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Diurnally Challenged

by Ronald Linson

Marcie Duvall tapped on my half-open office door. “Good morning, Greg. I’ve got a promising new graduate here.” She stepped up to my desk and plopped a thin manila folder in front of me.

“Morning, Marcie,” I said, hurriedly moving my coffee cup away from the new arrival. I turned the folder around and read the label. “Lilya Ratevossian,” it read. Underneath the name was one of our internal Human Resources ID numbers.

“She has an impressive resume. I think she’s Russian or something,” Marcie was saying.

“Armenian,” I said, opening the folder.

“Yeah, something like that.”

I skimmed Lilya Ratevossian’s resume. “Huh. She graduated third in her class from Wharton with a grade point average of 3.98. She summer-interned with three of the top banks, and worked part-time during her junior and senior years at Smith & Bradley. Very nice.”

Marcie nodded. “No kidding. We want her, Greg. She’s as good as hired, but the interview needs to be conducted as a formality.”

“Of course,” I said. Near the bottom of the resume, a line caught my eye. “Wait, what’s this? It says she’s requesting the reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act of working only at night.”

“That’s weird,” Marcie said. “I didn’t see that.”

I showed it to her.

“Do you think she’s got that thing where she’s allergic to sunlight?” Marcie asked. “Or a sleep disorder?”

I shrugged. “Who knows? If she’s as good as her resume claims, we can manage it. I’ll talk to Jerry in Finance. She’ll be in his department, after all.”

“Okay,” Marcie said, “I’ll leave it to you. But — and I’m ordering you as your supervisor — do not, I repeat, do not ask her about it.”

“No, of course not,” I said. “We’ll find out about it when she submits the medical documentation.”

“Yes, exactly,” she said. She rapped a knuckle on my desk and left.

Bemused, I checked my schedule, then sent Ms. Ratevossian an email with the details of her interview. I asked her to come Friday at 7:00 pm, well after dark this time of year.

* * *

That Friday, I stayed late, catching up on paperwork. A few minutes before seven, there came a soft knock on my door.

“Come in.”

Lilya Ratevossian entered, smiling confidently as she introduced herself. She was of average height and slender, and wore a conservative dark blue dress with a small crucifix dangling from an ornate silver chain around her neck. What struck me as unusual was the paleness of her skin. It was very nearly bone-white.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Ratevossian,” I said, standing and offering my hand to shake.

Her grip was rather firm for a woman, and her hand was freezing cold. I hoped my face did not betray any surprise.

“Thank you, Mr. Smithers,” she said. “And thank you for arranging this interview in the evening. I’m afraid I’m diurnally challenged.”

At that point, I was tempted to ask her about it but, instead, I invited her to sit and proceeded with business.

“Let me be blunt,” I said. “We’re totally impressed with your resume.”

She smiled broadly, and I could tell she was working hard to suppress a happy giggle.

“Yes,” I said, chuckling, “you’ve got the job. We can...” I stopped, my train of thought momentarily derailed by the sight of her teeth. Were her incisors a bit too long? No, I was letting my imagination get the better of me. I cleared my throat to cover myself. “Excuse me,” I said, and went on to explain what we were prepared to offer her.

After a brief round of negotiations about her benefits, I concluded the interview. She was, to say the least, ecstatic.

“I am so looking forward to working here, Mr. Smithers.”

“Believe me,” I said, “we’re happy to have you.” I didn’t tell her that for most of her working hours, her only company would be the nighttime janitorial staff.

Lilya finally let fly with a giggle. She brushed the crucifix at her neck with her fingertips.

“That’s lovely,” I said.

She glanced down at it. “Yes, it’s a family heirloom.”

“Well,” I said, “at least we know you’re not a vampire, huh?” I laughed.

Her demeanor changed instantly. “Goodbye,” she said icily.

I watched her go, her back ramrod straight. I sighed. Some people just don’t have a sense of humor.

* * *

I arrived at my office Monday to find Marcie and a guy from the Legal Department waiting for me.

“Hello,” I said. “What’s going on?”

“Greg,” Marcie said, “Legal wants your head on a platter. That Ratevossian girl has filed a suit against the company.”

“What? What for?”

The guy from Legal spoke up. “She is claiming that you made a racist remark during the employment interview.”

“Is that true?” Marcie asked.

I needed a few seconds to wrap my brain around what he’d said. “I don’t think so. She was wearing a crucifix, and I made a joke about her not being a vampire. That’s all.”

Marcie looked at the guy from Legal, who nodded. “You’re fired, Greg,” she said. “Clean out your office and get out.”

Copyright © 2018 by Ronald Linson

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