“How’s my Billings then?”
William Smallpiece looked in bewilderment at the large man who stood in the doorway of his office. The door still vibrating from the force with which it had been opened.
“William – Bill, you are an accountant, so Billings. Get it. Oh please yourself. Have you got your numbers all totalled up ready for tomorrow?” John Brashmore’s voice was, like the man, large.
“I handed your secretary a copy of the brochure which contains the figures you requested along with all the other details two days ago”.
“I know that, I wish to know if you have fully prepared yourself for questions. Not that I expect you to have to answer any I can’t answer myself.”
“I have just finished a final check before retiring.”
“ Well I suppose you need your beauty sleep. See you at the plant bright and early. Remember the early bird catches the worm.” Brashmore left slamming the door behind himself.
John Brashmore and William Smallpiece had been friends or more accurately close acquaintances since they had sat at neighbouring desks on their first day at school. Smallpiece spent his days trying to avoid Brashmore, his clichés and atrocious puns that offended the ear.
The little book keeper’s office was one room of the modest suit in the Brashmore bachelor mansion. Modest, but more than adequate for Smallpiece’s needs and tastes, representing a part of his wages which he knew were more generous than any he could command elsewhere. A fact that fuelled Smallpiece’s resentment of Brashmore and his overbearing ways. Unable to really fathom how Brashmore had hustled him in to their working relationship Smallpiece dreamt of and saved against the day when he felt secure enough to leave Brashmore and start up an independent accountancy firm.
Brashmore was not unaware of his accountant’s feelings, merely indifferent to them. If he had given any thought to the matter he would have decided that Smallpiece’s wages were large enough to compensate for the fact that Smallpiece did not, in Brashmore’s opinion have a sense of humour. For the most part Brashmore ignored Smallpiece however he insisted on his book keeper accompanying him when showing potential investors around his factories.
On that particularly memorable day there was to be something of a marathon. With a growing number of potential investors to be shown around three of the J.B.Enterprises factories Smallpiece hoped that his shame and discomfort occasioned by Brashmore’s sallies (often at Smallpiece’s expense ) would go unnoticed. Though a couple of obviously observant employees of J.B.Enterprises would find themselves redundant in their near future.
The final destination for the day afforded some relief for Smallpiece as due to an increase in the number of people around Brashmore he was able to avoid the heavy arm round his shoulders and the voice booming in his ear. “Our last but not least stop folks. This is where we turn the cities rubbish into materials for the cities buildings. The whole kit and caboodle run by just two men.”
An imperative gesture called the highly qualified engineers who ran the factory forward. Tom here our button pusher and Sam our wheel greaser.” The two men smiled if somewhat weekly. When way past retiring age with a pension scheme collapsed, drawing a high salary enabled men to get used to Brashmore’s little ways.
The members of the group were handed goggles before being led along side a rubbish laden conveyor belt as it passed through various treatment processes. One of the stages comprised of a grid of laser cutters .Naturally being of Brashmore design the observation port was not intended to minimise the glare, hence the goggles. There were those in the group who felt that ear muffs would also be useful. While most people found Brashmore designs to be crude in appearance they had to admit they were cost effective and a profitable investment. Another thorn in Smallpiece’s side.
Questions of health and safety measures were either ignored by Brashmore or made the subject of a joke. “Well yes a local moggy or mutt could wander in and jump on to the conveyor belt. Then if you believe in animal rights I suppose they could be regarded as citizens and have the right to wind up in the cities’ building blocks.” Brashmore’s laughter at his own sally did not fool Smallpiece who knew that the man was constantly irritated by law suits arising from inadequate health and safety measures.
“Well here we are at the final stage of the process. These machines, not one of my designs actually, made by a company called Maine, compresses the blocks to the specified size of the current contract and also checks the density of each block.” Brashmore paused for breath which gave some one in the group the opportunity to ask, “Why is there a large rusty chain draped over that machine.?”
“Ah well, you see every so often the Maines have to be opened up by our Sam here. He checks that no debris has been left behind, broken off an imperfect block. A rare event but it happens and anything but a pristine interior would cause further imperfect blocks.” Feet were beginning to be shuffled loudly enough for even Brashmore to realise that people were getting to become impatient at his failure to get to the point. “Well to cut a long story short starting up the plant is energy costly so we don’t shut down for such checks, just idle. The series of lights on the panel there indicate the pressure being used for any batch of blocks. The single light indicating machine at idle is rather weak we don’t want Tom pushing his buttons and squashing our Sam into a block. So I put the chain there to remind Tom that the Maine is as strong as it’s weakest blink.”
Smallpiece was not the only one to wince at the preposterous explanation made for the sake of a pun. The dutiful laughter sounded weak to all ears but Brashmore’s. With a sense of relief the members of the group were ushered in to a reception room for refreshments Smallpiece was only too happy that the potential investors seemed more interested in questioning Sam and Tom than himself. One woman in particular was exceedingly worried about the possible danger to animals. The engineers explained that Brashmore was making one of his little jokes when the subject came up. They explained that there were sensors along the line that would trigger an automatic shut down if any live animal was on the conveyor belt.
Smallpiece was greatful that the tour had ended looking forward to the end of a particularly trying day. As the group moved back through the plant towards the exit he was hard put not to usher them forward at a greater pace.
The accident was a combination of a million to one chances. Men like John Brashmore never faint, they might trip others but do not stumble themselves and it takes a pretty hefty blow to daze a man built like an ox. While for once Brashmore was not demanding every ones attention any attack upon him would have been noticed. Suddenly inexplicably Brashmore fell onto an open section of the conveyor belt.
Every one stared at Brashmore even for him that was a jape too far. Betime every one realised that Brashmore was not getting up and was in fact completely still the slight jam caused by his body was adjusted and he was on his way towards the laser grid. Tom realised that the automatic cut out had not operated and rushed towards his consol to initiate the shut down procedure. Far too late before even the first stage of the shut down had been initiated Brashmore or rather his pieces had been incorperated in to blocks and passed through the Maine.
The wish to give Brashmore a decent burial was thwarted by the fact that when the finishing shed was reached several dozen blocks had been shaped glazed and stacked with hundreds of their fellows. No one in their right minds would expect a firm to inter several tons of much needed building material.
The police investigation came to a dead end almost before it started. Given Brashmore’s medical record which showed him to be in robust health some sort of poison or knock out drug was suspected. Unfortunately the super efficient automated cleaning service in the reception room had cleared away all the utensils and left over food even before Brashmore had landed on the conveyor belt. All those known to be near Brashmore when he fell swore that no one amongst them had so much as touched the man let alone pushed him.
The police regarded one William Smallpiece the new owner of J.B.Enterprises Ltd with the greatest of suspicion. Unfortunately from the police point of view it is not possible to arrest a man for gazing at the new City Hall and saying, “Truly the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” No matter how often he does it.
For several years I have enjoyed meeting with fellow poets and poetry lovers every other Monday at the Bear in Wantage. There we discuss both our own work and that of other poets both well known and obscure. Many of the poems in the category Wantage Poetry Club were first presented at the Club. That category dedicated to friends in the Club contains the poems which I have not as yet published in a collection.
Copyright © 2013 by Pamela Boal. The moral right of the author has been asserted. All right reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval systems, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
Please feel free to utilise my poems in your projects but do give accreditation in an appropriate manner and make a charitable donation in recognition of the fact.