FINDING OURSELVES HAD NOT BEEN EASY
Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, she said to herself, gazing out the window. Why not? she asked, addressing no one in particular as she sat behind her off-white office desk, laughing. Adjacent, directly across the street, Tiny Pierre, who sold laughter to the dying, clapped his hands and stomped his feet, jumped up and down, turned circles and genuflected. The afflicted, bed soaked in death, hooked up to respirators, gestured weakly with their hands. Three wheelchair patients wiggled their toes. Dr. Milton and doctors Cavat and Parker stood nearby, discussing a recent arrival's statistical chart, occasionally glancing in the direction where Tiny Pierre was and then wasn't. From Ward 12, the Sick Bay of Life, laughter echoed. For the most part, everyone was happy. Natasha wedged her way, step by step, sliding her left foot first and then her right foot farther along the ledge near the open window at the Universal Guaranteed Match Mates Building, a firm that exclusively endorsed the perfect relationship. Natasha decided she would spend her lunch hour and most of the afternoon, sixty-three stories above pavement, reading Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. From the moment she was first noticed on the ledge, a sparse crowd began to gather, taking bets amongst itself and chanting Jump! Jump! Jump! Now leaping two and three steps at a time, Tiny Pierre hurried up the emergency stairway toward the sixty-third level. By the time he got to the fiftieth floor, Tiny Pierre could barely guffaw. He laughingly cursed the elevators for being out of order today and momentarily paused to check his Daffy Duck wristwatch in order to gage how much time he thought he had before she jumped. Thirteen minutes later, Tiny Pierre reached the top. He regulated his laugh, which took about a minute, leaned out the window, and called to Natasha. Miss! Oh, Miss! The people below are wondering if and when you are going to jump. Jump! I only came out here to read. Catch some sun. Get outside of these walls. You know...escape! Inside the Match Mates rectory, located on the first floor, Reverend Ross was looking into the sacred mirror and adjusting his white collar. He wiped off his patent leather sandals with a soft rag and rallied a call to battle. Mercy, mercy. To understand all is to forgive all, he sighed. Down in the basement, Ferguson, the attendant of the building, was reloading his pipe and explaining his theory to Mr. Betterway, the President of Match Mates. Now the way I see it Mr. Betterway is that she's only gonna make a small splatter on the pavement of life. Sirens sounded. The Rescue Eight team arrived. An ambulance arrived. A police squad car arrived. Mite-sized gaps closed as the crowd cluttered together to watch. Firemen hoisted an enormous metal extension ladder from below. Stepping to the pavement, Natasha told a reporter that it looked like it might rain.
THE THIRST FOR POWER
If a man obeys everyone he needs to obey, it stands to reason that eventually there will be no one left to obey and others will start to obey him. Which was just the case of the white collar worker who lost no time in finding someone to obey. Who could he charm? His next door neighbor's wife. His assistant supervisor. His major competitor. Just last week he had charmed two sweet old ladies in a millinery shop to take his suggestion on which hat to buy. But then he raised his sights on the mayor of the city he lived in. His charm seemed so infectious. I'm a leader in my community, the mayor said. I'm able to get my faithful followers to contribute coin to my campaign in any increment I name. All legal of course. And the white collar worker imagined separate bank accounts in different cities. The only trouble was the mayor worked ten hours a day and had very little time to be charmed. The white collar worker drank coffee all day while the mayor answered the telephone and conducted meetings. You know, said the mayor, I'm an active member of the American Legion and the VFW. I attend parades and ceremonies in honor of my friends. It was then that the white collar worker heard himself say, Here, let me answer that phone for you. It's probably someone unimportant anyway. And when the white collar worker would get impatient and want to lead the 4th of July parade, the mayor would say, I'm only happy when I'm dedicating a park in my honor, or cutting ribbons at a new shopping center I've been instrumental in persuading the public to vote for. But it's not enough simply to charm the person you want to obey, you have to live in their shoes, lose sleep over matters of life and death, and sell your soul to the corporate world so that your city has a tax base that is large enough to pay all your public employees. So after two weeks of charming the mayor and his staff, two men in dark blue suits, driving an olive green four door sedan, carted the white collar worker off to jail. They threw him in a cell with murderers, rapists, and con artists. The mayor, of course, relieved that the white collar worker had been removed, proclaimed that the following week would be "Local Charm Week." There would be banners, marching bands, drill teams, and baton twirlers. What is the true measure of charm anyway? Apparently, the white collar worker made one fatal mistake. He had been charming the already charmed when he should have been charming the ignorant to learn humiliation. Think of the infinite mindless nonthinking people who would line up in droves to be manipulated. In no time, had he realized this, he could have been president of the United States.