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Reesa Cohen Stone: The Kingdom of Very Important Work

by Reesa Cohen Stone, March 14, 2021

For  want of a nail the shoe was lost

For want of a shoe the horse was lost.

For want of a horse the rider was lost.

For want of a rider the message was lost.

For want of a message the battle was lost.

For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

-14 Century Nursery Rhyme
I work in a large university. There is a great deal of research done in a University. Research is Very Important Work. Universities do Very Important Work. The Department in which I work assists researchers to conduct Very Important Work. Even during times of lockdown, I come to work because there is Very Important Work to be done. 

I usually come in quite early to work, because of the Importance of the Work that must be done. Also, the earlier I come in, the earlier I can leave. But hey.

Because I work in a University doing Very Important Work, I have the latest in technological equipment. I have a brand new computer, installed in 2004, with the most up-to-date programs such as Office 1995, and a 1991 Norton Antivirus. When I have time, and there isn't too much Very Important Work to do, I can play PacMan.  


I also have a wireless mouse. Wireless mouses (mice?) are not attached to the computer by a wire. My mouse can run free and scamper all over my desk. It has a small battery in its stomach - in my mouse's case, one double A battery that fits nice and comfy. How progressive. 

Last week, I came in early, as usual. As usual, the first thing I did was put on my computer. While it was powering up, I went to make a cup of coffee, as I do every morning. Returning to my seat, I began my Very Important Work. But something was wrong. The mouse wasn't moving. No light was shining from its round underbelly. I shook it, and I could just make out a dim glow as if to say "I'm not quite dead yet!" But obviously, without a transplant, this mouse was not going to get better. 


I went to the office manager. "I need a battery for my mouse," I told her. I know she keeps a secret stash of batteries in a locked drawer in her office. 

"I don't have any", she answered. 

"Well, let's get some," I suggested. 

"Can't," she said. "The University Store where I buy batteries isn't open because of the Lockdown."

"But I can't do my Very Important Work if I don't have a mouse. And if I don't get a battery, I won't have a mouse."

"Sorry," she said. 

"I don't mind going to a different store off campus that is open to buy batteries, if you want," I offered. 

"No," she said. "That is not allowed. This is a University and we do Very Important Work, and we can only use University batteries. 

"Ok," I said, "I will find another battery".  

I began my search. I went into the conference room. Because of Corona, the conference room has not been used for months, except to hold illegal lunches. (But hey) I took down the clock from the wall and removed the double A battery from its backside. 

Do I know how to use the system or what!! I slipped the battery into my mouse. The mouse, coughed once, shone its light on me, coughed again, and shut down. The clock battery was a dud. 

My Very Important Work was waiting.  

I returned to the office manager. 

"Who's not here today?" 

"Why?" she looked at me suspiciously. 

 "I just like to know who's not here on any given day, so I know how many cookies I can eat, and how many I have to leave", I said.

"You've never asked me before," she said.

"I didn't like the cookies. Today, there are chocolate cookies." I didn't look her in the eye. We both knew there were no chocolate cookies. 

She looked at me warily, but gave me a short list of names. 

Martha's mouse was not wireless, and didn't have a battery.

Alice's mouse was locked in a drawer. Why was Alice's mouse locked in a drawer? Did Alice understand the situation?

Phil's mouse stood on his desk, unmoving. Opening its belly, I saw only a space where the battery would be. Phil's mouse, alas, had already been taken out of action. 

This left me with one more option. 

I approached Emma's desk with caution. There were eyes everywhere. I saw the mouse. My hand grasped it and, in one swift movement, opened it and removed the battery. 

Triumphantly, I returned to my desk and my Very Important Work. I held my mouse gently, turned it over, and carefully opened its little tummy. I hesitated. It was one thing to remove a clock battery; that was a different species. If I gave my mouse a different mouse battery, would that make my mouse a cannibal? In any case, Emma also had Very Important Work to do. 

I returned Emma's battery to her mouse. 

I faced a dilemma. 

The University does a great deal of Very Important Research. My department assists in that research. I assist my Department. Would the cure to cancer be lost for want of a battery? Would the way to peace in the Middle East not be found because of a small mouse? Would the Climate not be controlled because the lockdown closed the battery store? Would the eradication of World Poverty be yet another casualty of Coronavirus??  NO and NO!!!

The world would NOT end for want of a battery. 

Not on my watch (whose battery was too small for the mouse).

I marched back to the Office Manager. 

"What should I do? I kinda need this battery."

"Oh, for heaven's sake. Do I have to do everything around here?" The office manager picked up the phone. "Hi, Olivia! What's up? Listen, I have this person who's driving me crazy about a battery. Yeh, for a mouse. Do you happen to have any Double A batteries lying around? You do? Great! I'm sending the whiner over to you".  She hung up and looked at me. "Happy now?"


I went to visit Olivia. She was happy to see me. "Ya need anything else?" she asked me as she unlocked the padlock on a large cupboard in her office. Inside were rows and rows of batteries, Nickel-Cadmium batteries for cameras and emergency lights, lithium batteries for laser pointers and cellphones, regular old fashioned Alkaline batteries in all shapes and sizes: A, AA, C, and even the difficult to find D. 

Olivia, a friendly, small, curly-haired, unassuming young woman, with an understanding of the Very Important Work being done at the University, had cornered the market on batteries and was dealing. 

I was not surprise. Coronavirus has changed us all. 

I returned to me desk, relieved. 

Today, at least, the Kingdom would not be lost. 

This story was first published on


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