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The Appointment
by William Kitcher

Harvey got off the elevator on the 14th floor, and approached the reception desk. The woman behind the desk, whose name plate indicated her name was Griselda Grisenthwaite, stared at her fingernails and ignored Harvey, so he cleared his throat.
Without looking up, Griselda said, “Water fountain down the hall to your right.”
“No,” said Harvey. “I'd like to see Mr. Johnson.”
“What's wrong with your throat?”
“Then why were you ‘ahem’ing?”
“I was trying to get your attention. I'm just very polite.”
“You're an idiot. What can I do for you?”
“I'd like to see Mr. Johnson.”
“Do you have an appointment?”
“Mr. Johnson’s very busy. You'll need an appointment.”
“Fine. Can you give me an appointment?”
“Why not?”
“Only Mr. Johnson can give you an appointment.”
“So I have to clear it with Mr. Johnson to get an appointment?”
“Can I go in to see him to get an appointment?”
“Haven't you been listening? You need an appointment to see Mr. Johnson.”
“So I need an appointment to see him so I can get an appointment to see him.”
“That's right. Next!!!!” said Griselda, returning to her cuticles.
“What do you mean, ‘next’? I'm the only one here.”
“Then you must be next.”
“How would you suggest I go about getting an appointment?”
“Get Mr. Johnson to give you an appointment.”
“But I can't go in to see Mr. Johnson.”
“That's right. You need an appointment.”
“And how do I do that?”
“Get Mr. Johnson—”
“To give me an appointment,” said Harvey. “Let's look at this a different way. Suppose I already had an appointment.”
“Then you could go right in.”
“What I mean is, how would I have gotten that appointment in the first place?”
“Mr. Johnson would've given that to you.”
“When he saw you.”
“And when would that have been?”
“During your appointment.”
Harvey had gone back to the caboose of his train of thought, and had fallen off. “What I mean is—”
“I don't know!” cried Griselda. “I wasn't there!”
“Neither was I!”
“Well, there you are then. Why are you bothering me?”
Harvey regained his footing on the cliff of this conversation. “People do come in to see Mr. Johnson, right?”
“And they presumably have appointments, right?”
“When do these people get their appointments?”
“Before what?”
“Before their appointments.”
“Before their appointments, when?”
“What?” she asked.
Griselda was confused. Harvey thought he now had her.
“This isn't a game.”
Griselda cocked an eyebrow at him. “It's not?”
“So. There are such things as appointments, and some people seem to get them, and they get them by making an appointment, and somehow they get that appointment by having an appointment.”
Griselda smiled at him. “Absolutely right. Good afternoon.”
Harvey turned to the elevator and shuffled forlornly a couple of steps before he got an idea. He turned back to Griselda. “Good afternoon, I'd like to see Mr. Johnson.”
“Do you have an appointment?”
“Yes, yes, I do.”
“And your name is?”
“It is. It definitely is.”
“What is your name, sir?”
“Shakespeare. William Shakespeare.”
Griselda consulted her computer. “I'm afraid I don't see your name listed here.”
“Well, it must be. I made an appointment weeks ago.”
“With whom?”
“With Mr. Johnson. He gave me an appointment.”
“During my last appointment.”
“And when was that?”
“Before what?”
“Before this appointment.”
“Before this appointment when?”
“This isn't a game.”
Harvey felt he was getting the upper hand now. “It's not?”
“No, it’s not.”
“So,” said Griselda, summing up. “Your name is not on the list.”
“There must have been some clerical mistake.”
“Yes, I suppose so. You do seem familiar somehow.”
“So, may I see Mr. Johnson?”
“Why not?”
“He's not in.”
“I’m just pulling your leg, Mr. Shakespeare.”
The door behind the reception desk opened, and a tired-looking executive in a nifty blue suit emerged from it. The man was Mr. Johnson. He ran his fingers through his hair, and said to no-one in particular, “It's been a long day.”
“No kidding,” said Harvey.
Johnson looked at Griselda. “I'm going home now.”
Harvey stepped forward, and ventured, “Mr. Johnson?”
“Yes? Oh, hello, Mr. Shakespeare.”
“Can I see you?”
“You're looking at me right now. Is your eyesight OK?”
“What I mean is, can I talk to you in your office for 10 minutes?”
“As I say, I'm going home now. Can you make an appointment with Ms. Grisenthwaite?”
Harvey contemplated that, then said, “I don't think I can.”
“Well, if you make it quick. What can I do for you?”
Harvey looked at Johnson, furrowed his brow, quivered his chin, looked at the walls, then back at Ms. Grisenthwaite and Mr. Johnson, and gradually came to the realization that he would never remember why he was there in the first place.