Louise threw her keys on the desk and scanned the empty office for a place to hang her coat. Everything was moved from its customary location. Little circles appeared in the carpet where furniture once compressed the yarns under missing desks and file cabinets. She settled for draping her coat over the lone office chair. Her eyes moved across the walls empty now of photos from almost 35 years of being in business. Louise missed all the comforts of familiarity almost as much as she missed her now unemployed co-workers. One item packed away with all the other things extraneous to operating a skeleton crew for the mill shutdown and final closure was Louise’s favorite typewriter.
Louise realized suddenly with a start just how difficult the final two months would be. She sat in the chair and dabbed at tears with a small white monogrammed handkerchief. She wondered if perhaps the typewriter already lay in some dingy warehouse gathering dust and waiting for the auction assessors to appraise it for bankruptcy. Louise used that old machine to process the duplicate trip tickets for impatient log-truck drivers and caffeine-jilted over-the-roaders who idled their diesels outside- offering bad jokes along with their logs and their semi-loads of wood pulp. There were no more trucks. No more loads of trees fresh from logging shows high in the mountains surrounding Missoula. Louise missed the smell of fresh cut wood and piles of snow on the bark of the logs and the pungent pine flakes of wood chips that swirled in the backwash of the big semi trailers as they jake-braked off the interstate.
So many were unnecessary now as the loading docks gaped empty and silent. She thought about the dazed and stunned truckers just laid off and their favorite trucks parked permanently, their keys hanging on the lot board with all the driver’s rabbit feet and personal key rings removed. Every key was numbered now- waiting for the auction. Louise cleared her throat, blew her nose and picked up the phone on the third ring.