The story to date: Our hero, a young writer recently thrust into the hapless role of editor of an advertising-dominated weekly newspaper, attempts to provide some editorial style through his own personal weekly column.
But the subject matter of the column has become mired in recent editions with the disappearance – and presumed death – of the young writer’s predecessor, the founding editor of the paper. The suits who had taken over the paper had cut back most of the editorial coverage and had replaced it with advertising and advertising features – "Feng Shui for Your Home and Office" had been a big hit, with editorial copy provided by the Princeton chapter of the National Association of Interior Decorators.
But the young editor had been determined to keep a flicker of the old editorial flame alive. The suits never read his column – tucked way back at the end of the paper where the old man (as the founder had been known behind his back around the office) had always put his. And the young editor, lacking in confidence in most other areas of the newspaper, had gained enough courage to exercise some editorial muscle way back in the publication. And the story he began to dwell on was the fate of his immediate predecessor.
"It’s a great story," he told colleagues when asked why he kept coming back to the subject. "It’s got a beginning and a middle, but no real end yet and that’s what makes it intriguing." The young editor was referring to the circumstances of the death – the old man setting off alone on a boat in the Bermuda triangle area, complaining of heartburn to a passing boat and inquiring if life preservers were required. And then he was gone – no body, but a lot of questions that were never asked. If the old man had been a hot looking teenager like that kid lost in Aruba, it might have been different.
"But it could hurt the children," one of the other writers had argued. "What if they read this stuff about their father?"
The innocent kids, sure, the young but increasingly skeptical editor had thought. The older one – the charmer – walking through the office like he owned it, but without ever letting anyone know what he was thinking. Then the younger one – brutally frank, some said. There was the time he was chatting with an employee, and she said, "well, I guess I better get back to work." And without skipping a beat he had replied: "I guess you better." At age 10, already practicing cracking the whip, the young editor thought.
And then there was that memorial service for the old man, originally scheduled for the Princeton University Chapel but moved to the Holiday Inn on Route 1 – word was that university officials had checked the Annual Giving records and also had been concerned about the suddenly depleted assets in the old man’s estate, but that was another part of the story.
At the service, said to be in accordance with the old man’s wishes, there was the usual amount of sharing from friends (a few) and acquaintances (a lot more). And then a medley of recorded music as a few people headed for the bar and a lot more just headed for the door. Everyone expected some Elvis music – the old man supposedly had loved Elvis, but there was none. "The Elvis thing was more a kick than anything else," the old man supposedly had told friends before he disappeared.
At the end of the service the music had gone from the dark to the uplifting. Jim Morrison and the Doors intoning "The End (From Apocalypse Now)" in what will no doubt become a funeral anthem as the flower children of the 1960s traipse off to their rewards. Then the voice of Judy Collins or some old folkie came through the speakers:
The beginning is now . . . don’t turn around
Regrets of bad mistakes will only drain you
There’s another train, there always is
Maybe the next one is yours
Get up and climb aboard . . .
A few of the old man’s friends got a little red in the eyes. But the coolest people in the hall were those two kids. The young editor studied them as they sat in the front row in apparent boredom. Then the older one noticed the editor’s stare and immediately put his left hand to his eye, as if to wipe away a tear. The editor couldn’t be sure, but he thought he saw the kid’s right elbow jab in the direction of his younger brother’s gut. Suddenly the younger one broke out in audible sobs.
The rest of the dwindling crowd cast sorrowful glances at the distraught lad. "BS," thought the young editor. "I haven’t seen tears like that since the Menendez brothers were on trial."
"Another train," he thought. "I am that freakin’ train. And the next stop will be figuring out what really happened on that boat in Bermuda."