10 January 2017

The Retiring Assistant Manager – 30 March 1990

The retiring assistant manager scribbled his last initial and put down his weary ballpoint with an air of finality. His “in tray” was empty, his “out tray” full and yet there were loose ends; things remained undone and must now forever remain so. The sand lay flat in the lower chamber of life’s hourglass. Intentions, objectives, ambitions; these were the loose ends which could not be neatly knotted.

He drew comfort from the tangible and pondered the forest of paper that had traversed his desk these four decades, hungrily sucking the ink of a thousand pens; gorging the graphite of a towering pencil. His mark lay on reams of records stowed safely in the banking bowels below; tasks completed, returns returned, ledgers ruled and checked. There lay the rich seams of evidence indelibly stamped in banking history.

He had safely shouldered a mountain of responsibilities with his unique monogram. A million signatures had authorised, confirmed, advised, certified, applied, declared, reported and claimed. Now our man reached for a cigarette and wreathed himself in its haze. His mood of reflection continued and he seemed almost to disappear within the rafts of blue and grey, his mind adrift on a sea of nostalgia. An endless tide of faces, names, places, conversations ebbed and flowed, removed from time and context. When reality returned he would try to remember these details in ordered fashion, but not yet. Enough for now to indulge at random.

A column of white ash dropped unnoticed. Imagination slipped its leash and began to pad softly down the corridors of wistful thought where there were unopened rooms containing untested talents, unexpressed emotions, abandoned projects, forgotten thoughts and lapsed aspirations. There was so much to do, yet so little time. With frightening suddenness, conscious thought returned to him. His empty desk stared gravely back at him, an old and trusted friend. He must remember to bid his faithful wooden companion farewell. But how to say, “Goodbye?” How to say, “I won’t be back?” Soon its drawers would fill with unfamiliar clutter and this it would accept with brave resignation or bland indifference, he did not like to contemplate which. 

Sadness came over him; ‘end of an era’, a woefully inadequate phrase. He glanced at the relentless clock, willing it to stop and encapsulate the moment. On it marched, into the future. Why couldn't it just mark time or pass the time of day? He laughed aloud at the irony and with that the spell was broken and the fleeting moment of regret passed. The future held the key to those unopened rooms of opportunity, potential, and above all, time. With spirits rising he left the Bank.

A broad grin spread across his face as he detected a spring in his step, which had not been there yesterday. Was that last step more of a skip? The years rolled back and he summoned a memory from one glorious July afternoon half a century earlier: a small boy riding home from school, standing on the pedals, eyes ablaze with anticipation at the summer holiday stretching endlessly ahead.

He hadn’t felt like this in years. Cares, worries and responsibilities lay strewn in his wake as he hurried towards his tired, old car. His mind whirled with anticipation on the drive home. He concentrated on nothing in particular, allowing himself to bask in expectation: summer, cricket, gardening, Vivaldi, travel, sun, solitude, deck-chairs, reading, ...  he was drowning in euphoria. Full of unabashed excitement he hurried home to the future and with a sigh of relief closed the door on a most eventful day.

The beginning…


Susan Peters said...

That would bring a smile to anyone's face! The contentment!

Russell Duffy said...

One of the best things you have ever done.

Perfect Virgo said...

Perhaps, thank you. Written twenty seven years ago yet the style is recognisable I think.

GEL said...

I agree with CJ

Anonymous said...

I read, this yet again, as I do with most of your pieces. I savor several phrases in your writing, such as "wreathed himself in its haze". Ah, I can see the cigarette doing that! So vivid, PV!

Another I like is that about pens 'gorging the graphite." There are too many to recount here. Those are just two that stood out to me with all of my senses. I am glad to see you have continued to write. - Gel

Perfect Virgo said...

Thank you! I find it quite tiring to compose dense, pieces of prose so tend to keep them on the short side.