Vusi was nail­ing his first job in­ter­view un­til a mys­te­ri­ous re­port changed the game

DRUM - - In The Classroom -

VUSI jumped up from his con­sole game and rushed through to the other room to show his mother the email he’d just re­ceived. It was an in­vi­ta­tion to a job in­ter­view – the first he’d re­ceived since grad­u­at­ing with a bach­e­lor de­gree in com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Slowly and care­fully she placed the iron in its safety bracket, se­cured the neatly pressed shirt on the board and held out her hand to re­ceive Vusi’s phone. As she ad­justed her glasses to read the small text a smile spread across her face. She moved towards her boy, hugged him tightly and started to sing his praise names.

Af­ter the cel­e­bra­tion, Vusi’s mom gave him a long lec­ture about how to pre­pare for an in­ter­view – all the re­search he needed to do and how he should present him­self. She also ad­vised him not to tell any­one – at least un­til he ac­tu­ally got the job – to avoid any jeal­ousy or com­pe­ti­tion.

Mom rose to the cloth­ing chal­lenge. He looked strik­ing in a char­coal suit com­ple­mented with a cream shirt and ex­pen­sive African-print tie. See­ing him dressed and ready to go you’d have thought he was the one chair­ing the in­ter­view panel. His hair was plaited neatly on top of his head, and

the shoes she’d bought fit­ted him well and gave him an easy stride. He looked like a mil­lion dol­lars and he knew it.

OOZ­ING con­fi­dence, Vusi clocked his in­ter­roga­tors. Sit­ting di­rectly op­po­site him in the mid­dle of the panel was an Afrikaner, an old timer who was prob­a­bly the di­rec­tor of the com­pany – he was cer­tainly the chair­per­son of this group.

He wore a naughty smile un­der his heavy mous­tache and his stom­ach bulged through his un­der­sized shirt – a sure sign he be­longed to the boere­wors and Klip­drift club.

He seemed un­com­fort­able with his ex­cess weight but his hand­some face and kind per­son­al­ity made up for any flaws.

On his left was a man in a kufi cap and a long tu­nic with grey hair and a beard. Over his long tu­nic he wore a snake-skin un­der­coat with a small, scented beard brush pro­trud­ing from the top pocket. He added an ex­otic flavour to the room.

The third mem­ber of the panel was a lady who spoke as if she’d just swal­lowed a bal­lot box. Her voice didn’t match her beau­ti­ful dark face, and nei­ther did her beige two­piece suit. De­spite this, she was a real lady – al­ways po­lite and smil­ing.

All three of his in­ter­view­ers knew their games but Vusi was re­laxed and ready for any­thing they threw at him. He knew the the­ory back­wards but as a new­comer to the job mar­ket he lacked ex­pe­ri­ence. Hap­pily this was not some­thing his prospec­tive em­ploy­ers seemed par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about.

Af­ter Vusi made what he thought was a clear and clever pre­sen­ta­tion for a com­mu­ni­ca­tion strat­egy for one of their clients, the panel put their heads to­gether, whis­per­ing and nod­ding se­cretly to one an­other.

Vusi didn’t need a san­goma to throw bones to see that the faces in front of him were happy and im­pressed. It was writ­ten all over their tooth­paste-ad­vert smiles – they looked like they’d just un­earthed a rough di­a­mond.

“So far we’re happy with your per­for­mance,” the chair­man an­nounced. “We’re just wait­ing for a small IT re­port be­fore we can fin­ish up here. But don’t worry, it’s on the way.”

“What would you like to drink?” the bal­lot-box lady pushed the ques­tion through her per­fect teeth. “I mean soft drink, of course.”

Vusi laughed at her joke and shuf­fled in his chair. “I’m fine, thanks,” he lied.

He just wanted to hear their fi­nal de­ci­sion and rush home to his mother. His fin­gers were itch­ing to kiss the key­pads of his phone to share the re­sults as he vi­su­alised the bright smile that would emerge be­low her doek-clad head.

WITHIN min­utes, a lanky woman en­tered the room. She had a pink file clasped be­tween her frag­ile hands, which she handed to the lady who then passed it on to the chair­man. All three leaned for­ward to scru­ti­nise the en­closed doc­u­ments.

From the other side of the ta­ble, Vusi could see the faces of the peo­ple he’d charmed al­ter. As they com­pared notes, un­der­lin­ing and cir­cling el­e­ments in the folder, their voices took on a more se­ri­ous tone.

What was this IT re­port all about? Vusi had no crim­i­nal record. Was it a credit record? There shouldn’t be any is­sue there apart from his stu­dent loan re­pay­ments. But some­thing was wrong – the sud­den change in the chem­istry be­tween him and the panel was glar­ing.

The man in the mid­dle cleared his throat in­di­cat­ing he was about to de­clare the panel’s ver­dict. His face had lost its bright, re­cep­tive guise and, as he sur­veyed the other two, Vusi re­alised their eyes were avoid­ing his.

“Do you drink?” the chair­man de­manded, as if he was about to of­fer him a bot­tle of some­thing. “Do you drink?”

The ur­gency of the re­peated ques­tion de­manded a quick and clever re­sponse, but but­ter­flies seemed to be scuba div­ing in­side Vusi’s knot­ted stom­ach.

“Yes,” he replied, as swiftly as if it was a Siphiwe Tsha­bal­ala pass in a nail-bit­ing Kaizer Chiefs game. “Do you smoke?” Smoke? Smoke what? What is this? An ap­pli­ca­tion for the priest­hood?

Vusi’s brain was buzzing but he man­aged to spit out a sim­ple yes to the sec­ond ques­tion.

The chair­per­son threw the open file down on the ta­ble like a man beaten and sur­ren­der­ing his hand in a game of cards.

Pages of down­loaded pic­tures scat­tered in front of Vusi’s eyes. One caught his at­ten­tion – it was taken at a friend’s party near the swim­ming pool and he was try­ing to force a cat to drink beer.

He glanced at an­other pic­ture – Mamma Mia! Drunk as a judge, bar­ing his back­side to pass­ing mo­torists dur­ing the #FeesMustFall protest march.

He re­mem­bered this one ap­pear­ing on so­cial net­works, but it hadn’t both­ered him at the time – it was all in the name of stu­dent rights, he’d told him­self.

Vusi’s suit sud­denly felt like an elec­tric blan­ket and as the heat turned up beads of sweat bub­bled on his fore­head. His neatly ironed cream hand­ker­chief was barely up to the task.

Three pairs of eyes were trained on him and an eerie si­lence pre­vailed. Vusi’s mouth was dry and he needed wa­ter but the words wouldn’t come out.

The chair­man pushed the file into his di­rect line of sight.

“Do you recog­nise any of these pic­tures?”

He felt like a killer cap­tured with the mur­der weapon in his hands. How could he deny it?

“Yes, they’re mine,” he mum­bled. “They were on my Face­book page . . . ”

“Had we seen these pic­tures ear­lier we wouldn’t have both­ered invit­ing you here to­day,” the chair­man said sternly. “You did well dur­ing the in­ter­view but your char­ac­ter doesn’t fit our im­age.”

His words felt like bul­lets fired from an au­to­matic ri­fle. Vusi was drained, his ego shat­tered – the con­se­quences of his ear­lier stu­pid­ity were now plain to see.

‘Vusi was re­laxed and ready for any­thing they threw at him.‘

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