Proust in the Morning

A tax lawyer at Firm, Button, & Tucker, Phillip earned about 340 thousand dollars a year. His whole body thrilled to the sound of two words: billable hours. In three years he will have paid off the 4.6 million dollar mortgage on his Fifth Avenue apartment. It was spotless. It had everything. His study had a leather-topped mahogany writing table and a Natuzzi Cocò red leather armchair, surrounded on either side by two Louis XIV mahogany stands. On the shelves were 371 leather-bound volumes culled from the finest antiquaries in London, Paris, and the reputable cities of the Atlantic Seaboard. 

His bedroom was a masterpiece of European design, inspired by the cork wall and blue satin curtains of Proust, and by what he imagined to find in Lord Byron's bedchamber, deep in the Albany. At night Phillip would lie on his left side, thinking about billable hours. His right arm lay loosely down his back side, his wrist held firmly in place by the elastic of his pyjama bottom. His hand cupped his right buttock, which was small yet rounded. A perfect handful. He imagined himself in the office, going over the projected billable hours of the coming month. He imagined putting his hand around one of the small breasts of his secretary, Phyllis, with her short dark hair and wandering eyes. His middle finger tightened, then relaxed, still firmly held in place by the tight ring of his thoughts, which were focused on the golden ring which held the dark strands of Phyllis' ponytail in place.

Each morning Phillip slipped into the kitchen to make fresh orange juice, squeezed with a gleaming silver press and sweetened with a dash of Cointreau. He then popped the cork from a bottle of Pol Roget. He blended the two streams, orange morning sunshine and babbling brook, into a Lalique decanter. He then placed the decanter, along with two tall Baccarat crystal glasses and four cherry macarons, onto a pink, late 19th-century Sèvres porcelain plate. He set the plate on one of the mahogany stands beside the queen-size bed, with its white cotton Cairo sheets and its eiderdown pillows wrapped in blue satin. The sheets were open, like an invitation at three in the morning. The macarons were aux cerises, flown in yesterday from Paris.

Macarons, 27 février 2011, by Pauline Mak (Wikimedia Commons)

Macarons, 27 février 2011, by Pauline Mak (Wikimedia Commons)

Phillip bit into one of the macarons, letting his tongue slide in exploration between the rounded light pink edges. He thought of billable hours and the chart he would make to compare this and last year's earnings. What was the ratio between billed hours and billable hours? Was there a golden ratio or did each firm arrive at a ratio determined by their corporate structure and areas of expertise? He put the rest of the macaron in his mouth, allowing his tongue to linger between the stiff almond and cherry flanks. He would show the chart to Phyllis, and watch as she followed the black lines, which were like her pants with their white and black stripes leading upward from her polished black leather shoes to the bulge between her thighs. The strands of her slightly-oiled hair fell in two tight swirls, in the exact same formation, in front of both ears. Her black suspenders caressed her white cotton shirt, smartly pressed and turned up ever so slightly at the collar. The suspenders curved in unison over the swelling of her small breasts.

He stuffed a second macaron in his mouth and imagined himself in the office behind Phyllis, the plaid wool of his Zanella trousers up flush against the curve of her buttocks. She was bent over, glued to the numbers. He slid his fingers up and down the sides of her waist as they checked the columns for accuracy. Together, they calculated the billable hours for each department as he lifted the edge of her blouse from the elastic belt of her pants. His greedy fingers drifting lightly — restrained, impetuous -- across the soft white globes that dangled from her chest. He swept his palms in unison around the curves of her underarms and then plunged them down her back, under the elastic belt and into the lace panties that he knew would be pink, the colour of cherry macarons. If the ratio of billed to billable hours was the same from one quarter to the next, did this mean it was a golden ratio? Or would a fixed ratio over four quarters be necessary to get an accurate picture? And if this ratio was the same from one firm's working year to the next, did this make it a gold standard ratio? With the second macaron au cerise melting in his mouth, Phillip shifted on the white sheets. Phyllis would know. Shifting ever closer, so that his desire rode the top of her muscular thighs, he inserted it gently but firmly inside. 


Next short story: Cloud Illusions

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