Brown River Queen cover art

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Like most writers, I've worked some unusual jobs.

Back in the 1980s -- yeah, I was of working age back then, but if any of you kids write in asking if I ever met Lincoln or what we did before radio, I'll drive to your house and smack you in the noggin -- I did shift work.  Graveyard shifts, mostly.

I met some fascinating people doing that.  There was Tom Yancy, who went on to become a Washington journalist.  Worked the White House Press Corps.  Tom commanded the quickest wit I've ever encountered, but he was kind soul and a hard worker.

We used to tune an AM radio to New Orleans radio talk shows while we burst and decollated all the computer-printed forms we generated during the night.  Most of the programs featured preachers -- not the cadaverous, monotonous lot we have around here, but flamboyant New Orleans late-night radio preachers to whom saving souls was a distant second in priority to selling their Hoodoo Bags and Magic Money Hands.

Those nights I spent running endless reams of paper through hungry bursters and listening to Tom critique charlatan hoodoo men were absolute comedy gold.  Of course, I didn't know that then.  I held it to be the worst sort of drudgery.  I was a man, you understand, bound for bigger and better things.

Fast forward a decade or two.

Tom passed a few years ago, far too soon.  He'd known he'd die young.  He even talked about dying, all those nights ago.  I wish he'd been wrong.

And today, I got the news that another of us is gone.  I won't say her name.  The incident which led to her death is all over the news, but they haven't released any names, and I won't either.

She was a nice person.  We all liked her.  And though she was very different from the rest of us misfits, she  laughed with us, worked with us, drank bad coffee and talked the night away with us.

The bursters are gone.  The AM radio too.  That whole room is silent now, and empty.

So, to the valiant members of the dreaded Third Shift, I lift my glass in salute.  Both of you left this world far too soon.

You will be missed.

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