I couldn’t believe the application I had to fill out for a minimum wage job. Was I married? No. Did I ever steal from an employer? “No,” like I’d tell them if I did. Then there was a grammar test, and they required me to write an essay about my life. I began, “One score minus three years ago, and nine months, my father and mother, deciding to form a more perfect union, had sex, and that’s about how it all got started with me, so here I am eighteen years later looking for a position with your great company.”
“You’re delusional if you think we’re going to hire you with your sub-par language skills,” the interviewer said, “you failed practically the entire grammar section of our exam. You do know you’re applying for a job where you need to speak clearly so our clients can understand what they’re buying?”
That rigorous test I had to pass to be a counter clerk at Circle K showed my weaknesses. The fact is words never fascinated me. Many of them I can barely pronounce. I never met a rhyme I liked until one day I wrote one of my own and discovered what a thrill it was to put word after word until I delighted at the poem I made. Those words pecked out letter by letter belonged to me and in my mind the word formation was so much better than all the rest I have ever read.
Conceited I knew, but I believed I could have been a poet if I loved language like those who wrote phrases that brought tears when read. I don’t know why I couldn’t enjoy their words more than mine, but that’s the way it was.
It didn’t matter I guessed because when it came time to read my poems aloud I saw beauty when there was none. Those who listened would agree that the order and music of my words would be the best they had ever heard.
Conceited I knew. If I didn’t believe in myself, no one else would. So I told her, “I’m the best, and I challenge you to a duel.”
“What are you talking about?” she said.
“Words! We’ll see who can write the best phrase.” The look in her eye said she was a sure winner.
“What does the winner get?” she asked.
“One reasonable wish.” I’d wish for the job I applied for.
“Okay, deal,” she said and stuck her hand out to shake on it. When she touched me, I felt her rough skin and thought she must be really old, maybe even forty already.
“You go first,” she said.
“No way, we do it at the same time.” I picked up a pen and paper and waited for her to do the same. Turning my back so she couldn’t see the great phrase I’d come up with; I wrote, “Among the many things that are the result of imperialism racism and kapitalism are standard punktuation grammar and spelling which all serve to make comunikation easy.”
Looking up I saw her staring at me. She had finished long before me.
“Let’s swap papers,” I said, “and we’ll decide who the best is!” She handed me hers and I gave her mine. When I read, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height. My soul can reach when feeling out of sight.”
“I win,” she said with a gleam in her eye.
“What if I disagree?” She did write better than me, but I wasn’t going to concede so easily.
“You’ve misspelled so many words, you’re automatically disqualified,” she said, and pulled out a pocket dictionary to show me words I had written with the wrong letters.
I didn’t have much choice, “Okay, you win, what’s your wish?”
I almost fell out of my chair. “I, I can’t,” I said.
“Why not?” She held my application in front of her, so I couldn’t say I was married or would soon die from some disease. So I asked, “Can’t you make another wish?”
“Look, this was your idea. You lost. Now pay up.”
I always kept my word, and I couldn’t make an exception now, so we walked over to City Hall and tied the knot. She didn’t look that bad for being so old, I told myself.
“Now for a wedding present, I’ll give you the job you applied for,” she said, and I thanked God for granting my wish to be hired at Circle K.