• An up and coming columnist may bounce me right out of here

    Where did I leave my sword and shield. My territory is being invaded and I must protect it. I must strap on my leather breastplate and skirt, like Xena the Warrior Princess, and defend what is rightfully mine.

    It took me a long time to lay claim to this spot, above Ann Landers. I’m proud of it. I may not win the Pulitzer or get syndicated anytime soon, but by God, I’m above Ann Landers.

    It’s my one and only claim to fame. The key word there being “my.”

    And some young upstart wants it.

    Not without a fight, buddy boy. I had to earn this spot. I had to work for it. (Actually, the former columnist quit and the editor was desperate to fill the space. Four years later, she is apparently as desperate as ever. If I don’t watch out, my only claim to fame will be my new location above “Miscellaneous For Sale.”)

    So who is this invader, this new threat? None other than the Marlin Perkins of the Enterprise, one David Weinshilboum. If it’s jackrabbits, owls or hornets, it’s David’s beat. If it has fur, wings or whiskers, he’s all over it like white on rice.

    You’d think there’d be enough wildlife to keep David busy and prevent him from getting bright ideas like writing columns, but no. He forged ahead into new territory.

    God, I hate youth and enthusiasm.

    Besides the fact that David can write a pretty snappy column, he has another quality that scares me. You have to like him. You can’t not like him. You can’t really even say anything bad about him. It would be like kicking Bambi.

    This is a nice boy. This is a boy whose cheeks will get pinched by little old ladies named Edna at every family gathering and church function. Even when he’s 60.

    How nice is he? Well, when I showed up at the Garry Trudeau presentation without my notebook, David gave me his. That’s sort of a “shirt off his back,” reporter style.

    And recently, when I was missing some pages in my Enterprise, and couldn’t finish his gripping story on caterpillar larvae, I called him up and he read the rest of the story to me over the phone.

    Now, that’s nice.

    And he writes nice. It is sweet and funny and fresh. Just the way a newlywed twentysomething should write before life turns you into a “bitter scotch-inhaling divorcee,” a phrase he so neatly turned in one of his sample columns. (Thank goodness I prefer cherry brandy or I’d swear he’d taken a shot at me.)

    Yes, sample columns. I’ve read them. They weren’t too bad. Good, actually. Quite good. Okay, I liked them, dammit. There, I said it. He had some stuff in there I wish I’d written.

    Dammit, dammitt, dammitt.

    But, nice and sweet aside, David’s a sly one. He coerced me into participating in my own demise. He knew my weak spot. He asked for my opinion. Said he valued my input and feedback.

    Yes, he flattered me. And it worked.

    So I’m easy. I admit it. Say nice things to me and I’ll follow you anywhere. All the moral fortitude of your average Cocker Spaniel. Just pat my head and I’ll fetch your slippers in a jiffy.

    OK, it wasn’t quite that easy. David dangled an irresistible incentive in front of me: his Jim Carrey button. The button was pinned to his cubicle, and I’d been lusting after it for weeks. I offered to beg, borrow or steal for it. He just smiled sweetly and assured me he’d try to find me one of my own.

    Oh, sure, he picked up the phone and made a call, but he probably dialed the number for the time. And I fell for it. Then he looked up, wide-eyed and innocent, shrugged, and said, too bad, it appeared that this was the only button of its kind in the western hemisphere.

    He let that sink in for awhile, watched me linger at his cubicle every Monday, eyeing that button, oozing jealousy, and then played his ace: he’d give me the button if I’d read his columns and offer feedback.

    Oh, silly grasshopper. I’d have given you more cash for that button than you’d have made from a dozen columns.

    Sure, I’ll read the columns. I’ll cover them in red ink. No problem. Just hand over the button.


    Therein you have a snapshot of every major life decision I’ve ever made: Sure, I’ll risk my cushy little spot above Ann, I’ll risk getting shuffled into the real estate section, but hey, I’ll have this really nifty Jim Carrey button!

    I guess I’m not just easy. I’m cheap too. Four years spent spiffing this little spot up, fixing it up just the way I like it, all traded away. My columndom for a button.

    So, while the coveted button sits on my dresser, David’s columns (with my blessings) have advanced into the hands of the Enterprise editor, who, as we have already established, is still quite desperate.

    I’m doomed.

    I just hope they don’t put me by the personals. I may be easy. I may be cheap. I just don’t want to be tacky too.

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