My 10:00 appointment was running late. I looked down at the clock in the bottom corner of the screen. Seven minutes past the hour already. Glancing around the glass-walled cubicles to make sure that none of my bosses were looking my way, I alt-tabbed over to the scores for my fantasy league.
I grumbled to myself. I was already down ten points, in third place, and my best player had a by week. As I clicked back and forth between sites, trying to decide who to swap in, I heard a knock from the entrance to my transparent office.
“Yes?” I said, hastily escaping from my league’s home page and returning to the accounting software. I glanced up to see a small, ordinary man in a gray suit standing at the entrance.
“I’m here for my appointment,” the man said. “Sorry I’m late. Well, no, I’m not sorry at all. I mean, I’d rather be late and know what I do than be on time and in the dark.”
My quizzical look must have clued him in to how little sense he was making. “Erm, don’t worry about it,” he decided. He removed a rather untidy stack of papers from under his arm. “Anyway, I need you to help me work out a budget.”
I took the stack from him, dumping them on my desk without much enthusiasm. “Here at H&R Block, we make budgeting easy,” I said, reciting the rote speech without any conscious thought. “Whether you’re budgeting for a house or retirement, we can-“
“No, neither of those,” the man said, interrupting my routine. “I just need to live as comfortably as possible until June 24th, 2017.”
I looked up from the pile. “What happens on June 24th, 2017?” I asked.
“Nothing,” the man responded, shrugging offhandedly as he settled into one of the two office chairs across from my desk. “But on June 25th, 2017, the world is being demolished, so I won’t need much cash after that.”
The man didn’t seem too perplexed by my, well, perplexity. “Oh, yeah,” he continued, staring blithely off into space. “Being demolished for an interstellar bypass, you know how things are. Fortunately I thought to check the records office.”
I didn’t know whether this man was a prophet or insane. He didn’t seem off, other than his gentle insistence that the world was about to end. I turned back to his papers, a slightly more familiar territory. “Well, according to your bank statements, you’re doing quite well, and you have a tidy nest egg,” I stammered. “Are you planning on continuing at your current job?”
“If I have to,” the man replied. “I mean, I wouldn’t mind being able to take a year off, get to travel about and see some of this place before it’s all kaput.”
I hit a few numbers, did some calculations. “Well, you could probably afford to do so, although it would deplete most of your savings,” I concluded. “Um, I suppose you could put more of your portfolio into stocks, since you aren’t as worried about long-term stability?”
The other man nodded, smiling. “Exactly the type of advice I was looking for!” he beamed. “Perfect. Anything else?”
I leafed through the pile of papers and receipts. “Stop paying for life insurance?” I guessed.
“Another excellent idea!”
I hit the print button on the computer, and the man rose to his feet, offering his hand as the printer spat out the paper. “Thank you so much for all your help,” he said warmly.
“No problem,” I replied, still feeling slightly lost as I took the proffered hand. “But, really, the world is ending in four years?”
At the doorway, the man shrugged. “The plans could always change,” he said. “But, at this point, the money’s already been granted, so they’ll have to do it just to justify their expense reports anyway.”
“So what do we do?”
“That’s easy!” the man sang, as he danced out of my office, budget in hand. “Catch a ride!”
I sat, staring blankly into space, for a few minutes after the strange appointment. A few other accountants had stories of the crazy people who had come in, needing help. Most of the time, it was the finances that were crazy, however, not the actual person. This man had actually had a very good setup, financially. I checked the name. Mr. Prefect.
Waiting for my next client, I once again glanced over at my fantasy scores. However, after a long moment’s thought, I opened up a tab and googled “NASA.”