“The Interview,” by Paul Stansbury

Dec 20th, 2016 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

Lehman stepped off the elevator on the 5th floor of the building identified only as 100 Canard Place. Directly across the hall, a hand lettered note was tacked to the wall beside a frosted glass door. It read, “Candidates for the position go inside.”

‘Inside’ was a long, vacant reception room. A single chair was positioned to the right of the door. Above the chair was another hand lettered note that read, “Please be seated.” Lehman glanced at his wrist watch as he sat down. It read 10:40 am. His interview was at eleven o’clock. Perhaps they would call him early, he thought. He kept glancing at his watch until the hands slowly crawled around to 10:58 am. He should be called soon he thought. The straight-backed metal chair was digging into his thighs and the trickle of tepid air that was flowing from the dusty vents only served to add to his discomfort.  Suddenly, he was aware of a presence standing directly in front of him.

“Mr. Lemon Farts.”

“That’s Farst! L-E-H – with a long ‘A’ – man Farst,” Lehman protested.

“That’s not what the list says,” the small balding man with thick spectacles bleated, jabbing the paper he held with his forefinger. “Right here plain as day, F-A-R-T-S. How do you explain that?”

“How about a mistake to start off with?” Lehman shot back.

“Mr. Farts that is quite impossible. All applications are scanned into our computer and trained technicians prepare the list. Once prepared, the list is proofread by Rita from the temp service before it is disseminated. So you see there is no chance it is wrong. Are you sure you’re not mistaken?”

“Quite sure!”

“None-the-less, Mr. Farts, Hubie Smelley,” the small man with the list said, nonchalantly offering his hand.

“I say, there is no need for insults! And that’s FARST!”

“Oh, none taken. Hubie is short for Hubert, but I prefer Hubie as it puts people at ease.”

Lehman opened his mouth to reply, but reconsidered and reluctantly took Hubie’s outstretched hand.

“Well then, I believe the Director is ready to see you. Come this way,” Hubie said turning and heading toward the oversized mahogany door at the end of the long reception office. He tapped three times with his pen and vanished though the door, disappearing from Lehman’s view.

Lehman followed quickly, grasping a worn valise chocked full of resumes and references to his breast, as he peered into the cavernous office. The walls were sheathed with mahogany. A brilliant chandelier hung from the vaulted ceiling. His feet sunk into a plush royal blue carpet extending out before him like the ocean. At the far end, he could see Hubie had approached an oversized desk and was leaning forward as in a deep but furtive conversation with the man who sat in a large leather chair.  The grandfather clock in the corner softly chimed eleven times. Hubie then placed a folder on the desk in front of the seated man, pirouetted and floated out a side door.

The seated man sat motionless, staring down at the folder Hubie had placed in front of him. Then he motioned with a long arm for Lehman to approach the desk. As soon as he reached the front edge, the long arm motioned for him to sit in a small folding chair to the side. Lehman sat down and watched the top of the seated man’s head bob softly as he continued to peruse the folder.

“Lemon Farts, I like a name that makes a bold statement.”

“That’s Farst! L-E-H – with a long ‘A’ – man Farst,” Lehman offered politely.

“That’s not what the list says,” the seated man declared, lifting his head to look Lehman square in the eye. Tapping the folder on the desk with a long finger he continued, “Hubie said you were confused on that point. But, it’s right here plain as day, F-A-R-T-S. How do you explain that?”

“As I explained to Mr. Smelley, it must be a mistake?” Lehman offered.

“Mr. Farts, that is quite impossible. You see, all applications are reviewed by trained interpreters located at a secret location in the Honduras. From there, they are sent over to Quantico where trained technicians, who have years of experience in this area, enter the data into our secure database. The list is then prepared and proofread by a specialist from the temp service over at the USDA before being disseminated. And don’t forget Hubie Smelley, Mr. Farts.”


“Hubert, he personally checks all the results and I can assure you he can sniff out any inconsistency or mistake. So you see there is no chance the list is wrong. Are you sure you’re not mistaken?”

“I’m not sure of anything.”

“None-the-less, Mr. Farts, Erasmus Tink,” the seated man smiled as he leaned forward offering a hand.

“I say, there is no need for insults! And that’s FARST!”

“Oh, none taken. Let’s not be so formal, you may call me Mr. Tink.”

Lehman opened his mouth to reply, but reconsidered and tentatively shook the Director’s outstretched hand.

Mr. Tink returned his attention to the folder while Lehman sat awkwardly watching his head.

“Do you always show up late for an interview?”

The question took Lehman by such surprise that he could only stammer, “Beg your pardon?”

“I said do you always show up late for your interviews?”

Lehman glanced at the large grandfather clock that stood in the corner behind the seated man. It read 11 o’clock. “My appointment was for eleven o’clock Mr. Tink and by your own clock over there,” Lehman said nodding toward the clock, “it’s just now eleven.”


“I’m sorry sir, I don’t understand.”

“Anyone can see that clock has been broken for years. It always reads eleven o’clock. So you see except for the two seconds every day it is correct, it is wrong. What are the odds that you would just happen to sit down at exactly one of the two seconds that it is correct? Ha! 1 in 84,600. So I think it highly unlikely that you were here the exact moment that clock was correct. And, since you were not here earlier, it is obvious that you are late. You really shouldn’t put your trust in clocks that you know nothing about.”

“Begging your pardon, sir, I did not rely on your clock, I was merely pointing out what time it read. I relied on my own wrist watch.”

“What time does it read now?”

Lehman looked down at his Timex. “11:03 am”

“My point exactly,” the seated man smirked. “Personally, I don’t trust timepieces.  I just ask Hubert when I want to know what time it is.” He pushed a button on a small black box at the corner of his desk.

“Yes, Mr. Tink,” came Hubert’s tinny response.”

“What time is it?”

“11:04 am, Mr. Tink. Anything else?”

“Thank you, Hubert,” the seated man said as he looked at Lehman. “There you go, just as I said, late. Now are you quite ready to continue with the interview?”

Bewildered, Lehman nodded. The seated man turned his attention once again to the folder that lay open before him on the desk. Lehman watched as he slowly turned each page examining each with unerring concentration. The only sound was the ticking of the grandfather clock.

“So tell me why you are here?”

“For the position.” Lehman stammered.

“What position? I wasn’t informed we had a position,” the seated man snorted. He pushed the button on the black box once again. “Smelley, Farts says he is here for the position. Do we have a position?

“Let me check.” came back Hubert’s reply. “No sir, there is no position. Did you authorize a position?”

“No, did you?”


“So why do we have Farts here?”

“Well sir, I don’t know, but apparently someone thought we needed Farts.”

“That’s Farst!” Lehman interjected.

The seated man abruptly said, “See what you can find out about this unexpected appearance of Farts and get back to me.”

“Right on it, sir,” came Hubert’s prompt reply.

Turning to Lehman, the seated man questioned, “What qualifications do you have for this position?”

“I learned how to read minds, levitate, and fly in India.”

“Really, Calcutta or New Delhi?”

“Actually it was Wehdaunaupon.”

“Ah, the Swami Riva?

“Yes, far, far from home.”

“Well, that would make sense. I knew a chap there by the name of Amal Shucup. Small brown fellow with a light blue turban. Do you know him?”

“Was he with the Service?”

“No, no, he was a beggar.”

“You see, it’s been a while, sir. Can’t say I remember anyone of that description.”

“Yes, yes, I see. But I would work on your powers of observation if I were you. Can’t let things like that go unnoticed.”

“You can count on it, sir.”

The seated man returned to his study of the folder. The minutes continued to tick away. The front edge of the folding chair began to dig into the backs of Lehman’s legs and his feet began to go numb. A cold blast of air whirled down from the ceiling vents, causing Lehman’s nose to run.

After what seemed an eternity, the seated man looked up and said, “Says here that you are from Boston.”

“That’s right sir. Lived in Beantown all my life, except, of course, for the time I spent in India.”

“Interesting. Tell me, do all the Farts come from Beantown?”

“Come again?”  Lehman asked incredulously.

‘Your family man, come on pay attention. First impressions and the like.”

“Yes sir, all the FARSTS come from Boston.”

“Well, I think that does it. It’s obvious you’re the man for the position. We here at the Fantastic Information Bureau are in the forefront of the most important and under-appreciated work in government. For years, our Bureau has stood as the last line of defense, the bulwark, protecting the citizens from the crippling effects of unexpurgated truth. We need men like you! Now, let’s get you up to Human Resources for your paperwork.”

The seated man pushed the button on the black box for the third time and snorted, “Hubert, call HR and tell them I’ve got Lemon Farts headed their way.”

“Will do.”

The seated man closed up the folder and shoved it into Lehman’s waiting hand. “Now take this up to HR on the 17th floor and make it snappy.”

“Thank you sir! You won’t regret this.”

“Farts, you are a breath of fresh air. Now skedaddle!”

Lehman shook his hand profusely, then hurried out of the office, through the long reception room, across the hall and straight into a waiting elevator. As he looked at the control panel, he found the buttons stopped at 13.


Paul Stansbury is a lifelong native of Kentucky. Now retired, he lives in Danville, Kentucky. His stories have appeared in the anthologies, Brief Grislys, published by Apocryphile Press, Neo-Legends To Last A Deathtime published by KY Story, Frightening published by SEZ Publishing, Out of the Cave published by MacKenzie Publishing, In Media Res, Stories From the In-Between published by Writespace Houston and Nocturnal Natures published by Zimbell House Publishing. His novelette Little Green Men? was published as Kindle edition by Bards and Sages Publishing. He is a contributing writer for the Danville Advocate Messenger Newspaper.

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