A Demonic Dilemma
by Bill Prindle
Table of Contents|
parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
During the five weeks of classes, Tom had discovered that not all his classmates were as kindly as Dale and the Lost Boys. Some of the younger ones had shown themselves to be what Dale referred to as “weasels” and had no qualms about stabbing someone in the back during the role-playing exercises and case study analysis. Dale pointed out that their behavior made them excellent corporate recruits.
The job interviews were recorded on video, for later review and study by the staff and students. One night, as Tom was returning from dinner, he walked by a room with its door ajar. Inside were two of the weasels, Catherine Clancy, a smart young marketing exec with the fiercely taut body of an aerobic exercise addict, and Tiger Bailey, a former All-Conference football player and high-tech sales executive, who insisted people call him “Tige.” They were laughing and hooting at a computer screen.
“Will you look at that poor SOB? He doesn’t even know he’s toast,” said Tige.
“Did he really think all that ‘good buddy’ crap would save his saggy ass?” said Cat.
Somehow they’d gotten a DVD of Dale’s interview. Tom watched from the doorway as Dale gamely fielded the interviewer’s questions. Dale’s body language properly reflected that of his interviewer. He responded skillfully to situational and behavioral hypotheticals. He appeared interested and alert and asked informed questions.
But, as the interview wore on, Tom was dismayed to see Dale’s confidence spring a slow leak. As the interviewer appeared less engaged, Dale fidgeted and his forehead glistened. It was a classic job-interview death spiral. Tom could see that interview had ended long before the handshake and goodbyes.
Dale’s agony was like catnip to Cat and Tige. On his walk back to his room, Tom’s concern for Dale was replaced by the familiar and dangerously demonic sensation of wanting to wreak some havoc.
The next day the two weasels were up for interviews, so Tom slipped into the observation room overlooking the conference room. From there, Norm and the videographer watched and recorded the sessions through a one-way mirror.
A recruiter from a major software company was sitting across the table from Tige, who was smoothly navigating through a tough series of questions. Tom focused his energy on Tige.
“Mr. Bailey, remind me what your position was at your previous company?”
Tige got out of his chair and held up three fingers. When the interviewer failed to respond, Tige waggled his fingers until he said, “Three words?”
Tige nodded eagerly and held up one finger.
Tige placed three fingers across his arm.
“Three syllables. Mr. Bailey, we don’t have enough time—”
Tige smacked his rear end and pointed to it.
“Butt? Derrière? Ass?” said the interviewer. Tige tapped his nose.
Tige went on to act out “assistant sales manager” and used up all his time doing so.
“Did we really see what we just saw?” the videographer said to Norm.
Norm was speechless. Tom was impressed that Tige had been able to get the interviewer to say “manager” by acting out “manger.”
Tom ensured that Tige would have only the haziest memory of what had just happened. He wished he could be in the room when Tige reviewed the video with Norm.
Cat arrived for her interview with a multi-national bank. She was dressed in her red power suit and exuded an air of poised confidence. From the start of the interview, it was clear to Tom that the recruiter was trying not to fawn all over her, which of course, he was. Midway through the interview, Tom nodded.
Cat stood up and stalked about the room, declaiming her answers as though she were a character in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, complete with sweeping gestures and exaggerated facial expressions.
“Have you ever had to fire anyone, Ms. Clancy?” the interviewer asked.
I’ve seen my share of lazy slobs,
who had no inkling how to do their jobs.
I wanted to fire one speedily,
but she was the daughter of a big VP.
Yes, she was the daughter of a big VP.
Instead I promoted her instantly,
and her father was so happy he promoted me.
“Does she think she’s auditioning for a talent show?” said the videographer.
“Who knew she had such a nice voice?” said Tom.
Rather than being put off, the interviewer seemed intrigued by Cat’s ability to rhyme and sing her answers. She too retained little memory of her performance but was badly rattled when she reviewed her performance with Norm. At breakfast the next morning, Tom was pleased how wan Tige and Cat looked from their short-lived possessions.
* * *
Although Tom didn’t reveal to Dale what he’d done, he celebrated his mischief by taking Dale out to dinner. When he returned to his room, he found his case officer, Mr. Beelzy, sitting on his bed, filing his nails.
“Well, well, if it isn’t Mr. Most Improved! From execrable to executive in five short weeks! I’ve been reading through your file. You are quite the student — a real whiz!”
Tom sensed trouble.
“Mind if I ask just one question, Tommy?” Beelzy smiled a Cheshire Cat smile. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Don’t speak!” roared Beelzy. “Don’t say a word! Do you know that today you almost derailed the careers of two delightfully ruthless young executives who are still bound for stardom in the corporate world — despite your efforts? Would you care to tell me why you did this?”
Beelzy threw his arm around Tom’s shoulders and squeezed the breath out of him. “Let’s have a friendly meta-ethical tête à tête about good and evil. On one hand, we have Tige and Cat, who were lovingly raised by their parents to be ambitious as all get out. We’ve owned those two since they first cheated in elementary school.
“They are what we call ‘the damned’ and, as such, are already programmed to go forth and multiply mankind’s misery tenfold. They’re just fine they way they are, so we leave them alone. Follow me so far?”
“And on this hand, we have Dale, who despite some pretty gosh-darn bad choices, has achieved a measure of insight into how he authored his own misfortune and is perilously close to that ugliest of all moral conditions: redemption.
“You may remember that it’s our job, Tommy, to throw some raw meat to the damned every now and then to keep their fangs sharp, but our real job — our value-add in this here universe — is to persecute, afflict, and tempt the virtuous so that they, too, will join the merry ranks of the damned. Now, are you absolutely, one hundred percent, crystal clear on what your job is, Tommy?”
With his remaining breath, Tom gasped, “Yes.”
“Good!” said Beelzy, releasing his grip on Tom, who collapsed into the armchair.
“We have a lot invested in you, pardner,” Beelzy said with a Texas twang. “Despite your trip to the woodshed just now, we have cleared your path for a meteoric ascension to the topper-most of the popper-most of financial world and oh, what a shit-storm of ruination you will unleash o’er this great land from that top spot.
“So, no more being nice to Dale — leave him to his fate. Your next step awaits you tomorrow.” Beelzy drew so close that Tom could smell the sulphur on his breath. “Don’t disappoint me, buddy.”
With that, Beelzy vanished.
* * *
The next day, Tom met with the recruiter from the global investment bank JP Scuttle & Dodge Worldwide, who had a folder filled with glowing recommendations from Tom’s instructors as well as Tom’s fabricated resumé, verified by Beelzy’s minions sprinkled through the corporate world.
The recruiter offered him a position paying in the low six figures, along with perks — access to the corporate jet and performance incentives at six-month intervals. Tom did his best to play the role of a financial predator but couldn’t entirely hide his dismay from his encounter with Mr. Beelzy.
Tom’s seeming lack of enthusiasm at the offer spurred the recruiter to up the ante — a fifteen percent pay bump after three months, a substantial signing bonus, and a housing allowance for the first year. Tom said he’d like to think about it overnight and would have his decision the next day.
That night over Bahama Mamas and pulled-pork platters at Billy Bob’s, Dale regarded his mopey friend. “Tommy, you gotta man up. You’ve hit the jackpot, you’re ridin’ the gravy train on biscuit wheels. Don’t quit on us now!”
“How about you? How have your interviews gone?”
“I gave it my best, but they went nowhere, buddy. By the sixth interview, I had one wheel broke and my axle was dragging. But it doesn’t matter. I got a call from an old business-school buddy who works for the Securities and Exchange Commission. He wants to harness my expertise at bilking people to prosecute guys like the one I used to be. Call it luck or redemption, but I’m moving to Washington next week.”
They toasted Dale’s success, but Tom’s gloom remained. “I don’t really want any of this. I just want to go back to my old life. But I don’t think I can — ever.”
“Sure you can, buddy. Look, if you want to go back to your old life — whatever it was — take that job and work like hell for six or seven years, bank your dough, don’t screw up like I did, and before you know it, you can quit and do what you want. Get in the game and give ’em hell!”
Tom brightened. It was at that moment that he conceived a plan to do just that — give ’em hell — and, in doing so, possibly plot the course back to his hammock.
Dale rested his big hand on Tom’s shoulder. “Remember, buddy, you’ve always got a friend in old Dale. Long as I got a biscuit, you got half.”
* * *
Copyright © 2016 by Bill Prindle