Word Count 500
By Sam McManus
The clock on the wall of the office was broken, but no one checked it anyway. It was an antique, replaced by cell phone displays, by Apple watches, even by FitBit exercise planners, so when anyone asked for the time it was always bypassed. It was broken by neglect, as things often get when people forget to remind themselves these things are important.
Harrison Waltham III strode into the office as he often did, cocksure. He felt he had to do this to keep his partners on task, and to keep the associates anxious. If there was one thing he learned from his father it was that fear was the great divider between real power and a simple show. As he stepped off the elevator every morning he flipped the switch and got ready for his day.
Since the I.R.S. arrived to check their books, the firm had been in disarray. It wasn’t the first issue of his tenure as managing partner, but it heavily threatened to be his last. He glanced up at the clock above his desk for the first time in what seemed like forever. It had been his father’s when he first moved into the building, when the firm had been struggling to survive long enough to be a firm, so it was fitting that it stood sentinel over him in his own personal limbo, in his own fight to persevere despite long odds.
As his gaze lingered a tad longer than it normally might have – he was so lost in his memories – Harrison Waltham III realized the minute hand on the clock hadn’t moved one iota. He slid his desk back a skoch, until it lined up with the wall, and climbed on top to examine the heirloom. It had paused a minute before twelve, which he found fitting considering the state of the firm. He was being indicted, so close to his big score, so close to everything he had ever wanted. But it would always be just out of his reach.
The face of the clock was a lion’s face, carved intricately by someone whose skill was undeniable. In fact, as Harrison Waltham III stood on his desk and faced it head on, he saw that, on the otherwise smooth feline features was a tiny tear frozen in the act of sliding down, something he would never have noticed. In that moment it hit him hard, the idea that perspective could change so much, could make something formidable seem mundane.
He slid back down onto his desk, in his thousand-dollar suit, and he laughed out loud. He laughed when he recalled his father sitting at this very desk telling him nothing was too big he couldn’t overcome it. He laughed when he thought of the shredder incident. He laughed for his past, for his present, and for his uncertain future, and the tears began to roll down his cheeks. Because it was a minute to midnight, and he wasn’t about to give in.