James was wearing an old camel-coloured tweed suit that Keith had lent him.
“It’s fackin retro Mate innit? a vintage suit that is…” Keith had declared in his classic cockney accent. He sounded like he was on a market stall trying to pitch it to some fat tourist. Vintage it certainly was. Not vintage like a bottle of old wine though, it was more like vintage milk. Not only did it smell subtly of old man piss, but it was too clearly too small for him.
James did not own a suit of his own nor have the coin to find an alternative, so he found himself sitting in the waiting room of the corporate headquarters for ‘Blinking Bird’, a highly sought after PR company located in the posh part of town, wearing the world’s worst tweed suit.
The receptionist looked over at James.
“Mr Bird will see you now.”
He was a tall man and towered over James as he stood to greet him. James felt like a dwarf. Also, Mr Bird was wearing a tweed suit, a rather magnificent one actually, and to James’ horror, almost the same colour and material as his own.
A few nights before, James had been looking at a website called ‘Faces of Meth’ which showed pictures of people before and after getting addicted to crystal meth — the differences were shocking.
It was clear — Mr Bird’s suit was the before, James suit was the after. His was the meth addict of tweed suits. If it had a mind of its own, it would probably punch its grandma in the face and steal her purse.
James involuntarily shook his head as he walked forward to greet Mr Bird and get a closer look at the most excellent tweed suit he had ever seen.
There was a great ripping sound as James lifted his arm to shake Mr Bird’s hand. James tried to keep a regular expression but succeeded in pulling a very strange face, while Mr Bird very subtly raised one eyebrow. James wondered why he couldn’t have just subtly raised an eyebrow. That’s how a real man would react. Deep down, he knew the answer.
The overly large chair was no doubt strategically a couple of inches lower than Mr Bird’s chair for a reason. He felt like a child in the headmaster’s office. Prior to the interview, the conversation with Keith had gone something like this:
“Look, Mate, you just put a little bit of Charlie up ya left nostril, and the gig is yours — simple. The Bird is a stern chap, he ain’t easily impressed Mate. I’m not saying that you’re not impressive in general, but wiv Bird, he is usually looking for someone shit hot even for crap jobs. I’m not saying this is a crap job either, but ya know?”
“What is the job anyhow?” James still knew nothing about the position. Not that it mattered, at this point, aside from a hot iron to his private parts which would require some consideration, he was eager to take anything on the spot.
“Not sure Mate, could be anyfink really. But here have some o’ this….”
Keith tapped a little white powder onto the counter.
“No thanks, I can’t get drugged up before an interview. I need this job Mate. It’s important.”
“And that my friend is exactly why you need to ‘ave some….”
“No, I’ll probably just have a Red Bull on the way over.”
“Don’t do that for fack’s sake.” Keith yelled shaking his head like some deranged giraffe.
“Red Bull is too unpredictable. It might put you in the zone, but it could easily trip you out and make you all freaky, especially if you are already shittin’ yerself. That’s why it’s cheap. It’s a dirty drug mate. Caffeine and sugar — not dependable.”
Keith shrugged his shoulders before bending over the counter and vacuuming up the white powder meant for James with extreme efficiency before continuing:
“…Unpredictable and dirty Mate. Coke, on the other hand, is predictable innit? That’s why this shit is expensive; it’s reliable Son. You know it’ll get the job done with no facking around. Fack Mate, all the people who have done anything in the world, have been on coke: Nelson Mandela, The Pope, Keith Richards, Chairman Mao, that facker who wrote Game of Thrones. They are all on this shit.”
James sat in the small chair looking up at Mr Bird, who was glancing over the resume without saying a word. James regretted the Red Bull and the lack of cocaine in his system. He hated to admit that Keith was spot on. Mr Bird was a real beast. James had already ruined it with the suit. Only a cokehead could pull off this suit. Hell, with cocaine, he could be sitting there in his birthday suit and still get the job done.
Instead, here he sat — a weird, tweed-suited mutant dwarf with Red Bull anxiety. Feeling the scowl on his forehead, he tried to correct it, but it felt like he was opening his eyes too wide. It was a tough choice between the two facial expressions. Knowing his wide eyes would only add to his weirdness, he went for the scowl — at least it showed confidence. He got a slight whiff of Grandpa piss as he shuffled in his chair and waited for Mr Bird to finish reading.
“Impressive Resume” Mr Bird commented loudly and looked up suddenly from behind his glasses. James felt himself breaking out in a sweat.
“Thank you” James replied with a kind of involuntary disgusted look on his face. “I…..”
“What exactly are you looking for?” Mr Bird continued at a slightly louder volume before James could get another word out. His clear, delightful but slightly husky southern English accent had an air of 007 to it. It was an impressive question from an impressive man.
James felt suffocated by the impressiveness. He felt like jumping out of the window, but it was not an option. The office was on the tenth floor, and the windows were not the type that open, presumably to prevent the corporate population from throwing themselves out of them every Monday at 9.15 am. He felt the beginnings of a panic attack; it sometimes happened after Red Bull. James took a deep breath and regained control. What was he looking for? That really was an impressive question. He searched his mind for an answer — What would Harry Potter say in this situation? ‘Horcruxes’ probably.
‘Can I phone a friend?’ James felt the blood swim into his head. Once again his involuntary humour had leaked out. He needed to get that fixed.
Mr Bird was silent, thank goodness. Maybe he didn’t hear — unlikely though.
‘50/50’ came into his head, but he resisted saying it out loud.
Before James could answer, Mr Bird sighed, stood up and began looking out of the window. He was an incredibly impressive gentleman.
Rumour had it, according to Keith (which increased tremendously the chance that was only a rumour) was that Bird had spent his early days fighting at first as an Officer in the British Army and later in the Foreign Legion. Following that, Keith reckoned Bird worked as a paid mercenary in Afghanistan. Upon returning to his native England, he had taken up the game of poker and made a tremendous amount of money as a professional gambler.
After retiring to Monaco, he was eventually talked out of retirement to move to Australia to help set up a security business with an ex-military colleague. That is where he met his wife, who at that time was a tremendously impressive Australian businesswoman. He left the security business and poured his money into setting up a PR company with his wife. ‘Blinking Bird’ had quickly grown to become one of the hottest PR companies in the country and certainly well respected around the world.
Mr Bird sat down again and opened a small wooden box on his desk and pulled out a cigarette leaning forward and offering it. James had not smoked cigarettes in many years but did not want to refuse Mr Bird. He made a quick assessment of the situation and decided to accept based on several reasons:
Reason 1: Bird was the kind of guy that you didn’t say no to.
Reason 2: He hoped that it would make him seem more impressive in front of Bird.
Reason 3: It would act as a temporary odour eater for his grandpa piss suit smell
Reason 4: It would create a strong connection between him and Bird
James took the cigarette and put it in his mouth. Mr Bird leant forward and lit James’ cigarette with a shiny gold Zippo lighter that only an impressive gentleman would own. James imagined there was probably some kind of inscription on the bottom:
Remember that day we got pinned down by Charlie? What a laugh that was. All the best. Chopper.
James leant forward, taking a long drag of the terrible cigarette and then leant back. Mr Bird looked at James, who again made an involuntary disgusted face when he realised Mr Bird was not going to have a cigarette himself. James was now a tweed-suited mutant dwarf smoking a cigarette in front of an impressive gentleman. He should have just refused the cigarette.
“That suit….” Mr Bird exclaimed. “…is awful”.
Mr Bird’s face stared down James without the slightest sign of emotion.
James’ face burned red. He realised that Mr Bird was not the kind of person to let elephants roam freely in rooms. He had addressed the elephant in the most impressive manner, by putting a skirt and makeup on it and making it dance on a stage.
“Yes, I know. I’m sorry” James said sheepishly. The smoke enveloped him and burned his eyes. As the words came out, he realised that the apology was about the only thing he had said in the interview thus far.
Bird stared him down again. James’s cigarette ash which he had forgotten about dropped onto the beautiful white rug.
“Oh shit, I’m sorry” Second thing he had said — another apology.
A second, but more tremendous, tearing sound came forth as James moved forward a little too quickly and attempted to pick up the ash with the fingers of one hand. His cigarette caught the chair on the way down, and the orange glowing ember dropped off and down onto the carpet. It was at this moment he realised that there was not an ashtray in sight.
Was this some kind of test? Bird continued to watch his struggle. He was like some kind of sick bastard watching a snake eating a mouse through the glass. The snake was Bird’s impressiveness, and James was its dinner.
James wished that the snake would hurry up and just finish the job. Bird continued to watch, leaning on his hand with his index finger pointing up his right cheek. It was an impressive stance. He neither moved nor commented. James felt it was how a real man would deal with the situation. Not an ounce of panic or emotion.
James took off his right shoe. It was a shiny black shoe — so very far from the ideal shoe to go with a camel coloured tweed suit. It worked much better as an ashtray. He used it to scoop up the burning ember from the rug and then dumped the remainder of the cigarette in there too.
“I should go…” James said standing up to leave. “Thanks for the cigarette. I am so sorry about the rug. I will pay for it.”
“The rug is worth $30,000” Bird interrupted.
The impressive gentleman picked up a pen which was probably worth more than James’ entire wardrobe and wrote something on a small piece of paper. He handed it to James and nodded.
Fellowship Bar, Tomorrow 7 am
“What is this?”
“I am hiring you.”
“Because you are an idiot — and because you have potential.”
“Oh, ok, thanks.”
James turned around and walked towards the door. He felt Mr Bird staring at the massive tear in the back of his suit, revealing an un-ironed shirt and nervous sweat patch. He knew it was there because it felt unusually cold.
Back at the bar, Keith was waiting, slightly drunk, as James came in minus the suit jacket.
“How did it go, Mate?” he asked.
James took the scotch straight from Keith’s hand and downed it in one
“Nailed it,” he declared.
Image: Ketut Subiyanto
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