A Terrible Beauty

Ryan, this is good work that speaks well to your creativity and ability to put a project together on a deadline. That said, I’m not sure, however, that it’s outstanding work, that clients would be willing to pay top dollar to receive. I mean it’s okay? It’s even good? But mediocrity comes in many guises, you understand.” The hiring manager at Johnson Westbury Advertising Agency, Judy Calder, a woman in her late forties, looked across her desk, over her designer, blue framed glasses at the aspiring candidate who was eager to gain a spot on the advertising firm’s copy writing team. After scanning his ten-page project for less than five minutes, it seemed her mind was summarily made up, not without a hint of malice. Judy had never had a serious romantic partner, much less, a husband. Family was not her thing. Her forté and battleground was the business world and she revelled not so much in building value and creating opportunity, as she did in demoralizing and defeating others.

Ryan Avery had been out of work now for twenty-four weeks, two weeks shy of the maximum term he was eligible to receive benefits that were woefully inadequate to meet a family’s needs, while cabinet ministers and senators of the federal government who make the laws gorged themselves at the boundless trough of Canadian taxpayers. At home, there was a quiet, but growing desperation brooding among his wife and three kids – two daughters and a son, aged from seven to twelve years. Prior to his unemployment, he had worked for the local daily newspaper in the advertising department for nearly ten years. With ever increasing competition from online advertisers, revenues had declined sharply at the paper over time, and inevitably, eventually, staff had to be let go, including Ryan.

“If Dad doesn’t find a job soon, what will happen to us, Mom?” asked Emily, their youngest, immediately Johnson City pressure washing. after Ryan had left that morning. She had her arm around her pal Lucy’s neck, the family dog, like she was speaking on behalf of the two of them.

Her mother sighed, hesitating to address a seven year old’s valid concerns. “He’ll find a job, don’t worry. Come on, let’s feed Lucy.”

Ryan needed this job badly, and had just spent nearly three weeks on a mock assignment from Judy to create a project that would showcase his creative and writing talents. Now this matronly, mean-spirited, passive aggressive, woman, who had sent him on a wild goose chase three weeks ago, was feigning a warm smile and offering false encouragement, a perfect setup for the kill.

“I would suggest that you fine tune and develop your abilities further and approach us again in six months or a year. You’ve clearly got some native talent. Now we need to get a sense of your persistence, determination… your stick-to-itiveness, we like to call it.” She raised a clenched fist for emphasis. “But you’ll have to scoot for today, I’m afraid. I’ve got another meeting in five minutes. Best of luck to you.” She raised her eyebrows and smiled, as if victorious in abruptly dousing another person’s hopes.

Ryan tried not to look defeated, although inside he was simultaneously enraged and disgusted by her condescending posturing. He felt like a fool for playing into her phony little try-out game. He wasn’t auditioning for a part in the community theatre. He needed a job now, to pay the bills, to provide for his family, to buy food and clothing, to make the mortgage payments; and he certainly wasn’t about to go back to the drawing board at this spinsterly, bespeckled, old crow’s beckoning to toil away again for months on end for another pointless interview. Who the hell do they think they are, playing with people? he wondered internally.

“Miss Calder, in six months I’ll probably have been working for some other firm for around five months, possibly one of your competitors,” Ryan shot back, unable to contain his anger. “Best of luck? I’m not relying on luck, never have. I’ve got plenty of drive, rest assured. If you’re not prepared to find me a place on your team, I’ll work just as hard to land a position on someone else’s. Sorry, this was a big waste of time, especially mine.” He stood and made for the door as she sat there wide eyed at his audacity.

“Well if you think that kind of attitude,” she started… However, Ryan closed the door behind him and kept on walking, right past the receptionist and out into the corridor.

Once in the car, he sat blankly, dumbly, bewildered at his predicament. He started the engine, then turned it off, unable to continue. Now he was going to have to go home and face his wife, tell her he didn’t get the job, again, after months of trying. She would try to be sympathetic, as usual, but after six months of applications, interviews, scanning dozens of job boards on the internet, meeting with personnel placement firms, and desperately trying everything imaginable to find gainful employment, he wondered if even she was losing faith. How many times can you get turned down before you begin questioning your own worth? His eyes welled up and he put a trembling hand to his forehead. “Can it get worse than this? I’m supposed to be the provider. My wife, my kids, my family, our house… Oh, God!”

****

It was the middle of June and the weather seemed to be in sync with Ryan’s dark mood. Heavy, rain laden clouds bubbled up almost daily and dumped a deluge of water on the city, sometimes just for an hour or so, but other times for most of the day, until pools of water lay on the lawns and streets that were slow to drain away. In late spring, soggy weather was not unusual, but this year it seemed worse, if only perhaps, because of the string of bad luck Ryan had faced in recent months. First, the recession had lasted much longer than anyone would have predicted; the worldwide economy was still mired in debt and restraint and companies everywhere faced cutbacks and austerity measures; Ryan couldn’t find work anywhere; and he sensed a growing estrangement between he and his wife due to their financial troubles.

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