Booth Chandler still thought of the Issaqueena Star as his newspaper even though he’d long since sold it to the assholes in Virginia—and grown rich and fat in the process. Now he had an opportunity to become some kind of executive with our parent company, which I’d been waiting for him to do for ten years. I wanted his job as publisher, but my prospects were in real doubt.

“I’ve been rubbing elbows with the executives,” Booth said to me after he returned to South Carolina. He pronounced it ex-ZEH-cutives. “Yes, sir, rubbing elbows.” He snapped his suspenders, a piece of apparel he’d been wearing for the past forty years and hadn’t needed in at least twenty. These days he was lucky the elastic in those suckers could stretch the girth of him.

“Say you have?” I said. “You going to take a position up there?” “You trying to get rid of me?”

“Wouldn’t dream of it. Just dreaming about being publisher one day, when it’s my time.”

“If I recommended you as my replacement,” he said.

“I haven’t failed you yet,” I said, thinking of a warehouse full of It’s the Holidays! magazine, which I thought of as Buy! Buy! Buy!, our annual spam-in-print advertising section where we coerced every retailer in the Foothills to participate or risk being shut out to consumers. We never would have put out such schlock on our own, but to our parent company, which as far as I could tell was run by a bunch of illiterate snake-oil salesmen looking to line their pockets at the expense of their employees and shareholders, we didn’t produce journalism. We manufactured content.

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Jon Sealy is the author of The Whiskey Baron. His stories have also appeared in The South Carolina Review, The Normal School, PANK, and The Sun. He lives in Richmond, Virginia.

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