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December 14, 2011 / 74

Just Having A Smoke

The faint light glowed its way through the high windows into the cavernous room. The glint of a small flashlight highlighted the white brass of the railings and reflected from the various glass cases. A dark figure, clad in black from head to toe paused by a large marble column and listened to the silence, hearing only his own breathing.

The dark figure eased his way across the floor to the raised platform upon which the locked, environment-controlled glass case rested. Standing in front of it, he gazed down into the darkness, feeling the hostility for him there. Once again, he listened carefully, then with one hand, took the little EMS emergency access pen from his shirt pocket and gently placed the tip of it against the glass. With his other hand he removed the 99 cent butane lighter from his pants pocket and held it ready. He pushed the button on the end of the EMS pen. Nothing happened.

Muttering to himself, he cocked the tiny high-powered hammer and was about to place the pen against the glass again when he felt a presence. Someone was in the room with him. He slipped the EMS pen back into his pocket and waited for the silence to make itself known.

“Good evening, Mr President.” The Library of Congress night guard casually walked across the room, the leather soles of his shoes sounding a hollow cadence on the hard floor. The guard walked up to the glass case and stood beside the President, looking down at the document in the case, now illuminated by his small red-light hand spot. “The US Constitution. I get a little shiver down my back every time I see her. Amazing document.”

The President just stood there, sweating.

In a too casual voice, the guard asked the President, “Would you mind telling me what you’re doing here, sir? And why you have a lighter in your hand?”

“I uh…. I was going out for a smoke and my feet just led me here.”

The guard nodded. “Yes. I’m sure. You know there’s no smoking in here, don’t you?”

“Of course. I was just, uh, just… fiddling with the lighter. It was in my hand from outside and well, it’s kind of a worry bead for me.”

The guard’s face acquired a small, tolerant smile. “Yes. I see. Of course, you realize that just a hint of a spark near the Constitution and it would go up like flash paper? Just a tiny spark and the foundational document of our nation, of our entire way of life, would be gone.” The guard stopped talking and just looked at the President.

The President filled the silence. “Yes. I suppose you’re right. But it has that protective case around it. I assume that a spark couldn’t get to it through that. Am I right?”

The guard reached over and, almost tenderly removed the EMS access pen from the President’s pocket. “Oh, absolutely, sir.”

The President was frozen in place, barely breathing.

“Well sir. Make sure you lock the door behind you when you leave. Good night.” The guard slowly turned, not quite all the way around, keeping an eye on the President who was still standing in front of the case. The guard walked away and out the door into another part of the cavernous building, his fading steps echoing in the emptiness.

The president stood there, reflecting on the narrowness of his escape, then made his way out the door.

In it’s case, the US Constitution seemed to flutter a bit, then settled down for the night. The Republic was safe for at least one more night.

(c) 2010 Michael E Picray


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