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Kim Block Fan Meets Idol | 'This Just In'

After a tour not unlike the fulsome whistlestops of a presidential campaign (“Hiiii, honey, I see you on the weather!”), Betty and I settle onto a VIP couch a few feet from the anchor desk to watch Kim deliver the noon news.

Betty leans forward, legs crossed, chin on fist, exactly the way she watches the news at home. A monitor hangs well within our sightline, but I’m pretty sure my sister believes this is a special bulletin for an audience of one. Two, if you count me. Which she doesn’t.

“When that red light goes on …” Kim instructs us, putting a finger to her lips.

But Betty is no casual listener. And because today’s broadcast turns up a double doozy–propane fire in South Portland, hurricane advancing on New England–she cannot contain herself.

“OHHH!” The monitor blazes with sky-licking flames. “OHHH!” I lay a hand on her knee: Wood-girl signal for shhh. Then, a dramatic shot of a tree crash-landing on a school bus: “OHHH!” Knee again; she covers her eyes.

The weather lady takes over for a segment–more shivering trees, more gasping and eye-hiding–and then, mercifully, Kim comes back with some soporific football scores and a benign wrap-up piece about the Girl Scouts.

The instant the green light blinks on, Betty flings herself out of her seat and darts to the anchor desk, where Kim is straightening up her papers. “Hear this, Kim Block,” Betty says. “There’s a hurricane coming!”

“Oh, I know,” Kim says. “I heard all about it.”

“And the profane fire?”

“My goodness, yes! I heard about that, too!”

“Isn’t it something?”

“Well, it certainly is!”

As Betty and Kim take their leave, hugging like lifelong pals, I try to puzzle out this moment–one like so many others in which I’ve unearthed another layer of my sister’s unique and fully flowered life. “Boy oh boy!” she says as we head back to the car. “That profane fire!”

And there it is. I’d meant to thrill my sister by arranging for her to bask in the moon-bright halo of fame–but in truth, Kim Block might not even register on Betty’s A-list of celebrity, which includes certain Walmart greeters, all babies, and the guy who drives the garbage truck.

In Betty’s world, Kim Block stars on a different list entirely, a list called “Hear This”–words as old as Homer, as old as the campfire, words that summon our human hunger for story, parable, gossip, warning, news. Our preferences lean toward tales of mayhem, but in the absence of a shockeroo we’ll take a 20-pound zucchini or a sixth-grader who sold 10,000 cookies.

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