To the editor, it was a joke. To Martin it wasn't, because he didn't want it to be a joke. And the paper obviously made money, because it wouldn't exist if it didn't. You had to respect that. A publisher would respect it, even if an editor didn't.

Especially a paper of the black community, because there would be less of a cushion there--less of anybody's spare bankroll to keep it afloat.

"There's drug money," his sister carelessly said.

His reply: "I can't believe this--the moderator of the immortal Lift Your Face and Lift the Race series? You think any crack pusher would care about any newspaper? And isn't that dangerously close to--dare I say it?--the P word?"

"I am not prejudiced! That's just your favorite thing to say about me. All I'm saying is what's true. Do you go around writing articles that say there's no drugs going around in the black community, that there's no such thing as a black dealer? Huh? I don't think so."

And so the usual end of that train of discussion. Which springs from Kelly's irritation with Martin's habit of fanatically buying and reading the local black community's weekly newspaper, which in turn Gayle tips her off is kind of an embarrassing enterprise of journalism that Martin scours for some sign of authentic emotings, in his own latter-day romantic fashion.

Making a point ambling of down Burg Jones and dropping in at a convenience store or other likely establishment on the ritual Friday to put his four bits on the counter fully within the community.

Gayle: "You think maybe somebody down there might recognize you as from the white paper, and that you're lending some kind of legitimacy to it's existence?"

"Actually, they probably think I'm from out of town, just making mistake, picking up the wrong one."

"You probably use it for story ideas."

"Actually I don't, but nothing wrong with that if I did."

"Are you that Amos Andrews guy who writes the editor all the time? Something about that sardonic phrasing, even disguised."

"So you read it too."

"I didn't say I don't get ideas from it, I was just asking if you did."

The current point of interest being an editorial upon a recent court case involving a motor vehicle to pedestrian death: It is a horrific thing indeed, when an individual is exonerated from the literal murder of another individual. We all know that in the long run the only thing for us to do is to look to the hills, from which cometh our help. But in the mean time (sic) there must be more that we can do, to make our time upon this earth a fairer one, for all individuals.

It was an event each of them--Martin, Kelly and Gayle--had participated in the public reporting of: high school turf wars where jocks had squared off against punks and one jock had driven a pickup over a punk and killed him and had gotten off because of the picture the defense attorney painted of the climate of terror the punks had made for decent citizens. Even the attorney himself was admittedly surprised by the verdict--ten years of probation and a rescinded fine.

Martin reported that random surveys showed 78% of the populace was apalled by the jury verdict. The editor, oddly sympathetic, had even let him run that.

So the message is, it's okay to run over somebody if he's beating somebody else, and it's on a moment's impulse? What's to keep somebody from running over the perpetrator himself when he steps out of his pickup truck with his back turned? As long as you're cleaning up society?

And now the black community was whispering they killing each other now and not even blaming us.

Prompting rural preachers with not-so-disguised Aryan ties to pronounce upon the dangers of a disunited white front.

"If 78% of everybody feels like that, then how come the jury voted the way they did?" Kelly.

Martin: "A jury fully three-quarters female, maybe?"

"True, that defense attorney was a pretty good looking guy."

"That doesn't account for it," Gayle interjected. "His closing argument--I only read it in transcript, but still, it was pretty powerful. You can get amazing results playing upon the fears of the average person."

And that was what Martin was left to chew on as he contemplated the other paper. This time it's not them.