“Carla!” yelled Sam. “Would somebody get me Carla please! I can’t walk into that meeting without knowing what He dreamt about!”
The office was swarming with bodies moving any which way. Toby and Brad brushed by Sam. No one had time to stop and chat.
It was 6:27 ante meridiem and He was still asleep. That was a problem because He needed to catch the bus in twenty minutes.
Getting Him up, moving and out the door was Sam’s job. He was the executive director in control of His mind.
“Carla!” yelled Sam scanning the room. A folder of papers landed in Sam’s hand, and he looked down. Carla’s small frame looked up at him meekly. “When did you get so short?”
“You’re thinking of Christie,” she said. “She’s the tall one.” Sam started to walk towards the Sleep Hall. He didn’t have time to stand around and chat. It was already 6:28. Carla kept pace with Sam saying, “You’ve been running this place for three years. You think you could at least get your underlings sorted out.”
“Underlings,” said Sam perplexed at the choice of words. “Yeah. I, uh, got it. Will do.”
Then Sam broke away from Carla walking into the meeting room and opened up his packet. It was dated December 20th. There was a big seal marked DoD at the top. The Department of Dreams. What did they have in store for him today?
Sam found his seat, and spread out the files in the packet. He didn’t have much time. He’d have to skim.
It was 6:29.
The file concerned a certain dream about a certain girl that Sam had been working tirelessly to make Him forget. Can’t always win those fights though it seemed. Sam began to slowly sip at his coffee, but when the door to the meeting room burst open, the coffee in his hand jostled forward spilling out onto his unsuspecting tongue. His tongue. The one that was now a burnt tongue. He had to hold in the yell that would have ended the meeting before it began.
He tried to smile, and stood up. He shook hands with Gale, head of todays imaginatively named “Committee on Sleep and Wellness”, and nodded to Gale’s three lackey’s. He glanced down at his file to make sure Carla had given him their names.
She hadn’t. Guess he’d just have to wing it. They all sat and Sam pulled out a fresh sheet of paper for notes. He clicked a pen on and without skipping a beat moved into his speech.
“Alright Gale, He’s slept in the last two days, and been late to school. What the hell do you think you’re doing to the guy? He can’t keep getting these tardies.”
“You know I just want a few more minutes.”
“Yeah, but that’s the way it is with you people!” Sam scratched his neck. “I mean come on! You tell me that you want just a few more minutes and by the time those minutes are up we’re here again and I hate to say it, but it’s like I’m trying to put cats out to pasture with you here! Now I’ve been running a pretty tight ship here, Gale. He’s been in bed before eleven every night. How many guys do you think can say that?”
“You’re very conservative.”
“Conservative my ass! Now you listen up. You get him up right now, or I will sick the Education Department, the Club Committee and the GJD on your ass all day.”
Sam stood up, and gathered his files. He’d made his point. Time to move on.
“Just one more day,” said Sam. “Then it’s winter break and I’ll let you guys have it.”
Gale smirked. “You say that now.”
“Yeah, I do.”
Sam walked out and met Carla who handed him a thicker stack of papers. Carla’s blonde bouncy hair distracted Sam as he tried to skim through the stacks.
“When did you get so tall Carla?”
She sighed. “It’s Christie, sir.”
“Oh,” Sam looked up at her. Christie. Christie, he repeated in his head. “Right. Where did…?”
“She went to help out Richard. He needed to pull some old testimonies or something.”
“Right. Where am I headed?”
There was a clunk sound like a brick of metal was dropped into a lake and then the lights were on. He was up.
Suddenly the office turned into utter chaos, as thousands of workers checked in and found their offices.
Carla – Christie! Damn it. Christie – definitely not Carla – smiled at the lights. He needed more sleep.
“Christie what’s next?”
“These are the files that the Caffeine Commission wanted to look at. Their waiting for you in the Frontal Lobe Complex.”
Sam tucked the papers under his arm and started off.
Christie called after him, “Oh. And the stimulants sub committee is there too!”
Not those guys, thought Sam. And the day had been going so well.
Sam waved to Lisa and kept walking. Carla showed up and handed him a note. He was in the shower. Good. It was 6:35. Sam kept moving. He had a good feeling about how things were shaking out.
Then Ed, a massively overweight man walked up to meet Sam. Sam tried to push his pace, stretching his legs farther than they were meant to stretch, but Ed was surprisingly fast for his size.
“Sam!” he called. “I got the DoD report. Interesting stuff, don’t you think?”
“I really couldn’t say,” said Sam.
Ed was from the Hormonal Department. More specifically the Commission on Sexual Impulses and Hormonal Pathways, aka the beautifully nicknamed Sex Drive. Sam knew he would not enjoy this conversation. Best to try and cut it off before it even starts.
“Listen Ed, I really have to get-”
“I won’t take up much of your time. I’ll walk with ya.” In fact, it seemed Ed already was. “How’s that sound?” Before Sam could respond Ed belted, “Great! So according to this report, He dreamed about you know who two times last night. Now I know you’re not going to try and shoot me down.”
“Aw, come on. He wants this. Just bring it up in committee today when he’s at school. We’ll lobby for you getting him there on time. We know how much you’re working for that.”
“Thanks, but I think I’ll be OK on my own.” The last thing he needed was support from Sex Drive.
The door to the meeting room in Frontal Lobe C came in to view. Sam thanked the heavens for this respite and waved to Ed.
“I have a meeting. I’ll think it over,” he said.
Ed bobbed his head up and down. “Alright! Score for the big guy. Hey, uh Sam. Knock um dead in there buddy.”
Yeah. Let him think that he’d won. Sam smiled and shook his head, then he stopped at the door and patted down his tie. He opened the door and stepped into the Frontal Lobe C meeting room.
“Sam!” said the Commission Chair, standing. He flicked his hand to indicated the rest of the room stand, and they did.
Sam quickly walked over to the long table and pushed his hand down indicating for them to sit. Sam reached over and shook the Commission Chair’s hand. Sam looked down at his notes quickly and retrieved his name.
“Mr. Taylor. What is it that you wanted to discuss with me,” said Sam.
He flipped through the pages until he found the Commission’s report. It was a beast at sixty pages, but Sam was used to seeing much more useless documents with much longer page counts.
“I didn’t call this meeting in fact,” said Mr. Taylor.
“That’s right I did!” called a screeching voice from the back.
Sam closed his eyes and cursed in his head. He’d forgotten that the Stimulants sub-committee was going to be here. Sam feigned a smile and nodded quickly to Sheila Harkens, the committee head.
“Sheila, I didn’t see you there,” he said.
Sheila was wearing a lavender button up shirt, and a matching skirt. His eyes drifted downwards.
Stop looking at her legs, thought Sam. You are literally a piece of a man’s mind. You aren’t even real. You can’t be attracted to things. Just get over it.
Sheila stood up and brought a panel with a graph on it up to the front of the room.
“I’d like to remind everyone here that caffeine and therefore coffee is a stimulant and is not healthy for a growing little boy like we have.”
Sam put his head in his hand.
“We have data that tells us that caffeine hurts the growth cycle of people still in puberty. He’s learned this in the school you’re such a big proponent for, Sam.”
Sam pushed his lips together and nodded. He didn’t want to look ungrateful, but he also knew he couldn’t take her side.
It was 6:38. He should be slipping on his socks now.
“We’ve heard the argument before Sheila,” said Sam. “Now what did you guys want to bring to my attention?” he said turning to Mr. Taylor.
“If you would check our findings on page 3.” The room turned the page. “You will notice that we’ve complied with Ms. Harkens request for a completely independent study and we’ve found that at his current levels of caffeine that any damage done would be negligible.”
Sam bit down on his tongue to keep himself alert. This meeting is important, he told himself. It’s not just meaningless drivel. It’s not, he repeated.
“Negligible!” screeched Sheila Harkens. “His young life is in your hands and you can’t just throw around words like-”
“Ok! Ok!” said Sam standing up. “Shut up!”
Sheila pursed her lips and turned her head to Sam.
Sam leaned against the table and tried to think. He needed to end this now. He had more important things to get to, and this wasn’t going anywhere. “Now we could be here all day with you two yelling at each other, but instead I’m going to make this simple. He drinks his coffee today. And I don’t want to hear anything from Stimulants, Sheila. Got it? I’m not happy about it either, but it gets him to school on time – so unless you have something that says that coffee will make him grow tentacles or suddenly burst into flame then I really don’t care. Tomorrow winter break starts and then you’ll have a case. Schedule the meeting with Carla, or Christie. You know… her.”
Sam picked up his papers and holding them awkwardly hurried out of the room. He had such a bad grip on the files that when he walked out of the room they all fell to the ground in a sloppy heap. He turned and sheepishly looked back into the meeting room.
They were all staring. Great.
Sam looked down at the papers on the ground and saw that Carla was already on the ground picking up the papers.
“How do you do that?” he asked.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I call you, but you’re always already there.”
“That’s me,” she said standing up. Then she handed a file with a pink sticky note on top to Sam.
It read: Dad leaves for work today at 7:10.
“What’s this for?”
“Well, it’s ten. Wait. Nine minutes until the bus leaves and He still hasn’t eaten breakfast. I’m sure you don’t want to skip it, so I did some digging and found out that his dad actually works today. Big surprise, I know. And that if we can gear him up for it, it would be a pretty easy sell to catch a ride.”
“Why can you only remember my name when you yell it?”
“I don’t know,” said Sam walking away quickly, “Oh, uh, so tell Carrie to get the message out to the Most Important Meal of the Day people.”
“You mean Christie!?” she called back.
“No, I mean Carrie! She works for Myrtle! Tell her to make the language spiffy! They like buzz words down there!”
Then Sam turned around and bumped into Ed from Sex Drive. A cold drink spilt all over Sam’s suit, and it was all he could do not to throw a punch.
Sam pushed his lips together, turned and promptly walked away with his head held high. Only, he couldn’t quite do that. He stopped and without turning said, “Ed. What was that drink?”
“Uh. Let me first say-”
“Yeah. It’s um. That muscle milk stuff.”
“Don’t you have to exercise for that stuff to work?” said Sam turning around. “Carla!” He needed a new shirt. Right now. He’d have to change on the way to his next meeting.
“Oh, yeah. You do,” said Ed.
Then they simply stared at each other while the world kept on spinning.
“Carla!” shouted Sam again, his voice turning frantic.
“Carla is still helping out Myrtle,” said Christie appearing at his side.
“Christie. I need you to listen carefully. I need a new plain white shirt with a neck of seventeen, a chest of thirty nine, length of thirty four, a shoulder width of twenty two and a sleeve of twenty seven.” Sam looked over to Christie who was writing furiously in her notebook. “Got all that? I need that at Rational Affairs in two minutes.”
Christie nodded quickly and then strode off.
“Run!” screamed Sam after Christie. Then turning to Ed he said, “You owe me.” Ed burped. It smelled like moldy cheese.
“So, I guess this means you won’t be helping the push for Sally?”
“No. And I never was. Sally is shallow! Shallow Sally. That’s what they should call her. Now if you’ll excuse me I have a thing.”
Sam moved past Ed and started unbuttoning his shirt. He smiled and nodded to all the people giving him admittedly warranted strange looks.
He pulled off his tie and hung it on the nearest cubical wall he could find. It was probably fine. They probably worked for him. Probably. Then he pulled off his shirt and his undershirt. God that muscle milk stuff was sticky.
“You’re shirt?” said Carla.
“Didn’t I send Christie to get my shirt?” asked Sam wearily. He did not want to be told he’d used the wrong name for that entire conversation.
“Yeah, but she gave it to me to take to you.”
“Oh thank god,” Sam muttered.
“Nothing, just give me the shirt.”
Sam quickly threw on the shirt and then checking the time decided that he’d have to go in without the tie.
The plaque says “Rational Affairs”, but the people were be anything but rational. Not that that’s special for this place or anything, but Sam still liked to muse at the irony.
“I’m here to see the DPA,” said Sam to a orange haired secretary who was looking down at her desk tapping a pencil against the computer screen in front of her.
“Yep,” she said.
“So can I go in?” asked Sam.
“Does he know I’m here?”
“Should I wait here?”
“I don’t know man. Do what you want I guess.”
“So…I can go in?”
“You win dude. You’re too good. Go ahead and go in I guess.”
Sam bit his lip and began to wonder if he had ever had a more bizarre conversation in his life. He didn’t have time to mull it over.
He walked into the DPA’s office and said, “Hello, Martin!”
Martin smiled and got up from his desk. Sam quickly scanned the desk and saw that it was completely bare. They shook hands, and then Martin held out a hand offering the chair opposite the desk.
Sam sat down and looked down to see that he’d missed a button on his shirt. Sam shifted his hands, clasping them together unnaturally in front of the hole.
What are you doing, he asked himself. He probably wouldn’t have even noticed if you didn’t draw attention to it.
“So, er. What can I do for you Sam?”
“I want you to get Him to talk to His dad and ask him for a ride. Simple as that.”
“Oh, Sam. You know it isn’t that simple.”
“Because there are a lot of lobbyers-”
“Lobbyer isn’t a word,” said Sam. “You’re looking for Lobbyists.”
“Uh… Yeah. Anyway they’re lobbying for self empowerment and standing up for ones self and all that crap. I’m sure you get a lot of the same thing… Anyway running to dad doesn’t really fall in line with that sort of thinking.”
“We wouldn’t be ‘running to dad’! We’d be, you know, asking him for a quick favor… Listen he’s leaving at seven ten anyway.”
“And what time is it now?”
Sam looked at the time. 7:08. Ed would probably never live this down.
“Ok. Listen. I’m just trying to get him to school on time.”
“He could walk to school and get there on time.”
“What? No, it’s December. Do you know how cold it is in December? It gets very cold here in December.”
“Just admit that you want him to be at school early to talk to Jenny Taylor.”
“That…That is not what this is about.”
Sam felt like he’d been caught. He hadn’t done anything wrong. So what if he wanted Him to run into a nice girl instead of Shallow Sally. It’s not like that was his only motivation for what he was doing. It hadn’t even really been on his mind.
“Really? I’m not dumb Sam. I know what the buzz is around the office.”
Buzz? There was no buzz around the office. There could be no buzz around the office. Not in his office.
Sam just thought it would be nice to have Jenny take Him home after soccer practice cause… cause it was convenient, and if she happened to like Him too well then that would be OK.
Refocus your thoughts, thought Sam. This isn’t about you.
“OK, so fine have him tell his dad that Jenny is taking him home after soccer. Tell him… that He has to get there early in order to talk to her. Otherwise he’ll have to come pick Him up.”
“Why are you setting this up?”
“I’m just trying to get him to school. Ok? Can we do that?”
“I think we can,” said Martin.
Sam stood up. Sam still had to make sure everything was in His back pack.
“Ok, well…” said Sam. Then he walked out of the room. He stopped and looked sidelong at the secretary. She was scrolling through the same website on both her phone and her computer. Sam shook his head and then moved on.
She was right there by his side instantly.
“Jesus. At least give me like a second.”
“Ok, so where are we on the back pack situation?”
“He’s got it. Richard took care of it. He’s already in the car with his dad. He’s going to be roughly twenty five minutes early to school.”
“Yeah…Can you get me pillows and stuff. I’ll be in my office. Oh, don’t let Ed in. I don’t want to see him for the rest of the day.”
Carla nodded. “Hey Sam, good job on getting him there on time.”
Sam shook his head. “This isn’t about me. Everybody did good. Besides, the day is just getting started.”