The Interview: Part II – A short, short story

This week I’ve decided to share a short story instead of my usual blog posts. Yesterday, I posted the first part of this story, so you already know Shauna is hunting for a job. I kept on writing because I was curious to see what would happen during her next interview. Turns out it was a bit more than she expected. Let’s see.

By the way, have you subscribed to The Change Diaries Podcast on Apple podcasts? New episode coming this weekend! Now, about Shauna…

The Interview Part II 

On a normal night, the sound of Roxie barking fiercely at the neighboring dog would have jolted her out of slumber. But in the wee hours of Wednesday morning Shauna was already wide awake. She peered through the window to make sure there was nothing awry and then hissed at the half-breed Doberman to ‘be quiet’ before drawing the curtains closed.  

She had sent resumes each week to private sector companies while holding out hope for the opportunity to host a prime-time radio show. After three interviews at different stations, she still had nothing. Each conversation had been more demoralizing than the next. Everybody wanted experienced talent. Was it that hard to break into radio as a newbie?  

Now Shauna feared she would never know. Under mounting pressure from her parents to get a job she was booked for an interview at the local telecom giant the following day. Her best friend, Tanisha, had put in a word for her with Tariq Morrison, one of the HR managers. He also happened to be Tanisha’s neighbor and had arranged an internship for her there last summer.  

Tanisha had branded it corporate hell. “Full of backstabbers and fake-smilers,” she had reported while gratefully pocketing the generous salary for ten entire weeks.  

Shauna rolled over and reached for the remote to start the ceiling fan. It wasn’t yet summer, but the heat was fierce. She would have preferred to turn on the air conditioning, but she was tired of fighting with her parents about the electricity bill. 

That was another reason why she loved visiting her cousin in Miami – central air conditioning, along with shopping and The Cheesecake Factory. Anyway, there would be no more trips for now – her parents had refused to dole out any more cash. Shauna told herself, ‘Tomorrow I’ll do whatever it takes to win that job’. She started practicing interview responses in her mind and bid the thought of sleep goodbye. 

… 

Cocooned in his office, Shauna was perfectly still while Martin Campbell, Vice President of Regulatory Policy, perused her resume. She used the time to observe him from across the small meeting desk. He was a tiny man, pale and balding. Peering through Tom Ford eyewear, he stroked his greying beard absentmindedly. His office was dotted with awards and a framed law degree from Stanford hung above his head. Shauna tried not to smirk. Islanders loved to show off their foreign degrees…as if the local University wasn’t good enough for them.  

“Miss Templeton. First class honors!” He was beaming when he finally looked up at her. Shauna was convinced she could see all thirty-two teeth. “And you won the Principal’s Award two years running. I am impressed indeed.” 

“Thank you, Mr. Campbell. I worked hard and I am proud of my achievements.” 

“Please call me Martin. We aren’t so formal here.” He grinned again. 

‘That’s weird’ Shauna thought. Tanisha had told her it was a stuffy environment and you had to address senior staff formally. It was already unusual that she had a shoo-in to meet with the VP directly, but that was the power of connections – life on a small island was a closely networked affair. If she played her cards right it would surely mean a job come Monday morning. 

“What do you believe you bring to our company?” 

“I am a hard worker, determined to find solutions, and I get along very well with people. I’m also a natural leader, and I am excellent at public speaking. In fact, I co-hosted a radio program as you can see on my resume.” 

Martin Campbell was intrigued. The questions flowed like rapid-fire, and Shauna was surprised at how confidently and easily she fielded them while asking some of her own. Dressed in her favorite Ann Taylor grey suit and a crisp white button-down from Zara, she was prepared and focused. Plus, he was turning out to be likable. She hadn’t expected to enjoy the conversation and she felt a twinge of guilt at her earlier cynicism.  

“Why don’t we finish this over lunch? It’s already twelve thirty but I’d like to continue the discussion.” 

The suggestion caught Shauna off guard. She hadn’t prepared for this in her script.  

“Ahm, now? Do you have a canteen in this building?”  

Martin laughed at her question and Shauna was suddenly on high alert.

“Oh no. I was thinking of somewhere more deserving of a fine young lady such as yourself,” he said.

Chill, Shauna, just chill. She willed her body to relax as a horse started galloping in her chest.  

“You flatter me Mr. Campbell. I’m actually not hungry.” 

“Trust me, you will have an appetite when the lobster arrives.” He stood up and grabbed his keys and jacket. “Have you ever dined at Morgan’s Park?” 

Shauna was nonplussed. The horse was thundering about in her mid-section now. 

Morgan’s Park was a swanky dining spot next to the famous Harbor Hotel. It was also a thirty-five-minute drive away from the town center. Even if she was okay with going to lunch, the whole thing would take at least two and a half hours.  

She swallowed over what felt like a guinep seed in her throat, her confidence slipping away while ‘win the job’ floated across her mind in subscript. “Mr. Campbell…” 

“Martin, please. And don’t forget your purse.” He was already opening the door. 

“Mr. Campbell are you married? The question slipped out but Shauna already knew the answer. 

“Why would you ask me that?” He was squinting behind his glasses.  

“Why would you want to take me to lunch thirty-five minutes away?”  

He closed the door and stepped toward her, “Because you should aspire to have the finer things in life.” His voice grew softer, “Don’t you want the best for yourself. Fine dining, a nice apartment, trips overseas, diamond rings?” 

Shauna Templeton contemplated the temptation of a thousand years. It meant driving a nicer car, taking more shopping jaunts. It would come with her own apartment, a steady rise in pay and promotions and a coveted Prada purse. But while she could stomach the privilege of getting a job through her connections, she couldn’t do this…this other thing.  

“I told Mr. Morrison in HR that I would be down before 1:00pm to complete the last page of my application form. Thanks for your time but I need to head back now.” She rose to her feet.  

They faced each other. In her red Aldo heels, Shauna was close to his height, so they were practically eye to eye. They both knew she was lying. She hadn’t completed an application form. She didn’t even know if Tariq was at work.  

Shauna held her breath and waited. The herd of horses was galloping through her entire body.  

Martin Campbell placed a hand on the doorknob to signal that the interview had indeed come to an end. His parting smile looked more like a grimace. 

“I’ll take you across the floor to meet Victoria Jenkins. She runs the Corporate Events unit, and they are looking to take on one or two promising graduates. I think you have the polish and savviness that they would value. It’s a shame you won’t work out for me. Best of luck.”  

That’s it for Shauna. Definitely hope she has better luck next time!

Thank you for stopping by. Do leave a comment to let me know what you thought and don’t forget to follow and share my blog. I post new content each week.  

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.     

The Interview – A short, short story

I didn’t plan to write a short story. I never do. I’d like to be more intentional about it though and get much better at telling the stories of these characters who suddenly take up space in my head when I sit down to write a serious piece or while I’m doing the dishes. Here is Shauna – she inspired a two-parter. I’ll share the second part tomorrow and I’ll see you this weekend for another episode of The Change Diaries Podcast. Have you subscribed yet on Apple? Anyway, let’s meet Shauna…

Shauna strutted into the boardroom of TLC Radio, tossing stray locks over her shoulder as she approached the oval conference table. The natural finish struck her as unusual; normally corporate environments favored a deep cherry stain.

Her mind wandered to the mahogany table sitting regally in her parents’ dining room. A wedding gift from her maternal grandparents, they treated it like an only child. Shauna wished that she still felt like their pride and joy but after graduating with first class honors and failing to nab a job after six months – they were beginning to despair. Anyway, why on earth was she thinking of dining tables and disappointment when she needed to be on top of her game?

‘Stay focused, you are here to win this’, Shauna gave herself a stern mental reminder as she strode towards the outstretched palm of Errol Powell, Managing Director of The Listeners Choice.

“Ah, good morning Miss Templeton. Thanks for coming by.” Mr. Powell grasped her manicured hand in a firm handshake. “Take a seat and make yourself comfortable.” 

“Thank you, Mr. Powell.” Shauna smiled briefly, hoping that a mask of dislike hadn’t flashed across her face. After reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, she had become obsessed with reading faces and searching for hidden messages.

“So, let’s get right to it. Tell me what you have in mind and what kind of future you see for yourself at TLC Radio.” Mr. Powell said as he leaned forward, his skin gleaming with a sheen of sweat thanks to a subpar performance from the struggling air conditioning unit. Life in the tropics was often a sweaty affair but Shauna was cool in a white cotton top and skirt and her lightweight navy blazer. All from Banana Republic in Dolphin Mall, Miami. She hadn’t shopped on the island for years.

“As you know, I’ve been freelancing for the last couple years, doing voiceover work and a few adhoc interviews at the station to fill in for presenters when needed.”

Shauna started her pitch, vaguely conscious of Michael Jackson’s Dirty Diana wafting through the intercom system. It was eighties hour at the station with DJ Chris at the controls. She watched Mr. Powell’s eyes drift toward her slender ankles and slowly start to work their way upwards. The image of a snake unfurling assailed her like a bad cliché and she paused, distracted. ‘God damn it’, she thought, ‘Get it together’. 

With a shake of her head, Shauna’s locks tumbled forward. She cleared her throat and her voice inched up a decibel as she continued. “Radio is my favorite communication channel and I have a real passion for it. I like the team here at TLC Radio and I want to make it my home by taking things further, ideally hosting my own show. I’m thinking of initially working with a co-host, doing a mix of current affairs, music, interviews, something that will appeal to…”

“What’s your experience in hosting a live radio program?” Mr. Powell cut her off abruptly. The leather chair squeaked as he shifted his bulky frame.

Shauna observed his curly hair and slanted eyes set on almond colored skin and his broad nose with thick lips. His features were the gift of many nations mingling – master and slave, indentured laborer and plantation owner, indigenous people and colonizer.

‘Enough’. She brought her mind back to the room and took a deep breath. “Well, I’m broadcast trained, by the best in the business. I co-hosted the university radio program ‘On the Beat’ during my final year. I’ve been doing voiceovers here in studio for the last two years Mr. Powell. People know my voice and…”

He interrupted her desperate spiel with an offer, “How about a midnight to 3am slot? We have an opening for a new co-host of Man and Woman Talk. I’m sure our listeners would appreciate a young, smooth female voice to explore sex and love. Don’t you think?” He licked his lips and Shauna tried not to shudder as her mind bounced around desperately. Her face felt hot, and she wondered vaguely if finally, she would be the one to prove that a dark-skinned girl could blush bright red.

Mr. Powell drummed his thick fingers on the heavy oak table while Michael pleaded urgently:

Dirty Diana nah
Dirty Diana no
Dirty Diana nah
Dirty Diana no

In the end her response took a second too long and the door closed as quickly as had it opened. ‘Just as well’, Shauna thought as she headed down the stairs and into the visitors’ parking lot. She didn’t want a graveyard shift and she wasn’t doing a late night no-holds-barred call-in program to talk about what men and women want from each other. She had no plans to be the Howard Stern of the local airwaves.

She was Shauna Templeton. She wanted to bless the world with her voice from the moment they woke up until they were safely at work or back from the school run. She wanted a prime-time slot with news, music, meaningful discussion and inspiring interviews. And prime time was what she would get.

Thanks for stopping by. It’s a two-part story. Tomorrow I’ll share what happened on Shauna’s next Interview! Follow my blog and subscribe.

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.    

Intact…A Poem

I recently read an article about a man who had physically abused his wife for twenty of the twenty-seven years that they have been married. He found religion and redemption in year twenty and they are now living in wedded bliss. It was hard for me to not sit in judgement of their journey and question how this woman tolerated two decades of abuse and still came to place of forgiveness. Amidst all my wondering I couldn’t help but imagine something different, an alternate ending:

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

A Seasonal Friendship (Fiction/Short Story)

I had introduced them to each other figuring that two high-profilers with a penchant for tanning and drinking sangria would really get along.  It was uncanny how they hit it off instantly and we became a happy trio.  

Jenna could be reserved at times and her other friends were a bunch of snobby professionals who were dating or engaged to some well-to-do bachelors.  Mia-Simone was a savvy entrepreneur whose father had financed her successful catering and event planning business. She was the ultimate sophisticate and coolly independent.  She and I had met at a Christmas party thrown by the PR company where Jenna worked.  I had met Jenna a couple months prior when she was assigned to work on our company’s account.  Jenna wasn’t there the evening of the party, so I arranged for a group of us to meet up at Christopher’s, a popular Kingston watering hole, for drinks the following week.

“Your hair is gorgeous”, I remember Jenna gushed when she met Mia-Simone and saw her luxurious black tresses tumbling down her back. “Who does your hair?”  They swapped salon stories, raved about the new Audi convertibles on the market and confessed that they had both watched “Ocean’s Eleven” twelve times, just for the eye-candy.  We had a roaring good time and I was thrilled that we got along so well.  Afterall, I’d started to feel it was impossible to make good friends after high school.

The three of us single, twilight-twenties, independent “hotties” started hanging out on weekends looking for fun.  We’d hop from Red Bones to various party spots on Friday evenings and either flirt outrageously or spend the night fending off inebriated lechers with lascivious stares and cheesy pick-up lines.  Some Saturdays, disillusioned with the party scene, we’d hang out at Mia-Simone’s and order Indian food, sip red wine and dissect our exes or crucify our bosses.  Mia-Simone always had some hilarious stories about her clients.  Sometimes we would invite a few guys over for a game of kalooki and drinks but Mia-Simone but was very choosy about who could ‘cross her threshold’ so those occasions were few.  Sundays were reserved for brunch outings or preferably tanning at the beach complete with fried fish and grilled lobster.

In retrospect, our friendship was a little too good and easy to be true.  It lasted exactly six months and changed the day that Jenna decided that she’d had enough of her megalomaniac menopausal manager and quit suddenly.  Her disposable income vanished overnight like the bottles of Chianti we used to guzzle during our get-togethers and, with our lifestyle, she hadn’t exactly been saving.  In fact, I wasn’t either so both Mia-Simone and I were quite sympathetic. Mia-Simone hooked her up with a few free-lance assignments and I gave a couple people her resume. 

After a month we cut back on the dining out and started hanging at Mia-Simone’s more.  She and I always ended up splitting the take-out bills, so we sprung for slightly cheaper options like pizza or Chinese.  Truly, Jenna had never looked better.  I think she was just enjoying her freedom from cubicle hell and couldn’t give two hoots about finding another job in a hurry.  Soon, she gave up her apartment and moved in temporarily with Mia-Simone who owned a spacious two-bedroom.  To be honest, she had asked me first, but we’d have suffocated in my tiny rented studio.

I still remember that day when Mia-Simone called me at work. “Lina, are you free for lunch?”

“What’s up?”  I asked typing furiously.  My report was way overdue, and my boss was breathing down my neck, besides, Mia-Simone was rarely free at lunchtime.

“Nothing really.  Just thought I’d catch a breather”.

“Okay, where are you guys going?”  I relented quickly since the cafeteria was serving oxtail, stew peas, or chicken foot soup, none of which was very appealing to me.  The thought of having a laugh with Jenna and Mia-Simone was infinitely more enticing.

“Oh, Jenna’s not coming.”  Mia-Simone said quickly.  “Let’s meet at Cuddyz at 12:30”.

“I’ll be there. Bye.”  I hung up and tried to finish my report so that I wouldn’t be late.

Mia-Simone was sitting at a table in the corner when I rushed in at 12:36pm smiling and a little amused at being greeted “Empress” by a robed Rastafarian exiting the eatery.  “Hey girl” I bounced up to her relieved to be out of the office.

“Hey”. She smiled but her eyes were strained. “Let’s order now”. The waitress, whose jeans were threatening to cut off her circulation, hovered indifferently at our table.

Mia-Simone disappeared to the ladies’ room until the food came. Shoving hot fries in my mouth when I had the chance, I started telling her about a guy who had been calling every day to ask me out. “I swear he’s bad news. More baggage than Caribbean Airlines can carry. And he thinks he is such a catch”. 

Shaking her head, Mia-Simone tapped her manicured nails on the table, “Such a loser”.

“Anyway, who died?” I had to find out what was wrong with her. She had barely picked at her barbecued chicken and seemed distant.

“Look Lina, I don’t quite know how to ask you this”. Mia-Simone was hesitant.

I remained silent and let her think it through, whatever it was.

“How well do you think you know Jenna?” she asked finally.

I sat back and exhaled. Jenna had been at Mia-Simone’s for six weeks and I’d felt the tension last weekend but figured that someone’s PMS was raging and it would blow over.  “What’s going on Mia?” I asked, realising something had definitely blown. 

“Well, I don’t know if we are friends really.” Mia-Simone offered lamely.

“What do you mean?”  My mind was racing. I didn’t relish the thought of backstabbing Jenna and orchestrating her eviction, which now seemed imminent.

“I mean, we’ve been hanging out for almost a year but I’m not sure that we’re friends really” Mia-Simone looked me dead in the eye.  Her gaze suddenly seemed hard.

“Okay. Define we. Me and you or you and Jenna?” I was confused but at the same time I wasn’t. The fries felt huge and soggy in my mouth and I had to sip some water to help them slide down my constricting throat.

She sighed and looked at the carcass in front of her. When she looked up at me I felt chilled. “This trio deal is just not me Lina. We’ve had loads of fun and you guys were great company at a time in my life when I would otherwise have been swallowed by trying to grow my business but I don’t need this anymore…”

For a moment I tuned out, it was all kind of weird. It was feeling like a break up and I’d never ended a friendship with a girlfriend unless we’d had a fight over clothes, money or a man.

“…asked Jenna to leave by this weekend. She’s pissed off and I don’t blame her. I’m going to back off this association and establish my space. Maybe I need to be with people who are on my page right now. I’m a driven businesswoman. You guys have always been in dead-end jobs that you are griping about all the time and doing the dating rounds with losers.”

She was growing horns. I couldn’t believe my ears, she had called our friendship “an association”. I cut her off. It didn’t need to be quite this nasty. “Mia-Simone, it’s okay.  You don’t have to say anything more.” She fell silent as I got to my feet and pulled some bills from my purse and put them on the table next to my unfinished meal. 

I brushed back a stray lock from my forehead. “I have a few things for you at my place.  I’ll leave them with the security guard at your complex. Just leave my boots and MAC lipstick you borrowed last week with him. I’ll pick them up over the weekend.”

I was furious and my throat was tight. All I could manage next was “Goodbye”. She didn’t say a word. Her eyes were cold when she glanced up at me, then she looked away and started wiping her fingers on her napkin.

I rushed outside into the brilliant sunshine, groping for my cell phone which was perennially off. I felt lost and displaced. We were supposed to see a play on Friday night.  I’d received two complimentary tickets so Mia-Simone and I had agreed to sponsor Jenna. I opened the door of my blue Honda Civic, which was parked right behind Mia-Simone’s brand-new champagne-colored Mitsubishi Pajero. My car was like a furnace and I wound down the windows immediately. I started driving while I dialed Mia-Simone’s home number in an effort to reach Jenna.

“Hello”, Jenna answered breathlessly.

“Jenna. It’s Lina.” My voice was flat.

“Lina. Where have you been? I’m moving from Mia-Simone’s tonight. My brother will lend me his pick-up, can you come over and help?” Her words ran into each other.

“Sure. Where are you going?”  I knew she would rather beg on the street than move back in with her parents.

“To my cousin’s place in Mona”. She paused. “Have you talked to Mia-Simone?”

“Yes”. I didn’t want to talk about it so I quickly moved on. “Girl you know I hate talking on the cell when I am driving. I’ll just come by at 6:30 this evening.”

“Okay see you then.” 

In the weeks that followed I felt as if I was in recovery. Jenna and I didn’t go out anymore and I was back to hanging out with my old high-school friends who asked if I had finished profiling and was finally back to normal. I ignored their jibes. When we did link up, Jenna and I would look back on all the stuff we had done together, remembering the laughter and trying to figure out how Mia-Simone changed so radically. Or had she always been like that? Had we really known each other?

Soon Jenna found a new job that took her to Spanish Town, and we drifted apart. When we saw each other, our smiles were bright and our laughter a little forced. Mia-Simone never called either of us again. I saw her in Sovereign supermarket a couple months later and she pushed her supermarket trolley right past me. I had forgotten the phenomenon of malice.

Christmas rolled around again. I changed departments at work and was busier than ever.  My tamed social life now included one of the “losers” whom Mia-Simone had scorned.  He told me one day that friends are with us for a season, a reason or a lifetime. 

I’m learning to celebrate the seasons and let go when they end.

© Arlene Amitirigala 2020. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Jazz Singer (Poem)

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Jazz was an afterthought for me (Dancehall is my groove) but there was something hypnotic about live music under the stars at Devon House in Kingston. I would sit there transported, glass of wine neglected, almost in a daze, never wanting the night to end.

Thank you for checking out my musings. Please share your comments below and visit again soon. Don’t forget to subscribe and share. I post new content each week.

© Arlene Amitirigala 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Realization (Poem)

Late one night, at a party, I witnessed an awkward exchange between a couple. He approached her, drink in hand, smiling casually, but a certain tension encircled them and was it clear that they knew each other intimately. As they conversed, his body spoke of apology and regret. Framed in the pale moonlight she was distant and indifferent. Suddenly he dropped his glass of wine. She stepped back in surprise. And there I let my imagination roam and rise to decipher her state of mind…

Thank you for checking out my musings. Please share your comments below and visit again soon. Don’t forget to subscribe and share. I post new content each week.

© Arlene Amitirigala 2020. All Rights Reserved.

On Matthew’s Eve

A few years ago, I was holidaying on Jamaica’s North Coast while Hurricane Matthew steadily approached. While the resort gradually emptied of its few remaining guests, I sought a last-minute massage before racing to the airport to catch one of the last flights leaving the island.  There, at the oceanfront spa of the Jamaica Inn, with me mesmerized by the waves crashing against the cliffside below, this poem shaped itself in my mind:

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© Arlene Amitirigala 2020. All Rights Reserved.