Spencer sprang off the padded cushion of the lobby’s chair. Catching himself, he forced his charge to slow and took his time collecting his portfolio from the glass table. The bespectacled brunette seated across the way offered a half smile.
“You too.” Trading the leather bound papers between suddenly sweaty palms, Spencer turned to the frosted entryway where a coifed blonde secretary tapped an impatient toe.
“This way, Mr. Eddy.”
She held the door open until he could prop the panel himself and then marched along the carpeted hallway. Hurrying to follow, Spencer matted down his slicked hair, straightened his tie and tested his breath against his fingers. The remains of minty mouthwash rebounded and he rake his tongue over his teeth double-checking his morning brush.
Meanwhile the secretary led him through a maze of opaque walls, the clack of keyboards and murmurs of conversation ambient. The corridor ended at a pair of onyx doors, and she wrapped her knuckles on the entrance before seizing the latch. When she pulled the door ajar, the rustle of paperwork greeted them.
“Let him in,” said a husky alto.
“Yes, Dr.” Pulling the door wide, the secretary motioned him inside.
“Thank you,” said Spencer.
She nodded curtly and when he strode past, closed the door.
Spencer froze on the office’s initial strip of gunmetal tile, avoiding the square of oriental carpet stretched beneath a pair of wingbacks and a mahogany desk looming before a wall of blank monitors and architectural drawings. Resting a hand on the paunch threatening to droop over his belted slacks, Spencer set his sights on the frosty-haired woman filling in the lone leather chair as amply as her steel-gray suit. She closed a folder and stood, offering a hand over the stacks of neat paperwork arranged around her desk’s blotter and the name placard identifying her as Dr. Korposky.
“Ah, Eddy,” said Spencer, stepping forward and taking her hand.
She hummed thoughtfully, and then lowered herself back into her chair. “The G must be silent.”
Unsure how to reply, Spencer simply held his tongue.
“Have a seat,” said Korposky. Plucking a pen, she pointed its ejected tip at the twin wingbacks.
Spencer perched on the edge of the one on the right and hoped he’d made the right choice.
With her face a passive mask, Korposky interlaced her fingers above the folder and leveled him with her gaze, one as solid as the wooden barricade between them.
“I know most interviews start with pleasantries, explanations of the position, an overview of the corporation, but I’m not one for such niceties. I expect anyone who’s gotten this far to have done their homework.”
Running his finger along his portfolio’s edge, Spencer sought an agreeing grin.
“You know what we’re about,” said Korposky, “so why should I choose you over any of our other candidates?”
“That’s a very frank question.”
“I don’t like to dally.”
“That’s understandable,” said Spencer. Taking a moment to collect his thoughts, he leaned his portfolio against the chair’s leg and inched to the rim of his seat. “Without knowing who else has applied, I can only tell you what I can offer. You’ve already seen my resume so I don’t feel you need me to elaborate there. What it doesn’t tell you about is my work ethic which if you’ve spoken to my previous bosses you’ve heard is rather legendary.”
“To the point of divorce.”
“Ah….” Spencer stumbled over her tactless, but nonetheless valid, point. “That was a while ago, but yes. I put my job first, I always have. I’d be bringing the same dedication to the Institute.”
“That’s easy to promise, but not easily followed up upon.” Korposky tapped her pen at the folder. “Why did you leave your last post if you were so dedicated?”
“They didn’t offer you enough?”
“No,” said Spencer. “A group of administrators decided to embezzle the endowment. The Department lost everything and I lost my job.”
“I didn’t hear about that.”
“Well, we were never in the headlines. With the current market the way it is,” said Spencer, veering the conversation back to positive terrain, “there haven’t been a lot of openings for chemical engineers which accounts for the last seven months. As you’ll note, though, I have been keeping myself involved in the community, the lectures I’ve given, and the classes and conferences I’ve attended have all been rather stimulating.”
Korposky hummed again, in a tone he found less than impressed.
“I’d be bringing all that self-motivation and individuality to this position,” said Spencer. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m a team player, but if I see an opportunity or a possible route to an improvement or a solution, I’m going to take it.”
“That kind of perseverance might cause problems.”
“I guess it depends on your co-workers and the mentality of the organization.”
“Did you find the mentality difficult during your time at NASA?”
Spencer gulped and adjusted the sudden noose of his tie. “NASA?”
Korposky’s eyes narrowed a hair. “From 1998-2002?”
“I’d like to say no,” said Spencer.
“So it was difficult?”
“I’m afraid it didn’t happen.”
He shrugged and found some solace in the truth. “I never worked at NASA.”
Placing down her pen, Korposky flipped open the folder. She drew her finger along the top sheet, then the second. “And your time at the Department of Energy?”
“It was the Chemistry Department at Harden University.”
“Your participation in the Gulf Oil Spill recovery?”
“I….” He shook his head. “Not me unfortunately.”
“You’re not Theodore Geddy?”
He met her eye. “My name’s Spencer, Spencer Eddy.”
Sighing, Korposky rubbed at her temple, disturbing the combed ridges leading to the bun nestled at her nape.
“I should probably go.” Spencer rose and offered his hand. “I’m sorry for wasting your time.”
“It wasn’t you,” said Korposky, giving his hand a single pump. “My secretarial position is another slot I’m trying to fill.”
“I thought….” He glanced at the shut door.
“A temporary assistant who apparently has a knack for crossing contact information and resumes.”
“I guess so.” Straightening, Spencer buttoned his suit coat. “There’s a woman in the lobby who seemed quite competent.”
“We’ll have to see.”
“I’d also be happy to come back if you’d be interested in speaking further.”
“I’m sure I’ll be in touch if I do.”
Hiding a wince, Spencer backpedaled from the wingback. “Of course.”
Korposky stood and rounded her desk, her heels thumping then clacking on the tiles when she opened the door.
“Don’t feel you need to walk me out,” said Spencer. “I’m sure I can find my way.”
“Are you certain?”
“Exit signs are pretty clear.”
“Best of luck to you, then Mr. Eddy.”
“You as well, Dr.”
With a final nod, Spencer started down the corridor. At his back, the door to Korposky’s office closed, the thud reverberating on the hallway’s paneling. Spying the neon Exit sign, he started through the maze, feeling more like a mouse on the hunt for cheese than when he had arrived. He doubled back once before finding the blonde secretary seated at her desk across from the lobby’s frosted doors.
“He’s right here,” she said into the receiver she held at her ear. When she bolted up, the casters of her chair clunked on the plastic sheet and the spiral cord of the phone thrummed as she thrust the phone in his direction.
Spencer frowned. “For me?”
“Yes, Mr. Eddy.”
“Um…Thanks.” Raising the receiver, he turned to face the double doors. “Hello?”
“I’m looking at your portfolio.”
“Oh.” Spencer glanced at his empty hand while a fist punched his gut. “I’m sorry, I must have forgotten it.”
“No need to apologize.” Papers crinkled. “They are imaginative plans. Innovative really.”
“You should have mentioned them at the beginning.”
Spencer sought a reply and ended up with a Neolithic grunt.
“Come back to my office,” said Korposky, “I believe we do have something to discuss.”
“What about Mr. Geddy.”
“His time will come. At the moment, I want to speak with you.”
“I…I’ll be right there,” said Spencer.
The dial tone sounded before his heart resumed beating. Swiveling to the secretary, he extended the phone, the drooping cord waggling like his knees.
“Thanks,” he whispered.
Adjusting his tie, Spencer then raked a hand through his hair. Sweat dotted his palms in earnest when he started through the maze again, hoping his second chance might turn out more fruitful than the first.