Benjamin Pendergast-Manifold had been waiting seemingly forever for an opportunity like this to drop into his lap. Or more accurately, his hands.
Just typical, wasn’t it. He kept his LinkedIn profile pristine and up-to-date, only to be rewarded only with thousands of nonsense emails a week. He attended recruitment fairs where reps seemed thrown if you dared ask them about anything about their companies other than to ask for one of keyrings they were handing out. He attended parties in the hopes of networking, when he’d rather be lying on the sofa in his pyjamas. Not to mention the years of studying for qualifications that apparently were considered out of date as soon as you received the certificate.
When all it took was for a sponsored ad to pop up, purely by chance (or Benjamin’s phone was reading his mind – not entirely out of the question, if you believed what you read these days), while he was scrolling memes about Creed and footage of climate change protestors being arrested for walking slowly down a street.
There was a video – thought balloons blooming from the actors brains, cartoon versions of their advertising visions. Cutting to dreams becoming realities on billboards, then handshakes, smiles, awards. No mention of starting salary, but still, when the conclusion came:
Think you have what it takes to be a part of the Nonde Script family?DM us now – what are you waiting for?
Benjamin Pendergast-Manifold didn’t hang about.
This would give him something for his parents to chew over next time they phoned him up from the other side of the country. Where they lived on their small farm that they’d been born into (well, his father had – fortunately for Benjamin and the town gossips, his mother and father were in fact unrelated), entirely oblivious to the torture of gaining employment in the 21st century. Not for them the horrors of group interviews – Lucy and Samuel’s version consisted of pretending to ask the pigs which feed they preferred and giving them the cheaper one anyhow. Or having to fill out a 30 page application form which never saved your progress despite its reassurances it would, when your whole story was right there on the carefully crafted CV you had ready to send.
Samuel would just puff his cigarette and wonder aloud when Benjamin was going to show an interest in his birthright – rearing cattle, crop rotations, loopholes in pesticide bans. Lucy just wondered, while peeling potatoes in an ever increasingly violent manner, why Benjamin’s degree didn’t automatically allow him a foot in the door of any occupation he chose.
Benjamin pressed send. After a reply didn’t instantly arrive, he went off to boil the kettle. He spent a further hour pretending to read the latest crime thriller his show-off of a brother had written (using his penname Vic Enfield – “sounds much snappier than ‘Sebastian Pendergast-Manifold’, don’t you think” his brother had said back when his parents hemmed and hawed over the puzzling invite to the launch of his debut novel), while peeping at his phone only every three seconds or so.
Eventually Benjamin discovered the link to the next part of the application – buried in his junk mail, of course – and that was his entertainment for the remainder of his afternoon. Once he’d perfected his supporting statement, the waiting game began again. He reflected how funny it was that it started as urgency – apply now! Don’t rest on your laurels! (whatever those were) and then it’s all “we’ll get back to you – or not – within five working days. And don’t you dare even think of replying to this address, idiot, it’s obviously not monitored.”
Unbeknownst to our Benjamin, it was only one day before his application was printed off and taken out to lunch.
Bella Drew and Millie West were lounging outside their favourite café from which to showcase their stick-like spray tanned limbs while inhaling iced mochas (Millie: “650 calories?! I guess this counts as lunch then!”) while reading through job applications. A task that some might say they weren’t best placed to do, having been ‘scouted’ straight out of college by their fathers, the brothers who owned Nonde Script.
Millie reluctantly put her phone into her hotdog-sized purse, but only after checking her boyfriend Timon had viewed her story documenting her OOTD (he had, and he’d hearted it. She’d trained him well).
“Okay,” said Bella, after having struggling with fresh acrylic nails to unsheathe the stack of papers from their plastic wallet (Nonde Script said on their website they were committed to becoming carbon neutral. They just hadn’t specified when.) “First up, we have Maria de la Torre.”
“Ooh,” Millie chimed in. “Do you know what I’m thinking?”
Simultaneously they whispered: “diversity”, then high-fived each other. There were reasons others they worked with referred to them privately as the Twin Towers and not just for their infamous team-building exercise where a pillar of building blocks that was meant to symbolise symbiosis had spontaneously combusted.
“Hmm,” Bella continued, swiping a caramel rope of her hair off the CV. “Says she graduated from blah blah blah in 1972. An old girl.”
“Pass, instructed Millie. “We’ve got a ton of these to get through and we don’t need no dinosaur cluttering up the place.”
Bella obediently started a no pile under a salt shaker. Then proceeded to the next card in the deck.
“Hasan Anand. Oh em gee, it says he has five years' experience using our database system.”
Millie slurped and nodded. “Meaning we spend less time training him. That’s a yes”.
Bella filed Hasan Anand under the pepper shaker.
“Next up, we have Jamie McAfee.”
“He sounds...safe,” said Millie.
“Look at where he lives though.” Bella turned the paper round to face her colleague.
They both wrinkled their noses like bunnies who had found a mouldy carrot in their burrow, and Jamie entered the pile of nope.
“Lucinda Willis. Under hobbies she’s put Bikram yoga. Isn’t that the thing you watched that show about?”
“Yes!” squealed Millie. “Maybe she can teach us.”
The pepper gained another papery coaster.
“Instant no. Double-barrelled people are like, so crazily posh and besides our EmployE TrackR system can never handle the double-barrelled people.”
Bella sighed. “You’re right. I can’t understand the parents who burden their poor children with such names. Like, just pick one, right?”
They slurped and nodded at each other, and slid Benjamin Pendergast-Manifold under the salt.