Tara Campbell: The Notepad

She needs to write a note before she forgets. She opens her desk drawer, brushing aside stray pens, paper clips, receipts. There’s the yellow post-it-note pad, large and rectangular. But the note she needs to write isn’t that long; she should save this pad for wordier missives. The hot pink square is about the right size. But no, this thought is more serious than that. Pink is too peppy, and she’s not kidding around.

She rummages through the drawer, slipping her finger into her mouth when she scrapes it on the Scotch tape dispenser. There’s that cube of notepaper she likes, the one that feels so solid and comforting in her hand – but it’s green. Too pastoral, too relaxed. This note she’s got in mind has to lead to hard work, not a walk through a leafy green park.

What about this circular blue notepad? It is a big “blue sky” kind of thought, after all, a sweeping, expansive vision. But a circle? No, she can’t write it on the blue circle pad, because that will lead to circular thinking which would be the death of this project.

Of course! She should write this note on that one pad she got from – whatever it was, some shipping company – the pad in the shape of an arrow, like zing, like direction, like getting shit done. That’s the right pad for this note!

It has to be in the next drawer over, where she keeps the client-related things. She pulls open that drawer, rummaging through business cards, more pens, more pads, looking for that decisive arrow. There it is – oh crap. That company went out of business. She can’t write this idea on that pad. In fact, she shouldn’t keep this pad at all.

She reaches under her desk, hand hovering over the wastepaper basket. It would be wasteful to throw out a perfectly good notepad. Maybe she’ll use it to write notes to people she doesn’t like. Opening the bottom drawer, she drops the arrow pad in among the stress balls and koozies and other useless corporate tchotchke she can’t bear to get rid of.

She toes the bottom drawer closed, dusting off her palms, job done. Oh, but the note. Her note! Returning to the first drawer, she plows through its contents. The star-shaped pad? Too childish. The white one? Too old – the sticky won’t stick anymore, and she can’t afford for this idea to flutter underfoot. And don’t get her started on the long, skinny bookmark-like ones – those couldn’t hold a fraction of her brilliant idea.

She pulls a cream-colored pad from the bottom of the drawer.

Ah, yes, this is just the thing: classic size, distinguished color – the paper is even a little textured, lending her idea just the right touch of gravitas. She places the notepad on her desk and, with a flourish, uncaps her silver fountain pen.

She leans over the pad.

And blinks.

What was it she wanted to write?

Photo by Anna Dewitt Carson

Tara Campbell is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, and fiction editor at Barrelhouse. She received her MFA from American University in 2019. Previous publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, Jellyfish Review, Booth, Strange Horizons, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. She’s the author of a novel, TreeVolution, and two collections, Circe’s Bicycle and Midnight at the Organporium. Her most recent book, Political AF: A Rage Collection, was released by Unlikely Books in August 2020.