Interviews And Lies
I made a little doodle of a unicorn on the paper in front of me. Well, it was a sort of unicorn I suppose. The head looked a bit like Elton John wearing some giant pointed hat, and its rear resembled Kim Kardashian’s famous booty. Pretty sexy actually. Whatever, the point was I was getting nowhere. It’s all very well thinking you can be creative but, when push comes to shove, it takes more than a Parker pen and a head full of nonsense to create something. I couldn’t use the lack of time excuse either. I’d lost the main drain of my time, together with my income, a couple of months back. What a fiasco that had been. I had gone from being a business analyst to chief lyric writer, for a local heavy metal band, in three shakes of a manager’s gonads. To be fair, my output as a lyric writer was probably more useful than my previous role. The band seemed happy enough with my, thought provoking words, although they never seemed to use, or pay for them. My poetry also made Charlie fall about with laughter.
Creating an infinite supply of amusement for my flatmate however was not going to pay the bills, or Sally’s monthly CPS payments. In fact, the amount of hilarity Charlie took from my word-smithery was in inverse proportion to the rage I took from my lovely ex-wife. All I had to show for an afternoons work was a kinky doodle and a few lines of rhyming nonsense. Inspiration was sorely needed. I snatched another lager from the fridge, stared at the paper in front of me, and waited for the inevitable mockery when my flatmate arrived.
Charlie bashed through the door, picked up some bills on the floor, that I had chosen to ignore, and wobbled his ample body in my direction smirking at the sparsely populated paper in front of me.
“Greetings Harry, or should I say Leonard Cohen today perhaps?” he boomed, then poked his finger at the beer in front of me while shaking his head. This little admonishment seemed a bit rich seeing that, by his general sense of bonhomie, I think he had partaken of a few sherbets himself. Before I could stop him, he snatched my work and began to read studiously.
“Oh yes, great work here Harry.” He declared and began to read out aloud. “Satan is here to claim his inheritance. His massive body roars. Although everything is relative.” Hearing it read back like that did make me cringe a little, but Charlie was so cruel. I snatched the paper back from him as he wobbled himself into hysterics. I had to defend myself.
“Well laugh if you like Charlie. It’s not easy you know… being a creative.” I fumed.
“I can see that Harry mate.” He answered as he slumped down onto the threadbare brown sofa, we had hauled all the way from the local Oxfam shop. “I just don’t see why every heavy metal song has to invoke Satan.” Perhaps he had a point. The band’s name didn’t help. They had originally called themselves “Devil Shit.” Unsurprisingly, they found they were getting turned down for gigs at gastropubs. The decision to change their moniker was a good one. The new, profanity free, name; ‘Lucifer’s Excrement,’ turned out to be equally ineffective. I’m not sure why they asked me to write things for them. They never used anything. Perhaps it was because I put in a good word for them at the pub where I did occasional bar work. That was probably it, I was being used as a Lyric ponce. Charlie was right. No one wanted a lyric ponce.
The moody, ridicule invoked silence, was eventually broken.
“Harry, I’ve got a bit of a favour to ask you.” Charlie announced. I didn’t like the sound of that. The last favour I did for him had ended up with me nearly being arrested for sexual assault. In retrospect it was obvious why. No one, not even at a stag do, is going to want to be stripped naked, tied up, handcuffed to a bollard, only to have ‘Smooth Scrots’ Pubic Hair fungus remover slathered over their body. I still can’t understand why I had been the one chosen to do the deed. Old resentments and all of that. “Something has come up that could be to our mutual benefit.” Charlie continued. I gave a disinterested, lager enhanced, grunt. Charlie was undeterred by my indifference. “You see I’ve got a bit of an interview clash tomorrow. One, as an accountant with Anne Summers, and the other as an analyst with Volteroy’s Kitchen Emporium.” He gave me a quizzical look as though that snippet of information said it all.
“Really, how uninteresting.” I replied.
“I think the Ann Summers gig looks pretty good and, well you know, being a kitchen analyst seems pretty dull, so I was wondering……….” Charlie could be a knob, but I couldn’t believe that, even he, would be bold enough to suggest what came next. “You know, if you could do that interview with the Kitchen people in my place?” I nearly spluttered out a mouth full of Stella.
“You have got to be joking. How on earth is that going to work? Surely, even in this screwed up world, some sort of integrity is necessary.” I think my stance was reasonable. In fairness, Charlie was nothing if not enterprising in finding solutions to difficult issues.
“Come on Harry. Don’t be such a steady Eddy. I got the interview invite after someone looked at my details on the, ‘Stitched up,’ job finding website. It’s just a profile; could say anything. Nothing on the web is actually true Harry. That’s the beauty of the internet. Everyone is pretending to be somebody else. Eventually they fool, even themselves, into believing they are actually the product of their own imagination. If you look at it that way, by doing a little switcheroo, we are being more honest than someone who is only pretending to be themselves.” Charlie finished his missive and looked at me expectantly. The problem was he was right. I did need a proper job. I stared down at my incomplete lyric. It acted as a timely reminder to my desperate financial plight.
“Let me get this straight. I go into the interview as you?”
“Well, just say you’ve got two names or something like that. Use your imagination. If they give you the job, happy days cos, I don’t want it. If not, well, what have you lost?” Came his, all too slick, reply. I could have answered; a little bit of my credible soul but didn’t. It seemed unfair that all of my hand typed CV’s sent, with love and care, to every conceivable corporate guff station had been ignored. All you had to do these days it seemed was stick some gormless prattle about yourself on the internet and Bill Gates was your uncle.
“And where is this interview then?” I asked, hoping it would be fairly local.
“Camden.” Came the reply. That was not local. It meant a thirty-minute train ride and all the associated expenses. Charlie seemed to read my mind.
“Don’t worry matey all expenses paid. If you get the job imagine how happy Sally will be getting her maintenance payments on time.” Charlie knew how to twist the knife alright. It wasn’t as though he didn’t have divorce payment issues of his own. In fact, infidelity and betrayal was how we found ourselves in ‘Montgomery House’ in the first place. A squalid flat, on floor seven of an ex-local authority block, that was home to all bewildered and abandoned souls. Charlie gave me one of his trademark gormless, expectant looks. What could I do? It wasn’t as though I had any credible excuse not to play along. I could say I was considering writing a giant, demonic, heavy metal opera, which was absorbing all my time. The trouble was I’d used that excuse already. Charlie had actually given it to me after I had asked for advise on getting out of a meeting with Sally’s lawyer. Plus, I did need some kind of a job. The fact that it would be built on a pack of lies was just how business worked these days.
“OK then Charlie,” I sighed, receiving a hearty slap on the back. So that was how I ended up an imposter at an interview.
Volteroys Kitchen Emporium was housed in a trendy little office block that, according to the sign at reception, covered floors two and three. I made my way up in the lift eventually finding myself in a lurid, purple, reception area. A young woman sat at the desk, flashing perfect teeth that seemed to glow brilliant white against the foul décor.
“Can I help?” she enquired. I told her that I was Harry Lashings and had an interview with Cornelius Volteroy. Her smile slipped as she checked the diary in front of her. It occurred to me that the interview would be in Charlies’ name.
“It probably says the interview is in the name of Charles Albus.” I said then added; “That’s my stage name.” That did the trick. Her smile went to warp factor ten.
“Oh, how marvellous. I’m an actor too.” She announced. I just smiled. My first lie of the morning. “It’s so hard isn’t it?” She continued. I gave a confused smile. Could it be I hadn’t noticed a tent peg malfunction, in the groin area, of my tatty suit. “Getting work.” She added helpfully. I smiled.
“Oh yes, it is. I was going to play Hamlet but couldn’t find a cigar big enough.” My idea of a joke fell flat. What was I thinking? She was young. No one these days knew about cigars and smoking and that kind of thing. She gave me a pitying look. I had to think fast otherwise I could lose this interview at the first port of call. “Business analysis is my other passion.” I parped. Amazingly, she seemed more impressed at this obvious lie. Who actually had a passion for business analysis? Could it be that my lack of success with women was based on my inept business ability? Perhaps if I always carried a copy of the Business Analytics Bible, under my arm, women would fling themselves upon me. We could consummate our passion of statistical business discharge, as we spasmed in orgasmic frenzy, chanting Bill Gates at the top of our lungs.
“Are you alright?” She asked. Thankfully, knocking me out of my reverie. I just leered and nodded. This interview was becoming derailed even before I had the opportunity to complete the, mandatory grovelling, that would usually follow a thoroughly, humiliating rejection. “Please take a seat and Mr Volteroy will be with you shortly.” Thank goodness, time to regroup, this whole thing was absurd. Yesterday I was a least managing my happiness. My blissful fantasy of making money with, the hair-brained notion of earning it writing lyrics for a heavy metal band, may have been ridiculous. At least though it took away the horror of thinking I may have to work for a living again. Today though, thanks to Charlie, I have been reduced to a feeble whelk; desperate for any crumbs that can be thrown my way in the corporate world. What do Volteroys Kitchen Emporium actually do anyway? I supposed the clue was in the name. Honestly though, who actually needed an outlet to buy a load of crappy equipment to make tea? Not the attitude to take if I wanted to get this job. Had to think positive, Richard Branston, Alan Sugar and Tom Cruise all needed somewhere to scoff didn’t they. Who better than to analyse their latest edge cutting cuisine requirements than me? That’s more like it; they needed me. Plus, I could make tea and coffee if required.
I sat in the uncomfortable chair at reception for a while every now and then toying with journals, “Customer Consumables,” “The Economist” and “Market Trend Today Magazine.”
“Mr Volteroy is free now. Straight on, first door on your left.” She announced. Must be nice I thought, sending victims to their humiliation. My first port of call, after this farce, would be the pub. I stood up from my little reception haven, gave a slight nod of appreciation to the receptionist, and headed toward the inevitable. The first door on the left indeed. Impossible to miss due to the large bold plaque outside, emblazoned with the name Cornelius Volteroy, Managing Director. I was about to knock but was pre-empted by the portal opening itself. Well not actually by itself. A stubby little gargoyle had used all his strength to give me access to the inner sanctum of Cornelius Volteroy. The little flunky offered me his hand. He almost began to speak before being interrupted by a large, bearded man, sitting behind a huge oak desk.
“Don’t worry about him. He’s Jenkins from HR, or People; as they now like to be called.” The man behind the desk bellowed. Jenkins dropped his hand and nodded. “We have to have someone from HR in case it all gets politically incorrect. Isn’t that right Jenkins?” Jenkins gave a tired smile and pointed me toward a seat in front of his boss, the inquisitors chair.
“Please take a seat.” Weedy HR Jenkins implored. Meanwhile, the big boss-man reached over his desk.
“I’m Cornelius Volteroy.” He bawled as he squashed my hand in a hearty shake. It hurt. “And you?” He asked.
“Harry…Harry Lashings.” I answered. My response must have sounded more like a muse than a statement of obvious certainty.
“You don’t seem very sure.” Volteroy steamed immediately.
“I thought you were Charles Albus.” Jenkins smarmed, wallowing in the opportunity to provide some validity to the HR department.
“Ah, yes, well, that is my stage name. My name for serious enterprises, such as Business analysis, is actually Harry Lashings.” I replied as authoritatively as I could. Volteroy smirked behind his desk, enjoying my discomfort.
“Two names eh.” He replied eventually. “A serious one and a non-serious one. How very bohemian. What do you make of that Jenkins?” Jenkins waggled his hands in a non-committal way. It looked to me as though Jenkins could make anything out of whatever he was instructed to make. But very little more.
“It’s unorthodox I must say.” Jenkins parped and added; “But his Stitched-up profile looks very promising.” I briefly wondered what a good profile actually looked like. I seem to remember Charlie and I spending an afternoon copying each other’s resume one Saturday afternoon. We made sure to call out any politically incorrect bits we may have left on from the old days. We both had more or less the same experience. Swinging from tree to tree in the dense corporate jungle. Just trying to avoid the career eating beasts and pompous reptiles, that roam around so freely, in the modern, outsourced world. We were both divorced, middle aged men. Both of us on the cusp of realising that life was actually as unfair, and ruthless, as our fathers had warned us. This cautionary advice may have been more useful if it had also included some practical advice other than, do the football pools, or win the lottery. I was jolted out of my bitter reverie by Volteroy’s next question.
“Mr Lashing, in your own words please. Enlighten me as to how you would forecast future, projected, gastro family living experiences, from informative, data explicit, marketing interactions?” He gave me an expectant look. Jenkins stared on impassively, trying to give the impression that he understood the question any better than I did.
“Well, let’s get back to basics.” I replied. This allowed a small slice of time to think. I always used the, let’s get back to basics, technique when I had been asked something that I didn’t understand. I touched my lip with my finger giving, I hoped, the appearance of a considered reply. “My modus operandi is to take a basic data collection funnel and then, using proven analytic techniques such as Six Sigma, or Pareto moulding, define an effective trend visualisation to meet the future needs of the business.” I felt sure this mixture of inane corporate jabberwocky would, at least, allow me to be asked to leave without being thrown out. Jenkins nodded enthusiastically enough. Volteroy seemed less impressed. It was almost as though I had out bullshitted the bullshitter. Rewarding perhaps, but never a sound technique if you needed the boss to retain their superiority. Experience had shown me never to show off with inane, corporate, guff speak when giving a metaphorical blow job to the guvnor.
“I see. Do you have any examples?” Volteroy replied. I preceded to bore him with various illustrations. They all involved taking pure data then squeezing it into rich streams of complicated algorithms. This drivel would be subsequently digested and extracted into giant vats of marketing dysentery for the top management to consume. I tried to sound as enthusiastic as I could while both Volteroy and Jenkins listened on with bemused dis-interest. In between my diatribe, and being asked various questions, I took in the room. Cornelius Volteroy seemed an intimidating character if nothing else. On the coat stand was a massive cloak and silver topped cane that wouldn’t have looked out of place in an episode of Downton Abbey. On his ornate wooden desk was a heavy looking paperweight of a horned goat figure playing the flute. It would make a good logo for “Lucifer’s Excrement.” I would have to remember to tell them about that; they might even pay for the idea.
“You like that do you?” Volteroy blurted. I jumped. My paperweight musing boredom had been rumbled. I smiled and shrugged. As paperweights go it was OK.
“Lovely piece.” I lied.
“Yes, it is. The power of such things must not be underestimated.” Volteroy mused. His voice disappearing almost to a whisper. I had started to sweat a little, so took out some tissues from my pocket on the subterfuge of blowing my nose. Out fell a folded piece of paper which I had been busily lyric writing on during my train ride. The paper landed on its edge and did a little flip under the giant desk. I really wanted to retrieve it but that wasn’t going to be easy. At least not without assuming an arse in the air grovel. Besides it looked as though my presence was becoming boring.
“Do you have any questions for Mr Lashings?” Cornelius boomed at the weedy man from Human Resources. I really hoped Jenkins wouldn’t have any questions. There really didn’t seem anything more to say. Of course, I should have known better. The value of someone from Human Resources can only really be measured by the banality of their interview questions. This one was a blinder.
“Yes. Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?” Jenkins Prattled. I almost felt sorry for him. He could at least have been a little inventive. I gave the usual barf about moving myself toward a management position while maximising company profits. The truth would have been easier. In five years’ time I will, no doubt, be a couple of stones heavier, with a fatty liver, and very possibly a venereal disease.
That, basically, was that then. I received a rather pleasant good luck wish from the receptionist who, kindly, said she was looking forward to seeing my Hamlet. It was a nice gesture but sometimes, I suppose, we all have to concede that a cigar is just a cigar.
I did in fact take some time to enjoy a couple of pints after my ordeal and, as a result, I was in a mellow frame of mind when Charlie came bouncing through the door.
“How did your interview go old man. Mine was fantastic.” He greeted.
“Good for you. Mine was a disaster.” I groaned. Of course, I considered lying but what would be the point. The truth would have come out eventually. “Managed to convince the receptionist that I was the next Laurence Olivier but lost my, death metal libretto, under the potential boss’s desk. Other than that, I don’t think I will be learning any more about the wonders of designer kitchens.” Thankfully Charlie didn’t take the opportunity to stick the knife in as he helped himself to a lager.
“Oh well, looked like a crappy place from the description.” He said eventually after a couple of swigs. I could have asked more about his day but, to be honest, I didn’t really want to hear about his success. No doubt his job would involve showing the net gain that could be achieved all by the shallow marketing of beautiful women wearing masturbatory lingerie. After all, sex makes money and, other than holding beer, self- indulgence is what the average man’s right hand is for. Of course, the left hand has its uses for those wild moments of adventure. Charlie would probably end up marrying a super model while I am stuck here in ex local authority splendour.
After a few more minutes of moody silence, where I continued to feel sorry for myself, Charlie pipped up with.
“Look don’t worry mate, tomorrow’s Friday and then; it’s the weekend.” Good old Charlie’s concept of time had not yet slipped into day after day, melding into one giant weekend, where each hour felt like a Sunday afternoon. In this vacuous state you knew there was something to dread but you tried to keep it at the back of your mind. All in the hope of avoiding the phantom menace for a little longer. Then I remembered the pub. My horrible part time job to make ends meet. The place where I would desperately ask Mr Parker, the landlord, if there was any chance of getting a gig for “Lucifer’s Excrement,” whilst serving out pints to an increasingly aggressive clientele. Actually, clientele was too nice a word for the type the frequented ‘The Three Drumsticks.’ The name said it all. How many three handed drummers were actually out there? I should come up with a theory where the dafter the name of the pub the worse the beer. It could become known as Lashings law. I could give it an equation and everything. Charlie still had a grin on his face as though tomorrow, being Friday, held the promise of Valhalla.
“I’m working tomorrow at the pub Charlie. “I moaned.
“Oh well, I might pop in, keep you company.” He replied. It was nice of him I know but I’m not sure I wanted company. I wanted a future that didn’t involve tinned lager, endless episodes of Drain The Ocean on the Discovery channel and being patronised by complete strangers.
Although I always tried my hardest to convince Mr Parker that “Lucifer’s Excrement” will be an excellent choice for selling more beer, he insists on taking the safer route for his choice of musical entertainment. Tonight, as most Friday nights, it is the turn of drippy boy and girlfriend duo, ‘The Barnstaple’s.’ I’m not really sure if that is their marital surname or their favourite holiday resort. Either way it doesn’t matter much to me. The air waves are awash with bland covers of music from the eighties. The ‘Barnstaple’s’ are successful, if that’s the word, in being able to create a sonic dirge more tedious than the original artists were able to achieve. Every now and then they try out one of their own compositions. These aural drones eventually end, in some drippy sentiment, while they gurn endearingly at one another. Still, it’s the only job I’ve got so, I have to suck it up.
By half seven everything was at its most predictable. A crowd of office workers had begun an argument about whether a tomato was a vegetable or a fruit. Their racket was preferable to the, vomit inducing, love ditty that emanated from ‘The Barnstaple’s corner of the pub.’ But then, the predictability of the evening was suddenly disturbed.
“Excuse me. I’d Like a Brandy and crème de Menthe.” Came a vaguely familiar voice. What sort of pillock ordered that in a pub like this? I turned around to come face to face with Cornelius Volteroy. There he was like a giant, bearded monster, wearing that ridiculous cloak I had seen on the coat stand at the interview. Not only that but he had his tacky silver cane. It was a kind of Dr Who meets Etonian toff look; ridiculous but fascinating.
“Oh, it’s you Mr Volteroy,” I stammered. He just leered at me enjoying my discomfort.
“Yes, it is. How observant of you. I happened to be in the area and so thought I’d visit the pub you said you worked in.” He replied. I can’t remember mentioning my second career in the interview.
“Oh.” I tried to sound casual, as if it were every day that, someone you’d just had an interview with, came to visit you personally, dressed up like Jack the Ripper, asking for a Brandy and Crème De Menthe. What was Crème De Menthe anyway? It wasn’t as popular as Stella or Carling in this neck of the woods. In fact, I’m not sure we had any. As I hunted in the, exotic spirits for weirdo’s shelf, he spoke again.
“You’re quite a find aren’t you Mr Lashings.” I wasn’t sure what he was getting at so kept my back to him. Maybe the receptionist had complained. She must have looked up my Hamlet cigar joke and cross referenced it with Sigmund Freud quotes. Unlikely, but that was all I could come up with. I’m sure I hadn’t gone for the obvious cleavage ogle so beloved of Charlie. There wasn’t any Crème De Menthe, so I did a switcheroo with some Pernod. It was the liquor of choice whenever somebody came over all continental. I handed Volteroy the drink and enjoyed his mild grimace as he took a sip. This daft prong couldn’t tell his Pernod from his De Menthe. I’d got away with it.
“Mr Volteroy. I haven’t seen you in here before.” I replied. Not surprising of course; it was an hour’s train ride to nowhere Ville. Surely, he hadn’t come to tell me I hadn’t got the job in person. How humiliating. Maybe that was how he got his kicks. Volteroy looked around and smirked. Then he put the folded piece of A4 paper I had dropped at the interview on the bar in front of me.
“Never too far for Satan.” He hissed.
“Ah I suppose not.” I replied. He had actually read the rubbish.
“I liked what I read Harry. Too many nancy pambies around here all things bright and beautiful bla bloody bla. I particularly enjoyed the bit about virgins at the beckoning of the Dark Ones member.” He fixed me with an inscrutable stare. “I think I may have a part for you to play in this charade they call life Mr Lashings. What do you think of that?” He quizzed. If I was honest not a lot, but Mr Cornelius Volteroy was a very intense fellow. Before I could give any type of response the bar doors were flung open and in burst Sally. She was cross. Her horrible little pug nose was red. A sure sign of bad things to come. Volteroy stood aside as she strode to the bar and gave me the full Monty.
“You bastard.” She steamed. “The CPS are telling me you haven’t got a pot to piss in, but I know you’ve been working here.” It was true to say I had been laying it on a bit thick about my dire financial circumstances, but I was doing my best. Sally’s angry scorned woman routine was interrupted by the ever-lurking Mr Parker.
“Everything all right here? I don’t want any trouble.” He whined. That was a lie. I saw him getting a kick out of bashing the local youth with his pugil stick on a Saturday evening when the trouble kicked off.
“No everything is not alright. You might think this little, womanising, wastrel is worth paying the minimum wage but, whatever you pay him for, serving the sewage that passes for beer here, doesn’t end up paying the bills for me and Harry junior.” Sally wasn’t just angry she was furious, but she had made a mistake in dissing the beer. Mr Parker lifted his left hand and pointed at the door. She had been shown the red card. Good old Nosey Parker. As this little scene were being played out Volteroy looked on in amusement.
“Oh, that’s it is it? I’m barred along with everyone else that has any taste or decency.” Sally seemed to be running low on vitriol but had a last little swipe left for me. “I’ll see you in court.” She snarled and turned her attention to Volteroy. “What are you looking at, you creepy old git?” Volteroy just raised his glass at her and winked. It was a nasty little gesture though, full of non-specific malice, but it did the trick. Sally turned tailed and exited the way she had come.
With Sally out of the way Volteroy resumed his position at the bar opposite me. “The Barnstaple’s” started up on their third number of the evening. “When you’re in love with a beautiful woman it’s hard.” Mr Barnstaple sang earnestly enough. Although, by the look of Mrs Barnstaple, it wasn’t a lyric he could perform convincingly.
“What a lovely wife you had.” Volteroy smarmed. “We will be meeting again Mr Lashings. You can count on that.” He continued giving a little salute. Just before leaving he turned around at the door. “Get some Crème De Menthe next time though. Pernod is disgusting.” With that he left but, as the door closed, I think I caught a glimpse of the receptionist I had seen yesterday. Totally different look though, all in black with fishnet stockings. Oh, my goodness. What on earth just happened. I gave Volteroy a pathetic little wave back.
Charlie passed by later that evening and I told him about my adventure.
“What? Volteroy himself came round here?” Charlie was as amazed as me. He snatched the lyrics that Volteroy had been so desperate to return and read a few lines out.
“The virgins gasp at the dark pretender, his muscles pump, like he owns the place but he’s just a member.” Charlie sniggered.
“Well, I thought if the band wouldn’t take it, I could try and sell it as an ad for Richard Branson’s gyms.” I defended although I knew that was going to be a non-starter.
“Beelzebub to you I give, all my unholy devils jizz.” This time even Charlie couldn’t contain himself. I snatched the paper back.
“I know it’s not Wordsworth, but the band love this stuff.” I defended. Although I knew, before the words had even escaped, that was a lie. It did seem however that, for whatever reason, Cornelius Volteroy was impressed.
“So, what’s next? Have you got the job?” Charlie asked.
“No idea really. Perhaps I’ll get a second interview.” I answered. I couldn’t help thinking though that, I was about to be propelled, to a fate even worse than becoming a business analyst. If such a thing were possible.