Walter nestled closer to his wife’s warmth and tried to shut out the morning bird song. I am breathing in he thought to himself as he inhaled slowly. I am breathing out on the exhale. He had seen this demonstrated on a television program about anxiety, but this was the first time he’d tried it. It was the first time he’d felt the need.
If only he could stay in bed today. Stay in bed and make love to June the way he used to when they first got married and were living in the apartment above the store on Main Street. It was some kind of gourmet food shop now but back then it had been the only Chinese restaurant in Anneville. China Garden, it was called.
They married just after he graduated to writing articles for the Anneville Transcript and was freed from the paper’s office to go out looking for news. But the delight he and June took in each other’s bodies was fresh and strong back then. Often he’d surprise her by coming home early and they’d spend the sweltering summer afternoon drenched in sweat and pleasure. Later, he’d go down to the restaurant and pick up the special dishes that the owner liked to make for the newly wedded couple.
Those were good days. The best days.
Walter was not dissatisfied with his life. He loved June fiercely even forty years later and he loved the son and daughter they’d raised together. His job at the paper eventually allowed them to buy a modest house that June had transformed into a warm home full of plants and music. When Old Ed Crane retired from his position as editor, Walter had been asked to step in thereby fulfilling the dream he set in motion back when he was an ambitious twelve year old with a paper route.
If he died today, he would say that he had had a very good life. Blessed even.
If only he could die today. If only he could avoid the events that were coming.
I am breathing in. I am breathing out. I am breathing in…
He couldn’t have not run the story after all. The mayor gets covered in manure in the midst of a fist fight with a farmer who had a grudge against him for shtooping his wife. Well, he didn’t include that last detail. He knew Ron and Elsa Andersson and their boys. What happened there was nobody’s business. Nor did he include the details of what David Larsson and Jenny Kobayashi had been up to before the fight took place. But he did run the photo that had Jenny in the background.
The layout for today’s front page flashed in his mind. MAYOR SLINGS DIRT AT FARMERS, THINGS GET MESSY IN KARLSTAD was printed in two inch letters above three large black and white photographs. The first shot showed David Larsson faced off against Ron Andersson, Jim Belson, and Paul Stuart just as Paul was in the act of smearing manure down Larsson’s shirt front. Larsson’s face was contorted into an ugly mask of disdain, his mouth open as he hurled insults at the other men. Jenny Kobayashi was in the background, heading towards the Acropolis Diner.
The next shot captured Larsson as he launched himself at Ron Andersson, his entire body airborne as his weight carried them both backwards into the pile of manure that covered his cadillac. The third showed Larsson slick with muck, bent over the front of a police cruiser, hands behind his back in the act of being handcuffed, mouth still wide with hurled threats and insults.
The article that followed took up two entire pages and contained this redacted quote from Larsson:
You are all so f---ing stupid. You can bet your stupid g----m farmer a-- that I am going to sue each and every one of you. I am taking everything you morons own and I am going to wipe my a-- on your p-ss ant little family farms and then - you know what I’m gonna do then? I’m gonna sell your g----m granny and grampy’s place to China, you morons, that’s what I’m gonna do.
Walter was fairly certain that the photos he’d taken, article he’d written, and paper he ran was going to end David Larsson’s political career and possibly his marriage as well. Not to mention his relationship to his son.
Jeez, Gunnar, he thought. What would this do to Gunnar to find out his father and fiance have been messing around.
Walter closed his eyes against the morning light and pulled June closer to him. I am breathing in. I am breathing out.
One thing is certain, his thoughts interrupted, things are going to change after the paper comes out today. There is going to be lots more to write about.