This story was inspired by a photo taken from a collection of stock photos. Click here to see them.
Artemis never thought life as an accountant would be exciting. Still, working for his dad for the summer would be easier than flipping burgers at the Shake Star.
Dad pulled the Cutlass to the curb and nodded. “You go on ahead. I’ll park and be in in a minute or two.” His smile was reflected in his one remaining eye, the other covered by a black patch.
Artemis nodded back to his dad and opened the door. The Texas heat slammed into him. He grabbed the key from his pocket as he closed the heavy car door and walked to the front door of the firm of Gordon and Shumway. Dad’s partner, Allen, had been dead for five years, but he kept the Shumway name on the door. Tradition was very important to him. He unlocked the door and walked into cool darkness. The security system beeped at him until he entered the four digit code.
The smell of damp and old paper filled his nose. In spite of the advances that the early twenty-first century provided, dad still had a love of paper. The walls of the ten by twenty foot office were filled with books from floor to ceiling. They weren’t all accounting books, though most of them were. He’d grown up in this office for the last sixteen years and a good portion of one wall was filled with science fiction, fantasy, and the biographies of his favorite sports stars and political figures. There were also a few ancient history books, ones focusing on the ancient Middle East.
He cut on the lights and moved from computer to computer, booting them up. The two ladies that were dad’s office assistants, and had been since time immemorial, would be here in about a half hour. Dad always turned on their computers for them, so he thought it was the least he could do. Finally he sat down at his. The MacBook was already on and he checked his email. While he was double checking the spam filter he heard the door open.
Dad had taken a little longer than usual. He held a box of Dan’s Donuts in one hand and a battered leather case in the other. It wasn’t his usual briefcase, so Artemis raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. Dad was a creature of habit, to a fault. Seeing some new gear, or rather in this case new old gear was interesting. If it was something he needed to know, Dad would tell him.
Dad walked around the counter and put the donuts out for the ladies and his son. He went to the door to his own separate office and fished out a set of keys. He was the only one who had access to the ten by ten office beyond. He unlocked both sets of deadbolts and Artemis heard the chirping of the other alarm system. It’s chirping stopped and Dad called to him. “Come here Arty.”
Artemis was getting to the age where “Arty” was starting to chafe. Mom encouraged him to let it slide. Dad was a lot older than most of Artemis’ friends’ fathers. He was almost old enough to be Artemis’ granddad. His own dad was long dead. Still, hopefully the nickname would fade soon. He flipped the laptop closed and walked quickly to the office.
The lights flickered on and Artemis looked around. The shelves in here were filled too, though not with books. Calculating devices, everything from an ancient abacus to adding machines that were new when dad was a boy, and measuring devices, like sextants and surveyor’s tools, had their places. Dad had ensured that he knew how to use every single one.
“Sit down, son.” Dad scratched at his bare scalp. “We have something to talk about.”
This couldn’t be good. He ran his fingers through his own thick, black head of hair in a mirror image of the motion. The “tell” was a Gordon male’s way of expressing discomfort. “What’s up?”
“You’ve agreed to work with me and we’ve talked about how important this is to me.”
Artemis nodded. “You want to pass the torch.”
He smiled. “Exactly. I know that you think being an accountant is boring.” He held up a hand to stifle any reply. “There are days when it’s sheer drudgery. I won’t lie. I want to show you something today that will inspire you to believe that it can be your future, boring or not.”
Artemis fought to keep from rolling his eyes.
Dad’s eye narrowed. “I saw that.” His voice held some humor. He got up and retrieved the abacus. The counters were made from jade and the wood was almost as dark as Artemis’ hair. He sat is on the desk between them. “I know that you know how to use this, but there’s something I haven’t shown you.” He picked it up with his left hand and held it like one might a violin, nestled against his cheek. With his right hand he flipped a few of the counters, seemed to listen, flipped a few more, and then smiled. His right hand then flew through a series of gestures, almost like sign language.
A breeze began to blow through the room and Artemis could smell flowers. He looked around the windowless office. The sound of birds filled the air. The wall to his left, what would have been the rear of the building started to fade and he could see light filtering through as though coming through a thick curtain. He stood, pushing back the chair. “Dad. What’s going on?” He looked over at his dad.
He’d stood and was now holding the heavy leather case. “Well, son, I’m an accountant in more than just this world. Decades ago, Shumway and I found that abacus and discovered that it could open a doorway to another universe. We explored it and discovered that the king of the country on the other side of that wall was being bilked by his advisors. We showed him the advantages of spread sheets and modern accounting practices. He showed us magic and adventure.”
Artemis blinked, hardly believing it. “So you didn’t lose the eye in a college fencing match?”
Dad ran a finger across his patch and shook his head. “Dragon.” He smiled. “It’s time for this year’s audit and I thought I would take you with me. You game?”
Artemis still didn’t know what to make of the jungle he could now just make out through the office’s back wall. He thought of all of the books on the shelves out there. He wanted to live the adventure he’d read about. “Yes, sir!”
“Well come on, Artemis.” He pronounced his son’s name with the timbre one would use with an adult. “Let’s go see if I can show you that there are a few things about this life that you might enjoy.” He handed his son the abacus and together they walked into the green light of the far off jungle.