He came to my desk for the third time.Now, when is that story going to be done?Could you try to make it sometime today?We have a paper to put out, you know? he said.
In exasperation I said, It will be done at .I told you that before..
You mean you will hand me that story at ? he asked.
For heavens sake, yes! I said.
He pulled the pencil from behind his ear and wrote it down on his ever present piece of paper.
You mean you can time your stories? he asked.
Well of course I can, I said.I worked at a big paper.I had to tell them when Id be done.
He looked around the newsroom. These other reporters cant time their stories, he said.
Well, of course they can, I said.Theyre good reporters.
Jim went to Kendalls desk.Can you time your stories?
Of course I can, Jim. You never asked me before.
I see, Jim said.And what time will your story be done?
My story, Kendall said straightening his back, will be done at exactly nine-fifteen.
Nine-fifteen? Jim asked.He wrote it down.Well, well, he said.
He went to Gwens desk.Can you time your stories? he asked.
Of course, she said.You never asked me before.
I see, Jim said.And when will that story be done?
Gwen looked at her notes and the page she had in the typewriter.This story, she said, will be done at exactly nine-thirty.
You mean you will hand me that story at nine-thirty exactly? Jim asked.
Yes, she said, at nine-thirty exactly.
Well, well, Jim said and he wrote it down.
He stopped at Bills desk.Can you time your stories? he asked.
Bill looked offended.Of course I can, he said.This story will be done at exactly nine-forty five.
I see, Jim said as he wrote it down.This is excellent, he announced to the room.Becky will have her story done at , Kendalls will be done at nine-fifteen, Gwens at nine-thirty and Bills at nine-forty five.Thats just enough time for me to edit each one.I like this clock system, he said as he sat down.
At exactly I took my story to his desk.He ignored me.Finally he looked up.Youre a minute late, he said.
No, I said, you let me stand here for a minute.Is there any thing else you need me to do?
Yes, he said, I need this space filled.He pointed to a space in the paper.He handed me a press release.And what time will you be handing me this story? he asked.
I quickly looked over the release.I will be handing you this story at nine-forty five, I said.
He wrote it down.
How much typing do you need to fill that space? I asked.
Dont worry about that, he said.Just write the story.
I was tired.For heavens sake just tell me how many pages it takes to fill that space, I said.
You mean you know how to fill a space? he asked.
Of course I do, I said.I had to fill spaces all the time.
That space is exactly one and a half pages of double-spaced type, he said.
Thank you, I said.At exactly nine-forty five I will hand you one and a half pages of double-spaced type.
The other reporters cant write to length, he said.
Of course they can, I said.
He went to Kendalls desk.Do you know how to fill a space?
Yes, Jim, Kendall said.Ive asked you before how much you needed and you would never tell me.
I see, Jim said and he walked to Gwens desk.
Do you know how to fill a space?
Of course, Jim, she said.It would make it a lot easier if you told us how much you need. That way we wouldnt have to keep writing and writing.
Well, Ill be, Jim said and he walked to Bills desk.
Do you know how to fill a space?
Yes, Bill barely looked up.He was typing ferociously.I have to meet my deadline, he said.
Well, well, Jim said. Go back to work.I wont hold you up.Well, well.I learned something tonight.Timing stories and filling spaces. It seems I have excellent reporters.Yes, indeed.And he went back to his desk and rifled through the mound of papers.Nothing ever changed with the mound of papers.He just moved them from one place to another.
I stood up to leave.Where are you going? he asked.
Im going to have a cigarette, I said.
What about your story?He asked.
I calculated a cigarette into my time, I said.
I see, he said.Well, go have your cigarette but dont forget I need that story on time.
Bill stood up.
Where are you going?
Im going to have a cigarette with Becky, he said.
What about your story.I need that story on time, Jim said sternly.
Bill thought quickly.I calculated the cigarette into my time, too, he said looking pleased.
Well, well.Theres an awful lot of calculating going on tonight.An awful lot of calculating.
You two go on, Jim said, as long as I have my stories on time.
Bill and I stepped out to have our smoke.
The night had only just begun.Quiet, mild-mannered Bill was keeping a secret.