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February 22, 1997

Last night I e-mailed Sara a one-word letter of congratulations, and this morning she replied: "Thank you. THANK YOU. You have been enormously helpful. As you know, this job wouldn't even exist without you. I am fitting both my shoes into one of your footprints, and very grateful to have discovered their impression in the sand." Such a gracious and flattering note that I responded in kind-"Your feet are bigger than you think."

And I meant it, meant it so much that it made me keenly aware just then of how easily replaceable I've turned out to be. No one, of course, is replaceable. "One mind less, one world less," as Orwell says in "The Hanging." Still, it's hard to ignore the contrary truth that resonates through the halls of every place I've ever worked whenever someone decides to change jobs or move elsewhere or retire-"No one is irreplaceable. " I've sometimes uttered that line myself, especially when a big name has decided to leave. But then again, I'd have to admit that I've sometimes heard a little voice within me saying, "It'll be different with you. It won't be so easy for them to replace you." Come to think of it, though, I've rarely heard that voice the past two years since Paul's taken over the nonfiction program and done such a fine job of it. And now with the coming of Sara I don't expect I'll ever hear it again. So, the most haunting thing about her lovely message is the image of my footprints in the sand, likely to last no longer than the next incoming tide.

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