Audrey was tall and skinny and he made the most of those attributes. His ears protruded from the side of his head disorganized in a nearly non-animal and yet biological pattern, like fungal growth from the side of a rotting stump. His skin was covered with blotches and patches of dry skin. The red blotches grew or faded depending on Audrey’s temper. He often suffered a long burning agitation over some wrong done to him and that he couldn’t do anything about and gradually the blotches on his skin turned red and spread over him leaving the island of white, flaking skin. Audrey consumed enormous heaping palm-fulls of tinctures, oils, and mud packs as he attempting to discover the thing that would make his skin better. He spent two years visiting an epidemiologist who removed skin samples with a sharp scalped blade housed in a long aluminum case. Audrey had a favorite coffee shop by the holistic university, Bastyr, where he often subjected himself to various experimental trials of holistic health. He drank a small amount of coffee but otherwise he ate a studiously calibrated diet to keep his red skin, his explosions of dry skin in check.
These were small things in Audrey’s life though, although opening this story this way it makes it sound as if they were the sole focus of his life. This isn’t the case. Audrey had come into his own in his mid thirties. His tall, skinniness served him well as his contemporaries began to gain weight, jowls, and stoop under their years. The onset of middle ages overwhelmed them all and Audrey was spared these ravages living instead with his skin condition something he’d been living with since his adolescence in rural Saskatchewan. Audrey wore heavy overcoats, tailored shirts, smart suits. He kept up on jazz and innovative fiction. He wore striking eye frames careful to change them out over year to the current fashion. He drank a tiny cup of green tea from the chain coffee shop in his building. He arrived at work early and opened his phone to check his mail, to think about the days problems, and wouldn’t sit down into the fray at his desk until a quarter past the hour. He was always the last to sit down at his desk and the first to go. When he entered the office, there was a burble of activity in the early morning as people talked to the East Coast, as they walked clients through the reports, as they talked to sales people about upcoming projects, about what was possible given the current climate. Many people here were going under, but Audrey was doing fine. He had hired three new assistances. He knew when they began their workday because he received a note. He had them feed their goings into the network all day long. He monitored their activity more thoroughly than if he stood over their desk. First thing, he sat down at his desk and answered the priority phone calls. He then answered the priority e-mails. He filed the e-mails he needed to wait on and by ten o’clock the morning’s correspondence was done. He called his assistances into his office for a ten o’clock huddle. He called it a huddle. And already they were begin to look burdened. It was the beginning of the day’s sprint, and they were just warming into it. He kept it brief. He prepared them dozes of caffeine while they talked over this hiss of his espresso machine. He nodded and smiled. He folded his tie into the top of his belt and then removed it. He stood and paced the room while they told him about the problems. There were patterns in the business and after three years, provide you survived, you had heard them all. The current climate was unparalleled it was said, the worst that it had ever been, and Audrey understood this to mean that things were possible now.
Just his walking around the room drew there attention. Just as his arrival late drew attention. Everything that Audrey did drew attention and he was the central cog and node now in the company and the company through his efforts was a central cog and node in the industry and the industry was the central cog and node in the entire economic system of the country. The entire country was full of people like him, only they were almost all dependent on him. Last year he realized his efforts at funneling the network through his office were paying off. He began to levy a small fee, a tiny fee really, on each transaction. A transaction fee. The industry was rife with them, and as people untangled their situation, the money poured through his office.
He gave his assistances a pep talk, and sent them jittering and full of purpose back to their cubicles. It was just ten fifteen and time was burning and he was apply his own special accelerant.