“‘Dear Lir Merriden, we are pleased to announce that we have matched you with a position! Please review the details below and confirm or deny your acceptance within three business days.’ Then there’s a bunch of small print… ah, here’s the details!”
Both Lir and Coral read in growing incredulity the following:
“‘To Whom It May Concern,
I am Seeking an instructor Competent in the art of Natation. Due to the Circumstances of my Birth, I have been Denied this Knowledge in my childhood. How thusly, am I supposed to make Use of my Very Large and Long Swimming Pool? The Wonders of the Wet and Streamlined body Stroking its way through smooth water Escape me, for I fear I may Drown if I attempt, on my lonesome, to Address my dearth of understanding How To Swim.
As aforementioned, I have unique Circumstances that will be made aware to Whomever will have the Fortune of Matching with my plea. Make haste, my Fellow Folk, in your responses to MaStaff. I cannot bear my lack of Knowledge for long.
I await your replies Impatiently,
A long moment passed in which they both attempted to absorb and process the letter.
“There aren’t a lot of names that start with Q,” Coral said eventually.
“No,” Lir agreed, though that was honestly the least disturbing feature of the message.
“Well… I’m sure something else will turn up soon,” Coral offered. She must have caught the look on his face, because she grabbed his shoulder in sudden alarm. “You’re not… You’re not actually considering this, are you? I mean, this guy is clearly—”
“Don’t say a serial killer, that’s so cliché. And you don’t know it’s a guy.”
“Okay well they’re clearly… unstable. Or phishing. And potentially unsafe. I can’t believe the agency’s review team let this slip by. How can they not have built-in algorithms to filter out spam like this? Amateurs...”
But Lir was already clicking on the link to confirm his acceptance of the offer. If things got sketchy later on, he could always break the contract, and he wouldn’t be any worse off than he already was. Assuming he could escape the “potentially unsafe” client. Well. He’d worry about that later.
“Lir, you can’t do this! I know I’m the one who suggested it, but this is ridiculous—”
He checked the tiny “I agree” terms and conditions box without actually reading the terms and conditions and clicked on the appealingly large purple bubble-like “SUBMIT” button. It made an archaic “swooshing” sound that reminded him of the days of AOL.
He’d done it. He was no longer unemployed!
Lir triumphantly closed his Gmail tab, then hastily scrambled to close the lusty Lord of the Rings fanfiction that had been concealed beneath it (he had a thing for elves, okay?), and then his Tumblr dashboard after that (which was unfortunately at that moment displaying what was essentially a visual representation of the fanfic he’d been reading). Crumbs, he thought in despair, trying not to reflect on how sad it was that he didn’t even use real swear words in his mind. Luckily Coral hadn’t seemed to notice his scandalous doings, or at least she was politely pretending not to. But it seemed more likely that she was too caught up in worrying over him, which was equal parts flattering and annoying.
“It’s not too late to cancel that contract,” she said fretfully, staring at him with watering eyes. She had mastered reverse puppy-dog eyes, making him feel like he was the puppy dog in need of scolding.
“It’ll be fine,” Lir said gruffly.
“You don’t even know how to swim!” Coral practically wailed.
She had a point.
“That changes tonight,” he said with grim determination.
He weathered the rest of his shift with more patience than he could usually muster, barely listening to Coral’s dire warnings as he watched a YouTube playlist of swimming instruction videos. It was hard to focus when all he could think about was the fact that he might have money again in the tangible future. Real, actual money. He could buy fresh produce and get the strange guttural sound coming from under the hood of his car checked out. He could buy a new pair of jeans that actually fit him and weren’t fraying at the hems. And new shoes! His current Converse, which were originally black but had become a dull charcoal gray, were coming apart at the seams. Maybe he could even splurge on scented candles and a bath bomb or two…
When the clock had finished its agonizing mosey towards 1pm, Lir sprang up out of his chair. He was about to rush out the door before his brain caught up with him and he recalled that his internet rivalled the crawl of the clock in terms of slowness. Natasha wouldn’t be in for a few minutes, giving him time to check his mailbox one last—
Oh god there’s another email, thought Lir. Anticipation erupted within every cell in his body as he noted the sender’s name: C. Q. Le
Despite the tension thrumming in his arteries, the email contained only a simple statement. He read it out loud to ensure that he didn’t miss anything: “Hello. Please pack for a 2 week stay and plan to arrive at 200 Wisteria Way… tomorrow at 4am?!”
That settles it, Lir thought. This person is definitely crazy. He considered whether or not to reject what was rapidly approaching serial killer levels on the gauge of weirdness.
His stomach growling at that exact moment decided him: Lir would put up with a serial killer because right now he could kill for some cereal. It had been so long since he’d been able to afford gluten-free grains, and cereal in particular was for those with a steady-enough income to purchase milk as well, particularly given his need for non-dairy milks. Sometimes Lir really hated how his body’s immune system, amidst its ongoing war on gluten, had destroyed his ability to digest dairy in the crossfire.
As long as the person paid well enough for him to get some decent meals, he figured he could put up with a body or two. And if the mysterious C. Q. Le wanted to murder Lir himself...well. At least he wouldn’t have to worry about being hungry anymore.
On that morbid note, Lir logged off the computer and locked up the desk in preparation for Natasha to take over. He had some packing to do.