Read the Short Story that Cost Me an Interview
Long story short, I had a great interview with a company for a digital marketing job. Our discussion in the interview focused mostly on marketing analytics —
a topic that I am comfortable in. However, at the end of this interview, they said they also needed the candidate to have a creative writing background.
“Oh sure, I’ll send you something.”
I sent them this story.
I personally think the interview went very well. I was confident, had great report with everyone there, and I showed fascination and enthusiasm with their company and their industry. The interview was well over an hour. I left feeling on top of the world.
But after sending this comedy/sci-fi short story, I heard nothing.
Drugs and Sandwiches:
“Got-damn, I’m hungry” murmured Joe as he stared out of the bus window. “Yo Tim! TIIIIIM! You got another sandwich in there, man?”
Tim pulled an earbud headphone out of his ear, “What? No, just the one. Why didn’t you pack anything?”
“I thought I could make it! I’m ‘bout tuh die, Timmeh!” gasped Joe sarcastically.
“I don’t know what to tell you, man,” chuckled Tim. “Seriously, it’s a seven-hour drive to Washington DC and you didn’t bring anything to eat?”
“I didn’t have any time to think about food. We left as soon as I finished my exam, remember?” explained Joe.
“I’m sorry, Joe,” said Tim, earnestly, “If I packed something else, I would give it to you.”
“Christmas break 2014! Woo,” sighed Joe, with disdain. “Off to a good start.” Tim put his earbud back in. Joe sat in silence.
“What are you listening to over there, man?” asked Joe, who brought nothing to entertain himself with.
“The news,” said Tim.
“The. News? Seriously? Don’t you ever get tired of the depressing stories? That’s why I switched majors from Journalism, man. They only want the sad stuff. If it bleeds, it leads,” explained Joe.
“I don’t really listen to the news like that. It’s just something I do every day around this time. It’s more about the routine for me. And don’t get all high and mighty because you switched to Outdoor Education. You’re just obsessed with canoes and rock climbing,” retorted Tim.
“I don’t see anything wrong with that,” said Joe, with complete satisfaction.
News Anchor: “Police are still looking for ex-government scientist, Craig Jenson, who escaped from a government housing facility earlier this year. Jenson is now suspected of developing psychotropic drugs for terrorist groups to use during interrogations. And now for the weather…”
After a time, the bus reached its destination in Washington DC. Tim and Joe got off the bus and figured out their next step.
“What sites should we see first?” inquired Joe.
“Hahaha, you’re kidding, right? It’s midnight. We need to just get to our hotel and start tomorrow. Let’s get a cab,” said Tim, trying to sound as cavalier as possible.
“‘Let’s get a cab.’ Alright, grandpa! What about Lyft?”
“I can’t. My phone’s dead.”
“Haha! That’s because you’ve been on it all day!”
“Why don’t we use your phone?”
“Psh! Don’t be ridiculous! You know I don’t have one! I’m off the grid, man! I even deleted my Facebook last week!” boasted Joe.
“Obviously that’s not something to brag about in situations like this!”
“Alright, breh, let’s grab some cash and hail a taxi,” said Joe, who was in too good of a mood to dwell on Tim’s assholery.
“You think taxis only take cash?” chortled Tim, who tried to sound sarcastic, but honestly did not know the answer to his own question.
“Exactly, let’s find an ATM. Cuz I don’t have any cash on me, aaaand my guess is that you spent the last of your cash on that sandwich,” said Joe, feeling smart.
“Why didn’t you bring any cash on this trip, you jackass?!” hissed Tim, who was trying to compensate for the fact that everything that Joe said was correct.
“Because I knew that we’d end up going to an ATM right away, now come on!” said Joe, almost half singing. “Do you know where an ATM is?”
“Well, Joe, if the bus station were open, there would be one there. But it’s not,” whined Tim, condescendingly.
“I’m sure there’s one out here somewhere.”
After searching several blocks for an ATM, Tim and Joe passed under a bridge. The sidewalk beneath them was cracked. The old, brick buildings on either side of the street were boarded up and covered with what the boys thought were gang-related graffiti. Really, it was just an artist’s rendering of a robot Woody Allen piloting an X-Wing. Every other streetlight was busted out, giving the sidewalk a sense of dangerous secrecy. They crunched on a layer of broken glass as they wandered, aimlessly.
“This looks nothing like where an ATM would be,” commented Tim.
“Let’s just go in a shop and ask for directions.”
“Are you serious? It’s 2am, Joe! In the middle of the week! What shops are open right now?”
“How about we just ask someone for directions?”
“Here?! Who am I gonna ask? That guy on the corner there? I think he’s only interested in smoking doobies and stabbing lost college students,” whispered Tim, gesturing towards a man sitting on a bench across the street. Tim had never done any recreational drugs of any kind, and was quick to tell you so.
“Wow Tim, that’s kinda judgey… we don’t know what he smokes or who he likes to stab,” rebuked Joe, trying to sound nonchalant.
“Do you want to ask him?” offered Tim.
“…no,” said Joe, sheepishly.
They continued further down the street. Down an alleyway they thought they saw the light of an ATM. Joe lead the way, feigning confidence. Tim tripped over some broken bottles as he kept looking over his shoulder.
“Watch where you’re going, man,” said Joe.
“Yeah,” squeaked Tim.
As they got closer, they saw that the light was coming from an open window; someone inside watching TV. A dog barked close by; very close by. A voice inside yelled into the alley, “Terrance! You betta quiet down out there!
Joe and Tim accelerated from a fast walk to a full on sprint. They stopped two blocks down at a street light.
“The hell was that?!” exclaimed Joe.
“I don’t know, I ran when I heard the Rottweiler,” gasped Tim, incorrectly assuming the breed. It was actually a Spaniel-Border Collie mix; maybe a little Shar-Pei, but only in the nose. As they panted and leaned against the light post, a brown, rusted 1997 Hyundai Excel pulled up and the passenger rolled down his window.
“How much for both of you for 30 minutes?” said the passenger with his friend, the toothless driver, smiling next to him.
“Uh what?! Dyuhhh, were not… like… uh,” babbled Joe.
“Pyaaah! Not for sale! Goodnight, gents!” laughed Tim, nervously, as he pushed Joe further down the street.
The car screeched around the corner and out of site. Out of their lives forever; hopefully. Tim and Joe decided to head in the opposite direction of the car. Not a decision in that they discussed the pros and cons of following the pro-gigolo car. Rather, a non-verbal agreement to avoid the horny passenger and the toothless driver altogether.
Tim and Joe turned the corner. Joe noticed they walked by some real “working ladies”, and maybe men, Joe wasn’t sure. Tim didn’t remember passing anybody, he stared at his feet as he walked until they reached the ATM. Joe spotted the ATM first. He withdrew $20 as quickly as possible without looking around. Tim pulled his wallet out and immediately dropped it. It was sweaty. He had been holding onto it this whole time. He fumbled with his wallet and pulled out his card. They heard rustling in the alleyway next to the machine.
“C’mon, man.” Joe whispered. Tim stared at the screen, unable to decide whether to take out $20 or $40.
‘Do I need more?’ Tim thought. ‘I don’t want to carry too much cash around here, but what if I need more? Wait. Am I making a deposit? Do I want to buy stamps now?’
Three large men wearing puffy Oakland Raiders jackets stepped out of the shadows. Tim grabbed $20 as he and Joe speed-walked away. He forgot to wait for his receipt. Tim always prints a receipt. Having put a block between themselves and the Oakland Raiders fans, Tim and Joe thought they were out of the woods. Which, of course, is just an expression meaning, ‘out of danger, presently’. Tim and Joe weren’t really in the woods. But they also weren’t really out of the woods in the metaphorical sense either.
“You fellas lost?” asked a man in a khaki bomber jacket and acid wash jeans. He was wearing dirty New Balance sneakers and yellow aviator eyeglasses. Tim and Joe were baffled. They shared a glance, as if asking each other ‘Should we trust him?’ without saying anything out loud and risk being rude.
“Yeah, we need to get a cab,” blurted Joe, after what he thought was an awkward silence.
‘OH MY GOD HE DID NOT JUST ADMIT WE ARE LOST TO THIS TEXTBOOK CHILD MOLESTER,’ screamed Tim in his own head. Tim was partially incorrect about this man. This man was a suspect of criminal offenses; but not child molesting.
“Cabbies don’t drive down this street. Lemme take you to a main road,” smirked the man. The man led them around the corner, stopped, and turned to face them. He shook Tim’s hand first. “My name is Crai-Cramer, by the way. Cramer.” Then, Cramer shook Joe’s hand.
“Good to meet you. Thanks for your help,” said Joe.
“Yeah thanks, we’ve been wandering around for a while,” blurted Tim, to Joe’s surprise.
“I believe it. I’ve been lost for months. After a while I just decided to live here,” cackled Cramer. Tim and Joe both laughed. Tim laughed nervously. Joe’s laugh was sincere. As they walked, the environment around Tim and Joe began to change. On one block, the brick buildings were boarded up and covered in graffiti. Then, as they turned the corner, all of the buildings became sleek and covered in glass panels. Tim began to trip over his own feet uncontrollably. Joe realized he could no longer feel his face. Tim and Joe didn’t remember anything after that.
Tim woke up sitting on a wooden chair in a large, dimly-lit bedroom. He noticed this enormous room was almost entirely white with matching furniture. Joe sat next to him in another chair. He was not awake. They faced a roaring fire. Behind them was a gigantic, white bed. Above it was a large painting of what looked like Tom Bombadil riding a tiger. Next to the bed, on the nightstand, was a bottle of Old Crow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and a small bottle of green nail polish. Suddenly, the door burst open and a low rumble was heard. Joe was startled awake. In the light of the fire, Tim could see the intruder was the tiger from the painting. It stared at them with its shiny, green eyes.
“I see you’ve met Janus,” bellowed Cramer, who had just entered the room wearing an open, white lab coat and small, round sunglasses. Underneath, he wore a navy, pinstripe tuxedo with burgundy, wing-tip dress boots. “Follow me, boys. Janus won’t hurt you. Not yet.” Tim got up slowly and followed Cramer down the hall, taking measured steps. Joe followed close behind — and walked like a robot because he thought that would help.
On one side of the hallway, Joe saw several fancy paintings of what he perceived as realistic male and female versions of the monopoly guy. The rich, red velvet carpet felt soft and padded under Joe’s Timberland boots. Joe gestured for Tim to have a look at the realistic-male-and-female-monopoly-guy-esque paintings. Tim acknowledged their existence. On the other side of the hallway, Tim was disturbed by the chipping paint and peeling wallpaper. His white Converse sneakers clunked and clomped on the cement floor. Tim peered into an open doorway as they passed a grimy bathroom, complete with rusty sink and matching shower; which was missing a shower curtain. Never mind, Tim saw it on the floor. It was ripped right off its rings. On the floor, next to a dirty toilet, was an equally ‘dirty’ magazine. The magazine wasn’t ‘dirty’ the same way as the toilet was dirty. Then again, they were also the exact same kind of dirty. To be clear, the magazine was two different kinds of ‘dirty’ while the toilet was only one kind of dirty.
Cramer led them to an enormous banquet hall. He gestured to the boys to find a seat at the long, white table. Tim stumbled to find a seat right away. Joe stopped walking and stared at the beautiful chandelier hanging from the ceiling. He was bumped on his left calf by Janus, who emitted a low, soft rumbling sound upon impact. Joe jumped and clumsily scampered to a seat next to Tim.
“What are we doing here?” wondered Tim. He also wondered if what he just said was in English.
“Is this the hotel?” wondered Joe, who wasn’t even sure if he had said that out loud.
“Boys, aren’t you going to say hello to the other dinner guests?” said Cramer, purposely ignoring their perfectly valid questions. It was then that Tim and Joe noticed the other people sitting at the table. Clearly, the boys had been invited a black-tie event. From left to right, Tim could see he was seated with Ron Johnson, Jackwyn Nemerov, Sharon Jester Turney, Michael Jeffries, and Mark Parker. Tim did not know why he knew all their names without them introducing themselves first. From left to right, Joe could see that he was seated next to Toucan Sam, Count Chocula, Captain Crunch, Lucky, and Snap, Crackle, and Pop. The last three were sitting in one chair, on top of each other’s shoulders wearing a long trench coat and a hat. Joe did know why he knew all their names.
“Oh goodness! I guess I should take this off before I prick myself,” said Cramer to himself as he took off the ring he was wearing when he shook hands with the boys. One side of the ring had a small needle that was tipped with a psychotropic drug. “Now, gentlemen, how do you feel?”
For Tim and Joe, that was kind of a loaded question. Joe was very hungry and wondered why there was no food at this enormous table. Tim was worried about how he did on his semester finals. Also, they were both hallucinating wildly.
“Good,” said Tim and Joe almost at the exact same time.
“That’s not really enough information, boys,” barked Cramer. “What do you see?”
In that moment, it seemed to Tim as though the room was flashing from one location to another. When Tim blinked, the white, vast dining hall would change to a dark, shabby living room with no furniture in it, save for the card table at which he and Joe were seated on damp cardboard boxes. Seated with them were not clothing company executives, but bits and parts of mannequins sitting in plastic lawn furniture and staring blankly back at Tim.
“The stuff is different,” mumbled Tim, as he honestly tried to explain the confusing horror that surrounded him. Joe just laughed. Count Chocula made a funny joke about Captain Crunch’s choice of footwear for that evening.
“Damn. I’ll be right back, gentlemen,” said Cramer as he excused himself and fled to the kitchen to study what may have gone wrong with his experiment, but also to mix more of his psychotropic interrogation drug into glasses of water he was going to serve to his guests. Just Tim and Joe… not the mannequins/cereal mascots.
“Joe, something seriously messed up is going on here,” whispered Tim as he looked at Joe. Tim was grateful that, out of all of the weird things he was seeing, Joe still just looked like Joe and not something ridiculous, like a giant Lego Batman made entirely out of black licorice.
“I know, right? Count Chocula is really giving it to the Captain,” laughed Joe, who was talking to a giant Lego Batman made entirely out of black licorice that somehow sounded exactly like Tim. Joe was perfectly fine with all of this. Frustrated, Cramer re-entered the dining room and set the glasses of water in front of his guests. Joe gulped his down because he was feeling nauseous and thought water would help. Tim took a good, long look at Cramer and sipped at his water suspiciously. Tim then realized that his thoughts contradicted his actions and he stopped sipping the probably drugged water. Janus leaped on to the table and knocked Tim’s glass of water over. Joe observed the evil tiger, Janus, knocking over the giant, black licorice Lego Batman’s glass of water. Tim observed a feral, orange cat, gently rubbing up against the probably drugged water, and knocking it over. Tim was 82% certain that he, himself, was not a giant, black licorice Lego Batman.
Tim and Joe don’t remember anything after that.
Tim and Joe woke up in a hospital, room number 167, the local news broadcasting on the mounted Panasonic combination TV/VCR:
News Anchor: “Today, police arrested suspect Craig Jenson, charged with developing psychotropic drugs and testing them on innocent bystanders to later sell to known terrorist groups. DEA agents were able to locate him by monitoring his purchases of the drug ingredients at local pharmacies. Upon arrest, police were able to save two victims Jenson had detained in his hideout. And now for a traffic update…”
Nurse Chuck Van Sail entered room 167 carrying two trays of food; each with a glass of probably not drugged water, a cup of green gelatin, and a sandwich.