Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ospreys, Biplanes, and Creative Accounting


Lovely, lovely day at the beach.  At one point I woke up and saw dolphins in the water.  So, rather than wait for them to come out on land and join me, I went into the water and joined them.  Then a red biplane flew low overhead.

You couldn't make this stuff up.  Well, technically I could.  I've written better.  But I wouldn't.  I am the most honest of men.

Oh, and on the way home I saw baby whistle-pigs in Fairmount Park.  That's groundhogs in the common parlance.

And speaking of strict honesty . . .

Here's today's story.  It was written for Andrew Sather, who gave up on his plans to become an accountant when he discovered that he was way too good at the very illegal act of . . .

Creative Accounting 

Michael Swanwick

The interrogators took no chances.  They brought along a SWAT team, a medical unit, and six forensic mathematicians.  In unison, they smashed through every door and window of their target’s house.  Two Kevlar-vested soldiers slammed him against the wall, cuffed him, threw him to the ground, and then knelt on his back.  Then the chief negotiator spoke nicely to him.  “Are you Andrew Sather?”

“You’ve got the wrong guy,” Sather babbled.  “I’m just a computer nerd.  I work at Jenkins Law Library.  It’s the oldest law library in the nation.”

“It’s him,” one of the five identical men said.  “In our timeline, he applied for a job there before changing his mind and going to work for Goldman-Sachs.”

“Enron in ours.”

“Vatican Bank.”

“The state of California.”

Sather was hauled to his feet.  “I understand you’ve got a flair for creative accountancy,” the only of the five who hadn’t previously spoken said.  He had a bland face.  If he weren’t so eerily multiplied, he would have looked perfectly forgettable.

“That’s why I changed my major.  I discovered I had talent for creating illegal financial instruments and it scared me.”

“In this timeline maybe,” one of the five said.  “In ours you crashed the economy.”

“Worldwide depression.”

“Catholic Church up for sale.”

“California’s a third-world nation.”

“Look, kid,” the bland man said, “I’m going to bring you up to speed.  It’s a tightly-kept secret, but contact has been made with a dozen parallel worlds, all of them extremely much like our own, and there’s a very lucrative trade of extremely high-end goods across the timelines.  The line which invented the technology to travel between alternatives is economically dominant, of course.  Call it Timeline Prime.  We won’t go into the politics, but we five represent a powerful minority bloc of worlds.”

“There are differences between the worlds, but there are also commonalities.”

“One of them is you.”

“With your special talent, you’ve caused untold economic devastation in all but two of the timelines that have been discovered so far.”

“You’re a remarkable individual, Mr. Sather.”

“Look,” Sather said, “I see what you’re getting at, and I want to reassure that I have no plans whatsoever of getting back into accountancy.   Absolutely none.  I swear to God I have no intention of doing any harm to anyone.”

As one, all five men raised their hands and shook their heads. 

“You don’t understand, Mr. Sather.”

“We want to use your powers for good, Mr. Sather.”

“In defense of your timeline, Mr. Sather.”

“As a kind of weapon, Mr. Sather.”

The bland little man from Sather’s own timeline smiled in a way that chilled his blood.  “You see, Mr. Sather, not everyone is pleased with the economic dominance of Timeline Prime.”


Above:  The Church of the Nazarene in Maurice River Township has ospreys nesting on a power pole in their parking lot.  Ospreys! How cool is that?   I imagine they begin church services by praying, "O Lord, please make us humble.  Because it's pretty darned hard to be humble when you've got ospreys nesting in your parking lot."  And then they have to start over again.


Matthew Brandi said...

Wow! I thought I had a dim view of christians, but I tip my hat to you.

Perhaps they'll be humble, because they've got ospreys nesting on their power pole.

Must we suppose that the god-botherers will assume credit for anything wonderful in their vicinity?

Michael Swanwick said...

I have no problems with Christians -- in fact, I married one. I just assume that ANYBODY with ospreys nesting in their parking lot is going to have a hard time maintaining their humility. Because that's just so darned cool.

Matthew Brandi said...

We agree that the nesting ospreys are very cool.

When I see a cool thing which is no handiwork of mine, I am humbled.

Surely, that's not so eccentric.

Joe Stillman said...

Osprey's are cool. You have to keep your cool when you live inches away from 12,000 Volt power lines.