Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Joy in the Mourning

Part one of this new story series ...

Maxwell House coffee.

Even today, 21 years since those three weeks in November 1991, I know the aroma of Maxwell House over any other brand.

And every time I snatch a whiff of it, I see Joy in my mind's eye:

Joy, with her Shirley Temple auburn tendrils that lushly framed an ivory complexion and soft brown eyes.

Joy, whose silky Alabamian drawl perpetuated a facade of seduction mixed with innocence.

Joy, the envy of every woman within 30 feet of where she stood, the embodiment of charisma and grace.

And Joy was my rival -- not only in the feminine sense, but also professionally.

We worked for competing newspapers in northeast Maryland -- she, for The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., and I -- for a 150-year-old daily rag called "The Cecil Whig," which had all of a whopping 13,000 readers.

What she had on me in experience and age, I had in pit bull aggression. For it was my goal to beat Joy on every daily story imagined. We both covered county politics and also occasionally court trials. Joy had an arm sleeve of contacts and sources that she'd developed over several years. I was an upstart who had only arrived on the scene a couple of months earlier.

Every time I beat Joy on a scoop, I did a little victory dance in front of my desk in the newsroom. Every time she walloped me? I put my head in my arms and moaned at her headline.

I didn't like Joy at first, not at all. To a cocky 24-year-old, Joy and her 38 years of maturity were infuriatingly annoying.

But that all changed in November 1991, when both Joy and I went head to head, covering a court trial for a Bonnie-and-Clyde bank robbing team.

You see, that's where I first took a whiff of Maxwell House coffee, which brewed every morning in the judge's chamber and wafted into the courtroom before proceedings began.

And that's where my life was changed forever ... by Joy.

Tune in tomorrow for part 2 of the story ....

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