Polyester: Patented 1941. A long chain of polymers chemically composed of at least 85% by weight of an ester, a dihydric alcohol and a terephthalic acid. A man-made material. Durable and wrinkle-resistant. A fabric used in Leisure Suits in the 1970’s and in everything from home furnishings to shirts. Presently undergoing an unfortunate revival.
Mr Soahc walks down the long narrow hallway leading to the interview room. The strip lighting above emits a band of electric blue. It makes him feel cold and as if he is being followed. He stops, turns to look back the way he came but all he can see is darkness in the shape of a doorway and the unceasing blue glow. He reaches up and smooths what hair is left around the sprawling bald spot on top of his round head. He tries to tuck the polyester shirt into his trousers without success. He has come to hate polyester. And not just because the Family had a hand in its invention. It’s cheap and it slides.
He knows that he probably hasn’t been the most well-presented applicant to walk through the doors of the Noron Foundation since the interview process began in July. He has always been a bit on the sloppy side, even as a child. In the Family’s opinion, sloppy and also, completely unpredictable. Never able to, in their minds, pull himself together.
He thinks warmly of his daughter, Celeste. The one who shares his secret. Who truly gets him. Who encouraged him to separate from the Family; to shut out the annoying collective voice with its ‘We told you so’s’ and guilt-tripping. While the process has been painful, literally, he knows her advice has saved him.
He thinks about his present job. He hates it. He was never sure if there would be an opportunity to do something different. For as long as he can remember the Family doubted his abilities. His school-teachers, never convinced about his aptitude, sometimes referred to him as vacuous. The other kids, brighter and neater and faster, taunted him about his heavy walk. His inability to sit still for long. His larger than average head.
He tries not to think about that now. He reminds himself that he has been looking for a position such as the one offered by Noron for a very long time. He was surprised when he received the call for a second interview.
He reaches the interview room, glances at his watch. The time is eleven-fourteen p.m. One minute to go.
He hesitates. Doubt spins, making him dizzy with the possibilities of failure. He begins to move in place, quickly, feet shuffling as if they have a mind of their own. He breathes in deeply. Steady. Steady.
He slides open the sleek white panel and finds himself in a large, silent room. A chilling breeze blows across the top of his head.
The room is empty. No chair. No desk. Not so much as a potted plant. He folds his arms across his stomach and paces thinking how desperately he needs this job.
“Desperation is the first sign of weakness.”
An interior panel slides open and a deep voice announces, “He will see you now”.
He snaps to attention, spine straight, mind clear. All systems go. He adjusts his tie and lifts his trousers by the belt, trying to capture the bottom of his shirt. Why did he wear it? It’s not even bio-degradable.
“Thank you,” he says and walks through.
Except for a faint red halo emanating from behind the figure walking towards him, the interview room is dark. On the far wall, a large window looks out onto deep glossy black, shimmering with light.
A huge hand clasps his, shaking it vigorously. From out of the darkness a face appears. Long and angular with a broad nose, wide mouth and heavy jaw.
“Welcome Mr Soahc.”
The man’s eyes are small and set deeply into their sockets.
“Good to meet you.”
Mr Soahc doesn’t recognize him. A Mr Som had conducted the first interview.
“Yes, thank you, Mr?” he says.
“I am Mr Nero. Mr Som asked me to conduct this interview. He has been called away to an urgent Directors meeting.”
In the center of the room is a metal desk and two metal chairs. Nero motions him to take a seat. Nothing hangs on the wall except the red, which seems to deepen and spread as soon as Mr Soahc sits. The only object decorating the desk is a dingy white clock.
Nero lifts the clock and speaks into it with a coffee order.
“Let me be the second to welcome you to The Noron Foundation.” Mr Soahc watches Nero as he places the clock back onto the desk. He hasn’t seen that particular model in a very long time. He wonders where they got it.
Nero clears his throat.
Mr Soahc sits as straight as possible. The chair is uncomfortable. His head feels like a weight on his neck. He plants both feet flat on the floor.
“Thank you Mr Nero.”
“Allow me to take a few minutes to acquaint you with the intricacies of the project.”
Mr Soahc’s shirt sticks to his back. He presses his damp hands to his thighs.
“As you know, Noron is liquidating. We are tired of expanding. We seem to have little control over what has taken place,” he gestures towards the window, “you know, out there. Frankly, we don’t like it. So, we have decided to hire an Endgame Manager.”
“An Endgame Manager.” Mr Soahc says nodding his head. “That’s good. In the paper the position advertised was for a Warehouse Supervisor.”
Nero clears his throat. “I wouldn’t use the word good. The project wouldn’t be very popular if anyone found out about it.”
Hands together, fingers intertwined, as if in prayer, he rests them on top of Mr Soahc’s papers.
“Are you interested in this position?”
“Absolutely, Mr Nero, I am looking for a change in my present area of work.”
Mr Nero fumbles with the pages, lifting one in front of his face, four long, thick, fingers spread across the back.
“Yes, I see here that you sell beds,” he says setting the sheet down amongst the others.
“What do you feel that experience can bring to this project?”
“I’m glad you asked. Wow.”
Nero stares red-faced, “Wow? Mr Soahc. Wow what?”
“Sorry, I meant to say now. Now, allow me to explain.”
Nero sits back into his chair.
“It’s in the name.”
“What?” Nero snaps.
Mr Soahc wishes he could get up, come back in and start again.
Thankfully the panel opens and a tall, slim man dressed in black sweeps in carrying a tray. His clothes are neat, his shirt tucked solidly into his trousers. A smaller version of the clock hangs from a loop on his belt. He sets the tray down onto Mr Nero’s desk, looks at the interviewer.
“Thank you.” Nero says.
The man bows slightly before leaving the room.
The coffee smells strong. A good jolt of caffeine is what Mr Soahc needs right now. He waits to see if Nero will take his cup first. He thinks waiting will help.
“Impulsive is the first sign of desperation.”
He breathes deeply, trying to shut out the collective voice.
Nero stares into one of the cups as if he doesn’t recognize its contents.
Mr Soahc slowly leans forward until his cup is directly beneath his nose. The steam smells sharp and rich, like cocoa, the scent snaking its way into his head, filling him with hope.
“It’s all in the name. The experience I mean.” He lifts his cup carefully and takes a long slow sip.
Nero looks up. He doesn’t touch his own cup. He runs his fingers through his outcrop of thick hair and takes down a few notes. After more reshuffling of papers, Nero pours milk into his cup, spoons three heaps of sugar and stirs.
“Mr Som told me he liked your attitude, but I’m not sure it fits in with what we are attempting to do here. And let’s be honest, a bed salesman. Really. Can’t you give me something more to work with?”
Mr Soahc places his cup on the desk.
“We told you, wrong business!”
As Celeste instructed, he conjures a brief but satisfying mental image of the Family wearing nothing but black socks.
“I’m an insomniac Sir, which is what I think you could call a good fit.”
“This isn’t a sleep project.” Nero seems annoyed.
“I’m aware. In fact, Mr Som told me that I’d be lucky to get any sleep until it was over. He said that the chosen candidate should expect long hours.”
Nero reaches for his cup shaking his head.
“I don’t know why Som said that. This whole mess, all of it, needs to be taken care of with the greatest urgency. And, it is imperative that whoever we hire has the necessary experience. Surely, if you haven’t slept you would be prone to errors.”
“I would yes,” he says brightly. “Exactly the point. Small errors always create larger ones. It’s the way of the Universe.”
Mr Soahc thinks that bit sounds particularly good. Yes. Celeste would be proud of that one.
Nero drinks his coffee down in two massive gulps. He sighs.
“So you’ve done some research.”
“Well, yes. It’s in the name.”
“What the hell are you talking about Soahc!”
Mr Soahc thinks he should just come out and say it. But he promised Celeste.
“Bad timing is the first sign of impulsiveness.”
“I’m talking about my experience. You will have to trust me.”
“I certainly do not have to trust you.” Nero barks.
He picks up the clock. He starts to say something to it.
“You are running out of time,” Mr Soahc blurts without thinking.
“Never mind,” he says into the clock and places it down on the desk.
“What about this name of yours then, is it foreign? Did one of your ancestors work on a similar project? What?”
“It’s a family business.”
“Take your time. You never know, he could be bluffing. He may want to know how we do it.”
‘How we do it!?’ he thinks. ‘More like how I do it.’ Or hope to do it. While the Family always believed they would find fame and fortune through the infinite knowledge he and Celeste share, they were always too busy judging, whining and otherwise occupied dreaming of fame and fortune to do anything productive. He and his daughter worked tirelessly perfecting the process. They agreed that, should it ever arise, he would be the one to apply for the job.
He understands the need for caution. Even though the Reversal Process has never been used, it has been patented; Mr Soahc knows that wouldn’t necessarily stop some people from trying to steal the idea. He hopes that Nero isn’t one of those people.
Nero glares. “Family business.”
He places his hands on the surface of the desk, fingers spread.
“Do you know anything about Cosmology?” Nero asks.
“I have read a few books.”
Mr Soahc feels deflated. Sweat pools in his armpits, around his thick neck and he thinks the cousin who sold him this shirt was lying when he swore it was quick-drying. The interview is turning out to be more work than he had anticipated. Probably tougher than the job itself.
“That hardly constitutes experience. What do you know about the study of the Universe?” Nero waves a large hand in mid-air as if he’s swatting flies.
“Stage One calls for unrest.”
The interviewer regards him silently then reaches into the top drawer of the desk and pulls out a small manual. He ventures in a few pages and stops.
“Yes, Mr Soahc, unrest is listed here.” He sounds surprised.
“And the Second Stage. I can elaborate, if you like.”
“I’m listening,” Nero says, then places his elbows on the desk and leans forward.
And in that instant, the eons of R&D, long hours pouring over charts and graphs, recoding sequences, quantum equations, repeated simulations; every single subatomic particle of information that he and Celeste have been refining and perfecting, stuff he never thought he was completely taking in, shoots like stars from his mouth. He feels a wave of euphoria rush through him, gestures and shifts joyously in his chair. He feels the shirt come completely un-tucked but no longer cares.
“And in the Final Stage,” he says finally, raising one thin eyebrow. “Liquidation.”
It takes a few moments but once again, the interviewer consults his manual flipping back and forth.
“Yes,” Nero says slumping back against his chair. “Yes.”
“I think you will find that I am more than qualified.”
Nero leans forward in a flash; his eyes like two worm-holes.
“You realize there could be fierce opposition to what we are proposing. People hate change.”
“I hardly think it matters now.”
“And we have to be assured that everything goes.”
Nero pounds an enormous fist on the desk; the coffee cup hops with a clink against the saucer, the clock wobbles then falls to the floor.
“That won’t be a problem.”
Mr Soahc glances down at the clock. He can’t believe Noron has been using such an antique. Probably manufactured using a polyester derivative from the dark ages.
It is clear that although Nero isn’t the greatest interviewer, he is legit. Noron needs him. Someone finally needs him.
Nero neatens Mr Soahc’s papers before sliding them off the edge of the desk and into the drawer.
Nero looks Mr Soahc in the eye.
“I assume you will start immediately.”
The two men sit motionless. The air in the room turns colder. Mr Soahc thinks he can smell snow.
Mr Soahc nods.
Nero takes his hand, clenching it tightly before letting go.
Mr Soahc walks to the window and gazes out into endless space. It takes his eyes a few seconds to adjust and then, he sees it; the edge of the boundary. It is there, just like they knew it would be.
He turns to Nero and nods.
“I’ll leave you to it then. Thank you, Mr Soahc.”
Alone now, Mr Soahc stares, fascinated, as the boundary takes shape. This is what he and Celeste always talked about. On one side, the never-ending expansion, the continuation of a Universe full of question and uncertainty. On the other, he watches as the heavy concentration of mass contained in the Universe lingers.
Voices echo through the corridors.
In his mind images of Celeste through the ages, smiling, proud of him.
A ripple appears in the glass of the window.
The room turns warm, then hot; the air dense as fog.
He slowly undoes the buttons of his shirt, counting each one. With the last one free, he peels off the shirt and drops it to the floor.
“So long polyester,” he sighs.
He breathes in, never taking his eyes off the boundary.
He breathes out and raises an empty hand.
‘So Long Polyester’ (c) 2022 Deborah McMenamy
All Rights Reserved
This Post Has 10 Comments
What a very appropriate story this Halloween – and this time in history! Sadly 😪
Great characterization – love Mr Soahc – and Nero plays a pivotal part too.
Still, sending you Halloween greetings Deaborah – maybe we can all get out of this alive! Somehow 😉
Hi Joey…thanks. Yes, I guess it is appropriate although I wish it wasn’t. It was actually written in response to my father’s death and how my world ended when it happened.
However, it does apply to the extremely troubling and turbulent times we live in. And this unrelenting uncertainty. It’s draining.
Halloween greetings to you too. I think we’ll survive this, just sad to see how dramatically life as we knew it has turned into something unrecognizable.
If I had a bag of candy corn right now, I would definitely eat all of it.
Hugs and peace to you.
Hi again! I just read the story again and realize it captures my mood right now so well. I am really struggling. The future looks very bleak and I’m still in my 30’s. So hard to find people who are not just in “party mode” 24/7, that you can have a real conversation and maybe friendship with. I’ve also been reading back through your past stories here and take comfort in seeing your art in action. I am so stuck! So, thanks again so much for being a lifeline right now Deaborak. We gotta keep going!
Hi Joey. I so wish you weren’t struggling but I understand this place so well. Awareness is sometimes a terrible thing to possess. Sometimes being oblivious or not caring about anything except ‘having a great time’ looks attractive.
But how can we do that when we ‘see’ so much.
You know, if you ever want to exchange emails you can use the contact form on the about page and let me know. No pressure. I just want you to know that I’m here and even though I’m approaching 65, I find the same. Very hard to find genuine friendship and people who prefer real and helpful communication to BS. At this time in history, being any age is hard for the thinkers.
I’m still pretty stuck myself. I get it. It will shift in time, just tough when life is so unpredictable and stressful.
Thanks for everything you’re saying. You’re a lifeline too. Never doubt the contribution you’re making despite how you feel. As hard as it is, feeling/thinking/sensing is so much better than sleepwalking through life. Especially when there are others out there (no matter how few) who hear what you’re saying.
Yes. We will keep going.
Sending you a big hug.
I agree with Joey; this is the most challenging and turbulent era I can recall in my lifetime. And people have changed so much in the past 20 years or so. As has the world as we knew it. It is really difficult but I am coming across more people recently who also know it all needs to change. Sending you and Joey my very best x.
Thanks Giselle. I agree with Joey too.
And I am so happy that you are finding people who are aware of how much things need to change. That is a gift. Things will never be the same. We live in unprecedented times. And it can be so difficult to find your joy. I think our minds find it difficult to focus when our world is in turmoil.
Maybe those of us who know this can somehow help each other. Even the smallest gestures or just a word of understanding can make a difference. I believe there a little connections scattered around. Hard to make them but when you do, it’s priceless.
Sending you the best too.
And a hug.
Finding them, yes. But nothing concrete – just fleeting conversations. 😢 We do need to do what you say though. Thanks for the hug – I needed that! – and sending one back.
Maybe the fleeting conversations will turn into more somehow. No idea why those of us who think along similar lines are never in the same country. Hardly anyone on the same wavelength as me (except my husband) and a few others here. It’s like a relationship wasteland. But I’ve always been ‘not the norm’ so maybe that explains it.
Thanks for the hug back, I needed that too.
What I said to Joey applies to you too. If you ever want to connect via other channels, I’m open to that.
That is so very kind of you Deaborah. It is very comforting to know there are others, authentic others who care, who are sensitive to the important things. Thanks so much and sending courage and strength to us both and all others like us!
Likewise Giselle. ‘Sensitivity to the important things’ that says everything really. I will always care about the sensitive and authentic. They are the foundation of everything that matters.
Thank you for your own sensitivity and your encouraging words and for being here. The world needs more people like you.
And like those of us who are brave enough to show up as we truly are. That is real strength.
Love to you.
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