Introducing Harry Earms and Marty Lachmund, and containing reflections on the disadvantages of fatherhood and various complications of having daughters.


Roxana entered the office just as Diana was putting the finishing touches on an article about an upstart recording studio that intended to promote exclusively regional bands. The way Diana knew Portland, the new local label would probably pull it off; Oregonians were patriotic about their region, if not about their country. She only wished she still had a band that could take advantage of the opportunity.

"I've got the pictures of the statue," Roxana announced, waving a big manila envelope.

"Show," Diana said, getting up and joining Lyssa and Harry at Roxana's desk.

The office of Cutting Edges was in an older brick building on the edges of downtown, one of the remaining incongruities among all the towering architectural innovations of the eighties. It looked like it hadn't changed since the building had been built, aside from the coffee machine and the computers. Lyssa's taste in restaurants may have been Oregon chic, but her taste in offices was functional and slightly messy. As long as nothing got lost, she didn't care how people kept their desks. And she didn't care for Italian design in office furniture--especially not the prices. The dated furniture, the venetian blinds and the fire escape visible through the window all made it easy to imagine Bogey sauntering in and drawling something derisive, even though it was a magazine office and not a detective bureau.

"Where's Marty?" Roxana asked.

"The mushroom festival in Lake Oswego," Lyssa replied. "He should be back soon. He left some submissions here that he wanted to take home with him."

Diana picked one of the pictures out of the pile. "Hey, this one with Mercy and Bennie is great," she said. Bennie had his tiny hand on the giant index finger, and Mercy's hair seemed to reflect the glow of the copper hand.

"Mercy will like it," Lyssa said.

"Too cute," Harry pronounced. "Don't you have anything of Portlandia surrounded by umbrellas, or a close up with water dripping off her nose? We need a different approach. The Oregonian already did the monumental."

"How about this one?" Roxana handed him the shot with the policeman.

Harry let out a laugh that started as a low rumble in his chest and gave his thin shoulders a shaking on the way out. "That's good."

"And here's one where her nose is dripping," Roxana continued. "She's still monumental, though. That's unavoidable."

"By the time our issue on the statue comes out, everyone else will have covered her. We've got to be original to sell." Harry was assistant editor in charge of advertising--and other despicably capitalistic aspects of their leftward-leaning venture.

"Not much we can do about the timing," Lyssa said. "We're a monthly."

"We'll sell," Roxana pronounced, tapping the stack of photos with one long, painted nail. "Dailies can't compete with the quality reproduction we have."

"I still think we should go for a more off-center angle," Harry insisted. A fly was buzzing near his ear. He caught it in one hand and opened the window to let it out. In his own more off-center moods he was perfectly capable of making jokes about dead babies, but he couldn't kill a fly. "Couldn't you get Mercy to write a silly poem about the statue?" he asked Diana.

"Sure," Diana replied. "I'll just call her and say, 'Harry thinks you should write a silly poem about Portlandia.'"

"I didn't mean it like that. I like Mercy's poems."

Diana gave a laugh that sounded distinctly like a snort. "I can always ask. I'll leave all of you to decide the approach," she said, pulling on a baggy black velvet jacket. "I'm heading home now. Don't work too long. All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl."

"I'm sure you could never be accused of that," Roxana commented.

"You might be surprised," Diana replied.

"I'll walk you down," Harry said and got his jacket on as well.

"Bye, Diana. Bye, Harry," Lyssa said. "See you tomorrow."

"They leave quite punctually, don't they?" Roxana commented after they were out the door.

"Why shouldn't they?" Lyssa asked. "We're on schedule."

"We're a small staff, Lyssa. If you don't watch out, we'll end up at the end of the month working night and day like we did back in July."

"But now we have Marty. And in July both you and Diana took vacations," Lyssa reminded her. "Besides, I can't afford much overtime," she added, smiling.

"Okay, okay, I'm being bitchy."

"You certainly are. Diana and Harry are very reliable." They had both been recommended by Lyssa's old journalism professor in Eugene. He warned her Diana might be lacking in dedication, but Lyssa hadn't regretted taking the younger woman on. They might even have Diana to thank for the present success of the magazine -- she did a much more thorough job of putting together the schedules of concerts and activities than anyone before. Her connections to the music scene didn't hurt.

"I'm just in a lousy mood," Roxana admitted.

"What's the matter?" Lyssa asked, putting down the pictures she was still holding.

Roxana leaned against the desk and folded her arms in front of her. "Same old thing, really. I talked to Daphne's father on the phone the other day and asked for her new address. He wouldn't give it to me."

"Is that his decision or hers?"

"He says it's hers."

"Daughters," Lyssa said, sighing.

"What's your problem?"

"Hannah has a new boyfriend."

"So what?"

"I ran into them together a couple of weeks ago, and I swear I thought he was going to bite me."

Roxana laughed shortly. "What's the name of this paragon?"

"Jesse Jameson."

"Sounds like an outlaw."

"I know."

"Maybe you're letting yourself get carried away by the name?"

"I'm probably doing everything wrong. It's hard to do anything right when they're this age. But I do wish I could keep her from getting into too many messes."

"Well, I have no influence over Daphne whatsoever."

Lyssa smiled apologetically. "At least Hannah and I are on speaking terms."

"Daphne and I are too, sometimes. Oh hi, Marty," Roxana said as the missing assistant editor entered the office. At Cutting Edges everyone was an assistant editor except Lyssa, who was owner, editor and publisher. (The actual publishing was done at a local press, the Wet Duck--a funky name, but politically correct.) Lyssa tried to keep things as egalitarian as possible. The phone was answered by all, however confusing that might at times be, and everyone did their own typing. Lyssa set the deadlines and the others met them.

"What's the subject?" Marty asked. "You both look so dreadfully serious." He shook his mop of curly brown hair at them admonishingly.

"Daughters," Roxana replied.

"Present or distant?" Marty asked.

"Both," Lyssa informed him.

"Well then, I guess I'd be eligible to participate in the conversation too. If it isn't just for mothers, that is."

"What, do you belong to the unfortunate ranks of the despairing parents as well?" Roxana asked.

"I'm afraid I do, even if my direct experience is limited," Marty admitted, his ever-present grin pushing the corners of his bushy mustache up into his cheeks. Grinning like that, Marty looked like a young version of Groucho Marx. Or a slim version of Gene Shallit.

"You have a daughter?" Lyssa asked.


"I never knew," Lyssa said. "You never mentioned them."

"You never asked."

"No, I guess I didn't." Lyssa looked thoughtful a moment and gave a tentative laugh. "I must be so used to people providing all the significant events of their life story voluntarily that I don't ask anymore."

Marty gave a chuckle that came dangerously close to a giggle. "You haven't told me much about yourself either, you know," he said particularly to Lyssa, lifting one eyebrow teasingly. "The impeccable superior."

"Oh, dear," Lyssa replied. "Well, you've been the impeccable subordinate."

"I want to be impeccable at something too," Roxana complained.

"You can be impeccable at two things," Marty said. "You're an impeccable graphic designer and an impeccable photographer."

"Right, and you haven't seen the pictures yet," Roxana replied, shoving them across the desk toward where Marty was standing.

He leaned over to inspect them. "These are really good," he pronounced. "Are we going to do a color layout for the whole article?"

"I think it would be appropriate," Lyssa said.

"It would also be expensive," Roxana threw in.

"This one with the mother and her little kid is great," Marty said, pulling out the picture of Mercy.

"Everyone likes that one," Roxana replied. "It's so cute."

"Well, it is," Marty said. "But this one is colossal." It was a frontal shot of Portlandia perched above the trees in front of the windows of her new home. "I vote for this one for the cover."

"And I vote for the one where her nose is dripping," Roxana said.

"No major decisions made without all staff members present," Lyssa said. "Let's call it a night."

"It is already," Marty said, peering out of the venetian blinds.

"How about a drink?" Roxana asked.

"Before dinner?" Lyssa objected.

"Don't you even have a morsel of decadence in your soul?" Marty teased.

"Just barely," Lyssa replied, making an effort to return in kind. "But only one drink's worth. Let's go."

Return to Cutting Edges title page.