Winston Ashley jumped, knocking loose a roll of paper from his adding machine. The roll bounced gleefully along the carpet, unfurling a swathe of white mummy wrappings behind it. It jounced against the toe of a loafer, whose owner bent to pick it up.
Winston Ashley’s supervisor turned the length of paper over in his hands, squinting at the ticker tape numbers. “This is?” he snarled.
“Last quarter’s numbers, Mr. Warble, sir.”
Winston Ashley warbled something resembling an affirmative.
“This is boring,” Ashley moaned.
“Shush. Just. Uhm,” he faltered at the acidic look in his niece’s eyes. “Okay, fine. Let’s just say Senior Accounting Director Winston Ashley was fired, then.”
“Good.” Ashley snuggled back against her frilled pillow. “Now you can get to the good part.”
Charlie stayed silent. His lids lowered, drooping with the world-weariness of a bloodhound’s.
Ashley sighed. “Please?”
Winston Ashley clutched the printer paper box, stuffed full as Christmas, to his chest. Some damp spot on the sidewalk was seeping into the seat of his suitpants. He sighed but made no effort to move.
A taxi grumbled to a stop near Winston Ashely’s curb, making him hack as the occupant stepped down to the sidewalk. She dropped her bags on the curb and, as the cab scuttled away again, she swept off her hat, raised her arms to the sky and began to spin in delightedly lopsided circles. She flung her hat wide in full, sporting cliché and it landed with a sad ‘plop’ on Winston Ashley’s head.
The woman ceased spinning and swung her clasped hands up to her tender, green cheek. She was staring in apt reverence at the Warble and Sons Banking building.
“Excuse me? Miss?”
She jolted and spun in a flurry of checked jacket to face Winston Ashley.
“I think this is yours,” he said, lifting the supple beret from his head.
She beamed. “Oh, thank you, kind vagrant! Isn’t it just the most wonderfullest of wonderful days?”
Winston Ashley considered this but, in the glare from her smile, decided against his acerbic retort. She plucked the hat from his grip and stayed standing, staring and still smiling.
Winston Ashley gave in. “Why is it a wonderful day?”
“Why, sweeterest of sweet street bums,” she said, “because I’ve been made Senior Accounting Director of All Sorts and Important Stuffs!”
“Ah,” said Winston Ashley. “Of course.”