Pronghorn, Chapter 35: Some Advice

Continued from the last chapter, here.

A voice came from behind Asa Pemewan as he hunched over his laptop, reviewing job applications he had sent in and marking off updates to them. It was his mother’s, and it asked “What all are you up to, Asa?”

Asa turned in his seat to answer. “I’m looking over job stuff, Mom.”

“Any luck?”

“Only because bad luck counts as luck.”

“Oh, come on,” said Asa’s mother as she sat down across from him. “It can’t be that bad.”

“It can, indeed. Dozens of applications out, not one positive result. If I batted like I apply for jobs, I’d be cut from tee ball teams.”

Asa’s mother looked at him quizzically. “That’s a strange thing to hear from you.”

“What, that I haven’t been able to get a job?”

“Yes. That and a baseball simile. You’ve never really been into sports.”

“I know. But you have, so I figured I’d use it.”

“It doesn’t suit you. And something will come up for you.”

“Evidence would seem to deny that assertion. Hell, the only firm job offer I’ve gotten since I started applying came from the one person killed in the Tuesday Storm. It’s enough to make me think the universe is against me.”

“You know it’s not.” The tone was somewhat exasperated.

“You’re right. I’m not nearly important enough to attract that kind of attention.”

“You can stop that self-pity crap any time, Asa.”

“Am I supposed to be so arrogant as to think the universe cares, then?”

“No, but you’re also not supposed to wallow in feeling like you can’t do anything.”

“I fail to see why not, since all appearances are that I can’t do a damned thing. Hell, I can’t get hired to answer phones or to work a candle-shop counter.”

“Well, you just have to start at the bottom and pay your dues.”

“Retail counter-work isn’t exactly high-level employment, Mom. And you’d think that more than a decade working would count as ‘paying my dues.’ Especially since I actually paid dues for a lot of it.”

“Well, have you tried calling places?”

“Yes. The answer’s been ‘no’ every time there’s been an answer.”

“Did you call back again?”

“Why would I?”

“Persistence matters.”

Asa snorted. “Mom, nagging at you never did me any good, and you love me. Why would it work on people who don’t?”

“Maybe they’d give it to you to get you off of their phone.”

“Yeah, and starting off with a pissed-off boss is such a good idea.” Asa’s sarcasm dripped from his tongue.

“Asa, I’m just trying to help you.”

“I get that, Mom, but think about it. When was the last time you applied for a job? How many times in your life have you looked for work? How many applications have you put in? It’s been years since you’ve been on the market, Mom, and even when you were, you only had to put in, what, three before you got a call back and a job offer. I’ve put in dozens since the beginning of the year alone; I put in well over a hundred last year, and at least that many the year before. Not one has worked out. Not. One.

“Well, then, have you looked at unemployment?”

“Yes. But since I was on a term contract, I’m not eligible for it where I was, and since I didn’t work here, I’m not eligible for it here, either. So that’s right out.”

“What about a job agency?”

“The only one in town’s at city hall. A tree fell through it, or close enough. Now’s not a good time for it.”

“I think I saw that the pizza place east on 411’s hiring.”

Asa opened his mouth to reply, paused, and said “I hadn’t seen that. When did you see it last?”

“Maybe last week or the week before?”

“Okay, then. That, I’ll go look at.”

“Good. And maybe you’ll think that your mother still has some idea what’s going on in the world, even if it has been a while since she’s had to look for work.”

Asa paused again. Then he offered “You know, you’re right. Of course, you’re right. And you always have been.” He began to speak more quickly, more forcefully, angrily. “I should never have headed to graduate school, should have taken the job that was waiting for me when I finished my bachelor’s. Or I should have majored in business or something actually useful, because it’s not like it matters that a poem can be read in such and such a way, or that a novel is borrowing from one source or another. No, you’re right again. And so I’ll apply at the pizza joint, and I’ll go in with the smile on my face that you’re going to suggest even though I already know to do it and you know I know it or would if you paid attention, and I’ll hand them my resume. They’ll see the cluster of letters at the end of my name, and the application will go in the garbage like damned near every other one I’ve put in in since the year started, and I won’t hear from them for weeks. And when I do call them to follow up, I’ll get the same kind of answer that I’ve been getting all day today and that I’ve been getting for months. They’ll have hired somebody else entirely, and I’ll be worse off than I am now, because I still won’t have a job, and I’ll have expended the effort in trying to no good end once again!”

By the end of the rant, Asa was nearly spitting his words. His mother stood and said “I really hope you get to feeling better, Asa.” And she left the room.

Asa sat in sullen silence.

Did you get as much from reading as you do from a hot dog? Could you kick in as much for me as you pay for that so I can keep doing what you like? Click here, then, and thanks!

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