The Interview

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic


When the applicant was a safe distance away, the occupants of the conference room roared with laughter. Having to keep a straight face for so long only made the laughter more intense.

Once it began to subside, Jan Rogers wiped away her tears and said, “That was the worst job interview I ever sat through.” The others agreed and the laughter reignited.

Burt Myers was interviewing for a counseling position at Hughes High School. When they asked him what his greatest strength was, he replied, “Fixing things around the house.”

The counseling position came open in November when Ms. Glover’s husband was transferred to Connecticut. She was chairman of the department and it left a vast void in the program. It was difficult to find a qualified candidate this late in the school year because all the good ones were snatched up in August. There was something about the job title, “school counselor,” that drew in lots of unqualified applicants, but school policy was to grant an interview to anyone who applied.

Jan Rogers called the group to order. “Okay, we’ve got one more interview. Let’s get this over with.” Rogers was assistant principal and sat at the head of the table. On the right of the table was counselor Brad Hope, and on the left side was counselor Amber Mead. They sat with a stack of resumes in front of them.

“Last interview for today is Fred Everhart,” said Rogers. There was the sound of shuffling papers, followed by a moment of silence as each interviewer reviewed his resume. Brad Hope was first to speak up. “This guy must be in his fifties.” Jan Rogers was in her fifties and pushed her glasses down on her nose and gave Brad a scornful look.  Amber Mead’s eyes moved across Fred Everhart’s resume. “More like sixties,” she said. “Jan, we already know who we want. Do we really have to go through with this?”

There was an early consensus that Shirley Jackson was their best candidate. She was a probation officer, and although she didn’t have a state license to be a school counselor, she was nine semester hours into her graduate degree and could be hired under the lateral entry program. She was African American and would be a strong role model for Hughes High School which was eighty percent minority.

“We have to interview all candidates,” replied Jan Rogers. “And you can’t discriminate based on an applicant’s age.”

Fred Everhart entered the conference room and had a seat at the end of the long table opposite Jan Rogers. He was indeed sixty-eight years old, slight built, and wore a dapper tweed suit. His head was bent down over his leather satchel and he began rifling through it while humming a soft tune to himself. He pulled out folders and documents and stacked them neatly on the table. Brad Hope thought it was ridiculous they were interviewing this old man for a counseling position. This is a waste of time.

“I would like to thank you for your time,” said Fred Everhart as he lifted his head and surveyed the room.  His voice was old, yet smooth and melodic. His face was worn with wrinkles but his eyes were bright and engaging as he connected with each of the interviewers one by one. There was a pause. This was usually the point when Jan Rogers started the interview but there was something about the twinkle in Fred Everhart’s eyes that threw her off balance. Brad Hope and Amber Mead had the same odd sensation.

Everhart intertwined his hands and rested them on the stack of folders and documents. He sat up straight yet was relaxed. His smile was warm and his eyes fell on the interviewers with an air of confidence.

Jan Rogers regained her composure like someone coming out of a deep daydream, and said, “So, tell us a little about yourself.”

Everhart’s voice was soothing. “I have forty years of experience counseling young people. I would like to say I’ve seen it all in during those years, but unfortunately society keeps creating new obstacles for our youth. I may have left the profession too soon. I realize that I am still needed.”

There was something about his eyes and voice that captivated the three Hughes High School staff members. None of them spoke. They allowed Fred Everhart to continue.

“The old saying, ‘that which doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger’ is hogwash. I believe the wounds weigh heavy and hold us back. You have many students in pain at Hughes High School. I think I can assist in their healing.”

Jan Rogers looked at the documents resting beneath Everhart’s hands and she’s old enough to recognize purple mimeograph print created with a manual typewriter. “Mr. Everhart, what are these documents you’ve brought with you?”

“Oh, these? They’re counseling activities I’ve used over the years. I can usually size up a group of kids and select one that’s appropriate for the occasion. Would you like me to demonstrate?”

Fred Everhart inspected the others sitting around the table. He shuffled through his old mimeograph counseling activities and said, “I believe the dollar metaphor is in order here.” He pulled a crisp dollar bill from his pocket and displayed it to the others. “How much is this worth?”

There was a moment of silence until the others realized he was using them in the demonstration. They exchanged glances and began playing along. “One dollar,” said Jan Rogers. “A dollar,” replied Amber Mead. “Yes, one buck,” said Brad Hope.

Everhart stood and dropped the one-dollar bill on the floor of the conference room. It drifted randomly and spun around before resting on the carpet. He walked over to the bill and stomped his shoe down onto it.

At that moment, a soft bolt of lightening struck the conference room. Jan Rogers was six years old and her step-father stomped his shoe down on the front porch. “Dammit! Dog shit!” Little Jan trembled. “I told you to clean up behind that dog!” He began scraping his shoe on the edge of the porch. Her step-father always came home from work smelling like whiskey. “One more problem with that dog and it’s going to the pound!”

Jan loved the little mut she named Dolly. She received a dollar allowance each week which she used entirely to purchase food for the dog. One week her dollar was stollen from her purse at school during a fire drill.  She begged her mother for a dollar, but her mother was as big a drunk as her step-father, and she replied, “You’ll have to ask him for an advance on your allowance.”

When Jan returned home from school the next day, Dolly wasn’t there to greet her. She found Dolly’s collar resting next to her bedside table. She buried her face into her pillow and wailed. She blamed herself for Dolly’s demise.

Fred Everhart retrieved the dollar bill from the floor of the conference room. Jan Rogers discretely wiped a tear from her eye. He held the dollar bill up for the others to observe. “I just stomped this bill into the floor. How much is it worth now?”

They all agreed it was still worth a dollar. He crumpled the bill up into a little ball and tossed it onto the conference room table. It landed in front of Amber Mead and a shudder went up her spine.

Amber was only five years old and squatting down in the Disney section of Blockbuster Video Rentals when a crumpled-up dollar bill rolled by her feet. She examined the bill and looked around to see where it came from. A man with yellow teeth squatted down next to her and said, “Sorry, it just dropped out of my pocket.” Amber tried to hand the dollar back to the man.

He saw she was looking at the Beauty and the Beast VHS. “That’s an excellent movie,” he whispered. Amber replied she didn’t have the money to rent it and besides, it was her brother’s turn to pick the movie.

Amber really wanted to see Beauty and the Beast and the nasty man with the yellow teeth said she could keep the dollar bill if she lifted her denim dress. Amber’s father looked down the Disney aisle and saw the pervert squatting down next to his daughter who was lifting her dress. He beat the man within an inch of his life with the Beauty and the Beast VHS tape which was nothing but pieces of broken plastic when he finished. The encounter with the pervert was dehumanizing and the shame lingered with Amber for years.

Everhart smoothed out the crumpled-up dollar bill and once again asked them, “How much is it worth, now?” They all agreed it was still worth a dollar, only this time, it was Amber Mead who fought off a tear. Everhart ripped the dollar bill in half and Brad Hope thought he saw the lights of the conference room flicker.

Eight-year-old Brad Hope was standing on the corner of Poplar and Main with his best friend, Chuck, who was explaining how stores had to take your dollar bill even if it was torn in half, as long as you had more than half of it. “It’s the law,” he said.

Then Chuck said he’d figured out a way to tear a dollar bill diagonally so that both pieces appeared to be more than half. “We can spend it twice!” He took Brad’s dollar and carefully tore it in half. He told Brad to go into the store and buy a soda with the torn dollar.

When the clerk refused to take the torn bill, Brad was furious. He ran out of the store and saw Chuck on the sidewalk laughing. Chuck took off running and Brad chased after him. Chuck ran out into the street and was struck and killed by an automobile. Brad never got over this traumatic event and was weighted down with guilt and grief over his childhood friend.

Fred Everhart held the two halves of the dollar bill up for the others to see. “What is it worth now?” They nodded and agreed it was still worth a dollar. He smiled and pulled a tape dispenser from his leather satchel and taped the bill back together. When the bill was reconnected, Jan, Amber, and Brad took deep breaths and all sensed a sensation of emotional relief, a sense of calm. 

“That’s right,” he said. “I stomped the bill into the floor. I crumpled the bill into a little ball. I even tore it in half, yet it lost no value. We are all much like this dollar bill. Sometimes we are stomped on, crumpled up, and torn in half by events in our lives. Many of the students at Hughes High School are walking the halls as we speak, feeling that they have little worth due to their individual circumstances. I hope you will give me the opportunity to assist in their healing.”

There was silence around the conference room table. Jan Rogers had completely lost control of the interview and could only sit there and try to process what had happened. Brad and Amber were speechless as well.

Fred Everhart returned his materials to the leather satchel and buckled it up. He reached out and took the taped dollar bill and folded it. He stood, put the bill into his pocket, and nodded to the interviewers. “You have my number. Please give your decision careful consideration.” He glanced at Brad. “Thank you for your time.” He exited the conference room.

The three interviewers exchanged glances and Jan Rogers spoke up. “Well, I wasn’t expecting anything like that.” Amber agreed. “He’s really good. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but he’s my pick for the job.” Brad agreed but stated the obvious. “That man is awesome and I believe he would be good with the kids. But he’s sixty-eight years old.”

Jan Rogers suggested they take a break. “Look, let’s get some air. I need to step away for a few minutes. We’ll reconvene at 3:00 and make a decision.” Jan went back to her office and closed her door. She sat behind her desk and sobbed thinking about Dolly. It wasn’t her fault that her parents were alcoholics.

When the three returned to the conference room, there was a consensus to go with logic over emotion. They wanted to build the program for the future and selected Shirley Jackson, the probation officer, who was thirty-three years old and enrolled in the school counseling program at the local university.

Jan Rogers thanked Amber and Brad and told them they could go home. She would make all the phone calls. The first call would be to Jackson to let her know she had the job. The other phone calls would be to let the applicants know they had not been selected. All but one would be easy.

The call to Burt Myers, the job candidate who said his greatest strength was “fixing things around the house,” went to voice mail. “Yo, dog. Like I can’t come to phone right now so leave a message.”

Jan made five phone calls before finally coming to the last one. She looked at Fred Everhart’s resume which appeared to be created on an old dot matrix printer. It wasn’t as ancient as the purple mimeographed counseling activities he presented, but it was old technology for sure. She looked at his contact number and made the call. It rang seven times before an old woman’s voice answered.

“Hello?”

“Hello, this is Jan Rogers at Hughes High School. Is Mr. Everhart home?”
“No, he’s not,” the old woman replied.

“Is this Mrs. Everhart I’m speaking to?”

The woman cackled, “No I’m his mistress. Of course, this is Mrs. Everhart. How may I help you?”

“When he returns, would you have him call me?

“Oh my, is he interviewing for jobs again?”

Jan Rogers paused and considered how to respond to that.

“Yes, he interviewed for a position at Hughes High School today.”

The old woman chuckled. “So did he get it?”

“I’d rather speak to him directly about that.”

There was a pause before the old woman’s voice returned. “My husband was a brilliant counselor. He had a real knack for healing people in emotional pain. He believes he left the profession too soon.”

Jan Rogers couldn’t agree more. Fred Everhart provided her with a sense of closure to a deep pain in her life. They had nearly decided to hire him for the position. “So will you have him call me?”

“Dear, my husband has been dead for fifteen years. He passed away at school sitting behind his desk.”

Jan Rogers gasped and looked down at Fred Everhart’s resume. Lying on top of the resume was a torn dollar bill taped together.


Submitted: May 28, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Tim Michael. All rights reserved.

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Comments

HOUDINI

A most excellent story. Exceedingly well done. Write more..write often...please!

Sat, May 28th, 2022 12:50am

Harley M Cranston

Didn't see that coming. I love this story. A Ghost story without being horrifying. A little unusual. Mr Everhart is a great character. Finding out he was dead at the end had my jaw dropping but it all fit so well. Well done, very well done.

Mon, June 20th, 2022 7:13am

Stories by Boz

Wow, great story.

Mon, June 20th, 2022 7:59pm

RexMundi555'.-

I do not just “like it” - I LOVE it! Son, you can write!

Wed, June 29th, 2022 2:53pm

RexMundi555'.-

I was disappointed to read there was no Chapter Two! I guess there cannot be. What a shame. I was hooked!

Wed, June 29th, 2022 2:56pm

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