Portrait of a Leader

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
Kevin O' Grady always wanted to never work for anything in life, he was always looking for the quick and easy. Things seem to be looking up when he reads an ad for a job at a corporation, but when he shows up for their "unconventional" interviews, he slowly finds he may have gotten more than he wanted.

Submitted: July 01, 2008

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Submitted: July 01, 2008

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Portrait of a Leader
A short story by Joshua Fraga
 
“Now interviewing for special management position” read the ad in the New York Times. Kevin sat in his kitchen reading over the ad again and again. “No experience required”, no experience required? What kind of management job requires no experience? “887 Fondren Way”. The ad was as intriguing as it was puzzling. There it was, in the want ads among ones that read “Secretary needed” and “Janitor position available”. It stuck out to Kevin like it was written in red. He stared at the ad, as if he was afraid the words would jump off the page. This was his chance, his big chance. He always wanted to be something more than himself, whatever it took. You see, it wasn’t that he was a bad person, he was just lazy, always looking for the quick and easy buck. He tried time and time again, and always came up bust. He was fired from his last job for failing to show up two days in a row. Before that, he would try and sell bootleg CD’s and DVD’s he made on his computer out of the trunk of his car. Even if what he was doing was dangerous, he would still do it if the payoff was large enough. All that was important to Kevin was the money, getting it, using it, losing it, he loved it. It wasn’t much, but that was all Kevin O’Grady wanted.
Recently Kevin decided to take a friend’s advice, and try and find a long term job. Something small where he could work his way up, but that was not Kevin. He considered it, but when he saw that particular ad in the paper, the thoughts of him starting off as “someone small” went right out the window. So again his greed took him over, and he decided to go to 877 Fondren Way. I guess no one ever told Kevin O’Grady about things that seem to good to be true.
He finished his morning coffee, and left the newspaper open with the ad circled, laid out on his kitchen table. He had a big day ahead, and he needed to get ready. He did what he normally would do to get ready for work, shower, shave; gel the hair, brush the teeth; he was going to make a good impression. He went to his closet and got out the only suit he had, a dark grey jacket with a small blue stain on the right side pocket, and a pair of black slacks, then combining with an oxford shirt and black neck tie, he was dressed to impress. Then with two sprays of the cologne bottle, he was out the door.
He came out of his apartment building and instantly hailed a cab, this was his lucky day. “Where to?” asked the black cabbie with a thick Nigerian accent.
“887 Fondren Way.” replied Kevin.
“You got it, sir.” He answered back, and off they went.
Kevin was now beaming with excitement, he had a good feeling about this job. He couldn’t wait to get there, and after a ten minute cab ride, there he was. It was funny how many times he saw this building and never knew what it was. The large glass windows were like mirrors going up all sides of the building, which must have reached thirty stories into the air. It is at this point, any reasonable person would feel in over their head, but I guess Kevin wasn’t feeling very reasonable today. So in he went, thinking all the time, this job was made just for him.
He walked inside the immense lobby, all the walls made of the whitest marble Kevin had ever seen. Up ahead he could see a grand desk, and behind it sat a beautiful blonde woman in what looked like a blue pantsuit, sitting with her hands gently folded on the desk. She was wearing the biggest smile. They met their gaze as he approached her. He got to the desk and opened his mouth to speak, but her sheer beauty made him stumble over his own words, “I-I-I-I-‘m here for the interview.” He said clumsily.
“23rd floor.” She said in a soft voice, and gestured for him to go to the elevators on the right. “Good luck.” She said quickly as he turned the corner. Kevin gestured a ‘thank you’ back to her. He came to the single elevator, then pressed the large button with the ‘up’ arrow. It took a minute, but the elevator came down with a ‘ding’ noise. The elevator doors opened up and it was filled with men and women in suits and dresses, all of them with a disappointed look on their face. They were some of the applicants that were turned down. They all shuffled out of the elevator and out the front door, mumbling their distaste for the company that just turned them down. That was when Kevin realized, he did not know the name of the job, or even the company that which he was about to apply for. He stepped into large elevator and pressed the button for the 23rd floor. The door closed with the same ‘ding’ noise. He took a deep breath as he felt the elevator cables pull the car up. He noticed there was no “elevator music” in the car, and the ride to the 23rd floor seemed to take forever. The walls of the elevator car were made of stained wood, and there was a brass hand-bar going around the three solid walls, the door was polished to look like a steel mirror, which Kevin used to fix the cowlick in his hair. And after what seemed like an eternity, the doors opened to the 23rd floor. Nothing could prepare Kevin for what he saw next.
The doors opened to a room filled with applicants of every shape and size. There were men and women standing almost wall to wall, in front of a large glass door that read “Glassman and Co.” He joined the large line; this is where most people would turn and walk away, but Kevin O’Grady wasn’t like most people. Even in the face of almost certain denial, he keeps his resolve. This was his lucky day.
As he got in line he noticed another glass door, this one smaller and off to the side of the room. As he joined the line, some twenty or so people exited through the door, back to the large elevator, all with the same disappointed look as the first bunch did. “They let us in 20 at a time,” one man said to him, “they must have high expectations for anyone who applies.”
“I guess so.” replied Kevin in awe.
The line was moving faster than Kevin had ever expected. Twenty people would enter, and a few minutes later, twenty people exited. The turn over rate must have been astronomical. It wasn’t long until Kevin resided in the group next to go in. The next room consisted of twenty identical chairs, all pointed at what looked like some kind of eye scanner at the east wall of the room. One of two exits was the one that lead into the lobby, and the other was another small glass door. The man who ushered them in was clean shaven with dark hair and wore small eye glasses that sat on the tip of his nose in an almost “snooty” way. He wore an all black three piece suit. “Thank you all for coming, my name is Rufus Renalds, I am Mr. Glassman’s personal assistant. I will guide you through the first part of the interview. First,” he then gestured toward the scanner, “everyone please form a single file line in front of the scanner. You will be scanned for a particular eye color.” Eye color? This was the strangest interview Kevin had ever seen, yet he went on with it. Each person in front of his used the scanner which was followed by an ominous buzzer noise and a polite, “I’m sorry.” from Rufus. Before he knew it he was next in line. He put his eye to the scanner and all of the sudden there was a bright flash of white light, then all he could see were red dots for a moment. He was expecting a buzzer, but instead he got a high pitched ‘ding’ noise. Rufus talked into a radio he pulled out of his pocket, “Looks like we finally have another pass, that makes ten, send everyone else home.” He then turned to the rest of the people who had yet to be eye scanned, “Thank you for coming, but we have all we need. If you will please exit through the door on your right, thank you for coming.” He then turned to Kevin and said to him smiling, “This is your lucky day.”
“I know.” replied Kevin smugly.
Rufus took Kevin into the next room, there sat nine other men, which eerily all had the same cobalt blue eye color as he did. “Please have a seat, next we will test for hair color.” He pulled out a laptop and a digital camera from a small duffel-bag in the corner of the room. “I will be taking each of your pictures and will be sending them to Mr. Glassman, in his office.” He went to each seat and quickly took a picture of each man, including Kevin. He then hooked a wire between the camera and laptop and with a few clicks of the keys, the pictures were sent to the mysterious Mr. Glassman.
A few minutes dragged by before Kevin heard the laptop make a sound, Mr. Glassman had decided. Rufus looked at the screen and read out two names, “A Mr. Allen Feltz, and a Mr. Kevin O’Grady.” This was his lucky day. The others exited out the door which they entered, the two lucky ones entered the door opposite of that one, taking them to a room with a large computer.
A small round man sat at the computer, eating twinkies and ho-ho’s. “Now for you background check.” Kevin’s heart sank, for the first time today he was scared. He had been arrested before, and he did not want that to come and haunt him. The man next to him with the same eye and hair color looked equally worried. “First you.” Said Rufus, pointing at Allen.
“Name?” inquired the fat man.
“Allen Feltz.” He replied.
The computer made a whirring sound as it computed the data the fat man had just entered. It stopped and Allen’s face appeared on the screen with a do cite about him. He looked a second and said, “Nope, he’s German.”.
“Sorry,” said Rufus as he patted him on the shoulder, “what about him?”
“Kevin O’Grady.” He said proudly.
“O’Grady, huh? Okay.” He entered in the data. Again the computer whirred and then up came his do cite. “Yep, he’s Irish, full-blooded.”
“Excellent.” Replied Rufus, “Mr. Glassman will be so pleased. Please follow me.” And he did, behind the computer and down a small corridor to another elevator. “This car will take you ten stories up to Mr. Glassman’s office. Congratulations, this truly is your lucky day.”
“Thank you.” replied Kevin with a head nod and a smirk.
Again Rufus pulled out the radio and said, “He is on his way up sir, enjoy your retirement in Belize sir, I will miss you sir.”
“And I you Rufus, you have been very loyal, treat this young man as if he were me.” replied the voice on the radio in a thick Irish accent.
“Yessir.” He put down the radio. “Go on up, he is expecting you, sir.” Sir? This was the first time anyone had every called Kevin sir. He was beaming, he had made it, he took the short cut and it worked. He stepped into the small elevator with a new found arrogance. There was only one button, he pressed it and up it went.
When the doors opened he was awed by the sight of Mr. Glassman’s office. It dwarfed his apartment by being quadruple its size. Mr. Glassman sat behind the desk, hands folded, smiling at Kevin. Kevin noticed they shared the same eye and hair color. “Welcome and congratulations. I am honored to have you here.” He said in a loud robust voice and thick Irish accent. Kevin looked around, the room was filled with all sorts of ancient artifacts, all dusted and displayed, it was grand. “Please sit.” He gestured to the large leather easy-chair opposite of him, across his large desk.
“Why am I here?” Kevin asked after a short silence between them.
“You are here to be the new face of this company.” He replied.
“What? Why?” he looked bewildered.
“For centuries this company was ran by the best Irish men in the entire world, each one seen hear in the painting behind me.” He pointed his thumb behind him which hung a large painting of seven people in different poses, sitting on a long velvet couch, there were empty spaces between three of them. Kevin noticed that each one of them shared his cobalt blue eyes, and his hair color.
“But your name is Glassman, that’s Jewish isn’t it?”
“Right you are my boyo,” he said in his now very apparent Irish accent. “I thought so to meself, till I relized he was adopted when his parents died.”
“He?” asked Kevin puzzled.
“Oh, my mistake lad, I’m getting kinda old you know.” He smiled a crooked smile at him.
“So you’re going to Belize huh?” asked Kevin.
“Belize, oh my no, that where they think I’m going, I don’t need anyone to look for me, ya know.” He said matter-of-factly.
“Why?”
“I’ll get to that in a minute boyo.” He smiled again.
“Okay then,” he said confused, “can you tell me why I get to run your company?”
“Oh, you are so mistaken boyo.” He laughed, “Let me explain our heritage to you. Back in the 1300’s the founder’s name was Ean McManus. They said one day he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for long life. All he had to do was take the life left over from ten different souls, and sent them all to hell when he had captured them. Now these souls were his choice mind you.” his Irish accent now very noticeable. Kevin was now feeling uneasy. Mr. Glassman stood up and walked around his desk to the seated Kevin O’Grady. “So I did as he asked, taking people who looked like me,” he pointed at the painting, “all of them, portraits of leaders!” all of the sudden he put both his hands on Kevin’s forehead. Then, something happened, he did not know what, it felt like he was being pulled from his body by unseen hands, he closed his eyes. When he opened them, he was staring at himself through the eyes of Mr. Glassman. They had somehow switched bodies, “I’ll admit, having the same hair and eyes make me feel more like meself.” Kevin now stood up, he liked his new body, young and strong. He grabbed Glassman by his suit, and pulled him close, “Are ya ready?” asked Kevin who was now speaking with a thick Irish accent. “Look at them boyo, all of them, revered as leaders by millions of people, and now, you will join them!” and he pulled him over to the large canvas. “This makes eight, my bargain is almost complete Dark Lord!” and he shoved the soul of Kevin, now trapped in Glassman’s body into the painting. The paint seemed to come off the canvas, quickly consuming his entire body, pulling him in.
The painting now seemed to have a pulse as the paint reconfigured itself back into what was now eight people sitting on a velvet couch, Mr. Glassman happily posing with the rest of the people, dressed in his best. Kevin now sat at the large desk which was now his. He took out the documentation needed to sign the company over, he wrote in his new name and signed both signatures, O’Grady and Glassman, after all, he now knew them both. Kevin sat back, looking very relaxed in his chair, very pleased with the events that just happened, and he smiled. It’s funny, Kevin got what he always wanted, even though he, himself will never enjoy it. They say when you accept a job by a big corporate company, you’re “selling your soul”, well in Kevin’s case, that fiction became a grim reality.


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