Monday, July 29, 2013

Occasion

Every morning on his way into the office building where he worked Timothy walked past, on the opposite side of the street to that which he customarily travelled, a shop that had always puzzled him. Most days it was a momentary puzzlement gone as soon as he rounded the corner, the idle repeated thought that occurs in such rote activities. On this occasion, however, his morning commute was thrown off axis by noisy men in workmen's vests tearing at the footpath where he normally walked. A yellow and black sign advised that pedestrians should use the other footpath and thus Timothy, who was not the kind of man to wilfully ignore such advice without good cause, duly used the other footpath.

So it was that Timothy found himself walking on the same side of the road as the shop which so intrigued him. It was a drab kind of shop front, its window taken up with a legend printed in plain white copperplate which read simply "Kelloby & Assoc. Occasion Planning". There were two things that caught in Timothy's mind each morning as he passed the strange little shop. The first was curiosity that the logo painter had decided to write "Assoc." instead of "Associates" when there was enough room for the entire word and more besides. The second was that the shop floor directly in front of the window (or behind, he supposed, depending on where one stood) was blocked by venetian blinds when it could, and in most shops would, be used to display some sort of material that promoted the qualities of the business owner.

Already disrupted by being on the wrong footpath Timothy decided he would completely destroy his morning routine and enter the shop of Mr (he presumed) Kelloby. He pushed on the dark green door and a small bell mounted above the door rang to announce his entrance, as is the custom. Inside he found himself presented with what looked like the office of an accountant, and furthermore that of an accountant who had no time for ornament. Two comfortable but plain chairs sat on one side of a heavy wooden desk. On the wall behind the desk were two framed certificates of some form of education, difficult to be specific due to the exquisite flourishes of the script in which they were written. Below the qualifications, and in a third chair from the same set as the two presumably intended for customers, sat a man. Short, well groomed, with impeccable moustaches and clear grey eyes, he was the kind of man one would trust to execute the will of an eccentric millionaire.

He also looked like the kind of man who would clean his glasses with great care using a special cloth, which he was in fact doing when Timothy entered. He stood and offered his hand.
"Good morning sir," his voice inserted itself into the quiet office with a minimum of fuss. "I am Percy Kelloby."
"Yes. Good, um, good morning. Timothy Brown," replied Timothy shaking the proffered hand.
"Please won't you take a seat?" Kelloby gestured at one of the empty chairs with a smooth but firm wave and waited politely for Timothy to sit before once more seating himself. He opened on of the notebooks and made a note of the name. "Well then, Mr Brown, how may Kelloby & Associates be of assistance?" Through some trick of tone Kelloby made it clear that the business name was definitely '& Associates' rather than 'and associates'.
"Truth be told, Mr Kelloby, I was simply curious as to what you do here."
"We do what it says in the window, my good man. We plan occasions."
"I don't want to seem rude but it seems such a, well, dull shop front for the planning of parties and weddings and such." Timothy adopted his most placatory tone, well aware that entering a business solely to impugn its owner was not good etiquette. Kelloby seemed unfazed.
"Yes, yes, I see the problem. We don't plan special occasions," it was clear the phrase was not one he enjoyed employing, "we plan all occasions."
"I don't quite follow you Mr Kelloby." Kelloby leaned back a little in his chair and tugged at the end of his nose with forefinger and thumb for a few seconds. When he spoke again it was with the attitude of a tutor.
"Consider, Mr Brown, this morning. You have the look of a professional about you, if you don't mind me saying so." Timothy shook his head slightly. "I assume it is your routine to take this road, but on the other side, to your destination and that those public improvements disrupted that routine." This time Timothy nodded his head, as yet unable to see the destination of Kelloby's reasoning. "There is no good reason that you should have been so disrupted by this event. It should be, and we at Kelloby & Associates firmly believe in fact it is, possible to not have day to day activities marred by such occasions." By this stage Kelloby was leaning slightly forward, fingers pressed together in a wedge formation pointed at Timothy. Timothy looked back in bemusement.
"Are you saying you provide daily planning, alerts, that kind of thing?"
"Nothing quite so prosaic. Are you a man of letters, Mr Brown?"
"I read from time to time, yes."
"You are perhaps then familiar with the literary form 'on this occasion, however'?"
"I suppose so, yes?"
"That phrase indicates nothing surer than deviation from the expected trajectory of events. The signal that some individual's desire for nothing more than a day of predictability and order is about to be crushed. The precursor to outbreaks of personal tragedy, strange events, or" it was only with great self control that Kelloby managed to keep the sneer from disturbing his moustaches, "adventure."
"I hadn't thought about it in that light to be honest."
"Perhaps you ought, Mr Brown. Perhaps you ought. Now think about this: we, for a reasonable fee, can make sure it never happens to you."
"How exactly?"
"Ah," said Kelloby beaming, "that is quite something."

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