An Interview (Flash Fiction)

“Bob,” said the secretary. “They’re ready for you.” She held the door open for him and smiled. “Good luck.” Bob stood, straightened his tie, and went in.

He shook hands with Brian, a balding and chubby man, and Catherine, a thin professional with the look of a predator in her brown eyes. “Welcome,” she said, “please sit.” The three sat down at a small, round table. Brian opened a leather-bound notepad and uncapped his fountain pen. Catherine kept her eyes locked onto Bob.

“So,” she asked. “What can you bring to our team?”

As soon as Bob began his answer, Brian’s pen sprawled notes across the pad. Bob hesitated for a moment and continued on. Catherine never shifted her eyes from him. Her lips were narrow and pressed together with a visible tightness. Her eyes were heavily lined. Worst of all, she wore a red collared shirt under her black business jacket. Intentional or not, one of the buttons had come undone.

Catherine fired off question after question. Bob answered and Brian scribbled. Bob’s hands began to sweat. When he removed his palms from the table they left a foggy shadow behind. Only once did he give a quick tug at his tie. He answered the questions well and thoroughly. Above all else, he maintained constant discipline of his eyes. They never left Catherine’s.

Just when the barrage of questions seemed without end, they stopped. Catherine leaned back in her seat and looked to Brian. “Well?” she asked. Brian gave a quick glance over his notes, now three pages long, and responded with a shrug. “So Bob,” Catherine asked. “Do you like books?”

“I love ’em.” He said the words so quickly they seemed to have leapt from his mouth.

“Which kind?”

Bob looked to Brian with a bit of confusion growing on his face. “All of them, I guess. I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about it. I mean, they’re all great.”

Catherine raised an eyebrow. “You think all books are great?”

“What?” Bob asked. “Oh, books! You said books.” Bob chuckled to himself. “Okay. That makes more sense.”

“What did you think I said?” Catherine asked.

Bob looked to Brian again and did not answer. The room was quiet. Finally, Brian nodded to Bob and closed his notepad. Bob looked Catherine dead in the eye and said, “I thought you said boobs. Do I like boobs.”

Catherine blinked. Brian covered his mouth to stifle his laugh. Catherine’s eyes seemed to smolder. “Why did you answer the question, do you like boobs?”

Brian laughed again and tried to play it off with a cough. He picked up his notepad and excused himself from the room. The stare down between Catherine and Bob continued. After several minutes, Bob gave his answer.

“Well,” he said. “In the milliseconds that passed, my mind came to this conclusion. The question being framed around boobs rather than breasts gave it an informal feel. In answering, it felt like I could reveal two things about myself. One,” he said, holding up a finger, “it shows that I can be honest in the workplace. Two,” now making a peace sign, “it shows that I can take things lightly.”

Bob never heard back from them.

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