Bill DeSelms I
The Newspaper Reporter Prologue: The Business
by Mark Kodama
What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If
men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern
men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.
Two movie houses, one closed, and four restaurants lined Main Street. We pulled
into a restaurant bar called Sauce and Pepper, next to the House of the Seven Lepers, for a soda, quick lunch and gas.
Dylan, a balding portly man, was the barkeep
He claimed four day jobs and to never sleep.
He was a little middle-aged man about yea high.
Sporting an awful sweater and an even worse tie.
He claimed two Ph.Ds and a law degree;
And two rich girlfriends of whom no one ever sees.
The first was a Danish fairy tale heiress
The second, a blond Russian mob princess,
Dylan said: “When her thug husband threatened me
I responded by demanding that he should flee.
I put my finger in his face ‘Do you think I am afraid of you?
I used to wrestle in high school.’
“I told my two lovers: ‘I know I’m worth it but please no strife.
Resolve your differences in a tete a tete.
To decide what part of me each one gets.’”
I said: “‘Sorry for my sangfroid;
But might I suggest a ménage a trois.’
Marriage is not in my DNA, not in my bones
Like my namesake said: ‘I’m a rolling stone.’”
We moved from the bar into the shaded courtyard. There was a small stage in
the corner. The musician set up on the stage and began playing “Norwegian Wood” on his
At a table in the small courtyard, a thin, dapper middle-aged man with a craggy
face and short gray hair sat alone in a booth. He wore a freshly pressed dress shirt with a
frayed collar and old tie. A book was on the table: Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My
Lovely. He ordered “an unsweetened ice tea with a twist of lemon.” He was eating lunch
with a shaggy red-haired photographer with a goat beard named Fred.
We asked him his name. He was Bill DeSelms, a newspaper reporter from the paper, the Desert Dispatch. He said he covered city hall, about a mile away, on the hill,
up the street. In the distance was a massive rail yard.
Bill suggested the tuna melt or perhaps the breakfast burrito. I ordered the tuna
melt with French fries and an ice tea with a twist of lemon.
We asked them to join our small company. They agreed.
My name is Bill DeSelms,
No, I am not the editor,
I am just a reporter,
You know “Jus’ the facts Mam”
Boy, I love the business.
How did I get here?
How did I not get here?
This is California, man.
I was born in Brooklyn, New York.
My mother was French Canadian.
She used to tell me in French:
“I love you, I adore you,
You are all mine.”
Never met my father.
He was a mustang in the Marines Corps.
That’s a Marine who rose through ranks
To become an officer.
He was killed at Iwo Jima
In ’45, trying to take Mount Suribachi.
He is buried at the Punch Bowl in Hawaii.
I am gonna to see him some day.
I joined the Marines myself when I came of age.
Spent my time on search and destroy missions in the Philippines.
Surprised? Yes, we burned villages looking for communists.
You don’t believe me?
Well, as we say in the business,
Never let the facts get in the way
Of a good story.
I was busted down for pulling a knife on a redneck cracker.
He was from Louisiana
He talked like he had shit in his mouth.
When I got out of the Corps,
I got a job at the Cheyenne Eagle.
Dick White was the City Editor.
Dick was also from the Corps.
He used to tell me I was just made for the business.
He also taught me the finer things.
Dick liked literature and things like the Opera.
I used to think that was sissy shit.
But afterwards it made me think
‘Well, maybe there was something to this.’
Dick White was a real man, an educated man.
Once he took me to see Billie Holiday.
I told her, “Hey, you sing pretty good.”
At the time, I did not know who she was.
When I first worked for the Eagle,
I had to write an obit.
When I misspelled the dead man’s name,
Dick White took me aside.
He said, “Look, people keep these things
In their family Bible.
Besides, you don’t want to lose your job.”
Continue reading this poem, here.