The clock ticked on the wall. Other rooms had converted to the digital system, but this room wasn’t important enough for an upgrade. It only had four accountants in it, doing the work of two accountants. And they only double checked figures that had already been approved. It was a dreary room with a ticking clock.
The clock ticked ten minutes to five. If studied close enough, the big hand made a half second move to the past, and then leaped to the future at twice the tick speed. Moving twice the tick speed always made Alfred a little nauseous, so he preferred not to watch the clock.
Alfred had the most seniority of the four accountants. In fact, when the clock actually makes it to five o’clock, Alfred will retire with thirty years in the company. Thirty years of being on time, and ending exactly on time. Alfred had proof, he had thirty years of time clock stamps that would prove him correct. But now, after thirty years, he wondered if he had done the right thing.
Other employees had missed a few mornings here and there, so they had stayed later to make things up. They even stayed later to go over their required time. Many employees donated time to the company as project timelines came closer.
Alfred didn’t approve of that. It offended his accountant soul.
Alfred never gave more than what he was paid for. To his credit, he never gave less. Still there was a nagging saying that Alfred had heard many times at the company. “Be sure to give your pound of flesh and you will be alright!” Alfred argued in his head that his hours were compensated by his payroll check, and that was enough.
Nine minutes to five, and Alfred got a phone call from Human Resources. They had all of the paperwork done, and would settle up accounts. The human resource person laughed a little. Settling up accounts with an accountant! She asked one curious question before hanging up. “Are you right handed, or left handed?”
Alfred responded “Left handed.” and he stared at the phone receiver for a few seconds. Alfred wondered about the type of parting gift would require knowing this. A baseball glove? He never played on the company team! Gold plated scissors? He did do scrap booking as a hobby, but no one new this.
It was now five minutes to five and Alfred thought he heard the elevator coming up from the third floor. His pencils were all sharpened for the next occupant at his desk. He had stocked paper, staples, and sticky notes. He was a little shy in the proper amount of paper clips, but that was okay, he didn’t approve of paper clips. They bent the paper, and they didn’t always keep the papers fastened.
The elevator doors opened and three Human Resources staff exited, and began to make their way down the hall. Alfred could see them quite clearly as his desk had a view of the hall. He had seniority.
The young woman on the right side had the briefcase that held all the papers that he would be required to sign. The man in the middle had a wrapped present that looked suspiciously like a clock. Alfred hoped it didn’t tick. The man on the left carried a leather hinged case that might have a thirty year medal hanging on a ribbon. Alfred began to be upbeat.
“So Alfred, today is the day! We have your papers to sign and your account to be cleared! Congratulations on your thirty!”, the middle manager smiled with his professionally whitened teeth. The young lady presented the papers complete with yellow marked prompts for his signatures.
“Great, thank you! And now could you extend your right hand? I believe you said you were left handed so we wouldn’t want to get it wrong!” He laughed a little at his little joke.
Alfred hadn’t heard about a retirement bracelet, but he hadn’t retired before so everything was new. He pulled back his shirt sleeve and extended his hand. The man in the left opened his leather case and pulled out a large meat cleaver.
“You know, not many people manage to do thirty years without giving up a little skin here and there. And not many know that a human hand is very close to a pound of flesh. But then I thought, an accountant would have worked that all out.”
Just then the clock made its move backward to the past, followed by twice the tick speed to the future, and a swishing sound. Alfred felt a little nauseous.