Howdy Doody’s Dad
I beetled across the gulag floor, Tequila right extended, lipped a phony smile, “Hey, I’m Sarah. Sorry I’m late.” Bechley Industries personnel manager, Jim Johnston, didn’t move. Made me nervous. I wondered if I missed a couple buttons or maybe toilet paper dragged behind a shoe. Johnston looked familiar. His thinning orange hair was broomed forward and the sideburns flaked gray, but I recognized the face. Rounded cheeks plastered with freckles framed by satellite dish ears. I was ninety-nine percent sure he was Howdy Doody’s dad.
After several uncomfortable minutes, he lubricated with caffeine and glared at me like I’d just pissed in one of his potted plants. “You were supposed to be here twenty minutes ago. Not a good way to begin a job interview, is it?”
“You want a note from my mother?”
“I’d throw you out right now, if I could. Is getting to work on time going to be a problem for you?”
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“Sometimes, but I do try.”
“Let me see your resume.”
“Oh, crap. Left it at home. Sorry, Mr. Doody.”
“What did you say?” he fumed. “Name’s Johnston. Jim Johnston. You’ve got some nerve. Showing up late for a job interview and no resume.”
“Pretty stupid, huh?”
“A first, that’s for sure. You know, we’re not hiring locally. Our new jobs are in the Bakken. Ever been to North Dakota?”
“We’ll have more openings in the Marcellus if and when the EPA lightens up.”
“I don’t know who Marcellus is, but I’m not moving. I love Houston.” Why didn’t I just tell Uncle George that I didn’t want to work at his stupid company? Especially out in some fracking prairie. Should have boomeranged the old goat with lies about the wonderful job I had. But he’s such a sweetheart. Couldn’t tell him no. And I was pretty high at the time.
“That’s going to limit your options with us. Have you worked around heavy equipment?”
“Are you serious?”
“Well, Ms. Holland, without a resume, I really don’t know anything about you or your work history.”
“This interview isn’t about me, young lady. I have a web conference in a few minutes. Why don’t you tell me why Bechley Industries should hire you?”
He leered into my bloodshot eyes. I guess he resented having to interview the boss’s niece, but I wasn’t going to let Uncle George down. Sure was glad I’d spent a few minutes polishing my interview skills on the walk from the parking lot. “I’m a team player, Mr. Johnson. Always doing a little less to make my fellow workers look good.”
“Is that so? What was your last job?”
“Why did you choose that line of work?”
“That’s a good question because I really sucked at it.” I was through talking to Howdy’s father. My whole body ached. I wanted to curl up on the couch under Nana’s quilt and sleep for ten hours. It was Shane’s fault. Because of this damn job interview, I’d gone easy on the Fireball last night and then he showed up at midnight with a jug of Tequila. “Have you got any aspirin? My head’s about to explode.”
“Aspirin? Jesus, Holland, you’re a piece of work.” He fumbled around in a desk drawer, pulled out a bottle of Excedrin, and tossed it to me.
I picked the bottle off the floor. “Thanks. Is there a drinking fountain around here?”
“Down the hall. If you hurry, we’ll still have a minute to learn something about you.”
“Uh, yeah… great.”
I guzzled the chilled water. Swallowed several aspirin. Prayed for the shakes to go away. Just as I slouched back into the interview chair, my phone started vibrating. I was dying to see who was texting, but figured I’d better hold off. “Where were we?”
“You were telling me about your telemarketing career.”
“Right. I probably did okay. Got laid off laid because of the recession. You know, last in, first out.”
“What was the name of the company?”
No way I was going to tell this dummy where I worked or why I really got fired. I wanted to end the interrogation. Besides, he was staring at my chest. Pervert. His sawdust breath wasn’t getting anywhere near my boobs. I wished I hadn’t worn a black bra under my white blouse, but everything I owned was dirty and I hadn’t had time to get to the Laundromat. I reached into my shoulder bag for a cigarette and fired one up. “I don’t remember.”
Johnston dynamited. “What tha hell!” he shouted.
His reaction got me thinking. This corporate suckerfish has serious issues outside these prison walls and wants to take them out on me. That’s not going to happen. I blew smoke rings across the room, trying to hook one on a giant ear. I pretended the pulsating veins in his neck were violet worms and his nostrils flared because he was a racehorse heading to the slaughterhouse after another last place finish. “How rude of me. Would you like one?”
“You didn’t even have the courtesy to ask me if you could smoke, you arrogant little…little…”
“You said it. Not me. Put out your cigarette!”
There wasn’t an ashtray, so I walked over and dropped the cigarette into his coffee cup. It sizzled on impact. He just stared at me. I guess he was thinking about his bond portfolio or taking his wife’s Shih Tzu for a walk. His office was air-conditioned, but hangover monkeys were burning all my organs. I was almost asleep when he clobbered the desktop with both fists. Scared the crap out of me. “I’ve been thinking about your future with Bechley,” he spat. “And how your skill set matches up with our needs. I have the perfect…”
My dopey brain muted his words. Furniture waltzed. Those weren’t aspirin…
When I woke up, he was gone. It was almost eleven. The elevator was empty except for myself and a pasty asscake in the tinted mirror. Was her skirt on backward?
Had to be at least a hundred degrees outside. I should have parked in the shade.