Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Experimental office fiction #1

The first resume that Julia ever received in an official Human Resource capacity that she really remembers in detail was printed on hand-made paper, embedded with tendrils of organic material, leaves and petals of some flower. Lavender, Julia thought, because the smell reminded her of summer afternoons, sitting around the lake at her father's house where there was always lots of lavender. She remembers carrying it into the cubicle of her colleague, Linda S., who was equally astounded. They traded a couple jokes about it. It was pretty paper, but you couldn’t even read the type that was printed over the tiny flowers. It looked like the candidate’s name was “Sucks” though they both guessed it was probably Susan.

For years, Julia used this example at her speaking engagements at colleges and career fairs. She didn’t actually bring in the resume because that would be a violation of privacy, but told the “sucks” joke and spoke about the lavender scent filling her office. I wanted to put it in a vase, she said, dryly, at most of her speaking engagements. She always got a couple good laughs out of it, loosening everyone up, because who didn’t know not to do something this stupid?

Julia is remembering that resume now because she just received another DVD in the mail. It wasn’t the first; they’d been trickling in for the past year actually. Julia wasn’t a fan of this whole video thing. It seemed much too intimate. Not professional. But this is different. In the past week, she’s gotten three copies of the same one. She isn't even sure it’s a resume. There isn’t a cover letter. Just one of those CD covers slid into the plastic sheath with the title: My Destiny by Justin Clover.

This time, however, the background behind the title has pictures of a young man, presumably Justin, playing his guitar, rock climbing, smiling with his arm around a young woman, sitting on the beach with a large dog, even a baby photo! And most weirdly of all, a man in a white robe kneeling before another figure in a long red and white robe. It looks like a confirmation ceremony, at least to Julia, who is Catholic. She holds the DVD in her hand for a long thirty seconds. She isn’t sure she should put it in her computer, fearing it might contain some kind of virus.

Julia doesn’t sit in a cube anymore. Not for a long time. She’s a VP now, running a small HR group devoted to what they call “Transitions” at V-- which usually means firing people. She spends most of her time on exit interviews and employee-satisfaction surveys, but around spring, she always helps troll through the unsolicited resumes. She decides to call Cherie, who is the VP in charge of most of the entry-level evaluations, but Cheries not there. Julia goes back to the stack of resumes but pretty soon her curiosity gets the better of her and quickly, before she can think about it, she pushes the DVD in the drive and pulls her hand away quickly.

Right away, a soundtrack comes on. It's very loud choir music of some kind, so loud that Julia has to turn down the volume on her computer speakers. Strike #1, Julia thinks. On the screen there is a table of contents.

My Origins
My Joys
My Influences
The Truth
My Destiny

Julia can feel her heart racing, but she’s not entirely sure why, except maybe because she knows that those boys who shot their classmates made weird videos. A thought that convinces her she has to look. What if she could stop something terrible from happening?

With her hand on the mouse, she scrolls the cursor up and down the list. Finally she shuts her eyes and just clicks. She hears the whirring of the drive and almost instantly regrets it, feeling an odd and totally pointless panic.

For a second or two the screen is just white, which is a kind of relief. She gives it a moment, but nothing happens except the light gets brighter, so bright she has to squint. She didn’t know the computer could even get that bright. Shit, she thinks, it is a virus, and she’s about to hit the escape button when she hears a sound. She thinks it’s a thumping at first but then realizes is actually more of a fluttering noise, or clicking, like a vast swarm of insects, their metallic wings clattering over the sky or pattering against a giant pane of glass. From the bright white panel, a pattern starts to emerge (a school of fish?) a mass of little dark shapes moving together through some murky surface.

She feels really weird now and she’s sure it’s nothing but trouble and hits eject. The drive dutifully spits the disc out. For a minute, Julia just sits there listening to the office noises and takes a deep breath, hoping she hasn’t infected the server with something. "Jesus Christ," she thinks and says softly to herself. She looks at the DVD again, a little metal tongue sticking out of her drive. But she doesn't touch it. She decides she'd better wait for Cherie and goes to get some coffee.


Paul Soldera said...

I love it!

sk said...

Nice of you to say, Paul. Probably annoying everyone else, but wanted to try some experiments with this whole blog form. Plus, I get bored easily so thought a change of pace might be entertaining.

Beecham said...

Slick shift midway into the present tense. I feel like it's fairly underused in narrative, apart from, well, in erotic fiction. But who knows what Experimental Office Fiction # 2 might offer! I suppose we can only hope. :)

sk said...

Interesting idea, Beecham. Erotic moments are not unheard of in office environments, though my interest at the moment is on the tension in biz culture between claims to empiricism/bottom-line toughness and an equally strong set of beliefs in murky (often Romantic) ideas of leadership, creativity and culture, leading to disorienting gaps (between saying and doing, ability and status, success and reward, claimed and actual impact, etc., etc).

Beecham said...

oh, and I thought it was about the intrusion of the fantastic into the mundane everyday . . .

so, all the more curious to see #2.

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