Dodging bullets and burying leads

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Me, dodging bullets.

Tiny White Box newI’ve been accused of burying the lead in almost everything I’ve ever written. Often, simply finding the lead involves grave robbing by an experienced resurrectionist. (That final word has always delighted me, sounding so primly theological while referring to someone who digs up bodies to sell them, usually, to medical schools, but occasionally marketing them to less scrupulous buyers with nefarious motives. I first encountered the word in A Tale of Two Cities, where Jerry Cruncher supplements his income as a porter by exhuming the recently deceased. By the end of the novel, of course, Jerry has renounced being a “resurrection man,” a pity, really.)

As I said a hundred words ago, today I’m not going to bury either the “lead” or the “lede,” although I’m tempted to present my arguments in favor of the former spelling over the latter. You’re reading this because you want news, not more of my, perhaps, slightly entertaining journeys down rabbit holes. Unfortunately, I’m afraid we’re well past the lead, and I still haven’t shown you the corpse—or the possibility my corpse may be further off than I’d originally thought. Please forgive me, and forget everything you’ve read to this point.

Here’s the lead:

This past Monday, I had a PET Scan, and Wednesday I had a biopsy of the growth in my lung. 

Quick Update:  No results from yesterday, but the PET scan from Monday showed NO signs of cancer having spread to the lymph nodes—excellent preliminary news!

And now, back to my nonsense.

Regular readers know I began 45 years ago as a lead-burying newspaper reporter who was switched to feature and column writing as soon as a warm body was found to replace me on hard news. Still, since I was an Army scribbler, I occasionally was assigned to write news releases to be sent to UPI, AP, Reuters, etc. These releases were occasionally picked up and printed, demonstrating both my ability to write using an inverted pyramid and the need to fill the space around newspaper advertisements.

Yesterday, Hope for New Hampshire Recovery’s board of directors sent out a too-kind press release announcing my departure. This release was gratifying to read, of course, but made me sound much more professional and serious than I am. In the interest of setting the record straight, I’ve composed an alternate release:


Hope for New Hampshire Recovery announces its return to normality after five-and-a-half years under the leadership of Keith Howard, Hope’s executive director, who has resigned following a cancer diagnosis.

“Howard showed a danseur noble’s ability,” said an obviously cultured but anonymous Hope board member, “to repeatedly dodge bullets. Unfortunately, most of the bullets were fired from his own gun. His writing, in particular, often contained dangerous ideas. Fortunately, those thoughts were buried in absurdity, providing the literary equivalent of a bomb blast suppression blanket.”

Howard led Hope through the coronavirus pandemic, writing daily letters to “Hope Nation” with the coinage “You matter. I matter. We matter.” Among Howard’s other catchphrases were “The future is a big place,” “I’m going to miss you most of all,” and, unfortunately, “Shut the F- up,” the last having been first uttered as part of a call to worship and pray.

Howard will be missed with much the same sentiment as the recovered malaria patient longs for the intricate surrealism of her fever dreams. As Hope moves toward the mainstream of nonprofits, Howard’s legacy will be in proving a transcendent mystical clown can coexist with an immanent concrete universe.

That’s what I would have written, demonstrating yet again how lucky I was to have led the best recovery center in America. I mean, if I’d written that as director, I’d likely have had to fire myself.

You matter. I matter. We matter.


About this Author

Keith Howard

Keith Howard is former Executive Director of Hope for NH Recovery and author of Tiny White Box