“Roland, I have adopted an heir,” Mrs. Frobisher said one day. My name is actually Steven, but Mrs. F renames all her employees. She says it’s so she can remember all their names. She pays well and the economy is bad, so no one really complains.
“Congratulations, Ma’am,” I said.
“I want you to see to his education and such, Roland. He just has so much potential. I look forward to seeing him bloom under your guidance.” She looked at me sternly and I understood that there had better be blooming or my job was over.
“I’ll do my best,” I said.
“Excellent.” Mrs. F opened the side door of her office that no one else is ever allowed to open and called out, “Harold, come meet your new friend Roland.”
There was a shuffling sound and I leaned forward. Out of the darkened room came a monkey dressed in a little three-piece suit. It looked at me and scratched its side absently. “Isn’t that—” I began.
“Yes, this is Harold,” she interrupted. “Harold, meet Roland.”
Was it a joke? It didn’t seem like it. I held out a hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Harold. I look forward to working with you.” Harold looked at my hand and then slapped it before wandering off.
“Children these days,” Mrs. Frobisher said. She chuckled. “He’s going to be a handful. All the bright children are, of course. Well, I’ll leave you two to get acquainted.” She sat at her desk and pulled out some paperwork. She was holding it upside down.
I turned to Harold. He was digging through the wastebasket. I wanted to cry. I was just barely making rent and not even the fast food places were hiring. Monkey or not, Harold was going to bloom. I pulled out my phone and started texting.
Harold learned quickly. I found him a tutor and he mastered enough sign language to get by in his expensive private school. He was a whiz at multiple-choice tests. Between that and some over-helpful tutors, Harold managed to graduate and ace the college entrance exams. He was accepted at a small but prestigious university, helped along by a large well-timed donation from a proud Mrs. F.
Well, that’s that, I thought as I read the acceptance letter. He’s bloomed. I happily prepared to deliver the acceptance letter and go back to auditing accounts or something. Of course someone had been hired to take over my former duties, but surely something was available.
Mrs. Frobisher set down the letter with a happy sigh. “Roland, you’re doing so well for my Harold. I’ll arrange for an apartment for the both of you near the university so you can continue to advocate for my dear boy.”
I felt faint. “Mrs. F?”
“Oh, don’t worry. The company will partially reimburse you for any classes you wish to take to further your education while you’re there. Harold will still be your priority of course.” She gave me that look again. The economy was still pretty bad, too.
Oh well. I’d always wanted to get an MBA. And I’d become rather fond of the little guy too. How would he manage without me?
So, Harold and I went away and got degrees. Harold’s talent for multiple-choice tests was as sharp as ever. Mrs. Frobisher cried at his graduation. Three months later, she passed away unexpectedly.
To my surprise, she’d changed her will years ago. Harold was left in my care and everything was left to him. Yes, the company too. I know.
To my surprise, under Harold’s leadership, the company did better than ever. I’d prepare any decisions he needed to make as a multiple-choice test, and otherwise he was pretty hands off and let people do their jobs. He was very popular.
Far too soon, Harold grew old. He moved more slowly and was less interested in doodling on the reports from the department heads. He didn’t have any children (despite some awkward blind dates set up by Mrs. F), so I helped him to turn the company over to the employees.
Harold helped me narrow down the list of candidates for CEO and then we left it to a company-wide vote. I nearly spit my cocoa on Harold when I read the results. I had won the election as a write-in candidate.
Harold was able to stay in the little apartment behind the door no one else is ever allowed to open. I did my best for the company. When Harold passed away, thousands came to his funeral.
I stood by the casket, shaking hands and trying not to cry. A child approached and wrinkled up his nose. “Mom,” he said, “It’s a monkey.”
“Hush, dear,” his mother said. “The funeral home just did a bad job. Poor man. They should have had it closed casket.”
They moved on. I felt lost. Maybe I should start renaming all the employees. Maybe I should find an heir.