Larry was on evocation. Four months on, four months off, give or take. On the last day of work, Larry hung his suit jacket on its rack. It should have been four months before he slipped it back over his arms and wings to return to the office. One missed transmission from his client. Too late.
Chewing unconsciously on the stub end of his brush, Larry surveyed the water’s edge. A perfect sunset (it’s always sunset here) of coral and indigo wrapped the contour of the sea. Another stroke of orange. Palms swayed. Maybe I'll send this one to my nephew.
Larry didn’t hate his job, but he couldn’t live for it. Some of those in his line of work found enrichment in their clients' spiritual success. He preferred coastal twilights and alpine fogs, the self-lived artist's life. His buzzer buzzed. Two missed transmissions. I can't believe they still want me to carry this thing around. Larry scowled. Bungled it. He stuffed the device in his pocket and took to repairing a new ugly shape on the canvas.
Work was simple but subtle. He couldn't ignore too many demands but he couldn't spoil the client either. Sometimes, by his own judgment, Larry would have to do the opposite of what is asked of him. Performance was evaluated only by his subject's progression, meaning Larry was free to set his own schedule: four months on, four months off, give or take. All he had to do was make sure that, by the end of the year, his numbers would be higher than they were at the beginning. Of course even if Larry were laid off (he had never seen it happen) he figured the stakes were low and he'd just find something else to do, so where Larry thought he could, he pushed it. Nobody important complained. Six missed transmissions. URGENT.
He set aside his book on the end table squinting uncomfortably at the loud print strobing from the device. It spoke in bright red. Dim shafts of marigold sprang off cool cabin dust onto the bed and buzzer like spotlights. Can't hurt to check. I'd fire off a message of my own. RELAX. Or worse. But there's no button.
Larry's client was languishing. Miserable idle spirit. He ought to resolve himself like usual. Larry would occasionally intervene, pushing little outcrops of fortune through the firmament to his subject who seemed to respond best not to material gain but fragments of ideas. This made it harder for Larry than he had it on his last contract. It's easy enough to pull strings and land a twenty on the park bench or a Bentley in the garage, but fulfilling unmet intellectual desire is a fragile task. Larry took sympathy on his client, because it is exactly when he is doing this kind of work that he feels the way his client does now. Larry decided to move on with his holiday.
After a while the transmissions waned and eventually disappeared. Larry felt proud of this improvement in his client's disposition—sometimes you just need a hands-off approach and things will take care of themselves. Really it's like handling a child. He'd enjoy a night out on the city (it's always night there) and a hike in the morning, lunch at a new eatery (they're always new here), maybe back to morning for another go, maybe I'll finish this piece at my cottage instead, spend a night with the girl from the museum, where dawnlight never gets bright enough to wash out the view. The gadget again.
Boss asked you in.
What for? Larry fidgeted in the waiting room with his head slouched midway below his shoulders, pointed down so he might pitch a half-eye glare to anyone who intercepts his bad mood. He strained to adjust to drop ceiling bureaucracy so early, still recovering from his quarterly allergic fit. Hang in there 🐱. I knew I should have thrown it away. I know how to do my job. His company was a dark-haired woman, dark-eyed, older than him, seated a few spots away, closer to the counter, behind which he saw the upper face of a cheerless young desk rat occupying an occluded five-wheel mesh swivel chair sporadically thumping out an unknown sequence but otherwise silent. No place for comfort but a little comedy; on the counter stood a tiny plastic figurine of a rubber fowl scotch-taped to the surface whom the desk rat let do his talking via label-printered label printing: CHUG THE CHICKEN ASSISTANT MANAGER.
People think a lot of things are like math when they are really more like architecture.
The woman leaned in a little and faced him. I mean that people try to reason about the world as if it were made of logic. Trying to find a logical answer when it's really structural. Do you know what I mean? They think it's polynomial but it's like this. She tugged at her shirt collar. You know? He didn't.
I'm sorry. It's just something that annoys me about my job. I'm in civil engineering [we do that?]. I think that problem is why I'm here. And you?
I don't know why they asked for me.
The door clicked open. Laurence. Sir.
He nodded politely to the woman and entered his boss's office where the situation was wholly, considerately explained to him. Three and a half months ago Larry took his leave. Thirteen days ago his client had stepped twenty-one feet across an overpass twenty wide. It's right here on the report. Four months on, four months off, give or take. We think there's a scheduling conflict. Sorry, you understand. Then they sheared off Larry's wings and he fell out of Heaven forever.