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He opened his pad with his frail hands. They scratched across the surface of the page. The morning light blessed the small droplets of ink on the account sheet but the gruelling eye wasn't concerned. His hand slipped back into the shade, before slowly, with the very fingertips, glossed into the light. It hadn't been the same for Joseph since the church fire. The burns were reminds of the danger of religion. The ironic reality of novels, coming alive in a swarm of fire. He leaned back in his black-felt office chair; his eyes glaring off at the glass door, and not really looking past it. A ceramic mug on his dark-bark wooden table sat half empty, and the minute hand on the clock above the doorway pushed forward - never behind, his mind, doing the opposite. In those hours prior, slaving over accounting paperwork, his mind had been shifted softly back through time. He saw the lamp that flicked on and off beside his childhood bed, he saw the blades of grass swept up from a freshly mowed lawn and placed in a bin, he saw the headlights of his fathers car illuminate his room at earl hours of the morning.


"So I've finished the balance sheet, and something isn't right," he spoked, leaning forward with a pen poised on the tips, as he focused his concern on the assets side of the sheet. The man across from him, hiding behind a vail, and speaking softly in fragmented language. "I don't see," the man spoke. "Here," Joseph tapped the page, "These numbers have been made up. Who did the last accounting from your last term?" he asked, raising a brow. "No, no," the man lifting his hands, before crossing his leg over and caressing his chin, staring off past him with a glaze over his eyes, "It was.. man, from Staten. He asked, but we didn't," he spoke in broken form. "Didn't.. didn't what, exactly?" Joseph replied, leaning back. "No, no - nevermind, it is fine." Joseph wasn't sure what this man wanted, and felt the need to clarify what was happening, but no words came out. There was a moment of silence.. white noise, "So you say a man in Staten did your accounting but he didn't tell you that he had made up the numbers," and mid-way through the sentence, the foreign man nodded, his eyes widening, as if the barrier had been broken, "Yes, yes." Joseph looked down at his lap, feeling the night crawl up on him but shook it off. "If you don't mind, would you be able to give me the details of their business?" Joe asked, but the man didn't understand, and soon left, fortunately with his wallet. He found the card for the accountant from Staten, photocopied it, and slipped it back in the wallet. The foreign man received it back it the following morning.


"Yeah, it's my day off - well, it is suppose to be, but I have to run in with a client," Joseph spoke into his cupped hands; condensation flowing around his fingertips, as he stood dressed in a black buttoned up coat - a bus stop behind him; a tall, curvy women beside him with a hand full of groceries. He caught the ferry across the bay, towards Staten. The address on the card wasn't in the commercial district of the borough. It was situated within the urban density. He arrived at the house; Staten Island was always a dump in his opinion. The people spoke with lisps, and feral animals ran rampant. When he arrived at the house, it was empty. The door, unlocked. He didn't bother searching, and so he left. No neighbours snooped on his back when leaving. It was four past three by the time he caught a bus back to the terminal. He watched as the small wash crashed against oyster covered pillars, and as men passed him with cigar smoke hazing. He looked out upon the terminal, and squinted his eyes from the rays of light reflecting from the edge of the World Trade. A small women sat beside him in the terminal. He didn't take notice at first, but on closer inspection, she was covered in scars; similar to him, but he was covered. Her ribs were visible with her sparse clothing, and she sat scratching and picking at her skin. "Where are you heading?" he asked, expecting a brush off response, "Uh - I don't know. I'm not from here - I've came from Georgia," she opened up a little, "I'm sorry. I don't want to bore you," the small women continued. "Please, go on". She opened up more, like ink droplets falling upon a blank canvas, painting some type of portrait, "I left home in June, four years ago.. so 1987 - I've run out," the women said. "Run out?" he asked, "Of heroin". She opened up to him on the ride back across the bay a little more, and he felt it was his duty to employ her. "You can't be serious - are you serious?" she was astounded, "Don't mention it, Jewels".


The clock ticked forward, and he felt a soft smile grow upon his frail face. Sunlight had entered the room, but still, pale stars were visible from his office. The books were completed, and balanced. He sent a fax to the foreign man, but never heard back. Joseph turned his focus to his ceramic mug, half full.

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Beautiful little piece. The subtext is clear and thematically consistent, but you don't beat us over the head with it.



Good stuff as usual, Coat.

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