Thursday, March 10, 2016

Help Wanted

Help Wanted
FGM Sparkle, Inc. is seeking a Life Coach to provide on-site support to our diverse customers.
The ideal candidate will:
~Have at least 10yrs coaching, social work, or similar education/experience
~Have strong crisis management, conflict resolution, and de-escalation skills
~Be able to think on their feet & implement creative solutions in the field
FGM Sparkle, Inc. provides OTJ training & certification
We offer a competitive salary, international travel opportunities, and superb medical/dental/retirement benefits.
FGM Sparkle, Inc. is an equal opportunity employer
Please submit resume and letter of interest to 

My jobbed sucked. I’d been promoted right out of what I loved most working in community mental health, and into a miserable bureaucratic position as the Quality Assurance Officer. Management said it was a perfect fit because I always turned in the best documentation, but what I loved about my job was the people, not the paperwork.  For five years, I’d been the bad guy sending progress notes back to be re-written, and building tickler systems in an effort to get everybody to turn in their blasted assessments and treatment plans on time. I was a glorified proofreader, official nag, and memorizer of Medicaid regulations, and I was dying a slow, agonizing death by boredom.
An hour of internet research yielded very little information about FGM Sparkle, Inc. beyond the confirmation that they were, indeed, a life coaching business and that they were known for offering the best benefits package in the state. I couldn’t find any details about how long they’d been in business, who their executive officers were, how much they paid employees, or even what FGM stood for. Nonetheless, I submitted my resume and letter of interest. I was willing, and even eager, to travel, and I was most assuredly ready to quit being a QA officer! Almost anything would be a better gig for me than that.
Ms. Delicia Poppins, conducted my initial interview by phone. Aside from her request to “Oh, please call me Delicia, we’re an informal kind of company,” it was exactly what you would expect from such an interview. It was superficial, well-rehearsed, and ordinary. I demonstrated my ability to give a good interview. I answered Delicia’s questions with clever stories about past employment challenges and successes, and I turned every question about my personal weaknesses into an opportunity to explain how every weakness is really an asset. What I didn’t do, was say what I was thinking. I didn’t say that Delicia’s parents must’ve been real crackpots to give her a handle like that. No, I kept those thoughts to myself, and at the end of our forty minute conversation, Delicia invited me to meet with her and “a small hiring committee” at the FGM Sparkle, Inc. offices the following Tuesday. I grinned in triumph but kept my voice level as I accepted.

“Thank you so much for coming in.” Delicia Poppins beamed as she pumped my hand.
“These are my colleagues, Elizabella McCaffrey and Seamus Sparkle, great grandson of FGM Sparkle, Inc. founders Ezekial and Celeste Sparkle.”
Great grandparents? I made a mental note to look up how long life coaching had been around.
“Pleased to meet you,” I said, and shook hands all around.
“Have a seat, won’t you?” Seamus Sparkle rumbled, and waved towards the conference table. The fact that Seamus, a tall, muscular, bald man was wearing a silver tutu (and yes it was sparkly) over his business suit took me aback, but I didn’t bat an eye. Whether it was a personal oddity, company culture, or a test for potential hires, I was determined not to let a little thing like a tutu stand between me, and my potential dream job.
I slid into my chair and took a grateful sip from the glass of water Delicia had suddenly produced, though there was no water source in sight.
Elizabella, a broad-shouldered woman in her middle years, with piercing brown eyes, a prominent nose and cheekbones, and spiky turquoise hair sat down across from me and absently fingered the fringe of her southwestern print shawl. My first impression of Elizabella McCaffrey was of a no-nonsense woman. With her moccasins, faded denim jeans, shawl, and bright hair, she also impressed me as being someone at home in her own skin.
“I’ve heard back from all of your references,” Delicia said, as she smoothed an invisible wrinkle from the right knee of her tailored navy blue pantsuit. “They each spoke glowingly of you.” Delicia aimed her toothy, gleaming white grin my way again, and I tried to put my finger on who it was she reminded me of. There was something fresh-faced and outdoorsy about her, in spite of her understated corporate look and severe silver bun. Perhaps it was her rosy cheeks that lent her such a youthful air.
“And I’ve completed your background check,” Seamus said.
“You have? You haven’t taken my fingerprints yet,” I said with a scowl. Running a background check before even offering me a job seemed more than a little presumptuous.
“We don’t use fingerprints here. In fact, our staff has developed cutting edge software that we find works far better than the federal data base, and nobody walks away with ink-stained fingers.” Seamus wiggled his fingers at me, as if to prove his point. “The thing is, Chris, we don’t operate like anyone else in the business. Our clients are often minors, our techniques are unconventional, and the rest of what sets us apart is really something you have to see in action to understand.”  Seamus pulled a pen from his breast pocket and tapped the end of it on the pile of paperwork stacked in front of him. “That’s why, at this point in our recruitment process, we ask applicants to sign a confidentiality waiver and a few other documents before doing a little job shadowing.”
It certainly was an unorthodox approach, but now my curiosity was well and fully piqued, so I initialed and signed each page that Seamus passed my way. He and Delicia alternated explaining each document while Elizabella remained quiet and calm across the table from me. Every time I glanced at her, she offered me a tiny quirk of her lips that would’ve made the Mona Lisa proud. I couldn’t help but smile back.
Just as I finished signing the last of the paperwork, I heard a peculiar tinkling sound, like crystal chimes. Seamus looked a question at Elizabella. “It’s time,” she said and gave me a single nod. “You’ll be shadowing me while I meet with Janet. She’s nine years old and has been in and out of foster care since she was three. She’s spent the last eighteen months back with her biological mom, but has never met her dad. Unfortunately, Mom’s had a relapse, violated her conditions of parole, and is back in prison. Janet’s been placed with a new foster family, the Leventhal’s, and things are off to a rocky start.”
Elizabella opened her purse and pulled out two sparkly tiaras fit for a kid’s birthday party. She set one on her own head, then handed me the other. “Put this on and don’t take it off.” It wasn’t my first choice in head gear but I wasn’t about to argue.
Elizabella reached back into her purse and pulled out a beribboned wand that looked twice as long as the purse it came out of. It sparkled. Of course. Then, she pulled out another wand and handed it to me. Life coaching for a nine year old, I decided, must involve a lot of dress-up.
“Now Chris, this part is very important. You’re going to be surprised and there’s no way to prevent that, but I’ll need you to keep your mouth shut. Under no circumstances are you to question what’s going on until after we leave our meeting with Janet. Is that understood?”
I like a woman who speaks her mind and doesn’t mince words. Whatever was about to go down, I felt like I could trust Elizabella, so I just nodded and grinned. Yeah, I was grinning. I’ve always liked surprises.
Elizabella came around the table and I turned, expecting to follow her out the door of the conference room, but she crooked her finger and beckoned me back.
“Do I have your word Chris, that you’ll keep your head and hold your tongue?”
“Absolutely. Of course.” I nodded emphatically; surprised that she needed this additional reassurance.
“Good. Let’s shake on it.” Elizabella held her hand out. I grasped her warm palm and felt a wave of vertigo wash over me.
“Whoa. Must’ve stood up too…” The sense of vertigo increased and I felt my ears pop. Just for an instant, I closed my eyes as I tried not to pass out, and when I opened them, Elizabella still had a firm grip on my hand, but we were standing in the dappled shade of an oak tree.  Elizabella gave me a stern look, gave my hand a quick squeeze, then let go and turned to smile up at the girl wedged into the crook of the Oak.
I took a deep breath and glanced around, trying to get my bearings and struggling to keep from blurting out questions. Unconventional techniques, Seamus had said. You bet your sweet bippy this was unconventional! Teleportation was so unconventional, I would’ve called it fictional until a moment ago.
The little girl, Janet, seemed as trusting of Elizabella as I felt, and the two of them were already embroiled in a heated conversation about the relative merits of green peas, especially when they were served with dinner, and even more especially when the availability of dessert was predicated on the consumption of said green peas. Janet seemed convinced that eating dessert was a human right, while Elizabella was of the opinion that dessert was a privilege earned only when adequate portions of other food groups had been consumed.
It was a nice yard, with a small playhouse in one corner, a broad swath of green grass, a clump of raspberry bushes blooming along the far fence, and of course, the big oak tree.
“But she hates me,” Janet said with a sniffle.
“No, dear, she doesn’t hate you. She’s trying to take good care of you. She wants you to grow up strong and healthy.”
“Well, I don’t like peas and my mom doesn’t either! She never eats peas and she’s so strong she can give her friend Henry a piggy back ride.”
Elizabella sighed. “I’ll tell you what. What if I put a spell on your hair so your scalp doesn’t hurt when Mrs. Leventhal brushes your hair? Would you be nice to her and eat your peas if I did that?”
Janet reached up to her wild mop of dark, tangled curls and gave Elizabella a hard look. “Can you really do that, or are you trying to trick me?”
“I can really do that. Do you see this magic wand? I’ve turned pumpkins into limos with this wand. Cross my heart,” she added and drew an invisible X over her heart with her finger.
“You can make it so my hair doesn’t hurt even a little bitty bit?”
“Your scalp won’t hurt even a little bitty bit. But only if you eat all your peas and other vegetables, and only if you’re nice to Mrs. Leventhal. If you stop eating your vegetables, hit, or cuss at Mrs. Leventhal, it’ll start hurting again.” Elizabella snapped her fingers. “Just like that.”
“ I guess I can eat vegetables and be nice to Mrs. Leventhal.” Janet heaved a put-upon sigh, but nodded.
“Alright Janet. You’ll need to let me touch your head with my magic wand and then I’m going to say the magic words and disappear, okay?”
“Will you come back?”
“You might not be able to see me, but I’ll come back and check to make sure you’re holding up our end of this agreement.”
“Oh. Okay.”
“Alright then, here we go. Bibbity, bobbity, boo.” Elizabella tapped Janet’s head with her wand and I saw a bright shower of sparkles erupt like a burst of miniature fireworks before the feeling of vertigo hit me again, and I scrunched my eyes closed.
After a long moment, I opened my eyes again and found myself back in the conference room with Delicia, Seamus, and Elizabella hovering around me.
“Are you okay?”
“Do you want to sit down?”
“Here, have a drink of water.”
I waved off the glass of water Delicia offered me and made my way to a chair, then started to giggle.
The other three took their seats and watched me warily.
“That’s what you want to hire me to do? Go teleporting around waving a magic wand?” I wiped a tear from the corner of my eye and laughed harder.
“Chris, FGM stands for Fairy Godmothers,” Seamus said, and I kept laughing.
“I mean, technically, you and I are Fairy Godfathers but, you know, that tends to have mafia connotations, so around here, even the guys refer to themselves as Fairy Godmothers.”
I wiped another tear away and bit my lip to stop my laughter. No matter how hilarious all this was striking me, I was still in a job interview and I didn’t want to blow it. Another hiccup of laughter bubbled out, and then I managed to compose myself.
“We’d like to have you on our team, Chris. How about it? Would you like a job as a Fairy Godmother?”
I thought about my boring Quality Assurance job and shivered a little. “Would I have to wear a tutu, like you?” I asked Seamus.
“Oh, good grief, no!” His laugh boomed and echoed through the room. “This isn’t part of our dress code, this is the result of losing a bet with Delicia last week.”
This was definitely going to be my dream job, I decided as I glanced at Delicia just in time to see her wink at Seamus.
“Yeah, I think I would. I’d like a job as a Fairy Godmother.”

If you enjoyed this little story, come on back next week, and I’ll tell you more about Chris’ adventures at FGM Sparkle, Inc.
Happy Flash Fiction Friday and have a lovely week!