In between the phone call and the actual Talk with Ms. Ashton, Jeremy had the privilege of receiving five more rejection letters, including one from a fast-food place. The note accompanying that letter stated that Jeremy “… would be bored with the menial tasks routinely assigned at our store, especially since our typical employee has yet to complete high-school, much less college as yourself. But, hey, enjoy a half-off coupon the next time you’re hungry.”
By now, everyone that Jeremy talked to had made their decision on jobs or grad school. He talked to his parents almost daily, trying to convince them that he wasn’t going to start a multi-level marketing scheme out of their basement in a couple of months. He couldn’t promise them that he’d not be living there, though. Hal, Jeremy’s dad, was ready to see his youngest son out on his own, simply because that meant the last of the parenting chores. Hal had been eyeing a new flat screen TV for his den, and finally, with no more kids begging, he thought he just might get it. Of course, since his den was the basement, if Jeremy moved back home… Jeremy’s mom Phyl had similar reservations, but part of her wanted Jeremy back, if only to keep her husband agitated enough to help out with the household chores. She was openly skeptical of Jeremy’s interview. “Now who’s this with?”
“I don’t know yet, mom.”
“Not even the company name?”
“I know one person, and I’ve tried googling her, mom. There’s nothing out there.”
“I don’t know what googling is, but you’d better treat her with respect, young man. I didn’t raise you and your brother up to just google women whenever you want.”
“No, mom it’s– you’re right mom. I won’t google any other woman again.”
“So who’s the interview with again?”
Finally, after about 35 minutes of strained conversation and seeming misunderstandings, both Phyl and Hal felt they knew as much about Jeremy’s prospects as he did: almost nothing except for the recruiter’s name and her address where she and Jeremy would meet. Despite his mom’s strident warning, Jeremy had used the net to figure out that the building was near the middle of downtown. It was one of those buildings that was always lit up, even when it wasn’t the holidays, because of some attempt at civic spirit. Jeremy understood the value of lights, but he also understood how nice it was to see stars at night, something that those lights helped prevent. But there wasn’t much he could do about it, especially since his meeting with Jennifer would be in the daytime.
For Jeremy, the days seemed to move at quarter-speed. Classes were extra long. Meals seemed to stretch out forever. Conversations with Jim The Employable while watching bad kung fu movies were the worst.
We must go and defend the family’s honor “So, you ready for that test tomorrow?” but the dragon will breathe holy fire “What test?” WHAA HOO THWACK SHPOW “in 432.” WHIFF WHIFF BLOCK THWACK “Oh. Yeah. I guess so.” FATHER!!! SAVE YOUR-“This movie sucks.” HA HA HA. I have you now young “It ain’t that bad.” HIYA HA WHOAOAOOO “Beats studying for 432.” We’ll return to our movie after this important message.
Jeremy did well on ACCO 432’s exam, well enough to feel like maybe he should be more upset about not getting other opportunities. However, he didn’t return to the career center. He’d had enough of the pitying glances from the counselors. Jeremy knew they talked about him at staff meetings. A dormmate who volunteered at the center told him that the private nickname for Jeremy was “The Outcast”. He wouldn’t go back, Jeremy thought, not when this strange opportunity awaited him.
On the day of the interview, Jeremy checked the bus route for the twentieth time, making sure he knew where to transfer to get him downtown. He dug up his suit, made sure that the creases were approximately in the right place, and put it on. The last time he’d worn it was on a date that he’d just as soon prefer to unremember (it wasn’t like setting her dress on fire was part of the plan, but some people just won’t forgive you for anything), but it still fit Jeremy’s slightly lanky frame. He made sure that he shaved all but his most presentable goatee and set forth on his way to The Talk. It was only a week or so since the initial phone call, but time had ripened the upcoming event into Something Of Major Significance–the type of event that should only be denoted with capital letters.
He opened the office door and saw a small office with no windows. There was a woman who looked like Pam Dawber in the early Mork & Mindy days sitting at a desk with just a computer on it. There were no file cabinets, but another door was behind and to the right side of who Jeremy guessed must be Jennifer Ashton.
“Jeremy?” she said, rising to greet him. They shook hands and exchanged the usual small pleasantries about finding the place and the weather outside (found it fine, starting to get hot).
“Okay, you’ll be speaking to my boss, Fred Carlisle, about this position.”
“You mean I’m not talking with you?”
“As flattering as that is, Jeremy, I only work here in a support capacity. Fred makes the final decisions, so he’ll control your destiny.” Jennifer added a smile in case Jeremy missed the joke.
“Can you tell me anything more in person than over the phone?” Jeremy asked.
“Well, you’re not married, right?”
“Correct. Available to anyone.”
“And you still live at home when not at school.”
“Yes. Although that will soon end, I’m guessing.”
“It usually does. I’m afraid that I can’t add much, but Fred will be able to explain. It’s part of the code.”
“Like I said, Fred will explain. Let me see if he’s off the phone.”