* * *
Frank had lost some weight. He had spent weeks running around cajoling the special interests. He was determined to keep each strand of the committee, the project, on track. He had kept Larry happy with a research grant. Well, happy is a relative word, Larry was never happy. Why couldn’t he be as happy as Larry he thought? Happy as Larry. Happy as a pig in…
He twitched from his daydream.
It was Martina again, she was always sliming around the background. Like a devil on his shoulder.
One half of Frank’s face rose up, out of a half-interest of what she was going to say. It was probably going to be something about media ratings or ‘engagement’.
“Our media ratings are great. We’ve been the top tracking story for the last week and a half”
“What happened a week and a half ago?” asked Frank.
“Oh, that Youtube video, remember? The one with the cat?”
Frank’s glazed look prompted her to continue.
“Anyway, we’re on top. This will have a great impact on our licensing contracts”.
Frank thanked her for the news. He thanked her in a way you thank someone who is giving you constant updates about something you don’t really wants constant updates about.
“Oh, and Frank. Our engagement model here is driving international interest and investment because we’ve become Thought Leaders on this subject”
Frank nodded and she slipped away as quick as she came. He decided to decode that last statement on his own time, he didn’t want to admit he only understood half of the jargon. But he got the gist - basically other countries were to looking to Ireland now. Looking to Ireland to make the next move, to make this event something that the world community could be proud of. We had become ‘Thought Leaders’.
Frank paused for a moment and let that sink in. A wave of long-lost pride washed over him. This is the moment, he thought, I’m clawing my way back into the trusted circle.
He was fantasising about the possible conversations he would have with the Taoiseach when his 2:30 knocked on the door.
“Secretary General Stapleton! Come in, come in.”
The Secretary General sat down with a straight back.
“Jack is my first name”
Frank prepared himself to say the word Jack.
“But you can call me sir”.
Frank’s mouth closed, he nodded instead.
Over the next twenty minutes, the Secretary General spelled out the details of what was happening in the compound. He recounted all the details of every communication attempt and every attempt to gain access to the ship. Frank slumped back into his chair.
“This is not what I want to hear… sir. There’s a lot riding on this. We need all parts of the project to progress roughly in time with each other. If one aspect fails, the others fall down!”
The Secretary General frowned, “I do not like bringing bad news. I do not like failure of any kind. But I need to brief you honestly on the facts. I cannot stand over the security of the situation in it’s current state. I have reservations about your visitor centre and all that touristy type stuff.”
Frank was in damage limitation mode, “Can you put a percentage on it?” Can you give me a rough guess? Can you give me some probabilities around this, what’s the likelihood of a situation developing?”
“We have no idea of it’s motivations, I can give you no better than 50/50”.
“Well, that’s no guarantee at all! Those are the same odds as if there were no security measures taken either way”.
Frank paced the room and assessed this new information.
He stopped pacing: “Ok, we can’t stop now. We keep the committee together, we keep the project on track. We keep going” Frank was red in the face, flushed with male decision-making hormones.
The Secretary General held his gaze for a good 10 seconds then looked down at his hat in his hand. He was worried about his military reputation, he was known for his steady-hand. But he acquiesced, he knew they could not stop now. He had expected Frank’s reaction and had already gone through the permutations before he even stepped into the office.
“OK, then” he answered.
“OK? … OK. Ok then” Frank wondered, then answered his own wondering. Then put a full-stop in it with another “OK”.
They bade each other a good day and the Secretary General left the office. Frank felt one of those special moments had happened, those no-turning back moments. Time for a cup of strong tea.
* * *
Conor was back home after his sleepover. Nora was pottering around mothering him in a way that distracted her from the previous day’s events.
“So, how was it?” She asked.
“Meh, twas grand, like.” He offered.
“Did ye do anything nice?”
“Nah, just hung out. Did stuff”
“You did nothing? Nothing at all?”
Nora left it alone, as he progressed towards his teenage years, this particular conversation would count as a heart to heart. She cut her losses and went back to crossing the kitchen with things in her hand. She was putting things over on the counter then rearranging other things on top of other things. Constant movement would keep her busy, but she made little progress in terms of housework. She really was mindlessly tidying things for no apparent reason.
Even Conor noticed this inefficient way of approaching housework, “You OK Mom?”.
“I’m fine, no problems here. You have school in the morning, you know. Gwan upstairs and have a look for your uniform, make sure it’s clean”.
Conor trudged upstairs.
Later that night when Conor was in bed, she had time to reflect on the overall situation. she tried to make sense of it all but couldn’t. Why was the lieutenant so entrenched? Why couldn’t he see the possibilities of her view?
Military training - she thought. They can follow orders, but can’t think outside the box. Ask them to put the hot water in before the tea bag and they actually look like they have a scalpel hovering over a dotted line on some patient’s forehead. But what could she do? Was she even capable of doing anything? What business was it of hers?
Her head began to hurt and she decided it was time to call it a night. Nothing would get decided or saved tonight.