Thursday, December 15, 2011

Creative Interview

The idea came suddenly to Joel, as he sat contentedly on the toilet seat. In that moment he knew it was a winner. Ten seconds later, some unsuspecting soul wondered into the Gents', and let out a moaning, retching type of sound. Whoever it was, left in a hurry. Joel smiled to himself, and finished up.

He looked at his face in the mirror as he carefully washed his hands, and decided that there would be no problem. He felt confidence flow into him as he headed to the waiting area again.

Joel's trouble was that he never did well in job interviews. He was a solid worker, he felt, but he just couldn't think of the examples and stories they wanted in interviews these days. And even if could drag up a story, he'd always down-play his own role in the drama, or the significance of the solution; mostly because he pretty much always was a minor player, and generally very modest. Modest and mediocre: that was Joel.

That was all about to change, as Joel strode down the hallway. Why not take the skills from his hobby of creative writing and apply them to job interviews? The writing itself hadn't yielded the blockbuster novel or critical acclaim he'd dreamed of – for he'd come to realise he was mediocre at writing too; but, it was a hobby that he enjoyed.

Eventually he was called into the interview room. It had white painted walls and ceiling and glaring fluro lights. The HR lady shuffled her papers and kicked things off. “We're going to ask you some behavioural questions,” she said. “We're looking for specific examples, where you can tell us about a situation, what you did, and then what the outcome was. Is that okay?”

Joel smiled; that was going to be perfect. “Sure.”

The lady smiled back. Even the grizzled old manager beside her seemed to soften a bit.

“Can you tell us about a time you came across a situation or a practice that was unsafe; what you did about it, and what the outcome was?”

Joel took a deep breath. “Sure,” he said. “When I arrived at the place I currently work, I found that people had to walk across the roads on site a lot, which involved lots of interactions with light and heavy vehicles.”

Which was true; but of course, he'd gotten used to it, like everyone else. Grizzly and HR lady both nodded, starting to scrawl notes. Joel smiled; he was about to get his creative writing written by dictation. He continued, “So I conducted a traffic study, and based on my analysis and my research into Australian Standards and the Coal Mining Health and Safety Act and Regulations, I wrote a draft Traffic Management Plan for the site, which included quite a few changes.”

They'd stopped writing now, and were watching him, awestruck. Joel didn't miss a beat. “I costed all the changes, and then facilitated a semi-quantitative risk assessment around the major changes I'd identified; using a cross-section of the work force. I then presented my findings and recommendations to the Senior Management Team. They approved the plan, and further approved nine-hundred-thousand dollars in out-of-plan capital to make all the proposed changes.”

Joel smiled, as if at the memory. “I project-managed all the changes, though I was given a few resources to help out, of course. We now have a system of well-lit and signed pedestrian crossings, as well as segregated traffic flows and hard barriers in the higher risk areas.”

HR lady was back to scribbling notes now. The manager looked stunned.

“Was that the sort of answer you were looking for?” asked Joel, trying to sound as innocent as he could.

“Perfect,” they both said together, then laughed.

He nailed the rest of the interview, of course, and heard promising noises at the end about “progressing things to the next stage”. The job was his – he knew it – his first senior engineering role. It was his, until that grizzly fool had to talk to his boss for the reference check, and started to blubber on about how impressed he was with the traffic changes, and the increases in plant yield and the reduction in site costs.

This was first published in Shift Miner Magazine.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I used to live next door to drug dealers. I should say they used to live next door to me. To be even more precise, when they used to live, they lived next door to me.

They weren’t just dealers; they were cooking up what they were selling. Everybody knew, but nobody called the cops. There wasn’t much point, because it made life very uncomfortable if you did. They had friends in low places, clearly.

I left them alone though, until a kid died, shooting up on some of their speed. His mother was pretty upset about it, I heard. I’d had enough of living in such close proximity to that scum. It was time for retribution. It was for the kid, I suppose, and a little bit for his grieving mother, but I was sick of the smell.

Friday night I could smell that they were have a cook-up. I put on some gloves, jumped the fence and turned off their gas bottle. After a few seconds I turned it back on. I could hear the gas rushing through the valve. I smiled, and scurried home. I sat on the toilet, immobile, with earplugs in my ears and my hands over my head until the house shook with the force of the explosion. All my windows on the eastern side of the house shattered.

The police called around later asking why nobody on the street had called the police or the fire brigade. Everyone said they thought someone else would have.

This is my response to Three Word Wednesday (3WW) number CCL

This week's words:
Immobile; adjective: Not moving; motionless; incapable of moving or being moved.
Proximity; noun: Nearness in space, time, or relationship.
Retribution; noun: Punishment that is considered to be morally right and fully deserved

Friday, December 2, 2011

It's Futile

“It's futile.”

“What is?”


Bill rubbed his eyes and shook his head. “Whatta ya mean, everything?”

“Life, stuff,” said Graham. “Work, especially. Here we are, a thousand k's from anywhere, in Woop-Woop, working ourselves to the bone, twelve hours a day. Why? What's it for?”

“Don't know about you, but I do it for the money.”

“And what's the money for? Nothing lasts.”

Bill shrugged. “Food, a home for the family, cars, schooling, a boat, holidays. You need money for everything.”

“But none of that lasts. You can't take it with you when you go, can you?”

“I can't?” said Bill. “Well if that's the case, I'm not goin'.” He laughed at his own joke; it was his favourite kind.

Graham swore. “Can't you keep up a serious conversation for once?”

“Sorry mate,” said Bill, trying to look sorry. “You're very correct. You can't take your gear with you when you kark it.”

Graham sighed. He went to the wet-mess bar and got two more beers. He came back and handed one to Bob. They sat in silence for a few minutes, and watched the sun flood the sky with red and orange as it began to set. The brigalow and a few gum tree stood out against the brightness in black silhouette. The clouds looked like they were on fire.

Bob said, “Might be the middle of nowhere, but I like it out here. More than Brisbane.”

Graham said, “I hate Brisbane, actually.”

“You hate everything today. You sound like you're in a hurry to curl up and die.”

“No, but we all die, and then nothing's left.”

“You really think that? You die, and then that's the end of everything?”

Graham shrugged. “It's futile.”

“You mentioned that.”

Graham grunted.

After a minute Bob smiled. “Ah!” he said, to himself.

“What's up?”

Bob said, “Your girlfriend called it off, didn't she?”

Graham turned suddenly to face him. His surprise was obvious. “She wasn't my girlfriend,” he said. “She was my fiancĂ©e.”

Bob said nothing, but shook his head.

Graham mumbled, “Yeah, she called it off.”

“Even though it's futile, would you like another beer?”

“I hate you,” said Graham. “But: yes, I would.”

This story was first published in Shift Miner Magazine.