During the long years of my employment as a newspaper reporter, I wrote the "Year in Review" story many, many times.
"Hello, Everyone," the email from the editor would read. "It's that time of year again! All of you need to go over the stories from your beat this year and produce a 'Year in Review' roundup from your beat highlighting the most important news and feature stories of the year. Stories must be no less than 750 words. Deadline is Thursday at the end of your shift. No exceptions. See me with any questions."
"I have a suburban beat" I wanted to scream. "Nothing ever happens there! Nothing is supposed to happen there! It's carefully zoned so that nothing will ever happen there! That's why people move to the suburbs, because nothing ever happens there!"
"In a town that remains nearly 90% white despite sharing a border with a city that is 80% Hispanic and Black, residents say they're happy, not just with segregation, but with having to eat Mexican food that would cause widespread rioting if served just eight miles away, where the foreigners live," I would begin to type.
Then, I would erase that sentence. My job offered a stable, if demeaning paycheck, plus health insurance.
"Town voters defeated a proposal for new speed bumps in front of the high school," was how I'd begin the new story.
I'd write 736 more words, and return to my "ethnically diverse" city neighborhood where a guy came into the barbershop everyday at about 1 p.m. and sold empanadas from two wrinkled brown paper bags. He had the meat empanadas in one bag, the cheese empanadas in the other bag, and both kinds were $1 each. Once I got back to my apartment, I would warm up a can of spaghetti, have dinner and then drink beer until I was sleepy.
I don't think anyone ever read my "Year in Review" stories. If anyone did, it was the kind of mook who shows up at every city council meeting and believes the water department has been infiltrated by Communist transsexuals who want to take his guns away. You can get enough of that guy in about 19 minutes, and I'd gotten enough of him maybe seven or eight times in the last year.
But I know how to write a 750-word "Year in Review" story in less than an hour, including research, and though I will probably never forget how, I'm not going to write one now or ever again.
"Trump. Pandemic. Bars close. Biden. Shakira."
That's my "Year in Review" story for 2020. That's six words, and Shakira's only in there because this is the first time I've ever been able to sneak Shakira into a "Year in Review" story, something I've wanted to do for a long time.
As for me, my pop used to say, "Barely getting by is still getting by," and then he'd laugh and prepare for either another Monday at work or his weekly visit to the unemployment office because it was 1965, and you had to pick up the check in person every week.
I'm fine. My wife, Deborah, is fine. Our two cats are fine. She bought me a buffalo plaid flannel shirt for Christmas, and I bought her a necklace with a pink stone pendant. We unanimously approved the purchase of a new water heater after the old one started sending brown water to the bathtub. This created a deficit in our budget, and the smaller of our two cats may have to be laid off in the spring. He is worried, or at least he looks worried.
I've already had the can of spaghetti. I'm going to go into the living room, and drink beer until I'm sleepy. Happy New Year.
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest book, a collection of his best columns, is called "Devil's Elbow: Dancing in the Ashes of America." It is available in paper back from Amazon.com and for Nook, Kindle, GooglePlay and iBooks.
Photo credit: HelgaKa at Pixabay