Trouble with Oranges

Trouble with Oranges

I’m a lucky man. Here comes the 99 bus now, the fast one, direct to downtown, and I’m only, what? Maybe two hundred feet from the bus stop? But that orange. It’s uncomfortably wedged between my books and back. How’s a man supposed to run for the bus with an orange relentlessly poking him in the back? I’m so close. I bet I’ll make it.

Empty bus? Free seat? Great luck. Today, I will not become distracted by the goings-on outside the window. Absolutely not. I’m not the young man I used to be, after all, when I was carefree with my time and my actions didn’t affect anyone else. When I didn’t even realize how lucky I was. When a man gets married it shouldn’t be a surprise that he suddenly has less freedom, less time to work on his studies, for example, and other pursuits. A stitch in time saves nine, she always says. Clever lady. Today, as promised, I’ll use my time on the bus to study the principles of accounting.

By nature, we accountants are a diligent group; the ones who don’t stay focused on their studies tend to get left behind. It’s in a man’s best interest to get ahead, so I try to always work hard, sometimes before I even know what I’m working hard towards.

Good luck ultimately comes down to preparation, though, doesn’t it? Catching the bus? I was on time. Well, barely. Winning one of the most sought-after apprenticeships? At such a good firm? Hard work and preparation got me here, and I’ll be honest, also a bit of support from the home front. We completed so many applications and submitted them promptly. Painstakingly thorough. What a team. You can’t stay ahead if you don’t get ahead, she says.

It sure is hot. Gonna be a scorcher, if it’s hot this early. Sweat’s already gathering under my tie. And what a tight tie today. My undershirt’s getting soaked too. A breeze sure would be refreshing. If I could just get this window open. Success. Hah! See? Persistence does pay off.

Unfortunately, when my wife tidied me up this morning, she told me if I take my jacket off and loosen my tie on the bus I wouldn’t be able to fix it again properly for the office. But I do know how to fix my own tie. I do notice the little things! I don’t tie it as tightly as she does, though, that’s probably true. She’s better at things like that than me, no question.

When you’re going to be an accountant you must be honest with yourself and others. You can’t be misleading. It’s important to practise that trait outside of the office as well. It’s true I’m a neat and tidy man with a neat and tidy mind so it really is best if I reflect that with my appearance.

I’d better get my bag repacked before anyone else gets on this bus in case I need to share my seat. Well, would you look at that? Without the orange, my lunch fits perfectly. Everything else in my pack is also thin and flat and now it all fits together so well.

This orange. This orange has some heft. Not much bigger than a baseball, this orange. It would have momentum, that’s for sure. That window provides such a pleasant breeze being so wide open, and there’s just that weedy derelict boulevard out there. Wouldn’t hurt a soul. I could really get my arm crooked, loaded up, if I did it now. But I probably shouldn’t. My wife and I, we don’t like to waste.

Everyday my wife puts an orange in my lunch. Don’t get me wrong; I love oranges. Or at least I used to. And I love my wife. We’re newlyweds. And although she was the one who proposed getting married, I jumped on the idea. At the very moment she first brought it up, I was fully on board. That was a very private moment for sure, but I was all-in at the time. It’s having the same piece of fruit each day I find I can’t stand.

I must focus on my studies but it’s hard in this heat. If you perform accrual accounting, you make a record at the time services were received. If it’s the cash method you’re using, you record from when you received payment. Expenses and revenues must match in any given time period. They can’t get out of balance.

That principle lodged firmly in my brain I permit myself a brief respite to look out the window. We’re driving by the school now, where high-pitched chattering children are scattered at play before the morning school bell, wilder even than normal. They must be excited about their upcoming summer break. I might get a week off this summer too. But, ah, it’s only an apprenticeship, and already I’m barely getting paid. Vinyl seats sure stick to a sweaty back. Better sit up straight. Clever lady. So, probably no vacation this year, actually. You’ve got to invest in your future though. Always look ahead.

In the playground, a pair of boys in billowing t-shirts and loose shorts sit under a drooping willow tree, bent over, what is that? A game of chess. Nice. A third boy sits close by in solidarity, scribbling in a notebook. We’re moving again, passing by the sports field, where in the far corner a group is gathered. Ah, baseball game. Hmmm… there aren’t quite enough players, the teams look uneven. Never mind. The pitcher is lined up for a throw, he raises his arm, no, just a warm up, and—ah, we’re going too fast. I would have liked to see how that pitch turned out. I bounce my orange. Put a little spin on it as it lifts off my hand and down again.

I know this route well. Next, we’ll whoosh through a seedy, but intriguing, section of bars and…establishments advertised by signs of dancing girls flashing in neon. Not many requests to stop there, this time of day. Then we’ll whizz right through the residential neighbourhood, dotted with houses of worship of all kinds of faiths, and finally, our journey will slow down, interrupted by the many stoplights and pedestrian crossings at the edge of downtown. Not much to look at there, a monotonous stretch of grey concrete buildings, sealed high-rises, a few banks at street level. My destination is soon after that. Glass office towers, mini-big box stores selling business supplies, shops with fancy clothes for ladies and gentlemen, corner quick-stops with anything you might need to pick up and carry home with you straight away after work, mini-groceries, even baby supplies.

Accountants must be objective and free from personal opinion. All data needs to be supported by evidence. As an example, for the sake of my studies, what are the qualities of an orange that would be recorded as an asset, in the positive account? Well, an orange is a perfect parcel. It’s a most excellent fruit for carrying on its own. Very practical. The skin is tough and thick; nothing in your backpack will pierce an orange. Smooth or dimpled, the orange will safely make the journey with you to work or school. It even has a tiny pleasant scent, not so strong it distracts in the moments before lunch break when my stomach growls, but strong enough to linger on my books and bag.

The trouble with oranges materializes when it’s time to access the fruit inside. That rind, so useful at protecting the orange, is a terrible ordeal to get off. How can you bite into fruit to enjoy it if you can’t even get the peel off? You need to dig your nails in, even to get the first chunk out. It takes a real commitment to dig deep enough to get through all that white stuff. What even is that useless protective layer? It leaves a residue under your nails and stings your cuts. I have a long slice on my index finger now from working my way through this stack of papers I cart home and back. Liabilities for sure.

Once I’ve finished this apprenticeship and passed my exams, I will be an accountant and can support my wife. Forever. I will probably be sent to work with an orange every one of those days. You’d think an orange could be a passionate fruit. A peel, a challenge, a reward. Every day I try to look forward to my orange. I think eating my orange will be a delicate sweet moment. Each day I become more disappointed. When you finally get the rind off, you’re made aware of another truth. If the segments do separate easily, the orange will likely be bland and pulpy. If not, if you’re lucky and you have a sweet, sweet orange on your hands, you also have a frightful mess. Those oranges are difficult. The juice drips around you, onto the table, onto your work. It will have seeds you have to work around, so you can only take a little nibble at a time.

Accountants need to keep their ledgers orderly and up-to-date. It cannot be said that oranges aren’t affordable. And available. And last a long time before going bad. You must record the depreciation of assets from one year to the next.

Ah, here comes my stop. Quickly now, finish up. At the end of each year, once all assets and liabilities are summarized and weighed against each other, a balance sheet provides a snapshot about the current state of business. And so? For now, I’ll stick with my orange. Even if it’s the same old orange; day in, day out. My practical orange.

Did the driver not hear me pull the cord? There, he’ll hear that for sure. The orange is an odd lump inside my suit jacket pocket, pushing against my ribs. But I might be hungry later. I must now tidy my mind and join the ranks of office workers disembarking to begin their workdays. This time on the bus has been organized according to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.

Though I would even take an apple given a chance. A melon? I’d settle for a melon, slow and lopey, soothing. Anything to switch it up. A mango? I imagine a mango would be a juicy delight, rolling on the tongue like a… Even a sour mango with its tangy bite of…no, no. What about a lime? A lime would spit in your eye as you struggled to get the peel off. Now that would be a change. A man can dream. Even a soon-to-be-accountant can dream in the few moments he walks alone between his bus stop and work.


About the Author

Andrea Bishop lives in Vancouver, Canada. Her flash and short pieces appear in Grain, trampset, Orca, The Fiddlehead, and elsewhere. She recently completed a collection of short stories and is currently working on a novel. Andrea’s a morning person who has a deep respect for spreadsheets, oceans, forests, questions, dogs, and quests. She welcomes visitors at and dialogue on Twitter @_AndreaBishop.


Photo by Dominika Roseclay: