Speech, Speech!

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In the 34 years it has been my pleasure to be associated with this company — well, not quite 34, actually, but very close to it, very close indeed — in fact, a good deal more than 33 — perhaps even more than 33 and a half, though I’m not sure, it might have been a leap year — but anyway, so close to 34 that it might as well be 34, even though it’s not — at least, I don’t think so…As I was saying: In the 33 (or possibly 34) years I’ve been associated with this company — and may I add that the association has always been a pleasurable one — of course I’m only speaking for myself, but in a sense, as president of this firm I speak for all of us when I say that the pleasure associated with my association with the company — or strictly speaking, the company’s association with me — has always been a great source of pleasure. Which is not to imply that it is not still a great source of pleasure — not at all — indeed, the continuation of the association will always continue to provide a continued source of pleasure — a very great source — for the company — or me, rather — or at any rate, someone. I hope.

As I look out over this crowd of eager faces — I think they’re faces — I mean, I think they’re eager — I say, as I eagerly face these equally eager faces — a crowd of them, mind you, and I remember the days when there were only a handful of us here, only a few — three, it was, unless you count Mrs. Kaiser, my personal secretary — that would make it four — I guess we really ought to count her, since she did all the work — stand up, Mrs. Kaiser, stand up, dear — I’m sorry, she can’t stand up, apparently, she broke her hip or something — of course if she had told me sooner I would’ve given her some time off, although technically she doesn’t have any coming to her until later this year — next year, I should say — that is, the next fiscal year…The point is, we had to wear a lot of hats back then, way back when it all started 34 — 33, really — years ago. No, it must have been 34, because that was the year Uncle Leopold fell down the stairs — I mean, the first time he fell down the stairs — I think he was only doing it for fun after that, trying to keep busy, you know — worked until he was 98. Of course he had to, we were charging him rent, and that man knew how to eat — I mean, you’d put one slice of bread on his plate and in no time at all he’d be asking for another — a hell of a man, Uncle Leopold was, a hell of a man — talk about a sense of humor, why he could make you laugh at nothing. Right out of the blue he’d say: “I’m going to smoke until it kills me. I’ve got nothing to live for.” Then he’d light up and we’d all burst out laughing.

He had another trick, too — did I ever tell you this story? — I guess not. We’d hide his checks — you know, pension, social security, whatever came for him — and then we’d make him look for them. He’d play along just like a true sport and pretend to search everywhere, days at a time — and then he’d give up. I can still see him standing at the top of the stairs, bawling his eyes out as if he really cared about those checks — of course he didn’t — he didn’t need them, he had $300 saved in one of his socks — we took it one month when he couldn’t make the rent, but we put play money there so he wouldn’t know the difference — uh —

Where was I again?

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