Ah yes, this April day with birds singing as if for the mere joy of it, with the naked sun a dazzling white globe bleaching the milky blue sky, with the morning mist shielding the pastel drawn hills, with the masts of the small sailboats shimmering in the distance as they rocked on the softly rippling river.
Today, as at 8.45 a.m. on every other weekday for the past two years, Mr Adrian Clark strode purposefully across the arched, iron bridge that led him to his workplace. The beauty around him invisible as he stared at the pavement ahead, his mind set on service standards, workload, productivity and effectiveness.
“If I can only do one hundred and five percent today, that’ll push the team’s average to over ninety five,” he thought. “We’ll be back on track to make-” Suddenly, a splash, quickly followed by another. Mr Clark glanced over the rail to the river below. As his eyes scanned the surface, he noticed a small, circular patch of water begin to bubble, then fizz, then boil. As he watched more intently, a salmon leapt fully two feet into the air, light scintillating along its body as the scales reflected the sun like crystals of ice on a December dawn, then twisting deftly, plunged headfirst back into the glistening depths.
Mr Clark stopped walking. A look of stunned bewilderment masked his face as if he was trying to comprehend what he had just seen. Like a child that had witnessed their first snow fall or experienced their first magical Christmas morn, he stood entranced, not wanting to turn away, not able to move lest it should happen again and he miss it.
“Adrian, are you all right?” Veronica’s chirruping voice sliced through the fresh morning. “Come on, Adrian, no time to stand around. There’s work to be done!” she continued half joking. Mr Clark roused at his manager’s presence and, without taking his eyes from the water, began to explain, “I’ve just seen a beau…” “I’ll meet you in there,” she interrupted and walked off. “I’ve one or two ideas for increasing productivity that I want to discuss with you.” Her voice was fading
to insignificance. “Hurry now! Don’t be late!”
Mr Clark raised his eyes slowly, reluctantly at first, from the spot upon which they had fixed, and gazed out through the hurrying people around him, beyond the rushing, rasping vehicles, at the vastness of the sure and steady river. He saw with new eyes the gleaming, glinting, star-studded surface and marvelled.
Dark figures hustled and dashed past him, either on foot or secreted inside their sound-proofed, fourwheeled coffins-for-the-living, hurtling blindly to their temporary resting place, but Mr Clark was oblivious to them. He knew only the grey-blue ribbon below him, meandering slowly, calmly and in its own good time, eventually to be welcomed by the cosseting mists in the distance.
Closing his eyes, but holding this image in his mind, he tilted back his head, took a long, deep breath of dewy, ozonefilled air and smiled as the Spring-sharp morning permeated his lungs, stripping away two years of staleness in an instant. A body brushed against him. A hand held his arm and shook him and he heard a familiar voice call his name: “Adrian?” Louder: “ADRIAN! What are you playing at? It’s five past nine!” No response.
“Are you okay?” The Voice continued. “You don’t look yourself. Has something happened?” Mr Clark did not open his eyes, but took another deep breath and exhaled slowly, waited, then replied in a whisper, “Yes, I think it has.” A short silence followed as if the Voice was expecting some sort of explanation, but none came.
“You’ve never been late in your life!” The Voice added, then diminishing, continued, “You’d better move yourself.” For a moment, Mr Clark felt a knot of anxiety tighten his stomach. He allowed his head to fall forward and snapped open his eyes. A handful of late starters hurried along ahead of him, but none were near enough to have spoken. He looked around expecting to see the face of one of his colleagues, but saw no-one.
He started off again, hesitantly, in the direction of the three-storey redbrick building that he inhabited for the majority of the day. As he did so he eyed the first-floor windows behind which his fellow New Accounts team members were already endeavouring to prove their effectiveness. A small dark strip in one of the windows caught his attention. The vertical blinds that were normally drawn and closed to shield the workforce from the distraction of the outside world were pulled slightly to one side and there, peering out of the small gap, was the bird-like face of Veronica. Shelooked at Mr Clark, then at her watch, then at Mr Clark once more.
Mr Clark turned away quickly and would have quickened his pace too, if at that moment, a strong gust of wind had not blown into his face.