Balancing the Books With the World’s Oldest Profession

Accountancy has a good claim to being the world’s oldest profession.  

          Edward Chancellor, Wall Street Journal review of “Double Entry” by Jane Gleeson-White


We were hanging around, me and my buddies Ug and Nutz, trying to resist the inexorable tide of evolution.  We could dimly imagine a future in which it would be considered “impolite”–a concept we were having trouble with–to burp audibly while washing down a side of bison with some crude mead.  It wasn’t making us happy.

But Ug seemed excessively depressed, given that we still had a good millenium or two before last call in the sports bar of our primitive existence.  Male hominids don’t like to talk about their feelings, but I decided to ask him why he looked so down.

“Ug never have date,” he said as he poked himself in the eye with a stick to see if it hurt.  Glad we got that step behind us on the march to civilization.

“You don’t need a date,” Nutz said sharply.  “We haven’t even progressed beyond hunting and gathering yet.  All you need is a woman.”

“What difference?” Ug asked.


I cleared my throat, a signal to Nutz that I wanted to handle what was a sensitive topic.  “Ug, there are women–not all women–but some, who will mate with you in exchange for . . . things of value.”

“Glzzz,” Ug said, apparently confused.  I didn’t know he was so sentimental.  “What things?”

“Well, you know, clam shells, boar’s teeth–any medium of exchange recognized as a store of value.”

“What Ug do with stuff?”

“You give it to the woman,” Nutz said, “and she ‘balances your books.’”

Ug’s face clouded over as if there’d just been a volcanic eruption from his nose.

“That’s what’s called a double entendre,” I began.  Since Ug had trouble with single entendres, I had some explaining to do.  “What Nutz means is that the woman provides you with . . . professional services.”

Ug was unable to fathom the mystery, so Nutz and I decided to set him up.  “You stay here,” Nutz said.  “I’ll go get you a woman who’ll solve all your problems.”

If you like the rough stuff.


Nutz went out of the cave onto the footpath that led down to the stream.  There was a constant flow of women back and forth there, and soon he’d consummated the transaction that we hoped would lift Ug out of his emotional insolvency, returning with a striking female.

“Hi,” she said seductively as she entered the cave wearing a two-piece business loincloth, a floppy bow tie made from palm fronds, and a pair of primitive eyeglasses; I couldn’t tell if they were real or just an accessory to give her that chilly, professional look that drives some men wild.

“We’ll leave you two alone,” I said after we exchanged pleasantries, and I ushered Nutz out of the cave onto the green savannah where we were still competing with lions and tigers for a spot in the evolutionary playoffs.

“You think he’ll know what to do?” Nutz asked me.  He’s a real horndog, so much so that you may have traces of his DNA in your chromosomes.

“Sure he will,” I said.  “Have a little faith in early humanity, would you?  Birds do it–bees do it.  Even educated pterodactyls do it.”

Nutz seemed skeptical, but I trusted Ug’s animal instincts.  “He’ll be fine,” I said.  “Just give him time.”

We couldn’t help but hear the screams that issued from the mouth of the cave, a reassuring sign, we thought.  After things had quieted down a bit Ug emerged with his hourly-rate paramour, beaming like a boy who’s discovered auto-eroticism.


“So?” I said with a leer as the woman walked off.  “How was it?”

“Ug feel much better,” he said with a smile.

I felt relieved, but still a bit sad.  It’s one thing to help a guy satisfy a basic male need, and something quite different to shatter his illusions about romantic love.  “Of course, it’s not as good as the real thing,” I said hesitantly.

“Real thing?” Ug asked, puzzled.

“Yes,” I began.  “There’s the quick and dirty liaison you’ve just experienced . . .”

“And then there’s the ultimate,” Nutz said with a voice that suggested a realm of pleasure Ug had never dreamed of.

“You mean . . . something better?” Ug asked in amazement.

“Yes,” Nutz said dreamily.  “In addition to compilation and review-level engagements, there’s a full audit–conducted in accordance with generally-accepted accounting principles used consistently throughout the period involved.”


Available in Kindle format on as part of the collection “Let’s Get Primitive.”

Standup Comic Never Counted Out His Dream

PARAMUS, New Jersey.  Mike Ross, Jr., comes from a long line of entertainers.  His grandfather, Aaron Ross, was a tap dancer, his father Mike Sr. a slick-haired crooner in the 50′s, and his mother Annette a ventriloquist.

“Don’t touch me there, lady–I’ve got termites.”

“I was encouraged to go into show business,” he says as he waits in the wings of The Comedy Corner, a bar that is considered a stepping stone for comics on the way up to the big time in Manhattan, or on their way back down.  “Actually, ‘pushed’ is the better word,” he adds with a professional’s timing.

“But seriously, folks.  You should consider a Roth IRA.”

Mike has flirted with fame in the past, logging a Tonight Show appearance and a week-long engagement opening for Celine Dion in Las Vegas, but he says the applause and the laughter left him strangely unfulfilled.  “It was what my parents wanted,” he says ruefully, “but it wasn’t what I wanted.”

“This stuff is a scream!”

And so Mike studied on the side, sneaking off to night school when he didn’t have a gig, sometimes telling his wife Mona “little white lies about where I was going,” he says with obvious embarrassment.  Then one night last month, after she caught him with a roll of calculator tape in his pocket, he was forced to confess.

“I want,” he told her tearfully, “to become an accountant.”

After a heated exchange in which she threatened to leave him, Mona gradually came to understand that “‘for better or for worse’ means you’ve got to let your husband follow his dream,” she says with look of hopeful resignation on her face.  “I’ll miss the free cocktail napkins,” she adds.

“A beefalo tax shelter?  You’re cracking me up!”


Mike is blunt about what he saw before him if he stuck with comedy for the rest of his life.  “Sure, maybe I’d get a guest host slot for Leno at some point, or a special on Comedy Central, or maybe even my own telethon for a crippling disease,” he says.  “But in the back of my mind, I’d always know that I could be preparing K-1′s for a wealthy family’s limited partnership, or consoling a young couple who were late with their estimated tax payments.  Making people laugh pales beside that kind of responsibility.”

“ . . . and the guy from the IRS says ‘You call this a home office?’”


Mike’s apprenticeship with a six-man accounting firm hasn’t been easy, but he says he’s willing to “pay his dues” in order to earn the coveted designation of C.P.A.  “Some of the senior tax guys heckle me when I’m filing an extension with the IRS, but it’s something you have to put up with when you’re a nobody just starting out,” he says with a smile.  “I don’t mind as long as they don’t throw the federal tax code at me–that thing’s heavy!”

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