The Times came out on Wednesdays, and the rhythm of the week was arranged around that day. On Tuesday night we worked late, pasting up the pages and sending them off to be photographed and turned into plates. Wednesday was a low-pressure day. You cleaned up your desk, planned out the next issue, and in the early afternoon, the papers were delivered at the back gate. You could grab samples on your way home.

This week was different. I had a story on the front page. It wasn’t all my story, of course. The by-line was “Bob Burns and Greg Holden.” But that was good enough for me. I had broken through the mold of simply being a columnist and was now a true newspaperman.

When I got home, exhausted, I followed my usual Wednesday routine. I poured some Pepsi, went up to my room, and flopped down in my bed. I turned on the radio and stared at the newspaper spread out on the floor, reading my own stories over and over. It was like massaging my brain or my ego. Seeing my words and my name in print was better than any drug. That’s me, I kept thinking. That’s really who I am.

It wasn’t until the next day that I began to get the reaction. First, the phone rang at home. Thursday was my day off.

“What did you do that for?” Mom’s voice was tight, compressed, as though she was a tightly inflated tire and words, like air, were pouring out through clenched teeth.

“Do what for?” I asked stupidly.

“That story you wrote,” she said. “It’s really getting me in trouble. I’m going to lose my job.”

A hot caustic fluid shot out from my midsection and flooded my arms and legs. My Worry Engine, a machine I inherited from my mother, began churning in high gear. I knew immediately what she meant in a flash. But I asked about it anyway, hoping I was wrong.

“How am I making you lose your job?”

“Mr. Bardolet is really mad about that story you wrote,” she said. I was about to point out that I was only the co-author, but thankfully, I didn’t say this. “That report was supposed to be confidential. How could you do this to me?”

I tried to explain, as calmly as I could, that I wasn’t doing anything to her, that any report paid for by the city was a public matter, the kind of reasoning reporters use all the time. I was trying to be rational, unemotional. This only seemed to make her more anxious. Finally she had to hang up; Mr. Bardolet was calling her into her office. I sat at my desk, stunned, wondering what to do.

The phone rang a few minutes later. This time it was my sister. She raked me over the coals and said I was ruining Mom’s career. I had never thought of my mother having a career or any life outside the home.

“They think Mom told you all that stuff,” she said. “She’s really in trouble over it. What are you going to do about it?”

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