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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Appointment (02/09/12)

TITLE: Soft Old Day
By Michael Throne


When I saw it, I sat, stunned. The notice had come in the same batch of mail that had brought me several invoices, a couple catalogs and numerous other innocuous advertisements. I'd never expected to see a bankruptcy notice, especially from Weaver's.

Weaver Homegoods was our largest customer; they provided over twenty percent of our business. Ten of our forty-eight employees were employed to fill their orders. I quickly checked their account on my computer. They owed us ninety-three thousand dollars as of last Friday. I searched for unfilled orders. There was a small one going out today.

I got on the phone. "John, don't ship the Weaver order."

"Why not? It's almost ready."

I didn't need the rumors yet, at least not until I knew where we stood. "Just put it on hold," I said.

Ninety-three thousand dollars.

It was late December and the orders had already dropped by half, as they always did after Christmas. They wouldn't pick up again until March.

I wondered if we could survive that long.

I buzzed Becky and asked her to cancel the day's appointments.

"Anything wrong?" she asked.

"No," I lied. "Just reschedule them for next week."


"Thanks, Becky."

Ninety-three thousand dollars.

I spent the morning poring over numbers. Would we even survive the next month? And if we could, how many people could I keep on? My employees were good people, they depended on me every bit as much as I depended on them.

Ninety-three thousand dollars.

I could barely breathe.

An hour into the morning, Becky buzzed me. "Margaret McLaren is here to see you." She hesitated and whispered. "I'm sorry, I wasn't able to get a hold of her."

I considered canceling, but reluctantly acquiesced. "Send her in." I'd get rid of her as quickly as possible.

My door opened and in walked a sweet, frail-looking, seventy-something year old saleswoman who stood no higher than my elbow.

"Hi, I'm Tim Hartzler," I said, standing and offering my hand.

"Maggie McLaren," she said in a thick Irish accent. She shook my hand, then leaned her umbrella against the wall. "Soft old day, isn't it?" She glanced at the chaos of papers and bills that littered my desk.

"Sorry for the mess," I said. "I'm kind of busy."

"Think nothing of it."

She sat down and rummaged through her briefcase until she fished out two copies of their catalog, handing me one. Her fingers trembled with age. "Thank you for seeing me today," she said. "Now, then. We have a rather unique line of paper towel dispensers I'd like to show you on page 53...."


"See how they imprint a little daisy on each sheet? And they only dispense two at a time so there's not so much waste. You know how folks can be...."

Ninety-three thousand dollars.

"And here on page 37, we have our toilet paper dispensers."

How am I going to pay for that load of wood we got in?

"These come free if you order twenty or more mega-rolls. Do you go through much toilet paper here, Mr. Hartzler?"

"Um, sure."

"I like the embossed three-ply paper myself, but of course it costs a bit more."

Will I meet be able to meet payroll next week?

"Maybe you'd be interested in some of our cleaning supplies?"

How many people will I have to fire?

"If you'll look on page 63...."

Who do I let go?

"Mr. Hartzler...?"

Ninety-three thousand dollars.

"Mr. Hartzler?"

"Oh," I said anxiously, "I'm sorry...."

"That's alright. You're busy. I can see that."

"I'm sorry."

She set her catalog on her lap. "Might I say something, Mr. Hartzler...?"

"Of course," I said with a sigh.

She tentatively reached over and picked up the bankruptcy notice off the top of my papers.

"I've gotten plenty of these over the last forty-three years," she said.

I glanced down at the catalog. The name on the front was "McLaren's."

"Let me assure you, Mr. Hartzler, the sun will rise tomorrow. Your employees will survive. You'll survive." She set the notice back down. "Sometimes it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. But it's not, and the sooner ye figure that out, the better."

I glanced at the papers scattered across my desk, the invoices, the notice, then gazed back toward sweet, battle-hardened, Maggie McLaren, for whom who I suddenly felt overwhelming admiration and respect.

"Okay then," I said, breathing. "Okay."

I opened her catalog. "So tell be about the daisies."

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This article has been read 608 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Ruth Thoutenhoofd02/16/12
I really liked this - it kept me reading to the end. Your style captivates and the message was a good one, especailly these days when so many are dealing with this type of problem. Good job!
C D Swanson 02/17/12
Fresh take on the topic, and a profound commentary on todays times. Great story and great job. God bless~
marcella franseen02/21/12
A great story and a great reminder: the sun will rise tomorrow. There are many people, right now, whose minds are racing with the question "how?" who need that simple reminder. Good job.
Cheryl von Drehle02/22/12
You handle dialog very well. The interplay of the conversation spiced with his distracting thoughts could have been confusing but you presented the intricacies very clearly. Timely piece and good treatment of the topic.
Nancy Bucca02/23/12
Great message in this piece. I enjoyed every moment of it and could really relate to that distracting voice of worry. A well-deserved win.
C D Swanson 02/23/12
Congratulations! God Bless~
Linda Goergen02/23/12
Congratulations on your well deserved win! This was a wonderful story, wonderfully written. Reminded me of the words in the old hymn "What a Friend We Have In Jesus"
Sharon Eastman02/24/12
I love your stories. If you haven't already, please write a book.