Mail-Order Millionaire

By: Carol Grace

Miranda took a deep breath. “How can I help you, Mr....”

“Carter. Maxwell Randolph Carter.”

She watched the orange lights on her phone console flash, imagining seven angry people hanging up, redialing and getting the recorded message all over again. “What can I do for you, Mr. Carter?”

“You can call me Max and then you can get my all-weather boots up here. Do you know how long I’ve been waiting for those boots?”

She grabbed a sack of already-processed customer forms and thumbed through them. “Uh, I don’t, but I can assure you...”

“That they’ll be here tomorrow, I know, that’s what they always say.”

“Have we talked before?” she asked, knowing fully well that if she had heard that voice before, she’d have remembered the slight drawl, which some might find irresistible, but which under the present circumstances, she found quite resistible.

“I may have talked to you, ma’am. I don’t know. I’ve lost count. I assume you work in the complaint department and that you handle complaints when you’re not too busy out walking through the winter wonderland, although I don’t know your name.”

“Miranda Morrison,” she said as politely as she could through clenched teeth. Her fingers flew through the stack of papers and her eyes lit on his order at last. “Here we have it,” she said reassuringly. “Aha. The boots have been sent. That was two weeks ago. You should have them by now.”

“I know they’ve been sent. But they haven’t been received. That’s the problem. What are you going to do about it?”

Miranda took a deep breath. “We’re going to make everything right. That’s our policy and our philosophy. Now let me have your address again, just so we get it right. Can you wait just a minute?” Knowing he’d probably say no, she put him on hold without waiting for an answer and went to the other lines, praying they were easier problems. But the first was a woman who wanted to know how to refill her plastic bird feeder.

Miranda flipped through the winter catalog and found it on page thirteen. She turned the picture upside down, but she still couldn’t figure out how to fill it. If only someone else would show up and take some of these calls! She put the woman on hold and went back to Maxwell Carter.

“Where were you?” he demanded.

“I had another call, something urgent,” she explained.

“More urgent than a man in three feet of new snow without boots?”

“It’s about a bird feeder.” She looked around nervously. The Northwoods hated it when the conversation deviated from the order at hand in any way. She suspected they listened in randomly on her and the others.

“What about the bird feeder?” he asked.

“She doesn’t know how to fill it. She’s trying to pry the suction cups off the glass.”

“Maybe I can help. Is it the one on page thirteen in your winter catalog?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Tell her to slide the tray out.”

“I was just going to do that, but I didn’t want to keep you waiting.”

There was a sound that was a cross between a snort and a chuckle. “I’ll wait,” he said.

In less than a minute she was back on the line with him. “Thank you. The woman was very grateful to you.”

“You told her about me?” he asked, faint surprise in the deep voice.

“There wasn’t much to tell, except that you’re bootless in three feet of snow. Now if I can have your address...”

“Is that you holding the bird feeder?” he asked abruptly.

Miranda tapped her knuckles against her desk, praying someone wasn’t listening to them in the back office. “No, that’s Mavis Lund. I’m on page eighteen, in the thermal underwear.” Belatedly she heard the pages turning on the other end of the line and she felt the color flood her face. What was wrong with her, blurting the page number and exposing her body to a total stranger? Yes, the underwear was double-ply, but it was one piece from head to toe and it did cling in certain places. Drat the Northwoods for being too penny-pinching to hire real models! There was a long silence and she thought she heard a quick, sharp intake of breath.

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