"Can" B. Worth
The History Department Office… was off the head of one hallway… that diverged from another hallway… that came from the rear entrance to the building… AND the hallway holding the locked dead professor’s office “number nine”. My professional mental memo pad pleasingly noted that THIS LOCATION made office number nine a far and dead end journey from that history department office. That means “Who’s going to …go there (number nine)?”. And I noted that… that is WHY the old professor was in “number nine” to begin with; “get him out of the way”. And THAT not only was fine logistics for me NOW but also… had allowed for the creation of that office contents over “for at least a century” to begin with. I really should write the department a thank you note for providing such a splendid and remote space for the old professor to fill up totally NOT MOLESTED.
It also helped buttress the risk management “who’s got a key?” issue for, again, “who’s going to go there?”. In fact… I confided to myself… “WHO even knows THAT OFFICE is there TO go to?”. My visit to the History Department Office affirmed this risk management buttress.
The door was open. The office was well lighted. Big windows on one side. A workstation desk at the front center… with no one in it. Triangulating away were two more workstation desks with the one to the right having a woman at work upon it. Continuing the triangulation away were… three doors to three offices… all closed. I stepped to and stood before the head-of-the-pyramid first desk upon entering. One is received THERE I assumed.
The women in the right workstation behind stopped word processing, looked up and said “May I help?” in a familiar tone.
“I am here to confirm the cleanout of office number nine for the attorney…”
“Yes he just called you are all set you have the key the parking tags will not be issued until tomorrow morning.”
“Oh. Good.” I said walking over to her workstation from the front desk. “When can I start?”
“He said you were starting tomorrow”.
“I mean what time can I start in the morning; how early?”
“Oh. Well. The building is opens at SIX. We don’t open the office until EIGHT. You COULD start before we open. The parking tags will not be here until eight. But that doesn’t matter because no one is HERE before eight.”
“I’d like to start at SEVEN.” I said now standing before her workstation.
“Seven? Fine. Just come and get the parking tags when we open at eight. I’ll tell the custodian you’ll be starting then.
“Thank you.” I said… and did not move. The woman peered over her glasses at me.
There was a reason I didn’t move. I’d discovered the reason way over at the front workstation. To her workstation’s right was made up shelving holding a supply of different types of U. S. Postal Service box mailers. Upon one stack of these and within the cavity of the shelf was a large four volume set of Victorian era books showing their …crimson Morocco leather and gilt gold spine ends. Amidst the office supplies a person of rare books …could not miss them. But I did not see them at first. What I DID see from the front workstation was… an old, large, upside down HEINZ 57 tomato soup can… sitting before the box mailer shelf at the front right of the workstation. “That’s Can’s can.” my mind had dutifully reported and… then summoned me hither.
I moved. I reached out toward the can rim and said “I didn’t KNOW Heinz made TOMATO soup.”
“Neither did I. But that’s an old can.” The woman said and QUICKLY REACHED ahead of me and PLUCKED the can away in her hand saying “I don’t think they make it anymore.” She pivoted in her chair and set the can down on the floor among the boxed office clutter behind her. “I have to get that out of here” she said.
I gave that whole; the can, the pluck and the behind-on-the-floor placement a desperate grimace? I hope not… but I probably did. There was nothing to do; I COULDN’T say “THAT’S CAN’S CAN LET ME SEE IT”. Nope; brings trouble. The deal comes first. I did look downward AT the can. “It’s Can’s can” I mentally logged again. And turned my attention to the …old books
I bent over, downward and eyed UPWARD upon the RED AND GOLD spine ends to read “BRYANT’S POPULAR HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES”. “A nothing” my mind reported. The set IS a nothing in rare books. SHE saw ME peering. I scrambled verbiage: “Those are BEAUTIFUL old BOOKS; JUST LIKE what MY WIFE WANTS. THAT RED with GOLD!”
“Yes those. They are. Beautiful.” The woman said with out moving from her slight-bent-forward typing poise with the over the glasses looking-at-me position. SHE did NOT look at the books.
“HANDSOME my wife calls THOSE. That’s what she wants: HANDSOME BOOKS; HANDSOME COPIES she says.
“Handsome?” the woman said.
“Handsome copy” that is what she says those ARE.”
“Handsome… I guess.” she said and now looked at the books.
AS she did that I reached forward to the first volume; Volume One, and… lifted it EXTRA SLOWLY AND CAREFULLY up and outward. The woman said noting. I opened the cover to title page it. Inside the front cover on the front fly leaf was a crisp and fresh ballpoint note reading “TO THE HISTORY DEPARTMENT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ******* WITH EVERLASTING AFFECTION CARL”. The woman watched me read that. I made NO anything and PROMPTLY opened to the title page: “1881! THAT IS OLD!” I said.
“Yes. Those are very old books.” she said with a release of tension. I was already putting the volume …extra especially slowly and carefully… BACK.
“HANDSOME COPY.” I said. “OK: TOMORROW AT SEVEN. Good. Thank you.”
“Thank YOU.” She said as I turned… and walked away. Down the hall to down the next hall to across the foyer to outside the building to inside the truck to back out and drive away. I did NOT go to the office. THAT could cause TROUBLE. I HAVE the KEY. All I have to do is… sweat the deal for …nineteen hours.w