• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 08
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Her tablet computer sits on the conference table, behind which the interview panel sat, awaiting the next applicant.

Dressed flamboyantly in pinstripes and fedora as a coping mechanism, Ethna has her own CV file open, and sits silently: looking at images of her degree certificates. She uses these to centre herself, to connect with the tangible world. She can’t quite accept them as real yet; but the evidence is irrefutable.

She closes her eyes and utilises the “mindfulness” strategies taught to her by her therapist, envisioning calmer moments – this morning’s early walk among the singing trees and fragrant fern, unbothered by the high pollen count.

She is blessed that way and spares a moment to pity the younger generations who are not. She smiles at the uncharacteristic empathy thus conjured before sinking to the usual self-disparagement.

Knowing you’re clever means little when ‘children’ with little common sense, but a range of diplomas and certificates step on your neck in the rush to clamber over you and into the careerist clouds. She had been oppressed and used at work, and thought her chance of progress on any stage had evaporated when she finally had a nervous breakdown in the nineties.

The applicant’s a fresh-faced lad with all the beaming vapid arrogance of a millennial. He approaches the table with a confident Masonic gait. Fuck him.



He does the line, greeting the interviewing panel one by one, shaking hands. She squeezes more than she ought.

Amid therapy Ethna had managed a Masters degree. The experience had brought to mind that ubiquitous image of Michelangelo’s painting, where the interpretation of God reaches out to Adam and shares life through a wondrous spark. That’s what the help from the University’s Special Needs team had been for her.

He’s talking, yammering about how wonderful he is. She toys with a letter-opener she picked up somewhere, wondering why they chose her for the panel.

“I still enjoy taking part in my local debating society and horse-riding is a passion.”

What planet is he from? Local debating society? Oooh, and horse-riding is a passion.

The other members of the board glance sideways at her. She hopes that they are expecting a question from her. She hopes it hasn’t flared up. She hopes the methylphenidate is still ticking. She decides to bide her time.

Eat that, fucker.

The Personnel Representative, Emily Roberts, leans behind The Chairman as he turns to ask Ethna if she has any questions for the applicant.

“You’re lapsing,” she whispers, as if her kindly discretion will take away from the involuntary outbursts Ethna has apparently already vented.



Something in Ethna’s particular strain of the syndrome prevents the blush she feels should really be blooming. Ah well; in for a penny…

“Which trouser leg did you have to roll up as they caned you?” She asks with a straight face.

They’ll probably have to hire the git now. Tourette’s is a bastard at interviews.