Newsprint

by E.M. Killaley

Lottie found the leather-bound volume under a heavy box and behind a bookcase in her aunt’s basement. To get to it, she had to wriggle between the shelf and the wall, push her shoulder under the side of the box, and wrench the book out from beneath. After she’d balanced the edge of the book on her head, so she could shimmy back past the bookcase, there was still the matter of winding her way around the other boxes and odd pieces of furniture that filled the room. But once she had heaved the heavy book up the stairs, she split the pages, letting the two sides of the tome smack against the linoleum kitchen floor.

‘What’s this?’

Aunt Claire looked up from the pot she was stirring and stared at the pages for a moment, as if deciding whether she wanted to answer. But Aunt Claire always answered Lottie’s questions, so she waited, legs stretched out before her.

‘It’s newspapers, sweetie.’

‘They don’t look like the newspaper.’ Lottie pinched the thin, grayish paper. The ink was a blueish black, fading in some places, and smeared in others. ‘The newspaper is only supposed to be a few pages long. These are much too big.’

‘They haven’t always been like that.’

Lottie read some of the titles, but a name made her pause. ‘That’s you, Aunt Claire!’

‘Where?’ she asked without looking up, but there was a small smile in the corner of her mouth.

‘Right there! “Congressman admits electoral fraud”. I didn’t know you wrote for the newspaper.’

‘I didn’t write for the newspaper, but I did write for a newspaper, the Tribune.’

Lottie thought for a moment, turning the pages slowly. The faint images of buildings and cars and people flicked by, her aunt’s name occasionally attached to different articles. She’d never seen so many different stories – about accidents and rescues, polling results and supermarket sales, film reviews and ribbon cutting ceremonies. With the shuffle of a page, there was the diversity of life. ‘There was more than one?’

‘There was. Until a man decided that it was all lies.’

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