The Consultant (Part 1)

Through the tall, open windows of the stately office, a glorious beam of morning sunshine flowed—the train of an angel’s robe, a beacon of optimism in a bleak world, an oncoming headlight to scare man into the realisation that his days are few and life is worth living. Whatever the metaphor, it was as ignored as the son in the Harry Chapin song, “Cat’s in the Cradle”. If the beam of light could speak, it might have said, “I have travelled near a hundred and fifty million kilometres to brighten your day—could you not look on me for one moment with an ounce of wonder?” or perhaps, “What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys. See you later, can I have them please?” Not that anyone would have heard it. Discussions were taking place, and, judging by their volume and the frequency at which people interrupted one another, they were important.

“Is Robert on board with this? Well, see if you can get him.”

“Jenny, how fast do you need that approved?”

“Bill flies in from Singapore tomorrow—he’ll need to sign off on this.”

“Where does Michael Shearer stand on the immigration bill? Maybe he could swing a few votes.”

“No, that’s last month’s poll—I want the numbers from yesterday. They should be out by now.”

“Mark, get Tracy on the line. London… No, Paris. Well, wake her up.”

“What are the T.V. reports saying this morning? The bloody newspaper headlines were a disaster.”

A young, well dressed woman entered the room, ignored yet not unnoticed. No one spoke to her, but everybody stepped aside to let her through. She was not one of them, yet she belonged there in some capacity, kind of like those birds that pick food from crocodiles’ teeth. She approached the long hardwood desk covered in documents competing for most urgent, and said, “Prime Minister.” She was ignored, and met it with patience. “Prime Minister,” she repeated, a little louder. Again, the network of simultaneous conversations in the room drowned out her voice. She waited a moment, then with a forceful yet still professional tone that cut through the noise, said, “Murray.”

Voices died down and conversations halted, except for one in the corner about a proposed “tax initiative”. A glare from the prime minister silenced that last, stubborn voice. He looked at the young woman. “What is it, Candace?”

Sixteen pairs of eyes fixed on her; it was her turn to ignore everyone else. “Your eleven o’clock is here,” she said.

The prime minister’s thick eyebrows converged as he checked his watch. “All right,” he said. “Give me a minute and then send him in.”

Candace nodded and left the room, through another path of sidestepping politicians.

“Everyone out,” commanded the prime minister.

Everyone left, recommencing their conversations in murmur form.

“Wait a minute, Josh.”

A young, energetic fellow stopped and turned back. “Yes, Prime Minister?”

“You can stick around for this—I could use a fresh set of eyes. You might learn a few things, too.”

The prime minister gestured to a leather chair facing a round glass coffee table. Josh sat down eagerly. The prime minister sorted a couple of documents on his desk, and then came and sat down on another chair near the table. He stroked his chin. “Listen to what this guy has to say,” he said to Josh. “See what you think. He came highly recommended.”



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