Job interviews. A momentous occasion in one’s life that can bring lots of anxiety, mental stress, and nerve wracking decisions. This is especially true when you are a bat person.
Take Oswald Smith, for example. Oswald is one of the 1% of humans in the world who are classified as Chrioptera sapien, or bat person to the layman. Though most of them would prefer if you simply called them your friend.
Bat people seemingly showed up overnight, an evolution phenomenon that resulted in a strange species of half human, half bat hybrids. While bipedal and perfectly capable of human speech and motor function, they look like overgrown bats. Fine brown or black fur covering their bodies, a face with a blunt snout and pointed ears, and, of course, a pair of leathery, ragged wings hanging underneath their thin arms.
Unsurprisingly, a sudden emergence of a race of half human, half bat creatures was met with a certain amount of resistance and distrust.
So that’s why on that sunny Monday morning, Oswald Smith of 214 Redwood Lane, Apartment 506 in the Shady Tree Apartments complex, found himself shaking with an impossible case of nerves as he tried to pour himself a cup of coffee.
The coffee splashed uselessly all over the kitchen counter, almost getting on the suit Oswald had bought for the interview. Oswald cursed at himself in his high pitched voice and jumped back.
“Whoa, whoa,” said Max, Oswald’s human roommate, who had just walked into the kitchen in his pajamas, “easy there, pal. Kitchen counters don’t need the caffeine nearly as much as we do.”
Oswald angrily set his dripping mug down and examined his suit to make sure everything was alright.
“Just so damn nervous,” Oswald explained.
“Why?” Max asked, grabbing his own coffee mug from the cabinet and taking it over to the half spilled pot next to Oswald. “Because you’re trying to get a job out there in a world where everyone hates you and wants you dead?”
Max smirked as he poured his coffee into his mug, successfully and spill free.
“Look at that!” Max exclaimed in mock amazement. “I was able to pour coffee! Just another thing humans can do better than bat people!”
Oswald slumped, every muscle in his sinewy body a showcase of dejection and embarrassment.
“Oh, relax,” Max said cheerfully, nudging Oswald with an elbow, “you know I’m just having fun. All you have to do is remember what I told you. Do you remember?”
“I think?” Oswald said, scratching his head.
“If somebody doesn’t like you…” Max began, helping.
“Oh, oh. If somebody doesn’t like me, they can go to heck.”
“Go to hell.”
Max continued to glare, furrowing his eyebrows at Oswald in disapproval.
“Do I have to?” Oswald moaned.
Max gave an authoritative nod.
“If somebody doesn’t like me, they can go fuck themselves. Hard.”
A tiny moment of silence, followed by a simple “And?” from Max.
“No, Max, I refuse, I’m not saying-”
“It’s part of it! You have to say the whole thing!”
“I hate that word Max, and so do a lot of humans, actually and-”
Max plugged his fingers in his ears and said, “La la la la la, I’m not listening until you say the whole fucking thing, la la la la.”
“FINE. Anyone who doesn’t like me can go fuck themselves because they are an unaccepting cunt and nobody likes unaccepting cunts, except other unaccepting cunts.”
Max gave a proud nod, like a father who just saw his child progress to the next round of a spelling bee.
“Congratulations, you’re one step closer to being just like us. But, uh, maybe not bust that out during the interview, okay? Especially since they don’t know you’re…uh…situation.”
Oswald sighed. As if this interview wasn’t stress inducing enough, there was the fact that he was going to an interview where they had no idea he was a bat person. Thanks to the recently enacted Bat Person Equality Act, employers no longer could legally ask whether or a prospective emplyee was a bat person on the application. This was all well and good as it certainly allowed Oswald more opportunities rather than having his application thrown into the shredder at first glance, but it also meant a lot of awkward moments of potential bosses staring at Oswald in slack jawed disgust as he walked through the door.
“On the bright side,” Oswald mused, “there are less security guards with guns when they don’t know I’m coming.”
“There ya go,” Max said, raising his mug in salute, “there’s some of your glass half full attitude. Bring that into the interview, and I’m sure they won’t run out screaming right away.”
“Thanks,” Oswald said, flatly. Oswald’s phone alarm then began to buzz, signaling it was time to leave for the bus.
Oswald took a quick glance at his reflection in the toaster, straightening out his suit and checking his tie. He gave a quick nod of approval and turned to Max.
“Wish me luck,” he said, heading towards the door.
“It didn’t work the last eleven times, but sure. Twelfth time’s the charm, as they say, somewhere, probably.”
Oswald grabbed his suitcase leaning by the door and stepped out of the apartment, heart racing and body shaking.
Oswald stood at the bus stop down the street from the apartment complex’s gates. As bat people have terrible eyesight, Oswald was not allowed to hold a driver’s license, resulting in a constant reliance on public transportation. While good for the Earth’s ozone, this resulted in many more awkward, public social situations for Oswald to endure.
The squeal and rumble of the bus rolling down the street was a harbinger of doom and despair for Oswald, since it meant the time for the interview was only getting closer. He gulped as the bus screeched to a stop in front of him, the sliding door opening with a harsh hiss. Before Oswald stepped onto the bus, he said a quick prayer that the driver was Nellie today. Nellie was a sweet old lady who either didn’t care that Oswald was a bat person or was simply too senile to notice.
Oswald stepped onto the bus and saw to his dismay, that it was Georgie, the barrel chested biker dude who drove the bus in between his orphan burning and crocodile taming sessions. Or that’s what Oswald assumed, at least. He stared coldly at Oswald through his hairy face, his eyes narrow, black slits sandwiched between two inch thick eyebrows and a beard big enough to qualify as a National Forest.
“Morning,” Oswald said, swiping his bus pass.
Georgie grunted. Oswald gave an uneasy nod and turned to face the rest of the bus. Luckily, there weren’t many passengers. Just a couple of young college kids, both with headphones in their ears, an elderly man, and a middle aged guy in a leather jacket. They all were looking out the window, appearing a bit to keen to keep their eyes on anything that wasn’t Oswald. Oswald situated his sweaty grip on his briefcase and headed towards a seat a couple rows back from Georgie. Before he got a chance to sit down, though, Georgie spoke.
“Actually,” he said in his ten packs a day growl, “that seat’s broken. Won’t be able to sit there, pal.”
Oswald stopped in half sitting motion, confused and unnerved.
“Broken?” he asked.
“Mmhmm. Can’t be taking any risks with it, so you might wanna mosey on over to another seat.”
Oswald moved to the seat directly behind it but was once again stopped by the scratchy rasp of Georgie.
“Damnedest thing,” he said with a hearty chuckle, “that seat’s broken too. Bus company gave strict orders. Nobody to sit there. Liability issues and all, son.”
“Uh huh,” Oswald conceded, his fear giving way to annoyance. He went a few rows back to give that seat a try, only to hear Georgie clear his throat.
“I’m sorry about this, honest, but that there seat is broken too. I’m just so embarrassed about all this. I’ll get this to the shop for repairs tonight, you have my word.”
One of the passengers stifled a laugh, trying to cover it up with a fake cough. Oswald simply nodded.
“Perhaps,” he said in fake politeness, “you could just direct me to a seat that isn’t ‘broken’.”
“No problem, friend,” Georgie said. He lifted his fat hand and pointed towards the back. “See that seat all the way down there? The very last one?”
“Well, that’s broken too. BUT, you’ll be able to stand next to it if you hold onto the pole.”
“Is that the only open, non broken spot on this bus?”
“Correct. Wish I could be more help, hand to God.”
“Okay,” Oswald stated flatly, heading to the described spot. He held onto the pole, facing Georgie and the front of the bus. Oswald shook his head at the situation. Jeez, is this 2045 or something? He thought in disgust.
Oswald’s thought was broken up by the feeling of being hurled backward, as Georgie slammed down on the gas. He even took the other passengers by surprise, a couple of them banging their heads on the back of their seat. Oswald held on for dear life as Georgie wound his way towards the city, the bus feeling more like a roller coaster than anything.
“Sorry everyone,” Georgie apologized after his tenth hairpin turn, “this thing’s been acting nuts since that last stop. No clue why!”
The elderly man towards the front shot a bitter, angry look back at Oswald, as he held onto the seat in front of him for dear life. Oswald blushed and turned to look the other way, hoping to avoid any other unhappy glares.
It was a rough ride to downtown for Oswald, one that involved lots of sliding around the bus and constantly bumping into seats, always close to losing his grip on the pole. At the first stop on the Main St. stretch of downtown, Oswald took the chance to get off the bus, even though it was a few blocks away from his actual stop. Harried and nauseous, Oswald stumbled to the front of the bus, mumbling apologies to the various passengers. When Oswald got to the front, Georgie kept the door closed. Oswald stood impatiently, but refused to turn to Georgie. He didn’t want to give him the satisfaction. Finally, Georgie pulled the lever to open the door but not before muttering “Fucking screecher.” under his breath just loud enough for Oswald to hear.
Oswald felt his face flush with anger, but he kept his cool. It wasn’t the first time he’d been called that. Although he usually had something thrown at him in the process, so he tried to look at the bright side.
Oswald stepped off the bus and onto the sidewalk of Main St., relieved to be out of Georgie’s clutches. Of course, now he had to face a new challenge: walking downtown, in broad daylight, looking very much like he was heading to a job meant for humans, definitely not for him.
He hurried down the street, head down and eyes focused on just the ground in front of him. He heard a couple of snickers and someone said sarcastically, “Little early for you to be out, isn’t it?”
Oswald ignored everything, and instead kept running through a fantasy of his imminent job interview, trying to imagine every possible question and every possible answer to each of those possible questions.
Soon enough he was outside of the Lockbox Company office building. Lockbox was a credit insurance company, and Oswald was looking to get into the data entry department. Though he had no prior job experience, being a bat person and all, Oswald was in fact very good with numbers, so he all he needed was a chance.
Oswald looked at the door, staring at the company logo, a golden padlock with a dollar sign on it. He could possibly be seeing that door and logo every day for the forseeable future, as long as everything went right. For a brief moment, Oswald was filled with hope and optimism.
Feeling a second wind from these positive thoughts, Oswald pushed the door open, and strutted with confidence across the lobby. He felt the stares, but he didn’t care. He was Oswald Smith, bat person, and he was about to be a proud new addition to the Lockbox-
Oswald’s thoughts were cut off by the very distinct sensation of getting tackled to the ground by a six foot six, 250 pound security guard.
“Nice try, asshole!” the security guard breathed in Oswald’s ear. Oswald felt a pair of handcuffs being slapped onto his wrists. Though he should have panicked, he was more in awe of the fact that a security guard had handcuffs.
“Mr. Harker,” the security guard said into a radio, using his free hand to keep Oswald’s head down on the tile floor, “we got him. We got the bastard.”
There was silence, followed by the garble of a radio channel opening up.
“The bat person who took a shit in the potted plants the other day.”
“I did what now?” Oswald said, finally breaking his silence, as one does when accused of shitting in potted plants.
“Shut up, ya creep!” the security guard said, knocking Oswald in the back of the head, causing his world to go black.
Oswald awoke in the building’s security station, a cramped office with glowing monitors showing surveillance camera feeds all over the grounds. One monitor was hooked to a Blu Ray player, which the security guard-whose name turned out to be Leo-was shoving a disc into.
Oswald sat in the chair, woozy from the blow to the head. Leo didn’t have any ice, but was nice enough to supply a frozen TV dinner from the staff lounge to soothe the swelling bump. It was a half hearted gesture, mostly forced from his boss, a gentle, older man named Mr. Harker, the very man Oswald was supposed to be having an interview with.
Mr. Harker was in the office as well, waiting for Leo to fast forward to the point on the Blu Ray that was going to incriminate Oswald for being a no good potted plant shitter inner.
“Here we go,” Leo said, triumphantly, stopping the Blu Ray’s progress, allowing it to play out in real time.
The footage indeed showed a bat person walking across the lobby at night. Oswald could tell it was a he, and he was swaying back and forth, obviously drunk. The bat person lurched towards a potted plant by the receptionist deck in the lobby, which was empty.
The bat person silently laughed on the feed, teetering over the potted pant, and squatting right above it.
“Is this the part where, yep, this is the part,” Oswald said, answering his own question as the bat person took a massive dump on the potted plant. It was a downright shocking and impressive amount of poop coming from this intoxicated bat person.
“You should know,” Leo said with disgust, “since you lived it.”
“Me?” Oswald said incredulously. “Even with a grade 3 concussion I can see the differences between me and the drunk.”
“Oh yeah?” Leo questioned, crossing his arms in a smug, defiant manner. “Name ONE.”
“Well for starters, he has a tear in his left ear. Unless I got surgery on it in the past week and had it heal without the need for stitches and absolutely no scarring, that’s not me.” Oswald tilted his head towards Leo and Mr. Harker, so they could see his left ear, which had no damage whatsoever.
“Medicine works wonders these days,” Leo said skeptically.
“Sure. So much so that I apparently was able to go to the doctor and get myself on the world’s most successful weight loss pill, as this lovely gentleman is a good fifty pounds heavier than me. Look at that pot belly.” Oswald pointed at the protruding gut of the bat person as he wiped his butt with leaves from the potted plant.
“Don’t you and your kind have super fast metabolisms or something?” Leo asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Or something. Also, this guy has brown fur. I have black fur.”
“Well…” Leo began, stroking his chin, “if you look at it in a certain light, it kinda-”
“I believe we are settled here,” Mr. Harker said, patting Leo on the shoulder, “I think it’s safe to say you may have jumped the gun a bit here, Leonardo.”
Leo simply stared dumbly at the monitor, scratching his head.
“But he looked so similar…” he trailed off, leaning in closer.
“A harmless mistake,” Mr. Harker reasoned. “Now, if you could please leave me and…I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?”
“Oswald,” Oswald replied.
“Oswald. If you could please leave Oswald and I alone, Leonardo.”
Leo, still obviously confused over his error, left the room, face contorted in a twist of bafflement and embarrassment.
After the door closed behind Leo, Mr. Harker gave a dry, humorless chuckle.
“You’ll have to excuse him,” Mr. Harker said, turning his full attention to Oswald, “he had quite a football career. Broke a lot of rushing records at Prescott High.”
“Go Griffins,” Oswald said with a mock fist pump.
“Indeed. Unfortunately, he sacrificed a bit of his, shall we say, ‘common sense’ to get those records.”
“And tact. And humility.”
Mr. Harker’s lips drew into a thin smile.
“So I believe it goes without saying that I, and the rest of Lockbox, deeply and wholeheartedly apologize for Leonardo’s error. If there are any medical bills to be paid or anything we can provide to help you for any suffering you might have endured, simply let me know. I’ll give you my card.”
Mr. Harker reached into his suit pocket and drew out a business card, handing it over to Oswald, who simply stared at it.
“The funny thing is,” Oswald said, “I was here for an interview today. A job interview.”
Mr. Harker slightly withdrew the card and raised an eyebrow.
“For what position?” he asked.
“Data Entry Clerk.”
“Ah,” Mr. Harker said, nodding. He gave a deep sigh and said, “Well, this is quite unfortunate. Right before this whole debacle happened, I’m sorry to say that the position was, uh, given to somebody else. Somebody with years of experience in the field, I’m afraid we had no choice but to hire the person on the spot. Very sad to have to say that, especially considering the circumstances.”
All while this was happening, the video feed kept playing behind Mr. Harker, now showing the bat person moving onto the next potted plant to shit in that one too. It felt remarkably appropriate to Oswald.
“I see,” Oswald said, nodding, his aching head protesting with each nod.
“But we are always looking to expand our operations,” continued Mr. Harker, “and we are especially looking to diversify our staff. We’ll be more than happy to consider you for future openings. Let’s revisit this in, let’s say, two to three years. Sound good?”
Oswald stared blankly and mumbled a weak, “Yes.”
“Good,” Mr. Harker brightened, once again extending his card towards Oswald, “now please take my number for future reference. And allow me to walk you out.”
Oswald stood up, his balance wavering. Oswald regained himself and started to walk out, when Mr. Harker held up a hand.
“Actually, you’ll need to leave that here,” he said, pointing to the TV dinner above Oswald’s head. “If Cecile finds out somebody left with her four cheese rigatoni, I’m afraid potted plants with poo in them will be the least of our worries.”
“Right,” Oswald bluntly agreed, setting the dinner down on the desk. Mr. Harker then turned and led Oswald out.
When Oswald was back on the street, he felt numb and disheartened, a common feeling after interviews. He looked around, his already horribly vision slightly blurred from the hit to the head. Across the street he made out a bat person cleaning somebody’s windshield, his clothes tattered and ragged, obviously the wardrobe of someone who has been homeless for a while.
Down the left side of the street he saw a billboard with a caricature of a bat, fangs bared and bloodied as it flew towards the onlookers. In large stenciled letters it said, “WOULD YOU LET YOUR DAUGHTER MARRY THIS?” with a URL to some religious group underneath it.
On the right side of the street, he saw a small diner called Niko’s. A small sign in the window claimed “BAT PEOPLE NEED NOT APPLY”, a demand which was a loophole in the Bat Person Equality Act since it wasn’t ‘technically’ on the job application.
After taking this all in, Oswald looked up the sky and closed his eyes. He gave a defeated sigh.
It could always be worse, he reasoned. He could have been one of those potted plants.