eyes and clearing them of crusty mucus formed by drainage from his
sinus cavities, Clay
focuses toward the clock radio on the night stand.
It's 5:30 a m. It seems mere minutes ago he
woke from the first dream.
"The ragweed must be out in full force today," Clay
said out loud, diverting his
thoughts from the third dream of the night.
removes the yellowish substance from his
Middle Georgia is known for its ragweed.
This allergen appears around Labor Day and intensifies Clay's miseries as late summer gives way to early autumn.
In twenty minutes the alarm will sound.
will hear the nondescript voice of the local weatherman.
hates awaking to the sound of the alarm.
has a penchant for stepping between time and space.
A maneuver designed to change the outcome of an event, just like awakening from a nightmare before being struck by a sniper's bullet.
doesn't enjoy being told what to do.
gets a kick out of seeing his
feet on the floor before Jerry Powell, the aging weatherman, at radio station WAZM
, delivers his
It's time to get up.
does not need an alarm clock to tell him when it is time to get up.
"The alarm is a crutch.
I'm not a cripple," Clay
was fond of saying.
Far from it, he
is independent by nature.
relies upon his
internal alarm clock.
body instinctively knows when it's time to get back to the business of another day, the business of publishing a newspaper.
One of this job's most solemn requirements is protecting the public's right to know the state of affairs of local government.
As the managing editor, protecting the public interest falls directly upon Clay's shoulders, quite by accident.
Solely by virtue of his job, Clay has become the protector of the constitution for the local folks.
It is a role he
The Macon Tribune & Journal
(MTJ) is a newspaper he
enjoys delivering to the public each morning.
Clay rolls over and yawns, delaying his
departure from the bed another few minutes.
"Gotta get moving," he
After all, Rudy is the editor of the newspaper and Clay works under him as the paper's managing editor.
likes a smooth shaven face.
doesn't shave everyday and will pass on this masculine ritual each chance he
"A clean shaved face gives a man an air of importance," he
Flipping the covers back, Clay
begins a cursory search of his
bed for any trace of newsprint.
Finding none he
breathes a sigh of relief.
"The first morning in months I've not found bits and pieces of faded newspaper in my bed."
did not want to find them.
They seemed to appear out of nowhere during the night.
It was quite a surprise to Clay he
didn't discover any newsprint in his
bedding this morning.
Finding newsprint in his
bed occurs as frequently as the dream.
was relieved, slightly; nevertheless relieved.
Perhaps, as his
had stepped in between time beating the nocturnal visitor to the punch.
A pleasing smile appears, a smile of self adoration, applauding his
effort in awaking before another piece of newspaper is placed in his
competes with every facet of life.
developed this competitive nature from his
days growing up in Winnie Moore's household.
likes to be ahead of the game.
mom nagging him about chores he
was required to do around the house.
quickly learned what was expected of him.
completed each task before Winnie Moore could think to tell him to get it done.
has a reputation.
stayed away from even the appearance of impropriety on this point.
did not flirt with the other men's wives.
did not engage them long in one on one conversation.
dare not be caught dead alone in a room with someone's wife.
would have thought the pieces of newspaper were figments of his
imagination, or lingering fragments of a dream, except he
neatly placed each scrap of paper on a corkboard.
arranged the pieces in random patterns, looking for a possible message.
At the very least the pieces may come together like a puzzle.
The newspaper clippings are real.
There is no way to deny their existence.
"If there is a message contained on the corkboard puzzle it is indiscernible," Clay
determined the bits of newspaper clippings were not from news stories published in the MTJ
, but were similar to an event he
had covered as a cub reporter.
Clay vividly remembers Senator Thomas Eagleston and his dashed hopes of running for Vice President against Spiro T. Agnew, the worst Vice Presidential pick in history, up to that point.
How could Clay Moore
explain seeking help from a shrink over the appearance of newspaper clippings in his
"How silly," he
It's out of the question!
If such an act took down a powerful politician like Thomas Eagleston, surely Clay
couldn't withstand any similar public scrutiny.
did not have designs on leaving the newspaper business.
But a young man has to keep his
It is hard to say who is more pleased when Clay
appears in the middle of the newsroom, Clay
or the city editor.
is put to work running copy throughout the building and his
meteoric ascent begins.
Clay's work at the MTJ impresses J. Edgar Scott.
likes Clay's preparedness and quietly monitors his
progress at the paper.
was a keeper from day one.
Everyone who came in contact with him knew it.
is assigned to cover the police beat.
The police blotter is his
first stop at the beginning of his
Reading the police blotter is on the job training for Clay
, because they didn't teach a course in Athens on reading the police blotter.
Besides no serious journalist wants to be caught dead reading the police blotter.
It was honest work as honest work goes and Clay
is glad as a bee in a pool of molasses to get it.
designed a plan to add humor to the police blotter.
made fun of the antics the police were called upon to defuse.
Rather than publish a serious story about the crime wave in middle Georgia, such as it is, Clay
city editor to publish a humorous version of the police blotter.
Time and time again, Clay
scooped the radio and television reporters in the area.
, the man in the know, who knows news before it's news," his
electronic media colleagues dead panned when Clay
Once a week, Clay
rode in a squad car as the police cruised the city looking to avert even the thought of crime.
featured a day in the life of a police officer.
The rapport he
built up with the police department came in handy.
Particularly when the department was confronted with the biggest police story to hit the town in 50 years.
Although information would prove to be sketchy, Clay
gets more information than most reporters covering this event and later reaped the professional rewards.
Years later clippings from this news event are finding their way into Clay's bed.
In three short years he went from police blotter editor, assistant city editor, then city editor and finally he was promoted to managing editor.
The promotions happened so fast that Clay
barely had a chance to learn to respond to one title before he
was on to the next.
Never it seemed did he
have time to learn all the intricacies associated with each level of newspaper work.
As managing editor he manages the news staff and news stories.
Clay is a good manager.
style is quiet, but effective.
has that proverbial nose for news.
can sense the news worthiness of a story.
can energize his
reporters to pull the story out of their subjects.
A good editor has to have a knack for doing just that.
Like a good athletic coach who inspires the best from his
The star player then propels the other players to new heights of performance.
There is much Clay
likes about his
The duty he
likes least isn't found in his
He serves as the sounding board for Rudy's pontifical editorials.
In the beginning, Clay
is too polite, too accommodating, too unsure of himself to beg out of the assignment.
It is almost as if whoever is pulling the strings to promote Clay
must have the same design on the life of Rudy Watkins.
took the opposite view, he