Help me please.
This story is being sabotaged by a one-dimensional dude with a sunny attitude. His name is Flat Stanley. Maybe you've heard of him, or, had occasion to meet Stanley.
OK, here's part of the problem. Flat Stanley's here in the newsroom -- taped to a stapler so he can stand independently -- and he's reading this copy over my shoulder. Just now, he corrected me and said his name was Flat Stanley, not Stanley. I said, "We use AP style here. On second mention you only use the last name."
"Stanley isn't my last name," he said. "It's the second part of my first name."
"Fine," I said, in a voice that must have sounded flatter than his 9 1/2-inch long body. "What's your last name?"
"I don't have one," he said. "I'm famous. People know me or are glad to meet me, and a last name's not required."
"You have to have a last name," I growled in a tone indicating that with too much more argument he'd be flatter still, "even if you are famous."
"Ever told Cher that?" Flat Stanley asked.
"I've never met Cher, or interviewed her, or written a story about her."
"What are you doing now?"
He had a point, but for a fleeting moment I'm especially sorry this paper doll is flat. I'd love to crush the little guy.
The original Flat Stanley found life in the pages of a book written by Jeff Brown something close to 41 years ago. In the last several years, scores of Flat Stanley clones have used the benefits of being dimensionally challenged and the skills of a nosy reporter to travel the world and report back to the second-graders who send him places on what he has seen and learned and all the new things he's tried.
Patti Jordan, a second-grade teacher at Woodland Heights, called the newsroom two weeks ago to report that once again, her second graders were sending Flat Stanley to places near and far.
This year's crew of Flat Stanleys' travels include:
A trip to Egypt to visit the Sphinx and the Pyramids, and while there, enjoyed floating down the Nile River; Visiting a Clarksville, Tenn., elementary school; Meeting a new friend -- Flat Joe, a very interesting alligator; Touring New York City and the Statue of Liberty; Going to Brownwood Regional Medical Center to help bring home a new baby; A great visit to San Antonio, the Alamo and the River Walk; A visit to President Bush's home in Midland and an extended stay at the White House where First Lady Laura Bush reported Stanley had helped the President of the United States feed Barney and Miss Beazley, the presidential Scotty dogs; Riding on a Harley; A trip to Hawaii with the Rev. and Mrs. Aaron Blake; Working for a day in Dr. Gwen Allen's office.
One Flat Stanley helped a second-grader's mom mow the lawn, and another -- in what was considered a coup for his sender, Laiken Rainey -- got to see the sands or Iraq and ride a Humvee with Laiken's dad, SSG Jerry Rainey Jr.
"We're having a wonderful time," Jordan said of the class project.
Once again Flat Stanley is trying to correct my copy. "Mrs. Jordan," he said in a paper-thin voice. As I was saying …
Jordan suggested the children might benefit from Flat Stanley's experience in the newsroom.
"Sure," I said, thinking how awkward it was to have to use first person in an in-depth feature story.
Admittedly, there were a lot of wrinkles we had to iron out before Flat Stanley and I could get on the same page, so to speak. It didn't help that my desk happens to be the messiest in the newsroom. The first night I had Flat Stanley, I left him at the bottom of a huge stack of papers. He was depressed when I found him again -- one flat little dolly if you know what I mean.
And then, he thought, since he'd been the one to go all the places and do all the things, he should be the one to write the story.
"No," I said flatly.
"Why not?" He asked. "I think I could add a dimension and depth to the story."
"For one thing," I replied, "you're not supposed to use first person in the newspaper, unless it's a column, and you haven't been in the business near long enough to have your own column."
"You're doing it," he said.
Jeez Louise. This guy may not be very deep, but he sure knows how to deflate a person when he wants to.
"OK," I said, trying to be level with him. "What you're wearing doesn't comply with our dress code. You're not supposed to wear jeans."
"I'm not," Flat Stanley said, his beady black eyes unblinking, "I'm made from a single-ply sheet of white copy paper and my trousers are hand colored with a blue crayon."
Again, I had to admit, Flat Stanley had a point. But we seemed to have flat-lined on the story anyway, so, I wondered, what harm could it do to let him write the story himself. I set him up at a keyboard, at another reporter's desk and said, "Fine. Write the story."
Thirty minutes later I looked across the newsroom and noticed Flat Stanley was just the way I'd left him. Arms outstretched. He hadn't typed a word.
"You have to use the keyboard. You can't just sit there," I reminded him.
"This is how you do it," he replied. A thousand directions that conversation could have gone, and I had to steer it in that one. What are the odds?
Truth is nothing riles a reporter more than to have some lightweight been-there-done-that-so-I'll-tell-you-what-I-would-do rookie tag along when she's on assignment. I was growing weary with the task.
I decided to take charge and tell this flatter-than- a-pancake recyclable that I was taking back the plan. For the rest of the story it was going to be my way or the highway. He could like it or else.
I was the interviewer. He was the interviewee.
Picking up my reporter's notebook -- something Flat Stanley could only dream of doing -- I said politely but with assertion, "Flat Stanley, tell me the best part of being part of Mrs. Jordan's second-grade class's Flat Stanley project."
For a long time, Flat Stanley was quiet. When at last he spoke, I knew he was going to say something very important.
"There's one little boy in Mrs. Jordan's class whose daddy is in prison," he said at last. "And for a long time, that little boy hadn't heard from his daddy, or seen him, or talked to him.
"But, he put me in an envelope, with a letter, and he sent me to prison. Talk about scared -- that's what I was. I didn't know how that whole thing was going to turn out.
"You wouldn't believe. It was my best trip of all. That daddy nearly cried when he took me out of the envelope and that very night, he wrote a letter to his son.
"I have it right here, and I'd like to read some of it if you'll let me."
"'Hey Li'l Buddy,' the letter starts out. 'How are you doing? I'm great because I got your letter today, and, I met Flat Stanley! He's real cool!'
"The father took Flat Stanley to art class and explained in another paragraph, 'It touched me very deeply when you said you wish you could fold yourself up and visit me. I know it's not the same, but Stanley and I thought it would be neat for me to draw a picture of myself and send it to you, so I drew this picture of myself. I hope you like it.'"
For a long time Flat Stanley didn't say much, and I had a few tears in my eyes too. I was starting to have a very deep appreciation for this fine paper ambassador.
And, since by then most people had gone from the newsroom anyway and probably no one would hear, I said what I really felt.
"Flat Stanley," I said, "you really are a very special guy. There's a whole lot more to you than meets the eye. Actually, you're one of the most well-rounded guys I've ever met."