Mill gazed at the four-foot-high columns of paper, looming like steles in an Assyrian temple. They shouldn’t be anywhere in there. But he’d looked everywhere else: under his desk and atop it, in one of the two file cabinets anyway. The other file cabinet squatted on the other side of the desk, mocking his frustration.
His Crusaders meeting was this evening, and he needed to be ready. His Crusaders wouldn’t last very long without it. Sure, they’d feign their usual commitment to the cause, but their work ethic would drop off substantially. And he really couldn’t blame them. Good thing they’d started meeting at the campaign headquarters–he’d be mortified if anyone saw this chaos on entering his front room. He blew out a shallow breath and ran his fingers through his hair, a color often termed “oak” in the furniture biz. His eyes alit on a newspaper article about Illinois’s Governor, and within seconds he had abandoned his search to read about lukewarm gubernatorial support for Community-Integrated Living homes, or CILAs. But how much of that rhetoric could he file under “truth?” If he only maintained files on Truth he’d have no problem finding what he sought today.
Decisions made at today’s meeting wielded great importance for the next–and last–month of his mayoral campaign. Results of polls and community canvassing guided Melissa in the next promotional strategy. But if he couldn’t provide the expected resources would they continue to assemble round, leaning toward his every word, loyal as golden retrievers? His accelerated heartbeat voted no.
CILA article devoured, Mill considered discarding the newspaper. It had already resided, rent-free on his desk, for three weeks. Again he hesitated, reluctant to part with a story nestled so close to his brother’s needs. He would clip the article and trash the newspaper later. With an Incredible Hulk-like spurt of vigor he pawed through the remaining newspapers and magazines on his desk, then turned to the box atop the file cabinet. He upended it, then slowed and pieced through each piece of paper, breathing through his diaphragm as if readying for a television conference. Nothing.
Mill tried to talk to himself nicely. They won’t abandon you because of something like this. How long have you lead them through the wilderness, without even a figurative staff of supernatural power to succor them? Perhaps he could substitute another item for the usual offering. Yes, that could work. He’d call–who? His mind sorted through recommendations Rich had mentioned only last week. The crew had been somewhat enthusiastic at the time. Well, not un-enthusiastic, anyway. He had put his phone book–where? He gazed across the room at the coffee table, weighed down like Atlas carrying the world. Was that a crack in the table’s glass top? Maybe he should move some of the boxes of stuff to his bedroom. Set them on the floor next to his college campaign memorabilia. He didn’t want to damage the coffee table.
As he picked up the first box, he nearly dropped it in surprise. The Yellow Pages sat underneath, reliable in its vocation of adding height to short things– children unable to see over the tops of dining tables, for example. He leaned sideways, shifting the box’s weight to one arm as he grasped the phone book at its spine with the other hand. The box clunked on the floor next to the table. Straightening up again, Mill noted a small rectangle of paper losing its place inside the phone book’s cover and drifting toward the floor. He didn’t retrieve it immediately–his fingers busy doing the walking through the book. When he’d found a few options, he headed for his kitchen phone. But when his foot skidded on the scrap, he bent and scooped it up.
Fortunately Mill’s neighbors couldn’t see him raise his arms in jubilant salute–a candidate about to give his victory speech. He was lost himself in a jig of joy. Of course he’d stuck it in the Yellow Pages. He’d done it deliberately, intending to note the organization’s number on the scrap and take with him to the meeting. Whew! He would languish no more on the shore of broken dreams. Thanks to this buy-one-get-one coupon, Mill could order extra. And the Crusaders would munch their pizza as they gave reports, brainstormed photo opportunities, and made him mayor.