Fiction: Ninjas Wanted – Apply Within (Chapter 2)

 Ninjas Wanted – Apply Within

By Tabitha Grace Smith

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3

            The next morning Charles rolled over at eight o’clock and, after remembering that he had nowhere to be, he promptly fell back asleep. For a couple months after he had first been laid off, Charles had been diligent to keep his normal routine. All of the blogs and newspapers articles about layoffs advised to treat job-hunting like a normal job. They always said it in perky terms too, “get working at getting back to work!” And, for a while, Charles had believed them. After all, Charles had been gainfully employed in some kind of job since high school. He never had a hard time getting a job. Even when he lived in a tiny community one summer during college he nailed an interview working for the town’s one hospital. Surely he couldn’t be unemployed for that long.

Then that long happened. Now it was lucky to find Charles up before lunch, let alone keeping his normal routine. When he did finally get out of bed it was nearly 1pm and Charles felt a momentary pang of guilt. He should have done something with his morning. Maybe he should start a hobby. His friend Astrid was teaching classes on buying storage lockers because of her hobby. Another friend made some spare cash taking photos for weddings. Currently, Charles only hobbies were playing video games and resisting the urge to start a virtual farm or crushing sweets.

Charles opened his laptop and scanned his Facebook. The usual cat photos, news articles, 10 reasons your pop culture meme is important articles, and hashtag infused check-ins filled his news feed. He spent a good half-hour catching up on everything posted since he had went to bed and then opened his email.

There, sandwiched between the friendly reminder that his local restaurant served the best burritos and a forward from his Aunt Jess was a reply from the Ninjas. Charles licked his lips. He hadn’t expected anyone to read that email, let alone respond to it. He clicked the email open and read.

Subject: Re: Your Ninja For Hire

From: Ninja Recruiting

            Dear Charles,

            Meet us at 3pm, Thursday, June 7th. Don’t bring a resume as ninjas don’t read – they act! Also, bring a Starbucks Venti Triple Shot for your interviewer: Janet. What does Janet do at our company? We don’t know. We don’t believe in titles.

            Sincerely,

            The Ninjas

An interview? Seriously? Charles just kept staring at the email. Surely, this was going too far. Charles had meant that email as a joke. He couldn’t go to the interview. Yet, he hadn’t been on an interview for three months. The last one had been in an office so fancy that Charles instantly felt inferior. Maybe it would be good practice? Charles had no idea.

And what was with the coffee order? That seemed really weird. The interview wasn’t for a couple days and they were already having him bring coffee. It seemed kind of offensive. Yet, considering the ad, it wasn’t too surprising. Charles had the odd urge to post about it on Facebook and ask people’s advice, but something told him that no one would believe it – even if he posted it.

His phone jangled and he had to remember where he had left it. The ringtone echoed through Charles’ small studio, but he couldn’t see the phone. He moved couch cushions, looked under the bed, and then he finally remembered he had plugged it in. He caught it just as it was going to voicemail. Charles sighed and sunk back on his bed. He looked at the caller ID and realized it was CJ. He hit the call button and called him back.

“Dude. Did you hear my voicemail?” CJ said as he picked up. CJ wasn’t great at saying “hello” or “good-bye,” but he had been Charles’ best friend for years.

“How could I? I just called you back.”

“Oh right. Well, listen to it. I told you that my cousin has been promoted manager at Starbucks. She said she may be able to get you in as a barista.”

“Why would I listen—“ Charles pushed back his hair, his bangs kept falling into his eyes. He’d have to get it cut before Thursday. “I think I might be okay. Remember that job I sent you last night?”

“The cool ninja one?”

“It’s for a company called The Ninjas, not real ninjas.”

“Oh.” CJ seemed genuinely disappointed. “What about it?”

“I have an interview on Thursday.”

“Oh man! That’s awesome! Make sure they have benefits, you can get some awesome benefits with Starbucks.”

“I know.”

“We’re still gaming tonight right?”

“Of course.”

“Good.” And the phone clicked off. Charles shook his head and smiled. That was CJ for you. Wait, Charles thought. Did I just agree to go to the interview? Charles sighed. Well, if nothing else, maybe it’d make his mom happy.

The next couple of days passed pretty quickly for Charles. Now that he had a goal in sight he found himself bustling to get everything ready in preparation for the interview. His mom, as you probably imagined, was thrilled. Charles got his hair cut, dry cleaned his khaki pants (since he couldn’t wear a suit), mapped out the route to the interview, figured out the closest Starbucks, nearly memorized his resume (since he couldn’t bring it), and shined his shoes. He had considered wearing a Bruce Lee shirt ironically, but he didn’t feel right doing it.

When Thursday came he found himself at the nearest Starbucks. He had opted for tennis shoes instead of his work shoes and, in general, felt pretty comfortable. He ordered the drink and then realized he didn’t know if the interviewer wanted cream and sugar. He grabbed one of every sweet flavored packet they offered and got a kid’s cup of creamer, just in case.

On the drive over Charles listened to his favorite band, Eisley, and recited the long string of jobs he had to himself. He checked his hair in the mirror. The barber had done a great job giving him nearly David Tennant style hair. It stuck up a bit in a more modern style. His ex- had called it “rufflable.”

As he drove up to the address he realized the building was much larger than it had looked on Google Maps. The ten-story steel and glass building looked like a prism almost. It wasn’t traditionally square. It looked like it belonged in a sci-fi movie. The windows were tinted and Charles couldn’t see inside them. The sign over the main doorway was just a black strip. Charles was a bit worried he was in the wrong place. He looked around. Instead of traditional shrubs and flowers, the outside was decorated with some weird trees that reminded Charles of bonsai trees. The dirt around them was perfectly raked and decorated with all kinds of beautiful polished stones. Right in front of the main door was a wooden bridge in Japanese style. On either side was a golden dragon statute.

“Taking the ninja thing a little too far, aren’t we?” Charles said to himself as he parked. Maybe wealthy Japanese businessmen founded the company. Of course, being Japanese didn’t mean you’d necessarily decorate things in a Japanese style. More likely than not Charles’ first impression of the company was true: these were weird hipsters. Charles wasn’t old, he had just celebrated his 32nd birthday, but he had a sinking feeling that he probably was going to be the oldest person in the building.

“Get a hold of yourself,” Charles said as he looked into his car’s review mirror. “You are going to nail this interview and then laugh at them when they offer you a paltry salary. And then we’re going for Kansas BBQ.” That idea calmed him down. This interview didn’t matter; he didn’t want to work here anyways. This was just practice. This was just to appease his mom and CJ. This was just to see if these people were as zany as their Craigslist ad. It’d be a hilarious story to tell his friends later.

Craig got out of the car, adjusted his shoelaces, and picked up the coffee. He had a sense of confidence he’d not know for a long time. It felt good. He turned from picking up the coffee cup and came face to face with an Asian man in a black t-shirt and jeans. “You must be Charles, we’ve been waiting for you.”

“Ack!” Charles had not even heard the man come up, let alone be in his personal space. It took all of his conviction not to throw the coffee into the man’s face.

“I’m not sure ninjas say ack,” the man said without even blinking. Charles couldn’t tell if it was a joke or not, so he didn’t laugh. “My name is Yuri. Follow me. I’ll take you to Janet.”

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One Comment

  1. Posted September 30, 2013 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Ninjas do say “ack”. I know, because my wife is one, and she’s said it several times in response to my jokes.

    😉

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