boyfriend, Fabian Bellwoar.

"Fabian?" I said. "What's the emergency?"

"They told me you were in a meeting, as if that's not the oldest trick in the book. I knew I could get you to the phone."

"I really was in a meeting," I said.

"You know your champagne bucket?" he said. "I'm going to give it to my new boss as a wedding present."

Fabian had just taken a job as a publicist. He'd started as a journalist, too, but was less interested in fame than in making enough money to actually have the lifestyle he pretended to have now.

"Do you have any wrapping paper?" Fabian asked me.

"For my own champagne bucket?"

"You said you'd never need it."

"I might," I said. "I have a new boyfriend. He's dances with the City Ballet."

Fabian laughed into the telephone.

"He's a homosexual," said Fabian.

"No, he's not," I said. "He kissed me."

"Well, you'd probably be happier if he were a homosexual. Think about it, Glory. The man handles beautiful women for a living. "

"He's not like that," I said. "We went out to dinner. We had a wonderful talk."

"Oh, so you bought him dinner," said Fabian.

I didn't want to admit that to Fabian.

"I'll bet he's a homosexual," Fabian said.

If it were anyone else had made that suggestion, I wouldn't have worried so much. Fabian, however, was usually as right about these things as he was obnoxious about saying so.

I got him off the telephone just as the meeting was breaking up. Julian was installing Edwell Unfun in the desk right across from me. I smiled at Edwell, but he didn't smile back. He just gave me that fish look.

Julian pulled me aside.

"Has Roger said any more about letting you go on-air next month?"

"Roger," I said, "would rather prop up an inflatable doll in his anchor chair for the entire time he's on vacation."

"Well, he likes me fine," said Julian. "I'm taking an on-air broadcasting course."

I didn't know anyone had to take an on-air broadcasting course. I thought all you had to do was read the TelePrompTer. "What do they teach you?" I asked.

"A lot. Broadcasting is a very exact science. For example, they tell us to sit on the back hem of our sports jacket, so it doesn't ride up around the collar. "

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Edwell Unfun watching us.

"Maybe I should take it, too," I said. "I mean, I have a lot to learn about television."

"You don't even know how to spell TV!" said Edwell Unfun.

They were the first words he had spoken to me, or to anyone.

Episode #10

Malley's Secret

Fabian's stupid idea had lodged itself in my head, and I found myself worrying that my new boyfriend might be gay.

Malley wasn't helping, either. He hadn't called since our dinner together nearly a week ago. And I didn't have his phone number. According to a new dating advice book I'd been reading, "The Brass Knuckles Formula For Love," I wasn't supposed to ask for it.

The book had been Alys' idea; she said it had helped her land a fellow reporter who looked like Burt Lancaster. Just like half the ads on TV are for junk food and the other half are for antacids to counteract the effects of the junk food, half the books sold to women are romances, while the other half are advice books telling them not to expect sheer romance will find them a boyfriend.

According to the book, a woman wasn't supposed to show any interest in a man until the output of the Brass Knuckles formula for love was 150 or more. The formula divided the number of days the couple had known each other by the number of times he'd called her, plus one hundred minus his age, multiplied by the number of times he'd sincerely asked her about herself.

In Malley's and my case, the total was zero. So I hadn't asked for Malley's number.

The book also told women not to bother their boyfriends at work, so when I went that weekend to see Malley in the shades of pink ballet again, I sat in the fifth balcony. He couldn't possibly have seen me unless he was dancing with binoculars. I needed to see him, though. I was wasting my time on the formula if Fabian was right.

Malley's ballet was the last one of the evening. Waiting for it, I sat through something endless about the god Apollo, and then a number set to that modern classical music that always sounds like falling silverware.

Finally, it was time for the dancing colors. But when Crimson made his entrance, he was being danced by a black guy. Even from the fifth ring balcony, I could tell that wasn't Malley. I checked the program. It listed Malley in the role.

I was frantic. I could barely enjoy the rest of the colors, all those fit, good-looking men working hard to make me happy. As the audience filed out after the show, I tried to decide what to do. Why wasn't he dancing? I could go to the stage door and ask him, but that would completely throw off the formula.

Finally, I convinced myself that waiting outside the stage door wasn't really showing interest in him, but in the ballet itself.

I waited for a long time. I watched the god Apollo come out, carrying the god Apollo's dry cleaning. I saw a lot of painfully thin women, and a lot of men ruffling each others' hair. Malley, however, didn't appear.

After a while, the stream of dancers grew thinner.

At last, Malley's replacement came out. He was easy to spot because, in a circumstance I'm sure represented absolutely no prejudice on the part of the City Ballet management, he was the only black dancer in a company of more than 100.

"Hey," I said, stopping him. "I noticed you danced in place of Stefan Malley tonight. Why was that?"

"Didn't you think I was good?"

The black Crimson sounded vain, but not gay, just like Malley. I took that as a good sign.

"No, you were fine," I said. "I'm just a friend of Malley's."

He tossed his head. "If you were a real friend," he said, "you would have visited him in the hospital."

"In the hospital?"

"He snapped his hamstring in practice today. It's his own fault. He's been dancing hurt for a week, but he kept it a secret because he was cast in the new Wheeldon ballet and he liked his costume."

My heart was pounding. "Which hospital is he in?"

"Oh, he's not in the hospital any more. He's in my house."

Now, my heart stopped.

"In your house?"

Maybe he was gay, after all.

"I'm his roommate."

My hopes were shrinking, and my suspicions growing.

"Can I come over and see him?" I said.

"I suppose so," said the other Crimson. "Did you really think I was good?"

"Yes," I said. "Very good."

I soon discovered, however, that most of the New York City Ballet was Malley's roommate. In that two-bedroom apartment lived nine corps dancers. Three slept in each bedroom, two in the living room, and one guy had a loft above the toilet. That night, every one of them seemed to have his own radio going. Malley was on the living room couch with his leg, in a cast, propped on the coffee table.

"Hi," he said, and he seemed pleased to see me.

"Hi," I said. "What are you doing?"

"Watching TV," he said. "I usually never watch TV during the season, what with practicing all day and performing at night. Did you know an ordinary mop leaves behind thousands of germs?"

"Yes, I did," I said. "Can I sit down?"

"Oh yeah," he said, and he moved over to give me space on the couch, picking up his cast and moving it over too.

I stayed for a long time, until all of Malley's roommates had shut off their radios and gone to bed. Then we made love on the couch, and it was very sweet and very nice, though full of accommodations for his cast.

I was pleased to know Fabian was wrong about Malley. Malley might be a little fruity in his choice of career and in the affection he felt for his costumes, but he was definitely not gay where it counted.

"Now that you're injured," I whispered to him in the dark, "what are you going to do?"

"Sit around here, I guess," he whispered back. "It's going to be horrid, with all these guys dancing when I can't."

"Can't you get a place of your own?"

He laughed. "As a corps dancer?," he said. "Besides, I can hardly move. At least these guys feed me when they come home."

One of the roommates got up to use the bathroom. He left the door open. As soon as he went back to bed, another roommate got up and used the bathroom, again with the door open.

"You could stay with me," I whispered.

"Really?" Malley said, aloud.

"Yeah," I said, mentally throwing the book aside.

Another one of the roommates got up and headed for the bathroom.

"Do you have a TV?" Malley asked.

"Of course," I said. "I work in TV."

"Then I will," he said.

Episode #11

I Hate Edwell Unfun

I am not a weak woman. I kill my own mice and bugs, and I rigged up my own stereo and got my own VCR to record off the air.

Even so, I am secretly happier when there is a man around the house. Life was much more fun after Tea Rose and the other Crimson helped me hoist Malley up the five flights of stairs to my apartment.

Malley was a different man, a nicer and less haughty man, now that we lived together. He could get around my small apartment okay with his cast, and he cooked me spaghetti every night, varying it sometimes with recipes he found in my old copies of Glamour and Cosmopolitan. He liked those magazines.

I didn't keep it any secret from Julian that there was another man in my life. I tried to come in to work with my hair tousled, not that he ever noticed. We were all busy preparing important investigative stories for the coming ratings period, like a report that a sperm bank in the Chrysler Building had been turning down ugly donors.

One day I came in to find Julian gravely bent over his desk, flipping through the sperm bank's instruction book for its contributors. He was sitting on the back hem of his sports jacket.

"How is your on-air broadcast course?" I asked.

"Great," he said. There was a light in his eyes when he spoke about it. "They're teaching us how to do live stand-up reports from the field. The trick is, you step on your notes, so that if you forget what you're talking about you can just look down at your foot. Or if you want to look particularly authoritative, you can walk around as you talk. You just have to remember not to use both tricks at the same time."

I nodded, and I sat down next to him. Edwell Unfun was across from both of us, wearing his usual fleshy expression. After a lifetime of picking out mistakes as a copy editor, he spoke only when he had something unpleasant to say.

"Is there anything for today's show?" I asked Julian. "I don't see much in the papers."

"There's not much," Julian said. "You know that one hot-dog politician? He always takes advantage of days like this. He did an anti-crime photo-op in the subway. We have footage of him getting his pocket picked over and over again for the cameras."

"I've met that guy," I said. "He had make-up on his hands."

"We also have a stock market piece from the afternoon crew, but they interviewed some guy who'd clearly had wine with lunch. I don't want to run that unless somebody's got a beef with him or something," Julian said.

"Hey, wait," I said. "There's something on the wires, something from the Bronx." I quickly scanned it. "Some guy playing with fireworks has blown off his head."

"Sounds like natural selection," said Edwell Unfun.

I shot him a nasty look. He didn't respond. He always looked exactly the same.

"Edwell says you haven't ordered the over-the-shoulder graphic for the sperm bank series," Julian said.

"What? It's not due for another week." I looked over at Edwell, who was eating a doughnut. "Besides, Lana was supposed to take care of that. She made some big thing about how she wanted to learn how to do graphic orders."

"Lana's over there. Ask her."

I could see her in the doorway of Roger Snoble's office with a book under her arm. I got up to get her, and then remembered the state of my relations with Roger, and I sat back down and called her name. After a few moments delay, she came by the desk.

"What are you doing in Roger's office?" I asked her.

"Roger and I have been talking more, recently," she said. "I'm going to the beach over the weekend, and I bought this to read." She showed me the book: The War In the Pacific, 1940-1945. "Did you know Roger's novel is about World War II?"

"Iwo Jima. Now, that was a beach," said Edwell Unfun.

"When's Roger going on vacation?" I asked Lana.

"In two weeks," said Julian quickly.

"I think I'll buy some new clothes," Lana said.

Episode #12

Alys Comes To Town

When a man totaled up a certain number of points under the Brass Knuckles Formula for Love, the woman was supposed to take him to very romantic spots and sit quietly, saying nothing, until the man thought it was his idea to suggest they get married.

Alys' boyfriend, the fellow reporter, had plenty of points, but she couldn't think of any place romantic in Iowa City, so she was bending the formula by bringing him to New York and taking him to all the romantic spots she could think of in a single afternoon. We were all supposed to meet later for a fancy dinner and champagne to toast their engagement.

Of course, if she was going to be parading around her boyfriend in front of me at dinner, I was going to bring along Malley. It took him a long time to get down the stairs, but he looked good doing it, in a dress suit he'd bought for all the dinners rich people attended if they gave money to the ballet. Malley had protected the suit during his layoff by packing it in cedar chips. I hoped Alys wouldn't notice he smelled like a hamster.

Alys had chosen an old restaurant, full of old waiters and old food and decorative beer steins along the wall. We'd arrived late, but Alys and her boyfriend were very late. We sat there a long time, until the old lady waitress started giving us dirty looks.

"Flirt with her, will you?" I told Malley. "Get her off our back. I'm going to the ladies' room."

It was in the ladies room that I found Alys. She was propped up against one of the sinks, crying.

"The formula's all broken," she said. "Either that, or I must have added wrong. It was his first time in New York, and he just kept looking up at all the skyscrapers. He didn't propose."

"Oh, babe," I said. "Maybe he's not ready yet."

"No, no," she said. "He's going to propose. I'm sure of it.'

I hugged Alys, and got her to wash her face and come out of the bathroom. I wanted to get back to the table before there was any chance she would catch Malley trying to make time with an elderly woman.

"That's him," Alys said, indicating a man being escorted to our table.

It was her boyfriend. He was handsome, and stocky, and very short. Very short. He looked like a trial-size bottle of shampoo.

"See, I told you," she said. "He looks like Burt Lancaster."

"He looks like Burt Lancaster on a key chain."

"You get a better bargain on a short man," Alys said. "I've always told you that. They try harder to be nice to you. "

We wound our way through the tables, back towards our own, and by the time we got there the boyfriend was engrossed in some kind of serious conversation with Malley. He broke off the conversation suddenly when we saw us, giving us a big, lippy smile.

"This is John Knauf," Alys said, "but I call him Jack."

"Jack Knauf," he said, shaking my hand. So you're friends with my Alys?"

"Yes," I said, not liking him one bit.

The waitress brought the menus, which turned out to feature only old-food delicacies like boiled-ham soup and onion cupcakes.

"Champagne all around," said Jack.

"I can't drink," Malley told him. "I'll be back in training soon."

"Jack," said Alys, "Glory's boyfriend is a dancer in the New York City Ballet."

"That's a nice start in life," said Jack. "What does that lead to?"

"Well, it leads to dancing. I mean, you don't have many years to dance," said Malley. "You retire pretty young."

"So when you retire is when the cash rolls in."

"Not really," Malley said. "You can teach, but that doesn't pay much."

"You could open a car dealership like all the retired athletes," said Jack.

Alys picked up a breadstick. "Jack is about to get a promotion," said Alys. "He's going to be promoted to head of the business section."

"The Business and Economics section," said Jack.

"He'll make a lot of money," Alys said.

Malley coughed.

"I make up haiku about Alys, right on the spot," said Jack. "Would you like to hear?"

Alys was they only one who said she wanted to hear, but he went ahead, anyway.

"Smiling, to my left

Is Alys Iarussi

Breadstick in her hand."

Alys laughed. I looked at Malley. He made a monkey face, and I think it was the first time I ever knew I loved him.

For the rest of the meal, we talked about Alys, and then we talked about Jack, and then we talked about Alys again. The check came and it was huge. I paid for Malley, because I had made him come along, but I could feel Alys sneering at me. Silently, I sneered back. The way I saw it, she'd promised me an engagement, in which case she and Jack would have had to pay for everything.

They went off to Alys' mother's apartment before Jack went back to his hotel room in the city, because the Brass Knuckles theory made it absolutely clear that you weren't supposed to sleep with a guy when you were going in for the kill. I helped Malley get out of the restaurant and into a cab.

"He asked me where hookers hang out," said Malley.


"He said he was going to be on his own tonight, and he wanted to see if he could get himself a hooker. When you and your friend were in the ladies room, he asked me if I knew any bars where hookers hang out. "

"What did you tell him?"

"I didn't know any," he said. "I don't even drink."

Episode #13

That's Called Journalism.

I left Malley at home, after a quick round of sex so that he could sleep even if I had to get dressed and go to my stupid midnight shift. I took another taxi, to work, and as it sped through the dark streets of Manhattan I tried to figure out what to do about Alys' boyfriend. If only I knew what bar he'd end up in, looking for hookers. Then I could send a camera crew, which would prove his character to Alys beyond all doubt, as well as providing some very tasty footage for ratings week.

At work the elevator was waiting for me, but it made a sudden, unexpected stop on the eighth floor, and Lana Oceola stepped in. She was wearing a lovely sapphire-colored business suit and matching suede shoes, accented by sheer silk hose with seams up the back.

"Lana," I said, "how do you afford clothes like that on a news assistant's salary?"

"I put it on my credit cards," she said. "Then it's free. I just throw those bills away when they come."

That made me wish I'd put my half of that evening's horrible meal on a credit card. Dragging myself into the office, I sat down. Edwell Unfun had left a doughnut on our desk, and it had an ant on it, now. I put my head in my hands.

"She doesn't know anything ABOUT sports," I heard Julian bellow.

"Well, nobody knows anything about the news until it happens. Then they ask questions and find out about it. That's called journalism."

I thought I recognized the station manager's voice, although it was rare for him to be in the office this late at night, and even rarer that he came out of his office on the eighth floor. I walked to the door of Roger's office, and saw the three of them deep in conversation.

"Look, Roger learns every night," the station manager was saying. "He'll do a piece, say, about a war in Albania, when he really doesn't know anything about Albania. He learns as he goes. So can Lana."

"What's going on here?" I said.

No one answered me.

"I wonder," Roger said slowly, "I wonder if people might take me more seriously if I stopped talking about Bucks and Cubs and Marlins every evening. I wonder if I might be seen as a more literary personality if I stopped doing the sports."

"I think so," said the station manager.

"Then let's hire a sportscaster," said Julian. "There are plenty of people in New York City who know a lot about sports. Go to any sports bar. Pick out any guy in a baseball cap, anywhere. Pick me. I know about sports."

"Lana can learn," said the station manager.

Julian threw up his hands. "I just can't believe she's going on-air to learn," he said.

"Wait a second, here," I said, advancing into the room. "Lana's going on-air?"

"You're not bad-looking yourself," said the station manager. "Have you ever considered it?"

Of course, I had considered it, though I certainly wasn't going to confess that now. I went back to my desk and put my head in my hands again. At least I hadn't taught her anything, so I couldn't be held responsible for whatever disaster was about to happen.

I looked up to see Lana Oceola standing over me.

"I've chosen you as my writer," she said. "I figure us girls should stick together."

"That's a lovely cliché, Lana," I said. "And here's another one: neither one of us GIRLS knows anything about sports."

"How hard can it be?" she said. "One person wins, the other person loses. It's just like this office."

Episode #14

Lana Oceola: Girl Reporter.

Across the room, I saw Julian, alone at an empty desk, his hands in his pockets. He looked sweet and sad, but he certainly didn't look attractive. I was glad I had Malley waiting for me at home.


It was one of the other production assistants, a bald girl named Jill. Jill was boring, and she knew it, which is why she had tried to make herself more interesting by shaving her head. Now she was boring with a shaved head.

"If Lana is on-air talent now," Jill asked me, "is she no longer a P.A.?"

"I think she's still being paid like a P.A," I said.

"She's telling people she's a sportscaster now," Jill said. "She says she doesn't do behind-camera work any more, and what we've got is a behind-camera problem."

"Oh?" I said. Everything Jill said was boring.

"Here's the problem," she continued. "The Xerox machine is cutting off first letters of everything on the left side of the page, the part with the instructions to the graphics department. I'm afraid it's going to confuse the people who make the over-the-shoulder boxes."

Jill was right to worry about the guys in the graphics department. I'm not saying that the smell coming out of there was marijuana, but they were definitely the only department that worked under a black light. The one time I'd been in there I'd found them playing with their computer paste-up program, attaching Roger's head to a voluptuous female nude. There was no way of being sure they'd be lucid enough to catch script mistakes.

I went to the Xerox machine and picked up a copy of the script. This was life behind the camera, I thought - this was the life of people who did all of the work and got none of the credit. This was glorified clerical work. I went through the stories and replaced whatever missing letters I could find. The city did not have a problem with Olice Brutality; tomorrow's weather would not be Loudy and Cool; everything was fine in the Tock Market.

After that I struggled to work on some sports copy for Lana, in addition to everything else I had to do. Roger wrote his own, which I never listened to. It wasn't so much that I didn't understand the sports, most of which I had played or watched someone play in gym class; it was that all the names were unfamiliar, like a party full of jabbering strangers. After a while I started just copying the snappy headlines out of the Daily News, which is what the people at Channel 9 did, and we always made fun of them for it.

Lana came by and looked over my shoulder.

"The Bombers' Bats Boom In the Bronx," she read. "What sport is that?"

"Baseball," I said. I showed her the players in the Daily News.

She read it again, brightly.

"Very good," I said.

"My hair's a mess, though," said Lana.

Across the desk, I saw Edwell Unfun watching us.

"She'll be good," he said.


"Stupid faces look good on the air. Too much depth is no good, you know," he said. "You can only photograph the surface of an object. "

With so much copy to write, I barely got it done on time, but I did, and sat back to watch Roger read the serious news. We had video of a Burmese dissident giving his first press conference in the United States. Someone had clearly taken the dissident shopping since his arrival, because he was dressed like a male model sweeping into a Soho drinks party. He was wearing a leather necktie.

"Now," Roger said. "here's Lana Oceola with the sports."

The camera focused on Lana. She looked good on-air, and her hair looked wonderful. "Ports," it said behind her head. The graphics department had helpfully supplied a picture of a boat.

"Oh, no," I said.

But if I'd worried that would throw Lana off her stride, I was wrong. She was focused on the TelePrompTer, and she read my borrowed words with conviction, deeply moved at the Yankee victory, and profoundly troubled by the Mets' failure to take advantage of a late-inning triple. There was no doubt about it. She was a natural talent.

Suddenly, I realized the real difference between work behind the camera and work in front of it. Behind the camera is journalism. You worry about accuracy, timeliness, fairness, ethics. In front of the camera, you have to worry if your hair looks right. People will be looking at you, and if your hair's wrong, they won't hear a word you've said.

It came to me like an epiphany, and I wanted to tell Julian, too, when he came back from the control room. But he hadn't gone to the control room. He was standing in the newsroom, beside us, mesmerized by Lana's image on the screen.

"She is going to be huge," Julian said. "She is going to catch fire."

"Aren't you a college boy?" said Edwell Unfun. "Didn't you ever take physics class?"

"What?" Julian said.

"The laws of physics," said Edwell Unfun. "Flames are hollow."

Episode #15

News....It's Just Sports With Guns.

The executive producer had excused himself from the discussion about letting Lana do the sports. It turned out he had taken pictures of Lana during her days as a bra model, and had gotten her the P.A. job in the first place. Now, however, with the weight of her sensation behind him, he had a suggestion.

"Updates....3 minutes.....let her try....got something?" he said.

"He wants her to do one of Roger's late-night news updates for him," Julian translated. "I think it's a bad idea. Sports is one thing, but I don't think she has the background to be messing with news."

"News....just sports with guns," said the executive producer.

"At the very least," Julian said, "let's give her stories about things nobody's ever heard of, so if she gets it wrong people won't know the difference. Glory, do we have any stories like that?"

"This time of night, it's mostly third-world news off the wires," I said. "There's been a revolution in the Republic of the Niger."

"Make SURE she knows how to pronounce it," said Julian.

As soon as Lana went on the air again, my phone rang. That was odd in itself; considering the hours I worked, I rarely gave out my office number. I picked up the phone.

"Who," said a massaging masculine voice, "is that absolutely corrupting beauty?"

"Fabian?" I said. "What are you doing up so late?"

"Having a glass of sherry, and watching that living Varga girl read the news. Who is she?"

"I thought you had a girlfriend," I said.

"Oh, I'm not thinking of dating her. I want her publicity business. I mean, if I have do date her to do that, that's fine, but it's not what I'm calling about. That girl is going to revolutionize the news business. "

There was some kind of commotion going on in the office. People were gathering around Roger's desk.

"Fabian," I said, "she's not exactly Edward R. Murrow. She's just some dumb bimbo who used her looks to get ahead."

"Just because that option wasn't available to you," he said, "doesn't mean it's a bad option."

Over the tops of heads, I could see Roger standing on his desk, holding his World War II Howitzer gun.

"Hold on," I told Fabian.

Could Roger be that upset over being replaced for one update? He wasn't usually violent. Still, the night shift did strange things to people.

"May I have your attention!" Roger told the crowd.

Everyone grew quiet.

"This gun here, this precious piece of history, is the centerpiece of my new novel. A novel which has not been finished because of the constant distraction of journalism!"

People in the crowd nodded.

"Yet one little girl, one little girl here, Lana Oceola, has done for me what none of the rest of you would do. She has taken on some of my work - extra work - solely to give me more time to write. And although I may need journalism to feed my family, I need literature to feed my soul."

Lana was sitting on the desk at Roger's feet, swinging her ankles.

"That's why I've decided, in conjunction with the executive producer and station manager, that Lana Oceola will be sitting in for me when I go on vacation next week."

The crowd paused for a minute, then politely clapped.

"What's going on?" Fabian barked through the phone.

"She's going to replace Roger when he goes on vacation."

"Oh, man!" said Fabian. "I'm going to get up early and call Page Six. Tell her I got her her first publicity, okay? Tell her!"

I got off the phone. I had always wanted to be on Page Six. When I first came to New York, I used to send Christmas cards to all the gossip columnists, just so they would know my name.

As the crowd broke up, Julian walked past my desk.

"Want to go for a beer after work?" I asked. We sometimes had a beer together at quitting time, 9 a.m.

"I'm going out for breakfast with Jill," he said. "Jill thinks I would have been a better choice as Roger's replacement."

I saw Jill at a desk across the room, putting a long line of paper clips in a row. She had cut herself shaving, and there was a dried rivulet of blood running down her bald head.

On my way out, I saw Lana, and I felt conciliatory. There was really no reason successful women should be each others' worst enemies. Besides, maybe her coat-tails could help take me to wherever it was I wanted to go.

"We'll work on sports some more when Roger comes back from vacation," I told her.

"Oh, he's never coming back," said Lana.


Next Week: The Vibrating Tie

Library of Congress Copyright TXU 785-872