An Investment In Time
By Mel Goldberg
Ron Bates, a balding forty-five year old accounting clerk, walked down the polished black marble hall, looking furtively at his reflection. His reflection smirked at him, as if to emphasize his receding chin. Working as an accountant for ten years, he had recently begun to find it boring. He did not hate his job, but he had become inured to the prospect he would never advance beyond Grade Five. Higher positions, Grades Six through Ten, always went to younger men. He had tried to look younger than his years, trading his thick glasses for electronic contacts and spending six months’ salary for a full-head hair transplant.
Ron Bates accepted that he was weak.
After one of his colleagues died, he left work early and took the people-mover to a downtown building sided with gleaming artificial red and gray marble.
Standing outside, he looked up at the luminescent incised name: FIRST TIME BANK. He shuffled into the cavernous room and shivered for a few seconds, enveloped by the cold austerity of the tile room. He shambled hesitantly to a transparent cubicle and sat down. The screen brightened and a pleasant feminine voice responded. “Good afternoon. Welcome to the First Time Bank. Do you wish to make a withdrawal or a deposit?”
“I’d like to make a deposit. Someday I or a member of my family might have a problem and I’d like to be protected.”
“Thank you, Mr. Bates. Please touch the space indicating the number of years you wish to deposit. You may deposit between five and twenty years.”
“Twenty is a long time. Do many people deposit twenty years?”
“That is privileged information. Each person may deposit between five and twenty years.”
Bates touched the number five.
“Please be aware of the following conditions: First, you must appear in person to redeem your years. First Time Bank cannot be responsible for any unforeseen consequences. If you agree with these conditions, these years will be immediately deducted from your current time. If you understand and agree with these requirements, please touch YES on the screen.”
Bates looked around. He tried to think about unforeseen consequences. What could possible occur? He touched YES.
The voice continued. Do you wish another transaction? If not, you may stand to terminate this session.”
Bates stood. The screen went dark. He smiled as he walked into the crowded street. He felt he had made a wise investment. He had protected his family. He laughed out loud as he stepped off the people mover and into the street. So I jumped from forty-five to fifty. I still feel great. I’m in good health. What could happen?
Above, an air taxi landing on a roof struck a cement ornament and sent it hurtling toward the ground. Bates looked up, eyes wide. The ornament struck him and he fell to the pavement. As darkness pulled a shade over his eyes, he heard a pleasant feminine voice. “Unforeseen consequences.”
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