After twenty-five years, this was the day, thought Mr Prism as he took the books through to the office and opened the topmost ledger. He would tell old Gillyflower this very morning that a man of his talents (dare he use such a word?) could not be expected to do the same thing day after day for so long with so little variation in routine.
Sharpening his quill and hopping down from the stool to fetch a new pot of ink, Prism stopped at the window, as he so often did, to inspect the rose bushes and their attendant bees. They had, between them, their usual moment together before he turned back to desk and books and today’s most important of the ledgers.
“Mr Prism,” Miss Gillyflower said, sailing through the office door at full mast. In her hand, she had a stick of the new rock with, he expected, the words “Gillyflower’s Finest” imprinted into its very core. Depositing it on his desk, she smiled her suspicious porcelain smile. “Your opinion?”
His opinion was as it always was. Not to be spoken. It wasn’t as if he could tell her that, serious lack of skills notwithstanding, he
would much prefer to be on the factory floor with the rollers, with – in fact (and here was the bit that so impressed the children when Gillyflower opened up the factory for them to view) – the giant size stick of rock laid out before its eventual rolling down into miniature form. It always took those not in the know by surprise – of all the methods they might have imagined for creating the words in the rock, starting off with a giant, man-sized cylinder with massive red fondant letters was nowhere on their list.
Except there was some beauty in the simplicity, wasn’t there? Unlike other things round here that had been compressed and squeezed and rolled into so much less than they had once been.
The quill flittered over the ledger. Beyond the casement, the bees flittered, too.
My happy friends, he thought.
“Well?” Miss Gillyflower asked.
“Miss Gillyflower, I…” Prism began. For some reason, he had ink all over his hands.
And maybe the bees did perform much the same routine, day in and day out, Prism thought. Maybe it was as monotonous as the drone of massed wings that he nonetheless found reassuring when he was attending to his figures. But they had the honey to show for it, didn’t they? In the end. They had something pure and sweet and natural and…
“Mr Prism?” Mrs Gillyflower picked up the stick of rock and turned it end-on, so that he had no choice but to look at it. Realising that, at least for now, she had the upper hand in any conversation to be had between them, he reached for his pince-nez, peering through them at the words that most certainly did not say “Gillyflower’s Finest.”
“August Prism,” he read. “Without whom…”
“I thought it was perhaps time that your book-balancing skills were recognised,” Mrs Gillyflower said.
“I…” He had no words. Because his employer had them. In sugar form. “I don’t know what to say.”
Mrs Gillyflower patted him on the shoulder. “No need to say anything, Mr Prism,” she told him, before leaving him to his ledger. And his rock. What he’d be proud to tell his friends in the bushes outside were his “honeyed words”. Maybe he didn’t have honey to show for his efforts, but he certainly had “honeyed words”.
How he would feel about that on the first day of his twenty-sixth year in the job was, of course, another matter entirely.
"Honeyed Words" by Mike Hickman