By Sean C. Wright-Neeley
Good signs everywhere. The weather and traffic were agreeable, Walter had arrived ten minutes early, and the receptionist was pretty. She frowned, though, when she called the manager he was supposed to speak to. “I’m sorry,” she said to Walter, “Nicole is not answering. Let me see who else is available.”
Walter nodded, peeled off the wax paper backing for his temporary name badge, and stuck it to his left breast.
“Okay then. That’s good. I’ll let him know,” Pretty at the Front Desk said into the phone, and hung it up. “Nicole has been called away on an emergency, but another manager, Sherry, was briefed on your resume, so you can interview with her. Please have a seat, and she will be out shortly to get you.”
“That’s fine,” Walter replied. He took his portfolio, strode over to a tan leather chair, and sat. So far, this is the only hiccup. I’m sure I can wow this Sherry lady, the same as I can Nicole.
After nearly ten minutes, Sherry, a tall, polished woman in an oatmeal pantsuit and royal-blue scarf, entered the lobby. She stopped and stared at Walter momentarily and all his good vibes about the day vanished. She didn’t introduce herself; didn’t offer her hand. Instead, Sherry pointed her open palm, passed the pretty receptionist’s desk. “Shall we?” she said flatly.
Walter felt his heart sink, like he was going down the steep hill of a rollercoaster, but he rose from the chair, tried to smile, and followed Sherry to the door.
The interview was terse. Walter felt as if Sherry weren’t listening to anything he said, and she didn’t ask to see his portfolio. He offered it for good measure though. Sherry turned the pages, silently, as she studied his graphic designs. As she looked down, familiarity nudged Walter. Sweat popped out on his upper lip.
The Twin Palms Hotel Ballroom – 1986
The dance was only to last for another thirty minutes.
“Don’t worry,” one of the other girls said, over the music, “I’ll get my cousin Walter to dance with you.” Sherry’s peer had run across the ballroom floor, weaving in and out of dancing couples, over to a group of boys who had their heads together, talking. She had tapped Cousin Walter on the shoulder, and leaned in close to his ear. He looked in Sherry’s direction, taking her in, as she stood against the wall. She knew what he saw: a tall, painfully-thin girl in a sleeveless, hot-pink number that showed off her bony elbows. Elbows, jutting like doorknobs. Foundation gave her acne very little relief. She looked like a pimply spaghetti noodle, sporting a stick of bubble gum. Cousin Walter shook his head, with his eyes still on her. Sherry looked down, her mouth working, as if she might cry.
Sherry stalked away to the bathroom. She could hear the DJ put on the record “Computer Love,” from inside there. She blotted her shiny face with napkins, and planted herself on the ladies’ room couch. Other adolescent girls flitted in and out, all giddy with youthful cheer, as they came to quickly relieve themselves and touch up their hair and makeup, so they could hurry back out their dancing partners. Her “friend” had come looking for her, and frowned when she saw Sherry on the couch. “Headache,” Sherry had said, “I’m leaving early.”
Her father had picked her up after she called him from a payphone, doing his best to make idle chat on the way home. “Sorry you’re not feeling well. Did you have a good time for the time you stayed?”
Sherry pretended to look out the window of their silver Volvo, as one tear, as solitary as she had been that night, slid down her cheek. “Yeah, dad,” she replied quietly.
Walter stood transfixed in the company’s parking lot after the interview. The remembrance of that night flashed at him, as bright as a new penny on a sidewalk in the sunshine. He hung his head, and slowly walked to his car. He’d be standing in the unemployment line for a little bit longer. Of that, Walter was sure.
Sean C. Wright is the author of 8 books. For more information about her writing skills and how she can assist you with yours–business or consumer–visit https://seanarchy.wordpress.com.