The Called Part 12

May 13th, 2011 by Wordsman

Slowly, the two competitors returned to “real life.”  Controllers clattered on the desk.  The TV winked out, and the brilliant blue and green of the ballpark were replaced by the dull brown and gray of a cubicle.  They were no longer ballplayers, nor were they spectators; they were summer law clerks, doing what summer law clerks do best: killing time before lunch.

They were well-prepared for the noonday meal, and had been for much of the morning.  Ties loosened?  Check.  Sport coats removed and ready to be slung over shoulders?  Check.  Boss consulted to make sure they wouldn’t miss anything?  Well . . . they had cell phones in case he really needed them.  It wasn’t like they were firefighters or some other profession that needed to leap into action at a moment’s notice.  All that remained was to decide on a destination.

“The Lime?”

“The Lime.  Hey Pete, we’re going to the Lime for lunch!  You wanna come?”

One cubicle over, Peter Hamlin was staring at another screen, a far less entertaining one.  “No thanks.  I’ve got to finish this.”

The first half of his response was not unexpected.  Peter did not dislike his coworkers, nor was he anti-social, nor was he opposed to a little drinking in the middle of the workday (not for a job like this, at any rate); he was opposed to the price.  Daily dining in downtown Crescenton, especially at places like the Lime of the Ancient Mariner, was beyond the financial capability of someone who had only a summer law clerk’s salary to support him.  Someone who, say, did not have parents who bought him a European sports car for his sixteenth birthday.  Someone who knew of trust funds only as distant, abstract concepts, in the same way that a Siberian may have heard of “summer.”  Not that he was bitter.

The second half of his answer, however, was positively startling.  His colleague regarded him with a face that was three parts shock to one part pity, well-stirred.  “You have work to do?” he asked, as if work were buried pirate treasure or the Loch Ness Monster.  Admittedly, buried pirate treasure is rarer than work for the 12th floor at Huston and Thomas (often referred to as the “Clerk Cage.”)  On the other hand, people actually go looking for buried treasure, so the two end up being found about equally frequently.

Peter had not had any delusions about standing in front of a jury and arguing a case as a mere summer clerk.  He had, however, been under the mistaken impression that he would spend his time doing research and other inglorious but necessary tasks.  The problem was that Huston and Thomas determined annual bonuses by how many hours its employees billed, so the regular associates were reluctant to pass on even the more menial assignments.  There were the bigwig partners, of course, for whom bonuses meant little, but they were never given the menial assignments in the first place.  Their primary duty seemed to be going out to lunch, work that was difficult to delegate.

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2 Responses

  1. Shirley Says:

    I don’t quite get it. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve found this really interesting. But there is the beginning of a good story and then you start off on something else. I admit that each can be viewed as a story in it’s own right and worth reading and I never skip them. But I develop an interest in a character, a fondness even. I especially liked the feckless Officer Escabar or whatever his name was. (Feckless being defined as without feck. I guess it’s my motherly instinct) and wonder what will happen to them. I just want to know if I’m right about what you are doing here. Am I getting it? A bunch if little vignettes? Whatever, I enjoy them.

  2. Dragon Says:

    I’m pretty sure it’s the beginning of something and the earlier parts will come back again later. I really didn’t get the impression any of them were supposed to be considered finished.

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