Word count, start of day -- 3,429
I plugged in the adding machine and surveyed the room they had set aside for me. It was the same one we had met in before, but this time it would my home for a week, and then for two to three weeks next year. I moved myself to the center of the table, along one of the long ends of the rectangle. This gave me the chance to eyeball the door and see if anyone was coming in to visit me, drop something off, or whatnot. I always joked that I must have been a mafia don in another life. I never liked having my back to people. In this case there was also the practicality of shielding the computer monitor from someone walking by.
A bunch of big blue computer binders were stacked up neatly at the far end of the table. Each was labeled in a large, girlish handwriting. General ledger, cash disbursement and receipts, general journal. Looked like everything I’d asked for. Pulling the stack toward me, a half-sheet of paper flitted out and arced toward the floor. It was written in the same hand as the binder labels. "For you," it read, signed "Annie." Well, she had done her work well. I rose from the chair to go thank her, then caught myself and settled back into the chair again. Down, boy.
You can stop by and say hello to the babe after you’ve finished some work.
My firm trained auditors to make lists of questions for the client to ask once, maybe
twice per day. This was as opposed to asking every question as soon as it arose. We were to be as inconspicuous as possible, letting the client get as much of their everyday work done as possible. We were not to interrupt the client often,no matter how cute they were.
The purpose of the pre-audit was to audit the first eleven months of activity, where possible. A number of audit tests are based on transactions that occur throughout the year and can be done early, while audit tests that are based on ending balances must wait until the end of the year to be completed. So I spent the morning scanning the first eleven months of general ledger activity for major transactions. Any transaction above a certain dollar amount has to be verified by being traced to a source document. I got my list of documents I needed and headed to the file cabinets to find them.
Outstanding. Outstanding. Cleared. Outstanding. Cleared.
Canterbury had five separate checking accounts, although only three were used only infrequently. Reconciling all of them took less than one morning a month, but this one, the main account, was close to a one-day project all by itself. So many of the transactions were EFTs, electronic funds transfers, that they weren’t in the checkbook. They just weren’t there. So I had to go through the entire bank statement at least three times until I found all the transactions. This was not even counting the checks that were not entered in the checkbook or the ones that were entered incorrectly.
This whole process would be much easier if the place had computerized banking software. Quicken would interface with the rest of our system. But I’m the only here who actually likes computers. So I spend an entire day each month reconciling this one account. With a pencil in one hand and a calculator in the other. I used so much white-out on the stubs, too. The checkbook looked hideous by the end of this process. But Canterbury had been doing this more years than I have. And I’m not here to rock the boat.
It was just after eleven that the auditor popped in. "Morning, Annie."
I made a little mark on the bank statement and looked up. No need to lose my place. Two hours work down the drain and all that.
"What do you need?" I asked.
He pretended I’d hurt his feelings. "What? I can’t just stop by and say hello?"
I shook my head and felt myself smile. "No, you’re here to work. Remember objectivity, Mr. Auditor?"
"You caught me. I’m here to work myself through your files."
"Anything in here is yours. Go for it."
He hesitated for a second. I got the impression he wanted to say something, but changed his mind. He just flashed a pad of paper and said something about looking through the files.
I returned to my reconciliation and said, "Anything you can’t find let me know and I’ll try to help."
He asked, "What are you working on?" He moved in a step and leaned over the desk.
I looked down and scooted the pack of check stubs a few inches toward him. I checked my blouse while I did so. No gaps, high collar. "Bank reconciliation."
An odd looked crossed his face. He seemed concerned about something. "Manually?" he asked. "I mean, on paper?"
He straightened and his face softened. "You know they have these new inventions that might help. They’re called, computers."
I laughed. He made me laugh a lot. I realized then that it was a sensation I had missed. I did too little laughing.
"You’ve seen our setup," I replied.
He nodded. "It’s just that some of this equipment is as old as some of the patients here."
That was mean and I told him so.
"I’m sorry. Actually, the technology in the living and medical spaces is very impressive."
"We’re state of the art," I confirmed. I knew enough about facilities like Canterbury to know this was so.
"Out there," he said, shouting his thumb toward the office door.
"Where it matters," I said.
He nodded and got back to his work. I got back to mine.
An hour later, my boss poked her head in. "Finding everything you need?" Carrie
asked the auditor.
Brian answered, "Sure am." Then he nodded my direction. "Annie has been a big help." It wasn’t true, but it was a nice thing for him to say.
"Well if you need me, I’ll be back in an hour or so. I’m going out to lunch."
"Okay," he called out with half a wave. Carrie disappeared.
I had dropped my head back towards my work when the auditor spoke up again. "Are there any good places around here to get lunch? I didn’t see much coming off of Westmoreland."
"Well, I usually eat in a cafeteria here. Most days I bring my lunch. I was running a little late today, so I just brought money to get food at the cafeteria."
"Is the food good?"
I nodded. "Better than most retirement homes. Of course, a salad is a salad."
He smiled. "I guess so. But how many retirement homes have you eaten at?"
"Really?" He sounded surprised.
"How does that happen?"
I shrugged. "Well, I volunteered at two in high school. Then my first real job was at anther."
"But you’ve only been here a few months."
"Right. I moved from a caregiver position into an accounting position when I went back to school. Then I got married and had Erin a few years later. I quit when I was pregnant and stayed home with her. I finished my degree at night." I motioned to the side wall, at my college degree. I was very proud of that accomplishment. "Two months after graduation, about five months ago, I tarted working here."
He nodded. "And you’re enjoying it?"
For the fourth day in a row, I debated asking Annie to join me for lunch. Just in the cafeteria, so she wouldn't get the wrong idea. We had spoken a few times, and she seemed quite pleasant. But I couldn't bring myself to do it. She was so attractive that it felt wrong spending time with her. Don't get me wrong, I like attractive women. I am a man. Maybe that was the problem. If she were plainer, I wouldn't feel as conflicted. Of course, I probably wouldn't want to eat with her, either. But I'm married, she's married, and we each have kids, for crying out loud. So she's attractive and laughs at my jokes. Why not just-
"Brian?" The voice brought me back to the present. I jerked my head to her. "Sorry. I should have knocked."
"No," I said. "I was thinking, you know, just thinking."
Annie, leaning against the conference room door, said, "I'm going over to cafeteria for one of those salads. You've probably got plans for lunch, but-"
"No," I interjected, way too anxious. "You're going now?" I craned my head around to see the wall clock behind me. The
motion sent the rolling casters of the chair forward, nearly flipping the chair over. I managed to catch myself. "Whoa!" I called out.
"You kept your balance. Good job." She said lightly. But not your dignity, she probably thought.
"I stood, exaggerating my ability to keep balance. "I think I need lunch."
Annie chuckled. With me? At me? "Let's go," she said.
The cafeteria was in the centermost building of the complex, attached to the others by a breezeway. It was a moderately warm day for December and I just gathered by suit jacket for the short trip. Annie wore a straight blue coat that fell to a few inches above the ground. Annie managed to make the plainest clothes look good. She dressed, behaved, and spoke in a single consistent manner. Professional. Thoroughly professional.
The setting of the cafeteria was very nice. It looked out over a clear pond and a landscaped courtyard. The selection was predictably bland. I joined her in a salad, although I accompanied mine with a side of egg noodles and a fudge brownie. Nothing spectacular, but not as bad as one could imagine.
We chatted as we ate, about work and kids and our holiday plans. She was visiting her in-laws in Kansas City and I was being visited by mine.
"New Years Eve?" I asked.
She considered, then shook her head. "No plans. You?"
I chuckled. "I'm afraid I'll be here."
It took her a second to get it. "Inventory?"
"When is it?"
"It's a regular work day for us at the office." New Years Eve was a Wednesday, so we were still getting a four-day weekend out of it. Despite being hired as a senior staffer, I still had no seniority at the firm since I had only been there seven months. "I may end up roping someone else into helping me," I said. "But I'll definitely be here that evening."
"I don't know our schedule for counting. For sure, Carrie said we would doing counts that day, but we may be gone by the time you show up."
"Not like we have plans," she said steadily. A darkness passed briefly over her face.
"Spend the evening with your family and Dick Clark. I'll hold down the fort here."
"It won't be that same without you," I said with a grin. I stopped short for an instant and hoped she didn't notice it. Did she think I was hitting on her?