Interview

 

bridge of death

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Jonathan sat in one of the black vinyl chairs, badly padded, badly contoured, and as uncomfortable as they were meant to be; no doubt an object lesson inflicted by some HR gnome just before she or he became expendable.  The vacant-eyed woman behind the counter had returned her focus to the screen off to one side.  If the entirety of ISIS came through the glass doors, assault weapons on full auto, they would overrun her counter before she’d have the presence to ask, “How can I help you?”  Of course she wouldn’t be saying it anyway, because she’d be dead, still facing her inter-office emails or her unauthorized game of Spider Solitaire.  Jonathan silently bet on Spider.  Her attention was too… rapt for it to be anything less.

He glanced around the lobby of HR – glass walls on two sides, a huge wall-mounted screen spewing corporate propaganda on the third wall, a huge print of positively representative members of the workforce smiling out at prospective clients because they damned sure were having fun working for… The Machine?  The Meat Grinder?  He shuddered and decided on The Machine; the alternative was too in touch with… accuracy.  They were having a wonderful time working their jobs in The Machine.  And you knew it, too, by the way they looked out at you and smiled their smug, knowing smiles at you as you came through the big double glass doors.

Why all the glass? Jonathan wondered, looking around again.  Was it meant to convey a sense of transparency?  There was no transparency here, he thought.  Four times he had gone through this process.  Dress for success.  Be sure your hair appears freshly cut.  Use positive, appropriate colors when choosing your wardrobe.  Appear young and perky, no matter your age.  Be ready to answer questions the logic of which eluded Jonathan every time.  The job interview process was the very antithesis of the metaphorically open and transparent lobby; there was no seeing in.  It was the Bridge of Death in that Holy Grail movie.  The bridge trolls allowed you to approach within eyesight of the other side – within view of the blessed end of the quest.  Then came the questions.  Each time you interviewed, they slipped in a final, damnedly deceptive question (“What… is the capital of Assyria?”).  Fail to answer immediately… strong-heartedly… and, perhaps, even correctly, and you’re instantly flung into the abyss of despond and failure.  God!  To be The King for just this once!

Here he was yet again; proof that his applications at least attracted the attention of one of the trolls.  His references and qualifications impressed someone enough to have him back in these god-awful chairs awaiting yet another ordeal.

As in previous visits, he watched the clock tick off time well past his appointment.  Please arrive fifteen minutes early, they always advised.  So we can rub your nose in it by making you wait a half an hour past… just for giggles.

Jonathan fumed.  He hated wearing a suit coat, detested the noose about the neck.  The smile plastered on his face caused his cheeks to cramp.  The screen zombie behind the desk never looked up, right nor left, even when answering the phone.  Was it all worth this, he wondered, irritated by the sweat rolling down his ribs under the crisp no-iron dress shirt.  He wanted to strip out of his discomfort.  He longed to tell the receptionist, “Red Jack on the Black Queen,” even it just messed up her concentration.  Or tell her, “I’m going out to get a cold beer.  Tell the powers to be if they want to interview me, I’ll be at The Crush around the corner, okay?”  Instead he sat silently and fumed.

“Mr. Green?”

He followed the bridge troll with the well-rehearsed smile and the clipped on ID that sported the troll smiling the exact same smile.  A few words of instruction, a rough idea of what to expect during the interview, and “Good luck,” were uttered before entering the conference room.

Jonathan shook hands, heard and forgot names, and took his seat.  The questions came at him….

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A Rather Inconvenient Day

workshop

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“…the tangled skein of commotion….” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Twelve minutes into the day shift I knew it was going to be one of those days. The wrapping servants came, bonnets and hats in hand, to tell me the packaging materials had not been delivered. “I’m terribly sorry, your worship,” Thomason, the lead subordinate whined, acting as superior of the group. “It didn’t arrive during the night shift as it ought. We have only enough—”

“Yes, yes, Thomason!” I replied in my usual imperious manner, waving him off. “I will see to it. Do what you can with what you can until you hear from me.”

Once Thomason ushered them out of my area, bowing and simpering in something approaching unison, I turned to Harris, my adjutant, “See to it, Harris.”

“But I thought you—” my withering glare stopped him short. “Yes, your worship,” he nodded, obviously chastened, “I’ll see to it at once!”

As he left my area, he left my mind, taking the problem with him as he went. An hour later I was called out to assembly; a place I rarely attend voluntarily. The smell of the servants in assembly is fouler than the stench that wafts through the craftsmen’s rooms.        The servant sent to beseech my presence was as ill equipped for the practice of communication as many of the craftsmen’s tools. It was soon revealed that my presence was made necessary by one of the female servants having come upon her time. Now let it not be said that I am not without kindnesses, for when I discovered the woman reclined on a bed of sacks and cloaks, struggling with child, I did not follow strict guidance which requires a day’s allowance docked when resting from labor. Irony is not lost upon me when I encounter it. However, it required my valuable time, and the dull cooperation of about ten laborers to bring that woman – and, eventually her newborn babe – away from assembly. We finally had her rest in a corner of delivery. I said irony is not lost on me.

Harris returned to me about midday with news that the wagon that was to have delivered the wrapping materials had broken an axle on the road through Charsbury. It was now nearly mended and would be reloaded with haste. We could see the wagon perhaps by the third bell. As I was considering how we would make up for the lack, Harris supposed that the second shift would have to make up double for our lost time. I took that as my solution and made a notation in my journal as to my inspired decision.

Around the time we were looking for the wagon, the Vandals were sighted, approaching from the north. “Bugger,” I puffed out, “Can a day be any disordered than this one has been? Harris,” I said, turning once again to my subordinate, “hurry off and tell my mistress that I may not be able to make our afternoon appointment.”

“And may I suggest we evacuate the mercantile?” Harris muttered, keeping an eye out the window to the north.

“Hmm?” I considered for a moment. “Well, yes, I suppose we rather should. Good head on your shoulders, Harris! Remind me to increase your allowance.”

“Yes, your worship. At the very next convenience.”

What a day it was to be.

(551 words – not counting title or Rilke quote.)

This is my second (posted) attempt at flash fiction.  See the link below for my first post.  I would like some honest writer’s feedback: Does the story stand as a story?  How is the voice?  Anything genuine you can provide would be appreciated.

https://lifeinportofino.wordpress.com/2016/06/11/smooth-as-silk/

Smooth As Silk

Dark Alley

 

Silk.  He mulled over the possibilities, and smiled.  Hiding in a darkened doorway off the crooked, crippled alley, no one stood as witness to the tortured, tormented workings of John’s mind.  Alley creatures kept their distance from his malevolent being as a matter of course.

For throttling he had never considered the devilish irony of silk – so smooth to the touch – as a garrote.  He held the remnant of the outer garment captured from his latest victim, still warm no doubt, although well away near a mile through the tangled twisting byways he knew as the hairs on his forearm.  The soft smoothness of the swatch and the deceptive strength of it, so well made; possibly high-end.  For a moment he regretted not lifting her purse.

“Not for mammon,” he muttered.

“No, by God!” cried he, glancing skyward as though he feared retribution at the mention of that name.

“Not for bleeding, damned mammon!”

He wrapped the strip of black silk about his left hand, threading it between thumb and forefinger.  Again he wrapped it around his left.  He repeated the process with his right.  Pleased with the feel he snapped it tight, loosed it, and snapped it again.  To try it!  The thought filled him, revived him as liquor.

A sound.  A scuff.  A step.

Poised, he stood waiting.

A sigh.

A woman’s sigh – perfection!

Stepping out to meet her in the dark, silk at the ready.  He was met with a plaited cord cast like lighting about his neck.  A knot that met his Adam’s apple.  Deviously marvelous innovation that!  As she jerked the cord tight he looked into her eyes.  Familiar.  Red mark about her lovely neck.  Her black frock missing an expanse about the hem.

He began to descend into darkness.  How devilishly smooth it was about his neck.

Silk.

(304 words – not counting the title.)