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Account Payable: A Noir Fiction

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The past has a funny way of reaching out to grab you. Just when you think you’ve finally found a way of gettin’ away from it, it pulls you right back down into the hole you crawled out of.

It was late. Much later than I usually stayed in my office. The smell of smoke still lingered where I’d spilled peanuts on the radiator earlier that night. A half-empty 2-liter bottle of 7-UP sat on my desk. Bleary-eyed, I stared at my monitor. It had all come down to this. Staring Death right in the face, watching it laugh at me, watching everything I’d worked for drain away.

It all started three days ago, when a client of the firm I work for, Falconetti Corp. took a big order on credit for bronze paperweights from a paper manufacturer in Lincoln, Nebraska. I knew it couldn’t be good when my supervisor Janet came sauntering through my door. Nothing good ever came from a visit from Janet.

“Geoff, I need you to handle this.” she said, dropping a fat stack of papers on my desk, and upsetting an empty Lo Mein carton. “It’s the Falconetti papers, for the Lincoln deal.” she explained.

“Janet,” I said , leaning back in my chair, “there’s no way I can deal with that today. I got the Hartford file stagnating, the Plesinski deal going down in four hours, and I’m still adjusting investments to match market value!”

She rolled her eyes. “Just get it done, Geoff. You’re behind on your work this month.” She was right. I hate that. I mumbled a reply and snatched the file off my desk, tossing it onto an already towering stack building up next to my computer.

Later that day I finished closing the books on the Plesinski deal and pulled up the documents for Falconetti. Rain splattered on the window of my office. Office. heh. More like a glass cubicle with a corkboard door. Stupid architects. I sat there for a few minutes, eyes unfocused. I scratched my bristly chin and pulled open the file. Receipts, cash orders, memos, a wrapper from a roll of mentos, and a sticky note that read “Geoff- do NOT wait on this.” Pfft. Janet.

It seemed that Falconetti wanted us to record the sale and write up some statements for the month that they could feed to the investing public. Typical stuff, with one minor detail. They wanted the costs recorded for making the paperweights, too. Lazy bums couldn’t even bother to do that? I started writing up the paperwork. Pretty standard stuff. Just had to take the value of the sale and put it into the right accounts. Kid stuff. That was the beginning of the nightmare.

The next day I was sucking down a Dr. Pepper and e-mailing a video of a piano-playing cat to the company using a fake e-mail when Janet came marching into my office.

“Geoff, Falconetti’s not happy.”

“What? I did what they wanted.” I said, waving a hand at her and continuing to amuse myself with the feline pianist.

“Then why did they lose fifteen thousand dollars when they made the sale?” she replied, cocking her eyebrows and leaning against the doorframe. She held out a sheet of paper.

“Gimme that.” I said, snatching it. No way. Couldn’t be. But there it was. Falconetti’s books were showing them at a loss of fifteen thousand after the sale. Obviously it didn’t actually happen. They made money, not lost it. But their records said otherwise.

“You screwed this up. You’re fixing it. And clean off your desk, already!” she gestured to a pile of food wrappers and soda cans that had been growing throughout the week. I swept them off the desk, more or less into a trash can, and started looking back at the Falconetti brief. The cat video no longer hypnotized me. The magic was gone.

Two days I worked on that paper. Nothing. No mistakes in the numbers. They were solid. So why? Why did Falconetti’s documents say that they lost money? I worked constantly, only stopping to put out the fire when I knocked over that bag of peanuts into the radiator. Finally. It hit me. Accounts Payable! I’d listed the sale as a debt that Falconetti owed to the buyer. How could I be so dense? I quickly fixed my mistake.

Then the past grabbed me by the heels and dragged my right back down my hole. The screen froze, then turned blue. Little letters taunted me, talking about “dumping files to prevent damage”. The Blue Screen of Death. Everything I’d done was gone. I’d be here all night trying to re-do everything.

I grabbed the bottle of 7-UP and downed the whole thing.


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