Her winsome smile, her dimples, the way she sat on the edge of the ottoman beside his big leather easy chair when he told her about his day. With her sitting there, looking adoringly at him, Paul could believe he was the most interesting man in the world, not just an accountant sitting in a half/cube surrounded by other number crunchers.
“No way around it. Those were pretty boring stories, and she just listened.”
He got up, thinking a cup of coffee might help him shake off the empty feeling that shadowed him everywhere now. He needed to get some work done.
“Go on Tinder,” said Francine, his — and several other accountants’ — secretary. “Seriously, Paul, Lulu’s not the only fish in the sea. Francine waved her little left hand over the wall of her cubicle. Yeah, yeah there was a that diamond. Francine had gotten married just a few months ago. Second husband. She caught the first one cheating with her — such a cliché — her best friend.
“They aren’t Lulu.”
“Don’t you get it YET? Lulu wasn’t Lulu. If she had been Lulu, she’d never have left you.”
“Who was she, then?”
“Paul, look. Mr. Shorter is trying to get your attention.”
Paul turned around and, sure enough, standing in the ONE office with a door on this whole floor was Mr. Shorter. He did NOT look happy.
“If you have TIME Paul,” he said mockingly.
“Yikes,” whispered Paul.
“Good luck, babe. Think about what I said.” She waved the diamond in this face again.
“Come in and sit down.”
Paul took a seat in front of Mr. Shorter’s desk.
“Let’s get straight to it. Since your wife ran off with the circus your work has deteriorated abysmally.” He might be the boss of accountants, and an accountant himself, but his undergraduate major had been English. His dream of becoming an English teacher was shattered when he looked at his probable yearly earnings and he went for an MBA in accounting rather than following his passion for Thomas Pynchon about whom he hoped someday to write a totally incomprehensible analysis about subterranean themes in Pynchon’s work. “I understand you have a broken heart, but negligence hurts the business and could adversely affect our clients. Inaccuracy in calculations results in multitudinous regrettable outcomes, as you are doubtless cognizant given the issues experienced last month when we came precipitously proximate to losing the Lamont Account because of your mistakes. In the last colloquium, the board decided to let you go because of your problems handling that extremely lucrative account. I persuaded them that such a remedy would be an excessively punitive given the twelve years of exemplary performance you have given the firm, but you are henceforth on probation.”
Paul nodded. Mr. Shorter’s utilization of the vernacular made everyone want to scream, but he did make his point. Paul wasn’t totally surprised. The problems had been with the annual report for the Lamont Account, an enormous project he and his team worked on for months. It had come due the week Lulu left him. He was in no shape, mentally, physically, emotionally, for the intense (though often manufactured) pressure of that project. Mr. Lamont himself was never easy to deal with, and it was the company’s biggest account. And, let’s face it, Paul was a wreck.
Meanwhile, on the patio outside the narrow, three-story beach house next to the boardwalk in Pacific Beach, California, Lulu stood waiting for the charcoal to get hot enough to toss on the tuna steak her new love had caught that morning.
“I’m going out with Carmine and Tony,” he’d said. “We’re hoping to catch some yellowtail.” They’d been lucky and caught three.
She looked up at the ocean and saw him heading in, riding a six footer. It would be the last ride of the day. She loved living in California. It was so much more interesting — and a lot warmer — than Chicago. Once more she thanked her lucky stars she’d met Dude on the El that day as she went into the city to shop. What if she were still back there? November, Paul, those endless recitations of quotidian tedium of an accountant’s life. It had been such a strange coincidence, clearly it was meant to be. Dude’s pal, Lamont, was meeting with the board of Paul’s company about the annual report for his motivational speaking limited partnership.
Well, Lamont was definitely a weirdo and, thankfully, not around much.
The only thing about her new love that puzzled her was the plethora of hyper-realistic paintings hanging all through the house, pictures of dinosaurs, salmon, Smilodons, mammoths, a bear, an oak tree, pictures that sometimes, if she caught one out of the corner of her eye, bore a strange resemblance to Lamont, sometimes even to Dude.
But who could really care? Dude was funny, kind, had great stories, adored her and she was sure they would live happily ever after.
Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with a few years ago. They have the uncanny ability to remember many of their past lives which gives them a unique perspective on life, the universe and everything.