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And the short story winner is...The Interview by Christopher Waldrop

DarkWinter Lit is thrilled to announce that The Interview by Christopher Waldrop was chosen as the winning entry in our 1st Anniversary Contest Short Story category by judge Rod Carley!

The Interview

Hello. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to apply for the position of Chief Diversity Officer. I believe you’ll see from my résumé that I have extensive experience working in this area. I also believe I have a lot to offer in terms of employee resources, especially when it comes to diversity and cultural awareness.

Yes, I am a Mermaid.

Thank you for asking. Generally “Merfolk” is the term we prefer but I don’t mind being called that.

I have a great deal of experience promoting diversity in the workplace setting. I believe it’s important to be proactive with regard to both hiring and worker retention.

Yes, I’m familiar with the Hans Christian Andersen story.

Speaking of hiring I talked to your receptionist while I was waiting. I want to compliment you on giving a Centaur such a front-facing role.

No, I’ve never been to Copenhagen. Would you mind if I continue?

Thank you. I’ve worked for the same university as Diversity Coordinator for the past eleven years and before that I was an assistant to a school superintendent. So most of my experience has been in educational settings that already attract individuals from a wide range of backgrounds. However I do have some private sector experience I believe could be useful here.

Yes, I’ve seen pictures of the statue. As I was saying one of my first jobs was an internship at a law firm while I was pursuing my degree in sociology. All of my co-workers were human and I saw how reluctance to step outside their comfort zone cost the firm some potentially lucrative opportunities.

No, I haven’t seen Splash. I’ve never seen any Mermaid movies, actually.

No, not even the Disney one.

I’m sorry, my cranial fins flare when I’m nervous or excited. I guess we all know how stressful job interviews can be, right?

Thank you, I appreciate that, but I don’t need anything just now.

No, we’re not half-fish, and I’m sure you’ll understand that I do find that offensive. Could we get back to the law firm where I worked?

We’re amphibians.

Anyway, the lawyers at the firm passed on some discrimination cases because they said they lacked experience. Sometimes, though, when faced with an opportunity that seems challenging, you just have to dive in, right? I also followed some of those cases and they went on to win large settlements for other firms.

Well, if you want to put it like that, we’re related to frogs about the same way you’re related to pigs.

I agree, it’s terrible people used to eat our eggs as a delicacy. I guess we should be grateful that’s mostly frowned upon now. Did I mention I have experience with budgeting? I sometimes work with the accounting department in my current role. Although the rules governing non-profit organizations are different, I’m a quick learner and willing to work hard.

Well, I appreciate your interest, really I do, but I don’t think this is the right time or place to talk about spawning. You know, I have some experience with hiring and in interviews a question I think is helpful is, How have you dealt with a conflict in the workplace?

Thank you, I prepared an example. I had a co-worker who always wore a Little Mermaid t-shirt on casual Fridays. I felt it was inappropriate but I didn’t want to make assumptions. I reached out to him and asked if we could discuss it in the conference room. When dealing with a potentially uncomfortable subject or trying to resolve a conflict I think it’s best to meet in a neutral space and let everyone know what we’ll be discussing. It’s best to avoid surprises.

No, we live in freshwater. In fact, I live in an apartment in Lakeside.

Yes, that is becoming a very popular area. As I was saying the co-worker and I met on a Wednesday. I told him how his shirt made me feel but I also wanted to know what it meant to him. He told me it was his mother’s favorite movie and since she’d passed away just half a year earlier he was still processing it. But he agreed to wear another shirt over it or not wear it so often. I think this illustrates how listening can resolve--

No, I don’t have a shell bra. I don’t have nipples. Do you?

I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to raise my voice. That was inappropriate and I hope you’ll excuse me. You see, representation is very important to me. For instance, the university sometimes puts my picture in promotional materials to illustrate their commitment to diversity and equal treatment. Now this is a fine idea but it’s important to me that they see me as an individual, not a token. For instance, your receptionist—

No, I haven’t seen Mr. Peabody And The Mermaid. I believe I said I haven’t seen any Mermaid movies. Did you just look that up on your phone?

Fine, I’d also like to get back on an even keel, as you say. Maybe this would be a good time to talk about salary and benefits.

Yes, I’m familiar with Weeki Wachee. I don’t want to talk about it.

No. I’ve never worked there. If I had, it would be on my résumé. I know some of us do and I respect their choice but I personally have problems with it.

All right, let’s talk about your receptionist. Did you know he’s working on a Master’s degree in Business Administration or did you just stick him out front because he’s just another pretty face to you?

Really? How do you know this isn’t my normal tone?

Yeah, it wasn’t hard to guess you’ve never met a Mermaid before. At least one of us came here prepared.

What do I mean? I mean that I did my homework and I came here to negotiate. I know your top level management is eighty-three percent white, sixty-four percent male, and one-hundred percent human. I’ve also checked analyst reports and I know your company is sinking. You’re dealing with four harassment and wrongful termination suits right now. The fourth one’s against the lawyer you hired to take care of the third. And your investors—y’all can call ‘em “stakeholders” or whatever, but we all know they’re mostly a bunch of trust fund kids who’re keeping your lights on—are looking for the exits. You know what your competitors and I have in common?

We can both smell blood in the water.

Yes, I do need this job. I’ve got debts and my rent is going up and what I’m doing now barely pays the bills, and I’m not selling any more eggs. You want to know something else? You need me too. You’d better believe hiring me would look pretty good for your company.

Of course. I’ll leave you to think about it. Thank you again for your time. Here’s my card.

Yes, I had it laminated.

Christopher Waldrop is a writer and library assistant living in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife and a horde of wild Dalmatians. He's had work published in the anthologies Static Dreams Volume 2, Feathers 1, a collection of poems about birds, as well as in Unstamatic Magazine, DarkWinterLit, and elsewhere.

1 Comment

May 06, 2023

Land-lubber legs, tails in the sea?

I've had interviews like that. Need the job, but I refuse to grovel.

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