This story was written 24/March/2009, 3 weeks into my 3rd year of my English and Philosophy B.A. at Auckland University. I wrote this in 2 hours, fuelled by the notion that continual proving of talent is, and will be, more than enough to impress in all cases. I suspect this philosophy shows.
It was a response to an ad in student magazine Cracuum. They didn’t take it, though, they had found writers already. So, here is the original for you!
~ Fresh Talent ~
I was skeptical.
I won’t deny it. When I saw this hopeful little girl dwarfed in a tailored suit one size too large, she looked cute, cuddly, but not a serious writer. Her eyes shone with that heady mix of perfect youthful happiness that one notch too optimistic. I had already interviewed and looked at hefty portfolios from thirty three candidates today, all pretty much the same aristocratic, leisurely writers with so much time to spare that their work was inevitably well-composed according to all the latest experimental post-modern styles and forms and concepts. I was just thinking what to report to my husband, the smooth-talking banker with a heart, the dark, tall and handsome half of today’s high society power couple everyone was jealous of, at tonight’s high society champagne dinner party, when she walked in.
I had never felt my office was that impressive before. I had been to fashion magazine offices. There glamour and designer fashion and everything supremely unobtainable bore down on you until you started to rush because you didn’t like the way your heels drew attention to you as they clicked loudly on the marble floor. My first return trip to my own humble backstreet office put my own ambitions in perspective. I comforted myself that I my literary magazine was doing something for literature, for academia, for noble causes, so I did not need to be successful in monetary terms. I had wanted to uphold the ideals of the Romantics, to enrich my readers’ soul with words that spoke to human nature, words that redeemed society from superficial and soul-less industrialization. I had wanted to resist the lure of selling my soul.
Yet when this little girl walked in I realized that I had, a little. I had put my ambitions, not in perspective, but in a box not looked at again. I had massaged my sense of inadequacy by imitating the fashion magazine offices, a little. And so cosy had I become here that I had not noticed that I had been steadily seduced by profits and repute and being the central power couple at pretentious champagne dinner parties. This luxury high rise office suddenly felt like incriminating evidence of my Faustian pact.
“So, what have you written before?”
“Well, to be honest… only a couple of short articles for the student magazine.” Her tremulous voice began, “And they were just easy things my friends told me to do. But I’ve basically come here to formulate, on the spot, anything you like. That way, you know it’s me and I can form it here in front of you, and then you will know how long I spent on it, and you can take all that into account.” In the course of her little speech, her confidence became tangible.
Confidence? What had she to be confident about? This little girl had the temerity to turn up to a job interview, where a portfolio was specifically asked for, where at least a year’s work was expected, where this company paid their staff more than any of their literary talents were worth and she had come… well, literarily naked? And this was her action plan? It was sheer stupidity. A rude mockery of everything this company stood for. Not worth another second of my precious time. Hopeless. Laughable. Naïve.
Her big blue eyes seemed to pierce right through into my soul.
“I see. A children’s story about a monster.”
I was being perverse, and sadistic, but she was asking for it. How dare she swan in here and make me feel uneasy about my extravagant office, my 6 foot high mirror, my wardrobe, my elegant vases with bright bouquets, my blatant self-promotion with gold-framed front page copies of all the issues I had edited along the walls. How dare she look at me and make me feel like this magazine was actually just a lame excuse for me to feel good about myself and my less-than-fulfilled and less-than-noble aspirations.
I wanted to watch her humiliate herself when she ran out of words and realized her fatal mistake. Her soft, sweet voice tinkled like a waterfall on my ears unaccustomed to the sound of confidence.
“Little Red Riding Hood had nothing on Jill. Jill knew where the monster was, she knew what it was about to do, and yet, she could not resist her child-like curiosity taking her over. Curiosity killed the cat, but in this case, it wouldn’t kill anyone. She was just compelled to let the monster wreak havoc and then she could be the hero. She thought it was silly that Little Red Riding Hood had let the woodcutter do all the dirty work while she went down in posterity as a screaming, helpless girl, but then, this was the 21st Century. Jill could re-define herself exactly how she wanted. This was post-modern times here, man. She knew how to cut wood and she could easily take out a wolf and rescue the Granny, and real life seemed even simpler…”
“What are you doing?” I tore myself away from her big blue eyes to stop her.
“Is there something else you’d like to test me on?”
I narrowed my eyes. She wouldn’t last. I would break her.
“It wasn’t so much health or youth in humans that he enjoyed. It was the passion. He could sense passion running through veins. He lurked around, in shadows in all neighbourhoods, waiting for the unmistakable rarity of passion erupting in different people at different times. He was hooked. Once he had drunk the blood of a woman in love, nothing else would do. He was wilting, hungry, for weeks sometimes, before he alighted upon that beautiful sensation when a human approached and he knew they were crazy, dangerously crazy, with lust. Then he stalked them with endless patience, learned their plans, and caught them just when they were on their way to a much-awaited encounter, the lure of sexual promise driving them, and he would catch them just before they reached their lover’s doorway, when their passion was at its zenith.”
I rubbed my neck under my collar, increasingly uncomfortable. I spluttered despite myself, “So you propose to just tell me stories and you think I’ll be impressed?”
“I don’t mean to usurp your own impartial deciding role here, but yes. Why not?”
There was a little silence. It was like she had checkmated me. She would just come up with ideas and stories, fearlessly, calm under pressure, full of ideas and a charmingly enticing way of speaking. While I tried not to feel completely redundant. There was something magical, refreshing, energetic about her. The gleam in her eyes bespoke determination challenged. Her voice was seductive and irrefutable. She may be soft-spoken, but she was never defeated. Ever.
Just as I was about to challenge her to a literary response to Peter Brooks’ 1993 “Body Work, Objects of Desire in Modern Narrative”, I knew I was only kidding myself. I was in the wrong industry. She deserved my job more than I ever did.
I may turn her away, and never see her again, but this girl was perfect, and she would haunt my dreams. This girl was a fresh yellow rose, still shaking off dew, in a field of formulaic and mundane grass planted by farmers of soul-less capitalism. I was one of those uninspired blades of grass. I had sold out, back when I was a fresh yellow rose bud. And I was suddenly ashamed.
A. Leek. 24/March/2009.