He stares at the city skyline, and I try not to think too hard about the fact we’re hovering a little too far above the ground for comfort. I hate helicopters–especially this one. He has to scream to be heard above the noise of the rotors.
“And why would you be concerned?” I scream.
“Because–well. Well. There isn’t a good reason. But I know. I should be concerned.” He shouts.
“But there’s no quantitative data!” I scream, a little more forcefully than before. This comes alongside many other perks of being the sole personal assistant of a rather ornery, extremely eccentric old coot. Who really isn’t that old, unfortunately.
“I don’t know, I just told you. I just know.”
“So you’re a blueberry psychic now, among other things?”
“I’m not a psychic, I just said that I’m concerned. Like when a mother knows one of her kids is in trouble or something.”
“That’s biologically impossible in more ways that one,” I say. Two years on the job, and I still don’t know why I accepted the job offer.
“I said ‘like.’ Not that I’m…whatever. Whatever. I just know we need to do something. I’m not sure, though. Really not sure.”
“The word’s unsure,” I say. I’m not sure if it’s an attempt to be helpful, or if I’m particularly annoyed. Probably both.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Do you have some paper–and a pencil. No, no, I need a pen for this–a good, blue pen! And pink paper!” I can’t hear the rest of what he says, drowned out by the noise of the aircraft. I hand him a blue pen and a legal pad; he frowns at the yellow paper, but I don’t have any pink paper on my person, or at all. We ran out last week and we’re still waiting for the order to come in.
He begins writing–or perhaps drawing–keeping the paper strategically turned away from me. A few minutes later he looks up annoyed and motions to the pilot to land. The pilot frowns at me. I imagine he won’t last very long, either. Most of the staff has an incredibly high turnover rate–not that they’re easy to replace, anyway. It’s pretty damn hard to find Yale graduates with a Master of Science in Forensic Pathology willing to work as gardeners. Yet he insists.
The noise fades to a silence when the helicopter lands and he leaps out of the cockpit. “Sara!” he shouts to the Harvard-graduate with a Ph.D. in Russian Marketing Techniques. She’s obviously not hanging out by the landing pad–she’s technically the third doorkeeper, but since there’s almost never any visitors, she spends most of her time in the library. Evidently, there is an especially large section on Russian Culture and Graphic Design. “Listen–you need to get Sara, and Frederick–just get the whole staff. Tell everybody to get to the map room! Right now! As soon as possible!” He screams, dancing off, in a sort of half-skip, half-leap.
I gather the staff–about fifty people, all in all. They’re slightly disgruntled; most of them have little to nothing to do all day, but having to deal with their wild employer is extremely low on the list of things they’d like to do. They gather, though–as much as they’d like to pretend otherwise, you don’t get into the Ivy Leagues by breaking the rules. At least, not all of them.
The map room is brightly lit, and quite literally covered in maps: four whole-wall area maps. One of the city, one of the country, one of the world. One lying on his desk looks more like a porcupine–covered in pins, needles, and a few chess pieces. He spins his chair around to face us: “I bet you’re wondering why I’ve called you here today.”