‘This way please.’

Mike followed the receptionist to a room that was bland and faded, despite the people

in the room and the colours on display. The walls were dark green and mostly wrinkled

due to the paint appearing as old as the building itself. There were also magazines dating

back to last year near the middle of the room.

‘If you’d like to sit down, someone will call you shortly’, said the receptionist.  She then

walked down the corridor, the sound and cadence of her walk resembling a horse been

guided to stables.

As he sat down, he looked outside the window and noticed the grey morning sky, its

dullness  and bleak nature reflecting his current mood.

It was the same situation again. Only the environment was different. It was the fifth time

in six weeks he had been through this process. The recession had made things bad, yet he

did not expect it to be like this. A supermarket, a fast food restaurant, a cafe and a sports

shop. Each vacancy he had applied for previously and each time he had been unsuccessful.


Go to school, college and university, get top grades in all three, find yourself a nice job

and someone nice to be with, was the mantra his mom had programmed into him from a

young age. It was a wonder she had not made him get on his knees, clasp his hands

together by his bedside and chant that it out loud before going to bed each night, such was

her disciplinarian fervour to that paradigm she considered essential for a successful life.

For fear of falling foul of her wrath, he had followed it to the tee. Even when he had

grown a foot taller, the conditioning of that path stayed with him and the vice of his

mother still affected him so much, that he would internally jerk up as suddenly as the

horse of the Buckaroo board game he played as a child.


Yet here he was, in an interview, for a sales assistant in a bank, which went against his

beliefs. He despised the way in which the reckless behaviour of the banking industry had

not only gone unpunished, but also how the government had hounded down the general

public for tax debt, even if it the debt in relative terms was small and not the fault of the

individual. Lax paperwork on the part of the supermarket where his mom worked as a

cashier six days a week had meant she had a tax bill of £500, which was been taken out in

£50 increments over the next ten months. It was money she could barely afford to lose.

The contrast between the treatment his mom suffered compared to the banks made him

sick. He was also single, due to this partner of two years dumping him via text for his best



All around him were clones. Smartly dressed, gelled hair, sitting with a straight back, bar

one woman who was slightly slumped. He had struggled for years to establish his own

identity and yet here he was, the same as everyone else.


He expected the wait to be the same as always: quiet, bar the rustling of magazine pages

being turned. He only turned his head to look at the clock mounted on the right hand

corner of the wall. To help the time go by, he tried to strike up a conversion with the

woman to his left.

‘Why are you applying for this job?’ asked Mike.

‘Well,’ the woman said as she adjusted her posture to a more upright stance, ‘I’d like to

earn more money, get up on the career ladder………’. At this point, Mike stared through

her, his focus concentrated on the exit door. The woman, lost in her riot of words, did not

appear to notice.

‘That’s um..interesting’ , Mike retorted, once he was aware that the woman’s lips had

stopped moving.


‘Mike Bellows’

He was guided to an office not much bigger than a broom cupboard. Its claustrophobic

nature made him nervous. Behind the desk was a man, whose mask of stoicism reminded

him of his headmaster at school.

‘What do you hope to achieve in this job?’

‘What qualities do you bring to the workplace?’

These questions were leaving the man’s mouth and Mike, having heard them numerous

times, responded to them like a well-rehearsed sales pitch. Each prosaic answer told the

man what he wanted to hear, not necessarily what was the truth, nor what was the reality

of the workplace.

As they shook each other’s hand near the office door after the questioning was dispensed

with, Mike noticed the man was wearing white patent crocodile skin shoes. The irony of

the difference between  the manager’s stern demeanour when he asked questions and the

liberalism of his dress sense was not lost on Mike. He walked down the corridor and

sighed out of earshot.


He had not walked far down the pavement when his mobile phone bleeped.

‘How did it go’, the message from his mom said.

‘Alright’ he replied. But it was far from alright he thought. He felt fake, a fraud. He was

not himself in that situation. He walked head down, knowing he would be going through

the same routine in a few days’ time.

This entry was posted in Short Stories. Bookmark the permalink.

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