Some Solar Sums

‘Minus the six,’ I muttered to myself, tongue sticking out of my mouth as I concentrated on the notepad in front of me.

         ‘You forgot to carry that one.’

         I yelped like an actual baby and almost fell out of my office chair. I looked up to see the new girl, Elaine, standing over my shoulder.

         ‘What the hell?!’

         ‘Sorry, sorry!’ she laughed, taking a step back and putting a hand over her mouth to show her remorse. ‘I thought you knew I was there!’

         ‘I was… concentrating,’ I huffed, adjusting my tie and looking around for the pencil I’d accidentally thrown across the cubicle. ‘Can I help you with something?’

         ‘Oh, I just need you to sign these for the boss,’ she said, brandishing a small stack of papers. ‘What were you doing?’

         None of your business, I seethed internally. Reflecting on many, many hours of therapy, I kept it inside instead.

         ‘Solar power,’ I grunted. ‘My wife is trying to see if we can afford solar power.’

         ‘Oh, cool,’ Elaine beamed at me. ‘Why the long division though?’

         ‘Because I’m figuring out how much it costs, alright?’ I glared at her, hoping she’d get the message before I had to say something mean.

         ‘No, I just meant – why are you doing it by hand?’

         She rushed over to me, and pulled up a website on my computer.

         ‘Ta-da!’ she grinned. ‘Use this. It’s a solar panel output calculator for residences.’

         ‘So?’

         ‘So, plug in your details,’ she gestured. ‘It’ll tell you how much you’re gonna save!’

         My frown must have deepened, as she slipped into a slightly paler complexion.

         ‘Or do it later,’ she grinned meekly. ‘Whatever suits.’

         She went to run away, but I counted down from five and let out a deep sigh.

         ‘Wait!’

         She paused in the hallway.

         ‘Do you know anything about what it costs to install solar battery storage around Melbourne?’ I asked her. She shook her head.

         I let out another sigh and held out my hand for her papers.

         ‘Pass me a pencil?’