Have you ever gone for an interview but got the job before going? (The narrator applies for a job and gets it without any trouble. He is interviewed by a formidable lady. The first time he phones he gets a recorded message. He ...
Have you ever gone for an interview but got the job before going?
(The narrator applies for a job and gets it without any trouble. He is interviewed by a formidable lady. The first time he phones he gets a recorded message. He phones again.)
“Is that the recorded message?”
“What!” exclaimed an erupting voice, erupting with anger and incredulity. I knew I had said a stupid thing but can anyone take back words, especially stupid words, once they have poppled out of the orifice known as the mouth? I can’t. I even thought maybe I had ‘phoned the wrong number previously and that’s why I had got the recorded message. I stammered. I apologised. I said I was ‘phoning about the job-advertisement in the local paper.
“If that is so,” said the authoritative voice authoritatively, “why do you claim I am a message?”
“I don’t,” I said.
“Do you know who you are talking to?”
“I don’t,” I said as humbly as possible.
The voice shouted, “You’re talking to Pikehassle!”
There was a long silence broken only by my “Oh.”
“Yes, that is who,” said the voice. “As for the job, it is not well paid. We Pikehassles are famous for our frankness, and, to be frank, the job is not well paid. We employ old-age pensioners who have nothing better to do with their miserable time, we pay them next to nothing, and they don’t complain because if they do, we report them to the government and they have to pay their taxes. That follows, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it? Are you old and a pensioner? Be frank!” shouted Pikehassle.
“It does,” I replied.
“Speaking Double Dutch,” she told me.
“It follows,” I clarified.
“How old are you, my lad?” she asked, getting interested.
I couldn’t lie. She was already calling me lad. I told her I was twenty-five. “Actually, I’m only twenty-five, Mrs. Pikehassle,” I told her in a sweet voice full of apologies, real, imagined, to be.
“Twenty-five!” she roared. “Then why the deuce have you ‘phoned me and what in hell’s name was that drivel about a recorded message?”
“Yes, I’m sorry about that,” I said. “I think I can explain if you’d like to interview me.” Apologies seemed the order of the day and I held my breath, hoping the formidable lady at the other end of the line would soften up somewhat. And she did! My apologies and my tone of voice had a similar effect to July sun in Brighton after three days of rain. She came right out. The nudists come right out, shivering a pimple bum in the diminutive sun.
“Twenty-five,” she muttered, and again, “twenty-five,” mulling it over, then magnanimously, “I suppose you personally can’t help that…”
“I can’t,” I clarified.
“Don’t interrupt me! Well, come on down and see me, that is, if you don’t mind the low pay and a probable report to Inland Revenue if you prove obstrep…” The formidable Pikehassle paused, gathering her thoughts, then proceeded with, “But I’m warning you it’s a difficult place to find and not many people do.” She paused to let this latest sink in and take its toll on my diminishing response-systems. It did because I merely replied,
As if cued or taking solace from my monosyllable, the formidable lady continued with, “Lad, you there, lad? Now you just listen as carefully as you can…” exploding an enormous cough down the line, “you listening?”
“I am,” I said, sullenly, then repeated, pathetically, “I am.”
“I know you are,” she said, “but let’s not get side-tracked.”
“OK,” I agreed, sensing that the best way of handling this lady was total submission.
She barked, “Lad, where do you live?” I told her. “Not bad, not bad,” she muttered, gleefully, and I imagined her rubbing her hands. “Not bad at all! Now listen! Take the local train to Kneewrench East. Get off it. Turn out of the station to your left, not to your right, to your left. Right at the traffic lights. Right? Left after the first bus-stop. Pioneer the bend. Right after that. Left after that. Keep walking…You still there?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Keep walking, very important. Have you got long hair? If you’ve got long hair, avoid the lady with the stick. Step past the grey house on your left pretty sharpish. If the dog’s out, don’t look at it, just keep on running, for the love of Christ, just jog away from that howling dog. Now if you come to an alley, you’ve gone wrong. If you don’t, and I hope you’re remembering all this, you’ll come to a set of shops, there’ll be a post office sitting bang in the centre of that line of shops, lording it over the other wee fellas, its royal red revealing its blue blood…” She paused. Chuckling she proceeded, “And now, my lad, it’s going to get bloody difficult.”
“Oh, no,” I murmured.
“You sure? I thought it was something.”
“No, no, it was nothing,” I assured her.
“Go past that wimpy line of shops, there’s a supermarket on the left, don’t buy any meat there for the love of your life, go on two hundred yards and bugger my aunt if you don’t see the flats where my office is.”
Fierce Rakers Flats
“So why does it become difficult?”
“Don’t interrupt, lad, and you’ll learn more from me than from a twenty-year stint in a museum full of Encyclopaediae Britannicae.”
“All right,” I said, demoralised.
“Don’t interrupt with your all rights, right?” I didn’t answer. “Now, where was I?” I started to tell her. “Don’t interrupt.” I held my peace. “You just hold your peace,” she told me. I started to feel mad. “Don’t buy any meat there!” I started to feel madder. “In front of you you’ll see the flats. Go round to the left, take the door on the right, go up to the second floor which is really the first. Go up two flights of stairs and you’ll find my office. Whether I’ll be there depends on what time you arrive. Now, exactly, what time will that be?” She started to raise her voice. “I am asking you for one last time, the exact time exactly.”
I was nonplussed. There was this long, long pause. She was waiting. I ventured, “I can come any time you like,” rushing the words out as though my life depended on them.
“Any time I like, any time I like,” she said, mulling the words over as though they gave her incredible pleasure. “By Gad! You are as amenable a lad as ever tickled a lady’s tulippy fancy!”
“Thank you,” I said, smirking a bit but also worried that my interrogator would shout, “Wipe that smile off your face at once!” She didn’t.
“I’ve been giving this a lot of thought,” she continued. “You’re a lad, you’re twenty-five, you can’t help it, you are politeness personified, take a taxi from the station, I’ll pay, that is the company will pay, out of expenses, theirs, you’ve got the job, just turn up.”
“Really?” I said.
Without any clarification of her interview-criteria, she told me, “The flats you’ll be cleaning are called Fierce Rakers Flats. My office is on the second floor. The door is big, oaken, and I’m in there unless I’m not.”
“Are you sure that’s all right?”
“Depends,” she elaborated. “Some can have jam all over the seats. You’ve got to choose well, get lucky. Just the other day I took a taxi to the supermarket across the road. Didn’t look where I was sitting and sat on three pickled onions. When I went to get out, some lout had stuck his chewing-gum on the door-handle.”
“Well, thank you, Mrs. Pikehassle,” I said, politely. “I’ll come on down right away
“No,” she said, “and what do you mean by right away?”
“I’ll leave now.”
“You’re not here, lad. You can’t leave if you haven’t arrived,” she pointed out, raising her voice. I think I heard her muttering “…..fools…….gladly….” but I wasn’t sure. She got suspicious. “Are you just round the corner or even just outside the oaken door?”
“By leave immediately,” I started to explain but got interrupted.
“You’re not mental?” she wanted to know.
“No. I just meant I would leave my own house immediately.”
“Don’t do that. It’s tea-break.”
“I’ve got it!” she cried in her loud voice. “I’ve got it!” she repeated for emphasis. “I’ll send Ben out, he’s my other porter. He can keep a look-out, spot you, bring you down, bring you in, if you manage,” chuckle on “manage”, “to get here in one piece. Another pensioner fell down the lift-shaft.”
“What!” I exclaimed.
“Only joking,” she explained. “See you, lad.” I was about to put the ‘phone down when I heard her laughing and coughing into the ‘phone, “You’ll know Ben when you see him. He’s as thick as two planks.”
Adapted from Chapter One of the novel "The Breath Of The Darkest Kiss"