top of page

The Job - Short Story

Charles Charles looks down at the small nameplate which reads ‘Cat Accountant II - Charles Charles.’ To some this would indicate that Charles Charles is an Accountant for Cats, to others it would indicate that he is a Cat performing Accounting services. Both are correct. Charles fumbles with the toblerone shaped designation with his Cat thumbs on his Cat paws.

“Charles?” A stern voice asks.

Charles looks up from the nameplate into the intense blue eyes sitting across from him. Her arms are resting on the hardwood desk at the centre of the room, her paws facing upwards at off angles as if shrugging. In between her arms is a similar nameplate reading ‘Cat Manager - Rita Rock’

“You’re speechless, of course. I remember my first promotion, I couldn’t wait to tell my Mom, and my Dad, random Cats on the street…”

She points a finger at his chest.

“You need to believe in yourself, Charles. If you keep your impact high and continue exceeding your CPI’s (Cat Performance Indicators), you’ll be on the fast track to Cat Accountant III. And after that…”

“Intermediate Cat Accountant I” Charles tried hard to keep the awe out of his voice.

“Exactly. Now don’t go buying a sports car right away, your clients are still going to be small business owners, some independently wealthy Cats. But you do get a salary bump and some new perks, an extra $100 to spend on learning and development, borrowing access for the company car with 2 days notice, and this…”

She reached under the desk and pulled out a grey piece of clothing folded up nicely in a square.

“The specialist level golf shirt.”

“My goodness…” He said.

Charles reached out and touched the fabric. It was a noticeably softer grey than the contributor level golf shirts. He lifted the shirt by the shoulders to get a better look. There was no company logo on the front.

“Where’s the logo?” He asked.

She smirked at him.

“It’s monogrammed, here.” She pointed to a small circle with a stylized company logo on it.

“Flip it over.” She said.

He turned to look at the back of the shirt, in large legible letters it read ‘Cat Accounting, Simplified.’ The company logo.

“Holy shit.” He clapped a hand to his mouth, his eyes went wide with shock.

Rita laughed loudly.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard you swear, Charles. You’re becoming more like me by the day. Now get out of here, take an extra fiver to call your family if you like. You’ve earned it!”

“Yes, of course. Thank you boss!”

Charles Charles stood up and shook Rita’s hand, clutching the shirt in his other hand. He exited her office and made his way to the Bathroom where he promptly changed into his new shirt. He returned to his cubicle, one section of a four-leaf clover, and plopped down his nameplate on the desk. He breathed in long and exhaled slowly, absorbing the feeling of hard work paying off. He felt a breeze brush past his whiskers and turned sharply to his right.

“Oh, hey Nina. Did you hear?” He grabbed his newly acquired plaque and held it up for her to read. The tall black Cat cocked her head and looked at the object, but her eyes didn’t appear to be reading it.

“Cat Accountant I. I got the promotion!”

Nina’s eyes darted towards Charles when he started speaking, her face remained unreadable. Charles knew to expect this. Most Cats found Nina to be a bit obtuse but Charles found her quiet confidence admirable. She knew what she wanted to give her attention to and refused to compromise for the sake of politeness. It was at that moment that a door slammed at the front entrance to the office. The noise caused the entire office to turn their heads, all except Nina who had bolted away before Charles had time to think. At the front of the office was a young Cat clutching a sequin purse and wearing a long dress with flowers on it. Charles watched as she walked over to the receptionist and then made her way to the waiting room. Was she a new client?

“Charles!” Rita called from across the room. She had met the young Cat and was escorting her towards Charles’ cubicle.

“This nice Cat is in need of Cat Accounting services. Miss Love, Charles here is one of our best Cat Accountants, you are in good paws.” Rita winked at Charles before walking away to her office.

“Hello Miss Love, what can I help you with today?”

“Please, call me Libby.” She had an accent that he couldn’t place. On second thought, he didn’t actually know many accents. Still he couldn’t help but wonder where she was from.

“Pleasure to meet you Libby, my name is Charles.”

“The pleasure is all mine, Charles.” She said in a voice that made his neck feel warm. He coughed into his paw.

“Well, Libby.” His voice squeaked so he coughed again. “My speciality is small businesses and individuals, which one are you? I mean… I know you’re not a small business, I meant…”

She put a paw over her mouth and laughed, then put her other paw on his forearm. His face went red hot. This was totally inappropriate, completely unprofessional, utterly unimaginable for a Cat Accountant.

“Charles, I am an individual who needs to avoid some exaggerated tax debts.”

Charles felt a strong urge to get close to this Cat, to find out where she was born, where she wanted to retire, and everything else in between. But, Charles was a Cat Accountant II which meant that he felt an ever present and much stronger urge to provide the best Cat Accounting services possible to his client.

“I’m sorry, Miss Love. As much as I would love to help you personally, the tax deadline is overdue by 3 weeks and we don’t have any ability to negotiate with the CIRS.” He was surprised at the level of calmness he was able to keep in his voice as he gave her the bad news.

“Damn it.” She said, her accent had changed slightly “You’re the third place I’ve gone to.” Her accent was completely gone, or more accurately it had transitioned into one of the only ones that Charles recognized

“Are you from Catnnecticut?” He asked.

“How did you know?”

“Your accent. So you don’t need help?”

“Not unless Accountants can turn back time. Or find me a safe place away from the CIRS.”

He frowned.

“It’s probably not that bad, there are payment plans that you can set up…”

“Sorry, Charles. I don’t think you’ll be able to help me.”

"I'm sorry, Ms. Love. I hope you have a great rest of your night."

Her face softened slightly. "I plan on it. I'm seeing a show tonight, a local Jazz musician named..." Charles shot up in his chair

"Prints!? You're seeing Prints?" He asked without composure

"Yes. Are you a fan?

"Only the biggest. I own all his records but I've never been able to see him live." She cocked an eyebrow

"I have an extra ticket, maybe we could come to an arrangement?"

Charles pursed his lips and racked his brain but there was nothing he could do to help her. She seemed to read this on his face

"I..." He started

"It's okay, I understand." She shifted her purse onto her shoulder and stood up. She reached into her purse and pulled out a small piece of paper, a ticket to the concert.

"Here." She said handing him the ticket "Maybe I'll see you there."

He stared at the ticket in his paws "Thank you Ms. Love, I hope I do." He said before straightening out his posture "In a strictly professional sense, I mean." He said

"I hope so too." She turned and walked out of the office. The door slowly closed behind her and finally shut as Rita came streaming out of her office.

"Charles, is that client gone? I need you working late on the Henderson Account. I’ve got coffee and pizza on the way, its going to be a late night!”

“Tonight? I can’t tonight, can’t it wait until tomorrow?”

“What’s wrong with tonight?”

“I got tickets to see Prints…”

Rita laughed loudly, holding a hand to her stomach. "You almost had me there, Charles. Now come on you start with this stack of boxes and I'll start with these."

Rita was doing her best impression of a corpse, leaning back in her chair with her mouth wide and snoring loudly. Charles knocked on the door and she shot up.

“Where’s the kitten! Oh, Charles. I was having the strangest dream, what time is it?”

“9:15, I’m heading home.”

“Good idea, I’m right behind you.”

“Goodnight, boss.”

“See you tomorrow, Cat Accountant II.”

He smiled then walked out the door and out onto the street. The bright sun blinded him as his pupils narrowed, the warm sunbeams causing him to release a pent up yawn. He put on some sunshades and made his way down the street. His mind was swimming with numbers and names and dates as he breathed in the floral spring scents. He had heard that some people were able to shut off after work, not him. That was part of the reason why he was so good at his job, he had twice the amount of time to work out every problem. It was a huge advantage. But today his thoughts were more scattered than usual as he couldn’t help but wonder about Libby Love. It’s not in my nature. She could probably shut off after work. It would be hard to focus on a concert when your mind was busy with numbers and names and dates.

He looked down at his watch, lifting the sunglasses to break the glare, 9:22. The concert might still be on, he could try to make the end.

He crossed the street and reached the entrance to a park trail. Immediately the shade of the trees cooled down his skin and he felt energized. He pulled out the ticket from his back pocket. 111 Main St. That’s not far from here. He continued along the park path to a fork in the road. Go home and be responsible, or go to a Cat Jazz concert. A younger Charles would laugh that he even bothered to stop and think. But Charles had a promotion to celebrate, after all why work so hard if you can’t enjoy your wins. Charles chose the right path, away from home and towards the Cat Jazz Parlour.

The Cat-fe entrance was a door like any other except the handle was in the shape of a harp. Charles fingers brushed the solid metal strings as he pulled open the door and faced a downward stairway. The steps creaked underneath his feet with each step and the air cooled as he descended. At the bottom was another door, covered with overlapping posters for different performers. There was a small red sign with a tear on the corner that simply said ‘Knock,’ so he did. Almost immediately the door swung open and he was confronted with a wave of music and the face of a muscled Cat with a straight face.



“Take off your glasses.”

“Oh, right.” Charles removed his sunshades and pulled out the ticket, handing it to the Cat bouncer. He looked at the ticket briefly then nodded. Charles walked past into the dark hallway. There was a steady bass drum kicking and a low note reverberating like a heartbeat. Charles rounded a corner and the music picked up its pitch, he could see a crowd of people swaying in front of a stage with five performers. One of the performers walked forward onto the centre stage and Charles heard the familiar sound of a saxophone, but instead of the slow, quiet, whistling of the office Muzak, this was a cacophony. It sounded like a Cat dancing on a giant piano, hitting notes without any thought. He went to the bar and got a drink, then another. He found his way closer to the crowd and sat at a small table. The saxophone softened. The snares and hats stopped, leaving only the kick drum. A steady bass groove played. Suddenly a Cat sat down across the table from Charles, Libby Love. She opened her mouth and trumpets blared out a tune that sent Charles out of his seat in surprise.

“Hey!” His voice squeaked higher than the continuing trumpet melody. “Hey.” He said much cooler this time.

“You made it!” She called out over the noise.

“It was on my way.” He lied

Just then a tall lanky cat stumbled over to the table and placed a drink heavily down.

“Let’s go Libby, Prints isn’t even playing.” He said.

“He’ll be on in 10, Alex.”

“Hello.” Charles said to Alex. The tall Cat appeared to notice him for the first time.

“Hello.” He said, turning back to Libby. “Come on.” He gestured with his head and an arm which Charles noticed was carrying a skateboard with peeling wood and rusty wheels.

“Are you two good friends?” Charles asked.

Libby was looking at Charles directly.

“Since we were kids, we took skateboarding lessons together.” Libby said.

“My parents would never let me do an extreme sport.” Charles said. Libby and Alex looked at eachother then began to laugh. Charles pretended that was a joke.

“Seriously Libby, let’s go. They shut down the park in an hour and Jo and Mo are waiting.”

“That rubbish old kids park? The ramps are wood.” She said.

“Is wood bad?” Charles asked

“We prefer concrete.” Alex said.

“Excuse me Alex.” The tall Cat eyed him. Charles continued “If you’re looking for a concrete bowl I might have just the place.”

“How does an Accountant know of a secret skatepark?” She asked.

“For one, I am a Cat Accountant II…” He held up two fingers “Don’t forget. Second, as a Cat Accountant II I am made aware of individuals from companies that have vacant buildings. One individual in particular who I filed a Form 1040 for.” He said.

They stared blankly.

“A form 1040 is used to deduct installation costs that exceed the property's heightened value as the result of installing amenities, say a pool.” He explained slowly. More blank stares.

“There’s an empty pool built in a vacant building near here.” He said.

“That’s perfect!” Libby said. “Yeah, awesome! Give us the address we’ll check it out.” Alex added. Charles hesitated.

“We just met and I could lose my job for sharing it. I guess I could go with you?”

“Yeah!” Libby said, leaving Alex with his mouth open. “Show us the way.” She grabbed his arm and walked away from the table. As they ascended the steps Charles heard applause from the club, Prints had just taken the stage.

Charles’ walked up to the Ford building with his hand over his chest, subconsciously trying to keep his racing heart from escaping. He looked around with his eyes, unsatisfied he looked around again swiveling his entire head.

“Shh.” He said.

“No one said anything.”

“Shh!” Charles grabbed the cool metal handle and tugged. The door swung open, revealing a massive front lobby, empty except for a desk and a metal stool. Charles held the door open, waving the rest of the group through while keeping an eye outside. Libby walked through last and gasped sharply.

“What? What is it?” Charles asked.

“Just messing with you.”

“Wow, okay. I didn’t love that.”

“Sorry, I thought you would laugh.”

“No, it’s okay. I’m probably being paranoid. There’s no way that anyone would be here unless…” He pointed in the direction behind Libby

“Oh crap!” He shouted. She whipped her head around to see what was there. Nothing. Charles laughed loudly.

“Thanks for that” She said.

“I think it’s this way, guys.” Alex, said.

Charles looked at Libby and held his hand out in front of himself.

“After you.” He said.

Charles followed Libby and her friends down through the corridors of the abandoned building. It looked nothing like his office, the ceiling was high and the walls gave him room enough to spread out his arms. There were offices on either side of the hallway with doors and desks and even a window outside. No wonder the building was shut down, who could work in a paradise like this?

“Wooah!” two of Libby’s friends said in unison. Charles snapped back to reality, looking to see what caused the outburst. They had rounded a corner and ahead of them was a massive drained pool.

‘This is perfect! CC, you are no liar.” Alex said

The Cats dove headfirst into the bowl, riding their boards like they were attached to their bodies.

“She’s right, you outdid yourself.” Libby said, sitting on the edge of the bowl. Charles shrugged and sat next to her.

“I enjoy helping people.”

"I can tell." She said rolling her eyes

"What?" He asked

"I like you Charles." her tone was flat.

"Thank you?"

She shot him a look. "I like you, so I'm going to give you some advice. It's okay to help yourself sometimes."

Charles was taken aback.“I do! Of course I do. Who doesn’t?” She smiled at him.

“Give me one example”

“Today, I went to a Jazz show.” He said which she found hilarious.

"3 hours late. And you missed Prints."

"I had a good reason"

"Taking a girl to a skatepark is not a good reason to miss your favourite musician." She said. He felt a warmth in his gut at her concern.

"Depends on the girl." He said. On second thought, maybe that warmth was from the drinks. He quickly straightened his posture. "I'm sorry... that was inappropriate."

He turned to see her face plastered with a grin. It didn't last very long as she pressed her face forward quickly and kissed him.

“Charles. Charles.”

“Huh? Oh. Yes, boss?”

“Where is the Henderson account?”

“Oh, crap. I’m so sorry I forgot about it. Let me finish right now I can have it finished in an hour. Boss, I’m so sorry…” She held up a hand and he stopped talking.

“I’ll take care of it.” She said, then walked off to her office.

“That’s gonna bite me in the tail.” Charles said under his breath.

“What do you care?” Nina asked from behind the cubicle wall.

“I’m trying to get promoted.” He said.

Nina let out a sharp laugh. “Why don’t you worry about keeping your job first.” She said.

“Rita knows I’m a good worker.”

“Yeah, good workers show up an hour late because they were up late pool hopping.”

“That was only twice.” He said.

“Look, I’m not judging. I’m happy you finally realized there’s more to life than working. I just think Rita would appreciate if you gave her a heads up when you’re taking a half day.”

Charles eye’s shot to the clock. 11:59

“Damn, I took a half day today, I have to go.”

“I’ll let you know if Rita sees your empty desk and decides to promote you!” She said. Charles gathered his things and jogged out of the office.

“I want to show you something.” She said. They were holding hands, she tugged on them and walked towards the door of her building. Charles stuffed the thoughts of the Henderson account down.

“Let’s see it, then.” He said. She opened the door and turned on the lights. Her apartment was spacious, made to feel more so due to the lack of furniture. She only had one chair and a rickety table in the living room.

“Through here.” She said and he followed through a dark doorway into the garage. She flicked the lights on

“Ta-da!” She said with her arms spread out wide. Behind them was a rusting yellow hippie van. Charles stifled a laugh. “It’s beautiful.” He said but his voice lacked confidence. Her face drooped.

“You hate it.”

“No! No… Just, what is it?” He asked.

“My new home!” She beamed. He spent a long time gazing across the van

“I hope you have your tetanus shot.” He said. She punched him in the arm with an exaggerated wind up and he hopped away, feigning an injury.

“Okay! Don’t hurt me! I love your new rust wagon.” She winded up again.

“Joking! That was the last one, I promise.” He pulled her into a close embrace.

“No, seriously. It’s perfect, I love it for you.” He said.

“Well… I was hoping you would say you love it for us.” She looked up at him, her eyes could be saying a million different things but Charles could not read them.

“Us?” He managed to say. She pulled away from him and leaned back on the van, aloof.

“Nevermind.” She said. He walked forward and grabbed her hands again. She looked up into his eyes and he was able to read them well, disappointment.

“Come on, at least tell me the plan.” He said. She shrugged and opened her mouth but didn’t speak immediately.

“There is no plan. We would figure it out. You and me can figure out anything, isn’t that what you always say?”

“Yeah, but….” He started. She hated when he said ‘but.’

“I just think we should consider how our lives would look, realistically.” She was unmoved.

“Things are easy to figure out when you have money, how long do you think we can last on savings?” He asked.

“We’ll get jobs if we have to.”

“Starting from scratch? So, my entire career so far has been for nothing?”

“This is the only city with Accountants? Besides, You were the one who said you wanted to see the world.”

“I do! But in hotels and airplanes, for 4 weeks a year.” She coughed out a laugh.

“Sounds depressing.”

“Well living in a rusty old van sounds depressing to me.” She crossed her arms and looked away

“Look, I’m sorry that I like my job.” She scoffed but said nothing.

“What, it’s true! Maybe I’m not so eager to leave because I don’t hate my life as much as you.” She gulped but said nothing.

“I’ll just go.”

Rita Rock leaned on the receptionist’s desk, pointing to something on her mobile phone. With her free hand rising and falling like waves and making airplane noises. She turned suddenly.

“Charles? What are you doing here, you have the afternoon off?” Rita asked as Charles made his way into the office and sat down at his cubicle.

“Yeah, well. I didn’t have anything better to do.”

A big smile came across Rita Rock’s face.

“I knew you’d be back! You had me worried for a minute but I knew you still had the fire in you.” She pointed to her heart as she spoke. He sat down at his desk and placed his bag on the floor, then noticed a small nameplate shoved into the corner of his cubicle. He lifted it up and placed it front and centre on his desk. He turned to Rita.

“I’m sorry for being vacant these past few weeks. How can I make it right.” She smiled and held up a finger, walking into her office. When she returned she slapped down a booklet on his desk that read ‘Henderson.’

“Deadline is midday, I can’t think of a better job for Charles Charles, Cat Accountant II.”

Charles stared at the bold lettering at the top of the page. The sun shone through closed blinds and left a warm sensation on his skin. His head nodded and his eyes shrunk. A thud on the desk made him shoot up.

“Here.” Rita slid over a steaming cup of milk with leaves floating in it.

“Thanks.” He said, taking a sip and almost burning his tongue. The liquid was sweet but with grassy flavour.

“Is this Nip? I can’t work on Nip.”

“Charles, it’s midday were done working. Finish your drink then head home.”

“There’s only a couple of pages left…” He looked up at Rita, her face held a frown. She had a cup of her own which she sipped then sat down in an adjacent chair.

“Why do you work so hard?” She asked. He hesitated for a moment.

“I want to secure a better future.”

“For yourself?”

“Yes, and…” He trailed off, seeing that she was smiling.

“I used to be like you Charles, aimless. I figured if I didn’t have direction I could at least build up my resume. I would spend a few years working hard and earning titles and certainly at that point I would know what to do with them. By the time I realized what I wanted I had missed my opportunity to take it.” She was staring at a spot on the floor as she spoke.

“You can’t have both, you have to decide which future you want. You have to ask yourself the question: Am I happy living beneath my potential?” She looked at him and he felt that he was seeing her authentically for the first time. The office was quiet enough to hear the buzzing of the fridge in the other room.

“I think I am.” He said finally. To his surprise she smiled and reached over to grab the mug from his hands.

“Get out of here.” She said. And he did.

The street had a new look in the brightness of midday. No Cats lined the streets, Charles felt the weight of the city expecting him and him alone to decide the future of the day. He walked slowly, taking his time to consider what Rita had said and enjoying the warmth of the sun on his skin. He made his way to Libby’s apartment and prepared a speech. Actually, speech was generous; what he had was bullet points. Was it annoying to start with ‘I’m sorry?’ He was staring at her front door as he procrastinated knocking. He reflected on the first night he spent with her friends, he recognized a similar feeling in his gut. Trusting his instincts he walked up the stairs and knocked on the door. He waited a minute before knocking again, then trying the doorbell. There was no answer when he called her name. He walked around the back to the garage, he hadn’t been here since their fight. He knocked on the garage door. When his knuckles struck the wood the door swung open.

“Libby?” He called into the dark. As his pupils adjusted he could see he was wasting his time. The van was gone and so was Libby.

“She’s not here, stop asking me.” The bouncer said to Charles. He didn’t realize he had asked this Cat already.

“Thanks anyway.”

“Cat, if you’re going to spend all this time in the lobby you might as well buy a ticket.”

“Oh, right sorry.” Charles fumbled with his wallet and handed cash over to the bouncer.

“Who’s playing tonight?” He asked.

“Find out for yourself.” The bouncer responded, taking the cash then stepping aside for Charles to walk into the club. Immediately Charles was hit with a wave of nostalgia, the cool air and damp scent throwing him back to his first visit in the Jazz club with Libby. Without realizing he walked towards the table he had sat at last time. The opening act was finishing their set with some soft drumming and a single flute. Eventually the flute hit a crescendo then stepped back to leave the audience with only the beating drum. Charles felt his heart beating in time and a sense of peace filled his gut. Then the drumming stopped and the band took a bow. The crowd rose and clapped except for one person who sunk into the seat opposite Charles.

“Nina?” He asked.

“Hey Charles, I didn’t know you liked Prints”

“Is that who’s performing? I had no idea.”

“Why else would you be here?” She laughed but it was cut short when she saw Charles’ sour face.

“I was hoping to run into someone.” He said.

“I think you have.” Charles smiled

“I guess you’re right. Are you a big fan of Prints?”

“No, I just try and do something fun like this once a week. Last week was rollerskating, next week is a cooking class…”

“Wow. I wish I could do that.” Neither of them spoke for a moment.

“And? Why don't you?” She asked.

“I guess work isn’t a good excuse since we have the same job.” He said.

“No it’s not. But that is your reason.” He nodded.

“Charles, do you like your job?”

“I love my job.” He said with sincerity.

“That’s not what I asked.” She said. He furrowed his brow, unsure of the distinction. She continued

“I don’t love my job, but I like it. I like it enough to show up every day and work hard and in return they give me money that I can spend on things I actually love. Like jet skiing. Or going to those restaurants where they cook the food in front of you. Or gifts for a loved one.” Charles looked up and saw Nina studying him.

“Maybe you really do love your job, maybe you would do it for free. But it’s alright if you’re not. You have more options than you think.”

Charles gulped and tried to think of something to say. He opened his mouth to speak but at that moment the lights dimmed further as a spotlight shone on the stage. A saxophone belted out a note, loud and piercing through the dense air of the club. Charles jumped in his seat and looked over in time to watch Nina scramble out of her seat and out the front door. On the stage Prints walked out from stage right wearing sunglasses and a strap which held his saxophone.

For the next hour and a half Charles was in a trance. At first his thoughts tried to remind him of the person he wanted to share this experience with. But after Prints shared enough notes, even those thoughts were pacified. He enjoyed it so much that after what felt like ten minutes, when the performance was over, he embarrassed himself by calling out an encore.

“At least one of you enjoyed it.” Prints said into the mic, looking through his shades towards Charles as his face became hot and red. He continued, “Unfortunately for you all that’s going to be the end of my appearance here tonight. I have got places to be and bills to pay. Thank you all very much for spending this time with me. If you’re feeling generous, someone will be coming around with a hat for donations. Without your support I couldn’t continue to do what I love every night and that’s a life I refuse to live. Money isn’t everything, but try telling that to my Mortgage Advisor. Cats and Kittens you have been marvelous, but, as always, I have been Prints.” The crowd erupted in emotion, laughter, applause, and Charles wasn’t surprised to find himself standing at his table clapping his hands together. He was, however, surprised to find himself with a fantastic idea forming.

“You are mad. Wild. Feral. You are a Madcat. And that’s what I love about you Charles.” Said Rita Rock. Charles wiped the sweat from his palms on his pants.

“That makes me feel confident.” He said.

“You shouldn’t feel confident, this is an awful idea. But I’m fascinated with the outcome”

“Thanks, I guess.”

Charles and Rita stood at the bottom of a set of small stairs, people with headsets carrying instruments and wires scurried past in both directions, making final adjustments. There was a large curtain blocking his back from view but Charles could hear the chattering of an audience on the other side. It was quiet but constant, until it erupted into a sea of shouts and cheers. He turn his gaze from the floor onto the centre of the stage.

“How's everybody doing tonight?” Prints shouted into a microphone, his voice echoing from every direction.

“Alright listen up. We’ve got a wonderful show for you tonight, some of you will laugh, some of you will cry.” He paused. “Every last one of you in this stadium tonight will feel me, you feel me?”

More cheers. The faint sound of a voice calling out ‘I love you Prints!’

Prints smiled then lifted his hands and motioned them downwards, shushing the crowd then putting both hands back on the mic.

“But first, something you haven’t been expecting. I want you to meet a good friend of mine.” He turned to Charles and waved him up to the stage.

“Good luck.” Rita said. Charles felt a wave of nausea rising to his throat. He swallowed and hopped up the stairs to the stage.

“Everybody give it up for Charles Charles!” Prints stepped back from the mic and raised his hands, the crowd cheered in response. Charles walked out onto the stage and, because he didn’t know what else to do, he waved. The cheering vibrated the stage and ran up through his legs, he felt particularly unbalanced. When he reached centre stage the volume was at it’s peak, he barely realized that Prints was motioning to give him a hug. Prints squeezed tightly until the scent of cologne stung his nostrils.

“You got this, buddy.” He whispered, then released Charles and grabbed the mic once more.

“Listen up folks, Charles here changed my life. When we met I was playing shows in basements for a dozen tables. Don’t get it twisted, I didn’t care about anything but the music. I’m a real artist, you all know that. I ignored the crowds, I turned down the money, I thought fame was a distraction. Then I met Charles. And I kept focusing on the music. But he brought the crowds, he found the money, and the fame came for free. I thought I had to choose, but Charles found a way that I could have both.” A lone fan whooped in support.

“Yeah! Come on give it up for Charles!” It felt like everyone in the audience cheered. Rattling coursed through the crowd, up the stage, and into Charles body. He looked over at Prints who was still smiling at him. He reached up his hand and waved to the crowd and they erupted, he wasn’t sure he could stay standing. Prints calmed them again, he was in complete control.

“Now Charles has prepared something for you today and I want you to be as supportive of him as he was of me when I was still a little street cat playing for quarters. Cats and Kittens give it up for Charles Charles!”

“Hi. I’m *Cough* Sorry, I’m Charles Charles and I wrote a song for you.” Prints nodded to the drummer and they started playing a simple, steady, beat. Charles grabbed onto the mic with both hands. Prints started strumming an electric guitar, the high strings sending shivers down his spine.

“Save money on your taxes, more cash to spend on your axes.” Charles sang, Prints played a high note and lifted his guitar neck at ‘axes.’

“Your income is a nest egg, make sure that it hatches."

Some people in the crowd started bobbing their heads along. Gaining confidence, Charles grabbed the mic stand and walked forward on the stage. A couple of cheers went out as he did and Prints matched the energy with a guitar riff.

“Keep your professional and personal finances separate

Keep your records together, complete, and accurate!"

Charles hollered out the last line and the drummer played a fill. Charles was smart enough to step back and let Prints respond with a solo. The crowd cheered riotously. He stepped forward again, gripping the mic tightly.

"Memberships and subscriptions might be business expenses

And don’t forget supplies like pencils and pens…es”

He looked at Prints and shrugged, he smiled in return. Then Charles grabbed the mic stand and lifted it to the sky, bringing it back down for the final chorus.

“Don’t get screwed over, get back what you’ve earned.

Spend your return on your lover, now that you’ve learned, how to…

Save money on your taxes, more cash to spend on your axes

Save money on your taxes, more cash to spend on your axes”

The last note rang out for an eternity, slowly the whining transitioned into a screeching excitement emanating from the crowd. Charles felt a wave of exhaustion pull him back down to earth. He scanned out over the crowd and to his surprise a few of the audience members were looking at him as they clapped. Out of the corner of his eye he realized that Prints was clapping and walking his way over to Charles. He clapped him on the back, a proud smile plastered on his face. Prints grabbed the mic.

“Charles Charles!”

A substantial amount of cheering, at least by Charles standards, came out from the crowd. He waved one hand and quickly got off the stage. He reached the stairs and heard Print’s voice come through the speakers.

“Not that anybody’s worried that you will, but don’t quit your dayjob.” Charles laughed and skipped down the stairs where he saw a familiar face.

“Libby, what are you doing here?”

She shrugged. “I was in the neighbourhood.”

“Well, it’s great to see you. How have you been?”

“Good, good.” She looked the same as before but he couldn’t help but feel like something was lost between them.

“So, Accounting for musicians?” Libby asked.

“I just wanted to spend more time in the jazz bar, honestly.”

“I didn’t think you still bothered.”

“Oh, trust me. It’s no bother. What about you, how’s van life?” Her brow twitched almost imperceptibly.

“Actually, I had to sell the van.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

She waved a hand “Eh, it’s not all that great. After a while you start to miss indoor plumbing.” He laughed and she continued. “Actually I’ve found a job that I like.” Charles raised an eyebrow

“Is that so?”

“Yep. I am a pastry specialist.” She said.

“That’s amazing. I’m so happy for you.” She smiled but her eyes didn't.

“It’s just…It sounds stupid.”

“What?” He asked. She looked up at him.

“I’m struggling with my work-life balance. You know?” Charles laughed out loud, composed himself, then began to speak at the same moment that Rita Rock walked over to him holding out a cell phone.

“It’s the boss, urgent.”

He looked at Libby “Just a sec.” He grabbed the phone and walked over to a quiet corner. He heard Rita’s voice behind him “Who are you? What are you doing here?” Go easy on her, he thought.

“Why did you answer?” Nina Night’s voice came through the speaker

“You told me to.”

“This was your idea! No work during fun times, no fun during work times.”

“Nina, really it’s fine. I’m okay to blur the line a little bit…”

“No!” He pulled the phone away from his ear as she continued loudly.

“Our profits have increased 10 fold, tell me why?”

“Because you started to care about your job.”

“No. Because nobody is burnt out. Because we respect our time inside and outside of work. Because…” He cut her off “There’s more to life than work.

“Exactly. Now go watch the show, isn’t your buddy Prints playing?”

“Yeah but I made other plans.”

“Whatever you want, so long as it’s not productive. Now give Rita back the phone she’s on call for another hour and I have deadlines.”

“Thanks, Boss.” He walked back.

“Charles, your friend is hilarious. Is Nina still on the phone or can I hit the food carts?” The phone started squeaking in response and Charles pulled it away from his ear and threw it back to Rita instinctively. She scowled then lifted the phone a few inches away from her ear.

“Hey boss. No no no that was a sound check. What? No. I love working, you know that.” Rita slunk away holding a finger in her opposite ear to drown out the noise.

“What was so hilarious?” Charles asked, turning back to Libby.

“Oh, nothing.” She said, her mouth was fighting a smile.

“I just asked if you two were seeing each other. She thought the idea was a little silly.”

“That actually is hilarious. Why would you want to know?”

She shrugged. “I just wanted to make sure you weren’t spending all your time alone at the office.”

He laughed. “I haven’t had much of an office since last year.” She smiled

“Seems like you really love your job.”

“No. I don’t. But I like it, and I think that’s good enough.”

The End.

Featured Posts
Check back soon
Once posts are published, you’ll see them here.
Recent Posts