The Company Benefactor came to the workplace today, his gradual approach from more northern climes being heralded for the past couple of days by a flurry of epistles over our mechanical mail system. Group heads dashed off stern perorations to their staff on the importance of Workplace Cleanliness and manners; name tags were handed out to anybody who felt like they might be lacking a name and a good deal of other people to boot; and the law was laid down. 'Be careful how you address the Benefactor,' instructed the memos, (causing myself to wonder why anybody but his mother should be addressing him in the first place.) 'He is to be called MISTER BENEFACTOR' (Mister to his friends, Benefactor to everyone else, I thought?)
Finally, the great day dawned, as great days have a habit of doing, and on the crack of ten (two hours before the crack of noon, except when it is daylight savings) the great Benefactor appeared in the offices clutching a walking stick, being helped from a little palanquin in which he had been carried by several secretaries. Somewhere in the distance, I'm sure I could hear the angelic chorus of a host of cherubic office accountants carolling his arrival. (The Company gelds accountancy babies at birth for such occasions).
Over the next hour, the Benefactor, wizened and shrivelled of appearance, crept nimbly around the office, bestowing his advice and pithy aphorisms upon all who cared to hear. 'When do you turn eighteen?' he jested with L., the red-head sitting opposite me. Turning his attentions to me eventually, he queried whether I was interested in AFL, and on learning that I was not, proceeded to deliver an anecdote on the relative merits and demerits of mail and email. He wished me luck before turning and hobbling to an obscure corner of the office to talk about stocks and bonds and strategies and what-not with the local contacts for another hour.
It was perhaps noon when he prepared to leave: before he did, a great hush fell over the masses of the poor, the starving, the sickly, the oppressed, the meek, the huddled, and all the other people who happen to labour for the Company in order to earn the meagre pittance which we are promised. We swivelled in our chairs towards the Benefactor.
"Something something something something," he said. "But! Something something something something something! Something something? Something!"
There was a brief, pregnant silence during which I heard, in the distance, a fellow bond-slave weeping quietly over the photocopier. Then, as one, we cheered. Hooroar! Hooroar for the dear old Benefactor! Hooroar for the Company! Our white and wond'ring eyes were upturned heavenward, and we waved our arms joyously in the air!*
The Benefactor cast his cheerful eyes over us all, and winked in that way he had. (I later learned that 'That way he had' was a facial spasm he had acquired as a gift from his ne'er-do-well son on his eightieth birthday). He raised his cane to bestow a final blessing upon us all, and slowly but surely began to tip over. If it had not been for the secretaries, watching and waiting to help the cheerful old fellow into the waiting palanquin, I shudder to think of what might have happened.
I heard murmurings late this afternoon that the accountants are restless and planning a revolution: they are disappointed that only some of them have been selected for gelding, and not all. But I don't know if we should be so hasty to overturn the structure of things. If there's anything the Benefactor has taught me, it's that things should be left as they are, especially when they aren't.
*Poets' licence: for the purposes of dramatic effect, I may occasionally engage in hyperbole, metaphor, or lying.
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