Such As It Is

"Nothing more to do here?" The severe woman in the crisp, black business suit looked unsmilingly on her partner.

"Nothing." Her partner, a bearded man of sizable girth looked around the small living room with a look that approached wistful as near as it dared. His suit was red and of a much more generous cut, but otherwise in the same style as hers. "Everything's in place. Such as it is."

"Excellent." The woman tapped something on a tablet. "On to the next."


"We have a schedule to keep, Nick. No time for a nightcap." The man's gusty sigh soughed through his beard. He made a tired gesture toward their egress with a winter-gloved hand. She ducked in ahead of him and he, pausing a moment, took one last look at the scene: a plastic tree by the fireplace, beneath it a slim binder detailing available rewards for virtue points earned through the year.

"Tick tock, Nick." He closed his eyes and remembered a happier time. "Tick tock." He stepped beside her at the mantle and laid a finger on his nose. As they whisked up the chimney, he wished for a time before the hostile takeover of Christmas.