Iowa Writes

JOSH ROLNICK
Excerpt of "The Herald"
From Pulp and Paper


The phone was ringing as Dale put his key into the lock, turned, shouldered the door open. He put down his leather attaché, hooked his keys on the wall beneath the hat mirror, and walked quickly across the living room, his cat, Pulitzer, threading herself recklessly between his ankles. He reached the phone and snatched the receiver after the sixth ring - a microsecond before his answering machine picked up.

"Hello?"

"Tapper! Sweet Jesus! Thank God you're home!"

It was Simmons, the Managing Editor, calling, Dale figured, with a question on his story. Dale had spent all morning and part of the afternoon on the piece, a feature about Frank Carnevale, an 84-year-old who'd hurled a perfect game at Lucky Lanes - oldest man to accomplish the feat in the storied history of the alley, and one of only three octogenarians ever to do so in the county. Dale'd interviewed the manager of the lanes and the head of the New Jersey Bowling Association. The kicker, though, was an exclusive, hour-plus interview with Frank and his wife, Estelle, at their home that afternoon. Dale hadn't started with much - just a press release announcing results of league play, with Frank's age noted parenthetically. Kind of thing that - with most reporters - sails straight from the inbox to the trash. But in the end, he'd really come up with something. Lucky Strikes!; Danville Senior Bowls Historic Perfect Game. It was running lead Community, Klamasink edition, with a photo Dale'd snapped of Estelle admiring Frank admiring his trophy on the shelf.

Dale had filed just after 3, then started calling the cop shops. He'd written a half dozen briefs for the blotter, and topped it off with a no-frills, eight-inch advance of a Patawah Junction Board of Ed meeting. Sent his last piece just after 5:30, a half-hour after his day technically ended, then dragged himself out of the newsroom. He was tired. Days like today, it felt as if he'd swum a marathon.

"What's up, Mike?"

"I just got a call from Hawker. They found a body in the river, south of Landing Lane."

Dale took in a slow, deliberate breath, glancing up at the circular clock over his sofa. Six-twenty-two.

Hawker was a Herald Times tipster - one of their most reliable. He sat around in his basement all day, in his boxers and one of an assortment of rock band tour T-shirts, assembling and disassembling computers, tinkering with the circuitry, all the while monitoring the police scanner. Hawker, for the most part, didn't miss.

"Is it Missing Mom?"

"So Hawker says," Simmons said. "No positive ID yet. But you gotta believe."

Dale's next question - the obvious question - would have been: So why are you calling me?

Missing Mom was Croyle's story. Her Celica had been found three days before in a small, unlined parking area for an Esquand River State Park trail, tucked off a lonely, wooded stretch of Route 19 in Willamette. It was Croyle who broke the story, on a tip from a cop who owed him a favor for a Police Benevolent Association lead, beating their three major Central Jersey competitors plus the statewide Leader to the punch by a full day. He'd had an exclusive with the missing woman's boss at Two Left Feet - the last person to see her the evening she'd disappeared - who said she'd received a call at work that afternoon, and thereafter, seemed pensive, distracted. 0She left without punching her timecard.

Jessica Lynn Laurie, 33, had two daughters, Lana, 10, and Lizzy, 4, and lived with her husband, Kevin, 36, a bike mechanic, in a 1950's split-level in Willamette. The owner of the shoe store, where Jessica worked as an assistant manager, said she was one of the best employees he'd had in two decades in the business, hands down. There's just something about her, he said. She makes every customer feel like a life-long friend. Jess could sell open-toed pumps to an Eskimo. She grew up at the Shore, but in the photos the police circulated, she had a foreign look - dark curls, hazel eyes, charmingly gap-toothed, vaguely Eastern European. Staring out from the pages of newspapers and 'Missing' posters around town, she was a natural beauty, perplexing, distant, maybe a little bit lonely, the kind of girl you'd love just to stop her from looking so sad.

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


JOSH ROLNICK

Josh Rolnick's debut short story collection, Pulp and Paper, won the 2011 John Simmons Short Fiction Award, selected by Yiyun Li. His stories have won the Arts & Letters Fiction Prize and the Florida Review Editor's Choice Prize. They have also been published in Harvard Review, Western Humanities Review, Bellingham Review, Gulf Coast, and Storyville, and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best New American Voices.

Pulp and Paper is the recipient of a Kirkus starred review as a "book of remarkable merit." Kirkus wrote: "Every story is beautifully located in place and period, edging toward grace rather than postmodern irony, and peopled by characters coping with love and loss." The Iowa Press Citizen calls Pulp and Paper an "invitingly disturbing collection" with "a knack for anticipating and twisting ... readers' expectations." And The New York Journal of Books found the book: "powerful and gripping."

Rolnick holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University. He is publisher of Sh'ma, a journal of Jewish ideas, and Editor of Unstuck, an independent literary annual based in Austin, Texas. He currently divides his time between Akron, Ohio, and Brooklyn, New York, where he lives with his wife and three sons. His website is www.joshrolnick.com.

More of Rolnick's work can be found at http://www.themillions.com/2011/08/my-life-in-stories.html and href="http://www.themillions.com/2011/09/ten-things-i%e2%80%99ve-learned-over-12-years-of-sending-out-stories.html">www.themillions.com.

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on December 18, 2011

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