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A Thank You Note

Keith was sitting on his Adeline Street porch when Annie and I approached him one sunny Saturday in October of 2017. His nephew, who seemed about five, introduced himself to us in one breath as Jacoby-Flash-Batman-Superman. The little boy zoomed around his front yard, pretending to be a medley of the heroes in his self-assigned name. Flimsy leaves crinkling beneath us, we asked Keith about a house at the end of the block: a sleek, angular duplex that seemed out of place in a neighborhood of older, vinyl-sided homes. Annie, the New Journal editor accompanying me on this reporting adventure, wore statement earrings and spoke fluent Spanish and rapped the first knock on each front door we approached. I was a soft-spoken first year, shy about asking strangers personal questions and fairly convinced that our escapade would lead to a fateful encounter with a serial killer. Our probable untimely deaths aside, I was certain that this would be both my first and last reported story. Journalism, after all, wasn’t for the gentle. Later that night, I wrote up a scene on my bottom-bunk dorm bed and realized all I had noticed that afternoon in my awkward quietness. I revisited the stream of suggestions that the New Journal editors had left on my draft and finally saw their unwritten message: You can learn how to do this. Poring through my notes, I found my last line: with time, Keith had posited, the new building sticking out from all the others could start to seem like a “regular old house.”

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