The Summer Job – Not a Christmas Story
Kerry J Donovan
© Dec 2015
The summer sun flared through the window, highlighting the dust hanging in the stifling air. The fifty-something woman behind the desk smiled without mirth and waved him into the applicant’s chair.
“Take a seat please, Mr St Nicholas.”
Graham St Nicholas obliged. Never let anyone say he wasn’t an obliging fellow.
The woman, Gladys Emmanuel according to the rectangular nameplate atop her workstation, paused for a moment before dropping a hand into an open drawer. She retrieved a thick sheaf of papers and pushed it across the cluttered surface. The package pushed a stack of papers and files aside as it progressed.
“Here is our standard application and CV pro-forma pack,” she said, popping a boiled sweet taken from a bowl on her desk into her mouth. “Please complete it, in triplicate, and return the copies to me by tomorrow. We’ll then arrange an appointment with one of our job placement specialists who will put your details into our system and see what we can come up with.”
Graham St Nicholas flicked through the information and couldn’t hold back a sigh. “This looks rather complicated,” he said, trying not to sound too despondent. Jolly was his default position but these circumstances made it difficult. “I’m a rather long way from home. Isn’t there an easier way to do this without so much travel? I just need something to tide me over until the busy season.” He looked up to see the lady frowning and added, “But I would be more than happy to put in the effort if there were a real opportunity for me here with Jobs4Unlimited.”
The woman peered through her black horn-rims, pursed her lips, and sniffed as though a bad odour attacked her nose.
“To be perfectly honest Mr St. Nicholas, we’ve never had to place a person with your skill set at this time of the year. Furthermore, your age does count against you. I mean, there aren’t many openings for double-millenniogenarians. I am not sure what Ebenezer Stroud in our Pensions Department would have to say about it. However, we can but try.”
Her pinched lips thinned into a smile.
Graham thought she was probably aiming for ‘encouraging’, but in fact, struck the dartboard at ‘haughty’.
“It’s been such a long time since I’ve searched for a job. I wouldn’t normally need to find temporary employment, but this latest recession has played havoc with our supply side logistics. Would it be possible to hurry the process along a little? There must be a better way than traipsing around the world filling in forms?”
“You could have completed the application process online, you know.”
He lowered his eyes. “We don’t have the Internet at home. It’s too far north.”
The sun scorched the back of his neck. He would have removed his heavy red coat, but he had only long johns underneath, and they were rather threadbare. Mrs St Nicholas would never forgive him if he exposed the young woman to such a sight.
“Shall I pencil you in for an appointment tomorrow? Say, first thing after lunch?”
Graham shook his head and pointed to one of the sections on the form. “Oh dear, I am sorry but I won’t be able to find references. You see, all my work so far has been carried out in secret.”
“Are you sure? Most people can find at least one reference. A previous employer perhaps?”
“Unfortunately not. I’ve been self-employed all my working life. What about my wife. Would she do?”
Gladys Emmanuel frowned. “Oh no, not at all. I’m afraid family members tend to be a little biased.”
“Yes, I see. I don’t suppose my employees, the elves, will be acceptable?”
“Elves? Elves? Are you trying to be funny?”
“Not at all. It is not part of my current psyche. Will I have to look elsewhere?”
“Perhaps that would be for the best.”
Graham St Nicholas heaved himself upright; his knees cracked and his back ached.
Gladys Emmanuel opened her hands in apology. “Sorry we could not be of more help, Mr St Nicholas. Might I offer you a sweet?”
She raised the glass bowl of boiled sweets.
“No thanks,” he said, turning to leave. “I prefer humbugs.”
This is an extract from my collection of short stories, cunningly entitles, The Collection. If you’d like to read more, click here.