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datatime: 2022-12-02 03:25:32 Author:BYAgjHos

He closed the suitcase and stared at it, not sure what to do next.

Voices in the dirt? Holly thought, and almost laughed.

While the clerk processed the credit card and issued the ticket, Jim noticed the guy had pierced ears. He wasn't wearing earrings on the job but the holes in his lobes were visible enough to indicate that he wore then regularly when he was off duty and that he preferred heavy jewelry.

"The flight to Portland leaving in twenty minutes," Jim said. "Is it full up?" The clerk checked the computer. "You're in luck, sir. We have three open seats."

Except when dealing with exceptionally vile criminals and politicians, she had never been able to work up enough hatred to write that way-which was one reason her career spiral had spun her down through three major newspapers in three large cities to her current position in the more humble offices of the Portland Press. Biased journalism was often more colorful than balanced reporting, sold more papers, and was more widely commented upon and admired. But though she rapidly came to dislike Louise Tarvohl even more than the woman's bad poetry, she could work up no enthusiasm for a hatchet job.

In the main terminal at the airport, travelers streamed to and from their boarding gates. The multi-racial crowd belied the lingering myth that Orange County was culturally bland and populated solely by white AngloSaxon Protestants. On his way to the bank of TV monitors that displayed a list of arriving and departing flights, Jim heard four languages besides English.

Voices in the dirt? Holly thought, and almost laughed.

He also told himself not to be afraid, but fear was his unshakable companion. When he pulled into his driveway in Laguna Niguel, the spiky black shadows of palm fronds looked like cracks in the blazing-white stucco of his small house, as if the structure had dried out and split open in the heat The red-tile roof appeared to ripple like overlapping waves of blood his bedroom, sunlight acquired a coppery hue as it poured through tinted windows. It laid a penny-colored glow in stripes across the bed off white carpet, alternating with bands of shade from the half open plantation shutters.

Initially he did not know where he was going. Then he had a vague feeling that he should return home. Rapidly the feeling became a strong hunch, the hunch became a conviction, and the conviction became a compulsion. He absolutely had to get home.

"Smell the air!" Louise took a deep button-popping breath. "You can sure tell we're on the edge of five thousand acres of parkland, huh? So little in of humanity in the air."

"The flight to Portland leaving in twenty minutes," Jim said. "Is it full up?" The clerk checked the computer. "You're in luck, sir. We have three open seats."

Holly Thorne was at a private elementary school on the west side of Portland to interview a teacher, Louise Tarvohl, who had sold a book of poetry to a major New York publisher, not an easy feat in an age when most people's knowledge of poetry was limited to the lyrics of pop songs and occasional rhyming television ads for dog food, underarm deodorant, or steel-belted radial tires. Only a few summer classes were under way.

He didn't know he was going to pack for travel until he found himself taking a suitcase from his closet. He gathered up his shaving gear and toiletries first. He didn't know his destination or how long he would be gone, but he included two changes of clothes. These jobs-adventures missions, whatever in God's name they were-usually didn't require him to be away more than two or three days. He hesitated, worried that he had not packed enough. But these trips were dangerous; each could be his last, in which case it didn't matter whether he packed too much or too little.

Then he 'd, "Gotta fly," and he knew.

The drive to John Wayne Airport, on the southeastern edge of Santa Anta, took less than half an hour. Along the way he saw subtle reminders at southern California had been a desert before the importation of water through aqueducts. A billboard urged water conservation. Gardeners were planting low-maintenance cactus and ice plant in front of a new southwestern-style apartment building. between the greenbelts and the neighborhoods of lushly landscaped properties, the vegetation on undeveloped fields and hills was parched and brown, waiting for the kiss of a match in the trembling hand of one of the pyromaniacs contributing to the annual, devastating wildfire season.

They sat at a redwood picnic table on the playground, after Holly checked the bench to be sure there was no dirt on it that might stain her white cotton dress. A jungle gym was to their left, a swing set to their right. The day was pleasantly warm, and a breeze stirred an agreeable fragrance from some nearby Douglas firs.

He read the destinations from top to bottom on the monitor. The next to t city-Portland, Oregon-struck a spark of inspiration in him, and he went straight to the ticket counter.

He closed the suitcase and stared at it, not sure what to do next.

Nevertheless Holly intended to write an uncritical piece. Over the years she had known far too many reporters who, because of envy or bitterness or a misguided sense of moral superiority, got a kick out of slanting and coloring a story to make their subjects look foolish.

Another instructor assumed responsibility for Louise's kids, so she and Holly could talk.

Nevertheless Holly intended to write an uncritical piece. Over the years she had known far too many reporters who, because of envy or bitterness or a misguided sense of moral superiority, got a kick out of slanting and coloring a story to make their subjects look foolish.

When he returned Jim's credit card, his shirtsleeve pulled up far enough on his right wrist to reveal the snarling muzzle of what appeared to be a lavishly detailed, colorful dragon tattoo that extended up his entire arm. The knuckles of that hand were crusted with scabs, as if they had been skinned in a fight.

In the main terminal at the airport, travelers streamed to and from their boarding gates. The multi-racial crowd belied the lingering myth that Orange County was culturally bland and populated solely by white AngloSaxon Protestants. On his way to the bank of TV monitors that displayed a list of arriving and departing flights, Jim heard four languages besides English.

Then he 'd, "Gotta fly," and he knew.

Nevertheless Holly intended to write an uncritical piece. Over the years she had known far too many reporters who, because of envy or bitterness or a misguided sense of moral superiority, got a kick out of slanting and coloring a story to make their subjects look foolish.

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