'Being social by nature, when isolated from all other living creatures, men will invariably, over a period of time, create for themselves companions, be they gods or lovers.' (Francis Kirkpatrick 1893-1935)

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Saturday, March 9, 2013

How Could You Not be Happy



Molly, as it turned out, was Molly Plageman—Heather’s daughter—and looked even younger than she sounded on the telephone.
“Elleanor?” she asked, from behind the reception desk, where Margaret something-or-other had always been stationed on all of Elleanor’s previous visits to the agency.
Elleanor nodded.
“I’ll be with you in just a second.”
Elleanor had never been to the agency this early. The waiting area was empty and seemed to be without heat. She shuddered and hugged herself. In her hurry, she had left without a coat. 
Molly closed her work on the computer, stood and gathered a stack of papers. She disappeared, then popped out of a side door, right of the reception desk.
“I know,” Molly said, when she saw Elleanor clenched against the chill. “This room is always freezing cold in the morning. I’m Molly Plageman, Heather’s daughter.”
“Good to meet you, Molly,” Elleanor replied, grateful that Molly had kept her hands tucked beneath her arms. Elleanor couldn’t see any immediate resemblance between daughter and mother.  
“We’ve had the heat looked at,” Molly went on, shaking her head, “but nobody seems to know what the problem is.”
Elleanor was fairly certain that by ‘nobody’, Molly meant those repairmen, who had more than once looked at her like she was imagining things when she had tried to explain similarly mysteries problems.
“Been there,” Elleanor surprised herself by saying. She had never cared for the phrase. It’s too cold, she thought, for proper conversation.       
“I keep this here,” Molly said, displaying the thick, over-sized, seaman’s sweater she wore, “for when I have to double as receptionist.”
“Looks comfy,” Elleanor replied.
Molly smiled. “Don’t worry,” she assured Elleanor, “it’s much warmer in my office.”   
Molly led Elleanor to the left—away from her mother’s work space—down a brief hallway to a door where her name shot through the air on a white plaque, trailing sparkling stars of pink and purple.
“It’s not like my mother’s office,” Molly warned over her shoulder. She opened the door and held it for Elleanor.
Though the lights were out inside the room, morning sun bled in around the edges of the shades, drawn over a row of small windows high up on the wall opposite the door, leaving the room in a sort of silvery dusk.  Elleanor felt the promised warmth and stepped in to Molly’s dim office.
Molly clicked on the lights behind her.

Molly hadn't lied. The room was nothing like her mother's book and portrait-laden office. All around there rolled a landscape of green and brown hills, like dull, tree-studded waves. Above the hills, cotton-ball clouds floated in a sky-blue sky. Behind a desk of chrome and blonde wood, rose an enormous, and very happy, orange and yellow sun. The sun smiled across the room at a large but simple, red barn, where buoyant animals grazed freely on the thick grass of green paint.
The room reminded Elleanor of a children’s program she had seen not long ago.
God, what was that show?
Planet something. Planet Planet…
There was a man, Elleanor remembered—Mr. Numerical. He was young, but dressed like a hillbilly farmer, in overalls, floppy shoes and a straw hat. He wore a big, fake beard, too, played guitar, danced funny, and sang songs to cartoon animals. One of the songs had been stuck in her head for a week: “One pig. Two pig. Whatcha gonna do pig?”
Planet… Planet…
Planet Numbers!  
“It was the play-room,” Elleanor heard Molly explaining. “Back when Mom ran the day-care.”
“She wanted to paint over everything,” Molly confessed, as she wheeled a chair over for Elleanor to sit in. “But I like it.”
Elleanor sat down. The old day-care room made her feel peculiar; small, though not in a bad way.
“I mean…” Molly said, looking around the room, “How can you not be happy in here?”


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