September 23, 2002

Chronicle

He had a board with letters that he would point to with a stick he held in his mouth. The stick was u-shaped at one end and had a rubber cover so he could grasp it in his teeth.

He had been the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. Now he was dying. I learned these things from his wife, who appeared always about to cry, or having just cried, but never did cry, in my presence.

I don’t remember what my job was exactly. Probably feeding him and getting him things. It didn’t last long because he died after just a few weeks. His wife called and said, simply, that I didn’t need to come in anymore.

I only have one real memory of him. We were alone in his study and he was spelling something with his pointer. This may have been my first day. He had just spelled a word I didn’t know, preceded by the words DON’T BE SUCH A, and so I had asked him to spell the last word again. That’s what he was doing. I thought he seemed pissed.

Here’s what he spelled:

N

E

B

B

I

S

H