It was becoming a familiar phenomenon. The page before him would defocus, throwing the quill into sharp, pointed relief – then that too, would retreat from his vision, as his thoughts turned inward, pondering over a familiar problem. A problem engendered by the figure sitting at the other desk, on the other side of the room.
Work had been many things to him over the years. Never a passion, but an obsession, yes, certainly, it had been that. At other times, almost a hobby. It had been a challenge, a distraction, a source of comfort - even, yes, even, taking on its own boundaries, its own identity, becoming a thing. And sometimes, when the absence of anything else to call by that name had niggled in the small lonely hours of the night, it had been a home. Above all, though, it had always been about utility; a means to an end – but an end that was never reached; a direction, rather. Which was just as well, for where would one be without progress? Now though, now, it was becoming a necessity, and that would never do. Necessities took over. Necessities became needs, became addictions, became you.
It was becoming a necessity because of the one other person that was an integral part of it. The one other person from which the work became a required distraction, a determined obsession, and, ever more so, and ever the more dangerously, that source of comfort. Of home. It still wasn't a passion, and it had never, ever defined him - contrary to the image he deliberately portrayed. It was, however, becoming something of a issue.
Utility versus necessity, he mused...yes, he was going to have to do something about it. He glanced up, aware that the pen in his hand had been still for some few minutes now, at where Drumknott was industriously collating reports on his own desk. What was work to him? Certainly it was more than a decent wage and an occasional supplier of unexpected danger. And certainly...it wasn't just an obsession. A sense of identity – yes, everybody would think that about Drumknott. The clerk. The Patrician’s secretary; virtually nameless, almost invisible. But he knew that was not the case; he would never have hired the man, otherwise. A source of pride, perhaps? Or maybe it was utility – utility of the self, rather than the work itself? He had never fully considered before how a man he knew so well could, at some level, remain something of a cipher to him. But then that was one of the reasons he had promoted him, after all. Vetinari put the pen down.
“Drumknott,” he asked, without preamble, “What does the term 'work' mean to you?" Drumknott’s eyes widened in faint, but not acute surprise; he was long accustomed to his master's whimsical moments and simply accepted them for what they were. He tapped his pen against his lips thoughtfully, eyes attaining the inward-focussed expression of someone recalling something precisely.
“Caspoul’s Concise Dictionary defines work as (1) the exertion of physical or mental energy directed to some purpose, (2) toil, labour, (3) a task or undertaking, (4) the materials to be used in this, (5) employment as a means of livelihood, occupation, (6) an action, performance, deed or achievement, (7) a thing made, (8) a product of nature or art and (9) a work of artistic, musical or literary composition,” he recited, “And certainly, it can be all those things.” Vetinari’s eyebrows raised fractionally and he made a mental note to get Drumknott to quote the dictionary a little more often; it had a rather soothing effect. Drumknott’s brow furrowed in quizzical concentration, which unfortunately tended to enter his mind pre-attached with labels like ‘appealing’, or even, gods help him, ‘cute’. He really would have to do something about this – because if he didn't, the work would just take over.
"I don't know sir,” Drumknott said at last, looking directly at him, “Except that it doesn't seem to be what is traditionally meant by the word." Vetinari considered this.
“Nor I,” he said at last, and picked his pen up again.