The bomb exploded in his mind just as the wire service ticker crackled into action sending him hurtling forward spilling coffee down the front of his favorite khakis. The scalding coffee found tender flesh! Letting out a string of expletives, he danced around Sam’s office trying his best to get some cool air to the affected regions while wiping at the ever spreading stain.
From behind him came a high-pitched wale of laughter. Clinching his teeth and rolling his eyes toward heaven, he knew exactly who was standing behind him before turning around. He’d been so preoccupied with his own thoughts, that he hadn’t heard the office door open.
Standing in the doorway was Mildred Cora Anderson with a much-bemused smile and a look of smug satisfaction on her face. Mildred was the most secure worker at WKXR. A feisty five feet nothing with a crop of bright out-of-the-bottle fiery red hair, and an elongated chin that gave her a wicked witch of the west look. She was much loved by all those who didn’t know her well.
Mildred was sixty-five, if she was a day, but Sam didn’t dare fire her. She knew every secret he held close to his heart and like, Sam, she wasn’t going to quit anytime soon, either. He’d probably inherit her with the office, he thought.
“All right Mildred, you don’t have to say it. You’re right, I shouldn’t be in here. It’s nice to live like the big guy if only for a few minutes, don’t you think?” She nodded her head in agreement. Looking down at the dark brown stain on the front of his khakis, she started laughing all over again.
Out of frustration and in an attempt to quell her laughter, he said,
“Did I hear the Network Wire Service ticker a minute ago?”
“Yeah, I suspect so,” answered Mildred, never taking her eyes off of him. She was making him feel like a cross between and idiot teenager and a shopper in one of those snotty department stores where the security guard keeps an extra special watch on all shoppers of a certain persuasion, i.e., Black.
“Well, could you please stop laughing at me long enough to pull the message so we can see what’s so damn important that the Network wants us to know about it right away.” “Please”, he said putting extra emphasize on the word.
Mildred stopped laughing long enough to answer. “Sure, when you tell me what you’re doing in Sam’s office.”
“Sam, asked me to wait for him. He should be calling for a pick up at the airport any minute.” “Now, how about that ticker?”
Mildred spun around and walked off without another word between the two of them. She was ‘definitely’ going to tell Sam that his golden boy was messing around in his office behind his back.
As he watched Mildred leave, he knew there would be retribution. Letting out a sigh at the thought, he started down the corridor to the men’s room.
Without even looking up, he navigated his way through the pale gray ‘prefabricated’ padded cubical walls that served as offices for the regular staff. He considered himself lucky. He’d graduated from these cramped gray cubicles five years ago. His office, although a private one, was about half the size of the one he’d just left and was equipped with the standard Office Depot furniture.
He was halfway down the hall when he heard Mildred scream, “Oh my God!” It was not at all like Mildred to panic. He forgot all about his coffee stained pants and ran back to where she was standing by the news ticker. “What is it?” he asked.
Tears were rolling down into the deep crevices of Mildred’s face. He watched as one tear rolled into the crevice on the left side of her mouth and disappeared. “Mildred,” he insisted more than saying her name.
When she wouldn’t answer him, he thought of shaking her till she answered, but he didn’t dare put his hands on white women here in Klan Kountry. Not even Mildred, who he had worked with for years.
Noting the piece of paper in her hand, he figured whatever had upset her was due to the piece of paper she was holding. Gently, he removed the piece of paper. Mildred kept right on staring in its direction as if it were still in her grasp.
He tried to quickly pick out the relative pieces of the story, but his mind would not – could not quite comprehend what he was reading. He re-read it a second time. The breath caught in his chest and he waned between anger and sorrow. The message read:
ADVENTURE AIRLINES FLIGHT 404 BOUND FOR CHICAGO O’HARE AIRPORT WITH 125 PASSENGERS AND A CREW OF FIVE HAS CRASHED IN A REMOTE INDIANA FARMFIELD. THERE WERE NO SURVIVORS.
David crumpled the piece of paper in his strong black hands and tossed it across room. Turning on Mildred, he scolded her in a tone that was much too harsh, “Mildred, if you’re trying to get back at me for being in Sam’s office without your knowledge, let me tell you this isn’t funny.”
She gave him a look of both sorrow and revulsion. Her mouth opened as if to say something, but no words came out. Immediately, he regretted having been so harsh. The steady stream of tears told him this was no joke. Sam Larson was aboard Flight 404. Mildred had booked the flight herself.