You sit in the waiting room, sweating in your best suit, your tiny espresso with a twist of orange growing cold. The receptionist’s long legs cross beneath the desk made of glass and wire. A soft ping sounds from her sleek phone. “He’ll speak with you now.” She unwinds herself from the chair and shows you to what you never thought was a door. When you first walked in, it merely looked like part of the expensive woodworking, but with a touch, it swings inward.
The room is empty except for an impossible chair, like the one the receptionist had been sitting in, and another near-invisible table. Atop which is a tablet.
You look at her, confused. Her smile is smooth, practiced. “Push the green button,” she says, and retreats.
You push. The red camera light flashes on. A voice oozes from the tiny speaker: “Hi, Johnny.” It doesn’t sound fully human; perhaps it’s being filtered. You wonder if this is a joke. A reality TV stunt.
“Uh…hello?” Your voice cracks and you clear your throat. You wish you had the miniscule cold espresso you’d left on the glass coffee table.
Robo-pad speaks up. “Why do you want this job?”
For a moment your brain locks. You were in a bar, wondering how many shots of tequila would kill a human about your size, when you saw the email on your phone. It intrigued you. No subject line. All the body contained was “You don’t even know how bad you want to work for me” and a time, date, and location. When you sobered up it was still there. You took it as a sign.
“May I ask, what kind of job is this?”
The voice laughs and abruptly stops. “You don’t get to ask the questions, Johnny. It’s not that kind of interview.”
“Well, I”—you wipe your damp palms against your thighs, hopefully out of camera range—“It’s hard to tell you why I want this job when I don’t know what my responsibilities will be. I mean, I didn’t even apply.”
“You were carefully picked from a pool of very, very qualified people. Majorly terrific people. I already knew you’d be perfect. But you gotta just tell me, why’d you show up?”
Since this seems like such a laughably fake situation, you decide to tell the truth. “Because I was in a bar trying to commit suicide by Jose Cuervos? Because teaching history to seventh graders pays shit and my last girlfriend left me for a backup singer in a Justin Bieber cover act? Because it was Tuesday and I hate Tuesdays because it’s too far from the previous weekend and too long until Friday? Because I owned a suit and I hadn’t worn it in a while? Why does anybody do anything?”
“Good point,” the voice says. “You’re hired.”
You blink a couple times. “To do…”
“Whatever I tell you.”
“And why would I do that?”
A dollar figure flashes onto the pad. You nearly fall off the nearly invisible chair. “Believe me, Johnny,” the voice says. “You won’t care what day of the week it is when you’re waving that around.”
“Okay.” You clear your throat, cross your arms over your chest. “Assuming I take this job, give me an example of one thing that you might tell me to do.”
“It depends on the situation. If it’s one I don’t like, your job is to make it better. We can quibble over these tiny details all day long, Johnny. But I’m very selective. If I chose you, you gotta know it’s for a very good reason.”
You start wondering what that reason might be. You thought you’d drowned all of them in tequila by now.
“You’re thinking,” the voice says. “I don’t get why you’re thinking. Because I tell ya, this is the best job you’re ever gonna have. But why don’t we do this? Try it for a day. Less than that. Say you’re on my staff for, oh, an hour. Two, tops. You don’t agree this is one terrific way to make a living, you’re free to go.”
That sounds reasonable to you. “Okay. Where do I start?”
“First thing I need you to do. There’s a situation happening right now. I need it to go away.”
A shiver snakes down your spine. Just what have you agreed to? “I don’t think—”
“One hour, Johnny. That’s all I ask. That’s what you agreed to. You don’t want the world to know that you’re such a loser that you go back on your promises. You don’t want the stink of that following you to your next job, do you? Because I can make that happen. I can make anything happen.”
“If you can make anything happen, then why don’t you take care of your own little situation.”
“Hey. You decided to come here. Frankly, I got lots of better things I could be doing. And people I could be doing them with if you catch my drift.”
“Just…fine. Whatever. Tell me about the situation. Please.”
A document appears on the screen. You squint. It’s the US Constitution. “You want me to read the Constitution?” Okay. There are weirder things you could be doing for a hell of a lot less money.
“No,” the voice says. “I need you to explain it to me.” The receptionist slithers in and presses a stack of hundreds on the table next to you. “And consider this my request not to tell one living soul what we’re doing here.”
“Okay, well, um… The Constitution, originally comprising seven articles, delineates the national frame of government—”
“Johnny, stop. Use smaller words.”