fiction

by K.B. Carle



How to Fail a Job Interview or Why You’re the Only Wannabe Librarian Here


Tell your future employer you’re sorry for being late. Your phone died. The funeral was lovely, a very private affair. Just you, your neighbor—who stopped by to say a few words on his way to the mailbox—and your son. You buried your phone in a Converse shoebox in the backyard, thanked her for all her years of service while sprinkling rice into the open grave. Your son—a rude and unthinking man—offered to buy you a new phone before you could throw the first clump of dirt so, of course, you had to take a moment to explain the etiquette that is expected of him at a funeral.


Tell her you pressed your blouse underneath your mattress because who irons anymore? Sure, the left sleeve is wrinkled, and the collar is wrinkled and there are two, three, five buttons missing. But would she have even noticed that your blouse is being held together by safety pins if you hadn’t told her? Remind your future employer that this is a show of commitment. An attestation to your ingenuity.


Tell her that, after you left your house, you stopped by Manhattan Bagel. Ordered a sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich because your son refused to eat with you. After the funeral, you’d invited him inside. Turned the stove on and got your best pan because he loves scrambled eggs. He tells you he’s good right after you put the butter in, right after you tell him you have good news and after he loans you his personal cellphone because he can just use his work phone for now. You told the Manhattan Bagel cashier your good news—that you have a job interview today—not that he asked but someone other than you should know since your son didn’t ask and couldn’t find the time to stay for scrambled eggs.

Tell her how you never cared for scrambled or powdered eggs, though your son swears they’re “not that bad” like so many things he’s tried to introduce you to. Talk over the interviewer, apologize for interrupting, but keep talking anyway. Hand her your resume. Slip in the fact that you are over 50 because—though not obvious—she’ll probably ask why you left the year off your birthday. Admit that you are closer to 60, which isn’t a lie, since you look pretty good for 72.


Tell her that, after you finished eating, you found the building and were appalled to find all these employees behind glass like wax figures in a museum. And out of everyone, you’re the only one with gray hair. Not now, of course, since you had your roots touched up for this interview but what does that say about the library’s culture? Not a single person pushing 60? Not that you want to be surrounded by the kinds of people that eat powdered eggs and complain about arthritis and hearing loss and their knees giving out. Apologize to the interviewer. Tell her your son said some things after you turned the stove on. That he worries, that all children worry about their parents, but the interviewer shouldn’t worry about you. You know you’re an upstanding citizen, but it’s unfair for this job to expect you to represent an entire generation.


Tell her—now that you’re here—you’re wondering if this is the right opportunity for you. There were other interviews that you thought went well until everyone kept telling you no. One job was honest, said the company wanted someone younger on the team. Tell her that’s how you lost your job of thirty years. To someone younger who could smile with ease, run up the stairs, and remember how to format spreadsheets so the columns populated information automatically. Assure the interviewer that you never wanted to stop working, never wanted to retire, but you appreciated the honesty of the company in their choice of someone younger.


Ask her if she remembers the last thing she said to her parents. Not on the phone, to their faces. Miss the interviewer’s response because you are thinking about your son. How you misheard “nursing” as “nursery” though you think these are just bookends for a life. Ask if you look like someone who needs nursing. That’s why you were appalled by this building—too many windows—both inside and out. The employees remind you of wax figures with their plastered smiles. Nobody likes wax figures or would want one in their house which is why you only ever see them behind glass—same as the people on the brochure you threw in the pan with all that wasted butter.


Tell her to look at you—really look at you—and ask if all librarians are this stressed? That you wanted something to occupy your time, get you out of the house, perhaps create a scenario where you wouldn’t be able to answer the phone after the first ring. So your son would see you aren’t finished living yet. That you can take care of yourself, even if your memory slips from time to time.


Tell her never mind and stand before she has time to answer. You’ll find a more suitable job in a building with fewer windows, both inside and out. You know the job market is terrible, but that doesn’t mean you should stop trying. After all, you showed up here today and that says something about you.


Ignore whatever the interviewer is saying and check the phone your son loaned you. Notice several missed calls and texts that read CALL ME and laugh because it looks like your son is having a conversation with himself. Clutch the phone to your chest and consider telling the interviewer the importance of being needed. Change your mind. Thank your former future employer for her time and offer her your hand. Grasp her hand firmly and tell her, no, you don’t want to open a savings account.

You are perfectly capable of saving yourself.


K.B. Carle lives and writes outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is the associate editor at Fractured Lit. and an editor at FlashBack Fiction. Her stories have appeared in Waxwing Magazine, matchbook, Bending Genres, No Contact Magazine, and have been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, and the Pushcart Prize. She can be found online at http://kbcarle.com or on Twitter @kbcarle.