The bell of Christmas : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

The bell of Christmas

Fiction by Marc Munroe Dion

Jack Dupont, angry columnist, left the offices of the Mill River Standard Times at 5:16 p.m. on a Wednesday. He stopped just outside the front door and, under the close examination of girlfriend Simone LaCroix, packed and lit a long-stemmed GBD Canadian.

Dupont, 56, with 30 years in the newspaper business, had fought with 29-year-old night city editor Michael Foreman.

“Ya gotta call him Michael,” Dupont said to his girlfriend and fellow reporter. “Not Mikey, not Mike.”

“You shouldn’t have said what you said,” Simone sighed. “He’s still a boss.”

“He’s not a real boss,” Dupont growled. “He’s a straw boss. He’s eligible for union membership, if he’d join, which he won’t because he wants to be a real boss someday.”

Dupont and LaCroix were reporters, lovers and co-conspirators at the Standard Times. She was the paper’s top reporter, a connoisseur of scandal, murder, politics, red wine, eye makeup, shoes and misery. Five feet 2 inches tall, blond and pretty in a sharp-nosed, pale, 1930s way, she called cats “kitties” and was the only Standard Times reporter who had ever thrown out a pair of green suede pumps because they were bloodstained.

The two worked some of the same shifts and many of the same stories, Dupont’s column often coming as the right cross after her left jab. They had been pointedly not defining their relationship for three years.

“You want to go out for a drink?” Simone said. “No, wait. It’s the baloney banquet, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Dupont said, shooting his cuffs so a quarter inch of pale gray shirt cuff showed from beneath the sleeves of his dark gray tweed sport coat. His cuff links were in the shape of small, gold typewriters.

“The baloney banquet” was Simone code for the visits Dupont paid to his childhood friend, Father Armand “Lefty” Arsenault. The visits were as regular as Dupont’s schedule allowed.

Dupont—tall, rangy, tired-looking and often sardonic—hated nearly everything about Foreman, including his insistence on the use of his full first name, his skinny jeans, the fact that when he bent forward you could see he wore colored underwear and, most of all, his terrible lack of skill as an editor.

What Foreman had done was remove a sentence from Dupont’s Wednesday column, and he had done it Tuesday night, after Dupont left.

“After last week’s celebration of Diversity Day in Mill River, the old white politicians went back to running the city and the diverse people went back home to the projects,” Dupont had written.

When Dupont came in for his Wednesday day shift, he promptly and profanely complained to managing editor Cassie Wolfson.

“You approved that column for publication,” Dupont told Wolfson. “Who told Hipster Boy he gets to edit my columns?”

“He said it was elitist, that thing about the projects,” Wolfson said.

“Elitist?” Dupont growled. “He lives 35 miles from here in a lawn suburb. He’s never been in a housing project in his life.”

“Look, Jack,” Wolfson said. “You’re right. He’s not supposed to edit your column. I’ll shoot him an email about it.”

“How ‘bout you just shoot him?” Dupont said, leaving Wolfson’s office.

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Category: Feature Article, Other Stories, Winter 2016

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