Sitting Fifteen

Karin made the quality decision to stop off at her apartment in the city to shower, change clothes and gather her wits before cruising back to the newspaper. She didn’t realize how frazzled she was until she was sitting, riding back into town, and saw her right hand twitching without her permission. She needed to calm down. The last thing she wanted to do in front of her editor was appear rattled—or by his definition, female.

She had once read that feeding the belly calms the soul, so she nibbled on a bit of cheese and took a sip of wine to ease her nerves, attempting to feed a much deeper hunger, which would have to wait its turn for the time being. There were important matters to be taken care of—at this point, much more urgent than a tasty meal.

She ended up arriving at the newspaper office very late, but as far as Karin knew, the editor was always there. Matter of fact, she was convinced that he had been sitting in a chair, and people came and built his office around him. When she walked into the office, the man didn’t even look up from the daily reports he was perusing.

“Do you have a story?” he asked. He was never much for formalities. He had once explained it to her. He found cordiality to be useless, prohibiting anyone from finding out what they really wanted to know in the first place.

Even though Karin knew he was in a hurry to receive an update, she was savvy and well aware that she needed to pace herself and remove all breathiness and frantic from her telling. She sat down, nice and slow, in a chair in front of his desk.

“I have a story, but I don’t,” she began. “And before you ask me what that means, let me tell you. Sometimes I think even though journalists are not supposed to become emotionally involved, our stories can transform us into missionaries.”

The editor looked up with a threatening frown. “Koulyea, you aren’t some damn nun. If you want a ministry, go hunt down the Pope. I need stories, and I need people who can get them, write them clearly and go out and find more, instead of discussing how good the last one was or musing over whether their hearts were moved.”

Karin was offended. “I know that,” she spat. “Don’t talk to me like some cub who’s coming into the first day of work. It’s just that I’ve uncovered something that may be worth more than eight column inches and a byline.”

The editor eyed her for sincerity. “All right,” he said. “I’m listening.”

Karin leaned forward, her elbows on the desk. “I came across two boys in the desert. Two twelve-year-olds who defied their parents and their friends so they could be together. You see, one is Jewish and one, Palestinian.”

“Jubal and Amir? So I heard. Right?” The editor sprouted a grin.

Karin could not hide her shock. The editor laughed out loud, greatly satisfied that he had bettered his subordinate. “Listen, I’ve heard all about it. You should know that raging parents are louder than stampeding elephants.”

He picked up a stack of papers on his desk. “I’ve had ten messages just today about these two rascals,” he explained. “But you know, I don’t see a story here, unless we’re in a mood to do live coverage of a spanking.”

Karin was tired of being thwarted. “They have a hand grenade,” she pronounced, trying not to be too emphatic.

She couldn’t believe herself. But it was like the words came out on their own. She would never have given them permission to leave her mouth if she had known what their intention was. But she was tired of being treated like a nobody.

Still, in the scheme of things, she had just lied to her editor. There was no longer a hand grenade. But it caused the aging newsman to lean back in his chair. “Hand grenade, huh?” he said. He took a sip of his drink and swallowed slowly, and then continued. “I guess it’s useless for me to ask where they got such a thing. Would you tell me?” He gazed at Karin and shook his head. “Of course not,” he decided. “Okay. I guess it would be better to ask what they intend to do with it.”

Karin decided she needed to take some heat off of herself. She rose from her chair, stomped across the room and punched the door with her fist. “My God, man! They’re twelve years old! Do twelve-year-olds ever intend to do anything? A hand grenade, on the other hand, knows exactly what it is primed to do. We’ve got to do something for these kids.”

As she finished, she inched back toward him, reached out and rapped her knuckles on the desk. She was breathing heavily, full of anger.

Karin wanted to know how serious he would be about this serious situation. Or for that matter, if he, a man trapped in the Middle East, had the foresight to take a young woman seriously.

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Published by Jonathan Cring