Screen Scene: The Meaning of Life

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Okay, this isn’t actually just a scene, it’s an entire screenplay for a short film. I wrote this more than ten years ago when I was having a sort of existential crisis about my non-writing career and the meaningless jobs I was working.

It’s long so I forgive anyone who chooses not to read it but I still think it’s one of the best things I’ve written.


 

THE MEANING OF LIFE: A SHORT FILM

CAST LIST

Chloe
Speed Dating Coordinator
Speed Dater #1
Speed Dater #2
Speed Dater #3
Speed Dater #4
Speed Dater #5
Speed Dater #6
Speed Dater #7
Speed Dater #8
Mr French
Mr McPherson
Ms Gray
Mrs Hogan
Businessman #1
Businessman #2
Mr Parker
Mr Humphreys
Ms Gooding
National Interviewer
Small Business Interviewer
Job Agency Interviewer
Doctor
Film Distributor
Software Company Interviewer
Film Producer
Medical Publisher
Dating Agency Interviewer
Immigration Agency Interviewer
City Council Interviewer
Flatmate
Think Tank Interviewer

SET LIST

INTERIORS
Restaurant
McPherson & French Solicitors
Reception
Photocopier room
Mr McPherson’s office
Chloe’s flat
Chloe’s bedroom
Lounge room
Interview Room #1
Interview Room #2
Interview Room #3
Interview Room #4
Interview Room #5
Interview Room #6
Interview Room #7
Interview Room #8
Interview Room #9
Interview Room #10
Office #1
Office #2
Office #3
Doctor’s Office

1. INT. RESTAURANT – NIGHT

A row of tables is lined up against a wall and a row of women are seated at them. One of them is CHLOE. She is your average woman. They are all in the middle of a speed dating evening, a mixture of fun and pure terror.

The restaurant has a warm feel to it, like an intimate Italian restaurant. A martini glass sits in front of Chloe and she drinks from it periodically.

SPEED DATING COORDINATOR
Time!

Chloe smiles at the man sitting opposite her as if she’s sorry they didn’t have more time together. She shakes the hand he offers her and then he moves on to the next table. Chloe turns her attention to the man now seating himself opposite her.

SPEED DATER #1
Hi. I’m John.

CHLOE
Chloe.

There’s an awkward pause.

SPEED DATER #1
So…what do you do?

BLACK SCREEN/WHITE WRITING READS: The Receptionist.

CHLOE
I’m a receptionist.

SPEED DATER #1
So you answer phones all day long?

Chloe thinks about this description.

2. INT. MCPHERSON & FRENCH SOLICITORS – RECEPTION – DAY

Chloe sits at the front reception desk of McPherson & French Solicitors, wearing a headset and answering various incoming calls.

CHLOE
Good morning, McPherson and French, how may I direct your call? (Beat) One moment, please. (Beat) Mr French, your wife is on line one. (Beat) Thank you, sir. (Beat) Good morning, McPherson and French, how may I direct your call? (Beat) One moment, please. (Beat) Mrs Pappas, Simon Carter is on line seven. He has a query about his bill.

MR MCPHERSON, one of the bosses, approaches the reception desk. Chloe sits up straighter at seeing him.

CHLOE
Good morning, Mr McPherson.

MR MCPHERSON
Chloe, type this letter and have it couriered to Judge O’Farrell.

CHLOE
Yes, sir.

She takes the piece of paper and tries to decipher the illegible scribble.

BLACK SCREEN/WHITE WRITING READS: The Secretary.

3. INT. RESTAURANT – NIGHT

SPEED DATER #2 is now seated opposite Chloe.

CHLOE
I’m more of a secretary.

SPEED DATER #2
So you type letters all day long?

Chloe ponders this.

4. INT. MCPHERSON & FRENCH SOLICITORS – RECEPTION – DAY

Chloe squints at the illegible handwriting and sounds out possible words.

CHLOE
Helium? Headgear? Healthy.

She decides the word is supposed to be ‘healthy’ and types it.

MS GRAY approaches the reception desk.

CHLOE
Good morning, Ms Gray.

MS GRAY
Chloe, I need one hundred copies of this by eleven.

CHLOE
Yes, ma’am.

Chloe takes the document and tries to decide whether the typing or the photocopying is more important.

BLACK SCREEN/WHITE WRITING READS: The Administrative Assistant.

5. INT. RESTAURANT – NIGHT

SPEED DATER #3 is now seated across from Chloe.

CHLOE
I guess you could call me an administrative assistant.

SPEED DATER #3
Filing, phones, photocopying, that sort of thing?

Chloe considers it.

6. INT. MCPHERSON & FRENCH SOLICITORS – RECEPTION – DAY

Chloe stands at the reception desk with the letter she is supposed to be typing in one hand and the photocopying in the other. A short, balding man, MR FRENCH, approaches the front desk.

CHLOE
Good morning, Mr French.

MR FRENCH
Chloe, could you run out and pick up my dry cleaning?

He hands over a ticket stub.

CHLOE
Of course, sir.

BLACK SCREEN/WHITE WRITING READS: The Personal Assistant.

7. INT. RESTAURANT – NIGHT

SPEED DATER #4 sits across from Chloe, although this one is a little leery.

CHLOE
You could even call me a personal assistant.

SPEED DATER #4
How personal?

Chloe doesn’t even bother considering that one.

8. INT. MCPHERSON & FRENCH SOLICITORS – RECEPTION – DAY

Chloe enters reception through the front doors with a load of dry cleaning slung over one shoulder. She hangs it on a hook behind the front desk somewhere out of sight.

MRS HOGAN approaches the front desk.

CHLOE
Good morning, Mrs Hogan.

MRS HOGAN
Chloe, can you book caterers for Thursday? Finger food and champagne.

Chloe looks excited but tries to hide it, thinking Mrs Hogan has remembered her birthday.

MRS HOGAN
We have some big new clients coming in.

Chloe is instantly downbeat.

CHLOE
Yes, ma’am. (Beat) Would you like me to order any dessert? A cake maybe?

MRS HOGAN
Why on earth would we need a cake?

BUSINESSMAN #1 and BUSINESSMAN #2 enter the office carrying briefcases, distracting Mrs Hogan’s attention. She moves off to greet the newcomers.

Chloe watches on with a forced smile, then looks over at a wall calendar on which Thursday is circled and surrounded by hand drawn pictures of balloons and streamers. ‘My Birthday!’ is written in the box for Thursday.

BLACK SCREEN/WHITE WRITING READS: The Document Manager.

9. INT. RESTAURANT – NIGHT

SPEED DATER #5 sits opposite Chloe.

CHLOE
Unofficially, I’m a document manager.

SPEED DATER #5
That sounds like a fancy way to describe someone who stands in front of a photocopier.

10. INT. MCPHERSON & FRENCH SOLICITORS – PHOTOCOPIER ROOM – DAY

Chloe stands comatosely in front of the photocopier, watching as the machine spits out copy after copy of the document she was asked to copy earlier. Suddenly, it stops and blinks a red warning light at her.

She opens the machine and tries to fix the problem. She pulls out a piece of crumpled paper. She closes the machine. It continues to blink the red light at her. She opens the machine again. She crouches down, peering into the gears and levers.

She puts her hands into the machine and fiddles around, unsuccessfully trying to fix whatever is wrong.

She stands up, now with black copy toner covering her hands. She sighs. She picks up a phone nearby and dials a number.

CHLOE
I need a technician to come out.

BLACK SCREEN/WHITE WRITING READS: The Office Manager.

11. INT. RESTAURANT – NIGHT

SPEED DATER #6 is seated opposite Chloe.

CHLOE
To cover everything I do, you’d really have to call me the office manager.

SPEED DATER #6
Do they call you the office manager?

Chloe considers this with a hint of frustration.

12. INT. MCPHERSON & FRENCH SOLICITORS – MR MCPHERSON’S OFFICE – DAY

Mr McPherson is seated in a luxurious leather chair behind a large, opulent work desk. Chloe sits opposite him, looking rather small, like a student called before the principal.

MR MCPHERSON
Technically, for us to call you the office manager, you’d have to process the payroll.

Chloe looks as though she is about to say, ‘I can do that, no problem,’ but Mr McPherson continues without letting her speak.

MR MCPHERSON
However, Katie already carries out that duty as part of her role and we are very happy with her performance. It reflects very highly on you that you’re willing to take on extra responsibilities. But if you are finding that you don’t have enough to do, you really should have brought it to our attention before now.

Chloe tries really hard to smile, but it is terribly strained.

CHLOE
Mr McPherson, I don’t want to bother you with my petty problems. But to be honest, I don’t know where I would find the time between deciphering your handwriting, picking up Mr French’s dry cleaning, organising the little booze sessions that you like to pretend are business meetings, washing toner out of my clothes, pretending not to care when my birthday is the only one in the office that gets forgotten, and shaking off my disbelief when I open my pay cheque every week and realise how overworked and underpaid I am. (Beat) I think under the circumstances you should consider this my resignation.

Chloe stands and looks at a shocked Mr McPherson, then determinedly leaves the room.

13. INT. RESTAURANT – NIGHT

SPEED DATER #7 sits opposite Chloe.

CHLOE
I’m between jobs at the moment.

14. INT. MCPHERSON & FRENCH SOLICITORS – MR MCPHERSON’S OFFICE – DAY

Chloe pokes her head back into Mr McPherson’s office.

CHLOE
Do you think I could get a reference?

She asks it hopefully, now regretting her outburst, although only a little. The look on Mr McPherson’s face isn’t promising.

15. INT. RESTAURANT – NIGHT

SPEED DATER #8 sits opposite Chloe. She’s more than a little drunk by this stage. She downs the last of the contents of her martini glass and puts it down on the table with a heavy thud.

SPEED DATER #8
So what do you do?

CHLOE
Buy me a drink and I’ll do anything you want me to.

SPEED DATER #8
I think the drinks are free.

CHLOE
Perfect.

She looks around as if in search of a drinks waiter.

16. INT. CHLOE’S FLAT – CHLOE’S BEDROOM – MORNING

Chloe wakes in her bed face down, her hair over her face. She lifts her head as if the previous comment is the last one she remembers making, then checks to see if she is alone in the bed. She drops her head, half in relief and half in disappointment.

17. INT. CHLOE’S FLAT – CHLOE’S BEDROOM – LATER

Chloe is sitting up in bed with a broadsheet newspaper open in front of her. She leans over it, intermittently circling job ads with a red pen.

BLACK SCREEN/WHITE WRITING READS: The Multinational.

18. INT. INTERVIEW ROOM #1 – DAY

Chloe stands in a huge boardroom. There is a very large table. She is patiently waiting. She checks her hair. She smooths her suit.

The door to the room opens and MR PARKER, MR HUMPHREYS and MS GOODING walk in. They close the door behind themselves. Chloe stands up very straight.

MR PARKER
Good morning, Chloe. I’m Mr Parker.

MR HUMPHREYS
I’m Mr Humphreys.

MS GOODING
I’m Ms Gooding.

CHLOE
Good morning. How are you all?

Chloe shakes all their hands.

MR HUMPHREYS
Why don’t you sit here?

Chloe sits where he indicates at one end of the very long table, then watches as they all seat themselves at the other end. It seems strange.

MR PARKER
Let’s get started, shall we?

Chloe nods. He opens a file in front of him.

MR PARKER
Your application was very impressive.

MR HUMPREYS
You’ve had a lot of the right type of experience.

MS GOODING
Let me ask you this: why do you like administrative work?

CHLOE
It’s not so much that I like it, it’s that I’m good at it.

MR PARKER
You don’t like administrative work?

CHLOE
I don’t have to like the work, do I? I just have to do it well. Right? I don’t have to have a passion for it. (Beat) Right?

All three of them are deadpan as they regard Chloe, then each other.

MR PARKER
We’ll let you know.

BLACK SCREEN/WHITE WRITING READS: The National

19. INT. INTERVIEW ROOM #2 – DAY

Chloe sits opposite the NATIONAL INTERVIEWER.

CHLOE
Oh, I love administration work. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of bringing order to chaos. I have a real passion for it. I can honestly see myself doing administration work for the rest of my life.

Chloe says it trying to make it a positive, but as the words come out of her mouth, she realises how much she hates the idea of this and it shows on her face.

NATIONAL INTERVIEWER
We’ll let you know.

BLACK SCREEN/WHITE WRITING READS: The Small Business

20. INT. INTERVIEW ROOM #3 – DAY

Chloe and the SMALL BUSINESS INTERVIEWER are laughing over something that’s just been said.

SMALL BUSINESS INTERVIEWER
Chloe, I think you are exactly what I’m looking for.

CHLOE
What a coincidence. I think I’m exactly what you’re looking for, too.

SMALL BUSINESS INTERVIEWER
Another small coincidence. I think I know your father. I worked with a Jack Flynn at the bank before I started this business.

CHLOE
Yes, that’s my father.

SMALL BUSINESS INTERVIEWER
I remember some of the stories he used to tell about you.

CHLOE
You do?

SMALL BUSINESS INTERVIEWER
Oh, sure. Naked in the paddling pool. Your first day of school.

CHLOE
What about my first day of school?

SMALL BUSINESS INTERVIEWER
You wet your pants if I remember correctly.

Chloe is horrified.

SMALL BUSINESS INTERVIEWER
The first boy you kissed. Now that was a cracker of a story. Your father thought it was hilarious. Especially when you came to him and confessed how worried you were about getting pregnant.

Chloe stands up suddenly.

CHLOE
Well, it was nice meeting with you. I’m sure I’ll see you around…sometime.

Chloe hurries towards the door.

SMALL BUSINESS INTERVIEWER
What about the job?

CHLOE
I’ll let you know.

BLACK SCREEN/WHITE WRITING READS: The Job Agency

21. INT. INTERVIEW ROOM #4 – DAY

The JOB AGENCY INTERVIEWER enters the room. Chloe shakes her hand.

JOB AGENCY INTERVIEWER
Thanks so much for coming in, Chloe. That’s a beautiful name.

CHLOE
Thank you.

Chloe moves to sit down at the table as the Job Agency Interviewer speaks.

JOB AGENCY INTERVIEWER
Now we don’t feel that you’re quite what we’re looking for.

Chloe pauses in the middle of the task of seating herself.
JOB AGENCY INTERVIEWER
But we think you have a lot of potential for a number of other positions we have on our books.

CHLOE
That sounds great.

Chloe finishes seating herself with some relief.

JOB AGENCY INTERVIEWER
Have you ever thought about moving into child care?

CHLOE
I’m sorry?

JOB AGENCY INTERVIEWER
Child care.

CHLOE
No.

JOB AGENCY INTERVIEWER
We have a number of child care positions available.

CHLOE
I don’t have any child care experience.

JOB AGENCY INTERVIEWER
What about hairdressing?

CHLOE
I’m not a hairdresser. (Beat) I’m really looking for administrative work.

JOB AGENCY INTERVIEWER
We do have some temp work available.

CHLOE
I’m really looking for a full-time position.

The Job Agency Interviewer regards her for a moment while thinking.

JOB AGENCY INTERVIEWER
What about retail?

Chloe deadpans.

BLACK SCREEN/WHITE WRITING READS: The Doctor’s Office

22. INT. DOCTOR’S OFFICE – DAY

Chloe sits opposite a DOCTOR in his consulting rooms. The doctor looks harried.

DOCTOR
You’ve never worked in a doctor’s office before?

CHLOE
No, but I feel that I’m ready for the challenge.

DOCTOR
We deal with a lot of sick people.

CHLOE
I’m sure I won’t have any problems.

The doctor nods.

DOCTOR
Are you pregnant?

CHLOE
I’m sorry?

DOCTOR
Professional curiosity.

Chloe sits up a little straighter as if perhaps she was slouching in a way that made her look pregnant.

CHLOE
Oh. (Beat) No, I’m not pregnant.

DOCTOR
Any plans to be?

This gives her pause.

CHLOE
I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to ask me that.

The doctor looks at her, not caring about discrimination laws.

DOCTOR
Look, I’ve had three admin people in the past year. Every time I hire someone, they get pregnant and leave. I’m just trying to play the odds.

Chloe gives this some thought and then gives him a look as if the answer to his problem should be obvious.

CHLOE
Why don’t you just hire a man?

The doctor realises what a good idea this is. Chloe realises she has just talked herself out of a job.

BLACK SCREEN/WHITE WRITING READS: The Film Distributor

23. INT. OFFICE #1 – DAY

Chloe sits opposite the FILM DISTRIBUTOR. The room is full of monitors and video equipment.

FILM DISTRIBUTOR
Are you interested in film?

CHLOE
I like watching them.

FILM DISTRIBUTOR
Have you ever seen any of our films?

She doesn’t even know what any of their films might be, but she suspects they’re not mainstream films.

CHLOE
I don’t think so.

FILM DISTRIBUTOR
Well, you’re not really our demographic.

He smiles like he’s in on a joke that Chloe isn’t privy to. Chloe senses something isn’t right.

On the back of the door, directly behind where Chloe is sitting, is a poster of a very busty woman and the title of an x-rated film, which Chloe obviously hasn’t seen. It’s the only thing in the room which gives away exactly what sort of films they make.

BLACK SCREEN/WHITE WRITING READS: The Software Company

24. INT. INTERVIEW ROOM #5 – DAY

Chloe sits opposite the SOFTWARE COMPANY INTERVIEWER.

SOFTWARE COMPANY INTERVIEWER
Well, this is going well. I feel like there’s a connection between us.

CHLOE
Okay.

SOFTWARE COMPANY INTERVIEWER
Chloe…

CHLOE
Yes, Mr Davenport?

SOFTWARE COMPANY INTERVIEWER
You can call me Fabian.

Chloe just doesn’t have the words.

SOFTWARE COMPANY INTERVIEWER
Would you like to have dinner with me tonight?

CHLOE
To discuss the job?

SOFTWARE COMPANY INTERVIEWER
Whatever you prefer. (Beat) But I’d rather talk about other things.

It’s clear from the way he says it that he’s coming onto her.

CHLOE
Um, I don’t date people I work with.

SOFTWARE COMPANY INTERVIEWER
So don’t take the job.

CHLOE
I want the job.

The implication being that she doesn’t want to date him. He gets the message pretty quickly and is instantly inclined not to give her the job. Chloe knows she is between the proverbial rock and the hard place and it shows on her face.

BLACK SCREEN/WHITE WRITING READS: The Film Producer

25. INT. OFFICE #2 – DAY

Chloe sits opposite a very self-important man, the FILM PRODUCER. The walls of his office are plastered with mainstream film posters. Chloe looks around at them.

FILM PRODUCER
Impressive, huh?

CHLOE
Very.

Despite the agreement, she doesn’t seem that impressed.

FILM PRODUCER
Have you seen any of these films?

CHLOE
I’ve seen all of them.

FILM PRODUCER
I’ve produced all of them.

CHLOE
Really?

Chloe doubts the truth of this claim. He nods his head.

CHLOE
Really?

She offers him one more chance to take it back.

FILM PRODUCER
Every single one of them. (Beat) My name might not be on the credits, but—

Chloe interrupts him.

CHLOE
Okay. (Beat) Well, it was great to meet you.

She stands and prepares to leave.

FILM PRODUCER
Where are you going?

Chloe gives him a look that says it should be clear to him that she knows he is lying.

CHLOE
I don’t think this is going to work out.

FILM PRODUCER
Why not?

Chloe considers how to answer this, then the perfect answer pops into her head.

CHLOE
I think I’m going to take up hairdressing.

FILM PRODUCER
Oh.

He nods his head like he gets it, but he doesn’t. Chloe is starting to get a permanent look of frustration on her face. She leaves.

BLACK SCREEN/WHITE WRITING READS: The Medical Publisher

26. INT. INTERVIEW ROOM #6 – DAY

Chloe sits opposite the MEDICAL PUBLISHER. They are surrounded by brochures.

MEDICAL PUBLISHER
Well, as you know, we produce health awareness brochures. So if you got the position, you’d be dealing with a lot of writers and editors and photographers. They can be quite…um, difficult at times.

CHLOE
I think I can confidently say that I can deal with just about anybody.

Someone knocks on the door. The medical publisher looks up to see someone indicating she has a phone call.

MEDICAL PUBLISHER
Would you excuse me for a moment?

CHLOE
Of course.

MEDICAL PUBLISHER
Why don’t you go through some of the brochures and familiarise yourself with the work we do?

CHLOE
Okay.

The medical publisher leaves the room and Chloe picks up a glossy brochure and opens it. The look on her face is pure horror. Across the front of the brochure are the words ‘The Effects of Herpes’ and a little lower, ‘Full Colour Pictures’.

BLACK SCREEN/WHITE WRITING READS: The Public Relations Firm

27. INT. INTERVIEW ROOM #7 – DAY

Chloe sits at a table, waiting to be joined by her interviewer. The door opens and in walks Speed Dater #8, whom Chloe last met at the restaurant during the speed dating evening after having rather a lot to drink. Speed Dater #8 recognises her immediately, but Chloe has only a vague memory of him, one that didn’t really leave an impression.

SPEED DATER #8
Chloe?

CHLOE
Yes?

SPEED DATER #8
Chloe, it’s me, Brian.

Chloe hasn’t got a clue who he is.

SPEED DATER #8
We met at speed dating a few weeks ago.

CHLOE
Oh, God.

SPEED DATER #8
You were a little under the weather.

CHLOE
Oh, God.

SPEED DATER #8
Okay, you were drunk.

CHLOE
Oh, God.

SPEED DATER #8
Is this going to be awkward for you?

CHLOE
No more than any of the other job interviews I’ve been to. (Beat) But why don’t we just call it fate and I’ll get out of your hair?

Speed dater #8 seems disappointed.

SPEED DATER #8
If that’s what you prefer.

CHLOE
I think it’s for the best. Believe me.

Chloe gathers her bag and coat and heads for the door.

SPEED DATER #8
Chloe? Can I call you some time?

She pauses for a moment to think about the request.

CHLOE
Sure. (Beat) As long as it’s not about a job.

SPEED DATER #8
It’s not going to be about a job.

CHLOE
Good.

BLACK SCREEN/WHITE WRITING READS: The Immigration Agency

28. INT. INTERVIEW ROOM #8 – DAY

Chloe sits across the desk from the IMMIGRATION AGENCY INTERVIEWER. He says a few incoherent words and waits expectantly for Chloe to respond. She, however, cannot understand a single word he says.

CHLOE
I’m sorry. I didn’t catch that.

The Immigration Agency Interviewer says some more incoherent words. Chloe decides on brutal honesty.

CHLOE
I can’t understand a word you’re saying.

The interviewer launches into a rather long spiel, and still Chloe doesn’t understand a word. She listens intently, trying desperately to understand. Eventually, he stops and waits for Chloe’s response.

Her mouth opens. Her mouth closes. She tries to think of what to say. In the end, she simply smiles and nods her head. The interviewer seems pleased.

BLACK SCREEN/WHITE WRITING READS: The Dating Agency

29. INT. OFFICE #3 – DAY

Chloe sits opposite the DATING AGENCY INTERVIEWER, who is crying great sobbing tears with her head down on the table. Chloe looks around, unsure of what to do and incredibly uncomfortable. Eventually, she speaks.

CHLOE
Are you alright?

The Dating Agency Interviewer lifts her head.

DATING AGENCY INTERVIEWER
My…my…boyfriend…he…why?

She just keeps on crying and then puts her head back down on the table. Chloe’s frustration with the process of looking for a new job is starting to become unbearable.

BLACK SCREEN/WHITE WRITING READS: The City Council

30. INT. INTERVIEW ROOM #9 – DAY

Chloe sits at a table, with her head resting on it, with the CITY COUNCIL INTERVIEWER. Chloe is crying, big heaving sobs like her previous interviewer. She raises her head and launches into a long incomprehensible spiel.

CITY COUNCIL INTERVIEWER
I can’t understand a word you’re saying.

Chloe just keeps crying and puts her head back down on the table. The city council interviewer looks uncomfortably around the room.

31. INT. CHLOE’S FLAT – CHLOE’S BEDROOM – MORNING

Chloe is in bed, her eyes closed. The alarm clock goes off. Her eyes open and almost robotically, like she’s in a trance, she gets out of bed. She pulls on a shirt and skirt and slips on some shoes without really caring what she looks like. She picks up a bag and a folder on her way out the door. She doesn’t bother to turn off the alarm.

32. INT. CHLOE’S FLAT – LOUNGE ROOM – MORNING

Chloe walks past her FLATMATE, who is seated on the lounge reading a magazine.

FLATMATE
Where are you going?

CHLOE
Job interview.

She couldn’t care less anymore.

BLACK SCREEN/WHITE WRITING READS: The Think Tank

33. INT. INTERVIEW ROOM #10 – DAY

Chloe sits opposite the THINK TANK INTERVIEWER, who is looking through her references and qualifications.

THINK TANK INTERVIEWER
This all looks in order. (Beat) Of course, I’ll have to check your references.

CHLOE
Of course.

Her tone is flat and her level gaze, directed at the buttons on his shirt, does not move.

THINK TANK INTERVIEWER
I just have one final question.

Chloe knew it. She knew she couldn’t get through this interview without something ruining it.

THINK TANK INTERVIEWER
Why do you want this job?

Chloe raises her eyes to his. It’s not as devastating as it possibly could have been. She thinks about all the ways she could answer this question and decides to go with the truth. The plain, old, boring, might-mean-she-doesn’t-get-the-job truth.

CHLOE
I need a job. Any job. I’m sure you’d much rather hear about how great I think the job is or how much I’d like to date you or how well I think you speak English, but the truth is I just need a job. I need a pay cheque. I need an employer who doesn’t remember me swimming naked in a paddling pool when I was two. I need an employer who doesn’t want to turn me into a hairdresser or a nanny. I need an employer who doesn’t care that I think this is just a job. I just need a job. I’m not looking for the meaning of life.

Their eyes meet and hold for a moment, then they both look over at the wall. On it is a sign with the name of the think tank, ‘The Meaning of Life’ and underneath in smaller writing are the words ‘A Private Think Tank’.

Chloe lets out a breath at realising what she has just said, that rather than the potential employer ruining everything, this time it is her fault. Her eyes drop to the floor, then return to look at the top of the table.

THINK TANK INTERVIEWER
That’s too bad. (Beat) Can you start Monday?

Chloe looks up in surprise. The Think Tank Interviewer smiles. Chloe smiles back at him in disbelief and a perverse sense of relief.

THE END

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