'AP Stylebook Blue' by Jan Haag

It sat on my desk every day at the newspaper, reminded copy editors like me when to spell out numbers (one through nine) and use numerals (10 and above). Every year the spiral-bound book arrived from the news service that covered the world, its cover a different color. The blue-gray one with embossed silver letters caught me in 1983 — newly married, new homeowner.

“This color,” I said to my husband, a newspaper photographer who had worked for the Associated Press. “For the trim. Whaddya think?”

Book in hand, he held it at arm’s length in the front yard, picturing it against our dull brown house. He would grant me anything in those days. “I like it,” he said.

He suggested a light gray for the rest of our half-plex and talked our next-door neighbor into the colors, too, then took to the ladder for hours on weekends, painting away, brush in hand, sometimes with a roller, and for one stretch his brother’s paint sprayer.

I took over one day to paint the front door AP Stylebook blue to match the eaves after he came off the ladder, his face gray, his faulty heart nearing the finish line. He hated to admit that he needed to go inside and lie down.

Surgery that fall perked him up for a time, giving him a snappy aortic valve that clicked every time it shut, keeping him awake at night—that and the ruler-straight incision down the center of his chest, zipped up over his wired-together sternum, though he never complained. 

Each time we came home, we’d emerge from the car, pause on the front lawn, admiring our first paint job on our first house.

“Nice color,” I’d say.

“Nice paint job,” he’d tease, and we’d laugh, then unlock our AP Stylebook blue front door, go inside and find a reason to lie down together, sometimes to sleep, sometimes just to hold each other as long as we could.

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