Cooper walked into the office that morning wondering what the day held.
“Morning, Coop,” said Michael. “Gotta sec?” It wasn’t really a request. The urgency in Michael’s voice was clear.
The man’s face was a kind of powdery white like the bad work of a poor sighted mortician. Michael and Cooper had worked together for years and enjoyed the kind of relationship that painful truths build. Sometimes they grew frustrated with one another, different as they were. Michael was a plodder, a glass-half-empty kind of man. Cooper had a bent for looking on the brighter side of things, but remained a realist, nonetheless. Still, when they faced a problem or an opportunity, the two had learned the delicate balance of trusting one another’s perspective.
After he explained the problem, Michael asked, “What are we going to do? This is horrible. We’re going to lose a seven-figure account.”
“There’s nothing left to be done, Mike.”
Cooper heard himself say the words and prepared for the torrent he knew would follow. Michael didn’t disappoint; exasperation seeped, then washed, from his every pore; a flash flood coursing over rocks and fallen trees. Let it out, thought Cooper. Losing a major client was not a great way to begin the day for either of them. Listening to Michael bitch and moan wasn’t much fun either. For a moment, Cooper let himself wish he were back at home in his chair.
“Look, Mike, we’ve done everything we can. I know it’s a major relationship. It’s a huge loss—”
Michael wouldn’t let him finish.
“He’s going to tell everyone, Cooper. If we can’t handle a client like this just think what it says to the entire market. And don’t you dare quote Kipling to me. Not now. I can’t take it. Not right now.”
What Michael meant as a warning came as a welcome reminder to Cooper. Michael was a well-known carrier of frustration and angst and that sort of thing was communicable; an emotional flu. In times like this, Cooper often resorted to Kipling. If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…you’ll be a man my Son. There were so many Ifs in life.
If I get sick.
If I get fired.
If I’m alone.
If—it was one of Cooper’s favorite poems. Its words had been penned by a man living in a different time and place. A world so different, yet so much the same as Cooper’s. Men and women, it seemed, had faced the same things for generations. He was grateful he had come across Kipling’s work. The man’s words were both a comfort and encouragement.
Exasperated, Michael finished his diatribe and excused himself. He had another appointment. As Michael was leaving, Cooper spun in his chair grabbing the phone. He replaced the handset on the cradle realizing his breathing had grown a bit shallow. He took several deep breaths, releasing them slowly. There was plenty to worry about, all the ifs in life, most of them never materialized. On the rare occasions they did, well, Cooper couldn’t remember a time when the worrying had accomplished anything.
It wouldn’t now.