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ACCOUNTING FOR NITWITS • by Suzanne Conboy-Hill

“‘Pretty as a picture, no need for brains!’ Daddy always said.” Dora preens at her reflection in the bistro’s art deco mirror, “Well, now I look pretty smart too, don’t I?” Her own joke slides by unnoticed.

“Yes, you do.” I plaster a plastic smile onto my face, “So when do you take over?”

“Next meeting of the Executing …”

“Executive.”

“Executive Board in…” She wallows airily, wafting a neatly manicured finger around by her ear.

“June.”

“June,” she says, as if she just arranged it.

“It’ll be a lot of work.”

“Yes, but of course I’m used to that, silly, chairing the Branch and everything. It’ll be no problem at all.” She shrugs her shoulders up to her ears in a cutsie, all-girls-together simper, and makes babydoll eyes at me. “I’ll even be overseeing all those absolutely fascinating little spreadsheet things.” My smile is fixing, like acrylic paint on a garden gnome. “They do all the work for you, of course, you just twiddle them a bit.”

Give me strength!

“As you say, a bit of twiddling.” Or so she’s been telling her vacuous friends, and looking smug when they pass it on  – “Oh Jeremy, Dora does all the Branch accounts on her own! Isn’t that just the most amusing thing?” Crap!

Dora gets up and breezes towards the exit while I lump along behind, stopping at the counter to pay because Dora is like the Queen and doesn’t carry money.

“Tally, sweetie, call me a cab, it’s drizzling and my hair will go so dreadfully flat.”

I resist telling her she’s a cab; it’s an old joke and she never gets it. I hit speed-dial instead. “Where to?”

“The hairdresser.”

“The hairdresser?” It’s only round the corner so how the blazes can it matter if her hair is flat on the way in? I button it; who knows, she might get papped by Scruffy Fergus from the Clarion with his old Canon SLR, and wouldn’t that be a disaster?

The disaster, of course, is that this feckless, self-obsessed, social parasite is about to become our association’s President, and she doesn’t even know how feckless she is because I’ve been keeping her upright for years. Okay, so it’s only rose growing but you do have to know your Alba from your Elbow if you’re not going to look a Dick’s Delight.

“Bye, Tally darling,” (it comes out daahling), “See you later.” Dora air-kisses at me and precision-slides into her taxi. It’s not our taxi, you’ll notice, I’m left standing in the drizzle that’s about to unleash a royal flush. “I’m having supper with Daddy tonight, so I’ll gee him up about getting the Baroness for our fundraiser.”

Daddy; His Lordship the Marquis of Southdown. Which makes her Lady Isadora Arse-Lick of Up-Your-Own-Backside. You see, that’s where Dora’s assets lie; upper-crust, influential connections and a Daddy who’ll do anything to indulge his precious little numpty. And me? Am I not doing my share of indulging too? Well, we go back, Dora and me. My aspirational grammar school parents hot-housed me into a scholarship to Benenden — you know, where Princess Anne went — so I got to hang out with the titled nitwits. I was useful — I knew maths and IT (spot the ‘witty’ nickname), but much better, I knew my place:

“Oh, Tally…”

“Sally.”

“Oh, but Tally is so much more fun, you must agree.”

“Okay, Tally, then.”

“Be a love and see if there’s any more Perrier; Nettie and I are absolutely parched.

So you see, her reeling me into her fancy world, letting me play with the posh kids — as long as I didn’t actually think I was one — and keeping me as a pet, got me where I am now, the unwitting architect of her national success.

So now you’re wondering why that’s a problem. Well, it’s a problem because I never expected her to run for office, and I certainly never expected people to vote for her. Obviously, if they knew her, they didn’t. Trouble was, most people only knew her by reputation and that’s managed by me. So now she’ll be on her own; no one to tell her what to think, who to schmooze, or how not to pat the plebs on the head. Never mind root stock, we’ll be the laughing stock and her gaffes will be on YouTube forever.

But the bigger problem is a bit closer to home. If Dora’s not running the show here — I use the term loosely — someone might get parachuted in, which could be inconvenient because I’ve been handling things somewhat to my own advantage, if you get my drift. There’s only one thing for it.

I head back to the office and pull up the accounts on Dora’s computer — the one she claims to twiddle but still thinks is beige — and I open them with ‘her’ password. Then I pull up a second set of accounts, which looks much like the first but has a slightly teensier balance, and I transfer a smidgen of cash from this one into Dora’s personal account. Just enough for stupidity, not enough for actual guilt — because who’d believe dopey Dora had the nous to commit fraud when she has enough trouble getting the truth lined up straight? Then I run my clean-up software on the system and purge it of anything that points to me. There’s not much. Turns out, doing everything in someone else’s name so they look good in the eyes of their public, means theirs is the only name in the frame. With any luck, next week’s audit will reveal blithering ineptitude and Dora will be ex-President faster than you can say Nixon. Naturally, I’ll stick around a while to pick up the pieces but then I fancy I’ll make a move. Lady Constance might appreciate a hand with her ‘tax economical’ donations to charitable causes and, well, that begins at home, doesn’t it? Tally ho!


Dr. Suzanne Conboy-Hill has been all sorts of things and expects to be all sorts of more things before she finally stops bothering everyone. The nice people at Zouche, The Other Room, Ether Books, and Every Day Fiction, among others, have published stories, and the whole mongrel assortment can be accessed from here: http://conboyhillfiction.wordpress.com/wheres-my-published-stuff/.


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ACCOUNTING FOR NITWITS • by Suzanne Conboy-Hill, 3.2 out of 5 based on 34 ratings
Posted on January 21, 2013 in Humour/Satire, Stories
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  • Irena P.

    An interesting premise. But my favorite moment here was the comparison of the fixed smile to the acrylic paint on a garden gnome. Brilliant.

  • http://literopia.blogspot.com Ehtisham

    I absolutely love everything about this story.

    I see this happening in politics in my country all the time, where the people at the top can’t tell their left shoe from the right, and yet they get to decide the fate of millions simply because they were born into the ruling class.

  • http://www.interiorpassage.com Erin Ryan

    I found the breathless society dialogue hard to follow here. Maybe it’s because I’m American.

    Spent most of the story wondering why Sally would put up with this idiot in this first place, until the penultimate graph, when Sally hints she’s been embezzling funds. Then it made more sense. But perhaps that revelation should be higher up in the story?

  • SarahT

    Sally is supposedly smarter than Dora, but she’s committing fraud to sabotage Dora over a garden club position?

  • http://cathryngrant.com Cathryn Grant

    This had me from the first line and never let go. Hilarious and sly. I love that spreadsheets do all the work, requiring only a “bit of twiddling”. Well done with a very satisfying ending.

  • Pingback: Accounting for Nitwits « Suzanne Conboy-Hill – finding fiction()

  • JenM

    I really loved this! It’s sad that the average rating isso low. I rated it a five.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Enjoyed it (though a Yiddishism in the middle of that British archness was like finding a mah jongg partner lurking at Windsor). Agree with #7 but didn’t quite get to 5–a lively 4.

  • Jennifer Ripley

    Woops, late to the game. Thought it alive with energy and wit. The beginning took some time to warm in to but then it took off. Well done!

  • Rachael Dunlop

    Fun and frothy. I found it a bit hard to get into – the overall rhythm of the piece doesn’t quite work for me. It felt a bit staccato. And I thought the ending rushed up a little. I assume the narrator has been fiddling the books and realised that she is about to be found out, so has shifted the blame to Dora. A teeny bit of foreshadowing would have smoothed out the story for me, because up to the that point, I wasn’t really sure why I was interested in this woman and her story. It’s a great twist, and works well, but could be even better with a whisper of a hint earlier on, to pique my interest. The writing itself was very good, with some excellent turns of phrase (like the plastered smile).

  • http://conboyhillfiction.wordpress.com Suzanne Conboy-Hill

    Glad to have provided a Monday giggle – I did actually vote against someone I knew because I thought they would be a disaster, and so did most other people who knew that individual. Despite that, they were elected. I’m saying nothing!

    Sarah, I had to ask a friend what the Yiddishism was – schmooze has become such a part of British English that I wasn’t consciously aware of it as such. We are mongrels who have absorbed all sorts of expressions – often from the US which is probably how we got that one. I can’t speak for the Royals and mah jongg though :)

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