Sunday, May 18, 2014

Interviewing Beyond Expectations (fiction)

A short story I wrote about two years ago.


I have never liked interviews. It is so tedious to find that after just one or two questions, the candidate turns out to be utterly unsuitable for the job. So often it is the worst candidates who are the most eager and enthusiastic for the job. It is so painful to have to turn some of them down.

I had interviewed two candidates already for my investment business. One of the women I interviewed was a graduate with absolutely zero experience and the other was a quite loathsome woman who smelled of cigarettes. I keep my personal office in my home and I could not bear the thought of that last woman turning up at my house five days a week.

The next lady was due to arrive at 2:00 PM. In two minutes time in fact.

I glanced at the name written in my diary. Ruth Teller. The name sounded familiar on my lips.

The doorbell rang.

I opened the door and was met with a woman of about 40 years of age. She had medium length dark hair and an attractive heart-shaped face.

She was a very elegant woman, dressed in a dark grey skirt and jacket and a pair of stylish high heeled shoes.

"Ruth Teller I presume?" I said. Where had I heard that name before?

"Yes, that's right," she said in a refined voice.

"I'm Grant Farrow. I'm really glad you could make it here today, Ruth. Do come in."

After she had stepped through the door, I glanced down at her stilettos and grimaced.

"Would you mind taking your shoes off, Ruth?"

Ruth looked a little surprised at the request, but obligingly slipped off the heels, before following after me, moving softly on her stocking feet.

The carpets in my house are very light. Although I have had the shoes-off rule for six years, I still feel slightly embarassed asking people to take their shoes off, especially if they are visiting on business purposes.

I showed her into my office and offered Ruth a seat.

Ruth Teller. I finally recognised the name. Was this the same Ruth I was thinking of?

"I have to ask, are you the author of the Vichy novels?" I realised I would be a little embarassed if it was indeed a different Ruth.

"Yes, I am," she said modestly.

Naturally, the author of such a great series of books would have to be an elegant and stylish lady like this.

"I never expected to be interviewing an accomplished author of historical fiction!" I exclaimed.

"I'm flattered. Though I wish my books were as famous as you suggest," said Ruth.

"They deserve to be. I'm amazed at the level of research you put into the Vichy books. You really brought the whole complexity of Vichy France to life, not only its politics, but how the ordinary people in France lived in the Second World War," I said.

"Thanks. It certainly took a lot of work," said Ruth. She seemed a little embarassed at my flattery.

I had always had an interest in the Second World War, but before reading Ruth's Vichy novels, I had not had an awful lot of knowledge about Vichy France. The books had opened up my eyes to a world of collaboration and resistance, ideology and intrigue as well as both brutality and heroism.

"Are you a professional historian?" I asked. It seemed surprising that somebody with such expertise would be seeking a job as a PA.

"No, I'm just an amateur," she replied. "Though I have recently taken up some part-time study for a history degree. It helps having a very understanding husband," she added with a laugh.

"I hope the study won't delay the fourth novel," I said.

Ruth laughed.

"Oh no, the fourth novel will be on its way."

"I can't wait, Ruth. Can I ask what led you to write about Vichy France?"

"My mother is French. It's part of my heritage. When I was younger, I spent quite a bit of time in France and found it things that very much shook my world. I found it so fascinating that I had to bring it to life."

"It was really interesting how you went beyond just Vichy France in the third book. You brought in the work of German spies in Vich France. I have always had an interest in the Third Reich, but I had no idea about all that rivalry between those two intelligence agencies, sorry I forgot the names... the SS agents and the ordinary military intelligence.." I said.

"The Abwehr and Himmler's Sicherheitsdienst," offered Ruth. "The reasearch for that part was very difficult because I don't know German."

"I'll tell you what I really love," I said, getting ever so enthusiastic. "It's the character of Vincent, the police inspector. He is such a balanced character, not a hero, but not a villain either. He's so torn between his hatred of Communism and his disgust at the Third Reich."

"In a way he embodies the conflicting attitudes of the Vichy authorities," said Ruth.

"Will he marry Louise in the fourth book?" I asked.

"I'll tell you if you give me the job," said Ruth with a smile.

I had completely forgotten about the interview, having got so caught up in my enthusiasm for Ruth's novels.

"Forgive me, I am letting my enthusiasm carry me away," I said.

I pulled out Ruth's curriculum vitae and studied it carefully.

"It looks like you have an awful lot of secretarial experience. Did you never want to write full time?" I asked.

"My books don't sell that well. And my husband never gives me enough spending money," said Ruth.

I laughed. I knew I couldn't possibly turn Ruth down.

"I think you have the skills for the job and I'd be proud to have such a brilliant author working for me. Are you alright to start next Monday?" I asked.

"Wonderful," said Ruth.

"As you will have gathered, I don't allow shoes to be worn in the house. You might want to buy some slippers to keep here. If you bring me a receipt on Monday, I'll give you the money," I said.

"I'll go slipper shopping tomorrow," said Ruth.

"Excellent. Now before you go.."

I rushed out of the room and came back with three paperback novels.

Ruth sighed and took out a pen to sign the books.

This was one interview that I had enjoyed.

7 comments:

Bob said...

Well written Matthew, you are a man of many talents!
BTW I have known three woman who have had full time positions in private homes and each of them were required to vacate their shoes at the door.

Matthew Celestis said...

Thanks, Bob.

Were they cleaners or secretaries or something else?

Bob said...

I did not include cleaners because I believe that most if not all cleaners leave their shoes at the door, at least those who have worked for us have!
One woman was a personal secretary/assistant to a wealthy woman, one was an accountant/administrator for a doctor who practiced from her home and the other was a consultant in the financial area.

Matthew Celestis said...

Not unusual then.

Bob said...

I am sorry Matthew, I don't understand your comment...what is not unusual?

Matthew Celestis said...

Sorry. People working in private homes following a no-shoes rule.

Bob said...

Exactly