Searching for the one thing you can’t find.

I lost a small (A5) folder of notes the other day. Bigger deal than it sounds, since it was all the notes I’ve made for a book, 10,000 words or so. (Next in my werewolf series, Wolf Wars.) By lost, I don’t mean literally dropped in the river or left in a cafe on the other side of the country, nothing so drastic. I knew damn well it had to be still in the house. I hadn’t taken it out in the first place. I just couldn’t immediately lay hands on it, and there was no way in hell I could remember the exact spot I’d last had it.

It wasn’t a critical emergency by any means – couldn’t have been less of one. I hadn’t even particularly wanted those damn notes. Or not until they’d popped into my head, and I’d idly wondered where exactly I’d put them. Then I wanted them, for sure.

In fact I had to have them – right there, right then! No question! But my heart sank as I stood in the middle of the living room, and faced the prospect of turning the house upside down while looking for them. I’d already lost a couple of things pretty recently, and I’d been through the whole process of search and devastation in the past few days more than once. Noooooo! Not again!

But I really had to have those notes. So I marched into the hallway, all ready to get started all over again…

And the notes were lying on the top shelf of the bookcase in the hallway. The very first thing that I laid eyes on as I turned the corner, in fact. I hadn’t noticed them up until then in my day-to-day comings and goings, probably because I’d just got too used to catching glimpses of it as I went to and fro.

It was fantastic! Not to overstate, but you know how your heart just sinks when something important has been mislaid, at the thought of the mammoth task that it’s going to be to search it out in an orderly and methodical way? (Or to toss things hither and yon and just create more mess and disorder, until the house is in bits and you still haven’t found what you’re looking for?)

And then there’s the massive relief when you’ve found it, so you could just do a little dance of glee. But how often does that happen almost immediately? Not too often, but it’s pretty cool when it does.

My partner noticed how pleased I was – maybe it was the gleeful dancing that tipped him off. And he made what I still think was a revolutionary suggestion in response. “Why don’t we,” he said, “seeing as you’ve actually found it so quick, have a big search for it anyway?”

“Uh what?” I said to that, intelligently.

“To celebrate,” he explained. “You know, rummage around in cupboards, flip through books on the shelves, go through paperwork, debate getting a ladder up into the loft – all the usual things you do when something goes missing. But normally, it’s incredibly frustrating, because the macguffin is still missing. You still haven’t found it, it’s elusive, out of reach, you have to keep on searching. But this time, you can stop any time you want!”

“Because I’ve already found it!” I said. Little lightbulb over my head, all that.

Is that a genius idea, or what? All the devilish carelessness and abandon of a hectic desperate search for an obscure object of desire – but accompanied with the relief of already having found the missing treasure. Next time, I might just give it a try.