Near 500 words: The economist

Ester had a head for figures. She was born with it and it drove her crazy when people, especially the politicians, tried to make them lie. Her meeting was not going well. She sat across the table from the Chancellor of the School. They had been arguing for over an hour about the school’s budget. A few of the figures were off and she was concerned. Then the Chancellor let her in on his scheme.

She looked up from her open ledger. “You can’t do that,” she said, frustrated.

The Chancellor’s smile went into a frown. “No, I can,” her boss said. “And I am.”

“I won’t let you,” Ester threatened.

The Chancellor did not like what he was hearing. “There is nothing you can do about it.”

Ester looked down at the ledger and the papers beside them. “But there is.”

The Chancellor glared back at the economist. “You do that and I will destroy you. No one in the country will touch you after I get through.”

Ester was determined. “Allah, the Most Gracious the Most Merciful, will,” Ester said and pushed back her chair and stood up.

“Don’t do this.” There was a pleading in the Chancellor’s voice. “I have no choice. And neither do you.” The plea had turned to a threat.

“Chancellor, we always have a choice.”

Ester was done with the meeting. She opened her briefcase and stacked the papers into it.

The Chancellor’s hands were on the table. They were open and his palms lay still against the wood. He had calmed down from his anger. He knew what he had to do. He didn’t want to do it but he had no choice. “We’ve been friends for a long time.”

Ester closed the case. “Yes, we have. And a friend would not ask another friend to lie for him.” She closed the case firmly, picked it up and headed for the door. One last time, she gave her former friend one last determined plea. “Thomas, don’t do this.”

The door closed behind her.

Thomas went over to the phone and picked it up. “There’s no reasoning with her. Do what you have to do.”

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