A place for thought.

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Question? (part three)

The rest of the morning went quietly, no more bombs went off. Sally answered a couple of questions about rain on days months away, dates people planned to put on invitations. She answered a silly question, the answer was just as silly, and she answered a thoughtful religious question. When the clock said eleven twenty five she put her paperback in the second drawer on the right side of the desk and from the top drawer she took out an oversized, green, purchased at Target, coffee cup. She took the elevator all the way to the ground floor but didn’t leave the building. She found her way to the coffee shop that opened into the building’s lobby and also opened to the sidewalk outside. She saw Toby behind the counter and smiled back at his wave. With Toby behind the counter she had no need to order, she set her cup on the counter where he could see and she sat down near a window to the street. She thought of nothing.
“Two shots and water to here,” Toby said, he mimicked her oft-repeated order as he pointed to a spot on her cup and sat it down on the small round table top..
“Thank you Toby. I need this,” she picked up the cup and took that first all-important sip.
“Is it going to rain?” Toby asked the question that made her coffee free.
“Nope, not today,” Sally answered with a grin and took another sip. “This is perfect,” she said showing the cup to Toby. “I know it’s the same either way but it’s just a lot better when you put the water in first and then the coffee, like you always do.” Toby did a little curtsey, not knowing what to say to the pretty girl he saw everyday but knew so little about, and headed back to his post behind the counter. Sally went back to thinking about nothing until eleven fifty five. She got up from her chair, waved to Toby and let the elevator take her up to her third floor office.
The afternoon started out slowly, she turned pages in her paperback book thinking she would need another book soon.
“The phone rang. “Answers. Hello,” she said. She listened as the caller went immediately into a detailed question. She pulled a yellow pad out of her desk’s center drawer, something she rarely did, and took notes while the caller continued. The call included well thought out and properly arranged particulars. He read from what had to be a written out question he had considered for some time. Sally took notes without speaking and the caller took it for granted that she listened. For five full minutes the man spoke and Sally listened. When the question was fully formed the phone line went silent.
“Are you still there?” the man asked.
“I’m here,” Sally said, after a moment more of silence.
“What do you think?” he asked, eager for an answer.
“I am,” Sally answered and went back to thinking.
“You are?” he questioned.
“I am thinking,” answered without taking her mind off the question. She broke free of her thoughts and added, “I have two things to think about,” she said.
“Can you answer my question?” he sounded urgent.
“I’m not sure I want to,” she answered. “I’ll get back to you at nine o one in the morning.” She hung up the phone. She copied the number on the phone’s digital screen to the bottom of the yellow pad and sat staring at the gray green wall. The phone rang several times but she let it ring. She refused to think of an answer to the man’s question. She wanted an answer to her own question first: should she give an answer to the man’s question?

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Question? (part two)

Authors note: The last line in Question? part one has been deleted and replaced on this page.

“Hello,” a male voice belonging to a person she had never met said.
“The Ford is the best deal, since you only plan to keep it for five years or less. You will be happier with the Cooper because it’s what your wife wants and if you make her happy…see what I mean,” she said.
“Never thought of that,” he paused a second and then added, “thanks, check’s in the mail. Thanks again,” the phone clicked and went silent.
She opened the second drawer on her right side and pull out a paperback book. A post-it on page one twenty seven told her not only the page she was reading but also the line of text she was on. She began reading without re-reading a single word. Sometimes she read for hours before the phone would ring, sometimes she couldn’t finish a sentence. She read twenty minutes and the phone rang.
She picked up the curly corded off white handset. “Answers, hello,” she said into the mouthpiece.
“You the girl that answers the questions?” it sounded like an older man maybe from the mid west, yes she was talking to a white Midwestern male.
“I am she. My name is Sally. How may I help you?” she asked in her trained telephone voice.
“A friend of mine said you could answer any kind of question. Is that true?” he sounded a little out of breath, not like he had been running, he was nervous.
“My answers are always correct. If I answer I don’t know there is no charge. Did your friend explain my fee?” she liked to get the payment locked in from the start.
“Yes, yes, very reasonable,” not only nervous but in a big hurry now.
“Your question?” she understood that he needed to make a decision right this minute.
“I just received an over night Fed Ex delivery,”
“She stopped him mid sentence, before he could ask his question, “Put the box into your safe. Lock the safe and get out of the room you are in.”
She heard the cell phone slip into his pocket. She heard him run across the room; pause thirty seconds and then run across the room slamming the door behind him.
After the explosion he said, “You just saved my life.”
“It’s what I do,” she said relieved he had made it out in time and glad she had helped.
“There’s going to be a little bonus with your check,” he said out of breath from the running but less nervous.
“The standard amount will be fine. I glad I could help.” He gathered the necessary information for the post and they said their good byes. She picked up her paperback and began reading without re-reading a single word.

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Fifteen stories high, filling a city block, the ground floor lined with small shops selling ethic foods, dresses and whatever else might pull a walker in off the wide concrete sidewalk. The floor plans of stories two through fifteen were identical. The fifteenth floor was labeled sixteenth, the number thirteen had been avoided. The ceiling of the kitchen of apartment three hundred three became the floor of the kitchen of apartment four hundred three and so on until you reached the floor of the kitchen of apartment one thousand one hundred three – that is where she stood. She watched the cars pass the intersection below from the window above the double sink. She leaned against the tile edge of the counter for a better view of cars stopping for the red light and cars accelerating at the green. The recently cleaned tile edge with grout every six inches left a corresponding dot of dark blue moisture every six inches on her light blue dress. She brushed at the three dots hoping they would not leave marks when they dried. The trip downtown was timed to the second, the wait for the elevator door to open, standing next to the damp with dew bench next to the busy street until the bus screeched to a stop pushing the humid morning air aside, waiting for a second elevator – this one crowded with people intent on starting their days and then turning the key in the lock of her own small office. She looked at the clock on the wall across from her desk knowing the display would read: nine – colon – zero – zero – a – m, the same display she always saw when she looked up from her desk at the start of each day. There was no one to see her arrive on time, no one to greet her in the outer office and no time clock to punch a card but that made it even more important that she arrive on time. She sat and stared straight ahead at a pale gray green wall. There was no reason to look busy and she did not look busy at all but she was, she was thinking. It was her job. The phone would ring. A question would be asked. She would think. She would hit the call back button on her phone. Answer the question. Most of the time they would send a check, some of the time they would call back angry and blaming her but most of the time they sent a check. Her answers were always right. Her livelihood depended on her answers being right so ten percent of the time the answer was I don’t know. Ten percent of the time she did not charge for her answer. So far this morning she was stuck with I don’t know and it was no way to start a morning. She stared harder at the gray green wall in hopes the answer would appear there, sometimes it did. This morning the wall stayed a plain gray green without the distraction of pictures or shelves. A digital clock with bright red figures at least one changing every minute gave her a count down to the time she would make the call. And then in the back of her mind she saw a blurry light and she knew the answer would come. She forgot her frustration. She no longer feared having to, in humiliation, give the I do not know answer. She waited patiently for the answer to become clear, as she knew it would. Once an answer started to form it always came into focus. She watched the clock on the wall change once and then once more before she understood. She picked up the phone she had answered the day before and pushed the button that would return the last call.
“Hello,” a male voice belonging to a person she had never met said.
“Forty-two,” she said and ended the call.

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Who Said That?

“Never ready to move on at least not on moving day. It takes time to look back, re-think, take stock and then I’ll be ready. But not yet, not today, today I will look sad, even though it’s a happy thing. Something I looked forward to for a long time, I worked hard toward this goal and it seems to have worked out well. Second guessing happens, could of should of sorts of things and, it’s true, I’ve already found some things that could have been done differently but it works the way it is, it will work and changes can still be made. I don’t plan any changes. I’d rather not change anything, at least not right now. Give it some time let it find its own way for a while. See what direction it takes without anyone steering. Do you think I should make some changes?”
“Really? You think it’s okay the way it is? Well, that makes me feel a little better. A little more at ease if you know what I mean? I don’t know why I worry, what’s been done is done. And it’s not in concrete, even concrete can be re-poured. The saying is it’s not written in stone. That might refer to the Ten Commandments. But this could change if it needs too, not the Ten Commandments, those are written in stone. I’m going to just forget all about it and move on like it doesn’t even exist.”
“Good! Do you mind if I get some sleep? Early morning?
“Oh. Sure. I’m sorry; I’ve been keeping you up. I”ll just lay here real quiet. I’m wide-awake. Thoughts just zooming through my mind a mile a minute. You go on to sleep. I’ll just lay here and think for a while. You sleeping?”
“Shut up.”
“Right, shutting up, being quiet, not a sound out of me, like I’m not even here. So quiet. You go on to sleep. I’ll think about what’s coming next for a while, but you need your sleep. Busy day starting early in the morning. I should get up early with you and check on how it’s going. Wouldn’t take long to just check a few things, maybe give a few suggestions on how things should go. That’s what I’m gonna do, make sure I get up when you do. I can get a lot done in those early morning hours. I’m at my best then. I don’t know why I sleep late so often I really do get real productive in the morning. I should start getting up every morning when you do. You’ll wake me up right? You awake?”
“I’m going to sleep in the guest room.”
“Really honey? I’ll be quiet. Look I’m almost asleep already.”
The door to the bedroom slams, but not real hard. The room is empty. I’m all-alone.
“So first thing in the morning I’ll go downtown and talk to some people, see what they think, get some opinions, not that I need their opinions…”

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“Enter,” one word coming from no-where, or everywhere. I couldn’t point to where the sound came from but I heard it with everything, not just with my ears. I heard it with my skin, a very strange feeling. It could have come from my own bones or from somewhere near the moon, I couldn’t tell. I took one step toward the door, opening, orifice; it was the only place that looked like one could enter and for some reason I very much wanted to do what the voice told me to do. My first step gave me joy so I took another and another. The joy increased with each step. I stepped from what was once here to what had been there and there became here leaving no there behind. That there became here was not unusual, I was used to that but I was left wondering what had happen to there, which in past experience, is what past heres had become. The question passed quickly with nothing to question other than a fleeting thought.
“Come,” another sound heard with every part of me and coming from everywhere. I walked a path. Not a path of dirt, or concrete, or between the tall grass of a pasture but a path that told my feet where to step even though there was nothing there I had seen before and I had never knowingly let a path take control before. Looking back I understand now that all paths had brought me here, I had had no choice. I had no choice if I chose to be. I had always had the choice of not being.
“There,” the sound pointed. “That is your place.” I understood without a single question needed. I did what I had said many times but this time it was true. I understood completely. I had found my place. I walked to my place and stood there. I still stand in my place.

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Some people seem to know all the rules. They actually know why and how things work. A to B to C, like the golfer who looks away after the putt, picks up his bag and starts walking to the next tee without even looking at the hole. Well, he has to go back and pick up the ball but you see what I mean? I’m not a bit like that. I pick up a rock, hold it out at arms length, watch it drop and I’m still not sure it will hit the ground. There’s a reason. In my life I drop a rock and the rock is just as likely to fly through a window down the block as hit the ground so I watch it until it makes a nice rock to ground noise and then keep my eye on it for a minute or two just to make sure it’s content to lay there.
Today is a day just like any other day, which if you’ve been paying attention isn’t necessarily a good thing. When people ask me how things are going I answer they are going good, so far. The so far makes them smile but just in case they decide to follow me I want them to be prepared. You, my gentle reader, have already followed me this far which doesn’t add much to your credibility unless of course you’re just being nice then welcome aboard. I’m very much drawn to nice, it’s a wonder there isn’t more of it. Well, when I think about it I most likely just watch too much TV news; in real life I see nice all the time. The other day I was out for a walk and stopped at a corner. Not right on the curb but back five or six feet. I stood there deciding whether I wanted to cross the intersection to the East or to the North until I noticed a car waiting at the crosswalk to the East just in case I decided to go that way. I went ahead and used the crosswalk in front of their car, I didn’t want them to have waited in vain, but that’s a little too nice if you ask me. I like that kid who holds the door for the pretty girl and then he sees the old man coming and keeps holding the door for him and then the family with three children and then a group of school teachers; by the time he gets in the tables are all full and he has to go somewhere else, still smiling. I do think it’s a big deal. Being nice. It could be the most important thing in life. It’s hard to devote your whole life to it ‘cause it’s so plain. It doesn’t even really need explained; most people know how to do it even if they tell you different.
So, it’s just another day in Paradise, as they say. If some person holds the door for you and lets you go ahead of him (or her) say thanks, they live for that. It makes their day.