Murphy poured his coffee, carrying it to the cluttered desk in his work nook. Leaning down, he mashed the button to power-up the desktop computer and heard his wife Helen begin shuffling around in the kitchen.
"Hey honey, did Pete call and leave my writing assignment for this Thursday?"
She answered swiftly.
"Good Morning Hon, its right there taped to your monitor."
Adjusting the cushion on his swivel-chair, Murphy glanced up to see the one word topic for this week's installment of the newspaper's column.
"Staff? Honey, what else did he say?"
"He only said to write about, staff."
"But what kind of staff? Do you know how many different meanings there are for that word?"
Helen walked into the room warming her hands around a mug of coffee.
"Well, you've been covering the President's inaugural speech, don't you think he means his staff?"
"Yeah, but what about his staff, and who in particular? There's a lot going on right now. Does he want their public response to the speech? My take on it?"
"Why don't you call him back and ask him to clarify what he expects?"
"Oh no, last time I did that, all I got was a lecture on wasting time."
Helen came alongside her husband who now sat staring at his computer's homepage, holding the one word memo in his hand. She gave his shoulders a one armed, reassuring squeeze.
"He always raves about how you have a good sense for what to write. Just do your best Hon."
Murphy chuckled and replied, "What I should do, is write something that really blows his mind, like a piece on all the different things the word staff can refer to."
A blank Word document popped up on the screen, beckoning to be filled.
"How about an article on the recent outbreaks of the infection: staphylococcus?"
Helen playfully slapped his back, laughing and added another.
"A staff can also refer to a scepter held by a Monarch."
Charlie continued with, "Yep, or what about the railroad signal called a staff? It's what authorizes a train conductor to proceed down a particular section of track."
"Wait Murph--remember that circus performer that spun a stick with flames at both ends? He called that thing a staff."
"I remember--and staff is also a medieval weapon: the quarterstaff. And the Japanese Martial-art stick called a Bo is another type of staff. The Chinese have one that is thick at one end, then tapers down, and is cut to the same height as the user."
"I didn't know that."
"Oh yes, and there is also a staff that is used for measuring elevation. It's a wooden or aluminum telescopic rod."
The couple always had a way of brightening each other's day, and the light-hearted banter continued. This time it was Helen.
"We sound like a couple of word-geeks. There is a staff that's used in rhabdomancy."
"Rhabdomancy, better known as the art of divining--you know, finding water and stuff."
Murphy threw his head back laughing. "That's a good one! Boss man, Pete would have cow over that."
A sleepy eyed Susan, their 16 year old daughter, walked in from the hallway, combing her long hair with her fingers.
"What's so funny in here?"
"Good Morning Sunshine, Your Dad and me were just talking about all the things the word staff can mean."
"Oh, like the staff in music that the notes are placed on to form songs?"
Helen and Murphy glanced at each other with that well known look of continual surprises from their fast maturing child.
Dad stated, "We hadn't thought of that one!" Then he took on a look of realization.
"We've missed the most obvious type of staff. The one referred to in the 23rd Psalm--the crook in our Great Shepherd's rod."
Helen and Susan stood at either side of the family's bread winner. His last comment brought an important reminder. Murphy reached for the well worn bible sitting atop a stack of papers.
"Why don't we read that together and pray before starting our day?"
An hour later Murphy was busy with his fingers flying over the keys, trying to keep up with the quickly forming story in his mind. Susan was putting final touches on some school homework in her bedroom. Helen answered the telephone's ring on the kitchen extension. The sing-song tone of her voice elicited laughter from three different rooms in the house.
"Susie--telephone! It's Tommy Staff."
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