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.”

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