Ecochondriacs [25]

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Please note well: In case you were wondering, even though November is over, I will be publishing the rest of this book here, section by section. But if you can’t wait to see how it ends, you can order this book in hard copy, and the link for that is here. In addition, audio chapters are being recorded and released on the new Canon App.

Jill’s Exasperation

It was the morning after Jill’s adventure with Larry at the offices of Earth Fight. The office of Sen. Hart had only been open for fifteen minutes, and Jill and Eve the only ones there. Jill was looking at Eve in exasperation. Unlike most instances of exasperation, she thought she might even be almost enjoying it. She was flirting with enjoying it.

But Jill wasn’t exasperated with Eve, but rather with herself, which Eve could see easily enough. And so she waited for Jill to speak.

“Do you know what my problem is with that man?”

“Besides the obvious?” Eve asked.

Jill ignored her and continued. “My problem with that man is that he affects me in ways that go clean contrary to what any reasonable person might be able to guess or anticipate. Do you know how many times I have saved that man’s life? Two! I have saved his life twice. And do you know what I have wanted to do both times?”

Eve sat quietly, smiling.

Both times I wanted to throw myself into his arms afterwards and say something like ‘my hero!’ Is that sensible?”

“No,” Eve said. “Not at all sensible. Do you want to know what it means?”

“No,” Jill muttered. “I do not wish to know what it means.” I already know what it means. It means I am a goner. With that she made her way back to her office, and unloaded her briefcase. The last thing she hauled out was the file on her boss that Larry had retrieved from Hugh’s filing cabinet.

They had talked a good long bit about what to do about it, or with it, and they both went back and forth several times. Their options were to destroy the file—Larry had a shredder at his office—or to give it to the senator with an explanation. After a great deal of discussion, they had finally decided to do the latter, and that is why Jill had the file with her. She was going to give it to the senator as soon as she came in, which Jill thought should be any minute now.

Once they had made their decision, Larry had walked her through how she ought to explain herself when she delivered the file. She really liked how he walked her through it, and really agreed with his approach, and appreciated his care for her, and it made her feel cozy all over, and then she found herself hissing at herself again. He has asked you out on precisely two dates, and that is all, Jill-person.

She heard the front doors opening, guessed it was the senator, and stood up to take a peek out. Yep. There she was. Jill went back to her desk, picked up the file, and fidgeted for a couple minutes, allowing time for the senator to deposit her stuff and get settled. This is what they did every morning, so there was nothing unusual about it. Except for the payload that Jill was about to deliver. She had no idea how her boss would react. No idea. Would she get angry? Be offended? Grateful? What?

With those questions rattling around in her mind, Jill took a deep breath, picked up the file, and walked down the hall. She tapped on the door like she always did, went in, and sat down like she always did.

The two women exchanged a few comments about the weather, and about the busy schedule that day, and there was enough back and forth to tell that the senator was in something of a glum mood. Oh great, Jill thought.

“I have something out of the ordinary for you today,” she said.

“What is it?” the senator asked, jotting down a note while she talked.

“Well, I can’t explain it without it appearing to you that I know more than I do. But I don’t. I don’t know more than I do, if you follow me.”

“No, I don’t,” the senator said, looking up, interested.

“It’s like this,” Jill said. And she got up and deposited the file on the senator’s desk. “That is a file on you that I have obtained. It would be best if we did not go into how I obtained it. I will only say that my conscience is clean on the point. I have not read the file, and have not even looked in it.”

“A file on me?”

“Yes,” Jill said. “And here is where some scuttlebutt comes in, and I am sure you have heard some of the same things that I have. Some people have said that some of your, um, votes were coerced out of you by some people who were threatening you with some information they had about you.”

At first Senator Hart flushed, and then went more than a little pale. Jill couldn’t tell if she was upset or relieved.

“I have good reason to believe that the people threatening you, if there were any such people, will not be doing so any more. And if they did, I have reason to believe that the only way they could act on any of their threats is all contained in that file there. Which you may dispose of however you see fit. If there was anything to the rumors, which I have no way of knowing, I believe you can be done worrying about it now.”

Marsha Hart was sitting quietly, and finally said, in a very soft voice, “Thank you. This is a great relief.”

“I’m glad,” Jill said, and made as if to go. “You have an opening this afternoon at one. Should we have our regular session then?”

“Yes, please,” the senator said. “I need some time to think.” As Jill walked over to the door, she spoke again, very softly.

“Jill?”

Jill turned in the doorway. “Yes?”

“Jill, I think the world of you. You need to know that the things in the file were mostly just embarrassing. But once they had me on the hook, I couldn’t figure out what to do. And there are two votes that I am really ashamed of. I don’t know what to do about that.”

Jill grinned. “Well, the first thing I would do is shred that file. And the second thing is that revised versions of those two bills are coming up again next month. I suggest that you surprise everyone with your first vote, and then request to become a co-sponsor on the second bill. Surprise everyone again.”

“That would be pleasant. But what would I say?”

“Say that you changed your mind.” And Jill was out the door.

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