The door of William’s inner office opened and a sad clown walked in. He quietly closed the door behind him and shuffled to a corner where William could see him but where he was out of the way.
William regarded the clown sourly but said nothing and bent his head to his work. He made occasional furtive glances at the corner and saw the clown standing there, regarding William morosely. Each successive irritable peek at the clown led William to work harder to plow through the stack of papers on his desk.
Clients came in to keep their appointments, and William would talk them through their financial concerns and what the next step in the process would be. If any of the visitors noticed the clown, they were polite enough to make no mention.
William picked up the phone and buzzed his secretary.
“Tina, have you seen the Mortensen file?”
“Mortensen? You finished that last week.”
“Oh, yes, of course. I mean the, um, Kelleher file.”
“I put it on your desk two days ago,” Tina said helpfully. “In the upper right corner.”
William looked at the stack that had grown on that corner of his desk.
“OK. Thanks.” He hung up the phone and stood up. He went around his desk so he could more safely look through the file folders without dumping them on the floor. There, one folder from the bottom, was the Kelleher file.
As he returned to his chair, he looked over at the clown. The clown pulled three eggs each from two oversized pockets and began to juggle them. The eggs rapidly fell and smashed on the floor. The clown frowned ever more sadly and shrugged.
William shook his head, sighing, and opened the folder to read through the documents.
Tina was long gone by the time William surrendered for the day. If evening traffic wasn’t too bad, he could kiss his children good night before they went to sleep. He gave the clown one last look; the clown waved goodbye. William turned off the light.
Early the next morning, William returned to his office. As he had expected, the clown was still in place. William did not return the clown’s mute, melancholy greeting. He set his coffee on the window ledge behind him. It was the only place he was certain not to spill it on important papers. He opened a folder at random and set to work.
The clown kept his somber vigil throughout the long day.
He was there again the next morning when William arrived, as though he had been installed in that corner.
Minutes after Tina opened the door for business, an angry client marched past her and into William’s office.
“Are you ever going to get those papers filed for me?” the man demanded.
“Yes, of course I am, Mr. Friesen.” William indicated the stacks of work on his desk. “I have something of a backlog and I’m working my way through it. But your filing is very important to me —”
“Not that I can see,” Mr. Friesen accused. “Quit clowning around and get to it, or I’ll find a competent accountant who’ll get it done.” He stalked out of the office, slamming both doors in his wake.
The sad clown took offense and huffed as Mr. Friesen left. He made a show of sniffing the oversized flower in his lapel and squeezed the bulb up his left sleeve, drenching his face with water. He looked up sadly at William, who had been watching this performance.
William shook his head and began a safari on and around his desk for the Friesen file. He became impatient as he failed to find it; it had been there just yesterday.
“Where the hell did I put that damn thing?” he asked himself, flinging his arms wide. His right hand clipped the coffee mug on the windowsill; the beverage spilled onto a single folder William had placed on the floor after running out of desk space.
He snatched up the folder and shook the coffee onto the floor. He knew without looking that he had found Mr. Friesen’s papers.
William looked up at the clown, desperately needing the look of deep sympathy on the painted face. The accountant dropped into his chair and faced the clown.
“I know, I know,” he said quietly. “But this is the life I’ve chosen. I’m still paying for school. I have a wife and two children. I have responsibilities. It’s not what I expected, and it’s no damn fun, but I can’t just run off and join the circus.”
The clown mimed picking up a ball and rolling it down a lane. His frown turned upward as imaginary bowling pins fell in the distance.
“Oh, that’s just a fantasy,” William said. “Yeah, I maybe could have turned pro; I was pretty good. But I chose this instead. I haven’t bowled in … a long time. My game’s probably no good now.”
The clown’s half smile disappeared again, and he slumped.
“Look,” William said, grabbing a tissue to wipe off the wet folder, “this is it for now. I’m just going to have to suck it up and cope. I chose this, and now I have to do it. You might just as well pull up a chair in that corner and make yourself comfortable.”
The clown shook his head slowly. He walked to William’s door and opened it. He turned and gave William a long, gloomy look and then waved farewell with the fingers of his right hand. He went through the door and closed it quietly.
William stared at the door. His hand went limp, and the Friesen papers dropped out of the folder to the floor. He let the folder follow them, and his chin fell to his chest.
His phone buzzed, and he reached out wearily for it.
“Mrs. Guideon on line one for you,” Tina said.
Another unhappy client.
“Thanks.” He pushed the flashing button. “Yes, Mrs. Guideon? No, Mrs. Guideon. Not yet. I… Yes, Mrs. Guideon. I’ll have them ready for you to pick up. I’m sure another accountant will serve your needs much better. Goodbye, Mrs. Guideon.”